Archive for the ‘Growing Up’ Category

I am feeling the pressure to crank out these babies and I’ll tell you why.

Babies, of course, referring to items on the list. Not actual babies.

“Avoiding doldrums of winter” is the list. Refer to past postings for the other seven.

The reason I am feeling pressure is because the winter is flying. In about eighteen days the clocks in my house will “Spring Ahead!” by an hour. We will blink and there will be crocuses popping out of the ground. It will be Easter and then it will be the Fourth of July.

That sounds like good news. Besides the fact life is going by quickly.

So is my list even necessary?

Probably.

Because some winters are longer than others. Some are colder. Different regions experience different weather.

So here goes.

#8

An eye catcher. 

Usually that’s me. But for the purpose of this list I will stick with inanimate objects.

Have something that brightens up the joint. Something visible that catches your eye. Lifts your mood. Each and every time. Acts like a dopamine drip.

We surround ourselves with furniture and a lifetime of dust collectors. How often do we actually acknowledge them? Even notice that they are there?

Yes, most of us are generally happy with our space. The overall feeling when you walk in the front door. Believe me, some days that feeling of contentment and “I’m in the comfort of my own place” vibe is enough for anyone.

Maybe looking for something more is asking too much?

Nah.

We have to continue working on the “shaking the blues” list! Something more than the same old thing is necessary.

This always works for me.

thumperwatching

But not everyone wants or is able to have a pet and I promised to stick with inanimate.

There are a few things around the house, other than husband and dog, that I really like and always seem to brighten my moments.

I’ll share one today.

painting

This is a small painting by a local Rhode Island artist named Kathy Weber. I have it displayed on a wall in a high traffic area near the front door.

Different things appeal to each of us for a variety of reasons. That is what makes the world go ’round.

When I look at this piece of art I am immediately transported to the town where I was raised. Sure, this could be a winter street scene from any New England working class neighborhood. But it looks exactly like mine. I also love the colors Weber uses in her work.

I found it at Neville Fine Art and Framing in Warren, Rhode Island. I chatted with Donna, the owner, back in the summer while admiring the shop and its nicely displayed pieces.

This little gem caught my eye and then I left without buying it.

I don’t know why. What’s wrong with me? It’s probably because I am a Libra and any decisions I ever need to make practically have to involve a congressional hearing. It’s no joke. So hard for me.

Then I started having these pangs of what I guess could only be described as the opposite of buyer’s remorse. Non-buyer’s remorse.

I knew then I just had to have it.

So a few days later my friend and I headed to the shop. Of course, we showed up after business hours.

The following week I was with another friend and drove to the shop. Had every intention of arriving home with my new bundle of joy. Nope. Didn’t happen. The place was not open on this particular day.

I was about to go down another road. You know the one. It’s called, “Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.”

But I didn’t.

The third time was the charm. Whew!

Okay, I can’t make decisions to save my life. But once something gets stuck in my head it’s going absolutely nowhere until I deal with it. If a person looks up the definition of “dogged” in the dictionary my eye catching face will be staring right back at them. My Dad used to say, “Watch out when she gets a bee in her bonnet.” He wasn’t lying.

Thank God it’s only the small stuff with me.

Imagine how tired I would be if I was going for world peace? Or bringing down the number of mass killings in the U.S.?

As a side note. It won’t take you three times to gain entry into Donna’s shop. That was just me, flying by the seat of my pants, without checking business hours and days of operation before hopping in the car. Expecting the world to revolve around my whims. 

If you are in the area stop by and see Donna. You’ll be glad you did. Tell her I sent you. Just say, “Mary, the lady who loves that your shop smells like Christmas all year round.” She’ll know. 

I bought the painting and I love it. It is a bright spot on a winter’s day.

Obviously, a painting is not going to do it for everyone. But there will be something. You’ll find it.

The eye catcher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In my last post, I promised to share more information about a couple of the books that are in this photo.

bookslibrary

Going to the neighborhood library and appreciating your tax dollars at work was #5 on Mary’s “Wintry Mix” list.

In that same vein (sort of) I respectfully piggy back on the reading theme in this post for #6.

Go local.

Okay, I really wanted to type “Go loco” above instead of Go local. But I didn’t.

Support not just your local library but the local authors and bookstores. And authors who write about your locale or community.

Honestly, not sure why but I always feel like I’ve got some skin in the game when I’ve got one of those books in my hands.

Like I get all, “That’s my neighborhood. My town. My state. My people.” You can just imagine me with a puffed out chest. And not a puffed out post menopausal belly. Full of pride.

About two months ago I met Jeanne Mc Williams Blasberg at this literary event in Providence. She was on her own so there were a couple of extra chairs begging for middle-aged occupants. Jeanne was kind enough to allow me (and a friend) to sit at her table.

Got chatting, as one does, and I absolutely did the whole Rhode Island thing. That is to relentlessly dig until you find out what or who we have in common. I usually have the energy for it. That night was no exception.

Well, we are both mothers, both lived in California and both did the expat overseas gig. Okay, sure, that could be enough to keep a semi-decent conversation going between people who just met- before the event and during intermission.

Then I found out she was an author.

Wait, what?

She has a book “Eden” floating out there and a new one being published soon.

Truthfully, between you and me, I think I might be an authorphile. You could put me in a room with Tom Brady and a writer and I be like, “Tom, I will totally hook up with you in a few. I swear. Just gotta catch up with Jeanne here.”

Tom Brady dropped like a hot potato by JBM. True story. Ain’t gonna lie.

I’m always curious about every human being but now I have questions galore for this stranger at my table. Her table. She was there first.

“Wait, how do you spell your name? Plasberg? Is that with a P? What’s it about? Where does it take place?”

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I might have been a little loud because, well, I am loud. That’s who I am. And it was in a dark bistro (I know that dark should not matter for sound but neither should immediate radio music turn down when looking for a house number while driving) with a crowd of other ladies all excited to be at a watering hole with their ilk. So their noise level didn’t help mine.

“Eden” is set in my home state of Rhode Island. A fictional coastal town many natives might recognize. A novel about a family and secrets. How the lens might originally be black and white but gets a little grainy and gray (Thank you, Jesus!) with each new generation.

I really enjoyed it. Jeanne incorporates historical events-whether economic collapse or a world war-as a back drop to give the reader a feel for the time and its social mores.

Okay, Jeanne is not native to Rhode Island but she has a place with us now. Not everyone can be born here. We just don’t have the room. But as people leave or the older folks depart then spaces open up and we need to be welcoming. And then supportive.

When I was at the library poking around I noticed they had a section, by the check out desk, that had books written by local authors or about the area.

Well, why wouldn’t I read them?

I brought home Mary Cantwell’s “American Girl: Scenes from a Small-Town Childhood.” Mary was an editor and columnist for the New York Times but grew up in Bristol, Rhode Island. This book is filled with lovely memories of her childhood in this seaside town during the 1940s and 1950s. It’s like finding someone’s diary. I feel like everyone has a story. Hers was a pleasant one. Added bonus was I had a better understanding of the town’s history after reading this simple, old-fashioned memoir.

As you can see in the photo I had also grabbed Bernie Mulligan’s, “I Made It.” A story set in the town of East Providence where I was raised. I didn’t read it yet but I will. I had too many open books at the time.

This book is about a woman who was fully paralyzed from polio. She also had four sons under the age of seven when it happened! Can you even imagine?

I am so surprised I never knew about this. It’s a story of family love and commitment. Her husband fixed up an old bus so that she and her family could travel. When he passed away the neighborhood kids collected 6000 books of Green Stamps to buy a Winnebago. Or a caravan for my European readers. The newly licensed young neighbors all took turns driving her across the country to the Pacific Ocean. Oh my gosh. That’s God’s work right there. Makes me proud to be a Townie. I definitely have to read this.

Couple of books from Ann Leary in that photo. Northeast girl living in New England. I love her books. She just gets me. LOL I mean, I just get her. She’s married to comedian Denis Leary but I feel like she actually might be the funny one in that relationship. These two books (in the photo) were good but I loved, “The Good House.” I remember laughing out loud while reading it. Very few authors make me LOL. I also really liked her book “The Children.”

Not in the above photo but here is another book I recently enjoyed. Staying with the local vibe.

tenemental1

When I was born my parents lived in a tenement. I get it. When my husband and I bought our first home it was in Providence. A condo on the East Side. In a freaking tenement! I still haven’t heard the end of that one. But when I walked in, after the Boston group that owned it did their rehab and tagged the three floors as condos, I fell in love with the original wood floors gleaming on a sunny day. I coveted the fireplace that had been there for ages.

We’ll take it!

What I didn’t consider was that the bathroom had no heating. At all. That original, like the drafty windows we could barely open, wasn’t always a good thing.

Still. So many fabulous memories in that place. No regrets.

Anyway.

I consider the purchase of this book a trifecta. I supported a local book store Twenty Stories, a Providence author and really enjoyed this memoir. Filled with quirky tenants, boyfriends and lore.

That’s it for my #6 on getting through winter! Enough about books already. I’ll lay off bookspeak for awhile. I’m exhausted. Yes, it has to do with books. I will tell you why in another blog posting. Not the next one. But someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I missed Autumn in New England when I was away.

Leaf peepers visit from all over the country and the world to experience the changing foliage. It’s so beautiful.

And who doesn’t love bright orange pumpkins?

I remember, when we lived in Kuala Lumpur, my neighbor Jean’s husband got very creative one Halloween night. There weren’t any orange pumpkins available in our tropical environs so he got his hands on a watermelon and carved it accordingly. Made me chuckle but also realize how humans acclimate.

When our children were young it was always fun to visit the pumpkin patch and pick out the perfect pumpkin. We’d bring it home to decorate and/or carve it. Scooped out the innards, rinsed the stringy seeds, dried them and later roasted them in the oven.

Here is an old photo of Hannie and her carved pumpkin when we lived in California. 25 was our house number at the time. Placed by the front door to greet trick or treaters. Snagged the idea from my old friend, Betsy. Visit her site Farmhouse Wares for cool home and garden items.

25lamirage.jpg

Hannie is a bit older now and in her second year of university. She came home for a weekend in October to celebrate my birthday. So appreciated! Of course, we went to find the perfect pumpkins.

pumpkinpatch

Some things have changed since then. Like the number of our house. But some things remain the same. Like our happiness while decorating pumpkins.

35pumpkin

Consider this as #2 on my previously mentioned “cheerful list.” The things that add a bit of brightness to my day once the days of summer have passed. Even though it really is more than just pumpkins. It is time spent outdoors. Togetherness. Creativity. And yes, eating pumpkin seeds.

 

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When I became pregnant with our second child I was so thrilled. Just as thrilled as I was with the first.

Hard to believe it was twenty years ago.

While pregnancy brings about many things the first on my list was prenatal visits. So an appointment was made with the ob/gyn group down the road from our home.

On one of the first prenatal visits I checked in at front desk. Soon I was escorted to an examining room in the back. I am handed a disposable paper covering for the bottom half of my body. You have to know when it comes to me disrobing in an exam room I take it very seriously. It’s like a game of twenty questions. The nurse normally gets pelted with my inquiries.

Usually goes something like this.

“All of my clothes? Just the top? Bra? Panties? Socks? Headband? Watch? Earrings? Wait! Does a paper gown open to the front or back?? Flimsy disposable paper sheet covering the lap?”

I quickly followed the instructions. Took off clothes and placed the neatly folded clothes on the chair. No one dilly dallies around in those exam rooms. Because anyone could open the door at any moment and catch you partially clad. Or exposed. Doesn’t matter that the doctor and/or nurse is going to soon see every little bit of you.

While waiting for the doctor I sit on the table and get caught up with the celebrity news in the latest “People” magazine. I am making a lot of noise because every time I move an inch the paper liner on the examining table crinkles up, rustles and makes a racket.

I soon realize that I cannot concentrate on the magazine. Or anything else. Because the heater must have been broken. It was absolutely freezing in the room.

The doctor poked his head in and saw that I was turning blue. Okay, that’s an exaggeration but he did get that I was cold. He appeared upset at this.

Said, “Hold on a minute.”

He leaves the room. Two seconds later he returns with his jacket. It was waist length and black leather. He takes it and wraps it around my shoulders.

So, there I am. Sitting on the examining table with nothing on except a black leather biker jacket.

Feeling uncomfortable and awkward. Like I was about to star in a S&M photo shoot.

I honestly didn’t know that to think. Was it kind? Unprofessional? Creepy? Chivalrous? Inappropriate?

I was surprised and didn’t know how to react. This was not in the rule book I learned over the years or in my memory bank. I left feeling confused.

See, him inserting his gloved fingers into my vagina for a pelvic exam was okay and appropriate. I knew that would happen and signed up for that. But putting that black leather jacket on my body was not in the pre-approved script.

Did not go home and tell my husband. Or my friends.

Just filed it away in the old gray matter under the indexed tab, “Confused.”

I wouldn’t be the first to file that. Women can experience all sorts of confusion. We are taught to be nice. Think the best of folks. So we question is the boy/man being kind or pushing a boundary? Manipulating or thoughtful? Purposeful touch or an accidental brushing? Surely, he didn’t mean that? Did I somehow lead him to this? Allow this? And on and on.

I did eventually share this anecdote at a party with a couple of lady friends. Not in the vein of my being wounded, scarred or anything. Just adding to a conversation topic that might have included “Bizarre behavior” or “You can’t make this stuff up!” Or maybe even, “Wait, get this! I have an even better one for you!”  Maybe even, “Proceed with caution.”

My husband hears me recounting the experience and looks at me like I have more stories than Walt Disney and says, “What??? That never happened.”

I replied, “Oh, yes, it most definitely happened. I was there.”

The reason I never shared this with him was because, in my mind, it sounded crazy and embarrassing.

I didn’t do anything wrong. Yet I couldn’t rightly say that the doctor did anything wrong either.

I would also later share with my ladies’ bookclub. Again, using it as fodder for interesting, bizarro conversation. Certainly not portraying me as a victimized woman.

It’s not something I really shared with anyone else.

I was a grown woman nearing her thirty-fourth year. Not physically hurt in ANY way. Just want that to be crystal clear. Yet, I still walked out of that office feeling like it was a bit surreal. Embarrassed and confused. Not feeling quite as clean as I was when I arrived. Thinking how on earth did that weird scenario happen. Could I have prevented the cow hide from being draped over my shoulders? Who’d believe that story?

Imagine then how a young girl might feel if someone abused power and violated a different boundary. Hurt her. Who would believe her? Against the word of a possibly upstanding young man? What would she be put through if she actually told her story? Character assassination? Shame? Embarrassment? Confusion? Guilt?

63.3% of sexual assault cases are not reported in the United States. Think about that for a minute. That’s something to really ponder. We don’t even need to wonder why. We know why. And since the thinking caps are on consider this also. One in three girls/women will experience some type of sexual violence in their lifetime. In the United States of America. So take a good look around your neighborhood, classroom, place of employment and home. Then count to three.

My last couple of postings have a recurring theme (girls and women) with some type of vulnerability as the common denominator.

The mindset of our society needs to change. The old, abhorrent way is no longer acceptable.

We certainly don’t need to worry about boys/men and possible false reporting. The boys (if they are white) will be just fine. The percentage of that happening is quite low. Something like 2%.

While actual sexual violence perpetrated against women is disgustingly high. 

Wait. Tell me again. Who do we need to worry about?

How’s this novel idea, though? Instead of worrying about our girls why don’t we focus on properly educating our boys. About boundaries, respect, language and objectification. It will be a struggle since every outlet we (men and women) are exposed to these days seems to support the objectification of women.

Maybe we could make America great again.

My original intention was to keep this short and sweet but it morphed into something else.

I’m glad it did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I was recently talking to one of my daughters who is away at university. She mentioned an upcoming party.

So, of course, I don’t stop being a Mom just because she’s away. Feeling like I have to get all of my last minute warnings in- just in case I should expire in the next few hours and the opportunity is lost.

I say, “I know you don’t party but if you did… you remember the rule, right?”

The guessing game begins. Because there are about a million rules we teach our girls. I’ve been doing it for years. Hammering these points home. Over and over again. We do it because we want to protect them. We want them to protect themselves.

She says, “Stay in a group?”

“No, not that one. But yes, please, stay in a group.”

“Watch my drink? Always keep it with me?”, she asks.

I respond, “No, that’s not it. Yes, yes, of course! Watch your drink and keep it with you always!”

It’s not just me. Parents are giving these same warnings to their daughters all over the U.S. I remember reading an article years ago about Christie Brinkley (former wife of Billy Joel) telling her daughter Alexa Ray (who was at or beginning university) to watch her drink so no one puts anything in it. 

My daughter questions, “Don’t walk home at night by myself?”

“Not that! But yes, please do not walk home at night by yourself!”

I just can’t help myself. 

Finally, we “I” get to the point.

“If you drink do not get behind the wheel. Call an Uber.”

She’s like, “Of course, Mom.”

Those are just a few examples of what I have actually shared with my daughters. Over and over again. There are a ton more. As we are all well aware.

The interesting thing is that we only share these warnings with our girls. There is no need to tell these things to our boys.

Why is that?

Okay, maybe just the one, “If you drink do not get behind the wheel. Call an Uber.”

So sad.

I am hoping for change.

 

 

 

 

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I was a young girl. Not a toddler and not yet a teen. Maybe nine or ten years old. Old enough to be out and about with friends. We were always playing outside. No one wanted to be in the house.

On this particular day, I was with a pal named Paula and her sister Kerri. Hanging on the swings at the local park. I suppose it was where everyone in our neighborhood eventually spent some time. There was also a football stadium, tennis courts and basketball court. So in good weather there was always activity. The wind was always blowing around the distant voices of kids you knew.  It was a middle class neighborhood. Usually not a lot of extra coin but not poor. Everyone pretty much felt safe. We all knew each other.

It eventually became time to leave the park. The girls and I were about to cross the parking lot to head home. A car slowly rolls up in the corner of the big parking lot. One male occupant in a Dodge Dart. Don’t ask me the color. It was probably forty-four years ago.

I do, however, remember what color he was. He was white and looked like the mustached and afroed Gabe Kaplan, who starred as Mr. Kotter on “Welcome back, Kotter.” A U.S. television program from the 1970s.

This man starts talking to us and asking us questions. Then the guy pulls out this thing. No, not that thing!

It was a hand grip strengthener. Back then I wouldn’t have known what to call it. This is an exercise tool that one uses to strengthen their grip. You can search google images to see what it looks like.

Continued to ask us questions -like an important survey. I do not remember any of that long ago conversation but the one thing I can still recall is he wanted each of us girls to try the hand gripper. And we did. No harm in that, right? We weren’t afraid. Just a trio of friendly and super helpful kids.

Anyhow, we continue on our way back home. I say goodbye to the girls and then I head toward my house one block away from theirs. Never thinking about anything except it was a very nice time at the park with my friends.

Well, one of the girls mentioned the guy in the car to their mom. Warning signals must have gone off in her head (as they should have in any adult’s head) so she called my mom and the police. We soon got a visit from the police asking me numerous questions about this guy. A description of him and his vehicle.

That was that.

Looking back, I don’t know what this man’s intentions were and one could almost shudder with the thought. After the police interviewed us we came to realize that it was wrong in some way. But we didn’t even know how or why.

We knew he was a stranger. He wasn’t from our neighborhood and yet we still talked to this nice adult. As innocent children might. Even with all the warnings we received about bad guys and strangers.

I guess that was the introduction to our vulnerability. We didn’t even know it.

“You need to be careful.”

 

 

 

 

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I loved the parables of Jesus when I was a little kid. Whether it was the nuns sharing with us or curled up with the glossy covered kid’s books reading on our own time.

My husband also heard parables or stories when he was a child but they were not about Jesus. They were about the Prophet Mohammad.

Same appeal.

He loved the childhood stories just as much as I did.

There was one he told me that I enjoyed.

The moral of the story, in my husband’s telling, is very important.

Each day a Jewish neighbor deposited trash on Mohammad’s doorstep. And every day Mohammad would pick it up and bring it to the dump.

Every single day.

Then one day Mohammad found that there was no trash on his doorstep.

Wait. What?

No trash?

Should be a good thing.

But it was unusual for this neighbor not to leave trash on the doorstep.

Mohammad went to check on the neighbor and found that he was ill.

This is a very important story. Religion, in my opinion, doesn’t have anything to do with it. That was just my jumping point. This is about the human connection.

Everyone in the neighborhood where I grew up knew everyone else’s business.

Knew when people pulled up their shades in the morning. The school and work schedules. Meal times. When someone had company. Which Mass families attended. When vacations took place. And when the shades went down at night. Usually after the late news or a bit of  The Late Show.

People know these things without realizing. It was just the usual daily routine.

When one of those things didn’t happen, according to the norm, it was a cause for concern. Something just wasn’t right. People checked on each other.

We all live in different neighborhoods and types of communities. Everyone has neighbors. I always say that one doesn’t need to be best friends with their neighbors (that’s a bonus) but we should care about each other.

Each person has a role in building up a strong community. Knowing your neighbors and caring about them can be the very first step.

 

 

 

 

 

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