I was in the Senate Gallery during the Big Vote

I had the great honor of being on The Hill multiple days recently, including Tuesday, July 25, 2017 for the Senate vote to advance health care legislation to the Senate floor. I waited about two hours to enter the Senate Gallery with a pass I secured from my Senator’s office staff the day before. I never waited that kind of time before to get into the Gallery. And security was tight. As I waited just to enter the Capitol Building Visitor center outside, I stared at two police buses parked in front of the Capitol. I learned there were police waiting inside, in full gear, just in case, and that there were many undercover officers on duty in the city. 
I witnessed a planned, non-violent demonstration en route to the Capitol in support of people with disabilities. All that week, the Senate office buildings were full of visitors with physical disabilities. I saw people with prosthetic limbs, and a mom and dad rolling their baby stroller into the Hart Office Bldg. When I was leaving that building, I saw the same couple talking to someone in the lobby. What I hadn’t noticed before was the baby’s oxygen tank and medical tubing attached to the stroller. People actively participated in the health bill conversation.
 
Folks chatted with me that week – a taxi driver, a woman working at Macy’s, a gentleman crossing the street – they were residents of D.C. having emigrated from other countries. Everyone was knowledgeable of the votes, and were able to speak in-depth about the health care issues being addressed on The Hill.
 
Waiting to get into the Senate Gallery, I was reminded that visitors are forbidden to have any electronics, including phones, car keys and fitbits. Nor can they eat, drink, talk, read (unless it is about the Senate), take notes, and especially, react to anything. If a senator says something funny, Gallery visitors cannot laugh. With one eye on my watch, hoping to enter in time to see the full proceedings with the oncoming scheduled vote, and with another on the long line of people ahead of me, I finally advanced enough to surrender my cell phone and charger, which is what I have done in the past. I also handed over my tiny container of Altoids, hand lotions, an empty water bottle, and even a little tube of antibiotic ointment before proceeding. I explained to the police officer checking my purse that two containers in my purse remained, and these held my allergy medications and ibuprofen. She did not ask me to surrender these. She thoroughly checked every compartment of my purse and every zippered pocket of my wallet. That was new.
 
One woman, upon entering the Gallery, exclaimed to security that she wanted to “sit in the best seat and did not want cameras in front of her” and that she was here to watch the vote. These guards put up with a lot. I don’t know how many times I heard them say, “The only seats you cannot take are the two in the back row nearest the Gallery section door, which are reserved for the Capitol police, and the first row. They repeated this over and over, multiple times to the same individuals. And person after person either chose the “police seats” or the front row. I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes. Before entering the Gallery, security tells you to read the back of the ticket which explains all the rules. Signs provide the same information. Security personnel tell you they are going to enforce all these rules. Everybody says they understand. And yet, the guards had to ask a guy to stop reading a novel, and told somebody to get their foot off the seat, and woke up a visitor who fell fast asleep, and repeated, time after time after time, not to sit “there” because it’s either for the police or it’s in the front row. The guards remained courteous the whole time.
 
These security officers, dressed in suits, welcomed visitors to the Gallery until the Senate resumed. Before proceedings started, I sat next to a gentleman from England, who knew everything about U.S. politics, but had to leave early, and then a woman from China. Visitors can stay as long as they want. There were staffers, families, individuals, groups — a Future Farmers of America contingent was there. At one point, a mom asked the security officer if she could take her child to the bathroom. The officer said she could, but they would have to get back in line, now a 3 1/2 hour wait. The mom, dad and child left. Security did not allow any visitor into the Gallery once the session began; this surprised me. I have entered the Gallery in mid-proceedings in the past.
When the Senate formally introduced the health care business at hand, the people in the section to my right stood and began yelling, “Kill the bill. Don’t kill us,” and “Shame. Shame. Shame.” I saw one clergy member in the group dressed in her collar. The vocal demonstration disrupted the proceedings, and the senators looked up to the Gallery. The press, in a Gallery section to my left, were leaning over the railing, watching, and writing furiously.
 
The security officers accompanied one demonstrator out, and then came back for the next. No uniformed officers came into the Gallery. It took a few minutes to clear the area, with demonstrators slowly and peacefully exiting, though continually chanting. There were no scuffles. I could hear the group as they walked along the long hallway outside of, and around the Gallery. The senators, who had stopped their work to watch, continued with their business while the demonstrators were being escorted out of the Gallery. I couldn’t hear what was being said on the Senate floor, though. The two children sitting next to me looked a bit frightened, (their mom was behind them) and earlier I had explained to them that politics was not boring, as they had told me it was, but a passionate thing. While they looked at me during the demonstration, I held my hand over my heart and whispered, “Passion,” to the kids, and they nodded. Nobody in our area of the Gallery moved while the protest was taking place.
 
After the demonstrators were ushered out and things were quiet, I whispered a question to the security guard standing near me, wondering if they would allow more visitors to take the newly vacated seats. He told me they probably would not. There were other vacant seats in other sections of the Gallery and I don’t know if these areas were off-limits to the general public. Many staffers sat in the area directly across from me. With so many people waiting in line to see this vote, I was surprised at the number of Gallery vacancies.
 
With voting underway, the Democratic senators did not vote when their names were first called. From my perch, I could not see California’s newest Senator, Ms. Harris, but I could see Senator Feinstein, and so many famous faces. Other visitors were pointing out their own Senators and whispering their names, and others whose faces are well-known.
 
There were a few “No” votes from the Republicans, and the folks in the Gallery were really paying attention. Many people were sitting forward. There wasn’t much whispering now.
 
After the roll had been called, I heard a few staffers whispering about why the vote was taking longer than usual. The kids next to me asked me what was taking so long, and I told them the voting time had been extended and that we were waiting for more senators to arrive. When the tally was read, I had counted the votes and knew we were waiting for three more votes. The press was hanging over the Gallery railing, again, listening to conversations on the floor, and watching the Senate floor entrances. When Senator McCain walked into the chamber, the floor erupted in applause. The Gallery stayed fairly quiet, with the help of the guards quietly shushing everyone, though I did hear a few people near me exclaim their surprise. Colleagues gave Senator McCain a beautiful tribute. I thought it was classy to see Senator Feinstein walk over and give her friend from across the aisle a big hug. She was the first of many Democrats to do this.
 
I have been to the Gallery at least a half a dozen times over the years, probably more, and have never seen all senators gathered there at once. It was a rare event and I am thrilled to have witnessed this. I saw the Democrats vote as a block. There was a tie, and I saw the President of the Senate, Vice President Pence, break the tie. The woman from China asked me if that was the President, which he is, but of the Senate. Her English was good, and after a bit she said she understood the difference. She referred to a page in the Senate handbook that explains who sits where on the floor — that book is okay to read.
 
No, the vote did not go the way I had longed. But to be there in person was a remarkable and most interesting experience, one I will not forget. I saw and heard Senator McCain’s speech afterwards. I watched former Presidential candidates talk to their colleagues. I listened to other visitors whisper with excitement about seeing their senators, and approving or disapproving of the votes they had cast.
 
I thanked our Security Guard and left the Gallery after the vote. A large contingent of police officers stood in the hallway to my right as I exited the Gallery. I assumed that they had escorted the protesters from the Gallery. I picked up all my personal items at security, and noted the very long line of folks holding Senate Gallery tickets waiting for their turn to go through security and sit in the beautiful room high above the Senate floor. Most likely, they would not see a vote where all 50 states’ Senators would be in the room, but they would witness the business of health care and of the nation.
Outside, I saw and heard more demonstrators campaigning for health care. I saw the press interviewing people on the Capitol steps and near the Capitol Building. Walking to my Senators’ office building, I grabbed a snack from the hot dog cart and ate while sitting on a low wall with a family who had just toured the Capitol. It was nice to enjoy the sunshine. The Hart office building was busy;  people walked purposefully through the building. The whole atmosphere felt charged. I registered my thoughts for the votes remaining that day with my Senators’ staffs, and they thanked me.
I was exhausted. Exhausted, but impassioned. No, politics is anything but boring.
Kathy Galgano
August 5, 2017

Silencing Senator Warren?

(Letter to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren after the Senate yesterday silenced her as she read a letter from Coretta Scott King regarding Senator Jeff Sessions and his confirmation for Attorney General.)

Dear Senator Warren:

I am so moved by your experience on the Senate floor yesterday while reading Mrs. Scott King’s words.

Frankly, each morning I wake up more disgusted than the day before at the way our government proceeds with business, bullying citizens of all ranks, shuttering programs that have benefitted so many citizens, flagrantly chastising individuals, corporations, religious and ethnic groups, the press, and anyone courageous enough to disagree and voice concern. That you were silenced on the Senate floor yesterday should not surprise me, but it does, because I choose to wake up each day not accepting this prevailing attitude, behavior and political climate as status quo.

I have taught my children that one voice matters, and that it is their responsibility to work for what is right, and to do so honorably. I am only one voice. But like you, I will not be silenced.

Senator Warren, you are an inspiration.

Thank you.

Kathy Galgano

February 8, 2017

 

In Case Anybody Cares, This Is Why I Can’t Sleep

The election results have cut to the quick. After a full week of protests from a stunned half-a-country, both the President and President Elect have called for calm. Peace rallies are cropping up now – “hug-ins,” and a “hand-holding” of hundreds around a lake, and a student/teacher-organized multi-hour march through a town to promote an accord.

At the same time, political, environmental and human rights groups are begging us to rally behind the issues and work together to safeguard against dismantling reforms that have been made.

I get it. We can’t continue this way. I don’t condone the violence, the fires, the blocking freeways and highways. But my personal anger rages. And while I am not a person of color or of a religion or creed that might attract negative behavior, I continue to react. I do not like the person I see in the mirror, sometimes spitting-mad, then depressed, unsmiling, stunned, and always terribly irritated by every minor inconvenience.

And worst of all, Humor, that irreverent and goofy thing that dwells within me, so close to my surface, suddenly packed up and left Tuesday night sometime between the cup of tea I made to steady my nerves and going to bed. It left, and it took Sleep with it.

Every night for eight nights I think long and hard about what has happened, and attempt to figure out why I hurt so much. There’s no denying it; I feel like I’ve been wronged. The hurting won’t stop.

I don’t react against the millions who voted this way, including relatives and friends. In the end, somebody wins and somebody loses. I know how good it feels to have a candidate I’ve supported win; it’s great, isn’t it? I don’t want to take this celebratory feeling away from anyone. So it’s not just that my candidate lost.

Last night, somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m., it hit me. Of course, I have been dismayed by the public lack of restraint the now President Elect has demonstrated for the past 17 months, and I hope that most of us, at the very least, has shaken our heads at the charged rhetoric. My urban neighborhood and my entire city is an ethnically-diverse region. I live in Silicon Valley. The entire San Francisco Bay Area is diverse. We chose, and continue to choose to live in an area that my grandmother, who was born in 1900, would have called “a regular League of Nations.”

When I walk my dog down the main artery, every day I breathe in the wonderful aromas of spices from multiple restaurants featuring world cuisines. The local movie theater is a hub for Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada and English movies. The shops and businesses are owned by neighbors who hail, or whose families once hailed from countries around the globe.

My kids’ grammar school was another “League of Nations” with 26 languages spoken by families. Some girls in my kids’ classes wore headscarves. Sometimes parents, who had just moved to the area and who had studied English in their native countries, volunteered in classes for weeks and months, translating for their own young children who, just starting school, had not yet had the opportunity to study English. Other language-rich volunteers within the community helped many a student feel comfortable with English. In fact, the school district, our school and parents’ organization held numerous tutorials with translations provided for non-English speaking parents so they could learn how to navigate their way through the school system. One thing was certain; we were in this together.

Along with the regular curriculum, all the kids studied music and technology. They learned about holidays throughout the globe and they sampled foods from across the continents. On special occasions they shared traditional dress. They played with each other and did homework and projects together and it never occurred to these kids that there was anything different or odd or unusual about any of this.

I’ve dedicated much of my time volunteering in and for schools. We, our family, chose to live here, and we embraced the diversity. And as with the other families around us, our children, all our children, would grow up together, study together and someday work in a global economy together where every ounce of understanding among individuals and nations could only be a benefit. This is Silicon Valley. A good chunk of success here is from working together. As school volunteers, we not only helped in class, we ran the cultural assembly programs, we engaged the kids in the arts, we wrote the newsletters, helped with the field trips, mentored, wrote about the successes of the school in a state and national program, ran the fund-raisers, made the copies, decorated the classrooms and the cupcakes, served on school site committees and represented the school at district-wide parent committees, and told kids that we really did live at school. The staff welcomed us warmly. We were partners. As parent volunteers, the more engaged we became, the more we realized that our own children’s success was in every way rooted in the success of all the children at school, no matter what learning disability they had or which language they spoke. We worked hard to counter bullying, embracing research-based practices that the entire school district supported. Parent engagement programs taught us how to empower youth, how to provide kids with assets that would enable them to meet challenges head-on. We adopted sound, proven techniques that highlighted a positive school climate.

And so here is my personal epiphany, figured out in the wee hours of the morning last night. For the past 17 months, we have heard nothing but bullying and calling out groups originating from different places on the globe, belittling people – people who have handicaps, people who speak different languages, people who worship in non-Christian places, women, blacks, gays, people who dress differently, and the list goes on. I will be the first to tell you that there are great challenges in our society, but after spending what I am proud to call my life’s work, the President-Elect has not only spit upon my values and those of my colleagues and neighbors and friends and residents of a beautiful place we call home, stomping on years of thoughtful, loving and hard work to help our kids, all our kids thrive, he has made it fashionable to seek-out with aggression and malice any and all who may be seen as a threat, any who look or act differently based on some perceived difference, forgetting that so much of the greatness of our country was built on the backs of immigrants who were also persecuted.

As a result, I feel shame that this is the course our nation has chosen. Change is fine. Bring it on. But let’s be darned certain that the change we make yields real progress. Making our country less inclusive of diversity is change, but just the worst kind. Progress is not made by bullying and threatening violence and committing violent acts. Nor is it made by yelling abusive comments at others. And we certainly do not make any kind of progress when children are afraid to go to school because they are told that they will be arrested and deported as soon as they open their door. One young child packed a suitcase on election night. A student, a young woman at a local university, was assaulted because she wears a hijab; she was nearly choked. There have been many, many reports of racial slurs, violence, and assaults. How do hate crimes enact positive change?

So I too, now, call for some semblance of order. Yes, from damaging riots, but also from people who think it is within their rights to persecute another for how he or she looks, acts, thinks, prays, or speaks. I chose to work for years, doing my part as a parent and citizen, to ensure that my kids and their classmates and friends were safe, well-adjusted and ready to succeed in a world that is, communication-wise, without borders. And in 17 short months, the gold-standard has been reduced to nothing more than a barnyard brawl.

And that’s why I’m not sleeping.

Kathy Galgano

November 16, 2016

 

 

A Breath of Fresh Air

People are coming out of the woodwork to campaign for her. There’s a movement happening in my neighborhood, and it’s huge. Well, okay, it’s pretty big. If I didn’t know better, I’d think we all were cast in one of those feel-good Hallmark movies.

It’s real and the energy is palpable, and it’s wonderful.

Let’s back it up a bit. In this interminable campaign, we’ve slung garbage at ourselves and the world, and the rank air will linger. We’ve perfected “going negative” to a science. Candidates must attack in order to be taken seriously. Like it or not, it’s now part of our culture. Just watch TV; how many shows feature a group of people sitting around a table, all talking at the same time? Listening is out. We don’t debate; we point fingers in faces and yell louder. And we talk crude. Crude is in.

So now we’re exhausted. Families have turned against families, friends against friends. People are “unfriending” loved ones because they don’t see eye to eye and have lost respect for each other. There have been arguments, many arguments. It may have taken years to get everyone in the family on Facebook, but now, with one single click, we’ve cut our ties. Thanksgiving is at hand, but we’ve pared down our guest lists because we couldn’t possibly sit at the table with people who are enemies. How could we have been so blind? We were friends for ages!

And then we come back to a breath of fresh air: the local election in my neighborhood. There’s a woman running for City Council in my district. She’s amazing. Everybody here knows her. Everybody loves her. She’s the voice of optimism and know-how and tenacity and real caring. She has been working and volunteering for neighbors and kids for two and a half decades. She gets things done and really helps people. She shares her successes. And here’s something; she listens. She listens hard to what people are saying; instead of just getting the gist of the idea and forming a quick response as to why it’s never gonna work, she’s listening.

Helen could have gone negative. She had opportunities. Heck, there was a negative campaign against her. But in a way that is purely Helen Chapman, our neighborhood candidate put the facts out there. She quickly proved every word against her was false, posted the substantiating documents on her website immediately so the voters could see them for themselves, and then went on campaigning, fighting the good fight.

There is an impressive list of people and groups endorsing Helen Chapman and there’s a good reason for this. She’s the real deal. But more than that, this groundswell of neighbors coming out of the woodwork to support her, to phone bank and make assembly lines of literature and maps and to put flyers on doorknobs and to walk precincts introducing voters to the person we know to be so perfect for this job – this has been the greatest. There are family members helping and retired folks and moms and kids and old friends and new and former colleagues, and neighbors just wanting to help and people who have heard about her and who want to lend a hand. Volunteers who don’t even live in the district are participating in this positive campaign because it’s obvious that to this candidate, and pervasive throughout her campaign, people matter.

Helen is a role model. We are overjoyed that in our neck of the woods, so many of us who are coming out of the woodwork can focus on those old-fashioned Hallmark qualities of good character and honesty and a strong work ethic and positive energy and enthusiasm and a can-do spirit and successes for people, not on the backs of them. All of it. Helen has built strong relationships with the community; she’s a fabulous resource. She’s smart. Her word means something. She gets involved and stays with it for the long-run. She supports local businesses, and is adamant about using them to create her campaign materials. She’ll buy breakfast for her walkers – again supporting local businesses. Helen says that her number one special interest is her constituents, the residents of District 6 in San Jose, CA, and their concerns.

While making phone calls early in the campaign, I was asked to find out the areas of interest of voters of District 6. So when I made calls, first I introduced them to Helen, and then I asked the voters which issues specifically concerned them, their families and neighbors. Callers did not hang up on me. On the contrary, they were excited to talk to me and several people told me they were stunned; no one had ever asked them what was important to them and on their minds.

So as I leave my own woodwork today to spend the afternoon campaigning, I am enjoying that Hallmark experience of goodness. Yes, it’s a close election. Yes, we are working hard. Rancor among families and voters is pervasive nationally, but with this one race, where the candidate’s campaign slogan is “Working Together,” we embrace individuals. No unfriending here.  Oh yeah, and the air in this neighborhood, anyway, is clear and sweet.

Kathy Galgano

November 6, 2016

 

 

Wow – Political Parties are Creating Sophisticated Tools!

The Democratic National Committee has forgotten that I asked not to receive so many emails, but this one intrigued me. It was going to give me my personal “Official Democratic Record.”

Wow! The DNC had compiled a list of issues I’ve addressed, either by signing petitions or by writing letters based on their emails to me? That’s impressive. They’ve searched data bases or used computer modeling to develop a, … well, this word has gotten a bad rap,… but “profile” of things important enough to me that I have voiced my concern? Genius! What a sophisticated tool to garner my support! Very cool.

So here it is…  Drumroll Please!

“Official Democratic Record for You”

Total 2015 Donations

$0

Okay, so I’m naïve. But thanks for the morning chuckle, DNC. I’m still not inclined to give you any cash, but you can add “Zero Funding Donor” to my list of political issues for my “Official Democratic Record.”

Still Smiling,

Kathy Galgano

September 28, 2015

Betrayed

After reading the news that the online dating site “Ashley Madison” was hacked, my initial thoughts focused on security. Doesn’t it feel like we are living through an epidemic of profound hacking? Internationally, banks, governments, businesses, and now dating sites have been compromised. Is nothing safe? Is nothing sacred? I heard myself breathe that deep “Here-we-go-again!” sigh. But it quickly dawned on me; this is less an issue of online security and one of online stupidity.

Ashley Madison is a site for cheaters. Hackers hold the detailed information including names, sexual fantasies and who-linked-up-with-whom for some 37 million individuals, er, idiots world-wide. “Idiots” is a strong word. The question for me is this: Why would 37 million cheaters or cheater-wannabes search online for a partner to have an affair? Is it because we all know and trust that the internet is such a safe place?

Let’s put the numbers in perspective. In the U.S., over 36 million folks watched the Oscars this year. On Memorial Day, 37 million drivers hit the road. It’s the number of roughly the population of all of California, the most populous state in the nation. Staggeringly, 37 million people internationally would trust their most private information, secrets and desires to a Web site, knowing that they can’t even bank, work, or shop at Target without their data being stolen. Go figure!

We really do have big problems.

Kathy Galgano

July 20, 2015

Welcome Guest Blogger, Rich Galgano — A DISTANCE RUNNER IN A FOREIGN LAND

I regularly hit the pavement. In snow-filled months I rely on my treadmill, or the local indoor track, when conditions are icy. Besides running, my strength training usually involves body weight exercises, resistance bands, a kettle bell, some light hand weights, and creative use of a workout ball and stairs, all of which I perform in the comfort and seclusion of my basement. Wanting to add some leg presses, hamstring curls and knee extensions with more weight, I decided to join the local gym. It’s close to the house, inexpensive, and is open a lot of hours. It also has some large mats and multiple stackable steps so I can do standing long jumps and vertical jumps.

I’ve been going a couple times a week and slowly increasing the weight on the machines. (They have a seated leg extension which is easy on my back.) On my last visit to the gym, I was ready to work the knee extension machine and started to straighten my legs. It didn’t move. I looked down and it was at maximum weight, about 270 pounds. I took 200 pounds off and did the exercise. Next I moved to the mats which are found near the aerobic equipment. I noticed a few curious glances from that area while working on some standing long jumps and flexibility exercises. I don’t think there were many track athletes there.

I headed to the free weight room to do some rotator cuff exercises. I injured the left one from all the snow shoveling and have been rehabbing it. The free weight room is next to the larger mechanical weight machines and the men working out on these machines were pretty large and muscular. This was nothing compared to the guys in the free weight section. They were HUGE and totally ripped. They were lifting hundreds of pounds, grunting while they worked. Everyone seemed to know each other.

In I walked, built not like a formidable weight lifter, but the runner that I am. Everyone started looking at me. I went over to the hand weights, grabbed the 5 pounders and started exercising. They all stopped lifting and stared at me. Trying not to notice, I kept working and after a few minutes, I finished the set. Hoping to make a better impression, I grabbed a couple 20 pound hand weights and did some curls and overhead presses, trying to make it look easy. They kept staring. Finally, I went over to the chin-up bar. I usually do six pull-ups but thought it was a good time to pull out the stops. Fortunately I was facing the wall which hid my contorted face, and managed to do ten at a steady pace, keeping my torso straight. After finishing, everyone was back at work but they were still glancing my way or looking indirectly through the many mirrors. I considered doing some push-ups, but as I had done them already, I wasn’t sure I could do an impressive number.

Next, I dropped to the floor and decided to really go for it; I did a plank — a really long plank. Three minutes. I kept my back straight, tried to hide my shaking arms and somehow managed to stay conscious.

Getting up slowly, very slowly, I stretched a bit and decided to head out. The guys were back at it. As I left, one of them nodded at me.

Strike one up for the distance runners!

Richard Galgano

March 26, 2015

Kathy’s Note: Richard has been running for over 40 years, races occasionally, and, when time permits, helps out with youth athletics. He’s also a riot! Check out his other notable and humorous posts about track and field on Kathy’s Musings: Welcome, Guest Blogger Richard Galgano — A Funny Think Happened on the Way to the Track Meet (published here on March 1st, 2014), and Welcome Back, Guest Blogger Richard Galgano — A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Track Meet, Part II (published March 16, 2014).

Preparing for St. Paddy’s Day

While grocery shopping yesterday,  as  the world would be honoring St. Patrick in one day, I bought corned beef and red potatoes and cabbage. I told my family it would be Irish fare on the 17th, and so my husband picked-up a special horse radish cream he loves with corned beef while driving home from work. What would make the meal perfect? I had already bought the rye bread, but for me, St. Paddy’s Day is perfect with Irish soda bread. Last year I brought home a loaf from the local market’s bakery, but it was disappointing. I can make it. I figured I had flour, so I bought a new baking soda while shopping. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain I pulled-out “buttermilk” but dismissed it, so I paid for my items and left the store.

Once home, my son put away the groceries for me and I pulled out my Irish cook book and immediately realized that the little voice in my head was right. I did need buttermilk. I cooked all day yesterday afternoon, not only making my St. Paddy’s day feast with corned beef and red potatoes and carrots and cabbage, but I also made a chicken dish with medium-grain sticky rice and more carrots and stock and fresh sage leaves from my garden. I pan-grilled fresh green beans, and made a double batch of my chocolate brownies to be given as gifts to friends this week.

This morning, after a quick cup of coffee, and after feeding and playing with our freshly-shaven, gussied up dog, I took off for the market. I came home with the buttermilk. I was measuring out the fourth cup of flour, and I was so happy that I had just enough, when I saw a speck of what looked like a tiny piece of packaging in the flour. Hmmmm.

On closer inspection with my magnifying glass, I decided I had better buy some fresh flour. So I tossed the just-measured four cups of flour, baking soda, salt and sugar from my orange mixing bowl into the waste basket. I also discarded the remaining flour package (which I had stored in a zip-lock plastic bag in my pantry). Grabbing my keys and purse, I let my husband know I was off to the store again.

“Why don’t you pick up a loaf of soda bread at Whole Foods?” “Oh,” I answered. “I don’t want to drive to Campbell.” He looks at me and laughs. “Whole Foods is down the street.”

O-H-H-H-H! Right! It opened recently and I toured the market before it opened. They gave each of us a great bag of goodies, too. It’s close enough to walk. He’s chuckling. I’m chuckling.

Not to be deterred, one more run to the store, and now I have new flour – not wrapped in paper, but already sealed in a zip-locked bag, and a fresh sugar.

Four more measured cups of new flour into my washed and dried orange bowl, a teaspoon of baking soda, the sugar, salt, and the baking powder. Baking powder? In a soda bread? Gee, that’s weird. But it’s not a lot, so oh, well.

Wait. Now they want me to add whole wheat flour? They also want me to use rolled oats? I’m perplexed.

My son walks in and I tell him how weird this recipe is.

“Are you sure you’re looking at the right recipe?”

Well, on the left page is a recipe for Irish brown bread. On the right side, bottom, is my recipe for “Nora’s Best Soda Bread.” Oh well. It’s an honest enough mistake. I’ll just forget that I added baking powder and keep making the bread. At least I don’t have to run to the store for whole wheat flour.

My son looks at me. “Did you get enough sleep last night, Mom?” “Yes! I feel great!” My husband steps into the kitchen and realizes I’ve goofed. He says to our son, “She forgot that Whole Foods is down the street!” We’re all laughing now.

The loaf came out pretty well, but you can taste it’s not a pure soda bread. What the heck; I have more buttermilk and flour and everything.

In addition to cooking and running to the store today, I’ve been submitting Hal Roach Irish jokes to my Facebook page. There’s this one Hal Roach joke that really makes me laugh. I’ve been hearing it in my head all day, while walking around the house, and driving, and tossing ingredients into the trash, and walking through the aisles of my grocery store, and waving to the staff who have seen a lot of me these past two days. I’ve been laughing and chuckling all day.

The widow had her husband laid out for the wake, and he had the biggest smile on his face that was ever seen in Ireland. I said to her, “I never saw a corpse with a smile like that. What happened to him?” “Ah, dear God,” she said. “Twas terrible. He was struck eight times by lightning, and he thought he was having his photograph taken.”

“He was struck eight times by lightning, and he thought he was having his photograph taken”? HA! I’m positively guffawing.

So now as I’m waiting for my next loaf of Irish soda bread to come out of the oven, I’m thinking of the punch line, and I can see and hear my husband and son laughing, sure, at my expense, but it was pretty funny, and I’m remembering how the staff at the grocery store looked surprised when they saw me yet again this morning, and I can’t believe I’ve just spent hours making a loaf of bread that I could have picked up down the street and that my whole morning and a chunk of my afternoon has been a fiasco, and I realize that I really do have the luck of the Irish today. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time.

And besides, I can “gift” the first loaf along with the brownies. Who’s gonna know?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Kathleen O’Galagan (Just for today!)

March 17, 2015

We Fight Back! Take That, Winter! Welcome Back, Guest Blogger Richard Galgano

Rich's snowy deck and grill 2-16-2015CAM00220 Rich's Snowy Front Yard 2-16-2015 CAM00218

(Pic of mostly-shoveled deck and my accessible grill. Cheeseburgers in Paradise!)

(Pic of front yard from my living room window.)

If shoveling were sport, we would be competing in the “Snowbowl.” But as boxing is a better metaphor, how about, “The Battle of Beantown,” “The Rumble in Bahston,” or “The Thrilla in Dunkin Villa”?

For weeks now, You’ve been pummeling us with snow, wind, cold and ice. We’ve staggered a few times with wobbly knees, sore arms and aching backs. A couple of times we’ve barely escaped getting knocked out, saved only by the bell ending another round of snow.

Like Ali against Foreman, we’ve leaned against the snowbanks and absorbed your hits. (Actually this is a good way to make the sidewalk path a little wider.)

Beginning today, we fight back! The sequel: Revenge of the Snow People!

First, we need to set the proper mood.  Dig out your swimsuits and sunscreen. Wear white. (Yes, I know it’s not Memorial Day yet, but desperate times call for desperate measures.) Don’t forget the straw hats, visors and baseball caps. Ladies, put on your white cotton gloves and pastel colors. Well, okay, forget the gloves and pastels, but find those sandals.

Shovel off your deck and start grilling. Eat key lime pie while blasting Jimmy Buffett from your speakers. Don’t forget the pink flamingos. No more sanding the sidewalk – just put the snow in a big pile, make a small beach and build a sand castle. Drink lemonade. Make mojitos. And put those little drink umbrellas in everything!

Now, for the Plan of Attack:

Paint the top of the snow black. White reflects light and heat, but dark colors absorb it.

Cover your entire house with aluminum foil and mirrors. (Remember to put the shiny side of the foil facing away from the house.)

Find every light and extension cord you have and put them outside, around your house, and turn them on. Use bulbs with higher watts, preferably a couple thousand. (Be careful not to electrocute yourself.)

The snow will melt faster than the Wicked Witch of the West.

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!

Richard Galgano

February 16, 2015