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Tchotchkes

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Location: Connecticut, United States

marybb1@gmail.com

Monday, February 27, 2006

Military Recruitment and Your Child: Cop Out or Opt Out


In the past, I’ve kept my daughters home from school, to avoid “fingerprinting” done by well-meaning PTA groups, Brownie troops etc. for the purpose of helping the police find my children if they were ever abducted.

I did that because I don’t want government agencies with that information. First of all, chances are they wouldn’t be abducted, and secondly, if the worst happened…I had tooth brushes, hair brushes etc. with DNA which is a better way to identify someone and I probably also had a million fingerprints belonging to them in their rooms, which could be lifted for a match.

Rather than write a “no permission” note and have my children stand out as the offspring of a paranoid…I just opted to keep them home from school that day.

Paranoid? Maybe, but with good reason, I think.

Today I found out that No Child Left Behind program includes something few people know about. Information gleaned about your child from this program is given to the United States military for their own use.

“A provision in the No Child Left Behind Act, which measures student achievement, also requires school districts to provide information about those students to military recruiters when asked,” says the AP.

“Military recruiters have the same access to student information as job recruiters, universities and other post-high school education agencies. School districts must provide the information if they receive any federal funding under the act --except in cases when students and their parents voluntarily opt out,” the article continues.

Yes, you can opt out of giving this information to the military, but you have to sign a letter saying so…only first of all, you have to know that opting out is an option in the first place. The vast majority of parents had no idea the information was going to military recruiters nor were they aware that they had any rights to keep that from happening.

We, as a nation, are getting terribly used to the idea that we don’t have as many rights as we once thought.

I was upset when I learned that TIVO kept a list of every movie you recorded. I was upset a long time ago when I noticed that my grocery coupons printed on the back of my sales receipt were directly related to what I’d purchased. So they were keeping a record of what I was eating for crissakes.

We have the unpatriotic PATRIOT act which allows more and more information to be stolen from us and collected about us.

Every keystroke we make on our computers can be found out by anyone and I’ve got more cookies in my hard drive than a dozen bakeries.

Big brother’s everywhere --in our libraries, our televisions, our computers, grocery stores, pre-schools and schools.

I’d like to opt out of all of that if I could.

But, at least parents can keep the military from sifting through their children’s school records as long as parents sign a letter requesting that this information is to be kept private.

Why do the military recruiters want this information? By seeing what electives your child takes, the grades your child makes, their extra curricular activities etc, they can prepare a very seductive sales pitch for joining the military.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dear Marry,

You ARE a ham sandwich.

You can be “not a turkey sandwich,” or “not a roast beef sandwich,” and even “not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” But there is only one “not a ham sandwich” and that is our Summer.

So take that stolen blog name and return it to the person who owns it; who earned respect, admiration, and love for writing under this very original title.

Render unto Summer the things which are Summer’s.

Don’t be petty; don’t be a thief, Marry.

Or burn.

Yours truly

Friday, February 24, 2006

Meme Tag

Four Favorites --tagged by Along


Four Jobs I've Had:

1. Bartender. I worked a shot and beer bar by myself. The owner showed me a rolled up newspaper and told me that if anyone got out of line, use that on them. I thought, “what scare them with a newspaper as if they were a puppy?” Then I tried to pick it up. There was a metal bar inside the rolled up newspaper.

2. Envelope stuffer. Yes, I did it We were desparately poor at the time.

3. Creative writing teacher for senior citizens. This job didn’t pay very well but I had so much fun with my students.


4. Editor/researcher for two books about golf. Ha, didn’t know a thing about golf when I started but learned a lot quickly.

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over

1. Chococlat

2. Usual Suspects

3. Zorba the Greek

4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Four Places I Have Lived


1. Connecticut
2. Connecticut

3. Alabama (Loved Johnny Ray’s food, especially the Chocolate Cream Pie, the best in the world!)
4. Connecticut

Four Television Shows I Love to Watch

I am not a big television person but I do watch:

1. CSI – Like Along, I have a crush on Gil Grissom because he reminds me of my husband.

2. Anytime the UCONN women’s basketball team is on tv, I’m watching. I love women’s college basketball.

3. BBC news, hoping to get a slightly less slanted view of world events.

4. Rachael Ray’s 30 minute meals show, and almost any cooking show because by watching it I feel like I made dinner even if I didn’t.

Four Places I Have Been On Vacation

1. St Martin, French side, so I could sunbathe in skimpy bathing suits without feeling out of place, and so I could speak some French before I forgot what I learned in college.

2. Milan, Italy – I liked it a lot, but was surprised how dirty it was…lots of grafitti and dog poop on the sidewalks. A bit disappointing in the food department, because being so close to Switzerland, the food was more white sauces than the red sauces which I associate with Italian food.

3. San Antonio, Texas – the River Walk was amazing and I had more margaritas in 5 days than I’ve had in my whole life. Mexican food was superb and everyone there seemed ready to party from moring to night.

4. Montreal, Canada – one of my favorite places, the outdoor cafes, the food, the people – just a wonderful time and I got to meet some distant relatives too.

Four of My Favorite Dishes

1. Turkey. Just love it, Love it with gravy, mashed potatoes, yams etc, but also love turkey sandwiches.

2. Pasta, any kind, any way, anytime. Chianti Classico, garlic bread..yes!

3. Asian food, Thai especially. Anything with shrimp!

4. Big juicy hamburgers with everything on it and I adore hotdogs too especially served with a dry sparkling rose as in ro-zay…(don’t know how to put the accent in here)…mmmm

Four Websites I Visit Daily

1. Ebay

2. MSN

3. Yahoo, so I can play Alchemy…don’t do it, it’s way too addicting.

4. Marybishop.blogspot.com (Well someone’s got to visit that site!!!)

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now

1. Someplace warm.

2. Ditto.

3. Ditto.

4. Ditto.

Four Bloggers I am Tagging


1. Lauren Bove because I haven’t heard from her in a while.

2. Irina because she needs to do another meme, right…sure...

3. John Doe Jr. because I want to hear his answers.

4. Echrai because I know I’ll enjoy her answers.

And everyone thought it was quiet on the meme front…teehee.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Give Me my Robe, Put on my Crown; I Have Immortal Longings in Me

From Antony and Cleopatra (V, ii, 282-283)



I have been on a ten-year quest for the perfect after bath, lounge around the house, drink coffee and do the crossword puzzle type of robe, and I finally found it.

Barefoot Dreams Cozy Chic -- put those four words into your long term memory bank if you too are searching for THE perfect robe. It’s truly a dream come true, if you are fussy about your apparel and have specific wants, like I did…this may very well be your dream robe also.

My criteria for the perfect robe was as follows:

Lightweight: I have at least two robes in storage somewhere that weigh about 30 pounds a piece. Sure they’re warm, but I can hardly lift them. I don’t want 30 pounds of robe on my 105 pound frame.

Pefect length for someone 5 feet tall: I am short…I could say petite, but I’m going for real here. Five feet tall is short. Many children in the fifth grade are taller than I am. I do have a woman’s shape, so a child’s robe is great for length but has no room for curves.

I have at least two robes in storage that puddle at my feet, causing me to trip up and down stairs and drag the hem through the slop the dogs leave by their water bowl.

Sometimes I’ve stood at the kitchen counter making toast while my hem was busy wicking up water from the dogs' bowl as my overly-long robe had landed in the bowl without me realizing it--until a good ten inches of robe were soaking wet. Not a fun way to start the day.

Soft and Warm: What good is a robe if it’s some kind of shiny satin that feels like damp eel against your skin? What good is warm if it’s scratchy wool that feels like a man’s beard against your skin? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just not in a robe.)

I wanted a robe that would lie upon bare skin like I imagined it would feel to lay naked on a bearskin. Soft, it had to be soft…very soft. I have at least two shiny, slimy feeling (but feminine!) robes in storage and at least two wool robes that are good if you need to file your nails, but don’t have a nail file nearby…yes, you could just rub your nail against the wool and fix that snag in a second.

Attractive: I also have a couple of robes, somewhere in storage, that are almost perfect. But they are made of flannel, and for some reason, the designers of flannel robes think they should all be made in some form of plaid, or worse, be covered in cartoon like animals. I wanted my perfect dream robe to look okay over whatever color jammies I was wearing. A red plaid robe over pink flowered pajama bottoms is not a pretty sight, nor is yellow rubber duckies over green plaid jammie bottoms.

Washable: I didn’t want a robe that had to be sent out to the cleaners. Ridiculous. Robes get dirty. Cuffs fall into coffee cups, they get dog drool on them and marmalade droppings. I wanted my robe to be washed and dried frequently without shrinking, pilling or looking worse for the wear.

Stretchy: I didn’t want a robe that I couldn’t push, pull, tug and adjust without worrying about ripping seams. I wanted to pull it over my knees or roll up the cuffs – I wanted to snuggle on the couch without feeling restricted – I wanted it to breathe and flex and become a second, fluffy skin for me. I have at least two robes in storage that almost made the cut, except they had straight-jacket tendencies when snuggling, so they had to go.

Shape: I have at least two robes in storage that when I put them on, I look like I’ve donned a fat suit. I didn’t want a robe, lightweight or not, to fluff me out until I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I wanted it to drape nicely around my figure – not add on 50 pounds.

It should be obvious by now why I have so many robes in storage: my specifications are a bit much, even I have to admit to this fact.

With 100 dollars in my PayPal account burning electronic holes in my pocket, I began the quest a few weeks ago. I researched and reviewed hundreds of robes. Saw the Barefoot Dreams robes, but they always had an article accompanying the ad saying “Oprah’s Favorite Things” 2003.

I'm not crazy about Oprah. I pretty much refuse to read a book that has her sticker on it…I certainly am not going to by food, bicycles, stuffed animals, sushi or robes based on her opinion. So I would cross off Barefoot Dreams from my list.

Then it dawned on me that I was cutting off my nose – so to speak, and I said screw Oprah, I’m ordering one of these robes as it seems to be perfect robe for me.

Thanks to Lisa, of Lisadesigned.com, I was able to email her a million questions which she answered promptly (and a special thanks to her for not reporting me as an internet stalker.)

I asked about all the above criteria and even more specifics, where did the sash tie fall on someone five feet tall? How big were the arm holes? Could I roll the cuffs up? A few hundred questions later, I placed my order for the Youth-size hooded-wrap robe in cream.

She said it would come in two days (free shipping!) and it did. I even got my name on it because embroidery was free! (Okay a little kitschy but I like it!)

Now I sit here typing, cuddled up in my personalized dream robe -- cozy as can be. Happy as I’ll ever be about an item of clothing so important to me.

For $69.99 I have found robe perfection. Adult sizes are a bit more expensive and the robes come in a standard style that works for both men and women.

My only problem now is the strong desire to wear this robe all day long. There is nothing I own that is more comfortable to wear. Well Barefoot Dreams does make a hoodie jacket in the same material…I could treat myself, now couldn’t I?

Done, wrote Lisa and ordered my new Barefoot Dreams, white, zippered hoodie, which should be on my doorstep in a couple of days.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Grandma: Aids Activist



Grandma was the first AIDs activist I knew. As early as the mid-eighties, when announcers on tv were talking about the “new gay men’s disease,” Grandma was writing out checks for AIDs research.

We found out one day when Grandma was having trouble balancing her checking account and asked us to check her math. Phew…there was a check made out for $500 for AIDs research.

Hey Grandma, you gave $500 for AIDs research? Wow, that’s a lot of money.

“Yes, it is, but not nearly enough to fight that bastard virus. Wish I could give more. You should send some money too. Even five dollars helps. That virus is going to catch on like wildfire if we don’t find ways to stop it.”

But isn’t it just gay men that get AIDs?


“I’m surprised at you girls. I thought you used your brains better than that. Viruses don’t make moral judgments – they attack when and where they can and it’s ridiculous in this day and age for people to think that any virus is picking its victims because of their sexual orientation. There’s a scientific reason for why any virus attacks any human being and it isn’t whether they’re gay or not. Now that’s what they have to find out. That’s why I’m donating money because mark my words, you’re going to see women get it and regular married people get it and children get it who have never had sex. ”

Grandma was sensitive to the situation because she’d lived through something similar. Many people thought the polio virus was a dirty person’s disease; that it came from poor hygiene and if one bathed religiously, one wouldn’t get polio.

Unfortunately that wasn’t true. You could live in a bathtub and still get polio. Grandma’s first daughter Patty, came down with the disease when she was only four years old and Grandma remembered well how the church ladies and her once friendly neighbors wouldn’t go near her, her children or her house.

“Oh I understood in the very beginning, we were under a quarantine of sorts. Patty was in the hospital and all we could do is look at her through a window. We couldn’t go in her room and touch her or kiss her. But that was only a short time – maybe 6 weeks or so, though it seemed like years. After that, you usually are no longer contagious. They tested her to see if the virus was active in her system, but it had gone and what was left was her poor little leg, twisted and atrophied. She went for therapy for years to work those muscles and that’s why today you would never know she ever had polio.

The neighbors – they kept their kids away for months…all summer and all fall. By winter, most people believed that you couldn’t catch polio in the cold months – so a few children would wander in our yard, but weren’t allowed to come inside.

“Poor Patty, she missed her friends. She missed playing outside, but she was still weak and frail. Once, Mrs. Smith let her daughter Carol come over for a visit, but Carol carried her own cup with her because her mother told her if she needed a drink, not to use any of our cups or glasses. The poor kid was so scared and uncomfortable, I told her that Patty needed to rest so she could leave without feeling badly.”

That must have been rough on you Grandma. Must have been very hard to see your child suffer not only from a disease, but from the ignorance of other people.

“I thanked God every day that no one on our street ever contracted polio, for if they had, we would have been blamed. I thanked God every day that Patty never had to be in an iron lung. That was a terrible sight to see. I spent years volunteering at Englewood Crippled Children’s Hospital, and the little ones trapped in that iron lung…it made you so thankful your child wouldn’t have to live like that. I’d go and read them stories and pet their foreheads and sing them songs…I owed it to them.”

You’re a good woman Grandma. You were so kind to volunteer time to other kids when you had a sick one of your own.

“No,” Grandma said. “I wasn’t that good at all. I was just fulfilling a bargain I’d made with the angels, that if Patty could come out of this a normal child, I’d volunteer at the hospital and help others. Volunteers were hard to come by due to people thinking they were going to catch polio…so those little ones spent lots of time alone, without the comfort of a soothing voice or a gentle touch.”

Well it worked Grandma. Your bargain worked and Patty’s fine.

“Yes, she is. But if I was really good, like you think I am, I’d be volunteering to work with AIDs patients now…and I’m not. Too old I guess. Bones too sore and my feet ache when I’m on them for just a short time. Lately I’ve got this indigestion that wakes me up at night. No, not much is working right on my body now…

“Except, I can still write a check,” Grandma said. “That I can still do.”

And she did. She continued to donate to AIDs research until she moved to the nursing home and after she died, we found numerous thank you letters from people who had been helped by Grandma’s checks.

You might have thought of Grandma as an apple-pie maker, funny story teller and first class grandmother, but I’ll always remember her as an AIDs activist too.

Way to go, Grandma.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


You-Know-Who-Next-Door's Hoosit



You-know-who-next-door.

That’s what Grandma always called her grouchy neighbor with whom she shared a white picket fence along the border of their properties.

He had a name. Floyd Becker.

But Grandma almost never called him by name. And, if she mentioned him at all, it was with a lowered voice, as if by the proximity of their homes, he would be able to hear what she was saying through the walls.

Grandma and Floyd had numerous points of contention between them, but the biggest one of all was the fact that Grandma had both a bird feeder and a cat named Lulu.

As soon as Grandma started to speak in her sotto voce whisper, we knew who she was going to talk about, whether she mentioned him by name or not.

“You-know-who-next-door came up to me when I was emptying the garbage and said I should take down my birdfeeder because Lulu, was sitting underneath it licking her chops.

“I told him that last I knew, Lulu couldn’t fly, and unless she had learned how, there was no way in hell she could get to the bird feeder.

“He said that maybe a bird would want to eat the seed that fell to the ground, and if it did, Lulu would be waiting there to pounce on it -- and I told him that I couldn’t monitor the ground under the feeder and he shouldn’t either.”

We were used to hearing many stories like this.

One time You-know-who-next-door called Grandma on the phone to tell her that Lulu had killed one of his Cardinals, a bright, deep red one, prettiest Cardinal he’d ever seen.

Grandma replied, “Lulu doesn’t care what color bird she kills and they’re not your Cardinals anyhow…they belong to all of us, and they are at my feeder all the time. And Lulu only kills the sick birds because they others are smart enough and healthy enough to fly, which I will remind you again, Lulu can’t do”

So this day, when Grandma lowered her voice, before a word even came out of her mouth, we knew who was going to be the focal point of her story.

“You-know-who-next-door is way too sexed up. I told you this before -- after Grandpa died he’s gotten worse. Yesterday when I was hanging out the laundry he was staring over at me. Made me feel like he was undressing me with his eyes. Yuck!

"He’s got a lot of sex in him, I tell you – still – even though he’s got to be pushing 80 by now.”

We nodded. It was pleasant to be talking about You-know-who-next-door and not be talking about a bird/cat altercation for a change. Still Grandma’s line about undressing her with this eyes was a bit much to hear.

“And, he’s undressing by the window – every night…exactly at 8 PM like clockwork. He gets right up to the window, curtains opened, shade up, light on in the room and takes off his pants!

“Can you imagine? He’s doing that for my benefit, I’ll bet you anything. I have a mind to call the police and report him but I can’t because his poor wife would be humiliated. So I let it go, but I don’t like that one bit.

We nodded again. Then we switched to the “no” head shake…hoping this would get Grandma off the subject as our minds were now envisioning You-know-who-next-door in his altogether. Not a pleasant vision in our minds.

“Every night now, right before 8, I turn off the lights and go to the blinds and peek out and sure enough, there he is, naked as a jay parading in front of the window for all to see. Utterly Deeeeeeee-sgusting!

“I’m telling you his “hoosit” isn’t much to look at - at his age. Nope, nothing to write home about.”

We wanted to point out to Grandma that she didn’t have to go to the window each night and watch, but figured it was easier to just move our heads around -- alternating between “up-and-down nods” and “side-to-side nos.”

When we piled into the car after our visit, we could barely wait till we turned the corner before we started to shriek with laughter. When we finally stopped laughing, one of us would say the words: “You-know-who-next-door’s hoosit” and we’d all dissolve into gales of laughter again.

Grandma, her ways, her stories, her words, could do that to you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Dear Valentine,

Thank you, Valentine, for cleaning my glasses, and placing them by my coffee cup -- every single morning, whether you’re mad at me or not.

Thank you also, for searching out the current book I’m reading…then putting it on the table along with the morning newspaper, every single morning: Late for work or not late; happy or sad; energetic or tired.

Thanks for spraying your throat with Snore-a way each night. It works and I appreciate that you do that even when you are extra tired.

Thanks for always remembering our daughters with special valentines from their dad. I know they’ll always remember how much their dad loves them.

Thanks for microwaving the pets’ food in the winter. Yes, indeedy, I kid you about this. But it shows to me such love and respect for our animal family. This act of kindness makes you well-loved by the animals, but it also makes me love you even more too.

Thanks for checking the birdfeeder to make sure there’s enough seed for the day.

Thanks for getting up in the middle of the night to whisper “here kitty, kitty” out the front door, even after I’ve said in disgust that the damned cat can stay out all night if he won’t come in.

Even though I don’t say thank you enough for all the acts of kindness you do every day, I notice them all.

I notice how you cover me up when you get out of bed, not that I’ve ever said to you how good it feels to have someone there to make sure the covers are up around my neck like I like them.

I notice and appreciate the bowl of sugar you put on the dish with the strawberries, even though you think strawberries are sweet enough as they are, you know I don’t.

I notice how you won’t grind coffee beans if you think I’m still asleep because you don’t want the sound to wake me.

Thanks for letting me keep the remote control – this has to be difficult for you to give it up, but you know how much I love to be in control of the television.

Thanks for sectioning my grapefruit so all I have to do is eat it… (special thanks for the cherry in the middle, my mother used to do this for me.)

Thanks for cooking some of my favorite things: that delightful sausage, peppers, mushroom spaghetti sauce that I adore, for example. (We’re having that tonight!)

Thanks for baking homemade bread at least once a week, and all your special muffins, especially the blueberry ones with the big sugar crystals on the top.

Thanks for not only putting up with my idiosyncrasies, thanks for actually liking me more for having them.

Thanks for drinking the wine I love, when I’m sure it isn’t necessarily your favorite.

Thanks for putting the toilet seat down; for wiping off the counters and hanging up the towels you use.

Thanks for gassing up my car on the weekends so I don’t have to worry about doing it.

I could go on and on about all the little things you do to make my life easier, to show me I’m cherished and loved.

So Valentine o’ mine, no flowers, candy or jewelry necessary today.

Just come home and have dinner with me.



xoxoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Saturday, February 11, 2006

When Grandma Came Out



It was after a Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house. All the females were sitting around the table after the meal, when she made the announcement.

“I think I’m part lesbian.”

No one moved a facial muscle.

Grandma could get mighty mad if she thought you were laughing at her. In her mid-seventies now, she would sometimes mix up words, even forget the English word and only remember the French – the language of her youth.

I knew we were all thinking the same thing: is Grandma coming out at 75? Could this be?

Then we understood.

Grandma had recently fallen in love with hummus.

A new neighbor, of Lebanese descent, had invited her over for wine and served hummus with roasted garlic and red peppers -- and from that moment on, Grandma had to have hummus and pita chips at least once a week.

In fact, that is what she had served us for an hors d’oeuvre before our big pot roast dinner on that very day.

Oh, you mean you think you’re part Lebanese,” we said nodding-- thinking just how damned cute she was.

Grandma had a quick retort:

“If that’s what I meant, that’s what I would have said. I said L_E_S_B_I_A_N (she spelled out the letters for us) and you girls know what the word means.”

Whew. This was a shockeroo, as Grandma would have said.

None of us spoke.

“You know, I was thinking about this because I never liked wearing a skirt or dress. I never liked fussing with my hair, or clipping on earrings or wearing make-up. I have hated lace and bows and ruffles my whole life. And most of all, I always hated being out with Grandpa when the men would go into the living room to watch sports and I’d be stuck in the kitchen with the women. It would make me so damned mad.

“The men would be smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey with their feet up on ottomans, and I’d be stuck with the ladies and their tea and crumpets. I always wanted to be out there with the men, smoking and sipping whiskey and watching sports, not in the kitchen with a bunch of women who’d rather gossip than watch a ball game.”

That doesn’t make you a lesbian, Grandma,” we said.

“Well there’s more. You all know I’ve hated pink my whole life.” She said this with a very serious expression.

We wanted to smile but didn’t dare.

We certainly did know Grandma hated pink. She never bought us a single pink thing in our lives. She never wore a single pink thing in her life, and if we’d dare to wear pink in front of her, she’d make a face and chant: "pink pink you stink," like a petulant child.

(This must have had something to do with being traumatized while either looking at or wearing pink because she had an unnatural hate for the poor color.)

One of us asked haltingly, “Grandma, were you ever attracted to women?”

“Of course, don’t be silly,” was her reply.

“I am attracted to all of you young women sitting around my table!” she said, waving her hand in our direction.

She wasn’t going to make this easy for us.

One of the braver women at the table went for it: “Grandma, what we mean is have you ever been sexually attracted to women?”

Grandma scowled. “I’ve never had any use for sex of any kind,” she replied.

“Oh I guess that's not exactly right. For a short time before I got pregnant with my first, and for a short time after my hysterectomy and before your Grandpa lost the lust…there were some good times, but mostly sex meant fear of getting pregnant, having a miscarriage half the time and feeling sick -- wondering where the money was going to come from. Impossible to enjoy anything that could add a pregnancy into the mix…so I can’t blame Grandpa, it was the times.

“So to answer your question,” she continued, “no I have not been attracted that way to women and let’s not ever ask that question again.”

“Okay Grandma.” We were irking her for sure, so we changed the subject and talked about books we were reading, recipes and the Red Sox.

“Yup,” Grandma said, “Sometimes I’m absolutely sure I’m part lesbian.”

We just looked at each other and decided whatever Grandma was, whatever Grandma thought she was…it was okay with us.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Nonplussed and Unpleased


That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion*


I’m trying.

I’m really trying hard to understand people who would riot over a cartoon. The word cartoon and the word riot shouldn’t be in the same sentence unless you are saying: The cartoon was a riot!

No one religious group should have the power to dictate what information, whether fatuous or factual, should or should not be published. Muslims can control other Muslims, fine with me if that’s what they want to do, but they can’t control the free world. Best of all, it's a cartoon for crissakes!

Sunday’s New York Time’s magazine had another huge head scratcher titled: Is Ritual Circumcision Religious Expression?

According to the article some Hasidic Jews in New York use “oral suction” or metzitzah b’peh – in their circumcision rituals.

“After removing the foreskin, the mohel, who conducts the circumcision, cleans the wound by sucking blood from it.”

Any person, especially a man, in the United States who used “oral suction” on an infant penis would be locked up in jail for years.

Except, apparently the Hasidic mohels in New York.



I think it’s time that we apply the fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes” to aberrant religious behaviors.

It seems that today if we use the word religion, you can do just about what ever you want to do. People are afraid to show any sort of “religious” intolerance.

Which is why infant penises in New York are being sucked on by grown men -- and why all over the world a few cartoons are causing casualties and chaos.

Someone has to open their eyes to the naked truth: both of the above religious behaviors are bizarre and ludicrous.

And god sayith: let there be cartoons!

And god also sayith:– if it involves one teeny tiny penis and one large man’s mouth and a sucking action, it beith fellatio which on a newborn is considered child abuse.

Amen.

*Southern slang for losing one's temper or being at the end of one's rope.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sweet Dreams


She was no beauty and you couldn’t even say she had a nice personality either. She was a loner; she hated kids and usually would leave the room to avoid them.

Not too many people liked her and with good reason. Mostly she’d ignore you, but if you did something she didn’t like – watch out, she could be nasty.

Still it wasn’t easy today-- because I’d known her for 18 years, because I loved her no matter what.

Believe, me it wasn’t easy to say goodbye.

It wasn’t easy driving her there. Walking out of the place without her and knowing I’d never see her again.

I cried all the way home.

Murphy, the orange kitty with the attitude and poor personal hygiene, was put to sleep today and I purposely chose that euphemism because it’s how I want to remember her.

Sleep well kitty kitty. Sleep well.

You were greatly loved, little one.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Papa, the Period and the Pier


Grandma’s father was a ne’er do well, a rogue and a roué. He stayed in Canada when Grandma, her two sisters, her brother and her mother relocated to the states in 1918.

The Canadian government had given him an “island” in northern Canada for his exemplary military service during WWI, and Great Grandpa had a large-breasted, soft-lipped mistress who lived with him on the island. He wasn’t going anywhere.

His grandfather had been a trapper who married an Indian maiden when he was in his 30s and his Indian wife was only in her early teens. I’m not sure how that shaped Grandma’s father’s life. But it certainly accounted for his thick head of jet black hair, his high cheek bones and some people said, his love of the “drink.”

Grandma’s father also had enormous charm, wit, and a penchant for gambling on anything and everything. He was a true lady’s man which is probably the reason he managed to marry Grandma’s mother who was an educated and sophisticated woman from Paris, who moved to Canada to be a governess for a high-ranking, Canadian official.

Eventually Grandma’s mother gave up on her philandering husband and sought a better life for her family in the U.S., but he’d still come to the states to visit from time to time, maybe to see the children and maybe just for a conjugal visit, Grandma wasn’t sure.

Her mother certainly would never tell.


Grandma says you never knew when he’d show up or why or how long he’d stay. So it wasn’t a complete surprise the night Grandma was woken up from a dead sleep by her father whom she hadn’t seen in over a year.

She was 13 years old and experiencing her very first menstrual period. (Mrs. Calloway, Emma’s mother had fixed her up with all the accouterments she needed to deal with this symbol of womanhood because Grandma couldn’t bring herself to tell her own mother what was happening.)

Grandma was groggy with sleep, crampy and confused when she opened her eyes to see her father stooped over her bed.

Even in his later years, Grandma says he was as handsome as a man could be, and tall for the time -- with broad shoulders and that head of shiny, black hair with one piece that fell softly onto his forehead.

Her first thought on waking was one of pride and joy. Daddy was here oh boy! Daddy was the handsomest man in the whole world.

But her happiness changed when she heard what her father had to say and smelled the sour odor of alcohol on his breath.

“Get up, get up little one, put on your bathing suit and come with me.”

It was September first and already the night air smelled like fall. What on earth was her father thinking? It was past midnight and the whole house was asleep except her visiting father and herself.

So what did you do, we all asked?

“Well I did what he said, I got up and put on my bathing suit because back then you did what your parents told you to do.”

Didn’t your mother wake up? Did she know he was in the house?

“I don’t know. She was a bit afraid of him, as we all were. She didn’t buck him ever, and especially not when he’d been drinking, so I don’t know the answer to that question.”

Grandma said she put on her bathing suit, and followed her father out of the house and down towards the direction of Long Island Sound, which was a brisk 5 minute walk.

Her father explained in slurred words that he’d made a bet with some of his new drinking buddies that he’d be down at the dock in less than an hour with his 13-year-old daughter --who’d dive off the pier.

It would be a long way down into the stagnant oil-slicked waters by the dock, but he bet the men she’d do it and do it with a graceful swan dive at that.

He told them to quit their laughing and get ready to pay up because when he said something he meant it. They said no way. No way would he wake up his daughter and force her to dive into the dark waters.

He said “Put your money where your mouth is.”

And that’s why Grandma found herself at the edge of the pier, trembling with fear and wondering if this would be the day she would die, but knowing she had to make that dive or her father would kill her anyhow.

By this time, those of us listening to her story were teary-eyed and angry as hell at Grandma’s unthinking, uncaring, dastardly father.

“What a horrid man,” we exclaimed.

“No,” Grandma said sharply, “Don’t say that. He had trouble with drinking and gambling. He had trouble staying faithful and trouble being a father, but he was my father and the only father I would ever have. So I don’t want to hear you say bad things about him, do you understand?”

We nodded, surprised at the angry look on Grandma’s face.

“Did you make the dive, Grandma?” we asked.


“Of course. I already told you back then you didn’t refuse to do what your parents asked of you, no matter what it was. So I took a deep breath and gathered up all the courage I could find and dove into the water. It seemed like an hour before I heard the splash and felt the cold water against my skin. But I’d done it. I had survived --and I remember so well, my father’s hand helping me out of the water and onto the pier.

“I remember his big smile and how he patted me on the head. I can’t tell you what it meant to me when he took the blanket he’d carried with him and wrapped it around me – giving me a big squeeze.

“Walking home, Father was counting his money and humming to himself, but he kept one arm around my shoulder the whole way home. He told me that I was so brave and had made him so proud, he was going to buy me a new pair of shoes in the morning…and he did exactly that.”

We were looking at each other like “big whoop” but we didn't utter a word.

Then Grandma said, “My father... he might have been many things, but one thing he was – he was a man of his word…and that means something in this world. From my father, I learned to be a woman of my word,” she said, holding her chin higher and more forward than usual.

We all learned that day -- that no matter what horrid story Grandma would tell us about her father in the future -- we were not to ever comment negatively, but just sit tight and listen.

We also learned that for Grandma, an absent, drunken father was still better than no father at all. And though we might have thought being forced to dive off a pier in the middle of the night was child abuse, she remembered the incident as the time her father bought her a new pair of shoes.