Friends

They started out as friends.

Talked for hours on the phone.

Went out for pizza or to the

movies when they didn’t have

any other plans.  Some

Saturday nights they would

order in spicy Thai food

while watching classic or

foreign movies.

 

They didn’t know exactly

when their feelings for

each other began to

change.  Perhaps it was

the afternoon when they

went to the amusement

park and rode on the

carousel.

 

She held on to the pole

laughing as Tony tried

to take a photo of her.

Then, on the spur of the

moment, he leaned forward

and kissed  her.  It seemed

perfectly natural but she

was no longer laughing.

When the ride stopped

and he helped her

down, their eyes held

for a long moment.  They

were very close to each

other and his hands were

still holding her by the

waist.  Her legs were

a bit wobbly and she

held on to him for a

while longer until she

no longer needed the

support.

 

When they were

standing outside of

the park and away

from the crowd, he

stopped and pulled

her aside.  “I’m sorry

about just now,” he said.

“I shouldn’t have kissed

you.  I hope you’re not

angry with me.”

 

“I kissed you back,” she

said.   “Where do we

go from here, Tony?”

 

He moved closer, his

expression serious

as his eyes searched

her face.  “Where would

you like us to go, Nicole?”

 

She reached up and

kissed him.  “Does this

answer your question?”

she asked minutes

later when she drew

back to look up

at him.

 

“Yes, it does” he said.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Famished,” he replied, rubbing

his stomach.  They laughed.

“I am in the mood for

some Penne arrabiata.”

“So am I,” he agreed, reaching

for her hand and lacing his

fingers through hers

as they walked to

their favorite Italian

bistro.

 

That was two years ago.

Now they were engaged.

Their wedding was in

two months.  Before going

on their honeymoon, they

planned to go back on

the carousel ride–where

for them, the journey from

friendship to romance began.

 

 

black and white couple

 

One Day in the Park

It was a sunny day much like today when she and Michael first met.  She was sitting on a bench in the park close to where she lived and just enjoying the sunshine.  It was a long weekend.  No work the next day.   Usually on a Sunday afternoon she would be home doing laundry, sorting out her clothes for work and then watch the news as she had her dinner.  A rather mundane existence.  Her friends tried unsuccessfully to get her to go out on the weekends with them but she always had an excuse.  After a while they gave up.  And that suited her just fine.  She wasn’t one for going to bars or parties or walking aimlessly around shopping malls.  She was perfectly happy curled up on the cushy sofa with a good book.

That afternoon was an exception, though.  She had looked out of her living-room window and thought it was too beautiful a day to be cooped up inside.  So, she quickly changed, fixed her hair and face and went to the park.  She walked for a bit and then sat down on one of the benches facing the fountain.  She watched the families with their children pass by, pausing to take photos.   The park wasn’t crowded but there were a good many people milling around.

She saw a rather attractive man walking in her direction.  She didn’t want to stare at him so she looked over at the fountain, all the while aware of him.  It seemed like he was going to walk past when he stopped and came over to the bench.  He sat down next to her.

She could feel his eyes on her but she kept her head straight.  “It’s a great afternoon, isn’t it?” he said, startling her and she turned to look at him.  She wasn’t one for speaking to complete strangers but he seemed harmless.  And he had the most incredible blue eyes she had ever seen.

“Yes, it is.”

At first it was just a polite exchange and then the ice broke and the conversation became easier.  Pretty soon it was getting late and she had to leave.  They arranged to meet in the park again the following Sunday at the same spot.  This continued for a few weeks and then Michael asked her out for dinner.  More dinners followed, then the movies, then the theatre.  Pretty soon her weekends were busy.  She met Michael’s parents when he took her to dinner at their place.  And he met hers at one of their family barbecues.  Yes, she and Michael were officially dating.

“Hello Beautiful,” that soft but deep unmistakable voice brought her back to the present.  She got up, always beaming when she saw him and they hugged and kissed.

“I hope you haven’t been waiting long.  Had to run a couple of errands.”

She shook her head.  “No, I haven’t been waiting long,” she said.  She was just so happy to see him.  They didn’t see much of each other during the week because of busy schedules but they spoke on the phone for hours.  Weekends were their time together.

“Let’s go for a walk,” he suggested.

She was surprised.  Usually they would sit and chat for a while before they went for a walk.  She shrugged.  “All right.”

“First, I need to tie my shoe lace.”  He got down on his knee.  She stood there watching him as he fussed with a perfectly tied lace.  Then he fumbled in his pocket and her breath caught in her throat when she saw him take out a red box.  He opened it and held it out, his eyes now on her face.  “Lauren Spencer, will you marry me?”

She began to laugh and cry at the same time.  People were passing by and watching them, smiling.  “Yes, I will marry you, Michael Donovan.”

Michael slipped the ring on her finger and then got up.  “You have just made me a very happy man,” he said, cupping her wet face between his hands and kissing her.  She thought she heard applause but she soon blotted out the sounds around her as she basked in the knowledge that she was going to marry the man of her dreams.  And this was all as a result of that one day she went to the park.  She hadn’t gone looking for love but it found her.  Life was so wonderfully unpredictable.

 

young couple having a great Conversation

 

Maureen O’ Hara

Every star has that certain something that stands out and compels us to notice them. -As for me I have always believed my most compelling quality to be my inner strength, something I am easily able to share with an audience. I’m very comfortable in my own skin. I never thought my looks would have anything to do with becoming a star. Yet it seems that in some ways they did – Maureen O’Hara

On Saturday, October 24, 2015, Irish-American beauty Maureen O’ Hara died in her sleep at the age of 95 from natural causes.  The four films she starred in which I believe were among her best are The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Quiet Man, How Green Was My Valley and Miracle on 34th Street.  Maureen was known for playing proud, strong-willed and temperamental Irish lasses.  It was a treat to see her and longtime friend John Wayne work together.  She was tall and held her own against the Duke in their on-screen scenes.

Maureen FitzSimmons was the second oldest of six children of Charles Stewart Parnell and Marguerite (nee Lilburn) FitzSimons.  Her father was in the clothing business and her mother, a former operatic contralto, was a successful women’s clothier.  Maureen’s sister Peggy dedicated her life to a religious order by becoming a Sister of Charity.  The younger children trained at the Abbey Theatre and the Ena May Burke School of Drama and Elocution in Dublin.

From an early age, Maureen knew that she wanted to be an actress and took lessons.  She got her first screen test in London but it turned out to be unsatisfactory.  The studio dressed her in a “gold lame dress with flapping sleeves like wings” and heavy makeup.  The experience led Maureen to think, “If this is the movies, I want nothing to do with them!”  Thankfully, actor Charles Laughton saw the test sometime later and in spite of the heavy makeup and costume, was intrigued by her, particularly her large and expressive eyes.  He asked his business partner, Erich Pommer to watch the film clip and Pommer agreed with Laughton’s assessment of her and Maureen was offered an initial seven-year contract with their new company.  It was Laughton who gave her the name “O’Hara” although she insisted in keeping her name because he believed that , “nobody would ever get FitzSimmons straight.”  A name really does make a difference when it comes to show business.  He arranged to have her co-star with him in the British film, Jamaica Inn.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame was her first Hollywood film and it was released in 1939, the same year as Jamaica Inn.

After Hunchback was completed, World War II began.  When Laughton realized that his company could no longer film in London, he sold Maureen’s contract to RKO.  However, the studio cast her in low-budget films until John Ford rescued her.  He cast her in How Green is My Valley which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  She later starred as Natalie Wood’s mother in Miracle on 34th Street one of the most beloved Christmas Classics that airs every year during the holiday season.

In 1946 Maureen became a naturalized citizen of the United States, holding dual citizenship with the US and her native Ireland.  She was considered an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age and one of the world’s most beautiful women.  She was remembered for her onscreen chemistry with John Wayne.  They made five movies together between 1948 and 1972.  She was the Duke’s favorite actress and considered a real friend.  She’s the only woman he thought of in that way.  As he lay dying on his hospital bed, he watched on television as she petitioned Congress to give him a Congressional Gold Medal and they voted unanimously to do so.

Acting was not Maureen’s only talent.  She had a soprano voice.  Singing was her first love.  She was also very athletic.  She did her own stunts in movies.  I remember seeing her sword-fencing with skill and agility that was astounding.  She held her own in the swashbuckling movies like The Black Swan opposite Tyrone Power and Sinbad the Sailor with Douglas Fairbanks.  No doubt this had to do with her love for playing rough athletic games as a child.  She excelled in sports.  She had the pleasure of starring with leading men such as John Payne, Rex Harrison, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Brian Keith and Sir Alec Guiness and working with directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir, Walter Lang, to mention a few.

On a personal note, in 1939, when she was 19 years old, Maureen secretly married Englishman George H. Brown whom she met on the set of Jamaica Inn.  Brown was a film producer, production assistant and occasional scriptwriter.  The marriage was annulled in 1941.  She married American film director William Houston Price but the marriage ended in 1953 because of his abuse of alcohol.  They had one child–a daughter, Bronwyn Bridget Price.  From 1953-1967 Maureen had a relationship with Enrique Parra, a Mexican politician and banker.  In her biography, she wrote that Enrique “saved me from the darkness of an abusive marriage and brought me back into the warm light of life again. Leaving him was one of the most painful things I have ever had to do.”  Parra died in June 2015–four months before her death.

In 1968 Maureen married her third husband, Charles F. Blair, a pioneer of transatlantic aviation, a former brigadier general of the US Air Force, a former chief pilot of Pan Am and founder and head of the U.S. Virgin Islands Antilles Air Boats.  A few years after they married, Maureen retired from acting. Blair died in 1978 while flying from St. Croix to St. Thomas due to engine failure.  Maureen was elected CEO and president of the airline, earning her the distinction of becoming the first woman president of a scheduled airline in the U.S.  Her marriage to Blair were ten of the happiest years of her life.  It devastated her that she had lost him and her friend John Wayne within months of each other.

Maureen came out of retirement in 1991 when she starred as John Candy’s domineering mother in Only the Lonely.  After that she starred in several made for TV movies.  Her last film, The Last Dance, was released in 2000.  On November 4, 2014 she received the honorary award from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the annual Governor’s Awards.  She is the second actress to receive an Honorary Oscar without having been nominated for an Oscar in a competitive category. Myrna Loy was the first.

Notes to Women celebrates Maureen O’Hara, the actress who lit up the screen with her luminous red hair, big, expressive eyes.  She was one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  She leaves behind a legacy of films in which she portrayed strong, brave and intelligent women.

I was tough.  I was tall.  I was strong.  I didn’t take any nonsense from anybody.  He was tough, he was tall, he was strong and he didn’t take any nonsense from anybody.  As a man and a human being, I adored him.

Speaking as an actress, I wish all actors would be more like Duke (John Wayne)–and speaking as a person, it would be nice if all people could be honest and as genuine as he is.  This is a real man.

To the people throughout the world, John Wayne is not just an actor, and a very fine actor – John Wayne is the United States of America.

Above all else, deep in my soul, I’m a tough Irishwoman.

I have never lost my faith in God.

maureen-ohara (1)

Sources:  Wikipedia; IMDB; Brainy Quotes

Lena Horne

In celebration of Black History Month, Notes to Women are going to celebrate a few notable women.  We begin with singer, actress, Lena Horne.

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born in Bedford-sTuyvesant, Brooklyn.  Her father, Edwin Fletcher Horne left the family when she was three years old.  Her mother was the daughter of inventor Samuel R. Scottron.  She was an actress with a black theatre troupe and travelled extensively.  Lena was raised by her grandparents.  When she was five, she was sent to Georgia to live.  For seeral years she travelled with her mother.  For two years, she lived with her uncle who would later serve as an adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

At the age of sixteen, Lena joined the chorus of the Cotton Club and became a nightclub performer before she moved to Hollywood.  In Hollywood she had small parts in movies, notably Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather.  She was never cast in a leading role because of her race and the films featuring her had to be re-edited for showing in states where theatres would not show films with black performers.  Interestingly enough, Lena was the first African American elected to serve on the Screen Actors Guild board of directors.

In 1951, Lena wanted to be considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in the MGM’s version of Show Boat but lost the part to her friend, Ava Gardner due to the Production Code’s ban on interracial relationships in films. Lena stated in the documentary, That’s Entertainment! III that MGM executives wanted Ava Gardner to practice her singing using Lena’s recordings. Both actresses were offended by this.

Not surprisingly, Lena was disenchanted with Hollywood and she began to focus more on her nightclub career.  She made two major appearances in MGM films in the 1950s, Duchess of Idaho and Meet Me in Las Vegas.  It was during this time that she was blacklisted for her political views.

After she left Hollywood, Lena made waves as one of the premier nightclub performers of the post-war era.  She headlined clubs and hotels throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.  In 1958, she was the first African American woman to be nominated for a Tony Award for “Best Actress in a Musical”.  She appeared in variety shows on TV such as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show and The Judy Garland Show and in 1969., she starred in her own television special, Monsanto Night Presents Lena Horne.

In 1970, she co-starred with Harry Belafonte in ABC’s show, Harry & Lena and in 1973 with Tony Bennett in Tony and Lena.  She toured the U.S. and U.K. with Bennett.  In 1981, she received a special Tony Award for her one-woman show, Lena Horne:  The Lady and Her Music.  In the 1990s she was active in the recording studio.

Lena was also a Civil Rights activist.  She was involved in the movement for years.  In 1941, she sang at Cafe Society and Paul Robeson, another blacklisted performer.  During World War II, Lena refused to perfom for segregated audiences or for groups where German POWS were sitting in front of African American servicemen.  The U.S. Army refused to have integrated audiences so Lena ended up putting on a show for a mixed audience of black U.S. soldiers and white German POWs.  When she saw that the black soldiers were forced to sit in the back seats, she walked off the stage to the first row where they were seated and performed with the German POWs behind her.  Way to go Lena!

She was a participant at an NAACP rally with Medgar Evers the weekend before he was assassinated and she met John F. Kennedy at the White House two days before he was assassinated.  She participated at the March on Washington where she spoke and performed on behalf of the NAACP, SNCC adn the National Council of Negro Women.  She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt, another champion of civil rights, to pass anti-lynching laws.  She received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1983.

On a more personal note, Lena was married to Louis Jordan Jones.  They had a daughter and a son.  Sadly, their son died of a kidney disease.  In 1940, Lena and her husband separated.  They divorced in 1944.  In 1947, she remarried.  Her second husband was Lennie Hayton, Music Director and one of the premier musical conductors and arrangers at MGM.  In the early 1960s they separated but never divorced.  Lennie died in 1971.  In her biography, Lena, she recalled the pressures they faced as an interracial couple.  She admitted that she married him to advance her career and cross the “color line” in show business but had learned to love him very much.

Fame runs in the family.  Lena’s daughter, Gail, a best-selling author, was married to director, Sidney Lumet.  Their daughter, Jenny Lumet, a screenwriter, is known for her award winning screenplay, Rachel Getting Married.

On May 9, 2010, Lena Horne died in New York city of heart failure.  Among those gathered to pay their respects at her funeral were Leontyne Price, Dionne Warwick, Liza Minnelli, Jessye Norman, Chita Rivera, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Leslie Uggams and Lauren Bacall.  At the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony held on February 27, 2011, actress Halle Berry presented a tribute to Lena.

Notes to Women salute this phenomenal woman who was not afraid to speak out against racism and was the first African-American actress to have a major studio contract with the stipulation that she would not have to play any demeaning, stereotypical roles.  In doing this, she paved the way for other African American actresses.

In my early days I was a sepia Hedy Lamarr. Now I’m black and a woman, singing my own way.

I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept. I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked.

Always be smarter than the people who hire you

It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.

My identity is very clear to me now, I am a black woman, I’m not alone, I’m free. I say I’m free because I no longer have to be a credit, I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.

You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.

I never considered myself a movie star. Mostly, I just sang songs in other people’s movies.

 

lena948504035small

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lena_Horne; http://womenshistory.about.com/cs/quotes/a/qu_lena_horne.htm; http://www.qotd.org/quotes/Lena.Horne; http://www.blackclassicmovies.com/Artist_Profile/lena_horne.html; http://www.biography.com/#!/people/lena-horne-9344086; http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0395043/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

Smoking and Women

A long time ago I took one drag on a cigarette and vowed never to touch another one again.  It made me cough and I felt terrible.  My sister used to smoke but then she stopped.  I have a cousin who used to smoke and her lips looked black.  I used to work with a woman who smoked while she was pregnant.  I have to admit that although I don’t like seeing anyone smoke because it’s not good for your health, I dislike seeing women smoke even more. 

In the movies they make it look glamourous.  Bette Davis looked sophisticated with a cigarette in her hand in Now Voyager.  It seemed so romantic when Paul Henreid lit both cigarettes and give her one. 

Smoking is anything but romantic or glamourous.  It is dangerous for your health.  Sadly, despite the many warnings that cigarettes can cause cancer and increase our risk of heart disease, approximately 23 million women in the US (23 percent of the female population) still smoke cigarettes. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in this country, yet more than 140,000 women die each year from smoking related causes. The highest rate of smoking (27 percent) occurs among women between twenty-five and forty-four (http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/azhealthtopics/a/smokingeffects.htm).

The most common side effects of smoking are:

Pulmonary and Respiratory Disorders:  Smoking increases your risk of developing a condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The lung damage that occurs from pulmonary disease is not often reversible. However, if you do quit smoking your lung function will not decline further, and you may notice an improvement in coughing and breathing.

Cardiovascular disease:  Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease in the United States. Women who smoke more than double their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Immediately stopping smoking can result in instant improvement in your cardiovascular function and a reduced risk of heat disease. After smoking cessation has continued for at least a year, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease drops by 50 percent. Your risk continues to decline the more years you remain smoke free. Some studies suggest the heart attack risk for smoker’s drops to that of nonsmokers after two years of cessation.

Cancer:  Cigarette smoking contributes to developing several different kinds of cancer, including cervical cancer, lung cancer, cancer of the esophagus, mouth, bladder and pancreas. Smoking cessation can improve your survival rate and reduce your risk of developing severe cancers resulting from smoking.

Osteoporosis:  Smoking contributes to bone loss, thus increases a woman’s risk for developing osteoporosis. 10 years after smoking cessation a woman’s excess risk for osteoporosis declines significantly.

Breast Cancer:  Women who smoke are more at risk for breast cancer. In fact, the risk of developing fatal forms of breast cancer is 75 percent higher for women who smoke than those that do not. The number of cigarettes a woman smokes per day can affect their breast cancer survival rate.

Vulvar Cancer: Women who smoke are also 48 percent more likely to develop a rare form of vulvar cancer.

Smoking may also contribute to many other diseases and problems. It is especially dangerous to pregnant women. Babies exposed to smoking mothers are often born with birth defects and low birth weights. Mothers who smoke are also more at risk for miscarriage, premature rupture of the membranes and placenta previa. Babies born to mothers that smoke often experience withdrawal symptoms during the first week of life. Over time smoking also contribute to skin wrinkling and may even reduce your sexual ability. Quitting smoking improves all of these conditions immediately (http://www.womenshealthcaretopics.com/smoking_and_women.htm).

Women are more at risk for certain problems related to smoking than men are. Women who use oral contraceptives or other hormonal forms of birth control are especially at risk for developing serious side effects. Women using hormones who smoke increase their risk of developing life threatening blood clots and strokes.

Women who smoke typically have reduced fertility. Studies suggest that women who smoke are 3.4 times more likely to experience problems conceiving than those who do not. This may be because of a decreased ovulatory response. In some women the egg had trouble implanting when the mother smokes.

Smoking also affects women’s normal cyclical changes, including those that occur during menopause and menstruation. Women who start smoking during their teen years are more at risk for developing early menopause than women who do not smoke. Smokers may also experience more menstrual problems including abnormal bleeding or amenorrhea than women who don’t smoke. This may be because smoking often lowers levels of estrogens in the body (http://www.womenshealthcaretopics.com/smoking_and_women.htm).

Now that we know the risks of smoking, let’s look at some tips that will help women to quit.  I came across an article on How to Quit Cold Turkey written by a woman who used to smoke.  Note these tips are only for women who wish to quit smoking cold turkey.   There are three things you will need:   

Other steps to quit smoking are:

Step 1

Think about the positive health changes that will take place after you stop smoking.

Step 2

Make improvements in your appearance part of your plan. Aim for a sweeter smelling and better looking you.

Step 3

Get rid of all your cigarettes and put a healthy snack in your mouth instead of a cigarette when you get the urge to smoke. Also replace smoking with an activity you enjoy engaging in or can benefit from to help you quit.

Step 4

Talk to your doctor about taking medicine to help you stop smoking. Ask him if you are healthy enough to use the patch, nasal spray, inhaler, gum or lozenges, and find out which of these products he thinks is best for you.  Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/178278-how-women-can-quit-smoking/#ixzz1F868POZ5

I have a friend who used to smoke.  She quit because she read in her Bible, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).  She looks much better since she quit. 

If you are a woman who smokes,  quitting may be the hardest thing for you to do but it will be the best thing in the long run.  You will feel better–more energetic and able to climb a flight of stairs without feeling winded.  And you will have a clear mind.  Plan to quit today.  You can do it!

Writer and Philanthropist

My mother’s favorite novelist is Catherine Cookson.  After I read a few of her books and watched movies based on them I became a fan too.  Her characters seemed so real and no wonder–her books were inspired by her deprived youth in North East deEngland, the setting for her novels.

Catherine’s story is as intriguing as the stories she wrote.  She was the illegitimate child of an alcoholic named Kate Fawcett, she grew up thinking her unmarried mother was her sister, as she was raised by her grandparents, Rose and John McMullen.   She married Tom Cookson, a teacher.  Tragically, she suffered four miscarriages and had a mental breakdown.  It took her ten years to recover.  She also suffered from a rare vascular disease, telangiectasia, which causes bleeding from the nose, fingers and stomach and results in anemia.

Catherine took up writing as a form of therapy to tackle her depression, and joined Hastings Writers’ Group. Her first novel, Kate Hannigan, was published in 1950.  She became the United Kingdom’s most widely read novelist, with sales topping 100 million, while retaining a relatively low profile in the world of celebrity writers.  She remained the most borrowed author from public libraries in the UK for 17 years, only losing the title in 2002, four years after her death.

Thanks to her craft Catherine became a multi-millionnaire.  She supported  causes in North East England and medical research in areas that were close to her heart.  She also donated more than £1 million for research into a cure for the illness that afflicted her (Wikipedia). 

With affluence Catherine concentrated on philanthropic activities to support the less fortunate. Catherine Cookson created a trust at the University of Newcastle with a committed amount of £ 800,000. The self titled Trust is dedicated towards the progress and research in the field of medical sciences and provides medical support to the underprivileged. Besides this Catherine Cookson also contributed £20,000 for the Hatton Gallery of the University and £32,000 for it’s library (http://www.catherinecookson.net/).

Despite the challenges and tragedies in her life, Catherine Cookson reached out to help others by using the money she made from the sales of her books. The plight of the less fortunate and the underprivileged moved her to do something to make life easier for them. 

Writing helped Catherine to get through her dark hours.  It is my hope and prayer that if you are going through something, that you will find the help you need to cope.