Thursday, June 30, 2005

Life After Company

S.M. got off yesterday with no trouble :( after we dined on fish and chips for lunch at America at Union Station and then shopped around a little. Anja called shortly after I got back and was disappointed that she had missed her, but invited me to dinner and drinks at Parthenon as a thank you for watching the house, the kitties, and the fish, and keeping the plants watered while they were in Arizona for a few days. We shared cold appetizers outside, and it started pouring just as we were finishing so we went inside, to the bar, had another glass of pinot grigio and sat it out until we could walk home. Jim took advantage of me being out for dinner to work late - he sure knows how to have a good time - but was home by the time we returned, about 9. He bicycled into work this a. m. even though more thunderstorms are expected this evening and they almost always come during rush hour. Today I've been feeling a little tired and lazy, but I had a dental appointment this morning (and was relieved to learn that I probably won't need add'l surgery on that root canal that needed redoing last year) and I had to deal a little more with the aftermath of the neighborhood dog incident and locate a missing file for the Goofy One, who inadvertently left it home from work this morning, before running up to the Safeway to restock staples. Now to reconnoiter what needs to be done around here, my work schedule, and the upcoming trip to the cabin, and try to get organized for July and August until Carey and Sarah come back on the 5th.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A(nother) Lovely Little Day

S.M. consented to be hauled off to Curves yesterday morning for a workout, where we ran into our friend Lenore, who was excited to see her and Vanessa, who still works there, as well as one of the new staff members who quickly surmised that we were sisters. So, of course, it was all a bit of a chatterfest as well as a workout. After a rinse off and a change of clothes at home, we headed to Bethesda for lunch and shoe shopping at One Step Up, as well as the reconnoitering of a couple of local smaller art galleries, one of which turned out to be closed. But I did order a new pair of sandals, Mephistos, and we learned what we needed to from the gallery that was open, and lunch at Bacchus was delicious. So it was worth the field trip even though the weather was still tres miserable. We let ourselves recover a little from the exertion of the outing and then tidied up and got tea ready for when Cindy and Kathleen arrived, both with interesting, though very different news. Cindy's involved one daughter getting married and another having a baby and Kathleen's, a truly horrible divorce story. Cindy also brought cannolis, which were insanely delicious. We were hardly hungry enough to eat dinner by the time Jim bicycled home, even though it was a little late and even later by the time we got to Arucola. Turns out to have been fortunate, though, because we had to wait for more than half an hour for a table. So by the time we were seated, we had regained our appetites. As today is Carey's last day here, she got up this morning to say good bye to the Goofy One before he left for work. I'll take her to Union Station by subway later today to catch her 4:00 train back West. I'm already sad. I hate it when she leaves! Boo hoo!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Lunch with Ann

Today S.M. and I went down town to look at the new exhibits and some of our favorite paintings in the permanent collection at the Corcoran ( Then we collected our friend and sorority sister Ann Meier, who works there, and walked over to the Hotel Washington to sit on the roof terrace, eat a little lunch, and catch up. She is looking forward to starting her new position with the Corcoran, that of registrar for the art school, on July 1, and to doing more traveling next year when her second child, Jill, is off to college, and she and Jack have an "empty nest." We think she should also venture into trying out a stand up comedy routine, as she is extremely funny, not that I can remember any of her off-the-cuff one liners at the moment, of course. The day has been just dreadfully hot and humid, so we decided against checking out the free concert at Fort Reno park just up Nebraska Avenue and opted for an uneventful evening at home after dinner.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Too Many Margaritas

Sue and Dave had a margarita maker at his 40th birthday party, which was catered by Austin Grill, so of course, we probably overindulged just a little. The hot day turned into a great evening, though, so it was very nice to sit outside in their backyard and eat Mexican food and chat for a few hours. We got home late and are feeling a little ragged again...still? but went to Cafe Ole for brunch. Carey and I shared poached eggs with hollandaise and smoked salmon, and Jim had the French toast. Then S.M. and I went to a movie at the Avalon, "Kings and Queen," and the Goofy One went kayaking on the Potomac with Gordon. They ran Little Falls. Carey and I picked up a chicken for dinner, and it's going to be early to bed for all of us tonight.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Photos from our Sister Trip

Almost Back to (Ab)normal

With S.L. gone and the pace slowing down a little, I had a chance to catch up with some everyday matters, like laundry, etc., on Thursday, and then yesterday S.M. and I drove over to Old Town Alexandria to have lunch at Bilbo Baggins - smoked duck salad and vegetable gazpacho - and drop off "Equity Rules: Be Fair, Be Fair, Be Fair" at Old Town Editions, so they can make prints when they get the deposit check from the Feminist Majority Foundation. We also, of course, did a little shopping - shoes, tea - before we came back. On the way I let Carey off at the new National Museum of the American Indian, so she could explore it before dinner. I came home to rest and reconnoiter. She and Jim arrived home about the same time, and we all rested a bit before having dinner at El Tamarindo and then cruising around Maryland in the Honda listening to Allman Brothers cd's and checking out the houses for sale. They walked up to Parthenon to get rice pudding after we got home and then we all hit the sack fairly early.

It's nice to be getting back on schedule a little, sleepwise, though I'm still pooped. I did get to Curves this a.m., for the first time in several days, though Carey declined to join me, wanting to save her energy for a trip to the National Gallery of Art this afternoon. I dropped her at the subway, but since my sciatica is acting up so badly and we are going to (another!) party tonight, I thought I had better try to stay off my feet a little this afternoon. So I regretfully let her go off by herself. Jim went off by himself earlier this morning to visit Spring River and then do some mountain biking on the towpath, which I was glad of because he hasn't gotten much exercise since he came home from the cabin.

Tonight is our friend Dave Schless' 40th birthday party, and we are looking forward to helping him celebrate.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Pretty Much Exhausted

But it was worth it.

Neighbors wandered in and out over the course of several hours on Tuesday night, the Summer Solstice, to visit and say farewell to our neighbors Eva, Jan, and Jacob, from the Czech Republic, who are going to return there after a five year stay here in the U.S., while Jacob served as the Cultural Attache at the Czech Embassy; and to our neighbors Amy, Tomas and Tom, who are leaving the street and moving to a neighborhood a little farther north, just over the District line in Maryland. By the time we got cleaned up and settled down it was almost midnight so we were all quite weary yesterday, but we had tickets to see "Don Quixote" performed by the Suzanne Farrell Dance Company at the Kennedy Center ( It was opening night and the three of us remaining sisters got a bit gussied up for the occasion, as S.L. wanted to do it up right on her last night in the big city. They wore black and I wore red, which I had forgotten was the color of the Opera House decor. I actually matched the curtain, even down to the gold designs on the fabric. Fortunately, my dress was not brocade.

The production was nothing short of spectacular, not only the dancing but the set designs and costumes. I thought that some of the dancing at times was actually overshadowed by the costumes and scenery, but when the point was in fact the dancing as opposed to the spectacle, which was most often, the dancing was wonderful and often superb. I also thought the last scene, the death scene, went on far too long, but those are small criticisms for an essentially awesome production. Unfortunately, S.L. had to catch a 7 a.m. plane out of National, so we didn't get too much sleep after getting home around 11 and snacking, before we had to get up to see her off. Boo hoo!

Today, S.M. and I are entirely done in. Nevertheless, as block co-captain, I've had to deal with some fall out on the block over an incident late Tuesday night of one neighbor's big dog, a German Shepherd, attacking and biting another neighbor's very small dog, and terribly frightening the young girl who is the small dog's owner. So S.M and I have kept it pretty low key, just wandering up the street to the Parthenon for lunch, a stop at the bank, and a stop at the Safeway to pick up some salmon and corn on the cob for dinner. After dinner tonight, we are going to watch a short video of S.M. when she was on television in Montana a few weeks ago talking about Amtrak, but it will be early to bed tonight! We are all POOPED!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Head's A-Spinnin', and Happy Birthday to the Brother of Us All

The pace has been hectic around here for the past day and a half or so. Carey, Kaye and I left Mom a singing birthday message on her answering machine in the a.m. yesterday, and she called back just as we were headed out the door to try on the clothes we had put away at Catch Can on Sunday afternoon. So we talked with her and then spent a long hour at the store rifling through the racks and making ourselves and the clerks, who figured out that we were sisters, laugh a lot. Carey couldn't believe she spent the most money and that Katy ended up buying nothing, even though she put on several little girly girl outfits that looked really cute on her. S.L. refused to buy a pair of capri pants because they had drink glasses all over them, and so she didn't think she could wear them to school. Carey got a hot pink skirt and a top printed with fish. I got a new little red dress.

Charles showed up with the kids soon after we got in. So we slammed down some leftovers for lunch and headed to the zoo, where we saw some extraordinary sights, one of which isn't mentionable on a blog. But the baby cheetahs were out, one of the pandas, slurping a panda popsicle, a couple of seals, the baby tigers. The lethargic old lion even got up for a change and was bellowing at the door where the feeders usually come out, so we figured it was time for him to eat, but they never fed him while we were there. We called Uncle Jimmy on the way home and decided we would go out for Thai food for dinner so after he got home we hit one of our favorites, 4912 Thai on Wisconsin. Dylan, who had only wanted pizza, was happily surprised to find he liked chicken panang and stuffed chicken legs, as well as seafood galonga soup. Charles left to take the children back to their mother's in White Marsh about 7:30, and Carey went over to visit Anja and the girls while Katy finally got a chance to visit with Jim, and I pretty much collapsed in bed. I did stay awake enough to hear Charles come back about 9:30 and Carey return about 10.

This morning we all called brother Tom to wish him a happy 56th birthday before Charles headed out to pick up C.L. and make for Kentucky on their way back to Wisconsin and Jim went to work. My neighbor Eva then came over to visit and discuss the plans for the party here this evening, after which Carey, Kaye and I cleaned and tidied the house and then got ourselves together to taxi down to the Hotel Washington for lunch, where we sat on the rooftop deck on this most perfect of days and had cold peach soup, artichoke, tomato and mozzarella salad, and fish and chips, and then taxied home. We breathed, just for a moment, and then hopped into the car to hit Whole Foods to buy supplies for the "Farewell to Neighbors, Welcome to Summer" party this evening. S.M. and S.L. are resting a bit before we get things together. We are looking for a bit of a respite tomorrow, planning to sleep in and take it easy, not do a whole lot, as we have tickets to the ballet tomorrow night and S.L. has to be at the airport by 6 a.m. on Thursday. We'll see what happens. Meantime, though, we will P- A- R- T- Y!

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Lovely Little Sunday at 3715 Jocelyn, and Happy Birthday to the Mother of Us All

The day started with brunch at Bread and Chocolate with us four sisters and Anja, Charlotte and Ella, where we toasted our father, our brother Charles - who we temporarily released from his responsibilities as our fourth sister to resume his responsibilities as a father - and Charlotte and Ella's dad, who is on a fishing trip with his own. It was followed by a trip to the National Museum of Women in the Arts by the original triumverate, and a carry-out Italian dinner from Maggiano's which Carey and Katy brought home from their late in the day shopping spree at Mazza Gallerie and the Friendship Heights area. Sister Little desperately needed a new little black dress for our trip to the ballet on Wednesday evening and found a great bargain at Filene's, after which I picked them (and the food) up. During dinner, the four of us also managed to bake two pans of cut and bake chocolate chip cookies for dessert with only one or two minor mishaps, one being the choking death of me, Sister Big, due to wine going down the wrong pipe because of laughter during the reading of the directions by Charles.

Jim got home about an hour later than his telephoned eta of 7 p.m. because of some traffic snarl in Pennsylvania, but Charles stayed to visit with him while he unwound and ate some dinner before he headed back to Annapolis for the night. Charles will pick up Dylan and Charley Lauren today and bring them down for an afternoon trip to the zoo with us, and they will all stay for dinner with Uncle Jimmy before Charles takes them back to their mother's in White Marsh. He and Charley Lauren will take off back to Wisconsin, via Kentucky to visit the Boettchers, Tuesday a.m., while Dylan visits his mother for a few weeks, and we three "girls" resume our sister trip without sister number 4.

Today, June 20, 2005, is our mother's birthday. She's quite a woman, and I've written several poems about her, including this one in which I tried to capture some of her life story and some of what I believe is her "essence."

She Picked Pussy Willows

Not so much walking as ambling,
In the sultry Spring and chilly Fall,
To the one room country school,
She picked
Field flowers and pussy willows
For the favored few.
Graceful, tall,
A towheaded willow herself,
She soon steered the others -
Peggy, Glenda, Sue –
When they came along.
One November – she couldn’t resist –
She touched her tongue
To the schoolyard fence.
Once, she forgot her dress,
Wandered out of the house in her slip.
Otherwise, 1930’s farm life
In Northern Wisconsin
Seemed uneventful.
Her best friend was Molly.
Her teachers liked her.
She was smart,
All they could ask for
In a student. At home,
She minded kids,
Washed dishes,
Milked cows,
And helped Grandma clean clothes;
Hauled buckets of water
Up from the creek
For the old machine;
Caught the dripping garments
Coming through the wringer,
Hung them on the line to dry.
Sometimes she stopped to daydream,
Legs dangling from the swing
Slung between the ancient oaks
Behind the house.

Summers. She drove tractor for Grandpa.
Threshed on neighboring farms.
Met the Ortmans.
Russell (the oldest)
Drove her to her high school concert
To play the cello
When Grandpa was late getting home.

Wartime, Spring, 15,
That handsome Tommy Ortman,
(Who had joined the Army a little too young)
Home on leave.
Oh, he was something!

Finally told Grandma,
Who took her to the Doc.
Floppy shirts, loose clothing
Hid it from the sisters
Who were shocked
Understandably upset
When Grandpa told them I had arrived, early,
Mom and I both, critical.

Married Dad in January,
As quick as the Army released him.
Me - I thought their anniversary was in April
Until I was 35.

P.E. Ortman

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Arrivals of Sister Middle and Honorary Sister (aka, Brother Little)

So…Sister Little and I chop chopped over to Union Station on Friday in time to meet Carey’s 12:00 noon train, only to discover it was delayed until 1:05. Being the resourceful sisters that we are, we decided to have lunch at “America” while we waited. We sat on one of the balcony levels so we could overlook the bustle and the beauty of the refurbished station while we shared our crab, spinach and swiss cheese omelet and talked about teaching. After lunch, we found out we had an even longer wait for Carey when the arrivals board now listed 2:30 as the time the Capitol Limited was due in. No problem, however, as there was SHOPPING to do!

S.L. NEEDED to start with Victoria’s Secret and insisted I try on new bras as she didn’t think my stretched to the last gasp of life old ones did much for me and that my 57-year-old but still great breasts should salute the world a little more when greeting it. I, on the other hand, am happy just not to be chafed by an under wire. In spite of that I did eventually purchase a new industrial strength sports bra that I think is referred to as a t-shirt bra which feels very authoritarian to/on my chest, but otherwise is pretty comfortable. The staff was so disorganized and frenetic, however, that I don’t think I’ll be going back, at least not to the one at Union Station. And of course the prices are ridiculous. But S.L. got some more perfume – something about always being sexy, if I recall correctly - and a new bra, also. We wandered through almost every other shop there and eventually also got matching gift t-shirts for the Taylor and Thomas, and some lotion, and then went to check the arrivals board again. Now it said 3:30, at which point I thought we should find out what the heck was holding up the train. Turns out it was the Amtrak track problem, namely, they don’t own any. So the owners of the tracks let all the freight trains that turn up have right of way and leave the passenger trains sitting.

In any event, Sister Middle finally arrived, safely, around 3:30, with luggage we could manage on the subway, so we rolled on out of there to home where we rested a bit (and then the girls went up the street to do some errands) and then visited with Charlotte (who had spotted S.L. on her way home from having a pedicure and her eyebrows waxed), and Anja and Ella, before we changed and hustled over to the Kennedy Center for the concert.

Saturday a.m. we headed for Serenity Spa for our massages, after which we had eggs benedict, black bean hummus and stuffed grape leaves for lunch at Café Ole and hung out a bit in the beautiful weather, and then stopped at Chevy Chase Gallery to pick up some prints I had had matted before we went home to rest and reconnoiter. On our way out of the gallery we saw Brother Little, who had driven Dylan to Maryland to stay with his mother for a few weeks and pick up Charley Lauren to bring her back to Wisconsin. He had come in town from Laurel to see if the three of us wanted to have Thai food with him for lunch. Not finding is at home, he had wandered down Connecticut to The Thai Room to eat by himself and wait for us, but found it closed. So, there he was just as we were leaving. He was disappointed that his friend Pat, with whom he had intended to spend the weekend playing golf, had just gotten reassigned to Brussels and was not even home.

Katy and I took him over to 4912 and actually had more to eat while Carey did research and rested and then we all finally gave up and took a nap, after which we decided to go to the local movie theater, the Avalon, and see Ladies in Lavender. Charles decided to join us for the chick flick and to spend the night here rather than go back to Laurel. Since we are on our sister trip, we’ve made him an honorary sister. The plan for today is Bread and Chocolate for brunch, where we'll make a toast to Dad for Father's Day, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, shopping at Mazza Gallery, and baking chocolate chip cookies for Jim, who will be coming back from the cabin this evening.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sister Little Arrives Safely

I took the subway to the airport, Washington National, to meet Kaye's plane last evening. It was a beautiful day and so she had no trouble on any of her flights, the one here even arriving about 20 minutes early. Her pretty little self moseyed off the plane towing her (what else? - pink) carry-on roll along, declaring "Let's party!" and "Now THAT's the way to travel!" the minute she was close enough to speak. I agreed, "Let the fun begin!!"

We rolled on out of the Northwest Terminal straight onto the shuttle to the Main one and through there to the Metro, where it took a few minutes for a Yellow Line train to show up, but the weather was so beautiful we didn't even care. We changed seats when we were getting close to the Potomac so we could see the river as we crossed it on our way to Gallery Place, where we switched to the Red Line for Van Ness and home. We were going to have dinner at Arucula once we got back in the neighborhood but got distracted by Delhi Dhaba on the way to the car, so stopped there instead to chow down on Indian food, the "Superior," a tasting dinner that features two different appetizers, two vegetarian and two meat entrees, as well as mango lassa, a creamy, cold yogurt and mango drink which goes well with the spicy food, and a side order of lamb biryani, which we needed like a hole in the head. Even after we stuffed ourselves like little piggies (TayTay, take the back of your hand and tap it gently to the bottom of your chin several times and you will know what we felt like after we finished eating), we stilll, of course, had two huge cartons of left-overs (which we don't mind, because it means we don't have to think about what we'll have for lunch tomorrow.)

We finally waddled to the car and drove the rest of the way home, where S.L. promptly collapsed on the couch, until the door bell rang and we had a visit from my little friend Charlotte and her mother, Anja, and sister, Ella. They had just returned from Las Lomita Dos and had seen the light on and the screen door open. Charlotte met her match with S.L., who recognized a kindred soul immediately, so it was fun to watch the battle of wits between them while snuggling tired little Ella, who folds into you like a warm blanket when she cuddles.

Everyone is looking forward today to the imminent arrival of Sister Middle (aka, Carey), who will make the Sister Triumverate complete. S.L. and I will head to Union Station later this morning to meet her train, the Capitol Limited, which should arrive around noon. We'll have lunch there, maybe wander around a little, I suppose, and then come back here for a rest, refreshing, and dinner before we go to the Kennedy Center (or Senator, as Sarah calls it - the Kennedy Senator, "my favorite Senator") to hear the National Symphony Orchestra and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, for which I scored free tickets on the Chevy Chase Listserv yesterday. How lucky was that!? Sometimes I feel like I just hold my arms open, and the universe fills them with presents. I feel a little sad that Dad isn't here, that he never had the opportunity to hear her, but I'll hope he's on our shoulders this evening. He'll be, of course, as always, in our hearts, the man who gave us all so much, including an appreciation for classical music, and me, along with my wonderful mother, four siblings, including these two wonderful no-longer-baby sisters whom I've adored since they were born.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Saving the Holly Bushes

So, I went out to trim back the holly bushes before going to Curves yesterday a.m. and, even though they were growing fast and looking luxuriant, I discovered those horrid little white powdery insects ("scales") had come back again this year and the bushes were starting to drop some of their lower leaves. Having painstakingly sprayed the underside of every leaf of every bush - 7 - for two years in a row a few years back and been convinced I had gotten rid of the insects once and for all, I was really annoyed, to say the least. I cut off a branch, brought it over to Johnson's Garden Supply and asked them for the big guns - no more missus nice guy, here! They gave me an insecticide that you mix with water and put into the root system of the bushes, so I spent the rest of the afternoon trimming and pouring and mulching and cleaning up the back yard. My poor little fingers are paying for it today, but hopefully so will the nasty old insects.

On a brighter note, Sister Little (Katy) arrives this evening! We're looking forward to having lots of fun.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I Feel Like Mr. Rogers (Ms Rogers? Dr. Rogers?)

Anyhow, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Hot and a little humid, but a lovely rather gentle breeze and all the plants seem quite cheerful. I watered the annuals and the hydrangeas, which are starting to bloom, and the fuchsia, which drinks every day, especially in the heat. The last few days have been similar, and I've spent a lot of time painting and catching up with friends, having dinner with one or another almost every night since Jim's been at the c abin. The weather has been perfect for dining out at night and of course the food at the neighborhood restaurants up the street is all tres delicious!

I have a new flower painting, "Clematis," and several other smaller watercolors, including two mandalas and a geranium in a blue pot.

The weather reminds me of Crete weather, my pilgrimage with Carol Christ, and this poem:


My painting,
"Far Seeing Mermaid,"
I think of Crete,
Her mountains,
Her caves,
Her sacred spaces,
My companions and me,
Searching for the Goddess,
The Great Mother.
Reminds me that
In the end,
We found Her
Where she had always been-
Always is -
Inside ourselves, and
In the love between us.

Patricia E. Ortman

Far Seeing Mermaid:

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Grandma's Photos

Grandma’s Photos

We sift through Grandma’s photos, Mom and me,
Examine each image in the extensive array.
These are the last unsorted remnants
Of her 92 years.
Grandpa, her girls, her grandchildren,
Her travels, her childhood – they’re all here.
We remember when, sort them in piles
For family, old friends.
Mom squints at a few, isn’t sure
Who’s who, considers who may:
The remaining great aunt,
An aging female cousin.

Will someone, one day,
Squint at a picture of my Grandma,
Wonder who she was,
Wonder who might remember,
That adoring young mother with the
Chubby, tow-headed toddler (girl)
Nestled, grinning, next her heart?
The smiling, clearly contented middle-aged wife, seated
Beside her beaming husband at the anniversary table, surrounded
By their bevy of beautiful blonde daughters?
That tiny gray-haired lady in the nursing home chair
Pointing the camera, still capturing life
Right up to the last minute?

P.E. Ortman

Friday, June 10, 2005

Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa

I attended a terrific program yesterday: a presentation of the findings of Freedom House’s survey “Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Citizenship and Justice” at the Sewall-Belmont House. Freedom House ( was founded in 1941 by Eleanor Roosevelt and others and is "dedicated to establishing freedom and democracy throughout the world." The Sewall-Belmont House ( was the home of Alice Paul, the suffragette, remains home to the National Woman’s Party, and is a museum of the history of the women's suffrage movement in the United States. The comprehensive study, which covers 17 selected countries and territories, is the first comparative assessment of women’s rights in those areas of the world and contains recommendations for improvement. The survey, including individual country reports, ratings, and methodology, is available online at:

I was happy that this study had finally been done, as the status of women in the Middle East and Africa has been something I've been keenly interested in and concerned about for a long time. Democracy can't be a reality in any of those countries, imho, as long as women are treated as (less than) second class citizens. I just finished another book, "The Swallows of Kabul," which points up that problem again. Although it is a novel, I'm sure it's the truth about how life was under the Taliban. The Freedom House survey talks about several areas of women's status, including health, and it discusses the extent to which FGM (female genital mutilation) is a factor in the surveyed countries. That topic was one we discussed in the sexuality classes I taught at Mount Vernon and one which I wrote a poem about a few years ago.

I'm Thinking

Of the girls of Africa,
Of the Middle East
The ones whose bodies
Are being mutilated,
Whose spirits
Are being crushed.

I'm thinking

Of their mothers
The ones with the butchered genitals,
The shattered souls,
The ones who went before
And are helpless to protect.

I'm thinking

Of the thousands and thousands of girls
Every day,
Of the millions and millions of women
Of the multitudes of girls and women
Over the millennia.

I'm thinking of their pain,
The denial of their humanity,
The violation of their sacredness.

And I'm wondering

Would the world rise up in anger,
Would we demand an immediate halt
If 6,000 boy penises were chopped off
6,000 boy babies, on a daily basis?*

Would we much concern ourselves
With the delicate question of culture,
And tiptoe around tradition,
Or would we consider the rights of the person
Sacrosanct in this matter,
As they should be, girl or boy?

Would we consider the difficulties of "manhood,"
Without a penis, and demand immediate action?
How long would we let it go on
If boys’ lives were at stake?

I'm just wondering

And, like their mourning, broken mothers,
Feeling painfully helpless
And unbearably sad

While another little girl's
Is being sliced apart.**

Let us pray.

P.E. Ortman

*This is a generally agreed estimate of how many girls are “circumsized” daily.

**Sometimes these procedures are done with shards of broken glass or rusty knives and often, maybe generally, without sterile instruments of any kind.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Cabin

Jim finally got away about 1 this afternoon for his annual June retreat to the cabin in Upstate New York. Because things were so unsettled at work, he couldn't go when he was supposed to, last Friday, so he won't have as long as he wanted, but at least he gets to go at all. He took many of his toys: two boats, his fishing gear, his mountain bike. I have painted several pictures of the cabin for him, one of which (The Yellow Tractor) is in his office and two of which and a mural are in his "cave" - our finished basement family and guest room. One, of the bridge on the Roeloeff Jansenkill River, where he paddles and fishes, is still in my studio. You can see these paintings if you click on here: You can see the mural - "Church Road" - if you click on here:


On the wall above my computer is my painting of "The Farm, Summer Day." I like to look at it as I work. You can see it on my website on this page:


I am driving the road from town
To home, the farm
Upon which I grew up.
It is June. The weather is warm,
But not hot. The perennial breeze,
Today a soft baby’s breath,
Wafts in from the lake, Superior.
I’ve picked up butter, a dozen eggs
From the aging Piggly Wiggly for my parents,
Both alive and well,
Though Dad has had
A little heart trouble.
Like the weather I am serene,
Glad to be heading back to pull weeds,
Another summer, from Dad’s garden,
Glad to be home for the week,
To have this home to come home to,
These parents, still, to visit,
The luscious day,
The family farm, the growing garden, a life
That lets me do this.
I wonder how long
I’ll have it all.

In March,
Dad’s heart gives out.

My brothers plant the garden now.
Some summer soon,
I can bring myself
To pull the weeds again.

P.E. Ortman

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

How Lucky Can One Person Be?

So, my brother and Jennifer were here for two days. We ate a lot of Thai food and spent some time with Charley Lauren, and went to the Bay Sox game with several of the local Northland College alumnae. Charles and Jennifer went to C.L.'s graduation on Friday night. Jennifer bought one of my paintings, and they left Saturday morning just after I headed out to the National Building Museum to take part in a workshop for a group of DC art teachers who are involved in a professional development program through American University and for which I am the external evaluator. I had a delightful time! The National Building Museum has all kinds of interesting exhibits and the one used in conjunction with this workshop focuses on the development of Washington as a city. It is called “Washington: Symbol and City” and you can learn more about it if you click on the Museum’s website:

Saturday evening some friends of mine from Cleveland, Batya Weinbaum and her lovely daughter, Ola, arrived for a couple of days, just in time for dinner. It was a beautiful evening so we walked up to the Parthenon for dinner. Sat outside, split hot and cold appetizer platters, a Greek salad and two rice puddings. Sunday we three women made an outing to the National Museum for Women in the Arts. Among other interesting discoveries was a Russian painter none of us had heard of before, whose work was very sculptural, and a delightful installation called “The Library of Wadi Ben Dagh.” Here is the website of the Museum if you are interested in learning more and seeing a little of what is there.

Yesterday Ola wasn’t feeling too well. So she rested while Batya and I walked up the street to do some errands and have coffee and lemonade at Bread and Chocolate. When we came home we ate lunch, left over pizza and calzone from Ledo’s, and then they packed up to hit the road again, on their way to Orlando for a National Women’s Studies Conference. In the mail, I received a lovely note and a check for the portrait of Michael. My friend Gina says that Michael looks at it and says, “Baby.” I love that!

This morning while driving to Curves, I was feeling very lucky to have so many wonderful people, family and friends, in my life. And very lucky to have found a new way to make some money that people appreciate and that I love to do. And very lucky to have a husband who, as Batya says, is “such a nice guy.” And very lucky…and very rich…and very lucky.

Staying Overnight at Grandma’s

Sinking into Auntie Glenda’s
Big old featherbed.
Peeing in the coffee can
Kept beneath the ‘stead;
Waking in the chilly
Country morning air
To hurry down the rickety
Closed in stair,
Huddle near the gas stove
While getting dressed.
Munching on the crunchy
Thickly crusted toast
Made with love by Grandma
From her yummy homemade bread
(County Fair Blue Ribbon-prize-winning)
Dripping butter and gooey
Homemade strawberry spread.
Or dunking it in coffee
Rich with ivory cream
Fresh from the Jerseys
(Grandpa just brought in
A warm frothing bucketful)
And sugared syrupy sweet.
Strips of bacon, big fat eggs,
(Fresh from the hens – “Go look for some later,
If you want”)
Both fried crisp
In lots and lots of bacon fat
In the big black iron skillet
On the big black iron stove.
Lusting after Auntie’s
Sacred paper dolls
Lovingly preserved from childhood.
Forbidden to me officially, but
Mine, now, really, cuz,
Who could deny me?
Cutting out McCall’s paper dolls
On the living room floor
In the splotch of sunshine
Coming through the double wide window
Over the couch.
And the sawmill by the tiny rill -
More like a drainage ditch, really -
The sweet smell of sawdust
Piled up like sand
Feels good on bare feet.
And churning butter.
Boy, it takes a long, long time -
Your arms ache with tired.

But everything is always
warm warm warm
and safe safe safe

Grandma in her apron
Always smiling,
So happy to see you.
And Grandpa, whose eyes
Really do twinkle,
Is a bit of a rascal,
Takes you for rides
In the truck
To visit the neighbors.
Sometimes he lets you “drive”
Sitting on his lap.

And one time when you are a teen-ager,
Feeling sorry for yourself,
He takes you on another one -
It’s been a long time –
To a house where all the people
Are living in one room
Because they have no heat.
The round table in the middle.
Is littered with empty jars, all licked clean.
The baby only has a diaper on – dirty –
And his bottle isn’t even a real baby bottle.
So you feel very, very sorry for these people.

It’s not until you grow
All the way up
That you realize how very, very lucky
You were.
You are.

P.E. Ortman

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Cyst on Wrist

Have to cushion it and try not to aggravate it, which means not too much computer work for awhile.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

My Little Life

My brother Charles and his s.o., Jennifer, arrived in the middle of the night, so we will hang out today until they go to Maryland to retrieve Charley Lauren and meet us at the Bowie BaySox game this evening, where the Mid-Atlantic Northland College Alumnae Association has a skybox as we do once a season. It is a little earlier this year as the president of Northland is in the area for a conference and will be joining us. I also have a doctor's appt this a.m. to have an odd bump/lump on my wrist examined.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Graduations and Such

My brother and his significant other are coming to visit for a couple of days in order to attend his daughter's high school graduation. Although she has lived with him in Wisconsin since her parents divorced several years ago, she wanted to spend her senior year with her mother in Maryland so is graduating from high school out here on Friday night. She has no idea what she will do after graduation. Although she has always done very well in school, she wants to postpone college and join the full time work force for a year or so, though she has no particular inclination for any particular kind of job. I can't help but compare her life situation to that of my parents when they were in high school. My father, like my niece, was not even 18 when he graduated and too young to join the Army, but he did anyway. But then that was during World War II and to him, at least, it seemed like he had a duty to fulfill. I can only say that I hope she one day is as sure of her roles and purposes in life as my Dad always seemed to be, and as determined to complete her education as my Mother, who had to enter the work force before she graduated and sat up nights studying, after working all day at Muntsingwear, to complete her high school requirements. And I hope, in the end, my niece is as successful in all her endeavors as my parents were in theirs.

After Graduation

I joined the Army.
It was the right thing to do.
We had to make the world safe,
For democracy.

I trained as a paratrooper,
And came home on leave
A few days before
I was sent to Japan.

Your mom had grown up
(Sort of),
Had become the most beautiful girl
I’d ever seen.

We couldn’t help ourselves.
Me, only 18, facing death.
Her, barely 16, ignorant,
Like girls were in those days.

When they finally let me out,
You were already here.
There was never a question.
We married.

Maybe we didn’t know
What love is.
But together, we learned.
And we had a wonderful life.

I wouldn’t have traded it
For anything.

P.E. Ortman

A portrait I painted of my parents when they were in their late 40's or early 50's is on this page on my website: