Apartment Entry- Prati, Rome, Italy

Apartment Entry- Prati, Rome, Italy
(click on this image to begin)


Lessons from Rehab

I’m lucky: aside from some minor elective procedures and one C-section delivery, I’ve entered hospitals as a visitor or volunteer, not as an inpatient.
A hip replacement — common, but invasive — recently changed that. I write this one month post-op, looking back on physical healing and life lessons learned. My appreciation for the good health I enjoy, the family I depend on, and the professionals who restore us to wellness is reinforced.
Since my early career as hospital manager at Boston’s Peter Bent Brigham (now Brigham and Women’s) to a pioneer post in Rhode Island’s first HMO (RIGHA), and eventually commandeering the state’s largest reproductive health surgi-center, my respect for those who heal has become boundless. Social services, maintenance and dietary staffs work in quiet chorus and respectful concern as the overburdened but omnipresent nursing staff — the sentinels of healing — monitor the unimaginable magic performed by the blessed medical and surgical teams.
Personal miracles wait to be recognized all along the healing curve. I celebrate daily tasks long taken for granted, until they were temporarily lost in my post–surgery inability. Suddenly I can latch my shoe buckle, or get into or out of bed on my own. I am rediscovering — slowly — the miracle of walking without assistance. I am now bonded with millions who have never been able to tie their shoes, walk alone, feed themselves, or generally navigate their world independently.
My mother valued independence as part of her obsession with avoiding debt in all its forms. She raised me on mantras of self-sufficiency: “Never be subject to anyone” and, my favorite, “Never owe anyone: it’s always better if people owe you!” Such mandates may build strength of character, but they make it difficult to ask for a bedpan, a wheelchair, or pain medication without worrying about creating a debt.
Once home (48 hours after surgery), visiting nurses and physical therapists help me heal and thrive again. Still, the image of others who were not so lucky lingers — people struggling daily with life’s demands that require a mobility they do not have, perhaps have never had, and may never hope to enjoy. Some will never cross the finish line that I am approaching daily.
Every person — and writers in particular — should appreciate life’s precious lessons. Human emotions and challenges we may all confront eventually are windows to understanding the common human condition.
Once healed, I shall return to Italy, as I do each summer. People ask if I have visited this or that church where some miracle is alleged to have occurred. I reply that I volunteer in a food bank for Italy’s homeless, or visit a shelter in Rome where abused women were being kept safe long before Hollywood invented #MeToo.
In these places, where I can give back, I put my gratitude to work helping others overcome physical and emotional challenges. My brief flirtation with disability helps me appreciate their lot. To be truly whole again, I must settle the debt I have to them, as my mother mandates.
Mary Ann Sorrentino (thatmaryann@yahoo.com), a monthly contributor to the Providence Journal, writes from RI and Fla., and, in summer, from Italy. 

Feminist Finish Line In View

Senior “feminists” long ago became immune to derision and disrespect. However articulate or polite our arguments for women’s equal treatment, we saw more winks and elbowing than sympathy from too many men. Stepford Wives opposed to feminism accused us of evil instincts, and worse.
I went to a private Catholic girls grammar school (Convent of the Sacred Heart) run by nuns in full nun gear — long black gowns, tight starched white linen helmets covering their heads, from which floor-length veils flowed. A crucifix the size of a fist hung mid-chest, like a hood ornament warning of the fury behind it.
We endured white-glove ceremonies, Mrs. Hadley’s diction classes, “courtesy” seminars on “manners,” and endless lectures on how (female) “children of the Sacred Heart” behaved.
Still, I doubted Jesus was a misogynist.
I transferred to Classical High — a public school my former Reverend Mother called the “Protestant school [I] chose of [my] own free will” (in cahoots with the Holy Spirit).
There I breathed the air of equity, as students, whatever their gender, competed on the level academic playing field. With the will to hone one’s intellectual ability, everyone could excel!
At Elmira College in New York, I was hostage to President J. Ralph Murray, who treated the all-women students like children. Emerging as a full-blown crazed conservative by senior year, he stuffed students’ mailboxes with paperback copies of “None Dare Call it Treason,” by John Stormer. A cover note explained that if the book generated pro-Goldwater support in the 1964 presidential elections, “the donor” would be happy. I organized my first book burning. The New York Times covered it.
I became a welfare social worker. My supervisor yelled at my clients for “wasting money” buying frozen broccoli vs. fresh. My caseload included more than 100 women getting government Aid for Dependent Children. Still he screamed, “Catholic taxpayers aren’t paying your salary to have you teach clients birth control!”
By 1985, my public excommunication by a Catholic bishop (of questionable purity) targeted me as director of Rhode Island’s Planned Parenthood, a contraceptive clinic providing physical exams, pap smears, sex education, and also abortions. Of particular bad judgment was the Diocese’s attempt (unsuccessful) to bar our teenaged daughter from her confirmation.
I cut my feminist teeth on Catholic oppression of girls by nuns, and I touched the stars of my feminism when the (male) Canon Law Society of America exonerated me, saying the banished bishop should know better.
Yet, only now, with millions of women taking to the streets, naming oppressors and abusers openly, and millions more wielding power as senators, generals, working moms, Supreme Court justices, surgeons, engineers and astronauts, do I weep with joy — the finish line in view.
I shall die fighting for women’s rights, as I have lived fighting for them. We still have t’s to cross and i’s to dot, but, finally, we “old guard” here — and sisters watching from that ultimate rally in the sky — cheer our daughters and granddaughters taking their rightful, deserved place, thinking, “Well done!”
Mary Ann Sorrentino (thatmaryann@yahoo.com), a monthly contributor, writes from R.I.  and Florida, and, in summer, from Italy.


In solidarity with Irish women and the men who love them

Sent to the Irish Times – Dublin Ireland                         May 27, 2018

By Mary Ann Sorrentino

The impressive show of strength by Irish voters on the abortion prohibition referendum speaks once more to the determination of reasonable people to recognize and empower every woman to make ultimately personal decisions regarding her childbearing in ultimate privacy. 

The landslide vote to strike down that longstanding ban, though being touted as a slap in the face of the Roman Catholic Church, is more importantly testimony to the global recognition of the rights of women – finally! Of course in a country where Magdalene Laundries  abused and held sexually active young girls in indentured servitude, there is sure to be more than the usual justified anger directed at Rome and her enforcers. But recent history shows that the successful politicizing of female rage against the curia has been operational for some time.

In 1978 in the shadow of the Vatican, Italians also turned out in large numbers to legalize abortion in Italy, my dual-citizenship home. They returned – 68% of voters strong—in 1981 when a referendum to re-criminalize abortion was rejected by 88.4% of those voting. So women have stopped allowing the Pope to control their most basic ability to survive and thrive.
What we see today is the global celebration of freedom this week in Ireland-- a front page story around the world, and overwhelmingly a congratulatory one. Doomsayers on the far Right will have to get used to women’s ultimate liberation, empowered by control of their own fertility.

Poignantly, for us in the United States-- a nation once revered for its love of individual liberty and separation of Church and State now struggling not to fall into total fascist mode, the victory in Ireland underscores what we Americans must never relinquish. Like yours, too many of our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, lovers and other women we loved, paid with their lives for illegal abortions. Many -- unable to afford a wanted termination beyond their local borders—had a child they often could not care for nor afford to raise. Still others had a child and gave it for adoption; a wonderful choice for those able to freely take that difficult step without suffering a lifetime of wondering, questioning, and painful self-accusing.

So today, from across the Atlantic, we take strength in Ireland’s example. You make us remember how important it is—and how necessary—to stand up to the (still mostly) male establishment signing laws that hurt and devalue women. We salute our brothers and sisters in Erin and we set out now holding your example close to our hearts for the challenges we may face in the near future. Mostly, we thank Ireland for the wonderful spiritual lift and inspiration your tenacity, energy and eventual victory give us and, from “across the pond” we embrace you and feel that great energy of your commitment to all of us. 

Mary Ann Sorrentino is a monthly writer for the Providence Journal (Rhode Island, USA) and other papers. From 1977-1987 she was President of Planned Parenthood of RI which opened the first free-standing abortion clinic in that state.  In 1984 she was publicly excommunicated from the Catholic Church after her parish tried, unsuccessfully, to deny confirmation to her then 14 year-old-daughter. Sorrentino remains a strong advocate for women’s right to choose – everywhere.


Exchanging Love Letters with Harry

On January 22, 1973, Roe v Wade nationalized the abortion rights many states had already legalized. In 1983, the NY Times published a 10th anniversary interview with Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, Roe’s author. In that interview Blackmun’s emotional candor underscored the rarity of a Justice speaking directly to us. He recalled hate mail received after Roe – calling him the “Butcher of Dachau.” He dreamed of retirement.

Then CEO of Planned Parenthood of RI, I realized we likely had never thanked him. I reached for my letterhead and penned a note.

I wrote that he was a savior to women who—for centuries—had suffered under legislated forced pregnancy. I begged him to, “never retire until the current [Reagan] administration fades into political oblivion.”

Days later I was stunned by his response. Justice Blackmun thanked me as “someone on the cutting edge of this issue.” He wrote, “I am in your debt.” 
His letter still hangs on my bedroom wall.

Forty-five years since Roe breathed life into gender equity for women, we remember the quiet man who codified privacy.

Son of modest parents from America’s heartland, Blackmun brought to the Supreme Court a brilliant legal mind and the unique healthcare knowhow decades as legal counsel to the Mayo Clinic provided. Devoted husband and father, he was best man to Chief Justice Burger who lobbied for Blackmun’s eventual high court appointment. (Lifelong friendship, notwithstanding, Blackmun avoided Burger’s arch-conservatism.)

One of Blackmun’s three daughters faced an unintended college pregnancy, and married the father of her child. That marriage ended in divorce. Blackmun treated with dignity every human being he met, friend and foe. Younger, uber-conservative William Rehnquist-- eventual Chief -- was a fan. Rare among Justices, Blackmun drove his blue VW Beatle to daily breakfasts with his clerks. (In his 1999 funeral procession, a blue Beatle rode proudly.)

Blackmun took his responsibility to the law seriously knowing how personally important and stressful unintended pregnancy decisions are. He researched tirelessly the historic right to privacy which, though implied in the Bill of Rights, came into its own in the Griswold decision on contraception argued from the 1940’s and finally decided in 1965.

This hugely important validation of the intimate rights of women and the people who love them were Blackmun’s gift. 45 years later, too many of us still remember pre-Roe women hemorrhaging and delirious, from fevers and infections after illegal abortions which sometimes included pre-surgery sexual favors demanded by “doctors” as partial “payment.”

We recall beloved women looking 75 at age 35, their health and spirit decimated by raising more children than they ever wanted or could care for adequately. Attempts to self-abort involved coat hangers. One metropolitan ER’s more graphic case cited a vacuum cleaner hose as the cause of death.
Such was the despair of women before Roe.

Eliminating access to services women need and want will never suffocate their determination to free themselves from enslavement by forced pregnancies. We are resolute!

My successor, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England President and CEO, Amanda Skinner, reminds us, “Opponents bet we are too tired and demoralized to keep fighting: we continue to prove them wrong. We will never stop fighting for a woman’s right to access vital reproductive health services, including safe and legal abortion. Our vision is a world of equity, where reproductive rights are basic human rights whoever you are or wherever you live. Together, fighting side-by-side, we shall prevail.”

Justice Blackmun would expect us to remind today’s Supreme Court-- and all of you-- to stand our hard-fought ground.



Getting to know our Prati neighborhood

August 29, 2017

Ciao tutti,

By now we know our way around the Prati neighborhood where our apartment is located. It is a bustling area with lovely old buidings, lots of boutiques, a wonderful upscale Coin department store as well as dozens of daily markets that move from place to place and sell everything from shoes, to kitchen supplies, to underwear or costume jewelry!  There is a great 24 hour supermarket 2 blocks from us and they deliver to our fourth floor (with elevator) apartment free - and wthin an hour of my leaving the store!

Here are a few buildings within a block of ours:

Piazza Cavour and the Supreme Court Building on the left

House across the street  and detal from the exterior wall here below

Since last I wrote you, Al and I went to see a wonderful exhibit on Spartacus at the Ara Pacis Museum.

We take buses everywhere with our monthly pass and we think it's a hoot. Here are a couple of Rome bus scenes

and one of my favorites

This week we were in Florence for three nights visiting friends there. It was our 52nd anniversary and one of our friends, Enrico, had a dinner party for us at his wonderful villa near the Certosa in the hills above Florence.

We are having a great time and looking forward to going to Naples and Ischia next week with friends from RI....We return home 9/17.

Look for my Italy Commentary in the Providence Journal next Sunday, September 10, 2017.

For now BIG HUGS  (Abbraccioni)


US xx


Mary Ann and Al's Italy Adventure 6-11-14 thru 8-6-14

Mary Ann and Al's Italy Adventure 6-11-14 thru 8-6-14


How Many Husbands Would Be Too Many?

( Originally published on Open Salon 5/12/2010)

By Mary Ann Sorrentino

 "ONE MAN, 5 WIVES, 46 CHILDREN" screamed the cover of the National Geographic magazine in the waiting room holding me captive. I hadn't read a National Geographic since puberty, when teens would fumble through copies in their parents' libraries, hoping for a glimpse of naked people around the globe. With less than that youthful enthusiasm (and with only Sports Illustrated or Family Circle as reading options) I read the polygamy article.

It described the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) which split from the Mormons in 1935 after rejecting the mother church's ultimatum to renounce polygamy. Today the FLDS has more than 38,000 members mostly on the Utah-Arizona border and in other parts of America's West.
The guy on the cover with the 5 wives and 46 kids is Joe Jessop, a church elder aged 88.Jessop also has 239 grandchildren. (I'm thinking Joe and the wives ought to be sitting in 6 bathtubs watching a sunset behind the mountains in their own Cialis ad.)

There's probably not much passion in places like the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in El Paso, Texas. The scriptural basis for the sect's clinging to polygamy--"Go forth and multiply--" doesn't conjure images of sex toys, black lingerie, saxophones in the background or a lovers talking "dirty." It's a slam, bam, thank you m'am and call me after you deliver this one type of ethic. Plus, if a guy has a half dozen wives to service, 50 kids and a couple hundred grandkids, you might as well take-a-number like you do in the deli and just wait your turn. 
FLDS women admit they sometimes feel hurt, rejection and jealousy aboutcompetingwith other women (sometimes their biological sisters.) This happens in monogamy too, so get over it.
The article made me wonder if there were societies where women take multiple husbands. My immediate response was that women are smarter than to do anything that dumb. By observation, if not experience, women understand that most husbands demand so much attention no one would want more than one. And 46 children! The thought alone would send most women-- usually the primary caregivers-- scrambling for a tubal ligation.
In fact, there are virtually no polyandrous societies on this planet (polyandry beingtheterm describing women with multiple husbands.) Polygyny is the accurate term for men with multiple wives. The more commonly used polygamy is actually a non-specific term describing those of either gender with multiple spouses.
  Another issue of National Geographic described the only remaining society where women may have several husbands-- all brothers--in a remote area in the Himalayas. Acquiring fraternal husbands, however, is different from men picking their own wives.  In the Himalayas it's, "marry one get 2 or 3 more free."
 The brothers may (but are not compelled to) take the same wife. They live together, with common children. The men help with the housework (or hut-work) so it's not all bad. Not surprisingly, Psychology Today's examination of polyandry attributed to it more sexual motives. The shrink journal also had an accusatory subtext warning men in monogamous situations not to be fooled by wives likely to sleep around. So Psychology Today basically concludes women are naturally sluts and it shouldn't matter if they service multiple husbands. (No professional in-depth scientific analysis, though, of the roving eyes, hands and other body parts of "monogamous" husbands like Tiger Woods, David Duchovny, or Bill Clinton.)

I see the fact that women do not choose multiple husbands as one of the few genderbased advantages females can claim. Women should just continue to play "dumb like a fox" in societies where they are not allowed to have more than one husband, for whatever reason. It is a gift to be spared several more mates to pick up after. Just think about all the nagging time women save by having only one guy to remind to take out the trash, pick the kids up after Little League, call his mother on her birthday, keep the doctor's appointment on Friday, feed the dog, put those in the hamper, or look in the second drawer-- where they have ALWAYS been.
 So the absence of polyandry in the world may not be an accident at all, but testimony to the superior wisdom, practicality and self-preservation instinct of the females of our  species. An old feminist adage cautions that, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." (now click on this last sentence)

 So a fish that doesn't need Lance Armstrong can probably do without the whole Tour de France.                                    

To learn more, click link below for video

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
Italy Series of articles runs Aug./Sept/Oct 2015

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007
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About Me

Hillsboro Beach, FL/ Cranston, RI, United States

"JOACHIM" - Oct. '92-March '08

"JOACHIM"  - Oct. '92-March '08
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Castel Del Monte

Castel Del Monte