Saturday, July 31, 2010


Anne Taintor Postcard

The Social Contract
Jean Jacques Rousseau

All vote. All consent.
It's like a big family.
Not mine, but someone's.

by David M. Bader
Haiku U. ~ From Aristotle to Zola: 100 Great Books in 17 Syllables

Bader's literary haiku and Anne Taintor's captions are always hilarious, but all joking aside, I've recently read several family memoirs, all on the sad side, all about children making their way through minefields of dysfunction.

1. We Became Like a Hand: A Story of Five Sisters,
by Carol Ortlip

2. Three Weeks With My Brother
by Nicholas Sparks

3. The Glass Castle: A Memoir
by Jeannette Walls

4. Precious /Push
by Sapphire

For further details on these four books,
see the latest post on my book blog
Dysfunctional Family Memoirs (Fun? Not so much...)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July the 29th

Cowans Gap Lake, Pennsylvania
Photograph taken on July the 29th, 2006

Dialogue from Gone Away Lake,
a story taking place sometime in the 1950s:

Mr. Payton went into a room that they called "the library" and came back with one of his ancient newspapers. He settled himself in his particular chair with his pipe and a glass of cherry-mead, while his sister puttered at the stove. The clock on the wall had an easygoing sound. Now and then Mr. Payton would tell his sister about something he was reading in the paper.

"On July the 29th, nineteen hundred, at Heathen's Crossing, Massachusetts, a baby boy was born with five teeth."

"I declare," said Mrs. Cheever peacefully. "July 29th. That's today, isn't it?"

"Well, Min, you know I always try to read a paper of the same day. The year doesn't signify."

"No, I suppose not."

by Elizabeth Enright, 1909 – 1968
American children's author and illustrator

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Little Door

Here is the Little Door
Lift up the latch; O lift!
We need not wander more,
but enter with our gift . . . "
~ Chesterton

"Strive to enter through
the narrow door:
for many, I tell you,
will try to enter
and will not be able."
~ Luke 13: 22

[L: The Cutest Playhouse
in all of Philadelphia!]

There are numerous symbolic doors in literature: opening, closing, revolving, inviting, forbidding, remaining locked forever. As I read on a poster once, "There are as many doors as there are desires." Here are some of the most meaningful doors that I have come across in my reading:

1. In Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird,
a door representing one's own humanity

2. In Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnet "Bluebeard,"
a door representing privacy

3. In Franz Kafka's parable, "Before the Law,"
a door representing the Law

4. In E. B. White's essay, "The Door,"
a door representing (in)sanity

And most recently . . .

5. In my friend Jan Donley's new novel The Side Door,
a door representing "secrets . . . everywhere . . . under carpets, in closets, in pockets, underground . . ."



Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer's Mellow Moonlight

Not an entirely cloudless night (see poem below), but still a fairly good picture of the moon, considering that I took it from my drive-way, with no special camera equipment other than a zoom lens.

I think it goes well with "The Night - Wind," a poem that reveals to us the mysterious, romantic mind of Emily Bronte. Musing upon the wind that wafts -- no breathes! -- through an open window, she discerns more than just a rustling breeze or restless sigh: she hears a voice, a clear persuasive call. The wind implores her, and she's "not too hard persuaded" (remember last month)!

Tonight, look out the window! Or go out in the backyard and try to photograph the moon! There will be Emily, floating through the woods behind your house, murmuring to the night wind!

The Night-Wind
In summer's mellow midnight,
A cloudless moon shone through
Our open parlour window,
And rose-trees wet with dew.

I sat in silent musing;
The soft wind waved my hair;
It told me heaven was glorious,
And sleeping earth was fair.

I needed not its breathing
To bring such thoughts to me;
But still it whispered lowly,
'How dark the woods would be!

'The thick leaves in my murmur
Are rustling like a dream,
And all their myriad voices
Instinct with spirit seem.'

I said, 'Go, gentle singer,
Thy wooing voice is kind:
But do not think its music
Has power to reach my mind.

'Play with the scented flower,
The young tree's supply bough,
And leave my human feelings
In their own course to flow.'

The wanderer would not heed me:
Its kiss grew warmer still:
'Oh Come!' it sighed so sweetly;
'I'll win thee 'gainst thy will.

'Were we not friends from childhood?
Have I not loved thee long?

As long as thou, the solemn night,
Whose silence wakes my song.

'And when thy heart is resting
Beneath the church-aisle stone,
I shall have time for mourning,
And thou for being alone.'

by Emily Bronte (1818 - 1848)
British novelist and poet,
middle Brontë sister, between Charlotte & Anne

above poem published in 1850, in
Selections from the Literary Remains
of Emily and Anne Bronte

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tomatoes & Gravy

In his memoir, On Native Ground, American poet Jim Barnes has woven history, memory, and legend into a poetic retelling of growing up in rural southeastern Oklahoma, throughout the 1940s.

My family was a bit farther north: northeastern Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas. My father was born in 1923 in Drumright, Oklahoma; my mother in 1931 in Peru, Kansas; me in Coffeyville, Kansas (1957); and many hours of my childhood were spent in Caney and Independence, Kansas, where the grandparents lived. So I am very familiar with much of the territory and way of life that Barnes describes, if not entirely from my own experience, then from my parents' and grandparents' memories and stories. I especially appreciated his explanation of his family's Choctaw heritage, and the transplanted Mississippi Choctaw influence in Oklahoma, right down to the "chicken, gravy, baked sweet potatoes, and hominy grits" (40 - 41).

As my older sister Peg has been known to say, maybe we weren't really from the South, but we grew up far enough south to know about Southern Cooking and to qualify as G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South). When I was living in Philadelphia, a number of restaurants specialized in a "Soul Food" menu; or the neighborhood might have a "Soul Food" fundraiser or consciousness - raising dinner, the idea being that these were "Southern American" novelty dishes that we Yankees couldn't possibly know anything about.

Well, I'm sure you can guess the items on the menu! I have to say, I never saw okra (for more about G.R.I.T.S. & okra, scroll down to previous post) but everything else is exactly what you would expect: fried chicken, spinach, black - eyed peas, cornbread, and the like. My dad and his brothers loved cornbread and milk for breakfast, my mom was only too happy to make fried cornmeal mush for us kids, and a dish of deep-fried hush puppies bursting with whole kernel corn and covered in syrup was a special treat.

To this day we all crave tomatoes to go along with our biscuits and gravy -- better yet, just skip the biscuits and put the gravy right on top of the tomatoes: a meal in itself, good for breakfast, lunch or dinner! My younger sister Di has even been known to take along a fresh garden tomato when going out for breakfast, order biscuits and gravy, and then suddenly produce the tomato from her purse! Surprise! We love her for that! I think this kind of menu planning pretty much locks in our status as G.R.I.T.S. In fact, when a friend of hers saw Di spoon the gravy over the tomato, she said, "Southern Girl!"

Tomatoes on the Vine, just moments after a summer rain

Even so, on "Soul Food Day," the moms at Ben & Sam's inner - city grade school seemed astonished that a white Anglo - Saxon such as myself knew how to make cornbread using bacon grease or that our family ate black - eyed peas for good luck on New Year's Day. I guess some consider those dishes to be "Soul Food," but as I told my neighbors back in West Philly -- where I come from, we don't call this stuff "soul food," we just call it "food" and everybody eats it -- no racial divide. Sometimes I think they didn't even believe me! But it's the truth! If you don't believe me, just ask my sisters!

G.R.I.T.S. -- Di, Kit, Peg

For more southern food stories and recipes, see Peg's new blog:
Peggy Linn Carriker-Rosenbluth
Friends and Family Recipes

Friday, July 23, 2010



My sister wrote the following essay several year ago, for inclusion in our Carriker Reunion Cookbook. She is now in the process of starting a new blog:
Peggy Linn Carriker-Rosenbluth
Friends and Family Recipes

G.R.I.T.S. Girls Raised In The South. That’s me! Oh, not so far south that I say “Y’all,” but far enough south to really appreciate good cooking. And I learned all of my cooking skills at my grandmother’s apron strings. But now I live in Maryland and there are some things I just can’t cook living up here in the North.

One thing that I probably miss the most is fried okra. My mouth waters just thinking about a nice mess of fried okra, hot out of my cast iron skillet. You see, I have most of the basic ingredients to make fried okra; I’ve got the cast iron skillet, a gas stove (that’s a must for cast iron), the cornmeal and flour, and even the bacon grease. You can’t fry good okra in anything but bacon grease. But the one thing I’m missing is the okra. Oh, I’ve tried things like frozen okra and even what passes for fresh okra around here but they’re just not right. The frozen okra has that “feature” of okra that makes it most unappealing (it’s slimy) so it’s really better in soups and stews. And the fresh okra is either limp or tough, or both. Nope, I need fresh-picked okra right out of the garden and the pods can’t be too big. If you can’t pierce the cap easily with a fingernail, it’s too old and you might as well use it in your soup. But it’s just too cool up here in Maryland to grow good okra. Several years back my husband and I tried growing okra in our garden and we did get enough to make one mess of fried okra, but it turned out to be just a teaser. The rest of the summer it was a pod here and a pod there but never enough to fry up. And I should tell you that my husband, born in New York to lifelong New York parents, tried his best to grow okra we could be proud of.

My husband is a convert, you might say, to good cooking. When we got married, he said the “better or worse” vow and that meant he has to eat what I cook, better or worse. We were living in Oklahoma the first time I told him I was cooking okra. His first question was, “What’s okra?” After I explained what it was, his next question was, “And just how do you cook it?” I told him to trust me and I cooked up a mess of okra. He was a convert from that point on and loves fried okra and my southern cooking. I don’t think I could ever convince him to eat a squirrel or a rabbit, though.* And along the way I’ve learned how to cook a few “New York” things, but that’s another story.

So what is it about fried okra that makes it so appealing to me? Besides the wonderful flavor, there’s this new phrase that’s come up, “comfort food.” I think that’s the part of fried okra I like almost as much as the flavor. It reminds me of the smells of cooking in my Grandma’s kitchen, especially on a hot summer evening. Grandma had probably already spent the day canning vegetables, working in the garden, cleaning house, and minding active grandchildren and still she took the time to cook a hot meal for dinner. And, it was these times that I learned to can my own vegetables, grow gardens (both vegetables and flowers), and clean my house. But the two skills I learned at her apron strings that have given me the greatest joy are my cooking skills and the patience to enjoy my grandchildren.

P.S. For more about the above-mentioned fried squirrel or rabbit, scroll down for Peg's essay, "Like Chicken," which she was kind enough to allow me to post on this blog a couple of days ago. Thanks for sharing, Peg, both your writing and your cooking!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Like Chicken

Above: Iguana Greeting Card from Hallmark's "fresh ink" Series,
sent to me a few years ago by my sister Peg

Bye O Baby Bunting, Grandpa's Gone A - Hunting
or, Grandpa Carriker's Recipe for Rabbit

by guest blogger Peggy Linn Carriker-Rosenbluth

First, get dressed in long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Be sure to tuck pant legs into socks to prevent ticks. Grandpa Carriker gets down his shotgun and shells. Drive to Cob Station with Grandpa in his old black panel truck. Park the truck and begin walking -- and walking -- and walking. After what seems to be several miles, reach the woods and be sure to stay behind Grandpa. DO NOT TALK, LAUGH, OR (MOST ESPECIALLY) GIGGLE! If you do, Grandpa will tell you that you'll scare away the rabbits. We love the rabbits and think this would be a great plan, but Grandpa is a good shot and after an eternity, he kills a rabbit.

As soon as Grandpa has picked up the rabbit, he has you carry the now dead rabbit. You cry and tell Grandpa that it isn't fair because the rabbits have to eat too. Grandpa is unmoved. You carry the rabbit (which is fuzzy and soft) and sometimes Grandpa will "bag" another rabbit before returning to the panel truck. Grandpa drives the panel truck back home and puts his shotgun away. Then Grandpa goes out into the back yard and starts dressing the rabbit(s). We learn early that dressing a rabbit is not the same things as when we dress the cats up in doll clothes. Dressing the rabbit is done quickly and with little fanfare. Sometimes we keep the rabbit skins to play with but mostly they are thrown away. Once or twice we kept a rabbit's foot, too. Take the now cleaned rabbits in to Grandma Carriker to be prepared.

Grandma Carriker takes the rabbit and dips the pieces in egg and milk and then shakes them in flour. The pieces are then fried in deep lard/shortening until golden brown on all sides. Serve with mashed potatoes and green beans prepared with pork/bacon and slow cooked for several hours. Rabbit is eaten with much attention to detail. You eat a bite, spit out a pellet or two of buckshot, then eat the next bite and again spit out a pellet or two and so on until done. Since buckshot is made from lead, it hurts your teeth when bitten. [Not to mention the possibility lead poisoning, which no one ever even thought about in those days!]

When asked by your children years later what rabbit tastes like, just say "chicken."

For more stories and recipes, see my sister's new blog:
Peggy Linn Carriker-Rosenbluth
Friends and Family Recipes

Monday, July 19, 2010

German Chocolate Birthday Cake

One thing I used to love about the summers was that in June my mom would always bake my dad a German chocolate cake for Father's Day; and then in July, another one for his birthday! We rarely had German chocolate any other time, so those months always seemed so rich and special. My son Sam regularly picks German chocolate cake for his birthday, and that's about the only time I ever make one, but we all love it -- especially the frosting!

The recipes for both cake and icing can be found inside the wrapper of a package of German Sweet Chocolate, so I won't retype them here. You can cheat on the cake and use a box mix if you want -- German Chocolate, or Light Chocolate, or Milk Chocolate (but not Devil's Food). However, the frosting MUST be homemade! Okay, I WILL retype the frosting instructions:

Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened, about 12 minutes:

1 cup of evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 eggs yolks
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon of vanilla


1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Beat until thick enough to spread.

Divide frosting between 2 or 3 layers of chocolate cake, saving enough for the top. No need to frost sides. Sososososo good!

In place of the evaporated milk and sugar, you may use a 14 oz can of Sweetened Condensed Milk and reduce the egg yolks to only one (instead of three). This is the ONLY allowable shortcut! Butter, vanilla, coconut, pecans remain the same.

One year for Sam's birthday, instead of the conventional 3 - layer German chocolate cake, I made two 8" rounds, cutting one of them into bunny ears and bow tie (as often seen at Easter with white cake, white icing, and white coconut). Ours was not an Easter Bunny, but a brown country Birthday Bunny with long candles for whiskers (above).

For more family recipes and anecdotes, see my sister's new blog:
Peggy Linn Carriker-Rosenbluth
Friends and Family Recipes

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Father's Birthday

Willard Marvin Carriker
July 18, 1923 - June 27, 1987
Frances Carriker Mesneak
November 22, 1924 - February 15, 1996
Photographs taken in Drumright, Oklahoma, 1926 & 1983

This priceless photograph was sent to me recently by my father's younger brother, Gene Carriker, along with his story of the day it was taken. Uncle Gene writes:

"The picture of Willard & Frances was taken in Drumright, October of 1983 when we made the "memory lane" trip back there. Had to have been around the 20th of October for they bought me a birthday cake and celebrated my 57th birthday. The four of us, Robert [eldest brother; April 21, 1920 - February 1, 2006], Willard, Frances [younger sister] and I met at a motel in Cushing, OK (close to D'right) and did the old nostalgia bit for two days. We went to every "homestead" we had lived in during the 14 years living there . . . and also many other places of interest known only to the 4 of us. An unforgettable trip. Willard especially liked it and was healthy enough in '83 to be fairly active, which was great. He made us a great map of the area and things he remembered of Drumright.

"Robert came from Pauls Valley, Frances came back from Longview, Willard from St. Charles; and I came down from Wichita. We had a great time going to all 14 of the former places we had lived from 1926 to 1941. It was a wonderful weekend.

"This picture was taken at the site of the first place we moved to when we returned to Drumright in 1926. It also happens to be my birthplace and was called locally, "Rumpus Hill" due to all the fighting that went on with all the kids that lived there during the height of the oil boom.

"Looking at the picture, your back is toward the southwest so naturally you are looking north-easterly. At one time there were many oil lease houses all over the hill, but by 1926 the boom was waning so there were only two houses on Rumpus Hill at this time. We lived in one, and Grandpa & Grandma Ulrich lived in the other. The house would have been directly behind where Willard & Frances are standing, and the small picture was taken in that exact area some time during our tenure living on Rumpus Hill. That's why the picture is so neat for it is the same two in almost the same spot only 57 years later: 1926 - 1983.

"We probably lived on Rumpus Hill for at least two years, if not a bit more. Then for some unknown reason we moved about a mile away to a lease house on the Jennette Richards Lease belonging to the Pure Oil Company. Seems many of our homesites had specific names we gave them to distinguish their individuality:

Rumpus Hill
Jennette Richards Lease
Cowan's Place
Section 14
Minnehoma Lease
The Joe James Place
Tiger Corner
Poverty Hill in Drumright
Thomas Long Lease.

"You can still get to within a very short distance to all the places, even though not a vestige of any kind remains of a one of them. Lots of stories about every one of the places."

Thanks for sharing these memories Uncle Gene, and for imparting these little gems of family hitory!


Last year on this day, I received the following tender e-mail from Uncle Gene:

"I'm sure I don't have to remind you that this is your pappy's 86th birthday. It never rolls around but what I think of him. G'ma Carriker called him Peter for some reason, or sometimes, "Old Pete."

Sadly, he died far too soon.

I still miss him. He passed away on the first day of my retirement, June 27, 1987 . . . or possibly the night before. 22 years ago . . . a long time ago.

Uncle Gene"


I can't say that I ever knew about my grandmother calling my father "Peter" but it is funny to think of! It's also funny how nicknames like this can take on a life of their own and keep on going long after everyone has forgotten how they got started.

I'll save the long story for a future blog post, but through a series of little mistakes & jokes, I now refer to my older son, Ben, as "Reggie," and have done for quite some time. Of course, I can still remember how it all came about (well, right now I can; who knows what will happen when I become more forgetful?). However, Uncle Gene's reference to my father being called "Peter" for some long-forgotten reason made me imagine maybe someday years from now, some little child asking, "Now, why did Grandma always call Uncle Ben "Reggie"? And no one will be able to explain why! It could happen -- you never know!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hope in the Shower

This striking depiction of "Hope" was created by a young artist from Colorado, as part of the Lets Say Thanks Program for sending postcard greetings to troops overseas. There are so many patriotic scenes and hometown images to choose from, but this vivid minimalist landscape is my favorite.

A friend of mine once concluded a letter by writing that she needed to sign off for now and go "hope in the shower." Obviously, she meant " hop in the shower," but this was one of those little errors that seemed to make just as much or even more sense the incorrect way. When I pointed out her typo / Freudian slip, she wrote back to say, "You know, it's true! I do spend a lot of time hoping in the shower." Don't we all!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to Keep on Hoping


". . .the very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. . . . Right now I'm living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides."
by Barbara Kingsolver
from her novel Animal Dreams (224, 299)

So how to keep hoping? How to figure out what to hope for? How to keep from selling out to the general churlishness?

Send answers soon!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bastille Day

In The New Woman's Broken Heart, Andrea Dworkin concludes one of her stories with the line: "I never did like that crap about the child being father to the man" (10). So with that as my starting point, here is my barrier - tearing - down experiment for Bastille Day -- "Far beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?" Yes, there is! Not a world without men, not a world without Christmas or "America the Beautiful," just a world without gender exclusive language.


about the child being father to the man

about the proper study of mankind is man

about whoso would be a man

about no man is an island

about what art man that thou art mindful of him

about Our Founding Fathers

about all men are created equal

about the City of Brotherly Love

about "first in war, first in peace and
first in the hearts of his countrymen"

about Faith of our Fathers

about Our Father who art in Heaven

about the Fall of Man

about the Son of God

about the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

about Unto us a Son is Given

about lo he abhors not the virgin's womb

about offspring of a virgin's womb

about with God as our Father, Brothers all are we

about I now pronounce you man and wife

about One small step for Man; one giant leap for Mankind

about our fellow man

about stand up and fight like a man

about take it like a man

about manpower & man hours

about each man for himself

about when you say "Man" you mean "Woman" too

(and so on and so forth)

Some Favorite Comments from Andrea Dworkin

"Sitting with Ricki, talking with Ricki, I made a vow to her: that I would use everything I knew, including from prostitution, to make the women's movement stronger and better; that I'd give my life to the movement and for the movement. I promised to be honor-bound to the well-being of women, to do anything necessary for that well-being. I promised to live and to die if need be for women. I made that vow some thirty years ago, and I have not betrayed it yet" (122).

from Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant
by Andrea Dworkin, 1946 – 2005
American writer and radical feminist


When asked how she would like to be remembered,
Dworkin said:

"In a museum, when male supremacy is dead. I'd like my work to be an anthropological artifact from an extinct, primitive society."

[Julie Bindel, "Obituary" in The Guardian, April 12, 2005]

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rose of Sharon

The Roses
One day in summer
when everything
has already been more than enough
the wild beds start
exploding along the berm
of the sea; day after day
you sit near them; day after day
the honey keeps on coming
in the red cups and the bees
like amber drops roll
in the petals: there is no end,
believe me! to the inventions of summer,
to the happiness your body
is willing to bear.

by Mary Oliver, American Poet, b. 1935
found in her book American Primitive
Pulitzer Prize for Poetry 1984

Okay, I admit, this not the berm of the sea,
and these are not roses.
It is a Rose of Sharon hedge in Indiana,
exploding along the edge of our driveway!


Jan's Rose of Sharon in Massachusetts

PS ~ August 2014
" . . . and the bees / like amber drops roll / in the petals . . .

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Girls Together

Girls Together, Friends Forever

It's that happy time of summer when I get to visit both of my sisters at the same time! Last year we met up in Maryland; this year they are here with me in Indiana. Here's one of my favorite pictures from last summer's get-together: three of my beautiful nieces, wading in the stream on 4th of July, expressing such care and concern for one another. All nieces, by the way, are welcome during Sisters' Week, and even a few token males -- a husband here, a brother there, a stray nephew.

The longer I live, the closer I feel to my sisters and cousins and best friends from grade school. There's just something about having been girls together:

"Were we not friends from childhood?
Have I not loved thee long?"

~Emily Bronte

Monday, July 5, 2010


Sam and Karen Riding the Steel Hawg at Indiana Beach
July 2008 (photograph by Ben McCartney)

Courage is the price that
Life exacts for granting peace.

The soul that knows it not
Knows no release from little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy
can hear the sound of wings.

Nor can life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare
The soul's dominion.
Each time we make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the restless day,
And count it fair.

poem by Amelia Earhart,
record - setting American aviation pioneer and author
(b. 1897 - declared dead in 1939, after
disappearing over the Pacific in 1937)

Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and receive the Distinguished Flying Cross; she joined the renowned aviation program at Purdue University in 1935 as a visiting faculty member, advisor to aeronautical engineering, and career counselor to women students


I can't imagine what it would be like to be as brave as Amelia!

Remember what Helen Keller said:
"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run
than outright exposure. The fearful are caught
as often as the bold."

But I've never felt so sure about that.

Then there is this motto from Isak Dinesen
(and others before and after her):
"Be bold, but not too bold."

Okay, time to screw my courage to the sticking - place . . .

P.S. ~ February 2018
Shared by Pastor Lana J. Robyne
Co-Director at Purdue Wesley Foundation

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear more times than I can remember, but I hid it, a mask of boldness. The brave (person) is not (one) who does not feel afraid, but (one) who conquers that fear.”
~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu ~

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Red, White & Blue Pie


Under the Stars: Black Currants & Blueberries
Under the Stripes: Rhubarb & Raspberries
Cut Stars & Stripes from pie dough, decorate & bake!
(no need for a bottom crust)

Fruit fillings for the American Flag Pie

Black currants on the stove,
mixed with blueberries and white sugar

Stewing the rhubarb

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Resident Alien

I first met Gerry right around the time that he was working with a lawyer to obtain resident alien status. I accompanied him to the State court house for the last stages of the Green Card application and was humbled to see so many individuals and families working their way through the grueling process. We also learned, on this trip, a charming bit of legalese that we have incorporated into our vocabulary ever since: "Not as such." You never know when that little phrase might come in handy!

The next step, a few years later, was citizenship, just in time for the year 2000 Presidential Elections. Sam created this Stars & Stripes token for his dad, and we took both boys out of school for the afternoon so that they could share in the experience of Democracy in Action.
The actual ceremony was somewhat anti-climactic, crammed as we were with a hundred or so other people into a bureaucratic space crowded to the walls with under-sized classroom desks (think Bureau of Motor Vehicles). It was a drawn out affair with various delays and one official coffee break when the immigration officer warned us not to make too much noise as there were deportation hearings going on in the next room. Deportation hearings?!?! Whoa, Doggy! There but for the grace of god . . .

Gerry likened the occasion to traffic court (yes, we'd recently been there too; this was Philadelphia, after all!) with the Pledge of Allegiance thrown in for good measure. Afterward we returned to his office, where his coworkers surprised him with a flag - shaped cake, Americana party favors, and City of Brotherly Love souvenirs.

Seriously, it was a day of glory, laud, and honor, and optimism. Remember that old television commercial where the recent European immigrant exclaims: "I love theese country!"?

Gerry's words exactly.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Last week, for the full moon, I posted "Summons," a poem that has been with me for over three decades: " . . . tell me clouds / Are doing something to the moon / They never did before." Just a few weeks ago, my friend Burnetta, a very literary botanist, introduced me to this poetical conundrum by the same author:

The beautiful is fair. The just is fair.
Yet one is commonplace and one is rare,
One everywhere, one scarcely anywhere.

So fair unfair a world. Had we the wit
To use the surplus for the deficit,
We'd make a fairer fairer world of it

Robert Francis, 1901 - 1987
American Poet from Pennsylvania & Massachusetts

. . . which in turn reminded me of these short poems by artistic guru and King of StoryPeople Brian Andreas:

They left me
with your shadow,
saying things like
Life is not fair

& I believed them
for a long time.

But today,
I remembered
the way you laughed
& the heat
of your hand
in mine

& I knew that
life is more fair
than we can
ever imagine
if we are there to live it


It also seems to work with the word lucky, as in "life is more lucky than we can ever imagine if we are there to live it."

As Ben Folds sings, "I am the luckiest."

And of course, Jason Mraz:
"Lucky to have been where I have been . . .
Lucky to have stayed where we have stayed . . . "


Not to mention Love & Justice


Now, back to StoryPeople:

There's only your time & then there's not-your-time, he said.
All the rest is made up to keep you busy.

I'm not sure how it's going to turn out,
except I'll die in the end, she said.
So, really, what could go wrong?