Monday, January 30, 2017

ME AND MY SHADOW!

Every six weeks or so, I pick up 'Ms. Clairol' and together we get rid of the white rows cropping up all over my head. After about forty minutes, I'm young again!

If only there was something that worked as well for my Shadow. She's a fourteen year old, black Lab
mix with a face as white as snow. When I look at her, I see only gray sheaths covering both her once beautiful brown eyes. She sleeps most of the day now and eats sparingly. When waking up from one of her many daily naps, she limps around before being able to walk normally. As soon as I mention going outside though, her tail wags like a windshield wiper on speed! Occasionally Shadow will run around the yard if she spots the groundhog that lives under the neighbor's shed.

After retiring, I had a lot of time on my hands and decided to get a dog. On December 10, 2002, my hubby and I drove out to the country, answering an ad we'd seen in the newspaper. When we finally found the place, we realized we'd wandered into a puppy mill situation. There were cages outside filled with animals of every size and breed. The noise coming from these poor creatures was deafening. The house was shuttered and looked to be deserted. We both got out of the car and walked up to the front door. I had to knock at least five times before a washed-out woman appeared. Without any intention of inviting us in, she quickly stepped onto her porch. When we explained why we had come, without a word she went back in and came out with three adorable puppies in her arms. I had made it perfectly clear from the beginning that we wanted a female, but this lady wasn't going to give away a 'puppy-maker' without a fight. She handed me the largest of the litter which happened to be male. After a cursory inspection, I immediately gave it back, but not before I gave him a big smooch on his tiny head. When she told me they were all males, I started to return to the car, but then did a one-eighty and asked to look at the runt. I figured I could at least give one of these puppies the home it deserved. Well, what do you know, the runt just happened to be female! After realizing she'd been exposed, the old bag stuck out her hand for the $60.00, and ran up the steps without so much as a thanks.

We can't believe fourteen years have gone by. It's been me and my Shadow and my hubby ever since. Notice the order in which I place the loves of my life! She practically trained herself in a week's time and has been the joy of our lives every hour of every day.

I know the time is coming when we'll have to say good-bye. I can't imagine her not being by my side.
I know there is a beginning and an end to everything, but when you have someone so special in your life for so long, it will be devastating when it will be me without my Shadow.





Monday, January 23, 2017

OUT-PLAYED and PLAYED OUT!

Let's face it folks, our Pittsburgh Steelers just didn't have what it takes to win an AFC Championship game yesterday. They were out-played on every level. Big Ben's passes weren't as sharp as they've been for most of this season. He either sailed them over the heads of the receivers, or didn't have enough on some of them to hit the mark. In many instances, receivers were suffering from 'dropitis', unable to hold on to the ball when it mattered. At times, they seemed as though they were moving in slow motion, or just weren't on the same page as their quarterback. The Patriots were successful in keeping Antonio Brown in check for most of the game. With the exception of DeAngelo Williams, the running game was nonexistent. Le'Veon Bell couldn't find his rhythm, and left the game in the first quarter due to injury. The offensive line as a whole was lethargic. Our kicker, who made six field goals last week to win the game single-handedly, missed an extra point!

And where oh where was our defense! It seemed as though they were running around in circles, usually behind #15 as he either made huge yardage, or worse yet, went in for a touchdown. Tom Brady had so much time he could have filed his nails before releasing the ball while the Pittsburgh defense grappled ineffectively with their opponents. Playing zone defense against the Patriot's quarterback was just plain stupid, yet Butler stuck with it throughout the game.

Yes, the Steelers were out-played, but what was apparent almost from the start was that the entire team seemed to be played out! There were no smiles, high-fives, or even general excitement. It was like watching the 'walking dead'! What was especially disheartening to me was their lack of passion, something that was key to their success over the past eight games.

Of course, I wanted our hometown team to win. Personally I can't stand the New England Patriots! But if we didn't beat them, at least I wanted to see a competitive effort. Sadly we lost, and I truly believe we beat ourselves. We were out-played and played out!




Monday, January 16, 2017

If Only We Had Met

As a Nation, today we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. As I drank my morning coffee, my mind drifted back to the Sixties when I had just turned 20 and watched this great man speak of a time when there would be equality for all peoples, no matter their race, religion, or culture. I was mesmerized by his demeanor, his words, his passion. Many times I wished I had had the opportunity to actually be present during one of his speeches. Everything he said rang true with me, From a young age it was very important to me for everyone to get along, share ideas, and work together without discord or intolerance. I lived in a town where blacks and whites owned homes in the same neighborhood, went to school together, where fathers worked side-by-side in the mill, and mothers shopped in the same grocery stores. When I went away to high school, Mary Alice Bates became my good friend who just happened to be black.

I also remember the marches led by Martin Luther King with thousands of both blacks and whites in stride behind him, trying to impress upon our country the need for change. Many were sympathetic to the inequality that existed in the US, but many more were determined to keep the blacks down, insisting they weren't deserving of equal rights since they had been born into slavery and therefore were subordinate to the white race.  I can still see the ugly riots that ensued where policemen, with raised clubs, beat and handcuffed the marchers usually without cause. My heart broke for those who had to suffer the terrible violence and unjust imprisonment simple because they wanted what all
God's children deserved.

And I definitely recall the terror that coursed through my body the day Martin Luther King was shot and killed. I felt paralyzed and totally confused by the news. Why would anyone do such a horrific thing to a man of peace? That notion kept rolling around in my brain and eventually made me very angry. A wife was now without her husband, children no longer had their father. I suppose I related so strongly to their plight, since my dad died when I was three, leaving my mom a widow, and my brother and I, orphans.

Something I'd never considered before began to take over my thinking this morning. What if only I'd met Martin Luther King when I was in my twenties? Would I have been among his followers, marched with him, and spread his message to both the choir and the disbelievers? Would I have been willing to be beaten and imprisoned for my participation which many thought to be civil disobedience? Would I have continued to fight the fight of inequality even after Martin Luther King was murdered?

Since my only involvement in his cause was through the news media, I will never know exactly what I would have done back then, but I do know that my mission to educate the young about the beauty of diversity was borne out of this great man's beliefs and sacrifice. There is only one item in my personal bucket list, to witness world peace before I leave my earthly journey. And the only way to achieve this lofty goal, is to begin teaching youngsters not to fear difference, but to embrace it. If we all join in striving for peace and harmony among all peoples, I know in my heart, the way Martin Luther King envisioned it, that world peace is indeed possible!

Monday, January 9, 2017

ULTIMATE TEAMWORK LIKE NO OTHER!

OMG! Did you see the AFC Wild Card game between our Pittsburgh Steelers and the Miami Dolphins yesterday? It was the ultimate in professional sports teamwork by the Steelers that I've ever seen, and I've been watching football since the first Super Bowl season. From the head coach down to the water boys, if indeed there are water boys, everyone contributed to the 30-12 winner over the Fish! And that included the players who never got on to the field, those who were injured and not even dressed, and those who perhaps didn't even make it to the stadium but were cheering their hearts out while watching the game on television or whatever device they used to bear witness to this unbelievable contest.

I've chosen not to name anybody in particular because in my opinion, they are all deserving of mention, and if I tried to give them all credit and inadvertently missed one, I would feel horrible. Every person connected to this important win is worthy of the game ball, and since getting a sliver of the leather wouldn't work, this special honor should be presented to the entire team and staff. 

As the game progressed, my heart swelled and I grew prouder with every pass, run, catch, kick, punt, and play. It's as if all these guys were working as one unit in their efforts to succeed. Every one on the field at any given time was committed to doing their job for the good of all. There wasn't a single inflated ego to be found anywhere at anytime during the entire 60 minutes. That just goes to show that by working together as a team, nine times out of ten, you'll win together as a team!

From the legendary veteran to the year-after-year soldiers, to the humble rookies, to both the awesome offense and the unstoppable defense, to the coaches and staff, I salute your determined efforts on and off the field. By working together, you've not only given the team the chance to win a seventh Super Bowl, but you've shown our youngsters that teamwork is the best path to success. You've impressed upon them the need to be responsible for doing your job and doing it well. When every person is committed to performing at their personal best, good things happen. 

I can't wait until next Sunday when the Steelers go against the Kansas City Chiefs. Whether they win or lose, I'm sure I'll witness the same commitment and dedication to teamwork as I did yesterday. Of course I'm hoping for a win, but seeing ultimate teamwork like no other once again will make me just as proud!

A side note worth mentioning:

This summer I had the privilege to meet many of the Steelers during a July practice at St. Vincent College. These men were well-mannered and showed respect to a let's just say mature woman. They didn't talk down to me or my grandson, and reflected a humble spirit that caught me off guard. I guess because of their national status, I was expecting a polite brush-off from most of them. Never happened! Although they had just finished two hours of grueling drills in the hot sun, and were starved and ready to chow down, every one we spoke to in the cafeteria made Kaden and I feel that we were deserving of their time, and that the food could wait. 


Monday, January 2, 2017

Resolution vs Purpose

Yep, it's that time of year again when we resolve to spend less, eat less, complain less. And, of course we promise to save more, exercise more, and be more involved in helping our fellow man. We usually come up with our New Year's resolution on New Year's Day. At that moment our decision seems logical, practical, and doable. We feel excited and determined to stick to it for the next 364 days, but after a week at most, we've given up trying or have forgotten our choice all together.

Resolutions are good in and of themselves, but are oftentimes made without much thought or planning. We know there are areas in our lives that need to be changed, but simply having the intention to alter certain behaviors will not result in positive outcomes. What is missing in most resolutions is commitment. What seems like a good idea at the time quickly slips away if not
built on a solid foundation.

Commitment is more conducive to purpose, and whether we're aware of it or not, we all have a purpose in life. At birth we have been assigned a specific course of action that needs to be fulfilled in order to make the world a better place than it was before we arrived. This notion may seem ludicrous, but I believe that without a purpose, we'd just be meandering through life without doing anything constructive until the day we died. What a sad commentary on the human, don't you think?

No, we're not aware of our purpose as babies, nor are we usually conscious of it during childhood, but as we mature, whether because of what we've learned or experienced over time, a reason for living in each of us begins to emerge. Situations arise that draw us in, and keep us interested. Before long we find ourselves totally involved and willing to do whatever it takes to make something good happen as the result of our tireless efforts. It's almost as if we are being pulled along by some magnetic force, and we wouldn't think of severing that connection, At this point, our purpose is realized and our commitment has been defined.

Now we must continue to set goals despite constant obstacles being thrown into our paths. Not all of our decisions to reach specific milestones will work, not all of them will even get off the ground, but because we believe in our life's mission, we will never stop trying, we can't. It's like running a race that involves passing the baton to a teammate, we don't dare drop it because everyone is depending on us to do our part, actually the fate of our world is at stake.

So instead of making a superficial New Year's resolution, if you've not already discovered the purpose for your very existence, take the time to contemplate why you were put on this earth, and begin taking action to fulfill your mission. If every human being would realize their true purpose and commit themselves to striving to reach certain goals in 2017, we'd be well on our way to world peace in the very near future.



Monday, December 19, 2016

PRECIOUS SILENCE

The silence in my living room at 6:30 a.m. on the Monday before all of my children and grandchildren land on my doorstep for the holidays is so sweet. "Not a creature is stirring" is music to my ears. I'm not an introvert by any means, and thoroughly enjoy the company of people, lively conversation, and gay celebration.

However during my six year stay in the convent, I awoke daily to silent communication with my God through prayer and meditation. I loved that time more than any other part of the day and still begin every morning in much the same manner. It brings a peaceful calm to my body, mind and soul. Everything ahead of me for the next twenty-four hours comes into focus, and a plan to navigate each step evolves without much conscious effort on my part.. I know there will be deviations from said plan, but I'm fortified with God's grace to handle whatever causes chaos and discord.

There will be 15 people in our home for four or five days and usually some of the kids will be up and at it before I come down the stairs with Shadow. They will be either blasting the television or bickering about something. As soon as one of them spies me, they'll shout my name, and with grins as wide as the ocean, all start chattering at once. Gabe needs breakfast, Liam and Beckham are squabbling about who goes first in Trouble , and my dear Brenna, will rush to present the dog with her first treat of the day.

Although there will be absolutely no time for my cherished routine, having family around and being needed even for the simplest of tasks, is definitely a worthwhile replacement for a short span of time. After quickly getting everybody dressed, we rush out the door before any of the adults can stop us, and load into my daughter's van. I rev up the motor and head for our traditional Dunkin Donuts breakfast. First they all must have a sandwich before any goodies are selected. I order the same thing for everybody as they move tables together to accommodate all eight of us. As each one gobbles down their obligatory egg wrap, they are given my credit card and approach the counter to order a donut and drink of their choice. Surprisingly for this healthy, rambunctious bunch, the process goes off without a hitch. If they finish one and are still hungry, they are permitted a second. Of course you know how that goes so I needn't bother you with the specifics. On the way home, everyone is talking at the same time about what we're going to do and when we're going to do it.

This year our schedule includes: snow tubing, trampolining, ice skating, the movies, laser tag, and a trip to King's for ice cream. There will be little to no time for prayer and meditation for yours truly.

I treasure my silence and will yearn for it's return with all my heart. But I also treasure my time with family, especially my seven grandchildren, They are growing up so fast, and since they all live out of state, I don't see them as much as I'd like. So when they're here, bring on the noise, the chatter, and the chaos! Bring on the hustle, the bustle, and the wild scenario of events. I'm grateful that at my age I can still do almost everything they want to do, and for the most part, can keep up with them. I'm especially grateful that they really and truly want me to be there with them every step of the way.

As they all load up and head for their respective homes on the 29th, my hubby and I, and of course, Shadow, will wave good-bye and breathe a sigh of both sadness and relief!

Farewell to family, and hello to my precious silence that seems to have been absent for a very long time!






Monday, December 12, 2016

Never MEANS Never!

Lately I've been daydreaming about Christmas when I was a child. I see the big house on the avenue that I was literally born and raised in. On Christmas eve, I sit against the staircase rails with my brother beside me admiring the 8ft. tree decorated by Zedo and Mom. As kids we were never allowed to take part in adorning the tree since the icicles had to be hung one by one on each branch and be exactly the same length, and of course, children just didn't have the skill or patience for such accuracy. I smell the wonderful aromas floating from my Baba's kitchen and can't wait until the family arrives so we could sit down to dinner.

Now my Zedo had strict rules about who was invited to share our traditional meal. Only immediate family was permitted, with the exception of Belle and Oscar, very good long time friends, who ironically were Jewish. I see Zedo sitting at the head of the table. All the adults have a glass of Kimmel raised high as Zedo delivers his holiday speech in Slovak. When he finishes speaking, he places the golden liquor to his lips, signaling everybody else to do likewise. Now my brother and I stand up and wish our family the blessings of Christmas and a Happy New Year, in Slovak of course.

Dishes of honey are spread around the table and each guest has a white wafer called 'oplatky' in front of them.. All the children form a line by Zedo's side and receive a cross on their foreheads made from the honeyed thumb of our patriarch. Next everybody at the table dips their oplatky in the honey and partakes of it.

Baba and Mom begin serving the mushroom soup which is the appetizer that begins every Christmas eve supper. Zedo receives his bowl first. When the two women return to their chairs, the mushroom soup is consumed by all and the dishes removed.

Now for the main course. Babalki, navy beans, lungos, and cabbage! These meager staples are meant to remind us of the fact that Jesus was born in a stable without food or comforts.

After the meal, all the women go to the kitchen to wash and dry the dishes, while the men sit in the living room puffing cigars. Zedo amazes the kids by blowing white rings of smoke that rise towards the ceiling, We all try to poke them before they dissolve in the air. Some of us stay with the men to hear their stories of the old country, while some head to the kitchen to listen to the women's talk of favorite recipes and church stuff.

 After the company leaves, my brother and I climb the stairs and get ready for bed. We hurry so we can watch Mom from our seats against the staircase rails making countless trips to the enclosed front porch to bring in all the presents. When all have been carefully placed under the tree, Zedo shakes some bells and poinds on the wall to let us know that Santa has come and gone.

As we fly downstairs, the first place I head for is the mantle where the stocking are hung. Every year the same things are hidden in them; an orange the size of a melon, a coloring book, a fresh box of crayons, and a chocolate bar. Out of all the gifts, the items in my stocking were always the best as far as I was concerned.

My brother and I enjoy giving packages to Zedo, Baba, Mom, and Uncle Tom. We've spent the few dollars we'd saved throughout the year to put smiles on their faces and a twinkle in their eyes. I don't mention our Dad because he died when we were very young, but from what we've been told, he loved everything about Christmas.

After opening our presents, we scurry up to bed, recount our blessings in prayer,  and are lulled to sleep by the muffled voices echoing from downstairs. Peace settles over the big house on the avenue where tradition has once again been celebrated and all are safe and sound.

I know I can never return home again. All my family is gone,and the big house on the avenue was demolished decades ago.  Never MEANS Never as far as the Christmases of my childhood.

But they will always be FOREVER in my memories and in my heart!

Merry Christmas to ya'll!