See You in the Fall

By the time you read this, more than a month will have passed since I fell in love with Jennifer Lawrence.

To be frank, I was not rooting for her to win for Best Actress that last Sunday night in February. To be franker, I wasn’t rooting for anyone. I have no interest in awards shows any longer. So I didn’t know until the Monday morning after the last Sunday night in February—while sweating off my weekend’s over-points on the elliptical machine—that while climbing to the stage to retrieve her Little Gold Man award, Jennifer Lawrence fell. jennifer-lawrence-oscars-fall-2013 I let out a yowl that made a few heads on the row of treadmills in front of me turn. It was then that I fell in love with Jennifer Lawrence. And this is why:

In high school, after my skull made an unfortunate connection with a door, my friends rushed me to the hospital in our large resort town, where the admitting nurse took one look at me, went to my files and called my parents. She knew me, because I had just been there after nearly severing a toe while riding shotgun on a bicycle, which was a few weeks after, while running on the boardwalk in bare feet, my other foot had become impaled on a piece of wood the size a popsicle stick. My worst moment: After rushing off a bus, I smacked right into the Plexiglass at the very crowded stop. Such gracelessness continues:

Last week, while leaving my office, chatting with a colleague, I stepped off the sidewalk, and fell.

Okay, back to Jen. After going home and watching her take that tumble on YouTube, about a dozen times, I clicked on another video thumbnail and found she’d also bumbled her way over a chair on her way to accept the Screen Actors Guild Award, where on stage she suffered a “wardrobe malfunction,” her dress separating in the anatomical region my grandmother would have identified in Yiddish as her knish. jennifer-lawrence-wardrobe-malfunction-jpg_131427 Jennifer Lawrence is living everyone’s WORST NIGHTMARES!

Of course, this is all assuming she is the REAL DEAL. I did some time as a celebrity reporter, and I’d think, Wow, I got So-and-So to say that? Until I’d read the exact same words in other interviews. They’re actors, I’d remind myself. Everything they do is scripted. Even…falling? No, not Jen. In this month that begins with a day when we intentionally fool others, I want to believe my love is…true. So thank you, Jennifer Lawrence, for making clumsiness charming. The next time I go crashing to the floor, I will hold my head high!

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The Movement That Was Home-Made

Home during my freshman year in college, my mother called to me from the guest bathroom I was using. “What?” I said, as I rounded the corner and saw her holding my plastic dial-a-day pill dispenser.

“You’re on birth control?” What followed was not what I would have expected. Instead of Who is he? Why haven’t we met him? Are you in love? she laid her palm against my cheek, and said: “Carla, while I love you and your brothers, I would have been just as happy had I not had children. Don’t get pregnant.”

I was marginally hurt – but not shocked. My mother had been accelerated through high school to help fill the needs of the workforce while the men were fighting in Europe or the South Pacific. Instead, she married her boyfriend and gave birth to my brother Keith. Unforeseen was that Keith’s father would not go off to war because of the illness he succumbed to rather quickly. At the age of 21, married now to a returning soldier, Mom became Mom to my brother Sam. And eight years later, I came along.

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I look at faded photos of my mother standing with us outside our Veterans Administration home. And it looks just like the photos of other post-war moms I saw while watching “Women Who Make America,” on PBS last week. Moms who may or may not have had higher educations, but who still felt that raising the seemingly obligatory three children was not fulfilling enough. Moms who read “The Feminine Mystique,” who lauded Shirley Chisolm over meatloaf dinners, who bought copies of “Our Body, Ourselves.” Mom borrowed mine. Mmmm. I wonder if she ever did the hand-held mirror “exploration.” And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up. ☺

Anyway, about a year after Mom found my birth-control pills, she started going to township meetings, won a council seat several times before becoming the first woman mayor of our rather large industrial municipality, and sat on a New Jersey state planning commission. At 84, she still consults on local politics and waits in line at weekly meetings to say something prickly to the administration she does not support.

While it may not have been the most eloquent way to voice her personal frustration and fear that I would not achieve my goals, I knew what Mom meant about not having children, having experienced the limitations of her generation. She got a late start, but she got started. And while other moms may have kept on keeping on with the times, as was socially accepted and expected, each was still a member of that sisterhood of unrest that launched the Movement. So to celebrate International Woman’s Day, which honors the advancement of women around the world (more at http://internationalwomensday.com), let’s first honor the women at home, the Moms Who Made America.

By Hook or By Cook

I don’t cook. Oh, I have my go-to meals, like lemon chicken, fried chicken, cinnamon-cumin-apple chicken, chicken soup, and shrimp scampi. You know how they say male balding skips a generation? In my family, so does the cooking gene. At almost 84, my mother still cooks, most notably and recently, her family-famous pineapple upside-down cake. But I take after my grandmother Jeanette, whose culinary repertoire was limited to beef brisket, bean-and-barley soup, and…shrimp scampi. My father was an amazing cook, and during the years of my first marriage, when I truly believed there was a legitimate reason to turn our functional kitchen into a chef’s paradise, I’d invite him and Mom over to try a new dish. Serving Dad was absolutely like a TV reality cook-off. I’d sweat the preparation, plate creatively, and wait.

“It’s palatable,” he’d say rather unaffectedly. Then he’d wink.

Okay, so maybe I’m more accurately not-much-of-a cook, which was never clearer to me than when I moved to Bucks County with my now-husband, the father of two girls who were vegetarian. No more throwing a trussed-up bird into a pot with vegetables – and walking away. I was slowly slicing, dangerously dicing, and making a mess of tofu. It pained my husband to watch me struggle, so I handed the spatula over to him. But now, in our empty nest, it’s back to chicken.

As stated earlier, I do okay with chicken – except a few weeks ago when we decided to throw a dinner party. I excavated a yellowed recipe card for Spanish Chicken with Chorizo, which I’d prepared countless times in my old life. But, alas I was rusty, and where the recipe calls for red wine before simmering, all I had was a Burgundy. When I lifted the lid 45 minutes later, what was usually a well-browned chicken accented with vibrant red from the tomatoes and chorizo, was a purple mess, looking like something Grover from Sesame Street had coughed up. This weekend we are, again, entertaining two of those friends, and while deciding what to prepare, my husband said, “Well, how about something blue this time?”

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Me in my Mary Kay face. Did I write that out loud?

Me in my Mary Kay face. Did I write that out loud?

Anyway, March is National Women’s History Month. I did some research to see if any prominent women were known for a particular recipe. Like Eleanor Roosevelt’s ravioli or Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s soufflé. All I found was a YouTube video from a 2006 Stephen Colbert interview with Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem, conducted while the women did their best to bake an apple pie. (Jane didn’t add enough cinnamon.)

So this month celebrate the woman who makes your life historic…epic! And while Jane and Gloria might frown if they read this, take her out for a nice dinner.