September 8, 2009
Welcome back to real life. Personally, I am thrilled that summer is over because I live in Florida and this is ground zero for heat and humidity in North America. Barring a hurricane, it can only be uphill from here.
Meanwhile, I’m just back from vacation in Berlin and Prague, a vacation that almost didn’t happen. As I was enjoying the mandatory pre-vacation mani-pedi, Mark called to inform me that my passport had expired. Urgent calls were made to the travel agent who referred us to the Passport Office website where we learned I could get an emergency passport issued but needed an appointment to do so. The next appointment available was six days into my planned vacation. Drat! Foiled - or so I believed.
Thinking I may be able to charm my way into the Passport Office, I showed up the next morning and sat in the appointment line. It soon became obvious that the large guard with the gun was checking for appointment numbers and anyone without one was relegated to the non-appointment line (where, I’m told, the situation was hopeless). Double drat! Lucky for me I am a charming person and my fellow line-sitters took pity on me and my story. They showed me the numbers they had been given when they made their appointments. All started with 399 and were followed by 5 other random digits. Desperate, I made up my own appointment number and prayed that the guard wouldn’t see through my ruse and send me to a God-forsaken prison because, as you know, the government takes passport related capers pretty seriously these days (I refuse to call what I did a crime). Luckily, my diabolical ploy worked and by 3:00 p.m. I had my new passport, too late to make my plane but only one day of vacation lost. Who thinks about their passport expiring? From now on I will and you should too.
We were going to Berlin to see the World Track and Field Championship with our good friends. I mainly went for the sightseeing, but I have to admit that it was very cool to see Usain Bolt break the world record for the 100 and 200 meter races.
Berlin is an amazing city and I recommend that you go if you ever have a chance. Between the Nazis and the Berlin Wall, there is so much historical significance to the place. Everywhere you look, you see something incredible, from the tracks where Jews were taken to Concentration Camps to the site of Hitler’s bunker to pieces of the Berlin Wall to the Holocaust Museum and that’s just the beginning. Of course, now every tour includes a visit to the hotel from which Michael Jackson dangled his baby (there’s a plaque at the window) and the hospital that Farrah Fawcett came to for her cancer treatments.
One of the strangest things about Berlin is that people are allowed to sunbathe nude in all the city parks and they do. Let me tell you, it’s disconcerting to walk through a bustling city park dotted with naked people. On the beach, I can see it, but in the city? That’s just weird. There was also a first and second class citizen thing going on between the West and East Berliners. I saw a woman changing her bra right on the street and my taxi driver just rolled his eyes and muttered, “East Berliner.”
For me, the most moving moments came when we visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin. This is something I’ve heard about all my life but to see it with my own eyes is a whole different experience. This particular camp was located right in the middle of a neighborhood, surrounded by homes that people lived in while it was used. Did these people know what was going on and do nothing? Ironically, it was in this camp that the imprisoned Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote: “First they came for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.” To all those people who lived outside that concentration camp and didn’t speak up, I hope your property values plummeted. Seeing the bleak living conditions at the camp, the kitchen where inmates peeled potatoes, the showers where many met their demise, the crematorium – everything was eerily brought to life. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest the entire time.
Speaking of Nazi Germany…I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds yesterday and I highly recommend it. If you love Nazi revenge movies and seeing dead Nazis being scalped (and who doesn’t!), walk, don’t run to your local theater. But back to my story. When we got to Prague there was another concentration camp that I really wanted to see. Mark was reluctant because the first one had been so depressing. “What more can there be?” He asked. “Maybe they have a better crematorium,” I suggested. “You know, the one we saw was half falling apart. And the showers, the showers at this other camp still have the original shower heads. At Sachsenhausen, they were all gone. Aren’t you curious to see the real shower heads?” Don’t ask me why but I really wanted to see the real shower heads and the more intact crematorium. Mark disagreed so we decided to see another (yawn!) palace instead. European palaces are as common as Korean delis in NYC.
If you ever go to Prague, my advice is to only stay two days. That’s all you need. The Palace we visited in place of the concentration camp was the Lobkowicz Palace. The Lobkowicz family goes all the way back to the 12th Century and they were one of the richest families in Prague. During WWII, the Nazis seized the palace and all the treasures inside (boo!). After the war, the family got it back (yay!), only to have it seized again by the communists (boo!). When the Wall fell and communist rule ended, the family (which had lost their money and moved to America) had one year to find everything that had been theirs and reclaim it (yay!). They did and have spent the last 20 years restoring the palace, its contents and creating a private museum. I have to admit that it’s definitely worth the visit if your husband doesn’t want to see another concentration camp.
Thanks to all of you who bought my new book, The Sister Diaries. I’m excited to say that it has sold really well in the UK this summer. I also appreciate those of you who wrote and told me if was your favorite of mine so far (awww, gee, heck). If you haven’t read it yet and want to, just click right here and you can order a copy. If you’re in the US, you won’t believe how fast it comes. And they send it by ROYAL Mail! Isn’t that cool?
Meanwhile, I spent the summer completing a non-fiction book that will be out next summer. It’s called Testing for Kindergarten and it’s about what parents can easily and naturally do at home so that their young children who are given intelligence tests for admission to private kindergarten or gifted programs will do really well. Even if your child is going to public kindergarten, she’ll be tested for placement in ability groups from the get-go and this book teaches you what to do so your child gets placed in higher ability group (which really makes a long-term difference). As parents, we are expert in keeping our children’s bodies healthy, but most of us don’t understand intellectual development enough to know how to nourish their brains. This book teaches you how to do this. Anyway, it will be out next summer so if you have a young child, I hope you’ll get a copy. I promise it’s not one of those boring how-to books. It has lots of humor in it (I know, you’re surprised).
Well, it is the day after labor day so I guess it’s back to the grind for me. I’m getting ready to visit Schuyler in NYC next week. She just got her own apartment there and is about to start an acting conservatory. I’m going for the pre-college-Mom-takes-freshman-child-to-Bed-Bath-and-Beyond-shopping-expedition. After that, my mom and I are taking our annual trip to Canyon Ranch in Tucson. Okay, I guess it’s not really back to the grind for me, at least not yet. But I just wanted to say hello and touch base with you all. Drop me a line and let me know what you’re up to if you have the time.
P.S. If you wish to befriend me on facebook (and why wouldn’t you), I can be found at Karen Nedler Quinn. I promise to say yes.
P.P.S. In case you’re wondering about the statues below, they’re of two men who are peeing (yes, that’s where the water comes out). They’re from the Franz Kafka Museum in Prague. The very idea of peeing statues is surreal but I guess that was the point.
February 21, 2011
Happy President’s Day all!
I’m not sure if one is supposed to say “Happy President’s Day.” I mean, let’s face it, what’s so happy about remembering Presidents Washington and Lincoln, who are positively ancient. And while I do appreciate what they did for this country, I appreciate them even more for giving us a reason to take a day off work and relax. Yes, I am this shallow. It’s sad.
Meanwhile, I really am grateful for the day off. First of all, Mark is here from California (see! – thank you, Presidents Washington and Lincoln). We’ve had a bi-coastal marriage this year so we only see each other every month or so. He has a job in San Diego and I’m staying in Miami until Sam graduates. Sam is so grateful for my sacrifice. He thanks me almost every day and even cooks dinner and does my laundry to show his gratitude. Okay, he doesn’t even notice that I’m around, but a mom can dream, can’t she?
In truth, it’s just me and the animals – Olive, Bronco, Smokey and Cookie (who you might recall, disappeared for 10 days and was miraculously found in a neighbor’s pot on her patio last December). Every once in a while Sam emerges from his room and asks me for money. I’m so grateful for the conversation that I try to prolong the conversation as much as possible. ”So, will you be going to the TD Bank or just a regular ATM? If you’re going to a regular ATM, I’ll have to give you 2 extra dollars…” ”Will this be from next week’s allowance or are you asking for an advance, because if you’re asking for an advance, you know the policy on that.” Yes, I am THIS desperate for conversation at home.
With Mark gone and Sam and the animals busy with their own lives, I’ve thrown myself into my new business, www.TestingMom.com. If you know anyone whose kids need to be tested for private school or a gifted and talented program, my site’s the place to go! I started the site with my partner, Michael McCurdy, after my book, Testing For Kindergarten, came out. Speaking of my book, if you happen to be in Miami in March, I’ll be at Books & Books (Bal Harbour, right next to Neiman’s) on Tuesday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. to talk about this and my other novels. Please come if you’re in town. We’ll go out for drinks after!
If you can’t come to my reading, you might want to listen to my radio show – 30-Minute Mom on Webtalkradio.net. Yes, yours truly now has a radio show. I was shocked when they asked me, and even more shocked when they heard my voice and still wanted me. I’m one of those people who, when I answer the phone, the person on the other end always asks, “Is your mother home?” Even my mother says that and she knows Schuyler doesn’t live here anymore. My voice is high with a definite squeak factor. And yet, they asked me to do a radio show. So I said (imagine this in a high Minnie Mouse voice), “Why not! I’ll do it!”
Here’s what the show is (just between us) – it’s me getting the low-down on everything I did wrong as a parent. The first show is about how not to spoil your children (which I did). Then there’s a show about how to get family meals on the table which are SO critical for kids (did I know that when my kids were little? NO! Did I cook family meals when they were young? NO!). There’s a wonderful show with Ashley Merryman, author of NurtureShock, where she offers insights on the right way to praise children so they are motivated (Did I praise my kids that way? NO!). Anyway, you get the picture. I may not have raised my own kids right, but I’m damn sure going to help you raise yours right! Hmm, maybe that should be my new motto! Check out the show if you have time. And please forward the link to the shows to anyone you know with young children. After you listen, let me know if you find my voice 1) annoying, 2) cute, or 3) inspiring! CLICK HERE to listen.
The first show we taped (on how not to spoil your kids) was with Tracey Jackson. Tracey wrote, produced and was featured in a documentary called Lucky Ducks, which was inspired by her own spoiling of her daughter, Taylor. To bring Taylor back to earth (where she happily resides today), she took her to work in the slums of Mumbai. It’s a very powerful documentary. Anyway, I bring up Tracey not just because of my radio show, but also because she has just written a book which I HIGHLY recommend if you are over the age of, say, 45. The book is called “Between A Rock and A Hot Place – Why Fifty Is Not the New Thirty.” This is a MUST-READ if 50 looms ahead or even behind you. It covers all the things you are experiencing at this point in your life and it does so truthfully, informatively (is that a word?), and with a great deal of humor. Yes, you will LOL; I guarantee it!
My favorite chapter is called “If She’s Fifty, Chances Are Alice Doesn’t Work Here Anymore.” It’s not my favorite chapter because she mentions “The Ivy Chronicles” in it (which she does), but because she writes about the fact that so many of us lose our big careers in our late 40′s/early 50′s and once we do, that ship has sailed, as they say. I could really identify with this because I was in my late 40′s when I got fired from American Express. When Tracey’s Hollywood career came to a screeching halt, she found inspiration in a Virginia Woolf quote: ”Arrange whatever pieces come your way.” Tracey had to let go of trying to arrange pieces that were no longer coming her way and find some new pieces she could arrange.
That spoke volumes to me as it is what I have had to do since leaving Amex – first, start a business I was inspired to start by my son, Sam (Smart City Kids), then write a novel about that business (The Ivy Chronicles), then write more novels inspired by my life, loves and friends, write a non-fiction book inspired by my work with Sam and children at Smart City Kids (Testing For Kindergarten), create a game to prepare kids for testing (IQ Fun Park), create a website to help parents help their kids test better (TestingMom.com), start a radio show to help parents raise their kids better than I did (30-Minute Mom), and so on and so forth. Since losing my job, my new brilliant career has been a matter of arranging whatever pieces and possibilities came my way. It’s not easy, but it’s what happens to many of us after a certain age. I may not be making as much money as I made at Amex, but I’m having a lot more fun working in shorts and flip flops every day, surrounded by my animals, doing what inspires me.
Tracey covers this “arranging” phenomenon beautifully in “Between a Rock and a Hot Place,” along with chapters on menopause, hormone replacement therapy, sex, dating, colonoscopies and other medical indignities at 50, plastic surgery, kids going to college, saving for retirement, death and all that fun stuff that you are forced to confront when you reach 50. Fifty is definitely NOT the new thirty, but this book really helps you stop and take stock in your life at a time when it’s appropriate to do so. And it does this with grace and humor. Tracey also has a wonderful blog called “Tracey Talks” that I love reading whenever she posts – www.traceyjacksononline.com. You should subscribe. You’ll love it. I actually turn off The Today Show to read her blog in the morning!
Meanwhile, I hope you’re enjoying your President’s Day weekend. As you can see, I’ve been working pretty hard on things, so the weekend off is a welcome relief. Mark and I are about to take our dogs for a long walk, something we do whenever he’s in town. I actually think Mark is walking me but he doesn’t want me to know it. We wait until it’s just dark and then we trespass on the golf course of a private country club while we exercise our little furry ones (I’m talking about Olive and Bronco – get your mind out of the gutter)!
I don’t know who your hero is, but mine is my mom, Shari Nedler. I believe I have the most beautiful, smart, kind, loving, caring mother in the whole world. Mom is the person who really cares (and wants a full daily-report) about how my day went. When I have a problem, she’s the first person I go to for advice. And the two of us laugh out loud all the time, usually at our own foibles. I wanted to invite you to have some fun and get to know my mother a little better as she travels around the world.
Read on for details!
When I was a kid, I had the only working mother among all my friends. I hated that and vowed never to be a working mother, but instead to adopt 20+ disabled children and bring them up on my farm. [at 14, I even wrote a letter to my future-self begging her to reconsider whatever I was doing and start adopting children, lest I changed my mind, which I did, but that's another story.] Mom got her PhD in Early Childhood Education and was the first female full professor of at the University of Colorado. She published two books that were used for many years as textbooks in universities across the country. Later she went on to found a jewelry store with my father and brother, working there until she retired at 79.
Mom was married to my father twice. They were divorced when I was a teenager in a full fledge, ugly, future therapy-provoking break up that took its toll on the family. But a few years later, they realized they were soul mates and remarried. Their second marriage was the happiest years of their lives for both of them. Sadly, my father died a little over 10 years ago.
Times were hard after Dad passed on. Mom got cancer and went through painful treatments. When that was behind her, the two of us went to Canyon Ranch Spa and I still couldn’t keep up with her on our hikes. We go there every year now and even though Mom is in her 80′s (a young 80!) and a cancer survivor, I can’t do as much as she does — hikes, exercise classes, gyro-tonics, Pilates, workouts — the woman’s a human exercise machine!
Not long after Dad’s death, Mom met Marvin, a recent widower who belonged to the same Temple she did. For ten years, she and Marvin dated, enjoying theater, concerts, playing bridge, and traveling. They moved to the same building, but didn’t live together. Marvin would knock at her door every night around 6. She’d make dinner or they’d go out. Last year, she and Marvin planned the trip of a lifetime – a cruise around the world on the Crystal Serenity, a luxury mid-sized ship. On their first part of the cruise, Marvin got sick and they had to come home. He died not long after. We all miss him terribly and it has been an especially difficult adjustment for Mom.
Mom wasn’t sure if she would ever travel again, especially by herself. She worried that the memories of being on the ship with Marvin (and my dad before him) would make the experience too difficult. However, with some time and a lot of thought, she decided to get back on the ship and signed up to take the 2011 world cruise that leaves January 16. This time, she is going by herself, although my brother, one of her closest friends, and me, will join her for 3 of the 6 segments.
What I admire most about my mother is that she is always pushing herself to learn new things. She doesn’t tweet, but she’s on Facebook. Last fall, she got one of those super skinny Macs and she’s been taking lessons at the Apple store every week, learning how to blog and post her pictures. She’s planning to blog about her cruise every step of the way. Mom has made a list of her friends and they’ll all get notices of her new posts so they can follow her on her trip.
Would you (or your mom or dad) like to read Mom’s posts as she travels to destinations such as Australia, Indonesia, Bali, China, India, Africa and more? If so, send your email address to Karenquinn1@aol.com and I’ll make sure you’re notified whenever she posts! I have loved meeting new people through my own blog posts and I think my mother would enjoy that as well. My goal is to create a list of 50 or so people who would genuinely like to read about her adventures traveling the world. It’ll be a fun diversion for all of us from everyday life. Plus, Mom has always been an inspiration to me. Maybe she’ll inspire you to step out of your comfort zone (as she is doing) and set sail on your own new adventures as well!
All My Best,
December 21, 2010
Happy Holidays all!
Please forgive me for not being in touch more often this year. Actually, if you want to be my friend on Facebook (I’m under “Karen Nedler Quinn”) you could get a blow-by-blow of my every move, so feel free to “friend” me there as I’d love stay closer with everyone. But if you prefer big sweeping updates, well, here we go…
In the days of yore (i.e. pre-Facebook) I used to be quite famous for my holiday letters because they were really funny. I actually used to print and then mail them via the U.S. post office if you can believe that. Back then, my children said and did adorable things that made great copy and all I had to do was recount their precious antics and everyone thought I was gifted comedy writer. Now that my children have grown up, they mostly just do expensive things like rent apartments in NYC, buy cars, or go off to college. These sorts of things are not as entertaining to recount, but I’ll do my best.
It has been an interesting year, to say the least. Mark up and left me. That’s right. We’re separated. Not in that nasty, messy divorce way, mind you. No, he took a job in California. He was offered a position that seemed too interesting to pass up, so he accepted it. Meanwhile, Sam was in his senior year of high school and we’d already moved him once for his sophomore year, so we decided I would wait it out in Miami till he graduated. Like most teenagers, he appreciates the sacrifice his mother has made for him and thanks me profusely every day, which makes it all worthwhile. In a few months, I expect to be moving to San Diego, the land of perfect weather. Seriously, the minute you mention that you may be moving to San Diego, people say, “I hear they have perfect weather there.” Try it. You’ll see.
Mark is really enjoying his job, although (naturally) he hates being apart from us. The stress of being away from us has caused him to lose 10 pounds. For me, the stress of him being away from us has caused me to gain 10 pounds. Just another reminder that life is unfair.
Sam is busy finishing up his senior year, doing things to pad, er…“build” his resume as he applies to colleges. As you know, he spent the last few years mostly holed up in his room, but this year, he has been forced to come out more to go to-and-from his resume-padding/building activities, which has been nice. We actually trade words from time to time and sometimes he smiles. I taught him to make Shake ‘n Bake chicken and to do his laundry in preparation for impending adulthood.
Schuyler is in NYC going to Stella Adler Acting Conservatory. Her class started with 200 actors and they ask students to leave each semester if they aren’t working hard enough, don’t have the talent or drive to make it. Schuyler just found out on Friday that she can stay and graduate – one of 25 kids out of 200 to make it to the end. I guess they do this to give the kids a taste of the competitive real world of acting. We’re very proud of her for working so hard and doing well. She was the only student in her class to go there right out of high school. Most of the class had drama degrees and MFA’s from universities. She recently told me that she never wanted to go to another school that asks so many kids to leave each semester (is there another school that does this?). Meanwhile, she’s hostessing at Kenmare, a hip downtown restaurant in NYC, so if you go there, look her up! Mention my name and you’ll get a free appetizer (maybe – I can’t promise).
This year, my book Testing For Kindergarten, came out in July. I’m very proud of it. If you know someone with a child from newborn to 6, run right out and get them a copy. Parents who have read it really love it. It’s way more than a “getting ready for testing” book. It’s what to do with your children so they’ll be intellectually ready for testing and (more importantly) their first school experience. I developed a wonderful board game to go with the book (if I do say so myself) – IQ Fun Park. You can see it at www.TestingForKindergarten.com/game. What an adventure that has been – creating the game, getting it manufactured, selling it on-line. I had no idea what I was doing when I started. Developing it has been an amazing learning experience and it is so gratifying to hear that kids love playing it and they have no idea that it’s good for them.
Beyond that, I co-founded an on-line testing and admissions advice business called www.TestingMom.com. Check it out if you have time. It’s an affordable way for parents to get advice about testing and school admissions. It’s not just for NYC parents – we have clients from all over the country. And finally, I’m going to start a radio show on www.WebTalkRadio.net this January – “The 30 Minute Mom” – life changing advice for parents in just 30 minutes a week. It’s all the stuff I wish I’d known to do when my kids were little. Here’s just one example: if I’d known then that self-control was more important to a child’s success than IQ, I might have worked a wee bit harder to teach my kids to be patient. Boy, did I screw up on that one. Anyway, I’ll let you know when the show airs and how to listen.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had too much time to write fiction this year. I did contribute to an anthology that will come out in May called He Said What? Each writer wrote about something a man said to them that changed their life. I wrote about the time I went to a psychic who spoke to my late father from the other side. What my father said to me at that reading was life changing. And he only said one word, “Tina,” the name of his favorite pet. However, that changed everything (you’ll have to read the story when it comes out to learn why).
I want to wish you the most wonderful holiday. Enjoy being with family and friends. I know I will this year. I’ll try to write more often, but do “friend” me on Facebook by looking for “Karen Nedler Quinn.” I’m on pretty often and we can keep up with each other’s lives in ridiculous detail.
July 27, 2010
Can I ask you to do me a favor? My new book, Testing For Kindergarten, has just come out. I could really use your help spreading the word about it. Please pass this on to any of your friends who have young children. If YOU have a child yourself, I hope you’ll pick up a copy (click here to order one at Amazon) and sign up at my other website for FREE daily test prep practice questions (click here to sign up at the website). I also blog much more regularly over there on topics of family, raising children, and intelligence (in fun ways, I promise). If there’s a young child in your life, I know you’ll enjoy being a member of the site.
Even if you don’t have young children yourself, I would be grateful if you would pass on info about the book and website to your friends who do. The book is for any parent of a child age 6 or younger. It is relevant whether you are sending your child to public school, a gifted program or private school. Here is what BookPage said about Testing For Kindergarten. You can share this information with your friends who have kids:
“Regardless of whether they attend public or private school, most children will be given some sort of IQ test by the age of five. Author Karen Quinn has written a comprehensive guide to this secret world in Testing for Kindergarten. It’s a process foreign to most parents, and these early test scores don’t even correlate well to later success. However, the tests have enormous impact on whether a child will get into a competitive private kindergarten or a free public gifted program.
Quinn turned herself into an expert on the topic after her son Sam was faced with developmental delays caused by hearing problems. At age 3, he scored in the 37th percentile. After Quinn’s intervention, he scored in the 94th.
Testing for Kindergarten shows how every parent can improve their child’s abilities and scores. First, Quinn explains the most common IQ tests and the seven abilities they measure. Then she helps parents refocus the way they interact with their child to start sneaking learning into everyday life. Daily Life Lessons are easy ideas, like what to do while setting the table, and there are loads of games and activities.
Quinn keeps the overload factor down by focusing on the most important things you can start on day one (dialogic reading, talking to your child constantly). Don’t miss this empowering guide.”
I’ve gotten many wonderful quotes from some top experts in education on the book (click here to see them on my website). But my favorites come from regular mothers who read the book and used the information with their own kids. Take a look:
“I used your book as a guide before my child took the ERB this spring. I would casually ask some of the questions as we walked down the street or sat eating ice cream and she seemed to think our “games” were really fun. Bottom line: … drum roll, please… she scored a 99. Please please please never repeat that to anyone — my husband and I certainly have not told anyone our kids’ scores on anything — but I wanted you to know. Thank you!”
-NYC Mom (who asked to remain anonymous)
Here are some of my early reader moms who used what they learned to work with their own children:
And thank you, thank you, thank you (!!!) to my friends for passing this information along to the parents-of-young-kids in their lives.
P.S. If you’re going to be in Denver on August 18, please email me so I can invite you. We’re having a book party and I’d love for you to come.
P.P.S. I’ve also developed a test-prep game to go along with the book. It’ll be available for sale soon, but you can learn about it by clicking here. Did you take a look at it? Isn’t the game board beautiful? It was created by Adriana Sandoval, a wonderful local artist here in Miami.