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... life as i sees it 

"Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition."

- William Zinsser

Photo Illustration by Tyswan Stewart Times Union

Blurred Lines 

When Will Smith impulsively launched himself to the stage recently, invisible 7-year-olds, clad in Superman capes, a “Pow! Bam!” bubble over their heads, followed along too as the small hands of others silenced, powerless, bullied, bypassed, teased and taunted, fueled the slap that tore across Chris Rock’s reddened face. I walked up there with him, too. 


In cartoons and comedy clubs, in school cafeterias and family celebrations, bullying and sarcastic assaults often come with a side of bacon and a big paycheck. 


We’re taught when someone belittles us to take the high road and toughen up, that “they’re just kidding,” but “kidding” is code for tearing your heart out of your body without anesthesia. It hurts...(READ MORE)

authorized persons who am I

The Back Room

I’ve arrived early (of course) for lunch, but I’m glad to be in this space. It’s beautiful; everything looks pretty and smells good. Candles on the tables, art on the walls, centerpieces creatively curated, gentle sounds, soft lights.


Soon, someone beneath the calibrated, “How’re we all doin’ today?” voice, brings warm, grainy rolls and sweet tea. “Sparkling water or tap?” Then off to the back room, through the Employees Only door; it’s different in there, in the Back Room ... (READ MORE)

Dreaming Big Dreams

Four Questions 

There were only four questions and it seemed I could answer them quite easily: What were your dreams when you were younger? What did you imagine your life would be like? Did you achieve your dreams? Do you still have dreams you want to achieve?

My beautiful 16-year-old granddaughter Skyler Marie, an emotionally eloquent writer, had been working on her autobiography for weeks for an 11th grade English class project and these questions were assigned as part of the final chapter, the interviews with her parents and grandparents. Simple enough...(READ MORE)

Helen Castellana

Helen's Book

She died years ago, November 9th at 1:17pm, while my daughter, sister and I were shopping at Marshall's for festive holiday-themed glassware, and shoes that would fit her grotesquely swollen feet when she died. 


My mother would have been mortified if we buried her without shoes ... (READ MORE) 

My son and Santa

A Silent Legacy

Letting go isn’t easy, not for me.   I save things that no longer have a useful purpose: chipped mugs from places I’ve never been, broken earrings, the ivory chiffon empire-waist dress that I wore to the senior prom.  My maternity clothes are neatly folded and stored in the attic, even though days of bearing children are long gone. I have read many books on how to “De-clutter and De-stress” my life.  Most of them are also stored in the attic ... (READ MORE)  

At the Copa

Music for the Soles

I always wanted to be a Rockette. But I was several inches too short.  And I wasn't really that good. Oh, I thought I was good enough; in dance class, I was always called up front to demonstrate a step, and the teacher always pointed at me and instructed the class to “do it the way Ardelle does it.”  (READ MORE) 

Haines Falls

Childhood Summers

We waited impatiently for the school year to end and for another blistering hot summer to saunter in. Longed for yet another year to evaporate and for the nothingness of summer to begin...(READ MORE)

Stone Barns Center, Tarrytown, NY

Canopy of Fire 

Even though they are not visible there is one in every room, a bug jar. In my house, “grab and go” has little to do with take out unless you’re talking about the bugs.


My relationship with insects is complicated but I am committed to taking them outside where they belong. My awe and aversion coexist awkwardly; my urge to scream rapidly overridden by my compulsion to rescue.  A quick Wikipedia search reveals that recent figures estimate there are more than 1.4 billion insects for each human on the planet. Clearly I am going to need bigger jars. (READ MORE)

Sunrise Sunset on Piha Beach

The Special Days

What makes a day indelibly momentous and meaningful?  How do we know what matters? I’ve been thinking about how people spend their time, about what every single person does between the tick and tock each day, musing about the things we remember and the things we forget. (READ MORE)

The Red Lion Inn

Every October 

I was married 41 years ago today in a beautiful Vera Wang gown I found on a clearance rack at Trenchers in Garden City. It is a beautiful gown and even though it fits, it looks silly on my almost 70-year-old body.  The delicate, lacy wide brimmed hat is still lovely, but no longer ivory and encircles my head with an odd tilt. Like me, the color and texture have changed (READ MORE)


Henry Castellana

No Matches

The first 16 years of my life, my dad was frequently gentle and smiling, funny and dazed, enveloped in a sweet, seamless, alcohol- induced abyss. He wore a suit and a Stetson hat, worked long hours and weekends and then tumbled home before entering a long, restless sleep.


In the years when DUI were simply mistyped capital letters, I was terrified on the infrequent nights we attended a family event or had a family outing, that after consuming drink after drink after drink after drink, he would catapult our car into a tree and kill us all. (READ MORE)

Kutsher's, Catskills, NY

The Ballroom

There are few things better able to engender confidence, restore my emotional equilibrium or connect my soul to a blissful state than dancing. Dancing is one thing I always knew I could do and could do well. I love to dance. (READ MORE)

Under the Big Tree

The Big Tree

I remember the day my father took that picture in the summer of 1950. I was only two and a half years old but my recall is vivid. Summers in the Bronx were blistering hot. Pelham Bay Park was the closest place to cool off; not even the movie theaters were air cooled yet...(READ MORE)

Ardelle (second row right)

Under the Lion's Mask

Even though I never volunteered, my kindergarten teacher, Miss Oaken, often called on me to read aloud. I always looked down quietly at my hands, folded on my desk, hoping she’d pick me. When she did, I would read deliberately and carefully until the end of the page and then stop and hold my breath, hoping she would say, “Keep going.” I was still just 4 years old and very shy. I loved to read and I especially loved to read out loud. But I didn’t like to be noticed.


The Dollhouse

Night Terrors on Dow Avenue 

Felix the Cat rolls his clock-eyes and mocks 

anynight o’clock
Shadow puppets slither under the yellowy door

with no lock
Tiny Tears, full of dread, face down

on the bed.
Tear-soaked and broken, stuffed friends slowly

open one eye (READ MORE)

Olana, Hudson, NY


An orchestrated signal cues the dirge,     

a canopy of color, all aglow  

seeps through secret spaces, brilliant purge, 

autumnal tapestries; a gaudy show. (READ MORE)    

Helen Young (second row center)

The Time Traveler

At first, I could not identify any of them. The faces in the vintage photo, circa perhaps 1938, were fuzzy and unfamiliar. In the center, a large cheerful man wearing a crisply starched and freshly pressed Navy uniform sat on a bench with his arms stretched wide, trying to encircle the others in the photo.


Auntie M

Auntie M

Early on there were bees everywhere,

a small turtle imprisoned in a plastic windowsill habitat,

burnt scrambled eggs, soft buttered toast

dipped in coffee,

and Taffy, my dog


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