Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dear Ellen,

Dear Ellen,

I am writing, in behalf of a group of friends, who have recently learned that one of us has suffered a devastating loss. We all met a number of years ago on a website sponsored by AOL to discuss the show American Idol. Through the years, on and off seasoned, we have shared our interest in the show and more importantly our lives, and become real friends, though we have never met. I am writing to you out of the love we feel for one another and in the hopes that you will be able to help our friend Angela Rundquist, in this dire time of need.

Angela, and her husband Jesse have four wonderful children. A few years ago they bought a run down farm house in Minnesota and renovated it themselves, one room at a time, over the past few years. They just finished remodeling the last room, a sun room, last week. Angela was thrilled and was going to furnish it with wicker furniture. This past Sunday, while the family was out shopping, there was a fire. When they got home they found their beautiful dream house in a pile of rubble. They was nothing left. All their belongings were burned in the fire. To make maters worse, their two dogs and two cats were killed in the fire. They had just gotten the two dogs from an animal rescue place this past Christmas. Needless to say the family is devastated as are their family and friends. It brings tears to our eyes every time we think of them and what they are going through and how they returned home to find their house and possessions destroyed and their beloved pets killed. The saddest thing of all is that they had no insurance and will not be able to rebuild their home.

We all live in different states, so it makes it virtually impossible for us to help Angela except with donations. Her family has set up a Facebook page to assist them for the present time. I will enclose the link if you are interested in viewing the page and their home before and after the fire. Pictures of her children are also on the page. We are desperate to try and help this family in any way possible. Through the American Idol message board we have become an extended family. We immediately thought of writing to you because we know what a compassionate and caring person you are.

If there is anything you can do for this family it would be very much appreciated. I know Angela and her husband are also great fans of Chris Daughtry. They have seen him sing in local venues and she has pictures of the two of them with Chris. I’m not sure if he could or would help them, but we have no way of getting in touch with him and letting him know.

Ellen, we understand that you must get thousands of letters a week asking for help. We wouldn’t be writing to you if the situation was so dire. Please consider helping them in any way you can. We would all be forever grateful to you.  Thank you.!/pages/Rundquist-Family-Benefit/192535950783780


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Praying For Others…

I have few friends compared to most people and it saddens me to know how difficult life can be for many of them. Facebook allows us to enter everyone’s life on a daily basis so I find I know a lot more about what is going on in people’s lives than ever before. It makes me sad to think of the struggles and heartaches everyone is facing right now.

One family, with four children, lost their home and 4 pets to a fire this past weekend. Now they have nothing and no insurance to start over. It’s heartbreaking. Another young friend was admitted to the hospital today for heart surgery to fix a couple of things that are wrong. Another friend’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and operated on last week. A couple of friends are going through custody issues, with their children’s welfare hanging in the balance. Many friends are living in chronic pain from car accidents they have had which could have easily cost them their lives. Many have no health insurance. Others are struggling financially day to day to make ends meet. Some suffer from and battle with depression on a daily basis. It’s a bit overwhelming when I think about it.

So today I am going to pray for all my friends, for all their struggles, and hope they get the help and support and encouragement they need. Pray for the best possible outcomes to their problems. Pray they stay strong and positive in the face of adversity. Pray that I have the right words and actions to be of help where I can and make sure if they need a friend they have one in me.

We shouldn’t have to go through things alone or feel alone. We have people we can turn to who care. They are all around us and they are online too. All we have to do is reach out to ask for help or offer it.
I pray you all have a blessed day and that your burdens are lightened by the love of a friend.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Have You Turned Into Your Mother Yet?

The other day I was looking at my hands. They looked just like my mother’s. I have always had a fear of turning into my mother one day. Our personalities are very similar. We thought along the same lines. I was virtually a little clone of my Mom. Of course I like to think that I was a little more flexible, not as rigid or volatile. But, in many ways, deny it as I try, we were a lot alike.

Well, there is no denying it. I heard on the news today that women turn into their mothers at the ripe old age of 32! What does this transformation include? It includes using her trite expressions, habits like watching soaps, becoming opinionated, and stockpiling groceries. At 32, when many woman decide to have children, they turn into replicas of their mothers.

When we are younger we want independence from our mothers. We want to distance ourselves as much as possible. But, as we get older, we discover that everything Mom has been saying makes sense. All the things we rolled our eyes at and smirked at behind her back, we end up telling our children: stand up straight, money doesn’t grow on trees, don’t eat that it will stunt your growth, and my mom’s favorite…when you have kids I hope you have one JUST LIKE YOU!

So it’s pretty much something we need to learn to accept rather than dread. We look like our Moms, we dress like them and we talk like them. We are them. The thing we have dreaded most since we were kids ends up happening. There is no fighting it and no running from it. So embrace it.

And when we have daughters and watch them smirk, and know they are thinking “Oh my God, I will never be like her!” We will have the infinite satisfaction of knowing, “Yes, you will!”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mother, Daughter Relationships

This topic is swirling around in my mind, but the words won’t flow on to the paper. I don’t know why. My mother and I had a relationship that lasted over 50 years and I have raised two daughters for over 20 years. I should be able to write a book on it, but I can’t.

This relationship seems like both the most simple and the most complex of my relationships. There is pure unconditional love mixed with ongoing battles of every kind. I had it with my mom and I have it with my daughters. Being a mother myself has helped me to understand better why my mother said and did the things she did while raising me. I also wanted to avoid making some of the mistakes she made with me.

When you have a baby girl your just want to protect her from everything. The world is a bad place and it’s not getting any better. There is so much to worry about: child abduction, child abuse, date rape drugs, rape, teenage pregnancy, eating disorders, drugs, alcohol, drinking and driving. The worrying never ends, even as they get to be adults. You worry about if she will meet the right man, who will love her, respect her, protect her the way you have done all her life. A daughter cannot begin to imagine all the things that goes through a mother’s mind, especially as she gets more independent and we have less control over their lives.

When girls are little they look up to their moms, love spending time with us, cuddle with us; they are like our little clones. Then the hormones kick in, and they turn into know-it-all, agitated teenagers. If you look at them the wrong way they complain. If you ask a simple question they turn it into an argument. If you dare make a suggestion they hear it as criticism. It’s very hard to communicate in any meaningful way during those teenage years. They know everything and we know nothing. But, there is hope! From the years of 18 to 24 they gradually mature and even come to seek your opinion and advice. You are no longer the enemy. Suddenly, they realize that life experience counts for something and you may have knowledge they can benefit from. They are more open to our advice and guidance and even realize we have their very best interests at heart.

The mother, daughter bond is very special. We are both women and we understand how women think and feel. We can read each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences, because we know each other so well. A daughter can go to her mother about anything and know it’ll be ok. A mother wants her daughter to feel she can always come to her and talk about anything. You can be friends to a degree, but it’s more important to be mother and daughter. It’s a difficult transition for mothers to make, as daughters become more independent, and we have to learn to let go. Just as mothers have to have realize and understand that their “baby” is now a woman, daughters need to appreciate that their mother’s have been looking out for them all their lives and cannot let go overnight. Just like when they were babies and we held on to their hands so they wouldn’t fall and get hurt, we are still holding on to them as adults, right or wrong, so they don’t make serious mistakes that will affect their future.

When I got married and had children, I learned to appreciate my mother even more. When grandchildren come along it’s comforting to have your mother there to help you figure out all the things you need to know. She is your expert. She did a great job with you, who else would you go to for advice? And grandmothers love their new role and seeing their daughters with their own babies. They know the overwhelming feelings of joy and happiness. But, most of all, they know and understand the infinite depth of love that having a new baby brings.

Every once in a while, my older daughter will call me Mommy, just because she knows I love to hear it…and you know it always brings tears to my eyes. They just grew up too fast.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Online Friendships…

People who don’t spend a lot of time online have a hard time understanding online friendships. They will often warn those of us who do have online friends of all the negatives associated with meeting strangers online and are suspicious of their intentions. Granted there is a lot of lying, deceit and cheating going on online today. Every day new scams are being hatched to lure in unsuspecting, trusting, lonely souls. But, everyday new friendships are also being made. Genuine friendships, fast friendships, true friendships.

The reason people can afford to lie, cheat and deceive online is the same reason why close friendships develop. The ability to remain somewhat anonymous and protected by a computer screen. People drop their guard when they are online despite all the warnings that you need to protect yourself. It makes you more vulnerable to scams and allows you to become more intimate in your personal conversations with strangers than you ever would be in your real life. Consequently, friendships develop at a much higher rate of speed through the daily sharing of your life and interests. Communication and connecting with people is far more easier online then face to face.

When you think about it, if you have online friends, you spend a lot of time chatting with them throughout the day. When you aren’t chatting you are sharing what is going on in your life through Facebook status updates. In no time at all you can feel like you’ve known someone for years when it‘s just been a few weeks, or even less. The ability and ease of being able to communicate on a frequent, and regular basis is what allows us to form these relationships and bonds that start out as a friendly exchange and quickly develop into real and long lasting friendships.

The other day, a woman who I never saw or spoke to online, picked me out of a chat forum, to friend on Facebook. I wasn’t going to friend her, but then she instant messaged me and we started to chat. In a few minutes I learned that we grew up in the same neighborhoods and attended the same elementary, junior high, and high schools as I did. Although we are a few years apart, we quickly established a connection out of the blue. Turns out her family’s roots are from the same part of Sicily as my family’s. What are the odds of that? While we were chatting, her husband walked in and was already concerned that she was laughing and talking to a stranger online. We ended with agreeing to try to meet at some point when she was visiting in my neighborhood. Things like this happen every day online.

I consider my online friends “real” friends in every sense of the word. We have helped each other through hard times and celebrated good times together. We pray for each other, laugh together, cry together, conspire together, gossip together, share our lives, thoughts, interests and fears together. We share recipes, pictures, our birthdays. We support and encourage each other,, advise each other, and love each other sight unseen. It’s a connection like no other and it’s very real.

My online friends have been there for me through some very difficult times and helped me to get through them. They are as real as it gets. It’s even more than a community, it’s a family. I just hope they all know how much I appreciate them.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Borgias!

A few years ago I read a book by Mario Puzo, author of “The Godfather”, called “The Family.” It was a great book about Rodrigo Borgia who was Pope Alexander VI and the corruption at the Vatican during the Italian Renaissance. Up until that time I had always been familiar with the notorious name of Lucretia Borgia, but I never made the connection to the Pope. I recommend reading the book, I couldn’t put it down.

HBO Showtime is starting a new 12 episode series covering the Pope and his family. The time period is set between 1492-1503. You can see or read about every kind of corruption and sin in the book, from incest to murder, that took place while he was Pope. It is one of the most scandalous stories in history. I don’t want to spoilt the plot by giving too many details here, you can always look up the history if you are interested. But I will include the link to the series which has a preview clip you might be interested in watching.

I know I am going to love it! I think you will too!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Online Arguing, gggrrrrrr!

I’ve seen so much arguing online that I think I can safely say I am somewhat of an expert on the subject. I never knew so many people enjoyed arguing to the point that they have made it an “art” form. It doesn’t take much to start an argument and have one or several people join in for the sport of it. Almost any comment will arouse emotions, especially if there are people who have the propensity to turn the slightest phrase or opinion into a nasty debate that deteriorates to a personal attack which includes name calling, threats, and vulgar insults.

You may ask, what kinds of things might turn a perfectly peaceful discussion forum into an “uncivil war?” Well, here are a few examples:

American Idol discussion: “David Cook should win, he is a better singer than David Archuleta!” A simple opinion that has incited many verbal riots on the American Idol Discussion board.

Politics: Almost any comment that shows partiality for one party over the other will generate a group attack by members of the opposite party. The most controversial topic I have seen is Sarah Palin. Just ask in any political forum, what makes her qualified to be Vice President or God forbid President, and I guarantee you will be verbally assaulted in no time.

Religion: Many people love to use religion as a good excuse to monitor the discussions, comments, opinions, behaviors of others in a public forum. They are self-appointed monitors, preaching from the pulpit of their computers, and condemning people in the name of peace. Everyone is labeled a “pot-stirrer” for not behaving according to this person’s moral and ethical code. They are called out and admonished, directly or indirectly, for causing disruptions to the conversations and fighting. Ironically, much more often than not, these people wind up causing the most friction and unrest with their pontificating, than the offenders they accuse. And, if you pay attention, you will find that they are hypocrites who do the very things they find so offensive about others.

The Dr. Phil Housewives: This will apply to any television show with participants and contestants, like American idol. People relate or identify or like a particular person and then, if anyone says anything negative about them, they take affront to it as though it is a personal attack. Even if you choose your words wisely and phrase it in such a way as to make it sound like constructive criticism or a polite observation, you are going to get blasted by that person’s fan club. There is no generally accepted policy that we are all entitled to our own opinions and that opinions are neither right nor wrong, but just are. So if opinions vary, as they normally do in life, there will be heated discussions that invariably will blow up in your face. If you think you can express your thoughts in a public forum without incident, you are very much mistaken.

Of course these arguments are petty and stupid, but they often get personal. Once that happens, there is “bad blood” between the parties involved and those who take sides. A history develops between them so that future verbal altercations are inevitable. Some people come to these forums angry and looking for a place to lash out. The internet is a safe place to show your ugly side because you are protected. No one can see you and you can use a fake name to hide your identity. Then you can take all the pot shots you want without repercussions.

I don’t know about you, but I have enough drama in my own life without looking for it online. I go to these forums to have intelligent conversations with people who share my interests and for a few laughs. I’ve gotten some insight and learned a lot, but I do not enjoy the fighting. And, in case you think you can reason with those who do enjoy the fighting, save your breath. They are not interested in keeping the peace.

Happy chatting!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

1950’s Housewife…

I was born in the 1950’s and watched a lot of television shows growing up. It got me thinking about how housewives were portrayed back then and how far we have come since. We all remember Donna Reed, Jane Wyatt from Father Knows Best, June Cleaver, all dressed up, wearing makeup, cleaning and preparing dinner, just waiting for the man of the house to come home. I know my mother never did any of those things, but on all the shows I watched the women all looked up to the man. He made all the decisions.

I found a list of what a good housewife’s duties should be from a 1950’s Home Economics class. I cannot believe that girls were actually being taught to be second class citizens. Imagine opening your daughter’s notebook and reading the following:

1. Have dinner ready when your husband gets home. Plan ahead, if necessary the night before. Most men arrive home from work hungry and a good meal is part of their warm welcome. It shows you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs.

2. Prepare yourself for his arrival at least 15 minutes before he comes home. Freshen yourself up, retouch makeup, put a ribbon in your hair.

3. Be happy in your tone and attitude. After a hard or boring day he may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

4. Clear away any clutter and pass a dust cloth over furniture before he walks through the door.

5. In the cooler months, prepare a fire for him to come home to. He will be able to relax in warmth and order and you will get immense satisfaction from catering to his comfort.

6. Encourage children to be quiet; greet him with a smile not complaints and problems; have a cool or warm drink ready for him; arrange his pillows; offer to take off his shoes; speak in a low soothing voice; don’t ask him questions.

7. Remember: He is the master of the house and will always exercise fairness and truthfulness; you have no right to question him.

8. A good wife always knows her place.


Is it any wonder marriage has it’s problems? Lord knows how long that mentality existed. I know it was too long. We have certainly come a long, long way since the 1950’s. Women have made tremendous strides in education and business. I don’t think it will be much longer before women become the breadwinners and men are confined to household duties.

I would love to be around to see the 2050’s list for the good househusband!

Monday, March 21, 2011


I have had few nightmares in my lifetime, so I guess I have been pretty lucky. I rarely even remember my dreams, nightmares or not. One recurring nightmare, that I have had since I graduated college, was that I did not complete all my credits when I apply for graduation. I sign all the documents and then I am told I am three credits (one class) short of what is needed for my degree. I always wake up panicked, and the dream is so real that I actually cannot remember if I graduated or not for several minutes. I haven’t had that dream in a long while now, so maybe I am over it.

Of all the nightmares I have ever had, I remember one vividly to this day. I was very young, maybe 7 or 8, and this dream terrified me. In the dream I was walking home from elementary school. Across the street from the school is a park. I always walked home on the outside block of the park, not through it. But, in the dream, I decided I would take a short cut and walk through the park. I saw some boys playing ball in the distance and then they started yelling over to me to get the ball. I see the ball land and roll on the grass. A young girl is laying down in the grass where the ball stops rolling, her long, black hair is spread out around her head on the grass. I go over to get the ball, which has ended up near her head, and on her hair. I go to pick up the ball and a big clump of her hair comes up with the ball, in my hand. I drop the ball and start running home in terror and then I woke up. I was so scared, I ran into my parents room and woke my mother. She let me climb in the bed between her and my father that night. It amazes me that after 50 years I can still remember the dream and picture it in my mind.

I don’t recall if anything happened that day that upset me and caused me to have that dream. I am amazed that I still remember it. I’m sure I have had other nightmares, but I couldn’t tell you what they were about. They were forgotten the day after I had them. But this one haunts me to this day. I don’t know why.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How NOT To Deport Your Future Brother In-Law!

My mother’s oldest sister, Mary, had been a widow for many, many years. She married her third cousin at a very early age, 16, and raised his three children. She also had given birth to a son who was handicapped and wheelchair bound all his life. My aunt Mary lost her husband and later her son, and lived alone many years. One day she was introduced to Luigi, an Italian immigrant who was here on a visa. They were both retired and they hit it off. My aunt told her family about him.

Though my mother was the youngest sister of the three, she was the one with the level head. Both her older sisters turned to her for everything and that’s why my mother felt she need to protect my aunt Mary. My mother was told, by a friend of my aunt, to check out Luigi because he was not a good man. She was informed she should write to Italy and learn the truth. My mother asked my father to check with his family, who was living there, to see what they could find out in case they needed to warn my aunt. A letter comes back from Sicily with information that Luigi is a gigolo and a womanizer. His reputation is bad, there were stories about his escapades and how he treated his wife badly. He had children, but none of them talked to their father. That was enough for my mother.

My mother called my aunt Mary to relay all she had learned from people who knew Luigi in Sicily. My aunt, by this time, had fallen in love with this creep and told my mother she knew all about his past, but he had changed. The truth is my aunt Mary was tired of living alone and was lonely and she felt this was an opportunity for happiness so she was not going to change her mind. This did not sit well with my mother after all she learned about this man. She was concerned that he was marrying her sister to stay in this country, live in her house and live on her money.

My mother decides to call her sister’s friend Jennie, the one who brought up the fact that Luigi had a bad reputation. After some discussion, the friend tells her that Luigi is here on a visa and the visa has expired. All my mother has to do is call the Department of Immigration and he will be deported…problem solved. So, my mother places an anonymous call to immigration and reports Luigi’s expired visa. The authorities come and arrest him and he is in jail.

However, as I stated previously, any time there is a problem, my aunts always turn to my mother for help. This time was no different. My aunt Mary learned that her fiancé was arrested for and expired visa and it was going to cost $500 to bail him out of jail. My aunt Mary did not have the money readily available and she called to ask my mother to lend it to her temporarily. My mother could not refuse her sister without her sister becoming suspicious or creating hard feelings between them. So, ironically, it cost my mother $500 to bail out Luigi from the jail she had him sent to. And we have come full circle.

The whole matter of the visa got straightened out. My aunt Mary went to Italy with Luigi and married him there, where they spent the entire summer. She seemed very happy and they were married for many years.

PS…the guy was really a creep! This old man groped me and two of my female cousins when we were in our early teens. I told my mother immediately and she told me not to tell my father or he would kill him and that she would take care of it. When she went to warn my cousins’ mothers, so the same thing wouldn’t happen to them, it was already too late. We were all warned never to be alone with him again under any circumstances. In another point in time, he made “passes” at my mother’s other sister, who told her sister Mary about it. Luigi denied it and it caused a big rift in the family.

Too bad the deportation scheme didn’t work!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Uncle Tony’s Funeral…

My uncle Tony was my mother’s baby brother. They grew up together as the youngest of seven siblings, and spent much of their adulthood living in apartments in the same building and raising their families. When my uncle Tony died, it hit my mother pretty hard.

At the funeral home, Mary, his wife of over 30 years, must not have been thinking clearly when she came over to talk to my mother. In the middle of her conversation she remarks that her sister Angie told her that she could have done a lot better than marrying Tony. She said she agreed with her, but she loved Tony. This did not sit very well with my mother and I think it set the tone for what happened at the funeral.

My uncle lived only 45 minutes away, but his burial site was at a veteran’s cemetery, which was a good hour and a half to two hours away. This meant that it would be an all day event. First, all the cars met at the funeral home for the last viewing. My father was driving my mother and her sister in his car, and my husband and I had a couple of relatives in our car. From the funeral home we all drive to the church: the hearse, followed by the limo with my uncle’s wife and children, Angie’s car (the sister in law), my father’s car with the TWO sisters, then our car and a lot of other cars.

My mother is immediately ticked off. The sisters are supposed to be behind the limo of the immediate family, that is proper funeral etiquette, everyone knows that! The cars are arranged to follow by the relationship to the deceased. How does the sister in law come before the sisters? So, my mother begins saying, in her best outdoor voice, “The first become last!” We tried to calm her down before going into church, but to no avail. “The first become last” was her momentary mantra. Everyone within 100 feet heard her as we went into the church to take our seats for mass.

The priest comes out. He is Asian. He has an accent. He begins the proceedings with the traditional prayers. I see my mother getting anxious. Then he begins to talk about my uncle. My mother “whispers” to me, “I can’t understand a damn thing he is saying with that chinky accent!” I am trying to quiet her down. “It’s fine I tell her, I can understand what he is saying, it’s just the mass.” A few minutes later she says, “I still can’t understand a word he is saying with that chinky accent! Why can’t they get a priest who speaks English? First the cars and now this!” There was no calming her down. I just kept shushing her and hoping she would realize where she was, and praying the mass would end.

When the mass is over, we leave to return to the cars for a very long ride out to the veteran’s cemetery. The car issue rears it’s ugly head again. However, Angie apparently “heard” my mother’s “first to last” comments prior to mass and came over to us. She told my father and my husband to pull out and follow the limo and she would get behind us. That worked out fine. We all drove out there without incident, had the ceremony, the flagged over the coffin was folded and presented to my aunt Mary and we left to go back. However, we weren’t going home yet. There was going to be food at Angie’s house for all the mourners. That set my mother off again. She was not keen on going to Angie’s house to eat, but we did.

We arrive at Angie’s (the sister in law) house. She has a big spread and there are a lot of people there from our side of the family and their side of the family (mostly their side). Everything is going along fine until my mother eavesdrops or accidentally overhears a conversation that Angie is having with another guest. My mother only hears a part of the conversation. Angie was telling someone that her brother Jack, who lives in the apartment upstairs, allowed his girlfriend to move in, and she “wants her out of the house” because she didn’t like her. My mother understood that to mean that Angie wanted HER out of the house so she goes up to Angie and says, “Look if you didn’t want us here, you didn’t have to invite us, we will leave now.” Angie has no idea what she is talking about and tries to talk my mother out of storming off. My mother tells her “I know what I heard. You said let’s hurry up and make coffee so we can get these people out of the house.” If my memory serves me right, I think the misunderstanding was cleared up, but I can’t swear to it. I just know that the events of this day were discussed for many weeks after the fact.

I know my mother’s behavior was out of line even if she was grief stricken over my uncle’s death. But, that’s my mom. If my uncle was looking down on her, he would have understood and maybe even agreed. One thing is for sure, she made the day very memorable for everyone.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Mother and Her Bookie…

Long before Off Track Betting came to New York City, and before my father had a license to drive to the race track, my mother developed a love of horse racing. Well, not so much horse racing, per se, but betting on horses. Every night, after dinner and until bedtime, she would study the racing statistics in the newspaper for hours. She would make her calculations based on the horse’s owner, trainer and rider plus past performance stats. She was very good at it too.

I first learned about this “secret” passion when I was very young, maybe 4 years old. First thing every morning my mother would place a mysterious phone call to her “bookie.” It would go something like this: “Hello Charlie, this is Ruth. Two dollars to win on Lover Lips in the second race, four dollars for win and place on Blabber Mouth in the seventh race.” One day she notice I was standing right there while she was placing her call. My mother’s name was Jennie, so when she referred to herself as “Ruth” I may have made a funny face. After her call, she told me in no uncertain terms, that I was never to mention these calls to my father. And, lucky for her, I didn’t.

Soon, I was to meet the mysterious Charlie the bookie. One day, after my mom got dressed, we went shopping at the local vegetable store. We went there every day for fresh produce. As we walk in, the owner says “Hi Ruth.” The owner’s real name is Nick, not “Charlie“. I later learn that the “code” names were used in case there was ever any wire tapping of telephones. Some money changes hands between my mom and the grocer. The money he gives her are her “winnings” and the money she gives him were for her new day's “bets.” Sometimes we actually bought vegetables.

Over the years, my mother spoke about her “hobby” and eventually told my father, who also acquired an interest in betting on horses too. I picked up quite a bit of information myself from the conversations they had, but was never really interested in gambling.

One day, when I was dating my future husband, he asked me where I would like to go. It was a beautiful day so I suggested going to the Aqueduct Race Track. We could sit outside all day watching the horses and have a bite to eat. When we got to the track I suggested we get programs for the races, which were twenty-five cents, just so we would know what was going on even though we weren‘t there to bet. While everyone was placing bets between races I was showing my husband-to-be the program and explaining what to look for. For the first race, I explained how I would pick which horse was going to win and marked it in the program. My horse ended up winning the first race and my husband was impressed. I did the same thing for the second race as I explained the Daily Double (first and second race winners). My pick for the second race also won. We sat down and reviewed the third race horses and once again I picked the winner. My amazed husband turns to me and says, “Maybe we should place bets on the next race?” I said, “Ok if you want to, we can.” We placed bets on the next few races and came away with some money…it wasn’t a fortune, but it was enough for a free day at the track and dinner.

Like most of you, I learned a lot of things from my mother. But, I will “bet” all of you never learned how to pick a winner at the race track! Now that’s a bet I’m sure to win!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Mother's Schedule…

My mother had a set routine and everything was done on schedule. I mean everything. We ate at 5:30 pm Monday through Fridays and at 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays. She went food shopping at the same time every morning. She went to bed the same time every night. After dinner she studied the horse racing statistics, which she loved to do. She did her ironing on Sundays at 7 pm. You could set your watch by what was going on in our house.

One day my mother’s brother, John, died. He lived over 50 miles away. The wake was held where he lived and it happened to be arranged for a Sunday at 1 to 5 pm. My uncle Tony, who was going to drive her to the funeral parlor, told her what the arrangements were, “The wake is going to be Sunday from 1 to 5.” My mother’s startled answer, “Sunday from 1 to 5? That’s when I make my sauce! When are we supposed to eat?” My husband whispers in my ear, “Oh man you even have to die on schedule!” I chime in, “It’s ok mom, we’ll just eat at 5 or 6 when you get back.” My mother yells, “5 or 6? That’s too late to eat. We never eat that late.” My husband whispers in my ear, “He picked an inconvenient time to die, it’s messing up the dinner schedule.” I say, “Well Uncle John can’t help when he died, it’s only one time, we’ll manage.”
Of course this went on for quite a while. There was nothing she could do about the timing. It was too far away to eat dinner first and she was depending on my uncle to drive her there. Still, she was very upset because it ruined her routine.

PS Living on such a strict regimented routine had it’s effect on me too. When I went to college I didn’t know what to major in so I decided to take some interest tests. There are hundreds of questions and, after you answer them, they match your answers up with groups of people in certain occupations so that you know where you fit in. I was told I matched up the military personnel. I was stunned. No way did I want to go to or belong in the military. So I meekly asked, what other groups do I match up with. The counselor told me all other groups were a very distant second compared to the military. Then it dawned on me how many questions concerned routines and schedules and being told what to do. My mother was running the house like she was the general and we were her army! Well that test was a waste of time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Women Still Earn Less Than Men…

So women, speak up, you are worth every penny!

As the mother of two daughters, this is an issue that concerns me a great deal. Women are still earning less than men almost 50 years after the equal pay for equal work law was passed. There is still discrimination going on according to the 2010 Census reports. In fact, women are still only earning 77% of what men earn, with the average male salary just over $47,000 and women at just over $36,000.

Men out earn women in just about every occupation, even those that are predominantly filled by women. For example, female secretaries earn 83% of what a male secretary earns. In male dominated jobs, women earn less too! Female truck drivers earn 77% of what men doing the same work earn.

Interestingly enough, a study was done that showed that men who has sex change operations and became women, earned 32% less than men, while women who transitioned to men earned 1.5% more pay.

For adults between the ages of 25 and 29, woman hold 58% of the college and advanced degrees compared with 42% of men. Woman are becoming more and more educated and going into professionally male dominated careers such as medicine and law. However, they have yet to catch up to men in earning power.
Why the gender gap in salaries? Well, when men ask for a raise at work, their raises tend to be higher than women’s raises, 4.3% versus 2.7%. Over the course of many years, by the time they retire, it adds up to a lot of money. And this all starts with starting salaries. Over the course of a lifetime, a 25 year old woman will earn $523,000 less than her 25 year old male counterpart by the time they are both 65.

There are other issues that keep women from catching up to men. Woman compare their salaries with those of other women and not with the market value of their job. And even if we factor in that many women interrupt their careers to have children or work part time, childless career women still make less than men.

Women need to speak up, know the value of the work they are performing and negotiate better salaries for themselves. I can guarantee you that behind every successful man there are one or more women making him look good. All the administrative and executive “assistants” who don’t make a fraction of what they are worth, but keep companies running like clocks, handle problems, diffuse situations, pay attention to details…these are the underpaid, undervalued, underestimated, taken for granted women.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How To Cope With Life’s Frustrations…

Life is always throwing us curve balls. Problem come up on a daily basis. I didn’t notice this so much when I was younger, but now I almost feel like if I didn’t have bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all. Tomorrow marks the 10th day with no dial tone or DSL service and I will have to make yet another call to dear old Verizon. I feel like cancelling all my business with them. Yet I am calm, rational and reasonable…why…online games.

Online games are addicting. The reason we can’t stop playing them is because they are a huge distraction from our daily lives. If I am trying to score points, I have to concentrate on what I am doing and that leaves no room to sweat the big stuff. Total distraction and peace of mind for however long you are playing. It’s cheaper than therapy and healthier than high blood pressure. It’s like taking a mini vacation in your mind for however long it takes for you to put your problems into perspective.

I can’t play Farmville on Facebook. It requires too much dedication to grow your crops, build things, and feed your animals. If you can’t get to it every day your farm suffers. You need people with farms to send you things. I cannot make that kind of commitment. But I play games where you can use your skill and luck to earn points. You need to focus on what you are doing so much so that it takes over my mind. The games are great because some take less time than others and I can pick out what I want to play according to my free time or stress level. It works and because it does it becomes addicting or at the very least habit forming.

So if you see a friend racking up a ton of points one day or creating an empire out of their farm it may be a clue that they are going through a stressful time or they have way too much time on their hands!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quick To Criticize, Slow To Compliment…

I have been aware of this trait, that many people have, all my life. My mother was one of those people. Hard as I tried to please her, she always found a flaw to comment on, but praise was very rare. If I cleaned something, for example, she would never say “good job” or “thank you” but instead, “look here, you missed a spot.” If I got a 92 on an exam she would ask, “why didn’t you get 100?” My brother brought home a report card with a 95 average in all his subjects…my mother wrote in the parents comments, “I’ll see to it that he does better next time!” The first compliment I remember getting was when I was 18 and she went with me to see the dean of my college. She watched and listened to the conversation and, as we were walking back to take the bus afterwards, she turned to me and said, “I never knew you were so smart.” And she meant it too.

You can look around you every day and find criticism about you or someone you know, it’s everywhere. Remember recently, when Christina Aguilera hit the wrong key in the national anthem and got the words wrong? Everyone knows how talented she is, but no one let it slide. She was raked over the coals for days over that. And people will probably bring it up every time she releases a new cd or performs somewhere. I never heard anyone say maybe she is having a bad day, got some bad news, or isn’t feeling well.

None of us can be at our best every minute of every day. So we are all going to have days when we say or do things that are subject to criticism. It’s at those times when a kind word of support and encouragement can mean the most.

I do my fair share of complaining when I get poor service, but when I get excellent service I make a point of writing a letter to that person’s boss letting them know how happy I was. You would be surprised how appreciative the person is to get that recognition and often the company will reward such employees with gift cards and other perks.

As for my kids, I complain when they need it, but I praise them all the time for being hard working, intelligent young women. I do it consciously because it was lacking in my childhood. I feel my self-esteemed suffered for it and I always wanted my girls to have good self-esteem and self-worth. I think it makes all the difference.

It seems like we focus and comment on the negative, but rarely recognize the positive things people do. Just saying a simple thank you or great job as an acknowledgement of minor accomplishments really takes so little effort, but makes a big difference for the other person. And much of what you do will return to you many times over by all those whose lives you’ve touched.
The real spirit of a loving person is shown through compassion by being slow to criticize and quick to commend. And, at those times when criticism is necessary, do it with the intention of helping not hurting.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review Day: Mattress Topper and 17 Day Diet!

For the past two days I have been cleaning my bedroom and washing all the bedding so I can place my new, four inch, memory foam mattress topper on the bed. I had been having back issues for well over a year and I was hoping this might help solve the problem. Sleeping with pain every time you move around is not very good sleep. My husband also suffers from back pain. I thought that this would be an inexpensive risk to take at $77 from

Of course, from all the bending and cleaning and vacuuming my back was aching more than usual last night. Well, I am very happy to report that there was a significant improvement this morning when I got out of bed. My husband also reported that his back felt better. I can only hope, that over the next few days, our pains will continue to improve and we will be getting a better night’s sleep. Also, unexpectedly, my right arm has been suffering with tennis elbow. Every morning I can barely stretch it out the pain is so bad from being stiff all night. Well, this morning there was just barely a dull ache! Amazing! I just hope it wasn’t a coincidence. I am so tired of pain. I will post the link to the mattress topper at the end of the blog and also the deep pocket sheets I got, which simulate 1200 Egyptian cotton for only $25 plus shipping. They feel like silk and I enjoyed them very much. I am going to order another set today. So for a little over $100 I feel like I am sleeping on a cloud. If you are considering doing the same thing, check back with me in a week and see what I have to say then!

As for the 17 Day Diet…aside from the quick weight loss (as of now it is still at 11 pounds, but that’s my fault), I noticed two other side effects. First of all, my back started bothering me a lot less without those extra pounds. All the physical therapy exercises did not accomplish what losing those few pounds did and in less the time. I am amazed. Secondly, my left leg (ankle and calf) was retaining water for months, a side effect of the radiation seven years ago. Since I started the diet and began drinking all that water, there is no swelling in my leg! This was much easier than keeping my leg elevated all the time. The walking may have helped too. The diet works wonders in areas that I was not expecting it to. This is just more motivation for me to apply what I have learned from the book and stick with it. I hope anyone who has been skeptical will reconsider now that I hear B&N has the book for $11 or $12. It is well worth the investment. I haven’t even followed it 100% because I was not able to get all the things he wanted me to down in a day. If you can do all the things he suggests, you will make much more progress than I did.

So there is proof positive that some things do work as they claim. If you have any questions on either review, contact me!

Links to mattress topper and sheets:

Topper:  And it went down to $70

Sheets:  They went up to $31 plus shipping.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Listen To Your Body...

And take care of it. Now that the warmer weather is approaching we are going to hear all the warnings about exposure to sun, sunscreen and skin cancer. But that’s not the only danger to our health. Most people don’t think about checkups unless they are experiencing symptoms of one kind or another. Often, for certain diseases, symptoms often mean that it may be too late for a good outcome from treatment.

When you reach certain ages there are tests that are recommended to maintain our health and for early detection of any potential problems. Consider this a subtle reminder or a little push to start getting examined by your personal physician and follow any recommendations to go for specific tests or to specialists who will do routine exams.

Mammograms are an important screening test which should be done regularly. I know it’s hard to remember and not the most pleasant of experiences, but it is necessary. I have to go every year so I try to schedule it for some time around my birthday as something I do to take care of myself. We need to see our gynecologists and get a Pap smear every 1 to 3 years to screen for cervical cancer. Colonoscopies need to be done at the age of 50, unless you have a family history of colon cancer which may require you be screened earlier. This test is done every 5 to 10 years and is my least favorite test. The test itself is a piece of cake but the preparation is hard. Still, it is not as hard as having colon cancer and the suffering that comes with it. I witnessed what it did to my father and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s important to be screened for diabetes, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis. Your blood pressure should be taken every two years. Depending on your family history your doctor may suggest other tests as well.

I found I always had time for the things everyone in my family needed to get done. There was never any time for me to schedule my tests and doctors visits. But you know what? When the worst thing happened, and I was diagnosed with cancer, suddenly that’s all there was time for. Doctor’s visits, biopsies, operations, CT scans, seven weeks of radiation five days a week, MRIs, Pet Scans and whatever else. Everything else took a back seat while I ran from place to place. But, what I had would not have been detected by the tests I mentioned above. It was very rare.

Medicine has come a long way and many things can be detected early and cured. You don’t want to wait until you feel something is wrong. You need to stay on top of things and take care of yourself, if not for your sake, for your family’s. Spring is here, the weather has improved. Maybe this is the time to start making those appointments so you’ll be done by summer?

I promise you, if you have yourself checked out, you won’t regret it and you will have the peace of mind in knowing your are healthy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stripping A Mannequin…

About a month ago I went to the mall with my daughters to do a little shopping. We needed to get out because the snow had kept us in all winter long. My daughters graze through the clothes, store after store, but aren’t having much luck finding anything.

We hit all their favorite stores: JCPenney, NY & Company, H & M, Aeropostale, and Forever 21. Suddenly, at Forever 21, my older daughter sees a pretty dress on a mannequin that she really likes. Even more unusual is the fact that I also like it! So we begin to look around for it in the store. I found a blouse that looked just like it, but not the dress. I look at the size on the mannequin and it’s a small. So I ask my daughter if she really wants it I will take it off the mannequin. Both of my daughters are horrified. Their eyes are screaming, "You can’t do that!"

So, I proceed to unzip the dress in the back of the mannequin, but the looks I was getting from the girls finally made me stop. It’s bad enough when strangers give you looks, but my own girls? I told them to wait there and I would find a salesperson. Surely the store would prefer to sell the dress then keep it on the mannequin. I finally track down a nice young lady wearing a store ID tag. I explain to her that my daughter would like a dress that is on the mannequin, but nowhere in the store. She asks which one. I point over to it. “I’m sorry, but we don’t have any of those left in the store.” I ask if I could have the one on the mannequin because it is the right size. She tells me no, it’s not possible. I was speechless for a minute. She goes on the explain that it is a company policy. They have someone who comes in to dress the mannequins and the garments cannot be removed unless they do it, sorry.

I am disappointed and irritated at the thought of such a ridiculous policy. The same thing happened a few weeks earlier in JCPenney and the salesperson immediately took the sweater off the mannequin for me and replaced it with another.

Well, so much for the poor economy and the poor retailers! So much for the customer is always right! They kept their dress and we kept our money. Nice doing business with you Forever 21!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Today Is Carrie Underwood’s Birthday!

Yes! Today the most successful American Idol, winner of season 4, and my all time favorite Idol, turns 28 today! She is living the American Dream. She is an All American Girl.

Born in 1983 on a farm in Oklahoma, Carrie grew up in humble beginnings. She is the youngest of three girls. She was raised in a warm and loving family and developed a love of animals. She had a normal childhood and went to college to major in journalism. But, in her senior year of college she decided to try out for American Idol. She had never even been on a plane, but took at risk and left school to try out. She passed all the auditions and made it to top twelve. I knew she would win. Right from the beginning there was something special about her. But she had some stiff competition in Bo Bice, the season “rocker.” When they were ready to announce the winner, the silence was deafening. No one really knew how the votes would turn out. Ryan Seacrest finally announces “Carrie Underwood, your next American idol!” Glittering confetti rains down on the stage. I scream! My daughter’s jaw drops and she slinks out of the room shocked. She was a Bo fan and as sure of his victory as I was of Carrie’s. That was May, 2005.

The rest is really history. Carrie has won close to 100 awards in the last six years. She was inducted into the Grand Old Opry in 2008! She has recorded three platinum cds. The list of her accomplishments is endless. She managed to go back and finish her college degree. She said she did it for two reasons; one, her parents paid a lot of money for her to get her degree and two, she wants to be able to tell her children one day that she did in fact graduate. You have a admire her for that. She may never use her degree. She is so successful in her music career that money will never be an issue. She uses her popularity to raise money for special causes, including animals. She has a strong faith and never fails to thank God for all her blessings.

Along the way, a friend introduced her to Mike Fisher, a hockey player in Canada. They dated and fell in love. Despite the distance and hectic careers they each have, they have found a way to make it work. Last July they married in the middle of Carrie’s “Play On” tour. Carrie was prepared to live in Canada and they were building a new house. However, a few weeks ago Mike Fisher was traded to a team in Nashville, where Carrie lives and works. Again it seems God is looking out for this couple. I worried about how a long distance relationship would work for them, but divine intervention seems to have taken care of that.

Today is Carrie’s 28th birthday. She is a phenomenal success. She is married. She is very happy and blessed. All that remains is for them to create a few little singing hockey players…and what beautiful little babies they will be!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

The Blogging Blues….

So yesterday there was no blog. That was unfortunate. I really tried to think up a topic, but nothing came to me. I committed to writing every day for a year and now I slipped up. I hated to do it. I was grasping at straws. I thought this was going to be a lot easier than it is. Some days are a piece of cake and I can write about what is going on in my life or a memory or something that made me angry. Yesterday it was Verizon again! Two days without a dial tone and that means no DSL also. I just blogged about Verizon, so what can I do? The frustration of dealing with them took first place over all my other thoughts. I tried calling repair with my cell phone (thank God they were invented), but their automated system does not recognize it when I press “1” for home and “2” for repair. They keep saying “sorry, I didn’t understand, please press “1” for home” over and over until they finally put a person on the line. This just happened on February 22nd and has been ongoing sing July, 2009. The cables are old, but they don’t want to replace them. Instead me and other customers in the area go without service that we are paying more than enough for. It’s supposed to be fixed by 8 tonight. I am not holding my breath. And that’s why I was not able to focus on yesterday’s blog. If this happens again I may have to change the title of my blog to the “Verizon Chronicles!” Maybe I should have used a cookbook to cook my way through?

Today’s Blog:

Ash Wednesday

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, the last hurrah before the holy season of Lent begins. We don’t really celebrate it here as they do in other countries where they taking the fasting during Lent much more seriously. Catholics are expected not to eat meat today and all Fridays during Lent (unless they are under 15, over 59, pregnant or ill…basically, just the working people). Catholics are also expected to give up something for lent, like chocolate. It’s a good time to start a diet and kill two birds with one stone.

Ash Wednesday is known as the day Catholics go to church to get ashes placed on their forehead as a sign you are sorry for your sins. The ashes come from the burning of the previous year’s palms leftover from Palm Sunday. Many Catholics will go to church to receive ashes today. When I was a kid, people who went to church just for ashes and palms were called A&P Catholics. The only time they visit church is when something is being given out for free. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I don’t make this stuff up.

I used to give up chocolate or chips as a kid. We didn’t eat meat on Fridays, but that was because my mother used to take a day off from cooking and order pizza. We weren’t that religious. My father was an A&P Catholic. Those were the only two times during the year he went to church, for ashes and palms.

Catholics are supposed to fast until Easter Sunday. Then there is a big meal, family and celebrating. There are lots of colored hard boiled eggs everywhere and chocolate bunnies. The Easter rabbit managed to worm his way into Easter, with his gifts, chocolates and eggs. How this pagan managed to become linked with a very religious, holy day is something I will have to look into and write about closer to Easter. Maybe if I get mental constipation again. But, make no mistake, every child is more concerned with the Easter Rabbit than the real meaning of Easter, just as Santa Claus has taken precedence over Jesus’ birthday.

I won’t be going to get ashes today, but I am sorry for my sins. I have issues with the Catholic Church and find it impossible to adhere to their laws when those who run it fail to do so.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Great Depression and My Mother...

My mother grew up in a large family during the Great Depression and because of that she was very careful about spending money. Some might called frugal, others might call it cheap. She always saved money for a rainy day. We lived modestly, had all the basic necessities and the best food. She never cut corners on food. She might not buy something like asparagus when it was three dollars a pound, but we always had rib eye steaks, fresh killed chickens, lamb chops, the leanest chop meat.

It seems that once you live through an economic depression it changes how you look at things. You learn to make sacrifices and do without things. One thing my mother did was try to conserve electricity, well before the country was talking about “going green” or “global warming.” We always had to shut the lights when leaving a room. When it was 100 degrees in the summer she used a fan, which only blew hot air around. There were nights it was impossible to sleep because of the heat and humidity. I begged and pleaded for air conditioning. She gave in, but only put it on when she thought it was absolutely necessary.

One very hot day I went to work. The mornings were tolerable because the sun hadn’t had a chance to do much damage. I knew that when I got to work it would be cool and comfortable. However, when I left for the day and got on the bus I realized that the air conditioning on the bus wasn’t working and the bus was crowded. I was hot, tired and irritable. It was going to be at least a 45 minute ride to get home. But, I thought, I can deal with this because the air conditioning at home will feel all that much better. I am sweating like a pig as I descend the steps of the bus and walk the two blocks to our house. I run up the steps expecting to open the door to a cold blast of air! I walk in…no air conditioning! What do I find? The kitchen window wide open and my mother stirring not one, but two boiling pots on the stove! It’s 98 degrees! The first words out of my mouth are, “What happened to the air conditioner???” My mother says, “We don’t need it, there is a breeze.” “A BREEZE? You call this a breeze?,” I yelled in disgust. I ranted about my trip home and how I was sure the AC would be on and how I was dripping wet. My mother dropped her spoon and went to turn on the AC. It took hours for the house to cool off. The AC was not the adequate number of BTUs for the area, but if it was put on early enough, it made the room comfortable enough.

Needless to say, after that day, I always came home to find the AC on when we had hot days. Sometimes it pays to complain.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

When Do Children Start To Appreciate Parents?

I wonder about this sometimes, considering all I do for my children. I do feel I go above and beyond, as a mother, spoiling and pampering them and even anticipating their needs. I may not have been so generous about it, but they have always worked hard and been ideal daughters, so I feel they deserve to be treated very well. However, I was wondering when it was going to start clicking in their brain that they should also be appreciating me and all I do for them and even acknowledging it from time to time. That would be nice.

Teenagers rarely appreciate their parents. The world revolves around them and their crises. Also, they know everything at that age so there is very little useful advice we can give them that they will take seriously. If we mention all the things we do for them, we might get an answer to the effect that we are supposed to do these things because we are the parents. So it’s pointless to seek any gratitude or acknowledgment during these years, it’s a losing battle.

Depending on whether or not your child goes to college away or stays at home, might hasten the appreciation process. A child that lives away suddenly has no home cooked meals, no clean clothes, no one to shop and fill the cupboards with things they enjoy eating, no one to nurse them back to health, so they will generally start to miss the comforts of home and parents sooner. A child that lives at home hasn’t experienced some of the harsh realities of life. They are still getting the same high quality care and concern as always. It’s the old adage: you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Well I can’t wait to find out when I am going to be appreciated. Both my girls lived at home while attending college and still do. I lived at home until I married at the age of 28, and I am not so sure I appreciated all my parents did either. I wanted to see if there was any research out there to pin point a specific age for parental appreciation. There is. A research poll was conducted in England and the results they found ring true to me.
Age we start to appreciate our parents
Female 22 and Male 22
Age we take relationship advice
Female 24 and Male 25
Age we take advice on financial matters
Female 23 and Male 25
Age we take advice on our children
Female 27 and Male 29
Age we take advice on our work and jobs
Female 23 and Male 24
Age we take advice on our social life
Female 24 and Male 25
Age we take advice on health matters
Female 21 and Male 24
Age we take advice on buying a house
Female 25 and Male 28
Age we start worrying about parents getting older
Female 27 and Male 30
Age we start worrying about parents getting ill / looking after themselves
Female 27 and Male 29

I have to say, based on my experience, this is pretty accurate. I’ve always felt that children were not fully mature until the age of 24, and then they have a lot to learn. Apparently, from the results of the survey, they know enough to get parental advice for all the important things in life. If they only learn that much in 24 years, then I think we have done our jobs!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Butterball Story...

Many years ago, I invited my parents and my brother over for Thanksgiving dinner a couple of weeks ahead of time. In most families there is an “acceptance” of the invitation which may be followed up with “Can I bring anything?” Not so in my case. Most of our family interactions are a lot like the ones in “Everybody Loves Raymond.” That’s why I love that show so much. As outrageous as “Marie” acts, I always know what she is going to say and do.

So, my mother accepts my invitation and wants to know what I am making. I tell her turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and brussel sprouts. She adds, “Don’t forget the Italian bread.” Ok, fine, and the Italian bread. She asks, “Did you get the turkey yet?” I reply, “No, I am going to the butcher to buy two turkey breasts today.” And, you might think that is the end of it…but no.
I go to the butcher and inquire about buying two turkey breasts. He advises me to get a certain brand, maybe Shady Brook Farms, that has fresh turkey breasts that aren’t injected with fat. I decide to buy two of those, weighing 7 to 8 pounds each. I’m glad that is out of the way.

I get home and the phone rings…it’s Mom. “Did you order your turkey breasts?”
I answer, proud of my decision, “I just got back from the butcher and I got two fresh Shady Brook Farm breasts.” Mom replies incredulously, “You got WHAT? Why didn‘t you get Butterball turkey breasts?” I repeat what I just told her, adding that the butcher assured me these breasts would taste a lot better. “Well, if you aren’t cooking Butterball turkey we are not coming to dinner!” The call ends and I am exasperated.

The next day the phone rings, it’s Mom. “What are you making for Thanksgiving? Did you get Butterball turkeys?” I answer, “I told you I am making the fresh turkey breasts I got from the butcher yesterday. They will be fine.” Mom: “Then I am not eating!” Later that day I rant, rave and vent to my poor husband about the Butterball drama. He shakes his head, but never has a bad word to say.

The following day the phone rings. It’s Mom. My husband happens to be nearby. Mom says, “So are you getting Butterball turkeys or not? I have to know where I am eating for Thanksgiving.” My husband says, “Oh man, she is still talking about the Butterballs?” I repeat, “I am making the two breasts I have in the freezer on Thanksgiving and I do not want to buy two more!” “Fine“, mom says, “we’ll just stay home.” “But what am I supposed to do with all this turkey now?” I ask. “You should have gotten Butterball! That’s what we always have and that’s all I’ll eat!”

I talk to my husband. I am in tears. We decide I will go out and get two Butterball turkey breasts and make them for Thanksgiving. I can save the other breasts for us to eat, one at a time, it’s a long winter and we like turkey. I buy the Butterballs. My mom calls and before she can say a word I announce I have the Butterballs for Thanksgiving. “And what are you going to do with those other two turkey breasts?” she asks. “What do you care what I will do with them? You will have your Butterballs for Thanksgiving and I’ll worry about the other two breasts” I answer.

We have a nice Butterball Thanksgiving.

P.S.  About a month or so later I defrost and cook one of the fresh turkey breasts.
My three year old daughter takes a bite and says, “This tastes better than the turkey we had for Thanksgiving!” Out of the mouth of babes!!!

Friday, March 4, 2011


I can’t believe the time has come to look into retirement. My husband has put in 30 years on a job he never cared for, but it paid all the bills. Now, while he is still young, we are looking into early retirement. My younger daughter will be out of school next year and hopefully supporting herself. Now we can put the focus back on ourselves.

We are going to see a pension specialist this afternoon to get advice on what steps to take and when. We have always been mindful of the day this would come and have prepared pretty well for it. You can’t think about retirement a couple of years before you get there. We didn’t want to have to worry about anything when the time came so we took advantage of different retirement investments over the years.

My plan is to move out of this house and find something easier for us to manage. I will probably go back to taking some French classes at a local college for fun. My husband plans on finding a much less stressful job in his field just to stay active. He is also completing a Master’s Degree in history, which is a love of his, and maybe he can find a job that will allow him to pursue it. He has so much information in his head about history, a subject that I have very little interest in. But, I know more history than he knows French, so we are even!

I would like to live in a nice quiet area, but I can’t move too far from here because my girls are now pretty much set on staying here and there are a lot of advantages to living in NYC. They have their friends here and frankly my only brother is here too and I would feel bad to leave him. So I have my work cut out for me with finding just the right place, packing and moving everything and I would love to be out of here next summer. First I have to see when this retirement would be most advantageous.

I’m glad we are both still young enough to enjoy and make the most of our retirement years. Maybe we can travel again. I was thinking of cashing in that IRA and getting a nice new car too. There’s a lot to think about, but for now we are taking the first step and getting informed.

Next year at this time I may officially be a “senior citizen” but, thanks to this diet, I’ll be a damn good looking one!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Unfriended On Facebook, Again

Well, today I woke up and discovered a “friend” unfriended me out of the blue. I don’t know why. There was no explanation, no incident, no words exchanged, no difference of opinion…nothing to give me a clue. They also unfriended a couple of other people without incident. It hurts because I really considered this person a friend. We had had many good conversations and personal exchanges. So, I am going to have my say and move on. I can’t control what others do, I am not even entitled to know why. I just have to accept it. Acceptance has never been one of my strong suits unfortunately.

Now I am left to wonder why this happened. Or, maybe I am better off forgetting about it. It’s just that this goes against everything I know to be true about the character of this person. The kindness, the decency, the morality, the fairness, the compassion, the love…those are the attributes I considered this person to have, I still do, but I guess they were not really extended to me. Instead of talking to me, asking me or telling me what, if anything, was bothering her, she just used the “unfriendly, unfriending ax” and let me have it.

I’ve been unfriended before and I’m sure to be unfriended again. Every time it stings one way or another. Sometimes I’ll feel hurt and I’ll shed a few tears over it, like today. Sometimes I’ll feel angry because I’ve tried to help someone and they will unfriend me over what someone else has said. Sometimes I’ve been disappointed too. Sometimes I didn’t care and they did me a favor. But I always sent a note apologizing for anything I may have done to cause the unfriending.

I know I did nothing this time. I still sent a note first thing this morning. I do it for my own peace of mind and closure. I do it to acknowledge the unfriending since I wasn’t given so much as a heads up about it. I have a total of 65 friends. That’s not much for a Facebook account. So when one goes missing you can’t help but notice. Today I have to say that I wish I had just stuck to using the internet for research and not become so attached to people. We get enough heartache in our very real personal lives without adding to it via a virtual world. Both kinds of heartache feel the same.

Well at least this experience gave me a topic to blog about. I need to go out and purchase a suit of armor for my very sensitive heart. I wonder if Amazon is having a sale? Yes, I see one there that’ll work for me for $19.99. Well worth it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


What do you think about when confronted with the possibility of death? You don’t give it too much thought until you are facing the possibility that your days are numbered. That may happen when you get old and your health starts to fail you or when you are young and have been diagnosed with a deadly disease. At least when you are old you come to expect the inevitable; no one lives forever. All you can hope for is a minimum amount of suffering, to keep your dignity throughout, to be able to remain independent and maybe not end up in a nursing home. By that time all your affairs should be in order. You should have a carefully drawn up legal will if you have assets to leave, and that’s about it.

When you are young and facing the prospect of dying, it’s not quite so simple. Having a Last Will and Testament is the least of your concerns. There will be a spouse or parents or children who will inherit everything. What do you think about as you wait in limbo for test results or as you consider your prognosis? I can tell you what I thought about…

I thought about my children, who were 14 and 17 at the time. I wasn’t done raising them yet. I worried about not being there for their birthdays, graduations, weddings, grandchildren. I had so much I needed to tell them and teach them about life. Who was going to talk to them about dating and relationships? Who will comfort them when relationships end? Who would teach them about finances and how to prepare for their future? Who would help them when they needed support and encouragement? Who would wait up for them when they would be coming home late? Who would look at their faces or hear their voices and know something was wrong? Who was going to be there when they have the first babies and feel overwhelmed? Who would advise them when they are making difficult life choices? Who else would be there for them 24/7 without question and love them unconditionally like only a mother can?

Then I thought about my husband. Would I be around for our 25th anniversary? We had planned to go back to Hawaii when the day came. How would get along without me? Would he be lost and withdrawn? Would he be able to focus on the girls while he was grieving? Would he remarry? Would he think about protecting his assets for his children?

And then there is my only brother. He is single. We are the only family he has left. He took the deaths of my parents hard. How would he cope if he lost me too? We were raised to be there for each other and always have been. Who would he turn to or depend on?

I felt like I was failing everyone. I didn’t do anything to cause my illness, but I had so much unfinished business left that only I could do. Of course no one wants to be robbed of their future, it’s a very scary and unfair thing to happen to anyone. To die young is always tragic. But, I was worried about how my absence was going to affect those closest to me. I expressed my concerns to one doctor. She told me, depending on the test results, I might have only 18 months (worse case scenario). I was both sickened and relieved at the same time. Sickened because I knew how fast 18 months would go, and relieved that I had some time to try to accomplish some of the things I needed to do. The girls didn’t even know how to work the washer/dryer and I envisioned them running out of clean clothes and not knowing what to do. You have a lot of crazy thoughts run through your head. And, I I regained my composure I told the doctor I am worried about my girls. She answered, “Don’t worry about them, trust me, they’ll be fine.” Can you imagine hearing that from your doctor? I was speechless and in total disbelief, and it’s a good thing too, or I might have had a stroke right there.

You can never be prepared for a terminal diagnosis. If the disease doesn’t kill you the stressing over it just might. But, the last thing you think about is yourself at a time like that. You do mourn for your future, but only in so far as how your not being there will affect those you love and still need you.

Don’t put off going to the doctor if you think something is wrong. Make sure to get annual checkups and screenings. Try to eat healthy and exercise. We are only going to get one chance to do this thing called life right and make the most of it. And, you don’t want to let your loved ones down if you can help it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Spring is one of my favorite seasons and it looks like it’s right around the corner! The ground hog was right and I could not be happier. I hope all the snow is now behind us finally. We’ve had 8 or 9 storms and two of those dumped 19 inches each on us. I went shopping Sunday and there were still piles of snow around the parking lot and the ice at the bottom has been there since the day after Christmas. But, the sun is out today and it’s calling my name.

Spring has always been very energizing for me. Whether it’s the sunshine, the smell of flowers and newly cut grass, the cool breeze or a combination of those things, it’s very uplifting. It makes you want to get up and move and get things done. What a relief after being snowed in for months with clouds always hanging over our heads. I’m so glad it’s coming early too because I really have so much to do.

The days will be getting longer. The temperature will be getting warmer. It’s the time to start spring cleaning, mowing the lawn for the first time, gardening, pruning, coloring Easter eggs, hunting for Easter eggs, getting the outdoor furniture ready, take out the grill, BBQ’s, blooming flowers, bees buzzing, birds chirping, April showers, May flowers, Ash Wednesday, Lent, St. Patrick’s day, Mother’s Day, Good Friday, Palm Sunday, and Spring Break for college students.

Allergy season kicks in too. Time to stock up on over-the-counter remedies before the pharmacies run out. Look through your clothes and make room for some new things, then go shopping. Get out your bikes, time to ride in the park.  Pack a picnic basket. Plan a trip for summer vacation. Get tickets to a ball game. Make sure the air conditioner is working, there has been many a very hot day in May when you will be glad you did.

Spring is in the air! What are you doing reading this blog? Go out!