Beach Day: Seal Release!

My husband had returned from the West Coast on a red-eye flight and suggested we go to the beach for the afternoon. We’ve been going to Sandy Hook National Seashore for years. A sunny, mild day, the beach, post-Labor Day, was quite empty. A National Park Service truck drove around the sand, parked, then set up a row of orange traffic cones. People started to gather by the cones. We’d seen some dolphin fins out in the water but wondered what was going on. A seal release! Grabbing our phones, we staked out a spot.

The seal, about a year old, had beached in Ocean City, MD in May, stricken with lung worms. She was taken to the National Aquarium in Baltimore for medical attention where she was also named Luna. Now ready to return to the wild, the aquarium transported her to New Jersey to bring her further north, hopefully avoiding any effects of Hurricane Irma. Rangers told us she could travel as far north as Canada and may reach as big as 1,000 pounds.

What a treat!

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Back to School: Teachable Moments

Visiting my sister Madeline last week, we took in the eclipse and did some errands before she returned to work as a teacher on Wednesday. She’d been into her classroom several times over the summer, labeling bookshelves, covering bulletin boards, and planning lessons. She has several days of preparatory meetings with colleagues before students arrive next week. Celebrating her 30th year in the classroom, she’s a pro; yet there are always new techniques to learn, methods to try, students that challenge like none before.

I’ve been thinking about teachers these days and while I miss teaching,  I don’t envy the responsibilities many have to assume that go way beyond teaching a particular subject.

Watch former National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García’s speech a couple years ago:

Additionally, there’s the challenge of teachable moments. Any teacher would be remiss to ignore them. But how to handle the barrage of current events?  A devastating hurricane? Climate Change? A nuclear threat from a foreign nation? Civil unrest amid racial hatred? How do teachers emphasize kindness and acceptance when the President behaves so badly toward others? A daunting task, indeed.

And yet, teacher salaries in many parts of the country hover near hourly wage levels as public school budgets are slashed by state legislators.

Take Oklahoma, for example. As Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy writes:

“Teachers haven’t had a pay hike in a decade, and 10-year veteran teachers who are single now make little enough that their own children qualify for reduced-price school lunches.” Teachers are leaving the state, finding high paid jobs in Texas and elsewhere.

Teachers should be trained like doctors, and receive equivalent compensation. They hold the future in their hands.








Posted in commentary, Education, Family, teaching, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Words Matter

Remember the ditty: “Sticks & Stone will break my bones, But names will never hurt me?

My mother would remind my siblings and me that when someone picked on us. Or we picked on each other.

Yet the events of the past week certainly prove: Words matter. They can hurt. They can stick. They can threaten. They can provoke.

I’ve been thinking about words lately, mostly some of mine. Particularly, I’m reviewing a play I wrote several years ago that caused pain and anger in a family member.

While the act of writing the play may have been cathartic for me, as a way to express my perspective on a challenging situation, for this person, the writing humiliated and embarrassed.

For this, I apologize. I never meant to hurt people I love.

While others found universal messages in the play, this person saw ridicule.

I apologize.

I’m reading books about family rifts, especially those between parents and their adult children. I recognize ways I have crossed boundaries and created tension with various questions and remarks that present either an invasion of privacy or expectations of behavior.

I apologize.

We are all human and we all make mistakes. We can learn from them and try harder.

Family and friends are worth the effort.


Posted in Writing | 5 Comments

Grandma Reading: Lemony Snicket!

When I saw my eldest grandson (age 7 1/2) reading The Bad Beginning, the first in Lemony Snicket’s 13-volume “Series of Unfortunate Events”, I asked him a couple questions. While I’d heard of the series and author, I never had read any of his works as they were published when my children were older.  

I jumped at the chance to read the book as my grandson did, offering to be able to talk about it with him. We chatted this morning about the book, discussing whether it’s too scary for kids, who our favorite character is, and agreeing that we should try to read the entire series. (I immediately ordered a boxed set to appear in time for next week’s long car trip to visit his other grandparents. I’ll get mine from my library.)

There’s not much better than talking about a book with a grandchild! These stories hook you and keep you wondering what will happen to the three brave Baudelaire siblings who find themselves in dangerous situations among unsavory characters.

My adult reading this summer seems to have been mostly non-fiction. There’s no time like the present to read Hyeonseo Lee’s The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story.  I learned a lot from Haroon Moghul’s How to Be a Muslim: An American Story, and am laughing aloud while reading Senator Al Franken’s memoir, Giant of the Senate.

I’ve been taking a playwriting course so had a hefty reading list of plays and I loved listening to Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last on tape while driving.

What have you been reading?




Posted in Books, Family, Grandchildren, parenting, Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grandma Day: Thomas Edison!

Try explaining to a five and seven-year old that at one time in life there were no computers and that to take a photograph involved hiding under a heavy, dark canvas and pictures had to be developed. Just try telling them that music wasn’t always available on a smart phone. Good luck.

Thankfully there are museums dedicated to preserving how science has evolved over time.

For a recent Grandma Day, I took two of the grands to the Thomas Edison National Historic Park in West Orange, New Jersey.

A ranger greeted us and invited the children to become “Junior Rangers.” They had to answer some questions in a booklet as they toured the site. Recently renovated, the park includes Edison’s library—a vast three-story structure, crammed with books, scientific instruments, sculptures, and a desk with tons of little drawers and cubbies. We were amused that there was a cot in the corner, installed for Edison to nap on when he stayed late at work.

The park includes the library, the laboratories, and the factory. Though quiet now, we imagined the noises we may have heard had we been around in those days. A ranger described the use of a time clock, and how even Edison punched in and out. They were impressed that Edison invented more than 1,000 items.

After the visit, they were sworn in as Junior Rangers, promising to take care of the National Parks and received a badge and a patch.

I can’t even imagine what their generation will invent.


Reading about Edison


Ending the day with ice cream sandwiches





Posted in Books, Education, Family, Grandchildren, History, Museums, galleries, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Femmes of the Fifties: Mom’s Blog

My friend, Janice Kaplan Carno is no stranger; I’ve introduced her to you before. One of her daughters was sorting through boxes of photographs and forwarded this picture of five beauties of the fifties. Although I don’t remember posing for this picture, I realize that it’s a few members of our house plan, taken during […]

via FEMMES of the FIFTIES — bestofbarbara

Posted in Writing | 1 Comment

Hiking Yosemite

Walking among California’s sequoias sort of feels like being in the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Your neck starts to hurt looking up at what’s considered the earth’s largest trees. They’re found in groves in and around Yosemite National Park, where we just celebrated our 35th anniversary.

Frankly, nothing there is small scale. Gigantic boulders, humungous waterfalls (roaring now thanks to the winter snowstorms), double rainbows, long drives from place to place. And the magnificent trees. Sequoias are not to be confused with the coastal redwoods, though in the same family, are deemed the world’s tallest trees.

Sequoias are known for their ability to survive. Looking at them, we noticed evidence of fire, lightning, and insects. The few that don’t make it, fall and decompose in the lush undergrowth, providing fertilizer for more growth.

Hiking the groves, I thought of politics. On one hand, the trees represent resilience; they could become the symbol of the resistance movement and offer hope. On the other, I couldn’t help comment that many politicians and policy makers need to spend some time in the national parks to see the effect of climate change.

Posted in celebrations, environment, exercise, Family, Nature, travel, Trees | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments