We Don’t Need Wonderwoman….

Image result for image gemma hoskins abby schaub

 

 

We Don’t Need Wonder Woman….

All this hype about a movie…. who needs it? We don’t need cartoon characters brought to life to show us that women are powerful, that we can take on the evils of the world. Not by a longshot.

Instead, let’s just take a look at the world around us – such heroes for the asking – real women.

Image result for image kamala harris

Kamala Harris, my latest champion – just doing her job, asking questions, trying to get answers, and sending the pitiable Attorney General J. Beauregard Sessions, clutching his smelling salts, to his fainting couch. All the while being chastised for doggedly, and politely, I might add, trying to get a witness to answer a simple yes-or-no question, not even one of the have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife variety. And vilified by the conservative press –

 

 

Elizabeth Warren – standing up, campaigning for what she believes in. Strident, you say? Only if you disagree. Persistent might be another catchword.

 

And then there are my personal heroes – Gemma Hoskins and Abby Schaub, two women whose determined and persistent investigation into the unsolved murder of a Baltimore nun in 1969 has exposed the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s and the Catholic Church’s persistent denial and cover-up of decades sexual abuse. Featured now in the Netflix documentary, The Keepers, their work and resolve has resulted in women, and men, having the courage to come forth to tell their stories, their truths about what had been known and ignored. While the Archdiocese of Baltimore issues spin-doctored and lawyered-up denials, this is a story where, in the words of Shakespeare (and my mother) “truth will out.”

So, here are just a few heroes – real ones. When we open our eyes, we realize that we are surrounded by them. They are all around us – we don’t need to look to the screen to find them.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Cold Pizza

Image result for image cold pizza

On Cold Pizza —

Who eats cold pizza? I do. And as I finished a leftover slice this morning, I considered just what it is that makes it so satisfying, that makes me feel so good?

Here’s what it is not – it is not flavorsome; it is not appetizing; it is neither yummy nor succulent, nor juicy (thank you, thesaurus). Just close your eyes and imagine thick cardboard topped with a congealed, slightly-chewy layer of wallpaper paste, and, every once-in-a-while, the bite of a hot pepper.

Oh, I know I could put it in the microwave. I could even use my new-found method of re-heating it in a skillet. That might make it taste better, but it wouldn’t be the same. No, cooking/heating it up would be what a grown-up would do, an adult who actually might want a slice of pizza that tasted, however faintly, like pizza.

I realized that what made the whole experience, might I say, delicious, is that eating cold pizza, right out of the refrigerator, is totally non-adult. And that’s why I like it. It’s that deliciously irresponsible feeling that I experience not nearly enough. Wicked, impish, playful, I love it.

And don’t we all deserve that in our ordered, call-or-write-your-senators days. Well, hell, yes! So now I leave these pages to make a list of more free and waggish tasks.  Oh, wait, I guess it isn’t too free to make a list. Nor to call impishness tasks. What can I say. I am a creature of well-defined habit.

So, here’s to cold pizza and drinking orange juice right out of the carton. Tomorrow the world!

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Handkerchiefs

Hankie_HFW-002

On Handkerchiefs

This has been such a tough week — politically on a national and state level, and then the tragedy in London, I thought it might give us a welcome break to read and think about handkerchiefs.  I wrote this blog just over five years ago. Since then I have been the grateful recipient of an incredible antique lace handkerchief, as well as the beneficiary of a remarkable cache of generations-old hankies once belonging to the mother of a dear friend.

And so, dear reader, I hope this brings you a smile.

I ordered handkerchiefs to give as birthday gifts to my daughter and granddaughter. And I wonder if either of them has ever had handkerchiefs before.  Maybe my daughter did, as a little girl, the ones embroidered with days of the week.  Or was that underpants?  I know that my first hankies, seven of them, did come so marked, and I made it a point to carry them on only the appropriate days.

I still have some handkerchiefs from the old days, kept in a pink satin case, specifically made to store such lovely linens.  When my mother died, I took two of hers to remember her by, both of which were gifts from me, one still wrapped in scented paper.

No more department stores, with precious linens protected in glass cases.  No more being sure that a clean handkerchief was part of every day’s checklist before leaving the house.  It is still part of my day though, although it is not always a fresh one.

So, a set of embroidered hankies for them. Perhaps one day they will appreciate the gift, a reminder of a gentler, more delicate, refined time than today’s realism.  Always a trade-off.

I also ordered three for me.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On The Keepers, Catholics, and Complicity

Image result for image the keepers sister cathy

On The Keepers, Catholics, and Complicity

The Netflix documentary, The Keepers, has floored me. For those of you who may not be familiar with it, it is the story of two women, Abby Fitzgerald Schaub and Gemma Hoskins, who have taken as their focus in life to bring to justice the murderer of a Baltimore nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik. It is a story of courage, of perseverance in the face of what could easily be considered insurmountable odds. It is an account of sexual abuse by Catholic priests; it is a story of power, of continued denial in the face of indisputable facts, of cover-up by a church body whose political power and experience in denial and smokescreen are unsurpassed. But these women have not given up. Nor have the brave women who were abused. They have stepped up to the plate as well. More power to them.

Since the documentary’s airing, scores of others have come forward. The response of the Archdiocese of Baltimore has been flat-out denials that they knew any of what was happening. While giving lip service to their care and concern for victims of abuse, their actions speak their values. The intrigue goes even deeper, with heinous links to police concealment and collusion rampant.

Spin-meisters and lawyers cannot solve this one for them. And one must ask the question – is there no priest, bishop, any of the (male) hierarchy of the church that will actually have the decency to tell the truth, to admit the duplicity of the church and offer a genuine, honest apology. Or is the church essentially a business – one that must protect its assets, its real estate holdings, and its pension program? It looks as if we have our answer.

I went to a Catholic grade school and high school. When I rejected Catholicism, it was because of my opposition to philosophy and teachings, not because of any negative interaction with the clergy. I was fortunate to have a humble, caring priest in grade school – he was a “monsignor,” though he preferred that people call him “father.” He was honest and without pretention. It was not until I was older that I became acquainted with the arrogance of the priesthood. Male power and female subservience. I knew that was not in the cards for me.

I look back on my high school days with fondness, for I found a cadre of colleagues I am still proud to call friends, and, while critical thinking was not encouraged, the nuns did not force-feed dogma. I was fortunate. I was not accosted by a priest, or priests, as were the girls in The Keepers, though I realize that it could have been me. It could have been any of us. And I know, just as the girls in the documentary, had something “untoward” happened, that I would never have come forward about it. I would not have told my parents, though they were not bound by religion; I would not have told the nuns; I would not have told my best friends – and I told them just about everything. No, I know that this would have been such a shameful occurrence, and, as in the case of most victims of abuse, I would have felt that, somehow, it was my fault, that I was to blame. I watched the victims, now in their 60s and 70s, speak of their ordeals, and I was right there with them. I cried with them, and even now, a week later, tears are ever-close to the surface.

Courage, perseverance. To Abby and Gemma, to the victims – you are amazing. At the end of the series, one of the participants listens to the patronizing cant from the Archdiocese.  “Those fuckers,” she says. And with that, I heard and felt the voices of hundreds, perhaps thousands of women echoing her sentiments.

Perhaps the Catholic Church needs a primer on truth. If they want to know what it looks like, they need to watch The Keepers.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

 

 

On The Keepers, Catholics, and Complicity

Image result for image the keepers sister cathy

On The Keepers, Catholics, and Complicity

The Netflix documentary, The Keepers, has floored me. For those of you who may not be familiar with it, it is the story of two women, Abby Fitzgerald Schaub and Gemma Hoskins, who have taken as their focus in life to bring to justice the murderer of a Baltimore nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik. It is a story of courage, of perseverance in the face of what could easily be considered insurmountable odds. It is an account of sexual abuse by Catholic priests; it is a story of power, of continued denial in the face of indisputable facts, of cover-up by a church body whose political power and experience in denial and smokescreen are unsurpassed. But these women have not given up. Nor have the brave women who were abused. They have stepped up to the plate as well. More power to them.

Since the documentary’s airing, scores of others have come forward. The response of the Archdiocese of Baltimore has been flat-out denials that they knew any of what was happening. While giving lip service to their care and concern for victims of abuse, their actions speak their values. The intrigue goes even deeper, with heinous links to police concealment and collusion rampant.

Spin-meisters and lawyers cannot solve this one for them. And one must ask the question – is there no priest, bishop, any of the (male) hierarchy of the church that will actually have the decency to tell the truth, to admit the duplicity of the church and offer a genuine, honest apology. Or is the church essentially a business – one that must protect its assets, its real estate holdings, and its pension program? It looks as if we have our answer.

I went to a Catholic grade school and high school. When I rejected Catholicism, it was because of my opposition to philosophy and teachings, not because of any negative interaction with the clergy. I was fortunate to have a humble, caring priest in grade school – he was a “monsignor,” though he preferred that people call him “father.” He was honest and without pretention. It was not until I was older that I became acquainted with the arrogance of the priesthood. Male power and female subservience. I knew that was not in the cards for me.

I look back on my high school days with fondness, for I found a cadre of colleagues I am still proud to call friends, and, while critical thinking was not encouraged, the nuns did not force-feed dogma. I was fortunate. I was not accosted by a priest, or priests, as were the girls in The Keepers, though I realize that it could have been me. It could have been any of us. And I know, just as the girls in the documentary, had something “untoward” happened, that I would never have come forward about it. I would not have told my parents, though they were not bound by religion; I would not have told the nuns; I would not have told my best friends – and I told them just about everything. No, I know that this would have been such a shameful occurrence, and, as in the case of most victims of abuse, I would have felt that, somehow, it was my fault, that I was to blame. I watched the victims, now in their 60s and 70s, speak of their ordeals, and I was right there with them. I cried with them, and even now, a week later, tears are ever-close to the surface.

Courage, perseverance. To Abby and Gemma, to the victims – you are amazing. At the end of the series, one of the participants listens to the patronizing cant from the Archdiocese.  “Those fuckers,” she says. And with that, I heard and felt the voices of hundreds, perhaps thousands of women echoing her sentiments.

Perhaps the Catholic Church needs a primer on truth. If they want to know what it looks like, they need to watch The Keepers.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

 

 

On Genealogy, History, and Stories

bill and oma, 1913

On Genealogy, History and Stories —

I spent last week in a fog of genealogy, listening to researchers whose travels and stories and sleuthing made my head spin. I attended the National Genealogical Society’s annual meeting. Thousands of intrepid researchers in one convention center.

And do you know what? Their message was all about context. It was all about stories. It was all about making these people come alive, making them more than statistics and dates of birth, marriage, death. It was about telling their stories, about delving into the lives that they led. These were real people, not just those whose obituaries (true or otherwise) garnered the most print inches. People who experienced joy and sadness and wonder at their world. People just like us.

And I took heart about my endeavors over the years – to tell the stories of ordinary people, some real, some imagined, but all connected to life. One of the presenters talked of the importance of telling our stories – “If I don’t tell them, people will never know that I’m in love with the Royal Family, that I’ve loved them since I was fourteen years old. That I am really Charlotte’s and George’s grandmother.” That’s what she said, and don’t we know exactly who she is from that? Doesn’t that tell us so much more than her birthdate, her academic degrees, her race and religion? And don’t you want to know her?

And so, I continue to write my stories, about people who existed, or who may have existed. Perhaps they tell you who I am.

The picture above is my father and his grandmother. She played a significant part in his life, and they shared a powerful bond. As I did with him.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Lemon Tree Blossoms and Hope

Lemon tree flowers

On Lemon Tree Blossoms and Hope —

My lemon tree is safely ensconced on my deck; squirrels and chipmunks scampering around, but not onto, it. I am hopeful.

Yes, I’m hopeful on several fronts – working hard to be.  Hopeful that the critters will allow those six blossoms to have a chance to become actual lemons this year. Last year they left only one – which, of course, I treasured and coddled like it was – well, my first home-grown lemon.

Hopeful that I’ll have a season of lemons, and will be able to inhale with wild abandon that subtle, sweet smell that doesn’t come from furniture polish.

Hopeful that another spring and summer will bring a sense of serenity and accomplishment as I savor days of writing, reading, and thinking.

Hopeful that our political situation will find some sense of humanity, and caring, and common sense so that we can somehow bridge these wide gulfs that have come upon us.

Hopeful that the world will recognize that we are all one.

Maybe It all hinges on a lemon tree. To allow us to step, to think, to hope beyond ourselves.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com