Friday, December 20, 2013

A Little Note About Christmas Cards...if I may......

There are so many things to write about during this time of year.  So many emotions to emote.  So many thoughts to jot down, each Christmas season holding its own promise of a good story or two but there was one tiny part of the whole preparations for the Big Day that always seemed to have put an abrupt end to the harmony in many a home.  It was the arrival of THAT annual "Christmas Letter"  that would put the brakes on the sharing of glad tidings and send families searching for a community vomitorium.

Varying in length, depending upon the magnitude of the past year's family accomplishments, the letter would show up in between the beautiful, heartfelt Hallmarks.  On more than one occasion, Mom would open a card and let out a little sigh or even a tiny gasp when she read the side note, handwritten in a space in between the card company's expressions of God's joy and prayers for peace on earth.

 "John passed from this life early in the year.  Life will never be the same but we're coping".

"Mary and Bill are finally getting married.  We're all so thrilled, he's a great guy"

"We welcomed Baby James in March. None of us has slept since"

Each year, Mom and Dad would get out the address book, add a few names and strike out a few.  Some would simply be altered to correct what would have been a horrible error the following Christmas, as in the case of  Mr and Mrs.John's wife who is now simply, Margaret.  Each year, the number of cards dwindled.  Friends who died or went into nursing homes.  Friends who decided that it was too much of a chore or too emotionally or physically painful to write and send cards.  Those little notes from the year before were so often a portend of what was to come and assumptions could not help but be made.

But, through it all, good times, bad times, deaths, engagements, marriages, births and divorces, came at least one annual "letter".  Pages and pages of typewritten self-aggrandizement.  Advertisements for the World's Most Perfect Family Contest.  One could almost see the tear-it-off-and-mail-it-in ballot at the end of the diatribe. I'm surprised they did not contain a self addressed stamped envelope!  Each year, we would all gather around, usually with my mother's sister and her family, to share in the reading of their cousin's letter from "abroad".  Little did Cousin from Abroad know that instead of oohs and aahs, the annual application to Harvard would be met with snickers and comments.  We kids dreaded this whole thing because after the snickers, we usually got slapped in the head for our under performance during the same year that.......

"Little Lizzie, the amazing tiny athlete that she is, has been pre-selected by the Olympic ski team who spotted her on the slopes in Zurich in February when she and one hundred of her best friends were there celebrating her third birthday"

Husbands dreaded the arrival because.....

"Well, you know that Ephram, he's such a thoughtful man.  It isn't enough that he needs a pick up truck to collect his Christmas bonus, but he got a raise again this year and he just could not help himself when we passed Bulgari on the Champs Elysee when in Paris celebrating.  We popped in, he got down on his knees and proposed to me all over again with a HUGE diamond that just happened to fit!! He's so romantic, isn't he?"

Slap, slap...."Go take the trash out Charlie, NOW!!!"

Barf.  Barf.

The moms, well, honestly, they just dreaded the entire thing.  Sitting there in the kitchen of the upstairs unit of our duplex home, my mother and Aunt Millie, both dressed in their finest cotton house dresses, each held her own copy of the newly arrived greeting and, after the Bronx cheers, the slapping of the kids and the banishing of the husbands,  the coffee went on and the Kleenex box came out.

While visiting my daughter yesterday, I could not help noticing the huge number of photo greeting cards taped to the wall in her living room. She explained to me that this is the new "thing", that everyone feels compelled to send a photo card, and it has become almost like a competition. I'm guessing this has replaced the annual catch-up letter.  I enjoyed the display, loved seeing some of the kids who I've known, vicariously, just a bit more grown up this year.  The cards are pretty, some quite unique, one of them even shows a family totally dressed in Disney costumes, a tradition for them.  I see cards with multiple photos, each telling a story, where they've been, what sports the kids are in, new baby sisters and brothers.  Stories, simply put forth by happy and proud parents.  These are fun, nice expressions of glad tidings, at least by those that actually displayed words that had anything to do with Christmas and it's true meaning.

Each year, our own collection of cards is dwindling as our collection of friends is growing.  That makes no sense except for the fact that we get to personally wish people Merry Christmas, no card needed. Some of our noblest friends have elected to send contributions to charities in lieu of cards and we think that is wonderful, truly.

We've received a few photo cards from friends of our kids and a few from proud grandparents who capture the entire family during their annual family reunion.  Gone are the days of the "letter", not missed.
Now, I'm just looking forward to the day when fully grown, mature adults no longer find the need to send cards displaying photos of themselves, not a kid to be found in the foreground or background.  I simply do not get this "tradition" and personally, I think it ridiculous rather than charming. But, I write essays and opinions and if you didn't enjoy what I have to say from time to time, you probably are not reading this.

So,  frankly, I'd much rather get the little note, or maybe even the letter.  It would beat those photos of you and your spouse......getting old.......while we aren't.  Just my opinion.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Note to self

Do what you like to do most

Do what you do best

Be who you are always

Like what you do and who you are


Write what you feel

Cook only if you want to and only for who you want

Surround yourself with beauty, what you consider to be beauty, not others

Read what you want

See who you want

View what you want

Go out only when you want to

Stay home if you wish

Wish for what you want, if only to have what you want and don't stop until you come as close to it as you possibly desire

Ah ha!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cold Feet

There will be a reward.  There will be a reward to the person who finds my three pair of winter boots.  I've lost them somewhere in this tiny house.  I'm sure they are together, just where I put them. When, I do not know.  Where, totally escapes me.  But, I do know that I did not throw them away nor did they walk out of here on their own.  One was a pair of black snow boots, practically brand new.  Another, a pair of short brown, with a brown fur trim. Not sure where I bought them but I've had them for a while and wore them more than the others.  I counted on them. Now they're gone.  The third, a pair of black lace ups.  Real suede, also short. These were lined with something that looked like white lamb fur.  I know exactly where I bought them. Bloomingdale's in White Plains, many years ago. They all still looked good.  You gotta figure, you don't wear them a lot so they can stay looking new for a longer time than shoes.  But where the hell are they?

I've been misplacing a lot of things lately.  No, not actually "losing" things.  Just "misplacing" them.  I'm not quite sure what the difference is but Joe always made that abundantly clear when he and his father owned a jewelry store and a repair got "misplaced" NOT "lost".  They sweated those out!  So, I've misplaced not only my boots but a little bag of things that I know I bought last week and I know I put somewhere in this little tiny place where I live.  The bag contained some little gift bags and a package of guest towels, all of which I intended to use tomorrow when I have guests for lunch.  Guest towels for my guests.  Gift bags, for candy for my guests.  Nowhere to be found.  Gone.  With the boots?  Do we have a ghost?  Or, am I losing my mind if not simply my memory?  Where the hell are those boots?  The little gift bags and the towels, I can live without but my feet are going to freeze.

Forty three years ago, almost to the day, we lost the top of  our wedding cake.  It was one year after our wedding.  Pretty good on that calculation, seeing as I've also lost my calculator.  Picked it up from Aunt Millie's house where it had been wrapped and stored in her deep freeze, waiting for our first anniversary.  We know we had it, we drove home with it and didn't give it a second thought until the next morning when both of us looked at each other and chorused "where the hell is the cake?"  It vanished. Into thin air.  Gone.  We tore that place apart. Nothing. Gone with THE wind.  Not quite.....more likely gone from the top of the car where we probably put it before or after arriving back in our parking lot.

Of all the things I've lost, I really miss my mind the most.  Or, have I simply misplaced it?  Whatever.

Good thing I still have a warm heart.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Days Before Christmas

It's all such a nuisance, it's all so messy and so much trouble.

It used to be fun.  Anticipation was the word for it.  I used to count days....each one lasted forever.

I shopped for gifts, made lists, planned menus, baked, sent cards with little notes to recipients.

I trimmed trees, made wreathes, perfectly placed lights and ornaments.  Lit candles.  Listened to carols, wished they'd never end.

Got married, two days after, many years ago.

Grew up

Forgot the meaning was more important than the mess

Until just now.  I looked out the window.  The sky is black now but the moon, it is white, bright and full, just the way it is supposed to be at this time of year.

It's all about that brightness in the darkness and it's all about joy that is so much bigger than Santa.

And it's all okay, it's normal to act like an adult now.

Tree's up.  We vacuumed and it's not messy any more.

I'll stop being that person and start again being me, the one who got married two days after Christmas and is still in love with that same person.  The man who wants the tree in the living room, he who makes the moon shine so much brighter because he knew I needed to walk arm in arm through the supermarket this afternoon.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Phoebe Grace Colket

You say "dancing" I say "Al Pacino".  And that is because........

Years ago, Joe and I decided that it was time that we learned how to ballroom dance.   So, we enrolled in a class in Tarrytown, New York and we dutifully showed up every week for however long the course was.  Our classmates were of mixed nationalities and ages.  Their motivations for learning to dance, also mixed.  Some came to learn in time for a first dance together at an upcoming wedding.  Some, to get out of the house on a winter evening and clearly, a few came with the hope of meeting that special "someone" before retirement.  The teacher was a long, thin and attractive woman with a British accent.  I want to call her Terry. She needed to round the numbers off, allowing everyone to have a partner, so she planted one or two of her favorite male experts in and we were all set.  In addition to dancing with your own partner, each student had to rotate and dance with the other students throughout the evening.  We were taught a different dance every week and of course, the first week started us off thinking this might be fun and we might really be able to master it with an exciting entry into the Disco world. How could we lose when dancing the ever popular "Brooklyn Hustle"?

As the weeks went by, the dances became more traditional and our frustration level grew and grew.  Our classmates, most of them now very serious in their approach, glided through all of the new steps.  The lovely Indian couple seemed to be intent on getting the right postures and facial expressions to match the dance, making it almost impossible to take one of them on as a partner without a complete crack-up. No matter how hard we tried, we could not maintain our composure, most of the time, laughing at our ineptness.  Joe really did try.  But, it was the look on his face, the tight lips, the wall of concentration there, that started my giggles.  Of course, this was all made even more hilarious when we realized why Terry was addressing Joe as "Al".  By Class Two, we thought it was time we corrected her.

"Oh, I'm so sorry.  I can't help but think of Al Pacino when I look at you"

From that day forward, I was the wife of Al-Pacino-Guardino, the one without the billions.  The one who could not Tango with a straight face.  Why could it not have been Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers who she saw when she looked at us.  Things might have turned out so differently.

I know that the word "dancing" easily brings happy thoughts to most people, especially to women and children.  The word dance has been used in countless metaphors.  Images of dancing bears, dancing babies, folks dancing with joy, dancing through life, just a small share of the possibilities.  Our misadventures at dance class aside, I have a huge confession.  I do not like to dance.  Perhaps it would be hard to tell if you saw Joe and I doing our own version of a ballroom duet. He twirls me around (one of the things we did learn from the Hustle), we sway and move around the dance floor, giving the appearance that we actually know what our feet and hips are doing.  We have zero idea.  We just get out there and do it and we have fooled many an envious on-looker.  "Oh, look!  They must have had dance lessons" or "There go Lynn and Joe, let's stand here in a circle and watch them.....they really got a lot out of those classes".  One would never guess.

When I asked my good friend Jay to help me with finding my voice for the prompt "dancing", he did what he usually does so well.  He told me how he feels and knew that I would share those feelings in the same way we share our intense dislike of Savannah Guthrie and chain restaurants, about so many things that "other" people love. We both agree that dancing is uncomfortable and awkward and that is is usually associated with something we both really don't like, weddings.  When the dancing got started at the last wedding I attended, I found a place to hide until it was okay to make an early exit.  Loud music, flashing lights, lots of inebriated people jumping up and down, typical stuff that makes me grouchy, not happy. Perhaps I really am growing into my age.

Yes, I do enjoy looking at good, well trained dancers, usually on a stage.  I've seen all of the greats in performance; Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Godunov. I've even visited the grave of Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballet Russe, in Venice.  I've seen about a million performances of the Nutcracker, the most recent, just last week when my two little granddaughters performed. The Alvin Ailey Dancers were near and dear to my heart during my New York years.  But, I defer to the experts.  Their whirling, twirling and leaping through the air leaves me begging for more.  I'm comfortable in my seat and always ready to stand for an ovation at the end of the performance and I rarely find myself grouchy or wanting to hide.

But, there is a happy side to this dance interpretation.  There was one last dance class, one to which  I was not invited.  It was taught by my daughter and she had but one student in that class.  His name was Daddy Guardino and, after all their rehearsals, they brilliantly executed a heavenly rendition of Paul Simon's Father and Daughter, at the third best wedding I've ever attended.  I need not state here which was the first best but I will tell you that the second best was the one that found me dancing with my son, unrehearsed, to Eric Clapton's You Look Wonderful Tonight. Please note that these choices are in the order in which they appeared in my life, not playing favorites here, trust me.

In the arms of our children, Al and I made Fred and Ginger look like Lynn and Joe.  Terry would have been so proud of us.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

If it's Tuesday

If it's Tuesday, I must be in Stop and Shop.  I'm there grocery shopping for my father.  God only knows, what would he have done had I not left New York six years ago and returned to the Cape.  When my mother died, I guess he would have starved to death because he can't purchase food. Or, at least, that is the general belief.

So, every Tuesday, I make the short trip, past the high school tennis courts, to his house to pick up his credit card. It seems like yesterday that he and I used to play together on those courts and now, he can't even buy a quart of milk for himself. I've mastered the technique of using the scan gun so I can get in and out of the market within twenty minutes, tops, before returning to his house and helping him unload his week's worth of frozen dinners, dog food, and treats that would make a second grader's heart skip a beat.  I don't usually hang around.  I know one day I will regret the fact that I am always in some kind of a hurry, that I fit the shopping excursion into my schedule as necessary evil, sandwiched in between other more pleasant activities.  My father generally seems fine with my not sticking around.  He likes to pretend that he is busy or has somewhere to go and dismisses me soon after the return of his credit card.

But, today, was different.

"Are you in a hurry?"

"Come on in and sit down, I want to tell you a story"

Well, an offer of a good story.  I could hardly resist.  So, into the sunroom we went.

"It was Christmas.  I was about thirteen years old.  We didn't have money for a Christmas tree. I wanted one for my mother but we didn't have the dollar to buy one.  I went to the store that was on our street and the owner of the store asked me if I would deliver a tree to one of his customers.  He told me to pick out five cents worth of candy.  So, I took the tree and.......I kept it.  I STOLE the tree!  Later that night, there was a knock on the door.  It was the owner of the store and the customer who bought the tree.  I swore to them that I delivered that tree and they finally left.  I LIED to them.  Good thing my mother wasn't there.  She was the superintendent of our building and she was busy somewhere.  If she had been there.....I would not be sitting here right now.  What I could never understand was how they knew my name and where I lived"

I'm sure I have heard this story before.  Each time he tells it, he is dead serious.  He's 92 years old and he says he still can picture it all vividly.  He has a need to tell me that he stole and he lied.  He seems so troubled about his evil-doings and has so much angst about his inability to figure out how he was found by the victims of his one-dollar heist.  His eyes, once a true brown, are now a cloudy shade of grey, almost blue.  They totally lack brilliance.  They are similar in color to those of a newborn.  As he tells his story, he squishes up his face as if he's studying a fleck on my face, about to tell me to sit still so he can swat it away.  Over and over, he makes reference to the fact that he has stolen.  He seems so pathetically remorseful, I almost want to rush out and find a priest to hear his confession and to finally give him a penance, if only to see his facial muscles relax again.

My father lost his mother a few years after the crime.  She died suddenly, leaving him alone with a father who did not want him.  I tried to tell him that the story was a nice one, that he didn't really do anything wrong, that the good he did for his mother far outweighed the deed. I tell him that he probably became a policeman because he felt it a duty to protect people and that he did such a wonderful job doing just that.  I tell him that he was brave in that role. I also suggest that, had the shop owner known that this would be one of the last Christmas trees his mother would have, he would have had a kind heart.  I did not let on that he had already told his story not once, but several times. Each time, I wait for him to start a flood of tears.  Instead, the tears remain behind the wall, clouding up the eyes that were once brown and full of life. I wonder if he tells the story with the hope that the flood gates will open up, releasing him of his guilt for once and for all.  Perhaps, one day, before his own time runs out, that will happen and he can enjoy just one more Christmas.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Camera, My Friend


I miss my camera.  I only had it for a little under a year and I failed to give it a name.I should have.  It deserved all that and more.  It never left my side.  Most of the time that we were together, my little Canon nestled comfortably in the palm of my left hand, resting and ready to go to work at a second's notice.  I tend to think of my little friend as a "she" for some reason.  Maybe that's because our relationship was intimate and we went everywhere together, inclusive of public restrooms.  So, she's been out and about and she spent ten months sharing a life with me and that is why I sat right down on a bench, clutching her dead body, and I cried like a baby on a street in Chatham on that sad day.  It was the day that I let my seven year old granddaughter take that one last picture......before she handed her to me and we dropped her to the flagstones below.  She hit hard.  I knew this was not going to be good and I felt worse about the fact that I was the only one of us whose life was about to take a turn.  The mommy and the two girls did not seem to have remorse nor did they understand what had just happened or why I was so brokenhearted. She was so much more than a camera. She really, really was.

There are so many things I am not "good" at.  Life on Cape Cod is a proving ground for that.  This little stretch of land is a mecca for people who are really good at things, finding me constantly in the presence of those who wow me and others with their art, their music, writing and multi-talents.  I'm always trying to become better at something but don't usually succeed.  Nobody is more aware of the biggest of all my shortcomings, taking care of myself, than my daughter.  That is precisely why she gifted me with my little Canon digital camera..  She knew I would never treat myself to a new camera as I was leaving for Italy last year and she wanted me to have this, a perfect one.  Sara is a photographer.  She's also an attorney.  She chose the creative life over the law life and is happy with her choice.  I'm sure she prefers seeing people through her own lens, their true selves revealed in ways that would demand so much more than the click of a shutter.  Her memory of her subjects is sharp.  The details of their personalities are preserved, their moods clearly sensed.  If they are relaxed, the photo shows it.  If they are tense or fatigued or in some way unwilling to be the subject, click.....there it is. No trials, no courtrooms.

My camera served me well.  I became good at something.  I became a better viewer, a really good observer of details, recorded with perfection.  Together, we captured faces, places and tiny details.  When I became overwhelmed with all I was seeing and feared that my memory would be lost, she came to my rescue.  Click, click, a shot of an exquisite piece of architecture.  Click, zoom, click and the rose window became mine to study later.  We had a great time seeking out sights and recording them so that nothing would be forgotten.  Her zoom lens made it possible to get in close and personal when we spotted an interesting face, the subject, never guessing that there was a portrait in the making.  Signs, posted bus and train schedules in another language that boggled my mind, no problem. Because she fit so perfectly in my palm, my ineptness could easily go by un-noticed. Click, and they were saved for translation and review later, making me more astute the next day. She was always the smarter of the two of us and there is so much evidence to prove it. Why, there is even a photo of a sign which clearly said that the next train to arrive would be the one that was going in the opposite direction of the one my departing guest wanted to be on.  Click. If only she could have said something more!  I'm sure she died laughing about this one!

Ahem......your train will be along in ten minutes....after the train to Foligno

And I am sure she died.  I even took her to my local camera shop, hoping that I would be getting a phone call telling me to come pick her up,that she was all fixed and ready to be held again.  But no, that was not the call.  She was not "worth" repairing.  The shop owner apologized for not being able to help.  Little did he know how stinging the reference to her worthlessness really was.  But, I accepted the truth and by that time, my initial mourning period had come to an end and a replacement had been ordered, one I will pick up next week when I visit my son who placed the order and has gotten points on his BestBuy account.  It was the least I could do to honor my departed friend.  Her legacy to my one of my children.

It should be noted that I did not ask my daughter to order the new camera.  She can get her own damned points!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful to be Home

The First Thanksgiving, courtesy of Wikipedia

Same time, last year.

Far away from my home, my family, my traditions.

You may have been envying me.  I was in Italy, in Assisi to be precise. I was envying you.

Last year, I bought turkey parts, made green beans with pancetta and brought it all, with a huge bottle of vino, to join friends, Americans who now make their home in Assisi.  Together, at a cold and dirty poor excuse for a "children's museum", we ate dinner.

But this year, it's a whole turkey and I'm warm, and my house is clean and my kids are coming and best of all, we have a toilet with running water.

Don't get me completely wrong.  I enjoyed my day last year.  I just am enjoying my day better this year.  I appreciate all that I have and most of all, the people who allowed me to wander away from them for a few weeks last fall.

So, today I am giving thanks for so many things, not least of all, for the family and the home that we have.
I'm thankful for the beautiful sunshine that lights the pond up as if it were a bag of gold nuggets when we sit down to our breakfast together.  I'm thankful for my friends, here and there, wherever " there" may be.  I have been so very, very blessed with a wide circle of friends who have shared time with me.  Every day of the week is special and I am surrounded by creative people who inspire me, non-stop.

Oh, and SPANX......I'm very thankful for them.  Very.

Thank you, thank you and thank you some more.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Grandest Central Station

I have visited a lot of cities, I mean a really lot of cities, here in the U.S. and abroad.

But, I have to say,without a doubt, hands-down, no favorite city is, always will be, New York.  It's home.  And Grand Central Station, it's the jewel in that crown.

Actress Cynthia Nixon of "Sex and the City" fame, said "Grand Central is everything that New York is. It's big, its loud, its functional, its dysfunctional, it's crowded, it's noisy but it is something that New York is too that we sometimes forget: It is so beautiful."

Photo of Grand Central taken in the 1930's showing sunlight streaming onto the marble floor below

I love this place.  It's so much more to me than a train station.  I holds so much history, personal and public.
Joe's father was once the Assistant Station Master, back in the forties, and he brought so many stories home to my mother in law.  He probably could have written a book.  I'm sure he knew all the secrets and met a lot of celebrities as they passed through.  They had secrets, plenty of them, and they were safe with Joe Guardino.

Once upon a time, I was a commuter.  Each and every week day, for more than ten years, I passed through the great big Main Concourse.  Completed in 1913, this appears today almost identically as it did when it opened.  We can thank Jackie Onassis for that gift, for it was she who led the pack when the fate of this beautiful place was on the mat.  Long story short, the wrecking ball was on its way, fresh on the heels of the destruction of Penn Station, the beautiful old bastion of the West side.  Jackie and a group of other prominent New Yorkers got together and with their clout, they managed to stop what would have been a disaster in the history of the city.                                                                 
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The Hudson Valley and Harlem lines of the Metro North Railroad come in and out by the  hundreds every day.  The Terminal covers over 200,000 square feet at grade level with a series of passageways leading out from the center to the surrounding streets.  Each passageway is unique in character and some actually become part of the ground floors of buildings and hotels. Today, they are clean and well-lit, most of them lined with high-end retail and repair shops, similar to European arcades.  The walls and floors are lined with a soft shade of beige marble and a modern circulation system lends to the feeling of relief as one passes through after a walk from the office on a July day.  There's something about being in these passageways on those humid mornings that makes one want to linger.  The aroma of coffee and pastries from the bakeries and restaurants can easily put an end to a newly planned diet on a Monday morning!  

The sights and smells of Grand Central today are very different from those during another time in her history.  That time, during the seventies and eighties, found this treasure shrouded in grime, littered with remnants of a city that was out on a limb, struggling to keep financially alive.  Crime was at an all-time high and it seemed that leadership wasn't leading the way.  New York, the greatest city in the world, had become the "scariest" city and the station, a microcosm reflecting  much of what was feared.  Passageways were dark, dirty, stuffy and lined with people sleeping on the floor or begging for money.  The passenger waiting room, filled with mahogany benches, once a majestic hall, had become a free hotel for the homeless and the restrooms, off limits to anyone who sought a clean toilet and not carrying a nose plug. It became impossible to keep these rooms clean and safe.  Commuters were scared to take trains at night from what had become a seedbed for stories of petty crime. There were huge billboards, one at either end of the concourse, blocking light from entering and the once spectacular constellation ceiling was covered with black grime.  Hidden now was the Hewlett-Basing Studio treasure that happily would be revealed again in the late nineties thanks to the painstaking work of a team of conservators whose mission was to clean every detail of the heavens.  The cleaning of the celestial ceiling caused even the most seasoned of commuters to gaze upward when passing through the concourse. 

The waiting room at its worst.  It's been replaced by a lovely room on the opposite side of the station
 The vast renovation project went on for several years, one piece of history restored at a time. I was one of those fortunate to have had the opportunity to watch parts of  the restoration during the late nineties.  Many of the restorations, brought to completion by late-night work crews were completed in time for morning rushes of commuters. As the project progressed, it was thrilling to exit from the train, coming into the Concourse, to find a surprise unveiled, one that the day before, was under construction wraps.  During the earliest days of renovation in the late winter and early spring of 1990, the huge Kodak Photo company's sign that hung in the Main Concourse was dismantled.  Working  behind shielding drapery, piece by piece was taken down until finally, the entire sign was gone, allowing the morning light to once again flood the floor to the joy of the people on their way to work.  Changes such as this became a regular occurrence and each of us who frequented the station felt swept up in the anticipation of what would next be revealed in its glory.  A personal favorite memory is that of the day the newly constructed East Staircase was finally completed.  A majestic sweep of steps that led to the east balcony was built to match the renovated staircase at the opposite end of the terminal.  Its arrival was filled with excitement. This, also, was a site shrouded by the construction company and when the shrouds were removed, there it stood.  Beautiful.  Glorious and proud. On the marble wall at its base a plaque honoring Mrs. Onassis hangs today to remind all of her great efforts in saving Grand Central. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, I want to personally thank you for this, one of your greatest achievements.  You were one very classy lady and, as a native New Yorker, I thank you for adopting our city as your home.  I don't know what we would have done without you.


Dear Mayor Beame…is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud moments, until there is nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters…February 24, 1975

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Friends to the......End?

There were very few places to sit while waiting for the train bound to Grand Central Station.  It was a pleasant day, unusually warm for November.  She looked around the tiny waiting room and made a quick decision to exit onto the platform and find a place away from the exuberant children and their parents who might be on their way to the newly opened Christmas Show at Radio City.  It seemed that one stroller held not one, but several toddlers, with tap-dancing siblings who She was certain were only just beginning. So, out, to the left, down the platform and into the morning air she bolted.  It felt good.  She immediately sensed her freedom and welcomed the time to collect her thoughts and review the day ahead.  Plans had been made to meet up with two good friends for a classic New York Saturday morning event, brunch on the Upper East Side, and then she would go on to a free class in fiction writing at the 67th Street library later in the afternoon.  She needed the time to review the whens and wheres before the train arrived. She had a feeling that this would be an especially crowded train with only a few Saturdays left before Christmas.
Ah ha!  A bench with one empty seat.  Perfect.  She sat down, slowly, knowing that the seat would certainly rock if she came down hard, causing the two other occupants to feel the movement and perhaps become annoyed.  This is a skill that one must acquire if one is to survive the rigors of commuting from the suburbs into the city and, after a number of years, she had mastered this and barely made her presence known as she sat down.  There are people who find the slightest movement, coming from a stranger, to be annoying and oftentimes, these, the annoyed, show or speak their disdain.  It's part of being a New Yorker just as much as rolling, never fully stopping, at a red light while driving.  So, when the Other Lady on the bench turned and started to speak, She was ready.  Here it comes, She thought, apology on the way....... But, instead of an expected admonishment, She got a hello.

"Hello, are you on your way to work today?"

A brief "no" and then "Oh, you're done with that?" followed.

"I'm on my way to a Jewish film festival at the JCC today" said the Other Lady.

 Immediately, the conversation took off and had a life of its own as they sat on the bench, exchanging bits and pieces of their current life, where they lived, how they got to the station on this morning, and what life could possibly be like on Cape Cod without a big Jewish population.  Tsk, tsk, such a shame, no JCC on Cape Cod.  They really got a lot in before the arrival of the 10:49 Express.  She appreciated the open conversation, the sharing, the warmth from the wrinkle-faced woman who just minutes before had been a complete stranger but was no longer. They were two new and good friends, sharing a bench, each on their way to a fun day in Manhattan. They exchanged names, "I'm Anita" "I'm Lynn".

The train arrived and they parted.  She was happy in the fact that they would not be sitting together on the train.  Her new friend waved and told her to have a good day and each found their way into separate cars for the thirty minute ride.

Arriving at Grand Central is always a thrill.  It's vast and beautiful.  She never tired of these arrivals, even after the many years of commuting back and forth before her retirement.  The sights, sounds and aromas coming from the food and bakery shops never wore thin.  As she walked from the train, through the concourse, she noticed the throngs of people.  Tourists staring up at the ceiling, guides pointing at the constellations in the painted blue sky above their heads, one of the big attractions in the station.  She weaved in and out of the crowd, glancing at the big brass clock in the middle of the concourse, the famous meeting place.  She calculated that she had just enough time to make it to her lunch date by walking up Lexington Avenue and then over to Second and 74th. She was looking forward to the brisk walk and to seeing what was new since her last visit the month before.  New York is like that.  One day a coffee shop on the corner, the next day it's  a shoe store. As She started past the ticket windows, there, in amongst the array of newly arrived passengers stood her new friend.  She told herself that Anita had been so warm and so inviting and that they had such a chummy conversation before leaving White Plains, she surely would be very happy to see her again so She waved.  It was a huge wave.  She used both arms, swung them high in the air as she called out "Hi Anita!"....... Blank stare."It's Lynn"......Still blank. ."From the train station?".......Blank stare and tiniest hint of recognition. "Oh yes, hello".

Clearly, Anita had moved on.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Life is a Cabaret at the Cinema Paradiso

Ah, what a nice week it has been so far. And, I do not mean the weather.  That's been nice too.  Cold, but nice, the way it is supposed to be in November.

But, such a nice week.  We've had fires in the fireplace.  We've started talking holiday plans, made some reservations for a weekend away with our best friends, and yesterday afternoon, I got to sit next to my dear sweet friend Miriam Kronish at our little Broadway Musicals class in Orleans. Together, we shared our love of the genre with a special treat of my all time favorite "Cabaret".  We both know it is so much more than an entertaining dramatic piece.  It's positively brilliant and loaded with metaphors.

Sometimes, I can't believe I'm even in the same room with Miriam.  She's famous.  A retired school principal from a huge Boston area system, she's won awards, given lectures worldwide, and there isn't anyone who's ever taught anything in this state who does not sing her praises.  She's the high priestess of education and there is not one thing that she does not know.  And she loves me.  She tells me that all the time.  My own Mrs. Rogers in my own neighborhood.  I save her a seat at the Broadway class and she, me at the Friday documentary class where we oftentimes look at each other, and raise and eyebrow or two when we hear a comment that shows traces of intolerance of prejudice.  We're both native New Yorkers and we find ourselves on the same page lots of the time.  Miriam is older than I but time eludes her. "Oklahoma" was the first show she saw as a child. She's a kid's kid and she won't sit down, especially when there's music in the air.

We met last winter in Ira Wolfson's (he's another of my super-heroes) class on Holocaust Literature.  There were three of us in that class.  I suppose the title scared a lot of other potential intellectuals off. When I told friends that I would be enrolling in the course, given by the Academy for Life Long Learning, I heard the strangest remarks. "Why?" was the overriding theme.  "Why not?" was my constant answer.  I was drawn and I followed and never regretted it for one moment. It wasn't long into the course that I realized that destiny had played her hand and my meeting Miriam was not a simple coincidence.  It was that part of my life that had been missing that she gave so generously.  Week after week, for three months, Ira, Miriam and I read, discussed and shared views.  Miriam knew the exact gaps that needed filling in my knowledge and understanding of that period in time.  It mattered not that I was raised a Christian, a Catholic girl who only knew one side of my family.  The other side, unexplored and mysterious.  I had a sense, and still do, that Ira and Miriam knew more about my heritage than I.  Someday, I'm going to find the answers.

Cinema Paradiso [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] [Special Limited Edition]

Last night, Joe's Italian Literature book club met for an unusual evening.  Instead of discussing their current read, they met at the home of one of their members for dinner and a movie. I was invited to join them.  This is a lovely group of people who gather once a month and share their views on what they have read.  They don't tackle easy reads, everything is a challenge, but they seem to love the choices.  After dinner, we sat down together and watched "Cinema Paradiso", another of my all time favorites.  Such a beautiful movie.  Gorgeous music and the best ending of any movie, ever.  I cry every time I see it.  A little boy, and his beloved mentor, Alfredo.  The movie house in the center of the town.The slices of lives, rich with meaning. The film is a collection of  perfect metaphors on life and times.  As I age, I "get" life so much more, just as did Toto, the boy who's life we view from childhood to age 48. In the end, we see him as the sum of the parts, a grown man who never went back, just as intstructed by Alfredo.

Life is filled with mentors.  People are out there, ready and willing to show us the way.  Sometimes, we get lucky and we locate our mentors and metaphors and figure them out before it is too late.  Tomorrow, I'm back in New York, taking another writing workshop, just adding to the mix, one ingredient at a time. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On the Meat Rack

We had a surprise visitor yesterday.  An early season snowfall that started mid morning and left a nice carpet of white on the ground and trees.  It was just enough snow to satisfy those of us who find it incredibly beautiful and not enough to scare us. I don't want to ruin this moment, the one I am now enjoying so much as I look out the window and see that the lawn is still covered and there is a glow cast by lights from the apartments of other early risers.  I just don't want to think back to last winter's snowfall that left us without power for three days.  No, I'll not allow that to rob me of this pleasure, not yet.

Yesterday's weather was in sharp contrast to the day before's.  Monday was a holiday, Veteran's Day.  Joe had the day off from teaching his fitness classes and his suggestion of a trip up to Provincetown was met with total approval and anticipation of a great day out.  And, it was.  The sky was blue, the air was just a tad bit chilly and Provincetown was the place to be....for us.  We had lunch at our favorite place, Fanizzi's, and then we did our favorite stroll up Commercial Street.  We like to park the car in the east end of town and walk as far west as we can.  It is a great way to get exercise and, without the tourists, the sidewalks are easy to negotiate.  This is not the case during the tourist season.  We are so fortunate.  Every year, thousands flock to this tiny town, overcrowding streets, restaurants, shops and bars.  While the "sights" may be more entertaining during the Summer months, we find the sights of the real P-town after Labor Day to be much more so.  The air is clear and clean.  The architecture, stunning.  Most of the shops and restaurants are still open, and will be until Christmas.  There are sales and the people who work in the shops and restaurants are happy to take the time.  The frenzy of being in service to tourists has died down and oh, what a difference.

I have been a lover of Provincetown since my early adolescence.  My parents spent three weeks of every summer from the first time they visited until they finally bought their own beachfront home, in a rented cottage on Beach Point.  Provincetown holds lots of memories for me.  My brother's first successful business was, and still is, on Commercial Street where he and his partner brought the first "slice" pizza to town.  Today, "Spiritus Pizza" is a landmark  When I look at the benches in front of Town Hall, I remember hours and hours, sitting there with my friend Liz.  It was called the "meat rack" in those days and the Cafe Poyant and Gene's Bakery were next door.  Do you remember "beatniks"?  I sure do.  I wanted to be one so badly and did a decent job of proving that when I returned to school after my three week indoctrination course.  Those benches held many secrets.  Liz and I still can share many a laugh but we're not telling.  Just sayin' we managed to avoid serial killers, that's all.

So, on Monday, we walked Commercial Street and I was once again reminded of the past seasons and today, I'm reminded of the beauty of the current season.  I'm on a different meat rack now, watching birds in trees in my back yard  instead of boys on the street.  My beatnik heart is still alive and I'm exactly where I want to be, living less than an hour away from my beloved P-town with my very conventional husband who allows me to live the life I planned fifty years ago. Life is very good.

For more about vintage Provincetown:
And, if perchance you're under age 60:

Friday, November 8, 2013


Jean Pinkowitz "Ben and Emily After Soccer at ACT Day Camp, Summer 1986"
The announcement of Launch Pad Gallery's show "family" in November, 2009

The sweet photo was handed out in my Friday writing class last week.  It was one of a batch of photos that June asked us to pick from.  The assignment was to write about the photo after viewing it, write anything about it that you wish.  The technique is called "Ekphrastic" writing and it is one that can be a huge challenge.  Here is the photo I selected and here's my interpretation.  Of course, it  is best to not know the title of the photo beforehand but, credit goes where credit is due.

It's Christmas Eve.  I am a very young child.  My brother is almost two years older than I.  We are doing what we do every Christmas Eve.  We live in a duplex house, our aunt, cousin and uncle live upstairs and we, down.  My father is a New York City policeman who works shifts year-round, holidays included.   We are upstairs, in my mother's sister's apartment and, along with her family and my grandparents, we sadly say good bye to Daddy. After a series of kisses and hugs, he slips off into the early evening.  Poor Daddy, he always has to work the second shift on Christmas Eve.  He never gets to stay with us.  He always has to miss out on seeing Santa.  He's sad and so are we.  All the adults make sure that he is sent off with fanfare and a host of regrets as he has to leave  us on the one night of the year that he would most like to be present.  Mommy kisses him goodbye at the door and watches as he makes his way down the stairs.

The scents of that evening, the aromas of Christmas Eve dinner, pasta, fish and traditional baked goods, course through my memory.  The air of anticipation.  I can almost transport myself back in time to one of those eves and I see the glow of candlelight in a living room of greens and golds. I can hear Aunt Millie playing carols on the piano as we sing along.  I can feel my grandmother's soft arms wrapped around me, sitting in her warm lap.  My cheeks are rosy red and my eyes reflect the bubble lights of the huge Christmas tree.  A miniature train set circles the tree, surrounding a group of tiny skaters on a pond that once was a mirror. My brother and our two boy cousins, dressed  in their robes and Christmas pajamas, roll playfully around the floor.  I sit quietly and watch them. I'm clad in a  blue and red plaid robe and my freshly washed hair is silky and golden colored.  The mothers are in the kitchen with Uncle Augie, leaving only grandparents and children alone in the livingroom and I hear hushed voices.  Whispers.  And then, a loud knock on the door, bells loudly jingling. My heart starts to race and my eyes widen further  The adults jump to their feet, run to the window and look out as the children remain in place, stunned by the excitement.  Santa has arrived, and once again, Uncle Charlie has just missed him by moments.

I cried and kicked and had to be held tightly.  My fear of Santa did not leave me for years.  But, I always managed to reach an arm out to grab my gift before returning to the sofa and the safety of Grandma's lap where I remained until Santa went back into the night shouting "ho, ho, ho, merrrrrry Chirstmas".  The routine was played out in much the same fashion as we progressed through our childhood with  Daddy's return home from "work" to a chorus of "you JUST missed Santa!!" Year after year, one by one we would catch on and the magic would be diminished by one child at a time.

 We have finally managed to fall asleep after the excitement of the evening has worn off.   This year, he, the oldest of the family's children has "caught on" but he won't let his secret out, not this year.  His little sister still believes in the magic and, together they drift off.   His dream is of sweet satisfaction, he has a tiny smirk on his lips, his secret is safe, at least until next year.  Her lips reveal a sweet smile as visions of sugarplums waltz by.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

RIP Eugene Martinez

Eugene Martinez, second from the right, wearing a name tag

Today is the anniversary of my first day in Assisi, one year ago.  I've already written so much about my thoughts in recollection.  My memories are vivid, especially of the day after my arrival.  It was a drizzly Sunday and my friends Giselle and Mark Stafford picked me up for our trip to Umbertide.  We had all been invited to a luncheon birthday party that was hosted by an American woman who lived in a tiny but charming home.  Elizabeth, the hostess, was a native Californian, now a resident and an author.  Her latest book had recently been published.  She was not the only published author in this group of ex-pats. Nor was she the only accomplished cook in this group.  Not by any means I would soon discover.

The fire roared, the wine flowed, the guests arrived, filling the kitchen with food and the house with lots of conversation and laughter.  There were five birthdays celebrated.
Buon Compleanno
The final guests arrived, much later than the first wave.  Antonio and Eugene had made their way through the light fog, from their home near Florence, and now it was time for all to sit and enjoy the food and the company.  As the "outsider" I was lavished with the attention of the guests and made to feel welcomed, the greatest of feelings after having left my home, traveled so far alone, and anticipated a month on my own.  
Because of my friendship with the Staffords, so many of the new faces felt instantly familiar to me, almost as if they were characters in a book I had recently completed.  Here they were, coming alive.  They knew I was from America and that I was a friend of their friends, but little else.  I knew much more about each of them from Facebook postings and descriptions of previous times spent together with Giselle and Mark.  

Of all the guests with whom I felt an instant connection, it was Eugene Martinez.  He and I had been corresponding via instant messages for months, having been virtually introduced by Giselle.  Not only was Eugene American, he also was a New Yorker who grew up not far from my childhood home.  He was educated in America, having studied Art History at NYU.  He met his life-partner of thirty three years, the charming Antonio Alfani when they both worked together as textile designers in New York. Antonio was to become the cooking instructor for the company that they shared, Ars Opulenta.  Eugene,  gentle and soft-spoken,  became the premier guide to the art and history of Florence.  The region of Chianti, high in the Tuscan hills, was their home.  It was both a pleasure and an honor to share an afternoon with them.

Antonio's book, now available in the U.S. in English and on Kindle from Amazon

I kept up with Eugene and Antonio from time to time throughout this past year.  I have an amazing piece of Antonio's artwork, a beautifully decoupaged bowl, that sits on a table in our home, a place of honor that allows us to be constantly reminded of these lovely people.  I sent my friends Jenny and Bill to Eugene when they honeymooned in Italy and they fell in love with this kind and incredibly gifted man.  They told me that they would not have had as rich an experience in seeing the artworks in Florence had they not spent a day with him.  I'm sure that was true.

On Friday, I sent a birthday greeting to my friend Gisellle.  I would not be there to help celebrate this year but had her in my thoughts.  She was happy, enjoying her day and her life.  Not unusual for her.  She's the role model for how to enjoy a day and a life, always brilliantly happy and so willing to share, including her most precious gifts, her friends who love her.

Giselle and Eugene one year ago, in Umbertide

On Saturday, word went out and all who knew him, even as little as I, felt saddened.  Eugene passed from this earth almost exactly to the day that I met him.  

Life, death, both inevitable, both uncertain.  

RIP, Eugene.  And to Antonio, our hearts and prayers and our hope that you will get some of your life back in due time and you will continue to bring beauty and joy into the lives of so many others as you and Eugene did so well together.  A very special final thought.  On that day, at that birthday party, Antonio paid me a compliment, one I will never forget, one that has virtually changed my life. I hope to have the opportunity to repay him in person one day.  For now, I am, with my prayers.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Same Time, Last Year

On November the first, 2012, my friend Lois dropped me off in Barnstable for the bus that would take me to Logan Airport in Boston.  Over a cup of coffee during our wait, she handed me a book of blank pages.  On the cover of the book, the word "thoughts" repeated over and over.  With an understanding smile on her face, all she said was "write everything down" journey had only just begun.  After hours and hours, bus, planes and trains, I would arrive to the waiting arms of my friends in Umbria.

"Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts"

Thank you Lois.

It's hard for me to believe that a year has passed since my journey.  Really hard.  My life has been altered in so many positive ways and I am aware of these changes as I pass through my current life.  I have stories and memories to fill a lifetime.  I've made new friends there and here and have spent countless hours reflecting on the roles that they play in my life and me, in theirs.  Hours now have new meaning.  I think about time a lot, visualizing over and over the hours that I spent in Assisi.  Walks that became for me, meditations. Walks that lasted for hours .Bits of my day spent watching other lives in motion around me.  I drew conclusions and made comparisons, all the while reflecting on my past, my cultural heritage and how all the pieces fit together.  Every little detail mattered. And I wrote all of it down.
On the other end of the ocean, my wonderful friends Giselle and Mark who met me at the train in Trevi and brought me to Assisi

 It occurs to me now, that the first meal that I prepared for myself while there, was chicken soup.  Without a thought, I cooked to calm myself, to "get better", in much the same way my grandmother and mother might have were one of us physically ailing.  How appropriate and how perfect a choice at the start or my journey. I often think back to the way each of those days had their start.  The adage that says no matter where you go, there you are, keeps resurfacing.  I'm an early riser here.  I was an early riser there.  My morning routine replicated what it has been since my retirement. One that has changed since my return..... Early up, followed by a series of preparations for the day ahead and always, tidying up  The routine was completed at the same time every day. I allow myself now to be surrounded by "works in progress" and find comfort in knowing that some things improve after sitting on my desk, that creativity comes when I least expect it and I don't want to miss it when it arrives.  Tidiness has taken on a different appearance. The new order puts my own needs very up front.  Gratefully, I have a husband and grown children who delight in and respect that idea.
The beautiful kitchen in my beautiful apartment

Looking out the window and to the left from #20 Via San Paolo

 I did not have a clock in the apartment on San Paolo. I moved to a natural clock.  I cleaned and kept house to please only myself .  Pleasing and gifting myself  have become parts of a newer me.  If my routine is interrupted it is at my personal command. A gift that keeps on giving.  From me, to me just as I gifted myself with special purchases over the course of that month. In honor of a new commitment, I just made another purchase from the shop in Assisi where I bought the perfume that I wear almost every day. The scent, called "Profumo D'Umbria"  is made up of beautiful florals that remind me of a special time in a special place. The scent called to me weeks before I left this country. After seeing a post on Facebook, I contacted the shop owner and we started a dialog. It was the first essential purchase made in Assisi.  Pietro, the owner, told me about Elna, the lovely artist who would eventually teach me that there was a reason behind my self-indulgences. Gifting, because I was happy with myself.  She is the person who also taught me what to do with seashells and I have been using them in little works of art ever since. There is something beautifully eerie about a Danish woman, living in Assisi, who works with seashells of the same variety found on Cape Cod. Here is one of her creations
On the wall in Elna's apartment

My "Madonna"


Pietro Mariottini, the lovely man who owns BAT Assisi

 My creative life is so much livelier now.  My thoughts in solitude were not vacant.  What I saw through my eyes and heard with my ears went to folders in my brain, waiting to be re-opened months later. The sounds of the angels singing Lodi in Santa Chiara at precisely six forty five in the morning, still deeply imprinted there. What I missed with my eyes, my camera, always in the palm of my hand, captured. That little camera became my best friend.  Not only did it serve to remind me of details I would later forget, but it reminded me of the kindness and wisdom of my daughter who first placed it in my hands. Her words, "Take pictures of the faces Mom"  like those of Lois' ran through my mind like clouds racing across the autumn sky.
                                     Early morning, waiting to enter Santa Chiara for Lodi


  In my bliss, I had little knowledge of the continuing saga on my homeland.  Words in the American press that told of loss after loss due to the power and strength of Superstorm Sandy.  Photos of places, once beloved homes of strangers, now reduced to rubble. In the little town of Assisi, I was sheltered from this news just as I was from any news.  Of importance was that which  happened in the moment, laced with parts of my past.  Peace and goodness filled my spaces.

I wear color now, with black as my underlay, all kinds of bright colors are now parts of my life.  My new friend Josie Comodi is all about color.  She's the silk artist I wrote about last year. Her wisdom, her tenacity and her life, so different now from her former life in the corporate world, inspired me and filled my life with hope. Her legacy to me....a painted silk, created for the Hope Hospice in Sandwich Massachusetts.  It was her special gift and I had the privilege of witnessing it from its birth as a piece of white silk to its completion as a beautiful reminder in colors and glitters.  A reminder that life is filled with joy, even when it is approaching an end.  The silk will be hung at the hospice as soon as their renovations have been completed. From Italy, with love.

Beautiful Josie Comodi

As I write this, I hear rain on the rooftop of our apartment.  The sun is having great problems rising.  The day does not hold much promise for the brilliance that the days of October delivered.  That's okay.  It will be nice to have some extra quiet time, to be with my husband all day and later this evening to meet up with our friends Lu and Joanne for dinner.  I'm sure that when Lu called to ask if we were free for dinner, she did not remember that we would be dining on this particular evening.  I think it is lovely.  Lu was one of those friends who understood and supported me during my mother's illness and death.  A memory on this side of the ocean sees me in my car, my cell phone ringing and her incredible response to my weeping.  I had just picked up my mother's ashes and now, had one more task to confront, finding a suitable container for the funeral service which would be the next day.  "Just come home" she told me.  "I'll help you shop".

I've come home.  My friends who cared, they all helped me.  They allowed me to tell my stories and never alluded to my having spent time on a "vacation".  The "journey" was understood and as good friends do, they shared this with me until I tired of the telling and they. of the listening. You know who you are, my friends and you know who you aren't as well - just in case you're wondering......if you haven't heard from me in a while, there IS a reason.

To all of you, then, who gave me the stories, thank you. And  to all of you who have been so incredibly patient and understanding by allowing  me to share them, thank you.

And most of all, to my husband who supported me all the way, every day, bless you my dear friend.

To my son, who I know understood and to my daughter who totally got "it", my heart overflows with love for you both.

It's been a very good year.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween, Part Four.....and the Survey Says.......

In a manner most fitting, the Cape Cinema in Dennis had a Halloween showing of the National Theater Live's production of Frankenstein last night.  Produced in 2011, this critically-acclaimed version of Mary Shelley's classic was meticulously directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle. It was magnificent and thought provoking.

Along with the notions of good and evil, viewers were asked to think about the themes of scientific responsibility, cognitive development and the effects of parental neglect. The neurotic Doctor Victor Frankenstein created a living, breathing, nameless creature whose biggest desire was to be accepted as a human.  A scientist, and  man of great vision, Frankenstein used his intellect and  gifts in ways that, in the end, proved to be not only irrational but irresponsible.  After all, creating a monster who killed innocent people is not exactly a socially responsible endeavor.  The first twenty minutes of Boyle's stage play shows the creature  as he is born, bursting from what appears to be a huge amniotic sac. Incapable of much more than a series of  flips and flops on the ground, his brain an empty canvas, he must first learn to walk.  The birth of intelligence, with the rapid acquisition of cognitive skills astonish us as we watch the monster mimic and learn. We see the pathetic scorned creation of Victor Frankenstein, unloved and uncared for by his only parent after repeated attempts to gain his attention.  In the end, both father and son go off toward their mutual demise. Was it all worth it?

Hours before leaving our home for last evening's show, I read about a study which was almost as frightening as Mary Shelley's novel.  This study, by "Common Sense Media", a non-profit children's advocacy group, says that 38% of children under age two, have had experience with mobile media. Children, just learning to walk, have used mobile devices, including iPhones,tablets and Kindles.  The figures have skyrocketed  from a mere 10% in 2011. This statistic might not come as a surprise to anyone who has visited a playground, a mode of public transportation or a restaurant in the past several years.  Recently, I watched a baby, surely not even eighteen months old, holding a small touchscreen device which displayed a kiddie video meant to amuse as his mother grocery shopped.  We don't have to be told that children are using smartphones and tablets for longer periods of time, watching videos and playing games.  We witness this, every day and everywhere. In addition, we see parents, eyes glued to their own touch devices, seemingly ignoring their children.  Is this the new neglect? Or is this the new parenting?  It's scary either way.

I just can't help but wonder where all of this is heading.  True, the babies of today are growing up to face a world very different from their grandparent's, even from their own parent's.  We hear that schools are allowing students to bring their devices to school and, with careful monitoring, teachers who now teach in a digital age find this beneficial.  The Brave New World is here and the babies have so much to learn.  Or do they?  Will the future generations need to learn anything or will they have all the information they could possibly need, right before their eyes at all times?  Will they have to acquire social skills or will their connections be exclusive to the devices in their hands?  What will future hands actually look like? Will all digits be in use in the digital age or will we see hands with large thumbs and no others. When I think back to the report cards of our yesterdays, I see columns checked off by teachers.  "Plays well with others", the prerequisite to "works well with others" stands out in my mind.  I fear the total demise of social grace and skills approaching as the percentages laid out by the Common Sense Media report rapidly escalate.

Is science being irresponsible?  Perhaps Mary Shelley, back in the early nineteenth century had a message for us, one that we need to ponder carefully as our civilization progresses.  Is technology creating a nameless monster?   I find myself asking again, was it all worth it?

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Morning and the Painters are Still Here!!

Ladders thumping against the side of the house, boom, boom as they hit

Long, long lengths of heavy duty electrical cords, extended everywhere that I need to be

Green paint

Black paint, railings that will take days to dry

Already got some green paint on one of my favorite new thrift shop bargain rain coats.Can you imagine, I snagged it for five bucks and it sold for over a hundred originally. Painters told me it will come out.  We'll see.

Boom box boomba di boomba.  I think it's Portuguese. A lot of the men are Brazilian.  Loud and lively.  Good, because they need it to work and so do I.  All those parties this week meant laundry did not get done.  Now, it's getting done.

I'm sitting here, watching a guy on a ladder, way high up on the house next door.  Not one thought to safety.  If he falls, he'll get hurt and won't be able to work unsafely or otherwise for a very long time.  But he does not seem to care so I'll close the curtain and stop being an occupational health nurse for now.  Or a mother.

Oh, joy!  Someone is blowing leaves with a noisy leaf blower.  What's next?

All of this reminds me of the workmen underneath the window in Assisi.  Also young, foolish, unconcerned about their safety or the well-being of the residents.

No matter where you go, there you are.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Parts Two and Three. I Get Inspired by my Friends

Very soon, it will be time to start what I hope might result in the loss of some body fat.  But, this is not the week for any measurement of success in that particular area of my life.

Halloween, Part Two came yesterday and Part Three, just this afternoon.  Two luncheons with two groups of wonderful friends.

Every Tuesday morning, a small group of us gather at the home of our friend Lois.  We're all former members of a series of classes that were taught at the Museum of Art in Dennis.  That's where we all met for the first time and the bond formed.  We've been pursuing our creative dreams since then and while it has come in many forms, the bottom line is and always has been, fun.  Tuesday mornings feel very much like our kindergarten days. Pam says we're going to Brownies.  Boxes of paints,seashells, papers and whatever it takes to create what we may all have earlier dreamed up, appear on a table for sharing.  Scissors fly as we cut and tear.  Glitter is poured out as we sparkle our conversations and sometimes, we succeed in making something good enough to take home and put on display. Our coffee hour often morphs into prosecco time.

Yesterday, Lois hosted our Second Annual Halloween luncheon and it was a doozy.  She's a fabulous cook, loves to entertain, and does it all so well.  The entire house was decorated, Martha Stewart was channelled and the food was amazing.  The "Tuesdays at Loie's" group had a heck of a good time.

Lois' Dining Room

Several months ago, a group of five women met for the first time at a local coffee house for the purpose of sharing their creative lives.  That group is now up to fourteen members. The premise is that  creativity is inborn.  Human beings, by their nature, are creative.  It's just that sometimes we get sidetracked.  We don't believe that we have the ability because someone might have told us otherwise.  Perhaps, in our childhood, we were given the wrong message. Even if we do realize our creative talent, we often get too busy.  There are so many reasons why people need to be pushed back into their creative lives and that is exactly what we, the "Creative Chatters" do for each other.  We decide on a word and we create, based on that word.  Some of us write, some draw, some collage, some paint and one quilts. We surprise each other, like show and tell for grown ups.  We're strictly a no-judgement zone.  Everything is wonderful and the stories.......they are fun.  We're friends and we inspire each other as friends should.

Today, we gathered at "Chatter" Imogene's for a potluck holiday lunch and again, all the stoppers were pulled.  Her lovely house was decorated, the table was full of  fun and the food, way too much of a good thing.  We said "yes" to everything and we had no regrets.  There's always a next week, isn't there?

The hostess with the mostess

I'm exhausted.  But geesh, how lucky can one woman be.  I have to laugh every time I'm asked by an off-Cape person, about how we spend our time when summer ends.  We kind of would like to keep it somewhat of a secret because we love the peace and calm after the busy season.  Truth is, we have a life, a good one.  Friendships are very, very important to us and when we are together, we understand the meaning of life and we truly are inspired by each other.  Each and every day of the year.  Not just Halloween. What we don't have, we create because it's in each and every one of us to do that and it's all okay.