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Still Dancing

I was asked to write an "artist's statement" for my upcoming college reunion. I've always been uncomfortable with this whole "artist" thing-- I've spent my life doing creative work, but somehow, I never think of myself as an artist! But I was inspired by dancing with my grandson, so here's what I had to say: “Alexa, play Run-Around Sue,” my four-year-old grandson commands. He slides off the counter stool, eager to be done with lunch. “Dance party, Mee-Ma!” he cries. “I’ll start.” He launches into a series of twirls. He jumps, gyrates, and slides in and out of the floor. He freezes in a dramatic upside down shape with one leg thrust toward the ceiling. I clap my hands in delight. Time falls away. I’m not only watching my beloved grandson in ecstasy as he dances—I am also gazing at myself all those decades ago in my own childhood living room. Music was a constant presence in our house. I cannot remember a time when I could hear music without itching to move, to dance. Truthfully, I couldn’t not dance. And so, despite parental pressure to pursue anything other than a career in the arts, and despite my strong interest in sociology, I ultimately left my doctoral program and became a modern dancer, choreographer, and dance educator. Looking back, I feel incredibly blessed that I made that choice. To me, dance has always been a life-affirming, ecstatic experience—the marriage of physical, spiritual, musical, and emotional expressiveness. The choice to pursue [...]

By |2019-04-19T15:53:22-04:00April 19th, 2019|Dancing, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Celebrating One Year Book Anniversary!

It’s hard to believe that it was one year ago today that my YA novel, It Should Have Been You, was released by Page Street! What a journey this has been. I’ve done readings at Flying Out Loud and as part of a SWAN (“Support Women Artists Now”) celebration, signed books at Barnes and Noble, the MidSouth SCBWI conference, Seton Hill, and at the Kentucky Festival Book Fair where I was thrilled to be a panelist on “Fierce Females in YA Literature.” This spring, I’ll be a participating author at the SOKY Book Festival and Malice Domestic.          Absolutely the best part of this experience has been the love, encouragement, and support I’ve received from readers, family, friends, and fellow writers, especially Ellen Birkett Morris and Mary Lou Northern and the Derby Rotten Scoundrels, our local chapter of Sisters in Crime. Like so many authors, I’ve encountered my share of bumps on the writing road this past year as well, but I never forget how fortunate I am to be able to go to my public library and see my book on the shelf. Books have meant so much to me all my life, and it’s a thrill to have actually sent books I’ve written out into the world. I look forward to another year of writing, teaching, and savoring the work I get to do!    

By |2019-01-30T14:18:55-04:00January 30th, 2019|The Writing Life|0 Comments

Feeling Grateful

My son Ed with his new daughter My son Joel and grandson Cameron My students have been studying Clint Eastwood’s remarkable 2008 film, Gran Torino. We’ve been talking a lot about its themes. One is, of course, that “real” family is wherever you find it. The protagonist Walt is profoundly disappointed with his sons and families, and they don’t care much for him either. But, despite his long-standing prejudices, Walt becomes close to his young immigrant neighbors, Sue and Thao. They are worth dying for: they are his family of choice. The theme of creating our own intentional family has permeated my own work. We all need loving and caring connections in our lives, and when they’re missing on the home front, life is hard and painful. The reality is, too, that sometimes, there is plenty of love, but love isn’t enough when emotional, mental, or substance abuse problems interfere. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about broken relationships in families. In the last few weeks, I’ve encountered several folks who’ve shared that their children barely speak to them. Some have been on the losing end of a child taking the other parent’s side in a bitter divorce. Others have children who blame them for a multitude of sins while they were growing up, and have held on to their list of grievances for decades. The pain of these parents is palpable. It has reminded me of just how lucky I am that this has not [...]

By |2019-01-18T11:45:23-04:00January 18th, 2019|Family, Gratitude|0 Comments

One Month Later

It was a little over a month ago that our younger son Joel married Priscilla Hernandez, the love of his life, at Cliffview, a rustic retreat near Red River Gorge. It took him a mere fourteen years to convince his bride to marry him, and I’ve never seen anyone more thrilled than our son! We are incredibly happy for him, and to officially be a part of Priscilla’s family. Our extended families spent the weekend at Cliffview, and it was wonderful to spend time together. Priscilla’s mom Betty and other relatives prepared the most amazing authentic Mexican food. My waist line will never be the same, but it was definitely worth it! Meantime, I have some fun book events coming up. This coming Saturday, November 10, from 2-4 PM, I’ll be signing books at the Hurstbourne Barnes and Noble in Louisville along with other mystery writers in Derby Rotten Scoundrels, our local Sisters in Crime chapter. Then next Thursday, November 15, I’ll be attending Indiana University Southeast’s opening reception for an Authors and Artists exhibit that includes my YA novel, It Should Have Been You. And on Saturday, November 17, I’m thrilled to be a part of the annual Kentucky Book Fair from 9 am to 4 pm at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.  At 10 AM in the Spalding Room, I’ll be a panelist along with YA writers Mindee Arnett, Geanna Culbertson, and Kristina McBride on “Fierce Females in YA Literature,” a topic near and dear to my [...]

By |2018-11-08T13:51:28-04:00November 8th, 2018|Family, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Aspiration Versus Reality in America

            At the end of Seton Hill’s annual writers’ conference for alums in June, I attended the MFA graduation ceremony, during which we all stood, hands on our hearts, and sang our national anthem. After singing the closing words, “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave,” I turned to a fellow writer friend and mumbled, “If only that were true.”             It’s not that we don’t have plenty of brave, honorable citizens around. And despite savage attacks on the free press and those who dare to speak up about injustice, we are fortunate to still have a free press and the right to speak up and protest. Yet, when we have the highest incarceration rate in the world that disproportionately affects low income minorities, recurring instances of police brutality, and the forced separation and detention of brown parents and children seeking asylum at our borders—can we really claim to be the “land of the free”? Whatever happened to those beautiful words by Emma Lazarus that grace our Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?             Millions of Americans aspire to have our country genuinely live up to its ideals of freedom of speech, democracy, inclusiveness, and equality of opportunity. But isn’t it time to admit that in many ways, those ideals remain aspirational?                        Colin Kaepernick Kneeling             Just ask Colin Kaepernick. For daring to take a [...]

By |2018-09-09T13:04:23-04:00September 9th, 2018|Politics|0 Comments

Re-Creating That Small Town Feel

The long-running joke in our family is that if my dear husband didn’t have an errand to run, he’d invent one.  And since his retirement, the number of weekly errands has at least quadrupled. I’m convinced he’d lose his mind if he were ever sentenced to house arrest. I used to think that his constant run-outs were a way to refuel his batteries. After all, we’re both introverts who need our alone time. But now I’ve started to think that these errands are my husband’s way of socializing and re-creating the kind of neighborly interactions I associate with small town living.  Clearly, he’s talking to folks on his run-outs, and the conversations include me. This explains why Julie, the avid reader who works at the nursery, one of my gardening husband’s favorite hangouts, came to my book signing. And why the man at the liquor store, while advising me on what beer my husband might like for Father’s Day, announced he really enjoyed my vocals in the last CD of our music. And why yesterday, the friendly teller at the bank wanted to know how my book signing event the night before had gone. My husband playing at a friend's party I admit it. Thanks to my loquacious spouse, it’s been kind of nice to feel that folks know who I am and seem happy to see me. My college students who’ve grown up in small towns tell me that it can be stifling because “everyone knows your [...]

By |2018-09-02T12:19:30-04:00September 2nd, 2018|Family|0 Comments

Adjunct Teaching: The Revolving Door

My first hint that my adjunct office buddy had departed came the week before fall semester when he wasn’t at the back-to-school faculty conference. We were among the handful of adjuncts who were regulars at these things—eager to gain some teaching tips and inspiration while enjoying some camaraderie with other folks on campus.             By the end of the first week of classes, it was clear he wasn’t around. I missed him. We’d exchanged ideas about our teaching, laughed a lot, and talked about our lives. He was generous and thoughtful, even designing the flyer for my book signing and assisting me with my Power Point for my adjunct conference keynote presentation this past spring. Jeff with novelist Elaine Munsch and me at my book signing at Barnes and Noble in February. As an older adjunct who was also a novelist, I wasn’t looking for a fulltime gig, but I knew Jeff was eager to join the ranks of the university’s fulltimers. And he’d more than shown his investment in the campus, offering workshops to fellow faculty, joining a faculty learning community, and dedicating great chunks of time to his class preparation.             But after a few years, it became clear that no fulltime job was forthcoming. And when I called Jeff, he told me financial realities had finally caught up with him. In October, he’ll begin a fulltime job at a call center for a mega health care company in our area.             I know he’ll do [...]

By |2018-08-26T10:56:23-04:00August 26th, 2018|The Teaching Life|0 Comments

End-of-Summer Musings

I admit it. I’m having grandchild withdrawal! I spent a wonderful two weeks hosting our Colorado family and three grandkids and then was off for two and a half weeks visiting our NYC grandkids, including our latest precious addition. Edie Lou arrived on Sunday, July 22, weighing nearly nine pounds! She joins big brother Milo. I loved every second of holding Edie and inhaling her baby scent and playing with Milo who’s at that wonderful imaginative stage. Of course, I did have to have several visits with his alter ego, “Dr. Wasserman,” who insisted on giving me shots and kept having to take phone calls during appointments. Milo holding Edie Lou Milo baking a birthday cake with his grandfather             Now it’s full swing into the semester, and I’m hitting the ground running as fast as I can. The beginnings of semesters always leave me feeling a bit crazed—so much to do and so little time.             But I do have to say that teaching is my favorite way to “pay it forward.” This past week, I got an e-mail from a student I had a few semesters ago in a college English Composition class. She had confided to me that she was writing a novel and asked me if I’d be willing to look at it. I did and offered her feedback on what I thought she could work on to make it stronger, as well as lots of encouragement. Now working on her fourth [...]

By |2018-08-18T13:35:08-04:00August 18th, 2018|The Teaching Life|0 Comments

Joy and Sadness

 Sunday, we had a guest speaker at church, Karina Barillas. Barillas is the Executive Director of La Casita Center, a Louisville-based non-profit dedicated to supporting and empowering the city’s Latino community, including those who are undocumented immigrants. Barillas emigrated from Guatemala after being a victim of incest and domestic violence. She spoke eloquently of the constant fear, anxiety, and discrimination faced by asylum-seeking families: “We imagine that this is something that is just happening on television or at the borders, but it’s not. It’s happening everyday across communities in America.” She told of mothers and fathers on their way to work or home who were snatched off the streets by ICE officers, leaving confused and devastated children behind.  She talked about kids being bullied at school and told, “Go back to where you came from. You don’t belong here,” and children as old as twelve who were afraid to go to the center’s day camp because they were too scared to be separated from their mothers. Who knew if their parents would still be at home when they returned?             I cried as she spoke, as did many others in the congregation. When we asked her what above all we could do, she said, “You can vote.”  And we will, and many of us will try to do more than that. Yet the horror of what is happening to innocent and vulnerable children and families weighs heavily on our hearts.             When I walked in the door at home from [...]

By |2018-07-25T09:08:04-04:00July 25th, 2018|Politics|0 Comments

Fourteen Years Later…

Priscilla and my grandson Sebastian There’s a reason the wedding invitation simply announces, “At last,” followed by the names of the bride and groom and the date, time, and place. It’s been a mere fourteen years since my younger son fell madly in love with his long-time partner Priscilla, a vivacious, feisty young woman. Three children later (one from my son’s previous relationship and two they share together), lots of bumps on their journey, and the world’s longest engagement, these two are finally making the leap to matrimony.             If it had been up to my son, they would have gotten married years ago. But Priscilla was hesitant. After all, the men in her life growing up hadn’t been… well, let’s just say, they weren’t the most reliable bunch. And she’s always been fiercely independent. In fact, when I asked her why she’d finally decided they could set a date, she said simply: “The idea of marriage has always made me nervous, but he’s the only person I would ever want to be with.”             These two have literally grown up together, and it’s wonderful to witness their commitment to one another for the long haul. Besides, there’s something exciting about all of these rituals and traditions. This past week, I got to go wedding dress shopping with Priscilla. She found a beautiful dress. It brought back such happy memories of wedding dress shopping with my older son’s bride Lauren and her mom. Talk about vicarious pleasure!             [...]

By |2018-07-16T09:55:23-04:00July 16th, 2018|Family|0 Comments