Where have all the snowmen gone?

So there’s big snow here in the Northeast. Up here, in the Hudson Valley, up to 3 feet.
I see lots of video, lots of reporting, on people shoveling.

But where are the snowmen?

The snowforts?

The snowball fights?

The sledding?

Nature has delivered primo conditions for all of the above. Are kids (of all ages) seizing the moment?

Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places for evidence of these activities — the joy of the big snow.

But I have this little niggling fear that Covid is throwing some hot water on the joy of snow.

I read this story in the Times last week saying that kids are “slid[ing] down an increasingly slippery path into an all-consuming digital life.” Screen time and gaming in particular have at least doubled since the outbreak and (no surprise) virtual has replaced normal stuff like hanging out in school and physical activities like sports — and snowmanning.

Kids have found comfort by curling up in a kind of digital “pleasure cocoon” as Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician who studies children’s use of mobile technology at the University of Michigan, put it.

I get it. We all get it. We all have our cocoons. And we’re not necessarily proud of it.

But one of the big pandemic lessons is reminding us to seize the moment. To wake up and, in this case, smell the roses. To embrace the gifts, great and small, that we do have — ones we most likely ignored and took for granted when life was pre-Covid “normal.”

Snow, it’s not just for shoveling.

It’s wondrous. It’s nature’s bling. The stuff of ephemeral architecture. A bizillion flakes of possiblilities. And surprise. And memories.

It’s OK to interrupt. When I was a little kid we lived in an apartment in Queens that had a tiny balcony. One night, my mother, totally out of character, went out on the balcony, grabbed some snow, came inside and threw a (badly made) snowball at me.
One of the best memories ever of me and my usually unplayful mom.

So get out of the cocoon, spread your wings, grab a carrot and some coal, and remember FUN.

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PS Feel free to share your snowman creations/sightings.

A simple gesture of peace

So if you’ve been sitting around your house feeling distant, disparate, dissociated, detached — helpless about all the hideousness and hate and chaos that seems to be flying around the world today, I just thought of something:


Holly Joy at Shaker Smoothies in Washingtonville is “all about peace.”

A gesture.

Been hanging out with my tribe at the Body Art Barn, which is still off limits, but we’ve been doing safe social distance yoga and satsang (talking, but in a sanskrit sorta way) outside in back. And we are all so frustrated about the outpourings of hatred, and we are all so hoping, for the outpouring of the peace we all believe will be the one thing, the important thing, and the true thing to get us through.

In our little circle.

But of course, it only takes one person to be a group, or start a revolution.

And I’m telling you this because with my peeps, my tribe at the barn, my fellow yogis in the yoga teacher trainer program, there is acceptance. There is hope. There is a fervent belief in what the spirit can do.  There’s a lot of “yes.” Yes about the future, yes about being ourselves, yes about ideas.

Mostly, we want kindness, and peace, and unity, to catch on.

So we were leaving today and as a fellow yogi, in the car in front of me, made a left in front of me, and went on her way home, I waved her a goodbye.

In the form of a peace sign.

What? Where did that come from?

OK, a sixties thing. But things got pretty hippie-headed in our yoga class today. Michelle, our yoga  poohbah, is a full-blown, self-confessed hippie chick.

I was, but never painted my face, had flowers in my hair, or wanted to be called a hippie chick.

I just was all for peace.

A FedEx driver pulled over, flashed a peace sign back!

Now, I don’t care. Call me whatever. There is nothing funny, or weird, about peace love and understanding.

So I guess something inside pulled out a good old hippie-esque peace sign to flip.

After which, I thought: ‘Well, this would be good. ‘

So I started flipping the two-finger peace sign on the country road on my way home. I saw a couple of quizzical looks, and one or two drivers smile.

Then I went into town and flipped it. And people started flippin’ it back.

A  FedEx guy.

Holly Joy, the owner of Shaker Smoothies, outside her store. Who said she is “all about peace.”

They remembered.

They smiled.

Maybe they’ll pass it along.

It’s easy. Don’t just cross your fingers and hope for peace. Next time you’re driving, stick your hand out the window, and flash a peace sign to anyone. And everyone.

In times like these, it could be a very healing gesture.

#COVID19 #peace #love #hope #humanconnection #stayingpositive #givepeaceachance





A sign for these nail-biting times

20200528_150806 (1)Corinne Courtney puts her heart and soul into Nailed It, the hardware store she  established  in our  little town of Washingtonville, N.Y., in 2015. I  know this because when I interviewed her for a story when I worked at the Times Herald Record  last year, her dedication was palpable.   She thinks hard about everything aspect of her business, from where she sources the hardware she stocks to how she can good for the community.

That thoughtfulness isn’t confined to her retail and workshop space.  Its spills out to the building’s facade (kind of a misnomer here) where she regularly  extends   an uplifting or encouraging message to passers- and driversby.20200528_150654

She does think for quite a while about what she wants to convey there. So when I drove by and saw her latest writing on the wall, I had to pull over.

Perfect for this pivotal, and very nerve-wracking, moment in time.

She nailed it.

Sign of the times

On the public message board at my Stop & Shop today.

I love this sign.
Love, too, that it’s anonymous.


We’re setting up a forum so we can all share. So be on the lookout.

His latest work is A Life Well-Lived, a selection of photos and stories of people across Nebraska highlighting their stories from the past 70 years. These are photographs and stories of those who might be forgotten in the rush of history.

It’s all good weather

8 a.m., our backyard.

People talk about the weather. But today nature gave us some weather we really should talk about. 

Here in the Hudson Valley, we woke up to snow on the ground (and the patio umbrellas and poor daffodils, which have a hard time keeping their heads up as it is).

It’s flippin’ mid-May, OK??

Then, as I’m taking photos to document the  situation, the sun breaks through the clouds. Streams through the trees, the melting starts to glisten.

I look up to the sky, hoping for a snow-bow.

It got sunny enough, and just warm enough  in fact, that by midday we roused the dog and told her she was going for a walk. She donned her harness,  I donned a winter coat  (it was sorta cold) and  sunglasses (it was really sunny).

Off we went. We heard birds. Looked at the stream. Belle trotted nonchalantly past the barking dogs doing crazy circles behind the invisible fence.

We turned a corner.

And the snowflakes began.   I thought at first they were just the little white petals falling off the trees right now.

But no. It was snow. Again.  Teeny, tight  balls of ice-snow.

Then came the wind.  It whistled. Trees creaked. I hunkered into my coat, doing that  huddle-into-a-ball thing that makes you fell cold just to think about. 

 Belle was oblivious. Her coat is thick and soft and various shades of  brown and black.  She was covered in the little snow balls. 

She looked like a furry salted  pretzel.

Belle’s fur salted in snow.

As we huddled back toward our house, the snowflakes got bigger and fluffier,  filling the air coming down like Christmas. It was beautiful.


We got inside. I couldn’t feel my hands. Belle looked annoyed when I tried to towel her dry.

What was it with the weather?

Once I could feel my ears again, I thought, wait, this is a gift. 

We got winter, and spring. We got dark, and light. We got big fluffy snowflakes and  new, green grass.

We got everything in just one day. Very efficient. Very dramatic. Very in-your face.

The Yin and the Yang.

You need  one to appreciate the other. Today, as  we look around us in isolation, Mother Nature gave us a nice big  whack in the face, just in case we hadn’t remembered that.

4 p.m.  walking home as fast as we could.                                                                                                                                                                                              PHOTOS BY PAUL WILDER



















Hands off the sanitizer

sanioverviewReally? Has it come to this?

Hand sanitizer under lock and key?

I saw  on my way out of the big  medical facility where my doctor works.  The telltale pump, sticking out of some sort casing.20200421_144845

I approached slowly, fearing an alarm might go off if I got too close.  Nothing happened. Except I had to take a deep breath (yeah, I was wearing a mask)  and stand still for a minute. Gob-smacked and shaking my head.

Theft-proof hand sanitizer. In some kind of acrylic (perhaps bullet-proof?) display case.  With a hole at the top just big enough to allow the pump to stick out and, well, you couldn’t possible stick your hand in. Or maybe you could figure out something, if you were a professional jewel thief. Or MacGyver.

It could be opened, of course, to be refilled. But only if you had the key to the lock. The lock that was the exclamation point on the tacit message:

We don’t trust you.

I took some pictures of this bizarre sight, this snapshot of the time in which we find ourselves.

Nobody looked at me, nobody turned to at least agree with my wonder at the theft-proof sanitizer. That seemed odd, too.  I was, after all, taking photos of hand sanitizer.  Even the two men working on the nearby elevator  didn’t react to my clearly audible mutterings, like “sheesh” and “this is crazy,” and “what have we become?”

No reaction. No surprise.

I guess they were used to sights like these.

I guess I should have been too.

The first time I went to my doctor after COVID raised its ugly viral parts,  the nurse said that when no one was watching, some  patients would steal the protective  gloves from the  dispensers. On this, my third visit, the dispensers were empty altogether. They’d been moved to some secret location — my nurse had to go off to get a  pair….

Whatever happened to all that cheering, all those signs: “Thank you health care workers!”

Are we really that desperate?

Haven’t we learned a few things in these months of crisis?

Like:  Plain old soap will clean your hands of COVID.

Like: You can wear gardening gloves or even washable  Playtex gloves,

Or, most important, like:  We will only get through this if we work together and care for each other.

After considering the hand sanitizer from a variety of angles, I realized that putting the bottle  in the thick acrylic box elevated it to another level.  Made it look  important, rare, a relic of a special era in human history. 

 Like something you’d see in a museum.

And perhaps, some day, it will be just, and only, that

Virtually there (via robots)

Shelbot, left, and Leonard going to see Steve Wozniak at their university.

Sure, they laughed when it showed up on “The Big Bang Theory,” in 2012.

But who’s laughing now?

In “The Cruciferous Vegetable” episode, Sheldon  decided he needs to  extend his lifespan, and the best way to stay healthy was to stay at home, away from the risks of everyday life and any stray viruses, etc. (sound familiar?). So he creates his Mobile Virtual Presence Device, which his friend penny calls the “Shelbot,”

Making his way in the world with a mechanical proxy looked wacky at the time, but put it in the COVID show, and it becomes at  least a remote possibility.

Not so remote, in fact — except for how it operates. People in robotics know them as Virtual Presence (or Virtual Telepresence) Devices. And they’re up and rolling. You can buy one from Amazon or B&H right now.

They’re remote-controlled robots on wheels – like a Segway with interactive video screen, usually some sort of tablet.   The screen shows  real-time video of the person behind the machine; the person “driving” the robot remotely can roll around his or her robot’s space, talk to, or look more closely at, anything he or she wants from the safety/comfort/virus-free home environment.

Double 2
Think of  a Segway with a tablet-head.  (PHOTOS COURTESY DOUBLE)                

The best ones are able to rotate 360 degrees, have a guidance system so they don’t bash into things (like other VPDs at JazzFest, or other people’s carts at the supermarket), and have the ability to be personalized (Shelbot sported one of Sheldon’s nerdy T-shirts on a hanger).

A lot of this technology has been used in  education —  allowing home-bound children to actually participate in the classroom. Using the VPD, they can participate like most of their classmates, participating in conversations, story time, going from  classroom to classroom, interacting with other students -=- it turns out that  the other students really begin to treat the robots like they are part of the class.

OK, they can’t open doors and they can’t manage stairs, but they’re a step beyond ZOOM, yes?

Tech companies have already jumped on the various ways their inventiions

A Double Virtual Telepresence Device interacts with a fellow worker. No need for social distancing! can be used  in this pandemic crisis.

OhmniLabs, one of the big players in telepresence devices, is sending robots to hospitals to connect quarantined COVID  patients with their families, and donating them to care organizations to enable virtual visits with seniors who are isolated at home. Double Robotics has reported increased demand and is working with a skeleton crew to  fill urgent orders.

Of course, right now, the VPDs are high-demand and, well, out of the range of a lot of us – models from the main companies, like Double Robotics, Ohmni, Padbot and Beam, run anywhere from $2,100 and going to $5,000.  I’ve seen older models on sale for as little as $150 (though I wouldn’t vouch for the sellers). You could snag one with that incentive check that came in the mail… but you might want to save that for face masks and sanitizer.

Then again, if you had one of these robots, you wouldn’t need any of that. Just pull up to the Piggly Wiggly, activate the automatic door opener, and let your ‘bot — kitted out with a wire basket ’round its neck — roll in.

You can sit outside and ask  the supermarket employee, “Hey,  would you please get that Cap’n Crunch down off the shelf and put it in my basket?”

Crazy?  Maybe.

But in times like these, the definition of crazy could change any second…


Color me desperate


Should I or shouldn’t I?

I couldn’t/can’t stand looking at myself in the mirror anymore.  My hair needs not just to be cut, but it’s turned all manner of  trashy orange  shades, as it is wont to do. All I can think of is that photo I saw at Belle’s grooming salon, an image of a mop-like, tawny-furred  dog with an orange Donald Trump comb-over.

I cannot live like this.


So today I put on my mask and my gloves. I went to CVS and bought  permanent hair coloring. All-over color and highlights in 30 minutes!

Of course I want to look like the babe in the photo on the box.

Of course I know I won’t.

I just don’t want to look like Donald Trump.Or, more  nightmarish still, to have all my hair fall out  when I towel it dry.

I’ve hidden it from my husband. so don’t tell him. He might yell.

But maybe I do need someone to yell.  My tonsorial projects have turned out about the same as my cooking forays (minus the visit from the fire department, that is).

I bet a lot of people right about now — OK, yeah, mostly women — might need to be talked off the ledge as far as hair is concerned.

COVID  is not pretty.

Yes, these are tough times.  For living. For health.

For personal grooming.

Should I or shouldn’t I?