Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It Wasn’t A Root Canal

It was just an appointment to replace a very old filling in an upper molar. Part of the presenting problem was an errant bit of filling bothering the gum - rather like glue squished out between two boards, it was outboard of the tooth. But the job took a little longer than expected. The dentist did a great job with the Novacaine (enough to feel no pain, but not so much that half your face goes numb), but as the afternoon wore on and the Novacaine wore off, the interested quadrant of my mouth began to throb. So acetaminophen and naproxen sodium were rustled up and I’m feeling much better.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rebates & Experiments

The hunt for and research about a new washing machine continues. The other day my niece Kate recommended looking for rebates. At that point I couldn’t find anything on the MassSave website. But since then, Vice President Joe Biden helped Chuck find these relevant rebates which include washing machines! There are rules and it’s first come, first served, but it’s worth a look.

We also took the plunge on a new laundry detergent. (Shocking, I know!) We bought Trader Joe’s HE Liquid Laundry Detergent. I’ve used it only twice. None of the clothes were particularly grungy to begin with and all came out fine. The TJ’s detergent is scented with lavender. But once the clothes were rinsed, (even) I could detect absolutely NO fragrance! I’ll keep you posted...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Da Dum, Da Dum, Da Dum...*

Thanks to WBZ Weather

: : We had a run of great weather; now rain for a few days; to be followed by more nice weather - bordering on the hot. But for some reason, this rainstorm has closed in on me. Looking at the next wave of rain headed our way, made me want to crawl into bed and pull the covers up and maybe over. Compared to many parts of New England facing another round of dangerous flooding, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. So I shall move on.

: : On a small town note, Chuck recently attended a Meet The Candidates night. (Here in Massachusetts, local elections are often held in the spring; national and statewide elections usually in the autumn.) You can read a statement published in the newspaper by a candidate running for local office. But you can’t beat seeing how they present themselves in front of their fellow citizens. It’s especially illuminating to listen and observe how they answer questions from those citizens. In some towns candidates run unopposed, or slates are empty. So we really are lucky to have folks interested in serving. I was unable to go, but I trust Chuck’s instincts. When he reported back and gave me some examples from the presentations and the Q & A, I felt ready to head to the polls.

: : This article and this photograph both made me smile. Chag Sameach!

*That title is supposed to evoke the theme from the movie "Jaws"!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spang On

New York Times Columnist Frank Rich is, in my opinion, exactly correct when he writes: “The Rage Is Not About Health Care”. Cogent and heavily hot-linked, his piece is definitely worth reading.

Lights Out

Earth Hour

8:30 p.m.
local time


Learn more at My Earth

Thanks to Jeff and Ronnie for the reminders!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Check Mate

Here in the U.S. they run an awful lot of advertisements for dating services. They talk about the science, simplicity and safety of having their particular service match you with your true love. We have two reactions when we see these ads: 1. Thank God we’re not looking. And 2. They never would have matched us!

On paper there is very little Chuck and I have in common. He likes classical music; I tolerate it. He does crossword puzzles daily; I think them unnecessarily abstruse. He’s very social and outgoing; I believe good fences make good neighbors. He was raised Jewish; I was raised Catholic. When we met, Chuck enjoyed his role as an intellectual snob: while I liked to have my finger on the pulse of popular culture. He listened to NPR; I watched MTV (back when they aired videos!). He grew up in the midwest; I’m Rhode Island all the way. He is fifteen years my senior; umm - same in reverse. Then there was the whole taxes issue, which I’m not sure if dating services poll people on, but which took a couple of decades and Barack Obama to resolve for us.

Now, I suppose, if they dug deeply enough, any dating service (or more likely a human matchmaker, a shadchen) would figure out that we share a common set of values. They also would figure out that we both love to laugh. But would they have any idea that we laugh at a lot of the same things - Marx Brothers and Three Stooges excepted? How would they know that word play makes us ridiculously happy and to do it in multiple languages is a grand slam? Speaking of baseball, we were both just casual baseball fans, but, after meeting, became devoted Boston Red Sox fans together. Where are the boxes to tick for all that?

When we met, we knew. No, we didn’t know we would marry one day. But we did feel a connection; a sense of old friends reuniting; a spark. I don’t know how the dating services figure that out. I’m just happy we were lucky enough not to require outside assistance.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Flower Show

For many years we attended the New England Flower Show. It used to be something we did as part of Chuck’s birthday celebration. It was also a way of cheating during those final snowy/muddy/rainy/raw days of waning winter with a deep breath of (indoor) spring. But the last few years we went, the show was a little thin, a little tired. Last year, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society canceled the show entirely and we thought that would be that. But the other day Chuck spotted an ad in the newspaper for the “Boston Flower and Garden Show”. Some on-line sleuthing showed that Mass Horticultural was still involved, but a different organizer was hosting it - and for a shorter period of time than the old New England shows had run.

This afternoon Chuck suggested we give the new show a whirl. We drove in on the Mass Pike and it was very easy to get to the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston. The Seaport area has been transformed in recent years and it was initially difficult to get our bearings, but it was very easy to navigate. There was plenty of fee parking available. The area was busy but not overly congested. The Seaport World Trade Center is located between the Fish Pier and the Anthony’s Pier 4 - the same pier where the Institute of Contemporary Art is located. The Seaport location is a vast improvement over the old Bayside Expo Center.

This year’s incarnation of the Boston Flower and Garden Show was nice, but not spectacular. The exhibition area was significantly smaller than the New England Shows, therefore with far fewer exhibitors. While all the plantings looked fresh and cheerful, no one display really stopped us in our tracks or made us want to take notes and linger. The commercial area where businesses small and large can sell their wares abutted the exhibition area, which was a new arrangement. And it was mercifully smaller than the New England shows used to be. Nothing jumped out at us and demanded to be bought, but lots of folks had armloads of flowers and full shopping bags.

I’m very happy we went. It was absolutely a breath of spring. But my socks are still on. Will we go back next year? If it is held in the same location, it’s likely we would. If it has been a particularly cold, long, snowy winter - yes!

Here are a few photos:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


We’ve been thinking (a lot) about a new washing machine. Our 1990 model has been repaired many times and is acting up again. It’s not an Energy Star model. In fact, it predates the formation of Energy Star by two years. It’s a top load model. Now, of course, the front load style are all the rage. They’re supposed to be more energy efficient and use less water. They even come in snazzy colors like sports cars. Which makes someone of my years wonder if they still call appliances “white goods”.

In addition to thinking about washing machines, we are also researching them. Yes, that means Consumer Reports and The Googles. We were humming along, narrowing the field until we read that the front loading machines require special laundry detergent, something called HE for High Efficiency. Screeeech! I am extremely particular about laundry detergent. I only use Tide Free Powder. The Free stands for absolutely no fragrance whatsoever. I can’t handle smells - that includes the supposedly good ones like “country fresh” and “spring breeze” and “summer rain” and “why yes I do need a cloud of perfume encircling me like the dust swirls around Peanuts’ Pig-Pen”.

I headed to the Tide website. There’s no Tide Free HE Powder for front loading machines. They do have a Tide Free HE Liquid for front loading machines. But as I read through the reviews of the other Tide HE Liquid laundry detergents, I was not impressed with some of the evaluations. Folks complained about the overpowering smell. But worse than that, they mentioned the clothes aren’t getting clean enough. One reviewer also mentioned a residue on the inside of the machine which smelled bad and stained the clothes. Eeeeeek!

Dear Readers,

My questions are: Do any of you have a front loading washing machine? Are you happy with it? Have you found any problems with it? How about the HE laundry detergents - what works for you?

Thank you in advance,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Down The Rabbit Hole

In a brief but staggering piece over at The Daily Beast, John Avlon provides an early report on the results of a new Harris Poll. (The complete results will be released tomorrow.) The poll looked at what Republicans believe about President Barack Obama. Some examples:

- 24% believe Obama “may be the Antichrist”
- 67% believe Obama is a Socialist
- 45% believe Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"
- A “high percentage” believe Obama is a “racist” and “anti-American”

I shouldn’t have been shocked. But I was.

The 2008 campaign became ugly. The 2009 summer of the angry town hall meetings was far uglier. It was not just citizens, but elected officials; political leaders who were in the thick of the hate speech. But we are absolutely down the rabbit hole now (replete with Mad Tea Parties). We’re witnessing huge numbers of distortions, flat out lies, fear mongering, bigotry and calumny. What induces the feelings of disorientation and nausea, akin to that of funhouse mirrors, is that these outrageous falsehoods are being wrapped in the flag and declared patriotic.

We have to learn the truth and speak the truth, not “to power” as the Quakers advised, but to the power of the lies. Because, unfortunately, this is not Alice’s dream, but our new, strange reality.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Real Change

"I'm asking you to believe.
Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington...
I'm asking you to believe in yours."

- President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you! Thank you for your efforts at bipartisanship. And thank you for finally pushing back from the negotiating table and moving forward with health insurance reform. The Republicans were not acting in good faith. It was time to bring about the change we desired when we elected you and all those Democrats to Congress.

It’s a good piece of legislation. I don’t want to seem rude or presumptuous or impatient. But while the Republicans are listening to the noisy, bigoted, ill-informed minority and trying to figure out how to repeal the bill you’re about to sign, we need to push forward. We need a strong, vigorous Public Option.

Yes, I absolutely do believe in your ability to bring about real change in Washington. And yes, I believe in my ability to bring about real change in Washington as well. That’s why I’m not just saying “thank you”. I’m saying “what’s next?” I believe what’s next is the Public Option.


Lee/Pink Granite
and my husband Chuck too...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yes We Can!

The U.S. House of Representatives passed Health Insurance reform!
H.R. 3590, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, now goes to President Obama.
H.R. 4872, Reconciliation, now goes to the U.S. Senate for their final vote.

Here is a list of “The Top Ten Immediate Benefits You'll Get When Health Care Reform Passes”.

“...the work goes on,
the cause endures,
the hope still lives
& the dream shall never die.”

- Senator Ted Kennedy first at the 1980 Democratic National Convention and again at the 2008 Democratic Convention

“The work begins anew.
The hope rises again.
And the dream lives on.”

- Senator Ted Kennedy at the 2008 Democratic Convention

Thank you Teddy for all you did on our behalf.
I can’t help but believe that we would have gotten an even stronger piece of legislation, had you still been here working for us, on the cause of your life.

: : Update: Here is the link to the video and the text of President Obama’s address to the nation this evening on health care reform.

: : Update II: Here is a link to an additional summary of “10 Things Every American Should Know About Health Care Reform”.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Early Riser

Chuck and I took advantage of the warm, but still mostly pre-buggy weather to get some yardwork done. It all went smoothly except for a wayward pricker cane which caught me hard on the side of my neck. Yowza!

As we were working in front of the house I spotted this little crocus bud. Based on photographs from past Springs, this unusually warm weather has sped up the season quite a bit. Of course, snowfalls in April are not unheard of around here, so we won’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We’ll just enjoy the moments.

Vicious Vitriol

Today there was another gathering of the tea party-er types in Washington D.C. Last September I wrote about what I saw as the racism at the core of their blind rage.

Today, once again, they revealed themselves as angry bigots, screaming racial epithets at Democratic African American members of Congress, including the venerable John Lewis of Georgia. Additionally, they showed themselves to be homophobes as they shouted at Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who is openly gay.

The occasion for their assembly: health insurance reform.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hell Hath No Fury...

I confess, when stuck in a waiting room, I seek out People magazine. I take everything they - and all the other “celebrity focused” magazines - publish with a grain of salt. Actually, it’s more like a healthy handful. But if I’m nervous about a doctor’s visit, I will happily fall into their glossy pages. Some of the lesser pure gossip/fiction rags are just outrageous. Standing in line at the grocery store, scanning the cheesy headlines, can really infuriate me. So while I’m not addicted to Hollywood gossip - and I sure don’t do it here - one story this week captured my attention: Sandra Bullock and her husband of five years, Jesse James.

I happened to catch part of Barbara Walters interview with Sandra on Oscar night. I don’t know Ms. Bullock from Adam’s off ox, but she came across as warm, personable and in love with her husband. Then she went on to win the Best Actress Academy Award for “The Blind Side” and thanked Mr. James during her acceptance speech. Less than two weeks later, Jesse James has issued an apology to his wife Sandra and his three children. I have no idea what Mr. James did or didn’t do with the tattling tattooed stripper. But Jiminy Cricket, if he did do something that requires a blanket public apology, he is a royal ass!

Yes, I know it takes two to make a marriage - blah, blah, blah. But when I read about his apology, all I could think of was how Ms. Bullock had thanked him during her speech. If the marriage goes down in flames, Mr. James is inextricably tied to that peak professional and personal moment of acknowledgement and achievement. If she didn’t think they were on solid ground, would she have been so openly appreciative and affectionate? I don’t think so. I know I wouldn’t have. So at the moment, I’m on Sandra’s “side”. I know this isn’t like picking teams for dodgeball or red rover, but Jesse James has managed to get my hackles up and tick me off. Cuz it sure feels like he blindsided Sandra.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Go Sistahs!

As I Tweeted earlier tonight, smart people don’t mess with nuns!
Congressman Bart Stupak is dismissing the nuns.
(He actually picked the bishops over the nuns!)
Ergo, Bart Stupak is not very bright.

Here’s a copy of the letter the leaders of numerous religious organizations sent to members of Congress. These women represent 59,000 Catholic Sisters across the United States. They are urging the passage of a strong healthcare bill.

As the sisters put it:
“For us, this health care reform is a faith mandate for life and dignity of all of our people.”

That fits perfectly with what I remember of the nuns who educated me over sixteen years.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Chuck!

”Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Chuck
Happy Birthday to you -
and many more!

Mazel Tov!
Saol Fada Chugat!
Long life to you Kiddo!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The U.S. Census

We received our 2010 Census form.
We filled out our 2010 Census form.
Tomorrow we will mail back our 2010 Census form.
The information collected won’t be made public until 2082.
Easy peasy and quick as a wink it was.

But as a family genealogist who has pored over earlier census records, I have to ask: Where are all the fascinating and often useful genealogical questions?

Here are a few examples of U.S. Census questions from 1790 to 2000:

Value of home if owned or monthly rental if rented?
Does this family have a radio set?
Does this family live on a farm?
Attended school or college anytime since September 1st?
Whether able to read?
Able to write?
Place of birth of each person and the parents of each person?
Single, married, widowed or divorced?
Number of years of present marriage?
Mother of how many children? Number born? Number living?
Blind, deaf, dumb, idiotic, insane, maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled?
Pauper or convict?
Profession, occupation or trade?
Number of months person has been unemployed during census year?
Weeks worked last year?
Wage and salary income last year?
Value of personal estate?
Year of immigration to the U.S.?
Naturalized or alien?
If naturalized, year of naturalization?
Male citizen of U.S. of 21 years of age and upwards where rights to vote is denied on other grounds than rebellion or other crime?

O.K. admittedly, we definitely run up against the problem of political correctness. But Geezalu, the “Place of birth of each person and the parents of each person?” has made all the difference in many a family tree search. How about “Does this family have a radio set?” - that one’s cool. And I can think of a couple of relatives people I’d report as “idiotic or insane” - although perhaps in 1870 they meant something a little bit different!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Long Strange Trip

You never know what might prove to be important.

Thirty years ago, I accompanied a young man on a visit to his barber. It was a small shop, in a small town - think Andy Griffith in Mayberry. I sat in a chair against the wall facing where my then fiance was getting a haircut. We three chatted and visited. I was fascinated by the barber’s technique. I had never seen a barber at work before. He was skilled and swift, but there was a discernible pattern to his spare motions. In the coming months, with money impossibly tight, I attempted to duplicate that haircut for my new husband. We both survived and through the years I got better at it.

Fast forward several years and the young man and I are standing in a hallway, in a courthouse, in a much bigger town than the one where that barbershop had been. I was struck by his haircut. It was a new style, not the one the barber had inadvertently taught me; not the one I had been replicating for eight years. The love was long gone between us, but I reflexively reached up toward his hair, commenting favorably on the style. He snapped his head away. Soon we were in a courtroom with a judge and lawyers and the marriage, neither of us should have ever entered into, was dissolved.

This afternoon, I cut my husband Chuck’s hair. I’ve been doing it for around two decades. Chuck looks nothing like my first husband. His hair is completely different as well. But that one visit to a barbershop and many years of practice, has found me working smoothly, quickly and with ease. Each time I give Chuck a haircut and trim his beard, I swear it takes ten years off him. Mind you, that’s not cumulative! But with Chuck’s birthday coming up on Tuesday, today’s cut makes him look closer to 57 than 67 - something which Chuck appreciates.

I wish I could have found a way to get to exactly this same point in my life without that first marriage. (I’m certain my ex-husband wishes the very same thing.) Chuck and I are bashert: predestined, soulmates, meant to be. But we needed all those years, the moves, the job changes, in order to finally cross paths and be together.

And without that detour to a barbershop in a very small town, I never would have learned how to cut my husband Chuck’s hair...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Ahead

Spring this!

I’ve posted about this before and my position has not changed: Daylight Saving Time is stupid.

Although I may have put it a bit more eloquently in the past.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Splat & Sniff

I didn’t plan to accessorize with Marinara sauce tonight.
I certainly didn’t expect to have it from the tip of my shoes to the top of my shoulder.

We were beginning to check out at Trader Joe’s in Shrewsbury tonight. The nice gal working the register (I’m sorry, I can’t remember anyone’s name.) pulled our carriage toward her and began to unload it and scan the items. (Yes, they really do empty your cart, ring up your order and they will even bag your groceries for you if you want!) She reached for a small jar of marinara sauce and somehow it came in contact with the counter and crashed to the floor. Broken glass and marinara sauce went everywhere. Luckily no one was cut by the glass, but I was in just the wrong location and took a direct sauce hit - from tiny spots to quarter sized splats and splotches. I sort of froze. The poor gal who dropped the sauce apologized, to which I replied it was just an accident. As I stood there not quite knowing how to de-sauce-ify myself, another TJ’s staff person came over and whisked our grocery cart off to an open register to be checked out. Chuck headed off to replace the marinara sauce. Another gal came over and took charge of the clean up and the poor gal who had dropped the sauce brought me some paper towels.

Paper towels are a poor adversary to marinara sauce. But I blotted and brushed as best I could. All the while feeling very grateful that I had chosen to wear a pair of gray slacks and a navy blue top today - not something in ivory, ecru or winter white! I thought I was all set or as all set as I could be, when I realized the sauce had also blazed a trail on my right arm up to my shoulder. I headed to the paper towel dispenser and went for round two of blot and brush. Once I had done what I could, short of a washing machine, to make myself presentable, I went to join Chuck who was finishing paying for our groceries. As I caught up to him, I spotted a bouquet of flowers popping out of the top of one of our grocery bags. The Trader Joe’s gals had given them to us for being such “good sports”. So not only did the staff work like a well oiled machine to get everything sorted out as best they could, we got flowers to boot. Well played TJ’s. That’s why we love you. And the smell of the flowers helped to offset the Eau d’ Italian Kitchen I wore for the rest of the night!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thank You “Nomaah”!

By the time Nomar Garciaparra left the Boston Red Sox in 2004, I was reluctantly ready to have him leave. From the moment Nomar arrived in 1996 I thought he was the bees’ knees. He had it all in both offense and defense and he was unfailingly polite and cheerful. He had a quirky at bat routine which was all too easily imitated, but who cared? The guy delivered - sometimes amazingly so. Chuck’s Dad used to tease us that it was unfair of us to have two shortstops: Garcia and Parra! And the way Nomar played, you could be forgiven for thinking we had an extra player in the field. But prior to his departure in 2004 he seemed so darned miserable every day. There had been the ugly trade-that-never-was at the end of 2003 which seemed to leave a bad taste in his mouth - not to mention having freaked out Red Sox Nation. Ironically, it was after Nomar left in 2004 that the long drought/curse came to an end and the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918. But the players knew how important Nomar had been to their overall success and voted to include him as a recipient of a ring.

Today, Nomar signed a one day contract with the Boston Red Sox so that he could officially retire from major league baseball as a member of the organization. Watching the news conference I saw the Nomar we had all adored during his eight years in Boston. Gone was the pain of the trades and the injuries. What shone through was the kid who had played in the Cape Cod League, made it to the majors and got to live out a dream. Along the way he earned a permanent place in the heart of Red Sox Nation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

File 2009 Taxes Electronically - For Free!

It’s that time again!

Just as I’ve done in previous years, I helped a dear friend of ours with her taxes. Once again, I was able to help her file both her federal and state taxes on-line and to do it for free!

I began by going to the IRS page for e-filing. Once there, I followed the directions and clicked through to “Individual Taxpayers”. After reviewing the information, we again chose to file with the Turbo Tax Freedom Edition. I’ve had excellent experiences using this free service for our friend the last couple of years and this time was no exception. It has been improved and streamlined and her state continues to be one of the twenty linked directly with the Turbo Tax federal program.

These free filing options, available from the IRS through on-line tax preparers, have very specific age, income and filing status requirements. But if your tax situation is relatively straight forward, it’s definitely worth exploring. Filing tax forms is never fun, but this service makes it much easier.

Now I need to take a second run at our taxes and get them filed as well!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Church & Me

I was raised Catholic. I had a strong, personal faith and, as a child, felt perfectly comfortable talking to God every night. He (as in God the Father) was a trusted confidante. I knew he was in my corner. As a young adult, I was a lector and a CCD teacher. Then I left the Church for many years. I did not leave or lose my faith. More than two decades later, I went back to the Church. The problem was that I was trying to reunite with the arms wide open, post Vatican II Church I had known and loved. The Church which had nurtured and guided me and steadied my moral compass. As the seasons of the liturgical calendar passed I came to realize that it was not the same Church I had left. It had narrowed, grown cold and no longer seemed focused on the needs of the parishioners - spiritual or practical, but was focused on its own survival. A desperate person or institution does not do its job well. The Church was not doing its job well. Certainly not as well as Blessed Pope John XXIII had done. And as Pope Benedict ascended it became clear that he would pull the Church even harder to the right, narrow its focus, close the doors and cast out anyone who would not adhere to the strictest interpretations of doctrine.

I will always love that Church of my childhood and my youth. I will always respect the liberal, fierce advocate of workers rights who served the poor and taught values I still hold dear. The evil of pedophile priests never cast a shadow over my experience. I had one mean nun and one cranky one out of dozens of good ones. There was no harsh treatment from any of them. Was I lucky? I know now I was. Am I grateful? Yes, for everything they gave me - nearly every bit of it good - with the notable exception of an overactive sense of guilt!

For a few years after my return I was active in my local Church. Then the bishops ordered the insertion of politics into the services. The priests were preaching from the pulpit against same-sex marriage. It wasn’t a passing reference in a well thought out homily. It was politicking, pure and simple. Unlike the moments from my childhood when a visiting priest with a background in Liberation Theology would speak out about the unjustness of the Vietnam War, these directives were aimed at limiting the rights of individuals. The Church was making the case that it had the right, nay the duty, to restrict the civil rights of individuals outside its congregation. None of the same-sex marriage laws in any way insisted religious organizations perform or even acknowledge civil marriages between same-sex couples. But the Church still claimed such civil marriages would undermine the family and devalue “traditional” marriage.

One quiet morning, with the sun streaming in through stained glass windows, I was the only parishioner who had shown up for a weekday mass. Father gave me communion and waited while I prayed. As I was leaving I thanked him, wished him a good day. We began to chat and I brought up the issue of same-sex marriage. All I said was that I could see no way that civil marriage of gay couples would ever have any negative impact on my own marriage. This priest and I had a pretty good relationship. He had dined with us in our home. So his response surprised and dismayed me. He got angry. He raised his voice as we stood talking in the center aisle. But all he had were the talking points of the bishops and the new pope. He could make no credible case, because there was and is none to make. I stood my ground. I finally shook my head and told him I just couldn’t see the problem.

At the time I felt very much alone in that physical church in my small Massachusetts town and within the larger world community of the Roman Catholic Church. I eventually left the Church again. It was far more conscious than the drift away in my twenties had been and it was deeply, wrenchingly painful. Today I learned that I was not really alone that day in my support of same-sex marriage. Today I learned that there is a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality. They describe themselves this way:

“Faithful Roman Catholics throughout the United States are raising their voices in support of civil marriage for same-sex couples. Become part of our united effort to create effective and respectful responses to our bishops' opposition to same-sex civil marriage.

As Roman Catholics, we differentiate between sacramental marriage and civil marriage. Therefore, we perceive that same-sex civil marriage poses no threat to our Church.”

Can I have a Hallelujah?

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Until we moved to this old house in the country, I never had to contend with Ladybugs (Coccinellidae) in any significant quantity. Some years we get just a few inside the house. Some years it feels like a full on invasion. This is one of those years. Some years the autumn is tough; others late winter into spring. This year it is the latter. They tend to be more active on sunny days or when the house is warm. We keep the house at 54F (12C) overnight and 60-62F (15-17C) in the daytime, so a string of unseasonably warm, sunny days like we’ve had lately can get them revved up. They’re easy to catch; we just flick them into a jar. When we have a bunch we (and by we I really mean Chuck!) take them outside. But, if I could put little radio collars on them, I’d bet I could prove they just turn right around and come back inside. We’ve done a fair amount of sealing and caulking over the years, but they’re tiny and determined.

Yes, most of them are pretty. Yes, many of them are beneficial. But they can be extremely annoying. Their worst feature is a defensive one for them: they smell atrocious! Hmm... what other creature uses an offensive smell as a protective mechanism? That’s right, skunks. So, as far as I am concerned, Ladybugs (Coccinellidae) are teensy flying Skunks (Mephitidae). Which is probably why the rhyme was invented: Ladybug, Ladybug fly away home... - - - please?

Looking Ahead

It’s much easier to believe that we will always be as hale and hearty as we are today, rather than face the possibility of an infirm future.

Chuck received a call from a fellow he used to work with many years ago. They’ve stayed in touch mostly through holiday cards and seeing each other at occasional parties for colleagues who are retiring. Al is an octogenarian, but the years are weighing very heavily on his body. He has a variety of health challenges, some quite serious. But, like so many folks we know, he is fighting determinedly to remain independent.

As Chuck and I went for our walk this afternoon, we found ourselves talking about what might be in our future. When we moved to this two story house a decade and a half ago, one of the things we evaluated was, if necessary, could we live just on the first floor. There was sufficient space, but we would need a full (and fully accessible) bathroom to be installed on the ground floor. With that remodel, we would expand our options considerably. Keep in mind, that when we moved here, we were still hoping to have children and raise a family. But even at that stage of our lives, we were acutely aware of the long view.

So as we walked ‘round and ‘round the track today, we decided to move the downstairs bathroom farther up the “To Do” list. We also realize that the walking - and anything else we can do to improve our health - will go a very long way to keep us well and strong as long as possible. And with any luck, all our preparations will be like the insurance of remembering to grab your umbrella as you head out the door: it won’t rain a drop!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It’s A Little Complicated

Today was Chuck’s Mom’s yahrzeit, the anniversary of the day she passed. Mom died back in 1999 on March 4th. By the Hebrew calendar (a lunar calendar), that year March 4th fell on 16 Adar, 5759. If we were Orthodox Jews, we would acknowledge Mom’s yahrzeit each year on 16 Adar. This year, 5770, that would have been this past Tuesday, March 2nd. While all of this is of interest, the family tradition for a couple of generations, has been to keep all dates by the Gregorian calendar.

But, when Chuck spoke with his sister about their Mom’s yahrzeit, an interesting discussion ensued. Unlike the Gregorian calendar where the date and day changes at midnight, the Hebrew calendar changes the date and day at sunset. Carol pointed out that Mom passed after sunset by the Gregorian calendar on March 4, 1999. That means that Mom passed on 17 Adar, 5759, which would have been yesterday, March 3rd.

I mean absolutely no disrespect.
But can I have an Oy?

This isn’t our family’s first experience with the challenge of sorting out dates between the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars. Chuck’s Grandma Minnie was born in 1888 near Kiev, then part of the Russian Empire. Minnie was born on Purim, 14 Adar, 5648. But on the Gregorian calendar, Purim falls on different dates each year. When Minnie was a young child attending school in Chelsea, Massachusetts, she said her birthday was whatever Gregorian date Purim fell on in any given year. That didn’t fit with the record keeping of a late 19th century public school. So Minnie was instructed to pick a date and stick with it. Minnie chose March 10th. Minnie’s last birthday was her 101st in 1988. We may have celebrated it on March 10th, but we all knew it was really Purim. That year Purim fell on March 21st; 14 Adar II, 5749...

For Chuck’s Mom, Betty and for his Grandma Minnie as well:
Zichrona Liveracha - Her memory is a blessing

: : There are now several Hebrew/Gregorian calendars available on the internet. HebCal is particularly easy to use.

: : For a fascinating look at keeping Shabbos in Antarctica (really!) you can read this article from the Jewish Daily Forward. I mention it because candlelighting is tied to sunset. In Antarctica, they have mostly 24 hours of light or 24 hours of darkness!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Going Home

We just learned that some family members will be traveling to Ireland this spring! My first thought was of course excitement for them. Swift on its heels came: “Clifden, Connemara, County Galway!” We know that many of the branches of our family tree stretch back to Ireland - for eight surnames we know their place of birth was Ireland. But for only one person, Winifred, my Great Great Grandmother, do we know that she was born in the town of Clifden. We also know that her mother, Margaret, my Great Great Great Grandmother, was born in the larger environs of Connemara. But so far, for all my other Irish ancestors, all we know is they were born in “Ireland”.

It is also true that when Kate, a member of the next generation, travels to Ireland in a couple of months, she will be the first member of our immediate family ever to return. For five generations, not since Margaret and Winifred came over, none of us have gone home to Ireland. Because we know what patch of earth one of our loved ones, Winifred, sprang from, not just the vastness of “Ireland”, Clifden is the place with a name to which we resonate. Likewise, on my father’s side, we know that my Great Grandparents were born in Glasgow, Scotland. So it is to Glasgow, more than all of Scotland, to which we relate.

It may seem odd to call it “going home”. But I grew up as “Irish American’; as “Irish Catholic”. Even the Scottish branches of the family most likely trace their roots back across the Irish Sea and into Ireland. So knowing how deep and broad our connection is to Ireland, wherever Kate visits, she will be going home for all of us. Especially for Margaret, Winifred, James, Delia, Catharine, Patrick, Bridget and Thomas who were all born in Ireland; who made that great leap of faith to journey to America and who are all buried here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I Should Have Grabbed The Camera Before The Knife & Fork

So, the other day, I sliced a very small eggplant, the long way, into 4 slices.
I brushed them with olive oil, dusted them with salt and grilled them.
I mixed some part-skim ricotta cheese with pesto and some black pepper.
I took two thin chicken cutlets out of the refrigerator.

In two gratin dishes I drizzled a teeny bit of olive oil.
I laid one grilled eggplant slice into each dish.
I spread one quarter of the ricotta/pesto mixture on each eggplant slice.
I laid a chicken cutlet on top of the ricotta/pesto mixture.
I spread the remaining ricotta/pesto mixture on top of the chicken.
Then I laid the remaining eggplant slice on top of that.
I grated some asiago cheese over the top eggplant.
For a little zip, I put a few thin slices of pepperoni on the top.

I popped the two gratin dishes into the convection oven at about 350F.
It cooked perfectly! (No dreaded rubber chicken!) And it was yummy. It was difficult to know when the chicken was properly cooked - without endangering the stacked, sandwich effect. Next time I will lightly grill the chicken first.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Her name is Stephanie.
Her blog is called: “I Know It’s Here Somewhere...”
Her post made both Chuck and me laugh.
It’s short, sweet and has photographs to illustrate her points.
The chop saw & the square dog put it over the top.
I already ReTweeted it (thanks to Cathy Zielske).
Now you can enjoy it as well!