“I Still Love You, More Than Ever”: Remembering My Father, Richard Gilman

 

I’ve been missing my father more keenly than ever these past few weeks.  Our New York Giants’ thrilling playoff ride, planning my upcoming wedding, seeing one of his most beloved former students in the audience at a reading I did at the Cornwall CT Library – all of these joyful things have brought him back to me with vividness and poignancy.  Then, yesterday, I heard the news that an extraordinary colleague of my father’s at Yale Drama School, Earle Gister, had died, and I’ve since been hearing from former students of both men, one of whom wrote, as he put it, “to share my appreciation for the light your dad brought into the world.”

A few weeks ago, I shared the New York Times piece my father wrote on Super Bowl Sunday, 1987, about our bond and the New York Giants.  Today, I share the eulogy I gave for my father in March 2007, which brings the Giants together with William Wordsworth and celebrates my father’s sympathetic magic:

EULOGY FOR DADDY, March 26th, 2007

Symphony Space, New York City

I’m framing my remarks today with William Wordsworth and the NY football Giants, a juxtaposition entirely in the spirit of my father.  Here is the opening stanza of Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Scenes in Early Childhood” :

THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth, and every common sight,

To me did seem

Apparelled in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

When I think of my father, it’s just such transformations of the common into the extraordinary, such freshness of perception, such spiritual intensity, and ardent dreaminess that strike me as especially remarkable.  The very first memory I have is, as I think on it now, a kind of Wordsworthian scene, but one in which my father, the nominal adult, helped me, the young child, to see as a child ideally should.   It was a summer night in Spain, I was a little over three, and an especially dramatic thunderstorm woke me, terrified, in the middle of the night. The memory begins with my father’s voice in my ear and the two of us gazing out into the night.  Framed by the large window, the scene before us was like a little theatre: the familiar garden strangely unfamiliar, the sky an indigo blue lit periodically by silvery flashes.

Narrating the scene, my father sounded like a madcap sportscaster: “there’s a big lightning!  there’s a little one .  . . oh a big one again!” he cried as he held me firmly with one hand and gesticulated skyward with the other.   I remember something disorienting becoming something glorious.   I remember feeling so safe not because he protected me from fear but because he helped me to confront it.  He didn’t tuck me back into bed; he took me to the window.   I remember asking him: “when is the thunder going to come again, Daddy?” and him telling me “I don’t know, Sidda, but that’s part of the excitement, isn’t it?”  My father reassured me that it was alright not to know, to remain in a state of awe and mystery.  He gave what could have been a nightmare the glory and the freshness of a dream.

My father’s magical combination of solidity and ebullience, fierce protectiveness and playful charm, made him the most reassuring parent imaginable.   A few examples:

He was known in our family as the Great Finder, who could elevate a mundane search for a lost bus-pass into a thrilling hunt complete with clues, retracing steps, and suspects, with my father in the role of the wise, witty, and unflappable Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, or Perry Mason (all great heroes of his).

On a nursery school outing to the Bronx Zoo, my father scooped up a young rapscallion who’d been bothering me, dangled him over the tall fence around the lion area, and said with a mischievous grin:  “I think it’s feeding time, and if you don’t stop pestering my daughter, it’s into the lion’s den for you!”

The rule was that daddy was never to be disturbed when he was hard at work in his study, but to this rule there was one exception: we could always knock on his study door with a worry.   He often addressed these worries in the persona of his Sesame Street alter ego Super Grover: “do not worry little girl, I will solve the problem.”  But despite or perhaps because of his lighthearted approach, I never felt that he would belittle me for my worries, no matter how inconsequential  they might have been.

As anyone who knew my father well would attest, he was a person who himself needed a good deal of reassurance; he was an extraordinarily sensitive and vulnerable man.  Perhaps it was for that very reason that he knew especially well how to honor vulnerability in others, and that children and animals universally adored him.

Retaining that childlike intensity of feeling and capacity for wonder, that acute sensitivity as it blended into vulnerability, however, had attendant with it certain risks- for my father and for the daughters who learned to love as he did: with the entirety of our beings.  If you loved like that, you could get your heart broken, even by a football team.

On the Sunday in January 1987 when the Giants at long last won the Superbowl, the New York Times published what became one of my father’s favorite and most frequently cited pieces: “The Wounded Giant Regains His Dignity.”  The piece begins as follows:

On a darkening afternoon seven or eight years ago, I sat with my small daughter in Giants Stadium watching Roger Staubach drive the Cowboys 60 or 70 yards for a winning field goal in the last few seconds.  As Rafael Septien’s kick went through the uprights, my daughter burst into tears. The next day, she saw a photo in The Times of Harry Carson sitting in dejection on the Giants’ bench and told me she wanted to write to him.  I remember the words of the letter because we worked on it together hoping to relieve both our broken hearts.  “You mustn’t be sad,” she told the Giant linebacker. ”You’re a great player and a wonderful man. We’ll all be happy again. I love you. Priscilla  Gilman, age 9.”

Just one year after I sent the letter to Harry Carson, I found myself uttering much the same words to my father.  He was now facing one of the large challenges of his life with the loss of our family in the wake of his separation from my mother.  In this situation, and later with his diagnosis of terminal cancer, Claire and I drew on everything our father had taught us about how to comfort, reassure, and love.

A line from Daddy’s Giants article is helpful here:

Being a fan,” he wrote, “means practicing a form of sympathetic magic, by which you suffer with, draw strength from, and generally share in the vicissitudes and personas of modern day champions and heroes.”

He had always been our biggest fan and we his, and as we had drawn strength from him, now we suffered with him, as we had basked in his sympathetic magic, now we shared, whole-heartedly and without qualification, in his vicissitudes.

The indignities of his illness were many, but perhaps the greatest was that without the power of speech or the ability to move his face, he could no longer practice his sympathetic magic.  But today, in our words of love and tribute, in the photographs and video footage you are about to see, the wounded giant has regained his dignity.

My father’s Giants article concludes as follows :

So this afternoon several of us will gather in my apartment [to watch the Giants]. . . Priscilla will of course be there . . . She’ll be on edge, agog, scared sometimes, but finally, I predict, ecstatic. Tomorrow she may even want to write another letter to Harry Carson, saying some such thing as this: Didn’t I tell you! I still love you. More than ever.”

So Daddy, I say to you today: “Didn’t I tell you?  I still love you.  More than ever.”

Benj and The Snowy Owl: “Better Than Knowing . . . and Sweeter”

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a link to a Cornell Lab of Ornithology video about the magnificent and mysterious Snowy Owl.  I shared the video on my Facebook page, and it drew a rhapsodic response; I showed it to Benj, and his eyes grew wide with wonder:

 

 

I think this video would turn anyone into a fan of the snowy owl, but for Benj and for me, it had a special resonance.  The Snowy Owl’s importance to us is perhaps best summarized by a school report Benj wrote a few years ago, when he was nine years old:

THE SNOWY OWL, A Report By Benj . . . Fall, 2008

I chose the Snowy Owl, aka Arctic Owl, Great White Owl, and Bubo scandiacus, because it is my favorite animal.  I first saw one when I was four years old and my school took a trip to the Trevor Zoo in Millbrook, NY.  I thought it was a beautiful bird.  My parents gave me a stuffed snowy owl for Christmas that year.  I also like it because I like snow and winter.  It was even on a Sesame Street game I used to play with Mommy and James, and I learned a little about it from that game.  When I saw this assignment, I was excited to learn even more about this bird.

The snowy owl is a warm-blooded carnivore.  It eats mostly lemmings and voles, but if there are not many lemmings and voles, it eats other small animals and birds.  The snowy owl hunts for food during the day and night.

The snowy owl usually lives in the Northern Circumpolar region, above latitudes 60 degrees North, where few other creatures live, but it is also a nomadic bird and has been seen as far South as Georgia.  The snowy owl’s habitat is the Northern Tundra around the world.  It usually nests on the ground near good hunting areas.  Snowy owls help control rodent populations where they live.  Their local numbers are high when lemming population is high and low when lemming population is low.  If there are not enough small birds and mammals to eat, the snowy owl will leave the Arctic and fly south, often landing at airports!

It would be both interesting and tricky to be a snowy owl.  I would be able to see long distances, even at night, and I would make no sound when I flew.  I could see all kinds of neat things, and I could sneak up on other animals easily.  I would also be able to hear many, many sounds.  But it would be very cold in the Arctic, and if there were no lemmings or voles for me to eat, I would have to leave behind my home to fly south in search of food.  I’m not sure I’d want to be a snowy owl because although the snowy owl’s life is exciting, it is also very hard.

 

When four-year-old Benj first became enchanted with the Snowy Owl, he wasn’t able to use the pronoun “I,” express his needs, feelings, or opinions, handle any kind of ambiguity or uncertainty.  We knew he liked the bird because he’d stopped dead in his tracks in front of it, gazed at it reverently, and resisted moving on to another part of the zoo.  For Christmas that year, I bought him a stuffed snowy owl from the Institute for Ecosystem Studies’ gift shop, and although he didn’t snuggle or play with it (he never much liked stuffed animals), he smiled when I placed it prominently on a bookshelf in his bedroom.  It has always seemed to me like a kind of wise guardian of and symbol for the essential spirit of Benj: his affinity for the natural world, his attraction to winter in all its pristine and dazzling clarity and whiteness, his aloofness and integrity, his potential for flight.  That stuffed snowy owl traveled with us from our house in Poughkeepsie to two different apartments in New York, always the first thing to be unpacked after a move, always calming Benj and inspiring me when I looked at it.  I’ve often found him staring at it, an expression of deep peace on his face.

If the snowy owl has functioned as a kind of tutelary spirit of and representative figure for Benj’s essential self, his ostensibly simple school report about the owl reminds me of all the work it took for him to get to a place where he could express that essential self clearly, fully, with nuance and humor and joy.  In this assignment, he had a vehicle to explore his long-standing fascination with nature, a chance to delve deeply into a subject that interested him, an opportunity to display the precision of his thinking (noting all the possible names for the snowy owl, outlining the advantages and disadvantages of its situation) and his capacity for sensitive appreciation.  Years of speech and language therapy had enabled him to use a “both . . . and” construction without anxiety—to allow that two potentially opposing ideas could both be true—this alone was huge for him.  And the most important thing: he could tell us what he loved and why.

Tonight in the North-East, the first significant snowfall of the winter of 2011-2012 is predicted, and almost thirteen-year-old Benj is beside himself with anticipatory joy.  “Now it will be a real winter!” Benj cried.  Turning to his younger brother, he added: “James, aren’t you excited?!  We’re getting snow!”  I think gratefully of all the occupational and sensory integration therapy that has helped him let go of his anxiety about unfamiliar textures and enjoy the cold touch of snow on his face, fling himself into snow-banks, make snow angels as Peter did in The Snowy Day (one of the books he’d read and recite over and over again as a two year old with hyperlexia).

Tomorrow, he’ll be in Connecticut at his grandmother’s house, and I hope that perhaps a snowy owl will fly past him as he wheels about, exulting, on the snow-covered lawn.  And I give thanks for the way Benj notices and appreciates the majesty of nature’s creatures, marks and honors the cycle of the seasons, and allows himself to feel and express simple joy:

 

Snowy Night

Last night, an owl

in the blue dark

tossed

an indeterminate number

of carefully shaped sounds into

the world, in which,

a quarter of a mile away, I happened

to be standing.

I couldn’t tell

which one it was –

the barred or the great-horned

ship of the air –

it was that distant.  But, anyway,

aren’t there moments

that are better than knowing something,

and sweeter?  Snow was falling,

so much like stars

filling the dark trees

that one could easily imagine

its reason for being was nothing more

than prettiness.  I suppose

if this were someone else’s story

they would have insisted on  knowing

whatever is knowable – would have hurried

over the fields

to name it – the owl, I mean.

But it’s mine, this poem of the night,

and I just stood there, listening and holding out

my hands to the soft glitter

falling through the air.   I love this world,

but not for its answers.

And I wish good luck to the owl,

whatever its name –

and I wish great welcome to the snow,

whatever its severe and comfortless

and beautiful meaning.

Mary Oliver

 

Better than knowing, and sweeter, indeed.

“Stop and Look Around”

Last night, almost 13 year old Benj went to his school’s first “Movie Night.”  “Movie Night” is one of several evening activities in a new school initiative designed to create social opportunities and foster a sense of community for students who don’t socialize with other kids regularly or in typical ways. The choice for the inaugural Movie Night –Ferris Bueller’s Day Off– was somewhat surprising to me, as I’d always considered the movie to epitomize a kind of typical teen experience and perspective that Benj, a child on the autism spectrum, would never have or attain.  As we drove Benj to his school, I thought about the poignancy of showing this particular movie to a group of children who struggle with making and sustaining peer relationships, telling and understanding jokes, coloring outside the lines: all the things Ferris Bueller himself does so effortlessly.  I wondered how Benj would react to a film which in numerous ways represents the antithesis of his careful and considered, conscientious and cautious approach to life.  Ferris Bueller celebrates close and conspiratorial friendship; its main character has a playful and ingenious, creative and rebellious approach to situations.  I wasn’t at all sure how super-responsible, meticulous, and play-by-the-rules Benj would react to Ferris’s mischievous wiles and subversive energy.   Ferris Bueller’s devil-may-care insouciance and rebellious stance towards authority might make Benj anxious or even indignant, I thought.  He might, in fact, identify more with the rigid and repetitive economics teacher (“Bueller . . . Bueller . . . Bueller”) played so memorably by Ben Stein!  But as it turns out, I was both underestimating Benj and oversimplifying the meaning and message of the film.  And it took Benj, with all his charming frankness and clarity of perception, to remind me of the movie’s simple and universal lesson.

My fiance and I dropped a very excited, somewhat apprehensive Benj off at the school around 6:30, and when we came back to pick him up a few hours later, he was radiant.  “It was *wonderful*, Mommy!”  he cried, and then waxed rhapsodic about the “catchy” soundtrack, the “funny business” about the red Ferrari, and the “hilarious joking,” while also pointing out that because the movie was rated PG-13 and had several swear words, it was inappropriate for my nine year old son and nine year old stepdaughter to watch until they’re a little older.

On the way home, Benj called his father and spoke to him via speaker phone.

“Oh Hi Daddy!  Daddy I loved the movie!  It was so funny!”

“Isn’t it?!” his dad exclaimed, “and it has a very good spirit to it.”

Benj was nonplussed.  “What do you mean?  It’s not spiritual.”

“No, it’s not spiritual, but it has a great spirit, a good outlook on things,” his Dad clarified.

“Yes, I was actually thinking that,” Benj affirmed, “and I was thinking that I need to have that spirit more in my life.”

“Not by skipping school though,” his Dad laughed.

“Of course not,” Benj said.  “I have to have that kind of *spirit* all the time, and that kind of fun- like museums and sports- on the weekends.”

Listening to Benj and his father’s loving exchange, I found myself inexplicably welling up with tears.  I asked Benj if he was referring to the famous lines from the film– “something about life going so quickly, and needing to stop sometimes and appreciate it?”  “Yes,” he replied.   “Ferris tries to teach his friend Cameron about that.”  In my parenting of Benj, I’ve typically been the Ferris to his Cameron, helping him take things less seriously, releasing him from anxiety, teaching him how to play and let go.  But tonight I saw, in the way he surprised me, in the way he distilled an essential truth and gave voice to something crucially important, how he is also the Ferris to my Cameron.

I first saw Ferris Bueller with a gang of high school friends in the early summer of 1986 when it was initially released, and for me it’s always been associated with the intensity and ardent intimacy of my friendships as a child and teenager, with a thrilling sense of the responsibilities and rigors of school being relaxed, and with a feeling of essential freedom and joy.  I remember thinking that I could never be like Ferris- I was both a very dutiful daughter of parents with clear and demanding expectations of me and a high-achieving student at a high-pressure school- but that in summertime, with my friends, out on our own at a movie theatre on 84th and Broadway, I could attain a version of the freedom and fun the film’s characters do.  And I remember then and in the years since, coming away from the movie both exhilarated and moved, happy and wistful, in ways I couldn’t clearly articulate.   When I was a high-performing high school, college, and graduate student getting lots of gold stars and dutifully jumping through hoops and then a professor in the English Departments at Yale and Vassar, Ferris Bueller had seemed to gesture towards a kind of impossible existence, a happy-go-lucky spirit and irreverence I could laugh along with but never really pursue or attain.  It took having Benj- a child very different from what I’d imagined, a child who upended every expectation I’d had about parenting- to free me from the need to meet others’ expectations and from the constricting demands of a life path I had followed but hadn’t truly loved.  Like Ferris, Benj has reminded me that sports, art, and our relationships with others are nourishing sources of renewal and happiness.  And Benj has taught me how to exemplify in my own life what Ferris Bueller most essentially represents: a willingness to slow down, an ability to be grateful, a passionate appreciation of life in its moment-to-moment passing.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
John Hughes, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Wise advice indeed, for me as a high school student on the fast track to “success” and now as a mother of children on the cusp of adolesence, for Benj, and for all of us.

Fathers, Daughters, Football, and “Sympathetic Magic”

 

I’ve just watched the New York Giants’ thrilling playoff victory and want to share a piece by my late father, Richard Gilman, that was published in the New York Times on Super Bowl Sunday 1987.  In addition to being a wise and moving meditation on the significance of sports and what it means to be a fan, it’s one of the greatest gifts my father ever gave me.   The piece, “The Wounded Giant Regains his Dignity,” played a large role in the eulogy I gave for him at Symphony Space in March 2007.   I share it today with joy in our team’s triumph and with deep and abiding love for him.

THE NEW YORK TIMES
VIEWS OF SPORTS: “THE WOUNDED GIANT REGAINS HIS DIGNITY” By RICHARD GILMAN: Richard Gilman’s latest book, ”Faith, Sex, Mystery: A Memoir,” has just been published by Simon and Schuster.

Published: January 25, 1987

On a darkening afternoon seven or eight years ago, I sat with my small daughter in Giants Stadium watching Roger Staubach drive the Cowboys 60 or 70 yards for a winning field goal in the last few seconds. As Rafael Septien’s kick went through the uprights, my daughter burst into tears. The next day, she saw a photo in The Times of Harry Carson sitting in dejection on the Giants’ bench and told me she wanted to write to him. I remember the words of the letter because we worked on it together hoping to relieve both our broken hearts. Or rather, I simply helped out with some editorial advice, for the sentiments, which I endorsed, came directly from her. ”You mustn’t be sad,” she told the Giant linebacker. ”You’re a great player and a wonderful man. We’ll all be happy again. I love you. Priscilla Gilman, age 9.”

Three or four weeks later a large photo arrived showing Carson zeroing in on a ball carrier. Across it was written in graceful calligraphy: ”To Priscilla. May God bless you always. Old 53. Harry.” She’s had it on her bedroom wall over her desk ever since.

And she’s remained a football fan, a Giants zealot (my younger daughter Claire, hasn’t been hooked yet, but I expect it to happen). She hasn’t been to another game, for I depend on the largesse of friends for my own very occasional ticket, but together we’ve watched more than a hundred Giants games on television. Two weeks ago, when the victory over the Redskins was assured, this lovely young woman, now nearly 17 and with a strong-intellectual bent, suddenly jumped up and shrieked: ”I don’t believe it! The Giants are in the Super Bowl! Can you believe it, Daddy?” I felt like quoting a line from her letter to Carson, the one about the eventual happiness of us all.

That being a fan can induce either euphoria or heartbreak is, of course, from a sober responsible point of view, nothing less than an absurdity. Why were my daughter and I so often depressed during the Giants losing years? (She came to football just past the middle of them, while I naturally go back very much farther, through periods of success and failure, all the way, in fact, to the days of Ed Danowski, Mel Hein and Morris (Red) Badgro.) And why are we so elated now? At an even greater extremity, why did delerious Mets fans rip up and carry home clumps of sod from Shea Stadium after their team clinched its division?

My former wife, an extremely rational person and a greatly competent businesswoman, was driven nearly wild by my, and our daughter’s, ritual Sundays in front of the TV set, and our living and dying with the Giants. Once she said to me: ”If I’d wanted to marry a Midwestern jock, I would have!” Well, to be sure, I wasn’t from the Midwest, having been born in mid-Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn. And I wasn’t a jock either. But I knew what she meant. I was a writer, so what was I doing wasting my time in such gross frivolity, so passive and undignified an activity?

I despaired of trying to explain to her that being a sports fan is a complex matter, in part irrational, I’ll admit, but not unworthy. For me – and I think I’m fairly representative – it’s an amalgam of many things, chiefly perhaps, a relief from the seriousness of the real world, with its unending pressures and often grave obligations. It’s also a playing out of the drama of fate, the roles in all our destinies of skill, chance, risk and will, with a saving grace that it has nonfatal consequences.

Being a fan means practicing a form of sympathetic magic, by which you suffer with, draw strength from and generally share in the vicissitudes and personas of modern day champions and heroes. For the Giants fans, there is a wide range of qualities to identify with or seek to emulate: Phil Simms, unappreciated, hooted at but then, in crises, triumphant; Mark Bavaro, phlegmatic, indominatable; Maurice Carthon, self-effacing, sacrificial and utterly dependable; Lawrence Taylor, the very figure of prowess; Phil McConkey, flamboyant, a transcender of physical limitations; and Harry Carson, wise, solid – a mensch.

And there’s an appreciation, not unlike that for dancers or tightrope walkers, of the body undergoing tests and coming through them by courage and technique; a desire for ”clean” results – there’s no ambiguity about winning or losing; and, finally, in the special case of the Giants or Mets fan (my daughter and I love them both), pride, restored now in this annus mirabilis,in those teams as incarnations of aspects of the spirit of New York.

The pride may be partly illogical; after all, few if any of the Giants come from New York and, as Mayor Koch so graciously said, the team doesn’t even play in the city. But the geography of rooting isn’t bound by such facts. The Giants will always represent New York, the part of our idea of the city, a component of its ongoing history. But surely one element of our present satisfaction is the sort of in-your-face move that being in the Super Bowl presents to the way the rest of the country mostly thinks of us: huge, cold, rich, conceited, unnatural, deserving therefore of all our misfortunes. Well, the wounded giant is on his feet now, the despised colossus has regained, in one small but resonant area, his strength and dignity.

We all know that like the World Series the Super Bowl has far more significance as a symbolic event than an actual one. Nothing will change in the real world if the Giants win or the Broncos do. We’ll still have our rent to pay, our children to guide and cope with, term papers to write; our egos will continue to be buffeted. But I think of a pertinent phrase that’s had much currency lately -quality of life. The quality of some of our lives will change if the Giants win, has already changed because they’re in Pasadena, Calif. It’s fragile, temporary and rather irrational. But it exists.

So this afternoon several of us will gather in my apartment to eat Mexican food and drink Carta Blanca. Among them will be my close friend, the painter Sherman Drexler, who’s at least as rabid a Giant fan as I am. We haven’t watched any game together this year since the winning streak began, because we’ve become superstitious about the eight or 10 phone calls we make to each other, before, during and after each game, the moments of apprehension, alarm, relief or, at the end, joy. But we’re more rational about today.

And Priscilla will of course be there, too. She’ll be on edge, agog, scared sometimes, but finally, I predict, ecstatic. Tomorrow she may even want to write another letter to Harry Carson, saying some such thing as this: Didn’t I tell you! I still love you. More than ever.”

 

The First Page of THE ANTI-ROMANTIC CHILD

“A poem . . . begins,” Robert Frost once wrote, “as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness . . . It finds the thought and the thought finds the words.”   Frost evokes the tensions between feeling and thinking, experiencing and knowing, loving and understanding that have been so central to my life as a student and professor of romantic poetry, a writer, and a mother.  This book began as a lump in the throat, as a homesickness for the magical world of my childhood and for the home life I was looking forward to with my child.  It began with a sickness of love for a child I adored but did not understand, a love searing in its intensity, overwhelming in its sense of longing and vulnerability, a love I feared would never be reciprocated, and worst of all would never make an impact.  It began with a pining for contact with the spirit or essence of my child, a wrenching fear that perhaps everything I did and said was in vain because he was unreachable and unimpressionable, a fierce devotion to a child I would do anything to save.

This is a story of the relationship between literature and life, the ideal and the real, of poetry vs science, magic vs measurement, honoring mystery vs unraveling it.  And at its heart this book is a love story: a story of two very different people learning to accept and affect and make space for each other in mysterious and powerful ways.

Welcome to my Blog!

2011 has been one of the most rich and intense years of my life: I published my first book, The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy, appeared live on MSNBC, was on the cover of Newsweek, wrote blog and magazine pieces, did countless interviews and Q &As, left a job, got engaged, gained a stepdaughter-to-be, spoke all over the country at bookstores, conferences, and schools, learned how to Tweet, sold an apartment, bought and renovated a new home, planned a wedding (to happen in Feb 2012!), put “author” down as my occupation on a form for the first time.

Creating an author Facebook community (www.facebook.com/priscillagilmanauthor) has been one of the most meaningful and satisfying things I’ve done this past year.  On the page, I share quotations, provide links to news articles and excellent journalism, give reports on my life and our family, recommend movies, books, CDs, TV shows, websites, and other entertainment and cultural items, ask questions, share music, artwork, and photographs by and of my family, provide and solicit advice on a wide range of issues, and generally offer a place for people to find inspiration, understanding, enlightenment, support, pleasure, solace, & solidarity.

I’ve found the work of developing and maintaining my Facebook page both challenging and deeply fulfilling, and I’ve been repeatedly touched and nourished by the contributions, ideas, feedback, honesty, and graciousness of the members of my Facebook community.  It’s quite amazing how far we’ve come: the page was launched in March 2011 with 150 people following it, and by year’s end, the community has grown to over 30,000 members!

The many advantages and pleasures of my Facebook page notwithstanding, there are some disadvantages and limitations.   First, I sometimes feel inhibited by the space constraints of Facebook.  Second, many of my community members have asked me for more writing and more extended versions of some of my Facebook posts.  Last but not least, many of my friends and fans are not on Facebook!   So to begin 2012, I’ve created a place where I have more room to share my thoughts, recommendations, favorite poems and passages, reactions to news stories, updates about our family, and reflections.

Welcome to my blog, everyone, and Happy New Year!

“I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.”
Neil Gaiman

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