Sibling revelry

I may have mentioned in a previous post that I’m an only child; my history is absent the dramas of siblings one-upping each other, swiping each other’s toys or clothes, falling out over a girl/boyfriend, fighting over who-did-what-to-whom. In a word, my childhood was boring by all obvious measures.

Although I feign a yawn when Hubby and his two brothers retell the same childhood stories we wives have been hearing for lo! these many years, I’m a little envious deep-down. All last week, my husband and his brothers engaged in sibling “revelry,” laughing themselves silly over secret “Apple Club” meetings, being chased around the house by Grandma Sadie, late night noshing with their dad, or engaging in various exploits with a neighborhood full of mischievous chums. But to say that their storytelling is only about enjoying a mutual laugh would be to sell it way too short.

Reams have been written on the importance of storytelling. The drawings on the caves affirm that it’s an occupation as old as time itself,  an integral part of our eternal quest for understanding ourselves and the world around us. My husband and his brothers, like most of us, are still putting together the jigsawed pieces of their personhood. Our parents’ generation—and I believe this is true across ethnic boundaries—was far more private, even secretive, about “personal” matters; little of significance was discussed in the presence of the kids. Thus, there will always be some question marks about what shaped them and why they behaved as or did what they did. The nature of our speculation changes over time, given our vastly different trajectories, but the curiosity never ceases. The storytelling helps.



So… why blog?

One of the most delightful, and, perhaps, a tad intimidating, aspects of blogging is exposing your work to a literal world of other bloggers. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to see that  your posts are being viewed on other continents, and to be able to correspond with so many good writers, worldwide, who have fascinating experiences, observations,  and information to share. As the old maxim goes, “The sky’s the limit.”

Years and years ago, when I was teaching writing at a small junior college, no one imagined that writers would have this wide-open window on the world. We emphasized the importance of cogent  presentation, using legitimate research to support hypotheses, and, of course, adherence to the structural “rules.” Don’t get me started—I will NEVER give up the Oxford comma!

As educators, we knew that being able to speak and write with clarity and grace could shape our students’ success not only in other academic disciplines, but also in the world beyond the campus. How many times, later in my multi-layered career, did I hear that “so-and-so” was a capable worker but just couldn’t express him/herself well? Being articulate, in writing and speech, matters.

Back in the day, if you aspired to be a writer, the pathways were somewhat limited: journalism; advertising or public relations; or business/technical/scientific writing. I started out in the first, moved to the second, and then the third. For much of my work life, I longed for the time and inspiration to write whatever I wanted to, driven not by the illusion that I had anything remarkable to say, but by my own need for a creative outlet. Judging by all of the blogs I’ve come to enjoy, I’m not the only one.

Much as I might deride the way we have become slaves to our electronic leashes, it is precisely the electronic universe that has given me and many fellow bloggers the opportunity to communicate with, reach out to, learn from, or laugh with, just about anyone. That’s fairly miraculous, isn’t it?

There’s a blog out there for just about every interest and taste—art, photography, travel, food,  parenting, style, faith, and that fascinating form we now call “flash fiction.” Now that we are #retired, we have time to enjoy them. Now and then, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite posts from other bloggers with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

First suggestion:  Take a stroll with restless jo.


Photo: Looking out over the Androscoggin in Oxford County, Maine.

Oscar, mother, and those jelly jars

I’ve loved The Importance of Being Earnest, one of dear Oscar Wilde’s funniest, since we staged the show in high school. Many of its epigrammatic quips have stayed with me all these years.  It’s possible that I like this one best:

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.
No man does. That’s his.

The value of Oscar Wilde’s epigrams cannot be underscored. Their essential truth, well cloaked in satire, sticks like chewing gum under the dairy bar counter. They grow with you. When I was 16, I thought this was just a funny line. When I was 21 and trying to assert my independence, being “like my mother” was the last thing on earth I wanted. When my own kids came along, I wondered if they’d be like me. By the time I was 40, I began to hope I was at least somewhat like her. And now, of course, I am—at least in one notable way.

Which is to say, my kitchen in fully of jelly jars. Specifically, Bonne Maman (“good mother”) jelly jars. Like Clark Griswold’s Christmas bonus, they’re the gift that keeps on giving. Whereas my mother saved commercial jelly jars for her own wondrous jams and preserves, I use the Bonne Maman jars for everything from baking soda to chopped onion to leftover sweet potatoes. I find they’re ideal not just because I’m a “brand loyalist,” but because the mouth is fairly wide, the lids are an adorable red-and-white check, you can easily see what’s in them, and they stack. More than that, Bonne Maman jams take me back to June in Provence, where Françoise, our charming hostess at Hôtel l’Hermitage, at breakfast served baskets of just picked strawberries and cherries from the orchards around Mt. Ventoux. Plus, as you’ve probably discovered, if it’s French or Italian, I’m in.

Recycling is always a good thing, and since many of us are trying to make the switch from plastic storage to glass, why not try some Bonne Maman—non-GMO, by the way—and put some of these great little jars to handy new uses?

Bon Maman






Stepping it up

Nobody talks about just going for a walk any more. Now, we talk about steps.

Early this afternoon, I set up the Fitbit my son gave me for my birthday, per my request. This after saying that I would NEVER, under any circumstances, wear “one of those things” that turn steps, and all that other stuff, like drinking water and how long you stand or sit, into a veritable obsession. Yes, I ate my words.

What pushed me over the edge was that the kids gave Hubby a Fitbit for Christmas, and he took to it like the proverbial duck to water. Before long, he was announcing the receipt of badges with silly names not for meeting the goals he’d set, but for far exceeding them. Months later, competitive fellow that he is, he’s still setting that gizmo on fire. I clearly had to “step” up to the plate. Why should he get all the attention?

I’d been using my phone to track steps for several years, but it’s a pain to carry the phone with you constantly, and beyond annoying if you forget it and then don’t get credit for your efforts. The last straw was the day I left the phone in my purse, put the purse in the grocery cart, then spent an hour tramping up and down the supermarket aisles, only to discover later that my phone was totally oblivious. It could almost hear it saying, “Sure, you walked 7,000 steps today. Where’s the proof?”

That’s when I crossed over and asked for the Fitbit. I’m happy to report that I exceeded my admittedly modest goal of 4000 steps today. I know that’s not nearly good enough. We’ll see.


Photo: My cousin Liz getting her steps in on Old Orchard Beach, ME.


Islands in the laguna

For a daydreaming Pisces, a novel with a sense of place as strong as any of its characters is irresistible. Writers from the American south have always been very good at this—Gail Godwin, Pat Conroy, Flannery O’Connor, and the like.

Place is typically very important to ongoing mystery series are as well. My personal favorites are Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti series, set in Venice, Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels, which take place in and around Montreal, and the Commissario Montalbano series by Andrea Camillero, set in Sicily.  Each of these series is far beyond a collection of simple detective stories; they are highly literate, with both principle and supporting characters who are impeccably fleshed out, who grow and change as the series progress. You get to know, respect, and probably love them as you read one after another. Tip: If you are interested in any of these, do read them in order!

I’ve just finished Earthly Remains, the latest in the Commissario Brunetti series. The story, which takes place on Sant’Erasmo and Burano, islands in the Venetian lagoon, brought back some lovely memories of our 2012 excursion to Murano, Burano, and Torcello.  I’m sharing those memories for my own selfish pleasure as much as for yours.

(1) If I were doing the trip again, I would skip Murano. If you read this book, you’ll find out why.

(2) Both Brunetti and Montalbano have been transformed into fabulously entertaining TV series—the first is, ironically, a German production and the second, an Italian one. You can enjoy them in the US, as well as many other European offerings, with a modestly priced subscription to the streaming service MHZ Choice.


Lipstick, part deux…

If you read my post last week on lipstick, more specifically RED lipstick, you’ll recall my mentioning that some women wear it very well, and that the “other” Angela, my hair stylist, is one of them. I thought you’d get a kick out of this photo of us after today’s hair appointment. Note my pale lips versus her vibrant ones. Not coincidentally, her salon is appropriately, and cleverly, named RED.