A Message in a Bottle

Have been co-leader on a (write the love letter to your teenage daughter) life coaching call for three Saturday mornings over three weeks. It’s been wonderful to stop and look around.

Char dancing at a dance concert at the end of year.

Sit for a minute on life’s journey to assess where you are and how far you’ve come.

Maybe like me, your June is a shifting kaleidoscope.

My son graduated from high school, got a job, wants to buy a car — all in less than a week.

Mom and Me and an Act of God.

My mother came and went, visiting from Chicago. We walked and talked. She offered unasked-for advice. She also offered unasked-for love. We picnicked in Riverside Park, walked the High Line, wandered in Central Park, took in a Broadway Show (“An Act of God with Jim Parsons).

One of my 15-year old daughters set off for 12 days of kayaking in Alaska last night.

The other daughter came home at 1 am last night, causing me to worry with a heart attack. (She was repentant. Blamed the West Side Highway traffic!)

Chris gathered some of his friends from First Grade for a reunion dinner party at our house last night. It was lovely. When I first met Chris, I was deeply attracted to his friends and the way he loved them. Funny, isn’t it? This is such a lovable quality — having nice friends. But Chris is slowing down a lot. Because of his Parkinson’s, he seems older or frailer than his friends.

We went to the Museum of Natural History. We went to see Nature’s Fury. And then, as usual, lay under the big blue whale. Meditation. Ah.

When? Why? How did we all grow older? Why did my kids grow up? I told them not to! I said Stay Little! They were the cutest little darlings. Does all this mean I am ageing too?

The life coaching call reminds me to embrace the memories; celebrate the moment; choose joy; stay true; stay present. We make mistakes; we make amends. We hang in there. We have a family motto, “Jones Kids never give up.”

In the midst of my busy family life, the life coaching call is a breath — a slowing down — to take it in. Celebrate this moment. We have so much. Gratitude wins. Love wins.

I jot down my thoughts and dreams and hopes for my family. I send them like messages in a bottle. Hope they reach the shore. Hope my daughters and son (husband, mother, extended family, friends) know I love them. Believe that love is enough.

PS Remember to join me at the Irish American Bar Association’s Bloomsday June 16th! Another busy week. But this one will be less family-centered and more friends, work, writing-centered. Thank God.

Am also getting psyched for my trip in July to Ireland with the Dublin Writers Retreat.


Winter Birding

Saw tit mice, blue jays, cardinals, nut hatches, woodpeckers, maybe a goldfinch. Of course, pigeons, sparrows, grackle.


Love the elegance of the Bow Bridge. And the turn of this cardinal’s head. “You lookin’ at me?”image

No one is lounging on the bench. But a pigeon flew into my frame.image

Is the San Remo the most beautiful apartment building in the world? I think so. image

And when I walk into the park around Strawberry Field, it is like walking into church. I question faith and death and life’s uncertainties. And there’s always some dude strumming John Lennon, even in the cold. image

In the summer, you don’t notice Central Park South in the Park because of all the foliage. image

And you may not notice all the birds either. image

I went birding with this hearty crew. We dubbed ourselves Charlie’s Angels. If you know Charles (Chessler), you know he has a great zest for life. image

He invited us birding through a Facebook post.

I asked Charles how he stays so friendly. Like, during his winter street fair experience – he was selling his work in December. He said he talks with people “without agenda, expectation, or judgment.” Pretty cool. I aim to do that too.

And yay, it was pretty cold today too! I’ve been warming my hands against the heater all day.

Incidentally, I took all of these pics with my new phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. (I did not use filter, or edit any of these pics!)

Check out Charle’s pics. 

Autumn in New York

They write songs about New York City in the fall. Jean jacket weather. Burning bushes. And Central Park. Ah. Don’t tell me about the polar vortex. I can’t hear you. La. La. La.










People’s Climate March – Wordless Wednesday

Joined hundreds of thousands on Sunday after church to march.IMG_6877.JPG

These ladies from Code Pink were there — looking awesome and fiesty femininsty gorgeous. Their message? War is not green. Yes. IMG_6876.JPGAnd tons of kids. And patient parents. We had to wait on 72nd Street for about an hour before we could feed in to the march. IMG_6849.JPGHere we are passing by Columbus Circle. It felt like the march opened up here and we could look around. All the humanity. IMG_6854.JPGI like their sign that said, “We have solutions.” It wasn’t just a march where people pointed out the problems. Although there was some of that. Vegans educated us on the reality that cows are a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. IMG_6842.JPGThere was a lot of music. But, as in any march, my favorite is “We shall overcome!” I melt when I hear that at a march. IMG_6857.JPG

There were a lot of young people. We all walked for hours. So fun. IMG_6859.JPG

Does Football Make You Violent?

I played football in fifth grade. I was the only girl on the team, the Vikings. I dropped out before we played a game, but I made the cut. I liked flag (or was it touch) football in college too. We played in Central Park a few times. It was always a great work out.

I am so sick of what I am hearing about football these days.

A few weeks ago, I heard the first disturbing fact: that 30 percent of professional football players will have some kind of early onset dementia.

The other disheartening news — the uber aggressive nature of the sport. I can’t watch it without wincing or groaning. My son, friends and students are in fantasy football leagues so I hear about teams and players. And you can’t help but hear about the players’ aggressive playing. On and off the field. And aggression is different than violence.

The excessive violence of the players — and the way it spills over into their personal lives — is disturbing. Are you kidding me? It’s 2014 and some huge professional athlete beats his little kid with a switch? This is fricken’ nuts. A football player beats his wife and before it’s revealed, he’s suspended for only two games? Ugh.

But at least we’re hearing about it. We’re talking about it. Maybe that’s good. Domestic violence is too quickly shoved under the rug.

We care too much about professional athletes.

I wish people cared as much about actors and artists as much as athletes. I wish we cared about teachers. I wish we valued public servants and sanitation workers. Nurses. Bus drivers. Astronauts. I don’t know. Anyone.

It is so crazy the amount of money that these professional athletes, teams, managers, leagues make.

It’s also this brotherhood thing — that women cannot play. It’s a closed society. I found it creepy when the whole Penn State scandal was uncovered. Male fraternal organizations and any male-dominated groups (churches, boards) creep me out.

not caring

There’s a meme going around: “This is me not caring about football.” The thing is, I used to care about football. Growing up in Chicago-area, you had to love the Bears. Plus I liked playing. I liked being a part of a team.

A few years ago, I met this Ph.D. candidate — a friend of a friend’s at a party. She was a coach at UVM. She did a study surveying collegiate athletes — to find out if they were more aggressive than other students. They were. She was surprised — perhaps, she was hoping to find more examples of teamwork and positive group dynamics in sports. Me, too. We can do better.

As a girl who played football, I know the sport can be fun and a great work out. But, let’s face it, I’m not going to be playing any more.


I wrote this from today’s prompt at the Daily Post: Today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less. 

Birding: What We Saw

I was in Central Park on a snowy Saturday morning with my friend Charles Chessler. He had rallied several of his friends to go birding and photographing birds through a Facebook invitation.

I love walking or riding my bike in Central Park.

Charlie has great charisma. People and birds just love to stop, chat, and pose for him.

I’d gone out birding with Charles a few times before. On this trip we were searching for some rare long-eared owl in the pine trees near the Angel of the Waters. But instead, on that branch, we spotted a fat and still-hungry hawk. We spotted a lot more than that too.

Here’s what we saw:


A couple of finches near the birdfeeder in Central Park
A couple of finches near the birdfeeder in Central Park. (Photo by Charles Chessler)

Baltimore Oriole (male and female)
Northern cardinal
Dark eyed junco
Downy woodpecker (male and female)
Brown creepers
Carolina wren
Blue jay
Yellow bellied sap sucker


Northern cardinal (male and female)
House sparrow
Maybe yellow warbler
Mourning dove


amanda and bird
Charlie captures a bird perched on Amanda’s hand. (Photo by Charles Chessler)

Yellow rump warbler
White-breasted nuthatch
Swamp sparrow
Northern parula
Ruby-crown kinglet
Louisiana water thrush
Black and white warbler
Palm warbler
Blue jay
Red wing blackbird
Black birded green

We go birding in Central Park behind the cafe, across the Bow Bridge, by the Ramble.

For the record, I could not identify any of these birds (except maybe the cardinals and blue jays) without help from Charlie and fellow birders and photographers Dan Lane Williams and Amanda Bielskas. On previous birding jaunts, we met Birding Bob and friend Andy Gershon.

Although I don’t really know about birds, I know about the beauty of birds. As Emily Dickinson wrote:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Going out for a walk with birders reminds me to slow down, take in the beauty, stop time with a photo, even if it’s cold and snowy — especially then! There’s beauty and hope all around. You just have to look for it.

If you like the beautiful photography of Charles Chessler, (and who doesn’t?) I have a request. Chessler is entered in a photo contest. If he wins, he gets a trip to a safari in Namibia. He is less than one thousand votes away. He needs 212 Votes to pop into 4th place!

Charlie and I are friends from the NYU Stella Adler acting school in the ’80s. He’s a fitness trainer with a specialty for keeping senior citizens active.

If Charlie won the trip, think about the great pics he’d share with us! Vote at BandH Photo Contest. He might even just even invite all of us along — at least on his Facebook stream! ;)

Charlie and I bumped into fellow birder Andy in the fall.
Charlie and I bumped into fellow birder Andy in the fall.
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5 Things on a Deserted Island

My five favorite things are:

  1. coffee
  2. my journal
  3. my bike
  4. my iphone
  5. books (on kindle or paperbound)

But if I had to live on an deserted island, I know I’d have to take one more thing — sunscreen. Because my dermatologist would yell at me more than she already does if I showed up at my twice-yearly appointment with even more sunspots.

In terms of non-things on my island, (in addition to my immediate family, of course), I’d also want to take my book club and my writing class because we never seem to run out of things to say about what we write or read.

I’d also like to take Manhattan to my desert island because it is a treasure trove of beauty, especially on a foggy day like today.

Man, today was bea-ut-i-ful — so perfect for a bike ride through Central Park. Scroll down for a few more pics.

On a writerly note, I was going to post a memoir piece about my Norwegian grandmother that I wrote in the my Monday night writing group, but suddenly it felt too personal. Any way, come to a writing workshop if you want more personal writing. Check out the workshops at: http://www.bootcamp4writers.com/

Central Park leaves
This whimsical art installation of Eight Giant Red Snails from the Galleria Ca ‘d’Oro and Villa Firenze Foundation as part of the REgeneration Art Project.
Any place more beautiful than Central Park on a foggy day? I don’t think so.
He da man, Shakespeare in the Park

Biking Adventure

my view while teaching. And the shadow of my students
This is an awesome place to explore.
Along the West Side bikeway
Around the uptown Fairway
The George Washington Bridge and the little red lighthouse creep up on you


The detour under the highway

Yesterday I took a long bike ride, from where I was teaching — around Central Park and 77th to 180th and Broadway for my girlfriends’ craft club.

I took the bikeway. Around the uptown Fairway, I had to detour under the West Side Highway.

Like when I run, when I ride, I am not fast. That gives me time to talk to myself. And time to think. Too often, I scold myself. So last night, I was trying just to be. Just to notice.

Notice the generosity of the Hudson River. Notice the crazy summer flowers that refuse to believe summer is almost over.

Coming back home, in the complete dark, I did not have so much fun. Many places along the path are pitch black and I don’t have a light. I need more light.

On the 5 Boro Bike tour

I learned when you suffer, you suffer alone. Right towards the end of the 40-mile bike tour, you hit the Verrazzano Bridge, (the second longest suspension bridge in the world). The incline goes on for-ev-er! You just keep climbing and you think, “Surely, this is some kind of illusion. How can something just keep going up?” You cannot answer that voice in your head, because you just have to keep pedaling and keep suffering.

There were many people walking their bikes up the eternal incline. But not me, because we borrowed our awesome friends’ road bikes and my bike had a will of its own and the wheels just kept turning.

But during those grueling moments of riding uphill, that’s when I thought, “I’m suffering alone.” Surrounded by 30,000 other riders, still, I felt alone. Suffering makes you feel all alone. As if you will never reach the top. Fortunately, my son waited for me some ways ahead. I was not alone.

The coast down was pretty sweet. And we did it very fast together, whizzing by the signs the volunteers held that said, “Slow down!”

We enjoyed the finish and the festival and the ferry ride from Staten Island.

That’s me and Hayden when we were returning to Manhattan from the ferry. This was taken only a few minutes before Hayden fell asleep like the rider behind us.
We were still pretty chipper at the Queensboro Bridge.
At the Brooklyn Rest stop. So nice!
I discovered it’s hard to take a pic while bike riding.
Thanks, Dara and David, for letting us borrow these sweet rides!
Waiting to board the ferry
We liked getting all the free samples at the rest stops. I especially enjoyed the sample grilled cheese. And Hayden liked the Red Bull.
There’s no place prettier to bike than Central Park.

I did the 5 Boro Bike Tour in 2011 too. I didn’t do it last year because I didn’t sign up in time, even though I was going to join the Team Fox and raise money for Parkinson’s Research.

Next time I do the bike tour, I have to remind myself not to suffer. I have to remember that eventually the path will lead downhill.

I would like to write more about the bike tour, but, honestly, I’m ex-haust-ed. I have to go to sleep.

other cool posts: DIY cycling

bike new york

Give Me a Break

I seriously was about to cry when I read The New York Times Sunday travel section today. The cover article, “Give Us a Break,” by Jennifer Conklin talked about three levels of spring break travel: budget, moderate, and in your dreams.

The budget travel option for a week-long vacay in Orlando (without airfare) for a family of four? $4,115. This is referred to as “thrifty.”

Really? Really? Is that thrifty? I consider it thrifty to spend less $400. For our spring break, I am hoping to spend less than $1,000. Maybe I’m jealous. Maybe I’m out of touch with the cost of vacations.

I still think vacations cost about what they did when I was in college. My bible was the paperback “Let’s Go Guide to Europe.” I think my budget was $20 a day.

Are we not, as a country, still clawing our way out of a recession? Are we not all looking for simple joys and saving any extra thousands of dollars for our kids’ college? Who reads The New York Times that $4,000 is considered thrifty?

I don’t care. I will rise above.

I do want to go somewhere grand for spring break and I will. I am psyched that we have spring break plans to visit cousins in Boston or Nantucket and perhaps some old friends. Vacationing with family and friends is way better and more luxurious than some stupid generic vacation a travel agent could arrange.

Maybe the Times did not publish this article to infuriate me about the cost of spring break travel and my inability to travel first class. But did they really have to rub my face in that $1.06 million Caribbean private yacht cruise as an example of the in your dream options?

So to calm my anger, I will write a few “thrifty” spring break fun ideas (and all for about $2.50 a day)

  • sit on a bench in Central Park with a friend (free)
  • visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History (donation is a suggestion)
  • ride on the M5 bus to SoHo ($2.50) or Chelsea and gallery hop (free wine!)
  • walk the High Line (free)
  • have coffee at a cafe and write in your journal ($2.50)
  • bike ride in Riverside Park (free)
  • Saturday morning at Wave Hill (free for the fam)
  • read The New York Times, get mad, blog about it ($2.50)
  • help friends with a creative project, working on a movie, like I did today (free)
a still from the comedy adventure series I worked on.