Tonight

All dressed up tonight
Big party for my student
Bar Mitzvah gala

Downtown Hollywood
Big club with music and food
Four hundred people

People there I knew
Students and their families
All dressed up with smiles

This is rare for me
To go and participate
But this boy is dear

This is the fourth child
I have had as my student
From this family

His mother has been
One of my students as well
And also my friend

We had fun watching
The throng of people moving
Back and forth all night

Eating and drinking
Laughing and talking as well
Celebration time

Fingernails are red
Dressed in heels and black pantsuit
Toenails red as well

Memories to share
Of a boy turned to a man
On his special night

I Will Be the SheWrites Guest Editor Beginning Sunday

On Sunday, I will be serving as the guest editor for the week over at SheWrites.com, a blog with over 19,000 members (mostly women, but some men), who are excited about writing. I hope you will come over and visit this week. Membership is free and I could use the support!

We will be covering the value of writing 20 minutes a day, plus the world of “flash” literature, which includes fiction, memoir, essay, and poetry. I will be posting the same posts here so if for some reason you don’t make it over, you’ll still see the information here.

I am excited and nervous about this opportunity. That’s a lot of folks, but then again, that’s not so different than writing on here just times a whole lot. Well, I won’t think too much about that…

I had a brainstorm today and decided that I could actually approach some of the people who are deeply involved with “flash.” After all, I could email them and if they weren’t interested, they didn’t have to respond. No harm done. As it was, the publisher of The Rose Metal Guide to Flash Fiction did respond and was very open to my suggestion of interviews with the editor of the Flash Fiction Guide as well as the editor of the upcoming Flash Nonfiction Guide. So, I am going to formulate questions for them this weekend and we’ll be hearing their responses over the week.

On that note, please let me know in the Comments section what you might want to learn about “flash.” I will be asking the editors, as well as doing research on my own. Plus, since I have already taught several courses on Flash Fiction/Memoir for Story Circle Network, I already have a lot of information. Please feel free to ask. This is going to be an opportunity for us all to learn!

On that note, I’ll close. I’ve been working hard today writing my first few posts for SheWrites so I won’t feel overwhelmed on Sunday. Not to mention, my husband is coming home tomorrow after a week away and I don’t want to be preoccupied!

Happy writing. And consider a trip over to SheWrite.com this upcoming week. I am expecting it to be fun.

To Michael


Here is Michael with my daughter Rachael at their graduation from Beverly Hills High School.

My beloved student Michael Bina is graduating from NYU right now and I want to just say congratulations to a boy who has made me proud as his writing teacher.

Michael came to me as a 7th grader. In our first session, it was clear that he was a good kid, but just not too excited about school at that moment. It was also obvious that he was not happy that his mother had decided to bring him to see me. At the end of the hour, I told him, “I only work with students who want to work with me. You go home and make a decision whether or not you’re one of those kids. If not, no problem. Just tell your Mom that this wasn’t for you and there will be no hard feelings between us.” I concluded our conversation by saying, “If you do decide to come back, then I expect you to be ready to work. I am not here to discipline my students. This is writing enrichment, after all.”

Alas, Michael returned the next week a changed boy. He walked in ready to focus and be open to my instruction. He was my student for the next five years.

Fast forward to three years back when he was accepted to the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. We were beside ourselves with happiness. What an honor! What a wonderful school! What an opportunity! All born from Michael’s hard work as a writer, which had won him that spot at Tisch.

I have seen Michael on many of his trips back home over these past 3 years. He comes over and we sit and talk about our writing projects. We are fellow writers at this point, no longer teacher and student. He told me that he was going to push hard and graduate in 3 years. I was impressed, but not surprised. Michael has that sort of drive.

A few hours ago, I received a text from him. It read, “We are at my graduation and I wanted to thank you for everything.”

Of course, I couldn’t even read those words without tears welling up in my eyes. This is what every teacher hopes to hear during their time working with students.

I wrote back. “Oh, honey, I am so proud of you! Thank you for thanking me.”

So, now sweet Michael will return to LA and start looking for ways to ply his trade in the television or film industry. I am not worried. He is one of the most enterprising people I know.

I’m just glad that he decided to come back and get focused way back in 7th grade.

I made a friend that day. One I will hold in my heart forever.

Congratulations, Michael!

Sarah’s Birth Story or How Not to Have a Baby at Home…

Today is my oldest girl’s 30th birthday and in the spirit of tradition, it’s time for Sarah’s birth story.

I was 29 when Sarah was born, which means that I was in the height of our antique dealing life, jumping on and off the back of our pickup as we loaded for Canton Trades Days, going to garage and estate sales and auctions, all in pursuit of merchandise to buy and sell.

Our midwife for this birth was named Fritzie and she had an office in Plano. We’d drive down and see her once a month and get the thumbs up on my healthy condition. I was right on target with weight gain and blood pressure and I didn’t have any edema or other signs that might suggest there were any problems. So, up we came to my due date and as is the case with many first babies, that date came and went. Then a week passed, and another, when suddenly I noticed that I was ur…leaking a bit…and I knew this was not from my bladder. A call to the midwife confirmed that we were indeed on our way, but since that was my water that I was feeling, but not a lot of it, then it was time to induce labor.

I remember feeling scared at the idea of going into labor. An experience I’d never had before and one that so much has been talked about. I had a book about birth around the house which I picked up on the day that Fritzie said I had to go buy the two Fleet enema and the castor oil to “get this baby here by morning,” and the book mentioned British mothers delivering their babies in the dark during air raids during World War II. I remember thinking, “If they can do THAT, then surely I can do this,” so off I sent to the grocery store to get those supplies.

Well, Fritzie was absolutely right about having a baby by morning. In the middle of the night I was in full blown labor and Fritzie was on her way. She arrived with her little midwife’s bag and was so calm and competent that all I had to do was relax and have the baby. I remember asking her, “But if we have a complication, what will you do?” Her response was, “We’ll get you to a hospital, but, don’t worry, I have never sent a mother to the hospital in distress.” That sounded reassuring to me.

My labor was short considering it was a first baby and only 6 or 7 hours from the first pain, I was pushing. My friend Patricia was there and Ray, of course, and Patricia took pictures as little Sarah’s head popped out. Sarah looked around the room, body still in the birth canal, and said, “Ah uh.” The rest of her arrived forthwith and she was placed on my breast immediately for me to nurse. Of course, this was that wonderful bonding moment that all mother’s long to have.

Except right after this, I started hemorrhaging, which was evidence by blood soaking the sheets. Fritzie, ever calm, explained that my placenta had not yet delivered and was still attached to my uterine wall, where it was still connected to blood vessels. More blood arrived and Patricia took the baby as Fritzie kneaded my abdomen, trying to stimulate the natural separation of the placenta. But it didn’t work and more blood poured out. Fritzie gave me a shot of pitocin to stimulate labor – and detachment – but it didn’t work. More blood. At this point, she said words no new mother – or old mother for that matter – wants to hear: “I have to reach up inside you and manually detach this placenta. Otherwise, you’re going to lose too much blood.” Yikes. This was about the LAST thing I wanted anybody to do since that tender area had just delivered an almost 7 pound baby. But without further adieu, Fritzie reached up and in, sending me almost to the ceiling. She said the part of the placenta still adhering to the wall was about the size of a quarter and it peeled off naturally just as she was about to do so manually.

Ray looked dazed as he watched everything that was happening. We’d been up all night and here it was early morning. He said he kept thinking, “Oh my god. I’m going to have to raise this baby by myself.” He said he wasn’t sad. He felt numb.

As for me, I was lying on the bed feeling more and more relaxed and comfortable and realized that this must be what it’s like to slowly be dying. I didn’t feel stressed or sad. It was as though I was watching everything that was happening from up above. If this was dying, then it wasn’t so bad.

By this point, I had lost so much blood that I was fading. I told Fritzie so and she slapped me hard across the face. “You will not fade!”

I came back around and she immediately gave me an IV with fluids. She also inserted a catheter since I had tried to get up to go to the bathroom and was dizzy and faint.

Fritzie kept checking my blood pressure and my pulse. She had already determined that the hemorrhaging had stopped. I lay there watching, so peaceful and calm. My arms as heavy as wet beach towels.

Patricia changed Sarah’s first diaper. I was regretful I missed that. She brought her back to me so she could nurse. I lay there quiet with the baby at my breast.

Fritzie stayed an extra two hours to verify that I was completely stable. Grandparents all arrived and saw me hooked up to an IV, but no one asked why I was receiving extra fluids. None of us mentioned the complication we’d just gone through. We knew the grandparents didn’t need to know how close we’d come to a disaster.

Just before Fritzie left, I thanked her for opening a medical practice on the scene. She smiled and said, “I told you I’ve never taken a woman to the hospital in distress.” I nodded. I could see how she had avoided that. But then she leaned over and said, “But you should know that I was giving you 2 more minutes and we were going to call an ambulance.”

I was literally – and I do mean literally – a faint green for a couple of month. I was also anemic and had to take iron supplements. But two days after the birth, Ray took Sarah and me to see Fritzie at her office in Plano. I hopped up on the examining table and lay down. She smiled. “If you’d had an episiotomy, you wouldn’t be hopping.” I knew she meant if I had gone the traditional hospital route, which included a routine episiotomy, I wouldn’t be up and about like I already was, even with my odd shade of green.

Even with Sarah’s birth, I elected to have my other children at home as well. Those WWII British moms were to blame. If I hadn’t had them as role models, I might have high-tailed it to the hospital shortly after we started.

The best news, of course, is that this event brought me sweet Sarah, who is special beyond words. So, whatever it took to get her here was worth it. How grateful I am for this fine girl.
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Poetry Prompt: Time to Grow

I have time to grow
To push past my fear
like a green stalk
slender and fresh
pushing up and out
of the soil
straight to find
the Sun
And I have time to smile
and touch my hair
And dance down the stairs
like a gypsy
wearing earrings and
a red skirt
Down I go
to find
where others wait
with feet poised
for fun

Flash Fiction, Memoir and Essay

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