A Genealogist, a Priest, and a King Walk Into a Bar and the Genealogist Says . . .

WASP – white Anglo-Saxon protestant. That would be me. Well, more accurately, a WWEP – white western European protestant. My heritage isn’t purely British. But the protestant part goes back to the days of Martin Luther and John Calvin.

On my father’s side, there’s a family line that came out of Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. Hearty German stock. While the Pennsylvania folk on my mother’s (and on Mr. Gaelic’s) side were Quakers, these particular Pennsylvanians were of the German Reformed Church. Come to find out, they weren’t really German. They were Swiss.

There’s a Swiss line on my mother’s side but her Swiss line were Huguenots who were run out of France during the Wars of Religion. My father’s Swiss line was actually Swiss, and actually started out as Catholics. And not only Catholic, one of my direct ancestors was a Catholic priest! He paid off the bishop in order to live with a woman as husband and wife, having at least five children, if not more. Shocking!

His fifth son, my direct ancestor, Heinrich Bullinger II, was groomed for the priesthood from an early age. While studying at the University of Cologne two years after Luther’s Ninety-five Theses, he determined that he needed to decide matters for himself and began reading many theological works finally resolving that Martin was correct.

Today he is noted as having, at about 12,000 extant letters, the most extended correspondence of the Reformation era. To bring this full-circle back to the British Isles, he corresponded with, among others, Henry VIII, James IV, Lady Jane Grey, and Elizabeth I. None of whom are my direct ancestors. But who were all WASPs.


She's Got a Great Rack

What does a girl have to do to get a great rack? It shouldn’t be too difficult. People in my neck of the woods love nice racks. Some racks, of course, are merely functional while others are downright artistic.

Just yesterday, having ridden my bike to the grocery and office supply stores at a nearby shopping center, I decided that I had to get creative. Taking matters into my own hands, I hitched my bike to a crepe myrtle and did my shopping at Staples. What else is one to do when there is no bike rack to lock one's bike at any of the stores?

What did you think I was talking about?


Thank You and Goodbye

Arabic or Russian? Russian or Arabic? Which class should I sign up for? There are pros and cons for each. My current Arabic vocabulary is limited to “Thank you” and “I have trouble”. My current Russian vocabulary is limited to “Yes”, “No”, “Thank you”, and “Goodbye”.

“Thank you” is something one should be able to say regardless of what else one might learn. At least in my opinion.

After listening to a podcast of introductory lessons for both Arabic and Russian, my mouth can fit around Russian pronunciation much better than Arabic pronunciation. In the first podcast, I managed to pronounce correctly Привет and Здравствуйте. Those are two forms of hello. Informal and formal. My Russian-speaking husband approved but thought there was too much T sound in my second hello.

My theory is that if my mouth can form Russian words then Arabic shouldn’t be much further up the vocabulary ladder. Or maybe I should switch my sights to Mandarin instead.

شكرا and До свидания.


Pubic Art Exhibit

First there were bikini waxes. Then Brazilian bikini waxes. Then vajazzling. Now vattoos.

Vajazzling? you ask.


You haven’t heard? Let me take you through the history of women’s, um, privates. First, we didn’t want to show any fluff around the edges of our bikinis. So we’d shave or wax just enough, leaving most untouched.

Then someone heard what those wild women in Sao Paulo and Rio do with their tufts. The excruciatingly painful experience called the Brazilian wax came into fashion. This is where everything is removed making grown women look like prepubescent girls below the belt. It’s always made me wonder if men have a pedophile fetish in wanting their women to be smooth as the day they were born. But that’s another blog.

Never satisfied with being average, women on the two coasts discovered vajazzling. This is where crystals, glitter, or other jewels are applied to a woman’s nether region for aesthetic purposes. A Brazilian wax is a prerequisite of vajazzling. The craze took off after Jennifer Love Hewitt announced to the world back in January that she was currently vajazzled.

Yet again, vajazzling wasn’t enough. Next up, vattoos. Yep, a temporary tattoo is airbrushed onto your newly Brazilian-waxed va-jay-jay, turning your private parts into your own private Sistine Chapel. Okay, I’m going to get hate mail for comparing the Vatican ceiling to a woman’s vagina.

It’s like wearing sexy underwear even when you know no one will see it. The question still remains of whether we do it for ourselves alone.

[Here are videos of vajazzling and vattooing.  No videos of a Brazilian wax.  It's too painful to watch.]


Return to the Scene of the Coaster

This past weekend was our last fling of summer as a family.  Next weekend we pile in the car to deposit Finola at college and do college visits on the way back with Deirdre.  Our last familial fling of summer was spent at the amusement park where the teens and I celebrated my birthday.

Lesson learned.  No more roller coasters for me.  While waiting on the rest of the family to ride the coasters, several things came to my attention.
  1. There's a prominent sign at the park entrance that says "shirts, pants, and shoes must be worn at all times".  Does that exclude short pants, a.k.a. shorts?  What about skorts?  What about a dress?  Or what I was wearing - an actual skirt?
  2. A different sign at the bumper cars says to remove all earrings before riding.  Why?  Are earrings more conductive than rings, watches, bracelets, or necklaces?
  3. Several rides have a demo seat at the beginning of the ride for people to try to buckle themselves into and see if they're too large for the ride.  Why do people wait in the line and then embarrass themselves by having to be told by the cast member that they're too big to ride rather than try the seat out before waiting in line?
  4. If you don't want to eat meat, there aren't too many choices for meals.  What if I don't want a salad or a slice of cheese pizza?
  5. There's only one Disney.  Why do parks try to have a back story for the rides if there's really no story?  And why do parks try to emulate certain Disney rides knowing that they'll fall far short?
  6. Having someone in a wheelchair gets you to the front of the line ahead of everyone else.  Does that mean that you can fake an illness or injury, have a friend push you around all day, and jump to the front of the line just because you want to jump line?  'Cause there were a ton of healthy looking teens who would bound out of their wheelchairs and walk to the coaster seat then run back to their chairs after the ride ended.  Excuse me.  Can't you wait in line like the rest of us?
  7. The war is over.  Or at least war fatigue has set in.  Gone are the ticket booths reserved solely for service members.  Gone are the tributes to the military throughout the park.  Even though there are numerous military bases within an hour's drive. 
  8. Americans are fat. 
What is really sad about that last one is watching tubby ten-year-olds carrying a refillable Double Super Big Gulp-sized soft drink around while their grossly obese parents stuff themselves into a mobility scooter because their girth makes walking too hard on their hearts and lungs. 

During an extremely long wait for the family on one coaster, I decided to count the number of thin to average kids versus those with mini-muffin tops and big bowls of jelly.  Grand total:  kids without bellies - 2, kids with bellies that pooched out - 38.  Somehow I don't think any of those 38 tummies was distended due to malnourishment.  Not when you get free refills on soft drinks but have to pay $3 for each bottle of cold water.


Dishing the Flirt

Remember the scene from Freaky Friday when Jamie Lee Curtis screams that she's like the Crypt Keeper?  That's me.  I'm old!

To recap, my cousin that I grew up rough housing with is now a grandfather of three, a gal I graduated high school with is expecting her sixth grand baby, and my college sorority sister's eldest son is now in law school.  Friends that I knew in high school look really good on their Facebook profiles.  Or else they're using really old photos of themselves.

When I posted recently on FB that the air conditioning repair guy was the handsomest repairman I'd ever seen (young, blond, gorgeous smile, no butt crack), commenters suggested that I was on a Cougar Prowl.

The only time I've had a younger guy interested in me was several years ago.  I met this guy at a local coffee shop.  He's a male model.  Seriously.  You'd recognize his work if I posted a link to it.  Anyway, he actually flirted with me!  Even when he found out that I was 13 years his senior. 

What I wouldn't give to have a guy flirt with me these days!  Even my husband.


Billy Elliot, American Style

In the musical Billy Elliot, Billy travels from a coal mining town in Wales to London to audition for the Royal School of Ballet. Maeve, my youngest, wants to audition for our local school of ballet which produces some world-class dancers. Auditions are tomorrow.

One difference between Billy and Maeve is that Billy had to have a dance piece with music to show the audition board. Maeve only has to participate in a technique workshop much like a regular class where she’ll be assessed on her ability and age-appropriate standards.

If she attends, in two years she’ll begin professional classes with the possibility of performing in other cities. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But why must those bridges keep coming so fast? Can’t someone slow this shale car down?


What's Eating Gaelic Disney?

Since she's feeling the pull between adulthood and childhood with college looming large, Finola has been having a movie marathon of all her childhood favorites.  Mostly Disney movies.  I love Disney as much as the next girl.  But I've noticed something insidious about most Disney movies as I catch glimpses of them.

My list (in no particular order):
  • Snow White - prepubescent girl carries no action in the story, things happen to her not because of her, waiting for her prince to come
  • Sleeping Beauty - barely legal girl (story happens on her 16th birthday) carries no action in the story, things happen to her not because of her, waiting for her prince to come
  • Cinderella - girl carries no action in the story, things happen to her not because of her, has to wait for her prince to come
I see a trend here.  Is this what we want our girls to emulate? Moving on . . .
  • The Little Mermaid - here at least she willingly goes along with the evil witch to move the story along, but only because she's waiting for her prince
  • Beauty and the Beast - FINALLY a woman who reads and who's NOT waiting for her prince, carries more of the action, now we're getting somewhere!
  • WALL-E - warning: stalker alert! sure he's a robot, and cute, but still
  • Mulan - a woman trying to protect her father, she really moves the plot, have you noticed this is the only one with a mother?
Don't get me wrong.  I love all things Disney.  As a child, I couldn't wait to turn to ABC on Sunday evenings.  And those Pooh specials on TV!  As a mom, I sewed countless princess costumes for Halloween.

It's only through the prism of impending womanhood for my daughter that I've been able to look at the films with more of a, gasp, don't say it!, feminist eye.  (Throwing out the F-word is almost like slapping a hammer and sickle on my back.  But that's another blog.)

That's when I remember another Disney princess movie that's an amalgamation of several of the different story lines. 
  • Enchanted - begins as an animated movie, turns into live action, the girl who's waiting for her prince discovers what it's like to be a thinking, breathing, strong woman, she ditches the prince for a commoner and starts her own business.  (My only beef is that they wasted the voice talents of Idina Menzel, although Amy Adams does a good job.  But that's another blog.)
Did I get up on the wrong side of the movie house today?  Maybe.  But even princesses need a wake-up call.


Five, Six, Seven, Eight | Update

My post today was before class.  Class was Intense!  With a capital I! 

The class was Advanced Beginner.  I took ballet in high school, one theatre dance class in college, and a recent ballet class to keep in shape.  The website said that the Beginner class was for absolute beginners who had never danced before.  That's not me.  The next step up is the Advanced Beginner class.

That was no Advanced Beginner class!  That was Intermediate to Advanced.  She had us doing tour jetés and cabrioles.  She'd tell us a sequence then show us quickly.  She wanted port de bras in a full circle reaching to the wall, bending back as far as possible, away from the wall and to the ground. 

If that was an Advanced Beginner class, I need an Intermediate Beginner class.  But I stand by my first assertion.  That was no effing Advanced Beginner class!

Five, Six, Seven, Eight

Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch...Again!

Being a dancer means having a photographic memory. For verbal direction. And ballet essentially is spoken in French. Plié, rond de jambe, relevé, fondu, grand battement. They’re all French.

Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch...Right!

Different ballet dancers give different pointers and suggestions. “Shoulders down! Ears back! Look out over your cheekbones not from under your eyelids! Hips forward! Press down to go up!” They will position your arm and your gaze just so. “Soft hands! No teacup hands! This isn’t Fosse!”

That connects with...

My regular ballet teacher hasn’t taught an adult class since the week before the spring recital. All summer she was at home with her leg propped up on pillows due to knee replacement surgery. My ballet slippers haven’t seen the light of day in over two months.

Turn, turn, out, in, jump, step,

When a website that specializes in discounts at various local businesses offered a series of dance lessons at a new studio for less than the cost of my usual classes, I jumped at the chance. With voucher in hand, I typed in the web address to the dedicated registration site and clicked to sign up for a particular class. Success! It’s today!

Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch.

Before signing up for class, I checked the bios of the teachers. The teachers are much, much younger than my current teacher. Her children are my age. As for stamina, will I be able to keep up?

Got it?... Going on. And...

My teacher danced professionally in her teens and 20s, appearing as a Rockette for a period of time. These teachers dance with international ballet troupes. Not that ballet changes, but the athleticism is as much a part of ballet today as the aesthetics.

Turn, turn, touch, down, back, step,

I looked again at the list of classes. I’m not a good judge of my ability. In my regular ballet class, I’m definitely the star pupil. But a master class with one of Ballanchine’s protégés proved to my why I’m not a professional dancer.

Pivot, step, walk, walk, walk.

What class to sign up for? That’s the question.

Right! Let's do the whole combination,

Perhaps, hopefully, I’m just being humble. I signed up for the Advanced Beginner class. But I left it at one. I’ll go to class and see what the teacher has to say. See if she thinks I need to be in the Intermediate class.

Facing away from the mirror.

Wish me luck! Stamina, athleticism, aesthetics, passion. It takes a lot to be a dancer these days.

From the top. A-Five, six, seven, eight!


Guilty By Reason of Vanity

Since my summer holiday in Scotland and England, my bathroom scale has taken up either a nasty habit of lying about my weight or a charming tendency of flattering my healthy living. Let’s go with the latter.

As mentioned in earlier blogs, that wonderful contraption says that my weight is down ten pounds. My first guess of what helped the negative slide was all the walking done around castles and abbeys and scotch distilleries. The fact that the numbers aren’t increasing was puzzling since the amount of walking was cut drastically by having ready access to a car with a left-hand steering wheel.

What could be helping with the weight maintenance?

Does it have anything to do with my vanity and my search of ways to look younger?

Was it that train ride from Glasgow to London and the stack of women’s magazines to keep me occupied?


Let’s play connect the dots.

An article in one of the many magazines that my teenage daughters and I passed amongst us on the train to London was about how to look younger. Don’t ask me which magazine. The stack was large and it was a long train ride. The article listed the obvious ways: drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep, use plenty of sunscreen, and so forth. The other plenty really surprised me.

Get plenty of sex. Like three times a week plenty. Some British health group found that women who have sex at least three times a week look four to seven years younger than those who have sex less often. The report also said that women who get their jollies by themselves look seven to 12 years younger. There’s a good argument for doing without men, but that’s another blog topic.

As unromantic as it sounds, sex is now on our calendar. Which embarrassed the kids when they found out what “Date” meant scribbled throughout the calendar. But, hey, it’s good exercise too. Thirty minutes can expend 85 calories. That may not seem like a lot. But when I’m on a quest to look younger, it really adds up.

That helps my bathroom scale keep flattering me with ever decreasing numbers.

[I take no responsibility for this blog being used against your spouse as an argument for more sex.]


Two Steps Forward, One Look Back

My blogging is like a soap-opera writer. On almost any soap, story lines don’t always get tied up neatly. When Finola was rereading old postings of my blog, she asked the whatever-happened-to questions. Let’s start the week with an update from past blogs.

My job search is still on. It’s like playing a numbers game. If I get enough rejection letters, I’m bound to get an offer at some time. In the meantime, I’m beginning to think and work on alternatives to the office scene. So this update is like answering a question with a question. It’s “to be continued”.

But I’m still not tech-savvy enough or have the patience necessary to figure out where my photos from our summer holiday to Scotland and England filed themselves away on my hard drive. Mr. Gaelic is in the process of making a photo album after culling through over 2500 still shots and unknown hours of video. Hard copy photo album. Mr. Tech-Savvy uploaded them to a website that will produce a bound book for us.

This past weekend was a tax-holiday in my neck of the woods. But I didn’t buy any clothing. In fact, since joining the clothing diet, I bought only one pair of shoes. My reward points at a store were about to expire and coupled with a birthday bonus coupon, they were a steal. Only one slip-up on my clothing diet so far.

Now we get down to business. I was amazed after our time overseas that I came home lighter. And not just in the pocketbook. Somehow I’ve managed to keep those lost pounds from finding their way back. And to top it off, a few of their friends have gone looking for them. That’s almost ten pounds without trying.

I have a suspicion about what’s making those pounds pack their bags. But that is tomorrow’s blog. Same bat time, same bat channel.


Gremlin On Your Backbeat

By the late 1950s America was in a recession the likes of which hadn't been seen in post-World War II society.  Hard hit were the steelworkers and those associated with steel, automobiles, and oil.  In one small southern town in particular, the local pipe shop and foundry, the largest single employer in the town, suffered from the recession forcing the men to find other incomes.

One man's father returned to life as a tenant farmer, renting the land that he plowed and planted before opening a gas station.  The man's father-in-law had no farm to fall back on, the federal government having taken his family's land for an Army camp during World War II.  The man?  He supported his wife, his teenage daughter, and his father-in-law and lived in a house in the city miles away from his father's farm.

To solve the problem, the man found work where he could.  At another foundry.  In New Jersey.  His wife and daughter moved to New Jersey while his father-in-law, in his late 50s, too old for a new hire, remained in their home in that small southern town.

But the man was a southerner and knew that he needed a better life for himself and his family.  Moving back to that small southern town, he turned to teaching math and science at a primary school in the next county to the north.  To supplement his income, he would moonlight at a foundry in the largest city in the state.  Before the interstate system was completed between the small town and the big city.

Still he knew he needed to do more to support his family.  He traded foundry work for more school work.

After teaching fourth and fifth graders, he would drive home, grab a quick supper, and sit in class at a small state university in the next county to the east.  It took multiple years to complete.  His degree in Business Administration came two years after the arrival of an unexpected and un-planned-for baby in the mid-60s.

Forays into real estate, insurance, and used cars never amounted to more than a side-line.  What put food on the table was teaching.  And even with the side-line, his wife often claimed at supper not to be hungry and wouldn't eat.  Did the man see through her ruse as a way to spread the portions among all the mouths?

His desire for a stable and ample life led to summers away from teaching spent at one of the larger state universities clear on the other side of the state.  He'd pack up his wife and young daughter and sublet an apartment while attaining his masters in education and working towards his Ph.D. in psychology.  By this time, his father-in-law had died and his first daughter was living in another state.

Never satisfied with his one income and even with all those letters after his name, the man would drive a school bus before and after school.  He always wanted more for his children than he had.  But he also made it clear to his daughters that they had to work for what they had, never doling out cash for anything more than college-level expenses.  His one extravagance was letting his younger daughter have the trade-in value when buying her first car.  The car he let her use as a trade-in?  A 1972 green AMC Gremlin.

What I wouldn't do for that Gremlin today!


Gone With the Gin

It’s been a rough seven days. Late last week, an extreme storm with a 70+ mph wind microburst knocked down enough trees in its path to leave us without power for 48 hours. After wearing a bright green shirt to the gym on Monday, my armpits still have a green tint. While trying to mow the yard, the mower ran over a rock or something and bent the blade so that they won’t rotate. My driveway looks good but the grass in the back is tall enough to lose my dog in.
I gave up after the mower incident and raided the liquor cabinet. Three different single malts, top shelf vodka, and run-of-the-mill vermouth. And no olives. Except the Kalamata olives that my kids snack on. Grocery store or liquor store?

One friend suggested going to both. Grocery store for olives and liquor store for gin. “For a proper martini.” But I'm not a "proper martini" kind of girl. I like my martinis dirty. Like I like my men. Yum, olives stuffed with bleu cheese, a splash of olive brine, a whisper of vermouth, lots of gin. Stirred, not shaken. You don’t want to bruise the gin. Too bad the liquor store closed before I could get there. I’ll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another weekend.


Men and Stimpy

Every school day morning, throngs of teenagers appear on every third corner waiting for their bus to school. It’s the only time these creatures emerge from their lairs. Not until my kids were teens did I understand the strange habits of their species. One peculiarity is sleeping until noon on non-school days.

Dragging their sleepy butts out of bed yesterday for a nine o’clock Pilates class was torture to them. I found it quite enjoyable. They willingly dressed for the gym and participated, although not enthusiastically, in class.

As we headed back to the locker room afterwards, we passed some local firefighters who were there to work out. They have to stay in shape for their jobs. I wonder if “Fat Albert” Haynesworth could pass their physical test.

One of the firefighters spoke to me as we passed on the stairs. Once he was out of earshot, Deirdre whispered, “That’s one reason I like coming to the gym. To see the good looking firefighters.”

She won’t be so difficult to get out of bed for Pilates next week.


Ev'ry Hotsy-Totsy Nazi Stand and Cheer

Do I scare you? Apparently, I scare my children’s friends. There’s a whole list of people who are afraid of me. Finola’s best guy friend and his parents, and Deirdre’s friends Zahar and Phoenix, Monte and Zteitel.

Deirdre ragged on me for scaring Zteitel.


She’s Jewish.  You shouldn't be scaring the Jewish girl.”

“Why should that make a difference?”

We speak German at home and you’re scary.”

“Does she think we’re neo-Nazis?”

I’m just sayin’.”

Let me just sit down on my front stoop, smooth out my dress uniform, push back my hair behind my ear, and sing,

Heil myself 
Heil to me


The Science of Fun

Going to theme or amusement parks with me can be 1) very boring or 2) very interesting.  It's an easy way to get kids interested in chemistry and physics.  The fun is still there.  It's just that the how and why become part of waiting in line.

For my birthday, my two teens and I visited one of our in-state theme parks.  The science lessons are long gone.  When I remark, "Ah, nothing like the smell of ozone," while waiting for the bumper cars, Finola answers with an explanation of how ozone is made.  Waiting for the roller coaster, there's no need to explain why the circles get tighter towards the end of the ride or how pneumatic brakes work.  The only thing of interest is how long the wait for the front or rear row is.

Roller coaster connoisseurs know that the last row is like the tail end of a whip.  You feel the ride more intensely.  The thrill of the front row depends on whether that first drop (say from 205 feet facing straight down) is part and parcel of the whole experience or just the accelerator for the rest of the ride.

Until my last birthday.

Getting old sucks. 

Something happened on the way to middle age.  The ability to enjoy roller coasters went out the window when I started playing trombone with the morning paper. 

It happened on the second time through on a tall, fast full-circuit inverted roller coaster.  It was the cobra roll that did me in.  On the approach to the station, even swinging my legs back and forth while looking straight ahead wasn't enough to calm that weird feeling connecting my head to my stomach.  Keeping lunch inside took lots of strength and concentration.

My roller coastering days are over.  Sniff, sniff.  My fear is that my amusement park days may be over as well.  Following the inverted coaster was the giant swing, that thing that swings you around in circles way up in the air.  It's a midway ride!  And it was making me queasy! 

After that, my day was spent waiting for my kids to ride whatever coaster they wanted.  While waiting, I watched a trio of heavy-set men about my age come off the coaster, retrieve their bottle-shaped beer cans and laugh their way towards the next ride.  How can some people, who are my age and obviously don't take as good a care of their bodies as I do, manage to drink and ride coasters but I, just drinking water, can't? 

Perhaps instead of physics and chemistry, our next trip will include a physiology lesson.


Quiz of the Day

What do William Blythe and Leslie King have in common?


I Before E

The youth director at our parish is an outgoing, really-quite-handsome, teddy-bear-of-a guy.  My teens, who've been on mission trips with him that included swimming sessions as relaxation, claim he has angel wings.  That's just wrong.  He needs to go in for a good wax job to take care of those.  But I digress.

His main attribute is his personality, not his angel wings.  Like my middle daughter, he can talk to a doorknob and charm it off the door.  One of his off-hand comments about Mr. Gaelic didn't surprise me.  He thinks, accurately enough, that Mr. Gaelic is very quiet and reserved.  A typical introvert in the Myers-Briggs scale. 

The youth director received the shock of his life to learn that my Myers-Briggs always comes back listing me as an introvert.  With a great big I.

His mouth fell open. 

"I work at it."

He acknowledged my success at appearing to be an extrovert and asked, "Isn't it tiring?"



Jelly Roll Gaelic

There's an experiment going on in my backyard.  It's called a vegetable garden. 

When I was growing up, my farm-owning grandfather let all of his city-living kids have two or three rows in his garden to raise whatever they wanted as long as they did all the work.  Weekends were spent hoeing and pulling weeds.  The payoff was long-lived with vegetables that graced our table fresh from the stalk as well as stocked in our pantry in jars that my mama put up.

Although I helped with the garden duties, I'm not sure how much of their knowledge got osmosed.

My garden is growing.  Although it's a bit unwieldy.  Cabbage, carrots, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, beets, onions, and corn have been harvested.  There's also a fig "tree" against my house.  It would have been a tree if it hadn't split as a young thing making it a bush instead.  A twelve foot round bush.

Today's to-do list includes making fig preserves.  Even if I didn't learn all the gardening skills I could have at my father's knee, I certainly learned all the canning skills I needed at my mother's and grandmother's apron strings.


A Picture Is Worth X to the Nth Power Words

In the past few months there have been a few things in the newspaper that have been interesting to me, not for what the article says but for the accompanying photos.

First there was the front-page article and photo of people celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge.  Smiling, happy faces greeted the morning sun.  I took one look at the picture and gasped in horror.  My children looked at the picture but didn't see anything that could have bothered me so. 

"Look at what they're wearing," I instructed.

"Jackets and scarves," they replied.

"This picture was taken yesterday.  Stonehenge is in the south of England."  They nodded.  I continued, "We'll be there in two weeks and we'll be well north of Stonehenge."

Blank looks.  Then the Aha! moment when they realized it would be much, much cooler in Scotland and England than it is here.  Time to rethink the wardrobe choices.

A second photo in this Sunday's paper caught my eye.  It accompanied a full-page ad from BP with Robert Dudley saying that he knows the beaches very well since he grew up in Mississippi.  The photo showed a whole line of what looked like only men wearing blue jeans, tee-shirts, gloves, and wellies.  They were filling plastic bags with debris while three foreman-looking people either looked on or were handing out more plastic bags.

In shock and skepticism I showed it to Mr. Gaelic.  "Can you believe how racist this is?" 

He looked closely.  All the men at the water line were black; the three "overseers" were white. 

"Is it racist or reality?" he asked.  "Maybe it's the only job they can find and maybe nobody else wants the job.  But also, contrast this to the other pictures we've seen of cleanup crews wearing full body jumpsuits and heavy-duty rubber gloves."

It wasn't until I went searching online for a copy of the photo from the ad to include in this blog that I discovered what I consider to be the truth behind the picture.  I never found the picture online.  What I did find were article from such widely read sources as The Root, AlterNet, and The Stranger all noting that, while coastal residents are out of work, BP is using prison work crews for cleanup.  What BP gets by hiring prison crews is cheap labor, people who won't talk to the press, and a hefty tax write-off.

I jumped to conclusions about a photo without having all the information. 

Sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words.  Sometimes it's just the tip of the iceberg.


It Tastes Like Beef

When Mr. Gaelic’s sister Flannery was twelve, they went with their grandfather to a country fair. Flannery was hungry so her grandfather bought her a bowl of stew. She gobbled it down, saying how yummy it was. After her grandfather told her it was goat stew, she said it tasted horrible and never wanted to eat goat ever again.

When I brought home venison that my archery coach took down, my girls gobbled up the chili I made with it. I never told them it was venison. Mr. Gaelic, on the other hand, had trouble getting it down. “Too gamy,” was his excuse.

Our family is part of a meat co-op in which the cows are all grass-fed, never grain fed. It makes for a denser, beefier flavor. But eating organic can be expensive. Ground beef is $4.50 per pound. T-bones are $17.00 per pound. To keep costs down, I try offal occasionally. The problem is that Mr. Gaelic is well aware of what “cut” of beef I’m serving.

When I served beef tongue with a Dijon-horseradish cream sauce, he moved the pieces of meat around on his plate and tried to hide them underneath his already-eaten corn cob. The kids ate the beef but didn’t like the sauce.

Mr. Gaelic gets squeamish whenever I order sweetbreads at a restaurant. He doesn’t do a good job of trying to keep that a secret. I can see it in his eyes. Next time more offal is on the menu at home, Mr. Gaelic will be banned from the kitchen. What he doesn’t know won’t harm him. It’ll taste just like beef.