Writing Weekend

Jostled by the Amtrak, I was heading home from the Adirondacks. It was the first time I offered one of these long writing weekends, I called my biz partner Kelly, “This is what I was put on this earth to do. I have found my purpose. It went so well.”

Yes, of course, I’ve felt this way, at other times, as a parent, writer, and teacher. But this calling — to be a writing workshop leader (facilitator? guru?) was different. I immediately felt gratification and somehow I knew by doing it, I’d changed the world for good. This was needed then.

It is needed now. Especially with the world of late. The news never seems good. For a few days next weekend, I’m looking forward to ditching my social media habit and my daily gnawing worry for the state of the union.

I need to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I need to figure out who I am and what I think and how I feel. I need to express and share this vision — small or large. About relationships or about the nation. About my peace with the past or my intentions for the future. About tuning in to the present moment — the sound of a loon calling or the lake splashing against the dock.

There are  spots still available. You are most welcome to join. Especially if, like me, you need time away to get your head, your heart, or your life together.

We are a smart, creative, compassionate group right now. Register for the Adirondack Writing Weekend here. glenburnie


Breakfast or Make Up?

Given my finite time and energy every morning, I ask myself, should I put on make up or have breakfast? Some questions I never ask myself: should I help my kids find their backpacks? Or help Chris out of bed? I always do those things when asked — and even when not asked.

And this is why I feel an anticipatory loss thinking about about my girls going to college (or gap year or whatever they decide to do) next year. Because my kids are my front and center and they have been the reason for just about every decision I have made for the last 21 years. I am always asking myself, How does this — whatever this is — impact my kids?

And incidentally, I know I should wear make up AND have breakfast. But if you’re a working mom, maybe you can relate. Our time is finite. So we help our children find their backpacks. And we help our loved one out of bed. And then, if we’re lucky, we grab an apple or swipe our lips with lipstick as we head on out the front door.

This was in the hallway of one of my favorite schools on the Day of the Girl! Inspiring.

Travel the World in NYC

I received my press credentials for this weekend’s New York Times Travel Show at the Javits Center. I love this event. I love the expansiveness and beauty and diversity of the world. I have been three times — I’ve learned something new each time.

I have been blown away – I see myself climbing Machu Pichu, snorkeling with sharks, parachuting from a plane. In fact, last time, I did mountain climb, not only on a climbing wall but through Virtual Reality goggles, which, honestly, made me queasy.

My kids, my mother, and my niece have joined me. They, too, loved sampling the free snacks, snatching the give-aways, and taking in all of the vibrant colors. One time, my kids and I actually went scuba diving at the Travel Show. I’m not kidding.

This year I intend to attend more lectures and discussions. Last year or the year before, I attended one on how to travel in luxury — on a budget. I love travel.

Last month’s trip to Italy totally ignited my wanderlust. My motto is ‘Travel begets travel.’

The world is full of color, jewels, food, gifts, adventure. On a cold New York City morning in January, you may not be able to travel the world, but you can get out of bed and travel to the Javits Center.


One Day, One Week, One Month of Happiness

You want to be happy but there’s so many chores to do.

For one moment, put your happiness first.

The other day, I bought myself a really cute pink party dress from Talbots. Once, as a preteen, reading Young Miss, an article said: ‘In order to be popular, do not wear a new outfit right after you get it. Wait at least a week.’

I have internalized this advice and have for more than 40 years tucked away my treasures in the pursuit of popularity. But WHY???

There is another truth: Don’t hide your light (or pretty pink dress) under a bushel. I am wearing the dress today.

Also, to increase my happiness quotient, the other night I went to the 52nd Street Project. I saw plays written by 10-year olds, performed by top-notch adult theater professionals, like Bill Kamp and Edie Falco. Going out to the theater makes me so happy. But especially because I like hanging out with my friend Joanna.

So for today’s happiness advice, I suggest you:

  • Do something nice for yourself
  • Wear something new
  • Go to the theater
  • Meet up with a friend
  • Admire the creativity of children
  • Plan something fun

Tomorrow the girls and I leave for almost two weeks in Italy — Milan, Ravenna, Bologna, Florence, Rome. Looking forward to this trip has made me happy.


Goodness to the Rescue

Today is my twin daughters’ 18th birthday. I am focusing on the good.

I have had so many good things in my life — good people, good work, good communities. And yet the world, and this country especially, is full of so many challenges. We have a lot of work to do. We have to lay down our arms. We have to keep building on and remembering to look for the common good. Our constitution guarantees that we promote the “general welfare.” Let’s promote each other, rather than tear each other down.

Yes, we humans probably each have an innate desire to show off. Maybe we once needed this to survive — a social evolutionary tactic to ensure that human existence persisted. But we need to make sure our neighbors persist too. We need to look out for our fellow human beings, even and especially, if and when we disagree with them.

We latch onto this myth that the accumulation of great wealth — of things — will make us happy. That ‘things’ will make us good or loved or better. This is not true. It is not the things in my life that bring great joy or deep meaning. But the people — children, family, extended family, friends, colleagues — that truly matter.

I have always tried to be good. I am sure that I suffer from some sort of Good Girl Syndrome. However, I would rather be good, look for the good in life and in the lives of those around me, than see only the bad. I know this world is difficult for young women today. This is a tough time in the U.S. to turn 18 — there are so many admitted predators leading institutions, including the commander in chief. But there are also great and good people all around — leading our families, schools, churches, faith communities, cities, states. They are persisting, not just for their own sake, but for the common welfare.
I am not giving up on the good.

Now that my daughters are 18, they can no longer threaten to sue me and go to court for emancipation, as they like to tease.

Seriously, I am reminding my girls to persist for the sake of good. Truly, the future is female. Let’s celebrate the ascendancy of good girls and good women everywhere. Happy Birthday! May our goodness and greatness dominate the world!

College Visits

My 12th-grade girls are starting to narrow down their college choices. Even though they are twins, they do not necessarily want to go to the same school.

College visits are so educational. Like at Smith, our tour guide described how students could receive grants. And so she, having just completed research about how exercise increases brain function, petitioned the school for treadmills in the library. And now, there are treadmills in the library, which has helped students study better, longer, healthier.

Young people are so inspiring.

This is why it is awesome to be a teacher and a parent right now. The leadership in the U.S. is sorely lacking. People need inspiring, moral leaders. (Those who claimed to want to drain the swamp are the new swamp monsters, yesterday’s CNN opinion piece says).

Young people will soon take over. In some places, like at the Smith library, they already have. And they are not giving up. (That is our family motto, “Never give up.”)

At many other schools this summer, we visited the beautiful libraries. This is a perennial highlight of the college visit: the library.

At Oberlin College, my girls crawled into a womb chair in the library. But it was not my womb chair. From my comfy nook, they emerged nearly 18 years ago, kicking and screaming. Only suddenly, they will be plunked down from their childhood into new places of growth, new libraries.

To be inspiring and to be inspired. To take over and to never give up. I hope.

The womb chair where the girls tried to get into their in utero positions.
We also visited a spot on campus where you could decompress by playing with kittens.
College visit with our great friend Alex.

Lift Each Other Up

Why is it so easy to tear each other down? I don’t get it.

I like to walk down the crowded Manhattan streets and say (in my head) to each person I pass, “Good for you.” or “God bless you.” It’s my little rebellion in the world of Might Makes Right. My radical, unconditional kindness.

I reject the idea

someonethat the fastest, sharpest, meanest person gets to speak loudest, longest, have the most power.

I tell my students, most often in creative writing classes, “It’s more important to be supportive than right.” We do not need to have all the facts exactly right — we have dubious Google for that — but, Good God, we need to support each other. For when we stretch ourselves in our writing, when we share our vulnerability, when we ask for help, we are opening ourselves up to growth. We may make mistakes but we will grow.

How did asking for help get such a bad rap? I know I do not like to ask for help but when I have, I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the outcomes. And the crazy thing is this: even if I do not get what I wanted, I get something else. I get something. It’s what it’s all about — lifting each other up. Asking to be lifted. Lifting.

Do not be so fast criticize. Be fast to praise. To support. To love. To admire. Just for today.

And for today’s inspiration: I give you: the Dreamers.