Surviving With LOST

A few years ago I had shoulder surgery.  Totally painful.  Complete with instructions like sleep upright for the first 30 days.  I was beside myself.  The pain medication worked the opposite on me (I barely slept) so the first week was particularly difficult.

Until my son came up from Manhattan to spend the weekend with me and introduced me to LOST.


Photo credit Huffington Post

My son was a member of that large number of people, like 10-15 million US viewers each season, who were obsessed with LOST.  I may have been the only person in my country not to have seen even one episode.  Airing from 2004-2010,  LOST offered a combination of the supernatural, adventure/romance/betrayal and science fiction. Definitely a winning combination.

How was I left out of that loop?  That’s an easy one to answer.  I just couldn’t, in those days, nor in today’s culture of Netflix and Hulu, sit down and watch a weekly show on the nights it aired.

But my son had the entire series on DVD.

He watched the pilot episode with me and I was hooked.  It kept me away from my pain and thrust me into the characters’ pain, joy, love and fear.

Then I understood the obsession. Especially since obsession is my default mode.  And I understand why, when I would periodically call my friend, she would practically yell into the phone “LOST IS ON I CAN’T TALK.”

And what’s not to like about the series?  That’s why I’m watching it a second time on Netflix.

So on all of those nights when I couldn’t sleep, and during all of the days that I hurt, I plowed through the 6 years of the series.


I could forget all about the pain and get lost in LOST.

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Poverty, Affluence And Technology In Schools

Technology is awesome in so many ways.  It has revolutionized teaching.  But has increased the divide between the haves and have nots.

I grew up in a very wealthy suburb of New York City.  We were one of the haves.  I was spoiled financially.  Adolescence is hard for many kids.  My home life was nightmarish. But on my 16th birthday I got my own phone line and a Volkswagen Beetle.  I was a have.

In school, I needed notebooks, pens, pencils and a Spanish/English dictionary.

Now, kids need notebooks, pens, pencils, graphing calculators and Chromebooks or iPads.  And in most cases, the schools don’t provide them.

The district in which I teach is on the forefront of technology, and on the forefront of getting kids what they need.  But while chipping away at it, the socio-economic divide continues.  And the expectations of teachers, including me, contribute to that.  I have learned to build in provisions where my students can either give me the work on paper, or if they prefer, spend a couple of minutes in class transferring their homework to the computers.  Our district provides the desktops or Chromebooks for class work.

Many of my students, who are almost all immigrants, live in a room that their families rent in small apartments. These are probably in illegal apartments and they don’t even know that.  There may be 5 people living in a room that is separated from the rest of the apartment with a curtain, and sharing a kitchen with others. Electricity may be sporadic. The kids get free breakfast and lunch at the school which helps the families, but they may have only a couple of outfits that they alternate hoping that the other teens don’t notice.

Many teachers at our school quietly get the students new clothes. We occasionally get them a gift certificate for a local clothing store.  We have easy access for food pantries. But they aren’t wearing North Face and the newest Nike’s like the more affluent students.  They feel different.  And less than. They are the have nots.

These students all work, helping their families and paying for the things that are normal for teenagers now to have, like cell phones.  But many don’t have wifi.

This is true in our town and across our country, not just within the immigrant population, but with white and black families alike.  I’m not going to quote them, but the statistics are there.

In my classroom, almost everything is done on Google.  I use Google Communities, homework is done on Drive, the students and their parents can communicate with me at any hour on Google Hangout.  My students are learning user-end 21st Century Technology skills.

But many of them don’t have wifi available to them outside of school.

They are living in a room in someone else’s apartment.  They are working one or two jobs.  They are being teenagers and partying and worrying about love.  They are trying to fit into the school community.

And while doing all of this, they have to add something that the middle class and upper middle class don’t have to worry about.  Taking that extra time and effort to find wifi.

Obviously, there is the public library.  And our school stays open late a few days a week for community access.  And we have desktops and Chromebooks galore available for our students of all ages.  In the elementary schools, they can take them home with them.

But not all schools in our area are like that.  And not many schools in our country are so proactive or so accommodating.

It kills me.  It tears at my heart.

When one of my grandsons was in 4th grade, he and his classmates all needed to have an iPad to bring to school.  The couple of kids who couldn’t afford them, and they were usually immigrant kids, used the desktops in the classroom.  Like the other kids wouldn’t notice.

The added expense of an iPad would have affected my daughter’s budget, although not drastically, so my husband and I got the iPad.  But I couldn’t believe that it was a requirement at that school.  Unless you lived in abject poverty.  Now he is in a different district that requires all students to have Chromebooks.  Except the ones that can’t afford a Chromebook can use the ones at school.  But they only have one or two chrome carts in the school.  We are buying our grandson a Chromebook today.

The work must be in on time.  As a 6th grader he must read the emails from the teacher. He must work on his blog and submit it on time.  He will be able to do that, because his family can afford to buy him a Chromebook.

There is an attitude in parts of our society, that the students who live in poverty can just go to a library, that they can just go to a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, where to buy a coffee and bagel is an expense they can’t afford, but that they should sit there and use the wifi provided for free.

Oh that’s right, they can’t.  They are working to help provide for their families. The have nots.

While the haves of this country are on traveling sports teams after school and on weekends, going to museums, aquariums and on vacations, perhaps to other countries, other teens are working, and having another summer that adds to the cultural divide. The haves write about their summers on their laptops, iPads and Chromebooks at home.  Writing about experiences that the have nots, well, have not had.  The affluent teens write using their expensive smart phones, not thinking twice, just as I didn’t during my own adolescence, that not everyone has equal access.

We use technology that can, and is, revolutionizing education.  But that also places more of a burden on those who are the working poor.

We use the technology that increases the divide between the haves and have nots.



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Blame Everything On My Kidneys

You know how people say things like “I blame it on my mother; she always makes me late.” Or “I blame myself; I should have known better.” Or,

Blame it on the weather.eddard-stark-blame-meme

Blame it on the full moon.

If it weren’t for the kids…..


I blame it on my kidneys.  Wait, what?  It’s true.  It’s my new thing.  I blame everything on my kidneys.  I’m saying this light-heartedly, but it’s my new saying.  I blame everything on my kidneys.

Last spring I had icky things going on physically that no one needs to, and you absolutely wouldn’t want to, know the details.  My doctors were ruling out cancer, and that didn’t look so good for a while.  My problem wasn’t getting better and it was emotionally and physically debilitating.

So, lucky me, I had surgery in early June to see what’s what with my kidneys.  The idea was to fix anything they could see that needed fixing, if possible, and to biopsy anything handy for biopsy.

I’m making light of this but I was really scared and my family was freaking out.

I came out of surgery and when I woke up my husband said “You have 3 kidneys.”  I said “Shut up.”  But he was serious.  I have 3 kidneys.  For real.

The doctor came in and my mother spoke out of my mouth. “I never heard of such a thing.”  What is this, the 1950’s?  So I cleared my throat and said, “this isn’t a joke, right?” The doctor assured me that I had 3 kidneys and gave me a DVD.

I clutched the DVD until they helped me get dressed and leave.

How exciting to have a DVD of 3 kidneys!!  It looks like the moon with a dog walking on it.  But not like that one.full-moon-with-howling-wolf

My husband told me I probably was given the DVD so when I went to a specialist I had something to give him.  Oh.

This bizarre thing, upon which I blame everything possible, is an extra, fully functioning kidney.  But before you get excited about donating possibilities, boys and girls, my kidneys are too big, are fused, and twisted.  Ewwwwww.

I no longer have any problems, but I’m keeping a close eye on kidney stuff.

“Hey Barb, do you want to go to the movies?”  “Um, I don’t know……I have these 3 kidneys…”

“Do you want to chaperone an event at school?”  “Oh wow! But, unfortunately I have 3 kidneys.”

I can hear my mother now. “You should have known better than to have 3 kidneys.”

Forget the full moon, the influence of your grandfather, the heat, the way you were raised, the if-onlys…..just do what I do.

I blame everything on my kidneys.



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The Gravestone Whisperer

Barb at Stephen Rowe Bradley houseBoth my husband and I are working on our respective genealogies.  With a vengeance. He is a Son of the American Revolution and a Mayflower Descendant.  I’m a Daughter of the American Revolution wannabe (paperwork done just not submitted it yet).  And my family missed the Mayflower by about 5-10 years.  Oh well.

What is the lure of genealogy?  It certainly has grabbed many people and they haven’t wanted to let go.  Perhaps it is the draw for stability in a world in which many people move around.  The days of raising your children in the house in which you were raised, and your parents before you and their parents before them are over for many families, at least in the area in which we live.

So we delve into our roots.  In a previous blog post, A Non-Morbid Cemetery Tour , I talked about how interesting this search is, and would be, on our vacation this summer.

Well, it was that and more.  My husband and I decided to go to New England for our vacation and while doing normal vacation things, to look up the towns where our ancestors lived, as well as where they are buried.

It turns out that I’m a gravestone whisperer.

The first cemetery we went to was to find the graves of Jonathan Dorr Bradley (1803-1862) and his wife Susan Mina Crossman (1811-1892).  They are buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery in Brattleboro, Vermont.  If any relative I’ve never heard of is reading this, feel free to contact me.

We go to the cemetery and it starts to rain just as I am getting out of the car.  This is just a partial view of the cemetery.  I should have tried to take a picture of the whole thing, but would have had to be in the Space Station to get it all in one photo. Okay, okay, I’m exaggerating.  But it was BIG.  Like maybe 1,500-2,000 graves big.

brattleboro-prospecthill partial imageMy husband pulls up in front of this much-bigger-than-this-pic shows cemetery.  I told him to just give me a few minutes because you never know.  I imagined him sighing.  I take off in one direction, getting wet, and he steps out of the car in the other direction.

After 3 minutes tops, I yelled “Found Them.”  He couldn’t believe it.

The Gravestone Whisperer.

Susan Mina Crossman gravestone  susan mina crossman Sorry, Susan Mina Crossman Bradley, but you look pretty terrifying in this portrait.  I think I would rather be yelled at by my mother.

Jonathan Dorr Bradley gravestone jonathan dorr bradley Jonathan Dorr Bradley graduated from Yale and Yale Law School.  He has that lawyer look about him so I wouldn’t have wanted to be the grandchild that got in his way, either.  They are my grandparents X 4 generations.

Belfast Maine 1Then we traveled into Belfast, Maine to find relaxation and new experiences on the coast of Maine, as well as the graves of Simon Knowles and Lydia Fuller.  Simon Knowles, my husband’s grandfather X  some number of generations, was a Revolutionary War soldier. His wife, Lydia Fuller Knowles, was descended from Samuel Fuller, who came here on the Mayflower.

We had the address of the cemetery, put it in our GPS and it took us down a rural road. Then to a dirt road.  Then to a broken down bridge past where the GPS said we should be.  We looked at each other.  Then retraced our steps and sure enough, we had gone to the right street.  Lots of beautiful dense trees.  Nothing else.  More trees.

Cemetery in Belfast MaineAnd then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tombstone in the woods.  We parked and walked up into the woods a bit and saw a tiny cemetery with just a handful of graves.


There we found the resting place of Lydia Fuller Knowles and Simon Knowles.Lydia Fuller Knowles gravestone Simon Knowles gravestone

Found because I’m the Gravestone Whisperer.

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When You Need A Deenie

From about 1955-1959 we lived in Washington D.C. while my father was stationed at the Pentagon.  Life in my family was financially good but emotionally not so much.  My father worked long hours, my older brothers whom I adored were in school and had their own friends and activities, and my mother drank.

Barb DC in front yard

Which gave me time on my hands.  I did what 4-year-olds do.  I played with dolls, played dress-up, and relied on our maid/nanny for support, treats and attention.

Cowboy Barb in DC


Watch out Wild West, Barb is on her way.




A saving grace for me is that I had one friend.  My best friend Deenie.

There was a special part of our yard that was secluded.  It was just a little off of the driveway, but almost completely enclosed by trees.  A small, grass covered oasis that I thought no one but me knew was there.  My hiding place.  An escape from the chaos and turmoil in our household that I was too young to figure out or even to name.  And every day Deenie and I would play in my secret place.

deenieMy husband and I went back to the house in D.C. and my secret spot isn’t quite as hidden.  I guess the adage is true that you can never go back.



We had marvelous adventures.  Playing house and playing school were our favorites.  School was a little abstract because we had never been there.  Nor could we read yet. But we knew what reading and arithmetic were and we would take turns being teacher and student. Being mother and daughter.

Deenie often hung out at our house.  She didn’t care that my parents fought a lot, nor did she realize, as I didn’t, that much of that was fueled by alcohol.  She was just my friend. And she could be or do whatever I wanted.  She wasn’t at our house all of the time, but came out when I needed her.

Deenie was my imaginary friend.

I vividly remember watching television with Deenie one day.   She was being daring because she was sitting in my father’s chair.  No one sat in my father’s chair except my father.  Ever.  But there was Deenie.  Dad came into the room and sat right on top of her. I jumped up and yelled “You’re squishing Deenie!”

That might be why Deenie didn’t move with us from Washington D.C.  When we arrived in Westchester County, NY, Deenie wasn’t with us.  I don’t think that I was told she couldn’t come.

I guess I didn’t need her anymore.Barb DC on front steps



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A Phone With A Mind Of Its Own

Seriously? How did I end up with this phone?  It throws itself on the floor willy-nilly.

iPhone 6s

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my phone.  All my important information is on it.  I’m lost without it.  Literally lost.  I have to start buying maps again.

Yet, with all the love I give it, it jumps off tables, out of my arms, out of the open car door. It even threw itself out of my hand into the refrigerator once.  I’m worried that it will jump into the toilet, but I guess even this phone draws the line at drowning.

Sometimes I think it’s Apple’s fault.  The phones are so slippery that we are forced to buy cases.  Is it planned obsolescence?  Slippery phones = broken phones.  Or is it good ‘ole American capitalism?  Slippery phones = need for covers.  Slippery phones that break while covered = need for more expensive covers.

But then I remember that this has happened when I had a blackberry, an android, and a black rotary phone in 1975.

That’s the answer! I need to become Batman.batman smashed phone


The obvious answer to this is that I need to choose my phones more carefully.  It’s impossible to believe that with so many people owning smart phones, I keep choosing the clumsy ones.


It’s not me, it’s the phone.  It has a mind of its own.



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Please Tell Me You’re Barbara Elizabeth

Why is it that emergencies don’t happen when we are sitting at home reading or watching the news?  Almost all of my emergencies happen when I’m at work.  As did this one with my father.

At the time, probably the summer or early fall of 1994, I was working as a Program Director for a non-profit agency for adults with disabilities.  My father called me at work and told me that he was really sick.  He said he had “thrown up all over the place” and asked me to come help him clean it up.  He certainly didn’t sound chipper, but he didn’t sound desperate either.

I grabbed some gloves, the kind that nurses and doctors use, and left work.  On the way I stopped at the store and picked up some ginger ale and saltines for him.

When I arrived at his house, all the shades were drawn which I thought was strange.  It was over 80 degrees, so perhaps he wanted to keep the sun out of the house.  I was greeted by a blast of hot air when I opened the front door.  He had the heat cranked up high.

And there was no vomit anywhere.

My father was sitting in the living room and the first thing he did was ask me to check on my mother who was in the other room.  But my mother wasn’t in the other room.  My mother had died in May of 1994.  How do you respond to that?  I was totally unnerved but decided to ignore him.  I called 911 and tried to go into act-as-if-you-are-at-work-and-this-isn’t-your-father mode.  I opened the curtains, turned the air conditioning on, got out his meds and arranged them on the kitchen table for the EMT’s.

When the ambulance and police arrived, my father asked them what they were doing there and told them that they should be checking on my mother.  I pretended to go check on her instead of screaming SHE’S DEAD at him.  Then, my father refused to let anybody but me touch him.

Are you kidding me???  My dad was 6’2″ and weighed over 225 pounds.  Easily.  I’m 5’2″ if I go a little on my tippy-toes when I’m being measured.  And my father refused to let anyone but me get him out of his recliner onto the gurney.  Luckily, I know how to move people without throwing out my own back, from my job.  So I helped the EMTs get him on the gurney, and then move him up the gurney so that his head was in the right place. He was very angry and was cursing at the police and EMT guys.  I finally said “Stop it right now,” in the stern voice I use with my kids.  Amazingly, he stopped.

And he was furious that I wasn’t riding in the ambulance with him.  I followed in my car but was about 5 minutes behind the ambulance as I closed up his place.  Plus I couldn’t drive a kazillion miles an hour with sirens blazing.

When I entered the Emergency Room at the Northern Westchester Hospital, I could hear my father bellowing “BARBARA ELIZABETH YOU BETTER GET YOUR ASS IN HERE NOW!”  Good Lord.

One of the nurses turned to me and said “Please tell me you’re Barbara Elizabeth.”

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Calling All Canadians!

You have to help me out, please.  I have an embarrassing admission.  I know almost nothing about Canadian literature.

When I say “almost nothing,” I mean that literally.  How is that possible?  Growing up, in English classes, we were exposed to mountains of English literature, meaning from England.  And scores of American writers in American Lit classes.  In college, I took many English courses including a Shakespearean class.

But I have never even seen a Canadian Lit class here.  And I live in the state of New York. We border Canada, for heaven’s sake.bitmoji thinking

It’s possible, of course, that in the course of my life I have read novels by Canadian authors and didn’t realize that they were Canadian.  Which means there were no embedded clues.  I would have picked up on those.


So what do I know?  I know and love Louise Penny and                                                             her Armand Gamache series.  I love crime fiction and her books go way beyond that. They capture your heart, tear at your heart, beg you to solve the crime and empathize with the fallout.  I check my Barnes & Noble list frequently, hoping the next novel will be published soon.            Louise Penny still life


I also have read a bunch of Kathy Reich’s books.  I don’t know if those count because while they are set both in the US and in Canada, she is an American author.

Lydia Longley coverMy first introduction to Canada and books featuring Canadian life and people, boy do I sound stuffy was in 2nd grade when I read the biography of “Lydia Longley, The First American Nun.”  American as in from North America.  She was born in the US but eventually went to Canada and became a nun.  I immediately wanted to be a nun and spent 2nd grade, which was also the year of my First Holy Communion, trying to act nun-like. Unfortunately, or fortunately (I think my kids would vote for fortunately),  it didn’t stick.  I still love the book.

On one of my trips to Canada with my husband, we went to a fort and heard about a battle from the Canadian point of view.  I looked down to be sure I didn’t have on a shirt with the American flag, and considered slinking away unnoticed or screaming I’M SORRY.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to have my high school students read about history from two points of view, so I bought “Laura Secord, The Heroic Adventures of a Candian Legend” by Cheryl MacDonald.Laura SecordAnd that, ladies and gentlemen and my LGTB friends, is the extent of my knowledge of Canadian literature and authors.  Please give me recommendations of any genre and any author you enjoy.  Thank you!

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Our Obsession With Jon Snow

jon snow main pic

In 2015, it was reported that A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin, the fantasy novels that began with “A Game of Thrones” in 1995, had sold 60 million copies worldwide.  Then came the HBO series.  “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s wildly popular series based on the “A Song of Ice and Fire” epic novels, chose its title from the first book in the series.  Proof positive that the world was reading and watching.

And in the first chapter of “A Game of Thrones” we meet Jon Snow.

We learn that Jon Snow is the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark.  And in his first sentence, we learn of his kindness and sense of responsibility to his brother, Bran, as their father was about to kill a deserter from the Night’s Watch.  ” ‘Keep the pony well in hand,’ he whispered.  ‘And don’t look away.  Father will know if you do.’ ”

So starts our obsession with Jon Snow.  He was my favorite character from this sentence on.

What attracts me to him is probably what attracts everyone.  The brooding bastard who was accepted by his half-brothers Robb and Bran, adored by his half-sister Arya, insulted by his father’s ward Theon and half-sister Sansa and treated with cold disdain by Lord Stark’s wife.  And his bond with his direwolf, Ghost.

Jon Snow and ghost

We find, as the series continues, that he has a strong sense of duty and a desire to find a niche for himself in their world.  And that comes in the form of the Night’s Watch.  In joining the Night’s Watch, the band of brothers who guard the Wall against the wildlings and the Others who live north of the Wall, all men are accepted without regard to their status.  When you join, you leave your past behind you.the wall








In 2011, HBO brought us the series “Game of Thrones” and the actor Kit Harington.


Men want to be like him and women either want to sleep with him or be his mother.





Jon Snow embodies honor, duty, responsibility and humility.  He commands respect and, as most people in that position, has enemies.  He has a star-crossed love affair with Ygritte, a wildling girl, showing a vulnerability that people can relate to.  Jon Snow is an honorable character in a series of dishonorable characters.  He fights without equal for those he loves and for what is right and just.

This role is played to perfection by Kit Harington.  This is why we are obsessed with Jon Snow.

game-of-thrones-season-6-episode-9-trailer pic jon snow


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Diverting Dam

croton falls diverting dam 2

Now this is one fun dam!

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