Saturday, October 31, 2015


I've written about this in other places, at other times.
My Hallowe'en was first of all, spelled that way. All Hallow's Evening, as a contraction. That goes back to when people cared.

We would dress up in costumes, never store bought. Sometimes we were bums. Once, Mom cut up an old fur coat to make my older brother a cave man. Another time, he wore one of her bridesmaid dresses and heels and a wig.
I remember being a bum. I remember being a cowgirl. I was a minuteman one year because we'd been to Williamsburg and I had a tricorn hat. One year someone lent us a toreador costume, with a weird hat and I wore that. No princesses, no gypsies, no brides. Only what we could fix up and Mom, bless her, wasn't very creative.

But here's the thing. We would trick or treat for miles! Our immediate neighborhood had three solid streets of houses shoulder by shoulder. Good pickin's. Then there was a newer development with three more streets of "ranch" houses. We'd go there and even sometimes across the brown bridge to the other side of the lake because we knew lots of people over there.

And nearly every house gave out "nickel bars". These, back when candy was candy, were about the size of three or four mini-bars of today.
Sometimes people tried to pawn apples off on us.
Sometimes they put little candy corn stuff in a bag with a penny. That got chucked.

One house even took our pictures...I wonder where Mrs. Gillings put them. Wish I could see them all.

Hallowe'en was and will always be, the best day of the year.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The end

There is no fruit or vegetable better, in my opinion, than a tomato nurtured and grown in the red shale soil of New Jersey.
Yes, other places grow tomatoes. Lots of 'em.
California, North Carolina, Mexico, Chile. Sure. They grow 'em. But they don't taste like ours.
Unfortunately, because we are a northern state with cold winters and late springs, we can only plant the seedlings in mid-May, perhaps pick the first by mid-July and enjoy them until the first week of October if we are lucky.

The first hard frost kills the plants completely.

We had our first hard frost yesterday.

Now, all the red globes of pure delight are shriveled and deceased.

No more baloney, mayo and tomato sandwiches on squishy white bread for me.

One of my English friends once told me she'd heard about Jersey tomatoes and thought they came from the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel.  I had to correct her misconception.

No tomato could possibly be better than those grown in the Garden State.

And now they're gone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Home from the war the hard way

       Going around to the side of the house, he looked up toward the light coming from Number Five.
      She was there, silhouetted, leaning against the window, traced in silver from starlight. 
      To his eternal shame, his body reacted to the vision of her, wanting to take her in his arms and hold her, smell her hair, feel the softness of her body against his.
      How much torture could one man take?
      He went inside. Flicked on one light. Pulled down the shade, remembering her intriguing silhouette and his reaction to it. He swallowed hard.
      To add to his torture, he opened the closet door in the big bedroom he had claimed for himself.  In the back, where he’d shoved it, stood his duffel bag.  Someone had delivered it from the Army hospital to here, the only address he had been able to give anyone, back when his aunt and uncle were still alive. He guessed they didn’t know what to do with it, either, but had put it away to be safe.
       For when he came back.
       He’d never looked to see what was inside, but now he did. Anything to take his mind off…things.  It stunk.  A mixed odor of body and seawater and whisky and military. GIs all over the world recognized that stink, especially if it had been some time since it had last been encountered.   Canvas.    
        Musty canvas.
        Ah, hell, he hoped there wasn’t mold inside.
        He reached in and pulled out his kit, tossed it onto the bed. Some rolled up socks…pungent as all hell. Somebody must have gathered up his stuff and shoved it all into the duffel without caring what happened to the stuff. He probably would have done the same.
       Until he pulled out his uniform.
       Good Christ Almighty.
       Wrinkled enough to get him demoted, stiff, not as vividly colored as he remembered, but then, he had taken a head wound. Someone, however, had added new ribbons, including the Purple Heart.
Lee debated what to do with the stuff.
        “I ought to throw this shit away,” he growled.
        But in the end of the debate with himself, he couldn’t. Instead, he hung up the uniform jacket, tried to smooth out the wrinkles but gave up.
       Some day, when the world is straightened out and all this shit is a bad memory, I might need to wear it in a parade.


Monday, October 12, 2015


In My Fair Lady, the great movie with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, when they come home from the party where he has successfully passed her off in society as a lady...some kind of Hungarian princess to be exact, he asks for the jewelry she is wearing to be given back as "it is rented". She assumes he thinks she will steal it unless it is put away in the safe, so she throws a hissy fit, removes the jewelry and hands it over, but she has a small ring on her finger that she doesn't want to take off because "you gave it to me, you bought it for me" somewhere. She's in love with Higgins. But she's also pissed off and throws it at him. It lands in the firebox, which fortunately is not lit.

After he leaves her to stew, she rushes over to retrieve the ring. It is all she will have of him because the experiment is over and she is to leave. She got what she wanted...she can speak like a lady and can work in a flower shop, not sitting on the curb in Covent Garden selling flowers by the stem.

My gripe would have been so much more significant if somewhere in their travels together, the filmmaker had shown the purchase of that ring.
It comes out of nowhere and the significance is lost, at least on me.

Onward. Yesterday on the Hallmark Channel was a movie about a woman who inherits her sister's five Amish kids and how they don't adjust to living in the modern English world. Well, it turns out some of them do, but there has to be the drama. Their aunt leaves them back in Amishland because that is what they so desire. She drives off, in tears, because she had grown to like them, even if they didn't much like her, but she was their mother's sister. Moving along, she is driving away and they realize they were shits and had hidden a letter from their mother to the aunt/sister in which she asked that she take the children. The eldest didn't give it to the aunt because she was a selfish prig, Amish or no. She was at least that bit human.
I'm getting to the point.

They ride in a buggy after the woman in the Suburban with the license plate reading "write4u" (she was a journalist) and after several missed opportunities, they catch up with her. I kept thinking the poor old horse ( named Dobbin) was gonna die, but it didn't. Anyway, they stop her from leaving, give her the letter to read; they ask her to STAY and there is a group hug. So she's gonna stay in Amishland with them. Last scene has her sitting at a table lit by kerosene lamps, working on her laptop.

When is she going to recharge it?????

Continuity, folks!
Make sure when you're writing something, anything, that it flows and is logical and that you don't mention something in the end that you have not alluded to in the beginning, especially if it is going to be very important later on!

That ring should have been at least mentioned earlier in the movie. We would have known how much it meant to her. Digging in the ashes showed how very much she cared, and how very much she was hurt.

I missed mention of that letter in the Amish story...I may have dropped off, and I must assume, since it was a made for TV movie, that since the letter was so important, it had been made apparent.
Okay, this isn't really continuity, but, for heaven's sake...where is this woman going to charge her computer in Amishland?  No way. Do something. Don't bother showing it! Have her call in from a phone booth or at least show her in the Lancaster PA Starbucks doing her writing.

Yes, I am in a bad mood. Over the weekend I had my empathy drained from me and it's going to take a while to get it back. I need a recharge of good feelings. But I can plug myself in readily here in my torn apart house.

Once construction. Will it ever end?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Good morning, Wretched Refuse!

I woke up this morning with that poem about the Statue of Liberty going through my brain. For some unknown reason, I have memorized the first stanza...probably because it was a song or I did it for the heck of it. But it goes something like this:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,
The wretched refuse of the teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless tempest toss'd to me!
I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.

This is what Emma Lazarus thought of the onslaught of refugees and immigrants who showed up in America. I don't know much about her, but as I thought about her words, I kind of got angry.

I have absolutely no Native American ancestors. All my people came to America from some other teeming shore. They were tired and poor and I assume since they came here in steerage, they did some huddling.
But I draw the line at them being considered wretched refuse.

They were uneducated, but hard-working folks who learned English and lived the American Dream. They didn't accept any sort of hand-outs; they paid for what they had. They did not keep one foot in the old country while reaping the benefits of this new land. They weren't wretched nor were they garbage.

Ms. Lazarus, Gosh, I hope you weren't sitting in some posh apartment in NYC penning this! I hope you didn't scold your maid if she was a tick late getting you your toast and eggs.

But I am being unfair. I gotta look her up. She may have been a welfare worker or a church lady who helped immigrants assimilate into the US. BRB

Okay, I looked her up. She was born in NYC as I guessed, of Sephardic Jewish parents, so that may have qualified her as in the know. She did work with immigrants, wrote poems about them, championed various causes to uplift the poor and died of cancer.
I apologize, Ms. Lazarus, for thinking you hated my grandparents.

But I still don't care for the wretched refuse bit.
Oh, unless you're writing about the earlier immigrants called the colonists.
Now, considering the religious refugees and the prisoners shipped over here to the new world to chop down trees to make their own homes, to learn from and fight off Native Americans upon whose sacred land they encroached...hey, let's not forget these folks!
Remember when Castro unloaded the mental defectives and prisoners on US?
Various kings and governments from Europe did that long before Fidel.

Most of the ordinary people who came from England, say, had their crimes branded onto their hands.  Now those might be considered wretched and possibly dangerous.
Or were they?

I'm glad my ancestors, those teeming masses, got here. It must have been a hard trip and what was waiting for them was no picnic. No streets lined with gold. No free land, but a land of the free.
That's what my ancestors, my assorted relatives wanted!

Thank you for coming here, for facing all those trials and tribulations!
Thank you, homeless tempest toss'd!

You did the right thing.
But I'm glad none of you could read the English words at the base of Liberty Enlightening the World.
Best not go there.

Thanks for everything.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Thank yous

On a game show this morning, in honor of October being Breast Cancer awareness month, all the women in the audience were breast cancer survivors or those who supported them through their trials. I know how hard it is to be there for someone fighting cancer, so I was hoping everybody would win something. But when the women were given the opportunity to salute people on TV for the whole viewing audience to see, they thanked their doctors and nurses and therapists and family and their supporters. Made me think.

There are some people I need to thank for lots of things.

First, I have a little story. Back in 1987, with Elyse born and me pregnant with a month or more to go, I started bleeding.  Having lost three babies already, I called my doctor and all he could say was "Call 911" over and over in a panic. Well, we didn't have 911 yet and my husband was somewhere doing a side job. All I remembered was part of the customer's last name and that the street had some kind of water in it.
I called 411 and got a live person after awhile. I have no idea what her name is, but she performed a small miracle. I told her the circumstances. I told her the town and the partial surname I remembered, and the fact that the street had some kind of water in the name.
God bless her to this day.
She found a phone number. The street was Running Brook or something like that, the town was right.
I thanked her profusely and called the number. I got the answering machine, but luckily, the message got through out loud, my husband heard it and, though half an hour or more away, he started home.

But there's more.
I was getting very shaky. I had my 14 month old running around, I feared I was going to miscarry, so I called my mother who said she was on her way and I called my neighbor across the street, Laurie Hazen. By this time, I was about crazy because the bleeding didn't stop.  Laurie had her toddler at home, but her husband was home, so she dropped everything and came over the calm me down.
Completely selfless, she came to help me when I really needed it.
I don't know if I ever truly got to thank her, so here it is now.
Thanks Laurie.

Mom came, took Elyse home with her. She had a nursery set up in her house, so all was good there. Husband came home...must have broken every speed limit...but he was there for us. We got to the hospital. Baby was coming.
Oh, did I mention it was a few days before Christmas???

The doctors tried to keep the baby from being born. We had loads of tests, were her lungs developed enough? Amniocentesis. No amniotic fluid left to test! This kid was done cooking!

Karyn was born Christmas Eve.
She was perfect, except her fingerprints weren't quite in there. They eventually showed up. is my thank you. I wish that operator could know how much she did for our family. I know my neighbor will read this and laugh, but it deserved to be written.
There are other people in my life who also deserve my gratitude, but that will have to come another day.

It is never too late to say "Thank you."