Monday, December 16, 2019

'My Most Meaningful Christmas Present' A 2017 post repeat

My Most Meaningful Christmas Present

One day this week, someone posted this question on Facebook, "What was the most meaningful Christmas present you ever received?" Answers ranged from a return to health to a jet black Jaguar and everything in between. No matter what you perceive to be the gift you'll always treasure beyond all others, that special something is always tied to a specific time and place in your life.

Christmas Eve was a very sacred event in our family when my brother and I were growing up. Since we lived in Zedo's house, naturally his rules on this day were religiously upheld. No one other than the immediate family members were permitted to enter the house and sit down for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Once seated with Zedo at the head of the table, Baba to his right, and the rest of the guests gathered according to seniority, Zedo would pray in Slovak, then lift his shot glass to wish his wife, children, their spouses, and his grandchildren a blessed Christmas. The adults did likewise as they toasted Zedo in return. Next every child would stand and recite Christmas wishes in Slovak. Zedo and Baba would beam with pride to listen to us, perhaps going back in their minds to their childhoods when they'd done the same so long ago.

(Since we all attended Catholic school, the nuns began teaching us a festive speech early in November. No two classes ever learned the same greeting for that particular year.)

The women would then return to the kitchen to bring out the mushroom soup. Everyone received a small bowl and ate the sour mixture in silence. We were told that the meaning behind the soup was a reminder of the suffering we all must face in life. And since it wasn't the most pleasant-tasting soup in my opinion, the suffering started right then and there, at least for me!

When the bowls were removed, traditional favorites like babalki, langosh, navy beans, and fish were passed around the table and enjoyed along with happy conversation and boisterous laughter. At the end of the meal, Zedo again said a prayer of thanks, and after hugs and kisses, everybody returned home. Those who left would be back on Christmas Day to gather around Zedo's table once more, this time including some very special family friends.

As clean-up got underway, my brother and I were told to go upstairs, get into our jammies, and jump in bed! Nobody had to tell us twice on this Night of Nights!
About an hour or two later, we'd hear a loud bang and run to the top of the stairs. Zedo would be standing at the bottom, smiling and pointing to all the presents surrounding the 8ft. tall tree he'd cut and trimmed just days ago.

I know it's taken me a while to get to my most meaningful Christmas present, so here goes. Instead of rushing to see who's name was on the largest package like my brother, I'd immediately go to my stocking hanging from the mantle. It was about two feet long and always contained the same things each and every year until we were practically in our teens. There would be a coloring book, a fresh box of crayons, a drawing pad, pencils, gloves, socks, candy canes, AND MY MOST MEANINGFUL CHRISTMAS PRESENT, the largest, roundest orange I'd ever seen that smelled absolutely heavenly! It was always on the very top of the stocking so I could see its brilliant color peeking out as if to say, 'Merry Christmas, sweetheart, and a Blessed and Peaceful New Year!' I would hold it gently in both hands and kiss its sweet skin. Just looking at this simple piece of fruit brought tears to my eyes, yet put a smile on my lips.

The orange had and still does have a special place in my heart since it was my Dad's favorite fruit. Baba told me that he'd even eat the peels!

Merry Christmas, Dad, and a Blessed and Peaceful New Year!
Always and forever!

One last note on our Christmas Eve dinner: By today's standards, our family's traditional meal would be considered a 'poor man's' sustenance, but we felt like royalty at my Zedo's table!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Many of Today's Women Say 'NO' to Marriage

I guess since I've been married for 51 years, I found it inconceivable that the women of today, especially in the 30-55 age group, were not interested in getting hitched. In my day, the usual age for females to wed was between 19 - 28, and if you hadn't found a man by age 30 chances are you were going to be an 'old maid'! EGADS! HEAVENS TO BETSY!

When I think of those times, back in the 50's and 60's, women didn't have the same advantages as they do currently. Our career choices were limited to becoming teachers, nursers, or secretaries. These types of jobs paid little, certainly not enough to be self-supporting homeowners. The other option was to stay at home, cook, clean, and look nice for your man. Usually the 'old maids' remained with their parents, living under their roof and rules until mom and dad passed. Only then did these 'poor souls' inherit the house which was already paid for so their responsibilities were minimal and opportunities nil.

Over the last few years, I've spoken to a number of  women who are not interested in getting married and offer viable reasons for their decision. Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with one such young lady nearing thirty, which by the way no longer carries the dreaded 'old maid' stigma, who explained in detail why marriage was not an option for her. Being college-educated, she holds a great job, manages rent, all the necessities of life and still has monies to occasionally splurge on herself, vacation from time to time, and do so without having the need to consult with a man about anything! She highly values her independence and freedom to do as she pleases and, most likely, will remain single at least for the foreseeable future.

This confident woman also told me she did not have the desire to be a mother.
These points are the gist for her reasoning:
1. Birthing a child would make her responsible for another human being for life.
2. Bringing a child in to the chaotic world we live in would make her feel extremely guilty.
3. She believed she did not have the patience for children.
4. If she were to become incapacitated, not being able to care for children would be devastating.
5. Being blessed with family members' children fulfilled any motherly instincts she possessed.

I was WOWed by the amount of time she'd spent considering marriage and motherhood. Not wishing to wed was suddenly not as inconceivable as I had previously thought, and actually was beginning to make sense!

Most of the women that were married and divorced uttered the same mantra, 'Been there, done that' and decided upon the single life henceforth.  These ladies were in the 35-55 age category, educated, career-oriented, self-sufficient, confident, and without commitment to one person. Their freedom to enjoy male company and the fringe benefits that go along with it were particularly important to all of them.

The reasons these women cited for their decision not to remarry were as follows:
1, Married too young and not ready to settle down.
2. Had to give up their aspirations in favor of their male partner making them feel less adequate.
3. Were mistreated in one way or another.
4. If having had children, fathers were minimally involved or not at all.
5. Having little to no input into how monies of the household were spent.

In most cases, marriage in their future was not even a close consideration.

After listening to all of the reasons today's women are saying 'no' to marriage, I realized they had valid objections and couldn't refute their decision. Although I still feel that marriage can be a lifelong partnership as it is for my hubby and me, filled with joy and contentment at times, discord and resentment at other times, and compromise most of the time, I now know that it's not for everyone.

For those who choose the single life, I not only support your choice, but applaud your courage to face everything that comes along with strength and conviction. I pray you are blessed with good fortune and good friends. I hope your dreams are fulfilled and life treats you kindly.

'I am Woman, hear me Roar' comes to mind...

Blessings and Peace!

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Meaning of Veteran

A veteran is someone who has 'been there, done that, and while there, did it to the best of his or her ability. You won't find this definition in any dictionary, but I've coined it so everybody who reads this blog will have a clear understanding of where I'm coming from.

I was born in 1944 when World War II was winding down. My uncle Tom was stationed in the Phillipines and was finally coming home. Years later, my Baba told me of the huge parades held in Pittsburgh to welcome our boys back from a long and devastating conflict. Uncle Tom hardly ever talked much about the war, but he had pictures stashed away in a cabinet that my brother and I loved viewing. Seeing him in his Army uniform made us so proud, he was our idol for sure. He was a veteran who gladly went to serve his country knowing that he might not come home again like so many of his buddies who gave their very lives so we would be free. I think he carried this pain of loss with him until the day he died.

My dad didn't serve in World War II because his flat feet were considered a disqualification. Some folks thought less of him which caused embarrassment and guilt. But he was a veteran none the less. Dad worked for the USS company in Homestead, PA, He was a quality assurance supervisor, a job he took great pride in and gave it his all every single day. On May 16, 1948, while checking that a 5 ton furnace door was properly installed, it came unhinged and started to fall. My dad ran as fast as he could, but tripped and was crushed from the waist down. He died three days later. At the age of 38, and a veteran of the steel mill, he sacrificed his all.

My brother, Dan, was a veteran of our educational system. For 35 years he taught History and Spanish, first at Munhall High, and later at the newly-formed Steel Valley complex. Although Dan never engaged in battle, he enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Okinawa for four years.Upon returning, he began his teaching career, able to instill love of country and the notion that when duty called, it was the responsibility of every18-year-old to gladly take up the flag. He believed it was the duty of those physically fit to defend this great land of ours which had provided all of its citizens with so much.

I too am a veteran. While serving the families in Clairton and the North Hills in the Sixties as an elementary school teacher and a nun, I diligently worked to give the children a solid foundation in reading, writing and arithmetic. In those days it was common to have a classroom of 40 youngsters without any help from an aide or coworker. After dinner, I spent time in the wee hours of the night correcting papers, preparing lessons for the next day, and devising ways to reach the needs of every student under my care. When I left the convent, I continued teaching for over 30 years in one capacity or another. I gave all I could to the best of my ability to make sure those who depended upon me to do my job were prepared to do likewise as adults in their chosen careers.

Today we are celebrating the veterans who have served in the military; those who have enlisted, worked, fought, and died for our freedom and those who currently continue to serve this great country of ours to preserve the rights of each and every American. They deserve our gratitude, our respect, and above all, our constant prayers for their safety not only on Veterans Day, but every night we bend a knee in thanks to the Lord above.

But by my definition, we are all veterans because we have been there, done that, and while there, did whatever to the best of our ability. Be proud of your service as well, no matter for how long and in what career field you gave of yourself to the fullest.

Happy Veterans Day! Blessings and Peace to all!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Who's Training Whom?

So we've had this little terror, Raven Sky Bleu, for almost two months now and are in the throes of training her to be a civilized member of our family. If you think getting a dog to pee and poop outside is the hardest and only behavior you need to perfect, you'd better NEVER decide to bring a puppy home. Raven was house-broken in less than a week. Seriously, she had one major poop in her cage and a pee on the kitchen floor....she now goes to the door signaling me that she needs to go out and has been doing her 'business' in the yard ever since.

It's the jumping up on you, scratching your arms, legs, and any other part of your body exposed, nipping your fingers and toes, putting holes in every piece of clothing you're wearing at any given time, gnawing on furniture you prize, running off your property to meet-and-greet every person or animal who happens to be walking by before you can hook her up!

I purchased two cords, a sixty footer and a twenty-fiver...hooked them together so that Raven could pretty much have the run of the backyard and still be able to join us on the patio. Two problems arose immediately...#1 no matter what, our sweet girl got wrapped around a tree, bush, chair, stump, rock, etc. and ended up crying to be released, and #2 I had to be out there the entire time to unwrap her!

After talking to a few folks about how they confined their puppies, I was convinced an electric fence was the answer...actually ordering one from Walmart. However by the time it reached the store, I had decided to return it and stick with the 85 ft cord until next spring. Dumb decision! Back to the same old, same old...wrapping, stuck, unwrapping, wrapping, stuck, crying, unwrapping, etc.!

Upon searching online for some 'miracle' device, I found this little gadget that sends out a high-pitched sound undetectable by humans, but highly annoying to dogs. No lie, within two days Raven knew her outside boundaries and adheres to them about 99% of the time. Only when my one neighbor came out whom she adores did Raven cross the line...ONCE! Now much to Raven's delight, the neighbor comes across the road to visit.

Although we're still working on some of the bad behaviors mentioned above, for the most part all I need to do is show Raven the device and she immediately ceases and desists doing whatever it is she shouldn't be doing.

I spend a lot of time training my little buddy to fetch, sit, stay, come, and a number of other appropriate actions. She's very smart and picks up these commands in a very short time.

I was patting myself on the shoulder for doing such an amazing job when something hit me...who's training whom?

Raven has taught me to get up off my butt when she stands at the door, Raven has taught me to unwrap her when she gets caught by whining and crying, Raven has taught me I needed to find an effective method of keeping her within outside boundaries, Raven has taught me how to use the device sparingly to nip her other unacceptable behaviors in the bud as well.

What I didn't realize until yesterday was that Raven has taught me that being outside playing with her for hours is so much more fun than watching the boob tube or punching computer keys! Getting exercise and fresh air is healthier too!

Now I truly believe both Raven and I have trained each other and will continue to do so for years to come!


Monday, October 21, 2019

Definitely Worth Repeating!

I first wrote this post on December 11, 2017 to help someone very dear to me deal with the devastating symptoms of depression. I believed then as I do now that by sharing difficult stories of my life gives others the opportunity to learn that they are not alone and if I could overcome debilitating conditions, they certainly could too.  Unfortunately we've been taught that speaking about unmentionables such as mental illness is not appropriate and would be better to suffer in silence than expose ourselves to humiliation and isolation. Because of this societal practice today's young people are choosing suicide instead of seeking help. If they had only known that their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends, etc. might have suffered in the same way, perhaps these bright lights would not have been prematurely extinguished.

I urge all of you that read my post today to share it with your family and friends. Have the courage to add your own experiences to mine so together we can offer the much needed support that can literally save lives...we must start this conversation NOW!

Blessings and Peace

Monday, October 7, 2019

Mama, Don't Let Your Boy Play Football!

After seeing Mason Rudolph get knocked out cold by #23 something Thomas of the Baltimore Ravens, I decided parents who allow their boys to engage in that kind of sport, especially at a young age, are asking for trouble. These kids idolize the home team's stars and want to emulate them before they turn four! Out of my six grandsons, three of them play football, but I'm not their mom or dad, so I can't say anything about their choices. I wish I could though.

When the camera focused on Rudolph, he wasn't moving at all. I looked at his chest and didn't see any signs of breathing. In that fleeting moment, my heart dropped, I actually thought he was dead. It took at least five minutes to revive him and two strong men to carry him off the field. According to reports, the Steeler's QB was hospitalized with concussion symptoms and his return to the team was up in the air.

I have been a football fan for over 40 years. I've cheered for the Steelers and had favorite players that, in my opinion, were unstoppable. Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jack Ham, John Stallworth, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Big Ben were just a few of the players I ranked at the top of my 'all-time favorites' list! In the beginning of my love affair with this sport, the action was mesmerizing, Watching Stallworth catch a Bradshaw pass and gallop into the end zone was thrilling. I will never forget seeing Franco pluck the ball out of thin air, which later became known as the 'Immaculate Reception' and score a touchdown in the cold dead of winter! Heather Miller was one of the best tight ends the game ever had! For many years, he was mostly used for blocking. Miller never complained and did his job flawlessly. Towards the end of his career, Heather served as a receiver and did so with humility and grace. What a guy!

During those years, hauling a player off the field due to unsportsmanlike conduct was unheard of. I'm not even sure such a call was part of the ref's repetoire! Sure guys got hurt, a few even losing their careers due to serious injury, but their misfortune wasn't the result of intentional dirty play like it is today. There are rivalries in the league today, like the Steelers vs Ravens, where certain players intent to 'take out' their opponent even before the 60 minutes begins! These guys are huge, strong brutes who will do whatever they deem necessary to maim and mutilate, behavior not only unbecoming to a professional athlete, but disgusting to say the least! For this reason, watching football isn't fun anymore, and playing it is downright stupid!

Hopefully Mason Rudolph will recover, but I wouldn't hold it against him if he hung up his cleats for good, actually it would make me very happy to see a young man value his health more than his uncertain career. If he decides to continue, Mason will be in my prayers each time he takes the field.

As for my three grandsons, I can only hope their interests in the game will gradually wane, and they will consider being artists, scientists, entrepeneurs, forest rangers, or whatever makes them happy...and doesn't cripple them or worse!

Blessings and Peace!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Kids Deserve The Truth

As parents we want our children to grow up to be strong, accomplished men and women of good character who someday will contribute to the positive development of our society. We make sure they are fed, clothed, educated, and morally grounded in childhood so that they will have the necessary tools to do just that. We strive to be excellent role models for them, teaching acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, and, above all, love for one another. 

However we seldom if ever talk to our kids about the mistakes we've made along our journey, shy away from exposing our inadequacies, and absolutely refuse to share the many failures we've endured over the years. Thinking such discussions would be detrimental to their development, we bury them deep within our psyche never, ever to see the light of day. 

Unfortunately these are the very experiences our children need to hear from us, but we are afraid to expose the ugly truth. God forbid they should realize their parents have made mistakes throughout life, have been less than perfect, and have FAILED to achieve goals many, many times. They need to see that we are human, that our lives have been fraught with error and disappointment.  

Muster up the courage to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of your life's story, it will do more for your children's sound growth and development than any tale of success. Start out slowly and gradually you'll shed those parental fears and be the role models your kids deserve!

'Each Story Told' is one of the poems included in my first-ever published poetry anthology, "Soul-Powered Poetry: From the Gates of Heaven to the Depths of Hell" Although I write under my pen name, Lindy Starr, every word in every stanza in every verse are the thoughts derived from listening to the whisperings of my Soul. Hopefully when reading it aloud, you'll understand what today's post is trying to convey.  Blessings and Peace

             EACH STORY TOLD

               Each story told                                                
              Of a life lived                                                   
              Is valued more than gold. 
              Every milestone reached
              Is meant to teach
              Time to break the mold.                                                                       

              Be candid then
              Of course, you should,
             ‘To thine own self be true.’
             Yes, tell the good,
             In what you speak,
             But share the ugly, too.

             Please be real
             In how you feel,
             Have courage to commit.

             By doing so,
             They will know
             To err is human, admit.

             Always striving,      
             Not merely surviving                
             Yet failures do ensue.              

             Revealing the worst,
             For the world to see
             Takes raw humility. 
             Expose your sins,
             Tout your wins                                            
             Perfection is but a myth.
            Pressures set                                           
            Causing regret,                           
            Magically disappear,  
             Guilt erased,    
            Freedom they’ll taste 
            Nothing more to fear.

            Thanks will be yours
             In being so bold
            To share… EACH STORY TOLD