My Real Life Modern Family

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Dreams of Drowning

6 Written by: | Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015 12:00pm

Indonesian Sea. All photos by Ann Schlott Hillers.

Baltimore native Ann Schlott Hillers spends the summer in Bali with her three young sons and, despite fears, embraces the underwater world of the Indonesian Sea.

When I was in my twenties and childless, I dreamed a lot about drowning.  Not my own drowning, but that of my niece, Maggie, my older sisters eldest daughter.  First, she scaled a tall Victorian hotel whose roof was covered in ice.  As she reached the peak, I scrambled up the roof only to arrive as she was sliding down the other side, falling a mile into a lake of ice below. I tried to grab her dress, but she was slippery and fast. And gone. Read More →

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Toward Graphic Maturity

1 Written by: | Wednesday, Feb 18, 2015 9:59am

image via

image via

Essayist Lindsay Fleming ponders the character hidden inside each person’s handwriting.

I’m filling out the permission form for an after-school activity and call Addie over to sign her name. She’s 11 and several forms in the past year have required her signature. She watches me sign in the space for parent/guardian. I hand her the pen. She says, “But I don’t have a signature.” Read More →

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Traveling on the Road to Love

9 Written by: | Friday, Feb 13, 2015 12:27pm


The writer and her then boyfriend, now husband traveling through Europe, 1997.

Unexpected challenges on a whirlwind trip teach writer Muffy Fenwick the true meaning of love.

It is a common joke in our family, especially when my husband’s antics are most pronounced, that I was a mere child when I became a bride and thus should not be blamed for my youthful mistake in love. But truth be told, whatever mistake (or lack thereof, as it may be) can be traced back to a trip we took after my graduation from college, a trip that ultimately taught me what love means. Read More →

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Local Art Teacher Shares Four Ways “Whiplash” Gets Art and Aspiration Wrong

4 Written by: | Wednesday, Feb 11, 2015 9:38am


Writer/musician Ron Tanner takes Oscar-contender “Whiplash” to task.

Oscar-contender “Whiplash” — about a talented college drumming student under the tutelage of a maniacal master teacher– has made a well-deserved splash with both critics and viewers. The film’s pyrotechnic student-teacher duel plays like a hot-jazz cutting contest and you’d be the odd exception if you came away from the movie without great admiration for the acting: J. K. Simmons is a marvel. That said, the aptly-named “Whiplash” left me shaken because, as a long-time teacher of the arts, I found so much of its message wrong-headed, if not downright wrong. Read More →

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Checkpoint Charlie: Before the Wall Came Down

5 Written by: | Wednesday, Jan 28, 2015 9:52am

BigComboTrailerTwenty-five years ago, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. University of Baltimore MFA student Ellen Hartley recalls a night in 1966 when she and her student husband tried to cross to East Berlin. What stopped them might make you grateful.


Halten Sie — sofort!” A guttural voice. “Schnell aus dem Auto!”

Danny slammed on the brakes of our VW Bug. We stumbled out of the car. A pair of burly border guards ordered us to step aside and empty our pockets.

1966, Checkpoint Charlie. My husband and I were students, out for a night at the opera in East Berlin. Read More →

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Black and White

19 Written by: | Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 10:19am


terriUniversity of Baltimore MFA student Terri Steel sees her loving family like any other, even if plenty of people stop and stare.

Other kids called us the Oreo cookie. It was the 1970s and there was no such thing as political correctness. Sheila, Shirley and I enjoyed being the cookie, or at least that’s what I believed. I never considered that perhaps it was because of my position in the shiny white center. Names like Fat Janet and Retarded Betty were common in my neighborhood. One of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons featured Bill Cosby’s voice as the lead; it was called “Fat Albert.” Read More →

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Father and Son: An Annotated Bibliography

0 Written by: | Wednesday, Jan 07, 2015 10:12am

image via

image via

University of Baltimore MFA student Michael B. Tager remembers his father’s recommended reading, and vice versa — and invites us to read between the (loving) lines.

Berenstain Bears Go Out For the Team, 1983

I am in his lap, his stubbly cheek against the top of my head, his deep voice patiently reading the childish prose. The Berenstain Bears are all I want him to read, though I have dozens of other children’s books.

Brother and Sister play pee-wee baseball. I relate, though our umpires and coaches don’t wear menacing sunglasses. Brother and Sister also play catch with Father. My father isn’t very good at catch but he plays with me, saying, “Relax,” and “Straighten your elbow.” Read More →

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Murtherfore: A Story of Alcoholic Inspiration

0 Written by: | Wednesday, Dec 31, 2014 12:00pm

1920s  Party

This New Year’s Eve, writer Lindsay Fleming remembers her father-in-law’s wit and wisdom, his whiskey sours and his elegant exit.

My father-in-law was famous for his whiskey sours.  When your drink ran dry, he’d be quick to notice and urge a refill.  If you hesitated, he’d settle it with the reminder, “No bird ever flew on one wing.”  When he died, copies of his recipe were posted by magnet on the refrigerator at the family beach house.  A backup was filed underneath the highball glasses in the art deco bar on the screened-in porch. Read More →

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To All the Young Women Never Cast as Clara

0 Written by: | Tuesday, Dec 23, 2014 10:00am

image circa 1890

image circa 1890

In a special installment of “My Real Life Modern Family,” writer Patrice Hutton reflects funnily and philosophically on childhood Christmases past.

‘Tis the season, the season in which we’re reminded of our first failure of womanhood: never being cast as Clara. We grow up and lean in while learning that we can’t have it all, but years ago, we faced our first trial of womanhood. We’d stalk the mailbox for letters, or push toward the cast list, to see that once again we’d been overlooked for the role of Clara. Read More →

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Gracious Receiving 101

4 Written by: | Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014 12:00pm


What to do if we receive a Christmas present we hate? University of Baltimore MFA student Melinda Cianos gives it to us straight.

Okay, let’s review. This holiday season you are likely to receive, if you’re lucky and people like you, a nifty gift or two. Please do not forget the appropriate reaction to said gifts in order to avoid the severed relationships and tarnished reputation surely to follow you into the New Year if you do. Below: a few reminders to help you stay in good, gracious standing. Read More →

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