Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Sober Life begins...1989

I recently came across this letter that I wrote to all the members of my family in October of 1989. It is self-explanatory and I copy it here for you.


“On June 30th the family held an “intervention” and let it be known to me that they were worried about the effect that alcohol was having on me. July 1st found me in a treatment center in Charlotte, NC called AMETHYST.

I won’t belabor my 28 days there but will say that it was a most frightening (and, finally, exhilarating) month. As some of you might know, most treatment centers rely heavily on the teachings of Alcoholics Anonymous, and this was no exception. I did not, at first, embrace their concepts. I didn’t even enjoy going to the meetings and I will always be in awe of those who find AA on their own and make it work for them.

However, as my mind cleared and my body healed I found that I was much more open to a new way of life. Now it seems incredible that I lived in a sort of limbo state for so long. I had hidden behind alcohol for years. I was frightened of life in general and, in particular, of all the blows that I thought it had handed to me. I was unable to honestly face my own feelings…or of those around me.

Now I know that, as real as my fears may have seemed to me, they are not unique and I am now part of a huge fellowship that shares similar feelings and emotions. I now know that if I can’t allow myself the painful moments then it would follow that I would never completely feel the good times either.

Many of my new friends (in Treatment and in AA) can’t believe that I was lucky enough to have a family who loved me enough to intervene. I will never be able to thank all of you enough.

If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is endless love that floats around unreclaimed. It may sound corny but I wish you could all see how this works in AA. Doctor’s, nurse’s, lawyers, executives, nuns, dock workers, janitors and even those who are freshly out of jail...they are all part of this amazing fellowship of love and tolerance.

The ONLY requirement is a desire to stop drinking and we come together to share in this common bond. As they say in AA, ‘it isn’t so difficult getting sober…it’s staying that way that’s hard !’ I hope I never forget that.”

(Note: If this is of interest to any of my readers please click on Bud’s blog, “Paradise Is Pinehurst” and read about his journey into sobriety. It’s very different from mine but we ended up at the same place and have been friends for years…
PS: the coin in the picture denotes my 18th year of sobriety.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

“SPAGHETTI a la CARBONARA”…un pasto squisito

I have had this delicious spaghetti dish many times and it is one of my favorites. My nephew gave me the recipe in 1983 when he returned from a summer spent in Parma, Italy.

Serves 6: 1 lb bacon, white wine (or chicken stock,
1 large onion, diced. 4 to 5 eggs,
Butter, Oregano,
Parmesan Cheese, 16 chopped mushrooms,
1 ½ lbs spaghetti.

Saute chopped bacon and diced onion slowly and season...add some butter if dry. Add chopped mushrooms and wine (or chicken stock) to taste. Cook a bit more.

Meanwhile, mix 4-5 eggs in a bowl with a good handful of grated parmesan cheese. Add pepper, mix.

Cook spaghetti and drain in colander and replace in the hot pot. Mix spaghetti with your egg mixture ( the raw egg mixture gets solid & cooked by the heat of the cooked spaghetti). Then pour the bacon mixture over and toss together. Serve immediately.

I include more grated parmesan and black pepper on the table, and serve with a green salad and crusty Italian bread. This is a festive and simple meal, truly an exquisite pasta...un pasto squisito

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fur Flyers”, NY City, 1963

This is about my friend Jimmi G. She died last year and our world is a little less bright because of that. Jimmi was one of those one-of-a-kind people who loved life and who grumbled about it constantly. She could swear like a sailor and she often did so. To listen to one of her harangues was akin to being caught in a revolving door...you could see the other side but it was almost impossible to get there ! Needless to say, she was an imposing character.

I met Jimmi just shortly after I met my husband. We were all living in NY City. She was dabbling in antiques and had been able to accrue a small nest egg. However, she was forever looking for new outlets for her creativity and in the early ’60’s she hit on an idea that took off like wildfire.

Jimmi took her accumulated cash and traveled through New England and the East Coast buying up vintage fur hats and coats. Many of them were missing buttons and some had even come apart at the seams. None of this discouraged her. She had an idea and to watch it come to fruition was exciting.

She came back to New York driving her old wooden-sided station wagon packed to the brim with fur items. She was a savvy buyer and had paid little to nothing for her purchases. Most people were happy to get rid of their musty, old outer wear and were thrilled to have made a dollar or two on the exchange.

The next thing on Jimmi’s agenda was a store front and she found the perfect thing on 8th St, near Greenwich Village. It was basically a bare room which she filled with her stock. The walls were painted an off-white and she gave paint and brushes to our three children and said, “Go to it...use your imagination and cover the walls.” The kids were thrilled and the result was magical.

She named her store “Fur Flyers” and opened for business on a windy, Fall day. A good friend of ours was a writer for “The Village Voice” and he gave her a great send-off. Within days it was apparent that Jimmi’s store was the “talk of the town” and it became the “in” thing to be seen in a vintage item from “Fur Flyers”.

As I recall, Jimmi made 2 more trips out of town to gather merchandise, but, by Christmas time most of the inventory had been sold. In little more than 4 months she had made a small fortune and it was time to move on to new adventures.

It is interesting to note that a store of this sort in New York City could never be successful in today’s climate. Anti-fur Societies would be in an uproar. But it is just as interesting to note that Jimmi (who loved animals) would have found this ludicrous. To her mind she was not advocating the killing of animals to make clothing...she was merely practicing the age old art of re-cycling.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


This sweet little boy became part of my family in November, 1998. He was five years old and in need of a sponsor. I was not sure if I was going to sponsor another child since the last one I did had run away from home when he turned 13 and I was a little “gun shy”.

I must say that CCF was very up-front about the latter incident. They didn’t try to hide the fact that it hadn’t worked as planned and said that as hard as they try it doesn‘t always work out.

Now I was presented with Sommai and how could I say “No”. Just one look at that face with the soulful eyes and I was hooked. And now he is almost 14. We correspond at least 3 times a year and I also get progress reports.

What I like about the CCF approach is that it is a complete project concentrating on the province of Surin in Northern Thailand. My child is Sommai; but there are over 1300 children receiving assistance in the “Land Settlement of Surin”. All the activities are aimed at developing a better quality of life for the families and the community.

It feels good to know that my meager monthly contribution ($25) helped to fund an irrigation system which made it possible for Sommai and his family to grow much of their own food. It also goes toward his education and that includes instruction in health and sanitation.

They have a “Happy Saturday Program” once a month where all the families gather to interchange experiences and to write to their sponsors with the aid of translators. It touches my heart to receive his letters and to see how he has grown. He tells me that school is hard ... “I will try to do my best at school. I want to get higher education but I am not very good at it, but I will try so that you will be proud of me.”

Sommai’s birthday is June 18th…the same date as my Mother’s was! I send an extra $25 for him then to use as he chooses. It always amazes me what that small amount of money can buy. A typical thank you note will tell me that he gave $5 to his mother and father, that he put $15 in to a savings account and that he bought a soccer ball for himself and fresh fruit and candy for his brother and sister.

He also told me, in his latest letter, that his mother had saved up enough to buy a cow. (His parents are gone for weeks at a time working in a nearby city and he stays with his Grandmother.) Now they have fresh milk and barter with their neighbors who have a rice field.

A simple life...but enhanced immeasurably by CCF. I am glad I can be a small part of it.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Scarlet Fever hits our family … 1943

Isn’t it strange how our memories seem to pop to the surface when we least expect them? I was listening to a book review recently on National Public Radio and the author spoke of a family member who had suffered with Scarlet Fever. I was transported immediately to the lawn of a large hospital in Boston.

I remember that my Mother and sisters and I were on the lawn because we were not allowed inside the building. This was a very large hospital dedicated to the care and (hopefully) recovery of patients with Scarlet Fever. Of course it was under strict quarantine and our only communication with my sister, who was in a ward room on the 3rd floor, was with the aid of hand written messages.

That particular memory of sighting Barbara in the window and holding up my greeting poster was very vivid to me although it has been 64 years ago. However, try as I might, I couldn’t remember anything other than that, and I began to think that it was all a figment of my imagination.

I am the youngest of five girls and Barbara is the second from the oldest. She has just turned 80 and I wondered if she would corroborate my memory. Sure enough, she not only remembered the instance but was able to fill in the empty spots.

She was 16 at the time and we were living in Wellesley Hills, which was approximately 40 minutes from Boston. After the Dr. diagnosed her (on a house visit, no less) with Scarlet Fever he made two decisions. She was to be sent by ambulance to the city hospital and the rest of us were quarantined in our house for two weeks.

Barbara said that it was a great thrill to ride in the ambulance and that she was too sick to miss us much for the first week. Then, as she grew stronger, she had little time to fret. World War II was raging and the nursing staff had been cut to a bare minimum. As she, and the other patients, got stronger they pitched in to help wherever it was needed.

Even in the 1940’s the words Scarlet Fever conjured up death and disfigurement …. remember Beth, in “Little Women”? It must have been agonizing for my folks and it was over a month before Barbara was considered out of danger. Then it would be another two weeks before she was allowed out of quarantine.

My only memory of that time, and it is fleeting, was the occasion on the lawn of the hospital. I was ten years old then and I’m sure I was mightily impressed with my hand written sign. I can see myself holding it high and angled so that Barbara could read it. I see her in the window, waving and happy that we were there.

I wonder what I wrote?