So when you see me rushing from here to there, trying to tell stories and entertain and seeing everyone I can, know it’s because I’m trying to memorize and ingest as much of the visual world as possible, in case the lights go out.

You might think that I’m rushing from here to there, trying to tell stories and entertain; seeing everyone I can. You would be right; and here’s why.

When I was eight years old, my mother took me to Mammoth Cave. We gawked at stalactites and stalagmites in the otherworldly landscape. Deep in the cave, they turned off the lights.

And in the suffocating blackness, I couldn’t breathe. My panic attack was instantaneous, incontrovertible, a claustrophobic hell. I couldn’t talk myself out of it or soldier my way through it.

Of all the awful things that could happen to me, I knew blindness would render me insane.

And now I also suffer from an incurable eye disease that destroys the retina. Damage to the retina cannot currently be repaired. Vision loss is permanent. I already gaze at a partial void, a smudge in the frame, a reminder of what may one day be my entire world view.

Nobody’s life matches what we see from the outside.

Yes, I’m lucky. Married to the lover of my soul. Enough interest in my creations to travel for work. Which isn’t glamorous. I’d call it exhausting invigoration.

This time, my disease migrated to a different spot in my eye when it reactivated. I was on suppression therapy. It did not suppress.

The next migration could be to my macula or my optic nerve, both of which would be debilitating. We cannot predict where, when, or if it will recur. And so I swallow poison and wait, but I cannot take poison forever. Eventually, I’ll be forced to fight this wily invader on my own.

And on my own, I’ve always failed.

So when you see me rushing from here to there, trying to tell stories and entertain and see as much as I can, know it’s because I’m trying to memorize and ingest as much of the visual world as possible, in case the lights go out.

(I’m not looking for sympathy or platitudes. Seeing everyone I can, as many times as I can, is more valuable to me now than words flung into a communication wasteland.)

If you are close to one of my events, please come to see me! Check out my calendar for more info. If you want me to come to your area here’s a short list of appearance ideas and contact info.

FIND OUT HOW ENTERTAINING MY BOOKS ARE. BUY THEM HERE.

Our Christmas tradition. For nine years running, MTM and I have spent Christmas in Montreal. Learn all about our secret to a happy marriage.

Our Christmas tradition. For fourteen years running, MTM and I have spent Christmas in Montreal. The same room at Hotel Gault, the same Christmas Eve gastronomy, and the same Christmas Day routine.

For those of you wondering which one of us has family in Canada, neither of us do. Our secret to a happy marriage is our Christmas tradition of not spending family holidays with family.

Christmas Day, we tune in to Radio Classique Montreal. They always broadcast a version of the complete Handel’s Messiah. (To download the best one ever, follow this link to the Dunedin Consort’s Grammy-winning version.) Without Handel, Christmas is incomplete. The whole pomp of it has come to represent the day for me. [A bit different from Hard Candy Christmas. ;)]

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We listen to the Christmas speech by Queen Elizabeth II, recorded prior to her decampment to Sandringham House and broadcast on Christmas Day. Always, we order room service, sometimes breakfast and dinner, others breakfast only. Movies are always on the agenda. One Christmas, MTM suffered through the entire BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. I take a bath or two. We nap, and we watch the snow fall. With all my being, I try to beat MTM at cards and Yahtzee.

We never leave the room. Nue de Noel is the only way to celebrate the day. 🙂 If you’re around today, please share your Christmas traditions in the comments.

Merry Christmas, Dear Reader.

May peace, happiness and prosperity follow you throughout the coming year and in life beyond.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

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Greta Garbo is making news again.

Sotheby’s will be auctioning a cache of Garbo private letters and photos, many of which outline her loneliness and frustration with being a female creative forced to perform what she deemed mediocre work.

To honor their release, I’m reposting a story about my accidental visit to her final resting place. Enjoy!

Just when I think being married to an architect couldn’t get more, ahem, entertaining, I am gobsmacked yet again. I spent a day riding a train to a remote suburb with MTM. We scurried along a grey stone wall, following it next to a road until it turned right into a gate, where the road opened up into what looked, to my untrained and tacky eyes, like Antarctica or that scene at the end of the movie “Alive,” where Aaron Neville sings “Ave Maria” as the cross comes into view on a range in the Andes. You know that place: where a plane crashed and they ate each other to stay alive.

MTM the architect took me to a graveyard.

Not just any graveyard, mind you. A UNESCO World Heritage site graveyard. A Gunnar Asplund designed graveyard. (I didn’t know who the heck he was either. Click on the highlighted link at his name if you are an ignorant non-architect like me.)

At the entrance to the graveyard is a cavernous sub-zero wind tunnel, I mean, a barren, snow-blanketed field with a mammoth stone cross set off-center and flanked by – dared I hope – a building. A modernist box that surely contained heat and some hot cocoa for me to sip while MTM flitted around snapping photos of screw details and blades of grass through the snow and handrails and the frame of the sky through a hole in the roof. When I finally dragged my frozen carcass to that building, I was devastated to learn that it did contain heat, an off-limits inferno for me – because it was the crematorium.

Who designs an inviting crematorium? Except an architect?

I steeled myself for more sub-zero wandering outside, following MTM down a graceful ribbon of drive that acted as – you guessed it – another wind tunnel. Only this time, there were trees on either side to break the gale. Or, to contribute to it. I don’t know which would be a more accurate descriptive.

Finally, we came to a snowy avenue through some trees. In the distance, I saw a white building with a pointed roof through an archway. Again, my ice-addled brain longed for a hot drink, hopes that were crushed once more when I discovered the little building was a funeral chapel. About fifty photos later – of the outside; a funeral was actually going on inside, making it off-limits for eager architects, even ones that wanted to hang around until the service was over and pretend to be part of the mourning party just to get a glimpse of interior – we wandered through one of the cemetery ‘rooms.’ MTM glimpsed what he thought to be a significant burial site on the opposite side, and I, who could barely move any limb by this point, trudged through the knee-deep snow behind him.

I made it to an aloof promontory, and who did I find buried there but Greta Garbo.

Suddenly, this was the best idea MTM had ever had, taking me to see gorgeous Greta Garbo’s grave, with her signature in gold on the headstone. Hyperactively, I took too many photos of my own and gabbed enough to disrupt her alone time.

I forgot that I was freezing. I didn’t want hot cocoa. The wind chill no longer touched me. I stood in the face of acting greatness, and I think it made me appreciate the architecture.

Maybe.

A little bit.

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Skogskyrkogarden. Stockholm, Sweden.

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A repost that I hope will be new to most of you.