My latest article for for the Virginia Journal of Education is out. Pass it along to a teacher in your life!

HANDLE WITH CARE

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I recently listened to a TED talk by Charlie Todd, the creator of Improv Everywhere.

“Improv Everywhere is a New York City-based prank collective that causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places.”

Check out one of my favorite videos here. Trust me. It will make your day.

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The New Yorker Culture Desk recently had a contest on Twitter:

“What would be the best imagined status update for a literary character?”

I won an honorable mention for mine:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar has posted, “Eat, Sleep, Transform.”

Check out the full article HERE . It’s very clever. Plus, you can share in my excitement at being mentioned in The New Yorker.

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I can still remember most of the lyrics to “Paul Revere”. When I was just 11-years-old, my bunkmates at Camp Akiba and I sang it all the time. But, it would be years until I really understood the humor, irony, and creativity of the Beastie Boys.

In high school, my girlfriends and I rediscovered the classic Licensed to Ill. We cruised, as all suburban teenagers do, and sang out “No Sleep Till Brooklyn!” We loved “Girls” too, never once feeling it was degrading, or demeaning.

In college, I was delighted to learn a Brass Monkey was indeed a real drink. The college years brought us Ill Communication, though Frat boys dancing (or rather jumping up and down) on floors slick with stinky beer nearly ruined it for me.

And post college, in my early twenties, the Beastie Boys were still there- maybe a little angrier, a little more philosophical, but weren’t we all?

Then, there was the summer of  1998, when my friend Ranee and her friends stayed with us – a whirlwind of lip gloss, tank tops, and flip flops – so they could go to the Tibetan Freedom Concert.

I remember it well because they (my friends, not the Beastie Boys) chipped in and bought me a ticket for one of the days as a thank you for letting them stay the weekend. It was the concert where some poor girl got struck by lightening. Seriously, how crazy is that?

The passing of Adam Yauch has brought back so many memories – driving around with my friends, singing, laughing, being silly. I miss going to concerts and drinking cool beer in the hot sun. I miss talking about saving the world.

MCA, thank you for your creativity and your humor, for mixing musical genres in new ways, and for inspiring others to embrace social causes.

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I went for a jog the other day. I’m not much of a runner, but something clicked. Not physically – more of an Aha Moment.

I know so many people, women especially, who have recently trained for a big race. Women you would least expect to wake up at 5am and run everyday. Why run a 10 miler, or a marathon instead of say, taking boot camp, or just hitting the gym a few days a week?

For some, it probably is about a physical goal, staying in shape, accomplishing something previously thought impossible. Maybe it’s about the mental clarity -the fresh air, the music on your ipod, the sound of your heart pumping. Your thoughts eventually become as numb as your body when you hit mile nine. (Or in my case, mile three.)

Really, though, I think it’s about getting the f*ck away.

Away from the boss who makes you cry,
Away from the fertility doctors,
Away from the the toddler throwing a tantrum,
Away from the dishes, the piles of laundry, the bills,
Away from the ailing family member,
Away from the judgmental mother, the “perfect” sister
Away from Match.com,
Away from monotony of the suburbs.

Away. Away. Away.

Run.

Run.

Run.

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I thought I would be writing up a storm during our week in beautiful sunny Santa Monica.

The truth is, I’m not so inspired. Don’t get me wrong, we’re a walk away from the type of beauty that makes you want to say a prayer of thanks to whatever god you believe in.

The Pacific Ocean, the mountains, the beach that is so much more pure and clean than the beaches of my east coast.

My mind seems to be blank here. For now, it’s nice to have my thoughts stop churning so quickly all the time. A reflexologist once commented that she could “sense” my inability to calm my thoughts – like a bee was always buzzing around in there.

Here, the bees are quiet. Maybe too quiet for a writer.

I imagine that’s why so many creative people move here – to clear the mental clutter and make room for the next screenplay, painting, or novel. It works for some people.

But, I suspect a lot of other artists, musicians, and writers return back east because they miss the unpredictable weather, the rude customer service, and those bees buzzing around in their mind.

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Speaking of lists, does anybody else write stuff on their To Do list just so you can cross it off?

Shower.

Get dressed.

Feed baby.

Eat cookies and watch tv. √ √

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What are you thankful for?

Sure, everybody is grateful for family, friends, and health. But for many of us, keeping it all in perspective and looking at the big picture is difficult.

We’re not supposed to sweat the small stuff, but that’s often easier said than done. When you get a flat tire, spill coffee on the computer, forget your lesson plans at home, or your toddler throws oatmeal on the floor – it’s hard to remember to be thankful.

It’s the little things that get us through the daily bullshit of life. So, here is my list of little things that I am grateful for. It’s a work in progress.

Add your own in the comments section. Seriously – add something.

When you have a bad day, or the cold winter months bring their seasonal depression, come back and read it. I promise you’ll be grateful.

My Gratitude List (in no special order):
Driving only 15 minutes to celebrate Thanksgiving
Date night
Spanish wine
Mom’s chocolate chip cake
Catching up with old friends
Naptime
When the barista makes a heart on my cappuccino
Belgium chocolate
Funny text messages from my brother
Snow days
A good night’s sleep
Nana’s handmade scarves
Time to write
Not getting lost
$150 pants reduced to $30
Pedicures
Nice neighbors who share food
Bubble tea
Supportive co-workers
Montreal, Santa Monica, San Francisco, NYC…
A husband who can hang a shelf and decorate it
An empty laundry basket
Aha moments from students

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We finally bought a laptop! The fabulous MacBook Air is a welcome new addition to our family. It is yet another investment toward my writing life.

For some time now, I’ve wanted a laptop. OK, not just any laptop, but a Mac, with it’s sleek, shiny, portable design. After all, you can’t really call yourself a freelance writer without one. And really, from a practical standpoint, who can get any writing done with a toddler at home?

I know I’m not alone. Just go to any Starbucks. Sure, lots of people browse the internet, job search, or update their Facebook profile. But a vast majority of folks are reading and writing at the coffee shop – even if it is on the latest and greatest technology.

As a teacher, I like this.

As a writer, I find it encouraging.

As a mom, I relish the time for decadence and self-absorption.

I guess we all have our reasons for sitting at the coffee shop with our laptops – too many distractions and noises at home, or maybe just a desire to be among people (even if nobody talks or makes eye contact).

Sure, you can go to the library. But city libraries tend to be full of their own distractions like the homeless people hoarding newspapers and working on conspiracy theories. Plus, you can’t have coffee or tea there.

I am excited to join the ranks of freelancers, bloggers, and consultants who work from their laptops. But,  I worry about so many people sitting alone. I feel a pang of sadness, a longing for the days when the coffee shop was a place to be with friends.

In my senior year of college, my roommate and best friend introduced me to vanilla lattes. It was my transition from tea to coffee, and it was a perfect place for it. Rainy, gloomy, Pittsburgh – where we sat in locally run coffee shops and studied, solved the problems of humanity, and pondered about our lack of love life.

In Spain, I met my friends at least once a day at the coffee shop. I found that caffeine worked almost as well as alcohol as a language stimulant. The café con leches were strong, and I couldn’t help blurting out my thoughts, even in Spanish.

I’ve had some of my most wonderful and insightful conversations in coffee shops. I’ve survived break-ups, unemployment, and other growing pains over countless chai teas and cappuccinos.

Sure, getting out and writing on my new laptop is certainly therapeutic in its own way. But nothing will take the place of those coffee shop chats.

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I used to fast in observance of Yom Kippur. It is a day to atone for our wrongdoings, and show solidarity for those who go hungry.

Many fast simply because this is how they were brought up, and they want to carry on the tradition. For others, the annual day of atonement and fasting alleviates guilt about mediocre attendance in synagogue throughout the year. And perhaps some just like an excuse to wear sneakers with their dressy attire.

Back in 2002, a colleague told me about a new synagogue. They didn’t have their own building so services were being held at a hotel in Dupont Circle. It seemed to be my style  – a female rabbi leading a congregation of various degrees of faith and loyalty to the religion. It was spiritual, musical, intellectual.

If you’ve never been to a Jewish service before, there’s a lot of standing and sitting involved. On an empty stomach, it can make you a little dizzy. I remember feeling sick, a cold sweat coming on. I remember thinking I should go to the bathroom, maybe find a water fountain.

And then, darkness.

When I came to, I was surrounded by concerned people. They all seemed to be talking like that teacher on Charlie Brown.

Everything had stopped. Literally. Unlike the services I’ve been to with my Orthodox cousins, where nobody misses a beat when someone goes down– this liberal and kind rabbi actually stopped what she was doing.

Fortunately, as is to be expected at a Jewish gathering, there were plenty of doctors who rushed to my aid. They assured me that the ambulance would be arriving soon. Horrified by all the attention, I suggested that I meet the medics in the lobby. (Never mind the fact that I had not attempted to stand up yet, and would likely have fallen down again.)

Before I knew it, the medics stormed in to our makeshift holy sanctuary with their big black boots, stretcher, and whatever other bulky necessities they carry. Focused on saving me, they seemed somewhat clueless that they were interrupting our holiest day.

Adding to my embarrassment was the fact that it was only 11:30am, which meant I had only been fasting since after dinner the night before. Gandhi would not be proud.

The medics felt it necessary for me to go to the hospital AND be carried out on their stretcher. Up onto the stretcher I went, with people blessing me on the way out. I felt like the Torah as it is paraded around the room and people reach out to touch it with their prayer book.

After several hours in the hospital, it was determined that I was just dehydrated. When my updated health status reached the rabbi, she announced that people should feel free to drink water. This apparently caused a bit of a debate.

Of course, I say drink up– whatever it takes to avoid falling over in the middle of services and being rushed off in an ambulance.

Regardless of your stance on the water debate, regardless of religious beliefs (or non-beliefs); everyone should take a day – not simply a mental health day, but a holy day. A day to forgive and ask forgiveness, to examine how we have treated others throughout the year. A fast from technology, work, and errands.

Read, write, sketch, meditate, pray – whatever makes you feel renewed. (Food and water optional.)

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