Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Errant Thoughts on a Spring Day

I have a need to throw a party where people sit and talk with a glass in their hands, catch up with each other's life, reestablish contacts.

Spring does that, takes us out of our shells.

April and Easter and warmer days beckon us to stretch out and lazy on for hours.

I miss the egg-hunts, the sunrise rituals, the people watching days of my youth.
I miss crowds and shops and corner cafes.

I even miss narrow streets of shops, crowded sidewalks, tiny spaces to park.

I have space now, more space than I need, more space than I ever dreamed of.

I miss museums and cultural events. I miss dressing up in my fineries.

I miss traveling, visiting places, meeting new customs.
I miss getting lost!

And you?
What do you miss today?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What to eat?

When I feel like indulging, this is what I eat, a fresh seafood platter from Tony's Crabshack in Bandon.

On the tray, fresh crab, shrimp, mussels, drawn butter, ciabatta bread, cole slaw and fruit salad all demanding my attention.

All this food is local and sustainable. Though heavy with protein, the meal is nutritious. The vegetables and fruit come from local farms and can be frozen for winter availability.  The seafood is caught by Tony himself, on his boat, on the morning of this meal. 

This kind of local food, freshly prepared, should be available every day.

The truth is quite different.  In urban areas, food displayed in supermarkets has traveled many miles, often frozen and thawed; meat and seafood may come from many sources; vegetables from many farms. Today's housewife is conflicted about the safety of the food she purchases and serves her family.

Many diseases and bacteria infections  have been associated with food production.  Remember the latest peanut butter and spinach and tomatoes e-coli outbreaks?

What to eat is a major problem.

How did we manage to send a man to the moon?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who is watching out for You?

Looking out at the Pacific from a bluff in the beautiful town of Bandon feels just right.

The Pacific looks calm, especially on this side of the rocks, calm and serene, living up to its name.  From this corner of our world, we are happy to soak up this beauty, now and then walking down the bluff to feel the waves and the sand under our feet.

So, it is in politics.

Most of the time we sit perched above the fray, looking out at the beauty that is our life in the protected coves, where rain drips off at the corner of the shelter, where waves rumble down on the shore.  We don't see any danger from this roost.  We are covered up with enough layers to keep us warm and comfortable for hours on end, days in fact.

Beyond these rocks are issues we must solve with politics: fishing restrictions, habitat protection, water pollution, digging for oil, wave energy, tsunami warning, whale migration, etc...etc...
We are not out of the picture. We are in the picture but silently ignoring many things.

Political engagement is incovenient:

Politics takes time.
Politics takes understanding and researching issues.
Politics takes committment of resources.
Politics makes us stand out.
Politics makes us targets.
Politics can knock us out of the picture.

It's the same with families, actually.  Most of the time, staying involved and caring for everyone is incovenient.

Families take time.
Families take understanding and information-needs and circumstances of each member.
Families take committment of resources we might have wanted for ourselves, for fun things.
Families expect us to be visible and engaged, not hidden and absent.
Families can disagree and have rancors toward their members who are not like the rest.
Families can disown us, cross us out from future dealings.

Sure, we say, this makes sense. But, aren't we paying politicians to think for us?  To negotiate for us and come back to report ?  They will do what is best for us!

Yes, they will, if they hear from us, if we have actually voted for them and keep up with them; if they are not beholden to those fat cats that actually supported their campaigns.

So, don't forget that you have a vote, a mind, a voice.

You have a responsibility to be informed and to make choices.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Capitalism is alive and Well

On the radio this morning, the impact of this Health Care Bill was discussed: how  insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, small businesses, doctors and hospitals will fare under this new legislation. These are the  main points:

1. insurance companies will insure an additional thirty millions people.

2.pharmaceuticals will sell more drugs than they ever have.

3. small businesses will have support to insure all their employees.

4. doctors and hospitals will not have to absorb the many patients who come in at the end of their ropes when they are at their worst, needing expensive care, and costing the system lots of money. People will now come in for regular check-ups and preventive care.

You know all that fuss that was made about how capitalism was being attacked by this bill?
Capitalism is alive and well; money will be made and commerce will expand.

Didn't stocks go up on Monday?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yes, We Can!

Janis from
nominated me for this award this morning.

Thank you Janis! You are the original Sugar Doll.  She called me a composed writer!

I'd like to bestow this compliment to
House Speaker,  Honorable Nancy Pelosi.

Yes, she is!

Composed, stylish, full of wisdom and knowledge,  she managed to bring a group of democrats teetering on the brink of failure to their senses.

Health Care Reform: is a reality this morning, March 22, 2010.
Our children and grandchildren will remember this date, this Congress, this presidency, this woman.

And for that, she is our Sugar Doll this morning; all of ours.

"From now on, being a woman is no longer a 'pre-existing condition'." (her words!)

Way to Go, Girl!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dear Representative Peter De Fazio,

We know how hard you work for us here in Southern Oregon. Whenever there is a question to your office, you get back to us promptly and with real answers.  We see you often enough at our town halls to understand your work and your tireless committment.

 We like what you are doing.

We also like that you are looking out for us, examining the ways  any bill affects our economy or our way of life, or our gorgeous natural resources.

Right now, you have some reservations regarding the proposed health care bill due for a vote tomorrow.
All of us find that this bill is not perfect, does not do all it needs to do.

But, we need you to support this legislation in your vote tomorrow.
Our country needs this health bill.

Thank you for your attention.

Rosaria Williams,
Precinct Representative, Curry County.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Note from a friend: Read on!

Hi, Friends:

The New York Times is carrying a story today saying the proposed Congressional Health bill will cut the U.S. deficit by $100 Billion over 10 Years. The information comes form House of Representatives Majority Leader, citing a report from the Congressional Budget Office.

Synopsis: The proposed final health care legislation would cut the

federal deficit by more than $100 billion over the first 10

years, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said on Thursday,

citing a finding by the Congressional Budget Office that is

expected to be released on Thursday. The office found that

the overhaul would cut the deficit by more than $1 trillion

over the subsequent decade, Mr. Hoyer said.

For the full report, see: There is also a link there to the CBO report.

I encourage you to share this with your friends.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Weight of Memory

I am suffocating under a heavy blanket; my breathing labored.

I am eleven, home on holiday from boarding school. Mother is running the Singer and talking with Etta, a neighbor.

“No, she is still a child, thank God.” Mother turns to  look at me.

“Ma, Dolo`ra, she must know.” Etta’s insisting, cajoling an agreement.

“No! She is still innocent.” I feel scratched by strange feelings.

Mother is soft and round.

A few months before, at the Convent,  stomach aches doubled me over. I missed classes. Girls whispered, pulled me in a corner to confront me:

“Oh, you are getting IT.”

“What? What happens?”

“The curse! All girls are cursed at your age.”

“Am I going to die?”

“You will not die now, maybe later. Women die in childbirth.  Did  anyone die in your family?”

“Yes, Aunt Graziella.”

"I't the same curse.”

Mother and Etta talk softly, in hushed tones.  She sends me to fetch some wood to keep the fire going.

The cellar is cold and lonely.

As I walk back up the stairs, the same sharp pain in my lower abdomen causes me to yell out in pain. I notice my legs are bleeding.

“Go clean up, quickly.” Mother says with apprehension, meeting me at the landing.

“Mom, it’s nothing.” I say, though I notice that she looks worried.

“Now your troubles begin.” She continues, with a long face.

“Mom, there is nothing wrong; I’m just fine.”

“From now on, every month.”

“Well, I can stop it. See? " I say as I grab a towel and wipe my legs, looking for scratches. "I am all right. It's just got a scratch, that's all.”

“I‘ve dreaded this.” She says, with utter sadness.

“I‘m fine.”

Mother hands me some strips of fabric and tells me how to wear these, listing my other responsibilites; no more running, no more riding with skirts flying all over, and no more hanging around cousins. “Everyone will know now, these things cannot be kept secret.”
“What is going to happen?”
"You are no longer a child." She says.

Dad returns home from visiting Uncle Rodolfo, complains about the food he was fed by uncle’s new wife from Greece. Mother meets him with a sour face and an announcement, “Ninetta has just become a woman.”
Her head down, she hardly looks at him.
Dad moves to his seat by the fireplace and fusses with the wood.

Mother’ words like hot embers spatter shame all over the room.

Dad retreats into a place I am not invited.

The house is darker and colder now: a curse that starts with stomach pains when you are perfectly healthy, something that shames girls, something that panics mothers and silences  fathers.

The stain wipes all I had ever been.

My brother Tonino arrives from his job in Milano to spend Christmas vacation with us, bringing gifts and laughter, showing off the latest dance steps. Life is normal again.

On the seventh day after Christmas, on the feast of the Epiphany, I go to bed promptly at 7:00, anxious and excited. Minutes later, I hear Tonino speaking to my parents.
“So, what is Ninetta getting this year? What about a new record for her collection?”

He remembers how much I like the music he brought home. In previous years, my parents would bundle up and leave for a visit to a relative, they would say to us. They would send us to bed, and my brother and I would then guess what presents we would get. The shopping was always done at the last minute. All the stores stayed open late for the occasion.

Tonino is insistent, “I was still getting presents at her age. Eleven is not that old. She still believes!”

Yes, I wanted to shout, Yes, I still believe. Please, I still believe!

I hear them argue for a long while.  I fall asleep sobbing.

The next morning, around the fireplace, the customary place for presents, a pink armoire stands tall and imposing. I rush to it, fuss  with its moveable parts, with the doll inside, the clothes.

Back at the convent, the girls offer their sympathies. “Ninetta, you can forget all the freedom you used to have. My family practically locked me in my room when it happened. I was not allowed to go anywhere without an adult escort. This school is the only place my parents trust.”

“What can I do to stop this?”

“You cannot undo what happens to you.”

I had fallen from grace.

In June, at the end of school, I return home to find Mother  bedridden and unable to stay on her feet. The house has changed. There is a new baby, always wet, always crying.

When Mother is able to walk, she takes me to visit Grandma Maria Rosaria.

Mother, unceremoniously, tells her that I had become a woman. Grandma pulls out a special chain with a locket and hands it to me:  “This locket was given to me by my grandmother. It contains the hair of her father and mother. I added the hair of your father. You will have your ancestors next to your heart as you grow and start your own life.”

“Thanks, Grandma!" I said, impressed with such a present.

“Do not disappoint me.” She says dourly.

On the way home, mother explaines that the time has arrived for me to live with Grandma.

“When I am older, right?”

“When she decides.”

“I am going back to the convent, right?”

“Your father and I will have to discuss this. You are our only girl; she should not have asked for you. She could ask for help, but not for you. You are my only girl."  Mother sobs quietly.

What curse! A grandmother that had too many grandchildren and did not know one from the other! Whenever we arrived at her door, she scrambled around hiding stuff, afraid the children would ask for things. We never did. My brother Tonino, once, seeing her half embarrassed by all the commotion of hiding stuff, told her outright:

“Grandma, you don’t need to worry about us. Our parents have fed us before we left the house. We do not want to inconvenience anybody.”

I had been sold for a locket.

I woke up with heart palpitations:  my limbs heavy, a locket chocking my neck..

Time for Gardening

It's time to visit my lakeside garden, to stretch those black tarps, weed, plant, fertilize, mulch, worry about winds, cloudy days, soil too soggy, soil too sandy.

It's time to bend and stretch and haul.

All tools will be sharpened and used, including hubby's big tractor. 

The big broken branches will be carried to the burn pile that never gets burned, and the small branches will be mulched.

We planted a dozen blueberry bushes last year. They might bloom and produce this year if I fertilize them in time and mulch carefully to prevent weed invasion and root choking.  The pear tree is in bloom, and its companions will follow soon. 

The soil is sandy, leached by the constant rains.  It will need heaps of composted matter to be added and tilled in.  Worms will come to my aid and the first ray of sunshine will welcome my soiled hands as I dig carefully to position those pea seeds and fava seeds deep down.  By June, I will harvest the peas and favas and follow with squash and cucumbers. 

I'm still learning after seven years in the northwest marine climate how to coax growth when temperatures do not get above 60's in the middle of what everyone calls summer. 

Yet, in the middle of December, when I pull out a frozen bag of favas from the freezer, peel their outer husk and add them to my slowly sauteed onions, those cool days of summer return in their splendor, in the buttery taste of those favas, a taste so  flavorful and soulfull, I'm transported to my childhood days, and an Easter meal Mother would prepare. 

It's time to plant and grow. Time for renewal and celebrations.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Questions We Ask

"The Hidden Side of Everything" is the introductory chapter of Freakonomics, by Levitt and Dubner.
Just like this beach. What you see is only part of what is. 

The important questions, the authors contend, are those not asked, those not on the surface.

"Why Do Drugs Dealers Still Live With Their Moms? You'd think this is all about the immaturity of those men who deal cocaine. What we learn is that the questions we ask, the facts we collect, the polls we take, all ask the wrong questions. They are mostly superficial.

We collect lots of data.

We examine lots of problems.

We tabulate lots of information that will help us decide our next steps.

If we just admire the ocean in this picture, we miss seeing the ocean.

Freakonomics is a marvelous read.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Some things are created by big events, like these rocks, lava formations most of them, appearing to jut out from the sea like whale's fins.

Some things are created by small events, like the strengthening of the muscles in our bodies, slowly getting taut, or mushing and diminishing so much they can't support our skeleton.

In this stage of my life, I have to be conscious of my body, and I have to keep looking for opportunities to maintain whatever strength I have.

So, we walk. We push mowers. We rake and hoe.

Just last night, during each commercial, we got up and danced. Yes! Switched to a music station of our choice, and danced. Then rested and caught our breath before the next commercial.

How clever of us!

We might start a new routine in the winter of our days, a routine that might remind us of Spring.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Organic Food in Schools

Last month, I reported that the Organic Trade Association is sponsoring a contest for schools to start an organic gardening project.

Our local high school Pacific High School, in Port Orford, Oregon,  is a  contender. But, it needs your help.  The school with the most votes will win. The minimum number of entries is 1,000. Our school population is under 100!

We desperately need Your help.

This is how you can help Pacific.  Go to the OTA website and vote. The entry is simple. Just vote!

Thank you for your time and good will.
We are on the way!

Thank you!

Thank you for joining the "Organic. It's Worth It In Schools." initiative.

Vote for Pacific, contact your schools, and involve them as well.

The following headlines come from the web site. Check them out:

What is the best way to encourage children to make healthy food choices?

Decrease the price of healthy food

Increase the price of junk food

Improve education about health and nutrition

Limit advertisers' ability to target ads for junk food to children


Just about now, between rainy season and planting season, I want to escape. I miss the sun when it is cloudy and rainy and windy, and cold.

I miss all the things I left behind in California.

All the things I could be doing out of the house.

Like long walks.

Right now, a trip to France comes to mind, up and down a medieval town.

You get a good workout when you go up and down those twisted, narrow streets. This town in France, and most other European towns built on hilltops for safety, adapted their buildings to modern uses.  The building we see here became a truffle museum. YeaH! I could get a workout going up, purchase some truffle oil or other specialty, and get back home to prepare some omelette du jour before working in my sunny garden tending my lavender and petit peas.

I bragged to you in some ancient post that we walk rain or shine. We walk when the rain is not pelting; and the temperature  not in the 30's, and puddles not preventing us from exiting our front door.

Right about now,  a sunny piazza, anywhere else would be a good sight.

Can somebody send sunny pictures? 
Thank you.

Don't worry! There is a name for this malady, cabin fever, and there is a remedy.  Time to plan a trip!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sometimes, those nasty winds do you a favor!

When winds batter this coast, and dead branches fly all over the yard, I do not panic any more.  All this action will get rid of deadwood, branches that cannot produce fruit or bloom. 

This apple tree has been   duly punished all winter long.  The few branches that remain are full of new blossoms, ready to burst into fruit clusters.

These same winds can throw branches right through the roof. Ouch!

These barren branches will become tepees for my pole beans.
Nothing will go to waste

Everything has a purpose in the big scheme of life.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Women's Day!

Today, March the 8th,  is International Women's Day.

Michele, at
and Welshcake Limoncello at
two Italian bloggers provided this information today.

Go on, check them out!

When I think of home, I think of all the women who have made a house a home.

Happy Women's Day!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring is Here!

It's happening: everything is budding and eager to bust out of its cocoon. We're all encouraged.

Sit down, stay. The woodland is changing before our very own eyes.

Pinks and yellows, settle in!
Red, stop littering!
White! Where are you?

Who put the purple adirondacks in the green of Oregon?

It must be Spring around here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

An open letter to the Congress of the United States

March, 2010

Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen:

You have my deepest appreciation and gratitude. You carry the future of this great land on your shoulders with each decision you make, each vote you cast, each committee you chair.

Your have to maintain your focus all the time, day in and day out, term in and term out. You have to give your very best, all the time, whether the camera catches you or not, whether Jon Steward or Bill O'Reilly mention you in their monologues.

You have to ignore the chatter, the politics, the party lines and party prompts.

Right now, you are asked to pass the Health Care Bill.


 It may not be what you consider the Best thing for all of us. It may even be an irritant to some.  But, we , the 90% of the population of these fifty states that are the middle class, we are in need of a sane and affordable health care program. 

You are presently covered by a health plan, and so is your family.  You are presently employed full time.  Good. We love to take care of you while you do the work of the country.  But, what if we ( those for whom you work) decided that we couldn't pay you for your work, nor your health care?

You see, employers are cutting down benefits, as insurance companies increase their premiums, or whittle down what they choose to cover to maintain profit margins, as cities and schools struggle to provide services and are forced to lay off employees, or cut benefits.

What you are charged to do is to look at the whole spectrum of services and benefits.  You need to see how the entire group of citizens can rally together to keep this ship of state afloat.  When do we let a few people in first class continue to eat prime rib and drink champagne when the ship is about to sink because the labor force is starving and can't maintain its strength? A healthy and happy work force with decent benefits will go the extra step to maintain the happiness and welfare of the folks in first class.

It is the reason we put you in the ship's control cabin: You need to make this decision, even if it creates a minor disturbance in first class cabins.

You are our best and brigthtest. Let's hope you can keep your wits and moral compass working well.

This is not a political decision. Republican, Democrat, Independent, Reformer, regardless of our label, regardless of our beliefs in what the government should or should not do, we are a country who doesn't abandon its people to the greed of others.

Right now, greed and self interest may very well be your beliefs if you do not pass a health care bill.

With sincere appreciation,

Rosaria D. Williams
(a volunteer public servant)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fill a Backpack.

Thanks to Everyday Goddess for awarding this post the weekly shout-out!

This weekend, we were reminded to be prepared for an emergency.

I'm a veteran in these matters. My family experienced many earthquakes in California, and a couple of tsunami warnings here in Oregon.

What I have in my backback, one per person, are standard supplies.  If I am away from home, at work, at the grocery store, at a party, and I am stranded, my backpack will support me for a couple of days.  It is portable, in case I need to abandon the car.

Here is my top ten:

1. medications
2. water
3.first aid kit
4.flashlight with extra batteries
5. blankets and tarps
6. radio and extra batteries
7. whistle
9.change/money in small denomination
10. snacks

You can see from the pile on the sofa, all these items will fit easily in a backpack.  You can stuff the backpack; just be sure  you can carry it easily if you have to walk out of danger.

We have been stuck outside, in the cold,  during the January 1994 Northridge Earthquake, and what we needed most, after blankets, was a bottle  of Mylanta.  The local drug store didn't take checks.

If you are trapped or injured, a whistle will help you signal for help. Water is more important than snacks; and prescription medications should be the first thing on your list.

While you are assembling your car kit, double up and make a kit for an elderly relative or neighbor.
I hope you'll never have to use this kit.

The Taste of Days

In Port Orford, we meet neighbors casually, mostly on our daily walks.

Before we knew anybody, we worried about the creeping blackberry bushes  covering our yards, the strange new rhythm of the  retired, putting off chores, reminding ourselves that our days were free and easy, having something to do becoming a good thing for when we needed something to do.

After a few walks, I ran into Mike whose family came from the general region of Italy where I grew up. We talked about foods peculiar to that area. His version of pasta and fagioli, pasta and beans is not like mine. Mike insists that his version is authentic. His folks brought the recipe from Bari, a town on the Adriatic Sea, a major port and center of commerce with eastern Europe and Asia Minor.

Isolated for centuries, towns like ours developed their version based on available local ingredients. His town was big enough to have commerce and tourism, elements necessary for restaurants to flourish. My town was just not big enough to lodge and feed visitors. Even in 1959, when I left, and the town had grown and acquired phones and televisions, there was only one trattoria attached to a hotel.

I remember my first and only meal in that place. The occasion was a visit from some distant cousin passing by, interested in meeting all his relatives.

The restaurant served pasta e fagioli as a first course, disappointing my mother who was expecting something more sophisticated. I ate nothing, not even the second course of baked potatoes and chicken. Not even dessert.

Whatever and however mother had cooked for us had been the only way food could be cooked and the only food I ate. My grandmother commented to my dad that I had been trained well, skipping food so everyone would have enough. That had not been my intention.

It was the custom that even if we were hungry, if we were offered food at other people’s houses, we must politely refuse the offer. The reason went like this: people barely had enough for themselves and theirs. As a courtesy, if you happened to be at their house around meal times, they would insist you sit and eat with them. They insisted; you declined. Everybody saved face. In my case, it had not been courtesy and good manners. I truly did not trust anybody’s else cooking. Nothing tasted like mother’s food.

Mother’s version of the dish took hours to prepare. First, she had to cook the beans. She started early in the morning, with a crockery pot full of water and dry beans, positioned in the back of the fireplace and rotated on a regular basis. The beans were flavored with bay leaves, garlic cloves and capicollo, a piece of saltback saved for the occasion. Hours in a slow fire melted the beans to a buttery consistency. The beans could then be dressed with olive oil and fried peperoncini or they could be added to the pasta. Mother’s secret was to sauté the garlic and the tomatoes separately in olive oil before adding it to the beans and to pasta. Lastly, she would add pecorino cheese all over the dish, melding the flavors. Whole wheat bread was passed around and wine was poured. The ingredients and the cooking never changed.

I can see us at the table, a white starched tablecloth, a big communal plate, father at the head of table. 

Dinners went on for hours, starting with a pasta dish and ending with fruit and nuts. Wine was always present, watered down for us children. Everybody’s business and the problems of the world were discussed at lenght at these meals.

My version of the meal is abbreviated. I still prefer the taste of beans simmered slowly for hours. But I use canned beans for convenience now and then.

When I sautée the garlic and the tomatoes, the smells begin to transport me slowly. I can almost see Mother over the stove, tasting the sauce, pronouncing that it needs something.

Yes, I want to shout, it needs something. It needs the smell of the land, the same one that Father brought back from the farm with a basket of produce; that smell lingered in the house, even after he washed his sweat and dirt before sitting down to the evening meal. The smell of hard work; the smell of sweat over a parched soil.

When I cook my beans from scratch, or open a bottle of wine, or tear into a freshly baked loaf of bread, with each sip, each bite, the ritual brings the same result. All my days are present on that day, all my history and my ancestry.

My children do not have this connection. For them, eating is sandwiched between soccer practices, piano lessons and television viewing, just another leisure activity, easily exchanged for other leisure activities.

I still want to linger over a meal and a glass of wine; I still want to taste those days.

p.s. This is a Memoir piece.If you want recipes of traditional Italian meals, visit Eleonora's blog:

If you want to read more pieces of my memoir visit my other blog: