Friday, December 30, 2016

A Memoir is Not a Diary

 I don't know about you, but whenever anyone asks me WHY I am writing the book I am writing, I struggle to answer them.

What makes my story more important than anyone else?

What is so special about it?

I never know how to answer because there are so many answers and they're not all correct.

Perhaps the tougher question is, "What is your book about?"

Well, all of the things. Empathy. Grief. Love. Forgiveness. Never forgiving. Family dynamics. Alcoholism. More grief. A constant compounding of grief. Empathy, again. Empathy always.

I keep an ongoing reading journal. It's the only type of diary I can maintain. I've tried diary writing and journaling so many times in my near 40 years. I fail every time. I always find it so boring, quotidian. But not reading journals. Those are a blast! So this morning, when I came across this section in Why We Write About Ourselves, I took note. 

 From Why We Write About Ourselves, edited by Meredith Mara, "A memoir is not a diary. I've written six novels in the past fifteen years. I've had an enormous amount of fun couching my life fictionally in those novels, extrapolating from direct experience as fuel for my imaginative fire. I'm relishing my newfound ability to transcend the self-absorption and artlessness of journal writing into a coherent narrative, to shape the raw material of my life without denying any of its fuckedupness or my own culpability and fallibility. And that ability came directly from many years of writing fiction. The fictional "I" gave rise to the nonfictional one and enabled me to write directly about myself, as a character rather than an unmitigated, diaristic first-person voice."

The key here is without denying any of its fuckedupness. No, not an ounce. Put it all in there.

Later, in this same section, she writes "My friend Rosie Schaap, who wrote the brilliant, beautiful memoir Drinking with Men, told me, 'The only person who should look like an asshole in your memoir is you.' I strove to follow that. I hope I didn't fail too badly."

Today I sent my finished memoir manuscript off to be printed for my early readers and my family members. I hope I didn't fail too badly.

So, happy new year. And cheers! Here's to general fuckedupness and assholes.

Happy New Year,

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rabbi Francine Green Roston

Most of you know that we are an interfaith family. Being not only interfaith but also blended and heavily tattooed, we are limited in the places that we can freely worship in Orange County. Temple Beth El was the first temple to open their arms and welcome us - all of us. While we no longer attend, I think fondly of our days there with Rabbi Heather Miller who held my hand through learning about having a Jewish husband and comforted me when my grandmother passed away and I found myself profoundly confused. When my father passed away his home Catholic church refused to send a priest, but Heather and our temple called and prayed and sent cards. They opened their arms, like every other Jew I have ever met and said, What do I have that I can offer you? Please, sit down. Let me listen. Are you hungry? How can I help? 
Lately, I find myself distracted when my kids are at Hebrew school or Religious school. I am nervous, fidgety, on edge. It's like we are putting them all under one roof and then painting a bull's eye on that roof. Here, right here. Here is where we are keeping all of our lovely, light-hearted, funny little Jewish children - the ones with the sparkling eyes and the kind hearts. The ones that do Mitzvot every week for homeless people or elderly people or Meals on Wheels or just the neighbor that looks lonely. Here- here is where we are storing up every hope for our future, for my future, every prayer and meditation I have ever offered up to God, here - here they all are.

To hear the news that Beth El's old Rabbi is being attacked does not surprise me. It is increasingly prevalent. It is increasingly upsetting. Yet, it does not surprise. People ask me all the time, what do you have to be worried about? I am white and middle class and educated and liberal and live in a safe clean home. In a time where our country is terrified, across the board terrified, I can understand. 

What I cannot do, will not do, is accept. 
This is unacceptable.
The most recent news quoted here: 
Some of you may be aware of Richard Spencer - he is the alt-right neo-Nazi who has been quoted as saying that this country belongs to white men. Mr. Spencer lives in the small town of Whitefish, Montana. My friend and colleague Rabbi Francine Green Roston -- who used to be the rabbi of Congregation Beth El in South Orange -- lives in Whitefish as well. Mr. Spencer has called upon his fellow white supremacists to make life difficult for the Jews of Whitefish. Just this morning David Duke - the country's most famous Klansman -- tweeted two pictures of Francine and another Jewish woman saying that they are "not good people." Needless to say, these people are being inundated with hate just because they are Jewish and they are willing to stand up to Richard Spencer and his ilk.

I would like to see them inundated with love. All of our Religious School students will be sending cards this Wednesday, but the more cards and letters they receive, the better. Would you consider sending them Hanukkah cards or just notes of support? I think it would be wonderful for them to feel some love as a counter-balance to all the hate-filled messages they are receiving."

The mailing address is: Glacier Jewish Community - B'nai Shalom, 591 Hilltop Court, Whitefish, MT 59937.

Thanks, in advance, if you are able to do this mitzvah!
Be kind,