Things I Love, A girl’s guide

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  • People who use turn signals. Despite how important you think you are, I don’t know which way you are going. If you live near me, you know that the Haggerty/Target corridor is one of the worst places to maneuver. There are people coming and going several different directions. I hate missing my chance to go, because the person coming out of Babies R Us thinks I understand telepathy. Guess what bitch, I don’t! Disclaimer:  My Target experience prompted today’s blog. It is not a passive aggressive attempt to send a message to one particular person. I’d do that on Facebook.
  • Old fashioned greeting cards. You can’t help but feel special when someone remembers your day, without needing a Facebook reminder.A card is something you can remember relationships by. Same with notes sent with gifts, Christmas card newsletters and other short missives. When that person is gone, it’s a nice way for you to feel in touch with them again. Sure, sending cards takes effort, but it means so much more to me than a casual cyber “happy birthday”. I still go through the cards my grandma sent me over the years. I know she’d be happy, but will your future grand kids be able to say the same? I have a friend who has faithfully kept up our card & calling tradition for more than 20 years. Surprisingly, it’s a guy, a really cool guy.


  • People who RSVP. It’s not meant to only be confirmation you will attend. You should also let your hostess know if you cannot be there.

If someone is nice enough to invite me, I certainly don’t want them to have to contact me again, so they know if I am attending. From experience, and after talking to frustrated party planners, I can tell you that a significant percentage of people fail to respond. Don’t be that person. It’s annoying and makes the hostess feel you didn’t appreciate their invite.

Of course, weddings are the most important time to do this. Venues charge based on confirmed numbers. Brides are often able to modify their count a few days before the event, so don’t hesitate to contact her if your plans changed. Even when I am hosting a casual at home get-together I often cook for days.Not 24/7 of course, but if you add in planning, buying and prep time it easily can span over that period. I won’t even get into the time it takes to clean. Knowing if someone’s plans changed, even if it’s the day of, is important to me. I am not blessed with many relatives or friends that entertain. Therefore, I treasure any time someone thinks to include me, even if it’s a casual BBQ. Don’t forget to appreciate these little things in life, because many of us aren’t blessed with a large social and family network.

  • Friends & relatives that know we’re not on Leave it to Beaver  Do you sometimes feel you are a guy from the 1950’s and your friend is waiting for you to ask her to the dance?  You see, I like relationships where both people put effort in. I don’t like being the one who always checks in on the other person, suggest things we can do together, remembers special days, etc. If I sometimes do that more than the other person that’s fine. But, no one likes always being the only thing keeping a relationship going. It’s called taking people for granted and no one wants to feel that way. Reach out to a friend you haven’t called for a while, and let them know you are thinking of them.It means a lot, and yes, a quick text is good enough sometimes!


  • Cat Lovers – I am convinced anyone who doesn’t love cats is allergic, never had one themselves, or had some loser cat, who didn’t fairly represent the species. Every one of my cats has their own personality.They don’t wake you up barking, they don’t need to be taken outside in frigid temperatures, and they don’t expect much other than a place to sit by the window. Instead, they may meow and run to you when you walk in the door, sneak in your bed when your husband goes to work, or beg to go in your closed garage so they can sit by your car.  Cats may be weird, but they make me happy.

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“Oh Rich left for work? I’m ready to snuggle after I RSVP to this shower invite.”
Cookie, Age 6, Northville, MI




Over 150 Years Ago, We Had Our First Gay President

Buchanan-lrgJames Buchanan, our 15th President, Served from 1857-1861

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. Have you noticed? Well, a couple friends did and wondered why. The truth is, I haven’t felt much like writing lately. That is, until I checked out Lies Across America, What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong, by James W. Loewen.  Published in 1999, I kept noticing the book referenced in other books I was reading, during my “dead president” fetish this spring. Granted, fetish may not be the right word to use here, but anything tying me to a TLC show is worth its weight in gold.

Once I read we already had our first gay president in 1857, I was mesmerized. It was known by many in Washington DC but without TMZ, word failed to spread. James Buchanan was quite open about his relationship with a male U.S. Senator from Alabama, who was later appointed minister of France. When his partner, William King, left for his post, the president wrote, “I am now ‘solitary and alone,’ having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with one of them”.  Other references to Buchanan’s relationship with King were burned following his death.

Back then, gay partners were referred to as Siamese twins, Miss Nancy, and other non-PC terms. Quite simply, homosexuality was viewed as deviant behavior that should be punished and shamed. This is hardly news to anyone reading this blog.  In fact, decades after Buchanan, the man who greatly sped the Allies ability to decipher Germany’s enigma codes (Alan Turing), was criminally charged for his sexuality. When given the choice of prison time or chemical castration, Turing chose the latter, which led to his suicide in 1954. Regardless of what Turing accomplished, he was a homosexual first and foremost in the eyes of Great Britain. Instead of being viewed as a man who saved countless lives and served his country, he was viewed as someone who made a dangerous and immoral “choice”. At least Buchanan was spared this sentence.

This is precisely why it’s important that history tells the story of people like Buchanan and Turing. When we don’t share the accomplishments of the LGBT community, we give the impression only “straight” members of society have contributed. If you visit James Buchanan’s former house in Lancaster, PA you will hear nothing about his relationship with King. In fact, when Loewen asked the docent specifically about Buchanan’s sexuality, he denied he was anything other than your regular straight guy watching ESPN. Well, there wasn’t ESPN yet, but I am pretty sure there was some guy thing Buchanan wasn’t into.

I am thankful I’ve had the opportunity to read Lies Across America. I’ve learned more about history in 2 weeks than I did throughout high school and college. I had no idea that so many places I’ve visited y, like Magnolia Plantation, Mount Vernon, Independence Hall, etc. had an agenda. Many of these places, along with sites and plaques throughout the U.S. tell us more about who sponsored them than what really happened. I will be talking more about this in future blogs because it’s important that the story is told. It’s time our historic sites tell us more about history and less about wallpaper and dishes.

Like my post? Let me know because I have self confidence issues. It started when my mother told me I am a really good cook, now.


What You Don’t Know about Rose and Rosemary Kennedy

rosemaryKathleen, Rose and Rosemary Kennedy in London before being presented at court.
May 1938. CreditKeystone/Getty Images

I have become a Kennedy historian in recent years. I’ve read dozens of books about the family and was excited beyond measure when my local library had Rosemary-The Hidden Kennedy Daughter on the shelf. It was among People Magazine’s recommended books recently, but because it was new I couldn’t request it. Yet, there it was. Begging me to check it out, along with Remembering Amy, written by Amy Winehouse’s mother. Although I enjoyed both books, Rosemary was my favorite.  I’ve always wondered about her story, but only knew pieces of it.

Rose Kennedy’s first daughter, Rosemary, was born in 1918. Her birth was preceded by Joe Kennedy, Sr., who died in WW2 during a volunteer high risk mission. John F. Kennedy was Rose’s second child. He went on to become a war hero, Pulitzer Prize winning author, and the 35th President of the United States. But before either boy exited toddler-hood, along came Rosemary. Like her brothers, Rosemary was born at home but this time, her birth was delayed purposefully. The obstetrics nurse caring for Rose used her hand, to keep Rosemary’s head inside Rose’s birth canal. The theory being she delayed Rosemary’s birth so the doctor could charge his customary fee, $2353 in today’s dollars. Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t arrive for 2 hours, he was detained treating Spanish Flu patients. My own great-grandfather (August) died from that flu when he was 27 years old. Unlike other flues, this one favored killing those in the prime of their life. It is believed that about 1/3 of the world contracted the flu from 1918-1919 and that up to 50 million people died of the disease; more people than died during WW1.

No one knew then and for many decades later, that the nurse’s actions likely caused a lack of oxygen and Rosemary’s subsequent “dullness”. She was fine at first, but over the next few months and years, Rose couldn’t help but notice how her sons achieved developmental milestones much earlier. When Rosemary’s sister was born 2 years later, Kathleen “Kick”, it became painfully obvious that something was wrong with Rosemary. Rose and her husband Joe employed the best tutors and physical therapists in an effort to help her catch up. Rosemary was a pleasant and obedient child during those early years and was quite close to her siblings. But, her limitations were an embarrassment to her parents, particularly given their family goal of achieving high political office. It was a different time. One where learning disabilities and low IQ were seen as the fault of the parents. People with these challenges were seen as flawed in some way, responsible at least in part for their fate. As described by Author Kate Clifford Larson:

“The intellectually and physically disabled were another category of defectives. Eugenics scientists and their followers believed that these individuals were also the products of inherited bad genes and should be treated much the same way as the mentally ill, criminals, and the chronically poor. Forced sterilization, they argued, was society’s cure. Some believed that spending money on insane asylums, poorhouses and other charitable and social institutions and programs serving the mentally ill and disabled only encouraged propagation of bad seeds. The parents of defectives carried these bad genes-an idea that placed the blame and shame squarely on families. Some of the most prominent industrialists, scientists, and political leaders of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including President Teddy Roosevelt, supported these views.”

That’s right. The President of the United States thought if you didn’t spend money on the treatment and housing of the mentally ill and disabled, they’d die off and we’d suddenly be free of more people like them. It’s sort of like Naked and Afraid, without the camera crew and extraction point.

It’s amazing how evolved our view has become since Rosemary’s time. Well, I am assuming you aren’t a Trump supporter when I say that, LOL. It was because of this view and Rosemary’s increasing frustration and outbursts that Joe Kennedy Sr. searched in earnest for a cure. It was his desperate desire to “fix” the problem that led Joe to believing doctors when they suggested supplements and hormones could reverse Rosemary’s “condition”.  When this unsurprisingly did not work, Joe turned to a new treatment that eventually earned a 1949 Noble Prize in Medicine. That treatment?

A lobotomy.

Yeah, cutting people’s brains led to a Noble Prize. Later, it was determined that the research shared by Antonio Caetano Abreau Freire Egas Moniz (all one guy’s name) was questionable. Since Rosemary was treated, a variety of medications have been introduced, stabilizing many of the mentally ill. Society’s views of mental disabilities such as “dullness” has also changed, but lobotomies still exist. The procedure is now used for difficult epilepsy cases on a controlled basis. There’s a great article about the history of lobotomy and its present day use here:

Although Rose claims she had no idea for years that Rosemary had this procedure, it is doubtful she didn’t at least know it was a possibility. Rose frequently sent her children off to boarding school and Joe Sr. merely stated that Rose was at a new location in Wisconsin. However, Rose knew Joe was researching the procedure and asked her daughter, Kick, to investigate it. Kick reported it was not for Rosemary but when Rose was out of the country, Joe Sr. had it done anyway. It was an instant disaster. Rosemary could no longer talk or care for herself. Whereas before Rosemary was able to read and write, albeit at an elementary level, she was now a shell of a person. Thanks to many years of care and therapy in Wisconsin, Rose achieved the ability to communicate rudimentarily and walk with assistance. However, this was due to the love and care of the nuns who treated Rosemary like family. Rose offered no such support. In fact, she didn’t visit Rosemary for over 20 years! Joe visited her at first, but abruptly stopped his visits in 1948, 13 years before his devastating stroke. Outside the family, it was said Rosemary took a teaching position in the mid-west and wanted her privacy. Even her siblings didn’t know the truth for many years.

Which brings me to a fact most people don’t know about Rose. She’s a bitch. Most people think she selflessly cared for her 9 children while her husband cavorted through the country with beautiful women. In truth, Rose had servants that did most of the household duties and child care. Rose was there emotionally supporting the kids, which in her mind meant weighing them constantly, putting them at diet tables, and pushing them academically and athletically. Poor Rosemary was under so much pressure to preform like a Kennedy, she likely felt immense failure. Her parents accompanied her to many social events with the expectation no one must know she’s not like her sisters. It is theorized that these expectations and the continual educational goals, led to Rosemary’s outburst in her early 20’s and her eventual lobotomy.

Speaking of emotional support, it was hard for Rose to give it because she’d travel to Europe for months at a time. Her son, JFK, even wrote her once saying what a fine mother she was leaving for such a long time (sarcasm intended). Simply put, Rose was far from mother of the year. And while Joe Sr. did have quite a few girlfriends, including Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo and Marion Davies, Rose didn’t make it easy. Rose believed in sexual relations only for the purpose of procreating. So when her last son, Teddy, was born she said “no more sex” and Joe said to himself “I’ll call Gloria”. The point being that although Joe Sr. was a womanizer, Rose may not have minded his diversions.

The Kennedys sent their children to boarding skill by middle school age, but in Teddy’s situation it was around third grade. The Kennedy’s enjoyed spending November-May in their Palm Beach, FL home. This didn’t coincide well with Teddy’s school schedule, so off he went. I can’t imagine sending Josh to boarding school, let alone an 8 year old kid! Like her siblings, Rosemary spent much of her childhood away from the family. Rose had a bad habit of not telling the nuns how bad Rosemary really was. At one point she convinced 2 owners of a summer camp to tell Rosemary she was a Jr. Camp Counselor but offered to pay her tuition, considering her disabilities. Rose purposely downplayed Rosemary’s issues and the level of oversight she required. Rose did this a lot and as a result, Rosemary had to move schools and camps frequently, each transition being extremely difficult. The camp owners (sisters) telegrammed Rose within a couple weeks of Rosemary’s arrival, explaining how difficult things had been.  They asked that Rose pick-up Rosemary immediately. In true Rose fashion, she refused, and later questioned the bill she received, which was the same as agreed upon earlier. Rose did offer to have Rosemary’s godparents pick her-up, but only in New York, a full day’s trip away. Both owners always stayed at the camp when it was in session, but they were left with no choice other than accompanying Rosemary to NY.

When Rose finally went to Wisconsin, she was upset and surprised that Rosemary didn’t welcome her lovingly. This is the same woman who abandoned her daughter for decades and she was surprised she didn’t get a bear hug? Rose spent no time bitching out the nuns for Rosemary not wearing a size 4. Remember, she weighed her kids regularly, and thought nothing of placing them on diets. Poor Teddy was on a diet probably his entire childhood! I guess he found where the Oreo’s were hidden or there was a kind servant. I bet Rose gave them terrible raises each year.

If you find this story interesting, you will love Rosemary-the Hidden Kennedy Daughter. It was a great history lesson, teaching me more about society’s view on the mentally challenged than anything I’ve read before. I also recommend you read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s the Fitzgerald’s and the Kennedy’s, ideally before Rosemary.  It gives you a great backdrop for understanding Rosemary and provides an in-depth look at Joe Sr, Joe Jr, JFK and Kick’s life.

Speaking of Kick, Rose refused to acknowledge her  after she had the nerve to marry a Protestant! Reading how horrified Rose was about Kick’s choice, despite his nobility and kind nature, really cemented my option of Rose. Sadly, Kick’s husband died as a war hero soon after their marriage. Rose never met him and no one in the family attended his funeral. Kick later became engaged to a divorced Protestant man, which Rose is probably turning in her grave over still to this day. Joe Sr. was eventually convinced to meet Kick and her boyfriend in Paris. But a few days before, the pair decided to vacation in Cannes and on their way, their plane crashed in a severe storm. Kathleen died at 28 years old. Only her brother, Joe Jr., attended her funeral in England because, gasp, Kathleen had the nerve to love someone who wasn’t Catholic. Can you imagine if she brought home a black or Jewish man? Rose would have had a heart attack right then and there. As it was, she didn’t die until 1995 at the age of 105. Proof that only the good die young… okay, maybe I am a bit dramatic, but you have to admit. She wasn’t the best mother.

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Who Will Save Your Soul?

There are people who only read on 3-hour flights and there are people who can’t go 3 hours without reading a book. I am in the latter category. I can’t remember the last piece of fiction I’ve read. It always seems like a waste of time to me. My books of choice are often memoirs, the two most recent being “jewel-never broken” and Leah Remini’s “Troublemaker”. Both were particularly good and in them, I found passages that gave me strength.

Jewel had a much harder life than I expected. I already knew she lived in her car at one point. That “one point” expanded to several years and only ended when she created her own success by propositioning a struggling coffee shop owner. Jewel asked to play at her shop on Thursdays in exchange for the cover charge collected. Every other coffee shop owner was taking 100% of the cover charge proceeds. Jewel reasoned that since she’d be bringing in new business, the owner should be satisfied with the increased revenue. This particular coffee shop owner was and from there, Jewel was discovered.

Jewel was abandoned by her mother at a young age. Her father raised Jewel and her 2 younger brothers, living in rural Alaska. Her father’s increasing temper and alcoholism led to beatings, and Jewels attempts to escape the situation. Jewel first went to live with an aunt in Hawaii, where her uncle berated her and the kids at school called her a “whore”. Eventually, Jewel gained acceptance through her yodeling, but her Uncle’s rage was too much to bare and she returned to rural Alaska. While Jewel’s mom came in/out of her life, neither parent thought anything of Jewel moving out on her own at 15. The cabin she lived in had few amenities and Jewel lived off the land until she received a partial scholarship from Interlochen Center for the Arts in Traverse City, MI. It took a fundraiser and the entire community to send Jewel off, after which time she discovered she didn’t have the money to pay for books and tuition. It never occurred to Jewel that these things wouldn’t be included in the already $20,000 price tag. Fortunately, the school assisted Jewel with finding jobs to pay for these items, including modeling in a tan leotard for art students. Jewel was always sensitive about her body, feeling she was overweight and this particular assignment was agonizing. Jewel eventually managed to partner with another musician, earning money playing gigs at a local bar. Not surprisingly, the following year, Interlochen provided Jewel with a full scholarship. Assuming she wouldn’t have the money for a second year, Jewel had already completed the academic work necessary to graduate. By receiving the gift of another year, Jewel was able to focus on the arts and made the most out of her experience.

After graduation, Jewel was lost. No one talked to her about applying to college. It never occurred to Jewel she could have received a scholarship elsewhere. It was after this time Jewel found herself living in her car, supporting herself on tips until she found the coffee shop that would change her life. Her father would later say that Jewel living out of her car was one of his biggest regrets.

Jewel’s mother came back into her life, once Jewel received a record contract. For the next few years, Jewel was thrilled to have her mother by her side. They held hands everywhere they went; her mother eventually convincing Jewel to fire her manager, insisting instead she could do the job. After selling 17 million records, Jewel found herself bankrupt, despite spending almost nothing on herself. This betrayal has followed Jewel throughout her adult life. She has not talked to her mother since 2013, although her father has become a presence in her life. He’s been sober for years and has made amends for the way he treated Jewel.

Jewel is a beautiful writer, which should be no surprise considering she writers her own songs.  One of the passages in her book resonated with me more than anything else.

“My advice to anyone struggling with betrayal is don’t let yourself be abused twice. First by the act committed against you, and second by believing it has ruined your ability to experience happiness, trust, or love….Remember that betrayal doesn’t happen to you so much as it happens by someone else.

If you’ve ever doubted that anything is possible, read Jewel’s book. She is truly and amazing woman. One that helped me see that betrayal doesn’t have to change who I am as a person.

Are You a Convenience Friend or a Real Friend?


When you have continual arranged contact with someone, through work or school for example, an illusion of closeness can occur. It takes a lot less effort to be friends with someone who, through their normal activities, interacts with you frequently than it does when interaction takes planning. You will find that many of these relationships, which I will call “convenience friendships”, feel genuine and easy at the time. In many ways, Facebook friends are friends of convenience. After all, what can be easier than pressing “like” or sending a quick note from your phone? It’s when life events happen that the truth becomes painfully obvious, especially when one party is more committed to the relationship than the other. When you really need people there to support you, convenience friends are rarely there. Unless of course, you are standing in front of them, because you both had to be someplace at the same time.

I’ve learned a lot about people over the past year. Not just from personal experience, but also from talking to others and endless amounts of reading. What I’ve learned is that when you are in a position of power, convenience friendships take on new meaning. Some of this is purposeful but it also is the by-product of our culture. A culture where success, money and status are so important, we innately act in certain ways to protect our position. Some of us are better than it at others. Unless you are prepared for this realization, you can misjudge your relationships in these settings and feel much closer to people than you should.

When you have something that’s important to you, for example your employment, status in a social circle, etc., you may find it impossible to reconcile information that conflicts with how you view the world around you. It’s similar to a Detective who decides early in an investigation, “the husband did it”. Information contrary to this theory is ignored, in favor of supporting the preliminary hypothesis. Admitting things were not as you initially perceived is difficult for anyone. If this acceptance challenges your relationships or your work, it is much easier to vilify someone or something than admit you’ve been fooled. No person is the summation of one comment or action. Yet we as a group, often shame those around us or simply ignore them, because doing so is much easier. If life is a puzzle and one piece is difficult to fit, many of us will simply give up on the puzzle. This is especially true of friends of convenience and those that judge without compassion. When you realize this, you begin to accept not all people are guilty, not all things that happen are just and what people tell you may not always be true. The world begins looking like a different place.

What we all need are friends who make time for us, who want to be there to offer support. Even if they have to drive somewhere or take time out of their weekend. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few of these, some near, some far. But I’ve also struggled with disappointment and hurt when convenience friends disappeared from my life. I am sure you have too. The difference is that I now know the difference. Will you?