Writers in the Hudson Valley

Another writer and I were walking in search of cappuccino just on the edge of town, when this middle-aged blonde woman walked towards me. She pointed to me and began to sing, “I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.” And I sang along.

Yes, we two strangers sang the Mister Roger’s song to each other one recent sunny afternoon in Cornwall-on-Hudson. Is this what goes down in small towns? Apparently, on my writing retreats that kind of thing happens.

What else happened?

  • walks on country roads
  • morning yoga 
  • writing
  • painting little boxes
  • arts and crafts in the gazebo
  • time to read and write and reflect

I’m really grateful to Carla, April, Don, and the crew at Olmsted Center, so that, a few weeks back, several intrepid writers and I could set sail on this maiden voyage to write the story of their lives.

I have to admit I was disappointed with the turnout. Only a handful of writers attended the Hudson Valley weekend. And more would have been better. We wrote about love, work, money, and family. And I don’t think the cost kept people away — it was a good deal — the weekend cost $295 for 2 nights, 6 meals and a bunch of fun writing and art workshops.

In any case, I’m not even putting a price on the experience of having some stranger sing to me on the sidewalk. As usual, the most magical and fun moments happen when you get off script and get off campus. There’s a lesson here — get out of your comfort zone to find fun.

In the writing workshops, the writers found the thread of meaning in seemingly random life events. Every one said they’d love to do the weekend again. But I’m in a bit of a dilemma because the center needs to have a minimum of 10 participants next time. I’m not sure I can do that. I am also having trouble finding a May or June date. I’d like June 13 to 15, but that’s Father’s Day. Would writers want to get away on Father’s Day weekend?

Bootcamp4writers is a dream of mine, but I have to be honest. Putting on the weekends takes a lot of work and I’m not sure for my small margin of profit, whether it’s worth it. I took a loss of a couple hundred dollars at this Hudson Valley retreat and I don’t want to do that again. (In addition to the retreat center, I pay for yoga, insurance and supplies, as well as my own transport and PR.)

***

I love getting out of the city and having a chance to reflect on my life.

Like the city writers on the weekend, I get to taste a bit of country life in the Hudson Valley. For example, there was a couple of ladies sitting outside a church, passing out candy corn and juice. How nice is that! 

The workshop ended with time to map the hills and valleys of their lives through big and small life experiences from their spiritual lives.

We laughed, we cried, we made new friends. We want to do it again, But I’m just trying to figure out whether we can.

Contact bootcamp4writers@gmail.com for more details or visit the website at bootcamp4writers.com

Here are some pictures I shot from the weekend. See? Looks like fun, right?

Would you come?

20131104-103107.jpg
Here’s where we held the retreat, Kirkwood House at Camp Olmsted.
20131104-103133.jpg
Just one of the glorious views as we took an afternoon walk

20131104-103204.jpg

20131104-103319.jpg
Getting ready to write
20131104-103351.jpg
Out at the gazebo, we made some art. We painted boxes.
20131104-103420.jpg
In town we came upon some ladies giving out kindness.
20131104-103544.jpg
Time to plug in and write.
20131104-103704.jpg
A quick trip by commuter rail to Cornwall-on-Hudson.
20131104-103732.jpg
Here’s me, wondering whether to do it again.

In the Slow Lane

When Chris was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease nearly ten years ago, more than one family member said, “Now you’ll slow down.”

I thought the same thing. And I thought this again as I left my full time work almost five months ago. I will relax more, volunteer more, work out more, write more. I will do all of these things and I will slow down.

Um, not so much.

As my husband slows down, I feel inclined to twirl in my life twice as fast.

20130204-113917.jpg
Last week my daughter and I went to New Jersey for a camp reunion. This was the view that late afternoon.

I know I overdo. One day last week, I left the house at 7:45 am and got home at 9:30 pm. This was the fourth day in a row with these kind of hours. I had so much to do!!!

On any given day, I like experiencing a variety of settings — the after school office, spinning class, lunch with a girlfriend, free wifi at the local cafe, teaching, subway to SoHo, a meeting about my short comedy film, happy hour.

The only time I am in the slow lane is when I run. My goal is always to run a 13-minute mile.

Having a spouse with a chronic illness has made me want to get out there and interact with the world more, because, at times, the sadness of the disease’s progression simply brings me down and I cannot stay there.

Yet as lively as I want my outside world to be, I want my inside home to be a safe harbor and a cozy nest. This mama bird wants to fly back home with a mouth full of worms. I want to chill in front of the TV with my chicks.

And I want to do it now because I know my chicks are going to start to fly away soon.

How’s Parkinson’s? It’s fine.

heart in the sand
My niece Isabelle made this heart in the sand at the beach on Lake Champlain.

People often ask me how my husband is. I hesitate to answer. I try to gauge why they are asking.

Are they worried about him? Are they wondering how I am coping with his Parkinson’s Disease? Are they being polite and maybe don’t really want to know? If I stay too long on my answer, will I be perceived as whining or ungrateful? If I answer the question flippantly, am I in denial?

There are many gifts of love that our relationship has bestowed: mainly, the three awesome kids. And also people ask, How are the kids managing? To answer that, I usually say, “They’re great. They should probably be in counseling (as should we all), but we are all overscheduled and actually, we’re fine.”

Is it okay for me, a spouse of member with a chronic illness to say, “Fine?” I don’t know how much to open up. I mostly express gratitude for my husband’s positive attitude. I am grateful that he works out through the JCC Parkinson’s Program several times a week. He also goes to the chiropractor several times a week. He leans to one side a lot. He has other physical limitations. The disease bestows pscyho-social consequences which can be difficult for our family. He falls asleep a lot. There are other behavioral aspects, tied to the medication or disease or odd sleep habits.

The question is valid: how is he? My answer is also valid: I don’t know.

My husband has a progressive illness. His disease is progressing. He was diagnosed nine years ago. He is still amazingly capable of many daily tasks of living. And yet, there are many tasks that have fallen by the wayside.

I don’t always want to talk or write about it. I want to say (and people may want to hear), “Fine. He is fine. We are fine. Now, how are you? How’s your family?”

The truth is, if you answer me that you are not fine, that you have struggles too, and that life’s not always easy or what you bargained for, it’s okay with me. It’s okay if you are not always grateful.

In fact, admitting the struggle, and aiming for a semblance of resilience, somehow makes me feel better and makes me feel less alone. Because by asking me, How’s he doing? I think you know for our family, the disease is not always fine, easy, or inspiring. But it’s fine, one day at a time. It’s fine.