Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Life Begins At Conception...

I am one who believes that life begins at conception. I don’t understand the argument that it does not. How could it not? All the ingredients for life are there from the second the sperm penetrates the egg. The only difference between a zygote/embryo and a full term baby, is time. That’s how I see it. I haven’t heard a scientific explanation yet that can persuade me to look at things differently. Some throw in the word “viable.” It’s not a baby until it can live outside the womb. What is the difference if the mother is nurturing the baby inside the womb or outside the womb? The baby is growing, from day one, into whoever he or she is going to be. And, if that’s not enough, a heartbeat can be detected around the sixth week. A heartbeat. How are you going to listen to a heartbeat and still argue that it’s not a baby, but a “fetus.” It’s all semantics and word games.

What brought all this on this morning? Well for one thing, my older daughter turns 25 today, and I would love to turn back the clock to the moment I first heard I was pregnant with her. I always thought of her as a baby. I loved her from the moment I got the news. I was careful about what I ate and drank, because I knew it would affect her. I always wanted the best for her and she was never a zygote, embryo or fetus to me; to me she was always my baby.

The other thing that got me thinking is that In Oklahoma they are trying to get a new law called the Personhood Act, saying life begins at conception and they are using it to try and circumvent legalized abortion. The senate already passed it by a vote of 34 to 8, and it went to the house. They say they want it passed because they are pro-life. And if the law were to pass, anyone who has an abortion would be charged with murder because embryos and fetuses would have the same rights as other citizens. I understand that the house would not pass it, as of now. I also understood that there were no exceptions built into the law for cases like pregnancy resulting from incest or rape or for terminating pregnancies where it has been determined that there are problems with the fetus.

I am not pro abortion, but I do think there are circumstances in which an abortion is warranted, if the woman so decides. I think the whole idea of abortion has gone beyond what was intended. There are over 1.2 million abortions a year in the United States. Unwanted pregnancies. Abortion should not be used in lieu of birth control. If a person doesn’t want a baby, isn’t ready for a baby, then take the proper precautions and use birth control. If birth control isn’t 100 % effective, use two forms of birth control. Women who are on the pill and take antibiotics, may lessen the effectiveness of the pill. In that case, use a condom too. There are options out there that are far less extreme than abortion. We really need to educate and encourage people to use birth control. In cases where everything fails to work, and a pregnancy occurs, then I would rather a woman have the choice of an abortion than bringing an unwanted child into the world. Too many children are being born that are unloved, neglected, raising themselves, being abused etc as it is already. It’s heartbreaking. In my opinion, abortion is the lesser of the two evils. But, the first priority should be preventing pregnancy and the responsibility for that should fall on both the man and the woman.

This Personhood Act is like closing the barn door after the horse has run off. It doesn’t make sense to me, it doesn’t seem practical. Legal abortions have been around for decades. People are desensitized to what they are actually doing when they terminate a life by abortion. Maybe a better way to go is to educate students about life from the moment of conception. Bring in a pregnant woman and let them hear the heartbeat. Let them feel a baby kick. They won’t be so quick to think abortion is an easy fix. It may shock them into being more responsible. And then we need to provide the education and means for birth control. It’s unrealistic to think that teens and young adults are going to remain celibate. If they don’t have the resources to acquire birth control, it should be provided. It will be far less expensive to supply birth control than to support one, two or three babies of uneducated mothers who drop out of school and go on public assistance. We need to be practical and realistic if we want to do the greatest good. I know many will not agree with me, but that’s how this “life begins at conception” brain sees it.

Well, now I will get off my soapbox and get some work done.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's Next for Van der Sloot?

I have been following the Natalee Holloway case since the beginning. As the mother of girls around her age, it terrified me to no end to think that a young girl, who was on a senior trip, could disappear just hours before heading back home. They never found her body, or got any answers. I have always felt that Natalee was drugged and then lured out of the bar by Van der Sloot and his friends. Van der Sloot told various versions of what happened that night. He was the last one seen with her. None of his stories made sense, he had to have left things out. His father came on the scene early on to protect his son. His father was a judge. The whole case haunted me, I can only imagine the horror that Natalee’s parents had to endure for all these years. Van der Sloot ended up killing another girl in Peru on the fifth anniversary of Natalee’s disappearance. This time his father wasn’t around to coach him. This time there was a body. This time he picked on Stephany Flores, whose father had a prominent position in Peru. This time he confessed to murder and got 28 years in prison…not nearly enough if you ask me.

Now the United States is trying to extradite Van der Sloot from Peru and bring him here. They want to try him for extortion. He tried to get money from Natalee’s mother, $25,000 to be exact, in exchange for information leading to her body and details on how she died. A conviction for that crime carries a ten year sentence. People are saying that this is just an excuse to get him here so that we can possibly try him for Natalee’s murder eventually. Van der Sloot isn’t too happy with this new development. He has heard stories about American prisons and how tough they are. Too bad. He should be made to suffer every day he is in prison for the pain and heartache he has caused. A Peruvian judge has already approved the first step of the extradition. The process could take place within the next three months.

The way this extradition would work is that Van der Sloot will be tried and likely found guilty of extortion, sentenced and returned to Peru to serve the remainder of his 28 year sentence. The U.S. is just waiting to Peru to make the decision to send him here for trial. Maybe, during the time this trial is being orchestrated, the authorities will put together a murder case on Natalee. I don’t think they want to get ahead of themselves by saying that just yet.

I am very happy with this turn of events. Finally some justice for Natalee and her family. They should not let him get away with anything that could keep him in prison. I think he is a sociopath liar who would kill again and again if given the opportunity.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Starbucks DeBUGS Drinks…

I’m not the only blogger trying to make a difference while talking about my every day life. Another blogger, a vegan, bashed Starbucks for adding beetle coloring in it’s strawberry frappuccinos. Yep, good old beetle juice!  I don’t know about you, but I’m not a vegan, and I am against any byproduct of an insect being placed in my food without my knowledge. Let me not even go into the prices they charge for their frappuccinos either. It just boggles the mind. By the way, they are using it in four food products and two drink products, so beware!

Anyway, this particular blogger did their homework and was grossed out to find that ground up cochineal beetles found in Mexico and South America, were being used as food coloring. It’s perfectly legal and government approved. In fact, as I look around, I see there are other products mentioned in the article, such as Yoplait and Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, that also use it. The reason Starbucks started using beetles was to get rid of artificial ingredients. Somehow, I am not impressed. Why isn’t their strawberry frappuccino colored with, I don’t know, maybe STRAWBERRIES? Last time I checked, strawberries were natural. But maybe strawberries would eat into their huge 2 billion dollar profit margin and beetles, well they don’t cost anything at all. 

Now that the word is out, Starbucks, who isn’t getting any credit for going all natural with beetle juice, is changing its ingredients again to satisfy unhappy customers who have written numerous petitions and made individual requests. They are going to “transition” away from insect coloring. Not sure what they will use now, maybe they need to shop around for the lowest costing “pink” coloring they can find. I hear that lycopene, a tomato based extract, is the likely substitute. Thank God for educated consumers!

I’m glad that Starbucks has always priced itself outside of my willingness to pay $7 for a cup of coffee. There is something in me that will not allow me to pay that much no matter how good people claim it is. Now that I find they use beetle juice, I am that much happier. I need to be more vigilante about other pink food products. I have eaten plenty of Yoplait and some of those were pink, so I probably have gotten stung with insect coloring already. Maybe I can do a search online and find out all the companies that use government approved insect coloring in their products? I hope so. Damn it, if it’s not one thing it’s another!

P.S. the exact products mentioned were: Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dick Clark, R.I.P.

New Year's Eve will never be the same again.

Well another icon from my childhood is gone and it leaves me wondering who is left? Dick Clark was there for as long as I can remember. Dick Clark never seemed to age, he always had a very youthful appearance. When I was a kid I would dance in front of the television every Saturday afternoon to the pop tunes on American Bandstand. A studio full of teenagers would dance to the music and then rate the song, based on good it was to dance to and listen to. “I give it a 7” or an 8 or 9 even a 10. I would try to guess how the different songs would be rated. I tried to pick up some dance moves. I thought I was doing great, so did Dick Clark (in my mind), but my mother would walk in and say, “You have two left feet,” just to keep me grounded.

  (When I mentioned to my daughter that I was doing a blog on Dick Clark and started the story about American Bandstand, she replied, "Yes I know, you had two left feet." I said, "Oh you read my blog! Wait I didn't post it yet!" She said that shows you how often you have told the story! I really get no respect!)

When Guy Lombardo died in 1977, New Year’s Eve was up for grabs. My mother was so upset about Guy. Watching Guy Lombardo on New Year’s Eve, with all the family, was a tradition in our household. Guy’s band would play all the old songs until it was time for the ball to drop in Times Square. Once all the hugging and kissing and saying Happy New Year was over, my Aunt Mary handed us all pots and spoons to go bang outside. No Guy Lombardo meant no more New Year’s Eve. But, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve was on another channel. It started in 1974 and so, when New Year’s Eve rolled around, we ended up putting him on. Actually, the younger members of my family, who had been dancing with Dick Clark every week, preferred his up to date popular music to the old tunes of Guy Lombardo. The show ended up lasting 38 years, compared to Guy Lombardo’s 21 years. Ryan Seacrest has hosted Dick Clarks Rockin’ New Year’s Eve the past few years and I guess he will be taking over from here on in. I can’t help, but be sad at the loss of Dick Clark. He was part of my childhood memories and New Year’s family celebrations.

I know Dick Clark lived a long, fulfilling, successful life. He has brought joy to generations of people over many decades. Yesterday I saw a young man tweet and ask, “Who is Dick Clark?” It made me even sadder to think how quickly he will be replaced and forgotten. I guess that’s to be expected. No one lives forever, not even the ever young looking Dick Clark. Time caught up with him in the end.  He will be missed by all of us who do know who Dick Clark is because we grew up with him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Devaluing The Word “Friend”


I was thinking this morning about how many “friends” I had before Facebook. It wasn’t many, I can tell you that. I have always kept the number of my friends small because the word “friend” means something to me and I don’t use it lightly. For me, being a friend comes with a certain responsibility that I don’t take lightly. There is a certain degree of care and concern that is implied in that word. I could not be there, as I would want to be there for my friends, if I allowed the number of people to get too large. It would be overwhelming to try to be attentive to too many. Even on Facebook, I have had to turn away requests from some very nice people, to tend to the 70 friends or so I have. Some of those are even duplicates, and others hardly use their page. So the number is actually quite smaller than it appears to be. It’s at a comfortable number for me right now.

But Facebook encourages people to make more and more and more “friends.” They suggest friends for us, they want us to be friends with the friends of friends too. The sky is the limit when it comes to adding friends. I’ve seen people with hundreds and thousands of friends on facebook. Just using the word “friend” to describe someone you don’t know and don’t even talk to seems to devalue the word in my mind. What does “friend” mean when everyone you come in contact with is your friend? It means less and less until it means nothing. Facebook encourages you to make friends, all the while devaluing the meaning of the word. It’s making it ordinary when it should be a special word for a special bond. What they really should call “friends” instead are “contacts,” “associates,” “buddies,” “followers,” anything but “friends.”

Out of my 70 friends, maybe 40 or so are actively using their page, but I consider all of them my friends. What can I do for people I have never met, but have grown to know through our facebook pages? Maybe not much, but I will do what I can. I am paying attention and try to show I care. If they post they have a doctor’s appointment, I will wish them good luck or ask how it went. If they ask for prayers, I will acknowledge that and offer my prayers. If it’s their daughter’s birthday, I will stop and wish their child a happy birthday. If they have been absent for a while, I will send a little note asking how they are. If they are nervous about a test or job interview I will try to “hold their hand” and boost their confidence as much as I can. If they have a problem, I try to help them find a solution. If they tell me their child graduated I can share their joy. If a loved one died, I can share their sorrow. It just goes on and on, every day my friends are posting about their lives and I take an interest in them and what is going on. They all give back to me what I give to them. That’s why I call my facebook friends “friends” because that’s what they are, and that’s why I keep them to a chosen few.

If I had 1,000 friends, everyone would be lost in the shuffle. How could I keep up with them all? There couldn’t be an intimate interaction with a chosen few if my newsfeed is being flooded by comments, pictures, videos from the masses. I wouldn’t consider anyone my “friend” regardless of what facebook calls them. I wouldn’t know their children and grandchildren’s names are Megan, Alex, Ellie, James, Mason, Katie, Nancy, Kendra, Cassie, Ruby, Kennedy, Emily, Charlie…or their spouses names. I mean why bother when you don’t have a relationship of any kind.

So, while facebook is a good way of sometimes making or keeping friends, and I have made quite a few, to call everyone a “friend” really takes away from the meaning of the word. People seem to get great pleasure in accumulating “friends” because it makes them feel more popular. But I wonder is how many in those 500 or 1,000 friends remembers to send you birthday wishes, send you prayers, or cares if you go missing for two weeks?

My friend list is going to remain small and intimate. I’m not anxious to add anyone else. When I say “my friend on facebook” I really mean it, I’m not just throwing the word friend around.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chin Implants Are All The Rage!

I was sitting her wondering what to write about. Sometimes ideas just flow and other days I am grasping for straws. I like to try to write something everyday, if I can. Well the big talk of the day is chin implants. It’s been all over the news. Everyone is wanting a chin implant. I heard it once too many times and it’s become a peeve. I’ve already talked about all kinds of cosmetic surgery and the artificial looking results. My voice isn’t having any impact on the plastic surgery industry at all. Plastic surgeons are raking in big bucks because people aren’t happy with the way they look. 

You know, if I cared about how I looked, I’d probably need several surgeries to make myself more perfect looking, especially now, at my age. I could probably sign up for breast implants, a tummy tuck and a little liposuction. My lips need to be fuller, now that I look at them, they seem awfully thin. On the other hand, my nose is a little too wide and could use some thinning.  I think I would keep my chin, I always got compliments on it because I have a little clef that is supposed to be an asset, and I wouldn’t want to lose that. Of course, I am just a little shy of 60 years old, so a face lift is in order. My face needs some tightening, I just have to hope they don’t pull it back so hard that my eye brows go up and I look perpetually surprised! 

What am I going to do with my old looking hands after I shave ten years off my face? I guess I could wear gloves? My arms are starting to look their age too. Thank God there are long sleeves for that. I just don’t know what people will need to improve next? I mean my friend has some uneven toes that don’t go down in size like they are supposed to. The second toe is longer than her big toe. Maybe she needs some cosmetic surgery for that? After all, who wants to strut on the beach and have people starring at your malformed toes? Just where does all this nonsense end? Not with chin implants. The number of chin implants has gone up 71% since 2010!  I even read an article about a plastic surgeon who gave his 21 year old daughter breast implants for her birthday! Of course her friends all wanted work done too, why not?

I guess I just don’t get it. Paying thousands of dollars and putting yourself at risk for complications, just to look like someone you aren’t, or worse yet to look like everyone else. Oh well, at least I got a peeve out of it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Why Aren't Some People Nice?

You have to admit that some people are nicer than others. I attributed being nice to different factors, in my mind, having to do with the old “nature (inherited) vs. nurture (environmental/learned)” theories. Maybe a big part of our own behavior is based on what we learn?  Some of us are taught manners, are more socially conscious, or don’t want to be judged for acting rudely etc.  There are some people who live relatively stress free lives, surely they can afford to be nice, but they aren’t always. There are other people I know, whose lives are so stressful, that they should be biting people’s heads off for asking a simple question, but they don’t. Why can’t we all just be nice?

Maybe it’s because we inherit genes that control our behavior? A friend of mine forwarded me an article about a study done in the University of Buffalo. It seems that a big part of being nice has to do with our DNA and is hereditary. They claim that people who feel threatened tend not to be nice. I can agree with that! However, people who had a mutated or different version of two hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, were able to overcome the feeling of being threatened, were nicer and more willing to help others despite their fears. 

This leads me to wonder if I have the mutated hormonal genes for niceness or the regular grumpy hormonal genes.  Maybe I’ll go out on a limb and say I probably have the regular ones or, if anything, a more grumpier version. I wonder if they can start to bottle those nice hormones right away because I know a couple of people (actually a lot of people) who should be taking them every day! I’d even pop a couple of these pills myself. 

It seems that soon they will trace everything back to our DNA. We will have an excuse for everything we do. It will be like a free pass. “I can’t help it if I inherited some bad genes!” Will we become the victims of our ancestors? Just like our physical characteristics are inherited, why not our personality traits? I don’t need proof of this. My personality is very much like my mother’s, so is my older daughter’s. My younger daughter’s temperament is very much like her father’s and her paternal grandmother. In our family, we have been blaming our genes for our behavior for years. Maybe we couldn’t pinpoint the exact genes, but we knew it was in the DNA. 

Science is finally catching up with my theories and proving me right. The next step will be to determine which genes control which aspects of our behavior and, if we are doomed to inherit some bad traits, maybe we can use behavior therapy to fix the problem before the genes take hold of us? Who knows what they are going to do with this information, now that they have it. But, if you see some snarky facebook status’ of mine or my blogs aren’t quite as polite as they should be, chances are I got stuck with some “dud” genes and it really is my mother’s fault!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hillary Rosen’s Faux War Against Moms!

As a stay at home mom, I wasn’t too happy to hear Hillary Rosen attack Ann Romney for staying home to raise her five boys. Actually, she attacked her for not working a day in her life…and by work she means a paying job, not the job of being a mother. You know that worthless mothering “job” that doesn’t pay you any money, but requires you to make countless sacrifices, 24/7, for the sake of your family. Hillary is now anxious to put the “faux war” to rest, because she hasn’t gotten any support for her insulting and offensive remarks against stay-at-home moms from either side of the political forum. In fact, anyone who is anyone, has spoken out against what she has said, all the way up to President Obama and his wife Michelle. No one in their right mind was going to side with Rosen, forcing her at admit her words were poorly chosen and trying to defend herself. She finally appeared on CNN and after some defense and “what I should have saids,” she issued an apology for her comments.

I am all for women having a choice in working or staying at home. Some women want to work and have careers. Other women have to work to help support their families. And still other women who, like myself, are not wealthy but chose to make the sacrifices necessary to be able to stay home and raise their children. Whatever options women have, it’s their decision and no one should be criticized for it. I have known women who fit into all categories when it comes to this topic. Single and married moms who have to work must find what works best for them. I know my cousin does a day care at home so she could earn money and be there for her own children at the same time. Some women work at night so they can be there in the day for their children. Some place their children with relatives or in day care so they are able to work. And some of us, who can manage on one salary, make a decision to stay at home. Some women have a choice to work or not, others have no choice at all, if they want to provide for their children. Who is anyone to pass judgment on that? Frankly, I don’t know how a women with a full time job manages to handle that and raising a family too. Yet so many women do it all.

I worked ten years before having my children, so Hillary Rosen wouldn’t be able to say I never worked a day in my life. However, I do take offense at her statement because I have spent the last 25 years at home with my children. Yes, I could have gone back to work at some point, but chose not to. Besides that, my parents and in-laws were aging and in failing health by the time my children were becoming independent. And then, like Ann Romney, I had to deal with my own health issues. Life is complicated, but I know one thing, every woman knows what is best for her and her family and rises to the occasion. If that means she has to or wants to work outside the home, so be it. If she wants to forego luxuries that a second salary would bring, and stay at home, that’s her prerogative and no one else’s business. It’s shocking that Rosen didn’t realize her error even as the words crossed her lips. I’m not sure her apology is genuine and not just an attempt at damage control for something that has taken on a life of it’s own in such a short time. When she made the comment she seemed to say it with conviction and then defended it. I am not so quick to believe her apology was sincere at this point. What do you think? In any case, Ann Romney, handled it with tact and grace!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

George Zimmerman Arrested!

Finally, George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin, has been arrested and charged with murder. What did it take to get to this point? It took the Martin family fighting to get the 911 tapes released to the public. It took bringing in a special prosecutor to examine the case. It took bringing in the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. It took bringing in the FBI. It took public awareness and national outrage over Trayvon’s death and a call for Zimmerman’s arrest. While the Martin family was burying their child, George Zimmerman was free to go home with his murder weapon, with the potential to gun down another innocent victim. And he has been free since February 26th, the day he took Trayvon’s life. 

Zimmerman hunted Trayvon down like an animal. He followed him armed with a gun, while Trayvon was armed with a bag of Skittles and only his hoodie to protect him from the irrational and unprovoked fears of a vigilante, looking for any excuse to attack. Then, after following and killing an innocent boy, he claims to have been the one attacked and shot Trayvon in self-defense. He says he called for help. The screams for help on the 911 tapes were identified to be Trayvon’s. What now Mr. Zimmerman? What defense can there possibly be for your actions? Florida laws need to be changed because of people like you, who use the law for your own agenda. The law was intended to protect victims who are attacked and need to defend themselves. The law was not intended for attackers who kill and then pretend to be victims. The evidence speaks for itself, but it took public cries for justice to get the wheels in motion. The Sanford police may have already closed the case and never investigated. They were prepared to take Zimmerman at his word and believe his story hook, line and sinker. Now they should also be under investigation and scrutinized. Their actions that night and in subsequent days should be reviewed thoroughly. It’s not enough that Zimmerman be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The law enforcement policies and practices of Sanford need to be reviewed. The arrests and actions of their police force need to be examined. Something is going on there and it isn’t right. Who will get to the bottom of it before another young man loses his life because the police force that is supposed to be protecting him, is instead protecting lawless vigilantes? 

Thank God that people spoke up and demanded justice in this case. Zimmerman should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. It will never bring Trayvon back. Trayvon’s parents will never be the same after suffering such a senseless loss. But they can at the very least have some measure of comfort or relief, in knowing that their son’s killer is going to suffer some consequence for his actions. That is the very least they are entitled to now. If I were them, I would have someone do a full investigation into George Zimmerman’s background to see if the authorities have anything on him as far as his propensity for violence. If there are grounds for them to sue the police department for any reason whatsoever, they should do so, and maybe use the money to set up a memorial in their son’s name. Crimes like this should never be forgotten and they should never happen again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Prayers of a Friend...

Last March, I wrote a blog called “Praying for Others,” because I had so many friends who were facing one crisis or another and prayers were the only things I could send. What surprises me is that this blog, out of over 500 that I have written, is the fourth most read of all the blogs here. People need our prayers, people need hope, people need support and encouragement to help them cope with their problems. Many of life’s problems are in God’s hands. If you have serious health issues, for example, doctors can only do so much. Some illnesses are even beyond the skills of a doctor to treat. If a person needs a job because they can’t pay their bills, but there are none to be had, where do they turn? If someone is a caregiver of a loved one, and can get no relief from the 24/7 schedule it requires, who will step in to give them a break? And then there are those who, for one reason or another, have to endure and live with constant physical pain. Pain that even the strongest medication won’t take away. And they have to carry on, with their pain, and do what is needed. 

We all get overwhelmed at times when several things hits us all at the same time, but eventually we can get relief. But, imagine living a life where your problems are there day in and day out with no end in sight? I know many people who, through no fault of their own, have been dealt a very bad hand in life. It hasn’t made them bitter, as I would have expected. In fact, they are some of the strongest, most caring and compassionate people I know. They carry on, they persevere, they joke, they laugh. They accept their situation, not without some frustration from time to time, but with dignity and courage. They are even there to help others whenever they can without a moment’s hesitation. I don’t think I would be strong enough to do what they do. I admire them so much for what they go through every single day with rarely a complaint, while so many of us don’t realize how fortunate we are and take the blessings of our lives for granted.

So I would like to renew my promise to pray for my family and friends, that God continues to give them strength to endure all that they do, that He watches over them and surrounds them with the love and support of family and friends always. I pray that I am able to recognize when someone needs a friend to talk to, for support, for understanding, for compassion, so that I can reach out to them and hopefully give them what they need. No one should ever feel they are alone when there are so many of us willing to listen and help in any way we can. 

Let’s just take a minute to pray for all our family and friends every day so that maybe their burdens will be a little lighter because of the love of a friend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Writing Epiphany...

I have always loved to write and had dreams of writing the great American Novel one day, however I was never inspired with an idea good enough nor lived a life exciting enough that anyone would care to read it. Besides that, I never realized I had an iota of talent for writing until I was a senior in high school. Oh sure I received high grades on all my writing assignments, but they weren’t about creative writing. Most assignments required research and presenting facts I had read in books and compiled for a report of some kind or another. So, when I was told that I would be placed in Honors English in my senior year of high school, I was shocked. The challenge of being with other honor students, who had probably been given creating writing assignments for years, made me feel insecure about myself. I never felt confident about my writing. And worse yet I thought to myself, how will my writing stack up to the thousands of students that this teacher has had throughout her teaching career?

Well, as I anticipated, after honors English got underway for a couple of weeks, the teacher asked us to write an essay. She specifically wanted one about an event in our lives that had a profound effect on us and changed us in some way. At first I panicked and thought it is going to be very difficult for me to even come up with an idea, my experiences were very limited, to say the least. I was hoping to come up with something I could write about with feeling and not just flub it to get the assignment done. Fortunately for me, my brain always kicks in after I sleep on something for a day or two. This time it sent me back to a day when I was in junior high school. I was in eighth grade, in was April 5th, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I wrote about what happened that day and how it changed me.

I went to school like any other normal day, but when I got there what I found was anything but normal. Many, if not all, of the black students in the schoolyard were off to one corner in a large group. There was shouting and making a commotion, and I was too naïve to tie it in with what had happened the day before. I know that I didn’t have the awareness to appreciate the enormous significance of Mr. King’s assassination at the time. I’m not even sure how much we had learned about civil rights in school at that point. Suffice to say I was clueless. And, so I passed by the “demonstration” and went into the school building prepared for a routine day of classes.

Now, I was in a very small class of 19 students, 18 girls and one boy. It was the top class of “gifted” students and we were all very close and all pretty much friends, after having spent two or more years together. The class was racially and ethnically mixed so that we had black, white and Hispanic students. There had never been any issue among us. I had never looked at any of us as “black” or “white” because we were all friends. When I had gotten to my English class that morning, the teacher said we would be going to the library. That was odd in itself because we never wen to the library, but nothing was going the way it usually does that day. Still, I didn’t think much of it because I thought to myself, whatever is going on outside is not going to affect my class, we are all friends.

When we got to the library however, the usual students didn’t sit at tables with their closest friends. As happens in any group, you becomes somewhat closer to some than others. It was normal for me to be having lunch with Dora and meeting her in the morning for extra French help. Dora was black. Sandra, who was a black student, was very close friends with my friend Barbara, who was white…and so on. But, when we got to the library none of the usual little groups of friends sat together. All of the black students went to sit together at one table and were whispering among themselves. Those of us who remained didn’t know what to make of this and didn’t understand it. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. We just took random seats at various tables. It was awkward, it was confusing, it was sad. Things pretty much stayed that way the whole day and maybe longer. When we walked through the halls to our classes, the breakdown stayed along racial lines. I was hurt, I didn’t know who to ask about what was going on. All I knew was that was the day I learned about “black” and “white” and that my classmates and I were not immune to this awareness of racial difference that kept others in society apart, as I had believed. I really thought that we saw beyond race to who the person was, but now I had to question that. We were all the same people that we were on the day before, but on April 5th, 1968 we didn’t see each other the same way. The teachers never stopped to address it either. Something unspoken changed that day. We would all go on to put this division behind us and finish out the school year as friends. We would all meet again in September and spend another year together, working and laughing and enjoying each other’s company. But we suffered a loss of innocence caused by our new awareness. Even though we were colorblind friends in our own classroom, in the outside world race made a difference, and it couldn’t be denied. My rose colored glasses had been shattered into black and white pieces.

I poured my heart out into this essay, which was the first time I had talked or written about the experience that had taken place four years earlier. I handed it in to my teacher, expecting to get maybe a B or B+. A few days later, she handed back our essays. On the top of mine was a big A+ and a note saying I was a very talented writer. My English teacher, who had read countless papers of gifted, honor students, validated my writing ability that day. I can’t even describe what it meant to me to see the grade and her words which made me think maybe I can be a writer. Maybe one day people will want to read my words and care about what I have to say. She built up my confidence to an all time high. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, because I was headed to college where I would be writing many more papers and getting many more A’s.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Words Hurt...

“The pen is mightier than the sword” (Edward Bulwer-Lytton) is a quote we have heard time and time again. Young people probably have no clue what it means and I have found that many adults simply don’t care. The expression of course means that the written word is a greater weapon, a more powerful instrument than a sword. The phrase originally was meant to convey that knowledge and wisdom in communication was a much more effective way to bring about conflict resolution than violence. But today, I am going to use this metaphor in another way because words are powerful, not only to resolve problems, but to inflict harm on another human being. I learned this at an early age and I am surprised that so many people have not.

Words, whether spoken, written, texted or emailed, have the power to inflict pain. The pain they inflict is worse than physical blows that heal. They cut deep. They are used recklessly, without thought, and once out there can never be retrieved. Too many people think it’s ok to lash out at someone during an argument or disagreement, or even just for the hell of it, and use their command of the English language (or lack of it) to berate, belittle, insult, or be cruel to someone just because they can. I learned a lesson from my mother about the power of words from a very early age. Back then that was the way it was and parents could and would speak to their children any way they chose to. There was little awareness of things like “verbal abuse.” Parents used words to discipline and put children in their place. So I was no stranger to the phrases: “how could you be so stupid?,” “you know you are stupid!,” “why did you do something so stupid?,” “you’re just a stupid kid.” etc. My mother called me stupid all the time and was quick to point out my stupidity every chance she got. She also used other hurtful and critical words to hurt me no matter how small the offense. She rarely used praise no matter how big the accomplishment. I learned to accept it. My mother loved me, protected me, made so many sacrifices for me, so if she thought I was stupid, I was going to have to change her opinion. I knew I wasn’t as stupid as she thought.

When I went to school, I rarely raised my hand to answer questions. That was my teachers’ biggest complaint about me when my mother showed up for parent teacher conferences. She would always come out and say the same thing: “They say you are a wonderful student and wish they had more like you, but they want you to participate more.” I thought to myself, “Yes, I know, but if I raise my hand and have the wrong answer, everyone will think I am stupid“…and I was tired of being told I was stupid. Instead, I always worked hard in school to prove my mother wrong. I brought home 100’s and 90’s on all my tests and report cards. I was always in the top classes. I knew I wasn’t stupid, I refused to accept it, I just had to prove it to my mother, that’s all. 

I went through elementary school, junior high school, high school always in the top 5% of my graduating class or higher. My mother still thought I was stupid, or at least she liked to tell me I was, somehow it made her feel better I guess. When it came time for me to visit colleges, as a senior in high school, I made an appointment to see the dean at the college of my choice. My mother came with me to that meeting because I had never traveled anywhere alone and the college was three buses and an hour and a half away. We were called in to meet a very professional looking young man, who politely told us to have a seat and he pulled out my records. We started discussing what courses I wanted to take, if I was matriculating, what degree I was going for, what my major would be, core requirements, and my classes for my first semester. For the first time, my mother, who had the bad habit of answering questions that were directed at me all my life, sat there as quiet as a church mouse. I had handled the interview all on my own and almost forgot she was even there. The dean shook my hand and wished me good luck and said good bye to my mother. As we walked back to the bus stop my mother looked up at me with great pride in her eyes, like she was seeing me for the first time, and she said, “I never knew you were so smart.” I was stunned. It took a great deal for her to admit that and to pay me such a huge compliment. I knew that because I knew her, and compliments did not flow freely from her lips. It was a bittersweet moment for me as I stood there with my mother. All the hard work I did every single day at school for years, all the parent teacher conferences and praise, all the honor roll certificates, awards, excellent report cards…all that had not convinced her I was smart. It took this one meeting, with the dean of a college, answering a few simple questions that finally impressed upon her how smart I “really” was and maybe I wasn’t so stupid after all.

My mother hurt me with her words. She intended to hurt me. It wasn’t until years later, when I was an adult and needed to understand why, that I learned the reason. My mother grew up in a household where her father was an alcoholic and she witnessed unspeakable things. There was always chaos in the home and she and her siblings lived in fear. She was pulled out of school after completing the eight grade to work around the house. These things shaped the person she turned out to be.  No one went to see a therapist about their issues back then. She didn’t know better. She did the best she could with the cards she was dealt. My mother hurt me, but she loved me. I knew she loved me. And she taught me a valuable lesson in the process.

I learned to chose my words carefully when talking to people, especially people I care about. When you use hurtful words against loved ones, they take it to heart and carry it with them, especially children. I don’t want to be responsible for making anyone feel “less than” they are, especially those I love. I want them to know they are loved an cherished, and not just by the words I speak, but through my actions. I try very hard not to use words as a weapon against anyone, but I will use them to defend myself when pushed hard enough.

In spite of my mother’s criticisms of me, I know the truth about myself. She may have had power over me as a child, but as I got older and after much introspection, I acquired a deeper understanding of myself. I am far from stupid. I have above average intelligence and I am very insightful too. I am always willing to help anyone in need, even if they don’t ask. Anyone who knows me knows who I am and what I am about. I don’t need to go on and on about my attributes. I’ve long forgiven my mother for her shortcomings. She was always a strong presence in my life. She did the best she could as a mother and, looking at the end result, I think anyone would say she did a great job. 

My mother may have made mistakes, but she must have done something very right.

P.S. I have learned one more thing too. I may have allowed my mother to mistreat me, even after I was an adult, because I loved and respected her and I understood her. I know she loved me unconditionally. She gave me life and I would not trade her for any other mother on earth. However, I will not allow anyone else to mistreat or verbally assault me. No one has done for me all that my mother has done. I respect myself too much to allow anyone to cross that line. Beyond that, I respect my mother enough never to allow anyone to hurt or mistreat her daughter, because I know she loved me more than life itself.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

When my younger daughter was very little, maybe about 5 or 6, she wrote and illustrated an Easter story of her own. The story was about the Easter Bunny, named Jack, who was tired of delivering Easter eggs so he goes to see his lawyer. I guess the lawyer didn't offer him a way out of his contract, so Jack goes down our main street, with his basket full of eggs...throwing them at all the store front windows. It was a funny little story that our family never forgot and of course I've saved it and treasure it.

Holidays like Easter are about spending time with family and making memories. We made our share of memories over the years as I'm sure you have too. I feel very fortunate this weekend to be spending the holiday with my family. Yesterday we all went to the mall and had dinner. I came home and baked the girls some delicious Toll House chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I was in a very good mood looking forward to today, when we would be visiting with my brother and my cousins.

I just want to wish you all a very Happy Easter! Make memories you will have for years to come and thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Memories of Baskets & Eggs

There will be no Easter eggs, no baskets, no chocolate, no colored grass, no Easter egg hunts, no talk of the Easter rabbit in this house. Those days are long gone, but I remember them as if they were yesterday. I was reminiscing with my girls and asking them if they remembered any of it. They tell me yes, but they weren’t there for all the behind the scenes effort I put into pulling off a great Easter year after year. 

As only grandchildren on both sides of our families, my girls were spoiled for every occasion and birthday. I am as guilty, if not more, than anyone, of over indulging them their every wish. The fact that they were always so good and sweet and well behaved, only made me want to reward their behavior all the more. So when Easter rolled around, they got baskets from my mother in-law, filled little baskets with chocolates and colored eggs for the girls to find. When we went to my mother’s house, my brother had huge baskets with all sorts of little toys and even summer outfits in them. And when they woke up Easter Sunday, we had our own traditional ritual.

Every Easter I would cut out a big bunny head and color in the face. I made it a card and, inside the card, were instructions and clues to their Easter egg hunt. Every room in the house had a number of plastic eggs filled with chocolate treats. The little poem in the card revealed the number of eggs in each room so they could be sure to find them all. I would place the bunny card out side their bedroom door to find when they woke up. I must had hidden, with no exaggeration, at least 60 eggs of all sizes, all over the house. They loved the hunt for eggs more than the huge baskets waiting for them in the living room! I shopped for weeks before Easter, trying to find two of everything for their baskets. Little purple and pink stuffed bunnies, Barbie dolls, Slinkies, Jacks, Silly Putty, Jump Ropes, Stickers, jewelry, all sorts of little items I knew they would love. We sure made the most out of every Easter! After all the morning hunting and opening baskets and breakfast, we would get dressed and head over to my mom’s for dinner and spent the day with family. Those were special times. Times we took for granted when they happened and didn’t appreciate enough. It’s always the way in life, you never know what you got till it’s gone.

I would love to go back and revisit the days of Easters past, but that’s not the way things work. If you have young children and your parents are around to celebrate with you all, treasure these moments. Parents pass on, children grow up, and the holidays are never the same. “Used to be’s ain’t what they used to be,” as my mother would often say…and she was right.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sisters, Best Friends...

When I found out that my second baby was going to be a girl the first thing I thought of was, "Oh Lord at some point, there were going to be three women, with PMS every month, in our home." I told my husband that when the time came, he should have a bag of his clothes packed and be ready to leave for a few days every month, for his own protection. The second thing I thought of is that my daughter would have a baby sister, something I had never had. I wanted my girls to be very close and I tried to instill that in them, but mostly I found it came naturally.

From the moment I brought my second daughter home, my older daughter, who had strong maternal instincts, became like a second mother to her baby sister. And, as for my younger daughter, the second she first heard the sound of her older sister’s voice she instantly turned her head in her direction as if to look for her. She recognized her voice, or so it seemed. And I could see they bonded instantly. And throughout the past twenty two years, they have never had a real argument or even the typical squabbles that most siblings have. They always got along and it warms my heart and gives me great peace to know they will always be close and look out for each other.

This week my younger daughter had a difficult week at school. She had to stay late a couple nights for two to four hours to work on a group project, this after working her normal eight hour day. She had a couple of tests this week too, that she had studied all weekend for. Wednesday night she came home at 8:30 PM and ate dinner. She got up at 8 am to do it all over again yesterday. But, at 5:30 PM Thursday, both girls were home for dinner and happy to see each other. They joked at dinner. Then, both of them being tired, they collapsed in the living room to watch television together. I thought they would be there till bedtime, chatting in front of the television. But, about an hour after dinner, my older daughter comes upstairs and tells me they are going to Cold Stone for ice cream. It seems my younger daughter had a craving and her sister was going with her to get some for herself too. Besides that, my older daughter had an ulterior motive. She wanted to show her sister some graffiti she had spotted on the way home from work, near Cold Stone. It was a message from a character on a show they both watch called, Pretty Little Liars. The message scrawled across the wall was “You’re next.” A.  The character A, on the show, has been a mystery for God knows how long. I’m always hearing them say, “Who is A?” every season, week after week. This week they are supposed to reveal who A is, but they never do.

It might sound like nothing, but that little bit of graffiti made my younger daughter laugh. They both shared a moment, some ice cream and a laugh tonight. My older daughter knew her sister needed a break from school and all her work. She always knows what to do for sister, just like when they were little and she would always keep an eye on her. 

This weekend I will have both my girls home with me, celebrating Easter. It makes me very happy that I can say that my little girls have not only grown up to be very close as sisters, but also are best friends.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Chili's Experience...

Just when I thought I wouldn’t have a peeve for today, something always happens to give me something to talk about. My husband took the day off today for various reasons. I thought it might be a good idea to take a walk to our local Chili’s for lunch. It’s beautiful out today and the sun is shining with a cool breeze. He agrees with my suggestion, as always. As we both get hungry early because the dog gets up at 5:30 am every day, we leave just ten minutes before noon and arrive by noon. 

We already know what we want because we have had the 2 for $20 deal before many times. Today we both order the same meal, the bacon ranch chicken quesadillas which I have had many times before. Our order is taken promptly and it doesn’t take long before the meal arrives at our table. At first glance it seems fine, but I notice there is no ranch dressing on the side. I take a bite, I don’t taste bacon. I think to myself and then say out loud, “I don’t taste any bacon at all.” My husband takes a bite. He doesn’t taste any bacon either. Maybe we just picked up the wrong piece to start with? We both notice immediately that the tortilla’s are somewhat burnt and they taste like it. It’s still edible, but it detracts from our enjoyment. We pick up another piece and bite into it and still no bacon! There was no bacon period. It reminded me of the little old lady from the old commercial who would say, “Where’s the beef!” So now we are basically eating chicken cheese quesadillas on burnt tortillas. 

The check comes immediately, even as we are still eating. I don’t care because that means I can get out faster. The server says there is a survey online of our experience and they would love to hear from us. As soon as she is out of earshot I say to my husband “I don’t think so,” and take the check, with our personal code on it, with me. I made up my mind I was going to tell them about our experience as soon as I got home and then blog about it. This is what I wrote: My husband and I ordered the bacon ranch quesadillas which we have had before. This time however, there was no bacon, no ranch on the side and the tortillas were over cooked to slightly burnt. We were dissatisfied but did not mention it to the server because we were in a rush today and could not wait for them to be done over. We will see if they do anything about it or not. I am getting my satisfaction in this blog. 

So, other than that, we had a nice little lunch. At least it was quiet and the place was fairly empty because it was so early. I don’t think I’ll be heading back to Chili’s any time soon unless they give me a voucher for a free dinner or something. Then I might be persuaded to give then another try.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

O.J. Simpson Innocent???

A new book has emerged  and the author swears he has found that O.J. is not only innocent of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman’s murder, but he KNOWS who did it and has proof. I clearly remember the day in 1994 when the jury found O.J. not guilty of both murders. In my opinion there was overwhelming evidence at the crime scene, there was the famous car chase, the disguise and shovel in the trunk of his car. I mean just about everything pointed to O.J. and his guilt, and I was not the only one outraged by the verdict. I left to pick up my daughter from school and when I got there the entire schoolyard, full of parents, were all talking about it. No one was happy.

Now P.I. William Dear has written a book, after conducting his own thorough investigation, and says O.J. is innocent. He claims to have all the documentation to exonerate O.J. spelled out in his book. Dear has spent twenty years looking into all aspects of the case. He says that the real killer was O.J.’s son, Jason, his son by his first wife. He says Jason Simpson not only had possession of the murder weapon, a knife, he also had other pieces of evidence in his storage facility. Dear goes on to say, "We have emails from his former roommates that were in college with him. We have our suspect's diaries. We have his forged time card, and we have the vehicle he was driving on the night of the murders." The next logical question would be “WHY?” would Jason kill Nicole and Ron.

“Dear contends that Jason Simpson has his own demons and suffers from ‘intermittent rage disorder…Our suspect at the time was 5'11" and 235 pounds. He was 24 years old, and he was on probation for assaulting his previous employer with a knife. In addition to that, he's had three attempted suicides and has been in a psychiatric unit.’”

This is an interesting premise, but why did it take 20 years to arrive at this conclusion? I’m very skeptical. I seem to recall all of the Simpson family being questioned at the time. The police didn’t seem to think Jason was involved. Surely they had access to the same information as the author of this new book? Had they suspected anything one would think they would have investigated further. 

I don’t know what to make of this at all. I am still convinced that O.J. is the guilty party and got away with murder. BUT, if Jason did it or they have enough evidence to make a case, maybe they should try prosecuting him. Meanwhile, O.J. finally ended up behind bars and is serving a thirty year sentence. There is some satisfaction in that and maybe some karma too.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fool’s Is On You…

I woke up my girls this morning while I was listening to a new hip hop song. I discovered the song on Friday and can’t seem to stop playing it. The name of the song is “Do It” by Final Draft. Normally, I do not listen to rap or hip hop songs because they don’t agree with me. But, this song is opening up my mind to giving this genre another chance.

As the girls woke up they stumbled into my room to watch be grooving’ to the song on my computer. They looked at me in disbelief. My younger daughter said, “Please say April Fools…this is an April Fool’s joke, right? You are supposed to be listening to this kind of music.” I was more than happy to inform her that it was not a joke, that I enjoyed this song very much and intended to keep playing it. They both looked down and left to go have breakfast. When they returned, to get dressed and make their beds, they found me still playing the song and singing some of the lyrics. My younger daughter seemed more disturbed by my new found interest and asked me how many hits did this song get? I said over 102,000. She replied, well 50,000 must have been from you! Off she went to take care of her business.

I guess old dogs can learn new tricks. If someone had told me a few days ago I would be happily listening to hip hop I would have told them they were crazy and made a bet with them that they would be wrong. It’s a good thing no one did, because I am just loving this song.

So ends the day with the “joke is on you for my girls.”  Your mother has gotten a little cooler and more hip the past couple of days. Deal with it!

Here is the song that all the fuss was about: “Do It” by Final Draft. Have a listen, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!