Monday, December 24, 2007

Dark Time by Matthew Silverman

The 1960s were a dark time. For me. When I think of my experiences during that decade, it all seems completely dark, with occasional vivid memories flashing, like a light switch flicked on in a darkened room, and then switched off. The vision of what was seen while the light shined remains against the blackness.

Everything was very happy, they all tell me. Our house was as full as it would ever be. Four children, my cousin living with us made five, parents, my aunt who came to help three days a week, a nurse and handyman who came one or two days, dogs, cats, and neighborhood kids coming and going. I was part of that happy din, laughing and crying as life dictated.

I was somewhat sickly for the day. I went into the hospital three times for hernia operations before I was four. I only remember the last one—vaguely: getting Jell-O served in the hospital bed, the rectal thermometer, my mother sleeping in a cot set up in the room. I was not able to walk so there were crutches, but I was still small enough where anyone who needed me moved could pick me up easily enough.

When we sold the house thirty-odd years later, I found the contact sheets a professional photographer relative had taken of us then. My brothers still looking exactly alike, one in his school uniform and the other in a jacket a tie. My sister looking serious. A single picture of my cousin and several of my parents, not yet forty, in charge of this brood and traveling together for business, leaving us in the care of my aunts for weeks at a time. That was how things had to be and we did not complain. We were not a big family with a lot of extended branches; we were small and growing.

We even have a new dog, Topper, whom my brothers run through the yard in the contact sheets. My brothers and sister and I congregate at the back door, they dressed up and I in my pajamas that I stayed in the whole time I recovered from the operation. There is no posed picture of us on the landing, just us all doing something different at the same time. As we were. These pictures are all I have left of the dark time.

I took the contact sheets down to Manny’s in New Paltz to be mounted. I did not choose one or two to try to get developed or expanded but put all the contact sheets in one frame. Black and white images you have to peer at, like looking through a hole in a wall that you cannot see over.

* * *
Matthew Silverman is a writer and editor specializing in sports books. Spring 2008 brings three books on the New York Mets, with one splicing in memoirs by followers of the club and himself that was inspired by the Authentic Writing Workshop (100 Things Mets Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die).

IT WAS ME by Hane Selmani

It was me, the girl standing in front of the Krusq, the wedding party, wearing a wedding dress. How did it happen? What went wrong? I had asked God to change things. I didn’t like the man I was going to marry – but I had no choice. “On the day you were born God wrote on your forehead who you would marry and when you will die,” my mom told me when I was eleven. I believed it. What I couldn’t believe was that he chose Fatmir as my husband. He wasn’t what I had expected. What I had hoped for. How could I love a man who couldn’t carry a conversation? I had always wanted a real man – one who took the lead. A man who was highly respected – someone like my father.

The first time I met him was at his uncles Pizzeria in Manhattan, on 8th Avenue and 14th street. Fatmir had started working there when he came from Macedonia at the age of thirteen. Being the oldest boy he was made responsible for his families’ survival and came to America to work – this seemed to be all he did – all he knew. My brother Asllan and his wife Behare accompanied me to the Pizzeria. This was only fitting since it was at their wedding a few months ago that Fatmir’s Uncles had seen me and decided I would make a good wife – especially since I had my papers. Behare’s father was Shkus i parë, the Head Matchmaker, who came to ask for my hand in marriage on the behalf of Fatmir and his family. It was a Thursday, the day appropriate for these things, and I was in school.
“They came to ask for you today,” my mother told me when I got home, and proceeded to tell me what the Shkus said about him. He was a hard worker, didn’t do drugs, or drink alcohol, and wasn’t a womanizer. My mother commented that he didn’t look “wild,” which I took to mean he wouldn’t hit me. Thank God for him I thought to myself. I also found out from Behare that his uncles, whom Fatmir lived with, treated their wives really well; so there was a good chance I would be too. One wife even drove a car, and both went shopping for clothes by themselves frequently. I really wanted to like him.

“Here’s his picture,” Mom said as she handed it to me.

There he was standing by himself at some wedding hall, dressed in a dark suit and white shirt, with thick dark brown hair combed to the side, and beautiful eyes – he wasn’t smiling so I couldn’t tell if he had nice teeth. That was one thing to look out for in photos. It was obvious he had this picture taken just for this reason.
“His name is Fatmir,” Mom said.

Fatmir…I liked the name, it meant good-luck, and he was very good-looking. There was some potential here – all I needed was to feel an attraction, so arrangements were made for me to meet him face to face – with chaperones of course.

I was wearing an expensive stylish off-white dress with three small hand painted flowers that playfully fell over each shoulder. The dress was an appropriate “girls” dress which covered my legs mid calf. I had recently worn it to a wedding. It wasn’t something I would normally wear to a pizzeria – but this was a special occasion.

Fatmir was expecting us. He looked like his picture, except with acne. He didn’t smile, but I could make out that he had nice teeth. He was nervous, shy, and hardly spoke. He didn’t even look at me when I shook his hand ‘Hello,’ and he even blushed.

Asllan, trying to make the “visit” seem casual ordered a large pie for take-out. The fact that we drove in all the way from Bensonhurst Brooklyn was conveniently overlooked. Fatmir made us a fresh pie and spoke to Asllan in-between serving customers, other customers, looking at me on the rare occasion when I said something. Joining in on the conversation was hard since I was supposed to be the submissive female, and was a little shy myself. Fifteen minutes later, with fresh pie in hand, Asllan, Behare and I were ready to leave.

I hadn’t felt anything and was hopeful that something would happen when he shook my hand good-bye. Maybe he would look at me in a special way? Maybe he would say something nice? Maybe my heart would skip a beat for no apparent reason?

None of it happened.

We got to the car and I noticed that he had forgotten to give us napkins.
Being the cool brother, Asllan said, “You go and ask for the napkins.”
At first I was hesitant, and then I thought maybe it would be different if I saw him one on one, and bravely headed back in.

“You forgot to give us napkins,” I said with a smile.

“Oh,” he replied and grabbed a big handful of them, and turning a light shade of red, handed them to me.

“Are you trying to say we’re slobs?” I asked playfully, hoping he’d be funny, sweet…something.

“No. No,” he replied, now even redder.

My heart sank. I smiled, told him I was only kidding, turned around, and left.
So when the Shkus came for the answer to their proposal on his behalf my answer was also “No.” Actually I said, “I don’t know. I don’t feel anything for him.” This I had to repeat to everyone who inquired if I wanted to marry him – my sisters, sister-in-laws, and brothers. The biggest surprise was when my oldest brother Nezir asked me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I did not think he cared about me and my future. He had his wife, which he chose, his children, and he lived in Staten Island – far away from us. Only the girls were supposed to leave the house when they married. He visited every weekend but he felt more like a guest than family. He had the attitude of being above all the Albanian bullshit, as he called it. I think after Xharije’s death [explained in another chapter] he wanted to make sure I picked my own husband, and wasn’t pushed into it. His genuine concern for me made me feel like his sister for a minute.

“I don’t know,” was the acceptable way of saying “No.” I knew everybody wanted me to like him, but I didn’t feel anything extraordinary– the way I expected love to be like. I wanted to love the man I would marry – in this way I was Americanized.
We weren’t your typical Albanian family – I was allowed me to make the final decision on whom I’d marry. There were twenty-six suitors in all, but the majority of them weren’t approved by my brother Sokol or my Mom and didn’t pass the first round. Only three made it to the second round of meeting me – and Fatmir was one of them, and I think my mother’s favorite. My Mom wasn’t happy to hear that I didn’t like him.

The Shkus decided not to take ‘No’ for an answer and came again the following week, and the week after, and the week after that – or so that’s how it felt. It was two months later and they would still call to let us know they were coming for “a coffee,” but we knew what they meant. This persistence was unusual and everyone who heard about it was impressed that Fatmir had wanted me bad enough to swallow his pride and continued his pursuit. I knew I was a great catch, and although I was a little flattered, I just wished they would leave me alone. And besides, I didn’t think Fatmir had that type of conviction – although I saw he liked me I believed it was his Uncles doing. Or had my mother left the door open for them by somehow giving them hope. She used the excuse, “They keep coming for you so why don’t you give him one more chance.” So I did. How could I say No to her.

This time I went to the Pizzeria with my sister Qamile, who excused herself minutes after we arrived with “I have to do some shopping.” It was funny to me that everybody knew what was going on yet went along with it. Why not just say, “I am going to leave you two alone to talk for a while?” I hated lies, even if they were supposed to help one save face. Inside I just shook my head in disbelief.
I sat at a counter on a stool near the ovens, again wearing a dress which was how I silently acknowledged that I knew my place. In school I was a tomboy, but he wasn’t marrying me for who I was. He gave me a slice, directed the Mexican to make pies, and we tried talking while he served customers. I spoke to him in Albanian because I didn’t want to make him feel inferior to me, and I wanted to show off that I can speak the language even though I came here when I was seven. I was not Americanized and was a proper girl.

“How long have you been in America,” I asked in Albanian.

“Five years.”

“Do you like it here?”


Then silence. Jesus! Couldn’t he answer me in full sentences! Couldn’t he take the initiative and ask me a question. Couldn’t he take charge?! After all he was the man.

In a final attempt to break the ice, I asked with a smile, “What were the first curse words you learned in English?”

“What?” He did a double take.

Feeling a little awkward about having asked such an inappropriate question I decided to act as though it was no big deal.

“Une e kum mësu mother-fucker,” I learned mother-fucker, I said.

“Edhe une,” me too, he responded with a smile. I could tell he liked my gutsiness, but I didn’t care for his lack of it.

Damn it. He didn’t even laugh. This was not going to cut it. I needed more of a man. I should have been the one wearing the pants. An hour later, when my sister “finished her shopping,” we headed home, and I was no closer to liking him than before. Although I wanted to want to marry him, I did not feel anything.

“So, what will we tell them when they come tomorrow,” my Mom asked that Friday night before the Shkus came for the answer again.

My heart dropped as I looked at her and then up at the ceiling. It was dark and we had just gone to bed. I slept in the pull-out twin bed next to hers. There was nowhere to run. I knew she wanted me to say ‘Yes,’ and I didn’t want to disappoint her.

“Se di,” I don’t know, I responded as my heart beat loudly in my chest. I knew she knew what that meant. She always understood what I wanted to say even when I didn’t say anything.

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

It was obvious – she didn’t want to accept ‘No’ for an answer. Fatmir seemed like the perfect catch. But I couldn’t say “Yes” when my heart said “No.” So I lay there in silence not knowing what to do.

“You know…Sokol told me you were becoming an old lady in his house,” she said coldly.

He was right – I had turned nineteen. That was pretty old.

The words took me by surprise and my heart sank. The light that came in from the windows was not bright enough to expose the tears that began to run down my face. For this I was thankful. Sokol had been like a father to me since I was eleven, when Dad died. I couldn’t believe he felt like this. But I didn’t dare ask her if he really said it. That would be like calling her a liar – which no one dared to do – half out of respect, half out of fear. Such an insinuation could mean she wouldn’t talk to me for months. And besides, the thought of here lying about something as hurtful as this was not conceivable – I had to accept it as truth. I lay there like a doe with a deep heart wound, silent and still on the outside, painfully dying on the inside.

“So… what should we tell them when they come tomorrow?” she asked, trying to make it seem like it was really up to me, and that the boulder she just dropped on me was only a feather. But she must have known the weight of it – she had to.
What could I say? I no longer had a home. I wasn’t wanted. There was NO choice. I my best to collect myself. I could not let her know I was crying. I didn’t want her to think I was being a baby and felt sorry for myself. She hated that.

“Do whatever you want,” I responded and turned away. Silently letting the tears drip off my nose and cheeks onto the hand that cupped my face. With the other hand I wiped my nose carefully so Mom wouldn’t notice.
The tears dripped me into sleep.

The next morning the Shkus, according to tradition, were supposed to be there before noon so I left before ten – anxious to get out of the house. I didn’t want to be there for it. I was so hurt I avoided seeing Sokol. It took me twenty years to tell him how hurt I was about what he told Mom. Confused, he replied, “I never said that.” We looked at each other and shook our heads in disbelief - Mom had always known how to get just what she wanted.

The fifteen minute walk to Qamile’s house took forever. The usual excitement of window shopping past the 86th Street stores wasn’t there. When I got to her apartment she didn’t mention that she knew fjala, the word, was being given today. She was sensitive to my feeling and knew how I felt.

“You’re engaged,” Qamile said to me an hour later, after getting the phone call from my Mom.

I looked at her and gave a fake smile while fighting back the tears.

“Don’t worry. You will learn to love him,” she said.

I hoped so. I really hoped so.

Who was I to question what had worked for hundreds of years. I really wanted to love the man I’d marry. I guess I’d have to get over that. It made more sense to entrust your elders to do the picking, I reasoned with myself. “Look at the American’s, their marriages almost always end in divorce, and they pick their husbands, they start out loving each other,” I heard many women say in defense of our ways. They were right. Albanians hardly ever got divorced – maybe they knew what they were doing? Regardless, I was relieved this whole marriage thing was over. I was tired of wondering whom I’d marry. Whom God had chosen.


After our engagement my family had decided that I would be allowed to talk to Fatmir on the phone. When my niece was engaged she had to make secret phone calls, but my family was modern. In anticipation for the phone call Asllan and Behare went out and took Sokol’s three boys. My Mom and Sokol’s wife were at their office cleaning jobs. Sokol ate the dinner I served him and left soon after so I could make my call. I would have preferred to have Fatmir call me but I understood there was no way for him to know when I was alone. I picked up the phone in the kitchen, the only phone we had, and began to dial the numbers my sister had gotten for me. My heart beat loudly. I was nervous. This was going to be the man I would marry. The man I would lose my virginity to. The man I would lose my identity to and be called “the wife of.” But I was hopeful that this phone call might change how I felt about him.

“Porto Fino Pizzeria, may I help you?” the voice said.

“May I speak to Fatmir please,” I asked trying hard to keep my voice steady, not knowing that at work they called him by his American name – Johnny.
“This is Fatmir,” he said, as his voice began to break-up. He knew it was me.
Oh boy! I thought to myself, this isn’t going to be easy.

I began by asking the mandatory: “How are you? How’s it going? How’s your health? How’s work? Do you get tired?’ I hated these canned questions, but went through the ritual like a good girl.

“How many brothers and sisters do you have?” I asked, after all it wasn’t just him I was marrying.


“What are their names?” I inquire with a pen and paper in hand.

“Why do you want to know their names?” he replied in a smug voice.

My stomach began to turn.

“Because we are going to be married – right?” I replied with a tinge of disgust in my voice, almost daring him to say otherwise. A I didn’t care anymore about saying the wrong thing or sounding the wrong way.

This was the reason why parents didn’t let their kids talk, or see their fiancés. If someone made a mistake and the engagement was called off it would be a disgrace to the family. It wouldn’t be so bad for the man, but it would make it a little harder for the girl to find another good husband, especially if she was the one to cause trouble. No one wanted a challenging wife, and God forbid someone else’s leftovers. We wanted our women to be pure in so many ways.
I was sure my tone of voice gave Fatmir a hint that I was a bit hard headed or pak e egër, a little wild, as my mother would call me. If I didn’t like something I let people know. My family knew this about me but such information didn’t freely leave our house and risk my chances of getting a good husband. Even now that I was engaged, it still wasn’t something to be shared – but I didn’t care. I hid nothing. I couldn’t play the submissive role right now. I hoped he was disgusted by my attitude. I hoped he would call it off. That was about as daring as I allowed myself to be. After all I was only a little wild.

“Oh…,” he responded meekly, and proceeded to tell me their names.

It was too late. I half-heartedly listened, and wrote nothing down. Fuck him, I thought, Fuck him! He just made marrying him harder. I tactfully ended the phone call and began to cry. What was I to do? I knew God had chosen my husband, but it was up to us to find him – had we found the wrong man? Heartbroken I went into my bedroom and sat on my bed, not wanting Sokol to walk in and find me crying. With only the light that came in from the dining room I wrote my first letter to the only one I knew could help.

Dear God,
Please do something so that I do not have to marry this man. I know You have written who I will marry on my forehead on the day I was born, but this could not be him. As you know I cannot do anything to call it off without ruining my family name. I know that You are powerful and can do anything, so from the bottom of my heart I ask you to bring this engagement to an end. You know what a good person I am, and so you must know I deserve someone better. I really want to love the man I will marry, and I cannot love him. But I cannot hurt my family either. So please, please, please God, do something. But if you do nothing I will accept my fate.

Tears dripped onto my note and I patted it dry so the letters wouldn’t smudge. I knew he read it as I was writing, but I didn’t want the letter to look messy. It was an important letter – I had even used my best penmanship. I felt Him there listening, and it comforted me. I was hopeful. Truly hopeful. I was not afraid of God – I loved him – and knew he loved me. I had stopped believing in him two years ago, when he let Xharije die tragically, but eventually I reasoned that he must have had a reason for letting it happen as it did. Was he going to let this happen also? The thought disturbed me. He would make this right, I convinced myself. I wondered how he would do it. Would he kill Fatmir? Would he make him call it off? How would he make him call it off? However he would choose to do it would be okay by me – as long as I didn’t have to do it. I put my fate in God’s hands where it belonged, and I waited.

Day’s turned into weeks; weeks into months, and eventually it became April 2nd or 3rd. I don’t remember the exact date; I just know it was the first weekend in April of 1982 when I got married to Fatmir. God must have picked him after all.

Hane Selmani is a writer living in New York City.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

KIDS EAT FREE by Kathy Preston

Certainly, no one is here for the food. If you cared to, just about every detail of the place could be described with the prefix “faux”-- faux-rustic, faux-Americana, and so on. This restaurant, a self-proclaimed “brew pub” with a middling selection, has a couple things going for it. The brew vats take up the center of the two-story building, which creates a cavernous interior with so much background noise that the sound in there, even when half-empty, is cacophonous. This is a plus when you have small children. They also offer a Wednesday night special-- Kids’ Night-- where children can eat free if their accompanying adult orders dinner. I’ve done this many times with different combinations of parents and kids, it’s always been fun, nothing too eventful, pleasant or unpleasant. So I’ve been looking forward to this night.

It’s Phoebe’s 4th birthday, and she’s chosen this, of all things, as the one thing she wants for her birthday. Her mother, Donna, is bemused but has made the reservation. I’m running late. We pull into the parking lot at the same time as Loretta and the triplets, they tumble from the minivan and I take one boy’s hand, Nora on the other, Loretta holding the other two boys, and we march six abreast to the big stone building. Loretta and I joke that we can’t wait to tell the hostess that we’re with the Donna Party.

The kids want deep-fried mac and cheese (this dish exists, yes. It is triangular.) and deep-fried chicken “tenders” and grilled cheese that may as well be deep fried, and even our organic free-range mamas go along with this because once in a while won’t kill you but giving up the opportunity to all be together like this just might. There is an intensity of feeling in these relationships between us that I have not felt before-- it is a magnified version of friendship, akin to sisterhood, but different. We are a community that exists through our love for our children. That fierce bond spills over into us, and there is a palpable excitement in a simple thing like putting everything else aside to talk face to face as we see our children grow together.

There have been some bad days leading up to this one-- even more reason to come together and recharge the way we do. We don’t know any of this (most of the conversation has been about Miriam’s decision to change Ellie’s preschool) and conversations are stopped and started at abrupt intervals as we corral the kids (hungry, excited) and are able to get most of them sitting down for bread and butter. The bad days-- I spent most of this one on or over the toilet, thanks to what I am praying is a 24-hour bug. Michele has just come off a fourteen-hour shift in Labor and Delivery after staying with a mother as she pushed out her stillborn baby, Loretta and the boys have just gotten back from their pulmonologist in Westchester and Loretta has to choose between potential death from asthma or potential death from asthma treatment. But we don’t share any of this right now. We say hello, we try to get our kids some food.

Our party is alone upstairs. Nora is sitting on my lap, lunging for the bread basket, imperiously overseeing the buttering process. Phoebe twirls in her fancy party dress and I look around for the waitress and decide to hell with it, a margarita it is. Orders are placed for the kids and we try to read the menus in between. We manage to order and hope the food comes soon.

I am taking Nora’s hands out of the butter when I hear the commotion. I am surprised to hear it in the soupy reverberations between the upstairs I-beams, there’s this sort of dull roar from downstairs, then all the high-pitched toddler squeaking. I look up and see this woman at the top of the stairs. I can not tell if she is young or old, thin or heavy, blonde or brunette. I know immediately that she is angry, and she is moving toward us, shouting. I can not catch her words. Now she is within earshot. She thinks our children are out of control. We are bothering other diners. They need to sit down. I can see Michele is holding back. She explains that we have been waiting 45 minutes for the kids’ food, this is kids' night, it’s a kid’s birthday party, that that is an unreasonable expectation. I gather this is a manager? A hostess? I am perturbed and intrigued, but pinned down so do not offer comment or get up to join in. Michele and this woman move away, toward the top of the stairs. The body language is riveting. I can tell that Michele is on edge, the woman is not making eye contact but flailing her arms and I can hear her shout, “They need to calm down!” Michele takes a breath. The woman stops for a moment, turns angrily and screams over her shoulder as she descends, “WHERE ARE YOUR HUSBANDS?”

Michele gasps, comes over quickly to tell 8-year-old Ruby to stay put and mind her sister, Loretta gasps and looks at me, wide-eyed, and I can not hear a thing. The roar of the restaurant has been replaced by the sound of blood rushing through my head, at least that’s what I think it is. It sounds like my hands are over my ears, I feel a constriction in my chest and something rising up. It is something I have suppressed for over a year. It is Rage. I fought it down each time I was told it was a blessing Nora was so young when Byron died. I fought it down each time I was told that I was still young and I had my whole life ahead of me. Even when someone I had met once told me that Byron manifested his own death, that negative thoughts cause cancer. The voice rips through this time and I hear that voice come out of the place in my chest, bellowing “Mine’s DEAD, sweetheart!” I realize I have said this, and recoil.

Where IS my husband. I’ve stopped thinking of him as my husband, started calling him “Nora’s dad” in conversation, trying to feel as though not having a husband was something normal and not a loss. But now this. Without thinking, I put Nora on my hip and go downstairs. The roar inside and outside my head are indistinguishable.

Michele is in the glassed-in foyer with the woman, fiery, close. I open the door, a quick burst of cold air brushes my cheeks. They are burning. I have never done this before. I tell her that what she said was horrible, that my husband is dead. How can she say something like that? I need to tell her what those words did, but her eyes only light on mine for a a moment-- since she has identified Michele as her adversary, her target, her focus is not on me, literally or figuratively. She says, “Yeah, well, your children are out of control.” I can not stop the tears. Nora is confused. "Why we downstairs, Mommy? Where Phoebe’s birthday is?" I can not stay. I grab Nora too tightly and go back upstairs.

I barely notice the table, or my friends. Our food is there, I can not touch mine but Nora digs in. She wants to be in my lap, and I am glad for this because I can not stop crying. Her need for ketchup becomes an anchor and a shield. I need to remain upright. Every mother here knows why I am crying. The kids do not. I hear quiet explanations, gentle reassurances. I am hugged, and I feel hands on my shoulders, but now I have this question inside me. Where is my husband? And I only know where he is not. I see him vividly in the hospital bed where he no longer is. I hear him moaning, he won’t open his eyes, and the bedsores are here, the black liquid pouring from his body is here, his wasted arms are here. Each time I blink I see the hole in his side, an unstoppable wound, the blood and the bandages that are soaked with it. The foul, wrenching memory of his death is here-- now his eyes won’t close and his skin is cold.

“Why you are crying, Mommy?” I am crying because of a question I have not found the answer to. I do not see him in the shadows any more. I don’t dream about him. His ashes are in an Apollo Space Launch lunchbox on a rocky cliff’s edge looking out over the ocean in County Kerry, a short walk to Niall’s house. His body has burned. Where he is is not here.

We are the last ones to leave-- Nora has dropped her goody bag and we stay to look for it. I will be damned if she bears one single disappointment this night. I buckle her in, and close the car door, and try to cry as much as I can in the privacy of the cold and unlit lot so that I can leave that there and face my daughter again.

It is bedtime when we get home. I put Nora in the bath, and I start to cry again. “Why you are crying, mommy?”

I’m crying because of what happened at the restaurant. I’m okay, I just can’t stop.

“That lady was mean? She make you cry?”

Yes she did.


Because she said that there should be husbands there, and that made me miss your daddy.

“You miss him?”

Yes, I do.

“You want to hug him?”

I do, but remember how we talked about how Daddy doesn’t have a body any more?

“Oh. I will hug him.”

I can not respond. She continues.

“We dance in the living room. I will hug him, Mommy.” Then we talk about bubbles, and washcloths, and teeth, and pajamas, and the evening fades in and out around us as I put my daughter to bed, where my husband is not.


Kathy Preston is an artist and mother who lives in New Paltz, New York. In her spare time she is learning to navigate the New York City subway system. Her website-in-progress is