With a sparkle in her eyes, she asked, “Are you ready?”
With a sparkle in his eyes, he told a story I’d never forget.
Leonard Pitts, Jr. read from Chapter 2 in his new novel, The Last Thing You Surrender. His voice bending into the different characters as if he lived their lives, breathed their breaths, and felt their pain.
With a sparkle in my eyes, I whispered, “Thank you,” to my daughter.
Still groggy from the day before, I wanted to give up on the event I’d been dreaming about for weeks. I started folding the clothes I’d laid out the night before.
“You want to go the the Book Fair?” she asked.
I looked at her like she was crazy. “I have too much to do baby.”
“Awww, c’mon. You’ve been wanting to go. I bet you’ll feel better afterward.”
“We’ll see.” I folded clothes.
Then, I remembered a simple thought, from somewhere, “You have to be nice to yourself or nothing will change.”
I grabbed some folded clothes and announced that we should go before anyone notices we’re gone.
Through the sky we went, passing buildings and spaces, sparkling to light our path along the way.
Taking the metro to the Miami Book Fair seems surreal and yet so appropriate. Flying through the city in anticipation holds you in a new, fresh realm.
Right now, Miami weather offers a gust of crisp, fresh air when the doors peel open and you step onto the platform.
Walking downtown gives you the feeling that you could be in New York on a mildly chilly day. Buying food from street carts and feeling some salt in the air reminds you that you’re still in Miami.
But, it’s as you approach the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, that you realize this week, you’re luckier than New Yorkers because you’re about to enter the Miami Dade Book Fair where authors bring words as gifts that will transform your hearts and minds.
If you can’t attend during the week, try to stop by on Saturday or Sunday November 22 and 23. Some of the most entertaining moments are yet to come.
Among those moments on Saturday, I hope to attend the event with Jessica Goldman Shrebnik, Hal Rubenstein, and Martha Cooper. They’ll be discussing Rubenstein and Coopers, Walls of Change: The Story of Wynwood Walls.
Goldman Shrebnick became an inspiration for me and my family when we read about her accomplishments in INDULGE magazine, a special publication by the Miami Herald. She’s the CEO of Goldman Properties and co-founded Goldman Global Arts, which is a creative collective based in Miami and New York.
GGA challenges us to rethink the way we view art and opens our minds to new possibilities with projects that highlight street artists and public art.
Coming from a family of artists with a daughter who’s spent the last four years at an intense art high school, Design and Architecture Senior High, we honor such inspirational groups who take the time to give artists an avenue to express themselves and ultimately change lives.
You can find out more about GGA and it’s projects by visiting
If there’s ever a time of year when people find themselves crazed, eyes swirling with gifts, determined to find the best sale or the latest gadget, it’s now.
Our beloved holiday season is upon us. And, Black Friday is quickly approaching.
But, what really matters, the whole purpose of the winter holiday season, often goes overlooked and sometimes even gets stepped on as we rush through department stores and salivate over turkey dinners.
Sometimes, however, you find a beautiful reminder that the season’s true gift has always been good. Yes, good, just good.
Give Good, just because.
JetBlue wants to know just how good you are.
Yes, I know. Crazy, right?
I mean, here I was preparing my calendar for the sales, the schedules, the dates, the events!
My children already scoping out gifts on Amazon, I forewarn them that we are on a tight budget this year.
Yet, here is JetBlue, thinking about good and giving airline tickets to those special people who give good just because.
It’s worth sharing not just to nominate yourself and others but as a reminder that giving good matters and great companies are willing to reward you for taking some time to show you care.
If you want to learn more about JetBlue For Good month, Business Wire wrote about some of the other ways JetBlue has been encouraging people, including employees, to spread kindness.
Sharing this with your family, especially children who are definitely the target of ads across multiple platforms, makes for a great way to turn family dinners (especially the big, upcoming one) away from incendiary politics and into a positive, helpful discussion.
Now that I’m the oh-so lucky parent of teenagers, that is a memory I plan to keep a memory, not to be repeated. On that same link, you’ll find some events specifically for teenagers if you can lure them from their bedroom lairs.
This year, I plan to avoid all child-related activities by attending only the author sessions with the rest of the grumpy, sometimes content, mostly reclusive adults–just the way I like it.
The beauty of the book fair is really that there’s something for everyone, even kids. My problem, at least that first time around, was that I didn’t even look at the schedule. Go to the guide below for more information.
The authors who will be reading and discussing books at the Miami Book Fair consists of a vibrant array of talent and wisdom matched with intensity and humor.
One of my favorite authors will be reading there, so I’m going to attend for that brief moment of bliss.
Leonard Pitts Jr.
When I first read an article by Leonard Pitts, Jr., I felt more a little more alive. His ability to play words like a master pianist left me reading his thoughts as if I were dancing across a pond without touching the water.
A Pulitzer Prize winning author and a columnist, Pitts has offered insights into current events that challenge even the most liberal thinker to think again.
We sat outside, surrounding our fire pit, and roasting marshmallows on sticks. Each of us listening to the next scary story as if a monster might jump right out of the storyteller’s mouth.
It was as simple as that. We forgot the horror of early morning carpools and catching colds as well as the burden of too much homework.
Halloween seems to creep up at just the right time. I wish I could say that I meditate everyday in order to maintain a peaceful and tranquil life, but I don’t. And, frankly, I really enjoy the strange worlds we can create around this time of year.
Think Creepy Thoughts
You can do something as simple as sitting around a fire or even on the couch with only candles lighting the room and telling stories to really enjoying the crazy American commercialism of anything Halloween. In fact, while I was browsing Amazon for inexpensive decor, candy, and costumes, I thought I’d share some of what I found.
Using Halloween horror to take the edge off often imbues a sense of freedom and creativity into our lives. It also gives our kids some relief without the drama of a “vacation.”
So many people might head to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, and there’s always something to do wherever you live. Enjoying pumpkin patches for young kids or going to Halloween parties for older kids might be a good distraction.
But, often, staying home and simply enjoying the season is the best choice when trying to save your sanity.
Start with Decorations.
Decorations are cheap and fun. I found glittery black branches and put them in a purple vase that I already had. Then, I used the leftover branches to make crowns.
I also found a pack of black glittery birds, crows if you will, that I hung from the chandelier and placed throughout the house.
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Then, I hung a glittery black wreath inside our Christmas wreath. Essentially, you can make the wreath out of the branches. It’s cheaper that way.
If the wreath is too tame, you can always get a bit more elaborate with door decor. The black glittery wreath branches worked nicely with our Winter holiday wreath.
When our kids were small we used a skeleton head with a microphone to scare the trick or treaters on Halloween, but it was also a lot of fun to mess around with whenever anyone visited. However, you can get the one above on Amazon and it’s a lot easier to use because we ended up breaking the cord for the microphone and damaging the skeleton head.
Walking into our house feels different now and different is good when the stresses of life start to take over.
Weekends are a great time to head to the theaters or visit nearby haunted houses or themed activities. However, sometimes you just want to hibernate.
With all the technology and resources available and if you’ve taken the time to decorate even a little, you can kick back and enjoy Halloween at home.
Just get some food, drinks, and movies or watch a series. If you have Netflix, the latter shouldn’t be too difficult to manage. Because I’m like a five year old when it comes to scary shows, I still haven’t gotten through the first episode of American Horror Story, but there are other movies and shows to binge watch.
Food and Drinks
And, binging on favorite foods also keeps stress at bay during the Halloween season. You don’t need to eat tons of candy, although that’s a great past time. All you need is some favorite comfort foods and plenty of cushions and couches to curl up on.
Food really isn’t that difficult to manage. Not everything has to be theme centric. Order a pizza or make one. Pop some popcorn and get some sodas for simplicity’s sake. But, if you want to add some themed accents, there are a lot of easy ways to do that.
Plop some eyeball ice cubes into the drinks.
The jello brain mold is great also because it’s easy to use and makes a great centerpiece on the coffee table or counter. And, gross Halloween snacks such as Edible Insects in a bag really help take the edge off.
But, if that’s too disgusting for you, fun candy pops remind us to enjoy life and take a second to laugh. Bottom line, sugar helps sometimes. There’s a reason why kids love it so much.
Great Halloween/Horror Movies or Series
Entertainment all depends on you, especially when it comes to viewing choices.
IMPORTANT NOTE: A lot of these films are books, so this is a great way to jumpstart reading skills. The Goosebumps series is a weird little series that kids start reading around third grade. Roald Dahl, well, need I say more. His books are pure entertainment. There’s also a collection of Campfire stories to help you along if you decide to roast marshmallows.
Now, my kids watched The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline when they were younger then later told me Coraline really freaked them out because of the hidden door and the button eyes. You need to make a decision based on age and exposure to past content. If your kids get scared after watching Monsters Inc. then you might want to hold off on Coraline.
For older kids, especially teenagers, let them choose. Really, I’m usually the one who’s scared of the movies they watch. Some great classic movies to watch are Beetlejuice, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, and Jaws.
If you want psychological thrillers, Signs and the Sixth Sense may be good choices to start. For more intense stories, there’s always films adapted from Stephen King novels. The Shining always delivers, and the more recent version of IT will definitely scare everyone watching.
It really doesn’t matter how you work it as much as to just forget about school long enough to destress and have fun.
There’s something about the number 13 that frightens people.
When we lived in a high-rise in Miami Beach, it was on the 14th floor, except for one problem. There was no 13th floor.
The elevator jumped from 12 to 14.
I thought it was so strange that buildings everywhere excommunicated the number 13. Ironically, life seemed to open a portal into happiness for us when we lived there.
My sister and I would grab a ride on a jitney and take it to the hotels like the Fontainebleau, which we had access to because we lived in the condominium. We lay on the beach, swam in the pools, and enjoyed the people who visited.
I could’ve seen the number 13 as some sort of omen. Instead, 13 seemed a saving grace, a hidden message, a sign.
So, when Jilly sent me a message, I saw it as a sign.
I hope you do too. If you have Amazon, watch it for free with your Prime membership.
Heavy into summer, kids do not want to hear the word “school” let alone the word “read” and do NOT utter the name we do not speak of “HOMEWORK.”
So if you’re a parent like me and you’ve begun noticing that there’s no intellectual stimulation other than YouTube and gaming with an occasional excursion to the movie theater, then you’re probably starting to scheme about how to awaken your child’s brain.
Here are some tips and resources for elementary, middle, and high school age children that might at least initiate some interest in accessing their intellect.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Little ones are more receptive to anything educational than the older ones (parents of older children, especially the parents of teenagers). With older children, you often have to play dumb because after all, tweens and teens know everything. If you ask them if they think something is true or not, they’re more likely to give it a chance.
Check out the short videos on almost any topic available on TedEd. From short animations such as “How Do Self-Driving Cars See?” to “The Aztec Myth of the Unlikeliest Sun God” you can initiate a watch of the video that will peak their interest without making their eyes glaze over.
In keeping with the idea initiating learning through video, at least at first, when they’ve blinked the cobwebs from their eyes and hopefully their brains as well, YouTube itself is a vast resource of knowledge once you’ve sifted through the nonsense. Unfortunately, our kids are often drawn to the nonsense, but with a few questions about any subject or current event, you can steer them to something that will provide them with some intellectual stimulation.
Tell your little one: Look at this. I used to watch this when I was little.
Disney Educational Productions houses a ridiculous amount of resources that any parent of young children can use on almost any topic.
Ask your teen or tween: Is this photoshop tutorial worth watching?
Something like this might just show your teen or tween that he or she could learn a little something between veggie out.
Take a walk or drive to the library or the bookstore. For me, libraries are better if you’re trying to save money, but if you’re on vacation sometimes a bookstore is all you’ve got. Either way, it’s the same set up. The little ones usually go happily. The tweens or teens take some innovative thinking on the part of the parents.
Little ones love to browse through anything, and a book as a prize is often welcome. For the older children, you may bribe them with lunch afterward or during. Or, perhaps you might ask for their help. For instance, similar to the question about photoshop, you might ask, will you help me find some materials at the library on learning Spanish? I don’t want to spend a ton of money on a class and I exhausted my resources on that app.
The beach is a wonderful resource for both young and older children. You’re surrounded by science, art, sounds, beauty… Best of all, you are unplugged for a while. If you have portable batteries or any other resource, leave it behind by accident or on purpose. Bring some books, and magazines for reading or just talk to each other and learn about their interests and insights. Talk to them about something you’ve been wanting to discuss. You’ll be so delighted with the results.
Drive somewhere or go somewhere that’s outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be far away. How many of us spend our lives in a certain area of the country or world, save all our money for a family vacation, only to realize people save all of their money to vacation where we are? For example, we live in Miami and we never visit some of the most famous landmarks, ironically, because we live here. We’ve never been on an airboat ride at the Everglades National Park. We’ve gone to Ocean Drive, but only once, maybe twice a year. Some of the best museums are nearby and parents might wander into one with their unsuspecting children in tow.
She stared at me with her wet curls matted to her head. I put my hand through the circle in the clear plastic tent that encased her. The rubber glove made me feel like a robot reaching out to her. Tears dropped, dribbling down my cheeks as I gulped on a feeling of loss in my throat.
She was still so little and had not been with me long, which made me want to grab her and run away with her. But, the doctors were trying to save her. They were trying to cool the fever and keep her from having more convulsions.
When my sister was born, I thought she was my baby. I didn’t need a baby doll. I just carried her around everywhere. I held her on my right hip so much so that I attribute the severity of my scoliosis to this strange pleasure.
Her arrival left me more satisfied than I’d ever felt before.
So when death threatened to take her from me, I could hardly stand it. I slept in the lobby area of the floor where they kept her for over a week.
Burnt Orange 1970’s
The burnt orange and dark blue couches were comfy because they were nice and hard, direct from the 1970’s. I lived on hospital food and vending machine snacks because I refused to leave her, which was fine with my mom because she couldn’t bear to leave her either.
After a week of staring at her through plastic with electrodes often stuck to her body, the doctors sent us back home to Miami. But, it wasn’t until much later that any of us stopped keeping a close eye on her.
Maybe she knew how worried we were or maybe she just got tired of our sad, scared eyes because it wasn’t long before she started to make us laugh. And, once we started, it seemed that she was on a mission to continue the laughing spree.
If I was upset, she would fart.
If I was sad, she would do a crazy dance and fall down. Running in circles, she’d then spin with her arms out and collapse, shaking her head when she would stand up like a speedy yet strange little cartoon.
Sometimes, my sister Jill Michele Melean would give my dolls Ziggy Stardust haircuts just to change what was happening in the room, especially if it was unpleasant. Then, she’d tease me and say she was cutting my hair next until I was so distracted that we both forgot whatever had upset us in the first place.
As we grew older of course, her antics changed to quick quips and strange observations that sent everyone to bizarre places in time and space, always laughing, sometimes wondering and laughing, but laughing just the same.
We laughed guttural laughs that would break the patterns of sorrow and worry.
I realized, with certainty that felt like I was living in a sitcom, that I shared a room with my best friend who wasn’t just a funny friend but a talented funny friend.
Never again would I sit alone with no one to talk to except my imaginary friend.
Never again would I feel the dense space of quiet for endless hours.
Never again would laughter elude me.
And, these truths remain to this day. Although we live on opposite sides of the country, we are each other’s support system. A laugh away from a sad moment keeps us in contact with each other.
I’m sharing her latest comedy with all of you so that you enjoy the same luxuries as I do, the kind of laughter that only the funniest girl in the world can deliver, the kind of laughter that will take your mind off your troubles and lift the weight from your shoulders.
A businessman who bought up a town near Chicago, Illinois, Robert Stanford built a fortune for himself and some would say it all started with a small bakery. But, if you knew him, you also knew that it really started with his mind; the way he looked at life.
The Harvard Business Review recently published and posted research by Ashley Whillans about assigning monetary value to time, in particular the time we spend on happiness.
Rewinding to businessman Robert Stanford, he saw time as both valuable and invaluable. He stood as this thread that kept his family thriving. Although his children saw him as perfect, he was by no means a spotless, unsullied man. He met their mother while still in his unhappy marriage and it was not easy to divorce and remarry, considering that it was the late 1920s.
But, he did it anyway and happiness became him, so much so that everyone looked up, back, sideways, and forward to him for guidance. His daughter, so little, reached for his hand and felt the safety and comfort that made her feel, like everyone else in the family, so reliant on him to provide that to her forever. The problem was that he couldn’t do that forever.
He was him. She was her. The others were them.
So what made him so powerful, so prepared to find happiness at every turn?
To an outsider, there were multiple reasons why he was richer than the next man, especially during the Great Depression when everyone seemed to have nothing. But, to someone else like him, not even to his family who simply relied on him, he saw the world through rose-tinted glasses so to speak.
Let’s start simply. On a winter afternoon, walking with his daughter across the street from their home to the playhouse, which was a small apartment building, he listened to her complain about the other kids making fun of her then about her homework then about her siblings. He was a good listener and didn’t talk much.
But, when she finished her complaining, he asked a simple question, “How much good does complaining about all of that do for you?”
Now, on an average day, with an average person, even a friend, anyone complaining would likely fight about it some more and most surely resent that question. However, because this was her father whom she admired and loved more than anyone, she looked up and smiled.
Then she said, “No good at all.”
She told this story to me often and in many different ways because he sometimes didn’t ask a question. Sometimes he’d speak a sentence or just remain quiet and later tell a story over dinner about his bakery or a business deal or a chance encounter.
But the thread never changed.
If it’s not doing you any good, pay no mind to it.
As the start of the New Year lingers, I’m rethinking my approach here at BraveSmartBold as well as my approach to a lot of other things, including my conversations with my children.
In the process of sifting through my relationships with my family, I’m taking a look at BraveSmartBold, thinking, I want to highlight some of the brave, smart, bold writers and creators here on WordPress.
I’ve been following his blog and listening to his podcasts for a long while, but the latest ones hit home. The car seems to be the only place I talk to my kids anymore, at least for meaningful conversations unless I trap my kids at a restaurant table. If we’re walking or out anywhere, they veer off in another direction or escape my clutches with a bleep or a tap on a device.
Always and for eternity (or what feels like eternity) there is the beloved escape into the smart phone.
It seems, however, that a fight takes place anyway, despite our many distractions or purposeful ignorance of any being or idea outside of the one and only me, the self, the I.
Lately, we fight, not just squabble, over who did this or that, not debate a topic while learning something new or interesting. No, we fight. We fight so rough that if it were physical, we’d need boxing gloves to keep our knuckles from bleeding on impact.
Clashing Over Nothing
For the most part, I speak loudly enough to at least get a point across or make a statement even if it means demanding that the earbuds be removed.
In the car, it can be a little less painful except for the sharp strike to my neck when chopped from the passenger seat, “Well, why’d you say that then?” or “I never said that. Stop starting a fight,” after asking what I had thought was a simple question.
But then, over time, tired of the incessant clash over nothing in particular, I started to question myself. I began to wonder how they got so defensive so much of the time? Was I the one who was defensive or were they already angry from the start? No one wins in these situations, hence my drive to change my approach somehow. I had already learned that I wasn’t going to change them.
That’s when I took to social media. Not so much Facebook or Instagram, but to the legitimate news sites, LinkedIn, and WordPress. When I scrolled to How to Talk to People About Things, I discovered advice about talking to people so that everyone involved can benefit from the dialogue. McRaney’s podcast explores this concept in an interview with Misha Glouberman who teaches negotiation.
Glouberman starts the podcast by talking about questions in detail with the audience, giving them pointers on what type of questions would be most useful. He elaborates on what kind of question to not ask or rather which ones might be “bad” questions. Mainly he points out that questions that leave you with a feeling of pride might not be the best questions.
Now, that’s a short beginning to the podcast, which helps clarify what he means when he promotes the idea of having a conversation that’s beneficial to all involved. I found that introduction to questions interesting because my son loves to ask questions. They used to be the kind that left you not wanting to answer or irritated with having to answer such as, “Would you want to swim with sharks or piranhas?”
You were struggling over a no-win situation, unless you were a tween or teen, or an adult who liked to indulge in self deprecation then you might enjoy the insanity of it.
Now, my son still asks those questions, but they’re worse and slightly antagonistic, “Why do you stick your chin out like that?” And, because my son is the one asking, I either get triggered or feel insecure or both. I then fall into that all-too familiar trap of spiraling into an argument with him. Sometimes, I even start insulting him right back.
So, after a couple years of bouncing between his and my daughter’s manipulative and snarky quips and conversations, I’ve resolved myself to fight the good fight. If we’re going to talk, it better be good.
That’s why when I was looking for a positive way to begin the New Year in relation to all conversations, but in particular with my interactions involving my kids, and I found YANSS 143, I felt a thrill of inspiration and satisfaction. It was quickly followed with a sense of power over what felt so out of control as I continued to listen to the podcast.
Now, the real test was and is the answer to the question: Does it work? Does whatever revelation you had while listening to this master negotiator on McRaney’s podcast actually work? Well, the short answers are: Yes… and no. The long answers are up to you and you and you and me then you again. You sort of have to work through it and figure it out for yourself.
Work Out the Bugs
This morning, my son came out boxing. Gloves off.
I retaliated. Then, I shut it down all down pretty fast.,
We drove in silence for a good 30 minutes. We literally and figuratively had a long way to go. The last 10 minutes of the drive, a crazy woman in a white Fiat started honking at me for no reason and tried to get around me but I couldn’t move from where I was.
I was not in a fighting mood so I was willing to accommodate anyone’s anger at this point, but she would slow downthen speed up. She was in the mood to start a fight. That was clear.
This bizarre cat and mouse chase continued until we reached our destination. My son started laughing like crazy. “She’s still there.” He tried to instigate and tell me how to drive. I repeated, “I really don’t want to fight with a crazy person.”
I even added, “I think I’m going to drive around until we lose her, just in case she’s following us.” He agreed to that part.
The most fascinating part, though, was his reactions to all of it. He was thrilled with her crazy behavior. He was intrigued by my driving skills. I weaved through traffic like an expert, finally losing her in the last few minutes before we arrived.
He became my ally in the process telling me as he turned around several times, “Don’t worry. I’ll let you know if she gets closer,” chuckling between comments.
A Common Enemy
But, I don’t want us to get along only when we have a common enemy. Although that’s the key to bringing the opposing sides together in any storyline out there, it’s not necessarily the only way to handle every conflict you have with any one person. At least, it’s not how I want to deal with my conflicts and conversations.
Even so, the crazy, white Fiat lady, did her job. We were together. Later, however, in the spirit of my quest for a better solution to my ongoing problem, I attempted a conversation with a kick of conflict.
I instigated, “How can you like Donald Trump when you like Robert DeNiro who despises him?”
He casually said, “I don’t know. I just do.”
Wanting to push it further, I said, “That’s not an answer. I mean, you idolize Robert DeNiro and he really despises Trump. Why do you like Trump so much?”
No One Cares About the Outcome
“I don’t know. He’s a Republican. He doesn’t just do what everyone wants. He does his own thing. Not like the Democrats. They make you think everything’s fine when it’s not.”
I reacted in kind, “Democrats don’t think everything’s fine. That’s ridiculous.”
He threw out some statistics that made sense, but I debated the context. He agreed and disagreed. So did I.
The difference was, we accepted each other’s views. We were willing to listen without the need to win or dominate. That way, no one could lose because neither one of us cared much about an outcome. We had nothing to gain from winning or losing. We just listened.
That was the key in this situation. That’s some of what the podcast highlighted. Of course, Glouberman explains how to converse about more complicated situations when there’s more at stake than in a small argument.
What sorts of conversations cause conflict for you? It’s a question that you should explore. You might learn how to create an easier path for yourself when encountering conflict in the coming year.
Stumbling, Tripping, Falling, Brushing Off, Standing Up