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23 posts from January 2006

January 03, 2006

Getting Back to Normal

By Sarah

One Christmas break, my brother came home from his sophomore year at Bridgeport University, sat down at the dinner table and promptly passed out . It was around 1973 and so my father had lots of opinions about why my brother was using his meatloaf as a pillow, most of them having to do with drugs and kids these days and if they wanted to know about exhaustion then, well, they should have been with him on "the farm" where hard work was the cause and not expensive cocaine.

My mother darted a look at my father and promptly helped John to bed. In a rare moment of understanding my father announced, "You're not going back there," meaning Bridgeport University, at which point my brother heaved a sigh of relief and collapsed again, this time on his bed. He slept for three days.

I was only eleven then, on the downside of the ideal Christmas age, and my mother was doing everything she could to keep John afloat and my father's hands from his throat and me immersed in the holiday magic. I have no idea where my oldest brother was. With a girlfriend somewhere, I think. Or jumping trains. We never really knew.

I've been thinking of this episode all day as I slowly push the family back into the chute of normalcy. My ten year old, being smaller and thinner, is a more sensitive barometer of how heavy a toll the holidays can take. After three nights up past eleven, including New Year's Eve until 1 a.m. while we held two sleepovers for a total of ten kids, there are dark circles under his eyes. His uncharacteristic grumpiness cries out for the cure of schedules, decent bedtimes, dinners with vegetables and, yes, school.

And so Charlie and I spent the weekend cleaning out the basement, doing all the laundry and, as a finale, making a rosemary chicken. Easy peasy. It was what my mother made whenever the family needed to be put back on track - after a long trip, after a holiday, after my brother collapsed. She made it so often, it became the family joke. Come home from college and the first meal you're gonna get is a rosemary chicken. Oh, no. Bad sign. Not the rosemary chicken.

My brother never did go back to Bridgeport, an awful place in a gray shipping town recommended by some high school guidance counselor who decided, after a couple of tests, that John should major in "industrial design" - read toasters. Instead, he went to work at Bethlehem Steel, aka The Steel, in the worst area possible - the ingot mold. Think hell in overalls.

For almost a year he descended into a pit for eight hours a night, packing sand as molton iron was poured from above. It was hot and dirty and extremely dangerous. My mother would cry when she washed his gray uniform. But it paid pretty damned well and it was what a nineteen year old American male needed in order to return to his "normalcy," that is short of military service.

Later I would borrow heavily from John's stories about the ingot mold (it's where Bubbles's father died), about how the real drugs were down there and how, to pass the time, men would scribble dirty limericks on the newly minted bars. Of course, the ingot mold exists no more in Bethlehem. They're thinking of turning it into a kind of Discovery Center, or perhaps a new location for a community college.

John did just fine, by the way. Took art courses at Moravian College, went to Syracuse University and then to New York to seek his fame and fortune in advertising. No door opened to him and he was about to give up and come home in defeat - again! - when a surprise snowstorm paralyzed New York City exactly three years to the day of his collapse at the kitchen table. No one could get into work and in desperation a big ad agency called John who could walk there. He got a permanent job and later went on to win numerous Clio awards for his television commercials, including the famous Stroh's beer ad with the dog. If you see an Arby ad with a talking hand mitt, that's him too.

Kind of funny how people get their big breaks ...

Hope you all have a great, warm, and productive New Year filled with well-earned big breaks, too!



January 02, 2006

National Holiday

National Holiday
by Harley

Hey! I did it again. I woke up and thought, "Holy Toledo! It's Monday morning and I didn't post my blog." And this time I actually had one written, days ago (but only a first draft, so I couldn't possibly post it).  My problem is that Life, which generally starts on Mondays, is starting in this year on Tuesday, (i.e., my children go back to school TOMORROW)(!!) so please forgive me.

I'm not only out of whack in a calendar sort of way, I spent six hours yesterday watching episodes of LAW & ORDER, and a British Series called WIRE IN THE BLOOD, trying to come up with the Best TV Episode of 2005 for the Edgar Awards Committee. This represents the last of some 60 or 70 hours of TV I've watched in the past several months, I, who gave up TV when I began writing books. So my head is filled with images of child pornography and serial killing. I have to say this, though: anyone who complains about the state of TV isn't watching the stuff I'm watching. Some of it's not pretty (my au pair and my mother-in-law bailed out on watching with me weeks ago) but there's an abundance of great writing and equally great acting going on. I can't imagine narrowing it down to 5 nominees. I haven't felt this kind of pressure since I judged the America Junior Miss Pageant in the early 80's.

We at the Lipstick Chronicles never really made clear our policy on National Holidays, did we? Sadly, you're not going to get any clarity from me this morning.

Happy Monday!

January 01, 2006

Book Tarts' Resolutions for 2006

Book Tarts’ Resolutions for 2006

Ever on the cutting edge of what’s hot and what’s not (okay, more like what we’re hot under the collar about), the crew here at TLC has decided to share our New Year’s resolutions.  And, please, we don’t want to feel alone in this, so let us know what your resolutions are for 2006, if you have any.  We’d like to know, too, if anyone has ever actually checked off all the things on his or her “gotta do in the New Year” list.  If so, we will happily hate you.

In alphabetical order, here goes:

Harley’s Resolutions:

  1. To say “yes” to my kids more often than I say “no” to them.

  2. To forgive everyone faster (including myself).

Nancy’s Resolutions:

Susan says we can't include weight loss among our resolutions, which I applaud, but somehow that's still managed to make it to the top of my list...again.  (No, that wasn’t me!  It was Harley!)

  1. After reading Carolyn See's book, MAKING A LITERARY LIFE, I vow to contact more writers--especially when I enjoy their books.  Every writer needs to feel more love.

  2. I vow to write my 10 pages a day without whining because no matter how hard the work is, it's still easier than having a Real Job. 

  3. I vow to stop pasting Save the Rainforest bumper stickers on all the Hummers in the country club parking lot because sooner or later somebody's going to catch me, and my husband hates bailing me out of jail.

Sarah's Resolutions:

  • Um, I didn't get any resolutions from Ms. Sarah in Vermont, so I'll make a few up for her, like, knitting herself a new bikini and finally making that trip to Lego Land with Josh.

  • Susan’s Resolutions:

    1. Learn how to say “no” so my life doesn’t get so overwhelmingly crazy.
    2. Stop with the people pleasing, because it always seems the people I try hardest to please are the ones least worthy of my attention.
    3. Create more time for writing and for living my real-life.
    4. Spend more time with the people I love.
    5. Read more books by authors I’ve never heard of in all genres.
    6. Continue eating well and working out.
    7. Keep flexing my literary muscles and trying new things with my series as well as other projects.
    8. Stay positive.
    9. Focus, focus, focus!
    10. Keep my perspective, because there is far more to life than the numbers on Amazon.

    And because y’all asked for it:

    My Grandma’s Cowboy Cake  Recipe (provided by my mother):

               1 cup white sugar

               1/2 cup light brown sugar

               1/2 cup crisco

               2 cup flour

               1 t  ginger

               1 t  cinnamon

    Mix all of the above and take out 3/4 cup of crumbs.  Then add to remaining mix: 1 egg, 1 cup sour cream and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Spread batter in two round cake pans and sprinkle crumbs on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

    Don't forget the baking soda or the kids will make fun of you and rename it "tortilla cake” or "unleavened coffee cake."  You can cut the recipe in half to make one coffee cake--but you have to be good at dividing one egg. 


    Happy New Year!  Mazel Tov!  Cheers!