Sun and Rain, Rain and Sun

I just saw a flash–lightning bolt bright, it would seem–of sun. Put another way, we've had a lot of rain here in our Valley this month. Some of it has been really impressive rain, conjuring images of arks or words like monsoonish. Lots of days haven't been dramatic, just wet, damp, and grey. I've heard a lot of complaints about summer not yet arriving or about how it seems the Pioneer Valley has traded places...

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Caught on Camera (But Not on Film)

It hasn't been the best week to be a Republican governor cheating on his wife (not great for Republican senators doing the same, either) or a husband with eight young children and a reality show rumored to have cheated on his wife. Governor Mark Sanford's bizarre "disappearance" over the weekend puzzled many and ended, as would be practically inevitable for someone both so visible–and accountable to an entire...

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June 30th

Spend any time involved in the world of nonprofits and you know a deadline's looming. June 30th marks the end of the fiscal year for many nonprofit organizations. And this year's a particular nail biter, given what my eldest son refers to as "these tough economic times." Between Wall Street–and for some institutions, Madoff–layoffs in large numbers, and the general pinched budgets all over, many people...

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Fragility/Durability*

This spring, when all those first shoots were coming up—snowdrops, the spears before crocus or daffodil set to bloom, furled leaves curled, practically fetal—I kept thinking again and again how impossibly tender and small and delicate the green seemed. How new the green was, how improbable that a plant could push through cold earth, even through snow—and thrive. Two words kept springing to mind in the fledgling...

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Well, Can Boys Wear Pink?

A couple of exchanges this week got me thinking about putting the words why we have notions that certain behaviors prove boyhood (or girlhood), masculinity or femininity. The first occurred when stopping by my friends' store, impish, where I noticed a new t-shirt on display behind the counter that read Boys Can Wear Pink. The color of the shirt: pink. Being a mother whose sons wore pink–during babyhood, because I wanted them...

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Pound Foolish: Making Choices Isn't Easy

As a parent, there are many variations upon this theme: how to help your kids make smart choices. Smart can mean many different things, from healthy to kind to compassionate to responsible to self-protective… Parents practice their messages, repeating phrases like, "Is that your best choice?" or "How will you feel about that choice tomorrow?" or any other number of catchphrases that get at the same basic...

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In Praise of Paintbox Theatre (& Internships)

Having spent many summers since becoming a parent marveling at the fact that if you continue working in the summer, your kids need something to do once school lets out–ah, camp, that thing no one mentioned in childbirth class, along with the omissions about so many other things that might actually help you prepare for parenthood, from the first threee months really are endless until they're over to you'll be finding...

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Passing

The spectacle that was Michael Jackson’s death continued this week. There were tributes to his contributions of music, movement, and style. Remembrance of Jackson-related bizarre—masks, animals, amusement park home—and Jackson-related disturbing—his plastic surgeries, face whitening, alleged molestation of young “friends,” tacitly physician-supported drug habit and means by which he obtained his...

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Spreading the Word

Recently, I've been thinking about how much I admire artists and writers whose work lives go beyond creating their own work to actively championing community–learning envirornments, supportive networks, forums for bringing their passion for writing or art-making into the larger community–in various and varied ways. Maybe, in part, I've been thinking about this because I'm reckoning with how much artists and...

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Plus-Size–the New Euphemism for Fat?

The Freaky Friday analogy–in this case, as premise for Lifetime's summer series, Drop Dead Diva, it's blond bombshell trades places with any-euphemism-for-fat lawyer–seems tired before it begins. Pitched as a dippy-meets-dumpy or brains versus beauty contest, what's striking is how the show's promotion–"watch with your girlfriends!"–is the idea this constitutes a feelgood sensation,...

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The Contours of Rocks

Last night, I went to hear my old friend, Doug Anderson, read from his new book, a memoir entitled, Keep Your Head Down, in which he chronicles life before, through, and after Vietnam. Doug's a great storyteller and the book somehow manages to do what many who have survived events that are practically unspeakable can do (only he can write the stories down pitch perfectly), which is to make these unbelievable events both funny and...

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Unabashed Admirer of Tomie dePaola

I don’t mean to write about books all the time (but I’m a writer, so I guess this counts as an occupational hazard). Here’s the thing: one of my favorite writers and illustrators is coming the Eric Carle Museum this weekend, on the occasion of his show there (which runs until November 1), Drawings from the Heart: Tomie dePaola Turns 75. And I’m totally excited to shake his hand (because I’ve decided that...

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Cooking with Lulu

Spend time with any smattering of young kids and you’ll find at least one with a strong preference for beige food. You know the kid; s/he will eat bread (in many forms). To that, add cereal or potatoes, applesauce, oatmeal, crackers… Vegetables? Not so much. Fruit? Depends upon the kid. As it goes, my older kids’ palettes are pretty wide ranging (sushi, Chinese specialties, fruits, fiddleheads thanks to a...

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(Re)Purpose

Recycling, it's kind of old hat by now, huh? I am loving this word–kind of new to me–repurpose. Why do I like it? I love the notion that things have more than one purpose; I love the intentionality of the word, and I love the sense of action. Cycles remind me of inevitability: moons, menses, tides, and life. Purpose feels active, a verb in noun's clothing. All year, along with the mini-bays (otherwise known as...

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Seventeen Syllables

I am terrible with numbers. I live with a dear husband who thinks in math. He understands spaces. He reads maps. He’s quite logical. While I wander—sometimes blithely and pretty much always blindly—through the world, he navigates. The kids (at least the three old enough to show their numbers acumen and spatial reasoning) are facile in these ways, too. It’s simply mystifying to me. And while my hubby is a great...

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Walk a Compassionate Mile

If there’s one question that our country seems to be raising repeatedly, it’s how to look at issues, both with respect to our personal perspectives and experiences and with respect for others’ perspectives and experiences. How to validate the import of one’s own perspective but not be limited by it when contemplating a broader, more diverse community with myriad views and needs, now that’s a complicated...

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Old Friends

Old friendsSat on their park benchLike bookends Old friendsMemory brushes the same years –Simon and Garfunkel song I am through and through a connector. By definition, I guess that means I enjoy meeting new people and making new friends. If there were a lucrative way to channel those skills—the brainstorm of do-you-know leading to whatever fortuitous kismet could be made, from locating romance to childcare to therapist to...

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Lest Hatred Become the Standard

Of all the bad news in the newspaper, the reports—like the one last night, of two gay teens being killed and an additional eight wounded by gunfire, when a gunman sprayed weapon fire at a weekly support group for gay and lesbian teens at the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association building—hits me about the hardest. Why? That could be summed up by this quote from May Pamel, Association director; during a brief interview after...

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Blueberries, August

Saskia is eighteen months today. One-and-a-half, she’s every bit the age, with her sturdy, sometimes heavy steps suddenly transforming into a run at will and her vocabulary increasing, her pronunciation becoming more clear and agile and her single word commentaries accruing an extra word or two on a regular basis. More and more often, she knows how to get in on the joke, so a sight that’s becoming more frequent is she and...

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Pen Pals, Mentors, and John Hughes (Really)

Pop culture–seventies and eighties division–lost another icon yesterday. John Hughes, whose films–from Ferris Bueller's Day Off to Pretty in Pink to The Breakfast Club–really shed a certain light upon the melancholy and adventures and kinship of adolescents, died. Of all the things I read late last night and early this morning remembering Hughes, I was most moved by Alison Bryne Fields' piece posted to...

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Two Things That Scare Me: 1) Hatred Toward Women, 2) Guns

I'd been meaning to read Bob Herbert's New York Times' column since Friday, entitled Women at Risk. This morning, I finally read the piece. Herbert was responding to the horrific shooting in Pittsburgh, in which a man opened fire on an aerobics class at the gym he belonged to, shooting many women and then himself. Herbert writes: "We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the...

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MomBlogging (Changemaking?)

Last week, I was interviewed (me? how totally cool!) for the Women's Times about momblogging. While I'd been thinking about (ask my friends, obsessing about) blogging, I hadn't really thought of myself as a MOMblogger. After the interview, I posted a question to that effect on Facebook–essentially, wondering whether I am now a momblogger–and my writing, blogging friends weighed in. Their collective answer works...

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Seeing Ceramics: Anywhere, Here

Having long loved ceramics, it turns out the twenty-first century’s a great time to admire, learn and follow potters doing what they do best, via Internet. A few months ago, a friend tipped me off that potter Michael Kline (who used to live in the Valley and is now in North Carolina) keeps a terrific blog entitled, Sawdust and Dirt. Michael’s a potter’s potter: not only does he make beautiful work, he also teaches,...

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Summer Arts, Adolescent Odysseys

Thank you, DASAC (full name: Deerfield Academy Summer Arts Camp). I have lots of thoughts about summer camp, and about summer camps I hold dear (some other time, almost undoubtedly before summer’s out, I’ll write some of those thoughts down). Last night was the each-session-anticipated and worked-for “Festival,” at DASAC, though. Upon walking across the perfect, green lawn toward the potluck/art...

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Birthday/Anniversary

What a jumble of emotion the birthday can bring. It’s not a big, milestone year—46—and my husband’s away, as is one son. So, I’m solo parent with three kids, meaning quite plainly, the birthday’s not a “day off.” The have-to list won’t disappear, nor the laundry. And no one will swoop in to take them from me (although I’ll have help from Kathryn, our...

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My Unabashed Fondness for Mr. Putter (& Tabby)

One of the best birthday presents I gave myself (and Remy) is the brand spanking new umpteenth Mr. Putter and Tabby book, Mr. Putter and Tabby Spill the Beans. Rather than wait for my birthday proper (or, for that matter for it to be released next year in paperback), we read it on my birthday eve, because once it was in hand, we couldn’t wait a moment longer. If I had to make a favorites list of children’s books, this...

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Losing and Finding

Many years ago, the gym served as my home away from home. I was one of those aerobics people in those days, the kind who chattered her way through locker room into the open floored class space, and then whooped her way through class. I was exceedingly comfortable in the musty, wet-carpet smelling gym. Before class, I threw my clothes into an open locker—most everyone did—and thought nothing more of it. Most of us eschewed...

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Postcard to Obama

This fall a Maryland Institute of Art graduate launched a public art project called Postcards to Obama. She put people’s messages to President Obama on the Internet and sent the cards to the White House. It was truly as simple a project as one could dream up, and it was so powerful; we printed up a bunch for different classrooms at my kids’ school and I loved reading everyone’s hopes for this next administration...

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Farmers' Laments (& Triumphs)

“I've been feeling acutely aware of how it's a really rare thing to have a perfect farming season.” Oona Coy, Town Farm, Northampton, August 2009 One of the many pleasures of buying into a farm share (we’re on our second farm, the first, still beloved to us is Food Bank Farm, which we belonged to for two years, before moving on to Town Farm, because it’s in Northampton, rather than the next town...

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Teddy's Privilege

For days, like so many other people, I’ve been thinking about why the loss of Teddy Kennedy has hit me hard. There are the obvious reasons: from the larger than life sway the Kennedy family holds in Massachusetts most especially to Teddy’s (I’m going to call him Teddy) incredible contributions as a United States Senator. Of course, his isn’t a simple story; he wasn’t merely a straightforward individual....

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Reflections on Summer Day Camp, 2009

With cooler mornings and evenings, and a slew of bright, dry days calling out, “September,” right on cue, I find myself glancing backward, to drink in the last of summer’s glory. This year, memory is not drenched with humidity nor scorched by massive heat waves. The temperate late summer spell seems fitting for a summer marked by rains and coolness and some of the most perfect days I can conjure up, not just this...

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Surprises

Each baby’s arrival—however eagerly anticipated, however expected and planned for—is a surprise. Nothing is so common, so universal and so unique all at once. The process of giving birth does have certain trajectories, and when you get to know them, you can sense labor’s probable arc. You can’t know for sure, though. What we confront around birth and babies is the truth of our animal selves. We dive into...

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It's Labor Day in Uncertain Times

Although Labor Day weekend has become the traditional end of summer marker (even falling late as it has this year), the Federal holiday was signed into existence in order to honor the nation’s workforce. What an odd holiday this year, then, when so many are unemployed or underemployed, and when the divide between have and have not seems, in fundamental—potentially irrevocable—ways to be widening into a chasm. At...

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Still Waters

It’s quiet in my house. The kids are off with the dear husband at a neighborhood party I’ll join them at in a little while. Outside, a lawnmower buzzes. The light reveals autumnal clarity and a few leaves have turned colors and dropped, quietly and without fanfare, like fallen handkerchiefs. Occasionally, a few birds bleep. These few moments seem like a tiny still patch amidst a breezy day. I can barely stop to take in...

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Real Medicine versus Made-Up Medicine & the Health Care Address

President Obama began his speech with a couple of stories. Here’s one: a woman’s insurance company denied her coverage when she was in need of a mastectomy because she’d neglected to report that she’d received acne treatment. By the time her coverage was reinstated, the cancer had grown. Eric Pape wrote a story for Newsweek about his wife giving birth in France, and how it differed from friends giving birth in...

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