October 12, 2017

TBT: I Have a Message for You

1980s: A bright, sunny morning, warm weather. Riding the L south to the Loop. Full car, had to stand. People-watched as we sped, then lurched, then sped again through neighborhoods. Spotted a neatly turned out elderly woman with that blue-tinted gray hair you don't see any more. She wore red lipstick and a short-sleeved, flowery summer blouse. Lovely, really. She stared out the window. I noted she didn't have freckles, just pale, creped, skin with an old tattoo on one arm. It. was. a. set. of. numbers. My eyes shot back up to her face. She stared out the window.
credit: Matan Rochlitz
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From documentary film maker Matan Rochlitz, New York Times, October 10, 2017:

"All I know is that we are the last generation who will be able to meet Holocaust survivors in person, and I consider that a tremendous responsibility.

Even as a teenager, I was familiar with stories from the Holocaust. My grandfather had survived the horrors of the camps himself, and his stories formed a large part of our family’s shared narrative. But this woman’s story felt different. Her pain and horror were woven with love, loss, guilt and redemption — and the epilogue was truly extraordinary. Many years later, once I’d become a documentary filmmaker, I decided to find out whether the woman was still alive. She was. Klara was 92 years old and still living in the same Tel Aviv apartment. I flew out to see her the following week and asked her to tell me the story I’d heard from my grandmother in her own words."

July 29, 2017

3 Miles from Wrigley Field the Night the Cubs Won it All

Credit: Erin Hooley, Chicago Tribune
First thing I see as I pour coffee today is the Trib's front page photo: a large, color portrait of a mother in agony, kneeling over the body of her dead son. He was shot in the face during the night and she, after failed attempts by the police to keep her away, finally rushed through to touch, "My baby." Another gun death in Chicago last night.

If you've never been there, Chicago is a big place. It goes for miles in all directions once you get away from the lakefront high rises, beaches, parks. We lived and worked there a long time ago. Now our children live, work, and go to school there.

Last November, the Cubs won the World Series. Maybe you heard about it.

June 22, 2017

Laundry Liquid Workout

Laundry Liquid Workout Jane French
The cap to my laundry soap just fell behind the washing machine. You know how they make caps that snap on to soap containers? Similar to a lemonade or iced tea or vodka dispenser that is meant to lay on its side and you pull off the cap to press a button so liquid pours into the cup up to a designated line. These cappy cups click securely into place after use. I sometimes miss the connection and they fall off. This time, the cap bounced off the dryer just right – flying as if on purpose behind the washing machine to make time with linty socks and whatever else is back there I don’t want to know about.

Unfortunately, I need the cap to fit back on so the soap doesn’t drip and so I can measure the next load. I suppose I could pull the washer out a bit.

But, it’s too heavy. And I’m nervous about goofing up the water connection hoses.

It’s been a while since I’ve been back there with my eyeballs. I can’t really get back there with my body because it’s a tight space with a wall in back, a dryer to the left, another wall to the right, and our laundry shelf above full of cleaning supplies.

I put my cell phone in my pocket, in case of emergency…

June 10, 2017

Anne Lamott: 12 truths I learned from life and writing TED

All are spot-on. Regarding writing (which is not to be confused with being published), I love number six:

"Every writer you know writes really terrible first drafts, but they keep their butt in the chair. That's the secret of life. That's probably the main difference between you and them. They just do it. They do it by prearrangement with themselves. They do it as a debt of honor. They tell stories that come through them one day at a time, little by little. When my older brother was in fourth grade, he had a term paper on birds due the next day, and he hadn't started. So my dad sat down with him with an Audubon book, paper, pencils and brads — for those of you who have gotten a little less young and remember brads — and he said to my brother, "Just take it bird by bird, buddy. Just read about pelicans and then write about pelicans in your own voice. And then find out about chickadees, and tell us about them in your own voice. And then geese." So the two most important things about writing are: bird by bird and really god-awful first drafts. If you don't know where to start, remember that every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should've behaved better. You're going to feel like hell if you wake up someday and you never wrote the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart: your stories, memories, visions and songs — your truth, your version of things — in your own voice. That's really all you have to offer us, and that's also why you were born."



May 4, 2017

The Color of Law

Institutional, government-backed housing segregation has and continues to have devastating ramifications for African Americans. For all of us who either don't grasp the magnitude or don't believe institutional racism exists, this podcast is a must-listen. Please share with your children so they may understand how we, as a nation, got here.

From NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross on April 3, 2017, an interview with Richard Rothstein:

"A Forgotten History Of How Our Government Segregated America: Author Richard Rothstein says the housing programs begun under the New Deal were tantamount to a "state-sponsored system of segregation," in which people of color were purposely excluded from suburbs. His new book is 'The Color of Law.'" (segment is approximately 30 minutes in length)

April 29, 2017

Retirement and the New Normal: Millennials to Baby Boomers

This is about doing the math. It's about educating ourselves and conducting a gut-check. By default, it's about how we live during the years before retirement age, too. I recommend "Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal" by Elizabeth White. Below are two videos from PBS NewHour's Making Sen$e series. White's extensive research, first-person experience, and thoughtful commentary is both timely and necessary:

1. 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day: "Every eight seconds another American turns sixty-five - ten thousand people per day. By 2030, nearly 20 percent of the population will be sixty-five or older, the largest senior population in the history of the United States." (U.S. Census)

2. Regardless of your political ideology, we're all in this together: "According to a May 2015 study by the Government Accountability Office on retirement preparedness, half of all American households have no retirement savings at all." And, "According to the GAO, around 29 percent of households aged fifty-five and older have neither retirement savings nor pensions."

3. How did we get here? For starters, stop blaming the victim: "The truth is, if you're a boomer-aged American, you've spent your last three or more decades dealing with flat or falling wages, disappearing pensions, and steeply rising costs in housing, health care, and education. If that pummeling wasn't bad enough, in 2008 you were hit by the largest economic downturn in decades."

4. "You are going to hear a lot about how it's all your fault that you underfunded your retirement; you'll hear about all of that money you wasted on lattes and bottled water. You're going to be accused of being irresponsible and fiscally promiscuous - yes, promiscuous. Don't buy it."

All age groups should watch this and read her book. Ultimately, hers is a message of hope and resilience in the face of inescapable change. She plots a course worth examining.



"Fifty-Five, unemployed and faking normal: One women's story of barely scraping by"
aired January 19, 2017 on PBS NewsHour. The follow-up video (embedded above) aired January 26, 2017.

January 28, 2017

Between the World and Me: Recommended

A little late to the party, I know. I can't recommend this book enough. It IS a classic. What Coates delivers in 150 short pages is, literally, breathtaking. Written as a letter to his (real life) son, he imparts history, his own youth, family, a must-read examination of the "Dream" world (the one I was born into and keep thinking everyone else experiences), foreign travel, grief, humor. His terrific talent as a writer: my eyes kept racing forward through the words, even though I wanted to savor the delivery and needed more time to digest the message. I hope you favorite this link and read it yourself. Know a young person? Get them a copy. If only this existed when I was younger...

More at goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25489625-between-the-world-and-me

January 17, 2017

Don’t wait till your dying words to say what’s most important: PBS NewsHour's In My Humble Opinion

Hospice Chaplain Kerry Egan: "Here’s the thing. When people ask me about dying words, what they’re really asking is, what is so important in this life that it should be the very last thing we talk about? So, instead of asking, what do other people talk about, ask yourself, what do I really want to talk about now? And that’s a really good question. That’s a really good thing to ponder."


December 3, 2016

Blue Lives and Black Lives: What's in a Slogan?

Over Thanksgiving, my daughter came home from college. While driving through our neighborhood, she noticed a "Blue Lives Matter" flag and said she'd like to talk to the homeowner, or perhaps drop off a letter, about why it is a harmful symbol. I asked her if she'd be interested in putting a message together because I, too, would like to read it.

My daughter brings a foundation to this subject, which includes: A research assistant internship with the Metropolitan Planning Council (emphasis on housing segregation issues), and a double major at DePaul University (Public Policy Studies and History of Art and Architecture). In addition, she has personally observed the Cook County Circuit Bond Court, volunteers with prison support groups, writes to people who are incarcerated for political and non-political crimes, has participated in several anti-discrimination protests, and strives to reach people with differing views on police funding/abolition without alienating them. Here is her letter:

Dear Neighbor,

I noticed the "Blue Lives Matter" flag in front of your house and hoped I could talk to you about it. It is probably safe to assume that you feel strongly on this topic because someone you love is a police officer, or because you value the services the police provide to your family and community. It makes sense, therefore, why you feel it's important to stand up for police in what appears to be a hostile climate of anti-police sentiment. I want to mention some things that I hope will explain this climate, and why I think your flag is harmful.

"Black Lives Matter" began as a slogan, a hashtag, on the internet, created by black activists in response to the police shootings of unarmed black men and women. It is simple and to the point: In this country, black people face certain challenges and obstacles based on the color of their skin that non-black people do not face.

May 6, 2016

Duck, Death and the Tulip: An Uncommonly Tender Illustrated Meditation on the Cycle of Life

Review by Maria Papova.

Wolf Erlbruch: Duck, Death and the Tulip
Credit: Wolf Erlbruch's Duck, Death and the Tulip
"The German children’s book author and illustrator Wolf Erlbruch offers a wonderfully warm and assuring answer in Duck, Death and the Tulip — a marvelous addition to the handful of intelligent and imaginative children’s books about death and loss."

Read Papova's insightful article, with lovely illustrations, via Brain Pickings.