At this time of year, when I sit back and count my blessings my heart is full and there's a smile on my face that could span the entire universe. They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words, so instead of reciting my most precious gifts in paragraph upon paragraph, I'll simple show you.
BRADY AND BRENNA
TYLER AND KADEN
BECKHAM, GABE, AND LIAM
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A BLESSED HOLIDAY FROM GRAMMY'S GANG
Over the weekend, I read an article where scientists are very close to being able to tell folks whether or not they'll be stricken with Alzheimer's disease when they hit their 70's. According to them, a simple blood test is all that it will take to let someone in their 30's know what their fate will be in later life.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Who in the hell wants to know they'll become mindless shells of a human being in their golden years when in their prime? So a first date might go something like this, "Hi, you look great tonight. Going to dinner will give us a chance to get to know each other better. I need to gain as much info. as I can now, since I've been tested for Alzheimer's and have been told I'll be afflicted with this terrible disease in the future."
"Hey, wait, where are you going? We haven't even discussed what type of food we're hungry for yet. I know a great Italian place a few blocks from here. Stop, I can't catch up with you. I'm having chest pains I'm having difficulty breathing.."
Heart attacks are not uncommon in young people when overstressed and constantly choosing pastas with rich creamy sauces and fatty meatballs. Well, at least he doesn't have to worry about suffering from Alzheimer's anymore!
Seriously, why would anyone want to know that they will be victims of this debilitating illness when they haven't yet enjoyed life to the fullest. Imagine their mindset. Thinking about what they will eventually endure can only minimize their quality of life to the point of deep depression and demoralization. The ability to form lasting relationships would be greatly compromised. Suicide would constantly be in their thoughts as a way of escape from the inevitable.
I'm 70 and thankfully still have my wits about me. So for now, taking a blood test to confirm the onslaught of Alzheimer's is out of the question. If defined symptoms of this disease would begin to pop up, that's when I'd decide whether or not to subject myself to science. And I really don't know if I'd want to know even then. Maybe just living every moment of every day no matter what my bodily and mental state might be, is enough for me.
Does my thinking seem selfish to you? What about my children? Who will have to shoulder the responsibility of caring for me? Listen, I have a right to be selfish. I've been selfless all these years tending to my family. I gave up a career early in my marriage to raise my three children. I could haved placed them in daycare and pursued my aspirations, but I didn't. I could have left the household duties to a cleaning service, but I didn't. I could have let my own mother live in a deteriorating area, but I didn't. I invited her to live with us and she did so comfortably for twenty years. I've put the needs of others before my own my entire life, and guess what? Doing so brought me more happiness than you could ever imagine.
Who will take care of me should I develop Alzheimer's? A nursing home designated primarily for Alzheimer's patients, that's who. I would never expect my children or grandchildren to be saddled with such an insipid situation. I wouldn't want them to shoulder guilt about putting me away, and would not want them to visit me regularly. Once a year bringing a pint of ice cream would do nicely.
Being aware of an existing blood test at the age of 70 for Alzheimer's is the time to deal with the possibility and not a second before. To know sooner is absolutely crazy! Who in their right mind would even consider such a ridiculous burden they'd have to carry for a lifetime!
From the title of this post, you'd probably think I'm in the Pacific sipping pineapple margaritas and nibbling on the nuts I love but can't remember what they're called. Well you'd be wrong. I'm actually in my living room about to go on a bus excursion to Latrobe, PA for an early lunch and a Hawaiian Christmas show. Since most of the people going are seniors, early lunch is mandatory. Oh, macadamians, that's what they're called. Not sure of the spelling at the moment though, but if you give me a while I'm sure I'll remember.
Don't know what's on the menu, however I'm looking forward to lunch. When you're my age, you'll eat anything that's put in front of you. If and when I'm carted off to a nursing home, I'll be a model resident. Clean my food tray, hold my bowels until I'm on the potty, and nap away the afternoon. After dinner, I'll repeat this sequence and be good til morning.
Oh yeah, the Christmas show. With it being a two hour performance, I hope it's loud and energetic. If not, a lot of the audience will either be taking a number of bathroom breaks or nodding off periodically. We're not rude, well not as often as you might imagine, but we're easily bored. Loud and energetic keeps us focused and engaged.
I hear there are going to be topless men girating around on stage with fire in their eyes and in their hands. Sounds like a party to me! Oh, I suppose there will be women, too, but I really don't care what they'll be doing. I'm not positive, but I doubt they'll be topless. Even if they were, I really wouldn't be watching them except maybe to see if any are more endowed than yours truly. Actually most women are more endowed than yours truly, but that's what padded bras are for, right?
Once the show is over, our group is going to some kind of cafe for hot chocolate and a potty break. That should take at least an hour or so. Forty seniors going to pee eats up a ton of time. Just pulling our pants up and down requires the eye-hand coordination we're somewhat lacking in now. Hey, when we were in our prime, pulling our pants up and down was a cinch. Maybe because we did it frequently and NOT JUST TO GO TO THE POTTY!
Our last stop is at the Overly Christmas lights display. We'll oooo and aaaaaaaah from the bus and then be dumped off to mill around on our own for another hour or so. I don't know what the tour director is thinking, but letting forty seniors wander around by themselves in a huge, unfamiliar area is MADNESS! Hey, I'm not the one that's going to be responsible for rounding them up, so I really don't give a damn!
If we all make it home and at this point it's questionable, we'll have had a great day and night of holiday cheer. At least that's what we'll tell everybody. Can't really say that we'll remember the entire sequence of events, but assuredly we'll know we had lunch and how many times we went to potty!
Maybe if Black Friday sales actually occurred on that day, I would be inclined to participate. But, Black Friday promos were going on four weeks before November 28. I purchased several gifts 10 days prior to BF at the same prices listed during the 'event'.
I was at the check-out counter at K-mart on BF (not for a sales item) and overheard a couple having a bit of a tiff about where they were headed next to get the best buys. The woman was adamant about continuing to shop, while the man was spewing disgust loud enough for me to hear. I turned and asked where she'd planned to go after K-mart, but before she could say anything, her hubby said with clenched teeth, "I HATE BLACK FRIDAY!" Although in my mind women are usually right when dealing with marital conflict, in this case I had to agree with the husband. "I HATE BLACK FRIDAY!"
The hype for BF begins right after Halloween and intensifies with each passing day. You simply can't avoid the frantic build-up because you're hit with media pitches from every angle. TV, newspapers, flyers, and internet ads are relentless. Every commercial, newspaper ads, and digital pop-ups reflect images of items you and yours can't do without this Christmas. After being brainwashed for that length of time, you find yourself purchasing things that weren't on ANYBODY'S LIST! Crazy, huh?
I have decided to begin a protest to ban BF. For heaven's sake, let's enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner without chomping on the bit to be first in line for the 6:00p.m. BF kick-off at most retail stores. Are you with me? Come on, people, you're being railroaded and perhaps because of all the turkey and trimmings we consumed, our brains are totally muddled, incapable of logical thought. Let's rise up and take back our ability to make choices based on need and want rather than on seemingly discouted prices. There is no such thing as a steal, unless of course you're in the business of highway robbery!
Furthermore, the junk that is being peddled to us and our kids these days is deplorable! Plastic, unimaginative crap is being tauted as a top ten item every child must have under their tree this holiday. We, the parents and grandparents, spend countless hours in search of whatever it is the kids must have only to see them unwrap and play with these gifts for 10 minutes, and then return to their wireless devices and favorite games.
If we can't see how ridiculous this yearly event is by now, let me remind you that today is CYBER MONDAY! You don't want to miss out on all the great deals being offered not only for the next 24 hours, but probably until December 24!
I HATE BLACK FRIDAY! I HATE CYBER MONDAY! AND I'M NOT GOING TO APOLOGIZE TO THOSE OF YOU WHO DISAGREE!
According to my calculations, Black Friday SHOULD be on November 28 this year. But au contrair my friends. Leaks of the Black Friday's circulars from every major store have been abounding for the past three weeks. Not only that, but you can get Black Friday online specials as we speak.
Right after if not before the turkey has been devoured, stores will be opened at 6:00p.m. and remain so round the clock until the weekend is officiallly over. There are Thursday sales, Black Friday events, and of course, Cyber Monday phnomenal prices online.
Now if all of this hasn't caused your anxiety levels to go through the roof, try to compare prices on those items your family members MUST HAVE this holiday. Every store claims they have the lowest prices yet when you check them out, most are the same as their competitors, and in some cases even higher.
Free shipping is dangled in front of your weary eyes, but that too, comes with a hitch. You've got to spend a certain amount BEFORE free shipping can be attained. I think the only store to give free shipping no matter what your total happens to be is Target. Now I don't work for Target or own stock in the company, I'm just giving you the benefit of my long, frustration search at not cost!
So on and on it goes: searching, comparing, purchasing, exchanging only to find out a week before Christmas that your three year old grandson doesn't want Thomas the Train escape from the avalanche set any more! You throw your hands in the air and begin the process all over again. But most of the hot items no longer grace the shelves and are out of stock online. If in fact you do find his new obsession, you'll have to pay through the nose to purchase it.
When all is said and done and the presents are wrapping and piled under the glowing lights of the beautifully-decorated fir tree, you can finally breath a deserved sigh of relief.
As the family gathers, you distribute the gifts with a certain pride and feeling of accomplishment. Within minutes the wrappings are ripped off, the boxes are opened, a few words of appreciation are mumbled, and a number of disappointed statements are articulated very distinctly. The adults are a little more discreet in their comments, but the kids tell it like it is. "This isn't what I wanted," or "he got more than I did," or "This thing is stupid!" rings through your ears like the scratching of finger nails on a chalkboard.
After tossing their MUST HAVE gifts to the side, the kids don their winter gear and head out to sled ride without even so much as a backward glance at all your hard work and effort you've extented to make their dreams come true.
Need I go on? I don't think there's anything more to be said except, now everybody say it with me,
"CHRISTMAS, BAH, HUMBUG!"
The article about the zomBEES in my morning paper just blew me away. It seems that parasitic flies, the A. borealis are injecting worker bees with their eggs. When the larvae emerge, they feast on the insides of the bees, leaving them lifeless, only their shells remaining.
This got me thinking about last week's elections. Months before any votes were cast, political wanna-Bees were injecting us, the workers in this country, with their idealistic eggs of change. A vote for them was a vote for our economic and educational advancement. If they were victorious, naturally our lives would reap an abundance of wealth and knowledge. Seemed like a win-win situation for everybody!
But before we start banking our windfall and spouting words of wisdom, we'd better wait until the newly-elected larvae hatch. And you can bet your bottom dollar, it won't be long before these worms begin eating away at our income and our hopes for a smarter America.
Political promises are easily made, but rarely kept. Politicians can and will say anything to get our votes. Unfortunately once elected, they develop a severe case of amnesia usually lasting throughout their tenure. The only vow they seem to embrace is the one that puts power in their hands and money in their pockets.
How could we have been so dumb to have been taken in by these parasites? The answer is relatively easy. Since July we've been bombarded with media ads defaming the characters and actions of the men and women running for office. As the elections drew nearer, the ads grew in number and the nastiness. As time went on, we became zombies regarding these false claims. We saw them with our eyes, but became devoid of thought and resolution. The candidates we viewed more often, were the ones that would ultimately get our votes.
Little if any change will occur. Promises of jobs will be forgotten, taxes for education will rise, but won't be spent on our children, and our trust in the political process will again be compromised.
The insatiblity of the elected larvae will gnaw away at our insides until they've fully engorged themselves. And once again, we'll be left lifeless of hope, only shells of our former selves.
We've become ZOMBEES! And we have nobody to blame but ourselves!
So one of those Facebook tests popped up yesterday. I enjoy taking them to see what kind of dog I am, what my quick IQ is, what kind of mother I am, etc. The title of this one was How good is your sense of humor?
The test was comprised of 16 questions. My job was to determine which were funny and which were not. I'm not going to disclose any of the queries because I don't want to give you a heads-up if you should decide to try this one. I have to say a few were tricky, but for my part I thought most were hilarious.
Drum roll, please! My score was, are you ready for this? You sure? Okay, the score for how good my sense of humor is was 99.9%. Oh, yeah, baby, a freakin .001 degree off from PERFECT!
So you think just being in my presence will tickle your belly and make your ribs hurt? Certainly!
So you can't believe somebody is that funny and if by chance they were, so why aren't they doing comedy for a living? I am, I'm just NOT GETTING PAID FOR IT!
Having a great sense of humor has so many benefits to mind, body, and soul. At age 70, my mind is always churning, finding the 'funny' in everything no matter how serious the topic. When my father-in-law was laid out in the funeral home, I questioned why he was giving us the 'cold shoulder'!
So I'm a little overweight. If I don't care, WHY IN THE HELL SHOULD YOU? I can do most everything I could do 50 years ago except run as fast and do the split. Actually I wasn't very fast then either, and I COULDN'T DO A SPLIT even if there had been a sizable payout involved!
Oh, boy, and has my soul ever benefited from being blessed with a great sense of humor! I'm Catholic yet I'm so happy in spirit that going to confession has been OUT OF THE QUESTION for twenty years! If I'm a sinner, THAT'S NEWS TO ME. I speak no evil and hear no evil. As far as seeing any evil, well other than admitting to watching a little hanky-panky once in a while, I just KEEP MY EYES CLOSES if evil comes a knocking!
A sense of humor is a blessing. If you've been given this talent, you're expected to use it. Making people laugh restores their positive energies and keeps them healthy. Making people laugh does exactly the same thing for the humorist.
Playing the fool isn't for everybody. After all, if everybody had a 'funny bone', whom would I be able to make fun of? Serious folks provide folks like me with a treasure load of one liners on a daily basis.Thanks, TIGHT ASSES, I truly appreciate you!
How good is your sense of humor? didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. The things that come out of my mouth are never scripted, they just pop out of my inner self unfiltered. I never intend to insult or embarrass anybody, but it what I say comes across negatively I don't apologize. Again, it's not because I'm mean, it's because I am who I am, FUNNY, VERY FUNNY!
I think the test got it wrong though, 99.9% humorous? If I'm not 100% FUNNY which I know for a fact that I am, then I'm not funny at all!
If you didn't see the Steelers/Colts game yesterday, you missed a simply amazing execution of offensive excellence led by Ben Roethlisberger and his awesome line. The defense wasn't too shabby either although they gave up 34 points.
What was so great was that even with a record of 4-3 going into yesterday's game, the Steeler's wins were lackluster and hardly memorable. But I guarantee you that last night's game will go down in franchise history. Let's see: 1. Ben won his 100th game, 2. He set an NFL record of having two 500+yards games which no one else had ever done including Brady and Manning. 3. He scored 6 touchdowns which had never been accomplished by any Steeler's quarterback before.
Another aspect of note was that everybody that was healthy had a hand in this phenomenal show of teamwork. Both Todd Haley and Dick LeBeau came up with strategies that were well-planned and well-executed. In the past, Haley used run, run, pass, which often led to three and out. Yesterday, the mix of plays included short and long passes, runs by both Bell and Blount, and involvement by every WR on the roster. Pouncey and Miller along with the entire offensive line kept Big Ben on his feet, not allowing one sack the entire game. LeBeau replaced his down-the-field defense with an in-our-face blitz time and time again. Andrew Luck was hit and sacked on just about every snap. His dirty uniform was testament to how well Timmons, Keisel, Worilds, Shazier, and Heyward played. If I failed to mention anybody else instrumental in keeping Luck down, please forgive me.
Hats off to the guys who've been on the team for ten or more years. Heath Miller, Brett Keisel, Troy Polamalu, and James Harrison were in rare form. The relatively new players, Brown, Bryant, Wheaton, and Moats sizzled. The interceptions by William Gay and Antwon Blake were sensational. And certainly last, but far from not least, head coach,Mike Tomlin, your determination to keep moving forward is perhaps the most important element of all. When times are good, you remind the team that the season isn't over, and when times are bad, you remind the team that the SEASON ISN'T OVER! A steady hand always rights the course.
I've been a Steelers fan for over 50 years. In the 70's, and 80's yesterday they played with the same intensity that they did during those eras in which they were Super Bowl Champs four times. In 2006 and then again in 2009, they captured their fifth and sixth rings, the only team in NFL history to do that.
Yesterday I got the feeling we were back to the Steelers of Old. Their play and attitude made me feel young again. My enthusiasm was over the moon. I love this team with my whole heart. I am involved in every play and at the end of every game win or lose, I'm totally exhausted!
Yesterday you guys were SIMPLY AMAZING! Thanks for taking this old lady back to a time in her youth when those Steelers were SIMPLY AMAZING, too! love ya'll
Yep, I'm bummed out. The Steelers lost to the Cleveland Browns, 31-10. As usual, they started out with a series of plays that led them to the Red Zone, and had to settle for a lousey three points. After three plays and out by the Browns, again the Steelers went down to Cleveland's twenty yard line and instead of a touchdown, had to kick a field goal, botched it and scored a big, fat zero!
Oh, actually what I've just recounted could be considered Pittsburgh's Monday morning highlights. All of a sudden, in about the span of three minutes, the Browns were winning 14 - 3, and a short time later, 21-3.
I was so frustrated, I picked up my car keys and went shopping. Bought two pair of jeans and a sweater before returning home. Now the score was 31-3. Decided to take my dog for a walk. When I came through the door 30 minutes later, the game was over. Thank God! And although the Steelers finally did score seven points to make it 31-10, their efforts did little to brighten my mood.
Fast forward to today's Trib Sports page. Headline reads: Bad Ben is big problem for Steelers! Are you freakin' kidding me? Yes, according to this article, in case Ben wasn't aware of it, he's in a passing league. For the first three possessions, he handed off the ball instead of passing. I believe Ben only passed once during that time and it was to Wheaton, who of course couldn't pull the ball in. Was Ben the one calling the plays? I doubt it. Surely Haley has to take responsibility for a lot of the decisions that were made. Between Wheaton, Brown, and even my beloved, Heath Miller, more balls were dropped than snowflakes during a winter blizzard!
And what about the defense? They couldn't plug up a leaky faucet much less keep the Cleveland running backs from chewing up 10 to 20 yards at a clip! They gave the Browns' quarterback time to have a beer and a bratwurst before letting the ball go and still couldn't sack him!
With all their problems, you'd think I'm down only on the players. Au contrair! Coaching was abysmal from top to bottom. Tomlin had no answers. LeBeau was clueless. And Haley, well forget about it!
Lastly, my biggest beef is with the Rooneys. You guys need to get your heads out of your arses and wipe the slate clean. If you want to return to the Steelers of old, take a good look at your leadership and have the gumption to make changes. Until you do, this fan is deflated much like the footballs you must have used in yesterday's game!
We've lived in Western Pennsylvania our whole lives. Born, raised, educated, worked, married, and retired, here in good old PA. So what's the problem, you ask?
My hubby and I are in our seventies, our house and yard are too big, our winters, too cold, and our taxes, too high. Maintaining everything is getting to be a drag. It isn't that we're in poor health because we're still pretty spry. So we ask ourselves, "Should we stay or should we go?" Maybe the better questions are, "What is the RIGHT thing to do" vs "What is the SMART thing to do?"
Since we are so close to family and friends here, so familiar with our surroundings, our church, our communities, our medical professionals, our shopping areas, our entertainment venues, and our fitness center, to stay would be the RIGHT thing to do. As we age, comfort level is extremely important to our psyche. There's peace in having folks around who love and support us. Just like the infamous Norm of Cheers, "Everybody knows your name!" Although that may seem insignificant to some, most seniors take great joy in being recognized by name. Being confident in where to go and how to get there contributes to lowering a person's stress levels considerably. We know GPS takes the worry out of finding the best route to a specific destination, but there's nothing like being able to get there on your own.
Let's look at the SMART thing to do now. If we decided to move to the Carolinas where two of our three grown children and their families live, buy a smaller home in a gated 55+ Adult Community, join the Homeowners Association in order to free ourselves of house and yard maintenance, and pay lower taxes in almost every aspect of living, we'd also enjoy a more peaceful and less stressful life. Granted we're not as familiar with our surroundings, but since we visit the South at least two or three times a year, we've gotten to know our way around. As far as finding a church, shopping, entertainment, and a gym, we're good. Heck, we even know quite a few people by name, and they know ours. As far as writing my books which I started doing a few years ago, I can do that anywhere!
My hubby and I know we are closer to the end of our journey in this life than to its beginning. When one of us reaches that end, we want our beloved partner to be in a place that provides friendly companionship, carefree living, and peace of mind and soul. We want them to have many more happy experiences and be exposed to new and exciting adventures. We want their remaining days to be as good if not better than the ones we shared together.
So again I ask, "Should we stay or should we go?" Those are our two options. Do we be RIGHT or do we be SMART? Got any advice for two young-minded codgers? If so, we'd like to hear it!
I've been reading the newspapers since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. My first exposure was to the comic strips in the Pittsburgh Press. Nancy and Sluggo were my favorite characters. As I grew in body and mind, the stories on the front page caught my interest. They were usually about some hometown happening or national event. I was always struck by how quickly a reporter could turn what he or she had heard about or had actually witnessed into print. I never once doubted their veracity because if it made it to the papers, it had to be the truth!
Fast forward to present day. Now I read the Tribune Review. I still read the comics, but usually wait till the last possible moment. I want to end with a smile on my face and some peace in my heart. The front page almost always presents the latest tragedy, terrorism, or trauma in gigantic headlines. Even if I try to overlook them, the horrors of the day hit me in the face like a Tyson uppercut. Leafing through the rest of the paper is no better. National news focuses on dissidents and warfare from across the globe. My only reprieve is the occasional full-page department store sales ad.
And if all of that isn't enough to make a grown woman cry, the political page rears its ugly head. Column after column is devoted to either elevating the deeds of a current incumbent or bashing the very same person for the very same deeds. Then there are the stories about the challengers who have either led a life of crime, or if elected, are about to become criminals. Starting in late August and reaching well into the last few days of October, the only news is about November elections be they local, state, or national. There are no holds barred. Whether what is written is true or not, it makes absolutely no difference. If it serves to get a preferred candidate votes, that's all that really matters.Integrity and morality have no place in the newspaper world today. Honesty and values don't generate interest and do little to secure political victories.
Please don't think I'm ragging on the Tribune Review because I'm not. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does the exact same thing. USA Today, likewise! And every other paper on the planet!
Unfortunately the truth is low on the list of politician priorities. It has been so twisted that what is true can no longer be recognized and where it can be found is a mystery to me!
Oh, wait, I take that back. Truth does reside in most newspapers. You can find it in the comic strips!
If you know anything about Pittsburgh, you're well aware of the true grit our Pirates and Steelers show in every contest they compete in. This weekend was a barn burner for both teams. The Pirates were losing 2-0 to the Brewers on Saturday night. Yet in the bottom of the 8th, Russell Martin, our talented catcher, hit a three run homer to set the stage for a 4-2 victory. Yesterday he drove in Andrew McCutchen in the bottom of the 7th resulting in a 1-0 win. The Pirates are only 2.5 games out of first place in the Central Division. Look out, St. Louie, we're right on your heels for first place and are in it to win it!
Last night the Steelers were in Carolina to take on the Panthers. Their first series was a disaster to say the least. The Cats defense was spot on and it looked like they were going to give us fits for the entire game. However there is no quit in Big Ben and his band of mighty warriors. They kept plugging away and were ahead at halftime, 9 - 3.
During the second half, unbelievable plays and a ton of just plain luck took the team to a 37-19 victory! In the melee, the Steelers lost Taylor, Shazier, and Jones on defense, yet never thought of quitting. On offense, Antonio Brown made two touchdown catches, Le'Veon Bell ran for 147 yards, and LaGarrett Blount ran for 118 yards and scored a touchdown. Are you getting my drift yet?
Our sports teams are merely a reflection of the people who live and work in Pittsburgh. Far from being privileged, well-heeled elitists, we're simply hard-nosed, hard-working folks who keep plugging away no matter how many obstacles present themselves. When times seem the darkest, and the mountains to high to climb, that's when Pittsburghers are at their collective best. When a neighbor loses his or her job, we offer support with food, clothing, and tips on where to find another one. When tragedy strikes a family, we gather together and help out wherever needed. Nobody looks to be thanked or publicly acknowledged.
I was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area and have lived here for 70 years. It's a place like no other. Once in a while, my hubby and I talk about moving to a warmer climate. Since two of our adult children and their families live in of all places, the Carolinas, it would seem logical we'd consider moving there. But after coming to our senses, we couldn't leave Pittsburgh any more than we could decide to divorce after 46 years of marriage. Just like our beloved Pirates, and Super Steelers,
WE'RE IN IT TO WIN IT for the duration in sports, marriage, and our town, Pittsburgh, PA!
The Pirates are on their way to the World Series,the Steelers to another Super Bowl and the people of Pittsburgh are with them every step of the way! WE'RE IN IT TO WIN IT no matter what it takes. In Pittsburgh, that's the way we roll!
This is my first time being involved with Kid Lit Blog Hops. The purpose of the event is to bring children's book authors, bloggers, and publicists together to share their works, ideas, and interesting things in their lives. I am so excited to be included.
I received a comment on my Grammy's Gang blog from @snacksformax informing me that I was to include a specific post instead of the blog itself. I truly appreciate 'snacks' taking the time to show me the error of my ways. I'm 70 and admittedly not a techie whiz. It's folks like 'snacks' that help me to improve my computer skills daily. I couldn't be happier to have made a new friend and plan on following her advice whenever I'm fortunate enough to be a recipient.
I posted the second book in my When We Were Kids series, Puppy Love, on Kid Lit Blog Hops because I think it's the perfect way to introduce myself to all of you. I've been a children's advocate my entire life. My father died when I was three years old. Even though I was so young, I realized then that I was helpless and needed someone to speak up for me. Unfortunately in 1944 folks believed children should be seen and not heard. My brother and I suffered a lot because of that ridiculous mantra.
All the books in this series deal with issues tweens and teens face everyday. Through my words I hope to help them understand what they are experiencing and have the courage to move forward.
We were all kids once. We know what it's like to be bullied, travail the challenges of puberty, and even suffer the loss of a loved one. It is my mission to be that voice speaking to and up for our children until they speak for themselves.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I will officially be 70 years old! So today I can't help but look back over my shoulder to observe the path I've taken. Born in 1944 during the final days of World War II, I think was clearly a premonition that my life would be one of turmoil as well as peace.
Although these two dichotomies are at the extreme ends on the living continuum, I've experienced varying degrees of both throughout my lifetime thus far. Supposedly one would believe that I'd have relished the good times, prayed for them to keep coming, and do everything in my power to avoid the negative ones. And for the most part, that's true. While living through pain and suffering, I oftentimes railed against my God, asking 'why me,' and having the audacity to raise my fists in futile defiance. At other moments I simply bowed my head in grudging submission and allowed the miseries to overtake me. From an early age, depression became my constant companion although since being so young, I was completely unaware of the nature of this hideous malady and what could be done to alleviate it.
And so I lived day-to-day, year-to-year, going about the business of wading through my childhood, being a teen, getting a college education, becoming a teacher, finding and marrying the love of my life, giving birth to three great kids, solidifying a career, reaching retirement, and embarking on a second avocation as an emerging author of children's books at the ripe old age of sixty-eight.
What I discovered over the years is that without the turmoil, my journey would have been quite boring and without much merit. I wouldn't have attained nearly half of my accomplishments without the struggle and defeat I'd endured along the way. There would have been little to no motivation to continue striving for more. Since I would have been at peace with what I'd already done, there would have been no need to pursue much else. Had there only been a continual sense of calm, today I would be a little old lady content to sit in the proverbial rocking chair waiting for the angels to transport me to that heavenly kingdom in the sky.
But because of my struggles, at 70, I'm a vibrant, active, opinionated woman who continues to seek out new ways to reinvent herself. I have no desire to rest on my laurels, I have no desire to be transported anywhere, and I have no desire to end my journey anytime soon.
Of course, I'm thankful for the peace I've enjoyed over these many years. I wouldn't be the person I am without having experienced the euphoria that comes with the glorious feelings of utter contentment. Peace has certainly propelled me on my life's path.
But I must give a shout-out to all the conflict and pain I've been privileged to bear. It is precisely the very adversity I've met along the way, and had the strength and courage to overcome, that has made me the happiest and most proud. "I am woman, hear me roar!" When my final day does arrive, even though I plan to be cremated, I want those words engraved on a plaque and hung along side a picture of my smiling, mischievous face.
After having looked back over my shoulder on the past, I've set my sights forward, and am excited about what lies ahead in the future. I'm determined to be around for at least another 30 years, give or take. So deal with it!
Since I've birthed three children I believe I'm an authority on 'Labor Day!' Oh, yes, my dear friends, especially those of the male persuasion, I know from first hand experience what Labor Day is all about.
I was in our first apartment sitting on the couch with my mother-in-law about 10:00 P.M. while the men in the family played cards in the kitchen. Suddenly I felt wet. Not knowing for sure what the problem was, I excused myself and went to the upstairs bathroom. Water was flowing out of me like somebody had turned on the spigot. I grabbed a bath towel, stuck it between my legs and yelled for help. My hubby shot up the steps with a look of terror on his face."It's time," was all I could manage and away we went.
In 1969 once reaching the hospital, I was entrusted to the night nurse, and my husband was led to the waiting room never to be seen again until AFTER LABOR AND DELIVERY! Imagine that! For the next twelve and a half hours, I experienced the worst pain ever alone and extremely afraid. Occasionally the nurse would come in, check my heart rate and the machine showing the baby's activity and then leave me alone to suffer.
Somewhere in the melee, I was given an epidural to alleviate the pain. Then shortly after 10:00 A.M. that Sunday morning, I was wheeled into the delivery room. At 10:17 A.M. my first born was extracted from my womb, help up by the doctor for me to see, then placed upon my abdomen where she rested while the staff in the room sang happy birthday. Immediately she was whisked away to be cleaned, diapered, and tested.
Since I had the epidural, I wasn't allowed to sit up until 10:00 that night. I'd only seen my hubby for a short while after giving birth. He said our daughter was absolutely beautiful and he was the proudest man in the world. Good for him, but I had yet to get a close-up view of her, hadn't yet held her, and was in a whole lot of pain from the cluster of hemorrhoids throbbing in my posterior. Ain't Labor Day grand!
Finally the nurse presented my baby to me shortly before midnight. As I held her in my arms, tears streamed down my face. She was indeed the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes upon. Her skin was like that of a summer peach, her body perfect in every way, and she was peacefully asleep. I was supposed to be giving her a bottle, but never did. I just couldn't take my eyes off her. In those moments I promised her I'd be the best mom I could be, and that her dad and I would protect her with our very lives. I promised myself I'd never go through labor again!
However, thirteen months later I gave birth to my son. I was only in labor for about an hour, my husband was with me from the beginning until our boy was delivered after only thirty-five minutes at 12:42 A.M. He was far from beautiful since he had to be removed with forceps and he weighed almost 2 more pounds than his sister. He looked like he'd gone ten rounds in the ring. My hubby was the proudest man in the world for the second time!
Eight years later I found myself experiencing another labor day, On a winter night in February, 1978, we found ourselves headed to the hospital once again. I had a towel between my legs and pains were coming every two minutes. We figured we'd make it just in time to deliver. No such luck. I yelled and for eight hours, this time my dear husband got to see and hear it all. I was supposed to get an epidural, but with a shift change somehow it never happened. Instead I was wheeled into the delivery room where the doctor and nurses began the birthing process. NATURALLY! At first I didn't realize what was going on, and when I did, it was too late for the shot. I grabbed my hubby's hand and squeezed it so hard I could have easily broken his fingers. When the nurse asked him if he needed to sit down, I went off cursing and screaming about the pain I was in and nobody had offered me so much as a 'sorry' for your troubles! The words I used are not printable, but you get the picture. At 7:57 A.M. our second daughter was born, our third and last child!
Yes, I'm an authority on 'Labor Day!' If you have any doubts, just return to the top of my blog and read it again, this time pay close attention though!
Across the country many children are heading back to school today. Most likely they tossed and turned throughout the night, but still managed to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. They brushed their teeth, washed their faces, and got dressed without you having to prompt them even once. After all, they've been waiting to wear their new clothes and the hottest athletic shoes for weeks now. Most likely they don't want much if anything for breakfast. And assuredly, they don't want you walking them to the bus stop. Lugging their favorite sports team or Taylor Swift backpacks loaded with sharpened pencils, notebooks, and bagged lunches, off they go! Maybe you shed a tear or two, but chances are you let out a huge sigh of relief and return to a second cup of dark roasted coffee and the newspaper. You don't have to be at work for at least another hour!
The schools have been in frantic preparation for months now. Principals, teachers, cafeteria workers, and maintenance staff have all been carrying out their specified duties in order to make the first day of the 2014-15 school year run as smoothly as humanly possible. Room assignments went out in June so unless a child is new to the area, students pretty much know where to go and how to get there. As the halls begin to fill up, sounds of laughter and anticipation float through the air. Spirits are high, expectations seem reachable, anything is possible.
Jitters at the start of any school year come with the territory. I like to think of them as the fuel needed to rev up the educational tanks of each and everyone connected with the learning process. Sure the kids are hyped, but the teachers experience the same type of anxiety as well. Not knowing the capabilities of students that have been entrusted to their care, they must be vigilant from the get-go. A top priority for them is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of every child and formulate an individualized plan so each one can grow and excel throughout the year.
In particular, teachers should be on the look-out for socialization development. The shy kids need help with forming connections with their peers. The class clowns need help realizing they don't have to always be "on" to be liked. And the bullies need to learn that putting somebody else down doesn't elevate their status one bit. Actually these kids suffer from low self-esteem more than any other group and should be the focus of their teachers' understanding and professional expertise.
Principals suffer first day jitters, too. Having to contend with a large number of students is a piece of cake compared to the supervision of both new and seasoned teachers, the concerns and complaints of anxious parents, the execution of smooth-running cafeteria schedules and overseeing the operations of the entire building. At times like these, I'm sure many principals yearn to be back in the classroom.
And finally, the parents. Perhaps your jitters outweigh any of the groups already discussed. Once again you've handed your precious sons and daughters to folks you don't really know. You believe you're doing what's best for your kids, but somewhere inside there's a little voice telling you to be on alert. Listen to that voice, not because the teacher has done anything to merit your distrust, but because it's possible that he or she could. Although the percentage of "bad" teachers is very low and most of these dedicated professionals deserve our deepest respect and admiration, you, the parent, need to be involved with your child's education from the first day of school until the last. Get to know the teacher well. Be in communication with the teacher on a regular basis, support the teacher's efforts towards benefitting your child, and don't be afraid to ask questions when the need arises. By formulating a strong bond with the teacher, your jitters will definitely subside, and the entire school year will be rewarding for everyone!
On your mark, get ready, get set, GO! This new school years holds the promise of great things to come.
If everybody involved maintains the same enthusiasm they experience on the first day of school, the sky's the limit! Good luck!
Every human being goes through puberty so what's the big deal about making it the central theme in my latest novel? According to my daughter, Joy, the title, Pimples and Periods (When We Were Kids, Book 3), is going to put a lot of people off. Really? Although classified in the juvenile fiction genre, this tale is appropriate for ages 9 to 99! You're either close to being pubescent, are currently going through the throes of puberty, or can remember that time in your life as if it were yesterday.
Not only do I give accurate information about the process, but infuse a ton of humor to make readers see puberty for what it truly is, a Right of Passage. Girls are told about what happens to their bodies and why those changes are occurring in a delicate, sensitive manner. Boys learn why their voices change, why hair starts growing all over the place, and, the possibility of outbreaks of unsightly acne. In this tale, suggestions as to how to deal with ugly zits comes from such unreliable sources as younger sister, Betty Lou and Uncle Tom. However in My Letter To Readers, I direct kids experiencing skin problems to talk to their parents and find a professional to help eradicate this condition with effective treatment.
Our society today proclaims transparency at every turn beginning from the White House down to the everyday mom and dad who are proud to say they can talk to their children about anything. Really?
I don't know, but a number of young teens either lack even the most basic knowledge of what their bodies and emotions are about to experience, or have erroneous information they've gained from their peers.
Why parents feel so uncomfortable about "the talk" in our modern world remains a mystery to me. For this very reason, as a life-long child advocate, I was compelled to write Pimples and Periods to offer valuable information on the topic of puberty to both teens and adults alike. It can be used as a stepping stone to initiate conversation. In the back of the book I provide 10 Talking Points that cover just about every aspect of this Right of Passage. By using this helpful insert, your discussion with son or daughter can actually be informative and fun at the same time.
To me, Pimples and Periods, was the obvious title choice. I can't imagine calling it anything else and that anybody would be put off by it. Really!
A little more than two weeks ago my three adult children and their families came into town. Not unusual because they all make a summer visit but not necessarily at the same time. By the morning of July 19th we had 11 people in our house ranging in age from 78 years down to 15 months. My daughter, Joy, and her family of four were due in about three o'clock. Without much in the way of mathematical skills, I'm sure you figured out that that would make 15 rowdies eating and sleeping together in our three bedroom home. Out of this number, 6 were boys, ages 1-11 and 1 girl, age 8.
On Saturday, after awakening, washing up, and attempting to get themselves breakfast, the grandkids took to the backyard to conduct wrestling matches while the so-called adults plunked themselves down on the patio to set the agenda for the day. Though the plans for the morning were sketchy, we'd agreed to hit Kennywood Park after Gabe, the youngest, woke up from his afternoon nap. Right about then, Kaden, 7, was calling a penalty on Liam, 7 for unsportsmanlike conduct. Of course, Liam denied any wrongdoing and claimed his cousin was a baby. Somebody hit somebody with a hard ball and somebody was screaming bloody murder. After a while I purposely forgot who was being the aggressor and who was being aggressed. I find it's better to keep my sanity that way.
My younger daughter, Kristy, decided the best course of action was for the dads to take their kids to White Oak Park, a county green space, where their little darlings could let off some steam and hopefully stay in one piece before going to Kennywood. She suggested they stop along the way for a burger and then we'd have a more substantial meal later on at the park. Once they left, peace returned to the valley.
Kristy, Kelly, my daughter-in-law, and I sat outside and talked and laughed for at least an hour or two. Finally Gabe woke up and Kristy called her hubby, Todd, to get a bead on their location. They were still at Sumac Grove, the kids were having a ball running through the raindrops and didn't want to leave, so we decided we'd meet them there and head out together for Kennywood.
My husband and I drove our own car because if the baby tired at the park, we'd bring him home while the others stayed to continue riding the coasters and the other death-defying attractions. As we rode towards the back of White Oak, we noticed picnickers partying under pavilions because of the misty rain. I announced how badly I felt for them even though they seemed unphased by the weather.
Upon reaching Sumac, I spotted my son's truck parked among tons of other cars. I told my husband how rude it was of our kids to have taken up space in an area that had clearly been reserved by other's for their own purposes. When he stopped the car and got out, I assumed my hubby was going to apologize for his family's inconsiderateness. Instead three of my grandsons came running to the passenger side and were yelling something I couldn't quite understand. As I opened my door, they screamed, "Happy birthday, Grammy!" In no uncertain terms, I told them it wasn't my birthday and to get in their dad's vehicles so we could proceed to Kennywood.
But, as I looked around I spied my daughter,Joy standing with a crowd of family and friends smiling from ear-to-ear yelling, "We gotcha!" and then bursting into the birthday song followed by the Ole Gray Mare. Now my 70th birthday isn't until September so they had hatched the perfect plan to pull off a surprise party which they hadn't ever been able to accomplish before. I've always been the one to plan our celebrations and the one to surprise just about everybody in the family at one time or another.
The food was sensational, the games, robust, and the many well-wishes truly enjoyable. I received wonderful greeting cards, lottery tickets, and unexpected, but greatly-appreciated gifts. But what was and will always remain closest to my heart was that my children, their children, my family, and my friends took the time to celebrate my life in such a glorious, sneaky way. "We gotcha!" thrilled them to no end, and I must tip my hat to all of them since I never had a clue!
We partied hardy, cleaned up the pavillion, and headed back to our house. For the rest of the evening, the adults talked on the patio, the kids ran around catching June bugs, and the baby slept peacefully in the pack-n-play. Around midnight everybody found their spots either in a bed, on the floor or in a chair ready for a good night's sleep. I think they all dreamed of the look on my face as I realized they'd actually pulled the wool over my eyes. And, I'm sure they considered their dreams sweet! I know I did!
Normally I don't promote authors or books on my Monday blog. Although tempted, I never promoted my own books on this site save for the widgets you see flashing on the right of the page. But today I'm going to make an exception.
C.J. Lyons, a New York Times Best Seller, has declared Monday, July 14, as DIGITAL BOOK DAY! C.J has gathered notable authors from around the world to contribute their writings for free as a way of giving back to the millions of supporters who value good literature. I find her efforts to be extremely generous. The time she's spent in creating and promoting this event, the glitches she's had to overcome, and the continued advice she's given to neophytes like myself are to be highly commended.
C.J. Lyons is a selfless woman who is interested in showing society that reading is essential to both the young and the old and everybody in between. Children who first begin to read are elated; their feelings of accomplishment, independence, and creativity soar to highs they've never before experienced.
The elderly gravitate to books, magazines, and newspapers as a way of staying in touch with the ever-changing world. I know many seniors who have or who are about to lose their eyesight, and the first thing they express sorrow over is that they can't or won't be able to read. Luckily there are volunteers who faithfully visit these folks to do just that for them. Audio books are the best innovations since sliced bread as far as they're concerned.
As for the in-betweeners, so many are caught up in the zillions of modern technological gadgets that they overlook the value of a good book. Hopefully through the efforts of dedicated people like C.J. Lyons, they'll realize the error of their ways and return to that which replenishes the mind and excites the soul.
www.digitalbookday.com is the place to go today. Again, all offerings are #FREE. This site was experiencing overload earlier because of the number of people trying to gain access. I understand that the problem is currently being investigated and should be resolved shortly. Keep on trying. Your rewards far outweigh any bumps you might have to endure for the time being.
Hats off to C.J. Lyons. Tons of authors and readers are forever in your debt, C.J. myself being one of them!
Last week it was reported that a twenty-two month old toddler was left strapped in the back seat of his father's car for over eight hours. No one knows exactly when the baby succumbed to the heat, but I'm sure he suffered immeasurably for quite a while before suffocating. Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of this gut-wrenching tragedy was that he died alone.
The father says he thought he'd dropped his son off at daycare but doesn't remember doing it. The man had so much on his mind regarding work that he simply forgot. However upon investigation, the police discovered he'd been downloading pornography and emailing pictures of his privates for a good part of the day. With such stressful responsibilities resting on his shoulders, it's understandable he'd overlook something so insignificant as his two-year-old stuck in the sweltering heat with no water to drink or air to breathe.
At one point according to the press, this father actually returned to his car to fetch a forgotten item. Unfortunately that forgotten item wasn't his son.
While inspecting the man's computer, experts found he'd been searching the web on how long it would take for a child to die if left in a car on a hot day.
Yesterday, in a follow-up story, it was reported that the mother of this innocent victim had also been doing similar research. And her very first statement that she made to her husband shortly after his arrest was, "I hope you didn't say too much!" Oh the pain of a grieving mother couldn't be more evident in those seven sorrowful words!
Who does this? Two thirty-something narcissists whose only purpose in life is to satisfy their own wants. They care not for others. Once whatever prompted them to give birth was fulfilled, and the hard work of parenting set in, their young son became disposable. Finding a method to execute their plan was of utmost importance, neither one giving any thought to the pain and suffering they were about to inflict upon their helpless baby.
I've been a child advocate for most of my life. In my opinion, anybody responsible for the murder of a child to sate their own purposes should be subjected to the same kind of inhumane torture. I don't care what reasons they might offer for doing such a despicable act. I don't give a damn if they're mentally unstable, or were insane in that precise moment when they took a promising life. Bullshit to their excuse of doing it because the little one's incessant crying pushed them over the edge. And as far as the voices inside their heads made them do it, my comeback would most certainly be, JUST SAY NO, you asshole!
In this case, I would happily lock the two of them up in an overheated car myself and throw the key away. I would stand watching them suffer while drinking an ice-cold Pepsi. And I would hold up a picture of their twenty-two month old baby boy so his face would be the last thing they saw before their lights went out.
Unfortunately reports of this kind are becoming more and more common. I believe drastic consequences must be formulated and enforced in order to lessen such crimes. My heart cries out for this child, but my resolve to eradicate this type of evil is stronger than ever. To me, 'an eye for an eye' is the only justice acceptable for such selfish disregard for precious lives.
I try to walk our dog, Shadow, every day around the neighborhood. Granted, the weather dictates just how far and how long, but we usually pass by the same houses. I know most of the people on our route by name, and Shadow knows most of the dogs by smell.
Quite a number of these folks are elderly, so I always make it a point to greet them with a smile and a friendly hello. When invited, occasionally I'll sit down and chit chat for ten minutes or so. One couple in particular seems to look forward to my little visits. Mike and Doris are both in their eighties, both fraile, but although the husband is not very talkative, both are of sound mind and actually very witty.
Last summer I spied a 'for sale' sign in the back window of Mike's newly-purchased automobile. I was confused since I knew he'd purchased it only a few weeks prior. On the way back from our walk, I saw Mike outside, approached him and asked why he was selling it. He told me he could no longer drive because of his eyesight and didn't know what he was going to do in regards to shopping, doctor's appointment, etc.
I asked him for a piece of paper and a pen, jotted down both mine and my husband's name, and included our telephone number. I encouraged Mike to call us anytime, and if we were available, we'd be happy to drive him and Doris wherever they had to go. We're both retired and can afford to help out neighbors in need.
Several days later when visiting, I asked Doris if Mike had given her our information. She readily said that he had, but they just couldn't take advantage of us. They didn't want to burden others with their problems. Again I assured her they wouldn't be an inconvenience and to please let us be of assistance. She said if they really were stuck, Mike would give us a call. He never did.
Yesterday I stopped to visit for a minute. Doris was sitting on their concrete wall, Mike on the steps leading to the front door. Both looked extremely uncomfortable. I asked what happened to the outdoor bench they've always sat on under the front awning to keep cool. Doris told me it was in the garage, but too heavy for them to pull out. When I offered to get it, Doris emphatically stated that she'd rather I didn't. The dear old woman was afraid if I got hurt, I'd sue them. I assured her that if it was indeed too heavy, I'd summon my hubby to help me. I asked if I could at least go in and check it out. Reluctantly she agreed. A few minutes later, I was rolling the bench out on a dolly and had it positioned in their favorite spot in no time.
Tearfully Doris thanked me and handed me a tiny box with an Italian candy inside. I remember eating those when I was a kid. As I accepted her gift, I thanked her profusely for giving me the opportunity to be of service. Of course she said they were the ones who should be thanking me.
I'm not sure that Mike and Doris understand that they were gifting me much more by accepting my service than what I had actually done for them. As we grow older, we need to realize that we can still do for others by permitting others to do for us.
The one lesson we all need to learn is that being in need at anytime and asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a chance to teach others what they can do to better themselves.
We're all in this life together, so together let's make life better for everyone!
16,790 days, give or take a few, refers to the number of 24 hour periods I've spent married to my hubby. Yesterday we celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary, and we're both still in it for the long haul. To say that every single minute of every single day has been gloriously happy would be a downright lie! To say that every single minute of every single day has been a living hell would also be grossly untrue! But, to say that every single minute of every single day has been worth it, is an extreme understatement because our life together has been exactly that, WORTH IT!
We were so young in 1968 and hadn't a clue what marriage entailed. We're, let's say, much older now, and I must confess at times still don't get it. Yet we keep trying because of our commitment to each other hasn't waivered one iota. When we spoke our vows to have, to hold, and to love, we meant it. When we agreed that for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or in health until death, we meant it.
We became parents to our beautiful daughter, Joy, seven months after we said "I do." Thirteen months later, our son, Barry, came along. Needless to say, with my hubby working eight hours to pay the bills, and me caring full time for two babies and holding down the fort, we had little time for each other. On most days, hellos, good-byes, and good nights comprised the totality of our conversations. Since we were only engaged four months after we met, and then married seven months later, we knew squat, one about the other. Heck, I didn't know what foods he hated which turned out to be that he loved everything except pigs feet and he didn't even know my full name, Florence Frances Agnes Kolton Barnett! I didn't know he wasn't a fan of the beach, and he certainly didn't know I would be a beach bum for the rest of my life without complaint. We both were guilty of not knowing one another's favorite color! Imagine?
But over the years we slowly realized that all of who we were and what we wanted out of life would reveal itself eventually. All we needed to do was pay attention. Sometimes when we did just that, our lives were blissfully happy. However when our observations diminished or were totally nonexistent, our lives were taken over by resentment and hurt. Arguments ensued and days of silence took over our household. Not only did we suffer, but our children did as well. Even though they were quite young, they felt the tension and disconnect. Seperately we tried to attend to the needs of our daughter and son, but know that their lives were negatively changed. How could they not be!
After decades of practicing to understand one another and make compromises for the good of our family, did our marriage improve immensely. Today we know pretty much everything about each other and accept the foibles and quirks the are part of our beings the we had a difficult time tolerating way back when. We laugh at how silly we were in trying to be right instead of being happy.
Oh, I would be remiss if I didn't mention out third child, Kristy, who was born eight years after her brother. Although I was highly upset at first, over time we both realized that she was the best thing that could have happened to us. We were older and had been there, done that already, but we were wiser, too. We not only had quality time with only one baby to care for, but we definitely made sure to be there for each other.
16,790 days seems like a long time, but actually it isn't. We still have a lot to learn about each other, and hopefully we'll have the time to do it. Our life together has been fruitful, we have seven amazing grandchildren to dote on. Have there been bumps along the road? Definitely!
But on day, 16,791, give or take a few, we're still commitment and it's 100% with out a doubt, WORTH IT!
Why is it that no matter what a person does, what extraordinary feat a person accomplishes, what horrific experiences a person endures, is it always necessary to spotlight something negative about him or her? Perhaps in finding fault, the person who does nothing, accomplishes little, and never suffers extreme pain or loss, can boast that their actions have never warranted criticism. What they fail to realize is that they've done nothing!
A soldier returns home from Afghanistan after being abducted and held captive for five years. This young man has undoubtedly been deprived of food, water, and most importantly his freedom. Assuredly he's been subjected to physical and mental torture by the Taliban. He has little to no contact with the outside world especially his family. His health is terribly compromised.
Then one day his country comes to his rescue and negotiates his release in exchange for five known terrorists. Although some may think such a bargain too high, what exactly is the right price for a man's life?
In our local paper, the headlines revealed that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Iowa was most likely AWOL on June 30, 2009 at the time of his capture. Bummer, right? All of our elation and admiration for a twenty-three year old who went through such a terrible ordeal for five years has certainly been misplaced. The only thing such a coward deserves is our ridicule and disdain. Right?
After all, Sgt. Bergdahl admittedly criticized the military for lacking in leadership, caring little for the plight of the Afghan people, even going so far as to bully both soldiers and townsfolk for no reason. He says the U.S. Army is a joke. What kind of soldier rebukes his superiors and fellow servicemen in such a vile manner? Perhaps five years in Taliban captivity is exactly what this ingrate deserved. Right?
Wrong, and wrong! On the night in question, Bowe completed his surveillance duties and then asked if it would be a problem if he took his rifle and gear when he walked away from the outpost. Of course he was told that indeed it would be a problem.
At age twenty-three, Sgt. Bergdahl became disillusioned with the military he had once committed himself to much like becoming aware of an unfaithful wife who cared little for him and the dreams they'd once shared.
About 50% of the marriages in the U.S. end in divorce without societal rebuke.
Does the town newspaper headline the couple's split, highlighting her failure to keep the house clean, or his propensity to spend money on fast cars? Is their dirty laundry plastered across the front page so that we now view these two as unworthy of our sympathy? If jailed for their misconduct, would we rail against their release? I highly doubt it.
Certainly going AWOL was a serious mistake in judgement. But in this case, I believe Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has paid a high price for his misconduct. Five years held by terrorists, tortured and abused, deprived of his very freedom was cruel and unusual punishment for his offense. He's finally home now, and deserves our understanding and compassion, not our ridicule and disdain. Let's rally around this soldier and his family and try to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he enlisted to serve his country, to bring peace to a war-torn, God-forsaken land even though it meant putting himself in harm's way.
This person did something, accomplished much, and endured pain and loss. Right? Why the need to defame?
If you happened to catch the PBS broadcast of the 25th anniversary of the National Memorial Day Concert last night, hosted by Gary Sinise and Joe Montegna, you are no doubt feeling immensely proud and profoundly saddened this morning. The line-up of orchestrational expertise, notable vocalists and performers, and military dignitaries was impressive, but what was perhaps even more striking to me was the solemn demeanor of the massive crowd gathered in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Thousands sat in respectful silence as patriotic songs were rendered, actual war film viewed, and a number of heartfelt speeches delivered to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers. Of course, those serving today were honored with applause and appreciative words as well.
In that crowd were many of the young men and women who've returned from duty forever broken. Those in wheelchairs, those who have suffered loss of limbs, those who can no longer remember, and those who remember and wish to God that they didn't, sat with tears streaming down their faces. As I questioned the "why" of it all, the answer became crystal clear. These people believe that freedom is worth fighting for, even dying for. However we who live in America and enjoy that freedom and take it for granted don't possess anything remotely akin to the passion of the soldiers who are consciously willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. We barely give freedom a second thought except maybe on holidays designated specifically to remind us of how lucky we are to live in this great country of ours.
One of the honorees, John Peck, a young man who at the age of 25 lost both arms and both legs in Afghanistan, truly touched my heart. As I listened to his story, and watched the tears flow, I couldn't help but join him in his emotional release. I felt extremely guilty that this man will never walk again, never hold anyone in his arms, never be whole. I, on the other hand, having done nothing to preserve our freedom, not only can walk, but skip, jump, climb, and run. Having done nothing to preserve our freedom, I can not only hold someone, but use my hands in countless activities that give me great pleasure. And, I am whole without ever lifting a finger to preserve our freedom. John Peck is my hero and I am humbled by his greatness.
Another upcoming holiday, June 6, 1944 is known as D-Day. During World War II, our troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and were mowed down by the Germans even before they had a chance to defend themselves. I suppose this day of remembrance is extremely special to me because I was born only three months after over 6,000 Americans lost their lives that day. I somehow believe that one of their spirits wandering over the earth entered my soul and still lives within me even now. He keeps reminding me that I enjoy my freedom because he was willing to forego his own.
Please remember all those who have served and continue to serve not only on Memorial Day or D-Day, but throughout the year. Whatever you can do, deem it an honor and do it with the same passion that those in our military faithfully exhibit for you. Maybe this can help a little to assuage the guilt we all must bear.
For the past sixty-six years, I've wished that my dad hadn't passed away so soon. I was only three, and my brother, Dan, five when Dad died on May 19, 1948, at the age of 38. He was inspecting a steel furnace door, when it suddenly became unhinged and fell, crushing him from the waist down. His accident happened on the seventeenth of May and he died two days later.
I documented this horrible tragedy in my first chapter book, Playing Hooky (When We Were Kids, Book 1) so that my children and grandchildren will know who he was, a talented and funny person who loved his wife, son and daughter to no end, and enjoyed every moment of his short life to the fullest.
On every death anniversary, I think about what my life would have been like had he lived. I know I would have been a "daddy's girl" because we had a special bond even before I was born. Dad told my mom that if their second child was a girl, he wanted her name to be Florence Frances. Florence because it meant "flowers" and Frances because his mentally-impaired younger sister's name was Frances and since she would never have the chance to have her own children, he wanted his daughter to carry her name. He had a heart of gold, my dad.
I have only a few pictures of him and just one of him, my brother, and I all holding hands, taken in Baba's backyard. But the images in my mind are many. I see Dad coming home from the mill, picking me up and swinging me around the room, him smiling from ear to ear, and me giggling excitedly. I hear him telling mom about his day as he lovingly embraces her. He asks what's for dinner and promises ice cream if we eat all our vegetables. Afterwards Dad reads the daily paper from cover to cover. When he gets to the comic strips, he howls out loud. My brother and I can't imagine what he finds so funny, but we join him nonetheless. He sings every nursery rhyme he can think of and then graces us with "Danny Boy" the Irish ditty he became famous for in our hometown. Although his given name was Frank, everybody called him Dan because whenever he had the opportunity, he sang that song. I see Dad helping me get ready for bed and telling me stories of his own childhood. He kisses my forehead, lets me know how much he loves me, and wishes me sweet dreams.
One morning just like every other one, Dad fixes me a bowl of cereal, picks up his lunch box and heads to work. When I hear the four o'clock mill whistle, since we live directly across from the gate, I run out on the front porch to meet him. But on this particular day, he doesn't come home. He's in the hospital fighting for his life, a battle he eventually loses.
Yet I still see him proudly watching me make my First Communion, graduate high school, secure my first teaching job, get married, have three beautiful children, become a successful educator, be blessed with seven energetic grandchildren, start a second career as an author at the ripe old age of sixty-eight, and live every moment of my life to the fullest exactly like he did.
My Dad has always been here with me though I didn't realize that until just a few years ago. However, having come to that conclusion no matter how late in life, I now have a beautiful sense of peace that was missing for so long. And every time I read the comic strips in our local paper, I hear him howling.
Mother, the noun, is defined as a female who bears an offspring. To mother, the verb, is defined as someone who tends to the necessary needs of the offspring she bore or has willingly accepted the responsibility for the offspring she has vowed to raise to adulthood.
Becoming a mother barring any medical problems is relatively simple. Engage in intercourse with a male of that species who supplies the sperm that unites with the female's egg, wait out the appropriate gestation period and deliver the baby or babies on a certain date.
(From this point on, my comments pertain specifically to humans.) But, to mother a child from birth to adulthood is an entirely different experience that requires a woman to be patient, selfless, involved, and committed.
From the get-go, while in labor, the mother-to-be exhibits extraordinary patience while suffering the extreme pain connected with delivery. Nature demands that she begins to mother even before she's ever laid eyes on her child. What she is enduring, how she looks and acts throughout her excruciating experience doesn't even enter into her mind at the time. Her selflessness has already taken hold of her being even without conscious awareness on her part.
As soon as her baby is placed in her arms, she begins to mother immediately. She inspects every inch of the tiny infant, pours every ounce of love into it that she can emote, and keeps careful watch on the baby as well as anyone who comes near. And from the moment she returns home, she begins to mother her baby. Her patience grows with every wail no matter the day or the hour. She becomes less and less concerned about her self as her focus on her child intensifies. She is completely involved in every aspect of her baby's life. And most importantly she is committed to mother her infant for the rest of his or her life with patience, selflessness, involvement and commitment.
Indeed, every child has a mother, but not every child is mothered the way he or she deserves to be. In fact, unfortunately in our world today, more and more mothers don't mother at all. They have no patience with their children; screaming and smacking is their chosen method of training. They are only absorbed in their needs and wants whether it be drugs, alcohol, material things, or advancing a career. They have absolutely no involvement in the life of their child; interest in school work, extracurricular activities, the company they keep, and what they watch and read isn't on their radar at all, they simply can't be bothered. And they aren't committed to their children, the can't be because they have no idea of what it takes to be committed to another person other than themselves. If I were to rate myself as on my mothering skills during my children's early years, sadly from one to ten, I was probably around a six. But as I matured, I realized that I owed them so much more than I had managed to give. I did develop more patience, and I did put aside my needs in order to satisfy theirs, and I did become more involved in every aspect of their lives, and my commitment grew stronger with my awareness that it had been somewhat lacking. I thank God that I woke up to what it meant to be not only a mother, but what it meant to mother. I pray that the young mothers of today begin mothering their precious children in time; the influence they wield now is the essential element needed to ensure that the lives of their babies will be healthy and productive leading them to become responsible adults. Becoming a mother is relatively simple; but mothering your children is the hardest thing you will ever be asked to do. But doing it is the greatest gift you can possibly give them. And whether or not you realize it, it is the greatest gift you can give yourself as well!
So I'm reading the Trib this morning, and lo and behold, the answer to the fountain of youth smacks me right between the eyes! According to research done at the University of California, San Francisco, and Harvard, two prestigious higher learning establishments, the brains of old mice are greatly rejuvenated by injecting the blood of young mice into them. The aged rodents get stronger, can exercise longer, and become more mentally acute.
At age 70, if I'm to believe this medical phenomenon, I need to go out, find some youngsters, persuade them to donate a pint of their blood for my much-needed remake, and I'm good to go for another twenty to thirty years of pumping iron, running marathons, and pursuing the ever-elusive Ph.D. in abnormal psychology. I just can't believe my good fortune!
No, in all seriousness, I can't believe it. First of all, drinking the blood of humans to live forever only truly happens in the movies. I've never been a fan of vampire flicks and doubt very much such creatures ever existed.
Secondly, who in their right mind wants to live past let's say one hundred? Your family and your best friends have left this valley of tears long ago, and you have nothing in common with the society in which you currently find yourself. People and their lifestyles have drastically changed, and I would guess, not always for the better. So here you are, fit as a fiddle, smarter than a whip, and alone in mind, body, and, most importantly, soul. You don't agree with present day politics, not that you ever did, and realize you still can't make a significant difference in local, state, and federal governing unless you join forces which is against every fiber of your rejuvenated being.
And thirdly, although you're stronger, faster, and smarter, one look in the mirror horrifies you! The road map of wrinkles etched across your face, along with sagging eyelids, and drooping jowls makes you draw back in disgust. How could I become so ugly, when what seems like only yesterday, I was a hot chick! But because of your newly-acquired mental acuity you realize that "yesterday" was sixty-some years ago, and your good looks are definitely a thing of the past.
After careful analysis of the research mentioned above, I've concluded that no matter how many Bloody Marys I might be offered to enhance my aged brain, I will most certainly abstain. My life has been the result of the choices I've made, whether or not they've been the best, but they've been MY choices. I've enjoyed every minute and wouldn't have changed most of that time. The few things I wish could have evolved differently were totally out of my control.
Getting old isn't the worse thing that can happen to a person. Getting old and regretting the life you've chosen to live IS!
Next time you throw a pity party for yourself think about Tyler Liebegott, a twenty-one year old college student who was born with mitochondrial disease for which no cure exists. I'm no doctor but from what I gather Tyler's illness robs him of energy typically derived from food and oxygen. He has survived four strokes and has undergone 38 surgeries in his lifetime. He lives with constant pain and has been on death's doorstep multiple times.
The life expectancy for mitochondrial sufferers is about 10 years, but most succumb much sooner. So why even bother to make something of yourself, right? Wrong, at least as far as this young man is concerned.
Tyler spends his time away from his studies in biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg, PA, speaking to high school students about his condition and how it propels him to move forward despite its debilitating symptoms. He mentors children afflicted with mitochondria as well.
One might be led to think that Tyler only lives for the moment. You'd be wrong on that count, too. This fellow dreams of being a doctor specializing in, you guessed it, the treatment of mitochondria. Tyler has no time for self-pity but instead sees everything in his life as opportunities to be cherished.
People like Tyler Liebegott give the rest of us mere humans pause for thought. A headache, back pain, or a failing mark on a test send most spiraling into a deep funk. Woe is me! I'm a good person so why is this happening? Stop feeling sorry for yourself in such mundane matters. Nip it in the bud and find something positive to focus on.
When throwing a pity party for yourself, remember Tyler Liebegott, but don't be inclined to throw one for him either. He can't be bothered with such self-indulgence because he's in the business of changing lives one person at a time. He doesn't feel sorry for himself and he certainly isn't looking for your sympathy. He'd rather you learn more about mitochondrial disease and join him in the fight.
Tyler can be reached at www.trustinhope.com
And for God's sake, stop feeling sorry for yourself!
I'm on holiday in the Carolinas and am being overrun with short people. Everywhere I turn height-challenged creatures are competing for my attention. My five grandsons plus a neighborhood crew of eight girls and four more fellas are literally overtaking the adults. What a blast they're having and I'm in seventh heaven. Seeing young people play together, cooperating at times, disagreeing more often than not, being downright mean in rare instances, reminds me of the world we live in. By allowing these children to interact, enjoy each other's company, settle disputes, make amends, and then get on with their fun again and again is not only healthy for them but extremely beneficial to their overall development.
Let the children play! More importantly, let them figure out their problems by making decisions on their own, no matter if what they decide is what we, the adults, would approve of or not. Children need practice in handling what life throws at them when they are very young, in order to make right decisions as teenagers. Then perhaps tragic events such as Columbine and Sandy Hook will become less and less.
With our group, unless a child is in physical danger, adults are not permitted to intervene. That's my rule and everybody is obliged to conform to it at least while I'm here.
Last week a local woman walked her eldest son to the bus stop, kissed him good-bye, and upon returning home, ordered Luke, her three-year-old, and Daniel, her six-year-old, into the bathtub, submerged the two boys under water, and then fully-clothed, sat on them to make sure they couldn't get out. Afterwards she called 911 to report that her children were unresponsive laying on the bathroom floor. Luke was dead when the paramedics arrived; Daniel was flown to the hospital in critical condition. Five days later, having been placed on life support and declared brain-dead, Daniel died, too.
HOW COULD SHE? SIMPLY PUT, I DON'T KNOW.
But as human beings who begin asking "why" practically from the time we slip out of the womb, I guess some explanation would help to settle our confused minds. She told the arresting officers that the "crazy voices" she was hearing suggested she'd be a better mother to her firstborn son if the other two were out of the way. By identifying the voices as "crazy" why would she then listen to and act upon them? If she knew these taunts were illogical, why harm the children she loved?
As the investigation continued, the news reported that Laurel Michelle Schlemmer had tried to injure the same two boys before in another incident. Though no charges were ever filed, it appeared that this mother accidentally ran over them with her car. In 2009, she left her toddler alone in the car while she went shopping. When observing a small child seemingly by himself, a responsible person called the police who determined that the temperature inside the vehicle had risen to 112 degrees. She was never held accountable in either situation.
HOW COULD SHE? SIMPLY PUT, I DON'T KNOW.
It isn't my place to judge, and I don't. Her husband and the church her family has attended for over a decade are supporting Michelle, as she is known by those closest to her, through prayer and fond memories. The only conclusion her pastor could offer is that Satan is indeed alive and working to infest the souls of good people even today. Perhaps that is one way of looking at her horrible actions. Other professionals cite mental health issues which were never completely addressed. Possibly severe depression and acute anxiety played a role in her decision to murder her boys. Perhaps somewhere in-between these assumptions, lies the answer to the question, "why." But, for me, I still ask
HOW COULD SHE? SIMPLY PUT, I DON'T KNOW.
I never met this family yet somehow in a strange way I feel strongly connected to them. My heart goes out to Marc Schlemmer and his remaining son, Joshua. How do they ever pick up the pieces of their severely fractured family? Where do they go to escape the horrific notoriety pressed upon them through no fault of their own? How do they reconnect with a wife and mother who murdered their son and brother? And, most importantly, will they ever know "why" she did what she did? I don't think so and perhaps they'll be much better off if they never have that question answered.
HOW COULD SHE? I DON'T KNOW AND PERHAPS IT'S A BLESSING NOT TO KNOW!
In order to give my first chapter book, Playing Hooky, more authenticity, I included pics of the "real faces and actual places" that inspired it. Photos of my mom and dad, baba and zedo, and my brother and uncle were easy to come by. All I had to do was open the dresser drawers in the spare room and wade through the thousands that have yet to be organized and most likely never will be.
But since I didn't have photos of a few of the places, I decided to return to my childhood stomping grounds to see it they still actually existed. And they did. I visited the church and school, the community center and the creek, and the bakery that has survived over 60 years in a neighborhood that's been dying for close to a quarter century.
A few weeks later, my daughter, Joy, and her family came from out-of-town for a short stay. My grandchildren, Brady and Brenna, were bored so I asked them if they'd be interested in seeing where my mom and dad were born. After stopping at the Blue Bonnet Bakery for the best-tasting donuts and mimi coffee cakes ever made in the entire world, and taking them on an abbreviated tour of the Stay Tune Distillery which was once the John Munhall Neighborhood House and driving down the path to the infamous creek where my brother nearly lost an eye, it was time for a trek up Hayes Lane, a short, curvy Ravine Street offshoot.
Strange as it may seem, although I'd spent practically all of my pre-teen years roaming Ravine Street in Munhall, PA, I'd never ventured up Hayes Lane before. During my extensive research, I applied for a copy of my mother and father's marriage license, and lo and behold I found my maternal grandparents' address with house number included. I also discovered that in the 1930's my dad's family had lived on the lane as well.
My daughter was leary about driving up the narrow road since it was perfectly clear to both of us that only one car at a time could go up or down and there wasn't much space to move aside to allow for somebody to pass. But I was so excited, she had no choice but to continue on. At the top of the hill the road came to a dead end. Brady, Brenna, and I jumped out and began searching for 1042. Joy stayed in the car in case we had to make a quick getaway.
Midway down the lane I spied the sad-looking house bearing the #1042 with bags of old Christmas decorations and tons of empty beer cans stacked high on the dilapidated front porch. With my two brave grandkids right behind me, I walked up and rang the doorbell, waited a few minutes and rang it again. Just as we were about to leave, the door opened and a scruffy, unshaven man probably around 70 stood staring me in the face. I told him my name and asked if he knew who'd lived in his house previously. He said he'd been born and raised in that house and his family had lived in it since the early thirties. I gave him our family surname and he immediately rattled off the names of my baba, zedo, mom and uncle. Then he pointed to the house three doors down and on the left. "That was their house," he said. I asked him if he knew my dad's family. He nodded and pointed up the lane where three or four lots stood empty. "Those houses burned down years ago," he said. "But I believe one of those was where your father's family lived." Naturally I was disappointed to hear that, but was eager to see where my mom, and their great-grandmother was born. The three of us raced down the hill.
For some reason, the address number on my parents' marriage license was incorrect. It should have read #1032. Even after all those years, the house of our ancestors carried itself in a stately manner. It's a two story structure built high up with a pair of steps I'm positive my zedo built with his own hands. It has a front porch that extends the width of the house, and from what I could see, a back porch, too. From the looks of it, nobody was home. I told the kids that the next time they visited we'd certainly be back and hopefully gain entrance into the place that remembers our family's history.
By this time, Joy had driven down to where we were standing. As we got in the car, Brady began telling his mother all about what we had learned. When I asked him what he thought of our historical tour, my eleven year old grandson said it was cool. However my eight year old granddaughter wasn't nearly as impressed. But that's okay because as she gets older connections with those who have gone before us will become increasingly more meaningful to her.
They have certainly become more meaningful to me. And I intend to keep searching as far back as I can go. This journey has stirred up such strong emotions in me that have both allowed me to release some of my deeply-buried anxiety and helped strengthen my bonds with the people that mean everything to me.
I advice all of you to retrace your steps back in time and connect with your own families. It is definitely worth your time.