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Sunday, June 16th, 2013
Today is a good day to hug a dad whether he is the father of your children, the man who gave you life, your grandpa or your in-law. So go give a man a squeeze and then read this Father’s Day tribute. You’re sure to be flooded with memories from your own childhood.
Author Joel Schwartzberg, a popular essay writer and author of The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad, explains the significance and steadfastness of the simple inquisitive words of his father: “What’s new?”
“Back when I competed in middle school debate, my dad would rouse me early on Saturday tournament mornings. With night sky still hovering, I’d pull on my only blue suit, grab the thin attaché case that was once his, and he’d drive me to the waiting school bus. If time allowed, we’d pick up a box of glazed donuts for the team.
Roughly 12 hours later, the bus would pull back into the school parking lot. The sky would be dark, as if the day had never arrived. I’d spot my dad’s car, its dome light illuminated so he could grade papers while he waited. He graded a lot of papers those nights.
“So…what’s new?” he’d ask while I climbed inside. At the time, I thought the question had everything to do with my trophies.
“What’s new?” is how my dad greets me to this day, albeit slower and with slightly more vocal gravel thirty years later. I understand now the meaning with which these words are imbued. My dad expresses affection in sacrifice, devotion, and time–not in simple words so overplayed in greeting cards and the closing scenes of romantic comedies.
It was my dad who cut his thumb open making a birdhouse for my third grade cub scout project. As he hammered away, he continued bleeding into the house even though we begged him to stop. I’m not sure we were concerned for his safety so much as utterly grossed out by the splattering of bright blood onto the light wood. The only thing driving him was a determination to do right by us. That he was creating a Dexter-themed birdhouse wouldn’t stand in the way.
It was my dad who drove to the mall where I worked to hand-deliver my SAT scores, hot off the mailman’s truck.
It was my dad who supported my paper-thin rationalizations to start law school, and he supported me just as much when I left six months later, the first Schwartzberg to quit an educational endeavor since I dropped AP biology.
It was my dad who visited me at the tiny video store where, at 24, I competed for the title of Assistant Manager against a teenager who wore sports-themed ties. It was my dad who told me it was okay to quit three weeks in, with no other prospects.
It was my dad who opened his home and every possession to me following my divorce. He treated it like a routine event, even though it was the first divorce in our family. He insisted I wear his work shirts and pants–as if sensing holes the separation had left in me and trying to cover them with pieces of himself.
Throughout a childhood spotted with quits and failures, I’ve never felt like a quitter or a failure. That’s a parenting trick bordering on magic.
Sometimes on Friday nights, while I wait in my ex-wife’s driveway for the children to emerge, I think about the kind of father I am, about the pieces of myself I try to give to my own kids. I try to assess the cumulative effect of my fathering, and how it might be remembered years into their future.
The kids knock the ridiculous thought out of my head as they pile in.
“So… what’s new?” I ask instinctively.
They smile, and start spilling their stories.”
Joel Schwartzberg is a nationally-published essayist whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, Babble.com, AOL ParentDish, the Good Men Project, The Huffington Post and elsewhere. Author of the award-winning collection The 40-Year-old Version, Joel lives in New Jersey and is currently at work on his next personal anthology “Yes, I Want a Medal!”
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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
This week is the I Read YA campaign by Scholastic–promoting all things young adult. And just yesterday, one of my favorite authors, Susane Colasanti, released a new YA love story called All I Need.
Here’s what Susane had to say about her new book, true love (which she finally found!) and her home state of New Jersey.
“You know that feeling you had in high school on the first day of summer vacation? When summer was shiny and new and filled with possibility and your romantic fantasies seemed like they would all come true? When meeting the boy of your dreams at the beach or roller rink or that Italian ice stand felt like an entirely realistic scenario? And you would fall so crazy in love that your long-distance relationship would totally work out?
Yeah. Never happened to me, either.
But that didn’t stop me from believing I’d eventually meet the love of my life. Every summer would begin with an overwhelming sense of longing. Like anything was possible. Forget that I’m from Middle of Nowhere, NJ, where the chances of running into a boy who hadn’t known me since second grade were approximately zero. I kept the hope of meeting the boy of my dreams alive in my heart. And I never let it go.
Two major life events happened for me this year:
1. I turned 40.
2. I met my soul mate. He is the love of my life. He is the boy I was dreaming about all those years ago. And guess what? He lived ten miles away from me in Middle of Nowhere, NJ. We went to different high schools. We didn’t meet back then. But he was there all along. What if we had met as teens?
Writing All I Need was my way of bringing that fantasy to life. Skye and Seth are soul mates. Their instant connection and chemistry are undeniable. When they meet at the last beach party of the summer, they both know they’ve found something real. But their plans to exchange contact information are disrupted. Skye goes home to her junior year of high school and Seth starts college with no way of connecting. They can’t stop thinking about each other. And they won’t stop believing that they’ll find their way back to each other one day.
Choosing to set All I Need in New Jersey was inspired by my own background. Skye is from Newfoundland, a town nestled in the middle of the woods much like my hometown of Peapack-Gladstone. Her family has a beach house in Sea Bright. Although my own Jersey shore experiences largely took place in Asbury Park, Toms River and Wildwood, the name Sea Bright evokes such a sweet, happy tone that I decided to incorporate it. Sea Bright is one of the towns that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The landscape of the New Jersey coast has changed, but memories of summers down the shore will forever live on in my heart. And now those memories can live on in All I Need.
Readers often ask me if soul mates are real. They ask if boys like the boys I write about actually exist. I’m here to tell you that soul mates are real and boys like these do exist. I know what it’s like to meet a soul mate. What it’s like to feel that instant connection. To feel like you’ve already known someone your whole life even though you just met. I want readers to be inspired by All I Need. My hope is that by the time readers finish the last sentence, they will believe in the possibility of true love. The kind of love Skye and Seth have is not easy to find. But it’s possible. ”
That’s the thing about life. Anything is possible.”
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All I Need, I Read YA, IreadYA, Jersey Shore, Scholastic, summer romance, Susane Colasanti, teen books | Categories:
Children's Books, Guest Blogs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Bury the Hot is the true story of a boy who hid from Hitler, but could never escape the memories. His friend, writer Deb Levy, completed his book for him. Below, she describes what it was like writing about a child in such a desperate situation while trying to raise three young sons of her own.
“One evening last summer, I strolled with my children toward an outdoor concert in our local park. The path was forested, and I found myself doing what I’d been doing for years already: imagining myself in a different set of woods, clutching my sons’ hands, running, fearful of letting go and losing them in the pitch black. I summoned the cold, the hunger, and Nazis.
While writing a book about the Holocaust, I spent hours on the phone with Sal (pronounced Sol; formerly Szulim), a close family friend who’d hired me to write his memoir. For months, I probed his memory, shook dust off painful recollections, and wakened the dead. In doing so, I found myself constantly comparing and contrasting the sheer normalcy of my life—buying chicken, running a bath—with the details of a time that was anything but.
My children became the perfect frame of reference as I delved into the world of another little boy. I’d stare at my youngest, age 3 at the time, and think, “That’s how old Szulim was when German warplanes first darkened the sky above his house.” I tried to picture my then 6-year-old stumbling over cobblestones—like Szulim at 6, fleeing a Gestapo roundup. I trembled at the thought of kissing my own 10-year-old goodbye before sending him on an orphan train across Europe.
I wrote my sons’ sensory quirks and self-soothing habits into Szulim’s story. When I sought to capture the dismantling of Szulim’s world through the eyes of a child, I stared into the faces of my own. On the playground, at the dentist, everywhere I turned, a little Yiddish boy became the doppelganger to my three. Even worse, I found myself getting angry—quickly, and all too often—at the boys seated around my own kitchen table. Their incessant requests, their refusal to eat a home-cooked meal, their inability to sit still for two minutes—it was driving me mad. Dzietzy i ribi glosi nie mayem! “Children and fish do not have a voice,” I wanted to yell, an old Polish trope about childrearing. But wait a minute. We’re not living in a mid-century shtetl. Besides, what kind of mother doesn’t want to hear her son’s voice?
As it turns out, a scared one. Every day, I sat at the computer and immersed myself in a world where bullies did more than exclude a child from a coveted seat in the cafeteria, where threats weren’t online, but on the street where Szulim, hungry, wearing his yellow star, rolled his hoop in the ghetto’s dirt. If my children can’t sit still during dinner, how will they survive when they have to cower in an attic without moving, while Nazi soldiers patrol the sidewalks below? For 18 days, Szulim and his little brother sat trembling in silence, waiting. There were no iPhones. No snacks. Nothing but fear that each moment might be their last. Could my sons survive this? I knew the answer and it terrified me.
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Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Jennifer Gilmore‘s The Mothers has become a praised and hot new novel. It’s about one couple’s struggle with infertility and then the rigors of adoption. Jennifer wrote her book after going through a similar hardships herself. Luckily, her personal story has a happy ending. Here’s more directly from Jennifer about her life and her book:
“Since we met in our late twenties, my husband and I have wanted to make a family. I’d been sick, though, and was told by my doctors I’d never be able to have children.Despite this ominous declaration, I went on to become pregnant, which ended in a miscarriage. After several rounds of unsuccessful IVF procedures, we decided to pursue domestic adoption.
We were utterly unprepared for the adoption process, despite extensive research. And the deeper we got into the world of paperwork and agencies and lawyers and the choices we had to make, the more issues of race and class, and also what motherhood means, ignited the novelist in me. I wanted to investigate not only the difficult and shocking process, but also the deep and complex wanting to be a parent and the stress not being able to make that happen puts on a relationship. I hope my new novel, The Mothers, does this.
After a long and winding and often terrifying adoption path, my husband and I have been fortunate enough to have a newborn at home with us, for good. We are adjusting—with pleasure—to the daily rhythms and changes of a growing infant. There were times we thought this would never happen, and so becoming a family of three feels delicious, something to savor.
And yet, like my friends and family who came to motherhood easily, I have some of the similar concerns. There are the financial pressures—our savings and then some went into trying to have a child—and there are the pressures of space that come when living in a New York City apartment, with or without a child. While often there is little predicting when a child enters any of our lives, adoption can be quick and unexpected, as ours was. And so we are living the same frenetic life we were before his arrival .
As a writer, I work at home. Right now, the baby is asleep in his swinging chair, but he could—and will—wake up at any moment, wanting to be held, fed, changed. I do all these things with pleasure, but as a writer works for herself, there is no maternity leave. Now, I meet my deadlines in quick spurts. And I would be disingenuous if I did not admit to being worried about the future. Beginning a novel takes huge swaths of empty time and silence and solitude. And as a novelist, I have to believe I will be working on a new book very soon.
I am not the first writer to become a mother. Women managing work and parenting has been tackled and discussed and hashed over privately and in the media for decades. For writers though, especially women, it is especially difficult to carve out time for work when there is a child right here, whom I have yearned for, waiting for me to pick him up, bring him to me, hold on to him forever.”
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Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Thank you to Noodlemania’s author Melissa Barlow for this delectable guest post that ALL ABOUT PASTA! Don’t miss her easy Mighty Mac ‘n Cheese recipe at the bottom.
“Kids like pasta. Or maybe they love it. Yeah, on second thought, they love it. And I mean L-O-V-E, love. At least my kiddos do. We have homemade mac and cheese for lunch at our house at least once or twice a week. Not to mention, there’s typically a couple other “noodle-y” dinners as well. And these always seem to be the meals that the kids literally (well, almost) lick their plates clean.
So, I know Noodlemania! is my book, but I just have say that kids are gonna love it. They can flip through the pages and find any of 50 playful pasta recipes that they can make themselves. The recipes are easy and, in the words of my three-year-old daughter, “Super nummy.”
Kids are pretty keen on comfort food, and that’s what makes Noodlemania! so appealing. Many of the recipes have quirky twists on old classics. One of my kids’ favorites is “Somethin’ Fishy,” which is a simple tuna noodle casserole that features those beloved little cheddar snack fish that seem to be in every child’s repertoire.
My kids also beg me to make them Mighty Mac ‘n’ Cheese (see my recipe below!), as well as Curly Worms—a dish that literally tastes like a ham and cheese sandwich in a bowl. My little boy loves the Green Martian Noodles, and so do I! It is a great healthy choice and is made with whole wheat spaghetti and a creamy avocado, lime and basil sauce.
There are many other healthy options and the kids eat them all! The Mini Spaghetti Pizzas can be topped with favorite veggies and are always a big hit. Toss ’Em Tacos Pasta is also another winner at our house. I’ve found that when the kids help me prepare their meals, the veggies don’t scare them off. They are actually excited to eat what they make.
With all that said, I hope you’ll try out these favorites. My family painstakingly narrowed it down to the following, which was SUPER hard to do!”
Mighty Mac ‘n’ Cheese
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
¾ cup milk
1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook the noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and then stir in the flour to form a paste. Slowly stir in the milk. Continue stirring until the sauce starts to thicken, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually stir in the cheese until melted. Stir the cooked noodles into the cheese sauce until coated. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle more cheese over the top to serve. Makes 4 servings.
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