Time is Free


Here, I don’t have to think about the irritating city or the manic crazies on the subway preaching about the end of time. 
Time is just a construct. Here, there is no time. Here, moments consist not of seconds, but thoughts, breezes, and bird calls. Moments consist of water ripples and frog jumps, of cloud shapes and hawk dives. 
Here, time spins and twirls and stops. Here, time is free.


A Letter To You


Today I went to my great aunt’s viewing in New Jersey. My father’s side. Her name was Loretta Hujber, formerly Schwing. She was 88.

My Memom passed away last year between Christmas and New Year’s. She was one of nine, three of whom she survived, and four of whom passed away within this last year.

Take a moment with that: one year ago, there were six sisters living, and now there are only two. Within eleven months. In a way, it’s poetic. Nine siblings, all octo- and nonagenarians, all finding the end of this chapter of their journey together, going through together, and, most beautifully, allowing us, the family, to grieve and celebrate their lives together.

My dad told me about Aunt Loretta’s passing on Monday and immediately requested that I attend her viewing and funeral on his behalf, which was a no-brainer for me. Absolutely. Of course I would. But the request broke my heart a little bit. I don’t really think about how isolating it must be for my parents to be on the west coast. Most of both of their families are accessible only by plane, and all I could think about was that all of the Schwing-extended family (my grandmother’s family) were in New Jersey and able to reach out to each other in moments of grief and despair, able to hold each other, cry with each other, laugh and celebrate life with each other, and I didn’t know who, if anybody, was available for my Da. I felt his request as a plea, really, a soft, but perfectly clear plea from somewhere deep within him – somebody reaching out, asking for a hug, and if he could only get that hug that he needed through me somehow, of course I would do it.

It was especially when my both my mom and Da e-mailed me separately to tell me that they changed their minds and don’t think this was a reasonable request, given the distance to travel (hour and a half drive from Manhattan to Trenton), and that it was smack in the middle of the week, and I had work, and responsibilities at home, weather wasn’t terrific, etc. etc – that I knew I had to go even more. It was in those e-mails that they realized what they were asking was selfish in a way. Something for them that didn’t benefit me in the slightest. Something my Da needed, but, after closer inspection, realized I may be putting other things in my on hold to do. I realized upon their realization that I really did need to do this. And to be completely honest, it wasn’t completely selfless, do don’t go thinking I’m some unsung Family Hero of any sort. I did need to do this. I wanted to remind everybody that I am here. I’m close. I’m accessible and available, and though I was ripped from New Jersey (willingly, for the record) at the age of 12, I’m back and I’m a part of this family, dammit!

The second reason I really felt like I needed to go was the reason I gave my mom in my e-mail response — I didn’t properly mourn Memom. My grief creeps up on me pretty often, surprising me at work, in the middle of a movie, or when I’m out with friends. I’ll feel the prickly heat behind my eyes suddenly, and I’ll have to hastily excuse myself to the bathroom before embarrassing tears stream down my face. A song will come on and I’ll burst into sobs, or a moment during my day will pull the corners of my mouth down ever so slightly.

I like to think those are the moments when she visits me – in whichever ethereal way your belief system allows you to imagine – and since I didn’t give myself the time to work through the grief, I’m just taken by surprise by the feelings.

Anyway, I thought the long drive to Trenton and the time with her sister might give me a proper setting to begin the process.

The drive was easy. It was raining, which added some great ambiance, but it was rather straight-forward and not a lot of traffic. I got to the funeral home about 15 minutes before the prayer service started. I walked in and spotted my uncle right off the bat, and said hello, and found myself trapped in the polite-family-banter with him, so I wanted to break away from that because that is not my safe place. To experience this with Aunt Loretta the way I felt I needed to, I had to get away from polite smiles and talks about my career. I had to break free, get alone, and have a conversation with her.

After saying hello to her three daughters, I was able to sit down and begin our conversation.

“Hello,” I started. “I’m Sam – Samantha. I’m Pat’s daughter. He was Doris’ son. I don’t know why I’m telling you that – of course you know that. Or you don’t, but it really is irrelevant either way, isn’t it?”
She didn’t respond.

“Well, what should I say to start?” I looked at her face, relaxed, made-up, pretty. Her red cardigan, her delicate hands (well, as delicate as a Schwing’s hands could be, in any degree…) folded over her ribcage. “You look quite beautiful,” I continued. “I’m sorry you’ve died. Although, I’m glad you were able to follow your sisters so closely, and that your daughters are all able to be here with you, and their family with them. I’m here for me, for Memom – you know her as Doris – and for my dad, Pat. I said that. Sitting here with you now, I’m actually not quite sure what I expected, or what I want to say. I guess I’ll start with the truth, because that always seems to work well in the books: I miss my grandmother. I missed her before she died, really. I missed her when I lived across the country from her. I missed her when I lived just across the river from her. I felt guilty for not renting a car and going to spend time with her on the weekends. I was envious of the relationship my cousins had with her, wished that I had that relationship and knew that she would have loved to have that relationship, if only I had spent the time to go and see her. I thought about her all the time, and I still think about her all the time. I see her in everything. And, frankly, I know she would have thought I was an absolute hoot, because, let’s be honest, I’m fantastic.

“I wish I gave her the opportunity to get to know me as the Lady-Woman I am now, and I wish I had to the opportunity to spend more time getting to know her first hand, and not just through the many stories everybody told. I know she was a firecracker, sarcastic, and witty, fiercely intelligent and opinionated. Strong-willed and not one to mess with. Sounds like everything I aspire to be. Anyway, Aunt Loretta, I hear that about most of the Schwing women. I’m sorry I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know you better, either. I’m sorry that I moved away when I was 12 years old and wasn’t able to really be a part of this family, and all I want is to be a part of this family again. I want to be invited and involved, even if it’s for these sad occasions. I want to be here, be accessible, be available. I want to stop being so isolated and independent and learn how to work within a family unit again.

“Because, the truth is, I miss my mom and dad. I miss them now, but I also miss them in the future. I know that, in a few decades, it will be Andrew, Patrick, Erin, and me standing up there in a line, accepting hugs and kisses on the cheeks, listening to stories, and, well, that scares the shit out of me – Sorry, Aunt Loretta. Language – and I saw my dad at his mother’s funeral. I felt what he was feeling. I knew how hard it was for him, knowing he had spent the last 13 years in a state across the country from her, only able to see her, maybe, once a year. I saw what that did to him. I saw how it affected him, and I don’t want that for me. I don’t want to be so far away from my parents. I want to be there, available, accessible. I want to be able to see them all the time, spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas together, because I know better. I know that the thing people regret the most if not spending enough time with the people they love, and I don’t know anything that’s more important than that. They tell me my dreams and my career is more important, but I think all of that will come. Basically, I’m scared, and I can’t figure out what I’m exactly scared of, and until I figure that out, Aunt Loretta, I don’t know how to proceed.

“All I know, really, is that I’m lucky enough to have two parents whom I love more than anything in the world, and who both love me equally – though they’d argue more – and I don’t want to waste that on anything. I’m lucky, and I’m one of few, in that regard — especially since I know it. So, what do you say? Well, nothing, do you, because .. well, you know. … Say hi to Memom for me, will ya? And Pop Pop, because they’ll probably be together, bike riding and catching dragonflies. Have a good trip, Aunt Loretta. We’re all here together.”

I went to sit down a few rows back, with cousin Kathy a couple chairs from me to the right, reciting prayer responses with the rest of the congregation, and I sat there, staring at the microphone fastened to the ceiling – probably normally used to amp the choir, but, in this case, it was pointing directly at Aunt Loretta’s casket, and I almost expected her to stand up and give a speech – contemplating everything I was hearing, trying to get in touch with all the different energies in the room, making eye contact wherever I could, and enjoying the room filled with family because, well, even a Family of strangers is still Family, is it not? And there’s a bond, like a golden thread tying us all together, and when you’re with Family, you’re home.

Goodbye, Aunt Loretta.
Goodbye, Memom.

I love you.

December 2, 2014
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Wanting to be heard.


I had the story brewing in my netherspheres (it’s what I call the back burners of my brain), and it was coming to me like laser tag blasts — BAM BAM ZAP ZIP (ok, pew! pew! pew!), and, naturally, i was in my car on a long drive from Ashland to the bay area on one of my breaks from school. This is the perfect time for the creative juices to flow because then they just spill all over my car and there is no way for me to really write them down. Every once in a while, I would pull over to try to type something up, but as fast as they came, so fast would they go. I tried different approaches — type faster, tell Siri (which was always a disaster, because, well, have you ever tried dictating to Siri? She’s useless. hilarious and entertaining, but completely useless.) Then I tried a voice recorder, only to find out I really had no idea how those worked. Again – the same result, every time: the second I started recording these amazing (so I thought) ideas, they would all go straight out the window. Apparently, my characters only want to be travelling at 80+ miles an hour on a freeway.

But this story is one that I’ve come back to a few times. I’ve written little bits of it – moments, really – conversations, or thoughts, fleeting, like a dream or a memory. The main girl, Emily, has had bits of her story already written down, but they’re so scattered around at this point, that I don’t even know where they are. I don’t know if they’re all the same story, but it’s something I’m willing to investigate. Something I want to discover. So here is this journey — through Meditative Writing, I will find out more about Emily and her former lover/ex-boyfriend/childhood crush (?), Adam – see? i don’t even remember if that’s his name – and we’ll unlock their secrets ….. together.

I’ve actually already shared a bit of their story on here. When she slips and almost falls off a cliff and he shows up to warn her that shit is going down. At that point, I didn’t know what that shit was, but I think I do now, finally.

It’s a beautiful process, finding out your characters’ stories as they do. For it’s my belief that their stories already exist. They’re happening – always happening – living within me, and all they need is for somebody to tell it. Their stories are aching to be told, aching to be heard. Screaming at me – following me around, trapped in my subconscious – trying to break through in dreams and fleeting thoughts.

They’re there. They’re ready. and so am I.

We Just Need Your Birth Certificate


Let me tell you about my day. Let me preface it by saying that I lost my California Driver’s License when I moved from the Upper East Side in Manhattan to Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, and I’ve been venturing around New York City sans ID for the past two months. This is not a safe practice for many reasons.
1. You never know when you may be attacked or murdered, and it is always helpful for law enforcement if you have an ID on you.
2. You never know if you’ll be served in a bar when you go out, so you need to pick your establishments with precise, which generally means you can’t frequent the more uppity of lieux.

So, finally, after much deliberation and a few overnighted FedEx packages from my mother in California, I finally went out to procure a new ID. I’ve been living in New York for a year and three months, so I am long overdue for a state-issued ID card. (after 90 days, you’re considered a resident of New York…) I went on the website, printed the application form, filled it out to perfection, and collected my necessary paperwork to prove identity: Birth Certificate and Social Security Card (thanks, Mom), health insurance card, and bank-issued debit card. The website says I only needed “4” points: 2 pts for my social security card, and one point each for the debit card and health insurance card. The Birth Certificate doesn’t actually hold any point value, but is useful to provide evidence of my birth – which is just ridiculous because look at me: I’m here; I’ve been born. And before any of you throw out that it’s proving that I was born in this country, halt! Because it’s not! They don’t care if you were born in this country or not.

Anyway, so all my paperwork neatly stacked, clipped, and stowed, I went to the DMV in Midtown Manhattan. I walk in and announce my business to the bored-looking man near the information kiosk.
“You need six points.” he says with a drawl.
“The website said four.” Me.
“You need six,” he repeats.
Then he starts listing off other options, and when he gets to “pay stub” and “credit card,” I say “YES! I HAVE THOSE! Thank you! See you tomorrow!”
And I run out of there and text my mother immediately to recount my failure.
“Why don’t you renew your passport?” She texts. “You can fly with that.”
“Where do you get a passport?” I text back, passing the beautiful monstrosity that is the New York Post Office.
“The Post Office.” Her.
“PERFECT!” and I run inside.

The colossal foyer of the New York Post Office is marble and echoing. It feels so regal with its gold bars at the teller windows, its impressive American Flags hanging at each end, and the seal of the State of New York in the center on the ground. I wait in line with a few impatient customers, dancing to and fro, tapping their feet and fingers on their packages. After 20 minutes, I approach the bench when called and ask “How do I get a passport?” The guy directs me to the opposite end of the long, narrow foyer, where I find a young guy at a podium.

After a series of seemingly non-sequitur questions, he gives me a few forms to fill out and lets me know he’ll be available to help me when I’m done. Ten minutes later, having finished my forms, I look around me for this young guy, and he’s nowhere in sight. I walk up and down along the closed windows in the passport section, walk out into the foyer, walk back into the passport section, trying to peer through any cracks in the windows. Nothing. Nobody.

After a few passes stalking around, looking for anyone who could possibly help me, a slightly older gentleman surfaces from a door in the passport section. He comes up to me and asks me if I’ve been helped. I affirm and proceed to explain my situation again. He was very accommodating and helpful. He offered to copy my paperwork (for $0.50/ea) and looked through everything to be sure I have all the information I need. He then asked for my picture ID, at which point I explained that I didn’t have one, and that is precisely why I’m here looking for a passport. He told me that’s no problem, I just need somebody to come down and sign witness to my existence – somebody who has known me for two years. I chuckle to myself at the absurdity of that, and call my roommate and ask him if he can make it down here before work at 5pm. He obliges, kind guy that he is.

Once he arrives, I try to get somebody’s attention again, because – once again – the podium attendant, my dear older friend who was so helpful, has disappeared. I catch a middle-aged woman with a caribbean accent behind the window where the camera is. I ask her if the attendant can come back out – I’m in need of assistance. She says someone will be right out. I say “We’re in a slight hurry.”
“Yes, ma’am, someone will be right out,” she repeats, same tone.
“Terrific.” Brandon and I walk back to the podium and wait.

And wait.
And wait.

We help two other people who are looking for the passport center.
“Yes, it’s right here.”
“No, ma’am. behind us, please. we’re in line.’
“Ah, ok.”
“Yes, sir. It’s right here.”

And we wait.

Finally that same Caribbean woman of small stature comes waddling out and sits down at the podium.
“How may I help you?”
“Well, I was being helped by two of your colleagues. They know that’s going on. Are they back there?”
“Okay. Well I’m trying to get a new passport – and I don’t have a photo ID, so I have my friend here to give witness. He just needs to sign the witness form so he can go.”
“No, ma’am. What do you have? Show me what you have.”
“Yes, here it is. I have the application form, my birth certificate, and my friend here to sign the witness form –”
“Ma’am, you’re reporting your passport as lost.”
“Yes, I am. I don’t have my old, expired passport, and don’t know where it is. So your colleague said I should report it stolen first, and then apply for a new passport.”
“Do you have your pictures?”
“Yes, ma’am, your colleague took my picture.”
“You have to have your pictures.”
“Right. your colleague took my picture about 30 minutes ago.”
“You have to make copies of these papers.”
“Yes, your colleague did that — really, ma’am, your colleague already knows my case, it would be easier if you could just find him, please, and you can help the people behind me.”
“No, ma’am.”
“I’m sorry?”
“I need a photo ID.”
“As I explained to the two gentlemen who helped me before you, I don’t have one. My roommate is here to give witness to my existence.”
“I still need a form of ID with a picture.”
“Ma’am, I explained to your colleagues that I don’t have one. That’s why I’m here. To get one. I have other forms of ID iwth no picture. My health insurance card, credit cards, bank cards, bank statements…” and I lay out all those forms.
“No, ma’am. I need a form of ID with your picture.”
“I’m sorry; I just don’t have one.”
“High school ID –”
“Don’t have one.”
“College ID with your picture–”
“Don’t have that, either.”
“Driver’s license–”
“I really don’t have an ID with a picture of it.”
“Ma’am, I need –”
“I understand that you need that,” I say, my patience wearing thin. “Your colleagues said all I needed was my roommate-” I point to Brandon “-to testify my continued existence.” People are starting to stare.
“Ma’am–” She began again, shaking her head.
“Oh! You have my expired passport on record! My picture is on that. Use that!”
“We don’t have that.”
“You have my passport on record,” I say, a bit bitingly, my patience wearing more and more thin as the moments pass on, my ears getting hot.
“At the state department, ma’am.”
“My mom has a picture of my passport! If she texts me the picture, can I just show that to you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” (!!!) Terrific!

I step aside with Brandon to let the people behind me get some help. I text my mom with a few profanities and a lot of angst, and she responds very quickly with two pictures of my passport book, opened to my information page.

I then step forward again and wait for the current customer to finish with her business. After many questions that had nothing to do with passports, I slide my phone under the attendant’s nose. “Here!” I say, triumphantly.
“Terrific,” she says, with a smile. “Now go across the street to Kinko’s and print it.”

And I leave.

My Life in Craft Services


Idea for a new book, developed via conversation with a lovely lady with whom I work. Or maybe a blog, on its own … called “My Life in Craft Services”. First entry: “‘-Ey! You want a meatball?” ….

It was a normal day in the west village, a bit brisk, but we were outside on the stoop, taking a little peanut butter and jelly break, and we noticed a drool-worthy smell wafting from a tin truck parked in front of the church, and, both of us having worked on a film set before, we recognized it immediately: Catering at Crafty! Oohh, how scrumptious the scents, how penetrating — we were both Buggs Bunny, floating along the current of cooking meats and roasting vegetables.

This started a spattering of stories between us — that one time she was on set for Stuart Little, the other time I was on set for a few of the projects I’ve worked on, and then we moved on to my first few months in New York, when I was traveling among different film sets, asking people if they needed a hand.

“Did you actually get work?”

She and her crew couldn’t believe it. (to be honest, neither could I, really, but there you have it.)

So, that led to us riffing about how to score four breakfast burritos from the cart tomorrow morning. We landed with dressing up our second carpenter in my tool belt, equipping him with my gaff tape, a radio in his ear, and a big ring of keys. For anybody who actually works on set, it’s sort of amusing to make a caricature out of a gaffer or an AD. We were throwing out things for him to say — we’d have to find out which TV show was filming down the street, then have him go up to the chef and start making small talk. “Chilly weather we’re having, huh? Freaking Crazy. Those poor guys are on fire watch and I’m sent over to grab ’em some breakfast burritos. BUt, let’s be real, a little fire would totally toast us up! Lucky you, in that oven of a tin truck!” and, then, come back with four breakfast burritos and extra guac, and four coffees …….

So that’s the idea for my next book. I’m going to go around to different shoots and eat only from craft services. How does that sound to you??

Laptop: my girlfriend.


It’s remarkable, the relationship between a human and his technology. Our phones, tablets, and laptops become like friends to us: able to console, entertain, and betray. They can frustrate us, stand us up, and even completely blow us off, and, just like any of our close friends, when betrayal strikes, trust is lost.

I’ve had my laptop since my sophomore year of college – I’ll let you guess how long ago that was; a lady never tells her age – and she has been on quite a few adventures with me. She was there for me during every lecture, through every paper I handed in (late), six seasons of Lost, seven seasons of Boy Meets World, and eight seasons of Doctor Who. She was my companion when I began my journey as a writer, ditching five paragraph essays for quirky poems and short stories and even the odd screenplay. Now, I have a Mac, so I’ve never had the constant fear of my computer crashing, getting sick, or going crazy. She was reliable and unwavering in her loyalty to me.

And then she crashed.

I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was one spreadsheet too many, but suddenly, my screen froze, I got the pinwheel of death and everything went black. She woke up after a few agonizing minutes, asking if I would like to send crash reports. No. No crash reports, I thought, solemnly. Nothing can make up for this level of betrayal. For, she didn’t crash in the middle of an episode. She didn’t crash while I was about to Complete Check Out on Amazon. She crashed when I was twenty pages in on a Meditative Writing stint I’d been on for two hours.

“What an idiot you are for not saving, if you’re writing for that long!” you may say. Well, I say that, too, but when you’re “meditative writing,” the point is, you’re not thinking about saving your work, getting up to pee, or grabbing a glass of water. You’re thinking about writing. only writing. non-stop writing. stream of consciousness. The only rules in Meditative Writing are 1. Tell the Truth and 2. Don’t Stop Writing. So, she crashed.

If you know anything about Macs, you know that this incident is not the end of the world because, most of the time, the product is saved or recoverable. Yes, it is, but though this was not the end of the world, it was absolutely the end of our relationship. I had no choice but to break up with my laptop after that. The trust was lost. gone. forever. irreparable. We tried to make it work for a few weeks, but the trust couldn’t be built back. I was saving my work every five minutes, thus interrupting my meditation, blocking me.

So I got an iPad.

My laptop is still here. She’s still in the picture, and I use her for my other work. Spreadsheets, bookkeeping, as a DVD player, but that’s it. Nothing more than a booty call.

in the works


I have quite a few books “in the works”. It’s quite a boastful sentence, that one, but the truth is, “in the works” Just means “in my head.” To be quite frank, it just means “I’ve thought of a cool title and maybe a premise. ”

People ask me what I do for a living, and my favorite thing to tell them is “I’m am writer,” because their head is suddenly filled with fanciful pictures of me sitting in gardens or coffee shops with my laptop – or typewriter because I’m that kind of cool – at book signings, having meetings with agents. Close friends have fantasies about my books becoming the next Harry Potter or Divergent series. When, honestly, I’m sitting on a plane with my wireless keyboard hooked against my iPad, two and a half hours into the flight with absolutely nothing to write. You’d think that being stuck in a one-meter-by-two-meter prison-of-an-airplane-seat is enough to motivate a writer to buckle down and “just write already!” … apparently, that’s not the case.

I’m just forced to watch stupid television on a minuscule screen, stare out the window at turbulent clouds, and try my best to steady my rapid breath – I’m not anxious, I swear. I’m pretty sure there is low oxygen in the cabin. Ok, maybe not – don’t want to panic anybody. (are you panicking??).

Anyway, so what do I do for a living? I fantasize about gardens, coffee shops, quaint little cottages in the meadows, mountain homes overlooking a foggy bluff (I think the word I’m looking for is “chalet”), meditative retreats, and more English breakfast tea than a woman should drink. I fantasize about a healthy, smart pup as a trusty companion, a cat who knows better than to sit on my keyboard (let’s be real – I wouldn’t mind.) and an agent who calls me every few days to be sure I’m doing okay and to ask for the pages I’ve been owing her, long overdue, because…aren’t they always?

I fantasize about a life where I can get rid of my smart phone and go back to my LG flip phone – do away with the e-mails at my fingertips, the incessant need for technological organization. I won’t need to worry about four schedules or syncing my iTunes or having enough storage for the latest update. I’ll have a few important phone numbers memorized, a heavy and comfortable rotary house phone (the phone is rotary, not the house), and an iPad and Apple TV for entertainment. I’ll lock myself away for the weekend and write and write and write, take walks, drink tea, feed the dog, sleep on the daybed, wake up with the sunrise, and not check my phone. not check my emails. not check my calendar.

So, here’s to the four books that are “in the works.”

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