When My Novel Gets Published

Last weekend at a party, a friend asked, How’s the book? And I cringed, feeling small and absolutely defeated because it’s been so long! “I’m waiting to hear back,” I said, walking on.

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Top Reasons to Love Your iPhone

How iPhones Ruin Your Posture and Your Mood” was a recent New York Times headline. According to the article, in order to see our small screens, we are hunching. And cowering affects our self-esteem. In, Are You Addicted to your cell phone? I discussed other disadvantages of phone use, namely being easily distracted and not focused on the present moment.

And while those things may be true, here’s what’s also true— I love my cell phone!

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It allows me to view, Ruth Chang’s TED talk, How To Make Hard Choices.

Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk, My Stroke of Insight, a fascinating discussion about the brain and peace on earth.

Johann Hari: Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong.

On Facebook, I see how the owners of SOTO boutique, a clothing store in LA, made their holiday party not only festive but meaningful. At a Sunday morning breakfast, packages of clothes for the homeless were arranged for distribution. What a lovely way to spend the day: amongst friends and coworkers, giving back.

On Twitter, I follow Novelicious and find this Kurt Vonneget quote.

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On Instagram, Alice Chera, Life coach, posts one of her thoughtful every day reminders.

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Once again, it boils down to what my mother says. Somehow it always boils down to what my mother says: With the good, comes the bad.

So, yes, I’ve been spending more time on my phone but I’m getting a lot in return. (Like the idea that I have to pay attention to my posture.)

So every now and then, I’ll remember to sit up tall. But I won’t stop reading what’s on my tiny screen—gathering information, insights, ideas and inspiration.

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Museums, Culture and New York City

BLOG-PICASSO QUOTE2 Like a squirrel storing up food for winter, I’ve been preparing too. In the last month, fearful of the upcoming, sometimes brutal, New York winter, I’ve been hoarding experiences; attending cultural institutions and events maximizing consumption for when reserves are low or, more precisely, for when I’m hibernating and can’t motivate myself to leave the house.

So while, for me, cold weather is certainly not the best part of New York City, the city's range of cultural offerings is a gift.

In the last month, I’ve been to a number of readings and heard authors discuss their new books.

Mary Karr- The Art of Memoir

Nicole Dweck- The Debt of Tamar

Elizabeth Gilbert- Big Magic

And I’ve been to museums.

At the New York Botanical Garden I saw the Frida Kahlo exhibit.

Frida Kahlo

In an attempt to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit, I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden because I didn't know the New York Botanical Garden was a different place. I learned that day that there is a botanical garden in the Bronx, and also that even though I was in the wrong place, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is beautiful.

Next door, I visited the The Brooklyn Museum and saw the Faile exhibit, which was exciting and inspirational. The below made me want to run home and paint.

Faile-Brooklyn Museum

 

Faile-Brooklyn Museum

Faile-Brooklyn Museum

These painted pinball machines brought me back to my childhood and I couldn't wait to play in this dizzying yet electrifying atmosphere.

That same day, at the Brooklyn Museum, I stumbled on The Rise of Sneaker Culture. It was a fabulous bonus. Seeing a pair of white and green striped Adidas sneakers from when I was young and the Michael Jordon's my kids wore made me sentimental, but also reflective as I realized the inspiration behind the designer, all-black ones I happened to be wearing that day.

The new Whitney Museum which opened in the meatpacking district is gorgeous and when standing outside, on a terrace, you can see all at once: the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson River, the Freedom Tower and the Empire State Building.

Picasso sculptures are  still on display at the MOMA. The exhibit runs until February 7, 2016. I am a huge Picasso fan and recommend you visit the museum before it's too late.

Picasso, Pablo

Picasso, Pablo

The fun continued at the Society of Illustrators in an exhibition titled: Batman: Black and White.

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I visited all these places, and more, in a fervor, trying to soak it all in before it was too late, before the cold set in, or before my sometimes winter blues got the best of me. I did this instinctively, a form of survival.

(I'm saving television series for the middle of winter, stocked up, how women for generations before me preserved peaches.)

Ironically, I’m as confused as the bears and the squirrels must be because it’s November 8 and 65 degrees outside. I don’t know about them but I couldn’t be happier!

An additional note: The Faile exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum was supported by Allouche Gallery, which is scheduled to open in a new location, 86 Gansevort Street in New York City in early 2016. You can expect to see work by Faile, Dustin Yellin, Swoon and Keith Haring. I will be venturing out to visit, despite the cold, because it's going to be worth it!

Dustin Yellin

In-Laws and Creative Living

BLOG-MOTHER IN LAWWe all know those mean mother-in-law jokes: What do you do if you miss your mother in law? Reload, and try again!

My mother in law is well balanced. She has a chip on both shoulders.

Is there a family relationship more burdened?

Tempting fate, I went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with my daughter-in-law, Margo, last week. We went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak about her new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

 

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Margo is pragmatic. She is a nurse and scientifically minded. On our way to BAM, Margo rattled off a list of over 32 things she’d done that day, including errands in Brooklyn and New Jersey, tending to her children, helping with homework, meeting with a painter and just before leaving her house, giving an injection to a pregnant friend.

I, on the other hand, tinkered with a story idea for most of the day.

And to tell you the truth, I was feeling a bit down about that. It is hard to stay home, facing an empty screen and have what appears to be nothing accomplished at the end of the day. Of course, I know this is not really true but Elizabeth Gilbert’s message couldn’t have come at a better time. She assured the creative souls in her audience that we were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing and she encouraged us to keep at it.

She talked about fairy dust and inspiration but she also talked about hard work and perseverance.

She talked about the voices in her head, how they take up space and how she lets them come alive: The Doubter, The Critic, Fear—and while that process didn’t sound so crazy to me, Margo diagnosed her with multiple personality disorder.

You’re probably wondering why my not necessarily artsy daughter-in-law wanted to hear Elizabeth Gilbert talk about creativity, especially considering she is one of the few people in the world who didn't even read Eat Pray Love. Or see the movie.

This is how it happened.

I was supposed to be going to the BAM with my husband but he forgot and bought tickets to the Giants game.

I invited my daughter but she opted out.

My son, Margo’s husband, was going to the football game with his dad and Margo didn't want to stay home. I promised her a drink after the reading and let’s just say it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting.

My oldest daughter kept smirking, doubting the whole prospect.

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But she was wrong; because while Margo and I are not exactly alike (I drink vodka, she drinks tequila) we both loved the event, and the hole-in-the-wall bar we found afterwards with live music. Granted, it was a bit awkward when two men started talking to us but we left soon after and found a great restaurant. I know I’m in the right place when there are vegan options on the menu.

It’s not always easy for us to find time to get together much less share intimacies. But that night, we learned new things about each other.

A mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law: loving each other, respecting each other, caring about each other.

Now that’s art.

That’s Big Magic.

Be Here Now

BLOG-BE HERE NOWMy cell phone was dead so I left it charging in my bedroom. I sat outside on the front steps waiting for my grandson to get off his camp bus. Normally, that time would’ve passed uneventfully as I caught up reading emails or scrolled through instagram and facebook. But sitting there, alone, no phone in hand had me fidgety and bored.

When my kids were small, I waited for the camp bus every day and I didn’t have a cell phone.

I guess it was during that downtime that I used to think, which I absolutely have no time for now. Now, instead of coming up with my own thoughts, I read other people’s ideas and “like” them.

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Through social media, I am reminded...

It’s never too late.

I am enough.

Miracles happen when you believe.

There are countless recipes I must try and a plethora of clothes I must buy.

There is no time anymore to sit still and just “Be.”

As a young mother, I didn’t have all those social media distractions and I am grateful for that.

For years, I fought against technology and cell phone use. I left my phone off in my purse and wouldn’t talk on it in public places.

But I do now. And it’s hard to know what’s lost.

That day, waiting for the bus, alone and undistracted, I had a writing idea, one I might not have had if I were “liking” someone else’s new facebook picture or copying and pasting a memorable quote.

Now, I check my phone countless times a day. I think it’s the intermittent reinforcement. You never know when that great email is coming. Just this week I received a second invitation to submit one of my posts to the North American Review for their blog. You can find that post here.

Just as I am thankful I had children before cell phones were as indispensable as fingers, I’m glad I began writing before I had a cell phone too.

Presently, I start my day reading emails and checking out what’s posted on instagram but a decade ago, I did Morning Pages, which are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, says “The pages may not seem spiritual or even meditative—but they are a valid form of meditation that gives us insight and helps us effect change in our lives.”

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Over many years, I filled stacks of black and white composition notebooks. My children knew that writing time was sacred and my daughter, at two, would say to her siblings, “Shhh, Mommy’s doing her Morning Pages now.”

It was a daily practice, a ritual.

It was a time to be still and reflect.

It was a time to plan and discover.

I loved the feel of my hand moving across the page (no you can’t do Morning Pages on a computer).

It’s also important to know  you can’t do Morning Pages wrong. And there are so many ways that journal writing can go right.

Sometimes I figured out a way to deal with a family matter, uncovered a dream I didn't even know I had or developed a writing idea.

Sometimes, I simply jotted down what I needed to do that day.

The point is that it encouraged mindfulness, focusing my attention on the emotions and thoughts happening in that present moment.

It was my time to

BLOG-BE4And since you're on your cell phone or computer, and not meditating, I might as well leave you with this...

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Miley Cyrus: Is Her Career Over?

I read on the Internet and heard on television that Miley’s career was over. Miley had gone too far.

I remember vividly watching Madonna sing, “Like A Virgin,” rolling around on stage, erotically, during the MTV Video Awards in 1984. She wore a bride’s gown: corset, garter belt and veil.

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Immediately, her performance was criticized but publicized, everyone was talking about her. No one had ever done what she’d done on stage before. People, shocked, said her career was over.

It seems that the shock factor is actually the very thing that boosts celebrities to further stardom because as it turns out, that was just the beginning of Madonna’s career. She took off after that. And the more she reinvented herself, and the more outrageous she became, the more we paid attention.

How does one even go about getting noticed today?

Everything is so amped up.

It used to be that a good movie had one or two pivotal or dramatic scenes. Now movies seem to be a string of those events, one car chase or bomb explosion after another.

It used to be that a novel writer had 100 pages to develop character or build plot before anything spectacular needed to happen. Then it became ten pages, then one. Now you have a sentence.

Audiences have no patience. They want to be shocked, stunned, entertained and amused immediately, and continuously.

At the 2015 MTV Music Video Awards, Miley sang, “Yeah I smoke pot… but I don’t give a f*ck.”

She danced in costumes that barely covered her nipples.

In the finale, her backup dancers were drag queens.

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Her desire for attention, and or to shock, is preposterous, not to mention boring.

And yet, Miley is the one laughing all the way to the bank. I don’t believe, regardless of how tasteless her performance was, her career is over. In fact, just like Madonna, she’s got everyone talking.

(This is not to compare talent. I happen to like Madonna and I’m not a Miley fan although that is not the point of this post.)

What is the point is that we blame Miley. Sure she is responsible for herself and she is ultimately the one in control of what she wears and what she sings but we are complicit.

She didn’t write her own lyrics. She didn’t design her own costumes. She didn’t choreograph her own dance routines. And she didn’t invite herself to host the MTV Video Music Awards.

Society has made it so that the one who is the most theatrical or outrageous gets to be in the spotlight. In fact, Bill O’Reilly talked about Miley’s performance on his show, which got me to Google it, and then to watch it.

Bill O’Reilly talks about the President of the United States. He talks about aspiring presidents like Donald Trump. And he discussed Miley, which, from her agent’s perspective, is a good thing because bad press is better than no press.

We pretend we’re outraged by Miley’s behavior, that we want something different, even as we watch her twerk Robin Thicke on YouTube 203 million times.

Where are our values?

My grandsons ages, 6, 4 and 3, walk around singing,

“Shut up and dance with me.” “Uptown funk me up.” “Watch me whip, watch me nah nah.” “Bubble butt…” (I wouldn’t consider posting the rest of the words here but they are certainly shocking.)

Lately, I feel manipulated when books, or movies, or performances start out with such a bang. There is nowhere to go but down. And the drive to keep upping the ante is exhausting.

Think of it this way: I love ice cream. But an ice cream sundae would not taste as good after eating pizza, pasta, a turkey sandwich and an omelet. It’s just too much!

But we are gluttonous for more.

We forget that a little spice is a good thing but too much gives you indigestion.