Gratitude journal: The best kind of friend

Tonight I am grateful for friends willing to do far more than is required in accordance with the standard laws of friendship.

Last night, my friend, Jeff, and I spent three hours unclogging my kitchen sink. This involved snaking the pipe for than 30 feet, a trip to Home Depot for a wrench, and near physical exhaustion.

I’m fortunate because Jeff is one of the most determined people I know.

Perhaps the most determined person I know.

Long after I would have given up and paid a plumber to clear the clog,  Jeff pressed on, hell bent on solving the problem. It was only through his sheer determination and one angry moment of super human strength on my part that we finally cleared the pipe.

Jeff spent his entire Friday night with his head under my sink, twisting and turning a snake that would not cooperate.

There are not many people like that in the world, and I am exceedingly grateful to call him my friend.

Gratitude journal: Sleepless

Tonight I am grateful for the ability to function with little sleep.

With Elysha in the hospital for the past four days with a placental abruption, I have found myself doing laundry, washing dishes, making lunches, walking the dog, working out at the gym, writing, editing, shopping  for groceries, planning lessons, and responding to correspondence from translators, editors, agents, booksellers, and friends all after 10:00 PM.

I know many people who are asleep by 10:00 PM.

In many ways, a large portion of my day has been starting at 10:00 PM.

I’m lucky. If I couldn’t get by on three or four hours of sleep a night, these last few days would have been hell.

They haven’t been fun, but at least they have been doable.

Gratitude journal: She swings!

Tonight I am grateful for my daughter’s joy in swinging.

For the longest time, she hated to swing.

She used her infant swing exactly once.

When the children flocked to the swings in gym class en mass, she would run as far away as possible.

Then somewhere along the way, things changed and she began swinging.

I honestly never thought it would happen.

It serves as a reminder to me. Clara may not be potty trained yet, and she may refuse to eat meat and she may not be able to put on her own pants yet, but that does not mean that these things won’t change, and perhaps overnight.

That’s one of the aspects of parenting that no one ever tells you:

Very little is permanent when it comes to your child. If you find an aspect of parenting particularly annoying, fear not. It will probably be over before you know it.

Gratitude journal: Baby still on board

Tonight I am grateful to my unborn child, who has chosen to remain inside Mommy’s womb for a least a little while longer. At 36 weeks, there is no real danger to delivering the baby now even though the actual due date is a month away, but still, we would prefer that this baby be fully cooked first before emerging onto the world.

We spent most of the day at the hospital after my wife experienced symptoms of labor early this morning. As I write this at my dining room table late on Monday night, Elysha remains in the hospital for observation. If all goes well, she will be discharged tomorrow and will require modified bed rest for the duration of her pregnancy.

This will suck bad.

Our baby’s decision to misbehave today also cost me an opportunity to perform at this evening’s Moth StorySlam in Brooklyn. Ironically, the topic of the show was Mothers. I had planned to tell the story of the birth of my first child, but it was spoiled by the rumblings of my second.

Overall is was a rather frustrating day for the both of us, but a few moments managed to save it from complete disaster.

1. Though I can’t remember what I said specifically, I especially enjoyed the moment when Elysha was forced to assure our nurse that my apparent disinterest and abject apathy towards our unborn child was not indicative of my overall performance as a husband and father.

2. We received an amazing blurb for my new book this afternoon from a bestselling author who I respect a great deal. The doctor had just informed us that Elysha would be be staying in the hospital overnight when news of the blurb arrived, and it served as a much needed pick-me-up at just the right moment.

3. My favorite moment of the day came when the nurse countermanded the orders of the doctor and informed Elysha that she would not be eating for the remainder of the day as a precautionary measure. Elysha had yet to eat a thing all day, and this news caused her to begin crying. If you have never seen my wife cry, it is like a combination of a baby seal, a kitten and Bambi all crying at the same time.

It’s quite a sight to behold.

The nurse initially held her ground, insisting that it was better if Elysha did not eat in the event we ended up in a c-section, but after five minutes, she told us that she would reconsider her decision after four hours of  monitoring. She then returned to the room twenty minutes later and informed us that she had ordered dinner for Elysha.

“The crying got to you,” I said. “Right?”

“It did,” she said, adding that Elysha should also feel free to have her parents pick up any food item she might want, since the cafeteria food was questionable at best.

In the span of less than half an hour, the nurse had gone from stoic determinism to self-flagellating mush all because of Elysha’s power of the tear.

Gratitude journal: Daddy got the outfit right

Tonight I am grateful for dressing my daughter well, which is no easy feat for me. On both Saturday and Sunday, I was charged with choosing the outfit that Clara would wear for the day. Elysha left early on both mornings, and so I was left on perilous footing.

In fact, I was specifically instructed to ensure that Saturday’s outfit was especially cute, since we were going to one of Clara’s friend’s birthday parties and would appear in many photographs.

Both days I managed to achieve cuteness.

This has not always been the case. In fact, rarely has this been the case.

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Gratitude journal: New shoes!

Tonight I am grateful for my daughter’s inexplicable change of heart in regards to the shoes that Elysha bought months ago.

This morning, on the way to school, Elysha told Clara that her purple sparkly shoes were falling apart and in need of replacement. Clara responded by removing her shoes, throwing them to the floor and crying all the way to school.

Unlike every woman I have ever met, my daughter has absolutely no interest in new shoes. 

Unaware of these events, I coincidentally cleaned off the top of the bureau this evening, where two new pairs of shoes had been sitting, still in their boxes, for months.  Clara had rejected them long ago, but we decided to put them in her closet tonight in hopes that she might one day reconsider.

By the time I returned to the bedroom with her toothbrush, Clara has a new pair of shoes on her feet and she was admiring them with a wide grin. She even asked to go to sleep in her new shoes, and we quickly agreed.

Anything to cement the love that she suddenly felt for them.

New shoes at last. We probably have about three months before we’ll need to attempt another changing of the guard. A welcomed respite in the toddler footwear battles.

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Gratitude journal: The boss lady

Tonight I am grateful for Brenda Copeland, my editor and friend.

I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with Brenda at the Newburyport Literary Festival.  When we weren’t speaking on a panel or cavorting with other authors and editors, we spent the rest of the weekend dining and chatting about bookish things.

We even spent a couple hours in Starbucks working side by side.

In truth, I have been lucky enough to spend a great deal of time with Brenda over the past year in the run up to my next book, which is more than I can say for many authors and their editors.

Brenda is a fascinating blend of frivolity and stoicism. Invite her to a cocktail party and she will have introduced herself to every guest within the hour and charmed them all.

Yet she is also a woman who does not abide by grandstanding or unnecessary attention-seeking. She possesses a quiet dignity that I admire greatly. I imagine Brenda as the kind of woman who would have endured the London Blitz by reminding her friends and family that cities have been bombed before and will be bombed again, so Please go about your business with as little whining as possible, and for goodness sake, try not to get killed.

It’s a wonderful and unusual blend of personal characteristics that I think we rarely find in this world anymore.

Not to mention she’s also damn fine editor and smart as hell.  

Tonight I find myself  exceptionally grateful to have Brenda helping to guide my books and my career. Not everyone can say that they adore their editor, but I am one of the lucky authors that can.

Gratitude journal: Class or an AT&T dead zone

My daughter cuddled with me for a solid twenty minutes today, the longest on record.

We played hide-and-go seek for what felt like an hour. 

We assembled jigsaw puzzles together.

We tickled each other a lot. 

But no, tonight I am grateful that my friend, a Washington Capitals fan who watched his team defeat the Bruins in overtime tonight from the confines of the Boston Garden, has not fired off a text taunting me about the final score.

I’ll give him credit. He has class.

Or no cell service. 

Either way, I’m grateful.

Gratitude journal: The absolute euphoria of prime factorization

Tonight I am grateful for the inexplicable joy and near euphoria that my students experienced when successfully negotiating the prime factorization of numbers like 1,056, 2044, and 4,096.


I really can’t explain it, but I witnessed fist pumps, leaps of joy, high-fives, twirls of victory,  and screams of delight upon discovering that they had successfully factored these large numbers down to their primes and accurately represented their work using exponents.

I take no credit for their surprising enthusiasm. It was all them today.

Gratitude journal: Reunion

Tonight is easy.

Though the list of things that I am thankful for tonight is long, one stands out above the rest.

After four days apart, the longest separation I have ever had from my three-year old daughter, I am grateful that we are together again.  Elysha and I had a wonderful weekend in Vermont, and Clara had an amazing weekend with her grandparents, but nothing made me happier than to see my daughter this afternoon and give her a big squeeze. 

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Gratitude journal: Avoiding the math

Tonight I am grateful for anyone who is willing to take charge of the check when I am dining with a large group.

On Friday night, it was Melissa Klug, who convinced a less-than-enthusiastic waiter to divide the check amongst a table of twelve people, thus simplifying the after-dinner math considerably.

Last night it was New York Time bestseller author William Landay, who was kind enough to divide the check for a table of eleven people, as well as coordinate and assemble the combination of cash and credit cards for the waitress to process.

It’s people like Melissa and Bill who make life for shucking-their-responsibilities people like me much more pleasant.

And as a means of compensating for my chronic avoidance of the post-dinner calculations, I have always abided by the policy that I am willing to pay a little more than I owe if someone else is willing take charge of the bill and manage the collection of necessary funds.  

Seems fair. Right?

Gratitude journal: More than just babysitters

Tonight I am grateful to my in-laws, who are spending the weekend with my daughter while Elysha and I attend a literary retreat in Vermont.

Had they stuck Clara in front of the television with a bowl of Cheetos for a weekend-long marathon of The Wonder Pets marathon, I would have been grateful, but Barbara and Gerry have planned a weekend for Clara that features:

  1. Old Sturbridge Village, which includes a Meet the Baby Animals exhibit that is sure to knock my daughter’s socks off.
  2. Fish feeding at The Pittsfield Museum
  3. A performance of Thumbelina
  4. Lunch and dinner at some of their favorite dining spots around town

Any child on the planet would be blessed to have Barbara and Gerry as grandparents. I feel so incredibly fortunate that my daughter is the lucky one.   

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Gratitude journal: Diana

Tonight I am grateful to Diana, the name that we have bestowed upon our GPS unit after setting our preferences to the female British voice.

I have been driving into the city a lot recently, and last night, I found myself driving home after midnight following a Moth performance. Though I have been driving into New York City for most of my life, a midnight trip from SoHo on my own would have struck fear into my heart in the days before before Diana.

One wrong turn and I could be lost for hours.

But thanks to Diana, my drives into the city, regardless of where I am going or what time of day I am traveling, have become simplicity. It’s stunning to think how rapidly a task as complicated as navigating the largest city on the planet has become akin to playing a lifelike video game: 

Follow the line on the screen long enough without hitting anything else in the road and you will eventually arrive at your destination.

I swear that I have played video games more challenging than driving into the city now.   

I wouldn’t call GPS the greatest technological advancement in my lifetime, but it’s probably in the top 5.

By the way, have you named your GPS, and if so, what name did you choose?

Gratitude journal: Third wheeling

Tonight I am grateful for friends who allowed me to serve as a third wheel without complaint or consternation.

I started the day by playing a round of golf with a friend and his wife. A lot of fun and considerably less strange than what was to come.

In the evening, I joined friends who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary for dinner (though I didn’t know it at the time). With my wife attending class and planning to join us later and the other couple scheduled to join us more than an hour late, I found myself sitting across the table from friends who were celebrating 25 years of marriage.

Just me and them. Almost interview style. 

When I finally realized the awkwardness of the situation (which took me a lot longer than it should have), I offered to go down the street and get some Mexican fast food, but they insisted that I stay. The waiter made the evening even more awkward by lingering at the table longer than necessary (forcing my friend to tell him at one point that he was no longer needed) and splitting my entrée onto two plates, as if he couldn’t quite believe that I might be there on my own. 

While the evening was slightly awkward for all involved (and exceptionally awkward for me), I like to think it was at least memorable.

But this might just be me attempting to mitigate the awkwardness of the situation.

Gratitude journal: Frightened daughter

Is it wrong of me to be grateful that the animatronic dinosaurs at the Connecticut Science Center scared the hell out of my daughter, causing her to cling to me like never before?

Sure, it would’ve been nice if she had enjoyed the exhibit a little more, but having an opportunity to play the role of the protector and know that my daughter felt safe in my arms was worth a little bit of fear.

Besides, being a little afraid can be fun at any age. Right?