Things I’m Going to Do in November

I’m happy that I wrote and posted every single day of October. I was part of a challenge to write every day. My topic was mindfulness.

Now that October’s over, I plan to:

  • 20131031-125550.jpgrest
  • write more in-depth essays
  • query some magazines and newspapers
  • tidy my beautiful, rambling NYC apartment
  • connect with and encourage other bloggers and writers
  • work my a$$ off at my awesome jobs
  • go for my annual physicals
  • get a bit more creative with my writing and social media
  • write some poetry
  • revisit my novel
  • make mixed media art
  • plan Thanksgiving, Christmas, (and still dreaming of Cuba)
  • get to yoga or Pilates class

The month-long writing challenge taught me:

  • I have something to say about mindfulness
  • Because I committed to this topic, I sought opportunities to reflect on mindfulness
  • Sitting still for 10 minutes is really all there is to mindfulness
  • I did not have to write perfectly. I could repurpose old photos and a couple of old topics
  • I wanted to quit but I didn’t
  • I did the best I could
  • Consistency is more important than perfection
  • I did find a few typos as I looked back, but basically I write well and fast
  • I can do my own thing and still take good care of my family
  • I don’t want to call myself an expert, but, well, a-hem I know a few things (humble brag)

This fall has been different for my fam — with my son off to college and my husband Chris directing a play in Florida; the girls and I have enjoyed our estrogen-fest at home.

I still do that mom-thing of trying to be there for everyone and everything and then, suddenly, ‘Hey, what about me!!! Whaaa!!’ And I can get sorry for myself.  But despite the inevitable stress and conflict, our home dynamics are pretty calm. It could be because of this writing and mindfulness challenge. Or it could be we’re all getting older.

Whatever the reason, it’s all good. Happy Halloween!

Writing the Details

Set your scene with three or four details. Here are ten ideas of what Pat Carr meant by sensory details and then an example from my story set on a playground.

  1. Odor – wet sand
  2. A time of day or season – end of summer
  3. Temperature – warm and humid
  4. Sound – children laughing
  5. Important object – small charm bracelet
  6. Dominant color – beige
  7. Dominant shape — circles
  8. Something that can be touched – curly hair
  9. Taste – rain in the air
  10. Certain slant of light – late afternoon sun

I love numbering 10 things. Pat was inspired by Emily Dickinson, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.”

Light is so important.

This is a repost from when I attended Southern writer Pat Carr’s Memoir and Fiction Writing class at the International Women’s Writing Guild. I wrote this from a sun-soaked bench, cloistered in a square at Yale University.

Pat Carr’s writing exercises, like this one, can be found in her book Writing Fiction with Pat Carr. Her new memoir is One Page at a Time: On a Writing Life.
I still love bookstores. I visited the nearby Barnes and Noble while the girls were in a singing lesson.

I love the UN

At the mic is Betty Reardon, called a midwife to UN Resolution 1325, the reason for this three-day celebration and call to action. My friend Nicole Goodwin is on the far right.

Reporting on the peacemakers at the United Nations civil society today, I noticed that women leaders come in many ages.

And it’s not just the many-aged women who are amazing, so are the men. Last night, Dean Peacock asked the people gathered to challenge harmful stereotypes of masculinity.
Also last night, I heard Iraq Veteran Against War Matt Howard, who said that “Iraq and Afghanistan are not the root causes of our problems. Militarism is.” There is something wonderful about men who work for peace and who support women who work for peace. In a world that is corporate, consumer-driven, militaristic, I love the peacemakers.

Today, my friend Nicole Goodwin, an Iraq veteran and fellow writer, spoke of the trauma of witnessing torture. Her essay in the New York Times, Talking With My Daughter About My Service in Iraq, shows me how complicated we all are. How we want to protect our children. Stay sane ourselves.

I learned so much today.

I love the United Nations.
I love the idea of it. And I wish more people loved it and its capacity for creating a peaceful world.


So it is an art piece at Brookfield Place near the World Financial Center. Is there a message? Does art need a message? Ten people dressed in white sit calmly. Or walk in silence. Take a break. Write in their journals.


Maybe the performance art piece is meant to prompt reflection.


Because you walk by the reflecting pool to get there, it is hard not to be reflective.
What is silence? Why do we write?
Life tells us to. We do what is required.

imageWe are a part of a performance art piece. We sit and work. People walk by. Some contemplate silence.

This art piece 9-5 was created by Ernesto Pujol. 

Reblog from Response

So honored to work with United Methodist Women. Here is this month’s column in response.

From the Shelter Island Retreat.
From the Shelter Island Retreat.

I cried in church last week. The song “Here I Am, Lord” moved me. I was coming to terms with worries and sorrows—my children growing up, and my husband’s Parkinson’s Disease.

I felt embarrassed crying in public, worried that my fellow worshipers would think I was weak or in need of help. I know intellectually that church is a safe place for tears—after all, we cry for joy at weddings or with grief at funerals. But I could not shake the feeling that I should not be crying on an ordinary Sunday. At times, I am caught in this trap of caretaking, feeling I should be the one to comfort others and not need comfort.

Then I remember that it is through our tear-filled, vulnerable moments when we discover what truly matters. The next day I read this quote from Brené Brown in her new book Daring Greatly: “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. … Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”

I cry because I am vulnerable and because I care. Perhaps, like me, you have tears for yourself, family, work, church, community, nation or world. After a good cry, we can share our vulnerability. I like to write about my emotions. After expressing feelings, we can then roll up our sleeves and see how to make it better. This can-do attitude, of which United Methodist Women is famous, resonates with me.

Some of the articles in this issue of response offer opportunities to discuss the vulnerable places in our lives and communities. In Rachel Patman’s Bible study, “Holy Nagging: Advocating for Domestic Violence Survivors,” we are led to talk about unequal status and power and control. We can also read one woman’s experience of growing up in an abusive situation and her resolve to not pass on that abuse to her daughter in “Ending the Cycle” by Samantha York.

Take note of “Strengthening the Ties that Bind Us” by Laura Sonnemark for National Justice for Our Neighbors. This story may inspire you to volunteer. Or follow in Dixie Liggett’s footsteps, described in “Having a Heart.” Visit a local community center, send funds to a mission partner on the border or organize a churchwide workshop, providing the facts around the United Methodist policies on immigration. Build a supportive community so that all women feel welcome into United Methodist Women. Notice the times and places where you tear up, be it reading, writing or singing in church on Sunday. Set aside judgment about how women express their vulnerabilities.

After all, emotions are a gift from God, a chance to share our common humanity and show us what really counts. Believe that your prayers and tears are heard. As the first line of the song “Here I Am, Lord” by Daniel Schutte, expresses, “I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.” Take comfort.

Subscribe to response. Read the response blog.

Pajama Day

I better not be the only teacher dressed in my jammies today. That could be a real nightmare.

I like School Spirit Week. It seems like when I was in high school the highlight of the school year was Homecoming. And every Friday and Saturday nights, we’d go to all the football and basketball games. But I’m not sure if the jocks would come to our shows — our musicals or as we called them, our ‘straight’ plays. They likely came to our Variety Shows.

I like the fancy night out. I like cake.
I like the fancy night out. I like cake. I like enthusiasm.

Showing spirit and enthusiasm can be anathema to teenagers. Teaching high school I see that the slouchy sarcastic kid is sometimes the revered one. But, of course, the eager, upright kid is just as valuable, (especially to the teacher!)

“Students, show some enthusiasm. Life is short. You are young and beautiful. Smart and creative. Run! Stumble then get up! Run with that idea again!” Still, they slouch.

When I have met my daughters’ teachers, the ones who stood out, the ones we remember are the passionate, enthusiastic ones! People like the charisma of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is entertaining. Try it!

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

-True enthusiasm is a fine feeling whose flash I admire where-ever I see it.
Charlotte Bronte

Central Park

I don’t think anyone took a bad picture in Central Park today. The beauty of the changing leaves. The sudden sunshine after a grey morning. Reasons to feel grateful. Alive one more day. image

I had a ton of chores and work assignments to dedicate myself to this afternoon. But why? Why? Really? My friend called and invited me out to Chamomile Tea near the Sheep’s Meadow. We sat on a tall rock and chatted. Percussionist drumming. Rollerskaters’ disco beat pulsing.image

Leaves falling like snowballs.image

Riding my bike out of the park on 72nd. Guitarists sit near the Imagine memorial, strum, “All You Need is Love.” Strawberry Fields behind me. Sunset ahead of me. image

Mastermind Mentoring for Women

“Own the room. Stand in your own power.”

“Women tend to personalize when things go wrong. (Conversely, give away the credit when things go right.)”

“In small international business ventures, women are less likely to reinvest in their business.”

This was the conversation I walked into at the NYU Alumni Day today. I left my other workshop on Creativity a little early when the psychoanalyst’s powerpoint broke down (and he did not seem that creative with what to do beyond his prepared presentation.)

So I crashed the Stern business school workshop on masterminding mentoring for women.

Here’s an example of a workable way to get a new job: Meet with the new company and let them know, “I’m thinking about what to do next.” Jennifer Gootman advised. She asked them, “What do you need? This is what I love and what I bring. What is it I can do for you?” This came from her reading of Lean In.

Marisa Santoro was also on the panel and shared her productivity secret. It is three-fold:

  1. time management
  2. self-care
  3. systematize

On number 2 she said when you take time for self care, “magical things happen.” Also, “have five power friends.” And a time management tip: stay off Facebook.

Karen Rubin said take small steps. “Take the next step.” This helps build up confidence. She was starting a coaching business and asked her friends, “Do you know anybody who might want coaching?” Even though it was hard, she did it. It got easier. “Push yourself beyond your comfort zone.”

Rubin also said — and I love this — given two groups: the smartest and the most diverse, the most diverse group always makes the best decisions (not the smartest.) And she said that what millennials are looking for are the same things that women are looking for (i.e., to be parents, sane hours, etc.)

Interesting. I never went to business school. But on my NYU reunion day, I get to pretend I did. Inspiring!

Just Do It!

This blogging every day has been a slog. I don’t want to complain. I never complain. I complain to my kids that they aren’t picking up after themselves enough, but that’s not complaining. That’s just speaking the truth. I complain that I work too much or get paid too little. But that’s truth too.

I remember skimming a book once, the Complaint Free World, and I quit complaining. And then there were years I quit gossiping for Lent. And I missed it. I missed complaining and gossiping. There’s a nice groove and camaraderie to negativity in the workplace or among other mothers in the playground. We get each other. We bond.

I’m trying to stay positive. Bond that way. Or through my blog. Here are 7 things I’ve learned writing a blog post every day for the month of October.

  1. Pumpkins from an October retreat on Shelter Island.
    Pumpkins from an October retreat on Shelter Island.

    People like lists of 7 things

  2. It’s more important to be consistent than brilliant.
  3. It feels so nice when readers tell you in person that they like your online writing
  4. You worry that friends or family will take offense at your writing, but they’ll like it
  5. Only 7 blogs to go until the end of October (*I actually have 8, but 7 sounds better!)
  6. Stick to one topic — although you may have a lot to say about at least 7 topics
  7. Seven!

Shear Madness

Joanna and me at the first preview of Shear Madness tonite.


So balmy, people just hung out in the outdoor cafes, drinking in the evening.

On a beautiful warm night towards the end of October, what is more fun than citibiking it over to the theater for some Shear Madness. Tonite was the first preview but the cast had the slamming doors and silly business down pat. The small ensemble was perfect. I found myself laughing out loud when I should’ve been groaning.

The script had a ton of contemporary references (Hillary’s emails and the Mets win!) But the cast never stumbled. Sure, they stuttered. But they were guilty – or were they? You decide! That’s the fun of this production. It’s a beauty shop whodunnit with the audience asking questions of the cast and deciding the identity of the killer.

Funnily enough, I was sure I’d seen this show before — a million years ago in New York, but I was told that it’s only been performed in D.C. and Boston. Maybe I dreamed it. Or maybe tonite’s play was a dream too — A Mid-Autumn’s Night Dream.


Thanks to the people of Serino/Coyne and Shear Madness who gave me the ticket and a sip of champagne. But that did not impair my judgment. I still know who did it! And if you go, you’ll know too. But you might have a different take. Go see it, then tell me who you and your fellow audience picks as the killer.

Only the hairdresser knows for sure. But which hairdresser?