Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Domino Effect

My first job was at Baskin Robbins Ice Cream. My second job was at a health food store. When I worked at BR, I ate my share of ice cream (Pralines and Cream-yum) and when at the HFS, I ate salads, raw nuts and drank fresh juice.

Over the years I've gone back and forth between eating habits like the different jobs during my teen summers. Vegan for four months, then a month later, almond M&M's for lunch (only one day). Somedays, I am a conflict of healthy and not: an organic mashed sweet potato with toasted marshmallows on top.

For the most part, I've always eaten well, but since the end of 2014, I'm once again on a more healthy eating pattern. A healthy eating regimen raises consciousness. Beekeeping raises consciousness too. Protecting my little insects has made me more aware of organics, insecticides, GMOs, bee food, my food.

John Robbins wrote a revolutionary book in 1987: Diet For a Small Planet. He's a player in the health world. My journey barely mimics his: he is the Baskin Robbin heir gone rogue. On April 25th, he started a Food Summit Revolution and each day until May 3, he is interviewing people who are instrumental in rethinking the way we eat.

http://summit.foodrevolution.org

As I type these words, I am also enjoying an interview with Michael Pollen--author of The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Later today and this week, I will listen to experts on GMOs, feeding the world, and a plethora of other healthy food and health related subjects. You'll be alarmed and enlightened, the dichotomy of working at an ice cream store and a health food store.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Courage

I found an innovative beekeeper and businessman who came up with a mini hive that teaches the beginner how to raise her own queens--right from the start. This would have been invaluable last spring, as yours truly, lost her queen within the first month. No explanation...just one of those mother nature mysteries.

A hive cannot function without a queen, but the worker bees are equipped with miraculous intuition that tells them when the queen is gone. I received my mini hive without a queen today and if everything goes right, the hive will take one of the 1-3 day old eggs intended to be a worker bee, and will turn it into a queen bee. Within seven days, there should be queen cells and I should have a new queen in 14 days. Fingers crossed.

Al, the bee man, filled my mini hive with three frames of nurse bees and eggs in all stages. Then he moved the hive into the position of a different hive where foragers were coming and going. The purpose of this strategy was to lure some foragers into my mini hive. This way, I have a little army collecting pollen and nectar while the majority of the hive is feeding the new bees and the soon-to-be queen.

We blocked the entrance so the foragers couldn't get out during the 40 minute drive home, which turned into an hour as traffic was not on my side. But no worries. The bees were safely in the hive.

Until...I looked in the rear view mirror and saw one bee had escaped and was now pining against the back window.
It's okay, I told myself. It doesn't have a hive to defend; it won't be aggressive.

I looked in the rear view mirror and there were two bees against the window trying to make an escape.

Two bees are nothing to worry about.

Three bees.

Four bees.

It's okay. As long as they stay in the back of the car. I reminded myself again that there was no threat. No hive to defend; just a little moving displacement.

Five bees.

Six bees.

Seven.

It's okay. As long as they stay in the back of the car, I repeatedly whispered.

I remembered the story of a friend who was stopped for a speeding ticket; she had the gall to tell the officer that a bee was in her car, and she was distracted by trying to get it out. He bought the story and let her pass by go without a ticket.

If I happened to get stopped for a driving violation, which was impossible as traffic was moving at 20 miles per hour, I would indeed have a great excuse.

Stay calm I reminded myself, then turned up the choir music of the MoTab....surely, surely, bees would recognize the heavenly sounds.

And of course, one bee migrated to the driver's side window.

And a few more to the passenger side window.

A little kamikaze action as one bee dive bombed past my head.

But here's the thing.I could have pulled over and rolled down the window and bees would have been gone,  but I didn't want to lose the bees.

Stay calm, there are only three bees in the front and they're just doing what they're supposed to be doing. A mile from the house, the buzz from the right front seat window was agitated. This bee was angry. I'm so close.

I made it, opened the car door, let three bees out and contentedly bagged the four who had remained. Placed them on the landing board and they scooted themselves inside, happy, happy to be in their new home.

Then the rain started and the temperature dropped.

The perilous job of beekeeping. I moved them into the garage, these precious bee eggs and caretakers of nature, and finally, contentedly, crawled into my own warm bed, at midnight, knowing all was well.

Until tomorrow.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Choose A Better Word

The first time one of my ninth grade boys used the word "pissed" in class discussion, I asked him to look up the word "piss." He did and reported the denotation.

"Is that what you really wanted to say?" I asked.

He shook his head no, and the word was never again heard, without my specific banishment. The class regulated itself and the word became taboo. At least in class.

Since 1635, France has relied on the Academie Francaise to regulate language, or to keep it pure. Being a part of the Academy is a prestigious honor and an honor taken seriously. It is after all, the job of keeping the French language pure. I wonder if English teachers in America constitute our own academy and have the same responsibility.

Last December, I saw one of the worst Broadway plays EVER, and it should have been a winner based on the cast and the premise. About half way through the play when the plot was thinning faster than ice cream on a sunny day, almost every character started dropping the F-bomb. At first it was sporadic, but increased at a rapid pace. When the play finally ended, I felt sorry for the actors when the audience clapping was lackluster at best. The cast didn't even think about an encore curtain call.

I asked my sister who is liberal, and a comedy writer, if the F-bomb in this play was a cop-out. I expected her to defend the F-bomb use, but even she saw its failure. She further explained that sometimes it's a comedic tool: when people hear the word, they laugh, but it is often from discomfort. You know how it is, someone says something uncomfortable and you laugh to release that discomfort.

At the SLAM poetry competition for high school, the emcee told the audience that the F-bomb wasn't allowed. SLAM poetry can be a vent for frustration and anger, so I understood. What I didn't understand and what was difficult to hear, were seventeen year olds damning deity. The word combination of a benevolent, supreme being coupled with the word damn (sending someone to hell as punishment), is a wretched, disrespectful, dichotomy.

As a teacher of Language Arts, I feel responsible to teach word choice and how to choose better words. Finding the right words can be like reaching for the sky and touching the stars or sinking into a putrid, smelly swamp. Choosing words with care, with consideration of their meaning and impact--in writing and oral discourse, should be done as carefully as we would contemplate eating mushrooms found in the forest mulch.

None of our students used harsh profanity at the contest. There were a few well placed "hells," that fit the context of someone telling a story and a comparison between heaven and hell. As second place winners, our students showed that their word choices didn't need to include the hard core, shock value words.  Their figurative language and imagery were so strong and powerful, they didn't need to fall back, or cop out, on ugly words.

 During our novel writing seminar, a student asked about the use of swear words. My response was that using profanity was a difficult choice and should only be used carefully if showing a character's character or if the author had a justifiable reason.  "Don't use it just to use it.  If possible, choose a better word. Don't fall back on the use of profanity. Don't be lazy."

Speak and write with beautiful words.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Just In Case

Every time I sit in one of the family's newer cars, I'm confused by the tilt of the headrest. It's too far forward, and I wonder who sat in this seat before me, and why does he or she tolerate such an uncomfortable thrust.

Today I learn that the headrest is manufactured like this to protect the head and neck from injury or whiplash. Just in case there is a car accident. So....we risk throwing our neck alignment, Just in case there's an accident? If I were the one in ten thousand, I suppose I'd be happy.

I've been contemplating this Just in case way of living. Contemplating because I've implemented a Just in case precaution and even though it's an important choice, I feel wimpy, fearful and one of those people who is afraid to LIVE LIFE!!

The week before Paloma's wedding, Tony and I were supposed to be in Ireland. But I couldn't do it.

Because I remember Iceland volcanic eruption in April 2010. The disaster that ended up being the largest disruption of air travel since WWII.  Six days and millions of canceled flights, and millions of stranded travelers: Tony was one of them.  A few  days delayed, he left Germany flying backwards through strange cities to eventually reach home. One of those flights.

I also remember the friends who flew out of JFK on the evening of September 10, 2001, and how relieved they were to have flown home the night before. But there were the friends who didn't fly home the night before and ended up buying a car in a distant city--their only way to get home. And the other friend who's flight was canceled and paid a stranger to drive him home.

Even though it's my daughter's wedding for which I will take no international disaster chances, I still think it's a horrible way of living: Just in case. It seems needless to hold back, cancel, or be cautious when the odds are 1000 to one.

Unless..........., I'm putting money in a savings account, for a rainy, or a Just in case day. Or if I cook extra food for a meal, Just in case of unexpected company. Or I bring an extra coat, Just in case. Or I take some extra cash Just in case they don't take a credit card.

Ah, but it's a shame to miss a party Just in case that person might be there, or skip an adventure Just in case it's dangerous, or to miss a hike Just in case the weather changes.

My daughter is less than ten days from her baby's due date. Her husband had to leave on a business trip and after a trip to the doctor, the doctor felt the husband was safe to go. Many moons ago, Tony left on a business trip within ten days of our baby's due date, but I went into labor before his return flight. These were the days before cell phones. I paged him at the Delta gate, but it was going to be ok, because he was about to board and would be home within four hours.  And then the plane was delayed on the tarmac, for three hours.  By the time Tony finally arrived home, he was so spent from the stress, he was in no condition for the all nighter this child required.

This is why, when I think of my daughter with other children to care for, before I go to bed, I make sure my cell phone is on the night stand, volume on high. Just in case.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

video
It is somewhat strange that the efficiency of the hive, is female regulated. The queen, the worker bees are all female. The drones, or male bees, serve one purpose only--to mate with other queens and keep the DNA pool diluted. Once their job is done, in the fall, they are mercilessly kicked out of the hive.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

We'd practiced for weeks: re-written, revised and memorized. Performing for each other. Our SLAM poetry team was solid and ready to compete.

There were  different themes that dominated the evening: suicide and love. Suicide especially, from a high school recently plagued by several attempts. Some successful.

The performances were stellar. The language unique and original. Metaphors for love found in Humpty Dumpty and emotional journeys compared to Odysseus; students shared their battles with depression, teenage angst, pressure to succeed, coming out of the closet. On a lighter note, one student poetisized her memories of Grandma. Beautiful.

The poem given by the talented, beautiful girl with flowing red hair, wearing a black skirt  was painful. "Deflowering, they call it," she began in tender, heartfelt words: the story of her loss of virginity, the lies, promises and disappointments of sex as a sixteen year old girl. She was followed by an honest telling of date rape.

What a night. There was more wisdom, bravery and creativity in the HS auditorium than on a Broadway stage.

The faces, the honesty, the pain and joy, will stay with me for a long, long time, especially Allysa's poem.

When her mom first heard her topic, she responded, "You're going to do a poem about God at a SLAM poetry contest?" Even Mom's questioning didn't keep her from writing what she was compelled to write, to recite the words burning in her heart.

When we think about God poetry, we may think didactic, or pushy. But Alyssa's figurative language of loss and faith was neither. She began by sharing her childlike faith and acceptance, of believing because she believed everything her parents told her.

because I was a child and that’s what kids do
--until you land in high school.

For the first time, she experiences failure, and she writes:
I got beaten black eyed by math--my fault--until at last the first whisper came:
there is no God.

But Alyssa does find God and explains it in the most beautiful language of her poem. She doesn't try to prove his existence or convince her audience; she simply shares why he came to exist for her and her three minute journey is compelling.
Previous to the competition, when I heard Alyssa perform her poem, I got chills.
Her performance last night was flawless. The audience was silent, mesmerized by her doubt, vulnerability, and conviction. When she finished, the room erupted in vigorous applause. It seemed that it took as much courage to speak about God as it did suicide, abuse and depression. There was one and only one poem about God.
We nervously turned to see what the three judges had given her. The first judge rated her in the middle, an 8. The second judge rated her the highest score so far that night: 9.2.

The third judge. Two full points below her highest mark and what would turn out to be the lowest score of the evening: 7.7. Clearly, it was risky to speak about God.




Monday, April 20, 2015

Learn New Stuff

"You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine." Kristina

We tend to think of changes in grand, sweeping, adjustments, but the above quote may be spot on. It is why, on my to-do list, I never erase the phrase: learn new stuff. By trying to learn everyday, I not only learn new stuff, but I create a self-culture of curiosity and investigation. The small act changes my life.

I also have on my everyday to-do list: I am here to bring more love into the world. That simple declaration may cause me to hold my tongue, to think positive instead of negative, make it easier to smile and say "Good morning," as I pass a stranger. It may be that everyday change helped me to see the bigger picture of needing to have a change of heart towards a person in my life--which seems overwhelming at times. Each day, a positive thought about this person, a prayer to plead for help--it will change my life. My life is a construction of my daily routines.

In the early days of spring, I was overwhelmed by the grass that had sprung between the stones in my garden pathway. I vowed to pull just a few out each day and I'm happy to say that most are gone. I also decided to clear the grass on a quarter acre of a hillside to make room for wildflower and clover seeds.  The task was daunting if I looked at the entire hillside, so I would only allow myself to look at a small patch. I'm not there yet, but I will be.

I recently came across a story of two women whom I presume to be best friends. One woman lives on the West coast-Portland; the other lives in Maine. They didn't allow space to separate friendship. Every morning, each woman took a photo of her day and sent it to the other. This everyday photo turned into a book, a website, a business. An everyday habit changed their lives.

The possibilities are so exciting. I can't wait to investigate, explore, decide, and implement my new everyday change. L'chaim! Namaste!

I think I know what it is already. Next year, I'll be teaching a whole new era of history and I've been a little paralyzed at the thought--Everyday! Yes, I will find the right books. Study each day. Everyday=success!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Ultimate Tag Team

****
When Tony and I were in the south of France, we consistently saw grandparents in the company of a young child, presumably their grandchild. We saw these little ones on the back of Grandpa's bike, riding next to Grandma on her bike. We saw the threesome on the beach, on walks, essentially everywhere. This appeared to be a social construct of the region.

Without asking, our landlord pointed out the common practice. Retired grandparents take on the day care of their grandchild, as it is too expensive for working parents. There is a need, and the grandparents come to the rescue. It is their duty, their privilege.

Tony is never more darling than when he is with the grandchildren. It makes me fall in love with him in a whole new way.

When we are in charge, we often turn to each other and say or ask, "Isn't he or she so cute?" or "Isn't that funny, or unique or adorable?" When our charge performs, we turn to each other with sparkles in our eyes and grins on our faces. How does this one little person bring so much joy? Is it the seemingly impossibility that a small piece of ourselves rests within his soul? Is it the never ending link of humanity? Does love grow by leaps and bounds with each generation? Or is it that grandparenting comes without the same responsibilities as parenting: just all the fun.

Tony and I already have this symbiotic relationship built through many years of marriage, so when we are together, in charge of one child, it flows, naturally. We pass off to each other, seamlessly juggling the little human. Our love for each other, makes it so we want to share the responsibility--make it easier for each other. Between the two of us, caring for the little ones often seems easier than it was caring for our own. When raising our children, we worked together, but so often after a long day, I needed to pass the children off to their father. Tony was my relief pitcher, not my teammate.

But...a couple of hours is much different than all day, presumably the entire work week. It's hard work and we know it. Would I do it if there was a need? I would with my husband. The tag team works when we are older and slower. While Tony and I were the ten day nannies, Tony still went to work each day. One night, while waiting for his arrival, Annika said, "I like when Tony's here; he has the touch." She may have sensed the grandparent-caretaker team was stronger with both of us.

This makes me think of all the grandmas and grandpas who are doing it on their own. Without the help of each other. Not only caring for the child while the mother works, but while the mother is on military duty, or when she is ill or when a parent dies. All those grandmas who step in to care for children when the parents can't. There is not a tribute grand enough for these women and men who become the parenting grandparents when the need arises.


To end on a joyful note--I'm not sure who's having more fun.

video


***Yes, Tony needs a pair of pants that fit.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Green Lawns At What Cost?

Almost ten years ago, Tony and I visited some dear friends at their mini estate/orchard in Santa Cruz California. Their home was craftsman style, the garage was the size of a home, and a small cottage sat at the edge of the property.

Each morning I would pick oranges from the dwarf orange trees and make fresh OJ. The property had a fruit tree of every kind. One of my favorite things was showering in the outdoor shower after a paddle in the bay. Very best of all, was the ocean view, the breeze, the friendships.

When we first arrived, I was surprised by the grounds, because they were not a traditional green estate. I expected manicured lawns and ornamental bushes. The fruit trees were lush, but surrounding the important vegetation was bare, dry, dirt. I asked our host and he taught me about sustainable, environmentally sensitive gardening. Ten years later, I see that Lyndsey was ahead, or on par, with the times. In the suffering state of California, he'd already made the most of a future projection with little water.

With that in mind, here is my front lawn. It's just a small patch of lawn, but I think the dandelions are beautiful. I won't spray pesticide to get rid of a plant that sustains bees and that is even edible. Yes, I juice it.

I worry about what the neighbors think and sincerely hope, I'm not THAT neighbor. I wonder if it bothers the mayor who lives next door, who keeps his lawn weed free by spraying quarterly. In suburban America, everyone is supposed to keep their lawn green. There was a day in California, when everyone was supposed to keep their lawn green, their swimming pools full and their waterfalls flowing. That day, of course, is over. Acres of orange groves and fruit trees are being plowed under. Community pools are jack hammered and waterfalls are dry.

Water and pesticides are different, but all the same. Prudent use is about sustainability of the environment. Our food, our lives.

Postscript: I listen to a man I like and respect use a green lawn as an analogy for living a better life. He extols his listeners to mow, feed and when a weed (a life problem), pops up, pull out your weed-be-gone and spray the weed. Noooooo! Just as there are alternative solutions to problems, so are there alternatives for weed treatment.

Great article found at: http://bee-friendlier.com/flower-bombing/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=Mobile-OrganicGardening-AdCreativeG-Image1&utm_campaign=flower-bombing

Changing Our Standard of Beauty

Manicured lawns are everywhere in the United States. Mowed grass, neat edges and pruned bushes were once considered ideal, even in climates with little rain. But unfortunately, these lawns are like deserts when it comes to providing food for bees.
The very American aesthetic of a well-manicured lawn traces its roots back to the fields of England and Scotland, where the aristocracy enjoyed large fields of grass. But these lawns were difficult to establish in the U.S., as imported English grasses didn’t grow well in American soils and climates. So in the early 1900s, the US Department of Agriculture (in conjunction with the U.S. Golf Association) began breeding grasses that would fare better in American soil. The chemical industry, looking for a peacetime market for chemical warfare technology, then created pesticides and herbicides to keep these new types of grasses growing even in climates and soils not suited for lawns.
Lawns really took off when the Garden Club of America launched a wildly effective campaign encouraging homeowners to cultivate and maintain a neat, green front lawn. It was considered a civic duty. The Garden Club even stipulated the appropriate grass height (an inch and a half). The campaign was so successful, lawns became ubiquitous—even in arid parts of the country.
But while they may look neat, lawns, in addition to using a lot of water, can be unfriendly to pollinators.
Especially in a dry climate like California. Ellen Zagory is extremely aware of this. “We have to have a new aesthetic. We have to have a new understanding of the natural world,” she says. “We have to understand that in our climate, we need drought-tolerant plants. And they look different. And so to have a sustainable world, maybe we need to have different plants than the ones that are brought to us from our older cultural models, from say, England.”
Thankfully, people don’t need to completely transform their yards. Just a small space will do.
“Anyone can do it,” explains Muller. “You can do it in your backyard. You can do it in a planter box on your window. You can do it in a little strip of real estate right by where you park your car. If there’s a piece of bare soil, you can be planting something.”
Jessa Kay Cruz of the Xerces Society agrees. “These plants are beautiful, flower a lot, are great for pollinators, and they’re going to use so much less water than a lawn will,” she says. “If you have a pollinator garden in your yard, you will just be amazed at the activity you’ll see. You’ll start to see bees visiting. You’ll see butterflies and hummingbirds and other types of songbirds. It’s a win all around.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Scent of a Rose

My close friend describes her son as her "Stop and smell the roses child."

Since hearing the phrase, I've decided to be a stop more often and smell more roses, kind of person.

On a hurried run, dark blue catches my eye. I veer off the path to consciously smell this rose. I'm amused at the trouble someone took to create their own SASTR moment. What could be nicer on a pleasant afternoon, than sitting on a blue velvet couch on a hillside, enjoying the view?

 Or sitting with a friend watching the night sky?
Or stopping to enjoy the rainbow fence?
 Or painting a rainbow fence?
 Or literally stopping, smelling, cutting and bringing the tulips to the kitchen table?
 Or inspecting the pencils for all the bit-off erasers inflicted by the 18 month old child? And enjoying his little fetish.
Yet, the better part of being a stop and smell the roses person may be the person who allows others to stop and smell the roses. 

The friend who labeled her son, had sent him to get ready for bed. After plenty of time to do his tasks, she found him unprepared, but she remained patient. Instead of preparing for bed, the little boy prayed about an important issue. Because she was patient, he told her about his prayer, his answer, and her heart was touched. Had she been the harried mother, not allowing him to SASTR, not allowing herself to SASTR, the precious moment would have been lost.

The even better, better part of being a SASTR person may be that when we stop to smell the roses, we may also be suspending judgement.

My professor and his father-in-law were walking down a crowded, city sidewalk. Up ahead, he could see a scuffle among the shoulder to shoulder people. There was a man staggering through the crowd. As he bumped into people he was pushed away and my professor heard "Get away from me you drunk." When they reached the "drunk" man, his father-in-law, a doctor, reached out for the man, and asked, "How long have you been off your medication."

Things are not always as they seem. Pausing, or stopping to smell the roses, and allowing others the same privilege, ultimately brings the reward: the sweet smell of a rose.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

On The Winning Team

NPR is having its (what seems continual), fund drive, which reminds me if I were to donate along with other listeners, we wouldn't have to listen to the fund drive when tuning in for enlightening content. But the only time I listen to NPR is while driving, and I don't drive, use the phone, and definitely do not fumble for my credit card number.

Ira Glass, an NPR superstar, asks his audience to switch teams: From the people who listen and don't donate money, to the people who listen and donate. It would be nice to be on the guilt free team, wouldn't it?

I've been thinking about the times I've had to switch teams or wanted to switch teams. I don't think I've ever regretted switching teams, because usually the switch comes long after the nudge, the urge, the guilt, or the desire to switch. Switching teams is a great metaphor for life changing actions--and it's beneficial to always be conscious of whether or not I'm on the right team, or asking how can I switch to the winning team?

I remember switching to the positive words team, when I consciously decided never to speak ill of another person, or listen to ill words about another person. A definite move from the losing team.

More than once I've switched to the eat healthy team. This makes switching teams too easy--from one day to the next. I'd like to make a more permanent switch here.

From a meditation, I heard the words, "You came into this world to bring love." I definitely wanted to switch to this team.

I'm right-this-minute aware of the team I need to make a switch from: the good-at-making-excuses team. Like not donating because I'm in my car, like not-right-now. It's time to make a switch. And be on the winning team.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This Is My Childhood

Crestwood Elementary School was just a slip through the kickball fence to the Charleston Plaza Mall. With the privilege of an older sister, I started having lunch there while in the third grade. Our mom gave us fifteen cents for a slice of pizza sold at Kresge's Drug Store. We waited in line and ate our pizza standing up. It didn't take long for my sister to figure out the better pizza was sold at The Pizza Den for 25 cents a slice. If Mom gave us a quarter, we could have Kresge's pizza and spend the dime on an Italian ice at the Pizza Den. Life was so good. It got even better when Dad gave us a dollar for lunch. Two slices of pizza, an Italian ice and maybe a candy bar from Skaggs. When my sister graduated to junior high, I was old enough to go with my own friends to the mall. We discovered the above cookie at the Jewish bakery: New York's famed black and white, or the half moon. Oh how Linda and I loved this cookie. We named it the integration cookie because we were the first fifth grade class that was considered for integration with children from the west side of town. We named the cookie in honor of the new friends we loved.

In a famous scene from Seinfeld, Jerry says to Elaine: "The Thing about eating the B&W cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the B&W cookie all our problems would be solved."

I grew up, moved away and didn't run into the black and white for too too many years, until I went to New York. The black and white was everywhere and I was in childhood heaven. I contemplated sending a box to my black/white cookie, best-lunch-friend Linda who, had helped name the cookie.

This is my New York indulgence and I'm always in search of the freshest, best made, black and white, cause all cookies are not created equal. A good black and white is worth the indulgence. A bad black and white is not. We recently stopped at a Jewish cafe in Chicago because Mandi had heard they had good ones. One bite, and I was finished.

With great joy, I found a NYT short blurb on the black and white posing such questions as what is the best way to eat it?? Chocolate first? Alternating between black and white? Broken in half?

I've eaten it every way and it doesn't seem to matter.

The second question posed was: Where can one find the best B&W in New York? Readers left comments and I've compiled the suggestions below with dreams of a testing/tasting trip to NY in the near future.


William Greenberg's
Donut Pub, 14th street and 7th avenue
Piece of Cake, Staten island
Roccos on Bleeker
Nussbaum &Wu, 113th and Broadway
Tal Bagels

Another reader wrote that she made the best black and white from a recipe found in Gourmet Magazine. After a google search, I found a myriad of recipes; but somehow, it doesn't seem part of the experience if one is not standing as a child in the Jewish bakery, or in a NY deli asking if the cookies are fresh..

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

For my own father's funeral, we were careful we didn't go over an hour. These were his explicit instructions--sort of. Actually, he was quite persistent we didn't have a funeral. Only a short graveside service. If that. But as we counted family members, ordered the tent, asked a cousin to bring chairs, considered the Vegas heat, an indoor service started to make more sense.

In the tender hours after his death, we talked, worried and made decisions. On a morning walk, I heard my father say, "Jan (my mother), you just can't keep all those people standing out in the heat."

When I told Mom, it rang true, and we moved his "graveside" service indoors. But then we had to add music, an opening prayer, etc. It became a memorial. Not a funeral. In order to keep it from an official funeral, we had to keep it short. My sisters and I were careful. I timed my talk, which previously decided by consensus, had to be a maximum of five minutes. It was four minutes and 18 seconds.

When my cousin's husband died, she called to tell my mother about the funeral, and she included that it was "only going to be an hour." But when we reached the chapel and read the program, it seemed otherwise. Mom said, "This is at least two hours."

Two hours is very little time to honor the life of a loved one.

Yet, long funerals are hard. Too long movies are difficult. Trans-Atlantic flights, childbirth labor, car rides, meetings with the board.

A different cousin's husband talks with Mom. Funeral lengths enter the discussion and he tells us a story about his grandfather. When his grandfather died, the family proceeded to go through the boxes of his memorabilia. Grandfather had kept several years of his friend's funeral programs. In each program were notations concerning the program length. Comments such as "Too long," or "just right," "should have been shorter," filled the margins of the programs.

Good story is distilled. Edited. When we include all the details, all the details are diluted. When everyone is shouting, no one is shouting. So we pick the best experiences, the best memories to highlight the story we want to tell. We pare it down to make it interesting and listenable for our audience. A good funeral, a well lived life, is really no different than a good story.

Cheers to the short funeral--exactly what our beloved deserve.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Flight

I once believed that I had flown. Yes, the dream was so vivid, so real, I couldn't deny that I had flown by my own means. I can still feel the feeling of flight, yet my rational side, knows it didn't  happen.

On an afternoon run, I look up to see more than a few people flying. When I see this, I feel like a monster who wants to take candy away from a child. I want to be these people flying. Tony gave me a parasailing (if that is what this is) experience with optional lessons one year for my birthday, but I couldn't do it. Growing up, a family friend with small children died while parasailing. And an art mentor's son had a debilitating accident while parasailing. It's the only birthday present I've had to return.

Yet, I see these daring birds and I long to be where they are.

This longing, coupled with the surety of knowing I have flown, leaves me with one conclusion.

I believe in a primordial life. I believe I existed as a spirit, without a body before I came to earth. I would have "moved," and without a body, perhaps that is "flying."

The desire to fly is inherent. It is innate. It is what drove those early innovators to strap on wings and jump off cliffs. Were they trying to recapture a primordial feeling? A skill?



Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Universe Listens!

A moment of serendipity.

Deb, my teaching partner, proposes two new writing classes for us to teach. Novel writing, which makes sense since we've taught it as a three week seminar for two years. Her second proposed class is Storytelling. Ok. Sounds fun. I can do that. But I'm really unsure of how we'll organize the class. It will be a challenge and we will pull it together. The director plays with our proposals, and we are unsure if either will go. Surprisingly, she puts the Storytelling class on the schedule. Now what do we do?

I learn of an online auction to support victims of abuse. I peruse the auction items and find something that may come in handy: The Great Courses has donated "The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals," by Dr. Hannah B. Harvey. I bid on the course early in the day, but forget to return that night to up my bid in case someone has bid over my price.

The next day, I see I have won the course!!

Today, it arrived. I'm giddy-ecstatic and write to Deb:  It's like the universe listened and lined up for us: you propose "storytelling" Robyn accepts it, and these CDs fall into my lap!

And the second best part?   Tomorrow, I have a five hour drive by myself, and I was worried about self-entertainment. The course is 12 hours listening-long.

Blessings.