Can art build safer, stronger neighbourhoods?  Could it be that simple?  Could it make a marked difference? Apparently the resounding answer is yes!  Read on to find out how Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope began a “little” project that’s making “big” impacts.  Check out the full article on The Daily Good to see just what those differences are.

Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope are Detroit artists who bought a home here in 2002 in what was once a corner store. Over the ensuing years, the foreclosure crisis hit hard and put the community in a precarious spot. “The neighborhood could go either way,” Reichert said.

via Public Art in Detroit Builds Safer, Stronger Neighborhoods, by Anna Clark.

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I’ve followed this young woman as she’s shared her journey. There is hope. There is a way. She’s living breathing loving proof that you can change your life. Even if it’s hard and you need help. That’s ok.

Originally posted on A Girl Divided:

I’m officially one year and 6 days sober.  A year ago I was in rehab– scared and completely miserable.  I didn’t want to get sober, I didn’t want to be there, but, on some level, I did want my life to change.  The last year of my addiction, even though I wasn’t ready to call it that yet, had been pretty messy.  I hurt a lot of people that I cared about and I stopped caring about myself.  For someone like me to make it to a year of sobriety– and not be miserable(!)– is kind of a miracle.

My life is so much better than it was a year ago, but that’s not to say that my life is easy today.  I still think about doing drugs and drinking on a regular basis.  The difference is that now I know that I don’t have to act on every impulse…

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Wonderful article I saw on The Daily Good.  All the ideas are very cool, but something about #6 caught my attention.  Check out the link at the bottom for the entire article.  If I’m ever in NY I’d love to check this place out.

masbia in New York City

The finest dining

Masbia serves up dignity with dinner to hundreds of hungry New Yorkers every day. Instead of long lines and a tedious intake process, diners at this soup kitchen are greeted by a friendly host and ushered to a private table for a delicious three-course kosher meal. No questions, just healthy food. Original artwork decorates the walls, the atmosphere is cozy, and the menu is prepared using fresh ingredients donated by farmers markets and CSAs. Nearly all the kitchen and wait staff are volunteers.

“It’s a restaurant with no cash register,” says executive director Alexander Rapaport. When Rapaport began Masbia, his goal was to provide kosher food in a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. “Doing it with dignity means people will come,” he says, and he’s right. Every day, more than 500 people come to Masbia’s three locations. This year alone, the growing organization expects to serve more than 1 million meals.

via 7 Practical Ideas for Compassionate Communities, by Shannan Stoll.

image from WikiHow

Things change around us all the time and for the most part we really don’t take that much notice.  Until it’s a big change.  Or the change affects us very personally.  Or when it’s unexpected.  Or when it’s unwanted.  We can’t outrun it, we can’t hide from it or ignore it for long.  At some point we have to wade in and get through it; one hand over the other or one foot in front of the other.  Either way, it’s up to you to make the first move.

Hand Over Hand

I never thought, “it won’t last”
But it shattered like fragile glass
Slowly, the shards began to fall
Cascading, refracting a piercing call

Silence cries a deafening roar
So desperate once again to soar
But then the bottom drops away
And I can’t keep the demons at bay

The darkness holds tightly to me
Nowhere to hide let alone flee
To the depths I feel myself slide
Never dreamed I’d be on this ride

Grab hold and breathe deep
Hand over hand I will creep
Out of these depths, this black abyss
I rise whole again, even from this

December 12, 2013 ©J Fries


©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Coming up this Saturday for anyone in the area of The Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre, Manor Road, Walton on Thames. Media For Good is presenting an evening of music, poetry and film. That’s this Saturday! Entertainment that won’t break your pocket book. If you happen to be in the area grab a ticket and get ready to be entertained and inspired. Can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday evening than with Media For Good at their Launch event.

Originally posted on It's All Good Radio Show:

It is with great pleasure and excitement that we announce the very first live event by Media For Good.


Both of our radio shows, It’s All Good Radio Show and Under The Radar Live Sessions which we broadcast via Brooklands Radio have combined forces and will be showcasing a selection of outstanding independent emerging musicians, interspersed with positive stories, short films and inspirational poetry as featured on the shows.

The showcase will take place at the Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre in Walton-On-Thames, a fantastic rustic converted barn which boasts excellent acoustics and has a magnificent Steinway Grand piano as a centrepiece.

We are thrilled to be joined by the following artists:

AimeeAimee beach

A talented trio of siblings from Liphook in Hampshire. Songwriting and musicianship of the highest calibre with harmonising as only siblings can.

The PortraitsPortraits banner

The Portraits are husband and wife alternative folk duo…

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Sadly it is often the comments section of an article like you describe that shows just how far our society has yet to go. I hold the hope that most of the non commenters hold a more realistic and compassionate view of homeless people, and people who are in need. I have started to use the term “people who are homeless” rather than “the homeless” to always remind myself they are people first and foremost, homeless second. The haters really need to walk a mile or 10 in someone else’s shoes, preferably a pair that don’t fit so well and have a few holes.

They also need to read Mad Man Knitting as well as Dennis Carduff’s Gotta Find a Home blog (or recently released book) which can be found at

Just maybe they’ll start to see the plight of being homeless through open and honest eyes. Maybe they’ll even find a morsel of compassion. We can hope.

Originally posted on Mad Man Knitting:

I was just reading an article about a man nearby in Ft. Lauderdale who was arrested for feeding the homeless. Ok. You can read the article here, if you want more info, but I want to get a little closer to something that burned me when I read the comments on the article. You can look at the logistics and legalities and all of that in your own manner of thinking, but it was THE COMMENTS that set me to writing this post.

“the law is not cruel at all.  Just sets some regulation of where you can feed these bums.”

“you can quit your job, eat better than most working people, see any specialist in the healthcare field you need, have dental work done, talk on your free cell phone, put your child in day care while you “look for a job” with the gas card they gave…

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©2014 J Fries

©2014 J Fries

A little something different in honour of the Halloween Tradition that many of us celebrate.

It was a beautiful fall day, the day before Halloween. It was marred only by Lynda’s cousin driving her maddeningly crazy for the last half hour. Her mom had put it perfectly. “I love Greg… In small doses… The smaller the better.” Lynda smiled at the memory.

In truth Greg was a nice guy; only a year older, handsome, witty, charming and very bright. Well, not exactly brilliant, but definitely bright. Slightly on the arrogant side, he could be a little annoying after a while and it had definitely been awhile.

Trying to buy herself some peace she had suggested they go for a walk. She lived in the country and Greg was from the city. Past experience with Greg told her that this put her squarely in control. She’d hoped he’d be too busy staying clean to be much of a bother. She was wrong.

Circling back on the trail around the final loop they approached the fork in the path. Greg turned left as Lynda turned right. She stopped, frustration evident in her rigid shoulders. She turned, calling in as pleasant a tone as she could muster “C’mon Greg, it’s this way.”

Pausing, he turned, a typically smug look on his chiseled face, “Right. I can see the road from here. This is a shortcut!”

Lynda shrugged her shoulders. Shaking her head she spoke slowly as if to a young child, “I know you can but it always ends up taking longer if you go that way. Just come back the way we came and we’ll be home in less than 5 minutes! C’mon, hot chocolate and cookies when we get there.” Her tone had become pointedly sarcastic.

He shook his head. She wished she could wipe the confident look off his handsome face. “No, you go that way if you want. I’m taking the shortcut. I’ll see you back at the house.” There was that condescending tone. She threw her hands up in exasperation.

Turning without a backward glance Greg headed toward the road just ahead. Lynda frowned, her hands clenched into fists, glaring after him and turned on her heel, marching down the right fork. She slowed, there really was no need to rush. A smile played at the corners of her mouth, there was plenty of time. She stopped to admire the remaining fall colours surrounding her, knowing with a twinge of guilt that his smile was probably already fading.

Greg shook his head “Girls,” he thought. A few steps along the path and he was almost there.

Silently, the ground disappeared beneath his feet. Sliding uncontrollably into the darkness, his scream muffled by the dirt tumbling around him, he dropped unceremoniously to the ground with a sickening thud. Gasping for air Greg groaned, slowly rolling onto his back. The blackness reached endlessly above. There was no light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally able to breathe again, he checked himself over. Nothing broken; he was sore and would likely be more sore tomorrow but beyond that he was unscathed. Brushing the dirt off his clothes, his eyes adjusted to the dimness. He was apparently under ground in some sort of tunnel or cave. He shivered in the cool damp air. Examining the walls, his fingers told him they were rough and cold, but not wet. He momentarily pondered whether they were natural or man-made. He reached up but it was obvious he wasn’t going to leave the way he had arrived. Feeling his way around the room he discovered a loose stone. Pressing it, the sound of rock grating against rock echoed off the walls. He stumbled backwards, heart pounding, eyes darting furtively in the dimness.

“What the…” startled, his voice trailed off. Greg had activated a secret door. He slowly let his breath out with a whooshing sound that seemed louder than it should. The doorway wasn’t tall enough to walk through so Greg bent down to peer inside. He discovered another dimly lit chamber, really more like a passage way. The stones of the walls provided the only light, glowing dimly in an eery blue.

Uncertainly Greg glanced over his shoulder and crawled quickly through the doorway. He nervously held his breath, sweat beading on his brow. His heart continued to pound in his ears. He was relieved that the door did not automatically close behind him. Taking a few slow deep breaths he steadied himself. “What the hell have I gotten myself into,” he whispered. Although the door was short he was able to stand in the passageway. Greg hated small spaces; especially small dark spaces. He turned to survey the length of the passageway and swallowed a scream. Floating a few centimetres off the ground were at least a dozen translucent apparitions. He realized he was shivering again as the coldness emanating from the phantoms seeped deeper into his body. Expressionless faces with empty eyes stared straight ahead, uncaring and unaware. Greg partially averted his gaze, not wanting to draw attention to himself. A ghost drifted closer, its head strangely canted as if almost severed. He forced himself to look directly at the other apparitions, their catastrophic deaths also evident. Wondering if he would soon join this ghostly guard, he tried to swallow but found his mouth too dry.

Slowly inching his way down the passage, his back against the wall, he could feel the hard cool stone through his thick shirt. Careful to avoid touching the aimlessly floating ethereal creatures, they remained unaware of him. Was that the end of the passage a short distance beyond where light glowed overhead? Greg heard a whirring sound growing steadily louder. The whirring became flapping and suddenly where the light glowed ahead a huge black cloud swooped down filling the end of the passage. Ducking and waving his arms to protect himself, the creatures flew at him avoiding collision only at the last second. Squealing filled the air and echoed terrifyingly off the rock walls around him.

Bats; huge angry bats. Sidestepping to avoid them he momentarily forgot about the phantoms. The ghosts remained oblivious to the bats, but not to Greg. He felt icy tendrils encircle him as a wraith floated through him. His mind grew numb, his muscles wouldn’t respond. At the last moment he realized what was happening. His heart raced again and he used every ounce of strength he had to propel himself forward, toward the light where the bats had swarmed from. The wispy tendrils tried to ensnare him once again but he stayed ahead of them. There were footholds in the stone. He wasn’t going to become one of them if he could help it; so he climbed. Pulling himself onto the floor above, he could hear the wailing of the ghosts below, but none followed. The sound of the bats squealing and flapping was only a hum in the distance.

Gasping,  heart still pounding, he remained on the floor, slowly surveying his new surroundings. The ceiling of this chamber also rose high above, the glow of the walls was more green than blue. The air still felt damp and dank. Large rectangular boxes were in rows all over the room. He cautiously crouched and scurried toward the wall. He inched his way up, vigilantly scanning for the next surprise; by now he was certain there would be one. The room was still, no sound except his ragged breathing. Licking his dry lips and with as much stealth as he could muster Greg tip toed over to the nearest box. He tentatively reached out to touch it; cold stone with markings on the top. Still puzzled he moved to the next row. These were wooden boxes. He paused, recognition slowly crossing his face. Not just boxes but wooden coffins. Surveying them more closely he realized that all the lids were ajar; every one. It began to dawn on him, the swarm of bats that had raced through the passage weren’t just bats. They had come from this room; from these coffins. They were vampires! He stopped himself and muttered unconvincingly, “Greg, don’t be crazy. There are no such things as vampires,” But if those were empty coffins… what were the stone boxes?

Greg turned back to the first row to look more closely at the markings still unable to come up with a plausible explanation. They were decorated with roughly carved symbols. He hesitantly touched the triangle in the centre, his fingers barely brushing the surface. The sound of stone against stone echoed loudly in the chamber as the top of the box began to slide slowly to the side. Greg stumbled backwards as rat crawled out and ran along the edge. It sat on the lid, as if inspecting Greg. Another rat joined the first and then, a gauze covered hand slowly reached from the crypt and a mummy raised itself up, slowly setting its gaze upon Greg. Greg froze not knowing what to do. His breath came in short, shallow gasps, his feet felt too heavy to move. The mummy began to climb out of the box and Greg could hear the deafening sound  as the other crypts began to open. Squealing rats and slithering, hissing snakes poured out and slowly, a mummy began to rise from each crypt and as they rose, each of them turned burning red eyes upon Greg. He tried to swallow but the lump that had formed in his throat prevented it. Greg’s brain screamed “RUN,” but he remained rooted in place.

He heard a new sound, getting closer. At first he couldn’t place it, but as it grew louder he recognized snarling. Seconds later he saw the fierce yellow eyes and the ragged grey fur of the largest dog Greg had ever seen. Standing on sinewy hind legs it raised its head as a high-pitched howl pierced the cavernous room, drowning out all other sound.

It was exactly what Greg needed to make him move. This was no dog. Instinctively Greg began to run, he ran like he’d never run before; not even at national track finals. Running straight down the row between coffins and crypts, gauze covered hands reaching for him as he went. His mind raced; how to get away, how to get out; he room seemed to narrow. “Please, please, please let there be a way out, please,” the words kept rumbling through his head, a frantic plea to who or what he didn’t care.

Rats scurried over his feet and past him as he ran through the dimly glowing tunnel. He tried to ignore the spiders dropping on him and he vainly tried to brush them off as he strove to escape, stumbling through the seething mass of snakes and rats. He could hear the sound of the werewolf’s claws scrabbling on the tunnel floor as he bore down upon him. The snarls and gnashing teeth grew louder each second and Greg could smell the rotting stench of death, certain it was the foul breath of the beast relentlessly pursuing him. Completely spent, his lungs were on fire. The pain in his side so sharp he gritted his teeth against it. Stumbling, his hands brushed against a wall; another wall of solid rock. Greg resigned himself. He sensed the werewolf lunge.  Turning, arms raised in a vain effort to protect himself, he saw two fierce yellow eyes and a snarling mouth with dripping teeth;  and then, a white light so bright he had to close his eyes.

It was done.

Silence. Nothingness.

Arms still raised above his head, a scream still caught in his throat. Before him the sun was setting,a brilliant ball of red and orange fire. He gazed down fearfully. He was sitting just meters from the road, exactly where the earth had swallowed him; how long ago? He wasn’t sure. He tentatively stood up and surveyed the ground around him carefully. There was no sign it had ever been disturbed except for one very small gopher hole. He took a tentative step towards it, falling backwards in fright as a ground squirrel poked its head out of the hole for only a second before disappearing back down to the safety of its dark tunnel.

Gathering the remnants of his composure, Greg looked around suspiciously. No one else was there. A coyote mournfully howled in the distance. He shivered and another returned the haunting call. Greg got up and headed for the road, he could already see the farm-house. The kitchen light was beckoning warmly and his pace quickened with every step.

From Pinterest

From Pinterest

On the porch steps carved jack-o-lanterns glowed invitingly. The smell of supper simmering greeted him and he inhaled the delicious aroma hungrily. Lynda was quietly sitting on the veranda sipping a cup of hot apple cider. Without taking her eyes off the sunset she reached over and held a steaming mug out for Greg.

“We’re out of cocoa. Told you that short cut always ends up taking longer.” Greg accepted the mug and sat down beside Lynda. Absently taking a sip he stared at the prairie sunset and didn’t say a word.

©2014 J Fries

©2014 J Fries

The End.

©2014 J. Fries and Rise Like Air   *edited 2014 Nov 03

This isn’t our usual Rise Like Air type of post but we thought that given the Halloween season celebrated by many of us, it might be fun to change things up a bit.  Hope you enjoyed this tale of mystery and intrigue.

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Originally posted on Main Line Dads:

Verizon has a great new commercial, “Inspire Her Mind,” that reminds parents to consider how their commonplaces discourage girls from studying the science.

Verizon commercial warns parents about the impact of their words.

Verizon commercial warns parents about the impact of their words.

We see a girl at various moments exploring the natural world and hear parental voices stifling that exploration. The commercial concludes with Sam looking at a science fair poster, putting on lipgloss, and turning away with her two friends.[1] A voiceover reminds us:

Our words can have a huge impact. Isn’t it time we told her she’s pretty brilliant too? Encourage her love of science and technology, and inspire her to change the world.

Constant diligence is required to root out the many ways we discourage women from pursuing sciences.

But why do we only worry about inspiring girls (and children more broadly) to study science? Why don’t we also try to inspire them…

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©2014 JFries/RiseLikeAir

Autumn Senses

Autumn Senses

Green and gold beneath my feet

The sound of crunching leaves

Bright fall colours spin and dance

Upon the path and on the street

Bright warm sun, cool crisp air

Brisk walk along the road

Smiling face turned to the sky

Oblivious to every stare.

J.Fries ©2014

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Kat Kinsman is the managing Editor of CNN’s Eatocracy. She has been open about suffering from depression and anxiety.  In January I read a piece by Kat that delivered readers straight into the hell that anxiety is.  She did such an outstanding job of allowing others the experience of walking in her shoes I shared it in the  blog Anxiety – Joy – A Journey.

Obviously Kat struck a chord with many people and has continued the work of de-stygmatizing mental illness.  After the tragic suicide of Robin Williams in August, Kat wrote an op-ed piece called Going Public With Depression for CNNLiving.  Her descriptive style enables the reader to understand the insidiousness of depression.  This is crucial because it is something that is very difficult for sufferers to articulate, especially when they are thrown into the depths of of depression.

“I am 14 years old, it’s the middle of the afternoon, and I’m curled into a ball at the bottom of the stairs. I’ve intended to drag my uncooperative limbs upstairs to my dark disaster of a bedroom and sleep until everything hurts a little less, but my body and brain have simply drained down.” Kat Kinsman

She describes the physical pain, the utter exhaustion, the feeling of being in a well.  Along with the desperation and hopelessness that descend upon a depressed person, Kat still gives hope.

The pain and ferocity of the bouts have never eased, but I’ve lived in my body long enough to know that while I’ll never “snap out of it,” at some point the glass will crack and I’ll be free to walk about in the world again. It happens every time, and I have developed a few tricks to remind myself of that as best I can when I’m buried deepest.”  Kat Kinsman

The truth is, most people don’t recognize when someone is depressed.  Often the first words someone offers when depression ends in tragedy is “I never would have guessed.”  As Kat says,

Most people don’t see depression in others, and that’s by design. We depressives simply spirit ourselves away when we’ve dimmed so as not to stain those who live in the sun.” Kat Kinsman

Kat emphasizes the importance of sharing, of asking for help.  While some of us might be concerned that the internet, with online bullying and all the other potentially negative influences may contribute to more depression, Kat points to the benefit that depression sufferers experience from sharing and being with people who have similar stories, who share the same pain. She offers some of her favourite ways to make it to the other side of depression.

Her advice to others who know sufferers.

  • take care of yourself,
  • allow them to go through what they need to go through – you can’t fix them,
  • let them know you are there for them no matter what, you aren’t going anywhere

She doesn’t pull any punches.  Those of us who have experienced one bout of depression are likely to experience another.  There is no magic pill.  What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another and it takes time.  And it’s painful.

In her open and honest way Kat also shares some methods to remind herself that there will be an end to the hopeless feelings, the long range forecast really is for brilliant sunshine.    Author Stephen Fry’s much shared letter of advice is one of them.

“Here are some obvious things about the weather:
It’s real.
You can’t change it by wishing it away.
If it’s dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can’t alter it.
It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row.
It will be sunny one day.
It isn’t under one’s control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will.
One day.”

In the video also included in the article she is asked what one piece of advice, if she could choose one, would she give to someone suffering from depression.

“You’re not alone. Tell somebody.  Chances are they or someone they know are going through it too.”

And if they don’t listen tell someone else. Remember, the long range forecast is sunny, brilliantly sunny.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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