Mommy Needs Sleep, Part 2

Morpheus and Iris bringing sleep to mortals

This morning I was writing in my journal. Hayden stretched in the doorway.

“There was a lot of commotion because we kept seeing the mouse,” he said by way of explanation why he and Chris woke me at 1 am.

I was crazy like a banshee in the middle of the night, “I told you two I need my sleep. As a writer and mother! Chris, your medicine or disease may keep you up all hours of the night but I need my sleep!”

My light was out around 10:45. It was the last day of school for Cath and Char. I left Catherine and Hayden awake, Hayden with his X-Box and Catherine with her iPod. Chris appeared to be playing some casino game on his computer. (Have I mentioned that at every neurologist’s appointment, the doctor asks Chris if he is is addicted to gambling? This is apparently a lovely side effect to the Parkinson’s meds.)

I made Charlie turn off her notebook and let her snuggle in with me because I have the only air-conditioned bedroom in the apartment and she promised not to bother me. All was well.

Until Catherine woke me around midnight. She had come into bed, tossing and turning, uncomfortable because of her sunburn. Then Hayden and Chris woke me around 1 — they were mouse hunting, thus the “commotion.”

Country mice don’t bother me, but city mice freak me out. I don’t know if they caught the mouse.

I only know I did not catch enough Zzzzzs. I was pissed in the middle of the night, and am tired this morning. Of course, I love my kids, my husband, but I truly love Morpheus, the god of sleep, and do not get to worship him enough.

It’s not like I haven’t told everyone I need my sleep. We even had that family meeting about it. Ah well, I will try again tonite to get a good night sleep.

Book Proposal Questions

Melissa Rosati ended her workshop with these questions:

  • Is a book really the right first product for me? I love books. I have already blogged. So, yes.
  • What do I want the book to do for me? Make me a ton of money, earn me some street cred, get my distinct voice out there in the marketplace of ideas.
  • What is the relationship you want with your target audience? To empower people to share their ideas through writing. To inspire writing that leads to personal transformation. But, hmmmm, in terms of relationship, that’s a tough one. I don’t know. How committed does an author have to be to her readers? I’ll answer their emails, comment on their updates, teach workshops, attend readings, read their writing. But, let’s face it, all relationships take time. Do I have the time for another relationship?
  • If you do not have business experience, who are your trusted advisers? This is also a tough one for me. I do not like asking for help. I like being the helper. I’m not sure my peeps are business peeps.
  • What’s your budget? How much are you willing to risk? Ummm, $150 maybe?

These questions come from the workshop The New Rules of Book Proposals which I stumbled into late because the parking garage was literally a mile from the International Women’s Writing Guild classrooms on the Yale University campus. (And having a book published wouldn’t make the parking lot any closer.)

I wish I caught the beginning of the class because I have a lot to learn about book publishing.

Writing the Details

Here’s one of the sparkling gems from Southern writer Pat Carr’s Memoir and Fiction Writing class.

Set the scene with three or four details. Here are ten ideas of what Pat means by sensory details and then an example from me on my story set on a playground.

  1. Odor – wet sand
  2. A time of day or season – end of summer
  3. Temperature – warm and humid
  4. Sound – children laughing
  5. Important object – small charm bracelet
  6. Dominant color – beige
  7. Dominant shape — circles
  8. Something that can be touched – curly hair
  9. Taste – rain in the air
  10. Certain slant of light – late afternoon sun

I love number 10. Pat was inspired by Emily Dickinson. Love Dickinson: “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.”

Light is so important, I think, as I write from a sun-soaked bench cloistered in a square at Yale University attending the International Women’s Writing Guild conference.

Pat Carr’s writing exercises, like this one, can be found in her book Writing Fiction with Pat Carr. Her new memoir is One Page at a Time: On a Writing Life.

Mommy Needs Sleep

“Mom needs a good night’s sleep,” Chris told the kids.

After the dinner of tabouli was cleared away, we had a family meeting on the subject of Mom and sleep.

The night before last was horrible. H. came into bed with me because he was hot and I have the only bedroom, thanks to the generosity of our building’s handyman, with an air conditioner. Then C. came into bed an hour or two later because she couldn’t sleep. All the lights were still on. It was 3 in the morning. Chris was watching a movie. It was disquieting. When I left my bed for hers, crowded out by C. and H., C. followed me back into her twin bed, calling, “Mom? Where are you?”

“I’m in your bed!”

Musical beds.

Because of Chris’s very irregular sleep habits — he’s up all night playing bridge on the computer or watching movies he borrows from the library and he snores loudly — we hardly sleep together any more. We’ve set up a twin bed for him in the dining room.

As Chris said at the family meeting: “Do not wake Mom. She needs sleep.”

To that I said, “Thank you. As a mother I need patience. And as a writer I need mental acuity. Both of these are possible with a good night’s sleep.”

Last night I went to bed at 10. Then I read the paper in bed for 20 minutes. It was heaven. No one bothered me all night.

This morning I have woken full of patience and mental acuity. Who knows what is possible after a good night’s sleep?

Stronger in the Broken Places

Chris loves to watch the kids play sports, especially Hayden on the Little League field. He loves to teach them cards.

The Parkinson’s Disease makes some typical Dad things difficult, but he does them any way. He never says, “I can’t.”

He loves to cook, and he is a slow cooker.

His ability to show his love is slow too. He can’t help it.

Can any of us help who we are or what we get? I try to remember this when my husband falls asleep when I’m talking to him or walks away in the middle of a conversation. He leaves a mess worse than Linus in his wake. He refuses to leave his computer chums for real-life friends.

I try to remember who Chris used to be. I try to remember the quick flick of his wrist on the tennis court, the persistent phone calls to place our kids into pre-school, the lover of literature, the smooth dancer at the Broadway show’s after-party. He is still all of these things, but they are slower to show themselves.

I lean on and love other dads too. They might not even know how much I need them — my kids’ uncles, grandpa, friends. I lean on these father figures so my kids get the attention, love, support they need.

Fathering (and parenting) takes a village. Sometimes I feel I should do it all alone. Or I feel that that there is only this one person or one way to be a family. Or I feel I shouldn’t reveal our/my weaknesses.

But we are stronger in our broken places (I think that’s a book title). The shoulder bone Hayden broke when playing baseball is stronger at the point of its break, which happened to be the growth plate.

When we lean on one another, we are stronger. We reinforce the growth plate.

By remembering why we love someone and getting over the frustration of that challenge (if possible), there is an ease and a deep gratitude. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always anti-depressants.

I’d like to write more about this but I have to go and make a Father’s Day breakfast. I have to call my own father and say, Thank you!

High and Low

Two of my Facebook friends also posted pictures of the rainbow over Manhattan last night.

I spotted it as I approached the Lincoln Tunnel with five teenagers in my van coming back from 6 Flags. We’d been stuck in traffic for what felt like days but was probably less than an hour.

It’s amazing what a rainbow over the Manhattan skyline will do to your spirits.

One of the teens slid open the minivan door to take a picture on his phone (remember: we weren’t traveling fast, because of the traffic jam). My son gave a cheery thumbs up to the neighboring drivers of slow-moving vehicles.

Highs and Lows.

On Thursday night, I celebrated Bloomsday at the Supreme Court building downtown. You know, it’s the pillared building   featured in all TV’s court shows. You know, the big steps and the feeling of justice as your purse is scanned by friendly officers of the court.

One of the best parts of living in New York City is that you can be as high class or low class as you want to be. Or wanna be.

One night you’re partying at the Supreme Court looking up at the rotunda and the next day you’re hangin’ in New Jersey looking up at the parachute ride.

Happy Bloomsday!

Grab some James Joyce. Read a section from Ulysses.

It all takes place on 16th of June and yes a day like others and yes a day like today and here we are in June in bloom and the sun and taxicabs as bright as dandelions and summer breathing down our neck like pearls…

Tonite I am celebrating Bloomsday with friends at the Irish American Bar Association at the rotunda at the Supreme Court in NY. (Thanks to my Irish attorney friends in book club).

We are promised readings from Molly’s soliloquy and general bawdiness.

I look forward to discussing the First Amendment — and how does that freedom relate to Anthony Weiner? And who among us is the first to throw stones at Weiner? I would like to know. Because, God knows, no one wants their tweets, updates, private messages, instant messages, blogs, emails, combed through too carefully. Not me.

And yes I am not a preacher nor a politician. I am a writer. And what power does a writer have?

Oh I don’t know. As the invitation to the Bloomsday celebration stated, “James Joyce did not just give us one of the greatest works of world literature. He also gave us a landmark ruling in First Amendment jurisprudence.”

Thanks to the Irish American Bar. Thanks to the Boston Globe for this article: and this awesome picture of Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses.

And thanks, of course, to Joyce himself for this:

“God of heaven theres nothing like nature the wild mountains then the sea and the waves rushing then the beautiful country with the fields of oats and wheat and all kinds of things and all the fine cattle going about that would do your heart good to see rivers and lakes and flowers all sorts of shapes and smells and colours springing up even out of the ditches primroses and violets nature it is as for them saying theres no God I wouldnt give a snap of my two fingers for all their learning why dont they go and create something I often asked him atheists or whatever they call themselves go and wash the cobbles off themselves first then they go howling for the priest and they dying and why why because theyre afraid of hell on account of their bad conscience ah yes I know them well who was the first person in the universe before there was anybody that made it all who ah that they dont know neither do I so there you are they might as well try to stop the sun from rising tomorrow the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and it was leapyear like now yes 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountain yes so we are flowers all a womans body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for you today yes that was why I liked him because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him and I gave him all the pleasure I could leading him on till he asked me to say yes and I wouldnt answer first only looked out over the sea and the sky I was thinking of so many things he didnt know of Mulvey and Mr Stanhope and Hester and father and old captain Groves and the sailors playing all birds fly and I say stoop and washing up dishes they called it on the pier and the sentry in front of the governors house with the thing round his white helmet poor devil half roasted and the Spanish girls laughing in their shawls and their tall combs and the auctions in the morning the Greeks and the jews and the Arabs and the devil knows who else from all the ends of Europe and Duke street and the fowl market all clucking outside Larby Sharons and the poor donkeys slipping half asleep and the vague fellows in the cloaks asleep in the shade on the steps and the big wheels of the carts of the bulls and the old castle thousands of years old yes and those handsome Moors all in white and turbans like kings asking you to sit down in their little bit of a shop and Ronda with the old windows of the posadas 2 glancing eyes a lattice hid for her lover to kiss the iron and the wineshops half open at night and the castanets and the night we missed the boat at Algeciras the watchman going about serene with his lamp and O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes”
I’ve blogged about James Joyce before. About how his writing inspired an epiphany — when I looked up and saw a bird circle.

Social Media Mania

I’ve been trying to post on one of my blogs every day for the month of June. Yesterday I was dragging. I didn’t have anything to say, couldn’t come up with a good idea, had too many social occasions to attend. One of those occasions was our monthly Lunch and Learn workshop which is a venue for our brilliant Communications staff to share their expertise.

At yesterday’s lunch, Beth Buchanan of the web team gave an awesome session. The title? Social Media Mania. It inspired and informed the two dozen of us there, half of us experts (ahem! like moi?) and half beginners (moi aussi!). After Beth’s session, I felt energized to get through my slog of a daily blog.

Here are a few take-aways from Beth.

Beth's profile pic!

How do we get into social media?

  1. Sign in
  2. Listen
  3. Engage
  4. Evaluate

I’m not particularly good at Numbers 2 and 4, but I am going to be!

Buchanan emphasized a few best practices for social media. Such as “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, think before posting.

Social media is a conversation, not a monologue, she said. So don’t swamp people with your point of view without taking an interest in theirs.

Another novel concept — and why haven’t I thought of this? — Have a social media strategy and make it work for you. To get thinking about this, start with the question, Who is my audience? (How am I supposed to know!)

I loved some of Beth’s quotes (and did tweet them during the session), like this one: “You establish who you are by what you post.”

On Twitter, Beth said if you’re tweeting for a company — for every three business posts, include one personal post. Duh! I microblog on Twitter for New World Outlook magazine @NWOMag and for myself @MaryBethC but I don’t cross-over; personal is personal and business is business. But I’ll try to cross-pollinate, just like Beth Buchanan, the social media maven at Global Ministries, does. Thanks, Beth! @BJBuc and @connectNmission !

Beth is the friend and colleague who got me started on blogging, Facebook and Twitter. And now there’s no stopping me! At least for the month of June!

Remembering Taizé

I made a pilgrimage to Taizé about a year and a half ago.

I loved the amazing music, the worship three times a day, the time of silence in a large group, and the look of the church. Yet after a day or two monastic life was not for me.

It began to seem more like Outward Bound than a week in the French countryside. For example, you live in very tight living quarters in what are called barracks; your meal is ladled onto a plastic plate; your one utensil is a spoon; your seats in the tent are wooden benches that teeter and tip you over; it was unforgivingly cold.

I realized I needed to break free. I realized I have a restless spirit and that I find peace when I am on the go as well as quietly prayerful. I discovered a way out — a bus cuts through the campus. I snuck away during morning service and boarded the public bus for one Euro fifty cents. I took the bus until a petite ville beckoned. I hopped off and had an adventure.

I traveled to the monastery for a quiet and contemplative life. Yet, if truth be told, I found more treasures in the neighboring French countryside and the world beyond the gates.

While my visit to Taizé was not what I’d expected, not entirely contemplativethe memories of that time — of exploring neighboring villages and sitting on the floor in the church comfort me and remind me that I am not alone and that I am bound for adventure.

This is a bit of rework from my earlier blog post and from my travel blogging site: MBCoudal @ travelpod.

Everything’s Fine

Putting this spin on my life is exhausting. I was thinking about this as I scanned the Michael J. Fox article and looked at his photo on the cover of Good Housekeeping when getting my nails done yesterday.

Sometimes it’s not fine. Sometimes I want to go, “Bad deal. Need a do over. Not happy. Nope. Not working out here.”

I feel pressure — from Michael J. Fox? — to make the difficult seem easy and the abnormal seem normal. So what if my husband has Parkinson’s Disease? I should just grin and bear it (as Tracy Pollan seems to do. You don’t hear her saying, “It’s tough living with this dude who has Parkinson’s Disease.”)

Look, Michael J. Fox is an amazing person doing amazing stuff but not every person with Parkinson’s can perform at his level. Perhaps Fox’s nobility and engagement in life (and his more abundant resources of physical therapy and money and access?) make me and other families with Parkinson’s feel a failure. Sometimes, the disease actually kicks your butt and you are not happy and smiling and ready for the cover shot. You are not always looking up.

Occasionally someone will say to me, “I don’t know how you do it. He would drive me crazy.” And for that I say, “Thank you!” Because the people who say, “He looks great. Can’t even tell there’s anything wrong.” make me feel bad, like I shouldn’t notice his crazy behavior or at times embarrassing demeanor. And to those of you who are right now saying in your head, ‘Mary Beth, it’s worse for him.’ Yes, you’re  right. And I know that. And I’m sorry and I feel sad about that. I try for compassion on a daily, hourly, momentary basis. But this is my blog and my truth.

How positive should I be? How much is my positive attitude denial? How optimistic can any caregiver be? How encouraging should we be when faced with a disease in the family? And can we acknowledge in all honesty that times can be difficult?

And of course times can be great. And I look for and find joy. I try to follow my own rules to live by and find a deeper meaning to my life.

I do have a lot of gratitude for the people in my life, especially for my husband. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot of frustration too. It’s a dance of honesty, encouragement and denial. And to all of this I say to Michael J. Fox’s smiling face on the cover of the magazine, “Everything’s fine, except when its’ not. I’m always looking up, except at times, when I look down. And life is made of moments of happiness and sadness; health and illness. It’s all part of the fabric of this life.”