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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My Cycle of Life in Tennis

I began playing tennis in Rhode Island while our sons were toddlers.  As often as we young mothers could arrange a game at the summer pool and courts, we’d put the kids in an expandable wooden fence and hope they’d make some new BFF’s with the kids penned up with them, while they slung mud at each other or wailed about a bully who'd grabbed one of the toys dumped inside.  Our games seldom lasted an hour.

When the kids grew old enough to use the pool under the supervision of a lifeguard, I graduated to games every day – sometimes twice a day.  My friends and I used to call the players who’d never invite us to join them “the biggies.”

The next step was to join an indoor tennis club from September to May.  We deposited our kids in an upstairs play room with a staff member and began to take lessons. Our friendships grew; so did the kids, who began playing tennis themselves, sometimes better than we did. 

This group of ladies became my network.  We enjoyed get-away's at the beach and in the mountains, while our husbands babysat.  We supported each other through diseases, deaths, and kids' divorces. 
One is still my best friend (see photo below). We discovered tennis wasn't the most important thing in life.

At the indoor club we tried out for a Division 3 team that competed throughout R.I.  We attended drills.  Although many of us had successful careers, we had to learn to control our nerves. Some had diarrhea the night before a match; some had tears afterward.  

When Charley and I retired to Florida for eight months a year, I tried out for a Division 4 team that competed throughout South Palm Beach County. There were eight levels in each league, with eight to twelve teams at each level. Floridians played year-round, despite the heat. These ladies were tough and competitive.
Some with injections and
facial surgeries didn't show the wear and tear.
Tennis buddies

Under-forty opponents showed up with diamond necklaces layered over their POWER RED bra-lettes.  They announced before matches they’d have to finish in two hours because they had to pick their kids up from kindergarten.  They stood in a huddle to chant a middle-school cheer before the match and asked us why our club didn’t have a juice bar or hot towels. 

In their hands they had protein shakes instead of water bottles and some were hung over from the weekend.  If we called their ball “Out!” that hit two feet beyond our baseline, they’d respond from the other side of the net, “You’re calling it out?  Really???”
If we hit an overhead in their direction, we would get a long, cold stare and “That wasn’t necessary.”  Their pony tails swung from side to side as they hit the ball with what sounded like a horse giving birth.  At the end of the match they avoided our eyes while they did a “drive-by,” shaking hands by bumping fists (to avoid germs, right?) or grazing our fingertips.

Afterward, we had soup and sandwiches at our clubhouse.  After a match at their club the buffet consisted of roast beef, turkey, or ham at carving stations; omelette creations whipped up by a chef; tri-colored sauces cooked to order over al dente pastas; and desserts that filled a 12-foot table.

A match at Trump's Mar-a-Lago
Our team moved up to Division 3.

Now I play in an over-55 league in Florida.  It’s called “55Love” to promote a feeling of camaraderie while we go out to kill each other with lobs that bounce over the fence or spin serves that no-one our age can reach.  With braces hiding our knees and ankles bound in support tape, we say  “Nice shot”  to anything we can't chase and we mean it.  We’ve spent decades practicing putting the ball where they ain’t.

Here’s a poem I wrote about my tennis life these days.

We 55-Love’s
Have plenty of “cool,”
We’re on-the-go grandmas
And we ain’t no fools.

We wear ‘lastics and braces,
Sun-block without traces.
Our bras must have wire,
And we’re always on fire (inside and out)!

Our few Facebook friends
Are all on our team.
Our talk is of grand kids,
Not how to get lean.

We can’t run five miles
So we get on machines,
Till laundry’s in piles
And the knees get real mean.

Our uniforms don’t match,
We choose from three colors.
Our bodies have patches
Our faces…well, duller!

We eat healthy fruits
And veggies galore,
No colas or caffeine,
But no wine???  What a bore!

“It’s my shoulder!” we say.
“I didn’t sleep” from another.
“I don’t like this gear,
I’ve got bunions like mother’s!”

“Nice to meet you,” we say,
With a smile for their team.
Our 55Love Team's Sportsmanship Trophy for the League 2016
They all match in gray
As they shake hands and beam.

We don’t check the internet
For all the league scores.
“What team have we met?
I can’t hear anymore.”

“Out??  Are you sure?
The ball hit the line.”
There’s no yelling, no gore.
“It’s yours,” we say, “fine!”

Spectators and noise
Don’t bother at all.
Our sportsmanship trophies
Sit on a wall.

It’s not wins or losses –
We’ve learned what will glue.
It’s laughter and memories
And friends who are true!

To those past five-five
And to those even more,
Raise a glass!  We're alive,
There’s more LOVE in store!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cooking the Turkey

     Growing up, I didn't help my mother cook.  There was a good reason  - my mother hated cooking and the dinners she served consisted of things like frozen fish sticks warmed in the oven or creamed eggs on toast. These were not things I enjoyed eating, let alone cooking!

     For holidays,  we usually went to my father's side of the family in New Jersey.  There, my mother didn't have to cook anything.  My grandfather, Lucius  (can you believe that name?), and his wife (whom we called "Aunt Marion," since he was a widower and she was his third wife but we adored her!) hired a cook and her son and daughter-in-law to run everything in the kitchen.  We had both sets of grandparents there, and sometimes my two aunts with their families.  When Mary sent word came from the kitchen that the turkey was ready for carving, we all gathered in the dining room at a large mahogany table with wall paneling to match. My grandfather disappeared into the kitchen and re-emerged to "Ooh"-ing and "Ahh"-ing with a platter boasting the gigantic turkey, browned and crisp that Mary had put in the oven at 5 a.m.. Lucius placed the platter on a sideboard and flourished his weapons (carving knife and fork), telling us to watch his time-honored method.  As he sliced deep next to the breastbone, white juices followed the sluice. Our mouths salivated.  After each slice, he raised the shimmering knife and fork head-high and brought them down again into the tender breast. When the slices and dressing covered a serving platter, Mary's son appeared to hold the platter so each of us could help himself.  My grandfather stepped on a button in the floor and the side dishes began to appear, Mary's daughter-in-law rotating through the swinging kitchen door with her husband.

     So when I got married, Charley knew he'd be my guinea pig.  He married me anyway.  I tried simple meals first, like baked boneless chicken breast with a slice of orange on top (I called it "chicken a l'orange") or omelettes, usually burned on the bottom but runny in the center.  Somehow, Charley forgave me and kept eating whatever was put before him.

     On our first Thanksgiving we were stationed at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. One of Charley's four brothers came down for a visit.  I attempted my first turkey - a boneless roast.  I didn't dare attempt cooking the entire bird.  I took the roast out of the freezer Thanksgiving morning, put it in the oven in the early afternoon, and proceeded to make the apple pie, mashed potatoes, and beans.

     When I put the browned roast on a platter for carving, Charley's flourish of weapons didn't exactly resemble my grandfather's.  In fact, his knife got stuck in the center, where it was still frozen solid.  I put the boneless breast back in the oven and we continued drinking.

     After the meal, I asked Charley's brother how he liked the apple pie.  He said, "Well, the apples were good" (meaning the crust was a soggy pile of dough). That taught me never to ask a guest's opinion of my cooking!
Someone else's apple pie without soggy crust

     After that, I bought Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  It taught me a lot about sauces and what wines to serve with what, but didn't teach me how to cook a turkey.  This was in the dark ages, before I could Google "How do I cook a turkey?"

     After a couple of more years in the Air Force, we lived in New England.  We went to Charley's parents' house for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. All I had to do was buy some pies.

     Then we had kids.  I'd already graduated to chicken parmesan, rib roasts, and lasagna, so I brazenly bought my first whole turkey to cook on Christmas.  I made the stuffing and put it in a casserole dish because one of my girlfriends had told me it was unsafe (bacteria-wise) to put it in the cavity of the turkey.  I weaved together the legs and tail with metal skewers and dutifully basted the bird every hour. Charley brandished his weapons to carve, reading from instructions on a sheet I'd picked up at the grocery store.  It was a repeat of Delaware.  The center inside was still frozen, where the bag of unthawed giblets hid.

     It was The Joy of Cooking that finally gave me specific instructions, but to this day my kids claim they suffered with my cooking.  I blame it on my mom, who can't answer.

This year's side dishes

Monday, November 14, 2016

Snapshots from Italy VI - Women's Feet

Women's feet take a beating in Italy.  When people pass you on the street there, the first thing they look at is not your eyes or even your watch or your jewelry.  It's your shoes.
Fendi Runway Mules $925.

Prada Silver Stiletto Sandals $700.
Prada Gladiator Sandal $950.
Capri-Girl Embellished Sandal $250.
Italians are famous as shoemakers throughout the generations and the leather is soft as butter.  Especially in cities they dress smartly and never look sloppy. Even jeans can make a statement with a lace top on the ladies (sometimes sheer) or a fitted jacket. Only women tourists wear shorts in Italy.  Milan, the fashion capital of the country, is the home to the design houses of Armani, Bottega Veneta, Canali, Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Les Copains, Marni, Missoni, Miu Miu, Moschino, MSGM, Prada, Tod's, Valentino, Versace, and E. Zegna, among others.
Dolce e Gabbana poppy print dress $1315.

Of course, not many people there wear designer shoes or clothes.  Nevertheless, there is pride in the way a scarf is tied around a neck or in a chunky necklace or in a pocketbook, no matter how tiny,  that matches the shoes.  As a guest in their country, I try to dress with respect for their customs and a nod to affordable fashion. I don't pack sweatsuits.

However, I cannot acquiesce to the Italian women's custom of wearing stilettos or any kind of heels throughout the day. All I can walk in these days are sneakers with cushiony inserts, having spent my teen years in pointed Cappezio flats, with resulting bunions.  When I taught high school classes I stood in three-inch heels for years. I wore heels up and down the inclined cobblestones of Hong Kong as a guest of Charley's bank, while our host tried not to smirk. Four months before visiting Italy this year I tore the Plantar Fascia ligament on the bottom of my foot, necessitating a soft boot for six weeks, followed by six weeks of therapy.
In preparation for our departure I packed two pairs of extremely comfortable walking shoes (sneakers), a pair of flat shoes for dinner, and one pair of sandals for the pool. All of them had orthopedic inserts.

In southern Italy, where the weather is warm, sandals predominate...the higher the better.

Capri is famous for its jeweled designs, but flip-flops are everywhere...even on women who ride their bikes home after a weekly trip to the grocer's.

Eighty-year-old women walk up and down steep, often crumbling steps in sandals, carrying their satchels. Steps are a way of life, leading from village to village.
Steps to the sea at our hotel on Ischia
Up to our room, Mezzatorre Hotel, Ischia

However, women in five-inch heels also parade their baby strollers over cobblestone streets.  Fashion is always on display.

Men in southern Italy, like American tourists, wear sneakers!  Charley was no exception (see photo above).

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Snapshots from Italy V - The Inevitable Weight Gain

Some breakfast pastries, Mezzatorre Hotel, Ischia, Italy
Despite our walking every morning and brief work-outs in hotel fitness centers, our stomachs always looked like a Buddha's after several weeks of travel, especially in Italy. We had no will power when Caprese cake with chocolate and almond bits or apple tart with homemade jams every color of the rainbow sat slivered on platters for breakfast.
More breakfast pastries
After staying seventeen years at the same hotel on the island of Ischia, our breakfast chef (Sylvestro) delivered his SURPRISE specialties to us, split onto two plates, usually after we had finished a Continental breakfast with yogurt, fruit, and a slice of cake or some granola with a croissant. We received, for example, omelettes with creamy ricotta filling or over-easy eggs on thick homemade toast, topped with fried mozzarella.  We loved the pride he took in his work but resorted to sneaking in and out of the breakfast room before he could spot us. It was just too much food - troppo!
Breakfast chef Sylvestro at the Mezzatorre Hotel,  Ischia, Italy

Pastas are all made daily in any establishment that serves food in Italy, no matter whether it's a five-star ristorante or the tiniest neighborhood trattoria.
Local food products and liqueurs on Ischia
My will power completely disappeared when flat spaghetti with vongole and cozze (clams and mussels) in a butter Parmesan sauce was on the menu and Charley caved in the minute he saw rigatoni in minced veal ragout or lasagna.  It helped our waistlines that Ischia was in the southern region of Italy, since Southern Italian food is lighter (local catch of the day from the sea) than Northern Italian (ragu sauces and Bolognese, consisting of local meats). Nonetheless, pasta was always a course on the menu prior to the entree. We tried to skip at least one course and dessert. Of course, we sampled local wines or Prosecco (my favorite) with every meal and Limoncello afterward.
Author friend Margie Miklas in a cooking class in Puglia.  Used with permission.
Sparkling Prosecco wine
Limoncello - an after-dinner favorite 
It would take all summer to lose the added pounds, but it was all part of the experience.  If we went into withdrawal symptoms after returning home to diets, we could always eat at Camille's or The Old Canteen "on the Hill" (Federal) in Providence, R.I., where the Sicilian mob had dined before retiring to jail.
Pineapple symbol of hospitality at entrance to Federal Hill, Providence, R.I., and signage for Old Canteen Restaurant

Friday, October 21, 2016

Snapshots from Italy IV - A Neighborly Dispute

The half-mile driveway to our hotel on the island of Ischia was under construction for eighteen months. The hotel owner was in a dispute with his neighbor (who shares the driveway) as to who should pay to fix the road.  Meanwhile, guests could either walk up the hairpin turns high over the Tyrrhenian Sea or wait at a staging area for the hotel to retrieve them on golf carts.

We first noticed in 2012 that stones from the wall along the driveway had tumbled down the hillside.
Walkers could become ghosts, swallowed by gaping voids that delineated the sides of the roadway. "This is a prestigious hotel and I don't understand why the owners can't negotiate a settlement," I said to Charley. "They're a member of a chain that must demand inspections."

"You'd think they'd have paid off the neighbor," Charley, the pragmatist, said.

"There has been a dispute as to who owns the part that needs fixing," the hotel manager told us with eyes on his shoes.  "They won't accept our offer."

In 2013 a new rock wall appeared where the driveway had been disintegrating.  The neighbor had constructed a ninety-degree angle where the property divided.  The walls created such a narrow turn that large taxis scraped their sides trying to get through. Unless we were in Lilliputian cars, we had to wait for shuttles to bring us up to the hotel. It was imperative we chose a small taxi to manage the turn if we decided not to walk.

I could hear the neighbor saying to our hotel owner, "Gotcha!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Snapshots from Italy III - Hiring a Taxi in Ischia

Haggling with the taxi drivers in Ischia was "Fun at first," Charley told me.  On alternate mornings we walked the winding half-mile descent to the town of Lacco Ameno below our hotel, then along the coastline another mile-and-a-half to Casamicciola, the town beyond.  On our return we stopped for a light lunch in the marina facing Vesuvius, across the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Mt. Vesuvius across a marina on Ischia
All the shops were closed between 1-4 p.m. on the island, likewise with the hotel shuttle from town.  With a torn Plantar Fascia ligament (mine) and joints complaining from old football injuries (Charley's), we sometimes grabbed a taxi back to our hotel before heading to the pool or the sea.

Lunch stop in Lacco Ameno, Ischia

During the lunch hours in Lacco Ameno, the cab drivers sat along a wall, like birds on an electrical wire. The first time we approached them we made the mistake of asking the driver sitting in the last cab (closest to us) to take us back. No other drivers were sitting in their cabs.
Sunday after church, Lacco Ameno, Ischia

The driver whose cab was first in line hurried off the wall and began shouting at the driver we'd approached, sweeping his arms in large window-washing motions, while their noses got closer and closer and their voices louder and louder. The driver we'd approached ushered us into his van, hurling insults while flinging his free hand toward his pursuer. Thankfully, we've never seen anyone resort to punches in Italy.

Flea market on Sunday, Casamicciola, Ischia

"Un momento!" I said.  "Quanto costa?"

"Quindici Euros."

"Fifteen?  It's only a mile and half up the road!" Charley said.

"Prezzo minimo, signore," he said.

Our driver started his engine and we roared past the curses of the first driver, our necks lurching forward and Charley's leg dangling from the open door.

The next time we approached the lineup, none of the drivers got off the wall.  In fact, they wouldn't even look at us.

"Mezzatorre Hotel?  Quanto costa?" Charley said.

"Venti (20)" was the response.

"No, not twenty!  Fifteen," Charley said.

"Non, venti."

"You enjoy yourselves, have a good rest!  We'll walk," Charley announced.

And we did!

Halfway up the steep, circuitous hotel driveway a renegade driver stopped next to us. "Dieci (ten)," he said.

We jumped in.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Snapshots from Italy II - Our Morning Walks

Our hotel on the Italian island of Ischia sits on a promontory overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea between the towns of Lacco Ameno and Forio.  We spend each morning walking miles up and down the hillsides to work off the pasta (not always a successful remedy!).  One of our favorite walks winds through the forest above our hotel, past the Italian film director's house (which sits at the end of a dirt road), past a bocce court as the road becomes asphalt, along the coast to an overview of Forio. Then we wind down cobblestone streets past the Church of San Francesco de Paola, past the beach resorts in Forio and the marina, to a cafe in town for a cold drink.

View from our hotel promontory

Tower rooms in our hotel and pool

At the beginning of this walk to Forio we must descend our hotel's half-mile driveway. Part-way down there is a sign that reads, "Madonna di Zaro" (Madonna of the Hillside).

Charley and I ascend the dirt path through the forested hillside toward the shrine, which sits atop winding wooden steps.  On this walk, we are not alone. In a dirt car-park, taxis and a van wait in leafy shade for their customers, who begin to file singly down the steps after their supplications. Scattered next to the vehicles are picnickers' plastic bottles, sandwich wrappers, melon rinds, and the condom evidence of lovers' trysts.

Having been blessed by the Madonna, the group assembles to board the van.  "You sit in back (in Italian)," one woman directs.
                                                                              "No, I sit next to my husband in the middle," the other woman answers.

"Take a different seat!" she hears.  "Angelo and I want middle."

Angelo and his wife get their wish.  If only the Madonna had the power to cleanse the wooded hillside as she had (dubiously?) cleansed the petitioners' souls!


Overlooking the town of Forio, Ischia
Down a serpentine, one-way street on our way to Forio, we wait to enter the blind curves till we hear no engines. We slow at families' niched shrines and again at the Church of San Frencesco de Paola (half-way down the twist of S-turns) before entering the narrow tunnel just past the church's pink facade.  In the middle of the tunnel we hear a car approaching from behind, but there is no place to disappear. The tunnel is just wide enough for one car.  The horn blares at Charley, behind me on the cobblestones.  "You honking at me?" he yells.  "Slow down and wait!"
A family shrine

Of course, the woman doesn't understand a word!  She waits till we exit the tunnel before shouting curses as she passes.

On the roads hugging hillsides on Ischia, sidewalks are built as a brief nod to the tourist, then they disappear. Crosswalks are mere suggestions. Charley decides that since crosswalks are meaningless, he can cross where he pleases.  He grabs my hand and holds his free hand up like a traffic cop, defying two lanes of traffic to stop or hit us.
Forio, Ischia

Once we get past the beaches, we hug the sides of cobblestone houses and produce shops while cement trucks and faces frozen behind glass in tour buses whiz at forty-five mph within twelve inches of our sucked-in stomachs. Young girls with their arms around their boyfriends' waists zoom around us on cycles, the boyfriends yelling back to them and flinging one hand in the air with fingers together like blown kisses for emphasis. Taxi drivers never disrupt their phone conversations around blind curves. We stand on the asphalt's six-inch shoulder, waiting till Charley can swing out into the curve with me following. He uses a sideways pushing motion away from us, certain that motorists coming out of the curve will see him and make NASCAR moves to avoid us. Ahead of him, housewives in flip-flops with their groceries defy the drivers without ever looking up.

Forio, Ischia

In front of one market, a car slows to claim its parking space.  It's the same space where Charley is walking. "Hey, stop!" he yells to the female driver, who stops within three feet of his upright palms.

Out jumps Nana, with her cloth grocery bag. "Quoi?  Quoi?" Nana asks.

In other words, "What's your problem?  Don't you know my daughter owned a motorino (motorbike) when she was six?"

Fruit and vegetable vendor in Forio
Blind curve on Ischia

Another blind curve on Ischia


Monday, August 29, 2016

Snapshots from Italy I - A Return to Ischia

This is dedicated to the memory of those who perished this week in the terremoto (volcano) of central Italy. May they rest in peace.

For seventeen years we have visited the Italian island of Ischia.
Aragonese Castle   474 B.C.
The island faces Capri and is a 45-minute hydrofoil ride across the sea from Naples. Every year the general manager, Giovanni, at our hotel and the staff at the front desk (Mena, Pino, Salvatore, Britt) welcome us to our favorite room high on the hillside behind the lobby. Our knees get creakier each year as we ascend the endless stone steps and descend to the lobby, dining terrace, pool, and sea.

Down to the pool and sea
Pool and tower rooms

Each evening we dine al fresco (and each morning we walk miles to work off the pasta). From the hotel's dining terrace we watch the splendor of lavender, orange, and pink sunsets fade over fishing boats returning to their ports far below.

Dining terrace with two hungry seagulls
A surprise anniversary cake overlooking sunset
One evening at dinner a couple from Birmingham, England, approached our table.  "I couldn't help but overhear," the woman said, "that you've been here before."

"Yes, it's our seventeenth time on the island," Charley said.  "We love it here!"

"We've been twice before to this hotel and love it because it's only a three-hour plane ride from London to Naples. We're half-way through our ten days. Where are you from?"

"Delray Beach, Florida, and the coast of Massachusetts."

The next day we walked along the main street in the town below the hotel, Lacco Ameno.  We stopped to talk when we saw the Englishman standing outside one of the shops. "Wife's inside, buying out the place," he said.  We could see her bent over a glass case of coral jewelry.

Disguised in dark glasses and a baseball cap, Charley shook the Englishman's hand.  "We're staying at the Mezzatorre, where you're staying," Charley said.

The Englishman looked at him without recognition.  "Oh, you're from the States?"

"Yes, we're from Delray Beach, Florida."

"Funny, I just met another guy from Delray Beach who's staying at our hotel."
Harbor in Lacco Ameno, Ischia
That's the story of Charley's face - everyone thinks he's someone else. One time a guy in an airport stared at him across the terminal while we waited for our flight. Finally he screwed up his courage and approached Charley.  "I think I know you. Didn't I go to high school with you in Omaha, class of '69?"

Charley graduated from high school in Fall River, Massachusetts, and it was definitely not in '69!