A NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

The first time I went to New York I was seventeen. It was also the first time I had ridden on a plane, and the first time I went anywhere by myself. I was visiting a friend. It was January, snowy, and I had to walk to meet him what seemed like twenty miles. I was carrying my suitcase and freezing. Nevertheless, I was enthralled by the city. He took me all over. We visited another, older friend and her husband in their loft. It was barren and huge. I bet that same loft today would be worth millions. I wonder what happened to that couple. I never heard of or from either of them again.  The boy I visited became famous as a musician and lyricist. He had shows on Broadway.   Ever since that trip and multiple trips after, I have (as you know if you read my blog) had a fantasy of living in New York.

Our recent trip to the Big Apple only intensified my desire.

At the same time, my publisher has asked me to write my fourth novel. He has major expectations, and he and I have been working on a plot. The characters are all alive: their names are Orla, Edward, Letty, and Bink (her name is Aurelia, but she was dubbed Bink as a baby, and it stuck). I begin the real work of writing next week, once the holiday is over.

And guess what? I took a huge step. I booked an apartment on the street above in New York for two weeks in September to work on the book. By myself. All alone. It took me 60 odd years to work up the nerve, but I will finally experience living in New York. I am both excited and a little scared. What if I sit down to write and nothing comes out? What if the book is trash? What if I get lost on the subway? But then again–the shopping, the High Line, Central Park, and bagels. New York bagels. 30 Rock and pizza.

Wish me luck. Send up a prayer to the fiction gods to be good to me on this one. A lot is riding on it. I will keep you posted.

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NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

I still love New York. But seeing it through a child’s eyes is to see New York in a whole different way. Charlie brought his book about New York and a “bucket list” of things he wanted to see. We did all  of them.

The Statue of Liberty was so exciting. We discussed why her dress was green. We got a commemorative coin that was copper and the exact thickness of the copper on her dress. Charlie wished we could go up inside, but we were unable to get tickets for that. The boat ride was so exciting, and Charlie and his parents went up on the top deck in the wind and rain. Grampa and I stayed inside.

Charlie loved the Empire State Building. He went with Grampa and his mom. I am too afraid of heights, so Birdie and I napped.

One of their favorite things to do at night was to perch on the windowsill and whisper to one another as they watched for their parents to come home from a dinner meeting. They saw a pigeon land on the roof of the bodega below and spent at least ten minutes imitating the bobble-headed walk. And of course, we all danced to Baby Shark until we were exhausted.

FAO Schwartz still has the big piano. Charlie danced on that. 30 Rock is the most beautiful place. We looked down on the diners sitting in the moonlight, sipping wine. My daughter remarked, “That will be us in twenty years. None of those people have kids. I want to be down there.” She said that right before Birdie ran off and nearly dashed into the street.

Birdie got into:

  • My deodorant
  • Lip balm
  • Her crayons and marked on the sofa
  • The drawer in the kitchen with the corkscrew
  • The baby wipes; shredded about a thousand of them all over the apartment
  • The folding chairs from the card table and used them as impromptu jungle gyms
  • The toilet and the fact that an entire roll of toilet paper will really clog it up. So fun!

We had delicious food. Thanks to Lyft, I was able to go shopping all alone and not worry about how to get to Fishs Eddy, Marimekko, and Bloomingdales and back to the apartment. I felt like a native.

I have decided that I could most certainly live in New York. Caveats: I would have to be wealthy, live in a brownstone with a garden, have a much better wardrobe than I do now, enjoy eating outside despite pigeons and intrusive little sparrows, have a different husband–mine would never consider living in a big city, enjoy noise, and tolerate this factoid: when you are in NYC, no matter where you are, there is a rat within six feet of you.

Hello, DAYTON!

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ALTER EGO

I would like to reinvent myself. First of all, the name. Let me introduce myself: I am Norah Henderson.

I am thirty, single. Lithe, with perhaps spiky, lavender hair. I ride my bicycle everywhere, as I am so concerned with the planet. As a result, I have very firm calves and could crack walnuts between my knees. My eyes are keen, and my teeth sparkle.

My Abyssinian cat, Harold, resists walking on a leash, but I keep trying. Harold and I love tuna, and we have it for dinner once a week. Harold and I binge watch Game of Thrones. He hides his eyes with his paws during much of the violence.

I am a poet. Non-rhyming variety.

Although I hate to garden, I have very good luck with orchids. The windowsills in my New York apartment are lined with them. Just an ice cube in the pots once in a while does the trick, and my friends are dazzled by the display. I have dabbled in African Violets, but with little success. I have two pots of edible grass in the window by the tub in my bathroom, for Harold. He nibbles away at them, and then he barfs. Good for the digestion, I hear.

I almost got married last year. However, Bart’s dog Skid seemed to want to eat Harold. It was Bart or Harold. A no-brainer. Actually, Bart’s obsession with veganism was starting to wear thin. So Bart loaded his mushroom collection and Skid’s memory foam dog bed into the back of his PT Cruiser and headed out of town.

I love New York, but the noise and grime does wear one down. Harold wants to move to the country, where he would consent to leash walks. I think he is lying about that. But I have been scanning the listings, and there is a small, gray bungalow with moss green shutters that I keep coming back to. It says “cozy, all furnishings included.” The pictures of the living room alone are a riot of chintz and polished hardwood. The kitchen has a soapstone sink and a fireplace. The price is within my range.  Also, Harold’s soulful staring from the living room window at the park below as he mutters to himself–that bothers me. I think he might be right. I dream now about cross ventilation and bird feeders.

I told him that if we moved, I would want to get a small dog. Harold is considering it.

 

 

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THE UNEXPECTED JOYS

The moment I met each of my own daughters, I was swept away with the wave of love that came wrapped up with them. It was like a tsunami that with my first, was so unexpected I nearly went into emotional shock. I expected it with my second and was not disappointed. Instant, overwhelming love.

However, actually raising a child isn’t all joy. Any parent will tell you that at times, the desire to get away from one’s own children is almost as strong as the love they engender. I had too many days of exhaustion, frustration, worry, and impatience to count.

I know I am not the first grandparent to be astonished by this one: having grandchildren brings floods of joy and love that you feel guilty about not having had in terms of their parents, your own children. It’s a fact. Grandchildren are even better than one’s own children. Ask any grandma, and she will confirm!

The first time I was referred to as “Bee” by little Charlie, I was so thrilled that he knew me as a separate person in his life, important enough to name, my heart nearly burst. When he got older and added “Grandma” in front of the “Bee,” it was as if I had been given some sort of very special commendation. I never once questioned or cared where the “Bee” came from; I just loved my new name. Hearing a small piping voice call out “Grandma Bee? Where are you?” was music. Sheer music.

We are going to New York in a couple of weeks to spend time with little Charlie and his adorable baby sister Birdie. We will be the babysitters as their parents conduct business there for a week. There will be an apartment, picnics on the floor, hilarious bath times, maybe a tantrum or two, but certainly more joy than I can even imagine. We will be worn out, I am sure. But the fact that my husband will be the person to take little Charlie on his first excursion to see the Empire State Building? Priceless (also, thank God I won’t be included in that one–fear of heights–whew). Central Park. New York pizza. Hot dog vendors. Strolling around Gramercy Park with the two of them.  Watching Frozen at bedtime on the iPad for the thousandth time. These will be the things I am sure I will revisit and relive as I am on my deathbed, thankful for my life with my own children and so grateful for the children who called me “Grandma Bee.”

I am taking my knee brace, ibuprofen, a handmade doll I ordered from Etsy, the Berenstain Bear books, a scary Transformer or two, fruity Tic Tacs, and probably, if I can fit it in my suitcase, the heating pad.

It will be an epic trip.

 

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DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW

The dog in this picture is not my dog. I love this dog, and she visits me often. She is my grandpup. Sometimes, well–frequently–I wish I didn’t have to depend on her for all of my dog needs.

I have cats, and probably won’t have a dog as a pet in the future. This does not stop me from imagining what kind of dog I would get. You know, to have in my pied a terre in New York or to take on walks with me along the Seine. Oh yes, and to hang around with me right here in Dayton, Ohio.

A small dog. One that won’t pull a person over when sighting squirrels. I like dachshunds. They are assertive little dogs. I especially like the wire haired variety. But I have been told that they don’t have dachshund personalities, because they have been bred with terriers in order to get the wire hair. So that kind of defeats the purpose.

What about poodles? They mix poodles in with every breed, it seems. This mixing makes a new, cuter version of the original. Who doesn’t love labradoodles? They are taking this too far, in my opinion. I met a woman walking a very odd dog–tall, skinny, and with a curly beard and wild eyes. I asked what breed he was, and he was a Doodleman–a doberman poodle mix. Not a good look. But I would consider a schnoodle. This mix of schnauzer and poodle is very cute.

I see myself, though, strolling down the sidewalk with a small, brown dog of indeterminate breed. This dog would have coarse hair shooting out all over his body, wise round eyes, an eager trot, and friendly wag. He would greet neighbors and strangers alike with enthusiasm, increasing my popularity quotient a hundredfold. He would know a few tricks, and live to a ripe old age. He would be devoted to me and I to him. I would give him an absolutely charming and imaginative name like Seltzer or Toasty, but he would end up with a nickname like Snoots. He would sleep in our bed, adore our cat/s, and my husband would be so happy that I talked him into our having a dog again.

I run variations of this fantasy in my mind on a frequent basis, with the dog changing from small and hairy  to large but lazy. In all of these daydreams, the dogs’ feet remain free of mud, they only need to poop once a day, they go out in the backyard without the need of a fence, they never bark at the mailman, they stay off the sofas, and they don’t shed.

I also have fantasies of being able to eat cake every night for dessert.

 

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SEASONAL

 

Why do people want to move to places where there are no seasons? Don’t they get tired of warm weather all the time? I have nothing against Florida, for instance, but I would think that things would get pretty monotonous around there.

In Ohio, we have snow. We have fog, sleet, rain, humidity, heat, and everything in between. We look forward to winter, when we can hygge around the fire, pop popcorn, put up Christmas lights, and be cozy. However, when that begins to get old, and we have cabin fever, VOILA! It’s springtime, with buds, wafting breezes, pollen allergies, and daffodils. That hardly has time to sink in before it turns into summer, with mosquitoes, wasps, ruined picnics, sunscreen, pool parties, hot dogs on the grill, and Lyme disease.

That begins to wear thin, and we all wish we could turn off the central air conditioning, and POOF! It’s fall, with the foliage, pumpkin spice everything, fun size candy bars, cardigans, and turkey with dressing.

Winter rolls around just in time to take our minds off all of the extra calories we packed in at Thanksgiving. See? We never get a chance to get bored! Floridians must curse the sunshine sometimes and wish for a day cold enough for earmuffs, don’t they? Do people in Arizona get fed up with cactus? Do they miss deciduous trees? Rain?

I am staying put in Ohio. No hurricanes here. A tornado here and there, but gosh, we have to have something to worry about. Oh, yeah. The Polar Vortex. I like a good Polar Vortex, though. And blizzards are exciting. Power outages test our mettle. As long as we have the fireplace and a gas stove, we can make do in a power outage.

Birds. I love to listen for the return of spring birdsong. I suppose they have birds in Florida. And of course, beaches. I do appreciate a nice beach. I can live without one, though.

Because in Ohio, one never gets a chance to become bored with the weather. We have SEASONS. I am not picking on Florida and Arizona, but these are popular destinations for retirees. I don’t know one retired person who has decided to move to the Arctic Circle…

 

 

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TIP: YOU DON’T LIVE IN A CATALOG

Aspiration. We all wish we looked better, lived better, and cooked better. I understand completely. Here’s the thing, though. We mustn’t take all of this desire to be our better selves too far. I call this “catalog living.”

A good example is above. It’s a lovely room. The catalog it comes from is either selling the curtains or the bedding; I am not sure. But notice that little basket on the daybed containing a coffee mug and probably a tiny plate of cookies? The stylist put it there to create a mood. It is there to make you aspire to have a room like that, where you can sip your coffee and look out that window at the man next door who looks like Idris Elba.

It is not there–let me repeat–it is not there to encourage you to go out and buy a little basket, put a coffee mug and some graham crackers in it, TO PUT ON YOUR OWN BED AND LEAVE IT THERE. You do NOT live in a catalog.

Flip through the latest Chicos catalog. See those women wearing shirts that are tucked in just in front? God knows why they are doing that, but my guess is so that some cute detail on the fly of the pants they are wearing will be visible. Or, my other theory–they are doing that because the models are so thin that front tucking looks “cute” when they are wearing those outfits. I tried the front tuck. It looked as if A) I had gotten distracted while getting dressed running to answer a robocall, and simply forgot to continue tucking, or B) I am a slob. It is not a good look on regular people. You do NOT live in a catalog.

Foodies. Williams Sonoma can get away with styling their food with scanty toppings. This is so you can see the plate that the food sits on. But in reality, when you are served strawberry shortcake, don’t you want more than a teaspoon of whipped cream on top? Or let’s talk pancakes. Actual people put more than one pat of butter and a small drip of syrup on their stacks. Because they do NOT live in a catalog.

I wish I could live in a catalog. If I did, I would be thinner, my bedding would change with every season, my Christmas tree would have ornaments that are all the same color, my husband would look good standing outside in his pajamas, holding a cup of coffee and smiling at passersby, and I would wear all of my shirts partially tucked. We would be so thin and fit, due to the fact that we never eat much butter, whipped cream, or other high calorie food toppings. My husband would wear the bottoms of his flannel pajamas, and I would wear the top. His top would actually be just a bit too big for me, and we would stand in front of the sink, holding our coffee cups, and smiling. I would be preparing pancakes with two teaspoons of syrup and no butter. We would be so happy.

But we do NOT live in a catalog.

 

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THE BOOK ABOUT THE PERSON WITH THE THING

When I am not writing something, I am reading something. And since writing novels requires a lot of breaks, I read a lot. Most weeks, I read at least two books, but some weeks, it’s three.

So, this is the result: I not only go so quickly from one book to the next that I can almost never remember the titles of the books I have just finished, but I also can almost never remember the plots.

This goes something like the following. At lunch with a friend:

HER  I just read the greatest book. It’s called Blah Blah by Blah Blah.

ME  Oh, really? What’s it about?

HER  *Gives an accurate plot summary*

ME  That sounds great! *writes down the title*

I go home, and fire up my Kindle, enter the title of the book in the search bar of the Kindle store, only to get the message: GO TO LIBRARY. This means that I have already read the book. I click on it to read the book summary, and sure enough, I have read it.

Basically, I have read everything. I am not kidding. Apart from tomes like Infinite Jest, War and Peace, and Ulysses, which nobody has actually read but says they have, I really have read everything. The books just meld together in my mind, that’s all. I bet I am not the only one this happens to. So, every once in awhile, I go to my Kindle library to refresh myself on where I stand with the books I have read, and I review the synopses, so that the next time a friend brings up a book, I will be actually able to discuss it without being vague.

I just finished my review of what I have read and liked recently. So before I forget once again, here is a list of books that you may not have read. Or maybe you, like me, have read and completely forgotten about:

  • Left Neglected, by Lisa Genova. As the wife of a stroke survivor, I felt that this hit very close to home. The chronicle of a victim of head trauma and her very slow recovery.
  • One True Thing by Anna Quindlen. A mother is dying. Her daughter is accused of euthanizing her. Excellent, as is every Quindlen novel.
  • Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. A school shooting. But we see it through the eyes of the shooter. Wow.
  • The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott. This is a book I loved and, of course, forgot I had read. Then bits of it came back to me, and I read it again. Brilliant.
  • True Places by Sonja Yoerg. Sonja is a friend of mine. This book is tremendous.
  • The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell. The last surviving member of the Bronte family. I loved it.
  • The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein. An unbelievable biography of a transgender woman who cleans up after murders, suicides, hoarders, and all sorts of horrendous situations. Gruesome but somehow inspirational. Fascinating.
  • The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. Gosh. Not my usual fare. Ghosts.
  • The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell. His wife accidentally stepped in front of a bus and was killed. Or was it an accident?
  • The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict. Scared the crap out of me.

I have begun working on my fourth novel. This one will be my magnum opus. I hope. Teaser: it is about a woman who grew up unloved by her mother; her aunt, who was “the golden child;” and some revelations about family, love, truth, and perception. It will follow my next release, The World Came to Us. Wish me luck.

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HOME SAFE

Ugh. So much bad news. Are you in a continual state of moral outrage? Or do you have outrage fatigue? You know: something happens that a year ago would have had you in a state of fury, but now you just shrug?

It’s a defense mechanism. We have to harden ourselves in order to get through the news cycle. Yes, we continue to demonstrate, write to Congress, donate, Tweet, and vote, but sometimes we have to curl up and self medicate.

Here are a few things that might help:

  • Tea, in your Grandma’s cup. If your Grandma broke all of her cups, choose a cup you like, or a mug with a pithy slogan. Sit by a window where you can see birds. Sip the tea, and remember something pleasant, like your new socks with cats on them, your first kiss, that flaky croissant, or the time at summer camp when you pushed the bully into the creek.
  • Dinner with candles. You have to wait longer for it to get dark, but candlelight is so pleasant. Turn off the lights and just have candles; I guarantee you that even leftovers seem gourmet in the dim.
  • Reread all the Anne of Green Gables books. This works for women. If you are male and reading this post, maybe the Hardy Boys?
  • Walk with a dog.
  • Walk by yourself, and pet all the dogs you meet.
  • Get a dog.
  • I can’t get a dog, so I utilize my daughter’s dog. It’s a solution.
  • Binge watch something like Poldark. Again, women.
  • Speaking of women, IDRIS ELBA.
  • Bury your face in a cat’s stomach. This requires cat ownership. So maybe, if you don’t have a cat
  • Go to the shelter and get a cat.
  • Take a break from social media. I have never tried this, but some say it is a big help.
  • Delete Facebook, if you dare.
  • Wait. Stay on Instagram and look at 1) rescue dog/cat pictures, 2) all the photos of cottages, or 3) those huge, Nutella filled cakes.

Is this what they used to call a “Listicle?” Google it. It will pass the time. Oh, and while you are at it, Google “Crusoe the Beekeeper Dog,” William Wegman Dog Photos,” or if you are female, just watch the YouTube video of Bradley Cooper and Gaga singing Shallow and conceiving a child right there on the piano bench at the Oscars. As a matter of fact, forget the bulleted list and go directly to YouTube. You’re welcome, ladies.

 

 

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