I Must Believe

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
― Anne Frank


Yesterday evening we had the privilege of hosting a remarkable person, to promote a book he’d recently published.

Farmer, visionary, photographer, author and educator, Michael Abelman

Michael Ableman was at our home last night as the right man at the right time.  The dozens of people who came to listen and learn cared deeply about what he had to say.  His presence shown like a beacon in what has come to feel like a dark world.


He reawakened in me and I think in others who were in attendance, our faith in the goodness of humanity.  It was a timely gift to us all.

You must not hate those who do wrong or harmful things; but with compassion, you must do what you can to stop them — for they are harming themselves, as well as those who suffer from their actions.” – Dalai Lama

Michael thinks big.  He’s not afraid to make mistakes.  He’s a searcher.  He’s humble.  He’s humorous.  Compassionate.  Clear thinking.  A visionary.  And an inspiration.

“It is very rare or almost impossible that an event can be negative from all points of view.” – Dalai Lama

You could practically feel our living room vibrate with the good will and positive energy we all felt for his journey.  His journey is our journey, no doubt about it.

The takeaway for me from the experience, is that people are basically good, kind and interested in leaving the world a better place.  I’ve been reading The Book Of Joy, which I’d written about in an earlier blog.  Both the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, despite the hardships they have endured, have no doubt that, by nature, we are compassionate and kind. They both believe that by stretching those unused but present muscles, we can reveal the happiness of our true nature.

It’s a timely and appealing message that I am going to do my best to remember and act upon.


Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.” ― Dalai Lama







Today I Wept

I’ve become an observer.  A person who is witnessing what she once believed was unimaginable in her country of birth.  A person whose eyes and ears are open, but whose feet are frozen to the ground.  A person whose ears listen in disbelief to distortions and lies; whose eyes are repelled by the sights she sees of hatred and animosity.

Many female friends and acquaintances are in a flurry of activity.  They’re knitting warm pink hats with pussycat ears.  They’re gathering steam as they gather together.  I am a study of silence.  Their walks are not mine.  I will watch from afar, but I cannot respond to the call right now.

My voice no longer has anything that feels relevant to add to the surrounding cacophony.  Not a shred of activism or urge to activate rises to the surface of my being.  I sit and stare ahead of me, with little motivation to do more than that.  I need quiet.  It’s all I can do right now.

At last, I wept today for our loss of a leader who represents humankind’s better angels.  I wept for the loss of a leader who could always be counted on to remind us of who we really are and what we’re capable of.  I wept for the loss of decency, for the loss of compassion and for the loss of inspiration. I wept for people’s inability to recognise the gift we’d been given.  I wept for our need to walk through the woods without a guide to shine some light on the path ahead.  I wept for our planet, threatened from all sides and now without a vital spokesperson.

We all respond to life in our own ways, in our own time.  Today, it’s just moving through the loss and praying it doesn’t get much darker before some light returns.

Happy Birthday, Dianne!

The Allure of Birthdays

Just about every part of a birthday celebration is designed to please.  What’s not to like, especially as a child, before you begin to understand the deeper meaning of those higher numbers?

The vintage birthday cards I remember from the early 50’s late 40’s were charming and fanciful. The cards portrayed a pastel world inhabited by a friendly smiling group of anthropomorphic kittens, all transformed and dressed up for my special day.  Minus the frolicking animals, birthdays could easily match expectations if you had a mom who liked to decorate, as I had and knew how to throw a good party, as she did.

In the 40’s and early 50’s, there were no exhausting sleepover parties, or extended group outings, as there is today.  All that was required was a pretty party dress, a pin-the- tale -on – the -donkey game, a birthday cake covered with frosted roses, some party hats, party plates and napkins and small favors of candy in a frilly crepe paper cup to put by each guest’s paper plate.  party-favor

Parents dropped off and picked up their children within an hour and a half.   A guest went right to the party table, sat down, ate cake, played a game and waited patiently as you opened your presents.  I remember the parties as rather sedate, but happy affairs, nothing like the screaming excited kids being kids at a party of today, running around the house chasing each other.dancing-cat3-little-kittens 50s-bd

When I was a child, birthdays were celebrated fully.  Even my pet collie got into the act by singing/howling to the Happy Birthday song.  The most magical moment of the celebration was when the lights of the dining room were turned off and my mother entered with my cake, candles blazing, on a cake stand that was also a music box that played Happy Birthday.  I think this same scenario played out each year until I left home for college.

For many years of my childhood, on birthday weekend, my family would take me out to dinner at Toto’s, a glamorous, roadside supper club with a grand Sunday evening buffet that seemed the height of extravagance.  I think we went there before it became seedy and faded as the 50’s progressed and tastes changed.   A small orchestra played dance music.  I can still picture myself in my father’s arms, dancing together in between courses.  Fox trot or rhumba, no doubt.  For a ten-year-old, this was as good as it gets.  In later years, like so many buildings that were a part of my childhood scene in western Massachusetts, it burned down.totos

MY 9th birthday was my most unfortunate when I came down with the mumps on the eve of my birthday.  Toto’s was out of the question and I was inconsolable.

Hope Springs Eternal

Segueway to my first year of married life, at 22,  when I expected a significant response from my new husband when my birthday rolled around.  He was close-mouthed as I’d drop hints about my birthday’s approach.    On the morning of my birthday, before I headed for work, I expected him to tell me he wanted to take me out for dinner.  Nope.  I rushed home from work, expecting a lavish card waiting for me.  Nope.  I then convinced myself he’d planned a surprise party. When he came home from school,  I suggested we go out for dinner.  Ok, he said, willingly but unenthusiastically.  I told myself a present would appear during or after dinner.  Nope.  Then I decided he’d slyly drive over to a friend’s house, saying something  casual, like, “Let’s go visit Abner.”  I could easily picture all my friends hiding inside.  No such plans unfolded.  We drove directly home.  My hoped had expired with the day and I dissolved in tears.  My husband was uncertain about what had gone wrong.  It was then I learned that his family never made a big deal about birthdays.  Wha????  

It’s been slow going since then, because it’s hard to change those deep rooted childhood habits.   I’m always more excited than most people my age are, as my birthday approaches.  But now, my birthdays are always celebrated!  My birthday got to be more fun once I had kids who would put on shows for me and bring me breakfast in bed.

I was in anguish for a while before turning 60, but got over that to celebrate 70 in a big way.  Seventy five slid on by, and now I’m heading straight to 80.

Eighty doesn’t sound nearly as old as it once did.


Life is Just a Bowl of What Me Worry?

When I was a child, it was impossible to imagine myself inhabiting the body of an adult.  Now that I am an older adult, it’s difficult to remember myself as a child.  It’s been this way since I outgrew my child’s body.  It continues to be difficult to imagine myself as a very old woman, although it ain’t as hard as it used to be!

Does this sound familiar?

Can the real me stand up?  Is the self a constantly mutating, evolving concept? Or,  is there an unchanging essence of self?  Age has helped me grow more confident, more forgiving, more patient. Some aspects of myself as a child I would no longer recognize.  Thank the Lord.

Some of the passions of childhood have continued through life so far, but others have proven transient.  While writing this, I am reminded to a few strong simplistic philosophical undercurrents that influenced my youth.


When I was a young teenager, I decided I was a hedonist. If we’re all going to die, what higher purpose could there be than to have a good time while waiting around?

I liked the song, made popular way back in the 1930’s,  Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries.” That fit nicely with my newly adopted devil- may- care spirit.

I knew Frank Sinatra was singing about me when he belted out, The Lady is a Tramp, especially the lyrics that talked about “the clean fresh wind in my hair and life without care.

I can still relate to Alfred E. Neuman of Mad magazine, whose byline, “What, me worry?” became the way I internally countered my Mother’s worrying habits about my going off the rails during my rebellious teen years.  I remember drawing a picture of Alfred with the byline in the cover of my 9th grade school notebook.

Mom was a self-described worrier.  I worried too, but about very different things.  I really didn’t care whether I got an A- or a B+, nor did I care whether my friends were Jewish or otherwise.  At some point, I tried to adopt my Dad’s positions on life, which was the essence of what me worry, as long as he had a drink when he came home from work and a golf club in his hands on Sunday mornings.


My belief system is more nuanced now, but I also think I wouldn’t have to scratch far below the surface to find an operational pleasure principle.  There’s a reason cherries are my favorite fruit.

Frivolous Ode, Frivolous Toothpick

 self-indulgently carefree; unconcerned about or lacking any serious purpose. 3. (of a person) given to trifling or undue levity: a frivolous, empty-headed person.
I, for one, think it’s a good thing to indulge in frivolity when the opportunity presents itself.  As a child, I ordered club sandwiches, primarily for the frilly toothpicks with which they were held together.  That sandwich, a stalwart of the New England lunch scene in the 1950’s, was a force of its own as well.  It’s unfortunate that it’s no longer seen very often on  California menus.  I think the three or more slices of toast that it requires pushed it over the edge for the always calorie conscious Californians.  But let’s get back to the frilled toothpick.
 Now, when it makes an occasional appearance, it is a shadow of its former self,.  I don’t dare say to my grandchildren, I used to LOVE these!”  They would look at me as if I were nuts.    They no longer bring pleasure for me, just a sad reminder that most people now won’t know the difference.    I think they must have moved the manufacturing from Maine to China a few decades ago.
For centuries, the toothpick has been used for precisely what its name suggests, as well as for spearing morsels of food. But it was only in the late 1800s, with the rise of the club sandwich—whose tiers of chicken, tomato, bacon, and lettuce called for something besides mayonnaise to hold them together—that it was applied to sandwiches. Plain wooden toothpicks often went unnoticed—to the detriment of the unwary diner. “The frilled toothpick was probably invented to alert the eater that there was a toothpick holding the sandwich together,” says Henry Petroski, author of The Toothpick: Technology and Culture (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007). So that colorful cellophane frill was functional, as well as pretty.
I couldn’t  find a picture of just how fetching those small wooden instruments used to be.  The cellophane top of a toothpick existed to bring a small measure of delight.  It glistened.  It sparkled.  The wrap was like a full head of fabulous curls, not like a top of someone just finishing a round of chemo.  The colors were seductive as well, ruby red, midnight blue, forest green, bright orange and yellow.
I saved and collected the frilled picks for some purpose that never arrived.   When they finished holding a sandwich together, they were indeed just frivolous.  But the truth was, they never looked as fabulous as the moment they arrived as the topper to a fine club sandwich.