Thursday, July 7, 2016


     I stood on the side of the pool looking through the clear blue water at the painted cement bottom.  Little ripples played across the surface inviting me in.
     But I knew better.  I knew the water was chilly in spite of its clear color and siren's call.
     First the toe, quickly retreating from the new ripples it started.  Again and then again and again before taking a deep breath and lowering my body in.
     With a shiver, I take a deep breath and dunking my head under the water and adjusting to the temperature.  I shake my head, take another breath and push of the wall.  Smooth, long strokes across the length of the pool.  Past the water walkers, past the water aerobics ladies, all the way to the other side.  Touch and back down the pool again.  Five, ten laps later, it's time to change it up.  High knees to the chest, leaping like a gazelle out of the water as I strengthen my hips.  Up, up, up, up - 37 steps from one end to the other.  Turning, I take 37 more and 37 more and 37 more until I have leapt across 10 lengths of the pool.
     Back and forth for 30 minutes.
     As I swim and step, I see a hawk circling.  I wonder if he spots me and thinks, "I could feast for a year on that."  He spirals around again and again before flying off to find something more immediate.  I see him dive in the distance.  Perhaps he saw a small rodent, perhaps a small dog.  He's too far away for me to tell and he doesn't come back up with the object of his attention.
     From beyond the fence, I hear the distinct ping of a baseball off an aluminum bat from the little league camp just beyond the pool in the back part of the park.  Back across the pool towards the bath house.  I can feel my muscles strengthen as I go.
     Looking up at the clock, I see it's time to go before the children flood into the locker rooms and beyond.  Bidding farewell to the solitude of the pool, I pull on my cover up and leave.  I'll be back tomorrow, to swim and leap all over again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The joy of play

It is a constant battlecry these days: kids aren't resilient enough.  There are all sorts of cautions against helicopter parents, rising anxiety rates and kids not being able to cope with life, the universe and everything.  Me, I work with kids and hear all the cautions and concerns but lately I've been watching something that gives me great joy: kids just playing.

Every morning I start my day on the playground watching kids before school.  There is often at least one kid who brings or finds a soccer ball and it begins.  It starts with kids breaking into sides on their own and the game begins.  There are no boundaries - the whole field above and beyond the two goals is fair ground and as more kids show up, they naturally break onto the teams to keep things even.  With no refs, no adults, no rule book, the sides ebb and flow with the number of kids who show up or wander off.

Disputes happen and get solved.  Sometimes not that well but, more often than not, with an incredible sense of fairness and justice that only kids really understand.  It ends when the whistle blows announcing to kids it's time to end things and line up.

Another game I have been watching is one I introduced from my childhood called "Fox and Geese."

When I was a kid, we had a tag game we played in the snow.  We'd all stomp out a huge circle with an X in the middle.  The fox had to stick to the X only but the geese had the run of the whole board.  If you got tagged by the fox, you became the fox and the fox became a goose.  Variants included you became an additional fox or you were out.   Most schools today have various things painted on the blacktop and we have 4 square boards.  As the 4 square games became more and more complicated to the point of most of recess being taken up by agreeing on the cornucopia of rules for each session, the level of frustration among kids was visible.

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced "Fox and Geese" on one of the 4 square board as an alternative game.  I laid out the basic and let the kids take it from there.  The younger kids tend to switch off where the tagged goose becomes a fox.  The older kids changed the name of the game to "Alien Invasion" and have incorporated all sorts of rules that include "so long as you can keep one foot on the cross lines, you can tag someone so long as you can reach them.

More importantly, I watch older kids play with little kids and listen to them laugh.

It reminds me this is what play looks like when adults just let kids be kids.  They make up games and rules and find a way to get beyond the grown up  "everyone's a winner" attitude to avoid hurt feelings.  The truth is sometimes you lose, sometimes your feelings get hurt and, almost all the time, you have a lot of fun or find something else to do that lets you have fun.

So yeah, put me down as someone who wants to say just let kids play.  It's amazing what they can learn when adults get out of the way.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Feeding The Lions

They circle around me.
Slowly, stealthily the move with 
Deliberate motion.

"Feed me meNOW," they cry
Spiraling in closer
Until finally they brush against my legs.

One in the front, one in the back, with 
Plaintive meows of the starving.
"Feed me, it's been nine whole hours,"
they complain.

The kibble crunches in the bowl and
I pivot to feed them, but two little bodies
Attached to two little heads block my path.

"Is that for me?" they cry.
"I have your breakfast,' I sing.
I make up the words to song tunes and
I feel as if it pleases them,  
so I keep singing.

Time to feed my lions and make them purr.
Time to feed my lions and stroke their fur.
They like their crunchings.
They like their munchings.
Time to fee my lions and make them purr.

A quick rub agains my legs tells me
they are pleased with their song and they part
like Moses parting the Red Sea
and let me place their food in their spot
as they turn back into 
my gray stripey Maine Coon cat and

his furry purry ball of love black cat brother.

The lions are gone...
for now.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


When the Tsarnaev brothers decided to attack the Boston Marathon, my world was literally shaken.  I still carry deep emotional scars that may never heal from that day and a boatload of guilt because I was not in Copley Square.  I was 8 miles away finishing packing up the Mile 18 water stop.

But still, the marathon is such an integral piece of me in ways I really can't fathom, I carry that burden as part of me.

So many things since then. So many bombs and attacks - both organized and disorganized and I struggle daily to process each new event as it comes.
Why is it people are so upset over a coffee cup when there is real persecution in the world?  Why do people declare false wars on what it means to be <insert some belief here> instead of fighting real wars of hatred and intolerance.

Each time I ask myself the same question: Why?

Each time I realize the same answer: No one really knows.

I continue to process but I feel like my emotions are constantly buffering like a computer that has exceeded its bandwidth.  What can be shelved?  What can be deleted?  What can integrated into the system?

In the end, the only thing I can do is keep being.  Keep trying to be the light in the darkness hoping others also follow that choice.  That they keep being a light in the darkness because maybe, just maybe, if we all keep choosing to be the light, the shadows will grow smaller and the light will grow stronger and the attacks will become less frequent.  So the next time any of us think dark thoughts ("It's their fault..."  "They are trying to oppress me...." and so on), turn it around.  Ask yourself if there is a better way to respond.

It's not easy.  I've been trying for two and a half years now.  There are days when it is easier than others, but I continue to try.

So I will spend some time knitting hats for babies today.  I encourage you to do something to be part of the light as well.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


It is a new month full of adventures.  I have already written a couple of hundred words on my new NaNo project and will soon get ready to go to my first official write in of the season.  Like my friends Boar and Bunny, a new month awaits that is both a little scary and a lot exciting and sure to be fun.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

It's time for another NaNoWriMo, so time to do some writing.

But yesterday I had a moment with one of my fourth graders.  She has been struggling with writing.  She says "I need help..." an awful lot and keeps fighting to come up with transitions and capturing thoughts.  It has been a frustrating process for her.

She brought in her writer's notebook from 3rd grade to show me.  It's a standard composition book that she covered with family photos and inside were writing assignments and stories she wrote the previous year.  She looked at me with sad eyes and said, "See, I used to write a lot.  Why is it so hard now?"

It was clear she was in pain over this.  I looked at her and said, "You know I was a professional writer and wrote a weekly column for seven years.  There were times when it was easy and weeks where I struggled hard to come up with an idea and everything I wrote sounded lame or cliche.  That's part of being a writer.  Sometimes it's just flows as if it will never end and sometimes it feels like you could never put two words together.  That's sort of the way of writing."



She smiled and I gave her back her journal.  I pulled out mine and showed it to her.  I showed her that sometimes I make lists, sometimes I write, sometimes I outline and sometimes I draw pictures.  I reminded her that what makes a writer is not so much writing when it's easy but more of sticking with it when no words will come.

It was one of the few days in recent memory where she was able to focus on her work.

As I approach wrimo this year, I need to remember my own advice: being a writer is when you stick with it when no words will come, particularly when you're staring at hitting your daily deadline.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finish Stronger?

The motto of the Tufts 10k is: Start strong, finish stronger.

I don't know about stronger, but finish I did.  My first mile was great.  I knew I'd have to run/walk the race and the first two miles I settled into run 5 minutes/walk 5 minutes quite comfortably.  I hit problems at mile 2 starting with an asthma attack.

Now, I'm usually OK with just walking through an attack after using my inhaler.  It's nothing new and I expected it a bit.  What I didn't expect was the one thing that complicated it at the water stop a quarter mile later.  I grabbed my water and tossed it down - bad move.  It went down the wrong way and I ended up having a pretty significant coughing fit.  Grabbing a second cup after that, I knew I'd need to walk a while more.  I got to the point where Memorial Drive goes under Mass Ave and started running down the ramp only to have my lungs say, "Hey now what do you think you're doing?"

So I walked to Mile 3 and tried a jog with the same results.  I realized at that point, the rest of the race would be pushing a walking pace to the finish.  That was also the point I realized I was dehydrated as well.  It was hotter that usual and I had purposely laid off water before the race so I wouldn't need a pit stop figuring I'd make it up at water stops.  My fingers were swelling up, so I would raise them over my head and shake, take two cups of water at stops and just keep moving.  At Mile 5, a bunch of volunteers from Berkley School of Music were at the water stop dressed in tuxedos and offering cups of water on plastic bin covers doubling as trays.  A lovely laugh and touch in that "seriously, another whole mile to go?!" point.  It was just what I needed at that point.

I came down the street between the Public Garden and the Common with my eye on the "Finish" banner.  I had walked probably 5 of the 6.2 miles and I had made it.  My official time was 1:46, and I'll take it.  It was a "bad" race as these things goes but a good one in that I faced my fear and did it.

Now I can make a plan to run.  I guess I'll become an afternoon runner as I leave so early for work that running in the early morning dark may not really work for me.  But I can and will run so next year I can finish stronger.