Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oh, The Places a Poem Can Go!

Who says writing is always hard? Sometimes a story is simply a delight . . . to write. (That rhymed.)

This was one of those. Because it was about this heroic woman who lives—I learned—on the next block over but started this cool grass roots movement-thing to bring poetry into, well, whatever places that inspire her, making it a community celebration. And making the world undoubtedly a better place because of it! It was an honor—and a ton of fun—to interview her and write this story for North Shore Magazine's April arts issue.

You can read the article HERE.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stories at the Corner Shop

I've always loved local businesses, the stories, the creativity, the heroism. And I don't mind saying so—in fact, in my local newspaper last month:

February 18, 2014 Column: Confessions of a small-business fanatic

Jo Kadlecek
The Salem News

It started with flowers. Roses really, the color of cherry tomatoes, delivered fresh from the truck to living rooms or offices throughout my neighborhood. Veldkamp Florist had been around, it seemed, since forever, and my mom always called them whenever we had to go to a funeral or an anniversary party. I went to school with a couple of Veldkamp kids, but I sort of felt sorry for them: They never could go out for the basketball team or attend the winter dances. Christmas and Valentine’s Day were just too important for florists. I guess those Veldkamp kids needed to help trim the roses.

Flowers turned to root beer. My friend’s mom owned and operated one of the last existing A & W Root Beer drive-ins in our city, and one summer in high school, I needed a job. So, I car-hopped. I took orders and poured root beer. I watched my friend’s mom flip burgers, scoop ice cream and count money at the end of every day, hoping to take home enough to pay her light bills after she paid us. It wasn’t easy work, but it was hers.

I followed my nose throughout college and a short career in public education, in and out of bakeries owned by three generations of Millers, pizza joints run by Italian immigrants, and beauty shops operated by Millie and Jessica and CarolAnn. I liked going into these small places; they were homey and real and familiar. I liked seeing family photos taped to the cash register or handwritten message boards outlining the day’s choices when I walked in. Read MORE

Monday, January 27, 2014

Super Bowl Crankiness

I love sports. But this big one is getting to me. Here's what I mean:

Millions of Americans will gather in their living rooms this coming Sunday to watch grown men hammer each other so hard they get concussions that can lead to brain damage or dementia or lots of other long term health problems.

While the game plays out, pimps will sell their sex slaves during the highest trafficking event in the year. (God help us.)

In between those thumping tackles, sometimes exciting touchdowns and who knows what else, advertisers will have spent $4 million per commercial to entertain the masses, commercials that are often filled with damaging sexist messages that also feed the country's consumerism addiction. As fans watch, they cram into their mouths more junk food, sugar and beer than their doctor probably advises and which surely doesn't help already dangerous obesity rates. The good news is that the championship game does shed light on domestic violence incidents.

Sounds like a super tradition. Forgive my grumpiness.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why My Christmas List Included Boycotting Amazon

For this year's Christmas gifts (and every one before), I didn't buy many things online. I tried to buy original stuff from people who actually made it or from small local businesses.  And I've made a list of my top five reasons I'll never buy from or support Amazon (that means even going to their web site), regardless of the season:

5. It used to sell only books (remember that?) at such a discount that it hurt local many small business booksellers and eventually drove some out of business. (When I do buy books, I do so from those brave local independent stores who are still serving their communities.)
4. It now thinks it needs to be a one-stop shopping online center, perpetuating the myth of 'convenience' as god, and again keeping folks from supporting their local economies.
3. Its founder (he who shall not be named) made so much money that he bought the Washington Post, and we need a big retail conglomerate to own a newspaper because . . ?
2. It's in the process of developing delivery drones. I guess those silly humans can't do it well enough.
1. It's out of control. Enough said.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When the Leaves Tell the Story

In the region where I live, there have been more than a few offices closed by the government shutdown. The recession has still meant folks I know are struggling to find meaningful work, and bills are just plain hard to pay. It's easy to miss the forest through the trees and lose perspective. Or something like that. 

The leaves around me, though, are vibrant reminders of, well, more. They tell a better story right now. So I'll let them here:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The End of the World (Trade Center)

It's hard to believe I wrote this 12 years ago, that morning and the next day. Still vivid. I'm grateful that the CT editor 'let' me report, reflect and process:

Dispatches from out of the dust
By Jo Kadlecek
9/11/01 11:30 am
Our city is bleeding. My phone has not stopped ringing. The news reports are horrifying. This is my backyard and I have to go, to try to get my head around it, to listen and respond. My bicycle will be the surest way to get 60 blocks from here. I ride.

Scores of people are walking north, heading north. A mass migration of broken people head north looking for safety.

Has this happened before?

Along the Hudson River, I ride my bicycle past a golfer who practices his putting; runners jog by, sirens and fire engines rush by. Women in power suits and no shoes walk north past workers who gather around truck radios listening for the latest updates on the attacks. Mobs of teenage students also stroll north, chatting as if nothing has happened. 

As if life in New York City is always chaotic and terrifying. Every other person is trying to talk with someone on a cell phone, trying to meet up with friends or find a colleague. 
Everyone is looking for someone as the smoke lingers over this southern end of the most powerful city in the world, but certainly not the most invincible. Not now.

People with suitcases walk up out of their hotels that were in the shadow of the now-blazing towers. I hear a tourist comment on the weather: "It's a nice day today, isn't it?"

Commuters walk in the hot September sun, stranded, numb, eager to get home. Home will never be the same.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In Honor of Tweets, Mrs. Ridley & All Coaches

According to FT writer Gillian Tett, this is
a team of future CEO's!
I've learned a lot since I started Tweeting. It's a reporter's digital form of breaking news. And the folks you follow really do lead you to some interesting stuff. Like this story on the lack of women sources in the New York Times front page stories. (Good work by two women journalism students!)

Or like this article I read first from a Tweet, then on the web site itself, and then as I re-read it when I posted it on Facebook. Columnist Gillian Tett writes in the Financial Times about the link between successful women and the sports they played as girls or in college. Oh Yeah!

Maybe because I'm co-authoring a novel right now that's celebrating women's friendships and successes with an athletic backdrop (think "The Help" meets "A League of Their Own") but Tett's story got me thinking—about the impact of sports on my own life. So I offer this short (but long for a blog) essay from my most recent memoir/book, "Woman Overboard: How Passion Saved My Life." Now go thank those coaches!

"Compassion's Call and the Hands I want to Hold" An Excerpt from Chapter 7 of Woman Overboard

Saints with day jobs have taught me over and over. Even when I didn’t know it at the time.

Every June, July and August of my high school years, I was a proud member of the Callahan Real Estate girl’s softball team of Wheat Ridge, Colorado. I’d been playing little league on other teams since I was in second grade and loved everything about it: the sun on my face, the snacks after games, the laughs with my friends. There was nothing like standing around a park in the summer, tossing a ball back and forth or watching a batter connect to a pitch every now and then, until the game was over and you sat around the bleachers drinking Pepsi or Mountain Dew, watching the next game. It was my kind of sport.
By teenage years, however, the watching had turned to serious competition and most of my friends turned to other fun. I decided to keep playing. Our high school didn’t yet offer sports like softball or soccer for girls (it was the early 1970s, after all,when Title IX was just born), so suburban recreational centers filled the gap during the summer months. They offered all kinds of leagues for all levels of play.

That’s when I told my parents I wanted to play for Callahan Real Estate. But by joining this particular team, they reminded me, it wouldn’t be easy. The players were all older, mostly juniors and seniors, and I was only a sophomore. They’d been playing together for a few years. I was coming in from another team. And while they already knew all their positions, I had merely stood wherever the coach put me. I hadn’t focused long enough to excel at any one spot.

I was ready to try. So they took a chance and sent me to the recreation center to register . . .