Sunday, April 26, 2015

Milford Stronger

Yesterday was a good day, and that's a small (but growing) miracle.

It was the Peace, Love & Music from Maren festival at Jonathan Law, a celebration not only of Maren Sanchez but of the kinds of things she cared about.

Principal Fran Thompson is one of my favorite people, as I wrote about a year ago in the wake of Maren's death and he set the perfect tone yesterday in his brief remarks to help kick off the day. He said he couldn't remember a time when he didn't feel better after talking with her, whether they were having a cup of coffee together or just passing in the halls. She made the world around her better.

She's still doing that. Yesterday's events were filled with joy, both the public ones on the school fields, and the private ones that came from paying more attention and appreciating each other.

I walked the 5k with a friend I haven't seen much lately, far behind my daughter Ciara, back from college but running with some of her former teammates still at Law.

My nephew Conor played hard (and lost with grace) in the day's kickball tournament.

My son Dante would have worn the sparkly version of the t-shirt (top left pic) that was the only available where he works at Law on Friday, but he was happy to trade me for the manly matte version.

That is, the manly matte version of a purple t-shirt with a heart and treble clef and peace sign on it. That's how this Maren thing rolls.

There were tears and hugs because a lot of people loved Maren, and miss her, and grieved on the anniversary of her death.

But this was a Maren kind of grieving, one with groovy rock music and kids dancing on the roof of the new baseball dugout, and going down the inflatable slides, and getting face art and fair food.

There's a moment in the book Wonder where a lot of bad stuff has happened and the kids are stressed and the adults are trying to hold it together and they all come together to Enjoy each other.
Book trailer here on
R J Palacio's site
That's what yesterday felt like.

An everyday miracle.

The book is about one boy changing a community, not by what he does (though he does some special stuff) but by who he is. Someone who brings out the best in those around him. That's the spirit of Maren.

Our city chose this book as our first One City, One Story project with the moniker #choosekindmilford. Because we're a different place than we were one year ago, thanks in large part to Maren's mother Donna Cimarelli and Jade Ramos and their successful efforts to make Milford a city of compassion.

Since then our city has had a smaller town feel, where little acts of kindness do ripple and spread, soon to be commemorated by little blue stars when they're witnessed (according to the facebook page).

If someone gave me blue stars to hand out yesterday I'm not sure I'd know where to begin.

Because acts of kindness are so small and prevalent that they make up the fabric of most days. Moms who get their kids out of bed with a kiss, tuck them into clean clothes, smell their clean hair and tell them they're beautiful.

Dads who get the kids up so Moms can sleep.

Yesterday I made cupcakes with my daughter and granddaughter and Liz was far more patient than I in letting Ava help with the decorations.

At Ava's first baseball game (ever!) later in the day, Liz took extra pictures for her sister Sheyanne because she was missing her daughter's game to finish throwing a bachelorette party for her sister Caitlin, whose wedding is next week.
The bachelorette returnees 

We watched a mom whose son was on field go out and make a seat of her legs because the inning was long, his legs were getting tired and his walker was getting in the way of his fielding.

We have a new foster son who was in deep trouble for something very bad that he did to my patio lights yesterday but Dante got him out of the dog house because he needed a haircut, and a pep talk, and a brother.

And at the end of the day when Ciara came into our room with the little alien tattoo on her face, still wearing her running headband and purple shirt and sunburn from her day back at Law with her friends and former teachers, I could say something hard to imagine a year ago.

The kids are alright.

Because Milford is an even stronger community in the wake of this tragedy, which has become the seed and strength behind something great.

We're a place that celebrates peace, love and kindness.

Thanks to Maren and her Mom.

Love, Lisa

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Book Review Saturday: How To Be Good

How to Be GoodHow to Be Good by Nick Hornby

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

You have to feel for Katie, who loses the moral high ground to her caustic, thankless husband right at the start of the book and has to cope with that loss for the entirety of the book. Even before he has a spiritual transformation, she sticks a dagger into their marriage and somehow thinks that because her husband is so miserable and the state of their union so decrepit that it barely matters.

She is wrong.

The Hornby humor is here but buried by the high concept—what if the exact thing you dreamed of regarding your partner changing happened—and it created as many problems as it solved? It’s more the situation that’s the farce because the story itself is about Katie’s incredulity, her bitterness that suddenly she’s the “bad guy,” the shock of having to decide whether the man her husband has become is someone she knows, likes, and can live with.

The answer is “yes” to only one of those three, and here’s where I wish the story spent more time. When a husband or wife in a long-term marriage (or, say, a parent or sibling, with a similarly long-term history) makes a dramatic change, the stages you go through are pretty akin to grief for the loss of the person you knew, even if you didn’t like them much. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance—they’re all in here, and well-played. This is an extremely clever observation, and watching Katie struggle with such a seemingly “positive” change in her partner is funny. It really is.

But there’s a poignancy here (because they have kids, who are also struggling right alongside their parents) that makes it hard to go totally for laughs, and then a biting satire (about middle-class London do-gooders like Katie who struggle to walk the walk) that makes it hard to feel for the characters. It’s not a love story, or a hate story, or even a family story. It’s a zoo of a parable, with the characters thrown into one social crucible after another to show their new stripes.

I dunno. Since Katie is the kind-of villain, and the one we’re supposed to identify with, it was hard to feel good about reading the whole book. I felt crappy, in fact, when I finished, now that all my middle-class hypocrisy had been laid bare, skewered and ridiculed. I like the gentle humor of most of Honrnby’s other books more, though I know a lot of people loved this one. Some call it their favorite book, and I’m glad I read it, as a cultural touchstone.

Well, that might be rubbish. I’m glad I read it because it’s Hornby, and he’s always interesting, even when he preaches. But I don't have to like it.

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Book Review Saturday: Longing

LongingLonging by Mary Balogh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an unconventional romance book, and I loved it. Pretty much every convention there is about how a love story should play out in this genre was broken, except for their being two POV characters, the ultimate hero and heroine. There’s a gaping wound of a love triangle, a worker’s revolt, an English overseer who realistically takes a while to get up to speed on his mines and mills, subthemes on gender and class and so many Welch names that there’s a pronunciation guide at the front of the book.

I wondered at times whether I would have been enthralled if it wasn’t Mary Balogh, who has earned my benefit of the doubt. The writing is hers of twenty years ago, in shorter sentences, not as lyrical despite the musical subplots of this story. But I hope I would. The story is courageous and gripping and the characters shaded and true to themselves. I have been recommending the book to others with a passion.

At least to those who like a love story that breaks the rules.

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