Clarice Yasuhara has done the impossible.
In less than an hour and with an enormous amount of patience and restraint, Clarice taught me to knit. My kids made fun of my progress and I’m slower than dirt, but I’m on my way.
I can now knit, a skill that has eluded me for 50 years. And though I’m just starting, I think it will be relaxing once (if) I get the hang of it.
Clarice was one a handful of women who attended a “Learn to Knit” program Sunday sponsored by the Connecticut chapter of NOW. The goal is to teach women to knit so they can make a “With-You Wrap” for domestic violence victims across the state.
Chapter President Cindy Boynton launched the program to show domestic violence victims that someone cares. She hopes to collect and distribute about 1,200 handmade wraps to women in shelters across the state.
The Connecticut chapter is the only one doing this project, which has drawn donations from knitters from across the country. The parameters are pretty wide: a wrap in purple featuring some combination of three different yarns, colors or stitches.
We were lucky to have Clarice at Sunday’s event at my house. Clarice is an expert knitter who has taught knitting at area yarn shops for years. Just my luck, she knew how to teach a lefty and showed me the ropes.
At one point, she even suggested videotaping her knitting so I could watch it if I got stuck. There are also lots of great tutorials on YouTube.
Cindy, who is also a longtime knitter, worked with my 17-year-old daughter Maura. Neither of us are particularly dexterous. There were mistakes, lots of them. But apparently this is normal when knitting for the first time. It’s a lot harder than it looks, particularly when you’re watching someone who seems to do it effortlessly.
As a beginner, you want to be able to go fast, but you can’t. You must focus on the basics – behind, around, through and up – or you will mess up. It feels arduous at first, and then it finally clicks. By then, you need a little break because you’re exhausted from focusing so hard.
I am not a naturally crafty person. I think I was scared off after a home economics sewing class in 8th grade when I made a pantsuit out of green corduroy (it was the ’70s) and failed to realize that the material was not lined up correctly.
The finished product featured corduroy running in different directions. My mother tried not to laugh, but it was a disaster. I had no interest in sewing or anything crafty after that, focusing instead on easier things like tennis and golf.
But knowing how to knit has always been a secret wish. I find it fascinating and a little magical how a ball of yarn can be transformed into a blanket, sweater or wrap. I’ve always envied people who knit because it seems like such a satisfying hobby, particularly for someone with busy hands like me.
Like most things in life, knitting comes easier to some people than others. I happen to fall in the latter category, but I’m willing to accept it and forge ahead anyway. As they say, the expert was once a beginner.
Julie Bartley attended Sunday’s workshop with her daughter Avery Holzworth, a sophomore at the Norwich Free Academy. Both mother and daughter described themselves as basic knitters, though their progress on their wraps was impressive.
The next session is March 19th from 7-9 p.m. at 116 Brewster Road, West Hartford.
Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to this blog.
I’m not sure what it will be – suburban life leans toward the safe side of things. But I’m committed. I’ve been assured the world will be a better place if I do one thing today in the name of social justice and activism.
The challenge came at the end of a “talk back” at the conclusion of the play Gloria – A Life in New York City. I attended Saturday’s matinee with about 35 members of NOW’s Connecticut chapter.
The play tells the story of women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, from her heartbreaking childhood caring for her mentally ill mother in Toledo, Ohio, to her rise as editor and co-founder of Ms. magazine in 1971.
Along the way, it traces Gloria’s years at Smith College (about 80 Smith students were at Saturday’s show) and her budding career in journalism, which included “A Bunny’s Tale,” her expose of her 11 days as a Playboy bunny in New York in 1963. Patricia Kalember, who plays Gloria, has done her homework. In addition to being a dead-ringer with her over-sized aviator glasses, streaked hair and slim frame, she embodies Steinem’s attitude and wit.
When she entered the stage in an all black outfit, I did a double take. For a minute, I thought it might be Steinem, who lives in New York, making a cameo. During the talk-back, Kalember clarified Steinem’s position on many subjects, taking exception when an audience member said she hated all men.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say you hate all men. I think you hate what’s happening now,” she said. “Never give up. As Gloria would say, ‘Be a Hopeaholic.'”
I rarely go to New York City or plays, which made this trip a treat. Chapter president Cindy Boynton said she planned the road trip because she loves Steinem, and wants to offer a broad range of activities for NOW members.
“Not everyone wants to march at a women’s rights rally,” said Cindy, who has feminist lectures, knitting circles, happy hours and wellness programs in the works. “Some people want to be involved in NOW in other ways.”
Cindy said she’s offering activities that women feel comfortable attending alone. The vast majority of women attending the play and January’s bus trip to the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., went alone.
I like that NOW is offering these activities because it’s allowing me to break out of my routine and explore things that my husband has no interest in. I invited him to the play – a few men accompanied their wives – but he politely declined. Ordinarily, I might be nervous going my myself, but it’s fun traveling with the NOW group.
Our charter bus dropped us off at the Daryl Roth Theatre, a colorful theater-in-the-round that feels a little like sitting inside a kaleidoscope, and gave us a few hours to grab a bite before heading home. We opted for Pete’s Tavern, a New York landmark with walls peppered with signed photos of famous guests. We sat under portraits of Soupy Sales, Peter Graves, Claire Danes, Bill Hader and my favorite, Johnny Depp.
I planned to attend the play solo when Cindy told me that there were a few extra tickets. I asked my 17-year-old daughter Maura to go and she agreed to join me. She made it clear that she had no plans of actually conversing with me on the bus, scrambling to find her wireless headphones on Friday night.
That was fine with me. As the family’s chief driver, I look forward to these bus trips for chilling out and reading, maybe even looking out the window. One of the most disappointing days of my life was a train trip to NYC with my son when he was nine. I was looking forward to doing nothing while he spent two hours talking non-stop about Pokémon and Digimon. I thought I’d lose my mind.
But spending time with my girl is special because it’s so rare. I still remember my devastation when I asked her to go roller skating a few years ago and she brushed me off.
“Why don’t you just go yourself?” she said.
She likes her space, so much that I often have to remind her that I live in our house too. She finds me annoying, and has no problem telling me how she feels. She often leaves the room as soon as I enter, but texts me from school. I don’t get it.
I’d be offended if I hadn’t gone through the same thing with her 21-year-old brother from age 13 to 19 in one of the world’s longest rebellious stages. He had no use for me, and often let me know it. It’s a good thing I’m not easily offended.
We sat across the aisle on the bus and next to each other in the theater. I gave her the aisle seat and was gratified that she paid attention and got the funny parts of the play.
When I asked her what her favorite scene was, she said: “the crazy Russian lady with the hat.”
“You mean Bella Abzug?” I said. “She was a Jewish Congresswoman from New York.” I can see her assuming Abzug was Russian, but the actor’s Bronx accent was spot on. I don’t know how she confused the two, but I’ll give her credit for singling out Bella. With her trademark hat and outsize personality, she was known as “Battling Bella” and was larger than life.
I smiled throughout the play, maybe channeling the energy of the ensemble cast in the intimate theater. Many audience members were emotional and wept, but I couldn’t stop smiling. Perhaps it was my glee about being in NYC instead of Marie Kondo-ing my pantry back in Guilford.
Or maybe it was my joy about how far women have come under Steinem and other leaders of the women’s movement. I grew up in the late ’60s and ’70s when women were burning bras, breaking down barriers in the workplace and championing the sexual revolution.
I attended an all women’s college to further my education – not to grab a ring by spring – and kept my maiden name after I married. Though I insisted it was for professional reasons, it was personal: I didn’t think it was fair that women had to give up their surnames upon marriage. OK, that’s my first sort of outrageous act. I’ve never admitted that to anyone before. I kept my name for most of my marriage because I felt like it. And I have Gloria to thank.
I didn’t know any professional women while I was growing up – all of the mothers in my neighborhood left their jobs in their 20s to get married and raise families. But my generation was different, and we aspired for more. Most colleges went co-ed, and friends went to medical, law and graduate schools, and managed to build careers along with families. A lot changed in about 25 years.
Times were changing very, very quickly. And while there were growing pains along the way, the world is a much different place today than it was when I was born in 1958. Girls are raised to chase their dreams instead of boys. And while many women feel defeated by the current political climate in Washington, Gloria-A Life reminds us just how far we’ve come.
The play made me smile, reminding me that change is possible if you’re patient, persistent and believe. At 84, Gloria hasn’t given up, and neither should we. Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Connecticut chapter’s blog. You can follow her blog at thegsandwich.wordpress.com.
I took my son back to college for second semester.
The sight of his bags always chokes me up, but I’m better than a few years ago when his departure made me an emotional wreck. I know he’ll be back with his dirty laundry. Besides, there’s a chopped salad waiting for me once we get to campus.
We have this little deal: I drive him 100 miles to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA., if he agrees to get a chopped salad with me at the Hogan Campus Center. It’s a pretty even trade: he gets a free ride and I get a salad before the 90-minute drive home.
One of the things I’ve noticed is his rapport with the women who prepare and serve our salads. They know him on a first-name basis – no real surprise there – and have a genuine interest in him and what he’s doing. As a mom, this is very reassuring. The more people we have looking out for our kids, the better.
I didn’t think much about it until I hung out with a bonafide lunch lady last weekend. After spending a day with Barbara Paight, I’m convinced lunch ladies are the unsung heroes of school systems.
They’re on the front lines with kids every day, providing meals so they can go into the classroom with full bellies and learn. They see the kids every day, and can tell when they’re upset, anxious or a little off because they’re not eating. They see who’s eating alone, on the fringes or causing trouble. If they’re not part of school “teams” watching for troubled students, they should be.
I first met Barbara about 30 years ago at my first reporting job at a small newspaper. Barbara was on the business end while I was on the news side, but we had something in common: we both met our husbands at the newspaper. I guess it wasn’t a bad deal: we’re both still married to the same guys.
We moved on from that paper, which closed several years ago. Barbara worked office jobs until her elderly parents got sick, and she stayed home to care for them. After they died, Barbara heard about an opening for a cafeteria worker at a public school, and applied for the job. Today, she splits her time between a high school and a grammar school. At 65, she’s on her feet all day and logs 10,000 steps without trying, but she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I love being a lunch lady,” Barbara says. “I love the kids, and I look forward to seeing them everyday. They’re what keep me going.”
I connected with Barbara last weekend at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., where we both represented the Connecticut chapter of NOW. After wrapping me in a bear hug during a rest stop at the Delaware line, Barbara invited me to join her and her friend Dom for the day. I knew they’d be lively companions because they talked the entire way down while the rest of us tried to sleep.
If the tote bag she brought for the trip is any indication, Barbara is ideal for her job. Bananas, tangerines, crackers and mozzarella sticks were neatly packed in a square clear plastic tote that she carried cross-body style. She also carried a couple of bags of baked potato chips in her hands in case anyone needed a snack.
As a mom, I’m usually the one responsible for feeding my family, so it was a relief having someone else in charge of food. When I couldn’t open a mozzarella stick at the end of a long day, Barbara took it and showed me how to open it by grabbing the long end. I’ve never really known how to open them, even when my kids were little, so I appreciated the lesson.
I know some kitchen workers can be testy and mean, but I think it takes a special person to work in a school or college cafeteria. You must love kids and food, in that order, and you must tolerate deadlines, chaos and noise on a daily basis. I couldn’t do the job – the cacophony of the cafeteria would drive me insane – but I’m grateful that Barbara and others have found their calling.
Like many women who put their careers on hold to care for children, spouses or aging parents, Barbara’s priorities shifted when she re-entered the workforce. After a career as an office worker, she wanted something that would tap into her role as a natural nurturer. Her job as a lunch lady plays up to her strengths, which is why I think she finds it so rewarding. I think the longer you work, the more important it is to love what you’re doing.
I wish every kid could have a lunch lady like Barbara because she cares about the kids. She said that she can often tell when students are upset when they lose their appetite and stop buying lunch. She said she’s often aware when kids are going through tough times when they can’t afford breakfast or lunch. She’s genuinely sad when she learns that a student will be transferred because he’s too disruptive.
She’s keenly aware of the ups and downs of the kids she serves. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful that some schools have workers on the front lines who take the time to notice and care. And if they’re not required to contact guidance officials when they suspect something is off, I think they should be.
Barbara told me she often uses her role to build rapport and put kids at ease. When a new child entered the district and was uncomfortable, she told him that she was once the new kid and understood how he felt.
“I was the first class to go to this school and I’m 65 now,” she told him. She said the boy got quite a laugh over the fact that she was the same age as the school. She said she’s glad she could break the ice for him and he’s a lot more relaxed now.
As we walked toward Freedom Square for the march, I asked Barbara why she was marching again for the second time since 2017.
“I’ve got four granddaughters,” she said simply. “I’m doing this for them.”
Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Connecticut chapter of NOW’s blog.
It’s 6:35 p.m., and I just hopped on a charter bus after spending the day at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. I’m freezing, and so is everyone else. It feels like we just came in from a blizzard. In Siberia.
Our bus driver is 35 minutes late, leaving us shivering in the shadow of the Washington Monument. We hug each other to stay warm. We sing “The Wheels On the Bus.” Toward the end, our fearless leader Cindy Boynton leads us in the Hokey Pokey. Hey, desperate times.
We get to our right leg in when the bus pulls up, and we storm it. We can’t get in fast enough. We must be the last protesters to leave town. We’ve never seen so many charter buses that weren’t ours in our life.
It’s the kind of bone-chilling cold that won’t leave. I can’t get warm. Every bone and joint in my body aches, and I can’t get my sneakers back on. I’m tired, but can’t sleep. Remind me why I signed up for this again.
Just kidding. I’m here because of the Women’s Movement, something greater than myself. I’m unhappy with this country and its direction under President Trump. I’m here because I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and now I’m even wearing a button proclaiming it on my purple ski jacket.
I’m here because I have a 17-year-old daughter and nieces whom I adore, and I want to show them I’m not afraid to stand up – or even chant – to fight for what’s right. I’ve been silent and complacent for too long. At 60, it’s my first protest march. What took me so long?
The day – or should I say night? – begins at 1:45 a.m. when we board the bus in New Haven. An hour into the ride, I’m still trying to find a comfortable sleeping position. I’m grateful to have two seats to myself, but still. This is awful.
What made me think I’d sleep on the bus? The last time I was on a bus I was in college and could sleep anywhere. I finally notch a few fitful hours, but give up at the Delaware line and spring for a Starbucks’ Grande at 5:30 a.m. Ready or not, here we come.
When we pull up at 7:45 a.m. in front of the Washington Monument, the woman behind me cracks an eyelid and says, “I need to find a Dunkin’ Donuts ASAP.” When I tell her that we’ll need to get off the bus and kill time before the 10 a.m. rally in Freedom Square, she cringes.
“You mean the bus isn’t staying here?” she asks. “That’s not really something I want to hear.”
No one in our group of 34 – I’m number 11 – wants to kill time, but we’re upbeat and pumped. Most of us don’t know each other, but we become fast friends and even snag a huge table at a coffee shop. Score!
Though this year’s march is panned for disorganization and division among women’s groups, protesters in pussy hats and carrying signs with clever slogans converge on Freedom Square. What we lack in organization and numbers we make up in creativity and endurance. At 4 p.m., about 100 protesters are still in the square, holding hands singing and dancing in circles.
Everything and anything is protest sign fodder: The Wall. Women’s reproductive rights. The ERA. Mueller. Trump’s tweets. Trump’s tiny hands. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman at the center of the Kavanaugh hearings.
But my favorite’s a handmade sign in black Sharpie: “UGH, Where do I even start?”
And then the miracle: NOW leaders ask members of the Connecticut NOW chapter to carry an historic banner advocating the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment during the march. Cindy told us about the banner, but we had no idea we’d get the chance to hold or carry it. It’s thrilling being so up close and personal to history.
The giant green banner was last unfurled during a protest march in 1977 – a year after I graduated from high school. Do I want to be part of history carrying one of the wooden poles supporting it during the march? You betcha.
As we march the banner through the streets, I feel like one of those Chinese dragon dancers. With one exception: the Chinese dancers work in unison and appear to know what they’re doing. Getting everyone to hold a gigantic banner at the right height and width is harder than it looks. And other groups with banners are cutting in front of us, trying to steal our thunder.
It’s hard staying in step and keeping the banner level and readable. It’s difficult to keep the poles at the same height. It’s challenging to maintain our positions as pole holders because others want our poles.
A lot of other people want to be part of history, and repeatedly offer to take the poles. My buddy Barbara Paight even loses her spot when a woman takes her pole and gives Barbara her protest signs to carry. Barbara isn’t happy, but doesn’t know what to say.
“What are you doing?” I ask Barbara, a former co-worker I met 30 years ago at my first newspaper job. “Just tell her that you’re going to hold the banner because your friends are doing it. Get your pole back woman.”
Barbara is much calmer and generous than I am, even giving me a cozy hand-knit scarf from around her neck as we wait for the bus. But she wants to hold the banner, and I’m proud when she stands up for herself.
“Look, my friends are carrying the banner so I’m doing it too,” she says. “You can take over for me in a little while.”
The woman gives Barbara the pole, instead running interference for her as we work through the crowd. The banner grabs its share of attention from march participants, who crane their necks to read it and snap photos of us hoisting it skyward. But ultimately, all good things must end, particularly during a march with more stops than starts.
“Anyone want to carry this banner?” I ask after about 90 minutes. A woman takes my place, and soon Barbara, her friend Dom and I get to the outskirts to capture the scene. How many people are here? Maybe 100,000. Nothing like the 2017 march when more than 1 million people showed up, but a good crowd of true believers.
We arrive back in New Haven around 1:15 a.m., and I head for my car caked in snow and ice. I forgot my ice scraper, and am convinced I’ll be sitting here for 20 minutes while the car thaws, but I turn on the wipers and it’s just slush.
No one else is on the road, and I follow a plow that clears the way home for me.
Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and contributor to the Connecticut chapter of NOW’s blog.
The “kids” are still home from college, so a few of our son’s friends and their families gathered the other night to catch up.
It was a low-key affair on a weeknight to accommodate everyone’s schedule. Our host’s Christmas tree and decorations were still up and a fire burned in the family room fireplace, lending a cozy feel to the evening. A cat perched on a sofa arm, and wine was consumed before and during dinner. So much for the January Experiment, a new book advocating abstaining from alcohol during the month of January.
So nothing that extraordinary except one thing: the main course was prepared entirely by my son’s friend, a college senior. Let me clarify that. When the dinner was slated for a Monday night and his mom had to work all day, he also shopped and prepped the meal too.
I have college-age nieces who love to cook and food shop, or “source” as they say, and have been turning out incredible meals for years. But the boys? Not so much. And though I’ve over-parented my son in many areas, I’ve failed miserably in the cooking department.
He expects me to cook every night. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. Breaking down gender-specific roles like cooking and care-taking was at the core of the early women’s rights movement. The new movie “On the Basis of Sex” spotlights the issue, telling the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s fight to change a tax law that prohibited a man from taking a caretaker’s tax credit.
The case ultimately resulted in overturning 178 laws that discriminated on the basis of sex and were declared unconstitutional.
While prepping the landmark case with her husband Marty, Ginsburg notes that the tax law is antiquated and discriminatory because it assumes only women are caretakers and eligible for the deduction.
“Our client is a man. We can’t lose sight of that. Men are also harmed by these stereotypes,” Marty tells Ruth. “Boys are told they’re not supposed to be nurses, or teachers . . . ”
“Or cook for their families,” Ruth says.
A rare sight: my son grinding spices for the Thanksgiving turkey.
I’m not sure what RBG would think of my parenting skills when it comes to raising a modern man, but I suspect she wouldn’t be pleased. She divided household and parenting chores with Marty in the mid-50s when most women stayed home and raised families while their husbands went off to work. She’d probably be shocked that in 2019, some boys (and men) still expect and assume women will do all the cooking.
I know I could have done a better job, and I hope it’s not too late. In about 18 months, my son will graduate from college and will probably (hopefully) be living on his own. He needs to know how to cook. Everyone needs to know this important life skill.
I bounced this off some women I know with older children. They said I should chill out, noting cooking is something kids tend to gravitate to like any other hobby. Some also said they enjoy being the sole cook in their household, noting they enjoy having control of meal planning and what they eat.
They have a point, I suppose, but it’s nice to have a meal prepared for you once in awhile, and not have the burden of cooking every day. It’s nice when other people pick up the slack, freeing you up to do other things in the early evening.
I started out with the best of intentions. When my son was little, he sat on a kitchen stool or counter and “helped” me. One of our favorite annual traditions was making homemade sugar cookies, cutting them into different shapes for Christmas. After they cooled, we covered them in colorful frosting and doused them in various shades of sprinkles.
But our kitchen time diminished as he grew up and became interested in sports and video games (I know. X-Box was another huge mistake). He wasn’t interested in cooking, so we didn’t do it. I forgot that like a lot of things in life, such as cleaning and laundry, it’s important for parents to lead the way and demand participation.
A little background:
When we first got married, my husband cooked. He was 30, and had been living on his own for about seven years. He knew how to cook a limited menu – chili, tacos, hotdogs, Shake & Bake chicken and spaghetti with sauce – and cooked a few times a week. We were both working full time, so it made sense and was fair to divide cooking chores.
Things changed when he went to law school, and began commuting an hour to and from campus. He had less time and inclination to cook and was swamped with studying, so I picked up the slack. Eventually, I began doing most of the cooking, which was OK because I was a better cook. In exchange, he did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. It seemed like an even exchange because I hate cleaning the kitchen.
Cooking fell entirely on me when I decided to stay home with my kids about 20 years ago. Splitting household chores becomes impractical when one person is working at least 60 hours a week and carrying the full burden of the family’s finances. It wasn’t practical for him to cook when he was arriving home between 7 and 7:30 every night.
My evolution into chief cook was gradual, sort of like the weight that accumulates around your hips after age 50. Slowly and steadily, I took on the role of primary cook while he became the main breadwinner. I remained a freelance writer, but my “career” was not how I’d envisioned things back at my liberal arts women’s college.
I take comfort in the fact that some of my most liberal and full-time working friends are also the primary, um only, cooks in their house. Their husbands wait until they walk in the door late at night and ask, “What’s for dinner?” too. But I hoped I’d do better with my son, raising a guy who knows his way around the kitchen.
I didn’t realize my oversight until my friend’s son cooked steak and roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, even asking everyone how we’d like our steak cooked. When I suggested that my son make a similar meal for us, he waved me off.
“He just threw a couple of steaks on the grill,” he said. “What’s the big deal?”
You could say I spoiled my kids, but that doesn’t fully explain it. Our 17-year-old daughter cooks and bakes, and has been doing so for years. Some of it is necessity: she’s the most finicky eater I’ve ever met, and often doesn’t want to eat what I’m making. But sometimes she thrills me and makes enough zucchini noodles and sauce for all of us, and it’s such a relief to have a night off.
Our son has no interest in cooking, unless ramen noodles, canned soup and microwave popcorn count. He’s never been terribly interested in food, even as a baby. I used to call my mom in tears when I’d make and throw out 21 meals every week during his first two years of life. I’m not entirely sure how he’s gotten to be the size he is, but I guess he got some nutrients along the way.
It’s only with hindsight that I realize I dropped the ball. If I could do things over, I’d spend less time at my son’s tennis matches, and more time with him in the kitchen. I’d teach him knife skills, how to marinate meat, how to make a hearty soup and how to bake a potato so it doesn’t come out like a rock. I’d teach him how to pick out eggplants (always pick the lightest ones for the fewest seeds), how to grill fish and how to bake and frost cupcakes.
Fortunately, it’s not too late. He’s only a college junior, so I still have time to show him the ropes. And somehow, I think RBG would approve.
Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a regular contributor to the Connecticut NOW blog.
UPDATE at 1:40 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10: We are sold out!
By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY
I apparently have a lot of friends who want to go to the movies with me.
After I posted “Alone Time” https://thegsandwich.wordpress.com/ about my first foray to the movies by myself to see A Star Is Born, some friends lamented that I didn’t invite them to join me.
“The next time you’re going to the movies, call me. I love to go to movies and I’ll go with you,” a friend told me last night. Other friends indicated disappointment that I didn’t call them before heading out on my own.
So just in case anyone’s interested, I’m going to see a sneak preview of On the Basis of Sex Thursday evening at the Cinemark North Haven. The Connecticut chapter of the National Organization of Women bought out a 50-seat theater, and some tickets are still available. The $22 cost covers your ticket and a small donation to NOW. The film starts at 6:45 p.m.
If you want to come, please join us. There are still seats, but they’re going fast.
The film portrays a period in Ginsburg’s life where she juggled Harvard Law School with parenting her 3-year-old daughter and caring for her cancer-stricken husband. It stars Felicity Jones as Ginsburg and Armie Hammer as her loving husband Marty, who was also in Harvard Law at the time.
I saw a preview before The Mule, and it looks as intriguing as you’d expect. RBG is a trailblazer and a woman before her time, staking out a career in the 1950s in the male dominated field of law. She became the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court when named by President Clinton in 1993.
I’m eager to see this movie, particularly with a group of women who are advocates for women’s rights. Ginsburg paved the way for all of us, and remains an inspiration today at age 85.
Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and contributor to the Connecticut chapter of NOW’s blog.
I’m the world’s worst knitter, and don’t even get me started on crocheting.
I admire women who knit at their kids’ basketball games or boring municipal meetings, expertly looping yarn over their knitting needles, but it’s Greek to me. My crafty mom tried to teach me to knit when I was about 13 and I just couldn’t get it. This was hard to accept for someone who prides herself on having excellent hand-eye coordination.
Knitting and crocheting are skills to be treasured and shared. Besides being able to make afghans, sweaters, scarves and mittens to provide warmth, handmade creations reflect a personal touch and creative spirit missing in today’s world of mass produced everything.
An article in Handmade Business summed it up this way:
“When you make something, you leave a part of yourself in it. When you are finished creating, you take pride in the work partly because you see yourself in it. When you buy something someone else made, you yourself are reflected in that purchase. Whether it’s the color, the texture, the shape, or just the mood you happen to be in, an item that has been crafted as an expression of the creative spirit person who made it is treasured and valued far beyond an item that was made for worldly mass consumption.”
The Connecticut chapter of NOW is calling on all knitters and crocheters, hoping their creations can infuse comfort, support and hope into the growing number of women and kids who are victims of domestic violence. The chapter has launched the “With-You Wrap,” a project to provide shawls to domestic violence victims so they never feel alone.
Just four days after the official Jan. 1st launch, the first wrap arrived on chapter president Cindy Boynton’s doorstep. Organizers hope to provide wraps to about 1,200 domestic violence victims in shelters across the state.
I love this project for a few reasons. It shows domestic violence victims, who often feel alone, afraid and abandoned, that someone is thinking about them. It also underscores the importance of the personal touch – one woman reaching out to another to provide comfort and hope for better days.
The number of women and children affected by domestic abuse in Connecticut is staggering. An estimated 38,000 victims of domestic violence turned to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) and its 18 member organizations for counseling, shelter, court-based advocacy, and other essential services in 2018.
Boynton, who is an avid knitter, came up with the idea for the project. Inspired in part by prayer shawls worn by the sick, Cindy thought wraps would be a way of showing victims that someone cares. The project launched on Jan. 1, and already is gaining momentum from some knitting groups around the state.
This project reminds me of a homemade cookie program I participated in during a vacation to Hilton Head Island, S.C., last spring. After listening to a representative of the Kairos Prison Project explain he needed about 30,000 homemade cookies for an upcoming weekend in South Carolina’s prisons, my family decided to do our part.
I liked the idea because in addition to making the cookies, you were asked to pray that your efforts would make a difference in the lives of inmates and everyone who came in contact with them, including their families and prison officials. Our three-dozen cookies didn’t look like much, but you never know the impact that one tiny gesture will have on another person.
I rode my bike with our cookies in my wire basket and dropped them off in the church vestibule. I admit I was a bit disheartened when I noticed some people had tossed Oreos and Chips Ahoy into the donation bin. That wasn’t exactly what the organizers had in mind.
I have no idea if the cookies helped a prisoner, but they helped us. We made them as a family with good intentions. Sometimes, the only thing that we can possibly do for other people is show them that we care, and that they’re not alone in this world.
Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and a blog contributor to the Connecticut chapter of NOW.
Note by regular Connecticut NOW blogger Carolyn Milazzo Murphy: I have a friend who has an adorable 3-year-old son in preschool. Shortly after the Florida school shooting in February that claimed 17 lives, she expressed her growing anxiety about sending her son off to preschool every day. “I want to do something, but I have no idea what to do,” she said. “What can I do?” It turns out, a lot. The night before, I sat in an audience at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport and listened to Mary Ann Jacob, one of the survivors of the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown five years ago. As a gunman entered the school and began his killing spree, Jacob led 20 children to safety, hiding with them in a storage closet. Now an outspoken advocate for gun safety, Jacob wrote the following essay in response to my question: “What can the average woman do to help protect her children from gun violence?”
By MARY ANN JACOB
While the epidemic of gun violence in this country causes a ripple effect through families and communities, it affects women particularly hard. Domestic violence, mass shootings, day to day gun violence and suicide rip families apart every day, and women are most often the ones left to pick up the pieces of their families’ lives.
I know this personally, because on Dec.14, 2012, a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook School while I was working in the library. As the gunman blasted his way through the hallway killing our principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung and our school psychologist Mary Sherlach, then two classrooms where he killed 20 first graders and four more educators, the rest of the staff was frantically hiding and protecting the children in their care.
When those of us who survived went home later that day, the first thing we had to do was be strong for our own children, several of whom also survived the shooting that day, and many of whom were school-aged children in other community schools. I can remember walking up to my front door, putting my hand on the doorknob and thinking, “Pull yourself together, you are about to see your two sons,” before I turned the handle. Within hours of surviving one of the worst mass shootings this country has ever seen, we had no choice but to put aside our own grief and trauma to take care of those around us.
Don’t be fooled, this is not a partisan political issue but a public health crisis like this country hasn’t seen since the outbreak of AIDS.
When the time came to return to school a few weeks later, we were faced with the choice of whether to take care of ourselves or others. The school district floated the idea of bringing in substitute teachers if we were not up to returning, but not one staff member thought the kids should return to a school full of strangers. Without exception, the staff at Sandy Hook School chose to be there to greet the surviving children as they returned to an unfamiliar school in a neighboring town. We held each other up as the days and weeks wore on so we could be there day in and day out for the students…because that’s what women do.
As time progressed and we grew stronger, many of us chose to add our voices to those calling for an end to the gun violence assaulting our schools, churches, offices and homes. We could no longer stand by while more children died day after day.
Eighteen months after the shooting at our school, I reached my own personal tipping point. I watched on TV as the horror unfolded after the shooting in Isla Vista, CA. I was shaken to my core as I watched Richard Martinez, whose son Christopher was killed in that shooting, give his impassioned plea “Not One More” person be taken by gun violence. And I knew then it was my time to stand up and speak out.
I joined Everytown for Gun Safety and learned about the many issues surrounding gun violence in our country today:
+ 96 Americans are killed by guns every day.
+ Black men are 13 times more likely to be shot and killed with a gun than white men.
+ Over 50 women are shot to death by an intimate partner every month.
Who picks up the pieces of these families? Women.
So it’s no surprise that the effort to end gun violence has galvanized women across the country into action. Since the Sandy Hook School shooting millions of people – many of them women, have joined Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – an organization started by Shannon Watts in her kitchen following the shooting. We have almost as many members as the NRA and they’ve been around for over 100 years longer than we have.
Following the Feb. 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, FL., students have taken control of the conversation and infused the movement with new energy. More than 150,000 people have signed up to be volunteers with Moms Demand Action since the Parkland shooting and our movement is only growing stronger.
As I travel around speaking with groups about this epidemic of gun violence, many people thank me and ask me what they can do to help. Women especially, who are tired of seeing their children cry as they board the school bus, or afraid their children will be shot walking home from school in their neighborhood streets, have had enough.
We are marching, calling our elected officials, writing letters, educating others and running for office. This is a grassroots effort that has a place for each and every woman who is willing to take a stand. In 2018, more than 79 women are exploring runs for governor, more than double a record set in 1994. The women challenging incumbents in the US House of Representatives is roughly 350% higher than in 2016. Expect us – we are coming!
Women . . . have had enough.
Seven children and teens are killed with guns on an average day and many are the result of adults leaving loaded weapons around where children can find them. The BeSmart campaign teaches families about safe storage in their own homes. Women can lead the way by spreading the word, supporting the program and simply asking if guns are in the homes they visit. PTAs can be instrumental in supporting the effort in individual communities. Women physicians are spreading the word as they meet with families and children in their practices every day. Talking about gun sense should be as routine as pool safety, wearing a helmet on a bicycle and wearing a seatbelt.
Nearly 62% of the firearms deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Suicide is often an impulsive act and survivors rarely make a second attempt. But firearms are the most lethal means of committing suicide and individuals rarely survive the attempt to get treatment. As mothers, sisters and children we have firsthand knowledge of how suicide affects families for generations. Ensuring that our loved ones who may pose a danger to themselves don’t have access to guns is an effective way to reduce these numbers.
Background checks should be required for 100% of gun purchases in all states. We know that over 3,000,000 gun sales to dangerous people have been stopped by them. We can work with our representatives locally and in Washington to ensure that a criminal background check is made on all gun sales. They are the single most effective tool to keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous mental illnesses. And please, when confronted with the ridiculous argument that criminals don’t follow laws, ask why it is we have any laws at all? We know that car safety has increased because of a comprehensive package of laws that include air bags, graduated licensing laws, stricter DUI enforcement, driver education and speed limits. Do people still speed? Of course, but many lives are saved nonetheless.
In addition to running for office, we as women can research and support candidates who reflect our values. Don’t be fooled, this is not a partisan political issue but a public health crisis like this country hasn’t seen since the outbreak of AIDS. We have the power to choose how we respond every day, and who we choose to represent us at a local, state and national level. Ask each and every candidate who wants your support what their positions are. And if those holding elected office or running for office put the interests of the gun lobby before the safety of our families, it’s time to vote them out. Click here if you’d like to support those efforts: https://everytown.org/throwthemout/
We have learned from the students in Parkland that we don’t need traditional media to keep the conversation going, just our smartphones and some pointed social media work. Corporations are beginning to jump on board one by one and refusing to do business with companies that manufacture guns or support their distribution. You can help drive more change by choosing who you do business with, where you invest your money and where you bank. Let the companies that are doing it right know you support them with your purchases, and for the ones who are getting it wrong, they will learn the hard way.
Finally, pick up your phone and text the word JOIN to 64433. Join us at Everytown for Gun Safety today. We will keep you informed about the issues facing your community as well as nationally. We cannot expect our leaders to change unless we are willing to do the heavy lifting. We know what to do, so let’s get to work. We are women – we can and will do this.
Have you ever been in a class where someone’s work is so great that yours pales by comparison every time?
Katie Beavan of Southport is that classmate. With her proper English accent and poetic mastery of the English language, Katie managed to churn out mini-masterpieces during our class “Journey of Women Through Writing” at the Westport Writers’ Workshop.
Our class was by no means a competition, but Katie brought a unique twist to our assignments written during a three-hour block every Tuesday morning. She clearly hails from the land of Chaucer and Shakespeare, creating pieces with rich texture and layers in a voice that is uniquely her own.
Given her talent to write eloquently on subjects ranging from anorexia to sexism in a 15-minute time frame, I can’t wait to see her one-woman play “Harvey’s Phallus, Where’s My Pussy Hat?” inspired by the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal. The play is at 7 p.m. May 11 at the Wien Experimental Theatre at the Quick Centre for the Arts at Fairfield University.
Auto/ethnographic performance is a both a method of critical qualitative inquiry and a stage performance. The scholar-performer uses her body as a cultural text to critically inquire, write, and present to audiences, hoping to invoke in turn, their personal, critical and embodied reflections.
Katie works as a feminist practitioner-scholar, using her experiences as a long-term executive and 21st century woman leading a multi-faceted 24/7 life as raw data. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of West of England. Her research focuses on how to (un)do gender in hyper-masculine cultures and accelerate the current slow pace of progress towards gender parity.
Her 2017 piece “Sleepless and Inchoate in Boston” explores the scenes and emotions of a senior executive woman in Boston for a dinner event and engaged in a heated e-mail dispute with her bosses. The play explores power at work, women at work, shame, anger, empathy, and agency.
Katie’s 2018 piece ‘Harvey’s Phallus, Where Is My Pussy Hat? is a performance of fragments. In this piece, she is engaging with powerful emotions and vulnerable and painful, personal memories of sexual harassment evoked by the unfolding Harvey Weinstein story. It also explores wider cultural issues of misogyny, power and control of women’s bodies, political agency and exploring the potential for women’s solidarity.
The play is free and open to the public. Oh and wear a pink pussy hat if you have one.
HB 5210 has gained importance and urgency. The current presidential administration continues to chip away at the Affordable Care Act, only in more administrative ways. Here is more information regarding a nationwide attempt by some states to combat this: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/03/08/591909106/a-health-plan-down-payment-is-one-way-states-try-retooling-individual-mandate.
A bill similar to HB5210 did not pass last year, and with this year’s shortened legislative session ending in just three weeks, we need to push for passage of this bill.
As a reminder HB5210 puts the insurance coverage the Affordable Care Act mandated into law in Connecticut, should the ACA be repealed on the Federal level.
This particular bill has the added benefits of requiring coverage of at least one type of all birth control methods and allowing patients to get 12 months of birth control pills at once.
This bill does not have a scheduled vote date yet but I will update you once there is one.
In the meantime, the Connecticut Coalition for Choice is looking for volunteers for this event:
For those who don’t use Facebook, this Health Care Action Day is hosted by Protect Our Care CT. It is at Emanuel Lutheran Church, 311 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT. There will be a briefing at 2:30pm and then everyone will go across the street to the Legislative Office Building.
The coalition is looking for individuals willing to speak with legislators about the importance of HB 5210. If interested, you can get in touch with me at LAPizzoferrato@gmail.com and I will refer you to an organizer.
Lauren Pizzoferrato is CT NOW representative for the CT Coalition for Choice.