What’s cookin’



The Scoop on Doggie School
By Rosemary Biggio

Ben Franklin did not have man’s best friend in mind when he wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanack, “Genius without education is like silver in the mine.” Although Mensa may never recruit your pooch, training benefits pet owners and validates the work of Stanley Coren and other researchers.

Joy Butler, author and animal lover comments on the canine learning style: “Scientific studies in recent years show that dogs apply earlier learning to new situations, perform selective imitation, and understand human gestures and new words.” Intelligence tests and trainer observation has generated a list of the smartest breeds. The Afghan hound and Basenji are low on the list while the Border collie and Poodle jump to the head of the class. However, the best way to evaluate ability is to be aware of what the dog was bred to do and provide the appropriate training. No self-esteem issues, please! If dogs are learners, do they have a right to an education? Leave that bone for PETA to chew.

When asked what benefit training could be for an owner and a four legged companion, Terri Smith, obedience trainer, remarks: “Training strengthens the bond between owner and dog. In a class situation dogs interact and learn important social skills as well as coping with distractions. They learn to focus, and they gain self – confidence which can eliminate problems of fear and shyness.”

If you decide to provide Fido with an ivy education start with a basic obedience class, specialization can come later. Several of the pet store chains offer puppy classes in obedience. Consult your yellow pages or call AKC to find local training schools. Since very few states require any type of license or accreditation, arrange to observe a class and speak with the trainer. When asked what qualities to look for in a trainer Smith states, “Someone who is patient, interacts well with people and dogs and can lavish praise.”

Choose a school that offers canine instruction in all obedience levels, agility, rally, show handling and fielding. Most classes are held once a week for six to eight weeks. The cost per semester varies. I arranged to observe a novice obedience class instructed by Terri Smith. Four alert students greeted me with licks and sniffs. The yellow lab mix sported a festive bandanna. The standard poodle was too busy checking its coiffure in the mirror to notice newcomers to the class. The Australian shepherd was patiently waiting for the PBGV (Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen), a French hound was habitually late for class. I suppose he felt a sense of entitlement because of his breed’s rarity. With a buffet of reward treats (dried fish, beef, liver etc.), the handlers and dogs were ready for class work.

The class began with group work. This included heeling, timed sits and downs. During
timed exercises, the dog is commanded either verbally or by hand gesture to sit and later to lie down for three minutes while the handler stands several feet in front of the dog. If the dog breaks position in an AKC show, the dog is immediately disqualified. Handler errors are charged to the pooch.

The remainder of class is individual instruction. The handler heels the dog off lead around the ring. Next is the figure eight. The handler guides the dog around cones (stewards in an AKC show) forming a figure eight. Stand for examination requires the dog to stand while the instructor or judge touches the dog’s back. Finally, class work is completed with the recall exercise. The dog is left in a seated position. The handler, positioned across the ring, calls the dog to come. Dogs are motivated when completing exercises by treats and praise. In an AKC show, no treats are allowed in the obedience ring. Exercises become more complex as handler and dog level up.

Yes, you can teach and old dog new tricks. “No dog is too old, but the best time to start training is when the dog is twelve weeks” according to instructor Terri Smith. Be aware that most dog schools do not deal with aggression problems to insure the safety of pets and humans. You will be referred to a behavior therapist. Issues of mouthing, jumping up, barking and potty training will be handled by instructors at a school.

Class ended on a humorous note when Terri Smith recalled her most memorable class. She welcomed to class a rather unusual student, a pet pig. Most of the other students accepted the pig in class, but the porker never mastered the sit command. Dogs are more accepting of differences than two legged creatures.

Although most pet owners do not pursue obedience training for AKC show competition, a basic canine education is valuable. Consider the following statement from the Idaho Humane Society: “When you feel frustrated with your dog’s behavior, remember that someone must teach a dog what acceptable behavior is and what is not. A dog that hasn’t been given any instructions, training or boundaries can’t possibly know what you expect of him. By teaching your dog how you want him to behave, you’ll not only have a saner household, but a healthier and happier dog as well.”


Burr, David, ed. “The Benefits of an Educated DOG.” Idaho Humane Society. 17
Dec. 2008 <http://www.idahohumanesociety.com>.
Butler, Joy. “Canine Intelligence Test.” Suite 101. 2 July 2007. Media Inc. 17 Dec. 2008 <http://www.suite101.com>.
Butler, Joy. “The Intelligence of Dogs.” Suite 101. 15 Dec. 2007. Media Inc. 17 Dec. 2008 <http://www.suite101.com>.
Coren, Stanley. The Intelligence of Dogs. Free P, 2005. 1-320.
Smith, Terri. “Dog Training.” Personal interview. 15 Dec. 2008.

Self-Esteem: A Coat of Many Colors
By Rosemary Biggio

The education community is as fashion conscious as its student. Fads in educational philosophy, methodology, and curriculum are worn as garishly as the tattoos and body piercings of students who parade down the runways of public schools. Capricious designers in schools of education will recycle old wears under new labels or showcase a fresh fall line with little concern for the American taxpayer who picks up the tab, which according to the U.S. Department of Education in 2007 was a hefty $71.7 billion. Despite the pricey mark up, unknowing students are sold cheap goods by the industry. Conceptual threads of self-esteem and multiculturalism woven into American society, bind methodology and curriculum in public education.

Self-esteem is defined as an inordinately or exaggeratedly favorable impression of oneself. Synonymous with pride, it “goeth before the fall“. Regardless of this biblical admonition, our value free public schools have chosen to spin this concept into Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

A hand me down of moral relativism (‘if it feels good, do it’) from the flower children, the self-esteem movement blossomed from the psychology of the 1960s. Stanley Coopersmith (psychology professor) and Nathaniel Branden (psychotherapist, father of the movement) were intellectuals who never intended self-esteem to become the opiate of education.

Self-esteem would have remained a concept garbed in academic robes until politicians, John Vasconcellos (California assemblyman) and George Deukmejian (California governor) in the 1980s saw it as an elixir for all social ills. After a three-year study, which lacked verifiable data to support claims of its cure all effects, the task force was dissolved. It reconstituted itself as the National Association for Self-Esteem (NASE). The organization is not tailored specifically for education as stated on its web site, “The purpose of our organization is to fully integrate self-esteem into the fabric of American society so that every individual, no matter what their age or background, experiences personal worth and happiness. “

Psychology professors Roy Baumeister, Nicholas Emler, Jennifer Crocker, Martin Seligman and Jean Twenge working independently concluded that the benefits were negligible and the risks significant. Professor Twenge believes that obsession with self-esteem is fueling the rise of depression in the U.S., encouraging narcissism, and undermining the skills of young people, (Generation Me). The benefits of self-esteem applied to learning are dubious. In her book, The Feel-Good Curriculum: The Dumbing-Down of America’s Kids in the Name of Self-Esteem, education professor Maureen Stout traces how the ideology of self-esteem developed from early 20th-century progressive schooling through the influence of educational psychology to what she views as the current “idiotic” idea that school should be a kind of therapy. Along the way, she excoriates a number of educational fads and theories, including whole-language, Ebonics, emotional intelligence, and Howard Gardner’s theories of multiple intelligences.

Does self- esteem cause achievement? Does achievement cause self- esteem? The conundrum hatched is the chicken and egg dilemma of causality. Despite the infusion of self-esteem into the veins of students over the years, achievement has not soared. The problems in education are too complex for a quick fix.

A famous 1989 study of mathematical skills compared students in eight different countries. American students ranked lowest in mathematical competence, and Korean students ranked highest. However, the researchers also asked students to rate how good they were at mathematics. The Americans ranked highest in self-judged mathematical ability, while the Koreans ranked lowest. The Korean students had a realistic, and yes, a humble view of their ability. John Stossel’s 2006 television special entitled ‘Stupid in America’ reported the longer kids stay in American schools, the worse they do in international competition. They do worse than kids do from poorer countries that spend much less money on education, ranking behind not only Belgium but also Poland, the Czech Republic and South Korea.

We have sold our students fads and fantasies with the misguided belief that feeling good leads to achievement. However, the facts do not support this. The Brookings Institution 2006 Brown Center Report on Education found that countries in which families and schools emphasized self-esteem for students, America for example, lagged behind the cultures that did not focus on how students feel about themselves. Not all that self-confidence has produced students that are more capable.

Multiculturalism is another concept cloaked in self-esteem. In the salad bowl that is hyphenated America, who would object to diversity training (multiculturalism)? Students would be enriched by learning multiple foreign languages and exposure to different cultures. Unfortunately, what often happens is cultural relativism, historical revisionism, and the denigration of Western Civilization. Cultural relativism, a close kin to moral relativism, holds that all cultures are of the same value: “Cultural relativism is the view that no culture is superior to any other culture when comparing systems of morality, law, politics, etc. It is the philosophical notion that all cultural beliefs are equally valid and that truth itself is relative, depending on the cultural environment. Those who hold to cultural relativism find that all religious, ethical, aesthetic, and political beliefs are completely relative to the individual within a cultural identity.” (www.culturalrelativism.com/) Consequently, the relativist would argue that The U.S. Constitution is equivalent to the Iroquois Constitution or the ghastly practice of human sacrifice by an Aztec priest is comparable to the bloodless sacrifice by a Catholic priest.

Under the banner of self-esteem, malcontent multiculturalists intentionally permit historically disenfranchised minority groups to feel not only good about themselves but also superior to the dominant group. The vilification of Western Civilization is the keystone in the balkanization of The United States. Critics of multiculturalism include Allan Bloom (The Closing of the American Mind) whose focus is higher education and E.D. Hirsch (Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and The Schools We Need: And Why We Don’t Have Them) who concentrates on secondary education. Publisher’s Weekly comments: “Bestselling author Hirsch (Cultural Literacy) argues that American education, kindergarten through high school, has been undermined by a deep contempt for factual knowledge and an addiction to fads such as “project-oriented” instruction, “relevant” topics, “child-centered” activities, and building students’ self-esteem.”

Self-esteem is not showy or flashy. It is not the result of feel good curriculum or hipness in fashion. It is something real that comes from hard work and achievement. Trendy in education is never a good fit. Let the buyer beware.



“Amazon “. Publishers Weekly. November 12, 2009 <www.amazon.com>.

Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.

“Cultural Relativism-Illogical Standard”. All About Philosophy. November 12, 2009

<www.cultural-relativism.com/ >.

Hirsch, E.D. Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know . New York:

Houghton Mifflin, 1988.

—. The Schools We Need: And Why We Don’t Have Them. New York: Anchor Books,


“John Stossel’s ‘Stupid in America'”. ABC NEWS. November 12, 2009


“NASE”. National Association for Self-Esteem. November 10, 2009 <self-esteem-

nase.org >.

Stout, Maureen. The Feel-Good Curriculum: The Dumbing Down of America’s Kids in

the Name of Self-Esteem. Da Capo, 2001.

“The 2006 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American

Students Learning?”. Brookings Institution. November 12, 2009


Twenge, Jean. Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident,

Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before . New York: Free Press,


“U.S. Department of Education”. November 10, 2009 <www.ed.gov>.



How Sweet It Was: The Corner Candy Store
By Rosemary Biggio

“How Sweet It Is” welcomes travelers to the present day borough of Brooklyn. Any adult who spent their yesteryears in the fifties recognizes these words bellowed by Ralph Kramden, the scheming bus driver from Gotham, who drove through the middle of the decade in a popular television sitcom known as The Honeymooners.

Equally memorable for the children of that bygone decade is the corner candy store. Nino’s was located on the corner of East 58th street and Avenue N in a section of Brooklyn known as Mill Basin. It was equidistant from my house and Mary Queen of Heaven, the parochial elementary school. The store lured neighborhood kids from blue-collar families on their path to and from school. During lunch break, Nino’s was crowded with the uniforms of Catholic schoolchildren eager to spend their allowances or cash from deposit bottles to satisfy their hankering for sweets. The grownups spent their money on serious adult food at Sam’s luncheonette or John’s delicatessen.

Nino, the store’s owner and namesake, catered to his customers selling a variety of items. There were school supplies such as marble notebooks, homework pads (Egad! in today’s school jargon agenda books) and loose leaf. There were favors for last minute moms who forgot party supplies for Timmy or Sally. A heap of cheap metal toys (now pricey collectables) stamped made in Japan could be found in the back of the store. A rack in the store’s center bulged with comic books. Superman, Casper, Wendy, Archie, Jug head went spinning when kids searched for their favorites. The more bookish schoolmates passed over the superheroes for a series known as Classics Illustrated which transformed classic works like Ivanhoe, Three Musketeers, and Robinson Caruso into comic book format.

Eyes widened, small fingers pointed to the penny and nickel candies enclosed in a glass case. Button candy of all colors and flavors dotted strips of paper. Jawbreakers and Bazooka gum had to be enjoyed before returning to school. Any miscreant caught chewing gum in class was given a stern look or worse punishment by the Dominican nuns. Candy could be fun. Remember the big red wax lips and cigar shaped gum with authentic looking rings. We would gobble the candy or chocolate cigarettes like the real ones our parents puffed. “Meet me at Nino’s after school” teenagers called to one another when they left childhood to hang out at the fountain.

The fountain was a magnificent work of art made of shiny wood and marble that wrapped around its sides. At the fountain, Nino created ice cream sundaes, splits and floats. All ice cream was hand dipped. There was no canned soda. Nino would mix seltzer with syrups. Teenagers would sip their cherry cokes, lime rickies and egg creams as the years spun by on those stools.

Historically, the candy store was part of the cityscape. The mom and pop candy store captured in a Norman Rockwell picture exists in our memories. It is a piece of Americana replaced by supermarkets and gourmet specialty stores. If you get the urge for some old fashioned sweets try online candy stores. If you want retro, look for the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain.

Next time you time travel, grab yourself a licorice wheel, watch The Honeymooners and ride the bus through Brooklyn, and savor “How Sweet It Is.”

How Much is that Doggie in the Window?

By Rosemary Biggio

Patti Page’s song title hit the charts with children of the fifties. After constantly singing the tune off key and pestering, my dad folded. He slapped five greenbacks on the counter of a local pet shop for a cuddly terrier-skipper key mix. No one in our working class Brooklyn neighborhood of duplexes and row houses owned a pedigree. Mutts were the stock of the melting pot. Our primary readers featured Dick and Jane watching Spot run. Dogs were as American as a Norman Rockwell picture and mom’s apple pie.
Even today canine characters populate fiction and the movie screen. According to recent statistics from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), Americans own more than seventy- three million dogs. Folks, that’s a lot of gravy train and a lot of dough spent on our four legged friends. The answer to the title’s question is founded on the factors which follow. This estimate is based on the personal experience of owning a medium size dog with a lifespan of fifteen years.*
THE DOG – The cost of the dog varies, but five bucks is not going to do it. Spot could cost you anywhere from fifty to thousands of dollars depending whether you purchase a mixed breed or a pedigree. If you opt for a pedigree, be aware that breeders differentiate between pet and show quality. Unless you have dreams of Westminster, go for the pet. It’s significantly cheaper. Consult AKC (American Kennel Club) for reputable breeders. Be aware shelters and rescues charge fees. Cost $300
FOOD – The amount of food a dog eats depends on its size. Even though Spot likes table food, you’ll be called to task by the veterinarian if you confess to the offence. The average adult dog is fed once a day usually a mix of wet and dry food. Check where the product is made. Remember the problem with dog food from China. Dog food including treats should be anywhere from two-five dollars a day. Don’t forget serving bowls. Lenox excluded expect to spend ten-hundred dollars and up. Cost $16,000
GROOMING – Pet store chains and small shops will bathe, shampoo, clip(nails and fur), brush (teeth and fur),dip(fleas and tick) and provide cute bows or bandannas. This beautification process is done about four times a year for thirty-five dollars. Frugal owners can do it themselves or consider a furless breed. Be sure check that the groomer is licensed and does not drug the pooch. Cost $2,100
LODGING – Pet store chains, kennels and pet sitters offer a variety of services. The price depends on your requests. Some lucky dogs will be putting on the Ritz. Let’s take a no frills package for thirty dollars a day for one week per year. There are also pet walking, poop scooping and daycare services which are not included in this estimate. Thrifty owners can beg a relative or friend to pet sit. It’s well worth the price of a souvenir. As a cautionary note, make sure you visit the kennel/hotel, interview the pet sitter and check with the Better Business Bureau. Cost $3,100
LICENSE AND MICROCHIP – Most townships require yearly licensing of your dog. The cost is minimal somewhere between ten and fifteen dollars. Clinics, shelters and rescue organizations will painlessly insert a rice size chip with vital information under the dog’s skin for thirty- five dollars. Cost $250
MEDICAL AND DENTAL – Health care for people and pets is astronomical. Dogs require at least one major exam a year which usually includes shots and tests, in addition, monthly medication to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworms. Spaying or neutering a pet can run several hundred dollars and surgery thousands. There are organizations(ASPCA) that will neuter or spay for a small fee. An annual dental cleaning is suggested. Care has become so costly, especially as the pet ages, that an owner might consider an insurance provider. Check with the Better Business Bureau. Cost $11,000
SCHOOLING AND TRAINING – Training can be in show handling, obedience, agility, field and track. You can choose individual or classroom instruction. There are clubs to join and competitions to participate in. Basic obedience training is suggested. Tuition is usually monthly. If you aspire to Westminster, be prepared to shell out a college tuition. Visit the school, interview the trainer and check with the Better Business Bureau. Cost $1,000
ACCOUTERMENTS – This includes beds, clothes, toys, collars and bling. Cost $800
HELP! – There are freebees out there. Search the internet. If you are not ready for a lifetime commitment, consider fostering a dog. There are organizations that will pick up the tab or at least part of it if you are enrolled in a foster program.

Now the answer to Patti Page’s question, calculators please :

GRAND TOTAL – $34,550


By Rosemary Biggio

Think outside the Napa Valley. Uncork a bottle of wine from New Jersey. Let it breathe. Enjoy the bouquet. New Jersey is the fifth largest wine producing state in the country. Wines from the Garden State have won hundreds of national and international medals as well as the respect of the national industry.

There are more than thirty wineries statewide. Forty varieties are now grown here, from Pinot Noir and Riesling in the North, to some of the more popular Italian varieties such as Sangiovese and Barbera in the South. We have everything from vinifera vines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, to French American Hybrids to Native American vines. A Spanish winery has just started planting in Lower Township, Cape May County. They will offer Albernino and Tempernio. In addition, at New Jersey wineries, you can find many excellent fruit wines including: apple, blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, cherry, plum, raspberry and strawberry; as well as blush wines, ports, spice wines, sangrias and several sparkling wines.

The temperate climate of the state, especially in the south, made New Jersey suitable for growing. However, early winemakers found the local fruit unpalatable, and the imported vines failed to transplant. It took a century for the wine industry to blossom. Renault in southern New Jersey is the oldest winery, dating back to 1864.

On a sticky day in May, my roommate and I headed out to explore two wineries that were toasted by the local media. On the edge of Hammonton (“Blueberry Capital of the World”) is Plagido’s Winery which opened to the public in 2007. Plagido Tomasello, arrived in the United States from Italy in the late 1800’s. He was one of Hammonton’s pioneer farmers. Over a century later, the original farmland became a vineyard. The winery, owned and operated by the Tomasello family, opened to the public in 2007.

As we approached the winery, neat rows of vines sprouted from sandy soil, characteristic of South Jersey. I observed, “It reminds me a lot of Italy.” After parking the van, Tony Bravora with a tooth pick dangling from his mouth, greeted us. During the tour, he explained the wine making process. We stood beside huge oak barrels and stainless steel vats; some labeled Merlot and Chardonnay. We sampled several fine wines before selecting Plagido’s Choice, their signature white wine, made from the seedless Marquis grape. The wine is subtle. It starts dry but finishes sweet, Tony suggested the wine be served chilled. Wines range in price from $10.99 to $18.99 to include reds, whites, dry, sweet, semi-sweet, dessert and fruit wines.

Award winning competitions cited Plagido’s Winery were: San Francisco Chronicle, Florida State Fair Authority International, Finger Lakes International and others. Bottles showcased their medals like proud Olympians.

Do pick up a brochure that gives serving suggestions and other useful information. Plagido Winery hosts a jazz and wine tasting event in late May. There is ample parking, and the winery is handicap friendly. Visit 7 days’ noon-5pm.


Diving north about fifteen minutes from Hammonton, we reached Blue Anchor and Sharrott Winery, the next stop on our wine tasting trail. The winery sits atop a grassy knoll overlooking thirty-five acres of rolling hills (a rarity in South Jersey). Six acres are used for planting. As we walked up the landscaped path, a lady rushed out to turn off the sprinkler system. She said relieved, “I’m glad I got here in time before you got soaked.”

I shaded my eyes from the sun and said, “Might not be such a bad idea in this heat.”

She smiled broadly and pointed to the empty tent set up for “Ladies Night Out”.

Eileen Sharrott, former teacher, guided us through a tour after providing us with a supply of glossy brochures. Father and son Sharrott graduated from the University of California at Davis. After completing a program in professional wine making, they opened the family business for public consumption in 2008.

Wine tasting of six samples, a souvenir wine glass and guided tour will cost you $5.00. We bought a light-bodied and dry Pinot Grigio, winner of a Gold Medal-2010 Indianapolis International and a Bronze Medal-2010 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition. Next we purchased a lightly sweet yet refreshing red wine labeled Crimson Sky, winner of Double Gold & Best in Class-Indy International, Gold Medal-2010 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Silver Medal-2009 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition. Wines range in price from $12.99 to $24.99 to include reds, whites, dry, sweet, semi-sweet, dessert and fruit wines.

Other awards include: 2010 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle 2010 and 2008-2009 New Jersey Wine Competition.

Sharrott Winery hosts many events. There is ample parking, and the winery is handicap friendly. Visit 7 days’ noon-5pm. For a complete list of New Jersey wineries check out The Garden State Wine Growers Association. (www.newjerseywines.com/wineries.html)


Plagido’s Winery
570 N 1st Road
Hammonton, NJ 08037



Sharrott Winery
370 S. Egg Harbor Rd. (Rt. 561)
Winslow, NJ 08037




Wine Etiquette

A general rule is whites with lighter foods like grilled chicken or salads, reds with steaks or heavy red sauces. Serve lighter, fruitier reds with anything else. Think outside the box when pairing wine with food. When dining at a restaurant, do not be intimidated by a sommelier or wine steward. It is their job to give advice.

You may want to get the serving ritual down pat before that important dinner date. The steward will first show you the bottle before it is opened. Inspect the label and vintage to make sure it is what you ordered. The server will present you the cork. Simply make sure it is not dried out and cracked. Then the server will pour a small amount in your glass. Check the aroma to make sure there are no strong, offensive odors.

Once you have tasted the wine, approve with a simple nod or a “it’s fine”. The server will start filling the glasses beginning with guests first and finishing with your glass.

Websites: www.basic-wine-knowledge.com/wine-etiquette.html



Ties that Bind: A Book Review
By Rosemary Biggio

Cherished 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost. Editor Barbara Abercrombie.Ca. : New World Library. 2011. 213 pages. ISBN-10: 1577319575.
Barbara Abercrombie has bundled together a poignant collection of autobiographical essays which reflect upon the special relationship between celebrated authors and their beloved animals. Motivated by the loss of Robin, her horse, writer turned editor, Abercrombie researched the subject before contacting perspective writers. Featured are essays by Mark Doty, Ted Kooser, Anne Lamott, Thomas McGuane, Joe Morgenstern, Carolyn See, Jane Smiley and Jacqueline Winspear. The epilogue returns to the editor’s recollection of the final days of her cat, Stuart. Biographical thumbnail sketches of contributors bind the book’s closure.

The book’s highlights for the reader are several. “The General” by Michael Chitwood is a cleverly structured story where quotes by famous writers on craft are woven into an illustrative narrative about his cat. Enjoyable is Joe Morganstern’s tale of “Fluff”, a cocker spaniel, who patriotically served during WWII in the armed forces. The pain of Sadie’s death resolved Anne Lamott (“This Dog’s Life”) not to get another dog until Lily came wagging. Memorable are the author’s words, “Having a good dog is the closest some of us will ever come to the direct love of a mother, or God. . .” (79) Molly, a dog, dug, ran, rode in a car, burrowed in bed, and endured unrequited love for Thomas, the Cairn terrier. “We know the ones we love by the things they love.”(“In Molly’s Eyes” Billy Mernit 97) A bizarre tale (“My Virtual Cat”) of an imaginary cat validates the author’s (Jenny Rough) commitment phobia. “Taking Stock” by Thomas McGuane offers a brief history of man’s relationship to the horse. The book is a collection of well written and emotive stories.

Before the horse whisperer and dog whisperer debuted, animals shared our lives, shaped our fiction and animated our celluloid dreams. In the Brooklyn of my childhood, I raised chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs, cats and even an abandoned baby owl. Today dogs romp unleashed through my fiction. As a writer and animal lover, I was disappointed that the book failed to explore what the title suggested (except for “The General” by Michael Chitwood) the connection between the writers’ work and their animal companions. The book lacks diversity by featuring familiar animals: dogs, cats, horses and a lone pig. A wider net would have captured exotic creatures and yielded greater reader interest. This book has lots of heart, but most of the essays have predictable endings.

Barbara Abercrombie’s collection joins a burgeoning genre which contains such notable recent works as : Marley & Me : Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan; Rescuing Sprite: A Dog Lover’s Story of Joy and Anguish by Mark R. Levin; Katie Up and Down the Hall: The True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors into a Family by Glenn Plaskin and A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz. Visit her informative website (http://www.barbaraabercrombie.com). Royalties are donated to Best Friends Animal Society.

This book is recommended for anyone who has loved and lost an animal. Animals teach us how to be human by reaching in our souls where others fear to tread. They give us a glimpse of Paradise Lost.


The Secularization of Catholic Universities and Colleges
By Rosemary Biggio, Ph.D.

Pope John Paul II’s promulgation in 1990 of Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church) was an Apostolic Constitution on Catholic universities and colleges, a systematic effort to renew and reform Catholic higher education in the United States and around the world. The focus of this article is on the United States.

In summation the document required the following: the university or college’s Catholic identify be announced publicly; board members and faculty be committed to the institution’s Catholic identity; bishops and presidents of Catholic institutions implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

Since bishops have control over the universities in their diocese, benchmarks were developed by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Almost every major Catholic academic association, including the National Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and theological societies, opposed key requirements of Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Some improvements were made. However, administrators at many large universities flagrantly disregarded the bishops’ benchmarks. Universities and colleges answer to the Roman Curia and the Pope, but Rome is the end game. Reform begins with the bishops.


Georgetown and Notre Dame Universities, the most egregious offenders of their Catholic identity, are not the only transgressors. Founded in 1789, Georgetown, the oldest Catholic university in the United States, exemplifies the secularization of Catholic universities and colleges.

At Georgetown Jacqueline Payne, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, discussed reproductive and abortion rights as part of her course on Women and the Law. Payne is a policy attorney for the pro-abortion NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund and is Assistant Director of Government Relations for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Tom Beauchamp, a Senior Research Scholar at the university’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics, is a board member of Compassion in Dying, a radical lobby that advocated Oregon’s assisted-suicide law and challenged assisted-suicide bans in Washington and New York states. Beauchamp has written many books and articles, lectured at more than 100 universities worldwide, and helped file amicus curiae briefs in federal courts for advancing physician-assisted suicide. In a 1999 article in Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, Beauchamp suggested that certain humans (fetuses, newborns, psychopaths, severely brain-damaged and dementia patients) might be placed in a new class with high-level animals.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards spoke at Georgetown University as part of a campus lecture series. She received a standing ovation after telling 400 students that the killing of unborn babies was a basic human right. Meg DeRonghe, a Georgetown faculty member, is Planned Parenthood’s Associate Director for Partnerships.

In preparation for President Obama’s 2012 visit, the White House ordered Georgetown to cover up all religious signs and symbols, including the small letters HIS three letters signify the name of Jesus Christ, displayed behind where the President would stand. Georgetown University obediently complied.

The University of Notre Dame awarded its prestigious Laetare Medal to Vice President Joe Biden, the nation’s highest-ranking pro-abortion Catholic. At its commencement ceremony, Biden shared the award with former House Speaker John Boehner.

Notre Dame’s Department of Gender Studies invited former state Senator Wendy Davis to speak on campus. Davis reportedly told students that she aborted her unborn daughter, who had genetic deformities, “out of love,” and that pro-life values should not be imposed on others.

In 2009, the university invited President Obama, who used the Affordable Care Act to force Catholic institutions, including Notre Dame, to pay for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs, contrary to church teaching, to give its commencement address and receive an honorary law degree.
The university’s theater group performed The Vagina Monologues defying the bishop’s warning. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most pro-abortion and gay marriage justices, was scheduled for two appearances in September at Notre Dame.

Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles enlisted Billy Bean, a notable alumnus and a former star of the baseball team, to send a message to students that they should be comfortable with same-sex attraction and same-sex relationships. Now, he is an activist for the LGBT community.

Former President Bill Clinton was the spring commencement speaker at Loyola Marymount University. While in California, he raised money for the presidential campaign of his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who recently said that the unborn person does not have Constitutional rights. Loyola Marymount University offers internships with the openly pro-choice group Feminist Majority Foundation.

La Roche College of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania hosted Mark Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network, as a commencement speaker. His organization promotes contraception and is allegedly linked to Planned Parenthood. Shriver was regarded as a pro-abortion rights politician when he was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland. During his tenure, Shriver garnered a 100 percent rating by NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. Seattle University presented Mark Shriver as a commencement speaker.

Merrimack College of Andover, Massachusetts presented pro-abortion and same-sex marriage supporter Charlie Baker, Governor of the state, as its commencement speaker.

Saint Mary’s College of Moraga, California hosted, the superintendent of the state’s public school system, Tom Torlakson as a commencement speaker. He received a 100 percent rating by NARAL Pro-Choice California, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights League.

Other institutions, which trample on their Catholic identity, are Saint Norbert College in Wisconsin by hosting radical feminist Gloria Steinem, despite the objection of the local bishop, and Loyola University Chicago by running an annual drag show.

What caused the blatant defiance of Church teaching? The scarcity of clergy forced the employment of faculty and administrators at Catholic institutions who were themselves educated at the major secular universities. Immersed in the dominant university culture, they were unlikely to challenge it. The Catholic Church lost its moral standing because of the pedophile priest scandal and cover-up in the 1980’s.

The Vatican does not practice what it preaches. St. John Paul II gave Communion to Tony Blair, a pro-choice Episcopalian. Bernie Sanders, who is pro-choice and supports gay marriage, was invited by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to speak.

Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic who is pro-choice and a supporter of gay marriage, spoke at the Vatican on what can be done to find a cure for cancer. The Church uses double speak: do as I say not as I do. Is it any wonder Catholic universities and colleges have an identity crisis?
Before you invest money in a Catholic university or college, consult the Newman Guide for Choosing a Catholic College published by The Cardinal Newman Organization which identifies those institutions of higher education which demonstrate a strong Catholic identity. Caveat emptor (Let the buyer beware).


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Memoir Revisited
By Rosemary Biggio


In the age of the selfie and the democratization of writing, memoir has bloated the publishing world. Because of its inclination to exhibitionism, memoir has been the black sheep of the literary family. As a reader, I confess my antipathy for self-help and memoir genres. As a writer, fiction allows me a protective mask to hide. Call me a coward.

The best memoirs are literary, shaped like novels with a beginning, full of exposition and character development, a middle, often with climactic events, and an ending that ties up what came before with a satisfying resolution. Memoirists are best when they use the same creative toolkit as fiction writers and should be evaluated by the same criteria.

The title, Floating in Saltwater, by Barbara Carter condenses the memoir’s theme, drifting through life’s stages. The book jacket designed by the author and artist could have been the work of a child, washed in shades of blue, and lacking spatial features. The author’s name floats between the horizon and the sea. An ominous shark by size and color threatens. A reluctant reader hooked by title and book jacket opened the memoir.

Ms. Carter’s book establishes an intimacy with reader seldom possible in fiction. She crafts the memoir with attention to conflict, realistic dialogue, and character gestures. Characters leap from the pages to life. This reviewer has two suggestions for the memoirist include pictures of the three developmental sections. Use more details to create the 60s atmosphere.

In the introduction, the author summaries her journey, “At first this story was all about finding answers for myself, but over the years, I found the bigger picture–everyone has pain and wounds and my hope is that by sharing mine it can help you let go of the baggage that you no longer need to carry.”  Graham Greene believed that there is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. Barbara Carter found her moment.

The book is 226 pages with a study guide, published September 2016 by Create Space Independent Publishing Platform. Both paperback and kindle are available through Amazon.com


Christ’s Princess Bride : A Book Review
By Rosemary Biggio


Thiebaux, Marcelle. Unruly Princess. Indiana: Westbow Press. 2012. 192 pages. ISBN-10:       1449737684

     Unruly Princess is the story of Saint Margit of Hungary, the daughter of embattled King Bela IV and Queen Maria Lascarina whose kingdom was attacked by Tartar and Mongol hordes. Desperate for peace, the royal couple implored God’s help. In exchange, her parents pledged Margit to life in a Dominican convent. After tranquility was restored, her father politically motivated, encouraged Margit to marry King Ottokar II of Bohemia. The unruly princess, mindful of her solemn vow, disobeyed her father and rebuffed her suitor. During her convent life, she fasted, prayed, performed menial tasks, and engaged in corporal punishment. Her love for Christ, her bridegroom, compelled her to a life of sacrifice.

The novel is a methodically researched blend of obscure history and legend. The author’s use of first-person narration creates an intimacy between the reader and narrator. Meticulous attention to detail captures life in medieval Hungary. Thiebaux’s style, self-described as ‘art completes the action’, jolts life into a stillborn hagiography as sunlight illuminates stained glass.

The attractive cover and illustrations are by artist Tamara Thiebaux Heikalo. The author includes several aids for the reader: a map, “Margit’s World”, designed by Marcy R. Edelstein; thumbnail character sketches by the narrator; a glossary and discussion questions. In the Afterword, the author comments on characters and recommends other noteworthy books for the interested reader.

Dr. Thiébaux authored many academic books on literature: The Stag of Love: The Chase in Medieval Literature; The Writings of Medieval Women; and Dhuoda: Handbook for her Warrior Son; Mary Wollstonecraft and Ellen Glasgow. Her articles and short stories have appeared in literary magazines. She has reviewed fiction for Publishers Weekly and The New York Times Book Review. Marcelle Thiebaux, a writer in residence in the Wertheim Study, is a former professor of English at St. John’s University.