July 21, 2011

Sticker Pickers

Do any of you have bumper stickers on your car?

I have two.  One is the name of my daughter’s school.  The other is a pro-life message.  It says “I think, therefore I am:  brainwaves detectable at 40 days.”  Basically it’s a biology lesson.  Nothing challenging or confrontational, just biology.

So why did some passerby feel compelled to tear it off my bumper last night and past it, upside-down, on my windshield?

I live in a lovely neighborhood.  People on my block tend their lawns, keep their gardens tidy (well, not me, but my neighbors do) and their walkways are clear of debris. They park their cars in front of their homes, and you can read a lot of bumper stickers as you stroll down the street.  All of them intact and in their proper place.

All but mine, that is.

So why me?  Why my bumper sticker?  What’s the problem, guys?

I guess we all know the answer to that one.  If my car were plastered with stickers praising abortion, no one would bat an eye.  I might even get a thumbs up from one of my liberal neighbors.  But no.  I have the unmitigated nerve to remind people that a baby’s brainwaves can be measured before birth.  And that puts me on the “fair target for vandals” list.

I’ve had similar problems before.  During the last presidential election I had a McCain/Palin sign on my lawn.  One morning we woke up to find it covered in Sharpie’d obscenities and Hitler references.   Undaunted, and frankly pretty ticked off, I put up another sign. That one was stolen outright.  (Weirdly, it turned up again a few days later, which made me think some budding young free thinker’s parents had raised hell when they found it.)

So much for freedom of speech in Minneapolis, I thought.  And, sadly, I thought the same thing again when someone messed with my bumper sticker.

What is it about pointing out that unborn babies have brainwaves and heartbeats that so enrages so many of my neighbors?  If one of them were pregnant and a doctor told them, “I’m afraid your baby has no brainwaves,”  wouldn’t they be heartbroken?  So when a bumper sticker- a simple strip of vinyl on the back of a car- points out that babies have brainwaves before birth, what’s the problem?  Why is that message so threatening it has to be removed?

Anyway, I peeled my sticker off the windshield and put it back on the bumper.  We’ll see how long it stays there.

June 30, 2011


It’s finally summer here.  Temps in the 90s and the air as thick as pea soup.  Everyone who can get away with it is either hiding in their air conditioning or flopped down near a lake.

As a displaced East Coaster I’ve never really gotten the hang of lakes.  I used to think they must be the perfect bodies of water.  I mean come on, no salt?    No worries about sharks, either.  How great is that, I thought.

But lakes have let me down.  Sure, they’re not salty. But don’t be fooled by the term “freshwater.”  Very little about the lakes around here is what I’d call “fresh.”  And while there are no sharks there are a lot of weeds– slimy, tangled ones.  Ecch.

On the other hand they’re very pretty to look at.  When they’re in liquid form anyway.  And it’s nice to see people out in kayaks and canoes.  Not that I’d ever consider such activities, but still, it’s nice to see someone doing it.

I tried canoeing once.  I was a Girl Scout.  We went on a four-day canoe trip somewhere.  I got the most amazing sunburn on my thighs that turned into the most amazing tan.  But only on my thighs.  Not much of a payoff for four days cramped in a narrow tin boat paddling for all you’re worth.

So I’m not much of an outdoor person, which means my method of dealing with a heat wave is hiding in the air conditioning as much as possible.    Maybe this means I’ll do a lot of writing, who knows?  In the mean time, I hope the electrical grid holds up.

June 22, 2011

Why I Love Book Clubs

Because they’re fun.  Often downright jolly.  And some of them, like the one I spoke to last night, have great food, great conversation and Bellinis.

Let me repeat that:  Bellinis.

Last night I drove down to Savage, MN to speak to a book club hosted by Kathy Lerick.  Kathy  had read BWtP, which of course means she has excellent taste in books.  But much to my delight she was also a fabulous hostess.  You should have seen the spread she set out for her friends:  bruschetta, stuffed mushrooms, sausages and cheeses, little individual pizzas, and– oh God bless you, Kathy- cannolis.

The scent of these cannolis was so distracting I couldn’t get through my talk without breaking down and begging for one.   So the very patient members of the book club got to listen to me talk with my mouth full of cannoli cream for a while.  I apologize for my bad manners, ladies.  But not for craving a cannoli.

I love talking to book clubs.  I always learn something about “Breakfast with the Pope” that I didn’t know before.  It’s amazing how many different insights readers come up with. I always go home wiser.  And it  warms my heart to see how may different ways “Breakfast with the Pope” speaks to so many different people.

Do you have a book club?  Do you want to talk about “Breakfast with the Pope?”  And do you have any cannolis?  Give me a shout, I’d love to come!

June 13, 2011

Going Network!

Our ad for “BWtP” goes out on the Relevant Radio network today.  Hello, Chicago!  Greetings, Green Bay!  Hiya Iowa!

It’s a slightly odd experience hearing my own voice on the radio at 8 o’clock in the morning.  I may need to make stronger coffee this week.  And if it’s odd for me, imagine how it must be for the dogs.  They looked a little confused.

Oh well, they’ll get used to it.  I think.

June 10, 2011

The Joy of Book Clubs

Yesterday I talked to a book club at a church in North St. Paul.

Let me just say this:  anyone who thinks a book club is a dull place ought to drop in on these ladies.

They had all read “BWtP” cover to cover.  They knew every word.  And they had  a lot of questions.

The first of which, I ust admit, took me aback.

“Well,”  I said, smiling.  “Who wants to go first?”

And an older woman with sweet smile rounded on me and said, “Why don’t you like ‘Aida’?”

Really, I was momentarily stunned.  I’d forgotten all about the little discourse I gave on Verdi’s biggest hit in “BWtP.”  To wit, “I hate that opera.”  I had to think fast.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s this:  never, ever, ever tangle with an opera fan.  Forget everything you’ve ever heard about soccer fans, there are no fans like opera fans.  Audiences at La Scala in Milan, if displeased with a performance, have been known not only to boo the performers off the stage, they have been know to run them off the stage.  So for all I knew, I was about to be chased out of the book club’s conference room.

When I thought about why I hate Aida, basically my reason came down to this:  I just don’t like the music.  So I said, “Well, basically I just don’t like the music.”

The book club lady frowned.  “I love the music,”  she said.

So there we were at an impasse.

“Aida,” for anyone who’s interestd, is an opera by Giuseppe Verdi.  It was commissioned by Isma’il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, and had its first performance in Cairo at the Khedivial Opera House in 1871.

I’ll let Wikipedia sum up the plot:

“Aida, an Ethiopian princess, is captured and brought into slavery in Egypt. A military commander, Radames, struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. To complicate the story further, Radames is loved by the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris, although he does not return her feelings.”  Of course, it all comes to a tragic end.

For many opera fans “Aida” is the ultimate  “Grand opera.”  And it is grand, in the sense that it is long, huge, overblown, and in some productions even features elephants marching across the stage.  You can’t get any grander than elephants.

In my own defense all I’m going to do here is link the Triumphal March here, from the Metropolitan Opera’s production (1989).  You be the judge whether this defines “over the top” or not.

“Aida” Trimphal March

“Aida” was such a huge hit that even people who have never set foot inside an opera house know some of its melodies, especially the Triumphal March.  Basically “Aida” is in your world whether you like it or not.  So, now that I think of it, I guess I’d better get used to it.

All right, opera fans. I apologize. I will never again say a mean thing about  “Aida.”  I  am not saying I will learn to love it although I will always love the elephants.  But I will stop making spear-carrier jokes.

Anyway, the lovely lady relented, and I was permitted not only to live (thank you!) but to give my talk as well.  I’m telling you, there’s nothing like a book club for lively discussion.

June 7, 2011

Summer Schedule

As in, I don’t think I have a good one yet.

Before I became a mom I never thought it was hard to write in the summer.  Oh sure, nice weather and beaches and cookouts conspired to drag me away from my laptop.  But I could till get a few pages in every day, no matter what.

Now, of course,  that’s all changed.  In addition to the usual siren songs there is the ferrying of a smallish person to daycamps and malls and playdates to add to the mix.  All these activities cut into prime writing time, at least for me.  I suppose if I were more a nightowl daycamp wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m not, so it is.

Right now my daughter is not in a daycamp.  No, in this first week of summer she looks to me for entertainment.  Fortunately we have our favorite carpenter working here today, so she’s upstairs “helping” him.  But between the kid and the carpenter I’ve been on call since the beginning of the week.  “Do you want me to move this?”  “Did you order the whatchamacallit?”  “Can we call Patty and Oscar and order a pizza?”

But I’ve learned something this week.  Something I never dreamed could be even bearable  turns out to be a godsend:  gardening.

It’s not that I mind the work so much.  What I mind is the failure.  The simple fact is I am not a gardener.  I have no luck with green things.  Plants look at me and die.  RIP, a couple dozen rosemary bushes, at least.

But talk about a respite from Writer-Mommy life!

NO ONE wants to help you weed.  NO ONE wants to help you lug plants around and stick them in the ground.  And God forbid you should ever expect a little assistance repositioning the sprinkler.  Families are perfectly happy to leave you in peace once they see you heading outside with a  trowel and a pair of canvas gloves.  In fact many families take it as a signal to head for the hills.

So I may actually have a few green things growing in the yard this summer.   If I can figure out a way to hide my iPad in the weeds, I might finish the next book on schedule, too.

May 6, 2011

Internet Back! Time to Leave!

Just when the net gets up and running again at our little hotel it’s time to move on to Milan.  So again, light blogging.

I did get to pay my respects at the tombs of Dante and Michelangelo yesterday.  Said hi to Machiavelli, too, he looked a little lonely.

April 26, 2011

Techie Stuff

I have to contact my blog guru.  I hope to blog from my iPad in future and apparently I need his imprimatur to do this.

In the meantime, if I seem a little slow here, please do check out my other blog, Desperate Irish Housewife.  Desperate’s the one who go t invited to the Vatican blognic next week- not BWTP.  Go figure, huh?

April 23, 2011


I leave for Rome in three days.  That’s three days to finish the to-do list.  Which is at least six days long.

The mail needs answering, the house needs cleaning, and the dog needs butt repair (don’t ask).  Plus finding  all those little “travel” things like adapters and earplugs and phrase books.  Also I should probably plant those little rosemary bushes I bought three weeks ago.  Set them free!

I am so excited at the prospect of going to Italy with my family.  I’m a little nervous about it, too- keeping a 5th grader entertained without playdates for two weeks will be a challenge.  I wonder how you say “one more argument and you’re off the computer for three days” in Italian?

I bet if I listen carefully I’ll hear some Italian mother saying it– more than once.  Back in New York days I got the idea that if I repeated everything my friend Kasia said to her two boys I might learn some Polish.  I tried it for a few days, and was getting the hang of her most frequent phrases, when I realized my plan was probably not a great idea.  It seemed the only Polish phrases I ever repeated were “stop that,”  “put that down,”  and “Who asked you?”    I guess a mom’s vocabulary is pretty standard in any language.

I hope my daughter loves Italy as much as her dad and I do.  I think she will.  She’s a major foodie, and where could a foodie be happier?  She is also proud of her recently acquired Michelangelo knowledge, and seeing his work up close and personal should be a thrill.  I know it will be for me.  The last time I was in Florence I stared at the “David” for about two hours.  I only left because the museum was closing.

Yesterday she asked me how old do you have to be to drink coffee.  “Gee, I don’t know,” I said.  “We grew up drinking tea.  I never had coffee until I went to Italy for the first time.”

Hmmm… maybe she’s ready for her first espresso.

April 21, 2011

And On That Note

I.e., the desperate plea for prayerful help, I am signing off until after Easter.  Have a life-changing Triduum, all.  And Happy Easter!