Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Thrilled to announce that I've been elected to serve on the Board of Directors for the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation! Beyond humbled to join Mama Peace herself, Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D. alongside fellow luminaries and global peace activists like Mr. Simon Cohen (UK), Stacey MacKinnon (Canada), Jim “JJ” Jackson (Canada), Khouloud Ayuti (Israel), Joe Palermino, (USA), LeAnne Smith (USA), Noah Striker (Canada). Together, we'll collaborate and carry forward Mattie's powerful message of hope and peace. Speaking of peace, mark your calendars! Join us for a FREE family fun day at the Peace Day in the Park on Sunday, July 14th from 11 am to 2 pm at Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park (1800 Piccard Drive, Rockville, MD). We'll have free fun for families, friends, and everyone! Plus, we'll be making PLUSH WAATSI Sage dolls of Mattie – a special way to remember his spirit. See you there! Timothy
There was a quiet energy as we walked in. Tables were covered in rainbow flags and sported mounds of colorful fabrics cut precisely to fit the Sage dolls kits I stuffed the night before, a stark contrast to the subdued atmosphere of any typical senior center. Today's agenda: "We Are All the Same Inside" Sage doll-making workshop, with a brief introduction to the significance of LGTBQ+ Pride. Terrified as per usual, I opted for a gentle approach, focusing on the universality of emotions and the participants experiences with dignity. The discussion then shifted to the Stonewall Riots, a pivotal moment in LGBTQ+ history. I saw a flicker of recognition in some eyes, while others held a polite curiosity. Instead of heavy jargon, I used terms like "finding success in your own uniqueness” and "having a sense of belonging." It felt more inclusive, a bridge across generations. Soon after fabric scraps and paint transformed into whimsical Sage dolls, each one unique, mirroring the diversity within the room. Yet, a sense of unity pervaded as we stuffed and stitched, a silent testament to our shared humanity. As the workshop ended, a few participants lingered. An awkward silence settled – the kind that precedes a question long held back. It started with, "When did you know you were… different?" followed by the more loaded, "Isn't it a choice?" I answered each question with respect, emphasizing that sexual orientation and gender identity are part of who we are, not choices we make. However, the most touching moment arrived when a woman with rheumy eyes confessed, "My granddaughter just came out as a lesbian, and my grandson… well, he's changing into a girl. I don't know what to do." Looking into her worried face, I offered the simplest advice: "Love them." It wasn't a dismissal, but a foundation. Love, I explained, could build bridges of understanding, open doors to communication, and create a safer space for their loved ones to thrive. Going to the senior center that day, wasn't just about crafting Sage dolls; it was about crafting connections. Like the colorful fabrics used that day, we celebrated that pride in oneself can become the most beautiful spectrum.
Sunday, June 23, 2024
Diana Ross, a name synonymous with glamour and her sheer determination, has captivated audiences for decades. Her influence transcends race, genders and even borders, uniting fans across the globe in a shared adoration. While I've never personally brushed shoulders with the legendary Supremes singer, I've witnessed countless others chase that dream. Some have come closer than others. I've met those who dueted with her on stage, and even those who held the creative reins, producing her iconic songs. But for the average fan, that kind of proximity remains a distant fantasy. Perhaps, in a way, that's for the best. My own intense Diana Ross fandom peaked in my late teenage years and young adulthood, a period when her music served as a powerful soundtrack to my life's unfolding chapters. Recently, watching The Kelly Clarkson Show, I felt a familiar pang of teenage awe mirrored in a 14 year old named Louie and his wide-eyed reaction to his mother surprising him with tickets to see Diana Ross. It was a delightful echo of my own fourteen-year-old self, completely enthralled by Ms Ross's brilliance. This renewed connection with fandom sparked an unexpected turn of events. Out of the blue, Louie's mother contacted me via Instagram about my #star80 dolls, a collection of 80+ Diana Ross We Are All the Same Inside Sage dolls that had adorned our Christmas tree during the 2023 season. Sharing this passion with a fellow Diana Ross devotee felt like the most natural thing to do, so I shipped a couple of #star80 dolls his way. But the urge to connect didn't stop there. In a moment of my people pleasing (or perhaps fueled by a touch of nostalgia), I sent several boxes of Diana Ross memorabilia to Louie. It felt right. He, in that moment, seemed to embody the pure, unadulterated love for Miss Ross that I once possessed, and perhaps needed it more than I did. Now, with the remaining 80 + #star80 dolls in hand, I find myself pondering their fate. While shipping them all to Louie may seem like the obvious answer, seeing his recent video thanking me gives me pause. It's more than just a "thank you" – it's a beautiful testament to his passion, a vibrant celebration of Diana Ross's 80th birthday on this planet, complete with vibrant designer gowns, dolls, and a love spanning eight decades. Louie, with his collection of seven dolls (a magical number, I might add, representing the rainbow spectrum), seems destined to find his own unique path to success. Perhaps these #star80 dolls will serve as a reminder that sometimes, the greatest joy comes not from meeting our idols, but from sharing the fire of that admiration with others. The legacy of Diana Ross,after all, extends far beyond the stage, living on in the hearts and voices of her devoted fans, a vibrant tapestry woven across the globe. As for me, I'll hold onto the memories and the knowledge that my teenage self's unwavering love for Miss Ross continues to inspire and connect, even in unexpected ways. #dianaross #star80 #legacy2024 #dianarossthankyou #sagedoll #weareallthesameinside
Monday, June 10, 2024
Today would have been Dad's 80th birthday. There's a familiar ache, the kind that comes with that absence. But don't make me start belting out Luther Vandross' "Dance With My Father," that song is so heavy with the weight of a changing relationship. But instead, a different kind of melody plays inside, a melody born from my Italian heritage - superstition. It goes like this: whenever I see a pineapple, it's a sign from a departed loved one, letting you know they're watching over you. It might sound SO silly, but lately, pineapples seem to be popping up everywhere – a vibrant patten on tablecloth at downtown Manhattan restaurant, a street vendor selling fruit, even a quirky phone case. Each time, a warmth spreads through me, a silent "Hey there, 'Moth (his nickname for me) from the other side". The truth is, our relationship wasn't always sunshine, lollipops and pineapples. It took him a while to understand my path, and courage on part just to walk it. But in the twilight of his life, there was a shift. We talked, we listened, and a bridge of acceptance was built. He came to see the man I was becoming, the man I was always meant to be. So, Dad, wherever you are, this one's for you. Every spiky pineapple I see is a reminder that you're no longer physical, is woven into the fabric of who I am. Happy (would-have-been) #star80th birthday. And hey, I wish you could have seen my #star80 Diana Ross A Celebration of 80 Gowns, Dolls & Years Christmas tree last year.
Sunday, June 9, 2024

Watching the series "Eric" (2024) on Netflix was a surprisingly poignant experience. The troubled protagonist Vincent is puppeteer, clinging to the impossible hope of reuniting with his missing son Edgar through his giant puppet named "Eric". This series resonated deeply with my own journey with the "Sage" doll.
Just like Vincent with "Eric", the Sage doll became my catalyst for tolerance, a vessel for the stories I poured into my children's picture book pages and students' lives. While Vincent desperately seeks a connection to his estranged son Edgar, I found a unique way to foster connection and inspire creativity in countless young minds and even connected with celebrities that continue to inspire me. Both Vincent and I, through our artistic mediums, discovered a way to bridge the gap between the tangible and the intangible, the seen and the unseen.
Vincent's unwavering belief in a fantastical transformation mirrored my own belief in the power of puppets and dolls in the classroom. These seemingly simple objects become powerful tools for navigating difficult concepts and conversations. They create a safe space for students to explore emotions and reveal hidden vulnerabilities. The Netflix series reminded me that even in the darkest moments, there's a spark of power within us all. Just like Vincent, with the support of "Eric", we can find the strength to transform ourselves.
Vincent the protagonist in the Netflix series "Eric" troubled as he is dreams of transforming the world, by the end of this he discovered a powerful truth: the greatest transformation most often needs be within. He realized that his dolls and puppets were mere reflections of the need to change himself NOT the world he sought to reshape. Here are some additional musings and thoughts prompted by the Netflix series "Eric" and my teaching experiences using dolls and puppets:
* Power of the Metaphor: Puppets and dolls act as metaphors, allowing students to express themselves indirectly,fostering deeper understanding. *Unlocking Emotions: Dolls and puppets can help children feel safe enough to explore difficult emotions, leading to catharsis and growth. * Building Empathy: By creating characters and stories, students can develop empathy by stepping into the shoes of others.
"Eric" serves as a powerful reminder that transformation, even the seemingly impossible, can be sparked by a little bit of belief and a whole lot of creativity. It reinforces my own commitment to using the dolls or puppets in any classroom to empower my students and foster positive change in their contexts of learning.
Thursday, June 6, 2024

They call him the weeping prophet, Jeremiah. A man burdened with a message no one wanted to hear, a voice crying out in the wilderness of a society on the wrong path. And let me tell you, on some days, when I look at the state of our world, I feel a kinship with Jeremiah's tears.
Doubt? Absolutely. It snakes its way in, whispering insecurities about the path I walk, the message I carry. Just like Jeremiah, who felt too young, too inadequate, I sometimes question my own ability to be a vessel for truth.
Struggle? Every single day. The world can be a harsh place, and the truths I reveal often clash with comfortable illusions. There's a constant battle within, a yearning for acceptance that wars with the unwavering commitment to the message.
But here's the thing – unlike Jeremiah, who perhaps wrestled with external validation, I try to not let the opinions of others hold no sway over me. My purpose, my very essence, is tied to my faith. It's not about popularity; it's about the unwavering conviction that truth, even the uncomfortable kind, must be spoken.
Even amidst the tears, Jeremiah held onto a flicker of hope. He knew, even when the world seemed lost, that G*d's plan would ultimately prevail. And that's my anchor too. That perhaps is a testament to the enduring power of truth and the ultimate triumph of light over darkness.
There are doubts and struggles. And there's also unwavering conviction, a deep well of hope, and the unwavering knowledge that the truth I share will ultimately serve a purpose. In this journey of faith, I may be the weeping witness, but like Jeremiah, I will continue to bear witness, nonetheless.
#UnexpectedLunchTopics #StateoftheWorld #Conviction #Faith #Struggle #Tears #Hope #Jeremiah #WeepingProphet
Friday, April 5, 2024
Gettin’ ready (sic) to turn up the volume and let the sequins fly! As part of my #Star80: A Celebration of 80 Gowns, Dolls & Years, we're diving deep into the world of a true multi-talented artist singer-songwriter, Franne Golde! Buckle up, # because Franne's here to share her stories, her inspirations, and maybe even a surprise or two. 1. Beyond your commercial successes, what criteria do you use to define a song as truly "great" or meaningful to you? A killer melody and lyric, a great chorus and it must touch me emotionally, viscerally. When my favorite songs come on, I crank the volume and feel bliss. 2. Looking back on your vast catalog, which song holds the most personal significance for you and why? Is it “Gettin’ Ready for Love?” as recorded by Diana Ross your very first radio hit in 1977? That’s one of them. I was driving down Sunset Boulevard when I turned on the radio and heard it for the first time, I pulled over to a phone booth called my dad and screamed, “my songs on the radio.” We listened together. We were both crying. I’ll never forget that moment and being able to share it with my dad was priceless! 3. You've collaborated with many iconic artists. received BMI awards for singles with The Pussycat Dolls "Stickwitu",Randy Travis’s "A Man Ain't Made of Stone", The Kinleys' "Somebody's Out There Watching" from the Touched by an Angel soundtrack, Selena’s "Dreaming of You", Jody Watley’s "Don't You Want Me" and "Nightshift" by the Commodores Who surprised you the most in terms of their interpretations of your songs you wrote or creative approach? Bruce Springsteen’s rendition of Nightshift. So beautiful, so heartfelt, so Bruce. That’s the beauty of songwriting. You never know what can happen when you put a song into the universe. I would’ve never in a million years imagined Bruce Springsteen singing Nightshift. He killed it!! I’m so honored and appreciative of the love and care he put into the recording. He made it his own. 4. With the music industry constantly evolving, how do you stay inspired and navigate the changing landscape while staying true to your artistic voice? I haven’t been songwriting for several years. I started a new career, designing clothes, but I believe true artists never lose their voice no matter how the landscape changes. True artists know how to adapt and use their voice, as they are constantly evolving themselves. In my life I’ve seen my creativity take me down paths I never thought I’d be traveling. 5. What advice would you give to aspiring songwriters struggling to find their unique sound or break into the industry? Do it every day, don’t talk about it, just do it. By showing up, believing in yourself, and never giving up you will find your uniqueness. And when it clicks, you’ll know it. As Goethe said, “At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you. “ I’ve found this to be true time and time again. 6. Beyond music, what other creative pursuits or interests fuel your inspiration and songwriting? I’m inspired almost every day, especially by people. I love hearing about their journeys and how they’ve gotten where they are. I’ve always been a creative person and now I’m creating clothing and loving it, but I also write essays about my life, that I hope will end up a memoir, I’ve been working on a film project for many years that is finally seeing a sliver of light, I love arranging flowers and making handmade greeting cards…. I could go on, and on, but I’ll stop for now. 7. Given your extensive experience, what are your thoughts on the current state of music songwriting, particularly in terms of its impact on society and cultural trends? The current state of music is diverse and reflects a wide range of influences and cultural trends, but it seems people still gravitate towards the familiar, Pop, R&B, hip-hop, rap, country, jazz, blues, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s etc. Technology has made creation available to everyone, allowing for more voices to be heard and for different genres to flourish. That said, talent and creativity is everything. It’s far more likely that people who stand out and rise to the top know how to use that technology to their advantage. Overall, I think music continues to be a powerful force in shaping society and reflecting what’s on people’s minds.

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Sage
Since the year 2000, a friendly plush doll named Sage was invented to spread their message of peace and solidarity through books, digital stories and doll-making workshops.
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