Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I went to a pretty amazing event this weekend. It was the annual alumni brunch for my long-closed high school. St. John Ursuline High School for Girls run by the Ursuline nuns – the first teaching order in Church. The Ursulines have a long and distinguished history and are rife with traditions. So this Sunday, there was a mass (nope, didn’t make it) and a lunch at the Irish Cultural Center. I went through twelve years of Ursuline teaching – experiencing the best and the worst of Catholic institutions – but I found myself this weekend – enjoying the memories and experience of being in a room with a hundred or so other women – most of the old enough to be my mother – but all with the same shared experience of an Ursuline education. Attending the lunch enforce was the class of 1958 who received their Golden Diplomas. The ceremony itself, consisted of Sr. Maura (who was principal when I attended SJU) calling up each woman and handing her a rose and certificate – not solemn at all – but touching nonetheless. From a class of 32 women, 24 attended the event – including one woman who traveled from Washington, DC. As I sat at my table, five other women who graduated in the 70’s (including my slime sister), I thought about how this tradition was going to be lost forever as my class approached 50 years. In a room of over 100 women, only 5 of us where there from the 70’s and none from the 80’s – the school closed down in the early 90’s. The event itself would not only be lost, but the years of history and tradition of the Ursulines in San Francisco will be lost with it. I thought about the teachers I had, Sr. Madeline who taught World History & Shorthand and who reminded me of my grandmother; Sr. Maura, the principal of the high school who always managed to look elegant while wearing a habit, Sr. Dianne who had poker parties in the religion room, Sr. Frances who taught Civics and held a mock-election (which I won – as McGovern – promising every voter 1k). Even Sr. Elizabeth, my 8th grade teacher, who had a saying for every single occasion – often admonishing us for not attending Mass by saying “God gave you the week, at least you can give him back one hour”. She also chided us for not knowing anything about Watergate, and told endless stories about the poor children in the mission up in Alaska where she’d taught for years. And among all that learning I got from these sisters, I also got am amazing sense of fearlessness. When I was in elementary school, girls did not run for class president (we could be secretary though) we barely played spots, and we got all the cleaning jobs (as opposed to mouse catcher – that went to the boys). But in high school the boys were banished to their own same-sex institutions, so every single task was fulfilled by a girl. It was empowering – never once did I hear the phrase “girls can’t do that” uttered in my school. Of course, I did hear, “girls don’t sit like that” a hundred or so times – but we learned that wasn’t a damn thing we couldn’t do and that has stayed with me through a few tv jobs that were male-dominated positions – and a bad marriage.
Along with the empowerment we developed, we also had a sense of freedom – we were allowed to do silly things – like the big sister tradition where a Senior girl would “adopt” a Freshmen as a way of welcoming them to the school. Of course, that involved baby food, bibs and oversized diapers. Or Mission Days – one day a year when we’d show up and the nuns would all be in overalls for a day of games Olympics style. And the ceremonies – Ring Day was a HUGE deal when we became juniors – all our rings were placed on a silver platter and were presented to us individually at a mass. The hierarchy didn’t suck either – being a Senior was so much fun – we got our sweaters with a patch designed by a classmate, we could go off-campus to KFC and we had our own bathroom. And Move Up Day – the last day the Seniors attend school – all of us in street clothes but wearing our senior sweaters – on the stage in the auditorium – some with flowers given to us by our baby sisters – singing the school song - while the Junior class took our places in the senior’s section of the gym.
So as I stood with all the other Ursuline girls at the luncheon, singing the same song I’d sung 30+ years earlier with my classmates, it makes me sad to think that in San Francisco, the amazing education, the wonderful memories and traditions are dying. Melinda Gates was an Ursuline girl – maybe she can pony up a dozen mill or so and we can re-open St. Johns? I’d be willing to finish my teaching credential to teach there!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


This has to be the best use of wool I've seen in quite a while:
They are the latest vital assets for an expectant mum looking to give her little darling the best start in life – knitted boobs.
A Lancashire knitting group has eschewed their usual jumpers and blankets in favour of creating the woollen mammaries.The knitted breasts – which come in different shapes, sizes and colours – are being used in practical demonstrations to give new mums information on breastfeeding.Members of Chorley and South Ribble Knit and Natter Group have knitted and crocheted hundreds of clothes and blankets for charity over the past couple of years.But recently they've been turning their skills to making the unusual creations – which are being used by new mums attending weekly drop-in sessions run by the Chorley and South Ribble branch of the Breastfeeding Network (BfN).BfN helper Sara Cookson said that whilst the knitted boobs seem quite funny at first glance, they're actually one of their most important tools, and they would be lost without them.She explained: "The knitted breasts allow us to demonstrate feeding in a hands-off way that people are comfortable with."Many mothers stop breastfeeding their babies in the first few weeks after birth. If we can help them get through this period, they can go on to successfully breastfeed."The groups, which meet at Wade Hall in Leyland and Highfield Children's Centre in Chorley, use the breasts with life-size baby dolls to show techniques including the hand expressing of milk and the best way to latch a baby on to the breast for feeding.It's a chance for new mums to socialise with other new mums as well as seeking advice and help on feeding their babies.Kate Green, secretary of the Chorley and South Ribble Knit and Natter Group, which has more than 30 members aged from their 20s to 80s, said: "Our members have been really enjoying knitting the br
easts."We are always on the look out for worthwhile things to knit. The breasts are something a bit different to the blankets and jumpers our knitters usually make."The group has knitted more than 700 items for local and international charities, including Derian House, St Catherine's Hospice, International Aid and Feed the Children.The knitters meet on the last Saturday afternoon of each month at CVS in Towngate, Leyland. If you would like to join the group, or donate wool, e-mail: kategreen320@tiscali.co.ukFor details about BfN visit www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk