Saturday, April 30, 2011

Alabama Tornadoes, April 27th



I pretty much watch the news two to three times a day and very little has been said about the devastating tornadoes that ripped through Alabama this week. On April 27th the deadliest outbreak of tornadoes since 1932, hit the city of Tuscaloosa, one of the heaviest hit cities where there were 228 confirmed deaths and 900 were injured. The death toll from six states impacted by the storms include, 33 in Mississippi, 34 in Tennessee, 15 in Georgia, 5 in Virginia, 2 in Louisiana and 1 in Kentucky. A total of 328 deaths were reported by late Friday. Tuscaloosa, and other cities, have been declared major disaster areas by the President and FEMA will be providing aid for the area.

Why is it that not much is being reported on our news about this national disaster? Any time something like this happens in another country we hear about it for days. And yet, this occurred right here and did not receive the national attention it deserved. It’s really a shame that I have to get my news from Facebook and not the major networks. We should be informed about our citizens so we can reach out and help in any way possible, like we have done for foreign countries in their time of need. This is not just a local news story, it is a national news story. My regular television programming wasn’t interrupted like it is for every single event with breaking news. So many times it’s been interrupted by things much more trivial that could have waited till the 5 o’clock regular news. Here, they knew the path of the tornado, the force of it and the devastation it was about to cause. They had it on video (see below) as it approached, and yet the major networks were not broadcasting it as it was happening. They did not devote much time to it after, from what I saw either. And ironically, two days later, there were hours of nonstop coverage for the Royal Wedding. Something is not right with this picture.

In case you have not heard or seen what I am talking about, you can do your own research online or I have posted a couple of links below to give you an idea. I don’t know where our priorities are in this country. This is a national story that should have been shown from start to finish. I get the impression that it was mainly treated like local news. That’s just unacceptable.

Today I will pray for all who have lost their loved ones and homes and hope relief efforts restore some sense of normalcy to their lives soon. We are so quick to inform and to act when it concerns other countries, but when it concerns our citizens not so much.

LIVE Videos of tornado: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA7TKSHJ_wM (8 mins)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjVW0Du2ZIo&feature=player_embedded

Slideshow of damages: : http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/gallery/news/tuscaloosa-alabama-tornado-apr-27-2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding, Minus One



I woke up early, as I do every morning, but this morning I watched the Royal Wedding. Prince William marries Kate Middleton Wilt. She looked beautiful. West Minister Abbey is spectacular. The ceremony very traditional and proper, as you would expect. The couple rarely smiled throughout. It seemed very solemn, but after they left the church and got into their horse drawn carriage, they were beaming. I heard the cost of the wedding was 55 million and that did not include some additional expenses, which I cannot remember. The bride’s parents were allowed to contribute $165,000. The couple has three new titles bestowed on them by the Queen, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. As I sit here watching, for over an hour, only one thing comes to my mind. With one a million people there, and all the pomp and circumstance and extravagance, there is one thing missing…Princess Diana.

Diana should have been there today to see her son marry. Her death was tragic. I remember the day I heard of her accident in Paris on August 31, 1997. I turned on the radio and could not believe what I was hearing. It affected me deeply for some reason which I could not understand. I never followed her life or took any interest in the royal family. I could not help but be captivated by her fairytale wedding in July, 1981. She was a beautiful bride. I was just starting to plan my own wedding, and watching the wedding of all weddings was amazing. She gave birth to William in 1982 and Prince Harry in 1984. I guess I related to her somewhat because we were going through similar life experiences. I married in 1983 and had two girls in 1987 and 1990. I always heard about how she wanted to teach her boys to be aware of the suffering of others and took them with her to do charitable work. I admired her for her humanitarian works, she was a princess and didn’t have to walk through the minefields of Angola. She brought attention to so many causes worldwide.

One day I heard about her marital problems. I started paying more attention. In 1995 she was interviewed and responded to all the rumors that had been circulating for years. I found it heart breaking how she spoke of three people being in her marriage from the beginning. She said, even as she walked down the aisle, that her gut was telling her this wasn’t right, but felt powerless to stop it. She spoke of how she loved Charles, but he never gave up on Parker Bowles. It was plain to see that she was being honest. She was hurt and sickened over what was done to her. She won my sympathy and compassion. I felt the royal family and Charles, took this young girl of 19, and swept her off her feet just so she could produce heirs to the throne. When her job was done, she was discarded, like an old dish rag. Charles went about his business with his mistress and the royal family never really gave her the respect and love she deserved. It struck me as being so sad.

When I heard the news of her death, my heart broke on the spot. She was so young and beautiful. She was tricked in to a marriage and robbed of the best years of her life. She had two young boys 15 and 13, that she could not finish raising. In my mind, Charles and his family had killed her. But for them, she would not have been out being chased by the paparazzi. She would have been home, with her family, where she belonged.

I spent the 31st of August, 1997, crying and even sobbing at times. No one knew what was wrong with me. I couldn’t explain it. My heart was broken for her and for her children. I have never been that affected by the death of someone I didn’t know. But, Diana had touched my heart and her death had broken it.

So, while today is a happy day for her son and I am happy for him, I cannot help but think of his mother. As a mother, I cry for her today because she was robbed of this occasion and so many others. I know she is watching from heaven, but she should have been there today.

May God Bless Prince William and Kate and I am sure they will be assigned a special angel, in Diana, to watch over them.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lindsay Lohan...Crime After Crime



Well, I get the impression that Lindsay is trying to turn over a new leaf with her little speech on Jay Leno. She intends to earn back people’s trust and respect.

I couldn’t believe she is only 24. Seems like she has gotten in enough trouble, over and over, to be at least 30 by now. How did she manage to get into so much trouble and have a career all at the same time? She has had quite a few scrapes with the law and faced a judge so many times I lost count. She has had DUI’s and accident and then pops into rehab like some people stay at a spa. She leaves rehab and heads out to the next party. She violates parole, goes to the Cannes Festival and says she couldn’t come back because someone stole her passport. She makes a mockery of the judicial system. But all that’s not enough.

In February of this year, she decides to steal a piece of jewelry. They have it on tape. She wears the very same necklace a week later. They say it’s felony grand theft. They say it violated her probation. What does Lindsay say? Does she accept responsibility? Or does she say the charges are bogus and that she only “borrowed” the necklace? Right, she borrowed it.

However, last night she was on Jay Leno. She said a few words accepting responsibility for her actions and got a standing ovation! Very nice. Except for her motivation. Why all of a sudden is she repentant and ready to change? Maybe it’s because she is up for a part in a John Gotti, Jr. movie? A chance to reignite her career big time. John Travolta has the lead role. Between Travolta and the storyline about the mob, it could be a real money maker. The fact the industry has lost respect and confidence in her may play a part too. At 24 she could easily be washed up as an actress. So she has every reason to try to redeem herself now. But, will she? If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, she has a mountain to climb. I will have to really see it to believe it.

If you want to see a real acting job, check out the link below, where Lindsay plays the role of her life on the Jay Leno Show.




http://www.ology.com/celebs-and-gossip/watch-lindsay-lohan-gets-standing-ovation-leno

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Marlo Thomas



I forgot how much I loved Marlo Thomas. I watched her back when she was “That Girl” and I could relate to her as the girl next door, wholesome, pretty, silly, coy, na├»ve…what’s not to love. The show aired from 1966 to 1971 and she played the quirky Ann Marie who was dating Donald. She developed the show about an up and coming actress and it wasn’t until recently that I learned she was the creator and executive producer of the series and very much in control of everything that went into making it.

Maro has done dozens of things after “That Girl” ended, including marrying talk show host, Phil Donahue. But, I think I respect her most for carrying on her father’s work with St. Jude’s Hospital, which he opened in 1962. I saw a video where Marlo talks of how her father made a pack with God. The family was going through some hard financial times and Danny Thomas had very little money and no prospects of finding work. He was down to his last seven dollars and he put it in the church collection plate, but worried because he would soon have hospital bills from the birth of his new baby. He said a prayer that he needed ten times what he put in the collection plate and the next morning was offered a job paying $75. Later in life, he prayed to St. Jude for guidance and direction and if he would answer his request, Danny Thomas promised to build a shrine to St. Jude. In less than a year his career gained momentum and he was making a lot of money. He never forgot his promise to St. Jude. He raised the fund necessary to build St, Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital which today is a world leader inn cancer research and treatment for children. No child is ever turned away.

But, the hospital must raise enormous funds each and every year to keep up it‘s work. When Danny Thomas was nearing the end of his days, he spoke to his children and told them that they did not have to continue his work with the hospital. It was his promise to St. Jude, not theirs. But, they decided they would continue their father’s work and Marlo has a very important role in that endeavor. The hospital website shows all the remarkable work they are able to do with the money that is raised. There is really no other hospital like it and children come from all over the world to be treated there.

Marlo Thomas also has her own website where she discusses woman’s issues, has resources there and things of interest to read and watch. I recommend checking it out, link below, and also liking her Facebook page.

Marlo Thomas has always been America’s sweetheart, and she still is.




http://www.facebook.com/#!/MarloThomas
http://marlothomas.aol.com/

Monday, April 25, 2011

Soap Operas, A Thing Of The Past



I grew up watching soap operas. Every day the television went on at lunch time and the families of As The World Turns, The Guiding Light, The Edge of Night, Search For Tomorrow, The Young and The Restless, and the Bold and The Beautiful would come into my life. They were all aired on CBS in succession. I watched babies grow up, people get old and die, attended marriages, shared holidays, and worried over their tragedies.

Soap Operas were popular because women were stay at home moms back in the day and their only adult contact came from the characters in these programs. They watched religiously. My mother wouldn’t dream of missing her “stories” and God forbid they were interrupted by breaking news, she would curse like a sailor.

There were days I came home from school and instead of her asking about my day, she was ranting and raving about how Dan Rather should drop dead for interrupting her stories. I wonder what she would have to say if she knew that one by one these shows were being cancelled after 30, 40 and 50 years? Search For Tomorrow and Guiding Light actually started on the radio and came to television first. When the were first aired, they were only 15 minutes long.

My mother and I had many lively conversation about our soap opera families. When I had school, she would fill me in on what I missed. Other times we would watch them together, it was our quality time, and something we enjoyed and shared. Soap operas were always on 5 days a week, 52 weeks out of the year, no reruns. That made for a lot of time for me and my mom.

I went back to watching a couple of soap operas last year. They did away with As The World Turns and The Guiding Light a few months ago, after 50 years on the air. The Young and The Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful are all I have left now. Nowadays, the plots move a long much faster than they used to. I guess that’s to keep viewer interest. As I watch them, I imagine conversations about what my mother and I would have to say about the characters and plot twists. So many of the actors are the same now as they were then. So it’s not too hard to reminisce.

I’m sure, one of these days, these last two soap operas will be cancelled too. It will be a sad day. But I am thankful that they outlasted my mom’s life. I hesitate to even think how she would have reacted to the news. Based on what she said about Dan Rather, I can only imagine the worst.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!



I just want to wish you all a very happy and blessed Easter. I hope you share your day surrounded by the love of family and friends, good food, and renewed hope.

I hope you all enjoyed hunting for eggs, opening baskets, and chocolate bunnies!

Please refrigerate your eggs, once cooked the shell no longer protects the egg. They can be stored in the refrigerator for one week.


Special Message: I am not a preacher, but I do want to say:

Easter is a special time. We have learned from the resurrection that God promises new life, new beginnings. Whatever trials and tribulations we are going through right now, there is hope for the future. God loves us unconditionally and He will see us through the storm. He has promised to be there with us and for us. He will provide support, encouragement, peace, and strength. Don’t be afraid to take the first step.

May you all be blessed.
 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Coping Skills



The last few days I have heard of so many personal problems, impossible situations, and sad and tragic events. I won’t use the word hopeless, because there is always hope, prayer and faith that we can and will get through these life crises. But how long can the human spirit hold on before it breaks? As a friend I feel helpless to do anything. Not every problem has an answer or solution. Not everything can be fixed. So we have to depend on time. Time is supposed to help us heal, allow us to search for other options, get support, help and encouragement where we can. But how much time does it take? No one knows.

So today I went searching for websites to pass the time or distract myself from all the heartbreaking situations I am hearing about. I went looking for coping skills. Ways we can manage and reduce stress. Anything we can do while we are waiting for time to work it’s magic and restore some normalcy to our lives?

The coping skills all sound so nice and simple. But the truth is, there isn’t much you can do when your world is falling apart. They say you need to eat healthy meals, but who has an appetite? Get plenty of sleep, but how do you turn off your brain from the thousands of thoughts racing through it? They say take deep breaths. When you are worried and anxious over a crisis, breathing almost feels like work. I sometimes have all to do to take in enough air to keep me alive. They say to maintain a normal routine, but how can you when everything is not normal. Find friends to comfort and support you…that’s great, but they can’t be with you 24/7 or maybe not when you need them the most. People have busy lives and almost everyone of them is dealing with something. And, they say to take up a hobby to distract you. Speaking for myself, I could not focus on a hobby in a time of crisis. I have all to do to put dinner on the table and have the laundry done. And sometimes, dinner is takeout.

These coping skills are great for some problems, the ones that can be fixed, like a leaky roof, car trouble, a backed up toilet. But they are too helpful when something catastrophic happens and you feel your world is coming to an end, like dealing with infidelity, loss of a loved one, a serious diagnosis. These things tend to consume our every waking moment with emotional turmoil, kill our appetites, and cause us countless sleepless nights. Those are the things we can use help for, but I didn’t find a set of coping skills for them. There is only time, words of consolation and prayer.

So if you know anyone going through something major or even suspect that they are, try to be there for them as much as you can be. We can all use a shoulder or two to lean on or to cry on when we are feeling at our weakest and most vulnerable. And who knows, one day the favor may be returned in kind.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday...



For Christians around the world, this is a solemn, holy day that is observed to commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. It was documented in the New Testament Gospels and has been estimated to have occurred April 3 in 33 AD. The pain and torture he has been reported to have endured is unimaginable, but He did so willingly. It was part of God’s plan, to show His unconditional love for mankind, to allow His only son to be sacrificed for the forgiveness of our sins so that we may be saved. In doing so, Jesus became the “Lamb of God” who took away the sins of the world and established a new covenant between God and His people.

As we make preparations for our Easter celebrations this Sunday, maybe we should take a moment to appreciate the significance of today. I think of how our Heavenly Father loved us so much that He sacrificed His only Son so that we may all have eternal life. It’s the ultimate act of love.

May you and your families be blessed this Easter season.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Power Of Prayer...



I always believed in the power of prayer. If anything goes wrong for anyone I love, or even strangers, I pray for them. Many times prayers are answered. Sometimes they are answered exactly as we would like, other times in ways we do not expect, and sometimes they do not seem to be answered at all. But if we are praying to an almighty, all-knowing God, then we have to believe that prayers are answered in a way that fits His plan for us.

Is there really something to the power of prayer? Can anyone measure the power of prayer and the good it can do? It seems, contrary to what one might think, that scientists have been conducting studies for decades to determine the benefits of prayer. Many of these experiments had people praying for patients and measuring their progress and release from the hospital against those patients who were not being prayed for. Science and religion do not go together, and yet there have been enough medical miracles which could not be explained by science, that warrant looking into “alternative” explanations.

But, prayer doesn’t lend itself very well to scientific studies. There are too many variables to account for and too much subjectivity. From what I have read, some studies find there are great benefits to patients who have been prayed for, while others find none. There are even studies that found it could be detrimental to patients who knew they were being prayed for because it raised their expectations and were disappointed when they weren’t met.

I do not need scientific proof that prayers work. I have enough personal experience to know there is great power in prayer. I have seen it with my own eyes. I think most people have. And, considering the state of the world, the country, and many people we know…prayer may be the best weapon we have to combat all the ills around us.

So, for the next few days I am doing my own experiment. I am going to post this on my Facebook page: I have several friends who are going through life crises right now. Can we all please take a moment to pray for them and for all our friends, whose problems we may not know, but who need our prayers all the same. Maybe a community of Facebook people, praying together, to help all of our friends in need, might just be what we all need to get through some very trying times. I hope so. I hope they can, at the very least, feel the support and love of their friends and that it gives them the strength to cope.

The power of prayer works miracles and I am living proof.
 
 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

French Literature...



I was in a classroom from the age of 5 to 22. I read all kinds of books for all kinds of courses. Back in my day, prehistoric times according to my daughters, colleges offered a variety of classes in American and English literature. They still do. But today, they require that you take a “cross cultural” class. That class can be in literature from African, the Middle East, Latin America, Caribbean or American Indian categories. Literature from European authors not included. Why this is I do not know. If you major in a foreign language of Europe, such as French, Italian or Spanish, you are required to take many classes in literature. Of course you will read them in the foreign language. But, many of these important and classic works have been translated, and are available for all to read. I discovered some great French authors in my studies and have read both the original and translated versions of many books. Books do lose a little in translation, but good translations are out there.

What are we missing in our education by not requiring European literature, or at least adding it as a viable choice to all the others? We are not offering Dante’s “Inferno,” Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” The list of brilliant and classical works of European literature is almost endless. You shouldn’t have to major in a foreign language to be able to enrich your education with courses in these masterpieces.

I have read quite a few French books by a variety of authors and I thought I would mention a few in case anyone is interested in trying something new.

Emile Zola’s first novel, Theresa Raquin, is a psychological work. Theresa is raised by her aunt and talks her into marrying her sickly cousin Camille, when she is 21. Theresa meets a childhood friend and they become reacquainted and fall in love. They conspire to get rid of Camille so they can be together. However, the guilt from their actions soon starts to prey on their minds.

Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is another excellent work and Flaubert’s first novel. Emma Rouault is a farm girl who constantly reads books and fantasizes about romance and luxuries. When Charles Bovary, a country doctor, meets her and eventually asks for her hand in marriage, she is thrilled at the idea of being a doctor’s wife. However, the reality of married life is not at all what she envisions it to be. She needs an escape and instead of turning to books, she turns to other men.

Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a epistolary novel (written in letters from one character to another). I consider it a work of genius. The way he was able to write such an intricate plot of deceit, manipulation and revenge, is like nothing I have ever read before. The two main characters, Valmont and Meurteuil, use sex to ruin other people’s lives, in order to win a bet amongst themselves. It’s riveting.

Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, is another excellent book of revenge. Pichaud is the main character and is falsely accused of a crime and sent to jail for seven years. A dying fellow inmate leaves him a treasure, which Pichaud finds on his release. Pichard spends ten years planning the perfect revenge, down to minor details, on those who had him imprisoned and then executes it.

These are just a few of the books that I have been introduced to in my studies, and there are countless more. I think that somewhere along the way, on the road of education, there should be a place for novels like these. Courses offered to all, not just language majors.

Why not try one and let me know what you think?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Easter Rabbit...



Easter is this coming Sunday and after decades of coloring eggs and making baskets and conducting Easter egg hunts, I have no idea how this traditional started. The whole thing is a mystery to me, I have just accepted it all these years without question. It’s very interesting how it all got started.

It seems this German practice of bringing Easter eggs started in the 15th and 16th centuries in two parts of Germany, Alsace and Rhineland. In the 18th century it was brought to the United States by German settlers who came to reside in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Tradition has it that children would create brightly colored “nests” made out of hats or bonnets, in their homes, and if they were good they would find brightly colored eggs in them. The eggs were brought by the “Oster Hawse.” After the idea caught on and spread, and the nest was replaced with the modern day Easter basket.

Eggs and rabbits were considered symbols of fertility. Birds lay eggs and rabbits give birth in Spring. And eggs are also reported to symbolize the Resurrection with new life.

I miss getting ready for Easter, now that the girls are grown. Of course, before Easter Day we always colored at least two dozen eggs, most of which we gave away. Every Easter I always made two huge baskets full of toys and candy. I bought plastic eggs of all sizes and hid them all round the house the night before Easter. The eggs were full of candy. I put a certain number of eggs in every room of the house. I drew and cut out a paper rabbit and inside I wrote a poem that how told many eggs were in each room. When the girls woke up, they were so excited to find all the hidden eggs. They loved the hunt more then the overflowing baskets, which they opened after the hunt and breakfast. Then we would all get dressed and go over to my parents for dinner and spend the day.

This year there will be no eggs, except those I make for the 17 Day Diet. There will be no baskets, no candy, no toys. My parents are gone. I decided to make reservations at a local restaurant. We’ll go there with my brother and enjoy a nice dinner.

It’ll be a different kind of Easter, but a Happy Easter nonetheless.


 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why Is Life So Complicated?



I remember when I was going up in the 50’s and 60’s, life seemed pretty simple. We went to school and to work, came home, spent time with family at dinner and watching television. If a problem came up, like plumbing, illness, conflict, it was resolved. I look around today, even at my own life, and it all seems so complicated. No one is at peace, everyone is dealing with something ongoing or a multitude of things at once. You can’t cross anything off your “to do list” and keep it off, and somehow I am always adding new things to it. It’s tiring.

Everything today is more complicated. Relationships are a matter of simply dating till you find the person you want to spend your life with. People date, live together, break up, write pre-nups, divorce easily, remarry, cheat, lie etc etc. More and more women work outside the home. Children are being raised at daycare or by a babysitter. There is no consistency for them. As they get older, they practically have to raise themselves while both parents are working. Many are being raised by single parents. It is any wonder that they turn to friends for support and guidance and acceptance? No one pays with cash any more. We have credit cards to get us into financial ruins. No one is saving or planning for retirement when they have mortgages, loans and credit cards in addition to all the other standard bills. We have added bills for cell phones and cable which are a necessity today whether we can afford them or not.

The country trying to climb out of an economic crisis. Years of out of control spending and lending had us on the verge of economic collapse. Instead of working together to get us back on track, our political parties will not agree on the best ways to solve our problems.

Look around. The world is a mess too. We never know if we will wake up and be in another war. We are still dependent on foreign oil. The weather patterns are changing for the worse. We are seeing more natural disasters every day. It’s happening everywhere too, so there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

With all the progress we have made in science and technology, we seem to be worse off than we ever were. I would give anything to give up our advancements and go back to a more peaceful, blissful existence.

Years ago, I was struck by the very peaceful existence of the Amish people. They live very much like the characters on Little House On The Prairie do. It’s a minimalist way of life. They have a couple of plain outfits each. No electricity. They work hard from sun up to sun down. Church on Sunday. Everyone has chores and pitches in. If your barn burns down, the whole community comes and helps you rebuild. Horse and buggy instead of cars. It’s so simple. They don’t need exercise programs because they work hard. They don’t need diets because they eat healthy, fresh foods. They aren’t materialistic. They have good, old fashioned family values. I was very impressed by what I heard and saw. They say our society is more advanced than theirs is. I say our advancements have set us back from all that is important. They haven’t simplified our lives, they have complicated them. And we are stuck in it. They have the peace and security of knowing what to expect every day, we live in a chaotic world filled with stress. And it looks like it’s only going to get worse.

Life doesn’t have to be complicated, but we are making it so.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday



It’s the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday. The churches in my neighborhood are packed today because at the end of mass they are giving out palm leaves that have been blessed and sprinkled with holy water. A&P Catholics, those who attend church on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday only, are probably the cause for the overcrowding. They need to get their hands on the free palm leaves being distributed today.

Traditionally, this day celebrates the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem and is described in all four Gospels of the New Testament. The palm branch represents triumph and victory in the Jewish tradition and as such was waved by the people welcoming Jesus, as well as, laid in his path. This is how the significance of the palm leaves originated. Left over palm leaves are saved and burned the following year to make the ashes used on Ash Wednesday.

If you visit Catholic cemeteries before or after Palm Sunday, you will see many displays of crosses made of palms placed at grave sites. My father was an A&P Catholic. He made sure he went to church on Palm Sundays every year to collect more than his fair share of palm leaves. He spent the rest of the morning making small crosses out of two palm leaves woven together. It was a skill I also learned from watching him. He would make them for us and all my relatives and we would place them in the crucifixes over our beds. They would remain there the entire year and only removed when replaced with a fresh cross the following year.

I am thankful for the memories and I really miss those days. Whenever I think of Palm Sunday I automatically think of my father, sitting at the kitchen table, making a dozen crosses out of his palm leaf booty with a huge smile on his face. I hope they have palm leaves in heaven Dad.
 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Sandwich Generation...



We are the Sandwich Generation. Adults between the ages of 40 and 60 who are raising children and taking care of elderly parents. July has been dedicated as Sandwich Generation month to acknowledge the tireless efforts of those who are working so hard to keep multiple generations healthy and thriving.
Some interesting stats: 1 out of 8 Americans in this age group is raising a child and taking care of an elderly parent; 7 to 10 million adults are trying to care for their parents from long distance; the number of Americans over the age of 65 will double by 2030 to 70 million.

The cause that has created this new generation is that more and more people are living into their 80’s and 90’s while their families are scattered all over the country. It is affecting about 25% of American families in one way or another. There are medical issues, financial issues, legal issues, emotional issues. Siblings may not agree on various ways to handle these issues. And for children trying to parent their parents, the role reversal is difficult.

There are things to consider, such as how to balance your time between your children and your parents, is it putting a strain on your marriage, can you have any time for yourself, how to deal with the guilt for not having enough time and energy for everyone.

I was part of the Sandwich Generation for a little over 15 years. My father developed colon cancer and needed to be taken to the doctors, hospitals, tests, radiation. My mother was too old to deal with it all. My children were 6 and 8 years old when it started. After 4 years of deal with his illness, he passed away. A year or so later, my mother was diagnosed with Altzheimer’s. She was disagreeable, argumentative and had bouts of paranoia and experienced hallucinations from her medication. My children were in their early teens. At the same time I was diagnosed with cancer and my in-laws both ended up in nursing homes. I don’t know how my husband managed it all. It felt like the sky came crashing down on us. We didn’t know where to split ourselves first and we had my health to think about. Thank God my girls were good and focused on school, but I still had to watch over them because the teenage years are rough and we, as a family, were going through a lot. Somehow, one day at a time, we got through it all and came out okay on the other side.

I never expected to be a part of the Sandwich Generation. The term was coined at around the same time it was happening to us. I really think this should be publicized more so there is more awareness. Maybe people can take steps to prepare themselves, their parents and their siblings for the eventuality that this may one day occur. Often times it happens suddenly and without warning and you are thrown into a whole new set of overwhelming circumstances.

Had I been more aware I think I would have at least done some research and discussed things with my brother ahead of time. It’s very hard to think clearly after the fact, when emotions are running high and you are exhausted.

There is information and advice readily available online. It’s worth looking at it because this Sandwich Generation business is too big to swallow

Friday, April 15, 2011

April 15th Isn’t Tax Day This Year!



That’s right, April 15th isn’t tax day this year, so if you have waited till the last minute to file your returns, you have three more days to put it off. This year it will fall on April 18th, 2011.

Tax day is traditionally April 15th. This date was chosen in 1955. However, if the 15th falls on a weekend, Emancipation Day or other holiday, tax day is put off until the following business day.

So what happened this year? April 15th and Emancipation Day occur together this Friday, today! Since Emancipation Day is a holiday in the District of Columbia, the tax day has been put off until Monday the 18th.

What is Emancipation Day? I never heard of it until this minute and I hate to go to bed at night with unanswered questions. Thank God for the internet or curiosity would have killed me a long time ago. I did a few searches so I could enlighten myself and others.

Washington D.C. celebrates Emancipation Day as April 16th because that is the day Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act in 1862 which abolished slavery in the District of Columbia. Slave owners had to release their slaves and were paid approximately $300, by the federal government, for each slave set free. Washington D.C. was the only place where the federal government paid about 900 slave owners for emancipating their slaves. In D.C. it is an official public holiday since 2005 and is celebrated with an official parade.

So you can thank Washington D.C. for the tax extension this year. Three extra days must be making the H&R Block people very happy. Of course, I am thrilled I filed early so I don’t have to be wasting the whole weekend trying to find someone to do my taxes. I imagine all the tax preparers will have their hands full.

The only thing we can be sure of in life are death and taxes…we just can’t always be sure of when tax day is.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mother Kills Children



What causes a mother to do the unthinkable…kill her own precious children? That is what detectives are trying to determine right now as they investigate why a young, 25 year old, NY mother drove her van off a ramp into the Hudson River with her four children in the back seat.

She and three of her children died in the submerged vehicle, that reportedly went under right away. However, her 10 year old son managed to escape the van by going out the van’s window, before it went under the water, and swim to safety. The boy tried to get help, but as got to shore and turned around, all he saw was the van disappear into the water. It only took a couple of minutes for it to sink. He went to a fire station located near the scene and told them what happened.

The van was located in 45 degree water 8 to 10 feet deep and 25 feet off shore. Inside were the bodies of the woman and her three children ages 5, 2 and 11 months. The woman lived only 6 blocks from the tragic scene. The police learned that there had been a domestic argument only 10 minutes before the woman got into the van. The police were called, but by the time they arrived she and the children were gone. Neighbors reportedly told police that she was a loving mother who cared for her children and also had a job.

I cannot imagine what kind of despair this woman must have been feeling to commit this horrific act. A mother’s first instinct is to protect her children at all costs, even with her own life if necessary. The details of what caused the argument that precipitated this event have yet to be reported, but whatever the serious matter of the domestic dispute, it will be trivial compared to its aftermath.

I cannot imagine being ten years old and living through such an experience. This poor boy’s life will be forever affected by what happened in those few minutes, one night of his life. He lost his whole family in the blink of an eye. It’s unimaginable. I just hope he will get the help he needs for as long as he needs it, so he can go on to live a full life and not be haunted by this memory the rest of his life.

Stories like this are beyond disturbing and even incomprehensible. Today, it’s hard to think about anything else.
 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 100 Of My Diet!


The 17 Day Diet


Well, I have been sticking to it for 100 days now. Maybe not exactly one hundred percent, maybe only seventy-five percent, but I continue to lose weight even on the maintenance cycle. My very tight size 12 jeans are now very loose. My size ten jeans are comfortable to getting loose. My goal is a size eight. I don’t care when I get there, I know I will.

What has been the hardest part for me? Sticking to the exercise required. I was doing great with the walking, but never made it part of my daily routine of a set time of day. If I didn’t do it before lunch, then I never got to it. Eventually I gave it up. I need to get back to that soon though. Losing the weight was great, but this body needs to shape up. The other thing I found hard and gave up on was drinking the eight glasses of water a day. It’s a struggle to get that much water down. I try to drink, but I’m lucky if I get two glasses of water in, maybe three. That is something I need to work on too. I’d be happy if I could do six glasses…well I know I can, I did it in the beginning, I just gave up.

Anyway, my goal was to lose 20 pounds and get down to 115. I’m at 119 now and it’s made a difference. The chronic backache I have been suffering with for a year and a half is all but gone. Even the Physical Therapy did not help me, but losing a few pounds did. I was also accumulating water in my left ankle and it would not go away. The diet fixed that too. All the water I drank flushed out the water in my ankle. That is one of the main reason I need to get back to the water. Water flushes all the toxins out of your body too. Really, there is a method to all the diet madness.

I would definitely recommend the 17 Day Diet to anyone who wants to or needs to lose weight. I found it easy to follow. It’s all laid out for you so you don’t have to think much about it. The weight comes off very fast at first, especially if the follow it strictly. It helps you to change your eating habits to healthy ones. I am not a fan of diets, but I love this one. It makes sense. Everything in it is there for a reason and the doctor explains what those reasons are. Even if you cannot do everything he suggests, you will be a million times better off than you are now. I would have never thought my back and ankle issues would be cured by a healthy diet. I may not always eat 100% healthy on some days, but this diet allows you to eat whatever you like on the weekends during cycle 4.

I will never give up this diet. I am going to work on the exercise and water and see if I can’t make both of them permanent. It’s not too late to pick up a copy of the book and get started. Summer is just two months away, but you would be surprised at how much you can lose in two months with this book!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Long Island Serial Killer...

We have a new serial killer here in Long island, New York. Bodies are being found in Nassau and Suffolk counties, in fact, with the four recently discovered, it brings the total up to 8, in the same proximity to each other. Police are combing the area fearful that they may find yet another set of bodies, “clusters of four” they are calling them. The first four were found in December, the second four were discovered in the past two weeks.

The one thing connecting the victims seems to be that they were all young women who went missing after advertising as prostitutes on Craigslist. This common denominator has resulted in the killer being dubbed the “Craigslist Killer.“ Police are scouring the area where the bodies were found for physical evidence, but they are really hoping someone will call in with a tip that will give them a lead. Right now they are checking cell phone records of the victims to see if there is anything there that ties them all together. The investigators speculate that the killer or killers live in the area and are very familiar with it.

Investigators are working on a profile of the killer. What is alarming is that they suspect it may be an ex-police officer or someone in law enforcement. They feel the killer may have some knowledge of law enforcement procedures and techniques based on their study of the murder sites. One clue that they are basing this speculation on is that the killer made several spiteful phone calls to the victims’ families which were placed from places where the calls could not be traced by police, such as Penn Station. The areas are also very crowded so that viewing film in security cameras would not be helpful in picking out the killer. The killer always stays on the phone under 3 minutes, maybe knowing that it takes 3 to 5 minutes to trace a call by police. (I have to say, even I know that from watching television and movies). Most of the calls have been a male’s voice. Serial killers of this type have above average intelligence and are very social people. Probably someone no one would suspect of ever being involved in such crimes.

This whole investigation started when a 24 year old woman, Shannon Gilbert, disappeared last May. Police were searching for her and found the first four bodies. None of the 8 bodies found to date were Gilbert’s.

Serial killers are terrifying and yet fascinating. Whether you read about them in fiction or nonfiction, there is something about them that pulls you in. How can a human being get satisfaction from killing another human being? The more they do it, the easier it gets and sometimes the more they need to do it. If they ever catch this one, I am sure it will become a book and a movie.

I just hope they catch him soon because this one hits just too close to home!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Frustrated With Dr. Phil!


Way back in September, Dr. Phil sold us a bill of goods. He introduced us to six women with deep seeded issues and called them the Dr. Phil Housewives (even though only 2 could be considered housewives). Then he dubbed their airing on Tuesdays as “Get Real Tuesdays.” Lots of promos, video clips and round table discussions. Lots of fighting, name calling, tears. Bring out the housewives: Gloria, Alana, Michelle, Rachael, Jennifer, Kimm!

We get a few weeks of round tables. Alana has her foot up everyone’s ass and is easily irritated. She was mistreated by bullies all her life and has turned into one. Gloria loves her sage and positive energy. Don’t send her negative energy or she will come back with a F@$% you! Michelle sits back and listens and then tries to get a word in, until Alana threatens her. Rachael is the youngest, no one cares what she has to say, but she actually makes sense. Jennifer is quiet, full of emotion and too numb to speak except when the focus is on her. Kimm had a few issues resolved that were of a physical nature, like her depression and weight gain. Christmas break…no housewives. January…no housewives, Dr Phil jumps on the Ted Williams bandwagon. They throw in a show or two. February Sweeps…NO HOUSEWIVES. March, they air another three shows…another unexplained break!

There was never an explanation given as to why the shows are not being aired in a timely manner. They hooked a bunch of fans, got us to invest our time in these shows and these women. They set up a Facebook page where we could get to know them personally…and then…they stop airing shows. Shows we know they have sitting there because they were pre-taped. We are just left hanging. We even asked one of the producers what was going on and she had no clue.

Thanks Dr Phil for NOTHING! I have given up any hope of your finishing the series. May is sweeps month too and if they weren’t good enough for February why would they be good enough for May??? Common courtesy, professionalism would dictate that we be informed. Not even the housewives have a clue what is going on.

Think twice before you get hooked on a Dr. Phil series because consideration of the fans is the last thing on the show’s and Dr. Phil’s mind!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Italian Americans and The Mob


First of all, today’s blog is inspired by a new reality show, Mob Wives, and the Facebook that was created for it by VH1. It has triggered all kinds of memories for me and taken me back to my childhood neighborhood. Please bear with me as you read because my thoughts have not yet all gelled.

I am an American of Italian descent. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York at a time when the mafia was still actively in business and before Mayor Giuliani had a chance to crack down on them. There were always stories being told on the street of shootings, mob hits and meetings, but they never phased me as a kid. I felt if you had nothing to do with the mafia they weren’t a threat to me or my family. As a young adult, I heard of a shooting at Joe and Mary’s restaurant, not far from my home, on 205 Knickerbocker Avenue. It was the summer of 1979 and a famous mob boss, Carmine “The Cigar” Galante was murdered in the courtyard. The owner Joe was killed in the crossfire. The neighborhood was shaken up, but more over the owner’s death than Galante’s. Galante had gotten what he deserved, but poor Joe was a hard working, decent guy. Things like this happened all the time.

There were two kinds of Italian families in my neighborhood, besides the Mafia. One kind were the hard working immigrants who came here to make a better life for their children. The mothers were over protective, the kids went to school every day, the, father’s worked without taking sick days, and pots of sauce were always cooking on the stove. Then there were the lower class, vulgar-tongued, lowlife punks who were out on the street morning till night. They spent their time in a rat pack, intimidating others, getting into trouble, cursing, vandalizing property. These are people I did not associate with.

One day I needed a protractor for my math homework. It was still daylight at 7 o’clock that spring night, so I went to the store with my cousin to pick one up. On my way home from the store, one of these “rat packs” spotted me and my cousin on the street. They started following us. Truthfully I was nervous. There were six of them and two of us. They knew how to fight, we were pathetic. But, my cousin and I kept walking. Then, one of the girls starts speaking to me. She said, “Hey, b*tch, do you go to Grover Cleveland?” I didn’t answer. She asked, “Are you in the college bound program?” I said, “yes.” She said, “B*tch, you aren’t that smart, are you really in that MF program?” I don’t answer. She says, “Answer me b*tch!” I reply, “I don’t have to talk to you if you are going to talk to with like that!” My cousin and I keep walking. It’s only a few blocks, but it seems like forever before we get to my house. The rat pack is behind us every step of the way. As we get into the hallway, my cousin turns to me and says, “Are you crazy? Why did you answer her like that?” I told her, “I don’t like the way she was talking to me.” I never realized that the girl did not know how to talk any other way.

Well, we entered my apartment. My mother, who has the maternal instincts and intuition like no other, immediately knows something is wrong as soon as she glances at my face. My cousin is only too happy to recount the details of our little trip. My mother becomes very angry and tells me to go with her to the window. “Tell me which one of those girls was talking to you.” I point out Felicia, the foulmouthed ghetto girl to my mother. My mother promptly turns around and heads for the door. Down the steps she runs and outside. I watch from the window as my mother goes behind Felicia and starts tapping her on the shoulder and saying “Miss, miss“ to get her attention. My mother is a foot shorter than Felicia. Felicia turns and looks down at my mother, she is a little startled to see this little old woman behind her. My mother looks up into her eyes, I see the anger on my mother’s face as she says, “Don’t you ever, ever talk to my daughter again! Do you hear me? If you ever see her on the street, you better cross the street to the other side! You lousy tramp!” Felicia didn’t say a word, she looked in shock. The rat pack didn’t say a word. My mother turned and came back upstairs. I never saw the rat pack or Felicia again.

Now, back to Mob Wives. The Facebook page I visited yesterday is full of “Felicias.” They are unarmed intellectually and have a very limited vocabulary, usually curse words sprinkled with acts of violence. It took me back to the old days. I know these people, they still exist in Staten Island. Yesterday, I was called every name in the book, I was threatened with a “freakin’ beatin’” and a “b*tch slap.” For what? For expressing my opinion that the Mob Wives pictures looked air brushed and their voices were raspy. These classless “women” make Felicia look like an angel in comparison. But hey, they gave me a nice topic for a blog today.

Too bad my mother is no longer around to go to the Mob Wives FB page. I can see it now: “Miss, don’t you ever post to my daughter again! And if you see her post on a thread, stay the hell off it and post elsewhere! Better yet, go find yourself another page to post on! You MF’n b*tch!” That’s my mom!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Pia Toscano and American Idol



I am pissed. I waited 24 hours to calm down before writing, but I can’t seem to shake the shock. After watching this show for 10 years, this is the most disappointing moment I have experienced. Last night, one of the most talented singers to grace the stage of American Idol, Pia Toscano, was sent home. Eight Idols remain, none of them have more talent than she has, some may come close depending on the type of music you enjoy.

Pia has worked hard. She is not just talented, she has had voice training. She practiced. This was her dream for years. She sounds like a professional singer. It was a given that she would be there till the end. The judges were sure of it. They were so sure that they used their one season “save” to rescue Casey from going home a couple of weeks ago. I wonder what they were thinking last night when they could not save Pia? What were they thinking when she sang her last song, “Stand By Me” or when she was sobbing as she was being held by another contestant. The disappointment was overwhelming for her, for her family and friends, for the judges, for the audience, for her fans. It was unfair and there is nothing to be done about it.

Some say, including myself, that they will not watch the show any more. How can you trust in a system where they are looking for the best singer and then send the best singer home…and early in the competition too! It’s a travesty. There is no consoling all the people who have supported her in this journey. This was a life changing opportunity for her and she was cheated.

The only hope and consolation now would be if a record label offered her a contract to produce a cd. I know she was one of Ellen’s favorites. Ellen has her own record label. Maybe she will offer Pia an opportunity with her company. It would be nice if that were to happen. I would love to see Pia succeed and have her dream of a singing career come true. It did happen for Jennifer Hudson. She was also sent home too early and she made it bigger than life.

Pia comes from my city. She lives a few miles from me. I was looking forward to the week when all the Idols go home and their fans meet them and they sing. Finally, a contestant from New York City who could actually win it all. And she is sent home too early.

Good luck to you Pia! You are an amazing singer. I hope you get the break you deserve.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Promises To Ourselves...



We have all made promises to ourselves at one time or another. We want to add something positive, like walking every day, or take away something negative, like eating junk food. Just like our New Year’s resolutions to eat better and exercise, we often break or fail to keep the promises we make to ourselves.

However, we take our promises a lot more seriously when we make them to someone else. We follow through on what we say because it’s the right thing to do. We gave our word. We don’t want others to lose trust in us or feel we aren’t dependable. These are strong motivators that make us keep our promises to others, but not ourselves. We forgive ourselves for breaking our promises much more easily than it would take someone else to forgive us.

Most promises made to ourselves start in the heat of an emotional moment when we are sick and tired of something. We may feel tired and sluggish and decide we need to diet. We may have credit card bills that we can’t pay off fast enough and decide to budget. We may watch the Academy Awards only to find out we haven’t seen any of the movies nominated and decide to get out more. Whatever it is that is bothering us, we decide that tomorrow we are going to do things differently. And we do…at least for a little while…then we fall back into old habits.

There are lots of ways I break promises to myself. I procrastinate. I tell myself I will do it tomorrow, but when tomorrow comes it’s today, so I put it off till tomorrow and the day after that. I find ways to distract myself from what I need to do, like finding something that is more important to do and can’t wait. That gives me the perfect excuse not to keep my promise. Another thing that sabotages me is that it is hard to start something new. They say that something doesn’t become a “habit” unless you do it consistently for six weeks. So even if you manage to start something and keep it up a few days you are always in danger of backsliding into old habits. Sometimes I will make a promise that I never really intended to keep or gave much thought to. Those promises die a quick death. And there are times when I am motivated and have every intention of following through, but I am derailed by something unexpected that has to take precedence or a disappointment that takes the wind out of my sails.

As I think about it though, I shouldn’t be breaking promises to myself. When I do, I am not only letting myself down, but those that love me too. My promises are all about making me a better, healthier, happier person. My family and friends deserve the best me I can be. I deserve to be a better friend to myself than I have been.

I have been on this 17 Day Diet for 94 days. I have stuck to it for the most part and have almost met my goal weight. However, I have not be 100% faithful. Since I easily lost the initial ten pounds I have slacked off on the water and exercise. I have kept some healthy things from the diet and not others. I am still losing weight, but I am not happy with myself. This blog gives me a good excuse to rethink, regroup and try to get back on track. I’m not getting any younger and, it’s more important than ever, to try to get on the road to good health.

It’s time that I kept my promises to myself and be as good a friend to me as I am to everyone else. Amen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

People Come Into Our Lives For A Reason…



We have often heard the quote, “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime…” and I believe it’s true. Sometimes, in the hours of our greatest need, someone will walk in and help you get through whatever problems you are facing. It’s happened to me many times over the course of my lifetime. Sometimes, they don’t even come into your life in the real sense, but just their existence and knowledge of them, can make an impact on your life.

When I was a preteen and teenager, as most teenagers do, I had some serious growing pains. My parents argued a lot, my mother was critical of me, I was extra sensitive to everything and my hormones gave me mood swings I would not wish on my worst enemy. It’s going to sound stupid I know, but I found comfort in watching “Bewitched.” I would not miss an episode because it was my escape from reality. At bedtime, I would put myself to sleep by imagining I was part of that family and I could perform witchcraft. I often thought I would like to tell Elizabeth Montgomery how, without her knowing me, she helped me get through some pretty rough emotional times. I was so sad to learn she died so young and I would never get the chance to tell her, though I’m sure it would have meant more to me than to her.

At about the same time, I went to spend my summers with my cousin. The first time I went, her third baby was a year old. I love babies. I became a mother’s helper. In a couple of years she would have two more babies, one year apart. I was in heaven. I would try to spend as much time as the school year would allow me to spend there. The babies were really just a “bonus” to the bond I formed with my cousin during those summers. She was like a second mother to me, but she never criticized me. She would always say and do nice things for me and appreciated the help I gave her. Sometimes her kindness would make me cry, because I didn’t think I deserved it. I knew she loved me for who I was and she didn’t seem to see any of my faults. If she did she never mentioned them. This was another “escape” for me during those years. I learned a lot about love and kindness and that I was deserving of both. I always wanted to tell her what those times with her meant to me and, many years later, I went to Florida and had a talk with her one night and told her everything.

Also, during those years, I sent for a POW bracelet to wear. The name on the bracelet was Robert Shumaker. After 40 years of wondering if he ever made it back home, I found him online last fall and wrote him a letter. He wrote back. It was a very heart warming experience. I have blogged about it already on Veteran’s Day, in November, if anyone is interested in reading the story. I was thrilled to be able to communicate with him after so many years and to learn that he has had a full and happy life.

I guess what I am trying to convey today is that if there is someone out there, who has impacted your life in a positive way, maybe it’s not too late to let them know. It doesn’t matter who it is or what they have done. They may have done nothing, but their existence, their words, their actions may have affected you or helped you. It would be great if you could let them know.

I recall one Christmas when my mother invited everyone over to our house. My Aunt Mary always did Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve year after year, my mother rarely had everyone over. I always appreciated all the work my aunt went through and the special memories she created for me and my cousins. That Christmas my cousins and I chipped in and got her a bracelet to show our appreciation. I wrote a nice note in card and said a few words about how we felt. Of course she started to tear up, it was unexpected and she was surprised, and then we all cried. I’ll never forget it.

We are all quick to speak from anger and tell people how much they hurt or disappointed us, but when it comes to expressing gratitude maybe we could use a little work on that. I have not witnessed many episodes of gratitude in my lifetime, but I have seen many arguments and harsh words said.

Just a little food for thought.

Please take a moment to watch this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLltt5cPDOc

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sex Education...



When my daughters were growing up, I knew one day we were going to have to have the “talk.” I wanted to be prepared to discuss it openly. I recall when I asked my mother about sex. I must have been about 12 or 13 years old at the time. My mother, at 50 years old, was two generations older than I was and not anxious to discuss this topic. When I approached her about it, she said, “wait here,” rummaged through her drawers and pulled out two pamphlets she got from Ann Landers. “Here, read these, and if you have any questions you can ask me,” she said. I read the pamphlets and had lots of questions. My mother was not well versed with the anatomically correct vocabulary and I could see she was uncomfortable. She tried to answer my questions and I am sure she was relieved when it was over. Of course, I also got a few lessons in health class, but that wasn’t till high school. I don’t think anyone in class took it very seriously.

One day I was talking to a woman in the schoolyard of my older daughter’s school. She informed me that the kids were going to have classes in sex education later in the year. This was fifth grade and my daughter was only 10. I was a little upset because I hadn’t plan on having the “talk” quite so early, and at the same time I was thankful that the woman had given me a heads up on this so I could pick a good time to discuss this with my daughter. I wanted her to get her information from me first, be able to ask her questions, and understand what was being discussed at school without hearing it for the first time. So I decided to wait for a long weekend so they we could discuss it and she could process it.

My older daughter sat and listened to everything and had a million questions, as usual. Always inquisitive and a sponge for information. It didn’t phase her in the least. I managed to explain that she was not to go around talking about this to her classmates because their parents should be the ones to tell them. I told her if she had any questions at all, about what we discussed or what she might hear from her friends or in class, she should come to me because there is a lot of misinformation out there. And, let me tell you, she continued to asked questions for quite a while after the “talk.”

One day we were visiting my in-laws and we decided to run an errand while the girls stayed behind. My mother in-law was very conservative and proper, mild and meek. So, when my 10 year old went up to her and asked, “What is a prostitute?,” while we were out on an errand, I can only imagine her reaction. She could not wait for us to get back and then she pulled me aside to tell me about my daughter’s question and that she didn’t know what to say. I had to tell her we had the birds and the bees talk and ever since she has had questions nonstop about it. I took my daughter aside and told her I would answer her question.
There was a very good program on PBS which discussed the topic thoroughly. I had taped it and saved it for the occasion. I watched it with my daughter. All her questions were eventually answered and she was satisfied. By the time they discussed it in school, she was well informed.

I’m not sure if I wanted her to learn about it in school because it was something I could handle myself. But I thought about how I learned about it, about how many parents would never get around to discussing it, about how I could not stop the school from teaching it and her classmates might be talking about it, and realized I had to go along with it. They picked the time for me by inserting it into the 5th grade curriculum. Maybe ten or eleven is the best time to bring up the subject. Kids are more open to listening before their teenage years and actually still think parents know something. It seems wise to me to inform them while they are young and before hormones kick in, so they can process all they need to know.

P.S. All kids are different. I followed the same exact plan for my younger daughter because they were going to teach it in 5th grade…she never asked me one single question and she couldn’t wait for me to stop bringing it up!
 
 
 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Special Edition: Our Rabbit, Snoopy, Died…


Our Rabbit, Snoopy, Died…

Snoopy was a small, black and white, dwarf rabbit. He was old. My younger daughter got him for her birthday when she was 11 so he was 10 years old. He lived a long life, we expected him to be nearing its end, but we didn’t expect it today. He was fine this morning. He ate his baby carrots as usual. I always imagined he would die during the night, so I had already told my husband that he should cover him and make sure I didn’t see him when I came down to breakfast. I wanted to be told, but I never wanted to see anything.

So today, when I set up my ironing board beside his cage and started ironing the first pair of 6 jeans, I didn’t expect him to have a “seizure” or “convulsion” of some kind. I witnessed it, had a moment of shock, and then screamed as I jumped away for the ironing board and the cage. But, my kitchen is small and the opening to leaving the room was by the cage. I started screaming to my daughter to come check to see if he was dead. I could see, from the corner of my eye, that he was lying motionless along side the length of the cage. I could not make myself take a closer look. I trusted my daughter, the science major who just dissected two rats last semester, would be able to deal with it. She couldn’t. She observes cautiously and tells me she thinks he is dead. I am still yelling to her to do something because I am trapped in the kitchen. I give her some baby carrots to put in his dish just in case. He doesn’t move. We decide she should get a sheet and cover the cage.

Once the cage is covered we regain our composure. I call my husband to tell him what happened and give him the number to the vet. While we are talking, my daughter screams…therefore I scream…I ask her what is it…she tells me the iron made a noise…I feel like killing her. I go back to my husband on the phone. He calls the vet and then informs me the vet wants $170 to dispose of the body and he will come home early and take care of it. I finish my ironing and then my daughter and I find a box for him to place Snoopy in. My daughter and I are still traumatized. We hug each other. Neither of us expected to witness his final moment, I think we are still in shock. We had no sign or warning that he was even ill.  We wait for my husband to get home.  He puts on some rubber gloves and I disappear.  I hear him ask, "Is he dead if his eyes are open?"  I run up the stairs as I hear my daughter answer yes.  He tells me he is leaving. 

Poor little Snoopy. He was always so quiet and sweet. RIP Snoopy.

Youth Is Wasted On The Young...


Youth Is Wasted On The Young…

A simple but poignant quote of George Bernard Shaw. Sure I heard it years ago, when I was young myself, but I never really appreciated all that it meant. I wish I had, maybe I would have taken advantage of my youth to do more, live more, learn more. Maybe not. We never think we are going to age when we are young. Ten years seems like an eternity when you are 20. Little did I know how fast the years would fly by the older I got. I never expected signs of aging to hit around the 30 - 35 year mark. Youth is fleeting. It doesn’t last very long at all and it would be nice if we could get the message across to young people while they have the opportunity to do something about it, before they lament “If only I were 20 again.”

When you are young you have your health. You are strong. You can work a 40 hour work week and stay out drinking all night Fridays and Saturdays and still get out of bed. Maybe you live at home, rent free, and you can accumulate a ton of money. You can save up to travel to exotic or exciting places and not worry about the expense. Your have your whole family around to support you and encourage you and even help and advise you on life matters. Everything you imagine seems possible, and it is. You have your whole lifetime ahead of you and your plans and dreams can become reality if you work hard enough.

But because the young don’t think or worry about tomorrow, they don’t always use their youth wisely. How can they? Wisdom comes with age and life experience. Life is experience is the one thing they lack. So they aren’t thinking about paying off their loans and credit cards as soon as possible so that the money they earn can be all their own. They aren’t worried about adding a car payment or getting that big screen television on credit. They aren’t saving to buy their own place so they don’t have to pay rent for the rest of their lives. They are sure as hell aren’t thinking about retirement and life insurance. They live for the day. Eat, drink and be merry…and let tomorrow worry about itself.

And tomorrow will bring it’s own worries with it. Eventually, the partying and drinking gets old. The youth starts to fade ever so slowly. Maturity starts to creep in. You want to settle down in your 30‘s, maybe buy a home and raise a family. Guess what? Those debts from your 20’s are weighing you down. The loans you were making minimum payments on are still thriving and feeding off their interest rates. You haven’t been able to save much and don’t have a big enough down payment so you can afford a mortgage and pay your loans off too. Welcome to the world of financial stress.

Before you graduate high school and/or college, there should be a mandatory course that all students must take about the practicalities of life. Financial information should be provided about how to pay off debt or never get into debt. How to budget and save money. How to invest money. Pitfalls and mistakes to avoid. A class like this would be invaluable to many students who are basically clueless as to how to handle money. We can’t give them wisdom, they have to get that from experience. But, we should give them the information and tools necessary to save them from living a lifetime in debt.

My parents, in their own way, imparted their financial wisdom on me and my brother. I like to think I have done a decent job of passing their legacy down to my girls. My parents never had debt, my husband and I never had debt and I hope my girls never do either.

I want my kids to have fun and enjoy their youth, but I don’t want them not thinking about the future too, because tomorrow comes sooner than any of us think.
 
 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Catfish



Yesterday I watched the movie Catfish, a true documentary of a guy named Nev Schulman and his online adventure. Nev is a 24 year old New York City photographer who receives an email asking permission to paint of one of his photos, from an 8 year old girl, named Abby. At first Nev’s brother videotapes the internet exchange of messages because of the interesting story of an 8 year old painter who is fascinated with his brother’s photograph. In the process of this developing friendship, Nev is friended on Facebook by several of Abby’s family members and their friends, including her 19 year old sister, Megan and her mother, Angela. Nev and Megan even develop a “romantic” long distance relationship online. Now, I have to stop before I give anyway any plot twists and turns. But there are many surprises to be revealed throughout this 90 minute movie which covers the 9 month internet exchanges and phone calls between Nev and Abby’s family.

Everyone who interacts with people online should consider watching this movie. The documentary is shot in an amateurish way because it was never intended to be a movie, but to record of this interesting relationship between Nev and Abby. However, once Nev and his brother discover there is a lot more to the story, they decide to pursue to it’s end, wherever that might lead them.

This movie is a perfect example of how we engage with people online, develop friendships, but really do not know who we are talking to. I can relate to some things in the movie based on my own personal experiences online. People are not always who they appear to be, they have issues, personality disorders, and it takes a while to discover all that. Of course this movie is an extreme example of what could happen, but as long as you are online talking to strangers, you are going to have a story to tell at some point.

Overall, 90 minutes is not a lot of time to invest to get a little education, if you are in the habit of making friends online. “There are people who are like catfish, who keep you on your toes.” So does this movie!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's Day!



The problem with April Fool’s Day is that everyone is on high alert for pranks. It’s hard to catch someone off guard and the prank has to have some realistic basis to get them to fall for it. I tried to find out how such a tradition got started, but there is nothing conclusive. Apparently, it is celebrated worldwide and started centuries ago. However, the problem is that you can’t trust any theories about the origins of April Fool’s Day because they can also be pranks.

When I was a kid I enjoyed the “holiday,” and I liked to play pranks on my mother. She was a great victim because of her outrageous reaction. At the same time, I had to be careful not to piss her off too much because I lived at home and she could make my life a living hell. The one prank that always worked was screaming “Roach.” We would be having normal conversation and I would then go into the bathroom and let out a loud scream. She would come running in as I was saying, “there’s a roach!” She start yelling “Where is it?” I would point to any random spot and she would start looking, spray can in hand. After a few seconds I would yell, “April Fool’s” and have a nice chuckle over it while the steam poured out of her ears. “I can’t believe you fall for this every year,” I would say, as I died laughing at her carrying on over it. The rest of my pranks were telling my brother and classmates their shoe was untied. Nine times out of ten, they would fall for that lame line and look down and realize they had been pranked. It was all in good fun.

I already warned my younger daughter, who is a prankster with a straight face, not to bother to prank me today. She likes to pull little pranks all year round just to get me agitated. She loves it when I react, just like I loved watching my mother have a fit over nothing. Sometimes she will make me think she got a bad grade; other times she opens a letter from school and pretends to read bad news; recently she suggested a song to me for my Facebook page that was the worst song ever and then was delighted to read all the negative comments I received! One time, she was responsible for watching a favorite show and reporting what happened to her older sister, who was too busy to watch. She told her one of the supporting characters had died. It wasn’t until days later that her sister learned that the character was live and well. I’ll have to be on guard all day because I know she is cooking something up in her mind. She had that “Cheshire grin” as she left for school this morning.

It’s early in the day so you have lots of time to come up with a sneaky prank to play on your loved ones. I’ll have to give it some thought. Maybe I can fool my daughter before she fools me?


PS I no sooner post this when my daughter calls to inform me she got to school ok, as usual.  Then she tells me it's SNOWING, knowing it would freak me out.  I run to the window and guess what...NO SNOW!  She's in trouble now!