About Me

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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Condo Decorates for the Holidays

After Thanksgiving, I asked our new condo manager if there would be any Christmas decorations hung along the street in front of our buildings.

To the north, our neighbors had strung colored lights that transformed the bushes between their two entrances into carousel horses that pranced with the breezes. White and red poinsettias filled urns beneath the columns at their gates.  We remained in darkness.

Along the street on the south side of our complex, strings of white lights wound upward around eight palm trees three stories high.  Under the fronds, the lights were strung tightly together, resembling a circular box encrusted in jewels.  The fronds burst from their box laden with lights. We remained in darkness.

"I don't know.  I'll have to check with the Buildings and Grounds Committee.  What's been done in the past?" the new manager said.

It wasn't his fault.  He was our second manager in eighteen months and didn't want to piss anyone off.  The manager who'd run the place since it had been built had retired after thirty-two years.  Under his watch the Christmas decorations - always the same - had gone up like clockwork:  white lights at the street, around the lamp posts, and on top of the guard house; wreaths on the doors of the buildings and on the columns at the entrance; garlands along the railings; and a decorated tree in the garage.  The green garlands had begun to turn brown and the tree had grown tired, but no-one complained.

"Mr. Thomas bought a lot of new decorations last year," I said, "but I don't know where they are."  Mr. Thomas had been hired next and fired after eighteen months. His decorations from Home Depot - purchased with funds from the annual budget - included three-foot nutcrackers, manger scenes, menorahs, and new garlands.

"I think they were disposed of," the new manager said.  In other words, the staff probably took them home.

"May I put something on the landing of my floor and in the garage and first floor lobbies? I've done that for twenty years."

"I'll go out on a limb and say I wouldn't want to disrupt a twenty-year tradition.  Go ahead."

I put out my bowls of glass balls and wrapped the front staircase in a garland of berries.  The outside remained in darkness.

A week later, the Building and Grounds Committee put up wreaths on the doors of the buildings and on the cement columns at the street entrance.  The outside remained in darkness.

One of the Board of Directors took matters into his own hands.  He purchased $500 worth of white lights, which the staff strung around the lamp posts and guard house.

A week later a menorah appeared on a table outside the manager's office.  A couple of days after that a decorated tree stood on the table.

It looked like the same disheveled tree we'd seen during the thirty-two years our first manager had reigned. Apparently it passed the Building and Grounds Committee's requirements.

Wishing all of my readers happy holidays with those you love and a healthy 2016!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Girlfriends' Night Out

My sister sent me this on the internet several years ago, and it's worth another chuckle.  Unfortunately, I don't know the original author.  I'm re-posting to celebrate the wonderful holiday lunch I had with girlfriends this week.

A group of 15-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner. Finally, they agreed to meet at the Dairy Queen next to the Ocean View Restaurant because they had only $6.00 among them and Jimmy Johnson, the cute boy in Social Studies, worked at the Dairy Queen.

Ten years later, the group of 25-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner.  Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because the beer was cheap, the restaurant offered free appetizers, the band was good, there was no cover charge, and there were lots of cute guys.

Ten years later, the group of 35-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner.  Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because the cosmos were good, it was right near the gym, and if they went late enough, there wouldn't be too many whiny little kids.

Ten years later, the group of 45-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner.  Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because the martinis were big and the waiters had tight pants and nice buns.

Ten years later, the group of 55-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner.  Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because the prices were reasonable, the wine list was good, the restaurant had windows that opened (in cases of hot flashes), and fish is good for cholesterol.

Ten years later, the group of 65-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner.  Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because the lighting was good and the restaurant had an early bird special.

Ten years later, the group of 75-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner.  Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because the food was not too spicy and the restaurant was handicapped-accessible.

Ten years later, the group of 85-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner.  Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View Restaurant because they had never been there before.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Menopause: Two Points of View

Menopause from a man's point of view:

Today I wanted to talk to you all about a problem that has plagued both men and women since the dawn of well, men and women—menopause. Now lest the ladies out there take umbrage at including men in this discussion, allow me to explain.

My darling wife, who is not yet sixty, but close, has been undergoing the change for several years now. In the beginning it wasn’t so noticeable until one day we were watching a documentary about oil drilling in the arctic wildlife refuge.  Of course, no documentary on drilling for oil in the arctic would be complete without showing archival footage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The documentary was interrupted for a commercial and I turned to my wife to ask her if she wanted anything from the kitchen.  That’s when I noticed that she was crying. No one wants to see birds and otters covered in oil, and by nature my wife is a compassionate person, but tears? “What’s wrong dear?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she answered between sniffles.

“Can I get you a Kleenex?”

“OK.”  That was my first experience with how menopause wreaks havoc on a women’s emotions—and it wasn’t going to be my last.  Fortunately, the mood swings didn’t last all that long and I was able to weather even the worst of the onslaughts. 

What hasn’t changed is the problem of hot flashes. Now, I haven’t experienced a “hot flash,” but my wife has compared it to being inside a microwave oven and being cooked from the inside out.  Many is the night that I have awakened to find my wife’s side of the bed empty, only to discover that she has been up for hours, unable to sleep because her internal body temperature has reached the same temperature as a medium rare steak. She turns down the A/C and lies there uncovered while on my side of the bed, I’m lying with the blankets up to my chin, shivering like a puppy at the vet.

So dear ladies, have sympathy for your husbands - we’re suffering right along with you!  It’s called MEN-o-pause for a reason.

Menopause from a woman's point of view:

I sat down at the computer in a gray sweater to write this blog.  Two sentences into the draft, I pulled the sweater off.  I was overheating.

I don’t mean overheating as in, “Come here, honey, let’s have some fun!”  I mean overheating as in, “Turn the a.c.down to sixty degrees so I can get some relief!”  We live in Florida, don’t forget.

This bodily reaction has been going on for twenty-plus years.  It started around the time my hormones left me and took up residence I don’t know where.  I refuse to take Hormone Replacement Therapy and instead pop nightly soy supplements and drink soy milk for breakfast and dinner.  The milk tastes better than niacin tablets, which turn my face and neck into a prickly red minefield of zits resembling the rash I get when Charley’s chin scrapes me with a two-day growth. 

Time out…now getting cold and must put my sweater back on.

On any random night Charley knows that our blanket will be thrown off sometime before midnight and then yanked back up at an ungodly hour.  He tucks his side of the sheet and blanket under his body so it won’t move.  He has grown used to my saying that I’m burning up and would he please roll to the other side of the bed because his body is like a coal furnace and I feel like the burning coal.  He knows if I’m out of bed and he doesn’t hear the toilet flush it’s because I can’t sleep and have my head in the freezer to cool down.  He also knows things won’t change anytime soon – my mother passed away at ninety and was still having flashes.  Sometimes he knows during breakfast that I want to pick a fight over why he didn’t secure the cap on the orange juice, which spilled all over the table when I shook the container, so he’d better vacate to get the newspaper.

Excuse me…must take the sweater off again. 

At a dinner party Charley actually counted four times I took a jacket off and put it back on.  I reminded him that testosterone doesn’t last forever, either.

Thanks for the male version on menopause to Don Weiss, guest blogger and author of the mystery novel PICTURE PERFECT, available as an e-book through major distributors soon.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Gun Advocates Can Now Pack Their Weapons in Texas Zoos

Visitors to the Houston Zoo can now pack their firearms, in addition to their back packs.  Gun-rights advocates have pressured zoos in Texas to lift their age-old firearms ban.  The supporters say publicly-owned zoos have misinterpreted laws and illegally posted bans.  Zoos have claimed they are considered amusement parks, day-cares, or educational institutions, which are able to legally enforce gun bans in many states.

All photos are mine from a safari in South Africa and a cruise through the Galapagos.

From the ostrich:  "If I bury my head in a shoot-out, what about my arse?"

From the lion:  "Your face looks almost as big as this paw.  How 'bout a souvenir?"

From the rhino:  "Do NOT shoot at my horn or you'll be blowing it!"

From the giraffe:  "You may not see my head up here, but I can make you a missile in a minute."

From the zebra:  "There are stripes and there are stripes.  Orange will be attractive on you."

From the elephant:  "That ain't no peanut wedged up my trunk!"

From the hyena:  "OK, you're the clown here."

From the king of the iguanas:  "Look at these nails, dude.  You wannna mess with me?"

And finally, from the monkey:  "I'm a swinger, remember?  Later."
A free downloaded photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Little History of Westport, Massachusestts

We are residents of Westport, Mass., five months a year.  The town snuggles against the coast of Buzzard's Bay, below Cape Cod and above Newport, R.I.  Its residents are primarily fishermen and farmers who remain fiercely independent and protective of their land, their rights, and others' rights.  Swagger here goes only as far as the American flag that hangs outside each front door.

Which makes it surprising that the town has a history of slave-owning.

Westport Historical Society records show African-American slaves named Zip and Violet were property on the Cadman farm in 1762.  George Cadman freed his slave, James, in 1722, and his son freed both Zip and Violet in 1766.

Like many coastal New England towns, Westport had a "significant presence (of people of color) during the colonial period.  Most of these people would have been slaves, and some are specifically identified as such in the records." (www.wpthistory.org/elizabeth-cadman-white/blacks-slavery)

The black population in the areas including Westport, Dartmouth, and Little Compton, R.I., grew after 1720 with the expansion of the trans-Atlantic slave trade out of nearby Newport.  The number of blacks in Bristol County, concentrated in Dartmouth and Taunton, between 1754 and 1776 rose from 61 to 585 (Greene, 82, 342 and Piersen, 164).  They comprised 2.1% of the population in the County by 1776 (Greene, 337). The slave trade was abolished in 1808.

Paul Cuffee montage
Mixed marriages were common between blacks and Indians.  Locals of color were of mixed black and white, black and Indian, Indian and white (Adams and Pleck, 16).  Some Indians were themselves enslaved. Cuffee Slocum, of African descent and freed by one of the largest slaveholders in colonial Massachusestts (Quaker John Slocum of Dartmouth), married the native American Ruth Moses in 1746.  One of their sons, Paul Cuffee (a free black Quaker who became the wealthiest African American and Native American in the U.S. in early 1800's through shipping, established the first racially integrated school in Westport, and became involved in the British effort to resettle freed slaves to the fledgling Sierra Leone) married Alice Pequit, a native American in 1783.

In 1711 in Dartmouth, Mass., there is record of a complaint at the Monthly Friends Meeting against a Quaker woman, Abigail Allen, for "cruel and unmerciful beating or whipping (of) her negro manservant.  The servant died from the abuse.  Abigail Allen was disowned by the meeting but readmitted three years later (Dartmouth Monthly Meeting Minutes index, Worrall, 156).

The Quakers as a group did not begin to officially question the practice of slavery locally until 1715 (Lowry, 21).  In that year, the Dartmouth Monthly Meeting of Quakers "pressed the R.I. Monthly Quarterly Meeting to decide whether Friends should own slaves or participate in the trade." (Dartmouth Monthly Meeting Minutes index, Worrall, 156).  Influential Quakers in R.I. buried the issue temporarily, waiting to see what Friends elsewhere would do.  The local Baptist churches, likewise, didn't actively oppose slavery until after the Revolution (McLoughlin, Soul Liberty, 146).

In the 1750's, American Quakers began to push for abolition.  The last black slave was freed in Dartmouth by Isaac Howland in 1777.  The following month the last Indian held in bondage was freed (Grover, 43).

The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 did not exclude blacks from voting, but custom and tradition "apparently still barred them from exercising the franchise" (Lorenzo Greene, 302-303).  In 1778, Dartmouth records showed no Negro, Indian, or mulatto among its voters.  In 1780, Paul Cuffee and his brother John, after refusing to pay their income taxes without representation, petitioned the Bristol County council for the right to vote.  In 1783 the Massachusetts legislature granted voting rights to all free male citizens of the state.

How ironic that the area in which Roger Williams championed religious freedom still sanctioned the institution of slavery for one hundred years after Williams' death!
This post is based on original research done by the Westport Historical Society and posted on their website as the article, "Blacks and Slavery," at www.wpthistory.org/elizabeth-cadman-white/blacks-slavery.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rewriting History

It's not the first time history has been rewritten.  In 1976 while we visited Germany, Marvin Chomsky's television mini-series "The Holocaust" was aired in the U.S. Germans under age twenty were shocked at Nazi atrocities. While in Japan visiting our son in 1996, that country's prime minister admitted publicly FOR THE FIRST TIME that his country had bombed Pearl Harbor.  Governments, politicians, corporations, and sometimes families, rewrite history for their own purposes...even school districts.

Last week Ms. Dean-Burren, an African-American from Pearland, Texas, pursuing her doctoral degree in education, called it "erasure."  That was the term she used to describe the World Geography textbook's substitution of the word "workers" in America for "slaves."  Her 15-year-old son had called the terminology to her attention with a sarcastic quip on his cellphone: "we was real hard workers, wasn't we."
Photo of random schoolbooks

To quote the section of the textbook describing America as a nation of immigrants: "The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500's and 1800's brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations." Another page referred to Europeans coming to America as "indentured servants" but did not describe Africans the same way.

Ms. Dean-Burren posted shots of the text on social media, along with her objections. She also made a video flipping through the book and pointing out the many academic consultants, teacher reviewers, and the state advisory board who approved the book. The video received nearly two million hits.

It is estimated there are 100,000 copies of the textbook in school districts in Texas. A spokesperson for a district in south Texas said, "Students use the textbook, but the section with the caption was not part of the curriculum."  Do they skip the entire topic??

McGraw-Hill responded in a statement on its Facebook page that the caption would be updated "to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor."  The digital version will be updated immediately, but the textbook version will be updated in the next print run.

It's not the first time Texas textbooks have come under fire.  Said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, "We have a textbook adoption process that's so politicized and so flawed that it's become almost a punch line for comedians."  The state is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks.
School photo from 1910

Information in this article is from "Texas Mother Teaches Textbook Company a Lesson on Accuracy" by Manny Fernandez and Christine Hauser, New York Times, October 6, 2015, p. A10.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A List of Books

I was most fortunate to participate as a speaker throughout New England and Palm Beach County when my first book, Minor League Mom, appeared in 2009.  The same process reoccurred during 2014-15, after the publication of Elderly Parents with All Their Marbles.  Among the venues in South Florida and New England have been bookstores, public libraries, writers' groups, clubs and associations, gift shops, a Red Sox minor league stadium, and Brown University and Colby College events.

After I send in the final galley proofs for publication, I have no idea if what I've written will ever speak to anyone at all. When the book finally appears, I may begin to hear from readers online, but that can never replace meeting readers in person. I love to discuss the subject matter of my books with those who are interested. Their voices and faces convey the emotions my book has evoked and they begin to relate situations in their lives that are similar to situations in my books.

In addition, I love meeting other authors to share writing secrets, journeys to publication, and marketing strategies. The following are some of the published authors I know personally or have met along the way.  I have read their listed accomplishments, among others, and recommend them to you.

Berge, Ruth Hartman                    
     Growing Up in Northern Palm Beach 
     County:  Boomer Memories from 
     Dairy Belle to Double Roads
     Nostalgic memories of quaint coastal towns from Riviera Beach,      
     to Jupiter, woven into the history of the people and places the author
     loved as a child

     Betty Tales: The True Story of a Brave Bobblehead Cat (children's)
     Betty is a little cat with a real-life disability, but her attitude says,
     "I can do that!"

Bolton, Barbara McGillicuddy
     Lulu Goes to College   A Novel
     In the fall of 1961 - before the sixties became The Sixties - eighteen-
     year-old Lulu Delaney of Meduxnekeag, Maine, packs up her
     two baby blue plastic suitcases and takes the bus south to Lovejoy,
     the private, coeducational Maine college to which she's won a
     scholarship. This is the story of her freshman year.

Bowen, John                              
     Eleven Months and Nineteen Days
     An illustrator finds himself in the middle of the Vietnam War during
     1968 and records his experiences.

Boyle, Gerry
     Once Burned
     There's something smoldering in the drop-dead pretty town of Sanctuary,
     Maine, and veteran crime reporter Jack McMorrow is back to sniff it out.

Bradlee, Ben Jr.
     The Kid   The Immortal Life of Ted Williams
     During his 22 years with the Boston Red Sox, Williams electrified
     crowds across America with the highest batting average recorded
     to this day - and shocked them, too.  Here is the
     definitive biography of a hero who clashed with the press and spent
     most of his life disguising his Mexican heritage.

Brooks, Geraldine
     People of the Book
     A novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional
     intensity, this book depicts the journey of the famed Sarajevo
     Haggadah (15th Century Spanish hand-illustrated Hebrew manuscript).

Cummings, John B., Jr.
     The Last Fling     Hurricane Carol 1954
     These are first-hand stories from more than 60 individuals and family
     members about the devastation to their homes and town (Westport, Mass.)
     as wind and waves crashed ashore without warning.

Eno, Paul
     Footsteps in the Attic:  More First-Hand Accounts of the Paranormal
              in New England
     A first-hand record of some of the twentieth century's most stunning cases,
     written by the expert who investigated and interpreted them according to
     an entirely new approach to the paranormal.

Galvin, Jack, and Mark Pfetzer
     Within Reach:  My Everest Story
     In 1996 sixteen-year-old Mark Pfetzer was the youngest ever to attempt
     to summit Mt. Everest.  He also witnessed the tragedy of eight climbers
     whose story was documented in Into Thin Air.
Goodman, Howard and Ellen      
     The Goodmans turned 60 and their careers tanked in the Great
     Recession.  Then opportunity beckoned in up-and-coming China.
     Disoriented is a travelogue, a cultural critique, and a love story with a
     country few Americans really know.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns
     Team of Rivals:  The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
     Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Doris Kearns Goodwin tells the story
     of one-term congressman and prairie lawyer Lincoln, who rises from
     obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of renown.

     Wait Till Next Year   A Memoir
     Set in the suburbs of New York in the 50's, this book re-creates the
     corner store, where stories and neighborhood were equally divided
     between Dodger, Giant, and Yankee fans.  Goodwin's mother and father
     are prominent figures, her mother housebound and her father a Dodger
     fan who taught her to read the baseball box scores.  Goodwin describes
     the Dodgers' leaving Brooklyn in '57 and the death of her mother soon
     afterward - both marking the end of an era.

Iannuccilli, Dr. Ed
     Growing Up Italian
     Smell the aromas, feel the childhood anticipation, relive the joys, fear,
     and mysteries growing up in a second-generation Italian family in
     Providence, Rhode Island.

LeDuc, J.M.                                  
     Cursed Blessing, first of a trilogy
     The Ark of Endowment is hunted for its content,
     but could mean certain death for humankind if it gets in the wrong hands.
     Brent must accept his new role as savior.

     Recruited by the FBI for her intelligence and attitude, SIN
     is released by the Bureau for the same reasons.  Now they need her
     back, after six girls have washed up along the Florida Keys and
     four agents are dead.

Littlefield, D. M.
     Journey into the Land of the Wingless Giants (children's)
     Eight fairy children, three inches tall, need all their skills in magic
     to survive a dangerous quest where everything is enormous and deadly.

Ling, Sally
     Who  Killed Leno and Louise?  Based Upon the Cold Case Murders of
     Flamboyant Boca Raton Sculptor Leno Lazzari and His Wife Louise
     Sunday morning 1948 - a couple is murdered at point blank range
     and the sculptures stolen from their home.  Read about the victims, the
     witness, the suspects, and the devious police who investigated.

Mallegol, David                            
     The Bronze Horsemen
     Based on an actual Bronze Age group who dominated southern Russia
     for 600 years, Mallegol's novel describes the group's
     domestication of wild horses to ensure the group's survival (the first humans
      to do so).

Miklas, Margie                              
     Memoirs of a Solo Traveler:  My Love Affair with Italy
     My Love Affair with Sicily (a memoir)
     Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast (photo book
     released May, 2015).
Mykle, Robert                                 
     Killer 'Cane:  The Deadly Hurricane of 1928
     A hurricane blew up from Puerto Rico over the Everglades,
     creating a 20' wall of water that killed 2,000.
     Mykle weaves Florida history with the social tapestry of the area
     at the time of the storm and during its aftermath.

Patchett, Ann
     Bel Canto
     Still my favorite among Patchett's novels!  A band of gun-wielding terrorists
     takes an entire party of So. American politicians, businessmen, and
     an opera star hostage.  Terrorists and hostages forge unexpected
     bonds as the novel builds to a crescendo of danger that cannot be

Quindlen, Anna
     One True Thing:  A Novel
     A mother - a daughter - a shattering choice.
     A novel of life, love, and everyday acts of mercy.
Reynolds, Bill, and Christopher Herren
     Basketball Junkie
     This book tells what happens when a town and a family pressure a
     local basketball star to embody their dreams, which turn into a nightmare.
     Chris Herren (my nephew) recounts his descent into hell and back,
     first with alcohol, then drugs, as he reaches the pinnacle of success
     in the NBA.

Ritchie, Michael
     Cuba Libre
     Fidel Castro is near death, if not already dead.  His brother, Raul,
     has begun to cut a deal with the U.S. to renew diplomatic and trade
     relations.  And the whole deal is about to come down in laid-back Key West.
     But the "Miami Mafia" has other plans.

Schreiber, Maxine                        
     The Story of Daphne the Duck (children's)
     A Muscovy duck discovers a flowerpot on a Florida fifth-floor balcony
     and decides it will be a safe place to lay her eggs.

Tripp, Dawn Clifton
     The Season of Open Water
     This is the story of a woman caught between the brother who completes
     her and the man she loves during rum-running days on the coast of Massa-

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Moment of Silence on September 11th

Led by President and Mrs. Obama on the White House lawn, the nation observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2015, in remembrance of our countrymen lost in 2001.
Steel beams in shape of a cross found in the rubble

On every 9-11, the wound reopens, the images resurface.  Each of us knows exactly where he was when he heard the news that our nations was un-
equivocally under attack.

In the northeast and mid-Atlantic corridors of this country, the tragedy was personal.  Inhabitants still name those lost from their town.  Businessmen still retell of fate calling them to an unexpected meeting that morning, while the rest of their team perished in a tower. Children still kiss their missing parents' photos, as memories fade.  Military personnel still grieve their co-workers.  Stories still bounce and carom of those who were in one of the tragic locations on 9-11-2001.

At 8:46 a.m. that day, Charley and I were at home in Massachusetts, watching The Today Show.  A repairman was working on our television.  When Katie Couric announced a plane had hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, we assumed a small plane had malfunctioned and veered off-course.  When she announced a second plane had hit the south tower, there was no doubt in our minds: we were under attack. The three of us stood with mouths open in our kitchen, waiting for the next flashes across the television.

"Where's Todd?" I said to Charley.  The previous month our younger son had spent a week in training for Lehman Brothers at the top of one of the towers.  The week of the attack, he and other trainees were on the twenty-sixth floor of the American Express Building, connected to the north tower by a catwalk.

"I don't know," Charley said.  We called his wife, Trish, in their rental apartment on Grand Street.

"I haven't heard from him and can't reach his cell phone," she said.  "As soon as I hear, I'll call you."

The phone rang.  It was our older son.  "Where's Todd?" he demanded.

"We don't know.  Are you in the City?"

"No, I'm in Jersey today. Call me as soon as you hear anything."

Todd had seen the first plane ACCELERATE past the windows of the American Express Building.  "Let's get out of here!" he yelled.  "There was no doubt in our minds it was an intentional act," he said later.  He found the stairs and ran down twenty-six flights with his peers and team leader.
Inside St. Paul's Chapel

On the pavement, the scene was horrific. The south tower had been hit at 9:03 a.m.. People were screaming and stampeding in every direction.  Employees had begun jumping from the north tower.  Without a working cell phone, Todd headed up Broadway.

In forty-seven minutes after it was hit, the south tower crumbled.  By then, the Pentagon had also been attacked.  Todd found a rotary pay phone and called Trish.  As ash billowed through the streets, thousands flooded the pavement under their apartment, attempting to escape over the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn.

At 10:00 we heard from Trish.  "He's ok," she said.  "He's walking to our apartment."

"Thank god!" was all I could say.  "His brother's been calling, so we'll let him know.  Are you all right?"

"Yes, now that I know where he is!  I'll stay in touch with you."

Trish and Todd could not leave the City for days.  The ash from the collapse of both towers had made the area below 14th Street, where they were living, unsafe.  Eventually the American Express Building, along with others in the immediate area of the World Trade Center, was condemned.
A firefighter's gear left in remembrance in St. Paul's Chapel, where first responders rested.

When they were able to leave, Trish and Todd arrived at our Massachusetts home.  While I held Trish, Charley hugged Todd.

A moment of silence wasn't nearly enough!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

An Interview with Award-winning Travel Author Margie Miklas

I met Margie at the Florida Writer's Association Conference in 2014.  She and I were selling our books next to each other and discovered we shared a love of Italy, among many other things (including Prosecco).  Margie's book MEMOIRS OF A SOLO TRAVELER - MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH ITALY won a bronze medal at that conference in the travel category.  She is now working on a novel.

Pam:  Although you connect with numerous friends and family on your travels through Italy, your two books, Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy and My Love Affair with Sicily, recount your travels solo. What motivated you to travel alone to Italy?

Margie:  After I visited Italy for the second time, I knew that I wanted to return for an extended period of time. And I knew that it was unlikely that anyone I knew could get enough time off or have the money needed to travel for a couple of months. So I decided to do it myself.
Countryside outside Caltagirone, Sicily.
Photo courtesy of Margie Miklas

Pam: What were the benefits and pitfalls of travelling alone?

Margie:  For me the benefits include the ability to travel at my own pace and do exactly what I feel like doing without having to consider anyone else's agenda. Also I am free to meet up with others at my leisure and meet new friends with no time constraints. My agenda can be somewhat flexible without having to consider another person or person's intentions. The downside is the cost of the hotel room and eating alone. However I use the time at restaurants to people watch, and sometimes I even engage in conversation with others seated close to me. I have even invited someone else to share a table with me, and we subsequently became friends.
Pam:  How did you learn to speak Italian?

Margie:  I used a number of tools, Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur CDs, online sites. Then I enrolled in Italian classes though a local Meet-up Italian group. At first I took group classes, and eventually I had private classes for a year and a half with my Italian teacher in preparation to go to Italy alone for three months.
Pam:  Your writing reads like a travel diary, exploring not only your experiences as you encounter a foreign culture, but also your feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and inner peace. How would you describe your writing?

Margie:  I would call it conversational. I write as if I am telling a story to you in my living room. I want the readers to feel like they are with me along the way. That is why I wrote those first two books in first person present tense.
       Winding road of Savoca, Sicily.      
Photo courtesy of Margie Miklas

Pam:  How did blogging help during your travels? When did you find time to write during your trips?

Margie:  Well, I made time when I traveled alone, and I also used a small recorder later. I find it much harder to keep up blogging when I travel with others on a busier agenda. I carry a small notebook and jot down notes, names of places and people, what I might see or hear. Now with an iPhone, I make use of the voice recorder to do the same. I also use my photos to jog my memory about more details when I write about my experiences weeks or months later.
Pam:  You also write for LaGazzetta Italiana, a monthly newspaper based in your home town of Cleveland, Ohio. How is the experience of writing for a newspaper different  from blogging?

Margie:  It is the same inasmuch as I do not get paid. I write out of a passion for Italy. Writing for a newspaper is different from blogging since there usually is a word count minimum and maximum, and  usually only one photo is used. I also have to think of the audience, which is similar yet different from readers of my blog.
Pam:  Can you describe the ONE experience that could never have happened anywhere but Italy (excluding having relatives there)? 
Margie:  Yes. I scheduled a cooking class in a small village in Sicily, in an agriturismo. We got lost trying to find it and arrived more than an hour late, despite a few calls to the property. Just as we arrived, the owner, who happened to be a count, was in the driveway with his keys to his car.  After greeting us with hugs, he informed us that he was going to leave to try and find us. Incredible!
Margie Miklas cooking  in class in Sicily.
Photo courtesy of Margie Miklas

Pam:  Aside from visiting your heritage, why do you feel so at home there?

Margie:  I think it is the way the local Italians treat people. In my experiences, complete strangers seem to go out of their way to help, to make me feel like family. They have invited me into their homes. They engage in conversation easily. It is the people that I cherish the most in Italy.

Pam:  Your third book was published this spring, a photographic essay on Italy. Have you had training or education in photography?

Margie:  I recently completed my third book, Colors of  Naples and the Amalfi Coast and it was published at the end of April. It is a dream come true for me because I have wanted to do a photo book for more than ten years. I have always been interested in photography, especially landscape photography. I took a photography course at a community college when I first moved to Florida thirty years ago. I used to sell some of my framed photographs at art festivals, and have won a few awards as well. So my love of photography is not new.
Photo courtesy of Margie Miklas

Pam:  What do you aim to achieve over the course of your writing career?

Margie:  I'd like to continue writing my blog as well as write more books. I am currently working on a novel, a completely different genre, a psychological thriller. I hope to complete it in 2016.

Margie Miklas is an American writer with a passion for Italy. She writes the blog, margieinitaly. Follow her on Twitter, FaceBook , Instagram, and Pinterest. She is the author of the award-winning book, Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy and also My Love Affair with Sicily and the recently released Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast.

Monday, August 3, 2015

What's on Your Shoulder?

I recently saw an insect that had taken up residence on a woman's shoulder.  The woman stood ahead of me in line for an ice cream and appeared to be in her fifties.  I wanted to warn her before I whacked the thing. "I think there's a dragonfly on your shoulder," I said.  "I'm going to get it off."

"No!" she yelled.  "It's my tattoo."  She gave me a hard stare with her round brown eyes and vacated the ice cream line.

Even without my glasses, I could see the dragonfly had lost its ability to get airborne. Which led me to thinking about the tattoos I see on younger women.

I suppose despite the pain, expense, and time in getting a tattoo, particularly one with several colors or an intricate design, the appeal is to catch eyeballs.  Tattoos are believed to be the epitome of femininity.  Some exposed designs certainly do make me stare to the point of rudeness.  Is that really a snake taking a bite where I think it is?

Designs are endless, ranging from entire works of art covering both arms and legs (almost nothing needs to be worn with those designs) to simulated collars starting at the chin and leading down into the bosom. Other smaller exposed designs that have caught my eye are red cherries behind one ear and interlocking feathers around an ankle.

The symbols are supposed to convey messages:  hearts for love and devotion; butterflies for readiness to change; flowers for beauty, purity, and hope; birds for freedom (hummingbirds) or strength (eagle); stars for a starlet; anchors for stability or our Navy.

But what happens as age takes over? Does a woman in her sixties really want to wear low-cut tops for every occasion because she has a tattoo that simulates a collar?  Doesn't she know that the collar will begin to droop downward as the "girls" sink toward her navel?  Cleavage over age sixty is not a pretty sight. People might try to straighten the collar for her, just as I wanted to swat the insect!  A flame on a neck might begin to bulge outward resembling an iguana in heat, as the wearer develops a double chin.

Entire torsos are covered in monsters, tigers, vampires, unicorns, and dragons.Smaller designs, such as skeletons, bats, skulls, seashells, hearts, flowers, and ribbons reside on hands, feet, hips, belly buttons, and groin areas, presumably for the benefit of loved ones. Needless to say, the bikini is a favorite choice for summer wear among women with belly button and hip designs. Jeans must be low-cut. However, there's the small (or not-so-small) issue of love handles flapping over the design that often distract my attention. 

The biggest area available on the body for tattooing is the lower back. Supposedly the lower back resists aging the best, without much droop or resemblance to leather. Still, I wonder about the corset design I saw on the back of a young woman on the internet.  The ribbon pulled tightest between the shoulder blades, becoming more open with more flesh popping as it progressed down into her buttocks.  At age seventy, it might be impossible to lace up her booty!

And then there's the spider web I saw encircling a woman's shoulders and back. The spider sat comfortably in its web on the left shoulder.. Eventually, I'm afraid, the web might resemble a shawl, draped over a drooping back.

There's also the matter of removal. We've all seen someone who's attempted to have her tattoo removed through more pain and needles, not to mention the danger of hepatitis or worse. Unfortunately, in most cases the outline of the previous design is still
                                                 visible.  Which makes me wonder if  she got her money back?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The New England Boom

There's a boom going on in New England, but it isn't where you'd think.  It's going on offshore in the haul of a little fish called the Atlantic herring.

This herring travels in groups sometimes numbering in the billions and was caught in the greatest numbers last year in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.  New England fishermen caught more than 95,000 metric tons of the fish last year for the first time since 2009, according to federal statistics reported by Patrick Whittle in The Providence Journal, July 13, '15, p. A10.

This was good news for fishermen, right?
A Herring Catch
Photo uploaded to public domain by Gentgeen April, '05
Yes and no.

Cod and tuna fishermen complain that the herring trawlers have left sections of the ocean bereft of the herring species, which cod and tuna rely on to eat.  Whittle quotes Maine tuna fisherman Steve Weiner as saying, "Everything from seabirds to whale-watching boats rely on a steady supply of herring for stability."  With strict cod quotas, Cape Cod fishermen are struggling to make a living.

The herring trawlers can be more than 100 feet long and drag 300-foot nets. Environmentalists claim the nets sometimes kill marine mammals, including four pilot whales, three seals, and a dolphin through incidental catch in 2014.

Herring is in high demand because it is the preferred bait for Maine's lobster industry (also reporting record catches in recent years).  Herring not used for bait become canned, smoked, pickled, or salted.

According to Whittle, the Northeast has struggled with herring quota cuts as recently as this decade.

Regulating fishing in the area is the New England Fishery Management Council, which will solicit feedback from the industry and the public.  "It will be important to develop scientific metrics for localized depletion," said Mary Beth Tooley, who sits on the Council and works for a corporation operating two herring trawlers. "The issue has become political," Tooley said.

What else is new?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Old Reliable

It seems every family has a favorite restaurant, one they never tire of.

It could be the particular food, the servers, the ambiance, or the price that brings us back year after year - or all of the above.  It's a place the family relies on for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or even weddings.

If the restaurant survived the decades of recession, it's probably family-owned.   I'm not talking a pizza joint or a chain restaurant here, the kind we frequented after our sons' hockey games or baseball practices for a quick meal.  I'm talking a place where the tables are covered in white linen with cloth napkins and there is a fresh rose as the centerpiece, maybe a candle, too.

Outside Trieste, Italy
Our family loves all things Italian, especially the food, so we used to take our young sons to DiMeglio's in Woonsocket, R.I., to celebrate the end of school or a birthday of Charley's or mine.  At that point the boys still had birthday parties for their friends.

On the sidewalk outside DiMeglio's you could smell simmering tomatoes, basil, and freshly-shaved Parmesan. The spaghetti sauce (gravy) had simmered all day in a gargantuan gleaming  pot.  Portions covered eleven-inch white dinner plates, so we always had left-overs to take home.  It wasn't a big place, squeezed beyond some warehouses and near some mills, but the owners knew their customers.  Mrs. DiMeglio, in her apron, greeted us with a hug - we became so welcome that our older son was a frequent visitor to the chefs in the kitchen. Diners sat close to each other, getting into animated conversations that often necessitated raising our voices to be heard.

Then DiMeglio's closed.  The family who remained weren't interested in continuing the long hours, and the rent soared. We began going to the Old Canteen on Atwells Avenue in Providence, R.I.  A little more formal than DiMeglio's -  the paint was pink, soft music played, and a mural of Venice dominated one wall.

We celebrated graduations and engagements there with champagne and Veal a la Mike. We celebrated house completions and house sales.  We celebrated birthdays and births and book publications.  Last week Charley and I went back to reminisce over a marriage that's lasted 50 years.

Joe Marzilli, the owner, was no longer there.  His son greeted us as we opened the door from the front staircase on the street.  Sammy, the busboy in his sixties who always brought extra garlic bread to our table, was no longer there.

But the pink walls remained, and the candlelight, and the pink leather chairs. The waitstaff's smiles were there, though they were no longer exclusively male.  The sauteed escarole and spaghetti a la Canteen (with chicken livers and mushrooms) and artichokes in l'olio and garlic and my faorite Prosecco were still there, and the Italian families from "the Hill."  Our "old reliable" made time stand still, even though we hadn't.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wedding Gifts

My parents, 1938
This is the season for weddings, and I love everything about them!  I love attending them and watching movies about them.  In both cases, I'm usually in tears.  I don't watch much television but must admit I'm addicted to the TLC shows, "Say Yes to the Dress" and "Four Weddings."  Both of these shows are the perfect combination of my love for fashion and design. They also bring drama among the bride's entourage (who squabble or often reduce the bride to tears of frustration or humiliation); they bring laughs when the bride tries to squeeze into something totally unflattering to showcase her "girls" or her "booty," and in the case of "Four Weddings," they bring competition.

However, there is one aspect of weddings I can't get a handle on.  It's the gift-giving aspect.

Italian bride 2012
Most brides have a registry to make it easy for her guests.  That's a good thing. There is usually a range of gifts on the registry for those who want low-end gifts for a shower or mid-to-high-end gifts for the wedding. That's a good thing.
But I get confused when a bride has registered a majority of either low-end or high-end gifts or not registered at all.
Our niece, 2014

I like to target $100 as an outside price for a wedding gift, but sometimes can't stay in that target zone. For $100 I would have to give five gifts of $20 each on a registry, if the bride has listed mostly low-end.  How are these supposed to be shipped? Separately in dribs and drabs?  I can imagine as she receives the first one, the bride's saying, "That's it?"  How many companies would have all the items in stock to ship together in one big box?  Zero.

If the bride lists only a few items on the low-to-mid range on her registry, they're probably already bought by her guests anyway.  That leaves the high-end items, meaning over $100.  So my budget's shot before I scroll down...but not to the point of looking at the $350-and-up gifts.  The only time I'd ever spend more than $350 on a wedding gift is when it's a very close relative - so close that I'd be bumping into her/him on a regular basis - like in our house!

Bride in Italy, 2012
 And then there's the bride who doesn't register...which I assume means she needs anything and everything. That's great, unless the couple has been together long enough to acquire a household of stuff and you have no idea what the stuff is!  In which case, I usually order something I would like myself and stick to my budget.  If she doesn't like it, the bride can return it herself.  Not very convenient, but then she didn't make it convenient for us, either.

Of course, there's the added cost of shipping and taxes ordering from a registry. I figure it can't be helped and don't factor that in.  It saves us from carrying a gift to the wedding that I purchased locally.

Sure, I know it should be the thought that counts and dollar signs shouldn't be attached to a gift.  But let's get real! When you get a wedding invitation, you're expected to send a gift.  Brides create registries for a reason - and it's not just to let the world know what she needs.  It's also to create parameters for her level of expectation.  The trouble is, her level of expectation may not be mine.
June 26, 1965

What's your average price for a wedding gift?