It is so easy to forget where you came from in the day to day ordinariness of life, you forget.  But not this week, no not this week.  And believe it or not I’m not talking about the inauguration, exactly…  I’m talking about young people who don’t know what they don’t know and how that could possibly have happened.  Complacency.

When well intended becomes an excuse I have to question just how much well intention is going on and who is allowing it.  An email that came across my laptop this week rocketed me to parts unknown.  A separate Instagram post did the same but that will need a whole another post.  Both of them sent by 30 somethings, both of them reeked of naiveté and a lack of historical reference. You remember historical reference don’t you?

When a woman separates people who are in the same position by gender, having interacted with the man first then letting the others know that she thinks, “This info might be of value to you ladies also” so she’s passing it along I damn near fainted.  “You Ladies”???The eerie feeling that comes over you when you know you’ve seen this before is jarring and infuriating. This from a woman who never wasn’t allowed to wear pants to work. Pants to work, yeah that.  It’s a real juncture for me because it was in my lifetime.

I am so grateful that I had the presence of mind to direct my rant away from her and check to see if I was overreacting.  Am I being an asshole or did this just happen? It happened. Thank you to the two souls that heard me out and let my rant go on until it couldn’t any longer.

Long story short I cooled off enough by the NEXT day to have a kind conversation with her and explain that what she did, no matter how well intended, counteracted everything that old women like me had ever fought for. Seems funny now to be having a conversation about wearing pants to work… I hope she could hear me, I hope she understands, I hope she’s reading all about the Women’s March on Washington.

The one good thing that may come out of a Trump presidency is a resurgence of women uniting in all things female.  I am disappointed that I didn’t go to the march and I can’t explain why I didn’t go as I’ve been an advocate for women my whole life.  Perhaps I underestimated the power we still have.  I’ll figure that out at some point.  But I will be in full participation of the 10 Actions/100 Days follow up. Every 10 days we will take action on an issue we care about.

“The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving.”  Gloria Steinem

In whatever way you can, I hope that you will revisit an historical timeline of women.  What we have today hasn’t always been, what we have tomorrow may be diminished or lost entirely, adopt a beginner’s mind assume you don’t know what you don’t know and seek historical reference. Ask someone about their experience it may surprise you.

The Women’s March was unprecedented in its size, its peaceful intent and execution, it is yet to be seen if it accomplishes what will be necessary for women to maintain and boost their status in this country, particularly during this term of office. To those of you who marched I applaud you and thank you for your magnificent representation of us all.  That said, I am cautiously optimistic for the first time in more years than I even realized.

Enjoy some of the pictures of the march courtesy of News and Guts, Dan Rather’s newest venture in reporting.


I wanted to pull the thread, unravel the scarf of my silence and start again from the beginning – Jonathan Sofran Foer

This week was a little like sitting on the step of Aunt Nettie’s sewing room.  The step because it wasn’t so much a room as a tiny former foyer.   She sat at her sewing machine looking out onto Woodside Avenue where any number of older Italian women needed to be kept “an eye on”, Gramma Marco, Mary Sinise, Mrs. Spadafrank, you get the picture.  It’s not lost on me that I now sit at my laptop looking out onto Stowe Lane where any number of older women need to be kept “an eye on” also.  Such is the chore of a real neighborhood.

As she worked mending this or that or making a dress for so and so or altering a jacket for someone else my job was to pick up the many threads she snipped and dropped.  There is a golden rule of life that says don’t ever pull the loose thread on your…whatever, fill in the blank, shirt, scarf, skirt.  This did not apply to her (or my Aunt Millie), she could pull a thread and unravel any number of inches that needed to be snipped and resewn or any collar that didn’t lay exactly straight.  These were the squiggly crimped threads that embedded themselves around the loops of the rug and under and over and made it impossible to vacuum but really she was keeping me busy and out of her hair.

Once all done with the threads (that never happened) I could play in the button box. There was every kind of button you could imagine mostly cut off of garments that were so thread bare they had to go in the rag bag. There were some cards of buttons for brand new garments and there were buttons by the dozen in small cellophane bags. There were embroidery snips, tailor’s chalk and thimbles and safety pins all the tools required to take something apart and to put something back together.  I learned much in that room just by watching.

That was this week, unraveling the scarf of my silence, picking up the threads, salvaging a collar, unlooping the squiggly long threads that had gotten somehow crimped around long forgotten memories.  Taking many childhood somethings apart and putting them back together with an adult’s understanding. Using new buttons and snaps to tailor my ordinary photos into stories.

It was sometimes painstaking work, sometimes dreamy spellbinding work, all of it creative work which I’m looking forward to continuing throughout the year.  The path for this generous gift was provided by robin sandomirsky & alisha sommer  through Liberated Lines – Amplify. They have my gratitude.

Deep In Your Bones

It stands majestic up on a hill at the edge of my town.  I seldom have a reason to go to that side of town, but on occasion I find myself on the winding road that leads past this retreat, Carmel Retreat.  Each time I pass it there’s a familiarity about it, like I’ve been there before.  Turns out I have been there before, almost 50 years ago. Could it be?  It was a retreat sponsored by CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) and that’s about the extent of what I remember about it.  I remember CYO even more vaguely.

It’s for sale now, the Carmelites couldn’t keep it up, and mostly abandoned so on my way home the afternoon winter light was so good I had to poke around to confirm this might be the place.  When you’re thirteen years old everything seems so far away how could this be it, right around the corner?

Driving through the arched entrance to the priory parking area seemed intrusive. As I looked around the sense of familiarity grew, things started to feel the same, like walking down the stone stairs and poking around the abandoned greenhouse.

Each of the doors had a cross etched into the window so looking in was obscured just a bit.  The large building housed the guests, but the small building across from it nearly sent me to my knees. Looking to the side of the etched cross into the wood paneled room left me speechless for two reasons, the light shining through the opposite window and the reflections from behind where I stood converged and I was back in time.

This was the room where the retreat came to a close, where transformations became apparent and young people were lifted by God, I wasn’t one of them.  I was transformed but not by the closing ceremonies.  I was transformed from the night before.

Each of us was paired with a roommate, mine was to be one of the counselors. The rooms were actually the size of my bedroom at home and set up the same way with two twin beds.  There were no sheets on the bed and I distinctly remember the mattress ticking fabric.  On each bed were envelopes addressed to us.  There were maybe a dozen on my bed and there were maybe a hundred on the counselor’s bed.  I’m sorry I don’t remember her name, I never saw her, she never showed up, I spent the night in that room by myself.

By myself.

By myself.

I have no recollection of what I felt other than alone.  And that feeling settled right into my bones, I would feel it again and again throughout my life and it would become familiar.

There is so much I don’t remember about this experience, how did I get there?  Was it my idea?  My mother confirmed some memory of my going and having to write one of the letters.  Was I being punished for something, was I that bad a kid, out of control, destructive that I was sent there?  She says no it was something she thought I’d enjoy.  I didn’t.  She remembers me not saying anything about it when I got home. I never spoke of it.

Apparently the combination of the teachings and the letters received was enough to bring many of the people attending to their nirvana, I wasn’t one of them.  In the paneled room the next day I marveled at the shine of the wood and the smell of the room.  Murphy’s Oil Soap which I didn’t know then.   Later when I lived on my own I would use it on my floors and I remember the smell was familiar but I didn’t make the connection until I looked into that window the other day.

I also connected with the memory of those kids, overcome with joyful tears, vowing to devotion and sacrificing pieces of themselves to the altar, their brother’s watch, their mother’s ring.  There were moving, cathartic heart wrenching stories of loss or transformation and each of us needed to speak, to tell our story.  The most poignant among them was nurtured and adulated by the priests and counselors.  I told a story, it was a lie.   I don’t remember what the story was, there was no adulation but I do remember it was a lie.

There are so many things that I don’t remember about that weekend, what did we eat, what did we learn, who was there, the names of anyone.  I do remember hearing that one of the counselors had been killed in an accident on the Turnpike a few weeks later but I couldn’t tell you his name or what he looked like.

What I remember now as an adult is that it shaped a part of me at the bone level; deep enough so that all the ensuing years and experiences and pivotal moments couldn’t pry it loose. It was instrumental in forming my character and directing some of the decisions I’ve made along the way.  Phillip Brooks said that character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.

I remember it was the end of religion for me, not God but religion.  I have always known that “God ain’t mad at me” as I’m so fond of saying. I never went back to CYO and I never spoke of that weekend again until this weekend with my mother and sister.

They say that familiarity breeds contempt, I don’t believe that’s entirely true.  The familiar moments are for examination especially when you feel you can’t quite put your finger on something.  When something gnaws at the bone it needs to be examined or your decisions will hinge upon something you may not be aware of.

It was hard to look at this but I’m thankful I did. What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us…Ralph Waldo Emerson What lies within our bones is even bigger.  It equals our truth, it truly sets you free.

Lekvaar Bars

I had the pleasure and privilege of joining my neighbor, Barbara Oreshnick, in her kitchen recently to learn how to make her holiday Lekvaar Bars. Lekvar (which is the most common way to spell the name) is a fruit butter of central and eastern European origin.  It is smooth, creamy, rich and delicious.  It can be made from any number of different kinds of fruits but Barbara prefers Lekvar made from prune.

This recipe, a Russian Polish version,  came from her mother-in-law.  The funny thing about this recipe is that it might never have come into Barbara’s recipe book along with her mother-in-law’s poppy seed cake and nut rolls.  Seems Barbara never wanted to try these delectable bites…then….once she finally tasted them she was hooked.  I can see why and I’m grateful she’s carried on the tradition.

Barbara’s kitchen is nostalgic and warm.  It gives a nod back to a certain period in time when not everything needed to be upgraded to the latest and greatest simply for the sake of upgrading.

The process is much like making any basic dough.

Speaking of nostalgia the site of Barbara’s canisters sent my heart reeling.  For those of you who know me, vintage aluminum is my jam…these were a shower gift to Barbara back in 1954.  Oh how I adore them.

Then on to forming the dough. You’ll notice the jelly roll pan is not greased.

Now for that wonderful Lekvar.

The filling is spread thick and evenly across the dough. Barbara makes the painstaking process of shingling the upper crust of the bars look easy in that “these hands have done this a hundred times” kind of way.

As I watch Barbara I’m reminded of our Italian crostata.  Similar in that it has a bottom layer, a fruit filling but instead of shingling the upper crust we cut strips and make the lattice top.  The first time I tasted these Lekvaar Bars I knew there was a familiarity about them, now I made the connection.  I once had a wonderful crostata recipe that somehow got misplaced so I can see re-purposing this recipe in that direction.  I know Barbara won’t mind.

Into the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.  Like most experienced baker’s Barbara has a system for clean up and my time with her was coming to a close.

Days later, when I came home from a wonderful Christmas Eve celebration I found a bag of goodies hanging from the nob on my front door.  I couldn’t wait to open them up.

They did not disappoint, they were absolutely delicious.  Even more so now that I know their history.  I can’t thank Barbara enough for sharing this heritage recipe with me, and now you.  The thought of these wonderful morsels being lost just breaks my heart.  I hope you’ll give them a try, I know like I know you will enjoy every crumb.