Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Am I?

Am I old?

I am overweight and my back hurts. I have a titanium knee and I've lost stamina.

But am I old?

My friends are raising the subject more than I'm used to. I hear wisdom cautioning that time is precious. I hear concern that anything can happen.

I can't keep up with my grand kids. I have to brace myself to hop up from a seated position.

I worry that I might not wake up from anesthesia.

I like to cook more than ever and I like to cook most for my family. I'm pulling my papers together just in case.

Does any of this make me old?

I will turn sixty-seven in August. That is three short of seventy. Seventy is old. Isn't it?

I only work at what I choose. I worry less.

Am I old?

Am I or am I not?

Here I am and the time is now. Here. And Now.

I have goals.

Write this book. Get it published.  Acclaim.

Write another book. Same thing.

Influence my grand kids to be astonished. To notice. To be kind.

Stand in front of a moving train for my Jessica.

Smile in the morning: Hello dear JB. How did you sleep? Let's have a good day today!

Teach. Workshops. Develop my own. In Provincetown. By the sea.

Hold tight to my sexual sensual self. Passion. Wild passion for years ahead.

Landscape another yard. In Provincetown.

Back to Italy. Back to France. Forward to Elsewhere.

Does this sound like I am old?


Does it even matter?


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Musings

It began when Jessica was three. She's spent every Christmas Eve and Easter Day with her father. 

For the first time, this morning, I've regretted that early decision to equally share our daughter on those holidays. I hope my regret is temporary, fueled by the fact that I am alone today. JB is in Provincetown gaining some well needed rest from a recent illness. Jess and her family are at their home two hours a way. I was there yesterday and I know all is well in their household, which means the world to me. 

Today I am here alone at my home where I have looked forward to a several days on my own and where I will write and garden.

I didn't know I would feel lonely. 

And I want that feeling to be okay. I'm not quite there being content in my aloneness but I want to be.

This is not to say that I have not celebrated the coming of Easter and finally Spring. 

Mr. Ryan and his brother Drew left yesterday after two jam-packed sleep-over days and nights with me, their Gram. It is a role I find delightful and invigorating and exhausting. :^)

We walked to the park and fed the goats.

 We visited a scary Easter Bunny who didn't talk but nodded. Mr. Ryan asked how he (she?) managed to get entry into people's houses on Easter morning. Did the parents open the door? Nod No. Did he (she) use the chimney? Nod No. Did he (she) get in through the garage door code? Nod Yes. Personally I did not think that was a good answer. 

We explored.

And relaxed.

We colored eggs.

We bowled. Candlepins. This was a discovery: a local bowling alley in existence for 56 years where you kept score the old fashioned way on a sheet of paper and had the benefit of no electronics except the pin setter.

We ate spaghetti. (This is Drew.)

I am alone and I belong to a family and both of these facts are one true thing. Today is not my childhood memory of a new Easter hat and coat, patterned leather shiny shoes, and my Mother's honey ham and scalloped potatoes. Today is a day when the people I love are happy and content and the sun is bright and the rest is up to me.

Happy Easter if you happen to be celebrating. And happy Spring if you happen to be on this side of the continent. I hope you belong somewhere, and I hope the people you love are well.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014


JB and I are having our fill of fun decorating our Provincetown house. We bought this wooden screen for cheaps and took a chance it would make a fine bedpost. We bought the bed covering at the same discount store and we are giggling over how classy clever it all looks.

 The kitchen is another matter. The ceiling is low and there is nothing short of a serious rehab that will make it what we envision. So that means time to save money for remodeling. Probably two years worth of time. But that's alright. 

We will (must) be renting the house out for multiple weeks this summer and preparing for that is (mostly) fun too. We're shooting for cozy comfort with a touch of seaside whimsy. 

I know full well we are lucky lucky ducks to have this house. It's a block from the ocean and it's cute.

And we've just begun. 

Happy Spring in this part of the world. What are you up to? I'd like to know. 


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Ulingan in the Philippines

I've known about Ulingan for several years. To live there is to live in squalor and poverty with pretty much no way out. There is no economy, no jobs. 
This is a description from National Geographic:
Thousands of urban slum dwellers including these in the Ulingan community in the Philippines capital of Manila (map) live amid filth and swirls of toxic smoke as they eke out a living making charcoal from wood scavenged from nearby garbage dumps and construction sites.
The conditions of slums near Manila Bay are unhealthy enough—the Ulingans live next to a rubbish dump. But the rudimentary process of making charcoal in open pits exposes the squatters to harmful emissions such as as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and soot, as well as chemicals when burning treated wood. The result is a myriad of respiratory illnesses and heart disease.

Of the hundreds of pictures I've seen of Ulingan, almost every one shows the effects of charcoal everywhere: on feet and bodies and clothes, everywhere on the ground. There is nothing green. Nothing.

I learned about this community from Sidney Shoeck, a photojournalist of the highest caliber and integrity who is dedicated to the Philippines. (see my sidebar for his blog). 

Through him I have also learned about Project Pearls, a non profit organization doing everything it can to help the children of Ulingan have access to education and to help the families of Ulingan have access to basic needs.

These are not people who feel sorry for themselves. Like most Filipinos, they are a proud  people doing their best.

Sidney is currently doing a series on his blog that highlights 50 mothers. I've taken the liberty of sharing some of his photos because I know he won't mind.

If you're looking for a cause to support through money or prayers, Ulingan is damn worthy. Google it and understand what it's like to live there, what it would take to thrive there. Believe me, these photos are not selected as the worse. Every inch looks like this. And I've not included the charcoal smoke that permeates the air. 

Why am I introducing you to Ulingan?

You know why...


Sunday, March 30, 2014


1. No Spring yet. No sun, no warmth, no seedlings breaking through a very wet ground. But one of these days it will be 60 degrees here and I will be reclaiming my yard and planting lettuce and petunias in my half circle garden. My loves: family, friends, writing, camera, Provincetown, gardening. The future is bright.

2. Has anyone else checked out the iPhone app "Waterlogue? This is what it does to regular photos: makes them into watercolors. The app cost is $ 2.99 and I think it's the deal of the century because it is super simple and super fun. And speaking of deals, I'm also loving my monthly Groovebook. For the same cost of $ 2.99 a month, up to 100 photos from my iPhone each month are printed and bound into a photo book, then mailed to me. If you go on line and put in the code JASPER16 you'll get a book for free. No mailing costs ever. It's pretty cool.

3. I am writing and sending out queries to agents and publishers. I have been languishing on my second book for going on three years now, maybe more, and there are legitimate reasons why I don't bring myself to finish it. SO! I've put it aside and have begun a new novel--four siblings and their mother. My favorite character is the oldest sister, Claudia, who maintains her affair with a married man by donning costumes and wigs. I am fired up to write again. It's a great thing for me.

4. I thought this brief essay might be a blog post but it doesn't feel okay to let it stand by itself. So here it is tucked in to other rambles. Has this ever happened to you? 

Have you ever loved anyone who hated you? It's an odd awful thing.

There is no way around it; no minds to change, no errors to mend.  The light of it is well in the past and so it will stay. But every once in a while my senses viscerally remember how deeply and mutually love and whimsy and creativity was given and shared.  But--we were both obsessed. Even with full good lives we couldn't keep a distance.  There was no solution. 

At any point, even through a bad ending,  I was not prepared for hatred. Even now I rail against such an ending.  I became villain and vilified and that was that. My friends told me this was someone without a conscience. I knew some of that was true. But I went too far, myself--I romanticized what was not and I failed to settle for something less. My part was not good. 

Even so, something dormant inside me became alive and has stayed alive and now the  barbs and bitterness no longer reach me and they likely are no longer even formed into thought. 

Still, it is somehow not right to be hated by someone you loved.

5. What the heck is the right and best balance for an unbridled creative life that is also responsible and steady? This image, posted on Facebook by my friend Lo, is pretty telling. This explains why I hate the chores!

                                 (click on the image to enlarge)

Enough rambles for today. Slowly and surely I am going to be blogging more often and I am so glad.  


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Passion For Sale

Here's a short story of mine, if you're so inclined, about one of my favorite subjects. 

It was unusual to hear her alarm: the first time she’d set it since she moved to Bangor. But she was going to be there when the doors opened, so there would be no chance of missing out.

She chose a purple lightweight top that matched her fitted jeans. She wiggled into the sandals she had bought in Harwich the last day of the trip, just before Brady left for grad school. She decided upon the slightest mascara and a satin plum blush, not something she normally wore, but she wanted to look long and slim and shimmered today. 

She arrived at the market at 10:03 am and was surprised that there was no line. She was not sure whether to go directly to customer service or to the cashier line, but instead she stopped the lanky teenager in the grocery section, stacking avocados just so.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Where do I find the passion special? I’d like three pounds.”

The boy nodded. “Oh the passion on sale for $ 4.99 a pound? It’s not us. It’s Bernasky’s Market down the street. Just a block from here.”

She was chagrined. So much for a reliable alarm clock when she had the address wrong. She walked to the swinging doors and on to the sidewalk where the sun was strong. 

“Oh damn,” she thought. She hurried her pace until she reached Bernasky’s and sure enough, there was a line. Five people ahead of her, four women and one man who looked to be in his early 30’s, John Lennon glasses and a neatly trimmed beard not quite hiding the nervous twitch of his upper lip. 

Most of the women were her age, except for the one who looked like a plus sized Joni Mitchell. Bigger Joni stood in line, holding her purse in front of her with both hands, her legs swaying softly to keep her nervousness in check. 

The line moved quickly and before she knew it she was sitting across from  a woman with grey wild hair and kind eyes and a clipboard. 

“Are you here for the passion special? she asked.

“Yes, I’d like three pounds.”

“Oh dear, I’m sorry. We have a limit of two pounds per customer.” The woman smiled at her. “But that’s okay. Two pounds won’t last you as long but it’s just as potent.” Then the woman looked at the clipboard. “I have to screen you before we can sell you the passion at the sale price. State law.”

“That’s okay,” she said. She knew this part already.

“There are five questions. Don’t worry about the perfect answer. It’s not really a test.”
She nodded. 

“The first question: do you have experience with astonishment?”

How should I answer?, she thought. Should I just say ‘yes’ or does she want to know specifics? Keep it simple, Brady had told her so many times. 

“Yes,” she said. “Quite a bit.”

“Good,” the woman said. That is a definite prerequisite. If you don’t know how to be astonished, the passion won’t work. We have people come back looking for refunds even though we told them upfront no refunds. We want to make sure about the astonishment.”

She nodded.

“Next, do you have any physical limitations?”

Oh dear, she thought. What does she mean? Should I tell her that sometimes I am frozen in place or that when it’s the best I cry? 

“Do you mean am I healthy?” she asked.

“Well, kind of. Passion is powerful and it moves quickly. We want to be sure you your body will hold up.”

“Oh yes,” she answered. “I’m more than fine.” She almost laughed out loud at that. My body is definitely more than fine, she thought. In fact,  passion makes me stronger. 

“Okay, good.” The woman leaned forward, just a little.

 “Question 3: Do you understand that passion is a natural resource and must be handled with reverence”?

This question caught her off guard. She had spent what seemed like all of her life seeking answers to so many questions and never once had she trounced on reverence. She was upset with herself that her hunger too often governed her choices, true, but she knew reverence.

“Yes I understand,” she said. Her voice dropped and the woman noticed.

“This makes you sad? the woman asked.

“Yes,” she answered. Oh what the hell, she thought. Why not say. 

“I’m here because I’ve been unable to afford passion. When I saw it was on sale today I couldn’t pass it up. It’s awful to live without it. It’s one thing to never have it because then you probably don’t know. But to have passion, to feel it overtake you  and then lose it, that is very difficult.”

The woman with the grey hair let go of her pen and put her hand over the clipboard.

“Honey, I wish I could give you three pounds. But I can’t. I can only give you two. It should be enough. I have some concern that your sadness might dilute what you hope for. This is not a guaranteed product. It requires abandon, in a way. You know?”

“Yes, I know,” she said. She looked directly at the woman. Wild grey hair and kind eyes. “Is this organic passion” she asked her.

“Yes, the woman said. “I’ve used it for many years. It’s never let me down. But when you’re not sure I’ve found it’s best to start with a small dose and let it build up.”

“How so?” she asked.

“Well,” the woman said, “Obviously, the recipe for physical passion is the best. Oh my god. Pity anyone who has not felt that.” She smiled. “At first I didn’t know about other passions. Marshes with ponds and cattails. Foxes at the horizon. the right kind of telephone ring. You’ll only need two tablespoons to get to that kind of passion. That’s what I mean. Two pounds will last you.”

But I don’t recommend starting with fireworks, if you know what I mean. That can take up to a cup and if you choose the wrong person, that could even void the sale. And we can’t give refunds.”

She nodded. Thank you,” she said. 

“Two more questions, honey.”

“Sure,” she said.

“What do you know about astral projection?”

It was her turn to smile. “I know where you’re going with that question. Out of body, definitely. I treasure that. I could be swept up and tossed into the middle of the universe and my last feeling would be total mindful peace. But I know how to come back too.”

“Oh that’s important. To come back. God is in the details.”

The woman leaned toward her again. “Last question. Do you know the policy on sharing?”

“Yes. No passion without sharing.”

“That’s right. And that seems to be tricky for a lot of people. Passion is such a private thing, after all. But a conscious attempt to keep it to yourself doesn’t work. There is some community required. Otherwise, it’s just a transaction. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she said. 

“Okay, take this receipt to register number four. Oh wait, do you want paper or plastic?”

Finally confident that two pounds on passion at the sale price of $ 4.99 pound was now hers, she spread her arms and grinned wider than she had since Brady went to grad school.

Ma'am,” she said. “Neither. I’ll tuck that passion under my breastbone and I’ll carry it with  me right now, past the broken fire hydrant across the street, past the snow cap hydrangea in front of the fire station, past the little dog with one eye who wags when he sees me. I”ll carry my passion with me under my breast bone and I will use it freely. Even though I’ll save some for the earth to move right under me.”

“I know you will, honey. I can tell it’s working for you already.”

“Yes,” she said. “That could be the sixth question: “Do you know it kicks in as soon as you are ready?”

“Have an astonishing day”, the woman with the wild grey hair told her.

Oh yes, she said. Oh yes oh yes oh yes. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Think This Is Funny

This is my lickity split version of Crayon Canyon, unfinished and made possible by a coloring session with 7 year old Mr. Ryan. Everyone knows that even in a desert canyon crayons don't grow in one straight row like this, but then again, at least they're standing tall and proud and colorful.. :^)

Which brings me to the point of this post: I am  writing and I am querying. This means I am sending out inquiries to book agents and publishers for several of my present and past manuscripts. Crayon Canyon is part of my silly Dr. Seuss-like children's book--a rhyming story written by me-who-does-not-write-children's-books. 

One of the submission guidelines gave me the idea and the literary permission to goof up my query letter if i wanted to. So I did. This is the part where my resume was requested:

I’m a writer who knows how to giggle and rhyme
Dr Seuss is my hero much of the time.
I’ve written a story of 800 words
That grown ups might think is a little absurd

It’s about boredom and the way children can feel
When it’s rainy and dreary and nothing feels real.
Then magic takes over and a new world appears
filled with colors and canyons and a forest of cheers.

My background is counseling, helping people too blue.
I’ve published one book, not three and not two.
My story’s in stanzas, lines bundled in fours
Most words are one syllable; here and there maybe more.

I know how to market and have fun with young minds.
I'm steady and ready for promotional grinds.
Thank you for weighing if my story's worthwhile:

Please spare it, if worthy, from your very round file.

So the query's been sent and to be honest, it's fun just waiting to see what happens next.