Today’s post can be found at, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, A.J. Hartley, and Stuart Jaffe, among others. The post is called “Of Birthdays and Taxes…” and it’s about middle-aged life as a writer. I hope you enjoy it.

Today is my fourteenth Dad Day.  I’ve been a Dad for exactly 14 years and I’m hoping for lots of presents.  Yeah, yeah, that means it’s also my older daughter’s 14th birthday, but this is about me, damnit!  This is my day to celebrate me, you know?  It’s my chance to kind of, like, reflect on everything that’s cool about me being a Dad.  And there’s A LOT for me to reflect on.  

In those first few years I kind of stumbled along, making mistake after mistake, and dealing with totally gross stuff like diapers and baby food and baby puke, which looked suspiciously like baby food, but smelled worse.   It was pretty lame actually.  I was pretty lame.  But not anymore.  I’m fourteen now (in Dad years) and I know everything I need to know.  Really.  I mean, sure there are people who claim they know more than me (Than I?  Oh, what-EV-er!).  These geezers have been doing the parent thing for-like-ever.  But that doesn’t make them experts, right?  I mean, experts are people who get on TV to talk about stuff that other people want to learn about, and who wants to see geezers on TV talking about this stuff?  I don’t.

Like, the other day one of my daughters (I forget which one, and really what difference does it make?) was complaining about feeling sick and having a fever and throwing up and being achy and tired and stuff.  And I was like, “Okay, get over it already!”  I mean, ohmyGod, how much of that stuff can one person listen to, right?  And this is just what I mean.  Back when I was five or six in Dad years I would have been, like, “Oh, poor baby!  You need to lie down.  We’ll take your temperature and put a blanket on you and get you some gatorade or something.”  Lame, right?  And those geezer-guys will tell you to take a kid like that to the doctor or to read some lame All-About-Sick-Kids book.  Like I have time for that, right?  I mean you have no idea how hard it is being me.  Being fourteen in Dad years is really, really, really hard, even when you know as much as I do.

But today isn’t about the hard stuff, like, you know, kids and things.  Today is about me and my fourteen years as a Dad.  So let’s eat some cake and open presents!  

Um, will presents make my face break out…?

Stuff — Updated

March 15, 2009

It’s been a pretty hectic couple of days.  Thursday was my birthday, today is my younger daughter’s birthday, and in between we had her party (a pool party — great success) and a trip to Chattanooga for a movie (“Bedtime Stories”) and a sushi dinner.  Fun stuff. 

We also had to negate the contract we had on the house we’d hoped to buy.  Not so fun.  Long story, which I won’t discuss in detail, except to say that this had nothing to do with selling our house or getting a loan and everything to do with something on the seller’s end of the deal.  We’re disappointed, but relieved that we got out of the deal when we did rather than getting ourselves deeper into what would have been a far worse situation.  But we still have earnest money at stake and hope to get it back without things turning too ugly.  More as it develops.

Today we’re scrambling to finish a school science fair project and preparing for one last nice dinner to celebrate the pair ‘o birthdays.

If ever there was a day of hats, this was it.  I wrote my 2000 words in the WIP (Writer Hat).  I took care of my younger daughter , who stayed home from school with a bad cold (Daddy Hat).  I had some work to do for our local organic food buying club, of which I am Big Boss Man (Co-op-Coordinator-Guy Hat).  I wrote up an alumni interview that I did for my alma mater — Brown Class of ’85, Baby!  Woot-woot!  (Brown-Interviewer-Guy Hat)  In my capacity as 8th Grade Parent Council Representative at my older daughter’s school, I wrote a tribute to the teachers and staff for Faculty-Staff Appreciation Week (School-Parents’-Council-Guy Hat).  I did some laundry and the after-dinner dishes (Husband Hat).  And now I am about to dun the weirdest hat of all.  Nancy and I are part of a little, VERY informal wine club here in town (we get 5 bottles of relatively cheap wine — $10-20 range — gather at someone’s house for munchies, and taste the wines to see which are worth getting again and which suck).  Well, this week Nancy and I put together the program, which means that we chose and bought the wines that all of us will be tasting.  Our theme was Shirazes from Five continents (Africa, Australia, Europe, North and South America).  And I now have to write up the tasting notes for the tasting.  So I get to put on my Pretentious-Wine-Guy Hat! 

“It’s an ambitious little red, but I think you’ll admire its presumption….”

Finally, today I’ve also had on my Son-Hat, which is one I don’t get to wear very often anymore.  My Mom would have turned 87 today had we not lost her to cancer way too early (1995).  She was a brilliant, kind, sensitive woman who taught me to love the written word, to believe in myself and follow my passion, and to value family and friendship above all else.  There isn’t a day that goes by without me wishing that I could call her or visit her, tell her about her granddaughters or ask her for some parenting advice. 

I love you, Mom.  Happy Birthday.

Just Wednesday

May 7, 2008

Thanks to all for the great comments on yesterday’s post.  Woke up this morning and found that my newly-minted teenager was very much like the child who lived here yesterday and the day before.  One day at a time.  That’s the ticket.

I seem to be in the middle of another good writing week.  I’m making good progress on the book, and more important, I like what I have so far.  I’m even finding time to birdwatch every morning before I sit down to write.   Spring migration is starting to wind down.  We probably have another three or four days, but after that it’ll slow down and we’ll settle into a typical Tennessee summer — hot days, thunderstorms in the late afternoons, muggy nights spent sitting on the porch, listening to the crickets and frogs, watching the lightning bugs.  Sounds good to me.

OMG! (Like, Totally!)

May 6, 2008

As of today, I am officially the parent of a teenager.  A girl teenager.  A very pretty girl teenager.  I need a gun….

I am entering a phase of life during which I will become utterly clueless in the eyes of a child who once revered me.  I will be hopelessly unhip.  In fact, I already must be, since I can’t imagine that the word “unhip” has been in vogue since the release of “Hotel California.”  Oh, and my musical taste now sucks.  Once upon a time she thought it was cool to listen to not only the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Little Feat, but also James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt and Sting.  Now, if the musician’s name is more than one word long, and if it doesn’t begin with a lower case letter and include a number and six consonants, it’s not worth listening to.

For the next several years, my very existence will be a source of shame and mortification for her.  I will be able to make her cringe simply by opening my mouth or saying hello to one of her friends; I will be able to embarrass her any time I want. (Okay, so maybe there’s an upside to this….)

The phone will no longer be ours.  Oh, Nancy and I will still pay the bills.  But none of the calls will be for us.  My daughter will point out that this is the perfect reason to buy her a cell phone, but I’m not sure we want to go there either.  She also wants a facebook page.  And one (or more) of those online IM accounts.  She’s already emailing her friends all the time.  She makes me swear that I won’t read her messages, but even if I did want to read them, I wouldn’t be able to make sense of what she and her friends write.  We are all destined to live in a world without punctuation, capitalization, or traditional spelling, a world in which phrases become an indecipherable series of obscure acronyms:  nvm, omg, idk, l8r, g2g. 

SMN (Shoot Me Now…)

And boys.  Good God, there are going to be boys.  Lots of them.  (Of course she had to get her mother’s looks — it would have been too much to ask that she be short and funny-looking and bearded like her Dad….)  Hence the gun.  It’ll have to be a shotgun.  Something I can be cleaning on the front porch as they roll up to the house for that first date.  I should probably get a hound, too.   And a rocking chair.  They all go together:  hounds, rocking chairs, shotguns.  Then again, I’m not at all sure that as a Jewish liberal New Yorker with an earring I’ll be able to pull off the “Dad with the Shotgun” thing.  I wonder what it costs to put landmines in the front yard and driveway.

At least the second one isn’t a teenager yet.  Then again, she’s 9 already.  And very precocious.  

God help me….

Survived my soon-to-be-a-teenager’s birthday party last night.  We rented out the swimming pool again and served the usual birthday fare (Pizza, carrots, grapes, soda, cupcakes — not the healthiest, but not the worst either).  The kids seemed to have a great time and once again Nancy and I avoided having the party at our house.  Can’t put a price on that.  Two of the girls slept over, but even that went well.  They were quiet by 11:30; asleep by midnight.  Not bad at all.

Was going to blog about some political stuff today — again.  But it’s gorgeous out and my younger daughter wants to have a catch and really what could I say that hasn’t already been said?

Have a great Sunday all. 

My younger daughter turned nine yesterday.  (Yay!  She had a great day.  We all did, actually.)  Today is her party.  

It’s like a mastercard commercial…..

Pool party at a local swimplex:  $75.00.  Pizza, cake, juice, plates, cups, etc.: $100.  Not having a bunch of screaming, sugar-buzzed children in our house:  priceless.

Birthday Post

March 12, 2008

What do Darryl Strawberry, Liza Minnelli, and James Taylor have in common?  Okay, yes, they all have had problems with substance abuse.  Let me be a bit more specific.  What do they (and Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne) have in common with me?

Yup, that’s right.  Today is our birthday.  All of us.   And, I’m happy to the report that of the five of us, I’m the youngest.

I’ve never been much of a Liza Minnelli fan — just not my style of entertainment — and though I liked Darryl Strawberry when he was with the Mets, I was deeply disappointed in the way his career ended.  I’m sure he was too.  But I have been a fan of James Taylor since I was seven years old and my older brother first played for me his brand new copy of Sweet Baby James.  When the rest of my friends were listening to Free To Be You and Me and other insipid kids’ music, I was listening to Mud Slide Slim and One Man Dog.  When my cool friends in junior high were listening to Zeppelin and CSN and the Dead, I was too, but I was also listening to Gorilla and In the Pocket.  I didn’t tell my friends, of course.  James wasn’t cool; at least he wasn’t to them.  Once I reached high school I started caring less what other people thought of my musical taste.  I listened to JT and Flag and Dad Loves His Work, and I didn’t hide it from anyone.

I still listen to James Taylor.  I have pretty much every album he’s put out (except for the disc of Christmas tunes and some greatest hits collections made up of songs I already have on other recordings).  And I still encounter people who make it clear to me that this is not cool music, that it’s too mellow, too close to “Easy Listenin'”.  I couldn’t care less.  For me James Taylor’s music is like New York style pizza.  It’s like Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry.  It’s like M*A*S*H reruns.  It might not be the finest music in the world, but it’s familiar, and it’s comforting, and it’s damn good.

Taylor’s lyrics have always been sensitive and insightful.  At times they’re brilliant.  The song “Gaia” on the Hourglass album might be the most moving elegy for our environment anyone has written.  His melodies manage to be appealing without being trite.  

It’s been forty years since his first release; thirty-eight since “Fire and Rain” reached number 3 on the Billboard Top Forty. Taylor has enjoyed a good deal of success at points in his career.  He’s experienced lean periods as well.  But he never sold out, never tailored (pardon the pun) his sound to the market.  Forty years.  You’ve got to admire that.

James Taylor turns sixty today.  And as one birthday boy to another, I wish him the best, and I thank him for all that his music has given me over the years.

Today’s music:  “One Man Dog”