Monday, May 22, 2017

HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HUBBY!

The man that I married 49 years ago is still the man I'm married to today. Back in 1968, Barry was funny yet serious, thoughtful yet forgetful, generous yet thrifty, and outgoing yet humble.. I think those four qualities were what I liked most about him then and continue to appreciate now. Because of these attributes, he's always been able to provide all the necessities of life for our family and then some. He puts everybody and everything ahead of his own needs and wants. Actually Barry has a hard time allowing himself even the most mundane of items. Last week while shopping at Wal-Mart, he mentioned he probably could use another pair of workout pants, but didn't buy any. I had to literally drag him to the Tee shirts to pick out a few he's talked about for months.

So for his birthday this year, I decided I was going to buy him something he'd never dream of getting for himself. We have a 32" TV in our family room that has poor sound and seeing the number of pitches in a ballgame is next to impossible. Sooooooo...on Friday, my neighbor,Ben, his buddy, Stricko, and I drove to Wal-Mart and picked up a 50" SAMSUNG 4K UDH TV with all the bells and whistles. Tonight Ben and his wife, Delcie, are going to knock on our door and yell, 'SURPRISE!' Ben will hook everything up, and, voila, a happy, happy birthday present for my hubby that will totally knock him off his feet, and one that he absolutely deserves!

Monday, May 15, 2017

A WASTED LIFE

My nephew, Christopher, my brother's only child, has been either in juvie, jail or prison for more years than he has been free. At the age of seventeen, he began his illustrious life of crime when he mugged an elderly woman for drug money. First he went to juvenile detention, then upon turning eighteen, he landed in county jail. Since that first stint, Chris has bounced from jail to rehab to jail to rehab until he finally made it to the big house, state prison in Hautsville, PA where he currently resides.

Christopher is now thirty-seven years old with nothing positive to show for his time on this earth. His father and mother have passed, his girlfriend is in jail as well, and his two daughters are in foster care.

I received a letter from my nephew last week saying he'd be out in November, 2018, that he has turned his life around but has nowhere to go or no one to depend on. I assume Chris is playing his trump card, 'make Aunt Flo feel guilty enough so she'll let me stay with her,' but I don't intend to cave. Every single time he's professed to have given up his life of crime, he's duped the folks who were kind enough to give him a second, third, fourth......umpteenth chance. I might not be the brightest bulb in the pack, but I'm not that stupid!

Chris was adopted, and from what we were told, his biological parents were addicts. I'm certain he was born with both alcohol and drug syndrome, and has had a propensity for both since birth. I suppose you could say he never really had a chance from the get-go, but I respectfully disagree. My brother and sister-in-law provided a great home, sent their son to a good school, and made sure all of his needs were met. Hell, this kid had everything he ever wanted and then some! His extended family adored him. We were always together for birthdays, holidays, vacations, and ordinary pop-in visits.

He had it all, but Chris chose a wasted life. The first time I visited him in jail, I posed this question, "Will this be the one and only time you'll be here, or will you be like that gray-haired guy down in the common area twenty years from now?" He looked me square in the eyes and promised he'd never be jailed again.

Well it's been exactly twenty years and he remains behind bars. What a waste!


Monday, May 8, 2017

COLLEGE NOT FOR EVERYBODY!

Last week we had a new floor installed in our livingroom, and carpeting for all three bedrooms, the hall and the stairs. Floran, born in Romania, and Nick of similar descent, laid the flooring with acute precision. Each plank and molding, every placement, cut, and connection, was set as if painted on a canvas then carefully scrutinized before executing another 'brushstroke.' These men were in no hurry to finish the job but rather had intentions of creating an exquisite masterpiece.  They worked in beautiful harmony, seeming to know each other's needs without a single word spoken. As I marveled at their expertise, I couldn't help but think of how devoid our country is of skilled craftsmen today.

Dave and Brennan planned out the carpet installation before even bringing one roll of product through the door. They prepared each room so that they could work efficiently without having to spend time on moving furniture more than once. They removed the old stuff quickly, and then began to seamlessly transform each space into an elegant, plush surface. Watching Brennan cover the stairway with such artistic accuracy, I was again reminded that in today's high-tech world people who work with their hands have somehow been relegated to the uneducated unfortunates. THIS COULD NOT BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH IN MY OPINION!

Funny how things that are relevant to my point of view seem to pop up exactly when needed. In this morning's Tribune-Review, Debra Erdley's front page article, 'No catch' academy offers security, substantiates everything I've presented in this post's first two paragraphs. According to Erdley, The Apprentice School in Newport News,VA, one of only a handful in the U.S., has been training young men and women for over 100 years to become skillful in shipbuilding-related jobs. This educational institution is closely aligned with Huntingdon Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding, turning out professionals who can not only do the required work but do it to perfection.

Each year The Apprentice School receives over 4000 applications, but unfortunately can accept just 250 lucky high school graduates. Now here's the 'no catch', these chosen few pay no tuition, but are considered to be Huntingdon Ingalls employees, are paid a salary, and are guaranteed a job upon completing the four year program. No student loans to burden them over a lifetime, no sir-ree!

For years I've been saying that college is not for everybody and should only be considered if going into a specialized area of education. Too many college graduates come out of school with no more clarity of what it is they want to do than when they first entered their respective hallowed halls of higher learning. There is a viable alternative however, one of providing our young people with apprenticeships that will produce skilled craftsmen for hundreds of workplaces in need. More and more schools like the one in Newport News, whose missions would be to set up training courses to meet the needs of our country's growth and development are the way to go. Bricklayers, plumbers, oil riggers, electrical engineers, flooring experts, and carpet installers to name just a few are in high demand, and would be better educated with hands-on experiences taught by a master craftsman instead of sitting in a college classroom for hours on end merely reading and listening to what their prospective careers will entail.

On a personal note, living in my Zedo's house from birth, I had the distinct privilege of watching him build furniture, fix leaky pipes, and wire electrical outlets flawlessly. He cemented walkways, created trellises for grapes and climbing ivy, put in a retaining wall, and grew a garden that could feed an army, and he could do all of this by acquiring those skills from watching and learning from his father. My Zedo never spent a day in college, and yet he was a master craftman in building, plumbing, wiring, masonry, and agriculture.

Let's return to the days of yore when apprentices became masters that provided our country with the skilled workers needed to complete the jobs in all areas with precision and beauty!




Monday, May 1, 2017

PLEASE SHARE

Last Friday I posted this little story on my FB page. I never imagined what happened next. Over 1500 responses poured in with people saying how touched they were by this one act of kindness and thanked me for sharing it. Mostly though, folks expressed their sadness over the fact that there were so few such cases of generosity in the world today. Their lamentation got me thinking. What if everyone who has experienced something wonderfully unexpected posted it for all to appreciate? Perhaps then our views of just how much goodness exists all around us would expand our hopes for a better tomorrow. So please take a minute or two to tell us about your 'wonderfully unexpected' moment. You'll never know just how much good sharing it will do for your family and friends. Thanks, love ya'll

An Act of Kindness:
So my hubby and I are in McDonald's waiting in line behind a big, hard-working man. He turns toward us and asks, "What do you want?"
Now I can see that the man is talking to the fellow behind me, but Barry thinks he's talking to him. "I'm not sure yet, but I'll probably go with a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and a coffee," says my clueless hubby.
"Okay, and what can I get for you, ma'am," the man offers me along with a great big grin!
I find this whole episode amusing, and go with it. "Make mine an egg McMuffin and a soda, please."
The fellow behind us wants a McGriddle, fries and a large coffee.
When the cashier starts ringing up the total, the hard-working gentleman reminds her to include our order as well. When I try to dissuade him, he assures me that it is his pleasure. His coworker tells me his boss is very charitable and actually looks for ways to be generous. "To refuse his kindness would be offensive," he tells me.
We graciously accept, and as we talk we find out these two strangers who are no longer strangers work in flooring. I told them that I intend to pay it forward.
If you are looking for flooring of any kind, see:
Doug Fricks
Forsure Flooring, LLC
Liberty Boro.
412-565-9652
After hearing this story, you know Doug will treat you with and honest estimate and give you the best possible price. And tell him the two old folks from McDonald's sent you!

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!