Thursday, February 12, 2015

In Memory of my cousin, Frank Viola


 (I wrote this the day after I heard about my cousin, Frank, passing. I didn't post it immediately because I did not want to add to the sadness of his family in their time of mourning. Not only has his family lost a cherished husband and father, but the world has also lost an amazing and loving man and is the lesser for it.)
Sunday, February 8th, the world lost a wonderful man, my cousin, Frank Viola. It pains me to write this through tears of sadness, but I can’t think of anything else. Frank came in our family in 1981 when he married my cousin, Maria. Together, they had three beautiful children: Frank, Joseph and Deanna. It was always Frank's dream to be a father and together he and Maria made that dream a reality.
Frank was a stay-at-home dad who was very much hands on with his children. He was a loving and affectionate father who adored his family. He was soft spoken and gentle in his ways. Frank had a lot of love in his heart and he gave it all away every minute of every day. He was always thinking of and finding ways to help others. Frank was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis shortly after he married Maria and, over the years, the disease progressively slowed him down physically, but his mind was always sharp and his heart always full of love. He may not have been able to do the things some fathers do, like throw a ball and run bases but, as a father, he hit a home run every day. I can’t think of any man I have ever met who was a more loving and devoted father to his children and husband to his wife. Family was absolutely everything to him and anyone who knew him, knew that.

The last time I spoke to Frank was right after Thanksgiving, when he had come home from one of his many hospital stays. I went into his room to say hello and to tell him I was happy they had released him before the holidays. Despite his many battles with this disease, he was in great spirits. I have never seen him feel sorry for himself or heard him complain. He always had a smile on his face. We talked about our children, his favorite subject. His eyes always lit up when he would mention his children. We chatted about how good they all were and how very proud we were of all of them. He told me he was happy that our kids were getting together outside of family occasions, like friends. He said it was his hope that our children would be close, that they would have each other throughout their lives. I told him that was my hope too and that I worried because my kids have no one once our generation is gone. He said his kids didn't have anyone either, they weren't close to his brother's and sister's children. It was unspoken, but we understood in that moment how reassuring and comforting it is for us as parents, to know that when we leave this world our children will have close family that can count on no matter what trials life brings. Family who will be there to share in their joys and support them in their times of sorrow. Even during this conversation we had, Frank was thinking about his children, and I totally understood how he felt.

I cannot begin to imagine the void that Frank’s passing will leave in Maria’s life or his children’s lives. Maria and Frank were soulmates. She and the children were always the center of his world, as he was in theirs. I know in my heart that his great love for his family will transcend death, and he will be watching over them, loving and protecting them, as much as an angel in heaven can.

May you rest in peace Frank, until you are reunited with your family again.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Right from Wrong . . .


My parents always taught my brother and I right from wrong, and that included no lying, no cheating, no hurting anyone. But this week the news has been about well known and admired people who didn’t seem to learn those lessons early in life or just don’t care. Their actions show their indifference to the moral codes of conduct and integrity. These are people who really should know better, people in respected positions, people who are well off and have absolutely no excuse for committing their wrong actions and then not taking ownership of them when confronted. It's disgraceful.

We had weeks of Bill Cosby’s accusers coming forward to speak up about how he drugged and raped them. He was already famous and could have had many willing sexual partners. Instead he chose innocent women, some just young girls, to victimize. Why did he hurt all these women who trusted him? Because he could? Because he has an arrogant massive ego? Because he knew he would get away with it? He knew it was wrong, time nd time again, and he did it anyway.

We had the number one football team in the country, the Patriots, deflate footballs to give themselves a game winning edge that they didn’t even need. They were willing to tarnish their reputation by breaking the established regulations of the game. Why? Because they felt they are too important to the game to be punished? Because they needed to win by an extra point or two? Because winning by cheating is more important than an ethical loss by fair play? They knew it was wrong, but they did it anyway.

And let’s not forget the biggest cheater in the history of cycling, Lance Armstrong. Armstrong took steroids and used other unethical medical means to gain an advantage and “won” seven Tours de France. The whole time he denied ever doing anything against the rules. When he finally confessed and apologized on Oprah, long after the cat was out of the bag and he was disgraced, his apology wasn’t the least bit sincere. I say that because he summed up every single unethical act, over the course of seven years, as “one lie.” I was disgusted with his so called apology. Can a man like this sink any lower? Yes he can. This week Lance Armstrong was driving, hit two parked cars, and then sped off. When authorities caught up with him, he had convinced his girlfriend to take the blame and say she was driving. Lance’s luck ran out when his girlfriend wasn’t nearly as skilled at lying as he is. Her story wasn’t consistent and authorities soon figured out Lance was driving that car. Why did Lance lie? Because he has a massive ego? Because he is arrogant? I don’t get it. He knew it was wrong, but he did it anyway.

And then we have highly respected news anchorman, Brian Williams, of NBC, who just signed a 5 year contract for 10 million a year, misremembering “facts.” Yes he apologized for conflating the details of his stories, to inflate his own self importance. He altered the facts when he is supposed to be reporting the truth. His career lives or dies based on his credibility and yet he put that credibility and his career at risk. Why? To make himself sound more important than he is? For the glory? To make himself a more newsworthy subject in addition to a reporter? He knew it was wrong, but he did it anyway.

When my parent instilled the principles of right and wrong in me, they stuck with me. My parents lead me to believe that good citizens in society would behave according to the same code of right and wrong. I’m sure most people do. I like to believe most do. And maybe what really bothers me about these four situations is that these are powerful, influential, people who are well known and have significant wealth. They are in the public spotlight. They are looked up to and respected. They should be setting examples and acting as role models. Instead, they are liars, cheaters and rapists that walk around unpunished with their heads held high. How do they look themselves in the mirror? I have no idea.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Lasagna For A Toilet . . .

Many years ago, in the old house, we had one fairly dated bathroom. It was our only bathroom. After 20 years of living with it, I wanted to renovate it. The dilemma is how do you renovated one bathroom? It’s not like we can afford to hold off on showers and using the toilet for days. One solution was to add a bathroom in our unfinished basement first and then renovate the main bathroom. I couldn’t see going through that expense. At the time, we were being bombarded with commercials from Bath Fitters. I decided to go to their showroom and check them out. They claim they can do the job in one or two days and we would still have full use of the bathroom.

I have to tell you that the Bath Fitters showroom displays several luxurious looking bathrooms. They are virtually maintenance free once installed. No painting ever required and their “plastic” walls are easy to clean. I had the guy come to the house to give me an estimate, which I thought was too high, but I almost felt I had no other option. So went signed the contract.

Now, Bath Fitters needed about 5 or 6 weeks before they could do the job and that pissed me off because they made me understand they would do it in a couple of weeks. Then, as it was getting near the date of the start of the job, I called to ask about the medicine cabinet, sink and cabinet and toilet. They tell me I have to provide that. If I have the stuff there the guy will install all of it for me at no extra cost. Oy vey! What do I know about all this stuff? I was supposed to get a “finished” bathroom and not have to worry about anything. Now I have about ten days to get everything I need or they put the old stuff back. So, I go to Home Depot and try to get it all there. No such luck. I come home with a medicine cabinet. I go to a local store for the sink and cabinet, they have to order the sink I want and should have it in two days. With a sigh and a prayer, I leave there.

I call a friend of mine whose husband has a plumbing store. He tells me he will give me the kit for inside the toilet. I never even thought of that! Then he says, when you buy a toilet, make sure you measure the “rough.” The “rough?” What is the rough? Shouldn’t that Bath Fitters guy have measured that and told me what to get? Apparently, the rough is the distance from the screws at the bottom of your toilet to the wall. It can be 10”, 12”, or 14”. If you don’t get the right toilet rough, it won’t fit or it will be too far from the wall. Okay, this is more than I wanted to know, but thank God someone mentioned it. I measure my toilet’s “rough” and it’s 12”. I report back to my friend’s husband who says I have to allow for the stuff they are going to glue to the wall. I should probably go with a 10” rough. Guess what? A rough of 10” is not that easy to get. Home Depot didn’t have any and I am running out of days.

I look up a plumbing supply store about 30 minutes from our house and go out there. I find a toilet that is ivory and had a 10” rough. I approach the salesman, Paul, and I tell him we want to buy this toilet, tank and seat. He checks his inventory and finds they are out of stock. He says they can order it for me. I tell him I need it in 5 days, my renovation is being started then. He says he can have everything at the store in 2 or 3 days for me to pick up. I tell him this is the kind of thing that makes me lose sleep at night. He tells me he loses sleep over food. He loves to eat. I ask him if he likes lasagna. He says he loves it. I tell him you get me my toilet in time and when I pick it up I will bring you a tray of homemade lasagna. He laughs. He says he will keep me informed on his progress on getting the items. We leave.

The next day Paul calls to tell me a couple of items came in already. There is a delay with the toilet, but he is calling around to make sure one is there in the next two days for me. I remind him about the lasagna. He laughs.

The following day Paul calls and assures me the will have the toilet and everything else I ordered tomorrow, ready for pick up. I ask him, “Do you know what I am doing?” He says no. I tell him I am making his lasagna. He laughs.

The following day, my husband and I go out to the store with my tray of lasagna. I bring the lasagna into the store. Paul looks at me with that wide-eyed, deer in the headlights look. I say “This is your tray of lasagna! You got me my toilet, just like you promised and I am delivering on my promise to you. You will sleep good tonight.” He helped us get everything into the car and thanked me very much for the lasagna. I asked for his manager’s name so I could write a letter to him on his behalf, for being so helpful. Off we went. Now I had everything I needed for the new bathroom.

The next day Paul calls. I’m a little surprised to hear from him. He says he loved the lasagna. He shared it with some of his co-workers and they told him he better call to thank me again. They all enjoyed it. It was the best lasagna they ever had. I told him I’m glad they enjoyed it and thank him for all his help too.

P.S. If I had it to do over I do not think I would go with Bath Fitters again. It's not because they neglected to tell me a few things. It's because I don't think the job is worth the money they charge. The bathroom does look beautiful when it's done. But in the end, it's still plastic. They don't treat the walls behind the plastic to prevent mold and mildew from growing back there. They just put one inch thick  strips of "styrofoam" type tape across the existing walls and then apply their plastic walls over it. They chalk all the joints. They cover the existing bathtub. They glue on your soap dishes. They chalk everything. They get the job done fast. It looks professional. They do what they say. But if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Celebrity Apprentice?


Last night my daughter eagerly awaited the premiere of Celebrity Apprentice and, unfortunately, I went a long for the ride. I’ll start by saying, it’s quite misleading to call this show “Celebrity” Anything. Where are the celebrities? I didn’t recognize more than half of the cast. Those who I did know, made me cringe.

We have Geraldo Rivera, who calls himself a war journalist. I was disgusted. My daughter wanted to know why. So, I told her how, in 2003, Geraldo went on national television and drew a map in the sand showing where our troops were heading for a surprise attack on Iraq. If Iraq was tuned in, and you know they were, they had our whole strategy thanks to Geraldo’s big mouth. Geraldo’s celebrity team chose this man as a “project leader” and took his suggestion to name the team “Vortex,” a word the weatherman has come to make me detest.

Then we have Ruby Huxtable aka Keshia Knight Pulliam, who I haven’t seen since she was five. She also wanted to be “project leader” for the women. The project was about raising money by selling two kinds of pies (savory and sweet) that the team creates. The winning pie, picked by the DUI Cake Boss, gets $25,000. The winning team is the one that raises the most money. It’s all about the money. Everyone’s biggest problem with Ruby is that she only raised about $7,000 herself AND refused to called “deep-pockets” Bill Cosby for a donation. A call that could have placed her team first. Her reason? She hasn’t spoken to Bill in about five years and didn’t think it was appropriate. I am guessing this was filmed before all Bill’s dirty laundry got aired, because who would want their charity tainted with Cosby’s money? Well, of course Donald Trump would. He says even though this was taped shortly before the rape allegations surfaced, she still should have asked him for money, it’s for charity.

Maybe my least favorite “celebrity” is Kate Gosselin. The non-stop talking, controlling, abusive mother of eight managed to get herself on this show. Having seen several episodes of “Jon & Kate Plus 8” I have found that this woman has zero “likeability” as far as I am concerned. She constantly berated her husband, was obsessive over her children, and totally insistent on getting her own way, just to name a few of her never ending faults. Most of all, I would say she exploited her children as much as she possibly could to keep that show going. I find that inexcusable and I have to wonder what the effects all those years on television will have on all of them. Now where was I? Oh yes, she is on the show. A show that criticizes people on their performance or lack there of. Kate doesn’t not accept criticism well. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t accept it at all. So when someone accused her of being lazy, she had to hold in her natural response to explode to the point that it looked like she was going to breakdown and cry. I know there are going to be a couple of good breakdowns in future episodes. Kate just rubs people the wrong way all day.

I wondered what the hell Vivica Fox was doing on the show? She really is a celebrity. Granted she hasn’t done too much lately, but still?

The next episode is on tonight . . . lucky me. Another two hours of torture unless Kate has a good meltdown or someone wipes that smug look off Geraldo‘s face. That might make it worthwhile.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Laptop & Old Age

It happens to everyone sooner or later. Your trusty, loyal, old laptop won’t last forever. It’ll have to be replaced. Younger people look forward to the day when they can get their hands on a faster, sleeker, up-to-date, fully loaded, technologically current laptop. Not me. When it comes to technology, I subscribe to the “less is more” school of thought. I would keep my old laptop forever if I could, but built in obsolescence and advances in technology are both working against me. So, after five and a half years I decided to allow my old laptop to go into semi-retirement and buy myself a new one.

I ordered the new laptop on Black Friday and it arrived about a week later. My brother also got the same one at the same time. My thinking is, if I can’t figure something out he will know what to do if we both own the same model. So, I deliver my brother’s laptop to his house and let him set his up. He soon begins offering to set mine up and I kept making excuses. “Take your time, and figure yours out first.” Then I told him I was putting up the tree and couldn’t concentrate on two things at once. Then there were the holidays, and no time for laptops between presents and eating. Well, the holidays are over and so were my excuses. Today my brother came to set up the new laptop.

The first issue with Windows 8.1 is a big purple screen pops up with all sorts of colorful boxes. I don’t like it. I want my old desktop screen so I know where everything is. He tells me to hit the control button. Up pops a screen asking me for the password to the computer. I enter that and I can’t even tell you what happens next. I keep telling him I want my desk top. He makes it appear. It used to appear by itself when I hit the power button on the old laptop. Never mind. Now I want to see where my programs are, the ones I use to blog. Oh, he says, see this little house at the bottom? Click on that and all your programs pop up. Just like that. I demand to see where various programs are, and he shows me. Fine. Now, I need to see my new word processing program. There it is, Word 2013, with all its bells and whistles. So, how do I set a permanent font and pitch? He doesn’t know. We spend 15 minutes playing around until we figure out I have to create a “Style 1,” with those specs, that I can click on before typing any document. Great. Now I ask if he can make Google Chrome open automatically when I start the computer. We can’t figure out how to make it do that. No way. I set all my important tabs on Google Chrome and I know how to save them, he doesn’t. One point for me. Mind you, with the old laptop I would hit the power button and it would start up, AIM and Google Chrome (and all my tabs) would open up while I had breakfast. I didn’t need a password to get into my computer and all my programs popped up with the start button. My desktop screen was right behind Google Chrome. Everything was at my old finger tips. Now I have to be a magician to make things appear. And this is just Day 1 of what have I gotten myself into.

There is nothing like a new laptop to make you feel as old as the hills and then some. This little blog is just for practice. Sigh. I guess I should be glad I accomplished something today.

I had a couple of hours the next morning before going to a party. I turn on the NEW computer, take care of my various email, tweets, FB messages, games, etc. Then I take a shower. Go back to the computer and see "Plugged in NOT charging" So I am not a happy camper. I check all the connections to see if any are loose. Nope. So I move the computer to the outlet I used yesterday, where everything worked fine. It's charging a couple of minutes, then "Plugged in, NOT charging" again. What can I do? I take out the battery and put it back in, then plug everything in. It's charging for a couple of minutes, then I get the message again! It happens a few more times. I contact my brother. I can't be bothered with this today, I have plans. He has the exact same computer and no issue. I take the computer over to his house so he can work on it. TWO HOURS LATER I get a message from my brother. He is calling customer service. After he explains the problem, they say they will fix it "remotely." So, after 30 minutes on the phone with them, he is told the driver that was installed for the power was NOT compatible with Windows. They removed the wrong driver and put in the right driver (the one my brother seems to already have in his). My brother continued to run the power down and recharge to see if there is any problem with my computer. So far problem solved. I'll pick it up from my brother's tomorrow. Hopefully...the end.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The New Year’s Letdown . . .


I don’t know why, but I have never been a big fan of New Year’s Eve. Well maybe the first 15 years I had great New Year’s Eves when my Aunt Mary hosted the family get togethers. She had hats and noise makers, confetti and streamers. She had pots and pans to bang at midnight. We watched Guy Lombardo on television for the countdown and the ball to drop. It felt exciting. A new year with new possibilities. But then my aunt Mary and her family moved about 20 miles away. My father didn’t want to drive us out there and come back home so late at night. My other relatives didn’t have a car. The New Year’s Eve parties were over. The holiday took a depressing turn for me.

Instead of noise and family laughter, there was quiet. Instead of new beginnings, I focused more on endings. The end of the holiday season. The end of Christmas, the food, the music, the decorations, the visiting, the gifts, the anticipation. The end of Christmas vacation. The fun was over. Done.

My mother would make a holiday meal for us to enjoy on New Year’s Day. It felt more like the Last Supper. There were still the remnants of Christmas all around. Some gift boxes, with gifts that hadn’t been put away, still sat on the floor. The tree standing tall seemed to be reminding us that we had to take down the ornaments and store everything for another year. The leftovers in the refrigerator dwindling and slowly becoming a savory memory. The Christmas cards, lovingly displayed for the past two or three weeks, would soon end up in the trash with all the wrapping paper, ribbon, bows and tags. It all went by way too fast. From Thanksgiving week to New Year’s Day, about six weeks of whirlwind shopping, cooking, baking, wrapping, decorating, planning, visiting all coming to a screeching halt. Back to our normal lives we go. Back to school, back to work, back to laundry, back to paying bills and on and on.
Last night I took down the tree and all the decorations. The girls weren’t home so I spared them the dreaded task. I know I’ll forget to put away some trinket, I always do. I’ll find it in a couple of days from now and get another wave of sadness. I’ll put away the remaining gifts once I find a place for them. Christmas 2014 will join all the others in the memories of my mind.

What’s left today? Hope. We’re all hoping the new year will be a good one. Here’s to hoping for good health and happiness for everyone. May God bless us all, and may we all be here celebrating Christmas in 2015 with our loved ones once again.

Friday, December 19, 2014

SONY Hacked Over “The Interview”

but all joking aside...

We’ve been hearing about the SONY emails that were hacked and the threats by North Korea over the movie, The Interview.” Everyone has an opinion. We shouldn’t show it, it’s too dangerous. We should show it and not cave in to terrorism. We shouldn’t allow our freedom of speech to be violated. And on and on it goes.

I am just a simple person. I have no sake in this issue either way. I rarely go to a movie anymore. I probably wouldn’t go to this one. But, every time I hear a news story about this situation I want to cringe. We do have more important things to focus on in the US and globally. This ridiculous movie it taking time and attention away from far more serious issues.

Here are my thoughts. I think just because we have freedom of speech, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it responsibly. There has to be some degree of common sense applied when you are planning to open a can of worms. There will be consequences to free speech. Those consequences should have been considered prior to making a moving provoking and antagonizing a man, a tyrant of a communist country, who doesn’t have any love for our country. A man who watches his own people starve while he expects to be treated as a God. A man who has access to nuclear weapons and has alliances with China. A man who would not take kindly to being made a laughing stock in front of the world. Did SONY really believe that a man like this would just do nothing while their movie ridiculed him on an international level? Or didn’t SONY care, thinking what can he possibly do about it? Well, now we are finding out what he an do about it. Their precious, scandalous company emails are being exposed for all the world to see. Who is laughing now? This is just the tip of the iceberg too. I will be willing to bet they have far more damaging emails to release when they feel the time is right. SONY is now so concerned, they are willing to pull a $200 million dollar movie to prevent more embarrassing exposure of their executives. But is this the end of it? Will things get worse? They have set something in motion and don’t have the means to stop it.

Every idea someone in Hollywood has isn’t necessarily a great idea. This is one of them. Those who feel the movie should be shown, despite the threats, really have no idea what the consequences will be. Movie theaters won’t show it because they are now on notice that they may be putting people’s lives at risk. Did we need to be put in this position? Did we need another international problem to deal with right now?  Thanks to SONY we have one.