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Showing posts from November, 2016

Giving—Thanks, Gifts, Money, Time—This Holiday Season

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Regardless of which candidate you voted for in the recent election, many of us were reminded of a hard truth about life these days. We are not always aware of what our neighbors are thinking and feeling. We may not know about the difficulties or hardships they may be facing. There are many people throughout our community who may be feeling lost, alone, or simply in need of the basics. One refrain I have heard over and over since the election is that we cannot rely on our elected officials to make our country better. We have to pitch in and lend our support to the causes and organizations we find meaningful. A nation needs an engaged citizenry in order to be truly great.

The holiday season can be a wonderful way for all of us to come together to help each other, and build a strong, supportive environment so that everyone can thrive. There are a wide variety of organizations in New Jersey serving their communities, from soup kitchens and shelters to community centers, after-schoo…

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year in the Most Wonderful City in the World!

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The holidays are a magical time to visit New York City, especially with children. There is so much to do and so many opportunities to make lasting memories.
To kick off the holiday season, Macy’s hosts the annual Thanksgiving Day parade. This is a favorite adventure for my family and the pictures above are from one of our trips. It originated in 1924 as a way for Macy’s immigrant employees to celebrate Christmas like they did at homeNote 1 "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade." Macys.com. Macys.com, Inc., n.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.. It has evolved into a holiday tradition that includes big balloons, marching bands, celebrity performers, clowns, floats and a little bit of Broadway! And it always concludes with the arrival of Santa Claus. Part of the fun is watching the big balloons being filled with helium the day before the parade.

During the holiday season, festive decorations are everywhere. Large department stores are famous for their elaborate holiday window disp…

It’s About Time

Every spring we turn our clocks ahead one hour onto what has been termed Daylight Saving Time, which allows us to get up to take advantage of the earlier rising of the sun and gain an extra hour of light after work. At high summer the sun sets at about 8:30 p.m. on Daylight Saving Time. If we did not turn our clocks ahead in the spring, the clock would say 7:30 p.m. when the sun sets at this time of the year. In the fall, as the hours of daylight decrease, we again change them—back one hour to Standard Time, which you could also call "true" time, as it is based on having noon, or 12:00 p.m., when the sun is on or near the midheaven. While on Daylight Saving Time, true "noon" (sun on the midheaven) will always occur when our clocks say 1:00 p.m. or close to that time.

This got me thinking about time in general and how time zones were established and changed over the years. As most Americans know, the continental United States has four time zones. Large nations such …

The Joy of Reading

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NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, is an Internet-based writing project that requires participants to write 50,000 words from November 1st to November 30th. Started by a freelance writer Chris Baty in 1999, this project has motivated many would-be novelists to start writing their novel. The goal of NaNoWriMo is commendable—encouraging people to both start writing and to complete their unfinished masterpieces. However, NaNoWriMo also begs the question: is there actually a novel writer in all of us? I have read plenty of badly written novels and can attest to the fact that not everyone is meant to be a novelist. But there are also plenty of good books out there and what this world really needs are more readers! So this November, instead of trying to write a novel, why not read a novel? Why not set a goal to read a novel a week? As Claire Fallon of the Huffington Post points out “If you love books, please know you don’t have to write one to validate your passion. Readi…

Bob Dylan–First Songwriter to Win a Nobel

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For the first time in the history of the Nobel Prize for literature, a singer-songwriter has won–Bob Dylan. Including Dylan, there have been 113 literature prizes. The first was awarded in 1901 to the French poet Sully Prudhomme. The Nobel Prize site explains: “His (Prudhomme’s) elevated poetry fit in Alfred Nobel's formulation about works in an ideal direction.”

In selecting Dylan, the Nobel Prize committee says that Dylan is important “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."

So, perhaps we should not be surprised at this development. The New York Times recently had an article about Harvard classics professor, Richard F. Thomas, who has been teaching a seminar on Bob Dylan for years (see “The Coolest Class at Harvard? It’s ‘Bob Dylan” – NYT, Saturday October 15, 2016). The professor says of Dylan:

“In his intertextuality, he’s like Virgil or Ovid. …I don’t see any difference between a poet like Catullus or Virgil or Bob Dylan...…

Books To Get You Thinking Holiday Edition I

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Along with the cool crisp air of November and the brilliant red hue of the falling leaves, thoughts inevitably turn to the approaching holiday season and the stress of picking out gifts for people on your list–people with widely diverging passions and interests. I found out that a wonderful solution lies in picking up books for just about everyone. A trip to your local bookseller would reveal an amazing variety of offerings in a diverse range of genres, subjects and moods–from a fascinating science book for a favorite niece to a book about mindfulness and meditation for your best buddy to a fresh exploration in history for an uncle. As in previous years, we continue our holiday tradition of compiling a list of suggested books that would likely pique the interest of our readers and help them wrap up the challenge of selecting holiday gifts. This month we highlight selections in nonfiction, biography and memoir to be followed by titles in fiction, cooking and entertainment in December…

The Person on the Night Train

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You open your eyes in the wee hours, wondering what woke you, and you hear a distant train whistle. Do you find yourself wondering where the train is bound, who is riding it though the darkness, whether they have just begun their journey or are nearing home? You drift off again, and the haunting sound of the whistle weaves itself into your dreams. In the morning, do you remember those dreams? Do you remember hearing that train? Maybe you just feel a vague restlessness the next day; maybe you start thinking about a long rail trip, or find yourself looking up train schedules. You want to know what it is like to be that person on the night train.

I can tell you!

My husband and I have taken long-distance, overnight train trips three times in the past three years: from Denver to DC; from Emeryville, CA to Denver; and from DC to Albuquerque. The first and third were three-day, two-night trips with a change in Chicago. Emeryville to Denver was one night between two full days.

We reserved a…