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).