Spring 2018: Madison Square Park


Man in a newspaper suit + Nancy

April in Mad Sq Park

Sculpture in the park

Annual Sikh Spring Celebration in MSP

Cherry blossoms in MSP

Flowers in Broadway seating “island”

End of spring 2018 . . .


Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

Merry Everything! And a Prosperous 2018 too!


Tree in Madison Square Park.

Christmas trees in front of my building.

Snowy tree on 23rd Street.

“Fireplace” chez moi.

My Christmas window.

Mystery in downstairs deli.

Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

News in-and-around Flatiron/Chelsea

And this is what happens when you take a walk in the park (Mad  Sq) during Fashion Week.

My roommate Izzy; and his Swiss friend Etienne, plus E’s girlfriend (for the weekend?) 9-2-17

Sailing ship on the River (9-24-17)

Sailing ship backing out of harbor into the Hudson River. (9-24-17)

Mural above the Empire Diner

Halloween “hearse” in Macaron store window.

Gold skull phone in macaron store window.

Ukrainian church on 24th St. being demolished to make way for Greed.

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment


   “I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.”

― Jon Katz

Tony: 7/14/17 (Bastille Day)—at Les Halles, Anthony Bourdain’s bistro

Me: Bastille Day (Note: Tony and I have been friends since 7/14/96!)

3 Musketeers on my birthday (7/7/17): Tony + Val

Posted in Air, Earth, Fire, Water | Leave a comment

Bill Bryson’s take on Trump, 1987

(Bill Bryson, 1987, The Lost Continent, p. 24/Ch. 14)

“On Fifth Avenue I went into the Trump Tower, a new skyscraper. A guy named Donald Trump, a developer, is slowly taking over New York, building skyscrapers all over town with his name on them, so I went in and had a look around. The building had the most tasteless lobby I had ever seen—all brass and chrome and blotchy red and white marble that looked like the sort of thing that if you saw it on the sidewalk you would walk around it. Here it was everywhere—on the floors, up the walls, on the ceiling. It was like being inside somebody’s stomach after he’d eaten pizza.”

And there you have it.

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

Goings on in the ‘Hood

Wednesday the 16th I was (finally! After 3 weeks of illness!) feeling almost human, so I went to an interview. The next day I started (at a ridiculously low salary) as a receptionist, working from 1-5 pm daily. I share this responsibility with a great guy named Mike, who is really nice to work with.

On my way home from work that Friday, I was invited to go fly a kite: literally! Kites have gotten lighter and more aerodynamic, so even at the intersection of 5th Avenue and Broadway it was a piece of cake, as it were. The array of kites was absolutely brilliant; but the real odd part was that one of the men watching us was a kite designer from Holland! He and the kite owner got into a very intense discussion about design and I went home. But what fun!

The fountain in Madison Square Park was backlit and beautiful, so I photographed that, too.
Then yesterday was the eclipse, so I went to the corner of 27th Street and 5th Avenue and this is how it looked (not as spectacular as Oregon or South Carolina, but 71% ain’t bad!)

There appear to be 2 suns in this one . . .

(Photo by Mike Warren)

On my way past Mad Square, I noticed that the pedestrian mall had been taken over by a giant banana (I mean, why not???) No explanation. So here it is. Life in the slow lane:


Posted in Air | 1 Comment

Door County, 7-19 to 7-26-17

I’m posting the images day by day, beginning with this post, Wednesday, July 19. Door County is so deeply embedded in my psyche that my roots there enabled me to travel all over the world, knowing I’d always have a place to come home to.

My parents bought land with 3 friends (amounting to 40 acres) in 1940, planning to go off the grid and live on a self-sustaining art commune. We ended up with the land and build our own little house on the prairie there, complete with kerosene stove and lights, wash water collected off the roof into tanks, and drinking water and ice that we carried. I learned to ride a horse at four, got on the barter system with the stables by the age of six, and was able to go about independently without my mom driving me.

My parents built a lovely permanent home there in 1968 and retired to it in 1973. By the mid-’80s their health problems dictated that they move into a retirement community and we had to sell the land.

This trip I stayed with Sharen and Jack Young, who live on the bluff just across the Juddville Road from our land. I met Sharen when I was 13 and she was 16, and we loved to freefall out of the hayloft in her parents’ barn, sitting on a knotted rope that swung way out and up through the barn door. It was like flying!

These are the pictures of my arrival in this magical place that I’ve loved (and sometimes fought) all my life.

PS: I forgot to mention that on Tuesday, July 25, I was coming back from Ellison Bay and I took Townline/Sumach Road on the way. Glancing to my right I saw a farm, and between the trees: camels! What was that about?!?!?

Sunset through Sharen and Jack Young’s front window in Juddville

Wednesday, July 19
Thursday, July 20
Friday, July 21
Saturday, July 22
Sunday, July 23
Monday, July 24
Tuesday, July 25
Wednesday, July 26
Posted in Air, Earth, Water | Leave a comment

42 Years!

On this date in 1975 I was (rather foolishly) married. It was a great party! A week ago I took new photos of the church (lots of changes). The lovely Baileys Harbor Yacht Club—where we had the reception—has since burned down and not been rebuilt. Ray Kroc (of McDonald’s) crashed the reception in his flipflops (NOT a pretty sight!) but was struck down by his own food (a heart attack) shortly thereafter. Maybe there is a goddess after all . . .

Dad happily giving me away


Ma belle-mere, Micheline Anderson Hénein

Mary and Augie Hoffmann

St. Paul’s in winter 1975

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Juddville, 2017

Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

A House, a Home, a Refuge

(In case you’ve never been to my house, here’s the roommate ad I just posted on CraigsList. Come visit!)

$1400 / 1100ft2*** A REAL STEAL!! — Your Own “Apartment” in a 2-BR LOFT! *** (Chelsea)

New wooden blinds added here (view from dining area to back of loft)

Living area with new couch/futon (opens to a double bed)

Renter’s bedroom

Renter’s space (before wooden blinds added)

Painting and small fountain (to right of couch)

115 West 23rd Street at 6th Avenue  (google map) 

*** AVAILABLE JULY 1, 2017 ***

E-mail me — with a CONTACT PHONE NUMBER!! — for appointment
(see e-mail address at top of page)!

Spacious 2-BR loft to share in VERY convenient Chelsea location [23rd St. @ 6th Ave.]

* YOU get 200 sq. ft. of YOUR VERY OWN, including your own bedroom (with a door).
* Completely FURNISHED: = a (furnished) bedroom PLUS “social/work space,”
* Plus FULL use of a terrific LOFT, in the Heart of Chelsea.

* WASHER / DRYER IN THE APARTMENT: it doesn’t get better than this!!!
* YOUR OWN REFRIGERATOR, for extra convenience ($50/mo. extra);
* ROWING MACHINE and TREADMILL (state-of-the-art);
* CABLE TV & WiFi is in your room (you pay for your own cable connection).
* Beautiful oak flooring
* Persian rugs
* Utilities not included (±$99/mo.)
* WATER HEATER IN the loft: no waiting for hot water in shower or laundry!
* ELEVATOR building (=2nd floor, if prefer stairs)
. . . Plus all the perks of living in Chelsea, right by the F / M / PATH / 1 / N / R trains! (ALL local trains stop at 23rd St.)

* Must see to believe! [1 month’s deposit + 1 month’s rent required]

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

2 Cats = 1 Dog?


For a year I had 2 cats living here. So today I get a catalog aimed at—what else?—dogs. Apparently I now qualify as either 1) a dog owner; or 2) a dog.

When I called my friend Dave and suggested he check it out, he pointed out that his dog Ben already gets the catalog (or is it a dogalog?) under his very own name.

So does that mean that the company sees me as a dog? Or worse, a bitch?

Let me know if you need any accessories the next time you go to the dog run—without your canine (who will be at home ordering cool stuff online at http://www.inthecompanyofdogs.com).

I’ve been coughing like mad for the past 10 days: maybe one of my neighbors thought I was barking and reported me?

ANYhoo, life-in-the-slow-lane dept.  . . .

Have a great weekend!


Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

Meditating on Meditation

Learn to be silent.
Let your quiet mind listen and absorb.

— Pythagoras (580 BC-500 BC)

*   *   *

All man’s miseries derive from
Not being able
To sit quietly in a room

— Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Posted in Water | Leave a comment

The Last of Spring Flowers (Madison Square Park, 5/2/17)

William Seward (south park entrance)


Tulips by the dog run

Jazz and garbage

NY Life and reflecting pool (north end of park)

Reflecting Pool

Posted in Air, Earth, Water | Leave a comment

Presidential Voting Today!

My polling place is at the international school at 111 East 22nd Street. We show our passports, pick up 2 pieces of paper, preprinted with LePen and Macron’s names, and get in line for the booths. The booths are covered with heavy tricolor fabric, reminiscent of beach changing booths in France. We put our selected piece of paper into a little brown envelope (which doesn’t seal) and get in line again. The voting boxes are large plexiglas cubes, with a guardian holding a colored file folder over the slot until we have shown our passports again and initialed a book that we have voted. Then we drop the envelope into the box. VERY high tech!

One can only hope that Marine LePen—who is even worse than Trump with her racism—does NOT win!

I’ll find out after the Kentucky Derby is run. (I mean, what’s important?!?)

French Voters Signing In

“Designer” voting booths

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

Even Shorter: A PPS to “Mother’s Day”


Mary’s paternal grandfather, also James Gilruth (and Baby Grace)

Elsie and James Collin Gilruth: James in 1915 (top right) and in 1893.

Both of these men were often violently angry with the child who most resembled them. This sad tradition probably went back a couple hundred years (or more) to Scotland. My great-grandfather and my grandfather were often at loggerheads; my grandfather had no use for my mother, either. Both “Daddy Jim” and Mom were victims of parental wrath that often made no sense and that they passed on. It was one of the reasons I didn’t want to have children myself.

However, it’s all in the past! Hooray!

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

A Short PS to “Mother’s Day”

Mom was a great storyteller and probably would have made a very good children’s book writer, too. For example, (our) favorite sweater was a deep rose/salmon pink cardigan. One day (when I was about three) she lost a button off of this and she told me the story of Pop the Button (over and over, at my request).

It seems Pop was quite adventurous as a young button. One night he jumped off the sweater, but soon he was lonely and missed his friends. Our cat Dopey (named for our favorite Snow White dwarf) found Pop and batted him around the living room till poor Pop was exhausted.

The next morning Mom found Pop and sewed him back on the sweater with all his friends. He was so happy to be back home again!

She also used storytelling to help me overcome my early childhood fear of thunder and lightning. She told me that the Great God Zeus had lost his son, a little thunderbolt (which I understood as “thunderboat”), and was looking for him. He shined his flashlight down onto earth and was calling out “Julius!” in each thunderclap. If I looked up into the clouds, I might see Zeus’ flashlight; and if I listened carefully, I would hear him calling Julius the “thunderboat” (I pictured a toy sailboat).

Her family had a passion for reading that both she and my half-brother (Fred Sealy) passed on to me. From a very early age I was enthralled by Alice Through the Looking Glass (for which I learned to play chess); Kipling’s Just So stories; the Babar books; the Winnie the Pooh series; the Oz books; and much more. They both read well and enjoyed hearing their favorite stories over and over, as I did. Later on, Mom shared Little Women with me, as well as books the Wilmette (and Ephraim) librarians recommended, included Newbery Medal winners.

In the summers in our little cabin in Wisconsin, we would read aloud to each other by kerosene lantern light, or separately enjoy our books in companionable silence. Mom and Dad would read to each other bits that caught their fancy from The New Yorker, too, and I would listen from the next room to this grown-up humor and try to understand it.

Lucky me!

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

The Perfect Night (4/29/17)

Saturday Beth Reed and I went to El Kallejon, a FABULOUS (and very affordable!) Mexican restaurant on East 117th Street in Spanish Harlem. It was the best food I’ve had in years, with maybe the exception of Mama Rosa’s (a very expensive restaurant I went to with Linda) in Gramercy, back in September.

We had tiny turberón (baby shark) tostadas and pork tenderloin tacos: the best food ever!! Plus 2 margaritas each; plus complimentary sangría; plus complimentary tiny-tiny fresh crab tostadas for “dessert.” It was absolutely delicious!! I want to come back here and have my birthday in their outdoor garden.

Then we went to see In the Heights (Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first rap musical, set in Washington Heights) at the Harlem Repertory Theater. We had terrific seats (at $7 each!) The stage was open and the actors/dancers moved among the audience as well. Great fun!

My photos didn’t turn out so well at the end: guess I couldn’t stop dancing! Enjoy anyhoo!

(Note: for more on Beth Reed, see my posting, The Power of One. She’s amazing!

Beth Reed at El Kallejon

A drinking buddy

Our other drinking buddy

Entrance to El Kallejon’s garden

The Garden

Garden mural

The bar dragon

The “Heights” Cast

The “Heights” cast

More cast . . .

Posted in Earth | 2 Comments

The Perfect Day (4/28/17)

Friday was THE perfect day. It was 82º with virtually no humidity. I went to The General Theological Seminary on 21st Street—which has all the architectural charm of a 19th century insane asylum—and rang the bell at their gate. The Seminary was founded in 1817, with Clement Clarke Moore (of The Night Before Christmas fame) donating the land (he was the owner of Chelsea, a farm whose boundaries are now marked by 14th St., 23rd St., 6th Ave. and the Hudson River. I live at the NE boundary of Chelsea). The Close was originally an apple orchard, although no traces of that remain. Its trees are old, large and welcoming, and it is beautifully maintained.

When I was rung in, I went to the office and registered. They had free coffee and pastries, so I took my lunch into the Close, the large park hidden from all streets that is enclosed by the Seminary dormitories, classrooms and chapel.

The day included a free copy of The Canterbury Tales (for about an hour, until someone reclaimed it); a free (private!) lute concert in the chapel; and countless fragrances (including two kinds of lilacs), heralding spring.

It is “my” secret garden: a very well-kept secret in the heart of New York. The following 30 images take you through my day:

Looking back toward the Close entrance


Ferns and flowers

Canterbury Tales (and Boccaccio and others)

My tree, my bench

Fellow meditator (asleep?)

The Chapel of the Good Shepherd

Private Lute Concert: “Greatest Hits of the 16th Century”

Playing my request: “Greatest Hits of the 17th Century”

Altar window

“Fortitudo” (floor mosaic)

“Flemish Interior” by NLH


Camellia blood?

Rev. Wm. White, 1757-1836

Dorm entrance

Children’s garden

Outdoor café and BBQ

Seminary exterior (looking east)

Seminary exterior (looking west)

Chapel bell tower

Bell tower??

Posted in Air, Earth, Water | Leave a comment

This new solar-powered device can pull water straight from the desert air

Crystalline materials similar to these can now harvest water vapor from the air.
(Yaghi Laboratory at UC Berkeley)

You can’t squeeze blood from a stone, but wringing water from the desert sky is now possible, thanks to a new spongelike device that uses sunlight to suck water vapor from air, even in low humidity. The device can produce nearly 3 liters of water per day for every kilogram of spongelike absorber it contains, and researchers say future versions will be even better. That means homes in the driest parts of the world could soon have a solar-powered appliance capable of delivering all the water they need, offering relief to billions of people.

*   *   *

The new water harvester is made of metal organic framework crystals pressed into a thin sheet of copper metal and placed between a solar absorber (above) and a condenser plate (below).
(Wang Laboratory at MIT)

*   *   *

There are an estimated 13 trillion liters of water floating in the atmosphere at any one time, equivalent to 10% of all of the freshwater in our planet’s lakes and rivers. Over the years, researchers have developed ways to grab a few trickles, such as using fine nets to wick water from fog banks, or power-hungry dehumidifiers to condense it out of the air. But both approaches require either very humid air or far too much electricity to be broadly useful.

To find an all-purpose solution, researchers led by Omar Yaghi, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, turned to a family of crystalline powders called metal organic frameworks, or MOFs. Yaghi developed the first MOFs—porous crystals that form continuous 3D networks—more than 20 years ago. The networks assemble in a Tinkertoy-like fashion from metal atoms that act as the hubs and sticklike organic compounds that link the hubs together. By choosing different metals and organics, chemists can dial in the properties of each MOF, controlling what gases bind to them, and how strongly they hold on.

Over the past 2 decades chemists have synthesized more than 20,000 MOFs, each with unique molecule-grabbing properties. For example, Yaghi and others recently designed MOFs that absorb—and later release—methane, making them a type of high-capacity gas tank for natural gas–powered vehicles.

In 2014, Yaghi and his colleagues synthesized a MOF that excelled at absorbing water, even under low-humidity conditions. That led him to reach out to Evelyn Wang, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, with whom he had previously worked on a project to use MOFs in automobile air conditioning. After synthesizing the new zirconium-based MOF, dubbed MOF-801, Yaghi met Wang at MIT and said, “Evelyn we have to come up with a water-harvesting device.” She agreed to give it a shot.

*   *   *

Device pulls water from the air

At night setup soaks up water vapor from air, and uses heat from the sun to release it as liquid water during the day.

(V. Altounian/Science)

*   *   *

The system Wang and her students designed consists of a kilogram of dust-sized MOF crystals pressed into a thin sheet of porous copper metal. That sheet is placed between a solar absorber and a condenser plate and positioned inside a chamber. At night the chamber is opened, allowing ambient air to diffuse through the porous MOF and water molecules to stick to its interior surfaces, gathering in groups of eight to form tiny cubic droplets. In the morning, the chamber is closed, and sunlight entering through a window on top of the device then heats up the MOF, which liberates the water droplets and drives them—as vapor—toward the cooler condenser. The temperature difference, as well as the high humidity inside the chamber, causes the vapor to condense as liquid water, which drips into a collector. The setup works so well that it pulls 2.8 liters of water out of the air per day for every kilogram of MOF it contained, the Berkeley and MIT team reports today in Science.

“It has been a longstanding dream” to harvest water from desert air, says Mercouri Kanatzidis, a chemist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who wasn’t involved with the work. “This demonstration … is a significant proof of concept.” It’s also one that Yaghi says has plenty of room for improvement. For starters, zirconium costs $150 a kilogram, making water-harvesting devices too expensive to be broadly useful. However, Yaghi says his group has already had early success in designing water-grabbing MOFs that replace zirconium with aluminum, a metal that is 100 times cheaper. That could make future water harvesters cheap enough not only to slake the thirst of people in arid regions, but perhaps even supply water to farmers in the desert.

*Update, 14 March, 12:28 p.m.: This item has been updated to reflect the fact that the device pulls nearly 3 liters of water out of the air for every kilogram of the water-absorbing material that is used.

Posted in:

DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1051

[Reprinted from ScienceMag.org]

Posted in Air, Water | Leave a comment

St. Francis’ Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


Posted in Air, Earth, Fire, Water | Leave a comment

Mother’s Day

Mary Gilruth Sealy (later Hoffmann) in 1933

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of my mother is her anger. The second thing is her wonderful sense of humor. The first quality caught me by surprise at a very early age and led to years of angry dreams wherein I sometimes actually killed her (or at least tried to). At times she would fly into uncontrollable rages over nothing, terrifying me as a toddler—an only child who depended on her. (My mom had two “only” children, fifteen years apart. I scarcely ever knew my half brother.) At other times her patience with me was boundless. I never knew what to expect and early on I tried to control her moods by being “perfect.” I made a chart on a shirt cardboard and gave myself a gold star on the days when I didn’t make any mistakes, while a black star was for days that were full of errors. In the end, I found that most of my days were half black and half gold. My father tried to talk to me about “shades of gray” in life, but I don’t think I, at the age of five or six, understood what he meant.

Sometimes she would be so out of control that her face would contort and her hands would be curled up claw-like, shaking with rage and the desire to do me bodily harm. She would scream things at me such as, “I’ll strip you to the buff! I’ll skin you alive! I’ll beat you black and blue!” (Later in life I learned that she had had an Irish nanny who had inadvertently taught my mom how to swear very colorfully and probably had used these terrifying phrases on her when she had misbehaved.)

However, watching this metamorphosis from “Mom” to “monster” had a profoundly disturbing effect on me. As I had no verbal ability to combat these rages (especially in my first five years of life), I would become violent, deliberately breaking things to express my outrage. This was not a good solution, either, and persisted into my twenties: far too long, but apparently my tantrums were somehow rewarded by ending the argument.

She knew when she had become dangerous to both herself and me, and would abruptly slam out the front door, leaving me terrified and alone. At those times I would try to find a safe hiding place, convinced that monsters watched me from all of the windows. She would reappear about a half hour later (forever, in child-time), and say, “All right. We’re going to be nice now.”

“We”? She had walked off her rage and was left feeling peaceful, while I was still furious and baffled. Half the time I didn’t even know why I had been punished. And I was supposed to be “nice”? What did that even mean?

Sometimes she tried to justify herself by telling me what her older sister Margaret had done to her (the woman sounded evil!) But that confused me even more: I wasn’t Margaret and I hadn’t done these things to her—I hadn’t even been there. Mom always had to be right; and when she felt she wasn’t, she resorted to long excuses about how it wasn’t her fault because she had been abused by her parents and sister as a young girl. From this I learned three things that were to create great difficulties in my life: the first was that it was all-important to be RIGHT. The second was that it was OK to do the wrong thing as long as you had a good excuse for it. And the third was that the world MUST be the way I wanted it to be and under my control, or all hell would break loose—I might even die. Needless to say, these rules have not served me well. Finally (especially as a child), I longed for the approval of others, as that was the only thing I thought would keep me “safe.”

As I grew older I became increasingly frustrated by her manipulativeness. If I ever tried to address the problem she was having with me she would counter with a sarcastic, “Oh yes. I’m a bad mother.” Whatever my needs were, it was always about her, not me. She would control when the episode began and when it ended. I never had a say.

This often led to some crazy confusion in my mind. For example, when I was three, I remember trying to appease her when she was angry about having to prepare dinner and felt she wasn’t going to be able to do it on time. I desperately wanted to help her (and to avoid an explosion), so I went into the pantry and put the round heat diffuser onto the floor (she sometimes put this banjo-shaped, perforated metal object under pots on the stove when they were cooking too fast). I then decided to “cook dinner” for her so she wouldn’t have to do it.

I have to add here that at three (and even later in life) I often confused fact with fantasy. Thus, “cooking dinner” involved taking all the spice jars from the rack and mixing them up on the heat diffuser on the floor, creating an unholy mess. Needless to say, this did nothing to pacify my mother, even though I was really sure she must have seen that I was trying to help her (understandably she saw nothing of the kind). I assume I remember this incident for its result, which was the howling rage it must have brought on, although I really don’t remember the aftermath of my well-intentioned “cooking” efforts; just my pride in being able to “help out.”

As a teenager I saw other mothers handle “disastrous” mistakes their children made and saw the patience with which they handled these incidents. It wasn’t until then that I realized that there could have been other responses to my childhood errors, responses that could have even been transformed into learning episodes.

My father’s mother was devoted to me but did not like my mother (the feeling was mutual). However, my mom always invited her to spend the weekend with us, so I could play with her. Grandma Hoffmann was so much fun! I still wear her diamond ring that she promised me, and think of her often every day.

When she stayed with us she would sleep in the other bed on the sleeping porch Dad had enclosed and made into a charming bedroom for me. Grandma sewed lovely yellow floral curtains for the windows that made up three sides of this porch, and it was a pleasure to wake up to the eastern sun blasting through those windows.

One time (I was seven?) I remember dreaming that my mother was slowly metamorphosing from “Mom” to “monster” and I woke up screaming, “I’ll kill you, you bitch!” Grandma Hoffmann was shocked to the core by the violence in my voice, and even more shocked when I told her what my dream was about.

It wasn’t until I was over thirty that I gained a small amount of insight into what was behind Mom’s rages. As I’ve said, I often confused fact and fantasy as a child; but the notion that the world must be as we will it to be is a grown-up version of that same condition. At that time I was working as an executive secretary at Northwestern University and my then-husband was completing his PhD program. We wanted to spend a few days at Christmas with my parents at their beautiful retirement home in Door County, WI, and had arisen at 5:00 a.m. to pack the car before going to work. We didn’t manage to leave before 6:00 p.m. and immediately hit rush hour traffic. When we came to Milwaukee, we stopped for a nice dinner and to relax a bit before the grueling part of the drive began. From there on it was largely two-lane unlighted highways and a continuous battle to stay awake. We arrived exhausted at my parents’ house around 1:00 a.m. (me asleep; poor Gérard driving).

My parents had had a nap and were waiting up for us. When Mom saw how groggy I was and that all we wanted to do was fall into bed, she was furious. “I pictured this lovely Christmas!” she yelled, “And you had to spoil it!” The next morning she got her revenge by dragging us out of bed at 7:00 a.m. because there was “lots to do.” “Lots” entailed a 20-minute vacuuming of the house; everything else was done. She immediately became remorseful and told us we could “have the rest of the day off,” but we were too tired to do anything. Our own very short vacation was spoiled.

What I realized from this episode, however, was that she had “envisioned” a Dickensian Christmas that never would have happened to anyone anywhere, and it was up to us to guess what the script in her head called for and to correctly play our parts. Of course we couldn’t, and that took an incredible load off of me. If I was failing to read her mind, that was OK: it was her problem, not mine.

In fairness to Mom, her frustration stemmed from the fact that she had made the choices almost any single mom in the Depression would have had to make: marry and become a servant to your husband and family, or starve.  She had my brother to consider when she married my dad in 1938 (Fred was eight then), and they deeply loved my father; it could have been worse for them. However, she was an athletic, sociable person who was not cut out for cooking and living isolated in a suburban house day after day. Any attempts she made to express and develop her personal talents was quashed by my father who wanted to be the only creative person in the family (I was not similarly discouraged, however, and I think she resented this too).

Mom was not allowed to work, although she had great executive capabilities, as this would have “reflected badly” on the man of the house. It was the 1950s and women were supposed to rejoice in child rearing and domesticity and men were supposed to be the breadwinners. Once I asked my mom if she regretted not working; her answer astounded me. She said she would rather not try to achieve something than to try and fail. This was contrary to everything I was being taught in school, and even at home. I vowed then and there never to be afraid of failure, although it took me a long time to arrive at that condition. So she was a good teacher, even if it was in spite of herself.

She also knew how to ignore adolescent teasing, while I gave up my power to my tormentors, fearing their displeasure. I know she would never have done that. However, my dad and I tended to wear our feelings on our sleeves and he had also had a terrible adolescence because of it. Dad really understood my agony over ostracism and gossip, which ended when I entered high school, where there were so many kids that I could disappear into the mass if I wanted to. Nevertheless, it was Mom who ferociously defended me: woe be to anyone who threatened her child! She tried to teach me how to feign carelessness, and though I envied her ability to do this, it was a long time before I learned how.

She was a clever politician, too. When I was “in love” with a delinquent boy in high school, she made no effort to tell me to abandon the relationship. Instead, she cleverly arranged to have my friends over to our house, where we had fun and were secretly monitored by my (invisible) parents. When Mike ended up in Cook County Jail one summer, Mom arranged for me to spend three months in Germany and Europe. By the time I returned home (and found out that Mike had gotten someone else pregnant), I didn’t care any more. I was off to college in California, 2,000 miles from home, where I wouldn’t suffer from maternal clashes and could begin to live independently. She wanted to get back to her own life—and to see me independent as well. No fool, Mom!

Our best times together were when she got out her childhood diaries and we laughed at the things she wrote. She knew how to be a child and how to share that with me; it was being an adult that she hadn’t mastered.

She also knew that Dad could be a bit aloof, so she made me an early dinner and then had me come down later and have coffee with them while they ate. These were some of the most fun times I ever had with anyone! We could tease each other; argue over words (Dad’s first language was German, so he was always learning English); share our dreams; and (in the event of an approaching storm) grab a bottle of wine and go out onto the front porch to cheer for the thunder and lightning before the storm broke. She could be soooo funny! And she could laugh at herself as well. After dinner, Dad and I would do the dishes and discuss philosophy, books, art, or whatever we wanted. This was her way of seeing that he and I knew each other, and I’m very grateful for that time together.

Did I ever love her as a mother? I think she was more of a sort-of-bipolar sister to me. If I needed advice I went to my dad. Mom and I were like oil and water. In college, I would receive short letters from her, along with lots of clippings from the Wilmette Life concerning people I didn’t know but apparently went to high school with. Boring!

Dad, on the other hand, got a new “semi-electric” typewriter and would send me letters that began more or less sensibly—and then he would hold down a key and roll the paper for the pleasure of seeing the shapes it would make—and then go off on another tangent. When he got a new lathe, he turned teensy cups for me (as practice for him), and would stuff them with wadded up checks or small poems. One time he had shoulder pains and found out he had bursitis, so he wrote about our family, “We are three little poops reaching for the stars and getting bursitis in the attempt.”

My mother’s friendships with other women, her garden club (which I understand now: I love plants!), her women’s club meetings: none of these resonated with me. If anything, I was convinced (from the age of four or five) that I never wanted to have children (and I didn’t); and that men made better friends than women. That is finally starting to change, as I meet incredible women (and as the men in my generation die off). But she never understood me. Everything I did “embarrassed” her, as I was always very unconventional. What other people thought mattered to her almost more than anything; from college on I couldn’t have cared less.

When she was 96 and I was visiting her for the last time, she was blind, deaf and couldn’t walk. She was so sunk in herself that even after I fed her and kept her company for a week, she turned to me one night at dinner and said (with real contempt in her voice): “When did you get here?!?” These were her last words to me.

I really admired her for the anguish and humiliation of her teenage years (she became pregnant her senior year of high school; married a ne’er-do-well; and—worst scandal of all—went through a divorce at 19 or 20); her physical courage and athleticism; and her ability to negotiate (or, at worst, manipulate) people. She had many wonderful friends, but never got past her anger or her need to aim it at me. I don’t know if I loved her as much as respected her for her struggles. But, for better or worse, she was a huge part of making me what I am today.

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

Things worth believing.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

— Robert Fulghum


Posted in Air, Earth, Fire, Water | Leave a comment

My contribution to the Easter Parade

(And NO: I’ve lost weight! This outfit makes me look fat!!)

It was 85º F today—a summery Easter!

Hope yours was a good one, too!


And this thought for the day from the Dalai Lama:

 “Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.”
Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

Happy Easter!

When I was 3 (in 1948!) the pediatrician told my mom that I was too shy (at least that’s her story). So she enrolled me in Mrs. Maston’s Nursery School (in the woman’s own living room a couple blocks from our house. That wouldn’t happen today!) It was lots of fun and I met several kids with whom I would even graduate from high school.

For Easter she gave each of us one of these paper “windows.” And here it is: almost 3/4 of a century later! (Again, with religion being the sticky issue it is, this would not happen today.)

I still love it!


Happy (politically incorrect?) Easter!

Posted in Holidays | 2 Comments

Naples & Ft. Myers, FL, March 2017

This gallery contains 45 photos.

Gallery | Leave a comment

Happy Spring!


(And now the dust really begins to show!)

Cheers from Chelsea!

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

A Snowy Walk Through Madison Square Park

This gallery contains 27 photos.

(Sorry about the format: WP is acting up today!)

Gallery | Leave a comment

Merry Everything!


Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

It’s Merry as can be in Chelsea!

treewholecoffeetable treefireplace
tree fireplace

Admittedly, the pepper lights and tree lights photograph white instead of their colors, but the spirit is there (as is the eggnog and the Jack Daniels!)

Cheers to all!

Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

The 2 most dangerous questions

The 2 most dangerous (and fascinating) questions you can ask are “Why?” and “What happened next?” Although every two-year-old asks these, I’ve learned just how dangerous (and enlightening) these questions an be, as I’ve traveled across the planet in my 71 years of living.

In the course of asking people for their stories I’ve gained listening skills that have taught me what people in different cultures (and my own) believe about themselves and the world around them. These deep-rooted beliefs are the key to their perception of their own history which, in turn, is the key to the political situation they find themselves in. Wars could be avoided if we could listen to the archetypal stories that “alien” cultures hold to be true.

But the most dangerous (and useful) word you can have in your vocabulary is “Why?” Why do we believe this and not that? Why do we do things this way and not that way, which is easier/better/more efficient? This question is what sparks revolutions—in the classroom and in the street—and it has brought down governments time and time again.

The greatest minds of the twentieth century (many of whom I was privileged to meet) all accomplished what they did by asking these questions. These people included a Nobel Prize-winner at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ; Dr. Henry Louis Gates of Harvard (our discussions were conducted on a shoeshine stand at Grand Central Station in 1997); Richard Feynman of Cal Tech (who wanted to be an artist); the only Native American in our national park system, a Crow Indian encountered at the Little Bighorn Battlefield in 1976; Saul Landau, a sort of reverse Jesus, who was first “crucified” (in Buchenwald) and then came back to teach the gospel of profound joy; Ivan Illich, father of the “deschooling” philosophy; Michael Greenebaum, my World History teacher at New Trier Township High School (also my Great Books teacher); Bonnie Myotai Treace, my sometime (and continuing?) sensei at Fire Lotus Zendo; Bob Gilruth, the creator of NASA and our lunar program (a cousin); and others who responded to my letters after I had read their books. In Mexico there were virtually no barriers: one could read something and then walk into the author’s office and sit down, a privilege we have long ago lost in our once-great country.

I will continue with this post later—but it is now 4:20 a.m. and I just woke up thinking about all these fabulous people and what would be lost if I didn’t bear witness to them and what they shared with me when I asked these questions of them (and they asked them of me).

More (and better) writing to come . . . stay tuned!


Posted in Air, Earth, Fire, Water | Leave a comment

7:00 a.m. July 7, 2016


On the PATH train, heading to work. (Can you find the Photoshop “cheat”?)

Posted in Earth, Holidays | Leave a comment

Why I love summer: smoothie heaven!

I just made a giant smoothie with 2 big California peaches (flavorful!!); 2 bananas; 2 cups of Liberté coconut yogurt; 2 cups of chopped strawberries, plus some blueberries and raspberries; 1 Honey Crisp apple; 5 “dollops” of lactose-free milk (maybe that’s 1-1/4 cup?); and 2 packs of Splenda.

Liquify it in the blender and serve it with a fresh mint leaf.

Wish I could share it with you! It’s heavenly!!


Posted in Earth, Water | Leave a comment

Why Cats Aren’t Republican

Living with a cat for the first time, you quickly pick up on its behavioral quirks, many of which are common among other cats. What you soon find out is that cats aren’t Republican. Here are 12 reasons why not:

1. Cats are curious about what you do in your bedroom, but they don’t try to legislate away your freedom to do it.

2. Cats may take away your cushion, but they’ll give it back to you with a gentle push.

3. Cats give you attention and sympathy when you’re sick.

4. Females are treated with importance in the cat world.

5. Cats make use of solar power, often all day long.

6. Cats lick their own problems and take care of other cats too.

7. Cats don’t blame black and brown cats for their troubles.

8. Cats know how to ration their resources.

9. Fat cats are not at the top of the cat hierarchy, are not cat role models, and have more trouble surviving and thriving, not less.

10. While Republicans blindly follow authority, it is said that getting Democrats to act in unison is like herding cats.

11. Cats don’t foul their own nest.

12. Cats are popular and well-liked on the Internet and elsewhere.

(Thanks to the Daily Kos: you’ll love the comments!)

Image by David Nash, used under Creative Commons license. http://is.gd/…
[Originally published at Messaging Matters. Copyright 2014 — All rights reserved]

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

To Life! Lin-Manuel Miranda surprises his bride (BEFORE “Hamilton”)

(Thanks to Pam Lebedda’s 90+ dad for sharing this!)

Posted in Air, Earth, Fire, Water | 1 Comment

(R.I.P.) Muhammad Ali Speaks Out

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 12.20.34 PMCassius Clay in March of 1964.

The following are some of my favorite quotes (the best, I think, are highlighted in bold.
You may prefer others instead):

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.

The man who has no imagination has no wings.

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life. 

My way of joking is to tell the truth. That’s the funniest joke in the world.

I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others.

Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams—they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do—they all contain truths.

It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.

To be able to give away riches is mandatory if you wish to possess them. This is the only way that you will be truly rich.

Life is so, so short. Bible says it’s like a vapor.

What keeps me going is goals.

All of us are so mixed. My great-grandfather was white.

Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

I never thought of losing, but now that it’ s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.

If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.

I’m just hoping that people understand that Islam is peace and not violence.

The word ‘Islam’ means ‘peace.’ The word ‘Muslim’ means ‘one who surrenders to God.’ But the press makes us seem like haters.

I had to prove you could be a new kind of black man. I had to show the world.

There are more pleasant things to do than beat up people.

Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.

I said I was ‘The Greatest,’ I never said I was the smartest!

I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.

It’s not bragging if you can back it up.

Don’t feel sorry for me.

— Muhammad Ali

Posted in Air, Earth, Water | Leave a comment

Happy May Day! (Remember this?)


Now I am showing my age!

When I was little (from 5-11 years old), my mom and I would fill paper May baskets with spring flowers—violets, lily-of-the-valley, whatever was blooming—and hang them on the neighbors’ doors. Hallmark made baskets that you could punch out of a sheet and were easy to assemble. Every year we’d get a package of these designs at Woolworth’s in Wilmette or Chandler’s Stationery in Evanston (both also long gone). They generally had realistic images of wild roses, daisies and other flowers, each flower featured on a particular basket. The handles were also covered with related flower images:




Then we would wrap the stems of our bouquets in soaking-wet Kleenexes or paper towels and seal them with foil, to keep the water in, before placing them in the baskets.

The best part was (anonymously) distributing the baskets. I’d hang them on the doorknob of the Smith’s house or the Dormody’s house, ring the bell, and hide in the bushes to watch their faces when they came to the door.

Would that all our childish pranks were as heartwarming!

Happy May Day!

Posted in Earth, Holidays | Leave a comment

Old Proofreaders Never Die . . .

Dead Proofreader

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

And they say proofreaders have no sense of humor . . .

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 11.50.19 AM


Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 12.37.19 PM


Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 12.39.30 PMAnd before you go completely nuts viewing the 3rd image, note that the date is April 1!

(These are thanks to Stephanie Woerfel Kinzel)

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

The Evil Queen, Updated


Cellphone, cellphone
In my hand,
Who’s the coolest
In the land?

And the cellphone replied, “You are! All your Friends on Facebook Like you! And keep looking at me and I’ll tell you more. Keep looking, keep looking . . . Oops!”


(Oh, that pesky reality!)

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

Gordon Gekko for President!

I never cease to be amazed by the new manifestations of corporate greed that seem to spring up daily, like weeds, every place I look. For example, last Thursday, my billionaire (and criminal**) landlord fired the only honest, effective super we’ve ever had in this building, and rehired the most abusive (and lazy) super we’ve ever had (whom they previously had fired for incompetence). Now I have no heat, and probably never will again.

Meanwhile I work as a contractor, which means I have zero rights. This was brought home to me the other day by the insurance company of CodaStaffing, who gave me this job (and who take a large chunk of my paltry paycheck weekly). Their insurance company actually told me that I am “too old” to insure. Are their actuarial tables from 1836? And what about the genes I inherited from my mom that give me the constitution of a 50-year-old?

And speaking of “Constitution,” when did that expire? So many questions . . .


“Greed is good!”

** See this article in The Real Deal: http://therealdeal.com/2015/10/15/joe-chetrit-helped-launder-40m-stolen-from-kazakhstan-lawsuit/

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

1/23/16 New York Blizzard

For purists, “blizzard” may or may not be an exaggeration—probably not—but we got lots of snow (finally!), after a warm, dry winter. By midnight Saturday, we had about two feet, and with the 20+-mile-an-hour winds, the drifts must have been impressive south of here.

The snowplows traveled in fleets to keep the streets clear, so, by 4:30 (when I took these pictures) it wasn’t as much fun for the pedestrians. (You can actually see 4 of them behind a snow angel-maker, 3rd row from the bottom, 3rd photo from left.) But we managed to make lots of snow angels and have many snowball fights in spite of the plows’ bad attitude.

One twenty-something had a set of giant (sort of) red plastic salad tongs, only there were half scoop-cups at the ends of these. He made perfect snowballs with them—but for every one he made, we had pelted him with four more. Technology isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

CitiBank: "Who says cities are cold?"


WindowView 6thAve-NoCars 6thAve 23rd+6th-NoCars
AbandonedCar1 AbandonedCar2 EndSnowballFight FlowersInTheSnow
FuzzyDuct HamptonCourt-Sunday HamptonCtHotel+RazorWire MyUmbrella1
MyUmbrella2 Snow-MyWindow SnowAngel+Mom SnowAngels
SnowballFight SnowballFight2 SnowballFight3 SnowPlayOnCurb
SundaySnowWindow SundayView SundayView1 TwinkleTrees
Posted in Air, Earth, Water | Leave a comment


ToyCar+XmasTreeOnTopAnd may all your Christmases be bright!

(If not white: it was 72 degrees in NYC yesterday! Tropical!)


Posted in Earth, Holidays | Leave a comment

Clearing the Mind


Imagine making new pathways in the mind everyday over the same ones you made yesterday. Imagine making different paths over the old ones! What a chaotic mess your mind becomes if you don’t clear it regularly. I’m just discovering why meditation exists.

— Leslie Lasher Monsour, 27 June 2014

Posted in Air, Earth | Leave a comment

Men’s and Women’s Brains; and Why Grandmas Rock!

The brains of men and women aren’t really that different, study finds

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. This saying may not hold true, thanks to a new study that finds human brains do not fit neatly into “male” and “female” categories. After analyzing tissue and nerve fiber matter in magnetic resonance imaging brain images of 1400 individuals, results reveal that although our brains seem to share a patchwork of forms, with some being more common in one gender over the other, the majority of the brains were a mosaic of male and female structures.

Anti-Alzheimer’s gene may have led to the rise of grandparents

Evolutionarily speaking, we are born to make babies. Our bodies—and brains—don’t fall apart until we come to the end of our child-bearing years. So why are grandmothers, who don’t reproduce and who contribute little to food production, still around and still mentally sound? Researchers stumbled across a new finding that reveals one of two forms of the gene CD33—the protective allele—evolved when humans first separated from our primate ancestors, enabling us to stay mentally sound as we age in order to help raise the next generation. Researchers say this protective allele is a major evolutionary factor in natural selection against Alzheimer’s.

By Alison Crawford, 4 December 2015
in Science News Magazine

Posted in Air, Earth, Fire, Water | Leave a comment

El Niño Does Something It’s Never Done Before. Watch Out, California.

NE Pacific sea surface temperatures are a record high 3.0 degrees Celsius above normal along the equator from 170W to 120W
on 15Nov2015.

The weekly average equatorial Pacific ocean sea surface temperature was 3 degrees or greater (5.4 degrees F) above normal in the key region from 170 degrees west to 120 degrees west for the first time on record.

Tropical Pacific water temperatures are shockingly hot. Last week equatorial Pacific water temperatures averaged 3 degrees Celsius above normal for the first time ever in the key Niño 3.4 region. The previous weekly high Niño 3.4 value of 2.8 degrees was tied last week with Nov. 28, 1997. The Niño 3.4 region, used to measure the strength of an El Niño ranges from 170W to 120W from 5 degrees north to 5 degrees south of the equator. If temperatures continue to rise, or plateau for a few more weeks, this will be the strongest El Niño in history.

Last week was the warmest ever in the key Niño 3.4 region at 3 .0 degrees Celsius above normal and the trend points up.
Niño 3.4 region Sea Surface Temperatures averaged 3ºC above normal for the first time ever last week.

When warm water stored below the surface of the western Pacific ocean moves east along the equator it moves the earth’s tropical atmospheric convection cells with it. Responding to the eastward shift in the tropical convection, the jet stream moves south on normal on the west coast bringing heavy winter rains to California in strong El Niño years. With this year’s El Niño at record or near record strength NOAA’s CFS climate model predicts a strong southward drop of the storm track off the west coast. A very stormy winter can be expected from California, across the gulf states and up the east coast. This year’s intense jet stream pattern will bring much warmer than normal temperatures to the northeastern United States and eastern Canada.

El Niño is going to move the jet stream south of normal on the west coast of north America this winter.
El Niño will shift the storm track south this winter into California, the gulf states and the southeast. The northeast and eastern Canada will be much warmer than normal, warmed by flow off the north Pacific.

This winter, California can expect heavy rains, floods and mudslides, but snow levels (elevation of rain snow line, not amounts) will be high because moisture flows from the tropics in an El Niño winter are warm and wet. California’s water situation will improve but ground water levels are unlikely to rebound to levels seen before the drought began. One year’s rains will not alleviate the long-term water problems caused by the record California drought but reservoir levels will rebound.

Heavy Rains in CA

Heavy rains are forecast for California and the southeast from January through March 2016 by NOAA’s CFS model.

The extraordinary surge of heat in the equatorial Pacific continues to push from the dateline towards the Americas. Temperatures anomalies are predicted to peak over the next month by a number of climate models, but the effects of the excess oceanic heat will continue to grow in the atmosphere into the winter months. 2015 is already crushing records as the warmest year on record but 2016 may be even warmer because the peak in atmospheric temperatures is months later than the peak in sea surface temperatures.

Oceanic heat is surging across the equatorial Pacific towards North and South America.


(Thanks to the Daily Kos)

(Sleep well, children!)  


Posted in Water | Leave a comment

Halloween @ Amazon

Rubic Cube? Tetris? You decide!

**–*AmazonHalloween1 AmazonHalloween2 AmazonHalloween3

Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

What does a hangman do on his day off?

What does a hangman do on his day off? I am proofing the transcriptions of Public Radio (PRI) podcasts, including The World, Science Friday and Innovation Hub, and I was recently confronted with this question. It turns out that the answer (in this interview, anyway) is that he raises roosters—for cockfighting! He adores his roosters and has even lost quite a bit of money on them, but he is really into this blood sport.

Pakistan recently re-instituted the death penalty after a school was bombed by the Taliban, leaving (approximately) 175 people dead. This put Massih’s family back to work as hangmen (they had had to find other things to do, apparently, when the death penalty was abolished).

The people he kills? He doesn’t even think about them. They’ve been on Death Row in Pakistan for many years, and hanging them is just a job for him. In fact, he’s the fourth generation of hangmen in his family: his dad taught him the ropes, as it were.

I now work (until January 8th) for Audible, the audiobook sector of Amazon. I proofread transcripts that were made in Chennai, India: first, by a machine, and then, corrected by humans who really don’t speak English, especially American English. So there’s plenty for me to do!

Another radio interview I heard was with the Nigerian-German (black) woman who recently discovered that her maternal grandfather is Amon Götz, a sadistic concentration camp Kommandant, who was portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. Her book is subtitled “My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me.” A lot for her to assimilate at this late time in her life!!

I take the PATH train right from my corner at 7:30 a.m. and, when it comes above ground in NJ, I get the most wonderful sunrises! We go through a maze of old “lacework” bridges, antique infrastructure that is truly beautiful, on our way to Newark. In contrast to the MTA, the PATH is clean and the people on it, friendly (when they’re awake).

A van picks me up at Penn Station, Newark, and takes me to Audible, a 17-story building that is about ten minutes away by car. My schedule is very flexible, just as long as I somehow work exactly forty hours a week, and take an unpaid lunch of 30-60 minutes every day.

The lunch room is huge and takes up half of the fifteenth floor (I’m on twelve). Some days we have a guest chef (for example, my first day at work, the chef was from Senegal). On those days, there will be a long table featuring his food, in addition to the tables for the vegetarian specials, daily specials, salad bar and “Chef’s Table”, not to mention the desserts. All of it is VERY healthy eats, even the desserts.

Squished church: view from 15th-floor lunch room

Squished church: view from the 15th-floor lunch room

One day I came in after 1:00 and there were no cookies left. The next day, one of the cafeteria workers took me aside and told me that they had put out extra cookies—just for my 4:00 “high tea”! Another day we had bratwurst, and I told the chef that “we” (in Wisconsin) heat up the brats in warm beer before and after grilling them; no brat should ever be without some sort of beer flavor, even if beer is banned at lunch. She said that they were not allowed to use alcohol; but I pointed out that hot beer would not have much alcohol left in it, so she offered to try my “recipe” the next time.

Everyone in this company is sooo friendly! No one seems to even notice that I’m the oldest person in the company. I’m on a publishing floor, but it also has audio people, and I’m grouped with the latter. There is one other temp proofreader, Yoji, who is Japanese-American and very well-versed in the Chicago Manual. The two of us have been given PRI podcasts to proof, to begin with, and we’ll move on to manuscripts later, but we were supposed to get through over 300 podcasts in our first two weeks! That would have meant completing at least twenty-five a day! Some of the longer ones held us back to five a day; now that we are working with shorter ones, we can almost do ten a day. So we are running a bit behind (but, in all fairness, the Indian team makes so many mistakes that they are holding us back). I just hope that will force them to keep us longer than January!

Although you could hear a pin drop when everyone’s working, there are ping-pong tables and chess boards in the lunch room, at least when lunch isn’t being served. Many people have their group meetings there, too, so they can take advantage of the cappuccino and latte machines, as well as the yogurt and other healthy snacks that are always available.

There is a gym on the first floor that I investigated: but, as no one is monitoring it, it’s a bit of a mess, with weights piled all over and machines that are cluttered up with other stuff. I’d do better to stick with one of the twenty (or so) gyms that are in my neighborhood and are better run.

There’s also a large “quiet room” on our floor, where you can work totally undisturbed, as well as conference rooms (with glass doors and walls) that are similarly soundproofed. The latter have huge screens in them so you can have Skype meetings with colleagues anywhere in the world (we recently had one with our colleagues in Chennai, India).

Our work tables in our work stations go up and down, so you can work standing or sitting, which is great for my back. We have a food pantry stocked with a huge range of coffees and teas, as well as apples, pears, health bars, cereals and a fridge with goodies in it, as well.

About fifteen feet behind me, in the Audio section of work stations, are huge windows (which are everywhere, making this a sunny place to work). The views are spectacular, not only of Newark, but of NJ and even the foothills of the Appalachians by the Delaware Water Gap, maybe fifty miles (or more?) away. On the window directly behind me, however, one audio guy took a red marker and wrote all over the glass, using it for a whiteboard. It adds something to the view, although I’m not sure what!

View of Broad St. Sta. with squiggles

View of Broad St. Sta. with squiggles

In short, I’ve found my niche in life—and a company to go with it—and I couldn’t be happier! Maybe I would have had more security at that bank that wanted me, but I surely would not have had as much fun! And isn’t that what work is supposed to be? If it’s half of your life, you’d better have fun doing it!

Broad St. Sta. without squiggles

Broad St. Sta. without squiggles

Cathedral, Newark, NJ: from 12th-floor Audio Dept.

Cathedral, Newark, NJ: from 12th-floor Audio Dept.

Posted in Air, Earth | Leave a comment

Abbey Ryan: A Meditation on 8 Years

abbeyryan-8th-annivesary-apple-silver-cupToday marks 8 years since I began making paintings for this blog. Starting with a pink zinnia, I set out to make a painting a day and to see if I could develop a sustainable painting practice for myself. Eight years later, my blog has had more than 900,000 visitors from over 100 countries, and my work is in books, magazines, and private, public, and museum collections on 6 continents. I know these numbers because what comes with using the Internet is data, and, for better or worse, data is a force of nature.

The number I can’t tell you is exactly how many daily paintings I’ve painted since September 23, 2007. Because I don’t really know. I sometimes know an approximate number; for fun, my mom has mostly kept track, a lot of the time. But the truth is, I haven’t counted because it’s not all that important to me.

What is important is what my daily painting practice means to me. Spending time pushing paint around is a way of life. Some days are a challenge, but for eight years, this vocation has enriched my heart and mind and soul, and this inspires me to continue painting as often as I do.

Painting for me is about paying attention and capturing a moment. Contemplative paying attention allows me to have an intimate relationship with my painting subjects. Mutual respect and exchange of energy manifests itself as gesture, movement, weight, edges, texture, and color harmony. I often choose from my collection of handmade pottery or local co-op produce or a scene out my window — and it is magic to me that my subjects can be simultaneously animated and meditative. Painting is both big and small. It is humble and majestic. It is reflective and sometimes painful. It is present moment and vast potential.

For me, my daily paintings are intensely personal, my painting practice is a mindfulness meditation. Through my work, I hope to share with you a sense of awe and wonder I feel about beauty that is all around us in our daily lives. In a small way, I hope my work might awaken the same thing in you.

Today, while I painted this painting, I felt an overwhelming sense of humility. Eight years later, daily painting allows me to feel like a beginner every time I sit down at my easel.

Today (and every day) I offer my gratitude to you for your continued interest in my work. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you.


Ending Tomorrow — 9/25/15 — (current bid $100)
 *  *  *
Note: Abbey’s paintings are all auctioned on eBay, starting at $100. You can find out more on her blog: www.ryanstudio.blogspot.com/; her site is www.abbeyryan.com/; and her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/AbbeyRyanStudio. Her mom, Liz Ryan, does wonderful land- and seascapes, including marvelous small paintings she did in Ireland: www.LizRyanlandscapes.blogspot.com/. Talented women!
 *  *  *
To purchase my work, view my Current Auctions and All Available Paintings.
  *  *  *
 *  *  *
  *  *  *
March 28-29, 2015 – Artists of Yardley – sold out
May 18-22, 2015 – Sedona Arts Center – sold out
Sept 26, 2015 – Artists of Yardley – read more
Oct 24-25, 2015 – Peto Museum – read more
Jan 6-12, 2016The Innernet – 4-day digital detox
  *  *  *
Posted in Air, Earth | Leave a comment

Take THAT, Algebra!


Image | Posted on by | 1 Comment

What a difference a comma makes!


But don’t show this to high school English students: it might corrupt them! (Good ol’ PC America!)

Posted in Earth | Leave a comment

Important Cat Nutrition Facts; OR, What I Just Learned in “Cat School”

Cats_Are_Cats What_Should_You_Be_Feeding_Your_Cat
The_Dangers_of_Dry_Food Raw_Feeding_for_Beginners

These posters can be found at “One-page Nutrition Guides.” (If you click on any of the above images, you can drag and drop a full-size poster to your desktop and print it out from there.) You can also get tons of info at http://feline-nutrition.org/. Similar guidelines apply to dogs, as well.

PLUS: here’s a great article on cat obesity and how to avoid it (feline-nutrition.org/nutrition/slimming-your-cat-what-works-what-doesnt).

“You can look it up!” (Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment