Sunday, December 6, 2015

My Not Quite Annual: Revisit, Renew and Resolve 2015 into 2016 Version

It's been a mostly good year.
This guy is my constant. 

Though I'm a creature of habit, I'm also a fan of "blank slates."

I'm particularly a fan of resolutions made upon a blank slate: A New Year filled with hope and possibility. I try to shed judgment. I try not to be a cynic and believe. . .

I like to believe I keep most my resolutions. Going back to past posts can be a fun *coughs* way to check in and see. So, that's what I've done here, and except for the wholly misguided "do Burpees daily," most years I like to think I've done a good job.

So, let's find out. I think I'll revisit a few posts past and rate myself on a scale of 1- 10:


In 2010 into 2011 I renewed three long-standing resolutions I have made well in the past:

(i) take the stairs whenever possible (unless it's more than five flights or I am carrying heavy things):
10! No seriously, you guys!! I get a 10 on this one.

late November in the open water. And I was in yesterday,
December 5th. Not bad. 
(ii) swim whenever possible:

hmmm. Define "possible."

Okay, fine, I'm giving myself a 9 on this one. A 9. That's not too bad.

(iii) be a good confidante/friend. Don't gossip or tell secrets others share.

Crap. In all honesty, I have to go down a point. I can make excuses . . . whatever. . . but this is the reason I renew this every year. I give myself a solid 8. I've done better. Going back to being a 10 on this next year.

In 2012 into 2013, I renewed a few things too. Let's (not) see how I did.

(i) Less facebook. Shut up. *weeps* Does not rate self. Moves forward (see new fucking resolution below).

Yes, see. that is me yoga'ing in my "piano room."
No, there is no photo of me facebooking. 
(ii) More yoga, less almost going to yoga:

Well, I've been doing yoga from home (I've had two consecutive studios close since that post and decided for now to just take charge on my own. Have a few yoga videos I love on Gaia TV. I'm giving myself a solid 8 on this one too.

(iii) Less talk, more action, and

(iv) More reading, less TV.

If I'm being kind to myself, I'll give myself a 7 - 9 on these. I plan to renew and do better on both in the new year.

* a quick word on this: it's hard to take action, it really is. Some people are better at it than you are (I am). Reach out to those who are and "use" them. Let them guide you. There are organizations that will tell you exactly how. If you are as disturbed about the gun violence in our world as I am, three organizations that will walk (and text!) you through it are Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America (you do NOT have to be a Mom to join and they have Dad chapters too!), Everytown for Gun Safety, and Women Against Gun Violence. They are all doing the good, hard work for all of us! But they need your support, monetarily and otherwise. Make phone calls, show up at walks, share information. *

2014 into 2015, skirting about more of the same:

(i) Burpees: SHUT UP! But more yoga: not bad;

(ii) Write more in different genres (a/k/a stretch my writing chops?):

Well, first of all, THE MEMORY OF THINGS which (finally) sold midyear and is due out Fall 2016 from the awesome St. Martin's Press (I am crazy excited about this!!!) is told from two perspectives, and one of those is in free verse. Why yes, I have no business writing half a book in free verse, but I have anyway, and after 4,000 revisions, and with the help of my incredible editor, I think it's really good. Like, really, really good.

I've also been trying to write some (so far crappy) short stories (hey, they are hard!!) and even sketched out half a crappy (shut up) picture book the other day about an infamous dive. Not a seedy bar, yo. Off a diving board into the water.

And, yeah, I even revisited my tween/teen/20-something roots and wrote an angsty poem which I bravely (stupidly?) shared here. And the new manuscript I'm working on is definitely pushing me outside my comfort zone in various ways, so, yeah, I'm giving myself a solid 73/4.

(iii) Try something brave and brand new: Well, crap. I meant to. I wanted to. I have three more weeks. *adds it to this year's list*

Okay, so, here we go:


1. Yep, swimming and yoga. Here's the thing: I never ever regret doing either after I have finished. There is your test right there.

2. As always, be a better friend and a confidante.

3. Take the stairs.


4. Don't be lazy about the little things. a/k/a bend down and pick it up. (This is actually a renew that, for whatever reason I never mentioned before... I'll tell you story behind it in a little "*" below . . .

5. Do something Brave and New. Stay tuned, motherfuckers. *smiles sweetly* (I have no clue what it is. . . )

6. Here we go (and this New York Times article is really my impetus to do better): Less facebooking/social media and, yes, this includes taking out my phone. I'll still be there on all those places (!) just with more purpose and control. There are tools to help, if you don't know them, like Freedom or Anti-social. I'm committed to keep trying and to keep renewing along the path as I fall off the wagon.

So that's what I've got solidified for now. I need to think on some of the emotional stuff -- the relinquishing and letting go.

There's big work to be done there: 2016 is an exciting and tumultuous year for me. A new book coming out. . . and, an empty nest. Can't even think about that second one... I've got some time to shore myself up on these things, and, when all else fails, I can swim.

Got any resolutions to renew or share? Love to hear them.

Hope your 2015 has been productive and good. Here's to a new year coming soon!

- gae

**Oh, crap. Edited because I forgot to tell you the don't be lazy story. Basically, there's a woman about my age at my gym where i swim in the winter months. She has MS and is relegated to a walker and very slow movement. In the time it takes me to get out of my street clothes, into my bathing suit, showered and into the pool, she has made it across the locker room and gotten herself situated to get undressed for the same routine. It takes her three times the effort it takes me to get ready; three times the effort to swim. Her name is Debra. She's an inspiration to me... always remind myself that it's so easy for me to do the little things: to pick up a piece of paper from the floor, to go back and turn off a dripping faucet more tightly. One day it might not be. At any rate, she -- that woman -- inspires me. <3 p="">

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sometimes you write a poem

I still dream about you.

As if it were yesterday,
as if
time hasn’t

                                    As if
I haven’t swum a thousand miles

the salt water
detoxing your touch 
       my skin.

I still dream about you
            as if I need you,

as if you matter one iota,

as if my words don’t fill pages, 
as if my photo won’t live on between 
closed covers
stacked neatly and

            As if the heart-pounding hadn’t shifted
years ago to
mere flutters,
then a
                                         flick of 

I still dream about you.

In it
            we smile uncomfortably across a table
in a diner I’ve never been.

            Longing pulls at
my layers
            as if it can possibly                unfold
                                          who I was
            As if it would make a difference.

I still dream about you.

                        In the dream, a waitress in a peach dress pours coffee.
            The others at our table chat,
stab at their salads,
sink teeth into 
white-bread sandwiches.
            Our eyes
                fight to
                        dart away.

I still dream about you,
            with all the rage and fury for what you took,
            with all the affection and
                        gratitude for what
                                                you gave.

I still dream about you,
like a puzzle, like a condundrum,
like a zen koan not meant to be solved,
            but that eats at me anyway.

I still dream about you,

awaken confused and drenched,

                   like a corpse descending the depths,

                                       like a fish 
               murky water.

Like a marathoner,
            who never learned how to run,
            but has covered the miles anyway,
gaining distance, 
            yet always looking back,

wondering if you will 
               go away.

- gae 11/15

Friday, June 19, 2015

On Hate and Things I Cannot Bear Nor Fathom. . .

I have no words for what has happened this week in Charleston, South Carolina, nor for what has happened before Charleston in Ferguson, in Florida, in Aurora, in Newtown, in Laramie, Wyoming, in NYC. . . everywhere, and seemingly will continue to happen because those of us with love in our hearts are so helpless and hapless or, worse, lethargic, in the face of those who are filled with hate, come from a place of ignorance or are, quite simply, inhumane.

I have no words today and so simply share the words of others who have found some profound ones, together with a strong wish and heartfelt plea that:

  • *you keep speaking up and out against intolerance, violence and hate, 
  • *you rally when possible, 
  • *if you are young, especially, you use your smarts, abilities and your words wisely and eloquently to sway others around you who may come from a place of fear or ignorance, and
  • *MOST IMPORTANTLY, you VOTE. Vote for candidates who are first and foremost for tolerance, equality, and peace, who are for protecting lives not just IN the womb, but once they are born into the world and living and breathing among us.  

If you watch or listen to one thing this week on the Charleston tragedy watch this:


And if you're still feeling hopeless after that clip watch the rest of his interview with Malala Yousafzai and consider donating to the Malala Fund.

If you read something, this is a good, important thing to read, with the below lead-in by the beautiful author, Kate Messner:

"What happened in a Charleston church on Wednesday night is a lot of things, but one thing it's not is "unspeakable." We should speak of it often. We should speak of it loudly." 
This piece is worth reading & thinking about. The man arrested for the horrific church shooting in Charleston may be referred to as a "lone shooter," but a community raised him. We are all responsible for the words we speak, the things we share on our social media pages, and the things we allow others to say, unchecked and unchallenged. I cannot believe we live in a world where this is still happening. We have to do better.  SPEAKING THE UNSPEAKABLE. . . 

If you are a writer and want to do something small to honor librarian Cynthia Hurd:

Donations in her memory can be made to the Charleston Public Library c/o Andria Amaral; Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St., Charleston SC 29401. 

Mother Emanuel Church also accepts donations:

We must find a way to do better,


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Morning purge

last night
lying in bed doing one of my
constant self exams
i found a hard, little, pea-sized lump -- i thought
                          i did --
the kind they tell you about, the kind
they warn you
i panicked
i trembled
i shook -- i couldn't stop shaking --
i said, as my husband held me:

i am afraid

i am afraid of everything
i have always been

and he wrapped his arms around me and listened,
then eventually
as i listed the fears
in my head,
as i trembled:

fear of sickness
fear of death
fear of aging
fear of losing my parents
       my sister
       my husband,


(fear of my kids leaving me)

fear of war,
fear of terrorism on home soil,
fear of storms that will lower trees onto our home with a blow
razes things.

fear of fire
fear of police killing innocent men
fear of politicians who seek to spiral our world backwards,
fear of something happening to the goddamned dog.

                              (the dog that i didn't even want in the first place,
                               the dog that looks at me with soulful eyes,
the dog that i love,
         that i coddle like a goddamned child,
the dog that,
last night,
as i trembled and shook,
              that is not one to cuddle,
got up without a sound
and moved his sweet self from
his usual spot near the bottom of the bed
     to the curve of my side
and stayed there

(goddamned dog)

fear of my sons being hurt or unsuccessful or sad
(crushingly sad,
brokenly sad),

fear of global warming of
        seas evaporating, of the dry earth scorched,
of glaciers melting
and tornadoes erasing everything in their path.

fear of a tiny, pea-sized lump
that will terrorize and undo me

fear that i will not find the strength.
the strength so many others have,
wear like a second skin,
like proof,
like a shining badge of courage,

fear that the two little books i will leave are nothing
not much,
not really,
do not make a mark
my mark,
do not amount to a hill of beans,
will say nothing about me, about the struggle,
will not show how deeply i loved,
how hard i tried
how much i wanted to amount to more than
a carbon footprint

last night i could not stop shaking,
i told myself not to check and recheck, but i did,
because i am weak,
because i fear
(i fear
                  i fear. . .)
i fear.

and the pea-sized lump had moved, was less, was maybe
not so hard,
was maybe not there

but still, i kept trembling,
and feeling

i lay awake
dog pressed to my side
if i will have the strength,
a fight,
if i will find the joy
              in the hardest parts,

if i can find the grace.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

aging with (fucking) grace, a rambling and curse-filled post.


I'm trying.

Really. (Sort of).

I'm trying to be (fucking) graceful about this aging bullshit.

After all, I admire so many people who are.

In fact, when I think of the people my age and older who I admire, they are the ones who are aging with (fucking) grace.

They don't complain (at least not to me),
they embrace.

Embrace grace. How fucking Seussical.

My whole growing up, I felt judged by my family (sorry family, I love you, but there you have it) for being shallow about superficial things. Like my looks. My body. My hair.

No crease could be left unflattened in my Jordache jeans when I left the house in the mornings;

the alarm got set an hour early so I could work on my perfectly-feathered hair.

And, yes, I kept a calendar of what I wore each school day so as not to commit the offense of repeating a single outfit in a given week (so sue me. . . and did I really think anyone of value was actually paying attention to such a thing?)

So, then, I guess in some ways, I was. Shallow, about that shit, I mean.

It was hard to be a teen girl, then and now. Same as it is hard to be a grown woman, then and now. Maybe moreso, a woman over 40.

50. *coughs*

Right or wrong, so much of our identity as a gender is still tied to how we look. If you think it isn't, you're kidding yourselves. In some ways, I think this is awful. In other ways -- and I guess some would view this as anti-feminist of me -- but I actually think it's normal and okay. Or at least unavoidable as a society as we are. It's simply, how it is.

At times, I truly enjoy our gender differences, and admire good looks, admire someone who takes care of their physical body. I also admire physically many people who aren't typically handsome or beautiful, know seriously overweight people who I think are stunningly beautiful.

Maybe it's wrong of me, but I loved watching the beautiful faces and bodies parade on and off the stage at the Golden Globes . . . and, though a bit of a brouhaha apparently erupted on twitter over Jeremy Renner's rather obvious comment to JLo about her Golden Globes, what else was JLo wanting, actively seeking, but to invite admiration of her female assets by wearing that dress? Am I missing something here?

With perfect hair and my usual HS scowl,
 pre-nose job, 1982.

So, yeah, my looks have always mattered to me, which was hard since I haven't always been a fan of how I looked. After all, by the time I hit puberty, I wore glasses and braces and was diagnosed with scoliosis which was going to require me to wear a large plastic brace on my back -- not the best fashion accessory for a teenage girl.

Moreover, by puberty, my previously-cute button nose had taken on a strong hereditary Semitic bump (and low dip) that both my boys now have, which is wearable and even handsome (IMHO) on a boy, but not so much on a girl.

As I was already being badly bullied in high school, it was unbearable to not at least feel pretty when I left the house on a given day.  Maybe a less superficial person could have hacked it.

At any rate, hate me or love me for it, my looks were always an integral part of who I was, how I viewed myself, and, yes, sometimes, I think, were tied to how I succeeded at certain things. Certainly, post nose-job, I could walk into a room feeling like I'd make a positive first impression. I wanted to look good, I wanted to feel pretty, and I wanted others to think the same of me.

Having said all that, I personally don't think I was shallow or superficial. You may disagree. Really what I wanted most in the world, was what we all want: to feel good about myself, to feel loved and admired, to have friends, and to feel confident in my life. I also cared WAY more deeply about who I was on the inside, and how I treated others, and the good things I did, and so I'm not sure why that so often got lost in the translation.

At any rate, I struggled then, and still do now as so many others do, when I look in a mirror and don't love what I see.

Don't love my body -- the too-full figure, the cellulite on the thighs.

Then, in my early forties (!!!) something sort of miraculous happened: I was in the best shape of my life AND I liked the way I looked!

I think three things coincided to make this happen,

one bad (I went through a period of midlife crisis depression and literally couldn't eat much and lost every ounce of body fat I'd ever had)

and two good: I began swimming religiously -- often several miles a week by my mid-forties--  and my body, for the first time post-baby was lean and mean, and I finally got a book deal and was, for the first time, really doing something in my life I had fought hard for and only dreamed of for a long while.

At any rate. It was fun. It was exhilarating, especially since so many other good and fun things were going on.

Alas, fast forward to 2015.

My forties are somehow, unfathomably, gone.

Late into them, an age spot appeared on my hand. I kid you not, it mocks me daily. Once in a while, I take out a pen and draw a smiley face inside of it. I'd like to tell you that helps.

Late into my forties, the also-hereditary prominent eye bags started really appearing under my eyes. My flat stomach lost shape and the skin got looser around my mid-section.

And my hands. Oh dear lord, my fucking hands.

With my mother on my 50th birthday.
And, yes, I am wearing a tiara.
I have this particular recollection from when I was in my early twenties I think, of my beautiful mother lamenting how old her hands had become.

She must have been in her late forties, then.

We were in her bedroom, I, lazing on her bed, she getting ready for some function.

I told her she was being silly, and she walked over and she pinched the skin on the top of her hand, and showed me how inelastic it had become, and, thus, how long it took it to resettle. I gave her the typical eye roll and she showed me on my hand, the difference, pinched the skin on mine which immediately shot back down.

My hands have become her hands back then. I'm sure she doesn't want to talk about her hands now.

This morning, I sat on the floor playing with the dog, and bottoms of my feet. . . so cracked and dry. . .well, I don't even want to talk about that. . .

And don't get me started on my thighs in downward dog.

No one over fifty should ever go into downward dog. Well, at least without long pants on.

So, I'm trying. I really am. To embrace my own aging with grace. I'm really fucking wanting to be graceful.

My gorgeous, fucking kickass, goddess writer friend Amy Ferris wrote this the other day:

i've decided today that's my new age.
it looks just like 60, but with a little extra OOOOOMPH.

I'm trying to emulate her. Be brave. Be kickass. Embrace this fifty bullshit with grace.

Embrace the changing body, the thinning hair that's lost all its luster . . .

the aching back, sore hips and knees and shoulder (okay, that last one probably more a hazard of all the miles swum than my age, but still. . .).

I'm trying to remind myself I swam a fucking 10K last summer.

I'm trying to hold on to the truth that the numbers are arbitrary and just numbers.

I'm always grateful. I promise. Please don't tell me in the comments to be grateful, because I swear I am. And don't tell me I look good, because what most of you see is photoshopped anyway.

Besides, it's really NOT the point.

And, yes, I see so many others struggling with real health problems and I kiss the ground for this body -- this very one! -- that has done its work so beautifully, so strongly, without too many major disruptions, kept healthy for me, and keeps carrying me along. I swear, I am not without the right priorities and gratitude. In fact, I'm usually overwhelmed by an aching sense of gratitude toward my random dumb luck in this hard, hard world.

But I am also my physical body. At least for now. And I am struggling to view it with grace.

Fucking grace. It keeps on eluding me.

- gae