never sit if you can dance:

leSSONS FROM BABE

“This book is a jewel.  Never has a quirky mother-daughter memoir seemed so fresh and entertaining.  Everyone will wish they’d had a mother named Babe."
—Carolyn See, Making A Literary Life.

One day Babe and I were discussing why some people we knew were so unhappy and cranky. I asked her, “Why do you think I turned out so happy?”

“Because you take after me,” she said.

That’s when the idea of Lessons from Babe was born. I’d been a 70’s bell-bottom-wearing, Ms.-magazine-writing daughter who was sorely disappointed with my stay-at-home, housewife mom. She seemed so behind the times. I’d look at her and think, Lord, I do not want to turn out like that!

But half a century later, I’ve lived long enough to realize how seriously I underestimated her. Maybe we weren’t members of such different generations after all. She might have had stewed rhubarb and tomato aspic salad in her fridge while I had organic kale and soy milk in mine, but maybe in more important ways we were much closer in spirit than I’d thought. And at ninety-five and a half, she’d put up with me long enough to hear me start singing her praises publicly in a Houston magazine.

I called Mom Babe, because she asked me to—she disliked her given name, Gladys. Besides, Babe was fun to say, and it suited her. She was the youngest in her family, the baby. But even after she’d outlived three sisters, her husband, and everybody else, the name still fit. She was some Babe.

I’m especially delighted that in this modern world, a woman who never touched a computer or owned a cell phone or played on an iPad had the wisdom earned from a lifetime of living that has turned out to be timeless. Wisdom from a woman of the 20th century for a daughter in the 21st..

Probably nobody is more surprised than I am that stitch by stitch I embroidered Babe’s pronouncements into life lessons. And many of these lessons weren’t necessarily even spoken until we sat down together, and I asked about all that dancing she and Dad had done. That’s when she blurted out, “Never sit if you can dance.”

If I’ve been successful, I’ve communicated her grace, her wit, and her playfulness. (“Let’s goof off today” was one of her favorite sayings.) Taken together, these lessons show there’s a celebratory life waiting for each of us—if we embrace it.

As you come to know Babe, you’ll see that she was no goodie two shoes: She drank, danced, and stayed up very late. She was so much livelier than most mothers I’ve known. And since I frown on manuals telling me which fork or word to use, this is not that. Instead, these lessons, defined by love rather than prohibition, are stories about what worked pretty well for Babe. They are about the simplest, most ordinary things: how to get along with other people, how to make a marriage work, how to make life more agreeable.

I got such a kick out of focusing on Babe that I had no intention of having much of a presence in these pages myself. But as her stories unfolded, they naturally evolved into mother-daughter stories. How could they not? And, again, why should I have been so surprised? Because Babe’s lessons show not just how she lived, but the impact her attitudes and ideas had on me and the others lucky enough to know her.

It’s been said that our gifts are not fully ours until we give them away. This collection was written as a gift for Babe and for all mothers everywhere who laid the groundwork that shaped us, even if we didn’t exactly recognize it, or appreciate it–or them–at the time. Babe gave me these gifts, and in this book, I’m giving them to you.

 

— PUBLISHED —

A WOMAN'S PATH

In candid first-person stories and stunning photographs, A Woman’s Path celebrates the diverse life paths of women of all ages across the county. 

How many times have we met a woman who is doing interesting work and thought, How did she get to do that?

Moved by the ever-growing number of women today who have found careers they love, journalist Jo Giese traveled across the United States to interview women of all ages, races, and occupations, from a Pennsylvania farmer, to the president of a brokerage house on Wall Street, to a Franciscan nun in New Mexico. 

In their own words, these women speak triumphantly about the difficult choices they have faced, the sacrifices they have sometimes made, and the obstacles they have overcome — from family, from the workplace, and from within themselves — in their quest to find meaningful work. The women chronicled include:

Marcia Beauchamp, a non-profit project coordinator who worked as a hair stylist for eighteen years, then earned her master’s degree in theology from Harvard.

Janet Marie Smith, once an average student in architecture, who went on to oversee the design for Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. 

Madeline Martinez, a massage therapist who had little formal education and drifted from job to job until she found her calling. 

Lynda Marie Jordan, who grew up in a family of eighteen children in the Boston projects and is now a leading biochemist. 

Nancy Evans, a believer in “serial living” who went from graduate student to magazine editor to head of Doubleday, and is now a pioneer in new media. 

Sabrina Nickerson, a former pre-law student, copper miner, and long-haul truck driver who now owns a tow truck company. 

Peggy O’Brien, a San Francisco mother who believes that raising her children well is the greatest public service she can offer. 

Interspersed throughout these stories, a new generation—girls from kindergarten to high school—voice their own career ambitions. Read together, these women and girls provide an insightful, refreshing, and original look at the range of possibilities that exist today for any woman—at any point in her life—to connect with work she loves. 

THE GOOD FOOD COMPENDium

An indispensable guide to sensible nutrition and eating pleasures for those who care about fine fare and wholesome living. 

At last, here is a major book that combines the important hardcore facts on nutrition with culinary pleasures. An essential healthful food guide, providing complete information on nutrition for everyone, with special sections for the pregnant woman, for infants, and children, the weekend athlete, and the elderly. The Good Food Compendium is also an irresistible cookbook with almost 200 savory recipes as thrifty and simple as “Fish Kebabs” and as exotic as “Pheasant in Apple Cider.”

Using charts, Jo Giese clearly explains exactly what foods contain the vital nutrients you need to be your healthiest, and how to preserve these nutrients during the storage and cooking process. She simplifies the confusing maze of additives and preservatives, as well as the cost versus nutritional value of convenience foods. Above all, she shows you how to adapt wholesome eating habits to today’s fast-paced world. This book is packed with solid information and marvelous recipes. A must for food lovers who care about healthy living.