Category Archives: Philadelphia

beautiful day (13/99)

Philadelphia - City HallPhiladelphia - Suburban StationPhiladelphia - Friends Center - WelcomePhiladelphia - Friends Center 1

My city, today.

A day of journeys, similar, yet different.

A day of moments.

A day of remembering one of our own, gone.

A day of embraces and understanding.

A day of forgiveness and acceptance.

A day of declarations of independence from shame and stigma and loneliness.

A day of healing.

A day of laughter.

A day of tears.

A day of being seen and heard.

A day of compassion.

A day of release from guilt.

A day of sisterhood.

A day of bravery, of courage.

A day of sharing, of honesty.

A day of new ideas and exciting plans.

A day of hope.

A day of generosity and gratitude.

A day of threatened storms overpowered by brilliant light.

A day of love.

A day of the very best kind.

All this, today.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #13 of my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

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On Being a Flyers Girl in a Penguins World (12/99)

Flyers - Pens

Chalk it up to the push-pull effect of place that I always feel when I’m here, but there I was:

Thursday night, solidly back home among everything Philly, hitting refresh on all my social media streams for the final score of the Pens game.

Believe me, I wasn’t sure who I was either.

You see, I’m a Philly girl, born and raised. I love and am proud of my hometown.

Most of the time.

Growing up, mine was not a sports family but it didn’t really matter. If you lived in the Philadelphia of the ’70s and ’80s, it was impossible to not cheer for the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers. Sports events became part of our births and christenings, our graduations and weddings, all the milestones that make up a life. Athletes were local celebrities, held up as heroes; on neighborhood streets and school playgrounds, every boy I knew dreamed of being Ron Jaworski, Mike Schmidt, Julius Irving, and Bobby Clarke.

I imagine — no, I know — the youth of Pittsburgh experienced a similar phenomenon. Different names, same dreams.

I completely get it, this passion for the home team when living in a sports-crazed town. Even if you’re not a sports person, which I admittedly am not, this loyalty has a way of seeping into your soul.

This summer will mark five years since we moved to Pittsburgh. Although there are aspects of our lives where we still feel like newcomers — our friendships are peripheral, at best; we don’t have the close relationships we have (had?) in Philly; we still get lost when driving —  in many ways, this city has become home. My kids identify more with being from Pittsburgh than Philly, as this is the longest stretch of time they’ve lived in one place.  They’ve made friends here, my work is here, and hopefully The Husband will again have a job here. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

And speaking for myself, I admit I have embraced most of the Pittsburgh sports teams. I’ll always root for my Eagles, but I admit my cheers are louder for the Steelers.  Our family reluctantly abandoned the Phillies years ago in favor of the Yankees, but I’ve discovered there’s a lot to love about the Pirates.

But the Penguins.

I can’t quite get there with the Penguins.

I think it has something to do with this dichotomy I have of being from one place I love and living in another that also has a hold on my heart. Loyalty to a sports team becomes something tangible when you find your identity and sense of place shifting, as I’ve discovered can so easily happen when you move away.

Maybe that’s why I found myself compulsively checking the Penguins score last night.  Because as much as I cling to the orange and black, and as much as I felt like an imposter for doing so, a part of me craved that sense of belonging, that rootedness of being home.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is Post #12 of my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

 

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Weekend Cooking: Goodbye to Geiger’s Bakery

Geiger's

photo courtesy of Geiger’s Bakery Facebook page

Come Monday, yet another piece of my childhood will cease to exist.

Michael Klein’s brief blog post on Philly.com tells of the imminent closing (due to retirement) of Geiger’s Bakery on Frankford Avenue in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia, where they’ve been a staple of the community for 38 years.

My grandparents lived a few blocks away from the bakery; whenever we visited (which was often) my grandfather would have already “walked up the Avenue” to get us a treat. It simply wasn’t a family dinner without a Geiger’s butter cake for dessert or a sleepover at Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop’s without half a dozen powdered cream doughnuts waiting for us for breakfast when we woke up in the morning.

Growing up, the Geiger family themselves lived right up the street from my family. Those were the days when you actually knew every single person in your neighborhood. One of my best friends from those days reminded me of how her family used to babysit the youngest Geiger son and how his mother would bring home an unsold butter cake from the bakery for them to enjoy.

If you didn’t grow up in Philadelphia, chances are you probably don’t know what I’m talking about with this butter cake. I was shocked when we moved out here to Pittsburgh and people had NEVER HEARD of this. Suffice it to say that butter cake is the food of the gods. I mean, if they serve food in heaven — and I would like to imagine that it’s a 24/7, all you can eat, calories and carbs be damned to hell smorgasbord — then Geiger’s has earned a place on the menu.

As decadent as their butter cake and doughnuts and pound cake was, this isn’t about the food. Because all of our memories of food are really about something else. It’s a reminder of a time and a place that’s gone and of the people who shared that time and those places with us. Read the comments on the Geiger’s Bakery Facebook page and it’s person after person remembering cakes for special occasions, probably celebrated in homes that have long been sold and with loved ones who are no longer here.

Thank you to the Geiger family for making my childhood so sweet.

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.

 

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a quiet knotted faith

Pope Mass in Philly

I’ve been glued to the TV this weekend, captivated by the coverage of Pope Francis’ historic visit in my hometown of Philadelphia. My kids are perplexed at my interest (“Why are you watching this? We’re not even Catholic,” and “I’ve never seen you so religious, Mom,” have been common refrains, as if they’re expecting me to join a nunnery).

But with the exception of the Festival of Families ceremony last night, which struck me as .. well, kind of weird … I couldn’t get enough.  Like millions of others, I love this charismatic Pope and how his words and actions challenges and inspires every one of us to become better people.

The concept of faith is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past few months. Raised Lutheran, I attended a Catholic college where I met and fell in love with a guy who was raised Jewish. (We were the only two non-Catholics in the Religion in America class that was the catalyst for our becoming friends.)  We were married in the Lutheran church by a pastor who embraced a new, modern approach to Christianity that emphasized a message of hope and optimism and God’s role in making us better people. So much of who I am and what I believe is because of this pastor and his sermons that are still on my bookshelves today.

At one point during our Infertility Years, my sister-in-law invited The Husband and I to attend a local Unitarian Universalist congregation … and no one was more surprised than we were when we kept coming back. That church became a rock for us in those tough years.

But over the past two years, my attendance at a UU fellowship here in Pittsburgh has been sporadic at best to non-existent. It has nothing to do with the church itself, as I really like the people, the services, and the minister. Part of it is timing: in our house, Sunday mornings and afternoons usually find the four of us relaxing in our respective ways:  with football, baseball or hockey on TV, depending on the sport of the season; with a book and some time spent on the deck communing with the birds and weather; with writing; with a hearty soup in the crockpot. It’s a simple time, a quasi-Sabbath, a reprieve during the week. Mass offered at different times is something I’ve always thought the Catholics do right; in 2012,  82% of Unitarian Universalist congregations had 249 members or less, so there’s a ways to go there. (Then again, there isn’t that whole weekly obligation thing.)

Still, ours is a family that’s unchurched and unaffiliated. The consequence of such ranges from my kids not knowing the basic principles of religion (“What does ‘bless’ mean?” my son asked this morning, as I watched on TV the Pope embracing prisoners) to my frustration on how faith communities often fail to accommodate children with disabilities — yes, even UUs — and my guilt that maybe raising our kids with a lack of religious fundamentals demonstrates how much The Husband and I have screwed up as parents.

I’m not sure what the answer is – and to be honest, because I’m not even sure the UU faith is working for me right now, I can’t prescribe it as a balm for everyone in our family. (Although there will be a monthly Wednesday evening service this fall, so that might be something.) The Unitarian Universalist religion’s heavy emphasis on social justice and seemingly relentless focus on certain societal and political issues (important as they are) often leaves me weary because there’s only so much I can do, only so much attention I can give, especially when — as has been the case recently — my own world feels out of control and chaotic.

Where the brand of Lutheranism of my youth, the Catholicism of my college years, and the Unitarian Universalist affiliations in my adulthood have been the faiths I’ve identified with the most, my faith has become akin to a smoothie. It’s somewhat of a potpourri of the past and the present these days: reading Anne LaMott; listening to UU blogs and podcasts; meditating before bedtime; performing infrequent random acts of kindness; being observant of the skies; submitting a struggle online for a stranger to add to the Mary, Undoer of Knots Grotto.

I wonder if it is all good enough, and then, amazingly, as I watched Pope Francis celebrate Mass with hundreds of thousands in the streets of my beloved Philadelphia, the  Pope says yes, it is.

“Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded”, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures.

Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.

Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.

So we might ask ourselves: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children (cf. Laudato Si’, 160)? We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves. It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family. Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (cf. ibid., 13). May our children find in us models and incentives to communion! May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!”  (Text of Pope Francis’ homily, 9/27/2015, Philadelphia)

May it be so. Blessed be.

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Project Food Budget: Week 3

Project Food Budget 2015

Week 2 Recap:

We were on vacation last week, which completely blew our food budget out of the water given that we ate every meal out. I know some people don’t mind cooking an occasional meal in an efficiency-type of hotel room while on vacation, but I’m not one of those people. I hate lugging groceries to the shore and I hate going food shopping once I’m there. That’s precious time that could better be spent on the beach.

We did a few things to save money on our meals, though. I opted for water with almost every meal, as did The Boy on several occasions. We skipped appetizers and salads (at most of the places, meals were a la carte).  And with the exception of the last night, we skipped expensive desserts in favor of ice cream elsewhere.

I bought snacks for the 5 hour car ride to Philadelphia (the vacation was bookended by a few days at my mom and stepfather’s house) and for the beach itself.  I hit Target for some necessities beforehand and bought our snacks there (trail mix; dried fruit; shelled edamame; mini-muffins; veggie straws; chips; GF cookies for me and probably some more stuff I’m forgetting).  We came home with a decent amount left, so I didn’t need to purchase many snacks this week.

This Week:

Both kids are spending a few days back in Philly with the grandparents, so one would think our food expenditures for this week should be considerably less than usual. At least, that’s my hope. We will likely go out to dinner one night because it is highly unusual for us to be sans-kids.  To counter-balance that, I am going to be more diligent about bringing my lunch to work. (Possible lunch ideas: cheese sandwich on GF bread; salad; hummus/guacamole dips with chips; trail mix; plums.)

I went shopping at Giant Eagle on Monday afternoon and was pleased to have spent a total of $152.27.  (As we’ve discussed, GE is not my preferred supermarket; I only went there because we had prescriptions to pick up and I didn’t want to spend my last day before heading back to work running around doing errands). So, of that $152.27, the breakdown was $124.80 for food-related items and $27.47 for things like toilet paper, OTC allergy medicine, dental floss, etc.  My biggest splurge food-wise were 3 packs of Sprite for $10 (that will last us the rest of the month) and some frozen foods (pizza, Stouffers mac and cheese) because The Husband requested those for his lunches. (He’s off from work for a few additional days yet).

Dinner Plans
Monday
– We’ll order pizza. I have a Glutino pizza for myself (our preferred pizza place has GF pizza, but I strongly suspect it is Aldi’s. While I don’t mind their GF pizza – it’s OK, not my favorite – I won’t pay $9 for what I can get for $4.99).

Tuesday
– Tortellini for the husband; big salad for me, hopefully with leftovers for Wednesday’s lunch.

Wednesday
– Grilled cheese. Maybe with fresh fruit as a side.

Thursday
– I’m planning to go to a book journal making program at a local library, so The Husband will be on his own. Mac and cheese for him, most likely.

Friday
– This is usually pizza night for us, but we might go out.

Saturday
– We are contemplating going to the Heinz History Center because we really want to see the Mister Rogers Neighborhood exhibit (the kids weren’t too enthused about that idea awhile back so we’ve been saving that for ourselves). This could be a dinner out instead of Friday night. Not sure.

Time to see what the other Project: Food Budget participants have been up to. Follow along with us by checking out posts from:

 

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Going Backstage to Meet Our American Cousin

I select all of my husband’s reading material.

He’s perfectly capable of choosing a book by himself, of course. It’s just that I happen to work at a library. And after being together for 25 years, I’ve gotten incredibly good at knowing what his preferences are … um … between the covers.

In the bookish sense, that is.

Ahem.

Backstage at the Lincoln AssassinationOne of the books that I brought home recently for the husband’s consideration was Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination: The Untold Story of the Actors and Stagehands at Ford’s Theatre, by Thomas A. Bogar.  Which prompted my beloved to ask me – in the course of his reading and during what passes for two-plus-decades old marital conversation fodder these days  – about some ancestors who are buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, a well-known Philadelphia resting place steeped in history.

“Your Hess relatives are there,” I answered, mentally dusting off some genealogical research I’d conducted years ago.

“Huh. Well. You won’t believe this and I’m not 100% sure, but I think two of them might have been at Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was shot.”

“Please don’t tell me we’re related to John Wilkes Booth, for God’s sake,” I said. “We have enough problems.”

Now, everyone knows all about the main characters who had a starring role in the first-ever presidential assassination, which occurred exactly 150 years ago. We know about the President and Mary Todd Lincoln and the infamous John Wilkes Booth. We’ve heard of Ford’s Theatre, and some of us might even know that the play being performed that fateful night was Our American Cousin. 

But there haven’t been many accolades for the people who were actually onstage and those assisting with the production itself.

Until now.

In Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination, theater historian and author Thomas A. Bogar tells his reader about the 46 actors, managers and stagehands who found themselves in the spotlight during one of history’s defining moments.

And among them? Courtland V. Hess, a 25-year-old singer and actor from Philadelphia who was not feeling well on that ill-fated evening and who was scheduled to play the role of Lieutenant Vernon in Our American Cousin.  Also at the play was William Heiss, who was at the performance to see his brother Courtland (who had, apparently, thought it prudent to drop the pesky family “i” on his quest for fame and glory). William Heiss was somewhat of a Big Deal with the telegraph service; it seems that he was involved with the decision to shut down the commercial telegraphs immediately following Lincoln being shot.

(My husband, who earned a masters degree in American history, is physically cringing that I am writing this post from his memory and without double-checking the actual source for myself. I get that, but, well … Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination is, as of this writing, currently checked out of the library. To keep a modicum of nerdy peace in the family, my husband is making me promise you – and especially Mr. Bogar – that I’ll go back and make sure I know what the hell I’m talking about.)

Regardless, this intriguing tidbit of information – along with my putzing around on the Internet and my previous findings while climbing our family tree – is more than enough to pique my curiosity about our family’s potential connection to the Lincoln assassination.

There is the small matter of the differing last names. If all of our relatives spelled their name as Hess while this side of the family originally went by Heiss and if Courtland remained a bachelor … then there’s probably not much to go on.  But it’s definitely worth looking into, especially since our library has quite an extensive genealogical collection focusing on Pennsylvania history.

It’ll be interesting to see if these folks really are our American cousins.

 

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Living in a House of Cards

House_of_Cards_Season_1_Poster

Perhaps you’ve heard about a little show on Netflix called “House of Cards”?

Chances are, if you’re not already immersed and completely addicted to this, then you have a Facebook friend or two who mysteriously vanished over the past weekend.  More than one of mine disappeared with a simple “#HouseOfCards! See you Monday!”

Sunday night, I finally hit play on my laptop.

And holy shit.

I didn’t need much convincing. “House of Cards” was on my list to watch because based on what I knew about it (admittedly, very little) this was my kind of show.

And what a show it is. I knew this was a political drama “with some serious sex,” as a few friends categorized it when I asked about the appropriateness of watching this with newly-minted 13-year-olds in the general vicinity of the television. (“Hell to the no!” was the most popular response and indeed, y’all were right about that and I thank you kindly.)

I’m six episodes into Season One and I. AM. HOOKED. Truth be told, I was sold from the first scene. This also means that I have watched about six hours of television this week, which is practically unheard of for me.

I just can’t get enough.

Not to mention that I am loving every single one of the Philly references in the first six episodes of the first season.

LOVE.

Speaking of love, it is nice to be in love with a show again, especially one that The Husband and I can both agree on and obsess over together. We’ve had a few over the years, most notably  “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” “Big Love,” “Rescue Me,” “Mad Men,” and most recently, the all-too-short-lived and cancelled-too-damn-soon “Dallas.”

So yes, I am living in a house of cards this week.

Home sweet home.

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