What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


Aw for crap’s sake.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about these days! Between the killer heat waves, the rising oceans and the increase in mega storms, it’s already obvious that Mother Earth is trying to kill us before we kill her.

There are weird new super germs appearing everywhere, and the drugs we have aren’t working.

Did you know you can get flesh-eating disease from swimming in warm ocean water? And ALL the ocean water is warm now!

(Who the hell thought up the name “flesh-eating disease” anyway? Sicko.)

And even if you decide to risk having your flesh chewed off my bacteria and you jump into that warm ocean, you’ll probably be eaten by a great white shark.

I tell ya. It just isn’t safe out there.

The food supply isn’t safe. Our household cleaners are giving us cancer.

Don’t even get me started on what happens if you drink water that got left in a plastic bottle in your car!!

So as if all that isn’t enough to send you to the therapist with a bottle of Xanax in one hand and a pot brownie in the other….There is a scientist in Tennessee who is trying find a portal into a mirror universe.

Yes, I am serious.

A. Portal. Into. A. Parallel. Universe.

What in the world is wrong with people? Shouldn’t scientists be busy trying to cool off the earth, or stop the bacteria from eating our flesh?

We don’t need another universe, thank you very much. We’re having enough trouble with the one we’re in now.

So I’m reaching out to all of you. Please send a letter to your local elected officials. Tell them that unless the new mirror universe is cool, safe and has a non-insane President, we don’t want any part of it.

Thanks.

I think I’ll go bake some brownies.

Feeling Thoughtful


We live in difficult times. We live in sorrowful times.

We live in times that make it hard for us to keep our humanity close at hand. Times when we need to remind ourselves that those “others” are really “us”.

So I’m thinking. I’m not talented enough to come up with the powerful words that these times require. Luckily, a lot of very talented people have already covered this ground.

“What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the observer.” by Elie Wiesel

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

– Abraham Lincoln

A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.”

– Robert E. Lee

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

-Emma Lazarus, poem on the Statue of Liberty

“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”

Founding Father Samuel Adams

“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”

Author Mark Twain


Life as a Fangirl.


Oh, my gosh. Oh, my GOODNESS. Oh, holy crap!!!!

I shook hands with….RHIANNON GIDDENS!!!!!

The woman is a musical genius. A musical prodigy. A gorgeous, smart, articulate musical freakin’ genius.

And when you see her (as I’ve done at least ten times in the past two years), she sweeps you up in the beauty and power of her songs.

What can I say?

I’m a fan girl. Big time.

Like, huge.

So last weekend when Paul and I saw Rhiannon and her equally genius partner, Francesco Turrisi, we were completely overwhelmed with the music, the rhythms the lessons, the words, the whole damn thing.

I was, shall we say, swooning by the end of the set.

So an hour after the set, when I made my way down the row of foodtrucks for a snack, I was giddy with delight to see Rhiannon and Francesco in line in front of me.

“Leave them alone,” I told myself in my head. “They are tired and hungry. Let them order the tuna riceballs without being interrupted.” My rational self told me to behave. It told me to let these two nice people eat supper in peace.

But my emotional self just had to step in. I HAD to!

“When will you ever get a chance like this again,” emotional me demanded.

What could I say? Emotional me won the round, fair and square.

I stepped forward to approach my idols.

“Excuse me,” I probably squeaked, “I just had to tell you how much your music means to me and how grateful I am to hear it!”

My two music heroes smiled graciously, shook my hand, let them chat for a minute with them about their multinational sound, the drums from around the world that they use, the message they are sending.

I was quick. I was brief. I apologized for interrupting and I let them order their meals. I was silent as I watched her walk away to get some pierogis while he waited for the rice balls.

I thought I was fine. Well behaved.

But you know what?

Even though that was the highlight of my weekend, week, month, musical life, I am slightly abashed at having done it.

Don’t get me wrong! When I saw Ms. Giddens on the Today Show the morning after our chat, all I could think was “I shook that hand! I talked to her! I made her laugh!” I felt like I had somehow shared the glory with her; as if our 45 second conversation would be etched in her mind.

I felt special.

And that is the secret of fame, I think. The secret is to make the people who bump into you feel brushed by the glittery sparkles of your fame.

That probably works for big huge Hollywood types.

But it can’t be so simple when all you want out of life at that moment is a tuna rice ball and a jalapeno pierogi.

I find myself in an interesting spot in terms of fandom and musicians. While Paul and I revel in our short interactions with the musicians we admire, I also resent people who do the same thing.

That’s because our future daughter-in-law sings in a band that is gaining more and more attention lately. We have gone to hear Upstate many times. It’s always really fun! But lately we have found our conversations with our sweet girl interrupted by strangers who want to tell her how much her music means to them and how grateful they are for it.

They ask her questions about where the group met, who writes the songs, and where they’ll appear next. Sometimes they ask if they can take a picture with her.

My daughter in law smiles graciously, poses for the pictures, shakes the hands. She never lets on that she was, um, ya know, in the middle of a conversation with her future parents-in-law.

You can see how conflicted I feel about this whole thing! Music is the universal language, it brings us all together. It expresses our deepest, most powerful feelings and thoughts.

The people who can create that music? Well, of course they are our heroes! Of course we want to rub against them, shake their talented hands, share a story or a joke or a smile with them.

We feel as if we’ve been pulled into their special circles when we do that. But.

We need to remember that they are people, and they have their own lives. Once they step off of those stages, methinks, we need to learn to leave them alone.

Feeling Festive


The Parlor Room Tent

Paul and I spent the past couple of days at a fabulous music festival. It’s called the Green River Festival, and it’s held in nearby Greenfield, Mass.

Like most folk, Americana, bluegrass, blues and jazz festivals, this one was full of delicious and overpriced food trucks, multiple stages and adorable little kids in tie-dyed shirts.

It was also full of so much talent that my brain is practically melting. I mean, seriously. Every time I think I’ve found the most outstandingly talented young performer, I’m blown away by another one.

If you love good music, give a listen to these people: Upstate, Heather Maloney, Ali McGurk, and the Suitcase Junket.

You’re welcome.

I love these festivals so much. Everyone is happy, and not just because of the beer and the ginger libations (holy deliciousness). People are open to each other at these events. Old gray beards in button down shirts grin at young guys in dreadlocks while waiting in line for a ten dollar burrito. The bored cops at the entrance exchange smiles with exuberant toddlers.

We all just want to kick back, enjoy being outdoors, and listen to some fun music. We want to let go of things. Let go of jobs and bills and stupid damn social media and politics.

I love the letting go, even though today I chose to wear my Bernie Sanders shirt. It has the words “Medicare for all” on the front and “Bernie” on the sleeve. I might as well just tattoo “Lefty” on my forehead.

But it was all cool for a while. Until suddenly it wasn’t.

We were sitting in folding chairs inside of a sweltering tent. Everyone was packed in like the proverbial sardines. There was one open seat between me and the woman to my left.

A man approached and asked if the seat was open. I nodded and smiled, and then saw that he was wearing a bright red “Make America Great Again” shirt.

Shit.

I looked at my husband and frowned. “I can’t sit here!” I hissed. I’ll be honest; I knew, deep in my gut, that this guy must be a jerk. He’d have to be!

Right?

But then the music started. Ali McGuirk and Session Americana took off and swept us up. The MAGA man and I were bobbing our heads, tapping our feet and clapping. “Wow!” I said after the first song. I turned to my neighbor. “Have you heard them before?”

And we started chatting. I was blown away by the vocal skills of Ms. McGuirk, but he was all about the seamless sounds of the harmonica, clarinet and accordion. “Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to merge all those instruments?!”

It turns out that the guy is a musician. He plays the accordion himself, telling me that he plays mostly blues. We talked about bands we like, and it turns out that we have some mutual acquaintances in the local music scene.

Politics never came up. Good for both of us.

After the set came to an end, we looked at each other and smiled. “Enjoy the rest of the festival,” he said. “Nice to meet you!” I replied.

And you know what?

It was.

Disordered Language, or Disordered Thinking?


I’ve been writing about Donald Trump’s disordered language since the morning after his nomination. I listened to him speak extemporaneously on that morning after his big day, and I recognized the very same disorders of expressive language that I had seen for 30 years as a speech/language pathologist.

I wrote about my observations then, and my feelings have not changed at all in the past two years.

In fact, now I find myself ever more convinced that our leader has a significant expressive language disorder. But I am wondering now if that disorder is secondary to a cognitive disorder, like dementia, as has been posited by the group Duty to Warn.

I am not a neuropsychologist, so I am not qualified to speak on the question of Trump’s cognitive functioning. I’ll leave that to those who are so qualified.

But I think I need to go on the record in documenting what to me are clear and obvious symptoms of a language disorder.

So here I am.

Today I was in my car, listening to XM Radio. I happened to hear 10 minutes of comments by Donald Trump on the environment and his administration’s determination to keep it healthy and clean.

Here are my observations, as a retired speech/language pathologist.

  1. Overuse of a familiar word: In the space of ten minutes, Trump used the adjective “incredible” 6 times. His other adjectives included “big, beautiful, tremendous”. The word “incredible” carries very little meaning, obviously. It could mean a variety of things, including powerful, successful, unexpected, unbelievable, etc. When a speaker relies on one word, it can be an indication of a word finding issue.
  2. Trump was talking about the situation with Iran, and used this phrase “They threatened them dearly.” What does this mean? Huh? “Threatened them dearly”?
  3. This one goes back to Trump’s statements at the Lincoln Memorial. In that speech, Trump used the phrase “they rammed the ramparts.” As a former speech/language pathologist, this sounds to me like a situation where the speaker knew the phrase “man the ramparts”, but was unable to recall it on demand. Instead, he used an incorrect and laughable phrase. One cannot “ram the ramparts” as Trump stated.

All of this is of serious concern. I’m not writing because I dislike Trump. I’m writing it because it is increasingly clear to me that we are all under the control and guidance of someone who is demonstrating very serious issues with communication and possibly with cognition.

We need this President to undergo a serious and complete neuropsych eval as soon as possible.

And as a committed and confirmed Bernie supporter, I’d like to see the same eval happen on any future elected President.

Am I Proud to be American?


The other day I saw a poll question on the website Smerconish.com. The question was “How proud are you to be an American?”

Interesting question, I guess.

I really like Michael Smerconish, the owner of the website. He is also the host of a show on SiriusXM’s POTUS station and one on CNN. He is very smart, so I always learn something when I listen to him. He is very well informed, so I believe what he reports. And he is pretty non-partisan. He has been a Republican for most of his adult life, but is open minded and thoughtful.

I like him.

So I thought a lot about his poll question.

And here’s what I decided.

There are many things in my life that make me proud.

I’m very proud of my children. They are kind. They are altruistic. They all work in fields that let them help other people. They love each other. They are loyal friends. I am proud of them because I had something to do with how they turned out. I worked hard to be the best parent I could be.

I’m proud of my professional life. I’ve helped to teach hundreds of kids over the years. I’ve learned a lot, taken classes, listened to my smarter colleagues. I’m proud of having done my best to be a supportive and loving adult in the lives of my students. I did my best. I worked hard. I’m proud of my efforts.

My garden gives me a lot of pride, too. When I moved into this house almost three decades ago, there were no flowers. I have dug, weeded, thinned, composted, taken gardening classes, read books, transplanted, pulled up grass……You get it. I have worked very hard to make my yard look inviting in the warm months and cozy in the cold ones. And it’s all organic, too!

But when I think about the question on the website, I am confused.

Why should I feel pride in something for which I bear no responsibility? I was born an American citizen. I didn’t do a single thing to make that true. It’s true because of blind luck. And because of the courage and determination of my grandparents, who chose to leave the beauty and poverty of Italy in the hope of giving their children a better life.

I’m grateful that they did that. I’m happy about it. But proud?

I don’t deserve to feel pride.

How do I feel about the founding principals upon which this country was built?

Well. Given the fact that my ancestors were on another continent when all of that glory was unfolding, arriving on these shores only in the middle of the industrial revolution, I don’t see why I should feel pride in my country.

Do I like the principals and goals enumerated in our founding documents? Sure, for the most part I like them just fine. Sure. Freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness? All good.

But am I proud of them? No. Because I didn’t think of them, fight for them, sacrifice to see them put into place. I didn’t write them down and sign the Declaration of Independence even though that signature might have cost me my life.

So. I guess I’m not actually proud to be an American.

But how do I feel about my personal role in the life of the United States? Am I proud of that?

To some extent, yes I am.

I’m proud that I follow our political discourse. I’m proud that I read multiple sources to shape my ideas. I’m proud that I have gotten involved and have marched for causes I support. I’m proud of the fact that I always vote.

These are actions I’ve taken. Efforts that I have made, on my own, to improve life in this country.

I’m proud of myself as an American. But I don’t understand the idea of being “proud to be an American.”

I am an American because, by the luck of the draw, I was born here. I am an American because other people made sacrifices to get me here.

I am proud to be a decent, kind, loving human. I am proud to be inclusive and welcoming. I’m proud to be nurturing.

I am be proud to have given something good and beautiful to the world.

And I will remember that I have no reason, and no right, to be proud of the things that were given to me simply by luck.

My How Time Flies


I know. You think I’m looking at pictures of my kids when they were little. Right?

Or pictures of the dogs I’ve loved and lost. Or the career I’ve left behind.

Yep.

I know.

You think this is one of those sweet, poignant, tender posts about watching the next generation come of age and take the places that ours once held.

Any of those would have made wonderful blog posts, I’m sure. But this one is much more mundane.

Because this morning I got up and showered. I had my lovely iced coffee and then headed off to see my 89 year old mom. But before I left the house, where the dogs were snoozing on the couch and the husband was snoozing in the bed, I did what needed to be done.

I made sure that I peed before embarking on the hour and a half trip. I made sure that I put in some eye drops so I’d be able to actually see the road before me.

And I took my meds.

I grabbed my weekly pill minder and flipped open the tab for “Saturday AM”. I plopped the blood pressure pill, the fish oil and the multivitamin into my palm and swallowed them with a nice glass of cold water.

Then I looked at the pill minder.

It was just about empty.

I’m healthy, No, I am! Seriously, I’m healthy. Shut up.

I was completely shocked. Now, I knew that I fill said pill minder every Sunday morning. And intellectually, I knew that Sunday would be tomorrow.

But.

Didn’t I JUST FILL THIS STUPID THING?!

Wasn’t last Sunday morning only 20 minutes ago?

What the hell.

How did a full week go by without me even noticing it???????

I grumbled to myself. I cursed a little (OK< you define “a little”). I went out to the car and off to visit Mom.

Cuz, ya know. She’s OLD. I’m in my prime.

I’m definitely in the prime of that time when you measure the passage of the weeks by the need to refill your stupid, damn pill minder.

Grrr.

This whole getting old thing? Yeah.

Not for me.

Gotta go. The blood pressure pills are calling and the fibromyalgia meds are singing my name.

It Is So Simple


I had a wonderful conversation today with two intelligent, thoughtful women. One is a college student. Incredibly bright, well read, an engineer in training, and a gifted singer. The other is her grandmother, born and raised in the Netherlands, but an American for many decades.

We were chatting about life at a family party, and the topic of motherhood came up. The young woman has her doubts about wanting to raise a child. As I teased her and prodded her about the joys of parenting, she said something that brought my words to a halt.

“I don’t know where this country will be in five or ten years. I don’t know that I want to bring a child into a place like this.”

That lead us to a discussion of national politics, and to the scary and bewildering place in which we find ourselves.

We talked about the current horde or Democratic candidates, and realized that all three of us are firmly behind the progressives who are running. We all shared our excitement about the fact that there seems to be a competition to shake out which one of them is the most liberal.

How refreshing, I said to them both, I’ve been calling myself a Socialist since the 1970s!

That’s when my new friend, the woman raised in the Netherlands, began to share her thoughts.

“I don’t understand this strange reaction to the word Socialist! It doesn’t mean that you don’t want any kind of capitalism! It means that capitalism must have a conscience!”

We talked about the fact that a healthy and thriving country is one that takes care of the very basic needs of it’s people. About the fact that our friends from Europe are unable to understand when we tell them that our daughter will only have six weeks of unpaid leave after giving birth to a child.

We talked about the fact that if a country is able to produce a healthy, well educated, financially secure next generation, it is likely to have a stronger economy than a country whose people live in poverty.

“It’s so simple!” said my friend. “Socialism means that the government takes care of the social needs of the people. Why don’t Americans look at the lives of Europeans and see what it could be like here? Why don’t they look at life in the Scandinavian countries? Or in the rest of Western Europe?”

I had no answer for her, obviously. But I agreed with her assessment.

It is so simple.

Taxes should be paid to the government so that the government can provide the basic needs that individuals can’t grant to themselves. Education, paved roads, healthcare, national defense, a secure retirement, a healthy environment.

“It is so simple.”

Yes. It really is.

I wonder if the United States can ever get itself to see that fact.

First Day of Summer


Well, happy Solstice, everyone! Yay! It’s finally summer, for real!

The days get shorter from here.

Sigh.

I guess you can see how ambivalent I am about the end of the school year. Now that I’m no longer a classroom teacher, the end of the year is less about having time off and more about feeling at loose ends.

My daughter has the summer off, which means I won’t have my grandkids here for a few weeks.

I mean, I am very, very happy to have some time to rest and recuperate. I love watching my grandkids every day. I really, really do!! Toddlers are magical!

Exhaustingly magical.

So I obviously need some time to catch up on sleep. I need time to organize all these art supplies, old toys, and dried out play doh. I want to garden and read and maybe finally submit some writing somewhere. Summer is a good thing!

On the other hand, it’s amazing how dull it can be when the only one to talk to around here is me. I’m somewhat less riveting than I thought.

So day one is coming to a close. I’ve watched the news, read a lot, argued and snarked at people on social media and done four loads of wash.

Yay, me.

Now what?

I need to figure out how to fill my hours without the kids here to say, “Nonni, watch!” and “Nonni, guess what?” I need to feel useful without serving food every hour on the hour to hungry kids.

At least I have the dogs for company.

But you know what?

Both Lennie and Bentley spent this entire first day of summer wandering from room to room looking for the kids. They both spent a ton of time sitting in front of me with their big, sad, hound-doggy eyes.

We took a walk. They liked that!

But then we came home and they both went from bedroom to bedroom to kitchen to the deck. They both sighed. They both turned in circles. They gazed out the window. They chewed on their nylabones, but you could tell their hearts weren’t in it.

It’s going to be a long summer, pups. No kids until September, at least not on a regular basis. No games. No laughing. No sweet snuggly little girls to wrap an arm around your furry necks. No giggly little boy for you to chase down the hall.

Most importantly, no dropped cheese for many long weeks.

What are we gonna do?

You mean….nobody will be dropping string cheese?
I kinda need a hug.

Cookbook History


My old standbys.

We’re the ones who don’t think in measuring cup increments. Instead we think in spice palette increments.

I’m one of those intuitive cooks. You know what I mean? We’re the ones who read a recipe in 30 seconds, then try to recreate it.

“mmmmmm, cumin with honey?” or “Oh, wow, rosemary and lime juice!”

We think of cooking as an art, not a science.

We toss in a bit of this, a smidge of that, stir it around and suddenly realize that it needs buttermilk.

Cooking is my creativity.

So it’s kind of funny that I have a cookbook collection. I have cookbooks from China, Russia, Germany, Italy. I have cookbooks about snacks, cookbooks about desserts, cookbooks that are for kids. And I have a whole shelf of amazing leather bound cookbooks from the past century that tell more about social expectations of women than they do about how to make a perfect squab. I often read them for fun.

Tonight, though, I found myself thumbing through my very favorite cookbook ever. My daughter Kate gave it to me for my birthday during her junior year of college.

Kate and I used to cook together, and often experimented on recipes that the men in the family consumed with pleasure.

When she’d moved from the dorm into her first campus apartment, I’d sent her with a cookbook full of my favorite recipes. She might not be at home in my kitchen anymore, but I needed to know that my girl had the family recipe for red sauce and meatballs at hand.

She’d loved the gift, and had added her own discoveries and creations during the school year.

So when my birthday rolled around, Kate gifted me with my very own cookbook of HER favorite recipes. It was fabulous! She included recipes for “Reverse Chicken Soup” (made with beef broth and ground chicken meatballs) and “Pasta e Fagioli Cucina Lavandino” ( kitchen sink pasta e fagioli).

It was hilarious! I loved it.

I put its pages into my own home made cookbook.

Every time I found a delicious recipe, or an enticing food idea, I included into this three hole punched cooking notebook.

Well.

Tonight I decided to add a new recipe, for the first time in years. I have started making more raw veggie dishes, and wanted to add in hand written recipes for two new favorites: Italian Cole Slaw and Carrot Cumin Salad.

I wrote them down, popped them into the cookbook, and then started to flip through the pages.

Yikes.

This is like the history of my marriage and motherhood years. It’s broken into sections (appetizers, main dishes, desserts) but each one is in chronological order. A stroll through these pages is a documentation of my evolution through the basics (meatballs, chicken piccatta, yellow cake) and into our early marriage years.

That was when we wanted quick, easy and cheap (The Sausage Casserole I invented in grad school when each dinner had to come in at under 3 dollars). Dessert was usually a couple of graham crackers.

The book moves on into the early parenting years, when I mastered “Mexican spiced chicken fingers” and a lovely dish called “Heavy Slop.” Filling, easy and healthier than Hamburger Helper.

It goes on through special events that gave us “Christmas Shrimp Cocktail” and even “Red Sox Noodle Dandy”. The latter was created during the playoffs of 2004, when the word “Yankee” was completely forbidden to be spoken anywhere in New England.

Now I find healthier, higher-end recipes being added to the book. Foods with less fat, less salt, more fiber. Dishes that cost three times what the first entries did. Now I see recipes for lamb, for shrimp, for exotic pastas and sauces.

I love them all.

But mostly I love the idea that my life has been recorded as a series of recipes.

I can’t think of anything that would be a better fit for me than this!