Waiting on a Masterpiece #SOL17

Last Wednesday I was admitted to the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York to investigate the root of my foot infections. To date, I have had three surgeries on my left foot all stemming from a fall, tripping over my then black lab puppy, Lucy. It’s hard to believe so much destruction could occur from such a cute little face.


Lucy at eight weeks

This has been my third hospitalization in the last six months dealing with foot wounds. The first time, I was released on Thanksgiving, and this time I celebrated Easter in New York. All three trips to the hospital have been under emergency circumstances, but I was still able to pack sufficiently from home. And “by sufficiently” I mean I have my notebooks, favorite pens, my Nook, my laptop, my daily devotional, my make-up and comfort clothes. If I had to rely on my husband to pack those items, I’d be sunk. Let’s face it, as readers and writers we can bear any situation or delay in our lives as long as we have those few lifelines.


59th Street Bridge

When I arrived to the hospital on Wednesday night, I was pleasantly surprised to be placed in a private, corner room, six floors up on the East River with clear views of the 59th Street Bridge, also know as the Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge. Although it doesn’t have the history and beauty of the Brooklyn Bridge or the GW, it evokes an industrial message – something raw and vulnerable that appeals to me.


Erector Set analogy

The view from Manhattan over to Long Island City, Queens lacks the drama of a city skyline, yet serves as a reminder of the practicality of city life. People live and work here, but due to the high costs of living in Manhattan, most commute from the outlying boroughs. After some brief research, I learned that, from an engineering standpoint, it is a cantilever bridge, which means there is one long continuous beam from one support to the other. A close-up view of the bridge, reminds me of a gigantic Erector set.

When it was originally constructed in the early 1900’s, the bridge was built for cars, trains and a trolley car system. Although the plans were clearly developed, there were many setbacks in getting started on this engineering masterpiece. Through the years, the rails and trolly car lanes were replaced by car lanes and a pedestrian walkway. Although in form it was and still is an engineering wonder, now it functions more efficiently as a means of transportation.

As I researched a bit more, I also discovered that Simon and Garfunkel immortalized the bridge in their 59th Street Bridge song aka “Feelin Groovy.” Art Garfunkel wrote the lyrics when he returned to New York from England, and was subsequently dealing with a new level of fame. During his initiation into fame and a new fast paced life, he was willing himself to “slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last….”

FootEngineeringThat could be the message for me as well. Right now, I’ve reached


Hardware – my own personal erector set

day seven on my hospital stay, which is quickly turning into day eight. On Friday, I had a fourth surgery; this time to remove hardware, which was cultured for bacteria. Unfortunately it has yielded a positive reading, which means I will need a PICC line inserted for at-home infusion of antibiotics. Although my surgeries have forced me to “slow down,” and I’ve tried to rest productively through all three set-backs, this time around, I’ll have to Wait and See  believing that, “he’s not finished with me yet…”

Participating in this weekly Slice of Life challenge, has helped to develop my writing muscles. I am always amazed at what “turns up” on the page. Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for providing this opportunity to write within such a supportive community.





Book Journeys #SOL17

BookJourneyOn Sunday, I stumbled upon a crate of folders and binders, which contained the many papers I wrote when I returned to school to pursue teaching. At forty-years old, I was attending school full-time during the day to complete my English degree, while simultaneously completing my teacher certification at another university at night. In two of those folders, I found a writing assignment about fate versus free will and in another, an assignment to review five children’s books. When I reflected on the five titles I choose, alongside my thoughts on spirituality, I couldn’t help to notice the connections and themes that emerged.

(1970) Are you There God? It’s Me, Margaret – maturity/spiritual journey What is God?
(1980) Stone Fox
HF – inner strength/values – When is God?
(1989) Number the Stars
– HF – inner strength/trust/family Why is God?
(1992) Old Turtle – journey/wisdom – Who is God?
(1999) The Bad Beginning – dark humor/family – Where is God?

Like most people, my thinking and beliefs have grown with age and experience. As a seeker, I am always searching for truth and for answers to those big questions in life, especially in reference to the existence of God. The essay I wrote in college in 2002, is far different from what I would write today, but it’s fascinating to have that snapshot of my thinking. Regardless of religion, and whether or not we believe in a higher power, there is much to learn from the human spirit. That’s what the books I selected all have in common. It’s through that human spirit and journey of the soul that each character gains  an insight to help make sense of their particular dilemma. With that in mind, I am sharing some favorite quotes from each of the books and briefly contemplate their meaning.


“I lived in New York for eleven and a half years and I don’t think anybody ever asked me about my religion. I never even thought about it. Now, all of a sudden, it was the big thing in my life.” (Are you There God? It’s me, Margaret?) Having been raised in an interfaith family, Margaret is encouraged to choose a faith, but is feeling that pressure. She is struggling with “what” is God. Physiologically, her body is changing which seems to highlight the emotional journey as well.


“But their shoulders were as straight as they had been in the past: in the classroom, on the stage, at the Sabbath table. So there were other sources, too, of pride, and they had not left everything behind.” (Number the Stars) This classic narrative about German occupation n Denmark addresses many themes. However at its core, Ellen’s family ad the entire Jewish population needs to escape. With the help of their Christian friends, most managed to make it to Sweden. This quote reminds me that, even if you lose your home and possessions, your faith remains. The reader along with Annmarie and Ellen seem to be asking, “Why God?”


“God is all that we dream of, and all that we seek,” said Old Turtle, “all that we come from and all that we can find. God is.” (Old Turtle) Through various conversations, a great debate emerges on the question, “Who is God?” Old Turtle shares his deep wisdom.

Bad Beginning

“Figuratively, they escaped from Count Olaf and their miserable existence. They did not literally escape, because they were still in his house and vulnerable to Olaf’s evil in loco parentis ways. But by immersing themselves in their favorite reading topics, they felt far away from their predicament, as if they had escaped. In the situation of the orphans, figuratively escaping was not enough, of course, but at the end of a tiring and hopeless day, it would have to do.” (The Bad Beginning) Readers are shocked by the tragic events that the Baudelaire children face, but then become equally enamored with their cleverness in outsmarting Count Olaf. Luckily, they are able to escape inside the comfort of their books, when life becomes unbearable and they think, Where is God?


“Little Willy learned that no white man had ever heard Stone Fox talk. Stone Fox refused to speak with the white man because of the treatment his people had received. His tribe, the Shoshone, who were peaceful seed gatherers, had been forced to leave Utah and settle on a reservation in Wyoming with another tribe called the Arapaho. Stone Fox’s dream was for his people to return to their homeland. Stone Fox was using the money he won from racing to simply buy the land back.” (Stone Fox) The parallel between Little Willy and Stone Fox, is that each is selflessly striving to earn money to purchase land, that has been part of their heritage. Like The Bad Beginning, this is a story of the human spirit and the ultimate act of kindness.

Participating in this weekly Slice of Life challenge, has helped to develop my writing muscles. I am always amazed at what “turns up” on the page. Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for providing this opportunity to write within such a supportive community.






Strategies for Literacy & Life #IMWAYR

IMWAYRThis is my maiden launch with a community of bloggers who share their reading lives through the hashtag, #IMWAYR.

Like most readers, I always have a few books going:

  • Writing: Jennifer Serravalle’s The Writing Strategies Book
  • Reading: Lindsey Moses’ What are the Rest of my Kids Doing?
  • KidLit: Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan’s Save Me a Seat
  • AdultLit: Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club (late to this one)

SavemeASeatAlthough I will shelf the professional texts and adult lit for now, it’s interesting to see how all four titles intersect. Whether it’s strategiesindependence, or truths, Joe and Ravi, the two main characters in Save Me a Seat, employ all tactics in order to survive their first week of school in 5th grade. Written in first person by each of the main characters in alternating chapters, the book is about two protagonists, whose lives intersect through personal adversity and the antagonist, Dillon.

Young readers will devour this page turner. The story is well crafted, with each new chapter seamlessly picking up the story from the previous chapter, but angled toward the voice of the appropriate character. There were other chapters, which retold the same scene, but with the added perspective and emotion from the opposing character. By isolating the characters’ thoughts and emotions, the reader is “in on the truth,” but the characters don’t figure it out until later in the book.

BudNotBuddyThere are many social issues raised in this narrative, which makes it great as a read-aloud or a book club choice. Beyond family values, and friendship, there is a thread running through each character’s life; Joey’s social and emotional aspect as a special education student looms large in his life, while Ravi, who recently moved to the States from India, is navigating his way through the cultural and educational differences. The authors provide us with another surprise as well by including snippets of Christopher Paul Curtis’ Bud, not Buddy throughout.

PointOfViewBravo to co-authors Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan for composing such a well written novel, with sophisticated topics and using kid friendly language. That’s no small feat for tacking issues kids will care about, and want to share with others.




Beautiful Messes – A Gift of Renewal

On the first Thursday of the month, I am joining a community of bloggers to reflect on our faith. Today we are posting about New Life… Spring…Easter… over at Violet Nesdoly’s blog.

ForgiveLike many Catholic families, my brothers and I attended parochial school. On the first Friday of the month, we went to Mass, which meant every first Thursday we headed to confession. Each grade had an allotted time slot, so the priest would not be overwhelmed by the web of lies ready to assault him. As we stood in line waiting for our turn, we discussed the transgressions we would make up… “I’m going to tell him I fought with my brothers… I’m going to tell him I disrespected my parents… I’m going to tell him I coveted my neighbor’s lunch snack…” When it was our turn, we slipped inside the confessional, kneeled near the veiled window, blessed ourselves, recited the standard prayer, shared our sins, asked for forgiveness, received our penance, and prayed it all away. Our souls were clean, and we were renewed. It was a practiced ritual, which had little effect on me until a few years ago when I returned to my faith.

FaithAfter more than a twenty year absence, I returned to church. Like many people faced with a crisis, it was an illness with my son, which literally brought me to my knees.  I settled into the weekly routine, but this time around I knew I wanted more. Although I knew the “how,” of my faith, I never really understood the “why” to the degree that it would matter in my life. Through a series of events stemming from joining a Fellowship Prayer Group, I attended my first retreat called Life in the Spirit, which was a dynamic experience of faith renewal.

HopeBeyond the inspirational talks, reconciliation was the most memorable. While instrumental music played, the room was darkened… illuminated only by candles along the path from the prayer service to the meeting area. When I met face to face with the priest, we had a beautiful conversation… instead of feeling guilty, I simply released my burdens and opened myself up to receive grace. Following reconciliation, a group of women washed my hands, warmed them with lotion, and handed me a candle to light and leave in the sand… Finally I was led to a dimly lit room where many people prayed over me. It was a powerful moment… one that healed my spirit, cleaned up my mess, and left me with a renewed sense of hope.

FirstThursdayThank you for this opportunity to share my spiritual journey. As I lead my parish’s next retreat team, it’s comforting to know I have a place to reflect on the process and share the insights gained from the wisdom of women. Women like me who are seeking the path toward truth, purpose and peace by sorting through our Beautiful Messes.



Simple Abundance #SOL17

Simplicity – “The simpler we make our lives, the more abundant they become. There is no scarcity except in our souls.” (Sarah Ban Breathnach)


Out of all the pictures of my children, this one makes me smile the most. It hangs in unison, with the ones below, on a wall in our home above my head where I write. My “Campbell Soup Kids,” as my friends used to call them, are feeding a chipmunk, outside our cabin on Moosehead Lake, Maine. It was our second summer on vacation there. We loved it so much in the year prior, that we booked ten days; the first three in a cabin and the remaining week in a contemporary home nearby.

BirchesCabinWhen we arrived at the sparse camp, I was a bit taken back at its simplicity. Although I grew up with brothers, and I spent my childhood exploring the woods behind my house, I am a girl who still appreciates luxury. One look at the bathroom and I was already longing for our move over to the second house. While I hung up a new shower curtain, plugged in the coffee maker, and put away the groceries, Dennis, Dana and Brian wasted no time; they grabbed their bikes and headed off to explore the paths along the lake. Meanwhile, I picked up my pen, notebook, and coffee and settled into my writing outside.

MtKineoThe beauty of the lake shimmered against the backdrop of rugged Mount Kineo. Chiseled and elegant, the mountain stood erect in its graceful surroundings. So much to contemplate, to discard, to embrace. A few pages in, the disappointment of the weathered cabin was replaced with gracious musings of the heart. Peace and tranquility were welcoming gifts to ease the transition from my harried life of corporate work into my grateful self.


After the threesome returned, we ate lunch, which included sunflower seeds and such. While we were snacking, Brian, my five-year old, dropped a few on the ground, not far from a nearby woodpile. As if on cue, one single chipmunk scurried out to capture his prize. Dennis, father nature, showed Brian and his sister how to lure him out again with a few more seeds. It didn’t take long for the others to follow suit, until there were three or four chipmunks vying for food. That moment was captured in my notebook along with what followed.

ChipMunkIn the distance, the faint sound of a barking beagle echoed. In response, one of the chipmunks immediately scaled the side of the woodpile, and frantically sounded the alert, “Attention my fellow chipmunks. Incoming dog bound for Cabin 10!” The vision of that chipmunk standing upright squealing that sound is forever etched in my memory.


WritingNotebookI’ve returned to those camp entries countless times following that trip. Once, after my laptop went missing for three days in a Boston hotel, I wrote an essay about my dependence on technology. That piece was followed by a reflection on my tendency to be driven by materialism. And, in a writing section led by author Sarah Weeks on crafting picture books, the story of the chipmunks reemerged yet again.

At first I attempted to write a story through the eyes of the chipmunk – sort of a cautionary tale about a chipmunk who takes a risk in venturing away from home to grab a sunflower seed on a dare. When I was unable to develop that idea, I switched to telling it from the camp dog’s perspective. The old beagle, a comical character, is a retired captain from the navy. Nearsighted and hard of hearing, he relies on the company of his great nephew. The story would recount their adventures as the “neighborhood watch” for the camps, while the chipmunks are always trying to outsmart the duo. One scene I outlined, shows the captain looking through binoculars out on the lake, announcing, “Enemy on the horizon at three o’clock,” while the nephew looks through his own binoculars and clarifies, “No captain; that’s the children from cabin ten in their kayaks.”

GilHouseWhen we moved into the big house, three days later, I was so disappointed. Although it had all the modern conveniences I thought I wanted, our intimacy was disrupted. In our one bedroom cabin and tiny campsite, we drew close at night, and reconnected. It remains as one of my favorite vacations.

Simple abundance… so much from so little – that’s the lesson I learned that summer in Maine.


Dana’s big catch! A rainbow trout – mounted by wildlife artist, Dave Footer.


Brian’s first catch!








Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for providing this opportunity to write within such a supportive community.