Where Does It Hurt? Don’t Ask!

My Dear Friends…

Let’s start with the gratitude.

Each morning that I open my eyes I am grateful. I mean really grateful. I mean not taking it for granted grateful.  I mean at my age that eye opening event is not a given. Yeah, yeah, I know… at any age.  But let’s get real.  At almost 88, for me that ranks as almost historic. I have a brother totally compos mentis and active who recently celebrated 101 years who would call me a child. If only. No, that is not true.  I can’t believe I am going to write this.  But there really is no other age or time I want to be in other than the one I am in now.  With what is going on how is that even possible?

Well, let me tell you what supersedes all… LIFE… however challening and difficult… LIFE!

So back to my daily awakening. I open my eyes and I am grateful. I roll out of bed… yes, that’s what I said, I roll out of bed to the bathroom. I am so much more aware of the waddle I purposely use and the care I take all in the prevention of the real villain of getting up there in age… THE FALL.  Too many of my friends and relations have gone the way of all flesh because of a fall. So yes, I do not mind walking and moving like an aging elephant if it prevents my falling (I admit, at my age I am happily the elephant in the room, always.)  

Where was I?  Oh, yes! I return to roll back onto and into bed and am the happier for that initial journey. And that is when I take my first snooze… maybe 5 minutes.  And then it begins.

I open and close my eyes many times. When I close my eyes, I try to go for another little snooze.

Foot or Head note: This process usually begins around 6:00A.M.

True, it’s early, but I finish reading around 10:00P.M. the night before only because that is when  the eyes seem to close all by themselves.

So… 6 A.M. begins the eyes-opening-awake-eyes-closing-snooze time. I think this is an old habit.  From my school days through and to my work days, I always struggled for that extra sleep time. Then, I needed it. I had show business hours. I went through the motions looking like I was awake (not!) until around 11 A.M. However, now as I have no set schedule except that which I create with the help of friends, family, and my various enterprises, I am beginning to realize after about half an hour, why I am putting off getting up and out of bed.

Waking my body up after a night of slumber is no easy task.

Who knew?  Not me.

I heard from others how getting older takes its toll on the body. Not me. I plied my body with exercise and movement. But even with practice, the body reaches a point of no return. Again, I thought, not me.

I feel like Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (great movie by the way). Her character never cried uncle in defeat.  

Forced by decisions she made, finally she cried UNCLE!  I find myself forced by simple body arithmetic, crying UNCLE!

Sue me!  My body has a different agenda than my head.

It is like the photo of myself I look at and the mirror I look into.They are both parts of the same person. And yet, they each tell a different story.  

It is not good for my morale to remember hopping out of bed to get ready for the day.
The word hopping is not in my vocabulary unless it applies to Peter Rabbit.

It is not good for my morale to remember shouting to a friend, “I just got out of bed.  I’ll be ready in 10 minutes.” Ten minutes would just be the getting out of bed part.

It is not good for my morale to go without breakfast which I regularly did.
I need the food to process pills.

Ask me if I am depressed?
I am not. Wistful, sometimes, but not depressed.

I repeat what I wrote before: There is no other age or time I want to be in other than the one I am in now.
What?  Am I crazy?  Well, of course…

Yeah, yeah, I am a late bloomer. So was Grandma Moses.

And I haven’t even mentioned the STATE of STATE affairs. The rending of our Founding Fathers dreams of a nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.  It’s almost as though I want to say to each of the politicians that electronically spout the lies of racism, the election, the pandemic, the vaccinations, the climate… ”Hey, guys, I know how hard it is to get out of bed in the morning.  Don’t!”  Imagine having a break from all their nasty insanity… now that’s something I might try to hop out of bed for.

By all manner of ways and means, I should be depressed but a phrase keeps rolling around in my brainball:  The Best of All Possible Worlds.

Voltaire, a writer extraordinaire of the 17th Century, wrote a novella Candide.  It is a satirical take on those of us who choose to remain optimists as the tsunamis of life appear on the horizon ready to sweep us out into the roiling sea. Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein did the lyrics and the music of this very successful musical adaptation. 

Oh, by the way we have a present day CandideTed Lasso. Maybe that’s why the show is so successful and why everyone loves him so much. He is the cockeyed optimist. He lives in the best of all possible worlds. He believes. Maybe we love him because we are on cynical overload and want to believe, too.

Summing it up my friends, it is definitely harder to get out of bed in the morning.  All my body parts have to be aligned for it to happen with a minimum of discomfort.  

I fear the news, personal and otherwise, is not going to get much better for at least the near future.  However, As the Pilgrims and other early seafarers after months and sometimes years at sea, in survivor relief, shouted, “Signs of Land”!!.  

And I believe there are happenings that warrant encouragement:

* Brittany Spears’s father is out! 
* Prince Harry and Prince William reconcile. 
* In an extraordinary bipartisan agreement Cuomo, DeSantis, Abbot, Cruz ,Hawley, and Greene, before establishing their new law firm, have formed their own anger management Foundation.
* Trump has joined an Ashram in the Catskills.
* Melania has left with her mother for Monte Carlo. 

But for the most encouraging sign of all follow these instructions:

Take the fingers of your right hand, place them on the inner wrist of your left hand, if you feel the beat all good things will follow.

Right?  Of course, right!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Words, Words, Words

My Dear Friends and Family,

This past week one of my daughters sent me this video of Jon Batiste performing “FREEDOM” on the Colbert Show. (I have included it below.)

As I watched, I felt I was transported to a Gospel Church moment. Batiste, who has long been Steven Colbert’s band leader is Black and Beautiful and moves like a dream. The song was a totally infectious experience and I think I played and danced to it several times. My daughter was right when she said it was a joyous happening to be shared.  And so I thought of all of you, my dear friends and family.

As I got ready to send it out, I started thinking about the name of the song and Batiste’s definition of the word, Freedom.  Being Black and Beautiful, he wrote the song from his perspective of the word. I get that. I understand that.  I applaud that.  

However,  I might sing and dance to his song Freedom from an entirely different perspective.  Along with oh, so many of my fellow beings, I could shout and dance out my freedom from a year of Covid Pandemic isolation.  

And as I continued my thought line, the lyrics of another song crept into my consciousness…

Words, words, words

I’m so sick of words

First from him now from you

Is that all you blighters can do

If you think Freedom is one thing, and I think it’s another, how do we communicate? In truth, it’s like we are all speaking a foreign language in an attempt to find a path to understanding. I thought about confusion in communications around three very important words…

What I wanted most in my life was to be KNOWN. If you know me, you’ll love me. Now, don’t yell on me. I was young and I was desperate. One important slice of this equation was missing. If I didn’t know me, how was anyone else supposed to know me?  When I was a student and fiancée, I defined Freedom as escape. The only way for me to be free was to escape home and family. Unfortunately, early in my life, my courage was limited to making a fool of myself on stage. In the 1950’s the approved way to leave home was to get married. Marriage equaled Freedom.  Twenty-seven years later Freedom equaled Divorce. Go figure!!!

At different stages of my life, Freedom meant something else.Today, I’m not sure if my mortality has increased my vision, but I am open to most everyone’s interpretation of Freedom. Except, of course, if their freedom takes away my freedom. This is a no-no.

I think it is inherent, dare I say it, on a cellular level most of us want to be known. It takes a great deal of courage to be known. I have a sneaking suspicion that fear wipes out that courage. This makes me believe you cannot be known without being FREE.  

TRUTH

First I shall tell you, growing up in my family my ability to survive was based on how well I could lie. From the womb, I was an actress, so pretending (that’s the polite word for lie), was very easy for me.

I shall admit, I had a lot of help from the adult community. How many times were you told, don’t tell mama, don’t tell poppa, if that’s your sister on the phone, tell her I’m not here… and on and on the requests go.  I’m not accusing anyone. Goodness knows it’s an accepted social practice… the little white lie.  But as a child, it’s difficult to discriminate the social lie from, “I did not lose  Mother’s engagement ring that she was saving to pawn because she needed money to pay into her Christmas Savings Account for your presents so you don’t get any this year.”  

I think about storm troopers throwing open the door and shouting out, ”Are you Jewish?”  What would you do?  I for one do not know. Of course, I’d like to think I would proudly stand up and do the honorable thing, but isn’t that the question? What is honorable? To survive or not to survive. Furthermore, in the scheme of life, he or she who casts the first stone could break a window and then what???  I do not feel the need to lie anymore. This is a good thing. And frankly, I don’t have a lot of patience with those that continue to lie. Nothing really is that important.  As long as I follow the Golden Rule… Do Unto Others as you would have Others Do Unto you… I don’t think I have to.  In someone’s wisdom (I wish I knew who)… THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.  BUT FIRST IT REALLY PISSES YOU OFF.

LOVE

OK  now we have come to the sticky part.  Oi Vey!  For this I am going to be moided (Brooklynese for murder). For me, there is no universal definition for the word love.

How could there be? Our life experiences forbid it.  However, when has that ever stopped me from having all the answers? I’m still making it up.The difference today is I know I’m making it up.

 All right, we need to separate Romantic Love from Universal Love. 

I have been in romantic love at least a billion different times, with all God’s critters.  Mostly male of every stripe and color. Only about 10 of the billion knew I was in love.  And of the ten, I married only one. Once was more than enough. Now, everyone has their own romantic love stories to tell and if I felt like it, I would tell you mine.  But I don’t. So I won’t. You can always do what I do and make it up. A kind of coupling of your truth with romantic love.   All to say that romantic love is brilliant and necessary for population growth and hormones. (It’s dropping by the way… population growth, that is… not hormones!!! Any theories???)  

Universal Love. For me it will always  belong to the world of Spirit. It is in that world I find myself more and more comfortable and more and more the need to inhabit. Yeah, sure, of course, to some extent  this feeling is age related. However, I have to acknowledge this world of Spirit has always been with me. I was among the many who had experienced early childhood trauma. Too young to know about God or religions, but always knowing somehow during this time, I was cared for.  In many of my darkest times, it is and was always there. It comes in the form of humor, wonder, and yes, mostly LOVE.  I have found my place in the Universe and I am loved not just by my friends and family. I can look at a sunrise and even knowing I had nothing to do with bringing it up (such a relief to have that off my plate!), be in love with the wonder of it all. I and those who can experience sunrise, sunset, and all the wonders of the Universe, know we are loved. How come it took me so long to get it? I don’t know.

Which reminds me… I want to share a new “AHA!!” with you. Just yesterday my 3 favorite words were, “I Love You”.  Today, with MY PHD in Judgement intact,  my 3 Most Favorite Words are,

 I DON’T KNOW.

And that’s my definition of Freedom, Truth, and Love.

Right?  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane❤️

A BOX OF MEMORIES ARRIVES…

What occurred that precipitated the arrival?

I am so glad you asked.

The weekend before, the family celebrated the Bat Mitzvah of my daughter.

Please, do not panic. I am not Abraham’s wife, Sarah from the Bible.  

I am the 87 year old mother of a 57 year old daughter who made a decision to join her husband and three children in her quest for her official place in the Jewish Community.  She has studied and worked for the last two years towards this ceremony and the family gathered. The first post-pandemic gathering at an outdoor Synagogue service with Zoom accessibility for friends and family across the time zones of the world.  

It was a heart and soul event that was an antidote of good will, good cheer, intellectual and spiritual edification, and a beautiful outpouring of love, displacing, at least for a moment, the Covid/Pandemic scenario. Proving that with vaccinations and careful preparations life as some of us have known it continues.

The weekend brought my family together. My immediate family consists of 3 daughters, Dianne, Lori, Pamela. After the event Dianne and her family, who have been in Barcelona for the past 2 years, drove me back to my home in Great Barrington to visit. From the age of 13 she has always had a keen culinary interest (Lori, as well. Pammy inherited my reticence in the kitchen).  One evening gifted me with a great and very complicated dinner.  She shopped for all her ingredients.  I think she used every pot and utensil my kitchen possessed.  There was no room for me in the kitchen.  It was overloaded with all the food she bought and the equipment and my daughter. I was excited and I might add, a little curious.  Since Humpty Dumpty was nowhere to be found, who was going to put the kitchen back together again?  We’ll get to that later.  Best not to disturb the creative genius at work.

A triumph. The dinner was brilliant. So delicious. Each dish in itself was tasty and unique. It didn’t matter that all together they didn’t quite go together.  She has a very natural culinary talent.

In an instant, my memory was jostled back to a Christmas years ago when she was 13 and her sisters 11 and 9.  They had asked what I wanted for Christmas.  I asked them if they would each prepare their own dinner for the family.  Her sisters prepared age appropriate menus… hot dogs and beans, hamburgers and chips.  However, at 13, Dianne decided to challenge Julia Child to a food duel in my kitchen. The same result. Even if nothing went with anything, each dish, in itself was excellent.  

Back to the present… As she put the kitchen back in order, I reminded her of that long ago Christmas gift. She remembered. We laughed.  She left the next day to travel to visit friends and family and her storage unit in Baltimore.  She was in a cleaning out mode before heading back to Barcelona.  

A day or so later, she called and said she found the Christmas gift menu of when she was 13.  I couldn’t believe it.  Serendipity, synchronicity …

Here is her menu. 

Like I said.  Everything had great taste…then and now.

There are so many questions that have occurred to me from this memory box.

Why did I ask my children to learn to use the kitchen at 13, 11 and 9?

At the time we were living in Washington, D.C. Somewhere deep in my subconscious… I wanted to return to New York City, pound the pavements of Broadway to become a STARRRRR.   I had to wait until the children were at an age where they would be able to care for themselves and to understand why I needed to go.  To assuage the guilt for even thinking about  such a “bad mommy” idea, I thought of it as just a practical application of life… kind of an at-home home economics course .  Oh, my dears, I don’t know about you, but my ability to block my subconscious tends toward genius.

The other part of this memory that brings an appropriate question to mind is why is a Jewish family celebrating Christmas.  It actually comes from my family tradition.  I am one of 7 brothers and sisters.  We all went to Sunday School.  The 4 boys all had a Bar Mitzvah.  The 4 girls Confirmed.  We were Reform Jews and back then, girls did not have a Bat Mitzvah (that’s how old I am!).  Most importantly we did celebrate all the Jewish Holidays which included Hanukah, but my mother loved Christmas.  She loved the spirit of joy and peace.  She loved the music. And most of all she loved SHOPPING.  Even through the depression, she opened a Christmas Savings Account to put money away every week to buy all of us presents.  And my father who had always wanted to be an actor played his starring role of the year, Santa Claus. 

I will say that his costume was a bit bizarre.  He had a great Santa mask with beard and a gorgeous Mandarin Silk Robe as his suit.  Please don’t ask me.  I have no idea where this combination came from.  It occurs to me that perhaps as a Jew this was his “not going all the way” in the Christian mode.  It was, to say the least, memorable.  I continued this tradition.  Unfortunately, my former husband had no theatrical ambitions so we did it without a Santa.  I wonder… was our Christmas celebrations of the past an unlit spark in my daughter who was just Bat Mitzvahed?

So many questions and any answer I might have just brings up another question.

That’s life, right guys?? I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am happy to live with another question.

Right????  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. I don’t remember looking this good.

Gratified and Satisfied…

My Dear Friends,

We have all heard it a million times… writing is such a lonely craft. No matter how writers try to distract themselves from themselves, eventually they must succumb and begin the lonely climb from sub to conscious thought, from pen to paper or fingers to computer. Yes, I am describing my own journey. And then the thoughts are dispersed to the person or in this case, the “list” of those brave souls that signed on to accept and read my blog. All to say, I thankfully, always get some response to what I write.

So that even if I write in the wilderness, eventually after sending the blog out, someone or someones rescue me from my solitude and brings me into their thoughts and responses and I am profoundly gratified and satisfied.

Hey, let us not forget my friends… I began my game of life as a performer. My passion was in putting myself before an audience and hoping I gave them pleasure or challenge or both. That give and take audience response was my initial lifeline from dysfunctional family life to dysfunctional married life. My ever growing, developing, nurturing, constantly challenging, and most loving relationship with my daughters was and always will be my raison d’être, but performing was definitely my second choice.

So writing in the wilderness is very difficult for me. And without response… OI VEY! … you’ve got to be kidding… a killer… an absolutely killer. I’ve been told to not be bothered by the lack of response… blog readers don’t usually respond. Well, in this last Blog about the Netflix movie, I Care A Lot…. I specifically asked for a response… and I got it.

I’m going to try and figure out how to rework my blog so I can keep this “audience” response going. In the meantime, I want to share some of the responses I received.

From Jim:
In my reading lately I’ve come across the concept referred to as the attention economy. Mostly in reference to social media like Facebook, Twitter,  etc. it is the idea that our attention is finite and of value and we should pay attention to how we ‘spend’ it.

These dark, ironic ‘humor’ movies and shows make me feel like I’ve not only wasted my time but been ripped off in terms of my attention. And since everything is tracked these days I am starting to be much more circumspect in how I allocate my attention. 

Here is the original article which introduced the phrase attention economy into my brain… I Talked to the Cassandra from the Internet Age (NY Times)

From Donna:
I saw the trailer for “I Care A Lot”. Half way through the trailer, it ’sceeved’ me out and I moved on. What a horrible plot!!!… The world is frightening enough these days without adding to it.

From Pamela:
I was afraid of that. I saw the blurb and could feel the ickiness. Glad you STOPPED WATCHING!!! Your senses are too precious to fill with such a vile version of humanity!

From Paula:
In CA almost impossible to have someone declared incapacitated in the courts.  Court also sends out its own independent investigator.  Anyway wanted you to know this so that you can sleep again…

FYI, I never watch movies like this anymore (even in the past I rarely watched) – no matter what the reviews.  Too much ugliness in the world already. I need an escape.

From Vel:
Just read your blog and SO glad I decided to pass on that film! But here’s a bit of news that gives that swindling racket a ‘Hooray for you, Girl’ upbeat twist: At 93, She Waged War on JPMorgan—and Her Own Grandsons

From Dianne:
I read your blog.  That movie sounds horrible.  Glad you switched over to reliable Agatha. 

From Lana:
Ugh. I watched that movie last night. I wanted to quit part way through it — I actually found it very uncomfortable and a little bit horrifying. I also wanted to see if it had a satisfying end (yes, sort of). But I went to bed with a flutter in my throat, kind of wishing I hadn’t watched it. But it made me wonder if, during the Trump era, producers made more movies like that — characters derelict of conscience or humanity

In reading up on the backstory of the movie, I see an article in The New Yorker was part inspiration: 
The Takeover
The whole thing scared the be-jesus out of me. 

From Ron: 
This came from reading your blog …

Now if you have any responses to these responses… write on MacDuff!  

While there have been shows where some audience members left before I did, (I’ve been in a few “turkeys” in my time), but as Laurence Olivier said, “If you haven’t had any bad reviews, you can’t call yourself an actor”.  

You see this is the kind of digression that counts as a distraction when I am trying to write. All I meant to say is… if you want to respond to any of the responses my machines are always open.   

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

THE ART OF GIVING AND RECEIVING

My Dear Friends and Family,  

Wow!  Is this Holiday season different from any Holiday season you’ve ever had, or what???  Everything is so… so… so…

VIRTUAL.

I love giving presents almost as much as I love receiving them. I was confounded and I whined, “How am I going to send a gift to one and all of my  Blah Blah Blog’s friends and family.”

Sometimes I can’t see the forest from the trees or is it the trees from the forest. Well, it is one of those things.  And I really cant tolerate listening to me whine.

So I said to myself, “Self!  Stop whining about missing the real and live and get on the virtual band wagon!”

Along with some wonderful contributions from friends, I have searched ‘Da Web’ and come up with a Holiday Package of Fun and Cheer and Song and Dance.

Please feel free to share your own favorites.

With Love ~ ❤️ Sally-Jane

😂 GIFT #1 FOR ALL US SILLY CRITTERS 🤪

🦛 GIFT #2 FOR THOSE WHO HAVE EVERYTHING 🎄

GIFT #3 FOR THE IMAGINATION SEEKERS 😲

🤫 GIFT #4 FOR THE SILENT MAJORITY 🤣

🥳 GIFT #5:  FOR THE WANNABE STAND-UPS 🤩

🎼 GIFT #6:  FOR THE CHILD IN ALL OF US 🎄

🥧 GIFT #7: A RETRO GIFT FOR ALL THE HOLIDAY BAKERS 🍪

🩰 GIFT #8: FOR THE HOLIDAY TRADITIONALISTS 🌠

GIFT #9: FOR ONE AND ALL 🎶

🙏🏽 AND OF COURSE… 🙏🏼

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ❤️ WITH MY LOVE ~ SALLY-JANE

HUMAN WILDFIRES SET BY KNOWN ARSONISTS

How is that for a headline???

I don’t know about you but even before the pandemic and certainly before the election, I began to worry about what was happening to cause the ever-widening gap between citizens in the United States.

How had the words of our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our very laws been made to look like yesterday’s mashed potatoes.  How had “reasonable men and women” become frightened enough and desperate enough to lose their good old American Horse Sense and verbally and physically hurt their fellow humans who had another opinion. I had always known that the Civil War was still an open Southern wound, slow, if ever, to heal.  In my opinion, the way the South voted as first a Dixiecrat bloc and presently a Republican bloc, proved that to me. However, there are so many good people of good intent working to heal those wounds, I had hopes.  

Daily my hopes are being pounded into dust. I didn’t understand. Usually, after an election, there is elation for one group, dejection for another. Eventually, as a nation, we pull up our socks and hoping for the best, pull together for the good of all. After my own disappointment in 2016, I really did hope for the best and was willing to give one and all the benefit of the doubt. A doubt, unfortunately that over the years expanded exponentially. I digress.   

How did we forget that the American Way is to come together? Furthermore, life isn’t just about me, right?  It’s about me in concert, cooperation, and coordination with my family, my friends, all my relationships… which  includes my citizenship. Even if elected officials negate their responsibilities, that doesn’t absolve me of my duties as an American citizen. 

Little did I know that working against all that good old American way of thinking were some of my social media choices. I have written before about the use of propaganda in this digital age. How did I get snookered into the very action I was wailing about?  

I had written about Cambridge Analytica and how they invaded through algorithms people’s privacy ….  and forgot that one of the major contributors to their success and ultimately their downfall was Facebook.

Yesterday, a good friend asked if I had seen a recent Netflix Documentary, The Social Dilemma. I hadn’t.

STOP.  WATCH IT. THEN DELETE.  

I saw it last night. 

If they can’t find you, they can’t influence you. And if you think you can withstand their influence, make an appointment with your therapist. Denial and Delusion is not the name of a law firm, it is what I am guilty of.  How can I continue to wonder why this growing rash of violence, separation, discord evolved from air? It didn’t.  

Corporate greed from a new corporate breed: PROFIT OVER PEOPLE

Until these social media corporations have the same regulations as telephone, radio, and television companies have, you can personally take action.  And it is an action that is totally in your hands… literally in your hands.          

DELETE

LOVE, Sally-Jane ❤️


P.S. Whatever Holidays you are celebrating I wish you love and joy. Herein are my gifts to you all:

P.P.S. I got some interesting responses to my latest Blah, Blah, Blog… Here are 2 of them:

1.This isn’t the first time Heather Cox Richardson and I have explored similar topics. Hers from an educated historian perspective me from the seat of my opinionated pants:

In Houston, Texas, today, police arrested a former police department captain for running a man off the road and pointing a gun at his head in a misguided attempt to foil a massive voter fraud scheme. Sixty-three-year-old Mark Anthony Aguirre claimed to be part of a citizens’ group investigating voter fraud. Believing his victim was hiding 750,000 fraudulent ballots in his truck, Aguirre rammed the truck with his SUV and held the driver first at gunpoint and then with his knee in the man’s back until police came. Upon inspection, it turned out the truck was full of air conditioning parts. The district attorney, Kim Ogg, said “His alleged investigation was backward from the start—first alleging a crime had occurred and then trying to prove it happened…. [W]e are lucky no one was killed.”
And the reason for this crazy man’s head bent full of these crazy ideas is Greed.  Greed by big corporate players like Facebook and greed by right wing hucksters like Doug Jones who draws attention to his website by gorging out conspiracy theories in order to keep his audience outraged which makes them keep coming back for more and let’s him sell them more and thus pull in huge amounts of moneyAs they say in all of the detective stories:  If you want to catch the criminal follow the money. 

2. What do you think about THIS…?  Facebook Doomsday Machine 

Weird and Wonderful

Very recently I had a very challenging and ultimately satisfying experience.

2017

I think most of you received an email about my reading the Edith Wharton short story The Mission of Jane at The Mount (Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts)

This was going to be the fifth year of my reading this story.  I had convinced the powers that be that the story was so rich and funny that a yearly reading would plumb the depths of pathos and humor of Wharton’s writing.  Thankfully, they agreed.

Enter the villain virus.

It was a challenge for Susan Wissler, Executive Director of The Mount.

There is nothing Susan likes better than a challenge.  She took a failing Mount out of bankruptcy and the cultural world marveled at her leadership bringing The Mount into solvency and success.  

She accepted the Villian Virus challenge. The latest of which were the live readings of Edith Wharton’s and other short stories. Of course it had to be outdoors and the number of audience limited and distances set.  She decided to use the forecourt of The Mount –  a beautiful area originally established for carriages and cars to dispense passengers before their entering the mansion.  It was perfect.

Wednesday, August 19th arrived with sun, then clouds, then rain and not until 4 pm before a 5:30 reading was there a go-ahead.  Leaving this reader slightly frazzled.  Hey, guys, those in the know know… it don’t take much for that to happen.  Sensitive or neurotic or a little of both.  Take your pick.

The build-up to performance was intense. I rehearsed. I tried to forget my age. (fat chance) I love performing. I love the story. I love The Mount.  

“Be gone, Virus!  You are not welcome here!”

The reading was SOLD OUT.  The reading was limited to and audience of 45.  I didn’t care. I love saying I played to a sold out house. Sue me!

I looked out over the audience.  Two people seated way over left, 3 people seated way over right, 4 people here and there, another double, another triple, and so on spread apart from each other (as required by law) all through the forecourt.  There was no audience seating.  There were disparate chairs placed all over the space. So that I could not read to one group as I did before but individual groupings which made it difficult for the audience to relate to each other, no less to the reader.  

It is something I never thought about before, but when a member of an audience comes into a performance space, he or she may start out individually but as the performance continues the audience slowly but surely becomes unified, sometimes for you and sometimes against you.

I  would venture a guess that, seated together as they all are, that unity makes it possible for the actor or actors to create the necessary bond to create a satisfactory relationship.  A catharthis, right?  (look it up)  I am grateful that the story was an hour long because it took me at least thirty minutes to bring this disparate audience into a unified one.  

And then there is the wearing of masks. This was a reading in daylight.  I looked out at a sea of faces masked to their eyeballs.  At the beginning I couldn’t see their smiles or hear their laughter (some advantage… I couldn’t see them yawn, either.) As the story progressed and as the audience came together, the laughter escaped the masks and finally I could sense there was enjoyment.  

There was a nice prolonged applause at the end of the story.  And, my friends, I have to tell you I think in part it was for me and the story, but I also think it was because the event at The Mount gave 45 people the opportunity to come out from their isolation, from their quarantine and for that they were grateful. Me, too.

I want to thank Susan Wissler and The Mount for the opportunity for me to blow my horn and also for creating engaging, inclusive programs for all.

I was so grateful to be able to provide release and relief in the time of this pandemic. And I look forward (ain’t that a nice word for this time in all our lives!) to more creative and satisfying experiences.

Right?  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Our next opportunity for a creative and satisfying experience is coming up!!

A Stew Full of Thoughts

My Dear Friends,

THOUGHT 1: Yet another fallout of the Pandemic…

Every time I think I have a handle on how to handle the world I and fellow beings presently inhabit, I lose the handle.  Why can’t I keep a steady hand on the wheel of my life?  I know the rules of safety.  I try my best to follow them… Social distancing, masking, hand washing, sanitizing, travel limits.

I am kidding you and myself because, of course I know why I can’t keep it steady.  I am not in control.

I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place. I know the feeling well because I have been there many times before.

I think I am being vigilant. But then, I watch others out of my control, threaten themselves and others with their choices.  It then becomes my responsibility to set limits and put out the no vacancy sign.  It is so alien to the nature of this here beast. 

My door has always been open.  In the world today that is not an option. I can make some adjustments. And for this I am so very grateful that I am able to set up for a meal in the garden or the porch with safe spacing, masks and whatever else is necessary for the safety of all. 

THOUGHT 2A review of The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

I did not know the depth and the extent of the migration of Black Americans from the South to the North and to the West from 1915 – 1970.   For me, Ms. Wilkerson’s narrative is the foretelling of the ongoing struggle for Black equality we are experiencing at this time. She has chosen three protagonists from three different locations in three different decades of the migration.   Their detailed journey from the white racism of the South that followed them to the white racism of the North and West is shocking and a necessary and important tool in understanding how racism, subtle and not so subtle works. 

At the end of the book Ms. Wilkerson writes some notes about her methodology in putting this brilliant study together. She quotes from a 672 page report by a white-led Commission on the Chicago Riots of 1919 wherein the commission admonishes all.

THIS MUST CHANGE!

It is important for our white citizens always to remember that the Negroes alone of all our immigrants came to America against their will by the special compelling invitation of the whites; that the institution of slavery wast introduced, expanded and maintained by the United States by the white people and for their own benefit; and they likewise created the conditions that followed emancipation.

Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro’s making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance… Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal and their interests in the common good are identical… There is no help or healing in appraising past responsibilities or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; an understanding of the facts of the problem — a magnanimous understanding by both races — is the first step toward a solution.

Excerpt, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, page 543

The report came out in 1922. Last time I checked my calendar it was 2020.

THOUGHT 3:   IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE OBIT, EAT BREAKFAST

There is no way that I am going to leave you without a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart.  Even though my go-to cheerleader, Carl Reiner, left for quieter climes. 

I am sure Carl and Snoopy were in complete agreement.

Here is a documentary he narrated when he was only 94:

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Happy July 4th. It’s way past time to put our money (and our votes) where our mouths are…

W.O.U. We Owe U

My Dear friends and family,

Have you been enjoying some of the most extraordinary watching on your computers, your television, your i- pads, your smart phones?  The outpouring from every cultural corner of the world has been extraordinary. 

Whether you choose to avail yourself of these privileges afforded you during this crises or not, if you are able, and it doesn’t have to be a large sum, but you have a debt that must be paid.

It is clear.  The world will never be the same.  There is a permanent change to all that were used to.  Much adjusting and adapting must be done.  Hopefully, most of it will be for the better. 

However, we must guard against those things that without our help will disappear and leave our lives the emptier and shallower, and in my thinking, more meaningless.  Of course, I am talking about those institutions we take for granted will always be there.  Without support, they will not.

Here are some suggestions:

The local hospital, the library, the live theatre, dance and music organizations, the museums, public radio and television, all of those you have, in the past subscribed to. These represent our cultural history.  It wasn’t so long ago we all went to see and hear a play, a recital, a dance, an opera, a lecture critical or not, something that challenged our minds and sensitivities.  Now we turn to all our electronic accoutrement and in the convenience of our homes and with the kind generosity of these very same institutions reap the continued benefit of that challenge.

They need your help to sustain that challenge for the future or they will be gone.  If we all do it, it doesn’t have to be much.  All those political ads that ask for $5 or $10…they are counting on the multiples of giving people to make the difference.  Be a multiple people person, and send to the group or groups of your choice what you can to help keep them alive.

And most importantly, send to your local shelter and food bank and community organizations that are helping people who have been displaced and discounted by this virus to get back onto their feet again.  Never far from my thoughts, ever:  “There but for the Grace of God…” I know you can finish the sentence.

Stay Well!

Love – Sally-Jane



AMERICA: Oh my god! Coronavirus! What should we do?

CALIFORNIA: Shut down your state.

AMERICA: Wait… what? Why?

CALIFORNIA: Because 40 million people live here and we did it early, and it’s working.

NEW YORK: Welcome aboard.

OHIO: Whoa… whoa… let’s not be hasty now. The president said that this whole coronavirus thing is a democratic hoax.

CALIFORNIA: He also said that windmills cause cancer. Shut down your state.

TEXAS: But the president said that we only have 15 cases and soon it’ll be zero.

CALIFORNIA: The president can’t count to fifteen. Nor even spell it. Shut down your state.

NEW JERSEY: Us too?

CALIFORNIA: Yes, you guys too. Just like when Christie shut down the bridge, but it’s your whole state.

FLORIDA: But what about all these kids here on spring break?? They spend a lot of money here!

CALIFORNIA: Those kids invented the tide pod challenge. Shut down your state.

LOUISIANA: But wait let’s have Mardi Gras first. It entertains people.

CALIFORNIA: It also kills them. Shut it down.

GEORGIA: Ok well how about we keep the state open for all of our mega churches? Maybe we can all pray really hard until the coronavirus just goes away!

CALIFORNIA: Which is working like a charm for mass shootings. Jesus told us to tell you to shut down your state.

OKLAHOMA: What about the tigers?

CALIFORNIA: What about a dentist. Shut it down.

WYOMING: Hold up, maybe we should go county by county like the president said.

CALIFORNIA: Stop acting like there are counties in Wyoming. There are no counties in Wyoming. Wyoming is a county. Shut it down.

PENNSYLVANIA: But big coal.

CALIFORNIA: But big death. Shut it.

WEST VIRGINIA: But we were the last state to get coronavirus!

CALIFORNIA: And don’t make us explain to you why that was. Shut it down.

NORTH CAROLINA: But the republican national convention is coming here!

CALIFORNIA: SHU…     Oh, ok fine, do what you want.



The Gift That Keeps on Giving

IF I HAD THE POWER…

I would provide everyone… and I mean everyone with immediate access to the movie, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.

Listen, my friends I had to force myself to go and see it. Even after my daughter Lori made a special call to convince me to go. I put her recommendation into the back seat of my mind. I loved the recent Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. What more was the movie going to show me? Nothing I did not already know. Right?

Wrong!

I was soooo wrong. It has nothing and everything to do with Mr. Rogers. And even though reviews have been very positive, from my point of view, none of the reviews touched on why today, more than at any other time in this world, everyone needs to see this movie.

Let me try to write how I experienced as I watched the movie unfold.
From the opening, before the credits, a “lego-set “of a residential area of a nameless city (although if you know Pittsburgh, you recognize the three bridges that cross two rivers or is it three… I forget) and suddenly Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers walks into the set and begins to do the Mr. Rogers opening.

Miniature sets used in TriStar Pictures’ A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

But, it is different from the one he usually does in his show as he introduces a picture board of different characters… most of whom you know from his show and one who you did not know, the writer who under duress and in anger has been assigned to do a profile on Mr. Rogers. From that very first moment, I was captured, captivated, you name it. I was had. The mystery, and it is a mystery of a plot unraveled.

A little background: I am in Florida. It was a rainy day. Perfect afternoon for the movies. And perhaps a dozen others thought the same thing. And from that very same beginning moment, this small audience breathed as one. I mean it. We all inhaled at the same time. We exhaled at the same time. No one moved a muscle… no popcorn munching. No slurping. No candy wrappers. We were all suspended in the one hour and 59 minutes of this movie.

Now I am not going into any more detail about the movie. You want to know how this story unfolds. Go to your movie house. I know it is playing there now.

By the end of the film, as the credits rolled, this small audience in a darkened theatre released their breath and applauded as if they were in a live show.

Why? They were moved. The cathartic emotional release of all was palpable. We had all, together, been part of an experience where anger and bile were transformed into love and forgiveness; released into the stratosphere by the catalyst of a vulnerable and fallible human named Fred Rogers.

What are you doing still sitting reading this? Get up. Get out. Get transformed.

Love, Sally-Jane