Saturday, January 19, 2019

Supper Man Hero

When I was first learning to read, I was told NOT to read comics, aka graphic novels. So it was an especially lucky day, I thought, when my next door neighbor Peter (who was about five or six years older) invited me to his house to read them.

I didn't much think about rationalizing what we were reading--I just wanted to page through the comics in his basement, seeing how stories could be told with pictures and words in a magical near-cinematic style that jumped around the page.

His comics were all the super-hero variety and most belonged to Super Man.

In the distant future I would learn about Super Man's genesis as a sort of antidote to Nazi Germany, invented by Jewish men who, I'm guessing, felt anything but heroic in their world. But as a six year old, I wanted to read out loud, either because I wanted to be an actor or just wanted to read better--I can't remember now.

What I do remember is reading to Peter and pronouncing Superman as Supper Man.

The weird thing was, Peter (who obviously knew better) didn't correct me. So I read on and on, for quite a while, Supper Man did this, Supper Man said that, and I think finally at some point Peter told me it was really Superman, and I was embarrassed, and think I went home, probably sulking for the rest of the day.

But years later, when I told a friend this story, he was completely intrigued with the idea of Supper Man as a superhero, and we decided he would fly over the city, bringing supper to hungry people, and as such he would be a truly novel and believable super hero that most people would prefer to the bare-knuckle violence loving batch of non-hipsters we have now.

Or at least, people would prefer a supper-bringer in their daily lives. Wouldn't you? Fighting traffic or wading onto crowded subways to get home, or maybe you don't have a home or job or maybe you're new in town and don't know anyone to break bread with; whatever, Supper Man has you covered.

Maybe he'd set up a big, beautiful dinner service with really silver silverware, or maybe just a home cooked meal sliding onto your plain old plates; regardless, it would always be delicious, it would be what you always wanted for supper, and might even make you dance like Snoopy when he sings Suppertime... if it wasn't copyrighted, it could even be in the same comic book. Sorry, graphic novel.

My friend also thought Supper Man should be accompanied by Tele-Girl, (pronounced Tella-Girl) and God help me, I cannot remember what she did? Maybe it was something to do with the telephone, calling ahead to say supper was coming? She was supposed to fly around with Supper Man, though, maybe she was his pilot? I would like that better than having them actually fly.

Because if you're going to be a superhero, I think you should at least be different than the usual fly by nights. Don't you think?

For now, let's say she was his pilot and used her speaker phone to call ahead. We'll call her Tele-Woman, though, much better than the old comic book label.

"Hello, there, Sally Bedecker, is it? Government shut down shut off your paycheck? No worries. Bringing a week's worth of meals your way, in seventeen minutes, we are just north of Rochester, you're the blue house, yes? No, this is not a hoax and we really ARE Supper Man and Tele Woman.

Hopefully they would have their own comic so people would know who they were and not be frightened of them. I just think we need these superheroes right now, in the midst of so many clowns and buffoons, telling tales like idiots, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing" (as Shakespeare would say).

All this is to say, I guess, is that I'm hungry for politicians that get it, who figure out we are not looking for gnashing teeth and locking horns; that a simple supper will do, and if you can deliver that instead of impoverishing working people, you'd go a long way toward being a real hero.

We need you so badly, Supper Man. Can you please, please just get here as soon as you can?

Superman action figure by Fisher-Price Imaginext photoJD Hancock

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Hope and Expectations: Dirty Words?

Well, they're not supposed to be.

But can they be?

Let's unpack this and see where it lands. A certain percentage of kids are growing up in a country that may be at war, or unable to lift itself out of poverty, and hope is of short supply there. If there is a ray of hope, they'll hang onto it, and they should, and you should help them do it.

Another percentage are growing up in a land of plenty and they may be told they can do whatever they want to and get wherever they choose. That could happen, sure. But can it also set the stage for unrealistic expectations?

Say your child tells you he/she wants to be a physicist. You can steer that child in the right direction in all sorts of ways and help him or her get into schools that make this dream into a reality. In that case, expectations would be mostly realistic.

Say your child tells you he or she wants to act in movies and become a big star. You can be helpful in getting the child training and so on; but a lot is going to depend on luck and the people your child meets along the way. There's all kinds of things that can derail that ambition.

Hope and expectations here can be treacherous. You don't want to derail your child from the ambition, because that isn't going to work. But you may want to temper the expectations and tell them that, while you are behind them 100%, there is a lot in the profession that can't be predicted and all they can do is the best they can without the expectation of becoming a star.

Are there other things they want that they can have? What's realistic for someone going in to the entertainment profession to want? What will they need to do while they are trying to make their way -- and will they have the strength to do it?

All questions you may want to ask them -- and at the same time, ask them to think about what they will do if stardom doesn't happen, just as an acting exercise. What will make them happy? Because that's a reasonable question, and it won't cost anything to answer.

My friend Irene O'Garden told me once that she realized she was working way too hard to be happy, and that she finally realized it wasn't a destination, but somewhere she already was. I loved that and tried (with uneven success) to live that way, but always felt it could be true if I was able to manage my expectations. Irene's new book Risking the Rapids: How My Wilderness Adventure Healed My Childhood has inspired me again about a lot of this happiness stuff; so I thought I'd share it with you.

So, yes, hope and expectations, by all means. But maybe we (I) also need to take a look at who we are, wherever we wind up. And figure out how great that can be if we let it be.

Meditating BoyNCVO London

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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Doing January

Sixth day of January, which is my least favorite month. In childhood, January meant vacation and holiday time were over and I had to go to school in the cold. It meant dark comes early and you can't be outside walking or talking or throwing a ball around.

As an adult, I like January even less than I did in childhood, if that's possible. And the house I love that my husband and I just bought in summer doesn't do a very good job of being heated. So there's that.

Look on the bright side, I try to tell myself, but I'm not doing a very good job of that. Maybe what I need to do is stop fighting it?

January makes you want to sit on the couch more and write less, and I would like to turn that around. It makes me want to eat more and sleep more, neither of which turns out very well.

But maybe sitting on the couch can be paired with reading, which will at least inspire me to write more. And there are a lot of great books out there.

Maybe meeting friends on days I am out already will bring me to a place where I can be careful about ordering and have fun at the same time.

I don't want to make snowmen or learn to downhill ski and my cross country skis aren't inspiring me right now, and the idea of snow shoes also makes me want to say no.

I do have an indoor bike and there are malls to walk - and in fact my husband says he will go with me.

Maybe that's a start?

The fact is, I can't do much about January in this cold, bitter climate. But I can still do January in my own way. And last week, we did get lucky, because we found a mall that had a carousel right in the middle of it.

So after walking that mall, we took a little carousel ride, and it turned out to be worth the ride out to the mall in the cold.

Twenty five more days to go for this month and all I have to fight it are books and one carousel.

You know what?

I'll take it.

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Talk to Them

One of my first freelance writing jobs involved writing about someone with multiple sclerosis (MS) and how she clawed her way back to walking and living, as she said, like everyone else. Talking to her and family brought home a truth I hadn't really grasped until then:

There is a wall between the sick and the well (or temporarily well). The well don't want to cross it.

I think what happens is we (as in "human race" we) get scared of what might happen to us in the future, and even when someone is not contagious, we want to avoid them so as to avoid thinking about them = us.

The easiest way to do that is to isolate the sick people. Into hospitals, though that doesn't work so well anymore. Care communities (aka nursing homes), dpecialty housing, or even their own rooms.

Am I being too harsh to think of Kafka's story The Metamorphosis,  whose lead character Gregor Samsa wakes up one day to learn he has turned into a giant cockroach? His family struggles to adjust, and in the process treats him terribly.

I don't think I am being too harsh. I think the story describes most of us, and our reactions when someone becomes ill, depending on how long the process happens to be.

But I didn't start writing this to jump on your head and start screaming. I just want to say if there's someone in your life with an illness, talk to them. You don't have to cure them and you don't have to fix their problems.

Just talk. Or walk. Or see a movie with them.

Maybe they have MS, or diabetes, or Hashimoto's disease. Maybe they are tired of talking aboiut it but want to talk about books or politics or go to a museum and maybe they need a wheelchair to get there. Go with them. Listen to them. Smile.

Maybe they have dementia. Maybe you do. Maybe you want someone to go to church or synagogue or a mosque and pray with you. Don't be afraid to ask. Tell someone at your place of worship what you need to make it happen. Or help someone get there if they need a ride.

Maybe someone you know has cancer or maybe something far less life threatening that is still turning their world upside down, like psoriasis or alopecia (causing hair loss) or rashes that don't go away. Maybe they can't drink wine or have a special diet. Figure out what they can eat and go have lunch with them. Drink if you want to, just don't push them to drink. 

Maybe they are dealing with depression or schisophrenia.

Talk to them. Talk to them. Talk to them.

Listen. Listen. Listen.

That's not only the best thing you can do, it's what you need to be doing. AND teach your kids to do it, too.

And no, this is not a lecture, she says, like she does to her kid when he asks. It's a Point of View.


Reading material:

Protecting Our Kids From Other Sick Children Can Kill Our Social Life

Talking with Children About the Serious Illness of a Family Member

6 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Disabilities

Hand star: Book Lin

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Tween Talk: That Whole Fashion-Glamour Thing

Holiday time means party and family time--which in my world, also means party clothes and makeup. I have a male friend who says he loves dressing up, wearing women's stockings, eyeliner and mascara.

I asked him, would you love it that much if it was a requirement?

Don't know, he said, but I love it now.

I do like the way heels look, but I hate wearing them. I was never really a makeup person, either, though growing up, I pored over the magazines trying to figure out how to look like the models and wondering why I never could.

I wish I realized then that I had my own style and whatever it is they call "glamour" isn't something you can buy in a magazine. It would have saved me a lot of time crowding around a mirror with the other women and girls in my extended family. Time I could have used.

So, glamour. What is it?

Magazines like Elle, Vogue, GQ, InStyle and yes, Glamour want you to think they know. But is that what we see when we open their pages?

Well, no. 

Not that I have anything against these magazines, but... 


I have never seen anything in their pages that convinces me "I must go out and buy that outfit NOW!" Not even once.

So what IS this whole glamour thing? If you want to talk about with your tweens, what do you say?

I DON'T think it's about some fashion guru's sense of fashion. I DO think you can dress yourself and look exceptional IF you have confidence. Things like weight, body type, hair color, and even what you are wearing matter a whole lot less than you (and your teens and tweens) think.

In writing about a girl growing up in the Beat Generation, I don't touch on fashion very much, but Beat fashion, such as it was, can be summed up pretty simply: leotards, leggings, jeans, and lots of black (did they really wear berets)?  It was mostly form, not fashion, and I think it was really supposed to be about not caring about what they wore.

In The Beat on Ruby's Street, Ruby's mother Nell says "Pretty fades, but cool is forever."  I think that's what Beats believed, and I stand behind that. 

Because glamour isn't about money or conventional beauty or having a new power outfit every five minutes. It's about how you carry yourself. 

You can't buy that. You have to live it. And the reason people look so good in movies is because they figured out how to stand up well, physically and emotionally and be who they are, fully and without apology.

That doesn't fade, and can only get better with time, yes? 

If only we could sell it. Like a magazine.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Dating Terrors in the Online Age

This month's Atlantic magazine has an article about how Millennials are having less intimacy and relationships than other generations. The article's conclusions blame some of this on the online culture we live in. Some young people in the article say they are terrified to ask someone else on a date.

Think about that. Terrified to ask someone on a date.

I remember asking my son once if he ever used online services for dating and he said he had never done it and never would--that it just wouldn't work for him. I thought that was interesting as he is very much a millennial, but somehow or other, grew up in a different world. Sometimes he says he feels like a member of my parents and grandparents' generations, and feels more kinship with them.

I'm not sure why, or what we did wrong or right, but I do know we spent a lot of time doing stuff like going to museums or movies or theater or friends' places; and that his father's house was also full of people coming and going.

I'm feeling good about that because he wants to meet people in real time and has no trouble talking with them. I would hate to think I raised a young man who was afraid of asking someone out -- or even talking to someone he thought was interesting.

But a lot of people are right now--at least according to the Atlantic--and I have no clue what to do or say that would be helpful. I think about tweens growing up and what they are learning socially. Sitting in front of computers for hours and days on end may give them windows into fascinating communities all around the world. I don't want to say that technology is bad for us, because it isn't.

I just wonder if spending all the time they have on phones or computers isn't limiting at the same time? Don't they need to stumble around trying to talk to someone? Ask someone to go somewhere with them? Ask someone to dance -- even if they get turned down?

Do teens and tweens do that any more?

I hope they do and fear they don't. I have to say I think it's really important - no, super important. Because if you don't start talking to people and flirting or joking or having fun, you just get more and more isolated. And machines are no substitute for human beings--and neither is virtual reality.

So... do I have a solution? Not really. But do I believe it's a good idea to try and find social opportunities for your kid whenever possible, starting at a very young age?

Meetings. Committees. Parties. Camp. School dances (if there are such things now)? Clubs. Athletic teams. THEATER.

All that good stuff.

Yes. Yes. And Yes. That's what I think.

Some ideas for reducing screen time might help too, and here's what I found about that:

Reduce Teen Screen Time Without Stress
Internet Addiction Disorder: What Parents Can Do for Their Child
Antisocial Networking?

Couple photo: makelessnoise

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Sunday, December 9, 2018


First, letting you know there is a sale going on now through December 18 - so if you haven't read book 1 of the Beat Street Series yet, you can for 99 cents--(and I'm hoping that will send you to book two, Fool's Errand). You can find the sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Kobo.

When I started writing The Beat on Ruby's Street, I had no plans to create a series. Then, as things took shape and my first publisher (Booktrope) asked about it, I started to give the idea some thought.

Now, book two has arrived, and both books are published by Dragon Moon Press. What I wanted to do in book two was take my main character Ruby out of her small Greenwich Village world and broaden it. (And yes, New York City is considered to be one of our biggest cities, but Greenwich Village is really pretty small.)

Since one of Ruby's favorite poets is Jack Kerouac, it makes sense she would go out on the road, as he did--though for completely different reasons. I started thinking about how the places we grow up tend to influence us, in good and bad ways, and how I wanted Ruby to experience more than one kind of life.

I grew up mostly in a suburb of New York (across the river in New Jersey) and spent most of my tween and teen years wanting to be in the city, which of course was much cooler than anything I was experiencing. If I had to describe my tween and teen years in one word I would choose "longing" - to go across the bridge and find adventures, act in plays, sing in bands, walk the streets with friends, go to parties and take risks that would get me farther than I ever thought possible.

After graduating from college and spending two extra years in New England, I came back home and then managed to get an apartment in New York City. I got to do some of the things I always wanted to do, though it was much harder at times than I thought it would be. But the flavors, smells, madness and kindness of New Yorkers went a long way toward making me the person I am.

I think of the places we live as places where we are flavored ourselves, spiced up and turned and polished, and the world we see is the world our place wants us to see, no matter where we are or who is with us.

I left New York because my (first) husband got work in the Midwest, and it was wrenching and hard for me--I got homesick the minute I left. But now I'm really glad to have met people in Hammond Indiana, Chicago, the Twin Cities, Two Harbors, Springfield and other places. I've learned to appreciate a Midwestern spring at the end of a long winter and find artists from all different states and countries and have the time to write, which New York never seems to give you.

New York is a city of scenes and you fall into them, one after the other. The Midwest offers you space to pause, see, listen and dream.

I don't know what I would have been like if the reverse had happened--if I was born in, say, Chicago or St. Paul or Hammond and Indiana and then went to New York. But my son was born in St. Paul and then he DID move to New York, so maybe I'll have a chance to find out. That's the first thing I'm going to ask when I see him this spring.

I can't wait to see what he tells me.

Greenwich Village Street photo: samchills/

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