Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson

So the King of Pop has died, at the relatively young age of 50. Pop is not my music, so I was never a big fan myself, but my girls loved him when they were young, and tonight, driving home in the sweltering heat, I turned from NPR to a pop station and listened to several songs from when he was still quite young. Whatever else he was, Michael Jackson was incredibly talented, there's no doubt about it. He was an adorable little boy with an amazing voice, and there was so much energy and promise and yes, sweetness, in those early songs.

But somewhere along the way, in spite of his incredible talent, something went terribly wrong. I'm not going to speculate on his weirdness, either what caused it or how it manifested itself. His psychopathology did not negate his amazing talent. But it was a bizarre combination, all that talent and all that psychopathology. About ten years ago I was doing a psych eval on a 7 year old boy, and he made a comment that captured the tragedy of Michael Jackson's life very eloquently. This was a very anxious little 7 year old, and I was asking him what kind of things scared him. Thunder, of course. Darkness. Things that go bump in the night.

"Anything else?"
I asked.

He hesitated.

"It's OK, " I said, "you can tell me."

"Well," he said, looking up at me..."Michael Jackson...Michael Jackson really scares me" .

Yeah. Despite all that amazing talent.

So incredibly sad.

Cross posted at Talking to Myself

Saturday, June 20, 2009


(My folks never really stopped my from reading what I wanted. Even if they ended up scratching their heads over some of my choices. I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and everything I could find on the war before I was even out of high school. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the war was about a third over before the United States was even in it.)

London, Coventry, Warsaw, Krakow, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Caen, Cherborg, Carentan, Stalingrad, Leningrad, Kiev, countless villages in the Ukraine alone, Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Bastogne, Nanking, Singapore, Manila, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki: a partial list of European and Asian cities wholly or partially destroyed during World War II. Whole populations displaced or worse; caught between the hammer and the anvil when their villages were captured before they could escape. Except for the Japanese Americans forced into relocation camps for the duration of the war most Americans slept safely in their beds. No bombs, no artillery shells, no tanks, not even blackouts for most of this nation. Worry yes, for sons, brothers, husbands, fathers serving overseas but we were safe. Safely buffered by two great oceans.

We’ve been watching the seventies PBS series “The World at War” again. Over and over I’m reminded how lucky this country has been and that too many of us just don’t realize it. Perhaps too many of us have never realized it. The United States not only came out of the Second World War on the winning side; this country emerged virtually unscathed. Sorry, a few shells fired at Fort Stevens on the northern Oregon coast and a few balloon born incendiary bombs on the southern Oregon coast just don’t cut it. These were the only places in the continental United States to come under enemy fire during the war. Yes, freighters were sunk in sight of eastern coast communities just after Pearl Harbor. Some hadn’t realized that they needed to ditch the lights already. Other were back lit by the lights of coastal cities in a country that hadn’t caught up with a world that had been at war for over two years.

Yes, our industrial might helped win the war. And we shipped what we could to the Soviet Union. But, the convoy losses didn’t even out until the middle of ’43. By then the Russians had rebuilt and rearmed and were on not only on the offensive but driving the Germans back. And what the Germans hadn't destroyed as they advanced in '41 and '42 they destroyed as they retreated.

While Europe and the Soviet Union were faced with rebuilding their cities, burying their dead and cleaning up the wreckage of battle after battle our cities and industrial infrastructure were virtually untouched. The Europeans rebuilt cities and buried their dead. We bought new cars and refrigerators and as memories dimmed and those who fought aged and died we somehow convinced ourselves that we were blessed by providence and deserved our good fortune. That we had some special immunity or grace simply because we were AMERICANS.

To hear our side tell it in the history classes America won the war single handed. I suspect the Russian history books have the same bias. They certainly deserve a little more credit than the Cold War granted them. They managed to survive Stalin and the Germans. No mean feat that. I suspect the British history books might be a little more balanced; after all the western allies turned the island into a floating supply depot and the biggest damned aircraft carrier the world is ever going to see.

Now we’re watching Big Pharma, Big Insurance, the lobbyists, the talking heads, a bunch of gray haired suits and our own fears feed the centrifugal forces that separate us from each other instead of bringing us together.

Goddess, pass the chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. Like Lisa, I swear I'm working on candy but this just wouldn't go away, in spite of liberal infusions of chocolate.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Another One for the Books

Okay. I'm not doing a very good job of writing that "candy" post. I swear, I'm going to work on it tonight.

But, once again, I found an article that ripped my gut.

Try this one on for size:

Cancer Patient Tells Of Rip In Safety Net.

I'm hear to tell you, folks...if one woman dies, or even suffers unduly, because her insurance company rescinded her policy when she tried to make a claim...

That's one woman--one human being--too many.

Which is the biggest pile of bullshit here: that an insurance company unnecessarily delayed a woman's cancer treatment even though her doctors begged them to let the claim go through?

Or that the hospital was going to force her to put down a $30,ooo deposit for life-saving surgery if she was uninsured?

When did we as a culture make the decision to subscribe to the rule of survival of the richest?

Tell me again that the health care "industry" (that very word should give an indication of how skewed our perception of health CARE has become) in the United States of America hasn't been completely poisoned by the worship of the almighty dollar.

Tell me again that this country isn't in desperate need of drastic health care/insurance reform.

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Cringe TV"

I promise--I AM going to meet Mary's challenge to post about candy. But I came across this article on NPR and I think it is spot on. It has to do with the sensational popularity of what the author calls "cringe tv"--the kind of stuff that makes you cringe when you watch it. The most visible example of this genre, currently, is TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus 8," whose audience expanded exponentially when the title couple began experiencing very public marital problems.

The article is definietely worth commenting on or even posting on.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Candy Coated Memories, and they're not all sweet

When I was a kid, the only times that candy was allowed in our home were Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. At Christmas, my mother made the candy. The divinity was the purest of white and had a a softly crusty surface that yielded to an interior that just seemed to dissolve in a mouthful of sweet bliss. Her divinity had the same effect on me that Scooby snacks had on my favorite cartoon dog. Her fudge was heavy and creamy. Two pieces were enough to teach this budding chocoholic the meaning of too rich. The bourbon balls I never cared for until I was older. To tell the truth, mixing paraffin into food turned me off more than the taste of the bourbon. I couldn't get over eating wax.

That is, until Halloween came around and candy wax vampire fangs were a standard 60s treat in my neighborhood. I loved those things. The good ones dripped red when you got down to the fangs. (I've had a vampire fascination going on since before I read Dracula.) The best part of Halloween for me was sorting out the loot after I got home. I was one of those kids that had to rank their candy. At the top of the heap were full sized candy bars, rare even when I was a kid. Next came the mini chocolate bars. I had a particular fondness for Three Musketeers. Candy Corn and Smarties were somewhere in the middle. At the absolute bottom of the heap were those chewy peanut butter things wrapped in orange or black paper. The paper never fully came off and they didn't really taste like peanut putter. Plus they took forever to chew and stuck to cavities. When all I had left was the peanut butter, it was almost time for Thanksgiving and pies, so I didn't mind throwing them away. Now, on Halloween, I only give away the mini chocolate bars to honor the kid I once was.

Easter was jelly bean heaven. The red and purple ones were my favorites. Orange came next. Black was at the bottom of the heap. I've never gotten the appeal of licorice. Black just isn't a good color for foods, unless you can get some black truffles, the earthy fungus kind, not the chocolate ganache kind.

As soon as I could earn money of my own, being able to buy a candy bar was a thrill. That's a problem with making candy or sweets associated only with fun or special occasions. The presence of candy can then make any occasion special. Rough day? Here, have a Snickers and have a little fun. You deserve it. Let it make up for whatever slough you had to crawl through today. It essentially transfers emotions to foods, where they simply do not belong.

A healthy diet gives the body food it needs to satisfy nutritional needs, provide the body with sufficient energy and just as importantly, provide the body with pleasure. With a lifetime of obesity and yo-yo dieting behind me, candy is more than just an occasional treat for me. It's an issue and a sore spot. At times, it's been something I've regarded with fear. Other times, it's been the visual symbol of what I though were my failings.Every time I ate a piece of candy as a child, I heard that if I simply had the willpower to leave it alone, I could have a better life. Not only that, if I chose to eat candy, it meant that I would never have what other people consider a normal life -- friends, boyfriends, any kind of social life, cute clothes, decent jobs. As an adult, I've heard that I wouldn't be treated rudely, be ignored, earn less money, be charged more for clothing and travel, have things thrown and shouted at me or even be regarded as less than normal if I wouldn't just stuff my fat face with sweets.

There's a problem with that. I lost 135 pounds with a diet that included candy and other sweet treats. To lose the weight, I had to learn that food was just food, and that deriving pleasure from eating was just fine. In fact, it was excellent. When I learned to take the emotional weight off certain foods, they became foods I could enjoy every now and then. I didn't require food to have special events or pleasure in my life. When I could quit demonizing sweets, I could take the time to savor them and know my body well enough to know when enough was enough. For me, it took a diet, specifically the right diet for me, to learn this. For other people, any diet has just the opposite effect.

It's a difficult line to tread. I'm working out the answers for myself with every meal, every snack and every drink. I've had to learn what should make up the biggest part the food that I eat and what I only really want and need every now and then. That can change almost daily if I really listen to my body. It requires a lot of attention, and I'm not going to pretend that I have the answers for everyone.

There's one thing I'm absolutely sure of though. If you want your kid to have food issues, weight problems (whether it's not enough or too much) and body image issues that last long past childhood, put them on a diet. Make your child's body proportions the most important thing in their life. Demonize all sweets and fun foods. Make them so taboo, they become the most desired thing in your kids' world. Personally, I'd rather just let a candy bar be a candy bar.

I Wanted Candy!

Raising children in small town America allowed parents to allow us freedoms. As a young child, my friend Elaine and I would dress up my old tuxedo cat Mac in baby clothes, lay him gently in the old baby carriage, cover the opening with mosquito netting and then we'd walk 'up town'.

For his part, Mac just went to sleep. He was a good old cat.

'Up town' was Danvers Square ... a wonderful place for young kids ... a movie theater, pizza parlor, Five & Dime, Woolworth's, Danvers Savings Bank, the VFW and a host of other interesting spots we could walk through and receive 'ohs and ahs' over our baby.

Our favorite stop was Woolworth's because even though the lady behind the lunch counter knew we had a cat in the baby carriage she never shooed us away, she simply made the necessary "ohs and ahs" and took our order for vanilla cokes. Occasionally we'd have enough money to add a cookie to the order, but usually it was just the coke.

We'd sit quietly and sip slowly making those sodas last as long as we could and then stroll the aisles of the store, uneven, dull wooden floors creaking and squeaking beneath our summer tennies. Woolworth's had it all, from Evening In Paris par fume to Nancy Drew mystery stories ... it was a wonderful place to pass the time.

One day Elaine had enough money to buy some candy. We finished our drinks and strolled the store, eventually arriving at the cashiers counter. The woman behind the counter was very nice ... she rang up Elaine's small purchase, thanked her and looked expectantly at me. "I'm not buying anything," I said. She smiled at us and we left the store and began the half mile walk back to my house.

We were just out of the square -- "I wanted candy too." as I pulled a box of Jujubes out of the carriage. I'd tucked them in under the mat while I was making over Mac. The look she gave me said it all and she simply held her hand out offering me a piece of her Hershey bar. I accepted and sheepishly put the Jujubes back in the carriage.

Once home, we undressed Mac and let him escape to parts unknown. Elaine headed home to her house and I went to my room. There I sat, alone and guilty. It was time to do the right thing. I didn't tell my mother or my father what I had done, but after a while I did ask if I could meet Elaine and go for a walk. The response was just as usual, "yes, but be careful and be home early."

I headed 'up town' on my own, stolen candy in my pocket. I remember thinking how embarrassed I was that I was going to have to return the candy and how awful it was of me to steal it in the first place.

Standing outside the door of the store, building courage, I wondered if the cashier lady would call the police! I had committed such a crime! Finally after stalling as long as I could, I marched in and right up to the cashier. Sliding the box of Jujubes across the counter. "I have to return these to you. I took them without paying. I'm very sorry." And I was so humiliated to have done something that terrible.

There are people in the world who know just how to handle a situation and she was one of them. "Oh, I'm sure you just forgot to pay for them. Let me just put the nickel in the register for you. You pay me back the next time you come in."

I thanked her, took the box of candy and sniveling, walked home again. I couldn't eat that candy if I'd tried. I felt so guilty and humiliated. Later I gave the box of candy to my brother. "Where did you get this?" "Woolworth's!" And that was that.

The very next time Elaine and I walked 'up town' I sipped cold water while Elaine had her vanilla coke and then I paid back the nickel I owed the cashier. For years I didn't tell anyone that story until I was busy trying to raise and teach my own children some of life's lessons.

The kindness that cashier extended to me ... and the lesson she taught me ... all without fanfare or fuss has never been forgotten.

And yeah, I know ... while I was making up for stealing, I was lying to my parents.

Cross posted @

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Challenge! Let's Write About Candy!

My Love Affair with Candy

I inherited a sweet tooth. A double whammy sweet tooth, as each of my parents are Irish and there is something about the Irish and their sweets. My father would pour three spoonfuls of sugar into this coffee each morning. We had to watch him, as he grew older he tended to loose count. Every evening, after dinner and seated side by side in their Electric Chairs (as my mother refers to them, as the seat raises to help you out), watching a western – as my father loved Westerns – my Mother would whip out her box of chocolates and offer the box to my Dad, who would take two, then Mom would take two and if you happened to be there, you would then be offered the box and you could take two too.

Every Christmas, Easter, Mothers Day,and Birthday she receives several boxes of confectionary delights, and at two pieces apiece, they last awhile. Now that Pop is gone, they last longer, but I think she now has three…one for him!

Bourbon Balls are my Mom's favorite. As a child I remember the Rebbecca Ruth bourbon ball’s box were housed in a round container, the balls stacked on top of each other. Mom would “hide” the box high up in her closet. As a little kid, I would push a chair to the closet and find that box, extract one and gnaw the chocolate then dispose of the bourbon soaked cream candy center. It was yucky back then to my child taste buds. Now a days, the more bourbon, the better!

When I was a kid there was a corner store in each neighborhood. The store would have a soda machine outside the store on the porch and on the inside were the basics one needed if one did not want nor need to make a trip to the A&P downtown. Milk, bread, canned veggies, and an ice cream cooler, a Coca Cola cooler in the back that held those 6oz. glass bottles and a large glass deli case with sandwich meats and where you could also have one made for you.

But the big attraction, the only reason I ever went into the store was for the candy!

The cash register sat on a wooden counter that held the gallon jars of pickles and pickled eggs. Behind the counter, running all along the back and around the window sill were the candy jars. Full of penny candy! Hot balls, pixie sticks, cinnamon balls, licorice, chocolate gold coins , chick-o-sticks, bazooka bubble gum, smarties, wax bottles, jaw breakers…everything you can imagine. The candy bars were displayed under the penny candy. Baseball cards, Red Hots, Mounds, Hersey bars, Zagnuts, Peppermint Patties,Good-N-Plenty, candy necklace, Pay Days, Sugar Daddy sucker, Necco’s, cigar bubble gum, Slo pokes, candy cigarettes -some even puffed out smoke!, red vine licorice twists, Boston Baked Beans, Turkish Taffy - in strawberry , vanilla, chocolate & banana which you would put in your freezer and then crack on the table making it split into pieces, Neapolitan coconut slices, Heath bars....I think that's about it.

Anytime you found a penny or -The God's are Smiling!- a nickel, we would run down to the store and slap down our loot, choose and point.

There was one candy bar that cost more than a nickel (remember, this is when dinosaurs roamed the earth). The Blue Monday, the ultimate of all candy bars, cost a dime! It was a large (back in the day I remember it being much larger than it is today) chunk of pulled cream candy covered in a semi bittersweet chocolate made locally. It was so sweet, I could not eat it all at once. It came in a shiny silver wrapper with blue lettering. You would slit one end open and when you could take no more, you would slide it back in and save it for later.

It’s a wonder I have any teeth left. I still love a Blue Monday every now and then and lament they are smaller than before. But rejoice that they still taste the same.

Like Childhood.

(Cross posted in JAHG)

Special Savings With Coupon....

I came across this in the NY Times. Thought I'd post it, just in case anyone is interested. Hurry! Offer expires July 31, 2009!!


Just wondering if we're all on the same PLANET...!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I love this blog and read it faithfully, even if I don't comment. I feel like I have little to contribute as most my blood sweat and tears goes into my other Blog, that for some silly reason I have taken the challenge to write an entry daily.

But I have a suggestion for all of us. Just a suggestion because I stumbled across this Blog and loved it. They are doing something similar to us, but they are throwing up a topic for discussion and then each one writes an essay.

A little like Sunday Scribblings.

It is called The Collective and this is the link. Take a look and then let our collective selves see if this may be a way for everyone to become involved again!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cats Update

Someone, awhile ago, wondered what had become of the stray cats I had written about last June...

Mila...Miraculously recovered after being run over by a car in the parking lot of the cafe, she showed up a month or so after the accident, seeming not too much the worse for wear.

But then, not long after her miraculous reappearance, she just...disappeared. We suspect she was spirited away by one of the new tenants of the building next door. That is my fervent hope, anyway...

Orangie...has a bit more complicated story...

Searching the archives for my original story about Orangie, I was surprised to see that it was almost a year ago that I wrote about him. Since then, I'd seen him only rarely, and briefly. And when he saw me, he'd run away. There was a stretch of several months when I saw him not at all. I wondered if he had become the "coyote lunch" I had so feared, or if our horrific winter had been too much for him.


About three weeks ago, he reappeared. Once again, he began spending a great deal of time in my yard. Sleeping on the fence, creeping out from under the bushes. Looking in the windows. Still, when I talked to him or tried to get near him, he'd run away.

But I knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't at least put out some food for him. Though my past efforts in that direction had met with no success.

I put a bowl of kibbles out on the shed deck (my shed is about ten yards from the house, and it has its own little "deck" in front of it.) To my delight, I caught him eating from the bowl. And it seemed as if he had actually been waiting for it. In the next couple of days, he came to the bowl several times.

One evening, I decided to kick his dinner up a notch...I added a scoop of canned food to the kibbles and mixed it around. Then I sat on the deck outside my back door to see what would happen.

He ate. He bathed. He laid down next to the bowl and took a little cat nap. I talked quietly to him. Told him how pretty he was. Asked if he had enjoyed his meal.

Then he did something extraordinary.

He looked me in the eye. Started meowing.

And walked right up to me. Meowing all the way.

With a minimum of coaxing, he sat down next to me. Leaned on me. And rubbed his head on my back.

As if to say, "Thank you, lady. That was really good."

I petted him and made much of him for about fifteen minutes. Then he wandered back to the bowl, finished off his dinner, and went off on his "rounds."

Leaving me astounded. And grateful.

With a tear in my eye for the sweet cat who has had a hard go of it for the past year. But hasn't completely forgotten how to trust. And love.

His name may not ever be "William." But if I have anything to say about it, he will not always be homeless.

orangie dinner

Saturday, June 6, 2009


And I’m a week late. We’ve been getting the south west section of the back worked up……..finally. This has been hanging fire for several years. And frankly, if I was working full time it would still be waiting. So, I keep telling myself that everything does really happen for a reason.

Then I came down with a summer cold to make things even more interesting. No bad symptoms, just a drippy nose and an overwhelming urge to crawl under the covers and not come out for a week or so. Believe me, I’m not used to falling asleep in my chair in the middle of the day.

Anyway, outo f the back and into the front. This little lady was the first rose to bloom this year. It’s a miniature in a pot on the front steps. The contrast between the rose blossom and the blue and white planter behind it works really well.

For a little rose the fragrance from this one really packs a punch; especially when it’s been in the sun for awhile. We’ve gotten all our roses from a nursery up the valley. They specialize in the own root roses. In other words the rose you see is the same as the root, not a graft. Two years ago this little beauty was literally a stick.