Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Round-up: What I Loved on OTHER People's Blogs

Walking into the Light by Neil Kramer

Well, I so enjoyed doing my 2011 Round-Up last year that I decided to make an annual tradition of it... gathering together some of the fabulous blog posts I've found on OTHER people's blogs, the ones that have moved me to laughter, tears, astonishment, or action (possibly all four) and sharing them with you all.

So right away, at the beginning of 2012, I started making note of posts I liked, thinking all I would have to do at the end of the year was hit "publish."  But then I found that in January alone I'd picked twelve great posts, and realized I would have a list of well over a hundred by the year's end.

Thus the monthly Round-Up feature on my blog was born.

But this... THIS HERE is the big guns, the annual version!

Enhanced this year with photos by my very, very, very favorite intstagram photographer, Neil Kramer - of the blog  Citizen of the Month - who I am also very happy to call my friend. He lives in both NYC and LA and also travels a good bit, so prepare to be amazed and amused.

Standing by Fountain by Neil Kramer

Once again, please note that this is an idiosyncratic, quirky and very, VERY incomplete list. (Because you are not going to slog through the 150 or so posts I gathered in my monthly Round-Ups in one sitting now, are you?)

Also, once again, if you know I love you and you're not on the list this year? Please know that there were so many, many more posts I adored, but at a certain point I just had to stop myself cold turkey. Because I HAD to finish this round-up and not keep opening it up again whilst slapping myself upside the head and declaring: "How could I have forgotten to include THAT amazing post!" and stuffing yet another in.

So please feel free to add a link to your one of your favorite 2012 posts in the comments section!

Note that some of these are repeats from my monthly Round-Ups, but many are new - posts that I wanted to include in a round up but the list was too long already, or I already had chosen another post by the same writer, or a gem of a post I discovered belatedly, from earlier in the year.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, some wonderful posts and images from 2012 for your edification and enjoyment:

Coney Island by Neil Kramer

We Can Become Known from Elan/Schmutzie of Schmutzie

Too Vast a Project by Adrienne of No Points for Style

Scars and Scars by Sarah of Sarah Piazza

Cloudy Afternoon by Neil Kramer

For the Record by Anna of An Inch of Gray

Tragedy by Maggie May of Flux Capacitor 

Mother & Child Are Linked At The Cellular Level by Laura of Laura Grace Weldon

Trees, Georgia by Neil Kramer

Rocking my inner Israeli Ke$ha by Sarah at The Times of Israel blog   

I wish I was a Stepford Wife by Candi of Looking for Blue Sky

The Thing About Autism by Kyra of Kyra Anderson 5.0

Raindrops by Neil Kramer

An open letter to all parents from a non-parent. from Emelia of Trying to be good

Thanks Giving 101 by (The Empress) Alexandra of Good Day Regular People

I debated whether or not to share this story. by UnWinona of {UnWinona}

Tilted Tree by Neil Kramer

Newsflash: There Are No Autistic Behaviours by Bec of Snagglebox

Aspie Like Me: A Diagnosis Story from Jean (Stimey) of Stimeyland 

As You Are: An Open Letter to My Son by Leigh of Flappiness Is...  at ChildsWork's ChildsPlay Blog

Swings by Neil Kramer

There are places I remember from Ellen of Love That Max

the noise of life by Jessica of Four plus an angel at mamalode

Grace, via jump rope by Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda 

Cat by Neil Kramer

The fight goes on. from Jenny, the Bloggess of The Bloggess

free pass by Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary

Home from Alysia of Try Defying Gravity

Tree in Cemetery by Neil Kramer

Scent of cardinals by Kris of Pretty All True 

The Advantages Of Being Never Not Broken. by Eden of Edenland

i see myself from Jess of a diary of a mom

Car by Neil Kramer

Dick Cheney's First Heart from Deb of Deb on the Rocks

Secrets of the Traveling Va-Jay-Jay from Kate of Diary of a Return-to-Work Mom 

Why I Still Blog by Tanis of Attack of the Redneck Mommy

Aaaaaaand that's all folks! Happy reading and Happy New Year!

A Sunset, New Zealand by Neil Kramer

I am so looking forward to reading everyone's wonderful fresh words and seeing Neil's new photos in the coming year!

The Reading Chair by Neil Kramer

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December Round-Up: What I Loved on OTHER People's Blogs

Nightfall, New Zealand by Neil Kramer

Welcome to the December edition of my monthly "What I Loved on OTHER People's  Blogs" feature. The place where I share what has caught my eye (and brain, and heart) on the internet over the past month.

Also, as usual, I am featuring many photos from my friend and amazing intstagram photographer Neil Kramer - of the blog  Citizen of the Month - who took a December trip to New Zealand (of all places) and is sending back beautiful photos of the place, as well as his stop in Australia along the way.

Opera House, Sydney, Australia by Neil Kramer

So, without further ado... December's gems:

Newtown: On Guilt, Grief, and Gratitude by Jo of A Sweet Dose of Truth

Peace, Love and Understanding by Alysia of Try Defying Gravity

My Hope for Newtown by Deborah of MaNNaHaTTaMaMMa

Little Girl Running Towards the Water, Sydney, Australia by Neil Kramer

How We Do It, Part XX in a series by Elizabeth of a moon, worn as if it had been a shell

I'm jealous of you. by Lexi of Mostly True Stuff

The Gifts We Receive by Jim of Just a Lil' Blog at ChildsWork's ChildsPlay Blog

Tree, New Zealand by Neil Kramer

When It's Not Norman Rockwell by (The Empress) Alexandra of Good Day Regular People 

The art of a well secured mitten by Stacey of Is There Any Mommy Out There?

One more thing about Chanukah by Deborah of Peaches & Coconuts

Juli's son Sam. Morning, New Zealand by Neil Kramer

Dreams of a New World… by Ariane of Emma's Hope Book

A Christmas Miracle by Tracy of Sellabit Mum

A perfect nonsensible pair by Kris of Pretty All True
Christmas Caroler, Los Angeles by Neil Kramer

And, last but not least, a bit of holiday cheer (this being December and all)...

The Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert! by Neil of Citizen of the Month

Finally, as has been my habit for a while now, I am leaving you with a vertical triptych of photos from Neil. I really love finding 3 images that work together this way...

Photos by Neil Kramer

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best Bologna of 2012

Well, it's become an end of the year tradition now - third year in a row - ye olde Recap Post... wherein I reflect on the past year here at The Squashed Bologna and bring you my favorite posts from each month.

2012 has been a fairly intense, challenging year for me. My mother's fall in late May, and the radical change in her circumstances that rolled out from that being at the center of most of it.

It was hard to choose again this year...

The popular posts or the sleepers? The "big thoughts" or the quiet moments? Heavy posts about my mother or sweet ones about my kids? The challenges or the gifts of Jacob's autism? My best writing or the most interesting events?

Some months I couldn't pick just one, so there's a few doubles. And that's ok, because, well, my blog, my rules, right? Who says it HAS to be only one post per month? (Not me.)

So, without further ado...

Here are some of my favorite Squashed Mom posts from 2012:

January: Monday Listicles: 10 Things I Have Done to Make a Living {A funny annotated list of the many and sundry odd - and I jobs I have held in my long life}

February: A Full Moon for Susan {My goodbye to the wonderful Susan Niebur  - aka WhyMommy - who died of metastatic inflammatory breast cancer, celebrating her life and work} 

and 10 years ago today... {Looking back at my then pregnant self, realizing I had NO CLUE how much and in what ways my life was going to change}

March: Planets {Taking a walk with Ethan and reflecting on my children's distant, fratious relationship.}

April: Words {Reflecting on the power of words in our lives. Especially destructive ones - like "Retard"} 

May: The Dress {Cleaning out my closet, coming upon a dress I wore at a significant point in my life, and telling a tale from the beginning of my IVF pregnancy}

and Perspective {Sitting by my mother's side in the ICU puts everything else in my life into perspective.}

June: My Heart, Her Heart {Caring for my mother through her recovery, and adjusting - or not - to her new diminished circumstances}

July: The living and the dying {Reflections on my mother and my aunt: old women near the end of life.)

August: Full Circles {Dropping Jacob off for a week of SN Summer camp - at the same camp I attended as a 14 year old. Looking backwards and forwards in wonder.}

September: Picures and Stories {A smiling picture of Jake on a boat, and then the story of his horrific autistic meltdown five minutes later. The difference between pictures and stories.}

and Hunger {A funny memory of my last trip to LA while pregnant with the twins, when my access to food got compromised - my Yom Kippur post.}

October: Her way home {A poignant post about my fading mother and her struggles.}

November: Survivor Guilt {NYC got socked by a hurricane and my family suffered not one bit. And therefore I felt terrible.}

December: This is Jacob. This is autism. {My contribution to the wonderful "Autism Shines" campaign / Facebook page to counter the autism negativity fallout from Newtown.}

And that's the year that was!

Well... not entirely.  Looking over these posts, I realized there is much missing from this recap. Because I have chosen to go pretty much with the "best writing"  side of things, there are quite a few key events in my life not covered in here, as my posts regarding them were more reportage than literary, and thus didn't make it onto this list.

So I think I need yet another re-cap post about my LIFE in 2012 -- including things like my producing  the first annual New York City Listen to Your Mother Show, my reading as a Voice of the Year at BlogHer this past summer, the boys turning 10, etc., etc.

Tomorrow, peeps...

And until then?

Sending my wishes out to you all for the happiest of all possible New Years, and a 2013 that is wonderful and either wild or peaceful (depending on your preference), exceeding your wildest dreams.

Linking this post up at:

Mama's Losin' It

Photo credits: Spiral Galaxy by Calar Alto Observatory via NASA

Monday, December 24, 2012

Autism Shines On

Only a few days old, the Autism Shines Facebook page (with a website soon to come) has now touched thousands of lives. I am happy and proud to have been a part of this from the beginning.

Because my boy? He so shines. With love and joy and happiness. With the light of a thousand suns.

Is he decidedly different? You betcha. So what?

I adore every atom of his being. He owns my heart.

Come see my son amidst his people.

Come see all these beautiful autistic folks with their spirits shining through.

Share your own photos.

And let me leave you with one more image, something to remind us how silly it is to make assumptions about people merely because of a diagnosis on the autism spectrum...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

This is Jacob. This is autism.

I know I have fallen silent here again. This time it's because I have been overwhelmed by the fallout from the events of the past week. Newtown.

There has been a misguided media feeding frenzy focused on a possible autism diagnosis of the shooter, and erroneous speculation that autism was behind Adam Lanza's heinous acts.

There is much destructive misinformation spreading around the world.

Ignorant, spiteful people have created hate sites about how autism = violence, and proclaiming that autistic people are monsters who should all be rounded up and jailed or exterminated.

I can't...

I just can't...

I can't even breathe when I think about this.

I have not been able to write about it yet, finding myself just too devastated, frightened and overwhelmed to form a cohesive sentence. (Hence the radio silence.)

But many many friends of mine have been writing, voices of love and light to meet and answer the tide of fear hate.

For starters, read these, here:

A letter to Elisabeth J.A. by Jillsmo

My Son Has Autism. Please Don’t Be Afraid. by Jo Ashline

When Children Die, It’s Time to Grieve and to Reflect, Not to Scapegoat by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

And also a movement sprang up, a photo meme: "This is Autism" - to put a face to autism as we know it, with words describing some of the wonderful, quirky, delightful people who are on the autism spectrum. Parents are sharing their children, adult advocates are introducing themselves.

And that I could do; thus this picture, with these words.

And we're all sharing it here, on the Autism Shines facebook page.

Come, see the beautiful shining faces of so many of us and our children. Share your own images. Meet some people with autism who are not violent scary monsters, but our wonderful children and our wonderful selves.

OK, I realize if you're a reader of my blog, I'm probably preaching to the converted, but please share this page widely and maybe it will reach someone who needs to hear it.

Peace to you all. More words here soon.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Light all the candles (8th Night of Hanukkah)

menorah on 6th night

It is the 8th night of Hanukkah tonight, and so we're done. Hanukkah came early this year, putting us at a bit of a disconnect with the rest of the country. We'll be well all done before the Christmas frenzy is in full bore. But so it goes some years.

Last year Christmas Eve was the 5th night of Hanukkah, the holidays overlapping nicely. Next year, thanks to simultaneous oddities of the standard western and Hebrew calendars, Hanukkah will actually cross paths with Thanksgiving, beginning the night before!

I'm still weaving in and out of my seasonal ennui, some days lighter, others darker.  Holidays are always about family, family, family and I am missing some members of mine. This week the universe conspired to remind me of my father constantly, now gone nearly three years.

I sat down to get a cup of coffee in the middle of the day on Wednesday and gather my thoughts, when I noticed the man seated next to me in the cafe, heartily enjoying a bowl of potato leak soup, one of my father's favorites. I just had to get a some myself, the silent tears dripping off my face and dropping into the bowl rendering it a bit on the salty side. Just how Dad liked it.

I was thinking about the last months of my father's life, how even up until the very bitter end, when he was barely eating anything, becoming more of a skeleton day by day, I could still often get a little soup into him, if nothing else.

Nabeyake udon or vichyssoise, pasta fagioli or avgolemono, clam chowder or chicken noodle, goulash or gazpacho; the man loved soup. And every time I make some, I conjure Dad up, if just for a little while.

And then on Thursday night, my husband and I got to spend some time with dear friends who are a generation older than we are (but young, so young in spirit and full of life).  I love them to pieces and we had a wonderful dinner and lively conversation and I enjoyed every minute of it while simultaneously feeling so sad that my father is gone and my mother fading fast. And there was our friend Al (OK, I'll name drop: Al Jaffe) a year older than my mother, but still working, still living completely independently (yes, it probably helps that his lovely wife Joyce is a decade younger, but still, that makes her no spring chicken herself).


OK, this post was supposed to be going up yesterday, on & about the 7th night. I had written this much by Thursday and was going to finish Friday. But then I came home from my intense all day appointment in Brooklyn (the impartial hearing concerning Jacob's schooling) having been pretty much in a bubble all day, to find the news... the school shooting... all anyone can talk about, think about. And I froze.

How can I write about a cheerful holiday, about missing my father who got to live a long, fulfilling  life and become really, really old before he died, in the wake of this immense and senseless tragedy, in the wake of twenty dead children? And yet, there were my thoughts, up until Friday evening.

And so I am walking around dazed and shell shocked today; doing what I have to do, boys to basketball, lighting the final menorah, feeding everybody and washing up the boys weekly five loads of laundry. Because life, for the living keeps going on.

I cannot write about Newtown yet. I don't know if I ever will. There is no sense to be made of it. And, for once, I truly have no words. Except to say that we need vastly better mental health services in America, and with less stigma attached to getting them when we need them.

And so I'll end here, rather abruptly perhaps, because there is no way to stitch this into a smooth and seamless post. There was regular life, skipping, trudging, shuffling along. And then... the thousand ton boulder dropped into the middle of it. And aftermath. There's always aftermath.


To conclude: last year I shared the Maccabeats & Matisyahu's wonderful Hanukkah song with you, this year I'm sharing a new song from Matisyahu... and hoping everyone had as happy a Hanukkah as possible, in spite of all the insanity and tragedy in the world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hanukkah Lights

The light of a thousand menorahs (actually about 20)
This past Sunday was my husband Danny's family's annual Hanukkah party. It's a giant extravaganza that has been going on forever. Early in my husband's childhood, it took place at Aunt and Uncle's homes, and then, as the family grew and grew, in his father's Bronx kosher catering hall.

Since the demise of that, it has continued, every year in varying locations, public and private, the common factors being: large, latkes, and loud.

I married into a BIG family. (Did I mention having come from a tiny one, I had always wanted a bigger family? Did I mention that one should be careful what one wishes for?)

Fortunately they are warm and welcoming, inviting and inclusive. My first experience with the Danny Family Hanukkah Party took place in 1998, the year we began to date. (That year it was in the city, as we took over half of Ben's Kosher Deli.)

It's the tradition in his family for people to bring someone to the party when it gets "serious" because it will be noted that there is a date along and there will be kind-hearted teasing about it. It is also where new engagements, upcoming Bar Mitzvah dates and impending additions to the family will be announced with much joy and congratulations.

As I may have mentioned here before (in last year's Hanukkah party post, as a matter of fact) as we walked to the subway together afterwards, heading back to the Upper West Side where we both lived, I remarked to Dan: "I've never been hugged and kissed by so many people I just met in my life." Like I said, warm and inclusive.

Big cousins = big fun

Since then we have stuffed our faces with latkes in the city and the burbs - both Jersey and Westchester - at cousin's homes, kosher delis, synagogue social halls, seminary dining rooms and hotel banquet halls. This year's constellation was Westchester & hotel. Well suited to the growing cadre of young ones who needed halls to run and play touch football in.

When Ethan and Jake were born there had been a baby lull in the family, the youngest cousin's kid being four, with a huge gang in their late teens to late twenties. But when the boys were nine months old, another little cousin joined the family, and since then every year has seen the addition of one to two new ones.

My estimate is that there were about eighteen in the ten and under crowd on Sunday.

A big part of the tradition is that every family brings a menorah, and they are all lit together at the end of the meal. This year, for the second year in a row, we let Ethan do the actual lighting of ours (sniffle, he's no longer my baby, sniffle).

Ethan chanting the candle-lighting blessing (Hebrew School paying off)
Jacob loves all the lights

There is also an obscenely huge Table of Presents that everybody drops their gifts onto when they come in (not pictured this year, for some reason, my documentary photographer skills falling somewhat short). And the final official event of the party is the present toss, where the gifts are handed out to the (mostly) kids and an unwrapping frenzy takes place amidst squeals of delight.

"Thanks, Aunt Patty!"
Jacob groking his Star Wars book
One note of sadness crept into the festivities for me: the absence of my mother. Part of the inclusiveness of Dan's family is that my parents were invited to any and all events. Even though they were from a rather different side of Jewish culture (secular, bohemian) they did often come to the Hanukkah parties and other festivities and were warmly welcomed. 

For the past two years it was lovely to see my mother surrounded by the swirl of family and children, enjoying the scene, even if she wasn't quite sure who anyone besides her two grandsons were.

This year, wheelchair bound and hours of driving away in Long Island, taking her was out of the question. Sigh.

But let's end on a lighter note: Happy Hanukkah to y'all!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What I'm reading



I'm silent on my blog for a mother-loving WEEK (the longest break since I committed to writing frequently, over two years ago) and then I plop a post about "What I'm reading" down here?

Um, yeah.

So you might get the feeling I don't want to talk about my life right now. And you'd be right.

I'm struggling.

I'm whining, whinging, stuck, avoiding and generally being a cranky person and I really really don't want to bore you with that.

I have a post I started to write a few weeks ago called "Wrestling the Black Dog" and there's a single sentence in it: "It's that time of year again, when the days shorten and so does my concentration, my capacity for joy, and my temper. Depression"

And then I stopped.

I'm being good at stopping and bad at going, at doing.

And what I have done my whole life when I am stopped, stuck, and withdrawing from life is read.

I can't talk about my feelings anymore right now. (What little I've let out here is making me uncomfortable enough. I am really not OK with how not OK I am. Because I'm a mom and this has the potential to affect not just me, but the kids. Not OK.) But I CAN talk about what I'm reading.

So here goes:

At Thanksgiving dinner with my family this year, the teens (17 year-old Aaron & 14 year-old Greta) were talking about a book they were reading: Paper Towns by John Green. It sounded really wonderful. A YA novel that was smart and literate.

I have an affection for good YA books, and finally a reasonable excuse for reading them: vetting for future reading by my soon-to-be-teen boys. (And also I will confess: I harbor a secret desire to maybe write one some day.)

So I picked it up. And it was good. More than just good. Smart, funny, literate; a pleasure to read yet deep, full of soul, lots of things to ponder. A coming of age story, of course, but so much more.

John Green's main characters tend to think too much - like me and most of the people I like - and are really interesting to spend time with. 

So then I grabbed another John Green book, his latest: The Fault in Our Stars.



This is the kind of book that makes you want to stand up on a mountain top or soapbox and shout: "READ THIS BOOK!" to everyone you see. (Well, it makes me feel that way, anyway.)

After I read it I found it to be on a lot of people's "Best of 2012" lists. And not just in YA, but for fiction in general. Best NOVEL of the year lists. And yes, it deserves that place.

I know I will be reading it again. And again. It's one of THOSE. Characters you fall in love with, who then break your heart, which you willingly hand to them, and let them do what they will.

It's a rip-your-heart-out-but-also-fill-it-to-the-brim story about a 16 year-old girl who will be dying of cancer.

It is moving and touching without ever being trite, mushy, sacharin or maudlin. The storytelling is taut as a bowstring and each sentence finds its target perfectly - zing!

The language sings.

You would think a book full of teenagers wise in the ways of pain and loss and facing their immanent mortality would be heavy beyond belief; and yet this book shimmers with light.

And it's a perfect antidote to my unlovely attraction towards a good wallow, the mighty pull of  self-pity in these times of darkness. Let's just say I needed this.

I am not going to describe the plot one iota, because it should be experienced as the story unfolds.

I will say it's the story of a girl. And a boy. And some other girls and boys. And their families (parents who are neither monsters nor superheroes; all very real, very human).  It's about love. And being alive, truly alive. And courage. And fear. And dying.

And it's also about a book, and that book's author, who is important to the main characters -- because that's how John Green rolls. His books are always also about the books his characters are obsessed with, which I - a book lover - find delightful (like I said, it's literary, literate YA fiction).

And I will say: READ IT! You won't be sorry.

(OK, coming down from the mountain, stepping off my soapbox now.)

Finally, I will leave you with a quote from the book, whet your appetite a tiny bit (and hopefully I'll be back soon with some more words of my own)...

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November Round-Up: What I Loved on OTHER People's Blogs

Old Door, Los Angeles by Neil Kramer

Welcome to the November edition of my monthly "What I Loved on OTHER People's Blogs" feature. The place where I share what has caught my eye (and brain, and heart) on the internet over the past month. As usual, there's some really great reading here.

Also, as usual, I am also featuring the work of my friend and amazing intstagram photographer Neil Kramer - of the blog  Citizen of the Month. He's been in LA all this month, so if you're in the cold dreary East like me, you can enjoy the La La Land sunshine vicariously through his photos.

Parking by Neil Kramer

So now, without further ado, may I offer you some awesome stuff to read & view:

Grace, via jump rope by Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda 

The Advantages Of Being Never Not Broken. by Eden of Edenland

Airplane, California by Neil Kramer

When Does Different Become Dysfunctional? by Bec of Snagglebox

The other shoe by Jessica of Four plus an angel

Reflection in laptop by Neil Kramer

The Only People Who Should Be Called Nazis Are Nazis by Ali from Cheaper than Therapy

The Differences Will Make All The Difference by Jenni of Mommy Nani Booboo

Shades of Gray by Tracy of Sellabit Mum

Back, Los Angeles by Neil Kramer

Scent of cardinals by Kris of Pretty All True

Untitled by Anna of An Inch of Gray

Morning Rush, Los Angeles by Neil Kramer

An Open Letter by Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary

An Open Letter by Vikki of Up Popped a Fox

What America Means To Me by Neil Kramer

Ways to make your next IEP awesome by Lexi of Mostly True Stuff

How Facebook Reconnected Me To My Ex-BoyFriend’s Wonky Groove by Renée of renée a. schuls-jacobson's blog 

Windows by Neil Kramer

Hope you found something new and interesting to read. Or re-discovered an old "friend" of a blog that fell of your reading list.

And if you come across anything in the course of your reading that you think "This is a fantastic thing that is just up Varda's alley, she should read this and feature it in her monthly round-up post!"? Let me know about it via Twitter - @SquashedMom.

Photos by Neil Kramer