The Reckoning

I watch my 4-year-old grandson run at breakneck speed, and I see Son. My 2-year-old granddaughter crinkles her eyes and smiles at me, and I see Daughter. They say hilarious things. Correction: at the time they moved away last month, Granddaughter only said, “Yesh.” As in, “Do you want some more?” “Yesh.” Their baby brother had just learned to sit up, but abstained from sharing his thoughts.

Husband and I live in a five-bedroom house on the East Coast that had become an empty nest years and years ago. Suddenly it was filled with tiny feet and Honey Nut Cheerios. Son and Daughter-in-law lived a few minutes away from us with the three children they created in four years. They filled my heart with a thousand joys before departing for the West Coast a few weeks ago. We saw our grandkids almost every day, and I was a fixture at their childcare center as a reader of stories, a maker of funny faces. Now they’re gone and I’m just me again.

I have learned to accept and even embrace being a Taurus, an organized (obsessive) thinker and (compulsive) list-maker. In the chaotic silence following their exit, I set out to chronicle the steps I needed to take to get my life back in order and deal with the wave of loss that washed over my days. Here’s that list:

  1.  Get the car seats out of my MINI (I had traded in my 2-door for a 4-door so I could transport our two grandchildren. They threw me a curve with that third baby)
  2.  Get back to work (I had removed myself from per diem schedules at two different work places)
  3.  Take apart the trampoline in the basement, box the toys there, and turn it into a workout space (done)
  4.  Work out (not so much)
  5.  Write every day. Anything. Just write.
  6.  Be kind to myself
  7.  Visit California

Husband and I try to be mindful that everyone deals differently with loss. I make lists; he eats pie. There is no right way, no wrong. I’ve given away the high chair and crib, taken the shelf full of children’s books to a distant room. Husband says don’t remove the gliders he assembled for Grandson from the top of the bookcase. He likes looking at them. Their artwork is still on the refrigerator (“I made this for you, Nana!”). A hooded towel with printed whales remains hanging behind the bathroom door.

Husband and I go to lunch together more often now. We see our friends. We hug each other a lot and FaceTime with the other coast. I used to keep a journal of memorable moments and I reread it when I miss them the most.

Grandson in back seat of car: Nana, did you bring me a snack?
Me: I brought you a juice.
Grandson: But you always bring me a snack, too.
Me: Well, today I just brought you a juice.
Grandson: But I want a snack.
Me: I had to work today. You should be happy that I brought you a juice.
Grandson: I want to be happy that you brought me a snack.

Mostly, Husband and I talk about how lucky we are. We had them up close for four years. Most grandparents have to do the long distance thing right from the start. We got married almost two decades ago, a second marriage for us both. Once again, we’re starting over.


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Welcome to the Shit Show

New York got hit last week with winter storm Grayson, a combination blizzard nor’easter of monster proportions. We knew it was really coming when the TV weather people rolled up their sleeves as they walked to the Doppler or StormTracker or whatever map. Weather forecasters rolling up their sleeves is sign language for, “You’re all about to get screwed.”

Husband and I are supposed to be in Tucson. Instead, we’ve been at JFK. Sort of like Tucson, only opposite. Our tale is a common one for this week: our Thursday JetBlue flight got canceled and we re-booked for Saturday. Saturday’s flight got delayed, and delayed, and delayed, which was perplexing because the plane was sitting at the gate. The Ft. Lauderdale flight at the next gate had the same situation. So you had 500 people enduring seven plus hours with the gate attendants saying they had no update.

What they did keep saying was, “Sorry for the inconvenience. JetBlue appreciates your patience.” I don’t know where these attendants were from, but passengers trying to fashion plastic food court knives into shivs don’t give off the slightest vibe of being patient. ShopRite can tell you, “Sorry we’re out of the Dannon coffee yogurt. Thank you for your patience while we order it.” This was not that.

At midnight they finally announced that both flights were waiting for pilots. Really? Where were the crews? Were they going to jump out from inside the rest rooms and yell, “Surprise! The pilots are here! Let’s get these babies in the air.” No. There were no crews and no pilots and we’d all been hosed for more hours than I care to think about. At 1:30 am the other shoe finally dropped. “We’re sorry to inform you that your flights have been canceled. You can retrieve your luggage at carousel 6. Or 4. Or 2. Just keep looking.”

On a good day, the baggage area at JFK is chaotic. Now imagine several flights canceled at the same time and no instruction about which chute your bags are going to be sailing out of. For over an hour there were no bags at all and not a single airport employee to talk to. Then the show started. Luggage began flying down onto every carousel, including the one by us that had a drunken passenger sleeping on it. With no one knowing which area to stand by, unclaimed baggage formed loggerheads. Then either the carousel jammed and shut down, or the suitcases propelled each other into the air to get free. I don’t even know how you’d file an injury claim for that. “Concussed by an airborne Samsonite?” It felt like a metaphor for our current times, where crap comes flying at you so fast you just can’t duck in time.

We got home at 4:30 Sunday morning and were among the lucky ones. We found our luggage and we live near the airport. Over the course of our mini vacation at JFK, I met people who’d been living at the terminal since Thursday. Arizona college students, families with babies and toddlers, an elderly couple from Israel, all with nowhere else to go. And JetBlue not offering a voucher for anything or even airline personnel to talk to. This was at terminal 5. Over at terminal 4 they had a water main break. I can’t even.

But I’ll try. We’re rescheduled for Saturday.

Today’s Featured Foto was taken of Manhattan while visiting Daughter in Brooklyn

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On The Road Again

Years ago, when Husband and I took the Amtrak from Chicago to Seattle, we were coming out of the Chicago Theatre after seeing Jersey Boys and a pair of TV reporters came up and asked what we thought about Paul Newman, who had just passed away. That night, we watched ourselves on the local news talking about our fondness for the iconic film star and his blue eyes and salad dressing.

The other night in Las Cruces, New Mexico the lights suddenly went out while we were binge-watching The West Wing on Netflix. It wasn’t storming out or even drizzling, and we were left in an unfamiliar house with only our iPhone screens to guide us. The next night the same thing happened, with electricity out for about two hours both times. The local news has been all about why this might be happening, and the power company is not helping with an explanation. Yesterday, as we walked out of the library, two reporters approached us for a comment about the situation, and last night we got to watch ourselves once again look and sound very Noo Yawk on yet another local news show.

“What were you doing when the lights went out?”

“Well, we were watching TV. And then we weren’t.”

“Can you tell us more about that?”

“Everything went dark.”

“What else?”

“We couldn’t see anything.”

It was a brilliant interview! There we were, in our Varilux Transition lenses, tweed vest and Donna Karan quilted jacket, looking about as alien in southern New Mexico as the specimens from Roswell. No matter what we try to do to blend in, it’s obvious we’re urban tourists. Last week in Gallup, two women in a local store commented that they loved my curly hair. They had that beautiful Native American long black straight hair and they giggled shyly talking to me, almost moving me to ask if they wanted to touch it. Gallup is home to the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes, and no one in town has curls. The truth is mine aren’t even real. Bet if I told someone, we’d have been on the evening news.

We’re staying in a lovely Airbnb in Las Cruces because Husband hates winter in New York. I’m actually okay with east coast weather in any season, but that’s just me and marriage is all about both parties being happy. And warm. Beside which, there’s much to adore in the Southwest. Beautiful big sky filled with stars and clouds and sun. The moon looks so large out here. Friendly people, offbeat museums, Farmers Markets with live music, enough green chile to eradicate your taste buds, and plenty of parking everywhere. For New Yorkers, that right there is worth the JetBlue airfare.

Today’s Featured Fotos come to you from Silver City, New Mexico

Building mural

Fido knows


Hometown of Billy the Kid

Big Ditch Riverwalk Park

Say it loud

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Husband and I have a little condo upstate that takes about three hours to get to considering traffic, a coffee stop, bathroom break, etc.  We bought the place in 2003 when my parents and grandmother were dying all at the same time, and doing something kind and insanely expensive for ourselves was required.  By me.  Because of its not-near proximity, most of our friends have politely declined our offer to come visit, and settled instead for scenic pictures of the Hudson River view from our deck.

So we were overjoyed when our dear friends from Brooklyn, my bud betty and her husband hugh, whose identities I have disguised here by not capitalizing their names, accepted our invite to visit this past weekend.  In preparation, I figured I’d take care of some small things I’d been putting off so nothing would interfere with our weekend.  One of these was a blinking red light on my MINI Cooper dashboard telling me one of my brake lights was out.  On Thursday I drove the hour to my MINI dealer to have it, and anything else that might be required, taken care of.

Here I have to admit that even though I was aware that my 3-year maintenance agreement was up, I figured how much could anything so minor cost?  Five-and-a-half hours and $1500 later, I was left to ponder the wisdom of the extended coverage I had failed to buy months ago.  Let me back up a bit and admit that half of that amount was for new tires, which I definitely needed and wouldn’t be covered anyway, but my aggravation surpassed logic.  When the car was finally ready, it had weird brown spots all over the white roof.  My service center’s response that I must have parked under a tree and been hit by sap made me go slightly ballistic.  The next hour was devoted to three guys from service working to remove the stains with a variety of solvents, none of which were for sap removal.

The next day, Friday, I left for the condo to meet Husband, who had arrived there the day before since he had no brake light issues.  Tooling along the Hutchinson River Parkway listening to a lilting James Taylor tune about drug abuse and suicide, my car suddenly dropped to the pavement and skidded sideways.  My left rear tire blew out.  My BRAND NEW left rear tire.  Surrounding traffic swerved around me while I limped to the shoulder with that horrific fwup-fwup-fwup sound a thoroughly flat tire makes when you try and drive on it.  As relieved as I was not to have been hit or even killed, I was still aware this was very bad, very bad.

AAA, it turns out, does not handle parkway breakdowns, so they sent a police cruiser that called for an authorized tow truck.  The tow guy put that little donut tire on, which considering the size of a MINI, looked pretty much like I was driving on a Skittle.  I Googled the nearest MINI dealer, which amusingly was a shorter drive from where I was than my regular dealer is from my house, and they fitted me with ANOTHER brand new tire.  They regretted that they had to charge me, but advised I attempt to get restitution from my home dealer.  I thanked them and thought, yeah, good luck with that.  They’ll blame it on sap.

The weekend was fabulous.  We shared delicious meals, picturesque walks, and great conversation with betty and hugh, and were so thrilled they made the drive to join us. Our children have known each other since pre-school, so we’ve all kind of grown up together; our children from childhood to adulthood, and us grownups from new parents to card-carrying AARP members.  That’s a bushel of great memories to share.  We even discussed making plans for a river cruise somewhere in Europe in the coming year.  A great opportunity for new memories.

At the end of the weekend, I loaded the dishwasher and then remembered it never really worked.  My fiddling around with the valves under the sink resulted in a total loss of water pressure to the kitchen sink and a notation to call the plumber our next time upstate.  I won’t bore you with the story of washing the dishes taken from the broken dishwasher, except to say it involved a bathtub.  I also won’t go on about the step I missed at the restaurant where we had brunch that resulted in a meeting between the floor and my right knee.  Again, nothing an ice pack couldn’t fix.  When we arrived back home downstate, I went to flush the bathroom toilet and the porcelain lever broke off in my hand.  I actually began to laugh.  Once your tire blows out on a crowded parkway, there’s not really much that can stress you.  And a weekend with great friends is the best medicine for whatever catastrophes might come your way.

Daughter’s Featured Fotos offer Moments of Thought

company 1 audrey hepburn

company 2 warhol

company 3 not allowed

company 4 church

company 5 priority mail

company 6 gone with the wind

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Alias The Jackal

It’s been a quiet summer.  Aside from trying to ignore a new dog down the block that barks round the clock, babysitting my six month old grandson whenever I can, and recovering from Daughter moving to India (more on that another time), there’s not that much to tell. Which is why it felt like a scene from Deliverance when Husband walked in the door the other night and said there was a dead animal in the street right in front of our house.

OSV:  Are you sure it’s dead?

HUSBAND:  Oh, yeah.

OSV:  I hate to get my hopes up, but do you think it’s that barking dog down the block?

Our conversation was interrupted by the barking dog.

HUSBAND:  It’s not a dog.

OSV:  A cat?

HUSBAND:  I think it’s a badger.

OSV:  A badger?  Where are we, Wyoming?  We’re like ten miles from Manhattan.  It’s probably a raccoon.

HUSBAND:  I’m telling you, that’s no raccoon; it’s a badger.

I looked at him like, I don’t think so, Ranger Dan.

OSV:  Describe him and I’ll Google it.

HUSBAND:  Forget Google.  Come outside and look.

Oh, right.  There’s a real world.

Which is how I found myself standing in the middle of our suburban street at 11:00 pm in the Notre Dame nightshirt I won in a raffle when the kids were in grade school and loafers I found in the coat closet on the way out.  Peering down at roadkill.

OSV:  You’re right, it’s not a raccoon.

Our neighbor from across the street appeared next to us fully dressed.  He even had a hat on, which seemed somewhat surreal since he and his wife are older than us and go to bed earlier.  Or so I thought.

NEIGHBOR:  I called the police and reported it, so someone should come pick it up tomorrow.

OSV:  What is it?

NEIGHBOR:  Opossum.

OSV:  A possum, or an opossum?

NEIGHBOR:  Possums are found in the Eastern Hemisphere.  This is an opossum.

Right then I felt ridiculous for not being able to identify a creature indigenous to my own hemisphere.  Also because I was in a nightshirt and penny loafers out of Laverne & Shirley while a couple out walking (doesn’t this neighborhood sleep?) said hello as they passed.  And they didn’t ask why we were in the middle of the road, or what the deal was with the dead badger.  Were they the barking dog parents trying to keep a low profile?  I get suspicious in the dark.

NEIGHBOR:  (pointing up)  Look at that moon.

We all looked up at the brilliant moon, at perigee that night, the closest proximity to the Earth the moon reaches in its elliptical orbit.  An iridescent golden eye shining down on our little snapshot of suburbia, with an opossum at its center.  We nodded goodnight to each other and retreated into our respective homes.  Once inside, I felt the urge to go back out and cover the animal with something, but the moon seemed big enough.

Daughter’s Featured Fotos are her Farewell to the City

melted china

melted china

brick art

brick art

combination face




city glow

city glow

Daughter in flight

Daughter in flight

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Enter the Cyclone

Husband and I are now grandparents, as I told you in a previous post, Oh, Boy!  Husband is Pop-Pop and I’m Nana.  Familial endearments tend to follow familial lines, and my Mom was Nana to my kids, so that’s the route I took.  On my way there, I held an informal poll of friends, co-workers, and random people in public that looked like they might talk to me.  I wound up speaking to a handful of Grandmas, a couple of Saftas (Hebrew), an Abuela (Spanish), a woman named Randi who had settled on Grandi, a MeeMaw (I forget the backstory on that one), and for the Real Housewives among us, a Glammy.  I guess it depends on what image appears in your mind when you picture your kids’ kids calling your name, and Nana for me is equidistant from orthopedic shoes and rhinestone flip flops.  So Nana I am.

Other new grandparents might agree with us that the scenario for babysitting an infant grandchild goes as follows:  the baby’s parents drop the little bundle off sound asleep in his carrier/car seat and say they doubt he’ll wake up while they’re gone because he barely slept all day.  But just in case, they’ve packed a stylish diaper bag with everything you could possibly need in the remote chance that he wakes up.  You kiss them goodbye, tell them to enjoy their night out, and as their car backs down the driveway, your grandchild awakens with a howl that could chase away a werewolf.

He will now be awake the entire three hours his parents are gone.  But rest assured, he will fall back asleep five minutes before they return.  They will then spirit him home in the same unconscious state they brought him, secure in the knowledge that in their absence you lounged around drinking decaf and watching a Law & Order marathon.  Without interruption.

The reality is that the TV never gets turned on at all, and the evening becomes a blur of rocking, changing, feeding, cajoling, swaddling, putting down, picking up, turning over, burping, worrying if you’re remembering everything you always thought you’d never forget, while you kick aside a peed-in diaper and wonder how you ever did this yourself with your own kids, countless times, without stopping to think about it, and the answer is YOU WERE YOUNG THEN.

After the front door closes, you both collapse onto the sofa and look around the once tidy living room now littered with the miscellaneous debris of an eight pound human being who never got the memo that he was supposed to stay asleep.  You peel a damp receiving blanket off your shoulder and realize you haven’t been to the bathroom yourself all evening.  On your way down the hall you feel something dragging behind you.  Turning around, you see it’s your ass.

And you can’t wait to do it all again.

Daughter’s Featured Fotos invite you to have a Reaction

enter 2 grate

Pointing North, Gas Works Park, Seattle

enter 3 sunshine bottle

Atlanta Living Walls Mural Project

enter 4 seattle

Downtown Seattle

enter 5 statue city

Ballerina sculpture, Seattle

enter 1 faces

Faces, San Francisco

enter 6 godzilla

T-Rex Invasion

For those of you wondering if you’re in the right place, you are.  This is the first entry on my new WordPress site.  Welcome!  All previously written posts are here, and you are invited to subscribe to receive notification of future entries.

Old or new, there’s no place like home.

QuickBlog Header

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Eviction Notice

I had been getting emails from GoDaddy, my blog host, that looked official and somewhat ominous, so naturally I ignored them.  They were spewing some nonsense about their blogging platform being discontinued as of June 25th, but clearly this was a mistake since I’d been blogging there since 2006 and doesn’t that constitute some sort of permanence?

Well, if no one has told you this before (and I’m sure they have, because THEY know everything) nothing is permanent on the web.  I am now down to the wire in importing my blog to WordPress and building a new page to live on.  Importing, by the way, is the web term for MOVING, and we all know how we all love MOVING.  ‘Importing’ sounds so much more Balenciaga Eurotrashy, except you can only export text files, and no images or hyperlinks.  I refuse to lose the 2000 amazing photos that have graced this blog, most of them by Daughter, so that means each image has to be inserted manually.  Then I need to go back into the 445 posts I’ve written and reinstall my hyperlinks.  For many hours over the next two weeks, that’s what I’ll be doing.

This is what I have to tell you.  The site will look different, but it’s the same blog with the same name,  If there’s a time lapse between June 25th and the new site being ready, please check back until we reappear.  If you’re a subscriber, you may need to resubscribe once the page is up.  Please do that.  I would hate to lose you.  Almost as much as I hate moving.

I would love to stay and tell you about the amazing Baltic Sea cruise we just returned from, but I have to search through new templates, upload JPEGs, and talk to people who know what they’re doing so they can tell me what I’m doing.  I leave you with a photo of the Narva Triumphal Arch in St. Petersburg, a memorial to the war of 1812.  Like my current state of mind, it’s raining.

eviction 1 NarvaintheRussianrain

See you on the other side.

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Something wicked this way comes

Celebrities are often asked during talk shows and interviews, “What famous person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?” The answers range from Socrates to Tupac, Abraham Lincoln to Marilyn Monroe. Iconic deceased actresses are always an alluring favorite, but as much as I might want to ask Ms. Monroe, “Okay, really, what about those Kennedys?” for me the answer is always William Shakespeare. The Bard’s work has remained the backbone of literature and theater for centuries with no sign of waning, thanks to countless modern incarnations. Even though I’d like to ask Lincoln what he had planned for the day after the play, I yearn more to channel Macbeth and interrogate the writer who created the words he delivers with such despair.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, 
And then is heard no more. It is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing.

This soliloquy is spoken by Macbeth in Act 5 after Lady Macbeth’s suicide. The couple’s orgy of murder and betrayal has claimed their very souls and brought them to madness, ruination, and death. Macbeth is undone, personally and politically, and his utter devastation is visceral. When the second witch proclaims in Act 4, “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes,” she is referring to Macbeth, who has just killed Duncan, the king. The machine is set in motion and cannot be stopped. Even though Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, the wallop it packs is electric. Be it Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, or Patrick Stewart in the title role, I’m always changed at its end.

No more so than the latest version, the wildly inventive Sleep No More, an immersive theatre production staged in a trio of converted Chelsea warehouses. Renamed the McKittrick Hotel, (in a sly nod to Hitchcock’s Vertigo), the venue is five stories of meandering hallways and Gothic Scottish sets that include The Heath, an art deco restaurant where Daughter treated me to dinner beforehand. Accompanied by a 1920s jazz band, we dined on kale and quail, appropriate somehow for the evening’s aura. As we rose to leave for the show, our tuxedo-clad waiter took hold of my arm and leaned toward me. With his mouth an inch from my ear, he said in a whisper, “Fortune favors the bold.”

And bold you must be since this show is not for the timid. The audience doesn’t sit. Instead, you pick a performer to follow up and down stairs, through winding hallways and into rooms where different scenes unfold. Then you pick someone else. Or not. You’re on your own. There is no order to the scenes. There is no talking by either the actors or the audience. Belongings are checked at the door, so there are no jackets, handbags, or cell phones. So what is there? Evocative music, brilliant dancing, breathtaking fights, moments of tender romance, a strobe-lit banquet, a frenzied orgy. Oh, and you wear a mask.

something wicked 1 sleepnomore

Yes, you heard right. The audience looks like an anonymous, moving crowd from a Venetian carnival. It is one of the few things Daughter told me about beforehand. She also advised me of the following: Wear comfortable shoes because I’d be running around; don’t read too much about it in advance or I’d have expectations; count on being separated from her for most if not all of the evening; stand close to the actors if I want to be pulled into a scene. The next two hours found me pressed against a wall in a taxidermy studio, wandering the Birnam Wood that the witches predicted would move to Dunsinane, slipping through an eerily quiet insane asylum, and witnessing choreographed murders that were as much ballet as bloody. I did get pulled into one scene, but if I told you more about it you’d have expectations, and that would be bad.

Now that I’ve experienced it for myself, I’ve spoken to others who have experienced it numerous times, each time differently. Daughter went twice. My friend’s son went seven times, his brother three. Neil Patrick Harris says he’s lost count. He went so often that one night they let him be in it. I will go again. I need to see if the doomed pair manage to wash away the blood that has stained them from this world to the next.

“Out damned spot!. . .Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”

something wicked 2 bloodytub

On the train home, mask in lap, I recalled that over dessert at The Heath, a messenger had appeared at our table and whisked Daughter away on the pretense of a phone call. She was taken to a mysterious woman who led her down a back hallway and warned of great danger. Before delivering her back to our table and releasing us into the shadows of Cawdor, the woman gave Daughter a talisman to wear, and words of advice to heed.

Don’t stray from the path.
Don’t be taken by the wolves.

It didn’t happen that night. Perhaps tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. . . 

Daughter’s Featured Fotos demand to know What’s going on here?

something wicked 3 osvhangingcars

MOCA Seattle

something wicked 4 osvpurplesky

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Window Shadows

something wicked 5 osvdragonpole

Dragon, Seattle’s International District

something wicked 6 osvrainbowbones

Rainbow hands, Brooklyn

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Marking the Land

Back in the seventies, several people close to me went through a new kind of group experience known as est.  It was the brainchild of one Werner Erhard, and est stood for Erhard Seminars Training.  The purpose of the training was to transform one’s ability to experience living so that the situations one had been trying to change, or had been putting up with, clear up just in the process of life itself.  In other words, to give people the opportunity to free themselves from the past, rather than living a life enmeshed in it.

In the wake of the counterculture sixties, it caught on like wildfire among a growing segment of people seeking personal enlightenment, and stories abounded regarding the rigorous and somewhat bizarre practices of the training, such as instructors yelling in your face that you were full of shit, participants not being allowed to leave the room for food or bathroom breaks, etc.  My father, brother, and cousin all went through est and enthusiastically encouraged me to do so, my father even offering to pay the $200 it cost for a stranger to yell in my face for two consecutive weekends and starve me into self-realization.  I thought they had all lost their minds.

And yet, these were three well-grounded and successful men, role models in my young life, who were all claiming tremendous benefit from the experience.  Areas of their lives that had been sources of conflict or tension for them, either conscious or unconscious, were remarkably clarified, and a sense of personal satisfaction and power attained.  I was in my twenties then and of the opinion that my life was charmed and my past had been perfect, thereby excusing me from any need for experiential transformation.  Turning down the $200 offer from my father, I went on my merry way obliquely living my life, and in the process creating more unruly past to ultimately escape from.  Ah, the transcendent and inexorable value of hindsight.

This past January, on a suggestion by Daughter, I went through the Landmark Forum, a revamped and itself transformed variant of est.  The face-yelling and bathroom/food moratorium have disappeared, as well as the much talked about hysteria surrounding the experience formerly known as est.  What does remain are the sideways glances Forum graduates receive from those who see this kind of group experience as a cult, or mass brainwashing.  Having witnessed the value of the Forum firsthand, through Daughter and then myself, my response to those who ask me, “Isn’t that a cult where they brainwash you?” is “Do I strike you as someone who would join a cult and be brainwashed?”  The answer I always receive is, “No, but. . . ” and then silence, because silence is an appropriate response to hearing the answer to a ridiculous question, even one I may have asked myself thirty-five years ago.

So now let me tell you what the Landmark Forum is about.  To avoid personal interpretation, the following is excerpted from the Forum syllabus, followed exactly each time the course is given, and in a setting of about 150 people:

Already Always Listening™
In the Already Always Listening™ segment, we visit the notion that while we think of ourselves as open-minded and objective, in fact our approach to ourselves, our circumstances and others is often filtered and even obscured by pre-existing notions and ideas—by our upbringing, our values, our past experiences.

In this session, we see those filters for what they are—an all-pervasive influence that profoundly colors our relationships with people, circumstances and even ourselves. An awareness of these filters, and a recognition of the striking limits that they impose, allows for a refreshing freedom. People, situations and our approach to life alter dramatically.

The Vicious Circle™
In the Vicious Circle™ segment, we suggest that it is a human tendency to collapse what happened, with the story we tell about what happened. This collapsing happens so fast it becomes hard to separate the two, and we think of them as one and the same. Almost immediately, and certainly over time, the story we tell ourselves becomes the way it is—the reality we know. It limits what is possible in our lives, robbing us of much of our joy and effectiveness.

When we are able to separate what happened from our story or interpretation, we discover that much of what we considered already determined, given and fixed, may in fact not be that way. Situations that may have been challenging or difficult become fluid and open to change. We find ourselves no longer limited by a finite set of options, and able to achieve what we want with new ease and enjoyment.

Change vs. Transformation
We take for granted that things “are” a particular way. To effect change, we go to work on altering circumstances, the people around us, even ourselves. In this session, we explore the difference between change and transformation. Change is essentially a comparison to something that previously existed. By its very nature, change is past-based. Essentially, change yields more, better, or different from what came before. Transformation, on the other hand, is an act of bringing forth or inventing. It is something created, and is inherently expansive and infinite.

It is here in this section of The Landmark Forum that the shift, or transformation, occurs for people. This dramatic shift enables us to think and act outside existing views and limits, and to redefine ourselves and the reality we have known.

Back in the days of est, this transformation was known as “getting it.”  Call it what you will, it is an experience you share with others in the room, but keep for yourself always, like discovering new muscles and learning how to exercise them.  It’s hard not to be different after such intense and effective life coaching, and even harder to describe it to friends and family.  Ironically, people often say to me after I’ve told them that the gift of the Forum is that I feel empowered in my life, work, and relationships, “Oh, I know someone who would really benefit from that,” and it’s always a wife, husband, friend, mother, etc., never the person themselves.  I smile and think, “Yeah, why on earth would you want that for yourself?”

Daughter’s Fotos throw Random Art from near and far at our feet

marking 1 osvsunbathing

Todd James Pop Art

marking 2 osvrepackaged

Jilly Ballistic Police Advisory

marking 3 osvfaneffect

Atlanta Garage

marking 4 osvcloudtrees

Clouds in Central Park

marking 5 osvartbuilding

Faile in Midtown

marking 6 osvdontstop

Journey on your Traffic Signs, Atlanta

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Oh, boy!

When my second child was born, my father said to me with a reflective smile, “The only thing better than having children is having grandchildren.”  At the time, I wiped the baby spittle off my shoulder and propped my eyelids open and said, “Uh huh.  Good to know, Dad.”  From my sleep deprived stupor, it sounded like Obi-Wan Kenobi telling Princess Leia that effortlessly rewarding days were right over the horizon.  Except the words were too distant and fictional to have any meaning in my world.

Thirty years later, the princess is more than grown up with grown children of her own.  Suddenly, in the midst of all these grownups, there’s an uncharted new galaxy populated by a little pink man who arrived like a blast of warm sunshine in the snowiest February ever.  Meet my first grandchild, born on February 11th, 2014, weighing in at a mighty 8 lbs 11 oz and 23 inches.

oh boy 1 Adriel

His journey to this point, and that of his parents, is nothing short of miraculous.  Briefly told, Son and Daughter-in-Law (DIL) married in the fall of 2012 and began their new life together.  Then, the day before Valentine’s Day, DIL was hit by an SUV while crossing a city street, sustaining multiple traumatic injuries.  For a couple whose wedding occurred two weeks after Superstorm Sandy, the accident felt like the cruelest of blows, a dare to the storybook promise of happiness at their marriage just three months earlier.

But trauma, surgeries, and months of rehab were no match for DIL’s resolve and Son’s support.  From inside her body brace, DIL assured anyone who asked how she was doing, “I’m doing great! This time next year I’ll be saying, ‘What accident?'”  I heard these words with a mixture of hope and trepidation, wondering how much the universe would allow itself to be bent by her determination.  As it turns out, the universe was no match.

On a hot day in August, Husband and I met Son and Daughter-in-Law for sushi after they returned from vacation.  “We have a present for you,” DIL said with an impish smile.  The gift, however, came with specific instructions on how to receive it.  “I want you each to hold out your hand and close your eyes,” Son said.  We did so, intrigued.  Then I felt a wisp of paper in the palm of my hand and thought, “What?”  DIL told us to open our eyes, and for an instant all I saw were beaming smiles across from us.  Then I focused on the slippery square in my hand.  It was a sonogram.  I could barely comprehend what they were telling us.  “I’m due February 12th,” DIL said.  “A year minus a day from the accident.  Can you believe it?”  I was either speechless or screaming; I don’t remember which.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday, February 11th.  I’m in a training session at my new job when I glance down to my phone and see a text from Son asking to be picked up at the train station.  DIL was in labor and needed to get to the hospital.  Husband dashed over.  He watched as the two of them disappeared through the doors of the delivery room, and was still there when I came three hours later.  With another winter storm beating its way across the country in our direction, DIL’s mom arrived from the west coast just as her daughter was giving birth.  I couldn’t have written it better myself.  I wouldn’t even try.

That night, as DIL’s mother and I looked on, our new little grandson was examined head to toe in the delivery room, his downy hair arranged by the nurse in what looked like a middle-aged comb over.  We laughed at the adorable absurdity.  Suddenly, he turned his head in our direction and gave a little gurgle that made my knees weak.  DIL’s mom leaned into my shoulder and said in a soft voice, “A year ago today, the accident hasn’t happened yet.”  We looked at the baby, and then at each other.  There were no words needed.

Today’s Featured Foto is Boy Meets World

oh boy 2 AdrielJacob


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