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Monday, December 31, 2012

Deep Breath

2012 was rough - really rough.

Standing on the cusp of 2013 - weighted as it is with its trigger for triskaidekaphobia - I found it hard to be excited. Looking forward was fraught with risk. Hadn’t I done that on New Year’s Eve 2011?

I stayed with that negative feeling for quite a while - longer than I care to admit. Then I took my own advice about an attitude of gratitude and looked back to see what was good about 2012.


- Our grandnephew Finn was born and is healthy, handsome and wildly happy. His fine parents, Kate and Phil, are also wildly happy.

- Our grandniece Isabella celebrated her second birthday - and then some - and continues to be happy and learning like crazy. Izzy’s fine parents, Carrie and Al, are loving keeping up with their energetic treasure.

- My sister Gail surprised us with a visit from Georgia for Fourth of July fireworks.


- We were able to be with my sister Karen on April 27th and April 28th.

- Our niece Kayla found employment just a few weeks after relocating to the East Coast.

- Our niece Emily relocated to California and quickly found employment.

- We were grateful to have several visits with our grandniece Alex who is becoming a lovely young lady.

- We finally bought new cell phones and love how well they work for us.

- We saw relatives we hadn’t seen in years.

- I am now very comfortable creating spreadsheets in Numbers.

- We sold a condominium for a relative just a couple of weeks after we readied it and put it on the market.

- We learned to text - and negotiated the sale of the aforementioned condo mostly that way.

- We saw a “super” full moon in perigee and meteors.

- Chuck’s EEG was 100% normal.

- We got to know a cousin and his wife and they are are now dear friends.

- Our friend Wendy gave birth to a healthy little boy named Luca.

- We had the stand of ailing hemlocks - which scared me every time we had a storm - taken down or trimmed and treated.

- My heart was tested and tested some more and pronounced 100% A-OK.

- We added to our team of fine doctors and specialists and we still have a hospital we trust and like.

- We met a business associate in person after years of talking with him long distance. As a result, we like and trust him even more.

- When Chuck fell in November nothing worse than four non-displaced fractures happened.

- We had a lot of work done on our house by guys we trust completely.

- We got a new camera which has a speedy enough recovery to capture photos of speedy toddlers.

- Our friends’ daughter legally married her partner.

- We traveled to Bar Harbor and Acadia twice.

- We had two reunion luncheons with former colleagues.

- We had two reunion luncheons with extended family.

- We re-elected President Obama.

- One day, we babysat Isabella for eleven hours and when we returned her to her parents she was still in one piece.

- We saw the Grand Canyon.


OK 2013, I’m ready for you...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

When It Was Prettier


When it first began snowing last evening, it was full of promise and very beautiful.

5 to 6


The meteorologists warned us it could be more. But we only got five to six inches of heavy, wet snow overnight. Then Mother Nature added a bit of sleet and a touch of rain. This is what the driveway looked like after one pass with the snowblower. I like snow. This is not my favorite variety of snow...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Best

Here’s the trail of breadcrumbs. Chuck subscribes to The New York Times. That means in addition to the Sunday newspaper being delivered to our home, we also get full digital access. My favorite way to read the Times is on our iPad. Near the beginning of December I clicked on the Times icon. Before the edition refreshed I spotted an article about a blogger with the phrase “big ideas”. Then it disappeared and the new edition filled in. Some searching brought me back to the article which had caught me eye. Here’s the piece.

When I finished that article about 28 year old Maria Popova I clicked through to her website “Brain Pickings”. I was hooked. I quickly added the site to my RSS feeds and followed it on Twitter and Facebook.

Tonight I e-mailed my sister Gail in Georgia and mentioned it to her. That was when I realized I had never posted about Brain Pickings here. For which, I sincerely apologize!

Calling Maria Popova a blogger may be technically true but she is more accurately an editor, a collector, a curator, a librarian of all that is interesting. But not interesting the way CNN Headline News or USA Today are when you are stuck in an airport on a layover. Nor is Brain Pickings interesting the way BuzzFeed and Gawker can be. Brain Pickings is classier, deeper and draws you in with beauty, history and brilliance.

Brain Pickings has a separate page called The Literary Jukebox. Ms. Popova pairs a song with a quote or a poem. Sounds devilishly simple doesn’t it? I don’t believe it is and once again she makes it something special. Here is my absolute favorite combination which joins
John Steinbeck and Natalie Merchant. I find it both inspiring and beautiful.

Not every single Brain Pickings post is fascinating to me. But I am always happy to see the yellow avatar pop up in my streams. And I find it comforting to know that someone is working so assiduously to bring important and wonderful things to the attention of an ever widening audience.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Santé!

Just in case the folks who (mis)interpreted the Mayan Calendar are right, I give you the incomparable Edith Piaf singing “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”.

Santé!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Storytelling

Storytelling at its best can be found at The Moth. You may have listened to it on your local Public Radio station. I am certain it is a major cause of “driveway moments”. This particular story by Tristan Jimerson “A Dish Best Served Cold” is a wonderful story, wonderfully told. They describe it as “a case of credit card fraud sets an amateur sleuth on a crime-solving caper.” (Chuck had a "driveway moment" with this story and then brought it to me. Thanks Chuck!)
Sit back and enjoy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut

The facts are still emerging. But many children and adults are dead after a shooting this morning in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. It is being reported that twenty children and six adults were shot dead by one man.

I wept when I heard the news.
I can only begin to imagine the grief and anguish the loved ones of those murdered are feeling and will continue to live with.
I felt waves of emotion including horror and sadness.
I also felt frustration and fury.

The United States has a culture of violence. I do not profess to have all the answers. I do know we need better laws. With 40% of all guns in the United States being purchased through private sales, including gun shows, without a background check, that’s not a “loophole” that’s a norm.

I’ve read arguments today about how changing or improving gun laws is just “feel good legislation”. My response is there is a great deal of room for improvement in weapons legislation. Improving and tightening laws and regulations does not make it just "feel good legislation". It makes things better; safer. No legislation is perfect. No law can be completely and perfectly enforced. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have the laws.


There is a lot to think about in today’s article in the Washington Post by Ezra Klein: “Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States”.

There is also, once again, talk about “not politicizing” this, another, mass shooting. Ezra Klein writes the following about when the air has been thick with:

"calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for “don’t talk about reforming our gun control laws.”
Let’s be clear: That is a form of politicization. When political actors construct a political argument that threatens political consequences if other political actors pursue a certain political outcome, that is, almost by definition, a politicization of the issue. It’s just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws."


I agree.

Two quotes comforted me today.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

This quote is attributed to Mr. Fred Rogers.
He was a wise man. His mother was a wise woman.
And we are grateful for the helpers - the police officers, the emergency medical technicians, the social workers, the fire fighters, the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the clergy - all the helpers, always.

And this statement from President Barack Obama:

“This afternoon I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller. I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families.

We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years, and each time I learn the news, I react not as a president but as anybody would, as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.

The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.

They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.

Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.

So our hearts are broken today -- for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.

Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for, as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children's innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.

As a country, we have been through this too many times, whether it's an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago. These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children, and we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we'll tell them that we love them, and we'll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now.

In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or a loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories but also in ours.

May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds.”


Another wise man.

Now we need to “be at our best as Americans”.
We need to address this problem - not in all or nothing terms; not with heat and no light. But we must act. We must do everything we can to help prevent this violence, these tragedies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Silly

Two minutes which made me laugh:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Chanukah!

Tonight, just after sundown, Chanukah began!

Enjoy this lovely song from the Barenaked Ladies:



Here are two places to find lots of information about Chanukah. One is Chabad.org and the other is the Union for Reform Judaism. The URJ Chanukah page is new this year.

As for the spelling... Chuck and I settled on “Chanukah” many years ago. But Hanukkah is also quite common. I’ve seen Chanukkah and Hannukah too. Because all of these are transliterations from the Hebrew, you have some leeway on the spelling!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Will and Kate

They are charming, intelligent, poised, seemingly down-to earth and beautiful. They are the prince and princess of our childhood fairytales come to life. There is no Evil Queen; no Evil Stepmother just a voracious, insatiable press digging into them and photographing their every move. They are Will and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

(I’ve written previously about my feelings toward this couple and all British Royalty. So I will sidestep all the benefits and costs associated with their positions and attendant to their roles in British society.)

Last summer, when photos were released of Kate sunbathing topless, the press, along with social media, went nuts. That’s not lazy word choice on my part, they were freakin’ insane. At the time, all I posted was: “The important point about Will and Kate sunbathing topless is that they were using SunScreen! #SkinCancerAwareness ;o)” Privately, I thought it was a little naive of them to be so visible to the public, but really, who cares? Soon after, I was sitting in a dentist’s office waiting for Chuck, thumbing through a People Magazine. The magazine had published a photo of where the photographer was standing when they snapped the pictures. (Here is a comparable image.) My jaw dropped. The point on the road was about a half a mile away from where Will and Kate were on the private balcony. One half mile! That’s the length of nearly nine football fields placed end to end - or nearly two Empire State Buildings or two and a half Eiffel Towers! For most anyone else in the world that would have been plenty private and plenty reasonable.

Now it has been announced that Kate is pregnant with their first child. Unfortunately she has been hospitalized with a medical complication known as hyperemesis gravidarum. This isn’t “just morning sickness” nor is it “just acute” or “intense morning sickness”. This is unrelenting vomiting. Since we’re talking about a member of the Royal Family, I have to assume that if Kate’s symptoms had fallen along the typical mild to dreadful morning (or all day) sickness continuum she would be at home. It’s also clear from the timing of the announcement (Kate is still early in her first trimester) that the situation was serious enough that The Palace broke the news early. But the press - and most particularly social media - is having a field day with the story. And it’s been more than snarky, it’s been decidedly ugly.

What have I learned? Well, the other day I decided I don’t have a thick enough hide to run for political office. Today I confirmed that it is a very good thing that I didn’t follow those two of six degrees of separation to meet and marry Prince Albert of Monaco, because I could not live in the roiling waters of that sort of fishbowl.

So here’s to Will and Kate and their child. May they all soon be well and strong and happy.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Then What Happened?

I had a Tweet ReTweeted on Twitter.

That happens from time to time. It’s always nice because it means someone felt what I wrote was worth sharing. But today was different. Today I was ReTweeted by President Barack Obama!

OK, I know. President Obama wasn’t sitting around the Oval Office before he had lunch with Mitt Romney just checking his Twitter feed. I know the President wasn’t searching to see how his #My2K hashtag was trending. I know it was his staff. But it was his staff, you know, President Barack Obama’s staff, that ReTweeted me! I took screenshots. Oh yes I did! Heck, they’re in contention to become our holiday cards!

#My2K is a hashtag created by the Obama administration that folks on Twitter can use to talk about the impact of the expiration of the middle class tax cuts. Here is how they posted it: “If Congress fails to act, the typical middle-class family will have about $2,000 less to spend or save next year.” Should you so desire, you can Tweet what that $2,000 means to you and what you do with the money, including #My2K in the Tweet.

So I Tweeted:
#My2k goes directly into the local economy: shopping at local grocery store and farm stands, meals in local restaurants, tips to waitstaff.

Since the President ReTweeted it, it has been ReTweeted 138 141 153 times.

Cool, right? Well, in addition to the solidarity of the ReTweets, I got responses. It wasn’t long before the rude people emerged from the Twitter shadows. One of them joined Twitter and out of their first seven Tweets, two were just expletives directed at me. Classy. Fortunately, I counted to ten and realized I needed to not engage with them. All their smut and snark has been going up in word bubbles above their heads; their misspelled and condescending Tweets going off into the ether.

If I ever had a question about whether or not I should run for public office, this experience answered that. I do not have a thick enough hide. It also caused me to have even more respect for the people who are willing to stand for office. Politics has always been rough and tumble. In these fast paced days of proliferating social media platforms, it is even tougher. Sure, there are plenty of chuckleheads who get elected, but I give them their due as well for being willing to suffer the slings and arrows; spam-bombs and swear words lobbed their way.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thank You

Back in 2006, when I began this blog, I did not, actually, could not have imagined how much would cascade from that first post. I thought Pink Granite would be a place where I could give voice to my thoughts, feelings and memories. I expected it would be rather like speaking from a podium in an empty hall. I didn’t know how much I would learn. I didn’t expect to grow as much as I have. And I certainly never expected to make friends. But I did.

The friendships have been the most miraculous. It bears repeating that finding like-minded, intelligent, big hearted, clever, kind and deeply funny people has changed my life for the better. They have celebrated with me when joy entered my life. They held my hand when I - and Chuck - underwent surgery. They enfolded me in love and sympathy when grief rained down, most especially when my sister Karen died just days before her 65th birthday.

These past two years have been profoundly challenging for Chuck and for me. In the last twelve months especially we have sometimes staggered under the weight of family responsibilities. In that same short span of time, seven members of our extended family, besides my sister, died; half after full lives; half far too soon. We have also worn paths to doctors and to hospitals and learned more medical terms than we would have wished and more about hospice and palliative care than we ever wanted.

At every moment those new friends have been there for me. Even in the darkest moments I knew I was safe enough with them to let my gallows humor come out. I never felt judged; only cheered.

These stresses and strains are the main reasons my posting has fallen off. What is also true is that since the end of 2008, more of my attention has shifted to the free-wheeling, instant gratification of Twitter. Frequent bursts of 140 characters have expanded the circle of people I connect with and only served to deepen the aforementioned established friendships. All of these interactions gave me the courage to attend a mini-reunion of my elementary school and to even darken the door of my 35th high school reunion. Heck, I even joined the dreaded Facebook - with which I still have a like/hate relationship.

But, after more than 1,500 posts, I have no intention of shuttering Pink Granite. There is a depth here which I love. And I am the only one who grants both the nihil obstat as well as the imprimatur to every post; every photograph, every link. Where else could I find such autonomy? ;o)

So thank you. Thank you all for stopping by, for reading, for commenting and for enriching this experience more than I could ever have imagined. I am truly in your debt.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Weather Geekiness

Back in June of 2007 I shared my family’s “weather prophet story”. To this day my mother still checks the weather via television and, if she sees anything at all stormy anywhere near her family, she picks up the phone to call her children and grandchildren. Mind you, prior to my sister Karen’s death in April, her eldest child was almost 65 years old! I will confess that it used to drive me bonkers. Then I realized she was just worried about us all and she was trying to take care of us.

To be completely honest, my nieces and nephews have surely noticed that when there is a severe weather warning they are likely to get a “keep an eye to the sky” text message from me. This of course is absolutely nothing at all like what my mother did and does! Nope, nope, entirely different. ;o)

Anyhoo, since we upgraded from flip phones to the iPhone 4s back in February, I have acquired a few weather apps. (All of these work on iPhones. Some have dedicated iPad versions and some are available for other platforms like Android.) Here are my favorites. They range from free to $1.99. Let the geekiness commence!

NECN WX
If you live in New England this New England Cable News product is a must have weather app. Every storm has us watching the radar on this one.

The Weather Channel
They were the trailblazer in cable weather news and therefore this app is appropriately snazzy with lots of useful features.

Weather Underground
This app is so full featured that for some it may feel overly busy. Definitely worth downloading to see if it meets your needs.

Solar
This is the pendulum swinging away from visual clutter. It is graphically clean and serene. It is very beautiful, with a slick interface but has all the basic weather info you need. (Thank you Morgan!)

These next three are not weather related but do involve our planet Earth!

World Clock
I have been using their website for ages so I was delighted to download the app. At a glance I can tell the time in London, Cape Town and Sydney!

iEphemeris Pro
I just wanted a good app to tell me what time sunrise and sunset was for every day. I could find it buried in some weather apps but then I found iEphemeris and I was sold. It also gives Moon and Sun information.

Shralp Tide
Type in a location and get the tides. We use this app whenever we’re headed out to do some beach combing. It is simple and elegant. Plus you can swipe through five days at a time.

That’s how I get my weather geek on. Let me know if there is something out there that I need to explore!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Remembering, Honoring

“...the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives & the dream shall never die.”
- Senator Ted Kennedy at the 1980 Democratic Convention


“The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.”
- Senator Ted Kennedy at the 2008 Democratic Convention

At The Other Extreme

This report, from the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Hatewatch", is not an easy read but it is a very important and sobering one.

For the Radical Right, Obama Victory Brings Fury and Fear

Speech!

President Barack Obama gave a pitch-perfect, wonderful, inspiring and unifying speech!!!

Full transcript can be found here.

Victory!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Four More Years!

Four years ago I posted the following:

All the major television networks, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and BBC America, have called the election for Barack Obama and Joe Biden!

Tonight I am deeply grateful that I can post those words once again!

VOTE!


Live your values.
Love your country.
VOTE!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Call Your Zeyde!

Another great video!
This one is definitely inspired by Sarah Silverman’s “The Great Schlep” from 2008. But this one does not include expletives and it’s done to “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. The singer is Michelle Citrin. If you need help with the words, you can go to the Call Your Zeyde website and click on the link for the lyrics.



Live your values.
Love your country.
VOTE!

Forward!

Love this!



Live your values.
Love your country.
VOTE!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eisenhower

“Unless we squarely face our challenges as Americans — together – we risk losing the priceless heritage bestowed on us by the sweat and the sacrifice of our forbearers. If we do not pull together, we could lose the America that has been an inspiration to the world.”

- Susan Eisenhower on why she endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and why she is endorsing President Obama in 2012.

Click to read her endorsement in its entirety.

Pulling No Punches

Writing in Esquire Magazine’s “The Political Blog”, Charlie Pierce is pulling no punches as he explains “Why I Am Voting To Re-Elect President Obama”.

Three quotes from the article:

“I am also going to vote for Barack Obama. Without enthusiasm. And without a sliver of a doubt in my mind.”

“It is vitally important that the Republican party be kept away from as much power as possible until the party regains its senses again.”

And writing about everyone Romney owes: “It is a fearsome bill to come due for any man, let alone one as mendaciously malleable as the Republican nominee. Obama owes the disgruntled. Romney owes the crazy. And that makes all the difference.”

The entire article, while not a quick read, is worth every moment of your time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Binders!

Oy! Listening to Romney I was once again left slackjawed. At last night's debate he described the need to search for qualified women when he became Governor of Massachusetts. Here’s the quote:


Now here is the absolute best response:


Via Christine Kaercher and Rachel Maddow’s Blog

Refuse To Go Back To The 1950s!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

So Much Malarkey

...and so little time to call it all out:

Ryan uses a soup kitchen as a photo opportunity and the soup kitchen is ticked off:
”It was the phoniest piece of baloney I’ve ever been associated with”
and/or
"I certainly wouldn’t have let him wash clean pans, & then take a picture"

Romney reverses direction so often he may well inspire an amusement park ride that comes with handy paper bags. Here is a summary, with links, of how he has changed/adjusted/obfuscated/lied on the issues of abortion and contraception:
Romney: Abortion is not 'part of my agenda.' Romney campaign: Oh yes it is.

Both Romney and Ryan are still having trouble with arithmetic:
Dear Folks Who Believe Mitt Romney Is Telling The Truth About His Tax Plan, Please Explain Why Bill Clinton Is Wrong

To be fair, maybe Romney’s problem isn’t with arithmetic but with the “new math”. For example, his 12 million jobs plan:
Mitt Romney’s ‘new math’ for jobs plan doesn’t add up. Oops.

And, on a well deserved lighter note, the DNC has a perfect illustration of all the pesky details of the Romney-Ryan tax plan. You must click as it only takes a second:
Romney-Ryan Tax Plan

Update: Sadly, no journalists have asked the submarine follow-up question of Romney:
Fly Me To The Moon - But Not With Mitt

psssst... Do Something!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mr. Rogers Knew What To Do With The Mad

On May 1, 1969, Fred McFeely Rogers spoke to the Senate Subcommittee on Communications. President Richard Nixon wanted to slash funding for PBS and CPB by 50%. Senator John O. Pastore was chairing the subcommittee. Mr. Rogers spoke from the heart. Rhode Island’s own, Senator Pastore, was clearly moved by what he heard. In the end, thanks to adults talking and listening to each other in a respectful manner, funding for PBS and CPB was not only restored but increased.



Many thanks to Upworthy for the reminder.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Obama

This is a great video with very cool graphics.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rapacious Romney

In just 2 minutes and 51 seconds Robert Reich explains the ins and outs of private equity and, in doing so, how Romney and the Bain Gang got so rich.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

WAKE THE F@CK UP!

Samuel L. Jackson is back and reminding us that we need to wake up and work just as hard for our country in 2012 as we did in 2008!

This version of the video is NSFW!

Follow this link to a “bleeped” safer for work version.
(But the NSFW one is more effective!)

Many thanks to JCER, the Jewish Council for Education and Research.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sex Sells

Now that I have your attention...

Today is National Voter Registration Day!

Are you registered to vote?

Yes?
Excellent!
Well done!

Will you be voting in the upcoming presidential election on Tuesday, November 6, 2012?
Yes?
Excellent!
I’m really proud of you!

Wait - you’re NOT registered yet?

Take a deep breath. There’s still time.

Here are the deadlines for a few states where friends and family live:

Here in Massachusetts you have until Wednesday, October 17, 2012!.

In Georgia you only have until Tuesday, October 9, 2012!.

In Rhode Island you have just until Sunday, October 7, 2012!.

In Maine you have until Tuesday, October 16, 2012!.

In Arizona you have until Tuesday, October 9, 2012!.

In Washington you only have until Saturday, October 6, 2012!.

In California you have until Monday, October 22, 2012!.

Do you live in another state and need information on how to register?
Here you go:

National Voter Registration Day
RockTheVote’s voter registration
The United States Election Assistance Commission
HeadCount
TurboVote

And last, but not least, Huffington Post has Registration And Voting Instructions For All 50 States

psssst... Do Something!
Register To VOTE!



Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Image: Library of Congress. Font: Apple Chancery and BlairMdITC TT . Software: Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Mac.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fly Me To The Moon - But Not With Mitt

In sixth grade, my science teacher - Mrs. C. - taught us the basics of how airplanes work. I remember this because every single time I get on an airplane I think about it. This is especially true if I am seated near the wing. That’s when I look out the window and make note of the ailerons. Yup. Sixth grade. Airplanes. Covering the basics.

Which is why this report in the Los Angeles Times by Seema Mehta left me gobsmacked. Scroll down to paragraphs six and seven.

“When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem.”
~ Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for President of the United States of America


It’s official. Mitt Romney is an idiot.

Two more points:
1. Ms. Mehta buried the lede.
2. Would a reporter please ask Mitt Romney a followup question about submarines? Please?

“Professor Warren”

Did anybody count how many times Scott Brown said “Professor Warren” during their debate last week? Can anyone count that high?

In his inimitable style, Charlie Pierce hits the nail on the head in his scathing and brilliant assessment of current Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s overall campaign strategy against his Democratic opponent Elizabeth Warren.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Voter Suppression

This video from Sarah Silverman is definitely NSFW. But she covers the absurdity and evil insidiousness of voter suppression quite effectively.



To understand more about voter suppression check out this article from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Monday, September 17, 2012

This Time He Was Crystal Clear

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president [Obama] no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…
...These are people who pay no income tax.
...my job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."


David Corn at Mother Jones has all the details.

Ezra Klein at the Washington Post explains precisely why Romney’s statement is so illuminating and vitally important.

psssst... Do Something!

Are You Registered to VOTE?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chocolate for Breakfast

This Saturday and Sunday ONLY you can download “Chocolate for Breakfast” by Martha Reynolds for FREE from Amazon! The Kindle App is available for your computer, iPad, and iPhone so you don’t need a separate Kindle device to read a Kindle book.

Here’s the link to “Chocolate for Breakfast” on the USA Amazon store.

Here’s the link to “Chocolate for Breakfast” on the UK Amazon store.

I knew Martha a million years ago and was delighted she had published her first novel. Now I am looking forward to her next book!

Read the reviews and download your copy right now while it is still FREE!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Look But Don’t Touch


I saw this cute little caterpillar in our dooryard this afternoon. I snapped a couple of photographs and decided to look it up to see if I could identify it. I’m so glad I didn’t touch it. It’s a Hickory Tussock Caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae). It is not poisonous. But some people who come in contact with the caterpillar - or even its hairs left behind in fallen leaves - can develop a mild to severe rash, similar to poison ivy. Proving once again, you can’t judge a book - er - bug by its cover or something like that!

Here’s some additional information.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

FUN or fun.

I am addicted.
And I am very happy about it.

As I posted back on August 7th Chuck and I celebrated to Fun’s “We Are Young” after a particularly stressful adventure to the ER. Shortly after that we bought both of Fun’s albums: “Aim and Ignite” and “Some Nights”. Recently I discovered these two acoustic versions of “Carry On” and “We Are Young”. I LOVE them both! I covet them! Yet I must be content with these videos because I cannot find them as EPs or as legal downloads.

Enjoy!




Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Belated Blog Thank You

First Sue and then Roo were both kind and generous when they chose to honor me with a “Thanks For Writing!” Award. They were especially generous because ever since my medical adventure in the summer of 2010, my posts here fell from nearly daily blogging to irregular bursts of activity. It’s true that I have passed the 12,000 Tweet mark over on Twitter. But the real culprit around here has been life and, sadly, death.

There are a few rules that go with the award:
Add the award Logo
Link the nominators Blog
Nominate 5 - 10 blogs you usually follow
Let the nominees know that they have been nominated and add their links
Say 7 random things about yourself

First, the bloggers:

Sue writes straight from the heart and sometimes makes mine ache with her vulnerability.
Roo inspires me with his photography and damn near always makes me laugh - even when he is writing about serious and important social and political matters.
Cathy Zielske teaches me a lot about digital scrapbooking and a whole bunch more about commitment and life.
Nicole has become the voice of Worcester - the smart, savvy, not-suffering-fools-gladly, frugal and feisty voice of Worcester.
Melanie has triumphed over adversity in the last year or so and never, ever lost her sense of humor.
Jeannette of Everybody Likes Sandwiches brings me recipes which are earthy, creative, healthy and usually have a twist which makes me ask: “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Dancing Morgan Mouse and Wendy have both been quiet on their blogs of late, but not so on Twitter. So I have every confidence that they will be back to blogging soon. Wendy will bring us more slice of life moments of a South African living life to the fullest in London while pining for Cape Town. And Ms. Mouse will share Sydney’s flora, fauna and food with such wit as to make me want to fly nearly 24 hours just to experience it all firsthand.

Seven random things? After 1,500 posts on this blog I’m wondering what I haven’t shared already! But here goes:

1. As a kid, one of my favorite toys were “Liddle Kiddles”. They were the opposite of Barbie, who I also liked, and they had the cutest little house which doubled as a carrying case.

2. I add fruit such as sliced nectarines and strawberries to my homemade Sangria. When the Sangria is gone, I find the remaining wine-soaked fruit to be quite yummy over vanilla ice cream.

3. Back in my pre-teen and teenage days I learned that even though I was a shy kid who had trouble with extemporaneous speaking, I could get up in front of an audience or a congregation and speak from prepared texts with surprising ease.

4. I miss browsing in library card catalogues and encyclopedias. These days dang near everything we could want to know in this world can probably be found somewhere on the internet. But the serendipity of flipping through those tangible resources always brought some additional gift of knowledge.

5. I quit a job once because they insisted on promoting me to a position I didn’t want; on a schedule I didn’t want. The amazing thing was that they did it because they were so happy with my work. But they just wouldn’t let me stay where I was happy.

6. As an adult I have grown to love many vegetables which I never liked or even tasted as a kid. So it pleases me no end that Isabella, at the age of two, already has quite a broad veggie palate.

7. While I am happy to purchase and download an individual song from the internet, I have yet to feel comfortable downloading an entire album. For that I need to buy the physical CD.

Thanks again to Sue and Roo for their kindness!



September 11th

There were blue skies on a beautiful late summer day.

Then it all began to happen.

It changed us.
It changed us all.

Today, on this solemn eleventh anniversary, I want to remember the kindness. Citizens and leaders of countries all around the world reached out to us here in the United States. They expressed love, compassion, sympathy, friendship, solidarity and support. Ordinary folks of all ages took to the streets of their hometowns with signs and flowers and candles. They made their way to US embassies and signed condolence books. They ordered the flags of their own nations flown at half staff to honor the dead. They wept. They prayed. They rallied to our side. We were no longer one nation, but one world, indivisible, seeking liberty and justice for all.

Today, I will remember the kindness...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Twenty-One!

Chuck and I have known each other for twenty-seven years and, as of today, we have been married for twenty-one!

When we first got together we didn’t imagine the life we have now. Life does what it always does: throws curveballs. Most of what has come at us has all worked to good. This past year or so however, well, there’s no denying, it has been rough. But even when things aren’t ideal, we remain grateful to be going through all of it together.

Happy Anniversary Chuck - and thank you for every single minute!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Liberal



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Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Wrong Direction



Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Image: All over the world wide web. Font: LD Architect . Software: Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Mac.

The Newly Minted Ticket

Rapacious Mitt Romney has chosen the fanatical ideologue Paul Ryan to be his running mate.

It is not the gift to the sane people of this country it may seem to be.

It is, in fact, a call to action.

The alliterative Republican ticket will likely reassure the hidebound right-wingers that Romney’s term as governor of the “socialist” Commonwealth of Massachusetts was more like Dorothy’s Ozian dream and not simply more proof of the contortionist chameleon Romney really is. The deep right will see Romney’s choice of Ryan as Romney’s Come to Jesus moment and it may even allow them to overlook all the oddities of Mormonism which makes their evangelical blood run cold. (While evangelicals are not usually thrilled with Roman Catholics, in Ryan’s case the Vatican trumps the Temple.)

If you are not familiar with Congressman Paul Ryan, Ezra Klein has a quick overview here.

Paul Ryan Lowlights:

- Voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
- Will end Medicare and turn it into a voucher system, thereby costing seniors thousands of dollars every year
- Will cut Pell Grants for education
- Voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
- Will ban all abortions even in the case of rape or incest
- Cosponsored a bill to ban common forms of contraceptives including many birth control pills
- Will increase taxes on the middle class and further reduce taxes on millionaires
- Voted against Marriage Equality
- Will cut funding to Head Start and other early education programs
- Voted to end funding for Planned Parenthood
- Will dismantle the Affordable Care Act - AKA “Obamacare” and, ironically, “Romneycare"
- Will slash funding for infrastructure - roads, bridges and rail
- In his budget, 62 % of the cuts will be taken from low-income programs
- Will cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/Food Stamps 18%

No matter how repellent Ryan’s ideology and intentions are, we must not forget that he is cool under fire in debates and interviews. He also states his “facts” in a compelling way - rather like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. We must take action so as to avoid an equally disastrous ending.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

We Are Young

Friday night into the wee hours of Saturday morning, Chuck and I were on tenterhooks. Chuck had what can best be described as a health crisis. We drove to the Emergency Room and after more than three and a half hours and lots of tests, we left reassured and almost relieved. The very long ride to the ER was taut and tense but punctuated with nervous laughter. Laughter after all is not only the best medicine it’s how the two of us cope with what comes along labeled as “Life.” The ride home was heavy on genuine laughter with a whole lot of counting of blessings.

Arriving home after 5:00 a.m., with the sky lightening to that beautiful marine blue of dawn, we were delighted to be home. As we pulled into the driveway the song “We Are Young” by Fun came on the radio. I put the Subaru in park, turned the engine off, but left the key in the ignition and turned the radio up. We got out of the car, left the doors open and danced to the music with our arms up in the air. The only thing missing was lighters held up toward the stage.

Here’s Fun’s video of “We Are Young”. To my taste, the video is just O.K. But the song is fabulous. Maybe if Fun ever does a re-shoot they can capture two people, with 123 years of life experience between them, dancing in their driveway, having just dodged a bullet...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Best Response To Chick-Fil-A & Huckabee

Mike Huckabee decided it was very, very important to support fast food chain Chick-Fil-A, specifically the Cathy family that owns the corporation. So former Governor Huckabee organized “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” for August 1, 2012. Huckabee stepped in because he was unhappy that the Cathy family and Chick-Fil-A were taking heat for being anti-gay.

It’s important to note that the Cathy family and Chick-Fil-A didn’t engender such ire because of just one single comment its president, Dan Cathy, made to The Baptist Press back in July. In the Huffington Post, David Badash spells out a long history (with many source links) of anti-gay and anti-marriage-equality positions plus discrimination lawsuits in “Chick-fil-A: 5 Reasons It Isn't What You Think”.

So thanks to Mike Huckabee devoting his energy, time, public profile and position of power to “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” the fast food restaurants were jammed yesterday. I hoped they wouldn’t show up. I knew they would. It was all just too easy a target with the bonus of a 440 calorie sandwich replete with 16grams of fat.

Enter Matthew Paul Turner. He’s apparently a very religious guy from Tennessee. Turns out he is a fine writer and he wrote the best response I have read to Huckabee and all those prideful Christians who came out in droves yesterday:

5 Reasons Why The Church Failed Yesterday by Matthew Paul Turner.


Many thanks to Tracy AKA Cascading Waters for her ReTweet of Mr. Turner’s response.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mitt Gets Worse



Many thanks to Julie Goodridge, Mitt Gets Worse and MoveOn.Org for shining a bright light on Mitt Romney.

Monday, July 9, 2012

50 Shades of Grey - The Musical

No worries! This little video send-up of the best selling trilogy is not BDSM set to music. (Christian and Anastasia already did that!) But this music video does begin to capture the debate around the book rather nicely.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

They Are Rising

I found an article in AlterNet by Sara Robinson fascinating. It was also deeply disturbing. What’s worse, I fear it is accurate. The title: “Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America”. And it has the subtitle: “America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?”

Ms. Robinson lays out how it happened in swift and staggering detail. What is left unclear is how we wrest control and bring our country back to its roots and its senses - not to mention the concept of and daily action toward the common good.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Henri, Le Chat

These little cat videos were new to me and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
I will warn you that while they are quite amusing they are also just a wee bit sad.
Can you spell ennui?
;o)

Henri
Henri 2
Henri 3 (Listen carefully for the last word...)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do It Right



Thanks Mae...

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Vaginas, Grey, Hysteria, Vibrators, Sexuality, Misogyny, Orgasms & Politics

Remember the Brady Bunch episode with the exclamation: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”?
O.K.
“Vagina, Vagina, Vagina!”

Why?

Well, in Michigan, a legislator named Lisa Brown used the word vagina in her remarks against several bills restricting abortion. The response of the Republicans who hold the majority was to block her from speaking. This happened just last week.

At the same time Representative Brown was being silenced for using the word vagina, the “Fifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades of Grey; Fifty Shades Darker; Fifty Shades Freed” by E.L. James sold over 10 million copies in the United States in just six weeks.

I read all three books. Book One needed an editor. The sex scenes are titillating, but it feels repetitive - and not in a good way. Book Two still has all the sex and we get a better storyline with a dash of mystery. Book Three added more storyline, continued mystery and a surprising (to me anyway) ending. None of the three books are great literature. (But did anyone really expect them to be?) The Trilogy is very much in the vein of Harlequin Romances, but with lots of explicit sex.

Besides the writing which is passable, my biggest complaint with 50 Shades is actually with the sex scenes. No doubt, they are hot. But E.L. James (Erika Leonard) perpetuates the holy grail of orgasms: via intromission. Yes, Anastasia’s clitoris is mentioned and Christian certainly knows where it is and why it’s important. But Ana repeatedly achieves orgasm just through penetration. For 70% of women that just ain’t the norm. Instead of this trilogy leading to a little more fun in the bedroom (elevator, car, meadow or wherever) I worry that what it’s actually doing is getting a lot of women (and men) hot and bothered while simultaneously raising the expectations on them and their partners. There already seems to be a need for a little flashing neon sign that says “Clitoris” with an arrow to help some guys get the hang of it. Do we really need the bar set any higher thanks to 50 Shades?

Which leads me to the new movie “Hysteria”. (I have not yet seen it. Here is a review.) The film focuses on the medical treatment of hysteria, specifically during the 19th century. For centuries doctors had been massaging the genitals of women until they achieved “hysterical paroxysm” or orgasm, as a treatment for a wide variety of female maladies. But in the late 1800s the first vibrators were invented as a labor saving device for doctors. This is at the heart of the movie “Hysteria”.

In her book “The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction ”, Rachel P. Maines explains how for millennia male doctors decided how women should feel and behave around all things sexual. This included the belief that women should be completely satisfied through the act of male penetration. Or, conversely, good women should not enjoy intercourse at all. This was true even though doctors were routinely bringing their female patients to “hysterical paroxysms”. Maines also notes: “The first home appliance to be electrified was the sewing machine in 1889, followed in the next ten years by the fan, the teakettle, the toaster, and the vibrator. The last preceded the electric vacuum cleaner by some nine years, the electric iron by ten, and the electric frying pan by more than a decade, possibly reflecting consumer priorities.” Unfortunately, by the end of the Roaring Twenties, early pornographic films showed vibrators being used overtly for sexual pleasure rather than as a medical cure all. With that, vibrators began to disappear from the Sears Roebuck catalog and ads in popular ladies magazines. (Vibrator Timeline available here)

It took until 1952 for the American Psychological Association to finally delist “Hysteria” as a disease. But it wasn’t until 1973 that vibrators reemerged at a National Organization for Women’s conference and became part of the benefits package, if you will, of the feminist movement.

Yet even today in the state of Alabama, it is still illegal to sell a vibrator as a sex toy. You can buy fireworks in Alabama. It’s just that thanks to the misogynistic anti-vibrator law, the good ladies of Alabama don’t have a lot to celebrate with those perfectly legal fireworks.

So where can law abiding citizens in the other 49 states buy a vibrator? Sex shops are usually seedy, tawdry places. However, Good Vibrations has been operating at the opposite end of that spectrum since 1977. I first ordered from them in 1988 after seeing an ad for them in the Utne Reader. They’re on the web, (Good Vibrations ) and have shops in San Francisco, California and in Brookline, Massachusetts. Standing inside their Massachusetts shop it’s all pink and cheery. If you squint your eyes you would think you were in a cosmetics boutique or a party store. (Yes, a party store!) They have darn near anything you could want to try. Best of all, the website is full of user reviews - very, helpful and informative user reviews. If you visit either one of their brick and mortar shops you can also check out their vibrator museum. They even have a 1950s “Handy Hannah” on display!

Meanwhile, numerous states with Republican majorities are working hard legislating against women’s reproductive rights. Even the birth control pill has been a direct or tangential target of right wing legislators. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has promised “to get rid of” Planned Parenthood. And the United States Congress has had 61 bills in the last two years which pertain in some way to abortion.

Are all of these conflicting realities ironic and schizophrenic? Yes.

Which is why, at the age of 54, I continue to support both sides of Planned Parenthood - its health services and its action committee. I also make financial contributions to progressive politicians. And, of course, I vote. Voting has always been a political act; a civic responsibility. Now I find it completely congruous to add orgasms to that list of political acts! In this day and age, understanding history and recognizing the resurgence of the far right to attempt to rein in women, I see using vibrators and having orgasms (alone or with a partner) and even reading mediocre, yet wildly popular porn as political acts.

Seriously.

Who’s with me?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Joie de Vivre

I love, love, LOVE this video!



Thanks to Fiona for telling me about it!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Happy Belated Anniversary!

Thursday was the eighth anniversary of the legalization of Same Sex Marriage in Massachusetts. I missed it. I'm embarrassed I forgot. But I am also reassured. I wasn't holding my breath until we crossed another annual milestone. No, life was pretty humdrum here in the Bay State.

Happily, despite repeated attacks, equal marriage has remained the law of the Commonwealth. All those specious arguments; all those dire predictions about how so called “traditional marriage” would be undermined, yet here we all are. The sky did not fall.

And, now, our President agrees.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Life’s Path


“March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life's path.” - Kahlil Gibran

Today is Roo’s birthday. It’s also Jake’s birthday. Thursday is Sue’s (Jake’s Mom) birthday. Saturday is Wendy’s birthday. My birthday is Friday. I’ll be 54. And this year I am grateful for every minute; every new gray hair.

”Happy Birthday to us,
Happy Birthday to us,
Happy Birthday dear all of us
Happy Birthday to us -
and many more!
Wheeeeeee!!!”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Time

It still seems impossible that my sister Karen is gone. I know that it has been little more than two weeks since she died. I know there will always be a empty place in my heart. But I keep thinking of her in the present. After we Skyped on Saturday with my sister Gail, I thought “I wonder if we could do this with Karen?”.

One friend told me: “Apparently time heals all wounds, but it sure doesn't feel like it at the time of the wounding”.

Another told me: “Time is a friend in dealing with loss. It doesn't hurt less as time goes on, but it does give us a chance to catch our breath and deal with the pain.”

Wise women both.
Kind as well.
I’ll try to be patient as I grieve and breathe...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Today...

Today would have been my sister Karen's 65th birthday.

Tonight, I stood in the town Karen called home for many years. This photo of the rising “Super” Full Moon (in perigee) is for her.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I Have No Words

My sister Karen ~ 1947 - 2012
Zichrona liveracha ~ Her memory is a blessing

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ralph’s Best Side

Back in May of last year I posted about the nifty phenomenon of how “Ralph” the seagull is always waiting for us in the same spot on Park Loop Road. Yesterday we drove the same route and sure enough, there he (or she) was! Today, while happily rained-in by a nor’easter, I had some fun digi-scrapping a layout using current photos along with the text from the earlier post.

(By the way, Blogger has “updated” their platform leaving carriage returns and paragraph breaks non-functional. I’m looking forward to them sorting that out ASAP!)

Photos and layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Fonts: Jayne Print, Helvetica . Software: Apple iPhoto ’09 and Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Mac.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Aaahhhh....

Even when it is cloudy/rainy/windy and the Porcupine Islands are shrouded in fog, it is still a pleasure to be here.

(For those of you outside New England, “Maine ~ The Way Life Should Be” is posted on signs as you enter the state. As for the bottle in the photo, well, family and friends will appreciate that!)

Photo and layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Font: Hans Hand. Software: Apple iPhoto ’09 and Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Mac.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Welcome Back

"Fred" flew by to welcome us back to Bar Harbor, Maine. (Is it just me or does his look say: "What took you two so long?")

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

One House

The house at the end of our street was torn down. We heard a few different versions of how the lovely, mid-nineteenth century farmhouse had been abandoned or maybe the folks had moved away because of work or perhaps the wife had gotten sick or, well, it didn’t really matter. Gradually, the house fell into disrepair.

A silly woman called it haunted which was disrespectful of a house that was simply full of memories and sounds (laughter; tears; muddy boots stomped on the porch; mice scurrying in the walls) and smells (strong coffee; wet wool, roast turkey; lilacs) and seasons upon seasons of children and pets and young couples and widows and widowers.

Even after people and animals stopped living there, our neighbor and friend continued to hay the fields every summer. He plowed the driveway in the winters until the shed, that doubled as the garage, slowly gave in to the snow load on its punctuated roof.

Word went round town that the house would finally be sold. We heard it was part of an estate and we felt a sadness at the distant loss. Our friend and neighbor made an offer, then another. But a fellow from out of town swept in, made his case and met the price. Before the truth of it all could even circulate, the man had a crew in who wrapped the place up in yellow caution tape; harvested the gold in the form of mouldings and chestnut beams; stripped it bare he did.

Then the chug of a tractor in the field was replaced with the sound of more fearsome equipment, as the big machines pushed and pulled; strained, shattered and finally felled the once fine old home. The sound was terrible; rending in its truest form; a kind of keening that wrenched your heart. Bricks crumbled; joists snapped; horsehair plaster and lath rained down and the dust rose up in clouds. Smoke from the funeral pyre and all the sounds and smells and memories from a century and a half of living went with it.

The corner is empty now. They filled the cellar hole and smoothed it over in a sort of slap-dash way so you can still see the ruts the big treaded tires made. Spring came early after a worrisomely warm and dry winter. A plucky little forsythia burst open in a yellow cascade at the foot of what was once the front walk. I’m hoping the lilac near where the old shed stood does the same in a few weeks; flowers at the grave of an old friend.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Digging

Seamus Heaney is brilliant. This clever video presents Seamus reading his poem “Digging” in a marvelous and engaging way. If you are tempted to move on because poetry isn’t your cup of tea, please don’t. Take just one minute and thirty-seven seconds to enjoy every word, every image.



Happy Poetry Month!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

How Doctors Die

“How Doctors Die - It’s Not Like the Rest of Us But It Should Be”

That’s the title of an article our niece Carrie sent us a link to shortly before Chuck’s Tanta died. Written by Ken Murray, MD, it was timely then and, most likely, will be timely many more times during our lives.

One of the things which required the most explanation as we began telling family and friends why Chuck’s Tanta was entering hospice care, was that she was not going to have a biopsy and there would be no treatment for her cancer.

Tanta had the same primary care physician for decades. His colleague had been her mother’s doctor back in the 1980s. Tanta and we met with each doctor about a week apart. At the second appointment her primary confirmed the diagnosis of liver cancer. He explained that the size of the mass and the progression of the disease was quite clear from the CT-Scan. He told us that they had seen nodules on both of her lungs, which they believed was likely a recurrence of the lung cancer Tanta had beaten successfully many years before. Now it seemed that the lung cancer had metastasized to the the liver. But even if it were an intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma the options and outcome would be the same. A biopsy was not necessary because it didn’t matter which kind of cancer it was. It was untreatable.

We live in a time when treatment, often aggressive treatment, is the norm. The CT-Scan had been done in Boston at one of the finest hospitals around. Both of Tanta’s doctors were affiliated with that hospital. We all went into those appointments expecting to come away with a treatment plan. Instead, two experienced, compassionate doctors were very frank and honest with Tanta, while also being gentle and respectful. Initially the news that there was no treatment which would not do more harm than good was startling. But in short order we all came to understand the wisdom of their advice.

Tanta was given the truth. It was a gift. Tanta also gave us a gift long ago by spelling out, in no uncertain terms, her desire to spend her final days at home. Because of both of these gifts she did not spend her last weeks being shuttled to doctors and hospitals for unnecessary treatments. Instead she stayed in her own home where family, friends, neighbors and rabbis from her temple could stop in for a visit. She had round the clock care and, as she put it, she didn’t have to wait twenty minutes after she rang a bell for someone to respond to her needs. And the brilliant hospice staff was in regularly to tend to her physical, emotional and spiritual needs - but always on her terms, not theirs. Tanta died peacefully and, most importantly, she died with dignity.

Not everyone is able to die this way. Dr. Murray’s article spells out very clearly why we all need to think ahead and understand all of our options. The resources and options are increasing - not just for treatment of disease but for hospice and palliative care. We have choices.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ticks

To be clear, I HATE ticks.

By all accounts this is going to be a very rough season. By season I mean spring, summer and autumn. An incredibly mild winter has been the common wisdom for the high number of ticks. But Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld has another explanation: acorns and white footed mice. The article in Science Daily is a quick and interesting read. Regardless of the precipitating factors, ticks are dangerous.

Part of why I hate ticks a great deal right now is because one latched onto Chuck this weekend. He wasn’t out doing yard work without protection. As far as we can tell he was just walking to the compost pile and back. Frankly, most of the joy of gardening has disappeared into the sea of haz-mat level gear, bug spray on clothing, body checks and loads of laundry that need to be done after every outdoor foray.

I followed the tick removal guidelines as best I could - patience is key. I cleansed the area and applied triple antibiotic ointment under the bandage. But every time this happens we worry about Lyme Disease. How can we not?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Chuck!

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


He is the bee’s knees; my hero and my heart. He has a fierce intellect and the patience of a saint. He makes me laugh every day. And he always, always has my back.
I love you Sweetie!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pachelbel Rant

Loved this!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Shemira

Similar to the Irish tradition of remaining with the body of a loved one until burial, Shemira is the Jewish ritual of attending or guarding the body. The difference is that the Shomer or Shomeret usually sits and prays alone and may never have known the deceased in life. The Irish tradition is one of family and friends being with the recently departed. Although when Tanta died Chuck and I did go to the funeral home and spent a few moments with her and with the Shomer who was attending her at that time.

It was a comfort to us to know that from the moment we escorted Tanta’s body to the funeral van, throughout the process of taharah and until we helped bury her body next to her parents and her brother, that she would always be accompanied. It was especially comforting to the caregivers who had been with Tanta around the clock in her final months to know that she would never be alone. For them it meant that their work would be carried on.

Growing up, my Dad would often tell us that when his time came he wanted to be laid out in the living room. He thought the sofa where he would stretch out to watch the eleven o’clock news followed by “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” would be just the right spot. Dad was of Irish and Scottish descent but even his Scottish side had come from Ireland originally, so the roots ran deep. I wish we could have honored his wish. But by the time his parents passed away decades before him we were already bringing our dearly departed to funeral homes or funeral parlors - named with a nod to the time when families were at the heart of the process - and that’s where they “went out of”.

The first funeral I remember was of my Dad’s mother. I was just eight. There was some discussion in the extended family that I was too young to attend the open casketed wake. My parents disagreed and I attended. I’m so glad I did. I could see Grandma, kneel down and say a little prayer and begin to understand the rituals of death and burial.

Today is my Dad’s yahrzeit. As I write this, his memorial candle burns brightly. Twenty-four years ago today Dad died. He had been surrounded by his wife and three daughters all day. Late in the evening my mother sent us home from the hospital. While I was driving home in the cold and dark from Massachusetts to Connecticut, Dad breathed his last; his wife of nearly forty-two years by his side. I wondered about so many things that night. What I never questioned was that Dad’s death was a release and a relief for him. He had been so very ill for so very long. The Alzheimer’s Disease had cruelly robbed him and all of us of the warm, intelligent, funny man who worked hard, sang beautifully, told a great story, and loved his family above all else. At times in his life Dad struggled - as do we all - but his love for all of us never wavered.

Dad wasn’t laid out in our living room. He and Mom had sold that big old house a few years before and Mom was living alone in a condominium. Dad went out of the funeral home his father-in-law had gone out of. There was no Shomer in that tradition, but we did have an open casketed wake in the front parlor of the funeral home and his children and grandchildren were there to visit and attend. We said our goodbyes, had a proper funeral mass in the church Dad helped bring to fruition and buried him next to his parents and brothers.

Zichrono liveracha ~ His memory is a blessing.
And it always shall be...


You can read the story behind how a Catholic daughter came to light a Jewish yahrzeit candle for her father by clicking here. My poem, “Your Yahrzeit” can also be found there.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Joy and Sorrow

Thursday, February 9, 2012, we spent the afternoon with Chuck’s Tanta. Age 89 and in hospice care with liver cancer, she was clearly in her final days. I sat by her bedside and talked to her. I named every family member that had been in touch with us and passed their love onto her. Then I began reviewing the bidding. I recounted all the ways she had been a good woman: a daughter, a sister, a sister-in-law, a friend, an aunt, a great aunt, a member of her community. I let a cascade of names and good memories wash over her. In the living room, one of Tanta’s caregivers, “A” could hear me over the baby monitor we had set up. She asked Chuck if Tanta was talking to me. He said no, but that we believed she could hear or, at the very least, sense, what was being said to her. “A” nodded quietly in agreement.

The next morning, just after 6:00 a.m., the phone rang. Our niece Carrie was calling with the news that her sister Kate's water had broken. With that call we were off on the Kate, Phil and Baby Finn adventure! We arrived at Beth Israel Deaconess at Noon. We have been to Beth Israel with Tanta more times than we can count. This was the first time we had ever been to Beth Israel for a joyous occasion and we have to say we thoroughly enjoyed it!

When the news of Kate's impending C-section came to "Team Finn" sometime after midnight, we all had to make decisions. The predicted snowstorm and distance between hospital and homes were factors. While the rest of the family needed to leave, we stayed. We felt that we had all planted the Baby Finn Family Flag in the lobby and that our circumstances allowed us to remain and hold down the fort.

We rearranged our camp in the lobby and dozed on and off until Phil brought us the very good news of Finn's arrival: 9 pounds, 5 ounces (4.22 kilograms), 21 inches long! He also told us the equally good news that Kate was well! After that, Chuck took to the floor and got about two hours of sleep. I followed suit across two chairs. Soon Phil came and escorted us upstairs. After the delight of being able to see Kate, to know she really was well, to meet the fabulous Finn and to see the newly expanded family settled in their room, we took our leave.

As we headed home out of Boston we thought about stopping in Brookline to visit Tanta, but because it was so early and we needed to get some solid sleep in our own bed we decided to head home. Driving along the Mass Pike and then Route 9 we felt lucky that the predicted snow was just a dusting and that the roads weren't bad at all. Just before the Shrewsbury-Worcester line the cell phone rang. It was one of Chuck’s Tanta's caregivers calling to tell us she had died peacefully in her sleep.

We found ourselves at another decision point. Home would have to wait. We began making phone calls, grabbed a quick breakfast at Blanchard’s 101 Diner in Worcester and headed back from Worcester for Brookline. We were able to be with Tanta for a bit and said our final good byes by singing the Bedtime Shema. We also witnessed a very dignified transition performed by two gracious young women from the funeral home. Then we escorted her body downstairs to the vehicle.

The rest of the day was spent making phone calls, working out details with the funeral home about Tuesday's service and tending to things at her condo. We finally arrived home about 9:30 p.m. Saturday night, fed three justifiably disgruntled cats and at long last headed for bed.

We were in touch with everyone on Chuck's side of the family on Saturday, but we chose not to share the news with anyone on little Finn’s side until the next day. While none of them were close to Tanta, we did not want any mention of death to be part of such a joyful day.

We are saddened by Tanta’s passing. Yet we know we did everything to fulfill her wishes including her deep desire to die at home in her own bed, just as her own mother had in 1989, with her youngest daughter, our Tanta, by her side.

For Tanta:
Zichrona liveracha ~ Her memory is a blessing.

For Finn and for all of us:
L’chaim! ~ To life!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Moyers On Alinsky & Gingrich

Bill Moyers has a fierce intellect coupled with a calm and dignified manner. Bill Moyers also has a way with words: "the malignant narcissism of duplicitous politicians". Oh how I wish I had written that!

In this brief video Moyers provides a biography of patriot Saul Alinsky, and why Newt Gingrich has chosen to demonize him.

Bill Moyers Essay: Newt's Obesession with Saul Alinsky from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Romney’s Reasoning

Willard Mitt Romney, one of the Republican presidential candidates, may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he regularly swaps it out for a platinum foot.

Read the New York Times collection by Ashley Parker of some of Mitt’s best, oddest, most out of touch statements.

And rest assured there will be endless sequels.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

SoundHound

SoundHound works. It kicks Shazam to the corner and back. Not only does it identify the music quickly and accurately, it is content rich - including lyrics. And it’s free!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Still Wish...

I first wrote and posted this piece in 2007. My feelings have not changed. I believe it bears repeating and more so this year after extensive political wrangling to get not just abortion, but most forms of contraception outlawed in this country. Of course the balance on the Supreme Court remains key to this issue. Which means the upcoming presidential election is vital as well.

Today is the 39th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court Decision known as Roe v. Wade.

In light of this anniversary I have a few wishes to state:

- I wish, that from this moment on, no woman would ever have to make the decision to have an abortion.
- I wish contraceptives, including the morning after pill, would always be readily available to all women.
- I wish that all young people would be taught age appropriate sex and health education.
- I wish that all young people would be taught that abstinence is a legitimate choice, at the same time they get clear information about all forms of contraception.
- And I wish that abortion would always be safe and legal and available to all women.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

STOP SOPA!

STOP CENSORSHIP!
VOTE NO ON SOPA!


SOPA - the Stop Online Piracy Act - is a mess.
The US House of Representatives bill has a catchy title. Who isn’t against online piracy - other than, well, pirates, right? The problem is it is a hodgepodge; a catchall written by power brokers and it is far too wide reaching. It is a huge blanket of censorship being thrown over the entire internet, with the potential to smother all the individual voices.

If SOPA passes, we will lose the individual and collective power of the independent voices of the internet.
If SOPA passes, we’re screwed.

Learn more - - - while you still can!

“Stop Sopa or the web really will go dark” by Dan Gillmor

Why is Wikipedia going dark on January 18, 2012?
(Go ahead and try to visit Wikipedia on January 18th and see what that feels like.)


Understanding SOPA

The Stop SOPA on-line petition and action page

psssst... Do Something!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Moment


Yesterday we drove down to Rhode Island for the first time since Christmas. We visited with my Mom as well as Al, Carrie and Isabella Rose. Izzy is in constant motion now. She has graduated from walking while holding on to two hands, to holding on to only one hand! (Racing down the hallway with her, while bent over holding her little hand, is a chiropractor’s dream scenario!) She is also saying “Hi!” for both hello and goodbye - rather like one uses Aloha or Shalom!

Because of her bottomless energy, most of my photographs of Bella are now quite blurry. This quiet moment on Uncle Chuck, examining his Lapis Lazuli beads, was a beautiful exception.

In other family baby news, our niece Kate’s pregnancy is progressing smoothly (Yes, I am knocking on wood!). And she is the only pregnant woman I have ever known who grows lovelier by the month. Kate, her husband Phil and the entire extended family are excitedly awaiting the arrival of Isabella’s cousin Finn, sometime in February!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Smoky Goodness

Chuck and I first tasted a Chipotle based salsa at a Mexican restaurant in Redmond, Washington many years ago. We were so taken with it, we asked the staff about it. Then we went off in search of some wonderfully smoky Chipotle sauce. We tried several, but eventually settled on Tabasco Chipotle. We love it so much we travel with it! We also use McCormick dried Chipotle. I use the Tabasco and the McCormick in all sorts of dishes, not just Mexican inspired ones.

On the other hand, I’ve always been unimpressed by paprika. I am especially opposed to the “decorative” use of paprika - sprinkled over deviled eggs for example. Sorry, but it always reminds me of red chalk dust. Recently I began to read about smoked paprika. Now that sounded intriguing. I decided to give it a whirl. I found a tin at Whole Foods. It was pure chance that I chose the exquisite La Vera Sweet Smoked Spanish Paprika from Safinter. It was a revelation! It imparts a fabulous smoky depth comparable to Chipotle but with more distinct red pepper flavor - plus it’s more versatile than Chipotle. I love it! I may even consider dusting it over a deviled egg...