Category : Personal

Kumbaya

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. — Einstein

I’ve always liked that quote. Probably because I have spent a lot of my life believing I’m stupid. Now I realize that’s true, but only about half the time.

I had a mother in the era where many women didn’t want to be mothers, felt they had no choice, and took it out on their children. My mother’s favorite pastime was to point out all the ways I was stupid. One of them related to music. I didn’t have music lessons because I was too stupid to learn. (I now believe that the real reason was that the school didn’t offer lessons, and we couldn’t afford private lessons.) Also, she told me I couldn’t carry a tune—I’m not sure why it mattered that my mother persisted in reminding of this. Maybe she thought that, otherwise, I’d be walking around the house singing and disturbing her peace.

Yes, there I am in the centerfold.

Jumping forward to the days when I was a Roman Catholic Sister—I attended mass every lunch time in the college chapel. With me in the photo above are other students, the man on my right a seminarian, Bob C.

Guitar masses were all the rage, and Bob lead the singing every day. But one day he didn’t show up, and those of us in the pews started to look around for someone to take over. After all, we needed music to inspire us: This Little Light of MineKumbaya . . .

A woman I didn’t know well, in the pew behind me, tapped me on the shoulder. “Sister,” she whispered, “You’re going to have to lead the singing today.”

I turned back, panic rising in my body. “I can’t sing,” I told her.

She frowned. “What do you mean? Of course you can. You’re a nun.”

I don’t remember what I said out loud. Something like “Oh.”

And I lead the singing that day and for the rest of my time at that campus. I still wonder what became of Bob.

Academy Award NOMINATIONS

Academy Award nominations were announced on Tuesday morning January 22. They will air live Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on ABC. As far back as the 1980’s, we’ve had a houseful of family and friends watching the show in our home. Let me know if you can come!

Table display at last year's party. (The statues are plastic replicas, alas.)

HERE is the complete list of this year’s nominations. And below is to tempt you to attend.

Remember this Clooney movie? The cake mimics his roll-on luggage.

The 12 Days of Christmas

The Adoration of the Magi. Hugo van der Goes (Netherlandish, late 15th century)
 Medium: Oil on wood; from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Never mind what the retail scene tells you — The Twelve Days of Christmas actually start on Christmas Day, December 25th. The twelfth day ends at midnight on January 5th of each year. The Holy Day of the Epiphany is followed on January 6.

Here’s the symbolism of the 12 days.

The first day of Christmas – My True Love, the Partridge in a Pear Tree (Jesus Christ is my true love). In ancient times a partridge was often used as symbol of a divine and sacred king.

The second day of Christmas – Two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The doves symbolize peace.

The third day of Christmas – The three French Hens are Faith, Hope and Love. These are the three gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The fourth day of Christmas – The four calling birds are the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The fifth day of Christmas – The five golden rings describe the first five books of the Old Testament.

The sixth day of Christmas – The six geese a laying stood for the first six days of creation.

The seventh day of Christmas – The seven swans a swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership and Mercy.

The eighth day of Christmas – The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes. These are Jesus’ teachings of happiness.

The ninth day of Christmas – Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. These are Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty and Continence.

The tenth day of Christmas – The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.

The eleventh day of Christmas – The eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful apostles.

The twelfth day of Christmas – The twelve drummers drumming represent the twelve points of belief in The Apostles’ Creed.

MEN: Take Care

Now and then something gender-related gets to me. This time it’s a surprise proposal party: he’s going to surprise her by proposing in front of family and friends.

Don’t get me wrong–I love the young woman; I’ve known her since the day she arrived home from the hospital and I’m happy for her. And the young man seems very nice, caring, and is a responsible adult. It’s the circumstances of the proposal that bother me.

I went to one of these surprise parties a few years ago– it was was as sexist as they come: friends and family gather; she arrives at the house expecting to have dinner with her sister and brother-in-law; instead she hears  a chorus of “Surprise!” He gets down on one knee, opens a ring case and declares, I love you, hashtag-Babe, you are my life yada yada yada. Old folk are in tears, young ones break out the champagne . . .

What’s wrong with a little romance? Nothing, but what if we turned it around: the test for sexism. SHE gets down on one knee, opens the little ring box, etc. If it doesn’t work, then neither should the first scenario.

Let’s take it to a more serious level. Some enlightened FB friend, took the “rules” for women, to keep themselves safe from a #Metoo moment, and turned them around, giving the same advice to men, to keep them from being falsely accused. Here’s how that looks:

Several people have expressed concern that men might be falsely accused of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct going forward. Sharing these tips to keep yourself safe:

1. Don’t put yourself in compromising situations.

2. Stay alert and aware at all times. If you are at a party with a woman who you think will falsely accuse you of sexual assault, limit your alcohol consumption. She is free to drink, but your impaired judgment is not an excuse for her false accusations.

3. If you walk or jog for exercise, try to vary your route and time on the street. To be predictable is risky. Don’t give women the opportunity to falsely accuse you by having an exercise routine.

4. Keep your body covered. If you expose certain areas of your body she may get the impression you are interested in sex with her. Don’t give her that impression by revealing more of your skin than necessary. Modesty is the best policy.

5. Think before you talk. Flirting with a woman is fine but be careful not to give her the impression you’re interested in sex. Chaste words will help you maintain your virtue and good name.

6. Don’t make yourself an easy target. Hold your head up, walk confidently, directly and at a steady pace away from the woman you think may falsely accuse you of sexual misconduct. Don’t forget, you’re a strong capable man too.

7. Attract attention to yourself if you feel like you might be falsely accused of sexual misconduct. Make noise, call 911, use a whistle in hopes that someone will come to your aid as a witness. You can get “Falsely Accused of Rape” whistles at your local shelter.

8. If you are being followed, head for a well-lit area where you think there will be other people who may be able to help you. Well-lit areas could be the difference between a pleasing evening stroll or a night that will forever change your life.

9. It’s probably best to stay home after dark. If you’re worried that while you’re walking home at night you might encounter a woman who may falsely accuse you of sexual assault, it’s best to avoid that situation completely. Consider a self-imposed curfew.

10. If you do have to be out after dark. Stay away from suspect women. Keep your guard up and keep your distance. Remember to bring your “Falsely Accused of Rape” whistle at all times.

11. Trust your “gut instincts.” Even if you get the feeling a woman is about to falsely accuse you of rape leave her alone immediately.

12. Always make sure you lock your car doors, whether or not you are in the car. Always check the floor and rear seat for suspect women before getting into your car.

13. If you suspect that you are being followed by a woman while diving, keep on going—do not stop and pull over until you get to some place that is well-lit and where there are other people to assist you and attest to your innocence.

14. If your car should break down, raise the hood and remain in the car with the doors locked until the police arrive. Don’t stand outside your car. This may give women the impression your helpless circumstance means you want to have sex with them. If a woman should stop and offer to assist you, roll down the window just enough to tell them you called the police.

15. Stay safe at home. Be sure you know whom you are opening your door to. If a sales or repair woman is legitimate, they will not mind your asking to see her identification and confirming their identity with the company they represent. If you still feel uncomfortable, schedule all appointments at a time when your wife can be home to help you.

16. For men who live by themselves in a house or apartment, never advertise the fact by listing your full name in the phone book or on a mailbox. This makes you an easy target for false accusations because you have no alibi.

17. Attend large parties with friends you can trust. Agree to “look out” for one another. Try to leave with your group, rather than alone or with a suspect woman.

18. Be cautious about revealing any personal information over the telephone and/or Internet. Don’t make yourself a vulnerable target.

19. If you have roommates, talk to them about the importance of everyone following the safety strategies at all times.

20. Lastly, stay safe out there. There are plenty of good women ready to help you if you need it. Don’t let a few bad apples change the way you feel about all women. Most of us are good and trying to help you do the right thing. #NotAllWomen Disclaimer: Following these tips and strategies does not guarantee that a false accusation will not occur. They are offered as strategies to reduce the likelihood of you becoming a victim of false rape accusations.

See what I mean?

Rock Center 2018

Sharing a couple of images from the Rockefeller Center tree lighting — 11/28/18. I wait all year for this! And this year 1) Tony Bennett was on TWICE and 2) the tree was lit in the middle of the show so we could watch it longer!

Tony Bennett (nee Anthony Dominic Benedetto) at 92

60,000 lights!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

AND Throwback Thursday. Here’s my favorite (and only) photo of Thanksgiving Day from my childhood. I’m not sure why I’ve kept it, or why I like it. Maybe because everyone is smiling, even my mother, which was very rare.

Thanksgiving Day, mid-century

At the head of the table: Uncle Al. Then, clockwise: my father, my sister, my mother, Al’s wife Aunt Teresa, (me, the photographer, not shown!), Aunt Louise, cousin Jean, cousin Gloria, and Uncle Louie.

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

Welcome to Boston

The World Series has been over for about a month, so I’ve recovered from the Dodgers’ loss. It’s not so much their loss that has me down, it’s the Red Sox win.

I’m from Boston, so you can see why I’m upset about the Red Sox victory. I like to think that I’m part of that famous curse — the failure of the Sox to win the World Series in the 86-year period from 1918 to 2004.

If you’re not sure why a former Bostonian is ready to heap another curse on the team, I’ll remind you what they did in 1952. In fact, I’ll just start from the beginning and print this memoir, published in the Elysian Fields Quarterly, April, 1993.

Memoir: The Boston Braves

My friends know me as a middle-aged scientist whose interests run from Italian opera to French Impressionism and back. Not much in between, certainly nothing that might involve sports, active or passive, indoor or outdoor. I am hardly recognizable as the same woman who nearly let the tides of professional baseball determine her choice of college forty years ago. But following the Braves to Milwaukee, which I had never heard of, was my only positive thought on the gray March day in 1952 when the headlines announced that the team was leaving Boston.
I threw myself across my bed that day and wept so loudly that my mother shuffled in and bent over me, hands on her wide, aproned hips, like some black-padded umpire, and ordered me to stop. At fifteen, I had never dis-obeyed my mother, so I stopped crying and tried to focus on something in my room that wouldn’t remind me of the end of my world. I longed for my father, who was still at work, probably high on a ladder securing a rain gutter or patching a damaged roof.
My walls were covered with baseball–the official chart of National League logos; southpaw Warren Spahn warming up; Sam Jethroe, black and fast, sliding in to steal second; autographed programs and laminated ticket stubs– “like a boy’s room,” my mother said, with a click of her tongue.
The sounds of the park rang in my head–John Kiley at the organ, not quite drowning out the rustle of dungarees and jackets and the creaking of the old green wooden chairs, raised and lowered as people filled the bleachers. The smells from the battered concession stands filled my room, sweet cold drinks and ice cream, the pink, white, and brown kind I never saw outside the park.
My father had introduced me at age seven to the lively, struggling Braves, who became my perfect friends. In their white uniforms, trimmed in red and blue, they always tried their best to win, to please me. As soon as my mother left the house for shopping or visiting, my father and I, two short, dark figures, came to life in front of the old Philco radio. His strong calloused fingers, never quite free of grime and paint stains, drew the ball field on a brown paper bag and diagrammed every play for me. We heard other programs, too–Inner Sanctum, The Shadow, The Answer Man. But first priority was always for Bump Hadley’s raspy voice, tones which became even less crisp as the game wore on (he did, after all, advertise lager ale).
My father would let me stay up until we heard my mother’s steps on the front porch. Most often she was returning from helping a neighbor with a new baby or chatting with friends while they clipped coupons from box tops and newspapers. At the first jingle of her keys, I would race to my bed and pretend to be asleep, like the inmate who hides an escape attempt from a prison guard.
I used the Braves to direct the rest of my life, too–if the Braves beat Brooklyn I’ll get all A’s and my mother will love me; if I finish three Hail Mary’s before this inning is over, she will not find out that I sat next to a boy at the matinee of High Noon; if Mathews is safe at second, then I will be safe at home and in this world. I had no plan for If the Braves leave Boston.
At school I drew tomahawks in the margins of my notebooks and wrote with pens and pencils shaped like tiny bats that said, “Sincerely, Tommy Holmes.” One time I signed a card to Paul, whom I loved, secretly, of course, Merry Christmas from Lou Perini and the Boston Braves, as if my own name had too little weight to hold ink. Other girls were thin, pretty, confi-dent. They had the right to say “hi” without apology. I could only say, “Did you see that third inning catch last night?” or “I’ll take Earl Torgeson over Ted Williams any day.” (Don’t think I expect you to notice me or acknowledge me. I’m just here as a messenger for the Braves.)
Now, how could I face life without the Braves? Without my father and our wonderful conspiracy, was my real question. Without a way to talk to other kids, was another.
I ground the terrible newspaper into my chenille spread and wondered what I could have done to prevent this loss. A novena to St. Anthony? No candy during lent? An urgent letter to Tom Yawkey, the Red Sox owner who refused to help the Braves by sharing Fenway Park?
The same papers and newscasters that brought word of the future of the Boston Braves that spring told of anti-British riots erupting in Egypt, of Albert Schweizer giving his life to others, of H-bomb tests in the Pacific. But current events did nothing to give me perspective, to help me with my struggle.
The next day, I barely heard the voices around me. “It’s your father’s fault you’re this way,” from my mother. “I guess now you’ll have to be a Red Sox fan.” This from classmates who did not understand that existence is not like a baserunner, sprinting from one anchored sack to the next, around to home; it is like a whisper of wind under a fastball, waiting to be named by the umpire. “They ain’t nothing ’til I calls them,” says the umpire.
My father understood. I listened carefully and believed his simple message–“We did that long enough, cara, we’ll find something else.” And through the next thirty years until he died, we did indeed find “something else” in our adult relationship.
But, more amazing, Paul (with unparalleled genius he had figured out who sent him the card) also came through. “Now you can come to your own high school basketball games,” he said, “and let the Braves go west.”
I did even more than that–I let all of baseball go west and never followed it again.
From time to time through the last forty years, I have watched baseball games out of the corner of my eye and sometimes allowed the cheers of the crowd and the crack of the bat to carry me back to the old Philco. When friends hear the story of “my life as a Braves fan” they mistakenly think it would take little to turn me into a 1990s fan. They offer tickets and invite me to tailgate parties. But reentry into baseball cannot unearth the passion I felt in the 5Os, exulting in Bickford’s hot August no-hitter, moping when Antonelli popped up (pitchers took their turn in the batter’s box back then!), defending my underdog Braves with all my energy.
The shapes and motions of baseball are part of my past, in scrapbooks and on closet shelves with my saddle shoes. The comings and goings in the ballpark, inning by inning, game by game, season by season-even city by city-introduced me to the rhythms of life. Baseball and the Braves have already done all they ever needed to do for me.

POST CARD PARTY

Last weekend, writers Ann Parker, Mysti Berry, and I put together a Post Card Party through an ACLU program to GET OUT THE VOTE. This non-partisan venture ended in something like 1,000,000 post cards (that is the total from ACLU, not our little party!) being mailed to voters all over the country, who might need a reminder of how important is our civic duty. (Coincidentally, “Civic Duty” is also the title of my story in this anthology, released in July, with proceeds also going to the ACLU.) The messages on the cards were nonpartisan, simply urging people to VOTE.

Low Down Dirty Vote

Below are some photos marking the occasion.

The youngest citizen to write out post cards (r): age 9

Instigator Ann Parker, far left

Nothing says you can’t have food and fun while doing your civic duty.

PS: 750  cards completed!

LoCal Hamburgers

I mean very low calorie. Try these miniature “hamburger” cookies. How perfect for your Labor Day Cookout/in!

Note the spoon for scale.

Gerry Porter and her 11-year-old granddaughter, Maddie, love all things mini. The two stars of  Margaret Grace’s Miniature Mysteries were playing around in the kitchen one Saturday, unable to choose between vanilla and chocolate cookies. They came up with a new recipe that combined the best of both. Using two soft vanilla cookies and one soft chocolate cookie, they created a mini hamburger. After their day of creative play, and adding embellishments, here’s  the result!

NO BAKE MINI “HAMBURGER” COOKIES

TIME TO PREPARE: about 15 minutes

YIELD: 12 mini hamburgers

INGREDIENTS:

I box vanilla wafers

1 box soft chocolate cookies (SnackWells or the equivalent)

1 tube green frosting

1 tube red frosting

1 tube yellow frosting

1/8 cup sesame seeds (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Arrange 12 vanilla wafers, flat side up, on a tray or platter. These are the bottoms of the “hamburger buns.”

2. Using the green frosting tube, squirt a ring around the edge of each wafer. Using your finger or a toothpick, rough up the frosting so it resembles ragged lettuce.

3. Place 1 chocolate cookie (the meat!) on top of each green-ringed wafer.

4. Using the red frosting tube (ketchup!), squirt a ring around the flat edges of a dozen additional wafers (the tops of the “hamburger buns).

5. Using the yellow frosting tube (mustard!), squirt a yellow ring over the red ring of Step 4, allowing the two colors to mix in places.

6. Place each newly ringed wafer, flat side down (top of the bun!), on top of a chocolate cookie/wafer.

DONE!  You now have 12 hamburgers, with lettuce, ketchup, and mustard.

7. (optional) Dot the top of each “burger” with egg white, and use as adhesive for a few sesame seeds.

Other options: add a smooth ring of white frosting for an onion, a square of orange frosting for cheese, or smooth the red ring so it looks more like tomato.

A Good Sport

There was a time when I shunned everything to do with sports. Not that I didn’t ride my bike and even treadmill (v. i.) fairly regularly.

What I disliked was the pesky winner/loser aspect, especially where kids were involved. Because winning was so important, to the coaches and parents if not the kids themselves, some kids were left out. So, what was all the lip service to “they learn teamwork” if only the athletically endowed could profit? Didn’t kids with lame arms or poor eyesight also deserve to learn teamwork?

In the image of Luks’s painting, doesn’t it look like the boy isn’t at all interested in the baseball?

Boy with Baseball by George Luks, c. 1925, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Edward Joseph Gallagher, Jr., 1954

I’ve had a hard time avoiding sports metaphors, but I’ve succeeded on the whole.

Then the New York Times came out with a special article on the history of sports phrases and suddenly it feels very scholarly to say “That’s not in my wheelhouse.” *

You can read the complete article, but here are a couple of my favorites.

Talk about scholarly, how about this first one, from Shakespeare:

1. There’s the rub.

When Hamlet says, “To sleep — perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub!” he’s talking about something that’s difficult. “The rub” is from lawn bowling, and refers to an unevenness in the playing surface. Or so they say.

2. Out of left field.

Why is left field the spot where kooky ideas come from? Why not right or center? Well, no one is too sure, but there are a couple of fascinating theories—left field was often deeper than right in early baseball stadiums; weaker fielders were put in on the left; and left fielders tended to play farther back.

* Wheelhouse comes from baseball. It’s the area in which a batter feels most comfortable hitting the ball.

Here’s a closing image:

From the Girl Baseball Players series for Virginia Brights Cigarettes, Metropolitan Museum of Art, issued 1886, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick

OR, Girls also want to have fun.