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December 2010

Burrowing Into Work

Images Woke up this morning in one of those panic states where there is no transition from sleep to wakefulness - you are suddenly and completely awake, anxious, and roaring to go, except for that nagging headache in the back of your eyes.

It's the book, of course. So much still to be done, nagging deadline. I feel somewhat better after checking out the NYT, because as always it provides the bigger picture. Panic is really a more suitable reaction for a suicide bombing, a bad biopsy report, or even being stranded in an airplane on a tarmac for 11 hours. Figuring out what goes in the opening chapter and what is better left for the summary - nah!

That said, I am cannibalizing different parts of already written chapters for this new opening which means the remainder of the book will have to be re-written in parts. Plus one of my handful of trusted readers told me yesterday that I am far too deferential to "experts" (years of NYT training) and need a stronger voice of my own.

Ack! Was that the sound of my heart thumping? Gotta go...

Blizzard Continued

Here are a few blizzard and post-blizzard photos. First, Lawson watches the storm raging in the night from the safety of his nice, warm house. 

Lawson contemplates blizzard
Yesterday the Weatherman had the day off, and I played hooky too. We decided to go out snowshoeing in the woods. The snow was nearly two feet deep and the snowshoes didn't exactly skim the surface of the snow.

But check out the beautiful, snowy woods just minutes from our house.

The snowy woods
Lake in snow
Silent, cold and lovely.


6a00e553e53c538833013486edc35b970c-800wi Hands down the most epic storm I have ever witnessed! So grateful we still have power in the house. Swirls of white, massive snow, massive wind. This morning things have quieted down. I think we only have about a foot and a half of snow, and while 18 inches is nothing to scoff at, it is a lot less than what parts of New Jersey and other areas got. Needless to say, The Weatherman is beside himself. 

My only sadness is that My Daughter went back to her apartment in Brooklyn yesterday in the early afternoon. She was home for Christmas but had to be at work today, and figured she better beat the worst of the storm. Now it turns out her office is closed because of the weather, and she is working from home. Wish she could be working from here instead. One of my favorite things is parallel play. We could have our laptops side-by-side, writing next to each other, in front of the fireplace, sipping tea and occasionally running sentences by each other. Ah well.

It was an especially lovely Christmas this year. I feel so thankful for so many things, but especially my family.

Christmas Count Down

Maddy with the ribbon Heading over to the Food Pantry this morning. Record numbers at the special holiday distribution last night, so I hope we don't run short of food this morning. We order for the week, and it is as much art as science to know exactly how many clients will show up on a given day. This week we knew would be crowded, because we are distributing toys and gloves as well as groceries.

On the home front, gifts are wrapped, and as you can see from the photo I had a helper on this front. The Boy is home - hooray! - and My Daughter will be coming home tomorrow. Later today is the big grocery shopping trip, and hopefully a little progress on the new introductory chapter. Ho Ho Ho!

What Goes Where?

Images You should see the floor of my office. It's covered with files that have labels like "What's Left - New Research" and "Where Does This Go?" I am sifting through mounds of material and trying to figure out what belongs in the new introductory chapter. The editor wants the beginning of the book to address the question of why this book is important now

I have quite a bit of interesting new research pointing to all the beneficial effects of mother-son closeness. I was saving this for the final chapter, but am now thinking, no, no, don't bury that material, open up with your most effective arguments. Also I'm struggling with the concept of an Introduction versus a new Chapter One. Personally, I don't always read the introduction of books. If I absolutely love a book, I will go back and read the introduction, because I want to soak up every word the author has to say. But that is rare in a non-fiction book. So my feeling is there should be a new Chapter One so that if I'm really outlining my argument upfront, people will read it.

OK, too much information, not of the salacious kind, but of the dull and technical kind? Sorry.

I think I'm officially done with Christmas shopping, but that has no bearing on wrapping, tree-trimming, food shopping or cooking. Stay Merry.


Images A friend's son left for Boot Camp a week ago yesterday. This mom sits on the Food Pantry Board with me, but couldn't attend Monday night's meeting, because she was too broken up. I met her son a few weeks ago - he was volunteering at a pantry distribution. He is a lovely guy, who shares his mother's good manners and facial features.

I wrote her a note a few days after he left telling her I was thinking of her, and here is what she wrote back:

"My son left on Sunday and spent the night in Albany where they started his processing. Monday, was his flight out. We had no notication of what time his flight would be. We did not know what time he would make a robotic phone call to us saying he had arrived at Parris Island. He called us at 11:45pm on Monday evening. I must say that this call was one of the most chilling calls I have ever received. The tone of his voice was as if he was under pressure.   We are now awaiting a letter from him which should arrive between 7 to 10 days of  his arrival. This letter will be dictated by the drill instructor. With this letter will be his mailing address. We will not be able to speak with him for the next 13 weeks. I was hoping it would come today. I have a Christmas Card to send. Wishful thinking! Give your son a big hug...."

Today I am thinking of all the mothers and fathers whose sons - and daughters - are in the military. No more whining about getting ready for Christmas. And I will be strictly following my friend's instructions about giving my own son that hug.


Mother-Son Quote of The Week

Images-1 "Mama's the kind of person that everyone in the community has always turned to with every problem. You can discuss everything with her. She's one of the world's greatest women."

                                                                                                                                -Lyndon Johnson

How The Fallen Have Gotten Mighty

3209654681_52bdc8f7d5 This morning I was woken up rather unceremoniously by my cat Lawson. This is the feline who showed up at our door seven years ago. At the time he was a tiny grey kitten, it was a raging snow storm and he was starving. It was a pitiful sight - his shivering, emaciated little body and his desperation. He was terrified of people but clearly had a will to live and was frantic for food.

Now please fast forward to the extremely large (okay, let's just say it, FAT) gray cat who jumped up on the bed this morning, tapped my shoulder with his paw repeatedly and meowed in my face. I got up wondering what could be the problem. I suspected an empty food dish. Nope, there was cat food in there.The problem, it seems is that Himself was not happy with the type of cat food.  It seems he was hankering for the wet cat food, and all we had was dry. He kept walking over to the cabinet where the cans of wet food are kept, to show me precisely what he had a hankering for.

Well, well, well. Someone is getting mighty big for his boots. Someone is also just plain getting mighty big. Right now we have snow cover in the backyard, and I have this theory that Lawson remembers his frantic, hungry kitten days when he sees all that white. It makes him hungry.

So yes, I have officially become a crazy cat lady. He did not, however, get the wet food on demand. I have my limits. 


Images  I have been reviewing happiness studies for my book. Yes, this is now a scientific field, complete with brain scans and papers in academic journals and long-term studies that track people's contentment over decades. Here are a few things I've learned:

-After a certain threshold, money doesn't correlate with happiness. Once your basic needs of food and shelter have been met, there is no connection between more money and more happiness.

-Older people tend to be happier than younger ones.

-Happiness is correlated with spiritual faith and altruism - those who give to others and who believe in something bigger than themselves are happier.

-Most of all, happiness is about connectedness with other people - warm intimate relationships, not just romantic love, but also deep friendships correlate with happiness. (Of course, it is also possible that people who tend to be happy in the first place are more likely to make close friends and form romantic attachments.)

Long before  brain imagery or scientific sampling existed, Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol."  I guess he knew what he was doing when he created the rich, miserly and miserable Scrooge.  All great writers understand human nature and they don't need social scientists to explain it to them.

Ho, Ho, Yikes!

Christmas-rush Last year, we received a Christmas card in mid-February. I have to give the sender credit - there was no self-conscious little note excusing the lateness. It just arrived with all the holiday bills, boldy and without explanation. 

Well, I think I'll get most of my cards in the mail this week, but I can't believe Christmas Eve is in 10 days. It snuck up on us again! I am certainly not finished with my shopping, including those gifts that have to be sent across the country. Also, I usually make some hand-made gifts. This year The Boy is getting one and it will take many hours to make. The Boy arrives home from college on Saturday, and I should really get this done before he gets here, so he doesn't catch me in the act.

Still trying to figure out what goes in Chapter Eight (the wrap-up chapter) and what will go in the new introductory chapter that the editor has requested. The Food Pantry is nuts this time of year, with increased demand, special holiday distributions, Toys for Tots, an unsolicited donation of gloves for children (great, but requiring more time and organization), etc. 

Ho, Ho, Yikes!


Is The War Over?

Unknown No, I'm not talking about Afghanistan or Iraq. I am referring to The Battle of The Sexes. I spent the weekend with extended family, several of whom were in their eighties. It's probably because I am so steeped in mother/son issues, which of course are also gender issues, but I was suddenly struck by the constant references to "how men are" and "how women are," which were accompanied by explicit and implicit hostility implied about those differences. Sometimes these comments were made jokingly, but more often it was with an edge, each implying a superiority about their own sex and the foolishness of the other.

I simply don't feel this way. It's partly a generational thing, since I grew up with much more parity between men and women (though of course have witnessed plenty of sexism) but I also think it has something to do with being the mother of a son. Why would I dislike men? Why would I view men as the enemy?

I was discussing this with the Weatherman (another male I love dearly) yesterday and he said something like, "Men aren't from Mars and women aren't from Venus. They are both from Planet Earth." Henry Kissinger also had a good quote on this topic: "No one will ever win the Battle of the Sexes. There's too much fraternizing with the enemy."

Mother-Son Quote of The Week

Alimuhammad22 “My mother was a gentle lady. She always spoke in a tender voice and I never heard her say a bad thing about anyone. She didn’t gossip or meddle in other people’s business. She taught us that prejudice was wrong, and to always treat people with love and respect...I loved her very much; there’s never been anyone better to me in my whole life.”

-Muhammad Ali

Tone and Structure

Unknown "Tone and Structure" sounds like something I should be pursuing at the gym. Actually,  it refers to how I am thinking about the book these days. As you know, I've been working on this project for ever - it seems to have the gestation period of an elephant. Because I've written it (and re-written, and re-written) over time, the tone of the book is all over the place. Sometimes, as when I'm discussing Freud and his Oedipus theory, it can sound a bit academic. But when I'm blathering away about Andrew Carnegie (huge Mama's boy) it can sound downright chatty. I'm looking for a tone that is consistent and somewhere in between - an informative, but friendly. Easy, right? Hah! Just as easy as toning that part under your upper arm that just seems to hang there, no matter how many tricep exercises you do.

Structure is a whole other story, but let's save it for our next workout.

Navigating in the Adirondacks

Pioneer-avicz1-navigation-311 The Weatherman gave me a navigator for my last birthday. It's a handy gadget and it would have been incredibly helpful to me during my reporting days, when I frequently got turned around in unknown parts of the county. But it's good to have now, especially if I'm traveling to upstate New York.

Last weekend when I was in the Adirondacks, I drove from Long Lake to Tupper Lake to get to the nearest grocery store, which takes about 30 minutes . (Have I mentioned the word "remote" yet?) Anyway, you really can't get lost, because there is only one road there. But I couldn't take my eyes on the navigator, because I had never seen it look like that before. How did it look? Well, see the illustration of the navigator up on the left? Picture instead the screen being entirely green except for the lone road that cut through the woods. I was so used to seeing intersecting roads and overlapping highways on that little screen. Instead, the only thing that broke up the image  was occasional blue blotches, illustrating nearby lakes.

Made my way back to Westchester yesterday which, after the snowy roads and freezing cold of the Adirondacks, seemed downright tropical at 33 degrees. And the navigator is back to showing its complex web of transportation.

Snow Delay

Images How could the snow delay a blog post? It's a long story. I'm up in Long Lake with the Weatherman for a very long weekend. What was predicted as "flurries" has almost added up to a foot of snow, with no end in sight. Been trying to get Internet connection since Thursday. It's been quite a saga. As of this morning, the dispatcher couldn't even find the repair man, since there is no cell service here and evidently the CB on his truck radio was out. Never mind. He just showed up and we're good to go, but even he said the roads were terrible, and he's a local. 

This has given me plenty of time to hunker down and edit chapters one through five of the book. I'm trying to get a consistency of tone now, because at this point I move from academic to breezy and back again, which can be a bit disconcerting to the reader. Did I tell you I finished Chapter Seven? Do I hear a "Hallelujah?" 

Sorry to be so disjointed - I am a little disoriented today.

Mother-Son Quote of The Week



"My mother taught me. She taught me about family and hard work and sacrifice. She held steady through tragedy after tragedy. And she held our family, my brother and me, together through tough times. As a child, I watched her go off to work each day at a time when it wasn't always easy to be a working mother. As an adult, I've watched her fight off breast cancer. And again she has taught me a lesson in courage. And always, always she taught me to fight."

-Bill Clinton


Article-1096950-006DB3D200000258-935_233x354 Getting into the spirit of the season - Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer style. Bleah. Take cold medicine that fogs your head but helps a bit with the non-stop sneezing and coughing? Or be relatively clear-headed but miserable? Meet my obligations and show up like a good little soldier? Or risk annoying everyone by spreading germs? Stop whining in my blog? OK, that was an easy one. I'm done.

A Rare Day

Images-1 Yesterday I worked all day and it was heaven. Mind you, I have a nasty head cold and my desk is not only tumbling over with books and papers but also wadded up Kleenex and multiple empty tea mugs. Where does the heaven part come in? There were NO interruptions. Sure, the phone rang and there were a few minor household things I had to take care of. But no meetings, no volunteer work, no dentist appointments, nothing, nada. Couldn't even go the gym because I felt so lousy.

I made enormous progress on the book which makes me wonder how productive  I could be if I lived my life as a relative hermit, devoted only to the book. Alas, I'm a social being my nature, with plenty of friends and family who need attention, not to mention a  a speech to edit today for the Food Pantry director (Tis the time of year to ask for money) as well as a meeting tonight. But it was a nice, brief cocoon while it lasted.