• All Blog Entries,  PR & Marketing,  QED

    Adult Spelling Bee #1 at QED

    My fellow word lover and should-have-been-a-librarian, Liz Simons and I  hosted the first ever Adult Spelling Bee at QED with great success!  I had a bumble bee pin in my hair for the occasion and enjoyed some delicious custom-made donuts from Sugar & Water shaped as the letters Q.E.D. with little bees on them!!! 

    It was a super fun night with 24 contestants and great prizes from local Queens businesses. The competition was tough but supportive with people high-fiving, cheering, oohing and aahing. I hope the next one is just as great even though it’s a school night. Save the date: Thur, Feb 21 at 7PM. Limited to 25 contestants!

    I shocked myself at my use-it-in-a-sentence improvisational skills. I definitely want to use the online dictionary for this in the future but it was fun coming up with random sentences including this part that my niece Kaelyn will appreciate for the #Hamilton reference. 

    Thanks to Rory Scholl for taking pics and videos and Jenn Wehrung who slung drinks and laughed at all my dumb jokes. And, of course, this couldn’t have happened without the support of our sponsors:

    Noguchi Museum, Loose Leaf Tea, The Bonnie, Lavender Label, Lagree NY, the aforementioned Sugar & Water. And starting next month, the Museum of the Moving Image has donated passes for prizes. How great is that?! Again, save the date: Thur, Feb 21 at 7PM. Limited to 25 contestants as we anticipate this selling out every time! 

  • All Blog Entries,  NYC

    Civil War Round Table Guest Ed Bearss

    I’ve been studying the Civil War and Reconstruction at Columbia University online taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian, Professor Eric Foner. It’s been enlightening and has helped satiate my hunger for knowledge of early American history, as brutal, ugly and discomfiting as it is.

    Reconstruction, in particular, is all very depressing. But there is also some comfort to be gained, especially during this tumultuous and violent-#MAGA-racist-Trump-agenda, Charlottesville-era we’re living in. The history of the US has been consistently cyclical. With each advancement, there is an immediate backlash and reversal of the progress. 

    Interested in meeting some like-minded history buffs so I can really talk about this stuff, I joined the Civil War Round Table of New York. Their dinner meetings are held once a month at a gorgeous mansion on 51st Street in Rockefeller Center that is now the Women’s National Republican Club. Their placard made me pause when I saw it upon entering. The building, event link and Google address promoted it as 3 West Club, a special event space. Methinks their rentals wouldn’t be as fetching for New Yorkers with the R word in there.  

    Each Civil War Round Table meeting features a guest speaker and discussion topic. My first meeting was in September and the first of the new “season” with guest Ed Bearss on the topic “Ask Ed Anything”. Intriguing, but so different from all the other speakers I was seeing on the site who were scheduled to talk about specific topics such as “The Common Man in the Civil War” and “The Court Martial of Fitz-John Porter”.

    Mr. Bearss is 95 yrs old at the date of these photos and a delightful, knowledgable historian. He was introduced by a very colorful character whose name escapes me but who clearly participates in enactments as evidenced by his long wavy locks and thick beard. Mr. Bearss spoke without notes, answering questions and eliciting laughs.

    The best part was Mr. Bearss’ going off on tangents to tell personal anecdotes.

    When asked how he felt about certain movies and their depiction of events, he mentioned going to see “The Horse Soldiers” in 1959. “I was courting my wife and took her to see it. Had I not been courting her, I would’ve walked out. You can play with history; but you can’t play with it too much.” Okay, I’ll mark this movie on my “Don’t Bother” list. 

    While talking about his military service he mentioned a very tough drill instructor who, if you were caught chewing gum, would make you stick it up your butt. “One man was not very smart and got caught twice.”

    My favorite was Mr. Bearss declaring, “I once gave an anti-Chamberlain speech in Maine.” The audience gasped and ooohhhed which was followed by knowing laughter. “Chamberlain” is the revered (to Mainers, at least) Joshua Chamberlaindecorated Union General who served one term as Governor of Maine. I laughed hard, too. Not at the joke (I actually had to look  Chamberlain up to see what I was missing), but at how this group knew a super specific punchline to a super specific anecdote about a random General in the Civil War. Nerds! My people! I have found you!

    Ed Bearss Civil War Round Table
    Kambri Crews & Ed Bearss  

    After he spoke, he stayed to greet people. It was an honor to have met him and I’m grateful he has shared so much of his love of country with so many generations. I haven’t been back to the Round Table, unfortunately. They changed their meeting night to Monday which is when I’m running things at QED. If the stars align and I’m off on a night they meet, I’ll definitely go back even if it’s held at the Women’s National R$@%! Club. ?

    Ed Bearss at the NY Civil War Round Table

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects,  Family & Life

    Learning to Watercolor

    I spent the New Year’s Day holiday up at the Rock House with Christian and my father-in-law, sitting around the fire, watching movies, doing a puzzle, making (and eating) beef stew and a chicken burrito bowl in the crock pot, and some homemade cookies and cream ice cream. 

    I also had some more fun with my Let’s Make Art subscription box. I painted a cardinal and a pickup truck with a tree using patterns I traced with carbon paper. The bird’s tail got messed up when I dropped the painting while it was still wet, and it landed flat on its face. Oops. But it wasn’t such a great work of art to begin with so no harm, really. I definitely enjoy painting along with the tutorials if solely for the fact that I’m unable to do anything else (read about the Mueller investigation or anything Trump, check Twitter or emails, etc.).

    I look forward to learning a little more about how to handle the colors and the patience to let parts dry before tinkering with them. But even if this is as good as I get, the unplugged time is all I really want or care about right now. It was a lovely holiday and a peaceful start to the New Year. 

    Every New Year’s Eve, I keep saying good riddance to the year before as each has been chock full of challenges. But this year it’s become clear: this is just my life and my life is really challenging right now. I can hope for an easier time of it but, in the meantime, my (continued) resolution is to enjoy all the books, plays, comedy, arts, crafts and the mix of city and country life as much as I can even if the moments are fleeting.

    Happy New Year to us all!

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    December 2018 Reading List

    Four books for December puts me at 82 books read for 2018*. I’m unlikely to match this pace for 2019 but ya never know. I read a lot of really great books, learned more about American history this year than I ever did in all my years combined, became politically active and a card-carrying feminist. Thank you to the New York Public Library, Queens Library and Ramapo Catskill Library System for the tremendous year.

    I’ll be snagging this nifty “Knowledge is Power” card during my regular visit to the NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. God I love that place. How did I not become a librarian? I turned my bedroom in my trailer into a fully functional library! I was a library aide at Montgomery Elementary School! I own a card catalog! 

    (*Plus one in progress and one I did not finish but those don’t count!)

    Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward – Part of me wondered why I’d want to read this given that we’re still currently living under this madman’s rule. But the larger part of me said that this is history in the making and I want to better understand and fully inform myself as much as possible. Trump is so ill-qualified and everyone around him seems to know it and yet are powerless or unwilling to stop him. Electoral college aside, time and the American voter will handle it unless he kills us first or Mueller and other investigations beat us to it. 

    The Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story by Miriam C. Davis – A recounting of a string of axe murders and attacks in New Orleans in the early 20th Century. It was all bloody and terribly and though two men were tried and convicted it remains unsolved. It reminded me of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara in that I was exhausted by the details of brutal crime after brutal crime all with no solution at the end. Of course in the latter case the Golden State Killer was caught after the book’s publication. In the case of the Axeman, he’ll go through history like a Jack the Ripper, leaving a legacy of fear, pain and injustice. Because it will remain unsolved (no DNA evidence exists) and the crimes all bled together, I found myself more intrigued by how each crime was investigated and the legal proceedings which led to two men being wrongly convicted.

    Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott – A terrific narrative of four* women who served their causes (the Confederacy or the Union, depending on which story you follow)

    *Elizabeth Van Lew operated a spy ring for the Union while living in the Deep South much to the anger of her neighbors. But much of her information was aided by her slave Mary Jane Bowers who Elizabeth sent to live with and work for Jefferson Davis. That Mary Jane’s story is not more highlighted is not surprising as an enslaved person of color their stories often became secondary, but it is as remarkable as Van Lew’s. So it should be 5 women. Bowers also “disappeared” after 1867 —no further records can be found of her— so she was not around to help propel her story the way that two of the others did — one going on to write a memoir and perform in shows around the country.

    Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister – She’s the eminent and prolific feminist writer of this current generation it seems. She can pump out the books faster than I can read them! That said, there was a lot of redundancy in this book and her book “Big Girls Don’t Cry” which I’d read only last month about Hillary Clinton’s bid for the nomination during the 2002 Presidential primaries and the VP nomination of Sara Palin. While recent history is worth discussing, reflecting on and learning more about, it seems Traister has tapped the well of history from the 1st and 2nd waves of feminism. That said, I will continue to buy and read everything she writes. She’s smart and thorough in her coverage and since we are still fighting the same exact fights, it’s worth drudging up the past over and over and over again until we fix things!

    Click here to read my November Booklist (3*)
    Click here to read my October Booklist (3)
    Click here to read my September Booklist (5)
    Click here to read my August Booklist (6*)
    Click here to read my July Booklist (6*)
    Click here to read my June Booklist (7*)
    Click here to read my May Booklist (13)
    Click here to read my April Booklist (12)
    Click here to read my March Booklist (9)
    Click here to read my February Booklist (8)
    Click here to read my January Booklist (6)

    *There were some months where I watched documentaries instead like the phenomenal Eyes on the Prize (PBS). I also read lots of historical and reference books that didn’t actually make it to my list and I completed two semesters (online) studying the Civil War and Reconstruction at Columbia with Professor Eric Foner. A banner year, indeed! 

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects

    DIY Wall Plate Rack

    Last winter, during my cancer treatment and recovery time off, I got busy! I designed and built this wall plate rack with the aid of my mom. We almost killed each other during assembly, but we did it!

    Pinterest will send you down a K-hole of design ideas but you’ll walk away without concrete plans. So I found a design plan on Ana White’s site that I tailored to fit my liking and specific space and dimensions. It’s very easily adaptable and all the pieces you need are easily found and cut to size at your local lumber store for super cheap. Cheaper than most anything you’ll buy online anyway.

    The design itself is so very basic and simple that you don’t really need any blueprint but sometimes it’s nice to have a clear vision and shopping list, especially before walking into a Home Depot which suddenly erases every clear thought I’ve ever had.

    I added bead-board on the back to make it look a little more polished, and I’d still like to add some molding or stenciling to add more visual interest. But it’s already been immensely useful, clearing up room in our only cupboard and keeping dishes super handy and easily accessible. 

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    November 2018 Reading List

    The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs – Riggs was the great, great, great granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson and a poet herself which shows on occasion in her lyrically writing. In her final work, Riggs covers her experience living and dying from metastatic breast cancer while raising two small boys, dealing with her mother’s cancer. I was hoping for some insight into how I’m feeling now that my cancer is (hopefully) in the rearview. Answers to larger questions on the meaning of life because right now, frankly, I don’t see the point. Instead it’s more of a personal account of regular, everyday life but with cancer, pain and loss. Her writing is lovely and it’s terribly sad that she died so young and her sons lost their mother. An awful tragedy, and I’m glad she has this legacy to leave them. It did touch on some things covered in Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End which I’d read earlier this year. That book is about quality of life during the end days and, while more clinical, I found the frankness about death and dying very comforting and valuable. 

    Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women by Rebecca Traister – All about the 2008 presidential primaries and election. Knowing what the future holds gave me some different perspective as I read about Hillary Clinton’s loss to Barack Obama and Sarah Palin’s Vice Presidential run with John McCain. Oh, the good ol’ days. I’d forgotten about how much attention had been paid to Clinton’s clothes and how she showed some cleavage. (Oh my stars!) I also had to accept that, while I’m definitely no fan of Palin, having a woman on the ballot is still a good thing for women in general. 

    Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World by David Brion Davis – An epic review of slavery, abolition, uprisings, sexual exploitation, classical and biblical roots, Haitian and Brazilian revolts, the emergence of African-American culture, and on and on and on. If you only read one book on the history of slavery, this would be the one I’d recommend. It’s sweeping and comprehensive, not too long and covers a lot of territory. I was particularly interested in and enlightened by the Haitian revolution (I’ve added The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution to my “To Read” list) and England’s not-so-altruistic reasons for the abolition of slavery. An excellent history lesson and a must-read, in my opinion.

    The Roosevelts documentary by Ken Burns –  Not a book, but an in depth and worthy documentary that I wanted to note for myself. I enjoyed this during my travels to New Mexico and back to NYC from Arizona. The long plane rides flew by in a flash thanks to this excellent documentary. I had watched it some years ago but really enjoyed it more the 2nd time around now that I’m more educated on NYC history. There actually is a companion book to this that I saw while at the Grand Canyon. The National Parks love Teddy for all that he did for the park service. Thanks, Ted, for making my trip into the Canyon a possibility!

    Click here to read my October Booklist
    Click here to read my September Booklist
    Click here to read my August Booklist
    Click here to read my July Booklist
    Click here to read my June Booklist
    Click here to read my May Booklist
    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    October 2018 Reading List

    I was super deep into my Civil War studies at Columbia and volunteering for Midterm elections, so I didn’t get much extra reading done this month. These are the books I enjoyed in October:

    Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Crossing Press Feminist Series) by Audre Lorde – Somewhere earlier this year, I’d read a criticism that to be a better feminist, middle-aged white women should read more works by minorities. I’ve since read and enjoyed a few this year, including Hunger by Roxane Gay and Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper. This one was recommended by one of the teachers at QED and is written by the black lesbian feminist poet Audre Lorde. It is a complication of her essays and speeches which means there is a little crossover / redundancy like similar collections but the writing is powerful and important. I’m so glad I took that criticism to heart and took corrective action. I’m not certain I would have chosen these books had that criticism not found it’s way to me and burrowed its way into my conscious.
    I had not heard of Audre Lorde until now and I am really angry about that. Same is true of James Baldwin who I just discovered this past year. If you’d asked me after I finished this book, I would have sworn she was a living, present day writer. I was shocked to learn that she had passed and that this book was published in 1972! Her writing is so damned relevant to today which fuels my already frustrated rage. How can this be written so long ago and be true still? Maddening. Anyway, I’m grateful to the woman who recommended it and will likely read it again now that I know more about Lorde and that it was written 4 decades ago and not last year. #%!&@. And if you have any books to recommend by WOC please do let me know!

    The Library Book by Susan Orlean – This is one of my favorite books of the year. It’s all the things I love: investigative journalism meets history lesson meets true crime all set in a library. It’s really great. It covers the 1986 catastrophic fire at the Los Angeles Public Library which destroyed hundreds of thousands of books. Was the fire the work of an arsonist? Orlean digs in deep. I loved it. 

    All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister – You definitely don’t have to be single to read and enjoy this. Yes, it’s about single women, but it’s also covers the changing roles of women since the 1800s. While I am married to Christian since ’06 and was married before that from ’89 – ’94, there were 12 years between I was single and living alone without family support. I also moved to new cities alone, knowing no one. And being married is no guarantee. Lots of women find themselves single after divorce or death and it presents its own set of challenges. I appreciated the statistics and research presented from the 1800s to today. The number of single and/or never married women has increased over the decades, of course, as societal pressures and norms have evolved but I learned so much more. Traister is prolific and I’ve enjoyed all of her writing. I’m glad to have gotten to know her work.   

    Click here to read my September Booklist
    Click here to read my August Booklist
    Click here to read my July Booklist
    Click here to read my June Booklist
    Click here to read my May Booklist
    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

  • All Blog Entries,  Travel

    Sedona, Flagstaff & the $&#*@ Grand Canyon

     I made some pitstops along the way at a Native American pueblo Acoma Sky City, drove through the Petrified Forest and spent an afternoon in Jerome, AZ. A town where I would love to own a shop. So full of character and history. I got a cool kaleidoscope to keep as a reminder even though it wasn’t actually made in Jerome. 

    I had hoped to go on a hot air balloon ride during the sunrise in Sedona but they called the morning of (5:30am) and said there wasn’t enough wind. Bummer. So I went on a hike instead and lo and behold, what do I see in the distance? Balloon after balloon launching. I was so fu*king pissed and disappointed. The company said that those balloons were w/ a different company and that, although they launched, they almost immediately drifted into the side of a mountain and stayed stuck there for 45 mins. So, yay? It was still a bummer.

    On the way out of Sedona on the drive to the Canyon, I stopped at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff hoping to do a night tour / star gaze / telescope look-through. Their telescope discovered Pluto!  I got there at 4:30 only to find out it closed at 5pm on Sundays while there is still daylight out and, therefore nothing to see. Again, I was so upset and disappointed. I felt like Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Vacation. I just needed to scream and cry and punch a cartoon mascot in the face. 

    The Grand Canyon made up for all that and then some. The Canyon went above and beyond in making sure I was rewarded and paid back for my bad luck in Sedona. I planned to hike but hiking to the bottom of the Canyon and back up on the same day isn’t advisable. It’s highly recommended that if you hike to the bottom, you have a plan to stay overnight. To do that, you have to have a camping permit and, well, camping gear (tent, etc.). I certainly don’t have that stuff and wouldn’t get it for just one night as a solo traveler. There is also a set of cabins / dorms at the bottom called Phantom Ranch. It’s booked so far in advance and so popular that the only way to secure a spot in a dorm or cabin is to enter a lottery 15 months in advance (they’re taking lottery entries for Feb 2020 right now).

    My friend Robin had joined me part way thru my trip and she & I talked with a park ranger named Ron Brown at the visitor center to get his advice on what to do/see in two or three days. He mentioned taking a mule ride. I said how I’d heard mixed reviews from other customers so decided against it. He said, “Doesn’t matter anyway, because the mules are sick with a respiratory infection…but, hey, you know what that means? It means you could probably get a last minute spot at the Phantom Ranch.”

    Since people who either can’t or don’t want to walk down to the bottom and hike up again, getting down by mule is the only way. So, if you were planning on going down by mule to stay at the Ranch you’re S.O.L. Lo and behold they only had two slots left and they were both in the female dorms. !!! Robin and I high-fived and made our reservation and headed back to tell Ron the good news and thank him for the tip. He was so thrilled he loaned us his walking sticks saying, “I’ve been loaning these out for 15 years and they always come back to me.” NOTE TO SELF: DO NOT BE THE PERSON TO LOSE RON’S STICKS!

    We had even better luck the next morning when we checked with the Phantom Ranch people stationed at The El Tovar Hotel. We found out they could upgrade us to a private cabin. A private. Cabin. At the bottom of the canyon! WHAT?!

    We had the best breakfast in the fancy El Tovar dining room where I fell in love with the artwork and Mimbreño china then hopped the shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead to begin our descent. 

    To be continued…

    Santa Fe, Sedona & the Grand Canyon

  • All Blog Entries,  Travel

    Santa Fe – Vacation Day 1 & 2

    Since opening QED in 2014, I haven’t been able to travel save for the occasional trip to upstate. My mind, body & soul were aching for a vacation. I have major wanderlust and it’s been straight-jacketed for over 4 years as I nearly killed myself with exhaustion and stress opening and running my little theater and going through cancer treatments.

    This past August, Christian announced he’d be enjoying a full month in Edinburgh, Scotland to stage his solo show “My Goodness” as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I was jealous. Utterly, completely, unabashedly jealous. It also meant I was left to care for two dogs and QED solo in the heat of summer for a full month. Doable, obviously, but not ideal. As a thank you, Christian promised me a full week of being “me” at QED while I took a vacation.

    September and October were jam-packed with QED stuff, of course, but I also threw my whole heart, soul and body into working on the midterm elections. Win, lose or draw, I decided that the morning after Election Day would be the perfect time to unplug. Where best to do this? Why, Santa Fe, Sedona and the Grand Canyon, of course!

    Our election night party at QED was bumping, packed to the gills and full of excitement as the results came in. I left at the crack of dawn for LaGuardia. People love to hate on LaGuardia. But I was out the front door and at my gate in 21 mins, including a pit stop for coffee and a banana. Not my record of 12 minutes (!!! Not joking. I once did this in twelve minutes.) but there was construction and it was a busy work day during rush hour. Seriously. 

    I got in late thanks to a layover and needing to get a rental car. Driving in the pitch black backroads of Santa Fe was a little scary, but I was checked in to my hotel and had a great travel day of reading and writing and last minute work stuff. 

    In the morning I realized those backroads were not back at all, they were pretty regular and very near the city center. They just don’t have street lights or giant buildings and people must go to bed with candlelight or something. I was thrilled to discover I hit the sweet spot with fall colors, too. I always think of the northeast for “leaf peeping” season but, lo! The cottonwood is a showstopper. Santa Fe Cottonwoods

    I love a good walking tour, so I found one that started at noon leaving me time for breakfast in the town square at the Plaza Cafe.

    Chiles are everywhere here. In restaurants, they’re in practically every dish (even dessert) and ristras (dried bunches of chiles on a string) are hanging all over the place. There are two kinds of chiles: green and red. But the red is simply a ripened green chile. At I ordered a breakfast burrito which was served covered in peppers. When I ordered they asked, “Do you want red, green or Christmas?” I opted for Christmas which is a mix of both types. Tis the season and all that jazz.Chili pepper holiday decoration

    Since it was nearing the actual Christmas and not just the fun name for a chile mix, the town square was being decorated with red hatch chile ristras. I told you! The chiles were EVERYWHERE.  

    Waiting for my walking tour to start and found a cozy nook in front of a fabulous fireplace at the La Fonda Hotel which was designed and decorated by the architect Mary Colter

    Have you heard of her? I hadn’t. But the tour guide mentioned her and another tourist asked something about The Harvey Girls and The Fred Harvey Company. They all seemed to know what that meant but I wasn’t in on it. The tour guide noted how it was usual for a woman to be an architect –there was no law against it, it was just something women did not do. So Colter got her start by working as an interior designer. When the guide discovered I’d be headed to the Grand Canyon, she said I’d learn lots more about her there as she designed and/or decorated many or most (all?) of the original structures including The Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. 

    Her work as an architect and designer was highly influential — her style of “parkitecture” became known as National Park Service Rustic—  and yet I’d never heard of her! How is that?! Everyone has heard of Frank Lloyd Wright and yet Colter is arguably more influential than he was. The fu*king patriarchy, man.

    Anyway, back to Santa Fe. Get a load of this…I mean, seriously! How can you *not* love Santa Fe?! Santa Fe, Sedona & the Grand Canyon 

    Santa Fe, Sedona & the Grand Canyon
    View my entire Flickr set

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    September 2018 Reading List

    Invading Paradise:Esopus Settlers at War with Natives, 1659, 1663 by Andrew Brink – A review of the causes of the two Esopus Wars in what are now present day Kingston and Hurley in Ulster County, New York. I recently discovered that I’m descended from the original Dutch settlers in New York and, because they were so prolific and thorough in record keeping, my 7th, 8th and 9th great grandparents, aunts and uncles are all over the history books. Pretty neat. This book discusses specific immigrants / settlers (my fam!) and their challenges, motives and more. There is some discussion about PTSD which surely they suffered from after some  horrific attacks on their settlement which included my 8th great uncle being tortured and burned alive, slaughtering and capture of women and children and, well, some brutal stuff. From the author, “Were they prepared for what confronted them upon acquiring native agricultural lands? Readers are invited to consider exactly what happened to bring on violence.”

    Educated by Tara Westover – A memoir that is generating so much positive buzz, including accolades from President Obama. Whoa. How lovely for her. She grew up in a Morman fundamentalist survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho. Off the grid and unschooled. It’s a stressful book to read as it contains so much abuse and neglect that is, of course, familiar. It’s also incredibly  frustrating especially as I deal with my mom’s pathological need to keep up of appearance and have everything be cool even as she’s standing on hot lava. The author does a wonderful job of detailing without judgment and, with the help of some folks along the way, how she became educated.

    Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean –  Dean profiles 10 women (not necessarily “feminists”) who contributed to “cultural and intellectual history”. I liked the structure –a chapter profiling one woman, then the next and so on. However the author drops in interactions, influences and disagreements from one to the next, linking them all together. There were lots of interesting facts and some women I actually hadn’t heard of. I can’t say it was the most riveting read, but it was a nice compilation of literary women over the last several decades.

    The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner – I’m studying the Civil War and Reconstruction at Columbia. This book is written by my professor and is a comprehensive, yet succinct overview of Lincoln’s political evolution. It won the Pulitzer Prize for History, so yeah, it’s very readable and a good substitute if you can’t take the courses at Columbia. Prof. Foner is a smart cookie. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to learn from him. 

    Legends of the Shawangunk (Shon-Gum) and its environs, including historical sketches, biographical notices, and thrilling border incidents and adventures relating to those portions of the counties of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan lying in the Shawangunk region by Smith, Philip H. (Philip Henry), b. 1842 – Just a little light history reading about my ancestors during the Esopus Indian Wars and the history of the surrounding areas where my cabin is.

    Re: the Esopus Indian Wars: This book is available online (click link above) and there are two short chapters detailing the conflicts with the Dutch and Esopus Indians starting with page 15. It is all so graphic and horrific, but made doubly tragic by the fact that they lived in harmony before the introduction of alcohol to the Indians who became violent and “mad” when drunk. Then the English took over power of Wiltwyck (renaming it to Kingston) and wiped out the Esopus altogether. Terribly bloody and horrific and unnecessary. 

    Click here to read my August Booklist
    Click here to read my July Booklist
    Click here to read my June Booklist
    Click here to read my May Booklist
    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    August 2018 Reading List

    Grant by Ron Chernow – “He was nothing heroic…and yet the greatest hero.” — Walt Whitman of Ulysses S. Grant

    Okay, this book. <3

    It’s a time commitment –this was listed on a previous month, in fact, but it expired and I had to get on a waitlist again. It covers his entire life from childhood to death, his struggles with alcohol, naïveté (gullibility?) in business ventures, his rise to glory for the most horrific reason (the Civil War, of course), his humility and grace all while keeping the Union together during Reconstruction and protecting the freed slaves and on and on and on. I cried when I fished the book –sobbed, really– and made a special trip to his tomb to pay my respects. 

    My sister-in-law bought me my own copy for my birthday and I plan to read it again along with the audiobook which I’ve placed on hold with the NYPL. That way I can hopefully read a little faster all while underlining, highlighting, bookmarking and researching all the footnotes. I’m loving my Civil War / Reconstruction studies at Columbia with Professor Eric Foner (Pulitzer Prize winner to you, thankyouverymuch) and this book is very relevant. I’m sure he’ll be adding it to the recommended reading list for future classes. 

    Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson – A nice, overall biography of a pretty smart and incredible man, a founding father who, like the others had his flaws. Franklin’s biggest being that he lived in Europe for over 15 years while his family was left behind in the US. Which, speaking of..I found his relationships with younger women interesting. He was rumored to be a ladies man and quite flirtatious but in all of the many letters and documents, there is no evidence of anything more than friendship and affection. Yes, sometimes flirtatious which would be harmless enough, but for the era. He was still married even if his wife was an “ocean away”. They do show that he enjoyed serving as a mentor and friend to several women over his lifetime. This student’s write up provided a nice summation on his relationships

    Sidebar: When I was in my early 20s, working my way up through the corporate banking ladder, I had a mentor who was nearly the same age as my parents. He was a dear friend to me and taught me more than anyone at any other job ever. Rarely were we flirtatious (we were co-workers, too, after all and this time period being on the heels of Anita Hill and workplace harassment being in the forefront) but we were good friends who were sometimes very silly together during our long drives to court, visiting bank-owned properties, etc. We sang “War! (What is it Good For?)” by Edwin Starr at the top of our lungs and met in the stairwell for coffee runs using the code, “The ship is in the harbor” for no reason other than to have an inside thing we shared. He schooled me on the Ohio court system of course, but also on 12th century explorer Ibn Battuta and bored me with lectures about the Byzantine Empire. When I was appointed officer and then assistant vice president so soon thereafter, all while so young and without a college degree, there were rumors. Unfounded and I shirked them off. We remained friends a full 10 or 15 years after we parted ways until we lost touch not long after 9/11. He retired and so his email went away. He moved and his name is too common. In fact, I just spent two hours trying to cyberstalk to no avail. Maybe this post will send some smoke signal into the Universe that reads, “The ship is in the harbor.”

    But, hey, did you know Ben Franklin invented Soduku? Sudoko? Sodoku? However you spell it or say it, Franklin invented it. I mean, electricity is cool and all, but seriously this blew me away.

    The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan – a gift by my Kentucky friend, Liz. This is a collection of essays and short stories by Keegan who died unexpectedly 5 days after graduating from Yale at age 22. Her writing does sometimes sound really young which makes it all the more heartbreaking. Her essay about the sun dying one day and none of this mattering broke my heart. I do prefer her non-fiction to the fiction, but that’s true of my reading preferences in general. Overall, it was a touching read and a lovely legacy for her family.

    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – A classic which I enjoyed long ago. People love to hate on it or use it as a punchline and I couldn’t remember some things so I re-read it. I still enjoyed it. 

    God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright – I was hoping for more of a chronological telling of some history of Texas. Instead it’s a bit all over the place timeline-wise. Some bits I really enjoyed (anything with Ann Richards is a win) and others were so out of place (Matthew McConaughey was his neighbor once. Okay?) and it was just a bunch of random essays all smushed together with some name dropping. I think I needed to be more familiar with the author and his writing to really enjoy it. Some complicated things in Texas history were glossed or skipped over and, I dunno, maybe I just don’t have any love left for Texas. I had a hard time finding how he had any pride for the state at all. 

    Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America by Eliza Griswold – I heard about this new book on the podcast “Why is This Happening?” with Chris Hayes. An excellent, excellent podcast. The author struck me as incredibly intelligent and thorough in her investigation, and so I was intrigued. This book is a terrific piece of investigative journalism centering around residents in Pennsylvania towns named Amity and Prosperity who are sickened by the environmental pollution from fracking waste. It reads like a drama but it’s real life and frighteningly close to home. This could literally happen in our backyard and the US government is, of course, a part of the problem more often than the solution. I wouldn’t doubt if Griswold wins an award or two for her brilliant and thorough work. A great read which also served to educate me on lots of environmental laws and issues.

    Not books but three documentaries I watched that I wanted to note for myself.

    I Am Not Your Negro by and about James Baldwin. So mad that I had never heard of him. What a shame that he wasn’t discussed in my school at all.
    The Uncomfortable Truth about the racist past of the documentarian’s family and An Ordinary Hero: The True Story of Joan Trumpauer Mulholland about her experience during the Freedom Rides

    Click here to read my July Booklist
    Click here to read my June Booklist
    Click here to read my May Booklist
    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist


  • All Blog Entries,  Deaf Culture & ASL,  Family & Life,  Family & Life,  My Jailed Deaf Dad

    I’m Approved! I Can Receive Video Calls from My Jailed Deaf Dad

    Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few frustrating phone calls* with customer service for registering my cell phone with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Purple Video Relay Service. My last name is different from Christian’s who is the account holder of my AT&T cell phone account. Hoo boy, did the patriarchy take umbrage with that one. That meant we had to be in the same room to call in and register. Harder than it should be as we’re often together after business hours.

    Anyway, I got word today that I am approved. I can receive video calls from My Jailed Deaf Dad. Great! Great? Grreeaaat. I don’t know. We’ll see if I immediately regret this. I can confidently say that I won’t have any problems with the rules, thankyouverymuch. Egads.

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects

    Let’s Make Art – Watercolor Painting Kits

    I painted for the 1st time in my life tonight* thanks to @letsgomakeart! I treated myself to their December monthly subscription box which included four watercolor painting kits. The kit arrived in a jiffy and was well packed and sorted. Tonight I followed along with Sarah Cray’s tutorial on YouTube and painted the flowers for week 1. Watercolors will definitely take some getting used to and a few trials and many more errors but she kept it breezy and simple. Even though I’m a complete novice, I still skipped forward a few times to trim the “fat” of the video and rewound a few other times to review a technique before dipping my brush into anything. 

    After my flowers were done, I decided to try painting the luna moth (individual kit available on their site) even though I didn’t have the kit, because it’s pretty and I was having fun. Even though I didn’t have the colors I needed, it still turned out great! Watercoloring will take some getting used to but it was quick and fun and easier than I expected. I will definitely try the luna moth again when I have the right colors as it is gorgeous. We have luna moths here at the cabin every spring / summer and they truly are works of art. 

    Anyway, here’s how I spent my evening!**

    *My paint by numbers don’t count!
    **Well, about an hour or so of it. I spent the rest of the night making homemade rocky road ice cream, finishing up the last chapter of Inhuman Bondage, watching Survivor and answering emails for QED. A pretty great night off! 

  • All Blog Entries,  PR & Marketing,  QED

    Shop Local at QED for Small Business Saturday

    Love my QED t-shirts & wish you had one? Want to support a woman-owned business? Want to ? Of course you do! Now’s your chance to get one & have it by Christmas! Order by 11/30 or else. Plus, tomorrow is day of the big Shop Small / Small Business Saturday holiday bazaar. We’ll have 25 of the
    neighborhood’s foremost creative makers selling their wares at  tomorrow from 12-5pm. Expect to come across one-of-a-kind ceramics, hand-made jewelry, imaginatively designed greeting cards, eye-catching art and super delicious treats.

    When you #ShopSmall with a vendor at QED, you’ll receive a free souvenir tote while supplies last. And, if you make a $10+ purchase from QED, you’ll receive an Admit Two pass good for a future show!

    QED will be featuring lots of great drink specials for this event such as $6 draught beer, house wine & mimosas! Plus we’ll have plenty of mulled wine, hot apple cider, fresh popped popcorn and yummy snacks from This Chick Bakes.

    Here’s where to pre-order a tee shirt:

    Q.E.D. is the only independent, woman-owned and operated venue for the arts in Astoria, Queens in NYC. It’s a labor of love, really. As a small community space, we’re very proud to pay artists, producers, teachers and creatives for their work and provide a free space for performers of all types at our open mics.

    At Q.E.D. you’ll find stand-up comedy shows with performers ranging from the beginner to the very famous. We also have arts and crafts workshops, writing classes, board game meet ups, storytelling, movie screenings, watch parties and everything in between. Our affordable classes and shows are as diverse as Queens itself. With 100 or more events each month, there’s something for everyone.

    Show your love of Q.E.D. and the arts by wearing an official Q.E.D. t-shirt, hat or hoodie! Your support will ensure Q.E.D. can continue to bring Astoria, Queens incredible programming. Plus these shirts are super fashionable and show the world you have great taste in entertainment!

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Easy (No Cooking!) Ice Cream Recipes

    As a New Yorker purchasing a novelty kitchen item like an ice cream maker isn’t the wisest move. But I had been diagnosed with cancer and said to hell with it. It wasn’t on my “bucket list” (is making homemade ice cream on anyone’s bucket list?), but I *had* always wanted my own ice cream machine. Everything is trash and we all die anyway and none of this really matters, so I’m gonna make some damn ice cream. (It was a great summer. /sarcasm) 
    After some online research, I got a Cuisinart 1.5 Quart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream Maker in white, though they do make other fun colors. (UPDATE! After a few years, my Cuisinart died so I got a KitchenAid). I quickly realized that many ice cream recipes call for cooking. What? No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I just want to make sweet creamy stuff and freeze it and eat it all in one sitting. 

    So I found the *perfect* no-cook recipe for vanilla, chocolate chip, cookies & cream, mint, coconut and other concoctions. It’s dangerously easy to make with 4 simple ingredients. Not chocolate, though. Don’t fret! I found a great chocolate recipe also included below. But first the super easy adaptable one from All Recipes billed as a Mint Chocolate Chip, but it can easily be adapted to any flavor combo you want. 

    It takes less than 3 minutes to mix up the following in a bowl then dump into your machine. That’s it. Like I said, dangerously easy…

    * I’ve mixed and matched extracts up to about 2 to 3 teaspoons. Coconut vanilla, coffee and raspberry, you name it. Chocolate is really the only thing I couldn’t make work with this. Cookies and Cream made with crushed up Oreos is probably the best version ever. It’s shamefully good.

    For chocolate…I tried a few until I finally landed on *the one*. No cooking at all and a damn fine creamy chocolate flavor. 

    Get a bowl. Stir together the sugar and cocoa. Add the egg yolks and blend with a mixer. Add cream a little at a time, beating as you go. Put the mix in the refrigerator while you grate the chocolate chips in blender or food processor or whatever, until fine. Stir into cream mixture. Use your ice cream maker to freeze it and let it ripen about 8 hours or more. You can eat it earlier…it’s just better after time.

    If you have any qualms about raw eggs, then skip this recipe but the eggs make it so much creamier and richer. 

    That’s it! The hardest part is finding a spot to store the machine when not in use. (UPDATE! I keep the KitchenAid bowl in the freezer the KitchenAid itself lives on our counter.) Well that and not eating gallons of ice cream every day. But I have made a delicious low fat, sugar free frozen yogurt and a sorbet, so there are healthier options, too. So get yourself a machine or ask your Santa to deliver one to you this Christmas. You’re welcome!!!

  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Family & Life,  Rock House

    Country Mice: Thanksgiving at the Rock House

    Grateful to have QED closed for Thanksgiving so Christian and I could enjoy a quiet holiday at the cabin. It was just the right balance of work and play as I banged through my inbox and reading list. We decorated our new tree, hung garland and wreaths, enjoyed a fire both in real life and on Netflix, and kitchen time for making turkey dinner, brownies, ice cream (recipe in the next post) and a perfect looking omelette. We also started the Haunting of Hill House which is great TV while at a cabin in the woods. Our country mouse time is over…back to the city we go!

  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Family & Life

    Fly Away Home, Dinah.

    For Thanksgiving, Christian & I drove upstate to our cabin to bury my sweet little budgie Dinah who passed while I was on vacation. She brought us a lot of joy, especially when she played with our dogs, Paquita (2001 – 2013), then Griswold and lately our silly Billy. 

    The playlist below my post has a few really short, but fun and cute videos of Dinah interacting with all three of them. It was always hard to capture just how funny and brave she was as getting the camera always caused a break in the action.  

    Dinah and Griswold were like Woodstock and Snoopy. She followed him everywhere, “fed” and groomed him and they both regularly teased each other and played together. She would dive bomb him or sneak up and peck him while he was sleeping. It always scared the bejeezus out of him but she was always too quick and flew away before his eyes were even fully opened. They would even play a “hide and seek” chase game around the coffee table.

    Dinah was impulsively purchased around 2007 at a crappy pet store on Steinway Street for $14. Who knows how long she’d been there or how old she was, but she was never afraid of anything or anyone and was always free to fly about putting herself to bed at dusk and waking up with the sun. Her cage door was rarely, if ever closed.

    My hope in bringing her home was that she could be a friend to my other budgie Larry who was getting up in age and not enjoying life. She opened up his whole world. He almost starved to death feeding her every bit he could, so I had to separate them until his love for her calmed down a bit. He went from never leaving his cage, to regularly joining her on adventures around the apartment, including playing with Paquita.

    He passed in Spring 2010 and within the year Griswold joined the household. It was interspecies love at first sight. She loved his wiry, wild fur and his supreme laziness which meant he was unwilling to move even as she annoyed him. She traveled with us to and from the cabin where she loved the wide open floor plan, high ceilings and all the treasures she could find buried in the sheepskin rug.

    Griswold grew less tolerant in the last few years as he gets grumpier with age. Chief Billy Bowlegs, however, is a young (maybe 3 years old now) pup we adopted in 2017 and isn’t aware of the option of simply walking away. This meant Dinah had some fresh meat to peck. Billy is a silly thing, always down to play. I’m certain that the two of them would have bonded, if only they’d had more time. 

    We hope to bury her next to Paquita, not far from a bird house and at the cabin they both so enjoyed. Right now the ground is too hard to dig, so she’s in an iPhone box in the freezer. And, as much as I loved her, we’re still planning to eat the turkey that sits in the same ice box.  

    I’m not sure if I’ll ever have another bird. She was so sweet and special to me. My live little fascinator who perched on my laptop, watching and sometimes helping me peck at keys. There is a budgie-shaped hole in my heart and home that can only be filled by her bright white light.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    July 2018 Reading List

    I’m writing this really late so I’m bummed to not have written some of my thoughts immediately after reading. But here’s what I read in July

    Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant – This one wasn’t quite profiles of “originals” as more of the regular business-y self-help type of book with specific examples or “case studies” along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink. As I become more politically engaged, I particularly enjoyed learning about the strategies used by Serbian political activist Srđa Popović, leader of the student movement Otpor! to remove Serbian president Slobodan Milošević. Many tactics were adopted from Gene Sharp‘s writings on nonviolent action and Popović continues to help others organize political uprisings. The book lost me a bit on birth order –first born vs. the baby kind of analysis that really didn’t pique my interest– but otherwise I found it all interesting and a very quick read.

    Miss Ex-Yugoslavia: A Memoir by Sofija Stefanovic – She is producer of the wonderful NYC-version of the worldwide show Women of Letters on which I’ve been honored to take part twice*. I really loved her memoir /  history lesson. Her family left Serbia for Australia during Slobodan Milošević’s reign and the subsequent student movement Otpor! and civil war which I had just learned a lot about from the previous book. I had no idea that both would cover this topic and was taken by surprise at the coincidence. She was an immigrant without a true place to call home. She came of age while learning English while trying to retain her original identity and language, fit in at schools, have a *place* and *sense* of belonging…it really shed light on the difficulties faced by immigrant children. The title comes from her entering a beauty pageant for ex-Yugoslavians. She entered with the intent to use it as a paper for college, but it became much more. It was a really great read and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs. 

    *BRAGGY BRAG BRAG: I’m only one of two performers who’ve appeared on Women of Letters twice. The first time I performed on the show, the lineup included Molly Ringwald. Kathleen Turner was in the audience and, after my set, turned to the producer and said, “Now, I *liked* that!” Then at the after party Ms. Turner and I chatted up and I was completely gobsmacked by her presence. I love her. 

    The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto – In discovering my Dutch roots –my maternal great grandmother Ola Mae Newkirk is descended from the original van Nieuwkirks of Flatbush (n/k/a Brooklyn) and Wiltwyck (n/k/a Kingston), New York. Newkirk Avenue and Newkirk Plaza in Brooklyn? Named after my 9th great grandfather. Bam! What does that get me? Not a damn thing. Maybe some super specific talking points to someone interested in the Dutch roots of NYC and the American Colonies? Anyway, the book is great. It covers 

    Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir by Lisa F. Smith – I recommended this title to the NYPL a couple of years ago. I got an email alert that the library purchased the title so I felt obligated to read it. It was good! It’s especially great for anyone who is thinking of quitting drinking. Hers isn’t a story of lost jobs, horrific embarrassments, DUIs or anything like that. She just gradually morphed into someone who drank very heavily and did coke. Something that is all too easy to do in NYC with easy access, home delivery and the fast-paced lifestyle that comes with New York. It’s definitely not as gritty –she’s got a great job, doesn’t hang out in seedy neighborhoods or visit crack dens– but I think that’s what makes it worth reading.

    The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why by Amanda Ripley – A writer for the Atlantic, thoroughly researched and very fascinating. She takes a good, long look at disasters like tsunamis, stampedes, fires, plane crashes and includes studies on why humans behave like they do. There didn’t seem to a lot of Eureka! moments as to why those who survive do –only a few examples like one man in the Virginia Tech mass shooting playing dead (a natural instinct that also sometimes serves and sometimes hurts rape victims) and a bus boy taking control / authority during a horrible fire and saving many lives as a result. I’m shortening this wildly but it’s 

    Grant by Chernow (2nd half) – Sobbed like a baby when it was over. I can’t wait to go visit his tomb and give him a big H.U.G. 

    Other books and lots of historical research included: 

    Invading Paradise, Esopus Settlers at War with Natives, 1659, 1663Andrew Brink

    Cornelius Barentse Slecht and some of his descendants : a genealogical introduction to one of the oldest families in America

    Ulster County Probate Records 

    History of Kingston

    Click here to read my June Booklist
    Click here to read my May Booklist
    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist


  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  NYC,  Theater

    Come From Away to Grant’s Tomb & Riverside Church

    I will remember this day as a wonderful example of the things Life brings, good and bad.

    I walked through the park and paid a visit to General Grant, an American hero and patriot who arguably did more for the advancement of civil rights than any other of his generation. Afterward, I saw the original Hoffman paintings of Jesus donated by John D. Rockefeller to the Riverside Church. They’re worth over 100 million dollars and are just there…not even shown or guarded. I asked Raymond in the gift shop if I could see them. He opened a couple of cabinets and voila! He said he gets asked about 15-20 times a week. Not that often! I told him I’d tell people.

    It’s a beautiful and vibrant area with the park, Hudson River, Barnard and Columbia Universities, Grant’s Tomb and the Riverside Church where MLK Jr gave many sermons including his very famous anti-war speech not long before his assassination.

    Afterward, I enjoyed a slice of apple pie and vanilla ice cream at Tom’s (famous for Seinfeld but really just a great, fast diner) where I & two other diners shouted at the TV incredulous at the Brett Kavanaugh inquiry. I hit up the Morningside Heights Library where I knew they wouldn’t have TV and recharged batteries, answered emails and wrote in my journal.

    Finally, I meandered to Times Square where I took in “Come From Away,” a musical based on true events that occurred on and after 9/11 when 7k passengers were rerouted and stranded in Newfoundland. It was good. I got a rush ticket for only $30.

    I got rained on a little bit as I walked to meet Christian for nachos. While telling him about my day, a live mariachi band played “Happy Birthday” three times in a row and then other songs I didn’t know.

    At home, we played with the dogs and watched the news. I cried and got wound up about it all so then watched “Fargo” and now it’s time for bed.

    What a day.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    June 2018 Reading List

    Below are the books I read in June in the order I read them. Summer has been too busy with short staffing for the July 4th holiday, my birthday and getting sidetracked on some super cool genealogy discoveries and research on the history of our Rock House. More on that later. Meanwhile…the books!

    The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel – I kind of skimmed it fast and should have tabled it for another time, because I did enjoy it. The writer was recommended to me by my niece, and this was the first title of hers available at the library. It was part of a series but that didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of it. It was pretty graphic / gory at times which I like. But, like the two other mystery books I’d read in February by Jane Jensen, there was some cringeworthy “romance” that seemed contrived. I’ll probably read another one of hers and hope she skips the random, out-of-the-blue, Skin-e-max sex scenes.

    Animal Farm by George Orwell – A classic I hadn’t read since junior high. Holds up. Good stuff. 

    Grant by Ron Chernow – So long, but so good. I got 1/3 of the way through before it expired and I had to get on the waitlist. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law bought me my very own hardcover edition which I’ve picked up in late July. The first 1/3 already had me so in love with Grant, especially after I learned that the other cadets at West Point teased him because his given name, Hiram Ulysses Grant, spelled out the itinitials H.U.G. Awww! And now that’s all I wanna do is give him a posthumous one. ‬ Because of that teasing, he preferred to be called Ulysses but the kids twisted that into calling him “Useless Grant”.  Kids, man. Kids. I got through Shiloh and just before his showdown with Robert E. Lee. Very engrossing and educational. I’m enthralled.

    The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson – This should be required reading. Till was kidnapped and brutally killed by a group of white men in 1955 at age 14 for allegedly whistling at a white woman*. The injustice and brutality of it all will break your heart and enrage you. The past isn’t so far behind us at all. The book is very, very good and very, very upsetting. It’s powerful; an incredible historical account & indictment.

    It’s also a wonderful profile in courage of Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. Her love, bravery and political savvy has assured her son won’t be forgotten. Do her the honor and never forget her boy.

    The white woman at the center of it all, Carolyn Bryant Donham, is now 84 and lives in Raleigh, confessed to the author that Emmett had lied during the investigation and trial. Tyson interviewed her two times for six hours total. That the author got this admission is remarkable. Of course we all knew she had lied but to hear it directly from her and so plainly? Wow. Jaw dropping. 

    For the week after I read it, I could hardly think of anything else, telling everyone they must read it. I even posted about it on Twitter on July 11th imploring all to read it and telling other Twitter users about the details. Then, the morning of July 12th, the Justice Department announced they were reopening the investigation in light of “new evidence”. Surely that new evidence is the woman’s confession to the author, but really it reeks of a political show by the racist Trump administration

    *The whistling part is a little unclear –some witnesses say he never whistled, while others,  including his cousin, say he did– but obviously that is no cause for the brutality. 

    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Simply gorgeous. My stars! Another departure for me in choosing historical fiction and I’m so glad I read it. It’s set in Europe during WWII  and tells the parallel stories of a blind French girl and a German boy made to join the Nazi Youth. Their paths cross but it’s not contrived. It’s not forced. It’s gorgeous.  

    Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig – it gets rave reviews on GoodReads.com but I’m on the fence. It’s about an autistic 14-yr-old girl named Ginny Moon, duh, who bounced around in foster care before being taken in by a forever family. There’s some mystery in the why and how Ginny was separated from her real mom and she’s obsessed with how her baby doll is doing. From the praise and my limited experience, Ludwig has really nailed autism and the way Ginny’s mind works. I was frustrated, impatient and got angry a few times, too, which certainly means I was engaged and invested in the story. Ultimately, I was so glad when I was done as the story was stressful and became tedious. This probably means I’ve made the right choice by not having kids! LOL! That said, I absolutely loved the character Eleanor Oliphant from the book Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine which I’d read earlier this year. Eleanor is also on the spectrum and the book also has a bit of intrigue, but with so much more heart and soul and believability. If presented with the two, I’d choose the latter.  

    I Was Told There’d be Cake by Sloane Crosley – Did not finish. A collection of short stories / essays and well written and funny but right now the world is on fire, and I feel like I need to feed my brain with more important things right now. I enjoyed essays on her family’s potential move to Australia and a pony collection from ex-boyfriends. She then wrote about what she’d described as the worst move in NYC. But her getting locked out of the same apartment twice really didn’t measure up as all that bad, and I put the book down after that. Sometimes you need to eat some fish and veggies and this book is more fast food. With my head filled with Grant, Civil War and Civil Rights…this just felt too frivolous to enjoy in the weeks leading up to the Midterms. 

    Eyes on the Prize (PBS) — Okay, this is not a book but a 14-part documentary by PBS that originally aired in 1987. It’s an incredible piece of work about the Civil Rights movement and race in America. The first part chronicles 1954–1965, including the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Selma marches, and more. The first episode actually covers the murder of Emmett Till in which I was now fully educated, and it was just as devastating and worthy of all the tears and rage. Each episode is at least an hour long so I opted to watch this and put down the books for a bit as I waited for “Grant”. (Poor Mrs. Grant, now I know how she feels.)

    The first part (6 episodes) should be part of classroom discussions. It’s so thorough and includes then current interviews with key figures. I wish I were an educator so I could introduce this to my students. I’d be especially keen to show this to students at my alma mater Richland High School and note that the school mascot The Rebels with a Confederate flag was chosen by students and passed by the board in 1961, a veritable “F you” to the Civil Rights movement. Those students, their parents, the school board and, well, everyone should be ashamed of that hateful legacy they saddled on us.

    ETA: Well, well, well, per the Wikipedia page they made an educational version of this in 2006. Good.  

    Click here to read my June Booklist
    Click here to read my May Booklist
    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    May 2018 Reading List

    Below are the books I read in May in the order I read them…a lot of feminist books, a few by African Americans and, yeah, I’m fired up and ready to “make trouble”. Starting with dusting off my own story on domestic violence and living in the Deaf community. 

    My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem – Wrote a big ol’ entry on this already.
    True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness: A Feminist Coming of Age by Christine Lahti – Enjoyed it. Not sure why I chose to read it –I think it was recommended by an app and I saw “feminist” in the title.  It opened with a blurb from Steinem, so I was on board since I had just finished Steinem’s memoir. There was one chapter about Lahti’s brother’s physical abuse of her that SO incredibly mirrored my own –like, it sincerely could have been ripped from the pages of Burn Down the Ground– that I’m compelled to reach out to her and commiserate. It’s comforting to know that there is someone out there who so totally understands what you went through and the frustrations and confusing emotions when your own parents–those who are supposed to protect you–play down the incidents and turn the blame back to you.
    It’s Up to the Women by Eleanor Roosevelt – It’s dated, obviously, but remarkably on point with some current day issues like equal pay for equal work which is disheartening.
    Slave in the White House Biography about Paul Jennings who penned the first memoir of a slave who actually lived and worked in the White House. This book is not to be confused with his actual memoir. Learned a lot about James Madison and Dolley (not a fan, overall) and her treatment of slaves including Sukey.
    The Only Girl in the World – A Memoir. Pretty intense account of her life basically imprisoned by her mentally ill, abusive, weird as hell Dad.
    Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World by Joann Lublin – Joann was an editor at the Wall Street Journal and a lot of the women are leaders of major corporations and very, very rich. I would’ve liked hearing from some more charitable folks who head up non-profits and social services
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Framed as a letter to his son, Coates speaks of what it is to be black in America and inhabiting a black body.
    Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay – Wow. I related to this a little too much when it came to sexual assault and how she downplayed it in the aftermath. The long aftereffects and how that manifested for her with eating and weight issues. It gave me some food for thought (no pun intended) on someday sharing my #MeToo stories.

    Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittany Cooper – Smart. Informative. She’s a rising star and feminist. I enjoyed meeting her and chatting with her after our gig during which we shared the stage with the authors of Oslo (Tony Award for best play) and Call Me By Your Name (a few Oscar nominations). So much so that I asked Christian to join me at SoHo House to hear her speak again. She’s got superpowers, indeed.

    The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit – More smartness from a feminist. I’m still educating myself and feeling pretty damned angry and powerless and powerful and hopeful all at once.

    Not That Bad– Edited by Roxane Gay – A collection of stories by sexual assault victims. I added this after being inspired by Gay to maybe share my #MeToo story. I stopped reading very soon into it. Tried picking it up again for a few more essays. I dunno that I’ll revisit this one. It’s heavy. And triggering.
    The Immortalists by Chloe – Lovely read. Literary Fiction. Not something that will stick with me for forever but I enjoyed it. Can’t say that I’d recommend it over other literary fiction (I don’t read much of that genre) as time is short, man. Maybe read something that has more lasting impact? I feel bad typing that as it was a lovely read. I just know that I will have forgotten most of it very soon.
    Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead by Cecile Richards – I did not know much about Cecile before reading this book. I’m a big fan of Cecile’s late mom, Governor Ann Richards –I even threw a party for her once in NYC!– and, of course, I support Planned Parenthood and women’s rights. This book is *extremely* inspiring about both Ann and Cecile’s commitment to serving and women.




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    April 2018 Reading List

    Below are the books I read in April in the order I read them… 

    Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg (Memoir)– Written about his crack cocaine addition which is troubling enough. But the rapidity of the downward spiral from having everything (his own literary agency, gobs of money, rich and famous friends and clients) to nearly losing everything, including his life, is jarring.  The Nancy Reagan and “just say no” to drug ad campaigns of the 80s about the dangers of cocaine scared the heck out of me and, it seems, for good reason. Yikes. The author haunted the Meatpacking District around the same time I was and stayed holed up in the same hotels (the Gansevoort and Maritime) where we housed comedians who were headlining at the comedy club Comix. I’ve a feeling Mr. Clegg and I crossed paths. So I enjoyed reading about the area, remembering what it was like in the early and mid-aughts. He’s definitely a privileged white male and so avoided jail even though he was openly scoring drugs on the streets and was able to get help, forgiveness and the support of his friends and family. He counts his blessings as he should. Wowzer.

    Dead People Suck by Laurie Kilmartin (Memoir / Humor)-Laurie is a friend of mine and former officemate of my husband’s back when they wrote for “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn”. We sell her book at QED and had a book signing for her after a show which is a yet another wonderful bonus QED brings to the table. I was laughing then ugly crying then laughing all within the first chapter. Towards the end, my emotions stabilized and it was an honest, funny, saucy take on a difficult and personal topic. Even the chapter titles had me guffawing with a head-nodding, yep, this will happen. Gah! Example: “Are You An Old Man With Daughters? Please Shred Your Porn.” Not for the sensitive or conservative but they should read it anyway to help lighten the load.

    Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg by Todd Barry (Memoir / Travelogue)– I’ve known and worked with Todd since the early aughts so, of course, I will read anything he writes. This is actually more of a travelogue with the angle of living as a road comic at some of the smaller theaters and clubs. That means a lot of commentary on local coffee shops, dining options and sights to see. If you’re familiar with his fake bravado, stylistic comedy and deadpan cadence, I think you’ll really enjoy it. It’s quick and breezy read. There’s not a tremendous amount of “inside baseball” with comedy club jargon so the average person can still read and enjoy. Nothing major happens, though, so if you’re looking for a rollicking tale of life on the road and don’t know who Todd is, you might not laugh as much as I did. But I did laugh. A lot. Once so suddenly and loudly while standing outside that a man jumped…SPRANG sideways with both feet. “Sorry!” I smiled. “Todd Barry made me do it.” #SorryNotSorry

    The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (Mystery)– Loved, loved, loved. I read the review in either EW or Elle magazines and decided to give it a whirl. The synopsis of the book, which I’ve pasted below, sums it up perfectly and won’t spoil it. It’s one of the better mystery / suspense novels I’ve ever read. The main character struggles with drinking much like “Girl on the Train” and that redundant struggle of “Okay, today I”m not going to drink until 5PM,” or “No drinking today, period,” can be maddening. Oh, the grip alcohol has on people. Sugar is the devil, man.Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

    Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

    What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

    The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks (Fiction / Suspense?) – Unlike “Woman in the Window,” the synopsis of this book does it a disservice. The book-flap bills as some sort of suspense, so I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And while there are some surprises throughout, I think it is mistyped. It is, however, wonderfully written and a great snapshot of how people treat each other when they’re hurting and angry. In this case the three main people are a divorced couple and the woman who came between them. Some people apparently *do* find it suspenseful. But my going into it thinking that it was some sort of big mystery like the “Woman in the Window” kind of spoiled that for me. In fact, I think I read the review in the same article as WitW as a roundup of hot mysteries or some such. I wish I’d cleansed my palate between the last book and this one with a history or comedy or hadn’t read the synopsis. Alas, I did not. Again, it’s wonderfully written prose with fully fleshed out, complex characters which makes it well worth the read.

    Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Non-Fiction) Highly recommended by my friend Eileen Moushey and others. A great book about Lincoln’s genius in appointing his rivals for the Republication nomination of 1860 (William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates) and later Edwin M. Stanton as Secretary of War. This book is like a mini-biography of all five men and includes a human perspective behind all the political drama.

    1776 (Non-Fiction) – It actually covers the time including some of 1775 and 1777. It’s not all encompassing about the Revolutionary War or the Declaration of Independence. Rather it’s a very detailed account of the conditions, the strategies, the battles during this specific time period. General Washington is definitely a lot more flawed and inexperienced than I had ever known about before this read. I enjoyed the British perspective and General Howe and his redcoats. I also learned more about General Nathaniel Green and Henry Knox both of whom, for whatever reason, have not really factored in to any of my prior reads. How is that? Strange. And, hot damn, now I need to read an entire book about the crossing of the Delaware.

    The Cyanide Canary: A True Story of Injustice by Robert Dugoni – (True Crime / Non-Fiction) – Based on true events in the mid-90s that resulted in a 20 yr old kid being exposed to toxic levels of cyanide. These were the early days of the Environmental Protection Agency and a time when I was an AVP of a bank and collecting large sums of money owed from commercial debtors, many of whom were complaining about the new EPA laws destroying their livelihoods. It’s really a long case study, look-see into the investigation that spanned many years and the trial of a “white collar” criminal. As many trials go, there is some repetition with testimony, etc.  It is well written and engaging so  you’ll get a really great case study and trial recap, the history of the EPA and the push / pull between the EPA and corporations and capitalism in America.

    The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – I’ve never read this start to finish. Given our current political climate I thought I should. Bless you, Anne.

    Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem – Essays originally published in ’83 with some updates provided in ’95 when it was reissued. The one main essay that takes up a large chunk of the book is about Steinem’s infamous stint of going “undercover” as a Playboy Bunny in the 60s. I’d known about it, of course, but had never read the essay in full and it’s worthy of a read as is “Ruth’s Song (Because She Could Not Sing It)” about Steinem’s mother. It covered important distinctions between pornography and erotica and, well, the whole thing felt very 2018, sadly.

    American Fire: : Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (Non-fiction / true crime) – An excellent book, especially for the true crime fan.  But it is so well written and engaging and the real-life characters and drama are so compelling, I’d recommend it to anyone. It makes no difference that you, dear reader, are aware of the final outcome from the onset. It is well worth the read. Hesse is a phenomenal writer and has gained a fan in me.

    Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – (Fiction) – So, so, so good. I fell in love with Eleanor, Raymond and the whole lot. Eleanor is somewhere on the spectrum and/or has suffered some sort of childhood trauma and so has difficulties with social interactions. She lives an extraordinarily lonely life until the new I.T. guy Raymond comes along. It’s a lovely read. I found myself sobbing a few times during not particularly sad parts…just from the ache of love I felt for Eleanor and the longing of wanting her to be happy. It’s being turned into a movie which I’ll surely watch, but I’m so, so glad I read the book.

    Click here to read my June Booklist
    Click here to read my May Booklist
    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

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    March 2018 Reading List

    Okay, as I’ve said, I don’t really review books. I rely on the good readers at Goodreads.com and the top Amazon reviews when I am looking for them. Plus, I would never document my reading list if I set out to give a proper review. I’d want to put in more thought and time in crafting a synopsis without spoilers, etc. Caveat out of the way, here are the books I read in March in the order I read them, except for the Andrew Jackson bio which I put at the bottom because it got loooonnnng… 

    1) Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer— This book appealed to me as I’ve been trying to be a better friend post-QED and post-cancer. It’s a mix of memoir and a history of female friendships in pop culture like the movie “Beaches” and TV shows like “Girls”, “Parks & Rec” and the movie “Bridesmaids”.  Since it references lots of shows and comedians I watch or know, I felt like it would be relevant to me and QED. I enjoyed it.

    2) The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg — This is my 2nd Flagg novel and, man, she can bring some characters to LIFE. Small southern towns and the people who live in them are her specialty, that’s for sure. This was parts family secrets and mystery mixed in with a historical fiction. Flash backs to WWII era included women pilots called WASPS and wing walkers. Fun stuff, especially in the revitalized feminist movement. . Flagg is gay and clearly a feminist, and so I love her well-rounded, nuanced women characters.
    One thing about the two Flagg books, she crams a LOT in. I felt like the book was winding up and could’ve ended when lo! The main character goes through a lot more. It’s almost *too* much. Like she could drop the last couple of chapters and make a sequel! But it is all satisfying, fun, light, gave me a little introspection on what defines family and how we self-identify. Plus I loved that the main character Sookie has a bit of a re-birth in her later years. As I am decidedly middle-aged, I have wondered what relevance I have left in my chosen field of work. The answer I found is to keep creating as Sookie did, surprising herself with some success as an entrepreneur when she was at least my mother’s age.
    3) American LionbyJon Meachamreview at the bottom
    4) You Don’t Look Your Age…and Other Fairy Tales by Sheila Nevins– I definitely needed to follow up the Jackson bio with something lighter. Enter this collection of essays, musings, stories by a famed HBO documentarian about herself and others. A couple were take it or leave it and a few others had me sobbing openly in public. Granted, my Tamoxifen chemopill hormone drug was kicking in, but still…

    5) The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson – I really liked this and sell it at QED. As soon as I was done, I put a bookmark reminder to read it again. It could be a companion piece to “Happier…” written Tal Ben-Shahar 10 years ago. Manson talks directly about some of the exact same stuff (“happiness isn’t found on the mountain peak, it’s found in the climb on the way to the top”…that kind of stuff.) It isn’t ground breaking or anything. He said things in ways that resonated to me, and I was in the mood to receive the message, I guess. I understand he might not be for everyone with the cursing and the bragging about banging so many hot chicks but I dug it. One part that I needed to hear was related to commitment as I’ve struggled with my love / hate relationship with New York that teeters on hate most days. From his book:

    There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime. Now that I’m in my thirties, I can finally recognize that commitment, in its own way, offers a wealth of opportunity and experiences that would otherwise never be available to me, no matter where I went or what I did.

    I could not have built QED if not for the fact that I had devoted 14 years of my life to this city and, even more specifically, staying in Queens. Now I’m 18 years into my commitment. While NYC and I need couples therapy on days where the weather is awful and my makeup falls on the bathroom floor because we don’t have a counter (WHO DOESN’T HAVE A COUNTER IN THEIR BATHROOM? A NEW YORKER!), we are in it now for the long-haul. Starting over doesn’t feel reasonable or even fun, really, after the initial shine of discovering new places wears off. Hell, I can have that shine by exploring parts of NYC itself or traveling. So, NYC, in the words of Huey Lewis & The News, I guess “I’m happy to be stuck with you.”
    6) I’ll Be Gone in the Darkby Michelle McNamara— Michelle was a true crime writer and Patton Oswalt’s late wife. He urged her researchers to help finish the book she was working on when she suddenly passed. I love a good mystery and true crime and strangely this very prolific serial rapist turned serial killer monster man has somehow not been big news over the decades. Michelle sought to correct that and dubbed him the Golden State Killer. It doesn’t have the satisfaction of discovery at the end…this is and will likely remain an unsolved case unless all the DNA Facebook identity 1984-ish data collection flushes him out. Some of the facts and cases all start to boggle the mind and run together, but it’s captivating and worth a read if you are a true crime fan.
    7) Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsbyDaniel H. Pink— Geared towards corporate or entrepreneurial-type readers on what drives us and employees. Most everything I learned was in the synopsis:
    … the three elements of true motivation:
    *Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives
    *Mastery—the urge to get better and better at something that matters
    *Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves
    More importantly, I was reminded that happiness is owning and working at QED. Thank the gods I will never have a round table conference call about Y2K or some other dumb shit.8) Future Home of the Living GodbyLouise Erdrich– A dystopian novel that was so gorgeous and frightening and memorable –think The Handmaid’s Tale without the rape but with all the forfeiting of control over our reproductive rights– but the ending was so abrupt and unfulfilling. I think I would read it anyway knowing that going in, but dang it bummed me out to see the last page. I flipped back and forth wondering if I’d skipped something by mistake. I didn’t. :-/
    9) Book That Shall Remain Unnamed by Hardcore religious zealot who would love women to stay in the kitchen — It was the only thing available at the library so figured what the heck. It’s geared towards entrepreneurs who haven’t yet started their business. A 30-day plan that, honestly saying as someone who dreamed up and created QED from scratch from the logo, website, etc., is not very realistic. He’s a start-up consultant, though, so my guess is this is just a giant commercial for his start-up consulting business. It’s very quick and I skimmed through a lot since it didn’t pertain to me (like how to build a following and brand before launch). He made some references to God but not so much that it was distracting or took away from the work that one puts in to starting a business.
    One thing I got from it was about making a very strong effort to control my mornings so that my day can fall in line, too. I agreed so much with this and that’s what made my radiation treatment so challenging. It pushed the limits on my time and mornings were so hectic and stressful with Mom being here in my only private, quiet space while trying to manage the house, QED, dogs and life. But then I made the mistake of looking him up to properly quote him about the mornings. He’s a crazy conservative bible thumper who is anti-woman and hawking ridiculous views on everything from Halloween, how women should dress and child care.  
    5) American Lion by Jon Meacham – After reading, I found out it’s being turned into an HBO miniseries. I definitely will watch it. HBO’s “John Adams” series was remarkable. I’ve watched it three times, once with the little historical pop-ups on the special features (we own the DVD box set). You should watch it if you haven’t.Okay, the book… I started this one then stopped mid-way through the 2nd chapter because, man, there was a LOT going on. I wanted to table it until I could really absorb it. His childhood and family was wrought with drama.  I did learn about the Nullification Crisis and how Jackson helped keep the Union together, stalling the Civil War by some 30 yrs. But I feel like there’s a better biography that would cover his life as well as his presidency.Jackson’s campaigns and presidential terms were shrouded by mudslinging and a dumb fucking scandal dubbed the Petticoat Affair. It made me hate his niece Emily Donelson (wife to his nephew / aide, Andrew Donelson) as she was behind the ostracizing of Secretary of War John Eaton and his wife Peggy O’Neal. It was all so disgusting and DRAWN out the book felt like the last 30 years of The goddamned Young and the Restless. The scandal actually resulted in Jackson basically getting rid of almost his entire cabinet. Wow. This and other things were Trump-like, so I’m left feeling exhausted.I think I want to study American History like, forreal. Or, I don’t know…learn more than just from reading these biographies. I can’t get enough but I also might be having a mid-life, post-cancer, existential crisis. History repeating itself is embarrassing and baffling. I feel impotent in America’s rapidly downward spiral. Boy. Maybe I should lay off the historical biographies for a bit until Trump is impeached.

    I transcribed a few passages from this book that I want to keep with me for a bit longer. One, re: Henry Clay, who lost to Jackson during his reelection:

    “Believing himself smarter and sounder than Jackson, Clay suffered from a terrible case of over-confidence. ‘The campaign is over and I think we have won the victory,’ Clay said privately on Saturday, July 31, 1832.His certitude kept him from seeing and thus combatting the roots of Jackson’s appeal. He thought Jackson a bullying despot and could not fathom apparently why anyone other than the mindless Jackson partisans might see things differently.”God, does this sound familiar. Random fact I discovered while simultaneously doing some ancestry research: Henry Clay’s son Theodore was institutionalized in the same insane asylum in as my mom’s great uncle and a whole bunch of bodies are buried there. So, that’s gonna be a fun mystery to dig up. Heh.
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    February 2018 Reading List

    My February Booklist is complete with eight books! 

    I’m not really good at quickly reviewing books. I enjoy and trust Amazon and GoodReads.com reviews for that. This is really more for myself. And with that, FEBRUARY books listed in the order that I read them.
    1) A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite (Memoir) – I heard about this book via The Astoria Bookshopand a local bookclub who needed a space to meet and FaceTime with the author. They used QED for the meeting so I overheard a lot of the discussion and was intrigued. The events are set in Portland, ME and Astoria, NY –the author and her now ex-husband opened a restaurant near my apartment that I’ve eaten at, in fact. So it felt a little gossipy and salacious to hear about how she found out he was cheating on her just a few weeks after she gave birth, but not overly so. I enjoyed it and was fascinated by the psychopath / sociopath exploration since I’m pretty sure My Jailed Deaf Dad is one or the other or some combination. It was a quick and easy read which I finished in one day.
    2) White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (Non-Fiction) – Not so quick and easy at almost 500 pages of dense history, I felt like I was trudging through it a few times. But it’s an interesting exploration of race and class in the USA. Toward the end as the author approached modern times, I felt like it rushed over things. Given today’s #BLM movement* and the issues of race and class disparity being at the forefront lately, it’s worth a read even if it’s a bit heavy.
    3) I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (ESSAY COLLECTION) and Wallflower at the Orgy, (ARTICLE COLLECTION) by Nora Ephron – I got on a Nora Ephron kick. She’s funny and inspiring and both books are arranged in bite-sized chunks so they’re easy to pick up. For this reason, I read the former title for a 2nd time. The latter was a collection of articles and interviews she’d published some decades earlier but I found them to be very interesting and not dated at all, particularly the Mike Nichols interview which I later looked up to transcribe and share with my husband. I followed up the books by watching the HBO documentary Everything is Copy and Ephron’s 1996 commencement speech at Wellesley College. It’s particularly relevant and timely with the #MeToo movement.*  Please watch it.
    4) Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (Self Help) – I’m not sure how this got on my list–I think it was recommended by my library app because of another book. It was the only thing available at the library on my wishlist when I finished my Ephron binge, so I figured what the heck. It’s self-help with some god stuff thrown in. It’s not too heavy on the religion so I kept with it and felt like I got something out of it. It is as the title suggests about being present in the moment and not sweating over being perfect with Pinterest or Insta-worthy homes, clothes, moments…just be. It’s repetitive the way a lot of self help books are which makes it a fast read. The author has a lake house, speaking gigs that take her around the country (world?) and a jet setter life, so I’m guessing the average person won’t be able to relate to some of her examples. For me, her family seems really close and lovely which really made me sad since I definitely don’t have that and never will. But I treated it like a seminar that I was signed up for by my bank: as long as I leave having learned one thing it will be worth it. And it was.
    5) Kingdom Come by Jane Jensen (Fiction – Mystery) – I’ve been getting back into mysteries in the last few years and have started to venture out to other authors. This one was recommended by my library. It was set in Amish country in rural PA. I used to live near and visit the area a lot back in Ohio, so the bucolic setting and familiar characters had me hooked right away. The romance was a little icky/schmaltzy but not a big part of the overall story so I was still interested and thought it was decent enough to read her follow up.
    6) In the Land of Milk and Honey by Jane Jensen (Fiction – Mystery) – By the same author as #5. Also set in Amish country and, I dunno, I’m glad I read both but I probably won’t read more of her stuff. Again she inserted a romance that was awkward and, in this case, completely unbelievable (Briefly: As a detective works on a mass murder serial killer case, some guy on the case that she doesn’t even know puts pressure on her to ditch her main squeeze and run away with him. What?! So bizarre and uncomfortable.) Also, she uses metaphors like “shaking like a leaf on a tree” and “floating like shit in a toilet” (not joking) and so I think I’m done with this series.
    7) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Memoir) – A classic for a reason. Don’t know why I never read before now. Really glad I did. It sure made me uncomfortable at times, for the right reasons.
    8) Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Historical Fiction) – Set in Brooklyn during WWII, it follows a Rosie the Riveter type with a little bit of a mystery thrown in. I loved it.
    *Hmmm…sensing a trend here that everything old is new again. Sigh.
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    January 2018 Reading List

    Now that Mom is gone and radiation is done, I’m back to my books! Oh, books, how I’ve missed thee!

    As a treat for myself, –’cause I love to organize my books, ya know– I’m going to try to chronicle my books for 2018. If I do it, then maybe I can piece together my 2017 reading list from my library history.

    My January Booklist is in the bag with six great books that gave me pleasure and/or inspiration. They were:

    1) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (NON-FICTION) – Started this in December but then my loan expired and I had to get on the waitlist for it. Grr. A really straightforward discussion about end-of-life care for the elderly and those with terminal illnesses. I’ve told many people over the years about the documentary “How to Die in Oregon” which centers around assisted suicide. It’s a beautiful and moving film. I remain baffled at how Oregon remains the only US state with legal assisted suicide. Anyway, this book only *briefly* touches on assisted suicide and is all about assisted *living. How can we improve the quality of life for people who are at the end of life? The doctor talks very frankly about death and dying in ways I’ve grown used to during this whole sickness saga. There is no cure-all solution offered. We’re all gonna die eventually so, sometimes rather than following the lead of pharmaceutical and healthcare system to “fight” a disease at all costs (both literal and figurative) for futile cases, families and doctors can learn how to better manage the quality of life with the knowledge that the definition of “quality” is different for each of us. I learned a lot from this, so thanks to whomever here on FB recommended it to me. I can’t remember!

    2) Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg(FICTION) – My sister-in-law posted something about this some time ago. I hadn’t heard of it or Flagg, or so I thought. Duh! That’s the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes! AND she was on Match Game. Get outta town. So I checked it out. It was cute, grabbed my attention right away, and I thought it was gonna get a little preachy when it started talking Bible stuff but, not only did it not, it had some twists and turns that were just…what?! I did NOT see that coming. I enjoyed it (and LOVE Fried Green Tomatoes enough that I put Flagg’s book The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion on hold to enjoy in spring or summer maybe.

    3) The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish(MEMOIR) – I’d never heard of her before she was on SNL. I actually didn’t see the episode but wondered how I hadn’t heard of her given the pretty big platform of SNL. I should get with the program. So when I saw her book while browsing my library app, I snagged it. Oh my god, she is *ridiculous* and I loved it. Jaw dropping, head shaking and guffawing mixed with some “Mmm hmmm!” and “Preach it!” Holy smokes she had it rough growing up, too. So throw in a few “Bless your hearts”. I’m also gonna grab a copy or two to sell at QED. Funny, honest and bold.

    4) Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham(NON-FICTION) – Only two chapters in and I’m already, “What the heck are you doing with your life?!” ETA: Sigh. I love him. I found myself getting choked up as the end neared and then full on sobbed after his death, his funeral, etc. What an incredibly brilliant and beautiful man. Ahhh, why did he have to be a slave owner and have children with one of his slaves? Fuck. I spent time afterward, reading up on his views on religion and his book, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” (a book literally ripped from the pages of the Bible. All the good stuff that Jesus taught minus all the myth and magic) and found out it’s currently on display at the Smithsonian until mid-June. I hope to see it before it’s put away again.

    5) Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar (SELF HELP) – a slim little gem recommended by my friend Lauren that I finished in a jiffy. I am going to go through it again, this time doing the little exercises throughout. I generally already know or subscribe to many of his concepts, but it was nice to hear them again. Especially now after my cancer bout has me feeling down and asking the Universe, “What is the point?” I just looked it up to confirm his name and see that it was published in 2007 and there is now a book of his called Even Happier. Maybe I’ll check that out instead of re-reading this one.

    6) Stinker Lets Loose!by Mike Sacks (FICTION / HUMOR) – The concept — the novelization of a long lost 70s trucker genre comedy film– is comedy gold and goddamned brilliant. It captures that weird window of time when movies like Smoky and the Banditand Every Which Way but Loosewere big hits. It’s so unpoliticially correct and delightfully ridiculous. I’m jealous I didn’t think of this and am so excited to see all the buzz Mike is getting via the live reads and such. It’s absurd and smart all at once and has so many tiny, perfect, rich details that reading it is like mining for comedy diamonds.

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects

    DIY Shower Steamers a/k/a Vapor Discs

    Mom and I whipped together these wonderful little shower steamers to give to all my favorite special snowflakes for the holidays. Instructions below the photo gallery. 

    I love a good bath bomb, but I know lots of folks who don’t like baths and taking one seems more labor intensive. An alternate is to the bomb is this little vapor disc or shower steamer. As the fizzy disc dissolves in your steamy shower, it releases the wonderful aromas of an essential oil blend of your choosing. For the gifts I made, I chose a therapeutic blend for congestion and stuffy noses.

    I make my steamers in batches of 12 at a time using the recipe below. To make fewer
    I like to make these individually rather than a large batch of just one scent, that way I can use them for whatever use I want or give them away as personalized gifts. This is why the essential oil blends below, are to drop directly onto the dry/cooled shower steamer discs, rather than mix into the mix. I like to use silicon molds and mini muffin pans to make these in all sorts of shapes! Many blogs talk about using muffin liners, but you do not have to use them! If the mixture is not fully dried/hard, it will not come out of the pan or it will crumble out in pieces. All you have to do is allow the mixture to dry for a few more hours, and then turn the pan upside down over a cloth. Knock on the bottom of each of the muffin cups, to help release them from their cup.


    • 2 cups baking soda
    • 1 cup citric acid
    • 1 cup cornstarch
    • 3-5 Tbsp. filtered water (depends on humidity levels in your home)
    • essential oils (use whatever scents float your boat and blends for your needs.(2 per disc if you’re making a smaller batch or experimenting with blends)
    • I used a blend for congestion and stuffy noses:
      • 1 tsp eucalyptus essential oil 
      • 1 tsp drops lavender essential oil (2 per disc)
      • 1 tsp drops peppermint essential oil (2 per disc)
      • 1 tsp drops rosemary essential oil (2 per disc)


      1. In a bowl, combine baking soda, citric acid, and cornstarch mixing until no lumps are present and then add and mix in essential oils*.
      2. Add water to the bowl, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add your tablespoons until the mix sticks together and packs like a snowball. It will seem dry but packing it will be easy and possible. You can add powder if you worry it’s too wet. My mix took 4 tablespoons. Any more and it will make the fizz bubble up and you don’t want that. 
      3. Once you have the snowball consistency, pack it down into the mold and compacting it into place.
      4. Leave the molds out until dry. They will come out of the pretty  easily. If they are still wet, they will not come out without coming apart.

    * If you’re making a smaller batch or want to have a few different types you can add essential oil drops after they’re dried by directly dropping 2 drops of each oil on top of the steamers. If giving as a gift, store in a nifty jar, such as a mason jar.

    TO USE: 

    Adjust shower to desired temperature. Open pouch and place tablet on the floor of the shower away from the drain, where a steady stream of water will continually release comforting vapors from the tablet into the air.You can sprinkle a little bit on the steamer to get it started, but it will fizz away too quickly if you put it directly under the water stream. Sit in your steamy shower, breathing in the awesome aromatherapy benefits of the blend you chose to use!

  • Craft Projects,  Rock House

    DIY Crate Coffee Table

    Mom & I made a coffee table out of crates and boredom. We crafted a cheap, easy, functional and practical table in about an hour and a half total. Here’s what you need if you want to make one, too:

    All done! Now to fill it with records and books!

    * 4 x Crates ($40 w/o a coupon, plus tax, but Michaels *always* has coupons.)
    * 1 x Base (Plywood about 3/4″ thick, cut to 27.5″ square. $27 for a 4’x4’x3/4″ panel. I used the extra for making shelves on another project. You might be able to get smaller panels for cheaper but you need to cover the entire base.)
    * 4 x Casters (2″ or 3″ swivel – I got these for $14 total after tax.)
    * Stain (About $4 or $5 for 8oz or $8 for a quart. It only needed one coat, but we got a quart as we had other projects.)
    * 16 screws for casters (Cost = pennies! I used ones I had around the house)
    * 16 nails or screws to attach crates to the base (Same as above)
    * Optional – 4 corner braces

    * Drill or screw driver to screw in casters to the base.
    * Hammer, drill or screw driver to attach crates to the base.
    * Paint brush & paper towels for stain (Same as above, but $4 tops)
    * Jigsaw or saw if you don’t have the plywood pre-cut at the lumber store. I have a jigsaw and love any chance to use it, so…

    * Screw in the 4 casters 2″ in on all sides.
    * Stain all 4 crates inside and out and the top and sides of the base.
    * Position crates on top of the base and affix them with a couple of screws or nails and THAT IS IT!
    ETA: We added 4 corner braces inside the empty center to hold a square “shelf” (I just cut a little square from the leftover plywood) to hold a vase, pinecones, Christmas ornaments or any other decorations we want. Fun!

  • Recipes

    Jalapeno Lime Cilantro Marinade

    I found this recipe for a tasty jalapeño lime cilantro marinade but can’t find the source. Saving here for future use. Good for 4 chicken breasts. Ingredients:

    • 2 limes, juice and zest or 1/4 cup lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon – ¼ cup olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, grated
    • 1 jalapeno, finely diced (optional)
  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  PR & Marketing

    Cover Girl

    “Change is good for the soul,” Mom texted me a few days ago. She was talking about table runners, but she’s right. Change is good, except for pennies. Seriously, why do they still even make those?

    In the spirit of change being good, I pitched myself for a makeover for First For Women (think Cosmo for the menopausal). I actually quite like my beachy shoulder-length waves but I’ve been rocking that look for a couple of years now. Opening QED nearly killed me, and I’m finally back to feeling like myself and fitting comfortably into all my old clothes. It’s time for a new look and the pictures that come with it.

    The good people at First For Women are kind and efficient and graciously gave my pitch the nod. Today was the day and I had to set an alarm and commute to lower Manhattan during rush hour. I do not miss that one iota.

    Cate The editors chose this pic of Cate Blanchett as the inspiration for my makeover. I haven’t had my hair this short since that brat Laura gave me lice in 2nd grade and my inspiration was Dorothy Hamill. Even when 1/3 of my head was shaved to remove skin cancer, I managed to keep it shoulder length.

    I emerged with a super short, chic haircut by Sho (a “ninja” as his co-workers call him, thanks to his deft scissoring skills) at James Corbett Studio. I scream, “I’M RICH, BIATCH!” Like a cross between Ruth Madoff and a Fox News anchor but not, you know, an asshole. Cate Blanchett better watch out or else I’ll, umm, be her stand in?

    It makes me look and feel younger which is what that whole makeover thing is supposed to do. The cut was followed by a little boost of color to my naturally dirty blonde hair and makeup by Berta Camal. She’s a lovely talent who loves animals and gardening. As if all that weren’t enough, I got to play in front of Eric McNatt’s camera. The pics he let me preview were a knockout. I hope they pick one I love and that I can keep some to use.

    Neck pillowI’m ever grateful they said yes to my pitch. What a great day. Now I’m going to wrap my hair in silk and sleep sitting up like those weirdos on planes using these things that look like elephant skin, so I can save this beautiful blowout till tomorrow when people I know will actually *see* me!

    Keep your eyes peeled for the September 7th issue of First For Women next to the batteries, candy and horoscope scrolls at your local grocery checkout line!

  • Food & Drink,  Recipes


    Yields: 4 servings
    For the frozen yogurt:
    • 3 cups non-fat or reduced-fat Greek yogurt
    • 1 cup skim milk
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
    For serving:
    • assorted chopped fresh fruit (or your favorite froyo toppings)
    1. Freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.
    2. Whisk all frozen yogurt ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into the bowl of your ice cream maker and churn until frozen. (This takes about 15 minutes in mine.)
    3. Scoop immediately for soft-serve (delicious!) or store in a covered container in the freezer. My preference is to place in the freezer for 30-60 minutes before serving to harden the yogurt up just a bit and ensure that it doesn’t melt immediately. Top with fresh fruit and enjoy!
  • Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Skinny Mint Chocolate Milkshakes


    Thick & creamy mint chocolate milkshakes without all the calories and fat. Only 5 simple ingredients! Add chocolate protein powder and/or a handful of spinach if you like…so many ways to tweak it.

    Ingredients for 2 servings:

    • 1 large frozen very ripe bananas, peeled & sliced
    • 2 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 cup skim milk
    • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
    • 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract


    1. Make sure you have a strong, powerful blender that will blend up the frozen banana.
    2. Add all of the ingredients to the blender, in the order listed, and blend until thick, creamy, and smooth – about 3 minutes.

    Additional Notes:

    1. The milk can be any milk you like: skim, 1%, 2%, almond, soy, coconut.
    2. The yogurt can be any yogurt you like: vanilla Greek yogurt, plain Greek yogurt, plain yogurt, vanilla yogurt. Non-fat or low fat. Same for milk, of course.
    3. Add more milk to thin it out. You can always add more peppermint extract and/or cocoa powder for a stronger minty and/or chocolate taste.
  • Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

    I’ve been making this single-serving of a crazy flavorful, low-fat, high protein smoothie for myself and double it if Christian is home.


    • 1/2 banana, peeled, sliced, and frozen
    • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I sometimes skip this and just make it PB&B.)
    • 1/2 cup non-fat, plain Greek Yogurt
    • 1/2 cup skim milk
    • 1 Tablespoon Splenda, honey, maple syrup, or agave…whatever sweetener you like. (I actually stopped adding Splenda as an overripe banana is plenty sweet for us.)
    • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter (Any kind you like but we prefer all natural, i.e., the only ingredient listed is peanuts.)


    1. Make sure you have a strong, powerful blender that will blend up the frozen banana.
    2. Put all of the ingredients into the blender, in the order listed, and blend on high until thick and smooth.
    3. Drizzle glass with 1 teaspoon of chocolate syrup (optional) and enjoy!

    Additional Notes:

    If you prefer a less sweet smoothie, you can leave out the honey. Add more peanut butter for a stronger peanut butter taste. Add more milk to make the smoothie thinner, if desired. Add 1 cup of your favorite greens for added nutrition. So many ways to play around with this simple smoothie!

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Family & Life,  QED

    Life and QED Update

    It’s been a fun two days for mail deliveries. We got new showroom tables, my renewed liquor license, all my renewed insurance policies and a dress I got online that I’m wearing to my dear friend’s wedding. All that insurance and renewal paperwork was so easy this time around. I remember it being a bit overwhelming last year and it brought me back to the anxious headspace I was in during the weeks before QED opened. This time? It was a cinch and took mere minutes.

    August was slow as expected, but we’ve got some really fun shows and classes for fall that I’m really excited about. We also have a nice list of people wanting to produce here, so that’s good.

    Our summer intern is starting as a real employee tomorrow now that she’s 18. She’s the best. She’s also from Peru which is one of my favorite places on earth, so when I see her it reminds me of our magical two weeks in the jungle and mountains and on rivers and lakes.

    I’m on day 5 on my sugar detox reboot which always seems like it’s going to be so difficult *before* I start and isn’t so bad once I *do* start it. Why do I always forget this?

    I’ve been getting more and more time away from QED (I’m going back to the cabin on Sunday), and have been enjoying the hell out of “Fargo” on Hulu.

    I guess that’s about it here. How’s things with you?#SmallBusinessFun

  • All Blog Entries,  QED

    Update: Bathroom lock fixed, bathroom faucet fixed (only $60!), floors mopped, toilet scrubbed, worker’s comp & disability insurance renewed for 2015-2016, first annual tax return filed, payroll processed, inventory done, bank deposit made, fresh pastries & sandwiches in stock, food & beverage orders placed and new desserts added to inventory.

    A/C chilling the place to a cool 71 degrees and I’m ready for two shows tonight.


    I slept more hours in the last 72 than I have all month. It’s rejuvenating and I immediately went into pitching and producing mode. I’m excited about what this means for year two of QED.Yes, I’m aware I’m writing this at 4am, and I can’t sleep from all the worries. But now, instead of just anxiety and the fear of the unknown, my creative juices are flowing again. A very nice awakening.

  • News

    Performed on “Women of Letters” at Joe’s Pub with Molly Ringwald, Stoya, Deborah Chopaken & others.

  • All Blog Entries,  QED

    QED Update

    Sound absorbing room dividing curtain and stage curtain plus all the fixtures, tracks, everything needed to install have been ordered at a final tally of $3,850. GUH! A steep price to be sure but so, so, SO much cheaper than the sliding doors I wanted and, it turns out, much more sound proof than any barn door cutting down on 70% decibels or whatever the lingo is.

    They’re one of the biggest expenses of this whole venture but essential to the success of the space. If this place goes belly up, I will not even be able to set these drapes on fire since they’re certified fire-proof to satisfy the fire code. But I’m not gonna have that problem, will I? NOPE!

    Um, what else? My amazing contractor and I plotted out the specifics for the concession stand equipment, tile and stone top. Much to the dismay of the folks at HGTV who try to brainwash me, I did not insist on GRANITE COUNTERTOPS! I chose a more cost-effective, sturdy, man-made Caesarstone top and we’re still pricing tile for the front. We want an opalescent, gradient tile but it’s probably way more expensive than what my contractor budgeted. We’re shopping around, though, and it will be a-okay no matter what.

    Christian started cutting the moulding and might divorce me over it. We got more paint samples and settled on paint color per my post below. I’ve started adding shows and classes to the website (just a couple as I’m still not clear on the interface and am tweaking things before I go whole hog), Jeremy Doucette kindly volunteered to plot the floorplan to satisfy the NY State Liquor Authority’s requirement and Kyria Lydia Abrahams volunteered to work on the draft menu. Grateful to both of them for allowing me to check off two things, while I work on the 1,000 other things. I did get my passport photos taken for the license application and met with Liam McEneaney and Lisa Levy about shows and stuff. Liam has booked a ton of great things for November which really made me kick myself into gear and say to myself many, many times:


  • All Blog Entries,  Deaf Culture & ASL,  Family & Life

    CODA Life

    Just ended a text message conversation with my mom with “sksksksk” which in ASL Deaf life means “Nanu Nanu”. It’s the end of a conversation, you’ll hear nothing more from me.

    During our chat we talked about her mom, my deaf grandmother with whom I spent many a summer and shared tons of great memories. Signing off with that shorthand gave me a flashback of answering our phone at the trailer and, essentially, instant messaging with my grandmother back in 1978.

    We didn’t type on a sleek little smartphone made of breakable glass but on a honking piece of green, industrial metal taller than me. Deaf people have been ahead of the curve on all sorts of technology and Grandma, who was born in the 1920s, was using emoticons and shorthand using a clunky teletypewriter before you –maybe even your parents, too– were a squirmy worm. We miss her greatly. My present-day superior typing speed is owed to her frequent phone calls.

    To read more about the shorthand of TTY / TDD communications, check out this Wikipedia article. The pic here isn’t our TTY (sadly I can’t seem to find a single picture of it) but it’s a close representation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecommunications_device_for_the_deaf#Etiquette

  • All Blog Entries,  QED

    QED Update

    Today I met with three dudes named Z, Fritz and Cyclone. I’m ready to start a boy band or a World of Warcraft team. Also met with Katya an NYC architect now living in Brussels who just happens to be in Astoria for three weeks and agreed to draft up a quick plan for the bar. Serendipitous!

    Thanks to Cyclone Jjs for swinging by from Canarsie to donate an XLR cord and microphone covers. Fritz is building the stage and singing to Jamaican dance music as I type this. I’ll paint the third coat on bathroom walls & ceiling once Fritz leaves. Ceiling tiles arrived as planned, and I booked Jenn Dodd for a character building class & graduation show. Details to come.

    The stage is almost finished at QED: A Place to Show & Tell! I’m sneaking in early in the morning to “bury” a few things under the stage before it’s sealed up. If the whole thing goes belly up, some dude is gonna find a little gift during demolition.

    Stage finished and primed, another coat on about 3/4 of the bathroom, 2/3 of ceiling tiles in place. Huge thanks to John O’DonnellJoe GardenLiam McEneaney & Christian Finnegan for the helping hands and good company. Very satisfying day. Now to fall asleep on the couch sitting upright like the tired, old lady that I feel like.

    Oh, yeah, and wires from walls cut and capped, walls spackled, lighting chosen thanks to Eric Vetter‘s friend Tamora and plans drawn by my new architect friend thanks to Cathryn Lavery.



  • Uncategorized

    QED Progress Report

    Progress on QED: A Place to Show & Tell this week.

    — I got the kitchen cabinets, granite from the backyard, an interior door and a cabinet island all removed. The huge exhaust fan is being removed, too.
    — Stripped the windows of the old signage & cleaned of the sticky residue then covered the windows with craft paper.
    — Requested estimates for replacing the big sign above the windows.
    — Decided to replace the ugly, stained drop ceiling with these, most likely. Waiting for samples of white, sand & latte to make sure on the color.http://www.proceilingtiles.com/Stratford-Ceiling-Tile-Sand.html
    — Got a 3-month liability insurance plan bought & paid for so people can come in and paint, work, help with no worries.
    — Established a Con Edison account.
    — Rounded up some tree stumps from the cabin to turn into little side tables.
    — A million other things like pricing equipment & furniture, emailing possible vendors for food & beer, vacillating on design ideas.

    Am woefully behind on emails because of the above & Christian’s Off-Broadway musical. Donations and ideas and help are ALL welcome & appreciated, but I might be late or remiss in getting back to you. ***Regular email is always the best way to reach me so I can more efficiently keep track.***

    I’m most in need of help finding cool ideas for classes, teachers, performers, and the physical stuff like tables, chairs, glasses, anything you see at a bar or cafe I probably need. For example, I bought a paper towel dispenser for the bathroom for $5 at a reuse center, snagged bunch of mason jars & old wooden crates, a coffee maker for $5, two old picture frames that I turned into bulletin boards & a window pane that will become something TBD.

  • All Blog Entries,  QED

    QED Progress Report

    Progress on QED: A Place to Show & Tell this week.

    — I got the kitchen cabinets, granite from the backyard, an interior door and a cabinet island all removed. The huge exhaust fan is being removed, too.
    — Stripped the windows of the old signage & cleaned of the sticky residue then covered the windows with craft paper.
    — Requested estimates for replacing the big sign above the windows.
    — Decided to replace the ugly, stained drop ceiling with these, most likely. Waiting for samples of white, sand & latte to make sure on the color.http://www.proceilingtiles.com/Stratford-Ceiling-Tile-Sand.html
    — Got a 3-month liability insurance plan bought & paid for so people can come in and paint, work, help with no worries.
    — Established a Con Edison account.
    — Rounded up some tree stumps from the cabin to turn into little side tables.
    — A million other things like pricing equipment & furniture, emailing possible vendors for food & beer, vacillating on design ideas.

    Am woefully behind on emails because of the above & Christian’s Off-Broadway musical. Donations and ideas and help are ALL welcome & appreciated, but I might be late or remiss in getting back to you. ***Regular email is always the best way to reach me so I can more efficiently keep track.***

    I’m most in need of help finding cool ideas for classes, teachers, performers, and the physical stuff like tables, chairs, glasses, anything you see at a bar or cafe I probably need. For example, I bought a paper towel dispenser for the bathroom for $5 at a reuse center, snagged bunch of mason jars & old wooden crates, a coffee maker for $5, two old picture frames that I turned into bulletin boards & a window pane that will become something TBD.

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  TV & Movies

    Jim Henson’s Studio Visit

    We had a lovely visit with Christian’s old high school pal who is working across the street from our apartment at Jim Henson’s Studios while her daughter is at a two-week intensive at the American Ballet. The studios aren’t open to the public so it was a nice little coincidence that she was working so close to our apartment making it easy for us to horn our way into a private tour. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of any of the creatures beyond the entryway (see my photos below) because they’re all disembodied and/or hanging on curtain rods as they’re built or repaired. Gotta keep up the illusion that they’re alive, ya know?

    This I learned: Big Bird’s feathers are all individually hand-stitched along the stem (?) to reinforce them and help slow down the decay and prevent breakage. Each and every individual feather. THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS. He’s huge!

    It’s not a big warehouse or studio and actually is a quiet little creative space tucked behind an unassuming door on a generic floor of the Standard Motors Building. Everyone is relaxed and happy because, DUH, they work making Sesame Street, Muppets and Fraggle Rock characters among other things, but also because there are no computers. They don’t need them. They’re making stuff with their hands. So nice.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Travel

    North Platte’s Town Hall Event

    Big thanks to the folks of North Platte, Nebraska for inviting me to speak at their Town Hall Lecture Series. Past speakers have included some very big names including my inspiration, the lovely Jeannette Walls, author of THE GLASS CASTLE.

    My sister-in-law drove all the way from Missouri to meet up and brought my nieces along for the trip. It was great learning how to loom rubber band bracelets, teaching them how to make things with Bucky Balls, touring Buffalo Bill’s ranch and, generally, just seeing their pretty faces. The girls were mostly happy about my hotel pool and seeing their cousins while I’m pretty stoked about my bull horn turned beer bong necklace.

    BUT…the reason I was in town was to give a speech about my life turned memoir and what BURN DOWN THE GROUND means in the literal and figurative sense. There were about 400 people in the lovely Neville Center, including students from the special high school for “troubled” kids. I had no idea they were going to be there but was overjoyed when I found out they were. I hope my story and message about choices and reinvention resonated with at least ONE of them.

    Huge thanks to Keppler Speakers and the amazing ladies of North Platte. Who knows if our paths will ever cross again but I will carry the experience with me forever and always.

  • News

    Gave a presentation followed by a Q&A and book signing as part of the Town Hall Speaker Series in North Platte, Nebraska.

  • Uncategorized

    LaGuardia & Fruit

    Through security and sitting at my gate in 13 minutes which included a pit stop at my driver’s house to see how the winter has delayed the blooming of his lemon, olive and orange trees and gardenias.

    He broke his old record of 15 minutes. He also drove me a couple of years back when I mistakenly went to the airport a day earlier than my flight was scheduled. It was rush hour with construction and also included a drive by his house to see his fruit trees.

    All along the way he assured me it would work out. That I would get to LGA early and on a flight even though I wasn’t booked to fly that day. He was right. I got to DFW and spent the day holding and feeding lemurs and sloths and and an albino wallaby and, of course, fell in love with Chester the capybara.