Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bernie Madoff

What is more infuriating than Bernie Madoff ripping off billions of dollars from investors, many of them of their life savings that they planned on using for retirement?   Or the fact that his own son was so deeply affected by his father's crimes that he tried to commit suicide two times and succeeded the second time? We have all heard story after story of the lives he ruined and at 71 years old, he will never repay his debt to society or to his victims.  Why am I so pissed today? Bernie is in prison at least, right?  

Well the other day I heard Bernie Madoff was quoted as saying he is pretty happy in prison.  Yes, he is relieved that he has put locked up and doesn't have to worry night and day about his whole ponzi scheme falling apart, about being discovered. His nightmare was over and he didn't have to live a lie anymore.  In fact, he says he has never been happier in the last twenty years than he is now!  That's what irks me.  His actions financially devastated countless people who put their trust in him and his own son took his life and this "man" has never been happier???  I'm sure his victims loved hearing that even more than I did.  

And while he has been in prison, life hasn't been so bad for Bernie.  He has been welcomed by inmates as a celebrity/hero for his accomplishments.  Some of them even seeking his advice.  It's unbelievable and all ironic.  I hear that tonight, on 60 Minutes, his wife Ruth will be interviewed.  Not sure if I will watch it or not.  I don't believe she was innocent of what was going on all these years. I think she could have cooperated more in helping authorities to get back some of the money investors lost.  I find her revelation unbelievable that when he was arrested, she and Bernie took sleeping pills in a suicide pack and then woke up the next day.  If she was so innocent, why would she feel the need to kill herself? This was right in the beginning before a lot of the information was public knowledge.  

Even though he is in jail paying for his crime, I am not happy that Bernie is happy. He should not be happy.  He could never live long enough to pay for his crimes. So what that he got 150 years?  If he could serve the whole 150 I might be happy, but it's impossible.  He should at least keep his mouth shut and say nothing, because this is just adding salt to the wounds of those who lost everything they worked for.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sick Of Being Sick

On Monday I came down with this bug.  It came with fever, chills, aches and pains and a nice dry cough.  Not only was it a dry cough, but a incessant, persistent cough.  That was the worst part.  Tylenol took care of the rest, but nothing took care of the cough.  By Friday I was fed up and knew this wasn’t going to get any better so, after a week of laying in bed,  I went to the doctor.  He tells me it’s a bacterial infection and gives me a super antibiotic, three pills in three days, I should feel better.  Now I want to kick myself for not going sooner.  If it had been anyone else in my family who was this sick I would have dragged them to the doctor on Tuesday, but because it was just me, I waited.  Big mistake.

As I laid in bed all week I had time to think and feel sorry for myself.  My mother would have hovered over me, gotten me my pills, made me something to eat, took my temperature…what did I get all week…“Do you need anything?” from all three of my former patients. Granted they all have jobs and school to go to, so they weren’t home all day, but even when they were home they weren’t very helpful.  First of all, I was coughing a lot so that every time I tried to say a sentence it was totally exhausting, as it would active the cough. My husband is an angel and would do anything I ask, problem is, I wasn’t able to much asking.  I dragged myself around all day, after the Tylenol kicked in, made myself a piece of toast for breakfast with some coffee so I wouldn’t get a caffeine headache.  I haven’t had much to eat all week to be honest.  And I wondered, where have these three “patients” of mine been for the last 27 years that they have not learned one thing about how to take care of a sick family member?

I am my mother’s daughter.  At the first sign of illness I am on Medic Alert!  Start the medicines, get some rest, monitor temperature.  I set up a “hospital” bed on the couch.  Pillows, blankets, remote control, tissues, trash bag, bottled water all readily available. The thermometer is handy and not used sparingly.  If there is a fever I make an appointment for the doctor the next day.  Fever almost always requires antibiotics and I like to nip things in the bud.  Meanwhile, while I keep track of the pills and bring the Tylenol on schedule, no one has to move an inch unless they have to go to the bathroom.  When the fever comes down I am thinking of things they can eat and preparing them something to eat.  Straighten out their pillows and blankets while they are up so they will be comfortable when they lie down again.  But, what about me?  

As I sit here coughing, my body in pain from strained muscles and trying not to crack a rib because I learned I have osteoporosis not long ago, I know how I want to answer that question: Do you need anything?  Yes, I do need something.  I need a mother.  A mother never asks if you need anything, she just knows what you need, even when you don’t.  A mother who doesn’t care if you don’t like tea, she will make you drink it.  A mother who can’t wait for the Tylenol to work and puts cold compresses on your fevered forehead.  A mother whose lips to the forehead can instantaneously pick up on a fever, faster than any thermometer.  A mother whose ears can hear the subtle change in your voice 24 hours before you show any cold symptoms.  A mother who knows how to intuitively take care of her family, but not herself.  That’s what I need.

Thinking back, my mother never got sick much.  That’s a good thing too.  I don’t remember being much help to her when she was sick.  But somehow she taught me all the right things to do to take care of my family and get them back to health as soon as possible.  She just didn’t teach me how to take care of myself.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why I Don’t Like My Brother In-Law, Frank…

Frank is a nice enough guy.  He is college educated and calls himself an engineer (of some kind).  He works for the government and don’t ask on what, because he always says it’s top secret.  Frank left home, after he graduated college, and moved to Maryland so he could work in Washington D. C.  While his parents were still alive, up until 8 years ago, he would come visit maybe twice year.  He came at Thanksgiving and one other time.  Of course we had to go too because these were the only times my in-laws could see their three boys altogether, I would never deprived them of that.  

Frank married a woman much older than he was, who already raised a family, because she pressured him into it.  The reason was that my husband and I were getting married and she felt they also needed to tie the knot.  Frank had no backbone and gave in.  It was doomed from the start, but Frank has no common sense, which is why I never could warm up to him.  These are some of the stupid things he has said:

Once, we were bringing out a case of wine out to my mother in-law.  It was her favorite wine and she had trouble finding it.  Frank asked where we were going to put it to bring it out there (60 minutes from our house).  My husband told him the trunk of the car.  That set Frank off!  You would have thought we were transporting nuclear material.  He tells us, and he is dead serious, that wine is alcohol and it could put the car on fire!  We could not talk him out of his logic nor explain to him that truckloads of alcohol are transported every day all over the country.  

Frank always considered himself “Mr. Fix-it,” but he was far from it.  On one visit to his parents house, with all of us there, he decides to fix the chandelier over the dining room table. He had brought his tools from home.  I moved myself and the girls as far away as possible as soon as he took out the ladder.  He had no clue what he was doing, it was that obvious.  After a few minutes of puttering up there, we had no light.  No light in the whole apartment!  At least the chandelier didn’t fall on our heads.  He put everything back the way it was so we could have Thanksgiving dinner.

At my mother in-law’s funeral, we went out to dinner between visiting hours.  My husband’s friend, John, was coming later.  It came out in the discussion that John, who was separated from his wife, had a girlfriend and a daughter with that girlfriend.  Mine you this isn’t a hard concept to grasp, except for Frank.  He asked, “How can he have a daughter when he is married to Stella?”  My husband said, “Because he has a girlfriend.” Frank replies “Yeah, but he is married to Stella, how can he have a baby.”  By this time my teenage girls were laughing so hard they were crying.  They found it hilarious that this grown man could not put two and two together!

We went back to the funeral home and sat with the rest of my mother in-law’s family. There was some normal conversation going on, until Frank opened his mouth.  Thanksgiving was a week away and Frank blurts out his mother was always thoughtful and considerate.  “She even died the week before Thanksgiving so we could enjoy the holiday.”  I think that stupid statement was the last straw for me.  

I’m sure there were a few more examples of his stupidity, but I have a head cold or something like it, and it’s preventing me from recalling too much.  Maybe that is for the best.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rose, The Cleaning Lady

Note: This is one of my favorite blogs, it was a memory buried from my very early childhood.

Before I get into my memories about Rose, there was some discussion yesterday on my Facebook page regarding yesterday’s blog.  I made a statement that the show Russian Dolls “taught” me that Russians were: materialistic, rude, obnoxious, self-centered etc based on what I saw on the 12 episodes and the writer’s own words stating that the show was designed to show us real Russians and their culture.  Maybe “taught” wasn’t the best choice of words.  However, that is how they were consistently portrayed and I have been following some of the cast on twitter and facebook as well, where they continue the exhibit the same negative attributes I described.  That does not mean that I believe all Russians are that way, nor should anyone, based on a reality television show that has an agenda.  But these cast members and the writers would have viewers believe these behaviors are typical of Russians.  Why Russian writers would want to expose us to all the negative, stereotypical aspects of their ethnic group baffles me.  I have, however, had the pleasure to converse with many readers of my blog, who are Russian or of Russian decent, and they are not only very interesting, but have contributed greatly to the discussion of what we see on the show and how inaccurate the portrayals are. I have, in fact, learned a lot from many of them.  

Back to Rose.  All of the discussion caused me to wonder why, living in New York City, the largest city in the world, I cannot think of anyone I know who is Russian or of Russian decent.  It bothered me that all I knew about Russians came from a ridiculous show and the comments from readers (virtually 90% enjoyed and agreed with my blogs, which weren’t always so kind).  I kept thinking, I must have known someone in my lifetime who was Russian.  And then I remembered Rose, the cleaning lady.

My grandmother had purchased a six family house in 1920’s in Brooklyn.  She wanted a place to raise her seven children.  When my grandmother died in 1957, she left the house to the three youngest children who helped her pay off the mortgage and renovate the house.  My mother was one on those three children.  She “managed” the property by paying the bills, collecting the rent, and taking care of repairs.  She hired Rose to clean the hall once a week, every Tuesday morning.  Rose was Russian.  She was a big woman, heavyset. She wore a scarf over her head and a coat.  Rose always worked very hard without saying a word.  She had a set routine, I still remember it today.

I used to watch Rose do her job because I wasn’t in school yet.  People fascinated me, even at a very early age.  And although I paid very close attention to Rose, without getting in her way, she never said a word to me, nor I to her.  The six family house was three stories and with six families going in and out, there was a lot of work involved in cleaning it.  When she arrived she took off her scarf and coat and left them on my mother’s kitchen chair.  Then she would start working.  First she would take out all her cleaning supplies. Then she would roll up the carpet runners on each floor and take them outside to clean.  While they were airing, she would mop every floor and washed the steps on her hands and knees.  She polished the wood banister and paneling.  She polished the brass doorknobs and mailbox.  By then the floors had dried, and she brought all the carpet runners back inside and laid them down.  She did this all in half a day. The hall was always spotless when she finished. When she was done she would knock on my mother’s door.  She would put on her scarf and coat, that he laid on the chair that morning.  Her money was right there on the kitchen table.  My mother always had her money ready, plus a few extra dollars and thanked for coming and said see you next week.  She didn’t get paid much, maybe $15, if my memory serves me right.  And then Rose would leave for her next job.

There was never any conversation between my mother and Rose either, none that I can recall. Except for one time and even now, as I think about it, my eyes are filling with tears.  One day, when Rose was all finished with her work and came to collect her money, she started talking to my mother.  I never knew anything about Rose or her life, but now she was talking about her daughter and showing my mother her picture.  I could see how proud and happy she was as she told my mother about her daughter graduating college. She was practically bursting from joy.  This woman, who I had watched clean our hall week in and week out, for years, had a daughter that she put through college with money she had earned working on her hands and knees.  Her hands often red from the harsh detergent.  And now she was able to see the fruits of her labor.  She was an immigrant and her daughter had graduated college.  My mother was so happy for her and they chatted a while about Rose’s happy news before she had to leave for her next job.  It was touching to see, and even at my young age, and I did have some understanding and appreciation of the sacrifices she made as a mother, for the sake of her daughter.  Her daughter would have a better life and never have to clean anything on her hands and knees for anyone.  

Rose is the only Russian I have ever really known.  A very hard working immigrant, who came to this country so her daughter would have a better life and an education.  No job was beneath her and no sacrifice too big, for her as a mother.  And you know, when Rose’s daughter got a job, Rose was able to retire as a cleaning woman.  One day she came by and she was dressed differently.  She wasn’t wearing her usual cleaning clothes, but a nice outfit.  She came to see my mother and to thank her for using her services.  Then she explained how she wasn’t going to be cleaning any more.  They gave each other a hug and Rose went on her way.  I never saw her again, but she left an everlasting memory in my heart.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ethnic/Religious Reality TV Shows

Normally, I would have never started a blog to cover a show called Russian Dolls, but I had my reasons.  The intention was to bring traffic over to my daughter’s blog.  The show was promoted as the next Jersey Shore and we figured it would appeal to a younger audience.  Well, Lifetime really botched up everything about the show and suffice to say that it did not finish airing the whole 12 shows in it’s time slot; but after 7 shows they decided to run a marathon of the rest of them one morning to get rid of them all at once.  Then they had an epiphany and decided to rerun the series on their sister network, Lifetime Real Women.  I was all set to finish out my run and let the blog drift out into cyberspace for future generations to find and “enjoy.”  

But yesterday I discovered that a new show on TLC, called All Ameircan Muslim, would be premiering in November.  Vat to do? (the Russian influence lingers)  As I read about the 5 families and watched the sneak peek of the pilot, it sounded interesting.  Of course I am basing this on my experience with Russian Dolls, a show so badly done in every aspect that any show would be a breath of fresh air.  Now I have already written a couple of blogs on the new show based on the information that TLC is putting out there.  They must be expecting it to be controversial because they only filmed 8 episodes and probably don’t know if it will be well received or not.  

I am going to give it a try.  I want to learn more about this community of Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan and their traditions and lifestyles.  I’ll blog about what I find out and see where it gets me.  I’ll tell you what Russian Dolls taught me about the Russians, they are: materialistic to the max, they are superficial, obnoxious, self-centered, egotistical, overbearing, rude, and a few more things.  That is the way the show portrayed them so they cannot blame me for that assessment.  I started the blog on a very positive note, their behavior, poorly written “scripts” and attitudes changed my blog over to a negative and critical one.  Right from the beginning, there was very little positive to write about, hard as I tried.  And to be perfectly honest, I enjoyed finding things to complain about!  It became fun.

Now I would like to compare that show to this new show, just to see what there is to learn about the Muslim way of life and the people.  I admit I have never known many Muslims in my lifetime, but I recall one woman who was a student in my French class who was extremely nice.  So we will see where this leads.  And Ryan Seacrest is producing a new show called the Shahs of Sunset, which should premiere in the near future.  Meanwhile the Russian Dolls blog can live on as an ethno-religious reality blog until I get tired of it.

I only wish I had signed on for Jersey Shore in the beginning, they were the ground breakers, and Italians were on the chopping block!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Worst Mothers Of The Year!

I don’t think I will remember them all, but there are quite a few out there and I am sure you can add to my list.  Here we go, in no particular order, because I don’t want to fry my brain but dwelling too much on these women, who obviously lack maternal instinct, a conscience, and the ability to love even their own children.

No list of evil mothers would be complete without Casey Anthony.  We all know the sordid details of the lies she has told for years to cover her tracks in the murder of her baby, Caylee.  Lying to her parents, to authorities, sending police on a wild goose chase and grabbing the country’s attention as people prayed for and looked for her baby while she partied.  The evidence against her was overwhelming, in my opinion, and yet the worst travesty of justice happened and she was found not guilty.   I compare her to Susan Smith, who drowned her two little boys in her car and listened as they called out “mommy” until it went down.  Both of these women did not have to kill these babies.  There were people who loved them, family who would raise them; did that even occur to them.  How sick does a person have to be to kill their own baby?

Next on my list is Alexandra Harrelson of the Dr. Phil family.  Following her story is nauseating to say the least.  This woman, who had her first baby, Nathan, at 15, has gone on to have two more babies that she cannot take care of, leaving her parents to raise all three.  In the last three years she has managed to develop a drug addiction.  It’s probably longer than that.  But, due to her selfish need to put drugs ahead of everything else, even though help was offered to her several time and declined, she allowed her third baby to be born addicted to drugs and suffer the pains of withdrawal and other health complications.  Now she is with a fourth man, a real prize package, who has been in prison for domestic abuse and is much older than she is (24/35).  He is also the cousin of her former “man,” Tony, who was also a loser.  Her mother Erin was right about him, but Alex fought her every step of the way.  It would not surprise me if she had a fourth baby by this man and dumped it on her parents.  The best predictor of future behavior is past behaior says the good doctor.

Dina Lohan is no exception to the list.  In fact she is the one who prompted me to write this blog today. When I see the mess that Lindsay Lohan has become, and as much as I do not like that she has thrown away her career, her health and maybe one day her life, I still feel a lot of the credit for her mistakes goes to Dina Lohan.  Dina is really the one who introduced a very young Lindsay into show business in the first place, being both mother and manager of her daughter.  Then I read that they went “partying” together in the fats lane.  Lindsay never had a stable childhood or two responsible parents.  Even now, she is addicted to drugs and isn’t in her right mind.  Who knows what damage she has suffered, but we have seen her teeth, yellow and decayed, and there is a reason for that.  Now, I read that Dina is writing a tell all book about Linsday’s deep dark secrets.  Anything for a “buck.”  Dina herself may also be an addict, I am not going to research to confirm this, this whole family needs life long therapy.  Meanwhile, Dina is also screwing up her daughter Ashley, who may have an eating disorder, but is going into modeling with Dina as her manager.  Don’t forget Dina has a son and he cannot be left out, as she tries to raise 5 million dollars to make a movie with him in it.  Why couldn’t she just have been a mother to her three kids?  That was all they ever needed.

And what about little Lisa Irwin’s mother, Deborah Bradley?  The ten month old has been missing since October 4th, when the parents claimed someone snuck into their house and took the baby and their cell phones.  The mother failed a lie detector test and that’s when more of the truth came out.  Apparently she said she had last see the baby at something like 10:30 PM, but changed it to 6:30 PM after the lie detector indicated she was being deceptive.  So she adds that she had gone out to get a bottle of wine and was drunk that night, that‘s why she failed the lie detector.  Now police dogs were brought in that were trained to detect the scent of deceased humans and the dogs indicated there was such a scent near the bed of the mother.  Would anyone really be surprised if she did something to that baby?  Let’s just pray they find that baby soon and she is safe and unharmed.

The maternal instinct is so strong in all animals, not just human beings.  It just boggles my mind that any mother would want anything, but the best for their children.  Protecting them from harm, nurturing them, making sure they are happy and healthy and loved, that’s what mother’s do.  But not these mothers.  Some people should not have children, or if they do, they should put them up for adoption and let people who are capable of loving and caring for them have them. There are so many women who are not able to have children, who deserve to. There are too many who can have children, who don’t deserve to be mothers.  Just because one is biologically able to have a child, it doesn’t make you a mother. Just because you can’t have a child, doesn’t mean one wouldn’t be the best mother in the world.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tattoo Barbie!

tokidoki Barbie with tattoos

Yesterday, while I was making dinner, I was listening to the news as usual, when I heard about a controversy involving Barbie.  Yes, Barbie.  As though we don’t have enough real news for them to cover, the media decided to make Barbie a controversy.  The controversy is over tokidoki Barbie, one who has tattoos on her chest and neck, her body and pink hair…a funky fashionista.  

Of course, I got upset too.  As the media interviewed parents about what they thought, I was getting more and more agitated.  I have two girls and they started asking for Barbies at the ages of three and four years old.  I have dozens of Barbies still.  Every week a new Barbie would emerge from Mattel and promptly hit Saturday morning cartoon commercials.  Within seconds they would run up to me asking for the “new” Barbie.  I would say, but you have so many already.  They would answer yes, but this Barbie is “cool.”  I even had to start buying them two at a time so they would have to share the latest Barbie.  So I am upset with Mattel for creating this inappropriate, over sexualized, tattooed Barbie for children to play with.  It was a terrible idea!  

And, as I am banging pots, and yelling at the television, the truth comes out!  Mattel did not make this version of Barbie as a “toy” for children, but as a collector’s item for adults.  It sells for $50 and was never meant to be promoted to children.  The news media took it upon themselves to make it appear that was the case and that Mattel was going to corrupt all little girls into thinking tattoos all over you neck and chest was cool.  That was never their intention at all.  So they got me upset for nothing!

It may sound ridiculous that I would get upset over a doll, but our children are already getting so many negative messages and this comes when they are at a vulnerable age.  I remember when Mattel put out a line of professional Barbies: the school teacher, the doctor, the veterinarian etc and we got them all and dozens of others.  But, really now, if they decide to promote this one to kids they are going to setback their reputation.  As it is, kids are growing up too fast we don’t need toys that help speed up the process and put ideas in their heads.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

X Factor

I started watching the American version of X Factor about 3 or 4 weeks ago.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it or not, but I have always been a big American Idol fan, so I gave it a shot.  In fact, two judges from American Idol are on it, so it’s almost like getting a second season of the show.

I have to say that there are some remarkably talented singers competing.  They have had to turn away so many.  Last night they had to get rid of 16 competitors and shrink the group down to 16 for the live show.  Each judge had a group of 8 (boys, girls, over 30’s and groups) and by the end of the night they could only bring four with them.  It was tough.  Did I agree with all their decisions?  No, I did not.  Even Simon realized, an hour after he delivered the news of who was staying and who was going to the girls, that he had made a serious error.  He allowed one very talented singer to go home and he was upset about it.  After talking to the other judges, he decided to fly to that girl’s home, in Florida, and ask her back to the competition.  Of course she was elated and I’m glad he did the right thing.

Now the competition really starts.  Each judge will be working with their specific groups, mentoring them and hoping that the next superstar will come out of their group.  It’s not to late to start watching the show because this is when they all have to “bring it” to stay in and win 5 million dollars!  It looks to be very exciting.  I am looking forward to it.  Simon seems to have softened up too…just a little.

I don’t have any favorites yet, but I’m sure that very soon I will be favoring a few.  There is a variety of talent.  Give it a try if it doesn’t conflict with your other shows.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Is The World Coming To?

Catching up on the news this morning I saw something so incredibly horrifying that I am still sitting here in utter disbelief.  I debated if I should write about it, but I don’t know how to put it aside and go on with my day without saying anything.  I know so many bad things happen in this world on a daily basis.  We have all seen and heard things that we cannot understand. We are supposed to be civilized human beings, but the actions of some are subhuman because they are missing feelings, compassion, decency…if I am rambling you will soon know why.  If you don’t want to know the details of this horrific case please move on.

This morning I saw an article, “Two year old toddler gets run over twice. Warning, graphic video.”  I felt compelled to watch it, especially when the article below the video explains that 12 people, yes I said 12 people, walked by her lifeless body and did absolutely nothing.  This happened on the streets of China.

The baby was standing in the street distracted.  She had no way of knowing she was standing in harms way.  A van approaches and can clearly see her on the road.  The driver runs right over her with his front wheels, pauses for a second or two, then continues on his way with his back wheels going over her body.  About three people walk down the street and see the child laying their, but do not stop or call for help, they just continue walking.  Another truck comes down the road.  The driver runs over the baby as though she was a piece of trash.  Nine more people pass by the lifeless body and do nothing.  Finally, a women, who comes out of a store to throw out some trash, sees the baby’s body. She pulls her to the side and calls for help.  The child’s mother comes out and picks her up and takes her to the hospital.  The baby, Yeuyue, is alive, but on a ventilator and not expected to live.

I don’t know when I have heard of a more depraved case of indifference for human life than this one.  It is making me sick.  I will not post the video, but I will post the link for anyone who wants to see it.  What the hell is this world coming to?

Horrific video

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jamal, Gone But Not Forgotten

About seven years ago my mother entered the nursing home.  At first it was just for rehab from a fall she had taken.  The hospital sent her there when they couldn’t do anything else for her.  She was there for weeks.  My brother and our family would go visit her on Sunday afternoons all together.  But, before we went to see her every week, we all went to have dinner at TGIF.  And one day we met Jamal, our server.

From the day we met him, Jamal always made sure we were seated at his table every week.  He was funny, friendly and pleasant.  He was gay.  He took damn good care of us.  He brought us extra of everything.  Why would anyone want another server?  Every time I left there I was full and happy.  One day we walked in and asked to be seated in his section.  The host told us all his tables were full…no surprise.  We were disappointed.  But Jamal got wind of it and asked another server if he could seat us at his station and serve us.  I guess they had swapped tables to accommodate us.  We looked forward to eating there every week.  He even would tell us if he had the next Sunday off so we wouldn’t be disappointed.  He was so entertaining and good at his job that we always left him an extra big tip.  

But, for one reason or another, we didn’t go to TGIF for maybe 3 or 4 weeks.  Maybe it was the weather or some other reason.  A lot was going on at the time in our family.  Then, one Sunday, things had gotten back to normal and we decided to go back to having dinner at TGIF.  We parked and walked into the door as usual and were greeted by the host.  I didn’t see Jamal around and figured he was in the kitchen picking up orders, so I asked the host if we could be seated at Jamal’s table.  There was a dreaded look that came on her face and she told us to wait a minute.  She went to whisper in a couple of people’s ears and after several minutes she came back with the manager.  The manager told us that Jamal has passed away just a couple of days ago and they didn’t know what happened to him.  He said he was sorry.  My heart sunk in my chest, he was only 20 years old, what could have happened to him?  I never found out.  We stayed and had our dinner, but it wasn’t the same.  The mood was somber, my appetite was gone.  We finished and left and never went back.

I still think about Jamal whenever we pass a TGIF’s or even eat in a similar type restaurant like Chilis or Applebees.  He had a sweet soul and loved people and left this world too soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jack and Lorraine

When we first bought this house in 1988, Jack and Lorraine were our next door neighbors. They were a retired couple who had raised 5 children in our neighborhood. Now that they were retired, they had developed a pretty solid routine for themselves.

They did their fair share of traveling, and we always picked up their mail when they were gone. They returned the favor whenever we took our vacations. They were always friendly and helpful and yet we managed not to get too “close,” probably because of the age difference. We already had two sets of parents and really didn’t need a third.

Every summer they would get the pool ready for Memorial Day weekend. They had a four foot high, above ground, round pool. Every morning Jack would test the chemicals, add what was needed, run the filter and skim off the debris that the wind blew in overnight. By the afternoon, when the sun was at it’s peak, they would take a couple of quick dips in the pool. When they were done, they had their own little “happy hour” with cocktails. Then Jack would start up the grill to barbeque dinner. Lorraine was his “helper.” Lorraine brought out the meat and marinade. Jack would put it on the grill. Then there would be a series of “Lorraine, get me a fork.” Five minutes later, “Lorraine can you get me a knife.” “Lorraine, I need a plate.” “Lorraine, bring me the vegetables.” All the while Lorraine never complained, she just kept going in and out of the house bringing Jack whatever he needed. And when they were ready to sit down on their little deck and eat, he took all the credit for the meal. This went on night after night as long as the weather was good. If I had a dollar for every time Jack yelled out Lorraine’s name we could have paid off our mortgage in 5 years.

At the same time I envied them. They seem to have lived a full life, raised a large family, and were enjoying their retirement. It’s as it should be. Except for one thing; their children, all five of them, hardly ever managed to come over to visit. I only recall seeing them when it was Jack or Lorraine’s birthday, maybe Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, if I remember correctly, they all lived a relatively short distance away. I thought that was a shame. I went to see my parents every Sunday afternoon and we had dinner with them. Every other Saturday we spent the day with my in-laws. I wanted my children to know their grandparents. And they were the only grandchildren on both sides too. My girls were little angels and senior citizen friendly. They didn’t mess up anyone’s house, throw tantrums, run or scream. We always had very pleasant visits for many years. But Jack and Lorraine rarely got to see their children or their grandchildren and that bothered me. If it bothered them, they never said so.

Jack died a couple of years ago and Lorraine moved into a little condo nearby. I think of her being alone now. I’m not sure if her children visit her or not. I think probably not. I never saw a lot of affection in their family. Lorraine must be about 80 years old, if not older. After raising a houseful of kids and catering to her husband, who is going to be there for her at the end of her days? That’s not how it should be.

My mother had an old Italian saying that seems to fit. Translated it said: “Two parents can take care of 100 children, but 100 children cannot take care of two parents.” Something to think about.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Natural Wrinkle Removers

Botox isn't for everyone, and it's not for me. I don't like any cosmetic procedures at all unless they are to correct some kind of real issue like scarring or a huge nose.  So I was surprised to come across a natural way of getting rid of wrinkles by doing facial exercises or facial yoga.  The premise is, the more times you make a certain facial expression certain lines will form in the face, like creasing a piece of paper over and over int he same spot.  We lose collagen in those areas.  It makes perfect sense, as the author of the article I read says, "At some point during your childhood, your mom or grandmother or another fed-up adult probably said to you, 'Quit making that expression or your face will freeze like that!”'  Well it actually does after you get to your thirties and begin to lose elasticity.

Still, I was prepared to grow old gracefull with all my wrinkles, representing my battle scars in life, until I read this article and watched the video below.  What they say actually makes sense and can't hurt.  The best part is you can do it at home at no cost to you so you have nothing to lose. 

Of course the first place to start is eating healthy (I have to get back to that), drinking lots of water (I need to get back to that), using sunscreen and skin care products.  But aside from those things there are others you can do if you are determined to erase those lines.  The link to author, Stephanie Huszar's article is below.  Stephanie made a conscious effort not to make the "faces" that created the lines she didn't want.  Most of those include the angry frown lines so she choses to laugh rather than frown. She wears sunglasses outdoors to avoid squinting and if you find yourself squiting when reading go get glasses! 

Soon she found that the extra smiling changed her attitude into a more positive one and she felt better overall.  Plus, she says, no one ever looked worse from a few laugh lines!

Now under this helpful article was a video, below, that shows facial yoga techniques you can use to actually tighten facial muscles and rebuild some of the collagen that has been lost in your face.  Doing these regularly, for three to four weeks, is supposed to give you noticable results.  It just takes a few minutes a day, but they must be done regularly. 

Now everyone knows I am a cynical skeptic, but from what I read and saw in the article and video, it makes logical sense so I am sharing it with everyone.  I wish people would stop with all the botox and implants and unnatural ways of achieving beauty and try some of these techniques instead.  If not we are all going to end up looking like aliens from another planet.

Stephanie's Article: Self inflicted Botox

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lindsay Lohan Fired From Community Service?!?

What a surprise! Lindsay Lohan has made the news again, and not in a good way. All her tearful, apologetic words to her judges, time and time again, seem to pull at their heart strings and they give her no jail time. Instead, they give her community service, which she always has an excuse for not doing. Here is the latest news and then I will go take two excedrins because my head is exploding.

Apparently, Lindsay has been kicked out of her community service program for violating the rules numerous times. Last time she bulldozed the judge with her “sincere regrets and promise of change,” she was sentenced to serve 360 hours at the Downtown Women’s Center in LA, in lieu of going to jail for shoplifting. The sentenced required that Lindsay serve at least 4 hours at a time, and be reliable and non-disruptive.

But in true Lindsay fashion, she blew off nine visits to the center and the times she did show up she would leave after serving just one hour. Now she has been rescheduled to work at the Red Cross. She is due back in court next week to assess her progress which is basically none. The judge made is clear that if Lindsay “messed up” again she was going to jail. I will believe that when I see it!

Meanwhile, someone got a nice close up of Lindsay’s teeth, which are stained and appear to be decaying. There was no comment from her team of publicists about that. I have my own thoughts on it. It’s a real shame that someone so young and full of potential, with huge opportunities before her, is choosing to risk losing everything: her lifestyle, her career, even her freedom. Oh well, another train wreck that might make for a good Dr. Phil show in a year from now, but it will have to be during sweeps months (Nov. Feb. or May).

Now where are the damn excedrins, this is headache #1058!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Conrad Murray Defense Changes Theory!

I have heard plenty about the case on the news. The other day, as I suspected, they had medical professionals take the stand to testify. That is the only way we are going to know exactly how culpable Dr. Murray was in Michael Jackson’s death. One doctor was emphatic and stated there were six clear cut cases of gross negligence involved. The last being that he did not call 911 immediately when he discovered that Michael was unconscious. The doctor seemed to feel that if 911 had been called immediately Michael would still be alive. That is pretty damning in itself because even four year olds have been known to call 911 and save people. A five minute delay in calling can mean the difference between life and death. According to Murray himself, he waited 20 minutes to call.

Now, the medical evidence shows that Michael Jackson could NOT have taken the additional drugs himself, as the defense has been claiming for over a year. At least, they say he could not have swallowed the drug. That was the defense’s case in a nutshell and it was blown away. So they needed a new defense and they needed it fast. They had to withdraw their claim that Michael orally ingested the drug because if he had it would not have been digested and absorbed into the body fast enough to kill him. I have no idea what new direction they will go in, but for me there is nothing they could say that is going to take away all the documented evidence and admissions and cover-ups that have come out. The man is guilty. There is nothing more to say. There is no defense theory that can be good enough to counter the prosecution’s facts.

Frankly, I think the punishment of losing his license and four years in prison is just not enough. He will never serve four years and even if he did, it would not be enough. He knew what he was doing every step of the way and he failed in giving Michael the best possible medical care. He took an oath to first do no harm, but harm was all he did.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Miscarriage…

I don’t know why I am thinking about this now. Maybe it’s because if I had not miscarried in March of 1986, I would have been celebrating a birthday about now. Yes it was 25 years ago, but I’ve never forgotten about it.

I have blogged before about how I always knew I wanted to be a mother and couldn’t wait for my time to come. My husband and I enjoyed the first couple of years together before we decided we were ready to be parents. We were already in our early thirties and it seemed like the right time. I found out I was pregnant in the beginning of march, 1986. I was overwhelmed with unbelievable joy. We told everyone. But, our joy was very short lived. One week later I started spotting and lost the baby. I was devastated and felt a tremendous loss. And then we had to tell everyone too. So there were lots of words of to try to comfort me, none of which worked for me.

Telling me that there was probably something wrong with the baby and it was nature’s way of taking care of it, didn’t work. Telling me I could try again soon, didn’t work. What if this was going to happen every time we tried? That’s what haunted me. And the loss, it felt like nothing I had ever felt before. I was surprised myself because I had only known I had been pregnant a week. But in a week’s time I went from my highest high, to my lowest low. Sometimes life is a roller coaster ride of emotions. I took a few days off from work while my body healed and my emotions weren’t so raw.

When I got back out in the real world, and for the next few months, it seemed like everyone was pregnant. Every pregnant woman stood out like a sore thumb. I couldn’t help, but be envious, it should have been me. One of our closest friends became pregnant soon after I miscarried. It was so hard to be happy for her and not feel bad for myself at the same time. I guess those emotions are normal, but they didn’t feel good. The doctor said we could start trying again after three months and we did.

I was scared the same thing would happen again, but I soon found out I was pregnant again in August, 1986 and the baby was due in April. I thought to myself, maybe I lost the other baby so that this baby could be born? It was crazy thinking, like I was trying to rationalize the loss somehow and make it okay. I was so afraid the first three months of my pregnancy that a lot of the joy I felt the first time I didn’t allow myself to have for fear something would happen. But, the one thing I noticed immediately was, all food tasted delicious. My sense of taste was so different. I went from a person who didn’t care about eating, to caring about it all the time and loving it. I gained 4 to 5 pounds a month and I was never full. But the oddest thing about this second pregnancy was, that instead of getting morning sickness I got happy. My sense of humor, like my sense of taste, was out of control. I found everything funny. So when I allowed myself to stop worrying, I was laughing all the time. It felt so good. And in April, 1987, I gave birth to a tiny baby girl, weighing in at 7 pounds, and kept the remaining 25 pounds as a souvenir. My appetite went back to normal and I was able to shed those extra pounds in a few months.

Ever since that day in April, I think I would not have my baby girl had it not been for that miscarriage the year before, and I would not give her up for anything in the world. It’s funny how life works, sometimes something precious is taken away and other times something precious is given. And, as much as I would have appreciated and loved the baby I lost, my love and appreciation for the baby girl I had was so much greater because of the experience.  And to that little soul in heaven, Happy 25th Birthday to you, you have been thought about and loved every day.

They say when one door closes another opens. Those people are the optimists, but maybe, just maybe, they know what they are talking about sometimes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

American Horror Story on FX

A new series started on FX called, American Horror Story and my daughters were going to watch it on demand yesterday, so I joined in. There are three reason why I wanted to watch it: first, to spend some time with the girls sharing a mutual interest, second because I always loved the horror genre and third because I saw that Dylan McDermott was starring in. It’s a far cry from the Practice and he looks a little older, but so what, don’t we all?

We sit down to watch and it starts off like all the horror movies we have ever seen. They pull out all the stops on horror gimmicks, but that doesn’t dissuade me from watching. Even my older daughter, who dislikes horror movies, kept getting pulled back in. You can watch the first episode on demand and the second one airs Wednesdays at 10 PM. Now I am going to write about the storyline, so stop here if you intend to watch.

It opens in 1978, in front of a run down, haunted type house, covered with ivy. Outside there is a little girl who just stands there looking at it. Two boys, homely looking 13/14 year old twins with bats in their hands, are about to enter the house and do some serious damage. The little girls says, “If you go in there you will die.” One of the boys yells at her menacingly and they go on and enter the house, smashing lights, windows and anything that will break. The go down to the basement (big mistake) and see a dead possum oozing blood (this is where I scream at my younger daughter who already watched it and gave me no warning). There are jars all around the basement containing things like little baby body parts and one a whole fetus. One of the evil twins smashes the jar with the baby on the cement floor and releases a “demon” who slits his throat. When the other twin realizes his brother is missing he returns down the steps the get his throat cut.

Fast forward to 2011. Dylan is a married psychiatrist and professor with a teenage daughter. One day Dylan’s pregnant wife comes up unexpectedly to catch him in their bedroom, having sex with a student. She is pissed and miscarries. They remain together, but she cannot have sex with him leaving poor Dylan quite frustrated. In order to start over, they decide to move away. The haunted house described above has been remodeled and in for sale at 25% the cost of the other houses in the area. Full disclosure laws compel the real estate agent to tell them that the previous owners died in the house, a murder/suicide. That doesn’t dissuade them from purchasing the house (otherwise we would have no show). They quickly move in and get settled. Their first uninvited visitor is the little girl who warned the boys about the house. Her mother, played by Jessica Lange, claims they live next door and her daughter is infatuated with the house. Jessica also pops in uninvited and makes herself comfortable, while she relays some of her past the Dylan’s wife.

Dylan, meanwhile, is treating a very strange teenage boy who is quite likely a psychopath. The boy wanders around the house after his session with Dylan and makes friends with Dylan’s daughter. Dylan’s daughter is a “cutter” and uses her dad’s razor blades to slash her arm. The boy sees her and says she needs to slice vertically if she wants to kill herself because that can’t be stitched up. (Isn’t that great information to pass along to millions of depressed teenagers?) The two become fast friends. Dylan’s daughter is being ganged up on at school for smoking. The psycho boy tells her to invite the ringleader over her house telling her she has drugs she sells. The ruse works and the next day the bully from school shows up. She is lead to the basement where psycho boy awaits and scares the life out of her and Dylan’s daughter. When Dylan’s daughter tells him to leave and never come back, he is royally pissed! (I suspect he is dead as are the young girl, Jessica Lange and other characters who haunt the house).

Meanwhile, the old housekeeper, who says she has been taking care of the house for years and under many owners, shows up asking for a job. At first Dylan’s wife isn’t inclined to hire her, but eventually thinks it would be a good idea to have some help. Dylan walks into the kitchen and is introduced to the “housekeeper.” While the wife sees a woman who is about sixty or so, Dylan sees a seductive, hot red head, in her 20’s. He is shocked that his wife wants to hire her considering that he cheated on her with a younger woman, but he is all for it.

Dylan seems to have developed a habit of walking in his sleep, naked. If you would like to see Dylan from the back, completely naked, several times, tune in. He is in shape. It may be the only redeeming aspect of the show, depending on how much you like cheesy horror. One day Dylan hears his wife scream up in the attic. He runs up and sees her looking at a suit of armor. Later that day they make mad, passionate love and it seems all is forgiven. At bedtime, Dylan’s wife sees a man in a suit of armor standing at the bedroom door. She assumes it’s Dylan (I don’t) and thinks he wants another round of kinky sex. She succumbs to her desires and they make love. I could see it was Dylan’s eyes in the suit (which wasn’t really made of armor but black material), but you can’t trust anything in a horror show. A few days later, his wife announces she is pregnant! Rosemary’s baby anyone? I suspect a demon child is growing inside his wife now.

For a little teaser, Jessica Lange is in Dylan and his wife’s bedroom, looking through the jewelry box for something she likes when the housekeeper catches her. They exchange some words. The housekeeper says she can’t take anything or she will be suspected. Jessica basically tells her to shut up or “she will kill her again!” So the cat is out of the bag.

A man, scarred by fire, follows Dylan on his run and warns him to move his family out of that house. He himself was a victim of the demons when he lived there. They made him burn down the house killing his wife and two daughters. But, Dylan doesn’t appreciate the advice and threatens the man. Psycho patient is on the loose. Dylan tries to report him to the police to track down, but they don’t seem to take him seriously.

There you have it. Just think of all your favorite horror shows combined and you have American Horror Story. This is definitely not a show for young viewers. Dylan is naked and even violently masturbates in one long scene. The dead baby’s head in the jar, the outrageous dialogue, blood, violence, sex…it’s all there. Maybe I will get the characters’ straight at some point, but there was always something distracting me from keeping track of them.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tomorrow Is Columbus Day…

Tomorrow Is Columbus Day…

...or is it?  When I was a kid, a holiday fell on the day it was supposed to, like Columbus Day, that was always October 12th. That was the day Columbus arrived in the Americas, October 12, 1492. Though celebrated for centuries, yes even during the colonial period in 1792, FDR declared it a federal holiday only in 1934. But, as with many holidays, it was changed in 1971 to the second Monday in October to create a nice three day weekend. The hell with the date, right? What’s in a number? We’ll just change things around for convenience sake.

Remember when Lincoln and Washington had their own birthdays? Lincoln’s being on February 12th and Washington’s on February 22nd. That got to be too much trouble. Two Presidents in one month, ten days apart. So they did away with Washington’s birthday and there never was a federal holiday honoring Lincoln. And instead of those days, we created President’s Day the third Monday in February to lump in all presidents. This way Lincoln gets in on Washington’s day and we have another three day weekend. You would think that a man who unified the country after the Civil War would have his own holiday, but no.

Memorial Day honoring dead soldiers, used to be May 30th, but “used to be’s ain’t what they used to be,” as my mother would say. Instead, we now celebrate it as the last Monday in May for yet another three day weekend that kicks off the start of summer and shopping.

Of course there are other holidays they wouldn’t dream of changing…at least not yet. New Year’s Day still falls on January 1st and not the first Monday in January. Independence day is still July 4th and not the first Monday in July. The reasons for those staying true to their dates are obvious. And of course Veteran’s Day is always celebrated November 11th and not the second Monday in November, and yes there is a reason for this. The reason is World War I formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice. So it wouldn’t do to move that day and have it lose all meaning. And lastly, Christmas, the birth of Jesus, is celebrated December 25 and not the last Monday of December. Of course, no one knows the exact date of Jesus’ birth, but it would not be well received to move around a long standing, traditional holiday commemorating the birth of Our Lord.

I suppose that one day someone will get the bright idea to move around the remaining holidays to Mondays eventually. With the passing of time, the meaning of things fade away and all we are concerned with is a day off. The only thing better than a day off is three days off in a row. Who cares whose birthday it is or why we picked out those dates in the first place? Who cares about tradition?

So tomorrow is Columbus Day and the meaning of October 12th will sail into the sunset just like Columbus did centuries ago.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Alexis Stewart Writes New Mommy Dearest Book

Sorry to fans of Martha Stewart, but I feel the urge to write about her daughter, Alexis’, new tell all book. But first I have to say that is has always been hard for me to like Martha Stewart. Maybe it’s her monotonous way of speaking regardless of the topic. Her intonation never goes up or down, it’s just a flat line. Most of us get excited about something and it is clear when our voices go up, but not for Martha. I recall watching one of her craft shows. I always loved making crafts when the girls were little. I made lots of things with them, especially around the holidays. So when Martha said she was making ornaments for the tree, I sat down to listen and take notes. She was going to show us how to make glitter covered Christmas balls for the tree. However, Martha is never satisfied to use ordinary supplies you can get at Walmart. I should have known. She gets around to listing her supply list and when she gets to the glitter, she tells us she gets it from Germany! She does the same thing when she talks about recipes, there is always something in there that I never heard of. Of course I am not a cook or baker, but the parchment paper always grated on my nerves.

Well let me get back to her daughter’s book, “|Whateverland: Learning To Live Here.” Alexis reveals what it is like to live with Martha Stewart and to be her daughter. Some of the details that hit the media are pretty unbelievable, but that’s what sells books.

Alexis says her mother, Martha, liked to pee with the door open. Alexis finally had to ask her to stop doing it when she started having her friends over to the house. And although Martha promotes cooking, wrapping gifts and crafts for kids, her daughter says Martha didn’t cook, wrap gifts or greet trick or treaters at the door with candy. Martha made Alexis wrap her own Christmas presents. For Halloween, there were no costumes, they turned off all the lights and pretended they weren’t home. Alexis says there was never any food to eat in the house. There were however, all the ingredients to make something, but no prepared food. Alexis said if she didn’t do something perfectly, she would have to do it again and “she grew up with a glue gun held to her head.”

Martha made people take their shoes off in the house, but Alexis says her dogs would urinate and defecate on her rugs. And while Martha is worth a reported 970 million dollars Alexis claims she is a chronic hoarder.

Martha complains that Alexis doesn’t invite her over for dinner. However Alexis says there is a reason for that. When she does have her mother over she will take a sip, taste it, make a face and push it away. And here is a nice little nugget:

"A woman lived near us when I was little, had married someone very wealthy and very unattractive, and my mother actually told me when I was a small child, 'Now Alexis, if this ever happens, you make sure you have sex with somebody else to have their baby. Don't have his baby.'"

I’m really not surprised at any of what Alexis has to say. There is something “unnatural” about Martha. I just hope her Alexis has not been too badly affected by her mother’s parenting. Alexis had a baby girl at the age of 45, this past March, after 5 years of trying. Maybe she will be able to fix the past with her own daughter.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Internet Friends Are Virtual?

People say “internet friends” as though they are not “real” friends, just “virtual” friends. Webster’s dictionary defines virtual as “being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized or admitted.” In other words, a virtual friend is kind of like a real friend, but not really.

I think most people would argue this is not true. Online friends are not only real friends, but many times they are truer friends than people we know in real life. The people who do not understand this are those who just the computer for work and don’t take time to make social connections. My husband is one of those people. He is too busy to make friends online. Often, when I spoke of my online friends, I would see this puzzled expression on his face. It was hard for him to grasp my involvement with strangers and how I would speak of them as if I knew them all my life. You have to admit, it does sound a little bizarre. However, over the years, he has come to understand this foreign concept of “virtual” friends and the importance of them in my life and he accepts it.

I have had many online friends over the years. Most of the relationships began with a shared interest in a television show, believe it or not. I have gone to forums where they discuss American Idol, Hell’s Kitchen, Dr. Phil Housewives, The Dr. Phil Family, Mob Wives and most recently The Talk/Leah and Holly LIVE. Many times, chatting about the shows yields friend requests on Facebook and eventually we start to share our personal lives and get to know one another. That’s how it happened for me. Those who were once virtual strangers have become “virtual” friends…or as I like to call them “friends.”

The friends I have met online are intelligent, caring, compassionate people. They have made me smile and laugh, they have given me advice, they have listened to me go on and on, they check on me when I’m sick, they wish me Happy Birthday, they wish my kids Happy Birthday. They are there on my worst days to help me through them, they are there on my best days to share my joy. I can confide in them and trust them. I miss them when they aren’t around. They have all enriched my life and have made me a better person for having met them. If that is not a real friend, then what is?

Where can you find a greater community of support and encouragement then online. You type something in your status on Facebook and before you know it several people took time to leave comments, offer support, write you notes, pray for you, even call. It’s amazing! I think virtual friends are going to help us all live longer. They diminish our stress and increase our happiness every day. How many “real life” friends do that? I have friends in real life, but they don’t take the time that “virtual” friends do to make sure I am ok. Sometimes I don’t speak to them for days or weeks, but my online friends are there 24/7.

Not all online friendships are good though. As in “real life” you will meet people that are or become toxic. Those people should be deleted. Life comes with enough stress as it is and we don’t need to add to it. Eliminate the negative people and focus on those where there is mutual caring and concern. There were days, in the past, where some people got me so upset that they literally made me physically sick. Not any more. I don’t want to waste my time on people like that when I have so many other wonderful people I care about and can devote my time to.

Maybe in the end, what we refer to as “virtual” friends are “real” friends and real friends are virtual friends?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mario, My Butcher, Lost His Fight

Mario and son, Joe

About three months ago I walked into my butcher shop and instead of being greeted by the owner, Mario, I found myself standing in front of a see through plastic container. The container was filled with yellow bracelets for donations to help fight cancer. I was familiar with these bracelets that were distributed by the Lance Armstrong foundation. I started ordering my meat and never took notice of the sign that was taped in front of the container. But, when I asked the butcher for my second item, the note caught my eye. It said something like, please pray for our boss, father and friend Mario, who has been diagnosed with cancer. It’s never good hearing someone you know has been stricken with cancer.

I see Mario’s son and he has a somber look. I know that look. It’s the same look I had when I was told my father had colon cancer years ago. It’s the look I saw on my daughters’ faces when I told them I had been diagnosed. It’s the look of sudden grief and loss, like someone had just kicked you in the gut or pulled the rug out from under you. I get up the nerve to ask him how his father is doing. He tells me he wasn’t feeling well, but it took the whole family to get him to the doctor. When he was diagnosed he refused to go to the hospital, but they got him to go. The cancer was in three places. It had spread already. It didn’t sound good. As he was talking to me I could see his eyes well up with tears, as were my own. I knew what he was feeling for his dad all too well. I also knew what his father was going through, the fear, the anxiety, the denial, the worrying about his family, his business. I knew both sides of what this devastating news does to people.

Mario fought the good fight. He had operations to remove the cancer. But, they hadn’t caught it early enough. It was too big a battle for him and in three short months he was gone. I found that out today when I went there to get something for dinner. From a distance I could see the store was closed. As I got closer I saw a sign and a wreath in front. I passed several people who had stopped to say a prayer and then I got to the note. Mario died. There was all the information for the viewing and funeral services. Very sad.

Mario was always smiling. He loved his business and he always seemed happy. His son worked there too. When Mario got sick it seemed like his son took great pains to run a tight ship. Every detail was paid close attention to. The store always spotless was cleaner than clean. The meat aesthetically arranged in the window. I could almost read his son’s mind. He wanted to make sure the store was in pristine condition for when his father came back to work. It’s a little game the mind plays when you are in denial and refuses to accept the truth. My heart aches for him today as he makes the arrangements with his family, to bury a father who was taken away way too soon.

I have been going to Mario’s store for years. I’ll go to the viewing tomorrow. I’ll miss Mario’s smile and the pride you could see he took in his business. I acknowledged that many times as I complimented the store and he always thanked me. He had everything in that store. One day I had gone to the fish store next door to buy shrimp for my husband’s birthday, they didn’t have any. I was so disappointed because my husband always expects shrimp on his birthday. I walked into Mario’s knowing it was ridiculous to try and find shrimp in a butcher store. Still I was looking around there. Mario comes up to me and asks if he can help me. I said to him I know this is a stupid question, but do you have shrimp? The fish store is out and it’s my husband’s birthday. Mario said, with a big grin on his face, “I don’t have any raw shrimp, but I have cooked shrimp.” I said “You do?” I was in a little speechless. He tells me they are just getting done and he wants me to try one. I told him no I couldn’t (it was back in January and I was on that 17 Day Diet). He says, no I want you to try it. So I did. Let me tell you, after being on a diet for a few days that shrimp tasted like a million dollars. I got a pound of it. Mario wrapped it up and my husband had his shrimp for dinner. I didn’t even have to clean or cook it and it was cheaper than the fish store! The next day we went to the butcher to get some meat. Mario asks my husband how was the shrimp and wishes him a Happy Birthday. That was my butcher, Mario.

May you rest in peace, Mario. You will be missed and never forgotten.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Amanda Knox Comes Home!

After fours years in an Italian prison, Amanda Knox, was finally released yesterday and is on her way home to Seattle, WA. I didn’t follow the particulars of the case, but from what I did hear, it made no sense to me at all. Why would make a college student, studying abroad, happy with her Italian boyfriend, kill her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher? It just never sat well with me when they came to the conclusion Amanda must have murdered her.

The case fell apart when it was discovered that the DNA evidence that was heavily relied upon to convict her, was totally unreliable. It took them four years to figure that out? Four years of a young girl’s life wasted in prison and fighting for her life based on virtually nonexistent evidence and no motive. Meanwhile, the Italian prosecutor wants to turn the case over to the Italian Supreme Court! Probably he is just trying to save face at this point, but can he?

And what about Meredith’s family? Where is their justice for their daughter. While investigators focused all their attention on Amanda and her boyfriend, the real killer looms somewhere, probably having a good laugh over a plate of lasagna. It has to be very upsetting to them knowing that four years ago it seemed like a certainty that police had captured the killers of her daughter and now the evidence of that has unraveled. Where does that leave them?

The whole case was a mess from the start. Two young girls victimized by a system that failed them both. One lost her life, and there is no one being held accountable. One lost fours years of her life and has the stigma of living under this cloud of murder for the rest of her life. Two families enduring untold heartache for four years without answers. Nd where is the truth? Will they be able to find the real killer any more?

Well, I was never convinced of her guilt. Like Judge Judy says, if it makes no sense, it’s not true. This girl had no reason to kill her roommate, a girl she was friends with. If she did it, there would be more evidence. As it looks now, there was no evidence. I read that Amanda made some incriminating statements, but she says the police beat her into making them. I find that credible. Amanda will probably write a book about her ordeal and a movie will be made. This case has gotten worldwide attention and people will want to read her version of events.

For now, I wonder how she will get back to the normal life she had four years ago, before all this happened. If I remember correctly, she was an honor student. How does a young girl, who has been so traumatized by such an ordeal go on from here? I just wish her the best and hope she can go on without wasting much more time. Four precious years have been lost already and who knows the long term effects this will have on her mind and spirit.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Andy Rooney Retires…

I grew up watching Andy Rooney and loving his 60 seconds of complaining, I guess I am an Andy Rooney “wanna be.” I love to wrote and complain just like he does, but I can’t get all mine into a 60 second sound bite. I looked forward to his little clips every week because he says what everyone is thinking. I have also been accused of doing that and that’s why it’s so funny. Too many people do not want to be that brutally honest, so they finesse what they have to say if it’s not nice. I just say it like it is, I have no finesse. As another piece of my childhood ,I thought it would be fun to write some of my favorite lines of Andy’s today and honor the man who may have subconsciously been a mentor to my pet peeves.

“If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.”

“Nothing in fine print is ever good news.”

“The average dog is nicer than the average person.”

“Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do, don’t need to be done.”

“Vegetarian--that’s an old Indian word meaning “lousy hunter.”

“I didn’t get old on purpose, it just happened. If you are lucky it could happen to you.”

Andy Rooney has many complaints, but more often than not, he has some good wisdom sprinkled in throughout his years on television. He has been able to fill books with all his observations. He taught me the fine art of complaining and making sense while doing it. I’ll miss him.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Take Me Out To The Ball Game…

The great American pass time, baseball, is just too expense for the average American family, and it has been for a long time. Things keep getting worse though. The economy is in the toilet while the building of new stadiums and rising salaries of players have pushed the cost of going to a game out of the reach of too many. I remember my husband telling me how his father would take him and his three brothers to watch the Yankees when he was little. I often wished I had had a son so he could have passed the tradition on to his little boy. My husband always loved the game, even as a toddler he would play in the backyard, hitting balls and rounding around the imaginary bases. Imagine all the money I saved by having girls?

I was listening to the news yesterday at breakfast and heard a baseball fan on the radio saying she paid $35 for parking and $45 for a ticket. I almost fell off my chair. I was complaining about it to my husband later on and found myself getting irate so I said this will be tomorrow’s blog! I am going to give you some prices based on Yankee Stadium, because that is our “team” and my daughter is there today.

The highest non-premium tickets costs: $51.83

Beer costs 50 cents per ounce or $6 for a 12 ounce beer!

Hotdogs $3

Parking $35 (the lady didn’t lie!)

Prices do vary by city and team, so check yours in this link:

Now let’s say a family of four would like to go to a Yankee game today, what would it cost for:

4 Tickets: $207.32
Parking: 35.00
Hotdogs: 12.00
2 Beers: 12.00
2 sodas: 6.00
Program: 5.00

Total $277.32 and that’s without any snacks or extras! Nice! Is it really worth it?

I was telling my husband that everyone should save up and get a giant screen TV and pay for a sports channel and watch from home. You get better seats, better food, no traffic, and a better view of the plays. It’s outrageous that such a long standing American tradition has been out priced for so many fans.

Here are the new lyrics for Take Me Out To the Ball Game:

Tune me in to the ball game, help me dodge the crowd
I’ll stock up on peanuts and cracker jacks
I can watch while I lay on my back
I’ll still root, root, root for the home team
If they don’t win it’s no shame
Cause it’s 3 hundred dollars I’m not out
For an old ball game
Yes it 3 hundred dollars I still got
To my good name!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy 95th Birthday Mom (In Heaven)

Today would have been my mother’s 95th birthday. My mother never celebrated her birthday and barely allowed us to celebrate it. If she could see me typing now, she would say, “Why the hell are you writing about that?” She was a character. While we were growing up, she always told us we would miss her when she was gone, and she was right. She was always such a huge presence in our lives, but she has been gone for six and a half years now. Yet, I know she is looking down on us and still watching over us, protecting us and loving us. I feel her with me still. Her kind of mother’s love transcends death.

What do I remember about her? Lots of things. I was blessed to have her in my life for 50 years. My mother loved to gamble, but she was a sore loser. Mostly she got angry when playing rummy 500 or checkers with my father. As long as she was winning, things were quiet. She’d score her 500 points and cross out the game on the paper and put her initial “J” over it in victory. But, when my father won a game things went a little differently. He was allowed to win an occasional game, without incident. However, if he was winning a string of games, look out. He would start laughing with that “hyena” game winning laugh and my mother would literally blow a fuse. Cards went flying in the air, screaming began about how she wasn’t ever going to play with him again. And there was plenty of colorful language to go along with it. Then she would go play solitaire. She played solitaire for hours, day in and day out, until her bruised ego healed. Then I would find my parents playing checkers. My mother would keep score of how many games they each won. Once again things were great as long as she was being “kinged” and taking all his checkers, but Lady Luck is fickle. Soon he would have his own winning streak, and her checkers would be coming off the board. The “hyena” laugh, checkers flying everywhere, lots of cursing, and she vowed never to play checkers again…until next time.

I remember Saturday afternoons, after we finished dinner, when my mom would put up a big pot of sauce for Sunday dinner. It was a big production. She had to peel 12 cloves of garlic and mince six of them for the meatballs. The other six were fried to a golden brown and then the sauce was put into the pot and season with some salt, a little sugar and a few basil leaves. Frying the meatballs, pork meat and whatever else she would throw in, took a while. All the time the aroma filled the entire house. As the sauce was cooking, she would go over and stir the pot every 15 or twenty minutes. The whole process easily took 2.5 to 3 hours. Then she would let it cool a few hours and put it in the refrigerator for the next day. My mother didn’t necessarily love to cook, but she sure did love to watch us eat and enjoy her meals. But she would always say, at the end of each meal, “this took two days to make and 5 minutes to eat.”

Every year she planned a trip to Las Vegas. We first went in 1976, during Thanksgiving weekend and she loved it. Every year after that, for about 20 years, she made it a point to go there. My brother would accompany her. In the beginning, they would buy tickets and see a show or two while they were there. One year, when by brother went to get her so they could make it to the show on time, she told him she couldn’t go now, the machine was “hot.” He threw a fit and he managed to pry her away from the machine. I remember once she told me she saw Telly Savalas there with his lollipop and when she said hello, he walked past her like she wasn’t there. Another time they were having breakfast and at a nearby table was Joe DiMaggio. Lucky for Joe she didn’t go over to him and cause a scene. Once, while they were doing a little souvenir shopping, Rip Torn walked into the store. My brother turned to her and said, “Do you know who that is? That’s Rip Torn!? My mother yells out in her street voice, “Who the hell is Rip Torn?” Of course everyone heard her and my brother was mortified. And finally, they once ran into Jerry Vale during one of their stays. My mother goes up to him and says, “You’re Jerry Vale!” To which Jerry must have answered yes. Then my mother says, “I want you to meet my son. Vin come over here, this is Jerry Vale!” Again my brother wanted to crawl under a rock, but that was our mom. You had to be prepared for anything.

My mother loved using old expressions or making up her own. She may have coined the saying, “You try to do good, and you get it up your ass.” This expression came in handy when she would give us her unsolicited advice and it was obvious we didn’t appreciate it. I notice that happens a lot with my own girls. My mother was always very helpful to others. She couldn’t hear a sad story without trying to make things better. Unfortunately the same people she tried to help often were not very nice in the future. So that is probably how that expression was born. Another classic of hers was, “Used to be’s ain’t what they used to be.” I remember sitting around in her living room and I was telling my girls about how the whole family used to get together for the holidays and what great memories I had. My mother piped up with her expression, “used to be’s ain’t what they used to be” and my daughter rolled on the floor laughing, with tears running down her face. You had to be there, because her timing and delivery were priceless.

But my mom was right, used to be’s, ain’t what they used to be any more. Since she’s been gone so much has changed. No more morning calls to see how I’m doing every day. No more advice that came from years of experience and wisdom. No more of my favorite meals because my cooking never measured up to hers. No more sounds of her laughter. No cards or checkers flying through the air. No trips to Vegas with stories to tell. No more hugs and kisses and “I love you’s.”

But one thing hasn’t changed, she is still with us in spirit. She is watching over our every move, nothing could stop her. Her words of wisdom ring in our ears. Her love is still guiding and protecting us from world. Her memories comfort us and make us laugh. My older daughter has her eyes. Not just the hazel color, but the gleam when she smiles or when she is being devious. I can look at her eyes and still see my mom in them. And I hear my mom still saying, “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.” And we do Mom.

So Happy Birthday Mom. I hope they are having a huge party for you up there. We miss you so much