Four feet and counting

February 24th, 2015

Tubular Elsa

No, that title doesn’t refer to the amount of snow we’ve gotten in Boston in the past month. (That would be seven feet and counting.) It’s about something far cheerier and that — bonus! — doesn’t cripple major public transportation systems. Not that I know of, anyway.

So. Last week was February vacation (because we totally needed more time off from school after 6 snow days in less than 3 weeks), and we spent a couple of days up in Maine, visiting my parents.

On one of those days, we braved 17-degree temperatures to take the girls snow tubing – something we’d never done before. I’d previously toyed with the idea of taking them somewhere for a skiing lesson, but once I tried to actually imagine it (dealing with rentals, dealing with the girls freaking out at how the boots felts and how hard it was to walk in them, dealing with the immense expense) I said screw that. I’d be doing shots in the lodge by 10 am. And I don’t even do shots.

With tubing, there are no rentals, no crazy moon-boots that are impossible to walk in if you’re a human being with ankle and knee joints, and little to no risk of tears of frustration – just big rubber tubes, a little magic carpet to ride up the hill, and a bunch of lanes to zoom down from the top. AND it was less than $80 for the four of us.

We also got to enjoy a mini-milestone for Clio: The deal at this place was, if you were under 4 feet, you had to go on a double-tube with an adult. But if you were over 4 feet, you needed to go on your own.

Guess who’s finally made the 4-foot mark? Read the rest of this entry »

New Yorker Cartoon Caption Entries, second-grader style.

January 20th, 2015

I know, I know. My blog is becoming derelict. With Clio’s treatment done (she finished her last dose of Bactrim — an antibiotic that provided some extra coverage while her immune system was rebuilding — last week, so she’s officially off ALL meds!) I haven’t had the pressing urge. And I’m trying to use all my allotted non-day-job writing time for working on zee novel. BUT, I’ve been meaning to share with the internets some of Elsa and Clio’s New Yorker cartoon caption contest entries. (With their permission.)

Every week, when a new New Yorker arrives at our house —  before it is relegated to the pile of mostly un-read issues on our kitchen table — Elsa turns immediately to the back page for the cartoon contest. She first noticed it a few months ago, and ever since then, she’s been writing in her captions. And, more recently, she’s been submitting them (with our help) to the contest online. (Strangely, she’s never even made the finals.) Clio has gotten in on the game lately, too.

And so, since you’re unlikely ever to see these in the magazine, alas, I thought I’d share some of my favorites here.


Relax.   By Elsa


“I mean, please, do you think I’d show you a man-eating coupe if it was a dime over 50?”


Read the rest of this entry »

Do you see what I see?

December 14th, 2014


“I look weird.”

Not me, that is. (I just look like I have a budding spare tire, thanks to way too much holiday food and drink — on the heels of way too much Halloween candy stolen from my children, and the fact that between illness and work and weather, I haven’t been able to run as much as usual. Ugh.)

It’s Clio. And she doesn’t look weird at all. She just thinks she does.

She’s been such a trooper all along about the changes in her appearance due to chemo and steroids — losing her hair, gaining weight and getting puffy cheeks due to steroids, not growing at all for basically two years while her sister and her peers shot up like dandelions around her.

She complained occasionally about the way other people saw her: she didn’t like it when other kids stared, or said she looked chubby (aren’t children darling to each other?), or mistakenly thought she was a boy. But her distress, for the most part, seemed to be externally focused — it was about how other people saw her. She didn’t complain a whole lot about how she saw herself.

Lately, though, she’s started saying that she looks “weird.” That her cheeks are chubby. That her hair is too thin. That she isn’t pretty. Read the rest of this entry »

Why a Writing Residency Rocks

November 13th, 2014
The view from my studio window

The view from my studio window

So, I just got back from spending a week at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a residency for writers, artist and composers in Virginia. I had a room, a studio, and nothing but time to write, read and take the occasional walk or run in beautiful rural surroundings.

At meals (which I didn’t have to cook! Huzzah!), I chatted with other residents. It is so damned refreshing and inspiring to be around other people who just get it — to hear about their work and their process and their frustrations and victories. There were people of all ages, at all different stages of their careers.

And everyone worked like crazy. A lot of people even worked at night — which, I’m sorry, I am too burnt out to do after a day of writing. Morning and late afternoon are my best times. Noon to two or three, I’m pretty much useless. Nighttime, all I want to do is unwind, read, go to raves, plan jewel heists, destroy property, do blow with hookers, etc. (I almost never do the last few, but I like keeping my options open.) Read the rest of this entry »


October 21st, 2014

Home is where the hearth is.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk over the past couple of months. Not depressed, mind you. (Although sometimes I feel like I’m on the edge of it.) Just…something.

I keep reminding myself that it makes sense. We just moved, which is a big adjustment. I love our new house (see exhibit A, fireplace, above), and I like our new town in theory, but don’t really feel firmly rooted in it yet — which, of course, also makes sense. I miss the sense of community we had in our old town, specifically among parents of other kids at the girls’ school — some of whom were close friends, and still are. But they live 15 minutes away now instead of 5. Funny what a psychological difference 10 minutes can make.

I also sometimes miss the more urban energy of where we lived before, as I suspected I would. We went into Cambridge recently to see the Honk! parade, which was fabulous and weird and lefty and fun (Honkfest is something we look forward to every year) and it made me miss being as close as we we used to be to the awesomeness of Somerville and Cambridge. That area was home to both Alastair and me, separately and together, for 18 years (!) minus two years in Iowa.

But the biggest change, of course, is Clio’s treatment being over. I touched on this in another post, but some part of me really does feel a strange sense of loss at the fact that we’re no longer in that world, in the mindset of treating her illness.

It was an awfully intense sense of purpose we had, saving our daughter’s life and all. It occupied a huge number of hours, and immense quantities of emotional energy. We cried about it, we sang about it, we wrote about it.

And we HATED it! God knows we hated it. If I could go back in time and use super-power cellular X-ray vision to find that asshole cancerous lymphocyte that just had to start reproducing out of control, because it thought it was so freaking great, and thought it was its God-given duty to make like-minded babies, and I could zap it with a cancer-killing laser beam (scientists are working on one of those, right?) I would.

I never want to be back in that world. If Clio relapsed, I would be devastated. Even going back to the clinic for her monthly check-ups brings back unpleasant memories and sensations — more so now because it’s so infrequent. Read the rest of this entry »