Friday, July 18, 2014

                                    Happy Birthday, Sarah!                                  

Nephew Jeremy with his wife Sarah

                                  Happy Birthday, Carmel!

Jerry and Carmel at Eric's graduation, 2014

Jerry and Carmel's Wedding, 1976

Carmel's wedding shower

                                           Happy Birthday, Mutti!

M's Joey Heatherton look, February 1978
My sister-in-law gave me this poem which I thought so beautiful and appropriate in tribute to my mother on her second birthday after her passing.
Your mother is always with you.
She's the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street.
She's the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself.
She's the cool hand on your brow when you're not feeling well.
She's your breath on the air on a cold winter's day.
She's the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, Christmas morning.
Your mother lives inside your laughter.
She's the place you came from, your first home, and the map you follow with every step you take.
She's your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy,
but nothing on earth can separate you -- not time, not space -- not even death.
Happy Birthday, Mutti! 
With Carol at Joey and Carol's wedding
With Jerry at his wedding
With Mickey at Janie's wedding
With Linda getting ready for her wedding

Te Quiero Dijiste, The Three Tenors, Los Angeles, California

I'm Going Home, Hank Williams Sr.

July is my family's biggest month for birthdays.  Happy Birthday to Mickey, Nikki, Mutti, Carmel, and Sarah.  As we celebrated Mickey's 60th, it's on to Nikki's. 

What has struck us all is how our niece, Nicole, looked just like her mother, Jane, for most of her young life.  Some examples:

Janie's first Christmas, 1964

When I first held Janie, I immediately knew I wanted to be a Pediatrician.  And since, we were inseparable as I took her out in her carriage, taught her to walk and talk, potty train, color, and play.  I'd sew her little Shirley Temple outfits, and when it was time for school, my mother never had to worry about Janie's homework until I was off to college five years later.  How I loved her!

She was the apple of my eye, as Nicole, her daughter, would be.  As I took on the role of surrogate mother when Janie asked to me to take care of Nicole if anything were to happen to her as she had become very ill.  When Janie died, Nicole was seven.

Note the resemblance between mother and daughter:

Nicole's First Christmas, 1992 
Janie, a flower girl at three years old

Nicole's third birthday party
Nicole at eight years old

                                          And now a beautiful young lady...
Happy 22nd Birthday, Nicole!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What's in a name? Especially, Petra?

While born in Elmshorn, Germany in 1951, I was given the name Petra, a common German name. My father, a Yugoslavian who had been stationed in Hamburg, Germany while in the British Army, met and married my mother on her family's small farm in Elmshorn, approximately a half hour away from Hamburg.

Well, as noted in My Schism with Ism personal essay,;postID=901407424762703361;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=1;src=postname "Not normally affable to narcissism...," I find it interesting to look back at the somewhat slow and bewildering journey in discovering and accepting my name. 

In 1952, my parents, myself at a year old, and my brother with whom my mother was pregnant, left Germany to begin a new life in America..

Those cheeks are a dead giveaway that I had been born on a farm.
My siblings who followed each year thereafter are Jaroslav, Joel, Mielan, Linda, then Jane in 1964. My brother had the most difficult time with his very Slavic name though he'd already been nicknamed Jerry by us.  Joel became Joey, and Mielan, Mickey.  As our neighborhood had been very Italian, as well as Irish and Jewish and since Milan was a familiar Italian city, he didn't receive the onslaught of name jokes. Linda and Jane had the least difficult time as they were typical American names, although Linda was shortened for my mother's, Gerlinda. 

Back to Petra. I often complained to my family and closest friends on how much I wished for a more familiar name.  I personally knew no one with that name.  My mother reminded me that there were many in Germany, but I had no relatives by that name, nor pen pals. 
In school I'd been complimented regularly by my teachers who were proud to have such a wonderful student, but a boy who sat in front of me in my 4th and 5th grade homerooms and had been left back three times and three sizes too tall and mature for his desk, would tease me daily when he'd turn with his usual greeting, "Morning Petrified;" a word I'd learned was to turn something to stone.  Ugh!  It was getting worse, not better. 

I consider myself more spiritual now, but then, I learned from the Bible, the disciple Peter, was the rock, but, yet, no connection to my name was made.  It was in the 8th grade on my first day of school, my homeroom teacher had each of us introduce ourselves to our new classmates, which pretty much contained most students from previous years.  When she came to me, she made the declaration which would change my life. "Did you know, class, Petra is the feminine of Peter?  A beautiful name, Petra." Stunned, I smiled back at her, and thought, Thank you! You don't know how much that means to me! And felt lighter and freer from the spiritual name prison I'd made for myself.  It's getting better.

I then began to research the name, Petra.  My first encounter was with Webster's dictionary definition: rock, of Greek origin. And a city by the name of Petra in the country of Jordan.  I scoured through our encyclopedia Britannica, and beheld some of the most beautiful and intriguing pictures of this very important ancient city which is now one of The Seven Wonders of the World.  I no longer felt the name, Petra, so obscure, and reveled in it for the first time.

Yet, I hadn't met another human with the name, and to make my suggested trip to Germany just to seek out other Petras was silly, but I was serious.  "I'll just have to fly there on my own, Mutti." "One day," she replied.

Then it finally happened. I was about 22 years old when I began working in Manhattan.  Down the hall from my office was another office.  As a door opened and a woman called out to another who was heading for the elevators, "Petra, I'll meet you there in 10 minutes."  As we stood near one another, "Did I hear correctly?  Your name is Petra?"  "Yes," she said. "Why?" "Because  my name is Petra and you're the first Petra I've met in my 22 years of life." "Really?  Why don't you join Diane and me for lunch." "Great."  Once we got started, we couldn't stop.  We shared our different backgrounds, she of Spanish descent (and found it's a very Spanish name), and remained friends until she married and moved out-of-state.

And since, there have been no shortage of Petra sightings. 

The Petra Doll

Made in Germany, der Kurs (of course)! And a cheeky
imitation of the Barbie doll.  Were my sister I surprised and amused when we saw it sitting on a flea market table in New Hope, PA.  I never owned a Barbie doll, and I wasn't about to start with a Petra doll!  But they're out there...

Petra, the band,
is an American music group regarded as a pioneer of the Christian rock and contemporary Christian music genres. Formed in 1972, the band took its name from the Greek word for "rock". Though they disbanded formally in 2006, incarnations of Petra have played reunion shows in the years since and released an album in November 2010. In 2013, the band returned from retirement with a new drummer Cristian Borneo and recorded a new song titled "Holy is Your Name", as well as going back on tour.

The Coloring Song, Petra

PETRA KELLY (Quick Facts)

German politician who helped found Germany's Green Party and was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1982.
PETRA FELKE (Quick Facts)


I Am On the Rock, Petra

A few of my favorite songs which truly represent what and who I am.

My Way, Frank Sinatra (my decision in caring for my elderly parents)

Non, je ne regrette rien, Edith Piaf (in matters of love and life)

A Hard Rains Are Gonna Fall, Bob Dylan (for life and the environment)

Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Bob Dylan (how I felt after coming out of a 3 day/night coma, 1987)

One Step Into the Light, The Moody Blues (my mantra after the coma)

As Time Goes By, Casablanca (written by Herman Hupfield)  (dedicated to wonderful friendships)

Tuna Steaks with Raw Puttanesca Sauce, by Chef Rachael Ray -- mmmmmm, deliziosa!

Rachael's Presentation

The other day, with Rachael on in the background, I heard her talk about puttanesca and tuna, two of my favorite foods.  Not only delicious, but so easy to make.  I'd like to share this simple and delicious recipe; perfect for a summer's dinner.  Below is Rachael's video:


       Tuna Steaks with Raw Puttanesca Sauce, Chef Rachael Ray

  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 4 anchovy filets, minced
  • About 1/4 cup EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup oil-cured olives, pitted and chopped
  • A handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 10 to 12 basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, grated or minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 6-ounce tuna steaks
  • Salt and pepper
Whisk up anchovies and 3 tablespoons EVOO, poured slowly. Add tomatoes, capers, olives, parsley, red onion, basil, garlic and red pepper flakes; stir and let stand 30 minutes.
Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Drizzle fish with remaining olive oil, about 1 tablespoon and season with salt and pepper. Cook fish 2 minutes on each side for rare, up to 4 minutes on each side for more opaque fish. Slice the tuna, arrange on plates and top with lots of raw sauce. 

A few of Rachael Ray's favorite songs:

Brass in Pocket, The Pretenders

Landslide, Fleetwood Mac

What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding, Elvis Costello

Monday, July 7, 2014

Why we loved - and hated - 'Forrest Gump' by Brandon Griggs, CNN

Twenty years later, life is still like a box of chocolates. "Forrest Gump" was released on July 6, 1994, with Tom Hanks playing the title character, a man with child-like innocence and a penchant for stumbling into history.

(CNN) -- It's a heartwarming, epic journey through defining events of the late 20th century, as seen through the eyes of a dim-witted but honorable hero whose life is a testament to small-town American values.

It's an overrated, manipulative tearjerker that glosses over a turbulent period of U.S. history and suggests a simpleton can become a successful businessman, husband and father merely by chance.
With "Forrest Gump," which hit theaters 20 years ago this weekend, there's not much middle ground.
The movie won the best picture Oscar, earned $677 million around the world and is hailed by many as a modern classic, filled with homespun catchphrases like, "My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
But many critics -- and some moviegoers -- hated it. To them, "Forrest Gump" was a simpleminded mix of gooey sentiment and ridiculous flights of fancy. (Forrest suddenly decides to jog back and forth across the country? For three years? Seriously?)
"Robert Zemeckis' ode to 20th century America still represents one of cinema's most clearly drawn lines in the sand," said Entertainment Weekly a decade after the movie's release. "One-half of folks see it as an artificial piece of pop melodrama, while everyone else raves that it's sweet as a box of chocolates."
Twenty years later, the movie remains a cultural touchstone -- and surprisingly polarizing. While some other best picture winners from the '90s ("The English Patient") have faded from memory, it's hard to find someone even now who doesn't have an opinion about "Forrest Gump."
"I think the movie can be read in several different ways," said Sam Wineburg, a professor of history at Stanford University who has co-authored academic papers about the movie's influence. "It can be read as a celebration of American goodness and innocence. And it can also be read as a kind of critique of American naivete and innocence."
Here's a closer look at some of the arguments around "Forrest Gump," both pro and con.
It's a celebration of conservative values
Forrest, as played by Tom Hanks, is the epitome of wholesome decency: a God-fearing, All-American football player and war hero who has no use for the counterculture movements of the late '60s. Despite an IQ of 75, he achieves fame and financial success. He's even from red-state Alabama!
Meanwhile Forrest's childhood sweetheart, Jenny Curran, becomes a promiscuous hippie, joins the anti-war movement, hangs out with the Black Panthers, gets strung out on cocaine, ponders suicide and eventually -- if you need a spoiler alert here, we feel sorry for you -- dies of an unspecified disease.
No wonder many political conservatives embraced the movie. In 2009 the National Review ranked it No. 4 on its list of the 25 best conservative films of the past 25 years.
"It seems the film promotes a very conventional conservative political position," said Daniel Herbert, a professor of media culture at the University of Michigan. "While both Forrest and Jenny experience many of the most notable historical events of the era, Jenny's anti-conformist lifestyle is made to look very unappealing."
Ugh. It panders to audiences
Between Alan Silvestri's swelling score and Hanks' somber voice-overs -- especially at the deaths of three major characters -- "Forrest Gump" wears its emotions on the surface. For many viewers, this worked -- especially during the tear-jerking final scene at Jenny's grave -- but others complained the movie went for cheap sentiment by suggesting to moviegoers how they should feel at each moment.
"This movie is so insistently heartwarming that it chilled me to the marrow," wrote Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. "There are no moral crosswinds here, not a breath of doubt or unease to ruffle the Gump image."
Some critics griped the movie had no nuance, no subtlety, no shades of gray to muddy its simplistic view of the world.
"It is incredibly manipulative ... in what I would say is the most dangerous way, which is manipulation through a sleight-of-hand superficial liberalism; it hides its political conservatism in a good-ole-boy story about a protagonist whose very heroism is totally unconscious, unaware," said Hunter Vaughan, a professor of film theory at the University of Oakland in Rochester, Michigan.
"It is a funny film, a sweet film, and an entertaining film," he added. "But it is a deceptive film, a manipulative film, and (like most best picture winners) a conservative film."
It offers young viewers a valuable history lesson
"Forrest Gump" spans some 30 years and touches on many important chapters in U.S. history, including the Vietnam War, the '60s anti-war movement and the Watergate scandal. Along the way Forrest encounters a young Elvis Presley and three U.S. presidents and even appears to inspire John Lennon's "Imagine" when he meets the ex-Beatle on a talk show.
Some teachers have shown the movie in high school classrooms as a jumping-off point for discussing the '60s and '70s.
No, it airbrushes history
"The film ... simplifies historical events that were incredibly tumultuous and complex," said the University of Michigan's Herbert. By presenting history through the experiences of the slow-witted Forrest, the movie "situates history as something to be felt, emotionally, at the expense of intellectual consideration."
Wineburg, of Stanford, surveyed students about the movie and found that they remembered iconic moments, such as the scene where Forrest accidentally addresses an anti-war protest in Washington and reunites with Jenny. But the students didn't remember how Forrest got there, or understand the scene's historical undercurrent -- that disillusioned Vietnam veterans were instrumental in turning public opinion against the war.
Hey, lighten up! It's just a fable
Many believe "Forrest Gump," adapted liberally from Winston Groom's novel, is not meant to be taken literally. Some viewers see Forrest as a Christ-like figure, especially in the scenes when he's trotting across the country, long-haired and bearded, with a herd of followers behind him.
Even its floating feather, which opens the film, can be seen as a metaphor for the randomness of fate and the direction of one's life.
It was a pioneer in visual effects
"Forrest Gump" received kudos for its unobtrusive and Oscar-winning digital effects that made Gary Sinise's Lt. Dan look like he had no legs and turned a few thousand extras at the Lincoln Memorial into half a million war protesters.
The filmmakers also inserted Hanks seamlessly into archival footage of presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, providing some of the movie's funniest moments.
OK, but it's no 'Pulp Fiction'
Although "Forrest Gump" beat "Pulp Fiction" for the 1994 best picture Oscar, many film scholars rate Quentin Tarantino's film -- with its vivid antiheroes, nonlinear plot and pungent dialogue -- as the better movie.
"Pulp Fiction" and its gallery of colorful criminals didn't stand a chance of winning top honors at the Oscars that year. But Tarantino's brash movie inspired countless imitators.
If you ask a film critic to list the most influential movies of the 1990s, you probably won't hear them mention "Forrest Gump."
Who cares? It's a classic
"Forrest Gump" blends drama, comedy, reality and fantasy into a genre-busting saga that almost defies description. It shouldn't work, but it does.
Its scenes, and lines, are indelible to many of us: "Run, Forrest, run!" "I gotta pee." "Stupid is as stupid does." "That boy sure is a runnin' fool!" "I'm sorry I had to fight in the middle of your Black Panther party." "There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp ..."
The list, and "Forrest Gump's" legacy, goes on and on. And that's all we have to say about that.
I can understand both pov's, but in my opinion, Forrest Gump, entertains which is what Hollywood is about.  Try to get too political, and the film is doomed, although there's been excellent political films, such as The Candidate, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dr. Strangelove, to name just a few.  Forrest Gump touches upon many critical moments in history in a very unique way. 
Just listen to the very liberal soundtrack which, I believe, says it all. 


Friday, July 4, 2014


Surfin' USA, I Get Around, Surfer Girl, Dance, Dance, Dance, The Beach Boys

Country Roads, John Denver

Grease, Frankie Valli

When You're Smiling, Louis Armstrong

Sing, Sing, Sing, Benny Goodman

Yankee Doodle Dandy, James Cagney, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland

4th of July music