Saturday, December 31, 2011

Count Your Blessings...

Sometimes it’s easier to complain about what’s wrong in our lives than give thanks and gratitude for all we have in blessings.  I’m am guilty of it as much or more than anyone. Just the name of this blog will tell you that!  But, the end of the year is a time of looking back and reflecting and I was thinking of the blessings in my own life, and while I appreciate them, I don’t give thanks as often as I should. If we counted our blessings as often as we complained about problems, I think we would be all happier and more positive people.

If, in general, you are blessed with good health, that’s a huge thing to be thankful for. If you have a good marriage, in a time when the divorce rate is over 50%, that’s a miracle. If your children and grandchildren are all healthy and happy, what more could you want? If you have a job and can make ends meet until something better comes along, then you are ahead of the game. We take it for granted if we have a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a bed to lay our heads on at night, but many don’t have that. 

Instead of complaining about laundry, be thankful we have clothes. If you have a car or means of transportation to get to and from work, that’s worth a few words of thanks. If you have a cell phone, cable, internet, things that you consider necessities but are really luxuries, then those are blessings. If you were given intelligence, which is something you can’t buy but gets you farther in life, that’s something to be grateful for.  If we have the gifts of sight and hearing should we be taking those for granted? When we complain we are too tired to walk, do we ever think of those who can’t? 

If you have family and friends who love you, how much is that worth?  If you have a friend you can call 24/7, who not only cares enough to listen, but will help you anyway they can, how often have you told them you appreciate them?  If your mom and dad are still living, that is a blessing. If your parents are not living, but have raised you to be the best person you can be, that is priceless, they live in you.

Sure life gives us plenty to complain about every day, I’ll be the first one to vent about it. But when you take time to list all the blessings we are given everyday, that we expect to be there and take for granted, we are missing out on being happier and more positive people.  Instead of dwelling on the things that go wrong or things we don’t have, we can focus and give thanks for all we do have.  It’s all right there under our noses, if we only take a few minutes to realize it.

Maybe, before 2011 ends and we take stock of all the bad things that happened, we can take an equal amount of time to take inventory of all the good things we have enjoyed. We might even find that our list of blessings is much longer and more significant than the problems we have had to deal with?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Remorse Or Regret

Sometimes, when a year ends, it’s almost provokes the kinds of thoughts you get as you get older and nearing the end of life.  You look back and think about what you have done and haven’t done and sometimes you have feelings of remorse or regret.  Many times I have heard the question posed: when you die, what would you rather not have, remorse or regrets?  People always seem to answer “regrets.”  Am I the only one who answers “remorse?”  Maybe my definition of the two words is different from everyone else’s?  Of course, ideally, no one wants to have either regrets or remorse. But, as long as we are living and human, we are going to make mistakes or decisions that may end up taking us down one of these two roads.

For me, the word regret is not as serious as remorse. I may regret doing or not doing certain things. I may regret the consequences of some actions that were unintended, but I can live with it or die with it, without being tormented.  I may regret not trying skydiving. But so what if I never went skydiving?  Maybe I would have hurt myself?  Maybe I ended up doing something more important? I can regret not skydiving, but it doesn’t eat away at me.  I can regret going to Wildwood, New Jersey on vacation. Almost any place else would have been better. But I don’t regret the time I spent with my family there. You win some, you lose some. And, in the end, when you rank all your vacations, one of them has to be the worst. I can live with choosing Wildwood, even though I regret it. I regret that some of the things I have said to my children or others, that may have hurt their feelings. But, if those things were well intentioned and for their own good, I don’t regret having said them. We are all going to have regrets, things we are sorry for, it’s unavoidable, but not devastating.

Remorse is like regret, but on a more serious level. When I think of remorse, I think of a deep sadness and guilt. For me, remorse is about doing something wrong.  It’s about making a bad decision that causes harm and something you would not repeat if you could go back in time.  It’s something you reproach yourself for doing. It can eat away at you if it’s not made right. Remorse is more aligned with morality, in my mind which is why it causes so much sorrow and guilt.  Regret is wishing you had done something differently, while remorse is knowing and acknowledging the shame of doing something wrong. Remorse is not something I could live with, nor would I want to die with the weight of it on my conscience.

So when people answer they rather die without regrets than remorse, it always amazes me. I don’t understand it.  I’d rather have a ton of regrets than one thing I feel remorseful for.  Maybe one of you out there can explain it to me?  Is my thinking off base?

In any case, looking back on 2011, I have nothing to be remorseful for and, if I think long and hard enough I might find a few regrets. For example, I regret not sticking to my diet, but that will be something I can changed in 2012.  I’m not losing sleep over it. Besides, if I died with ten extra pounds, so what, who cares.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jane Fonda's Prime Time Workout

So I was checking out Jane Fonda's prime Time workouts for "older" women and the exercises actually seem easy enough for me to do.  Some people were curious about them, so I found a couple of youtubes (there are more online) so you can see how simple they seem to be.  Yet, I'm sure it will be a little tough in the beginning for someone like me who has not been working out at all in several months.  But Jane Fonda sure looks great and she's 74 years old!  It gives me hope, since I am quite a few years younger, that I will be able to succeed with these DVDs.  

I was watching another video yesterday that said that 30 minutes of exercise per day makes a tremendous difference on our health.  It was made by a doctor who quoted several studies.  He said that you could break it up into 2 15 minute session or 3 10 minute sessions, as long as you get in 30 minutes per day.  Of course Dr. Oz has been saying the same thing and I have tried it, but for some reason I allow myself to get derailed.  I think the key to sticking with exercise is to do it the same time every day, so it becomes part of the normal routine.  I was doing mine at different times.  Once I say I will do it later, later never comes. Something else keeps me from getting on the treadmill: a phone call, the dog needs to go out, I forgot to get something for dinner.  It's always something and to be honest I don't fight it. I have never been one to be physically active, but as Jane explained on a Rosie O'Donnell interview not too long ago, as we get older that is when we need to exercise the most.  It makes sense. 

I hope to make 2012 the year I get more physically fit and I am going to try to drag a couple of other people along with me, even if they are kicking and screaming and calling me a nag!  A new year is a great time to try to implement some good changes into our lives and encourage others to do the same.  If you are reading this thinking "yes, I really should do something" change that should to a will.  If you care about your loved ones, you will take care of yourself for their sake. 

If you aren't convinced, the video I saw also said that lack of exercise (watching tv etc) will take 5 (FIVE) years off your life.  Can you afford to give up 5 years?  I can't. This is my "prime time" according to Jane, and I intend to make the most of it!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

TV GUIDE “Jeers” Nails The Talk!

Oh happy days! I am so happy with TV Guide I am almost willing to pay their ridiculously high subscription rate! As anyone who reads my blog and facebook knows, I am and angry with The Talk and, specifically, Julie Chen Sara Gilbert and Sharon Osborn for the “Leah & Holly” fiasco.  The content of the discussions on the show has go downhill ever since the two popular co-hosts were “fired” from the very project they helped create, without so much as a word.  You might even call it being “stabbed in the back.” In a recent interview, Sharon made some terrible remarks on the Howard Stern Show. All the remaining original co-hosts mentioned above have tried to shift the blame to others for the “dismissal,” but none of them addressed the main complaint of viewers.  What has been most troubling was the lack of explanation to Leah and Holly and their fans.  

It’s a new day! Leah and Holly have moved on to other projects.  Their fans are a little stuck.  We enjoyed The Talk the way it was and now it’s ruined.  Thanks to a brilliant writer at TV Guide, I can quote you what their “Jeers” said about the show.  It’s not going to change anything, but I got some satisfaction!

“Jeers to The Talk for biting in the Big Apple.

CBS's daytime cringe-athon is telecasting live this week from the "foyer" of Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall — otherwise known as the "lobby." Too bad the classy surroundings haven't rubbed off on the crass co-hosts. To wit(less): Sharon Osbourne said she was "offended" by Alec Baldwin's tweets about American Airlines' "stewardesses," but added, "I would still like to have sex with you, Mr. Baldwin." (Eww!) Sara Gilbert red-facedly admitted she doesn't know how to pronounce "clitoris." (Awkward!) And Julie Chen asserted to guest Kim Cattrall — who had compared Sex and the City's writers to Noel Coward! — that men didn't like Sex because it "empowered women." (As if!)

That's not why I dislike The Talk. It's so slavishly derivative of better daytime talk shows, from the "Top Chen List" (kinda like "Oprah's Favorite Things," but much cheaper — Piggy Pajamas, anyone?) or the hot-topic discussions that make The View sound like the Algonquin Roundtable (Osbourne had a brain freeze trying to remember Rick Perry's name — ironic, eh?). Seriously, I've heard more stimulating conversations on Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

What do you think of The Talk — in New York City or otherwise?”

Sorry I was a little self indulgent today, but you know it’s hard to get any satisfaction in this lifetime.  You have to grab what little you can get! This is just a tiny excerpt of the thousands of things that go on every day. They used to be so careful about subject matter and language because it’s daytime television, but no more. I almost swear they are purposely trying to be outrageous to draw in viewers, but they are losing the ones they had. 

Now, I’m done with my little rant!  I owe you a decent blog, but I had to get this out of my system!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Moving On in 2012...

2012 is a New Year, don't let it get washed away!

In a few days 2011 will be over, behind us, the good and the bad.  Some people are sad about to see the old year end, others are happy and hopeful as they welcome the New Year.  The New Year, 2012, is a blank slate and we can write whatever we want on it for ourselves.  Unfortunately, not everything is in our control, so things may happen that we don’t like.  But, a lot of what happens is in our control.  We can make some positive changes in our lifestyles and attitudes and that can have a ripple effect on everything and everyone around us.  What have we got to lose anyway?  Being more positive isn’t going to kill us, in fact, if anything, it should make us live longer.

I’ve already started thinking ahead.  I plan to get back on the 17 Day Diet, which worked very well for me last January, but I got sidetracked somewhere a long the way.  The exercise DVD that went with it was way too rigorous for my body.  Even the warm up wiped me out.  I am hoping that Jane Fonda’s DVDs (Prime Time) will be more my speed (slow motion) and that they will help me get started in the right direction.  Diet and exercise should be on everyone’s list of things to do. Even if you don’t have to lose weight, eating healthy foods makes a huge difference in how you feel. I have been finding, over the holidays, that junk food and sweets make me feel sick.  It just confirms my resolve to do something about my eating habits.  According to Jane and my doctor, as we get older, exercise is even more important.  It’s harder for us to move around.  But if we work on our muscles it eliminates many aches and pains from doing even normal activities.  Also, exercise helps build bone and calcium supplements are not enough. I went of a bone density test (if you are over 50 you should go) and found I already have osteoporosis.  I am taking Fosamax, calcium and vitamin D3 supplements.  I need the exercise too.

I heard about a book called the “Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale and I am going to get it out of the library.  Many people consider me a positive person, but I don’t, that’s why I named my blog Pet Peeves. I feel like I am always complaining about something.  Maybe I can help myself focus on the positive enough so that I can feel I have a good attitude?  Who knows, anything is possible if you think it is.

If you have some toxic people or relationships in you life, you may want to consider limiting your contact with these people or severing ties.  Toxic relationships cause a tremendous amount of stress and they take a toll on our mental, physical and emotional well being. It’s a toll that we really can’t afford. They drain us of energy, take away our motivation and focus on the good things, and can literally make us sick.  It may be a good time to assess your relationships and see if you can reduce stress in that department. At the same time, reconnect or nurture relationships with those who care and make you feel good about yourself.  Call more often, plan lunch or dinner dates, and make time for family.  It doesn’t have to be a holiday to have family over. Maybe have a summer family reunion in 2012?  Life is short and you don’t want to have regrets.

Find things you enjoy doing, that you haven’t done in a long time. Old hobbies, visiting with friends, cooking, charity work, writing, reading…anything that has a positive effect on how you feel.  

We have a few days before 2012 starts to consider making some changes in our lives that will make the new year better and healthier for each of us.  Start thinking. Next Monday you will at least have a plan started for getting the new year off on the right foot!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Twas The Day After Christmas...

It’s the day after Christmas, I’m tired and full,
I’m completely done with the shopping bull.
No more great “sales” and standing in line,
No more goodies and bottles of wine.
No getting up early just to run to the store,
No more carrying packages till my arms are sore.
No more cooking and baking at least for a while,
No more using up scotch tape by the yard or the mile.
No cleaning, no tinsel, no cookies, no wrapping,
No egg nog, no boxes, no lights and no snapping.
No Santa, no reindeer, no snowmen, no drama,
No trees, no stockings, no music, just lots of karma.

If you’ve recycled gifts you know that’s not right,
No one wants your label maker or bed reading light.
You’re not fooling anyone, so have no fear,
I can already tell you what you’re getting next year!

Ok I am done playing.  I am really tired today so this is all you are getting out of me.  I hope you all got everything you wanted under your tree.  I know I did. I just shouldn’t have had that glass of wine at dinner, that was a mistake!

Time to regroup and think about 2012!  I am going back on my 17 Day Diet and I have Jane Fonda’s exercise DVD’s for old people called “Prime Time.” What a way to put a spin on things?  I don’t feel like this is my prime time, but if she says so, who am I to argue.  Hopefully, I can do her exercises to get into some kind of shape and then advance to other things.  Any diet you go on has to include exercise or at the very least, moving around. It can be avoided.  So I am going to spend the next few days psyching myself up for another go at losing 10 more pounds (maybe 12 after this week).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Real Story of Rudolph...

A friend of mine recently pointed out the real moral of the story to Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.  It is a bit of a hard pill to swallow.  Rudolph is different from the other reindeer so they shun him, won’t let him play with them and call him names.  Even Santa doesn’t set a good example, he doesn’t want Rudolph pulling his sleigh…well not until one foggy Christmas Eve anyway. One year, Santa plans to cancel Christmas due to poor visibility until he sees Rudolph’s nose. Suddenly, the glowing nose that used to be a problem, is now in very popular.  Rudolph can not only pull Santa’s sled, but he is going to “guide” it by being up front as the leader. Is this really the message children should be getting, and at Christmastime no less?  Reject people who are different until you need something from them?

Now, the original story of Rudolph was changed a bit.  I found it interesting that the retail store, Montgomery Ward, had used the story written in 1939 by one of it’s copywriters, Robert L. May, to bring customers into it’s stores. The other names being considered for Rudolph were Rodney, Rollo, Reginald and Romeo.  The company ended up giving away 2 million copies of their book to children because it was so popular. By 1946 they had given away or sold 6 million copies.May wrote the story for his daughter the year his wife passed away. He had no money to buy her a gift so he made her a handwritten book of The Story of Rudolph. After May’s wife died, he was going through financial difficulties and the store turned the copyright of the story over to him in 1947. May made a lot of money on the movie and the song, which his brother in-law wrote for him.  Eventually May turned all his original work over to his alma mater, Dartmouth College, where it was discovered in the archives. May’s story was somewhat different than the one we know today.  In his story Rudolph doesn’t live at the North Pole or even dream about one day pulling Santa’s sleigh.  In the original version he lives in a reindeer village and is discovered by Santa while he is filling his stocking, on a foggy Christmas Eve. Incredibly, the story has become an everlasting part of our Christmas tradition.

So back to my original point, Rudolph: The Story of Intolerance, Bullying and Hypocrisy. In beginning of the modified story, the coach tells Rudolph how “magnificent” he is when he takes his first flight.  However, when he notices there is something different about Rudolph, he tells all the others not to play with Rudolph any more. His father is embarrassed and ashamed of him. And Santa is quite “annoyed at the cover up.” Even Clarice’s father yells at her to get away from Rudolph, “No Doe of mine is going to be seen with a red nosed reindeer!”

In the end of the story, the modified version, when they come to ask Rudolph to pull the sleigh, no one apologizes for mistreating him, they act like they are doing him a favor by giving him this huge honor. Instead, it’s the fact that they need him to pull off Christmas that has humbled them. It is only then that they treat him with respect and dignity. It is then that his father is proud of him. Now that he is a hero and saves Christmas, everyone wants to be his friend.  

There is probably a lot more I could say, but it’s Christmas. I just wish I could get a copy of the original version to compare it to what we have now.  I have to wonder why it was changed and why no one saw or had issues with any of the negative messages being weaved into the storyline. It was a book designed for children after all.  Don’t get me wrong, I always loved the story of Rudolph and still watch it every year. I’m just curious why more care wasn’t taken when revising the story. Maybe it was a sign of the times it was written in?  Back then intolerance may have been the norm and being different was not ok?  But what about now? It’s a sad commentary on our society that it allows stories, about hating someone because they are different, to keep spreading that message to children.

Maybe Rudolph's red nose could shine a light on a better message, a Christmas message, of Love, Peace and Joy for everyone.  Merry Christmas Day!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Friends You Keep...

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the friends they keep.  And I got to thinking, what do my face books friends say about me?  I keep my list of friends short, 77 in all at the moment.  That’s short compared to most people.  This morning I was scanning my list of names to see who was on it and what I could learn about myself.

I have a handful of family members on the list. They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. I guess I am pretty lucky because if they weren’t my family, I would have picked them for friends.  My family is the kind that would drop anything to help you in time of need but, at the same time, we don’t call each other or burden each other with our problems. We take care of our own problems and yet, at the same time, we know we can count on each other to be there to support and help out if the need became great enough.

Now for my friends on facebook.  I have a couple of very nice men on my list of friends.  Gentlemen.  They are very kind, good natured, compassionate people and I enjoy reading their comments, which are very few and far between compared to my female friends.

I have a couple of young women on my list that I consider to be my online “e-daughters.” They both take college classes and are working hard to make it in today’s world.  I am very proud of them. They are mature for their age and have gone through a few things in life that has forced them to grow up a little faster than some. Sometimes they will come to me for a little advice, which I am only too happy to give. But, most of the time they are busy living life to the fullest.  I am so proud of both of them.

The rest of my list is made up of women, some older than me, some younger. Almost all of them are wives and/or mothers, some are single. For the most part, while they are all very different, they do share similar traits that I find inspiring. So many of them have gone through or are going through some difficult adversities.  Life wasn’t too kind to them in many ways.  I often think to myself, how do they do it? How do they go on day after day? I don’t have an answer. They say you do what you have to do, but where do they find the strength?  

The women on my friend list on facebook share strength. They are strong women, who may have a weak moment now and then, but shake it off and go on. They may vent about their problems, release some steam, but then they forge ahead and do what needs to be done.  My women friends have a strong faith in a higher being. They are spiritual. They get their support and hope from God. The bad things that happen to them don’t shatter their beliefs. Instead, when things get worse, they prayer for God’s help and guidance to get them through.  My friends are intelligent women.  They offer different perspectives to situations that I sometimes don’t see myself.  They speak from their own life experiences. I can and have learned a lot from them. My friends are compassionate and loving people. If they see someone struggling or needing help, they jump right in to offer it. They are sensitive, caring women who would nurture the world if it were possible. They are the kind of people, who if they won a hundred million dollars, would be thinking about how much good they could do for others with the money and not about what kind of house or car they would buy. They are down to earth and grounded. They appreciate other people, have their priorities straight, and are honest and loyal.

What amazes me most is their positive attitude.  Despite their own personal daily struggles, they persevere.  They don’t become bitter, full of self pity, shut down and withdraw. They are fighters. They prepare for battle and try to find solutions to anything life throws their way.  And, even in the midst of some of their darkest hours, I still see them reaching out to others who are going through a crisis of their own.

If the friends I keep says something about me, I know it’s all good.  They say “likes attract” and I hope that’s the case for me.  If these are the kind of people I attract then I am blessed. I appreciate each and every one of them. They have enriched my life in so many ways that words cannot even begin to describe it.

Merry Christmas to my Facebook friends! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Memorable Christmas Moments...

Sometimes when I think back to Christmases gone by, certain memories stand out amongst the rest.  We always plan to make every Christmas special, but somehow they take on a life of their own, especially when unexpected things happen.  I thought about some of my past Christmases and thought I’d combine a few to make a blog.  My memory ain’t what it used to be.

When I was a kid, we lived in a six family house on the second floor. In the two first floor apartments were the three cousins were grew up with.  My brother and I always got lots of presents, things from our lists that we really wanted, and they were all toys.  Santa did right by us every year!  And every year, when we were done opening presents, we would run out in the hallway squealing with delight, holding our favorite toy, and yelling what did you get for Christmas to my cousins.  My cousin Paul always said the say thing every year, “I got underwear.”  I thought he was kidding, till we got dressed and went downstairs, and there, under the tree, were open boxes of underwear.  I almost died laughing this morning when I thought of that.  I’m sure he got other things, but the underwear is all that stands out in my mind.

Then there was the Christmas when my older daughter, who was six years old and in first grade, came home complaining that her back was itchy.  I picked up her shirt to see what was clearly chicken pox.  I said, “Uh oh, you have chicken pox. You finally caught it.” She was horrified and very dramatic about it.  “Oh no! Am I going to miss the Christmas party at school?”  The Christmas party was only a couple of days away and there was no way she would be over it by then.  My heart broke for her as I tried to break the bad news to her and cheer her up at the same time. There was nothing to do about it, but let it run it’s course. She didn’t get too bad of a case of chicken pox, so she was able to enjoy her time at home playing, watching television, and listening to me say, “Whatever you do, do not scratch your face!” several thousand times.  

Another year I became possessed and decided to get a puppy for Christmas. I always loved Pomeranians, but didn’t do my homework.  Yes they are cute, but they are not couch potatoes like we are, but that’s a story for another day.  In any case, I bought everything a puppy would need, as their gifts and, of course, a puppy.  My friend kept it at her house until midnight, Christmas Eve.  Then my husband and I put him in the box and wrapped it before the girls woke up early in the morning.  When they came downstairs they saw a big box in the middle of the living room and didn’t know what to make of it.  Probably the little sounds the puppy was making in the box got them curious.  My younger daughter interpreted the sounds as chirping and thought there was a bird in the box.  I told them they would just have to open it and see.  Well, they were really surprised!  My younger daughter took him out and cuddled him.  My older daughter kept her distance.  The puppy squirmed so much she put him down on the floor and he promptly ran right into a wall and stunned himself, like they do in the cartoons. Once he snapped out of it, he began terrorizing my older daughter, who was up on the couch screaming with her insulated gloves on for protection.  My younger daughter was laughing at her sister most of the day and enjoying her new puppy the rest of the time.  We named him Rudolph, Rudy for short, after the reindeer. When my mother came over and saw Rudy, she told me I was crazy. Rudy spent a good part of the day trying to chew on my mother’s socks.  That was not helpful at all with her negative attitude.  We had set up a children’s playpen in the other room, for Rudy, so that we could enjoy part of the day. This way he would have a safe place to play, eat and sleep and, he could see us without getting into more trouble. 

Unfortunately, he managed to get in a lot more trouble over the years.  Rudy has chewed through a television cord, ate my wallpaper in the same spot two times, broke the arm on my dining room chair, destroyed the playpen, escaped from the house twice only to come back a few minutes later…I better stop thinking before I have a stroke.

It’s 13 years later and this dog still has not calmed down.  He still thinks he is a puppy and wakes us up at 5:30 am every morning because he wants to go out. If anyone out there is thinking of getting a puppy…do your homework first! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Gifts...

It’s been a very long time since I wanted a “gift” for Christmas.  For years my focus has been on buying to right gifts for everyone on my list.  My gift was seeing their faces when they opened their boxes and got what they wanted or were surprised and excited about what I picked out for them.  That has been enough of a gift for me.

I was thinking back on all my previous Christmases this morning.  A lot of preparation that goes into this holiday: the shopping, the cooking, the baking, the cleaning, the wrapping, the decorating…we get so focused on all of that so much so that we lose focus of the real meaning of Christmas Day, the birth of Jesus.  On top of that, we are so focused on all the things we need to do that, as mothers, we hardly have time to appreciate our loved ones.  

After I had the girls, we had Christmas at our house, so they could play with their new toys and everyone could enjoy them.  My parents and my in-laws came for dinner.  We were up early and watched the girls open their presents. The rest of the day I was in and out of the kitchen cooking and getting rid of dirty dishes.  Even though I tried to prepare as many things ahead of time as possible, it was exhausting trying to get everything on the table while it was all still hot, clearing the table, washing the dishes, then preparing for dessert and coffee.  The day always went so fast and by the end of it, when everyone went home, I was dead tired.  I really hadn’t been able to sit down and enjoy the day with everyone else, but my satisfaction came from knowing I had given them all a gift they may have taken for granted…memories.  I wanted my children to have happy memories of their childhood, surrounded by family, the way I remembered my Christmases. I’m not even sure if they still remember those Christmases.  I like to think they do.

I tried to instill the Christmas spirit in my girls from when they were very little.  Every year I would sit with them and we would make “gifts” for everyone and wrap them up.  I wanted them to get the idea that the best gifts were the ones that came from the heart, not the store.  In today’s world that’s not so easy to do.  How can a macaroni frame compete with an ipod?  

As the girls got older and wiser, making gifts was not an option.  Instead we focused on finding just the right gift for everyone, so that some real thought went into it.  The grandparents never needed anything.  So we decided that every year we would make a gift basket filled with all kinds of snacks they wouldn’t buy for themselves.  My mother loved pignoli cookies (pine nuts) which were very expensive, about $16 a pound. We would buy her a pound of those every year.  I also got her shrimp.  She would not buy it for herself and my father.  About a week before Christmas I would drop off a pound or more of jumbo shrimp.  Of course I would get yelled at for wasting money while she took the bag from me and started the cleaning process.  But that’s just my mother, she has to yell about the price of everything. But, I knew they would appreciate these delicacies more than any robe or sweater.  It’s not that they couldn’t buy them for themselves, it’s that they wouldn’t buy them for themselves.  My mom always had the idea that she had to get bargains when she shopped and also she wanted to leave us as much money as possible, so she denied herself many things in her lifetime for those two reasons.  It was impossible to change her thinking so I finally found a way around it.

I don’t have many people to shop for any more.  My husband rarely wants or needs anything, still we try to get him a little something.  Of course, I have my two girls, who never want anything so it’s up to me to hound them till they do.  My brother is a whole other blog.  Every year I have been buying him new clothes because he generally likes to dress nice when he goes out. This has been going on for a very long time.  I have gotten him shirts, pants, jeans, belts, gloves, sweaters, sweat shirts and sweat pants, jackets, socks, slippers, pajamas…and lots of them.  Yet, when he comes over every Sunday he wears the oldest, most worn out stuff he has in his closet.  It drives me crazy!  I know he has stuff in hanging in his closet with tags on them.  And still he refuses to get rid of these old clothes no matter how many new outfits I have given him.  Mind you his birthday is in February and he gets even more for that.  Anyway, I just have four people to shop for and try to please, and since none of them want or need anything, it’s not so easy.

Last week we managed to get a little something for my husband and my brother too.  My husband loves to read and we found two books we hope he will enjoy.  My brother is getting a more clothes.  I can’t say what it is right now because with my luck the first time he reads my blog it will be this one.  I got the girls a few things each, but didn’t succeed with the “big” surprise gift.  Maybe next year.

I hope you all get the gifts you want this year. But, in the middle of all the confusion and chaos, take a few minutes here and there to enjoy your family and the smiles on their faces and know that you are giving them memories that will live in their hearts for years to come.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hugging & Praising Children…

My mother was never one to give out praise or compliments.  She was only really happy if I brought home 100 on a test.  If I got a 95 and told how bad the other smart kids did on the test she would always answer, “Don’t look at the ones who did worse than you, you at the ones who did better.  I recall my brother brought home a report cards where all his grades were over 90.  Most mothers would see a straight A report card, my mother saw room for improvement.  On the space for parent’s comments she wrote something like, “Vincent did a good job, I’ll see to it that he does better.”  When we saw her remarks we both busted out laughing till we were in tears.  My brother still has that report card and even if we think about it we will still crack up over it.

When I had my own children, I knew I was going to give them lots of praise for a job well done.  When they accomplished something, I complimented them on it and made sure they heard me tell their father, uncle or grandparents about it.  I didn’t praise them for every little thing either because then, when the praise was warranted, it would not mean anything to them. A little praise goes a long way too.  I saw them try harder, and knowing I wasn’t easy to please, they took my words more to heart.  To this day, both girls have a strong work ethic and have achieved much success in everything they have applied themselves to.  I don’t think you can praise your children too much, if it’s truly deserved.

My parents were both very affectionate.  There was no shortage of hugs and kisses in our house. I knew I would be the same way with my kids. I think it’s important to show kids lots of affection.  They are never too old for it or too “cool” for it either.  It’s like a “vitamin for their emotional health and well being.  Hugs and kisses always make a person feel good, feel loved, feel wanted, feel worthy and builds a strong sense of security. So what if my girls make a face, or say they are too busy?  I do not walk away until they get their hugs and kisses!  And I add plenty of I love you’s too throughout the day…in words, in texts, in IMs, on the phone, anytime is a good time to say I love you. 

I am so thankful that my parents were demonstrative.  All that love and affection meant a lot and made up for the lack of praise. It costs nothing and yet it’s effects are priceless.

Give a hug today!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Little House On The Prairie...

I always watched Little House On the Prairie as a kid and loved it. It always had a heart felt message and lesson to be learned. It wasn’t a “cool” show and I always cried at the 8:40 PM mark.  You could set your watch by it.  My brother counted on it, because then he would crack up laughing as I got a tissue to dry the flowing tears. Now that was good, wholesome television the whole family could watch together and take away something important from it.

Because it was based on a true story, it meant all that much more to me.  How far we have come from those days where life was so much simpler and yet they seemed happier and more fulfilled.  The father went out to work or to find work.  He worked hard.  Then he would come home and take care of his farm.  The mother took care of the children, the laundry, the cooking, and if her husband didn’t have enough time for farming she would even go out and try to do some of it for him.  The girls went to school and came home to help with chores.  Everyone worked.  No one minded or complained about it.

The thing I loved most was how the family unit was so close.  The parents were “partners” in life and worked together to raise their family.  They were devoted to each other and put each other first.  They got up at the crack of dawn together and went to bed early. They discussed parenting, finances, how to help other people.  They took their family to church.  They taught their children to be respectful of others.  Their girls were always polite and well mannered.  They all ate dinner together, spent some quality time talking, laughing, singing and then it was bedtime.  They all said their good nights, hugs and kisses and the girls were tucked in.  

Sometimes, I wish I could trade in everything to live life like they did on the show.  The simplicity appeals to me.  You know what to expect everyday.  You are surrounded by people who love you and who you love. Family came first.  There were no material or technological distractions.  There was just your few personal possessions and your family and friends.  

And, at Christmas time, they would make each other gifts or find a few pennies to buy something special.  Maybe they all got one gift each, and one simple gift was enough.  Maybe it was a scarf, a shirt, a dress, a doll. No matter what it was, they were happy with it and thankful for being together. 

Have we really made progress or set ourselves back?  You tell me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Layaway Angels...

I heard something in the news that made me happy.  On December 6th a woman walked in to a K-mart store, in Grand Rapids, Michigan and paid off three layaway accounts for strangers, as a Christmas gift.  I loved the idea.  I imagined how these strangers would feel when they discovered that the balance on their accounts had been paid and they had a little extra money for other things.  The best part about this story is that it inspired other people, across the country, to do the same thing for other strangers who may be struggling financially and needed to pay for their gifts over time.  I heard one man say that he just bought some gift cards and handed them out to people who came to make a payment.  Another “secret Santa” went into a Walmart store and made $8,800 in payments for 23 customers.  This is really what Christmas spirit is all about.

Kmart is one store who has had the layaway plan for customers for 40 years.  People can make payments over an 8 or 12 week plan.  When I was a kid, layaway plans were common in many stores, but they aren’t so much any more.  I guess with the economy being in shambles, it’s an idea that might be restored again, especially at Christmas.

This one act of generosity seems to have become a trend.  It is estimated that 1,000 people in 25 states have done the same thing.  One person even shelled out $9,800 to pay off all 63 accounts at a K-mart in California.  Isn’t it refreshing to see people thinking of others and trying to make things a little happier and easier for them at Christmastime?  It’s heartbreaking to think there are children who will not have anything under their tree this year, some will not even have a tree or a big Christmas dinner.

But one woman, who thought she was helping three families to have a better, happier Christmas, performed a kind act of generosity that had a ripple effect.  It was a simple idea that caught fire and spread.  Those who have, wanting to help those who don’t, and that makes everyone feel better.  Now hundreds, if not thousands of layaways have been paid off and all those gifts will be wrapped and under the trees of families across the country.  Who knows how many more accounts will be paid off this week?  I hope many, many more.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Children's Laughter...

Is there any sound better than hearing the laughter of your children?  Not for me, there isn’t.  Even today, when they are in there 20’s, I still love to hear them laugh, especially with or at one another.  It takes me back to when they were little and all their days were carefree.  Now they have responsibilities, they work hard and are often exhausted.  Their free time is limited, the time they spend with each other, hanging out, has been cut short.  Adulthood steals so much from them, and they aren’t even aware of it because it does it gradually, when they aren’t looking. Other people enter their lives and they need to and want to spend time with them. Work, and the traveling to and from it, take up a good 50 hours or more per week.  College, and devoting time to studying and assignments, and the new friends they make, keep them from spending time with loved ones. Sometimes, you just have to make the time to be with family!

So my girls planned to spend some quality time together this weekend.  Friday night we put up the tree.  They were both exhausted, one from school and finals, and one from work and taking the trains.  My older daughter was slap happy.  Everything struck her funny.  I sometimes do stupid things to make them laugh.  Okay, it's not sometimes.  I often do stupid things to make them laugh and not all of them are intentional. But, Friday night, as they were finished putting their ornaments on the tree, my younger daughter asked if they should add tinsel.  I said why not?  As she took out the tinsel, I reminded them to take a handful and put a strand on each branch.  While they weren’t looking, I got a bright idea.  I took about three strands of tinsel and put it over my head.  One strand happened to fall in front of my glasses.  Of course I could see it, but pretended I didn’t and left it there.  When the girls looked at me they started laughing at the tinsel on my head, and I ignore them.  Then my younger daughter complained that you can’t even see the tinsel on the tree by just putting on one strand per branch, it was enough in her opinion.  I looked at her, tinsel hanging in front of my glasses, and said I can see the tinsel just fine!  Well, they were doubling over laughing.  I imagine they thought, that because I had a strand over my glasses, that when I looked at the tree I saw tinsel on every branch!  It was stupid, but funny.  Then I pretended to find the three strands of tinsel on my head and accused them both of putting it there.  Another outburst of laughter a they both denied doing it. I really love hearing them laugh together, even if it’s at me.  I never told them the truth, they will only find out if they read the blog.  

I’m looking forward to them sharing a few more laughs this holiday season.  They’ll have a nice, long three day weekend together next week. They already have plans to wrap their gifts and do some baking on Christmas Eve.  They gave me a list of ingredients they would need so I could pick them up today.  I found them all so I guess we are going to have at least five desserts, one per person.  I am making a cherry pie and chocolate chip cookies.  The girls are making sugar cookies and two other cakes that involve a yellow cake mix and a red velvet cake mix and some cream cheese.  I have no clue what recipes they are using, but if they are happy, I am happy.  I even found the Christmas sprinkles they asked for, after I thought they were sold out!

Thank God I had already decided to go back on the 17 Day Diet after the holidays.  I might need to lose an extra pound or two by then!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Getting Over A Breakup...

I have never had my heart broken by a man like so many girls do.  I always kept my feelings in check and never allowed myself to get too invested.  Most guys I dated were not who I was looking for, so it was easy.  I knew what I wanted in a man and wasn’t going to settle until I found him.  But, I have had my heart broken, shattered really, by best friends.  I have had three friendships that should have lasted a lifetime and when they didn’t, it was devastating.  I imagine it feels much the same way as breaking up with a boyfriend.  The thing is, how do you get over the heartache and pain and the void that has been left in your life?

I did plenty of talking and crying.  I was depressed, angry and hurt.  This last time was just a little over two years ago.  It’s a long story, I may blog it sometime if I want to relive it.  The short version is that my best friend was distancing herself from me over a period of months.  She had found a “new” best friend, someone she reconnected with, and I was put on the back burner.  I went from the top of her list of priorities to the bottom.  When I asked about it, she denied anything had changed, but I knew better.  It came to a point that it was more hurtful for me to communicate with her than it was to stay away.  I decided I needed time to distance myself too and explained that too her.  She didn’t like my explanation and would not give me the time, so the relationship dissolved.  I took it hard, but I made the right decision.  She wasn’t treating me well, the way I deserved to be treated, and I was better off moving on and letting go.  But it wasn’t so easy.  

I got depressed and it wasn’t going away.  I hated the way I was feeling and didn’t know what to do.  It was almost a year later. One day, someone suggested I go to the doctor and get some pills.  That suggestion hit me like a ton of bricks!  What am I crazy I thought?  It was like Cher had paid me a visit and slapped me saying “SNAP OUT Of IT!”  I thought, I’ll be damned if I am going to take pills to get over someone who didn’t appreciate me or everything I did for her.  I had to have a plan of action to get myself back on track.  Distractions.  That’s all you need to get over a breakup…lots of distractions.

I started spending more time with my girls.  One day we watched Julie and Julia, the movie about the cooking blog.  A short while later I told my daughter I’m going to start a blog and get famous!  She helped me start pet peeves.  In retrospect, I wish I had given it more thought and picked a better name, but it was a joke and spur of the moment.  My thinking was that I complain all the time so how hard would it be to write a blog a day?  I could write even more if I wanted to.  So that worked out for me because I love to write and my blog is about 15 months old now!  I’m not famous, but plenty of people enjoy my writing enough to come back every day.

I started following the Dr. Phil Housewives and joined their face book page.  I made a lot of friends on that page and a few enemies.  Distractions.  I had some great conversations, debates, and even fights.  So many people came to the page every day and you never knew what would happen.  We laughed, we joked and we got to meet the housewives themselves, who were pretty good sports about all the criticism they were getting.  I have to say, the page was very therapeutic for me, regardless of some of the dysfunction going on.

I heard about the 17 Day Diet and asked for the book last Christmas.  I went on the diet in January and had to focus on that.  I rallied some facebook friends to join me in diet and exercise. It was not only fun and easy, but in losing the ten pounds I felt a lot better, my year long lower backache disappeared and so did the water in my ankle!  I started feeling like my old self, only better.

I reconnected with some old friends.  Called and met them for lunch.  It was nice surrounding myself with people who cared about me and missed me.  And my friends, online and here at home, helped me to heal.  Time does wonders for broken hearts, if you fill it up with the right things.  I filled mine with the people I loved and things I enjoyed.  In the process I learned to appreciate myself even more.  I developed some new talents, made lots of new friends, and even fulfilled some long time dreams.

It’s amazing how you can turn a devastating experience into a fulfilling one.  Yes I suffered a tremendous loss, but now I realize how much I have gained.  I put the energy I was wasting pining away into action.  So many good things have come out of it that I could have never imagined.  

That’s my secret for broken hearts.  Distractions.  Your heart will mend itself and you will come out better and stronger and, more importantly, wiser in the end.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Grandma’s Love…

I am fortunate that I still remember my maternal grandmother after all these years.  She died when I was 4 years old.  For the first four years of my life, I grew up around her because she lived in the apartment downstairs from us.  My grandmother spoke Sicilian and never “learned” English, though her children say she understood plenty. I spent all my days with my mother and grandmother.  My mother was born here and though she was fluent in Sicilian, only spoke to me in English.  My grandmother only spoke to me in Sicilian, and so did my father, who only arrived in America about 14 months before I was born.  So, I learned to speak both English and Sicilian simultaneously.  It was always curious to me how I could never speak to my father and grandmother in English because my brain would switch over to Sicilian.  And, I could never speak to my mother in Sicilian, only English.

My grandmother adored me.  I am sure I was her favorite grandchild.  When she went to sit outside on the stoop, she would have me on her lap.  She often would come upstairs to our apartment, while my father was working.  If my mother got mad at me for some reason, I would run to grandma and she would hold me and tell my mother, in Sicilian, not to touch me or scare me, I was her little doll.  It was great having my own body guard.

Often times, I would go downstairs to my grandma’s apartment.  One time, I invited her to have dinner with us.  She told me I couldn’t invite her, only my parents could do that.  I told her no, I was the boss of the house.  That made her laugh.  Another time I saw her taking some medication.  She had a long row of pill bottles on the sink and she was taking a couple from different bottles.  I piped up and said, Grandma you should finish one bottle before you start another. I was quite serious with my words and tone.  My grandmother had a good laugh over that and I never forgot it.

I remember the day she died.  My mother got a call from her brother, who was called to the hospital.  He told my mother, when he got there, my grandmother had already passed away.  My mother hung up the phone and started crying. She went into the bathroom and sat on the edge of the tub.  I walked in and tried to console her.  That’s a big job for a four year old.  I’m not sure I understood what happened or what dying meant, but I understood the pain and sorrow that had suddenly overcome my mother.  My grandmother had had a hard life, but she lived long enough, at 77, to see most of her grandchildren born.  I know I brought her a lot of joy in her final years and she left me warm memories I will never forget.

When I had children of my own, I got to relive the joy my grandmother must have felt when I saw my own mother with my girls.  She loved them more than anything or anyone.  She could never get mad at them.  Suddenly, a woman who did not have one ounce of patience, developed the patience of a saint.  She could never get enough of her grandchildren and encouraged me to go back to work so she could watch them all day (which I did not do!)  I could never hired a babysitter or she would be offended.  She hugged them and kissed them all the time and never refused them anything.  If I complained about something they did, she would make excuses for them.  They could do no wrong…ever.  My kids loved her and she made them laugh.

One day, when God blesses me with grandchildren, I am sure I will follow in the steps of my grandmother and mother.  There is nothing on this earth sweeter than a grandma’s love.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mary’s Pregnancy Test…

I just came across an article about a billboard, seen above, of the Virgin Mary taking a pregnancy test, and yes, it’s positive.  The billboard was posted by St. Matthew In-The-City Church in New Zealand and it’s purpose it to create controversy in order to spark conversation.  Well it got my attention, half a world away.

Many people who viewed it felt it was inappropriate, especially outside of a church and at this time of the year, just two weeks before Christmas.  The church’s argument is that the billboard depicts a natural reaction for Mary to have to her premonition, because she was young, poor, and unmarried. Using the pregnancy test, to demonstrate her shock at the news she was pregnant, was designed to provoke discussion about Christian faith.  But, is this taking things a bit too far?  I stop and this about it for a while.

At first I was shocked to see the picture.  Who would expect such an image and created by a church no less?  It definitely appears to be sacrilegious and offensive to me.  But then again, young people today might need a wake up call.  They know everything.  When we try to educate them about sex and birth control you know there is a lot of eye rolling going on.  Even those who are aware of all the facts, act irresponsibly. A billboard like this is going to open up all kinds of dialogue about teen pregnancy, about the church’s position on abstinence, about the responsibilities of having a baby before you are ready. So maybe it’s a good thing?  The church even invited people to submit captions for the billboard and some suggestions included, “God give me strength to accept the things I cannot change."  "HOLY MOTHER of GOD........oh...that's's me..." And "Yay, I hope it's a girl.”

This isn’t the first controversial billboard the church has posted.  The one in 2009 seems a lot worse to me and apparently to their parishioners as well.  This one was painted over and when replaced, the replacement was cut with a knife.  Several other replacements were vandalized as well. The 2009 billboard featured Mary and Joseph in bed with the caption: "Poor Joseph, God was a hard act to follow."  I just cannot see what kind of religious discussion this might provoke!

I think the church’s intentions may be good, but they definitely need to work on their execution.  Using religious images in sacrilegious ways can turn more people away from the church and religion then they inspire to discuss issues. It’s a fine line they are crossing and the 2009 billboard definitely was way over the top.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blogging Is A Booming Business!

I started blogging as a joke after watching Julie and Julia, the true story movie about a woman, Julie, who blogs about cooking her way through the Julia Child cookbook. I   joked about getting famous, to tease my girls, who never take anything I do seriously. 

Well, it’s been 14 months and I have not yet been “discovered.”  I have, however, made tremendous progress in learning how to blog, what draws people to a blog, and fortunately for me, most of the time my writing is interesting enough and entertaining enough to keep people coming back.  I have written a couple of other blogs, one went and died a slow death, the other is thriving.  I love to write, what can I say?

Today the computer repairman came to the house to fix my daughter’s computer. I was going to do it myself or with help from my brother, but chickened out in the end.  My gut told me to call the repair guy and it turned out to be the right decision.  The cd reader wasn’t working and the pc couldn’t read the files of the operating system.  I would never have known that.  He had a little flash drive with the operating system on it and had it up and running in an hour.  So we had time to kill and I chatted with him about all sorts of things.

He told me what I needed to buy to get my other daughter’s computer working so we could use it for a “backup.”  She has an older hard drive and it’s not as easy to get.  I’ll try to find it, I think, and see what he can do.  Then he asked me if I work.  I told him no, I stopped to raise my children.  He said maybe you can go back.  I replied no, because my husband is taking early retirement next year and if I work it will only go to increase taxes. And I added, “I just stay home and blog.”  His eyes opened wide, “You blog?” I said, yes I have a couple of blogs, I love to write.  Then he says the unexpected, “I need a blogger. How much do you charge for 300 words?”  I laughed.  I don’t write for money, I write for fun, so I have no idea what the going rate for bloggers is these days.  

He shows me his website for pashminas that he set up for his business with his partner. Then he showed me another website, for sunglasses, where he likes how the blogs are written.  He explains that he and his partner are not native speakers and their English is not good enough to make the site sound professional. He asks if I would be interested in working with him.  I told him I have to look at his website and the other website to see if I can give him what he is looking for.  He wants something convincing and persuasive; something educational; something specific not a generalized blog about pashminas; something passionate.  He feels the “sunglass” blog has all those qualities.  The bloggers that have written for him have not produced blogs he was happy with, they were too generic.  Then he points out that the English on his blog is not “good enough” and he shows me a page that says pashminas make good “toppings.”  I told him I knew what he was talking about, and that isn’t the correct use of the word “toppings,” toppings are what we put on pizza or ice cream sundaes.  I told him I could definitely help him with that aspect of his blog.  As for writing blogs and getting passionate about pashminas is something I would have to get back to him about.  I told him the “sunglass” blog was probably being written by someone who owns the business and knows everything about them down to the last detail.  He agrees.  Yet neither he nor his partner, who have that passion for pashminas, can write well enough to get the job done. I see he is frustrated as the website is his responsibility, while his partner takes care of the importing aspect of the business. Then he tells me if I am interested he will bring me dozens of pashminas.  I ask him why.  I see him grasping for a word so I volunteer, “for inspiration?”  He laughs and says, “yes.”

So the computer is up and running and we have finished our conversation.  I promise him that I will look at both websites and do a little research and get back to him after the holidays.  He takes ten dollars off his fee and leaves.  He is a very nice young man.  I wish I loved pashminas which, until five minutes ago, I referred to as “pashmires.” My daughter loves it when she hears me call them that.  

Now I have a promise to keep and we will see how it goes.  This blogging business never ends.  Who knew?  

Justin’s Website: fashion  Check it out!

American Horror Story Haunts Me!

The birth of the twins tonight!

Every week I want to blog about American Horror Story.  Why?  Because it’s so good!  I have always been a fan of the “horror” genre and watched everything and anything that was considered even remotely scary as a kid.  I even loved Stephen King novels.  This television series has it all.  The writing is great.  There are always twists and turns you cannot expect.  There are only two more shows left to the season and I am already having withdrawal pains. I cannot help myself today. I am caving in to my urge to blog it.  If you haven’t followed the show till now, this is not the blog for you, sorry. 

Let me just randomly pick topics that are getting me excited.  Vivian is going to give birth to those twins any day now, if not tonight.  One is a demon and Tate is the father; the other is Ben’s child.  So far, several of the dead people want the twins.  The gay couple wants both of them.  Constance, the “neighbor” wants them because Tate is father of the demon twin. Hayden and the doctor’s wife each want one of the babies because they each lost one. This is just crazy.  

Meanwhile Vivian and Ben don’t even know that Violet is dead in the basement with maggots eating up her body because they can still see her ghost in the house.  That’s why she has been missing school for two weeks!  And the poor exterminator had to be killed by Tate because he discovered her body while looking for the source of the flies taking over the house.  And, as my daughter points out, how can Vivian and Ben ever leave that house now?  It’s the only place they can still see and be with their daughter, Violet?

If Moira was killed in 1983, why does she look so old to Ben and Vivian?  Ben has just seen the old Moira for the first time, when he started to “see things as they really are” in the house.  But, ghosts don’t age.  They remain the age they were when they died.  Why is Moira different and will we ever get an explanation for that?  

There is something about that house that lets anyone who dies there, haunt it forever. Every week at least one person seems to be killed there.  I’ve lost count of all the dead inhabitants.  It’s almost it’s own little city.  I can sooner count the living people on the series than the dead ones.  Larry, with the burned face, is off to prison. Constance, the next door neighbor, who spends more time stealing stuff from Ben and Vivian Harmon than she does at her own house. Ben and Vivian are still alive, as far as I know.  The real estate agent seems to be alive.  Have I left anyone out?  How much longer will they be allowed to live?  Who knows.  

I could summarize the whole season for those who haven’t watched, but you really should try to find all the episodes and catch up before season two.  There is plenty written about the show online, but it’s NOT the same as seeing it. So if you love “horror” seriously try to watch.  I have a feeling FX will rerun the entire season one at some point and I’ll be watching it from start to finish.  

I can’t wait for tonight’s episode, number 11, The Birth of the twins!

Link with a very quick synopsis of series with pictures: American Horror Story in a Nutshell

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Howard Stern & The Talk Hosts "Talk" About Leah and Holly!

Well I do hate beating a dead horse, but here we go!  The Talks hosts are visiting New York City this week and while they are here they stopped by to chat it up with Howard Stern.  Howard Stern never minces his words and no one is going to side step his questions.  So, during the second 15 minutes of the interview, he zeroed in on why the hosts have not discussed the departure of Leah Remini and Holly Robinson Peete?  He made sure to mention that fans were upset at not having their questions answered and blamed the decision almost entirely on Julie Chen. I am guilty of that myself. The interview did nothing to change my mind about Julie either.  Though I have lost some respect for Sharon, and Sara is just a puppet.

When Howard got the ladies, Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert and Sharon Osborn all chatty, he made his move and asked what has been on everyone's mind since before season two started, why were Leah and Holly let go?

It seemed Julie was about to answer, when Sara Gilbert jumped in to say she would answer for Julie, after all she graduated from Yale.  First of all she said Julie was not the witch everyone thought she was.  I'm sure the fact that Julie is married to the head of CBS, Sara's boss, did not have anything whatsoever to do with Sara's defense of Julie.  Then Sara proceeded to give an explanation which was not satisfying at all.  Sara says, "Julie is definitely not the bad guy."  Then she blames it on "the show being run by the studio, the network, an EP (I guess that executive producer) and that's where the creative decisions are coming from...these kind of changes happen all the time on these shows, and basically that's the creative force behind it."  And so, when people are blaming Julie they are looking for a scapegoat or something."  Howard Stern jumps in with, "I like you Sara but I smell a cover up here, a little bit."  So do I, but you probably guessed that.  It shouldn't have taken months to say these things and yet it did.

A few minutes alter Howard gets back to the Leah and Holly issue and they discuss why Julie did not want them discussing Casey Anthony while she was away.  Legal issues.  It's about getting sued and CBS does not want to get sued when hosts do not adhere to the rules.  She says "some" people had issues with using the word allegedly or in my opinion and that's why there was so much "journalistic" concern. Julie saw it as protecting the network and each other...not being overbearing and controlling.

Howard wants to know why no one called Leah or Holly to discuss it with them and Sharon blurts out, "Why should we call them? What's there to discuss!"  Right here, Sharon shows her true colors of what kind of friend she is.  She had to have known how hurt and betrayed both Leah and Holly felt.  A few kind words and an explanation to them and their fans might have averted all these long months of hard feelings.  Howard agrees with me.  Sara chimes in that she talked to them, but not about what was said.  Sharon made another hurtful remark implying that Leah and Holly didn't know "who they were."  Really Sharon?  Then Sharon admits that she spoke to Julie about the fact that Leah and Holly were not "working" out.  Way to stick in a knife and twist it good!

So, I wonder why the hell they couldn't have said any of that months ago.  It comes across much worse now. Sara and Sharon sound like backstabbers and I am really disappointed with Sharon.  Her comments were totally insensitive. With friends like Sharon, you don't need enemies do you?  After listening to the interview and particular comments I think the fans outrage was justified.  I don't agree with their remarks, but I might have let it go had they spoken to Leah and Holly and then their viewers and cleared the air.  Obviously they had specific reasons for not asking them back so why all the secrecy?  They handled this badly and unprofessionally and let that be a lesson to anyone who works with them in the future

Whole Interview here: Howard Stern Gets Hosts to "Talk"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dell Computers...Goodbye!

My daughter's computer, and I paid an extra $40 for the purple color!!!

Add Dell to the products that have become one of my favorite things to hate!  After being a long time customer of Dell, purchasing several computers, and recommending them, I have joined the ranks of the disgruntled and dissatisfied buyers.

I was even going to blog about this because I am so disgusted and yet I can’t seem to think about anything else, so here goes.

Two years ago, at this time, we bought my younger a daughter a Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop.  The computer her college gave her was becoming unreliable and I felt she needed a better, more reliable one to get her through the remaining 2.5 years of school.  The price was $350 and for that we got a lot of great features and memory.  First problem arose after six months, while it was still under warranty, thank God.  The hard drive crashed for no explicable reason.  Dell sent a repair man over with a new hard drive and installed it in a few minutes.  One year later, the power cord died and we couldn’t charge the computer battery.  I call Dell.  The laptop is not under warranty and they want $72 for a new power cord.  I expressed my outrage at the customer service person, as a long time customer of Dell, but they could care less and just kept repeating the amount.  I had no choice.  I could have tried to get a compatible cord but was afraid it might harm the laptop and decided to get Dell’s hoping that the laptop would get my daughter through her last year of school with a new hard drive and cord.  

Well here we go again!  Thursday night, four days ago, the hard drive crashed again.  We have no warranty and I have to decide what to do.  I am leaning towards purchasing my own hard drive and installing it.  After watching a few tutorial video’s online I have found that it only requires removing four little screws, changing the hard drive and replacing the screws.  Then you install the operating system that came with the computer.  Sounds simple enough right?  I have a repairman that I know who will do it for me for $80 plus the cost of the hard drive, but I am thinking of going it alone.  

We are planning to get my daughter an Apple computer when she graduates college and I really want to wait till then because in six months they may have upgraded them.  She enjoys playing games and Apple computers come fully equipped for everything.  If I have to I will upgrade it to accommodate her needs.  I know these products are four or more time as expensive, but I have heard that they don’t get infected with viruses and they are built with quality you can depend on.  

So I will repair the Dell.  I’ll probably order the hard drive today.  Wish me luck.  I never thought at my age I would be changing hard drives and doing computer repairs.  Hopefully, the laptop will get her through another 5 months of school and if it lasts longer we will have a backup computer.  If all does not go well, I can take my new hard drive and computer to the repairman and see if he can do anything with it, at a cost of an extra $80.  

Now I am going to send this blog to Dell so they can see how I feel without my having to write a letter and repeat myself.  

PS Just got off the phone with a Dell Representative. Michael S. Dell referred my email to him and he read my blog.  Unfortunately, since there is no warranty, the best he can do is guide me through the replacement process and re installation of the operating system.  Isn't that nice?  I have to get a new hard drive and then contact him for help.  I guess that's all I should expect, but I am not a very happy camper anyway.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recipe For Italian Rainbow Cake...

When I got married I wanted to start some of our own traditions that my children could grow up with.  One of those traditions was making an Italian Rainbow Cookie Cake.  I always loved the Italian rainbow cookies from the pastry store and so did everyone else in my family, so it was a good choice for a special dessert.  

The cake has to be made in several steps and it does take a while, but you can do other things in between.  I always spent the day baking and cooking other things for Christmas dinner.  The rich chocolate icing keeps the cake fresh and moist, so I was able to make it two days in advance.  I didn’t like spending all of Christmas Eve in the kitchen unless I was baking with my girls. This has many easy steps that they could help me with. I loved to stretch Christmas out and make to most of it for them.  Unlike some mothers who dreaded vacations from school, I always loved it when my kids were home with me.  I still do.

If you like to bake and love a delicious cake, then you really should try this recipe.  

Recipe Ingredients:

1 package of pound cake mix
2 eggs, liquid as package directs
Yellow, red and green food coloring

½ cup seedless raspberry jelly or jam
¼ cup kahlua or crème de cocoa liquor
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ cup water
1 package (6 ounces) semi-sweet morsels (Nestles)

Chopped pistachio nuts (optional)


1. Prepare pound cake mix as directed by package with eggs and liquid.

2. Measure one cupful of batter in a small bowl and add a few drops of yellow food coloring; Repeat with remaining batter, tinting a second cup with green food coloring and the remainder with red food coloring.  Pour into three separate greased and floured pans 8 inch square or round.

3. Bake layers in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for 15 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, loosen edges with sharp knife and turn out on to wire racks to cool completely.

4. Combine raspberry jelly and kahlua in a sauce pan, heating slowly until jelly melts.

5. To make cake: Place the green layer on a cookie sheet and spoon the raspberry syrup over the cake.  Top with the yellow layer and spoon raspberry syrup over it. Repeat for pink, top layer.  Brush the sides of the cake with remaining syrup.

6. Combine butter/margarine, corn syrup and water in a small saucepan. Bring to boiling. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate morsels until melted.  Beat the mixture for about 3 minutes or until stiff enough to spread on cake.

7. Frost cake with chocolate and sprinkles with pistachio nuts or decorate as desired.

Maybe you’ll want to add this cake to your current holiday desserts.  If you do let me know what you and your guests think!  I doubt anyone will be disappointed.

Bon Appetit!