Thursday, March 31, 2016

Teach a Person to Fish/Sew

My daughter Beaner works for a not-for-profit that helps young people who have social disadvantages or have had some problems with the law try to get on a professional track.  Last year she started working with a young high school student who wants to be a fashion designer. They started researching colleges and began working on her applications and the required portfolio. She had okay grades but an obvious talent for design, (said by a person who lives in baggy jeans and ‘Life is Good’ t-shirts) but all the fashion schools required that along with a portfolio of designs, that she submit photos of pieces she had made herself.  She had a creative talent but she didn’t have a sewing machine and she didn’t know how to sew.

So Beaner got a sewing machine donated and then asked me to teach her.  Almost every Tuesday night last year she and I would meet in Beaner’s offices to sew. She had to carry that heavy machine to school in the morning, and then on a city bus to get to the office and then another bus to get home. Her dedication to this effort has amazing. I just showed up and had a lot of fun.

A couple of days ago she got a rejection from her first choice college and we were all bummed.. But then yesterday came an acceptance to her second choice - FIT - the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City!  She and Beaner are now feverishly working on scholarships.

My volunteer work these days centers mostly on elderly or sick people. But I see the appeal of working with young folks and my daughter’s career goals of “just being able to help one person change their life.”  It is an incredibly satisfying feeling for me to have been even a small part of this young woman’s dream. And I am so frickin’ proud of my daughter’s hard work and dedication to living her dream.

Of course, there is a quid pro quo for me.  I have extracted a promise that when this woman becomes a famous fashion designer, I will get a front row seat to the fashion show runway and rub elbows with the rich and famous.  

But first, she’ll have to make me something to wear.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Full of Grace

  • Received a lovely card from my vet along with Magic's ashes and a set of her paw prints. And that poem that always makes me cry. But I am finally able to pass the pet food aisle at the grocery store without getting teary, so progress.

  • Beaner already being offered a couple of jobs in her field upon graduation.

  • And she is moving into an apartment June 1st. She will only be 20 minutes away so I'm sure she'll still be home to do laundry and raid the cupboards.  But she will take the monster cat with her and I will get my house back.

  • Being gifted with tickets to a Joan Baez concert.  Just her for an hour and a half, with no opening act and no intermission. She is still has a breathtakingly crystal clear voice and her final song, John Lennon’s “Imagine” had me in tears.  Maybe because I couldn’t help but notice that the injustices she has been singing about for 50 years are still with us. *sigh*

  • To have my family, and a few stragglers, together for Easter brunch. No one in our group actually celebrates Easter and yet any excuse to celebrate Spring and chocolate, all together, works for me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Full of Grace

  • Spring has officially sprung! My vegetable garden has been planned and my seedlings are doing well, waiting for it to be warm enough to be planted outside.

  • Gotta love Vermont - The U.S. food industry is fighting a fierce battle over requiring labels for ingredients made with genetically modified organisms. I am very grateful it is losing—to Vermont! The U.S. Senate voted 48-49 last Friday against a bill that would have blocked Vermont from passing their labeling law which goes into effect on July 1st.  I am hopeful more states will follow suit as I think people have a right to know what they are eating. Strangely, I have read all over the internet, people not understanding the dangers of GMOs. My guess is that they have never grown their own food and must believe that quantity trumps quality. But if you have ever compared a homegrown heirloom tomato to a store bought GMO tomato, you would understand. If we continue down this path we might as well feed people cardboard - it probably has more nutritional value. Hillary’s close relationship to and support for Monsanto is one of the biggest reasons I am still in Bernie's camp. If we destroy our food supply, little else will matter.

  •  This international organization is securely storing seeds from all over the world in an underground vault to safeguard crop diversity against a very uncertain future. It is so sad that this needs to be done,  but I am so very grateful that someone thought of, and implemented this. Especially because with the advent of genetically modified organisms, seed sovereignty is threatened by patents - calling seeds "intellectual property". That’s right, Monsanto actually owns the patents for our food supply. The seeds from their fruits and vegetables will not germinate so it guarantees that farmers will always require their seeds.

  • Here is the northeast it is maple syrup time. We went for an all you can eat pancake breakfast (reminding myself that "all-you-can-eat" does not mean "all-you-should-eat") where they serve the syrup warm, straight from the boiler, with maple butter.  What an amazing gift these trees give us!

  • Lastly I am incredibly grateful for my relationship to the natural world and all the gifts and lessons it has given me. That I get to walk in among trees, and sleep under stars, and grow my own food, and smell the amazing smells of Spring is something I no longer take for granted. Give me spots on my apples but give me the birds and the bees. Please!

Thursday, March 17, 2016


This week we had to bring our cherished, littlest cat Magic to the vet to be put to sleep.  It seems like just yesterday we had to do this for her sister Lucy. Fortunately she let us know it was time so we did not ever question our decision. Still it is always a difficult and sad thing to have to do.

Magic, like her sister, was found tied in a bag of 7 kittens found at the side of the road.  They were the only two to survive.  Beaner named her after the Magic Kingdom and they were best friends for over 16 years.  She was a brown calico who always reminded me of a melted coffee, hot fudge sundae. She was petite and at her peak barely weighed 9 pounds, most of which was fur. She loved to hop into my sauna when I was done and soak up the remaining warmth. She had a very different walk which was mostly a dainty delicate prance. But her most distinguishing feature were her eyes. Always wide and open and innocent she would look directly at anyone who spoke to her. Or when she spoke to them. I’ve never had a cat who would look me in the eye for such long periods of time. I always got the sense that she was truly listening.

She would sit next to you, never on you. She would let you stroke her, but never, ever touch her paws. She would curl up next to you under the covers but she didn’t like to be held. Which is what struck me the most - that she let me hold her during the car ride to the vet, and I held her as they gave her the final shot. I felt like it was a gift.

She was by far the sweetest cat I’ve ever had the pleasure of living with and even as an frail, elderly lady, she still looked and acted like a kitten. She was greatly loved and will be greatly missed. SHe was Magic.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Full of Grace

  • On a surprisingly 80 degree day and I had the luxury of calling work to say I won’t be in - I will be out. Outside.

  • Taking a hike with a friend and coming across this.* I am very grateful to know what it means to stand in awe.

  • Getting to spend a day in NYC, just me and my baby girl. I do not take time with my daughters for granted. What a joy they are to me.

  • Finding and riding this carousel, located between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.  I am giddy in love with carousels and this was a happy surprise to me.  A 1922 Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel. And the location was magnificent!

  • Enjoying a fancy brunch at a restaurant with great views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Why is it that the fancier the restaurant, the smaller the food? I am very grateful that my desserts are not usually this small (and this was to share!)

*I am not on social media so I don’t marinate myself in negative, nasty political news.  But when I go out in the woods I feel a sadness that if we don’t solve our environmental problems soon I doubt Mother Earth will care about any of our labels. It really won’t matter if our politics are far right or far left, or the color of our skin, or who we love, or what deity we choose, or choose not to worship. We will all go down in the filth together.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Full of Grace

After shaking my head at the national political circus this week, I am very grateful to live with the much more innocuous circus that is my family:

  • I made an angel food cake.  This is how my family ate it. 

 They don’t even bother to cut a slice - just grab a hunk and go. Very classy.

  • After a kazillion doctor’s appointments, it has been determined that Martha has a small rotator cuff tear but also significant swelling in her bicep. This means that they will treat the swelling before determining whether she needs surgery. I suppose that is good but it also means I will the carrying the heavy stuff and listening to her complain for a lot longer yet.
  • Everyone was home for an actual sit down at the table meal.  The entire conversation was about sexually transmitted infections along with accompanying photos, the pros and cons of circumcision, the horrible effects of meth on the body and brain, and the graphic details of a man who tried to commit suicide but only succeeded in shooting half his face off.  I can remember when dinner talk was about friends and books and music and plans for the weekend. Now, with one working in a medical hospital and the other interning at a psychiatric hospital, I guess this is what I get. I lost my appetite.
  • Lastly, the monster cat we inherited because of Beaner’s breakup has been living up to his name. In the past week he has chewed through charging cords, broken lamps, destroyed plants and knocked whole meals from the kitchen counter. He has been relegated back to the basement when no one is home, something Beaner is very upset about. Then she sent us this:

Makes me laugh every time.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Till It Happens to You

People watch the Academy Awards for many different reasons. I, of course, tune in to see Cate Blanchette. This year I think many watched to see how Chris Rock would handle the lack of diversity in Hollywood issue, something the media well advertised.

And while I was expecting race to be the main focus of the night, I was surprised that, for me, the focus was bringing sexual assault into the healing light of day.  Joe Biden gave Lady Gaga an introduction by encouraging people to take responsibility for sexual assaults on campuses and asked people to go to the website It’  I understand that the site then crashed because of all the traffic. "Let's change the culture," Biden said. "We must and we can change the culture so that abused women or men like the ones you will see tonight will never have to ask themselves, 'What did I do?' They did nothing wrong."

If you missed Lady Gaga’s performance of her song Til it Happens to You, I strongly encourage you to watch it. With tissues.  

During the performance the curtains opened and a group of survivors somberly walked on stage. They looked terrified as I'm sure they were. How vulnerable and utterly exposed they must have felt. Never in my memory have a group of sexual abuse survivors been so publicly out. The group, holding hands, exposed their forearms to reveal such words and phrases as "Survivor," "You Are Love," "Unbreakable" and "Not Your Fault."

And then, of course, the movie Spotlight won the best picture award. I have not seen it yet as I tend to need to watch these things in small installments and in the safety of my own home lest they be too emotional for me.  I will wait for it to be released on DVD. But what a victory it must feel like to all those survivors of clergy abuse. There must be some huge feeling of vindication for them.

While I don’t remember all the details of the “investigation” after Daphne and I were raped, the one thing that always stayed with me was a police officer saying “well, what did you expect?”  Those five words haunted me and were the basis for my feeling guilt and shame for years and years. Of course, what did I expect - two women, two races? What the hell was I thinking?  Of course it was my fault.  It has taken me decades of therapy to work my way through that way of thinking.

Rape culture is deeply ingrained.  Even those who call themselves allies and advocates often fall into it.  It took me a very long time to shake off feeling shamed and belittled by a so-called friend who said that my boundaries were like landmines and called me emotionally unstable because of them.  All I was asking for was to own my own story, for her to respect my privacy. Her words made me ashamed of having boundaries. But no more.

So while many saw this year’s award show as a rebuke of an all white Hollywood system, I saw it as an amazing and beautiful recognition of an issue all too often swept under the rug. And a celebration of those who endured a crime that has, until now, had so much shame attached to it that victims are often too degraded to even report the crime.  

I really hope the tide is turning.  

I can't help but think that this is how gay rights were won - people having the courage to come out, even when it was terrifying to do so.

I really hope that all people will assume a responsibility to watch over each other and to step up when they know that consent has not been, or cannot be, given.  I really hope that people who call themselves advocates and allies are more careful with their words. Words matter and can have a lifelong impact. And I most especially hope that survivors will be able to hold their heads high and not feel the shame and guilt that others have foisted on them.

For now I will watch this video again and again and cheer for those 50 incredibly strong and brave survivors.

May their courage not be in vain.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Full of Grace

I have worn this necklace for a long, long time.  

It was a gift to help me remember that the ocean will always be a part of me.  From the first time I put it on, I never took it off.  

On February 1st I had minor surgery on a knuckle.  Although I knew it was going to be done in a surgical center, I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal.  I did remember to take off my commitment ring assuming my hand might swell but I had left the necklace on, not even thinking about it.  When I got to surgery, I had to completely gown up which surprised me. Then the nurse told me I had to remove the necklace.  I did but I did not have any safe place to put it.  I stuck it in my wallet, shoved everything into the bag they give you and didn’t think about it again. After surgery I got dressed, stopped a few places for comfort food and a prescription and then went home.  It wasn’t until later that I noticed the necklace was gone.

I retraced all my steps.  I called the surgery center.  I checked my clothes. I checked my car. I was devastated.  Days passed and I couldn’t shake the broken heartedness of the loss.  When I looked in the mirror and saw it missing, I felt more sadness than when I lost my breasts.  My family generously offered to buy me a new one, but it would never be the same.

A month passed and I tried to convince myself that non-attachment was an important thing to learn.  And then on Sunday, Martha was cleaning and found it! It had apparently fallen on the kitchen floor, and then we think one of the cats must have batted it under a counter. It wound up being lodged under a moulding and could barely be seen. Martha said the only reason she saw it was because the sunlight hit it just so and she saw it glimmer.

So this week’s gratitude is all about having such a cherished item come back to me so unexpectedly.  It feels like a miracle that it was found and I am happy beyond happy.