Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pick Up The Phone!

Does anyone remember what a phone looks like?

Before the internet, people actually used their landline phones to make calls.  It even got easier when they made cordless phones.  You could pick it up and talk from anywhere in the house without the cord getting all twisted up and choking you.  Now we have cell phones too.  Everyone has one.  You can make calls all day long, from anywhere, to almost anyone.  What’s the problem?  No one is making calls.  

There are many people who live alone out there. Some of them may be your friends and family members.  Sure they have the internet and can communicate on facebook and by email and instant message 24/7.  But really, nothing can replace the sound of the human voice.  It can be lonely this time of year, to sit at home staring at a screen and never hear the sound of a human voice talking to you.  It just makes a person feel more alone and isolated.  Words on a screen are virtually sterile, they have no intonation, no emotion unless you want to include those emoticons like the smiley face.  

Even with cell phones, I notice that most people prefer to text rather than call.  I guess it’s because you can be texting with several people versus talking only to one. But here again there is really no “human” contact, just cold words on a screen.  Technology is dehumanizing us and making us more like automated typing machines that “LOL!” at the end of every sentenced whether it’s funny or not.  We do it automatically, without thinking, like breathing, lol.  

Remember the last time you were on the phone with a friend and laughed till you cried at some hilarious comment?  Or when you were going through a hard time and needed someone to talk to who understood what you were going through and you could hear the compassion in their voice?  And what about all the “I miss you’s” and “I love you’s” that don’t quite feel the same when you read them on a screen?  

This is really the perfect time of the year to bring back old habits.  Drop the technology and make a few calls to people you care about.  Talk about old times, catch up on each other’s lives, tell them you love them.  I think that would mean so much more than any Christmas card or gift ever could.  And it’s early enough that you can get quite a few calls in before Christmas Day.

No I do not work for the phone company!  LOL

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

American History Is Boring…

We need new books!

I always thought history was boring.  Maybe it’s the way they taught it?  All we got were just the facts, cut and dry and too many of them.  And, they wanted us to memorized dates too.  My husband loves history and can’t seem to get enough of it.  I say what’s the point of learning history, it’s over and done with and we have moved on. My mother always said that if they would just put American History to music, in lyrics, we would all know everything.  I think that was a good idea, but no one ever took her up on it.

My idea is a little different. How about if they sprinkle some true scandals in that history?  Lord knows there were plenty of them.  Of course we all know about John Edwards and Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, but there were so many more that our history books left out!  I had a history professor in college who was supposed to be teaching us American History, but her specialty was the Civil War, somehow we always got back on that topic no matter what we were discussing. However, she also managed to add the appropriate scandals to every period we covered and they tended to wake me up. She would tell us things that never made to our exam questions, like:

Thomas Jefferson had quite a few stories to peek my interest.  He was somewhat of a womanizer.  And then there was Sally Hemings, his slave and “mistress” with whom he had fathered six children.

President Andrew Jackson was a bigamist.  He married a woman named Rachel Donelson in 1791, thinking she was divorced, but she wasn’t. Her husband charged her with adultery and they could not remarry until 1794.

Grover Cleveland had an affair with a woman named Maria C. Halpin, that produced a son, Oscar Folsom Cleveland.  Cleveland had the baby taken from it’s mother and placed him in an orphanage saying she wasn’t fit to care for him. Then, he had Maria placed in a lunatic asylum. After an evaluation it was determined she was not insane and was placed there by an abuse of political power.

Warren G. Harding was another famous womanizing president.  He had two ongoing affairs and one of them produced a child who he supported, Elizabeth Ann.  Needless to say, Warren’s wife was not very happy.

I have to say I would have had a much easier time remembering these pieces of history than the “Teapot Dome Scandal,” to which I say, “so what, who cares.”

Maybe someone needs to rewrite the history books in a way that makes them more reader friendly and interesting.  I am not saying they should make up scandals to enhance our reading pleasure, but just report them, as they do all the other factual information of the times.  We have been gypped of chunks of history since the first time we opened a book.  Who were the morality editors who felt that leaving out historical facts did justice to the history we read?  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Getting Ready For Christmas!

Note to my daughters: This is a long blog, you may want to skip it today!

I am determined to get ready for Christmas as of today.  If I blog about it maybe I will actually do it.  Now that the other holidays are behind us maybe I can focus on the one I always loved the most.  I already did some shopping online and would love to get out to the stores and browse around for some other ideas.  It’s not easy coming up with gift ideas for 20 something girls who have basically everything.  I whine about this every year and every year it just gets harder.

I decided I need to put on some Christmas music every day and hope it will inspire me to clean and straighten up.  Maybe, and this is a long shot, it will help me recapture the Christmas spirit I had long ago as a kid.  You remember those days when you were filled with excitement and anticipation.  It was a joyful time.  There was laughter and people really did “eat, drink and were merry.”  Our parents were all young and took care of everything. 

My mother used to ask us for Christmas lists every year.  My brother and I were only too happy to comply (not like my kids).  We made a long list and at the end we always added “surprises.”  My mother would say, you want all that and surprises too???  Of course we did, otherwise we would know everything we were getting!  Christmas time was the one time my parents spared no expense.  I never remember being disappointed.  I only remember getting everything on my list and surprises too.  She even filled up our stockings.  If you knew my mother, this was probably the last thing she wanted to do, shop for little items for the stockings, but she did it.  She loved to see us happy.

We lived in a small, four room apartment.  There was really no place to hide gifts, let alone those big toy boxes.  I remember that she had a large wardrobe in her bedroom.  Every year at this time there would be lots of large shopping bags on top of it.  That is where she hid all our presents, there really was no other place.  Of course, when we were little, we never put two and two together.  As we got older and more suspicious, I kind of knew what was going on, but I didn’t want to.  I clung to the idea of Santa as long as I could and didn’t want to let go.  I was smart that way because somehow I knew once you crossed the line to a nonbeliever you entered the world of “lost innocence” and all that comes with it.  

I recall the defining moment when I could not keep myself in denial any longer and lost my “innocence.”  I may have been about ten years old.  We have my aunt sleeping over at out apartment and she took my bed while I slept on the couch.  The living room was adjacent to the kitchen and as I was older and it was Christmas Eve, I went to bed later.  I couldn’t fall asleep from the excitement.  My mother came upstairs from her card game with my aunts and uncles around midnight or one o’clock.  I wasn’t asleep yet.  So I heard her taking down all the bags from on top of the wardrobe and carry them past me into the kitchen.  I kept my eyes tightly closed and tried to distract myself and make myself go to sleep.  It was useless.  All the wrapping and scotch taping and plastic bags crunching just kept me awake.  I don’t know why she didn’t wrap everything while we were in school and put it back on top of the wardrobe?  I never asked her why she waited until Christmas Eve, late at night, to do her wrapping.  Now I will never know.  I can only guess it was too much trouble to take it all down and put it all back on top of the closet.  But anyway, the damage was done.  I tried to feign denial and forget all I heard but it was not happening.

When I had my own children, I tried everything in my power to keep the magic of Santa Claus and Christmas going as long as possible.  It’s even harder these days. Kids are so smart and even if they still believe there is always a smart ass at school that has to ruin it.  My older daughter had one of them in her class.  Dennis McGown.  The year she was in kindergarten he tells her there is no Santa Claus!  I had a fit because she came to question me and I had to undo the damage.  She was only 5 years old.  That’s way too soon not to believe.  From then on, she was always looking for proof that Santa existed and I had to provide it.  One year Santa left a note with a big black thumb print on it.  Another year we had to leave an apple for the reindeer and she had to find it half eaten.  One year I had my husband stand out in the yard ringing sleigh bells under her window so I could tell her Santa was flying overhead and she needed to get to sleep so he could bring the presents.

My older daughter remained a skeptic thanks to that blabbermouth Dennis.  I had to answer questions like: Why is Santa’s handwriting like yours?  Why does Santa use the same wrapping paper as you do?  How does he get in the house when we have no chimney?  It was exhausting.  I can’t wait till she has kids she has to answer to.

Well, I’ve reminisced enough this morning.  Time to get the house in order so that when my younger daughter finishes finals we can decorate the tree, bake and shop!  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Good Bye Russell Stover...

Once upon a time, Russell Stover has no plastic tray and more candy...

I have been buying and eating Russell Stover chocolates for about 40 years if not longer.  In fact, when my husband and I were dating, I already had a strong preference for Russell Stover candy for quite a few years.  So when he bought me Whitman’s chocolates for Valentine‘s Day, I made it clear that I only eat Russell Stover.  The next time Valentine’s day rolled around and he forgot and bought Whitman’s chocolate again. I told him to give them to his mother because I only eat Russell Stover.  Eventually he caught on.

A couple of years ago Russell Stover joined the incredibly shrinking products era.  They shrunk their one pound box of chocolates to 12 ounces, but the price remained the same.  You would be surprised at how a loss of 3 ounces affected the number of chocolates in the box and the variety.  It was a big difference!  I was annoyed and complained and vented about the change.  I would rather they had kept the size the same and raised the price.  The size of the box actually remained the same, even with less chocolate because they devised a plastic tray to fit inside for the 12 ounces of candy so that the missing space was filled by the tray.  I felt like they were making a fool out of me.

Why am I complaining about this now?  Well this Thanksgiving, as my brother does for every holiday, he bought me a box of Russell Stover.  My brother knows how much I love their chocolate. So after dinner and doing the dishes, I sat down and picked out my favorite pieces.  There were two maple filled chocolates in the box.  I ate the first one and thought, something is not quite right.  I ate the second one and thought something is definitely not right with the taste.  It was inferior to what I remembered the last 40 years.  I decided to have one last piece, a coconut candy, how could they ruin coconut?  Well they did.  The have done something to the recipes.  The quality is noticeably inferior to what it has always been.  I commented out loud about my feelings.  My brothers responds that he thought the taste wasn’t quite right either.  Again, the price did not go down, just the quality.

I just got done writing to Russell Stover voicing my complaints about the size of the box and the inferior taste.  Now I will add them to my pet peeves and I can say that I will not buy or eat any more Russell Stover.  If I want a piece of chocolate, I will have an Almond Joy, a Hershey with almonds, Raisinettes, or some peanut M&Ms.  They still have the same taste and quality and satisfy my craving for chocolate quite well.  

This is very disappointing to me. Nothing changes for the better, only the worse.  Companies are only interested in profits and the hell with customer satisfaction and product quality.  Oh well, it was good while it lasted.  Good bye Russell Stover!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Survived Black Friday?

Now we can begin to shop like normal people and not soldiers in full blown combat.  A woman was so out of control yesterday, she had to be tasered by security.  I don’t know what possesses people of Black Friday…maybe black magic, or voodoo?  But, it’s a new day.  Those of us that shopped online yesterday, have no bruises and lots of gifts coming in the mail, right to our front door, in about a week or less. But, many of us still have more things to buy or check out.  There will be plenty of sales in the next month and they better be good if they want me to leave my house.  If I can get the same things online and delivered for free there is no way I am going to a store.

In previous years I discovered that Wednesdays are very slow days at the mall.  They often have pretty nice sales to lure people to the mall and there crowds are minimal, so you can shop to your heart’s content without worrying about landing in a hospital.  If you work and can’t go on a Wednesday, consider taking a day off.  You just might be able to get all your shopping done in one blow.  Ask a friend to play hooky with you and have lunch.  Make a day of it and don’t forget to get wrapping paper, you won’t want to go back out for that later.  

With the shopping out of the way, you can wrap your gifts and store them until it’s Christmas.  Now you can sit back and plan your holiday dinner menu or make travel plans if you are going away.  I like to do things ahead of time because it reduces so much of the stress and then I can also enjoy the holidays.  I stopped sending Christmas cards a while ago.  It used to be one of my favorite things to do for years, but as my mom said, “used to be’s ain’t what they used to be.”  Since the computer allows us to talk to virtually everyone, almost everyday, it doesn’t seem as necessary to send out cards. It doesn’t even make sense to send cards to people I never see or talk to either. Somehow it has lost it’s meaning for me.  

My younger daughter is still in school, her last year of college.  For the past seven years, with both girls in school, it’s been very hard to do any of the holiday preparations together because they were always busy with finals up until the week before Christmas.  Shopping and putting up the tree has to wait until they can breathe.  Last Wednesday, while I was cooking and baking for the holiday, my younger daughter looked at me and sighed.  She wanted to help me make the stuffing and desserts but she has two big exams on Monday and Tuesday and two papers to hand in.  They couldn’t even cut these kids a little slack for the holiday.  I told her next year she could help me with the whole dinner.  It was little consolation, as she sat on the couch with her face in a huge textbook, while all the smells of the cooking and baking filled the house.

Maybe next year we will start new traditions for the holidays.  Maybe the girls will have time to think about what they want for gifts.  It’ll be time for new cell phones, I think they call them “droids” but I won’t have to deal with it.  They can go pick them out themselves.  I’m sticking to my phone…the one that just makes calls and texts without a keyboard.  Some things never change and I’m one of them!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Shopping, All Done…

I got up early this morning ready to get my Black Friday Shopping done.  I made a list of items I had to get for the girls. I have been internet browsing all week, looking for the best prices in the items I needed to get.  I do my homework.  I check everything twice. I am more than ready!

I tried to go to sleep early last night.  I figured I would need my rest.  Well the neighbors had other ideas.  They must have been eating and drinking all day and then decided to say their good byes outside.  Their LOUD goodbyes, which lasted a couple of hours, from 11 pm to 1 am.  Maybe they went back inside to get more to eat and drink before finally taking off.  Whatever!  They woke me up and kept me up.  My mind started wandering to Black Friday shopping and I was getting angst.

I finally fell asleep.  Thanks to my dog, who is programmed to bark every morning at 5:30 am, I was up early anyway.  I had my coffee and breakfast. Now it’s time for Black Friday Shopping! It was finally here!  I got on my laptop to check my cart on Amazon.  Everything was there and still in tact.  No prices had gone up overnight.  No prices had gone down either.  I shopped around a little more to see if I could or should add anything.  I checked my list.  It’s all good.  I click the place order button and away we go.  No shipping for most of the order, but so what, who cares.  As long as the order is in, that’s all I care about.  I should have everything by next week and I can wrap it up.

I avoided long lines and carrying shopping bags.  I avoided people! I wasn’t maced.  I didn’t have trouble parking in the lot.  I didn’t have to get annoyed when someone online had to return a few items and the cashier didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t get into a fight with anyone over merchandise we both wanted.  I didn’t even have to shower and get dressed.  I just turned on the computer and click, click all done.  Do I care if I got the best deals?  No, I do not.  I could never save enough money to make it worthwhile to go into any stores today.  Don’t get me wrong, I love bargains and deals, I really do.  But, this Black Friday madness is getting worse every year.  This year the pepper spray crowd has decided they are going to attack their shopping competitors to get the best deals. A woman injured 20 people this morning to get an X-Box 360!  They call this competitive shopping.  No thanks!  And I don’t need to be crushed to death in any stampede either.

So thank you Amazon for making my life easier, safer and happier.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

“Relatively Speaking“…Part 2

Doreen doesn't want to hear Carla's about funeral arrangements

I am up bright and early to write this blog because I have a lot to do today in preparation for tomorrow and I know everyone is dying to know about my trip to see Marlo Thomas! It was a miserable rainy night and my husband and I were soaked by the time we got to the theater, thank God it wasn’t cold.  My tickets were waiting for me, as promised.  Orchestra seats!  Can you believe it!  And the theater looked sold out from where I was sitting.  

There were three, one act plays.  The first one, “Talking Cure, lasted about 23 minutes.  It was about a doctor, played by Jason Kravits from “House,” talking to a mental patient who used to be employed by the Post Office.  The third play, “Honeymoon Hotel,’ lasted about an hour and was full of well known actors.  The story was about a woman named Nina who left her husband at the altar and ran off with his father, Jerry, to a sleezy motel.  While they are at the motel, several people from the wedding party arrive, one by one, to give them a piece of their minds.  Steven Guttenberg played the father, smitten with his “daughter in-law.”  Julie Kavner played Nina’s mother.  Jason Kravits was the psychiatrist treating the father.  Grant Shaud, from “Murphy Brown” played a friend of Jerry.  

Now for the second play, “George Is Dead” with Marlo Thomas. Marlo/Doreen has just found out that her husband, George, died on the ski slopes of Aspen.  She was raised by a nanny and is spoiled and rich and has no clue what to do or where to turn, so she ends up at the front door of her nanny’s daughter.  Doreen is almost childlike and has no idea how to handle death or grief, as she has been bad protected from most things all her life.  Her friend, Carla, doesn’t really like Doreen, but she feels bad for her that George died and she has no one to turn to.  Doreen gets on Carla’s nerves quite a bit, especially when she asks her to scrape the salt off some crackers.  Carla tells her it is her responsibility to bring the body back home and make funeral arrangements. Doreen just plugs up her ears and will not listen.  While Doreen watches all the old shows on a tiny television set, Carla spends the night taking care of all the arrangements for her.  There is really a lot more to the play than I can explain here.  Suffice to say that Marlo did a fantastic job as Doreen.  Of course I am biased, as I have always been a huge fan of hers.  But I can say, if you are a fan you will love her in this play!

After the show I went to the backstage door, and tried to see Marlo.  I was told she would see me if she was available.  Unfortunately, she was already gone by the time I got there.  It’s understandable.  The last play was an hour long, plus the intermission of 15 minutes.  The weather was miserable.  I think she has two shows to do today plus go on the Today Show this morning, raising money for St. Jude.  I almost expected her not to be there. It's been a very busy week for her. Besides that, at the end of the play, when they were taking their bows, she looked like she had had a long enough day.  Was I disappointed?  Sure.  It’s not every day you have the chance to meet a role model, someone you idolized and looked up to as a teenager.  But, I understood.  And just to prove to you I half expected this to happen, I had spent part of yesterday typing up a letter to Marlo, telling her how much she meant to me.  I had it with me in an envelope and left it with the backstage attendant for him to pass along to her today.  I hope she gets it and reads it.  Maybe one day I will get to meet her, you just never know.  Until then, she will always be part of my fondest childhood memories.

P.S. By the way, I just checked my mail and Marlo's assistant had written an apology, on behalf of Marlo, for not being there last night.  She has a cold and had to leave early.  She has offered to send me an autographed copy of her book, "Growing Up Laughing" which I was going to ask for for Christmas!  Now I will get my own autographed copy!  Can you believe that?  I love you, Marlo!  

Happy Thanksgiving Marlo and Phil!

OMG!  I just got off the telephone with Marlo Thomas and this is the gist of the conversation!  As if I didn't already think she is one of the most amazing people on earth!

She said Hello is this Nina? I said yes. She said this is Marlo Thomas. I was like OMG I can't believe this, she laughs. She said she felt really bad about not staying last night, but she had a cold and had to get up at 5am to do the Today Show. But she wanted to apologize because I was contest winner and she wanted to meet me. Then I was able to tell her that I understood and what a role model she has been for me all these years and I added that I memorized the poem she told a magazine that her father would tell her and have recited it over the last 40 years. And she said "Can't?" and I said yes and began reciting a few lines. She was so happy and said it was a great tribute to her father that I have been reciting that poem every time something in life was hard. Then she had to go take a nap so she would be ready for her matinee!  

Here is the poem, hope I get it right:

Can't is a word that is foe to ambition
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will
It's aim is forever a man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill
So hate it with hate that is deep and undying
For once it is welcomed twill break and man
And whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
And answer this demon by saying, "I can!"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Relatively Speaking" with Marlo Thomas

A few weeks ago, while reading my Facebook page, I saw a status by Marlo Thomas announcing an essay contest with the prize being two tickets to her Broadway play, Relatively Speaking.  The essay had to be about a relative.  I saw future announcements where Marlo said she was enjoying all the stories being sent in.  I thought to myself, why not enter?  I love Marlo Thomas, I haven’t been to a show in ages, I was planning to get tickets to Relatively Speaking…maybe I could win them?  

In my “pet peeves” blog there were several stories about my mother.  I could not think of a better relative to write an essay about anyway.  When I realized I didn’t have to even start from scratch, but just copy and paste one of my stories on to the entry form the decision got a lot easier.  But which story to choose?  The Butterball Story, The Deportation Story, The Sore Loser Story, The Bookie Story….it got confusing.  I picked the Butterball Story because it was close to Thanksgiving.  Then I thought about it and at the last second I changed my mind.  I entered the Sore Loser story instead.  That one had gotten he most laughs from my readers.  

A couple of weeks later, as I am reading the Facebook updates, I see one from Marlo Thomas announcing the winners of the essay contest.  There, among the five of six names, was mine!  I was excited and stunned at the same time.  I didn’t expect to win, but now I was going to get to see Marlo Thomas on Broadway!  In fact, I am going tonight!  

I grew up watching a lot of television as a kid.  What else was there to do?  I always did my homework after school and watched television after dinner.  Some shows made more of an impact than others. “That Girl” was one of those shows.  For me, as an overly smothered teenager yearning to become an independent adult, I was inspired by “That Girl.”  Ann Marie was determined to make it as an actress in a big city.  She got her own apartment, went on auditions, had a boyfriend and stood up for herself.  Unlike many shows today about single people in their 20‘s, and maybe because of the times and the censors, there was never the hint of anything risqué or questionable in the storyline.  I wouldn’t say she was “prim and proper,” but her character was moral and decent and someone I could relate to.  She was also very beautiful and lovable.  I never missed a show.  

After over 40 years of seeing Marlo Thomas for the first time on television, I am going to see her live in her Broadway show.  I am sure I will be a little star struck.  Marlo was a role model for young girls all those years ago.  She was looked up to and admired. She made a huge impression on me that has lasted decades.  Seeing her tonight, will bring be back to my childhood for a few precious moments.  So much has changed since then, some good, some bad.  But, my admiration and respect for Marlo Thomas and the person she is, has only grown over the years.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Aunt Mary's Thanksgivings...

Our Annual Tradition: "The March Of The Wooden Soldiers"

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of my Aunt Mary.  Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. we had a large family.  No one liked to entertain a large group.  I think we numbered about 12 at our lowest count and maybe as many as 16 at the highest.  It never bothered my Aunt Mary.  She always had Thanksgiving at her house. After watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television in our apartment, we would all go downstairs, to my aunt’s apartment, and start celebrating.

My aunt did all the shopping and cooking.  She never complained about any of it.  Not the getting up at 5:30 to stuff the oversized turkey and put it in the oven. Not setting up and serving two tables, one for kids and one for the adults.  Not cooking two totally complete meals, one of pasta and meat sauce and the other a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. Italians do not consider it a holiday unless pasta and meatballs, our first entrée, is on the table.  Then came the turkey.  I tried not to eat too much pasta, I was saving all my room for the turkey, which I only got to eat once a year.  I loved Aunt Mary’s turkey.  It was delicious and I could hardly get enough of it.  After the turkey, out came the fruit and nuts with a bunch of nutcrackers.  All the while we were eating, the family skeletons of the past were paraded out of the closet.  Who said this and who did that.  I was recording it all in my memory and it wasn’t hard, the same stories came out year after year.  Sometimes the adults would switch over to Italian so the kids couldn’t understand.  However, I was bi-lingual and learned both Sicilian and English at the same time, and I was happy to translate the stories for my brother and cousins.  

After the fruit and nuts, we took a short breather, to make room for coffee and dessert.  The food seemed to never end.  My aunt did not have a dish washer, but some how all the dishes got washed between courses.  Then the smell of coffee filled the room and, to accompany the coffee, were the Italian pastries: canolis, sfogliatelles, napoleans, éclairs and cream puffs.  I had my dessert and, by the last bite, I was sure I was going to burst because I was so full.  

As fast as the food all appeared at the beginning of the meal, like magic it all disappeared.  The table was set up for the adults to play cards.  They all got their money and played poker while Aunt Mary, who didn’t care to play cards, entertained the kids.  I remember her singing “Oh My Darling Clementine.”  She tried to teach us to play cards for pennies.  Then, as was always the tradition back then, “The March Of The Wooden Soldiers” was on television.  The movie sort of marked the transition of Thanksgiving to Christmas.  All of us kids got under the table and watched the movie.  That is what made the holiday really complete for us.  

The adults would play cards for hours.  Too long for all the kids to stay awake after all the food and excitement.  Aunt Mary would take us into the bedrooms and get us to lie down and rest.  We were out cold in seconds.  We stayed there until the card game broke up and our parents would take us back to our apartments and put us in our beds.

One year, when I was much older, my mother decided to have everyone over for Christmas dinner.  I got together with my brother and one of my cousins; the other two cousins were Aunt Mary’s children so I didn‘t include them.  We decided to get our Aunt Mary a gold bracelet with a card that expressed our gratitude and appreciation for all the holidays she had worked so hard to have for us.  We gave her the gift box and card, which was totally unexpected and moved her to tears.  I think we all realized, that if it hadn’t been for her, we would not have ever had the precious memories of celebrating Thanksgiving with all our closest family.  Not only that, but she also always took on New Year’s Eve and she made sure there were hats, noise makers and lots of streamers and confetti for us at midnight.

My Aunt Mary has had poor health the last two years. She is in her eighties. The past couple of months she seems better than she was.  We are going to visit her next Saturday.  She loves company and she will have a full house.  My daughters and I are preparing our “Family Tree” information for my cousin’s children.  All the stories we heard repeated over and over years ago, plus ancestral charts of all our relatives and dates will all be in a binder for them.  It’ll be our way of giving back the oral traditions and family history that were told to us as children. Now that they are old enough and interested in knowing all of it, it will mean a lot to them.  I hope it’s going to be a very special visit for all of us. In many ways, these stories are the only way my children and my cousin’s children will have any way of knowing our aunts and uncles, and their great grandparents.  I’m really excited about sharing all this information with them all.

I wish you all a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Natalie Wood: Accident Or Murder?

When Natalie Wood died on that boat thirty years ago, I thought it was murder.  Everything I heard pointed to it and I blamed Robert Wagner.  Now the captain of the ship, one of four people who were present that night, has written a book on the thirtieth anniversary of her death.  More details seem to be coming out now.  The case is being reopened by investigators.  It’s about time.

Let me tell you what we do know and you decide if it sounds like an accident or murder to you.  I got a lot of this information from a good friend because 48 Hours was a waste of time.  Here we go:

There were four people on that boat the night Natalie Wood drowned: Natalie, the captain, Robert Wagner (her husband), and Christopher Walken, her costar.  Robert Wagner reportedly said that he last saw his wife fixing her hair in the bathroom.  Natalie was in her flannel nightgown and socks, apparently getting ready for bed.  The autopsy revealed that there were two undigested pills in her intestine, possibly sleeping pills.  

We also know that Natalie Wood was extremely afraid of the water.  Her sister said that this is because their mother told her that she would die in cold, dark water. Does it make sense that Natalie would try to get on a dinghy, in the dark of night, in her nightgown when she is so afraid of drowning?  True she had been drinking, but so had her husband and Christopher Walken.  There was a lot of arguing going on that night, with Wagner accusing Walken of wanting to sleep with his wife.  Wagner was in a jealous rage and full of alcohol.  A deadly combination.  The captain says Natalie would have never taken the dinghy down herself, she would have asked him to do it, if she had intended to get in it.

If she accidentally fell overboard, for some reason, wouldn’t she have been screaming for help?  No one heard a sound.  If she had hit her head hard against the boat and was unconscious there would have been an severe head injury, but there wasn’t. The boat they were on wasn’t that big at all.  The captain says he even had to play his radio loudly to drown out the arguing that had been going on all night.  The captain stated that he saw Wagner and Woods arguing on the deck and shortly after Wagner went to him saying he couldn’t find Natalie.  So evidently, the statement Wagner made that he last saw her brushing her hair in the bathroom was a lie. The captain searched the boat for her, but never found her. She was missing and Wagner was not that concerned because he poured drinks for himself and the captain and told him not to alert anyone that she was missing.  For all anyone knows, according to my friend, Wagner himself could have unsecured the dinghy after throwing her into the water to make it look like she left on her own.

The captain feels that Robert Wagner had something to do with her death.  The captain told a story at the time, that was consistent with the facts that Wagner wanted to reveal.  However, when Natalie was missing, during the first 15 minutes or so, the captain wanted to put on the ship’s light and start a search.  Wagner told him not to do that, to leave her out there and teach her a lesson…a lesson that lasted 4 hours and ended in her death.  Natalie was found a mile from the dinghy, wearing a down jacket over her nightgown. Wagner wasn’t the one to identify the body either, the captain did that.

Wagner theorizes that Natalie was trying to leave the yacht when she accidentally slipped and fell.  However, a woman in a nearby yacht heard a woman screaming for help around midnight. The cries lasted for 15 minutes and then she heard a voice call out, “Take it easy, we’ll be over to get you.”

I didn’t know half of this information thirty years ago and I thought it was murder then.  I am more than convinced of it now.  This facts just don’t add up to an accident.  Whatever happened, there are still three people from that boat who are alive and can tell us.  One of them, Christopher Walken, has hired himself a lawyer to advise him.  Wagner, who is 81 and has lived out his glorious life happily married to Stephanie Powers, is not a suspect, or so they say.  For me he is and always has been the number one suspect.  The case was closed way too fast and not enough investigating was done.  All of these facts should have been pursued at the time of her death, not thirty years later.  And what about this person Marilyn Wayne, who heard a woman’s shouts for help that were ignored?  Well investigators evidently ignored what she had to say too.  

I hope Christopher Walken knows exactly what happened and opens up about it.  Three people were there, give them all lie detector tests and get to the bottom of it already.  It’s time that Natalie Wood rest in peace.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Rose By Any Other Name…

…would smell as sweet.  Shakespeare’s line came to mind when I read in the news that Congress passed a bill that would categorize pizza as a vegetable.  Yes you read that right.  Pizza is now officially a vegetable thanks to the tomato sauce on it.  The hell with the issue of obesity in children and healthier lunches.  We’ll just reclassify pizza as a vegetable and keep it on the school menu.  After all the special interest groups needs must come before the health of the country’s children.  

Starchy vegetables were also to be limited to one cup a week.  However, the potato people were not too happy about that, as schools use 300 million pounds of potatoes every year, and cutting them to once a week would cut into their profits.  So, now French fries will not be limited.  Besides, if the kids just put a couple of teaspoons of ketchup on them, they can also be called vegetables and not starches.  

Since pizza and fries are the most consumed foods on the school menu, not much is going to change in terms of creating healthier choices for kids to eat.  But why stop there?  The government, in all its wisdom, is sabotaging 32 million school children.  Maybe we can take it a few steps further?

How about beef jerky as a protein?  Cheese cake for dairy?  Blueberry pie as a fruit?  Oatmeal cookies for whole grains?  We can doctor up all the unhealthy foods and make them healthy.  If we can do it with pizza we can do it with anything.  Take a glass of Coke or Pepsi and squeeze some lemon juice in it.  The whole thing is ridiculous.

Everyone knows you can make a healthy version of pizza.  Make the crust from whole grain flour, add fresh tomato sauce, and healthy toppings like chicken, green peppers, pineapple, or whatever.  You can make it without all the oil, that’s what I dislike most about pizza.  However, that would not suit the producers of the pizzas who are currently supplying the schools.  Their version is the same old unhealthy variety that has been bought by schools and consumed by kids for years.  They aren’t about to make changes any time soon.  

Even when I visited college campuses for open houses, while my girls were trying to decide where to go, the majority of dietary choices were fast food options and very few healthy food cafeterias.  My daughter did a report about the “Freshmen 15” which dealt with a myth that freshmen gain 15 pounds their first year of college.  The truth is they don’t gain 15 pounds.  However, they do tend to gain a significant amount of weight that first year. Studies show that the average student gains 7 or 8 pounds.  And while there may be other factors included in why they gain the weight, one of the biggest factors is the type of food readily available.

I guess, if we wait long enough to deal with this issue, we will have a obese society.  It reminds me of a toy from years ago…the Playskool Weebles…weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.  You must remember those little egg-shaped people your babies played with?  Well if you forgot, here they are…soon to be us.

Vatican Upset About Photoshopped Pope…

The Vatican acted swiftly to denounce the above photoshopped picture of the Pope, which was pulled the same day as it was released.  The picture is disrespectful and abuses the Popes image, which has to be protected at all costs.    

I could hardly contain myself enough to write a blog about this yesterday, because while the Pope’s image has to be protected, our children not so much.  A friend mentioned that last year Pope Benedict made a controversial statement that somehow slipped by me unnoticed.  Perhaps God Himself was protecting me, but now I have checked it out.  Several sources popped up when I googled to see what was said.  Several articles came up, including some which give accounts of how the Pope, while known as Joseph Ratzinger the archbishop of Munich, help to protect a known pedophile priest or two. One who for many years was protected by the name “H” and we now know his name was Father Hullermann.  Another priest, Father Murphy of Wisconsin, abused 200 deaf boys for years and the Pope knew about it, nothing was done.  More scandal revolved around the fact that his older brother, George Ratzinger, led a choir for 30 years in which many serious claims of sexual abuse were made.  I’m sure if I kept searching I would find even more instances of turning a blind eye at child abuse.  

Just last year, December 2010, Pope Benedict spoke up about pedophilia and this is what he had to say with some explanation from live (the Pope‘s words are in quotes):

Benedict said that while the church accepted some responsibility, he could not be silent about ''the context of these times.... There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society."  Benedict claimed that as recently as the 1970s, "pedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children." In this climate, the Catholic Church's actions were merely reflecting the moral relativism of the times: "It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself," Benedict said. That is, church leaders weren't sure if child sexual abuse was wrong, since secular society seemed to accept it.

Is it just me or is the Pope and Vatican more upset about a photoshopped picture than they are about the ongoing sexual abuse of children within the Church?  Actual child pornography pictures are categorized as “normal,” but an obvious photoshopped picture of him has to be pulled immediately because it's disrespectful?  These are the things that drive me crazy.  They are indefensible.  The explanation above is pure rationalization in an attempt to protect the Church and himself from wrong doing.  The Church is never going to “own” what happened and is still happening.  

Well there is no time for tracking down all the pedophile priests and coming clean with all the victims.  No time to expose all the cover-ups and transfers of priests, which allowed them to continue their reign of terror in other parishes.  Nope.  What is important is to protect the Pope’s and the Church’s image.  Oh and tracking down and getting rid of photoshopped pictures that may be disrespectful to the Pope.  Yep, they got their priorities straight.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jeff Ashton, Prosecutor, Speaks Out On Casey Anthony…

Well, Dr. Phil has his finger on the pulse of everything that everyone wants to know, and his hand on the cash that high ratings brings.  Jeff Ashton’s book about the Casey Anthony trial just came out and Dr. Phil had him on the show to talk about what happened.  Did he misjudge the jury?  And what is he going to say about Casey’s psychological evaluation.  I invested so much in following the story hoping for justice for Caylee, that I decided to tune in and see what new information Jeff might shed on the case.  He may give us his thoughts as to what he thinks happened to Caylee…here we go.

Jeff has a new book, Imperfect Justice, that has come out.  It contains new information that never came out.  Jeff was totally shocked by the verdict.  All 12 jurors disregarded all the evidence in a short amount of time.  His biggest complaint about Jose Baez, his dishonesty with the prosecution, the Anthony’s and the court.

They show a couple of jurors who said that the prosecution didn’t even prove their case, yet Jeff never thought the case was in trouble.  Jeff says they never saw the photos of how the body was found with duct tape over her face.  There is no reason to have duct tape over Caylee’s face.  (On a previous show, George Anthony believes that too much drug was given to Caylee and she never woke up…a chemical babysitter, so Caylee could go out and have a good time and freedom).  Jeff says this theory still doesn’t explain the duct tape. Jeff says Casey decided that Caylee was keeping her from the life she wanted.  She used chloroform to put her to sleep and, type up her mouth and nose to kill her and then left in the trunk of the car while she went off with the boyfriend.  Jeff says no one takes a drowned child and puts duct tape over her mouth and dumps her in a swamp.  Two mental health doctors said that Casey told them that George murdered Caylee by drowning her. 

The defense points the finger at George during the trial.  Wow Marcia Clark is on the show and looks NOTHING like herself at all!  How much plastic surgery did she have? Damn!  The damaging problem is that the prosecution did not “clear” George so that Casey could be found guilty.  Marcia says a trial is a popularity contest.  If the jury likes the defendant there is no way you are going to convict.  They jury bought the story that George was there when Caylee drowned.  

Jeff is angry that they labeled George a child molester and Marcia agrees that something like that has a big impact on the jurors.  George was suspect.  And that is what really caused the acquittal.  They had doubts about George’s involvement that, in their minds, was never resolved by the prosecution.

Did the media influence the outcome of the trial?  Jane Valez Mitchell is on the show to speak to that.  She wants to know how to make chloroform, if that is what she used, how did she make it?  Why wasn’t that explained?  Jeff thinks the media was a factor in the outcome, even though they did what they were supposed to do and report on the case. The information they released helped to exclude many potential jurors who wanted to be on the jury and would have evaluated the evidence in a different way.  

The jury was not unanimous from the start.  Not guilty doesn’t mean innocent.  The jury did what they did based on how they interpreted the law, says one juror.

Marcia Clark gets very passionate about the evidence that all points to Casey’s guilt: the duct tape, the bella vita tattoo, the chloroform, the 30 days of lying, she was the last person seen with the baby… These are all the things and more that point only to Casey and not George.  

All in all, there was really nothing new brought out.  If the jury had reasonable doubt because of George, then they were not the brightest group of people.  Too bad because a child murderer is free to do whatever she wants and go on to have a life while her precious baby barely had a chance to live.  

It was good to see Marcia Clark again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bradley Cooper Sexiest Man Alive?

No way!  People magazine must not have looked very hard if Bradley is all they could come up with.  His nose is too big for his face and he looks a lot like Robin Williams.  Now we all know that magazines air brush all their pictures, especially those that go on the cover.  So Bradley is looking at his best here.  But he is just a younger version of Robin Williams, seriously.

Now Robin may not be as well endowed or have the same shape of baby blue eyes, but there is quite a resemblance between these two thespians.  I am just a little tired of all the drooling over Bradley.  Bradley has been seen with every starlet in Hollywood. He is the first one there to help a damsel in distress when she is going through a breakup, but he doesn't stay for long.  You gotta wonder about a guy who can have any girl he wants and sticks with no one at all.  I have done my wondering and my research.  Nothing sticks.

Anyway, he is good looking...yes.  Sexiest man! But, maybe Don Diamont from The Bold and the Beautiful could fill that title.

Don Diamont has been a soap actor for years, and like wine, he gets better and better with age.  But will he ever get picked for sexiest man alive?  No.  Why? Because he hasn't been on the big screen.  There are plenty of sexy men around.  I just think People should do a more thorough search.  That's all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sandusky's Lawyer...Bird Of A feather?

Just as Sandusky tries to dismiss the charges against him by a not so defiant denial and describing his actions in the shower as “horsing around,” we find out a few things about his lawyer, Joe Amendola.  

Joe Amendola represented a client named Mary Lavasile in a case of emancipation against her parents in 1996, a few weeks before her 17th birthday.  At the same time, Mary became pregnant with Joe Amedola’s baby, according to Mary’s mother, Janet.  Mary met Joe through the school district and her mother had no idea of their involvement.  Joe was 49 years old, while Mary was 16.  The two married in 2003 when they had a second child.  The two have since split up.  Janet now says she respects Joe because he has been a good father.  What???  If a 49 year old man took advantage of my 16 year old daughter I really hate to think what I would have done.

Before I have a total stroke, I learned that the age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16.  But a man nearly 50 and a 16 year old girl is just wrong on so many levels.  It makes me think he is a pedophile too. And Joe is quick to defend Sandusky’s actions by saying he is just a jock and that’s what jock’s do!  Anyone who could defend a pedophile has to be sick themselves.  And Joe says he believes in Sandusky’s innocence so much that he would leave his own children alone with him.  Right, I’d love to put him to the test!

Here we have two dirty old men who take advantage of vulnerable children for their own sexual gratification.  It’s disgusting.  Sandusky should go to prison for the rest of his life, which would not be long enough to satisfy me that he paid for his crimes.  Amendola technically didn’t break any laws, but a 49 year old man and a 16 year old girl is morally wrong. Pennsylvania needs to change its laws today.  What does a 16 year old know about consent?  It’s a pedophile’s safe haven.  Just have them all go there to find their victims, and then claim consent.  

When is this country going to wake up already?  Raise the age of consent and crack down on these perverts!

Black Thursday Anyone?

Yes, it’s gone from bad to worse.  It wasn’t enough to open the stores the Friday after Thanksgiving.  It wasn’t enough to open them practically in the middle of the night, at 4 a.m. either.  Now some stores want to open on Thanksgiving night at 10 p.m. or midnight.  What’s next?

There are several guilty stores trying to out sell everyone else with the earlier openings: Target, Best Buy and Macy’s are at the top of the list. Guiltiest of all is Walmart, who wants to open at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving, barely giving employees and shoppers a chance to celebrate and digest their big dinners, before scrambling off to their aisles for presents.  Stores keep trying to outdo one another, get the most sales, before consumers run out of money.  The hell with the holiday, with traditions, with families spending time and celebrating together…commercialism comes first.  Greed for profits has overcome everything we hold sacred.  Let’s sacrifice Thanksgiving for Christmas.  Wouldn’t you rather spend it fighting with strangers for merchandise or waiting on long lines?  Is saving a few dollars really worth it?

If holiday shoppers go along with these changes then it won’t be long before other stores feel compelled to join in.  In fact, the trend will be for stores to stay open all of Thanksgiving, and call it Black Thursday…after the shopping it’ll be a Blue Friday.  That’s it!  “Black and Blue Thursday and Friday” and just forget Thanksgiving altogether.   I know a few turkeys who will be relieved.  

This is pure craziness.  I made the mistake of going shopping on a Black Friday, not too long ago.  Biggest mistake I ever made.  The lines were horrendous and we didn’t find anything…nothing. My girls, who love to shop, looked like deer caught in the headlights.  They were afraid to move through the store.  My poor husband, who tolerates shopping for our sake, just stood there shaking his head.  I’m not sure how long we were there, but it had to be less than an hour.  None of us were cut out for it.  I personally would rather pay full price in an empty store than try to get a deal on Black Friday.  Shop early, shop online, but don’t bother hitting the stores.  I didn’t even see any bargains anyway.

I hope shoppers boycott stores opening this Thanksgiving.  We have to send a message that enough is enough.  How many more of our traditions can commercialism eat up?  It’s not getting any more of mine!  I am staying home and eating my traditional turkey dinner with my family, tell a few stories, laugh and take a nap.  If I have energy left over on Friday, I will go “online” not on line, and see if anything peaks my interest.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

American Horror Story: Sneak Preview 11/16

I seem to be obsessed with this show and have to watch it.  Too much happens to blog about it every week, but I just had to say something this week.  I find the show is a "Rosemary's Baby" in a haunted house setting.  So many people have died in that house it's impossible to keep track.  They should post a score card every week, not just of all the dead people, but all the characters.  Not many of them are alive.  I am dying to see that baby when it's born.  Ben and Vivian rarely check anything out.  Something is definitely up with that baby and the sonogram technician even met Vivian at a church to tell her it's a demon with hooves.  What does Vivian say, after pursuing the matter and trying to find out why the technician fainted?  "It was probably a machine malfunction."  Really?  Enough bad things haven't happened in that house to arouse her suspicions and get a second opinion?  And why the hell are they still in that house?  I know they have no money, per se, but to stay they and defy the odds is unbelievable.  No one is that brave.  The house is so damn big and all the locks in the world have not kept anyone out.  I found a sneak preview of this week's upcoming episode "Open House".  I had to watch it and then I figured I would share it along with my new two cents.

I have always loved horror stories and this one has it all, as unbelievable as the episodes are, I have to keep tuning in.  My biggest complaint is that almost the whole episode takes place in the dark and I cannot see what the hell is happening too much of the time.  I hope they fix that for season two...if the family survives to film an episode two.

The Truth Behind The Wizard Of Oz, As I See It…

As a kid I watched The Wizard of Oz every year without fail.  It was my favorite movie and held my interest even after I had most of the lines committed to memory and would recite them with the characters.  But as you watch a movie over and over, you begin to see things you missed, you start to question things you took for granted and you don’t see it with the same innocence you did when you were younger.  As my keen sense of skepticism grew and my cynical attitude took shape, my views on The Wizard of Oz and the characters changed.

At first I took everything in the story at face value: poor lost Dorothy, a bad witch trying to kill her for a pair of shoes, a good witch looking out for her and protecting her and three helpful friends who had nothing better to do than go to Oz with her.  But, that is not how I saw it years later.  

First of all, Dorothy and Toto weren’t so innocent.  Dorothy passed by Miss Gulch’s place every day before Toto actually bit her.  It was only after Miss Gulch came to take the dog away did Dorothy promised to go home a different way.  That is what started this whole mess in the first place.  And Toto wasn’t on a leash!

Now in the dream, Dorothy’s house lands on the wicked witch of the east’s house, killing her instantly.  The opportunistic “good witch” Glinda immediately puts the shoes on Dorothy’s feet and convinces her to keep them.  The Wicked Witch of the West is pretty damned upset.  First her sister has been killed and people everywhere are celebrating and singing and dancing.  It’s only natural she would be upset.  Then she finds out that her sister’s only possession, a pair of red shoes, has been taken and placed on Dorothy’s feet.  The Wicked Witch is the only heir and rightfully should have gotten the ruby slippers, but the Good Witch basically stole them and gave them to Dorothy…so much for good witches.  

The Good Witch, Glinda, is very good at keeping secrets.  She knows that the ruby slippers have the power to send Dorothy and Toto home immediately, but instead of telling her that, she sends her on a wild goose chase to see a “fake” Wizard.  Never mind that she made the Wicked Witch so mad that she knows she will be in hot pursuit of Dorothy the whole time!  So the “good” witch places Dorothy’s life at risk and sends her on her way down a yellow brick road, and floats off in her magic ball.  

The “evil” witch just wants her sister’s shoes back.  Wouldn’t you if some stranger took them? So who can blame her if she resorts to what she knows best, a little magic, to get them?  I don’t.  First she has some trees throw apples at Dorothy and her friends.  They got a nice snack out of it and no harm was done.  Then she creates a field of poppies to make them sleep.  After all that walking they all needed a rest anyway.  The “good” witch decides to make it snow so they can all wake up and rusts the Tin Man all over again.  She is really a big help isn’t she?  I hate it when people wake me up from a good nap.

While they are in Oz, the bad witch writes a message in the sky “Surrender Dorothy.”  So what, who cares?  Dorothy and her friends finally meet with the Wizard, who is nothing more than a charlatan who landed in Oz when his balloon ran of out steam.  Now, taking a page from Glinda’s book, he decides to send Dorothy on a deadly mission.  He will not help her unless she brings back the broom of the Wicked Witch.  To get that broom, she has to go into the witches castle and kill her too.  Where is Glinda now?  You would think this might be a good time to tell her about the ruby slippers, but no, she keeps quiet.  

Dorothy and Toto are now captives of the Wicked Witch and she wants her sister’s damn shoes.  Dorothy won’t part with them.  Finally, Dorothy’s three friends make it into the castle and find Dorothy.  The Wicked Witch grabs some fire and burns scarecrows arm.  Innocent Dorothy grabs a pitcher of water and hurls it at the burning arm (hay can easily be replaced by the way, notice she didn’t burn Dorothy).  The water “accidentally” splashes on the Wicked Witch and she instantly melts.  In less than two hours Dorothy has managed to kill two witches, sisters who have done nothing to her, and stolen their shoes and a broom.

Now Dorothy has the “broom” and takes it back to the Wizard, who says he is too busy to see her.  But, of course, he has no choice.  She called his bluff and he lets her in.  While he is trying to weasel out of helping her, Toto runs over and pulls the curtain back, revealing the liar for who he is, an old man with a balloon.  Still he tries to make good on his promise and prepares the balloon for take off.  And still Glinda is nowhere to be found!  Once inside the balloon, Toto jumps out just before take off and Dorothy follows.  The balloon takes off without them as the “wizard” doesn’t even know how to work his own balloon.  Dorothy starts crying that she will never get home.  Then, the magic Glinda ball floats down and she pops out.  Don’t cry, she tells her, you have always had the power to get home.  Dorothy can hardly believe her ears.  Neither can I.  “Yes,” says Glinda, “it’s in those ruby slippers.  I couldn’t tell you before now because you wouldn’t have believed me.”  She wouldn’t have believed her?  Are you kidding me?  She believed her about the wicked witches, and the wizard, but the shoes were over the top?  Yet Dorothy naively accepts this like everything else.

So Glinda tells Dorothy to click her heels three times while saying there is no place like home and she and Toto will be home lickity split.  Now Dorothy says her good byes and manages to insult the Tin Man and Lion, when she says she will miss Scare Crow most of all, just before she leaves.  Way to go to break a Tin Man’s heart!  

Dorothy wakes up safe and sound at home surrounded by her family and friends and no witches.  I wonder if she ever thinks back and realizes what a surreptitious person Glinda was?  Maybe one day I will rewrite the story the way it should be told!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Simpler Times...

You know before there were computers, and ipads and ipods and iphones and androids, and wii’s and x-boxes, there was other stuff.  When we were kids, back in the prehistoric ages, we played board games for fun.  We had to watch the Wizard of Oz once a year, when it was televised, there were no DVDs.  We had to read real books from the library, there was no world wide web or Kindle to download books our books.  TV dinners had to be warmed up in the oven, there were no microwaves.  You need to use pay phones, there were no cell phones.  You had to know how to read maps, there were no GPS systems.  You had to type all your reports on manual or electric typewriters and if you made a mistake you needed “white-out” to correct it because it wasn’t saved in memory and there was no backspace/delete function.  Life was much simpler back then somehow, even though it sounds harder.

I remember many times when my mother would stop at the 5 & 10 cents store and pick up a tiny item for me, like a little Red Riding Hood doll that was two inches tall.  I made such a fuss over it, you would think she had gotten me something huge, but it only cost a few cents and it made me happy.  My mother would get a kick out of our reactions to these little surprises out of the blue.  One day, when I came home for lunch, she made me delicious lamb chops.  I didn’t know then how lucky I was.  I ate up all my meal and drank my soda and then she said to me, look under your plate.  She had purchased a pack of Beatle cards and hid them under the plate for me to find.  Little things like that meant so much.  I can just imagine if I were to pick up something like that for my kids.  I have always made it a habit of picking up things for them over the years, if I saw something I thought they would enjoy, but their reaction would never rise to the level mine did as a kid.  Today kids have so much more of everything, so only the best gifts get any kind of reaction from them.  I have tried every year to make sure they find something under the tree worthy of a big reaction of surprise.  It isn’t easy.  This year I just may fail.  After a while you run out of ideas and stuff to get.  I usually have most of my shopping done by this time of the year, instead I have bought next to nothing so far.

Even as the girls get older and say they don’t care so much about Christmas and surprises, I know that’s not true. I know we all still have that little kid inside, who wants to open a gift and be blown away.  No one wants to open a package and find socks, underwear or pajamas in it.  Did you ever hear anyone yell out, “Yay, my favorite socks!”

I hope I figure something out soon.  Meanwhile, maybe I better start window shopping online and see if anything jumps out at me.  If not it’s going to be a socks and underwear kind of Christmas!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Catholic Church Vs. Penn State

Yes, bless the children, in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

As much as the Penn State sexual abuse scandal bothers me, and it does, I can’t help but compare it to what happened nine years ago with the Catholic Church, when the priest/pedophile scandal broke out.  I have been waiting ten years or more for action on that situation and I have never gotten any satisfaction.  Where is the outrage against the church?  I feel like what my husband said at the time has come true.  He told me they will just wait it out and in time people will forget about it.  Now I feel like I am the only one who remembers and wants answers.  

In the case of Penn State, we have eight victims of sexual abuse.  The man, Sandusky, perpetrating the abuse was fired, but there was a witness and he told Paterno, who told a couple of other university officials, all of whom did nothing or contacted the authorities.  For all we know, Sandusky went on to another school and victimized more children.  Maybe, before he was hired at Penn State, he had a job where he was abusing children.  I hope his whole life in thoroughly investigated and more victims come forward.  He should be locked up for the rest of his life.  And laws need to be passed everywhere in this country, that people who know of sexual abuse of children must report it or they will be charged with aiding and abetting the abuser.  There is really not enough that can be done to protect our children.  

But what about the church scandal?  Were any of the priests prosecuted?  There were thousands of complaints over the years, which were handled internally by the church, just like at Penn State.  The authorities should not be involved and the story should not get out lest it tarnish their reputation.  So the church provided some quick “fix” therapy (or so they say) and then transferred the guilty priests to other parishes where unsuspecting parents and children were again victimized.  There is no cure for pedophilia, period.  The pedophile can take medication to eliminate their sexual urges, but who can trust them to do that?  Not me, that’s for damn sure.  Then the only other course of action is to lock them up for the rest of their lives.  As long as they roam free and there are children in this world, they will abuse them.  

Now what specifics are there on the church, who have cases reported all over the world?  Actual reports of sexual abuse in the church started coming out in the 1980’s.  When the scandal broke in 2001 the Pope declared it a “sin” against the sixth commandment of Decalogue, whatever that is, who cares.  Do we need the Pope to declare the sexual abuse of a minor by a priest a “sin.”  A report completed in 2004 found that 4,392 priests had complaints made against them based on 10,667 allegations filed. By 2002 the church paid out one billion dollars in settlements and LEGAL FEES.  Yes, Catholics everywhere who donated money at mass, were paying to defend pedophiles against these charges.  I will say this much, when the church scandal broke in 2001, we stopped giving money to the church.  They wrote us asking for contributions and I wrote back, to my pastor, two scathing letters telling him until I am satisfied that they have taken care of the problem and punished all involved I would be giving my money to worthy charities and not to the church.  I am still waiting.  I could be wrong, but I have yet to hear of a priest going to jail.  So many children were victims, I believe the figures aren’t even close the real number of victims.  Some of these children, as is often the case with abuse of this nature, grew up to be abusers, all of them had their lives ruined and their innocence taken away.  

So while I am outraged at what went on and is going on at Penn State, I will never forget what came out in 2001 with the Catholic Church and I am not satisfied that they have done nearly enough to rectify and prevent this from happening.  I believe they destroyed documents that contained complaints and their cover-up transfers as much as they could.  And what happened to law enforcement?  There were lists of priests in the newspapers who were being investigated and I never heard of anything coming out of those investigations.  Two of the priests were involved with programs and churches that my girls took part in.  One was part of our church and religious instruction program the other was affiliated with the church where they went to Girl Scouts.  I never heard anything about either of them after their names were on the list.  Were they all allowed to withdraw from the priesthood and disappear to who knows where?  I don’t think I will ever know.

When society realizes that children don’t have a voice and they need us all to speak up for them and protect them, maybe something will be done.  Those at Penn State who were willing to look the other way and allow this to go on for ten years, that is a crime.  If it were their children you can bet they would have had plenty to say, but these were someone else’s children so they turned a blind eye to it.  No one had a twinge of conscience?  No one thought that after Sandusky was fired he would be still going after innocent children?  

The whole thing just makes me sick.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State Abuse Scandal…

I’ve been hearing quite a bit about this story on the news and it makes me wonder.  Joe Paterno, age 84, has been a coach at Penn State for 46 years and he was planning to retire at the end of the season.  He had a very long career at the university and was well loved by students and faculty alike.  He was a legend in his own time.  And suddenly, a scandal erupts and his fifty years of dedicated service is flushed down the toilet.  He is unanimously fired over the phone.  His long career ends in disgrace and humiliation overnight.

The news stunned everyone, students especially. They could not keep from expressing their feelings and some were even arrested for “rioting.”  Joe Paterno technically did nothing wrong.  The scandal involved Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator of the school, who faces 40 counts of allegedly sexually abusing eight young boys for more than a decade. Boys who came from an at-risk charity called The Second Mile.  It is reported that he also invited them over for sleepovers. The crimes allegedly took place on campus.  They were witnessed!  This is the sequence of events: “After being told by then graduate assistant Mike McQueary in 2002 that he’d witnessed Sandusky assaulting a young boy in the locker room shower, Paterno told athletic director Tim Curley and vice president of business and finance Gary Schultz was later informed, according to the Attorney General's report. Schultz and Curley said they told Spanier. The decision was made to  not allow Sandusky back on campus with the boys from his charity, The Second Mile. No one informed the police.”

And there lies the problem.  No one reported it further.  No legal action was taken because the authorities were not informed.  University officials were told, nothing was basically done.  The crime of those who knew and choose not to take it further is that they allowed the abuse to continue and also go unpunished.  And everyone involved seems to be getting let go.  University money depends on them taking action.  Maybe they didn’t do enough not to expose a scandal which would not be good for the school.  Better to turn a blind eye to it and hope it goes away on its own?  It’s really disgraceful that at an institution of higher learning doesn’t take sexual abuse of children more seriously.  Of course now that it is in the media, they can’t do enough, they can’t be outraged enough, they have got to rid the school of everyone who had knowledge of the situation and did nothing.  And that’s where Joe Paterno comes in.  He reported it and then dropped the ball.  He didn’t follow up to see what, if anything, was being done.  

Penn State and it’s officials dropped the ball on this foul case of abuse.  Eight young boys who were supposed to be receiving help, were victimized.  Several adults knew about it, the acts witnessed and reported.  Nothing was done…till now.  Now it’s in the media and heads will roll, charges will be pressed, everyone will want justice.  How do you get justice for 10 years of abusing eight boys?  What is a fair punishment?  And how do you live with yourself knowing you did nothing, NOTHING to stop it from going on?  

It becomes more impossible for parents to protect their children every day.  The people they are supposed to be able to trust are the ones they have to fear the most.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Miss Napolitano, My Fourth Grade Teacher

Miss Napolitano was my fourth grade teacher.  She was tall, very pretty and had a “That Girl” hair style.  She had a beautiful smile, when she used it.  She was also very strict, some might say mean.  Somehow, as meek as I was, I appreciated her no nonsense attitude.  I loved going to school and learning and didn’t appreciate class clowns or bad behavior.  Needless to say, we didn’t have any of that in her classroom.  

Even though I had her back in 1964, I do have a few vivid memories that stand out in my mind to this day.  One day, early in the school year, Miss Napolitano decided to check our penmanship.  She printed a couple of paragraphs on the board that we were supposed to copy in cursive writing.  I had not learned cursive writing in third grade, like I was supposed to, because my teacher was sick and absent a lot.  So I tried to recopy the assignment using the cursive alphabet posted above the blackboard.  I thought I did a pretty good job too, for my first time.  Then Miss Napolitano called us up, row by row, to check our work.  I might have been in the second or third row to go up.  When she takes a look at my book she says, “What the heck do you call this?”  I looked down and was horrified to see that halfway through I had switched over to printing, it was all I had known.  I apologized and said I hadn’t learned cursive writing last year.  She told me to get a notebook and practice at home.  

As it got close to November, Miss Napolitano announced that we were going to put on a Thanksgiving play in the assembly.  I was horrified.  There was no way I could speak in front of an assembly full of classes, teachers and parents.  I quickly skimmed the script to find the smallest speaking part to volunteer for.  Since I never volunteer or raise my hand, the chances of my getting picked for what I wanted were always good.  I got the part.  It was two or three short lines, the last one being, “The turkey’s burned to a crisp!”  I never considered that there were a ton of non-speaking parts for the play, so I shot myself in the foot.

One day, one of the boys, John, wasn’t wearing a tie, which was required of boys for assembly days.  Miss Napolitano took out her spare clip on tie from the closet and gave it to him.  He must have said something insulting, because the next thing we knew, she slapped him across the face good and hard.  It’s things like that. That kept us all in line.

Then there was the day I went home to have lunch, as usual.  While I was there I complained to my mother about an itch on my back.  She took a look at it and said to me, “I don’t know if this is prickly heat or German measles? I’ll send you to school with a note.”  When I got back to the classroom I promptly walked up to the teacher’s desk and handed her the note that read: Dear Miss Napolitano, my daughter came home for lunch and I checked her back.  I’m not sure if she has prickly heat or German measles.”  Sincerely…..  Miss Napolitano read the note quickly and turned to me and said, in a very annoyed voice, “Is she for REAL?”  Then she called on a girl to take me down to the nurse immediately.  Needless to say it wasn’t prickly heat.

As fourth grade was coming to an end I was already sad that I would not be having Miss Napolitano as a teacher any more.  Then I got a brainstorm.  I decided to pray the whole summer and through fifth grade that I would be in her sixth grade class.  And I did pray and pray.  At the end of fifth grade we got our report cards with our new teacher’s names for sixth grade at the end.  It wasn’t Miss Napolitano.  I was devastated because I had convinced myself that she would be my sixth grade teacher.  I went home very disappointed and yet I still prayed for a miracle that whole summer.  

The first day of sixth grade arrived. Our class all got to the designated room, but there was no teacher there.  There was a lot of whispering going on and then suddenly, Miss Napolitano blew into the room as if pushed by a strong wind.  She looked at us and we at her and she said, “I know, I am just as surprised as you are!”  Apparently, the teacher we were supposed to have was pregnant and decided to take maternity leave sooner rather than later, and Miss Napolitano was assigned our class at the last minute!  I was overjoyed to say the least.  My secret prayers were answered after all.

I already knew how Miss Napolitano operated, but most of the students did not.  One day Rosalia was sucking on a cough drop for her cold.  Miss Napolitano asked her what she had in her mouth, and she answered a cough drop.  Miss Napolitano told her, in a very stern voice, to get up and spit it out.  First of all she did not ask permission to have a cough drop and second of all there was no eating in the classroom.  She confiscated the box of cough drops too.  Even I thought that was a bit harsh.

Another day we were learning Roman Numerals in math.  Miss Napolitano assigned a group of us to put the answers up on the blackboard.  She gave me the last and hardest problem.  Of course, I got it wrong.  So she says, “That’s wrong, try again.”  I was certain I would not be able to get it with all this pressure and 30 pairs of eyes on me.  I got it wrong a second and maybe a third time too.  She was relentless and wanted me to stay there till I got it right.  Thank God for Barbara, who was sitting very close to where I was working.  She showed me her answer which I put up there as fast as lightning, because I had nothing to lose.  Miss Napolitano says, “Finally!”  I go sit down or rather collapse in my seat.  That was an ordeal I will never forget.

There came a day when Miss Napolitano was absent.  We were all waiting in the hall for a long time and then the reading teacher, Mrs. Taft, came to tell us that Miss Napolitano would not be in and she would wait with us until the substitute arrived.  Hearing that news, the class broke out with glee and laughter, as this meant we would have a day off from class work and homework.  Mrs. Taft restored order and made us take out something to read.  However, the next day she made it a point to tell Miss Napolitano how happy we were that she was “sick” the day before.  When Miss Napolitano entered the room the next day she was even more serious than usual.  After taking attendance, she says she didn’t realize how happy we would be at the thought of her being sick.  We could see her feelings were hurt, she wasn’t just angry.  Of course, we weren’t happy about her being sick at all, we were just celebrating a work free day.  Rosalia, who was by far the smartest girl in the class, had an idea.  She said she would make a big heart at home that night and we could all bring in letters apologizing and explaining our behavior the next morning.  She would put them all in the heart and give it to Miss Napolitano.  The next morning Rosalia had her big heart, which she constructed like a folder, to hold all our letters.  She stuffed them all in and then managed to get another teacher to call Miss Napolitano out to the hall while she placed the heart on her desk.  When Miss Napolitano walked back into the room she was taken by surprise to see this huge heart carefully placed on her desk and asked what it was for. Rosalia explained that we were sorry for what had happened the other day.  Miss Napolitano seemed touched by our efforts and took the heart home with her, never mentioning the heart or the incident again.

It was getting to the last couple of months of sixth grade.  I knew we were all going on to junior high school and there was no amount of praying that was going to keep me in the safe haven of elementary school.  I had to be happy with the fact that my prayers were answered and I had Miss Napolitano for a second year.  

One day Miss Napolitano came into to the room grinning from ear to ear.  It was unusual to say the least.  She looked like she would burst from happiness.  The answer soon became clear when another teacher came running into the room to congratulate her and look at her ring.  There on her hand was a large, sparkling diamond!  She had gotten engaged!  She was so happy and it was so unlike her, but I guess she could contain it.  We were all happy for her and congratulated her.  

We finished out the school year together. It was time to move on in our lives.  We with our education, Miss Napolitano with her wedding plans and new life.  I never saw or heard of her after graduation.  I think of her often.  I wonder why she was so stern and yet always had a such soft place in my heart?  I hope she had a happy life and children of her own.