Monday, May 18, 2015


My hometown has had a tough time over the last year. Summer isn’t even here yet and we’ve already had a major brawl in a public park that left one young man dead. There have been multiple pedestrian deaths, shootings, and overdoses. In recent months we’ve become deeply divided by a vote over a proposed casino. This past Friday, 170 teachers were laid off—that’s right one hundred seventy.  If Brockton were a person, she’d need a hug and a double shot of whiskey. 
I’ve lived here my whole life and I’m no stranger to strings of bad news like this. Poverty and crime are a daily struggle for many in Brockton. But there are always moments—moments  that stick in my head and make me think maybe this place isn’t so bad after all. I witnessed a moment like that today. 
Every Saturday in the Spring and Fall there are kid’s road races at the local park. It’s a volunteer-run program. More than 100 kids show up every week, pay a dollar, and run. It’s a 2.2 mile loop through a wooded park. A lot of parents run with their kids (I do, but I get left in the dust—I am NOT faster than a 5th grader). For those that don’t, there is a path through the woods that leads to the 1/2 way point in the race. You can cheer your kids as they start the race, cheer them half way through, and get back to the finish line so you can see them cross. I love the kid’s road races. It’s outdoors, low-tech, lots of fun, inexpensive, and run by people who really care—just what a town like Brockton needs more of. 
I was running with my older son Owen this morning. James and his dad were way ahead of us. We had passed the half-way point when a boy in near us stumbled and fell. He landed hard, face down. Owen and I, and a couple of other adults and I checked on him. There was a nasty abrasion on his knee and blood trickled down his leg. One women offered to walk him back to the parking lot through the short cut. But he shook his head and said he wanted to finish the race. He started jogging really slowly—obviously in pain and holding back tears. Periodically I looked back to check on him. Sometimes he was walking, sometimes he was jogging, but he never stopped. 
He met up with his brother and they crossed the finish line together shortly after Owen and I did. The concern on his parents’ faces was obvious. I went over to them and told them how brave he was—how he got right back up, determined to finish the race. The concern on his dad’s face turned to pride and he said to me, “He’s very strong.”

That little boy is Brockton. Bruised and bleeding, but strong enough to keep going. 

Monday, March 17, 2014


Author's Note: A few years ago, I wrote a blog piece about how much I dislike the way we observe St. Patrick's Day here in the US. One of the particular things that bothers me is how we portray Leprechauns. In traditional Irish Lore, they are not benevolent creatures who leave chocolate coins in your shoes. They are far more mischievous—even devious. This story is a modern fairy tale about what a real encounter with a leprechaun might be like.

         Barry hung up the phone and exhaled slowly. Relief and hope flooded through him—a job interview. He had sent out hundreds of resumes and letters in the months since he was laid off. His savings were dwindling and he was beginning to feel desperate. Now he had the chance to get his foot in the door and make an impression.
         He pulled his best suit out of the closet. It was a little loose after weeks of eating Ramen noodles and pounding the pavement, but it would do. It had to be cleaned and pressed and his dress shoes were worn at the heels and in need of polish. Fortunately he had a few days to get things in order.

         “Can I get these by Tuesday?” he asked the dry cleaner.
         “The suit is no problem. You can have it tomorrow,” the smiling Vietnamese man assured him. “I don’t fix shoes anymore though.”
         “Do you know anyone who does? I can’t remember the last time I went to a cobbler.”
         “There’s a man downtown who still fixes shoes,” the man said hesitantly. “O’Malley? O’Riley? Something like that. Nice enough guy. A little strange.”
         “I can put up with strange if he can fix my shoes before my interview on Wednesday. Have a good night Mr. Nguyen.”
         Barry left the store and walked downtown, saving himself the bus fare.
“This guy better still be in business,” he muttered as he pulled his coat tightly to shut out the bitter March wind.
At the end of a row of empty store fronts, a golden light poured from a shop window. Barry couldn't remember ever seeing the carved oak sign that read:
Daniel O’Rourke, Cobbler
Shoes Repaired While You Wait
         He pushed open the door, expecting the shop to be broken down and dusty like the rest of the neighborhood. Instead, well cared for hand tools were laid out like a surgeon's on the maple workbench and an old black and gold Singer sewing machine gleamed like new. A rack of perfectly repaired shoes lined the wall, each pair tagged with its owner’s name. A statue of a dozing leprechaun sitting on a bench with an awl in his hand decorated one corner.
         There was no one in the shop. No bells rang when he opened the door to announce the arrival of a customer. Barry waited a moment and cleared his throat, hoping it would draw someone from the back room. A few moments passed and he called out, “Hello? Is anyone here?’
         “Oh! I beg your pardon sir. I must have dozed off!” replied the man Barry had mistaken for a statue. He leapt from his stool in the corner and crossed the room with remarkable speed for a man of only four feet tall. “My name is Daniel O’Rourke. What can I do for you today?” His freckled face was nearly as red as his hair and his dark eyes shimmered like coals.
         “I have a job interview on Wednesday. I’m wondering if you can have my shoes fixed in time.”
         “Let’s take a look then,” O’Rourke said and gestured for Barry to put the shoes up on the counter. He hopped onto an old wooden box and took a closer look. “These are good shoes. It’ll be nothing to get them looking like new.”
         “That’s great,” Barry said. “I’ve been out of work for months. I really need to make a good impression at this interview.”
         “Months you say?”
         “You wouldn’t believe how many jobs I’ve applied for. No one’s hiring.”
         “Well that calls for a celebration my boy!” the little man declared and slipped into the back room. He returned with a pottery jug and two old cups. “I know it doesn’t look like much. But this whiskey is the best you’ll ever have.”
         Barry was taken aback by the O’Rourke’s friendliness, but never one to turn down a glass of whiskey, he smiled and accepted the drink.
         “Slainte!” the little man said. His thick Donegal brogue reminded Barry of his great grandfather.
         “Slainte,” Barry replied, drinking the whiskey. The sweet and spicy liquor burned pleasantly.
         “Your grandfather?” Spoke the little man as if reading Barry's mind. “He was a Donegal man.”
         “How did you know that?”
         “Ach, I've been around. You might say I can smell the blood of a Donegal man,”
         “You're right about the whiskey,” said Barry. “I’ve never tasted anything this good. What’s it called?” He finished the rest and held his hand out for more. The little man poured another generous tot into the cup and smiled as Barry continued drinking.
         “Oh, you can’t buy this in any old package store son. This is Daniel O’Rourke’s own whiskey.”
         “You made this yourself?” Barry asked as the whiskey warmed him all over and made his vision blur. Nevertheless, he held his glass out for more. “You can make whiskey and fix my shoes in time for my job interview? You’re my hero!”
         “I can indeed. Alas, I don’t think you’ll be goin’ to that interview on Wednesday Barry me boy.”
         “Not going? Why? Why wouldn’t I go? Wait. How did you know my name?”
         The little man's grin transformed from friendly to fierce.
         “You drank my whiskey mo chara. You’ll be workin’ for me for the next seven years.”
         “What? But I don’t know how to fix shoes,” Barry said as the store got fuzzier and fuzzier.
         “Don’t worry about that. You go on home. Get a good night’s sleep. Meet me back here tomorrow.”

         Barry’s mouth felt like it had been dragged through a litter box. The sun shining through his window stabbed at his eyes like needles. He couldn’t remember how he got home. The last thing he remembered was a guy who looked like he walked off a Lucky Charms box laughing at him. He staggered to the kitchen for water. On the table were his black dress shoes. The heel had been repaired and the polish was so shiny, he could see his reflection in it. There was a note attached,
“See you at 10am mo chara. D.O.”
         “Crazy old bastard,” Barry said, crumpling the note. He tossed it into the trash and took a shower.
        He emerged fifteen minutes later feeling clear-headed enough to make a pot of coffee. As he crossed the kitchen, he saw the note, no longer crumpled propped up against his shoes. It was nothing, Barry told himself. He must have imagined throwing away the note. That whiskey had really done a number on him. As he thought of the whiskey, he could feel the warmth steal across his chest like when he took the first sip. Like an echo in his mind he heard the old man say, “You drank my whiskey mo chara. You’ll be workin’ for me for the next seven years.”
         Nonsense. That was potent stuff, but not so potent it could make him a slave. He picked up the note and tore it to pieces. A chime on his phone alerted Barry that he had a voicemail.
         “Good Morning Barry. This is Fran Lancaster from the firm of Smith, Gold, and Stein. I'm calling to let you know we won't need for you to come into the interview on Wednesday. The position we spoke about has been filled.”
         Barry sank into a kitchen chair feeling cold. He glanced at his shoes on the table. The note was propped up against them once more—uncrumpled and untorn.
         The wind outside picked up. It sounded like laughter.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Honor a Great American Poet... Fashionably!

           I love accessories—shoes, scarves, earrings. They perk up a boring outfit or make an old outfit new again. Until recently, I've never given a lot of thought to belts though. I usually wear a plain black or brown one with my jeans for work. They are unremarkable, but necessary parts of in my wardrobe like socks and underwear. Then, my sister-in-law Kim told me about her new business, Granite State Buckles. I fell in love with her products and ordered a “Londonderry” for myself.

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day!
           All of the designs from Granite State Buckles are inspired by the great state of New Hampshire. There is the Portsmouth:

The Hampton Beach

The Mount Washington
          And many more! You can see and purchase many whimsical designs on Granite State Buckles'website or Etsy shop. They're only $20 a piece or $35 with a belt in your choice of size and color. They are a bargain (or a bahgin, as we say here in New England).

           Kim has created a special line inspired by New Hampshire poet Robert Frost. We'll be giving away her latest creation, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”. It comes with a black leather belt.
Not gonna lie, I'm going to have trouble shipping this off to someone else!

           Pretty cool, eh? You can enter once by leaving a comment below. You can enter twice by visiting Granite State Buckles' website or Etsy shop first, then come back here and tell me your favorite buckle style. Or leave a note on Granite State Buckles' Facebook page letting Kim know how much you like her designs and I'll enter you three times (maybe you could even "like" her page while you're there). I'll pull a name from my Red Sox cap on Robert Frost's birthday (March 26th) to determine the winner.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


        Has anything you believed about parenting before you had children come back and taken a giant bite out of your back-side? It's been happening to me pretty regularly for the last twelve years. I'm beginning to think it's the only predictable thing about parenting.
        I worked at my college library as a student, and I remember having a conversation with the library secretary about being a working mother. She had two or three school aged kids and I was taking a psychology class. So, naturally, I thought we were equally knowledgeable on the subject. I talked about how important it was for an infant to bond with his parents in the first few months of life. She said, “I guess. But, sometimes I think they need you more when they get to middle school.” That sounded like crazy talk to nineteen-year-old me. After all, the Psych 101 textbook didn't say anything about that.
        Those bite-marks are really starting to sting.
        My kids can bathe and dress themselves. I don't have to ask them if they need to go to the bathroom any more. They know where the food is and are capable of making a sandwich or pouring milk into a bowl of cereal. My older son has been certified by the Boy Scouts of America in first aid. He's even received credentials to use a pocket knife and start a campfire safely.
        But with all of their knowledge and skills, there is no substitute for having time to talk to Mom or Dad about what is on their mind. And there is SO much on their minds. Between the things they hear on the bus and the news on the radio and TV, these years are a minefield of awkward conversations. In the past few weeks my husband and I have fielded questions about bullies, heroin, alcohol, mass shootings, French kissing, twerking, suicide, genocide, terrorism, theology and measles.
        But we do it. Maybe not joyfully, but willingly. Just like the thousands of diapers changed, and lullabies sung, and late-night feedings, it's part of parenting. Parenting a middle-schooler isn't much easier than parenting an infant. It's just different. And it isn't any less important. Back then the focus was on keeping their bodies nourished. As they become older, we focus on nourishing their brains and souls. Today after school my son just wanted to talk to me about the latest Lego sets that are coming out. So I sat with him flipping through the catalog feeling relieved it wasn't a “big” topic. But he's going to need the talk about all those “big” questions. Maybe if I give him my full attention when the topic is Legos, he'll continue to seek me out when the topic gets a lot more complicated.

Hi there! I know I've been a very sporadic blogger lately. So thanks for stopping by! Be sure and check out my next post. I have an exciting give-away coming soon.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Write on Edge: The Past

       From the too loud television in the family room she heard a song that took her back to Central Junior High. Her hips moved to the familiar tune as she washed the dinner dishes. She smiled when the guitar solo came in, thinking about the boys in the band who wore more makeup than her mother allowed her to in those days.
       She could smell the Aqua Net in the girls’ room and see the graffiti on the wall. She remembered the mean girls who wore Flashdance inspired sweatshirts and matching leg warmers. Her face flushed when she remembered getting teased about her own clothes back then. Trendy clothes that had hung on the clearance rack a little too long or outgrown by a more fashionable cousin. It took a few more years before she was comfortable with her own sense of style and stopped trying to follow trends her family couldn’t afford.
       There were good times of course. She bought her first vinyl albums: Duran Duran, Men at Work, The Police, Prince, and Billy Joel. She gained some independence, being dropped off the Riverdale Roller Rink to skate to “Gloria” and “Oh Mickey”. There wasn’t that kind of independence for her own children these days. Twelve seems too young to see a movie or wander a mall without a parent in the age of helicopter parenting.
       Her pre-teen son bopped into the kitchen looking for a snack (again).
       “Were they just playing Duran Duran on MTV?” She asked him. “I haven’t heard that song in ages.”
       “I thought I heard Hungry Like the Wolf.”
       “Oh, that was a yogurt commercial Mom.”

       So maybe I really am back in the saddle--it’s been a long time since I wrote any fiction. I’m linking up with Write on Edge for the first time in way too long. This week’s prompt is a quote, “The past is a foreign country: the do things differently there.” Please let me know what you think. Constructive criticism is always welcome.