Monday, December 30, 2013

Nothing COMMON About A Damn Cold!

Every year shortly after Christmas I come down with a cold.  First my throat begins to hurt. Next I start sneezing.  Not just a sneeze here and a sneeze there.  Oh, no, a damn sneeze every where!  And not just one sneeze.  Yesterday I sneezed eighteen times in a row.  I  counted them!

Then my nose starts to run.  Clear substance drips without warning out of my nostrils.  At first, out of only one, but then both take turns.  After that, one nostril gets all stuffy.  I can't breathe normally.  In an hour or so, both nostrils are stuffed and I'm only breathing through my mouth now. Naturally my mouth gets dry so I drink whatever will moisten it.  Because of all the liquid, I need to go to the bathroom constantly. And I mean CONSTANTLY!

Oh, and did I mention the coughing?  It begins with an occasional hack.  Then a more pronounced hack.  From that it develops into a full-blown, elongated wheezing hack that shakes my whole body. Those kind make my head throb.

Back to the nose problem.  Now the substance I'm trying to blow out is thick mucous the shade of a motley yellow-green mix.  I say trying because it just doesn't come out with the normal nose-blowing action.  I have to close one nostril with my finger, then blow, and hopefully a tad of that crap will release and slither out into the tissue.  I must repeat his process over and over and over again to gain a little relief.  But just when I think I'm slowly returning to some degree of health, the other nostril fills up with that junk and I'm screwed.

How to get rid of the common cold that is anything but COMMON when I'm the one suffering with it?  Well, by all means, get dressed, put on my winter wear and drive to the nearest pharmacy.  Of course, while in the car, I'm hacking, sneezing, and can't breathe at all.  Passing out behind the wheel before I reach my destination is a real possibility. Hell, dying in a car accident at this point seems heavenly compared to what this damn cold is doing to me.

I go into the drugstore and find the cold remedy aisle.  If I took the time to count all the bottles, tablets, gels, caplets, and syrups that are there, I'd probably fall over and not be found until Spring.  Perhaps the best solution compared to anything offered on the shelves.  Matter of fact I'm sure of it!

So I grab something that promises relief from sore throat, persistent coughing, nasal stuffiness and constant sneezing.  WOW, I've hit the mother lode! I pay a pile of cash and head out the door with a light-hearted feeling that very soon my cold will be history.

Once home, I swallow three times the recommended dose and wait.  Nothing happens.  In less than two hours, I down four times the recommended dose and wait.  Still nothing.  Finally, in utter desperation, I drink the rest of the foul-tasting crap and wait.  NOTHING!

After four more long days of sheer torture, I begin to see a dim light at the end of the tunnel.  My sneezing has subsided, my coughing is less, the mucous is now back to a clear substance, and no more sore throat.

Seven days of pure agony.  Nothing I did or could have done helped in any way shape or form to reduce the pain.  But finally, my damn cold is gone.  And believe me, nothing was COMMON about it! 

A note to the medical profession:  When you don't have the answer to a physical ailment, just say so.
But, please don't just give it a title like the COMMON COLD and wash your hands of it!  Although washing my hands continually probably would have been the answer to my COMMON COLD in the first place!

Happy New Year, everybody!

Monday, December 23, 2013

I Wish You Well

In a recent email, my one and only granddaughter asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I replied that the health and happiness of my family and peace in the world would be the greatest gifts I could ever receive on this special holiday.  She shot back a second time.  "No, Grammy, I meant what 'real' presents were you hoping for this Christmas?"

Now granted Brenna is only eight years old.  Her idea of  'real' is formulated from what we've taught her over the years.  Rattles, blocks, pull-along toys were her first 'real' gifts  Then came Barbies, a doll house, Candyland and such.  Last year she and her brother received the Wii and several games to go with it.  And this Christmas, Brenna will be opening a point and shot camera, earrings from Greece, and the hands-on version of the internet's Bejeweled.

I'm not surprised at all by what 'real' means to an eight year old.  I'm sixty-nine.  I have no need for any material gifts.  Don't get me wrong, whatever my family generously affords me will be certainly appreciated.  But, as I sit in my living room and gaze at the sparkling tree, the blazing fire, and my furry companion, Shadow, I feel completely at peace.  I'm in good health as is my hubby; we don't have a mortgage, our bills are paid, and we can come and go as we please.  All is well here.

Hence, my wish for my family and everybody in this world is the same peace, health and happiness that my husband and I hold dear.  To me, these are the 'real' gifts every person longs for.  Perhaps until they realize that these are the 'real' presents needed to satisfy their hungry souls, all will continue to experience the let-down that inevitably follows Christmas Day.

Not to worry though.  As you grow older, material things will matter less and less.  And one day they won't matter at all. 

Peace, Health, and Happiness.  I wish you well.

 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Brrrr

The high for today in Pittsburgh is 25 degrees.  If you factor in the wind chill, it's 12 degrees. To you folks in Minnesota, our temps this time of year are probably considered balmy.  But to me, brrrrrr, is the only adjective that qualifies.  I'm cold and I hate to be cold. I hate to be hot as well, but cold, I just can't tolerate.

So I'd like to stay inside by the fireplace and read all day.  Yet, because our microwave died yesterday, I'll be traipsing around the area looking for a replacement.  That means bundling up, driving all over God's creation with my irritated and irritating hubby to find that special deal.  I'll have to get out of the car and into the cold umpteen times.  Then once finally warmed up in each store, once again, I'll be thrust into winter's blast until I reach the car which will probably be parked in the last spot of the lot. 

Even though we liked the make, style and price of the first microwave we saw today, we definitely won't buy it.  Why?  Because my hubby believes we need to search far and wide for that perfect deal that he knows exists somewhere out there!  After 4 hours or so , we inevitably will return to store #1 and purchase the very first one we saw.  

I will be ticked off, hungry, and tired.  But mostly, I'll be cold!  And not just bodily.  By this time, speaking to my hubby won't be happening.  Grunts and head nods will be the only communication he'll be lucky enough to receive from me for a while.  He will notice a chill in the air and it won't be the result of the outside temperature. 

Things between us will remain icy at least until the new microwave is installed so I can get back to cooking the modern way!  Brrrr!!!!!!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

I Never Made Christmas Cookies With My Mother

Yesterday I began making Christmas cookies for the upcoming holiday.  As I  measured the flour, chopped nuts, and formed dough into one inch balls, something strange popped into my head.  I never made Christmas cookies with my mother.  Never, not once did she share that commonly-practiced loving bond of tradition with me.  And now, of course since her passing, we will never have that opportunity.

So I asked myself "why" didn't we ever measure flour, chop nuts, and form dough into one inch balls together those many years ago?  Or "why" didn't we roll dough and cut out angels, Santas, and stars together in her kitchen? 

I can only conjecture at this point.  But since we lived with my Baba and Zedo in their house, the holiday baking occurred in my grandmother's kitchen. Baba and my mother did all the baking.  They made nut and poppyseed rolls together; they shaped dough into squares and filled them with fine fruits which we called "kolachi," together, and they filled and fried dough then dusted them with powdered sugar together.  They talked, complained and laughed about life together.  Their mother and daughter bond became stronger and stronger as heavenly aromas floated through the air and golden brown delights were pulled from the oven.

I wish I would have experienced that holiday togetherness with my mother, too.  It would have been a chance for us to become closer and share stories that remained untold. It would have provided me with tales I could now share with my own daughters and my grandchildren as well.

But, if I sound resentful, I'm not.  It's not that our parents and grandparents didn't love and care for us, it's just that our place in the family structure for the most part was one of dependency.  They birthed us, and they fed, clothed, and housed us.  Words like "nurturing and bonding" were never used. How could they have been?  Nobody had ever heard of them before.  We were to do our chores, stay out of trouble, and pretty much stay out of the way.  So inviting their children to make Christmas cookies simply wasn't a consideration. 

As I continued baking my holiday specialties, something else occurred to me.  I never made Christmas cookies with my own children.  At first, I thought them to be to young to engage in the intricacies of baking.  Then, I usually did my baking when they were in school.  I could focus more clearly when they were out of the house and have the peace and quiet I absolutely loved during the otherwise hubbub of  holiday preparations.  After school, my children couldn't wait to change clothes and either dash outside to go sledding with friends or bring those friends inside for a rousing game of monopoly.  Although "nurturing and bonding" were definitely words in my vocabulary, strangely enough I never associated them with making Christmas cookies.

So I wonder if my own children wished we could have experienced that holiday togetherness in my kitchen. A time when we could have talked, complained, and laughed about life while measuring flour, chopping nuts, and rolling dough into one inch balls.  Do they resent the fact that they were never included in that loving traditional bonding?  I intend to ask them if they do and attempt to explain myself as clearly as possible. 

I know my daughters bake Christmas cookies with their children and have been doing so since the kids were very little.  They tell me about all the fun they have and are proud to display their decorated creations.  The words "nurturing and bonding" are now not only known and used by their mothers, but certainly practiced as well.  Their children will have wonderful memories of baking Christmas cookies and of the stories that were told while doing so.  They will long remember the nurturing and bonding they felt in their mothers' kitchens as adults and most probably hand down that glorious tradition to their children, too.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cha-Ching! Let the Christmas Chaos Begin(g)!

With the Thanksgiving turkey not yet emulsified in their stomach juices, the throng of holiday shoppers were out the door, on the road, and in the stores in record time.  Heck, many of them passed on the traditional meal entirely electing to sit on the pavement for 8 to 10 hours BEFORE any of the Big Box stores officially opened.  Just so they could get their grubby little paws on the latest tech devises, hot list toys, or must-have gadgets of the year!

A Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a crazed group in New York trying to be first to secure "God-knows-what" that they simply had to have!  Even taking a person's life was obviously worth it in this sad case.

I've lived enough Christmases to know that the shopping frenzy experienced by many from Thanksgiving eve thru Saturday morn is ridiculous.  I have always purchased presents well before this madness, gotten the same if not better prices, and had absolutely no confrontations in doing so.  I also had the time to check on whether or not everything was in working order and exchange something without aggravation.

No, I'm not trying to toot my own horn here.  I'm trying to let people see how preseason advertising manipulates them into being and doing what they would not normally be and do.  The constant TV and newspaper bombardment of Thanksgiving Eve and  Black Friday sales causes usually clear-thinking individuals to strap on their credit card weaponry and engage in unbecoming purchasing warfare.  They are driven. They can't stop themselves, addicted to the "cha-ching" of the cash register doling out unimaginable discounts.  Most are totally unaware of the chaos surrounding them and the ones that are aware just don't give a damn.

On Saturday afternoon, I walked into a practically deserted Target to buy a few groceries.  When finished, I calmly perused the toy section.  The shelves still held the coveted sale items with the same coveted sale prices. Admittedly the aisles were a tad messy, but anybody looking for that special something would have had no trouble finding it.

At the check-out, I talked to a beleaguered sales associate who looked like she'd just engaged in battle.  Actually, she said she had.   She told of the terrible behavior she'd witnessed over the last twelve hours or so.  Her Christmas spirit was totally spent well before Christmas had even arrived. 

Instead of beautiful holiday music, the only thing ringing in this young woman's  ears was the "cha-ching" of the cash register and the wild chaos in the aisles.  Bah humbug!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Truly Full of Thanks

Turkey Day is fast approaching.  Once the bird's been stuffed, lathered with oils and herbs, and either deep-fried or roasted, the waiting begins.  To take their minds off the impending feast, the kids run around outside tossing football while the "big kids," their dads, and uncles slouch on the couch glued to whatever game is being televised. 

The women are in the kitchen busily preparing traditional sides.  Of course somebody is peeling potatoes that will be boiled, buttered, salted, and mashed. Grammy is toasting bread for the stuffing while daughter #1 saut├ęs the onions and peppers.   Two of the in-laws argue over what sweet potato recipe should be used this year.  The one last year didn't go over so well.  And the green bean casserole is being assembled by daughter #2 without controversy.

Non-traditional dishes are on the menu as well.  Those being prepared include squash with creamed cabbage,  succotash with sun-dried tomatoes and cranberry-date and walnut muffins.  Although none of these have been a Thanksgiving staple, at least the adults are willing to give them a shot.  If liked, they'll be granted a repeat performance.  If not, they'll be tossed in the can never to be heard or spoken of again.  I'm totally sure the first two will be in the latter category.  As far as the muffins go, even without a taste, they definitely have my vote to be invited back next year and every year thereafter.

The other Nana and Papa arrive carrying freshly baked pies and dessert.  Nana heads for the kitchen; Papa, to the couch.  Nana complains that her pecan pie isn't up to par.  Her daughter-in-law just rolls her eyes.  Grammy pokes her and assures Nana that it looks and smells delicious.  Nana puts on her apron and offers to do whatever needs doing.  She is directed to the sink where pots and pans, mixing bowls and spoons need rinsed and loaded into the dishwasher.  One might think such a job beneath her; Nana just enjoys being included in the hustle and bustle of the holiday meal's preparation.

Little Billy shoots through the back door screaming his head off.  The older kids keep tackling him and rubbing his face in the grass.  His dad tells him to be quiet; the men can't hear the play-by-play announcer.  Little Billy goes crying into the kitchen.  His mother wipes his nose and tells him to stop with all the noise.  Grammy pats him on the head, gives him a buttered roll and tells him to go in the living room and sit on Grampa's lap.  Relative peace among the brethren is temporarily restored.

Taking a well-deserved breather, the women fill their cups with dark-roasted coffee and lots of fat-free caramel macchiato creamer and head for the patio.  They talk and laugh about their men, their children, their neighbors, their jobs, their lives. 

Now the kids are playing freeze tag.  The older kids are picking on Cindy Lou since Billy is in the house.  Cindy Lou doesn't go screaming her head off; she simply scrapes off anything her agitators throw at her.  She definitely has earned their respect.  They not only leave her alone, but make her an honorary member of their elite group. 

The women go inside and set the holiday table with festive paper plates and matching napkins.  Using the wedding gift china isn't a possibility. First of all, there are way too many people and not nearly enough fine plates and secondly, nobody in their right mind would use such elegant tableware for this rowdy bunch of hooligans.

 A plethora of delicious aromas float throughout the house.  Growling stomachs signal that it's time for the Thanksgiving meal kick-off.  Grammy insists that everybody use the bathroom to wash up and do whatever else is necessary.

As the family is seated, they join hands and offer a prayer of thanks.  Not one bit of food with the exception of Billy's buttered roll has been tasted,  yet for everybody here and for everything that has occurred before actually partaking of the traditional feast, we are very blessed and truly full of thanks!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day Is Personal

Today is Veterans Day.  Perhaps one of the most infamous battles ever fought in World War II was on June 6, 1944 on the beaches of Normandy.  These men crossed the English Channel to lend support to our European allies.  As the soldiers disembarked from their ships, the Germans opened fire killing and maiming thousands before they ever had a chance to set foot on land. 

Those that survived the horrors of D-Day probably never thought of themselves as anything more than ordinary people doing their jobs.  They've lived with terrible memories they'd witnessed; most often they've lived in silence unwilling or unable to recount their terrors to anyone.  Many have since passed taking their post-war pain and suffering with them to their graves.

On June 6, 1944, I was living in my mother's body unaware that my freedom was so gallantly being contested.  I was enveloped in the warmth and security of my mother's womb.  I wasn't listed on any population census count as yet. Most would agree, for all practical purposes, I was a non-entity at that point.

Yet there were countless men and women fighting and dying for my right to live free, to exist in peace, and have a chance to realize my full potential.  They didn't know I would be born on September 9, 1944.  They had no idea that because of their sacrifices, I would enjoy the benefits of their actions for the next 69 years and beyond.  They were unaware that I would have opportunity to receive an education, become a teacher, an administrator, and a life-long child advocate.  They couldn't have imagined that I would marry, have three beautiful children of my own, and in time, be a grammy to seven healthy, happy grandchildren born into the embracing arms of freedom and peace.

I didn't personally know any of these heroes.  Why they fought so hard for someone like me who wasn't even born at that time, I can only speculate.  I believe there are many, many people in our world who step out of their own comfort zones because they care deeply for the rights of others.  And because of their concern, they are compelled to take action, to go the distance, to give of themselves beyond the call of duty.  To even die for what they so ardently hold to be true.

Today and every day of our lives we need to be grateful for the sacrifices that were made during World War II as well as the many other conflicts our United States have engaged in over the years. 

Because of the men and women who gave and still give everything they have so that coming generations would be free, we need to support our veterans in every way possible. Getting my hair cut to call attention to our continuing obligation to the soldiers returning home from conflict wouldn't have much of an effect.  I'm not famous and don't have nearly as much hair on my head that I once had.  But, celebrities like Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers who is famous for his lustrous locks, is offering his hair, albeit only three inches, as a way of showing his personal support of all military veterans

Veterans Day is personal for Troy and his family.  Veterans Day is personal for me.  Veterans Day is personal for everybody who enjoys the freedom we received from the heroic men and women who have fought and died, and will continue to fight and die so that we might live in the warmth and security of our nation's womb.  Take it personally; support our veterans!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Holiday's Toys, RIDICULOUS!

In this Sunday's no less than twelve separate ad fliers, there were pictured no less than a gazillion "toys" every child from birth to manhood MUST HAVE this holiday.  I promised myself I wouldn't name specific items for rebuke; to do so, in my humble opinion, would exclude all the others that certainly needed to be bad-mouthed as well.

So, although I'll be speaking in generalities, I think you'll get my drift.  Prices, oh, yes, let's definitely start there.  In the birth to pre-school sections, I couldn't find a toy for less than $9.99.  Of course the very few at that low price were nothing a young child could possibly be hoping for under their family's beautifully lit fir tree this year. 

The $20. to $50 range offered toys that were somewhat more substantial in make and size, but again they were things that wouldn't keep a child's attention for very long.  It was only when the prices climbed to $100.00 and way beyond did the toys have some educational and/or developmentally-appropriate and creative value.  Perhaps the one toy youngsters would love to see on Christmas morning would be a motorized riding vehicle.  I've seen children in my neighborhood dashing around their driveways in these, using their imaginations to role-play, invent different life scenarios, and truly invest a lot of time actually utilizing them.  But, at the cost of anywhere from $199.99 to a whopping $499 for these presents, I doubt most "Santas" could deliver.  Please don't think I'm advocating for parents to purchase such an item because I'm certainly not.  I'm simply citing the experience I've had observing children at play where motorized vehicles were used.

For children six to sixty-six the "toys," although strangely similar for those of the younger set, skyrocketed in price.  If you have more than one child, a hefty loan would be in order to obtain only the bare essentials to satisfy a brood of two or three.

My biggest gripe for the offering in this age category was the kind of toys for sale.  Monstrous creatures whose only intent is to ravage the "good guys," weapons such as guns, swords, laser beams, and the like are more than plentiful, and the gaming systems selling for an all-time outrageous price, present kids with thousands of ways to annihilate and mane while having a blast!  Never mind, the fact that while sitting for countless hours engaging in these horrid activities, our young people are getting zero exercise and growing fatter by the minute.

Don't get me wrong.  I love the holidays and am guilty of giving probably more to my grandchildren than they truly need.  But, when I remember myself as a child and the gifts that made me happy, I don't want to short change the ones I hold dearest to my heart.  The presents I received then almost always involved encouraging creativity, skills development, and physicality.  They were few in number but I held each in great esteem and spent many hours using them.  They didn't cost an arm and a leg but I valued them as if they did.

For my own grandchildren, under my beautifully lit fir tree this year, will be gifts similar to the ones I received at least in number, intent, and cost.  They deserve nothing less.  How about your children?
Think before you fall victim to popular acclaim, before you believe the hype found in those ad fliers, before you buy gifts your children will discard in no time at all even though they just "had" to have them!

Happy holidays!

Monday, October 28, 2013

1,000 Piece Puzzle

Bill, my brother-in-law, gave my husband a 1,000 piece puzzle for us to do when we were bored or finding ourselves with a ton of free time on our hands.  Bored?  We personally don't know the meaning of the word.  Free time?  Although we have a fairly accurate understanding of this concept, we actually have little of it in our daily lives.

But, out of curiosity, we decided to take a stab at the 1,000 piece puzzle of doors.  Doors?  If for no other reason perhaps we could get a handle on the true meaning of being "bored" by doing a 1000 piece puzzle of doors!

So we started out by dumping all the pieces on the kitchen table.  Next we began investing some of our precious "free time" in separating the straight-edged pieces from the irregular ones.  We probably spent an hour or so before taking our dog for a walk became the priority.

Upon returning, without consulting each other, we both sat down at the table and continued puzzling.  And, in fact, it was puzzling to both of us for being so drawn to puzzling!  Again we continued at this task for another 2 or 3 hours.

The next day was Saturday. Instead of my husband gluing himself to the college football games, he was stuck in the kitchen trying to find matches for the blues, browns, greens, reds, organges, etc. You get the picture.  Of course I was right beside him in the search competing for bragging rights when one of the matches was found. 

Without any conscious awareness of the amount of time that had passed, we were making great strides in formulating an actual image reproduction.  Taking bathroom breaks for ourselves or the dog or ourselves and the dog eating something out of the fridge were the only two necessities that took us away from the puzzle.  Daylight gave way to darkness. We were surprised at the amount of "free time" we had spent on what we originally deemed to be a "boring" waste of time.

As our success continued, we continued to work obsessively now towards finishing the puzzle in less than the time it took brother Bill and his wife to complete.  It took them a full week, seven whole days.  We were determined to beat their time no matter what. 

On Sunday morning we were faced with a dilemma, go to Mass or stay home and puzzle.  Being the good Christians that we profess to be, we attended Mass, stopped for a quick breakfast, and then raced home to do the real work of the day.  We changed into jeans and a tee and took our respective spots at the table now covered with doors of various design and color. 

At four o'clock our Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Oakland Raiders.  We missed the kick-off; we watched the Raiders score first, and then migrated back to the kitchen never returning to what was the most important thing in our lives for the last 40 years, Pittsburgh Steeler football!

At ten o'clock , feeling extremely proud of how close we were to finishing the 1,000 piece puzzle of doors in only 2 and a half days, we called it a night. But first we checked to see what we had already believed was the case, the Oakland Raiders beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-18. 

Today is Monday and the first thing I did when I awoke was to turn on the coffee pot, grab a yogurt and sit down at the table.  I found 4 matches in less time than it took to drink my coffee and eat my yogurt.  My hubby reluctantly went to the gym, but only stayed an hour.  As we speak, we are both madly searching for the remaining pieces.  We plan to have the puzzle finished by late afternoon which would make our time 3 days from beginning to end.  I'd say we soundly crushed team Bill&Irene!

What perplexes us about this whole puzzle thing is how we found all this "free time" for an activity that we initially thought would be "boring."  What surprised us about this whole puzzle thing is how much fun we had and how the time just simply seemed to fly by!  We plan to puzzle all winter.

Our advice to all of you is to start puzzling.  You won't be bored and you will have all the time in the world to finish what you start.  Only we're sure you won't beat team Barry&Flo.  We won't let you!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Renewing the Face of the Earth One Babe at a Time

My nephew's wife stopped by with their 6wk. old baby girl for a visit this morning.  I call Katalina my "bbf  'birthday buddy forever'" because she was born on my birthday.  How cool is that!

As Monica and I talked about how to get the baby to sleep better especially during the night, I rocked the infant and snuggled her close to my bosom.  Occasionally I'd look down at her cherub face and my heart would be filled with extreme joy. It was during those moments that I realized that I was holding one that had great  potential to renew the face of the earth. And, I thought, much like the Babe born in a manger all those many years ago, this child, too, could be a savior for the terrible troubles the world finds itself in today.

And then, another idea occurred to me.  I don't know how many infants are born each and every day, but if we could harness all the potential they possess, we could conceivably renew the face of earth in less than a century from now.  How cool is that!

The 90 minutes we spent together today lifted my spirits beyond measure. I'm getting older; I want so much more for the generations to come.  I want children to be born into a world of peace and love.  I want families to live together in harmony.  I want neighbors to work and play together for the good of everyone.  I want religion to embrace their believers as well as all others who profess different beliefs. I want education to advocate independent thinking as opposed to conformity for its own sake.
I want government to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. 

And I know all of this and so much more can happen because I looked into the face of an angel today
and realized that she, along with all of the babies being born as we speak, can and will renew the face of the earth.  How cool is that!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Autumn of My Life

At 69, I find myself in the autumn of my life.  Since autumn has always been my favorite time of year, I'm happy to be here.  For me the beauty of this season is without parallel.  The air, the colors, the smells, the holidays are just a few of the many glorious gifts autumn bestows. 

Now retired, I have plenty of time to take long walks with my hubby and dog, Shadow.  The crisp air fills my lungs with pure freshness.  Sometimes, if a neighbor is burning leaves, that smoky fragrance curling into my nose conjures up memories of my youth, raking, romping through, and finally incinerating piles and piles of dry, crackling leaves.

And the colors, oh, the colors!  Living in Pennsylvania in autumn is akin to being in one of Norman Rockwell's picturesque paintings.  Gorgeous reds, yellows, oranges, purples, and greens are splashed across the hillsides resembling a heaping bowl of Trix cereal without the marshmallows, of course.   In my autumn years, I've become more colorful, too.  My thoughts are more vibrant, my words, more intense, and my actions, well I'm doing things I would never have considered in my younger days and don't care a lick about what anybody else thinks!  Including you, my dear bloggers!

Cinnamon and vanilla are the two smells I most associate with autumn.  Apple Crisp, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, and tapioca pudding were constant Saturday fare in my baba's kitchen. I loved to sit in her rocking chair and just smell.  As soon as the rolls were out of the oven, I'd con her into giving me one or two; this way I could let her know if they were up to her usual standards. Now I drink cinnamon lattes and wear vanilla-scented body lotion!  Hey, the yuppie generation has nothing on this ole gal!

And, as a kid, my favorite holiday was Halloween.  We didn't have store-bought costumes.  Instead we spent tons of time thinking of what we wanted to be.  Then we'd dig through the house to find all the stuff needed to become that being. Once I was a hobo, another time, a clown, and still another time, a "Charleston" chick.

Halloween undoubtedly remains the best holiday in my book.  In the third season of my life, I continue to bum around, act the fool, and kick up my heels on the dance floor when I get the opportunity.  The only difference is my kicks are not quite as high!  Who cares, I can cut a rug just as good as anyone I've seen on Dancing with the Stars lately.

Ah-huh, I'm in the autumn of my life and loving it.  I celebrate each day with a smile and a healthy zest for living and learning.  It's beautiful here in autumn; everything is beautiful at this time of year.
And, I'm having the time of my life!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Children Suffer From Depression, Too

This Thursday, October 10, is National Depression Screening Day.  The number of adults suffering from depression in our country is staggering.  Fortunately what was considered to be a taboo topic of discussion years ago has now been declared a national concern.

And now that this crippling disease has finally been outted, how to effectively educate folks on the symptoms and treatment for depression has taken center stage.  Diagnosing adult depression is relatively easy to pinpoint.  Feelings of prolonged sadness, debilitating lethargy, disinterest in social activities, work absences, changes in eating habits, and dramatic increase or decrease in weight are among the most significant earmarks that one is depressed.  Seeking medical attention early on can certainly ease if not totally eradicated most or all of these symptoms.  With proper treatment, the depressed person can return to a feeling of good health and be productive and happy.

However, young children can suffer from depression, too.  But depression in children is sometimes extremely difficult to diagnose, and can go unnoticed for many years.  First, we must all be aware that children as young as two can be clinically depressed. Usually these tots are being raised in a very dysfunctional home, and have been subjected to physical and emotional mistreatment.  If not recognized, their suffering can last a lifetime.

Not all depressed youngsters however come from dysfunctional homes where they experienced daily abuse.  Sometimes it takes just one traumatic event that can cause a child to spiral into the depths of deep depression. And, unfortunately, because they are so young and the adults around them simply believe that they don't understand what has happened, these children begin to act out inappropriately and are many times labeled difficult and unruly.

I was that child.  I believe I became extremely depressed after my dad was killed in a work-related accident in 1948.  I was three years old.  Although I clearly remember his viewing, his funeral, and his interment, I don't remember anyone ever asking me how I felt or even attempted to talk to me about my dad's passing.  My childhood pictures from the time of his death showed me as a serious-faced tot whose eyes never danced with the light of true happiness.  I never talked much and went from a skinny kid to an overweight 6 year old.  I feared authority because of the power they had; after all, look what happened to my dad and he was my strong, invincible hero.  If "they" could end his life, doing me in would be a piece of cake.

I carried my suffering around for many, many years.  At the age of 39 I was afflicted with a neurological condition that few specialists had ever seen in their practices.  For two years I bounced from doctor to doctor without being properly diagnosed.  Finally, in 1983, I found a physician who, although he wasn't able to identify my ailment, sent me to a prominent psychologist.  During my sessions with him, we not only pinpointed what I had, but determined I was depressed and probably had been since the age of three.  With continued counseling and further treatment, the dark fog of this insidious disease gradually lifted. I could look in the mirror and finally see the light shining from my eyes the way it did when my dad and I were together.

To say that I was cured and never would deal with depression again would be false.  But, now I know the symptoms, know where to go and what to do to curtail its duration, and can return to normal in a very short amount of time.  I believe that what happened to me at the age of three is the foundation of my entire life and is what has led me to my passion for the health and welfare of young children.

Children can and do suffer from depression.  Please keep your eyes, minds, and hearts open, talk to your children about serious issues that arise even though they may be very young, let them express their feelings freely, and, above all, take them for proper treatment early if you only suspect that their sadness and change in behavior just might be signs of depression.  Better safe than sorry, I always say!




Monday, September 30, 2013

The Most Horrific of American Crime

As I was flicking through the TV guide this weekend, I came across a 2009 movie that I had never heard of and, after reading the description, thought I'd give it a go. "American Crime," a true story,was one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen.  The focus of the movie was on extreme child abuse in America in the 1960s.

Without going into detail about the graphic depiction of child abuse portrayed, I can say that whatever you could possibly imagine with respect to this despicable crime was shown and then some.  It made me sick to my stomach.

The little girl who was guilty only of being truthful, caring, and protective of the others in this household was mistreated beyond belief.  To say that the mother who initiated and then perpetuated such horrific torture was weak-minded and perhaps treated badly as a child herself is simple not an excuse we should accept.  She was the adult; she knew what she did and what she allowed the rest of her children to do was wrong.  She relished the control she had over the victim as well as the control she brandished on the victimizers.

When this child finally succumbed to the inhumanization she was subjected to on a daily basis, the mother was brought to trial.  She, of course, denied that she inflicted any pain of the girl, complained she was not in good health, and couldn't supervise her six children every minute of the day and night.
She accepted no responsibility for the child's death.

I pray that such evil no longer exists in America.  But, I know it does.  My heart bleeds for the children who endure horrible torture day in and day out even in the year 2013.  Many of them just don't have the courage to speak out; many of them have no one to tell.

As an educator for all of my professional career, one of my priorities was to be vigilant with respect to the physical, mental and emotional status of my students.  If a child came to class, dirty, hungry, and/or bodily marred, I made it a point to investigate and report it.  Later on as an administrator, I encouraged all of my staff to execute due vigilance as well.  I know we did what we could; I also know we didn't do enough and that such abuse continued right under our very noses without detection.

Ultimately the mother was convicted of first degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.  However, after serving only 20 years, she was released in 1985.  She died in 1990.

The people who commit such vile actions should be put away for life without the possibility of parole.   Yes, child abuse is perpetrated throughout the world, but to still run rampant in America where we pride ourselves as a civilized nation who value our young, it is a crime! It was a crime in the 1960s; it's still a crime today.



Monday, September 23, 2013

GRUMPY GRAMMY!

Few things in life have the power to take away my generally happy disposition.  Cold coffee, ear-splitting sound at the movies, and of course, being constipated for three days can cause me to frown or scream until the situation has been rectified.  I yell my fool head off when I'm constipated!

But the one thing that can make me downright GRUMPY is poor execution of a pro football team when that pro football team is none other than the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Their record for this season is 0-3.  If you consider the exhibition games, it's 0-7.  Since August my blood pressure is through the roof!

And when I get GRUMPY, it's time to start pointing fingers.  Pointing fingers seems to calm me down somewhat so here goes.  When a reporter asked Coach Tomlin what needs to be done to turn their season around, his prophetic comment was, "Nothing!"  NOTHING, that's right, this wizard of the game said NOTHING!  ALL THEY NEED TO DO IS EXECUTE!  DAH! And DOUBLE DAH! I'm sure you know what finger I'm using to point in Tomlin's direction these days.

Now, let's throw some blame on the offensive coordinator, Todd Haley.  He's a blunt sort of a guy so I feel I can be blunt as well.  His game plan stinks!  RUN, RUN, PASS.  And when that doesn't work, then RUN, RUN, PASS again and again and again!  I'm pointing the same finger at Haley that I use on Tomlin.

Big Ben deserves some finger pointing, too.  He does have a huge heart and is truly involved in keeping his team together.  For that reason Ben is spared the above-mentioned finger.  But his slow starts and less than accurate executions along with two fumbles of late is aggravating to say the least.
I know his line is horrible, but he has to find a way to get the ball to Miller, Brown, and Sanders.  He's done it before with a horrible line; he must do it again!

Oh no, LeBeau, if you thought you were off the hook, think again.  I don't know who's ranking defensive lines these days, but the Steelers' defense is pitiful.  Not being able to hold the other team's receivers and running backs for a few yards in order to avert another touchdown is ridiculous.  Sorry, Dick, I'm pointing my finger at you as well.  You need to reassess and revise an all-too-obvious defensive plan.  Maybe it's also time for you to reassess and revise your own career plan before you go down as so many have as not knowing when to say when is enough.

Wait, I feel something happening.  My dark mood is beginning to clear.  I'm slowly beginning to return to my happy, sweet self.  I think my finger pointing just might have had something to do with lowering my blood pressure and raising my spirits.  Ah, that feels better!



Monday, September 16, 2013

"Superhuman" Seniors?

Okay, so maybe we're not "superhuman" in the true sense of the word.  But we're pretty damn close.  We've been engaged in a major renovation project in our front yard for about two weeks now.  We had a company come in, tear down the existing wall, erect a new one, and reconfigure the entire ground area.  Once completed, my hubby and I took over.

While hubby is 77, I'm a mere 69 years old.  No walkers, oxygen, or rocking chairs for us!  No way, no how!  First we dug seven holes 2'x2'x2' in hard rock and clay for the seven mature plants needed to be hauled from the back via wheelbarrow.  And let me tell you, those suckers were heavy!

After finishing the transplants, we dug 15 more holes in the same unforgiving medium to accommodate the new shrubs and perennials.  All of the holes and planting were done on a slope; keeping our footing while shoveling and bending was similar to doing aerobics while perched on a Mt. Everest shelf.  Are you amazed yet?  If not, you will be after I'm finished with this daunting tale.

To add to the esthetics of our new project we created an island in the grassy area of the yard.  We piled three feet of top soil to construct a mound, tamped it down, piled again, tamped again, piled, tamped until the desired size and shape were achieved.  Next we had a tree planted in the center by the landscapers only because if they do it and the tree dies, they'll replace it free of charge. We completed work on the island by planting 14 liriope, and a "little lime" hydrangea bush, putting down weed protection material, and finally topping the whole shebang off with 8 bags of mulch. 

You say we should be exhausted, well you haven't heard the best part yet! The landscaping company delivered 10,000 lbs. of stone, yes I said 10,000 lbs, dropping it at the corner of the newly-erected wall.  Now hubby and I really had to go to work.  We were using stone as mulch to cover the  extensive area between the plantings.  We filled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow with tons of solid rock, moved wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow to designated spots, dumped the stone, returned to the seemingly ever growing mountain of stone, and begun the process all over again.  We also hauled 10 bags of lava rock that we used to effect "trickles" intermingled with the mocha stone.  When we finally finished, we looked on with pride at the beauty our "superhuman" efforts had created.

I relate this story to all of you youngsters out there for one reason.  Seniors are perhaps the most unsung heroes in our society today.  But I implore you to remember that we were born before and during World War II.  For the most part, our parents were hard-working people who made little money yet managed to feed, clothe, and house their families. They didn't expect government to do that for them. They would have been extremely humiliated if they had to live off handouts from the state. 

More importantly, our parents instilled in us a strong work ethic.  If something needed to be done, we did it and completed the task no matter the toll it took on body and soul. We were and still are proud of our accomplishments.

In conclusion, I hope my tale has given you a newfound respect for the seniors in your lives.  Believe it or not, you can learn a lot from them.  They can help you develop the work ethic you will need to succeed in every aspect of your existence.  And if you play your cards right, they might even offer a helping hand in major projects around your homes as well!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Against All Odds

What are the odds of a newborn surviving, who in 1944 was birthed at home, turned blue and stopped breathing less than 15 minutes after entering this world?  Would you say a million-to-one? Maybe a trillion-to-one?  Whatever the true figure is, after 69 years today I am still alive and kicking.  Happy birthday to me!

On Saturday, September 9, 1944 my mother went upstairs to clean up before dinner.  My baba was making steak and potatoes which happened to be mom's favorite meal. Unfortunately she would never get to enjoy that savory dish. 

Her water broke and I was coming fast.  My dad ran to the neighbors who just happened to be doctors. Lady Dr. Stimetz, I never knew her first name, answered the call.  I'm told she delivered me at around 6:30p.m. 

Once the cord was cut, the good doctor handed me to my baba and directed her to wash away all the afterbirth from my body.  Baba dutifully took me downstairs, filled her favorite mixing bowl with warm water and began the cleansing process. 

Baba noticed that I sounded somewhat congested.  She went to the pantry and secured a jar of vaporizer.  She then rubbed an ample amount into and under my nostrils.  I immediately turned blue and stopped breathing.  Frantically she screamed for help.  Dr. Stimetz was still attending to my mom, but upon hearing the urgency in baba's voice she ran to assist.  She wiped the gunk from my nose and administered CPR.  Within a minute or two my color returned to a healthy pink and my breathing became normal.  Against all odds, Dr. Stimetz, the heroine, saved my 15 minute old life! 

Ever since that day I've been a survivor.  I'm also a risk-taker.  I guess you might even call me a gambler.  I personally think these traits are blessings that have served me well throughout my life.  If it hadn't been for my baba's well-intentioned mistake, I might have never become the person I am today.   Actually, I might not have become the person I am today BECAUSE of her well-intentioned mistake.  And as far as Lady Dr. Stimetz, well without her intervention, I know I would NOT HAVE BECOME AT ALL!

Against all odds, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Monday, August 5, 2013

What Did He Say?

For the life of me, I can't remember what yesterday's sermon was about.  I know the priest gave one; I recall sitting and seeing his lips move for at least 10 whole minutes.  But all that comes to mind is something about him being a young intern, his superior being organized, and another priest being a happy-go-lucky people person.  The organized fellow left the priesthood and the people person was killed in a car accident at a very young age.

I could blame my inability to remember the sermon on dementia or hearing loss.  I'm at the age where both of these maladies are quite plausible. But in fact I have an excellent memory and I can still hear anything I choose to hear.  In other words, I have great "selective hearing!"

Since most of his talk was lost on me, his efforts to prepare and deliver were all in vain at least in my regard.  I didn't learn much either.  So why even bother to sermonize?  He's obliged to give one?  A sermon to the faithful is expected?  Mass would be way too short? 

I guess there are those who listen to every word and decide to make an effort to change their ways.  I suppose there are those who hear some of the sermon and think they could implement a few of the suggestions given during the coming week.  And then there are the many like myself who spent the entire time thinking about what they're going to do once Mass is over, or why the person in front of them actually chose the outfit they are wearing to attend a church service?  The girl in front of me had on shorts that looked like underwear and were way smaller than any underpants I've ever owned.

As far as to what I had on my mind, I was being game host for a couple's baby shower. My nephew Brian and his wife, Monica, are having a baby girl in early September.  This is their first baby together; Monica has a 12 year old beautiful daughter, Trinity.  Also this is the first grandchild for Brian's Mom and Dad who are both in their late 70's.  They are absolutely walking on cloud nine!
I was going over all the games we'd be playing during the sermon and trying to think of ways to make them as awesome as I possible.  You know how everybody feels about shower games, right?

But the games I picked I knew would be a hit.  Who wouldn't like playing "Nibble the Nipple," "Dirty Diaper Dilemma," or "That Tastes Like Crap?"  Plus three or four more delightful contests!
And who couldn't resist picking a super prize from the treasure bag when they were victorious!  After all, precious gifts like kidney-shaped water bottles and Big Bird hand soap are desired items anyone would be happy to receive.

These were the thoughts that crowded my mind as the priest delivered his words of wisdom.  Deep down I know I should have tried to pay attention, but can any one of you blame me for thinking about my upcoming duties and the pressure on me for making this shower memorable!  I think not!

What did he say?  I'll ask my husband about the sermon.  He always listens.

Monday, July 29, 2013

CLUELESS!

Today's Monday and time for me to post something zippy on my blog.  I'm a writer.  I put words on paper that people read.  Sometimes they like what I write and sometimes they don't.  But, at least they read what I write.  Today is Monday and I got NOTHING! NIL! NADA! ZILCH!  Blank as an unwritten check!  CLUELESS!

How could this be?  If I'm a writer, I have to be able to write, right?  Doctors just don't stop taking care of the sick because they can't think of what to do, right?  Plumbers just don't stop fixing leaky pipes because they can't remember what an "elbow" is, right?  Chefs just don't stop cooking because they forgot how to turn on the gas, right?  Sooooooo, if I'm a writer, I've got to write something.  After all, today is Monday, right?

I'm thinking.  Still thinking.  Raising my head and searching my mind log.  Staring out the window.
Watching my dog lick herself.  Looking at the lamp I bought yesterday and wondering why I paid 50 bucks for that piece of crap!  Hoping my in-grown toe nail stops hurting.  Still thinking.  Scratching my ear even though it's not itchy.  Watching my dog scratch her ear.  Wondering if her ear was really itchy.  Still thinking.  Wishing I could lose the 8lbs. I lost 2months ago.  Actually, wishing I could lose the 8lbs. I lost 2 months ago plus the 4 extra pounds added in the past 3 weeks. Hearing my husband fart while reading the morning paper sitting in the chair next to me. Trying to pass a stinkier fart to get even.  Studying the dust specks floating through the air.  Thinking they might be remnants of my husband's fart. Trying to remember how old my three adult children are.  Maybe 44, 43, & 35, but not really sure.  Who cares anyhow?  I have trouble remember my own age let alone worrying how old they are.  I don't need any added pressures at my age whatever it is!  Speculating how old people have sex. I guess as long as they leave the lights off and have a fertile imagination and the important parts are in relatively good working order, they could have a very satisfying experience. Since I'm not sure of my age, and don't think I'm classified as "old" yet, I'll worry about this matter when I'm older.

Well, you can't say I didn't give it my all.  Today is Monday but I can't think of a single thing to write.  I'm CLUELESS!

Monday, July 8, 2013

HE Who Laughs...LASTS!

When was the last time you laughed?  No, I don't mean a slight chuckle or a little hee-haw.  I'm talking about an out-n-out hardy, loud and long laugh that puts tears in your eyes and fire in your belly! 

And what is it that makes you laugh?  A cartoon, a joke, a comedian, a memory?

And why all this sudden concern about laughter anyway you ask?

In my constant efforts to shed those nasty hip and thigh bulges I've had since the beginning of time, I happened upon a new plan called "The Digest Diet."  Along with the usual motivation to be positive, think of this as a changing life style, and "if I can do it, you can, too" promise, this regiment requires laughter.  Almost on every page, the words, "don't forget to laugh" appear in bold font.  Since no other diet I ever tried insisted that I laugh many times daily, I decided to explore the reasoning behind this strange directive further.

A plethora of studies have shown that laughter is truly a curative medicine.  It relieves stress, lowers blood pressure, increases good cholesterol, and, in some cases, has been a factor in killing cancer cells.

Laughter can effect brain function as well.  A considerable amount of mental acuity is needed to understand the implications of a joke, interpret the meaning behind a silly cartoon, and translate what is going on in a hilarious film.  Funny how we never even considered what a rigorous workout our minds get simply by laughing.

I don't believe I've ever made a conscious effort to plan to laugh.  I just laugh when I find things to be funny.  To actually set laughter as a top priority in my daily schedule, I would never have imagined it.  But it makes perfect sense. If only to achieve that "feel good" sensation that laughing provides, it definitely is worth my time.  Raising endorphin levels purposefully and continually I raise the health of both my body and my mind immeasurably! And, who knows, I might just slenderize my hips and thighs, too!

Finally, the old adage of "he who laughs last laughs longest " might have a deeper meaning than we realized.  "He Who Laughs...LASTS!" just might be the most powerful incentive to make laughter a repetitive ritual in our daily lives for the rest of our lives however long that may be!

Monday, July 1, 2013

An "F-Bomb" Explosion!

I went to see "The Heat" this weekend with my hubby and some friends.  For two hours the f-bomb was dropped at least 200 times if not more.  Normally I would have been greatly offended and perhaps even walked out and asked for a refund.  But Melissa McCarthy had the entire audience howling so loud from the get-go that, believe it or not, some of those four-letter words were actually inaudible. Her character "Shannon Mullins" was a "take-no-shit" cop from the lower side of Boston.  She interacted daily with the dregs of society whose words and actions seeped into her very being like the oxygen she breathed.  Her choice of words were simply the result of who she was, where she was and what she did.

Her family was hardcore, foul-mouthed, beer-drinking Irishmen who pummeled her with profanities from the moment she walked through the door of her childhood home until she slammed that very same door shut after a heated argument about the arrest of a sibling. How could she throw her baby brother in jail?  "Shannon," was for all practical purposes, dead to her family, and as far as she was concerned, she really didn't give a f........!

Sandra Bullock played the uptight, rule-abiding FBI agent, who because of circumstance ends up partnering with McCarthy.  "Sarah Ashburn" was utterly shocked by the language, mannerisms, and outright disregard for department policy "Mullins" exhibited at every turn.  No matter how much Bullock tried, her attempts to smooth McCarthy's rough edges repeatedly fell on deaf ears.

From only using the letter "F" when referring to that disgusting term at the beginning of the flick, "Ashburn" towards the end, vehemently spews the f-bomb in a wild tirade of curse words at the police big shots when her partner's character is being unmercifully assassinated.  Her choice of words changed dramatically as the result of who she became, where she was and what she did.  In the end, "Sarah" stated that "Shannon" was the best cop she had ever worked with and was proud to call her friend.

Despite what you might think, this is not a review of  "The Heat."  Whether or not you see this movie is of no matter to me.  Although if you elect to bypass it, you'll be missing out on a "laugh-a-minute" "teachable moment" worthwhile story. 

The f-bombs were used, not to disrespect or shock, but to portray a realistic picture of the life lead by the people who use such language the way we use "OMG" "CRAP" or "DAMN."  These words are much more acceptable to us because these are the ones said by our families, in our neighborhoods, at our workplaces, etc. By interacting with decent, hard-working, church-going folks, their words and actions seep into our very being like the oxygen we breathe. Our choice of words are the result of who we are, where we come from and what we do.

Lastly,  a few words on the Paula Dean, "N" word fiasco.  "OMG", Paula was born and raised in the South!  "CRAP", she said the "N" word twenty some years ago! And, "Damn" smearing her reputation and possibly ruining her entire career just isn't enough punishment for such abhorrent behavior!

Come on, people, let's open our minds and our hearts to the realities of life for each and every one of us. None of our realities are the same.  None of us speak and act the same. Try to understand that. 

We could all learn that very valuable lesson from "The Heat" in theaters now!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Where Have All The People Gone?

While on our daily jaunt around the neighborhood, and since Shadow is the only living creature within earshot, I ask my dog, "where have all the people gone?"  Of course, I don't expect her to answer in words but a mediocre woof would suffice.  In truth I do know where they are, in the house with doors shut and windows shuttered.  After all, it's 87 degrees, and in our neck of the woods, 87 degrees means stifling heat and oppressive humidity.  We could walk for miles and never see anyone on the porch, in the yard, or hanging out the kitchen window.  Being Sunday, the hope of catching a glimpse of the postman or water meter reader is nonexistent. 

I began thinking about the demonic "jailer" who has imprisoned all of us from human interaction during the summer months.  WHOLE HOUSE AIR-CONDITIONING!  Why should anybody step foot outside under such horrid conditions when they are comfortably locked away in the coolness of their homes?  Such a thought is simply ludicrous!

But maybe I can offer a few suggestions as to why venturing out-of-doors on a hot and humid summer day might be beneficial.  Perhaps while sitting on the front porch, a woman and her dog pass by.  She smiles and stops to talk. Whether the brief conversation is merely prattle or of substance is not important. What matters is that both of you have been released from the lonely isolation air-conditioning has imposed.  Who knows, next time you might invite her to come sit awhile and over time become life-long friends.

What if you decided to escape the confines of the constant 72 degrees utopia that air-conditioning has shackled you to and step out into the backyard?  You could bravely plant a small garden of peas, peppers, pumpkins, and any other veggie that begins with the letter "p." Since watering is necessary for the growth of the "p" plants, you would have incentive to leave your prison for an hour each day.  And, just maybe, your neighbor whom you haven't seen or talked with in months is courageous enough to do the same!  The two of you could talk about the progress your respective gardens are making, the techniques each of you are using to grow bigger and more productive plants, and how sharing your harvests would provide your families with more variety on their dinner plates.  This seemingly innocent venture could eventually lead to a farmers market right in your very own backyards.

And lastly, if the fear of leaving your air-conditioned paradise simply paralyzes you, perhaps you can muster enough gumption to open a window.  At first maybe you can only do an inch or two, but with practice you will be able to raise it to full capacity.  Now you might stick your head out and playfully cheer on the kids next door who are attempting to beat the heat with a one-on-one basketball game.  They seem to be having a blast.  On the other hand, you, not so much.  So, be damned with that air-conditioning controller, you whip on a pair of shorts and a tank, tie up your Nikes, open the locked front door, and join in the fun.  After making three hoops, the thought of being hot doesn't even phase you.  Besides sweating cleanses the body of harmful toxins leaving you feeling and looking better than you have in years. 

Trying these simple suggestions could have amazing results.  You will no longer have that jailhouse pallor, and the whole house air-conditioning that enslaved you for years, will no longer have you in a death grip.  You will finally be free!  So go out and enjoy the sun!  Shadow and I can't wait to meet up with you and shoot the bull if only for a minute or two.

Monday, June 17, 2013

But A Father, He's Not!

Yesterday was Father's Day. You'd think I'd be remembering all the wonderful men in my life who are or had been the "best of the best" as fathers go. And I was.  Yet why did I have my 32 year old nephew, Christopher on my mind.  Yes, he's fathered two children, but a father he's not, and in my humble opinion, never will be!

Christopher is incarcerated at the Marienville State Prison in Pennsylvania for the next 10-20 years.
His list of offenses is a mile long, but the most egregious is child endangerment. While under house arrest for parole violations, Chris and his girlfriend got into an argument.  She walked out taking their 2 year old daughter, Liza, with her.  Unfortunately their 10 month old little girl was left with daddy.

As the story goes, my nephew continued to paint the livingroom leaving Lena to crawl around the floor unsupervised.  According to Chris, when he went to use the bathroom, the baby pulled herself up on the rungs of the ladder causing the paint can to come crashing down on her tender skull.  He stated that when he reentered the room, he found his daughter limp and unconscious covered in blue paint.  At first he believed her to be dead, but after a time he noticed she was breathing and dialed 911.

Of course, the police were involved immediately.  They'd followed my nephew's criminal activities
since he was seventeen when high on drugs and alcohol he grabbed an elderly woman's purse, knocked her to the ground and broke her arm. He turned eighteen before trial, making him an adult and eligible for imprisonment in jail for 13 months. After that first offense, Christopher became a regular in county.

Upon further interrogation, my nephew's story changed multiple times until finally the truth was uncovered.  When his girlfriend left, Chris called one of this druggie buddies to pick him up to go searching for the "good stuff."  Since there was no car seat available, he simply put Lena on his lap and continued to enjoy the ride. While speeding through town, the driver had to make a sudden stop, sending the baby into the dashboard so violently her skull was cracked in three places.  No one knows how long it took these two addicts to realize the extent of her injuries, but eventually Chris was dropped off back at the house with his unconscious daughter.  He said it took him awhile to call 911; he was afraid of the possible consequences.

Lena was taken to the hospital and since the swelling of her brain was so dramatic, operating on her had to be postponed for two weeks.  For two weeks, this 10 month old little girl remained in a coma.
Finally a shunt was permanently placed in her brain so that the constant buildup of fluid could be relieved. The shunt will be there for the rest of her natural life.

That was three years ago.  To this very day, if you ask him, Christopher will proudly say he is the father of two beautiful girls.  He will tell you that when he gets out of prison he plans to get full custody since his girlfriend is also an addict and unfit to raise his children.  He believes he can be the same kind of father my brother Dan was.  Of course, by everyone's account, my brother was the "best of the best."  Unfortunately his son didn't follow in his father's footsteps.  Yes, Christopher fathered two beautiful babies, but a father he's not, and never will be! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

"What A Wonderful World!"

I'm watching my grandson, Liam's Kindergarten Memories video for the 100th time.  Tears are streaming down my cheeks for the 100th time, too. I'm certainly not sad, but I really can't say I'm happy either.  I think the word that describes my feelings right now might be overwhelmed. Being totally submerged in the purity of mind, heart, and soul reflected in the eyes of all those beautiful, untainted beings, leaves me breathless.  At no other time in the life of a human is there the awesome potential to be whatever you wish to be as when you are 5 years old and living in the magical kingdom called "kindergarten."

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is softly playing as pictures of children laughing and learning glide across the screen.  Their exuberance for life is obvious.  They believe that anything is possible and they know their personal dreams will come true.  The potential they possess now will never be greater; they merely have to use their God-given power to realize it.  Their unblemished ability to accept and love others for who they are rather than who they might want them to be is mind boggling.
How could ones so young embrace differences without passing judgment or inflicting unspeakable pain?

I now hear "What A Wonderful World!" playing in the background.  Besides being one of my most favorite songs of all time, I think what an appropriate choice for this amazing video.  The lyrics as well as the melody bring great hope for the future to my biased, self-righteous, rigid adulthood.  These children have no preconceptions about life; their intentions are pure.  These children do not think they are always right; their willingness to listen is pure.  These children are not stuck in narrow mindedness; their eagerness for exploration is pure. 

"I hear babies cry; I watch them grow.  They'll learn much more than I'll ever know.  And I think to myself, "What A Wonderful World!"

Monday, June 3, 2013

IT TOOK MORE THAN 50+YEARS!

On June 20, 2012 I fulfilled a lifelong dream. I will celebrate my first anniversary as a children's book author in two weeks and it only took 50+ years to do it! And here's why.

First, I had to complete high school.  I was only a sophomore in 1960 but that is when, due to the most awesome English teacher on the planet, I passionately fell in love with writing. I started with poetry, winning a contest and having my poem showcased in an unknown publication. From that moment on, I was hooked.  But first I had to:

                                        ENTER THE NUNNERY
                                        TEACH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL FOR 3 YRS
                                        LEAVE THE NUNNERY AFTER 5 YRS
                                        TEACH JUNIOR HIGH MATH & SCIENCE FOR 3 YRS
                                        GET MARRIED IN 1968 (STILL TOGETHER FOR 45 YRS)
                                        HAVE TWO CHILDREN
                                        BECOME  PTA PRESIDENT
                                        DIRECT CHRISTMAS PLAY
                                        HAVE THIRD CHILD
                                        COMPLETE BACHELOR'S DEGREE
                                        DIRECT  RELIGIOUS ED. PROGRAM 5YRS
                                        BECOME CERTIFIED IN ELEMENTARY/EARLY CHILDHOOD ED.
                                        SUBSTITUTE TEACH FOR 4 YRS
                                        CONTRACT CHRONIC NEUROLOGICAL CONDITION
                                        TEACH KINDERGARTEN FOR 10 YRS
                                        DIRECT PRESCHOOL 4 YRS
                                        EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER 3YRS
                                        LEARNED MY NEPHEW WAS A DRUG ADDICT
                                        RETIRE IN 2000
                                        BURIED MY 92 YEAR OLD MOM
                                        VOLUNTEER FOR CHURCH & COMMUNITY ORGS
                                        WITNESSED THE INCARCERATION OF MY NEPHEW
                                        BURIED MY 67 YEAR OLD BROTHER, DAN
                                        BECOME "GRAMMY" TO 7 TERRIFIC KIDS

These are only some of the highlights of my 68 years that have kept me busy for the past 50+ years.
My life has been both beautiful and sad.  I've learned from every experience and am thankful for the
opportunities given me along the way to grow and prosper. 

Becoming an author after a 50+ years has been well-worth the wait.  I am enjoying every second of
my new career and hope to inspire anyone with a dream to keep reaching.  It's NEVER TOO LATE!
                                       
                                                   

Monday, May 20, 2013

Still Asking Why?

Yesterday was my Dad's 65th death anniversary.  He was 38 and I was 3 when he was tragically killed in a work-related accident.  He left for work early Thursday morning and never came home again.  He was inspecting a multi-ton furnace door when it came loose and began to fall. He ran but tripped and was crushed from the waist down.  In 1948 hospitals could only do so much for these types of injuries.  Dad died three days later. My Mom was widowed; my brother and I, orphaned.  Why?

I've asked myself why for the past 65 years.  Why did a man who was so caring, loving and funny die in the prime of his life?  Why did a woman who was a terrific wife and mother have to shoulder such an unbearable loss?  Why did two children, ages 3 & 5 have to become fatherless so young? Why did the lives of this happy little family have to change so dramatically for the worse?

And why after all this time is his dying so fresh in my mind and so painful to my heart even today?

I have never been able to find the answers to the why of  it.  You'd think that after 65 years I might stop asking why and just be resigned to my Dad's passing. I will never stop wanting to know why, but the answer unfortunately will never come.  Of that I'm sure.

Over the years I've often taken my query to the top asking God to explain why my Dad had to die! Even if He knows, He's not talking!

Monday, May 13, 2013

An Adventure To Remember

So I arrive exactly one day before Gabe Weston Alexander enters the world!  Talk about timing.  Everything goes well; easy labor, however my daughter begs to differ, home in two days, baby is adapting nicely to a schedule, however my daughter begs to differ, and now I can focus on the other two boys who need some well-deserved attention.

On Saturday morning, Liam, Beckham, Sadie, the dog, and I set out on a hiking adventure down the trail behind their rental.  It's a beautiful wide path edged on both sides with natural forestry and a stream running parallel to the path.  We stopped often to collect bugs, rocks, weeds, etc. I unleashed Sadie so she could run free through the brush, chase forest animals, and roll in whatever dogs like to roll in. Periodically we'd go to the edge of the trail and watch the water splashing over the boulders in the stream.  The boys and I found all kinds of rocks to throw to see who could make the biggest splash!

At one point we spied an area in the stream where the boulders and rocks were positioned in such a way that crossing to the other side seemed doable. The boys begged me to take the challenge and extend our exploration to new heights. In truth, they didn't have to do any serious begging; I was as ready for the challenge as they were. All three of us slid down the embankment to the water's edge.  I instructed the boys to take their time when crossing so as not to fall in.  Like leap frogs, both of them hopped across a series of rocks in a flash.  They were on the other side before I could blink my eyes twice.  Now, it was my turn.  As I stretched my left leg out to the first rock, I prayed that a higher power was there to support me. He or she was because I managed to make it over without any problem.

We spent time searching for more treasures; we found a beaver's dam, a 15' branch that Liam used as a balance pole, and an abandoned bench that someone may have used 100 years ago!  After awhile we decided to go back.  Liam was the first to reach the stream's edge.  He managed to hop on two rocks before his leg slipped into the water.  He and I began laughing so hard that Beckham decided to not slip but actually jump into the freezing water.  Now our laughter escalated to roars.  What great fun we were having!

It was my turn to attempt the crossing and to do it remaining dry.  Seemed that luck was still with me because I had only the last boulder to navigate before setting my feet on land once again. I got my right leg situated on a flat spot, but as I tried to bring my left leg forward I slipped, first twisting the knee, then crashing it on the boulder with my full weight.  My head fell smack dab in the mud and weeds at the water's edge.  When I lifted it, my face was brown and my hair was adorned with twigs and leaves. After asking if I was all right, the boys cackled on loud and long.  Finally, they made it across and started up the embankment.  But I couldn't move. No one was around and I had to find a way up to the trail.  It was Liam who suggested I use the 15' branch as a cane but since I'm now only 5'4.5" (use to be 5'6") that idea was not an option.  However, by wedging the branch between two tree trunks, I managed to pull myself up.

The boys and Sadie ran home.  I hobbled slowly along.  When they reached the front door, talking at the same time telling my daughter about why they were all wet, what they saw on the other side, and how much fun they had, suddenly the realization that someone was missing occurred to her. 

"Where's Grammy," she asked.

 "Oh, she hurt her knee when she fell on the rocks and got her face stuck in the mud," replied Liam.

"Can she walk and should I go get her?" questioned my daughter.

"No, she's okay, but she probably won't get home anytime soon" laughed the redheaded imp.

A little while later I limped in, examined my battered and swollen knee, laid on the couch with an ice pack and smiled.  What a hiking adventure that was!  Probably be the next book in the "Grammy's Gang" series.

Monday, April 15, 2013

I'm Off!

Today is the day I take off for Charlotte. Our 7th grandbaby is due in a few days and I've always been there to help out for the first weeks of each one of their tender lives. I'm so blessed and honored to be asked to come and lend a hand. Of course, if I wasn't asked, I'd probably just barge in and get to work anyway. My immediate problem however is the flying. No, I do not have a fear of flying; I actually love to fly. But, I've always flown on a jet with about 100 or so of my newfound friends. Today I'm going into the wild blue yonder on a puddle jumper first to Cleveland and then board a second "tin can" as I like to call this type of aircraft, to Charlotte. Since I don't have any experience on a puddle jumper, I can only go by what I've been told. You'll bounce around like a rubber ball; you'll want to upchuck the whole time; you'll be so scared you'll pee yourself; you'll think crashing into the ocean would actually be quite refreshing after about 10 minutes of the flight! These are only the most positive comments about puddle jumpers I've heard. Believe me, you don't want to hear the negative ones. So I'm left to my own devices. This morning I had a long talk with Shadow, my dearest friend of 10 years now. I told her how much our relationship has meant to me and promised Papap would take care of her if anything happened. She just stared at me, hopped off my lap and went behind the couch for her usual morning nap. I take these actions as her way of dealing with the pain she undoubtedly is feeling as I prepare to go on my month-long hiatus. Next, I turn to my hubby for some needed assurance and comfort. His idea of relieving my anxiety is to tell me about the cargo planes he flew while in the service of our country. According to him, my journey will be a piece of cake to anything he had to endure. I had no idea how much he suffered sitting on benches in the cargo pits with fellow crewmen smoking cigarettes, telling off-color jokes, and discussing where they would go on their next weekend leave. I'm ashamed I even brought up the subject of flying today given his traumatic, life-threatening experiences. So, in a few hours I'll be off dragging my 80lb. suitcase behind me, toting my 25lb.laptop/purse on my sagging right shoulder, taking 5 or 6 of my anti-anxiety pills, pulling up my bootstraps, grabbing 2 or 3 barf bags, buckling my seatbelt, if there is one, closing my eyes and taking off into the wild blue yonder, not once, but twice until we land, I'm hoping, safely in Charlotte. But, to be there for the birth of my 7th grandbaby, I'd endure much, much worse any time, any day. After all, I'm Off! In more ways than one, right?

Monday, April 8, 2013

How Small Can A Toilet Hole Be?

Since I'm due to fly to Carolina next Monday to help out with grandbaby #7, the article in today's paper regarding the overbooking, overcrowding, and overcharging by airlines caught my eye. If, when I get to the airport,  my seat isn't my seat, there will be holy hell to pay.  I get extremely loud and extremely foul-mouthed when I'm angry.

 I got a good deal on my ticket so overcharging isn't an issue unless baggage charges are excessive.

The real concern for me is the overcrowding.  According to the paper, a plane that typically held 120 people now accommodates 150 people.  To do this, the seats are being made smaller and smaller while the rears of Americans get larger and larger. Since I've been dieting for awhile now, I can proudly say that my backside will fit quite nicely in the smaller accommodations.  But, even so, being smashed together like a can of sardines doesn't conjure up my idea of a pleasant flight.  And, like sardines, one must wonder about smell-control.  Ever sit next to someone on a plane that hasn't showered in awhile?  Plus, the added weight to the plane scares me.  How much tonnage can actually ride the skies before enough is just too much?  Freefalling over Charlotte isn't exactly the way I'd planned to make my entrance although it would be a remarkable one if I do say so myself!

Perhaps the most disconcerting element of overcrowding is making the plane's bathroom much smaller than it already is. A smaller restroom means more available passenger seating. Come on, people, so when you have to go, once you've navigated the long line of "goers" and finally get the green light to enter, you'll be in for the most claustrophobic experience of a lifetime.  Perhaps the most panicky panic attack of your entire neurotic history. 

And, how small can they make an already miniscule toilet hole?  Most normal-sized asses barely fit on today's airplane toilets.  Now reduce the size of the toilet hole to the size of a donut hole?  Where do you think all that shit is going to land?  On the floor, silly.  So, not only will we have to wipe ourselves with the sandpaper provided, but we'll need to make an attempt to clean up the floor as well. And, what about the feces on our shoes?  The hell with that.  Most of us will just wash our hands and track the shoe shit through the aisles of the plane.  The shoe shit smell will add to the already existing body odor of the unshowered.  People will inevitably be overcome by the stench and begin to vomit or faint or both.  More money will be spent for more barf bags, clean-up maintenance, and medical staff will be a necessity on every flight.

Are you getting the picture?  More importantly, do the airline bigwigs get it?  Stop trying to squeeze more people on your planes so you can squeeze more moolah into your pockets!  You don't need the problems that this shit will definitely cause, do you?

I'm looking forward to my Charlotte trip.  I hope the restroom specs are still the same as when I flew there a few years ago!  If not, I promise you, some shit will fly!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Down with processed sugar!

Today is the Monday after Easter.  My brain is muddled beyond belief.  I don't know what else to attribute this dysfunction to except the sugary junk I inhaled this past weekend.  Usually I'm a clear-thinking, wise old broad who goes about life in an organized, decisive fashion.  Today I'm still in my pajamas at 1:01pm and don't have a clue as to what I'll do for the rest of the day.  Maybe read, clean out a closet, walk the dog, nap.... I can't seem to choose or even move for that matter.

I have read that processed sugar is bad for you.  I've been told countless times by my older daughter about the negative effects it has on the brain.  She begs me not to give her children sugar in any form.  Up until this moment, I've always thought her to be obsessive in this regard.  But now I'm thinking she might be on to something.

So listen up!  I know processed sugar is in just about everything we eat. The best we can do is limit the amount of packaged food we ingest per day.  Try eating fruits and vegetables that contain natural sugars more often.  Find creative ways to present them so you and your children will become addicted to what's healthy as opposed to what isn't.

I know you've heard this a gazillion times; I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.  But judging from the way I feel today, I'm concerned about the children going to school after a breakfast of donuts and soda.  Imagine the confusion going on in their little brains.  No wonder their reading comprehension skills are so low.  How can they deal with mathematical equations when their thought processes are so jumbled.  They can't, and through no fault of their own I might add.

Seriously, even though I feel like I have a hang-over without ever imbibing any alcohol, the negativity of the sugar effect is real.  I got a wake-up call today that can't be ignored.  Rethink what you and your children are eating these days. It could very well be the first step in changing the rest of your lives in a very positive way.

Down with processed sugar!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Grammy Knows Best!

Spring in many parts of the country is blue skies, birds chirping, and a warm breeze floating by.  But, in Pittsburgh, PA, March is grey clouds, silence, and cold winds with snow five inches deep. 

So when I was rudely awakened today by the sound of shovel scrapes across frozen cement, I knew there was work to be done.  I hopped on my trusty broom and ( no, I am not a witch) began sweeping the heavy, wet white stuff from our 25ft. walkway that leads out to the street. Why venture to the street this early, you might ask?  Well, because the morning paper delivery guy always drops it there!  Otherwise I'd let the damn snow pile up to the rooftop and it won't bother me at all. 

You also might be inclined to question why I even get a morning newspaper.  Why not just jump on the internet and click on "News of the Day"?  Remember, I'm a grammy, and although I've embraced most modern-day advances, reading the happenings of the world and our community on a laptop iPad, or SmartPhone just doesn't do it for me.  There's nothing like sitting in my recliner with a steaming cup of java chuckling over the recent missteps of the federal, state, and local government knuckleheads.  If I didn't find it funny, I'd be in a mental ward suffering from severe depression.  And I just couldn't start my day without reading the hilariously true-to-life comic strips or the tear-jerking "Dear Annie" columns.  But I digress.  Back to the snow situation.

The shovel scraping that had been going on for at least thirty minutes was being done by my twenty year old neighbor from across the street.  She's a lovely girl who is doing her student teaching this year.  Megan was wearing winter attire that defied any type of coldness from reaching her tender skin.  I'll let you use your imagination to conjure up how she was dressed and what she looked like. Her strategy for snow removal was to dig deeply into it, laboriously lift each shovelful, and hurl it about two feet away in order to clear their 15ft.driveway.  Megan had to stop several times to regain her strength and her motivation.

I, on the other hand, stepped out into the inclement weather in my cotton robe, rubber-soled slippers, and, of course, my trusty broom. With one determined sweep on each step, I shifted the snow to the lef, did the same on the 25ft. walkway and was at the street in less than five minutes.  Just before I bent down to pick up the paper, I glanced Megan's way.  She, too, was looking at me.  I smiled; her face reflected bewilderment.  She then trudged up her driveway; I scampered over my walkway, up the steps and into the door where my steaming cup of java awaited.

The entire point of this whole story is to again show our young people that Grammy knows best and can certainly teach them some very important life lessons.  And in Pittsburgh, perhaps one essential lesson in March is choosing the proper attire for removing the snows of PA and the most efficient way of doing so! 

Pay attention, youngins, Grammy knows best and she does look smashing in her cotton robe, too!