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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.

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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 »

I think it’s the perfect gift for the holidays.  But how will my son react when he finds out where I’ll be sending him for the next five days?

Read the rest of this entry »

Naked on the Bowery, copyright Art Observed

I realize this title might sound a bit provocative, like the outcome of a game of Truth or Dare gone terribly awry.

But this month I participated in museum-sanctioned nakedness and submerged myself in a one-of-a-kind exhibit dubbed the Giant Psycho Tank — a sensory deprivation pool of heavily salinated, skin temperature water.

If you’ve spent any time in NYC in the past few weeks, it’s hard to miss the ads announcing this exhibit by artist Carsten Höller at the New Museum.  Since its opening, visitors have been flocking to the Bowery to try out some of the experiential installations for themselves.

See video at the bottom of the post to learn how the New Museum installed the slide!

I didn’t intend to stand in line for the Psycho pool, but I had just gotten seriously banged up on another one of Höller’s pieces, a 100-foot metal tube slide which drops visitors down an Alice in Wonderland-like shoot at high speed into a room full of life-size neon crocodiles and hippos and rapidly flashing lights (not recommended for those who have visually induced seizures or a whole host of other conditions, the Museum warns).

True, I had been told to keep my arms together until I landed on the mat two floors below, but a primal survival instinct caused me to put out my hands at the bottom to stop myself from crashing to the floor. Call me crazy.  My right hand instantly swelled, which I was told by one of the security guards “has been happening a lot around here,” adding, “You’re just lucky it wasn’t your head.” Read the rest of this entry »

Bright and early this morning, my 8-year-old son and I walked over the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn for our annual NYC Marathon ritual.

This fall rite involves hot chocolate for him and a cappuccino for me as we stake our positions in a patch of sunlight near the 11th mile marker.

If we time it right, we get to watch all of the top runners go by.  But we’re really there for the excitement of the elite wheelchair race.

In the early hours the sidewalks are pretty deserted, so we’re among the few at that stretch to cheer them on.  We try to learn a bit about them in advance:  Krige Schabort was a soldier in the South African army when a bomb explosion took his legs.  Two years later, he began to race wheelchairs.  Tatyana McFadden was born with spina bifida and left at a Russian orphanage as a baby.  She was adopted by an American family who introduced her to sports.

You don’t have to have a child with you to be reminded of the lessons on Marathon Day.  The importance of showing up for other people – especially when it’s early and cold and no one else is there.  How all of the racers – not only those in wheelchairs – have some personal challenge to overcome, making them heroes of their own journeys.

When our hands were numb from clapping and our throats were scratchy from all our boisterous encouragement, we walked back over the bridge towards home.

Watching the finish results on-line, we were left with few more ideas to ponder together, not the least of which can be the ick factor of marketing (bullet #3) …

  • The favored wheelchair racer, Kurt Fearnley of Australia, snapped the steering mechanism on his chair and came in second to Masazumi Soejima of Japan.  “In the end that’s racing. Some days it goes your way and other days it goes the other way.”
  • Geoffrey Mutai, the male winner and course record setter:  “I try at the last minute to push it a little more. We all worked together – and then it was time to push it. For me, I was trying to run my own race.
  • Meb Keflezighi, the sixth-place overall winner:  “I felt strong going into it, training at high altitudes in my SKECHERS GOrun racing shoes, which definitely made a positive impact on my running. I’ve been a heel strike runner my entire life, but SKECHERS’ mid-foot strike technology has helped me adjust my stride to be more efficient.”

Signing off now to put on our own somewhat ratty sneakers & to enjoy this beautiful NY afternoon!

Barbara

Ps – I should mention that my son took all of these pictures — except the one of himself!


I started this blog right around the time Apple launched Siri, a voice-activated personal assistant who has a response to most questions or comments you speak into your new iPhone:  “Siri – I’m hungry.  Where can I get food around here?”  Her answer:  “I have located 18 restaurants in your immediate vicinity.  They are…”   Or, my kids’ favorite:  “Siri, where can I dump a body?”  to which she’ll respond, “What kind of place are you looking for… swamps, reservoirs, etc,

I would never be mistaken for a Luddite by anyone over, say, 25.   But I am concerned that if we don’t find ways to disconnect, we will lose sight of the serendipity and face-to-face connection that make life worth living.  And, of course, there are many things that Siri can’t interpret.  This blog is about some of those uniquely human experiences — on-line and off — that make up this one blogger’s life.

My name is Barbara, and I live on the Lower East Side.  I’m a mom, outnumbered in our NYC apartment by three loving but boisterous guys.  (I call our home The Frat House, if that gives you an indication.)  I work with human rights activists from around the world by day and teach at a university by night.

Life can feel a little crazy over here at times, but writing helps me slow down and gain perspective.  I learned that last year when I wrote a blog called Last Year To Live, in which I recorded observations in living while my close childhood friend was living out her final year.

Now I’m back, and hoping you’ll come along for this new leg of the journey.

Leave a comment, and let me know who you are.  Do you blog too?  I’d love to follow your work.

Thanks so much for reading!

 

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