Tag Archives: writing

My Lunch With Maya Angelou

Maya%20Angelou

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I was in college and standing in the Student Life office when another student came in to say that they had extra tickets to hear Maya Angelou speak at a local business lunch. This person waved an envelope around carelessly and asked if anyone wanted to go. I gasped inside and tried to quell the rising excitement inside me. Kids walked around busily and no one seemed to know who Maya Angelou was or what this lunch was about.

Is that for anyone?” I asked.

“Yeah” came the reply. “You want a ticket?”

I looked around and wondered why people weren’t knocking each other over to grab one for themselves. Just a couple of years before Maya Angelou had been one of only two poets to have spoken at an Inauguration and the only African-American woman to do it. She was an accomplished and highly respected author, Pulitzer Prize winner, civil rights activist, friend of Malcolm  X and Martin Luther King! She was Oprah’s friend and mentor, for heaven sake.  I thought it was only a matter of time before these tickets disappeared and so I grabbed one for myself.

The lunch was that same day and I did not have time to go home and change. As I walked into the hotel lobby, I felt intimidated walking into the ballroom filled primarily with businessmen in suits. I increasing believed I really didn’t belong there in my shorts and t-shirt. I also knew I could not pass up this once in a lifetime chance to meet an icon who inspired my life. I wondered if the message of this poet would be lost on a room full of businessmen who thought in dollars and cents.  After some preliminary speeches, Dr Angelou was introduced. She stood taller than many and spoke with a deeper voice than I had heard a woman speak with before; a voice filled with the conviction of the truth she spoke.  She assembled her words differently than I was used to, and I had to adjust my ears to receive her message. In no time, the room was as one. We sat before this sorceress who wove words in an alchemy that cast its spell spectacularly. Ideas swirled and danced and with each rhythmic phrase, she pulled down walls and facades.

As this event occurred in 1994, I do not recall the details of her speech, however I do remember that the room was transformed and transfixed. There we sat, fellow humans, in awe of the greatness that was before us. Dr Angelou had an ability to speak to the soul, not the ego and we were humbled. For a brief time, we sat as children watching magic as her words came to life in hearts and minds.

After her speech ended and the applause and standing ovations subsided, Dr Angelou stood at a long table and graciously signed autographs. I brought along my paperback copy of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, feeling unworthy and wondering if she would sign my little book. Dr Angelou took my hand, which was at once dwarfed by hers. Her long fingers coming to rest above my wrist as we shook. I honestly thought I would pass out. Although I was raised to see people as people and no better or worse than me, this was different. She was a force. I remember too, the single gold ring she wore which appeared to have been sculpted in the shape of an elegant crane. An appropriate symbol, I thought, for this most regal of women. Cranes represent good fortune and I could not think of anything more auspicious than having this gift of listening to the thoughts of Maya Angelou over lunch. Lunch! In sunny Ft Lauderdale, Florida and for only a roomful of people, as the rest of the world went about its business as if nothing extraordinary was happening!  She signed my book in swirls of black pen and thanked me as I gushed and fumbled my way through a rushed introduction. I remember walking back out into the radiant sunshine not believing my luck and just wanting to be a better person. Such was the power of Maya Angelou.

I’ve not spoken of this event much throughout the years and until today I was not sure why. I think it was so special and her words so beautiful that anything I could have said would not have touched the depth and breadth of it. It goes without saying that meeting Maya Angelou was an experience I will treasure always.

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When Intelligence Takes A Vacation

Image

mdebona

Frustratingly, my cat meows loudly when I am on the phone. She jumps up on the chair or sofa where I sit and attempts to climb up on me, meowing all the time.  She can sleep all day and half the time I don’t even know where she is.  But as soon as I start a conversation on the phone there she is “MEOOOOOWWW, MEOW, MEOOOWWW.”

I have to push her off of the furniture to get her to stop.  It is very annoying.  Everyone can hear her. “Wow, she’s loud” they say, “She must want attention.”

Thought number one:  “What is the matter with her? Can’t she see I’m on the phone!”

Thought two: “I’ll Google and see how others have dealt with this and what they believe her behavior means. I felt there must be some biological or mysterious reason behind this specific behavior and more than a mere look at me, pay attention to meeeeee!

I began to type in why does my cat meow when I’m… and lo and behold the subsequent “on the phone” popped up. Aha! Others have had this same question and surely I will find my answer. I opened up the first website and the first thing I read was “she thinks you are talking to her.”

Thought three accompanied by uncontrollable laughter: My cat does not understand the concept of the phone and talking to another human being by way of telephone lines, modems, Bluetooth or routers.  She hears my voice and assumes I’m talking to or summoning her! The simple answer “she thinks you are talking to her” was like the snapping up of a shade on a sunny day or as if someone threw cold water in my face.

Thought four: What an idiot! I just researched, RESEARCHED for an answer to a question I should have known!  Correction.  For an answer I already knew!  I actually reminded myself to look it up. I typed in the question. Plenty of time to come to my senses! Surely I could have stretched the limits of my own mind to answer this myself!

I turned back to Google to find out how many results there were for this question. My ego scraping around for proof that I was not alone in this cerebral wasteland I found myself in. The answer was 18,500,000. I’m sure not all applied however I clicked on the 10th page of results which luckily still referred to cat behavior and the phone. Ego bruised but not broken, I scooped up my cat with better understanding and compassion for how confusing it must be to live with a human, especially when intelligence takes a vacation.

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A Silenced Writer

Writer's block

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How does one write about not writing?  I’m not referring to writer’s block. I’m talking about when a particular topic is off-limits.  I’m talking about wanting to write about something so bad it hurts.  It is right there in front of me, tempting me all the while.  It’s like when someone tells the  funniest  joke you ever heard.  You are about to burst with laughter when your boss walks in the room and you must reverse thrust to avoid being inappropriate.  It is a lot of energy to hold back, like a sneeze.  The kind of feeling that sort of implodes and you are left feeling somehow frustrated and unfulfilled. You knew it would have been such a good release but now the moment has gone and you are left alone waiting for it to kind of reabsorb.   My writing is relegated to talking about things outside of my profession. If it wasn’t, I’d have an easy book to write, let me tell you.

I am ever the observer as sentences and images form in my head constantly. Images which have flown out and crashed to the ground as of late, grudgingly censored by me.  So frustrating!  My fingers have been twitching to bang out letters on the keyboard, illustrating idiosyncracies, inconsistencies, contradictions, kindnesses, heart wrenching tales which would make grown men cry and mind-blowing stories that have brought me to my knees. But I can’t!  For this reason I have written fluff instead of substance.  Why I can not compartmentalize and move ahead with other thoughts and projects I have no idea.

I have gone through a series of experiences recently which were overwhelming, exciting, scary, frustrating, stressful, invigorating and did I mention overwhelming? I am not permitted though to bring them into the public domain.  I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. I’ve jumped through hoops, I’ve been flexible and most of all,  I’ve listened and learned. And, I hope my listening has helped.

Other ideas have paled in comparison and so I decided not to write about them.  Writing about not writing and picking at the edges of this larger experience is helpful to a degree I suppose. Getting it out there to be able to move on is the goal.

What I can say is that doing something scary, that moves me out of my comfort zone, has in short order proven to be an invaluable experience.  I have been honored to learn more about a group of people who have humbled me, to say the least.  I so wish I could share the experience with you.

We rarely move out of our comfort zones and don’t realize that we have until we are shocked and horrified, usually with an accompanying “what was I thinking?”   I think that making major changes in life will always be a rewarding experience, no matter what the experience turns out to be and I recommend it highly.  As for this dramatic Italian though, the silence is killing me!

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A Christmas Limmerick!

merry-christmas-winking-santa-claus

There was a plump, rose-cheeked man named Claus

He was jolly and cute but had flaws

He wore women’s shoes

When the reindeer would snooze

And a glimpse gave the Mrs to pause

 

This surprise though it wasn’t enough.

All sorts came from this man in red fluff!

He wasn’t opposed

To some knickers and hose

“And my best Christmas apron” she huffed!

My mother sent out an email saying we had to come to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebration at her house with a story or poem that she wants us to recite. Of course the email drew groans…but, I’m finding I need find humor wherever I can find it these days so this is what sprung to mind!

Wishing all my friends, old and new, a very Merry Christmas and Holiday season and all the best for a Happy New Year!

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A September Morning

The sky

Crystal blue in its brilliance

The air breezy, light and warm

A beautiful day but not perfect

We remarked that there were no clouds

And wonder now, were they frightened away by impending

Horrors to come?

The bliss of our ignorance a comfort still.

 

A glorious backdrop

For a summer day thrown into sharp contrast

A decent into darkness, confusion and doom.

From ferries, bridges, building windows and street corners…

We came to identify, were slapped hard by, the worst within us

We came to know and taste the hate

We shook from the violation

We cried from the pain, the loss, the fear.

 

We saw what we should not see

We smelled what no one should smell

We felt, though we could not feel

Our senses blurred and betrayed

Our minds unable to conceive or believe.

A sleepless city silenced and stunned.

 

From near,  explosions ripped through buildings and  hearts

Fire and noise and glass and panic

Plummeting potential lost to despair

Then, billowing clouds of smoke and death

 

From far, the stillness remained for a time. For a time.

As news traveled, streets emptied

No traffic. No people. No noise and, no planes.

No planes.

 

Unrelenting rays of sunshine attempted to warm blood run cold

An endless sea of blue sky our only shroud for man-made hell

Heaven a far away witness

As we reached out for desperate consolation.

The Sky

Crystal blue in its brilliance.

(2004)

It took me 3 years, after witnessing the explosions on September 11th, from a Staten Island ferry set to take off for Wall Street, to write this poem. What could not be conveyed on the Evening News  was the smell of death that hung over the city for weeks as the fire continued to burn from within.  That the National Guard stopped us in cars and buses to sweep for bombs before we drove over bridges and into tunnels or patrolled commuter buses, staring us down, to ensure there weren’t terrorists in our midst. That the only sound that we heard at first, and what persisted for weeks and months were sirens from police and fire department vehicles.  That no matter where you went, from supermarket to library, there were pictures of those who perished, plastered everywhere. And so many funerals that whole streets were blocked off and traffic diverted, for them to take place.  Funerals that went on for years.  That FDNY firehouses lost large numbers of men, my fire department having lost 11 (11 in Heaven). That people were panicking-in subways when hysteria set in and in underwater tunnels when traffic was stopped on the FDR highway for the huge metal beams from the WTC to be transported to barges.  That in a city with 3 major airports and constant air traffic, the resulting silence was deafening when that traffic came to a halt.  And when planes took to the skies again, people held their breath or panicked when planes went overhead or seemed to fly too close.  Not to mention that only two months after the attacks on September 11th, there was a major plane crash in Queens, NY, where another 260 people died and which sent us all over the edge again. And that if there was a possible threat, the city would shut down essential bridges and tunnels leaving people stranded or unable to return to their homes for hours. The effects of this day lasted years and for those who lost loved ones, a lifetime.

We Will Never Forget all who lost their lives and all who worked “the pile” to  reclaim the World Trade Center and our city, piece by piece.

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The Middle of Nowhere

Country Road

Country Road (Photo credit: freefotouk)

When I’d drive from New York to Florida or back, I’d often stop somewhere in the middle, the middle of nowhere that is. As far as I was concerned, there was New York, there was Florida. That made up the east coast.  Then there was California on the west coast.  I made weekend trips into Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and down to Washington but that was pretty much it-my America was made up of bookends really.  My road companions agreed and if I got a call from someone checking on my status and they asked where I was, I never offered the name of the town or the handful of historical sites that I had passed. My answer was always the same. I’m in the middle of nowhere.  Usually the caller would understand and express concern and offer the same advice. “If you get pulled over, don’t argue with the police there. Just say yes sir, no matter what. And get the hell out!”

Anyone who has made this trip knows about the signs for South of the Border. Pedro bombards you with billboards that start about 100 miles before you get to it and by the time you do get there, your expectations arThe Strip  - South of the Bordere through the roof.  Wow, what is this South of the Border place? What’s going on? What a let down! It is a little place off  the I-95 highway that is terrifyingly plastic with a mish mosh of plaster sculptures that don’t make sense. They have souvenir and firework shops.  I never made the Mexican connection with this remote area of South Carolina but after all the signs one must at least stop in to check it out, especially when road weary.  I remember getting out of the car and into an eerie stillness that was disturbing on many levels, especially when fake Mexicans and apes were staring me down.  I wanted to scream and get back in the car.  Apparently SOB has a website now, very high-tech, and they explain that they have several restaurants and motels. An added bonus is that they can host conferences and weddings. No thanks. If I want a Mexican wedding I’ll go to Cabo thank you very much.

Back to the point at hand, again, here is this Mexican hot spot, in the middle of nowhere with hardly a soul in sight. The other main attraction on this route is Cracker Barrel. When you are tired and cranky and hungry, this place is an oasis.  Home cooked food, homemade desserts and a shop with interesting things to buy-from old-fashioned candy to picture frames, seasonal items and Christmas decorations. I love it.

Kids looking through bins of Webkinz at a Crac...

Cracker Barrel in Pueblo, Colorado, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have since moved to the South and after leaving a Cracker Barrel one day and driving from one country town to another, it hit me. I have moved to the middle of nowhere! Oh my God, I’m one of them!  One of these people who seemed like aliens to me before.  People who didn’t live near the ocean, museums, ports or places where they make books. You know, civilization of any kind.  Then horror of horrors I realized that any of the patrons at Cracker Barrel, who had done the same as I had years ago and exited the highway while en route to more exciting places, thought I was one of them too!  Aw bless, she doesn’t know what a Broadway show is or what the Hudson looks like, poor thing!

They do have Barnes and Noble, oh I made sure of that before I came.  And, as long as there is a Barnes and Noble in the vicinity, I can handle just about anything else. When the Bible Belt goes to church, I pop in to a quiet B&N and sip on a Chai Latte while flipping through books and magazines at my leisure.  When the whole of the South is watching college football, I can meander through empty aisles at my favorite shops or enjoy not waiting at favorite restaurants.  They also have Publix grocery stores here and anyone from Florida knows that once you’ve been in one Publix, you’ve been in all Publix (Publixes?) and it feels like home. Ok the pizza and bagels are crap but it is nice to drive with little to no traffic and to have open skies and green vistas.   We even get Broadway shows. The road company but still Broadway.  It’s not the same, no one could mistake a little country town for New York City, but it’s quiet for the most part.  I have more than a postage stamp sized garden and I see birds that aren’t pigeons.  We have outdoor symphonies and poetry night at the coffee place-come on! Would I move somewhere where there are Neanderthals? Many barbecue year round and take trips to the beaches and lakes in the summer.  Even Starbucks and Trader Joes have found us.

Yes I do miss the mom and pop shops of New York and finding one of a kind items. Though what one loses in the unique and new one gains in not being in the rat race and not feeling the pressure to be ahead of everyone else; on the train, with fashion, news and art (Oh! You didn’t know they were showing Elizabethan toothbrushes at the Met? All my friends have seen it. You must go. You didn’t see Rent? That is a travesty, how could you not have seen Rent? You don’t live on the Upper West Side? That’s where all the good restaurants are now. Any one who says it isn’t is just lying to you. You haven’t been to Cannes?). Blah blah blah.  People are neurotic because the city never sleeps. New Yorkers are bombarded 24/7. What am I missing? What’s going on? What happened, I have to know!!!  The worst thing in New York is not being in the know. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you are rich or poor. If you know something before everyone else, you have cachet. But it’s so exhausting!

New York will always be my city and I love it like a family member but the middle of nowhere gives me a break from all that and lets me be me. Don’t mind me as I wander aimlessly for a while in the here and now, in the I’m OK, you’re OK. You get back on the highway and catch up with your friends. I’m going to have my little cotton socks blessed while I sip on some sweet tea. Y’all come back now, ya hear?

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High Anxiety

I arrived at JFK airport, excited to return to Florida for a spot of R&R before embarking on graduate school. Thoughts of  going to the beach, floating around the family pool, sun-kissed skin and casual dinners with family and friends were enticing.

I spotted a skycap thinking great! I can beat the rush and get checked in. He took my bags and I was sure to tip him generously to ensure my bags were not re-routed to Germany.  He checked me in asking for ID and proceeding with the usual security questions:

“Did you pack your own bags?”  Yes.

“Did anyone give you anything to carry? Oh just a bomb.  We both laughed. Laughed. Innocent days before September 11th and a couple of years before my run in with British airport security.  I giggled to myself thinking I had an anecdote to share when I landed.

I made my way to the gate and watched the plane glide up to the jetway. Boarding was uneventful and the captain pushed back on time.  The plane meandered this way and that allowing me to catch glimpses of New York City in my window until it reached the runway.  What is it about take off that is so exhilarating?  The roar of the engines, the intense power of the moment, feeling my body being pinned against the seat, the plane bumping and swaying, nose up then ahhhhhh as the plane rushes into the sky.

We were on a bigger plane than usual for this New York to Ft Lauderdale route and the seats were laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration.  I was seated in the middle with one person next to me and a couple to the right in the cozy 2 seater section. The flight was probably about half full.  Having made this trip dozens of times I knew the plan-fly out over the ocean, turn right, straight line down the coast then right hand turn and into Ft Lauderdale airport. It’s a 2 hour 20 minute flight, tops.

Being the New York City girl I was and having been baptized by the New York City Transit System, I gathered my things during our final decent with the idea of being as close to the front door as possible when the seatbelt sign went off. The captain made that famous right hand turn and we flew into Ft Lauderdale alright however this time he didn’t take it in for a landing. I watched as we flew over neighborhoods and streets I knew very well.  Hmm I thought, must be a holding pattern. It was 1995 and unlikely as Ft Lauderdale airport was still small and I’d never encountered a holding pattern here before.  My curiosity was piqued and I was paying attention.  The couple to the right who I had all but ignored during the flight was beginning to annoy me. They were drunk, laughing loud and I needed to focus.

I continued to watch our progress and noticed that we had left the comfort of Ft Lauderdale and were now flying over the Everglades. Highly unusual-never done! No word from the flight deck and the flight attendants seemed to be going about their business.  I continued to watch South Florida slip out of view as we flew into the Gulf of Mexico.  Now I was alarmed and the first thought that occurred to me was that the plane had been hijacked. Conversations and murmurings stopped and I noticed that we were encountering a lot of turbulence all of a sudden.  What the hell is going on! Why aren’t they talking to us?  Say something!!! Forty-five minutes passed as we floated around the Gulf.  People glanced at each other but said nothing.  The loud-speaker came on and a voice stated simply, “Uh, folks?  We have a problem.”  A wave of fear ran through me and I hung on this strangers-with God knows what kind of qualifications-every word.  He continued, “we have no landing gear, we can’t land the plane.”  I instinctively grabbed the arm rests and raised my feet off the floor as if this was going to help me.  I felt as if I’d been cut free from the world, floating in a heavy metal tube.  “Now, we have 3 options.”  Oh my God are we going to vote?  “We can make a soft landing-fly out to sea and dump all the fuel and make a water landing.”  Sharks, certain death.  “We can dump all the fuel, coast back in to the airport and make a hard landing.”  What are the chances we will reach the airport after we’re out of gas?  “Or, we can keep doing what we are doing now which is to force turbulence to try to jog the landing gear out, get them unstuck.  We will get back to you in a few minutes.” My mind was racing, my own mortality smacking me in the face repeatedly. From the right side of the plane came, “what did he say?”  A red drunk face staring obliviously at me. WE HAVE NO LANDING GEAR AND WE’RE GOING TO DIE, was my immediate response.  Red face just shrugged and went back to his girl and conversation, obviously not believing me.

This is it! That’s it! It’s over! I should pray.  I can’t think of the words.  I sat paralyzed. The woman next to me looked over and we both had tears rolling down our cheeks. We held hands.  Please God please, please God please. I couldn’t make the prayer come.  That’s all I could think to say.  The mind is a funny thing and voices in my head were battling it out. We could survive a water landing couldn’t we? How could we survive that?  Too many variables.  Please God please, please God please.  How long have we been up here? We’re going to run out of fuel, oh my God we’re going to die. No, there has to be a way, even if we have to crash land?  Please God please, Please God please!!!!

As if this scenario wasn’t bad enough. The loud-speaker came on again. This time it was a flight attendant.  “Folks?” she implored, voice cracking. “Folks, we have every confidence in our Captain” voice trembling and tearful. Another shockwave through my body. Oh no! this is really it.  She knows we are going to die. Please God please.  Oh my God!!!!  I heard an almighty bang and huge rush of air.  “Folks! That was the landing gear!”  The plane erupted in cheers. “Uh, folks, this is the Captain, that noise you heard was the landing gear, we will be making an emergency landing. Please stay in your seats.”

The thought crossed my mind, how do we know the landing gear is working properly?  Is it all down? Is it stuck halfway? Will it collapse when we hit the runway?  This last thought remained.  We were back in Ft Lauderdale in no time and the flight attendants prepared us for a crash landing.  As we flew into the airport I realized the captain must have thought the same thing as I could see lights flashing everywhere; fire trucks and ambulances as far as the eye could see.  Oh my God, they are waiting for us to crash, I thought.  We flew over the runway and wheels touched down, nothing happened. We landed! We landed!! Thank you, thank you thank you thank you God!  The passengers erupted again.  The woman and I hugged.

I rushed off the plane, right past baggage claim and ran outside hoping to see my father who had been waiting for me.  I saw him smile and wave then his hand and smile dropped.  At that moment I began hyperventilating.  I think I stopped breathing when I saw the fire trucks on the runway from my perch in the sky.  I could hardly breathe and grabbed at the cars as I passed them trying to make my way to my father. He ran toward me, grabbed me and squeezed hard-which although comforting-didn’t help my breathing situation. He cried “my baby, my baby” and I continued to gasp for air almost collapsing.  It’s funny when I look back as I wonder what he had seen. I must have been white as a ghost. He cried as he held me not even knowing what had happened yet.  I suppose it was written all over my face. I still get choked up when I think of his reaction.

Although the outcome was good, it took me a few days to recuperate and my trip was ruined by the thought of having to get back on a plane to go home. Until this time I’d never encountered a problem flying. Since then I’ve had other hiccups but am still here to talk about them.  Routine plane sounds were seared into my brain on that trip and I’ll never forget them:   The dinging of the bells telling the flight attendants to be seated and when it’s ok to get up and start serving, the sound of the flaps moving and when we are climbing in altitude. Then there are lovely sounds especially that beautiful bang and rush of air when the landing gear comes down just before landing and when the plane’s speed goes from 150 to 30.  I especially love the sounds of the seatbelt sign being turned off, the clinking of unbuckling seatbelts and the door being opened to let me out!

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Grandma’s House

Grandma

My heart soared when we turned onto 110th Street between 101st and 103rd Avenues, my grandmother’s block in Richmond Hill which bordered Ozone Park in Queens a borough of New York City.  Her neighborhood was predominantly Italian-American at the time.  Now that I think of it, it was a very safe, clean and quiet neighborhood.  When I visited as a child, happiness would build as the car slowed beneath hundred year old trees which made a canopy above adjoined houses. I peered out the window of the back seat or from the perch above the engine in my mother’s Volkswagen (before seatbelts apparently) waiting for my grandmother’s grey sided house to come into view.  I always ran up the stoop and onto her porch to ring the bell excitedly.  Within a minute or two I’d see a head pop up in the window of the front door and I’d hear the click of her unlocking the doorknob and deadbolt.  The door would swing open and there she would be, all 5’ 2  inches of her. Slender build, delicate facial features, fair skin, thinning hair and a smile. With a big hug and a whiff of her Oil of Olay, I knew I was home.

My grandmother was considered working class, when working class was an acceptable term-working as a finisher in clothing factories not unlike those of the Triangle fire fame.  My grandmother lost the roulette game of love, suffering the loss of her husband after only 15 years of marriage during an age when one was expected to remain a widow and pine perpetually.  She returned to work and became a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union working in factories until her retirement.

Grandma spent the rest of her life alone-well, mostly alone.  She had to raise two young girls on her own.  It’s not that my grandmother didn’t have chances to remarry, she just got used to being alone and I think she didn’t want to give up her independence.  She seemed to feel that she would only have more work to do.  This passive, meek-seeming, quiet good girl was a rebel and an imp.  Her own father died when she was young and she managed to sneak out of the house to meet boyfriends, wiggling out from under her uncle’s thumb and paranoid eye.  She eloped when it was unheard of and bought her own clothes.   I realize now that she didn’t just instill a sense of home but one of independence and that no matter the circumstances there was a way to find my own path and my own happiness. I think all the women in my family got this indie gene (though she was the first to criticize when any of us used it!).

Grandma moved to Queens, renting rooms as she called it and being the Depression Era girl that she was, she saved her nickels and dimes and was able to purchase the two family house she rented for many years; moving from upstairs to down, from tenant to Landlady.  When I walked into the hallway with stairs to the right leading to the upstairs apartment she once called home, I’d notice the faded wallpaper, dated glass light fixture, complete with stoplight pull.  I would breathe in the smell of the house looking up through the stairs to the skylight above To this day I can not explain what the smell was made up of but I’ll never forget it, a unique scent created over 90 years.  However once the door was opened to my grandmother’s apartment, I was greeted by comforting smells, usually something she had just baked or cooked for my arrival or the arrival of any of our immediate family, always knowing what we liked.

After my mother and aunt had grown, married and left the house, they each returned to my grandmother’s house, at different points in their lives, to call it home once again.  As a matter of fact, we all did, we all found our way back there for one reason or another.  Each of us saw her house as our own and she welcomed us all with open arms, always.  As long as we were ok and got along she was happy. If we visited or spent time there she was content.  My aunt lived with her the longest and my cousin lived there for the first 9 years of her life.  So, there were stretches of time when she wasn’t alone at all.

As for me, I have moved exactly 21 times in my life. I was a young child when my parents divorced and suffered the slings and arrows of visiting a parent I didn’t see much, reversals of fortunes and learning to cope with step-parents and all that entailed.  The only constant in a swirling, topsy-turvy life was my grandmother’s house. My grandmother was 50 years old when I was born and she died when I was 38. Those years of even keeled routines and effortless traditions were a gift for me.  I always felt extremely comfortable at Grandma’s house but I didn’t realize until after she died that what she created was a sense of Home and really the only place I ever felt 100% myself.  It wasn’t what she had but what she did that made it this way and I think this is where people make mistakes-trying to have more and more, giving up the simple pleasures and most precious gift-time together.  Everyone in our family felt the magic of Grandma’s house.  My mother recalled that when she went to my grandmother’s house she left the world outside and experienced complete safety and nurturance by Grandma’s never ending consistency, steadfastness and peacefulness (her words). I lived at my grandmother’s house a couple of times and for a few years at a time, visiting often in between.  I think the only thing that flustered her was lack of security, rather the potential for loss of security.  If I took a vacation or sick day she freaked-why aren’t you going to work? You’re going to lose your job!  Luckily I had read Theodore Dreiser and understood the mentality.  If my grandmother could have instilled one thing in us it would have been to save, save, save-this may be the only endeavor in which she was unsuccessful!   Other than that she would say “Dan-a, don’t worry!” And I didn’t worry at Grandma’s house.

It’s funny, our core family consisted mainly of females as men drifted in and out of the picture-divorce, boyfriends who came and went, my brother who moved around more than I did and husbands who did not have the stamina to keep up with our never ending conversations and activities. One minute we’d be in the kitchen, the next minute we’d all be squished onto my grandmother’s bed looking at her jewelry, old clippings or going through her clothes.  Usually we’d emerge with someone having had an idea (Let’s watch Meet Me In St Louis, Let’s sing show tunes, Lets go get ices,  Lets go to the beach!) and we’d gather up the men to join us.

The Girls at The Plaza

I noticed a shift in us when there.  As soon as we arrived, we relaxed and were just ourselves. My aunt who never ate and ran around like a nut for her business, got hungry and well…ate.  She picked on anything that was around.  I remember her absentmindedly pulling nuts off pecan rings and nibbling like a squirrel.  She never slept but at grandma’s house she’d kick off her shoes, lounge or take a nap. My mother would come with a list of things to be done or appointments to take my grandmother to and would be lulled into submission. Many a quick visit or occasion turned into an overnight stay.

Aunt Maryann taking a nap-i-poo

I can honestly say that I may have gone to Grandma’s house with a problem but I never left with one.  No matter how serious the issue, it was somehow diffused just by being with the strong women that made up the nucleus of my family as we shared whatever was on my mind with warmth and laughter, always.  I think we all did it. My mother or Aunt could come into her house with furrowed brow and one problem or another but at some point, a disclosure would be made somewhere in the house and in no time we were all talking about it and trying to work it out.

My family had an expression that epitomized my Grandmother, small pieces, low flame because that’s how she cooked and everything she did was done in moderation. My grandmother could have worked for the Wallendas as she was perfectly balanced in everything she did.  She bought only what she needed and treated herself, within reason.  She didn’t buy on credit even though her credit was perfect.  I guess the only thing my grandmother did in the extreme was to save money as she was always afraid of the emergency that might befall her and that lay wait around the corner.  Slow and steady won the race which she proved by outliving all of her older and younger siblings and most other relatives as well.

St Mary Gate of Heaven. Photo Credit: Forgotten NY

The local Catholic parish was St Mary Gate of Heaven in Ozone Park which was located across the street from Furci’s a fresh pasta store selling homemade raviolis and manicotti for Sunday dinner. Next door was an Italian butcher shop where we often got meat for Grandma’s out-of-this-world meatballs.  Every year the church had a feast to raise money and big Italian men carried the virgin mother through the streets and down 110th Street to my amazement.

Unassuming and understated hang out of the Gambino Mafia

When I walked down 101st Avenue with my grandmother, we often passed men sitting outside of a non-descript building, on folding chairs, nothing special and I never gave them a second thought. It wasn’t until Rudolph Guiliani came into power that I heard about the Bergen Hunt and Fish Club which was that exact place.  I didn’t realize until years later that the men we passed were the captains and heads of the biggest Mafia family in New York City. They were the reason my grandmother’s neighborhood was frozen in time and a wonderful place to enjoy Italian culture in a cocoon of neighborhood bakeries, Italian delis, fruit stores, clothing stores and restaurants.  We walked under the el (elevated A train) on Liberty Avenue or on 101st Avenue, visiting mom and  pop stores with  “the wagon” in tow; a shopping cart that she clipped to her Keyfood cart at the grocery store. We would heave the wagon up and down curbs together then up the 5 or 6 steps to the house.  However when my grandmother lived alone she did this all by herself.  I walked with my grandmother onLiberty Avenue to get fruit from the Asian vegetable stand, ravioli, cold cuts and sauce from Pat’s Italian Deli and pastries or cake from Greenwood Bakery.  I don’t ever recall any crimes or ever feeling unsafe at night.

Best store bought sauce and great ravioli’s and food. Photo Credit: Pat’s and Sons Italian Deli

Oxford Bakery-where we purchased many birthday cakes. Photo Credit: Forgotten NY

The Stoop

When I was young, little old Italian ladies sat in folding chairs on warm spring evenings, sitting on their stoops with a piece of watermelon or a cup of coffee after dinner, talking to each other or with their neighbors who were mere feet away.  I remember chasing lightening bugs and screaming when I saw the Ice Cream Man come down the street-Graaaaaandmaaaaa, he’s cooomiiing, hurrrrry uuuuup!  She couldn’t get outside fast enough for me, clutching her coin purse and we’d both indulge.  My mother taught me to ride a bike in front of my grandmother’s house and I remember walking down the street with my aunt sporting diaper shorts, the latest craze! The stoop is also where crushes bloomed and faded as there were glances exchanged down or across the street as we sat together with our families. My mother and my aunt was asked out by a neighbor for probably ten years that I’m aware of. Every time he crossed the street I’d roll my eyes. I knew what was coming, the question, the rejection then back in the house to safety.  Many times I’d be allowed to play in front of the house as long as I didn’t cross the street and would wait there for my mother or Aunt to return home from work. Catching a glimpse of them walking up the street from the A train-I’d start jumping up and down and yelling to my grandmother, “Mom’s home!” “Aunt Maryann’s home!”

My aunt’s wedding party on the porch and stoop-me as flower girl.

Dining Room

The apartment door opened into the dining room and my grandmother would immediately hang up my sweater or coat in the coat closet. I still recall the French glass doorknobs that adorned every door and the clunk from her wooden bill organizer that swung from the door every time it opened.  How can one little closet hold so many memories?  On a shelf above the coats were all the photo albums that we never tired of gazing at together, games to play and coats of hers as well as ones that all of us had given up or left behind at one time or another.  There was the Electrolux vacuum that she must have had for at least 35 years as I remember playing with it when I was a kid.  Across from the coats was the linen closet for the house that held towels and sheets spanning decades; some I remember using when I was a little girl as well. Nothing was thrown out and my grandmother kept her things in impeccable shape. Before me was a big dining table, a server behind it and a large buffet to the right and on the long wall.  Grandma’s white terrine sat on that buffet as long as I can remember and now it sits on mine.

Grandma and Aunt Maryann

The first thing I did after hugging Grandma, when I was a kid, was to run into the kitchen and open the bread bin to find Ring Dings or Devil Dogs that she pretended to hide from me and my brother.  Later I would enter the house, fling my handbag on the table and within a couple of minutes I’d hear “Dan-a” a melodic mock criticism meaning “where does this belong” or “whose is this?”

Although my grandmother was very traditionally Italian, the apple fell pretty far from the tree as my mother and aunt were anything but.  My grandmother had to endure talks of yoga, meditation, alternate realities, sex, reincarnation, Soul Train and bi-racial dating, any new issue we decided to discuss.  She would shake her head in disbelief at times. I have to say that although if pressed, I’m sure she’d say she didn’t approve of things like homosexuality, she never said it. She is the only person I ever knew who lived by the idea that if one doesn’t have anything nice to say, they shouldn’t say anything at all. No matter the age differences or changing beliefs, she was there for all of us all the time and at all hours of the day or night.  She waited patiently as we lived out idealistic binges.

Mom and cousin Vanessa as we hung out in the Dining Room

No matter the conversation, it happened around the kitchen or dining room table below stained glass and leaded windows as we picked on Grandma’s zucchini pie, homemade potato salad or Entenmanns Sour Cream Chip Nut Loaf-when Entenmann’s was good that is.  I have fond memories of some sort of food on the table, followed by dessert and a percolator on a trivet on the dining room table.  All the while we would be talking, laughing or having heated discussions.  It was quiet, it was loud but to me, it was always love.

The dining room reminds me most of holidays and birthdays. Our holidays always gave a nod to our Italian heritage as we had Grandma’s huge trays of lasagna or manicotti before moving on to the second course we all know as Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner!  A Primi Piatti as we say in Italian.  It was during this break between the pasta course and the next course that my mother and aunt would blast the stereo, dance the Lindy or make the rest of us dance and sing with them.  My grandmother would be busy but not too busy to flash a grin and wiggle her hiney!  Having grown up with dance halls, she could boogie with the best of them.  Birthdays were quite simple by today’s standards, and I’m not talking about 50 years ago!  We got together to have cake and open presents. Sometimes my grandmother cooked and sometimes we ordered pizza, probably from Ozone Pizza, the best Sicilian pie around. While my grandmother perked her Eight O’Clock coffee, we played games; board games such as Trivial Pursuit, Pokeno, and the Dictionary Game. My grandmother grew up playing cards and she always had a Planter’s Peanuts can filled with pennies at the ready for Poker.  When games didn’t satisfy us we made silly videos that cracked us up for years after. My grandmother donned black lace (I think it was a fancy apron she draped around her) and sang Besame Mucho, My cousin put a blanket over pillows that became her “piano” and freaked out to Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire.  My mother and aunt were the silly ones, coming up with crazy skits or acting out musical numbers complete with costumes.  Anything was possible at grandma’s house.  No prop was off limits, no act too silly.  We enjoyed each other as much as with any of our friends and probably more so.

My birthday at Grandma’s with a bunch of nuts

The Kitchen

The kitchen was off the Dining room at one end. It was small in size and only large enough to hold a table pushed up to the window and 3 chairs as well as a standing cabinet that held her magical wooden spoons and other utensils, crowned by a small TV.  The kitchen had steps out to a skinny driveway and a leaning garage which was held up by sheer will alone. As my grandmother never drove it was neglected for years however never one to waste, she rented it out to a neighbor who had an antique car.

My grandmother always cooked herself full breakfasts, lunches and dinners, even when she was alone. If I showed up unannounced there would always be some interesting morsel in her refrigerator: chicken soup, a bowl of homemade potato salad, half a zucchini pie, a piece of cake.  I remember showing up once when she and my cousin were about to have lunch and heros from the leftover meatballs she had from Sunday sauce.  Instead of putting a few meatballs on two pieces of Italian bread, she cut the bread into thirds, mashed the meatballs into chunks and spread it out so there was enough for 3.  She had a loaves and fishes kind of way about her which was awe-inspiring.  I don’t know about you but if I’m alone for more than a couple of days, I’m probably not cooking full meals every day unless I’m feeling particularly inspired. There was always enough for everyone and I think she learned this from a) being Italian and b) growing up poor.

Grandma teaching Vanessa to bake

When I lived with my Grandmother in my early 20s I worked inManhattan for a magazine.  My grandmother always had a hot meal on the table when I returned home and timed it perfectly with my entrance.  I always played a game with myself to guess the smell before I got into the house.  My grandmother hated this game as she always wanted her culinary creations to be a nice surprise.

“Pepper Steak and Rice?”   I’d say as I walked into the hallway from outside.

She’d sigh, and sounding like a mafiosa she’d say “how did you know?”  Little did she know I was blessed with a freakishly good sense of smell.

“Rice Pudding?”  She would literally stagger back as if this sort of knowledge was impossible and give a face of astonishment.  Stuffed Peppers, Fried Chicken Cutlets, Lasagna, Chicken Soup, French Toast, Cream Puffs, Macaroni and Cheese, Sicilian Meatloaf, Zucchini and Fresh Mozzarella, Arroz con Pollo, Lentil Soup, Summer Spaghetti with red wine and mushrooms, Spaghetti with Sardines, Pine Nuts and Fennel Sauce, Sfinge, Lemon and Garlic Chicken, Potatoes and Eggs, Peppers and Eggs, Pot Roast, Sicilian Stuffing, Pasta with Chick Peas, Pasta with Peas, Pasta with Broccoli and Ricotta, Asparagus Soup with egg and stuffed artichokes. She was a fantastic cook, making American and Italian dishes that delighted us always.  Anyone who was lucky enough to have slept over Saturday night, would be greeted by the smell of frying meatballs and the start of a magnificent Sunday Sauce.  When I lived with her or stayed over I watched her, rather I had to watch her cook as her recipes were pretty much useless when I tried to write them down.

“Grandma, how much cheese do you put in?” I’d say, pen in hand.

“As much as it needs” would come the answer as if I should have known this.  “I do it by eye”,“you just know” or “it’s done when it’s done” were even more helpful retorts.  I learned that I had to do exactly what she did, exactly when she did it and had to taste along the way to know exactly how it should be at every stage.  She had a very strange way of mixing meatballs and if I hadn’t watched her I would never be able to replicate them.  Her guiding hand and  instructions “no, not yet, no, let it start boiling first, ok now put in the tomatoes”  made me a good cook.  If I burned the sauce? No problem, she had a trick for that.  Too much salt? Don’t worry, she had a trick for that too. Grandma made me a foodie because she taught me to taste the subtle differences between mediocre and amazing. It warms my heart to know that she instilled her skill in me; cooking expertise and recipes that have been passed down through the generations and most of which came from a very small village in Sicily.

Before we ate, it was my job to go to the Italian Bakery to get fresh Semolina bread and dessert, usually Italian pastries-cannolis, cream puffs, napoleans, if I had my choice.

When it was just Grandma and me, we always had a great time sitting in the kitchen talking over a tuna sandwich (Italian tonno packed in olive oil only) or tea and cookies at night. In the spring and summer and before she sprang for air conditioning, the kitchen curtains would float up and over the table and then get sucked against the screen. It was as if the kitchen was a living breathing thing.  We could also hear the muffled sounds of neighbors’ conversations, clinking cutlery or the washing of dishes as they sat in their own kitchen across the way. That is where I learned about my Sicilian heritage, about my great grandparents and their voyage and immigration to America and these conversations were punctuated by the naturalization papers she proudly produced from a strong box.  It was here that I learned about my grandmother, the woman; what she liked, crushes she had, who she didn’t like, hurts she usually kept to herself. These were times when her traditions became my traditions and when a little piece of her became a part of me. On one Sunday as we dipped pieces of meat from our Cornish hens in the lemon, garlic and oil elixir at the bottom of the pan, my grandmother related to me the day she watched her brother walk up the street in his military uniform, returning home after years abroad during World War II.  The emotion of that day overwhelmed her still and in her little kitchen I was impressed by how much of an effect being separated from family had on her.  She choked back tears and looked out the window as if it was yesterday.

Did I mention the kitchen phone?  It was a rotary dial phone and had two settings. Loud and louder.  Every time the phone rang we jumped or gasped. It felt as if we were being electrocuted by sound alone yet we endured it for years.  It had a long cord that each of us used to stretch through the dining room and down the hallway to the bathroom where we would hide when we didn’t want conversations overheard. I kept that phone in my own house for 5 years before deciding that I didn’t need to lose years of my life from fright just to remember her by.

In my disco days, I went to clubs in Manhattan and pretty much threw myself into any car heading toward Brooklyn or Queens on the way home. If the light was coming up as we crossed the Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridge I went home but every once in a while I emerged squinting from the Queens Tunnel and I’d head to Grandma’s House. Sometimes alone and sometimes with a friend or boyfriend.  She didn’t miss a beat, taking eggs and bread out of the refrigerator and starting the kettle for tea.  Grandma’s house was not the Kool-Aid house however-it wasn’t open to anyone at anytime.  She liked to know what was going on and what to expect or if she was going to have to whip up a dinner for everyone.  If you were family, the door was always open.  If you were not, she was on high alert when people wandered into the kitchen or horror of horrors, opened her refrigerator.  She didn’t relax until company had gone and her house was back in order.  I could always tell when she felt like this because she would give a “heh-heh-heh” sort of laugh.  Others in the family didn’t seem to see this as they were much more gregarious and welcoming to all, however for better or worse, I inherited that same quirk of reserving my turf for close friends and family and react the same way as well so I was tuned in to this.  I always felt special to be on the inside and that I was one of the lucky ones to stay behind as she and I stood on the stoop waving good-bye when visitors left after one occasion or another.  When it was just me and Grandma it was cozy and special and I will treasure that always.

For a woman who lived alone, she had a lot of male visitors. Older cousins, assorted ex-husbands or husbands of our cousins all stopped in for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake in the dining room for a little haven from the world outside.  They seemed to stop in during lulls in their lives or after fights with their wives and my grandmother always had a sympathetic ear, rarely criticizing or taking any sides.

To the right of the dining room at the other end was a long hallway with the only bathroom that was decorated in pretty brown and blue and always smelled of Dove soap.  My Grandmother’s bedroom and a “guest” bedroom we had all called our own at one time or another were at the end of the hallway.

There was a basement which was dark and held a lot of mystery for me as a kid. There were cabinets down there where my grandmother stockpiled anything she found on sale such as: Scotts toilet paper, cereals, pasta, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, cake mixes, Dove soap and Palmolive dish detergent.  To this day the smell of Palmolive makes my stomach flip flop as it reminds me of Grandma’s house.  My grandmother had a washing machine but no dryer and she was one of the last people on the block to hang her clothes on the clothes line which ran the length of the basement as well as an outdoor one that required her to lean out of her bedroom window to hang clothes. Even clothespins remind me of her!

Grandma’s Room

When my aunt lived at home and I visited during summer or Christmas vacations, I usually slept in my grandmother’s bed in a pink bedroom with 1960s style furniture.  In the summers she would put the fan in the window and a breeze magically appeared in another window opposite.  I thought the wind went out one window, turned the corner and came in the other window, not understanding cross-ventilation.  Waves of invisible air and the sound of the fan lulled us to sleep on crisp cotton sheets.  Each night my grandmother took off an antique looking watch and I was mesmerized by the art deco and diamond chip design.  I was enthralled with her beside tables that held the dream machine alarm clock I got her and a nightlight.  The drawers held mysterious items like teeny tiny Avon sample lipsticks of all different colors, coin wrappers and bank deposit slips which I loved filling out.  One of her drawers held old cards, rubber band balls and things collected over the years.  Another held her housecoats and aprons, all of which I remember her cooking in and on the morning of her funeral I inconsolably held them against my face, breathing her in for the last time.

Every evening around 9pm my grandmother had a routine of changing into her pajamas and robe and switching on the nightlight in her room, even when no one else was there.  When I slept over she put the nightlight on in my room too so when we went to bed we’d have a little light to greet us-a little thing but oh so homey.

Living Room

My grandmother’s house was always clean and tidy.  Her furnishings were modest warmed by family pictures and gifts she had received from all of us through the years.  Each trinket placed on a shelf or window sill and there they would stay for decades.  She purchased sturdy, quality pieces of furniture for durability more than fashion. Again, it was not until after her death that the feeling washed over me like a tsunami that the sense of home I dwelled in came from her and her alone as the things she left behind did not have great financial significance, rather they held memories of her or special times we all had together.

It was not uncommon for any of us to pull out the sheets and the hand-crocheted blankets my grandmother always had at the ready in case anyone slept over, getting cozy, on her enveloping sectional sofa.  Eventually, usually around 8 or 9pm, one of us would wander or sneak back into the kitchen.  If the rest of us heard the crinkling of aluminum foil, it was like a call of the wild and one by one we’d wander back in there to nibble on artichokes, stuffed mushrooms or to make hot cocoa or tea-returning to the living room with our treasures, all giddy with ourselves. My younger cousin brought this lounging to new heights, tucking us in and getting us drinks from the kitchen.  At grandma’s house we didn’t need a lot of money, big cars, the latest fashion trends.  We needed what we had, good food, family we could trust and be ourselves with and something to amuse us. I always felt so content there and try to do the same now, focusing on comfort and the comfort of those who come to my house instead of having the shiniest and best things.  If ever I felt less than for not having more, Grandma showed me that the simple pleasures in life nurture the soul more than any trendy thing could.My grandmother introduced me to Yankee baseball games and the Channel 13 PBS station, both of which have stayed with me. For a young literary mind, Masterpiece Theater was magical as I was exposed to great actors and works of literature-Lily Langtry, Upstairs Downstairs, I Claudius and Pride and Prejudice were favorites. Channel 13 was my grandmother’s university. She never went to college but she read and she watched programs about history and literature, programs of substance. For someone who was afraid to part with even a few dollars, she gave generously to Channel 13. She would question me about the accurate change I deposited in her hand after going to the store for her but when the telethons were on she thought nothing of pledging $250. We watched biographies and history shows together which were enriched by her own accounts of historic events. When I was little she let me stay up late and we always ended the evening watching the Odd Couple. She loved sitcoms and had the greatest laugh. I’d watch her as she watched shows like I Love Lucy, All In The Family, Cheers, Seinfeld and later Friends as she smiled brightly then threw her head back in laughter. She began watching TV with me on the sofa however as her eyesight worsened she moved to her rocking chair, having to move it closer and closer to the television set. Even in her 80s she would sit with one leg up on the chair, not your grandmother’s grandmother!We piled onto the sectional, watching old movies or musicals together or pulling out her albums and singing along.  A nothing day turned magical at Grandma’s house as the best times were when we all hung out together, laughing or talking about anything at all.Grandma was a teaser and a jokester and always had an understated one liner that would crack me up. One time I woke up and staggered into the living room sleepily and kind of flung myself onto the sofa in t-shirt and underwear. When my grandmother came in I thought she’d chastise me for not dressing or sitting more ladylike. She just passed by saying “Dana, position is everything in life!”

When we were out as a group at a family function, in a large crowd of cousins, my grandmother was usually very quiet. She had always been shy and always let others, louder than her, take the floor.  I think she was sometimes seen as weaker or without much to contribute.  In my younger years this angered me. I wanted to tell people off and encouraged her to stand up for herself.  When I got older I saw her more as a treasured secret. She belongs to us I thought, she confides in me and they may never fully or truly understand the depth of her strength, her intelligent mind, her generosity, her talent and humor as we do I thought.  She was our pearl, our diamond in a rough.  She was unassuming and self-deprecating, having low vision she sometimes got food on her clothes and would laugh, “I look good in anything I wear.” Grandma was demure.  She was a Lady, our beloved matriarch and my Grandma.

This story is dedicated to the beautiful women in my family:

My Mother, Rita, My Aunt and Godmother, Maryann, My Cousin, Vanessa

And with never ending gratitude and love, Grandma.

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Showered By The Generosity Of Others This Week

I have been blown away by the great response to my blog and have now been honored with four awards that fellow bloggers have bestowed upon me.  I can’t tell you how much it means that people actually take time out to read my (sometimes very lengthy) posts and to offer comments. This experience and the WordPress community has been very supportive and generous and I offer my sincerest  thanks to everyone who has visited.
onelovelyblogaward     

I received two One Lovely Blog awards yesterday. The first from Bitter en Zoet, a talented, thoughtful and insightful writer who has worldly views and posts on the Mother Sugar blog, a community of women writers who share their thoughts and experiences of life. They have interesting perspectives and write in a very entertaining way.  I hope you will check them out. http://mothersugar.wordpress.com/

The second came from Vividhunter and she writes The (anti) Procrastination Diaries. Her blog is new to me as mine is to her but she was kind enough to check mine out and give me this very nice award. In her blog you will find wonderful surprises such as a jar full of stars (that I absolutely loved) as well as great information on a variety of topics. http://procrastinationdiaries.wordpress.com/

I also received the The Versatile Blogger award from one of my first supporters, Chris 9911. Some may know him as the antagonist commenter in my cubicle post however he has been a champion and cheerleader of mine and his support has been overwhelming.  Chris9911 writes with honesty and compassion about a variety of subjects such as his marriage, children, friends and cycling. His great sense of humor will have you laughing!

As I wrote this post, I was awarded a second Versatile Blogger award from A Diary Of A New Wife!  This is a lovely blog about a woman who reflects on and navigates newlywedom.  Check it out.  http://diaryofanewife.wordpress.com/about/

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For anyone wondering, here is the award protocol:

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  • Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

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Here is my pick of wonderful bloggers who have inspired, moved me or made me laugh. I thank all of you for your wonderful works:

1) Brian Westbye:  http://brianwestbye.wordpress.com/  Brian writes works of fiction as well as well as luscious vignettes and reveries and is multi-talented. I find his work atmospheric and the voices he creates jump from the page. His creative ability knows no bounds if you ask me. (A Versatile Blogger award)

2) Brewing Translation: http://translationbrew.wordpress.com  Powerful poetry/vignettes of her travels, thoughts and emotions. Well worth the read. (The Versatile Blogger award)

3) An Odyssey of Camaraderiehttp://purposeofexistence.wordpress.com/about-the-author/

This writer is new to the blogging world and blogging in general however he’s finding his feet and sharing his views about English Premiership football, Daylight Savings-an Indian Perspective and matters of the heart.  He is a thoughtful, intelligent writer and I wish him all the best with the new blog. I hope you’ll check him out! (A Lovely Blog award)

4) Cultural Quirks: http://culturalquirks.com/2012/05/26/only-in-vegas This blogger calls attention to some of the crazy attractions out there. She is a self-described armchair Anthropologist and her posts inform and delight. (A Versatile Blogger award)

5) Rustic Recluse: http://rusticrecluse.wordpress.com/about/  Traveler, historian, writer of short stories and poems.  A versatile and intelligent blogger to be sure.  (A Versatile Blogger award)

6) Craves Adventure: http://cravesadventure.wordpress.com/ A fun, breezy blog full of interesting information and reminders about diet, exercise and health as well as budding photography snaps and travel adventures. A fun read! (A Lovely Blog award)

7)  Food Vixen in NYC: http://nycfoodvixen.com/ A lovely blog about food and NYC, two of my favorite subjects!  Well written and fun. Her pictures make you feel as if you’re going on food journeys with her. (A Versatile Blogger award)

8)  Society Red:  http://societyred.wordpress.com/about/  His tagline says it all:  “nonlinear, bite-size, easily digestible pieces of me.”  I enjoy his observations.  (A Lovely Blog award)

9) The Little Lady Speaks: http://thelittleladyspeaks.wordpress.com  Thoughts and opinions shared in a frank and real way.  Pleasant blog with a sense of purpose. (A Lovely Blog award)

10)  Detours by Deetalihttp://deetoursbydeepali.wordpress.com/

Wonderful posts about places and great photography to accompany it. (A Lovely Blog award)

12) Chris 9911– http://chris9911.wordpress.com/about/ A workaholic who always makes time for his friends. He writes poignant, funny and heartfelt posts about anything from his bikes and family to silly videos and things that make him stop and reflect. Chris you get the A Lovely Blog Award.

13) purpleowltree: http://purpleowltree.wordpress.com/ To say this blogger is courageous is an understatement.  She has been fearless in writing about her experience and journey with DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder .  She writes about heart wrenching and triumphant moments and some posts are written by her alters who shed light on a very complex life. An eye-opening read for those who welcome more understanding. She has a generosity of spirit and I appreciate her support of my posts. (The Versatile Blogger award)

14) The Sacred Cavehttp://thesacredcave.wordpress.com/about/ Wonderful photography and posts about thoughts and musings.  (A Versatile Blogger award)

15)  Dor’s Virginia Views :  http://countryliving4beginners.wordpress.com/    A truly enjoyable blog. (A Lovely Blog award)

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7  things to know about me:

1) I love sheep that roam the English countryside.

2) I recently found and am obsessed with Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond spread-better than Nutella.

3) I swam with wild dolphins with one of my very best friends-an amazing experience.

4) I adore Boxer dogs.

5)  I am perpetually learning the Italian language (damn those conjugated verbs and constantly changing adjectives!)

6)  I love passion however it manifests itself (writing, art, cooking, craftmanship, the turn of phrase). Such a turn on!

7)  My favorite part of the day is late afternoon, especially on the beach when everything turns golden.

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Again, thank you for all the support and kindness you’ve shown me

Happy Blogging and wishing everyone much success!
xoxoxox

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A Poem For All My Writer Friends, with love!

[111 in 2011] #62 - Books

Photo credit: guidedbycthulhu111 in 2011

Waiting For The Idea

He procrastinates, he reads

She masturbates, she sleeps

He whines and he mopes

She daydreams and hopes

He makes coffee, he eats

She paints the nails on her feet

He makes a drink, he takes a toke

She makes and outline, but then writes jokes

He types and types and types for hours

She gets an idea, but then it sours!

He falls asleep with his head on his typewriter

She sits Indian style, flicking her lighter

On and on it goes….

Ode to the life of a writer

(1989)

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Filed under Poetry