Author Archives: aszyper

About aszyper

Writer, Strategist, Globalist, Soccer Mom

Dave & Bluster

I think we can all agree that Dave & Buster’s is a little toxic, the kind of place that most parents endure but do not enjoy. As I descend into the dark hallows of the game room for my first visit with Robin, my senses are overwhelmed.

Not just because I am a Highly Sensitive Person (look it up) and I immediately feel overstimulated. Not because I would rather be hiking the Wissahickon on a beautiful Sunday morning. Not because it is a money suck.

OK, so for all those reasons. But also because it feels like pre-K for a gambling addiction. No daylight. No boardwalk to lure guests away from the dark side. The worst of casino culture for vulnerable developing brains. A suck on the soul and wallet, the drain narrated by blinking machines and electronic pings and whistles. You fight to hold on, but the metal claws let go just before the stuffed animal is about to drop into the prize shoot.

We’ve survived this man-made hell on earth, and you can too. Here are my survival tips.

1. Go when they open. Try 11 am on a Sunday, when the good souls of the earth are at church. At this ungodly hour, things are just getting started. Even with a couple birthday parties going, there are fewer people on the floor. This is critical not for crowds so much as the exponential noise pollution of multiple games at play.

2. Seek out games that are active, requiring some physical interaction rather than the passive video games and screens. Look for basketball, tossing games, and air hockey. Avoid the ticket-grab, one-button-push games that are over in an instant, with no real entertainment value.

3. Look for the old, incontinent Skeeball machine. They might have tarted it up with some neon or a colorful sign, but its weathered concentric circles speak of a gentler era’s amusements. Every arcade seems to have a couple tired machines that leak free wooden balls after your paid session ends. Keep playing for free with whatever you get.

4. Look for chances at free play, and teach your kids to do the same, and to be triumphant when they find them. After a little free skeeball, remind them to shoot the extra basketballs after Game Over, even though they don’t count for points. Jump on the air hockey table and free play without paying for the air. It builds character and upper body strength.

5. Pool! We pay $8 an hour for access to a pool table at the D&B near us. That’s physical, the whole family plays together, and it is a ton of entertainment for the money, a true bargain. And the best part is that at our location it is above ground, flooded with the natural light of large windows, not in the basement of despair.

6. Beer.

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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

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by Robin Kester

Happy father’s day dad!

I hope you have an awesome day! Thank you for taking such good care of me and mom. I am really grateful for you because if there wasn’t you I wouldn’t be alive.

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You’re really good at sports and boot ball. You’re really smart, really funny, and you have crazy ideas. I like the way you think. I love your imagination.

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When I walk up to the door, I see you opening the doors and greeting me, and I think you’re the best dad ever! I feel loved and cared for when you grab me and give me a nice big hug.

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I’m glad that we’re a family, just like the song goes: “we are family. I got all my sisters with me”. Our family is special because you’re in it and there’s only three people. Three people is enough people for me. The three people in our family is the perfect number because there’s a woman, a man, and a kid.

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The trip to Italy totally blew me away. I remember going to the Pantheon. When we went to Ireland, I remembered the Ring Fort. I can’t wait until we go to Iceland and London. I’m really looking forward to going to the Blue Lagoon and going on the London Eye. You are really good at traveling.

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I love it when we bake together. We usually bake cookies around Christmas time and a random Day when we want to bake cookies. I hope we can bake cookies today! Don’t you love cookies because I do! Anway if we don’t get to bake cookies on Father’s Day I’ll still be happy because you’ll always be there.

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By the way, our next boot ball game is coming up, and it’s the Philadelphia Franklins vs San Francisco Marshes! (they sound like a pretty good team!)

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Do you want to have a basketball tournament. You know, the one on the door of my room. I’ve been practicing my dunks and three pointers. For me basketball is funner than I thought it was. The basketball season is over, but the basketball spirit is still in the air. The slam dunk is coming to town for the best game ever.

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We watched High School Musical 3 Senior Year. I can’t wait to watch Black Panther. The music in Black Panther is good right.

We’re gonna have a great time in Iceland. Like I said: “the blue Lagoon is gonna be fun!” The soccer game at midnight is gonna be fun and I hope we can go to a soccer game there. I really want to see a Geyser in action and a waterfall with a double rainbow.

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When we go to London, I want to ride a double decker bus. It’s really cool that we have a free apartment. I hope they have really good sausage and bacon because we’re gonna be there for awhile and you know I love breakfast sausages and bacon. I’m really looking forward to going to Buckingham Palace, going across the London Bridge, going to the Big Ben, the Shakespeare theater,  Thirty saint Mary Axe, Twenty Fenchurch, and the Shard (also none as the Gherkin (pickle), the Walkie Talkie, and the Cheese Grater) with you.

You’re the best dad ever!

The End

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Guest blogger Robin Kester is a sought after little league athlete, currently playing with the Flourtown Erdenheim Tournament Team. He also plays soccer and enjoys mathematics, badda-bing writing, video games, street basketball with his neighborhood friends, and international travel. As of publication date, he has traveled to 4 countries outside the US, soon to be 5. Look for his upcoming features on glacier walking, geothermal swimming, and the mating habits of puffins.

No Whiners

I’m wise enough and old enough to walk away.

My first time was when an uncle who tells big, blowsy stories, always the victim, started in at a family gathering. He was mid gripe about some jerk in a store when I looked vaguely in the other direction and excused myself, walking off to another room without proper explanation.

We’re not close. I owe him nothing more than a discreet exit, perhaps the assumption of a needy kid in another room and the general agreement of the family that I am not an asshole.

It was liberating, to walk away. To choose something else.

Another time in a gelateria I ran into a guy I’d casually dated, back in the 90s. He’d mattered more to me than I to him, but all these years later I was happily on the arm of my husband. He and his date struck up a conversation that turned quickly to construction in our shared neighborhood and its unfortunate impact on them.

When this topic stretched on a little long, I interrupted with something that went like “if you’ll excuse me, there’s a man over there with an espresso waiting for me.”

It was true, and a hot coffee was more important to me than listening. To him. To rambling complaints. I was proud of it, like I’d mastered some last phase of assertiveness.

Life’s too short to be overly polite in such situations.

I listen to people who matter to me, people who have real problems, people who need compassion and humanity. I will always make time and emotional space for them.

With years I have gotten better at separating drama and self involvement from true need. With the coming and going of friends and acquaintances, I’ve gotten better at assessing who matters and better at editing.

I will always be there for friends just as I will complain to them about things that bother me. With time and maturity, I am learning what pain points to share and what perceived slights and small indignities to bear quietly.

And some shit just doesn’t bother me as much anymore.

Like some people overshare, some complain indiscriminately, to people who do not care. If we are lucky, they are witty and clever about it. Either way, their complaining tells you more about them than about any injustice, real or imagined, that they might share.

Parking tickets suck. Post offices are inefficient. Planes are delayed. I know you’re busy; I am too.

In my 40s, I find I am wise enough to avoid negativity. Pettiness. Other people’s shit.

I am old enough to have seen real problems and pain. I am old enough to feel entitled to a prompt, unexcused exit. I urge you to do the same.

(Hey, wait a minute. Where are you going?)

Eulogy for Gem

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I found this recently, the eulogy I wrote for my grandmother’s funeral. I miss her, especially as her birthday rolls around. So for posterity, here is how I remembered her…

Losing my grandma is losing a little bit of childhood.

At the playground, who else would have known that wax paper on a hot metal slide makes the slide go faster? Lauren and I passed many summer days at your house, Grandma. We loved those walks to the playground.

Who else would quench my thirst with cream soda over ice, served in a big bright blue aluminum tumbler? I remember sitting on your small porch drinking it. And picking flowers from your colorful garden, so many snapdragons.

Who else will give me cute money? (Anyone?)

Losing my grandma is losing an incredible woman.

Who else would have loved my grandfather so well? You smoothed his rough edges and set his heart aflame. You weathered so much together, and remained true in your love to him through his last long days in the hospital. Please bring him our love now. (Give him a kiss for me.)

Who else could keep up with my Aunt Noreen and Uncle Bob at 500 bid? You were sharp for so long, and always up for adventure. You shared my aunt and uncle’s love of the lake, happy to sit at the bonfire but also game for a golf cart ride to the docks or a pontoon cruise up into your last years. Are there corn roasts in heaven?

Who else could have held my mother through all the trials and triumphs of her long life? You have been a constant source of love and strength for her. And I know you will remain with her for the rest of her days.

Who else could change with the times, understanding and digesting all the complication of the people around her? Who could watch Andy Williams on Youtube with me or observe me on a Skype call, and help me understand how truly miraculous our new technologies are? You are Thoroughly Modern Tillie.

Who else would have inspired me to be a mom? I wasn’t sure I wanted a child until the night you, mom and I sat on my couch in front of the fireplace talking until late in the evening. That night I felt the power of our friendship, and the importance of the generations.

Losing my grandma is losing an anchor.

Who else could hold together our constellation of families? You are the sun around which our holidays revolve. I’ll always remember you quietly holding court on Sharon and Robin’s couch at Christmas, an extra mild mimosa on the table next to you.

Gathering around you in your final days, I felt such love and kinship with my aunt and uncle and cousins. Aside from the love, we really like each other. We are a small but powerful family, and we will remain so.

Who else could have represented your generation so well? You were one of the last, an adopted mother to cousins and family friends. So gracious and unassuming in your role as matriarch.

Who else will drive the red sports car? You are my son’s beloved Gwandma Tillie, and you will remain part of our story time, as he assigns you vehicles to drive in his story books. He always includes you, and you will live on in his memory.

You are a love in all of us.
A gentle kindness and sweetness that informs who we are as your family.
I hope to carry some of your humility and grace with me.
I know you are a part of me and of every one of us who loves you.

Thank you, Grandma. I miss you.

My __________ Valentine

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Contemporary art isn’t pretty. At least not always.

It need not be beautiful but rather can be judged by its power. Its message. The feelings it stirs. The universal truths it exposes. Any loveliness is fortunate but may be purely incidental.

This is the case I made to Randy, and why I needed to own a piece by Amberella, a Philadelphia street artist who has been wheat-pasting her hearts all over the city’s fringes. Her poignant slogans peek out from their backdrops of graffiti and urban decay, projecting messages that may warm your heart or stop you cold.

Either way, they have impact and connect you to your urban environment in a new and exciting way. Crumbling paint and rusting metal frame heart-shaped messages you’d never find on real candy hearts. Valentines for the human condition. A perfect V Day treat.

So when Amberella expanded her web shop for February, and I was all too happy to open my wallet and own one. But I leapt without thinking…

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I love the irony of this one, the melodrama and implied violins. The delicious nihilism of the thought and the way it mocks the heart that contains it. But even with my tongue in cheek, I feel a real power in this one fueled by a silent fear. Like it is a bad luck charm or curse, something to hide or bury. This one is a powerful work of art, and isn’t that the point?

Even before it was delivered, I knew Randy would overrule it. So I hid it in its frame. And when I finally did have the guts to hang it, just after Valentine’s Day, he objected.

But it was OK, because I had ordered another to hang in its place.

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This one is loaded, open to a couple interpretations. And that’s how I realize that context is such a critical part of this sort of art. And even in a happy middle class home, this brings some of the street with it. I’ve cut my teeth on Banksy and Shepard Fairey, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Trying to own street art is a fraught thing. 

I want to support an artist. But just like someone who rescues their first stray animal, I am a little overwhelmed by the power of her art in my own home.

Context is everything. Do I want to be drinking coffee with my husband and son with a FOREVER ALONE heart peeking over their shoulder?

ALL I EVER WANTED works well in our breakfast room, feeds a sense of familial contentment. “…all I ever wanted.” But imagine the feeling it would evoke in my office. “All I ever wanted…”

As someone who writes for a living, I should be the last one to be surprised by the power of this artwork. These words are chosen here. Owned. And they don’t fade quite like the ones that wear down or peel in the urban landscape, time and elements slowly reclaiming the public spaces they occupied.

These ideas are captured behind glass in my tidy home, nailed to the wall, domesticated wild things.

FOREVER ALONE now hangs in the quiet solitude of my office, where it better fits the mood.

Requiem for Joy

After my big bummer of a 2017 recap, here’s a happy little family holiday album, my own little meditation on all that is right and good. I’ve thrown myself into the Christmas spirit this year with untarnished abandon and have chosen to be unapologetically happy. Turns out, I am ravenous.

When in early December I found myself feeling mocked by the tissue box in my bathroom that proclaimed “Joy!” to me in some very swirly font, I knew it was time for a reboot. Is joy dead? Only if we let the stupid orange man with the small hands and bad hair kill it.

Anyone who knows me and reads this blog knows that I am a big fan and practitioner of reframing. So no more moping. In truth, this year was pretty good for me personally, though my heart has broken a thousand times. I’m sending 2017 out with a festive bang!

Here’s to family and friends, to neighbors and community, to cioppino and other meals, to cookies, to snow, to parties and bubbly toasts, to candle light, to pets and children, to Center City traditions, to the glorious innocence of that unshakeable belief in Jesus, Santa, and the future.

Good Riddance 2017

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Good riddance 2017. Scram. Beat it. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

So much happened this year, I feel the need to jot it all down. Like so many, I’ve felt a  that started with Trump’s bellicose inauguration speech and hasn’t let up since. This year has felt like 10, simply exhausting.

Though so little of it has touched me personally, I know my country will be digging out and rebuilding and repairing for generations.
Let’s recap, just the public stuff.

Trump

  • Comey firing and the absurd dishonesty of Jeff Sessions’ congressional testimony
  • The travel ban for Muslims (and Venezuela)
  • Strategic un- or underfunding of Obamacare to hurt the most vulnerable
  • The alienation of allies in Germany, France, China and the U.K.
  • ICE raids, deportations, and mass fear in the immigrant community
  • Nuclear brinksmanship with North Korea
  • The massive tax reform that gives it away to corporations and the wealthy

RIP

  • The Paris Climate Accord
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA, shmacka. Bye bye, dreamers!)
  • Net Neutrality
  • Tel Aviv as capital (and any hope of Middle East peace)
  • Fetus, vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based (and our faith in government)
  • Vital sub-cabinet posts and government advisory staff
  • The individual health insurance mandate that supported affordable healthcare for all
  • Frederick Douglass (no doubt rolling in his grave)

Mother Nature

  • Hurricane Harvey floods in TX
  • Hurricanes Irma and then Maria devastation in the Caribbean and Florida
  • Puerto Rico, an act of God made 500 times worse by government incompetence and neglect
  • The earthquake in Mexico City
  • Massive, historic wildfires all over California

Trump Nation

  • Charlottesville and neo-Nazi rallies
  • White nationalism as a rebrand of white supremacy
  • Mass shootings like the Texas church shooting and the one in Las Vegas
  • The rise of cyber bullying, personal attacks, and partisan news
  • Whataboutism hit its prime

Me Too

  • The fall of Al Franken…
  • …Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., Mario Batali, Garrison Keillor, George HW Bush…
  • Half the population over age 20 revisiting some sort of painful memory
  • Oh yeah, and Harvey Weinstein

Farewell 2017. You’ve overstayed your welcome and left us with very few bright spots.

Silver Linings

  • The firing of Steve Bannon
  • Roy Moore’s narrow defeat by Doug Jones
  • The Silence Breakers and a brighter day for working women
  • The arrest of Paul Manafort and Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation
  • SNL and John Oliver are crushing it
  • Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa is here, reminding us to embrace joy and be good to each other (photos to follow)

What did I forget? In a shit storm as epic as 2017 there were bound to be other big things. My next entry will be brighter.

Keep the faith, and cheers to a happy and healthy and sane 2018! It can only get better.