Bye Bye Blah, Blah, Blog…

My Dear Friends and Family,
In another week I shall celebrate my 89th birthday. 

Who’s going to win the Golden Ticket? The person that is the first to say, “You know, you don’t look it!,” wins. Believe me, there are days I not only look it but feel it, too. Yeah, like mortgage rates the numbers keep going up. 

On and off over the years, I threatened myself that one day I would write a memoir.

As long as I was still performing, I didn’t take me seriously. When I slowed and eventually stopped performing, I searched to find a replacement for my overflowing creative juices. Writing these blogs fulfilled that outlet. I think that is when the idea of a memoir moved slowly from my subconscious to my conscious. 

As this birthday nears, I came to the realization of if not now, when?! So many stories always bubbling up inside me and I am just not the kind of person (ask anyone who knows me) that can keep anything under cover for long. If I want to write this book, and I do, I need to limit and focus my energies.

All to say, this is my final Blah, Blah, Blog… for now.

It is with sadness that I tell you this. And just to keep you close to me I shall conclude with an excerpt, in its infancy, from the memoir.

As it progresses I will periodically share a story as it makes its way into the book. I do not want to lose touch.

Here is a piece from A Piece of Eight. Please don’t hold me to that title. We know all too well that the only constant in life is change.

Right??? Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

A piece from A Piece of Eight...

 I was born in 1933. The roost I was born into was ruled by a 5-foot strong, willful, super mom who for her own reasons raised her children in the belief she knew everything and about everyone. I was most puzzled how she knew about people she had never met. However, my survival instinct was very strong and I knew enough never to challenge her. The division of labor in my household was distinct and written in stone.  My mother was judge and jury, anointed by divine proclamation. My father, a la sentorian oration, laid down my mothers rules and regulations. He was majestical. He was a 6-foot handsome man possessed of a resounding, basso voice. These pronouncements engendered just enough quaking fear to keep the family, well, at least the girls, on the straight and narrow. From a very early age, I knew boy children, aka Princes, were the preferred sex in my household down to their extra portions at the dinner table.   

Whatever talents my four brothers possessed were enthusiastically supported. Piano lessons, violin lessons, chemistry laboratory, model airplane workshop. Before the depression, no expense was spared.  After the depression, the family made do with second hand clothes, tools and tutus.  

I grew up in two families. The first five, by age, Raymond, Allyn, Marilyn, Elliot, Lucille were born before the depression.  The last three, by age, David, Sally-Jane, Arlene were born after.  The depression took a big bite out of the family budget.  Yet, even then, my parents sacrificed to provide the best teachers and classes for their eight talented children.  

When I was very young, my three sisters and I were also encouraged to explore our talents as well… until… drum roll… MENSTRUATION.

If life is about anything, it is about timing.

After the death of a gazillion patients, Joseph Lister sanitized surgery.

After the death of a gazillion patients, Arthur Fleming discovered penicillin.

After a gazillion unwanted pregnancies, Margaret Sanger promoted birth control.

My mother, expert in all things, informed her girl children that Sanger and her methods were nothing but ‘’dirty smutty dirt smut.”   Her law would be all the birth control her daughters would ever need. Her words terrified me. She was the reincarnation of all the movie monsters that frightened me to death; Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man. Was this the beginning of my neurotic, anxiety ridden life. Just think about it. I loved my mother, or so I dutifully thought. And here she was swearing she would be the death of me.  At the very least, her words confused me.

Like a cobra, my mother hissed at me. All right already, so I was never in the same room with a cobra. Sue me!

My mother preached the horrors and evils of sex. I have to tell you, after those lectures, I never would have married if I thought there was any other way to escape.  It doesn’t take much to remember her words: 

“If any of you do IT, I will know.  If you do IT before you are lawfully wed as a virgin, or, God forbid, you get pregnant before you are lawfully wed as a virgin…”

(At this she lifts her eyes to heaven like Charlton Heston on the Mount receiving the Commandments, without the beard nor in a clean white sheet)

“… I swear on my dead mother’s grave to which I will force you to go with me next time I go to the cemetery, I will send you to that Island in the middle of the East River where they keep the insane and diseased city poor.”

All that glorious preaching fell on deaf ears. I didn’t know what IT was. I didn’t know any of my body parts. Where they were. What they did.  After my mother’s curse, I didn’t understand what got a girl pregnant.  Could I get pregnant from a hug?  What about playing Post Office or Spin the Bottle? Safe to say, my thoughts and feelings about sex were deeply affected. Ask any of the men in my life. That might be difficult.  At my age most of them are dead. Being an actress of some ability, along with scores of other women, I was able to fake it.  Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm in When Harry Met Sally was good.  Mine was better.”

TO BE CONTINUED…  

Has this ever happened to you?

I was reading a book and totally involved with the plot and characters unfolding from the author’s mind into my mind. Suddenly the author’s words stopped me cold. I cannot read on. I go back. I reread and reread until I finally understand what stopped me from continuing to read further. I cannot believe this writer tapped into the darkest recesses of my mind. So deep that in my conscious life I didn’t even know what she wrote was something I believed and never actually lived. Furthermore, I shall take a giant presumptive leap and say that I believe it is something most women believe is a truth… dare I say a fact of life, unconfronted for most of our lives for sure, but always there and always true.

So alright already, what writer, what book, what paragraph? What am I talking about? When are you going to realize, life without a drumroll ain’t no fun!!!

From Alice Elliot Dark’s new novel, Fellowship Point:

“The difference with her was the blind eye she turned to inequity. Her true feeling was not that women were equal, as that in itself was a comparison, but that they were whole. Wasn’t that indisputable?”

Whaaaaaaa??????

I do not know the writer Alice Elliot Dark. This in itself is not amazing as the list of writers I know little or nothing about is so much larger than the writers I do know. Her previous works have always been well received. Twenty years have passed since her last publication. Fellowship Point is her new novel. And I imagine it is getting the play that it is getting because it is about two female protagonists in their 80’s. When was the last time you read a book about women octogenarians? Wait, I’m not finished yet. When was the last time you read a book about female octogenarians where the writer gave them a dimension of relevancy to their friends, family, and most importantly the changing world that surrounds everyone. The two older women have been best friends since grade school. Their lives touch every aspect of life from birth until present day as they approach the end of their own.  

I haven’t read any more because I was stopped by the paragraph I referenced above. I am used to exclaiming to anyone who will listen, my equality with the male. I thought that exclamation would suffice to explain women’s rights as human beings. Right? That is, until I read what Ms. Dark wrote. I realized as I reread it that she was right. Equality means comparing one to another… and even if I forget it, don’t we know that comparisons are odious? I am not equal to a man. I am whole unto myself. My friends, that is very different. I don’t have to be in comparison to anyone else. Like I said, all by myself, I am whole. Doesn’t it sound simple? It is. But… watch out for the buts… it is not easy. 

Older is gooder.
Bette Davis and Lillian Gish in The Whales of August (1987)

First, the difference between equality and being whole is subtle enough to be almost hidden. I am beginning to think that self knowledge of wholeness is an inside job. It’s not something you can guarantee by an amendment to the Constitution. It is a condition you are raised with by a family and society that accepts everyone as whole. I may be different. In my difference I am whole. Not less. Not more. Just whole.

What a concept! How do I apply this basic truth? I surely wasn’t raised on it. Any society I’ve read about the present day or from the past has never espoused such beliefs. Even Utopian worlds don’t turn a blind eye to inequities. Did Ms. Dark create this character just to tease us? Is the human condition even capable of understanding wholeness? The word wholeness is thrown around in so many areas of life. I think of it as a marketing word; Whole Foods, Whole Earth, Holistic Integrated Health

In this book’s context it is this woman’s belief system. Can you even imagine a world without comparisons? I was one of eight and the major point of family control by my parents was based solely on comparisons. “Why can’t you be more like (fill in the blank)?”

To a child this is devastating. It’s taken me a long time, but I realize that my whole/wholeness struggle to be is about being seen for who I am, zits and warts included and if not understood, at least accepted as a person in my own right. 

You know what? I am asking for the impossible. I know that. But try this thought on for size. As I wrote before, when I read the quote I shared with you from the book, it stopped me cold. I believe that believing in wholeness from one human to another is the higher goal. In the animal world fear is the primary survival tool. As humans evolve from the animal fear remains the most important tool for our survival, as well. I believe this quote highlights the possibility that there may come a time when one whole human, without fear, can actually see another whole human, without fear. 

And then, my friends, let the party begin.

LOVE, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. And the children shall lead them… ~ Isaiah 11:16

Old Doesn’t Mean Wise…

And if you don’t believe me, just ask the Fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear:

Fool: (to Lear) Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.

It takes a fool to know a fool.

I had always thought maturity, both in age and experience, was the path to wisdom.  At last, I get to the place where I make choices and life decisions that match my physical, emotional, and intellectual abilities. Right? Not quite!

Making those choices without endangering myself and others requires, dare I use the new dirty words in the aging lexicon – accepting my limitations.  After surviving decades of political, historical, and self-induced upheavals, isn’t it written somewhere I finally earned a free pass. The last time I looked, any pass I had was loaded with small print exceptions sort of like the gun law recently passed by Congress.

I tell myself and all who want to listen, “If I have made it this far into what I call my Lear Years, I have to put aside moaning and whining.” They take up too much of the energy I need to take a walk, sing a song, play the piano, fly a kite.  

Recently I have found a very healthy use for my vocal chords – moaning, whining, groaning, and grunting.  At the very beginning of my day while abed, in order to wake up various parts of me as I begin to stretch and wiggle, I moan, groan, whine and grunt. These sounds actually aid in getting my blood pumping and my body parts energized. Let’s face it guys at my age waking up can be a daunting and sometimes frightening process. Each day one or another body part doesn’t work as well as it did the day before. There is an ebb and flow to movement that does not stay the same. But as I accompany my movement with sound, my brain as well as my body parts feels like it’s being liberated from the cobwebs of my sleep.  

Seriously!  Giving vocal power to my movement is amazing. The louder I wail, the more my blood flow pumps and circulates and the more my blood pumps and circulates the more energy I bring to my moving body parts. As I write this, I realize unless you have an understanding partner, it’d be very difficult to keep them from calling 911.

The closest illustration of what I am talking about is the New Zealand Maori Haka Chant that some football teams use as a spirited work out. 

I realize I am not ever going to hop out of bed and make it out of the house in 15 minutes anymore. But honestly, I don’t have to.  And for that I am grateful. It’s not as if I am giving up. That’s not in my makeup. I find I just have to do things differently. You know different. Like peoples and beliefs, the oft talked about diversity is not negative or limiting, it’s just different.

For me, the problem is a mirror adjustment. In my mind’s eye, I don’t think I’ve actually changed that much. I’m getting better about it. I don’t see myself as a teen, more like a very young 60 year old. In recent years, either I have a new mirror or new glasses because that image has been abandoned. Long walks down long airport corridors with my roller bag were traded for wheelchairs. These helpers which were formerly a sign of decline now define my continued ability to travel. But almost more important than the perks of aging is my attitudinal change. I had to acknowledge, first and foremost to myself, I cannot do what I took for granted I’d always do. Damn!  

It took years to finally gain my independence. Now I am being asked to surrender membership as a rugged American individual. It’s OK. I think after a certain pioneer period of exploration and exploitation this country’s rugged individualism is overrated and unnecessary.

Let’s face it. The land of aging is an unknown. The unknown makes me afeard.  And yet, it is this very unknown that at my age is my ultimate challenge.  If you only watch the first episode of the Apple TV Series, For All Mankind, you’ll get it. 

Unknown-shmunknown!! Direct from Startrek: To boldly go where no man has gone before. (Wait a minute! To boldly go where not man or WOMAN has gone before! That’s better!) That’s how I feel every morning. 

I open my eyes! I’m still here? What do you know?  

For me, it’s like I have landed on the moon and am about to take that leap into the unknown. 

My friend, I have a new role to play, The Aging Astronaut. Waving my flag that reads:

The Unknown. Use it or lose it!

Right???  Of course, right!!!

Love ~ Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S.

P.P.S: You can’t do old age without a sense of humor:

I Wonder

My Dear Friends,

I wonder why I feel so discombobulated.  Don’t you just love that word?  It feels like what it means, right?  Every morning I awake hoping as I check the news services, a habit I am going to break any day now, that during the night the Good Fairy has worked his, her, they, them magic and people have come to their senses. We have stopped violating each other physically, verbally, emotionally, psychologically.  

Honestly, I do not understand. It seems only minutes ago I was reciting the pledge of allegiance and singing the Star Spangled Banner in my Brooklyn, N.Y. classroom of mixed Americans and immigrants.  Everything was far from alright. We were in the midst of World War II. That was a time we came together against a common enemy.  Is that the problem?  If we are all potential enemies to each other we no longer have a common one. Was I just another kid who drank the Kool-aid? I wanted to give everyone who was suffering from the forces of evil… the Nazis and Japanese War Lords… a free ticket to the land of the free and the home of the brave. After all, when my father was a young boy, he had had a ticket (I’m sure not free) from somewhere in Eastern Europe to the Statue of Liberty. I am definitely a product of The American Dream. What happened?

Somewhere along the way we humans are losing our ability to adapt. Evolution, development, dare I say, maturity is all about improvisation. Isn’t that how a bunch of single cells became a Brontosaurus? (check out a new book by Steve Brusatte, The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs)  

I do not want to join the growing parade of naysayers.  I would rather believe any situation we humans find ourselves in is yet another opportunity to create a different, and dare I hope, better world. Please don’t roll your eyes any further back into your head. You will lose them. I realize it is not going well anywhere.  But that doesn’t mean I am down in the dirt ready to holler UNCLE.  (see Debbie Reynolds as The Unsinkable Molly Brown… she is inspirational)

Far from it.  I am happy to sing along with the former Washington Senators Baseball team in the movie, Damn Yankees

I have heart and hope mixed with a healthy serving of reality. I am in great company. Here are recent posts from my newest best friends, Mary Pipher and Reverend Nadia Bloz-Weber.   

They prove to me the most important element of what one human can do and be for another…

NOT ALONE! 

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Perspective

Some days it pays to be old. Today, the day after Roe vs. Wade was overturned, is one of those. In my small world, young friends and relatives are numb with the shock of it. No matter that it was expected.  No matter three Justices on the Supreme Court lied about their position on the Amendment. Although, I have a sense, if we read carefully what they said, these particular Justices, in splendid legalese, evaded sharing the essence of their true thoughts. How many times have cases hung on the wordage of lawyers in their evasion of truth? I lost count.

I want my shocked friends and relations to take a deep breath. Please! Try this perspective on for size. It took over two hundred years to pass any Civil Right legislation; we failed to pass an Equal Rights Amendment; we only recently passed the Emmett Till anti-lynching law. All to say, even as we use pronouns and surgical procedures to challenge gender fluidity, human progress is slow and recalcitrant.  

A few days before the RvW decision, a friend expressed her feeling that misogyny was on the rise. I thought about that. And here is my response. It is not on the rise because it has never actually gone away. From time immemorial we are and always have been the Second Sex; not because there are two sexes so there is one that is a male and one that is a female. The Second Sex, in my thinking, has always meant the lesser. At least, in the animal kingdom, femaledom is not thought of as less or weaker. The animal female is about form and function. Until the male animal develops teets and a uterus, there is no argument. Oh, sure there are fights over a female when mating. However, that particular characteristic belongs to the male animal and human. The female has better things to do with her time than strut, spread her feathers, and punch someone out for staring. Don’t yell at me for making certain generalizations. I have a point to make. And I always allow for exceptions except when I don’t want to ….

OK, misogyny and Roe vs. Wade. The overturn is the ultimate sign it is more overt than ever before. I think we can look at the laws that have chained women to the purpose that men have enacted to keep them “safe” and “secure”. And do not leave out the women who have ably assisted such men in their drive to help keep women in their place. There have always been women who operate in a world within the hidden power of their sex, sexually, emotionally, and psychologically. They are the ones with secrets. If you find a hard nosed male misogynist, I would almost bet the farm that behind that male is a woman who uses her female power to manipulate the male. In the past, women’s power came from manipulating her husband and sons. I am sad to say this has not changed. Phyllis Schlafly, all her predecessors and her future sister, Amy Coney Barrett, understood there was a power loss in equality. But succor the male ego and animus and your queendom is assured and HE would never know what hit him.

How do we fight this dreaded return to women baiting and hating? Here is where perspective raises its all important head. In my life it has always been two steps forward, one step back. I was the 1950’s wife, the 1960’s mother, and onward through the decades of, first I get it then I don’t. The yin/yang of life had me crossing my ankles to keep my skirt from rising to dancing to the devil’s music, (Oh My I love Rock and Roll…I still do) and embarrassing my children. Assassinations. The Watergate Hearings. Viet Nam. 

My children ask questions. I don’t have answers. What happened? My parents always had answers. As my children struggle to make sense of their world, I struggle to make sense of mine. We agree. We don’t agree. We grow apart. We come together. Being in this family is a moveable feast. Life just moves from one beat to another. What is more important than agreeing or disagreeing is to LOVE one another. 

So this animosity against women, this attempt to chain us to laws that inhibit our freedom and our choices will ultimately fail because we shall birth children that will know better because we know better. That is how I woke up today… and you????

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. I though of another solution to the Supreme Court. Since it is determined to be out of touch with the real world, I think we should stop appealing to them to make important judicial decisions. Instead, we should convert the Supreme Cours to a Traffic Court.

The Conservative majority would make perfect Traffic Court Justices. Our roads would be safer and our tax coffers would be ful.

Right??!!
Of, course, right!!

ADDENDUM:

As a human being, it is natural to try to avoid pain. In certain situations, this isn’t the best course of action, as made apparent by the following comment on this post, and my response:

Thanks for this, Mumsie.

While ultimately perspective must always be the landing spot, I suggest you move too quickly past the actual moment at hand. There has to be space to rage and cry. All of that is its own fuel for better breathing – and action. So yes to the ultimate analysis – but while you speak of the time it takes to make change, we must also account for the millions of lives that will be harmed RIGHT NOW by this decision. We can’t breeze past that no matter how much perspective we have. It is devastating for so many directly, and freedom is lost for us all. Gotta make space to rail about all that. Not so fast wise one! 

Xoxo, Pammy


My Dear Daughter,

You are so right.it is an egregious omission. Thank you for setting me aright. 

In my rush to soothe and calm waters I have removed the howl of pain from the sting of outrageous fortune. Something I unfortunately have a tendency to do in my own life. The howl and outrage are necessary like the Māori Warriors preparation for battle

As you have written, It gives birth to the action necessary to curb old white men and men and women of color who are old and white from the damage they do as they lose their power. 

Love, Mum

To Be Right or Not To Be…

My Dear Friends,

As a child, it was my understanding that if I wasn’t right, I wasn’t going to survive.  Those were the rules.  At home, in school, at the playground, I had to have the right answers and agree with the powers that be, parents, teachers, bullies… or else.

As an adult and a citizen of the United States of America,  I realized I didn’t have to or want to agree with everything or everyone.  I found places and people where I felt safe enough to agree to disagree.  What a blessing.

Over the last few years, I feel like I am regressing.  Once again, my survival is based on choosing the RIGHT people and the RIGHT answers.  And let me tell you, if I am going to regress, I’m going all the way and have me a temper tantrum. 

I have noted the movie musical 1776 before.  During the Second Continental Congress of the not yet born United States, representatives of the original 13 Colonies gathered in Philadelphia to issue a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.  Oh, my dear friends, you want to hear what disagreement and differences of opinions and varied interests both personal and communal sound like? Tune into this movie. From June 7, 1776 to July 4, 1776, the delegates from each State, alternately stamped their feet, threatened, cajoled, shouted, cursed, voted over and over, searching for the consensus necessary to pass the Declaration.  

As violently as they disagreed, no one pulled out a musket or brandished a sword or brought in a mob, to silence the debate.  

I must admit the Original Sin of this Declaration Convention was the inability of the Congress to remove forever the stain of slavery, which is and always will be a plague on this nation regardless of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.  Discussion of which requires a far more in depth exploration of race relations in this country than these words intend.

What is it about having to be right that really screws up a person’s personhood?  Do we all bring forward from childhood the fear that if we are not right, if we don’t belong to the right group, if we don’t equate righteousness with God, like Mel Brooks’ 2,000 Year Old Man, the Angel From Death will fly in our window and no necklace of garlic is gonna save any of us.

How do I make sense of our human frailties gone awry? When last we met, I shared the story of Ms. and Mr. Robin and the nest they built in the eaves of my porch. I have been diligently observing their progress. Ever ready with my vocal cords and scarf to shoo predators away from my rent-free tenants.  I watched as the mama moved from egg laying, to egg sitting, and papa stood guard taking on all alien enemies… including me.  I even stopped going through my front door.  I didn’t want to be responsible for an anxious mama.  We all know anxious mothers make anxious children.   

Every time Mama flies out for a little R&R, I take a quick peek, and then one day, blue eggs begin to appear.  While Mama sits on the eggs, Papa and me do the expectant parent parade. 

At last!  The babies hatch!  

Hallelujah!!! 

A few scattered feathers pulsing away as life takes hold.  I am transported.  The program of searching for food and feeding the babies begins. It is beyond anyone’s imagination how these parents work in tandem and harmony.  The mama sits to keep them warm, as the papa flies off in search of food.  The papa stands guard while Mama does her food turn. All happens without any discussion about who did what when and whose turn it is.  

A thought occurs to me.  I am not sure about the mating game for Robins, probably less complicated without the internet.  Pregnancy and delivery… lets not even discuss it.  I get it.  Humans are more complicated than birds.  Really?  Are they?  Well, goodness knows, sometimes I get the feeling that this is really our job.  Making life more complicated.  It’s not as if birds, e.g. animals, don’t have rules.  Their rules for survival are as defined and important as ours. However, animal rules are instinctual.  As humans evolve, our animal instincts take a back seat to society rules. 

Whoa!  Did I just say a mouthful?   Do I mean depending on who imparts the rules for my survival is how I will behave and think and be???

The question is not to be right or not to be. The more important question is, who am I really listening to inside my head? Me…? Or those voices that do not belong to me.

From all my observations, a robin is a robin is a robin. Furthermore, they don’t need to be right to fly. They only need to be free. 

What about it, my friends… Does that apply to us human animals as well???

What do you think ???

Love, Sally-Jane

Berkshire Spring – Wishful Thinking

My Dear Friends and Family –

I have returned from the South to the North just in time for Winter…. Let me explain…

We who live in the Berkshires, live in the hope that every Spring will begin on the calendar day of March 20th.  From then until sometime in June, it is a constant disappointment akin to finding out that there is no Santa. 

Every year along with snow or ice or unseasonable temperatures, Spring arrives. During the months of March, April, and most of May, an occasional balmy day arrives and you can hear the Berkshire sigh of, “at last”.  However, at last does not last.  For as long as I have been living here, this scenario hasn’t changed.  I do my best every time a friend or acquaintance complains about the lack of Spring weather to repeat what I know to be the truth.  Spring doesn’t come to the Berkshires until a few days before summer.  I feel like Cassandra, the former Trojan priestess of Apollo of Greek mythology, cursed to tell the truth and never to be believed.

I marvel at the loss of Berkshirites’ memory and at the same time I understand it.  In my psychobabble analysis, Winter in the Berkshires has its own special magic, up to a point.  After that point, we want it to be over.  I love a climate of seasonal changes and I find the transition from Summer to Fall easy because I welcome the movement of hot, humid days to cooler, dryer ones.  The colors of the leaves as they change from green to the rainbow hues of Autumn is inspiring.  The holiday season eases Autumn into Winter; festivities and good cheer for all.  And then comes January, with ice and sleet or snow and temperatures that dip to single digits and minuses. Then more of the same for February.  For me, all the other seasons blend from one to the other in a timely fashion.  Not Winter.  Winter hangs on like Carrie in the Stephen King movie; as soon as you think she’s gone, she gives us another minus degree day or snow storm in May… “she’s baaaack”.  She just won’t behave like any of the other seasons.

There is something mystical and mysterious about the journey from Winter to Spring.  It has to do with my theory of the sighting of land.

Sighting of Land Theory:  There have been times in life when I have found myself confused and lost amidst situations, decisions, choices, peoples of all stripes and colors.  It’s as if I am lost at sea.  Suddenly there appears a speck on the horizon.  My brainball receives it as a signal of hope.  I think, “not to worry, SJ.  There is a sign of land ahead.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”   

Well, I think Winter to Spring has its own signs of land.  The groundhog starts the ball rolling followed by the budding and blossoming of trees and grass in that glorious iridescent green that almost hurts the eyes, dandelions, daffodils… all signal the Spring awakening.

As I write, outside my window, two beautiful robins have built their nest into the eaves of my porch.  Piece by piece of dry grass and sticks, I watch as they build their palace.  Now Ms. Robin sits on her eggs.  Mr. Robin keeps watch on the roof over the nest.  We all wait for the ultimate message of the arrival of Spring… new life.  

It’s almost the middle of May.  Once again I put on my winter jacket and hat to go out.  I think, “the calendar is just another human invention.  There exists a more accurate device signaling spring arrival… Mother Nature.”  

We just celebrated Mothers’ Day.  I hope you didn’t omit a thank you and acknowledgement of our debt to this powerful, wily woman and Mother to us all. Like errant children we can’t compensate our Mother for the damage we have already caused, but we can try to make amends by being aware of all she provides for a life of ongoing riches.   And when she kicks up a fuss with a hurricane, tornado, flood, fire, drought, remember we assisted in their creation.  

I am reminded of an advertisement many years ago about how you can’t tell a particular brand of margarine from real butter:

“YOU CAN’T FOOL MOTHER NATURE”

Right???  Of course, right!!!

Love ~ Sally-Jane

The Business of Living is the Best Defense Against Death – Just ask my 101 year old brother

My 101 year old brother sent me this photo of his latest achievement, the completion of this model of the airplane Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in 1927.  

I am bowled over in awe, which doesn’t come often for me. For one thing, he doesn’t look like any 101 year old person I know.  True, I don’t know many 101 year old people. I don’t think there are many 101 year old people and certainly fewer who work on and complete a detailed model airplane, which requires dexterity, concentration, and abilities that many younger folk might  be stymied by.

I emailed the photo to family and friends. I received in return an email from a nephew with a copy of a 2001 Flying Models Magazine with a feature on my brother. 

My brother turned 80 in 2000 There was a celebration in Los Angeles.  He had moved to California from New York many years prior. Personally, I think that saved his creative life. After all, without the impeding judgment of nearby family  life can be more free and easy, right? 

 A little backstory, I was the seventh in a family of eight.  It was actually two families. Let me explain. My oldest brother, miracle man here, was born in 1920.  After him in fairly quick succession came four more children. The first five of what I call the “older part” of the family.  Then came a couple of birthing break years due to miscarriages and other problems.  As the depression started to heat up, out pops three more… The “younger part” of the family.  I was born in 1933.  Older brother in 1920, so there was enough of a gap that in no way did we have any real contact.  By the time I was in elementary school, he was eloping and going off to war.  He won’t talk about any of his time in Europe during World War II other than to say he was in the Battle of the Bulge.  A battle I have read about and understand why he won’t talk about it.  My only real contact with him after he returned from the war was after we began our Heit Family get togethers. And that was cursory at best with a quick peck and an even quicker “how are you?”, which really should have been, “who are you?”.  

I had no idea who my oldest brother was and visa versa. Each of us had what I call a family myth. His was his genius in designing model airplanes.  At 17 he sold the first of many of his designs.  Since that had nothing to do with my wanting to be Shirley Temple … who cared?

We arrive now to the year 2,000 and an invitation to attend his 80th birthday party in Los Angeles. For your perspective, I was 67 years old. 

By this time, I had already lost one brother from the older part of the family. I didn’t know who he was either. I knew my three sisters a little more because somehow I think we bonded purely along male/female battle lines… four girls, four boys. It was us against them and it made for a little closer harmony. Not necessarily more intimate, but more in the spirit of camaraderie. Probably because girls, even with rampant sibling rivalry, tend to be closer in relationships.  

All to say, I was going to try and find out who he was before attending the celebration. It’s the decent thing to do, right? Even then, I devoured mystery books and detective novels. So, now was the time to put what tools I acquired into practice. I began by buying every airplane model magazine I could find. I discovered the model airplane industry is alive and well. He sold his first design in 1937 or 1938. There was no way to research magazines of that era because microfilming and digital articles didn’t exist. What to do? Light bulb! I looked in the classified ads in the back of the magazine. In a section titled Antique Models was a list of individuals who sold kits of older model airplanes. I started calling around and asking if anyone knew of a Raymond Heit model airplane kit. The nays had it. At last, one man I called responded in what I heard as excited abandonment. He yelled, ”Ray?? Ray Heit??? I said, “Yes”. He said, “That is so interesting! I flew his Bayridge Mike in a competition last weekend and I won!” 

Initially, it was Greek to me but he finally translated. Bayridge Mike is my brother’s first design and this man won a recent competition with his model of that design. 

His name was Jim Alaback and he was out of his mind with joy when I told him Ray Heit was still alive. I explained I was Raymond Heit’s sister. I wanted to give him a gift of some of his old model plane kits for his 80th birthday. He put me in touch with a man in Oregon who sells antique kits. I thanked him and called the Oregonian. He had two of my brother’s designs from the late 1930’s and sent them to me. He, too, was glad to know Ray Heit was still alive and kicking. He had recently competed with his own model of Bayridge Mike and won. 

Jim Alaback called me back. Among other things, he was a stringer for Flying Models Magazine. He lived in San Diego and now that he knew Raymond was in California as well, he wondered if he could get in touch with Raymond to interview him for the magazine. 

Start the drum roll now. Hey, we all know I am a performer and at 67 I was still tripping the boards. Lest we forget all my siblings were present, minus one. In the family, I was known disparagingly as “the actress”. I was not about to let this opportunity go, to show my siblings that I was more than “just an actress”. And I didn’t. 

Most importantly, my oldest brother, who typically maintains “cool” as his permanent temperature, was singularly not cool. I was moved by personal revelations about a brother I did not know. The cherry on the cake was a planned interview with Alaback for the magazine.

And that is the one with the article my nephew recently sent to me.

Following the party, there was a meeting of minds and sensitivities of brother #1 with sister #7. A deepening of the connection which has everything to do with family and nothing to do with family. We had discovered each other and to this day maintain a growing and affectionate relationship. He has a passion that won’t quit. I believe it is that passion that gives his life the best defense against death.

Sending me a photo of himself at 101, 21 years after his 80th party, stirred the memory pot. As to that, I am of two different minds… so what else is new? Too much memory mucking around is not good, for it takes me out of the present where I need to be to keep my anxious tendencies tampered down. And yet, how important it is to keep those memories alive, both the yin and yang. They add texture and depth to a life lived. 

The Original Heits c.1938 in Atlantic City
The Seven Heits at Raymond’s 80th Birthday Party in 2000

Blending memories and realities is key to keeping my balance. For me, this photo has elements of the past, the present and the future. This my friends is Golden. Pure Gold.

Right??? Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

RANDOM THOUGHTS WHILE WAITING FOR SOMEONE TO STOP THIS WAR

Once again, the helplessness I feel from the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia, invades my being.  As I go through the motions of my day, thoughts and frustrations of what is happening in and around Ukraine, are never far from my consciousness and always in my subconscious.  Really, my friends, how could it not be?  As a history buff, World War III is a button away and  again we have a dictator who is a look-and-psycho-a-like of the last dictator who took the world to the brink of annihilation.  Grrrrrrr.

I shall, of course, do what I can to help.  But before I whirl myself into butter, in looking for a distraction, I found one. 

If you have the time, follow me. I went from thinking about NATO to Harry S Truman, our 33rd President.  I remembered David McCullogh wrote a biography of Truman.  I began reading.  It’s a minutely researched book which means it’s got a lot of pages which means it’s very heavy.  I don’t know about you but over 500 pages I have to put it on my Kindle.  I miss the feel of the book in my hands, but my arms are very grateful.  So I am enjoying the story of this man who began his political career as part of a major political boss gang (think Tammany Hall  in NYC, Curly in Boston, Kelley and Daly in Chicago).  In Missouri it was The Pendergasts. Truman’s rise from local Judge to U.S. Senator was very interesting because he was this peculiar mix of “good ‘ole boy” and “honest harry”.  So how did this guy get to be the Vice Presidential choice on the ticket in 1944 along with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s bid for an  unprecedented 4th term. 

McCullogh’s description of Truman’s Vice Presidential selection reminded me of Robert Caro’s book, The Passage of Power, and his description of LBJ’s selection as Vice President for JFK’s presidential election campaign of 1960.  FDR, JFK, LBJ… enough already!!!

Have you fallen asleep yet?

We all know I have a weird sense of humor among other things. For me, Truman’s  and LBJ’s selection as the Vice Presidential candidate has all the makings of a Marx Brothers/Frank Capra movie. 

Come on guys, admit it, Capra and Marx… it would be amazing.

Picture this:  It’s July, 1944, in like before air conditioning-can’t-breathe-hot-Chicago.  The political bosses were gathered in the 7th floor Blackstone Hotel room of a Roosevelt politico Robert Hannegan, later to become Post Master General of the United States… have you noticed how that particular political  appointment always  goes to the person who has never bought a stamp, no less mailed a letter.  The bosses, stripped down to shirt sleeves, puffing away at their cigars, guzzling bourbon and other libations (the women were probably waiting on another floor). Each boss was lying through so many teeth it’s a wonder they had any left.  I don’t know how they managed it but each one had  their own letter or a note or the back of an envelope or a laundry receipt, that was signed by FDR stating Truman was his choice. Time was short so no one checked if the signature was forged.  But, since they were each a boss , no one was challenged.  Some of the lesser-in-the-know bosses had to be reminded who Truman was. FYI,  Pendergast  was probably the only boss who wasn’t in the room, as he was getting ready to go to jail for Income Tax Evasion [years before Al Capone did too].  Since each one had the only legitimate signed note from FDR, they unanimously agreed. 

The climax of the film is back at the Convention Hall as Wallace supporters stir the frenzied crowd to renominate their candidate. Senator Claude Pepper from Florida understood if he didn’t get up to the Platform to nominate Wallace at this very moment his nomination would not make it into the next day.  It was now or never. 

Here is a real cinematic moment. From the back of the convention hall he races through the crazy crowds… like a quarterback with the winning touchdown in his hands.  He arrives huffing and puffing to the platform.  A friendly face opens the gate to the steps to the platform.  The Chairman of the convention spots Pepper.   Slams down the gavel.  Declares the business of the convention over for that day.  The next day the New York Boss Edward Flynn throws New York’s votes to Truman.  As the roll is called, delegates sense the change of direction, aka patronage and appointments. Wallace is defeated by the landslide for Truman.

Harry Truman’s vice presidential anointment came out of the ether because the Democratic  political bosses of the era thought Henry Wallace, FDR’s current Vice President, would lose the South for Roosevelt.  Wallace was an intellectual… what was he doing in politics?  He was a real liberal.  He and Mrs. Roosevelt were champions of the “Negro Race”.  No question.  He’d lose the South.  Same scenario with Kennedy and LBJ.  In both campaigns The South held the winning election card.  If you were a liberal, you needed a southerner on your ticket.  I’m not sure much has changed.  

You couldn’t make up this stuff. And here is the best part.  We lucked out because it turned out Honest Harry was the salt of the earth kind of an American who understood the values of what a democracy is.  After the horrors of World War II, in 1949, along with other member countries he founded NATO without which… well, actually, I don’t want to think about without which… ever. 

Did Harry S Truman have zits and warts?  You bet!  Show me someone who is without, and I’ll show you someone who has a letter from the  White House signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt choosing Truman as his running mate.

Right???  Of course, right!!!

STOP THIS WAR!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Dialogue With Myself: How Monsters Are Made

Myself:  How did this happen again?

Me:  What?

Myself:  Where did this monster come from?

Me:  Who?

Myself: Putin! And if you quote Voltaire again to me, I shall silence you forever.

Me:  No Voltaire! It is simply the human condition to follow the leader.  

Myself:  What’s that supposed to mean?

Me:  From birth we are taken care of and even as we struggle for our independence at various stages of our life, there is a kind of comfort remembering and/or returning to when someone else was in charge of our life; making decisions, providing food, shelter, safety and for a few special supporters and defenders, oligarchilian privileges.  

Myself:  That’s a generalization!

Me:  After reading about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hussein, Amin and now Putin, I am beginning to think the exceptions are losing ground and I am not sure why.  Part of me thinks if it is not immediate, not in my vicinity it is ignorable. I can speak my soap box speech trippingly on my tongue about the outrageous fortunes of Ukrainians and any other peoples and land grab in the sight of Putin and his gang and still make my dinner reservations.  In other words, a television war a la Viet Nam, et al.

Myself:  You know I never realized you are a cynic and a defeatist.  

Me:  I am not. I am just trying to understand how in full sight we got us another monster.

Myself:  Well, it’s not my fault. I didn’t vote for him.

Me:  I know but people like you and me did vote for him.  How??  Why??  And didn’t we do the same thing only a little over 4 years ago.

Myself:  I knew it.  You just can’t stay away from 2016.

Me:  You’re right!  I can’t.  I want to know how we find ourselves again behind this eight ball of human error.  But it is different this time.  Hitler rose from the ashes of World War I along with a worldwide economic depression.  Hitler not only promised the German people bread and autobahns (highways) but also a return to their former glory.  As the German people struggled to survive they grabbed Hitler’s lifeboat.  

Myself:  You want to tell me what the hell this has to do with Putin?

Me:  I am trying to figure that out myself, Self.

Myself:  Well, hurry it up.  I am not getting any younger.

Me:  OK.  Try this on for size.  Putin came to power as the Soviet Union dissolved.  

Myself:  Girl, you are really reaching on this one.

Me:  Wait!  The Soviet Union consisted of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia… and more.  Almost overnight this powerful Union was reduced to Russia alone.  

Myself:  Yeah, so???

Me:  I think as Putin came to power, he vowed to himself and his fellow cronies that he would return the U.S.S.R. to its former glory.  Hitler lookalike???

Myself:  Why would you think that?

Me:  Because Putin suffers from a Napoleon Complex.

Myself:  Is this another one of your arm-chair psychoanalysis?

Me:  Short men tend to compensate for their lack of height through domineering behavior and aggression.  Provoking conflict and invading countries makes him feel taller.  If you don’t believe me, ask Angela Merkle.

“I understand why he has to do this — to prove he’s a man,” Merkel said. “He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.”

Like I said…Napoleon Complex.

Combine Putin’s complex with the U.S.S.R. breakup, countries that provided Russia with political and economic advantages and you have the perfect storm to create the perfect monster. He may be short, but on a big white horse with his shirt off or his big black dog by his feet, invading the Crimea, Ukraine; the Soviet Union will be restored, Putin its Emperor aka WORLD CHAMPION BULLY.

Myself:  Even for you, that’s a stretch.

Me:  Maybe.  But if the shoe fits…

**A PAUSE IN THE DIALOGUE WHILE ME AND MYSELF INDULGE IN A HARD THINK…**

Myself:  I am not sure I agree with your reasoning behind Putin and his power grabs. I am sure he is a monster. What puzzles me most, after what the world has been through in just the twentieth century alone, how did he rise to power?  And then I remember the quote from Edmund Burke 

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. 

Edmund Burke

And this one from Primo Levi.  Primo was an Italian chemist, partisan, writer and Jewish Holocaust survivor.

Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous.  More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.

Primo Levi

Me:  It’s a sad realization.

Myself:  It’s depressing.

Me:  I have a crazy idea.

Myself:  Another one?

Me:  Do you remember Charlie Chaplin’s movie, The Dictator?

Myself:  Seriously, has anyone ever examined your headball for loose screws.

Me:  Let me show you something.

Myself:  I take it back.  Brilliant. 

Me:  So what I think is if we come together maybe… no guarantees… we can stop these monsters before they get started.  Right???

Myself:  We always do much better together.  Of course, right!!!

Love ~ Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. This a really depressing time for many of us, coming out of the pandemic (if we actually are) and a war that no one thought was possible… I struggle to find the hope. And then, my daughter recommended I watch “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”… for which Jessica Chastain just won the SAG Award for Best Actress. Watch Tammy Faye to find hope? Are you nuts?! But I always listen to my daughters (when it suits me, of course). Do you yourself a favor my friends, DON’T MISS IT.