Sunday, December 22, 2019



That was my first thought this morning.  Even as I emerged from the bedroom, half-drugged from a long sleep, I had this feeling, made worse as I looked down our silent, back-bedroom hall.  “Where are they now?  How can I make it through the day—knowing they won’t be waiting for me up in the World Cafe?  Starboard Side, of course.” That Rob and I will have breakfast without them—and nearly as bad, Whatever we eat, I will have to make most of it. Darn. 

“Yeah, it’s a shame,” said Rob. “The place does seem kind of empty, doesn’t it?”  And then, “When are you going to start our egg and toast, Babe?”  Which brought me up short, along with yesterday’s early evening statement, “My suitcase is empty.” 

Well, unlike prior trips, mine wasn’t.  

And thus came the Day-After-The-Trip.  A cruise.  But no ordinary trip, you see, because there were twelve of us aboard the Viking Sea, cruising the distant Caribbean. Eight of whom were grandchildren and their various spice . . . (what else works as the plural of “spouse?”)  

What to do except start calling their various households—bent on telling them how much I missed them.  Nine a.m., should be safe enough.  Well, it certainly was. Turns out they’d all been texting each other since four this morning.  “Can’t believe I’m doing laundry at 4:30 a.m. ”  “Went to the grocery store—I was the only one there.”  “The car wash was empty.”  “Too bad you don’t text, Grandma,”  said Christy.  “We had quite the chain going.”  As she read me their comments, I couldn’t have agreed more. As a texter, I’m the world’s slowest, and even worse, my quietly-beeping phone is never where I am, so it’s no use being on anyone’s chain.

As to the trip, it had dozens of great moments: all of us at dinner together in a small, twelve-person private dining room, joined by the ship’s four-stripe, chief Engineer from Bulgaria, put together because Zhanina, Dane’s fiancĂ©, is also from Bulgaria.  Thanks to his heavy accent, Rob and I couldn’t understand a word he said, but he kept everyone else laughing.

The moments when we got to know various spice a lot better. There’s Matt, the computer whiz who, the day before the trip, finished a project for Oracle.  I knew Matt mostly as the guy who performed miracles whizzing his distant mouse across my rebelling computer screen—but never as the quiet listener who reveled in the ship’s classical violin duo performances. Rob and I spent hours with Kelly and Matt in after-dinner hours of rapt, pleasurable silence.  We’ve agreed he’ll now attend some of the local classical music events (as members of a music support group), that take place in homes blocks from ours.  

Then there was Mike, whose vacation hair across the breakfast table at first made me yearn for a comb. But eventually I came to appreciate the hair—and all because of the smart, funny, intense guy who was under it. We spent hours with Mike in lively conversation.

Then Dan, who’s always been noteworthy as unusually kind—but not as our gang’s resident  best-dresser, second only to Tracy’s Paul—who himself is notable, with Rob and me, as the family’s clothes horse and “man we can’t do without.”   

Throughout the trip there were grandkids and spice who jumped up to bring Rob and me various servings from the cafeteria—and at other times to help us with luggage or merely our own faltering feet . . . on and off tour buses, in and out of taxis, or simply on and off the ship itself.  However, I must add there was no help possible for the dozens of trips the two of us made the length of the ship—from our stateroom in the bow to the dining rooms in the stern. We kept repeating the same mantra: “God, this hall is damn well endless. Down there at the end, I can’t even see our room. I can hardly believe it.”  And then, “I’m glad this walk is so good for us.”      

Though Rob, as always, made instant friends with all the waiters, discussing their countries of origin and learning to say ‘thank you’ in their language. . . because of our larger crowd we made no friends, beyond passing Hellos, with any of the other guests. However, there was one such moment that stands out: Near the end of the trip a steel band performed out near the pool deck. Thanks to the music’s lively beat (and no doubt helped by the rum drinks). . . our family, sitting as a unified group, kept jumping up to dance.

Our daughter, Tracy, quickly helped form a Congo group which rounded the deck. Then, one by one, the grandkids forced Rob and me to our feet.  Bob did a “cane dance,” jumping about as he twirled his cane, while two young males took each of my arms and forced me to dance with them.  Several times.  Each occasion I kept going until I ran out of breath. Those moments were both fun and exhausting—understandable to anyone in his or her ninth decade. 

Later that day Mike was stopped by a spectator who’d been leaning over a balcony, observing. The woman said to Mike:  “I was watching your family.  What a bunch. They made me cry.”  I, for one, had never heard a more touching comment.           

Wednesday, December 4, 2019



This critique for my book,  “The Tail on my Mother’s Kite,” came as one
of those wonderful surprises you can only hope for as you’re writing the book. 

Here are the words from the judge for the 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. 

It’s long.  My penance is, I’ve got to type it all—or leave out some wonderful stuff.  Well, here goes: 

“Lovely sense of setting at the start, with the narrative leading us right up to the aforementioned fire that the author used so successfully as a grab for the reader’s connection. Very well done.  We can see that the author knows her way around descriptions, and as such, we’re present in the scene and eager for all of the action to come. Very well done. 

“Beautiful phrasing and sense of movement throughout. “stood there alone, poking at the sky,” stands out for its imagery and we also get a sense of movement in her actions. This is where the author flexes mighty narrative muscles, going beyond simple physical description to what makes an action or observation come alive: multi-layered details in the sensory realm. Excellent choices here.

“The author spent time on every sentence, crafting without the effort showing. “I wanted to peel off my skin to get cooler” is another of the sensory details that grabs the reader. My heart dropped at, “I need a father.”  We’re getting very deep into emotions. Pace is stellar, with no bumps on the path, engaging transitions between chapters, dialogue is fully fleshed-out, with differentiated voices for each of the characters, and I loved that the author cared about sentence structure in each character’s voice. Impressive.

“’The harm that came to him was mostly because our mother stopped being a mother” stands out as a dramatic wallop at the end of a chapter, one of the finest cliffhanger insights I’ve seen in this competition. The stomach sinks when the truth is put out so plainly, and brutally.  All through the middle third of the book, we’re immersed in dysfunctional scenes, and now we see that the flame has turned up gradually, so that we might not even have noticed, but the laser-focused truth in the author’s voice shows that she has been changed by the progression getting this far along.  Subtle tone intensity has led us expertly here, and we’re at the point where we are changed as well.  “Even our mother was not able, ultimately, to ruin a basically sound son.” Nice!  A statement of strength, realization, and a Glass Castles-like overcoming story.  Very well done.