The Singer in Customer Service

Oh, man. I was just on the phone with a customer service representative who had to put me on hold to get some information for me. A version of “Midnight Train to Georgia” came on that I had never heard. Not the usual on-hold music, it was an acapella cover with a fantastic singer singing the Gladys Knight part (there was no one singing the Pips’ backup) and I quickly realized that I was listening to someone actually singing on the phone, it wasn’t piped-in music.

When she came back I asked if that was her singing. There was a long pause and she said, “I put you on hold,” but she obviously didn’t, and she was singing to herself while she was looking up the info.

Her: “I’m so sorry. I really thought I put you on hold. I’m not supposed to sing at work.”

Me: “Oh My God, you have a fabulous voice. That was thrilling.”

Her: “What? Are you kidding?” (She starts laughing.)

Me: “No, you should be singing. I want a copy of your version of Midnight Train to Georgia.”

She starts laughing hysterically.

Her: “You know that song? My mother played that for me when I was a kid. She loved that song.”

(Ah, I realize I’m probably her mother’s age. Midnight Train to Georgia came was out in the mid-’70s, when I was in high school.)

Her: “I can’t believe this. My boyfriend says I should try out for ‘The Voice’ but I’m too busy with work. That’s all I ever wanted to do, anyway. Sing. Umm, okay, I have your information. I don’t want to get in trouble.”

She didn’t want to get in trouble for singing. When I was a kid my mother had to go to up to my school for a meeting, more than once, because I was singing in class (to myself) and the teacher said it was disruptive. But I had a mother who wouldn’t let anyone shush me. My mother never told me to stop singing, even in school. Instead, she took me to voice lessons.

Me: “I don’t care about the info, I can get it later. Could you sing Midnight Train to Georgia one more time?”


Her: “Really?”

Me: “Yes!”

Her: (laughing) “Oh My God.”

And then she sang the entire Midnight Train to Georgia and I’ll tell you right now that if she goes on The Voice or any of those other you’ve-got-talent shows she’ll move to the top because she’s incredible. A husky, soulful voice with perfect pitch (even without music) and an emotional connection to what leaving LA means to go home to Georgia because the guy she loves didn’t make it in the big city. “I’d rather live in his world than live without him in mine.” All heart. All talent.

I told her I love her voice, I urged her to find a way to audition for that show, and we talked briefly about how short the window is and that the dream is the dream and then my signal died and I lost her. I didn’t even get her name.

Don’t let anyone tell you to stop singing, to stop doing anything that brings you bliss. There’s one window in your one life to do it. Find a way, if you possibly can. Chase the dream.

So I dedicate today to the singer at customer service whose name I didn’t get, and who thought she put me on hold but didn’t, and who ended up being the gift in my day.

One life.

Waking Up In Hawaii

Waking up in Hawaii

Waking Up in Hawaii

Yes, Hawaii woke me up.

I left my happy New York life to move to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away from anyone I knew and everything I loved, and I was fine. Better than fine.

It’s not only about place, I learned… it’s the tapestry we weave wherever we land. I discovered, in Hawaii, that the weaving can be rich and complex with new colors, maybe even more vibrant than colors I had experienced before, if I said yes to the work of creating. If I said yes to putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, not focusing on what was left behind.

Not long after moving here I discovered that I had lung cancer. Instead of dying I woke up. That is, in part, because this place, the place nicknamed the “healing island,” held me in its black lava arms and rocked me back to health. That embrace was a deep healing. But there was more. Joseph Canpbell’s words, “Follow your bliss” became a reality… this was something I said to my daughter so many times in her life that she recently told me she wants it tattooed on her arm in my handwriting. I agreed and said that I would do the same, in her handwriting.

Since then, life after cancer has been all about waking up. Waking up to what I eat and a commitment to macrobiotics. Eating food I could grow, if I grew food. Luckily there are local organic farmers who do just that. I don’t eat meat or dairy. No processed sugar. No hard alcohol. And I feel good. I feel fit and I’m leaner than I was when I moved here. I sleep less because my body’s not digesting food all night. I’m literally awake.

Finding artistic collaborators whose work thrills me and creating with them — that came out of waking up in Hawaii. And that work had to be NOW; there would be no concession to later. Looking cancer in the eye is the loudest wakeup call and the reason that now happens before it used to.

Hawaii woke me up and the words took on much greater importance. And then people, mostly women, started walking into rooms and writing words based on prompts I create. And the words are hard and deep and funny and poignant and urgent and, for me, they’re everything. And then we all wake up, all of us, because we’re writing our truth and listening to others’ truths in this process I think of as mining for stories. Someone recently called it an excavation, this digging for our stories. I agree. But I associate mining with gold, and to me the stories are worth everything. So I’ll say mining.

There are stages to sing on and I do, with gratitude beyond words for a voice that can produce sound that people seem to want to listen to, and there are others to move around on a stage, which brings such pleasure to me and hopefully to the people who come to watch the shows I direct. And there was a theatre to rescue and I was part of that. A point of pride.

There were also two children to raise and that work is done. Off they go, this week, to college and grad school… one 2,500 miles away from Hawaii and the other 7,500 miles away. And now there will be Hawaii without them and waking up, even in the morning, will mean something else.

We wake up constantly until the day we no longer wake up. But it takes work and a conscious decision to live an awake life. I owe a lot to this island — the scene of this awakening.

And this site is where I’ll share what I do.

Seattle Layover

At the Seattle Airport yesterday, on a layover, coming back to Hawai’i. A little girl was walking around a Starbucks. Maybe 3 or 4 years old. An older, rather conservative-looking woman, behind me in line, asked the girl where her mommy was, obviously thinking she was wandering around alone. (She wasn’t – her parents were right there in line, watching her.) The girl said, “I don’t have a mommy. I have two daddies.” The woman’s response: “Lucky You.”

And that’s how things have changed. One of her dads swooped her up, seeing she was talking to a stranger, and took her back to the line. He didn’t hear the conversation, but I did. And while “Where’s your mommy?” isn’t a great question as it assumes a lot, the response was great. 

“Lucky you.”

The world now. Better.

My boy… a moment at the beach.

And then your son’s head shows up in this picture. Just his head, with his body buried in the sand, on a day he was in Hawaii last month with his childhood friends, before he had to leave to go back to college sooner than you wanted him to. Your son who turned twenty-one earlier this month but still likes to play, like this, and after you stop laughing you realize that you hope he never loses that sense of play because he works really hard… often seems to take on too much… and looking at this, this photo that fills you with love for your boy, both of your children’s lives flash in front of your eyes… did they have good childhoods, did you give them everything they needed to survive in the world? Especially in the world, now. And then you think about the joy of being buried up to your neck in the sand, and how happy he is here, something simple, even silly, like this, and somehow captured in a picture, and you have the strong sense, at least in this moment, that all is well. For today, it is.

A Circle Of Women

Something extraordinary at LAX today… (writing this on the plane). I was at the gate, waiting to get on my plane to Portland. Flights to two different cities were boarding on either side of the Portland fight. A toddler who looked to be eighteen or so months old was having a total meltdown, running between the seats, kicking and screaming, then lying on the ground, refusing to board the plane (which was not going to Portland). His young mom, who was clearly pregnant and traveling alone with her son, became completely overwhelmed… she couldn’t pick him up because he was so upset, he kept running away from her, then lying down on the ground, kicking and screaming again. The mother finally sat down on the floor and put her head in her hands, with her kid next to her still having a meltdown, and started crying.

Then, this gorgeous thing (I’m crying just writing this)… the women in the terminal, there must have been six or seven of us, not women who knew each other, approached and surrounded her and the little boy and we knelt down and formed a circle around them. I sang “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” to the little boy… one woman had an orange that she peeled, one woman had a little toy in her bag that she let the toddler play with, another woman gave the mom a bottle of water. Someone else helped the mom get the kid’s sippy cup out of her bag and give it to him. It was so gorgeous, there was no discussion and no one knew anyone else, but we were able to calm them both down, and she got her child on the plane.

Only women approached. After they went through the door we all went back to our separate seats and didn’t talk about it… we were strangers, gathering to solve something. It occurred to me that a circle of women, with a mission, can save the world.

I will never forget that moment.



I learned something on Friday, on my way from LA to Portland. We’re so hungry for kindness right now that a simple sharing of my airport experience… some of us surrounding a mother and child who needed help… has been spoken back to me in a way that has really taken me by surprise. I’m deeply humbled that 10 thousand people shared my post and 35 thousand people liked it. Thank you for all the eyes on that story. I’m going to move forward knowing that kindness, that gathering to solve something for another human being, makes all the difference… is an antidote to the chaos we’ve been experiencing. And on that day it began with the women.



Staying on the Wave

Winthrop. MA on the beach wall.

When you meet me I wonder if you notice that I am new. I am something other than I was, someone other than I was in this room before. The last time it was leaving. I was leaving this room and starting again – in a new place. With different colors and smells and ocean. Even a different ocean.

As a girl I sat on the beach wall above the gray/slate blue Atlantic. Cold. Enormous expanse of that color. And the jetties… unforgiving.

“Don’t go out on the jetties, Bethy!” my father warned me. “That’s where so and so drowned. You can never anticipate the undertow. Not in Boston. Not from the jetties…”

So I sat on that wall: neutral-colored, crumbling, graffiti-covered, “Dana & Dominick 4 eva,” and I watched the jetties, imagining a young person, a kid, like me, going out on a dare and getting sucked under. Instantly. Without a chance to remember or regret what they might have become had they not made that choice. Walking barefoot over sharp shells and disintegrated sea urchins, before the wave swept them away.

I knew, sitting on that wall, that I had drowned in a past life. Images of a boat with sails traveling from somewhere, Eastern Europe maybe, or Africa? I experienced that sensation of drowning, being engulfed by that gray/slate blue cold Atlantic. Quietly, with no one looking or sometimes not quietly, holding on to a piece of driftwood or the remnant of a sail, torn in the going down.

The act of going down.

Not as quick as the undertow of the jetty, but quick enough. Being engulfed, lungs filling with salt and cold, and of course, water.

That’s what I imagined at eleven or twelve, sitting on my private wall in Winthrop, wondering how long the Atlantic would let me live, would spare me that.

And then I left. To the Pacific. Turquoise, aqua, black and green sand beaches, or white – not gray. Rich, vibrant and even stronger, louder than the Atlantic. No Jetties but waves, big waves that can wash me onto the shore, on a boogie board probably meant for someone younger. But I need that ride, that thrill, for ten seconds, or thirty. Especially now. Holding my son’s hand as he instructs me on the art of staying on the wave.

“Mom! Turn around… here it comes, go! Go now mom! Don’t miss it!”

I ride in on that wave with my son and his friend Brian or Casey or Andrew. I am the mom on the boogie board, trying to eek out more time. Trying to ride over what happened. Trying to stay with my boy before the Hapuna Beach waves – angry in winter, unpredictable – before they pull us apart and I am pushing against the current to get back to my son.

“Sean! You’re too close to the rock!” I call out. But he doesn’t hear me and I am there again. A girl on a wall. 
Imagining going under. Salt in the lungs, water, disappearing – although this time it’s my son, not me, whom I can’t save.

But this is my fantasy, my illusion. And there he is, of course, throwing himself on the board as he and his friend Brian or Casey or Andrew try to outdo each other, to get on the wave first, to make it all the way to the sand.

This is where I was going when I was last in this room. To those waters. And I am here now…no ocean today, but again gray/slate/cold. And I am new. Different. Changed. Can you see that when you meet me? Do you know who I was before?

With that journey came new dangers, new falls, a new kind of drowning, but not one that I imagined, not even a little. Not one that my dad could have warned me about as I sat on that wall back then, contemplating my demise.

“Don’t go out on the jetties, Bethy! You’ll get sucked under…”

Not anything I could have imagined.

But here I am. Returned. New wings. My elbows are wings, you said. Yes. I can imagine that. I wear wings on my neck. A phoenix, given to me by Silvia, a survivor. A new Silvia, from this ocean.

“The phoenix rose again,” she said, when she put it in my hand. “I never take mine off,” she said.

Do you see that about me when you meet me? Maybe not. But it’s there. Under my scarf, against my neck. Ready for flight. To rise above the slate blue gray the turquoise black and green. To start again.

To be new.


A Deeper Returning

Rosh Hashanah services in Hawaii… the Barchu, Shema, Amidah, Aleinu… there was such a sense of going home with these prayers, these prayers I’ve been reciting almost my whole life. I’m nine, at Temple Tifereth Israel in Winthrop, Massachusetts. My hometown. One of a very small group of kids from my mostly Irish and Italian neighborhood who walk to the temple after school, twice a week, to attend Hebrew School.  Once there, short, chubby, bespectacled Mr. Zippor greets us at the door to his classroom and takes our hand, kissing his own hand as he says, in his heavily accented English, “I kiss your hand!”

We start our lesson laughing. My Bat Mitzvah will take place just a few years later, in 1971, so I have to learn how to read this language that’s read backwards, with letters and symbols that have nothing to do with the language I’ve been speaking my whole life, and even less to do with the language of my Irish and Italian friends on the block. But I pay attention… I learn it… the language, the meaning of the prayers, and in three years will I stand on the bima and read from the Torah, something my mother and my grandmother didn’t get to do because back then that honor was reserved for boys, and even my Bat Mitzvah would not be as elaborate as my brother’s Bar Mitzvah five years later, but three decades after that my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, at Barnert Temple in New Jersey, followed by a party on a big boat that took us around NYC, was every bit as significant and grand as my son’s Hawaii Bar Mitzvah would later be. It’s 1996. Twenty-five years after my Bat Mitzvah. I’m at a High Holiday service at Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. We just joined this synagogue, located right outside NYC, and there’s a community of people I’m meeting through gathering in this beautiful house of worship with the sharing of the prayers. The chants. For me it’s not about organized religion… it’s about community and DNA and it feels ancient; it doesn’t matter if we came there from Israel or Boston or New York City or Eastern Europe or anywhere else… The Barchu, Shema, Amidah, Aleinu… the prayers that resonate for me on Rosh Hashanah, we all know them. It’s a collective language we speak, one I learned at a young age when My Zippor sat our class down in front of a chalkboard in a classroom of a small temple in a mostly non-Jewish community in Massachusetts, and he taught us the Hebrew alphabet. That’s where we started. Fast forward to today, to 2016.

Twenty years after being a young mom at Barnert Temple in New Jersey… after walking into that congregation not knowing anyone and leaving, ten years later, deeply entrenched in that community. I’m in Hawaii now. There’s no synagogue on this island; we’re the wandering Jews having services wherever there’s an available space, but then someone donates a two-room office space in one of the resorts and we gather there, and it’s ours. It’s not beautiful… there’s a low ceiling with florescent lighting and no stained glass and the chairs are folding chairs, none of the lovely wooden rows of seats found in other temples, but there is the magnificent rescued and restored Torah from a synagogue in Czechoslovakia, and because of this sacred scroll this office space becomes a temple, and I’m there after having not been there in a long time because my kids are grown and gone, and I’m thinking about all this when the service begins. I know the prayers. I’ve always known the prayers. I don’t even need the book but I read it anyway, in Hebrew, not the English transliteration, because I remember how to read that language — the one I learned as a kid when I wanted to be playing on the street with my friends who didn’t have to go to Hebrew School, and the words of these prayers roll off my lips, along with everyone else, and at this service there’s a fiddle playing… the distinct mournful sound of that instrument, so much more insistent from the gentler violin, even though it’s physically the same instrument… and suddenly I’m even further back, before Hawaii and New Jersey and Winthrop — it’s the late 1880’s in Riga, Russia, where my great grandparents and their parents lived and gathered to pray.

Riga, a place I’ve never been and a place my family eventually had to escape when Jews were no longer welcome to live in their own homes, when Jews were being rounded up and forbidden to gather… to pray… and finally sent away on trains to nowhere during the unbearable time of the Holocaust — but on this day, October 2nd, 2016, the first day of Rosh Hashanah in the Jewish year of 5777, as the fiddle plays, I’m with all of them — my ancestors, my beloved grandmother, long gone now, and all the Jews gathering around the world as we recite the same prayers… the Barchu, Shema, Amidah, Aleinu… and I remember that through the passing down of the prayers, all of these years,  we are connected through language and community and story and the act of gathering to worship. And I realize, at that moment, that this is one oftorah the deepest forms of going home.

Pele: Reclaiming the Land

In Hawaii, one year ago, the Fire Goddess Pele spoke loudly, demanding to be heard. Pele reminded us of her power as molten lava made an agonizingly slow journey towards Pahoa… into Pahoa. Poor unassuming Pahoa, that just wanted to be left alone, clearly wanted to be left alone, in the middle of nowhere, on an already remote island. Pahoa… a place of locals, hippies, Hawaiians, real Hawaiians, not transplanted mainlanders likes me. Authentic off-the-beaten-path Pahoans, who found themselves on World News Tonight because Pele decided to take back the land and Pahoa was in the way. And it was nothing against Pahoa itself, of course it wasn’t. The Pahoans claimed they were honored that Pele chose them… set her black coal eyes on them. They welcomed the Goddess of Fire; they relinquished their property, their homes, and their schools to her. Through tears, they gave it all back. They said it on the local news, at town meetings, and on CNN. They gave it all back to the Goddess.

“Let’s divert the lava!!” a politician said at a town meeting back then. “Let’s divert its course. Protect Pahoa! Save Pahoa!”

Ironically it was the Pahoans themselves who said no to this plan, this ridiculous notion that one can try to divert or at all control the flow of lava… lava that crept across fields and roads on its slow journey towards Pahoa, broke down fences, entered homes… the lava — an invader, wanting only to make itself known. It was in no rush, no rush at all. It took 123 days for the lava to make its way into a private property.

“The lava has entered its first dwelling” someone who was there said. “Pray for us. Pray for Pahoa. Pray for Pele to go around us.”

But only Pele herself that make that decision. To burn or spare. To salvage or decimate. We all watched the trajectory of the lava. We watched it crawl on its black hands and knees, destroying everything in its path, turning green into ash, pouring toxic fumes into our already VOG-filled air, creating a sideshow that became a national spectacle. And there was nothing anyone could do to stop it, divert it, or contain it. Pele was taking back the land, beginning with a place where she is honored – the ultimate form of control. She was not attacking outsiders – the resorts or the multi-million dollar homes of Hualalai… no, she began with her own people, those who offered themselves to her, their Goddess.

So we watched, helpless, as Pele rolled through, reminding us that this is how Hawaii began. With lava. Black Sand. Volcanic eruption. A Goddess and her sister, battling for a place to land, and Pele, victorious, chose the Big Island. Pele set her sights on OUR island, and maybe we’ve been negligent, maybe we stopped caring or honoring, maybe we turned our back on an old woman on the street, an old woman asking for assistance of some sort… a sandwich, a few pennies, shelter. They say that Pele appears to us in the form of an elder. Do not turn your back when she comes to you, do not say no, and most definitively, do NOT walk by, ignoring her. Ah, but that’s another story, for later. The story of Pele in disguise…

And so, a year ago today, on the Big Island of Hawaii, Pele, The Volcano Goddess, reclaimed the land, returning it, or at least as much of it as she wanted, to what it once was… restructuring, destroying, recreating it in her own image. Of course, we must destroy to break down. It was biblical, it was from past lifetimes, it was familiar in its fierceness; it was the Mother’s voice – Medea – sacrificing her children so that Jason’s betrayal of her would be avenged.

I live on an island that periodically destroys itself to be reborn in the image of its Goddess. The Goddess of fire. Reborn, this last time, at the expense of a small town called Pahoa, an innocent whose only crime was that it sat itself down in the path of Pele and her volcano. And Pele doesn’t have companions.

Now, we can only stand back, in awe of lava and fire, of Goddesses who were maybe ignored or passed over or not honored. We can only stand back and let Pele take what she feels is rightfully hers, as we witness the ultimate power of The Feminine, the power of a Goddess who gives… and takes back. We can only stand back and witness, with deepest reverence, the power of Pele.















Going Home to Write

My parents lived in the same modest brick house in Winthrop Massachusetts, just outside Boston, for over fifty years. Now they live in Houston. It’s a new thing, Houston… Texas.

Next weekend, I’m going to lead two writers’ workshops for women around the corner — literally a two-minute walk — from the house where I grew up. The house I could return to, until last year, because it was mine. Ours. Now it belongs to another family. A family just starting out. I’ll be around the corner from my childhood, from the place of all my firsts; from the place I went, seven years ago, to recover from surgery for cancer, the adult child of my parents, recovering in the room of my childhood. The video of Rena, Iva, and our group of Emerson College friends was taken there, in 1981, before we headed into our separate lives, when Rena was still a girl, laughing. It’s a place of magic, of playing in suburban streets until long after dark, back when kids did that sort of thing without parents watching — our gang of scrappy Irish and Italian kids, and me, the token Jew. A place so alive for me I can barely walk down the street without falling into the euphoria of a first kiss; of running home from Lisa’s Brooks’ house, fast, fast, in the dark; of climbing onto the low roof of the red one-car detached garage, my hidden place under a weeping willow, to write in my diary… the one with the tiny gold lock and key, kept in a secret drawer; memories of piano lessons with bald Mr. Greslin, two houses up the hill; and my love affair with the slate gray/blue Atlantic Ocean, my first ocean, across the street and visible from my bedroom window, an object of longing; and my beloved Nana and Papa, both gone now — her four years, him forty-four — and the first day of school all those years, every first day, new clothes spread out on the bed, sometimes bright red clothes, accenting the fact that I was red, and yes the kids would circle around me chanting, “Red is dead, red is dead, we won’t play with you,” so there was also that, but later there was theater and all those musicals and suddenly red hair was a cause for celebration, not shame; and there was Marylou Cronin, the young girl who was murdered by her mother’s boyfriend back then, and when I came home from camp, and Marylou was still missing, Gloria told me she was hiding under my bed… I looked for her for years under that bed, even after they found her body in separate black garbage bags, under his porch… she’s part of that time too, the tragic lost girl from fourth grade, discarded like trash… and years of Hebrew School and a Bat Mitzvah, back when it wasn’t as important for a girl as a boy, and I could only have a dessert party, not the whole dinner thing my brother had later; and Howie Brooks’ wallet-sized school picture tucked under my pillow in sixth grade when he still had braces and wore a red and blue plaid cotton shirt; and the Monkees the Beatles the Partridge Family and Bobby Sherman, all that early music, 1971, ’72, black lights and BBG parties, stolen kisses with boys on Back Beach, and a cement beach wall, down a steep set of rickety wooden steps, where I could sit above the ocean, alone, dreaming of what life would bring, never imagining that I would end up in Hawaii, 5,000 miles away from this place I could always return to, later: this place of joy, of all those firsts, of my young beautiful parents and my little brother, back then… a house filled with love and memory a house that is no longer mine.

I’ll be writing around the corner from my childhood in five days with all of that swirling around me. It just worked out that way, that this is the space I got. It’s a wonderful bright room overlooking the ocean (the weekend after that we’ll be writing in a theater in Boston), and I’ve never written in a place so filled up, so loaded with history… my history. It could be extraordinary. I wonder if I’ll be able to breathe. The thought both thrills and terrifies me. Going home to write.




I woke up on a table, unable to breathe. There was a man, a Chinese man, Dr. Wong, a radiologist, ordering me, almost begging me to take in air, but I had forgotten how. I had never experienced pain like this, the pain of an organ suddenly missing; an organ taken, removed, cut out: my lung, the upper left lobe gone, and I woke up on a metal table and breathing was not a thing I knew how to do.

Panic. Memories of drowning, my belief that I had drowned in a past life, a ship with sails that went down; memory of an actual event: 1971, Mindy Solomon. I was eleven. Jewish sleepaway camp, pools, lifeguards; prepubescent girls who couldn’t see straight we were so alive with the sudden discovery of desire and the boys across the field, midnight bunk raids and stolen kisses. A secret stolen kiss with Bobby Savage in a bowling alley. My first kiss. A tongue in my mouth… magical rush of desire, passion, heartbeat; a cute blond-haired blue-eyed Ashkenazi Jewish boy’s tongue in my mouth.

In the pool that day, Mindy Solomon, all chubby Marblehead privileged Jewess, all wound up from her own first kiss with another boy, a dark haired Sephardic Jewish boy named Lawrence, not Savage and Sweet and blond-haired-blue-eyed like my Ashkenazi Bobby, my first-kiss Bobby — Lawrence: braces, awkward, acne; still, he kissed her and she felt all I felt… rush of desire, passion, heartbeat, and so it didn’t matter that she couldn’t swim when she jumped into the pool on that day. I had dared her and I promised to save her if she started to drown and when she did start to drown, I offered myself as a life raft and she climbed on, grasping for something, anything to buoy her up; she was bigger and more desperate, and then there was all that privilege.

So that on day in 1971, at Camp Litchaven in Southern New Hampshire, James Taylor blasting in the background and other girls stealing first time kisses behind colorful cabanas, Mindy Solomon, not intentionally, not REALLY intentionally, almost drowned me.

What I remember next is the lifeguard, an older man, a counselor: bald, distracted, he had been falling asleep in that high chair, he dove in and saved me, finally, pulled her off me and dragged me out of the pool, resuscitated me, brought me back to life with, “BREATHE!”

September, 2008.

I woke up on a table; I had forgotten how to breathe. Dr. Wong was standing over me, looking panicked. I couldn’t possibly be his first patient who didn’t know how to take in air with part their lung cut out, and after remembering drowning and before anything else, even before before I thought about what it would mean to my children to maybe grow up without a mother—-my son only ten, and my daughter fifteen—-what I thought about first was Paris.

That I would never see Paris.

So here I was, not yet knowing if this cancer that had taken part of my lung had spread, had made its way into my lymph nodes and bones; not yet knowing if the phone call to my children, the children I had just moved to Hawaii a year before, would be one of goodbye, of I am sorry to leave so soon, of please get on a plane to Boston, please make that 5,000 mile trip to see me again, one more time. See, cancer is that kind of thief, and this cancer, this shocking and most unexpected cancer in this lung, now taken/removed/cut-out, it crawled into my bed at night while I was asleep, an uninvited and unwelcome adversary, and now I am on a metal table, and breathing is a memory.

Mindy Solomon and stolen kisses with Bobby Savage back then, raiding boys’ bunks and the hot summer sun of 1971 sleepaway camp in southern New Hampshire, and all that would be ahead, desire-passion-heartbeat, and now Dr. Wong ordering me to BREATHE!, but I can’t; and in that nanosecond between my life flashing before my eyes and that first breath… the second first breath of my life… that excruciating, impossible, deeply sad yet ecstatic first breath that came with the possibility of rebirth, reawakening, of loss that would be transformed into abundance, the sliding glass door that opened in that moment and there would be exquisite gifts; but in that nanosecond between drowning and who I would become, later, that began with that first breath on that table that day, there was only Paris.

paris two

The Big Island Writers’ Workshop in Boston

The Big Island Writers’ Workshop heads to Boston! (Registration open)

When and Where
I look forward to seeing you in Boston, on December 5th & 6th, for a weekend of two one-day writers’ workshops for women. *JUST ADDED (by request) – A coed workshop on Sunday, December 13th! All three workshops begin at 10 am and end at 6 pm. Lunch is included. On the weekend of Dec 5th & 6th, you can write for one day, or two. (Specific locations TBA.) I’m excited that so many of my fellow Emerson College alums will be attending!
Back Story
Since I began this workshop in Hawaii, in 2012, well over one hundred Big Island women (and a few good men) have formed a circle of writers who gather to spend the entire day connecting to their authentic writing voice. Now there’s also a gorgeous group in LA, after a year of workshops in Van Nuys, Brentwood, Venice, Sherman Oaks, & Encino, as well as a new group in Northern California, after a wonderful recent workshop in Carmel.
What to Expect
In all the workshops we write on our own, using prompts that I give, and then we come together to share our stories and speak back each other’s words. It has been a profoundly moving experience for me, and I continue to marvel at the words that are written and shared in these workshops. The writing of each individual informs the group and the collective writing becomes stronger and goes deeper as the day goes on, and this has been the case at every workshop. This is not a technical how-to writing workshop, and there is no critique of the work; we write to connect to our stories and share them with other writers. Many of the writers are published authors, others are writers who journal and/or blog, and then there are writers who have the desire to write but have not yet found an outlet. We write by hand, using a notebook or a journal; we do not use computers. Each workshop is limited to ten writers, plus me.
How to Sign Up
 To register or receive more information, please email me at And if you’re interested in hosting a workshop in your home or event space (there is no charge for the host), let me know. I’m looking forward to writing with you in Boston!
Three writing goddesses!12036877_10153653214958188_8308502109289347168_n-1Writing in the Waimea afternoon light