Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year…Past and Present

When I was a kid we celebrated New Year’s Eve at my aunt Mary’s house. Everyone would have dinner in their own home and then around six o’clock we would gather at her house to wait for the New Year. Now there were three families living in this six family house in Brooklyn and my other aunt Mary and uncle Louie would come and stay over. All in all there were 12 of us celebrating. 

My aunts and uncles, along with my parents, would be playing poker and smoking all night. The five cousins would be entertained by my aunt Mary, who didn’t smoke and didn’t care for playing cards. She kept us busy playing games, singing and telling stories. She got us New Year’s hats and noise makers, streamers and confetti. All the while, Guy Lombardo’s band would be in the background at Times Square. It was a great way to end a holiday season that started on Thanksgiving and ended literally with a bang on New Year’s Eve. That was because after the ball dropped and we all kissed each other and wished each other a Happy New Year, the adults would go back to playing cards and my aunt Mary would give us her pots and spoons. She would take us out in front of the door and let us bang the pots to welcome the New Year, until we got too cold and wanted to go back inside. Then she would tell us to lie down and take a “nap” because the adults weren’t finished playing cards. Those were the good old days of Happy New Year!

Then, when I was about 15, my aunt Mary and her family moved away, about 45 minutes away. Everything changed. They didn’t want to drive in or my mother didn’t want a full house on New Year’s Eve. My mother didn’t want to drive out there either. She was afraid of drunk drivers and most of all “stray bullets” because people shot their guns off New Year’s Eve. So we all stayed at our own homes. My aunt did offer to let us sleep over, but my mother wasn’t a very agreeable person. So the four of us stayed up to watch the ball drop and went to bed. It was a pretty miserable adjustment to have to make after all these years. It wasn’t a very Happy New Year. But, by the time I got to college I had adjusted and didn’t much care anymore, I was just glad to be on winter break.

When I met my husband, we were in our twenties. He had a long time, rat pack of friends, I did not. His friends had spouses and girlfriends and for several New Year’s Eve we went out with them to celebrate at a local restaurant. We got dinner, a champagne toast, party hats and noise makers and drinks. We couldn’t hear ourselves talk, the places were so jam packed with people who have nothing better to do. But at least we weren’t sitting alone, at home, watching Guy Lombardo or Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve. We were out in the thick of the celebration and noise getting out first hangovers of the New Year. Happpppppppppppy New Year!

Then I got married and had my first baby in 1987. There was no way we were going out to celebrate New Year’s Eve! There are drunk drivers on the roads and “stray bullets” out there! I wasn’t going to take any chances and leave my baby orphaned. So we stayed home, baby tucked in her crib, and we watched the ball drop, while in our own bed, just waiting till we could officially go to sleep. No sense trying to turn in ahead of time because outside our bedroom window were ridiculous people banging pots and blowing noise makers and setting off fireworks all to welcome the New Year…what kind of foolishness is that? Happy Party-Pooping New Year!

As my girls got older and understood New Year’s was another holiday where they could stay up late and make noise and throw confetti, we had to humor them. Again we spent it just the four of us at home watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve together. Then we waited for the countdown and hugged, kissed, threw confetti and went outside with noise makers and pots. Sweet revenge on the neighbors who had kept us up every year! Still I felt bad that my girls weren’t surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles when welcoming the new year. In fact, it gets worse, as my husband and I could no longer last till midnight, the girls stayed up by themselves till one o’clock or so. It’s pretty pitiful I know, but then they really never knew any better. New Year’s Sucks!

Now they are both out of college. My older daughter will be out with her boyfriend and/or friends, while my younger daughter should go to bed early because she has to get up at 5:30 am to be at work at 6:30 am. The dog will get me and my husband up at 5:30 am too. There won’t be much celebrating here. I will be watching the Twilight Zone marathon until I fall fast asleep, which shouldn’t take long. I hope I sleep through the noise at midnight too. No matter what time you go to sleep at night, 5:30 am comes much too soon. Who the hell cares if it’s New Year’s Eve, I need my sleep!

And so I wish you and your loved ones all a very Happy & Healthy New Year in 2013, no matter how you celebrate, if you celebrate, or if you go straight to bed! 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

We'll Drink A Cup Of Kindness Yet...

More lyrics from Auld Lang Syne for today’s blog. It’s easier said than done to forget people in our past, even those who have hurt us. This is true especially if they have been a big part of our lives and there are certain times of the day or year that may just call them to mind whether we like it or not. Such is the case for me, whenever Christmastime rolls around.

I had a best friend for ten years, though our last year wasn’t the best of times, at least not for me. Every Christmas we would think of very thoughtful, personal gifts we knew the other would love. We got these ideas from hundreds of conversations we had throughout the year and made mental notes of special things. Whether it was a favorite book from years ago, a special movie, something thoughtful like a basket of favorite tea with a mug, favorite candy, incense, perfume, and so many other ideas that came out of sharing special times together. We would buy several gifts and wrap them and take the box to the Post Office to mail, because we lived 2,000 miles apart. Then, close to Christmas day, when no one was around in either household, we would get a glass of wine, sit under our respective trees and open our gifts together, while on the phone. I looked forward to those days as it was like having two Christmases. I still can’t help but think of my friend every Christmas rolls around although the relationship crumbled three years ago.

This particular memory was brought to mind by the helpful folks at Amazon. You see, for several years I had searched for the Dennis The Menace television series on DVD. My friend had mentioned how much she loved that show to me so many times in our chats, and I was very familiar with it having watched it in my childhood. Every Christmas I would search for the DVDs to surprise her, and every year I found they were not available yet. However, this Christmas, without my even looking for them, Amazon took it upon themselves to advise me the series was out on DVD. I had put Dennis on the back burner of my mind, along with lots of other memories, both good and bad. But, Amazon, without any bad intention at all, except to make a sale and satisfy a long time wish of mine, brought the memories of Christmases past to the present. I looked at the DVDs and remembered all the thought, time and effort we put into making each other’s Christmas joyful. I almost wanted to buy them and send them anonymously, but wasn’t sure I wanted to open the door to the wounds that have been healing nicely over the years. So I didn’t. As much as I would have liked to fulfill a wish from the past, the emotional scars maybe be still a little to fresh for me. 

But what I will do, as the song advises, is to think kindly about all the special and good memories I have, all the laughs and all the times we were there supporting each other in crisis. And I will raise a glass and toast to those times, to her healthy and happiness and wish her the very best in the future. I can do that today, without tears and without regret. Despite the way things ended, I feel that somehow I am a better person today for having known her.

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

Ever since I was a kid, I have listened to the song, Auld Lang Syne (translated to mean “times gone by”). I remember my family always ending the year by watching Guy Lombardo and waiting for the countdown to the New Year, as the ball in Times Square dropped. I’m not sure I ever really understood the lyrics, but the song always depressed me. “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” These words have been stuck in my head for years. What way is that to start off a New Year? Should we be thinking about people and past relationships, including those that ended badly? Or is it a resolve never to think of them again? I really never knew the answer.

As usual, I did a little research to try to put this haunting song to rest, at least in my mind. This is what one article had to say: “The question it asks is clear: Should those we knew and loved be forgotten and never thought of? Should old times past be forgotten? No, says the song, they shouldn't be. We'll remember those times and those people, we'll toast them now and always, we'll keep them close. "We'll take a cup of kindness yet."“

So all these years it sounded to me like the song was telling us to forget our past and the people in it and move on in the New Year. But no, it’s a song reminding us not to forget days gone by and to remember those who were in our lives and those that are still part of our lives, keeping them all fondly in our memories. And, considering how many people are no longer in our lives, for one reason or another, it’s still seems sad to me. 

It’s true we all have wonderful, happy memories of the past to cling to, but this song reminds me those times are over. We can never go back in time, recreate special days or spend time with loved ones who have left this world. We can rarely mend a broken relationship, even if the person is still around, and make it what it once was. For me it’s often sad to reminisce because I feel a sense of loss.

I often write about my past experiences and loved ones. I know if I don’t, a lot of my memories will fade in time. Sometimes it’s a bit painful to write about certain events, but I do it anyway because it’s cathartic and it’s kind of a legacy for my girls. It gives them a chance to “know” me better from my past and to know about our family members that they never met or were too young to remember. Some memories make me laugh, others make me cry. But I don’t want any of them to be lost or stolen by time. 

So maybe the song is right, maybe there is some wisdom in remembering people from our past who have contributed in some way, big or small, to who we are today. And maybe we can even remember the good times shared with those who hurt us or treated us badly, and think kindly of them and toast to the moments of joy they managed to give us? I’m going to give it a try this New Year’s Eve. How about you?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Traditional Christmas Joke...

A couple of years ago…maybe 3 or 4 or more...the girls decided to play a little trick on my brother to make the day a little more fun and entertaining. You see, we have a cousin, Ann Marie, who I have written about before. Her way of thinking defies logic and has the entire family perplexed. You simply cannot reason with her at all once she has her mind set on doing something. It would take a book, literally, to explain all the things she has done in the past to set all of our nerves on edge. However, my brother is particularly sensitive to her antics and the mere mention of her name sets off all kinds of alarms in his head. Ann used to live in the basement apartment of my mother’s house, in her last years in New York before moving to New Jersey,  and we all grew up together in Brooklyn. She is often the topic of many a family conversation.

Now after moving to New Jersey, Ann Marie started collecting pets. She is an avid animal lover and even though she had no income to speak of and health issues with no medical plan, she would spend her last dollar to feed her animals. And, even though she could not afford it, she would take in more animals. Last year we think she had three cats and three dogs and rumor has it the count has gone up. I cannot tell you the number of people she stiffed on rent and just up and moved to a new location; and she went into foreclosure on one place after abandoning it. She may have filed for bankruptcy too for all we know. But, she will use every cent she has to feed and care for her animals.

Now every year, at Christmas, Ann would send out a Christmas card with pictures of her animals in them. My brother never gave her his new address, so she would send his card to our house. That’s how this all started. The girls thought is was funny to wrap up her card as a present to him. Of course, when he opened the box and saw her name on the envelope he freaked out. We all laughed so hard, tears were streaming down our faces at his reaction. The following year the girls decided to draw pictures of the animals and I forged a note in a card saying that her camera was broke, but she still wanted to send pictures of her pets to everyone, so she drew them. I’m sure you are all saying, who in the world would fall for that? Well, if you knew Ann Marie, then you would know this is very believable. She really would draw her animals and send them out. She loved to draw too, so it’s not far fetched. I wrote out the envelope, put the drawings in and the girls wrapped it up. Once again my brother had his stroke and we had to tell him it was a joke. Another great laugh was had by us all.

Last year we knew he was not going to fall for any Christmas card jokes, so my daughters hatched another little plan. I went to the dollar store and got a cheap 8 x 10 frame. My older daughter, the photoshop genius, went to work. We had one picture of Ann from the batch she had sent in her cards. My daughter took that picture and put my brother in it, sitting along side, her so they appeared to be sitting together on the couch, laughing. We printed it out and put it in the frame. They wrapped it up and stuck it under the tree. In between all his gifts, they managed to hand him the picture frame. He had no clue what he was about to see when he opened it. I wish I had captured the expression on his face when he saw himself sitting next to Ann having a good time. He was in shock and agitated all at the same time. “When was this taken!,” he demanded to know. He didn’t remember the occasion and could figure out how old the picture had to be, since Ann hadn’t been around for years, and yet these were current pictures of the both of them. It really put him in a tizzy as the girls were crying laughing and rolling on the floor. When they were able to speak, they told him what they had done. I think he lost a few more of his little to spare hair that day.

Now this year we were in a quandary as to what to do. We have so little time now that the girls are both working. Everything has to be saved for the last minute. But yesterday I had an idea. My husband had gotten a nice, new 2013 calendar, with big boxes, like my brother likes to use. I said to the girls, what if there was a picture of Ann on every holiday? He would have a stroke and probably not use the calendar, but it would be funny. They thought about it as they wrapped presents all afternoon. Then they went to work photoshopping, cutting and pasting. My daughters have Ann Marie dressed for every holiday. For New Years, she has a big hat. For Washington’s birthday, she put Ann’s face over Washington’s on the dollar bill. March has Ann with a leprechaun hat and pot o’cats (not gold). April Fool’s Day has Ann with a jester’s hat. Cinco de Maio has Ann in a Mexican sombrero holding a cat in a taco etc etc. Just looking at the completed pictures made me die laughing.

Today the plan is to let my brother come in and get settled on the couch. I will offer to go get us some eggnog. While he waits, my husband is going to tell him he picked up this calendar at the mechanics and we know he likes big boxes, if he wants it. Of course, my brother will take it. We are counting on him flipping through it as he waits for the eggnog, because that is human nature. Once he sees the pictures of Ann he is going to flip out and we will get our Christmas laugh before presents. Of course, he might disappoint me and just put it to the side. Then, after presents, we will get more devious and manipulate him into opening the calendar. I will report back to this blog after the fact or tomorrow, and let you know what happened. Just the thought of it is cracking me up already!

Merry Christmas everyone!


First glimpse of calendar!

So Christmas morning my brother arrives around 10:30 AM and we are all ready for him. He gets comfortable on the couch and my husband casually hands him the 2013 antique car calendar that he got from the mechanic the day before. Of course it's been "doctored" up with pictures of Ann on the holidays. I thought once he had it in his hand he would begin flipping through it...WRONG! He opens to December 2012, first page where there are no pictures, and puts the calendar to the side. Now what? So I start talking about what nice pictures of the cars that are in the calendar and that we had seen some antique cars like that on our vacation. Nothing. The girls chime in. One says she hates the color yellow on the car for February...nothing. The other mentions a rolls royce...nothing. I mention that the boxes are nice and big, the way he likes them...nothing. Then one of my daughters starts talking about holidays. My brother says he gets ten Federal holidays with pay. He starts to count them off with his fingers and leaves one out. My daughter tells him just look them up on the calendar. Nothing. He comes up with number ten himself. Finally, my older daughter picked up the damn calendar and started going through it, commenting on some of the cars. My brother leans over to see what she is talking about and sees Ann's face on George Washington in February. He exclaims, "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? YOU WERE GOING TO MAKE ME TAKE THIS TO WORK!?!" (picture above). As he takes a closer look at "George" he can't help himself but laugh hysterically. Then my daughter flips to January and he sees Ann on New Year's Day and gets the point! He flipped through the entire calendar. Each picture was funnier than the one before it. We all had many laughs!

The we opened all our presents. It took quite a while. Calendars themselves have a Christmas tradition in our family. Every year I buy my brother a pocket calendar as one of his gifts. It's been going on over 20 years. I remember when I took my older daughter Christmas shopping when she was two and a half, to pick out Uncle Vin's pocket calendar, and she looked up at me and said, "Let's get him a sophisticated one." Anyway, my brother gets to his pocket calendar and open it up. I jokingly say, "You better see if there are any pictures of Ann in there." He gives me a dirty look and then flips through the whole calendar...nothing is there. I figure I instilled a fear of calendars in him yesterday, but what are big sisters for?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve...

Sugar plums replaced with ipods, iphones, ipads

I think I have always loved Christmas Eve even more than Christmas Day. We never opened any presents on the Eve. There was lots of eating and watching Christmas shows and family laughing. But what I loved the most was the anticipation of Christmas Day. I think looking forward to the presents was as much, if not more fun, than opening all the boxes. When you think about it, the opening only takes a few minutes and then it’s all over, like a firecracker. But days and nights of hopeful anticipation, that what you wished for might be under the tree, was magical. 

There is such a build up to Christmas Day. It starts right after Thanksgiving and it’s a month full of shopping, wrapping, meal planning, making travel plans…and all for one day. I remember when my kids were little, how much they looked forward to Santa coming. They were so excited about their school Christmas parties and the gifts they made to bring home. I loved those days. Their excitement was contagious and seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter made every bit of preparation worthwhile. The last of it was when they put out milk and cookies for Santa…and in later years an apple for the reindeer. 

I remember how I would take them up to bed on Christmas Eve, tuck them in tight, kiss their little heads and tell them the faster they went to sleep the sooner Santa would come. They never gave me any trouble. Thank God too, because my husband and I would be exhausted and needed to get the gifts under the tree so we could get some sleep ourselves. The girls would always be up at the crack of dawn and run into our rooms anxious to go down and open their gifts.

This morning the girls are still tucked in and sleeping. There is no excitement for tomorrow. They already got their new smart phones two weeks ago because I refuse to deal with technology any more. That was their main gift and I feel bad because I couldn’t surprise them with it. I guess I won’t be able to surprise them with much of anything any more. They like to pick out their own clothes and jewelry and just about everything else. I did get them a few little things, but when I look at the few boxes under the tree, it looks pathetic compared to what used to be there Christmas Day. Now, they are doing the shopping and wrapping and filling up the tree with presents. I will be the one who has to wait till tomorrow to open my gifts, but what I really want will never be found under any tree.

My gift won’t be in a box, wrapped with paper and bows. No. It will be the same gift I have gotten every year since the day my girls were born. It’s the most precious gift a mother could have on Christmas Day. I will have my girls home with me, laughing, eating, opening gifts, telling stories, making jokes. I’ll be able to hug and kiss them all I want and tell them how much I love them. I will cuddle with them and stroke their cheeks and remember all the Christmases past. Christmas where their eyes gleamed with delight. Christmases where my two year old said to me, “I’m tired of opening presents.”  Christmases filled with doll carriages, Barbies, baby dolls, games, leggos, potato heads, bicycles, Easy Bake ovens, Play Doh, cds, dvds, walkmans, TVs, VCRs, Wii, laptops, ipods, ipads, smart phones… Technology will be the death of Santa.

I guess “Santa” had a good, long run at our house. Time for him to hang up his jacket and take off his boots and wait for the next generation of babies who believe and wait in anticipation for his visit. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Spirit???

Holiday Spirit??? 

I don’t know about everyone else, but every year it gets harder and harder to get into the holiday spirit. Our family has been shrinking, the kids getting older, and I find myself not so festive each year. In fact, the holidays often bring along stress that I could do without. But this year I am finding it impossible to feel any joy. Instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, I see the victims of Sandy, who are homeless and still haven’t received any money and struggling for answers from the government and dealing with bureaucratic red tape. I wonder how their holidays are going to be celebrated after so many lost everything they owned in that storm.

And now, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the recent shootings at Sandy Hook are all I can think about. Senseless killings of the most innocent souls. Twenty beautiful children, six loving and dedicated teachers all gone. Funerals and burials day after day. Each one of the victims having a profound ripple effect of sadness from their immediate families to their friends, to their community, the state of Connecticut, to our nation, and to the world. All of humanity has been affected and grieves for these losses because there, but for the grace of God, go we all. These random acts of violence can occur any place, any time without warning. They say we can’t live our lives in fear, but when you have children almost all parents do. Once we have to start letting go and can’t be with them 24/7, we start to have all kinds of fears. We don’t want any harm to come to them. Tragedies like this one, only proves how vulnerable our children are, how dangerous the world is, and validates that we have good reason to be afraid. These thoughts keep running through my head as the number of incident of violence increases.

I worry about these 20 sets of parents, grandparents, siblings, the survivors. How long does one grieve and mourn the death of a six year old who went to school happy and never came home? The grief and pain is unbearable. How does one get over thinking about the last minutes of their young lives, were they terrorized, did they suffer? When do they stop torturing themselves asking “why?” did this happen? When can you look at their pictures without crying? What do you do with the Christmas presents that have been bought and not even wrapped? There are so many things I wonder about, even as I can only just imagine the depth of pain these people must be feeling. 

Every time they show the face of one of the children that was lost, I picture my own children at that age. I try to place myself in their parents shoes, worrying all day for news of their children, only to learn that they were gone. I just can’t do it. The loss of a child has to be the worst news any parent can ever get and in this case to be taken to the extreme by this set of circumstances. There are no words of comfort for these families. No way to rebuild or replace what was taken from them. The losses in Sandy Hook infinitely exceed the gravity and devastation caused by storm Sandy. 

So my heart is heavy and it aches for those whose hearts will forever be broken. I will push myself to cook the holiday dinners and wrap the presents and try to carry on as I normally would. But, my thoughts and prayers, my heart and soul will be with those who won’t be celebrating and part of me will be grieving with them. 

This morning I was thinking how little anyone can do to help in this situation. I know I want to do something to honor the memory of these children. Then, as I thought about it, I thought about St. Jude’s Hospital. I have always been so impressed with their policy of never turning away a child and not charging money to those who can’t afford to pay. They save children’s lives there every day. For those who can’t be saved, they offer hope and comfort to their families and make their children’s final days and weeks happy ones. So, I decided that our family will make a donation to St. Jude. It won’t bring back the children lost at Sandy Hook, but it will help another child from dying.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pro Gun Control...

I don’t care what side of the issue everyone else is on, but I am pro gun control. In light of the shootings that took place in Sandy Hook Elementary School, and all the other shooting recently, it’s obvious to me that something needs to be done and done soon. We don’t have time to debate the issue ad nauseam. 

What happened at Sandy Hook was a tragedy. As I read up on the circumstances I was more and more concerned and upset. The guns used in the killings, by Adam Lanza, were registered to his mother, Nancy Lanza. She was a gun enthusiast and collector. She liked to go to target practice. She was proud of her collection, which was supposed to be for protection and ended up ironically being the reason she is dead. Her son, Adam, had serious mental issues. She was well aware of it. She even told his babysitter to never take his eyes off him when he was watching him. Yet, she exposed Adam to her collection and even taught him how to use a gun and shoot targets. Is that a responsible thing to do? What sense does that make? Maybe she was qualified to own weapons, but he was far from stable. Why on earth would any reasonable person do what she did? On top of that, I learned that Adam had with him enough ammunition with him to kill everyone at the school that morning. We are talking about 600 to 700 people. Did Nancy Lanza feel it was necessary to keep that much ammunition in her home? Even if the law says we can own guns, it doesn’t make it a good idea for everyone to do so. Sometimes common sense has to prevail. In this case it didn’t and 28 people are dead.

I don’t understand why it isn’t clear to everyone that we need to place restrictions on guns and ammunition. These types of incidents are escalating. When our founding fathers passed legislation saying we have the right to bear arms, they could not envision today’s society.  Mentally ill people are able to purchase guns and take their frustrations out on the innocent. We are not able to prevent these incidents from happening. We cannot predict who will snap and use guns to destroy the lives of the most innocent in our society. But we can take measures they make it much more difficult to acquire guns and make stiffer penalties for those who possess them without a license. Of course, that still would not have stopped Adam from getting his hands on a gun because his mother was irresponsible and grossly negligent. Whether she had her collection laying around or locked up, she put a gun in her son’s hand and taught him to shoot it. She gave him a taste of how it feels. Reality versus his video games. Sanity versus insanity. And 20 children and six teachers are being buried because of poor judgment and lack of common sense.

I was watching Dr. Phil yesterday. He jumped on the bandwagon of this tragedy. There were parents there speaking of how they are afraid of their children. One son pulled a knife on his mother. They had an escape plan in place where the two younger children were taught to run to the car, get in and lock it if there was ever any danger. The mother had to put all sharp instruments in a Tupperware box and carry it around with her. Another set of parents said their son would go into rages and blackout, not remembering what he had done. That father had a gun collection at home…locked up. Dr. Phil told him that wasn’t a good idea. And he made himself clear, NOT A GOOD IDEA. There is no lock strong enough to stop someone from breaking into it if they are determined to do so. If you have someone mentally unstable in your household, someone that has anger and rage issues, does someone really need to tell you to get rid of your guns? Come on, it’s a no brainer.

Gun control doesn’t mean that no one can own guns. It means we need to devise a better way so that only the most responsible citizens can acquire them. How many times have I heard people frustrated with the stupidity of others? Do we want those people armed and loaded with ammunition? We should know who owns guns and for what reason. I think we should limit the number of guns people can own and the amount of ammunition too. I think that people who want to own guns need to be certified by getting a certain number of hours of training too. We require that for driving a car, we should require if for shooting a weapon. What has to happen before we are all in agreement about this? How many more innocent lives must be lost? I just don’t understand it.

How we should go about this and what steps can and should be taken, I will leave to those who know more about it. There has to be a way to compromise and find a viable solution we can all live with, the emphasis is on the word “live.”

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook School Tragedy…

There really are no words to express the depths of sorrow such a tragic event evokes. It’s incomprehensible that anyone could execute twenty innocent children. It would seem these people were victims of someone who was mentally ill and able to get his hands on at least three guns. There are going to be endless discussions on gun control, school safety, and hopefully what we can do to identify mentally ill people before they act on their delusions. And, as if all that isn’t enough, we have to worry about “copy cat” crimes of this nature. There are so many people craving attention and with the media is covering this story to the extent that it is, there may be other deranged people looking for the same level of notoriety. It’s a sick world we live in. This type of event is happening more often around the country. Hopefully, experts will get together and enact plans to try to address all these issues.

My heart and my head hurts from listening to all the news reports. My heart breaks for the babies who had no idea what was happening and whose short lives were ended in terror. And, as a parent, I cannot imagine the worrying of the parents waiting for news of their children all day and the heartbreak of those parents whose children did not walk out of the school and into their arms. There are no words anyone can say that are adequate for this immense tragedy. 

All of this took me back to 9/11. The planes hit the twin towers around the same time the gunman struck at Sandy Hook. My kids were already in school at the time. It was the first day of school. All I wanted was for them to be home. There was chaos and confusion throughout the city. In addition to the two planes that hit the towers, there was another plane that hit the Pentagon. All I could think of is were there other planes going to hit and, if so, where and when? I didn’t know if my kids would be safer in school or at home. Our cell phones didn’t work, so we couldn’t communicate with our kids. The worry and anxiety level of parents throughout the city was off the charts even though our children weren’t being targeted, we didn‘t know if our children were in any danger. 

I cannot imagine the poor parents of Newtown, CT whose children were the targets and in immediate danger of this deranged gunman. They must have been overwhelmed with fear and panic, unable to help or protect or go to their children and not knowing if they would see their children alive at the end of the day. Twenty sets of parents and families were not to see their children again. It’s sickening.

Parents can never get over the death of a child. No matter how much time passes, the sorrow and the scars remain. The void left will never be filled. Their hearts will always ache. The light will be gone from there eyes and it will be replace by a somber sadness that is like no other. I know a little about this second hand. My aunt tragically lost her two year old son when he was crushed by the back wheels of a truck, just a few feet from where she was standing. It was a horrible accident. She eventually had another child, a daughter. She overprotected her daughter because of what happened to her baby boy. But, my aunt was never the same. I often caught glimpses of my aunt, in quiet moments, and I could see the sadness in her eyes. It was there till the day she died. When anyone loses a child, I always think of my aunt and the light that was gone from her eyes, the way she sometimes sighed deeply, how she always seemed silently on the verge of tears, even years later. 

I can’t imagine myself going on after the loss of a child. I don’t know how anyone does.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dr. Tramontana, Our Family Doctor...

Many, many, many years ago, before I was even born, my family had a doctor who took care of all of us. Dr. Joseph Tramontana was a general practioner. Back in the day, they didn’t have many specialists like they do today. So he was a jack of all trades in the medical field. My mother loved this doctor. He was tall, distinguished, handsome, and always wore a dark suit. Best of all, Dr. Tramontana made house calls. We never had to leave the house with a fever, the doctor came to us. Whenever my mother called for one of us he would come over between or after office hours. She would let him in, he would take off his overcoat and lay it over the kitchen chair and then come over to the couch with his little black bag. My brother and I always stayed on the couch when we were sick. We would watch television all day and we only had one (yes one) television back then and it was in the living room.

Dr. Tramontana went through his usual routine, checking our eyes, ears, feeling the glands in the neck and then placing that big stick on our tongues saying, “Say Ahhhh.” Then he took out the stethoscope and listened to our chests and backs as we took deep breaths. And finally, the dreaded moment came when he would reach into his black bag for the syringe, needle and the little bottle of antibiotic. My mother would come prepared with the alcohol and cotton ball to cleanse the area on our little butt cheek…then BAM, the needle was plunged in, a few tears, and the medicine was on its merry way to kill off the infection. Then he would write a prescription for any medication needed, which my mother could start giving us the next day. 

Now, my mother told me that Dr. Tramontana delivered me and my brother. She went to him for prenatal care. And, he was the doctor who recommended that I get my tonsils out at four years old, before starting school…and while they were at it, they should remove the adenoids too. I never did find out what the hell adenoids are or what they do, but I guess not that much because I never missed them. My mother did whatever the good doctor said and arrangements were made (that story is in another blog).

I remember one time when my brother had pneumonia. He was young, maybe four years old. The doctor had examined him on the couch and told my mother he had pneumonia. Just hearing the word terrified me. I really worried my brother could die. I couldn’t stay with him either because I had to go to school. The doctor came to see him ever day until he was starting to feel better. I never told anyone how worried I was about his being so sick or how relieved I was when he got better. It was a big scare for me.

Of course, that is all a nice little story except that’s not the end of it. Dr. Tramontana was my doctor from birth, but when I reached my teenage years I became very, very modest about my body, like many teenage girls. I had been properly raised and all the virtuous values were instilled in me. Basically, what I am saying is, that I did NOT appreciate being examined by our good doctor. So when my mother took me to his office one day and he had to do an exam, I literally freaked out. I was angry and felt very violated and even called the doctor “a pig.” My mother was humiliated and insisted I apologize, but I refused. You can imagine how embarrassed my mother was, but the doctor told her it was alright. I guess he understood where I was coming from. If I recall correctly, we went back to his office for a follow up visit and, at that time, I apologized for my bad behavior. I’m not sure I meant it or just did it to shut my mother up. But, it was never mentioned again. Oh well, at least my daughters have never done that to me.

Looking back, Dr. Tramontana was a very nice and kind man. He was a good doctor, dedicated to his patients. I do regret my outburst, and I hope my apology was sincere. It was very much unlike me to do such a thing, so I know my feelings about it were very strong. I wish there were more doctors like Dr. Tramontana today, ones that make house calls and call to check to see how you are doing…and care. Once on a while we get lucky and find such a doctor, but he/she won’t make house calls.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Anne Hathaway Overexposed Downunder...

Anne Hathaway overexposed downunder!

In looking through today's news items I come across this picture of Anne Hathaway, and then I hear on The Talk how her vagina was exposed. Really? Surely this was an unintended and terrible accident. I have seen a few Anne Hathaway movies and I liked the roles she played. Generally, my impression of her as a person and actress was pretty positive. Now, I'm not sure what the hell to think. I did an innocent Google search of her pictures online and found that Ms. Hathaway has a problem. She doesn't seem to know what clothes are intended for, namely, to cover up our bodies. And, clothes are designed to especially cover up our private parts, even bathing suits are meant to do that. Ms. Hathaway hasn't always grasped that concept.

Now maybe the Vagina Incident was an unfortunate and unintended error captured instantly by photographers, but what about these other pictures (and for all I know there are a lot more)? I don't know about you, but I don't find any of them very flattering. If a dress doesn't make you look good, if a lack of undergarments do not enhance your appearance, then what the hell look is Anne going for with her outfits? Damn! I think it's shameful and disgraceful to appear in public wearing any of these garments and especially when you know full well that scores of pictures will be taken of you, preserved forever on the internet, where the entire world can view them. Is it me? Am I that old fashioned? Do I lack fashion sense? Please, if it is, will someone who glances over this blog let me know? 

For now my opinion of Anne has been permanently altered. It's a shame when a woman uses her body to get negative attention. Of course men will ogle her because she is practically naked, leaving zero to the imagination. Now she is upset because these most recent photos expose her vagina...whose fault is that? How high was her slit? Pretty damn high. She wasn't concerned when she tried on the gown, bought the gown and wore the gown. How do you go out in public to award ceremonies and premieres in clothes like the ones pictured above? I would be mortified. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Joke That Led To Suicide…

By now practically everyone in the world has heard about the prank phone call made by two Australian disc jockeys on a nurse at King Edward VII Hospital. They pretended to be the Queen and Prince Charles inquiring about Kate Middleton’s condition. The nurse answering the phone mistakenly put the call through and another nurse gave out some rather benign information. The nurse who put the call through, Jacintha Saldanha, ended up committing suicide a day later. A tragic ending to what was supposed to be a few harmless laughs.

I don’t know how to feel and think about this prank. When I first heard it I felt is was all in good fun. Who could it hurt? These types of prank calls are played by radio stations all the time. I have heard some where they practically aggravate the person into literally having a stroke or heart attack. I even find most of those funny. This joke was much shorter and certainly not meant to upset anyone. It was just for laughs and frankly I didn’t even find it funny. After I had heard it I didn’t think any more about it. However, the media would not let it go. The story went viral in every type of public media. The humiliation of a simple mistake was not confined to the hospital or a few thousand listeners of the radio show. It was worldwide. Apparently, the pressure of such a humiliation was devastating and too much for the Jacintha to bear. So, at 46 years of age and with two teenagers, she chose to end her life.

The disc jockeys are distraught over this outcome, which no one could have predicted. They didn’t even expect their call to get past security screening. Their accents were terrible. But a hospital is a very busy and stressful place and somehow the call got through. No damage was done. No secrets revealed. Just one nurse was pushed over the edge and driven to take her own life.

If I had been in charge of the radio station and the prank was proposed, I would have more than likely approved it. Even now, as I sit here thinking about it, I am not sure the prank was the only reason why Jacintha ended her life. It can’t be. There has to be more to her story. There has to have been some mental condition like depression or some serious personal issues weighing on her. I can’t imagine how else this would make sense. I suppose the humiliation caused by the prank might have contributed to her stress and pushed her over the edge, but surely the prank itself was not the underlying cause? 

Nevertheless, an investigation is being done, the disc jockeys were given a leave of absence, the London Hospital is instructing staff how to screen calls more diligently and going over protocol, maybe telephone pranks will be outlawed in many places…but is this really the answer? I don’t think so. 

We have so many people suffering a mental illness of some kind who aren’t getting help. All these mass shootings at schools, movie theaters etc are done by people who slipped through the cracks. They showed signs of being disturbed, of being loners, or whatever you want to label them. The facts about them only come out after some tragic event. Why weren’t they helped before they took other lives or their own? I imagine that soon facts will come out in this case too, that show this nurse was suffering from some condition or situation that made her especially vulnerable and fragile at this particular time. I don’t think the DJs are to blame, or the radio station is to blame, or even the media is to blame.

I think that everyone wants to be able to blame someone for this tragedy, but no reasonable person can conclude that if not for that prank, Jacintha would be okay because she was obviously suffering from something. Maybe co-workers noticed something about her behavior, maybe her family did, maybe someone knows the root cause of her problems and hasn’t revealed it yet. I don’t know, but I find it hard to belief that a simple prank drove her to this abysmal end. Isn’t that what they should be investigating?  What was going on with her or in her personal life that made her take this drastic step? And, how did everyone around her miss the signs? And what can we do to be more aware, spot signs of trouble in those around us and what actions can we take to help them before something happens? That’s what would be more productive and a better use of everyone’s time. That’s what might turn this tragic outcome into something a little more positive. That’s what I think.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Politically Correct Christmas?

One day I was out walking towards our neighborhood avenue with my daughter. I wondered aloud if they had put up the annual Christmas lights along the street. When we got to the corner I could see they had. Delightful snowflakes across each corner adorned the avenue. Then my daughter burst my bubble before it was even fully inflated, “I see that have politically correct lights now,” she said matter of factly. “What?,” I answered, “what do you mean?” And she explained how there are no candy canes, trees, ornament decorations, just generic snowflakes which didn’t symbolize Christmas at all. Snowflakes are politically correct!

This has been on the back burner of my mind ever since it happened a few days ago. It won’t go away which is why I am writing about it now. Since when has Christmas become a political issue? What’s wrong with saying “Merry Christmas” all of a sudden? Why can’t we have ornaments, candy canes, presents and trees all over the place? Why does Christmas, a religious holiday, have to be politically correct when nothing was wrong with it in the first place?

When my kids were little, hell when I was little, we celebrated Christmas during school hours. We made decorations and presents, has a little classroom party and exchanged Christmas cards. I hear this is no longer acceptable. Not everyone celebrates Christmas so let’s put an end to it in the schools! That’s the solution? Take the one holiday a year that teaches children about giving and love and squash it! We just can’t have all that cheer…it’s become offensive. Who the hell it is bothering? Who is complaining about a holiday that promotes good will towards men? A holiday that wishes everyone peace and joy? You got a problem with that? 

So Christmas trees are now being referred to as Holiday trees? Will red and green be banned from the classrooms? Is the title “WHITE” Christmas hard to swallow? Must we say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? Nativity scenes are disappearing. Why is the story of the birth of a baby, that is centuries old, now have no place in our times and culture? How about Christmas carols? Will they also be a thing of the past? Now that I think of it, I was just at the mall yesterday and expected to hear nothing but Christmas music…I didn’t hear anything I recognized. I couldn’t even tell you what they were playing. One year I am singing and dancing to music and embarrassing my kids and yesterday…nothing.

Why are we allowing our Christmas traditions and values to be washed away after centuries of tradition? We have gone beyond the sin of losing the real meaning to the commercialization of Christmas. Now we are going to destroy it altogether by taking away every symbol, every mention of the word Christmas, every nativity scene, every light, card and stocking, every present, candy cane and ornament, every scrap of wrapping paper, every carol and gingerbread man, every Christmas list, every bit of mistletoe, every Christmas story and movie and cartoon…and of course the main offenders, the pagans, Santa Claus, Rudolph and Frosty…they all have to go. 

I don’t get it. I really don’t. I always encouraged my children to embrace all cultures. We aren’t Jewish, but we had dreidels to spin for Hanukkah and watched Sherri Lewis and Lamb Chop explain the Festival of Lights. We understood the tradition of the menorah and why it was lit over eight days. We aren’t black, but we got books out about Kwanza and the meaning behind that holiday. We aren’t Hispanic, but we  tried to appreciate the significance of January 6th, Three Kings Day. If there were more holidays we were aware o trust me, my girls wanted to not only learn about them, but celebrate them. Now, it looks like pretty soon we won’t even be able to celebrate our own holiday.

I came across this message from Ben Stein regarding this same topic. It is well written and worth reading: 

Season’s Greetings! I wouldn’t want to offend anyone @@ (eye roll).

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dr. Phil on Lindsay Lohan’s Arrest

I am not a big fan of Dr. Phil or Lindsay Lohan, but I am peeved and decided to say something.

I happened to be watching The Talk, when they had their guest Dr. Phil come out to promote his new book “Life Codes.” The first thing they asked him was his opinion on Lindsay Lohan’s recent arrest. First he gives a quick resume of his legal background with the court system and then offers up his two cents. He explains that Lindsay is on probation, or as he likes to call it “sweet poison,” because if she does anything wrong she just bounces back to jail without a trial. He goes on to say that when on probation you have to avoid even the appearance of impropriety or you can get in trouble. That doesn’t seem to apply to Lindsay, as far as I have seen. However, Dr. Phil says, you don’t take a high risk individual (Lindsay) and put them in a high risk situation (Bar at 4 am) and then act surprised when something bad happens. Now here is the part that irritates me: He says it may have been her parents who got her into this situation, but she is an adult now (at 26) and she makes her own decisions and must take responsibility. He adds, “when you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences [she’ll go to jail] and then we will spend about $25,000 a year of taxpayer money for her to look at a wall, I guess.” Very compassionate, wouldn’t you say? Well that’s if nothing worse happens, Dr. Phil.

I’ll explain why all this bothers me. I have heard Dr. Phil say many times that teenagers do not understand the consequences of their behavior. The frontal cortex of the brain, where this understanding takes place, is not fully developed until a person is 25. Now back to Lindsay. It’s true that Lindsay is now 26 years old, however how many years ago did she start “partying,” drinking and doing drugs? There were many reports of her out with her mother, Dina, who we have recently seen on Dr. Phil. The woman is a mess and I would go so far as to say she was an unfit mother. Never mind Lindsay’s loser father who speaks matter of factly about his daughter’s recent arrest and blames it on the city and people, not Lindsay or her parents. Dina has always loved being in the limelight and I get the impression she was living her dream for fame vicariously through her daughter. It’s no surprise that she went partying with her young daughter and that Lindsay was introduced very early to the “partying” lifestyle by dear old mom. This was during her teenage years. I could not find out exactly when it all started because there are thousands of hits for “Lindsay partying” on Google. 

So when Dr. Phil says Lindsay is an adult now, that is technically true, but her brain is fried. We don’t know if her frontal cortex had a chance of developing normally while she was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Obviously she hasn’t been thinking clearly and making good choices for a very long time. Dr. Phil, with his impressive resume, should know all this and place much more blame on her parents and getting Lindsay proper help. Where are his resources and offers of help? Lindsay may not have the mental capacity or even be sober enough to decide she needs to go to rehab. Her parents are hopeless. The poor girl has had no parental guidance, instead she was exploited by both parents for the money she was making. So who is going to step in and save this girl’s life before she ends it with an overdose? Before she mixes too much alcohol and too many pills? Before she gets behind the wheel of a car and kills herself or others? Who? Dr. Phil? Dr. Drew? Her lawyers? The legal system who lets her out of jail in 15 minutes every time she is arrested? 

When she kills herself will everyone be crying and saying she was so young? Will they be wringing their hands saying if only we had done something? When will those closest to her wake the hell up!  It’s as predictable as Michael Jackson’s early death.

I just read this morning that Lindsay is out of jail again. Great. And everyone is failing her again. She is just a hot topic of conversation for all the talk shows and tabloids. But when the hell is someone going to step in and actually do something before her story ends in tragedy? Maybe I should send this blog off to Dr. Phil. Maybe he can do a show with Lindsay during February sweeps, if she lasts that long. 

I think it’s so sad that this once very talented 26 year old girl is being left to her own devices when it’s clear she is headed for a tragic end. Maybe all these incidents are a cry for help and no one is answering. I just can’t be the only one who sees this, and my resume is not close to being as impressive as Dr. Phil’s.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Elmo’s Voice Cracks…

Sesame Street characters have been in the news a lot lately. First there was much ado from Mitt Romney wanting to get rid of funding Big Bird and PBS. Of course, Sesame Street doesn’t need any funding, it supports itself, but the rest of PBS still does. There were no end to the jokes that the budget would be balanced and the deficit reduced if we only would get rid of PBS funding and Big Bird.

Now a new issue has hit the media regarding the voice of Elmo, Kevin Clash. Clash was recently accuse of sexual abuse by a victim who shortly thereafter recanted and said the sex was consensual and between two adults. I am always skeptical and so I thought that perhaps the matter may have been settled by Clash offering the victim money to make the matter go away. And that may have been the end of it. No one was going to investigate further to see if maybe where there is smoke, there is fire…or more alleged victims.

But yesterday, while watching the news, I see that a second 22 year old victim has come forward accusing Clash of allegedly having sex with him while he was 15. Clash and Sesame Street and deeply sadden by this personal “distraction,” and that it is taking the focus of Sesame Street away from it’s education of children. Clash has therefore done what is in the best interest of the show and resigned. I can’t be sure, but I would bet Sesame Street suggested he leave too. After all, how do we know how many more victims might come forth and accuse him of abuse. Yesterday’s victim stated that Clash allegedly made a practice of seeking out young boys and buying them expensive gifts and giving them money. If it’s not true I can’t understand why he would resign so quickly. Maybe it is in an attempt on the part of the show to quickly disassociate from the bigger scandal that is about to erupt?

Elmo is a much beloved character on Sesame Street. My kids grew up watching Sesame Street and had several Elmo toys. If these allegations are true it would be quite upsetting. Clash worked for Sesame Street for 28 years. He is well aware of their pristine reputation and how highly regarded and successful the show is in educating preschool children. He knew what he was doing. He had to also know that a scandal of this nature could be extremely detrimental and cast a dark cloud over a beloved show that has taught millions of children basic fundamental skills and given them a head start in school. Children whose parents cannot afford to send them to pre-school have gotten their first lessons from Sesame Street. Who hasn’t seen or heard of Sesame Street? It’s known world wide.

Yet, both Clash and Sesame Street are trying to downplay the seriousness of these allegations. They are referring to it as a distracting controversy. I don’t know about you, but it disturbs me that they are calling it a distraction…like an annoying mosquito that you want to shoo away. I guess at this stage of the game, before the whole truth comes out, they can afford to brush it off. But, if it should happen that Clash has a history of abuse, I wonder if they will come out with a stronger statement of disapproval and disgust? If this is true, there is something seriously wrong about a man who helps educate children, gains their confidence and love and abuses them too.  Stay tuned. Scandals like this don’t just go away.

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Psychic Experience...

I had a friend who happened to see a psychic perform at some venue. She was young and naïve and quite impressed with his abilities. She convinced me that we should make an appointment with him and each have our futures revealed. I have always been a skeptic but, in my mid twenties, I had lots of questions I wanted answered. In any case, whether he was legit or not, I figured it would be an interesting experience and fun too, so we went.

We were welcomed to his expensive home by his wife/assistant/secretary who took us to a small waiting room. I’ll admit we were excited to hear what he had to say. After a few minutes the assistant returns to the room with two pads and pens in her hand. She tells us to write down our questions on the pad and to “press hard” and that somehow this would facilitate his picking up on our thoughts. She assured us we would be keeping the paper when we were done. It wasn’t until a very long time later that it dawned on me that they would just pass a pencil over the page underneath and read what we had written. 

My friend was called in first and when she was done she seemed very content with everything he had to say. I wasn’t surprised. Then it was my turn. The skeptical side of me went in to be entertained. It was going to take a lot to convince me he was for real. Of course he knew my questions and used them to guide the session. He asked me a couple of things like was there anyone close to me whose name started with the letter “J.” I said no, even though my father’s name is Joseph and my mother went by the name Jennie. So then he said how about “G”? I said no again, but then it hit me that both my parents names started with the letter “J” and they were translated from Italian names that started with “G.” Still, I was mildly amused. He told me I would get married one day, which was really all I wanted to know. What did he have to lose to make me happy? Then he asked a peculiar question…”Do you have plumbing problems?” I was taken aback. I know I didn’t write that down and why would he ask such a ridiculous question? In any event, I didn’t have any plumbing problems. On the whole I would say I wasted my time and money. At least I got a good story out of it.

I went to work on Monday prepared to tell my adventure to my coworkers. As we took our morning break together we would discuss what we did on the weekend. Once I told them I went to see a psychic all the attention was on me. I told them about the session, the pad, the letter “J” question. My friend Janet, also a skeptic, tells me that is a popular letter for names so it’s not such a great guess on his part. Suddenly I had an idea. I wanted to try the plumbing question out to see what reaction I would get from any of them. As Janet was sipping her coffee, I asked her out of the blue, “Do you have any plumbing problems?” She almost spit put her coffee and exclaimed, “Did my husband call you this morning?” “No,” I answered, surprised at her dramatic reaction. “He had to have called you or how else would you know?” I assured her he didn’t call and how would I know what? She answered that her toilet had overflowed that very morning and he was going to work late to take care of it. She seemed pretty shaken and wanted to know why I asked her that if he hadn’t called and put me wise to it. I told her that the psychic had asked me that question out of the blue and I wanted to see what reaction I would get if I asked it. I guess many people must have plumbing problems all the time, that’s the only reason why he would blurt out a question like that. I think it freaked her out because we were talking about psychics, she was skeptical and then I managed to hit on the one thing that was weighing on her mind that morning. It was very funny to see her so stunned for those few minutes and trying to convince her that her husband hadn’t called.

I never went for another reading with any psychic. I do believe we all have some degree of psychic ability. I know my mother had some, it was a little stronger than intuition. I have had instances of it from time to time. But, I also think there are a lot of quacks out there who are good at making people think they can read minds or tell the future when it’s all about reading body language, reactions and using vague language so you can’t really be wrong. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Military "Affairs" Part 2

I just knew this story was going to be the one that keeps on giving! I think I will update the chapters are they unfold in the news. First I am going to start with something that actually had me tossing and turning last night…20,000 to 30,000 emails in two years were exchanged between General John Allen and Jill Kelley. I had to do the math. In two years there are about 730 days. If they exchanged 20,000 emails that would be 27 emails PER DAY! If they exchanged closer to 30,000 emails it would be 41 emails PER DAY. Does anyone even write that many emails a day? I know I don’t and never did. That alone would give one pause to think.

(Side bar: I read that Petraeus, CIA Director, created a fake email account to carry on his discussions with Paula Broadwell. This irks me because everyone I know, even the least of the computer savvy people, knows that all emails addresses can be traced back to the source from the IP address. Why doesn't the Director of the CIA know this? Or if he does know it, why put himself at such risk? That's why they were able to determine Paula wrote the anonymous, threatening emails to Jill!)

Now this Jill Kelley is married to cancer surgeon Scott Kelley. Scott has been reportedly sued at least nine times. That’s good to know for those looking for a surgeon! I get the impression that this is the reason the couple is deeply in debt to the tune of about 2 million dollars and their Tampa waterfront mansion, worth 1.5 million dollars, is in foreclosure. Their office building in downtown Tampa is also close to foreclosure. It’s been speculated that perhaps Jill created this buzz over emails so she would get a book and movie deal. I don’t know about that, but it sounds plausible. Meanwhile, Paula Broadwell probably killed any chance of her book deal on the authorized biography of Petraeus. Maybe these two broads will get together and pool their knowledge for Hollywood one of these days. 

Guess what else? A new character has been added to the cast! Jill has a twin sister, Natalie Khawam. Like all twins, Jill and Natalie share many things, including being in debt. Natalie has some juicy stories in her past. It seems she sued a former employer for sexual harassment and their lawyer showed she made up a series of lies and lost her case. She is now being sued for $100,000 for their legal fees! She also lost custody of her four year old daughter after a nasty divorce. The judge found her to be extremely lacking in honesty and integrity. Both sisters seem to be well connected to military personnel, however Jill has now lost her VIP privileges to MacDill Air Force Base and must sign is like all other visitors. What a crushing blow for this military socialite.

And now for the mystery man, FBI Agent “X” has now been identified as Frederick W. Humphries II.  You remember he was the guy who had been sending Jill shirtless pictures of himself in the past and the one she went to with Paula’s threatening emails. Apparently Humphries had other agents investigate the emails and then he was “dismissed” from the case himself because he was “obsessed with it.”  I say “dismissed” because he was never really on the case. Intriguing. 

What do you suppose will be uncovered next? One email leads to another and another. There has to be something of interest in all those emails. More names? More details? I’m glad to have something to fill the void of my cherished soap operas.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Long Island Power Authority aka LIPA

I have been too angry to write a blog about LIPA, but it has to be done. LIPA is the power company who serves the people of Long Island, N.Y. or rather doesn’t serve them. They charge some of the highest rates in the country to people who pay some of the highest property taxes. Every time there is a storm, the people on Long Island lose power. So when a storm of the magnitude of hurricane Sandy hit their shores, LIPA was in no way prepared to deal with the situation. 

Today I heard that the Chief Operating Officer, Michael Hervey, resigned, effective at the end of this year. What a surprise! And why wait? Amid criticism from practically everyone he decided to take the cowardly way out. I wonder if he is getting a severance package paid for by the very people who are now without power? Many are STILL without power and I wouldn’t be surprised. 

LIPA has never really done a good job when it comes to power outages and they have been warned to beef up their operation. The haven’t and I can only guess it’s because they want to make huge profits at the expense and neglect of their customers. LIPA is virtually a monopoly. I thought there were laws against monopolies? Anyway, the people who live on Long Island are at their mercy. I heard that LIPA would be reimbursed 75% of their additional expenses in restoring power to their customers by the Federal government AND that they intend to raise rates to make up the additional 25%. In other words, for all their incompetence and negligence they intend not to lose one thin dime! And that’s not all, LIPA bills all went out on time to it’s customers. People still without power must pay if they are on the “budget plan,” which spreads out payments over a 12 month period. If they don’t pay their bills they will get disconnect notices…when the power is restored. LIPA intends to credit them with the days they are “out of power” at the end of their 12 month period. By that time they will have raised rates and their customers will end up owing them money. Pretty neat operation they have going for them?

My cousin was one of the lucky people on Long Island. She was out power only 11 days. She had to go out and get a generator, gas cans and gas on a daily basis to run the generator. There was no gas to be had, so she had to run her generator two hours on and two hours off to conserve. She runs a day care in her home, it’s her business. She is the sole provider of her family. She also cares for her husband, who has late stage multiple sclerosis. They are on a LIPA medical priority list for power. He has medical equipment that she could not run as often as necessary. She did her best to take care of him and run her business in those 11 days. On the 11th day her husband couldn’t breathe and had to go to the hospital. She had to assume a lot of additional expenses thanks to LIPA, but she still has to pay her bill? What the hell is wrong with this picture?

A friend of mine told me about her sister, who after delivering a baby by C-Section right before the storm, had to go to a hotel to be safe, with her children and mother, while her husband watched their house get flooded. The hotel lost power and she had to change the baby with the light from her cell phone. When she went back home, her basement was totally destroyed and there was no heat for the new baby. Like my cousin, they also had to get a generator to heat their home and a lot of additional gas, because they had a new born and couldn’t allow the house to get cold. Hours on gas lines, extra expense, worry, loss of possessions, and guess what? Their LIPA bill came right on time…the FEMA check was no where to be found. 

Those are just two first hand stories that I personally know about, there are tons more that are worse that I heard on the news ever since the storm hit. LIPA doesn’t inform it’s customers what is going on, no one answers their phones. I tried calling on behalf of my cousin, who had her hands full. She was really a trooper throughout and is used to dealing with life’s catastrophes, but me not so much. Just hearing how these two families suffered was bothering the hell out of me.

And guess what else? I found a facebook page that LIPA has to inform residents as to what is going on. They have a website too. Believe me when I say, they only post what they want people to know on there, not the truth. Many more were out of power than they reported. And for the life of me I don’t understand how they expect people without power to access this information? Computers need ELECTRICITY to run and recharge. I cannot tell you how disgusted I am with this company. I think they should get two or three new companies to come in and charge LIPA for all the inconvenience and expense that everyone on Long Island has had to endure because of their negligence. It may come to that too. I hear that the residents have gotten a lawyer to begin a class action lawsuit against LIPA. I can’t wait till it gets started. I hope they found someone who is ruthless and relentless. They don’t even deserve to be in business!

So if the CEO is resigning and running scared, he should be. He should be sued in civil court for his part in this chaotic fiasco that left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark literally and figuratively. It’s an outrage what this company has been allowed to do. The money they make for the service they provide is sickening!

Let’s hope justice will be swift and fair. Let’s hope the people of Long Island fight this to the bitter end and not settled out of court! Let’s hope other companies will come in and take over LIPA customers as soon as possible! 

If you have a personal story about LIPA I urge you to post it here in the comments. Maybe this blog will fall into the hands of someone who can actually use it to go after LIPA? Who knows?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Military “Affairs”…

Military “Affairs”…

or Generals who think with their Privates!

I don’t know why we bother to watch television when real life has so much more real drama than writers could ever come up with. I am speaking of the new revelation and resignation of David Petraeus, CIA Director. The FBI investigation of his affair with biographer, Paula Broadwell, led to the discovery of another affair. You know once they get into computers and start digging, there was going to be trouble. Computers and cell phones will be the death of everyone and anyone who has a secret. Secrets are conveniently stored away just waiting to be discovered by investigators. I have been trying to piece together all the players in this “pentagon” affair…pentagon, because it’s the military AND there are five suspects…so far.

First we have General David Petraeus, head of the CIA, who despite being 60 years old and married for 38 years to his wife Holly, decided to have an affair with 40 year old Paula Broadwell. She was working on a dissertation for her Ph. D. and decided to expand her thesis into a biography of Petraeus. The book made it convenient for them to get together and “chat.” I wonder if tax payer money was paying for the time they spent in private? Paula has some pretty impressive credentials herself. She is a West Point graduate, also married and has two children. Their affair began in September, 2011.

During the course of their affair, Paula apparently sent anonymous, threatening, jealous emails to a female friend of the Petraeus, Jill Kelley. The emails warned Kelley to stay away from Petraeus. Jill, 37, lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, Scott. The cyber bullying complaint led investigators to Kelley’s computer where they discovered 20,000 to 30,000 private emails, during 2010 and 2012, between her and General John Allen, 58. Allen is Petraeus successor in Afghanistan. Some of the emails were flirtatious in nature and certainly inappropriate. General John Allen denies any wrong doing. It was the harassing anonymous emails from Paula to Jill that led to the discovery of both “affairs.” Petraeus had no clue that Paula saw Jill as a “rival” for his affections.

The fifth side of this pentagon affair concerns an unnamed FBI agent “X” , who Jill Kelley knew and complained to about the threatening emails from Broadwell. Agent “X”  had apparently sent Kelley pictures of himself without his shirt on, previous to these investigations, hmmmmm. He was the one who got the investigation started that led to Paula Broadwell and her affair with Petraeus.

I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a best seller to me. I would love to read those 20,000+ emails for myself. My heart goes out to those poor FBI agents have to read all these documents when surely they have better things to do. I am willing to do my part and offer to put my own committee together to read and write a report for them. Maybe they will come across my blog and contact me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Simplistic View of Republican Losses

I will be the first at admit that I don’t have much political savvy or knowledge. Even when I read about the issues I don’t look into every detail. It’s like I am on the outside looking at everything from a distance, while others are on the inside paying attention to all the minutia. And from where I was standing in 2008 and 2012, I have a few personal ideas of why the Republican party lost the Presidential election, or at least why they lost my vote. Of course this is a simplistic and personal outlook of what was going through my head during the elections. 

I know more than a few republicans who were interested in my stand in 2008, that Obama would be my choice for president. At the time I had never taken an interest in politics before and relied on my husband’s judgment. But, 2008 was going to be a historic election. Everyone was passionate about it on both sides. So, I decided to do my own kind of research. I did like what Obama had to say, but I was also paying attention to John McCain.

John McCain, a respected, admired, true war hero, was running. He was certainly qualified to be President. He had the experience, background, leadership ability necessary for office. But, issues aside, I found myself concerned with his age and his health. I even expressed my concern to my Republican husband, who told me not to worry, he has good genes. McCain inherited longevity from his parents. Great. What about his health? He had cancer and it had reoccurred in the past. Again he tells me not to worry, he was given a thorough checkup and received a clean bill of health. Fine. And then, on September 15th, 2008, John McCain declared the economy was fine. That same day we suffered a huge financial crisis when the stock market plunged nearly sending us into a depression. That did not inspire confidence in me that he knew enough about the economy to handle the job as President. After all, how was he going to fix the economy when he had no clue it was about to crash? I read someplace that President Obama was warning Congress about this possibility two years earlier, asking them to take action, and his concerns were documented. So, considering the economy became an urgent issue, I felt President Obama was more in touch with what was going on. 

Now, let’s assume, or argument’s sake, that someone could convince me that John McCain was in good health for his age and misspoke about the economy being strong just before the bottom fell out. How in the world can anyone overlook the fact that he chose Sarah Palin as a running mate? Granted, she looked great that first night, giving her prepared speech on national television. I’ll be the first to say I was excited about having a woman in the race, which hadn’t happened since Geraldine Ferraro ran with Mondale. However, in the ensuing days, Palin left a lot to be desired. Her lack of experience and knowledge was evident. She couldn’t answer simple questions and coined the term “gottcha moment” for all questions. She appeared incompetent and turned into a laughing stock, so much so, that her word for word quotes were being used on Saturday Night Live and none of her lines had to be changed. Tina Fey actually sounded better and made more sense to me using Sarah’s own words. So then I thought, why did John McCain pick someone for Vice President as ill prepared as Sarah Palin? This is his first major decision and he chose her?   I asked myself what if his health fails for whatever reason, and she was put in charge of our country? No republican seemed concerned with that issue. I even asked my husband about it. His answer was nothing was going to happen to McCain so Palin is not an issue. Ok, well, it was and remained an issue for me. That is was sealed the deal for me. The republicans sank their own ship with Alaskan missile, Palin.

Now we get to the 2012 election. The economy could be a lot better, no question about that. What are Obama and Romney going to do about it? Romney never said what his plan was and I suppose now we will never know. But forget about that, that’s not why he lost. Everyone was willing to take him at his word that he had a plan. But, I wanted to hear it. If he mentioned his plan, I didn’t hear it. I did hear about a Medicare voucher plan which scared me and doing away with PBS to save money. That’s about it. But Romney’s biggest problem is that he could not relate to anyone except the richest people in this country. He kept insulting everyone. He called them victims and moochers. The 47% comment included the elderly on Medicare, disabled veterans, college students, people living below poverty level, people who are unemployed through no fault of their own, and he insulted his own father and my father. He insulted all the women in all the binders in all America. He made ridiculous remarks that showed he was out of touch with the middle class time and time again. Who tells college students to work 3 or 4 jobs to pay tuition when there are no jobs? Or tells graduates, who need a job, to ask their parents for $20,000 to start a business in a depressed economy? Who wants to make a friendly wager of $10,000? Who wants to cut Pell grants for thousands of students to pay for a millionaire’s tax cut? And if he can’t understand the middle class, who he thinks makes $200-250,000 a year, how is he going to reach the poorest of this country? He flip-flopped on the issues over and over again. He said it would take him 8-10 years to fix the economy and he agreed with a lot of the things President Obama was already doing…so what did we need Romney for? 

Romney was a poor candidate, in my opinion. The truth is I could never connect with Romney. He didn’t inspire trust or confidence in me. I felt he was wishy washy. He underestimated many citizens of this country. People came out to vote in droves last Tuesday. They came out not just to vote for President Obama, but to vote against Mitt Romney. My daughter’s friend flew to North Carolina to vote for Obama because her vote in New York would have been wasted. I’ve heard it said that Obama scares republicans.Well guess what? Mitt Romney scared me. Maybe if 51% of us were rich, Romney would have had a better shot. 

And that’s what I was thinking, in a nutshell. I tried to be respectful of the opinions of others as much as humanly possible and ended many a comment with “may the best man win.” America has spoken, and he has!

P.S. Here is a peeve I just have to get out. The other day I saw a map of the United States shaded in red and blue, representing the republican and democratic states. As we know, the RED predominates the map and the caption read something to the effect that Obama won even though so much of the country (in area) voted for Romney. Now I wanted to post under that map “TOO BAD DIRT DOESN’T VOTE, people do!”

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath...In My Neighborhood

It’s been about two weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. Luckily, we were spared any real devastation because we are inland. But, it’s been two weeks later and we still aren’t getting the gas we need for our cars. Only one quarter of the stations are open in my neighborhood at any one time…most times not even that many. We have 30,000 people who live in my little 16 square mile area and they all need gas. Only one station was open this morning and my husband got on line at 6:45 am. We have power, so it’s not because people need it for their generators. The lines are at least an hour to two hours long most of the time. If you get gas in an hour you are lucky. My husband just got back after a two hour wait this morning, but our gas gauge was on empty and we had no choice. And we are the lucky ones!

Now how about those who are taking advantage of this crisis? There are plenty of them price gouging because people are desperate. There are many filling up 5 gallon cans and then reselling the gas for twice or triple the price they paid. The lines for gas cans move faster, so they can go back and refill and make a killing. Did I mention there are no gas cans in the area for sale? They are sold out everywhere you call. We were just caught unprepared for this catastrophic event. No one could have imagined that a “super storm” could have done so much damage and destruction. No one thought it would affect the supply of gas for so long. Our Governor, Andrew Cuomo, didn’t think so. He said the problem would clear up in a couple of days. It didn’t. If anything it got worse. So yesterday, Governor Cuomo did what Chris Christie did two weeks ago and passed an odd/even rule for gas stations. That should cut down on the lines. It worked in New Jersey and hopefully it will work here. It was a no brainer, and many of us are wondering why it took so long to use common sense.

Well, now we have gas to get to work. That’s all we use it for. I hope by next weekend we will have much shorter lines to deal with. It’s stressful enough. I cannot even begin to imagine how those who experienced flooding of their houses or the entire loss of their homes and possessions are coping. I do know that out in Long Island, after 13 days of no power, the people are going crazy. They can’t heat their homes. Some have no generators and the temperature in their houses dropped to 45 degrees. Some are sick and wearing coats inside their homes. The power company, LIPA, gives them no answers. I saw on the news that people were yelling at each other on the street, I don’t even know why. Many went over to the empty LIPA offices to protest. The Governor spoke harsh words to the power company, but 160,000 plus house are still without power today.

My cousin was one of those without power. Her husband has MS and is in the later stages. His health is fragile. He has special medical equipment he needs, which runs on electricity. She borrowed a generator from her brother to help keep her food from spoiling and to run his equipment. She runs a daycare in her home and takes care of her husband. She was cooking and boiling water to keep the temperature in her house above 60 degrees. The generator was great for a while, but then they weren’t able to get the gas they needed to run it all the time. How’s that for adding insult to injury? She could only run it on and off for two hours at a time to conserve gas. After 11 days without power, and she is on the LIPA medical priority list, her husband had to go to the hospital because he couldn’t breathe. I don’t know how she managed that long. I really don’t. She has always been a trooper. Her life has been difficult. But this would have sent me over the deep end and yet she managed to cope and deal with it the best she could.

Today, my daughter and her boyfriend, along with some friends, are using some of the last quarter of a tank of gas they have to go help victims of Hurricane Sandy in the Far Rockaways. They will be handing out emergency supplies to those in need. I imagine they will have a lot to say after seeing the devastation first hand and speaking with the people there. It’s one thing to see it on the news and another to be right there. I’m sure it will be heartbreaking. I’m proud of my daughter and her friends for being so compassionate and giving. If anything good has come out of all this at all, it’s seeing people, good people, come together to help those in need doing whatever they can.

The holidays are already upon us. It’s the season of giving. I don’t know any better way to celebrate the spirit of the season than by helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy. We can’t changed what happened, or replace their losses, but we can show them people care and give them a little kindness and compassion to be thankful for. There, but for the grace of God, go we.