You Don’t Need a Cape


I need some comfort in this world of chaos. So much is leaving us disgruntled, unhappy, and yes, scared. How do we go on living our lives when so much of the world is suffering—and sometimes we are suffering in our own worlds? At times like this we need to turn to unlikely sources of wisdom—those who are quiet and gentle, those we entrusted our children to. Mr. Rogers is who I am thinking of specifically, but some of the other heroes of my sons’ young lives were also laudable—Mr. Dress Up, the Sesame Street characters, Fred Penner, along with Sharon, Lois and Bram.

They were positive influences—they did not wear capes but imparted kindness, gentleness, and darn it, downright niceness. There have been many a news stories of late about a quote from Mr. Rogers that is helping many of us get through some of the world crises, the latest being the horrors that transpired in Manchester. It does not make us understand them any better, but it does give us hope.

It was some advice he received from his mom and it is simple, but it gets to the core of why we just do not all throw in the towel. He said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.”

What he said is so true. There are so many helpers in times of terror. People who forget about themselves and help others, sometimes putting themselves in peril. These are the people we should be remembering. And while we should never forget those who terrorize us, put us in danger, and spread fear, we must remember that for every one of those who do harm, there are millions of us who do not. Hard to remember this in times of peril—but important. Important because we cannot lose heart. For if we lose heart, and faith in our fellow human, we have lost everything.

I know that many times I attempt to make this column humorous, but this week my funny bone is sprained. I need comfort, and healing, and the knowledge that though the crazy leader of the North Koreans is at the helm of something terrible, though terrorists are plotting their next moves, and though we create our own little hells, there is hope. And I find that hope in the words of those much wiser than I.

Here are two more of Mr. Rogers’ Gentle Quotations put together by Chris Higgins on the website Mental Floss, gleaned from the book, “The World According to Mr. Rogers”:

On strength: “Most of us, I believe, admire strength. It’s something we tend to respect in others, desire for ourselves, and wish for our children. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we confuse strength and other words–like aggression and even violence. Real strength is neither male nor female; but is, quite simply, one of the finest characteristics that any human being can possess.”

On great things: “A high school student wrote to ask, ‘What was the greatest event in American history?’ I can’t say. However, I suspect that like so many ‘great’ events, it was something very simple and very quiet with little or no fanfare (such as someone forgiving someone else for a deep hurt that eventually changed the course of history). The really important ‘great’ things are never center stage of life’s dramas; they’re always ‘in the wings.’ That’s why it’s so essential for us to be mindful of the humble and the deep rather than the flashy and the superficial.”

Mr. Rogers was a gentle man. We need this quality and we should never downplay our gentleness. The first definition given by Merriam-Webster of gentle is “belonging to a family of high social station.” I would like to amend that definition. Gentle, when applied to any human being, is the highest station of all—and the status has nothing to do with wealth or relatives.

It is the gentle, the kind, the tender, the quiet, and the calm who shall lead them. You need no cape to be a hero. Look in the wings….

Published in: on May 31, 2017 at 1:58 pm  Comments (6)  

A Little Fennel Keeps Things Interesting



I must say I could not agree more with Vita Sackville-West’s quote about gardeners, and those (like me) who aspire to be gardeners. She said: “The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before.”

Vita, short for Victoria Mary was an English poet, novelist, and garden designer—thus I am assuming she knows (or knew since she died in 1962) whereof she speaks. In contrast, I am a gardener-wanna-be, but that is alright because my eldest son, Adam (yes, the rock god—and yes, he would kill me if he read this) and his girl friend have once again planted a sumptuous (as in opulent) garden in my backyard (which I am free to harvest when harvesting comes around.)

I helped choose some of the plants we are growing, but thus far have done little else than admire the beautiful garden they planted so precisely. Onions, five types of tomatoes, and fennel (yes, fennel) were my contribution to the garden which also features a large variety of hot peppers (and a few not so hot peppers for my not too spicy palate) peas, chives, and a variety of lettuce(s). There are also a few marigolds dispersed among the plants—my son is convinced that they help in pollination and keep our cat from using the garden as his personal litter box (it worked last year—on both counts!)

Adam has been in charge of our garden for probably the last seven years, and each year it gets better. Like Vita suggested in the quote above, he is always looking forward to doing something better than (he) has done before, and each year he hones his skills dramatically. Last year we had bumper crops of tomatoes and peppers, and he kept the garden weed free—which is quite a task in itself. I water the garden on occasion, admire it profusely, but other than that, it is his baby.

This is the first year we have had the garden planted early and we are quite proud of ourselves. I have even planted most of my flowers (having checked Accuweather and been assured there are no frosty nights in our future). I stick with tried and true plants (those I have not killed in the past) but have added a little ivy and other plants (that I do not know the name of) to fancy up my containers. Everything looks pretty darn good right now—let us hope I can stick to a watering regime in the heat of the summer so that I do not end up with dead flowers and brown leaves.

I did skip over the fact that we are growing fennel this year. This is our big adventure. You have to have something you are a little unsure of to keep things interesting. We are hoping that we did not plant it upside down (I am pretty sure we didn’t). I will also have to widen my cooking horizons to include this little gem in my repertoire, but I am sure I am up to the task. I have been talking to people about our experiment and have received a lot of advice on what to do with it—turns out it is quite a versatile veggie!

As per usual, I will end my yearly gardening column with a few quotes I found amusing about the topic du jour—hope you find one of two worth a smile:

“Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Work Like Hell and Fertilize.” (yep)

“The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed straw hat
and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold
drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.”
– Texas Bix Bender, Don’t Throw in the Trowel

Two by Doug: “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.”– Doug Larson
“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if
green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” – Doug Larson

My favourite: “If life deals you lemons, make lemonade. If it deals you tomatoes, make Bloody Marys.”

And finally: “The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over
never weeded a garden.”

Published in: on May 26, 2017 at 7:54 pm  Comments (5)  

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week

This week too….

Live & Learn

Source: gifak-net

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Published in: on May 25, 2017 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Mother’s Day Though Most of This Is Only about Mother’s Day Peripherally



Cooking from scratch. Seems like a plausible statement. Something Julia Child, Martha Stewart and many of the chefs and cooks I watch on the Food Network would not find inconceivable. In fact, it is something that is lauded mightily among many of my friends, but I am generally not a “cook from scratch” kind of girl. Convenience is the name of my game, and the microwave my cohort in crime. Spending a lot of time in the kitchen is not something that appeals to me except on a rather limited basis. But today, today I am making bean soup—from scratch.

Or my kind of scratch. I boiled the ham bone leftover from a big Sunday meal and then cut off any remaining meat left on the bone. My cat, Kitty Bob, was beside me for most of this exercise—the smell of the meat and the hope that springs eternal in his kitty cat heart that he might be tossed a morsel or two kept him glued to my side. Once the meat was chopped up I added the navy beans, tomatoes, and taco seasoning with a bit of pepper to add to the culinary mash-up.

I can hear the purists out there groaning. They would have probably made their own diced tomatoes from fresh and used dried navy beans that they had processed themselves—and they certainly would not have added taco seasoning—particularly if it came from an El Paso package. I would be quick to note though, that the pepper was freshly ground. (Don’t I get kudos for that?) The fun part is coming up though—I get to use the immersion blender a friend gave me. Men are not the only ones who love tools!

I love eating food that people prepare themselves. I have friends and relatives who make pies without the help of Pillsbury. I know people who actually bake from scratch—something I have not done since the days of standing beside my mom and helping her bake decades upon decades ago. I talk to people who actually make coleslaw from cabbage, instead of buying it already shredded. I admire these people but not enough to emulate them.

Once in awhile, my husband will ask where a certain dish came from, and once in awhile I can say that I made it. Although I find opening packages and preheating the oven enough of a task some nights—I do, on occasion, like to mix things up, and surprise my family with some of that expertise I have gleaned from watching the Food Network, or reading cookbooks. I am guilty of never really following a recipe religiously (unless I am baking), but I do add a pinch of this and a soupcon of that.

Mother’s Day is this coming weekend and I remember fondly learning out to cook and bake at my mother’s side. I was a good sous chef—I could chop and sauté with the best of them; and mix the wet ingredients, then the dry, and incorporate the two for sweet delights, but I never really graduated to liking the process on my own.

Mom could whip up a meal out of vegetable soup and rice if need be, or serve a full course roast beef dinner with the requisite dessert without batting an eye. I have cooked big meals, but never gracefully. I am usually a hot mess if I have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and perhaps a bit on the grouchy side. I find a glass of wine calms my nerves though. I only think that I am a better cook then.

On another note:

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Here is a quote about moms that I think is perfect: “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her.” Unattributed-found on

Published in: on May 12, 2017 at 4:02 pm  Comments (3)