20 Acts of Kindness

As I’m sure you are, I’m stunned and saddened by the violence in Newtown. I’m not a parent, yet my heart has been aching for not only the parents of the young victims, but for parents every where. I am an aunt, a great-aunt, a sister, a cousin, a teacher, a human. Those roles give me some small sense of the magnitude of sorrow felt by affected families. I think about my students this semester, 19 per class, and I see their futures so bright ahead of them, and I see them as little kindergartners, their personalities already in place, the students in my classroom already present in those tiny little chairs. And my eyes well with tears at the thought of the beautiful little humans, gone.

There is much to do to change this course of violence in our country, and I don’t pretend to know the answer. I do know that I will listen carefully to ideas for change, and I will use my best critical and compassionate thinking to throw my voice behind solutions that seem reasonable and right to me.

In the meantime, Ann Curry posted this on Twitter:

Imagine if all of us committed to 20 mitvahs/acts of kindness to honor each child lost in Newtown. I’m in. If you are RT #20Acts

Having outlets for the kindess I want to offer the world at this time is important, and I like the sweetness of offering up 20 acts in honor of the children lost.

Will you join us in some way?


Be Prepared

Stores are mobbed with folks rushing to prepare for Sandy, who may or may not pay an (unwelcome) visit to the east coast early next week. Surviving last year’s week + snow-tober power outage taught me a few lessons about how to be prepared:

  • Fill water jugs. Buy water if necessary, but be sure to have potable drinking water.
  • Fill the tub. We’re on a well, not town water, and we need to supply our own eau de toilet.
  • Stock up on non-perishable food. I have lots of Amy’s soup, granola bars, fruit, pretzels, etc. to keep us going.
  • Check the batteries. Oh, we have flashlights. Man, do we have flashlights. I even have a tiny battery-powered Ott light that allows me to read and knit after the sun sets.
  • Get all the laundry done. We were lucky to wash our clothes on power outage day 7 at a friend’s house, and because I’d ensured I was caught up on laundry, that was fine.
  • Clean the house but good. It will get messy if power is out for more than a few days, but a good scrubbing helps keep it livable.
  • Gas up the car. If escape is necessary, be able to hit the road.
  • Tuck away some cash. A few local stores were open last year, but they couldn’t accept my debit card. Luckily, I had cash on me.

Neal has procured a generator, which should alleviate worries about the sump pump not working and the basement flooding. We’ll go out for a few more supplies throughout the weekend. The biggest challenge right now, and I know many of my fellow 2011 power outage survivors feel this way, is to not get panicked or anxious.

Good thing I have some knitting to soothe my mind!

What’s your best storm preparation tip?


A Plea*

I need to get something off my chest.

People, we need to do better watching out for each other on the highways and byways, and I mean motorists and bikers equally.

This summer, two of my friends were struck by cars while on their bikes. One biker sustained pretty serious injuries, and the other had insult added to injury: a dog bit him. A dog in the car that struck him.

It’s easy to zone out, for both drivers and bikers. I know that. But we’ve got to try harder.

Bikers, obey the rules of the road. Stop at lights and signs. Stay as far over to the right as you can. Use hand signals. Ride single file. Remember that you are extremely vulnerable on that bike.

Drivers, remember that even in the smallest of vehicles, you are very large and can kill a person on a bike. Communicate. Be nice. In CT, it is the law that you give a 3 foot berth to bikers. Expect the biker to not obey the stop signs (I know, it stinks, but it happens, and expecting it may save a life). Realize that the biker may be away from the road’s edge because there is debris that would flip her bike on the edge of the road. Understand that bikers riding abreast (while wrong), may have had the road to themselves for the last 20 minutes and are trying to get into single file.

I’ve been riding longer rides in my attempt to build up to 100 miles. On Sunday, at mile 22 of a 30 mile bike path ride, a group of bikers who were not obeying the rules of the bike path (stay right, ride single file) caused me to crash. I can’t believe that I have no broken bones. I’m bruised and scraped. Most of all, though, I’m sad. The person responsible for the accident didn’t even come back to make sure I was okay. That hurts far more than the three-inch-long gouge on my elbow.

So, please. Let’s all just try a little harder to watch out for each other.

*I know that my readers are considerate, rule-abiding, lovely humans. Thank you for that!


This morning I was grateful to have Neal’s arms embracing me as I stared out of the bedroom window at the beautiful blue sky. Every moment of that awful morning ten years ago replayed like a movie in my mind. My jauntiness as I stepped from the train. The lovely chat with Andy as we headed up the hill to campus. The low-flying plane that interrupted our chat and annoyed me. The slow, slow parade of emergency vehicles. The fear. The grief as colleagues understood their loss. The sorrow. The smoke rising from the tip of Manhattan where once those mighty buildings had glinted in the sunlight.

And the kindness. And determination. And the grit that makes New Yorkers who we are, Americans who we are.

I honor those lost ten years ago. I honor those struck by fear and sorrow. I honor those who acted with bravery. I honor those who strive to live with kindness, determination, and grit as we go on, trying to understand this world.


Never Forget

It's rainy today, which suits the eighth anniversary of the scariest day of my life.  I will never forget being at the train station and seeing the smoke curl up into the air, an empty space where the Towers that used to glint pink in the sunset. I will never forget the smell of the air. I will never forget the pain of so many around me.  I will never forget the fear.  I will never forget the bravery.  I will never forget the unification of so many.  I will never forget the determination to not be afraid.  I will never forget my pride in the United States of America.

Please do a kindness today in remembrance of those who lost their lives eight years ago. 

Yom Hashoah

Over the last few weeks, I've been reading Maus with my war-themed Composition II class.  We've read a number of provocative pieces this semester, but none has engendered more conversation than this.  The students love the comic form (in fact, I'm assigning them a comic personal narrative as their final project), but more importantly, they are interested in the concepts of ownership of stories and oral histories. 

I didn't plan my semester in such a way as to have our reading of Maus coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Week, but I'm grateful it did.  Our library has put together a list of links that have helped my students with their understanding of what they are reading, as has the in-class discussion from descendants of work camp survivors.

The wound of the Holocaust is still fresh in our world.  One of my favorite singers writes about it eloquently.  My dear friend Linda Jean Fisher has undertaken a volume project that seeks to commemmorate the millions of lives lost.  You can read an earlier post of mine about the project here.

And here are the most recent statistics from LJO's project from her last e-mail to me:

Friday, 10 April
x 12 = 1440 Fingerprints
x 120 = 874200

"father, son, holy spirit,

Free Tibet: A Contest

I rarely, if ever, talk politics.  I’m a vegetarian, but I also believe people should eat what they want.  I feel the same way about pretty much everything in my life; I do what I feel is right, and I hope everyone else does what they think right, too.  I’m not here to dictate that, and I chafe at being told what to think myself.

Sometimes, though, a message seems important enough to say something about to the world at large.  The lovely Pippi, creator of wonderful fibers and amazing human-in-general, recently posted her new colorway, Free Tibet, with a reminder that on this eve of the Olympics, it is important to remember that Tibet has seen no improvement in its great need for freedom.  She created the yarn as a prayer, emulating the Tibetan prayer flags that are traditionally hung to "promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom" (wikipedia, linked above).

You can order your own skein, to knit prayerfully, as I intend to do with mine, or, you can join our Free Tibet Awareness Contest.  Pippi has generously donated a skein of this gorgeous yarn to be given to a blogger who participates.

Here’s the deal:
1.  On 08/08/08, post on your blog "None of us are free until ALL of us are free" with a link back here, as well as a link to one of these informational sites:  Students for a free Tibet or International  Campaign for Tibet.  If you know of another good informational site, feel free to link to that instead.
2.  Leave a comment, letting us know that you are joining us on our quest for awareness.

Pippi said she’d love to see 40 blogs with "None of us are free until ALL of us are free" on them tomorrow.  I think we can aim higher.  50?  75?  100?  Prove me right, people, and leave your comment, and we’ll use the random number generator to choose a recipient for Pippi’s generous prize.

It seems like a great way to kick of the Ravelympics to me!


In the Face of Despair

What to do?  How to help?

My stomach knots with each new disaster the world faces.  The same movie plays in my head:  driving north on Rte. 9 in Westchester and seeing emergency vehicle after emergency vehicle heading into Manhattan like the saddest parade.  Striving for optimism when despair was all I felt.  Feeling inadequate.

Inadequate.  At a loss in the magnitude of the sorrow and despair these people face.  There are places accepting cash donations, but what else can I do?