Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chasing Fall

The trees are changing, the colors bright, the sunrises and sunsets are saturated with light.  The  air exudes a crisp energy, the sky is a cerulean blue, all in synergy as the days grow shorter.  Fall has come to northwest Ohio, and Sylvania, the city of trees, is aglow.

I always marvel at the brightness of fall colors, as if the trees, bushes and flowers are grasping every living moment before they die. Flaming in the dying of the light. What a dignified and glorious way to transition to another season. It's an analogy that's good for the aging human soul.

My two-year-old grandson Chase is at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to aging souls, but he's chasing fall like the energizer bunny.  He can't wait to go outside, to look at the sky and the trees, to pick up fallen leaves and find buckeyes on our walks, to scurry up and down steps counting 1,2,3,4,5, with a bright red maple leaf in his hand. He loves autumn.  He chases it.

"Mom, that's because he's two and he's in to everything!" 

"Yeah, like spilling my cup of coffee on the rug, thank goodness it wasn't hot; or moving chairs around the kitchen to get to the stove (thank goodness it wasn't on),and finding the garlic powder and pouring it all over the floor?" 

"Aha, like that.  Wait....Did he really do that?!"

"Yep.  But I managed to get him just in time, or almost just in time. I told him it was time to go for a walk, which of course distracted him immediately."  

"I see," Michelle said, the height of calmness.  "It's probably because of the colors and the flowers flaming before the dying of the light...."'

I smiled.  My daughter was teasing me. 

"And oh, by the way," I went on, "he loves that NY Yankee baseball cap, which might have come down from my dad, your granddad, who was a Yankee fan to the end.  Chase might be a baseball player some day!"

"Well, basically he's copying his brother Josh, who loves wearing his Detroit Tigers hat," Michelle responded.  "Chase wants a hat of his own.  He wants to be like his brothers Josh and Kyle."  

Well, how super is that, I thought.  Brothers, baseball and fall.  They go together like a horse and carriage, like hotdogs and pickles, like Lauren and Bacall, like ....

"Oh my God, where's Chase?" Shel asked, looking around. "Good lord, he's out the door and going down the back steps!"

Chasing fall, I thought.  I like to think he will always do that, in some way or another.  That he will explore the world with open arms, unbounded curiosity, unconditional joy. How splendid to be two years old in the autumn of our days!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Steinbeck in Vietnam

Dr. David Livingston, new president of Lourdes University, with head of Lifelong Learning's Laura Megeath (upper left);  Dr..Thomas Barden (lower left); some photos that accompanied his talk, 'Steinbeck in Vietnam." 
The ever-popular Lifelong Learning program at Lourdes University in Sylvania had a fascinating program on writer John Steinbeck last week.  Seniors ages 50 and up filled the auditorium, each of us bringing our own distinct memories of the well-known author.

John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath (1939), which won a Pulitzer prize, was required reading when most of us were in high school. The story of a dirt poor sharecropping family who migrated from the Oklahoma "dust bowl" to California during the 1930s Great Depression opened up a whole new world. Steinbeck, a New Deal Democrat to the core, looked like a genius, and wrote fantastic works such as Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, Cannery Row, and The Moon is Down (many made into  movies).  He eventually won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.   This is the Steinbeck we all knew; the writer I knew. 

The Steinbeck I did not know, and I think most of the audience didn't either, was a macho man, like Hemingway; from Salinas, California, a kind of Jack London adventurer;  a close friend of Lyndon B. Johnson, both men large, bold and earthy; and a hawk on the Vietnam War. 

This is the man that professor Thomas Barden, retired from UT and now adjunct professor at Lourdes, spoke about in "Steinbeck in Vietnam."  Barden signed copies of his recent book of the same title after his talk. 

We were honored to be greeted by the new president of Lourdes, Dr. David Livingston, who spoke about the importance of life-long learning and intellectual journeys. It's always nice to hear positive things about the liberal arts, and this audience perfectly understood this. As far as we could see, this new president was off to a great start!

So Steinbeck, friend of Lyndon Johnson, went to Vietnam to report on the war for Newsday, then owned by his friend Harry Guggenheim. The "Dispatches from Vietnam, 1966 and 1967" supported the war effort, the Domino theory, the belief we could "win."  Friends and fans back home were shocked, and so were the American people, who came to despise the war. That's why those letters from Vietnam, an embarrassment to his family and those protecting his image, didn't make the light of day again until recently, after much difficult research.  Steinbeck's two sons, who were soldiers in  Vietnam, ended up less enthusiastic about the war than their father. Barden said that one son confronted Steinbeck senior--in Vietnam--arguing that the war was wrong, "that all the troops were stoned, that the body count wasn't accurate, that it was a mess and we ought to get out."  Walter Cronkite said the same thing, Barden recalled, and Americans knew it.

Steinbeck didn't live much longer when he returned to America, but Barden thinks he began to have his doubts about America's involvement in Vietnam.  Steinbeck died in 1968, worn out, maybe disillusioned, just before the My Lai massacre, the quintessential symbol of that long losing war.  Vietnam took the lives, spirit and souls of more than 58,000 young men and women, their average age 19, children really. Another 200,000 returned home deeply wounded physically and psychologically.  My friend Teddy Wilson remembered how badly the young soldiers were treated when they returned home, adding insult to injury.  It brought tears to her eyes.

"Kind of disappointing," I said to Teddy after the lecture, referring to Steinbeck the Vietnam hawk. "No, it's just the way it is," she responded.  "He was human, complicated, like all of us. Steinbeck's writings will live on."  I nodded.  Perhaps had Steinbeck lived he would have grasped the tragedy of the whole senseless war, and written another Grapes of Wrath to pay homage to our soldiers' sacrifices against the odds. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Harry Binswanger Shrugged

Okay, all you slackers out there.  All you lazy SOBs who work hard for a living, or make minimum wage, don't have health insurance, and drive a beat-up old car to show for it.

Get down on your knees and thank your lucky stars that we have the 1% in our country who earn all the money, pay proportionately less of their income for taxes, and got us where we are today.   

Bow down and praise "the people who lifted us out of the cave and gave us our standard of living." Yes, we're talking about those talented creators who make an average of $27 million per household (unlike the pitiful $31,244 average income for the bottom 90% of us).

In gratitude, we should recognize that these 1 percenters have given so much to America that  they shouldn't pay any taxes.  That's right.  None at all.  Why should they, when they have created so much wealth? 

We owe them "a debt of gratitude."  No, not debts, a "debt of gratitude." 

So shrugs Harry Binswanger, a writer for Forbes magazine, and dear friend of the beleaguered 1%. He is also I learned an Ayn Rand fanatic, and still serves on the Rand Center board.   He just wants to set the record straight and put the rest of us in our places, which is just above the cave men on the scale of human endeavor.

What about the military, national security, police, fire and other public services. Shouldn't the wealthy pay for those, like the rest of us losers.  

Well, if they want to.

If they want to? Yes on a "voluntary"  basis.


Yeah, but they "are not obliged to pay or to give back." 

Those Goldman Sach's billionaires "have done more for humanity than Mother Theresa."  More than Mother Theresa?  Sure. They are the ones who deserve medals, like the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The Congressional Medal of Honor?  Yes, it should go to the billionaire who makes the most money in a year.

Come on, you weary workers of the world.  You know, as Romney said, at least 47% of us will never change.  We just live for handouts.  True, Binswanger shrugs again, kind of holding the world on his shoulders.  The average worker, the 99%, "should give back to the wealth creators." 

So how about it? So what if all the facts and charts say Binswanger is wrong about the economy the way it is.  You can surely forego a  month's rent, an  electric bill, forget the babysitter, maybe pick up an extra job in addition to the low-paying job you now have (your choice), and tithe to the almighty super rich.  Stop sucking up the goodies created by the rich, for heaven sake, and live free or die.

yahoo images

Why was I not surprised to discover that Harry Binswanger was a friend of Ayn Rand and still serves on the Ayn Rand Center board of directors. (, for that view of the world and Binswanger's view of the world).  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Downtown Perrysburg: Coming Together

Vendors and booths galore; Commodore Perry statue; tin art, Philip's favorite; with his GranE  and all our bags.
A last rose of summer behind OSU booth.
"Look, Nana Franna," Philip shouted with glee.  He was pointing up to the sky.  Red and blue balloons were drifting off, higher and higher, becoming small dots against gray clouds. We followed them as they floated into the sky and beyond the horizon. We followed them to the Harrison Rally Day in downtown Perrysburg. 

The Sylvania, Maumee, Perrysburg area of our state is beautiful at this time of year.  My daughter, great-grandson and I drove down from Sylvania to Perrysburg on Saturday for the Harrison Rally Day.  I learned it was named after US President William Henry Harrison, who died a month after being elected, but he did represent Ohio in the US Congress and made a (memorable) campaign stop at Fort Meigs.   We enjoyed the changing foliage as we drove along the Maumee river.  We crossed the bridge and knew we were in Perrysburg when we saw the tall bronze statue of Commodore Oliver Perry, naval hero of the War of 1812, and the town's name sake.  The beautiful homes in and around Perrysburg's historic downtown are another visual treat, a variety of architectural styles, still as grand as they ever were, and lovingly preserved and maintained.   

And of course there were those balloons floating up to the sky.  They came from the dozens of booths lining Louisiana and Front Street, set free by a sudden breeze or a tiny hand letting go of a string.

Every imaginable business, shop, educational, religious and medical institution, and nonprofit group was represented at the street fair, and we filled free shopping bags, blazoned with various logos, with all sorts of free give-aways.  Philip found something at just about every booth to put in our bags.

The art show featured artists in every medium from around the region and as far away as Cleveland. I loved some of the watercolors; a lovely sunflower reminded me of Ukraine and my PCV friend Jud's watercolors. Elissa liked the photography and the collage art of D. Hererra. Philip's favorite was the tin art.  He bought a hand-made blue bird of happiness finger puppet to give his mom.  His enthusiasm was contagious, our budding art lover and festival enthusiast leading us up and down the street.  We floated up to the heavens with those balloons, but our feet were firmly planted on the ground.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"I dream of Africa," too

yahoo images, Kenya
I dream of Africa, too.  Like Prince William.  The CNN interview with the proud new father, about his love for Africa and conserving its wildlife, struck a cord (  It's a place I've always wanted to visit.  Especially Kenya and Tanzania.  Take a safari.  See for myself the tigers and elephants and giraffes, the wildebeests and zebras, bounding across beautiful deserts, mountains and plains. 

So it's sad to read about that massacre at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, where Islamist extremist have so far killed 59 people and wounded close to 200. Nairobi is Kenya's vibrant capital city, a hub for international business and culture, and the country is East  Africa's largest economy.  But it's also a country where tribal loyalties have wrecked havoc on the land and still fuel violence and unrest.  Some of these tribal leaders, including Kenya's current president, is on trial in the Hague for heinous crimes against his people. 

If only Kenya's natural beauty, with its wondrous wildlife preserves and national parks, which are magnets for a growing eco-tourism industry, moderated its human frailties. "This is true all over the planet, sis," I can hear my brother Loren say.  For Loren it was always Mother Earth vs. Patriarchy.  I'm reminded of this almost daily, in the news about impossible wars, chemical attacks, gun violence, massacres in the name of God or jihad.  Africa, like the Middle East, embodies humanity's flaws and hopes.  I dream of Africa, too.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sharing Sylvania Family Stories

Sharing Family Stories are SAHS board members and members Bob Smith,
 Mimi Malcolm, Polly Cooper, and Julia Pelton.
It was "Sylvania Family Stories" night at the Sylvania Area Historical Society's September public program.  A small but appreciative audience learned about Sylvania's founding families and their descendants, some of whom came to the US from England, maybe Germany, maybe Holland, via America's East coast, New York City and State, and yes, Lucas County, Ohio, in its infancy. It wasn't that long ago that Sylvania was "out in the country," we were reminded.  The "suburbanization" of the area didn't really take off until the 1980s, a modern story that brings us up to the present. We went way back to the times Sylvania and area were still rural.   Here are some of the things we learned.

Did you know that the Lenardson family is related to just about all of Sylvania's early families, starting in 1832 with a large farm and a large family that grew larger every year?  One branch of the  pioneering John Timothy Lenardson family, through his son Frederick, had several sons and five daughters, and they married just about everyone who lived around here at the time. More and more land, more children, more grandchildren and great-grandchildren, on through many generations. Did you know there was once a little Red School House called Lenardson School, founded sometime in the 1870s?  The school held a reunion in 1926 (probably mostly Lenardsons and their offspring!) that was reported in a local newspaper, leaving future generations some documentation about an interesting chapter in Sylvania history.  Mimi Malcolm, a SAHS board member, told lots of great Lenardson family stories, and shared a story board, photos, and documents.  Mimi is a master genealogist, and a great teacher.

Have you ever heard the story of Thomas Chandler, the uncle of A.R. Chandler, founder of the hardware store on Main, now Chandler's restaurant?  Thomas Chandler sailed from Kent, England, to America in May 1854, arrived in New York City after a long and arduous voyage, went up to Albany to get settled, then came to Sylvania in 1859.  The Chandler family grew and prospered. I'm guessing they might have joined the Harrouns, Lathrops and others on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves from the South escape North to freedom. I'll check into this. Thomas was a soldier in the Civil War, we learned, which is another fascinating story.  Thomas became a naturalized citizen in 1901, a proud moment in a pioneering life. Polly Cooper shared the Chandler story that began in England.  Also, the Heritage Museum is now featuring an exhibit on the Civil War.

Did you know that the Carl family, who came to Sylvania in the 1880s, had the blacksmith shop next to Chandler's hardware, and lived at 5378 South Main, which is still standing, near St. Joe's?  A Carl relative, Alice, worked at Jimmy's Restaurant, where Ace Hardware is now.  A daughter was engaged to a Reeb family member but died of TB in 1925.  Julia Pelton filled in details about her husband's family, and shared some rare historic photos of houses, buildings, businesses, and relatives from long ago.

And what about that large dairy farm that used to be on Sylvania-Metamora Road across from Pacesetter's?  It had its roots in 1836, when a William Sibley, once scalped by Shawnee Indians seeking whiskey (he survived to tell about it), moved to the Lucas County area and bought a large farm on Upton and Berdan. Frontier days. His descendants in time decided "to move out to the country," and bought a 100 acre farm, once a Lenardson farm, that became the well-known Smith and Sons Dairy.   Imagine moving a 270-acres farm, with speedwagons, haywagons, steers and cows, and all sorts of farm equipment, up Monroe Street to Sylvania-Metamora Road. "What a sight that must have been," Pam Rohrbacher exclaimed!  Bob Smith, chairman of the SAHS board of directors, regaled us with stories about his Ohio pioneer ancestors, including his great-grandparents, grandparents and parents, who kept the dairy farm going until 1959.  Polly, the SAHS's archivist along with Liz Stover, remembered that the archives had many of Bob's family photos, and ran and got them out for us to see.

public image, wdwallpaper, yahoo
Bob ended with a story for Halloween. Close the curtains.  Dim the lights.  Light a small candle, to cast shadows around the room.  Here, my friends, is a story about Chauncey Clark.  Clark lived in a large house on the corner of Centennial and Sylvania-Metamora, the very spot where the Rite Aide is today, near the Smith and Sons Dairy Farm.  Chauncey, an avid hunter, took out his rifle one day, sometime in the 1930s it was, put on his hunting hat and boots, walked out the door, as he did most every day. . . .and disappeared.  Went out to hunt, and never came back. The old family dog Dusty might have known where Chauncey Clark was but no one took the dog seriously. Where was Chauncey? It remained a mystery. In fact, it took several months to unearth Chauncey's rifle, parts of it exposed by weather and sparkling in the sun, and to discover his body. Perhaps, Bob speculated, he died of a heart attack.  Who knows?  But Chauncey's ghost, it is said, still haunts Pacesetter Park and the old farms that were once around it. The ghost even shows up on dark nights at the Rite Aide, I'm told, no doubt looking for its home. 
                                                                      *   *   *   *

MARK YOUR CALENDAR:  Want to learn more about your family history? Mimi Malcolm, SAHS board member, will lead a Genealogy workshop at the Heritage Museum on November 16.  Check out to sign up and for more information.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We the People: No American involvement in another Civil War

The American people led the way on the question of whether our government should intervene in Syria's Civil War. We the people moderated the Obama administration's impulse to bomb.

We remember Iraq and Afghanistan. Senseless wars, without outcomes.  We have some inkling of the complexities of the Syrian situation and the Middle East region. Shiites vs. Sunnis, Hezbollah vs. Al Qaeda. Violence without end.  A no-win situation. What extreme Islamist religious groups will benefit from our military intervention in the long run?   

The American people know it's a tight line, a fine line, not a "red line." 

Nor did we like the implication that somehow we were less humanitarian than the president and his advisors about the use of chemical weapons.  We were, and remain, outraged. But, we also hoped the president would be true to his word when he ran for reelection: explore options to war as forcefully as a military response.  Putin one-upped him on that.

In a recent op ed piece in the NYT (15 September 2013),  Frank Bruni spelled out in grisly detail "What War Means."

"Where did our thousands dead and wounded and maimed get us in Iraq and Afghanistan?   Here are some other relevant figures. Our country sent more than two million men and women to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 6,500 of them are dead. Tens of thousands were physically injured, including some 1,500 amputees. Iraq and Afghanistan were minefields, literally and metaphorically, rife with improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s. They were easy places to lose a limb.
Of the two-million-plus Americans who spent time there, “studies suggest that 20 to 30 percent have come home with post-traumatic stress disorder,” writes David Finkel in his beautiful and heartbreaking new book, “Thank You for Your Service,” which was excerpted in The New Yorker recently and will be published next month. 'Depression, anxiety, nightmares, memory problems, personality changes, suicidal thoughts: every war has its after-war, and so it is with the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have created some five hundred thousand mentally wounded American veterans'.”
We the people are seldom unanimous on major issues; we are Red and Blue and Gray. We are conservative, liberal and moderate.  But somehow we were united, loud and clear, on getting into Syria.  We do not want another Iraq or another Afghanistan.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Colors and Memory

My chrysanthemums and marigolds, beautiful shades of burgundy, garnet, and gold, are evoking some fun memoires.      
Those are the colors of the Washington Redskins football team and also the Florida State University (FSU) football team. 

Looking at my garden, I had a flashback to a time I lived in Washington and my sister came from Tallahassee, Florida, for a visit. 
It was a beautiful fall day, like today, and we were taking the Metro to the National Mall from Dupont Circle, where I lived.  The stations and trains were packed with people.  And lots of them were dressed in burgundy and gold.
“Wow, this is great, sis,” Andy said to me, a big smile on her face.  “I can’t believe there are so many FSU fans in Washington, DC!”  
I looked at her, thought a second.  “Yeah, Andy, they came out for you.   Wanted to make sure you felt welcomed  in this great capital city noted for its “Northern charm and southern efficiency, ” as JFK put it.
“Go Noles!” she just about shouted over the din of the busy train. A few folks looked her way and grinned. The Logos were even similar, and controversial in both cases even then.
“Know where this train’s headed?” I asked her. “Here’s a hint: it’s on the way to Redskins stadium.”
She looked at me, shook her head, then howled.  A Washington Redskins football game!  We laughed ‘til we cried.

“And here I thought everyone had come out in garnet and gold just for me!” 
“Sure, right sis, colors will do that to you!”  We laughed off and on at the thought for the rest of the day. Sometimes we still do, especially when the mums and marigolds show their colors, and speak to us. 


Monday, September 16, 2013

Wandering the Warehouse District

Exterior of restored buildings; interior of a warehouse re-configured into offices and an urban home designed by Paul Sullivan, Jr; lunch at Downtown Latte cafĂ© with Josh; frog sculptures, music by jazz legend Cliff Murphy and a great keyboardist, as well as a talented quartet, art and other urban pleasures.     
Urban Chic. That's how I  think about Toledo's "Warehouse District."  And wouldn't it be wonderful if the lively urban neighborhood expanded and grew as large as the dreams of its current residents, shop owners, and lawyers, architects, and other workers who have offices in the restored buildings in the historic area. 

The rain held off and we walked up and down and around St. Clair Street, my grandson Josh and I.  It was the 9th Annual "Wander the Warehouse District" day, and it was fantastic. 

The downtown has changed a lot since I left the city in 1985 and returned in 2011. I lived in the Old West End then, a lovely oasis of Victorian homes, but our downtown was just hanging on as I recall. Revitalization projects emerged, with lots of hope, on the waterfront, around it, and then, sadly, collapsed.  Now it seems the decline has reversed again, at least somewhat.  I've been to a Mud Hens game at Fifth/Third Field; attended Art Walks, visited galleries, shops and restaurants, and this weekend wandered around the Warehouse District.  The buildings look beautiful.  A  friend took us into her office building, which also houses the unique urban home of a lovely couple--gleaming hardwood floors, high ceilings, huge windows, a brilliantly designed space by creative architect Paul Sullivan, Jr.  A stunning vision realized. A fabulous re-use of a once-neglected but historic building. The owners' art, especially the glass art, is exquisite, and so is the rooftop garden with its view of the Maumee river and the Toledo skyline. Urban Chic, for sure, as a story about this home in the August 2007 issue of inToledo (mounted on the wall as you enter the building), tells it.

While I am stunned by the changes, those who live in the Warehouse District would like to see even more progress than has been made in the last decade.  More residences, more shopping options, more of those elegant old buildings restored.   

It's not Portland or Pittsburg or Fort Wayne yet, but the "New Urbanism" has a foothold in Toledo. The Warehouse District exemplifies it.

Can all the public and private interests, the neighborhood associations, people with vision, work together to move Toledo's downtown into a bright urban future?  I heard this question over and over as we walked and talked around the District.  Some friends told me that TEDx Toledo was asking the same question, and will be holding its annual conclave on September 19 to hear talks about "reimagining" Toledo.  Vision and hope spring eternal!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Eat Your Veggies!

Fresh vegetables at Tuesday's Farmers Market, Sylvania; just-baked bread from Country Grains Market;
my front porch and back garden, upper right and left.  
"Eat your veggies!" My mother's voice floated around me, her green eyes sparkling. It was her fervent admonition at the dinner table when I was growing up. I would brush the asparagus or broccoli or beans off to the side of my plate, hoping she'd forget about it.  No way. I was getting a message from beyond.  Time to go to the Farmers Market.

It was an Indian summer kind of day.  Actually it was more than that; it was very hot out, in the high 90s, surprising for this time of year.  My daughter called to say the AC in my car wasn't working and we got up to 96 degrees, a record! Well, I thought, I can do something about the car but nothing about the weather.  Life's like that.  I went out into the bright sun.  I embraced the heat, and it was fine.  The sky was a deep cobalt blue, like the sky on a sunny day in Florida, or California, or Ukraine, or San Miguel de Allende. I let myself travel for a while, then came back home.

The light is brilliant at this time of year, and especially in the late afternoon.  I checked my gardens, the marigolds, geraniums and daises brighter than ever as they prepare for the dying of the light. I noticed with joy that the chrysanthemums have opened up deep burgundy. The plants are huge this year. I putzed around with my new fall wreaths and front porch decorations, took a few photos, then headed to the fabulous Farmers Market on Main Street, Sylvania.

When I was younger I would have headed straight to the Market, completed my business,  and walked straight home, not stopping to smell the roses.  Now I take my time. The moments are fuller, richer.

I got to the market and met a few neighbors, one of the nice things about going there. Sue was debating colorful peppers, and Julia's arms were loaded with corn and greens.   There weren't as many vendors around, but the variety and colors of the vegetables were beautiful.  Reds, oranges, greens and purples.  Bright and cheerful. The bounty of nature.  Another message from my mom whispered in my ear: "Nature will always provide."

I chose some squash and zucchini, tomatoes and onions, red peppers and fresh basil. I got a few things at one vendor, a few at another.  It's a feast for the eyes, and taste buds. I also bought some blueberry, cranberry, apricot bread freshly baked in the ovens of Country Grains Market (on Sylvania Avenue near McCord).   My breakfast for the week. 

As soon as I got home I started slicing, dicing and cooking. I usually make up my own recipes, although I think this is how my mother cooked. It's kind of in your DNA, these recipes and memories.  So here's what I did with my veggies, from the farm to my table:

Zucchini and Yellow Squash
Heat olive oil in frying pan
Add onions, fresh basil, bits of red bell pepper; mix together
Add sliced zucchini and squash, sea salt, pepper, garlic powder  Keep veggies flat to brown on both sides
Add a few drops of Sesame oil while it's cooking if you like (I love it)
Brown and serve
Options: Toward end of cooking, mix in a few dashes of Soy sauce, or a few spoons of pesto to taste, or some sliced tomatoes. Of course if you have a bright purple eggplant you would add it at the beginning with the other vegetables.

I put this mini-ratatouille over couscous with a fresh sliced tomato.  I toasted my mom with a small glass of white wine, and had a great meal.  She smiled.  Locally grown, healthy, yummy, and evocative of a loving mom.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
 John Newton, English poet and clergyman, 1779
Outside and inside the stunning Historic St. Patrick's Church, downtown Toledo, which traces it's heritage to the early Irish community and now serves as a a special place to remember firefighters, adorned with a memorial altar and statue of St. Florian, the patron Saint of Firefighters.  Helmets on the altar, the (silver) fire bell, Toledo Firefighters Pipes and Drums. 

The bagpipes played the mournful song at the end of the 7th Annual Firefighters Mass at Historic St. Patrick Church in downtown Toledo. Amazing Grace.  A retired firefighter read the names of  those who have lost their lives to save others.  Another firefighter rang the Fire Bell (the last alarm) in solemn remembrance.

The church was filled with people who remembered that Toledo's own firefighters saved St. Patrick's itself from a horrible fire in September 1980, and then helped rebuild its tower.  We remembered first responders and firefighters killed on 9/11,those killed more recently in Arizona and Texas, and the hundreds of unsung heroes who don't make national headlines.

Among these is New York City's Firefighters Department (FDNY) Chaplain Father Mychal F. Judge, a Francisan priest, who was the first certified fatality of the 9/11 attacks.  "You do what God has called you to do.You get on that rig, you go out and do the job."  It was Father Judge's last homily, at a Mass for firefighters the day before 9/11.

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound."

Mickey Mouse thanks a firefighter, iconic print
at the Toledo Firefighters Museum. The Museum has many supporters,
including Historic St. Patrick Church.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tennis Lessons

public domain clip art, yahoo.
In tennis, as in life, "unforced errors" will get you every time.  Watching the giants of the game at the U.S. Open in New York reminds me of that.  It amazes me how these players, with all their enormous talent, strength and will to win, can lose a game, and even an entire match, because of  unforced errors, no matter how brilliant they are at their game.  The Federer loss last night confirmed that.

No doubt we've all had a few unforced errors in our lives.  A wrong turn, a bad decision, an unforeseen conflict, a loss of focus, questionable judgment, plain old mistakes. These are the errors that keep us up at night, haunt our dreams, force us to ask what we could have done better.  We see the errors of our ways, in retrospect.  We say I wish I knew then what I know now.  "I kind of self-destructed," a forlorn Roger Federer said after his match.

Some people I suppose breeze through life without any stumbling blocks, seemingly on top of their game to the very last inning. It's smooth sailing.  I'm mixing my metaphors here, but life's like that.   

On the other hand, some of us face obstacles and errors that cause anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. We are left pondering our fate, like Federer. We win some, lose some.  Some of us learn to have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Some of us keep struggling to the end of the game, hoping to make things better.  We dream that it's the bottom of the 9th, last batter up, bases loaded, down by three, and we hit it out of the ballpark.  It happens.  There's always hope. 

Federer will be back, and that match with Nadal will happen, if not in this lifetime, in the next.  A tennis match for the ages, with no unforced errors.

Quotation of the Day: "I have three messages. One is we should never ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team." — Diana Nyad, 64 years old, upon completing a swim from Cuba to Florida after five attempts over 35 years.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Love those Cruise (Tomahawk) Missiles, or "How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb"

public domain image, yahoo.
I've been paying attention to the situation in Syria and the process of the President's decision to "punish" Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons, an outrageous act in every case.  Assad is now the devil incarnate (always need one) in the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, which has seen it's share of these kinds of disasters and these kinds of leaders.

We have taken out at least two of them, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, maybe more, and it's all been like some kind of movie.   Saddam in some rat hole, running for his life, haggard, bearded, looking like a lost soul cut down to size. Bin Laden in his home hiding in plain sight, maybe on the toilet or watching movies.  We even have photos of the key American players in the War Room  watching the action LIVE with great anticipation, then erupting into cheers as bin Laden dies in front of us.

Obama is in love with cruise missiles and unmanned drones.  He likes the idea of "limited, tactical" strikes against enemy targets, to limit death and destruction and more intensive involvement, or so he thinks.  In this he is in the tradition of Bill Clinton, who loved them, too, and used them against Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and even Belgrade.  At $1.4 million a pop, he ran up a huge bill.  Just like  Obama.  In fact you might call this Obama's major National Security Policy.  He's already approved 283 strikes in Pakistan according to a CNN report.

So now Obama wants to send his beloved tomahawk missiles into Syria.  You know, just a few targeted strikes that will reduce Assad's military capability, then get the heck out of there and wait and see what happens. Lots of us are not sure about this  choice or this "mission"?  Will it open the door to sending in the troops?  What will success look like? If we are "the punishers of evil" in the world, like the global moral policeman, will there be any end to our involvements? Will it be another Iraq?

The modern Middle East has been in turmoil since1948 when Israel was born,  Every Arab country thereafter has seen the rise of dictators and civil war, the rise of Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and civil war, the ongoing conflict since the 7th century between the Sunni majority in the region (90% of all Muslims) and the Shiite minority (10% of all Muslims).  These are about the most brutal kinds of wars.  Death and destruction without end. It's only gotten worse since 9/11.

We go in and out as peacemakers and warmongers, to little effect it seems.  Iraq and Afghanistan are examples: many Americans lost and wounded, billions spent, and for what? It doesn't look like there have been any changes in these places. Wars without purpose, without outcomes.

How can we forget the duplicitous ways we got into Iraq? Those lies upon lies about WMDs, pushing Gen. Colin Powell to the brink in his charade at the UN, even in the face of contrary evidence. Bush and Cheney wanted a war and they got one. The only winners were the military-industrial complex, oil producers. and international giants like Haliburton who made huge profits off of death. Still do.

wiki-image on yahoo. 
Americas were left stammering at the extent of the lies.  We felt like characters in Joseph Heller's Catch 22, helpless victims of the use of language tortured into new forms and meanings.

I feel that way again. Obama's love of cruise missiles brings it all back. His reasoning also has Dr. Strangelove written on it, Stanley Kubrick's classic 1964 parody of the Cold War and nuclear disaster, a noir comedy of errors.  Obama seems to have his General Rippers, but will one catch 22 lead to another, and yet another?

"No fighting in the war room," right?
"Oops, made a terrible mistake, unleashed tomahawks  and can't recall the decision." 
"Oops, the target's counterattack system, its Doomsday Machine, can't be dismantled and dissuaded either."
"Oops, we're on a deadly collision course."      

Whatever formidable logic Obama has brought to the table, and however much the US Congress may support it, it's not at all clear what outcomes will emerge after US cruise missile attacks on Syrian targets.

The iconic image at the end of Dr. Strangelove floats up to the surface: General Kong, cowboy hat flying, riding the A-bomb like a bronco off into the nuclear sunset.  But it's Obama riding that bomb.  At this point, there seems no turning back. The Senate is almost on board and the House will be next.  We can only pray that "war is peace" and that "bombs bring hope."

So why do I have a feeling that a no-fly zone and troops on the ground aren't far behind, and that taking out Assad is already on the military drawing board?



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