Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Promise to Return

Mauve Daylilies with Yellow Throats, 2015

Mauve Daylilies with Yellow Throats, 2015

I began to shape this post in Mid-September, around the time shadows grew, light waned and plantings began to lose color and die off.

One of my greatest pleasures and passions is gardening. From early April to mid October, every time I enter my front garden filled with an array of perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees, I am immersed in a spectrum of colors, shapes, and smells. Daily, I scan and take stalk of each bed. I look for blooms and insects. I consider what plant needs deadheading, cutting back, or water.

I note leaves. Are they wilted or firm? Each plant has the potential to invoke its own sense of gratitude. Shower a drooping zinnia; and within minutes, its head will lift, its leaves will splay with vitality. My wide, dapple-leaved Daphne shrub, a six-year survivor of three, gets first prize for beauty and resilience.

Mornings in July, I resonate with the intoxicating rhythms of sun-lit lilies—purple, red, effervescent yellow, and peach. Their lace-fringed petals, vibrant throats, nubile stamens fuel my gratitude. At day’s end, when a blossom has twisted and closed, I note with gratitude the eloquence of its soft coil.

Labor Day weekend, a marker of summer’s end, I needed a memory maker, a new space to explore, something to lift my spirits. Marv and I searched out and found the walking path around Waban Lake, adjacent to Wellesley College in the next town. The trail was mixed— at first, urban, cared for by the college groundskeepers, wide, even and pretty. But in short order, it shifted. Dirt based, slopping and rugged with varied leafy and evergreen trees, the feel was at once familiar, reminiscent of long ago campfire girl camp hikes at Camp Hitinowa on Lake Cobboseecontee in Lichfield, Maine.

We walked with caution on the uneven terrain thick with tree roots, when the forest cleared and we came upon a stone, castle-like mansion with a front yard hillside of sculptured trees facing the lake. I marveled at the thought of the bevy of gardeners on ladders, the balanced effort it must have taken to shape these trees into thick, round discs reaching skyward. The effect was old world, perhaps, French, leaving me to wonder about the marvel of contrasts, how a new trail can engender the unexpected.

The property’s walkway was groomed, wide and even, bounded by a likeside stonewall. Along the edge of the perimeter, I came upon several thick lily beds with a rich harvest of sticks. No markers for the colors that had gone-by, I could only imagine the lush foliage. The stretch was sunny, facing the bucolic lake, an ideal location for lilies to flourish. I was at once at home, delighted to come upon the familiar yellowing leaves—grateful for my day’s quest and the promise to return and witness their blooms come summer.


Engaging the Mind: A Good Book

Faye Snider @ Newton Public Library Stacks

Faye Snider @ Newton Free Library Stacks

It’s been a long time since I’ve settled into a long read with a book that compels me. Valentine’s weekend, anticipating the forecasted dip into an artic freeze, I climbed the winding stairs to the Newton Free Library’s second floor lined with shelves of books.

The impulse to roam and cull the library stacks began in adolescence—the beginning of my separation from my close and loving mother and a sheltered home life. The freedom to discover and dip into stories, to savor and sample the details of stranger’s lives, was intoxicating. I did not know then that to choose a title such as Madam Curie: A Biography, would propel me into the life of a female physicist/chemist in France, her struggle as a woman in science, her happenstance discovery of radium metal in pitchblende, earning the honor as the first woman awarded the Nobel Prize.

I am grateful for the memory of curling up in a wing chair, eager to enter Madam Curie’s world. She was unlike any woman I had ever known— a mother, dedicated to her professional work—brave, engaged, compelling and oh, so smart in her mindful attention to detail. As I researched for this blog post, recalling the challenges and trajectory of her life, I realized that of course, she died as a result of exposure to the radiation emitting from the test tubes of radium she unwittingly carried in her pocket.

I prefer a true-to-life experience in the works I choose. In the stacks last week, I began my search with the name of an author suggested by a friend. The author did not appeal to me and in an instant, I entered an exploratory mode, methodically attending to other titles and reading first pages until I landed on The Gathering by Anne Enright.

I cannot tell you exactly why I chose Enright’s book. The fact that it was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2007 caught my attention. It takes place in Ireland, which conjured the memory of a bucolic-green landscape, stone-walls shielding a rural two-lane road, people of wit and warmth, with poetic sensibility.

Enright is masterful in her ability to move between the past and present, the imagined and real. In all spheres, she is aware of relationships and their effect from multiple perspectives. She is, above all, mindful. In the very beginning, on page four, I note how she pays particular attention to her protagonist’s perspective of her childhood home—The house knows me. Always smaller than it should be; the walls run closer and more complicated than the ones you remember. The place is always too small.

I read The Gathering slowly. Enright’s lyrical, mystical writing demands it. Akin to listening to slow music, the rhythm dictates attentiveness. The varied beat of her language, the languor of her imagery lulls me to drift along, while the surprise as characters emerge and fade bolts me wide-awake. I am grateful for the ease of turning each page, the engagement of The Gathering.


Weighing In on Albright & Steinem’s Messages

Albright & Steinem

Albright & Steinem

The day after the New Hampshire election, Adam Riley, a reporter for WGBH, Boston, reported on a story about two young women who had been offended by Madeleine Albright’s declaration, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support one another.”

Only a few days before, Gloria Steinem, offered her retro explanation of young women’s support of Bernie Sanders, “When you’re young, you’re thinking: Where are the Boys? The Boys are with Bernie.”

Both Albright and Steinem’s comments were widely reported and one— the fact that Albright had been repeating her “hell” comment for years and “never gotten a negative response before” —got me pondering.

I hate being shamed. Five years older than Albright and a year older than Steinem, I totally identify with the younger women. I was a chubby child and a shaming comment from a girlfriend about my weight was part and parcel of how I learned to reject shaming and value my right to be accepted for who I was.

The same can said for these young women. Riley noted that the women were so upset, they vowed not to vote at all if Hillary became the nominee. When an older woman, a “grandmother type” like Albright chastises the younger generation for disloyalty to gender in this age of Facebook, Twitter and U-Tube transparency, it’s gender/feminist politics from another era misplaced.

I am grateful to have lived through that time when Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem birthed the feminist movement. These women mentored me from afar. “Freidan’s book, The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963, the year my second child, a daughter was born. I was 31 years old, with an MSW in psychiatric social work, missing and wanting to continue in my career while needing and desiring to be a hands on mother, “exceptional” cook and wife. Friedan’s first chapter caught me up short, “We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says, I want something more than my husband and my children and my home. She spoke to me; she still does.

The fact is that millennial women— like my social worker daughter and her two daughters—were raised with the right of a woman to explore her own passions and point of view. I am grateful that Steinem apologized once she appreciated her implied insult to young women.

To her credit, Albright also reflected upon the effect of her words. In a New York Times opinion piece titled My Undiplomatic Moment, she states, “ I understand that I came across as condemning those who disagree with my political preferences.” She continues, “…while young women may not want to hear anything more from this aging feminist, I feel it is important to speak to women coming of age at a time when a viable female presidential candidate, once inconceivable, is a reality.”

I am grateful for Albright’s candid response and her mindful assessment of the timely need for women of all ages to come together and have a conversation about how to preserve what women have gained, including the right to make our own choices, and how to move forward together.

Additional Commentary:

My Undiplomatic Moment

  Not Their Mother’s Candidate






I’m Sick & Tired of Women Being Berated for Raised Voices

Hillary & Bernie @ MSNBC Debate

Hillary & Bernie @ MSNBC Debate

Eager to read the morning after feedback about the MSNBC debate between Hillary and Bernie, I clicked onto the New York Times on line. One header leapt out— “Clinton Raises Her Voice and a Debate over Sexism Rages.”

The Times columnist, Amy Chozick cites Bob Woodward, the veteran Washington Post Editor. “She shouts…there was something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating.” Rather than addressing the content of Hillary’s impassioned words, Woodward critiques further,” I think it has to do a lot with style and delivery.”

Who, today is writing about Bernie’s oratory style, his scowling, “make no mistake,” imperative style? To my ear, Bernie’s emphatic presentations rely on the shout out— the raised voice, the pointed finger, the “truth’s the truth” imperative.

During the debate, Bernie epitomized the wise man, his Einstein-wild, white hair groomed, his suit, dark and freshly pressed. He appears presidential while Hillary, blond, softly coiffed, white pearls at her neck and ears, cannot be “soft” in this debate. She knows what is coming. She is prepped and she needs to make herself heard over the rasping critics.

The issue here is not style but content and how it is, on balance, that when a woman (or girl) is fervent, needing to be heard, raises her voice— her God given high pitched voice— the issue becomes her pitch, the key and tone, not the content.

How we absorb sound is central to this dilemma. Elevated noise—a jack hammer, a fire engine’s sudden blare, a sonic boom, can cause stress. The body has no defense against sound; we feel the vibrations. When I raise my voice in conversation, my husband reacts with discomfort. I want to be heard. I tone it down.

When Hillary raised her voice during the debate to ascertain her point, I applauded her shout out. As Bernie listened, he frowned and it was familiar, the grimace, his discomfort, signaling a sense of judgment in my mind’s eye.

In contrast, Bernie’s tone is lower in range. According to Linda Lowen, who writes about Women, Voice Pitch, Authority and Gender Bias, “to gain authority, women have long believed that it’s better to pitch their voices lower.”

Sound is vibration. In his book, Healing At the Speed of Sound, Don Campbell writes, “So many aural influences affect our mood without our realizing it. When sounds are layered one over the other, their decibels combining and their sound waves colliding, we can start to grind our teeth, snap at our partners, and lose our tempers without knowing why.” It may be that a lower pitched voice is easier for our bodies and psyches to absorb.

An insightful client once remarked in a session, “Tone is everything.”

I am grateful this day for both Hillary & Bernie’s tone. They are cut from similar cloth— post World War II, both experienced and wise about the dire effect of disregard and disengagement, the essential need to speak out.


A Special Kindness


Three Times a Day


There are days when gratitude is illusive, when the body is ailing and the psyche turns inward for solace. Gratitude is not a given. It needs to be courted and embraced.

Recently, I struggled with a cough from a cold that wouldn’t let up. I pride myself with a fair knowledge of alternative products and have a decent track record in managing seasonal onslaughts with homeopathic and herbal products. After days of feeling frustrated and stuck, I decided it was time to head to my local Whole Foods to check out the possibility of something new.

I hoped for and found Sue bent over in the aisle, sorting the inventory. In the past, she had suggested the perfect salve for a skin outbreak, the perfect shade of makeup.

“Sue, I need something for my cough and congestion. I can’t shake it,” I said.

She began moving up the aisle, pointing out and describing. “How about one of these coughs syrups? An expectorant?” Her voice was raspy, her eyes, fatigued.

“ I’m set on cough syrup. You sound like you have what I have.”

“I do. It’s going around.”

She moved fast; I moved with her and it seemed like we had run the gamut when I noticed a fresh blue box, a homeopathic “cold care” product that could be sipped, like tea.

I liked the idea of tea. The image was soothing.

Sue grinned at my choice. “Everyone here who’s been sick is using this, plus my whole family. Be sure to mix the packet well in 6 ounces of hot water.”

That afternoon, I sipped two cups of the “tea.” Within minutes, I felt more energy and coughed less. On three cups a day, the healing has continued.

Am I grateful? Certainly, for feeling better but more, for Sue’s kindness. In spite of her own state, she took the time to review at least a half dozen products until we came upon what seemed right.

In a few days, my head cleared and  I found myself reflecting upon and writing about our encounter. When I completed a draft,  I wanted to thank her in person and ask permission to use her name.

Again, I headed out, hoping she’d be at work and she was. I felt awkward, a little shy and nervous. What if she wasn’t comfortable with my request?

“Sue, I want to thank you for suggesting the Umcka. I’m much better. How are you?”

“Oh, so much better,” she said, grinning, as she told me about a special outing the day before with her daughter.

“I so appreciate how you extended yourself given how you felt. I write a weekly gratitude blog and have written a story about how you helped me. Would it be all right to use your name?”

As she listened, Sue’s right hand went to her heart. Patting her chest, she said, “Of course, and you are so kind to tell me….Especially today, it means so much to know what I do is worthwhile. I am filled to the brim.”