July 4th: Gun Control NOW

It’s a rainy 4th of July here in northeastern Pennsylvania. I’m making a pasta salad to bring to our friends later; a combination of vegetables and seasonings. I’m listening to a panoply of patriotic music  aired by the local NPR station. And as I chop and listen, I’m thinking about the day’s significance and question where we go from here.

Last week’s Supreme Court  ruling that grants gay marriage nationwide, make this year’s 4th celebrations of independence and freedom historical. Facebook encouraged users to enhance their profile photos with a rainbow hue, to acknowledge the victory with the LGBT symbol.

This followed on the heels of the horrific church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where a 21-year-old white male gunned down nine innocent African Americans during worship.

This December will mark the three- year anniversary of the Sandy Hook, CT school shooting, where a 20-year-old white male opened fire, killing 26 people, 20 children among them. Since then a group of cyclists ride to Washington, DC, wearing green jerseys, to promote stricter gun control and background checks.

Will a color be adopted to represent the Charleston massacre? How long will it take before colors are more than symbols and become law?

I doubt the Founding Fathers thought much about LGBT rights back in the 18th century. In a society created by militant uprisings and where many differences were solved by duels and other violence, they enacted the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. The amendment has been subject to debate.

They didn’t foresee how the nation would change its views of civil rights but they had hopes. If around today, I bet they’d be advocating that it’s time to amend the Second Amendment to protect innocent lives. IMG_0898

Posted in celebrations, Civil Rights History, commentary, Education, Family, Grandchildren, History, holidays, news, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Caring for our Girls: Women are the Foundation of our Society


From my friend Dr. Judy Washington.

Originally posted on A Family Doctor's Reflection:

Women are the foundation of our society.  From the moment  girls are born, the love and support from family helps them evolve into strong, confident and caring women.

Yet, fear and suffocating religious customs and cultural beliefs prevents this from happening in many parts of the world.  Across the world these precious members of our society are being raped, killed, sold into slavery, struggling on minimum wages and being victimized by their male partners. They are trapped in poverty and held captive.

Over the years, my female patients have revealed the pain of sexual assault, incest and intimate partner violence.  Women in the military who are serving our country and looking for a better life are being victimized. Even on college campuses where women are supposed to be safe, sexual assault is happening and being mishandled.

Women have worked and completed their education while raising their children alone.  Many are caring…

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Anne, Frida & Harvey: Civil Rights

I’m always game to see art, whether on stage, on film, in museums or galleries. I appreciate old masters and new talent; I love viewing the world through artists’ visions.

Yesterday I fit in two events, on the surface perhaps disparate, yet offering some similar themes.

First, we attended Andrew Lippa’s workshop performance of Anne Hutchinson/Harvey Milk. We’d seen the oratorio I am Harvey Milk  in San Francisco in 2013 and at Lincoln Center last October and are familiar with the story and music. Looking for ways to extend the work into a full theater piece, Andrew discovered Anne Hutchinson,  anne-hutchinson-1 the Puritan spiritual advisor considered among America’s first feminists. Now a 90 minute performance, the show is divided into two segments, sharing the Hutchinson story first followed by Harvey Milk.  imagesA 16 -member chorus provided the backdrop for each piece as the three singers shared the stories. Here’s hoping the show will develop and be staged for more to see.

I found myself thinking about many other civil rights activists that spanned the period of history presented. Hutchinson lived in the 17th century; Milk in the 20th. Surely there’s been progress; certainly there’s more to do.

Later in the day, we strolled through the New York Botanical Garden, http://www.nybg.org/frida/ a favorite seasonal outing, this time to see an exhibit that shows how artist and political activist Frida Kahlo’s  paintings celebrate the plants and culture of Mexico. Worth a visit.

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Posted in art, Civil Rights History, commentary, History, Museums, galleries, New York City, Theater, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Biking & Hiking in Zion & Bryce

We spent last week in southwestern Utah, cycling and hiking in Zion and Bryce National Parks. Being our first organized trip with a group and guides, I was a bit apprehensive. Our previous excursions have been self-guided, albeit organized by various tour companies, but we were on our own. This trip, organized by REI, ensured we avoided crowds—massive tour buses, unloading foreign tourists, mostly who walk to the top of the trail and take a photo, and return to the bus—and saw parts of the parks we might have missed. All but the last day, we hiked and biked each day.  The group, only 3 others, plus the two guides, turned out to be great fun; we were together for the activities,  meals and card playing at night.DSC00204 DSC00172 DSC00168 DSC00175


Posted in bike riding, Cycling, environment, exercise, Family, Friendship, travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

New Jersey Pump Our Own Gas? Forget About It!

There are many wonderful things about living in New Jersey.

From where I live, I can get to the beach, the forests, or New York City in under an hour drive. I’m about 20 minutes to an international airport too.

The biking is among the state’s best kept secrets.

The tomatoes and corn are like none other anywhere. It’s the Garden State after all.

Ok, maybe it’s one of the most congested states in the Union, but probably one of the most diverse. Every type of ethnic food can be found, whether at a restaurant or a grocery.

It’s got its share of famous people born here like Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen. Thomas Edison lived and invented here. And so on.

And one of the best things? You don’t have to pump your own gas. In fact, it’s illegal to hop out of your car and manhandle the pump. When the temperatures sink below freezing or rise above 90, it’s quite nice to stay in the car. And I don’t miss the gasoline smell left on my hands.

Now a few state legislators want to remove the 1949 Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act, designed to protect consumers from petroleum mishaps. They claim allowing motorists to pump their own gas would enable station owners to offer lower prices and stay open 24 hours without worrying about finding employees to work overnight shifts.

Only Oregon prohibits self-serve pumping but is also considering lifting the ban.

Public opinion seems to prefer keeping the pumping to the pros.  I sure hope so!

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NYC Ballet Day: Cousins!

Yesterday was our ballet day,  an annual spring tradition where I meet my mother at Grand Central Station in New York City and escort her to Lincoln Center where we join her cousin Robert for lunch and a ballet matinee. photo 3-4

Our selfie!

Our selfie!

Robert is seven years younger than my mother yet they grew up together (their mothers were sisters) and lived nearby, seeing each other often. Travels, work and life took them in different directions—my mother to Connecticut and farm life; Robert, an attorney, who lived and worked for many years in Atlanta. They’d get together at family events as schedules allowed.

Robert’s hobbled by illness and requires a walker, and my mother uses a cane to walk in public.   This meet up is truly special. Robert insists on treating us to the day; he purchases tickets well in advance and also books the restaurant.

After a sumptuous lunch at Lincoln, we settled into our seats at the Metropolitan Opera House, awaiting the curtains opening to the American Ballet Theatre’s afternoon performance of three ballets, Les Sylphides, Jardin Aux Lilas, and Rodeo, featuring African American ballerina Misty Copeland.

“Now we escape reality for a few hours,” Robert said. photo-99

Of course, the ballets were wonderful. Music, dance, costumes and sets.

I remembered how my mother used to take me and my sister to the ballet when we were kids. The trip to NYC by train from Connecticut was always an adventure. We’d take the subway and sometimes meet my mother’s Aunt Sylvia (Robert’s mother) at Bonwit Tellers, where she worked. She loved to show us off and we’d take advantage of her discount. While I don’t recall individual performances, I know the applause and copious curtain calls that brought the dancers outside the curtains impressed me.

After the performance, we attempted to hail a taxi. One driver stopped but when he saw that  two passengers required assistance and extra time, he left us at the curb. We finally got a cab and the two cousins sat together in the back seat, talking the entire time as if neither years nor distance had ever separated them. Robert even asked the driver if he’d just drive them around a bit more; alas, it was the end of his shift.

I escorted my mother to the platform and saw her safely onto the train.

Posted in art, daughters, Family, Music, New York City, Theater, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Krunch Kitchen: From Food Pantry to Granola & a Giveaway

After staying home to raise three small children close in age, Janet Schwamm C89A7191-Edit felt it was time to “come out from under,” and began volunteering at the Interfaith Food Pantry  about five miles from her suburban New Jersey home.

As the children grew and needed her less, Janet increased her hours at the non-profit organization, including serving on the board. Her pride in the organization is evident. “We started serving about 15 people a week; now it’s over 150.”

For Janet, a chemical engineering major who worked in technical sales and marketing, the food pantry offered balance between being at home, working part-time as a consultant, and volunteering in a cause she’s passionate about. “We live in one of most industrial countries in the world. The fact that many people don’t know where their next meal is coming from is a crime; to have the ability to do something and do nothing is an even greater crime,” she said.

Yet as her  children entered college, she wanted to contribute to the family’s finances. “I felt I still needed to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up,” she said, admitting she placed self-imposed obstacles before her. “I’d think about all the ‘buts and what ifs” that could take up my time and perhaps detract from my family life and the food pantry. “ (She also serves as a literacy tutor to 2nd & 3rd grade boys.)

She prioritized. Food and the food pantry topped her list. “For me, I grew up with a grandmother whose motto was ‘food is love.’ And I believe it too.” Janet loves to eat, cook, read about food, and eat in restaurants, trying new dishes and learning about different cultures. She’d always made her own granola, having tweaked recipes for years and perfecting two Passover concoctions: matzo crack, a chocolate covered matzo nut brittle; and matzo granola.

At brunch with her family last December, she announced she was starting a granola business. Then she did nothing except dream about it for the next couple of months. Around the same time, she was recruited to work part-time at a non-profit that would have required she give up the food pantry due to time constraints. She then realized that in her mind at least, she’d already started her business and nothing could lure her away from the food pantry.

Her children helped her create the website and Krunch Kitchen  was born. Janet hosted an open house that drew 30-40 people and she’s filled more than 150 orders in less than six weeks. The granola business has taken over the first floor of her colonial home; though Janet hopes to find commercial kitchen space soon so she can cook larger batches.

Janet’s overall goal is combine her two loves: feeding her family by building a successful business, possibly adding other crunchy products like biscotti and toffee nut brittle; and growing enough to be able to hire some of the food pantry patrons to work with her.

Janet has offered to giveaway one 1 lb. bag of her original granola.

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Enter a comment below and I’ll draw a name randomly at the end of next week. (Continental US only). I can vouch for the granola. It’s delicious and I’ve already given a few bags away as gifts.


(photos by Abigail Schwamm)

Posted in food, reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments