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“More mama.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard Kellyanne Conway’s voice. It’s like chalk on a chalkboard. Ever since she coined the phrase, “alternative facts,” closely followed by saying Mr T isn’t lying because he truly believes what he says, I just figured it’s a wash. I’m actually ashamed she’s  Jersey girl. Thank goodness CNN stopped interviewing her.

She’ll be leaving the White House to focus on her teenagers who are now in the throes of distance learning. But it’s her 15 year old daughter who took to Twitter to cry for help; she wanted to become an emancipated minor, and suggested that AOC would be a much better mom.

I remember when the 13 year old Bride interviewed the Flapper for a history project in 1995, asking detailed questions about life during the Great Depression. Since it looks as if we may be entering another great global economic recession due to this pandemic, I thought you might like to see how my Mother coped with her life in Scranton, PA.

“My first husband died of peritonitis in 1931, because there was no penicillin at that time. He left me alone, at the age of 21, with two children, Shirley and Brian, ages four and two. In 1933 I was lucky enough to marry Robert. He was a pharmacist I’d seen every day on my way to catch the trolley. He raced after that trolley one day to propose to me, and we were promptly married. We lived together in Scranton, and had a baby girl the next year, Kathryn.  

Although it seems ridiculous now, in 1933 the $25 a week that my husband made was good money. By 1935 however our situation had gotten worse. I was pregnant with my fourth child, and my husband had been reduced to making only $7 a week. The owner of his pharmacy had taken it over, and had begun working six days a week by himself. My husband filled in only one day a week, and we had to support our family of five on $7.

We survived, although I’m not quite sure how we did it. Even though food was cheap (two pounds of butter cost 25 cents), we had no money to buy it with. We ate mostly bread, peanut butter, pea soup, and potato soup. I made the bread myself because it was much cheaper to buy the flour than the already-made bread. Instead of using butter, we used Crisco with yellow food coloring (it looked like real butter and seeing is believing).

Today, two pounds of Land O Lakes butter will cost you about six dollars! I’ll transcribe more of the Flapper’s life in the coming days. But I was thinking as I read the Conway Twitterstorm last night, that I was born an emancipated minor. After my Father’s death, my 15 year old sister took care of me while the Flapper went to work. Then after the car accident, just a few months later, I found myself with a new set of foster parents in NJ.

I was never adopted, they promised the Flapper they would care for me with, “no strings attached.” And so they did, showering me with unconditional love, until the day at age 12, I decided to move out. I emancipated myself from my tiny Sacred Heart School life, smothered with too much care and tending, to live with my Mother and my messy, blended biological family. Half Jewish, a quarter Catholic and the rest who knows!

I always had two mothers: one a first generation, religious immigrant from Czechoslovakia who didn’t drive and stayed at home because her husband wanted it that way; and another, a free-spirited, areligious, working, creative woman who looked just like me.

Today is Farmer Bob’s birthday! We first met at our public high school so many years ago, when he was Nathan Detroit and I was Adelaide in the musical Guys and Dolls. I guess what my young self was craving was more drama, more brothers and sisters, more excitement. Not every child can choose their parents! But we had no social media to amplify our teenage angst.

I truly wish the Conways all the best. This is a picture of Bob’s “come as you were in the 1960s” 40th birthday party! I wrote him a nuanced, sexy poem.

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Have you ever heard strange sounds in the middle of the night? Not like squirrels in the chimney, or mice in the walls. And not like thunder and lightning followed by a deranged dog trying to crawl under your bed. More like footsteps out on your porch at 4 am?

Well, that’s how our weekend began. Someone was clomping around on our porch – but let’s start from the very beginning.

On Friday I really wanted to see the Groom. We’d called, texted and Zoomed and Facetimed, but he was finally out of the Tower and back in the bosom of his family. I had to make sure he was doing well and warn the Bride not to expect too much; he needed to rest after all. Covid can take a lot out of a person. I mean just walking to the mailbox could be exhausting.

But you can’t keep a good man down for long because on Friday he had already been teaching the Love Bug how to ride a bike, setting up their “tiny school” at home, and then he took the dogs on a 30 minute walk! So I rewarded my Son-in-Law’s enthusiasm with a big plate of chicken parmigiana that night. As we were leaving, the Bride began to take the Grands blood for a study at the university.

We have at-home kits to take blood, but not to test for this virus?

As we drove home from our socially distanced dinner on their front porch, we passed a long Catholic parade on the streets of Germantown. An official Bishop-type led dozens of priests and altar boys carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary adorned with flowers, there were at least a hundred people following the procession – the Assumption of Mary. Many of the women wore a lacey head covering, but virtually nobody wore a mask. Everyone was singing!

As I opened the car window and looked on adoringly, thinking about all those years at a Catholic camp singing with nuns in the woods on our way to a grotto, Bob yelled, “Wear a damn mask!” breaking the spell.

And that was the night, or actually early the next morning, we heard the intruder on our porch. Bob immediately went downstairs and I immediately thought to myself, “My phone is plugged in downstairs, what if I need to call 911…”

Then I heard Bob’s voice, he was talking to somebody. Prompting Ms Bean to leave her cozy bed, she led the way downstairs; so much for our little guard dog, she never uttered a peep, not a growl or a bark! Bob had already locked the door and sent a young man, who was surely a drunk tourist, on his way.

“What did you say?” I asked him.

“I asked him what he thought he was doing here,” Bob said. Sometimes the NJ vibe just cannot be contained. I was stunned. What if he had a gun? What if What if What if…..

Once before, in the Blue Ridge, a large van pulled up to our house at around midnight. Bob got up and looked out the window to see an elderly man standing there, putting on a jacket. We opened the front door and the man said, “We’re here for Mr Young.” Now Mr Young was actually an older gentleman farmer and former UVA professor who lived down our country road a piece, and he had died in his sleep. The van was from the Cremation Society of Virginia.

Would it be wrong to say how relieved we were – that the van wasn’t coming for us? We were living on 14 acres in the middle of a forest, still Bob wasn’t scared. And he had no fear in the wee hours before daybreak on Saturday, in fact, he went back to sleep! While I stayed up replaying all the different scenarios in my head. Maybe we should move out of the city? Should we start looking for a beach house, again?

When in doubt, cook! Yesterday I sent Bob to Whole Foods for tahini because the Insta people voted on Baba Ganoush as an appetizer. Although zucchini season was done, Bob’s elegant Japanese eggplants were just getting started. I haven’t made this yummy hummus-like spread since the 70s and it was a major hit at our party for two.

How many lives do we humans get? I survived a car accident in 1949, the Groom survived Covid in 2020. I wonder if our democracy will survive this political pandemic season.

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I saw a meme the other day that went something like this, “There will be 2 types of people on the other side of this quarantine: great cooks and alcoholics!” Let’s all strive for the former.

While Bob and I were chopping up nuts and apples for our virtual Passover Seder, I started thinking about food and our relationship to it – do we live to eat, or eat to live? Now, our days revolve around meals like never before. What kind of traditional foods would we need at this year’s Seder table? What could we do without, since it’s just the 2 of us?

What could we even order on Shipt? Horseradish? Would grape juice be just as good as Kosher wine?

Then I started to wonder if people were going to cook a big ham, studded with pineapples and cherries for Easter? Is everybody still coloring eggs even if there are no little children to hunt for them? Today is Good Friday, and as far back as I can remember it was always pretty unremarkable. The statues and the crucifix at Sacred Heart Church were covered in purple cloth, the mood was always sombre. At home, we gave up meat, so I either ate shrimp or fish sticks!

In Ireland, people will plant root vegetables, especially potatoes today:

“…most had a custom of setting their scealláin, or seed potatoes, on Good Friday when it fell in March. This was termed putting down the early pot”, and the people worked each day from Good Friday until they had set all the potatoes.

If Good Friday was late, and fell in April, it was seen as the point up to which such work should focus. In any case, it was imperative that all the spuds be covered before the cuckoo was heard. Nobody wanted to be a “cuckoo farmer”  https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/10-good-friday-traditions-you-ve-never-heard-of-1.3864889

My foster mother Nell was never a great cook, admitting that if it didn’t come in a can she didn’t know what to do with it. But her one reliable, home-cooked, go-to, comfort meal was pork chops and applesauce, with a side of french fries. This was always a special treat, along with her once a year “Haloopkies.” Pork stuffed cabbage simmered in sauerkraut accompanied by rye bread and butter, nirvana for me in the 1950s.

But I inherited my love of cooking from my mother, the Flapper. Almost every weekend I’d watch her chop, cook and bake delicious meals for her diverse family of Catholic and Jewish kids. She abhorred waste, like many Depression-era women before her, so she’d always make a soup out of leftover pot roast with barley or a mulligatawny stew out of whatever was left in the refrigerator.

I just looked up the word “mulligatawny” since I thought it was a word she made up, but no. In fact, it’s a curry stew! The Flapper loved to embellish the truth, which I hated at first, but came to enjoy with my siblings. If someone dared to ask her if a dessert was homemade, she’d proudly say “Of course!” But you never really knew.

The first dish I cooked last month as the pandemic was looming large was chicken chili. It was the last night we had our Grands sleepover, before we were told to shelter in place. I added whatever vegetables I had left in the refrigerator to the pot, plus 2 cans of beans. I chopped up a poblano pepper for a slight whiff of heat, and served it beside sliced avocado and of course, bread and butter. It was a hit with the Bug and the Pumpkin!

Bob’s got his raised bed planted and we have already picked spinach. We ordered food from Shipt online and were delighted, I may never set foot in a grocery store again.  Never thought I’d ever have someone else do my grocery shopping, but here we are in this brave new world. Searching our pantries for lentils and flour, or matzoh, and remembering how cooking can nourish the soul.

I sent Bob over to Ms Berdelle with some chicken soup last night. Maybe I should start a chicken soup food truck when this over? He ran a pretty great Zoom Seder for our family and friends, from 3 years old to 95! It’s time to clean out the cobwebs in our homes and our minds; this is the season to declutter, to wash our patio furniture, to renew our lives, to plant and welcome fresh air and sunlight into our cloistered homes.

This is the season to stay at home and save lives.

I hope that cooking brings you joy during this lonely, holy week, and that your pantry stays stocked with your choice of beverage. Below Bob is setting up the Zoom Seder, while I prepare the Seder plate.

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All good (and lapsed) Catholics remember St Francis of Assisi, standing around with birds on his shoulders and animals curled around his stone feet. He was the one saint everybody loved because his tenet was, “All Creatures are One Family.” So it’s only right that the modern day Pope of the Holy Roman Catholic Church should be named Francis; he sleeps in the most spartan bedroom at the Vatican and rides around in a Ford. He washes the feet of the poor.

And now Pope Francis said that the death penalty is unacceptable in all cases. He called it an attack on human dignity and has actually changed the Catechism (that little book I started each and every day with at Sacred Heart School) to reflect the Church’s new directive.

Maybe it’s time I went back to church? Right before the papal news broke, I was telling the dermatologist, who was digging a crater of squamous cells out of the back of my hand, all about my escapades at Camp St Joseph. Sure enough, he knew if the girls were on one side of the lake, the boys were on the other!

I was 16 when I lost my faith, and almost 30 when I found Judaism. Granted I was marrying Bob, but my decision to convert was deeply rooted in my desire to raise a healthy, cohesive family. There would be none of that back and forth from one place of worship to another, and neither did I want my children growing up without ANY religious foundation. That just seemed wrong to me.

And early on in the process of learning about the Jewish people, I had a vivid dream that the Pope forgave me! Of course, that was the year of three Popes, so I’m not sure which one it was!

The year 1978 will long be remembered as the year of the three popes. The not unexpected death of Pope Paul VI on August 6th, 1978, was followed on August 26th by the election of the “Smiling Pope,” John Paul I. Reigning only 33 days, the length in years of Our Lord’s earthly life, he died in his sleep of a heart attack on September 28th. Only a few weeks later on October 16th, 1978, the College of Cardinals elected Karol Cardinal Wojtyła, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, as the first non-Italian Pope since Adrian VI (1522-1523). His pontificate has been one of the most remarkable in history.  https://www.ewtn.com/johnpaul2/life/1978.htm

Even though that last one, the first non-Italian, Polish Pope, John Paul II, never officially apologized for the Vatican’s Holocaust-era activities, and he defended Pope Pius XII, who did very little to help the Jews and Christian priests during WWII, even advancing him toward sainthood.

I knew I liked Pope Francis when he was asked about homosexuality on a plane, he replied to the reporter, “Who am I to judge?” Well he IS the Pope. And just this morning I was reading about his visit with 500 schoolchildren. A little boy asked him how he felt when he heard that he had been elected Pope, and he told him he felt “PEACE.” And it made sense, because the current Pope has turned away from divisive social issues like abortion to minister to the poor. The Flapper always said you can get more bees with honey.

I thought perhaps Francis’ legacy would eventually allow women into the priesthood! Even thinking this in the past would have been a mortal sin! But he took the name of the saint to all creatures, and recruiting nuns in this day and age cannot be easy.

I wish Pope Francis would visit the Ayatollah, Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei aka the current Supreme Leader of Iran. He seemed to be getting along with President Obama, and currently, I’m pretty sure he views Mr T as the rest of the world does, a wild card. We might actually rid the world of nuclear weapons if the Pope walked into a bar with the Ayatollah. #WorldPeaceSummit

And maybe this American Girl could grow up to be President one day!

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You’ve got to hand it to this Pope. This morning we hear he’d like all divorced Catholics to come back to the fold, opening up the possibility for bishops everywhere to debate the age-old practice of annulment, ie a Catholic divorce. Pope Francis actually called up a woman and told her she should come back to mass and receive the Sacrament.

But what didn’t make most network news feeds was the Pope’s recent encyclical on climate change. It actually took a Twitter exchange for me to come up to speed. Katherine Hayhoe, a climate scientist, recently spoke to a room full of Evangelical Conservative leaders in Portland, all men, in order to enlighten them – or school them I was thinking as I read her Tweet.

Last year, Hayhoe was named one of Time’s Hundred Most Influential People. She is a young professor at Texas Tech, who hails from Canada. She has worked on Showtime’s science documentary, Years of Living Dangerously, and she coauthored a book, “A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions” with her pastor husband. She combines her  knowledge of fact-based science with her evangelical faith – a powerful if paradoxical combination. And this is how she wove the Pope’s message into her talk on Climate Change: http://collegevilleinstitute.org/bearings/climate-change-evangelicals-and-the-pope/?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=CollegevilleIns&utm_content=Climate%20Change

First she told them about how the poor will suffer disproportionately in the future. Compassion for the most vulnerable among us, I’m sure, resonated well in that room last month.

Peppered frequently throughout the Pope’s encyclical are references to the “poor.” For example, in the section on water Francis addresses “water poverty” (¶28), the “quality of water available to the poor” (¶29), and the world’s “grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water” (¶30). Evangelicals would have little difficulty affirming words like these: “It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted” (¶91).

Hayhoe’s second point, however, may not have struck the same chord. “Free Market Economic Policies Will Not Solve Climate Change!” That almost bears repeating..it harkens back to Obama’s redistribution speech. In other words folks, capitalism won’t cure climate change. Did we hear one comment on this topic at the Trump Show and Debate? Remember, that Donald Show that has devolved into silly sexist semantics. Evangelicals everywhere, who are mostly GOP/Conservative/Christians, will most likely cringe at the Papal challenge to free market economics of the privileged few and their worship of private property..

“In order to uphold “the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged,” Francis puts forward the “principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use” (¶93).” The Pope also called for “…a new dialogue” and “a conversation that includes everyone” (¶14); later, he underscores “true wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounters between persons” (¶47).

Dare we dream to find consensus between Progressive/Feel the Bern/Hillary supporters and the ten men on stage the other night? Only John Kasich, who went to a friend’s gay wedding, seemed to speak from the heart and embody the compassionate conservative viewpoint. If anyone might start that dialogue, I’m betting on Hayhoe. But first, the bloody hands that take money from the NRA, and/or oil and gas companies, need to be washed Lady MacBeth style.

Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why,
then, ’tis time to do’t.–Hell is murky!–Fie, my 40
lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
fear who knows it, when none can call our power to
account?–Yet who would have thought the old man
to have had so much blood in him.

Somali refugees displaced by flooding - Getty Image

Somali refugees displaced by flooding – Getty Image

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