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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Not so Flyover

In New York this week for my son's graduation, and it was wonderful -- but I'm not going to talk about that because you have your own graduations to attend and they'll be a lot more interesting to you than ours.

Today I'm thinking about the statement "This is New York" that I've heard over and over again from various friends and relatives. Yes, it IS New York, and I've said it too, knowing the pride New Yorkers have in telling you their town is like no one else's. There's also the implicit statement that it's better - and yes, I've been guilty of thinking that as well. (The old New Yorker cartoon about the city being the biggest part of the national map certainly comes to mind.

And... New York is Ruby's town in The Beat on Ruby's Street, and she's certainly a New York chauvinist if there ever was one. But as a writer, I come back to the open spaces of the Midwest with a grateful heart, because it has given me the kind of head space I don't think I could have gotten if I'd always stayed in the city.

And hey...

...isn't that why Kerouac left to go On The Road?

Some years ago I went to a cabaret performance of a songwriter's group called Prosody. The director, Denise Prosek, talked about how she had seen new song cabarets and shows on both coasts, and how Coastally-centric they were. She wanted to amplify the Midwestern voices of songwriters she knew, because she knew they would be just as passionate and compelling... even though New Yorkers and L. A. residents tend to call this part of the world "Flyover Land."

We who live here know there's a lot more to it than that. We know that playwrights and lyricists and writers come from everywhere and not all of them want or can afford or even must live in New York. Maybe a long time ago, like in the 1950s when Ruby's story took place, or earlier, the city was more central to artistic life.

Today, walking around the Village, I see a lot of rich people and boutiques, but I don't see the artistic intensity I imagine once lived there. So, yes "this is New York." But "this is also Chicago." And Minneapolis/St. Paul. Austin. Boston. Taos. Santa Fe. Toronto. Door County. Milwaukee. And a whole lot of other places.

You may call it Flyover Land. But we know it as a place where writers and other artists flourish. And if you Google the names of your favorite artists, we think you'll know it, too.

Face of the artist: nowhere Zen New Jersey

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Moving. *Scream*

I'm taking some time away from blogging this week because my husband and I are moving... sold our home in ONE DAY unexpectedly, so having to vacate to an apartment while we find a new home.

That may take a bit of doing, as most homes don't go on the market until later in summer... right now we are packing, packing, packing and trying to take care of every little thing like changing bill and magazine addresses.

Why did I want to do this?

When will the madness stop?

Of course, this is also the week my son is graduating... so dealing with that all NEXT weekend.

My goal is to blog next week when I return (May 22).

I miss hanging out with Ruby. And you.

I promise though... I will be back.

Cover art: Gwen Gades
Courtesy of Dragon Moon Press

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Dating Facebook

So, Facebook is getting into the dating business. The first thing I thought when I heard about this was, good, finally they are formalizing it. Weren't they a dating service already?

If I'm right about my Facebook history, they started as a date - rating service. Didn't they? And when that didn't work out so well, Mark Z. changed course and (cue the music) the rest is history.

But for a long, long, time now, I believe, people have been using Facebook to match up, for good or ill. I have had people I don't know proposition me via Facebook, though I never followed up on any of them. But just knowing they were out there was (for me at least) pretty creepy.

My sister had a much worse experience, though. She befriended someone in real time and thought he would be a friend to her (and her husband). Instead, he flew into a rage when she didn't return his romantic interest, hacked her page, got into her computer and terrorized her and forced her to leave Facebook altogether. He also ruined her computer, which she has pretty much given up.

This happened three years ago and I think he is still pretty much going his merry way on Facebook. I have blocked him because he tried to friend me to get to my sister. It has not been a pretty picture.And I did report him, though I don't know that it did much good.

I guess my hope with this whole Facebook dating thing is that they start keeping track of how people are treating each other and pay attention when someone says their page has been hacked. I also hope that Facebook is responsible enough to build in precautions for anyone who is under 18 and for that matter, any age, because it is easy to take advantage of someone, regardless of how grown up we are all supposed to be.

At the same time, I'm not sure Facebook (or any platform) is really able to keep track of all the people out there and what happens if some of them start dating each other. So... Facebook is getting into the dating business but...

Be careful. Be cautious. Let the buyer beware.

Couple photo:  Francesco

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Can Meditation Help Your Kids?

I've never been one to meditate -- too busy, too skeptical it will really benefit me -- but on the other hand, my anxiety and stress have been at super-mega levels for most of my life. And this year, they've caught up with me and handed me a big, fat autoimmune disease--which I am trying to tame.

So... this month I heard about an app you can use on your phone to meditate called Calm. It seemed a lot easier than taking a class (which I did once in transcendental meditation while in acting school). I have tried it, and have to say in all honesty I really, really like it.


You can join a session at whatever time works for you (mine is usually in the evening) and you DO learn techniques for calming down. I am not wholly able to translate those techniques yet when stress descends but I am getting an idea of how I can do it - which is, at least, a start.

The Beat on Ruby's Street talks about meditation here and there, using a neighborhood man Ruby calls "Yogi" and Ruby's best friend Sophie. I don't think Ruby is much of a meditator -- like her author -- and likely she'll stay that way.

Her author, though, is changing. I hope to learn even more this week about ways to shoo off anxiety and BREATHE.

And yeah, I haven't been one for apps up to now. But I'd recommend this one in a heartbeat.

Which brings me to a question. Can meditation help your kids?

Is there an age where you can teach them some skills to help them calm down when they are stressed?

If I had to guess, I'd say you could start when they are as young as four. I wish I'd started it. But here's what I found on the subject, if you're interested:

Meditation Techniques for Children: How to Calm Your Kid

3 Kid-friendly Meditations Your Children Will Love

A Beginner Meditation for Toddlers

Meditating Boy: NCVO London

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Moving? Get Your Kids on Board Before You Go

My first move happened when I was four. My family and I left a smallish house for a larger one in a different town. I hadn't started kindergarten yet and it was no big deal. My sister, on the other hand, was about to start junior high, and it was tougher to leave her friends behind and go to an entirely new school. As it turned out, she hated it.

My husband also talks about having to move at age ten, and being miserable leaving all his good friends behind. Right now, we are engaged in moving (if all goes well), and I have to say, the end result may be better, but it's extremely stressful. Selling a home allows us to buy a new one, but we haven't found a place yet, so will be staying in temporary digs until we do. 

At this point, we don't have kids, or at least, not young ones, but I understand and sympathize with all the parents out there who do. I remember moving with my son when he was four and his father and I were splitting up. In many ways it was lucky too, because he would still see many of his old friends at his dad's house, and he hadn't started kindergarten yet either. 

In other ways, it was hard for him to move out of a home where both of his parents lived together, and start a new life as a child of divorced parents going back and forth. Some days he called his dad crying, because he just missed him.

One day, in fact, I brought my son to my then-boyfriend's cabin up north, and he called his father in tears because of missing him. While my son was talking, he looked at his belly button and told his father there was a bug in it. That bug turned out to be a tick, which was, to say the least, embarrassing! Of course we removed it and we all survived.

But moving is hard. It brings up all sorts of feelings about home and transience and the fear of the unknown. It is great if you and your kids can see it as an adventure, but sometimes you can't. I still believe there are things you can tell your child though, to help:

1. He/she will always be home, even if it's miles away from where your child used to live, because the important thing about home isn't a building. It's family.

2. You will do whatever you possibly can to find a school he or she likes, even if the first one doesn't work out. 

3. You will scope out the schools beforehand.

4. He/she can have a real say in how his/her room looks and is decorated.

5. Making friends takes time, but it will happen. You, as parents, will be sure to make time for family activities at least once or twice a week.

Other tips I found for making moves easier on your kids may be found here:

Good move: How to Make Moving Easier on Kinds

Ten Steps to Make Moving with Kids Easier

How to Make Moving Easier for Children

Child Hiding: Un bolshakov

Saturday, April 14, 2018

In Praise of Whining

April 14, 2018.

As I write this, six inches of new snow has fallen outside my window, and six more is promised by dawn tomorrow. Normally I would be outraged because it's April after all, but for some reason I have been enjoying the quiet, and the opportunity to write.

Plus, I don't at all mind being stuck in the house with my guy. (Isn't there a song about that?)


I was able to get in two hours on the last third of book two of my Beat Street series this morning. I discovered that Ruby has a secret super power that helps her to get rid of nasty G-men who are trying to give a summons to her best friend's mom.

It's called whining.

I have come to discover, in my years as a mom, that it can drive even the sanest and most competent of us to lose our minds, and that children are inherent experts at it. So when I tried to think of all the ways to vanquish hardened FBI agents, the only and best defense was, I realized, whining.

Very pleased with myself to have found a good use for it, at last.

Too late for my parenting years. But maybe someone else can benefit?

Anyway... this is my view today. So forgive me for cutting this short, because I need some hot coffee and a good book to curl up with for a while.

If you want to recommend something, please... feel free!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Beat Religion

Now and again when I talk with students about The Beat on Ruby's Street they ask about Ruby's religion. There aren't any religious references in the book for a lot of reasons, and I think that's pretty common in general for all books.

It is an interesting question, though. Ruby's father Gary Tabeata is Italian, and I always thought of him as a non-practicing Catholic. I think of Ruby's mother Nell (from Sheboygan, Wisconsin) as a non-practicing Protestant person.

Raised in a Beat Generation home, I don't see Ruby or her older brother Ray growing up with any religious affiliation. Does she pray? What about when she's feeling desperate or scared or alone, what does she do then?

I guess she feels desperate, scared and alone. But I don't think she prays, because that isn't something she was brought up to do. The closest she may come is through a Zen-Buddhist type of meditation.

But that brings to mind what I know about Jack Kerouac, the poet many people know as one of the founders of the Beat Generation. Jack grew up in a Catholic home, and there are many sources that say he WAS religious, though not in the get-up-and-go-to-church every week type of way.

As a child, Jack Kerouac was an altar boy and went to Jesuit schools. He stopped going to Mass at the age of 14, but says very clearly in his famous book On the Road that he went out looking for God. He used the word Beat Generation to describe being beaten down by life. Then, during a visit home, he visited the church of his childhood and wrote, "And I suddenly realized, Beat means Beatitude! Beatific!” Later, he wrote, “Because I am Beat, I believe in Beatitude and that God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son to it.”

Kerouac described On the Road as "a story about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found Him.” He also insisted to his critics that "all I write about is Jesus.”
So, does Ruby believe in God, like her hero, Jack Kerouac?
I don't think she has had much experience believing. Unlike Jack, she is not being raised in a religious home. But she does read, and certainly reads whatever she can by Kerouac. I think as time goes on she will start thinking more about what she sees in Jack's work.
And we'll just have to see what she makes of it.
To learn more about Jack Kerouac's thoughts on religion, check out these articles: