My daughter, the American

I am keenly aware of my quirks as an American. I can be giddy and boisterous. I am erratic and move too quickly. My table manners can be clumsy. My American accent is thick and my language skills, though I try, a jumble of words. Luckily, I’m cute. That rescues me on occasion.

Traveling with my 12-year-old daughter in Moscow has shown me the depth of my  daughter’s Americanisms. 

Some of these things are simply “kid-isms,” I suppose.

1. She has no concept of how loud she is. Ever.

2. Even when she tries, she still stabs her food, can’t properly use a knife and often talks with her mouth full.

3. She talks to strangers even when she doesn’t speak the language. Last night she tried to tell the Russian hostess in a Turkish restaurant in English that her dress was pretty. Poor woman thought we had a problem with the restaurant’s service. We eventually relayed the compliment.

4. My daughter has never dealt with real food. Now my daughter is a duck-in-orange-sauce, fancy meal girl. Not chicken nuggets and French fries. So imagine my surprise when she didn’t have the patience to pull the meat off a real fish or slice around the fat on a healthy portion of duck. Think about that: my daughter, raised as a foodie, has never dealt with real food. Bonus- she now adores fresh juice and real croissant.

5. She does not have the patience to remain at the table for a leisurely meal. She fidgets. She asks for hugs. She tried to put her head down. 

6. She points and screams “LOOK.”

7. In fear of making a mistake, she began this trip reluctant to engage with speakers of other languages and wouldn’t repeat phrases in foreign tongues.

8. She has classic American overconfidence. In our third and final airport of the trip, in Kazan, she tells me adamantly that she can meet us at the gate because she can read her boarding pass. Never mind that we are in a foreign country where she can neither read nor speak the language. Never mind that she is so adept at reading her ticket that she can’t figure out her row and seat on the plane.

9. Space. She’s not too bad with people in her space or how much space she occupies, but man oh man is she a disaster when it comes to realizing where her backpack is in relation to others and where her suitcase rolls behind her. And how to navigate on planes and trains without being a major disruption.

10. Math. She wanted slippers. First she read the wrong tag. Thought it was 800 rubles. It was 2500. I reminded her that the ATM was out of service (really, that isn’t mom code for “I am not your personal back”) and that I had 1100 rubles. So I told her to do the math. I know she has American money with her. And we keep explaining the exchange rate. And pointing out the sign outside the bank that lists the rate for the euro and the U.S. dollar.

I tell her if she wants to calculate the price in dollars she could give me dollars and I would get her rubles. She couldn’t determine the algebraic equation to calculate the cost. I told her to use 70 rubles for ease.
She wanted to divide 70 by 100. I told her that would allow her to figure out the pennies versus rubles rate. She wanted to then multiple that by 2500. I pointed out she was making this too complicated and suggested dividing 250 by 7. 

She didn’t get it. The logic. She could do the math, but not the thinking.

11. Ten minutes into dinner last night, she tried to sneak a game of Minecraft on her iPod under the table. That resulted in confiscation of the iPod (with us as camera and potential language assistant) and a stern, “I did not fly you 6,000 miles from home to sit on a Russian street and play Minecraft.”

“It was two seconds,” the child says.

“Because I caught you,” I retort. “The iPod is for pictures and in the hotel.”

Chicken pitch a success!

So, much of my recent time has been spent pondering what I want from my life and I keep saying that I want to write more and publish more. (And then I see sentences like that opening one I just wrote for this blog entry and think maybe I need to revisit my grammar skills.)

I keep saying that I’m going to write more and pitch more.

And I don’t.

I say I’m busy. I’m tired. I don’t have time. I work too much.

Well, in the fall, I had a success with Step Away Magazine publishing my Paris poem. And in January, I pitched an old essay I wrote about my daughter learning to take care of chickens when a friend of a friend went on vacation. I pitched it to Hobby Farms magazine. The editor there responded promptly that he would keep it on file.

A few minutes ago I received the notification that my piece will appear in the July/August issue of the magazine.

My portfolio grows more eclectic by the day.



The Easter basket parenting win

My daughter will turn 12 in June. We have a lot of tween meltdowns. We have difficulty communicating sometimes. 

This morning I stepped outside to write in my journal. I’ve been working a lot of extra hours, making my part-time retail job a full-time one.

So I needed some peace and sun.

My daughter approached me one paragraph later. She wore her mopey face. I asked what was wrong.

For the sake of brevity, I will skip the pleading and cajoling that went into getting her to reveal her complaint.

My friend Gayle had said to her that her mother always said you didn’t buy something until you had the money for it.

“I have a savings account,” she says, “and it has a lot of money in it, but I can’t touch it.”

I explain to her she can touch it, but that money is for big purchases: summer camp, someday when she wants a car or needs a security deposit for her first apartment.

I also ask, “what are you pining for?”

“Well, it’s stupid,” she says, “but I told you months ago that I wanted a new doll and you said you would consider it and you haven’t said anything.”

Months is an exaggeration, for the record. The doll in question is a $10 Draculaura Monster High Doll.

Now I know I bought her that doll and a Frankie Stein doll as the focus of her Easter basket. But she’s in full drama and feeling dejected.

I go in the house and get the shoe box containing her goodies. I haven’t wrapped them or retrieved her literal basket. I hand her the box.

“Should you chose to open that, it’s the contents of your Easter basket. There will be nothing for Sunday. It’s your call.”

She opened it.

 She found the dolls.

So I told her, “You need to have faith in us, we are listening. We just don’t always do what you want when you want it.”

The wonder and brilliance of children

I am far from a perfect parent. I show my daughter my strength and also my weakness. 

I love children. If I had more patience, I would have spent more time with as many of them as possible. 

A little boy occasionally comes into the store where I work in the café. I believe he comes with his grandmother and by the time they reach me, she seems exasperated. And I know why.

They have their shopping bags. They are ready to leave. She offers him a pizza.

He’s about four and he never stops talking. And I try my best not to interrupt him because my manners need to demonstrate how people listen to and engage others. Then the questions start.

It’s Easter week. The store is busy. At this particular moment, I’m momentarily caught up and there’s no one waiting. 

So I answer his questions. These aren’t dumb questions, these are “how things work” questions. What is that light? What’s that sound? I explain everything he asks about, even though his grandparent clearly wants to go. But he’s processing, he’s learning, and maybe someday he’ll be a scientist or an engineer because of this interest in how things work.

But now, my daughter.

I frequently help my friend Nancy with her writing career. Nancy is an essayist and poet. She’s also blind so sending an email, managing submissions and finding writing markets can be challenging with a sighted person at a computer. Her diligence and prolific work habits inspire me so the relationship is mutually beneficial.

My daughter is on spring break so she joined Nancy and I at Dunkin Donuts where I sipped iced coffee flavored with pistachio and Nancy drank her vanilla chai. And we even had donuts!

When we were done working, my daughter piped in.

She thought it would be interesting if we all wrote flash nonfiction about the morning to see the different perspectives. Nancy and I were thrilled. We set word counts and pledged to write and submit this piece.

Daughter and I did ours. We love them. Can’t wait to see what Nancy does.

Made possible because we listened to a child. 

And we’re walking

Since my trip to Niagara Falls with the Liberty Bell Wanderers, my family has joined me as official members of that group and the American Volkssporting Association. With their help, I recently finished my initial 10-event book and will now have my own walker number.

I am thrilled with this activity. Volkssporting is non-competitive walking or bike riding, typically for 5k or 10k distances, though sometimes 6k or 15k. The local group that sponsors the walk will have a start location posted on the AVA website. At that location, usually a hotel or a YMCA because of the flexible hours of the facility, there will be a “start” or “walk box.”

In the walk box, there’s a registration form, a start card and a stamp. You fill out the registration form, stamp your book(s), and fill out a start card. Also in the box are directions and envelopes. The envelope allows you to mail your completed start card and payment to the walk administrator (otherwise known as point of contact.)

From there, it’s like a walking tour/scavenger hunt. I usually ask my 11-year-old to read the directions and the map because it’s a good skill for her to practice.

We have recently done North and South Bethlehem, New Hope PA/Lambertville NJ, and Doylestown, PA.

In Bethlehem, we visited the grave of poet HD.


In Doylestown, we hob-knobbed with the history.


Apparently, Doylestown has concrete castles similar to the Edison-inspired concrete house neighborhood in Phillipsburg NJ.

New Hope had lots of artsy views.


Not to mention a mansion that could have belonged to one of my husband’s relatives…


But Lambertville NJ had the most amazing falafel and kufta…

My daughter, who’s struggling to transition from her active elementary school years to a more sedentary middle school life, is outside again and moving so that makes me happy. My husband likes to walk and likes our adventurous day trips. I am so thankful for such a fun family activity.

And unlike bowling, it doesn’t require heavy equipment or ugly shoes.

Spiral shaft fracture of the fifth metacarpal

My upcoming trip to Djibouti may create an image of me as a brave, intrepid adventurer. In reality, I’m a former journalist who has used the changing media landscape to explore what I’d really like to do with my life. I have a really practical part-time job working for a great corporation with some of the most interesting and genuine people I have ever met. This has allowed me to return to school and earn a second bachelor’s degree, do a virtual internship with USAID, spend more time with my daughter and serve on boards in the community. And travel.

So, Monday should have been the day that I prepared my visa application materials for transit to D.C. but a funny thing happened at work. I broke my right hand and yes, I’m right hand dominant. Less than four weeks out from my exotic dream voyage and I broke my hand. Specifically, I sustained a [rather fortunate under the circumstances] spiral shaft fracture of my fifth metacarpal.

Sparing the exciting details of my first 24 hours with a broken bone, most of which were spent waiting for an ortho appointment, let’s say that my package got out today and I have a nice red cast. I have mentioned my upcoming out-of-country travel to my medical team. On April 15, they will remove my cast and place me in a removable splint of some kind based on the rate of healing. My traveling companion has expressed his relief.

When my hand heals more, I shall devote a blog entry to “life imitates art” and how my fiction tends to draw weird coincidences into my life. I think my imaginary friends and I share karma. When Basilie got pregnant, I got pregnant a few months later. She had a stroke a few months ago, and she lost the use of her right hand. From here on out, only goodness for Basilie. I’d share some of the stuff I’ve already written about Basilie, but I am very clumsy with my left hand only on the keyboard. It has taken forever to type this.

Remember all that time I dedicated to finding a journal for my trip? I used Facebook to poll my friends about the final three candidates and now… here’s hoping I can write in it when I travel.

Let me leave you will this… My daughter has been obsessed with broken bones since she saw the episode of the Waltons where Elizabeth fell off the wood pile and broke her legs. Needless to say, this process has fascinated her and the medical staff has allowed her to come with me for most of my treatment. I’ll share a photo she took while I got my cast.