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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Blue Sky Memories

by Chris Brady

274 words

SPENCER FINCH Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning, 
2014 Commission for National September 11 Memorial and Museum

Another September 11 anniversary passed this week and the social networks were filled with memories from the day. I couldn’t help thinking about 9/11 as a never-ending nightmare as I watched President Obama talk about sending fighter planes to the Middle East to control our newest nemesis ISIL.

Among the tributes and photos, I learned about the 2996 project, which lists the names of every victim and invites people to write tributes to the lost lives on blogs, Facebook or websites.  I scrolled down the list and read some of the tributes, wondering how friends and families manage through this day every year.

I found a woman my age, Kathleen Shearer of Dover, NH, who was on United flight 175 with her husband William. They were headed to LA to clean out the apartment of her father who had just moved into a nursing home and to meet her new granddaughter.  

An ordinary life immortalized by an extraordinary event.

I didn’t know anyone personally who died that day. I knew people who knew people, of course, didn’t everyone?  I just recall life standing still for a few days as we processed what happened and tried to figure out what’s next.

My enduring memory is the brilliant blue sky. To this day, whenever I experience a cloud free sky I think of it as a 9/11 sky. And for a moment, I know that life is still beautiful, despite the chaos and strife.

And now that I know her better, when I see a 9/11 sky, I’ll say a little prayer to Kathleen.

Next year in September, go to the 2996 project list and find someone to write about.

And enjoy a happy blue sky musical memory from my youth.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Learning to FIGHT like a GIRL

 by Carol Fragale Brill

Recently, I’ve received a lot of gifts with the slogan, FIGHT like a GIRL. They got me thinking about what FIGHT like a GIRL means to me.
As a little girl, I adored frilly dresses and ribbons and lace on my Easter bonnet, but since my teen years, I’ve never been a girly-girl. I like to look feminine, but I’m not big on accessorizing, elaborate make-up, or perfume wearing. I’m more a touch-of-lipstick-dress-for-comfort-left-over-hippie-sensible-shoes kind of girl.
So, it surprised me when in spite of everyone reassuring me my hair would grow back, my first reaction to learning I’d lose my hair from chemo was, “I have to have a wig, I can’t be seen without hair!” Before my hair even started to fall out, without considering other options, I got myself a wig.
Then someone asked me, “What exactly is it about losing your hair that has you so upset?”
Her question helped me realize my reaction was purely emotional. It’s not really about my hair. It’s about how much I value my healthy independence and determination and that when others look at me I don’t want them to see a hairless, sick, unable person. I want them to see self-reliant, determined ME.
Years ago, I had the privilege of attending a panel discussion about disabilities. One panelist was blind, one deaf, one a paraplegic, and another had speech and motor impairment from muscular dystrophy. Each of them held professional jobs—accountant, librarian, banker, computer technician. Their profound message has stuck with me over the years—Instead of disabled, think of me as DIFFERENTLY ABLED. If it looks like I need help, don't just do it for me, ask me. If I say I don’t need help, respect me and my independence and let me do it myself.”
That pretty much sums up for me what it means to FIGHT like a GIRL.
I am so grateful that my family and friends have offered me all kinds of help and support. For me, Fighting like a GIRL means learning to graciously accept help when I need it. And when I don’t, being able to gracefully say no thank you, I can and need to do that for myself.
It means letting go of female stereotypes, and trusting I can fight this fight from my comfort zone where I feel most like myself.
Fighting like a GIRL means it is okay if some days finding the courage to face the day means letting myself weep in the shower as tufts of my hair clog the drain or if tomorrow I need to take the wig off the Styrofoam head in my closet and wear it to feel my best.
And for today, Fighting like a GIRL means learning to rock the bandana and “pirate” wrap look because they take me back to my not-so-girly-girl roots and remind me I’m still ME.

Monday, September 1, 2014

You Say Tomato

      Perhaps it’s beginner’s luck.  Perhaps it’s the perfect summer weather.  Perhaps it’s that my vegetable patch lay fallow for almost five years.
                Whatever the reason, my most recent attempt at backyard farming has yielded a banner crop.
                Oh, I didn’t grown much.  I just wanted to try my luck with a few favorites.  So I bought some plants:  watermelon, eggplant, jalapeno peppers.  And, as every Jersey girl knows:  tomatoes!  I dutifully planted on Mother’s Day weekend and held my breath.
                The jalapeno peppers burst on the scene first.  Who knew four little plants could be so generous?  I would have appreciated if they had waited until some of the other veggies were ready.  Instead, from the end of June until this writing, I have been gifted with at least six hot little numbers a day!  I have had peppers on sandwiches, peppers in sauces, peppers in salsa…you get the idea.
                The tomatoes arrived next.  First, the little grape tomatoes.  These tasty berries proliferated wildly.  Since Fourth of July, I have harvested at least a quart of tomatoes a day.  Tomatoes on sandwiches, tomatoes in sauces, tomatoes in salsa…you get the idea.
    Next came the Rutgers variety:  huge, round slicing tomatoes.  Two or three a day.  Tomatoes on sandwiches, tomatoes in sauces, tomatoes in salsa…
                Then, eggplant.  Purple.  Plump.  Huge leaves swaying in the breeze.  By mid-July, I was picking at least six eggplant a week.  Eggplant on sandwiches, eggplant in sauces…no eggplant in salsa, at least not yet.
                Finally, the watermelon.  A little iffy, these.  Even now, I have difficulty telling for sure which are ripe.  Still, I have picked six watermelon so far.  Three were hits:  ripe, red, juicy.  Three were misses:  pale, tart, tough.  A few more still dangle tantalizingly on the vine. 

                Because I underestimated the hardiness of my crop or my gardening skills, or both, I have been reaping more veggies than one woman can consume.  Or freeze.  Or can.  As a happy consequence, my friends and neighbors have been reaping the benefits. 
                There is something delightful in being the “veggie fairy.”  My neighbor, Mark – and almost every tenant he has had this summer - has been surprised every Saturday morning with a bag of tomatoes, a couple of eggplant, and a mandatory handful of jalapenos.  June and Joe, my neighbors and good friends, have been greeted after Mass with bags of veggies - if I haven’t already left a sack on their porch! My friend Laura and her daughter Kimberly:  bags of tomatoes.  They have been spared the eggplant and jalapenos, but were willing to experiment on a couple of watermelons with me.  Deb, from gym class, however, actually requested eggplant.  I was only too happy to oblige.  When my sisters and my friend Kathryn came to visit, I let them loose in the veggie patch.  They each took home bags of tomatoes. And I still have plenty to spare.  My friend Loretta, who doesn’t even eat tomatoes, obligingly took a bag off my hands. Even Terry Irving:  when he stopped by to drop off autographed copies of his novel, “Courier,” he could not get out the door without taking tomatoes with him!
                And the “veggie fairy” has also been surprised.  My bags of veggies have returned to me in the form of three different dinners with Laura.  June made sure she shared with me her homemade eggplant parmigiana.  Gifts from my garden, regifted!
                I hope this spectacular season hasn’t spoiled me for future farming efforts.  Next year, I am hoping to have corn, lima beans, sunflowers.
And, of course, tomatoes.