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April 10, 2014


Disneyland in Tokyo was one of the last places we visited in Japan before returning to Maryland.  It was a long day, full of surprises.  I brought my trusty camera and got to take bunches of my own pictures. 

When we first got to the park, my parents told us what to do if we got separated. Meet at the Cinderella castle!  Go there, stay there.  I’m pretty sure they told us this four hundred times and who could blame them?  We didn’t speak much Japanese. We were very small.  It was good to have a plan. Our family will still sometimes say, “Where’s the Cinderella castle for this place?”

We spent some time at Character Corner and then headed to the planet museum, Space Mountain. Seriously. My dad told us it was a ride through a planet museum.  My mom thought it was odd there were signs warning us that people with serious heart conditions shouldn’t go in, but it didn’t stop us.  I can still remember how we all sounded screaming in the dark, on the fastest, scariest ride any of us had ever seen.  To this day I don’t enjoy roller coasters and my father insists he didn’t know it would be like that!

I don’t remember any of the food from that day. Maybe Mickey Mouse ice cream bars?

We went through the Haunted Mansion. I still have the occasional nightmare involving shiny green goblins.  The whole thing upset me so much, my parents scrambled to think of something that would make me feel better. It’s a Small World was full of creepy puppet things that moved stiffly and frightened me even more.

A music book in one of the shops distracted me just long enough to lose sight of my family.  All thoughts of the Cinderella castle and the plan were lost.  I panicked.  An elderly Japanese man tried his best to calm me.  My parents,  less than twelve feet away heard me and got my attention. I was not nearly as lost as I’d believed.

I am glad we got to be there.  It is not something I feel the need to repeat. Thank goodness for grandparents or the smallish bears might never have made it to Orlando at all.

My mom bought two piano books that day. I played through them for years and years.  This is why I can sing with great sincerity all of the lesser known ballads: My Heart Was an Island, La-la-lu, Candle on the Water, Lavender’s Blue.  The music was the lasting gift from that day.

And those photographs I took? Well, let’s just say it was a good thing someone else took pictures too.


A Christmas Pageant

April 8, 2014


The Christmas pageant at the Joy School preschool co-op was a big to-do.  We had a Mary to be Mary and a host of other small ones filling out all the parts.  I was not a part of this group, it was my little sister’s class.  Little sisters, little brothers, none of them interesting to me. I remember much of their excitement revolved around being allowed to wear bathrobes in public.

The star of this Christmas production, in my eyes at least, is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in Mary’s arms.  That is my prized and beloved baby doll, Susie.

Susie the Effanbee doll, started out as Baby, then Judy, then I finally settled on Susie after, so the story goes, a brief evening as Taco Bell.  Her eyes blinked closed when she was in her bed and flipped wide open when she was upright.  She smelled like the best sort of plastic. A smell that reminded me of my grandparents’ house. I loved that doll. As far as I was concerned there was no one in the world better qualified to play Baby Jesus than my own Baby Susie.

Susie had an amazing feature – you could squeeze her and she would cry.  Some little squeaker inside emitted a strange plastic-y sound through a small circle of holes in her back.  I’m sure the idea was to squeeze her body, but my hands weren’t big or strong enough for that so I always squished the top of her hollow head in to achieve the same result.

I brought Susie in for show and tell in kindergarten.  It was terribly exciting to talk to everyone about my precious doll. On my way out, my teacher threw out a remark that might have been meant to make a connection or be funny, but it came off all wrong.  “If I squeezed your head like that, would you cry too?”

Brownie Troop 22

April 7, 2014


Brownie Troop 22 was a fun group to be a part of.  From Good Deed Beads to exchanges with Japanese girls’ groups to Father-Daughter dances, it was an all-around good time.  I made good friends (two Angelas and a Meagan if I remember correctly) and obtained my very own amazing bandana.


See - the skirt thing started early!

I remember going to one event and having to wear my pink Strawberry Shortcake snow boots the entire time because I’d forgotten my shoes.  My feet were so hot!


My Brownie career was short-lived.  When we returned to Maryland our troop was getting ready to do a unit on a foreign culture and they picked Japan.  I was excited! And then suddenly I was no longer going to meetings.  Years later I learned there was a little conflict between leaders when my mother, who had lived in Japan for years, offered resources and her help and the offer was soundly rejected.  So many grown-up interactions unnoticed. That is what childhood should be, I suppose.  It was a great relief to finally know why I wasn’t part of the troop anymore. I’m not one for not knowing.


Sometimes I wish I’d been able to participate longer, but eventually they would have gotten to all of the outside stuff and I’m not sure how well that would have gone then.  And if there was still Girl Scouts, there might not have been orchestra, Pioneer Clubs, theatre.  Those turned out to be pretty good things too.


Once Upon a Time

April 6, 2014

I had fully intended to write with the A to Z bloggers this month. Then work exploded (volume and duties, not actual flames) and I forgot all about it.  So I may not get to all of the letters, but the writing is begun and that feels like a good thing.

Art class the first day of first grade set the tone for the rest of the year, maybe for the rest of my schooling altogether.  I remember it partly from true memory, but mostly because at the end of the day our teacher had us write about the first day and I read that story over and over, returning to it each time I browsed the envelope of “treasures” my mother saved.  As I began this project, I looked for the story again, but it is likely buried in the office of my parents’ home and was not easily accessible.

From memory:

In art class I had to go to the bathroom so I asked Mrs. Rose and she said yes.  I went in and saw the biggest spider I have ever seen.  I ran out of there as fast as I could. I was so scared I forgot to flush.


Things I Love: This Room

March 13, 2014


I can’t get enough of it.

Our 250th anniversary celebration is this weekend.  On Saturday, we’re hosting an art exhibition filled with photos, paintings, and drawings of the church. (1:00 PM – 4:00 PM) On Sunday at 3:00 PM we will have the official celebration.  There will be music. Lots of music. In this beautiful space.  I can’t think of any place else I’d rather be.

First Congregational United Church of Christ • 27 East Street Pittsfield, MA

The Next Step

March 12, 2014

For several years, I have been doing my best to become a more responsible consumer.  Like most people, I am good at this in some areas and horrendous in others.  We don’t shop at that W-store because I believe that the people making and selling the products should be paid a living wage and if I’m buying a tee shirt for $2.99, then someone for sure isn’t getting their share.  (Also, for a place that paints itself up to look so patriotic and AMERICAN, it would be nice if they took the time to sell more American-made products.)

Okay, there are lots of arguments out there about this.  As long as labor is cheaper overseas, why would a business owner looking to make money -that is what businesses do- want to pay for labor here? As long as people keep buying things on the cheap, and refusing to pay what something is worth (anybody checked the price of gasoline in England or Norway lately?), there is no reason for that W-store or anywhere else to change.  They are doing exactly what they’re demanded to do.

But this isn’t about the American economy or fair labor or living wages.  This is about one consumer trying to make different decisions for many different reasons.  This is not about condemning the choices of others or declaring that my way is the only and best way.  It is simply the way I am living, the path I am on.

We don’t use paper towels or paper napkins.  We try to recycle and reuse, but aren’t very good at the reduce part.  We’ve begun to buy most of our vegetables from a locally sourced organic grocery.  I spend $38 a week for our produce basket.  We’ve planned a garden this year.  Safely grown, safely processed, environmentally sound.  I want to move in that direction.

(As an aside, I don’t care what you think about climate change and whether or not humans actually have the ability to destroy the planet.  Treating something well, keeping it clean, not making your home into a cesspool all seem like things we should be doing because they are the right things to do.  Not because guilt, not because science.  Because I want to teach my children to leave something better than they found it and this is a huge way to model that.)

I’ve been thinking for a long time about next steps.  I’ve been stalled for a long time thinking about next steps.

Today I read this article from the New York Times, written by Dan Barry.  I hope you take the time to read it too.

Now, my initial reaction was to think of my friends who have children like these men.  Children who think and feel and speak, but whose bodies and brains didn’t quite keep up with everyone around them.  Children who will be adults very, very soon.  My heart broke with the knowledge that this story didn’t end decades ago, but five years ago.  These things are happening now.  And so you would think that my next reaction would be to find a way to donate time or money to safe places for people who just didn’t get the chances I had.  That might happen, but it wasn’t the strongest reaction.

The strongest reaction is the disgust at knowing I am a part of the process that allowed this to happen.  I do not know where my food comes from, who handles it, who grows it, who pulls the crops out of the turkeys.  I go to the grocery, I fill my cart, I pay, and go home.  This is the next step.  Some people move away from mega-food industry because of animal rights.  Some people move away from it because of bacterial illness scares.  It took the story of twenty-one humans to wake me up.

We are not wealthy.  There will be no whole grass-fed, locally raised side of beef in my freezer.  But there are some things we can change.  Step by step. And I’m ready.

(On a lighter note – if you’ve given up big box stores and your seamstress-ing skills aren’t superb yet, where does one buy unmentionables??)

Programmers and Other Recent Disasters

March 10, 2014

Two of my projects at work these days are filled with conference calls, testing, and a mild lack of progress.  The problem on one project is that the programmer is not on the call, I have no direct access to them, and every time I ask for something I am told by someone who is not a programmer that it is not possible.  On the other project the problem is that the programmer is on the call.

I’ve been one of the last people in Berkshire County to be hit with the nasty stomach whatever that’s been going around.  Tomorrow I’ll check with my manager and Occupational Health, but I’m pretty sure that means I’m working at home this week.  Not terrible, but it’s really hard to print from here to there and sometimes that’s important.

On the bright side, not being at my desk means I will undoubtedly chip away at some of the neglected items in my to-do folder without being interrupted much.  I am looking forward to that.

Last night, Lima Bean and I watched an episode of Monsters Inside Me. The neurologist from the fancy hospital first states, “The pathology lab calls and says, ‘It’s not a tumor. It’s ova and parasites.’” He then directly goes on to say, “So now we’re immediately thinking Listeria.” Remind me to NEVER see that doctor. For those of you who haven’t yet been to medical or laboratory science school, Listeria is a genus of bacteria.  Parasites are…well, if they have ova we’re NOT talking about bacteria.  I’m hoping it was sloppy editing and they were looking for the bacteria possibilities before that call from the path lab.  Also, I’m a little worried that it took DAYS after the biopsy to identify this organism.  They had the ova.  Lots of them from the sound of the dramatic narration.  That identification should have happened before or right after that call.  I went to bed irritated by this program and woke up irritated.  I need to let it go, but let me just recommend you don’t get your medical facts from Animal Planet.

Also in the ever-changing world of Lima Bean is her social studies class.  This term they’re studying the Holocaust, the American Civil Rights Movement, and the Trail of Tears.  She and I are working hard to find the light in these heavy, heavy topics.  Last summer she happened upon a book at the library, Between Shades of Gray, and checked it out mostly to horrify her father.  (She tried to hide the beginning of the title so he would think it was that other ridiculous book.)  The book tells the story of Lina, a Lithuanian forced to a work camp in Siberia.  A friend reminded me that learning these things, reading these books, hearing these stories helps us remember the good things we have.  After Lima Bean finished that book, she certainly was grateful for her life as it is.  We’ll keep pushing that angle too as well as the reminder that there are still so many who are fighting these fights and we should be standing with them.


That’s all the news from Talarico House tonight.  If you don’t hear from me by Thursday, send food.


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