Enough Said

Enough Said
A sampling of my columns and why the hell is my picture SO big?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ivoryton Congregational Church for sale — From a house of worship to home

Ivoryton Congregational Church for sale — From a house of worship to home
Published Oct. 3, 2017 Shoreline Times

It’s an empty and sad day when an old small town church closes its doors for good.
Prayers in the sanctuary, silent. No counting collection in the office, no more Sunday school and nursery. No choir practice raising voices into the beautiful old rafters. Counseling in the minister’s chamber, done. No more weddings, baptisms and funerals. Spaghetti dinners, rummage sales and community drives for clothing are a thing of the past. Daycare closed. The doors are shuttered. All that remains of the church is in the hearts and minds of the last few elderly members who helped guide, by way of acceptance, that even for an old church there is new life.

The church, which rests and waits on the banks of the Falls River is the Ivoryton Congregational Church. Built in 1888 she looks more middle aged than old probably because of the white aluminum siding which was installed back when that sort of thing was used to preserve and protect.
I’m referring to the church as a “she” because we do that with vessels which take us to wonderful places and safe ports. Something that church did so well.

On the shore of beautiful Falls River, more like a lake than a river, the church of my husband’s mother and my children’s youth, looks perfectly placed and planted, as it has been all these years. She has survived the Great Depression, the winds of many wars and a flood in the ’80s, which collapsed a dam up river and flooded the church’s basement.

Because the heart and soul of this house of worship had diminished to a few elderly holders-on, the magnificent old building was offered for sale. She, like many old churches and synagogues in the area, will become condos, a place of shelter, a place to call home. To bask in the gentleness and strength of faith which permeates the walls makes for a special kind of live-in comfort against the discord of daily life.

When I came to know the Ivoryton Congregational church it was just beginning its membership’s downslide. There were still two choirs, adult and children’s. My girls sang in the cherub choir with a few other children, professing their faith of innocence in song. Not long after, the choirs dwindled to one and then dispersed. Sunday service worshipers lessened to counts of barely a dozen, all single souls seeking to hold together the walls of their faith.

Years ago, on Wednesdays, when I’d drive my mother-in-law, Francis Howard Pianta (Franky to her friends and family) to her mid-week meeting with the church ladies, there was sanctuary dusting and program folding tasks to share. The ladies brown bagged their lunches. During our rides Franky often mentioned the church’s early days. Two services were held on Sundays because so many people attended. Sunday school classes brimmed with kids. She spoke of community dinners, pot-luck suppers and music festivals.
I remember a quilt show held years ago, where magnificent handmade quilts hung from the spectacular beams in the high-ceilinged sanctuary. Ladies wearing white gloves gently showed and spoke of each quilt’s history and maker. To see these masterpieces in cloth suspended above the polished pews was no different than standing in a museum rotunda, enjoying spectacular works of art.
Like many, our family stopped attending Sunday services. My oldest daughter’s wedding was the last held in that church. Subsequently my children moved away, lending their voices to raising their children in other parts of the state.

When Franky (a woman who proved on a daily basis that angels do indeed walk this earth) passed away well into her 90s, I stood at the altar and told of her love and dedication to her church. It was a somber moment honoring her and her house of worship. She knew that like dust, the eventual path for her and her church would be one of memories cast to the winds of time.

It’s only a building, some say, but it is and was more. The walls will always breathe faith, no matter the use they are put to. The floors will forever feel the rhythm of footsteps jumping in holiday joy or plodding in grief. The old adage, “if walls could talk,” will continue to listen and hold dear new voices

President’s ‘silent accomplices’ need to speak up

In August of 1988, my first op-ed published in a newspaper, was here, in The Day. It was about being a silent accomplice. Witnessing nefarious deeds, while not contacting authorities, not speaking up, not stepping forward, meant you were a silent accomplice and as guilty as the perpetrator. The piece I wrote back then wasn’t fancy writing. It was from the heart, with a core value I am as proud of today, as I was 30 years ago.

Over the past decades I have had to refer to, and enforce that value, which at times cost me relationships and in two instances, jobs. Stepping forward and standing for what’s right has left me with no regrets. Doing that made me feel proud. Now, because I know it’s time to step forward again, I am trembling.

It is a very different world today, one which gives me the jitters because in the last year or so it has become alright to threaten, debase and vilify the press, as well as anyone who speaks out against the opinions of the current administration. Debasement has become the new norm for our president’s core and online trolls. That is frightening. That is why stepping forward is so hard now. That is why putting yourself out there is daunting. That is why I must.

I don’t think current Republican political leaders realize that by remaining in the back row, with tape over their mouths, they are aligning themselves with a base that will be looked upon historically as one to outdo the reprehensible Nixon Whitehouse. This is why, as frightened as I am, I chose to resurrect the basic tenor of my first op-ed, “Silent Accomplice,” and why I appealed to The Day to let me speak.

I am scared. Scared to write this, send this, post this, share this, scared to step forward.
But I must.
So I ask all Republican leaders: On which side of history do you stand?

If you do not speak up and speak out against abuse of authority, you are a silent accomplice to the corruption of power. To watch in silence as a divided nation stands confused and heartbroken in the face of promise, is to watch a villainess deed and do nothing. If you remain mute when voices vilify truth, it makes their lie your lie.

You are a silent accomplice.
To step back from the front line we endure every day, is unconscionable. To stare closed mouthed, while calamity ensues, is treasonous. To see our precious laws stretched to the absurd is reprehensible.

You are a silent accomplice.

To spit in the face of comfort, and endure that which is uneasy, to stand (alone) against that which (you know) is criminal, is heroic. It is up to you, by your actions, to convince others to change the rhetoric. You are more than one, and all powerful. History forms long lines behind good people, people who are right, people who do not submit to being a silent accomplice.
Where are you? Why are you so quiet?
We need you to step forward.

I am terrified by what I see as accepted behavior by our leaders. That not one Republican will stand strong against those who seek self-aggrandizement, at the expense of the American people, is domestic terror, as sure as if it was voted on and accepted.

As a woman who has watched our leader with embarrassment, who has witnessed our fall from the world’s grace, I am a silent accomplice no longer. As a voter, as an aging grandmother who wants to take all of you by the shoulders and shake sense into you, I say, “Wake up! Get up! Do something to stop what is happening to us.”

An adversary outside our borders, and one inside, wants us to be at each other’s throats. They haven’t won yet, but they’re close. Don’t let them destroy who we are, or you will all be silent accomplices to the fall of this great nation.

Carolynn Pianta writes for The Times weekly newspapers, a product of The Day Publishing Co. You can reach her at cp.enoughsaid@aol.com.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Next stop on this life’s highway is retirement

For each of us, life is a series of passages: tunnels, bridges, mountains and tolls. It’s a journey, fraught with danger and free sailing.

We stumble and stand and sometimes run headlong, until something comes along to either slow us down or skid our Michelins to a stop. Joy, health, and finding love are the keys on the ring we insert in our everyday ignition. For me, a new passage is approaching pretty fast and I’m jumping on the running board with the wind in my hair.

About a year ago, a friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook noting her first day of retirement. It’s something new retirees do, I’m told, on our first day away from the grind. From that day on she did not have to sign in, punch in, wear panty hose or balance a to-go cup atop paperwork.
No more meetings, no more commutes. No more answering to someone else’s directives, no more cold lunches on the fly and daily use of public restrooms. She was home.

The photo? A sunny morning, well past sunrise, about half way through “Good Morning America.” The sun had not yet topped the trees.

I stared at it. It was beautiful. It was peaceful. I bawled like a baby.

I wondered, would I ever be able to do that? At the time, I figured, probably never.
Even though I know how hard it is, and how incredibly more difficult it has become, and seemingly impossible to plan, I tell my grown-up kids to save for retirement.

When you’re young and have to come up with well over $1,000 a month just for daycare, plus mortgage payments, car loans, student loans, utilities and all the rest, retirement is assigned an empty envelope. Photos of first steps, first dance, prom, college, wedding and grandkids far outplay the first day of retirement pic.

Thoughts of sleeping late and wearing PJs until noon are as unimagined as winning the lottery.
My husband and I were never the kind of couple you see in the fancy retirement ads, like the ones discussing investment plans in an office with a mahogany desk.
The last time I saw a desk made out of mahogany, I was standing in front of it, as was a judge in a St. Louis traffic court. I was 16 and my father stood with me but I had to pay the fine.
Lead-foot lesson learned.

My husband and I were the hardworking, paycheck to paycheck, cut coupons, buy off the clearance rack kind of couple. Our kids got what they needed and a little of what they wanted. It was a balancing act for sure.

Now that we’ve downsized everything, we breathe easier because we are OK. We look at the future we have left with different eyes than the ones which had a staring contest with the financial enormity of raising children. We were careful, we were steadfast, we didn’t blink.

So, now it’s my turn, I’m retiring this summer. No PJs till noon for me, I’ll still be working, part time for a few hours. But on that first day of retirement, you bet I’ll take a pic and I’ll post it on Facebook, just like my friend did.

And you know what? I’ll probably bawl my eyes out.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Building and walking over region’s bridges

Around here you know you’re getting up in years when you remember the old bridges, and the traffic tie-ups, that used to get you from there to here. And you know you’re really getting old when the new bridges you watched being built to replace the old rickety spans, are now being repaired, as is the Gold Star Memorial Bridge spanning the Thames River between New London and Groton.

I remember the Gold Star Bridge being built when I worked at the Outlet Co,, which is now Marshalls in the New London Shopping Center. I didn’t pay much attention back then because I lived and worked on the New London side. But when the bridge safety nets caught in the high rigging of the US Coast Guard Barque Eagle, snapping two of the three masts, it got everyone’s attention.

One bridge I watched being built on a daily basis was the Baldwin Bridge over the Connecticut River. We lived in Old Saybrook at the time, and I owned a business in East Lyme, so daily I watched the herculean efforts it took to build that bridge using a horizontal gantry.

The old bridge, both ways on one span and narrower than one side of the new bridge now, was a nightmare, especially in the summer. On the Old Lyme side, traffic got so bad on Sundays that they closed the Route 156 on-ramp at three in the afternoon. In order to make it home after work on a Sunday I hired someone to keep my store open until five and I’d race down the Post Road to Old Lyme to make it over the bridge before I was trapped on the southbound side.

I-95 traffic would back up all the way to East Lyme. Often the Post Road was crammed as well so I had to drive to the bridge in East Haddam just to get home.

When the northbound side of the Baldwin Bridge was finally finished in May 1993, local folks and elementary school students from Goodwin School were invited to walk the highway span over the river to Old Lyme. Getting to walk on the highway was a big deal. There are not many times in your life when you can leisurely walk the center line on an interstate which spans one of the most beautiful waterways on the East Coast.

As a class-mother, I accompanied my older daughter Becky and her class to the walk. We boarded buses at Goodwin School and were transported to a construction lot on the northbound side. I think there was a ribbon cutting. If memory serves, the first car to go over the old bridge in 1948 was the car leading our group on that special day in 1993.

It was a kick and a once in a lifetime experience to walk the northbound lanes of the Baldwin Bridge. The kids were given round badges with their names, and “Baldwin Bridge opening’93” on them. A bit rusted over time, we still have Becky’s.

Once on the Old Lyme side, we boarded buses to be taken back to Goodwin School. The kids were hot, tired and I think the significance of that day was lost on them, but not me, who forgot sunscreen for my fairest child.

From then on, I never let my kids go anywhere without sunscreen.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Life around the used-up woodpile

Published May 08. 2017 10:24AM 
Special to The Times
This winter I loved the wonderful smell of wood smoke which greeted me almost every day when I came home from work; our neighbor heats his house with wood. No picturesque New England stone walls for him, his property is lined with neatly stacked firewood. I can’t imagine the round the clock effort it takes to use oil or gas as backup and wood as a primary heating source.

We have a small woodstove in our living room and I love it. But the wood we went through on a frigid Sunday afternoon, while watching football or civil war documentaries, (honey, the north won), is telling.

There’s an old saying that wood warms you three times: once when you cut it, again when you split it and finally when you burn it. I can attest to that fact because we’ve had a fireplace, or a woodstove, in every house we’ve lived in for three and a half decades.

Years ago my husband and I trudged the woods we owned behind our house along the shoreline, to clear the standing dead. At the time it seemed like a positive environmental task, and we were broke and didn’t want to pay for firewood.

It had rained that summer morning so it was hot, the woods were sopping wet and the old cart path was rutted with truck tracks filled with muck. We gathered, hauled, cut to length, split and stacked the no-cost logs against the house. It was hard work but the price was right, until we discovered the following year that carpenter ants from the dead wood were eating our porch.

Back when LBJ was in the White House, and I was a teenager, I helped my mom and dad stack (no ants) firewood against the wall on their porch. I noticed that sometimes when I tossed wood up onto the porch, when one log hit another, they made a sound. While we hauled from the pile in the driveway, and stacked the wood neatly, I began tapping the ends of the logs with another log. Each had different tones. Once the wall of wood reached above our heads I tapped the ends to play songs.
My parents cracked up as I played Mary Had a Little Lamb and Three Blind Mice on the ends of the stacked firewood. My mom proudly proclaimed me a female Paul Bunyan percussionist — just how a chubby, self-taught musically inclined teenage girl likes to be described.

There’s something comforting about piles of wood appearing through the summer and then being stacked neatly by the end of fall. The heat source dwindling as winter proceeds is like fleeting insurance against the cold.

But now, because the piles are small and the ground is mushy from spring rains, and the use of fireplaces and woodstoves becomes sporadic, the previous season’s stacked wood becomes a nuisance.

Because we burned only for weekend heat and ambiance on really cold days, our piles of wood last a long time. This means soon we’ll have to remove the stacked wood from just outside our back door. There’s also a pile of long logs my husband hasn’t cut to length and split yet. So that pile will have to be moved also. Moving the piles to an out of site location for the rest of spring and summer means a fourth time to be warmed by wood.

Our neighbor doesn’t have to move his leftover wood because there’s not much left this time of year. And, I don’t smell the comforting fragrance of his heat source because nature is keeping us relatively warm. Now, I’m waiting for the delicious smell of barbecue to greet me when I get home from work.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A new world order of TV and Twitter testing our beliefs

  Published February 20. 2017 9:53AM

I am not a political type and this is not a diatribe or a banner for anything other than a fence-sitters observation. How can any of us not take note of what’s going on in the news? It’s crazy out there and a little bit unnerving.

During the ‘60s when lunch counter demonstrations, firehosed American citizens, and peaceful black demonstrators corralled by police dogs were on the evening news, I watched in awe as a confused teenager during soup at dinner. There would be a commercial and then pictures of horrifically injured soldiers taken off helicopters in Vietnam became the main course. American citizens marching against that awful war, with guns drawn against them, were follow-ups during dessert.
I asked my mother, “Has the world gone crazy?”

Her answer: “It’s always been like this, but TV brings it closer.”

For some strange reason I found an odd kind of comfort in knowing that the insanity I watched on TV, while eating baked chicken and mashed potatoes with Walter Cronkite, was not unique; it’s always been there.

But now, as I lean my sign up against the fence on which I perch, I won’t even go into the maelstrom of the pants suit vs. small hands last election. That which has been cast upon us, the new world order of TV to Twitter, in my mind, has changed everything.

The plus and minus of instant response, without due diligence, has me quaking in my Uggs.
So I’ll ask Mom, “Has the world gone crazy... again?”

Her answer, if she were still alive: “Build a bomb shelter.”

I remember the day I was home from school with Mom in Elizabeth, New Jersey (Soprano country), during an air raid test. We had the duck and cover drills in class and the trips down to the air raid shelter in the basement of the school, where food and water were stored. But the town wide test was a new thing. It was all over the news (three stations on TV, only two worked).

We were told to go to our basement when the sirens started and wait for an Air Raid Warden to check on our whereabouts and not to leave the basement until the all clear sounded.
Sirens went off on schedule, and Mom and I scurried to the basement and waited in the coal bin. A neighbor, Mr. Connelly, an old guy in a funny Air Raid Warden hat, went from house to house checking on mothers and children huddled in cellars. It seemed like we stood there forever.
Finally he tapped on the window of the coal bin, mom waved, he waved back and he wrote something on a clipboard. Sure enough, a few minutes later the all clear sounded and we went back upstairs for lunch.

The whole experience at age 7, to be saved from annihilation on a mound of coal in the basement of a house on Dayton Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey, meant little to a kid my age back then. But when President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev went at it I was old enough to understand the ramifications of exacting communication. Negotiations regarding nuclear life and death consequences were tricky then, and I know now, more than worth 140 characters.

I used to believe that it really didn’t matter who our leaders were because in the end they either get replaced or continue their good works. I used to believe that politicians, regardless of party, all want the same thing: to serve and do what’s best for us and our nation. I used to believe in Santa Claus.
Well, actually, I still believe in Santa Claus.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Passing the torch of family traditions

About five years ago a tectonic plate shift took place in our family over the holidays. Because there were more of them, the kids sat at the big table. We parents sat in the adjacent room, in sight but out of the line of fire of dinner rolls being pitched to each other. It was a shift for sure, and a welcomed one, because our family was growing. As time went on, high chairs and booster seats filled in the spaces around that big table. It was fun to see young parents teaching table manners, which meant no roll throwing.

This year everything shifted again.

For 38 years my husband and I have hosted our families Christmas Eve celebration. Early on it was because as a young couple, blending family and friends on one night made sense. As our families grew and expanded it didn’t matter that we were busting at the seams. It meant more fun. When we moved to a big house, and my mother-law lived in an attached apartment, our home became the gathering place for almost all celebrations.

From intimate to well over a hundred I loved that our beautiful home was the center around which memories were created. With double ovens and my mother-in-law’s as a third, her fridge, our fridge and an old beer fridge in the basement, large get-togethers were relatively easy to organize and enjoy. But always the first concern was that my beloved mother-in-law was able to comfortably enjoy all of it, then simply go home to the apartment next door, when she got tired.

After my mother-in-law passed away, and the apartment emptied of our children and spouses saving money for homes of their own, we downsized last summer. Half the house and a third of the appliances made this year’s Thanksgiving a challenge. But we pulled it off.

The kids table was the biggest of the three I set. The holiday went well but I knew with Christmas Eve on the horizon hosting was going to be a monumental task. Space and less appliances were not the issue, time and age were. 
I still work full time, which means my off hours, which I used to spend doing things, I now spend healing from the tasks of the day. I say that with a smile but as anyone who is old enough for retirement, but still works full time knows, bouncing back is like rowing upstream, not impossible but it takes time. I don’t like to use the age-card but for the first time in all these years I was looking at entertaining on Christmas Eve, not as a welcomed tradition, but as a rote mandate.

Shortly after Thanksgiving I heard a whispered rumor that my nephew and his wife wanted to host the entire family on Christmas Eve in their beautiful new home. But, they were cautious as to how I would take to handing over the torch. Once I heard the rumor I wasn’t cautious at all, I pretty much lit the damn torch and threw it to them.

The relief was immense. With the weight of planning a meal and prepping the house for 25 during evenings after work, now someone else’s task, I could actually enjoy the season.

Christmas Eve was grand. My nephew and his wife’s house was spectacular, the food amazing and the gathering always as it has been, warm, fun and rowdy. I sat by the fire and took in the evening. After running in the race all these years I finally got to sit back and enjoy the spectacle from the grandstand.