a journal by for and about women
my JOURNEY discovering who I am in this new life My RELATIONSHIPS The Elixir of Puppy Love
My TASTES COOKING VICTORIAN STYLE my travels STORYTELLING IN THE LAND DOWN UNDER
My bookshelf Readers Review Their Favorite Books
“A miracle times three.” Gina was pregnant with triplets when her water
broke at 20 weeks. • Odds of survival for the babies were very low. • She was admitted to Hillcrest Medical Center on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy, a “scary” 78 days. • Three years later, Gina still talks about the incredible care she was
The difference is our doctors.
given by her doctors and nurses. • Today Harry, Frank, and Sam are all healthy – and Gina believes “it’s nothing less than a miracle, times three.”
Find the right physician at HealthMatch, 585-8000. 2
11th & Utica, Tulsa, Oklahoma • todayshillcrest.com Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
winter2010 Mia Magazine A journal by, for, and about women Publisher The Leslie Group, LLC Managing Editor Jan Weinheimer
When I was very young and still sporting a blunt-cut Buster Brown hairdo, I was thrown together with Shannon, who had no hair and was still in diapers. Our parents were young, raising kids in a small town and because they had become good friends, Shannon and I did too. If our friendship had followed a normal course, it would have ended a long time ago. In 1972, our families left the small town and moved on to various other cities and states. For most of our lives we have lived three states away from one another. It was around fourth or fifth grade when Shannon and I began to exchange letters. It was our only way to connect since these were the days long before email or texting, and we were rarely allowed the luxury of an expensive long-distance phone call. So we wrote letters that you could touch and hold and fold up and carry in your pocket. We wrote on spiral notebook paper torn from the hinges with the paper still dangling when it was pulled from the envelope. We wrote with multi-color pens and drew smiley faces across the top and told the stories of what was happening in our lives: new bicycles, cheerleading tryouts, braces, crushes, bad haircuts and birthday parties. Our friendship has endured. Now, instead of handwritten letters we
send short texts many times a week and enjoy long phone conversations when we have a free weekend. Women seek out sisters, even if they aren’t fortunate enough to have one by birth. Shannon is my sister because we have “been through it together,” as we like to say and have told each other stories along the way. Our sisterhood is a gift that we open each time we share our joys, sorrows, anger, fears, and triumphs. Telling our stories bonds us together. Article submissions for Mia continue to come in from across the country as well as from here in Northeastern Oklahoma. We are building a community of readers and writers who believe that storytelling is an important part of our culture. Our circulation is growing, subscriptions are increasing, and we will continue to offer a place for women to speak and listen, write and read. You can join the community by sending in a submission, purchasing a subscription, reading our blog (themiastory.blogspot.com), joining our Facebook page, following us on Twitter, and of course, reading and sharing the magazine with the women in your life. As always, we look forward to our paths crossing so we can hear your story.
Lisa Tresch, Editor
Editor Lisa Tresch Creative Director & Graphic Design Lina Holmes Business & Technical Director Juli Armour Contributing Editors Sheilah Bright Linda Watanabe McFerrin Writers Linda Phillips Ashour Susan Colvin Tammie Dooley Karin Leeburg Larsen Yona Zeldis McDonough Monica Roberts Georgia Snoke Kim Whiting Advertising Michelle Presley Photography LSD Photography Lisa Dunham, Sophia Litchfield For writers guidelines, visit miamagazine.net
Reproduction in whole or part is prohibited. Copyright © 2010 The Leslie Group, LLC. All rights reserved. Mia Magazine is published quarterly by The Leslie Group, LLC P.O. Box 35665 Tulsa, Oklahoma 74153-0665 918.978.5567 www.miamagazine.net
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Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
t seven years old, Charmaine Berlioux was handed a needlepoint by her grandmother and at that young age completed her first pillow. By age 12 she was designing and sewing her own clothes, and at 16 she began making clothes for others. “I spent a lot of time as a young girl working with my hands,” Charmaine says. “I see it now as a great gift.” A native of Antigua, Charmaine met and married a man from Oklahoma and began a new life in Tulsa in the late 1980s. She describes the transition as a culture shock, but she determined not to be defeated by her own fears. So she embraced it all. “When I got to Tulsa 20 years ago, I had no idea what I was going to do other than to be a wife and mom. But I knew that I wanted and needed to add something to my resume. I literally went back to my roots and became licensed to work as a hairstylist in Oklahoma. I’ve been styling many a head ever since.”
At some point during her hairstyling career, Charmaine decided she wanted to do more with her hands. It came to her one day as she was shopping for a handbag. “I thought that a handbag couldn’t be that difficult to design and put together. I popped some knitting needles back into my hands and created the lining of my very first handbag. I finished it with a layer of beautiful animal print fabric and, voila, Deux Sacs handbags was born.” She had once again gone back to her roots by beginning her own line of reversible handbags. She has raised two daughters, Rosallia and Chloe, and now calls Tulsa home and Antigua her vacation spot. “I make it a must to return there every six months,” she says. Whether Charmaine is designing hair or handbags, she gives her grandmother the credit for inspiring her to keep her hands busy and happy. Mia
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
Contents winter 2010 6
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
Telling Tales Down Under by Linda Watanabe McFerrin
Living in Another Woman’s House by Tammie Dooley
Myreflections Great Expectations by Kim Whiting
Dolly’s Victorian Kitchen by Linda Phillips Ashour
Writing the Story of Roman by Georgia Snoke
Puppy Love by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Reviews from Readers
Lauren’s Nest Egg by Susan Colvin
Day of Surrender by Sheilah Bright
The Noise of My Sisters by Karin Leeburg Larsen
The American Dream by Monica Roberts
by Linda Watanabe McFerrin
Telling Tales Down Under The And Language Waking up from a dream, I fell back, into the arms of language. Nursery rhymes ricocheted off of the walls. Fairy tales tumbled from my mother’s lap when she stood where they gathered like knitting. My mother told me that my house would be made of language and I nodded, putting up the first brick. —Linda Watanabe McFerrin, (excerpted from “The And Language”)
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
Everything seemed a little topsy-turvy on that balmy night in January as I looked up at stars Centaurus, Carina, the spectacular Southern Cross that made it clear I was not in California anymore. I had finally arrived Down Under, in Victoria, a populous corner of Australia, land of Tasmanian devils, koalas and wombats, and the vast Outback. I was also personally a wee bit “down under,” recovering from a badly broken ankle and suffering from a bizarre vertigo that I’d been treating with chewable, raspberry-flavored meclizine hydrochloride. I felt a little seasick, although I was on land; but it wasn’t an entirely unwelcome feeling. It just seemed like I was hung-over and constantly on the move—even when I was not. This was my first trip to Oz. I was volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, helping to build a house for a needy family and writing a story about the experience for a major metropolitan daily. But I was most excited about being on a continent known for its storytellers and was hoping to be inspired. This wasn’t the first time I’d journeyed to a distant location in search of a fine tale. It’s a pattern that started in childhood. Even before I was placed daily on a plush, British bus, headed for nursery school with my lunch money pinned to my jacket (this would never happen today), stories were a major part of my world and storytellers were among my best friends. By age four, I’d already traveled to the Snow Queen’s frozen north with Hans Christian Andersen, to the Black Forest with the Brothers Grimm, and to Wonderland with Lewis Carroll. I was doomed to be a sucker for a tale well-told. My grandfather was a Welsh journalist, my aunt a Hollywood screenwriter, my uncle an American war correspondent and - before she married my dad and had her children - my mother was a translator and a poet. By the time I arrived in Australia, I had already been all over the world racking up quite a few travel tales of my own. I’d written about things like buying diamonds in Amsterdam, running with the Hash House Harriers in Singapore, traipsing all over Ireland with a crazy fiddler, riding the Lunatic Express in Kenya, and falling into the Okefenokee Swamp in the good old U.S.A. Now I was going to write about building a house in Australia. In light of past journeys, it might have seemed a little tame.
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
But there is nothing tame about Australia. Crocodiles, leeches, venomous snakes, poisonous stonefish and jellyfish, deadly blue-ringed octopi, powerful riptides, bushfires, blizzards, and wandering kangaroos make it a thrilling place for visitors and a great setting for any travel tale. In fact, the continent’s first known human settlers, the indigenous Aboriginal people, are notable tellers of tales. They weave spirituality, culture, and day-to-day lessons into a blend of imagination and experience known as the Dreamtime. This custom of communicating through stories and holding an audience rapt with the magic of a shared language has persisted in Oz. The convict, soldier, prospector, bush ranger, swag man, all took pride in their yarn-spinning abilities. On this particular night, I’d been treated to tales by Sue, Ed, Keith, Don and Jenny, the five dear souls who make up the Bayside, Victoria chapter of Habitat for Humanity. They laughed, teased, and even argued as they exchanged reminiscences of past builds. Through the many anecdotes shared I learned a great deal about each of them. Around that table an important bond had been formed. My hosts for much of my stay, good friends who share a love of the road, are also amazing storytellers. Tony and Maureen Wheeler have sent many a traveler off on wild adventures with stories they’ve brought back and shared. Tony has an amazing tale to tell about practically every place on earth. He has been razored and nearly robbed in Peru and held down by crocs in Papua New Guinea. He has hurtled along twisting remnants of roads in wild places on a motorcycle held together by bits of bamboo and wire. The guidebook company he and Maureen founded, Lonely Planet Publications, has published over 650 travel titles and sold around six million guidebooks a year. Continued on page 33 See MY travels
Living in Another Womanâ€™s House
photos: Tom Dooley
Mia Mia Magazine, Magazine, Winter Winter 2010 2010
MyJourney by Tammie Dooley
Flat on the floor, I sweep my arms into arcs that are met with resistance not from the glory of snow, but rather a sea of cocktail napkins. Two more slow sweeps and I realize that my task of cleaning this particular kitchen cabinet has ceased in a meltdown. There had been many cabinets and boxes and closets before this, but it was the enormous cadre of cocktail napkins that slapped me in the face, divulging my shortcomings. I lay there long enough to become dry-eyed and calm. Staring at the ceiling, I ran through all the possible uses for them; the reasons why someone would have hundreds, maybe thousands of cocktail napkins of every color, motif, pattern, shape, and size. Earlier, I’d been struck by the fact I didn’t know such things existed. About the time I began to feel the hardness of the floor, the cause of my meltdown became clear: I was living in another woman’s house. A woman whose shoes I knew I couldn’t fill. My husband and I married only eight months after his wife’s death. He’d offered to sell the house to give us a fresh start, but it sat on a large, heavily wooded lot in the middle of town, was beautiful, he loved it and, well…I’m pragmatic. The home is lovely and over time, we’ll make it our own. I have no reservations about living here. I meant every word.
Mia Mia Magazine, Magazine, Winter Winter 2010 2010
My husband’s first wife had been publicly successful as the assistant U.S. attorney. She came from a wellknown family, belonged to the Junior League, was an amazing chef and entertainer, extraordinary gardener, a photographer, a magnet of compassion, an angel to those less fortunate, and loved by many. She was tragically killed at the age of 51. She and I were very different, but I hadn’t exactly sat around twiddling my thumbs for 40 years. I raised a son on my own, put myself through college, acquired CPA and CFP professional licenses, and worked for the same financial services company for 17 years. I was just two years into the dream job I’d landed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, when Tom and I met and fell in love. My dream job still didn’t compensate me enough to pay college expenses for my son and have anything left over. I’d never owned a home, didn’t own enough furniture to fill my two-bedroom apartment, and had never thrown a party. I didn’t have time to volunteer or pursue hobbies, and outside my family and close circle of friends, I was relatively unknown. When Tom and I married, true love and its euphoria meant that none of these things mattered. And in retrospect, rightly so. I’d been happily single for almost a decade and hadn’t been thinking of marriage until I met him. We both knew instantly that we had found the right person. I quit the dream job and began life anew, throwing myself into cleaning out over 20 years of stuff accumulated by two successful people who had never thrown anything away. Tom had taken care of removing Ann’s personal effects. But because she’d passed away so recently without a will and with no children, many things in the house and all of the furniture – her family’s antiques – needed to be distributed to her family and friends. Getting these things to the people she would have chosen became my task. I was now living in the house where Ann could not return to take care of the things she’d loved. Being a mother and a career woman had honed my pragmatism and sense of confidence. But my identity was under assault. My self-confidence had limits. I’d struggled in the past with a sense of belonging, and the progress I had made took a serious setback. I’d never been one to feel entitlement; you want something, you work for it. That attitude meant I had no feelings of possession or ownership for anything in the house, although at times my own possessions seemed lost and miniscule. I was very careful to be respectful and sensitive towards Ann’s things, and her friends’ and family’s feelings about my new position were paramount. I wasn’t the type to come in and take over. Quite the opposite. I had a lot to learn about running a house, besides dealing with the serious inadequacies from first-hand exposure to Ann’s accomplishments and talents. For months on end I sorted stacks for Tom to review and decide what should go to whom. Rows of things were spread across a formal dining room floor for Ann’s
family and friends to come over and pick through. It was my full-time job for well over a year. And now the cocktail napkins. Tom and I had been married long enough for the blush of new love to recede and our senses to fully return. For the first time, there on the floor, I wondered what his expectations were. Yes, I could cook, but having been raised on a ranch, food like biscuits and gravy, cornbread, venison, and fried potatoes were my repertoire. Nothing continental. No appetizers. Didn’t know how to mix a martini. Didn’t know the purpose for many of the kitchen gadgets. Of course, I gave them all away, but not before my self-esteem had been pummeled by unidentifiable tools. The thought of using these cocktail napkins made my stomach lurch. I knew there was only one purpose for these: parties. That day in the kitchen as I lay flat on my back, I decided that as beautiful and pleasing as the napkins were to my eye, they represented a skill I had no desire to possess. They had to go. They were in the last cabinet to be cleared and cleaned. They were the last “thing” over which I’d have to face this kind of insecurity. With that decision I bagged every last one and gave them away to a delighted friend. I asked Tom about his expectations, and for the first time I told him of the difficulties I’d been having and the cocktail napkin incident. He didn’t expect me to be the same as Ann; he just wanted me to be myself. I decided not to go back to my financial career. No longer defined by that, it took diligence and an open mind to discover who I was in this new life, to learn new roles and responsibilities, to figure out what I liked and didn’t like – what I wanted to learn and what I didn’t care about. I’d never had the freedom to explore like that. Simultaneously daunting and exciting, it was through a day-by-day process that I transformed the house into our home and myself into a person with her own new and very different set of life skills. It’s six years later and I run and maintain the household like a pro. I’ve thrown several parties for close friends and enjoyed it. I’ve become a gardener. I’ve learned to trust my decorating instincts - ones I was certain I didn’t possess. Our home envelops us and our friends and family with warmth, comfort, and joy. I wouldn’t go back and change a single decision. I chose to marry Tom. After that, my choices became part of the direction that initial decision put into play. Sometimes we become things we didn’t set out to pursue, things we couldn’t imagine becoming. Sometimes, we even wind up purchasing our very own cocktail napkins. Mia
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
- Anne Bradstreet
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
The wine has been poured (Doc said I could) and I’m savoring every sip and every bite of this meal like it will be my last. And it will be my last, at least until 40 hours from now when I pass gas and give the nurses the green light to give me some real food – if you call hospital food real. I am at a very nice restaurant, sitting with my beloved mother and in-laws – the very same people who quickly reorganized their lives and hastily made flight arrangements so they could be here for the birth of their twin grandchildren, two killing-the-hours, vacationsucking weeks ago.
Doctor Baldwin unknowingly left out a very important element in his date-of-delivery calculation. You see, I’ve decided not to have the babies. I figure I’ll keep these little guys in here until kindergarten, at which point I’ll deliver them straight to the front door of the school into the hands of folks certified to deal with little humans. I’m up to the physical challenge of holding them in another five years and I already have stretch marks, so what’s a whole road map of them? Maybe by then I won’t faint from needles either. I’m not sure what’s more terrifying: the highly medical delivery of these two creatures or being responsible for them the rest of my life. In either case, it’s just best if I hold on a while longer.
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
by Kim Whiting
Expectations Doc has other plans and so do my low-on-patience family members. I’m now full term with two full size babies. Doc realizes he can’t trust me to deliver. I’ll be induced (read: forced) into labor right after supper… after my last supper. But if they want these children delivered, they’re going to have to cut me open and rip them out of me - and that’s exactly what they’ll do. If I could have seen what was in store for me, I’d have skipped the wine and gone for a martini, or skipped town and gone for a tropical island. But instead, I skipped through the gates of hell. Maybe hell is a strong word for a nurse crawling into my loins with a pill that causes unnaturally intense contractions, 10 hours of Lamaze, an epidural, two and a half hours of pushing (with and without anesthesia), a spinal block (I can still feel the scalpel!), C-section, tubal ligation, itching on the inside, and the maximum dose of morphine. Scratch the morphine, that part was heaven. I’ve heard the happiest moment of a mother’s life is when she first lays eyes on her children. Eliza pushed her larger brother out of the way so she could enter the world first. I think being first will always be important to her, as will be doing things her way. In this case, doing things her way means attempting to come out face up. She gets stuck on my pubic bone and despite being suctioned three times and pushing with all the force I can muster, only the top of her head enters the world. It’s time for a C-section. I’m deathly afraid of surgery. This surgery is one that must be performed while I’m conscious, so I become as unconscious as possible. I disassociate and head right back to the happy place I lived in during my 10 hours of Lamaze. It’s the same location I traveled to during traumatic moments in childhood. I go there easily. Getting back is harder. The kids enter the world within the same thirty seconds. I’m only halfway back from my happy place to meet them. Eliza has a slightly low APGAR, so I am able to see just a cheek or nose poking out of their blankets before they are rushed out to be cared for. I crane my neck to see them, but I am tied to the surgery table. I blow them air kisses as they pass. Jeff follows them out while I remain, crucifix style, getting my tubes tied and my stomach stitched back together. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sad in my life. I hold back tears because this is supposed to be a mother’s happiest
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
moment. I don’t want anyone to know that, just minutes into motherhood, I’ve already come up short. In post-op I sit alone under fluorescent lights. I am itching from the inside. It’s an itch I can’t scratch. The nurse says it’s a normal reaction to anesthesia. I’ve had lots of anesthesia, so she gives me the maximum dose of morphine and leaves me to rest. Jeff returns. He tells me Eliza is rallying. He tells me our children are beautiful. He feels bad because he wants to be with me, but also with our newborns. I tell him to go bond with our babies. I tell him this moment will never happen again. He leaves with a promise to be back quickly. I allow myself to cry. After a good cry, I realize that I have been a victim of great expectations. In expecting things to be miraculous, I set myself up so high it would have been miraculous if I had not felt let down. Anything that didn’t play out like the movie I had mentally produced was labeled a disappointment. In labeling these moments as disappointments, I failed to see the magic within them. My children were whisked away from me before I could even see their faces, but they’re here, they’re mine, and they’re healthy. My husband may be torn between staying with me and our children, but I’m lucky to have the kind of guy who cares about everyone that much. I am now the mother of two, my husband is a great father, I’m at a world-class hospital with a kind doctor, and the grandparents are here to help and celebrate. Once I let go of my expectations, my picture of how the miracle was to look, I see that the miracle is happening right now. Mia photos: submitted
MyTASTES by Linda Phillips Ashour
Dollyâ€™s Victorian Kitchen
orlds away from New York City but only thirty minutes by car, Dolly Rosenâ€™s Queen Anne Tudor Revival is a three-story confection built in 1887 by a Brooklyn woman seeking the fresh air of Montclair, New Jersey. When I arrive, the door flies open to an exuberant rush of small dogs and a dark-haired woman with an ivory-colored silk rose at the waist. Her floor-length white skirt is smudged with chocolate, a detail she notes with alacrity. Dolly, the president of the Northern New Jersey chapter of the Victorian Society, has been whipping up dessert.
photos: Claire Rosen
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
Professionally trained pastry chef, bibliophile, mother of four girls, and doting aunt of a niece who just completed a four-year residency, Dolly and her husband, Edward, fell in love with the columns and bay windows of a dining room that would become the staging area for their adventure in Victorian living. Details like the original bronze light fixture in the parlor with semi-nude ladies stood out immediately, while others, like the iris and ram carvings on a floor to ceiling mirror masked under layers of paint and neglect, emerged more slowly. It took Edward a full year to restore the mahogany Beaux Arts treasure. Dolly’s headquarters, a former “nightmare” kitchen from the 70s, has yielded its share of surprises too. History can be found everywhere: A glass-front cabinet appeared when a wall came down, and a ghostly series of plumbers’ signatures from the 1920s recently revealed themselves under the sink. Thoroughly remodeled with a tin ceiling and columns to resemble the food stalls in Harrods (a high-end London department store), the spacious, light-filled kitchen is equipped with four Wolf ovens to accommodate a bustling catering business. The dogs settle at the feet of a fainting couch as Dolly leafs through a cookbook from the 19th century and remarks that reviving the culinary past requires a sense of adventure. “They don’t all work,” she says of an old recipe for blackberry jam that called for so much sugar that it never gelled. “It doesn’t have to be your fault every time.” Everything, however, worked at the ice cream social and membership drive Dolly hosted for the Victorian Society last August. White wicker chairs on the front porch were at capacity as guests sampled ice cream with homemade fudge sauce along with Dolly’s meringue kisses, or helped themselves to fresh lemonade from elegant glass urns. Badminton players batted a shuttlecock back and forth over a net strung up in the front yard and whistling songs from the early 1900s were an anthem to another age. In the summer of 2008, Dolly set off for the Lake District of England to learn more about Victorian cooking techniques from Ivan Day, culinary historian, art teacher, and restoration expert. Dolly shared what she learned about open hearth cooking and making ice cream in pewter molds with members of the Montclair Women’s Club, who swooned over slideshow images of gelatin bombes and whole pineapples sectioned for easy eating, then prettily tied back up with ribbon. But Victorian cooking was not without drama. “That’s the exciting part,” Dolly said, describing a mountainous raised meat pie combining raw ingredients like tongue, venison, ham and chicken. “You never knew whether you’d survive the meal.” Guests at the ice cream social didn’t appear worried as they swarmed Dolly’s table later for an edible Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
Pommes De Terre En Surprise Sugar syrup (equal parts water and sugar brought to boil until sugar is dissolved) Leftover cake Marzipan Unsweetened cocoa powder to finish Small brush A real potato to use as guide Cut small, oblong-shaped pieces of cake (chocolate, hazelnut and sponge are all good choices) and brush with sugar syrup. Roll out a 1/8 to1/4 inch thick piece of marzipan in an oblong shape on plastic cutting board or parchment paper. Make sure it’s large enough to wrap over cake. Place cake in center of marzipan. Cover and shape to resemble a small potato. The syrup will help dissolve the seam at the back. Sprinkle a bit of cocoa powder into syrup and brush over marzipan for earthy appearance. Add a few small gashes to replicate “eyes.” Vary sizes for authenticity. This Victorian Era treat is fun to make with children and a great way to use leftover cake.
history lesson of their own. A silky orange flummery held its own against a towering candy cone and butterflies perched on top of a three-tiered cake. Savories were as popular as sweets - two ladies dove in for a last slice of meat pie before leaving. Dolly showed no signs of flagging energy as lingering guests assailed her with questions about an era so similar to our own. What does the 21st century woman have in common with her Victorian counterpart? Labor-saving molds, for one thing, often featured on Dolly’s elegant table. Agrarian England was transformed during Queen Victoria’s reign, from 1837 to 1901, into an industrialized nation with kitchen gadgets like can openers and potato peelers we moderns take for granted. Fresh fruit, meat and vegetables had become available to prosperous Victorians all year long, and a modern housewife’s table could resemble a queen’s. Recipe books were widely distributed and, just as now, offered a celebrity chef another way to reach middleclass households. “He’s my hero,” Dolly says of Alexis Soyer, humanitarian and French chef at the elite Reform Club in England during the 1840s. Not only did Soyer make Continued on page 30 See MY TASTES 15
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
by Georgia Snoke
Writing the Story of
The man, knowing that he was dying, softly remarked to his friend and former student: “I came to paradise in America. I really want to give something of myself to this country, to leave something, to donate, because I have knowledge of these things that not many people have...” And so he did. And so he died – bequeathing to his adopted country a ballet company, a work ethic, and a dream. To the listening lady at his side, my friend Cheryl Forrest, he left a fiery focus to bring his story to life. Sporadically, over the span of three years, she sat beside him, recorder at hand, to chronicle that remarkable story. His memory drew him back to the poverty and hunger of his youth in Poland, the accident of a single glance that launched him into a career in ballet, the struggles, starvation, tiny steps towards accomplishment that led him ever upward until he concluded his life an acclaimed principal dancer, teacher, choreographer, and founder of the Tulsa Ballet Company. Now, 54 years after its founding, it is considered one of the best in the nation. He was Roman Jasinski, “Jasha,” a man whose name was appreciated and applauded in the ballet world of the mid-20th century. Like Cheryl, I was one of Jasha’s students and knew him and his wife, Oklahoma Indian ballerina Moscelyne Larkin, intimately. Like Cheryl, I was filled with appreciation and veneration for both as
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
teachers, mentors and friends. But I would have stopped there and left the life-changing gifts of their artistry locked away in my heart, treasured, but not shared. Cheryl changed all that. For her, Jasha’s death was the beginning. I truly don’t remember saying “yes.” I just remember a quick comment from Cheryl a decade after Jasha’s death: “Georgia, you and I are going to write a book about Mr. Jasinski.” A declarative sentence. Thirteen words. And the next decade of our lives took on a whole new focus. In retrospect I think we were a little crazy. I had written a weekly column for the Tulsa Tribune and edited a couple of “Copout” cookbooks, and Cheryl had studied Ballet Russe books for years. But what did two ladies from Oklahoma really know about writing and publishing a book? Nada! Still, ignorance is bliss and we began. Sandwiched between parenthood, wifehood, and daughterhood, we snatched moments to plan. It immediately became apparent that we would have to escape our comfort zones to get anything accomplished at all. At our homes, the deepest of discussions were fractured by the phone, the dog wanting out, the cat wanting in, the demands of domesticity. We tried libraries, but one Continued on page 29 See MY ART
Myrelationships by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Puppy Love It took an eight pound dog to turn me into a grown up. I was over fifty, a wife, and a mother. My husband and I owned a house, had credit cards galore, paid our taxes, and made our wills. In my late teens, I’d had to contend with my parents’ divorce, as well as my father’s subsequent abandonment and my brother’s mental illness. I’d watched grandparents die, and lost friends to the horrible scourge of AIDS. But it was the dog that did the trick. I had never been a dog person. Dogs were always too in-your-face for me – they barked, growled, slobbered, howled. They nosed through your garbage, ate your pantyhose, and vomited on your fresh-from-thecleaners black pants. So no one was more surprised than I was when, well into middle age, I fell suddenly and precipitously in love with Travis, a neighbor’s small, black and white Pomeranian. My reaction to this dog paralleled that of a thirteen-year-old girl in the throes of her first crush. I longed for glimpses of him and hissed to my daughter, “There he is!” when I spotted him trotting by. I dashed madly out of my house for the chance to pet him. Eventually, I realized I needed a Pom of my own. I scoured the Internet, gathered books, called the American Kennel Club, and consulted breeders. And finally, my daughter and I went to pick up Queenie, the six-monthold puppy we had selected. At seven pounds, she was like a doll dog. Tiny body, tiny paws, tiny, foxy snout. She was nimble, funny, and she pranced like a circus pony. I marveled at her subtle coloration, a mix of ginger and grey, with sooty markings under her chin and tail. I was high on puppy love, an intoxication I believed would never end. Queenie had been with us for a little over a year when the attack took place. It was on a glorious September
morning, the sort of day when the cloudless, azure sky seemed to be a fair approximation of heaven. The trees still held their summer green. Window boxes and planters were still bursting with hectic, end-of-summer color. One minute Queenie was trotting happily alongside me and the next, a large, unleashed dog darted out of a doorway and pounced on her with a malevolent growl. I was vaguely aware of the woman who had opened the door and was presumably the other dog’s owner. I shouted to her to please call her animal off while I tried to pull the dogs apart. I should have scooped Queenie up in my arms, kicked and shouted, jumped into the fray. Instead, I kept tugging on the leash. There was a tiny click, scarcely audible, as the latch to Queenie’s harness popped open. Without the restraint of either harness or collar, she took off, jet propelled by terror. Stunned, I stumbled to follow. I called her name but she didn’t even turn; she ran a full block ahead of me. By this time, I was shrieking to anyone and everyone to please help me catch my dog. I was weeping, too, and in my panic broke the most deeply ingrained of New York City-bred habits: I dropped my big, stuffed-to-the-gills handbag on the sidewalk because it was weighing me down. Even without the bag, I couldn’t catch up. I watched Queenie veer into the street, back to the sidewalk and then - most horrible of all - dart across a busy, two lane thoroughfare where cars sped along at forty miles an hour. I remember thinking, She will be hit, I will see it happen, and then I will have to go home with her mangled corpse and tell my children that she is dead. It was one of the worst moments I had ever known. Continued on page 35 See MY RELATIONSHIPS
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
my life in france
letter from home
by Julia Child
by Carolyn Hart
with Alex Prud’homme
Reviewed by Charlotte Anne Smith
Reviewed by Kalan L. Chapman
have read My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, six times in the past year. I plan to read it once more before year end. After the first four perusals I had to examine the motivation behind what would appear to be my excessive, obsessive reading habit. Perhaps it is the incredibly vivid and spot-on observations she makes in regards to her travels in Paris, throughout France, and into other European countries. The detail and delight she takes in her descriptions wrapped me up in her words like a cozy blanket warmed by a New England fire. Perhaps it is the superfluous way in which she delves into food and the what, why, and how of European cuisine. Her enchantingly thorough explanation of the importance of a proper French meal left me salivating for food I never knew existed. Perhaps it is the painstakingly and gleefully honest way she describes finding her calling and the enormous amount of effort that went into not making a name for herself, but instead passing on her passion. Perhaps it is the great liberties she takes with both the English and French languages – mishmashing words, tacking on syllables and consonants to create new ones. Her use of language takes the reader on a wonderfully, giggly romp through a messy, unkempt Parisian street. It is all of these things and none of these things. It is only Julia herself that has caused me to read, re-read, and get excited about reading it again. Her joie de vivre leaps off the pages. She is charming, cranky, cheeky, as is My Life in France. Mia
he primary event of my growing up years was World War II. Reading Letter from Home by Oklahoma City writer, Carolyn Hart, made all the years since fade away. Gretchen Grace Gillman, 14, was dropped into the adult world when most of the young men in the small Oklahoma town where she lived went off to war. She is hired as a newspaper reporter and covers everything that happens, including the murder of her best friend’s mother. In my little farming community, we also dealt with what had earlier been adult problems: getting crops planted, cultivated and harvested. There was never any question that the kids were going to the fields since there was no one else to do the harvesting. As I read this book, it all came back to me. I remembered the complete devotion to doing whatever was needed in order to win the war and return the men to the community. My father was in the Arkansas National Guard and called up to fight from the invasion of North Africa, up the Italian boot and across France and Germany to the end of the war. Gretchen’s mother worked in the bomber plant and had to stay in Tulsa since gasoline and tires were strictly rationed. This leaves Gretchen with her German grandmother. To avoid trouble, her grandmother changes the name of her café from Pfizers Café to Victory Café so it won’t remind people she is German. One of my ancestors was also German and even at age nine I understood that I was not to mention it. Some thought it might cause trouble for Daddy and prevent him from being promoted. Gretchen’s story is so accurate it leaves those of us who lived through WWII feeling as though she is a kindred soul. She worked in the café, covered any event that happened in the town, and tried to cope with the fact her mother was needed more by the war effort than by her daughter. In this book, Hart has captured the essence of Middle America as it went through one of the most trying times in its history. It made me relive a time when America stood united and we all looked for the time when our troops would finally come home. Mia
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
The Alto Wore Tweed:
The Blessings of the animals
A Liturgical Mystery
by Katrina Kittle
by Mark Schweizer
Reviewed by Denise Jarmola
ome books are for personal edification while others give us new and insightful knowledge. The Alto Wore Tweed: A Liturgical Mystery by Mark Schweizer fits into neither of those categories. It is a book that you read just for fun, and a fun read it is. Hayden Konig, the hero of this tale, is a strange mixture of police chief, wanna-be mystery writer, and part-time liturgist at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in St. Germain, North Carolina. Hayden believes the most expedient method to becoming a great writer is to use the tools of another great author. So with the purchase of Raymond Chandler’s 1939 Underwood typewriter he endeavors to write the next great mystery. His only flaw is he has no plot and his characters keep walking out on him. As all writers find, life keeps getting in the way of having time to write. The sexton of his church is found murdered in the choir loft. Who could have done it? Could it be the new pastor, Mother Ryan, who brings an ultra-feminist agenda to the church with the audacity to request they sing Kumbaya during Sunday services? Or Malcolm Walker, the senior church warden, who was getting very unorthodox marital therapy from Mother Ryan? Or perhaps Malcolm’s trophy wife, Rhiza, who had once dated Hayden himself? The list of suspects continues as Hayden uncovers more secrets and scandals than he realized existed in his little congregation. The book is filled with unique and colorful characters that ironically remind me of those I have shared the pews with over the years. Although it is a mystery, Agatha Christie it is not. Rather, it is a hilarious view of the inner workings of small town life in a smaller microorganism, a church. So when life gets too complicated and you need a really good laugh, I recommend reading Schweizer’s The Alto Wore Tweed. Mia
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
Reviewed by Juliana Boner
eing an animal lover myself, I was excited to read Katrina Kittle’s new novel, The Blessings of the Animals. The story centers around veterinarian Cami Anderson, who, as the back cover of the book explains, has hit a rough patch. Actually, it seems her life has been an ongoing string of rough patches. Cami’s life is metaphorically depicted in the opening scene of the book where she, as a child, rushes out into the fury of a killer tornado because she wants to touch it – because something was happening out in the yard, and she wanted to be a part of it. I think I held my breath all the way through that scene as the tornado rolled her over. She was finally stopped by the neighbor’s wooden picket fence. There she stayed, pinned up against it until the mighty wind deposited her onto the ground and pulled the boards up from the fence into the air. This has been the sum of her existence: careening from and triumphing over one near disaster to the next, whether it was of her own making, or one of the many unfortunate animals she is called on to rescue from a number of dreadful situations. However, her skill as a vet and her courage to face whatever comes in front of her are not enough to keep her together when her marriage falls apart. It’s fascinating to watch Cami go through and grow through the many incarnations of love and relationships as she tries to figure out how to live and love again, and as she learns to listen to herself about what she truly wants. This book took me on my own roller coaster of emotion, making me laugh out loud one minute, and two pages later having to wipe away the tears that crept down my cheek. It’s an uproarious, fascinating complexity of a story that made me truly sad to see the book come to an end. Mia
MyCAUSE by Susan Colvin
Laurenâ€™s Nest Egg
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
“It’s Lauren’s Nest Egg – that’s it!”
I squealed to my husband. “What’s Lauren’s Nest Egg?” he replied in confusion. “That’s going to be the name of our foundation,” I said. And at that moment, he seemed to understand. We looked at each other and knew it was time. “And by the way, we’re going to have a fundraiser,” I told him. It had been three years since our daughter’s untimely death. We had prayed for direction or a project idea that would honor Lauren’s memory. Whatever we came up with would need to exemplify her caring spirit. We wanted it to be something that would make a difference. Since her death, many people had come to us with ideas about how to do this, but nothing ever felt right…until now. We had a perfect fit. Lauren was only twenty-three years old when she died. She had come home from work and lay down for a pre-dinner nap. However, this day, she gently passed away from complications of cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. Her unexpected death was a shock to us. She had been a runner and there were no indications that she had any health issues. Obviously, this was not a journey we were prepared to take, but gradually since that day, we’ve been given the grace and strength to cope with our new “normal.” Lauren’s short life was a true witness for all who were lucky enough to know her and blessed enough to be loved by her. She was a beautiful, smart, loving, giving, and gentle young woman of faith. She was preparing to attend graduate school in social work/counseling and had dreams of joining the Peace Corps. She was a friend to the world and all of its people. Honoring Lauren’s memory called for something unique that reflected her life. My husband and I had been hoping to establish a program where other people could be involved. We had been having “warming of the heart” moments lately - urgings to be involved in volunteer activities. At the same time we were praying for direction, a dear friend of ours was beginning to develop a specific vision and plan. We had no idea that we were all sharing parallel “aha” moments and were about to join forces. For years, this friend, who is an interior designer, had seen perfectly good furniture and household furnishings that were indiscriminately discarded or given away. She felt there had to be a way to donate them to families in need, but she wanted to take it a step further. She didn’t want to simply give items to a furniture bank or resale store, but instead she wanted to add a special loving touch. Her idea was to be involved in setting up a home for families or individuals coming out of homelessness. Many of them had lived in homes before, so her plan would be “renesting.” And so, The Renesting Project was formed.
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
The project involves a volunteer group made up of caring people who spend their time, energy, and resources gathering gently used household goods and furniture. All the donations are inventoried, warehoused, organized, delivered, and set up in well thought-out arrangements. It was a simple enough concept. All we needed was stuff and volunteers. The only announcements about the program had been in a church newsletter and by word of mouth. In less than a month, on a frigid day in January 2010, we had our first renesting day. People came from out of nowhere to bring us their furniture and furnishings. Suddenly we were off and running. Furniture was placed, pictures hung, cabinets stocked, a welcome mat put down, and fresh flowers were left on the table along with a Bible, small cross, and a card that said “Welcome Home.” Everyone left with warm feelings of fulfillment, and we were all hooked. And this is how the process has repeated itself every month since. It’s almost impossible to describe what I have learned about homelessness in the last few months. I had no clue who the homeless are, not to mention the mountain of issues they face and how pervasive the problem is. Strangest of all, I had a background in social work and had worked for years among the homeless in Shreveport, Louisiana. The project is impacting many lives in our community, from the volunteers to the agency workers, as well as the people we are helping to get resettled. In March of 2010 we established Lauren’s Nest Egg and Nest Fest, with our stated goal to be the funding arm of the The Renesting Project. Nest Fest 2010, held in August in Shreveport, was a success. Awareness of The Renesting Project was spread, $75,000 was raised, and Lauren’s life was celebrated. As a result, others are following the lead and establishing similar programs. I believe Lauren would have loved being a part of this. But then I guess she always will be. In her spirit, I will continue with the cause she inspired.
For more information and updated details, or to express interest in starting your own Renesting Project, go to www.laurensnestegg.com.
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
by Sheilah Bright
When my father died suddenly in 1997, I plunged into A good friend of mine needs a Surrender Day. I can see the swirling tsunami of life and death decisions that come it in the fraying emotional hem of her determination to be with being “the responsible one.” I wanted to lose my strong for the children. What she needs is to wave a white sorrow in denial or alcohol or sleep aids, but there was a flag and crawl into a soft bed. casket to purchase, funeral songs to pick out, and an There is a fear, I know, that you might just stay there. endless array of hams, cakes and vegetable trays We are a generation of women who grew up to deal with so that our grief could be fed. hearing about aunts and grandmothers who I “held up well” as my family tends to took to their beds for weeks because of say when death comes. When a stranger nerves or spells. I suspect it was just life. claiming to be my dad’s ex-girlfriend If children come home to discover that It took me a asked if the coffin could be opened sometimes mothers want to give up, because she didn’t have time to stop is that such a bad lesson to learn? Is it while to by the funeral home, I didn’t lose it. better to say that you have a headache understand that When the preacher took the wrong rather than a heartache? road to the cemetery and delayed My parents divorced when I was a not every happy the burial service, I refused to break young adult. They had done such a memory had a sulphur good job of hiding their problems down. Positioned between my two from us that we were shocked by lining. Eventually, brothers who were barely speaking the revelation that many years of we all came to realize at the time, I stood steadfast in the our childhood weren’t quite what rock-solid responsibility deeded they had seemed. I spent a lot of that even when to the one who, on the surface at time searching the past in search of families struggle, least, had made the fewest mistakes some clue that I had missed. It took in life. I cried many times – snot-filled me a while to understand that not they can still bursts of pain that left me feeling as if every happy memory had a sulphur survive I had the flu. But I got up every day for lining. Eventually, I came to realize that weeks, maybe months, and penned the even when families struggle, they can still sympathy notes, dealt with paying the survive. The outcome would likely have uninsured medical bills, sold the property, been the same if I had taken a Surrender Day and watched as people loaded away my or two. father’s possessions at an estate sale. As I cautiously creep toward my 50th year, I find A few months ago, I finished the job. The last grandchild my tolerance gauge faltering. For a people person, it is a to turn 16 was given some money to buy her first car. She serious mechanical problem. My husband’s habits bug has no memories of my father, but we all remember his me. My own habits bug me more. If the grocery store clerk delight in watching the toddler cherub crawl into his lap. is too slow, I complain about it several times throughout I realize now, after nearly 14 years, that I should have the day. I actually waste more time rehashing the incident done things differently. I should have given up. For at least than I lost from experiencing it. The women around me one long day so many days ago, I should have cried the struggle with the same issues and chock it up to quivering loudest, refused to get out of bed, and wallowed heart- estrogen levels and overactive multi-tasking glands. deep in sorrow. A Surrender Day would have done me Continued on page 32 good. See MY VOICE
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
The Noise of by Karin Leeburg Larsen
Kirsta Kylla Kendis Karin
I never dreamed of being an only child. Those who have probably also dream of the silence that accompanies “alone time.” I didn’t have time to dream of silence. I was born into noise, the vigorous gurgling of voices that filled my infancy with discovery and life. To be left alone meant sleep time, and even then I heard muffled noise outside the door. I had three older sisters, each two years younger than the one before. Our two parents deftly controlled this noise, encouraging and participating in the life it begat. And then one day, there was only one parent. A widow now, my mother still entertained the noise. As we grew, so did the noise. We loved and hated, fought and played. I watched these elder three, secretly admiring and coveting their ways. I wanted to put on those ways just as I did my favorite dress, but it took me many years to figure out how.
My oldest sister, Kirsta, was thirsty for knowledge almost from birth. At a year, she spoke over 100 words. By the time I was listening, her vocabulary kept me questioning and learning. She was levelheaded, even in the midst of the madness my other sisters and I threw at her and in the ludicrous moments that sometimes erupted. She was strong – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and along with my mother was the workhorse of our home. We lived on a farm, raising German Shepherd dogs and Arabian horses. She took her chores in stride, as if every 13-year-old was required to work in the fields before and after school. She took on our work when we were too lazy to do our share. Kirsta gave me her protection, sharing with me if she had extra, helping if work overwhelmed me, and providing another haven of safety and love alongside the one Mom drew around us. At times, I just wanted to be in her presence. It was comfortable, safe, and quiet – something I rarely had with my other sisters. She’d read for hours, preferring
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
My Sisters Kendis Paris Karin Leeburg Larsen Kirsta Melton Kylla Leeburg
Tolkien, Hugo, and Dumas to the board games and movies that engrossed the rest of us. Sometimes I’d gather my books and sit near her, immersed in the serene noise of her thoughts. She called me Tossie, the nickname my father had given me. She was the only other person allowed to call me that. I cried for her when she left for college. We both knew she was destined for greatness beyond our farm and it hurt to know that once she left, she would never return in quite the same way. My passion for literature and innate desire to be alone with silence and a book are from her. She’s my intellectual, reflective, and contemplative side that allows me to stop to appreciate the beauty of the moment and the fleetingness of time. My second oldest sister, Kylla, was so many things to me: the “cool” sister – rebellious, manipulative, more open and candid with me than any other – revealing the secrets of her wisdom and age and de-mystifying boys. She never took my work from me; most often she gave me hers to do. She was creative, full of ideas and
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
big dreams that eventually took her to foreign lands in search of identity and purpose. I sat mesmerized as she wove stories of people and places. She helped spark my love of imagination and fantasy. Nothing was too hard for her or beyond her reach. She was passionate, soaring with energy and drama. During my childhood summers, Kylla set up school in our living room and taught me for hours, giving me handouts, grading my work, and reading from whatever she chose for a textbook. Boys loved her charisma, attitude, and charm – an irresistible triple threat. Flirtatious and confident, she never took seriously their adoring words. She was smart, but in a different way than Kirsta. She was wily, able to weasel her way out of chores by employing her younger sisters to perform the Continued on page 32 See MY INSPIRATION
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MY ART Continued from page 17 mustn’t talk in a library. Finally, we threw up our hands in defeat and announced to our respective husbands that we were deserting them for two or three days a month, retiring incognito to a local hotel. There, to the astonishment of the service staff, we took all the pictures off the walls and taped up the 400-plus pages of transcripts. Within the three-year span of interviews, Jasha spoke more than once of the same episode, not always with the same information. Speaking of the famed Serge Lifar of France, he said, “He had a small company, maybe seven people...” and then in subsequent interviews separated by months, he altered the number to “five” or “nine.” Not having access to a séance, and not thinking the number pertinent to Jasha’s story, we would compromise with, “He had a small company...” and move on from there. With tape and scissors we isolated incidents. Pages pertaining to particular anecdotes streamed down the walls, each with a slightly different emphasis. In our isolation, we had time to study, condense, and clarify each anecdote into a single, cohesive whole. It took months, but that became the basis for our book. Jasha knew his world intimately and felt no need to place his stories into historical context. We, however, did - which led to unexpected journeys. At one point, I turned to Cheryl and said, “We really need to go to Paris. There is too much about his early life that we don’t know.” And so, we did. Our husbands were too stunned to object. Off we went, each armed with a smattering of French and a thousand questions. We started in Monaco, the home of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, knowing just enough to have made contact with the Ballet Russe archivist located in Monte Carlo’s famed casino. Behind the glitz and splendor of its gambling halls, up a spiral staircase in a rabbit’s warren of tiny offices, we found our way to la Patrimoine Historique, Archives Société des Bains de Mer. In their files we found programs and pictures of the young Jasha we never knew. Our jet lag fled. Our excitement grew. Here was corroboration of the stories Jasha had told. Here we could trace his rise from fledgling to professional. Monte Carlo led to Paris, and two ladies from Oklahoma imbued with persistence and passion, if not professional credentials, arrived prepared to dig into a forgotten dancer’s long-forgotten past. A year later, Paris led us to England, where we were amazed to discover Jasha’s own written words in carefully preserved letters tucked away in a remote West Dean estate. And so we moved on to New York and its treasure trove of archives, then back to Tulsa and the long effort of transforming hard-won knowledge into the printed word. Alone, each of us could have written a
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
book. Together, combining our differing talents, it took forever, for we questioned and debated every phrase, every historical interpretation, the rhythm, musicality, and accuracy of each sentence. Finally, thanks to the ineffable aid of an extraordinary editor, a decade from its beginning, we held in our hands a beautiful, finished book. Roman Jasinski: A Gypsy Prince from the Ballet Russe named itself. Jasha’s early life as a “gypsy” who danced for food, and his later life as one of Ballet’s premier “princes,” led to its title. I think my favorite review of the book was from a very distant cousin, curious to see it, who wrote: “If anyone had told me I would willingly pick up a book about ballet, I’d have said he was crazy. But within a few pages I saw that I was reading a book about a man with courage, tenacity, drive, integrity, whose life, against all odds, became an inspiration to all who knew him.” That was our Jasha. That was what I felt in my heart. We wrote in homage; we wrote in hopes that the young artists of today and tomorrow’s world would take courage from his story. “...I really want to give something of myself to this country, to leave something, to donate...” Jasha gave his artistry to us and changed our lives forever. The book is our gift to him. Mia MWW-490:MWW-490
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MY TASTES Continued from page 15 breakfast for Queen Victoria’s coronation, he designed a compact, smokeless campaign stove for soldiers fighting the Crimean war so they could cook without being detected by the enemy. He also wrote penny-wise recipes for Soyer’s Schilling Cookery. Dolly is such a big fan of the people’s chef that she plans to leave one of her brownies on his grave when she next visits Ivan Day for a workshop in Regency cooking. Not exactly what you would expect from a girl from Hollywood. “You would never find me on the beach,” she says. She grew up near La Cienega Boulevard and still remembers the smells of kitchens prepping along Restaurant Row. She collected old cookbooks as a child, like Prudence Penny’s Coupon Cookery, a World War II era book, and Florence LaGanke’s Patty Pans: A Cook Book for Beginners. A passion for history and cooking was reinforced by birthday presents from an antique bookstore near her home. Does the taste for costume drama have anything to do with her Hollywood childhood? Dolly shudders and mentions her antipathy for “bifurcated clothing” and the single pair of jeans she has tried on and taken off three times. She favors the J. Peterman catalogue, with its Victorian inspired designs, and dancewear stores. “Flamenco skirts are perfect for the Victorian thing. If I’m cooking, I’ll put on leggings.”
For now there are cell phones to answer and a hungry household to feed, as well as a course to organize for the four Newark Academy students enrolled in her cooking class. I ask my friend whether she would actually swap the present for the past. “I might take a crack at it if I could come back.” Fortunately for Dolly and her fans, a modern Victorian can have it both ways. Mia
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Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
MY VOICE Continued from page 25 I wonder if we have over-achieved ourselves into perpetual exhaustion. “I’m so stressed out” has somehow become our anthem so that we recite it without understanding what we are really saying. We hear it from other women and immediately think, “She thinks she’s stressed out!” At least once a week, I will hear someone longingly say, “I just want to crawl back into bed.” A young mother once told me that she deliberately doesn’t get the flu shot in hopes that she might catch the bug and get some rest. Wouldn’t giving up for a day or two be healthier for us all? We need to admit that we can throw in the towel and not immediately pick it back up to wash it. We need to swim around in a sea of nothing until we drift to the land of renewal. Surrender. Even the word sounds soothing. So this is what I am going to do for myself and for my friends in this next year: when someone I care about is struggling against life’s brisk winds, I’m going to figure out a way to give her a Surrender Day, or at least a Surrender Morning or Surrender Afternoon. It might come in the form of a massage. It might come corked in a bottle of good wine. It might steal away the time set aside for finally shredding bank statements that belonged to your father. I suspect it will involve a pillow and a blanket. This gift of surrender isn’t about admitting that you have failed. It is admitting that you can’t – not today. Mia
MY INSPIRATION Continued from page 27 tasks while her mind took the analytical approach to every situation. She has excelled at every job she’s had, finding the new approach or angle not seen by anyone else. She’s unstoppable, a determined example of an internal drive instilled in her at a very young age. My zest for life, resolve to prevail, self-confidence, and desire to share my wisdom with others are from Kylla. She is the part of me that is wild with imagination and the belief that I can seize my dreams. Because of her, I never stop believing that I can do and be more. Kendis, my third sister, was my friend. With her I shared a room, my thoughts, my laughter, and play. She was outgoing in a way that inspired, making friends as easily as breathing. She loved me as her little sister. At times, she fully appreciated her role as my mentor; at other times I annoyed her to death. She let me sing for hours when we should have been sleeping and long after she really wanted me to shut up. She pushed me to excel as an athlete and helped me celebrate our successes. With me, she shared silliness and a reverent fear of our older siblings. We lived an hour away from the city where we attended school, an hour away from our friends, and an hour away from normal modes of entertainment. We created games: pool with garden sticks and rocks; ice skating without skates or ice; baseball with a worn-out mitt and ball; and cross-country running on our red dirt roads. Kendis didn’t treat me like a child who wanted to imitate the one she admired. Instead, she treated me as a comrade-in-arms in this family we shared. When she had her first sleepover at a friend’s house, I was devastated and cried all night, clutching a picture of her as I slept alone in our room. She was my constant companion, my sister by blood and choice. Even now, I look to her for relationship advice, cherishing her empathetic and insightful counsel. My desire for close friends and my longing for companionship are from her. She’s my outgoing side, the vulnerability I feel when I reach out to another in friendship, knowing that rich rewards come with the potential for hurt. Though I’m a separate individual and now living far from my sisters, I see their impact in my life from my birth to this moment. I’m the artist, the creative expresser of thoughts and emotions who is full of fire to achieve a thousand dreams. I’m impulsive and passionate, the tortured writer who isn’t content to internally frame thoughts but driven to the written word in the hope that external expression will clarify the unending flow of ideas and words crowding my brain. Who I have become is born out of the noise of my sisters. Our wonderfully intricate lives formed a bond that can never be severed. Mia
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
MY travels Continued from page 7 It was a raconteur’s heaven at Tony and Maureen’s. At night we’d eat, drink wine, exchange travel tales, and relax in their graceful home on the Yarra, the pleasant, path-lined river that meanders through Melbourne. Tony and Maureen’s stories are populated with dedicated Sherpas, gregarious guides, odd insects and animals, and completely misguided tourists. I was finding it hard to hold my own in the story smackdown, though I gave it a good shot with accounts starring skunks, tarantulas, Christmases in the desert, ghosts in Italian castles, and surprises in the saunas of Sweden. But we were not about to rest on our storyteller’s laurels. Maureen was recommending a trip to Tasmania to see the island’s famed marsupials while I still could. It seemed a dreadful disease was ripping through the Tasmanian devil population. I should see them and write about them before they were gone. My head was spinning, quite literally, by the time we headed out for a scenic motor tour along the Great Ocean Road and a visit to the salty hamlet of Lorne. But first we had to stop at Dean’s Marsh, an idyllic little town, where we spent the night at the home of friends who had also traveled the world and come back with huge stores of carpets and art and memories. That night Tony had to come out to the cottage in back to remove
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
a spider the size of my hand from the wall in the room. Yes, it was really there. That was a fact, although it was starting to feel as if I’d arrived in the Dreamtime, what with the giddy, head-turning whirl of my ongoing vertigo and the communal chant into which I felt myself being inextricably drawn. I must stress again that, as with the vertigo, I was not entirely displeased with the surreal sense of disorientation I was experiencing in a land where the songlines set the course. I think I must have had a smile on my face as I ambled down the sunny street toward what could well have been the town’s only restaurant. I was walking along under the trees in silence when I heard it. “Hello, George!” The speaker was a large white cockatoo sitting up on one of the branches of what looked like a gum tree. “Hello, George!” he repeated and, when I started to walk away, other exclamations. “Hey, you! Come back! I mean you! What are you doing? Awwww!”… that kind of thing, drawing me back for another “Hello, George!” or “How are you?” Every time I stepped away, the bird gave it his all, flinging one phrase after another at me. And I realized he was like me, like anyone really. He just wanted my attention. He wanted to connect. He wanted to tell me a story. Mia
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Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
MY RELATIONSHIPS Continued from page 18 A young man responded to my frantic pleas and tried to catch her, but she eluded him. He was soon joined by a woman who managed to coax Queenie into going up the stoop of a brownstone. I raced up to find her waiting for me. I pulled Queenie onto my lap and wept the lavish tears that are the sweet reward of a crisis narrowly averted. The young woman who had saved Queenie extended a hand to help me up. I grabbed that hand and kissed it. Then the woman whose dog had initiated the attack appeared with my bag, apologizing profusely. She told me she was the housekeeper and that the dog had never done this before. I should have taken the name of the dog’s owner, but I was too overwrought. My chest burned and I could not catch my breath; my face was slick with tears and my nose was still running. I dug through my newly returned bag but could not unearth so much as a single, wadded up tissue. The few blocks home felt punishingly long and I walked slowly, Queenie clutched tightly in my arms. I would not let her down until we were safely inside the house. The story, with all its dramatic touches, was replayed numerous times. I told my husband and children. I told my mother, brother, friends, and neighbors. I told Queenie’s vet and the woman at the pet store where I had bought the harness. I could not stop telling it. I needed to re-experience the moment I saw her stray - in hideous slow motion, just like a Hollywoodgenerated cliché - from the relative safety of the sidewalk into the almost certain peril of the busy street. How was it that she hadn’t been hit? How had she - and I - been so lucky? These questions fueled my obsessive reiteration. I had to bring myself to the edge over and over again. I threw out the harness and replaced it with a new, industrial-strength model. I told my kids that they were never, ever to take Queenie out without a leash. I was more alert when I walked her. More on guard. But there’s been a lingering aftermath, like a bitter taste that is faint yet discernible. I am aware of it all the time. I will be aware of it until the day Queenie dies. Because her death is in me now, embedded under my skin like a microchip. To come so close to losing her was a chilling premonition, a grim foreshadowing of the inevitable deaths I will face: my mother, my husband, my friends and ultimately, my own. I was spared on that September day, but in all likelihood, I will bury this dog I have come to love. Knowing this in the abstract and coming close to that knowledge as I did that morning are two vastly different things. One is mercifully vague, blurred in the imagination and in the heart. The other is crisply etched and fixed there, as if with acid. My effervescent elixir of puppy love has undergone its own dark alchemy, and I have no choice but to accept that, with whatever semblance of adult grace I can muster. Mia
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Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
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Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
Myafterthoughts by Monica Roberts
“ ” Right now I’m being put to the ultimate test as an exchange student from Mexico is staying in our home for a month.
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
the american dream Inviting someone into your home is risky. On the outside, most of us present a fairly well groomed, well-mannered persona. But if I want to get to know someone and really let the person get to know my family and me, I have them into our home. Here is where they’ll realize that, as much as I try to be pulled together, our fifteen-year-old dachshund convalescing in our family room will pee and poop on the (thank goodness) hardwood floor. This down-home honesty is what presents the risk. For our cleaning lady and the frequent babysitters, I scurry about to sweep up, wipe up, and pick up before they arrive, lest a few crumbs and dust bunnies make them think less of us. They’re great girls, but let’s not get too honest. Right now, I’m being put to the ultimate test as an exchange student from Mexico is staying in our home for a month. Having a houseguest for this amount of time requires careful prep time on the part of any successful host. First, I lectured my children and husband on how this experience would be a great opportunity to practice more patience in our home. Why they stared back with accusing eyes is beyond me. Second, I took on our mess of a garage. This was a logical step in my planning process, since Francisco (but we can call him Frank) would rarely set foot out there. Off to Goodwill went the junk, into the trash went the trash, and donated to charity went some random baby gear – putting me on an even greater moral high ground. I’ve known some mothers who repainted a room for their exchange student, so I figured in comparison I was completely in my right mind. I also weeded behind and alongside the garage, since no one ever sees those areas either. Finally, I made up my mind that Frank’s experience with our family would be filled with June Cleaver-style home-cooked meals and fun, enriching experiences. Again in need of a lecture, my family was told to tone down their boisterous, gregarious personalities lest we scare poor Frank to death. Let him warm up to us, I urged, before you demonstrate your new dance move, back flip, and whoopee cushion. As I write this, it’s been a week, and so far the experience has been amazing. Not only is Frank a perfect gentleman (he makes his bed every morning…how I love this child), but he hasn’t demonstrated an iota of homesickness. We are impressed with his politeness, his English, and his general graciousness. And because he’s such a gentleman, it’s hard to read what he thinks of us. Though I’ve tried hard to maintain the perfect-mommy-with-perfectchildren-in-a-perfect-house identity, the façade has already seen a few cracks. Old dog peed Lake Michigan on the kitchen floor: check. Toddler’s tantrums pushed mommy’s patience to the edge: check. Daddy’s stressful day resulted in a terse conversation: check. Ironically, Frank tells us his mother drives the exact same car as ours – a white Toyota Sienna. Maybe we’re much like his family in other ways, too. At least a girl can dream. And so, Frank, welcome to America. We hope you’ll feel right at home.
ourcontributing editors Sheilah Bright is a published writer/ photojournalist/ wanna-be gypsy who blends her love of travel with the creative art of storytelling. Her work has been published in hundreds of newspapers and magazines. Whether learning to trek in Bhutan or counting penguins in Antarctica, this adventure junkie turned travel writer is hoping to visit her remaining two continents - Africa and Australia - in 2011, the year she turns 50. Her travel photography can be viewed at www.brightjourneys. com. Sheilah wrote My Voice: “Day of Surrender”on page 25.
Poet, travel writer and novelist Linda Watanabe McFerrin (www.lwmcferrin.com) is the author of two poetry collections, an award-winning novel Namako: Sea Cucumber, and short story collection The Hand of Buddha, and the editor of a travel guidebook Best Places Northern California, 4th ed., and four literary anthologies. A past winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction, she teaches and leads workshops in fiction and creative non-fiction. Her latest novel, Dead Love (www.deadlovebook.com), which was published by Stone Bridge Press in September 2010, is a supernatural thriller about Japan and zombies. Linda wrote My Travels:“Telling Tales Down Under”on page 6.
Meetourwriters Linda Phillips Ashour is the author of Sweet Remedy and three other novels. Her non-fiction has been anthologized in My Father Married Your Mother. She has written book reviews for The New York Times and articles for The New York Sun about boutique laundries and field trips with her hungry husband. A native of Tulsa, Linda has lived in New York City for ten years and is the mother of two grown children. Linda wrote My Tastes:“Dolly’s Victorian Kitchen”on page 14.
during the pressure of the financial career, were the initial propellant for her writings. Currently working on a book project with renowned cartographer, Jeffrey Ambroziak, has proven to be more challenging than her recent (and first) technical mountain summit. You can find her online at www.soloroadtrip. com. Tammy wrote My Journey:“Living in Another Woman’s House”on page 8.
two dogs. But in her life as a novelist, she lets herself go a little wild. In her latest book, Breaking the Bank, the protagonist, Mia Saul, makes a routine trip to her local ATM. The machine starts giving her money it neither records nor debits from her account, and at first Mia attributes the cash to a stroke of much needed luck. But when the machine actually begins communicating with her, her world gets upended in ways she never thought possible. Yona’s essays, articles and short fiction have appeared in Brides, Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Harper’s Bazaar, Metropolitan Home, The New York Times, O, the Oprah Magazine, and Redbook. Yona wrote My Relationships: “Puppy Love”on page 18. Monica Roberts is an Oklahoma native and Tulsa is her adopted hometown. When she’s not being a mom to Jack, Lucy and Oscar (children, not dogs), she writes, consults on marketing projects and tries to take a nap, which rarely works out. She enjoys cooking, reading, long walks and entertaining. Monica writes the column“My Afterthoughts”on page 37.
Georgia Snoke is a wife, mother of two, grandmother of five, former newscaster for KOTV News and former Tulsa Tribune weekly columnist. She was Described by her family as also a dancer with Tulsa Civic Ballet and a true Renaissance woman, has just finished terms as president and Karin Leeburg Larsen is Board chairman of Tulsa Ballet. She has one of those women who taught character dance and has trained expands every 24 hours three decades of Tulsa Ballet Nutcracker A native of Shreveport, into 48. Married, with two children (with more to come). She LA, Susan Colvin and her boys, she gained both her degrees travels joyfully with her husband, and husband, Jay, have recently – one in English literature and one in has a decade of serious family historical developed a foundation, journalism – while working full-time, research under her belt. Georgia wrote Lauren’s Nest Egg, in raising her family, writing two novels, My Art:“Writing the Story of Roman”on memory of their daughter. freelancing, creating and cooking new page 17. The foundation supports the Renesting recipes, and writing a cooking blog. In Project of Bossier City, LA. (www. her spare time, she writes poetry, draws, Kim Whiting is an artist laurensnestegg.com). Susan wrote My plays the piano, studies Gaelic and all (www.kimwhiting.com), Cause:“Lauren’s Nest Egg”on page 22. things Irish, and reads non-stop. She writer, and mother of lives in the Pacific Northwest and finds six-year-old twins Ben and Tammie Dooley traded inspiration and energy in the rainy days. Eliza. A native of nowhere in a financial career for Karin wrote My Inspiration:“The Noise of in particular and a gypsy a laptop, flip flops, and My Sisters”on page 26. at heart, Tulsa was her 27th move since a go at her dream job, the age of 18. For now, her Brookside freelance writing and Yona Zeldis McDonough lives a pretty neighborhood is where she calls home. photography. Her passion conventional life: eighteen years in Kim wrote My Reflections:“Great for adventure and solo road trips, the the same Brooklyn house, twenty-five Expectations”on page 12. solitude of which provided a lifeline married to the same man, two kids,
Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
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Mia Magazine, Winter 2010
The Winter 2010 issue of Mia Magazine, a journal by, for and about women.