The Semi-Annual Blog Post

One of the photos from the our visit to the Smithsonian Institute.

So, it’s been nine months since I last posted to this website. You’re probably thinking, “Why, that’s enough time to have a baby!’

No. I did not have a baby. What I did do was finish my very first novel. It’s 61,000 words, and I am currently shopping for an editor (I’ve proposed, but I’m still waiting to hear if she has accepted). While it is a monumental accomplishment, I still have a long ways to go. I am cautiously optimistic that this book will eventually see print, but the print literature world isn’t particularly robust for novels that contain neither a vampire nor a child fighting the evils of worlds mystical or dystopian. My book is neither of these things.

However, one book does not make up for the neglect of this particular blog. I am still hoping to get to the eventual goal of Wwoofing with my son (more on this below). I’ve also been working on my other blog a lot this summer (it’s a food blog, so summer is a key writing time for me). I’ve also been trying to monetize more of my writing efforts because after several more interviews, I’m still one job short of a job with benefits. The only way around that is to do more of what I’m doing (i.e. writing) for better (or additional) pay.

With regards to homeschooling and travel, the closer my son gets to middle school, the less I want him to be taking a traditional path. What he most remembers from his spring semester of third grade is stressing out over test prep and the really cool trip we took to Washington, D.C. towards the end of the school year. His sister (my daughter) was a Presidential Scholar in the Arts and was performing at the Kennedy Center. We wanted to support her, but it meant that Yuri would miss two days of school. The solution was to turn our long weekend in D.C. into a learning project. We toured all the monuments, saw the White House, visited several of the Smithsonian Institute museums, and took a (free, of course, it’s Washington, D.C.!) ticketed tour of the Treasury Department. We also paddled around in a boat in front of the Jefferson Memorial.

Armed with a digital camera, Yuri had a genuine interest in what he was doing. He planned to give a PowerPoint presentation to the class when he returned, but I wasn’t sure how he’d take to it: My daughter is the performer; Yuri often clutches up when he has to stand and present to a crowd. I helped him set up the program, but he loaded the photos he wanted and did the captions himself (very short but to the point). His teacher said it was the best work he had done all year; he had no problem fielding questions from his classmates. What surprised me was how much he enjoyed going to the museums, where even I was starting to get tired after cramming so much in to a couple of days!

It just reinforces what I think is wrong with education today, at least for some kids. My son doesn’t want to learn to take a test. He wants to observe and interact with his “lessons.”

For what it’s worth, I am in the process of trying to streamline my blogging efforts. It’s all about rebranding myself, but I hope the result will mean more than two posts a year on this site. Thank you for your patience and for hanging in.

Where Did The Time Go?

Let's toast in the New Year. And plan to be more than we were!

I recently came across an amazingly well written blog (note: Chuck curses like a sailor, which I find really amusing but some may not) that admonished writers not to do 25 acts of self-sabotage. Out of those 25, I was guilty of roughly, well, 22. Among the more blatant sabotaging efforts in which I engage are stopping mid-project and allowing less interesting work to get in the way of my grander plans. Being a dreamer instead of a doer. Chuck mentions fear and self-loathing as being two prongs of a pitchfork upon which writers who don’t write impale themselves (my metaphor, not his; among the 25 of which I’m not guilty is writing in my own voice… I’ve got that down… parenthetical phrasing and all!).

I had to think about that for a bit. I certainly have issues of esteem that are no longer manifested in my daily life. Unfortunately, however, they have permeated by very being. Instead of feeling unworthy of love, for example, I just take it as gospel that I will never find love so I’d better stop dwelling on looking for it. When I’m offered pennies per word, I take it as the proof to my complex equation of the age old quandary, “How much am I worth?” Instead of writing my tome and allowing it to be scrutinized, I write half of it, become bored or preoccupied (or, simply, occupied… convincing myself that pennies are better than nothing), because I’ve already decided that since no one has ever understood me no one ever will (and “no one” is a bit broad… I have met two or three people in the course of nearly five decades who “got” me, but that number is still remarkably low considering my willingness to “overshare”).

Which brings me to the absence of these past four months. I’ve been busy. I’ve been employed. I’ve even paid down some debt and made a wee bit of headway on my financial situation. But I’m still treading water. I’m far from swimming, let alone having the strength or fortitude to swim upstream. I want to believe that 2012 will be a watershed year for me, but it’s oh-so-easy to set those resolutions in January only to wonder where they went come December.

Goal setting has never been my strong suit. I would have made a great caveperson (regardless of whether or not such creatures actually existed): I am well designed to act in the moment on a physical level; I have that fight or flight thing down. However, as a sentient being, I generally flee from the moment in my head rather than fight for what I need or want. It’s from years of capitulation that I’ve found it to be far less exhausting to give up rather than to fight and lose. It’s no longer about being afraid to fail; it’s a general resignation that failure is a foregone conclusion.

I don’t write this in sadness but more as a baring of my soul, so to speak. I have actually been clearing my plate of crumbs in the hopes that I can create an entree worth eating; I’ve pretty much stopped writing e-books, for example, because the pay was abysmal. I’m tending bar (having come full circle back to my 20s… without the benefits of youth), which I generally despise (not because I hate the bar or the people, but because it’s so not where I want to be). However, in some ways, this is a more motivating situation: if I truly hate what I’m doing, I’m much more likely to propel myself in a different direction. I could literally be ghost writing e-books until the end of my days, with literally nothing to show for my efforts (i.e. the pay is incredibly low and I cannot claim ownership of the writing, no matter its quality).

So, I will try try again to resume blogging and writing meaningful prose. I’m hoping to get with some meetup groups in the region, simply to have someone to hold me accountable. I need that “you have a deadline” pressure from an external source. I wish I were wired differently, but realizing I’m never going to accomplish my goals without a serious stick whipping me in the direction of the carrot is not a failure. It’s accepting that if I stop to nibble at every leaf of cabbage along the way, I’ll never accomplish anything of merit with regards to my writing.

The Highs And Lows Of My New Home

For anyone keeping track (is there anyone keeping track?), I am not homeless! A mere 36 hours before the move-in, we got the Certificate of Occupancy, and I was able to get into my new place on schedule. As with any new home, there are quirks. However, because this is new construction that was rushed at the last minute, there are some definite negatives to the new place. Fortunately, these are few and the pluses are many. Here’s the run down… Read the rest of this entry

Irene… You Blow!

Irene courtesy of Wikipedia

As I drink instant coffee (yea, Nescafe) from a borrowed cup in a borrowed apartment on 151st Street in Manhattan, I am drawn back into the blogosphere to talk about the weather. After following the directive (Mayor Bloomberg, stirring up panic in order to boost his media sales, no doubt) to evacuate my “Zone A” neighborhood, I was fortunate enough to land at a friend’s place some 200 blocks away. While I am grateful for a safe haven, it turned out that my home was also totally safe. Now, instead of being holed up in my own living room with my own cats, I am holed up in a distant living room with my friend’s cats. Read the rest of this entry

Moving Time… The Stress Of Doing What’s Right

The view from my Manhattan apartment after the Christmas 2010 blizzard.

I have been absent for nearly three weeks owing to a lot of activity in my life. I know that’s a poor excuse for a blogger, but what I beg you to realize is that I write an average of 10,000 words each week. While this may not seem like a tremendous amount of activity, that’s for my paid projects, and lately I’ve been feeling utterly drained. Whereas I had hoped to spend a couple weeks this month on upstate farms (not a vacation, per se, but at least a break from the city), it looks like all my “downtime” will be devoted to packing up and moving.

That’s right. I’m moving. Again. Read the rest of this entry

A Foodie In NYC

My good friend Heather and I playing "tourist" in my home town. (She's since moved back to Portland.)

Anyone who sits next to me long enough is bound to hear me rant about food. This goes far beyond drinking-the-Whole-Foods’-koolaid-organic lifestyle (in fact, I don’t give a rat’s patootie about certified organic, which is based on government standards for those chemicals it deems “okay”). I can talk ad naseum about the CSA movement (for the uninitiated, my friend Jacquie Berger at Just Food has a great piece about what is—and, more importantly, isn’t—a CSA). I’ve had heated debates with family members who just don’t understand the difference between eating a cow/pig/chicken/lamb from an industrialized CAFO and “happy meat” that lived a free range life until being slaughtered humanely. I could write a book (perhaps one day I shall) about my opinions regarding food safety, sustainable farming, and national security (a country that can’t feed its citizens healthy food or that imports its food supply from other nations is at a far greater risk of harm than any terrorist might impose). Read the rest of this entry

Raising Independent Children In A Scary World

Today I write only peripherally about myself.

A couple of days ago, a little boy (roughly the same age and size as my son) disappeared. The worst happened, and his body was found late last night. There are already some suspects in custody, so some small manner of justice may be exerted.

In these types of stories, it’s easy to play armchair quarterback. However, I can tell you first hand that raising a child in the city is an extreme challenge. Simple things that non-apartment-dwelling families take for granted, such as a backyard swing set or—simpler still—a backyard, few parents in the city have. Read the rest of this entry

We Are The World

My home is a bastion of tolerance. This is not to say we don’t have our prejudices; as they say in Avenue Q, “Everyone’s a little bit racist!” Living across from Ground Zero, for example, it can be difficult not to jump to conclusions about certain populations (of course, living a block away from Goldman Sachs, I could say the same… thank you for making billions off the little people…). Even in a city as diverse as New York, there’s still a frightening lack of integration (my friend, Heather,—hi, Heather!—taught in the Harlem schools for two years; often her students had never ventured south of 110th Street; these children hadn’t even witnessed Ground Zero, or the Statue of Liberty, or Wall Street). Thus, it can become all too easy to think about different constituencies as, well, different. To play up the confusion and culture shock. Certainly in my efforts to go around the world, I will see many new customs, just as I have witnessed many in the diversity of NYC. Read the rest of this entry

Creative Accounting

My son's sunburn that cost me $50 to treat in Barbados. Note the (somewhat belated) cover-up.

I’ve started telling a few people about my plan to travel the world doing Wwoof, dragging a kid in tow. Most people think it’s a really good idea… except for those who don’t. The first thing most of these friends bring up is the whole safety issue. Yes, I do worry about getting a toothache in Bangladesh or my son having a high fever in Morocco, but that’s for a few years from now. To be honest, the American health care is among the worst in the world for travelers (it’s not much better for residents!). It seems like every time my son travels, he needs to see a doctor. Once, an emergency visit to the hospital on Naxos set me back a whopping  €7 (that was roughly $7 at the time, before the Euro’s value against the dollar skyrocketed). For that  €7, we got ER service, two calls to Athens (the pediatrician wasn’t working at the island hospital, so they were consulting with a mainland doctor), and a prescription. About a year and a half ago, my son landed at a Bajan clinic where treatment plus medication (two prescriptions) cost me FIVE TIMES!!! the Greek hospital. Yep. Emergency care in the Bahamas was a whopping $50. Read the rest of this entry

Do As I Say, Not As I Do!

I think one of the most difficult things about writing a blog (or anything truly autobiographical, for that matter) is how much do I reveal about the real things in my life. How much truth is too much truth? I’m not malicious or cruel by my nature, so even if someone has truly wronged me, I’m unlikely to write about it in an open forum. However, I do realize that to create a story requires a level of initmacy that may make some people close to me uncomfortable. For that matter, it will probably make me uncomfortable knowing that my words may be misinterpreted (or, far worse, hit home!).

Thus, I proceed with caution but I do think there are “things to be said,” as they say. My very first post noted that I have never been goal-oriented. It is not that I lack conviction or resolve; I can work very hard and endure pain and suffering beyond what most people can (I’ve twice walked about on a broken limb; interestingly both times it was my right leg/foot that had been fractured). However, my parents pretty much raised my sister and me by osmosis. I don’t know if they consciously thought about how they were teaching us or if they just knew that we were basically good kids or what. My sister and I floundered a lot in our lives, but my “go with the flow” lifestyle left me at the whim of an awful lot of bad luck. Of course, there are plenty of people who think there is no such thing as bad luck. I am not superstitious at all, but I do think that some of us are luckier than others. For example, I was born caucasian and middle class in the greatest country on Earth. That was pretty much where my luck begins and ends, however. Read the rest of this entry