Saturday, November 25, 2017


I was very lucky to have my entire nuclear family at our house for Thanksgiving.  In addition we invited my newly orphaned niece and nephew so they would have company for their first Thanksgiving without a parent.

Both my sons and their spouses rallied to support my husband and I, and our two wonderful grandkids pitched in too.  One of my daughters-in-law served as a fabulous sous chef throughout the time leading up to the big event.  She chopped, assembled, stirred, set the table, reminded me to put the cranberries on the table and chatted and laughed while she did it all.  Along with their dad, my terrific sons kept the conversation going and after a very filling and delightful meal, cleaned up afterwards and put all the food away.

Everyone participated in the entertainment options including a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, a marathon game of Life with the grandkids and my niece and nephew, a visit to the dog park in the afternoon, and a game of charades after the big meal and before a delicious array of desserts prepared by my other amazing daughter-in-law and the grandkids, all topped off by a marvelous Chateau d'Yquem sauterne after dinner drink that my dear husband took out for the occasion.

It was such a perfect weekend and I will treasure the memories forever.  

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Last Monday I went to the "launch" of the Second Annual Colorado Book Festival.  I went as an observer as opposed to being the active participant that I was for the first annual event.

The chairman introduced the head of the library which was a cosponsor for the festival, a local television personality who is a meteorologist and who conducts an on air book club, and the main speaker, a lexicographer from the University of Colorado who has just published a book with the venerable Oxford Publishing Company.  The audience was wonky and loved the subject of cliches.  I was dying to talk about foreign policy and politics.

What happened?  Why had I "dropped out?"

There were many reasons but looking back I could attribute it to one in particular:  a difference of opinion about what the Colorado Book Festival should be.

I drew my inspiration for my philosophy from watching CSPAN 2's Book TV every weekend during which time they visit book festivals all over the country, in Mississippi, in Tuscon, in Ohio, in Brooklyn.  Each city holds interviews and presentations that reflect where they live but that also expose the national audience to ideas that made them unique.  For example, I recall watching the Mississippi Book Festival one week where one of the panels featured acclaimed historian Jon Meachem who grew up in Mississippi and the subject of the panel centered around race relations today.  Why, I thought to myself couldn't Denver talk about some of their esteemed authors both past and present and about the colorful history that makes Colorado unique? Why not taut the
contributions that it makes to the national scene?

Many of my ideas were, in fact, put into place.  Among the presentations were ones by our governor who had just written a book about his rise in politics, a University of Colorado professor who had recently won a Pulitzer Prize for her study of Native Americans, the authors of a book about the Aurora mass killings a couple of years ago, and a well known novelist who writes about the West.

The members of my committee assembled panels with topics about business writing, poetry and sports.  None of them concerned current slants on these massive genres.

There were many disappointments, most notably, a lack of publicity, but more importantly the lack of  of concern for the history and legacy of our State as it relates to the rest of our country.  I had offered a list of criteria on how to base the committee's selections to no avail.  A raffle was of greater interest as were the logistics of the children's corner.

So is it going to be better this year with a more aggressive chairman who is not that interested in sophisticated reading either, but does know how to promote and organize?

If the launch is any reflection, the festival will probably draw lots of people who love to read and that's a good thing.  It just won't move them to seek a higher bar.  It won't stimulate them to reach beyond what they already know and it won't open any doors to challenge themselves.  And it certainly won't give them an insight into the national scene.  As Colorado has been criticized in the past, it will remain in awe of the outside world but with no clue on how to interact with those beyond their city.

I comfort myself with the fact that we'll have more booklovers.  Even though to me it's a contest to get better and gain more attention from other parts of the country, those surrounding me are content to just have a festival.  I suppose I'm better off not being so judgmental.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Nature or Nurture?

Many years ago I lived in a highly competitive suburb.  Being smart, rich and attractive all ruled our entire lives.  I still remember a kindergarten concert where the child of one of our friends got the lead role playing the xylophone and the rest of us were sure the parents "bribed" the teacher! The point was you had to win.

So my story really is about two sisters-in-law who each had two sons.  The husbands were I believe both smart lawyers who attended good schools.  Two of their sons were the same age.  One of the sisters-in-laws was particularly competitive.  She had in her mind making sure her son got into Harvard.  Discussion always revolved around how smart he was.  The other sister-in-law was more modest and humble about her own intelligence.  She was extremely organized.  Her son was always well dressed, well moderated and well scheduled.  I liked him a lot.  He was in my son's play group and he was just a cute kid.

So guess which kid went to Harvard?  The brilliant son of the pushy sister-in-law or the cute son of my friend who provided a comfortable, loving and consistent environment?  You're right if you say the second choice.

Now, how to apply this to my own children's upbringing.

Well, I have to say that I started out being extremely ambitious for my children.  Not to the point of bribery, but I did think it was important for them to get along with other kids and to get good grades in school.  Of course, if they were singled out, I liked that too.

There were a couple of life lessons that eventually made me turn more toward nurture than nature.

The first lesson came when our younger son was in second grade and was having difficulty calming down in his school situation.  At a conference with his teacher, she suggested to me that I concentrate on setting more rules at home, her theory being that if he had chores and responsibility at home, he would learn how to do the same at school.  In other words, don't do as I say, do as I do.

The second lesson occurred when our older son was applying to college and was close to developing a chronic health problem.  He was an honor student, a competitive tennis player and a really nice kid.
At that point I knew that it was my job to love him and not put such high expectations on him that it would impact his well being.

Today I still want my kids to do well.  I'm not so great on unconditional love.  But I hope they know that my love for them is greater than my judgment of their success.  I've always told them to be the best that they can be, but only for their own sakes.  We all feel better when we're complete and I've also told them being complete is having love in one's life, being happy with one's work and having friends.

Maybe it's a bit of nature and a bit of nurture.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

When Shel Silverstein Made a Pass at Me

I lamented to my girlfriends that, though I do not approve of Harvey Weinstein and his company of men who sexually harass women, I felt kind of bad that I had never been approached by a man.  But then I got to thinking that I really was approached by many men, just not as aggressively as the women whose approaches were more extreme.  I'm reminded of Dorothy Parker's saying that she made somewhere back in the thirties or forties: "Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses." In other words, those of us less voluptuous are commonly not the target of aggressive men.

But men did make passes at me when I was younger.  The one that stands out is the time when I was 27 and an intern at CBS in Chicago while earning my master's degree at Northwestern University.  My first job was to go the Playboy Mansion located in the swanky Gold Coast area of Chicago where Shel Silverstein lived and to get him to sign an agreement to allow his song "A Boy Named Sue" to be sung on a local program.

I called Mr. Silverstein on the phone.  He started to make overtures toward me.  "When can we meet?" sounded a bit ominous to me and I panicked for a week before I got back to him.  Shakily I called again and made arrangements to have him sign the agreement.  As  a back up I asked my husband to drive me to the mansion.  I even remember what I was wearing: a two piece print blouse and skirt.  It was summertime.

With strict instructions to my husband, I got out of the car and opened the seven foot iron gate to the mansion, rang the bell and waited for Mr. Silverstein to answer it.  Soon after a short, bald, bearded man with glasses answered the door and we stood in the entry hall while I handed him the papers.  Apparently he had decided I was not worth the effort or else when he saw that I was a short Jewish woman who probably looked like his mother, he would go elsewhere to pursue his prurian interests. He quickly signed the papers and returned them to me without a glitch.

And that's the story of when Shel Silverstein made a pass at me.  In the years to come I would often think of him when I was reading "Where the Sidewalk Ends," or "The Giving Tree" or "Lafcadio" to my children and my grandchildren.  He still delights me though, no doubt, he probably had all kinds of sexual harassment stories to tell before he passed away.