Weekend Whirl

(Women Are) Making it in America

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but I’ve been writing a lot of cards, status updates, and emails. Does that count? Ok, maybe not. I’m also reading a lot, as ever, and here’s my latest weekend whirl for you:

Making it in America by Adam Davidson

I stumbled across this article via my weekly email from… and just had to read it after I saw the opening image, snapped by Dean Kaufman. Apparently Rosie the Riveter lives on in the twenty-first century, but unfortunately there’s a complicated economic, political and social calculus around her endangered existence. An interesting article set partly in South Carolina, which is getting a lot of attention tonight because of the presidential primary. Will we forget the Palmetto State again tomorrow?

At Melody Record Shop, sadness and a tinge of guilt as an era ends by Jessica Goldstein

Years ago, my second job was in a retail chain record store. I learned a lot about music just working there, but still probably nothing compared to Jack and Suzy Menase, who have literally done nothing else with their whole lives. I’d say they’ve done a whole lot of good by creating a home for music lovers. And their store closure is another sign of changing times…

Joe Paterno’s first interview since the Penn State-Sandusky scandal by Sally Jenkins

Things are improving in some areas, and recognizing the problem of sexual molestation is one. We’ve come a long way in the past few years, but not yet far enough. I believe that we are all mandated reporters. That said, I don’t think we can know what really happened or judge others faced with the horrorific fact of a sexual predator in their midst. Joe Paterno is gravely ill and will pass beyond the cares of this tired earth long before the town of State College recovers from its terrible awakening. His mark on Penn State will never be erased, though there will always be an asterisk next to his name — *fired midseason for failure to inform legal authorities and fully protect children. Caught between the decade of his birth when such things could not be discussed, and today’s glaring hot demands for transparency, accountability and justice, there is no doubt that he stumbled. But can we grant him some dignity and forgiveness?

Editor's Note

We are ALL Mandated Reporters

…and being Sanduskied is NOT a joke, even though it does sound funny. The Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State has scarred all of Happy Valley and a great deal of the country. Yet many of us are arguing about whether the university handled the firing of its beloved football coach ‘correctly’ and who deserves to be on the sidelines this weekend. Wow! We have really dropped the ball.

Perhaps the focus on football and attempts at humor are a symptom of our discomfort. Though we are horrified by predators, it’s hard to think about the children. It’s much easier to talk about Jerry Sandusky and ‘Jo Pa’ Paterno, a well-known figure whose storied career provides lots of great video and pictures. We imagine ourselves experts as we critique Penn State’s communications strategy or its football-centered culture. Rioters get a lot of attention, but those speaking up for the victims don’t provide the same exciting visuals. This group of protesters got remarkably little national attention for demanding accountability and systemic change despite incredible social pressure to protect the institution and its icon.

It’s great to hold a candlelight vigil, raise money for victims and wear a light blue ribbon, but we can do more. Children rely on us to provide a safe environment, and that means we have to face some tough facts. What’s so enraging about this crime is that we feel the child’s pain, we can’t fathom how anyone would violate a child’s trust and their body so horribly, we think we are helpless to prevent such an insidious thing from happening.

That helplessness is a mirage that gives predators opportunity. We can stop them.  Everyone, especially parents, can educate themselves to protect children from predators and seek the reasons behind a child’s change in behavior. Everyone can learn about every type of child abuse that causes vulnerable children suffer and how predators deceive everyone close to them. Everyone can know how to reach the proper authorities  when they witness  abuse. Everyone can be aware of organizations like ChildHelp so they have resources when something makes them suspicious. Everyone can be understanding and compassionate when a victim of sexual abuse overcomes the horror and trusts us enough to share their story. Everyone can take a personal vow to protect children, no matter what.

If each of us did just one of these things, we would make our neighborhoods, youth sports programs, schools and churches  harder places for predators to succeed. We’ll never know how many children we save, but a lot more predators would wind up in jail. Some may even seek therapy instead of victims. Fewer administrators and trusted leaders would be indicted because they could count on community support. And all of us will sleep better at night, especially our children. Because the truth is that it doesn’t take a village, a system, or a procedure manual to protect a child. It takes you.

Weekend Whirl

Repetition, Repetition, Art: Stories about 9/11

Practice has always bored me, ever since piano lessons so many years ago. I like mastery, but I’m not that into repetition. It bores me and I have to convince myself that practice is worthwhile. But it is repetition that increases our skill at any given pursuit and that makes it powerful.

Poets and writers sometimes use repetition deliberately, skillfully, carefully to increase the dramatic effect of what they’re saying. Often the media uses it like a bludgeon, smashing whatever power it has and dulling our senses instead of sharpening them. The recent wall-to-wall coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 exemplifies that and though I avoided much of it since I don’t own a tv, there were a few stories that stood out.

Many of the stories about the Pentagon crash were new to me, since we just moved here a few months ago and the fate of the Twin Towers dominated so much of the national coverage. We noticed how visceral the events of 9/11 remain for people who lived through it while the rest of us tuned in from afar.

What struck me about the stories below is the perseverance of each person. It takes determination and sometimes daunting daily tasks to survive the unspeakable and restore life from mere existence back into art. It takes love, and patience, and kindness.

Woman Who Lost Parents on 9/11 Will Always Wonder: Why?

by Dan Zak, Washington Post, September 8, 2011

Life can stop at any second, she says, so it is precious. Think about how you should lead your life now.She sets the kitchen table with chopsticks, nudging each pair into parallel formation.She has come to one other conclusion: She will never have peace. Whatever’s truly in her heart cannot be identified, cannot be put under a microscope, cannot be diagnosed, studied, cured.

But focus on the pathology of life — the “Why?” — and it can kill you. So you pull back. You zoom out as far as you can, and a single day becomes a week becomes a month becomes a year becomes a decade.

Little Noticed or Known, They Bear Scars of That Day

by Eric Moskowitz, Boston Globe, September 6, 2011

They are the rarely noticed casualties of the terrorist attacks: the security guard, the ticket agent, the baggage handler on the ramp. They made it home that night, but with images they couldn’t shake, a pain uncomfortable to voice. They can’t believe it has been 10 years. They can’t believe it has only been 10 years.


9/11 Widow Still Trying to Find Her New Normal

by Eli Saslow, Washington Post, September 2, 2011

It was a Monday morning 10 years later, and they had regained control…

It was a Monday morning 10 years later, and they were still falling apart.


A Moment of Silence

by Steve Friedman, Runner’s World, August 2006 via Longreads

“What do I think about?” he says. “God, just about everything. Am I on target for my marathon goal? How am I going to pay my daughters’ college tuition? Do I have good retirement plans?”Some days–one of life’s mysteries–he thinks of that terrible morning five years ago.
Random Thoughts

Wild Virginia

As I write this, every branch of the pine tree outside our apartment shimmies, rests, then dances again. The long grass trembles, cluttered with leaves and small branches, while small birds hop along the wind, hungry and tired after the departure of Hurricane Irene. The sky has finally shifted from a stormy gray white to a brilliant blue. Though we were fortunate to be 100 miles inland, this storm pounded us just four days after the 5.8 quake that rattled our state and half the East Coast.

I’m beginning to understand why it took three tries to found a lasting colony here. In A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, Thomas Harriot sang the praises of the fertile land where the Roanoke Colony was attempted, but there’s no erasing the challenges of this beautiful, demanding environment. With modern NASA technology and internet communication, news about the earthquake, its epicenter and its strength were available within two minutes. Warnings of the hurricane started nearly a week in advance and preparedness undoubtedly saved lives. How could a few hundred colonists ill prepared for even daily life survive any disasters four hundred years ago?

We know it was a struggle — our history books and movies tell the tales of starvation and war. The Jamestown Rediscovery Archeological Project studies at the original fort and continues to learn about how the settlers lived, persevered and eventually prospered.

I’m quite glad they did. Where else would I meet a camel cricket and a stinkfinger in the same month that an earthquake and a hurricane struck?



Editor's Note

Yes, I know…

…I’ve been missing in action here on the blog, partly due to other writing projects and partly just from adjusting to my new life here in Virginia. I love it here, but would like to suggest ‘Wild Virginia’ as state motto. There’ve been camel crickets, stinkfingers and thunderstorms to deal with even before the earthquake and hurricane season started. Not to mention the birds and squirrels that feast on the lawn outside my apartment – today I had a cardinal visit!

There’s a backlog of ideas and drafts to be posted, so stay tuned.

Editor's Note

Alzheimer’s Disease is No Dance in the Park

Times and treatments have changed greatly since my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease twenty years ago. It’s inspiring to know that early diagnosis gives people much more opportunity to decide how to deal with the consequences of this devastating disease, and that many choose to keep living life to its fullest.

Today I came across two stories that illustrate the power of that choice. Both Pat Summitt and Glen Campbell have provided our country with inspiration and leadership in the very different venues of women’s college basketball and popular music. Both have made strategic decisions about how to keep doing the work they love. In Summitt’s case, that will mean relying more on the coaching staff she’s developed over the past twenty years. Campbell plans to keep performing to support his new album. His wife explicitly told People that they were sharing the news about his diagnosis so that fans would be understanding if he flubs a lyric.

Families of Alzheimer’s patients have much more support and care options today, and it helps to have a roadmap about what to do once a diagnosis is obtained. Yet these tools only go so far when loved ones face the emotional reality that Alzheimer’s means  saying goodbye twice and still being forgotten. A person with Alzheimer’s may look like themselves, but their behavior often changes drastically over time, their memories regress, and their sense of reality changes. They start looking for people who have been dead a long time and thinking that they are living in a different decade. For my family, this was the first farewell, the realization that Grandma was no longer aware of us as her children and grandchildren.We had funny moments with her too, and there can be a sweetness in being around someone who is reliving their childhood. She remained charming and conversational, if confused, for quite some time before her dementia and frustration level escalated. Then she needed full time professional care and we were fortunate to find a nursing home with a new wing built especially for patients like her. The second farewell was when she died and we actually buried her. Of course we were relieved that her suffering was over but there was also great sadness about all the years the disease stole her from us.

There are drugs that delay the onset of symptoms, improvements in palliative care and better caregiver support networks now but one fact remains the same:

There is no cure
for Alzheimer’s disease.

Consider joining a Walk to End Alzheimer’s in your area to change that and support families coping with this disease. Let’s make Alzheimer’s a forgotten condition of the past.


To Infinity and Florida…

NASA/Fletcher Hildreth July 8, 2011

Yesterday, Roberto and I ended our writing workshop just in time to watch the liftoff of the shuttle Atlantis via an online stream from NASA TV, which did not exist as an Internet portal in 1981. So much has changed!

The shuttle program has been an exciting era of American innovation. Reusable space vehicles were the stuff of science fiction until Columbia’s second flight. Countless inventions designed to solve technical problems in space travel have become part of our everyday lives. We suffered two national tragedies when things did not go as they should have for the crews of Challenger and Columbia. Many of us still remember the shock of losing these heroes, but our intrepid engineers doggedly solved the problems and carried on in their memory.

As Americans, we often celebrate individual triumphs, but ultimately we know it’s all about the team. Philip Scott Anderson offers a glimpse through photographs of the many technicians who made this program possible. They never get the attention our heroic and glamorous astronauts receive but their work makes space flight possible. has assembled a photo gallery of Atlantis being built back in 1982.

Unfortunately, thousands of jobs are disappearing with the end of the shuttle program. There may be a local transition to commercial space travel or other exciting endeavors eventually, but it’s tough going at the moment for many families. Purdue University has jumped into the Space Coast vacuum with ‘strategic doing’ consultations to help the community take its next steps towards the future. A few months ago, Sam Knight wrote a piece about the impact of the shuttle program and its closing on Brevard County, Florida, home of the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral.

“After almost three decades, the retirement of the three surviving shuttles—Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour—is also the retirement of a set of American certainties. No one knows what is coming next.”

NASA has plans for visiting asteroids and Mars within the next decade or so. In the meantime private companies will be flying astronauts and supplies into space. We might even see space tourism emerge as a growth industry instead of a fringe pursuit. For all those bemoaning the outsourcing of manned space travel, keep in mind that our now beloved shuttles faced an uphill battle just to exist. In Beam Me Out of this Deathtrap, Scotty: 5…4…3…2…1 Goodbye, Columbia, Gregg Easterbrook covered the technical challenges contentious beginnings of the program back in 1980, a year before the first liftoff.

“The only way to find out about something as big and balky as Columbia, [former astronaut Richard] Cooper says, is to launch the thing and see what happens.”

American optimism powered the space program as much as the brains and sweat of countless engineers, scientists and technicians. There is much hand wringing about what comes next in our journey, but Darryl C. Owens observes that the shuttle has changed us here at home by opening its doors to astronauts who also happened to be minorities and women.

“Ultimately, history may judge the space shuttle program on the number of miles or days logged in space. However, the program’s most transformative legacy lies in the number of youngsters who were encouraged to shoot for the stars after watching someone like them blast into space.”

I could get lost in this topic all day, but it’s too gorgeous out. To read more about the space shuttle and its impact, check out the official NASA archives. For more about the future of spaceflight, read Mike Wall’s posting from Cape Canaveral about NASA’s plans.

Editor's Note

No, I Didn’t Go to the Space Center…

crowd at final launch of Atlantis
NASA/Jim Grossmann July 8, 2011

…but technology lets us partake in experiences through others. Here’s a great story by Mike Blackerby about a woman in Knoxvillle who won a contest to attend the launch and tweet about it. Read her blog at or follow her tweets @RennaW –she’s a chemical engineer with a great heart and sense of humor.

Now what about a contest for the final landing of Atlantis?

Editor's Note

She Named Names… Let’s Not Forget Them When We Dance

Goddard BroadsideThere was not a single female signer of the Declaration of Independence, but a woman printed the names of the signers for the first time in January, 1777. Emboldened by the progress of the war for independence, Congress ordered ‘an authenticated copy complete with the names of the signers‘ distributed to the states. Thus Baltimore printer Mary Kate Goddard produced a beautiful broadside using the more familiar engrossed copy we’ve all seen. Before that, the public was not aware of exactly who had signed the document.

There was good reason for secrecy. Though today we call the 56 signers ‘heroes’ and founding fathers, at the time they were known as revolutionaries and traitors who would have been hanged if caught by the British. They staked all they possessed on this radical idea:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Today, most of us only remember the most famous of the signers – John Adams, his second cousin Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and of course the bold John Hancock. The Society of the Descendents of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence is trying to change that by placing bronze plaques at the gravesites or homes of these founding fathers.  Their efforts might be paying off – it was impossible to log on to’s Index of Signers today.

Many of us will be celebrating today with fireworks, barbecues and parties. Maybe that’s why when I was a kid, I thought the end of the word independence was spelled ‘dance.’ It is a great thing to be so free. Let us not forget the price.

Weekend Whirl

Weekend Whirl, July 2

Two great reads, both centered on women in our fine capital city… and a recipe for the holiday weekend!

Decades after duty in the OSS and CIA, “spy girls” find each other in retirement
by Ian Shapira

Growing up in my neighborhood, calling the Donovan girls meant getting a babysitter… one of us was almost always available. For these women, working for Wild Bill Donovan at either the Office of Strategic Services or the CIA meant international travel and intrigue, if not glamor. Fun, but no chit-chat allowed in the cafeteria.

The Trinity Sisters
by Kevin Carey

Ever since I moved here, I’ve seen ads for Trinity College and wondered ‘does DC really need another institute of higher education?’ Apparently the answer is yes. Much to the consternation of the establishment, the school was founded in 1897 by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to serve Catholic women not allowed to attend nearby Catholic University of America. Its notable graduates include Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius, and Carole Black as well as “prominent female scientists, scholars, doctors, educators, judges, and public servants in numbers far out of proportion to its size.” A little revolution goes a long way…

And now for the food:

Honey Mustard Marinade

½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. pepper
½ cup mustard (dijon works great)
1 cup honey
2-3 tbs. wine vinegar (garlic red, or white)

Mix together cumin, nutmeg, pepper, mustard and honey. Then add vinegar one tablespoon at a time until desired taste and consistency are reached. Pour over your favorite meat, refrigerate for 30 mins or more, then grill, broil or bake to your heart’s content.

Enjoy the long weekend, and remember to honor those who have sacrificed for our freedom.