About Me

My photo
Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in English, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with MA from R.I. School of Design. Barking Cat Books published my first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. My 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. In 2018 Barking Cat Books published my SURVIVING YOUR DREAM VACATION: 75 RULES TO KEEP YOUR COMPANION TALKING TO YOU ON THE ROAD. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Joy of Lifetime Friendships

     Last month five of my high school girlfriends visited me in Florida. Previously, we'd reunited in Massachusetts before the 50th class reunion. We'd also stayed at an inn in Greenwich, Conn., prior to the 55th.
     Marilyn was my best friend from elementary through high school. Our mothers were Girl Scout leaders together; we rode bikes to Tod's Point Beach and had sleep-overs on weekends; at age sixteen we were camp counselors in Litchfield, Connecticut, together. After high school I headed to college in Maine and she to Ohio. Subsequently, we were in each other's weddings and got together sporadically when in the area. Charley and I visited her daughter and family in Italy and I attended her husband Wayne's memorial service in Ohio.
Pam and Marilyn, 2013
     In 1995 Charley and I sat in the wooden stands at a "AA" Red Sox game in New Britain, Connecticut. Our son Todd was on the team. After several innings listening to the conversation between the husband and wife seated a few feet from me, I sheepishly asked, "Are you Cindi King?" It was a high school classmate, the captain of my cheer-leading squad, and her husband, the captain of the ice hockey team.
Greenwich (Ct.) High School Hockey Team, 1960

     During that first girlfriend gathering in Massachusetts all of us were tentative with each other.  We talked of parents and siblings we all knew. Over bottles of wine we broke out our high school yearbooks to reminisce about proms and boyfriends, our favorite teachers, college weekends our parents consented to, and cheer-leading uniforms we paraded in. We had shared the trivialities of the teen years through quasi-adulthood. During walks on the beach we felt each other out to reveal medical problems, failed marriages, and worries over kids.
Westport, Mass., 2011
2011
     Over time we've relaxed with each other. There are no longer any pretenses. We know each other's family secrets. At our latest gathering, we made no excuses if we needed to run to the bathroom at the last minute or keep our slacks on when headed to the pool. We knew the traumas each had suffered and we'd been there, physically or emotionally, despite great distances.
Delray Beach, Florida, 2019
     Science has begun to show the value of close friendships on health. One study of over 3,000 nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with ten or more friends. The study found that it wasn't the number of interactions or amount of contact that mattered. Simply having the friendships to protect from stress was enough. This may be one of the reasons women live longer than men. (Information from Tracey O'Shaughnessy's "Lifetime Friendships Are Something to Envy," The Sunday Republican, December 23, 2018, p. 1E).
Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Fl., 2019
     During our group's good humor and reliving of shared experiences, there was a nurturing element in familiarity. We basked in the glow of each other's caring but felt enriched by our own capacity to express that kindness. The Benedictine nun Joan Chittister wrote in The Friendship of Women, "Friendship reminds us that we are irreplaceable, vital to a life beyond our own. Once we are loved, we have an obligation to live as best we can."
Pam with Pat, Mystic, Conn., 2017
Delray Beach, Fl., 2019
     What of our grandchildren, who claim hundreds of "friends" on the internet and may spend up to nine hours a day online, including homework and playing games with a bot (artificial intelligence)? Thirty-two percent of tech professionals, according to Stephen Asma in "This Friendship Has Been Digitized" (NY Times, March 24, 2019, Sunday Review, pg. 10), now believe digital life will harm our mental well-being over the next decade. Recent research suggests that isolation is increasing, as intimacy among teens is replaced by texting and other forms of digital communication.
     Young people, however, don't seem to be concerned. They feel socially supported by large networks of "friends" they never see face-to-face. The kind of presence required for deep friendships does not seem cultivated in on-line relationships. There we cannot touch or smell each other, detect each other's facial expressions, or moods. We can easily replace on-line "friends" and often don't know where they live or if they're a he, she, or bot. For the disabled, however, that is an advantage.
     Asma in his article proclaims the most defining feature of deep friendship is "doing for," as when a person is sick and needs soup or a ride for medicine or appointments. "The emotional entanglement of real friendship produces oxytocin and endorphins in the brains and bodies of friends - cementing them together in ways that are more profound than other relationships."
     Kids still get a large amount of face-to-face time in school and after-school. However, when Professor Asma asked his college students if they had people in their lives who would bring them soup when they got sick, they laughed. They told him they'd order from UberEats!
The Breakers Hotel, Palm Beach, Fl., 2019
   


   

   
   

   
   
   

Monday, April 1, 2019

Raising a Royal To Be "Normal"

     Is it even possible to raise a British royal child as a "normal" person?   
     According to a Vogue Daily on-line report (March 26, '19), Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will raise their first-born differently from previous royals.
     The nursery will have vegan paint, eco-friendly products, and, according to People magazine, the duchess will "probably make her own baby food." She is considering hiring a doula (someone who provides emotional and physical support during birth) and will focus on "calm and positive energy around the birth."
     A source told E!News that "Meghan is also keen for her child to be fully aware of his or her American heritage." This may translate into sending the child to an American school, one of which is located not too far from the couple's new home of Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.
     The pair is considering a "manny," or a male nanny. Per a source in The Sun, Meghan "is keen to introduce the royal family to what she considers a more enlightened, modern American" (who must be bi-lingual because Meghan speaks Spanish and is picking up French).
     What about the child's title? "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not seek any official royal role for their first child," according to The (London) Times in October, and may forego a title.
     Does this make a royal child "normal" in a house that is now undergoing a $2.5-$3.8 million renovation (which will include a Scarlet O'Hara double staircase, yoga studio, all new fireplaces, five bedrooms, and soundproofing, among other things)? Based on the life Meghan is living prior to the child's arrival, it's doubtful.
     Meghan's baby shower was held in New York City in a 10,000-square-foot penthouse in the five-star Mark Hotel. Guests included Serena Williams, Gayle King, and Amal Clooney, who received leather tote bags retailing around $200, as did all the guests. The totes were filled with a designer candle, designer body butter, rice enzyme powder, and Honest Beauty products (company founded by Jessica Alba), also known for natural baby products. When the guests departed, they received Away suitcases, retailing for $225-$295.
     I don't remember receiving favors from baby showers that weren't a candle, a fake flower arrangement, or a picture frame (presumably for the new baby's photo)!
     The guests at the Markle shower participated in a group activity. Under the direction of a professional florist, each guest made an individual vase. The arrangements were then donated to Repeat Roses, which delivers to hospices, homeless shelters, and treatment centers like the Ronald McDonald House.
     Let us hope the new baby will be raised in this spirit of charity and will at some point actually visit a Ronald McDonald House.


   


   
   

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Trip to Mt. Dora, Part III, The Fla. Highwaymen


     No, “Highwaymen” does not refer to robbers on the Florida highways!

     In the late 1950’s a collective of twenty-five loosely-associated African-American men and one woman from the Ft. Pierce and Vero Beach, Florida, areas painted their way out of the despair awaiting them in the citrus groves and packing houses of south Florida. The Highwaymen created idyllic, quickly-realized images of the Florida dream and peddled some 50,000 of them from the trunks of their cars to restaurants, businesses, and anyone passing by. Hence, the name, “Highwaymen.”


     Why am I writing about the Florida Highwaymen? Because when my sister and I met at Heron Cay Inn in Mt. Dora, Florida, in February of this year, over 100 of these paintings surrounded us on the walls.


     Southern segregation was in its prime in the ‘50’s (no galleries for these artists!) and roaming the streets with a stack of framed paintings was suspicious. Anonymity and quickness were the keys to their success. In addition, a white landscape artist from Ft. Pierce named A. E. “Bean” Backus invited African-American high school student A. E. Hair to paint in his studio. Hair became the star of the group, wowing buyers with burnt-orange skies or unnaturally florescent yellow, aqua, or peach clouds. He would mix a specific color and apply it across various canvases at once, creating twenty landscapes at a breakneck pace. The paintings originally sold for $20 - $25 and enabled Hair to buy a Cadillac, which served as his storefront.

     An amorphous group, some of whom painted together on Sundays, the artists spurred each other on to create faster, competing to see who could sell the most. They painted on inexpensive Upson boards used by roofers and created frames from crown moldings. Shrubs were roughed-in; grass was a few brush strokes; subjects were minimally depicted. The imprecise but lively brushwork with slashed-in highlights became Hair’s trademark. Characterized early on as “motel art,” the paintings reflected popular visions of Florida: the ocean, the setting sun, wind-swept palms, billowing cumulus clouds.


     With Hair’s death in a barroom brawl in 1970 at the age of 29, the group disbanded and eventually sales waned. After Florida art dealer Jim Finch named the group in 1994, interest revived as an American art form, a depiction of a place where one could realize the American dream. Today the paintings sell for as much as tens of thousands of dollars and are owned by Michelle Obama and Shaquille O’Neal.


Photos are my own. Information in this article from:
Hurd, Gordon. “Alfred Hair” in the “Overlooked” section, N.Y. Times, February 3, 2019, pg. 8.
Monroe, Gary. The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters, The University Press of Florida, 2001.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Trip to Mt. Dora, Fl., Part II

     My sister and I spend our winters in Florida and meet half-way for an annual get-together. This year we chose Mt. Dora and I made the arrangements.
     The blue-and-white exterior of the inn was reminiscent of Key West style, but faced Lake Dora. When we arrived, the massive wooden front door was locked. We slammed the brass knocker against the oak panels several times and heard the bolt draw back. Maggie, the proprietor, threw a "Welcome" to us sideways, past the gray wisp that hung near her mouth. "You must be the two sisters we're expecting. Come in." In slippers she led us past the winding wooden staircase (covered in oil paintings of Florida), down the central hall (covered in oil paintings of Florida) to a white wicker folding screen. "We can't let the dogs out," she said, folding back the first section of screen with long fingers that didn't match her diminutive stature. She stepped aside for us.
     "May we leave our bags inside, since we're early for registration? They're in our cars. We'd like to have lunch in town."
     "Of course," Maggie said, swishing aside one of the three cats sitting on the kitchen counter and reaching for registration forms behind canisters of cooking ladles, spatulas, whisks, and tongs. The cat leaped onto the kitchen table. "I'll lock them in the closet down the hall till you return. First I need your information and a credit card for the balance. You paid fifty percent on-line."
     "May I use a rest room, please? We've both had a long ride."
     "Yes, it's right down the hall on the right."
     "Do the cats roam the inn?" my sister asked, concerned about her asthma.
     "No," I heard Maggie respond as I made my way past the table strewn with ceramic salt and pepper shakers representing Santa Clauses, kissing children, and assorted animals, and ducked under hanging pots which could not have threatened Maggie's head.
     Inside the bathroom a cat licked milk from a bowl on the floor. Its white fur was so thin and the ribs so pronounced that I thought we were probably witnessing its last day. I hadn't heard Maggie following me in her slippers, but she  bent down to pick up the cat before I could turn around. "Piddly's sick," she declared. "She got like this once before, but recovered."
     "What is it? Mange?"
     "No, not mange. We're not sure." Then she left me alone.
     When I came out of the bathroom, I trailed a Borzoi back to the kitchen, where it sprawled on a comforter in the sun. There were two other Borzois lying across the floor amid planters of ferns, small palms, and philodendron.
Front porch of our inn with Borzoi statue
Side yard of inn with Borzoi statue
     Borzois, or Russian wolfhounds, are believed to be the mix between ancient bear hounds from Central Asia and tall sheepdogs. Their sleek stature, like the greyhound's, possesses incredible speed, which allowed Russian nobility to hunt wolves and hares. The association with the royal family, however, proved fatal for the breed, as many dogs were disposed of by their owners after the Russian Revolution in 1917. The specimens that remained in kennels, as well as those left with foreigners, were used to rebuild the breed. Everywhere we turned in the inn there were statues or paintings of Borzois. Fortunately, the living specimens remained in the kitchen.
Parlor with Borzois and Xmas decorations, including top of wall!
   
More Borzois over fireplace!
 "Here are the keys to your rooms. I'll put your suitcases in before you return," Maggie said, leading us back to the front hall. "Deidre is still touching them up. If you need transportation, here's a number to call for a shuttle." She handed us a business card from one of the twenty-odd card holders on a desk. The card holders were surrounded by pamphlets in graduated dividers built into the desk. They promoted adventures and eating establishments in the area.
     "I recommend Pices Rising for a fish dinner or the Olive Branch, which is a Mediterranean version of Italian. You'll probably need reservations, with 500,000 visitors coming for the art show this weekend. Any of the restaurants are good. The walking path to town begins at the end of the parking lot. You probably won't be able to get a parking space downtown after 5:00."
     "Would you be so kind as to call Pices Rising for a reservation at 7:00 for us, please?"
     Maggie secured our reservation. In town, lunch was as good as her claim. Afterward, we ventured into shops featuring nostalgic coats, dresses, shoes, crafty beach decorations, artists' galleries, and antiques. We saved the museums for the following day.
     Back at the inn, we entered our rooms to unpack. We were surrounded by lace doilies, four-poster beds with flowery faded chintz, and faux Tiffany lamps. On the bureaus laminated sheets announced a cold breakfast would be served until 9:00, after which there would be eggs and sausage ("Please reserve for the hot breakfast!"). In my bathroom sugar ants scurried out from under the faucet when I turned the water on. A wooden shelf unit hung over the toilet but the shelves weren't wide enough to hold my makeup case. The only thing in my room that was new was the television mounted on the wall and the mattress. There were at least eight oil paintings of the local Florida area. I had a beautiful view of Lake Dora, as did six of the other rooms. My sister had no view, next to the garage, but she had her own patio and didn't have to climb the one or two flights of stairs. I fell asleep in my clothes.
     When we met downstairs for dinner, we explored the parlor and dining room. Collections of china plates and glassware covered in dust stood in china cabinets in both rooms. Antique cash registers provided the backdrop for a carousel horse. Santa waved an arm with a mini bulb in his candle or towered over bowls of Christmas balls, although it was February. A briny scent emanated from a glass container of star fish amid ceramic Christmas trees and plates stacked for breakfast. A chipmunk held a barrel of mini golf clubs for an unidentifiable purpose.
     Maggie must have been a frequent shopper at the Antique Emporium in town, which was two-football-fields long. Statues, paintings, or prints of Borzois reigned over everything. More chintz flowers covered the round tables in the dining room.
   
    "Do you think we should eat here in the morning, with the cats and dogs in the kitchen?" Cindi asked.
     "I'm only gonna eat a wrapped muffin or some cereal from a box."
     We got a ride to town for our dinner reservation. Again, an outstanding meal!
     Afterward, we needed a ride back to the inn. We called the number on the business card for the shuttle, but it had shut down at 8:00. No answer when we called two taxis. "Is there Uber or Lyft we could call?" I asked the maitre d'.
     "Not here," he said.
     "Well, we can't walk back to the inn in the dark. What do you suggest?"
     "We're going to be closing in about fifteen minutes. If you can wait, I'll give you ladies a ride."
     Fifteen minutes later Devin pulled his dune buggy around to the front of the restaurant and I climbed in the back seat. Except there was no seat, so I sat on the floor. Cindi sat next to Devin. "This reminds me of our trip to St. Maarten," I said to my sister, laughing. "Remember when Quinn pulled out too fast and the back seat of the jeep collapsed? Mom and Dad ended up on the floor!" After that remark, Devin slowed down around the turns. We were grateful for his ride and tried to thank him with a generous tip, which he refused.
     At breakfast I passed up some crusty banana bread for a wrapped muffin while Christmas music blared through the speakers and Maggie explained to anyone who'd listen how she'd acquired her Borzois.

To be continued: A Collection of Florida Highwaymen's Paintings.....

   
   
   
 
 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Trip to Mt. Dora, Florida, Part I (History)

     For our annual reunion this year, my sister drove down from Fernandina Beach and I drove up from Delray Beach to meet in Mt. Dora, Florida. Neither of us had ever been before.
   
     Mt. Dora sits 185 feet above sea level, a veritable pinnacle in a flat landscape of lakes northwest of Orlando and west of Sanford. The town was a time warp, consisting of quaint shops displaying artistic, nostalgic, or "gently used" goods, fantastic restaurants, an antiques market the size of a football field, several museums, and a large yellow historic inn that had exploded into several new buildings on the Lake.

Imported shoes, Mt. Dora, Fl.
Mt. Dora Inn, opened in 1883
     Lake Dora provided the scenery, visible around every corner, complete with sea plane and boat rides. Legend has it that the Lake was named in 1848 after Dora Drawdy, living with her family two miles south, who shared their meager supplies with the government surveyors. In actuality, the Drawdys were not in the area until around 1856, and the Lake had already been named by a surveying team.
Lake Dora, with red and white lighthouse through trees
     The original name of the town, when the Post Office was established in 1880, was Royellou, an acronym made from the names of early settler and first Postmaster Ross Tremain's three children - Roy, Ella, and Louis. In 1882-'83, the name was changed to Mt. Dora.
     When white settlers came in the third quarter of the 1800's, they found African-Americans in the area. These black settlers had a friendly relationship with the Indians who continued to travel through.
     The U.S. Census for 1890 recorded 174 people living in the Mt. Dora precinct. Access to the area was limited, via railroad (1887), wagon, or boat along the circuitous water route from Sanford. Residents raised their own livestock, grew vegetables, and supplemented their diet with fish and game from the immediate vicinity. In 1894-95, back-to-back freezes devastated the citrus crop.
     The town was incorporated as the City of Mt. Dora in 1910, with 371 people in the City proper, 42 in the surrounding precinct, and 125 automobiles (1913). The community had no paved streets, no water system, no streetlights, and no sidewalks. Things changed from 1919 until the Great Depression, when Mt. Dora experienced the same building boom as the rest of the state. It was no longer an isolated country town.
Tourists learning to use segways, 2019
To be continued.......




   

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Guests' Sleeping Arrangements

     Charley and I had been dating for six months when I took him to meet my parents at their home in Connecticut. After the introductions, my mother escorted him down to the finished basement. "I made this cot up for you," she said, depositing fresh towels on the bed. "The bathroom's at the top of the stairs."
      Charley joined me later in the den to watch television. "Where are you going to sleep?" he asked.
     "My old bedroom's upstairs," I said, nudging my thigh against my parents' poodle, Cherie, so Charley could squeeze next to me.
     "Is there a guest room upstairs?"
     "Yes."
     "Does this sofa open into a bed?"
     I looked away from the t.v. and directly into his eyes. "It does," I said, grinning.
     "Then why can't I sleep here?"
     "My parents probably wanted us separated by two floors. Besides, this is where Cherie sleeps."
     "Well, now I know where I rank in the pecking order."
     The next morning I asked Charley if he'd slept well. "Not at all," he said. "My bed was right next to the oil burner. Every time it went on, I woke up."
     Somehow, our relationship survived. By the time we were engaged, Charley had moved up to the sleeper sofa next to Cherie.



     My hair dripped into the sink behind me at the beauty parlor. A woman in the next chair explained the preparations she'd made before her granddaughter visited with her boyfriend.
     "My guest room has twin beds. There was no other place for them to sleep, but I figured they'd move the beds together. Since my bedroom backed up to their wall and I didn't want to listen to their shenanigans all night, I put chocks under the feet of their beds so they couldn't move them.
     "Well, that didn't stop them! They must have crowded into one bed and I didn't sleep a wink all night."



     Friends from Massachusetts planned to visit us in Florida. After we'd decided on a date, I sent a list of attractions and restaurants they might enjoy, if they wanted diversions from the beach and pool. Finally I received a call.
     "Pam, we have one concern and I hope you don't mind if I ask you this. Do you have a guest room with twin beds? Our sleep cycles are different now that we're in our seventies and we try not to wake each other up. Also, I've got to warn you that Pete snores. I'm used to it, but I hope he doesn't disturb you. Sometimes even I can't sleep."
     "Oh, don't worry about Pete's waking us! Our master bedroom is on the other side of the condo. And yes, we have twin beds in one guest room."
     "Perfect! Just one last question. Sorry to be such a pain! Is there a bathroom close to the twin bedroom? We have to get up a lot during the night."
     "You'll have a bathroom right outside your bedroom door. And our grandchildren's night light." We both cracked up.

If you have any stories of guests' sleeping arrangements, I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the "Comments" box below.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A New Year's Letter to My Grandchildren, 2019


Dear D, A, A, J, and B,

Here are some things I wish for you, not just in the coming year, but always:



                                                                                          4 Generations
                   May you enjoy good health and take care of the miracle that is your body;

                    May you never underestimate yourselves but always overestimate the effort
it takes to fulfill your expectations;

                    May you search deep inside to find out what is important and then 
let go of things that are not;

                   May you have enough self-esteem to admit your mistakes 
and correct them;



May you share good times and bad with loved ones and continually 
reach out to show how important they are to you;


May you find one good friend who will last a lifetime;

May you speak your mind with respect and listen with equal respect;

May you never be exclusionary and always complimentary;

May you judge others not by superficial things, 
like the color of their skin or their clothes or dwellings, 
but by their actions;

May you forgive easily;

May you be in awe of the world that surrounds you and 
actively protect it;


 May you one day walk in the shoes of someone less fortunate;


May you spend time with an elderly person to learn wisdom; 



May you learn early that life is not fair, but that you can 
deal with what comes;

May you never feel entitled to material things, 
just because you are lucky enough to have 
generous parents (and grandparents) who would happily grant
your every wish;

May you never display arrogance, 
just because you have achieved successes;

May you discover your unique talents and follow them 
to the end of a dream;

May you develop a love of books and learning for its own sake;

May you find someone who will love you and make you feel 
safe forever, as I did;

And may that person kiss and hug you in front of people 
and always hold your hand!

REMEMBER, EACH OF YOU HAS MAGIC INSIDE YOU!
With lots of love, Grandma Pam