About Me

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I am a retired English teacher and department head, the mother of three grand mother of four, and have been married to the same man for 48 years. I subscribe to Dr. PM Forni's concept of Civility. I was born in South Philadelphia and grew up in the 'burbs. I love soft pretzels and cheesesteaks, the Phillies, the Eagles, and San Diego. I love being Mom, Aunt Kathy, Nona Kathy, and Teacher. I spend a lot of time in my gardens in the spring and summer, and in the winter I plan what I'm going to plant. I also am an avid reader and photographer.


Monday, April 20, 2020


A little down today so I'm focusing on some good stuff.

I finished the planning for my gardens and listed and tallied the numbers of the plants I will purchase this week.  We are so very much looking forward to the color, and the warmth and lushness that May brings.  C'MON MAY!!!

Many know I'm a South Philly girl.  Today we ordered cheese steaks from Pat's.  (Sorry Jim's -- Pat's had a better deal.  Buy 4 ('wit' onions and cheese); get four.  The only bad news with this is they won't be delivered until May 20th.  I think Pat is walking them down to Maryland himself.  Now all we need is pretzels from Federal or Bernies!

Marylanders learned about 45 minutes ago, that our governor, Larry Hogan and his wife,  engineered a deal with South Korea for 500,000 testing kits.  The first couple of Maryland met the delivery at BWI Thurgood Marshall this weekend.  The man is a mensch!  I understand the governor of Illinois has done something similar -- he even sent the Illinois National Guard to pick up the delivery.  Both governors had to do end runs around the current administration.  Not cool.

Our youngest daughter send us this today.  Her cat, Leon the Lion, gets pissed with her and goes and sits on the roof.  I'm wondering how I can get up on ours.  Isn't that a punch line to a joke?

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Walk Around Wilde Lake

As are many of us, we are trying to keep active.  At our age, sedentary lifestyles are as bad as or worse than smoking.  And so on this very windy and chilly Good Friday, we drove about a mile from our house, and walked one of the three man-made lakes in Columbia.  Wilde Lake (also the name of the village in Columbia, the high school where I taught within said village, and the name of Laura Lippman's novel about that village and lake) has a lovely path around it that is relatively flat, unlike the path around a few of the other lakes that are extremely hilly and in the woods.  One doesn't want to walk the wooded paths on a day so windy -- at least without protective head gear.

There were a few others out, but all - even the dogs they were walking - kept respectful and safe distances.

We saw an osprey that was too quick for us to get a picture, and a Zumba friend with whom we exchanged "Happy Easter" /"Happy Pesach", a few mallards, and the ubiquitous Canada geese.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Seemed Funny At the Time...

After breast cancer surgery last May, I began radiation treatments.  As scared as I was, this turned out to be a rather benign (forgive the pun) experience.

Each day I reported to the oncology/radiation center, changed my clothes, and sat in the women's waiting area.  Sometimes there would be other women waiting with me, and other times I sat alone.  On no day did I wait longer than five minutes (they ran a really tight ship) before I was greeted by a tech and asked to 'come back' to the treatment room.  First, however, in an anteroom, and with my picture up on a rather large computer screen I was told to identify myself and state my date of birth.  Every single day by the same people who saw me every single day.  Same protocol.

While all were impressively courteous and competent, some were kinder than others.  There was one tech, who while totally professional, was not as openly responsive as the others.  

Two weeks into treatments and called back once again by this same person to respond to name and date of birth, I said, "Dresilda Flackenbush".  No smile; just, "No, you are not."

The next day she called me back, asked me my name and date of birth.  This time I replied, "Bernadetta Mangiacavalle." (translated from Italian: Bernadette the horse eater).  No laugh; no smile; and then it hit me:  I was provoking her and she could kill me.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Promising a Rose Garden

For gardeners that first flush of bloom and color is of paramount importance.  For rosarians the first flush in the rose garden is ecstasy.  The First Flush varies from year to year in magnitude; some years better than others.

There was a time when I could experience this in my own garden with numerous hybrid tea roses of brilliant color and pungent fragrance.  Due to lack of sun, I can now grow only Knockouts and a few antique roses, and while these are beautiful, they cannot compare to the first flush of the tea roses that occurs around the second or third week of May in our area.  And so I must seek this elsewhere.

Last year was a special year in that on the 17th of May I had surgery to remove cancer from my breast.  I knew I was facing a bit of a recuperation and then radiation so the First Flush took on even more importance to me.  So during Memorial Weekend we headed down to Brookside Gardens, a public garden in Montgomery County that features a beautiful rose garden.

We could smell the roses even before we could see them.  I approached the garden and there it was:  one of the most magnificent flushes I'd ever seen! 

I headed to a bench in the middle of the garden when someone yelled,  "YOU CAN'T GO IN THERE!   WE'RE HAVING A PRIVATE EVENT"!  Sure enough folks were inside the garden milling about.  We have been there before during events, even sharing the gardens with an occasional bride, but had never before been blocked from the garden -- especially on a holiday weekend -- and rudely at that.  After being taken aback, I replied I'd only take some pictures of the roses from a respectful distance and we would leave.  

As we walked the path to leave the gardens a garden volunteer kept yelling at us that we couldn't go in, they had to rent out the gardens to earn money, but if we wanted to wait two hours we could go inside.  We didn't.  And needless to say, we won't be going back.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Now More Than Ever

I posted this after the last election, never realizing its poignancy and relevance would actually increase.  I do not know Jeremy Mitchell, but I believe he's brilliant.

I listened as they called my President a Muslim.
I listened as they called him and his family a pack of monkeys.
I listened as they said he wasn't born here.
watched as they blocked every single path to progress that they could.
I saw the pictures of him as Hitler.
I watched them shut down the government and hurt the entire nation twice.
I watched them turn their backs on every opportunity to open worthwhile
I watched them say that they would not even listen to any choice for Supreme
Court no matter who the nominee was.
I listened as they openly said that they will oppose him at every turn.
I watched as they did just that.
I listened.
I watched.
I paid attention.
Now, I'm being called on to be tolerant.
To move forward.
To denounce protesters.
To "Get over it."
To accept this...
I will not.
I will do my part to make sure this great American mistake becomes the
embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.
I will do this as quickly as possible every chance I get.
I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country.
I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice.
I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to them.
Them. The people who voted for him.
The ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win.
I will do this so that they never forget.
And they will hear me.
They will see it in my eyes when I look at them.
They will hear it in my voice when I talk to them.
They will know that I know who they are.
They will know that I know what they are.
Do not call for my tolerance. I've tolerated all I can.
Now it's their turn to tolerate ridicule.
Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day forward is now Trump's fault just as much as they thought it was Obama's.
I find it unreasonable for them to expect from me what they were entirely unwilling to give.
-Jeremy Mitchell

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Confessions of a Multiple Sneezer

The top of the morning to you!  Today is the 17th of March, a day set aside to honor St. Patrick who banished the snakes from Ireland (I always wondered if these were metaphorical snakes).  We do this by wearing green and drinking ourselves senseless.  And on this particular day in 2020, not a bar is open -- at least in Maryland.  Let us all pray that perhaps St. Patrick will re-appear and banish the snakes in DC and that the DTs of all the country's celebrators are quick and harmless.  At least we can all still wear green and raise a glass in the privacy of our disinfected and socially distanced homes.

Within the last two years I have become a multiple sneezer.  My mom was one; my husband, too.  She sneezed three or four times; he three -- and the loudest sneezes I have ever heard.  I mean the cat actually runs for cover.  I digress.  

It doesn't happen every day, but when it does I sneeze between 11 and 15 times.  I'm not sure why.  And in this viral crazed environment, (being topless wouldn't get as much attention) it is politically dangerous to sneeze in public, and...   Shades of Salem, and the reintroduction of the dunking bench...

Monday, March 16, 2020

"And the People Healed"

Like the man in the TWILIGHT ZONE episode, who wanted nothing but to be left alone with books, I've yearned for solitude.  What a boon -- to be able to read, cook, muse, without interruption!  A long snow day without the the snow.

And like the man who is eventually the last man on Earth, stuck in a library, WITHOUT his much needed glasses, I am, having been given my wish, not sure what to do with myself.  Like many, many others.  

On this second day of quarantine, our daughter-in-law doubts if they can keep our two grands (eight and four) from killing each other.  I remember what it was like being stuck in the house for only a day or so with teenagers bouncing off the walls, and I hope for the best for all the mothers and fathers out there...

We have enough food, reading materials, jobs that need to be done around the house and outside.  We're hoping to go down to the boat this week, to do some sanding and painting so we can put it in the water by mid-April. I can also begin to plan my garden.

Perhaps we, as a country, needed this: the solitude; the introspection; the quiet.

I came across this this morning.  It resonated deeply.

"And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and grew gardens full of fresh food, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

"And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
"And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed."
~Kitty O'Meara

Thursday, June 6, 2019

While At The Mercy of Others

Walking into the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center was both humbling and scary, but I was greeted immediately by one of their many concierges.  He took both my hands and said, "You're new here; we're going to take very good care of you."  He directed me to a registrar who confirmed my information and gave me a badge to wear.  The badge had a GPS chip in it; my doctor knew I was there and how long I would be waiting, and if I wanted to, could sit in their cafe, and the doctor's assistant would come and get me.  Amazing.

My surgery went well.  The surgeon was able to extract clear margins, and the seminal node is clear.  I'll start radiation in a couple of weeks; chemo is a remote possibility.  I'll also do hormonal suppressant therapy for five years.  Those treating me were competent and compassionate.  I am beholden to them.

I'm well.  I'm happy.  I'm blessed.

"To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you lived here.
This is to have succeeded."

from ROBIN by David Itzkoff taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, April 19, 2019

Take Care Your Wishes

Notre Dame Cathedral virtually burned to the ground this week; still more immigrants seek asylum; our country 's divide grows as those corrupt and hate-filled saturate the news with anathema and their power.  Temperatures wold-wide have increased two degrees, and Mother Nature becomes more and more violent in her response.

More importantly, this is the week I was told I have breast cancer.  I saw the mammogram; I intrinsically knew it didn't look good; I saw the look on the faces of the technicians and the radiologist;  I saw they wouldn't look me in the eye,  and yet I was devastated when told.  I waited until my husband left for work, and then sobbed.  

I wonder if the fates heard me when I've frequently said I don't want to grow old.  Frailty terrifies me.  What I'm feeling now is a close second.  I'm at the mercy of others.

I mourn the loss of my normal.  I mourn that a part of my body that I love is now sick.  I see the shirts that boast, "These are fake; my real breasts tried to kill me,"  and while I appreciate the humor, I cannot join in with the laughter as something I treasure, with which I've lived for 67 years is sick and will soon  be under the knife.  And as trivial as it seems, I'm saddened by my soon-to-be bald head, and wondering if I can learn how to tie a scarf, a pretty one that makes me look as if I'm handling my illness well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


I do a lot of thinking while doing jigsaw puzzles and I complete a lot of puzzles.  My latest seedling came in the form of  -- oh hell, why don't I just get to it.

I send Christmas cards.  Not necessarily to those who send to us, but to folks I want to wish a Merry Christmas.  (Gone are the days when I kept track and sent only to those who sent greetings to us.  I send cards to those I want to let know we're thinking of them.)

What if, after all  the cards on my list were sealed, stamped, and mailed, I made a new list of all those who have slighted, somehow hurt our feelings, even cognizantly so,  (I'm not including those who've committed serious crimes, not that there are many times, if any, I've been victimized; that might not be a good idea -- for lots of reasons) and sent them cards with heartfelt greetings. 

I don't intend to make these folks feel badly, well not real badly, but it might awaken in them an epiphany.  But more than seeking a response in someone else, I think this might affect me more.