Summer Reruns (4)

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. I always hated school….took after my mother who always said that sometimes she still woke up so glad that she didn’t have to go to school. She always encouraged my brother and I to stay home when it was cold…or rainy. She’d just write a note, and we’d sometimes have to argue with her that we should or had to go to school. Suddenly, in the eighth grade, I couldn’t WAIT to get back to that three ring circus. All the “laughers” quickly banded together into what we called the “Mickey Mouse Club”, and we’d gather every Friday night to eat pizza (Chef Boyardi), play Spin the Bottle and recount stories about Sister Alberta from the previous week.
The battles between Sister Alberta and Sister Evarista were both frequent and fascinating. The two of them shared not only the one set of hymnals, but also a little pump organ that had to be carted from Sister Evarista’s chamber of horrors directly below our classroom, up to our bright and sunny insane asylum above.
One day out of the blue, Sister Alberta decided to have a boys choir rehearsal and dispatched Ronald Whitfeld to get the books from Sister Evarista. Whitfeld sprang to action and returned minutes later…sans books, and a message from Sister. ” She said she’s using them”…the reply to which was ” Well tell her that I need them….NOW”. Off he flew again, only to sheepishly tell her in a shaky little voice that Sister said she could not have them. At this point Sister Alberta proceeded to the center of our classroom, shoved a few desks and their inhabitants aside, hiked up the bottom of her habit, and stomped on the floor like she was trying to put out a brush fire. The desk lids flew open and howls could be heard from aisle to aisle. Little did Sister know however that soon she would once again have bigger fish to fry. The pump organ was eventually delivered along with the hymn books, and it was clearly evident that one of the keys was missing. All hell broke lose.
Sister Evarista denied that the damage occurred under her watch, and many of us thought that the two of them might actually begin to wrestle. At this point any sort of scholastic program was tossed to the wind for at least a week. People were lined up to take another oath…coats were searched, every desk was ransacked and the search for the missing key turned Sister Alberta apoplectic. She had her suspicions..ranging from Hipsy Gibbons to the trembling Ronald Whitfeld whose door duties increased dramatically as Sister’s blood pressure skyrocketed. Many of Sister’s inquisition tactics struck me as hilarious, and as a consequence there were extra prayers added to our daily routine…and many of them targeted me. ” Now we’ll say an extra Hail Mary for the boy who doesn’t trust Saint Anthony” or ” Now we’ll say an extra prayer for the boy who doesn’t like the Blessed Mother”. I guess I felt a little awkward praying for myself, and one day stood with my hands in a really sloppy “prayer position”, I was aware that Sister was quietly gliding through the aisles towards me, but I was still startled to hear the rustle of her veil directly behind me as she said very softly…”you demon”.
Please stay tuned.


……Seems Donald ought to be talking TO the black community instead of talking ABOUT them to white audiences.
……Ann Coulter is a man.
……Woof still stops and stares when we pass the donut shop on our walks.
……There are some things that dogs just can’t understand.
……There are some things that none of us can understand.
……Our little group of 10 year olds once decided to form a circle around the neighborhood bully…and on the count of three we’d jump in and beat him up.
…….Guess who was the only one who jumped in.
…….Guess who got beaten up.
…….Most of the annuals will have more vivid colors as the sun doesn’t hit them as hard in the coming weeks.
…….Is it really humid this morning or am I just having hot flashes.
…….Once certain words are spoken….they seem to become etched forever in our minds.
……..Sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s tragic.
……..Spending time at Lake Erie in the summer began with my grandmothers on both my mom’s side and my dad’s. Watching the sun set on the water always feels both comforting and familiar.
……..Stop telling me not to worry about the fish in the backyard pond. It’s what Woof and I do.
……..I’m hooked on politics again….so many brilliant statements and so many absolutely stupid ones.
……..Chris takes good pictures of flowers and butterflies.
……..Watching ” The Ghost and Mr. Chicken ” is a hilarious break from politics.
……..Love people who celebrate their birthdays….no matter how high the number.
……..I’m always just glad to be alive for mine.
……..Woof is afraid to go to the annual blessing of the animals at our local church….Teddy told her that they take your temperature at those events.
……..Floating in an inner tube last week made me fell like I was 10.
……..The Prosecca kinda changed the experience.
……..My friend Al says his dad used to tell him to “bring your face up here so I can smack it” when he was being bad in the back seat.
……..Gave my Mom’s robe to the cleaning lady last week…she had tears in her eyes.
……..Finally came up with a drag name for my Christmas card this year.
……..No…you can’t have a hint.
……..Pools closing any day now…I REALLY hate that. Summer seems to last for a long time yet..thanks to that non existent global warming stuff.
……..Woof sits under my desk when I do these crazy blogs.
……..”Spellcheck” on my computer never heard the word BLOG.
……..I guess my computer is kinda old.
……..The vegetable harvest is humongous this year.
……..Do people really eat Kale?
……..I’d prefer seaweed.
……..Time to pot ups the poinsettia cuttings.

summer reruns (3)

As the first few weeks of school unfolded the battle lines became frighteningly clear. Our eighth grade became divided into three groups…the meek and humble victims who sat in shock and awe….the “laughers” or “mockers”, who, early on were herded into about three rows together and told to open their desk tops and hide there heads inside whenever they felt the urge to laugh, chuckle, or howl….and the wildly unpredictable Sister Alberta. I say unpredictable because of my crystal clear memory of several of her most memorable moments. My friend Paul was a saintly young man even then, and actually ended up a real priest who undoubtedly had to deal with some PTSD that Sister was responsible for.
Now all of you members of the true church will remember that when receiving Communion, one had to fast from midnight the night before, so when we attended Mass every morning before school, anyone who went to Communion would then be permitted to bring their breakfast to the classroom and enjoy showing off their holiness to the rest of the class. Paul never missed Communion, and also never brought anything but a gourmet breakfast in a very large lunchbox. Paul’s sainted mother packed him little fruit cups, cereal with a jar of milk with waxed paper on top, delicious looking muffins..the whole nine yards. Sister loved Paul,,,held him up as a contrast to people like me…and besides calling for applause for him regularly, she doted on him.
Until one dark day when she turned on him. I never did know what his offense was, but suddenly she stood towering over him and bellowed ” Just look at him..”.EAT EAT EAT EAT EAT” Poor Paul almost choked on his croissant. From then on he trembled with each bite of his deviled eggs.
My experiences of Sister’s inexplicable mood changes came about because I played the organ for the girls choir rehearsals. Sister Evarista directed that group of robotic little girls, and Sister Alberta directed the boys choir. There was bad blood from the get go. I would be called out of class several afternoons a week for the choir, and Sister generally liked the idea. If she was in a reasonably sane mood, she would say things like..”Now isn’t it nice to see that boy use his talents this way”….or “the rest of you should learn to do something useful like that boy does”. Of course when the other shoe fell I often hear her say “show-off” as I exited the classroom.
One of the most destructive turns of the screw undoubtedly was her episode with Jane Gibbons. Jane was a shy import from the public school who joined us around October. I remember her as a Janis Ian type…not part of any group, very self-conscious, not pretty…always under the radar. When Sister asked for us to volunteer our mothers to make something for the choir boy party, Jane uncharacteristically said that her mother would make taffy apples…24 of them. Well BINGO..Jane was the new golden girl. As the date for the party approached everything was Jane Jane Jane…applause was often ringing in the ears of this newly crowned queen of the classroom. It was however, short-lived. The big day arrived and Jane arrived empty handed and loaded with excuses. All hell broke loose that day. For the rest of the year she was tortured…called “hipsy Gibbon” when she brushed against a desk and knocked the pencils off, glared at when words such as “liar” or “ruin” came up, and forever held up as an example of failure. Jane vanished after we graduated…probably off the face of the earth…disgraced forever.
The only thing that ever saved one of us was the explosion that always lurked around the corner, and people like Paul and Jane were often saved by the next crisis. In one such case right after lunch Sister Alberta came storming into the classroom, turned off the lights, told us to be very quiet, and commanded Whitfeld to silently sneak out the door and “crawl on your belly if necessary” to the rectory..and “tell Father McDonough that there is a young wolf in the playground”. I think it was Paul who said softly that what she was seeing was a lab that belonged to one of the kids, he was quickly dismissed, and we were told that we might have to remain in the classroom far into the night until the wolf was destroyed. The desk lids went up as we laughers tried to be quiet, and the rest of the class was told to duck down while the window shades were drawn. Can you imagine what it was like when your Mom and Dad would say “How was school today?” ?

summer reruns (2)


Thus the die was cast, with my silent cousin sitting at his desk…frozen in time…(actually his classroom was originally used as a storage room…underground except for three small windows near the ceiling ). It was a perfect backdrop for Sister Evarista, a place off to itself where she could rule with her huge iron fist, and it was also directly underneath Sister Alberta’s room where my fate would soon be decided.

We prayed a lot in Catholic school. Once when we arrived, before and after recess, before and after lunch, and before we were dismissed. One of the first proclamations made was that we would begin to pray for the one among us who would be first to die. On that cheery note, Sister Alberta told us in her most solemn tone that the most important thing for us to do was to have a notebook ready at all times. This would be used to record important thoughts that she would impart to us at various times during the day, Now we might be in the middle of singing “Sweet Betsy from Pike” while Sister strummed the Autoharp, when she would say…”Take out your notebooks….write this down..” In a trance like state she once said…” When a nun dies…her feet look like wax”. With that, we’d continue singing, most of us,,,but some of us would laugh.

Therein was the core of a catastrophic situation. I had unfortunately made a shady impression on Sister Alberta before I had even stepped into the classroom and it was downhill from then on.

I left seventh grade with the Sally Field-like Sister Marie Elise, whom I loved, appointing me the captain of the Patrol Boys for the upcoming year. Very early into the first week of school, Sister Alberta said “get out your notebooks and write this down……We’ll SEE about the captain.” Fortunately for me sometimes Sister had bigger fish to fry. Jane Burd sat near the front of the classroom, and her asthma would act up when she laughed…and while a lot of us would be getting little cracks with Sisters ruler..(just little reminders),,,Jane would start to wheeze. Sister Alberta would then spin around and say..” Who’s that hissing like a serpent?”

Jane would then simply hold her breath and turn red until Sister relented.

Another little wisp of a boy quickly became indispensable to Sister Alberta. Ronald Whitfeld weighed about 90 pounds and was absolutely terrified of Sister. She relegated the task of opening and closing the classroom door to Ronald…sat him in the first row, and kept him incredibly busy opening and closing the door. Both Sister Alberta and Sister Evarista were very big nuns…in full habit of course, and consequently always hot. Out of the blue Sister would bellow ” OPEN THE DOOR WHITFIELD ! ” and Ronald would leap to his feet….perhaps three minutes later… ” CLOSE THE DOOR WHITFIELD ! ” This went on constantly, Ronald Whitfeld was on duty and very busy from 8 until 3.

With barely a week under our belts, the first real disaster struck. Paul Chenot gave a correct answer about Saint Lucy’s eyeballs being gouged out ( Sister loved tales like that ) and we were all told to applaud. So thirty-nine of us clapped..and someone booed. Sister Alberta threw her LIVES OF THE SAINTS onto her desk and demanded that the booer identify themself at once. You could have heard a pin drop…but nary a sound from anyone. We were quickly herded into a long line…marched one by one up to the front of the classroom where we stood and pronounced the following oath. ” I CAN LOOK AT THE CRUCIFIX SISTER AND SAY I DID NOT BOO”. ( math, geography, history be damned…this was more important). After Carol Kanith took her last much anticipated oath (negative), the gauntlet was thrown and Sister Mary Alberta declared war on this pack of incorrigible thirteen year old liars. Guess who emerged as the God -mocking leader of the opposition….?


My cousin and I have spent our whole lives together, sometimes living in the same house, and otherwise in touch with one another every few days. Our Dads both went to war, and our Mother’s lived together during those years, and we’ve always been like a big extended family. Cousin and I both attended Catholic grade school…he being 3 years younger than me, but never more than a few classrooms away. One summer, he announced the discovery that we could determine early in the summer what the following year might bring by scrutinizing the church bulletin when they listed the nun’s assignments for the next school year. He would then announce that simply knowing a name would be a foolproof prediction. For example. Sister Mary Celine, or Sister Marie Elise, or Sister Mary Laura, would absolutely guarantee a lovely experience for you come September. Hence we were horrified one hot Sunday in July to see the following names listed for our respective classrooms come Fall. The new principal was Sister Eusebia, his nun was Sister Evarista, and mine…8th grade,,,was Sister Alberta. I still remember him looking at me and saying “we’re sunk”.
After a horrible summer..(we took our educational surroundings very seriously) we walked to school together the day after Labor Day, and knew immediately upon arrival that our theory indeed held water. One look at the principal made us both shudder, and since his classroom was closest, It was like dead man walking as we made our way for our first glimpse of Sister Evarista. My cousin all but sunk to his knees when she greeted him in the doorway. Sister Evarista was a very large woman…mid sixties maybe…with a face that my partner would describe as “unfortunate”. Sister had the most un welcoming demeanor that I truly believe I have ever seen. There were two mothers within earshot that awful morning, and I remember hearing one of them say ” my God, she looks like a lady wrestler. My cousin and I exchanged glances as people might do right after the chaplain completed the Lord’s Prayer and your final meal was eaten. There was a change in my cousin from that moment on. He would later tell me that he never said one word in that classroom

unless Sister Evarista roared one directly at him. He says he never asked to go to the bathroom, or be excused if he was feeling sick..nor did he ever raise his hand. For the next nine and a half months he was a bundle of nerves and quiet as a mouse until Friday night. By the time the clock ticked on Sixty Minutes every Sunday night, he’d already begun to clam up.

My fate awaited me right around the corner. Compared to my cousin who was thrown into a lions den, I was about to enter into an absolutely surreal world of madness with a nun who was beginning her FIFTY-FIFTH year of teaching. I left my cousin to his fate, approached my own classroom, and as I did so I saw my classmates lining up like Russian soldiers against the wall, and started up the lineup to stand near my best friend. No sooner had I nodded hello to him when a horrendously loud voice rumbled down the hall ” Who’s that jockeying for position ? !!!!!” Thus begins a tale all too terrifying and life altering to begin without a grace period. I had not even stepped foot into my eighth grade classroom, and I was already on Sister Alberta’s list of potential troublemakers. Little did I know that it wouldn’t be more than a few days until an extra prayer would be recited by the entire classroom…once a day…for “the boy who mocks God”.

random thoughts on a thursday

….Waterspouts on the lake this AM…my mother would be on her way home.
……Donald must have been watching the pole vaulters from Mexico very closely in Rio…wondering how high the wall will need to be.
……Am I the only one who never gets tired of the “old hymns” in church?
……Am I the only one who rarely tries to sing the “new ones”?
……Does one apple on my tree qualify as a crop?
……Hilary Clinton is unfit to be president because she used a pillow on her chair during an interview.
……Tony Perkins once said God sent floods to gay people’s homes as a punishment.
……Tony Perkins’s home in Louisiana was destroyed this week. In a flood.
……My ten year old Boxer was playing along the lake like a 10 month old puppy yesterday.
……Going to a 65th birthday party on Saturday for a friend who has just recently fallen in love.
……It’s never too late for ” Happily Ever After “.
…….Heartbreak for flood victims and fire victims…hard to even imagine.
…….I am the new Zinnia King.
…….I will always think of certain people when I see a shooting star.
…….One of the girls in our 8th grade class had a lisp when she spoke…every once in awhile Sister Alberta would say ” Who’s that hissing like a serpent?”
…….Picture of the five year old injured in Syria’s civil war will haunt anyone who sees it. Can nothing be done?
…….WATERGATE again…this time in RIO.
…….Making Gazpacho today. Plan to post about 50 pictures on Facebook.
…….If I can’t get the riding mower into reverse today I’ll be driving it right through the back wall of the shed. Stay tuned.
…….Looking for a baby grand for the cottage.
…….Hillary and Donald both have very different ideas about what makes a good campaign manager.
…….What a great summer this has been !
…….Interesting part of therapy is digging beneath the story line and searching for the theme.
…….I miss my Mom’s “take” on so many things….loved running things by her.
…….So many of my friends lost their own mom’s in the last 10 months since that cold October morning when I lost mine.
…….Work is progressing (thanks Chris and Dan) on the third floor apt. Ready next month. 2 bedrooms…high ceilings…big bath…interested?
…….I collect the rent wearing a black cape.
…….Does anyone else still send and get postcards?
…….Cousin Helen is out picking peaches in North East today.
…….Every pair of my swimming trunks have shrunk this year,
……..Wise words from my dear friend Regina ” If you don’t like what I’m doing..don’t look”.
…….You can identify people who don’t have any friends….you’ll see them buying tomatoes and zucchini in the supermarket in the summer.
…….I had to hide the zucchini I bought.
…….My mentor at Duquesne once said that he did all of his great thinking after he turned 50.
…….My dad tried to butch me up with a log cabin that he thought I’d turn into a cowboy hideout or a hunting lodge.
…….I once turned a rustic little log cabin into an enchanted cottage with fabulous window treatments and window boxes.
…….Woke up during the night nose to nose with Woof…I swear she smiled while she wagged her tail.
…….The grass isn’t going to mow itself up here.

Random thoughts on a Thursday

……A very difficult client who loved to challenge me once said ” You have no diplomas on your wall…what are your qualifications.” I said that I had a BA and a Masters degree in Psychology…with an emphasis on Existential Phenomenology with a real respect for Object Relations and a basic Gestalt approach. (seemed to shut him up for awhile at least).
……Isis slit the throat of a priest during mass, beheaded people and filmed it, and forces women and girls into sexual slavery. They are the most brutal terrorist group in my lifetime.
……Their “founders” must be among the most evil human beings on the earth.
…… Donald Trump says that the current president is the founder of Isis.
…… All it takes is ONE deranged individual with access to guns to see that as a call to action.
…….Just one.
……..I don’t remember a summer being this hot every day….usually we get a cool break once in awhile.
……. Maybe it’s just me.
……. My Pittsburgh garden looks like a “before” kinda place.
……. 1/3 of parishioners stop going to church altogether when their own church is closed.
……. I wonder if that is true.
……. Planning a giant garage sale here…unless I chicken out.
……. Hardest thing I ever tried to sell was a gigantic statue that my friends called “Scary Mary”.
……..And THAT she was.
…….. Just paid the taxes here at Tara….Woof and I will be eating tree bark soon.
…….. Seeing Pittsburgh from a boat on the river on a warm summer night with a glass of wine and the Beach Boys playing and some great friends…is as good as it gets.
…….. I miss going to Maine in the summer.
…….. Made a new friend last week who loves to weed and shovel snow.
…….. I want to marry my new friend.

…..So as of Aug 24th all students at Texas Universities will be permitted to carry guns to class.
…..Those guns must also be loaded…because they can’t be handled once in the classroom.
……There are many many 18-21 year old “kids” who aren’t exactly in the best shape mentally….(drugs…alcohol…stress)
……Semi safe situations in classrooms suddenly seem way less safe…to me.
……One sad thing about Facebook is that we’re all aware of people saying goodbye to their beloved pets.
…….Most of us know just what that feels like.
…….Wasn’t the war in Iraq the main thing that “destabilized” the middle east?
…….Didn’t we pull our troops out because the Iraqi’s demanded we leave?
…….Painting the “second amendment people” as made up of all crazy people isn’t fair.
……Every time I go to a musical theater production I thank God that it’s not “Desert Song”
……Carol Covi and I hated that show.
……I hope it’s not your favorite.
……Mums are showing up….I think they need cool nights to bloom properly.
……Good luck with that.
……When someone “booed” when we were supposed to applaud for someone’s correct answer, all 45 of us had to line up and one by one say ” I can look at the crucifix and say I did not boo”.
……45 of us did exactly that.
……Sister acted more “possessed” than usual that day.
……Boating on the bay at Lake Erie last weekend..ME: “Let’s go out onto the lake”. FRIEND: “Would that be Lake Erie?” ME: No Rose, that would be the Indian Ocean”.