Janet Fricke Combs


Letting Go As Son Prepares to Walk the Graduation Stage



For most of his first year on planet earth, I carried my third child around in a fabric sling that draped across my left shoulder, distributing his weight in a way that made it safe for me to dash across the playground and catch his five-year-old brother dangling from the horizontal bars or his three-year-old sister rocketing down the slide. Often, I faced him forward so he could capture the day in a cinematic way: slow pan left, open the refrigerator; close-up on the dog; dolly zoom to front door; shaky handheld shots of the day’s mail.

The most judgmental of my suburbanite neighbors would wag their heads, remarking snarkily, “Are you ever going to let him walk?

“I don’t know,” I would chirp. “Maybe someday.”

In the Womb of the Airport Shuttle



When a college kid gets stuck on the wrong airport shuttle van, writer Janet Fricke Gilbert’s inner mom surges forth.

He wore his baseball cap backwards, and he kept his earbuds in while he shouted up to the driver. He might have even yelled “Hey, you! Driver!” which sounded rude, but was really a reflection of his panic at discovering he was on the airport shuttle heading deeper into the landscape of “The Wire” instead of Washington, D.C., where he was a student at American University.

Peabody’s Crane Exhibit: The New/Old Story of the Starving Artist

Stephen Crane. Photo courtesy JHU.

Living a bit hand-to-mouth? Not particularly flush with the rush of economic recovery? Feeling singularly unappreciated for your artistic contributions?

Wander over to the new exhibit at the George Peabody Library, “For Love or Money: Art, Commerce & Stephen Crane.” You’re sure to be uplifted when you see that you are not alone; moreover, your problems are a cliché that’s a little more than 100 years old.

What better place than Baltimore, and what better time than now, to showcase the American literary genius who penned The Red Badge of Courage and saw himself as a soldier in the “beautiful war for truthful art?”

Crane, who was the quadruple threat of journalist, poet, short story writer and novelist, could have been the poster boy for the starving artist. In the turn-of-the century photographs on display throughout the exhibit, his lean, angular face has the faraway yet unflinchingly driven expression of an Amy Winehouse. It’s eerily, disturbingly familiar—almost as if there’s a genetic marker for the look of artists who die in their late 20s.

Go Worry Free in 2013: Here’s How


worry wart

I’ve just invented a game that has the power to change your life. Best of all, it will not cost you three easy payments of just $19.99. But it will take an investment of faith and the approximately five minutes it takes to read this piece.

The “I” of the Storm


Writer Janet Fricke Gilbert made several new social connections during the worst moments of Sandy — live, human ones…

There’s a persistent loneliness in this age of connection.

We install our prefabricated selves on Facebook and acquire electronic friends. We text remote people when we are in the presence of actual people, so that we can simultaneously and ineffectively communicate with both groups. And we obsessively record the events of our lives as if they will somehow be more meaningful in the future than they are in the present moment.