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Everyday Matters

A poem for this winter's day

No sky
no earth – but still,
snowflakes fall
~ Hashin

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A couple of years ago I blogged regularly about my Year to Live project.   The 365 day experiment profoundly changed the way I think about life, even to this day.

Every once in a while, something fantastic and year-to-live-y grabs my attention and makes me want to jump up and share it with you.

I promise this video about 17-year-old Zach Sobiech’s last days will be worth the 20 minutes it takes to watch it.  Truly – grab someone you love and a box of tissues and just do it.

Because, as Zach says:

You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.

Zach died peacefully yesterday at 18, surrounded by his loved ones at home.

This article about three of my intrepid students at Columbia University and what they pulled off in one semester put me in mind of Margaret Mead’s saying about changing the world:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Of course, it’s never that easy. This horrible disease is not cured, nor are so many other problems facing of our world.  But my student’s attitudes reminded me of another favorite, this one by Billie Holiday:

“The difficult I’ll do right now.  The impossible will take a little while.”

Carry on, friends!

(Click on image below to expand…)

Columbia class article

Arcosanti entranceYesterday’s news of the death of Paolo Soleri — the visionary architect, builder, artist, writer and theorist — put me in mind of our family visit last month to Arcosanti, Soleri’s urban experiment in the desert of Arizona.

Sixty five miles north of Phoenix, Arcosanti was described by NEWSWEEK magazine as “…the most important urban experiment undertaken in our lifetimes.” Read the rest of this entry »

“You did not talk to her,” my 9-year-old said incredulously.

“Not only did I talk to her,” I retorted, “I asked if I could videotape her.”

I had just run into the woman my son refers to as “Goooo Vegan.”  Our local post office has incomprehensibly long lines, and those of us waiting our turn were getting pretty grumpy.  Clerks and customers were being snippy with each other, people were talking loudly on their cell phones, others were cursing the wait and the whole darned US Postal Service. Read the rest of this entry »

green breadMaybe this has happened to you:  adorable children in your neighborhood knock on your door with a zip lock bag full of a yellowish, gloppy substance.  They tell you it’s a starter for Amish Friendship Bread, and it works like a chain — they are baking their bread today from a starter someone gave to them ten days before.  And in ten days time, you will bake your own bread, setting aside some of your starter to give to others.  And so on.

I’d never tried this before, but it somehow reminded me of the “pretty panties” chain letter I did when I was too young to have heard of a pyramid scheme.   I sent a brand new pair of underwear in a specified Read the rest of this entry »


Copyright Peaches McGee

After college, my friend Lisa and I packed two enormous duffel-bags full of our belongings and moved to Japan.

We lived in a small city near Osaka, in an apartment with tatami mat floors and sliding shōji doors.  In the winter, we would sit on the straw floor with our legs tucked under a kotatsu – a low table covered by a thick blanket, with a heating element underneath.  We ate okonomiyaki (savory pancakes made with shredded cabbage, eggs, flour and – my personal favorite – octopus) at a local food stall, sang at karaoke bars, and tried our best to learn Japanese and its three alphabets.

One of my favorite attempts to absorb Japanese culture was bathing at the local onsen — a public bath complete with hot, medium and freezing tubs of water.  There was even a pool with currents of electricity running through it.  Before you entered these tubs, you had to take a seated shower, planting yourself on a low plastic stool & using a hand-held shower head to make yourself squeaky clean.  A row of women would be doing the same in the large, open shower room, and their children would look openly at Lisa’s and my naked bodies and giggle about our ghostly white skin.

This week, so many memories came flooding back when I visited the Korean Spa Castle in College Point, NY.  I had been heard about the Asian-inspired pools when the facility opened in 2007, but it wasn’t until my little experiment in trying something new every week (more on that in an upcoming post)  kicked in that I got it together to go.  So, on my birthday, my husband, the boys and I went out to Queens to give it a whirl. Read the rest of this entry »

An unsung American hero played on a bittersweet field where the personal intersected sharply with the political. Thanks to her, there are now over 300,000 girls playing Little League.


Last week I found myself in a room full of some of the most recognizable trailblazers of the women’s movement for the launch of Makers, a new AOL/PBS initiative.

There was Marlo Thomas, who portrayed the first single working woman on television. And Robin Morgan, who led women to throw their bras in the trash outside the 1968 Miss America pageant.

But the person who truly captured my admiration was not so famous.

Meet Maria Pepe. If you are a woman who played Little League baseball — or your daughter does today — you have Maria to thank. Her story goes like this:

In 1972, when Maria was 11 years old, she tried out for the Hoboken, NJ Little League. She became the first girl in more than 20 years to even try to participate in one of America’s most beloved youth pastimes. With a strong-arm and a determined attitude, she made the team as a pitcher.

Read the rest of this entry »

While walking with my 8-year-old son near our home in Manhattan, he spotted a purple swastika scrawled across a billboard advertisement. As I took in the complexities of the situation, my son uttered words that made my heart break…

Read the rest of this entry »

It was a very risky idea, given how much he wanted Beats headphones ($200 headphones for a kid?) and a Wii.  But this past week I gave my tween-age son his holiday present, choosing to surprise him with the gift of an experience over a thing.

Here’s what came out of his 5-day art class (and I’ve got the pictures to prove it!)…

The night I handed my 11-year-old a handmade card describing his holiday gift from me, he glanced at it quickly then looked back in the envelope as if to say, “That’s it?  Is there cash in here at least?”  But that was it — five days with a small class in an artist’s studio in SoHo, NYC.

He was dubious.

When the elevator opened right into the studio the next morning, five other students turned to look at us.  There were two boys who appeared to be high school seniors (one of them sporting Beats), and a few adults who had the air of honest-to-goodness artists already.  The teacher seemed like he might need a second cup of coffee as he casually pointed to a table where my son should sit.

As I left, I said a desperate prayer to the holiday gods, asking for this not to be a total disaster.

My son called me several times that day asking what I was doing with his younger brother, who is also on school vacation.  “We’re sitting here doing absolutely NOTHING,” I replied, hoping not to make him jealous.  “You’d be BORED OUT OF YOUR MIND!

By the end of the first day, he brought home this:

Hand, Day 1

And this:

Copy of Picasso's portrait of Igor Stravinsky

Read the rest of this entry »

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