Tuesday, September 29, 2009

All Hail To William!
Sam-Man Cometh!

Welcome Home Nest, under the dining table,
made by Big Brother Ben (age 3 yrs, 3 mos)
for New Baby Sam (age 2 days)

My talented, literary friend Vickie -- seen on yesterday's post with Tony Bennett -- lovingly composed the following lyrics when my children were born, stanza one for Ben in 1990 and stanza two for Sam in 1993. Gerry set the words to music; and yesterday afternoon our house was filled with the joyful noise of Ben at the piano, practicing the carousing tune written by his dad, while I sat at the computer, typing up our custom - made accolade:

All hail to William, known as Ben,

Born in the shade of Agamem-

non[e] can compare to this young lad,

The noblest baby ever had!

So trumpets wail at wee Ben's drool!

Ring out the news in Liverpool!

Carouse in all the joy of it!

Hail Padre Gerry! Mummy Kit!

Then Sam-man cometh, he's the one

Who's known as "Super Second Son,"

Another shining light upon

His handsome pere and glowing mum!

So toast the scones! Bring out the jam!

None sweet enough for yummy Sam.

The wisest bards rejoice! Make merry!

Hail Sam and Ben, Kitti and Gerry!

Written with love by Dear Auntie Wickie,adoring my children from afar, from the days they were born!
[Sam's idea, changing the "V" to "W"]

P.S. Vickie Meeting Ben ~ Summer 2015
On his front porch in Durham, North Carolina

Monday, September 28, 2009

Puttin' On The Style!

Check out:

. . . and you'll notice that my latest Fortnightly post is about one of my favorite songs from the movie Agnes Browne, really one of my favorite songs from anywhere: Laura Smith's rendition of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean." Another tune from the Agnes Browne soundtrack that always give me a chuckle is "Puttin' on the Style" (The Fleadh Cowboys / Lonnie Donegan version):

"Sweet sixteen goes to church just to see the boys
Laughs and screams and giggles at every little noise
Turns her face a little, and turns her head awhile
But everybody knows she's only puttin' on the style

Oh, puttin' on the agony, puttin' on the style
That's what all the young folks are doing all the while
And as I look around me I sometimes have to smile
Seeing all the young folks puttin' on the style"

Anyone who knows me very well knows that I'm not much of one for "puttin on the agony" (No whalebone, please! Heels, rarely. Contact lenses and mascara, only for photo ops). I'm more like Barbara Kingsolver who writes that she leans "toward dresses that make contact with the body (if at all) only on the shiatsu accu-pressure points" (from "Life Without Go-Go Boots," special feature essay in the Lands' End catalog, Spring 1990).

For the picture above, I was definitely in violation of the Kingsolver principle. Though it may not show, I was absolutely SQUEEZED into that dress like a mermaid. I truly felt like Scarlett O'Hara being laced up when I sucked in to have my zipper done. Yikes! I knew that I was in for a long night of puttin' on the agony, puttin' on the style!

Photography tip: You'll notice that by wearing black and standing real close to one's dinner date (also dressed in black), one's individual girth measurement becomes indeterminate! Ha!

Here we are on our way to see Tony Bennett:

And my friend Victoria with Tony!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another Good Reason to Start Liking Football

Because there's an NFL player with my last name! And he plays for St. Louis -- should be Cardinals but Rams will have to do.How do you like the rustic twig lanterns hanging along the pergola? Ger's idea -- from Hobby Lobby. It looks like we live in the country, but really just a few blocks from campus. Best of both worlds!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Is The Home Team Still On Fire?

Thanks to my amazing sons,
I have finally learned
a thing or two about football --
such as what the kicker does!
And the meaning of P.A.T.

Ben McCartney, #22 Varsity Kicker, Fall 2007

Sam McCartney, #23 Varsity Kicker, Fall 2009

Ben McCartney, Fall 2007 (Senior Year)

Sam McCartney, Fall 2009 (Junior Year)

from "Did She Mention My Name"
It's so nice to meet an old friend and pass the time of day
And talk about the home town a million miles away
Is the ice still on the river, are the old folks still the same
And by the way, did she mention my name

Did she mention my name just in passing
And when the morning came,
Do you remember if she dropped a name or two
Is the home team still on fire,
Do they still win all the games

And by the way, did she mention my name

lyrics by Gordon Lightfoot
Canadian Singer & Songwriter (1938 - 2023)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dream A Little Dream,
Dream A Big Dream

Spring Break in Washington, March 2004

I keep entering this photo in contests.
No luck so far, but one day I will win!
Doesn't Sam look like a visionary boy of limitless potential?

USA Haiku for Sam:
A child of the times
Our Nation's dreams in a pool
What do you see there?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumnal Equinox: Stars Forever


There will be stars
over the place forever;

Though the house we loved
and the street we loved are lost,

Every time the earth
circles her orbit

On the night the autumn
equinox is crossed,

Two stars we knew,
poised on the peak of midnight

Will reach their zenith;
stillness will be deep;

There will be stars
over the place forever,

There will be stars
forever; while we sleep.

by Sara Teasdale
Missouri Poet (1884 - 1933)
First Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1918

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Perfect House

A house without a cat, and a well-fed, well-petted, and properly revered cat, may be a perfect house, perhaps, but how can it prove its title? -- Mark Twain

Above: Properly Revered Cats, Josef and Marcus (in 1993)

Could anyone have posed these cats any more perfectly or symmetrically than they posed themselves? How did they know to do that? When we adopted these two little guys from the Animal Shelter (way back in 1988), we could tell they were going to grow up pretty, but we never guessed just how gorgeous!

When they were about a year old, we were heading out of town for a week and needed to board them. This would be a new experience for them and also for us, since we had only recently moved to the area and had to find a new vet.

We finally picked a place to leave them, based on reputation and location, and were asked to fill out a questionnaire when we dropped them off. The last question on the list was "How long do you expect your pet to live?" We were puzzled by this question, and my immediate thought was "Well, we certainly expect them to be alive when we come to pick them up, if that's what you're asking!"

What made the question even worse for us was that Marcus was, in fact, recovering from an illness, which was the main reason we wanted to board him with a vet instead of with a friend--so that he could get emergency medical care if necessary. During the week we were gone, I called at least once every day, just to be sure that the cats were staying alive! And, boy, was I ever glad to get back home to them.

Luckily, Marcus did make a full recovery, and he and Josef went on to become very long-lived pets indeed. Marcus was with us for eleven years, Josef for nineteen.

As for that question, "How long do you expect your pet to live?" Gerry finally decided on "As long as we do" for his answer; and I wrote down: "Forever."

Thanks to my brother Bruce for this photograph
of Mark Twain and Little Feline Friend

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Connection & Coincidence

I chose Jerry Maguire's famous line, "Not a memo, a mission statement," as the title for the latest post on my Fortnightly Literary Blog , because I thought it was time to explain that blog's "mission" of Connection & Coincidence.

Connection: I wanted, if possible, to create a place of connections, in the spirit of E. M. Forster, who implores us in Howards End to connect: "Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect . . . ."

Coincidence: As I wrote in an earlier blog post: "Sometimes life is so full of coincidences that I think my head will split open trying to take them all in! It's enough to make me believe in the whole Universe at once!" I stand by that. I want to capture all the unexpected connections that amaze and surprise and suggest a pattern.

Back in college when I worked on the literary magazine, I was known as the editor with "a poem for every poem" because no matter what I read, I was always reminded of something else -- kind of like that "Scooby-Doo" episode when Daphne asks Velma: "Do you have a book for every occasion?" And Velma answers, "Actually, yes."

A poem for every poem, and a book for every book! Those are the literary connections and coincidences that I am always on the lookout for . . .

For more details see:

Raspberry Parfaits: Fresh Berries, Fresh Paint

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Do Not Approve, I Am Not Resigned

Patrick Wayne Swayze, August 18, 1952 – September 14, 2009
Mary Allin Travers, November 9, 1936 – September 16, 2009

Dirge Without Music
-- by Edna St. Vincent Millay
-- American Poet, February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers
--[dancers, singers, poets]-- into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


If you had fun reading He's Just Not That Into You, you might also enjoy It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken: The Smart Girl's Breakup Buddy (by Greg Behrendt & Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt). If you haven't read either one yet, don't be discouraged by the trendy sex-in-the-city titles. Once you start reading, you'll see that the titles are more than just catchy catch phrases.

In fact, these books are filled with many helpful mantras, memorable mottoes, and antidotes to fretfulness. Greg and Amiira's real-life concepts are pertinent not just to break-ups and broken hearts, but to all kinds of relationships -- friends, neighbors, family. They conclude with the following inspirational guidelines:

"Here are the great things that I already know about myself: I am stronger than I thought I was. I am resilient and buoyant in the face of emotional adversity. I am also buoyant in water. The best investment I can make is in myself. I feel good about myself every day." Keep going . . . and finish with "Let's face it, I rock."

Now make a list of what you want . . . as detailed as you can. Now place one hand over your heart and repeat . . .

I promise to make a firm commitment to living and breathing my list every day, in every relationship, friendship, job, and experience that comes my way, from here to eternity and three weeks beyond that.


Just reading those confidence-building words is enough to make me feel buoyant, in water and otherwise!

I'm reminded of the sense of amazement that filled me when I used to see Ben up on the high dive -- at age six, or so! Sam, who would have been three - something and anxious to be just like his brother, would then ask me, "Mom, who do you think will be the next one in our family to go off the high dive?" I always answered, "Well, it will definitely not be me; so maybe it will be you!" I did go off the low dive a couple of times, just to set an example for them, but that was my limit! I honestly don't think I could have jumped off that high dive to save my life, though perhaps to save my children's lives, yes, I would -- for that I would have done anything!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Not a Normal Day

A moment of silence and retrospection on this saddest of anniversaries. As with the assassination of JFK, we all remember where we were. I was in my kitchen, working on some scrapbooks for my children. The new school year had just started, and I was sorting through the previous year's memorabilia. Such a simple pleasure, so mundane. But many days are like that.

Just a few days before, on Sunday the 9th, my husband Gerry had flown to California for a meeting. Monday night, he had taken the redeye home, arriving back in Philadelphia very early Tuesday morning and, naturally, going in to work a couple hours later, after walking our sons across the street to school. He hadn't been on campus very long before calling to ask me if I needed to drive anywhere that day.

"Only to the boys' piano lessons after school."

"Why don't you call and cancel, okay?"


"Some strange things are happening in New York and Washington."

"You mean the stock market?" Not that finance is my specialty, but that's what came to mind: desperate History Channel images of the Great Crash.

"No," he said. "Some planes have crashed in both cities."

"Are we at war?"

"I don't know. Just don't turn on the TV."

So I called our piano teacher (remember from the other day, scales & Bach). She was fine with the cancellations, as she herself was worried sick, having just heard from her sister who worked in Washington, DC, in a building that was currently locked down with everyone inside until further notice.

Then I called my sister, who also worked in DC. No answer anywhere, but as the day went on, I learned that rather than being locked into her building for the day, she and her husband had been turned away from their parking garage upon arrival that morning and instructed to return home. They spent the long hours in traffic on I-70, but safe.

Then I turned on the TV. Then I turned it off again and thought of what to do next. Get milk.

I opened the front door into the irony of one of the most beautiful days on earth: high of 72, low of 72, not a cloud in the sky. Wondering how it could be true, I walked the few blocks to the nearest 7-Eleven. Actually, in Philadelphia, it's not called the 7-Eleven; it's the Wawa, which sounds kind of silly until you notice the flying goose on the store logo and realize that "wawa" is an onomatopoeic Leni - Lenape word for "goose" or "wild goose" or "Land of the Big Goose."

Standing in the dairy aisle, I reached for a gallon of milk, then deliberated about taking a second, though I knew we didn't need it. I reasoned with myself: as an act of faith, lets take only one today. Lets have faith that the store will be here tomorrow, that the milk will be here tomorrow, that there will be enough.

Resolved, I headed home, cutting across the school playground on the way. Everything was very close together -- the house, the Wawa, the church, the school. That was a happy urban time when we were able to live a mostly pedestrian life, sometimes using the car so infrequently that we forgot where we had parked it last.

The teacher out watching the students on their after-lunch recess hailed me to ask if I wanted to take my kids home early. I could see the younger one there playing with his friends, still innocent but wary. They must have sensed that something was up. Hanging on to my moment of faith in the Wawa, I answered the teacher, "No, not yet. Just let them have a normal afternoon."

When Gerry and I went over a couple of hours later to pick them up at the regular time, the older one was ecstatic, exclaiming, "All I could think was, 'When's Daddy getting back?' And then I remembered, you were already home."

2nd Street, Philadelphia

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." --Goethe

You can find this quotation on the header to my Fortnightly Blog:


It reminds me of something my piano teacher in Philadelphia said when she was getting ready to move away and we didn't know when/if or how long it would be before I found another instructor. She gave me this advice for playing the piano on my own: "Every day at least, do your scales and a little Bach." I'd like to say that I have followed her advice; I know I should.

My friend Jan says something similar about keeping a journal: "Once a week, I try to write a short piece of fiction to post on my journal. I think of it as practice, as playing the scales." She says, "Moments happen, and they go away. Each moment is a story."

Moments of time, moments in time, that's what you'll find in Jan's journal. For anyone, journal writing can be a way to heed Thornton Wilder's advice (see blog header above) to realize life as we live it, "every, every minute."

For Jan's journal, drama, and fiction, visit her elegantly introspective website:
www.Jan Donley.com

Jan, Kitti, Jes; at the Boston Public Library, May 2008
Jes & Kitti, Happy Thanksgiving, 1982
Jan & Kitti, Seeing the Light, 1988

See also:
Piano Lesson & Embracing Imperfection

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

How beautiful it is to do nothing and then to rest afterward. ~ Spanish Proverb Above: Nieces Resting Below: Neighborhood Park P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAM!

P.S.S. ~ LABOR DAY 2020
Dolce Far Niente

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Goodbye Sandal Weather


My friend Cate said: "Gorgeous, gorgeous! Your dusty rose is soooo nice and I love Karen's blue plus both of your matching toenail polish! Ah poor Ben - he's just a guy. Tell him from me he has nice feet." Funny Cate! If you follow those rules about no white after Labor Day, and so forth, then I guess it's good-bye to sandals for awhile. Sad!

Cate has some amazing sandals, and she also teaches workshops in Lace & Cable Chart Reading: "Learn how to translate charts into pattern writing and create a chart using knitters' graph charting paper. We’ll cover all the terminology, symbols and directions – what’s the 'do nothing' stitch? Do I read left to right, or right to left?" See? It really is another language! As a non-knitter, I'd be lost in translation, but maybe I could learn.

If you would like to see lots of beautiful natural fibers, design concepts, and finished products, take a look at Cate's cool knitting & nature blog:

"Knit your hearts
with an unslipping knot."

-- Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra




Friday, September 4, 2009

Harvest Moon

"There was much to remember about that time, and much to tell, but the moon in its nightly travels would dwindle, disappear, and fatten again before their stories were entirely told. There was too much to do, too little time for storytelling" (473).
from The Mysterious Benedict Society
by Trenton Lee Stewart

Illustrations by Mildred Lyon Hetherington
from A Day In School
by Fannie L. Michaels, 1938

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Never Fear

View across St. Stephen's Green, looking south.
~ Dublin, Ireland ~ ca. 1900 ~
"Crossing Stephen's, that is, my green . . . " (186)

from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
by James Joyce

In Little Women Next Door, by Sheila Solomon Kass: The shy cautious narrator, Susan, is watching the bold Alcott kids in admiration and envy as they climb a tall tree and swing from the branches. Watching Louisa May, Susan thinks to herself, "She seemed to know no fear. Her face was glowing with joy. . . I didn't care to tell them all how afeared I was of heights. . . She's braver than I am, I thought. I couldn't explain it. I wished I was different. . . . How did it happen that I was born scared? And they were born brave?" (50).

In Saffy's Angel, by Hilary McKay: The brother, Indigo, is reading a book about the polar explorers: "Nobody Indigo knew had such adventures. . . . They were none of them as strong as steel and brave as tigers, and the least strong and brave of all of them (as Indigo knew only too well) was Indigo himself. Indigo thought about it, and it seemed to him that he had been born afraid of almost everything. He made a list. He wrote down on a piece of paper all the things that frightened him most, and he set about to cure himself" (24).

I wonder what's the odds that I would come across two such similar thoughts in two such different stories? Did these authors create these characters to help "kids" like me deal with their inner coward? Is being "born afraid" (and carrying that cowardice with you into your adult life) a typical childhood worry that authors of adolescent fiction deal with in their novels? It has usually seemed the opposite -- that the kids are all so remarkably fearless, like Nancy Drew and Jo March and the Melendys and Harry Potter & his precocious friends.

But, now that I think about it, maybe I wasn't born afraid. I can't recall being either especially brave or especially cowardly as a kid. Maybe I was just somewhere in between; maybe I was just -- could it be? --normal!

I guess I was fearful of my swimming lessons at age 5 and fearful of my mother's disapproval by age 10 or so. And some real fear set in at age 15 when I took drivers' ed and saw those horrible movies and then had to actually drive a car and be filled forever with the anguish that I would cause another's death (therein lies the root of all my driving anxiety; and also the explanation for why I've never suffered from a fear of flying, i.e., because I'm not the one in the driver's seat, not the one responsible for all those other lives). Fear of driving was soon followed by fear of sex and fear of standing up for myself; and, before I knew it, I had carried all that anxiety from my teens right into my adulthood.

Maybe its still not too late to be brave like Louisa May Alcott / Jo March, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and Stephen Dedalus, who names his only weapons, "the only arms I allow myself to use -- silence, exile, and cunning" -- and then declares: "You made me confess the fears I have. But I will tell you also what I do not fear. I do not fear to be alone or to be spurned for another or to leave whatever I have to leave. And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake and perhaps as long as eternity too. . . . I will take the risk" (247, from my very old edition of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce).

Whatever Stephen says, I am intrigued by the possibility that, in manner of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, the declamation of his positive mantra is enough to increase his courage and confidence -- and nearly enough to convince his orbital frontal cortex that indeed he is not afraid. He enumerates the very things he fears the most and, by denouncing, conquers them. You know, it just might work.

Long live Irish lit and neuro - psychology!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Living United

Migrating From House to House Around the Neighborhood

Look what I found in my yard when I returned home from the grocery store this morning, definitely not something I see everyday! Turns out our house was included in a humorous United Way fundraiser. Here's how it works: for a modest donation to United Way, some of our neighbors ordered the flock of pink flamingos delivered to our lawn as a surprise. Yes, we were surprised -- and amused!

Now it's our turn to make a donation to United Way and specify to whom we'd like the birds sent next. The fundraising flock will disappear from our yard as mysteriously as they arrived, only to show up tomorrow a few blocks away to surprise and delight our friends.

Tag, you're it!