Showing posts from 2012

Books I Read This Year (2012)

Twenty-nine altogether, which is not bad for me. Instead of making a complete list as in years past, I'd like to highlight those that stood out for one reason or another. Let me state up front that my memory is faulty, and I don't have the luxury of extra time to research details of the book. The following, my friends, is what stayed with me from the books, and that's got to count for something. Books I Liked But Can't Figure Out Why A Hologram For The King, Dave Eggers. Travelling back to the world of the book, I see a tent somewhere in the Middle East. Much of the action--and inaction--happens there, or in a mystery building, or that one scene in the sea. And yet I couldn't put it down. Let me mention that this year, I received a postcard from Eggers written to little ol' me ( because of this ), so I'll be a fan no matter what, but it helps he's such a good writer. Several by Maira Kalman. You'll find her illustrations in The New Yorker and

And God Said, I'll Go There Myself (audio version)

'Tis a little late in the day, but I'd like to offer a gift of one of my favorite holiday memories: the time I led a short Christmas play in a homeless shelter. I've posted the text of this story  here  before; last year Greg and I recorded it, and then I probably decided I didn't like hearing my own voice or something like that.  This year, though, I was missing the story, and upon a second listen thought it ready to share. I hope you have a couple six minutes to listen and let me know what you think. Thanks to Greg for his audio handiwork. And God Said, I'll Go There Myself (audio version)

You Never Know

The mom of a classmate of Theo's stopped me the other day. "All I hear about is your son. Theo, Theo, Theo," she said. Turns out Theo has been sitting on the bus with the classmate's younger brother and making quite an impression. Theo's just nine himself, but his behavior toward this kid--even just the act of sitting with him--makes him tell his mom, "Theo takes care of me." I was surprised by this because I usually already know of the major relationships in my children's lives. They talk to me, which I love. But it turns out that Theo hadn't thought much of it; he'd simply done what was called for in the situation--be nice. And what an effect it had. "He's always talking about Theo," the classmate told me. In the play I'm doing with former prisoners , there is a man that has one line. I hadn't known he'd take part when I wrote the script, so I ended up giving him a short line that typically I would say fr

Belated Diabetes Thanksgiving

No, people who googled diabetes and thanksgiving , I am not about to provide carb counts for your pumpkin pie. (Sorry.) Rather, I'd like to take a moment to give thanks for the couple bright spots in the diabetic life--some meager, some more meaningful than others, but all reasons to be grateful. 1. OXO FOOD SCALE. After living with our son's type 1 diabetes for over two years, we finally purchased this scale, and I believe I have praised it aloud with nearly every use. It switches from ounces to grams! It zeroes out! Thank you, OXO, for making our lives a little easier. 2. WATER ON SPOON.  On to the accidental discovery of water + tablespoon equals easier life. Measuring peanut butter, anyone? Try this: rinse the measuring spoon with warm water. Dip into jar. Voila! Peanut butter slides off spoon (mostly). I have not yet determined a way to coax the remaining 1/4 spoonful off unmessily, and yet this little trick makes me very happy. (A smarter mother might sp

What Happens When A Theatre Major Studies Anatomy

A page of notes per page of text. More on that later--first, a picture of the last class I taught: Jenny, a woman in her 60s, is performing forearm strikes on the heavy bag. These are a substitute for punches, which she can't do with her bad wrists. She also has ankle issues, and marched in place instead of jumping rope. Others are hitting and sweating away at their own bags. Janet, who is shortening her punches and generally not hitting from her core, is complaining that the class isn't sufficiently wearing her out. (The entire class, yes, was comprised of people whose names started with J. Including Jerry, who has stepped out into the hall. And Jenny, you remember her--she's peering out the window.) "He's puking," she says. I've got Janet who is not getting the workout she'd like, and I've got Jerry, who got more than he bargained for. Everybody else was smiling--except the staffer from the front desk who came to clean up. This microc

How Long, Lord? A Post-Prison Lament


Beware the Specialists. Sometimes.

On the eve of my husband's first foot race, I confessed a long-held bias: I dislike runners. The snooty kind, you know. The ones heading up your local shoe shop, pushing the vibrams and chewing the chia seeds. "Dude," I want to say, "I hit people in the head. You are not better than me because you have a 26.2 sticker on the rear of your minivan." Of course, all bias is born of insecurity. I can't run--or, I should say, can't bring myself to do it. Can't do tedium. Can't (attempt) to run a mile. I could tell myself I'd win a thousand dollars or save my child's life if I just jog to this point, but no amount of psychological coaching can get me around the block. And yet the runners' superiority bothers me for reasons other than my own failings. It's the exclusivity of their club: they run. That's their main thing. Whereas I like sampling a bunch of sports, which you can call fear of commitment or, preferably, cross-train

The Problem With Pants

The pants I'm wearing today have a large hole above and to the left of the right rear pocket. The front right pocket is starting to pull from the seam, creating another rip. Because I am aware of these problems, and because I hate to sew, I wear a long shirt. Had I not told you, you wouldn't have known. Two weeks ago I dressed for church, and at the last minute turned to check the rear view. Though I am 41 years old, it has taken me until recently to learn to look for underwear lines, food between my teeth, etc. At this check it was discovered that two seams in the seat had pulled apart. Another seam, in a more private location, had completely ripped. I changed. And back a couple of summers ago, while wearing a favorite pair of comfy pants, I met a new neighbor outside for the first time. Our conversation was heavy: she had recently recovered from brain surgery. As she relayed the story in great detail, I noticed her eyes glancing down quite frequently. Must be a side eff

Second Chances

There's a theme of forgiveness running through my current projects. My play, crafted from the words of former prisoners and performed by them, asks the audience to face their feelings on who deserves a second chance. Are you more worthy than they? And my book  shows that an act of forgiveness can turn one life around even after another has been lost. Forgiveness does not come cheaply in either case. The men have been given another shot at life, and though many have made restitution with their victims and tried to become productive members of society, they find their options limited. Some may say they deserve no more, but what is a sentence that can never be completed? (An alternate subtitle for the play had been "Serving a Life Sentence After Prison.") And though Kevin forgave the driver who killed his wife, the two men would not become friends, and Marilyn could not be brought back. There are times when I ask myself if I should be siding with the former criminals.

How To Choose A Halloween Costume (in my house)

First, put something like this near the toilet. Next, sort through the suggestions. Decide suggestions are too complex. Settle on Sonny Crockett. And throwing random accessories onto older son. Prepare speech on 80s television for third graders.  Attempt to defend using a mask from a deviant NYC play as your  sixth grader's costume. Call it good for another year.

Who's Who On Halloween?

It's your guess. Here's one clue: And another:

Diary of A Rickety Adult

day 1 Goes to doctor. Hears "fraying," "fluid," and "rest." Learns should have rested elbow long time ago. Should not have flipped tires while injured. Hears "hand surgeon" and "splint." "Soon as possible." Looks in the mirror. Waves. "Bye, bye, muscle." day 2 Is heartened by idea of strengthening lower body while rehabbing elbow. Begins regimen. day 3 Throws out knee. day 4 Decides needs power over body in some fashion. Starts diet. Feels like skinny self of yore; is reassured that identity is not wrapped up in size of muscles. Is introduced by young man to his young friend as "badass" for being his favorite spotter. Admits can't actually spot bench press today, nor tomorrow. Is sorry not to live up to "badass" description. Worries will never again be referred to as "badass." Makes bargain with God: Will give up boxing if healed up, will join convent right after domina

Wherever You Go, There You Be

While teaching the boxing demo, I • mentioned the words "naked" and "beer" at least twice • ridiculed participants in jest (sort of) • broke out in a dance While directing the former prisoners, I • mentioned "booger" three times • ridiculed participants in jest (sort of) • broke out in a dance

In The Desert

I read on my chiropractor's blog that he'll be riding 100 miles on his bike in Death Valley to raise funds for JDRF and diabetes research . Conscious thought #1: Wow, how great that he's raising money for research. Then, Really hot there. Major commitment. Subconsciously on the radar:  Lots of fundraisers this week. I tend to give money to those that are more socially conscious, not science-based. More immediate impact, it feels like. And to the forefront again:  But obviously we've got a personal tie here. Just as suddenly:  Oh. This is a fundraiser for my son .  People are riding bikes in the desert for my son.  My son needs people riding bikes for him.  This research is for him. The language used to convince people to give--this could be breast cancer, or heart disease, and one would nod their head in sympathy. But these complications they list, they're talking about-- A shutting down. Then,  I should give money. And finally, What amount c

Identity Whiplash

So I'm driving to work really tired after the book-writing extravaganza of the previous week, and I hear a song. This song: it's perfect. For the play I'm writing. For former prisoners. I make a mental note to do something with it as I carry my boxing gear into the Y. I teach a boxing demo. One guy hits a little hard, and of course there's no way I'm going to stop him, but now my ribs are a bit sore. There's a welt on my arm. Afterwards he asks me to teach him a few new exercises for his quads. I know he's a former wrestler, MMA enthusiast, and recent strongman competitor, so I tailor my suggestions accordingly. This is right up my alley. We're doing what looks a lot like praying on our knees when another guy says, Hey, it's like that nun in the Saturday Night Live skit. You know, with your pigtails. I'm like, Yeah, thanks a lot, and he says, No, it's a compliment: she's funny, like you. Funny writing boxing girl. In pigtails. Tha

Weird Stuff I Said To My Kids This Week

I won't even bother giving the context. Or a defense. Here goes... 1. "Please make a sign for the laundry basket that says, 'Wear pants more than once.'" 2. "Remember our conversation about the communists?" and 3. "I'm not actually an alcoholic."

Up Close And Personal, Part 2

Maybe because I myself was asking for money this week, I noticed a lot of other folks were, too. All good causes. I try, generally, to help causes I have a connection to; as I tell the leukemia society when they call, there are many great and worthy organizations out there, but I can't give to all of them. I try to carefully allot our limited funds where they may make the greatest, or at least most personal, impact. (The fraternal order of police is an exception. No personal connection there, but I give to them. It's hard not to hand over money when a cop asks you.) The sister of a female boxer I met at Gleason's was gunned down and killed last week . They need money for the funeral; you can donate here . BuildABridge International, who hires me in the summers to teach at their arts institute in Philly, is holding a fundraiser . I know exactly where the money will go; I've seen and experienced firsthand how any money given to BAB is truly paying it forward--here,

Up Close And Personal

In the middle of day 2 of The Great Write-Off , I once again find myself dazzled by the up close and personal look I'm allowed into my subjects' lives. I explore the journals of a thoughtful, prolific young woman, now deceased. When she ponders why bad things happen to good people--and concludes "Why shouldn't they? Bad things happen to everyone"--my heart is heavy. For the play I just wrote for the ex-prisoners, I find myself emailing questions like, "So did you finish the fifth of gin before you stabbed him?" And this is how I prefer life to be, by the way. We should, all of us, enter into each others' lives as we can and see fit. (Only one day left to donate to the cause . If I secure a couple hundred more dollars by tomorrow afternoon, I win a private meeting with one of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers . On my husband's birthday weekend. He's cool with it, though, so please help if you can.)

The Power of a Not-So-Happy Ending

My two current writing projects deal in real people and their grief--both, even, in crimes committed and what happens next. And though I allow my characters in both instances to speak for themselves, how and where I put the words makes all the difference. It's how you tell a story that counts. It's all in how the story is told. For my book, which you know about because you've donated here , or read this nice write-up , I've settled on a quiet story as an ending, one whose power belies its simple telling. While not the happiest detail of the book nor the highest point of redemption, it shows the transformational possibilities that one man's act of forgiveness can germinate. We're left in the quiet calm after grief's storm, and we see that the soil is drinking in the rain; the afterword is where the reader will learn of new babies born, new joys. My latest play for the former prisoners has much the same tone. Hopeful, positive, but a lament nonetheless.


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.

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

I'm Humbled. And Honored.

Wow. 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. Thanks.

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, bu

I'm Going To Crush It October 3-5

Writing. Me. Robots. What's it all got to do with each other? Read about my new challenge here .

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.

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

Diabetes And School: I Managed To Work In The Paula Deen Joke

Theo and I worked on our little scene we'll perform for his third grade class at the start of school (as explained here ), to educate them on his type 1 diabetes. It's going pretty well so far. Here's the beginning. Hi Theo. Hi Mom. So. So. Let’s talk about diabetes. Okay. You ate too many cookies, and that’s how you got diabetes, right? No! You played tag with some diabetic kid and you caught it from him, right? No! You were a bad boy, and the Easter Bunny put diabetes in your basket? No! Then how did you get it? I got struck by lightning. No! Those little bugs on my eyelashes squirted out diabetes juice. No! I ate one of Paula Deen’s burgers on a Krispy Kreme donut bun. Well, I can believe that one. (to be continued)

Diabetes and School: The Part-Time Job

The other day I bumped into a teacher from Theo's school, one I don't know very well but whose face is familiar. As we tried to determine who each other was, she says, "You're a sub, right? I see you a lot in school." No, not a sub: a mom in an unpaid, voluntary but not volunteer part-time position. I didn't sign up for this, but I'll gladly do what it takes. Especially during these elementary school years, and especially since we're not yet on the pump, diabetes in school requires a lot of my time and presence. I don't volunteer as much as I used to simply because I'm already there so much; however, I try to double up the time when possible, such as helping out with a classroom party while I'm there to give a shot, or chaperoning a field trip I need to go on anyway. It's nice to have the extra time with my second-born. And he still wants me there, which is all the better. With two school years and a camp week behind me, I'm

Life of Pi/Amy

The film version of Life of Pi comes out on my birthday this year, so I thought I'd read the novel again. But just when I sat down with my tea and the book, it hit me: I should be doing about a hundred other things. A hundred. Or at least a couple dozen. Oh, the projects on my desk. A guy at my gym likes to tell me that a portion of his family's budget has been set aside for him to train with me. " If you'd just go and take the test already," he says. I tell him I have too many interests to settle down into personal training. "What are you up to now--caribou hunting in the sub-Saharan desert?" he asked. (Later he acknowledged not being quite sure where caribou are found.) Sure, why not. After I get through the current list. It's good to write out your interests and involvements, if a bit anxiety-inducing. Here goes mine: --writing a book. --writing a play for former prisoners to perform this fall. --starting and leading an exercise progra

What We're Doing Tomorrow


My Day On The River And At The Cage Fight

Friday was a day of two wildly different firsts. In the morning: a two-hour kayak trip, alone, on the Rogue River in Rockford, Mich igan. A pair of chain-smoking women in their fifties strapped the kayak behind an old mini school bus, whose NO TOBACCO USE OF ANY KIND sticker had the NO ripped off, and said, "Sign this paper that says we gave you all the proper safety equipment." They helped me into the river and pushed me off. "Don't get hurt." It was lovely. Turtles and ducks were in abundance, and I met up with turkeys, two swans, a white egret and one curious deer. About an hour and a half in I realized the ladies had told me to always keep right and that I had an hour left after the fourth bridge, but not where they'd pick me up. I blew the nature moment by retrieving the cell and calling my husband to check the website for my final destination. Sure enough, I was almost there. Ah, nature. That night, I headed out to meet up with very differe

The Intent To Push The Car

"Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or our worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear." --Bruce Lee It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to push a car . Even while driving to find an empty lot, my children asking why and who's pushing what, I didn't question the act much, except once to wonder if it all might be over in a matter of moments, me unable to push the car, everybody getting back in. Of course I could push the car, farther when the 172 pounds of my children finally got out, farther still when they helped. We all took turns, and doggone if it wasn't fun. Conveniently, a cemetery was located behind the lot, and we jogged there after to look for frogs in their pond. Science backs the idea that intent in exercise might be just as effective as accomplishment, i.e., I tried to push the car, and that is enough. Indeed, when the whole family was in it, I worked awfully hard to move it

If It Feels Good, Do It

My couple year bench-pressing career began with a need; having experienced the dumbbell chest press, I simply needed to do it again. I think I may have actually purchased a gym membership just to again experience that sensation, a very tactile desire I had to fulfill. I thought of this the other day when out on a kayak, which is the new object of my tactile desires. A friend asked if I really did just wake up one day and decide I needed to steer a kayak, and my answer was pretty much a yes. Though I had done it once before, many years back, there was a day recently when I knew I needed to kayak, and soon. Since then I've headed out on my own a few times, and I can say that being alone on the water is now one of my favorite places to be. As a side note, it's helping rehab my long-running tennis elbow. It's excellent exercise, and soothing to the soul. And then there was the day, a couple months back, when the idea occurred to me that I should run up a hill. Not much mor

Diabetes and Camp: The Counselor Letter

I'm putting in the hours this week to ensure some free time the next. The kids are going to camp! The YMCA I work for has a camp, and this camp, we learned, accommodates kids with diabetes. We are so grateful. Many notes and charts will be drawn up for the nurse and health officer, but I was also asked to write a general letter to his counselor, who will accompany him throughout each day 'til he returns at suppertime. I provide it here as a blueprint for others; feel free to adapt it for sitters, schools or anyone who needs a general rundown of what diabetes management looks like. Dear Camp Staff, When our family attended the camp open house this spring, we never expected that our son would be able to attend. We figured we’d check the place out and call it a day, assuming that Theo’s medical needs are too much to accommodate. We can’t tell you how wonderful it is to know that Theo can go to camp, and how reassuring it is to know you have careful structures in pla

Life After 40: Don't Listen To The Naked Ladies

Naked ladies sat to my right and left, nodding sagely. "Yep," said the one, drying her arm down its length, and sliding back up and under its dangling folds. "That's about when it happened to me, too: 41." "Me, too," said another, lying down on the sauna's bench, a breast falling to either side. "It was downhill from there." "You bloat and it stays." After swimming class, I had posed the question of why I had been gaining weight for no particular reason, and this led to a torrent of yays and amens. Nearly every older woman there could identify, and offered her own version of the story, which, though individual, always ended in resignation and an expanded waistline. I left there that day thinking life was over after 40, at least in terms of the body's proportions and aesthetics. But a few days later I found a book on Ayurveda, got cooking, and my weight slowly found its way back to normal. This is not me recommend

Diabetes Anniversary #2

730 days with diabetes 3016 shots given, more or less about 131,400 carbs counted maybe 3172 pricks to the finger countless nighttime checks occasional tears endless math We have this terrible tradition of eating junk food on the anniversaries. The day he was diagnosed, we had been headed to our favorite pizza joint. Pizza is one of the hardest foods for diabetics to handle, but it had been such a difficult and long day that the doctor said to just go. Since then, we do--sometimes pizza, and today, those massive hot pretzels at the mall that are a couple hundred carbs each. More or less.

For Everything There Is A Season, or a day

There was a time when Theo joined a church camp class, I gave the diabetes talk to the teacher, and she made a joke. I had wanted sympathy; she needed to make light of it. There was another time when we were passing through an exhibit hall near the Liberty Bell and saw that the American Diabetes Association was holding a conference there. I had been wanting to learn more about the organization, so Theo and I stopped by the welcome desk. I explained our interest to the woman, and immediately she looked down at Theo, her eyes welled up with tears, and she said how sorry she was that such a young, beautiful boy had to deal with such a difficult disease. Her sympathy was too much, and I pulled Theo away before she could say what would surely come next, that her grandma/aunt/sister had lost a leg or gone blind from diabetes. What we need can change. It doesn't mean we don't need one or the other, just maybe not now, or today. This week and next, we're taking care of the 11

Amazing Video

I just stumbled onto this video featuring Christa, one of the women I've written about here often (under different names). She was always one of my favorite women at the homeless shelter, a perfect example of a person struggling to do what's right, tripping up often, righting herself again. It's hard for her as an alcoholic. It's important to hear her story and see that not all homeless people are squeezing the system dry; some need help so desperately, though they may just fall away again. Like the rest of us. Christa's the one I told you about--Degage bought her a massage table so she could resume her vocation. Degage is awesome. Christa is pretty amazing, too. Degage 2011 from Chuck Peterson on Vimeo .

Theatre of the Oppressed: It Works

I learned Theatre of the Oppressed from the socialists. Hippie commies, with shared bathroom duties and mate mugs, in the West Village overlooking the Hudson. We were earnest, we fully dove into each theatre game, and we sat at the feet at Augusto Boal, beloved founder of TO. We cried together. Some even bled; whole dissertations, books even, could be written on the game called "Fainting at Frejus." The consensus building, some years, would become too much; when you've paid for a three-day clinic with a man who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, you want time to learn from him, and I recall one year pleading, on the afternoon of the last day, that we stop debating and voting twice per person and actually let the man who invented the technique we paid to learn teach it to us.  I recall lying down onto the floor and maybe even writhing a bit while saying this. We would go home to use TO with varying populations. Those times were learning for the sake of learning,