Worldwide Bloom


I sit here in mild disbelief that today is April 20th.  My last post was on April 5th - that was fifteen days ago, yet it feels like I shut my eyes for a nap... and apparently awoke fifteen days later.  April is one of those time-warp months, cause it bridges winter to spring.  Forty degree April 1st (aka winter) feels worlds away from 80 degree April 20th (aka spring/summer).  The past week has been particularly bloom-y and springlike.  Everything is coming back to life, and it feels great.

After losing dad in late November, I kinda appreciated the fact that my "season" of grief aligned with winter; it made total sense.  I felt dead, and the world looked dead, so it worked.  I was able to hibernate and hide under the covers and silently freak out for a few months, just as the rest of the world (or the parts that celebrate winter) did a similar thing.  Winter is all about being inside, both literally and figuratively, so going into my shell and mourning the loss of my beloved dad during the winter worked out really good. 

But now- now it's spring, and everything and everyone is coming back to life, myself included.  The worldwide bloom is contagious.  The numbness of loss remains, but the hard edge has softened and the sun feels real good on my face.  I just want to stand here and soak it in for a minute, or a month.  I hope you are all enjoying your own personal blooms, and are taking the time to stop and feel the sun on your faces.  

More later, my loves.  Until then, bloom on.

The Underground


You know what's one of my all-time favorite things?  It's something that, even on the crappiest of days, can make me smile and feel genuinely happy (other than family/friends/animals/books).  Even when I wake up on the grumpy side of the bed on a dreary, rainy morning and forget my umbrella and miss my Dad and have a horrible day at work, this thing has the power to turn my day around and my frown upside down. 

It's something that is free, and is available to everyone every single day.  Despite how  available and accessible this thing is to just about everyone, I think it is under-valued, or under-appreciated, or simply goes unnoticed.  I can't speak for every locale, but I imagine that this thing happens in cities across the world, particularly when the masses are pouring in and rushing out of said cities. 

I've come to the point where I need to identify the thing so that I can stop referring to is as thing and start talking about the actual people that comprise the thing.  Any idea what the thing is?  Take a guess and say it out loud before you scroll down any further.

The thing is.....

drumroll please..........

The underground music scene that takes place in train stations and underground concourses in Philly, and around the world.  You know, the performers who lay down a hat or open their guitar case in hopes of getting a few bucks in exchange for playing or singing a few tunes.  This, my friends, is one of my favorite things.

Every morning and every evening, musicians of every caliber and background tuck themselves into the nooks, crannies and corridors of underground Philadelphia and serenade us commuters as we make our way from point A to point B.  There are soul singers, banjo players, five piece bands, acoustic guitar players, sitar players, keyboardists, and even classical violinists.  It's like a free festival underground, and has truly become one of the highlights of my daily grind.  I never used to carry cash, but now I try to keep a wad of singles to give monetary props to those that provide the soundtrack to my daily commute.  

My all-time favorite guy, who plays the keyboard and sings Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder, has not achieved YouTube fame, at least not that I can find.  So I'll leave you with this clip of an amazing (and young!) violinist who turns Suburban Station into Symphony Station every day.  Enjoy!  


The Case of the Swiped Slice


I want you to imagine the way it smells when you walk into a pizza shop.  Close your eyes for a minute (after you read this sentence) and really allow your olfactory system to be overwhelmed by the delicious aroma of pizza.  (Ok go) 

Can you see it in your mind's eye?  Your favorite pizza baking in the oven, your desire for it rising in sync with its rising dough, like two hearts beating as one.  Soulmates, you and this slice.  It is being made for the sole purpose of bringing you joy.  And when it emerges from the oven?  Heaven on a plate.  That first bite?  Like a first kiss with a true love.  Nobody can mess with the bond between you and your pizza.  

Until they do.  

This morning, as I trudged through the first few hours of work, I kept remembering what was waiting for me in the fridge.  "Yesssssssssss!", I thought, as I remembered the thin-crusted, triangle-shaped piece of tomato, basil and cheese goodness that awaited me.  Finally, at 1:00, I obeyed the grumbling in my belly, put aside my work, and strutted with sweet anticipation to the kitchen.  After working hard all week, I deserved this little slice of heaven on earth.  And with that, I opened the fridge.  


I looked right, I looked left, I blinked, I rubbed my eyes, I blinked some more, I closed the fridge.  "Hmmm, I know I put it right on the center shelf, in the middle, in a brown paper bag", I reassured myself.  "Let me look again, it has to be here".  I opened the fridge again, and ripped it apart.  I looked in every drawer, on every shelf, and inside every brown bag; I even looked in the freezer, just in case.  

My pizza was gone.  

I was so confused, and sad, and pissed!  I went back to my desk and composed the following email to my colleagues:  "Has anyone seen a slice of pizza?  I put a slice in the refrigerator yesterday afternoon, and now it's gone :( "  People offered their condolences, likened the scandal to a who-done-it game of Clue, and offered to help find it, but alas, it was nowhere to be found.  

Imagine the let-down.  Why my pizza?!  Help yourself (or steal) my apple, my turkey sandwich, my box of soup, but please, do not mess with my well-earned-Friday-treat pizza.  I have no clues as to who committed this heinous act, but I now look at my co-workers with one eyebrow raised.  How well do we really know the people we spend our days with?  Who are all these "social workers" and "advocates" working for social justice, anyway?  Ha!  If someone is capable of stealing a slice of pizza (on a Friday afternoon!), imagine what else they're capable of.  I shudder to think.

Moral of the story?  Don't bring pizza to work.  And if you do, and your slice gets swiped, well don't say I didn't warn you.  Be safe friends.


Some days, when making decisions, I feel rather indifferent and ultimately find myself questioning whether I've chosen the the right thing or am following my true path

Today was not one of those days.

I recently made the decision to stop thinking about writing a book and to actually start doing it.  I have the story in me; it's just a matter of learning the logistics and how-to's of writing a memoir.  Part of my process entails reading a lot of books on writing, particularly those on writing memoirs, but where do you start?  There is so much information available these days, and while that is a wonderful thing, it can also be daunting to have to weed through it all and find precisely what you're looking for and what speaks to you.

Today on my lunch break, I went across the street to the Borders (which is closing! sigh...) to continue my search for any books that would help demystify the writing and/or publishing process.  After looking through a few relevant books that seemed just fine, I found a book that seemed just right.  It was called Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir, by Lisa Dale Norton.  I liked how, as promised in the title, it was little; it felt like a manageable read that offered practical tips and insights on how to bring your story to the surface.  Beyond being practical, however, the author woo'ed me with her perspective and language.  She talked about things like grace, compassion, and the transformative power of sharing our stories.  For me, writing is a deeply spiritual experience, and the initial vibe I got from this book seemed to validate and honor that perspective.  So, I bought it.

I should note that the memoir I am writing is about my family and the incredible experiences we shared during the last six weeks of my dad's life.  It is not a sad story of loss, nor is it an account of the grief that accompanies and follows great loss; rather, it is a story of miracles and grace and humor, and deep, abiding love. 

As soon as I was able to, I opened the book and started reading it.  Within the first few pages, I received two distinct signs that I was indeed reading the right book for me at the right time, and that I was following my true path.  To explain those signs and their significance would take me more time than I have right now, but I'll just say that they were clear, relevant signals representing (1) what I consider to be the physical manifestation of my dad's spirit, and (2), the cultivation of something I have been praying for in recent weeks.  So, within five to ten pages, I knew deep in my heart that I had picked up the book that would transform me from wanna-be-writer to writer-for-real, and that the story I want to tell is indeed the story I need to tell. 

As the title eludes to, this book is about understanding the power of those shimmering images that are forever stored in your mind.  You know, the ones that are like snapshots of certain memories, captured in time, alive in your mind, pulsating with just enough energy to make them shimmer ever so slightly.  Lisa Dale Norton explains these potent memories as the bedrock of stories.  These snapshot memories shimmer and ripple in our minds because they are full of the energy of the story-to-be.  They are more than just vivid memories; they are the keys that unlock the stories of who we are, where we've been, what we've experienced. 

When I think of those last weeks with Dad, I have a series of shimmering images that play in my mind, that both haunt and delight me.  I have an image of Dad clapping over the prospect of chocolate cake after a pot roast dinner.  And then there's the image of him in his wheelchair, struggling to lean over the sink and brush his teeth in the final days of his life; this is forever burned into my memory.  And finally, one of the most potent visual memories I have is of the silhouette of my dad laying in his rented hospital bed in the bay window of his bedroom, in the fading afternoon light.  I can still see the texture and color of the blanket that covered him, and the position of his hands, and the softness of the light as it came in through the sheer curtains.

Anyhow, I am so smitten with this book and this author that when I came home from work, I went on Twitter and searched for Lisa Dale Norton.  No dice - she is not on Twitter.  So I decided to search for her book instead, thinking that maybe she used the book title rather than her name.  I typed "Shimmering Images" into the search box and hit enter.  No dice - the book was not on Twitter, either.  

But... what appeared was something far greater. Not the author nor the book, but a random tweet from a person that had used the phrase "shimmering images" in his tweet.  As if spoken directly to me, it said ..."those shimmering images of your father are there for a reason"...


I'm starting to understand the reason.