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.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Start strong?

Today is the Tufts 10k.

If you are out there and see a woman struggling along wearing either of these shirts, as I haven't decided which one yet, shout out a little encouragement.  I could probably use it.

I haven't run since August due to an aggravated C8/T1 nerve where the neck meets the spine that left me curled up in pain and whimpering.  I have been in physical therapy since the beginning of September to deal with this and it's finally subsided to a point where I have been cleared to run and have gone out for "runs" (read: walks where I occasionally burst into a canter and then settle back into a walk).

The past few days I have waffled about doing this but it comes down to this: I'm scared.  I'm scared of being hurt or injured again.  I'm scared that I can't do this anymore and if I can't do this, then what do I do?  I'm scared of so many things including being the last person across as they break down the finish line.  Which is why I need to do this.

There will be no support crew for me.  No Pi holding up a "Run for the cookie" sign at the finish for me.  No husband filming me crossing the finish line (even though I always ask him NOT to film it, just snap photos because no woman wants to see herself jiggling like a bowl of jello).  No running buddies or friends.

Just me.

It's all so scary, but it's important that I do this.  To face my fears and remind myself that, even if I walk the whole way, that I am capable of doing this and so much more.

Today is a day to "start strong, finish stronger" according to the Tufts 10k motto.  I don't know about starting strong, but I know when I finish I will at least feel stronger.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rhythm Romance With My Shoes

My favorite running shoe.  Thank you nice
person at Brooks who sent them to me after
the Trance knocked me out of commission.
A serious ankle roll as a result of last winter's phenomenal amount of snow fall in Boston left me sidelined for far too long this year.

About four weeks ago, I began running again.  I've been enjoying going out for my run/walks (.25 miles run/.25 miles walk/repeat) and my pace is finally starting to pick up a little.  Four miles is starting to become comfortable again.  I'm finding new spots along area rivers to explore.  It has been an enjoyable cycle this time through.  Even in Ohio last week running along the marshes of Lake Erie near Sandusky was enjoyable (except for when I ran down a hiking trail and through a spider web that had me squeal and shriek like a 5 year old).

Today's run started with an old Nils Lofgren song "I Came to Dance" from the disco era.  It's one of the few from that time period that I still remember and love.  It's a song about an artist and his manager arguing about commercial viability vs artistic integrity.  The artist declares he's having a "rhythm romance with my shoes" as all he wants to do is make music that makes people dance.

That's how it felt today, I was having a rhythm romance with my shoes.  Moving in time with a nostalgic playlist from that around that era, to the sound of the coach on the launch yelling to the rowers through his bullhorn, to the movement of the cars and other runners.  Today was definitely about rhythm.

It wasn't an easy run but it was an enjoyable one and that's all I ask for these days, to enjoy my running.  If all goes as plan, I should be running the Tufts 10k in October this year.  After that I want to stay in at least 10k shape with a regular 7 mile run.  Until then, when I'm out running I will remind myself that I came to run as I continue my rhythm romance with my shoes.

If you don't remember the song (or weren't around for when it came out) here's a reminder:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Camp NanoWrimo Day Three: On the Road

Last week Bunny worked up the courage to go on an adventure with Boar.  This is the beginning of the adventure.

On The Road

“I’ve never been on a ferry before, is it scary?” Bunny asked nervously.  He tried to wriggle down into the bag a little more.

“You’ll enjoy it,” Boar said with a smile, “besides, I promise I won’t leave your side.  It will be fun.”

The whistle blew and Bunny shuddered.

“Do you want me to tell you about having a cappuccino in Milan again?”

“I think that would make me feel better,” Bunny whispered.  “It makes me feel better to know I’m with an experienced traveler like you.”

“Stick with me kid and you’ll be fine.  So here I was in Milan, sitting on the table in a cafe...” he began.  Bunny closed his eyes and listened to Boar’s tale of strong coffee and sweet pastries before boarding a train in Italy.

Bunny could smell the salt in the air and the rhythm of the boat was beginning to lull him to sleep a bit.  Snuggling up to Boar he felt a little less timid.  He woke up when he felt a gentle nuzzle on his ear.

“Open your eyes and take a look.”

Bunny saw the most amazing thing,  In front of them was nothing like water.  A bit of foam formed a line across the water, much the way he imagined lane markers in a pool would mark the shallow from the deep end.  Here, the ocean was saying, “You’re entering the deep end.  You must be on a boat this big to cross this line safely.”

The boat powered through the line past a pair of rocking buoys.  On one side of the boat, Bunny could see the outline of the shore.  Sail boats skipped across the choppy waves in the bright sunlight and hearty breeze.  Greedy birds wheeled around in the air above them, circling slowly looking for food and crying out for a little attention in hopes someone would take pity on them and toss a morsel to them.  The steady thrum of the engines drove the boat forward in the water towards a far point barely visible in the distance.

“I like the wind in my ears,” Bunny admitted.

“It’s a good day to be at sea,” Boar responded.  “If it’s too much, let me know and we’ll sit inside for a little bit.  The sun may feel a bit hot and there’s no shame in taking shelter.”

Bunny angled his face into the wind and let out a happy sigh.  He felt free sitting on the railing with Boar a bit back from the nose of the ferry.  

“I’m ready to go in Boar,” Bunny said finally when the sun began to feel a bit too warm on his face.

With a silent nod, Boar lead the way where they sat on a table while the woman sipped from her water bottle and drew in her book.  

“I hope you’re enjoying the ferry Bunny,” she smiled before she went back to her drawing.  

Looking over Bunny noticed she had drawn a sketch of him and Boar together.  He liked the smile on his face.  He noticed Boar was in a slightly defensive stance, shielding Bunny.

“Are you enjoying the trip so far?” Boar asked him.

“I am,” Bunny murmured, “traveling with a friend makes all the difference.”
Boar smiled to himself.

“Good, then you should be good if we stop for lunch after we reach the shore.  I bet our humans can find a good salad for us.”

Bunny nodded.  It wasn’t long before he heard the whistle blow again and he felt himself scooped up and put back in their bag with the sketch books and things.  Once they were in the car, he took them out and put them on dashboard with the car bears.  The car bears were a group of four bears: Always, Eggy, the Pirate Captain and Bruce.  Bruce was a small tan bear with a heart in his hands, the Pirate Captain had an eye patch and big black pirate hate.  Always was the largest, he was about the same size as Boar and carried a red rose.  Eggy was small, like Bunny, and he was nestled safely in Always’ arms.  

Bunny noticed there was a small window, just the right size for him so he could feel safe while enjoying the view outside pass by.

Eggy and Bunny spent a long time talking together as they were both a bit timid.

“Sometimes the Pirate Captain has a drop too much rum,” Eggy whispered conspiratorially to Bunny.  “When that happens, he gets a bit gruff but otherwise he’s a perfectly splendid bear to travel with in the car.  Bruce can get a bit emotional.  Always is my best friend.  He keeps me safe.”

“Boar is my best friend and he keeps me company so I won’t be so scared all the time.”

“It’s nice to have a friend like that, isn’t it.

“Perhaps we can travel together too for a little bit?”

“I would like that.”

Bunny looked back out the window at the big houses and green lawns as they traveled along the road.  It wasn’t long before they stopped and he knew it wouldn’t be long before he would be scooped up and put into the bag with Boar.

“Don’t you want to come Eggy?”

“We’re good in the car.  Don’t worry.  This your adventure Bunny, not mine.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Camp NanoWrimo Day Two: Bunny

I know I"m going to be writing and illustrating a number of stories about Bunny and Boar (with occasional visits from Mike and others).  But I wanted to figure out who Bunny was and I realized that he is actually very shy.  Last week he and Boar came to New York with me because he had always wanted to go on an adventure but was too scared.  Boar helped him be a little bolder as they rode the ferry, visited the Cloisters and, later, Manhattan.

This is more of a getting to know Bunny as a character study than a story really.  But it is another 780 words in the books (so to speak).


Bunny sat in the tin bucket with all the other small animals.  

He was a shy creature by nature, so whenever someone came by to look through the bucket at the stuffed animals, they tended to go for the bolder animals.  

The pigs with wings - sold out.  

The big bunnies with a little carrot sewn to their paws.  Flying out of the bucket like there was no tomorrow. 

The ducks with squeakers inside.  Gone.

Then there were the hand puppets.  They were soft and cuddly and could hold a full conversation with someone and then snuggle up like a stuffed animal.  The best of both worlds.  They took longer to sell as they were a bit pricey.

Some of the animals left with men, some left with woman.  Most left with children in various states of behavior.  

Some children were screaming, “But I WANT it!!!” and a tired adult sighing with a “Whatever,” response.  

Some of the children were quiet and had an animal forced on them by an adult.

It didn’t matter as he watched as the other animals disappeared one by one while he just moved deeper down into the tin bucket wondering if anyone would ever want a shy, yellow bunny.

Then he felt a hand on him.  The man who grabbed him put his nose up against a woman’s nose.  She had kind eyes.

“Hello,” the man said, “wouldn’t you like to take home a bunny.”

“It’s a yellow bunny,” she replied. 

Bunny liked her smile.

“You know you can’t ask me if I want to take home a bunny and then not let me take him home.”

“Not me Lord,” he said with a long exasperated sigh, “the woman you gave me.”

“Yeah!  I have a bunny!  I have a yellow bunny!” she exclaimed.

He enjoyed riding around with the vegetables and fruit as they moved up and down the aisles.  Every so often she would smile and talk to him before putting him back to add something else to the cart.  At the check out she looked at him.

“You’re going to come home with me and meet Boar and Mike.  They need a someone to play with when I’m at work.”

Bunny began to worry.  He was, after all, a timid bunny.  The other animals had pretty much ignored him in the bucket, even the other bunnies. He wasn’t sure about how other animals would receive him.

At home he met Boar.  Boar was a bit bigger than him.  He was tough and had two tusks that pointed in slightly different directions.  Mike was a red dragon with golden wings, about the same size as Boar.

“Who are you?”

“Now Boar, don’t be a boor!” Mike said as Bunny joined them on the table.

Boar looked at Mike.

“Pardon me,” he said sarcastically, “might I inquire as to who you are?”

Bunny trembled a little.

“You poor thing, don’t be frightened.  I’m Michael and I normally live in the car.  I like feeling the wind against my wings and going to new places.  Boar may look and act a bit gruff, but he’s really rather nice once you get to know him.”


Mike laughed.

“So who are you little one?”


“Well Bunny, why are you here?”

“I don’t know.   I’m kind of... well, you know... I’m a bit shy really.”

Boar laughed.  It was a hearty, friendly laugh.

“If you are here, then that means she saw something special in you.  I am Boar.  She found me in Tuscany.  Boars are hunted there, I don’t know why as we are actually rather nice critters.  No one wanted me because my tusks aren’t even.  That’s why she wanted me to come home with her, because she said they gave me character.”

Bunny looked at Mike questioningly.

“So why am I here you wonder?  Correct?”

Bunny nodded.

“I suppose lots of reasons.  There are many thing that aren’t quite perfect on me.  Mostly because I am a car dragon.  I help protect her as she drives around, but sometimes I like to come inside and play because it can get a bit lonely out there.  I like Tek, he’s a good car but, well, he is a car.  He is full of good stories about his travels.  He has been to a lot of places and has many stories to tell.  Sometimes he prefers talking to the other cars when we’re parked in a lot, and forgets I’m there.  I think I hate those moments the most.”

They sat in silence for a moment.  

“What’s your story?”

“I don’t have a good story.  I’m just a little bunny.  All the other animals found homes long before me and now I’m here.  But I’m really just too little for most everything.”

“You’re just the right size,” Mike smiled, “to be a friend.”

Bunny began to relax.

Boar snuffled.  

“It will be good to have someone when Mike is in the car.  It can get a bit lonely in here too.”

The three sat together for a moment.

“So this is what it feels like,” Bunny said.

“Feels like what?”

“Why wanted of course,” Bunny replied.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Camp NanoWrimo Day One

I wanted to write a series of short stories for Camp NanoWrimo during July, so I started just doing a bit of a brain dump to get writing.  I got 1500 words in when I realized I set a 1,000 word goal, not the 1600+ goal of November.  I guess that means I can slack a little on a day that feels a bit stressed.

Thoughts on a New York State of Mind

After all the rain on Saturday and early fog on Sunday, Monday dawned bright and cheery.  Preparing for a day in Manhattan was a careful process:  what comfy shoes could I wear that looked “normal?”  Which bag(s) could I carry that didn’t scream tourist?  Should I wear normal headphones or my Pinkie Pie over the ear don’t f with me headphones?  How do I figure out where I’m going without looking like I’m lost or a tourist?

In other words, how do I look like I belong so that I blend into the background?

The day started with me boarding the Long Island Rail Road at the Syosset stop to head into the city.  The train was about half full of mostly commuters.  Hipsters dressed in suits that still screamed, “I’m unique like everyone else dammit!” but still looking like they were wearing the grown up clothes mom bought for them for family events. Then came the corporate types in their serious clothing.  
There was the scattered set of tourists and ladies who lunch types as well.  Me, I was styling my jeans and middle aged fat girl “slenderizing” tunic top, NaNo Messenger bag and the don’t F with me Pinkie Pie headphones.  Sitting next to a hipster on the train with the largest cup of Dunkies I could get my hands on, I kicked back and relaxed.  

Of equal importance, my soundtrack for the day.  Because of my mood, I started with Reel Big Fish’s “Hiding in my Headphones,” and hit the “radio” button to get the ska mix going that would be my underlying soundtrack.

Hipster boy looked up from his tablet long enough to see the headphones and go back to his electronic version of New York Newsday and I caught up on my email and social media on my phone as we rolled along.  I also used that time to map my destinations.  I knew I wanted to go to the Moleskine stores in NYC and just see what happened in between.  The decision: start in SoHo or Columbus Circle?  I was close to the end of my current notebook and needed a new one and I wasn’t sure if one would have more selection than the other.  The train ride convinced me to start at Columbus Circle as they were open.  Yes SoHo would be open by the time I walked there, but Columbus Circle was already open and it was at the entrance of Central Park.

As we rolled into Penn Station, I set up my map feature with walking directions so that I could discreetly find my way when Siri would pop on every so often to tell me when to turn or hold steady with no one else the wiser.  As I started down 8th Avenue, I noticed a woman I dubbed, “Yoga Woman.”  She was silver haired in capri length yoga pants and comfy shirt with the Gaiam bag and mat over her shoulder bustling down the street.  I followed her down the street when I detoured into a Starbucks for a few minutes.  As I started back down 8th, I noticed her just ahead of me still.  I figured she was my guide, so I followed her almost all the way to Columbus Circle.

Arriving at the Time Warner Building, I was excited to head up to the Moleskine store where I met an enthusiastic clerk.  He understood that Moleskine nerds came to visit all the time.  He told me if I visited the other two stores, they had different stamps and that the company was negotiating on a property to open a Boston store.  We talked about paper weights, he flipped through my watercolor sketches of Boar and Bunny from the weekend and helped me pose them so I could take a picture of them stamping my book.  It was a fun experience before I headed off to explore Central Park for a bit.  

Sitting at the Columbus Circle fountain, I sketched Boar and Bunny looking at the water towards the park and watched a commercial being made before heading across the street.  Just inside the interest was the official map to Central Park, so I figured for $2 I could have some fun.  The girl pointed me towards Strawberry Fields and I figure I knew how to avoid the parts Law & Order taught me to be scared of and meandered up the path.  When I found the GhostBusters building on the west side, I figured I had gone too far and chose to walk along the street instead of in the park.
At Strawberry Fields, the tourist were lined up to take photos of the Imagine circle.  A lone guitarist sat on a nearby bench playing Beatles songs with a sign on his case saying, “Out of work, anything helps.”  

I took Bunny and Boar out of my bag and placed them carefully on the Imagine circle (much to the dismay of many tourists in line behind me) and took their picture.  I quickly scooped them up and moved to a bench - unlike many of the disgruntled tourists who were upset at me setting up my shoot.  Sitting on the bench listening to the guitarist, and the next person who declared it would soon be his turn to play, I quickly sketched out the photo I just took into my notebook and moved along.  
I haven’t taken a pedicab since San Diego years ago, so I figured what the hell?  The driver only charged $2 a minute and I knew it would only take him a few minutes to get back to Columbus Circle, it was worth it for me.  I snapped Bunny and Boar in the “safety” net (more like a map pocket) and laughed at his thickly accented lame jokes tailored for tourists.  He showed me photos he took of himself with celebrities like Susan Sarandon and JLo.  As we rolled into Columbus Circle, I gave him $10 and an Asian couple sat there waiting and wanted to pay him for an hour.  
It’s all good. 
From there I hopped the C train down to the Village.  The day before had been the Pride celebration and the Village looked like how most of the celebrants must have felt.  Rainbow flags hung askew from windows and crumpled over sills or railings.  The sidewalks waiting to be hosed down matched with rainbow smears of food and drink that made encore appearances after celebrating a bit too much.  I carefully skirted the smears and wandered a bit past bars offering lunch choices as they aired out from the weekend and the overpriced luncheon options at the fancier places.  I crossed the imaginary line into SoHo.  I knew I crossed it because it was as if an imaginary “rainbow free zone” sign were hung at the border and the boutique shops of the well heeled began to appear one after the other in neat rows.  
By now it was almost one o’clock and my stomach was making itself known.  Stopping into a little lunch place, I grabbed a Proscuitto and talegia sandwich with a strawberry-rhubarb jam that was actually rather tasty.  I was able to plug my phone in and recharge the battery and took a picture of Boar and Bunny with the oversized Linzer cookie (there’s always room for cookies).

It was time to move on and I found the SoHo Moleskine store.  The two clerks in there were equally as pleasant and understood the nerd factor.  They had some of the collectible notebooks that the Time Warner small store didn’t have.  Bunny and Boar played with the stamps.  Bunny loved the “I’m a traveller” stamp because, this adventure story was all about Bunny climbing out of his shy place to be more adventurous with Boar’s bolder temperament to guide him.  Boar chose the West Broadway and Spring Street stamp because he was more about being in SoHo than traveling in the moment.

At least, that’s what their story will be about.

I spoke with the clerks about my paper issues.  I showed them how my fountain pen now bled through the paper and why that sort of pissed me off.  We looked at how my watercolors would shadow through a page as well.  The best they could offer was that Moleskine had adopted an environmentally friendlier acid-free paper.  The result was perhaps it was a bit lighter as a result.  I selected a couple of limited edition notebooks, an Alice in Wonderland and a Hello Kitty, even though neither had a gridded option.  I decided that Alice would be good for my summer notebook.  I did a little holiday shopping while I was there too.

Looking at my watch, it was time to say good bye to New York and grab the C train back to Penn Station and wait for the Acela back to Boston.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What about dinner tonight

For 67 years she asked,
"What about dinner tonight?"
Rarely were they apart 
it was always, "What about dinner?"

Then he was gone... forever

Over a year later, sitting in her wheelchair, she asks,
"When are you bringing him by?"
Then she shakes her head,
aware of the nursing home
aware he is gone
aware the questions are answered.

She blinks. 
She knows he is gone but then asks,
"What about dinner tonight?"
to the empty space beyond my shoulder.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Boston Strong two years later

 I have deep ties to the Boston Marathon.  My oldest brother has been running (almost) every year since 1979, I have friends and other family that run it, I worked the Mile 18 water stop for 5 years keeping the discarded cups from becoming a slippery carpet of ick for the "regular" runners (the people the crowds don't turn out for and look like you and me every day) and walking runners to the medical tent.  I have friends that work for Marathon Sports, including one that is usually at the Boston location on Marathon Monday.  I run, I belong to a running club and the Boston running community is family to me.

My oldest son is runner and he was working as a free lance writer producing press releases for an agency during that dark week and listening to information on scanners the general public does not have access to or knowledge of until the trial and maybe never.  (He will not discuss what he heard nor the agency for whom he was working, he took the NDA very seriously.)  My middle boy worked Mile 18 with me and has worked for a timing company at local races for a while.  My youngest boy was deeply affected and remains so to this day.

So yes, I have some opinions and feelings on this whole thing.

It's clear that Tsarnev is guilty, even his own legal team said as much.  That was never a question.  The question is does he live or die?  Well, we all die eventually it's just does the government give him an expiration date or not.  So understand when I say toss him into the Colorado Supermax and forget about him is the worst we can do to him, but it's not the worst we can do.

The worst we can do is focus on him and his loser brother.  The worst we can do is make him a martyr and let him always be on our mind.  The worst we can do is forget what the words "Boston Strong" really mean.

We are emerging from the snowiest winter on record and it all came over the course of 6 weeks from mid-January through the end of February for the most part.  During those storms one image went viral: a lone man shoveling off the finish line after a foot of snow fell in seemingly no time.  It was done anonymously with no thought of reward or glory and captured when someone happened to look out their window and notice the action.

That is the spirit of Boston Strong.

It is the image of 8 year old Martin Richard holding a sign he made simply saying "No more hurting people. Peace."  It's students going to UMass for a degree in business in Krystle Campbell's name.   It's the people at BU keeping Lingzi Lu's name alive.  It's the memorials in Sean Collyer's name in Somerville and at MIT.  It's the people who lost limbs and sustained injuries who have gone on to live everyday life in an extraordinary way.

It is not allowing the hate and anger to dominate, it is focusing on what is really valuable: the reality that we will not quit, we will not be defeated and our race will go on.  If we give into our anger and hatred, we are not better than those two young men who one day let their negative feelings and dark desires override their humanity to place two explosive devices near the finish line and set them off.

I don't want to be that angry person.  I don't want to be on the same level as the Tsarnevs, I want to be the guy shoveling off the finish line.  I want to be above that anger.  I want to retain my humanity, particularly in the face of deciding what passes for justice on a young man who - even if just for a moment - forgot about his.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hokusai at the MFA

Yesterday I got to see a preview of the Hokusai exhibit at the MFA in Boston.  Everyone pretty much knows "The Great Wave," as it is at least as iconic as the Mona Lisa, the Thinker and a handful of other pieces of art that are part of our collective knowledge and consciousness.

It is part of a series called "36 Views of Mount Fuji," an amazing collection of wood cuts that have Mount Fuji visible from different perspectives and sizes. Like most amazing art, it is overwhelming and needs to viewed multiple times over a period of time.  I know I will go back and spend a lot of time just sitting in the middle of the prints thinking about them.

But one particular print caught my eye:

 I listened as a father explained to his son about the use of color and how it had to be printed in layers.  They listened to audio tour bits, talked about where Mount Fuji was in this print versus a different print where it was barely visible.

Leaning over I said, "You should show him the original Tolkien drawings from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings."

He excitedly reminded his son that they had looked at those a couple of weeks ago when they were reading The Hobbit and his son, who was maybe 8 or 9 years old nodded his head and said, "Oh yeah, I remember."

It was an exciting moment for me as well to realize exactly how much Hokusai quietly reached into our lives.

So many of his prints influenced the Art Nouveau artists, like Mucha and Beardsley.  some of his demons and ghosts, a common subject in Japan but one we don't normally think of when thinking on Japanese art, can be seen in modern horror drawings, effects and designs.

Even more amazing to me was learning many of his original drawings were lost in the process of making the wood blocks that produced the prints.  Like nature, his drawings were temporary and timeless at the same time.

I plan to revisit the exhibit at least a few more times before it closes in August.  I want to spend some time just soaking in the Mount Fuji and the waterfall series.  One of the waterfalls wants to tell me a story and I know I need to sit and listen quietly as it tells me.

One thing I need to do is find out the MFA's restrictions on thing like a folding stool and such.  I see people there with easels and sketch books and such.  So I want to make sure I don't run afoul of things as I sit there with my blank book and write.

Speaking of short exhibits - the time capsule from the State House is there as well.  It was pretty cool to see the stuff that has been tucked away for hundreds of years.  It's only there for a couple of more weeks (until 4/22), so definitely check it out if you can.  No telling how much longer it will be until you can see it again.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Live Long and Prosper

As a nerd and Bostonian, I guess I can't help but post my thoughts on the passing of a great man, Leonard Nimoy.  The thing is, while he was my favorite character on Star Trek (followed by Sulu, Scotty and Checkov - something about those odd ethnic men), my real thoughts start with his artistic eye.

It feels like a million years ago (but is really around a decade or so back), we went out to Amherst to look at schools with the kids.  I really wanted to check out a little art gallery in the area called Michelson galleries as they had a series of photos by Nimoy called "Maximum Beauty," which was the beginning of his Whole Body Project, challenging how we view beauty and bodies.

There was a small collection of photos and I spent a lot of time talking the gallery owner, Rich Michelson, about how he convinced his friend to start to display and collect the photos into a book one day.  Over the years as I would go out to visit the Eric Carle Museum, I would often spend time at Michelson Galleries for a variety of reasons often related to events or artists found at the Carle.  One time, my son and I drove out to check out the series of Shekinah photos Nimoy did, looking at our Creator in a feminine form.  The black and white photos are incredibly moving.  Sometimes she is fully concealed from view by a filmy scarf.  Sometimes she is fully revealed in her nude form and sometimes she's a bit of both; a true reflection of how I feel about my Creator and myself.

I kept thinking I should pick up a signed copy of the book and never got around to it.  I'm sure Rich will sell out today, if he didn't yesterday.  I will pick up an unsigned copy eventually, the photos are rich and moving and a level of beauty that will always bring me back to spending the better part of an hour just standing in front of the totally concealed image thinking about life, the universe and everything.

The other thing I will always associate with Nimoy, even though he had little to nothing to do with it, was the "Mr. Spock Gun."  The Rayline Tracer Gun was an awesome toy as a kid and not because of the Star Trek connection, even if that's what sold it.  It was awesome because the tracer disks were the same size and thickness as a dime.  So if you really wanted to get into an epic Mr. Spock gun war, you loaded that sucker up with dimes and did some damage!

The toy was pulled from the market and redesigned so it wouldn't take pocket change anymore and just rereleased as a tracer gun.  In college, all the members of the Cryptic Citadel, our insanely fun nerd household in college, had our own Mr. Spock guns (there was no other name for them really) and personalized them.  You didn't go ANYWHERE in the apartment without one by your side because you never knew when someone would yell, "INCOMING," and you'd get pelted.

Not surprisingly it took maybe 10 years and half a dozen moves before I stopped finding the little disks in places I never expected - my Norton anthologies, art supplies, you name it.  Those suckers were everywhere and I kind of miss finding them.

Leonard Nimoy offered me a lifetime of joy and deep thought.  I admit that a few years ago I had an idea for a story about Jews in baseball about an upper middle class kid in Brookline or Newton without a lot of grounding bonding with a (great)grandfather over Kevin Youkilis and Hank Greenberg.  It would look at the old West End and the journey of the immigrant in this country.  I had Nimoy in mind as the (great)grandfather helping this child understand the concept of having roots, not just wings.

Shortly after the "Lazy Day" video came out, so did the news of the COPD diagnosis.  I remember thinking every day he was with us would be a gift.  It was, and I wish it could have lasted longer.

Monday, February 2, 2015

This girl can

I often write about the stigma of being a fat chick.  Clothes either make me feel like I'm stuffed in a sausage casing or I'm wearing styles created by Omar the tent maker (as my dad used to say).  It's not like I sit around all day either, even if there are days when I do that.  I run, I ride my bike, I go to the gym and work with a trainer, I walk and, in short, I am an active woman.

But that doesn't mean people will restrain themselves from their views on "what's wrong" with me.  If I only gave up this food or worked a little harder or whatever.  I have had intelligent women make comments to me, often starting with, "Don't take this the wrong way...." before they thank me for be a "real sized woman" who is a good role model.  What the hell is a "real sized woman" any way?  Seriously?

I often tell the story of two 20-something waif-like chippies in the locker room loudly opining I should be embarrassed to be seen at the gym because I was so old and fat.  (I stuck my head out from around the corner and reminded them I was fat, not deaf, to their dismay.)  It's something women like me face on a regular basis.  I realize that fat people aren't naturally jolly, we develop a sense of humor to deal with ignorant twits we run into all the time.

Then my sister in law posted a link to this on facebook:


Last summer a friend and I were out and we saw a young woman who was easily a "plus sized" woman.  She was wearing a tight tank top and short shorts and she was laughing and happy and confident.  I sighed and said, "I wish I had her confidence to dress like that."

My friend agreed.  That young woman is my hero and she will probably never know that.

I do make an effort to eat healthy, ice cream will always be my Achilles heel and I will probably shed some weight only so I can start running a faster mile.  But the truth is, the next time someone judges me, it will be a struggle to remember that I'm OK as I am.  But this girl can, and does, all the time.