Monday, August 31, 2009

a fledgling bike rider

I have not ridden a bike years. I mean literally, years. A few weeks ago I decided it was time to not only ride a bike, but become a bike owner. So my wonderful cousin built me a bike. The day I got it I tried to ride it and fell a bunch of times. Then I carried it up 3 flights of stairs and set it ever so neatly against the wall in my room. Knowing that I would eventually need to succumb and purchase all the necessary paraphernalia needed to own a bike in New York City, I began by finally buying a bike helmet last weekend. The heavy chain needed to lock my bike to posts around the borough will probably be the last of my purchases, and will only be done after I have convinced myself that I am, and will be, a biker in this City.
And today, determined to practice this thing that I used to do so effortlessly when I was 7, I carried that bike downstairs and got on it. At first, just getting going was hard for me. Making sure not to wobble too much because I could very well just get hit by a car. But today I did it. I got on, and I pedaled. And it was smoother than it has been.
And then I experienced the inclines of Brooklyn streets. They look so unassuming, all tree-lined and beautiful. Don't let that brownstone facade fool you. At one point I was going SO slow, and had such a pained expression on my face that the people zooming by on their bikes actually asked if I was OK. Ya, two of them. "You OK?!?" They yelled as I trudged on by. One guy passed me on his bike and was talking on the phone the whole time! I tried it. I lifted my hand up to my ear JUST to see if I could possibly ever do that. And, no. The answer to that was, no.
Although I should have come home feeling defeated - instead I felt proud. I was conquering my fears. Trying something new. It will take me a while to be, myself, zooming around the streets. But the fact that I'm trying is enough for me right now. It is nice having something so tangible to overcome.
I have to remember to tell my new incoming class this story. I think they would completely relate.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lucy Caulkins is a well known figure in the education world. She created a philosophy for the teaching of reading and writing to children.
This morning she opened up the Reader's Workshop training with an address to the teachers, principals, learning specialists, superintendents, and all 700 of us who were gathered there to listen. I have to say, she is inspiring. Most of all because of her use of stories in illustrating a point. This morning she shared a story about her 88 year old mother. I tried to write down as much of the story as I could so as not to lose the meaning of it as told in her words and from her perspective, but it was difficult. She told it so well.
'My mother is a strong woman. One of the strongest women I know. So to see her age has been difficult.
The other day I was at my parents house and we were in the kitchen. She was lifting up a cup of water to put into the coffee maker. She missed it and the water spilled all over the floor. My father and I continued to talk, pretending that we didn't see what had just happened. Mom slowly walked over to the towels and and picked one up. As she did, it dropped. She kicked it all the way to the stove and then mopped it up using her feet. She tried again. Took another cup of water and lifted it up to put into the coffee maker. Her hand moved higher, higher up still, and then spill. All over the floor.
At this point we couldn't ignore the fact that my mother was having this difficulty. My father sprang to his feet. Rushed over to the coffee maker, yanked it out of the plug and proclaimed: I am sick of this thing. It never worked quite right. We are getting a new one!
And with that, he threw it away.
The next day there was a whole new coffee maker in the kitchen. One with a hole big enough that you couldn't miss.'

This is love.


The word 'empathy' came up a lot today. Almost every hour actually. By different people. So I thought it worth while to explore.
Webster would define it as "the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another..."
One of the keynote speakers in a class I was in today described it as the ability to put yourself in another persons shoes and feel what they feel. Apparently a few years back at a commencement speech, when asked what his wish was for every college graduate, Obama stated, 'that they all have empathy'.
We are the only creatures on this planet that have the capacity for this emotion. And through conversation and reading and experiencing and being - we can feel it. It is what draws us all closer together. And what allows us to understand that we are, essentially, one.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It was an awesome day in San Francisco. There were 5 of us in the car for most of the day. Some of the best people I know.
We saw sights, we ate good food, we had ice cream, we looked over the Golden Gate bridge.
Then we met up with more people. People who were not a part of our lives earlier in the week and all of a sudden we interacted as though we were family. As though we had known of each other all along. We laughed, we had a few serious discussions, we ate corn dogs. It was the kind of day you wish you had more often. And the kind of day that makes you extremely appreciative to have love.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

air conditioner please!

Three weeks ago I was begging for an AC. Sweat poured out of parts of my body that I didn’t know could produce sweat. All I yearned for was 5 minutes with the air conditioner. So much so that my one conversation with my room mate from that remote island involved something along the lines of – can you just make sure the air conditioner is put into the window before I get home?

I sweat and sweat and sweat. I would talk to people all the while wondering how they could keep a straight face with sweat trickling down my face. However, I walked around in that heat almost unhesitatingly as my body slowly had grown accustomed to its new condition.

Two weeks back and I actually wake up in the middle of the night to turn off my AC off. The air it produces hurts my throat and dehydrates me. But I had wanted it so badly!

And now, I can’t even come close to bearing the heat like I used to. I walk outside and within moments I am complaining about the weather or agitated because it is so hot out; because I know that within moments I could again be in a cool, air conditioned room. My tolerance level has decreased. I have become way to dependent. All within a matter of weeks.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

One of the perks of being home in the summer is being able to watch things on TV you normally aren't home to watch. Today it was Oprah's show on Class in America.
A number of people were interviewed who recently have lost their jobs and 'slipped down' a class. It was a bit overwhelming to watch. But, in the midst of all this, the message that stood out was the humanity of people as they became humbled by their new state of existence. There seems to have emerged, from this, a greater sense of values. And a commonality as people begin to realize that many others share their story. An economics professor noted, "The economy will get better, I promise, but I hope we don't lose sight of what really matters."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I took a train to Long Island this morning and met up with a good friend and colleague of mine who lives out there. We toured South Hampton, walked around the cute little town, in and out of stores with price-tags that are too high to recount, bought over-priced (but delicious) sandwiches, and made our way to the beach, which, of course, you have to pay for to sit on. The homes are set back a mile from the road with hedges so high you might be able to sneak a peak if the gardner did a poor job of pruning that week. I couldn't help but notice the stark contrast of the life I was witnessing today with that of the one I lived a mere 2 weeks ago on the island of St. Lucia. How could these two extremes occupy the same planet? How can we be this disconnected from one another?

On the ride back home, we hit bumper to bumper traffic. For 30 minutes we inched forward, which seemed odd for 4 pm on a Tuesday. A few miles down the road we saw the reason for the delay - across the street a terrible accident. More than 4 cars were involved. And they were completely turned over all over the road. A mile of highway space had been blocked. As we passed the scene, the traffic on the other side of the highway became seen. Miles upon miles of cars were lined up. Many of whom would not know for hours what the cause of the delay actually was. Hundreds of lives were being effected by this one accident down the road. Each car, each life inside each car, now interrupted due to the unfortunate fate of another member of humanity. They may never know one another but they were now connected and effected by one another's lives.

And I realized that no matter how distant and far apart the various lives and different circumstances actually are, that we are truly all interconnected. And our actions effect, sometimes very indirectly, the lives of all the other people who inhabit our planet.

Visit to the NYC Public Library

There is something so inspiring about libraries. I decided today, after 5 years of living in New York City, to visit the big public library on 5th Avenue. The building itself is astounding, and the molding and intricate design of the interior is nothing short of inspiring. I walked the halls, David Grey in ear, and got lost up and down the stairs leading from one room to another. Why I waited so long to discover this place is beyond me. It is a place of total solitude which resides in the right smack dead center of this crazy, hectic, buzzing City I call home.
I finally stumbled upon a room with rows upon rows of tables, with only a smattering of folks occupying the chairs which belonged to them. Paintings adorned the walls with portraits of what I would only assume are great writers of the past.
I found a seat - at this point the music had been turned off because there is something so incredible about the sound of silence and minds at work.
I began reading from Paulo Coelho's book of thoughts and reflections, Like the Flowing River. He had one piece about a pianist in a mall. He explained how that one talented man played because it made him happy, because he loved the piano. This part resonated: 'we each of us have our personal legend to fulfill, and that is all. It doesn't matter of other people support us or criticize us, or ignore us, or put up with us - we are doing it because that is our destiny on this earth, and the fount of all joy...He was talking to God through his work, and nothing else mattered.'
Here's to discovering our own personal legends and having the courage to fulfill them.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Waking Up in St. Lucia

Let's just paint the picture of my morning. To give an idea of what it's like.
At 4 a.m., Ms. Drusilla begins to stir. I know this because the thin piece of wood that separates the room I stay in and hers does not quite reach the ceiling, and since I sleep on the top bunk of the bed (below which sleeps 3 of the girls) I am indeed very close to Ms. Drusilla's room. Although there is often a cool breeze in the mornings here, the screen on the window, doubled with the thickness of my mosquito net, leave very little that actually cools my body - which pretty much sweats through the night.
At 5 a.m. the rooster starts it's crowing, which wakes the goats who begin their singing at intervals of 5 seconds, accompanying the rooster until 7 a.m. It's just a constant melody. For two whole glorious hours. Once in a while the cow jumps in with a deep, guttural 'Mooo', which the first few mornings I mistook for the vibrating of my cell phone.
Around 5:30, the bread car begins his honking. Every morning he brings his fresh bread by, honking up and down the street for what feels like hours, but probably never surpasses one. I try desperately to block the noise which, thanks to my Myrtle Avenue side sleeping for the last 3 years, I have grown quite accustomed to.
It's close to this time that Ms. Drusilla is now up and running...and then slowly but surely, 6 little pitter pattering feet begin to join her as the morning rolls by.
By 6:30 the household is now completely awake, except for me. I have been trying, desperately, to hold on to sleep for the last 2 hours, only awoken occasionally by the slamming of a door, the yelling of a child's name, or the kicking of the bed frame from down below.
Finally, at 7:30, it is indeed impossible. For it is at this time that the daily obituaries are being loudly proclaimed on TV, accompanied by Mariah Carey's, One Sweet Day - and sweat has now completely overtaken my body.
I slowly move to a seated position, contemplating how to get down the ladder of the bunk bed without breaking my foot. And immediately I am greeted by 4 pairs of eyes peering through the netting, and a "Mornin' Sleepin' Beauty" which I can only assume means - who invited the lazy ass into the house.
And thus the day begins.