Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Legacy in Photography

Still curled up napping! I'll catch up with you soon, but until then, a few of my favorite posts, honoring people who have made a difference in my life. If you're new to The Marmelade Gypsy, I hope you'll take a few minutes to meet some people who mean a good deal to me -- and may inspire you, too.

I was looking through my past posts and I came across this one on my dad -- so many of you are new to The Marmelade Gypsy, so I thought I'd introduce you to another of the people who helped shape my life. And yes, soon you'll meet my mom.

* * * * * *
Journeys Past
January 2009

Several years ago, there was a series on public television called "The Story of India." It's a place I find India interesting in part because it's where my dad spent his military service.

In a somewhat futile attempt to clean the art room, I went splunking under the desk and found a box with photos and letters he'd written.

I also found (again) his photo album from that period.

Photos of the Indians in pose...and those who look caught unaware.

And at work, here on a tea plantation.

He spoke of his leave in the mountains where the tea plantations were, and of the farms in the north.

He also mentioned spending time with the daughter of a tea plantation owner, whom he described in a letter to my grandparents as being very easy on the eyes. (I wish he'd had a photo of her -- maybe I'll find one when I spend more time with these books!)

My parents were both fairly skilled amateur photographers and even as a child I remember posing for my mother against a backdrop with big lights. Spending time in the darkroom watching the images magically appear on the paper always fascinated me and while it wasn't a skill I picked up, I still mourn the loss of the magic of film (although the computer now seems to hold that magic.)

The point is, in discovering these photos, I realize that this was an interest that my dad developed long before he and my mother met. And some -- like the photo of the Indian woman and her baby, the snake charmer, the beggar -- almost seem to have a documentary-like quality that I find intriguing, especially given his innocence of the world at that time.

(Another thing I love about the originals is that they are all very small -- wallet sized. Yet when enlarged, really quite clear.)

His camera picked up sacred cows...

...street scenes...

Even the street beggars were captured in the camera lens. I wonder -- did he take this as a shocked young man who hadn't seen this before -- something to show the folks at home? Did he see it as a social commentary?

My dad always had a profound sense of compassion for others as well as a sense of acceptance that struck me as unusual during my time of adolescence. Beautiful, but unusual. Still, it wasn't until he died when the first African American to move into our all-white-bread neighborhood came to the funeral home that I realized how this made an impact on others.

"Your dad was the first person to come to come to our door and welcome us to the neighborhood," he said. "I will never forget his kindness."

Did this farm kid from Michigan learn that people were people, whether they looked like you or not, during his time in India? It sure didn't hurt.

This is one of my favorite photos -- the snake charmer! I can imagine him being fascinated by how the charmer was able to lure the cobra from his basket.

(I know this photograph fascinated me as a child. I sometimes wonder if he took it just to send my grandmother into a tizzy -- she had always been afraid of snakes, one of the few phobias that may have rubbed off on me a bit!)

Although I know he became very ill while there (malaria and something that popped up now and then in later years), he really found his time in that country fascinating.

It intrigues me, this look into the images that affected a man so many years ago. He was probably in his late 20s, maybe 30. I can't help but wonder if the young men in Afghanistan are experiencing the same things, and will their encounters with people different from themselves lead to acceptance and understanding as they age, or will the terrors of war override these experiences. India wasn't a hotbed of combat when Dad was there, and I'm not sure as a communications specialist if he ever even saw combat. That has to present a different image of a country.

Yes, I have some things he brought back with him -- an ivory box with elephants; two rosewood (I think) boxes he gave my grandmother; a prayer wheel, tarnished with the passing of time.

But the memories -- those are his. And how I wish I could ask him more about them.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Patricia -- A Mentor, a Friend

As they say, "I'm curling up for a nap...or something." I'll catch up with you soon, but until then, a few of my favorite posts, honoring people who have made a difference in my life. If you're new to The Marmelade Gypsy, I hope you'll take a few minutes to meet some people who mean a good deal to me -- and may inspire you, too.

My friend Patricia died in April 2000. In her memory I wanted to again share a memory piece written in Patricia's honor
* * * * * *

May 2009

Recently I have had several occasions to think about how when someone dies who is a direct relative, your friends and neighbors shower your with condolences, treat you gently, respect your mourning.

But when a friend dies and others know, they may say “I’m sorry” (and mean it) but the magnitude of that death to you doesn’t quite sink in.

Hanging on the door of my linen closet is a large wooden ornament with a cat on it. It was a gift from my friend Patricia, who died nine years ago last month. A number of months ago in a post related to a “Write on Wednesday” prompt, I spoke of Patricia and several of you said you would like to hear more.

In light of my “quest” to honor those who had a profound influence in my life, I honor Patricia!

I was an older grad student – not quite 30 – working as a promotion student at WKAR, when I into the office I shared with my boss. I found Jeff having a deep conversation with a female colleague, to whom I was introduced.

Patricia Maloney handled education services for the station, and we would later work on projects together. But I first knew her as Jeff’s friend, who would stop by to talk politics, the arts, or about what they saw on “CBS Sunday Morning” or heard on NPR.

Don’t laugh – I didn’t know much about NPR then. I certainly didn’t know about “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” But if Jeff and Patricia were talking about these, I thought I should find out what it was all about. And I became hooked.

Patricia and I became great friends, and in many ways she was my mentor and a teacher -- an interesting role for someone only a few months apart in age. This tall woman, who reminded me of a colt on the edge of achieving race-horse status – all legs, long hair, elegant (but in an unpretentious way) – was just what I wanted to be.

She was confident. Self-assured. Brilliant. Articulate. She had style and grace. Because Patricia knew about NPR, I started listening to NPR – and I loved it. I developed a life-long habit I not only continue today, but one that would serve me professionally as well.

She taught me about how delicious it was to put granola or bran flakes in your yogurt and I remember walking to her duplex not far from the station at lunch where we’d enjoy yogurt and cereal and talk for eons. It seems silly, now. Not then. Then, we were sharing our pasts, our presents, our dreams for the future, our interests and passions. We’d talk movies – not just the popular ones, either.

She introduced me to “My Brilliant Career” and to “The New Yorker.” Her cat Shandy had a fine gallery of cartoons by his bowl. When Shandy died, we got on the phone and we both cried.

And we’d talk about books, the theatre, art, politics. For a person working and studying in a university community, I knew surprisingly few people with whom I could have these conversations. And we'd talk shop, too -- the TV Auction, a new program, a new educational project. It was all there.

We'd go out for breakfast, too, on Sundays and share the New York Times. Neither of us relished giving up the book or theatre section, but over omelettes and tea, it always seemed to work out. Our discussions were long and involved, and often they would center on hopes, dreams and family.

Both of us had mothers who had died of breast cancer, and in Patricia’s case, both of her parents had died. We talked about our mothers who left us far too early. Who left us young, unformed, never seeing the women we knew we would become, the families we hoped would be parts of our lives.

We shared our career dreams. And we shared every sorrow. The ups and downs of our romantic lives were dissected and examined. In person – and later in letters and phone calls – we helped each other through heartbreak and celebrated joy. We supported one another unconditionally and in full.
And every minute I spent with Patricia, I learned more and more about growing up.

That sounds silly. But Patricia had been places. She’d grown up in Chicago, then lived in Boston before coming to Michigan. She had a confidence, the assuredness that comes with different experiences. Mine had been “the same.” I had lived in the same town forever (partly by choice) and didn’t have siblings to teach me how to fight or compete. And while I didn’t mind that – totally, just a little – I still needed to learn that surefootedness that she possessed.

When Patricia lived in Michigan, we’d share salmon mousse and mulligatawney soup. We’d talk books. I didn’t know many people here who did that. Most had long moved away.

But Patricia was never happy in Lansing. Think about it. Chicago. Boston. Lansing. It doesn’t compute. And she desperately wanted to return to Chicago.

And so, one day, she did. With a smile on her face and joy in her heart, she returned to the windy city, with a big new job (not in broadcasting) and new worlds to conquer.

We kept in touch through regular phone calls and letters. Those were the days of letters, and Patricia wrote the best.

“I suspect (smile) your new spacious apartment is all full! “ she wrote, shortly after I moved.

And in another, after seeing a movie: “I got very sad, I think because the movie reminded me of falling in love – and I truly wonder f I’ll ever fall in love again. Lonesomeness seems such a way of life. Singularity so strong by now. And the possibility of loving (with or without romance) seems quite remote. It’s not that life isn’t good and rich. It is, and with health restored, so sweet. But lonesome. Yes.”

Her health restored. This was after we learned that Patricia had breast cancer. Our mothers' disease. The disease we both feared. But they got her cancer; she was treated. She was home free. “Our mother’s prognoses don’t have to be ours,” she reminded me. And she was right. I think about that every time I have a mammogram.

And then, one day I received this – “One interesting, complex event – lunch with an old college boyfriend, Paul, who lost his wife last year. Very sad story – two kids, Nora, 5, and Jimmy, 8. Cancer – side effects of chemo caused congestive heart failure. Although we hadn’t spoken in 12 years, we had a great three-hour lunch. Maybe we’ll get together again.”

Paul turned out to be the love of her life, and when they married, she also married his children, Nora and Jim.

After that, letters talked about Jim doing this and Nora doing that. She had found her family and was ebullient.

One day, Patricia called. Her cancer was back. And this time it was worse – for different reasons.
Paul knew, when he met Patricia, that cancer was part of her story. But it was still agonizing for her to contemplate telling these children who had already lost one mother that their beloved stepmom had the same disease that took their mother away.

Through it all, she did the family vacations, the PTA, the school activities. One-on-one vacations with Paul while the kids were with their grandparents. And when she had a cancer recurrence, that involvement didn’t change.

One time I visited her – it was shortly before a surgery. She said, “I got a wig like my hair and I’m having this done while the kids are with their grandparents. They don’t need to know about this right now. When it’s time, OK. Not now.”

Rick and I were headed to a bike trade show in Chicago in February 2000. I called Patricia to see if she’d be up for lunch or dinner. But she declined.

“I haven’t been feeling well, and I’m not sure I can really get out right now,” she said – which made sense to me. It was late February and the Windy City can be brutal at that time of year. Her home was far from the trade show and we thought it unlikely we’d get together this time.

We had a fabulous talk, though, as I told her of this new guy who had stolen my heart, who – like Paul – shared his children with me, and who for whatever reason, loved bicycles almost more than life itself.

It was a wonderful conversation.

And the last.

When she died two months later, I was shocked. I had no idea it was so serious at the time, and if she knew (and I think she probably did), I’m sure that’s what Patricia wanted.

I really don’t think any death – except possibly my parents, and in some ways, not even theirs – has affected me so.

Patricia died almost 10 years ago. My world is entirely different. Yet, like the others who die too young – Diana, JFK, James Dean, to name a few – she is frozen in time.

This beautiful colt of woman who introduced me to so much. She helped craft the person I am today and that friendship lives on as vibrantly as it did when she was alive.

In a letter I wrote to Paul and her step-children after she died, I said “My life and my world was a better, richer, more inspired world because I knew Patricia. It was brighter, it was more beautiful. I’m a better person because of her. She was the most courageous, well balanced, good humored woman I’ve ever known, a role model in every way.

And I like to think that the words she wrote below showed that she felt I, too, was a person worth knowing.

(Update: I have since had the opportunity to talk with someone who knows Patricia's stepson, Jim. She said he has grown into a fine young man. I'm not surprised. But that also made me happy.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012


As they say, "I'm curling up for a nap...or something." I'll catch up with you soon, but until then, a few of my favorite posts, honoring people who have made a difference in my life. If you're new to The Marmelade Gypsy, I hope you'll take a few minutes to meet some people who mean a good deal to me -- and may inspire you, too.
* * * * * My Friend Sharon -- The Most Amazing Woman I Know
April 2011

(Before you read my post or listen to Sharon's TEDx talk HERE, you may want to read this short article by Sharon's husband, John Schneider, who wrote about her talk. You'd love 'em both.
Sharon Emery and John Schneider

From April 2011... Over the winter holidays, Rick and I went to see "The King's Speech." If you didn't know about it already, you surely know about it now, with a stash of Oscars, all well-deserved, for telling the story of King George V and how he conquered his stutter. The film opens with the then-Prince Albert (Colin Firth) preparing to make a speech in front of an enormous stadium crowd. He is clearly frightened before he begins and when he speaks, his stutter is halting, challenged. The woman sitting behind me in the theatre started to giggle. She kept giggling throughout the opening. I turned around and gave her the dirtiest look I know and decided if she didn't shut up, I'd say something. As I did, I thought, "If my friend Sharon was here, I'm not sure that woman would stand a chance!" Fortunately, she stopped laughing. But did the film make an impact on her? Would she laugh again? She would be well advised to listen to my friend Sharon. And you can, too, in this fourteen-minute video of her speech at the recent TEDx Lansing. Listen HERE (It's about 18 minutes) A little bit about Sharon before you start. I've known her for a number of years now as part of my great group of women (which I call the GGs). When I met her, she was an editor at Booth Newspapers Lansing bureau. She moved on to be a vice-president at TruscottRossman, one of our area's best known public relations firms focusing on policy. This is a woman who deals with high-profile and issues on a daily basis. And when she's not doing that for work, she is warm, funny, and giving. Sharon Emery has a lot to say. Sometimes it just takes her a little longer to say it. She chooses her words carefully. We should all take a lesson from her on that one. I hope you will find time to listen to this and to share with others who could benefit from Sharon's words (couldn't we all) -- or to those who might find inspiration from them. 

Thanks, Sharon. You inspire me every day.

Monday, April 16, 2012


The Cork Poppers overdid it a little bit this weekend -- it was a Pinot-Palooza, and there were nine wines to savor. Savor we did!

We started with the Pinot Gris/Grigio wines, all whites, all relatively light. All the Pinot Grigios seem to work well with seafood, salads, light meats or as good sipping wines on a hot day and should be served very cold, although we noted that in some cases, as they warm a bit, the complexity is enhanced.

The first, Chateau Fontaine 2011 Pinot Gris is from Leelanau Peninsula and Northern Michigan. Although the color was described as pale yellow, to me it was more like slightly tinted water. Michigan's whites are better than their reds and this had a "nice nose," we decided. It had apple overtones and a great label. At $12, it wasn't a bad price.

Then we had Chateau Ste. Michelle Pinot Gris 2009 from the Columbia Valley in Washington. That was $12, too -- a little darker, not so peppery and spicy as the Chateau Fontaine. This seemed to have a good deal in its favorite and remained one of the favorites.

The third was Montinore Estate Pinot Gris, 2009, from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. It was unoaked (I prefer unoaked wines) and certified organic grapes. I enjoyed this -- it was a little spicer than the second wine we had, not so much as the first. But at $15.50, I'm not sure it could top our $12 number 2.

Then we were in Italy for Zenato, Pinot Grigio delle Venezie from Veneto Italy. This was another stainless steel ferementation, aging six months in stainless tanks, and more in the bottle. It was quite acidic and very tasty at $12.99.

The Bel Lago Pinot Grigio, 2009, was also from the Leelanau Peninsula. It was very pale and spicy. Our guide Dick said something about filtering out dead yeast cells which were great for making bread, but my notes are sketchy. It was $14.

Everyone tastes differently and has their own favorites. For me, it was the Chateau Ste. Michelle, the Montinore, the Chateau Fontaine, Bel Lago and finally the Zenato.

On to the reds! I'm more of a red woman, but have never been as fond of the Pinots as the more fuller bodied wines. I was pleased to say that these did not disappoint and perhaps even made a convert!

Our first was another Montinore Estate Pinot Noir 2009, again from the Willamette Valley, Oregon and certified organic. I wrote "Smells awesome," Rick said, "Smells like my cough medine, I love it," and Roger said "Tastes like rubber." I didn't think so -- I liked it a lot, but at $19.50, I'll probably give it a pass.

We pretty much all agreed on Toad Hollow Pinot Noir, 2009, both for its label and its taste. Our wine guide, Dick, liked it best and Roger said, "I really like this!" It was a tiny bit sweeter, although not cloyingly sweet, and filled with berry flavors with a little spice. "Quit talking about it and pour it!" Roger said. I agreed -- I really loved this one and would stop right there (and should have.) At $15.50, it was the most reasonable of the reds we tasted, and I thought the best.

Ritual Pinot Noir 2009 from Casablanca Valley in Chile was next. It was very dark and the closest to the dry reds of those we tasted. Barb called it "very tasty" and it was a little more fruity than some. I have a note that says "Best so far" but I'm not sure if that was me thinking it (whatever happened to the previous Toad Hollow?!) or if that was someone else, but either way, it was good. The price: $18.50.

The final wine we had was Marsannay Pinot Noir 2009, and it got a mixed review. It is from Maison Louis Latour, the negotiant, from Burgundy, France. The negotiant buys the grapes and/or juice but doesn't grow the fruit. Then he has someone make the blend. Pat and I really liked this and Clayton called it "Pretty perfect with exceptional flavor. I liked it better than the Ritual. This bottle was $18.00.

A few notes -- The Pinot Grigio wines will vary from area to area. Those from Alsace region of
France tend to be fuller bodied and sweeter, while Italian Pinot Grigios are often paler in color than others. Italian pinots are generally fermented in stainless steel. In Oregon, they barrel age the wine after its initial stainless steel fermentation, giving the wine more flavor interest while keeping the fruit and acidity.

I couldn't do a Cork Popper post without mentioning our good company (this group got a little out of control and eventually we had to launch the "talking tulips" -- the person holding the tulips had the floor!)

Our hostess, Cheryl, and her assistants Taxi and Trolley, pulled together a beautiful table with raku fortune cookie favors!

Our dinner -- delicious as always -- included hearty chiles, corn bread, salad and ice wine, truffles and brownies for dessert. And we never would have made it to dinner without Pat's cheese and bread selections for the tasting!

We left the table, satiated and filled with the warmth of friendship (and more than a bit of glow from the wine!), grateful for the good company we shared.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Harry's Back! It's Really Spring!

It really must be spring. Harry has returned.

Harry the Heron made his first appearance at the Ditch about a week ago.

Well, his first appearance to me, at least.

He was hungry.

Very hungry.

And oh, so alert!

Welcome back, Harry!

It's good to have you in the 'hood!

Other signs of spring... newly decorated eggs...

Flower shopping before Easter with my friend Jan...

Get a look at these!

And Easter flowers on my table.

Yes, it really is spring!

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