Happy 90th Birthday Sidney Poitier


On February 20, 1927, Sidney Poitier was born in Miami, Florida. His parents were poor immigrant farmers from the Bahamas, where he and his family eventually returned.

When he was 15, he moved back to Florida, eventually making his way to New York’s Harlem where he became a dishwasher.

He served in the army, and then joined the American Negro Theater working there as a janitor in exchange for drama training.

In 1961, while the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was organizing the “Freedom Ride” Poitier appeared in his first major movie appearance when he played Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. While Poitier’s fictional character was mired in neighborhood tensions over interracial population in Chicago, the original Freedom Riders were being beaten by mobs in several places, including Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama.

The movie was terrific, but Poitier and the film didn’t get much attention. If you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly urge you to do so.

Two years later, a quarter of a million people participated in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, and heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech.

That same year, Poitier starred as Homer Smith in the 1963 movie Lilies of the Field, and he was finally recognized as the star he was. The story of an African American itinerant worker who encounters a group of East German nuns in Arizona, who believe Smith has been sent to them by God to build them a new chapel, hit moviegoers hard.

I will never forget the last scene of the film, with Smith slipping quietly away into the night.

I recall my mom weeping next to me in the theater, and my grandmother later telling me “things were changing.”

Changing, indeed. The movie debuted just one month before Kennedy’s assassination.

Poitier’s role as Smith earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor, making him the first African-American man to win the honor.

I saw both movies as a child, but to be honest, I was too young to fully understand the importance of the films, or how talented Poitier was.

It wasn’t until 1967 when I was fourteen that I fell in love with Poitier in his role as a high school teacher in To Sir With Love, a British drama film that dealt with social and racial issues in an inner city school.

It was also in 1967 that the changing times had divided most Americans into “them” and “us.”  Following a police raid on a black power hangout, Detroit erupted into the worst race riots our country had ever experienced, with 43 people dead—33 African Americans and 10 whites. Hundreds of racial disturbances were reported across the country that year, including major riots in Tampa, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Newark, Plainfield and Brunswick, New Jersey, which killed at least 83 people. It was also the year that Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for resisting military draft as a Muslim minister in the Nation of Islam.

I am embarrassed to say that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend any of it.

But To Sir With Love left an indelible mark on me and forever changed my view of black vs. white.

Poitier played teacher Mark Thackeray, and it was the first crush I ever had on an actor.

I can still vividly recall when at their end of the school year class dance there was a “ladies choice,” and tough girl Pamela chose Thackeray as her dance partner. That scene hands down just blew me away.

The film’s title song “To Sir With Love,” sung by Lulu (who played the unforgettable Barbara Pegg in the movie), reached number one on the U.S. pop charts.  I can’t tell you how many thousands of times I played that 45 record. (See the YouTube video of it below.)

In the same year, Poitier followed up with In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, where he starred opposite Katharine Hepburn, as a black man in love with a white woman.

Art indeed imitated life—the film debuted the same year that the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage in the landmark case Loving v. Virginia.

The lyrics of To Sir With Love ended with “A friend who taught me right from wrong
and weak from strong, that’s a lot to learn.”

But if I’ve learned anything, it’s something my French-American grandmother used to tell me over and over again: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.   The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Happy 90th Birthday Sidney.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8-M_wg8AI4

Super Bowl Sunday Food Fest


 Lady Gaga in my BFF’s platter of chicken wings.

I promised in my last blog post to move on, and stop talking politics.

But to be honest, I am still obsessed with all things political.

But a promise is a promise, even though my heart and mind isn’t into much of anything else these days.

And try as I could, the only thing I could think of to blog about, is last Sunday’s Super Bowl and what I ate.

I know, it’s old news, but I’m trying here!

So here goes…

I love Super Bowl parties.

The number one reason? It’s all about the food.

…With a few commercials and a half-time show thrown in.

Oh, and of course, there’s the football game.

And yet another excuse to party hardy.

And regardless of whether I am asked to bring something or not, I always show up with my favorite go to’s:

My do-it-yourself platter decorations, and my kick-yo-ass spicy boneless buffalo chicken.

Since I need to fill up some blog space here, I thought I’d throw in a few Super Bowl stats to stretch this thang out.

Did you know that Americans spent more than $50 million on food for this last Super Bowl? (That’s a lot of moolah.)

According to the National Chicken Council (yes there is such a thing), more than 1.3 BILLION chicken wings were consumed over Super Bowl Sunday weekend. That’s enough wings to circle the Earth almost three times. They also estimated that of the wings eaten during Super Bowl weekend, 75 percent came from restaurants or food service outlets, and 25 percent were homemade, which means abut 325 million wings were picked up at grocery stores and supermarkets.

When I showed up at my local grocery store Super Bowl Saturday to pick up chicken, the wings were gonzo.

Shoppers were scurrying and snooping around in the meat department, while others were begging the butcher for a miracle. Good thing I was making boneless buffalo chicken breast!  (See my recipe below.)

Super Bowl Sunday is also hands down, the busiest day of the year for pizza places. Domino’s alone sold about 12 million slices of pizza that day.

And don’t forget about the guacamole dip (8 million pounds), tortilla and potato chips (14,500 tons), popcorn (4,000 tons) and lots and lots and lots of beer.

Estimated Super Bowl Sunday calorie consumption was approximately 1,000-2,000 per person, almost as much as the average person eats in an entire day.

Antacid sales increased by about 20 percent on the Monday after the Super Bowl, and approximately six percent of Americans called in sick.

I like to be creative and make food markers using a Super Bowl theme.  They’re super easy, and everyone raves about them.

I simply find some appropriate photos online, print them out, tape them onto cardboard, create a cardboard post, and wrap the post in aluminum foil.

Take a look at this year’s Super Bowl marker menagerie:

And who knew my Matt Ryan food marker would be so prophetic? (Poor Matt.)

Now for my Boneless Buffalo Chicken recipe:

Boneless Buffalo Chicken
1 pound skinless chicken breast (1” thick – cut into 2” x 2” pieces)
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups buttermilk (Fat free works)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
Peanut Oil (great for frying, but vegetable oil is ok too)

Hot sauce
¾ cup hot sauce
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon butter
¼ heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper

Blue cheese dressing
4 oz. Blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce directions: Place sauce ingredients in small pan and simmer 4-5 minutes until well blended. Remove sauce from heat and set aside.

Boneless Chicken directions: Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Place buttermilk in a separate bowl. Make sure chicken is cut into pieces.  Heat oil for frying.
Dip chicken pieces into the buttermilk and then into the flour.  Gently shake off excess flour and carefully place pieces into hot oil and fry until golden brown.  Remove chicken pieces and drain them on a paper towel.  When you are ready to serve the chicken, place them in a large container and cover with the hot sauce.  Place a lid on the container and gently shake or stir until all nuggets have been coated.  Then place the chicken nuggets on a non stick baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Serve with blue cheese dressing.

 

Who Else Is Sick of Hearing About Politics on Facebook?

Every time I log onto Facebook I cringe.

I am so sick of the political discourse, and yes, I know I have participated in it.

But I need to move on.

And I think I have come up with a brilliant solution that will help me to deal with all the noisy political nonsense.

HOW ABOUT THAT DINNER PIC?

I am going to try

really

really

really

hard to stop discussing politics.

And the first place I am going to start is on Facebook.

As of today, I have put a self-imposed all-things-political blog ban on The Teri Tome and will make my best efforts to muzzle my political opinions for the next thirty days.

If anyone caught my blog post Drinking Alcohol. How Much Is Too Much?  not blogging about politics and you-know-who, might be harder than cutting out the vino.

And my new passive aggressive approach starting right now?

Every time I read something on Facebook that irks me, makes me roll my eyes, and yes—sometimes enrages me, I’m going to post a food pic.

Hell, I might even throw in a recipe or two.

So just to give you a heads up—if you see a food pic or a recipe from me in your Facebook comments section, you’ll know why.

Building a wall?  [Nothing close to the walnut chicken I recently whipped up.]

Crowd size? [No biggie. Take a look at the size of the steak I grilled on the barbie last night.]  

American carnage? [Nothing like a little chili con carne to get the American party started!]

Trump, to roll back Obamacare? [My challah roll bread is to die for.]

Make America great again! [Take a gander at this great American dinner I made tonight!]

Cutting sanctuary city funds? [How about that cut of prime rib my butcher recently prepared for me?]

Three to five million voter fraud? [Anyone interested in my five layer rainbow cake recipe?]

I suggest you all try my approach!  PLEASE.

Blame Lost Jobs on Robots and Automation

Donald Trump won the Presidency in large part, by promising to bring back jobs by mostly clamping down on trade.

But the truth is that trade has very little to do with the loss of jobs. The real job loss culprit isn’t trade—it’s automation and robot employees.  And I would be very surprised if Trump clamps down on either.

The new labor sheriff coming to town—Andrew F. Puzder, Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary, won’t be clamping down on automation or robot employees either.

The current chief executive of CKE Restaurants Puzder had this to say to Business Insider this past March about robot employees: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”

Yes, that’s what he said, folks. So it doesn’t sound like Puzder will be looking to replace robot employees with warm bodies anytime soon.

Trump won a seemingly political victory when he convinced Carrier to keep 800 jobs in Indiana.

And yes, Trump may have convinced Carrier to save jobs. For now.

But here’s what you might not know. Carrier plans on taking advantage of all those Trump tax cuts and incentives, totaling some $16 million, and investing it in automation.

And sure, automation could create some new jobs, but those jobs will require retraining. People with obsolete skills will have to reposition themselves and be retrained for different careers. Job training is essential in addressing skill gaps to prepare the current and future workforce with the tools they need to compete in an increasingly automated America. But Trump’s got no plan on the table for job training at all.

Additionally, the U.S. doesn’t have any kind of national productivity policy or commission in place to identify opportunities and policies for improving productivity.

According to a recent McKinsey Report, existing technology could automate 45 percent of activities people are now paid to do, and the World Economic Forum has estimated that five millions jobs will be lost by 2020.

Boston Consulting Group recently reported that it costs barely $8 an hour to use a robot for spot welding in the auto industry, compared to $25 for a worker—and the gap is only going to widen.

And in 2013 and Oxford study reported that work automation will put 47% of existing jobs in the U.S. at “high risk,” meaning human workers in those jobs will be replaced by robots within 20 years.

So it’s time to stop blaming immigrants, trade, offshoring, China, and Mexico on lost jobs.

Blame it on scientific genius, high-tech innovation, robotic process automation, advanced manufacturing, and hugely successful machinery efficiencies.

What we really need is a President who has the guts to tell the truth about the future of work, not one who thinks he can sell us a Trumped-up myth and pretend that he and he alone will bring back jobs, “real quick,” and make America great again.

Because history has proven, our technological advancements are what will continue to make America great. There’s no possibility of going back in time, and Trump knows it.

American Industry is at its highest level in history. It’s not the industry that’s in decline. The decline is in factory employment, due primarily to automation and increased efficiency.

And for the record, the U.S. unemployment rate in December was among the lowest percentages since 1981, as follows:

U.S. UNEMPLOYMENT RATES:

December 2016: 4.7%

January 2009: 7.8%

January 2001: 4.2%

January 1993: 7.3%

January 1989: 5.4%

January 1981: 7.5%

The truth is America has never been wealthier. The real problem is that the middle class, “the forgotten people,” are not the beneficiary of that wealth.

Why? Because, while the middle class gives up ridiculous amounts of their salaries to the government, the wealthy minority, like Trump and his ilk make sure they use any and all means to avoid paying taxes whatsoever.

And Trump has no plans to do anything about that carnage.

 

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Since the 1700’s, the United States press has held government officials, corporations, and institutions accountable to the American people for secret practices, wrongdoing, and corruption.

Investigative journalism has not only helped to keep government honest, but it has also sparked public outcry on many exposed wrongdoings, often resulting in reforms.

Trump’s declaration of media failure and vows to punish them is an eerie reminder of authoritarian regimes around the word and their brutal silencing of the press.

Trump has relentlessly attacked, undermined and disparaged the Democrats, American citizens who didn’t vote for him, the news media, and most recently the intelligence community. Trump actually compared our United States intelligence officials to Nazis.

Everyone knows that authoritarian regimes start with muzzling and locking down their media and adversaries to ensure absolute rule and repress any insurrection.

If they don’t like the message? They shoot the messenger.

Then they go after their citizens and their foes.

I have always taken for granted our free and independent press. And every morning while reading The New York Times, I discover some article that provides me with a better understanding of the world and in many cases of my own country.

But there are plenty of Americans out there that don’t know much about public affairs. And a lot of them don’t regularly read a newspaper.

But let’s be clear. We need media watchdogs.

The media’s job is to be the public’s eyes and ears. They help to maintain law and order, call out blatant untruths and uncover injustices and lies.

It is NOT the media’s job to provide powerful people, including President-elect Trump a safe haven or a hall pass.

Should the media have turned their backs on the problem of lead in the Flint Michigan water?

Or should the press have turned a blind eye to price gouging by pharmaceutical companies?

Stand-up journalism holds feet to the fire and demands accountability and vigilance. If the media sees something, they need to report something.

Trump’s chew toy of the month is CNN, calling them fake news. He has in the past barred the Washington Post and The New York Times from events, and he has denigrated multiple media outlets and continues to try to silence the press.

It seems painfully obvious that if it’s not pro-Trump news, it’s fake news.

And according to a recent article in The New York Times, the Trump administration is now considering ejecting the press corps from their on-site cubicles in the West Wing.

This action would basically prove that Trump is not willing or won’t allow his presidency to be held accountable. Think of it this way: When the cat’s away, the mice will play.

I find it terribly disconcerting that Trump continues to denigrate and try to constrain and control our media.

In shutting out the press, he is willfully, if not purposefully trying to mislead and deny the American people of the information they deserve to know.

It appears to me that Trump and his team will do anything and everything to avoid accountability. The POTUS shouldn’t be able to fly under the media radar.

We the people need to be alarmed at his media accusations and attempts to muzzle the press. If there is no transparency, there is no truth.

It’s up to the public as a whole to keep the pressure on Trump and his administration to ensure that the Constitution and our nation’s laws are adhered to. And that no one, not even—and especially, the President of the United States, is above the law and/or the scrutiny by the media.

CNN is not fake news, people. This is a major and very real news organization doing their job.

And thank God they’re not going anywhere.

Facts matter. A free press is more essential now than ever before.

From left, right and center, we need to back the media up, not shoot them down.

History is proof that without an independent press, our free democratic society is at risk.

A Girl Can Dream

I delightfully watched three of my grandchildren at their indoor swimming lessons yesterday.

Several young girls had set up a table in the lobby, outside of the pool area to raise money for their basketball team selling water, snacks, and rubber bracelets. I purchased some chips, fruit bites, cookies, and a bracelet. My son-in-law bought a bracelet as well.

On the walk back from swimming, my four-year-old grandson asked me what the bracelet said.

“A girl can dream,” I replied. “Why only a girl?” he countered. I explained the girl basketball thing.

“Why did Daddy buy a girl bracelet? He’s a boy.” His daddy replied that he supports girls even if he’s a boy.

“Tell me what it says again,” my grandson inquired, as his teeny hand held mine tightly. “A girl can dream,” I answered softly.

Another question from my grandson: “What’s a dream?”

I tried to describe a dream as best I could. My explanation wasn’t as easy or fluid as I thought it would be.

Then I asked him if he had a dream.

“I’m too little to have a dream,” he answered decidedly.

“You’re never too little to have a dream. Or too big for that matter,” I responded.

He was quiet for a second, his face was thoughtful, and his mighty brain was churning.

Then he looked up at me and told me that he knew somebody with a dream.

“Who?” I queried.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that the world should be nice,” he responded.

I was blown away by his proclamation and had completely forgotten about the following MLK Day.

“Wow,” I answered genuinely shocked. “Yeah, you’re so right; Martin Luther King had a dream!”

“No,” my grandson replied assertively; his pint-sized pointer finger aiming straight my way. “Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.”

I looked down at his beautiful innocent face confused.

“He was a Jr.,”  he emphasized.

 

Buh Bye 2016


When I launched The Teri Tome in 2015, I wasn’t sure how and how much of my life’s experiences I would have the courage to share with the cyber world.

As the founder of Worldpress.org, an international news website, I had some experience with putting myself out there, but not in the same soul-baring way I was now preparing to do.

The Teri Tome was my way of opening a small window into my soul; my life, my experiences. In cracking open that window, I hoped that one miraculous day I would finally find healing in my own words.

For me, 2016 started out promising but ended with the tragic hit-and-run death of my Aunt Barb.

In between the promise of a new year and the heartbreaking loss of a loved one, yes, 2016 was full of hopefulness, loving family, and the ecstatic news of a coming birth. And then there was that God awful Presidential election. And sure, the sun peeked out amidst the clouds from time to time.

But 2016 has come and gone, and I am still missing that unnamed someone nearest and dearest to me; my lost and most valuable family treasure. I thought for sure that 2016 was the year we would reconcile. And I never mustered up the courage to send any of those 2016 letters I wrote to my estranged mom.

Lost family…lost opportunities…another lost year.

In 2016, I tried my hand at poetry, recipes, drawing and blog fiction.

LET ME REPEAT: BLOG FICTION, which means conjured up. I reiterate the obvious definition because there seems to be some confusion out there from a handful of haters.

I have happily accepted all the bricks some have thrown at me for my posts written from truth.

I get it. The truth hurts.

But the fiction? Give me a break.

And yes, I would agree that there is often an element of truth in fiction.

But my imagination is sometimes all I have left when life’s truth overwhelms me.

And sure, I threw some politics and other fun antics into the mix.

But to be truthful, the soul-searching dark stuff is always lurking in the back of my mind. Those damn niggling memories keep me up night after sleepless night.

That heartbreaking stuff that I inevitably wake up in a sweat remembering, and have to turn on the lights—no matter what time it is, to write them down.

It’s not like I would forget them if I wrote them down the next day, but I guess putting them to paper at that moment is like writing them away so I can try to get an hour or so of uninterrupted sleep.

So as I happily bid a Bye Felicia to 2016, I took a look back at some of my best-read blogs from the past year and selected the following Top Ten Teri Tome picks based on how many times each post was viewed and shared. The truth, the fiction, and the downright forgettable.

And a heartfelt shout-out and thanks to all of my dedicated readers, who helped me bring life to my writing, my experiences, my feelings, and my very soul.

And to all the haters? Take your sticks and stones and get lost.

Haters are always gonna hate. Nothing anyone can do about that. As someone who was bullied as a child and well into her teens, I know first-hand how painful rejection can be.

But ever the optimist and forever my own strongest ally, I pushed through whatever life, and the haters threw at me.

David Brinkley once said, “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.”

Your words of encouragement went a long way in giving me the courage to write on, even when the haters threw their bricks.

I took all those bricks and created a mighty Teri fortress.

The Teri Tome is sometimes sarcastic, oftentimes ironic, and once in a while downright depressing.

But make no mistake about it: The Teri Tome is my truth, my perspective, my memories. And I will live and die by my Teri Tome collection.

So to all those haters out there who so desperately tried to compromise my liberties, my safety, my relationships, and indeed my very soul.

You might have succeeded in taking what you wanted and or what you needed. And you may have shut me out of your lives, and you may even have succeeded in shutting down the very essence of who I once was. But you will never be able to shut my mouth.

Now that I got that off my chest.

Back to The Teri Tome Top Blog Posts of 2016.

By the end of 2016, I had written 42 posts. Out of the 42 posts, 24% of them represented the Top Ten Posts, and have garnered anywhere from 12,710 hits for #1, to 3,602 for #10.

Now I’m not sure if these are impressive numbers or not, but they’re good enough for me.

Anyway, here are the links to my Top Ten Teri Tome Blog Posts for 2016.

Drum roll, please… But before the drum roll, I want to say a HUUUGE thank you to all my readers for sharing your precious time with me. I wish you all a very happy, healthy and blessed 2017.

#1

DEFINITION OF MARKETING: When I was asked to write an article clarifying the difference between marketing, advertising, public relations, branding, telemarketing, and strategic planning, I had a difficult time cogently explaining the distinction between all of them. The only way I could think of doing it was to use my single daughter as the end product. (Note to daughter: Please don’t kill me.)

#2

FISH AND DISHING—GIRLS’ NIGHT IN: I was blown away that this post was so popular. The older I get, the more I enjoy hanging out in my house. But the best part is doing it with my girlfriends.

#3

WORLD DAUGHTER’S DAY: This one was another surprise. But since the passing of Carrie Fisher, and then the following day the death of her mother Debbie Reynolds, I have read article after article about the can’t-live-with-them-can’t-live-without-them relationships that so many mothers have with their daughters. But that’s not the case for me. To be clear, I love my daughter more than life itself.

#4

DRINKING ALCOHOL. HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?: The popularity of this post did not surprise me at all. And since it was written on December 20th, it has garnered tons of hits and shares. I guess I hit a nerve. And speaking of nerve, it took a lot of it for me to talk about what plenty of people are thinking.

#5

MOTHER’S DAY AND RALEIGH: MY BROTHER DISGUISED AS A DOG: To be sure, every dog has his or her day. But my dog Raleigh’s sole purpose on this earth was to protect and love me each and every day of his life. The first and only animal I ever owned saved me in more ways than I could ever express in this blog post.

#6

WE ARE ALL FLINT MICHIGAN: My water sucks. And I can’t help but wonder how many others are drinking tainted water and have no clue. Now I’m not a fan of Trump, but I’d like him a whole lot more if he would delve into why our nation’s drinking water is so bad—BIGLY.

#7

JEMIMA KHAN’S CONTROVERSIAL MELANIA TRUMP COSTUME AT STAR-STUDDED UNICEF HALLOWEEN BALL: The popularity of this post kind of hurt my feelings. As the self-proclaimed Queen of verbiage, I wrote less than 100 words for this post. And it got thousands of page views. Huh? I guess a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, or in this case, a thousand hits.

#8

THE TERI TOME—MY TOP 20 POSTS IN 2015: I was thrilled this one made the top 10 because I get to press instant replay on some oldie but goodie posts.

#9

REST IN PEACE, AUNT BARB: On November 27, as my Aunt Barb walked across a Minneapolis street with my Uncle Lou, she was hit by a speeding car which fled the scene after the horrific accident. She passed away the following morning, November 28, on their 52nd wedding anniversary. Boy, do I miss her.

#10

LET THEM EAT CHEESE—FOR DESSERT: How this post crept into the top 10, I have no clue. I guess a lot of people like cheese. With a side of panforte, crispy raisin pecan bread, and some dried fruit mostarda. Go figure.

Not a Creature Was Stirring, Not Even a Mouse

What’s your very first memory?

I often ask this question to family, friends, and colleagues.

The answer to my question never fails to enlighten me and speaks volumes about the person remembering.

Here’s mine:

My First Memory—December 25, 1957

It was late Christmas night and Mammy, (pronounced May-me), and I were sitting on the couch admiring what I thought was a truly magnificent Christmas tree.

Mammy was my grandmother—my surrogate mother. My mom was divorced, and very young when she had me, so Mammy was raising us both. I never knew my father.

Mammy used to explain to me that when I was a baby I was confused and couldn’t figure out who was the Mom.  Mammy used to call herself Grammy around me, but when I was old enough to speak, I bestowed upon her the weird name of Mammy.

According to Mammy, at ten or so months old I had brilliantly managed to come up with a name that was a cross between Grammy and Mommy.

Mammy was also divorced, so I never knew my grandfather. And Grammy Nadeau, my great grandmother, was a widow and lived with us too.  And like my father and grandfather, I never knew my great grandfather either. Grammy Nadeau was sleeping that Christmas night and my mom was on a date.

Mammy was busily crocheting an afghan. Almost sixty years later I still have that afghan. I curl up with it nearly every night and wrap myself in Mammy’s memory.

Back to my first memory: Christmas night 1957.

I was four years old, and my head rested on Mammy’s shoulder. I was trying to be especially quiet because Mammy was preoccupied with her crocheting, and I was hoping that if she forgot that I was there, I could stay up a little later. I closed my eyes and was drifting off until Mammy began to softly poke my arm.

When I looked up at Mammy, she had a mischievous look on her face, as she put her finger up to her mouth to shush me. She then took her finger off her lips and pointed toward the tree.

So I took Mammy’s cue and gazed at our sparsely decorated tree, adorned with a single strand of blinking lights, a teensy bit of tinsel and a few ornaments, most of them home-made.

Underneath the tree sat my treasured present from Santa Claus.  She was the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. I named her China because she had the silkiest long, shiny black hair, and a flawless porcelain face.  It must have been an expensive doll—much more than Mammy or Mommy could afford.

Anyway, China was sitting under the tree, wearing a red organza pinafore that Mammy sewed for her which to my delight perfectly matched the red Christmas dress she had designed for me.

As I sat looking curiously at the doll under the tree, wondering why Mammy was pointing and shushing, I noticed a tiny mouse sniffing around China. I looked up at Mammy terrified, but she was smiling ever so softly, still shushing me with her pursed lips.

So I looked back at the mouse with a different eye—from Mammy’s tender perspective.

As a child, I was entirely molded by those three women in my life. What they saw I saw. What they felt, I felt.

Mammy had no problem with the little mouse—it was just a baby after all, and so I was all right with it too.

The mouse sniffed around my doll and then snuggled in its lap.

I looked at Mammy’s bright and smiling face, as she lightly kissed her index finger and then playfully touched the tip of my nose with it.

Taking my cue from Mammy, I lay my head back on her shoulder, watched the baby mouse sleeping and then closed my eyes, and drifted into my own peaceful sleep.

 

Drinking Alcohol. How Much Is Too Much?

I recently went to my allergist to be retested for certain fruits that have lately been causing me extreme stomach pain, lip throbbing, nausea, and internal palpitations.

As I breezed through filling out the medical forms, one question, in particular, gave me pause. How many alcoholic beverages do you have a week on average? I lied. Bigly.

After my tests, my doctor wrote down the following fruits to avoid: Cherries, blackberries, peaches, plums, and grapes.

She further explained that as part of getting older, my body chemistry is going through a change, thus all of the new allergies I have developed. The cursed female change wasn’t enough? And hello. DID MY ALLERGIST JUST SAY TO AVOID GRAPES?????

“What about wine?” I asked her hesitantly.

“Yeah, I’d definitely stay away from wine for a while,” she said like it was no biggie.

Whoa. Stay away from the vino?

Before I could fully process her suggestion, my allergist followed it up with: “As a matter of fact, I would like you to stay away from all alcoholic beverages for at least a month.”

I was speechless, so I just gave her a super ugly grimace.

Yikes! Her dictate swirled around in my head. This is what she’s asking me to do a week before Christmas???????

Could I actually go cold turkey for a whopping four weeks?

Okay, maybe I could, but definitely not until after the New Year.

After the New Year, I reiterated to myself. But not a day before.

Okay, so I’m at the allergist because my stomach pain is so bad I can’t sleep, I’m throwing up in the middle of the night, my lips are regularly throbbing and swelling, and I have an incessant metal taste in my mouth.

And I’m resisting my doctor’s recommendation, because?

My brain was turning and churning. As I mentally processed if, how and when to stop drinking, I asked myself: Why do I drink?

Easy enough to answer.

I drink to relax, I drink to celebrate. I drink to calm down. I drink when I’m lonely. I drink because it’s hump day, Friday and Saturday. I drink because it’s Monday. I drink because it’s snowing, storming, sunny, cloudy. I drink because it’s my birthday. I drink because it’s someone else’s birthday. I drink because it’s Mother’s Day. I drink because it’s Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve… Dang, I drink for any old reason.  Plain and simple: I like to drink…in a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on a train, in a house, with a mouse. Here there and anywhere.

My allergist interrupted my rambling thoughts: “It seems to me that you’re unnecessarily obsessing over my suggestion. If having a drink is that big of a deal, and you can’t let it go, then have one drink, and don’t beat yourself up over it.”

Gee, thanks, Doc. One measly cocktail.

I responded to my doctor with: “One drink a day? One drink a month? Define one drink.”

“Remember that this is your decision and your decision alone,” she replied. “You’re in control.”

“I’m not sure I am in control,” I weakly blurted out, shocking myself at my honest candor.

And therein was the elephant-in-the-room question: Was I in control of my drinking or was my drinking in control of me?

“Go home, think about it, and do some research,” my allergist suggested as she led me out of her office.

And as most of you know, I am the fact-finding Queen. So I dug right in…

Below is everything I wanted or needed to know about alcohol abuse but was afraid (or just didn’t give a hoot) to ask:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate drinking is defined as up to 7 drinks a week for women and 14 drinks per week for men. [There goes that gender gap again.]

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for women, and 15 or more drinks per week for men. [Eight lousy drinks per week? Uh-oh.]

Binge drinking, the most common form of excessive drinking, is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks during a single occasion for women, and 5 or more drinks during a single occasion for men. [Do the number of hours per a single occasion change this statistic up at all?]

In the United States, a standard drink contains 1.2 tablespoons of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content). [Don’t drink it. Don’t care.]
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content). [What’s a malt?]
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content). [Aren’t there 8 fluid ounces to a cup?]
  • 5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey). [Yikes, no wonder those martinis always do me in.]

Most people who drink excessively are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent.  [Whew. Good to know.]

The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink. [what’s a couple of bucks here and there?]

Okay, I was on a research roll. So I kept on trolling:

    • Do you really want a drink or are you drinking out of habit? [To be clear, I really want a drink.]
    • We live in a very boozy world. [You got that right Jack!]
    • Being sober does not mean you have to spend the rest of your days living like a nun. [Then why am I feeling one with Mother Theresa?]
    • If you look carefully, you’ll see there are loads of people out there leading full and happy lives without alcohol. [Carefully is the operative word.]
    • A glass of wine has similar calories to a slice of cake. [I’d rather drink my calories. Just sayin.]
    • The body can’t store alcohol, so it metabolizes it right away and gives it priority slowing down your metabolism. [As Bob Dylan would say: The slowest now will later be fast.]
    • The Arthritis Foundation has linked alcohol to inflammation of the joints resulting in arthritis. [So what if I can’t open a jar? That’s what husbands are for.]

All kidding aside, after my extensive research, I decided to dip my probably arthritic toe into the no alcohol water. No plunging head first for me, though. Not yet anyway.

Starting today, until January 2nd, I have imposed a new alcohol rule on myself: No more than one glass of wine a day, any three days per week. And never two days in a row. So the end result is that I am going to consume no more than three glasses of wine per week through January 1st. Yes, I can, yes I can.

Okay, I hope I can, I hope I can.

And on January 2nd? I’ll keep you posted on that.

A Rose by Any Other Name


In light of all the anti-Semitism that has been seeping and creeping up since the recent presidential election, it got me thinking about Judaism, Christianity, and why I feel so loathe to discuss religion.

And talking politics isn’t much better. Certainly not right now. Both of these topics are better left private.

Except most people close to us know who and what we are. Should our religion or politics define us? Make us loved or hated? Respected or denigrated?

The constant and continuing turmoil around the election results has been disheartening and worrisome. Swastikas here, Confederate flags, there, and dissension everywhere.

It’s the holidays. We should be jingling, rejoicing, singing, wrapping, and planning for family get-togethers. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, right?

And yet, our nation’s recent political divisions have brought out the worst in us, prompting me to ask myself a weird-for-a-Jewish person question, as I poured over The New York Times this morning:

What would Jesus say about all of this?

A long time ago, and in another life, I had a close and loving relationship with Jesus.

If you know me or have read any of my blog posts, you know my family dynamic, which consisted of my Catholic grandmother, mother, and me, aka the fatherless child.

It was the three of us, not so much living, but more like surviving together on Huron Street, in Bridgeport Connecticut.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, so to speak.  Except we were Mother, Daughter, and Afraid of Ghosts.

Soon my great-grandmother joined us, and then we were a family of four. And a mighty four we were.

Four strong willed, faithful Catholic females struggling to stay afloat in a swirling sea of men, with Jesus at the top of the food chain.

For any Catholics that might be reading this post, you get the Catholic thing. Fish on Friday, fasting before mass, confession, mortal vs. venial sins, and all of the other stuff Catholics do.

But I don’t want to talk about all that. I want to use this blog-post opportunity to discuss Jesus and how I felt about Him all those many years ago.  And how I still feel about Him today.

I would first like to start out by saying that were it not for Jesus, I’m not sure who or where Teri would be today.

Because my Jesus was all about love, which included everyone; especially the scorned, the sick, the forgotten, the poor, the forsaken. Jesus was all about solidarity and unity. He would never tolerate hate, bigotry or bullying.

My Jesus reached his hands out to everyone, and He would never discriminate.

And lest I should remind you, Jesus was the only male in my life. And what a fine specimen and example of an exemplary man He was.

He loved the marginalized. He blessed and exonerated all sinners. And as long as I had Jesus in my life, I knew I could get through anything.

Jesus was kind, loving, compassionate, and just. But my Jesus was also sad, and maybe even frightened. Because He knew, He was going to die. Jesus understood and accepted that all of us have sinned. All of us are imperfect, and yet He still loved us.

No matter how disappointed I felt about myself back in my other life, I knew Jesus was on my side.

Because Jesus wasn’t judge-y, and would NEVER pick out some, but not others, to heal, to feed, or to bless.

My Jesus was omnipotent. And I believed with all my heart and all my soul, the first couple of sentences in the Apostles’ Creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.

A lifetime ago.

When I was thinking about converting to Judaism, it was the most painful and difficult decision I ever had to make in my life thus far.

And when I spoke of converting to my Christian friends, they would remark on how hard it was going to be for me to give up Christmas.

Giving up Christmas was going to be the least of it.

Giving up Jesus was what was going to be near impossible. He was going to be my sacrifice, my lifelong penance.

As I sat before the Bet Din, a panel of three Rabbis, sitting high above me on a stage, I ironically and irreverently, thought of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Three.

While  I sat below the Jewish holy three, the men who had the power to authorize or deny my application to join the Jewish people, my thoughts reverted to what had occurred earlier in my already very long day.

I woke up to snow. I snuggled with my son. I had an argument. My punishment was no car.

So I indignantly walked to the bus stop and waited. And waited. And waited. I transferred three times. Three buses. And then trudged three long blocks in the slushy snow. Ignoring the irony of the threes was impossible.

And now here I was, cold and wet, facing three Rabbis who would decide my religious fate.

The Bet Din had prepared three questions for me, explained my sponsoring Rabbi.

Three questions.

It was out of my hands, I recall thinking to myself.  It’s in Jesus’ hands, I instinctively reassured my weary self.

My turning to Jesus was reactive. I was always in Jesus’ hands. Those beautiful, delicate, blessed hands, marred by ugly bloody holes.

My thoughts of Jesus were interrupted by my first question:

“Tell us about your religious background.”

I gave the holy three the cliffs notes. I stuttered, faltered, and jumbled up my sentences. My family of females, Bridgeport Connecticut, my Salvation Army clothes, our tenement apartment, the nuns, bake sales, weekly mass, my grandmother’s rosary beads, my love of St. Ambrose Church. My Holy Communion, my Confirmation. The whole shebang.

I turned to my sponsor, who was to the left of me, as he gave me a worrisome sideways glance.

Second question.

“Why would you denounce your religion, to join one that is in the minority, the often persecuted, the sometimes reviled?”

I again turned to my sponsor who this time did not return my gaze. I looked up at the Bet Din. The three Rabbis looked sternly down at me.

I spoke of my sick son, the unhappiness of some, the wishes of others, my faith, my sponsoring Rabbi and his wife whom I had grown to love and respect. My newly discovered congregation of friends, whom I had come to rely and count on. I spoke of my lost family, my dead grandmother, my lost self.

The faces of the Rabbis softened. I could see my pain in their eyes.

“Last question,” one of the holy three muttered, barely audible. He’d lost his edge. They all seemed to.

I sat shivering, thinking about how many hours it was going to take me to get home. I was longing to hold my infant son; to rock and hum him to sleep with his favorite song, my favorite song, and my grandmother’s favorite song. The three of us all with the same favorite song.

“You speak so assuredly of your faith. When you talk of your Catholic upbringing, we see your light. Tell us about Jesus and the role He will play in your Jewish life.”

I swallowed hard. The Bet Din wanted me to speak about Jesus.

The words, they just spilled out. My sick and dying grandmother denied of her last rights because she was excommunicated, my prodigal status, my love of Jesus—a Jew, who was poor, uneducated, adored by so many, then crucified.

I blurted out the morning fight, no car, three buses, my son’s surgery, the snow, the hopelessness, the loneliness.  I told them that Jesus was going to love me and keep me safe—today, tomorrow and always. Jewish, Catholic, whatever. Jesus wasn’t going anywhere.

Because that’s who Jesus is. He doesn’t forsake. He doesn’t leave. He loves, He nurtures, He heals.  All of us, not just some of us.

I was on the last question roll.

I explained to the holy three that Jesus was everything hopeful; a constant reminder that even in the ugliest of times and despair, He teaches us that there is beauty and light and redemption. I was never going to give up on Jesus. And Jesus was never going to give up on me.

And then I sat back in my chair, letting the holy three above me know that I was finished.

The Rabbis looked at each other, one sank in his chair. I again turned to my sponsor. Both of his hands lightly covered his forehead; his elbows bent low to the table.

My nose was running, and I didn’t have a tissue, so I used my damp sleeve as I watched the Rabbi’s squirm.

Then the middle Rabbi spoke. His words were kind and soothing. He applauded my resolve, my strength, my faith, my love of my son.

The other two Rabbis nodded in agreement and approval, including my sponsor.

And then it was over. I was on my way to being Jewish. Everything yet nothing had changed.

I took the over three-hour bus ride home, all the time, writing, rhyming, transferring, praying. I wrote and rewrote the following letter to Jesus, to God, to the only Father I ever knew:

DEAR FATHER,
IF I COME BEFORE YOU
AND PRAY
FOR YOUR HELP
BEG
FOR YOUR GUIDANCE
CRY OUT
TO YOU FOR STRENGTH
WILL IT MATTER IF I CALL YOU
FATHER INSTEAD OF
JESUS?
WILL YOU CARE IF
I’M KNEELING
IN A CHURCH
OR IMPLORING FROM
A SYNAGOGUE?
IF MY PRAYERS ARE IN LATIN
OR HEBREW
WILL THE WORDS STILL HAVE
THE SAME MEANING?
WILL YOU STILL HEAL
MY WOUNDS?
 I LOVE YOU NO LESS
 THAN I DID THAT LAST
BLESSED CHRISTMAS.
I WILL LOVE YOU NO MORE
THIS MOURNFUL YOM KIPPUR.
WILL WHO I AM TODAY
MATTER TO YOU TOMORROW?
 I’M STILL ME.
I’M STILL THE SAME.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME.
I STAND ALONE.
MY LOVED ONES DISAPPOINTED.
ARE THEY PRAYING TO YOU TOO?
WILL THEIR LIVES BE EMPTY
WITHOUT ME?
WITHOUT MY SON?
JESUS/FATHER,
HELP ME FIND MY WAY.
GIVE ME THE GUIDANCE
TO WALK THE STRAIGHT
AND NARROW PATH.
GIVE ME THE STRENGTH
TO MAKE IT ON MY OWN.
AND FATHER PLEASE,
BLESS, PROTECT

AND HEAL
MY ONLY SON.

When I finally got home, my son was already fast asleep. I was heartbroken to have missed him. I needed his warmth, his life, his love.

I quietly and reverently tiptoed into his room, still wet from my trek. I laid next to his crib and hummed our favorite song, Oh Holy Night.