Saturday, August 30, 2014

Botticelli’s Bastard by Stephen Maitland-Lewis / Book Review

This was my first book by Stephen Maitland-Lewis and now I am eager to read some of his earlier works.  In full disclosure, I received an advance copy of this book free through in exchange for a review.  I do not finish or review books I do not like. Life is too short to read uninteresting books. The fact I am reviewing this book means I liked it.

I found Botticelli’s Bastard a creative, intriguing, well-researched, page-turning fantasy cum mystery about the history of a painting as told by the subject on the canvas. Yes, the painting speaks to the London based Italian art restorer, Giovanni Fabrizzi, who received it in a crate along with other works following the death of his father.  Fabrizzi, who is still mourning the death of his wife, first believes he is hallucinating when the painting begins to talk and tells Fabrizzi he was painted by Botticelli.  The painting is unsigned and nobody who views the painting suspects it was painted by the Renaissance master. So begin the tales with the painting describing its own circuitous history from its origins in the Pitti Palace in Florence to present day London.  Despite strong doubts about the subject’s claims and his own sanity, Fabrizzi agrees to submit the painting for an analysis to determine the painting’s authenticity.

I originally requested the book because of my love for Botticelli’s art.  But I discovered a lovely story that involved all of my favorite themes reminiscent of a Greek play – history, Italy, romance, art, heartache, introspection, intrigue, mystery, detective work, good & evil, forgiveness, redemption, guilt, triumph and tragedy.

The book is now available on

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Women’s Equality Day- August 26th

Women’s Equality Day- August 26th

We’ve come a long way baby! It is difficult to believe the changes in our society as they pertain to women since Congress designated August 26th Women’s Equality Day in 1971 – a year before our elected officials passed the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”), which had been introduced in Congress annually since 1923 – just 3 years after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. ERA was never ratified by the required 38 states.

Yes, my young friends, women were not afforded the right to vote until 1920! We’ve had the right of suffrage for less than 100 years. And the progress between 1920 and 1971 was miniscule. Yale & Princeton Universities did not become co-ed until 1969, West Point in 1976 and Harvard waited until 1977 (the year I graduated from high school) to become co-ed after merging with Radcliff. 

When I graduated from university in 1980 I was hired into what had been an all male club – that of the insurance claims adjuster. The species until that time had been populated with men.  The typical claims adjuster carried a clip board, had a ladder in the trunk of his vehicle, and chain smoked while wearing sans-a-belt pants and a shiny bowling team jacket.  They took bets on how quickly they could get me to quit. The company that hired me as a trainee in the Indianapolis, Indiana office, the now defunct Commercial Union Assurance Company, also hired another woman for the Muncie branch and an African American man.

Until the women’s movement pressured Congress and American businesses to level the playing field, the careers available to women were limited: teaching, nursing, secretarial work, and factory jobs. There was one woman in upper management at the insurance company that hired me and I accepted the position because of her.

While there are still glass ceilings to break, enormous progress has been achieved in the years since Congress designated August 26th as Women’s Equality Day. Sadly, the day generally passes without anybody giving it a thought. But we owe ourselves the duty to commemorate this day and to celebrate the achievements that women have made since that time. Today we can compete in the market place for jobs in all sectors. While upper management at more conservative institutions remain populated primarily with white men, it is only a matter of time before women and other minorities have their places at the top. But we have to remember and give thanks to those who have paved the way.  I am grateful to those strong women of the early 70’s who fought for equality. And I am proud to have been part of the throng of women who persevered through some challenging years of having to be better, smarter, more flexible, more resilient, stronger, and more committed than my male colleagues to achieve success.

Next year, let us resolve to commemorate August 26th and Women’s Equality Day! Put it on your calendar now!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beginning 90 Days of Boot Camp – Giving Power 90 Go!

On Monday my husband and I started our Power 90 boot camp, the highly rated workout that promises a new body within 90 days. We came to the realization that we both had become soft over the past few years. While I do practice yoga regularly, I’ve neglected fat burning exercise because I hate to sweat. And I love high quality flavorful food and wine.

We decided to do the program together to provide mutual encouragement. And I really need a coach to coerce me out of bed and provide incentive to don my workout clothes and trudge down the stairs to face the TV and Tony Horton’s early 2000’s humor. 

The training program involves 35 minute workouts that alternate from cardio and abs one day with sculpting / muscle development the next. The warm-ups incorporate some yoga moves, which feel comfortable for me.

We started with the cardio  / ab workout. For somebody who is by nature slothful, it was somewhat challenging. Sweat poured from my brow. The jumping jacks, which reminded my of the old Jack LaLanne workouts that were televised during my childhood, left me out of breathe. Since my yoga practice often involves ab work, the ab program was not challenging. However, I do agree that regular ab practice will help whittle away the marsupial pouch we women of a certain age must battle. I have high hopes.

The sculpting program works all muscle groups. In particular I could feel the ache in my calves and hamstrings – which means I need the work. And I’m confident by the end of the 90 days I’ll have the strength to do a hand stand during inversion practice at yoga. It will happen!

In the scheme of things 90 days is really just a blip on the radar of time. It will pass quickly. We’ve already completed 3 workouts. Only 87 more to go! And I feel better already. Any burn is a good burn.

I’ll keep you apprised of our progress. Have any of you tried this workout? If yes, what were your results?  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Disgusted By the Media Frenzy in Ferguson, Missouri

Disgusted By the Media Frenzy in Ferguson, Missouri

Why would anybody in the media let facts get in the way of sensationalism? With few exceptions the talking heads and the usual suspects who encourage protects before an investigation can be completed have already charged, tried, and convicted the white police officer who shot Michael Brown, who was found to be unarmed at the time of the incident.  Whatever happened to due process? Where did the concept of “presumed innocent” until “proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” disappear from our national consciousness?

Those who rush to judge are truly no more evolved than the Egyptian jurists who sentenced a group of individuals to death without any affording them any right of defense or appeal. I am appalled at the news reports, the editorials, and the burning and looting.  And the government officials who pander to the anarchists should be impeached. It is the responsibility of our elected and appointed officials to ensure the rights of the alleged shooter are protected.

Yes, discrimination still exists in the United States of America. There will always be some humanoids that discriminate against others that are different.  It isn’t right but it exists. But that doesn’t mean that this incident resulted from racial discrimination or profiling. Our country has come a long way since the days of Jim Crow. Statistics show that the predominant cause of violent death among black young men is black on black violence – not rogue police officers. The national news media, however, prefers to focus on those events that bring the biggest ratings. And a white man shooting a black youth gets headlines and brings Al Sharpton and his cronies to stir up violent protests.  

If Dr. Martin Luther King were alive he would be horrified by the violent antics of these protestors.  Dr. King was a man of peace. It is a disgrace to his legacy that those following in his footsteps have advocated such violent protests.

Police officers place themselves in peril on a daily basis. Those who do not serve the public in such a role cannot know what is in the mind of an officer who believes he is threatened.  If I felt threatened, I would not wait until I saw a gun pointed at me before pointing mine at the perceived threat and firing.

My parents always taught me not to judge a man until I’ve walked in his shoes – or until I’ve sat on a grand jury or jury and heard all of the evidence.  Trial by media or public opinion is essentially a lynching. I thought we as a nation had moved beyond such barbarism.

Monday, August 18, 2014

On-line News Still Can’t Beat a Printed Sunday Newspaper~

On-line News Still Can’t Beat a Printed Sunday Newspaper~

For the past several years I’ve gotten my news primarily from on-line sources from Yahoo, CNN, The Guardian, Huffington Post and The New York Times; however, there are few pleasures that I luxuriate in more than lounging in my reading chair on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and a print copy of The New York Times.  I do not watch television news because I find it superficial and annoying. The bias of the newsreaders who insert their opinions or try to inflame views is, to me, contrary to the purpose of the press – which is to inform – unless clearly identified as an editorial. I feel disdain for Infotainment.

This week I was indulged with both the Times and the Washington Post. If I have to choose one paper, it will be the Times because the content will occupy me for hours. Yesterday morning I enjoyed the front section for more than an hour. I read Section A from cover to cover. I read the Washington Post because it is my local paper and I like to read the Metro Section. But my affection for The Post has waned in recent years.

I do subscribe to The New York Times online and read the daily content; however, I’ve found reading “the paper” online is far less satisfactory than opening a print edition, reading an article while the paper is spread across my lap, and then folding it and hearing the crinkle as I turn the pages to finish an article continued on another page. For me, a satisfying Sunday morning begins with coffee and a paper. I cannot imagine a future without newsprint.

Just as I read a number of books in electronic format on my Kindle, iPad or laptop, there is something particularly enjoyable about holding an actual book, feeling its weight, touching the pages, and flipping back and forth to maps, photographic inserts, historic timelines or family trees of historical persons. There are occasions when an electronic format is unsatisfactory.

And that is how I feel about the Sunday paper. A printed newspaper feels an indulgence to me. Having a paper to peruse in bed, read on the porch, or tuck into my tote to read while en route to brunch is not just a treat, it is an essential part of a weekend for me.

How do you feel?  Would you miss a Sunday paper if it were no longer available in print?  I know I would. A Sunday paper helps me feel grounded in the present.