Monday, September 24, 2012


Welcome, all those coming over from 826 Michigan's facebook page or their blog, and all the rest of youse, too!

 I'm so glad you're here.

Browse around a bit and leave some fingerprints. There's something for everyone, I think--

stuff about boxing, mostly memoir pieces like this one

theatre in a homeless shelter, its power demonstrated

theatre with prisoners and theatre of the oppressed

powerlifting competitions, of which I took part, oddly enough

type 1 diabetes, handled with humor (sometimes)

parenting, subversive style

my funniest story ever

My blog is where my writing ideas, which once went into a tablet to die, get fleshed out into small essays. I like it that way. Visit again soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Rules of Sustenance

This past week I bought a kitchen mat; a new shower caddy; two blankets for the kids' beds. The cold is coming, and I'm settling. It's a good time to remember those without this luxury; for them, I reprint here an essay of mine published by The Other Journal, recounting a night at the homeless shelter.

She’s standing in front of me, pulling her sweatshirt up to reveal a pale, heavy belly. “I think it’s pretty obvious,” she says in response to the pregnancy question on the intake sheet.
Kelsey had been driven to the shelter by her father, who held out a twenty, patted her back, and said, “You’re doing what your mother couldn’t.” Leaving a man who beats her.
Kelsey was needy. Could she have a locker? Well, no, they’re for long-timers. Could her bag be locked up in my office? If I did that for everyone, it’d get pretty crowded in here. How about some paper and pens? And then: “I’m hungry.”
Pregnant, hungry, homeless girl. Of the many scenarios I encounter on my five-hour shift at the homeless shelter, this ranks among the toughest. No food is allowed except what we provide, and tonight, we’re nearly out of our usual snack: granola bars, vanilla yogurt flavor, the Best By date long past.
On my first night working at the shelter, I gave a green mat, which has about an inch more padding than a black mat, to a woman who was in so much pain she couldn’t make it up the steps alone. The next night, three women had valid reasons why they, too, needed green mats. Soon everyone was demanding a green mat. I learned my lesson: digest the relevant rule and be tough. Distribute the mats in the order in which they are piled. Find a woman with Fritos, make her throw them away. Tough, yet fair.
And then: “I’m hungry.”
Snacktime is soon, but I shouldn’t offer a granola bar to Kelsey if I don’t have enough for everyone. But Kelsey is hungry. And Kelsey is pregnant. As I think through the implications of giving Kelsey a granola bar, another woman, Anne, grabs one and heads toward Kelsey.
Anne needs to know I saw her at the fridge—another unlawful act. The other women need the security of knowing I enforce the rules. “No,” I tell her.
“She’s pregnant and she’s hungry,” Anne says, not kindly. I don’t know her well, and I get the impression she could cause me a lot of trouble.
“I’ll help her after we’re done with our meeting,” I say, but Anne isn’t convinced of anything except my callousness. She takes her seat.
Today’s group time is structured around an autobiographical piece written by a female prisoner. I read the short essay aloud and ask about its themes of anger, love, and religion. How anger can start in childhood and flare in adulthood. How religion offered in love is more convincing than threats of hellfire and damnation. Love over legalism.
Anne perks up. I see intelligence in her eyes, not anger; a thoughtfulness sated, finally, after long days of walking the streets and biding time.
I usually end our sessions with a blessing, as it’s the last time the group is assembled before bed. This time I choose something from Psalm 3, and by the end, I have a plan.
“There are not enough granola bars for everyone, I’m sorry to say. Here’s the deal: I’m going to hand one to the pregnant girl in our midst (I throw her one) and hope that the rest are like the loaves and fishes. You know that story? Good. I’m going to put them right here and trust that only those of you who are hungry will take one. And I’m going to trust that they will multiply.”
Another rule broken: Don’t leave a pile of anything up for grabs. Write HOUSE in black permanent marker on a bottle of lotion and it’s gone in a day. Put a pile of food out and handfuls are shoved into pockets.
I set the box on the floor. There are maybe ten, twelve granola bars in there, and twenty-two women at last count. I make like I’m not paying attention, and soon enough I’m distracted by other tasks. And by Anne. She’s off by herself, reading. I wander near her, hoping to feed off that connection I felt during the discussion.
“I’m looking at that psalm you read,” Anne says. “It’s good.” I nod and happen to glance over at the snack box as she talks. Four granola bars, I see. Not exactly multiplication, but everyone who wanted one got one. Good thing they weren’t hungry tonight, I think to myself.
I reach for the remainders and Anne says quietly, “If everyone else had theirs, I wouldn’t mind one.”
Then Jenny says, “Me too—if there’s enough.”
Two more women sheepishly ask, as well. They’ve held back, for the good of all.
Later, as the women sleep on their mats, green and otherwise, I look at the psalm again. A phrase I hadn’t noticed before catches my eye, like a fish waiting at the bottom of a basket among leftover loaves or a granola bar in a box that should be empty.
“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

I'm Humbled. And Honored.


To keep that air of mystery established a few posts ago, I'm going to make you click through to here to see what I'm up to, and to witness the overwhelming support I've been given.

There's a deadline Monday at noon--the team member who solicits the most individual donations gets a featured spot on the 826 Twitter and Facebook pages. I'm in a good place, but if you've been meaning to give, now might be the time.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

good to be back.

After a long, self-imposed, not entirely voluntary hiatus from boxing, I returned to the gym last week.

After a good year of going to the gym only when I felt top-notch, up to the task, I stepped foot in there on an off-day, content to accept rusty pivots, hesitant shots.

In some ways, boxing felt like riding a bike; knowing how to move was with me all along. Even on an off-day, even with a faulty elbow. For fun, I joined in on a lesson one boxer was giving a beginner, and was questioned by the teacher.

"I figure there's always something to learn," I told him.

"Naw, Amy, you already a beast."

I like that. Namely because I do consider myself a beast, and because I also know he knows my experience is limited. I took it more as "you have the potential to be a beast."

Overall the place felt empty; there'd been a robbery a few nights before. Someone took all those sweaty gloves, God knows for what. The bags and computer you understand, but the gloves were well worn and infused with a deep, musty stink. Now the new kids wandering in have nothing.

The loss hung in the air, with trainers scrambling to find gloves for a boy who was showing potential and was ready for padwork.

"Change angles, Amy."

Yeah, I needed that. You forget to move, sometimes. I recall my first days in the gym, when it seemed all I heard was what I was doing wrong. For good reason, I realized soon enough, but it's a jolt to step into a boxing gym and have your every move analyzed. In the rest of life, you slip up and move on; someone's not there coaching the play by play. It's humbling, but you get used to it. Become grateful for it, even.

Because in those moments, when you're beating yourself up, something reminds you that you were there when that guy shadowboxing in the corner lost a bout. You were there, at the Golden Gloves, when the boxer on the speed bag today slipped and fell in the ring. You saw when the guy sparring forgot his mouthguard and the ref had to halt the round, but how he won it in the end. We've all slipped up, we know that, and we accept each other for both our strengths and our faults.

There's no such thing as an off day. Only show up and keep moving.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm Going To Crush It October 3-5


What's it all got to do with each other?

Read about my new challenge here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Recreation = Exercise

My readers know the efforts I put out to get my family moving.

I am happy to report that this summer, we, the Scheers, did move.

Even after eating this,

at the famous Pat's of Philly,

we ran down (and back up) the Rocky steps,

and, a couple months later, ran through mud.

In between photos, my kids invented the Backyard Olympics and held contests with the neighbors.

I didn't do a whole lot of this

but instead pushed cars, kayaked, carried my younger son on my back for a half hour, and worked on my 1RM in the deadlift.

This is exercise, and recreation. It's nice when the two coincide.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Camera, The Film, And The Movie On The Way Home

Let me tell you the story of Simon's camera.

Usually, for birthdays, we buy a big LEGO set, supplemented by equally desirable books and toys priced a bit less. The kids enjoy this.

I wanted more for Simon this year as he turned 12. He'd been showing a real interest and skill in filmmaking, borrowing the camera previously ruled untouchable for the kids and eventually becoming, basically, Simon's camera.

That he'd talk about a hobby other than LEGO showed a spark of something I wanted to encourage. That he'd plan out shots for the movie version of a favorite book...that was something new.

Funds were limited, but I found a video camera online within our range and asked Simon if he'd mind a present equally big but not LEGO this year. The conversation took a windy road, dead ending when I asked if he wanted to know my idea before agreeing to it. He did. I let him read the specs online. "Waterproof up to 8 feet" did the trick.

Now he has a video camera. We're still working out the computer software aspect, but meanwhile he's gotten some nice footage, and is dreaming of what to splice where.

A couple of days ago, we were at the school open house and a friend filmed Simon with an iPod. Seconds later, he showed Simon the clip, which ended with a giant boulder landing on him. No splicing, no hunting down footage, no wait, just an amazing looking boulder with perfect comic timing.

Special effects app. Boom, just like that.

Now, let me tell you the story of seeing Spider-Man.

Normally we're cautious around PG-13 movies. We won't see The Hunger Games despite Simon's devotion to the books, but The Avengers we saw twice, as its wit lightens the violent aspects of the film.

Spider-Man we thought we'd see before it left the theater. Simon and I went today. In the end, it wasn't his favorite--he's not used to dramas--but seeing it was a big deal, and he is able to zero in on some key filmmaking devices. Too, the origin story--nerdy smart kid overcomes, fights for justice, faces the consequences that a conviction brings--was an important one for a kid Simon's age.

Overall I was thinking this was a key step for him to grow as a person and, potentially, an artist. What I'm saying is there was some thought and planning to taking him there.

And then I saw all the other (too young) kids in the theater, and thought about all the classmates who had probably seen this months ago.

And the knee-high kid who said to his mom as credits rolled, "Can we watch a movie in the car?"

Let me tell you, I see how you can swallow shovelfuls of food without chewing and shit it straight out, or you can savor each bite.

And yet I was honestly saddened by the falling boulder. "Sorry, Simon," I said. "Sorry his camera is cooler than yours."

He laughed. He got the joke; he wasn't jealous. Maybe that kind of kid is the best present of all.