Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sandbox

I had an email exchange on Sunday afternoon with my new editor on "Three Grumpy Trucks." The illustrator is starting on the artwork and we discussed what three trucks might be doing at a playground. (Would they stay in the sandbox? Would they venture over by the sprinklers?)

I hit "send," then walked into Samuel's room and said, "What are you doing right now?"

God bless Samuel.

We went to the playground at Central Park West and 85th. I intended just to walk around for a few minutes and observe. But when we got to the sandbox I said, "I'm just going to take off my shoes for a minute," and one thing led to another.


There was a lot of digging, scooping, lifting, and sifting going on. Samuel and I befriended an 18-month-old while his caregiver helpfully read a book on a bench twenty yards away.


How do you make a toddler laugh?

Bury his feet in the sand, then say, "Where are your feet?! We've lost your feet!" Then act very surprised when he pulls them out. 

Repeat for thirty minutes.

There was squealing, tunnel stomping, sand eating, and lots and lots of snot. All the ingredients for happiness.


I'm just gonna say it publicly. The world would be so much better with one more toddler in it, don't you think?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

I miss

Her breath.

Her lips.

The smell of her hair.

Her voice.

Her laugh.

Holding her hand.

Watching her undress.

Her nakedness.

Her kiss. Her mouth. Her tongue.

Falling asleep with her in my arms.

Her face. Her smile.

Everything.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day


This has been a rough year. Not sure what I would've done without you. Thank you. It's nice to be loved.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Uh-huh


The upside of emotional distress is that I'm losing weight. Eight months ago I was topping out at 150. Tonight after my run I weighed 135. If this keeps up I'm going to be able to wrestle 114.5 again.

I'm also getting faster.

About a month ago I ran a 3:03 half mile and it almost killed me. Two weeks ago I ran a 2:57. Last week I ran 2:51.

I looked like this:



Later that week I ran a 6:20 mile. Tonight I ran a 6:10.

I looked like this:



Are there 10 more seconds in these legs? I think so.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

More Vegas pics


My brother Brad and sister-in-law Tracy. They've been married since 1985. Through thick and thin. Made more impressive by the fact that I'm sure it's not easy being married to him.



My 21-year-old nephew Nick, who placed 6th in the World Team Trials.

I decided, since I'm losing weight and feeling kinda buff, that we should take our picture by the pool with our shirts off. Mano a mano. Because in my mind I think I look like I'm 35.



Bad idea. He looks like a Greek god and I look like Barney Fife. (He said I should've taken my picture next to Brad instead, which is true.) But Nick will be old too someday, and if he's very, very lucky he will look like me.

While we're showing skin, this is what I looked like at Freestyle Nationals in Vegas 30 years ago.



I just gotta work on the abs a bit.

Last but not least, this is my mom and dad. They are the best parents in the world.



I taught them everything they know about raising difficult children. They taught me everything I know about unconditional love.

They got me through the weekend in one piece. I am grateful.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Vegas

I'm in Vegas for the weekend. My parents invited me to come and watch my nephew Nick compete in the Greco-Roman Wrestling World Team Trials. That's him in the middle.



More than anything else it was an opportunity to be with my family, and just feel loved. That's my mom and dad on the right, and my sister-in-law Tracy next to me on the left.

This is my brother Brad...



We had an intense sibling rivalry for 25 years. He never knew about it. I am glad to be here with him. I am glad to hear his advice and know that he cares about me.

Selfie by the pool...



This was just the warm-up. I have to do a shirtless photo tomorrow with Nick, flexing our biceps, like every photo he posts on Facebook. Of course, he's 21. A side-by-side with him may not be the best idea.

These are the people that I love. I'm glad I came.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

There are flowers in the window boxes


There are people on this earth that I love. I need to make sure they know.

That's not a metaphor for flowers and window boxes.

I'm just thinking out loud. Lots of random thoughts and feelings.

I feel punched in the gut, hit by a train. I feel like so many things in life are out of my control, and nothing is permanent and nothing is solid, nothing can be counted on now, not even the big things that moved in sync with the moon and the sun and the planets and never wavered, and I counted on those things like I counted on the sun coming up.

And yet I feel blessed. I can be lost in self-absorption and pity and see a toddler, happy as a clam, and I just smile. There's so much beauty in the world amidst all the shit. I'm not the only one on this planet. 

And the sun keeps coming up, goddammit.

I need to make sure the people I love know that I love them.

I need to do a better job of that.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Three Grumpy Trucks


How cool is it to have two book announcements in two weeks? Who do I think I am? Bill O'Reilly?

This book follows the same story structure as Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!--the child protagonist is the adult, and his tantrum-throwing trucks (robots) are the kids. Get it? It's a metaphor.

Guy is going to be a great illustrator for this. He is known for animals, but I love the way he gives them toddler-like exuberance. The three grumpy trucks are just toddlers, after all. How great are these illustrations?


I want to frame this one and hang it on my living room wall:


And yes, he has drawn at least one vehicle in his life:


I'm excited.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Library Books Are Not For Eating


It started as an idea last February called "Dinosaur Librarian."

I wrote the first several drafts in prose. The protagonist was named Mr. Saurus.

14 drafts and 9 months later, it was a rhyming story starring Ms. Bronte. Much better name, don't you think?

And it's a story that's made for rhyme.

It sold in the first round of submissions.


Illustrator is Matt Hunt--here's a link to his work.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

You know who is great?

My Aunt Donna.

She is one of the greatest people on this earth.

I talked to her on the phone yesterday, and she just made me feel like the world is good. She just knows what to say.

I'm blessed to have a terrific family. 

I'm sure a therapist would say, "Dig a little deeper about your family. You're blocking something out."

Plllllttt.

That was a fart sound, in case you're wondering.

(Listen, no offense to therapists, but the reason they became therapists is that they were trying to gain some insight into why they're screwed up.)

But let's not go down that rocky road of negativity.

We're here to praise Donna. Thank you, Aunt Donna, for being in my life. 

Roll tape...




Oh, oh, oh...one more...



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Today sucked

I'll be honest. It sucked.

There is nothing you can do about certain things. You can't change other people.

And the funny thing is, when bad shit happens, you realize how lucky you are.

Truly. You count your f-ing blessings, and thank God your kids don't have Leukemia, weren't hit by a bus today, weren't gunned down in a school shooting, weren't born in Syria.

Perspective.

First thing I did this morning was open the refrigerator, see the unopened carton of milk that was about to expire, and think about Samuel, who used to drink a half gallon a day. Now no one drinks the milk. Or the Hershey's syrup.

I made myself a glass of chocolate milk and thought about how wonderful Samuel is, and how lucky I am to be his dad.


I have two book announcements coming out this week. 2018 is going to be a big year. I like to downplay it, but writing picture books means the world to me. I am the luckiest man in the world to write picture books.

It was 60 degrees and sunny. I went for a quick run on my lunch hour. I ran a half-mile in 2:54. All this stress has made me lose weight. The happy side effect is that I'm in pretty good shape again.

This afternoon I saw the first Mister Softee truck of the year. I thought about Samuel again. I had a black-and-white milkshake.


Tonight I talked to my mom and dad. Can I tell you what I know about my life? I am loved unconditionally. 

Can I tell you something else? Samuel and Ethan are loved unconditionally.

I am sad, but I am blessed.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Questions from a little girl

This video makes me smile. ("Why do trees just stand there?") And it makes me cry. ("How does life live?")


The meaning of our lives is ultimately about other people. 

It's about the love that we give our children, and the love that they will someday give to their own children. Love is like water. It is ancient and eternal and it just keeps recycling from generation to generation. We can't even possess it. We're just the custodians.

The thing about love is that it's so magical and wonderful, and yet, if you want to be scientific about it, it's just neurons and chemicals. Maybe a little stardust. Maybe it's the stardust that makes it magical.

I'm sad about some things in my life that I can't talk about here, not on a blog. I can't make sense of some things, and they've got me in a real funk.

"Hopefully" is a word I use a lot lately.

Hope and love are two good words to live by.

Tell someone you love them. And have hope. That's all we can do.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ethan is 16

Happy 16th birthday, Ethan, my little existential spaceman, constantly testing the bonds of Earth. I am so blessed to be on this tiny rock at the edge of the universe with you; it has meaning because of you. You are the greatest boy any dad could wish for, and I would watch you grow up a hundred times again if I could, again and again and again, feeling more blessed every time.







Sunday, February 26, 2017

BTTF with Samuel (and Christopher Lloyd)


I texted Samuel last week to ask if he wanted to see Huey Lewis & the News in concert in Staten Island tonight. But it's a Sunday night, and he has school tomorrow, and the concert wouldn't end until late, and it's a 3-hour drive back to Trinity. So I knew that wasn't going to happen.

Then, on a whim, I searched "Christopher Lloyd." Lo and behold, he was appearing in person in Easton, PA for a live Q&A following a screening of "Back to the Future" on Saturday night (last night). It wasn't quite sold out, so I bought two tickets, reserved a rental car, and Samuel and I drove to Easton early yesterday evening in a raging thunderstorm to see Doc Brown (how fitting).


Samuel and I have both seen the movie so many times that we know every scene and practically every line, but it's always fun to see again. It was great to see Christopher Lloyd in person, who is 78 years old. (Just doing the math, he was seven years younger than I am now when he was in "BTTF." Great Scott. That's heavy, Doc.)

Most of all it was fun being with Samuel, just a dad and his son. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Top 5 things about this weekend


5. The weather topped 60. I went running in the park Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I'm sore from  running three days in a row. But it feels like summer.

4. We finally caught that damn mouse. We haven't had a mouse in ten years, and about two weeks ago Jen saw a small one peeking out from behind the kitchen stove. We put traps out, including a battery-operated zapper, but no luck. Today Jen said, "Did you just hear a buzzing noise?" The zapper got him.

3. I got a haircut. And can I tell you? I look awesome.

2. Jen and I made reservations for a romantic vacation in the Dominican Republic in March. We haven't been on a romantic vacation since...ever. We haven't even had time to make the damn reservations.

1. I sold a picture book manuscript on Friday. It will be book #8. Caveat: it's not a done deal 'til it's a done deal, so we'll chill on this while the paperwork gets worked out. But the excitement comes when you read the email that you got an offer, not when you sign the contract. So it's #1 this weekend.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Super Diaper Dog


It's true that I've missed having a little one in diapers around the house, but this is not what I had in mind.

Poor little 14-year-old Kahlua is...I don't want to publicly embarrass her, but recently she's begun leaking like a sieve. This kind of thing happens when you live to be 98 in dog years. #nojudgments #illbeoldsomedaytoo

In addition to diapers she's on three different medications to control chronic wheezing. I have to hide the pills in Stella & Chewy's to get her to eat them. She got wise to the little-dab-of-peanut-butter trick pretty quickly and learned how to just swallow the peanut butter and quietly spit out the pill when I wasn't looking.

She also can't hear a thing. When I walk through the front door of our apartment Bailey jumps up and down and runs to get his toy, but Kahlua just sleeps right through it.

She's lived a good life, she's still in good spirits despite the travails of being old, and we're happy to have a little more time with her, however much longer that turns out to be.

Truth be told, the first time I removed her diaper, I heard that familiar sound of sticky tape ripping away from plastic, and it brought back memories. I really do miss having a little one in diapers around the house. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Structure vs. Creativity


I dislike rules. But I like structure.

Structured creativity is more difficult than unbridled creativity. Can you retain the creativity of a story AND make it rhyme? Can you fit it into a traditional story arc (conflict, rising action, climax, resolution)? Can you incorporate traditional picture book elements like repetition and a child protagonist? Structured creativity is a challenge. That makes it fun. 

I chose a career in media because I embrace creativity and chaos. But every morning I write a to-do list. My daily mission is to harness the chaos for the next 24 hours. Structure harnesses creativity and puts it where you want it to go.

Some say that structure is the enemy of creativity. I get that. I kind of agree with that.

But remember that commercial about your brain on drugs?

This is creativity with structure:



This is creativity without:



Any questions?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Yale's re-naming of Calhoun College


I'm not a big proponent of talking politics here (or generally anywhere), so allow me a rare exception.

Yale announced that it's renaming Calhoun College, and I was not in favor of it--until today. I'm a Yale grad, and even though I don't think that makes my opinion any more valid than anyone else's, it's my alma mater, and I have an opinion.

Like many on both sides of the political spectrum, I'm not a fan of the current environment on many campuses in which traditional liberal ideals such as free speech and open-mindedness seem to have been hijacked by rigid adherence to "liberal" dogma. People need to be able to have different points of view without being shouted down.

My initial reluctance to the name change may have been influenced by this, but more broadly my concern is that it's a slippery slope to judge the past by current mores. If we go down that road we're going to have to re-name 90% of America, starting with Washington DC (not to mention Columbus Avenue, FDR Drive, and Robert Moses State Beach). There are a lot of problems to be solved in the world--we need to pick our battles.

Like Yale President Salovey, I believe there should be a pretty high bar to justify changing names of Yale's residential colleges, lest they all be renamed each year based on current fashion. I'm pretty sure I could come up with at least one decent reason for changing any of them.

In this case, however, I agree with the committee's justification for the name change--Calhoun didn't contribute anything of significance to Yale, he was controversial even in his own lifetime, and frankly, it was a mistake to name a college after him to begin with.

As long as decisions like this are based on rational discourse and not overzealous mob-think, I'm fine with it. Salovey's email, linked here, is articulate and well-reasoned, and he deserves some kudos for it (he's going to get plenty of blowback too, obviously). I think Yale handled it well, and I'm cool with the outcome.

Best of all, now we can focus on more important things, like Ivanka and Nordstroms.

Thanks--I appreciate your tolerance of my diversion. :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Another (two) bite the dust

Despite it being fifty yards away on Amsterdam, we'd been to Cozy's Cuts exactly twice: for Samuel's first haircut in 1998, and for Ethan's first haircut in 2001. So we weren't exactly helping them pay the rent. 


But I liked seeing toddlers through the window getting haircuts. Every block should have something that makes you smile. I'll miss that.


Essentials, at Broadway and 81st, closed over a year ago, but the construction fence is now up and the windows are boarded up, so I suspect the last traces of the store will be erased any day.


Before it was Essentials it was Shakespeare & Company, an indie bookstore that closed in 1996, two years before we moved to the neighborhood...victim of the then-new Barnes & Noble down the block.



Essentials was never a great store. But we remember it as the place where Samuel spent rainy afternoons playing with the Thomas the Tank Engine table set on the second floor--and riding the coin-operated Ernie & Bert fire engine and Dino rides out front. Here's a shot of a dilapidated Dino (and dilapidated awning) from a 2009 Google Street View. Like I said, it was never a great store.



But I miss anything that reminds me of my little Samuel.

Let's end on a high note: Orwashers Bakery is the newest member of the neighborhood, a few doors south of Cozy's.



Weird how the world keeps changing and I'm not in control of it.