Words Matter

Remember the ditty: “Sticks & Stone will break my bones, But names will never hurt me?

My mother would remind my siblings and me that when someone picked on us. Or we picked on each other.

Yet the events of the past week certainly prove: Words matter. They can hurt. They can stick. They can threaten. They can provoke.

I’ve been thinking about words lately, mostly some of mine. Particularly, I’m reviewing a play I wrote several years ago that caused pain and anger in a family member.

While the act of writing the play may have been cathartic for me, as a way to express my perspective on a challenging situation, for this person, the writing humiliated and embarrassed.

For this, I apologize. I never meant to hurt people I love.

While others found universal messages in the play, this person saw ridicule.

I apologize.

I’m reading books about family rifts, especially those between parents and their adult children. I recognize ways I have crossed boundaries and created tension with various questions and remarks that present either an invasion of privacy or expectations of behavior.

I apologize.

We are all human and we all make mistakes. We can learn from them and try harder.

Family and friends are worth the effort.


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Grandma Reading: Lemony Snicket!

When I saw my eldest grandson (age 7 1/2) reading The Bad Beginning, the first in Lemony Snicket’s 13-volume “Series of Unfortunate Events”, I asked him a couple questions. While I’d heard of the series and author, I never had read any of his works as they were published when my children were older.  

I jumped at the chance to read the book as my grandson did, offering to be able to talk about it with him. We chatted this morning about the book, discussing whether it’s too scary for kids, who our favorite character is, and agreeing that we should try to read the entire series. (I immediately ordered a boxed set to appear in time for next week’s long car trip to visit his other grandparents. I’ll get mine from my library.)

There’s not much better than talking about a book with a grandchild! These stories hook you and keep you wondering what will happen to the three brave Baudelaire siblings who find themselves in dangerous situations among unsavory characters.

My adult reading this summer seems to have been mostly non-fiction. There’s no time like the present to read Hyeonseo Lee’s The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story.  I learned a lot from Haroon Moghul’s How to Be a Muslim: An American Story, and am laughing aloud while reading Senator Al Franken’s memoir, Giant of the Senate.

I’ve been taking a playwriting course so had a hefty reading list of plays and I loved listening to Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last on tape while driving.

What have you been reading?




Posted in Books, Family, Grandchildren, parenting, Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Grandma Day: Thomas Edison!

Try explaining to a five and seven-year old that at one time in life there were no computers and that to take a photograph involved hiding under a heavy, dark canvas and pictures had to be developed. Just try telling them that music wasn’t always available on a smart phone. Good luck.

Thankfully there are museums dedicated to preserving how science has evolved over time.

For a recent Grandma Day, I took two of the grands to the Thomas Edison National Historic Park in West Orange, New Jersey.

A ranger greeted us and invited the children to become “Junior Rangers.” They had to answer some questions in a booklet as they toured the site. Recently renovated, the park includes Edison’s library—a vast three-story structure, crammed with books, scientific instruments, sculptures, and a desk with tons of little drawers and cubbies. We were amused that there was a cot in the corner, installed for Edison to nap on when he stayed late at work.

The park includes the library, the laboratories, and the factory. Though quiet now, we imagined the noises we may have heard had we been around in those days. A ranger described the use of a time clock, and how even Edison punched in and out. They were impressed that Edison invented more than 1,000 items.

After the visit, they were sworn in as Junior Rangers, promising to take care of the National Parks and received a badge and a patch.

I can’t even imagine what their generation will invent.


Reading about Edison


Ending the day with ice cream sandwiches





Posted in Books, Education, Family, Grandchildren, History, Museums, galleries, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Femmes of the Fifties: Mom’s Blog

My friend, Janice Kaplan Carno is no stranger; I’ve introduced her to you before. One of her daughters was sorting through boxes of photographs and forwarded this picture of five beauties of the fifties. Although I don’t remember posing for this picture, I realize that it’s a few members of our house plan, taken during […]

via FEMMES of the FIFTIES — bestofbarbara

Posted in Writing | 1 Comment

Hiking Yosemite

Walking among California’s sequoias sort of feels like being in the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Your neck starts to hurt looking up at what’s considered the earth’s largest trees. They’re found in groves in and around Yosemite National Park, where we just celebrated our 35th anniversary.

Frankly, nothing there is small scale. Gigantic boulders, humungous waterfalls (roaring now thanks to the winter snowstorms), double rainbows, long drives from place to place. And the magnificent trees. Sequoias are not to be confused with the coastal redwoods, though in the same family, are deemed the world’s tallest trees.

Sequoias are known for their ability to survive. Looking at them, we noticed evidence of fire, lightning, and insects. The few that don’t make it, fall and decompose in the lush undergrowth, providing fertilizer for more growth.

Hiking the groves, I thought of politics. On one hand, the trees represent resilience; they could become the symbol of the resistance movement and offer hope. On the other, I couldn’t help comment that many politicians and policy makers need to spend some time in the national parks to see the effect of climate change.

Posted in celebrations, environment, exercise, Family, Nature, travel, Trees | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Happy 125th Birthday!

A couple college friends and I decided to visit the home and gardens of famous poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, in Austerlitz, NY. We were eager to find out whether the rumors we’d heard about her – that she jumped from a dorm window at Vassar College—where we went and Millay graduated from in 1917, were true.

Her infraction, presumably to meet up with a boy or two, violated the school’s parietal rules that prevented members of opposite sexes visiting each other’s dorm rooms. Though originally told she couldn’t march in graduation, then Vassar President Henry Noble MacCracken reversed the decision, perhaps recognizing the bad publicity Vassar would receive if it punished its famous poet. (The parietal rules were lifted in 1969 when the college began admitting men.)

This year is Millay’s 125th birthday and also the 100th anniversary of her Vassar graduation. To honor the event, the college library has devoted several display cases to Millay, displaying artifacts from the house that are curated with some of her poems printed alongside.

The house tour (no photos allowed) included visits to her bedroom, study, dining room, living room, complete with two grand pianos; and her library. Pouring rain prevented us from walking around the gardens except to see the in-ground pool, secluded by landscaping where Millay was known to have wild parties that included bathing “au natural,” considered shocking at the time.

Millay, who was called “Vincent, “ conveniently masking her gender from publishers eager to print her poems, grew up in Maine, the eldest of three sisters. Her mother taught her to read through poetry and to play piano. Showing a talent for poetry at a young age, she entered and won a local contest. She enrolled at Vassar in 1913, already a published poet, and continued to write poems and plays to help support her studies until she graduated in 1917.

Millay moved to Greenwich Village, NY, and developed a reputation as living a bohemian lifestyle—attracting many lovers and partying, all the while writing to rave reviews and robust sales.

In 1925, Millay married Dutch businessman Eugen Boissevain, and after her 8-month, around –the- world honeymoon, she answered an ad in the New York Times for a rundown Victorian farmhouse in Austerlitz, NY.  They purchased the property, that included 600 acres of land and began restoring the house and transforming the grounds into various gardens.

She lived at Steepletop, named for a plant known as steeplebush, until her death in 1950. In 1978, the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society was created and restorations began to open the house and grounds to the public.

After our tour, we returned to Rachel’s house and enjoyed reading some of Millay’s poems as we drank wine, acting out the lines in true Millay fashion.


Posted in Books, celebrations, Education, Friendship, History, Museums, galleries, Reading, travel, women, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Cycling Catalonia

Thanks to good Internet marketing, I opened an ad for MontefuscoCycling.

We’ve been to Madrid in Spain and I was curious about exploring the countryside on a bike. Catalonia, located in the northwest corner of Spain, bordered by the coast and mountains, is well-known in cycling circles by teams training for big events, like the Tour de France.

While the mountain roads are steep and curvy, there’s little traffic except for other cyclists, and the rare car slows and waits with patience and reverence I’ve never witnessed. Claudio, the owner of the company, created several days of self-guided touring and he carried our luggage from hotel to hotel.

We ended in the small city of Figueres and toured the Salvador Dali museum, then spent a day and a half in Barcelona, taking in as much Antoni Gaudi architecture as out time allowed. So inspiring.



Posted in art, bike riding, Cycling, exercise, travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments