The March Challenge Is “A Small Rebellion Against the Quickening of Time”

(Above photo: The Oculus in the Roman Pantheon was a place of contemplation for me.

Two days ago on the Op Ed editorial page of the NY Times (March 29) I read a very uplifting column by David Brooks entitled “Longing for an Internet Cleanse.” It was so  relevant to everyone in this writing community that I urge everyone  to find it and read it.

In his editorial, Brooks writes of the need for each of us to slow down and honor the “step into a slower dimension of time.” Eureka! I realized that is exactly what we do when we write our Slices.  Time and time again during this month’s March Challenge I have read posts about how the writer had to make the time or take the time away from an overly crowded life in order to be able to participate in this unique writing community. ‘Tho the pace is hectic during the March Challenge, most of us do make or take the time to write. So why do we do this?

I believe it’s because we each have a deep craving to connect, to communicate, to “consider” our daily lives in ways we don’t normally take the time to do. And we equally wish to share our deep reflection with others who are doing the same. We take a time out from our hectic pace to celebrate why we are here on this earth and to reflect upon how we are spending our time while we are here.

Brooks speak of a Japanese artist, Makoto Fujimura, who has incorporated the slowing down of time into his work. For his paintings, Mako has adopted a technique that is very time consuming and meticulous, but results in very richly layered images with deep dimension. “Nohinga is slow to make and slow to see.”

He also speaks of the Greek concept of Kairos time. “When you’re with beauty, in art or in nature, you tend to move at Kairos time–slowly, serenely but thickly.”

He refers to the Sabbath, the day of rest in many religions, as endowed “with a felicity which enraptures the soul, which glides into our thoughts with a healing sympathy. It is a day on which hours do not oust one another. It is a day that can soothe all sadness away. No one, even the unlearned, crude man, can remain insensitive to its beauty.” I am not a religious person, but I certainly appreciate the restorativeness of a day of rest.

I am deeply grateful to the staff of Two Writing Teachers who continue to hold this space for us on a weekly basis (monthly in the case of the March Challenge), enabling us to  step away from the madness of our lives, into the space of contemplation and creativity which we all seek and share.

Farewell to the March Challenge, Hello to New Beginnings!

M arch has come and gone like lightening

A nd yet I’ve managed to write each day

R eflecting on my month overall…

C an it be true that I mostly posted late in the day?

H ow did that happen and why?


C areful consideration leads me to believe

H ad I done my writing earlier each day

A nd posted at a reasonable morning hour

L ots more comments would have followed.

L ate is better than never but not by much

E very post I read I enjoyed

N ext year I’ll try to be more disciplined

G oodbye for now to all you stalwart writers

E ndings lead to new beginnings. Enjoy them all!

I. Am. Not. Losing. Weight.

(Above photo:

After three months on an online weight loss plan that I thought would help me reverse the weight gain I’ve carried now for three decades, I am ready to quit. Sound familiar, mostly to the women in this writing community? Men suffer, too, but the preponderance of people hoping to lose weight appears to be women.

I had high hopes for this online program, albeit I knew very little about it when I started. The person directing the program is extremely likable and knowledgeable and I’ve interacted with him half a dozen times through a personal phone call and group calls. I had connected with the program after a serious bout of SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) that caused extreme bloat and discomfort. I even had to take a bizarre breath test to determine what type of toxic gas I was brewing in my tummy.

When I went to see my gastrointestinal doctor he was ready to put me back on strong meds. I balked. I had learned that these meds, although they do work, have side effects I could no longer live with….namely polyps in my colon and esophagus. These can be precancerous, and I’ve already had cancer. So, no thank you to the meds.

I had the good fortune to connect with the Low Fodmap Diet and my current coach. It would take to long to explain what Low Fodmap means and the biological reasons why this diet works for SIBO, but it did work for me. Within a couple weeks I saw and felt drastic improvement. So no wonder I should feel hopeful about starting the weight plan associated with the Low Fodmap Diet and with this person who was responsible for showing me a healthy way to a cure.

Despite the fact that I am keeping mostly within the caloric range I’ve been assigned, exercising more frequently than I had been doing during the winter, and tracking (mostly) the food I’ve been eating, I keep bouncing around in the same range of two to three pounds that I gain, lose, gain, lose. My guru has suggested various modifications: drink more water, eat more protein, weigh only once a week, etc. But I’m just not getting there.

My dilemma: Should I stop and find another plan? There’s a local person my friend is using and she is successfully losing weight. Perhaps I need to see my coach in person once a week/ or month. Should I keep it up on the premise some have suggested that it took a long time to gain this weight, so it will take a long time to lose it? I don’t exactly feel like a failure since I am exercising more and feeling better, but my resistance to losing weight is getting me down.

Your thoughts?

Making Travel Plans Makes Me Grumpy

Our family is taking a trip to Arizona in June to visit some of the National Parks. I did this many, many years ago and want to see them again with my daughter and husband, neither of whom has ever been to the Grand Canyon, etc. We are happily using Delta Sky Miles, so that’s a big savings already. We’ve finally made our flight reservations. Next comes the tedium of making reservations to stay overnight at our destinations. I dread it.

When I used to travel, back when there were dinosaurs, I don’t recall having to make way in advance reservations. Now there are so many people traveling you don’t dare expect to find a place to stay easily. And you might end up in a dump if you’re not careful.

Why does it cost almost 140 per person to upgrade to a seat that’s a mere 2 or 3 inches roomier? That’s $280 per roundtrip, thus negating the savings on using Sky Miles. No thanks. We’ll pass and sit elbow to elbow. At least we know each other.

Why do different days cost different amounts? And why do these amounts keep changing…from hour to hour? It’s impossible to plan a trip using “miles” without assistance from a Delta rep, and then you are charged extra for their assistance.
Does any of this make sense?

Why do some airlines charge for a first checked bag, and others not? Suddenly Delta is charging for the first bag, but for decades before now they did not?

What happened to meals on planes. They were never that good, but at least you could plan on having something to stave off hunger on a 5 to 6 hour flight. Now it’s cocktails and snacks you must pay for. Or a small bag of pretzels with a Coke. Isn’t this against the law in terms of starving your customers? Or you can pay the exorbitant prices being charged by food stations at the airports and bring on your own food. Try juggling that with your luggage, coat, computer, etc. while boarding a plane?

Do we really need travel insurance? I flew for decades without any. Now it’s a must in case something happens along the way. Or to your luggage. A lot can happen to luggage…I’ve been there. There are no guarantees when it comes to luggage.

Where is everyone going? There are no longer high and low travel seasons. Everyone is traveling all the time, never mind the cost. This boggles my mind. the first time I flew I was in my early 20’s and it was a BIG DEAL. Now I see families of 6, 8,10 people dragging their luggage through airports. Do they know about deals I don’t know about?

Yes, I’m frustrated and grumpy when it comes to pre-travel planning. Being in the air is not much more fun either. Whatever happened to free magazines to read? Conversations with seat mates no longer happen because everyone is plugged in. Air travel has become as tedious as ground travel. Maybe the answer is to stay home!

Into the Fray: Part Two

“Let’s go, Mom,” my daughter said as she burst into my bedroom to wake me up. I was supposed to wake up at 8 but I mistakenly set it for 9 (wishful thinking?). I gulped down a cup of coffee and a slice of toast with egg salad. Off we went with 2 large cardboard boxes, clear trash bags, several pairs of gardening gloves, ties for the bags and paper towels. One of the people who responded to my daughter’s call for volunteers to pick up trash today, had already been at it for over an hour. Anthony, clad in his bright red jacket, greeted us with a cheery smile and shared one of his finds with us.

He said that a Town truck had pulled up and picked up all the bags of beer cartons and bottles he had already collected and bagged.  This was not coincidental.  Apparently someone who works for the Town saw my daughter’s posting last night and called Town Hall to tell them to get someone down to the trash site asap “to save face” I suspect.  When my daughter and I arrived they were mostly leaning on their rakes, while Anthony worked.  We grabbed our gloves and bags and each immediately “adopted” our own piece of the landscape along the road to start cleaning up.

There were layers of garbage. Pick up an embedded bottle and you’d find plastic beer can holders, paper plates, and other sorts of plastic wrappers.  There were plenty of disintegrating foam pieces, too.  Mostly degrading cups, but quite a few larger pieces of boat foam as well. Maybe from coolers?

At that point John, a friend of ours, arrived and jumped out of his truck and into the fray.  Normally a quiet kind of guy, as he worked in the reeds, he fantasized out loud about how he’d like to hide in the bushes and attack the people who ate their lunches at harborside, probably in their cars, and threw their lunch trash onto the shoulder where we were working.

Then another volunteer arrived.  Elina has a lot of experience with cleanups as a member of a local conservancy.  She knew lots about which materials we were picking up could or no longer could be recycled.  She, too, jumped right in with her bags and gloves which she had brought with her.  A real garbage pro!  I loved watching her walk through the reeds speaking English with her lovely French accent as she picked up trash.

Finally, our sixth volunteer,Emily,  showed up towing her own garbage bag as well. Emily is a college student who saw our post and decided to help us out. She is tiny and thin, but before you knew it, she was dragging tires out of the reeds left along the shore of the wetlands. Emily is a superhero!

The six of us worked doggedly for a couple of hours and soon had most of the shoulder along the pond and the road cleaned up.  We had to leave behind many bags of yard waste probably dumped there by landscapers either too lazy to go to the dump, or to cheap to pay the cost of dumping their waste. Clearly, illegal dumping is as big a problem as drinking and dumping in this part of town.

I admit it was a challenge for me. So much leaning over to pick up trash made me dizzy several times so I had to stop and take a short break each time it happened. But mostly it felt good to do something for the environment.  Yes, this road is not owned by the local government. But nobody is doing anything about its upkeep and it is the gateway to our cherished harbor.  Not only is it hideously ugly, it’s a statement about the people who live here and boat here.  No one cares enough to do anything about it. Meanwhile all this plastic and disintegrating foam is leaching into the adjacent waters of the wetlands relentlessly rendering our waters more and more toxic.

The volunteers I worked beside today are my heroes. We were Four Feisty Women + 2 wonderful guys ranging in age from early 20s to early 70s.  I’m sure we made a difference today and I hope more people will join us next time.  Sadly, there’s enough trash around town to keep everyone busy for quite a while.

Before we began our cleanup:thumbnail (7).jpeg

After we completed our cleanup for today.thumbnail (8).jpeg




Back Into the Fray: Picking Up Garbage Along the Waterfront

My family and I became actively involved in local politics over a year ago.  Suddenly, luxury apartments were being built all over town with no regard for whether or not they met the needs of the residents (they do not…they are too expensive for the locals) or satisfied the regulations for new development (They do not; for one thing most of them do not have access to sufficient parking, causing a big parking squeeze in town.). In response our group became a local group that calls itself Save Huntington Village.

We have had a few major successes in that we have stopped at least two development projects and have put the town officials on notice that they are being watched very carefully. But we also realize that if we continue to “talk the talk,” we also have to “walk the walk.” So bright and early tomorrow morning, my daughter and I will join a few other local residents to begin to clean up some of the trash along the waterfront nearby.  This should be of concern to the town, but obviously it is way down on their list of concerns, if they even care at all.

How can you pretend to care about the quality of life in out town, and the quality of our watershed area and yet turn a blind eye to the garbage piling up around our harbor.  Shame on you, Town of Huntington! Here are some photos of what we’ll be working on tomorrow.  We’ll keep you posted.


Senility and Storytelling: A Date With the Moth

(Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center,NYC)


Many people listen to The Moth, a fabulous radio program in existence since 1997 that is delivered over NPR stations at various time slots throughout the week.  It features real stories told by real people… stories that usually focus on a pivotal point in their lives which left them wiser for having had their experience.

The Moth at Lincoln Center.jpeg

My husband is a fan, and I occasionally listened in when I was on my way to or from somewhere. Sometimes I’d even sit in the car when I reached my destination just to hear the outcome of the story; that’s how riveting the stories can sometimes be. Luckily,  a good friend of mine called recently to ask if I’d like to join her for the annual performance of The Moth at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. Of course I said yes.

My friend and I hadn’t seen each other in almost a year though we only live about 40 minutes apart. On the way into NYC on the Long Island Rail Road we shared our latest war stories: Both of us are cancer survivors, and she is still undergoing “maintenance treatment” for her cancer. But the more interesting part of our conversation was about memory loss. She has an extremely vigilant West Coast daughter who has decided that her mother is losing her memory and needs to be tested.

To appease her daughter, my friend went through several tests, and the only one she had difficulty with was remembering five words about twenty minutes after they’ve been said to her. This happened twice.  I replied that I thought that I would probably fail the same test.  We exchanged more information about friends who are experiencing similar lapses, and about our own personal memory issues. To remember dates we now both diligently mark them on our calendars. I assured her she was not losing her mind, but was more or less in the same boat as the rest of us 70-something-year-olds, and she needed to tell her daughter  to back off.

It was a beautiful spring night in NYC. We really enjoyed The Moth. It was attended by a real NYC crowd of mixed ages: no tourists in sight.  And every seat was taken. Not only was I focused on the story tellers and the stories they told in response to the prompt: When Have You Experienced Something Magical Afoot in Your Life?, I was completely entranced by the fact that the huge audience was completely silent through the telling of each story and I only saw a couple of iPhone flashes during the program.  The behavior of the audience could serve as a model for all the audiences that are misbehaving at operas, theatre performances, movies, and concerts. We really enjoyed both the stories and the storytellers, our modern day griots.

As we stood on the subway platform to catch the train back to Penn Station, we shared our impressions of the event. We began to discuss which one or two of the five stories we’d liked best.  And then a funny thing happened: Neither of us could remember all five of the stories.  We looked at each other in horror. We made several more attempts and then I decided to look up the bio information about each of the story tellers in the playbill we were given.  That gave me enough details for me to remember the fifth story and storyteller.  All I needed was a clue.

We looked at each other again, and this time we both burst out laughing. “I won’t tell, if you won’t,” we both agreed. Upon reflection, it was my favorite story of the night!

(The newest and third collection of Moth stories, Occasional Magic, was available, so of course I bought one.  You might enjoy making  gift of it to your favorite story teller or reader…or to yourself.

Occasional Magic with The Moth.jpeg

In Tribute to Poetry and to W.S. Merwin, a Great American Poet

For the Anniversary of My Death
By W. S. Merwin

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

I love poetry. I have a couple of shelves of poetry books that I won’t part with. It’s not that I read it obsessively. Actually, I only read poetry now and then when the mood strikes me. Because it’s not like other reading. My mind has to be receptive to its silences, its insinuations, its craftiness. It challenges my mind while caressing it at the same time. I didn’t start out that way. I had to shed all the knowledge I had learned in school and learn to listen to it, really hear it, before I could love it. It makes me think that all children should be read a poem a day (or each week), with nothing said about it, the point being the listening. I think that would change the world.

Today’s Slice is a tribute to  much beloved American poet. W.S. Merwin whodied March 15, 2019, in Haiku, Haiku-Pauwela, HI at the age of 91. For more about him visit:

Exercising to Celtic Fiddling


(Above is one of my family’s favorite fiddlers, Natalie MacMaster, playing Cape Breton style Celtic fiddling with her uncle Buddy MacMaster.)

My back has been seizing up the past few days…not sure why. I’ve been walking more than I was a month ago, due to the nicer weather. And I have been going to my chair yoga classes 2x per week, most of the time. Tonight it started to become almost unbearable, so I knew I had to do some stretching.

I quickly put together stuffed peppers for dinner. I already had cooked the rice and cleaned and softened the peppers last night. All I had to do was sautee and season the ground turkey, mix it with the white rice, add some chopped tomatoes and seasoning, top it off with shredded cheddar cheese, and add some crushed tomatoes to the pan to keep the peppers from drying out as they cooked in the oven.

Meanwhile, in the living room, my daughter had been revving up her violins which is something she hasn’t done in quite a while. She was playing some lively and sonorous Celtic music by memory. I was amazed that she could still do that. I finally found my way to the living room floor and as soon as my body hit the floor I could feel how out of alignment it was. My torso was almost in a convex position. I knew I had to ease my back muscles to the floor to accomplish anything that would help my back, so that is what I worked on first. Meanwhile, C. kept fiddling.

Slowly I worked out this enormous kink in my back, got my torso to rest against the floor, and began stretching my legs and back in various, very gentle ways. Usually I prefer quiet when I am stretching but I was really enjoying the live music and the fact that she was having such fun playing it.

I squirmed around for a while longer, then just let my back hug the floor and let go. The music had taken over my brain and I just let myself go with it. I lay there for another 5-10 minutes enjoying the relief. My daughter was almost done playing her fiddle.

How lucky am I to have my own personal spa, complete with live Celtic fiddling. Maybe next time we can do Bach or Vivaldi together. By the way, the stuffed peppers were delicious!