My good friend and I spent two nights in Newport, Rhode Island at the Yankee Peddler Inn. While we both enjoy bed and breakfast places, it is difficult to find one with two beds in a room. Mostly they cater to couples I guess. We were fortunate to find the lovely room pictured above. A strong wind blowing Saturday allowed me to catch a shot of the surf rolling into the local beach. In the background you can see the cliffs, home to the Cliff Walk, a nearly three mile mostly paved path around the cliffs.
Newport is as old as Boston and is filled with colonial houses and cobbled streets and sidewalks. Eminently walkable, the town let us park the car and get everywhere on foot. I craved fish, so I had baked cod for one main meal and cod fish and chips for the other. The Inn had an expansive breakfast set up complete with fruit, eggs, assorted baked goods, cereal, oatmeal, coffee, tea and juice. Well fortified with breakfast and the main meal, we had cupcakes for dinner one night.
Newport became a summer destination for the very very wealthy of the Gilded Age in New York and is full of enormous mansions looking over the sea. These now are open for tourists to ooh and aah over. We toured Rosecliff a few years ago where they filmed The Great Gatsby. We both enjoyed the servants’ quarters more than any other part of the too too over the top place. After that we had no desire to see another mansion. I imagine in the future people will tour Mar-A-Lago in the same way!
Tomorrow we’re off to see Plymouth, Massachusetts where there is a recreated Puritan village and a recreated Native settlement. I will try to get some photos of it too.
A good friend flew in yesterday afternoon to visit for a week. We’re in Newport , Rhode Island now and back Saturday afternoon. Hope to catch up with everyone then. I’ll also try to get a photo of one of the old Newport mansions, home to the formerly rich and infamous.
Here I am seriously self reflecting on what it means to be a Catholic writer. Well probably not at that age! But in this post I wanted to put down my thoughts on the matter. A common misconception about Catholic(or Jewish or Hindu or Islamic) writers is that all of their output is religiously centered and aimed at converting the reader. This prevents some writers from even mentioning religious subjects for fear that they will be seen as coercive or close minded.
Many religious writers do in fact write about purely religious subjects and do want to convert their readers. However, I am not one of them. On the other hand, I do think of myself as a Catholic writer. Why? It’s simple really; I am a Catholic and I write. I am also a woman writer, a white writer, an old writer, a New England writer, a married writer, a grandmother writer, and a dog owning writer. I am not trying to change anyone’s gender, race, geographical location, marital status or pet ownership, but all of those aspects of me are important and inform what I think about, write about, and how I respond to things I read.
Lately anti-intellectual, right wing Christians have received a lot of news coverage for their views on the Presidency and the climate. My faith bears little resemblance to theirs, though we say we worship the same God. But behind all of my writing, my reflections, my joys and my sorrows, is my faith. I would be doing it a disservice if I allowed only the others to speak for me. They don’t. I follow a Gospel that stresses that the last shall be first, that we are commanded(not suggested) to love one another, that Jesus was a refugee, and that when we do to the least we are following Christ. Just thought it was time I said that again.
I imagine that anywhere in the world opening your car window when a bear is outside is a bad idea. But in many other instances, what is appropriate, polite or mannerly in one place is inappropriate, impolite or bad manners in another. These differences aren’t limited to different countries, but can easily exist within the same country, even the same neighborhood or the same church.
I come from a faith tradition where everyone is expected to know everyone and to chat with them before the service. When we started attending our Catholic church I discovered a much different expectation. I thought the person who sat down next to me in a pew should say hello. The person had no such expectations. I thought they were rude for not speaking. Some person at one point told me that they were taught to be silent before the service. They must have thought I was the rude person.
When we bought our house here we wanted the same kind of privacy in our back yard that we had enjoyed in Portland. We installed an attractive, expensive fence to surround our back lot. We learned that this was seen as unneighborly. Our neighbors apparently enjoyed looking across and through our yard at other yards and other neighbors. No one had fences, and they liked it just fine.
And then there is the two cheek kissing by older Italian men at church. I recognize that there is no element of “me too” in their behavior. But it throws me every time I am enveloped in an embrace and kissed on both cheeks. Am I supposed to kiss back? Where do I put my nose anyway! I still struggle with the practice, but do know that it would be rude to pull away from a well intentioned greeting.
I loved the responses about table manners from readers. I would enjoy hearing of cultural missteps any of you have made either around your country or in visiting another.
I had to learn a whole slate of table manners when I was growing up. Among them were don’t slurp your milk, chew with your mouth shut, don’t talk while you’re eating, use your silverware not your fingers, do the two hand switcheroo with the knife and fork when cutting meat
(you then had to trade the knife and fork and eat off the fork),
ask to be excused at the end of the meal, and don’t drop food to the dog under the table! I put in this last one to reward anyone who finished the list. It was an actual rule, but I doubt that it was in Emily Post’s book of etiquette.
At camp I learned two new rules which were given special names or rhymes. The first went “Mabel, Mabel well and able get your elbow off the table.” This was new for me. And if you propped your knife on the side of your plate you were called out for making a “gangplank.” Not manner related but camp fun nonetheless, when a milk carton was empty we were to lay it on its side and announce “dead cow,” to get the servers’ attention.
With the exception of the knife and fork switcheroo, all these manners seem to be expected all over the United States. I am curious if any of my readers can add to my list.
This picture aptly illustrates my reaction to criticism. I have not learned to accept it, either gracefully or ungracefully. This post, by necessity, is very short.
I grew up in one of the whitest states in the United States in the 1950’s in a totally white neighborhood. The textbooks we used were illustrated with white children. Magazine ads featured white models. Television shows were populated with white actors. The only exception were servants such as Jack Benny’s butler, Rochester. The crayon called “flesh” was pink. Santa was white. Jesus was white. I was white, so I had no reason to question the way the world was presented to me.
My grade school had been completely white except for one Haitian girl, daughter of a live in maid. But my high school drew from several feeder schools, and I encountered my first Chinese-American, Japanese-American and African-American classmates. But I still was pretty isolated and oblivious to the issue of race in America.
My baptism by fire came in as civil rights became a central issue in the early 1960’s. I became educated quickly about segregation and discrimination. But at the time I thought it was an issue only in the southern part of the country. Certainly it was there that governors stood in doorways to block students and police turned dogs on protestors. But the absence of true integration, evident all around me in Portland, escaped my awareness.
A lifetime later I have been consciously educating myself about the variety of human beings that share this planet. I have realized how limiting my childhood experience and education was for the world I would live in. I have read deeply about my country, its treatment of people groups from other parts of the world, and its resistance to recognizing the continuing affect of deeply held prejudices of all sorts. And as I look at Donald Trump I see a man who never learned to see, as I have, how much he had lost by isolation and how much he would gain by embracing diversity
“Listen up!” Who hasn’t heard someone in authority say that to quiet a group? “Are you even listening?” That seems to be a common question between partners. “Haven’t you heard a thing I said?” Every parent seems to ask that of their kid at one time or another. Clearly we share a challenge when we are asked to listen to another. At the same time, we need others to listen to us. We are much less forgiving of another zoning out when we are talking than we are of own own daydreaming while another talks.
I have to repeatedly relearn the art of listening. Instinctively I seem to listen to another person while simultaneously preparing my response. If I am in agreement with the other, I often start answering before she finishes talking. If I disagree, I am thinking about my point of view instead of listening to his. I have always found it much easier to talk than to listen! In fact in school I was constantly reprimanded for what they called “unnecessary talking.” (As if anything I was saying was unnecessary.)
I find it easiest to listen when there is no need for me to respond. Audio books and I get along well. Similarly, I can take in a homily in church. I find that I also deeply listen to the weekly readings. But put me in a discussion group about the homily or the readings and my “talk first listen later if at all” personality pops up.
I wonder how anyone learns to listen. My family was a constant cacophony of six people trying to get their points across. That can’t have helped. Still, I sense that there is a discipline to truly listening. It seems to require patience, tolerance and openness to another person. I continually aim to show up in each conversation willing to really listen. Now if the other person would just put down their phone!
Only bowlers will understand the negative anticipation in the above illustration. Despite the player’s best intention to hit the pins, the ball is heading towards the right gutter making no points. I often think of my life in much the same way . Despite my best intentions I often miss the mark entirely. The bowler can study her grip and her stance to improve on the next roll of the bowling ball. I need to do the same if I intend to learn from my errors. Otherwise I will keep on with the same old same old.
How I respond to mistakes depends on my surroundings. As a child, mistakes were unacceptable in my home, so shame clouded any missteps. I have had to learn how to benefit from mistakes instead of heaping more scorn on my already disappointed self. It has helped immensely to encounter new responses to errors. Most helpful lately has been my experience in the gym with my trainer. If I am doing an exercise incorrectly I am likely to injure myself. Here I get an immediate reward by adjusting my approach. My trainer and I can share a laugh about my convoluted way of trying to follow his instruction. The stakes for making a mistake are nonexistent.
In more important areas mistakes can have bigger consequences. But as I accept that I will make mistakes, some even serious ones, I can acknowledge my shortcomings without shame. As a added benefit, I find that I can accept others’ errors without condemnation or judgment. I can truly say that, despite all of our best intentions, we all do make mistakes. And sometimes we can even learn from them. But that won’t prevent future mistakes. It turns out no one really is perfect, including me.