Friday, December 31, 2010



By Maura Casey
The Hartford Courant

Even after all this time, particularly around the holidays, I can still sense the occasional awkwardness when people discover I don't drink. I can see it in their eyes as they start to discuss with me the wine list at a restaurant, only to stop, or when they laugh while relating a boozy escapade and then cut the story short.

I understand their discomfort. They believe this: Maura cannot drink. The statement is correct, but, 25 years after the December night when I last had one too many, the emphasis is all wrong.

It's true that when anyone decides to quit, he or she starts by saying, "I cannot drink." But year after sober year, the statement changes to a living affirmation: I can not drink. There's no deprivation involved, and certainly no sympathy necessary.

Indeed, the personal growth needed for sobriety, as opposed to the white-knuckled and resentful abstention of alcohol, is neither negative nor the equivalent of a closed door. Instead, it is a series of yeses.

Yes to savoring a sunset without reaching for anything to enhance its beauty.

Yes to lifting raising a glass of sparkling cider during the wedding toast — or when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve.

Yes to greeting the arrival of a baby or celebrating a graduation without needing or even wanting anything more to accompany unvarnished joy.

It sounds Pollyannaish, I suppose, to those who haven't lived it, but it is possible to enjoy not drinking as much as drinking. Of course, that takes a certain maturity, a quality sorely lacking in media portrayal of alcohol. Instead, that portrayal has a comic-strip feel, as a recent article in The New York Times pointed out; on television, alcohol is either a rollicking good time or "a life destroying scourge." Neither deals with either the complexities or contradictions involved.

What rarely is shown is the simple joy of sobriety. Yet it is as real and as rich as all the well-publicized extremes.

Few can quit entirely alone, and recovery is famous for relying upon support of others in words and meetings. But overlooked is the silent power of personal example. While still a committed drinker, I became friends with an accomplished journalist. Joanna had it all: a big job at a major daily, a Pulitzer prize and, to my surprise, a refusal to imbibe. "I like life to move at its own pace," is the most she would say, smiling, and I envied her sense of balance. Her example, more powerful than words, helped me stop later on. A year after I stopped, my sister Ellen did, too.

Not drinking has provided unexpected humor, like the time I asked someone to drink for me. At a whiskey taste at Ireland's Shannon Airport, I asked a stranger to sample and evaluate some morning shots so I could buy a bottle for my husband. He gallantly agreed.

Sobriety has given me a season of gratitude. It has made me a better wife, mother and writer. And, yes, it entails doing without sometimes. Fine wines at restaurants never held much attraction, and now I don't have to pay for them. I miss the occasional cold beer, but I am grateful in the knowledge I need never play beer pong, a pointless amusement not yet invented when I finished my last brew. And the airport whiskey? I have to admit, when the bottles were opened and I got a whiff of that still-familiar scent, I salivated

It's OK. By now, I, too, like life to move at its own pace.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Warren Zevon, when he knew he was dying from terminal lung cancer, was asked by David Letterman, if there was anything that he understood now, facing his own mortality, that he didn't know before. Warren replied, "Just how much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich."

"Enjoy Every Sandwich" is the title of a a tribute album by many famous musicians (Dylan, Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt, among others) released after Warren's death; it includes two unreleased Zevon songs: "The Wind" sung by Billy Bob Thornton and "Studebaker" sung by Warren's son, Jordan Zevon and "Werewolves Of London" by Adam Sandler.

Listen to my favorite song by Warren: "Keep Me In Your Heart". It reminds me of the e. e. cummings poem "I carry your heart with me".

e.e. cummings - i carry your heart with me
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


The Wounded Knee Memorial

Please read this article from Tim Giago, an Oglala Sioux, who is the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association and is also the publisher of the Native Sun News.

On clear nights when winter winds whistle through the canyons around Wounded Knee Creek, the Lakota elders say it is so cold that you can hear the twigs snapping in the frigid air. They called this time of the year "The Moon of the Popping Trees." It was on such a winter morning on Dec. 29, 1890, that the crack of a single rifle brought a day of infamy that still lives in the hearts and minds of the Lakota people.

After the rifle spoke, there was a pause, and then the rifles and Hotchkiss guns of the Seventh Cavalry opened up on the men, women and children camped at Wounded Knee. What followed was chaos and madness. The thirst for the blood of the Lakota took away all common sense from the soldiers.

The unarmed Lakota fought back with bare hands. The warriors shouted to their wives, their elders and their children, "run for cover" -- Iynkapo! Iyankapo!

Elderly men and women, unable to fight back, stood defiantly and sang their death songs before falling to the hail of bullets. The number of Lakota people murdered that day is still unknown. The mass grave at Wounded Knee holds the bodies of 150. Many other victims died from their wounds and from exposure over the next several days.

The Lakota people say that only 50 people out of the original 350 followers of Sitanka (Big Foot) survived the massacre.

Five days after the slaughter of the innocents, an editorial in the Aberdeen (S.D.) Saturday Pioneer reflected the popular opinion of the wasicu (white people) of that day. It read, "The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth."

Ten years after he wrote that editorial calling for genocide against the Lakota people, L. Frank Baum wrote "The Wizard of Oz."

The federal government tried to erase the memory of Wounded Knee. The village that sprang up on the site of the massacre was named Brennan after a Bureau of Indian Affairs official. But the Lakota people never forgot. They still called it Wounded Knee. In the 1920s, Clive and Agnes Gildersleeve built the Wounded Knee Trading Post there to serve the Lakota people.

My father, Tim Giago Sr., worked as a clerk and butcher for the Gildersleeves in the 1930s, and we lived in one of the cabins at Wounded Knee that were later destroyed in the American Indian Movement occupation in 1973.

As a small boy, I recall summer evenings when the Lakota families sat outdoors and spoke in reverent voices about that terrible day in 1890.

Much of what they said was written down by a young man named Hoksila Waste (pronounced Hokesheela Washtay) or Good Boy. His Christian name was Sid Byrd, and he was a member of the Santee Sioux Tribe, a tribe that had been relocated and scattered around the state after the so-called Indian uprising in Minnesota.

Byrd wrote that it was the white man's fear of the spiritual revival going on amongst the Lakota in the form of the Ghost Dance that led to the assassination of Sitting Bull on Dec. 14, 1890, just two weeks before the massacre. Fearing further attacks, Sitanka (Big Foot), and his band, a group that performed the very last Ghost Dance, went on a five-day march in order to reach the protection of Chief Red Cloud at the Pine Ridge Agency. The weary band was overtaken and captured at Wounded Knee Creek (Canke Opi Wahkpala).

Byrd believed, as do all Lakota people, that Big Foot died as a martyr for embracing the Ghost Dance "as freely as other men embraced their religion."

Byrd wrote in his Lakota version of what happened that day, "Later, some of the bodies would be found four to five miles from the scene of the slaughter. Soldiers would whoop as they spotted women and children fleeing into the woods and chase them on horseback. They made sport of it. I heard from the elders that the soldiers shouted 'Remember the Little Big Horn.'"

On the 100th anniversary of that infamous day, Birgil Kills Straight, Alex White Plume and Jim Garrett organized a ride that followed the exact trail taken by Big Foot and his band. That ride has taken place every year since Dec. 29, 1990. At the end of the ride they hold a ceremony called "wiping away the tears" that calls for peace and forgiveness. This year they will take that ride again, 120 years after the massacre.

Arvol Looking Horse, the Keeper of the Sacred Pipe of the Lakota, says a prayer every year on the hallowed grounds at Wounded Knee. He prays that America will someday apologize to the Lakota for the terrible deeds of the Seventh Cavalry, and that the 23 soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor for the slaughter of the innocents, will have those medals revoked. He also prays for peace and unity.

Will America ever own up to its sins?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I am a member of the Board Of Trustees of Goodwill Of South Central Ohio and we serve 8 counties. Please support our Mission.

Monday, December 27, 2010


When thinking about choosing the date for my own wedding, I chose June 19 because that is the date of my brother Ken and his wife Betty's wedding. I told my then fiancee, "They make me know that life-long love is possible." Gerald commented, "And they accepted me right from the beginning."

Looking back, it is now hard to believe that Gerald wasn't immediately accepted by my whole family, as he is held in such esteem now. Of course, WHO would have been GOOD ENOUGH for me then? I was very touched when one of MY nephews recently told me how much Gerald had influenced his life.

As we shared the same wedding anniversary, Ken and Betty and Gerald and I would celebrate our anniversaries together and we went to many memorable places such as The Maramor, The King Cole, Annarino's, and the The Kenley Players, but my favorite was when we saw Ed Ames in the musical "I Do! I Do" at the Country Dinner Playhouse. The song "My Cup Runneth Over" comes from that show.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


When I was a kid I actually went OUTSIDE and played in the snow, but now I am perplexed as to WHY because there was always television to watch and books to read. It was probably just to be with my brothers and their derring-do. They built snow forts and had snowball fights, lobbing the snowballs over the fort walls. The snow would always drift in the driveway and they would dig a tunnel to the road! We played "Fox and The Geese", made snow angels and ate snow cones!

The brothers built snow-women and all of them would have ridiculously large bosoms. They would put pieces of coal to represent nipples and a mop head to represent hair! I wish I had pictures of them!

Mother refused to let the boys use any of her "brassieres" (as she called them), but one day we saw a red brassiere adorning a snow-woman! My mother rushed out to snatch the bra from the snow-woman! I didn't even know she owned a red bra!

Later on, after seeing the red bra, we noticed the "Frederick's Of Hollywood" catalogs and brown packages marked C.O.D. arriving. Those catalogs rapidly disappeared and yesterday my brother laughingly told me that the catalogs were all lovingly maintained at their fort in the woods!

When I was grown up and my mother came to live with me, she was unpacking her "unmentionables" to put in the dresser drawer. There were some beautiful pieces of lingerie. She said, wistfully, "I don't know why your daddy bought all this stuff; he hardly got to see me wear any of it!" The items are still in the drawer, but it taught me a lesson: I wear all of my "unmentionables"!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Can't get any better than this!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Les and I look forward to this every year on Letterman!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


This is the first in my series of Favorite Christmas Music:

Added 12/17/10

From my friend Billie:

Thinking of you as I put out some of my Elvis Christmas collection. I will attach a few pictures (don't forgt to have Gerald send me yours). The BIG picture of Elvis is the one my Dad framed for me after he died in 1977. I bought the rolled up picture for $5 to give as a joke to my Dad because when I went to his concert on June 25, 1977 (his next to last performance), it happened to be my Dad's birthday. He said "What am I supposed to do with this?" Six weeks later when Elvis died, I called Daddy and said he could frame that picture and give it back to me....and he did.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


This is the first in a series called SEMINAL INFLUENCES:

My husband says I "interview" everyone with whom I come in contact. Whenever I talk to people, I do always want to know "why", "how", "when" they became the way they are: what are the "seminal influences" in their lives? Just last night I asked a couple HOW they had emerged from Fayette County without the prejudices that I notice in a great number of our contemporaries. When one of them turned the question back on me, I was taken aback, but I answered that my life was ONE big political argument with parents holding different political views and with siblings with widely disparate views. I have seven siblings and four of us are liberals and the other four--well, we always say that Bode was to the right of Attila the Hun--and the other two have varying degrees of right-wing beliefs and one was gone before the defining issues of our lives--Vietnam and civil rights--separated the rest, but I believe he would have been more liberal than conservative.

I can recall my parents being engrossed by the Army-McCarthy hearings. Those hearings, on our 12-inch black and white television, were the genesis of many arguments. Once I said that McCarthy was "awful" and my mother said to my father, "See, even a kid can tell it!" To this day, the speech by Joseph Welch, ending with the quote, "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" is still indelibly etched on my brain. [I will admit that I have resorted to that quote a number of times in arguments] There is a great documentary "Point Of Order!" about the Army-McCarthy hearings which I recommend. I also remember the young Senator Stuart Symington, challenging McCarthy.

Mother adored FDR; my father called him "Ole Peg Leg"; he loved General MacArthur, Mother detested him. Mother loved JFK; my father actually liked Nixon. In 1952, I remember my Grandmother Shirkey telling my mother that she would "watch the children" so that Mother could vote for "OUR Mr. Bricker". Mother told her that she would be going to vote for "Mr. DiSalle". Granny said, "But he's one of those Italians (she pronounced it "Eye-talian")!" Mr. Bricker won that race, but in 1958, Stephen Young, who became my all-time political hero, defeated Mr. Bricker! I said that Granny would roll over in her grave to know that OUR Mr. Bricker was finally defeated. [Actually, John W. Bricker, was a very interesting political figure who was Governor, Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate--from Mt. Sterling!]

My father would always say that FDR knew about Pearl Harbor before the event. One day at school, a teacher also said that "some people" believed that. I immediately challenged the teacher, in just the same way my mother did at home: "You have no proof of that--that's a lie!" I was taken to Mr. Biddle's office and they called my mother at home and she told Mr. Biddle that he needed to correct the teacher because it was a lie! When I went home, I proudly quoted Churchill, and said that was our "Finest Hour"! At that time, I didn't know the term "Pyrrhic Victory", but as I had that teacher's lasting animus, I later realized that my short-lived victory was indeed Pyrrhic!!

Edited exchange between legal counsel for the army Mr. Welch and Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) during the height of the Second Red Scare. This is credited by many as the moment where McCarthy began to lose his power and influence, as the hearings were broadcast on TV and people got to see how McCarthy behaved.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Nowadays, when terrible tragedies happen involving children, counselors are dispatched to schools to help classmates cope. That was not done when we were children.

My father worked at Pennington Bakery and the father of one of my classmates also worked there. When we were third graders, her father died in an accident at the bakery where he fell into the dough machine.

Of course my father told us about the accident but we knew that it wouldn't be discussed at school; it was never mentioned by our teacher. The classmate was not at school for several days. She was my friend throughout school, but we never were "close" friends and of course I never asked her about the accident.

When we were sophomores, my classmate, who had lost her father in that accident, suffered another tragedy when her mother tried to kill her and her brother. Her mother was taken to "Orient"--the State mental hospital--and she and her brother were taken in as foster children by a good family. This was not discussed at school either. After graduation, her boyfriend was killed in an automobile accident.

How much tragedy can a person endure? I had great admiration for her and how she handled all the obstacles in her life that the tragedies had caused. She seemed to have great character and strength. She went to college, married and divorced, became an art teacher and is now retired.

When her mother died, I went to the funeral home in Mount Sterling to pay my respects. She was stunned to see me and asked how I had learned of her mother's death. The obituary was not printed in our local paper. I told her that I read the obituary in the Columbus Dispatch. Of course I didn't ask the questions which were on my mind such as "Why wasn't the obituary in the local paper; why was the funeral in Mt. Sterling; didn't they want visitors, etc." The obituary had given the hours for visitation so I felt they must want visitors. She, her brother and her foster family were the only ones present.

As we sat reminiscing, I mentioned that her brother looked like their father. She called her brother over and told him that I remembered their dad and he said he could barely remember his dad. She asked, with great surprise, "You remember my Daddy?" I said, "Of course, your dad and my dad worked together and I remember seeing him at the Company Christmas parties." She said, "Then you know what happened to my dad?" I had her hand in mine and I said, "Of course I know what happened to your dad." She said, "You have an amazing memory because I don't remember your dad at all." I said, "That's because you wouldn't have any reason to remember my dad because nothing happened to him." I said, "It was imprinted because of the great fear associated with it!" She said she didn't understand. I told her that all of her classmates had the fear that something terrible could also could happen to their fathers and because we couldn't talk about it, it was also a trauma to us. I told her that I'd seen the fathers of other classmates but I didn't remember them because nothing happened to them! I said, "But amazingly, I remember all of the mothers of my classmates--how they looked, how they dressed, if they worked outside the home--but I wonder why!" She said, "Then you remember about my mother." I just nodded. I instinctively knew that I should not pursue the subject.

Then I felt that I should not have been at the funeral home; that I was the conduit for memories best left unshared. When I went home I told my mother about the visit and she told me, "You know, some people do not want to be reminded about things; they don't want things thrown in their faces no matter how long ago it happened." I said, "I didn't throw anything in her face." Mother said, "You might not think so, but that's probably not how she felt and that was probably why they had the service in Mt. Sterling to keep nosy people away." I said, "I wasn't being nosy, I just wanted to pay my respects to someone I have admired all of our lives." Mother said, "Just think, if it were you, how you would feel to have all that dredged up." I said, "But all that happened in the 1950's; how many people would remember that?" My mother said, "All the people--like you--who would go to the funeral home!" That was quite an object lesson; I am now very circumspect about paying "visits" to funeral homes.

My youngest brother, who was born the same year of the accident at the bakery, had no knowledge of that event, but was listening to the exchange between Mother and me, said, "No, you shouldn't have gone--it sounds like a Joyce Carol Oates novel."

For a fascinating look at the books of Joyce Carol Oates, and a short biography, click here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I am a non-drinker, a member of MADD and we do not serve liquor in our home. In nearly all social situations involving alcohol, my husband and I are gladly designated drivers. I am not opposed to other people drinking; however, I expect them to act responsibly.

Recently, I was out socially with a group of women; all were drinking margaritas. I can't help noticing the number of drinks people consume. After the party, in the parking lot, I announced, "I'll have to make two trips; my car isn't big enough for all of you to ride at once." Three of the women said, "Thanks, Sue." The fourth said that she was OK and would drive home. I said, quietly, but emphatically, "If you get in that car, I WILL call the police!" She said, "Who do you think you are--you gotta be kidding!" One of the others said, "Trust me, she will do it!" The woman answered, defiantly, that she would call a cab. I answered, "THEN I will wait here until the cab comes." One of the other women told her that she should go home first and that she would wait. During the short ride to her home she was very defensive, insisting that she was "perfectly OK." I told her that she was slurring her words and that she would not be acting that way if she were sober.

The following day she called to apologize BUT she also called one of the other women and said that she would NEVER go out with me again and be humiliated like that.

I wonder what her level of humiliation would have been if she had been arrested as a drunk driver!

Read the eye-opening article from the New York Times regarding the consequences and calculations of being over the legal limit by clicking here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010



1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

4. Pay off your credit cards every month.

5. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

6. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

7. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

8. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

9. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

10. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

11. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

12. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

13. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

14. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

15. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

16. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

17. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

18. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

19. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

20. The most important sex organ is the brain.

21. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

22. Frame every so-called disaster with these words "In five years, will this matter?"

23. Always choose life.

24. What other people think of you is none of your business.

25. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

26. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

27. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

28. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

29. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

30. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

31. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

32. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

33. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

34. The best is yet to come.

35. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.

36. Yield.

37. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Across the street, for three houses down, none of the people have any trees; directly behind us and beside us on two sides, there are no trees. We're surrounded by trees and I love my "JUNGLE". In fact, I was upset when my husband cut down some bushes to make a path in the back yard to the street. Before that I couldn't see the next door neighbors houses or down the street, except in the winter, when the trees lost their leaves. Thank goodness for "Big Ben"--the name of the enormous pine in the back yard--as he gives us great protection and privacy. Several years ago one of the neighbors grumbled to Gerald about having to rake "OUR" leaves!

When we first moved here, we noticed that some of the neighbors had aluminum pot pie pans tied in their trees. Then we noticed some of them were outside banging boards together. We thought this was rather curious behavior. One day Gerald was outside and the next-door neighbor asked him, "What do you folks do to get rid of the birds?" Gerald naively answered, "We do everything we can to attract them." Obviously that was not the right thing to say; the neighbor turned and walked away and didn't speak to him for the next several years. They kept banging and clanging to keep away the birds and we were installing bird houses! I told Gerald we had "disturbed the status quo".

Eventually that house was bought by people who turned out to be friendlier neighbors! Or, perhaps, it was because, when we moved here, WE were the new neighbors with different customs, and now, we are the long-time residents, but I'm not grumbling! All of the houses around us, except for one, are now inhabited by people who bought the houses after we were here. AHA! We're now the status quo!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I hate squirrels; they are just rodents with pretty tails. I always ask my brothers to bring their guns and shoot them, but of course they don't, because they can't hunt in town. Gerald can hardly believe that I enjoy eating "Brother Squack" (as our grandfather always called them). Grandpa called all animals he shot "Brother". We also enjoyed "Brother Ji-Buck" (Jack Rabbit). My brother Norman told me that he remembered the last time Grandpa shot a dove and Grandpa heard its mate crying all night long, that he never shot another dove!

There the squirrels are--every year--trying to ruin the garden, eating the bird feed, and fighting me for the walnuts! I would curse them and ask, "Why can't you just eat acorns?"

Last year the snow had covered everything and I could see the squirrels trying to dig where they'd hidden the nuts. I threw out some bread scraps for the birds and there came the squirrels, scaring away the birds and eating the bread scraps. We put out bird feed every day at the "fall display"--the bales of straw with pumpkins, gourds, squash, Indian corn--to watch the birds eat.

There they were--three of those rodents--a big one, a medium one, and a small one--scampering over the bales and eating what I'd meant for the birds. I rushed out to shoo them away. Gerald, the old softie, said, "Oh, they look like a family." I said, "Don't you go getting sentimental on me; they're just rodents!" He said, "Yeah, yeah, I know, with pretty tails!" I had sprayed the pumpkins, etc., with polyurethane to keep them pretty and perhaps keep the squirrels from eating them, but they were undeterred! In a short time they had chewed away the fall display!

After several days of the snow not melting, I could see those dreaded creatures, struggling, digging around for the nuts they'd buried. After seeing their struggle, I left them alone when I saw them at the fall display eating the feed and the scraps. They even ate leftover garlic bread. My brother Les said, "Maybe they're Italian squirrels." The three of us would look out the window and kept seeing the squirrels get fatter.

One day, I exclaimed, "Oh, Gerald, come and take a picture; look at Chunky; he's holding the bread in his little paws!" Les wailed, "Gerald, come here, she's named them." I tried to slink away in embarrassment at getting caught being affectionate about the rodents, but Les persisted, "Oh, come on now, what's the others names?" He kept teasing, "We know you've named all of them." I sheepishly answered, "Cheeky and Chubby." Both of them laughed and chanted "Cheeky, Chubby and Chunky!"

Les said, "Once you've named them, you can't eat them!"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Recently, a Facebook friend of mine, noticing that I post a number of classical music selections on Facebook, along with my folk/rock/jazz selections, asked how I became a fan of classical music. She was surprised when I answered "Ernie Kovacs". When I was a teenager, I watched the Ernie Kovacs Show and I can remember one of my teachers said the show was "too sophisticated" for my age. At that time I only knew one connotation of "sophisticated"--that it meant worldly--when, in reality, the teacher probably meant that it was too intellectual! Of course, thinking it was considered "worldly" only whetted my appetite to watch it!

Ernie Kovacs used many classical selections in his shows and his favorite composer was Bela Bartok. Because of Kovacs, I became a devotee of Bartok. In those days, credits for the music were not shown, so I was unaware of the composers. Fortunately, our music teacher, Mr. Sabin, also watched the show; every week I would ask, "What was that music last night?" Mr. Sabin allowed me to borrow several of his classical music records which were the 3 B's--Beethoven, Bach and Brahms--I told him the 4th B was Bartok! Once, Mr. Sabin said, "You're the only one I know who loves Elvis and Bartok simultaneously!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


My friend Concha asked on her BLOG where she could find a "bung wrench"; I did not know what a bung wrench is and neither did Les, but of course, my brother Duke and Gerald knew what a bung wrench is. I had heard the term "bung hole" and believed that it was a hole in a barrel or keg. I checked the dictionary to make sure I was correct in my recollection. I learned even more from the "Urban Dictionary"!

In the 1970s my mother had a "friend" whom she had never met--they were telephone friends--the woman had been a friend of my grandmother and after Granny died, she called my mother frequently. The woman was obsessed with people not knowing her age and she told my mother how she had already bought her tombstone and deliberately left off the date of birth because she didn't want people to know her age. She went to great lengths about denying her age and told Mother that it was nobody's business but since her children were close to Mother's age, it wasn't difficult to figure her approximate age. For example, she told Mother how she'd taken a burnt match and blackened the date on her driver's license; refused to join the Senior Citizens Center; became angry about Medicare being mandatory; refused to attend class reunions; she had her children call her by her given name and the grandchildren were also told to call her by her name and not "Grandma"!

She was also obsessed with SEX. Behind her back, we named her "Mrs. Sexpot". She read "The National Enquirer" and "Star Magazine" and would telephone Mother to discuss any sexual topics she found in those tabloids. One day she asked my mother what the word cunnilingus meant--and she spelled it--and Mother answered, "I don't know, I'll have to ask Suzy about that!" Yes, I delicately explained to my Mother and she relayed the information to Mrs. Sexpot! Mrs. Sexpot asked, "Are they allowed to do that?"

Mrs. Sexpot had just two children and as my mother had borne eight, Mother asked Mrs. Sexpot how she had been so lucky just to have two kids. Mrs. Sexpot told Mother, "After two kids, I told him to just put it in a bung hole!"

Monday, December 6, 2010


I have many allergies, but I don't want to take medication, so my eyes water quite often.

I was in charge of an event and I arrived early to meet with the coordinator. My eyes had been watering during my trip to the event. We finished the set-up and we sat down and began to chat. I had left my purse with Kleenex in it in my car.

After some "getting to know you" chatting, she asked if I had children and I said that I didn't; [something I NEVER do is to initiate a conversation with people by asking about children because I know from personal experience that some people do not want the subject mentioned after the loss of a child] of course, since she had broached the subject, I felt comfortable asking if she had children and she replied that she did, but that she had lost a son and then she suddenly reached out and embraced me. She whispered how kind I was!

Oh, no! My eyes were watering and she thought that I was crying because of her tragedy.

What to do--what to say--what a dilemma. Of course, the answer was not to do or say anything; just continue to embrace her. Several days after the event, I received a note from her and she wrote that I was the kindest, most compassionate person she'd ever met.

I believe that I am kind and I believe that I am compassionate, but I also know that I am not the "KINDEST" nor the
"MOST COMPASSIONATE"! When I showed the note to my brother, he said, "If she only knew that you are really about as compassionate as an old brown shoe!" He is always so colorful with his zingers! I winced!

He asked, "So, you didn't like my metaphor?"

"It WAS NOT a metaphor.", I said haughtily!

"Oh, I suppose it was a simile?", he asked.

I answered, "No, IT IS personification: giving human characteristics to inanimate objects."

He said, "It's just a good thing she didn't see the SMARTY-PANTS side of you or she wouldn't think you were kind OR compassionate!"

Sunday, December 5, 2010


by Erma Bombeck
(written after she found out she was dying of cancer)

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the "good" living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner." There would have been more "I love you" and less "I'm sorry."

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute, look at it, and really see it . . live it and never give it back. STOP SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF!

Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what. Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


A Column by Bill Horne

Folks, I missed getting a column in last week for the first time in almost seven years. My wife has been very ill, and I also needed some hospital time for testing. To top all of this, our computer crashed.

I used to think I was getting old; however, I must now face the fact I am old, things are now beginning to wear out.

The Thanksgiving holiday gave me some down time, a commodity that is rare in my life. This quiet time also gave me a chance to put things into perspective. This “free” time gave me a chance to do some introspection and also watch some football.

Warning! This article is different than my customary topics. Life is fantastic, maybe fabulous is a better word, and is also very short. But most importantly, it is the greatest of all gifts. During the everyday rat race to support our lives, many of us forget to live and enjoy life.

So, the following are some random thoughts that I have had since I last communicated with you. In President Kennedy’s inaugural speech, he said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

We now seem to have more takers or users than givers. Too many of us don’t even want to give the time to serve on a jury or give an hour of our lives to vote.

We refer to “our” government as “the” government as if our government was a separate entity from the rest of society. I am constantly requesting that my students use “our” instead of “the.”

We don’t even want to take 30 seconds to properly dispose of our fast food trash. Instead of doing the right thing, we pitch it out the car window.

I have had the good fortune to watch 10,000 to 12,000 local citizens pass through my classrooms over the past 26 years. The good thing is that I remember many of the students who wanted to learn. One student who stands out in my mind, from about 15 years ago, I referred to my super “C” student. Other students sometimes thought this was a putdown, but she and I knew she earned mostly “A’s” with a smattering of “B’s.”

She accomplished this through the desire to learn and hard work. The sad thing is as the years pass on, more and more students feel they deserve a good grade just for enrolling in a class.

As I observe people, whether it is in a class or in a local store (I only shop local stores), or in meetings, I notice many people have a scowl on their face. Fewer and fewer people, it seems, smile. I attempt to smile and speak to people I pass in a store, at school or on the street, and more often than not the response is a distressing look that sends me the message I must be some kind of an idiot.

The days slip by one at a time, and we can remember very few of them. Right now, please, would you look back one year and see if you can remember more than five days. Those days where things happened to you don’t count. Things like a car accident, a flat tire, a raise in your paycheck or the loss of a job are things that just happen to you.

I am asking you to recall the days where you made a memory. You are going to be surprised by how few there are. We allow ourselves to get into the rut of a daily routine where each day is just like the days before and the ones to follow. At the end of a week, I ask my students to do something over the weekend that they will remember for the rest of their lives. To begin each week I ask, “Did anyone do anything that they will remember?”

Sometimes, from a whole class there will be no response. More than one response is extremely rare. In the freest country of the whole world, we seem to be spending our lives without living them. This old hog farmer hopes you will try to make a memory this week.

Owning shiny things is not important, fancy stuff to impress ourselves does not make much of an impression on others. New cars, fancy jewelry, big houses don’t impress other people; they just make us feel better about ourselves. For example, cars are meant to get us where we want and need to go. The “old timers” had a saying, “You can’t take it with you.”

Dreams of the young are extremely important. The best question you can ask a child is, “What are you going to be when you grow up.” It doesn’t make any difference what they answer. The goal is to start children thinking about their future.

When they have learned to write have them make a list of their dreams. Some of the things on their lists will be very simple, some will take a lifetime to achieve, and some will not ever be accomplished.

For those of us no longer young a bucket list will suffice. Just make a list of those things that you want to do, see or experience, and do them. If some of the things on your list will stretch your physical abilities, mental capacities or nervous system, so be it.

The last thought, is you and I are solely responsible for the attitudes of the people around us. This is just a thought for each of us to contemplate. (Please, remember I warned you.)

Bill Horne is a professor at Southern State Community College and a columnist for The Highland County Press.

Editor's note: Mr. Horne passed away Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. This, his final column, was written on Dec. 1.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights. It starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the secular calendar.

In Hebrew, the word “hanukkah” means “dedication.” The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

In 168 B.C.E. the Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. This upset the Jewish people, but many were afraid to fight back for fear of reprisals. Then in 167 B.C.E. the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. He also ordered all Jews to worship Greek gods.

Jewish resistance began in the village of Modiin, near Jerusalem. Greek soldiers forcibly gathered the Jewish villages and told them to bow down to an idol, then eat the flesh of a pig – both practices that are forbidden to Jews. A Greek officer ordered Mattathias, a High Priest, to acquiesce to their demands, but Mattathias refused. When another villager stepped forward and offered to cooperate on Mattathias' behalf, the High Priest became outraged. He drew his sword and killed the villager, then turned on the Greek officer and killed him too. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked the remaining soldiers, killing all of them.

Mattathias and his family went into hiding in the mountains, where other Jews wishing to fight against the Greeks joined them. Eventually they succeeded in retaking their land from the Greeks. These rebels became known as the Maccabees, or Hasmoneans.

Once the Maccabees had regained control they returned to the Temple in Jerusalem. By this time it had been spiritually defiled by being used for the worship of foreign gods and also by practices such as sacrificing swine. Jewish troops were determined to purify the Temple by burning ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days. But to their dismay, they discovered that there was only one day's worth of oil left in the Temple. They lit the menorah anyway and to their surprise the small amount of oil lasted the full eight days.

This is the miracle of the Hanukkah oil that is celebrated every year when Jews light a special menorah known as a hanukkiyah for eight days. One candle is lit on the first night of Hanukkah, two on the second, and so on, until eight candles are lit.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


We all think eating fruit means just buying fruit, cutting it up and popping it into our mouths. It's not that easy. It's important to know how and when to eat fruit.

What's the correct way to eat fruit?


Eating fruit like that plays a major role in detoxifying your system, supplying you with a great deal of energy for weight loss and other life activities.


Let's say you eat two slices of bread, then a slice of fruit. The slice of fruit is ready to go straight through the stomach into the intestines, but it's prevented from doing so.

In the meantime, the whole meal rots and ferments, and turns to acid. The minute the fruit comes into contact with the food in the stomach, and digestive juices, the entire mass of food begins to spoil.

Eat your fruit on an empty stomach, or before your meal! You've heard people complain: Every time I eat watermelon I burp, when I eat durian my stomach bloats, when I eat a banana I feel like running to the toilet, etc. This will not happen if you eat the fruit on an empty stomach. Fruit mixes with the putrefying other food and produces gas. Hence, you bloat!

There's no such thing as some fruits, like orange and lemon are acidic, because all fruit becomes alkaline in our body, according to Dr. Herbert Shelton who did research on this matter. If you have mastered the correct way of eating fruit, you have the Secret of Beauty, Longevity, Health, Energy, Happiness and normal weight.
When you need to drink fruit juice drink only fresh fruit juice, NOT the concentrated juice from the cans. Don't drink juice that has been heated. Don't eat cooked fruit; you don't get the nutrients at all. You get only the taste. Cooking destroys all of the vitamins.

Eating a whole fruit is better than drinking the juice. If you should drink the juice, drink it mouthful by mouthful slowly, because you must let it mix with your saliva before swallowing it. You can go on a 3-day fruit-fast to cleanse your body. Eat fruit and drink fruit juice for just 3 days, and you will be surprised when your friends say how radiant you look!

KIWI: Tiny but mighty, and a good source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin E and fiber. Its vitamin C content is twice that of an orange!

AN APPLE a day keeps the doctor away? Although an apple has a low vitamin C content, it has antioxidants and flavonoids which enhances the activity of vitamin C, thereby helping to lower the risk of colon cancer, heart attack and stroke.

STRAWBERRY: Protective Fruit. Strawberries have the highest total antioxidant power among major fruits and protect the body from cancer-causing, blood vessel-clogging free radicals.

EATING 2 - 4 ORANGES a day may help keep colds away, lower cholesterol, prevent and dissolve kidney stones, and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

WATERMELON: Coolest thirst quencher. Composed of 92% water, it is also packed with a giant dose of glutathione, which helps boost our immune system. Also a key source of lycopene, the cancer-fighting oxidant. Also found in watermelon: Vitamin C and Potassium.

GUAVA & PAPAYA: Top awards for vitamin C. They are the clear winners for their high vitamin C content. Guava is also rich in fiber, which helps prevent constipation. Papaya is rich in carotene, good for your eyes.

Drinking Cold water after a meal = Cancer!
Can you believe this? For those who like to drink cold water, this applies to you. It's nice to have a cold drink after a meal, however, the cold water will solidify the oily stuff that you've just consumed, which slows digestion. Once this "sludge" reacts with the acid, it will break down and be absorbed by the intestine faster than the solid food. It will line the intestine. Very soon, this will turn into fats and lead to cancer. It is best to drink hot soup or warm water after a meal.

A serious note about heart attacks:

Women should know that not every heart attack symptom is going to be the left arm hurting. Be aware of intense pain in the jaw. You may never have the first chest pain during the course of a heart attack. Nausea and intense sweating are also common symptoms. Sixty percent of people who have a heart attack while they're asleep do not wake up. Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Be careful, and be aware. The more we know, the better our chance to survive.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Here's our deal: if I want to visit an art museum, then we must also schedule a car museum visit. I wanted to go to the Toledo Art Museum because they have a Corot I had not seen. He wanted to go to the Auburn/Cord/Deusenburg Museum in Auburn, Indiana.

We had an enjoyable time at the Auburn/Cord/Duesenburg Museum; I learned that "It's a doozey" saying originated from the reaction to the beautiful Duesenberg car in the 1930s!

When we went to the Toledo museum, Gerald was thrilled to see a work by Frank Stella. He bought a print of the painting which cost $24.99. Little did he realize that the print was 38.5 inches X 26.5 inches. He was outraged by the cost of the frames listed at the museum and "harrumphed" that he could get one cheaper "around home"! When he looked for frames around home, he couldn't find a "ready-made" frame in the size needed. The largest ready-made frames were 36"! He went to Michael's, Hobby Lobby and other places to get estimates of having a frame made. The cheapest he could find was $199.00! I had had frames custom-made for my Corot prints and they were made of cherry wood. Gerald asked, "HOW much did those cost?" I told him I couldn't remember because I'd had them done in the 1970s.

Thus, his Stella print stood, rolled up, in a corner of the bedroom for a couple of years! One day, at his niece Gina's home, I admired the frame on a huge picture in her living room. She asked, "Would you like to have that picture?" I protested that I couldn't take the picture. She continued, "I hate it. Jason brought it home from work and since we didn't have anything for over the couch, I put it there!" Knowing that she liked Monet, I countered with, "What if I find you a Monet print to go there?" She said that I didn't need to do that.

I called Gerald in from outside and said, "Gina says we can have this god-awful painting." He looked bewildered and I said, "The frame--the frame!" [I admit I said it in a Herve Villechaize imitation!]

So, for less than $100.00 I was able to purchase TWO Monet prints already in decent frames to put on Gina's wall and Gerald got a frame for his Stella print, which now graces our family room wall. I HATE the print, but Gerald LOVES it, so that is all that matters, since every other art work is my choice. We have nicknamed the print "It's A Doozey"!

The Stella painting is named "Lac Laronge 4" from his Saskatchewan Series. It sold at Sotheby's for $800,000 in 2007.

* * * * * * * * * *

My ONLY Herve Villechaize joke: Herve Villechaize wanted to do something philanthropic and he came up with an idea to make resort hotels to cater to little people. Everything in them would be scaled-to-size for little people and the best thing would be that the the little people could vacation there free-of-charge.

He called them STAY-FREE MINI PADS!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It's always difficult to decide which delectable dish to prepare with turkey leftovers. I always make Turkey Carcass Soup the day after Thanksgiving--several people have told me the name just sounds unappetizing--but it is truly delicious. Just boil the turkey carcass and then use the broth to make a lovely soup. I also love turkey tetrazzini, turkey hot shots, and turkey ala king, but there's only so much leftover turkey!

The all-time favorite of my family is Turkey Croquettes served with gravy made from the drippings from the turkey. The gravy was so good this year I told Gerald I should just "mainline it in my veins!".

Mother's Turkey Croquettes recipe: adapted from The First Ladies Cookbook from Mrs. John Quincy Adams' Chicken Croquettes:

3 cups cooked turkey, cold
1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon mustard
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 stick butter
2 eggs, beaten
oil for frying
extra cracker crumbs
parsley sprigs for garnish

Add cooked turkey, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, mustard, ketchup, and butter. Knead all together well until it resembles a meatball mixture. Shape into balls or cakes the desired size. Dip croquettes into beaten eggs, roll in cracker crumbs and fry in oil until light brown and hot in the middle.

Serve hot with gravy or alone.


Monday, November 29, 2010


Several years ago, in a group conversation, I made a reference to "Pip" to describe someone. A person whom I had never met, came over, placed her hand on my shoulder and said, "I know that you probably have GREAT EXPECTATIONS that people will understand your references; you can probably tell that most do not." I answered, "Perhaps we should be friends!" Although we have never seen each other since that evening, we are GREAT e-mail friends and she has branded us "The Constant Quoters".

In a group of new employees, I asked each to identify himself. One man said that his name was "Val". It wasn't until I handed him his paycheck that I saw his full name was JEAN VALJEAN. I exclaimed, "You HAD to be named for Victor Hugo's Jean Valjean!" He said, "Yes, but PLEASE call me Val." He explained that his mother was French and a fan of Victor Hugo, but he also told me that he appreciated my knowing about Hugo.

In the new "Signals" catalog there's a tee-shirt with "FREE 24601" on it! It's now on my MUST HAVE list!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


My father would regale us with stories of his mother's "cheapness"; or as she called it: "thriftiness." We learned, as we grew older, that he exaggerated for effect. He told us her method for making lemonade: she'd fill a tub with water and tie a string around a lemon and pull it through the water. Her potato soup was done in a similar method: tie a string around a potato and drag it through the water.

My favorite story was about Granny's "Jam Pie"--he said that she "jammed" two crusts together--and called it a pie. There was very little filling in her pies. One day, my brother Kenny, who at the time DID NOT realize about our father's exaggeration, told Granny he'd like to taste her "Jam Pie" and she said, "Well, Kenny Gene, I've never made a jam pie." He told her that our father always told us about her Jam Pie. Fortunately, he didn't repeat the punch line to Granny!

Saturday, November 27, 2010


A family member is very anti-organized religion. However, she is a strong supporter of the Salavation Army both by shopping at the stores, donating items to the organization, and by donating to the Kettles and other money donations. One of her biggest thrills was when we went to Columbus and I took her to ALL the Salvation Army stores in one day!

One day, at a store, there were extra copies of "The War Cry". I receive them by mail; I pointed to them and asked her, "Do you receive "The War Cry" in the mail?" She asked what it was and I said, "It's the official publication of the Church." She asked, with obvious incredulity, "What church?" I responded, "The Salvation Army." She said, "That's not a church." I was stunned that she did not know it was a religion. I told her I was always surprised by her generosity to the Salvation Army but I assumed she put aside her anti-organized religion feelings in the quest for bargains. She said, "I don't believe this!"

I went on to tell her about General William Booth and the history of the religion and I asked, "Didn't you have to read the Vachel Lindsay poem when you went to school?" She said, "I can't believe it's a church!" I laughed and asked, "Didn't you see "Guys and Dolls"?" Since then I haven't asked her whether she's had a dilemma deciding what to do: bargains versus beliefs!


By Vachel Lindsay

[To be sung to the tune of "The Blood of the Lamb" with indicated instrument]
Booth led boldly with his big bass drum—
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
The Saints smiled gravely and they said: “He’s come.”
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
Walking lepers followed, rank on rank,
Lurching bravoes from the ditches dank,
Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale—
Minds still passion-ridden, soul-powers frail:—
Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath,
Unwashed legions with the ways of Death—
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

Every slum had sent its half-a-score
The round world over. (Booth had groaned for more.)
Every banner that the wide world flies
Bloomed with glory and transcendent dyes.
Big-voiced lasses made their banjos bang,
Tranced, fanatical they shrieked and sang:—
“Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”
Hallelujah! It was queer to see
Bull-necked convicts with that land make free.
Loons with trumpets blowed a blare, blare, blare
On, on upward thro’ the golden air!
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

Booth died blind and still by Faith he trod,
Eyes still dazzled by the ways of God.
Booth led boldly, and he looked the chief
Eagle countenance in sharp relief,
Beard a-flying, air of high command
Unabated in that holy land.

Jesus came from out the court-house door,
Stretched his hands above the passing poor.
Booth saw not, but led his queer ones there
Round and round the mighty court-house square.
Yet in an instant all that blear review
Marched on spotless, clad in raiment new.
The lame were straightened, withered limbs uncurled
And blind eyes opened on a new, sweet world.

Drabs and vixens in a flash made whole!
Gone was the weasel-head, the snout, the jowl!
Sages and sibyls now, and athletes clean,
Rulers of empires, and of forests green!

The hosts were sandalled, and their wings were fire!
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
But their noise played havoc with the angel-choir.
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
O shout Salvation! It was good to see
Kings and Princes by the Lamb set free.
The banjos rattled and the tambourines
Jing-jing-jingled in the hands of Queens.

And when Booth halted by the curb for prayer
He saw his Master thro’ the flag-filled air.
Christ came gently with a robe and crown
For Booth the soldier, while the throng knelt down.
He saw King Jesus. They were face to face,
And he knelt a-weeping in that holy place.
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Friday, November 26, 2010


There are two kinds of people in the world: those, like myself, who can't get "enough" of Christmas music, and the others, like Les and Gerald, who get so tired of Christmas music that they threaten to blow up the stereo! To keep harmony (PUN INTENDED) in the family, I compromised several years ago and agreed to have no Christmas music in the house until the day after Thanksgiving. Gerald got in my car today and Barbra was singing "Silent Night". He said, "I thought....." Before he was able to complete his sentence, I interrupted and said, "I only agreed about IN the house; the car is my domain!"

My brother Bode and I loved to sing Christmas carols and it was usually to the embarrassment of everybody else! One of my favorite stories: we were visiting Bode and family in Florida during the holidays and we went into a Mexican restaurant and over the loudspeaker was playing Bing Crosby's "When It's Christmas in Killarney". Bode looked at me--I looked at him--and we joined arms and started singing, at the top of our lungs! The other fasmily members with us slunk away to a table in the hope of people not knowing we were related. Bode went to the Manager and asked to have it played AGAIN! Bode said that if people couldn't appreciate the exquisite irony of "Christmas In Killarney" in a Mexican restaurant, then they were hopeless!

Bode and I had our definite favorites: ONLY Nat for "The Christmas Song"; ONLY Bing for "White Christmas"; ONLY Elvis for "Blue Christmas; ONLY Judy for "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"; ONLY Harry Belafonte for "Mary's Boy Child"; ONLY Darlene Love for "Baby Please Come Home"; ONLY Vince Guaraldi for "Christmas Time Is Here"; ONLY Gene Autry for "Here Comes Santa Claus": ONLY Burl Ives for "A Holly, Jolly Christmas"; ONLY Perry Como for "There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays"; ONLY Peggy Lee for "I Love A Sleigh Ride" ("Jingle Bells"); ONLY Nancy Wilson for "That's What I Want For Christmas"; ONLY Giselle Mackenzie for "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas"; and only ONLY Rosemary Clooney for "Suzy Snowflake" (which Bode always sang to me since I was a little girl!).


Thursday, November 25, 2010


I'll bet the "treeless" neighbors hate us this time of year! Gerald has spent five days blowing and bagging leaves and the sweet gum has not yet started losing its leaves. The neighbors have plenty of leaves to rake because of us!

I LOVE autumn! The yard is a scream of colors and the smell is glorious! I have begun my yearly ritual of picking the vibrant leaves, shellacking them and using them for decorations. I have a collection of cornucopias and some are overflowing with maple, oak, ginkgo and sweet gum leaves and the house smells like shellac! Tomorrow I'll be gone all day so Les plans to clean the silver; the silver polish should counteract the shellac smell! I fill my Waterford cornucopia with cranberries for my dining room centerpiece for Thanksgiving and the kitchen cornucopia is filled with gourds.

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold.

Since you went away, the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song,
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall.

C'est une chanson, qui nous ressemble
Toi tu m'aimais et je t'aimais
Nous vivions tous,, les deux ensemble
Toi que m'aimais moi qui t'aimais
Mais la vie separe ceux qui s'aiment
Tout doucement sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable les pas des amants desunis.

It was difficult to choose which rendition of "Autumn Leaves" to use: Frank, Nat, Eva Cassidy, Doris Day, Sarah Vaughn or the original by Edith Piaf; it's hard to go wrong with Keely Smith!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Click on Pumpkin Pie at the end.








Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Noel Coward wrote "Mad About The Boy" to express his feelings for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. I am MAD about the works of Noel Coward AND Dinah Washington, the late, great jazz singer.

It's always difficult for me to choose my favorite Dinah song: "I Don't Hurt", "Teach Me Tonight", "Send Me To The Electric Chair", "This Bitter Earth", "September In The Rain", "That's All I Want From You", "I'll Never Be Free", "Relax Max", or her greatest hit "What A Difference A Day Makes", but this interpretation of the Coward classic ranks very high.

As a teenager, I found Bessie Smith's works because of reading liner notes from an album of Dinah Washington's homage to Bessie, and then seeking out Bessie's works. "WHAT A DIFFERENCE" Dinah Washington made!


Monday, November 22, 2010


The full moon of November arrives on Sunday and will bring with it a cosmic addition: It will also be a so-called "blue moon."

"But wait a minute," you might ask. "Isn't a 'blue moon' defined as the second full moon that occurs during a calendar month? Sunday's full moon falls on Nov. 21 and it will be the only full moon in November 2010. So how can it be a 'blue' moon?"

Indeed, November's full moon is blue moon – but only if we follow a rule that's now somewhat obscure. In fact, the current "two-full moons in one month" rule has superseded an older rule that would allow us to call Sunday's moon "blue." To be clear, the moon does not actually appear a blue color during a blue moon, it has to do with lunar mechanics.

Confused yet? Well, as the late Paul Harvey used to say — here now, is the rest of the story:

The blue moon rule

Back in the July 1943 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, in a question and answer column written by Lawrence J. Lafleur, there was a reference made to the term "blue moon." [Gallery - Full Moon Fever]

Lafleur cited the unusual term from a copy of the 1937 edition of the now-defunct Maine Farmers' Almanac (NOT to be confused with The Farmers' Almanac of Lewiston, Maine, which is still in business). On the almanac page for August 1937, the calendrical meaning for the term "blue moon" was given. That explanation said that the moon "... usually comes full twelve times in a year, three times for each season." Occasionally, however, there will come a year when there are 13 full moons during a year, not the usual 12. The almanac explanation continued:
"This was considered a very unfortunate circumstance, especially by the monks who had charge of the calendar of thirteen months for that year, and it upset the regular arrangement of church festivals. For this reason thirteen came to be considered an unlucky number."

And with that extra full moon, it also meant that one of the four seasons would contain four full moons instead of the usual three. "There are seven Blue Moons in a Lunar Cycle of nineteen years," continued the almanac, ending on the comment that, "In olden times the almanac makers had much difficulty calculating the occurrence of the Blue Moon and this uncertainty gave rise to the expression 'Once in a Blue Moon.'"

An unfortunate oversight

But while LaFleur quoted the almanac's account, he made one very important omission: He never specified the date for this particular blue moon. As it turned out, in 1937, it occurred on Aug. 21. That was the third full moon in the summer of 1937, a summer season that would see a total of four full moons. Names were assigned to each moon in a season: For example, the first moon of summer was called the early summer moon, the second was the midsummer moon, and the last was called the late summer moon. But when a particular season has four moons, the third was apparently called a blue moon so that the fourth and final one can continue to be called the late moon. So where did we get the "two full moons in a month rule" that is so popular today?

A moon mistake

Once again, we must turn to the pages of Sky & Telescope. This time, on page 3 of the March 1946 issue, James Hugh Pruett wrote an article, "Once in a Blue Moon," in which he made a reference to the term "blue moon" and referenced LaFleur's article from 1943. But because Pruett had no specific full moon date for 1937 to fall back on, his interpretation of the ruling given by the Maine Farmers' Almanac was highly subjective. Pruett ultimately came to this conclusion: "Seven times in 19 years there were – and still are – 13 full moons in a year. This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one with two. This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon." How unfortunate that Pruett did not have a copy of that 1937 almanac at hand, or else he would have almost certainly noticed that his "two full moons in a single month assumption" would have been totally wrong. For the blue moon date of Aug. 21 was most definitely not the second full moon that month!

Blue moon myth runs wild

Pruett's 1946 explanation was, of course, the wrong interpretation and it might have been completely forgotten were it not for Deborah Byrd who used it on her popular National Public Radio program, "StarDate" on Jan. 31, 1980. We could almost say that in the aftermath of her radio show, the incorrect blue moon rule "went viral" — or at least the '80s equivalent of it. Over the next decade, this new blue moon definition started appearing in diverse places, such as the World Almanac for Kids and the board game Trivial Pursuit. I must confess here, that even I was involved in helping to perpetuate the new version of the blue moon phenomenon. Nearly 30 years ago, in the Dec. 1, 1982 edition of The New York Times, I made reference to it in that newspaper's "New York Day by Day" column.
And by 1988, the new definition started receiving international press coverage.
Today, Pruett's misinterpreted "two full moons in a month rule" is recognized worldwide. Indeed, Sky & Telescope turned a literary lemon into lemonade, proclaiming later that – however unintentional – it changed pop culture and the English language in unexpected ways. Meanwhile, the original Maine Farmers' Almanac rule had been all but forgotten.

Playing by the (old) rules

Now, let's come back to this Sunday's full moon. Under the old Almanac rule, this would technically be a blue moon. In the autumn season of 2010, there are four full moons:
Sept. 23
Oct. 22
Nov. 21
Dec. 21

"But wait," you might say. "Dec. 21 is the first day of winter." And you would be correct, but only if you live north of the equator in the Northern Hemisphere. South of the equator it's the first day of summer. In 2010, the solstice comes at 6:38 p.m. EST (2338 UT). But the moon turns full at 3:13 a.m. EST (0813 UT). That's 15 hours and 25 minutes before the solstice occurs. So the Dec. 21 full moon occurs during the waning hours of fall and qualifies as the fourth full moon of the season. This means that under the original Maine Almanac rule – the one promoted by Lafleur and later misinterpreted by Pruett – the third full moon of the 2010 fall season on Nov. 21 would be a blue moon.

Choose your blue moon

So what Blue Moon definition tickles your fancy? Is it the second full moon in a calendar month, or (as is the case on Sunday) the third full moon in a season with four? Maybe it's both. The final decision is solely up to you. Sunday's full moon will look no different than any other full moon. But the moon can change color in certain conditions.

After forest fires or volcanic eruptions, the moon can appear to take on a bluish or even lavender hue. Soot and ash particles, deposited high in the Earth's atmosphere, can sometimes make the moon appear bluish. In the aftermath of the massive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991, there were reports of blue moons (and even blue suns) worldwide. We could even call the next full moon (on Dec. 21) a "red moon," but for a different reason: On that day there will be a total eclipse of the moon and, for a short while, the moon will actually glow with a ruddy reddish hue.