Day 347

I walked into my local town hall in a press capacity for the first time in ten years today.

Ten years ago — the year I turned 40 — I was a reporter for our local newspaper and spent many afternoon and evening hours in that very building covering government matters and town meetings. I started out nervous that year and grew into  the job  with the help of seasoned reporters and editors who gave their patience, their guidance, and sometimes their frustration to me.

I thought fondly of our younger selves  this morning as I parked my car and walked through the parking lot toward the double glass doors.   It’s not often that we get to retrace our own steps and remember how much has happened in our lives and in ourselves since we last walked the same path. And here’s what I was thinking  — it’s not really  the same path as it was ten years ago. It looks the same, but it’s been trod by many people, with many hopes and dreams and fears. And it’s not the same walk, because I’m not the same person. We’re never the same people we were when we last crossed even the most familiar threshold. Every day, every year, experience changes us: some things make us stronger, others weaker; some richer, others poorer. But everything pours into the same place — the richness that make up the fabric of our lives and of our selves.

Are we always the same, or are we never the same? I say both. This morning and yesterday morning, last year and this year, a decade ago, and myself at 50: I had the same name, the same heart, the same soul.  But they’ve been repaved, worn down, built up, broken, cared for, made fun of, and loved.

That’s an awful lot to think about when you’re on your way to take a photograph of school crossing guards being sworn in. But that’s the kind of thing I think about — so that you guys can peek in here from time to time and think to yourselves either — “Man, she’s nuts,” or “Thank god somebody else can articulate how I feel living in the gray area I call my own life.”

Probably, hopefully, you think and you feel both ways. As I do.


Day 240

I’m busy preparing for the American Cancer Society’s 12-hour overnight Relay for Life this Friday in Montclair. At this point, to be honest, the work is mostly sitting back and letting my wonderful team of 13 walkers paint our team banner and plan what to bring and what we’ll eat.

A special thanks to all MyBigWalkers who sent donations to the Relay.  You’ll be with us in spirit as we walk through the night.

Watch for pieces about each of my team walkers in the days ahead. Some are survivors, some are dedicated caregivers who are honoring loved ones, and others are remembering those who’ve lost the battle but live on in our hearts. Our reasons are complex and personal but they’re bringing us together, and community makes us stronger. That’s why we’ll be there.

Here’s a great story about the event posted yesterday on my favorite local news spot, Baristanet:

Countdown to Montclair’s Relay for Life

Montclair will host its first-ever Relay for Life on Friday, June 4, at Brookdale Park, thanks to the event’s chair, Erica Lowenthal, who took part in the Hoboken relay last year in memory of her late dad, Dr Hank Lowenthal, and decided to bring the event home.

Forty teams will be participating, and more than $73,000 has already been raised. Proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society Relay For Life – the biggest private funder of cancer research in the US.

The Relay celebrates the lives of those who have battled cancer and won, lost, or are still fighting back. Because cancer never relents, it’s an overnight event, beginning June 4 at 7:00pm and ending up to 24 hours later.

Each team has a reason, often a moving and personal one, for participating.

The leading fundraising team of My Big Walk, which has raised more than $8,500 so far, says on their page that they are “dedicated to cancer survivors Elaine Rapaport, Alex Nolan, Nanci Naegeli, Toni Martin, and Jenny Kydd.”

“Our friends have met and battled cancer. The women on our team are athletes, warriors, and ferocious fighters. We’re walking to keep the flame of the fight alive, and to light the dark night for those who are engaged in battle. Most of all, we’re walking for hope and unity.”

The entire community appears to be involved, including the Temptations of St Luke’s Church, Temple Ner Tamid, and schools such as Bradford, Hillside, Glenfield, Nishuane, MKA and Montclair High School.

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life provides emotional, screening and nutritional support and advice on healthy living. It funds research towards cures for cancer – 44 researchers supported by the ACS have gone on to win the Nobel Prize – and fights back, too. The society helped bring about the smoke-free law and assists low-income, uninsured or underinsured women with treatment or screening tests.

The event will be moving, and fun, too, with plenty of entertainment organized.

If you’d like to participate, it’s not too late!

Phyllis Lowenthal, who heads the team, The Page Turners, is in charge of the survivors’ dinner and walk that begins in the evening of June 4, and may be emailed here.

Sign up here, or just help towards finding a cure by making a contribution, here.

Day 64

CONTEST UPDATE: Two made me laugh and one made me sigh at the narrative flow of her imagintion. Here are MyBigWalkers‘ reflections (to date) on those Weird Coconutty Things found in the forest. And there’s still one more day to enter the free book contest!

Those are honey pots. Duh.      
 – Pooh.

I do believe these weird coconut looking things are the new and improved homes of the Smurfs. They opted out of the mushrooms to a more eco-friendly and energy efficient form of housing…hope you guys didn’t step on Papa Smurf…   – Cara             

I have never seen anything like that before but I’m guessing gigantic acorns (with the inside eaten out). Maybe they’re prehistoric- or growing on some growth hormone inducing toxic waste. I’d love to see them in person because they’re just toooo weird                    – Donna

                     What coconutty things you  can see    
                     If you take a walk with me
                     Don’t know what the heck they are
                     Maybe fallen from a star
                     Look like pods from outer space
                     Another vegetable alien race
                     Can you eat them I don’t know
                     Oh please sign my book Prato!

                                                  – Cowgirl Storey

Once upon a time very long ago in a forest not far from here lived a little girl named Coco. She had a very sad life, as her family was poor and rarely had enough to eat. One day Coco was sitting on a fallen tree limb in the forest crying softly, for it was Christmas Eve and for her and her family it was just another day to struggle and be hungry. Suddenly, she felt something soft and warm on her leg, and looking down, she saw a little bunny rabbit holding out a clean leaf for her to use to wipe away her tears. “What’s wrong little girl” the rabbit asked. “I am so tired, so hungry, so cold, and I guess that I and my family will always be this way.” The bunny rabbit instantly knew that he had come upon the little girl who lived in the forest with her family that all of the forest creatures had been talking about… (please go to Comments to read more)  — Rosemary


Evidence of prehistoric breast implants (they were much softer at one point and could actually store milk for the little prehistoric cave children)  — Laura

These are the acorn shells used by the ancient Atlantans to escape the continent when it was sunk by an evil giant squirrel. When the little people denied his demand to be crowned king, he stomped his feet until the land sunk under the sea. He didn’t survive but, thanks to his slovenly habit of leaving his acorn shells all over the place, the Atlantans were able to scramble inside and float to the surface. How they sealed the tops has remained a mystery to scientists for more than 6000 years…(read more on the COMMENTS page) – Shirley

I see 7 and not seeing another 3, i’m guessing. they’re giant acorn shells left behind by giant squirrels… oh no, don’t look behind you — Bernadette

Day 63

Yuck. I’d rather walk in snow than rain, but walk I must, so walk I did. Only to return and discover nary a single entry in my Weird Coconutty Things contest…which leads me to believe I am asking too much of you guys.

So — here’s the new contest. If you can’t name ’em, count ’em.  How many weird pod things do you see in this picture?

Send in the number, and a little anecdote. FREE SIGNED BOOK (see yesterday’s post) to the person who gets the number right, and tells a funny little story about walking in the rain, or walking, or finding out the pod people really are the ghosts from the Lost Tiki Bar of Essex.

Day 42

doing laundryWalking with other people on a daily basis is a little bit like stepping into somebody’s basement to watch them…do laundry.

Like sorting colors or adding bleach, each person has his own personal walking style — something that seems absolutely natural & necessary to you, but to the rest of us seems, basically, wierd.

Since the unexamined life is the best kind / for dumb people / not for people on the East Coast uh, not what I’m aiming for, here are a few ‘with or without’ questions that have come up on my daily walks with others.

With or without coffee?  I say everything’s better with caffeine.

With or without I-pod? Not necessary for me.

With or without cell phone? Better to have it, but not use it.

banana in your pocketWith or without a banana (or an apple — c’mon guys!) in your pocket?  Depends — what kind of fruit did you have in mind?

With or without the dog? Sarah’s my simplest walking companion.

With or without a destination? Some days yes, some days no.

With or without special sneakers? With or without gloves & hat? With or without sunscreen?

With or without getting in the car?

With or without a camera?

Raphael's_AngelsWith or without a purpose? 

With or without others?

With or without  judgement? With or without intention? With or without  guilt? With or without a guardian angel? With or without a higher power? With or without an inner light?

Sometimes the thing we think is an absolute necessity turns out to be the thing that’s weighing us down.   Sometimes letting go of our deepest attachments is the most liberating thing we’ve ever done. 

Over the years I’ve been shocked to find that the person, habit, or crutch I thought I couldn’t live without turned out to be just the thing I needed to let go of. 

I’m willing to try almost anything once — playing rap music on my I-pod while I’m out walking, washing my whites and darks together, walking in pink sandals or flip flops, following instead of leading, walking a mapped route in the shape of a ketchup bottle (yes, there are programs that can do that!). 

cabanaOr, conversely, leaving all that behind and just walking out the front door of my house, my hotel, my beach shack, my ski chalet, my pied-à-terre…you get the idea.

Just don’t expect me to leave the house without my morning coffee!

Day 37

IMG_0297It’s been a sad week here in Montclair. Michael Parlapiano, a 21-year-old college student my family has known since he and his siblings were small, passed away suddenly in Vermont last Friday.

I heard this terrible news in a text sent by my daughter, who was too overwhelmed to make the phone call from college. I understand how she felt. I didn’t want to pick up the phone and call anyone, either. And yet I was so sad and stunned, I didn’t want to be alone with the news and the grief.

Then, my friend Nanci called. Michael’s mom plays tennis in town, and the tragedy had been relayed among our friends that morning.

Nanci and I talked — she’s a professional listener, if you know what I mean — and then we did what I’ve been doing for a month now. We walked.  We took our dogs up on a high road that runs along the edge of town, and we talked about life and death and loss. We talked about feeling sad, helpless, and overwhelmed by the sudden and complete shock and grief. 

There was nothing good to be said. But it was a chance for my friend and I to share our confusion and pain together. When we were finished walking we still felt sad, but at least we didn’t feel alone in our grieving.

Life’s going to bring disappointments, challenges, and loss. We can be sure of that. family

My children, husband, and I had to face two losses this week.  First, the tragic loss of Michael — loved by so many, so full of life.  Then, a bond in our own family that’s been willfully  broken, separating a young vulnerable boy from people who love him dearly.  

I’m sad. I’m waiting for grace, truth, and understanding. Meanwhile, I’m walking. And walking. And walking.   Because I know this much: the minute I walk out my front door, I feel better.

Life is a journey we take together.  We never know when or how or where it’s going to end. The joy is the journey itself.  And the travelling together is a balm for the soul.

So thank you, fellow sojourners. I hope you’ll share your stories about the healing power of friends & walking with us.  

I’ll see you on the upswing.

Day 15


read all dayYes, it’s raining. And it was a horrible day for a walk. So we’re not going to talk about that. We’re going to talk about the woman who’s reading 365 books — a book a day — in a single year.

 Her name is Nina Sankovitch, and her project is called “Read All Day.”

Partly for the pure love of reading, partly to help her find purpose and structure in life, partly in memory of her sister, Nina has been reading and reviewing a book a day — some of them pretty long books — for almost an entire year.

And you thought I was crazy? 

Read more about this former environmental lawyer in the New York Times.  And hope that either it warms up, or that I find my gloves and rainboots, before tomorrow morning.

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