Barking to the Choir

There’s lots to write about but I’m going to write just a short post today about Greg Boyle whose two books, Tattoos on the Heart and Barking to the Choir have just blown me away.  Greg Boyle has been working with gangs in East Los Angeles for about thirty years.  I can’t even begin to imagine the people whose lives have been changed by his work…not just the gang members and former gang members but anyone who has met him, read his books, listened to him speak.

I just love this guy.  His books made me laugh, made me cry, made me think. And as I’ve said before a book that does even one of these is a good book. If it does all three, it’s a great book.

Someone once asked Whoopi Goldberg who was the living person she most admired.

Pope Francis, she says.  He’s going  with the original program.

Greg Boyle goes with the original program too. He truly honors the light in everyone, even the scariest guy who walks through his doors. I need to buy his books so I can highlight everything.  (I listened to them on my iPod)  I did write down a few things he said.

The ultimate measure of health in any community might well reside in our ability to stand in awe at what folks have to carry rather than in judgement of how they carry it.

Or how about his quote from Anne Lamott:  You know you’ve created God in your own image and likeness when He hates everyone you hate.

When he goes out to speak he often brings former gang members with him to tell their stories.  One guy was particularly successful and started going out on speaking engagements of his own.  And then, one day, came into Greg’s office to give him “tips” on how to do public speaking.

“What you need to do, G” he said, is “sprinkle your talk with self-defecating humor.”

“No shit,” Greg answered.

I would love it if everybody read these book but especially teachers, social worker and cops.  I wish I had read them when I was a teacher.  I would have been so much kinder, so much more compassionate, so much more patient.

Oh, and if you don’t want to read, check out You Tube. There are lots of videos from speaking engagements he’s done.

End of commercial.

Love to all. Have a good day.



Three Books

Today I had breakfast with my sister, Eileen, at Panera in North Port.  I had told Jerry that I thought I’d go to a presentation at the new library at the other end of the city after breakfast.  Each year, the county picks a “Sarasota Reads” book.  This year it’s Sing for Your Life by Daniel Bergner.

I almost didn’t go.  It was so gorgeous when I left Panera and I had a “to do” list at home. I didn’t know if I wanted to go listen to the author of a book I hadn’t read yet.  Not when the sun was out and it was finally warm outside.  But it was just down the road and I figured I could sit in the back and sneak out if it wasn’t positively riveting.  Some authors are good writers but not so great speakers…

But I am SO glad I went.  And I can’t wait to read the book, the story of a young, very angry black kid who had so much NOT going for him.  After one more beating from his mom, when he was just a sixth grader, Ryan pulled a knife on his mother. She subdued him and noticed a drawing on the floor titled “my killing plan,” depicting her with a severed head. She called the police and had Ryan committed to  a juvenile detention facility where he spent two horrific months, often in solitary confinement.  This book is the story about how very scary kid grew up to sing opera at the Met in New York City.

The author hooked me immediately.  He was honest. He was engaging,  He made us laugh.  He made me cry when he described the teachers who had made a difference in this kid’s life.  And as soon as I finish the book I’m reading, I’ll be picking up Sing for Your Life. He talked about whether a white Jewish guy whose childhood  was just fine could accurately write the story of a black kid whose childhood had been as far from fine as it could be. His discussion of race and privilege and bridging the gap and empathy was spot on.

I’m almost finished with The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. He wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas which broke my heart and A History of Loneliness, another good one.  The guy is versatile. None of them are the same style.  Anyway, this latest one is long but so good.  I liked it immediately.  It made me laugh even as it made me horrified and sad.  But this book gets better and better as you keep going.  I only have ninety pages to go and I’ll be so sad to see it end.  I love this book and these characters.

And I’m rereading LaRose by Louise Erdrich….and loving it even more the second time.

Okay, three books…treasures all of them.

Have a great weekend!

March in Sarasota

Ringling Bridge, Sarasota

It wasn’t the most beautiful day in the world but honestly, that was fine with me.  You can’t wear a knit pink pussy hat when it’s sunny and  80º.  It gets HOT crossing the bridge when the sun is beating down.  So I don’t think I was the only one happy to see a gray, somewhat chilly day for the march this year.

Last year Martha and I were in Washington.  And we loved every minute of it from the plane trip up full of fellow marchers to the packed streets in Washington to the dinner at Kathleen’s  house later in the evening.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I felt like I was part of something historical.

This march was easier, that’s for sure. We headed up 41 to Sarasota midmorning, met up with lots of friends at the statue at waterfront park and had a great walk across the bridge and back.  My friend, Shirley, took the picture above. She says I’m somewhere in that crowd…not sure where.

I think the loveliest thing about this year’s march for me was Martha’s granddaughter, Brenna, a seventh grader, who joined us.  Brave girl, spending the day with her grandmother and friends.  She made a wonderful

Brenna and Martha

Check out the hats…Martha made most of them

sign and was so gracious to everyone who stopped and asked to take her picture.  We teased her that she was going to make the front page of the Trib…Much to her relief she did not.  Still there was something special about having her with us.  We really were marching for the Brennas of this world who one day are going to have to deal with the mess we have created in our lifetime. And if there are enough Brennas out there, we will be leaving our planet in good hands.

We finished off the day at Walt’s Fishmarket Restaurant on 41…Never been there before but we’ll be back.  Delicious! Popular place…got the last parking spot at 2:45 PM, had to wait for a table.  Snowbird season!  And a dark day.  What else is there to do besides march and go to lunch?

It’s beginning to warm up again.  Honestly, it’s been COLD here.  One morning it was 31º.  Ask me if I showed up at yoga…NOT!  But 30 brave people did show up for the 8:00 class.  And got their picture in the local paper.  Doesn’t the sand look like snow?

Yoga when it was 31. Picture in the local paper.

Me? I didn’t even set the alarm that day.  I woke up, read a bit and finally rolled out of bed around 8:00.  It’s happened a bit too often lately.  Too cold…I stay in bed. Or today it was raining…didn’t jump out of bed this morning either.  I could get used to this very easily.  Good thing I love yoga and my yoga friends so much and the cold weather doesn’t last.  I’d turn into a slug!



A group of us went to see The Post last week.  What a movie. I loved it.  It might be my favorite movie in the last six months (and I’ve seen a lot!)  It brought back so many memories of that time in our lives, of Vietnam and protests and vigils.  What a terrible time that was.  It reminded me that we’ve been through some tough times before and we and our country came out the other end.  The thing that struck me the hardest was how brave they were, putting everything on the line to protect freedom of the press.  What incredible courage it must have taken.

I’m rereading LaRose by Louise Erdrich.  Beautifully written but I’ll never get my head wrapped around the idea that they had to give their five year old away to make up for a terrible accident.  I’m Actually I’m listening to LaRose. I’m reading The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne.  (Don’t you love that title)  It makes me laugh and horrifies me.  The opening pages are horrifying enough…damn those Irish priests.  Thanks, Barry, for the loan of the book. I’ll return it soon.

Stay warm, everyone.  I’ve enjoyed wearing socks and sweaters but I’m ready for tee shirts and shorts…hopefully it’s coming back soon.

At the march

January in Venice

What is this?  Gale force winds. Temperatures in the 40s and 50s (even the 30s at times)  Dark skies.  I can’t remember when we’ve had so many days when I had to convince myself to get out of bed and get moving.  We did have some gorgeous days this past week when it was cool in the morning (needing socks for yoga cool) but well into the high 70s by afternoon. But we’re back to cold weather …well, cold for us, anyway.

I got to yoga yesterday morning, stepped out of the car and immediately went rummaging around the trunk for socks, hat, leggings, extra jacket.  (I definitely have never learned to travel light. I’m prepared for anything)  I went to the rest room to add on some layers…looked a tad ridiculous with the leggings under by yoga pants that stopped mid-thigh but hey, I never did look particularly classy.

We went to Croissant and Company afterwards to reward ourselves for sticking it out. Actually it hadn’t been bad at all.  Sometimes it’s worse in the parking lot than on the beach. Still coffee and a pastry at the local French bakery with friends is such a good way to begin the day. (after yoga, I mean.) I call Croissant and Company, Cheers without the booze.  We know everyone…the owners, the wait staff, the bakers, the patrons.  Love that place.

Busy week…Met with the dentist who’s going to do my root canal (ugh) next Friday, went to a funeral (Celia was only 66 and perfectly fine until she wasn’t), visited a friend in the hospital (another friend who was fine until she wasn’t and needed bypass surgery and ended up having complications,) lunch with my good friend, Mary Anne (who is still doing well three years after a Stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis) and with my dear sister, Eileen, who is almost as busy as I am.

I had two “Audubon days” too.  The Audubon club in Venice sponsors a program for second graders in south county to introduce them to Florida birds.  They send teachers into the classroom with a power point and activities and lessons to teach kids how to use binoculars. Finally, we meet the kids at the local rookery where herons and anhingas and egrets are in the process right now of building nests and raising babies on a little island in a tiny pond right in the center of Venice.

Great program and this year I’m working with Cranberry’s second graders. Yes, back to my old stomping grounds where I have the extra treat of reconnecting with old friends.  And, much as I’m loving being with those cute little second graders, I am so incredibly happy to be heading home after a couple hours.  I wasn’t meant to work more than a few hours a day, not any more anyway.

Oh and I had a mammo…which  I assume was fine because my doctor didn’t call me the next day and I figure if things are bad they call right away. They certainly did with the last cancer.  They called within an hour for the esophageal cancer. So I think I’ve dodged that bullet, for now anyway.

We’ve seen a few movies lately. The Florida Project was really good.  Four of us drove to north Sarasota to see it.  One hated it (right, Ann?) but I think the rest of us really liked it.  Or maybe like isn’t the right word.  It’s terrible, it’s horrifying, it’s honest and if you teach kids or have taught kids, you spend most of the the time thinking “Thank God that kid isn’t in my class” and “Oh my God, I’ve had so many kids like that” and “How on earth can a kid ever get OUT of this mess.”  And Jerry and I saw The Darkest Hour…great movie.  We especially liked it because we’ve been to the bunker where Churchill’s war room was and to Parliament where so much of this took place.  We want to see The Post next…probably on Thursday.

And we went to a party last night…fabulous food and wonderful friends. (Thanks, Martha) Most of the guys got hooked on the Patriots game and most of the women talked and talked and talked.  (what else is new?)

I just finished reading Manhattan Beach (thanks, Deirdre)..liked it a lot.  And I’m listening to The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (Thanks, Linda)  Thoroughly enjoying it.  And I started The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (thanks, Anne).  Loving it.

And one of my New Year’s resolutions was to work for one hour a day on “my book” about teaching …Umm…that hasn’t gone so great.  I owe myself (what’s the date?) fourteen hours already.  Maybe this week.


Love to all…stay warm. Stay safe.  Hmm…I need to find a good picture before I send this out.

A few good words…and an old picture of the seven siblings….Taken in 1964 shortly after Karen was born. We were so darn cute!

2018-New Life, More Joy

When Jerry and I were in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving, we stopped for lunch with Sean and Carly on our first day.  As we waited for the food to arrive, I started telling them our plans for the coming year.

We’re heading to Texas in late February, I said, first for my checkup at MD Anderson and then to Flower Mound to babysit for the Littles when Erin and Lana go to Europe with the middle school. Then we thought we’d fly out to San Francisco in June, see family and slowly make our way down the Pacific Coast Highway till we get to Los Angeles, stay with you for a bit before heading home.

Sean shook his head.

I don’t think June is good, he said casually,  I think you’d rather come in May…

I’m thinking, “Why, does it get too hot in June? What’s the matter with June?” when he finished his sentence..

…in May, so you’ll be there for the baby.

Struck dumb for a moment and then I promptly burst into tears.  Yep, a new one is on her way.  Yes, HER way…a tough, smart little girl who will join her older cousins around May 18.

Our newest grandchild

So obviously we’ll plan our trip for May, fly into San Francisco and make our way down to them, slowly if the baby takes her time arriving and quickly if she decides to show up early.

I have lots of great “Sean stories” to tell this little girl. One of my favorites was when Lana was around five and really into the Disney princesses. It was Christmas time and we were all at Erin’s.  Sean and Carly had been a couple for awhile but I had enough sense NOT to ask when they were getting engaged.  Lana, on the other hand, didn’t read that memo.

Miss Carly, she asked at dinner one night, when are you going to marry your prince?

We all looked up expectantly (we had been hoping there would be a diamond that Christmas)

Carly blushed and said, ” I don’t know, Lana.”

“Well,” says her future niece, “if your prince doesn’t come, you could always marry Uncle Sean.”

I was just telling Lana that story today and Calli commented, “And she did.  Guess her prince never showed up.”

My guess is that her prince DID show up…

I’m not sure what Carly was like as a baby.  Sean was the baby who never slept.  I remember a new mom  asking me when Sean was around five, “When did Sean finally sleep through the night?”

I thought for a minute and then said, “Never.  I just quit getting up with him.  And when he was old enough, I gave him a thermos of water and told him he could manage on his own.” Hopefully this kid doesn’t take after his dad in that way.

Needless to say, we’re all thrilled.  Happy for Sean and Carly and happy for us.  Our “Littles” aren’t so little any more…time for a new one to hold and coo over.

The Littles have been here for the past week.  They’re growing up, happy to be on the go (we were at the beach and they were in 69º water) and happy to sit and read or play games on their iPad.  Liked the trip to Manatee Park n Fort Myers and the family card games.  Calli went to yoga with Jerry and me and then to Croissant and Company for breakfast. (hot chocolate and an eclair–am I nuts?)  They’ve been to swim team practice at the Y. They swam there during the summer and the coach told them to come back any time.  Today is their last day.  We might go up to Myakka State Park to do the canopy walk and see the alligators.  They plan to go to swim team practice tonight (are they nuts? It’s 50º out) There’s also full moon yoga.  It’s a pack up, laundry day for them.  They’re heading to Cape Canaveral and then to Miami tomorrow morning.  We’ll miss them but will see them again at the end of February.

Happy New Year, my friends.  We are so looking forward to 2018…especially May!!!  And I know the two of them will be fine parents. They’ve been trained by three very cool kids.

Sean and Lana 2006

Joy to the World

Merry Christmas from Downtown Venice

Well, if you are reading this, you’ve survive 2017.  I started the year in DC at the Women’s March with Martha Magliacane and may end the year with another march in Sarasota.  We’ll see.  I’m hoping that won’t be necessary.

At any rate, it’s been quite a year. It’s been incredibly beautiful.  And joyful. And filled with laughter and friendship and new beginnings.  And also with challenges and loss and heartbreak and frustration.  But yes, ultimately, the light does triumph over the darkness, doesn’t it?

It’s been absolutely gorgeous here lately.  We had a cold snap (got down into the 40s!!) but we’re  back to shorts and tee shirt weather.  Good thing.  I have a limited supply of serious winter clothes!  Christmas will be relatively quiet.  Sean and Carly are staying in California.  Erin and Brent and the

2010? Best. Santa. Ever

kids will be here later in the week but on Christmas Day it will be Jerry and I, Eileen (my sister) and Jim and a few good friends.  Not too quiet, thank heavens but a far cry from the years we’ve been in Texas up at the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought.  At 7, 9, and 11, I’m guessing only one of them is still a believer but as of last year, even the oldest played along with the magic.

They’ve never been here at Christmas time before.  I’m hoping we’ll get out to the magical fairyland of lights on Mission Valley Road in Nokomis.  And maybe hit the beach for fireworks on New Year’s Eve. And I think there will be full moon yoga while they’re here.  Calli will go even if the others don’t.  She’s my yoga buddy.

Lord, we are lucky.  We sat out on the lanai the other days and just looked around.  It was warm and green and gorgeous.  We’d been to the local French cafe for a breakfast with friends. We may get kicked out of that place one of these days for laughing too loudly, except the owners are  such  good friends. They just added to the noise.  We had been there a couple days before to celebrate their granddaughter’s first birthday….an after hours party for the cafe regulars.

Croissant and Company Rose is one!

Anyway, we’re lucky.  We live in a place we love. We have good friends to share the good and the bad and the ugly with.  Our grandkids like it here and come often.  What more could we ask for?

Everything isn’t perfect…just darn close.  I did miss some really special gatherings last week because I was so sick for a couple days.  That was not great.  But I guess that’s it. Everything else is great.

I’ve been reading two fabulous books…I just finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish.  It reminded me a bit of People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.  It moves back and forth between present day and the 1600s in England.  It’s one of those books that I liked from the very beginning but about two thirds of the way through, the liking turned to love as I grew to care very deeply for the characters…both the present day ones and the 1600s ones.

The other book is 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster.  Warning:  it’s long.  Warning #2:  it’s weird.  Kind of like Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  Four different versions of the same kid’s life…born in 1947 in New Jersey…I was born in 1947 so I keep making comparisons.  Trust me, this kid was way ahead of me…in bed with his girlfriend at age 16.  I led a very sheltered life.

I also loved Ta Nehisi Coates new one…We Were Eight Years in Power but warned a friend of mine, “If you don’t believe that racism is very much alive in the USA today and if you don’t love Barak Obama, you’re not going to love this book.” I did love it.  I think I’d love anything Coates wrote.

And I thoroughly enjoyed Christina Baker Kline’s A Piece of the World and Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire.  (Can you tell I was on long airplane trips to Las Vegas and back and sick for awhile …tons of time to read.)

Enough…have to take a quick shower, have supper and go out to play Trivia where I can display my thorough ignorance of almost everything.  We have a great team and actually win (or come in second or third) fairly often.  Mostly we just laugh.

Love to you all.  My life is so rich because of each and every one of you.  I hope your holidays are marked by the “peace that passes understanding” and a “fullness of joy.”  And may we all look forward to a new year with hope and courage.

In Los Angeles


Yoga on the Beach



Tis the Season

Bryce Canyon

Thanksgiving was marvelous….very different but wonderful.  We were in Las Vegas with Sean and Carly and had dinner at Carly’s dad’s country club.  Delicious food and lots of it.  My favorite was the shrimp cocktail…I could have made a meal out of just that. It did take concentrated effort to keep reminding myself that if I eat to much, I pay later.  I’ve gotten so used to eating small portions that I’m pretty good at it.  Still, every now and then, I forget.  I solved the problem but grabbing small plates and NOT going back for more.  It’s been so long since I’ve had problems with my small stomach.  I have no intention to start now!

Red Rock with Sean and Carly

Red Rock Canyon with Sean and Carly

Anyway, we loved being with Sean and Carly.  We did a little hiking at Red Rock Canyon.  Very little. Florida is so flat that even if I think I’m in shape, I’m not.  Uphill walking is just plain tough.  If I didn’t hate gyms so much, I’d go to the Y and use the treadmill on an incline.  But I’m not all that determined to get in shape, I guess.

We took a bus trip out to Bryce Canyon.  I’m not sure what it was…the time of day, the quality of the light, the lack of crowds, the stunning rock formations (hoodoos) …but it simply blew me away.  I loved it far more than the Grand Canyon.  I was dazzled.  How on earth could something be so magnificent, so breathtakingly beautiful?

We hiked along the rim for several hours, all bundled up (it was around 35) with hats, scarves, long underwear, mittens…Our fellow travelers made fun of “the Floridians” –some of them made do with a sweatshirt–but we were just fine and plenty warm.  I do want to go back and hike into the canyon, but only if I figure out a way to get in shape without going to the Y.

Brice Canyon

So now we’re home and so glad to be here.  I met an old friend from high school for lunch in Sarasota today.  How wonderful to see Anne again.  Honestly, we had such fun catching up and reminiscing about high school back in the 60s.

We’ll be here for Christmas this year. On Christmas Eve we’re heading to Naples to celebrate with Jerry’s sister and nieces and their families.  Erin and her gang are coming after Christmas but on Christmas day we’re on our own.  Eileen and Jim are coming for dinner and two other couples.  If there’s anyone else here who’s going to be alone and wants to come to dinner, speak up.  The more the merrier.  And unless it’s freezing (like 65) we can use the table on the lanai if it gets too crowded indoors.

I’ve seen a few movies lately.  Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing,, Missouri.  Really good but brace yourself.  It is far more complex that it appears at the beginning.  And violent. And funny.  And sad.

Ladybird….delightful.  What a good movie.

Wonder…cried all the way through it.  (Thank you, Martha, for inviting me to join you and the girls!)

We discussed A Man Called Ove at Book Club.  I still love that book.  It still makes me howl with  laughter and cry.

And I read a couple good ones recently…

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott…Such a lovely book and the nuns in the book are just wonderful.

Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle….This priest is exactly the kind of person I want to be.  The book makes you laugh right out loud and takes your breath away.

To the New Owners by Madeleine Blais….Madeleine Blais lives in Amherst.  She’s written several books I’ve enjoyed including one about growing up in South Hadley. This one is about her family house on Martha’s Vineyard.  She’s a great writer and her family knows all sorts of interesting people.

As I write this, I’m keeping track of the fires in California.  I just talked to Erin (she and her family are with Sean and Carly this week)  They all reassured me that they are MILES away from the fire.  It’s actually quite close to Sean’s old apartment near UCLA.  I begged them to stay alert.  Fire can travel fast and I’ve heard stories of people who got the word to evacuate and it was already too late.  I’m assuming they’ll be smart and err on the side of caution.  Wish I could just scoop them all up and move them 100 miles down the road.

Hoping you are all having a great holiday season.  Enjoy every minute with the people you love.  Much love to all