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Posts Tagged ‘random and fabulous’

Or … you know … somewhere that put it in the sun’s path.

What were you doing during The Great American Solar Eclipse (and were you as weirded out by the crazy branding of this natural phenomenon as I was)? I don’t live anywhere near the fabulously-named Path of Totality, but we had good viewing all the same.

I was at work yesterday, but I was totally prepared to ditch obligations and get into a position to experience this moon shadow business. (Oh, and that should have been my title, right? “I’m being followed by a moon shadow …” But “Age of Aquarius” seems more fitting for all the brotherly love that was going on during the viewing party yesterday, so I’m sticking with what I’ve got. Also, I couldn’t stop thinking about A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Am I the only one?)

So at about 2:10, my coworker and I led the exodus. We took advantage of our privilege-carrying office ID cards and got uncrowded viewing space inside the gated courtyard across the street. I didn’t have glasses, but the team we share space with had some of those Warby Parker viewing boxes, and they were up for sharing. I was alternatively prepared, however. I’d gone online and determined that I could turn my back to the sun and use the selfie mode on my phone and get some pics that way. And that worked … even though I didn’t realize it had worked until I was home last night. But folks in the courtyard were super generous with sharing their glasses, so I got to see plenty, and I took some pics that way, too.

Here are some of my coworkers in their Warby Parker boxes. I think part of the point of these boxes was really just to make folks look as silly as possible! I couldn’t love this picture more, though. 🙂

I took this by putting some borrowed eclipse glasses over my phone’s camera lens and zooming as far in as I could. Good on my Galaxy 7 for getting this shot for me!

And now it’s #eclipseselfie time! I couldn’t see a thing when I put the phone in selfie mode, so I figured my internet research was a fail. I took a handful of pics anyway, just to show how much nothing I could see. Then I got home and took a closer look and saw that, in every one of the selfies, there was an excellent eclipse reflection captured along with the sun’s glare!

This one’s my favorite. First because I love selfies like this where you can’t really see me because the sun blots me out. But also — because of the angle I’m holding the phone, I guess — the eclipse reflection is so low in the picture and comes out so nicely against the building in the background and right at cheekbone level with me!

What was your eclipse day like? Did you get some of those super fun colander and leaf-shadow pics? (I saw a great one of the eclipse through a vegetable steamer — looked like a mandala!) Hope you were able to get out and enjoy it. We’ll be much closer to the Path of Totality in 2024. Can’t wait!



It’s Slice of Life Tuesday! Head on over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the other slicers are up to!

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A day or so after I hearing the Invisibilia piece that inspired my post about Max Hawkins and his life-randomizing nonsense I saw a kindness.org video of a guy named Joe. Joe has a few things in common with Max. Both are young men, both have floppy hair, both have beards and mustaches, both are slender (though Joe looks a bit more muscular than Max), both are cute (though Joe is more straight-up, conventionally cute as opposed to Max and his nerdboy appeal). There are differences, of course. Max is bespectacled, Joe isn’t. Max is white, Joe is Black.

They share an interest in upending the way they approach human interaction, an interest in bringing more strangers into their lives.

But when I watched Joe’s video, I was left with none of the feelings I had after hearing the NPR piece on Max. Joe’s random acts of service or kindness are putting him in contact with a number of strangers, all kinds of strangers, strangers Max’s apps would never find. Joe is sharing time with some of these people — sometimes only a moment, but other times longer. He is broadening his world, randomizing his life. So why is he not annoying and upsetting me the way Max does?

Well, of course, it’s because he’s not stalking people’s private events and gate-crashing their parties. Of course it’s because he isn’t starting FB groups that encourage other people to disregard folks’ privacy. Of course it’s because he isn’t creating apps that will help abusive husbands and stalker boyfriends and fatal attraction girlfriends and thieves track people’s whereabouts. Of course.

But it’s more than that. It’s “other” than that. It’s the mindset behind Joe’s actions. One of the things that really angered me about Max’s story was his entitlement, his confidence in his right to invade other people’s spaces, his sense that — because he was bored and looking for new and fun things to do — it was okay for him to stride into someone else’s life and make himself at home.

There’s none of that with Joe. Joe’s motivation is to show some human kindness and maybe meet some nice people in the bargain. He approaches strangers and offers himself to them. There’s no sense of his feeling entitled to their time and attention, no inviting himself into their private parties and gatherings.

And he backs away when his offers are rejected. I’m sure Max would do the same if people didn’t welcome him in — he does seem like a nice guy, after all — but the NPR piece gives the impression that he was welcomed everywhere he went, so I’ll just have to have faith that he would have backed off.

In the video, we see a few instances of people rejecting Joe’s offer. A couple in a park can’t think of anything they need. An older woman doesn’t need help with her bags. And we see two women who don’t want to be approached by a man they don’t know.

Joe doesn’t annoy me. He charms me. He makes me wish I was on the street in London being approached by him. I don’t actually need any help, but maybe I’d ask him for directions or a recommendation of someplace nice to go for dinner. Something. Whereas I would close my door in Max’s face.

I want Joe and Max to meet. I want them to talk about their approaches to strangers and randomizing their lives. Would Max be able to see enough of the difference in what they’re doing, the ways that Joe offering himself up to strangers isn’t grounded in what Joe can get from the experience?

Because that’s a thing that speaks to me in these stories. Max’s plans began with his desire to do something for himself, his desire to make his life more interesting, to broaden the focus of his lens. It’s likely that the people who welcome Max into their events and their homes get something from the encounter, from Max. Of course. Imagining that is simple because Max seems likable and interesting. The fact of his random appearance at an event, at a dinner table, would automatically make for lively conversation. So the people whose space Max invades get something in the deal. Yes, but the primary focus of that transaction is Max, the transaction happens for his benefit.

I imagine Joe gets quite a lot from his interactions. And surely a good part of his decision to do this experiment is to feel good about himself, as one of the women in the video says. But it’s more than that. He was inspired because of a friend’s birthday and wanting to honor that day, celebrate the way he valued that person. Notice how there’s nothing in there about what he needs, what he’ll get

I’m not trying to paint Joe as selfless and saintly. He seems like a regular guy, not perfect, not awful. He seems like a kind, gentle man. And he seems like a person who’s able to see beyond himself more clearly than Max can. And his ability to see beyond himself makes all the difference, is a large part of what makes his story endearing while Max’s mostly just pisses me off.

There are more layers to this — as to all things. Seeing Joe’s video made me think about what it means that it’s men in both cases. Are there videos of women running around putting themselves in the hands of strangers? I want to hope there are, though I haven’t found one yet. Because a woman doing this would be different — for her and for the people with whom she interacted. Maleness is something Max and Joe share, and neither man calls attention to or in any way makes clear his awareness of the freedom, the privilege, that comes along with that maleness.

Both present as men. The way men are seen by strangers varies depending on the man. There’s no indication in the Invisibilia piece that Max ran into any negative responses to his maleness. With Joe, however, there are two instances in which young women reject his offer — or attempt to offer. In both instances, it’s easy to imagine that those women are reacting to the discomfort of having a strange man walk up and start asking something.

But then we add race. Would either of those young women who fast-walk away from Joe have paused to hear Max out? Would the woman who tells Joe she’s fine with her bags have accepted Max’s offer of help? It’s impossible to know, of course, but the question sits heavy for me.

Race aside, I’m still thinking about how Joe and Max navigate the response — or potential response — to maleness. We see two young woman give Joe the brush off. In the second instance in particular, we see Joe do a quick about-face away from her. Something in his quickness spoke to me … of his awareness of and respect for her space and feelings.

And I know I said “race aside,” but that about-face also spoke to me of Joe’s awareness of others’ perceptions of and responses to him as a Black man. Where Max, for all that he and Joe share many physical characteristics, might be perceived as harmless, Joe is more likely to be perceived as a threat.

Which isn’t Max’s fault, and isn’t something he necessarily needs to take into account when he makes decisions about approaching strangers. I think we’re meant to assume this is the privilege we’re told Max acknowledges, but there was nothing in the piece to show that awareness. Inherent bias isn’t Max’s fault, but Joe’s about-face — his need to be aware of bias in ways that Max will likely never have to be aware — spoke loudly to me.

In the end, what’s true is that I like Joe and find his video heartwarming. I like Joe. I like that he reaches out to both children and adults. I like his English accent. I like that he’s a pretty brown man with locs and facial hair (my most favorite kind of pretty men!).

Naturally, I wonder if I’m partial to Joe because he’s a pretty brown man with locs and facial hair. I probably am. I am aware of my preferences, my biases. But I’m also able to see them and try to think past them. Beyond Joe’s sweet face and charming accent, I like how invested he is in thinking about his relationships with others — the people who are his friends and people he doesn’t know. I like that he seems aware of the space he takes up, and that he wants to be intentional about how he takes that space.

The differences between Max and Joe are stark in my eyes. And the two men play interestingly off one another in my head. Without Max, I wouldn’t have been able to articulate exactly why I like Joe so much. Without Joe, I would have continued to wonder if I was being too hard on Max. It isn’t the idea of life-randomization that’s problematic. It’s possible to randomize your day to day without the ugly side-effects. Focusing beyond ourselves as Joe does, seems to be the key — thinking about ways we can help other people, not only about how we can make our own lives more fun or interesting.



I’m on my #GriotGrind, committed to writing an essay a week … except that I’m WAY behind! I’m determined to catch up, to write 52 essays by year’s end.
I’m following Vanessa Mártir‘s lead, she launched #52essays2017 after writing an essay a week in 2016 … and then deciding to keep going.

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What I wanted to write was “Gratitude³¹” but apparently I can only do that in the body of my blog post, not the title. (I am learning to live with the disappointment.)

It’s the end of March, the end of the 10th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. And I have made it here once again. Made it here for the 10th time in a row.

Today I’m going to bed in the middle of the afternoon so that I can get as much sleep as I can before I have to head out at 11pm to catch a bus and then a train and head into Manhattan to start the midnight-to-6am leg of the 24HourProject.

But before all of that, there is this: my final slice for this March challenge. I thought I’d end this month of slices with a list.

So here, on this 31st day of March in 2017, are 31 things I  am grateful for:

  1. The chance to rediscover favorite slicers from years past
  2. The chance to discover and get to know new slicers
  3. The chance to see how everyone’s kids have grown since the last slicing challenge
  4. The excellent reminder of how much I am inspired by reading other people’s work
  5. The reminder of how powerful it is to write every day
  6. The surprise of realizing that I actually can write every day – even when I’m tired, even when I’m cranky, even when I feel as if my mind is entirely blank when I sit down in front of the empty page
  7. The lead-in the slicing challenge gives me to the dramatic terror that is about to be National Poetry Month
  8. The fun of writing with my mentee every week
  9. My determination to get through the #52essays2017 challenge even though I’ve already fallen behind
  10. My mom, who is very cute, evidenced by the envelope that arrived in my mailbox the other night … an envelope that contained coupons for the kind of food my cats like
  11. My mom, who is full of love for me all the time, even when I’m whiny or tired, even when I’m a slug and don’t call as often as I should, even when I tease her for sending me cat food coupons
  12. My new knees, which have finally turned the corner toward more healed than healing
  13. My new knees that don’t make that weird percussive noise they used to make
  14. My new knees that made it through the winter without any slips and falls
  15. My heart, which didn’t stop working when things went wonky with it this summer
  16. My heart, which is now bionic/Borg, with its shiny new microchip
  17. (My microchip that looks kind of like a tiny harmonica)
  18. My heart, which is transmitting to the cloud even as I type this
  19. The end of the season of surgeries
  20. The conversations I get to have with my super-woke coworker who helps keep me focused on the day-to-day fight, not just the big-picture battles
  21. My other coworkers who are in these conversations with us, who make me happy that I work with people I can have these conversations with
  22. The outrageousness of chocolate geodes
  23. My old computer, which — after the great my-time-here-is-done debacle of Thanksgiving 2016 — kept working until I finally got my act together to get a new one
  24. My new computer, which is sleek and fine and fully functional
  25. Being introduced to the Bullet Journal, which has helped me focus on my 400,000 to-dos and plans in a more helpful way
  26. My sister, whose birthday is today and who I’ll get to see over Easter!
  27. My sister, who is the best friend I’ve ever had
  28. My sister, who shares my warped humor and always gets me
  29. My sister, who can laugh and laugh over just a snippet of memory from past nonsense (“Hey, Mommy, how d’you like your steak?”)
  30. My sister, who introduced me to Habitica, a fun way to keep me working on the things I need to get done
  31. You, dear reader, who do me the honor of stopping by to visit, to read, to comment … Thank you! I appreciate all of you!


It’s the final day of the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

Get ready for poetry!!

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Happy first day of spring! It’s felt so long in coming this year. I know winter might have one last breath to blow our way, but I’m not worrying about that now. I’m thinking about warm breezes, bright green new leaves unfurling, and the blooming of the forsythia — always my favorite sign of spring.

I’m also thinking about this:

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I was looking through photos from my last Jamaica trip, and came across this guy and realized I never posted many (any?!) of my pictures from that trip.   This is from Falmouth, where I stayed for just a couple of days at the end of my trip.  I was sitting on the verandah of my little shack on the beach writing, saw something out of the corner of my eye … and there he was.  Slow-slow-slowly, I reached for my camera, hoping not to scare him off.  Not only did I not scare him away, I got to watch his excellent little show:

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And I thought about the ways in which we are often required to change so completely to fit our environments, the times when we wish we could change that completely, the times when blending in with the background is anything but desirable.  And I wondered what the lizard feels when he’s changing, how he knows he’s changed enough.  And I tried to remember how I’ve felt in those times when I’ve made a conscious effort to step out of the wallpaper and become visible.

I’ve been focusing on change for a while now, since I made the decision to have my knee surgery, since I began to recover.  Not just the “simple” change of learning my life with this new joint, but deeper and more complex changes to who and how I am and what I want for and from myself.  I’ve been stumbling with a whole lot of one step forward, three steps back, letting fear hobble me.  I’m looking to do the lizard in reverse, step finally and fully away from the wallpaper and embrace my technicolor.  Yes, it means the birds will be better able to see me.  I say: Bring it.

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All the other slicers are hanging out over at Two Writing Teachers!

SOL image 2014

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This morning I walked to the subway and my whole path was sprinkled with red glitter. Somehow, this seems even more fabulous than a red carpet walk. Surely glitter is a harbinger of some unutterable amazingness, something so fine a red carpet just wouldn’t do … But at the Atlantic Avenue subway station? Guess I’ll just have to trust.

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Stop by Two Writing Teachers for the rest of today’s slices.

SOL image 2014

(Don’t be cross.  I know that’s the most pathetic excuse for a post as you could ever see, but I’m ridiculously tired.  I promise a more respectable offering tomorrow … or at least a longer one.)

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Just as I was getting ready to walk out the door this morning, my trusty radio started a story about using games for scientific research. Naturally, I had to delay my departure so I could hear the whole thing.

So yes, some scientists have finally caught on that our obsession with video games could be put to some greater use than leveling-up in Oblivion.  (I’m sure this has actually been going on for some time, but I’m only finding out about it today, so that means it only just started this morning!)

The piece I heard was about “games” that give anyone — as opposed to just the scientists — the ability to participate in research.  As soon as I left the house and got on the bus, I went online and signed up to “play” EyeWire, a game in which you chart the neural pathways of a cell … you and maybe thousands and thousands of other people.  The hope is that eventually, the billions of brain connections will be charted.  So insanely cool.

I’ve only made it through the first stage of the tutorial at this point, but can’t wait to get home tonight and play for real.  Also want to introduce this to my mom and sister, who are avid gamers.

But all this excitement is making me miss teaching.  How much fun would it be to work on this with one of my lovely groups of GED students?  I’ll get a vicarious thrill, however, by passing this along to our current GED teachers … and being more than happy to help them develop lesson plans around using the different platforms.

What about you?  Will you sign up for EyeWire or foldit?  If you’re a teacher, will you use it with your students?

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And don’t forget to check out the rest of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers!

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Tonight I met Harry Belafonte.  I left my house this morning with no idea this would be on my agenda.  Yes, my boss had asked if I’d attend some benefit gala with her after work, but there’d been no mention of Belafonte possibilities.

I would love to be posting my lovely photo with this lovely, legendary man.  Alas, my photo op was ruined by a) a man who thought he was being helpful but was camera challenged and took a picture over our heads of a table across the room and then b) the woman running interference for Mr. Belafonte who stepped in just as I was ready for my second photo attempt to say we couldn’t take any pictures.

Fine.  I did get some photos of him on stage accepting his award, including this very cute one of him about to kiss David Ushery from NBC:

There had been jokes all night about the honor, privilege and apparent pleasure of getting a kiss from him, so Ushery was appropriately jazzed to get his.  And yes, I had some grand illusions about snagging one of my own (I am that shameless), but again, no such luck.  I did get to chat with him for a moment, shake his hand and have him thank me for the work I do, and that felt pretty great.

So yeah, life can be so good.  Random, cool and fabulous.  Thank you, cosmos, for dropping a little outrageous surprise into my day.

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