Thursday, July 30, 2009

Welcome Baby Jack!

This is my latest great-nephew (I now have 25 counting nieces & nephews plus greats). His name is Jack and he is the second grandson of my late brother Jack, and the first son of my nephew Mark. In fact he looks just like Mark when he was born. Welcome, baby Jack.

This is baby Jack with his proud daddy, my nephew Mark:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rest in Peace, Evelyn

I received the news this morning that Evelyn Martinez left the earth early today after a long, long battle with cancer. She died at home with her husband and children at her side. Evelyn was one of those people I did not know well, nor see often but every encounter was intense.

We first met through an online message group. We'd had some salty exchanges and I suggested we meet for breakfast which we did at Sailor Stan's out on Rocky Neck. During breakfast we talked a lot about our backgrounds in psychotherapy and social work. We had similar experiences but with very different populations. It was the kind of meeting in which we got so into our subject matter that we didn't get much of a chance to talk about ourselves. After that we ran into each other from time to time around town and continued an online relationship that was always interesting. You could not find two people who came from more opposing perspectives and yet who both cared deeply about the same issues.

Though I often disagreed with her approach, I almost always respected Evelyn's intentions. She was deeply compassionate and generous, characteristics which I admire. Last year when Mark died she was incredibly kind and generous with her support. It meant a lot to me. I have kept several of her emails from that time and still revisit them when the hurt is too much with me.

Evelyn had a joie de vivre that was just astonishing. She loved every minute of her life, she adored her children and grandchildren, and, even after all the years of marriage, was crazy-nuts-in-love with her husband Bob. It seemed she poured her passion for life into everything she did --- cooking, household projects, community activities, just life. She had an earthy, salty sense of humor that sometimes stunned me and she took pleasure in telling the most outrageous stories always with good humor and that spark of life that was so much essentially her.

Her husband Bob said that Evelyn believed that life was not about running from the storm but about learning to dance in the rain and that is the Evelyn I will hold in my heart and memories. Storms are unavoidable --- even a six year storm called cancer. But she danced and it is Evelyn's rain dance that will be remembered. Rest in peace, dear Evelyn. You gave the world great joy.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In praise of team work....

When I started work on, the city's new tourism web site, I knew I couldn't do it without the help of my two favorite photographers, Jay Albert and Joe Ciaramitaro. Now that the site is live and feedback is coming in I am hearing lots of good things. But even better is the way people are offering to help!

Throughout the creation of the site I had a lot of great help from other people. Tracey Muller of Bass Rocks Ocean Inn proofed the site and called the businesses listed to verify their information. Laura Dow of the Vista Motel also helped with supplying information and fact checking. Mike Wells, the City’s IT wizard helped with the technical details.

Since the site has gone live I've had some other excellent offers. Jim Barber of JimB Media has offered to rewrite the section on Bird Watching. Since Jim is an outstanding bird-guy, this is much appreciated. He also sent a bunch of new photos for the birding page.
Then yesterday I got a phone call from David Rhinelander, the head of the Gloucester Historical Commission, he and Pru Fish have offered to supply information on Gloucester history. They will send photos too that show some of out historic homes and oldest neighborhoods. I am so looking forward to having that on the site!

This is exciting to me because I love Gloucester and I hope people all over the country (and the world) will see our site and want to visit. Only problem is, like me, they may not be able to leave!

If there are any Gloucester web masters out there who want to add our new logo to their web site, please feel free to grab it from this blog or email me at: to get one. Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ever since I moved to Gloucester about 15 years ago I have loved it. I always call it my home-town-of-choice. I am in love with everything about this city and when I'm gone from it I can't wait to get back and get that first whiff of sea-air. I've always wanted to do something special to share this beautiful place with the rest of the world and if I could promote Gloucester in the process, so much the better.

So a couple months ago I was handed an excellent opportunity. Due to budget cuts, the city had lost their Tourism Director and they were looking for a volunteer to help with the Tourism Commission's web site. I raised my hand. But, as I worked on the site, I developed this dream --- this dream of a site tht would be light, bright, clean and beautiful that would really show off my beloved Gloucester.

I knew I had an advantage because I have to terrific friends to call on --- Jay Albert of Cape Ann Images and Joe Ciaramitaro of Good Morning Gloucester. Both of these guys love Gloucester so much and have done a spectacular job of documenting the city on their blogs through their photographs. I told them what I wanted to do --- I wanted to re-brand Gloucester through the Tourism site. And I asked for their help through their photography. They both agreed to donate their artistry for the cause.

The first thing I knew was that I wanted the site to be blue and white ---- like the skies full of clouds and the sea full of waves. I sorted through the hundreds and hundreds of photos supplied by Jay and Joe and paid special attention to the ones that were blue and white, blue and white, blue and white.

Of course there are lots of other colors here and that is shown in their photos but when I decided to design a logo I knew it had to be blue and white. Also, as part of the branding, I wanted a catchy URL. I had owned the URL for several years and never did anything with it. I proposed the new design and the new URL to the Tourism Commission and they approved.

So, with Joe and Jay's help I set to work. The new site went live today with the help of Mike Wells, the IT guy for the city. You can see it at it's traditional site: and it should be live at soon.

So that's the story of Gloucester Tourism Commission's new web site. It will be evolving but I hope people will find it attrctive and perhaps it will entice a few people to visit our city. The day I met with the Tourism Commission to talk about the site we met on the third floor of City Hall. I gave my presentation, nswered questionsand then, when my part was done, I left. As I walked down the steps of City Hall where the 5000 names of lost fishermen are stenciled on the walls I couldn't stop thinking about what a unique and precious place this City is to me --- as I hope it will be to all who take the time to visit Gloucester.

I Love Gloucester (dot com).

Thanks for reading and big thanks to Jay and Joe, two sons of Gloucester who love her passionately.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Peruvian Lilies

My sister Lisa sent these to me. They are called Peruvian Lilies and there are a hundred of them in the most beautiful shades of pink, coral and violet. I just had to share them!

Thank you, Lisa.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mary Magdalene

I remembered today that this is the feast day of Mary Magdalene, one of my favorite saints. I wrote this blog entry in February 2006 but today seems like a good time to re-publish it.

There is an article in this week’s New Yorker Magazine about Mary Magdalene — 2000 years and she’s still in the news. What an outrageous lady! I have a special fondness for Mary Magdalene that dates back to seventh grade when Sister Valentina (honest, that was her name) caught me goofing off with some boys and scolded me saying that she didn’t want me turning into a little Mary Magdalene. At the time I had no idea what she meant by that but the mystery of it stayed with me. Considering what “goofing off” consisted of when I was in seventh grade, compared with what goes on with girls today, I was in precious little danger of that but then, at that time, the Church still considered the Magdalene a whore. In 1969, when I was already in college and better prepared to do something naughty, the Church changed things. Mary Magdalene was declared "a saint and follower of Christ" but no longer a prostitute, reformed or otherwise. But nobody believed that.

I love Mary Magdalene. I love the beautiful paintings of her by the Great Masters and I love the stories in all the books about her from Margaret Starbird’s romantic Woman with the Alabaster Jar to Dan Brown’s somewhat convoluted DaVinci Code. I love the image of her with her long golden hair and her loving expression gazing up at the dying Christ. It is Mary the Mother of God we see in the Pietas, the heart-broken mother holding the broken body of her beloved child in her arms. But it is Mary Magdalene who weeps for his suffering and pain, who keeps watch at his grave, and who is the first to see him risen. I am far from a Biblical literalist but I love the imagery and the stories.

Anyone familiar with art history cannot help but notice the similarity of paintings of Mary Magdalene to paintings of Venus/Aphrodite. Always they are beautiful, semi-clothed or nude with masses of brilliant hair. In mythology Venus was married to Vulcan, a deformed and homely but powerful man. But she was a notorious ho having affairs with, well, just about everyone. She produced a lot of beautiful babies by a lot of beautiful men. The Gospels aren’t big on baby-making. The only two conceptions I can recall are those of the BVM, which was miraculous and so therefore no fun, and that of her cousin Elizabeth who conceived John the Baptiste, also kind of miraculously, in her old age. Other than that children are pretty much missing in the Gospels except in general groupings. In fact it was Jesus who commanded his Apostles to leave their families and their children to follow him. Something the family-values folks seem able to overlook.

So given all that, is it any wonder that somebody in the Gospels had to have a whiff of sexuality about them? And, since positive sexuality was pretty much the work of angels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the only sexuality that could survive was that of a reformed prostitute — even if she wasn’t.

I don’t know if Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ lover or wife or whatever but what I know is she loved him with all her heart and if her body got included in the deal, well, that’s between them. Mary loved Jesus as a mother loves a son. But the Magdalene loved him as a woman loves a man and that is a beautiful and very misunderstood thing — even after 2000 years. I’ve read all the stories about the child she is supposed to have borne him and the Merovingian dynasty and all that but I don’t really buy it. It makes for good stories and heaven knows I’m all in favor of stories.

No, I think what the Magdalene represents is passionate, devoted, unwavering love that one woman gives to one man. It is an earthy love that transcends life. I think Mary Magdalene represents something that culture has a hard time accepting, that a woman can be the perfect embodiment of love both spiritual, emotional and carnal. And that such love can be given freely and without expectation to a man who may not always be easy to love but that doesn’t matter to her. She loves him anyway. Mary Magdalene isn’t a feminist. She isn’t a goddess or the mother of a dynasty. She is a woman in love with a man.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Me & Skye & Leslie: A Tale of Three Birthdays

Last night Skye, Leslie and I had dinner at La Trattoria. It was absolutely great, I thought they were going to have to throw us out and I wish we could do it again. Skye lives in Texas now and is here for a visit. Leslie and I get together when we can but both of us tend to be busier than we really want to be most of the time. Life gets like that the longer you are around.

It was just ten years ago that Skye, Leslie and I got together for our first dinner. Though Skye and Leslie had been friends and neighbors for a long time, I was just getting to know them. They were embarking on a publishing project and invited me to be involved. They were putting together a collection of erotica and I had submitted a story. They liked the story so much that they called and suggested we get together.

Now there is a little story behind that story. I had, back then, begun a rather torrid romance with a guy I'll call Sam. Everything about Sam was absolutely luscious except for the fact that I knew he was no good. I had been warned well in advance and I threw caution to the wind anyway. He was big and tall and handsome. He played the bagpipes and had a kilt and performed in a couple of area groups. He had a reputation as a womanizer. I knew what to expect.

Our affair lasted less than a year. On a cold and rainy November night we went to hear Garnet Rogers at the me and thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead. I had met Garnet several times before and he had even helped me when I was creating the character of Baptiste for The Old Mermaid's Tale. Sam was very excited about being introduced to him. We had a wonderful time, Sam and Garnet hit it off and talked forever. Then Sam and I walked down the hill to The King's Rook for a drink and broke up. End of story.

So, I did what writers do, I wrote a story about our romance and submitted it to the anthology. I lost Sam and gained Skye and Leslie --- a better deal for sure.

Last night we tried to remember which restaurant we had that first dinner in and none of us could remember. But we discovered that night that our birthdays were close together and we were all facing 50. We wondered if women facing fifty should be writing a book of erotica.

The erotica book never happened. We had opened it to submissions and it was amazing how many of them were really dreadful. The capacity of amateur writers to make sex boring is sort of mind-numbing. But we moved on to other projects and continued as friends. Skye has written many books since then, I've written four, and Leslie has continued to design jewelry. I designed both of their web sites. Skye has published some of my stories in various anthologies she is working on. Mark always loved Skye --- even when she told him his poetry needed a lot of work.

It was a wonderful night. We talked and talked and talked. We noted that we are now facing 60 together and wonder how that will be different than 50 was. All three of us are involved in such highly creative projects that it doesn't leave us with much extra time. I wrote a piece of erotica for one of Skye's anthologies last year. Is that any way for going-on-sixty women to behave?

Skye is heading back to Texas. She gave me a picture a friend took of her in her new red cowgirl hat. I'll post it here. I just got an email from my friend Dave who is headed down to Cameron's for Sea Chantey night. He mentioned that Leslie would be there, too, and asked if I'd care to come by for a drink. I might but I'm almost finished with the last edits to the latest novel. The days seem to go by faster every year --- so much to do, so little time....

Thank God for friends....

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Harry Potter and The Lucifer Effect

L'Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of the Vatican, gave the new Harry Potter movie a thumb up last week. It said in its review that the movie deserved praise for its “clear line of demarcation between good and evil, making clear that good is right, and that in some cases this involves hard work and sacrifices.” I saw the movie on Saturday and, of course, I thought it was terrific. Naturally the movie can never do justice to the book but it is still exciting and, since I love Jim Broadbent anyway, it was great to see him as Horace Slughorn.

I also saw something else recently, the video of a lecture given at MIT by Philip Zimbardo, author of the book The Lucifer Effect. It was an excellent lecture and illuminated a lot of things that have been puzzling me for a long time, why do seemingly good people choose to do really mean and hateful things? I've often repeated Edmund Burke's famous quote that all it takes for evil to thrive is for “good” people to do nothing. This started some years ago when I was dealing with some savage attacks on the internet by anonymous posters who decided it was their right to try to do as much damage to my personal and professional life as possible. What stunned me about it was that, with one exception, I had never met any of these people and wouldn't know them if I passed them on the street. It went on for years and still does though in lesser forums.

As I tried to unravel the mystery of this no-boundaries methods of attack I started paying attention to evil behavior on a larger scale. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke I was stupefied. How could seemingly nice, normal young Americans turn into depraved torturers? And even more dumbfounding was all the defense of their behavior I began observing on internet discussion boards and news groups. People, using various screennames, defended torture --- torture! --- because they felt it was okay if the people being tortured were part of “them”.

Then the corporate financial scandals started being exposed. The Madoff scandal came to light and again I was dumbfounded by how cavalierly these people had swindled billions of dollars and destroyed the futures --- not of fellow humans but of “investors”. Zimbardo talks a lot about this in his lecture. It is worth watching.

What I have decided is that there are three levels of evil --- genuine Satanic evil which is more the product of madness than anything else. There isn't much we can do about that except fight it whenever it rears its head. But then there are two very human forms of evil: people who decide, for whatever reason, to behave in an evil way toward fellow humans. This can take the form of actual physical abuse, mental and psychological abuse, or destruction of another's way of life through greed, assuming the right to revile another, or just plain meanness. And finally there is the most discouraging form of evil: complicity, not speaking out, turning a blind eye --- doing as Edmund Burke describes, allowing evil to flourish by not wanting to get involved. Zimbardo calls it the "Evil of Inaction".

In Harry Potter we have a portrait of genuine evil in the person of Voldemort. He is genuinely evil but, as each episode unfolds we learn more about him: that he was an abandoned child, that he was picked on and ridiculed. That power became his form of revenge. But what of all the people who support and enable him? Why do they do it? Is it to feel powerful? That's usually the reason that seemingly normal people behave in evil ways. For some reason they feel belittled, looked-down-upon, vulnerable. So they attack full-force with no regard for consequences. Without the faintest clue of boundaries, going too far, becoming more evil than those they believe to be harming them.

One of the observations Zimbardo made was how people committing evil rationalize and justify their behavior. He says this is symptomatic of their deep feelings of guilt and awareness that they are doing evil but if they can justify or explain their behavior that makes it okay. The more they justify the more guilt they harbor. The more they demonize their victims, the more they expose their own demonic awareness. And, when they are too fearful or cowardly to defend what is just and good, the more they need to believe in the demonization of the other in order to assuage their own guilt.

Harry Potter 6 was a great movie and The Lucifer Effect is a potent commentary on our times. Let's hope that future generations will absorb the message that L'Osservatore Romano made, there is good and there is evil, and sometimes staying on the side of good involves sacrifice.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Triinu Confusion

I haven't been knitting in quite some time. The tendinitis and arthritis in both hands has been difficult lately and I decided to take a break and give myself some time to heal but I still read the knitting lists and sites and noticed there is something of a confusion going on which I decided to sort out. It involves a pattern called Triinu. The confusion lies in the fact that there are two very different and distinct patterns called Triinu. I'm going to list both patterns and then add a couple more to show the lace patterns involved:
1.) The Triinu Scarf --- This is featured in Nancy Bush's Knitted Lace of Estonia. It is a rectangular scarf and consists of rows of Forest of Ferns lace separated by rows of openwork. KnitPicks has a version of it in their current catalog.
2. The Triinu Vine & Leaves Shawl --- This is a triangular shawl the pattern for which is hard to find and expensive. The best price I saw given for it is $29.95, if you can locate it. It is beautiful and consists of a large leaf lace pattern combined with the traditional Falling Leaves lace pattern. Its border is a second beautiful leaf lace pattern which I'll talk about in #4. It is also very similar to the next pattern:

3. Frost Flowers & Leaves Shawl --- This is a square shwl designed by Eugene Beugler and featured in Meg Swansen's A Gathering of Lace book. It is actually very similar to the Triinu shawl except it uses the Frost Flowers lace pattern in place of the Falling Leaves Pattern.

4. Meditteranean Lace Shawl --- This shawl is also in A Gathering of Lace. It has one of the most unique shapes I have ever seen - a diamond-shaped back knit in Rose Trellis lace, with two rectangles added to create a sort-of triangle knit in the lace pattern I know as Tulip lace and all edged round in a lovely leaf lace like the Triinu Shawl.

5. Shawl of Falling Leaves and Shooting Stars --- This is my design from my book The Mermaid Shawl and other Beauties. It is a triangle shawl knit in Falling Leaves lace and Shooting Stars lace (also called Frost Flowers) and edged in a crocheted lace.

So, there you have it. The two Triinu beauties and other shawls that feature the types of lace used in them. If nothing else this certinly supports the premis of my Mermaid Shawl book, tht if you master the shapes of shawls you combine lace patterns endlessly to create new masterpieces.

Happy knitting and thanks for reading.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jesus in Gloucester: The Artwork of Lynn Runnells

As part of the research I have been involved in for Each Angel Burns, I have been reading a lot of internet blogs and discussion groups about miracles and other phenomena of Catholicism. The story is, ultimately, about a miracle and I have to be honest and say it hasn't been easy writing it. I knew what I needed to do but doing that, making the story work, and staying credible is a big challenge. These are tough times in which to write a book about miracles and yet we have never needed that more.

On one of the discussion groups there was a rather lively (that's a polite word) discussion about the Catholic tradition of using “tools”, so to speak, to focus devotions. A lot of non-Catholic Christians take big issue with things such as rosaries, statues, holy water, etc. Many seem to think that Catholics worship these things --- we don't, of course, but try to explain that. In his book, The Catholic Imagination, Fr. Andrew Greeley gives as good an understanding of these things as I have ever found. In a very inadequate nutshell, he says they are tangible representation of the Catholic belief that God is ever-present and ubiquitous --- everywhere. A lot of non-Catholic Christian traditions focus on the absence of God from the world. Catholics see it the other way around – that God is everywhere, in all things if we only open our hearts and our minds to that.

I was trying to explain the notion of iconography on the discussion board when, interestingly, I received a card in the mail from Manchester-by-the-Sea artist Lynn Runnells featuring a picture of her painting Jesus in Gloucester. I designed Lynn's web site and her artwork is exquisite and filled with her Faith and unwavering belief that God is omnipresent.

Three of the icons she offers on the web site depict her visions of Gloucester, Jesus in Gloucester, Jesus on the Road to Gloucester, and Mother of God, Gloucester. She says that she prays while she paints and that these paintings, which are available as prints and cards, represent her absolute belief that God is ever-present.

We live in strange times when it comes to talking about God. I've been in more arguments than I care to discuss about the subject. Faith has suffered a lot of slings and arrows and, in a lot of cases, for good reason. We all know more than we want to about the abuses perpetrated by clergy people claiming to represent God and using their authority to behave in unconscionable ways. And then there are the political agendas that are based in so-called faith that use faith, attempt to emotionally manipulate, to advance what should be kept strictly political. And then, of course, there is science. As science advances in discovery there are many who find that proof that God is irrelevant, in a sense, science has become God to many.

Yes, bad things have been done in the name of Faith throughout history --- from individual abuses to large scale political abuses. A lot of so-called Faith-based initiatives are just 21st century reinterpretations of the oppression of individual rights that were once the province of inquisitors. I personally have never found science incompatible with God. For me science is rather like icons, living proof that God is present in all things.

So, as I am finishing the last draft of Each Angel Burns and wondering if the literary world will accept a miracle I look at Lynn's beautiful icons. And I realize my story is like her icons, it is an expression of my belief that there is More. I have absolute Faith in that. I look at her paintings of Jesus and his Mother with the ocean and fish and the blue steeples of Our Lady of Good Voyage and I remember, people may do bad things and sometimes life seems utterly incomprehensible, but there is beauty amid the problems, there is goodness amid the evil, there is light cutting through darkness, and everywhere there is possibility... the possibility of miracles.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Gloucester: Is it something to do with the name?

A couple weeks ago, I posted quite a bit during St. Peter's Fiesta, about Gloucester's notorious and time honored tradition, the Greasy Pole. Here's a video of Sunday's walk:

Nutty, huh? But it is integral to Gloucester's heritage. Well, recently I came across something equally nutty --- an annual, time-honored tradition called Cheese Rolling. And guess where it is practiced? Across the pond in Gloucestershire, England. Take a look at this:

Yup. A bunch of guys in silly costumes damn near kill themselves running down a steep hill chasing a block of cheese. We can relate to that, right? It's a tradition! So here's my idea: In the name of inter-Gloucester congeniality and friendship let's start a cultural exchange program! We send Greasy Pole ambassadors and they send Cheese Rolling ambassadors. We cross-train and then let the games begin!

There are a few problems to work out --- like they don't have an ocean handy. But then we don't have much in the way of steep hills so we'll have opportunities to work together to iron these things out. Here's part of the article about this year's event:

Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling 2009 review

See the video – Five thousands spectators turned out for Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling 2009 this May bank holiday, and once again caught all the falls and nail-biting tumbles, in a video shot safely from the sidelines!

The Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling attracted huge crowds in 2009, with local racer Chris Anderson taking two of the cheeses.
The Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling attracted huge crowds in 2009, with local racer Chris Anderson taking two of the cheeses.

What do you get if you cross Borat in a florescent mankini, a host of cape-wearing German superheros, a cow, a 1:1 gradient, and an 8lb Double Gloucester cheese? The Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake 2009, of course – which brought huge crowds of 5,000 spectators from all over the globe to Gloucester once again this bank holiday Monday.

The perilous 2009 event, which was forced to a halt on three occasions while the ambulance carted off injured racers to the hospital, may have taken significantly longer to complete the five official downhill races this year – but the head-over-heels falls, slides, somersaults, and a fair few face-plants – gave the crowd more than enough sideline excitement to make up for the delays.

To read more go to: Gloucester Cheese Rolling 2009

I think this could be big.....

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Happy 84th Birthday, Mom - Miss You...

Today would be my mother's 84th birthday. She died too young and, when I think about her, I think how much she would have loved all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren she missed getting to know. Though, of course, I'm pretty sure wherever she is (and I'm betting on heaven) she's keeping an eye on them. I think Abby was the newest baby when Mom died. There have been a lot more since then.

Mom's name was Mary Ann Grace Werner Valentine. In the picture at right, taken on her wedding day, October 16, 1948, she looks so happy --- I like thinking of her that way. Growing up, I had a difficult relationship with her but the thing I am most grateful for is that in her final years she and I shared some adventures. I think those were the best things between us. She never traveled much and, because I was her wandering daughter, in those last years she visited me in a number of places. I like thinking about that now.

One of my favorite memories was when we went to New Orleans. My mother was always so openly friendly with people that it sometimes got her into difficult situations. It was sort of a role-reversal really. She'd get chatty and men, especially, were fascinated by her. That trip to New Orleans was especially interesting. New Orleans is a friendly town, it's true, but Mom never seemed to get it that the guys who chatted her up weren't just being pleasant. I had to haul her out of a coffee shop, a sidewalk restaurant, and a santeria shop when she got overly friendly.

She loved the Mexican marketplace and the maritime museum in Halifax --- you never knew what she would be fascinated by. She bought tons of t-shirts and refrigerator magnets and, I am told, she told and re-told the stories from our trips.

On the way back across the Gulf of Maine from Yarmouth to Portland, we passed a good many whales and I don't think she ever got more of a thrill than when she saw her first whale breech.
Mom loved books and reading. She gave that gift to all her children. She was an excellent Pennsylvania Dutch cook and made the best rye bread in the world.

But the best thing she made was her sticky buns. They were to die for. So, on this anniversary of her birthday I will add her recipe for sticky buns which can be used with any bread recipe you may have:

Sticky Buns
: These are absolutely delicious. I suppose they are just as good cold as they are hot from the oven but I don’t think they ever lasted long enough for us to know that. While dough is rising the first time, melt together ½ c. butter, ½ c. brown sugar, 1/4 c. corn syrup and a pinch of salt. Bring to a soft boil and let simmer about 6 minutes. Pour the hot mixture in the bottom of a large, flat cakepan. Roll risen dough out until it is ½" thick. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and cinnamon. Scatter with raisins and chopped walnuts, as much or as little as you like. Dot with little dabs of butter. Roll up jelly roll fashion. Slice off 1" pieces and tuck them side by side in the pan with the syrup in the bottom. Let them raise and then bake. Turn out onto waxpaper while still hot.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Miss you.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Flowers in the Rain

Yesterday I spent some time at my friend Jane's house waiting for tall ships which never appeared. However, it was more than worthwhile for her gorgeous wild-looking garden overlooking the sea. Here are a few of the photos to brighten a dark and rainy day:

Plus a gorgeous video from our good friend Jay Albert:

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Rain, rain go AWAY!!!

The weather just stinks. We are now three weeks into summer and I think we have had 5 rain-free days. I went out in the hopes of seeing the Picton Castle sail for Boston but it was not moving. I shot this and that was the only ship I saw out (I have just been informed it is The Spirit of Bermuda):

However, I will now shut up because at least the hollyhocks are happy:

Thanks for reading.

Susan Oleksiw guest blogs.....

My friend Susan Oleksiw is the guest blogger today on Terry O'Dell's Blog. Susan is not only a superb writer with several mystery novels to her credit but is also one of the founders of Level Best Books. She is also an outstanding photographer whose work was part of the seARTS Bass Rocks Exhibtion.

Susan's web site is where you can read her blog.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Tom Captures the Castle (or tries)

Photo by Nick Parisi
Caption by WhoDoYouThink

Tall Ships Depart Gloucester Harbor

Tomorrow around 1pm the tall ships currently in Gloucester Harbor will be sailing for Boston. This should be a glorious site so if you can arrange to be anywhere that overlooks the harbor around 1 you should be in for a treat.

Bobblehead Joe Beimel

Over the weekend I read that President Obama quipped that he never thought he would have his own Bobblehead. Naturally I went looking for it online and that's when I came across this (left) --- the Bobblehead for left-handed pitcher Joe Beimel, formerly of the Pirates, Twins, Dodgers and now of the Washington Nationals. He is also, formerly, my nephew-in-law.

It's sort of a strange thing to see someone you actually know as a Bobblehead. In my family there are more than a few people who would find that entirely appropriate because of the pain of the break-up when he and our darling niece Emily ended their marriage. It's a shame and it's hard for their kids Drew and Claire but Emily has moved on, found a nice guy. I got the announcement for their wedding last week.

Truth is I always liked Joe. He was a nice young man. He and my nephew Mark Valentine were buddies in high school and it was Mark who, at Joe's request, introduced him to Emily. Mark told me it wasn't easy when the cutest girl in town also happened to be your cousin. Readers here know Emily (right) as the inspiration for, and model of, Emily's Shawl in my Mermaid Shawl book.

So, anyway, while I was online I looked at some of the message boards where Joe was being discussed. There is, apparently, something of a cult following thanks to series of YouTube videos by an outrageously devoted fan troyfromwestvirginia. I watched 2 of them.... they were ... well, weird.

Reading the message boards was even stranger. People were discussing his marriage and the break-up, speculating about his relationship with Emily and about the woman he left her for.... I find it somewhat of a revelation that fans take that sort of thing so cavalierly. I guess it is a sign of the times but, as I was reading it, I kept thinking that these are people I know and have feelings for that they are talking about. This is Joe who always called me “Aunt Kathy” and gave me a hug hello and goodbye whenever we saw each other. This is Joe who told me about his dreams for the future one afternoon while we sat at my sister Anne's kitchen table teaching his little boy Drew how to make Lite-Brite pictures.

And even more this is Emily who I have loved since she was a little girl learning to make Lite-Brite pictures. Emily who told me that she loved Joe with all her heart and would do anything to make him happy. Emily who worked as a nurse to support them while Joe was schlepping around with the farm teams pursuing his dream but making no money. This is Emily who hauled their two children around from airport to airport so they could be with their father while he was working his way through the minors, trying to get the big break.

And the big break came and everything was great for while but Joe is far from the first guy to become successful and let that all go to his head. Suddenly he is sort of famous, suddenly he is the object of endless attention --- including attention from women. Women who don't give a damn about the wife and the children and the sacrifices that went in to helping him to get where he is so they could take notice of him.

The truth is, I only know one side of the story. I felt terrible when Emily started telling what was going on. I liked Joe, I hoped he would be a better person. I hoped he wouldn't succumb to the allures that come with fame and money.

I suppose it will all work out. Emily is getting married again, the kids see their father. Joe is with a new team --- I know nothing about and care less about the “girlfriend”. And, hey, Joe has his own Bobblehead. How much more famous can you get?

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Picton Castle Sails Into Gloucester

Our good buddy Jay Albert caught the whole thing on camera: Spectacular Welcome

I was out at the art association when she sailed in so I only got to see the gorgeous ship once she started taking down her sails but I have my own Picton Castle story. It was a few years ago and Mark and I were in Halibut Point one night sitting at the bar talking when 2 guys with noticeable Canadian accents started chatting us up. They were two of the most hilarious people I'd ever met and when they found out that Mark had been a lobsterman the stories began to be swapped. It turned out they were both senior crew members of the Picton Castle. I wish I could remember their names but it was that sort of night. One was a tall, good-looking guy with a dark beard and the other was a stocky sailor type who hadthe sort of face one gets from spending your life at sea. They had come in to Halibut Point to chase their junior crew back to the boat but then saw no reason to leave.

It was a great time listening to tales of this port or that, weather anomalies, strange encounters, and ll the sorts of things mariners love to go on about. They ended by inviting us down to the ship next day for a tour which we took them up on. Mark gave them a copy of his book. As I watched the gorgeous ship sail in to port yesterday I couldn't help but wonder if his book was still on board somewhere.

These ships are just plain gorgeous. That's all I can say. And the people who love them and keep them sailing deserve great thanks for their commitment becuse the world would be a poorer place without them. Go see it while it is still in port.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Can you bake a cherry pie?

Yesterday, between downpours, I stopped at Farmer John's on Railroad Ave and bought a couple bags of Bing Cherries. These are the most enormous and delicious cherries I've had in ages. I had gotten a few bags of their Rainier Cherries last week and thought they were the best ever but these big, fat, juicy red ones are even better. So I started thinking about cherry pie and cherry crisp. If you have never made a cherry pie or a cherry crisp with real cherries you are in for a treat. The difference between canned cherries and real cherries is incredible.

Cherry Crisp:
To make a cherry crisp you will need about 2 to 2-1/2 lbs. of fresh cherries. Wash them, remove stems, and remove the pits with a pitter. Cut half of the cherries in half and leave the others whole. Grate the rind of one lemon over them and sprinkle with a cup of sugar and let them sit for an hour.

Meanwhile crumble together 1-1/2 cups raw oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 stick of butter. If you like you can add 1/2 cup of pecan bits. This should be a loose, sticky but crumbly mixture.

Now add 1/4 cup cornstarch to the cherries and mix well. Place in an oven-proof casserole dish. Crumble the oat mixture on top and pat lightly. It should be loose but firm. Place in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the cherries are bubbling up through the crust. Remove, let cool and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Yum, yum, yum!

Shut Up, Mark Sanford

I've been avoiding talking about politics lately but this is just too good not to pass on....

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Shut Up, Mark Sanford
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Loss & Anger: “Emotionally Befuddled”

I got an email last night from a woman who recently lost someone she dearly loved. There were, apparently, a lot of problems in their relationship and, now that he is gone, they'll never get to work them out. He was killed by a drunk driver just before Christmas and she is still in shock. She told me that she has been reading the blog entries I've made on loss and that she also read “Sailor's Valentine”, the story I wrote last summer when I was dealing with my own frustration, anger, grief, depression....

One of the things she said in her letter is, “I feel like I am emotionally befuddled. Everyone keeps telling me how I should be feeling, that I shouldn't be taking this so hard, but I feel so bereft.” This is a thing I know well. Bereft is the perfect word.

In the last few years I've lost my brother, my father, and three men I loved dearly, two of whom had been lovers. That's in addition to a couple of other friends. That's a lot of loss in a short period of time and the fact that they were all big, strong men who had special places in my heart makes it all the more difficult because there is an accompanying sense of stupification. How can this happen? How can so many men who were so much a part of my identity be gone in a few short years? I'll tell you, it has genuinely impacted my ability to relate to men. I know this is temporary but right now I live with an unreasonable fear that if I let a man get close something terrible will happen to him.

I've written before about my amazement at the denial around grief that some people have demonstrated --- everything from evaluating my relationship, thus attempting to trivialize my feelings, to assigning a timeline to the grieving. This is something I have learned not to take personally. It is a symptom of our feel-good culture that seems to be getting worse as we become more alienated and more accustomed to the concept of using “happy pills” to dispel the normal emotional processes that are hardwired into our physiology.

Not long ago I read a study about the link between traumatic loss and cancer. Naturally there are many reasons that people develop cancer but one of the things the study said was that the incidence of certain types of cancer were much higher a few years after traumatic loss among people who did not go through the normal (Kubler-Ross) stages of grief. The primary one of these being anger.

We're a society that has a horror of anger and yet we are one of the angriest cultures on earth (evidenced by the high rate of violence in our society). We constantly both internalize and misdirect anger. We avoid the anger of life's normal losses and then take it out on other people in road rage, and cyber-bullying and stalking and abuse. And we manifest it in our bodies which creates more anger which we, again take out on others. We do all of this to avoid the normal, natural, understandable pain that comes from disappointment, loss, hurt.

There is a thing I have learned over the last several years and if my losses serve any good purpose I hope it is this: Nobody can tell you how you should feel. Nobody has that right. They will try --- believe me they will try but, as with so much of life, their behavior toward you says far more about themselves than about anything else.

This is the truth: Whenever you let yourself love, you run the risk of experiencing pain. That is normal and part of the deal. And it is a beautiful part of the deal in some ways. The poet W.S. Merwin says, "There are no words to adequately convey grief just as there are no words to adequately convey love.". But this is what I've come to believe, the blessing on the other side of great grief, is that you once felt great love. This is something the unloving heart will never understand. But it is a blessing however hard learned. It's something I hope my correspondent will some day experience. And something I remind myself of when the grief surges. Great grief says this, “you loved greatly.”

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ristras & the Texas Farmer's Market

The Farmer's Market here in Gloucester is opening for the season on Harbor Loop this Thursday. A good sign that --- well, we can hope we will get a summer eventually. There is no sign of it at present. But it reminded me of the adventure in Farmer's Marketing I had while living in Texas --- I had actually just moved to Houston at the time and was working with a woman who go me involved in it. What an adventure that was!

Bonnie had been a member of a Farmer's Market Co-op that had been active for years. The way it worked was this: ten families each put in $20 every other week. Volunteers took turns taking the $200 to a huge (I mean ENORMOUS) farmer's market that was held on Airline Drive in Houston every Saturday morning. You purchased $200 worth of produce brought it back to the pickup point which was a church parking lot in Katy, divided it into 10 piles and each member of the co-op came with their own basket, picked up the goodies, and paid their $20 toward the next biweekly haul.

Bonnie and I split our share because neither of us could use that amount of produce in 2 weeks. It was a great way to get a tremendous amount of very fresh, high quality produce at an average of $5 a week. But the best part, in my opinion, was when we got to do the shopping! I loved that Farmer's Market!

We had certain staples we always bought: a case of lettuce, 50 lbs. of potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and at least three fruits but what a selection we had to choose from. We soon discovered which vendors would give us the best prices, which had the best quality, which to avoid. Sometimes when produce was cheap and everyone was eager to sell we'd have enough leftover to indulge in extra treats to share. It was always great.

Most of the farmers came up from the Rio Grande Valley and many only spoke Spanish but both Bonnie and I had enough high school Spanish that we muddled through. The Farmer's Market was where I learned to haggle. There was one vendor we called The Plum Man who only had plums, usually a few varieties and they were the sweetest, juiciest plums in the world. We once got a bushel basket for $3 and there were so many plums, even divided by ten, that I ate plums every day for two weeks. There was a similar occasion with figs, delicious little green figs that were bright pink on the inside and sweet as candy.

Of course when others shopped we never knew what we were going to get. A huge pile of okra meant Bonnie could have all the okra she wanted because I never did learn to like the stuff.

But the best part of our trips, in my opinion, was the Pepper Man. He was a small, weather-beaten, laughing fellow who arrived in a dilapidated pickup truck FILLED with peppers, dozens and dozens of varieties. Some too hot to even consider, but many that were mild, sweet and absolutely delicious. He would set up in his usual spot with dozens of baskets of different kinds of peppers and then hang strings of ristras all around his stand. His wife came with him and she sat on a blanket, surrounded by baskets of peppers, garlic and herbs, and make these beautiful ristras which they sold for a pittance. I always bought one for myself whenever I went to shop.

Ristras are beautiful things. In Mexican culture they are a symbol of welcome. Much like old New Englanders placed a pineapple on their doorstep as a welcome to visitors, so Mexican households would hang a ristra to invite people in. I never knew what kind of peppers I would get and sometimes the Pepper Man would point to one and shake his head no, “Fuego!” he'd say, “fire.” Once I put one of the Fuego peppers in a huge pot of chili I was making thinking one little pepper the size of my thumb couldn't make that much difference.... I was wrong.

I never left that Farmer's Market without a basket of purchases of my own in addition to our Co-op haul. A bouquet of fresh cilantro because I love the smell, a bag of tiny sweet limes, avocados and ristras for my door. I suppose they won't have ristras at the Farmer's Market on Harbor Loop but there will be other wonderful things. See you there on Thursday.

Thanks for reading.