Friday, August 29, 2014

Fall Friday

I took myself to breakfast at Tom's this morning, the diner made famous by Seinfeld. I sat outside and ate my eggs and edited my manuscript and watched the returning students and their parents wander by, the parents with that particular mix of joyful pride and bewildered sorrow on their faces as they prepare to let their baby birds fly. The morning is crisp and blue and the neighborhood is once again buzzing with college kids after the empty sidewalks of summer. Freshmen on group tours of the Columbia environs are blooming on every street corner, their faces eager and rapturous. It's hard not to call back how it felt when I was in their shoes, thirty-nine impossibly swift years ago now. It makes me smile even as it pricks me with nostalgia. Fall has arrived. It used to be my favorite season because I was always excited to return to school myself. It is a sweet melancholy to remember.

End of summer

Yesterday our boy went to work and then came home with three friends in tow, two English boys and one American. The American is often at our house and it's always nice to see him. The English boys, too, are agreeable young men, getting a taste of the good old U.S. of A. after spending summer by the lake as camp counselors and before they head back home. Also last night, one of our son's best friends, his high school and college track buddy Jourdan, celebrated turning 23 in our living room with the rest of the guys. My husband and I were right in the mix of six young men downing a tequila shot in honor of the birthday boy, who plans to get a new tat this weekend, which led to everyone showing off their tattoo art, some of it quite exquisite. I wondered briefly if I was a bad example of a mother, drinking tequila shots with these young men as they bared their torsos to display their body art. Then I decided I didn't care.

Jourdan brought over another friend, a boy he'd gone to college with at the same school where my daughter now goes. A very bright and thoughtful kid. We had an impassioned discussion about whether Jay-Z should be doing more with his millions to help alleviate the inequities in society, and this kid made some compelling points, backing them up with examples from Jay-Z's lyrics and his life, and opining that when Harry Belafonte called the rapper out about being socially irresponsible, he'd had a point. (I'd missed the whole Harry Belafonte-Jay-Z kerfuffle, but hey, now I'm up to speed.) The kid went on to observe that racism is mostly covert these days, embedded in institutions and in the unconscious attitudes of most of us. Aside from the very conscious and deliberate vitriol that comes at our president on a daily basis, I think he's mostly right.

That cop who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri probably wasn't aware of the tapes playing out at a subconscious level that this Black youth was dangerous, even though he was unarmed. The kid had his hands in the air and was shouting, "I don't have a gun! Stop shooting!" Despite subsequent efforts to criminalize him, Michael Brown was somebody's child who was walking home to his grandma's house and was to start college in two days.

And the cops who shot 22-year-old John Crawford in the Beavercreek, Ohio Walmart because he was holding a BB gun that he'd taken from the store shelf, probably didn't consciously process that this Black man was just a shopper like any other. John Crawford cried out, "It's a toy! It's a toy!" as they pumped bullets into him. I'm pretty sure all the cops saw as they squeezed the trigger was the stereotype of black men as criminals that they carry around in their unconscious and now this construct was holding a gun shaped implement and so boom! boom! boom!

But I digress. The evening was a lot more lighthearted than all that. And even though four of the six boys in our living room were young Black men who need to be always conscious of how they move through the world, somehow we managed to engage in the discussion as an intellectual exercise and keep the mood festive. I think if we really took in the full extent of this summer's tragedies, we might implode. Self-preservation is an instinct.

Our son and his friends are all going off for a two-day concert somewhere in Pennsylvania this weekend. My husband and I will be unsupervised and we plan to kick up our heels and belatedly celebrate our anniversary.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back-to-school transitions

I always miss my girl so much when she first goes back to school. She's living in a house with four roommates this year, one of whom is a friend since first grade. Their mothers are very amused because we remember when these two told us one year that when they grew up they would live together. And now they do. The house is huge. And it's not nearly as run down as most of the student housing in town. In fact the kitchen is renovated, and there's a sweet porch swing, so they lucked out for sure. The parents of one of the other roommates were understandably upset that the interior wasn't painted between tenants, but when my daughter told me earlier that the landlord had said they could paint their rooms however they wished, I knew that meant he wasn't planning to paint indoors. My girl did exchange numerous pleasantly persistent emails with the landlord last semester to get him to paint the previously crumbling exterior, and she was successful. Life lesson no. 1. The exterior looks pretty darn good now.

The way my missing the girl is manifesting this time is that I wish so hard that I could be there to help her set up her room, which of course is ridiculous. It's her room, she's 20 years old and entirely capable of knowing how she wants it and making it so. She painted an accent wall a Caribbean blue, and her roommate from freshman year came over to help. She has since hung fairy lights and pictures of friends and family as a headboard, which she says makes her happy. She has lots of storage. In fact her closet goes on forever, wrapping around under the stairs to the attic. It's kind of spooky actually, but she got stick-up lightbulbs to put in there and illuminate everything. She's opted for a serene white and blue decor with pops of pastels and red. She did send me a hint of how it's going in the photo below. Classes started yesterday, however, and she's already very busy, so I don't know when I'll see the finished product. I'm kind of liking the lived-in chic of the room so far, though I'm tempted to send a pair of pillowcases.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Argos Inn

We are just back from our weekend upstate where we helped install our girl in her off campus housing for the new school year. I am lining up all my ducks this morning and once they're back in a nice OCD row I'll be around to visit and catch up on everything I missed.

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the absolutely wonderful bed and breakfast where we stayed in Ithaca. It's the Argos Inn, a renovated historic mansion with beautiful artistic finishes. It's has a sort of minimalist old world decor—I know, that's a contradiction in terms, but somehow it works. The statement pieces, from the original art on the walls, to the blown glass chandelier in the entrance hall, to the reupholstered Louis XV chairs to the custom crafted zinc-top bar, are timeless. And the staff was just first-rate, especially the woman who checked us in, whose name was Dana. She made our anniversary drinks in the bar extra special just by the easy-going warmth of her manner. The bar is like some well-heeled but very hip person's elegant living room in the family mansion, and cocktail-sipping patrons spill into the sun room or onto the back terrace with its wrought iron railings as graceful as a master painter's brush strokes.

On our 28th anniversary on Saturday, after helping our girl get her things from storage and cleaning her room to my satisfaction, we did some preliminary shopping with her roommates, dressed for dinner with her bf's family, then came back to the Argos Inn and cozied up on a settee in the bar. We took in the scene as we sampled the signature drink, the famous Bagpipe Mariachi—a little too medicinal-tasting for my palate, but I was definitely feeling gently floaty after a few sips. I switched to almond-clove champagne for the second drink and, for my love, the age of sail aficionado, a glass of absinthe, once banned because it was thought to be a hallucinogenic. Don't laugh—we felt so cool and adventurous! Which is a wonderful way to feel when you've been married 28 years and you're ferrying your youngest back to college.

The experience was all about the details: My husband happily jingled the antique-looking keys in his hand as we walked up the impeccably restored stairs to our room at the end of the evening. He commented, "There's something so nice about the feel of a real key rather than a plastic card." Other details we loved: The heated bluestone slab floors in the bathroom with its tumbled-marble walls, the romantic rain shower, the blow dryer tucked in a tapestried pouch and hung next to the basin, the exposed 200-year-old red brick fireplace facing the bed, the black velvet curtains, the Venetian plaster, the abundant outlets perfectly situated for recharging phones and Kindles, the antique armoire, the simple brass bedside tables, none of it overdone, all of it just right.

I should mention that our friend in this little blog community, Susan T. Landry of Pie and Run to the Roundhouse Nellie, is the mother of the architect, Benjamin Rosenblum, responsible for the energy design and sustainability of the property. He and his partners did a fantastic job with everything, visible and not. I'm indebted to Susan for letting us know about this lovely new boutique hotel in Ithaca (they opened last November). We will definitely be staying there again.


Friday, August 22, 2014

28 years ago

The photo was taken at the 50th anniversary celebration of Life magazine, held at Radio City Music Hall in the fall of 1986. My husband and I were newlyweds, not even one month married, and the young lady with us was one of my chief cohorts at the magazine. As reporters together, we shared some wild times. I completely adored her, and she was on hand to witness my meeting and falling in love with the man I would eventually marry. She moved back to her home state of California the year after this photo was taken, so the near constant party that was our lives back then came to a natural end. But this photo, which my husband unearthed last evening, has always been one of my favorites. It shows the friendship among the three of us and the giddy-in-love newlywed wonder between my husband and me. And doesn't he look dashing in his tux? It is the same one he got married in.

Tomorrow, on our 28th anniversary of marriage, we'll be taking our daughter back up to college for her junior year, helping her get set up in her off campus house, doing the supply runs and generally being parents as opposed to romantic partners. But we'll be staying in a new, elegantly renovated inn with artfully appointed rooms, and the trendiest bar in Ithaca is on the premises, which according to the reviewer means our shoes won't stick to the floor. It's a college town scene after all. In any case, we'll raise a glass and toast ourselves once the unpacking is done, and after a nice dinner with our daughter and perhaps also some of her friends.

We've agreed to postpone the real celebration of our 28th year of marriage till next weekend. This is the second time we've been moving a child back to school on our anniversary. Four years ago we were moving our son in for his sophomore year. We treated ourselves to a fancy hotel room that night, too. Happy anniversary when it comes, my love. I have the best adventures with you, even if all we're doing is ferrying our kids back to school.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I just love the picture

Plus I need something happy at the top of my blog after that last post. I'm also missing that impossibly blue sea I just left, and better to focus on bright and beautiful things this morning, when there is so much that is heavy and ugly in the world. This photo reminds me there are still corners such as this on the planet, with loved children safely at play.

Photo: Kevin S. Bourke


I'm having trouble writing about Ferguson and the death by cop of Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man who was jaywalking. I am having trouble immersing myself in the details enough to write about them, because the whole thing is so distressing and commonplace that I can't even take it all in. At this moment, Ferguson, Missouri is burning, and journalists have been told at police gunpoint to stay behind a taped off area. There are tanks in the street and more people have been shot, at least one of them killed, and dogs and tear gas have been unleashed. The whole thing is a tinder box that has blown the fuck up.

I'm incensed that CNN reported this morning that Darren Wilson, the white cop who shot the black kid, is said to be "a good guy" by his friends, meanwhile the Ferguson police force is trying to paint the victim as a career criminal who might have reached across a grocery store counter and took something. The store video's not really clear and it's irrelevant anyway. The cop didn't know anything about that when he pumped six bullets into 18-year-old Michael Brown, two in the head, as the kid stood with his hands in the air begging him not to shoot, according to witnesses. The kid was two days away from starting college. I'm sure his friends thought he was "a good guy," too.

Check out this piece from Huffpo comparing how news headlines describe white killers compared to black victims. Here's an example:

What are they really saying? That unarmed Trayvon Martin deserved to be shot and killed while walking home from the store because he'd been suspended three times from school? And here's another more recent example:

The black man in the second headline, by the way, was a shopper in a Beavercreek, Ohio Wal-Mart who was holding a BB gun on sale by the store. John Crawford III had taken the air rifle from the shelf when he was accosted by police and fatally shot. Despite rallies calling for the release of the store video, police have refused to allow it to be viewed.

I'll leave you with this quote from James Baldwin because he manages to say everything there is to be said today even though he wrote these words decades ago. Has so little changed?

“It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in the light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is a commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one's own life, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one's strength. This fight begins, however, in the heart and it now had been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair. This intimation made my heart heavy...”

—James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Moon and Stars

We left Kingston on the 1:12 a.m flight last night and arrived back in New York at 6 a.m. this morning. Customs at JFK was a surreal, flights from everywhere converging on the International Arrivals Building as the sun rose. We inched forward in lines upon snaking lines, only to be directed to stand in more lines that zig zagged maze-like with our quarry seeming always to be further away. There was no logic to any of it. My daughter said, "Can you imagine what Ellis Island must have been like after that long sea voyage, the endless lines, the medical checks, the hooks in your eyes, and then being sent back after all that?" I looked around the arrivals hall at the thousands upon thousands of bleary-faced souls in the line for returning citizens, humans of all descriptions, and I couldn't help but recall my husband saying after one such return, "Look at all the colors of the people in this line. This right here is the Republicans' worst nightmare." We were huddled masses for sure, but most of us were not from anywhere near Europe.

When we finally got into the customs booth, the agent, an older Chinese woman, looked as if it was just way too early: She even blinked in slow motion as she rifled the pages of our passports listlessly, and was flummoxed again and again by her recalcitrant stamp machine. It seemed to need to be "set" somehow, a step she couldn't seem to bother remembering. She was so over it. She brightened up a bit when her eyes fell on my daughter's name, which I've been told means "Moon and Stars" in Mandarin, and she smiled fleetingly as she asked my daughter how she pronounces it. By then my girl was doing her darndest to keep a straight face. We were punchy from the long night of travel and everything was absurdly funny. I saw my child trying so hard not to laugh at the wayward stamp machine and the woman's utter indifference to it, and I nearly lost my own composure. As soon as we were safely out of earshot, we collapsed into giggles like silly schoolgirls. My son was much too tired to pay us any mind. Instead he headed for our bags, which were already off the carousel and stacked in the distance.

Everyone is sleeping now, exhausted from the quiet emotional reckoning of saying yet another goodbye to my mom, knowing each one could be our last. Before we left yesterday, my sister in law took us all for Devon House ice cream, a particular treat in Jamaica, so that my younger niece, who'd returned from summer camp that afternoon, could have some fun with her cousins. Outside the ice cream parlor afterward, I snapped a photo of Lady G's grandchildren, all five of them together for the first time in as long as any of us could remember. May there be many more such reunions, with my mom still around and able to enjoy them. It's nice to be back in New York, though. There's nothing in the world like your own bed. In fact I'm about to climb back into it. Welcome home, me.

Photo taken August 16, 2014 at Sovereign Plaza, Kingston, Jamaica. Ages from left are 10, 22, 13, 20 and 24.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

River Wild

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. 
We shall get there some day.”

—A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Friday, August 15, 2014

Kingston, Day 5

My mom's voice is disappearing—it is her most troubling symptom as of late, more so than her quivering hands, which no longer ache as much as they did thanks to medication. She also sleeps a lot during the day, so long as she can find a comfortable posture in her chair. But her voice. She asked me to listen to her closely, but whatever it is she wants to tell me she is having trouble getting it out. My sister in law thinks it's due to underuse of her vocal chords but I think it might be overuse since we've been here, her grandchildren swirling around, her constant effort to connect verbally. And now we are already on our second to last day, the week has simply flown by.

I am so grateful to my brother and my sister-in-law for making sure she has really good care. They are both doctors, so the medical aspect of things is monitored, but they have also hired two really lovely women who rotate her care, switching off between day shift and night shift each week. They sleep in the room with my mom on a futon at night, and they are unfailingly patient and gentle with her, especially when she brushes her teeth, which she must do after each meal and which for some reason takes half an hour and drives me to distraction.

I am not feeling very reflective right now. I'm skating on the surface. I'll take it in later. Still, as I sleep next to my mother at night, I am aware of watching for the rise and fall of her chest, knowing that at any moment she could take her last breath. Nicole, one of her caregivers, is of the mind that she is still very present, her observation skills and sense of humor intact, which to her means she has two or three more years. In truth, when Aunt Winnie was at this stage (and my mother is following the very same path), she did indeed have three more years, though I am not sure it is what she would have wanted. I am so torn. I want my mother here with me. I don't want my mother to suffer.

I am editing a book by a hospice nurse who is also a Reiki healer. She says my mother is going to hang on until we give her permission to go. Am I selfish that I cannot make myself say the words to release her? Somehow it feels too soon.

On tap for today: My son and niece, the athletes, are going to Liguanea Club to play squash. My niece is a beast at the game and once made a male opponent from Notre Dame University cry after he lost to this diminutive powerhouse in a tournament.

My daughter has no interest in squash and plans to stay home with us and work on her Vitamin D intake by the pool. She says her two years in the frozen north where she attends college have compromised the ability of her skin to drink in the sun. She used to be able to spend ten minutes outside and look as if she'd been the entire day at the beach. And she never ever got sunburned. Now, even though she uses sunblock, her cheeks are sun red from yesterday. She plans to conquer this and recapture her usual summer shade of deep burnished brown.

A former high school classmate of mine ran into one of my cousins in a store last week. She asked my cousin, a stranger until then, if she knew me because she reminded her so much of me. I have not seen this classmate in more than twenty years. My cousin told her that I would be coming to Jamaica in a few days, and so a group of my high school classmates have planned a dinner for tonight so we can have a mini reunion. I don't know exactly who will be there, but I have not seen most of these women since I graduated high school back in the seventies. I hope I recognize everyone. Excited!

That's my cousin who everyone says looks like me. Do you see it? Should I go blonde? This cousin is for my mother what I was to Aunt Winnie, the niece on spot, the one my mother relies on above all others, to the point where my mom very often calls me by her name. I don't mind one bit. I am glad my mom has this super capable charismatic cousin, who my husband calls The General and whose birthday is today. Her mother Grace is in Canada, watched over by a grand daughter. My own niece said the other day, "It seems as if all the aunts have a niece or granddaughter nearby who is taking care of them," to which my mom said so softly, "We are part of a special family indeed."

Here's one more of the boy cousins playing FIFA Football on my nephew's X-Box and talking trash energetically as my 10-year-old nephew trounces my 22-year-old son again and again. "When are you going to admit defeat," he says. "Never," my son says, "and I'm going to keep talking trash till I beat you." His cousin's only response: "Ha!"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Morning. Evening. Beach Wifi

The cousins and some of their friends headed off bright and early on a road trip to Frenchman's Cove. Their preparations and excitement brought back vivid memories of my own beach-going youth. I'm glad my kids are having this experience with their Jamaican cousins. Going to the beach from Kingston is generally an all day affair, necessitating some travel to the best beaches, unlike in Antigua and St. Lucia, where there is are gorgeous white sand beaches at the end of almost every road and people drop by for a quick morning or afternoon swim.

As for me, I'm staying home with my mom and hanging on her every word. She's hard to understand these days but this morning on waking she took my hand and said, "I want you to listen to me carefully, because I don't have time for you to ask me what I said again and again. Just pay close attention because every moment we have left is precious and I have so much still to tell you." Yes, she said that and it came our clear and whole.

This is my mother's view as evening slips in. No word from the beach-goers but I did see an Instagrammed photo of my niece hanging from a tree by the knees, hands swirling the water, laughing upside down. I guess this is what's possible with beach wifi. And this, which just arrived on my phone via What's App, courtesy of my darling niece.

The story so far

After  (see previous post)

Cousin reunion

Terra Nova for lunch

Father and daughter

Grandma and her devoted

The family name etched at Devon House

The verandah, a waterfall beyond

My big brother and me

"My eyes water, too, Grandma"

He tells a good story

Who: My son and daughter and me, my mother, my brother and my niece, and the rest of our family in Kingston.

What: Visiting my mom in Jamaica; my children have also planned some beach time with cousins and their friends tomorrow. The beach, they are told, has wifi.

When: One whole glorious week in paradise, except it is steaming hot and there are water lock offs at certain hours in certain areas due to a prolonged drought (third world problems).

Where: At my brother's house; at Devon House, which used to be owned by our wealthier ancestors and which we jokingly call "the family estate"; at Terra Nova restaurant, where my brother took us to lunch after the surgery he was scheduled to perform this afternoon was cancelled due to a power outage in the operating theater (third world problems).

How: My mom is pretty much the same as when I was her with her in May, but her voice is even softer. My children aren't freaked out by her decline. They just see their grandma, and do for her whatever she needs, sprawling across her bed and watching game shows as she dozes in her chair in between. She told her sister on the phone tonight that she has been graced with "honorable company," meaning her grandchildren.

Why: Because we love this grand lady and each other and distances must be bridged.

Also: Please forgive my spotty presence in blog world this week. I'm mostly reading on my phone when I can cop some wifi. Comments are a challenge.

Birth Mother

I love this post over at by Denise Emanuel Clemen, whose short memoir, Birth Mother, was recently published by Shebooks. Birth Mother is an extraordinarily present work that lays bare the toll of sealed adoption on the ones who must relinquish their children in a world that gives them no other choice.

Denise's writing has a subtle power—nothing superfluous yet every detail is given its perfect weight, the sentences spare yet sweeping you into and through the story like a steadily building wave, almost imperceptibly gathering urgency, sorrow, poetry, force, until it breaks against the shore of a teenager's grief, a heart splintered in secret and the shame and broken fury that will forever after define her life.

Here is the editor's description of the book: “In this emotionally detailed memoir of an agonizing year in small town USA, Denise Emanuel Clemen takes us inside the shame, confusion and fear that attended her unplanned pregnancy in the days before Roe v. Wade, when the only options for an unwed teen mother were secret adoption or public disgrace. A shattering portrait of an American era.”

Read Denise's post today at Medium, follow her blog about adoption rights and her own story, then click on over to Shebooks or Amazon and buy her ebook for just $2.99. You'll never look at sealed adoptions or officially invisible birthmothers in the same way again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Oldie but goodie

Growing up, these three spent their summers with us in New York and with their Grandma in St. Lucia, making them closer than cousins, more like siblings. We're on our way to Jamaica today, where my two will join their adored cousin (center) for a week with their Grandma and other family, and there will be beach and night life for sure, as these children, 10, 14 and 12 in the photo above, taken on a bike outing in Riverside Park, are now 20, 24 and 22. That photo was ten years ago. I'll take an update this week for a sweet before and after.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fairy Lights

My friend and sister spirit Jax, who introduced me to my husband back when she was dating his cousin, is right now on her way to New York to spend the weekend with us. She and my husband grew up together in Antigua and when my own parents moved to Antigua back in the eighties, my mother couldn't wait to introduce me to her, the daughter of friends. My mother was so sure that the two of us would get on famously. And we did. And we do. I can't wait to see her. I'm thinking tonight my husband and I will take her to dinner at that Mexican place with the fairy lights and we'll sip mango margaritas and the freshest, sweetest pico in the city, and just-made guacamole, and we'll laugh and bask in the supreme comfort of such company.

My daughter is away for the weekend, visiting a friend upstate, and when she comes back, she and my son and I will head to Jamaica to spend the week with my mom and the rest of our family there. I hate to leave my husband by himself so soon after his father's passing, but he will be busy with some very important meetings so hopefully the week will go by quickly for him. He says, "Now I am an orphan" with a kind of bewilderment that such a thing could be true. He is stoic and pragmatic, this man, but even those walls of character cannot contain the need to grieve. And certainly his dad was a man worth grieving. He says he is fine when he is moving and doing, but when he stops he finds he just wants to lie in bed and stare at the wall. I remember when my dad died, it was months before I began to emerge from a kind of underwater numbness. I remember distinctly the feeling of just going through the motions.

This has been an expensive summer. I'm kind of missing that every-two weeks paycheck. But I do have work through the end of the year, and I'm going to trust that more will show up by the time I'm done with these projects. Life is uncertain but good. I'm sort of skating on the surface of it right now, accepting what is, noticing what isn't, and trying not to worry about any of it. My daughter's presence helps. Yesterday we saw the movie Boyhood, which I wanted to love more than I actually did. Still, ditching my work in the mid afternoon and going to the movies with my girl felt like a delicious escape.

Someone recently suggested there are light beings among us who can lift the mood in a room just by entering it. My mind went immediately to my daughter, her eyes alight and dancing. I mentioned this to a wise man who observed that we are all light beings, but that sometimes our light is dim and sometimes it is resplendent, and sometimes it is only our own ish that prevents us from seeing the light all around us. I pray there will always be light beings all around my children, and that they will be able to see them, and their own radiance too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Angel Food

My dear friend, the talented and visionary Brittany Tuttle, author of the novella Stone and Spring, has published a novel under her own imprint, Vesuvius House. I am so proud of her for just going out and doing it I can barely stand it. No soul-crushing rounds with traditional book publishers; she just went out and got a kick ass cover designed and made it all happen. Angel Food is a weird and wonderful tale of siblings on the run from killer angels, a surreal fantastical road warrior kind of book. I've just stated reading and have no idea where this will go, but I'm hooked by Brittany's dark humor, richness of character and wildly original storytelling.

To quote one reviewer: "Tuttle’s voice is mesmerizing in its ability to simultaneously make you fall in love with each character, all while craving hot salty chips with a shot of top shelf tequila. Her fierceness and attention to scene is tempered only by an offbeat humor with a hint of imminent doom...The depth of voice, poetic artistry applied to scenery, and dimension of character is something I only can hope you too, get to experience. This is my third time reading Angel Food and I find new levels of delight in each reading."

Brittany blogs at Vesuviusathome. You can order her newest book here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Dream Weaving

Every summer my cousin and her husband run a college readiness program for kids from the Assiniboine Sioux reservation in Montana where he's from. The program includes test prep classes, visits to Washington D.C. monuments and nearby amusements parks, interviews with people on various career paths, college tours, and, on the final weekend, a trip from Alexandria, Virginia to New York City to take in the sights.

That's how I came to have 21 people in my apartment this weekend, my cousin and her husband and their three boys, plus another cousin and her two daughters, plus another nephew who came along for the ride, plus the five kids from the rez, two of whom my own children played with one long ago summer when we visited Montana, plus another family of four, friends of one cousin who just happened to be visiting the city this weekend and joined in the fun.

We started Saturday afternoon with birthday cake for one of our nephews, and then the entire crew went to visit the World Trade Center memorial pools, had dinner in Chinatown, walked the Brooklyn Bridge and shopped till almost midnight in Times Square. Sunday the kids from the rez went on the Circle Line, a boat tour around Manhattan, but my nephews and nieces, having done this two years running now, declined in favor of hanging out at our apartment, going to the store for ingredients and baking blackberry cherry cobbler with my daughter while my son slept off the previous night's shenanigans on the couch. (One of his best friends has just been selected for the U.S.A. rugby team and will be traveling to Australia shortly, so there was apparently much celebrating of him Saturday evening.)

The Virginia-Montana crew left at around 6 p.m. Sunday for long drive home, but my other cousin and her two daughters stayed another night because my cousin was just too exhausted to drive the four hours back to Maryland. It was a full two days to say the least. Here is my favorite picture from the weekend: These two cousins, the dreamiest of our children, their conversation with each other completely stream of consciousness, with jokes no one else could understand, are all grown up now but they have remained two of the sweetest, funniest souls you will ever meet.

My nephew, by the way, was unable to find a job this summer and sorely wanted to make some money before heading off to college this fall. So he slung his guitar over his shoulder and ventured out as a street musician, playing in selected locales in Washington D.C. and Old Town Alexandria with great success. This talented child made on average a few hundred a week playing his guitar; pedestrians were very receptive and generous. How empowering it must be to discover that you will always be able to feed yourself doing the thing you love most! So much for all the energy his super-educated government lawyer mother expended worrying about this child's future.

For the record, this was the crew in my house this morning: