Category Archives: Personal Notes

Letting friends and family know “what’s up” with us.

An old, old story, and hope for today.

I woke up this morning thinking I might have overstepped some boundaries, after I’d posted on Facebook links to two news articles. (see below) I mean, comparing Donald Trump to the Pope? I will grant you I may have offended some.

But it’s not about personalities. It is about ideology, the deep-seated one that takes as its primary tenet that half of humanity is inferior to the other half, and must be suppressed at all costs. No matter that the face presented in one case is benign, the other not so much. One might even ask, which face is more dangerous, the one that is blatantly “out there,” or the one that eludes detection by appearing to be something other than it really is?

This pope has been seen as inclusive, forgiving, reaching out….in short, different than his predecessors. But I was witness to this pope’s agents trailing our tour group this past July, one of them taking photos of us through a long telephoto lens, making themselves known to us and specifically the woman who was leading the group as a form of intimidation. She is Kathleen McGowan, an historical novelist, author of a meticulously researched series of books dealing with early Christian history and the role of Mary Magdalene. She has been threatened before, verbal threats directed specifically against her children, if she were to continue her work of exposing history that the church of Rome has done its best to erase from written accounts. Make threats like that against a mother’s children, and that mother remembers who you are. Yep, this was the same guy. He was back on her trail after several years of absence.

These past two summers, traveling through the south of France with Kathleen, learning the history that has been suppressed re the Christian vs. Christian brutality that culminated in a century and a half of unmitigated genocide, has given me a perspective on present day events and attitudes that makes the very hairs on my arms stand on end. It all came down to the role women could play in the church. When you stand on the spot where women were systematically raped and then thrown down a well and left to die, all at the hands of soldiers fighting at the behest of the Vatican and professing their love of Jesus at the same time….well, those troll-like remarks on Hillary websites don’t seem so harmless and inane.

I was raised a Christian Scientist, and anyone who has followed me or read my book which appears on the masthead of this website, knows I’m not the most outwardly devout or church-going representative of that faith. Both my husband and I have had adventures in Mexican medical care, and I do love me a margarita or a cold beer from time to time. In fact, the new memoire I’m working on has a tentative title Mary Magdalene and the Third-Rate Christian Scientist. I’d like to work Mary Baker Eddy’s name in there somewhere, but I don’t want it to get too unwieldy. But it was in fact Mary Baker Eddy who epitomized that leadership role of a woman in church that has been so anathema to so many for so long. In fact, during construction of the original edifice of what came to be known as The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, the local Catholic diocese opened an office directly across the street and staffed it (oh, I don’t have to be politically correct here. They manned it) with priests charged with praying specifically against the Christian Science project.

Before I go further, here are the two links I shared on Facebook:

Mary Baker Eddy and Hillary Clinton could compare notes on being maligned in the press and excoriated from pulpits. In 1898, Mrs. Eddy instituted a speakers bureau to carry her story and publicly defend her. Members of that board were able to go places a woman in her mid-eighties might find difficult. The board and its work continue to this day. It was my privilege to serve nine years on that board, so defending Mary Baker Eddy and more broadly, the rights of women everywhere still comes as second nature. It helps that she wrote amply on the subject. One excerpt here, seems prophetic of these times. In her work, No and Yes, she writes:

Let it not be heard in Boston that woman, “last at the cross and first at the sepulchre,” has no rights which man is bound to respect. In natural law and in religion the right of woman to fill the highest measure of enlightened understanding and the highest places in government, is inalienable, and these rights are ably vindicated by the noblest of both sexes. This is woman’s hour, with all its sweet amenities and its moral and religious reforms.

Hola, Spain — again

We returned from Spain and Portugal June 2, and I’m just now going through the photos I took on the journey. I sort of disappeared from Facebook after that last post without an adios or a by-your-leave. Fact was that on the third day in Spain, I had a close encounter with a castle floor, so I wasn’t into a lot of commentary or taking of selfies during the rest of the trip. But I kept the camera clicking as we moved through the major sites on the itinerary. It’s nice going back and seeing where we were, even posting a few reviews on TripAdvisor. I’m all fully recovered now, able to speak lightly of the whole thing and ready to start posting more than an occasional lurking “like.” Missed you, FB buddies!

Aunt Billie Knew How To Say Yes

When Larry and I were dating, it was no secret that Mom and Dad were not pleased that I’d gotten so serious about a boy at such a young age. I was a freshman at Texas Tech dating a boy two years older, who wasn’t even a “college man,” but a mere airman first class, stationed at Reese Air Force Base. But Aunt Billie liked him and told Mom she should count her blessings that I’d picked such a good guy. So when Larry and I took off in his 1956 Volkswagen sedan for a weekend trip to a church meeting for young people at Lake Texoma, and just as Mom and Dad feared and had warned us over and over, the little VW broke down, it was Aunt Billie who got the phone call.

“You can’t tell Mom and Dad,” I said over and over, standing in a phone booth in some place like Crowell or Floydada. I didn’t want to hear the we-told-you-so. “Please, please, don’t tell them,” I pleaded. Aunt Billie swore she wouldn’t, told us she and Uncle Lloyd would drive over from Vernon to whatever little town we were calling from, and take us to another little town where we could catch a bus and make it on to our meeting. Larry and I agreed that we’d deal with the fallout after we’d had our weekend of fun. So Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Billie arrived on the scene, drove us to catch our bus, and seemed absolutely delighted to be of help. Uncle Lloyd even asked if we needed any money.

What I didn’t know was that when she’d hung up the phone, Billie had turned to her husband and said, “Lloyd, Larry and Susan are running away to get married, and they want our help.” When she heard that both Larry and I had returned safely but still single, she ‘fessed up to my mother. Mom failed to see the humor for quite a while, but by the time of the wedding a year later, all was forgiven. But it was a comfort all my life that Aunt Billie had my back.

After Billie and Lloyd moved to California, Billie would come back to Texas to visit family. Several times she made a point of coming to Odessa to visit Larry and me when we lived there. I remember her going to a community concert with me where the orchestra performed Rite of Spring. My taste at the time ran to hummable recognizable classics, but when the final notes sounded, and Aunt Billie turned to me with such an expression of rapture, I decided maybe I should give Stravinsky a chance. She also opened my eyes to appreciate painters like Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler. She wasn’t afraid to try her hand at painting like them either, and encouraged me to paint, as well. She knew that the very act of trying to do something, made you really appreciate those who excelled at it, and the more you tried things, the more you appreciated everyone around you. “Go ahead and do it,” I can still hear her say, like an echo through the years: Go ahead and move to California. Go ahead and sell real estate. Go ahead and paint, write, whatever! You’re moving to Mexico? That’s terrific! Go ahead and try something new.

I am just realizing as I write this, that Aunt Billie was never afraid to express herself, never flinched when others expressed their full selves. That is a rare and precious attribute, no matter how off-the-wall and in your face it can seem to those present at the time. It requires a special kind of fearlessness, a special kind of love. I think she’s my hero.

Aunt Billie passed away last week, but just saying her name will always make me smile. She was a lady who knew how to say “yes” to life.

Easter Salads Arouse Old Memories

People have been posting pictures of creative Easter salads on Facebook. One involves a half pear bunny with cottage cheese for a fluffy tale. Another rabbit has deviled eggs for ears. In our family we had a legendary salad made with instructions from My First Cookbook, a battered little paperback that my sister-in-law mailed to me recently, another relic from my Mom’s estate. My sister and I made this salad one time, and one time only. From my careful cursive signature on the inside cover of My First Cookbook,  I surmise I must have been about eight years old, which would have made Emily five. We were big enough to finally help Mom make dinner, and were in total agreement as to what we wanted to surprise Daddy with – Candlestick Salad.

We followed the directions carefully, placing a leaf of iceberg lettuce on each small salad plate. On this we centered a pineapple ring. Salads for four required two bananas. We cut them in half and placed the flat end in the ring of pineapple. That made the banana stand up straight and tall like a candle, only a slightly bent over candle, like on a really hot day. To make the candle look like it was melting, we did like the book said, and put a dollop of mayonnaise on the end and let it sort of dribble down one side. The crowning touch was a maraschino cherry for the flame. Emily and I were triumphant as we carefully placed a salad plate at each place setting.

When Dad came in, he took one look at the table, looked at my mother, who looked back at him with that raised eyebrow she sometimes got. “The girls worked hard on these. It’s called Candlestick Salad. They found it in the little cookbook your mother gave them.” Daddy made a funny sort of noise in his throat that came out in a snort. Mom just looked at him and said, “Sam.” It sounded like a warning, but we couldn’t imagine why. But we all sat down and had great fun knocking over the candlesticks and eating them. Emily and I were so proud.  We never understood until much, much later why Mom wouldn’t let us make it for company.

I’m writing again….

Or at least RE-writing. Check out the tab above titled “Current Work.” I’m giving away free samples from old stock.

Christmas Won’t Be the Same Ever Again. It’s OK.

I’ve spent Christmas afternoon in bed under an electric blanket with one of the sweetest presents ever. My in-laws gifted me with a copy of Sandra Cisnero’s newest book, Have You Seen Marie?  It is set in the South San Antonio neighborhood where they live, a few blocks from the author, and since she is their friend, the fly sheet is personally inscribed to me. Special.

The story of loss, losing, and ultimately finding is Texas sweet tea with sides of pickled okra and chicharones. That is, ethnically diverse in a crunchy, pucker-your-mouth sort of way with a lot of sugar to wash it all down. It is off-beat comfort food. Healing.

Sandra wrote it after the death of her mother. A year ago today, my own mother got up from my brother’s couch, headed home “to call the girls,” (that would be me and my sisters), and never made it to the front door. We weren’t the best of friends, but the quotation (both in Spanish and in English) from Elena Poniatowska which introduces this little book, says it all:

It’s then I ask you, mama, my mother, my heart, my mother, my heart, my mother, mama, the sadness I feel. Where do I put it? Where, mama?

In the afterword, Sandra writes “It’s essential to create when the spirit is dying. It doesn’t matter what. Sometimes it helps to draw. Sometimes to plant a garden. Sometimes to make a Valentine’s Day card. Or to sing, or create an altar. Creating nourishes the spirit.” She speaks of being “between births,” leaving who we were and becoming something, someone else in the wake of a mother’s passing. She calls it an opportunity to be reborn.

So, for those who ask me, “Are you writing?” and to whom I’ve said, “No.” and for those who wonder what has become of their Facebook friend or promoter of causes and participant in projects, I say, with Sandra, “Beware, I am not as I was before.”

But I wrote this blog post. It is a beginning.

Merry Christmas.

Lemons are the essence of summer in italy

It is the sense off smell that transports me. What limes are to Mexico, lemons are to Italy. Yesterday, even though I’m back in Nayarit speaking Spanish, when the produce manager at Mega in Bucerias brought out a box of lemons, I was back in the Cinqueterre, That’s where most of these shots were taken, but I ran across lemons through the whole trip around the eastern Mediterranean. Lemon was my favorite flavor of gelato in Florence. I squeezed lemons on stuffed mussels in Monterossa, and I admired the beautiful bottles of lemoncello in Venice shops. Yes, it does taste like liquid sunshine. Check out how my friend Marilyn makes it.