We Need to Talk – About Gun Control

In the wake of the shooting in Roseburg Oregon, the panic set in again. It’s a real feeling for me, not paranoia. I work in a school. Sure, I could be shot by one of these random gunmen in a prayer group or perhaps even a yoga class, a restaurant, or a theatre. They seem to pick eclectic locations, to prey on whoever is there. It could be me. It could be you. It could be my kid.

But schools, for whatever reason, are often the setting. It’s a place we’ve all been. And I am there every day. I teach preschool.

This week we have a lockdown drill. We’ve had them before. It’s important to stay calm, to stay quiet, and to keep the kids still. But in my heart there is terror. The drill we had after Sandy Hook was especially hard. It could be real.  I sat in the corner with the class of fifteen three and four-year-olds. It was dark and quiet. One girl started crying. I wanted to cry too, but instead I tried my best to reassure her. I cried later. It’s too real.

Last night I hesitantly picked up a book: “We Need to Talk about Kevin”. I have read it before. It is heart-wrenching. I picked it up again as a response to my friend’s question, “I wonder what the parents of these kids go through?” The book is a fictionalized account of the parent of a kid who does a school shooting (not giving anything away; the reader knows this from the beginning.) It touches on the pathology of the shooter.

And this is what we are trying to understand. It’s what the gun enthusiasts hope we go to first. A friend posted on Facebook, “Cain killed Able with a rock. It’s not a gun problem; it’s a heart problem.”

But isn’t it both?

How many kids could the Sandy Hook murderer have killed if he had a rock, or, hell, give him a whole bag of rocks? Could he have killed twenty, most of them six-year olds?  The Aurora theatre shooter might have killed a few, instead of 12. The availability of guns is what makes these shootings possible.

NRA dudes, I don’t want to take your guns away. I just want it to be reasonable! Do you need a rifle to kill (innocent) deer and elk? OK! Do you need a gun by your bedside, loaded, to kill possible intruders? Fine. Do you need an uzi, a machine gun, a semi-automatic, or whatever other gun shoots 100 rounds? NO. NO ONE NEEDS THAT GUN.

So, yes we do need to talk. About Kevin, about Sandy Hook, Aurora, Roseburg. President Obama said we are growing numb to this problem.  We can’t let that happen. We should be outraged. We need to talk about gun control versus 2nd amendment gun rights. About mental health. About peace and safety and helping each other. We need to talk, and we need to listen.

And then we need to do something. Before more innocent lives are lost.

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On Love (or Happy New Year – in August!)

Note: while editing my memoir – or avoiding it – I was scrolling through blogs I’d written.  I wrote this one on New Years and somehow neglected to post it.  Better late than never, right!  Happy New Year, friends!

Love, sweet love.  the pursuit of which is a driving force.  Is it merely cultural?  A combination of Disney and Hollywood that leaves us, facing reality and hopelessly fucked?

In my half-century I’ve had many lovers:  a famous punk rock singer and a married writer in my New York days, as well as many random post-clubbing bonks (“What was your name again?  Don’t bother calling a cab, I’ll take the subway.”) What can I say, it was the 80’s.

I had a 15 year marriage.  After that a five year torrid sex-fueled romance.

But I can only conclude that:

A – No one has ever really loved me.


B – They have, but love – contrary to the typical Hollywood story – does not last.

I wish for the days of naïve youth, where compatibility means you hang out with the same crowd and can quote the same TV shows.  But then again, in youth one still needs to get the education and career going, buy a house, make some babies….

Check, check, and check.

Now I want more than that.  These days I can pluck lovers like fruit from the trees.  (It’s that easy for girls)  And sometimes, I admit, I do.  But I still want more.

I want a true connection with an age-appropriate human being.  I want to cook up a Thai curry together naked in the kitchen, sipping wine and talking about God.  I want to make travel plans with someone instead of always alone.  I want to walk my dog with his dog, holding hands.  I even want to argue and fight and get so mad because he ALWAYS does that thing that I HATE.

And in the midst of hair ripping angsty thoughts of – maybe I’ll never meet my soulmate –

The obvious answer is – So What?

I have a good life.  My family is around me and my kids still talk to me.  I love my job, my house, my dog. I’m not stagnant.  I have travelled to 5 continents, many islands, and still have many destinations on my go-to list.  I do what I want, when I want to.

But I do miss being in love.  Perhaps it’s not a realistic goal at my age.

The last time I was in love, I knew from the beginning it wouldn’t last.  I glued it together with hot sticky sex, sometimes 3 or 4 times a day, knowing that was all that was making him stay.  Eventually, when I asked for more than that, it all fell apart, as I had always known it would.  He’s married now, to a lady who looks like a nice gal, a once-a-week gal, a blow-job-on-your-birthday type.  I might just be the scar on his psychic body, the kind you get if you fall against a hot grill –  ouch!- then recover yourself.

I’m in the Bahamas for the New Year.  How cool is that?  Junkanoo tonight!  I have a lover for the week, a personal driver you might say.  He takes me where I want to go.  A very sweet guy.  Last night we drank champagne and watched the fireworks over the harbor.

Life marches on.

Maybe the folks at Disney will never cast me as a princess in an animated feature.  And maybe I have somehow missed my chance at love, the romantic kind, anyway.  Aside from that, my life is filled with love, overflowing with wonderful friends, family, and animals.  And the occasional chance encounter with someone special, if only for a week.

Order another Bahama Mama for me, will you?  Maybe I’m doing okay.

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Up, Up and Away

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To tell the truth, I was somewhat nervous. Okay, fine, I was terrified. I was about to go 600 meters  up in the sky in a wicker basket held up by a giant balloon that was in dangerous proximity to a shooting tower of flame. What could possibly be scary about that?

As I paced among a crowd of total strangers, trying to drink piping hot instant coffee, my hands trembled. It was dark, not yet 5 AM. We wore our group numbers around our necks like cattle at an auction. Hissing sounds echoed as dozens of balloons were slowly inflated with bursts from the propane flame burners. The globes were enormous, sleeping dinosaurs slowly coming to life as they lolled on the ground, stretching and filling, then miraculously righting themselves and rising up.

I was not cold, but I found myself shivering. I’m a little afraid of heights. I cannot stand on a balcony more than two stories up without butterflies in my stomach. I think the feeling is called vertigo; am I scared to fall, or is it that I am possessed with an overwhelming desire to see what would happen if I jumped?

Should I chicken out? It’s not too late…

Suddenly through the darkness a ghostly shape drifts toward me. A dog – big, white and furry, comes directly to me and thrusts his giant head into my hand. I relax a little. I scratch him behind his ears and run my hands through his warm fur. Is he hungry? I walk the few steps back to the coffee cart to get him a bread roll, and when I turn back, he is gone. I ask someone, “Did you see where the dog went?” As quickly as he had come he disappeared.

Maybe he wasn’t a dog after all, but an angel sent to reassure me.

Our group number was called and suddenly I was being led to a grey and red balloon, and I climbed into the basket along with nineteen others. Our balloon driver gave us instructions; most importantly he showed us the landing position, crouched down holding straps inside the basket.

And slowly, gradually, the balloon lifted us into the sky. I felt the basket leave solid ground. All around us, other balloons were also slowly lifting off. (I calculated later that there were at least 50 balloons in the sky. It was otherworldly.)

From the sky we could see the pointed rock formations that make up the fairy land of Cappadocia. We floated through the air over Red Valley. The volcanic rock formations rose up like pink fingers stretching toward us. The sun rose through a navy sky, a glowing pink neon orb. Its fiery glow was punctuated with the burst of flame that our captain sent periodically into the belly of the balloon. I rested against the interior wall of the basket, which is portioned into four pockets with the captain and his fiery mechanism in the middle; it is like a big cutlery holder for a picnic.

And what a picnic! I feasted my eyes on the vista that stretched out beneath us: hills and valleys of pink and tan, dark green trees and bushes, and a slowly lightening sky peppered with colorful dots of balloons. Bit by bit I grew brave enough to peer over the edge of the basket, gripping the support pole with both hands. The view took my breath away.

When we landed about forty-five minutes later, the balloon began a slow descent. A large brown jackrabbit scampered out of our way. We drifted just inches away from spiky bushes and our captain yelled “Landing position, please!” We all crouched down and the basket touched the earth with a jolt.

I climbed out with shaky legs and soon received my sparkling cider and my certificate. I made it!

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I am often perceived by others as being braver than I really am. Yes, people know that I travel and explore new places. What they don’t know is that I am always afraid I’ve left something out, something behind, something undone, unconfirmed, un-arranged. And often I have. It’s often easily sorted out, or sorted with some difficulty, but it gets fixed in the end. Sometimes a better alternative comes forth that would not have emerged if things were perfectly arranged.

So, I look good on paper, even when my nerves are shot and I am quietly having a panic attack.

Such was the case when I landed in Belgrade with a 7-hour layover before the flight to Zagreb, Croatia. I wouldn’t call it panic, really, but the prospect of a little jaunt into town to explore made me nervous. In past years I would have stuck stalwartly to the airport, finding lunch, a magazine, perhaps even an internet connection to wile the time away. But in pursuit of an additional stamp in my passport and a tiny taste of a city I would not otherwise have experienced, I stepped tentatively out of my comfort zone.

I was told by a gate agent that I could take Bus 72 into City Center. I cashed 20 euro into dinar and set off.  At the taxi stand, a well-meaning and fare-hungry man tried to talk me into taking a cab, but I was not in a hurry; rather, I was trying to kill some time, so I declined. A Danish woman stopped to chat; she was going into city center as well, so we found the bus together and along the ride I made a new friend (with an offer to stay with her if I come to Copenhagen.)

Belgrade is the capital city of Serbia and has seen some rough times in the past, involved in wars and whatnot (so I don’t know much about history, sue me!) But today it seems peaceful. And very hot!

I walked along in the baking heat of midday, clutching my map and a pen to write little breadcrumbs of clues to lead me back to the bus stop. I made my way through a fruit and vegetable market, buying a large cup of raspberries for 100 dinar, less than a dollar. “Fruit Market” I wrote in the margin of the map. Consulting the map for a direction of intent, I decided I might be able to find the city’s ancient fortress walls and make it back in time to take the bus back.  I turned down a street where people had various wares – clothing, household items, a few stray machine parts – spread on blankets. It reminded me of the East Village of New York in the 80’s when I lived there. I wrote “Garage Sale Street” on the map. I passed a bakery adjacent to a large park (writing “Bakery”) which I walked through. I noticed that many young men were out, lounging in the dried-up grass under meager shade trees, buying ice cream at the ubiquitous blue carts. There was an absence of females, but still I felt safe.

I popped into a large hotel and the receptionist gave me another map and showed me the way to the fortress.

“I’m afraid I’ll get lost, is it far?” I explained that I needed to find my bus in a few hours.

“You won’t get lost” she assured me, marking the street. “But it will take maybe half an hour to get there and then you must walk back, so hurry.”

I walked along the road that flanked the river, (two rivers meet in Belgrade and form a delta – the Danube and the Sava.)I was sweating under my backpack. The temperature was in the high nineties. I noticed graffiti on many buildings. I passed several small hostels, some cafes and wine bars that were either dark or closed up. Perhaps they would wake up in the evening, but all was quiet in the heat of the afternoon. Along the way, I took photos, more breadcrumbs for my memory.

I climbed the winding stone steps that led up to the fortress (which I read was originally built in the 3rd century BC and the original city was within its walls.)  I was treated to a gorgeous view of the river, with boats  and dockside restaurants. I huffed and puffed, hiking up the steps with my heavy backpack in the midday sun, and took refuge when a wall curved to allow some shade for me to pause in for a few minutes. The fortress walls stretched out in many directions, and I examined the signboard that exclaimed “You are here”. Instead of exploring the fortress any more, I opted to walk back toward the town area, where I could slowly get back to my bus stop. In the park beyond the fortress, vendors sold dolls, magnets, and pepper mills.  Further on I found a lady selling wooden pipes and soap.  I bought one of each (soap for my mother and the pipe for my favorite writer friend.) The next street was a pedestrian mall lined with coffee bars.  I checked the time and decided I had time to indulge in an iced coffee.

As I sipped my coffee, I reflected on my small time in Belgrade.  What I had seen was wonderful, and it seemed that this would be an inexpensive city to spend some time in (the wooden pipe had been less than a dollar, and this coffee, sweet and rich, would have been easily three times the cost in any Starbucks.) As I paid, I remarked that the coffee had tasted of ice cream, and my smiling waiter confirmed that they indeed put in three scoops – two at the bottom and one on top.  This was a normal iced coffee!  Wow!

I stopped at a tiny storefront and picked out two pastry rolls with cheese, spinach, and mushroom, and these were less than a dollar for both.  I could like it here, I thought as I licked the crumbs from my fingers.

I wandered back toward what I thought was the right part of town.  I stumbled on a bridal couple being photographed walking out of a narrow cobblestone street.  I took the stairs down toward the river and remembered an artistic graffiti wall I had passed on the way to the fortress.  Then I wove my way back – hotel, park, bakery, garage sales, and fruit market, to find Bus 72 waiting. I ran and hopped on.

I made it back to the airport with time and dinar to spare! Maybe someday I’ll return to see more. Thanks, Belgrade!

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ODE TO THE MORTGAGE PROCESS (with apologies to Dr. Suess)

(author’s note:  this poem was originally written when I bought a house in 2010 as a response to the loan approval process.  I am finding that the sentiment still holds true today, as I go through this arduous process yet again………..)

Hi, I want to buy a house

Can I buy without a spouse?

I have money, here it is!

All this wonderful money, gee Whiz!

“I’m not sure that money’s yours?

Did you earn it doing chores?

If you did, we need to see

Taxes starting 2003….

You have money?  That is good!

But make sure it’s understood.

We need to know exactly where

It is from, and do not dare

To cross the i’s or dot the t’s

We will know, and we won’t be pleased!”

My money comes from near and far,

Receipts and statements? Here they are!

I found ten dollars on the ground….

“Money isn’t simply found!

We need at least 3 witnesses…

To prove the money can stay as is!

Please be exact, down to the penny

Wiggle room?  There ISN’t any!”

I have counted every cent,

I can’t even pay my rent!

Or buy groceries, or go to a movie

I am feeling less than groovy

“Oh, my gosh, please quit your bitchen,

Go line up at the soup kitchen

It will be over soon, come what may,

You’ll eat again after closing day”

You mean then, it just won’t matter

That I served up my finances on a platter?

“Just learn how to play the game,

Your life will go back to being the same,

The nice change that will cause you to forgive,

Is that you’ll have a new place to live!”

Oh, yes, I almost forgot the lure,

The reason for all the financial tor-ture!

It WILL be worth it in the end,

And maybe we can part as friends…

And if you come to my house-warming soiree

Talking money will NOT be okay!

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WARNING: Squeamish men, don’t read. It’s mostly metaphor, but still… only read if you are interested in what women go through.

Aunt Flo has changed her ways. She has been visiting me very regularly since I was fourteen. She didn’t come by when I was pregnant; she must be averse to pregnancies. But other than those two times, nine months each, she has been very consistent.

You know how when company comes, you get energetic and want to clean house and make a good impression? Well, this is the exact opposite. I grow slovenly a few days before each visit, barely able to drag my ass out of bed. Weepy and hungry, I pray for her arrival, because, even though she is a veritable bitch, I somehow get some relief. Once she gets in and unpacks her bags to stay about five days, I know it will all be okay. Before her visit, though, life is dismal.

The last few years, though, Aunt Flo has been unpredictable. Never one to worry where I am at the time of her visit, she regularly visits every twenty-eight days, no matter whether I welcome her or not! But she showed up while I was traveling in South America, twice each month. I don’t know why! Did she not trust me? Did she want to make me feel uncomfortable when I was already out of sorts and sort of lost?

Sometimes she is mean. The opposite of a caring sweet aunt, she kicks me in the stomach –slightly lower, actually—and doesn’t apologize. She causes discomfort and inconvenience; she drags me down emotionally and makes me feel fat and unattractive. I can’t wait for her to leave!

But even so, her gradual disappearance has been disconcerting. She threatens to show up for weeks before she finally comes, and then she barely unpacks and she leaves quickly. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I miss her, but I feel so used to our routine, tortuous as it was, and I don’t know what to do anymore.

“Are you coming back?” I ask desperately as she makes her way out (where does she go? The airport? The bus station?) She looks over her shoulder with a wicked grin and shrugs. Who knows?

Truthfully, I will be glad when she’s gone for good. But her gradual fading, like an on-again, off-again relationship, is annoying as hell…………….

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The Writing Life

I haven’t felt this way in so long.  I’m trembling. I’m dizzy. I’m ignoring my friends, not walking my pleading dog. My stomach is in knots .I forgot to eat all day. The hours have passed and I have not moved from one spot.

What could this be? Am I sick with the flu? Strung out on drugs? Maybe, you might venture to guess, I’ve fallen in love?

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

I’m writing!

It’s been too long, my patient manuscript. I’m truly sorry for the neglect. Now, armed with pages from an insightful editor (not cheap, but insightful nonetheless) I am back at it with a new sense of determination.

My head is spinning and my fingers are numb.  I surfaced briefly to take a blog break. Now I dive back in….

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