Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Flame

Everyone has a flame inside them,

Well, sometimes it’s barely a flicker

Or maybe it’s just a teeny spark,

But it’s there, just waiting for a breeze

To fan it into action.


Once it’s in action, don’t let it go out,

It’s yours to tend and care for…

Don’t let the rain pour down on it…

Keep it dry and hot and springing up

Higher and higher.


Then one day it’ll burn so high and strong

That nothing can put it out, ever.

Not the rain, not a league of firemen,

Not even your own occasional lapses…

It has a life of its own.


Filed under poetry

Spring! Flowers!

Even though it’s fall here in Brazil, I’m in a springy mood today. A friend of mine bought some peonies and that got me daydreaming about the flowers we used to have in our yard when I was a kid.

There was a long, narrow flower bed in the middle of the yard, dug into the side of a large rock (this was in Connecticut, where there are lots of large rocks). This bed already had flowers in it when we moved there in 1947. On one side there were lovely pink peonies. I loved how their tight little buds, which always had red ants crawling over them, would suddenly burst into gigantic, perfumey blooms. And next to them was a bunch of lily-of-the-valley, one of my very favorite flowers because of their delicacy and strong scent.

Next to our front door were two bushes, one with purple lilacs and the other with fuchsia azaleas. Lilac is my next favorite flower scent, and I used to love to cut bouquets of them and bring them inside just so I could stick my face into them every minute!

My sister Bertie and I used to plant annuals in a little plot next to the front door. We always planted marigolds and zinnias, for some unknown reason, maybe because they were so hardy and colorful.

I haven’t lived anywhere for a long time where I could plant flowers and I have to say I really miss it. But I’m enjoying my nostalgic flower moment right here.


Filed under gardening

Book coming soon, and poetical distractions…

I’ve just sent my book off to a trusted, intelligent friend (who is also a writer) for a final read-through. I’m certain she’ll have some good suggestions for me to get the thing finally wrapped up.

As soon as I sent it to her I missed it, which is pretty funny because it’s still right here on my computer. But I don’t want to mess with it at all until she’s done with her review.

But I really wanted to work on something else. I HAD to work on something else…besides my blog. So I dug into some files of poetry that I’ve written, and decided to put them into book form and maybe write some new ones.

Then I got the really insane idea of illustrating them. I mean, this is truly insane, because I don’t know how to draw in the sense of actually drawing…you know, with perspective and everything.

I guess the reason I thought of this is because of possible copyright issues with using pictures from the internet and also because I can’t afford to pay an illustrator. Oh well.

I used to fiddle around making little drawings of household things and heads…yes, little heads of all sorts of people that I made up in my mind. I can’t find any of them, but I think I could probably reproduce something like that. Maybe it doesn’t matter that I don’t know how to draw. We’ll see.

Well, I’ve gotten a bit off track here, but what I wanted to say is that I don’t think it’ll be all that much longer until the book is published, unless of course my friend says, “Hmmm, I think it might be good if you rewrote the whole thing.” Ha!


Filed under poetry, the book, writing

Stroking the underdog

When I was a little kid in school back in the middle 40s, I can remember being rewarded for doing good work. I loved it when the teacher stuck a gold star on my paper or workbook, and it made me want to do even better.

I also remember that we had reading groups, and they were divided according to ability. If you were in a lower group and your reading improved, you’d get moved to a higher one.

But over the years I started to notice a change in this merit-for-excellence system. Teachers started giving poor performers more attention, and even rewards, so they wouldn’t feel bad about themselves. I thought, why should an under-achiever get a reward? It didn’t make sense to me. Encouraging and helping someone do better is one thing, but I came to believe over the years that stroking the underdog doesn’t help anyone.

I remember a situation many years later when I started to attend the workshops of a well-known jazz pianist in New York. He would sit at a grand piano in a big loft and young musicians — mostly pianists — would crowd around him at tables, waiting eagerly for their chance to perform. After each one finished, he would critique them in front of the audience.

After I’d gone a few times I started to notice a pattern. He would be kind and complimentary to the mediocre ones and critical, sometimes verging on harsh and cruel, to the really talented, accomplished ones. I questioned some of the musicians about it, and they said he did this to encourage the not-so-good ones and to make sure the really good ones wouldn’t get a swelled head and would work harder.

I just don’t get that. Not that I think he should have trashed the struggling ones, but there was certainly no reason to be so hard on the ones who obviously had talent and had worked hard to develop it. I stopped going to the workshop. It all just felt too personal. Some people became his “pets” (usually the not-so-good ones) and that really bothered me.

So today when I see, for example, a group of children competing in some kind of game, and when it’s done the teacher or adult in charge gives all the kids a prize so no one’s feelings will be hurt, I really think that’s a mistake. It gives kids the idea that they don’t have to work hard to get a reward, and breeds complacency and mediocrity.

Kids who are having a hard time need a helping hand to get better, maybe to change their habits so they can develop their abilities and talents. I say this because I don’t really believe there’s any such thing as a “dumb” kid, or one that has no special abilities and talents. But the way to discover these abilities is to help the kid learn how to bring them out, not by stroking him or her when they’re not even trying. By doing this, underdogs will always be underdogs, because they’ve learned that it’s rewarding.

What do you think?


Filed under education, individuality, my history

The end of my TV days

We were one of the first families among our friends to get a TV back in 1950. It was a dinky little thing with a tiny screen and rabbit ears and knobs you had to get up off the sofa to turn. Programming was all in black and white, of course, and there weren’t enough shows to fill up 24 hours a day, so everything would just stop and we’d get to watch what they called a “test pattern” — after the national anthem, of course.

My sister Bertie and I grew up with shows like “Kukla, Fran and Ollie,” a puppet show that was really ahead of its time because it was entirely improvised; the “Steve Allen Show” (noted for its great jazz guests); “Lights Out,” a really scary, creepy mystery program; and “Your Hit Parade” with live singers performing the popular songs of the day in really corny, weird settings, among other shows, which were live in those days. My mother absolutely loved the new TV and there were never any restrictions about how much we could watch it. We didn’t watch much during the day, but we were glued to it every night of the week.

I don’t have a TV any more. I haven’t had one for three years. After television being such a major part of my life, it was strangely easy just to let it go. And it came about it a very natural way. I had left Rio de Janeiro to go back to the USA in 2007, thinking I was going to stay. But that idea didn’t work out, so I came back exactly one year later. During all this upheaval of intercontinental moving, I had to give up virtually everything I owned except for what I could stuff into a big suitcase. So naturally a TV wasn’t part of that plan.

When I got back here I lived for six months in a couple of temporary apartments that had small TVs, but I found that I rarely watched anything. I also checked out what the local cable plans had to offer, and it was only marginally less awful than what I’d seen in the USA and expensive, so I decided to pass on getting a TV when I finally moved into a more permanent, unfurnished place. Meanwhile, I had already discovered the wonders of YouTube and downloading films from iTunes, so I certainly wasn’t without home entertainment. Then I found a site that streamed national soccer games, so I figured I was set. I could even catch up with some of my former guilty TV pleasures on YouTube, like “America’s Next Top Model” and “American Idol,” not to mention great BBC dramas and obscure films that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

So who needs TV? Do you?


Filed under my history, Uncategorized

Jeanie Tomanek

Since my very recent move back into my artistic life long after so-called “retirement age,” I’ve been particularly inspired by other people who take up or return to their heart’s desire when they’re older. I featured one here not long ago, artist Christine Hartzell, who is quite new to the world of painting and has really found her “thing.”

These days I’m in love with another wonderful artist, Georgia-based Jeanie Tomanek who didn’t really get started on her art career until she’d been in the business world for years.

Jeanie Tomanek

“Throughout my adult life I have always painted—sometimes only one painting a year. Several years ago I escaped corporate life. Since then I have concentrated on developing my style and voice in my work,” says Jeanie.

Jeanie’s paintings evoke an ethereal, mysterious, mythical, magical, mood-provoking, dream-like, even sometimes slightly (but deliciously) eerie sensation. I find them endlessly fascinating and they lift me gently into another realm. Most of the figures she paints are tall, gossamer women with no hair, whom she refers to as her “little baldies” — the ones who tell us their stories.

“My figures often bear the scars and imperfections, that, to me, characterize the struggle to become,” says Jeanie, who underwent such a transformation with her painting that she even changed her name — from Shirley to Jeanie. “I have been painting full time for ten years. I still pinch myself when I realize I get to do what I love and make my living at it.”

What an inspiration Jeanie is to people like myself who have yearned to break away from unsatisfying work to pursue their heart’s desire — to have a second chance — and I know we are many! Truly the most inspiring work comes forth when we finally muster up the courage to turn away from work that has been holding us back. Here are some of Jeanie’s paintings. If you’d like to see more, go to:

Forget Me Not

Moonligiht’s Children

Put Away Childish Things


Below is the first of Jeanie’s paintings I ever saw. I immediately got the urge to write a Haiku about it (although I think I misinterpreted the meaning of the piece!):

Star Quilt

Hurry, sew faster

The sun is setting quickly

And the night requires our stars

Here is a wonderful video of Jeanie’s work that was recently added to YouTube:


Filed under art, individuality

I’m on my way, I don’t know where I’m goin’…

I’m 70 years old and just quit the job that’s been supporting me for at least the past 10 years.

Why did I quit? Because it was killing my soul. It had been for a long time. Why didn’t I quit sooner? FEAR.

But the point is, I got OVER the fear. How did I do that? Because I finally woke up to the fact that I am being watched over.

Yep, that’s right. I believe we’re all watched over, that there is a GREAT PRINCIPLE, or whatever you prefer to call it, that not only watches over us, but actually loves us and shows us what to do and how to be happy.

Maybe you don’t believe this. Maybe you say, well, that’s fine for you but it sure doesn’t look like anything or anybody is watching over ME. What I say to that is that if we don’t believe and understand that we’re being watched over, then it will certainly seem as though we’re not. Everything will seem random, even cruel sometimes.

It doesn’t cost anything just to spend some time thinking about the possibility that our lives (and the whole universe for that matter) are actually part of a big, harmonious WHOLE that has always existed, whether we seem to know it or not.

It has been my experience that the more I grasp about this WHOLE, the more harmonious my experience is. Then I ask you, what if everyone did this? Do you think anything would change? I think it would.

And this is why, even though I’m on my way and don’t know exactly where I’m going, I’m not afraid any more and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves for whatever comes next. And if I should fall into the ditch of fear again, I’ll do my darndest to remember that I really am watched over and loved.


Filed under spiritual, work


Have you ever stopped to wonder why nearly everyone thinks cockroaches are disgusting? They’re really not all that different from ladybugs, tiny toads or caterpillars, which most people like, or at least don’t get the urge to run for the poison spray every time they see one.

I’ve spent many years dealing with these crunchy little (and not so little) visitors, and I still find them disgusting. What are they doing in my apartment? They don’t belong here! All I can think of is how to get rid of them, and I’ve spent many hours and plenty of money doing just that. I had a friend years ago who found a very economical way to get rid of roaches. He would take long strips of masking tape and lay them sticky side up on his floor at night…kind of like earthbound flypaper. It worked really well, and he didn’t seem to mind picking up the body-encrusted strips the next morning.

Not so long ago I went to the kitchen to make some chocolate milk. There on the floor, near the stove, was a giant cockroach around an inch and a half long. I ran to the bedroom to get my rubber flip-flop, but by the time I got back, I couldn’t see the roach any more. But I knew it was there, somewhere. I rattled a few things around, and sure enough, it scampered out from behind the stove. I grabbed some poison spray and went after it, but it escaped and ran down the hall into the bathroom, with me on its heels. I quickly turned on the bathroom light, but didn’t see the roach at first. Then I saw it darting across the floor and up the wall. I thought, “I’ll be darned if I’m gonna let this bugger get away, and then not be able to sleep tonight thinking it’s going to crawl into my bed!”

It ran across the wall near the ceiling. I grabbed a broom and waited until it paused for a second, and then slammed the broom down on it. At first I thought I missed, because it wasn’t stuck in the broom, and I didn’t see it on the floor. But then I looked down, and there it was, in the bidet! Still moving slightly, so I turned the water on to immobilize it and then smacked it with my flip-flop. It got stuck in the drain hole, so I tried to push it down with a Q-tip. I swear the thing was like Rasputin…it crawled out of the drain hole! Unbelievable! This time I really smacked it good with my slipper, picked it up with some toilet paper (ew!) and flushed it down the toilet. Whew. That was exhausting, but at least I could get to sleep in peace.

This next cockroach story is lifted from my upcoming autobiography, where I’m telling about my new job living and working in a restaurant in southern Brazil back in the late 60s. My six year old daughter Madeleine was with me and was lending me a hand in the kitchen:

I jumped right into the routine, with Madeleine helping me chop vegetables and wipe the counters. I couldn’t believe how dirty the kitchen was. At night, when the restaurant was closing, the cooks would make a half-hearted attempt to clean up, but there were always crumbs on the counter, grease on the stove, and they often forgot to empty the garbage.

Once in awhile during the night, Mad and I would go downstairs to the kitchen for a snack, and when we turned on the light a million roaches would scatter in every direction. And these were no ordinary roaches — they came in all sizes from tiny black ones to huge brown ones. And the big ones flew! I had never seen a roach fly before.

After a few of these distasteful encounters with the roaches, I formulated a plan. One night Mad and I stole down to the kitchen. Just outside the door there was a big deep freezer where the cooks put all the leftover food from dinner. We tiptoed into the hall, opened the freezer and uncovered several plates of food. Then I unplugged the freezer, turned out the light and we sneaked back upstairs to our room.

About a half hour later we tiptoed down to the kitchen again, being careful not to wake our roommates. This time we took a flashlight. I quickly lifted the lid of the freezer and took a peek inside. There were hundreds of roaches in there, feeding on the leftover food! In a flash, I slammed the lid down and stuck the plug back into the wall. Mad and I were doubled over with horror and laughter, trying to stifle ourselves so we wouldn’t wake anyone. The next morning when we opened the freezer, the roaches were all lying on their backs, legs akimbo, stiff as a board. I took a deep breath and quickly cleared them out of there and threw them in the garbage before the cooks arrived, while Mad stood around and said, “Ew! Ew!”

OK, I’ll stop now.

For all you cockroach lovers:




Filed under my history, the book, Uncategorized

High-heeled shoes!

It might just be my impression, but it seems to me there’s a lot of “shoe talk” happening on Facebook lately. People posting videos about shoes, pictures of shoes, making comments about shoes, and so on.

Some of the talk is about shoes vs. no shoes (i.e. some of us love going barefoot), some about flip-flops (aren’t they going to sell Havaianas in the Brazilian shop at Macy’s?), but most of all, there seems to be a plethora of photos of high-heeled shoes. Very high-heeled shoes.

I like looking at pictures of high-heeled shoes the same way I like looking at the fashions in runway shows. To me they’re an art form, lovely to contemplate, certainly never to wear. At least that’s the way I feel these days.

I got my first pair of high-heeled shoes when I was just starting high school. I was going to be singing in a show with an all-girl trio and I wanted to look grown up. I’d gotten past the lipstick and nylons thing with my mother, and now I was pushing for the shoes. She finally gave in and bought me a pair of wide-heeled, rather dumpy patent leather spectators. I thought they were divine. And they weren’t even hard to walk in.

Later on, in college, I had a very tall boyfriend. I’m very short, so I decided to get some spike heels. I bought a pair of shoes with 4-inch heels and bravely tried to walk around in them. I managed to put up with the blisters, the lordosis curve and tripping and losing my balance in the street for about a month and then I put them away in the closet — forever.

From that day to this I’ve had very few pairs of high-heeled shoes. And it’s been so long that I don’t remember any of them. These days I’m a sneaker/flip-flop/sandal girl, that is when I’m not barefoot.

I think the super duper high high high heel craze came back when “Sex in the City” was popular. I used to watch in amazement as Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte blithely tripped through the streets of Manhattan in their stilettos with nary a stumble. I have to admit, though, that I felt a certain sinister satisfaction when Carrie tripped and fell flat on her face on the runway when she was invited to participate in a fashion show — in ridiculously high heels.

These days people have really turned high-heeled shoes into an art form. They resemble everything from revolvers to birthday cakes and are decorated with fur, skulls, studs, fringe and mirrors. They should be in a gallery, not on someone’s feet, or at least not on mine.

With that said, I have to confess I have a certain admiration for you ladies (and gents!) who manage to march around on super stilettos as if it were the easiest thing in the world. More power to ya!


Filed under art, social media, Uncategorized


When you get a glimpse of what LOVE really is…

Then you discover that it’s not only something you can do…

It’s something you are.

It’s not something you have to try to get for yourself…

You already have it and always did and always will…

Because it’s who you are.

Then everything changes, loving becomes sheer fun…

You don’t even care any more if someone loves you back…

You’ve already got love.

You can never lose it when you know what it really is…

You can’t help feeling loved all the time because it’s who you are…

It’s as natural as breathing.



Filed under poetry, spiritual