Dec 13

On a Good Day …

On a good day, I love to write.  Words unfurl like flags in a soft breeze.  Ideas and story scenes effortlessly bounce around and, before I know it, I’ve done something glorious and dazzlingly close to lovely.

But on those no good, rotten, terrible, horrible, gratingly wordless days, writing is about as much fun as folding twelve huge loads of laundry, each load filled with the teeny tiny clothing of toddlers.  Do you know how many pieces of clothing  can be crammed into just one load of toddler duds?  It’s a lot.  Trust me.  A lot.

But then there are the days when a story is completed and it’s the best and brightest shining star in your day.  Trust me on this too.

And so, picture this … at this very moment, I’m at my computer.  A cat is purring on my lap.  I have a Starbucks Venti non-fat, no-foam latte on the table and I’ve just finished an email to my editor, attaching a completed manuscript.

Let me say that again … A COMPLETED MANUSCRIPT!!!

There is perhaps no better satisfaction than pressing the send button, knowing that a year of your life is whirring through wherever it is that emails whir, especially when you also have a deep knowledge that what you’ve just done may be important to someone else.  That your words may touch another person in a positive way.  That perhaps one person will find comfort … a laugh … or even have a good cry over this thing you’ve written.

So here I am, a small bright light of pleasure threading through me, knowing that I’ve crafted a story meant specifically for millions upon millions of Alzheimer’s patients, their families and caregivers.  Sadly, there are few who are expected to be untouched one way or another over the coming years.

I’ll tell you more about my book and its progress through the maze of what can only be described as the “modern” publication progress.  I’ll soon let you read a sampling of the work.  I’ll keep you posted and always in my good thoughts as we work together toward a brighter future for those of us who are or have been touched by a very tragic and still incurable disease.

In the meantime, enjoy with me the wonder of literature and its healing properties.  On a good day, words are transformative.

Dec 10

And so the Holidays Begin

If you are like me, you love Christmas.  You love that twinkle twinkle, starry night, angel-on-top-of-the-tree feeling.  You love the lights, the ornaments you’ve collected over the years, the crackle of wrapping paper, holiday songs on the radio.  You drive around your city just to see the decorations of people who are way more ambitious and younger than you.  You ooh and aah every time you see your own Christmas decorations because they are yours.  You love how you’ve made space in your home for something faithful and timeless.  You especially love the holidays and traditions of others.  Hanakkah.  Winter Solstice.  Kwanzaa.  Boxing Day.

You even love how all this starts on a very poorly named day — Black Friday.  Then, of course, we’ve added Cyber Monday now to really get us in the spirit.  It’s all part of the tradition and … if you’re like me … you love every moment of the holidays.

This year is especially Christmasy around the old bloggybirdery — because two teeny tiny little boys are part of the magic.

It’s only a temporary living arrangement, but nevertheless, hooray for the delight in the eyes of  the grand little children.  What could be better than getting through a Santa picture session without a major meltdown?  What could be more engaging than watching two little boys help decorate cookies with sprinkles and squiggles of frosting?  What could be more heartwarming than a sleeping child draped over your shoulder after a long night’s wait for Santa to show up?

I love every moment of this because I know that next year’s holidays will be back to the quiet of just Dan and me … and the doggies, of course.

In the meantime, I also love photos like the one above that remind me of my own childhood Christmases that were always wild with thoughts of Santa and snow and waiting up way past my bedtime for the clatter of reindeer hoofs and a hearty ho ho ho.

P.S.  This year, my dear Dan cracked open a bottle of Cold Duck and then decorated the tree while I was gone on a business trip.  It’s very cute how only the top half of the tree has ornaments.  I’ll leave it the way it is because the gesture of Dan drunk-decorating is just too charming to change.  (Insert smiley face here)

Oct 31

Weekdays Down at the Costco

Since I’m no longer mistaken for a young woman, I’ve decided it makes sense for me to join my retired colleagues who spend their days cart-cruising the aisles of the local Costco.  One would think that weekday shoppers would be sparse in number, but here in Snowbird Country, we belie the concept that weekday mornings are uncrowded and thus a good time to get one’s shopping chores done quickly.  Nope.  We of the gray hair and comfy drawstring cotton pants are Legion.

We push our carts … or drive our Hoverounds … up and down the aisles with wild abandon.  We’re Boomers and Zoomers.  Wheeee!!!

We load up with giant things, most of which will only get tossed after a week … double packages of bagels and breads, huge  jars of spices, canned vegetables by the case and rolls of toilet paper by the dozens, 20 pound sacks of potatoes, boxes of frozen goods guaranteed not to fit in even the largest home freezer, packages of socks that are impossible to resist, not because they’re especially cute, but rather, because of the price per pair.   Books.  Best sellers by the truckload.  It’s all big, but somehow everything seems dwarfed into seemingly manageable  segments because of the size of the big box in which we are all wheeling our burgeoning carts.

By width, breadth and height, it’s one huge place.

Then there are the food samples.  At the end of each aisle, kind folks serve up tidbits of edibles in little ruffled paper cups — Saltines spread with various spreadables, portions of potted meats or warmed-up burritos cut into bites with orange-handled scissors, a spoonful of chicken noodle soup, two or three oddly flavored almonds, a sampling of the latest unpronounceable liquid concoction guaranteed to pep one up or slim one down.  We press in and descend upon these little cupped morsels like a circling murder of crows.

After we’ve loaded our baskets and eaten our way through the big box that is Costco and after we’ve stood in line to pay for the enormously-sized items in our carts, we make one last purchase.  We stand in another line to buy their famous but still ordinary foot-long hot dog and a Coke.  $1.50.

And that is what the retired in my neighborhood do.  Each weekday we swoop into Costco and walk the aisles, pushing huge carts into which we heap huge items, all the time wearing huge amazement on our faces at how many other people are also out shopping on a weekday morning.

I LOVE Costco!!!

Oct 24

Forgetful

It’s usually just a tiny conversation, only a few words long.  But every day, millions of men and women stand in their living rooms, their hands clutched to their chests, worry spilling from their eyes.  I can’t remember, they say.  Three small words.  I can’t remember.  Usually it has to do with yet one more misplaced item or yet another forgotten event.  But even while those small words thud clumsily about the room, there’s not a “senior moment” that isn’t accompanied by a deeper, darker and much more elegantly frightening thought:

What if it’s Alzheimer’s?

We all begin our lives as soft-skinned, fragile little tendrils, reaching upward, asking to be filled with colors and shapes, words and lullabies.  We grow.  We learn and laugh and discover love and triumph and even certain disappointment amid our days.  We marry and continue on and on.  Somewhere along the way, we harden into spacious teacups filled with wisdom and comfort to pour out for those we love.

But some of us crack.

Some break apart.  Everything  stored to this point begins to leak and fall and clatter to the floor.  Things get forgotten.  Things are repeated.  The internal directional compass that had earlier been so easy and effortless to follow becomes impossible.  Everyone stands helplessly aside while words whiz by in confounding, befuddling speed.  For those who become eventually and irretrievably forgetful, life is a continuous one-way turn until, in the end, there is simply a circle back to diapers and liquids and … wordlessness.

Currently more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and 78 million baby boomers are at risk – unless we find a way to change the course of this disease.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that’s not happy with simply killing its victims in a timely or reasonable manner.  No.  It first takes its victim’s essence … slowly, over several agonizing years, until there is seemingly nothing left of the original person.  There is no cure.  Although there is promise with gene research and earlier diagnostic techniques, current therapies only offer a short-term delay of the inevitable outward display of symptoms.

That’s why I’m going to participate in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Memory Walk.

On November 13, 2010, I’ll join thousands of others in Phoenix walking to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer care, support and research.  I’m doing this for the memory of Dan’s parents.  My legs will be filled with the thought of millions of Americans who are slowly dying of this memory-stealing disease.  For three short miles, I’ll carry the hope that a cure will be found before we are hopelessly overwhelmed by an aging population of baby boomers ripe for the pickings by this dreaded disease.

If you have an opportunity to either join me in Phoenix or find a Memory Walk in your particular area, I’m excited that you would do that.  I’m encouraged that we would all think about what it means to retain our memories and our personalities as we grow older.  If nothing more, let’s think of being those beautiful teacups, pouring out the wisdom of our ages and love for our families, and do everything we can to make that our future.  If you can, give.  If you can’t, maybe light a candle or say a tiny prayer for people who are sick with a very frightening disease. Everything — anything — helps.

As we do with cancer and heart disease, let’s elevate Alzheimer’s disease to the same level of immediacy by giving what we can and doing what we should.  Let’s fund research that will find a cure so that — somewhere down the road — should you find yourself or someone you dearly love, hands clutched to the chest, admitting, I can’t remember, it will no longer foretell a slow and agonizing destruction.  It will just be a normal “senior moment” to shake off and chuckle over.

Oct 09

Think About These Boys

When my arm is completely and totally all more better from its recent fracture, this is how I shall dance!   Seriously.

But more seriously, this is exactly why music and arts education should be kept in our schools.  Think about these boys next time you hear someone say that we need to cut more and more and more from our education curriculum, that music and the arts are a waste of time and money.  Yes.  Think of these boys.  Dancing.  On a corner in Oakland.  Under the rain.

Oct 03

The Story of Ink

Here is how ink is made. It looks so delicious, I want to put it in a bowl and eat it with a delicate, fluted spoon. Instead, I’ll simply remember this amazing instructive video when my manuscript, All the Dancing Birds, is published. (Insert smiley face here.) For this is how the ink will be made that will be used for its cover page art. This is how the black ink will be made that will become its words on each page and how numbers in that same black ink will enumerate each page.

Maybe I should dedicate my book to the magic of ink.

Of course, the plan is to first finish this book. It’s been slow-as-you-go, but it’s very close now — only a few pages from its completion. I’ve been working hard to finish the story, to get it just right, to help it flow smooth as ink. I’m only a few days from knowing it is done, because knowing a work of fiction is complete is as much an art as is the act of writing. Knowing one’s book is finished is very much like an ink maker knowing his ink is just the correct hue and shade and viscosity.

So, huzzah to the ink maker. Huzzah to the writer. Huzzah to the reader.

It seems we’re all in this together. The writer, the ink maker and the reader. Huzzah!

Enjoy the video.

Sep 13

Reclamation and Restoration

It’s harder than I thought.  I’m trying very hard to reclaim my body; it’s been misplaced and so far, I’ve not found where I put the darned thing.  Once-upon-a-time, there was a season of magical days when everything worked perfectly — I swirled and twirled and jumped and danced.  I was smaller then.  Younger.  My hair was thick and muscles held tight to my bones.

It was all so easy.

We’re told it happens to us all, this melting away of our young selves.  It’s a slow process for most.  Every day there is just a teensy little change that happens so deep within our cellular selves, it’s not even noticed.  At least not until that first gray hair.  The first crinkle around the eyes.  The first droop of skin beneath our arms.

For some, our bodies turn on a dime.  One day we’re well.  Then we’re sick.  Or injured.  Or different.  We break and crumble and clatter to the ground like small pieces of dropped and broken clay pots.  Our bodies and minds are just so stupidly fragile.

But sometimes, an injection of joy is just the kind of glue we need to place us on the mend.  With just one gesture, suddenly we’re schoolgirls or happy mates again, grinning like frogs and making delicious little monkey faces to ourselves.

That’s what happened for my sister a few days ago.

She’s recently reconnected with a former friend — someone she hasn’t seen in countless years.  They’ve been carrying on daily phone conversations for the past few weeks, remembering to each other their young and simple days when bodies worked and faces shined and everyone had lots and lots of hair and a lot less belly.  He — yes, HE — has invited her to his home in Oregon for a week’s visit.  My sister has gleefully accepted.  With marriages and kids and myriad triumphs and tragedies all behind them, they’ve begun to braid together a possible new life together — as potential lovers, maybe mates, certainly as lifelong friends.  They seem to be offering to one another a possible opportunity to live out their days in comfort and companionship.

The other day, my sister received a phone call from her friend.  He was at a Karaoke bar with friends and he wanted her to hear him sing something he was dedicating to her.  Unabashedly in front of his pals and over the phone, my sister’s friend crooned the old Elvis song, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.”

There, in the three or so minutes it took to Karaoke that song, my sister’s heart went Squeeeeee and all the broken and shattered places she’s endured for years upon years of terrible mind and body fragility was instantly puttied together with the glue of every schoolgirl’s idea of To-the-Moon romance.

So while I’m about to start the tough physical therapy process of mending my recently broken arm and reclaiming its former usefulness, it’s good to know that my sister’s own longstanding and awful painful places have just been gob-smacked into instant remission by one gesture so lovely, so unexpected, that she has no choice now but to smile and smile and smile.

Maybe we should all sing to each other … because how grand and hopeful is that for reclaiming, mending and restoring all those little hurty places we each have?

Yes, I can’t help falling in love with youuuuuu.

Sep 03

This Could Be How Lemonade Got Started


Families:  We bond and birth and grow and sometimes sadly diminish.  We tip over and right ourselves again.  We’re generations old and still we’re fresh and new.  We operate with the code that it’s okay to treat each other in ways that we would NEVER allow an outsider.  (I can call my sister ugly, but boy, you’d better not!)  We argue and make up and then do it all again.  We love.  We disappoint.  We make green jell-o with little marshmallows because that’s what our mothers always made.  We metaphorically light the bar-b-que and then walk away for someone else to cook the meal.  We hug our children endlessly and place them in tearful time outs.  We do our best.  We always do our best.

Still, sometimes little families fail in spite of everyone’s best efforts.

Because of that simple truth — that sometimes things just don’t work out — our little bloggybirdery here at the DancingBirds.com place is about to swell and grow and most assuredly become very, very noisy.  We’ve already incorporated one cat.  In just a few days we’ll be adding one very large Boxer, one grown daughter and two teeny tiny little boys into the mix.  Somewhere down the line, we might think about turtles, fish, hamsters and gerbils.

For a season of indeterminate length, we get to have some grand and maybe even some poignant family moments.  For however long it takes for my daughter to regain her legs and heal and find her wind again, we’re going to get to spend countless precious hours reading Dr. Seuss and watching Mickey’s Clubhouse with doggies all around and certainly a cat on someone’s lap.  We’re going to laugh and cry and, with all the noise and hugs we can deliver, we’re going make the best of it all.

So to recap, we now have One Labradoodle, One Golden Retriever, Two Lizards that skitter back and forth on the patio, Two Dead Scorpions … and now One Cat (that Wilson insists would taste like chicken if I’d just give him a chance).  Within a few days, we shall add One Huge Boxer, One Daughter and Two Teeny Tiny Little Boys.  Hoo boy!

This is called Family with a Capital OMG … and I believe that this is certainly how the first glass of lemonade was made and now how GrandMommy Blogs get started.