Glad I Saw It: Fog and Sunlight


Sunday morning started early with a dog that wanted to get outside and a daughter who decided reading in bed was better than sleeping late. I decided to walk to the bagel store instead of drive, and happily my 8-year old wanted to join the adventure.

We cut through the nearby park, and it was lovely and perfect. When I pointed out a particularly breathtaking view to my daughter, she responded, “Ooohhh, beautiful! It’s really just fog and sunlight, you know.”

Yeah, I know.


Posted in Glad I Saw It, Parenthood, People are Good, random observation, Suburban Life, Things I love | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HardCore Summer Reading Suggestions

fdc_book_trainwreckNothing against romance novels and more traditional beach reads, but I like to use my downtime to get deep and dirty into books that take me aback and encourage me to evolve without mindfulness and meditation. Here are a few of my summer reading recommendations.

—> Are you attracted to celebrity culture, but want to be more Ava DuVernay amplifying Jessica Chastain’s commentary about women in film than a self-flagellating narcissist like a Kardashian? (*) Or maybe you have leftover angry baggage about the denial of sexism’s role in the 2016 election season to infinity? Well then, Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck is your next summer read.

This non-fiction gem is a feminist history lesson that holds up a mirror to our own attitudes towards women who crash and burn. Doyle takes us from the Brontes to Amy Winehouse to Billie Holiday to Britney Spears to Hillary Clinton to Whitney Houston to Mary Wollstonecraft and back to Britney Spears, all the while giving context to their public spirals into “trainwreck” territory. The chapters are easily digestible anecdote-filled morsels that analyze both the subjects’ and the readers’ behavior. Trainwreck will entertain, educate, and make you stop and think about your own responses to celebrity.

(*) I fully understand the irony of calling out The Kardashians to open a mini-review/suggestion to read a book about celebrity trainwrecks.

51769957—> Reading Ada Calhoun’s Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give is a lot less expensive and a lot more fun than couples therapy. At least I imagine so. At once funny and sad and contemplative and honest, Calhoun nudges us to reevaluate and appreciate our own relationships. Each essay has a different filter and focus, but it never feels forced or manufactured.

Throughout the collection, Calhoun’s voice is like the friend you rely on to tell you the truth about what an idiot you’re being, but over a glass of your favorite beverage at sunset. The personal stories walk the line of TMI, but never cross it. We get to know her family without feeling like we’ve invaded their personal space too much. Best suited to couples who have been together for a while; you’ll probably recommend your partner reads the book as well.

elle-2017-books-difficult-women-roxane-gay—> I have to throw in a repeated recommendation for Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. It’s just so good. This collection of short stories has something to suit any mood and any variation on summer weather. Read my full review here: Difficult Women. Gay’s new book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, is focused on food, weight, and self-image, and it’s sure to become the must-read of 2017. But I haven’t read it yet, so let me know what you think.

For my past recommendations see this post or this post or this kinda-sorta review, but definitely a summer suggestion here.

Leave YOUR suggestions for summer reading in comments!




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Wonder Woman: I love this movie

34718360706_344feb2e0d_bI don’t usually see many blockbuster superhero movies, but when I do see them, I enjoy them for the mindless, escapist entertainment they are meant to be. I’m also a laid-back and forgiving movie-goer. However, after seeing the previews of Wonder Woman and getting very excited about having a genuine female-centered superhero story, I had high expectations. WONDER WOMAN needs no hedging, no equivocating. It was amazing. Truly. Bear with me as I quickly get through a few things.

  • I got weepy a few times. First when Wonder Woman flipped a tank during a fire fight. Other times were split between feelings of gratitude that the big screen featured this fantastic character and moments when I simply appreciated the message.
  • There are typical superhero movie tropes throughout. As with Superman, Wonder Woman only knows part of her background and heritage, and she gets a crash course just before discovering her full power.
  • Also, with a touch of Superman’s innocence and belief that humanity deserves assistance, Diana of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta, is repeatedly dismayed and perplexed at the war suffering she witnesses. At one moment she becomes disgusted, perhaps better described as betrayed, by the lack of purity in humans. The central message of the film is summed up when she realizes that purity tests don’t work.
  • There are a lot of slow motion action sequences. And they are gorgeous.
  • Somehow, Wonder Woman manages to get into her superhero uniform with ease, no matter the circumstances.

There were also several moments that both moved me and felt fresh in a superhero film.

  • The first time Diana, still on her home island, consciously tests her super-human abilities, there is a thrill that emanates from the character. It seems much more inwardly than outwardly focused.
  • Every time Diana is sincerely puzzled by behavior we take for granted. i.e.: Walking past suffering, lying politicians, having difficulty choosing the right thing to do.
  • Characters with matter-of-fact statements and assumptions that sweep across gender inequality with the confidence of never having felt gender inequality.

Diana’s back story, which is a not quite fully-detailed origin story, is well-paced and satisfying. The Amazon scenes could be a short film unto themselves; they are stunning and exciting and inspirational. Robin Wright as General Antiope is a badass. I wanted to hear about HER story. Tell me more about that shoulder scar, General. Despite a dearth of details relating to how Diana has “more power than she knows” (as she is told several times), her development makes sense and feels authentic. It’s an organic coming-of-age story.

I also liked that while Wonder Woman showed Diana as empathetic and caring, she wasn’t painted as incapacitated by emotion. Whereas Superman goes off to his ice castle to mope and lick his wounds, and Batman is continually hanging on to misery, Wonder Woman suffers loss and then picks herself up and gets to work. This seems a lot more female than fainting couches or snarling defensiveness.

I’ve said a couple of times that Superman feels like the best comparison in the superhero world. And an homage hunch that I had during the movie was realized when I saw this meme that confirmed my suspicions about allusion to eyeglasses, buttoned up “disguise,” and gender reversal of saving the sidekick. That doesn’t happen by accident. Nicely done,  Patty Jenkins!wonder-woman-superman-homage

The film’s shortcoming is with the bad guys. Several short scenes showing WWI era Germans creating toxic gas that kills in seconds seemed unnecessary and overly developed. A female evil scientist was perhaps included to 1) have another female character (of which there are really only three post-Amazon world) and 2) to show that it’s not only men but all humanity that is capable of evil. Still, the scenes between the two main baddies felt as close to gratuitous as is humanly possible. (See what I did there?) I mean, it’s clear that the real bad guy in the film is war itself, and Diana consistently fights against that throughout the film.

That criticism out of the way, I loved this film. I can’t wait to see it again. I finally understand why men like these superhero movies so much; when I left the theater, I felt like I could kick serious ass. I felt like there was justice within reach, and that I could contribute to it. It’s possible that I turned up the music too loud and sung fiercely off-key on my way home. Hey, I’m even excited to see Justice League because it has Wonder Woman in it. And it had better not screw up Diana of Themyscira’s character.

Bonus: Then there’s this tweet. Which, I will fully admit, made me weepy. And damn it, I needed that. My whole generation needed that.




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Glad I Saw It: Raindrops on Roses


The post-thunderstorm morning today was irresistible, so I took the dog and headed to Brookdale Park. If you heard someone singing a poorly tuned version of “My Favorite Things” in the Essex County Community Rose Garden, that was me.

There were a lot of bees, too. They were too busy to sting. We could all learn from them.

Linking to the YeahWrite Weekend Showcase.

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Readings On Grief

Museum of GoodByeAmy and Maya at The Creativity Caravan partnered with Apryl of the Halfway There reading series to present Readings on Grieving.  Seven local writers presented pieces centered around grief and letting go. What follows is the piece I read for the event.

The Death of My Father

My father died on a street in Camden, Maine. We were walking up a hill and he stopped, again and again, waving his grandchildren ahead. “Don’t wait for me. I’ll be there soon.” Shallow breaths forced him to lean heavily on the stone wall, my mother hovering nervously at his side.

My father died in a hospital bed after a heart attack. There were dozens of dangers and warnings and maybes and precautions before he could be put under anesthesia for a common and simple procedure. I smiled and waved off the dangers and said we’d see him in recovery. But we all knew, he knew especially, that he might not make it to recovery. He said he wanted The Battle Hymn of the Republic played at his funeral. We laughed, and then we made mental notes. Just in case.

My father died in church, unable to stand or sing or pray out loud. I sang a little louder and held his hand, but the notes were off and my throat felt sore. His voice had always been in tune and powerful and filled with the belief I no longer had.

My father died in the specialist’s office, sitting between my mother and me, one hand on the ever-present oxygen tank. The pulmonologist killed him with her gentle but firm words, “Your fibrosis won’t respond to this treatment.” That was the moment he gave up on trying to fight off death.

My father died falling out of bed. He hit his head and hurt his body and bruised his pride on the way down. He never left the bed after that. He was more afraid of falling once more than lying in bed forever.

My father died hearing my mother and me snap and argue and gripe at each other over what was best for him. “Please be patient with your mother, Kristin,” he pleaded. I tried. I couldn’t do it well enough. Not even for the weekends. Not even for him.

My father died in hospice, two hundred miles away, whispering “I love you, too” as my mother held the phone to his mouth. Sitting in my car outside my children’s school, I flooded his ear with as many of the ways his grandchildren loved him and how lucky they were to have him for as long as they did and how they’d always remember him as strong and loving and vital and necessary. He knew “they” really meant me.

My father died when I hung up the phone, releasing the sobs that I’d tried so hard to hold back during the call. I cried because I wasn’t with him and because others were. I cried because I hadn’t said enough. I cried because the inevitable was so near. I cried because my father had been dying for so very long. I cried because he was ready. I cried because I was not.

My father died after many almosts and close-calls during two decades of stolen years in which he raised children to adulthood, married off two daughters, eventually retired, and met and loved his grandchildren. And was so loved in return.

Years later, in surprising and sudden bursts, I still weep when I hear his favorite songs and know he’d like to sing them once more. Years from now, I will still sing a little louder for him, off pitch and with joy.



Posted in Excellent Local People, Memory, Parenthood, Suburban Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

I don’t belong here

imposter-syndrome-comicOnce in a while, not a long while, but a short while, I feel completely outpaced by those around me. I look around and realize that I am unqualified to breathe the same air as others. (Basically, the opposite of the Dunning-Kruger effect we see playing out in national politics.) Don’t bother arguing with “We are all equal” and “You’re underselling yourself” and all that. I know I’m correct in my feeling of worthlessness and I just want to wallow in it. So there. Maybe it comes from shyness. Maybe it’s rooted in constant comparison to others as a child. It doesn’t matter, really. It’s there, it exists, and I’m dealing.

In the past, that feeling might have talked me out of participation. But what I’ve done more recently is give the other party an out. Just today I wrote an email that included, “I truly don’t feel qualified to be seated on a panel with these two people!” What’s the goal with a comment like that? To have the organizer say, “You’re right, I rescind the invitation”? Because I’d be pissed; the sitter is already booked. I think that it’s a signal to the other end of the email exchange that I know what I suspect they know: I’m not as (smart, qualified, accomplished, talented, professional) as the others. It’s a warped humility. A grownup version of “These jeans make me look fat.” It’s a hope that you’ll be disputed and reassured. It’s fishing for compliments. Ick. I need to stop that.

With another “I’m a total fraud” event coming up this week, I was heartened by a Neil Gaiman post about Impostor Syndrome. Besides recommending Amy Cuddy’s book, Presencewhich deals with feeling like an impostor, Gaiman relates an anecdote about himself and an American hero both feeling like impostors despite storied and pages-long resumes. If Neil Gaiman feels like an impostor sometimes, I guess we all do. Maybe it’s even healthy to feel like we are the least qualified in a group on occasion as long as it doesn’t paralyze us into inaction. If so, I’m super healthy.


by Bradford Veley

Posted in People are Good, People do silly things, random observation | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Hey, Parents: You’re Doing A Great Job! {giveaway}


30341531There are days, lots of them, that parents need to hear “You’re doing a great job!” There are the days we snap at our children and make them cry (when we are really snapping at ourselves). There are the days you try to go out to lunch and end up mortified. The days your child learns a new four-letter word. Or the days when your adult son needs an ambulance. But all the fretting and rushing and worry of the older years don’t compare to the earliest times when we still counted our child’s life in months.

Whether it’s the monotony, the unknowing about what counts as “normal” or worrisome, or the horror of listening to The Wiggles again and again and again, parenting during those long days that lead to short years often means feeling like a failure. Or, at least, knowing you could have done a heck of a lot better. On those days, the last thing a new-ish parent needs more of is advice. What she or he needs is a hug, a pat on the back, and a reminder that sounds a lot like what overflows in this new book from One Bad Mother podcast hosts Biz Ellis and Theresa Thorn: YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB! 

This book reminds parents that it’s okay to have a low bar. Celebrate what did happen, not what didn’t, including gems such as:

Did you get up this morning? Great! You’re doing an awesome job!
Your kid fell asleep? Even if it was just for two hours, that’s amazing. Good job!
Has your kid eaten? That’s probably your doing, so yeah, you’re a winner!

You get the idea. Each page is a new affirmation of the little things that earn you a Good Job! Parents deserve a participation ribbon when they’re having really bad days, too.

{edit: Congrats Alyssa! The book will be in the mail ASAP!} If you or someone you know is a new parent and could use a comforting, understanding, non-judgy hug in book form, comment on this post for a chance to get a brand spanking new copy in your mailbox! I’ll mail one copy to a lucky commenter as long as that person has a U.S. address.

I’ll collect comments until May 5th to make sure I can get the book to the lucky commenter before Mother’s Day. Good luck!

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Lazy Mom’s Guide to Dying Easter Eggs

So, true to form, I’m about 20 years late to another trend: Pre-Dyed Eggs. Am I alone here in seeing this on grocery shelves? Even the Swiss do it! There was no price listed, and I was too lazy to chase down someone knowledgeable about ShopRite prices. Also, there was no information about what kind of eggs they are, but they look pretty homemade. I mean, they have uneven color and splotches. Plusses in my book.


Here are some other plusses: No mess, no vinegar smell, no kids fighting about who gets the blue again, no spilled dye onto wood that soaks it up and keeps the stain for decades, no over-boiling the eggs and having them crack and all the yolk seeps out, no buying brown eggs by accident and having to return them and explaining that two were already broken when I bought them. (Really they were.)

But I didn’t buy them. Somehow all those problems I see now as an adult made up the joy I remember from my childhood. That, and my mom has taken over dying eggs with my kids. If you’re going old school, here’s Real Simple instructions: real simple! And if you need reasons to just buy dyed eggs from ShopRite, here is inspiration from Scary Mommy and a fewotherblogs.

Have you purchased these pre-dyed eggs? How were they? If you haven’t, would you?

Posted in Lazy Mom, Parenthood | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

#IWD2017’s No Judgment Reminder of Our Privileges

IMG_1753There are plenty of lefty think pieces (is that what we’re calling them these days?) about how there are many women who aren’t able to strike today, the #DayWithoutAWoman. There are plenty of righty commentaries about how women who are striking today are just “taking a vacation” on the backs of hard-working conservatives. IMO, which you know I love to share, both of those attitudes miss the mark in much the same way.

Strikes are meant to be sacrifice. So claiming people “able” to strike are privileged dismisses the very real risks and hardships that some of the strike participants are making. Similar to this, viewing a strike as a vacation dismisses the everyday hardships and sacrifices to which the events are attempting to draw attention. Either way, it’s a judgment. And, no thank you; we have enough of that.

On the other hand, events like this provide a fantastic opportunity to recognize the many ways we are all privileged in one way or another. Am I able to strike from my job without worrying about losing wages or the job? Privilege! Am I able to afford bus or train fare to join a protest in NYC? Privilege! Can I wear a symbol of my religion without a constant worry that someone may attempt to remove it? Privilege! And on and on. FullSizeRender

What the recognition is meant to stimulate is gratitude, not defensiveness. Empathy, not resentment. A call to serve, amplify, and support with a hand up, not separation, shame, or turning away. And it’s not always easy to admit privilege, especially when someone has fought her own battles with society and hardship and discrimination. But admitting privilege doesn’t take away from your hard work and sacrifice; it simply acknowledges the advantages you have enjoyed because of gender, economy, being able-bodied, race, religion, sexual orientation, education, health, a nurturing childhood, access to reliable health care, geography. Again, on and on. We have all had some privileges, have we not?

Finally, I ask you to consider that what you may have considered GOOD LUCK in your life, career, or interactions with authority figures may actually be privilege. No judgment.

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Glad I Saw It: Peace and Love


Several years of walking in Brookdale Park, and I’ve never noticed this. Having a dog means meandering instead of power walking, and that means breathing deeply and seeing more. I highly recommend it.

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Posted in Glad I Saw It, People are Good, random observation, Suburban Life, Things I love | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment