Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An absurdly weird coincidence

So my dad and sister are cleaning out the home of my still-alive grandmother (she'll be 99 on July 4th), and unearth the usual array of sentimentally odd keepsakes: the hospital gown my grandfather died in, letters and cards written in hasty scrawl announcing various grandchildren's births. Handkerchiefs and trinkets from the "old country." Announcements. Tons of black-and-white photos. Three generations of memorabelia.

My father calls me up and says, "As the family historian, I think you should be the keeper of this stuff."

"Um, really?"

My father goes on further to make his case for boxing up the crap and sending it across the country. I interrupt. "Just pick six things. The first six things you lay your hands on. Don't discriminate. Just send me those six things and throw the rest of the shit out."

Thank God he didn't take my advice.

Today, a medium-sized priority box arrived stuffed with envelopes of photographs. Mostly pictures of my dad--a beloved only child of Austrian immigrants. But as I pawed through the detritus of family chronology, I came across an odd envelope smeared in blue ink that announced: Karten von Onkel Wassmuth. Inside the envelope were three postcards signed by Wassmuth, who, my father wrote, was my grandmother's uncle. Two of the postcards are of buildings in some sort of obviously Viennese square. Then there's the third.

Recognize that stately fellow in the blue uniform above? That would be Emperor Franz Joseph.

I shit you not.

In 1915, the year before the Emperor died, my great-great grand uncle, Heinrich Wassmuth painted a portrait of him. "Him" being the husband of Sisi. Yup, that Sisi. The one I just wrote a novel about. There's even evidence on the Internet!

So, moral of the story? Don't be so fast with the directive to go immediately to the nearest dumpster. Thanks for sending this all those years ago, Urgrossonkel. And thanks, Dad, for sending it my way. And as for Franzl? Even as a codger, he has the most amazing blue eyes. No wonder Sisi was, at various points in her life, so smitten.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Start the summer with a reread of Gatsby

Today on Twitter super-agent Janet Reid suggested that in honor of the Summer Solstice we all read (or reread) Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby."

That Gatsby has endured to be one of the most oft-referenced novels of the last hundred years aside, the book is short enough to actually make good on that particular call-to-action (plus, it's a great excuse to step away from my computer in the bat cave and frolic out on the patio with my own dog-eared copy of the slender book).

Gatsby first came out in 1925, was published by Scribner, and was dedicated (once again) to Zelda. Every time I crack the yellowed cover, I get lost in the cocktail party of it all. The glorious bad behavior of the entitled. The unapologetic wielding of adverbs and dangerous bursts of passion within the dialogue. West Egg. Tom and Gatsby. Daisy and Jordan. Fingerbowls of champagne. Oh, it's just the perfect summer read, don't you think?

Not to mention the right choice to herald the beginning of shorter days to come.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy To Me

50 Reasons I'm grateful

1. I have a husband who treats every day like it's my birthday.
2. I have 3 kids I adore.
3. I have 2 stepkids who are amazing.
4. All the kids are doing well, and have chosen significant others who bring out the best in them (or, in lieu of SO's keep great company).
5. My business partner is the smartest, most meticulous woman in the world.
6. Except for my mom, who is equally brilliant.
7. From dad, I got the best sense of humor ever.
8. Oh yeah, and my novel is about to go out to publishers, which brings me to...
9. My fabulous agent who sees all.
10. My writing group. There is no better writing group. Anywhere.
11. I live in paradise.
12. I have interesting work, and more than enough of it.
13. My health, oh yes, let us not forget that. So far, so good.
14. The interesting, eclectic and generous group of friends I have of long-standing. You know who you are.
15. Soccer. Yup, I'm one of those. Well, vicariously, anyway.
16. Art. So much of it. I can't wait until I finally decide to be an artist. Maybe in 20 years.
17. My house. My very cool, owned by only one other family, mid-century ranch--AND the fabulous realtor that made it happen.
18. Food. So much of it. All of it so delicious.
19. Netflix. How did we survive without it?
20. Facebook. Same deal.
21. Extended family--you're the best!
22. Books. Hell--oh! Even e-books, but mostly real books.
23. technology. Though some days that's also on my most-hate list, too.
24. Men. Thank God for them.
25. Okay, women too.
26. My grandparents, odd as they were, they taught me to chew with my mouth closed.
27. Green spaces. Such as the park in my backyard.
28. The chickens, and the every-day eggs they lay.
29. Wine. Oregon pinot in particular.
30. Whiskey.
31. Coffee.
32. Flowers.
33. The Empress Elisabeth.
34. Laughter.
35. Love.
36. Yes, the rain. Only, it would be better in smaller doses.
37. The Interweb. Sometimes.
38. Betsy Lerner's blog.
39. Did I say books? I did? Okay, movies then.
40. Twitter.
41. Color. Because who would want to live in a black and white world?
42. Pilates.
43. Yoga.
44. Theater.
45. Music.
46. Our hot tub, the old girl.
47. My car.
48. My sister!
49. Austria.
50. All of you, reading this.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Into every life a little milestone must fall. Right? Two weeks from today I will turn 50. The. Big. Five. Oh.

And in other news, I just sent the latest draft of my young adult manuscript to my agent in what felt like mile 26.1 of a marathon. Breathless and panting, I'm heading to the tent for refreshments. But because I'm turning 50, those refreshments will not contain gin. Nope, it's filtered water for moi--gonna watch the waistline. And the liver. And the brain cells.

I'm saving my drinking time for the upcoming onslaught of relations due to fly in Mary Poppins style for my daughter's graduation--which coincidentally corresponds with? Yep, the birthday.

It's odd, this 50th birthday thing. It feels like a paradigm shift. I'm anticipating that at any moment, my teeth will disintegrate and bunions will bloom. I need a new storyline. My self-concept needs to realign, y'know? Instead of the spacey mop-top girl, I'm now the dotty senior with spectacles dangling on my bosom from a chain. Once an ingenue, I've become Angela Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote.

And yet, oddly, I feel the creative furnace more acutely than ever. The Empress Chronicles, now in its third round of revision, feels solid and full-term.

Ah, the ever-reassessing spreadsheet of the late bloomer. Anybody out there as old as me? Got some advice? (Sage, or otherwise.)