Saturday, December 21, 2013

Our Christmas Is All About Love…

Christmas season starts earlier and earlier every year, and I blame the retailers for rushing things so they can make big profits. But, I was thinking this morning, maybe we do need the extra time to prepare for the holiday because people’s lives are getting more hectic and busier every year. If we aren’t working, running errands, shoveling snow, and all the rest, then we are getting sick with super bugs that turn a normal seven day cold into a three week bronchitis or even a longer pneumonia. Then we are stressed out because we are falling behind on all the things we have to do and we find ourselves rushing around until the last minute to get it all done…even though Christmas started back in October, with Halloween!

Everything that goes into celebrating Christmas we do with love. There’s a long list, from big things to the tiniest things, that go into making this day special for those you care about. There’s the shopping for just the right wrapping paper. I like to have all the Christmas colors and symbols on my paper like red, green, blue, white and snowmen, reindeer, trees and of course Santa. Some of us have to get two different sets of wrapping paper for our wiseass kids who notice that “Santa’s Paper” and our paper happen to be the same. And after you get paper, you need bows and ribbon. And all of these things would serve no purpose without scotch tape…do you get the clear tape or the one that claims to be invisible, but never is? Is there enough tape for the whole family to use? You can’t run out of tape because the stores will be out of it at midnight on December 24th! And then you realize that just as important as the tape are the gift tags! Should we get the ones that peel and stick…they are so much easier than the other kind which will make us use up even more tape! When the girls were little, I signed all the gift tags with “Love, Santa,” and maybe a couple from us. Of course, when they realized the handwriting was the same, I had to start disguising my handwriting. I am doing this all out of love, I really am. When they put out the cookies and milk…we eat them and drink the milk and leave freaking crumbs as evidence. And yet, I could not quell the skepticism that there was no Santa! So I added a large, chocolate thumb print to the note Santa left, thanking them for the cookies. But that’s not enough…no. My older daughter wants to leave an apple for the reindeer. Where the hell did she get that Idea? Who knows? So they leave and apple. I have to take a few bites of the apple and leave a half eaten apple on my end table for them to find in the morning and examine. I go to bed with indigestion, but I am doing this out of love for my children and to keep their innocence alive.

Then there are the decorations! The outdoor decorations, the indoor decorations the decorations for the tree! Oh we have to get just the right tree. If it’s a real tree, you might even want to go cut one down yourself. If it’s a fake tree, you have to bring it up from the basement or down from the attic, a job everyone hates. If you put it up too early, your decorations get dusty. If you put it up too late, there’s bound to be a light that doesn’t work that throws all the others off and you have to find it even if it takes hours. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I love my girls and, although we had a fake tree every year, one year I decided I wanted them to experience a real tree and the delightful pine smell permeating the house. We go to pick one out together. I need a special tree stand so we can water it. We set it up in the corner. My older daughter says she doesn’t like the smell. Who the hell doesn’t like the smell of fresh pine? My younger daughter, who never complains, starts getting congested after a couple of days. I think it’s a cold, but nope…she is allergic to the tree! So much for making new Christmas memories! So it’s time to put up the tree and you have to find just the right place for it. If your house is crowded, you might have to move some furniture so it’s tucked away in a corner and not in a spot that interferes with your daily living. And then you unwrap each ornament with love as you try to find the perfect place to hang it. Our ornaments are mostly all counted cross stitch, handmade by me for my daughters, for each Christmas they’ve had; and the others are from places we have vacationed as a family. To take some of the magic away from the tree decorating experience, which my older daughter finds annoying, she suggests a new tradition. She will put “her” ornaments on one side of the tree and her sister can hang hers on the other side. Why you wonder? Genius that my daughter is, she discovered it makes taking the tree down so much easier and faster when you know where your ornaments are. I give up.

Now to shop for gifts. When the girls were little I just had to go to Toys R Us in October and get just about everything all at once. I even got presents for my in laws and my brother to give them, so these kids were beyond spoiled. However, they got older, and there went my nice routine. No longer could I go to Toys R Us and satisfy their every wish. Now I had to actually think of what to get and their lists never came early. When they do make a list, it comes with instructions. Like the time my daughter wanted the DVDs of a season of The Office…make sure you don’t get the series made in Great Britain, I want the one starring Steve Carell! And I can’t get them any clothes. If I like something, it’s almost guaranteed they will hate it. I am against gift certificates. What am I supposed to do? Wrap up tiny cards and put them under the tree? So I start thinking in October and interrogating them and end up begging for a list so I can “surprise” them for Christmas…because I love them. And I love Amazon too. Every time they mention something I add it to my cart. When I have a dozen things in there I hit the order button and everything comes straight to my door…no shipping, no lines, no wasting gas, no bad weather to go out in. My brother is also impossible. He doesn’t need anything, but I want him to enjoy Christmas too. So every year we go out and get him nice clothes. Sweaters, jeans, shirts, socks, underwear, winter coat, members jacket, pajamas etc etc etc. I never see these clothes that were bought with love…they are in his closet with the tags still on, waiting for a special occasion to wear them. Eventually though, we end up with enough gifts for a decent Christmas and everyone seems happy.

Then there is the Christmas dinner. I love turkey and I like to have it on Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I made the mistake of asking my loved ones what should we have for Christmas dinner? Lasagna, says my younger daughter. Pot roast, says my older daughter. I say I want to have turkey. “But we just had that,” they say in unison. Oy vey. It doesn’t matter that I am the one to shop for the food, prepare and cook the food, serve the food, I get out voted! But I love my girls and live to make them happy. So yesterday I made a huge pot of sauce and bought my lasagna noodles and cheeses so I can make lots of lasagna for tomorrow night’s dinner. A pre-Christmas dinner whose leftovers will make my life easier as I prepare the real Christmas dinner…turkey! But, if you are wondering about the pot roast, don’t worry. I am going to make that the following week for New Year’s day!

Uh oh…there is just one little problem that’s still haunting me…no stocking stuffers! So today,  I am off to Kohl’s on my final mission to find something to put into their homemade, cross stitch stockings that are hanging in our new home, flat as pancakes. If I don’t find anything today I will fill them both with love and tissue paper…oh no, did I remember to get tissue paper? Damn it!

Friday, November 8, 2013

“The Cardholder“…A New Novel

It was only two months ago when I blogged about my friend, Kelly O’Callan’s, first book, “Breaking Limbo.” The book is doing well and Kelly has gone on to get her second novel, “The Cardholder,” ready for publication. I read the rough draft of the Cardholder over a year ago and loved it. So when Kelly said she was working on getting it ready to be published, I volunteered to edit it for her. I’ve read this book at least four times and honestly didn’t want it to end. Then I thought, why should it end? Kelly left the door wide open for a sequel…though she didn’t realize it. I planted a few seeds and now maybe she can produce a continuation of the story. In the meantime, I will help her promote this book which I loved from start to finish.

“The Cardholder” is a psychological suspense novel. For me it has a “Hitchcock” feel to it. The first time I read it, I planned on stopping at some point and continuing the next day, but I just couldn’t do it. I kept saying, I’ll just read one more chapter. Every chapter pulled me in and I had to keep going.

The story is about a prominent Philadelphia marriage/couples therapist named Maggie Simmons. Maggie has it all: career and active practice, husband and son, loving mother and adoring sister. One day a new patient, Mickey Dillon, comes in to see her with an unusual request for help. Maggie hesitates to take him on, however her ego will not allow her to pass up this challenge. In Maggie’s zeal to be successful with Mick’s case she crosses several professional and ethical lines, including involving her own sister, Annie. Before long, Maggie’s choices end up having a series of serious consequences. The woman who once had everything and a seemingly perfect life, loses it all. The end of the story has a very surprising and unexpected twist that will blow you away.

I hope you will check out her e-book on Amazon in the Kindle version and it is also available for Nook and in print. The links are all posted below. I just know you will love this book as much as I do.




Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Mother The Angel With “Horns…”

It’s very hard, knowing my mother as I do, to picture her in heaven today, on her 97th birthday. When I think of angels, I picture delicate, pure, kind souls with wings. But when I think of my mother, I see a little angel with horns, because she had a mischievous, bordering on slightly devilishly, trait about her. I almost feel like she is up there running some things and raising a little hell.

My mother had a big heart and was kind and compassionate. She was a nurturer and a caregiver. It came naturally to her, almost like she couldn’t help herself. If someone needed her, she was always there. Even though she was the youngest of three sisters, she was the one they came to in times of trouble, even when she was the one who caused the trouble. For example, you may recall the blog I did on how my mother had her older sister’s fiancé picked up by immigration, only to have to help her bail him out when her sister called for her help.

My mother’s halo may be a little tarnished too. What mother tells a four year old not to tell her father about calls she was making every morning to her bookie? What mother, when she receives her favorite plant, red carnations, for Mother’s Day, tells her kids, “Why did you buy these, they are only going to die?” She had comments for plenty of gifts we got, like, “How much did they soak you for that?” and “You are wasting your money” when it came to things like jewelry and flowers. Then again, she never complained about boxes of chocolate. Those were quickly unwrapped and devoured without a peep. She appreciated lottery tickets, especially the scratch offs. Those were never a waste of money. She also didn’t raise hell when she got practical things like housedresses, nightgowns and slippers, but it would be a long, long time before you’d see her use them. She was always saving new things for the future even though she needed them at the time.

My mother was overly critical too. I was a naïve glutton for punishment and would ask to do chores like clean the bathroom. Maybe I was trying to win her approval or just plain stupid. One day she let me clean it. After being in there maybe an hour, I called her for inspection. I hoped to hear some praise, but instead she critiqued the work I had done. She showed me all the places I had skipped “to teach” me the right way to do it. The same went for ironing. She wanted me to iron her way because naturally my way was all wrong. Now you might think she was being helpful and not critical so let me give you another example. My brother brought home a report card once and all his grades were 90 and above. In the parent’s comment box my mother wrote, “I will see to it that he tries harder.” I cannot tell you how many times we have laughed till we cried over that one. We still have that report card too. Then there was the time I was dancing to American Bandstand one Saturday afternoon. When I felt I had perfected the dance steps, I called her in to watch me dance. After a couple of minutes she tells me I am no gazelle and have two left feet. In later years I discovered on my own that I have absolutely no rhythm and grace, my brother got all the genes for that. My mother was just being honest…to a fault. And once, when I told her I wanted to grow up and enter the Miss America pageant, she told me I wouldn’t win. She said I was too plain. So I instantly abandoned that idea because if your own mother won’t vote for you, who the hell will?

My mother was a smart cookie and insightful too. She had loads of common sense and you would have never known she was forced to leave school half way through ninth grade. She always valued an education and made sure that we went to college. My father thought college was a waste of time and money for girls. But my mother would tell him that I was going. She wanted to make sure I would be able to support myself and not be dependent on a man. My father clammed up. Four years later, when I was about to graduate, I brought up the idea of my going to law school. My father was all for it, but my mother said, “When the hell are you going to leave school and get a job?” What a difference four years makes!

I don’t know what things they do up in heaven, but I am pretty sure my mother is adding her two cents. I’ll bet she is criticizing the other angels or bossing them around or creating a little havoc, because she sure as hell is not just quietly floating on some cloud. If she is with her brothers and sisters, then you can be sure they are playing poker or gossiping or rehashing family history. If they have a race track in heaven, my mother will be at the ticket window placing bets. And, I’m sure that much of the time she is watching over us down here and putting in a good word for us up there when we need it. I think she is probably bragging about her children and grandchildren and showing our pictures to every angel that will listen…until we join her…then we will get no credit. My mother isn’t going to change just because she is an angel. And if her halo is a little tarnished and her horns come out every now and then, I’ll bet they love her all the more for it.

It's hard to believe my mother passed away almost nine years ago. We really miss her so much and she said we would.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mom's Love Of Music...

My mother was always singing…that is when she wasn’t yelling, criticizing, studying the racing forms, cooking, ironing, shopping…. I don’t know when her love of music started, but I imagine it was when she was very young. There weren’t any televisions and radio was all you had back then. She knew the words to all the old songs like the back of her hand. Because of her, I knew all the old songs too, even ones I would have been way too young to be familiar with.

I think I “woke up” to the popular music of my generation when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. They directed my attention to modern day rock and roll. But before they came on to the scene, I would be singing my mother’s songs. Some of my mother’s favorite singers were Doris Day, Patsy Cline, Peggy Lee, The Andrew Sisters, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Edie Gorme, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Jerry Vale and Andy Williams. She never cared for Tony Bennett, I don’t know why, but she loved Connie Francis. She loved the Big Band Era and most especially the Glen Miller Band. I can remember her singing songs like “How Much Is that Doggie In The Window,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Crazy,” “Que Sera Sera,” “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree,” "Fever," and on and on. While other kids were singing Elvis tunes, I was singing “Once I Had A Secret Love.” And I hate to admit it, but even today, I know the words to those old songs much better than any songs from my own generation. The words to the modern songs faded over the years in my memory, but those of my mother’s youth remain with me till today.

The popularity of the Beatles, and other singers of the 60’s, allowed me to add to my love of music. My favorite singers would vary from time to time. My mother would like some of them and hate others. For example, she loved ABBA and would sing along with all their songs. But, she hated Sonny and Cher, particularly Cher. My brother and I were old enough to buy records and albums and we both loved Cher. My mother expressed her distaste with a few choice curse words every time we played her music. She told us to play them when she wasn’t around. The only problem with that request was that my mother was always around. So every now and then we would play an album and sing along, much to her disgust. When I eventually moved on from Cher to Olivia Newton John, my mother’s distress was greatly relieved. And when the movie, Grease, came out, my mother was a huge fan of the movie and songs. My mom also liked Saturday Night Fever and the Bee Gees. She loved Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and disco music. Come to think of it, maybe the only singer she could not tolerate was Cher.

My mother lived to be 88 years old. She spent the last few months in a nursing home. She had taken a fall at home and was sent there for therapy after her hospital stay. She was supposed to come home after she was able to get around, but she had a couple of strokes a few weeks apart. All those years of smoking and going on and off her blood pressure medication probably played a part in that. She also suffered from Alzheimer’s in the last couple of years of her life. It got worse after my father died. She didn’t like being in the nursing home, but she needed round the clock care. On Sunday afternoons the nursing home would bring in entertainment for the residents and their families. The entertainers would be singers, more often than not, and they sang the old time songs the residents were familiar with. I knew all the songs, but more importantly, so did my mom. The music made her happy and amazingly, she sang along to every song without missing a beat. All the words were still in her mind and she sang them as she always had. I sang along with her as I had done countless times before. The Sunday visits were the best because of the music. My brother and I brought a cd player for her room with her favorite songs downloaded from the computer so she could hear them every day. I think she found a lot of comfort and joy in those songs and I could see her whole demeanor changed whenever she heard her music.

There were so many songs that she loved and so many of my memories are attached to them. Every time I hear one being played, I can’t help but sing along. Sometimes one will just hit me out of the blue and I’ll start singing it. I used to sing to my girls when they were babies. To my younger daughter I would always sing “Everybody Loves Somebody…but I don’t love nobody but you.” To my older daughter I would sing “You Are My Sunshine.” They probably don’t remember that at all. Like my mom, I am always singing a song. One thing that bugs my girls is when one of them says a phrase that triggers a song lyric and our conversation stops cold while I sing a few bars. I always felt life should be like a musical and in between conversations we should take a couple of minutes to break out in a song. Imagine all the stress it would relieve if we did? And, at Christmas time, when the malls and stores are playing carols, I am always singing out loud, as my girls speed up their pace to distance themselves from me out of embarrassment. I guess they don’t realize or appreciate that this little annoying trait of mine is part of their grandmother’s legacy that lives on in me.

So as I approach what would have been my mother’s 97th birthday, I hope she knows that for the last nine years I have proudly and loudly carried on her legacy. I will always have a song in my heart for Mom. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Friday, September 27, 2013

My Mother's Tears...

I’ve been thinking about my mom lately. October 1st would have been her 97th birthday, so I suppose that’s why she is on my mind more so these days. My mother wasn’t one to shed many tears, at least I didn’t see them if she did. I did expect to see a couple running down her cheeks the day I got married, but there were none. Her first born child, her daughter, was leaving the nest for good, and not one tear was forthcoming. My mother was happy that day. You would have thought there would be tears of joy, but no. No tears of sadness, no tears of joy. Instead there was a beaming, 67 year old woman, with a Loretta Lynn hairdo, happy to celebrate this day with me. And her parting words to my new husband were, “You got her now, she is all yours,” followed by a good hearty laugh. It was almost like she was glad to be rid of me, but I knew deep down that wasn’t the case and maybe she was masking her true feelings with a false bravado.

I remember seeing my mother cry twice. The first time I was four years old and she had learned, over the phone, that her mother had died at the hospital. My grandmother had been sick for a long time and I think it was expected, but still painful. She went into the bathroom and sat on the edge of the tub, bent over, her face in her hands. I hated to see her cry, and I tried to console her, but there is only so much comfort a four year old can provide. The image of her crying on that February, Sunday morning still remains with me to this day.

The second time I saw my mother cry was many years later, during my first year of college. I used to take three buses to school and three to come home. I spent a total of 90 minutes each way, on a good day, riding buses. The middle bus took the longest, about 45 minutes. One day I had left school at 3:45 P. M. and headed home. It was raining heavily that afternoon. I caught the second bus maybe a few minutes late and was grateful just to be out of the rain. However, the bus was not moving very fast. Traffic was pretty bad and there were times it wasn’t moving at all. What should have been a 45 minute ride was turning into hours. I knew my mother would be worried sick. Who could imagine that a bus ride would take so long in just rain? As I stood in the bus, looking out the window, I saw a phone booth. I was so tempted to jump off the bus and call my mother to let her know I was okay, but I could not be sure of getting back on the bus. I had to stay put and literally ride out the storm. By the time the bus reached my stop, it was 7:30 P. M. or so. I immediately found a phone, before heading to the third bus stop. I called and explained what happened and my mother sent my father to come pick me up. When I got home I saw my mother’s face, careworn and covered with tears. She had been worrying the whole time and I was helpless to do anything to reassure her. I gave her a long hug. My father told me she had been sitting at the window for hours, watching the rain and crying, looking for any sign of me. It was heartbreaking. If cell phones existed back then, I can guarantee you she would have made sure I had one the day after that experience. And even though I knew my mother would be upset and worrying herself to death, I did not fully appreciate all that it meant until I had children of my own.

Some day my own daughters will marry. Unlike my mom, I won’t have a Loretta Lynn hairdo, and I will shed some tears. Of course I will be happy for them. It’s a joyous and beautiful occasion to be celebrated. I won’t be masking any of my tears. There will be tears of joy for their bright future and maybe some selfish tears of sadness for my loss. They say you don’t lose a daughter, you gain a son, and that’s true. But you do lose something. You lose time spent together, there will be much less of that. There will be one less place set at the table for dinner. You look at the empty bed where once an angel’s head rested on a pillow for so many years. You hear one less set of footsteps coming down the creaking stairs for breakfast. There will be one less loud burst of laughter at my silly jokes and mistakes. You have one less person to hug and squeeze tight. And I guess you learn to adjust in time, after all everyone does, right? One day she’s your daughter, and the next she is someone’s wife. One day she is your baby and the next she has babies of her own. And then, and only then, will she understand the tears of a mother.

Happy 97th Birthday in heaven, Mom. I hope you are smiling down on us today and always. I love you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Remnants Of A Friendship...4th Anniversary

This month, in less than two weeks, marks the 4th anniversary of the end of my friendship with Marie. I am surprised at how far I have come during the past four years. For the longest time I thought I would never be able to move on, but the truth is time does heal all wounds. But time doesn’t necessarily take away the scars. The scars may fade with time, but they remain as a reminder of the lessons learned that we shouldn’t forget.

What have I learned? I have never been good at forgiveness. I have had always a hard time with forgiving someone who has hurt me. But I learned forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for yourself. If you don’t forgive, the bad feelings you harbor end up hurting you, not the other person, and they prevent you from moving on in a healthy way. So, back in June, I blogged about Marie one last time when I wrote her an email to forgive a long standing loan that was not fully paid back. I explained that we were moving to a new house and trying to simply our lives, and decided to free her from this debt. She read the email almost immediately and called me.

She started out by saying she wasn’t happy [about my forgiving the loan]. I was a little at a loss for words. She said she fully intended to repay all of it. I told her I knew that, but we felt this was for the best. We went on to talk for two hours, which I didn’t expect. It was a conversation that should have taken place four years ago. She opened the door to the past and I told her I really didn’t want to rehash everything. I had expressed myself quite clearly in a very lengthy email that was extremely painful for me to write. I didn’t get the reaction I had hoped for, but I got the one I expected. She was defensive and made no effort to understand anything I was trying to say. There was nothing else for me to do at the time as I was too emotional to argue/discuss it at that point.

In our last conversation in June, I gathered right away that she still didn’t understand. In her mind I had ended the friendship in that email and walked away. Her memory of that time came across to me as a bit distorted and she really didn’t own her part in the breakdown of the friendship. I told her I hadn’t ended the friendship. My letter never said anything of the kind. I concluded the end of my letter simply saying that since she had been distancing herself for months and avoided my every effort to talk about it, that I now needed time to distance myself to the same degree she had. It was too hard for me to remain at arms length and be continually pushed away, caring as much as I did. She sounded surprised and said her feelings had never changed. I said your actions said otherwise. I explained that my long email, full of examples, was to tell her how things had changed between us, and not meant to be mean. It’s purpose was to express my feelings and to show her exactly what I was talking about with specifics. I told her I was too hurt to speak at that point and had to write it all out. She “accused” me of walking out at the worst time in her life. I told her how would I have known what she was going through, she wasn’t talking to me at the time, except for short, mundane, superficial conversations. She told me she didn’t have the words to explain what she was going through. I told her this had been going on for months, I was hurt, and no matter how I tried to talk to her about it, she would not allow it. I literally had no choice, but to write it out and try to get myself to a healthier state of mind, heal my heart and fill the void she had left.

I reminded her that one month after that email, in October, I wrote to her saying I may be able to talk if she wanted to, but I wasn’t sure if I was really ready. I wanted to be fair to her and so I forced myself to make that offer. I also told her that right after I sent that email, she read it and deleted it without even writing a response. She didn’t remember that at all. To be honest, I knew I wasn’t ready to talk and I felt a big sense of relief that I didn’t have to at that time. I didn’t push it.

In the course of our conversation, she told me a little bit about what was going on in her life. She had quit her teaching job and was moving to another city with her niece. Her niece was having a baby and she was going to help her for a year. I told her she should pursue some of the things she had always talked about doing, like teaching in France or joining the Peace Corps. She always had so many interests that she was passionate about and now she had the time to go after her dreams. She seemed a little happy that I was still giving her advice and said she was looking into some things already. She told me she had taken a trip to New York a few months earlier and had wanted to show up on my doorstep. I told her she should have come, maybe we could have talked face to face and resolved some things or understood each other better. I could tell she was surprised to hear that. I don’t think she understood that her happiness was always a priority to me and that hadn’t changed. I still wanted what was best for her and I always will.

As we got to the end of the conversation, she said she still wanted to repay the loan. I told her the offer stands if she changes her mind. She said she didn’t want me to forgive the loan, she would rather that I forgave her. That was the only admission of any ownership on her part that I heard. I told her I had already forgiven her and have no ill will towards her. I still don’t think she understood what I tried to say in the letter. I think she wanted me to forgive her for how badly she made me feel, but she still says that it was all unintentional on her part. At this point it’s not really important.

The phone call took me by surprise and I was happy we could talk without arguing. We made an effort to understand each other’s side of things, but I don’t think either of us got complete satisfaction. I wanted her to own the things she did to me and how her behavior towards me had changed, pushing me out of her life. She wanted me to admit that I walked away from her when I should have stayed, for as long as it took, to make things right. Where do we go from here? Is there too much water under the bridge? Can we or should we try to rebuild a friendship? Is it even possible? Who knows, time will tell.

Meanwhile, a fourth anniversary is coming up. It’s not a happy anniversary like the ones of the first nine years, but it’s not unhappy either. It’s just a marker of an event in the lives of two friends, who now have kind of settled their unfinished business, and may be able to have some closure.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Seven Weeks After The Move…

Where am I? Well, the boxes are still full to the brim for the most part. The painter spent the last seven days doing “prep” work, basically filling cracks and repairing imperfections in the floor and walls. I had no idea about the details of the preparations involved. I just thought he was going to bring in gallons of paint and slop them on the walls. That’s what my father used to do. The only prep work my father did was to push all the furniture into the center of the room.

Of course, I can’t unpack anything until all this work is done. Today he came early and with a helper. The helper is sanding the doors outside while he finishes prepping. The doors are stain dark cherry but I am having them painted white. Before anyone else has a stroke (like my daughter and cousin), the doors have many imperfections that cannot be eliminated without a costly restoration job. It would be cheaper to buy new doors. Also, I like the idea of white because the house tends to be dark and I want to lighten and brighten it up. I’ve seen the way the white doors look in another house and it has a very nice clean appearance.

It feels like I have been surrounded by a fortress of boxes for months…oh, that’s right, I have been. My house sold in March and I started packing even before that. Now it’s September! It looks like there will be about seven days more of painting, which may start tomorrow. What can I do in the meantime? I can’t unpack and put more stuff in the way. I can’t clean when the next day more dirt and dust are stirred up. My hands are tied.

This “limbo” state I am in comes at a convenient time though. It gives me a chance to help my friend, Kelly, promote her new book, Breaking Limbo. In a way, I am literally breaking my own limbo by sitting on the couch with my computer looking for ideas. It allows me to research different suggestions and websites where I can post her book, it’s reviews, and link on Amazon. So all in all, I am still being productive in my new role as editor.

Once the painting is completed I will be unpacking as much as possible. I still have things to buy like a media center, curtains, area rugs and bathroom towels and accessories. I will have plenty of cleaning to do too…not looking forward to that. Right now I am keeping up with laundry and cooking an occasional meal. It’s even hard to cook when people are working in you house. In fact, although I am sitting around all day, I am totally exhausted. I don’t quite understand it.

In a week or two I should be hearing from the contractor who is doing the front yard/patio. At least that work will be outside and I’ll be able to get things done inside (or so I hope). But, in any event, that will be the last of the work we are doing for now. I will be concentrating on the inside of the house and getting that all done before the holidays. I set Thanksgiving as my goal to be done and settled, so we will see.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Breaking Limbo…A New Book

It’s my great pleasure to write about a new book, Breaking Limbo, written by my friend Kelly O’Callan. It went up on Amazon in Kindle and print yesterday. I could not be happier for her.

About a year and a half ago I wrote a blog called “Follow Your Dreams,” and I mentioned a few friends in it, under pseudonyms. Kelly was one of them. Kelly is a talented writer. One day she let me read one of her books that hasn’t been published. Years ago she had put her writing aside to raise her two young boys. Her dream was on hold. One day she was talking about getting a job. It was hard for her with two children and the daily pain she experienced every day from a car accident she had been in years earlier. As we were talking, I asked her why she doesn’t get back to her writing. She has a gift and it was being wasted. The job search didn’t work out, but one night the characters and plot for a novel just came to her. She began writing. Chapter after chapter came to her as she poured her ideas out on paper. She tells me the characters spoke to her and she just wrote down what they told her. Apparently these characters really wanted their stories told because they were relentless.

As Kelly was nearing the end of her book, Breaking Limbo, I was going into selling and buying a house. For the first time in years I was really busy and stressed out. Kelly mentioned she needed someone to edit her book. I didn’t know exactly what an editor does, but I offered to read it and check for grammar, spelling and word choice issues and anything else that didn’t sound right to my ear. She laughed and said that’s what an editor does! In that case I had years of experience editing because I went over all my girls’ college and high school papers. So the work began!

It was easy editing Kelly’s work. She not only writes very well, but her stories just pull you in so much so you don’t want to put them down. Because I was reading and editing at the same time, I could only read a few chapters a day. In a few short days I had gotten it all edited and sent it back to her to review. We worked well together on the revisions and before you knew it, Breaking Limbo was born.

Kelly not only helped her characters to “break” the limbo they were in, but at the same time, in writing this book, Kelly broke her own limbo. Her dream of writing had been suspended for a few years. She had lost her momentum, but never her innate gift to write and let her imagination run away with itself. I am glad she found her way back to writing and has now self-published her first book.

Now comes the promoting and marketing part. We have to get the word out so people will know about the book and hopefully download it or order the print copy. I hope everyone who reads this blog will take a moment to go to Amazon and check it out.  Today Kelly got her first review from a reader, on Amazon, and they gave it five stars. It’s well deserved. If you do read the book, will you also take a few minutes to write a review? It would be very much appreciated.

Here is the link where you can download the book for free right now: Breaking Limbo on Amazon

PS Kelly just did a Great Interview which you can read here: Kelly O'Callan Writer's Anarchy Interview

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Texting & Driving With A Twist…

I am all for promoting safety when it comes to driving. Too many tragedies occur due to drunk drivers or people talking on their cell phones. In fact, even when using “hands free” devices, people are still too distracted talking to drive safely. And now it’s been reported that texting while driving is even more dangerous than driving under the influence. The law is cracking down on drivers who break these laws with big fines and points on their license. So why am I peeved today?

I just heard that people who text drivers while they are driving are also going to be held accountable and responsible for any accidents they may get in. Of course the person texting the driver has to be aware that the person that are texting is operating a vehicle in order to get in trouble. If there is evidence of that, they will also be guilty of breaking the law. And this is where I think the law has gone too far! Where do you draw the line?

I fail to understand how all the culpability is not on the driver of the car when he, and he alone, decides it’s ok to answer his phone or read and reply to a text message? No one is putting a gun to his head and saying he has to answer every call or respond to every message, right? Last time I heard we all had free will and a reasonably functioning brain. What is so hard about the “No texting or using a cell phone when driving,” rule? It seems clear cut to me. There are no exceptions stipulated. Just a big fat DON’T DO IT rule.

Drivers are expected to follow dozens of laws and rules regarding safe driving. The onus is on the driver to do the right thing, whether that means going the posted speed limit, wearing a seat belt, abstaining from alcohol or shutting the cell phone OFF when driving. If a bartender or host of a party serves a driver a drink or two, are they also going to get in trouble if the driver gets behind the wheel and has an accident? What about the supermarket selling beer? What if the driver drinks it in the parking lot before taking off and has an accident? Is it the supermarket’s fault? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get it.

The law should be tough on anyone who gets n their car and puts others on the road needlessly at risk because of their actions. Cell phones have been deemed to cause more accidents than alcohol. Crack down on drivers who won’t obey the rules. There are plenty of them. Almost everyone has a cell phone and I can’t tell you how many drivers I see every day chatting away with the phone in one hand and the wheel in the other. There should be a stiff penalty for first time offenders and then harsher penalties for second and third time offenders until people take it seriously. There is no excuse good enough for putting people’s lives in danger, and there is no one to blame except the driver, when he doesn’t obey the law.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Five Weeks After The Move…

Well five weeks have come and gone. I have been calling all kinds of people to do all the work we need done. My husband is a saint, but the scope of his handy skills are limited to changing an occasional light bulb. Thank God he earns a good living to pay others to do what we can’t. The first thing I did was to make a list for my electrician, Frank, to take care of. There were a couple of carpentry items he said he wouldn’t do because he wasn’t comfortable. That’s fine. I had plenty of electrical work on the list and he is a wiz at all that. I have five light fixtures changed, some outlets added and switches too.

Then I called a roofer/brick guy, Mik, who specializes in waterproofing to check the front and back of the house. He found some cracks, but more importantly, he said the lintels over four of the windows in front needed to be replaced. The engineer who inspected the house already told me this, so I knew it was true. He also said it would cost $800 to $900 a window. I hadn’t planned on doing this, but as both men explained, the lintels are holding up all the bricks that make up the front of the house. When they break down the bricks will crack and crumble. Mik told me he would replace 4 lintels, repair the cracks in the stucco and paint it, power wash the slate roof and repair/replace missing and broken slates and do some pointing on brinks that needed it front and back, plus caulk all the windows. We hired him to do it all which saved me from calling a few other people to take care of these jobs. It was expensive, but when he showed me how rotted away the old lentils were I knew it was a wise decision.

Once that work was done I needed a handy man, I called Marco. The kitchen cabinets are a nice cherry wood and not very old, but the damn hidden European hinges on three of them need adjustments. If you don’t know what kind of hinges these are, you are very lucky. If you ever get new kitchen cabinets, avoid them at all costs! Anyway, I wanted the handyman to adjust three of the cabinet doors that were not properly aligned and driving me crazy. The ones in the corner were the worst and I would not use them they way they were, and they had plenty of storage space that I needed too. I also needed the copper roof over my front door sanded and painted. He came yesterday and did both jobs. Two more things checked off the list!

I have been having ongoing conversations with the painter. The whole house needs to be painted on the inside. I don’t want to think about painting again for a few years. After coming and finally giving me an estimate, it took some back and forth texting and emailing to get him to bring the color charts and set a date to begin work. He tells me he will start day after Labor day, I can only pray that’s true. I haven’t been unpacking a lot of stuff so as to keep the clutter to a minimum and make it easier to paint all the rooms. I have not been buying furniture or curtains or rugs either, for the same reason. So this is holding me back a little, but based on his reputation for neatness, I was willing to wait. I had a very sloppy painter in the old house and that was a disaster! The mess he made was ridiculous. In the mean time, I let him know we picked our colors out and he plans to come back soon to iron out the final details.  So hopefully I will be reporting that the painter has started work next week.

Next job on the list is the front yard/patio. I called a neighborhood construction guy who seems to do most of the concrete, brick and paving work in the area. Of course he is also expensive. His name is Anthony and he is Italian. The both of us talking together sounded like a scene from The Sopranos. He had the nerve to make fun of my accent, when his is just as bad. Brooklyn accents are very distinctive! Besides that, I had him laughing because of my bluntness. He tells me that pavers for the front yard/patio wouldn’t cost much more than concrete and I know this is BS because I did my research. In the end the whole job is more expensive that I guesstimated, but my husband and I agree to hire him. It’s not worth shopping around for a cheaper price and then not have this big job done the right way. Anthony tells us to go to his office with a deposit and to pick out the pavers. We get there a little early. His secretary has us look at the various color pavers. After a few minutes Anthony comes out and he says, “Let me show you something,” as he grabs one of the books. I say, “So now you are going to show me what you want me to pick?” He breaks out laughing. As it turns out, I had already decided to go with the same pavers he was going to “suggest.” He promises to have the job completed by September 21st, one month after we sign the contract, unless we get a lot of rain and he falls behind. We agree no one can fight the weather.

So all my ducks are in a row, so it seems. I am hoping that everything I planned to do for now will be done by September 21st. Then I can focus on unpacking and buying what I need to finish all the rooms. I am tired just thinking about it.

On a good note, I was feeling around the outside of the huge bathroom mirror this morning, don’t ask me why. I have been grumbling for weeks about how there is no medicine cabinet in such a huge bathroom. Well guess what? There is a very big cabinet behind that mirror! I love it! This was one of the good things I discovered. Most of the others were problems that had to be addressed. So I will be fully utilizing the space behind that mirror shortly! I also found six bottles of expensive perfume and aftershave that the previous owner said I could keep. One bottle I know is $100 because I also have it!

I miss writing my blogs damn it! Can’t wait to get back to them full time.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Move and Two Weeks Later….

We moved on July 24th after two months of packing 25 years of belongings. I got rid of a lot of stuff, thank God, because everything still couldn’t fit on the truck. They had to go back and get the rest of my things for a second trip. It took eight hours, from 9 am to 5 pm, to get it done. Needless to say I was exhausted. I think exhausted is how I am going to feel for a very long time.

My queen size box-spring did not fit up the stairs, so we agreed the movers should dispose of it. We spent our first night sleeping on the old mattress that was laying on the floor in the bed frame. The next day I went out and purchased a new split box-spring and mattress, just like the ones I got for my daughters’ new bedroom sets. The delivery guys came to deliver it and saw I had three slats to hold up the new set. They had no clue how to arrange them, so they put them in any old way. I got two great and much needed nights of sleep before two of the three slat cracked at 12:30 am on the third night. I yelled to my husband to get off the bed and we “slept” on the hardwood floor until 5:30 am. Then, while my husband went to have breakfast, I stripped the linens off the bed and yank off the mattress and box springs. By the time he came up I was already measuring the size of the new slats we needed to buy. At 7 am we were at the lumberyard. I wanted ten slats, but they only had 8 and when I got home I found one of those eight was damaged. I ended up using seven. My husband helped me get the box-spring and mattress onto the slats and left in time to get to work at 8 am.

My younger daughter took a week’s vacation to help me out with the move. I was very grateful to have someone home with me to help me get organized. The first thing we did the day after the move was to get the bathrooms and linen closet set up so we could take showers. That was the smaller of the two unpacking jobs I had in mind and it went well. The next day I planned to do the kitchen. I had purchased plenty of paper and plastic plates, cups and utensils anticipating not being able to unpack and organize the kitchen overnight. I cleaned the outside of the cherry cabinets while my daughter was sleeping. Then I started washing the inside of each one. I thought it would make the unpacking a lot faster and easier if I got a head start. Well, these cabinets are twice as deep as the ones I had. I don’t know why they would make cabinets this deep because you can not see or get to the things in the back. I miss my old cabinets. Anyway, I was trying to clean one on the bottom, narrow cabinets. I struggled to reach the back even as I was crouched down on the floor. I lost my balance, which is no surprise, and fell forward. I went to block my head from hitting the tile floor and instead my forehead crushed my pointer finger which immediately swelled up and turned black and blue. I might as well have hit it with a sledge hammer. Thank God I didn’t pass out right then and there and was able to get ice from the freezer on it. I must have sat there a couple of hours icing it. My husband was going to work late that day and it’s a good thing too, because after a while I did feel like passing out and he was here to help me through it. Two weeks later and it still hurts.

While we were working on the kitchen, I decided we should do the laundry. We had quite a bit, even though I had done as much as I could before we left the old house. My daughter and I took all the laundry downstairs and loaded the machine. It fills up with water, but doesn’t start washing the clothes. The machine sits there full of clothes and water. I am tired, frustrated and disgusted. Thank God my husband took the day off. I wring out all the clothes as best as I can, by hand. Then I send him to the laundromat to wash and dry them while my daughter and I empty out the water in the machine. Once that is done, I call a repairman, who comes immediately. The sensor that tells the machine to start isn’t working. He adjusts it with two turns of a screwdriver and tells me this is a very good machine. Then he notices the agitator doesn’t work and says he can rebuild it right now for sixty dollars, on top of the fifty dollar service charge. I tell him to go ahead and do it. It takes less than 15 minutes. Now I have a working machine and some peace of mind. I also have clean clothes! I was happy for a while.

What next? Well, we had a very heavy rain one evening. I see water coming down in my kitchen from the ceiling. Now I cannot tell you how many times I stressed to the previous owners that I was paranoid about water getting into the house and they swore the roof and basement were good, but never mentioned the window in the office upstairs! I should have been suspicious when, during the walk through, I saw the window screen was removed from that window. I also noticed, after the fact, that some plastering had been done to the wall under that window and the kitchen ceiling. So when I went upstairs I see water coming in from the top of the office window, which was ever so slightly open and there was an inch and a half to two inches of water sitting in the windowsill and coming in through the wall. A nice puddle formed on my brand new hard wood floors. I frantically got up the water with paper towels. Now it makes sense why the screen was out. The bottom of the screen was preventing the water from draining off the window sill. I closed the top window as tightly as I could and raised the screen all the way to the top. I don’t know if this will solve the problem, but I may find out today or tomorrow, as we are getting heavy rain again. In the meantime, I have hired someone to take care of the front of the house including the slate roof, brick work, cleaning gutters, and caulking all the windows. In case you are wondering, the windows in the house are relatively new. I have to say I am more than a little pissed about this development.

It seems I am always getting derailed by things I didn’t anticipate. I had a long, long list of things to do here and these little adventures aren’t helping. Meanwhile, I got the painter in last week to go over the whole house and take notes. I am still waiting for his estimate. In the meantime, I got my electrician taking care of new fixtures, outlets and odd jobs while I wait. The house is very dark inside, especially on cloudy days and I need light! I can’t unpack most of the boxes until the painting is done. The garage, which looked a lot bigger than it is, is full of boxes from floor to ceiling. I need it for storage right now and don’t know if we will ever be able to use it for a car…maybe a matchbox car.

After the front brickwork and slate roof is done I need to get a contractor to do a new cement sidewalk and front yard with a brick wall around it. We will be able to BBQ and eat out there next summer, hopefully. Maybe by then I will be able to laugh at all my first week of adventures in the new house? If not, we will start a new tradition in this house. At 4 pm every day there will be a happy hour and I will indulge in a glass of wine before dinner.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Last Week Before "The Move"...

To be honest, I have never liked change. I like stability and consistency. It makes me feel secure. Most people find moving to a new place stressful, but for me it’s stress to the max. I have been living with chaos the past couple of months. Boxes everywhere. Every weekend we go to BJ’s and pick up another dozen boxes and then I spend the rest of the week filling them up. Who knows if I will find everything after I move? I try to label the boxes, but there are so many of them. We probably have at least 100 boxes full of stuff. I haven’t had to go back to look for anything, and I haven’t missed any of the things that are packed. I came to the conclusion that maybe I should have thrown it all out. That would have made everything easier.

Tomorrow we close on both houses. There are times I can barely breathe from the anxiety. I hate change, but this is necessary and long overdue. Just the last minute things are left to pack. The floor guys are going to the new house on Thursday to do the hardwood floors. The move is set for July 24th. If I could just shut off my brain from thinking about all the "what if's" I might be able to sleep. I took a pill last night, and still got up at 4 am.

The buyers of my house have been very anxious to move in sooner than later. They even wanted to close at the end of June so they could start working on the basement while I am still living here. I told that that was out of the question. For one thing, I have so many boxes in the basement and no where to put them. Second of all, I am buying a house in “move-in” condition so as not to deal with construction. The last thing I need while packing is workers going in and out and making noise all day. Our contract says we will close not before July 15th. I needed the time to find a house and luckily I did, because there weren’t many on the market. I think I got the last one in the category and price range I was looking for. I saw it Mother’s Day weekend and made an offer right away. It’s only two months later and I am packed to go, but it’s not fast enough to suit them.

The sellers of the house I am moving into are a young family with two children around 3 and 5 years old. The woman’s father has Alzheimer’s and has been in and out of the hospital. She is stressed to the max herself trying to pack up a house while staying with her parents and going back and forth from the hospital. Her father isn’t doing well at the moment. It’s difficult for me to put additional pressure on her to move faster so I can get in because my buyers are impatient. I wanted to give them enough time to pack up their house. They said they could close July 8th and so at the end of June I called my lawyer to get the ball rolling because everyone was ready.

You are going to love this…when I tell my lawyer we want to close on July 15th because everyone is ready, he tells me we aren’t ready. He sent for a survey on the house and it hasn’t come yet. I told him to arrange everything anyway, I doubt the survey will be an issue. He tells me, for the first time, that he will be away the first two weeks of July! I nearly have a stroke! How the hell are we going to close July 15th when he is away and will be getting back July 11th?  He tells me his assistant will make the arrangements. I call her the next day to make sure we are on the same page. We need to close on both houses on July 15th. She is already aware and says she will send out emails and make phone calls as soon as she gets off the phone with me. A week goes by. Finally she calls me back and says July 15th didn’t work, but everything is a go for the 17th. I say great.

Now in my contract we put that I have 7 days to move out after closing, because I wanted to do the hardwood floors first. The sellers of the new house have 5 days to move out in their contract, but moved everything sooner so the house would be empty on closing for me. That brings us to my moving date of the 24th.

Last night my Realtor gets a call regarding the walk through of my house and he is asked if he knew we were staying an extra week after the closing. He says yes, it’s in the contract and was agreed to. They were under the impression that because they had to wait to close that we would be out on the day of closing. They seem to have no concept of the fact that I need to move into an empty house and not one that is still occupied by the previous owners. They don’t know the terms of my contract with the other people. It’s a chain reaction. They are lucky things moved as fast as they did. The sellers of the new house put their things in storage because they are moving in with her parents. If they had to find a house and wait for other people to move, this could have dragged on another month. I may have to explain some of this to them so they know I have not been dragging my feet. I would love to be out of here, the sooner the better. Yesterday morning there was more music blaring outside my window, a constant reminder of why I set all this in motion.

I just can’t wait to be settled and organized. The next two or three weeks are going to be very stressful to say the least. This weekend I have to get two bedroom sets for the girls and have them delivered after the move. Down the road I need to find a living room set and entertainment center. Somehow I can’t see having the time to do that, but I suppose I will find it. I want something I really like and that will last a long time to come. I know people will say, take one day at a time, relax, drink wine, forget your troubles, everything will work out in the end. I know all that, but it’s the meantime that’s killing me.

P.S. sorry for the lack of blogs. I miss writing so much and hope to get back to it on a regular basis once I am settled in.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Martin Rest In Peace...

I woke up to hear the acquittal verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. I remain in shock at the incomprehensible decision reached by the jury. I haven’t been able to follow the trial as much as I would have liked, but right from the start I felt this was a slam dunk for the prosecution. The whole crime was documented on 911 recordings, there were witnesses, there was evidence.  The jury heard it all and in 16 short hours came to their verdict and acquitted Zimmerman of all charges.

I don’t get it. I understand that there was conflicting testimony about two key facts. First, experts could not identify who was crying out for help and both families said it was Trayvon or George. Then there were witnesses who said they saw Trayvon on top of George in the struggle, others saw George on top of Trayvon. These witnesses were probably instrumental in the jury’s decision by creating “reasonable doubt.” The Florida “Stand Your Ground” law allows a person, whose life is being threatened, to defend themselves. That’s what the defense used to help get George off. But what about Trayvon? Doesn’t he get to stand his ground?

The way I see it, this tragedy would have never happened but for George Zimmerman’s actions. Trayvon took a break from playing video games to go buy a snack. He went out for some Skittles and iced tea. It was raining. He wore his hoodie with his head covered. He went back home, snacks in hand, and talking on his cell phone. George Zimmerman spotted him and thought he looked suspicious. Why? Trayvon wasn’t doing anything, but walking home. The only reason I have heard as to why he looked suspicious to George is because he was black and wearing a hoodie in the rain. For those reasons he decided to call 911 and report Trayvon. The 911 operator told George NOT to follow Trayvon and that they were sending the police out. George ignored them and decided to pursue Trayvon himself. Trayvon told his friend, on the phone, that he was being followed. I don’t know about you, but it would make me very nervous if someone was following me. And if I changed directions and they were still following me, I would start to panic. Trayvon’s friend told him to run home. She must have been concerned and sensed the concern in Trayvon’s voice, to advise him to do that. But, Trayvon was a young man and probably his pride would not let him run home scared. So Trayvon kept walking and an armed George Zimmerman kept following him, like he was hunting for game. Finally, Trayvon confronted George. I imagine his adrenaline was running high and he had no idea what George’s intentions were. So Trayvon stood his ground. He wasn’t armed. He had every right to be in the apartment complex. The confrontation turned into a fight. Who was defending themselves, George or Trayvon? Who had the gun? Whose actions provoked the confrontation? Who was told not to follow Trayvon because the police were on their way?

I don’t care who was on top, who was straddling who, who was yelling for help. All of that doesn’t prove anything really. The stage for tragedy was set when George Zimmerman decided to use racial profiling and assume an overzealous vigilante position despite his training in security watch protocol and what he was told by 911. How was Trayvon supposed to think he had anything but bad intentions, the way George was pursuing him? Wouldn’t any reasonable person feel threatened and in fear for their safety? So he reacted from the fear George created in him and it cost him his life. George wasn’t afraid. George had a gun, so he knew he had the upper hand. But I guess the jury didn’t see it that way. I would like to know how the arrived at their decision and what they considered. Whatever the case, it’s a sad commentary on society.

My prayers go out to Trayvon’s family. They lost an innocent, precious child and there will be no earthly justice for them.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Our Thirtieth Wedding Anniversary…

Tomorrow it will be thirty years since my husband and I exchanged wedding vows. He took off a few days in case I wanted to celebrate, but honestly in the middle of packing, I can’t think about taking a little trip away. I am too overwhelmed and it’s a sin really, because 30 years is a long time and deserves to be celebrated right. Instead of packing clothes to go away, we are packing boxes and throwing out as many things as I can part with.

One of those things I was prepared to add to the trash was my wedding gown. After we got back from our honeymoon, I took my wedding gown to the dry cleaners to have it cleaned and preserved in a special keepsake box. I forgot about the keepsake box because they had put it inside another regular box. The box has been sitting in my basement for 25 years, on top of a wardrobe closet, collecting dust. I was not looking forward to taking it down and disposing of it. But, this morning I bit the bullet and had my husband bring it down for me. I cleaned of the dust off the outer box and then looked inside to find the gown carefully laid out in a gold keepsake box. Maybe I had never seen it before or saw it just the one time when I picked it up. So I told my husband I would save it and get rid of the outer box.

Now for some reason unbeknownst to me, my older daughter has been trying to subtly tell me I should keep my wedding dress. For the past couple of weeks or longer, I have been talking about dumping it and she suggested I have it “framed.” I looked at some pictures online of framed wedding dresses and they are huge. Where would I ever put something like that anyway? I told myself I will never be wearing this dress again. My daughters certainly won’t be wearing it. What is the point of holding on to this 30 year old dress? The only thing I envisioned was that one day my girls would be going through my things to dispose of them and then they would have to agonize about what to do with this dress. The dress would be an albatross around their necks. When I had gotten it preserved, I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe I thought if I had a daughter she might want to wear it? Maybe she would want to open the box and see it up close? That was then, this is now. So because it was so nicely packaged, and because my daughter seemed more concerned about parting with it than I was, I decided to hold on to it and told her so. I asked her why she wanted me to keep it, but she doesn’t know. Then she says, maybe we can find a more “compact” way of keeping it. I had to laugh to myself wondering why my wedding gown seem so important to her. Maybe in time she will figure out why.

My husband was totally understanding about my feelings. My nerves are on edge and I am tired. I am not in a celebrating state of mind, body or spirit, in spite of the huge milestone we are about to hit. So he suggested that we go to dinner tomorrow and celebrate in the fall after we are all settled in our new home. That sounds a lot more appealing to me. For now we will focus on this move that I have been putting on hold until the girls graduated college and my husband was able to retire. I have waited a long time for this and it’s long overdue. I feel like this is my time and our time to do the things we have put off because other things took priority. I hope it all turns out the way we envision it will.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

One Last Letter to Marie...

Perhaps writing all those blogs in February created more healing or maybe it's just time working it's magic. Whatever the case, I woke up this morning and wrote this last letter to Marie. I wanted to share it with those of you who accompanied me on this journey and had so many kind words to say.

Dear Marie,

I hope things are going well for you and your family. I have a few things to say and will try to keep it short. 

We will be moving to a new home next month. The girls have both graduated and are working and I couldn't be prouder of them. Jim has taken an early retirement and completed his Master's Degree in history. We are at the end of what I like to call Act II of our lives and, next month, the curtain will go up on Act III. We have been going through 25 years of accumulated things and memories in the process of packing. We have been discussing how we want to spend our time, how to simplify our lives, and just enjoy each day. To that end, we have decided we would like to forgive the remainder of your loan, so you can stop making any further payments and consider it paid in full. 

I would like you to know that I have no regrets concerning our friendship. When I met you and got to know you, my only intention was to make a positive difference in your life and the lives of your children. I am glad I was in a position to be able to help you then. I wanted you to get your degree and have a career and a better life. It was a proud moment for me to watch you graduate after so many years of hard work. I've always wanted you to be happy and that has never changed. If I had to do it all over again, I would, without hesitation. When I look back now, I remember the good times, the laughter and how we supported and encouraged each other through the worst of times. I'm sure you do too.

Last year I went to see the play Wicked, it's a prequel to the Wizard of Oz. In the play, the good witch, Glinda, and the wicked witch, Elphaba, become best friends. However, in the end they have to part ways and they sing the song "For Good." I'm not sure if you've ever heard it, but it's very touching. And so, in closing, I will share with you the link to the song and it's message: "because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

Hope you have a very enjoyable summer. Be well and all the best to you always.

Love, Nina

Thursday, June 20, 2013

RIP James Gandolfini aka Tony Soprano

I never heard of James Gandolfini before the HBO series, the Sopranos. We don’t even have HBO so I might never have watched the series. But, the reviews of the series were so great that we decided to rent season one and see if we would like it. I loved it. After that we patiently waited and bought every season at Christmas-time and watched a Sopranos marathon. The truth is I could not wait to watch all of it, so we went through a season in about four days, watching three episodes a day. I loved it so much that I didn’t fast forward through the opening theme song or the clips from the previous show, even though I had just watched it.

“I woke up this morning and got yourself a gun” is playing over and over in my head now as I am still in shock over the sudden passing of James Gandolfini, who will forever be known as Tony Soprano, to me. I never knew it was an Alabama 3 song, I just assumed it was written for the series. It was perfect. And, James Gandolfini was the perfect crime boss, Tony Soprano

I ended up watching the entire series several times. So much happens that you miss and the good thing about my bad memory is that a lot of it seem brand new. It was so easy to get sucked into the drama of the show and the characters. The writing was phenomenal as was the acting. If you loved the Godfather, you should love the series. Some might think that the show glorifies the mafia lifestyle, but in actuality, it doesn’t. Sure they make big money committing crimes and live lavishly, but there is a price to be paid. The “made men” always cheat on their wives. That is a given, and the wives have to live with that fact. Tony had several mistresses during the series. Carmela knew about some of them and hated it. But Tony would just answer, you knew who I was when you married me. And the mistresses (goomadas) were the ones taken to parties and lavished with gifts and apartments, while the wives stayed home taking care of the kids and the house.

The Mafia is made up of different crime “families,” headed by bosses like Tony Soprano, who compete with each other for money making operations. Agreements and deals often go wrong between them and people get “whacked.” Tony had his share of near death experiences and, like a faithful and loyal mafia wife, Carmela was right there worrying about him and nursing him back to health. Worrying is a way of life. You have to worry about getting killed, you have to worry about the Feds closing in on you, you have to worry about “rats” giving law enforcement evidence to save their own skin. Soon, as a viewer, you start to worry about all the mafia characters getting hurt. You have compassion for poor Tony because of the tremendous stress he is under every day. And we wind up rooting for the “bad” guys, even against law enforcement.

As I watched the show, I don’t know how many times I was concerned for Tony (and James Gandolfini) because of his excess weight. He seemed to put on more weight over the course of the series. His breathing was often labored. My husband and I would comment about it, worrying he might have a heart attack one day. If you ever watched the show you may have noticed it too, it was pretty obvious. I didn’t think it was “acting” on James Gandolfini’s part. I often wondered why he didn’t lose some weight so he could at least breathe comfortably. I wondered why it was obvious to me, but not to the cast, crew, family and friends of James Gandolfini? I don’t know if he was under a doctor’s care, but he should have been. Maybe this heart attack could have been avoided. We will never know. It’s so sad to lose someone so young, who impacted so many lives. I read that James just had a baby daughter in October with his second wife. A baby girl who will never really know her father except for what she will be told and from watching his work. Unfortunately, the Sopranos has scenes and language which are not fit for young eyes and ears. It will be a long time before she will be able to view the show that made her father a household name. The other thing that makes this an even sadder event is that James was in Italy with his teenage son, Michael. The were having a “guy” trip together. It was Michael who found his father in distress and called the medics, who were unable to revive his father.

The rest of us who knew James Gandolfini even just through his role on the Sopranos, are greatly sadden by his passing. Who would have thought that Tony Soprano would have survived a mafia family all out war, but poor James Gandolfini would succumb to a heart attack?

Rest in peace James Gandolfini. You will be greatly missed.
Sopranos Theme Song

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Progress Report on Moving...

I’ve spent the passed few weeks packing all the things we do not use on a daily basis, throwing out things we “might need,” but never did, and ordering a lot of new things for the house. I have ordered new dinnerware, cookware, comforter sets and bedding, stainless steel garbage can, toaster, can opener and a million other things. This will save me from running around to different stores when I should be home unpacking. There is still a lot more packing to do and with every box I seal I get closer to getting out of here.

I have a lot of good memories of living in this house for 25 years. I may have stayed here indefinitely and remodeled the whole thing. My main reason for leaving are the neighbors across the street. An absentee landlord has been renting his property to inconsiderate tenants over and over again. There were a couple of peaceful years, but they never lasted. One year it got so bad I went to a Realtor in tears and told him he had to sell my house and get me out of there. We even had an open house, but no one came. What’s wrong with these neighbors?  It’s not just the fact they are loud, or blast their car radios any time of the day or night for hours, or argue and scream, or start celebrating the fourth of July in May. It’s not just that they drive the wrong way down our one way street or ride their motorcycles on the sidewalk. It’s not just that they congregate in front of their house with all their “friends,” or that other cars are constantly pulling up and double parking outside their residence. It’s all of it and it’s constant. It never ends. And, you can’t talk or reason with them or they will curse you out or even threaten you. If you try to reason with them, then you have to be worried about retaliation. One year my husband said something and two of our tires were slashed. He ended up having to park blocks away every day so they couldn’t find our car. We tried reporting this to the police. They told us to keep a log of when things happen so they can send a car around. That accomplished nothing. We went to the community board, who took our issues to the police, and that accomplished nothing. Some neighbors actually got the number of the landlord and called him repeatedly in recent years. That got some results. He must have threatened to evict them just to stop getting phone calls. However, they are still not the ideal neighbors. And, this is why I want to leave the place I have called home for the last 25 years. I want to live in peace. I want to be able to hear my television. I want to be able to concentrate when  read and write. I cannot get out of here fast enough. And when I am packing and exhausted and feel like stopping, they just keep reminding me of how much I need to get out of here.

Now my mind is swimming with all the things I have to do. I haven’t moved in a very long time. It’s overwhelming. Beside all the unpacking, I need to get two bedroom sets for the girls and a new living room. We’ll be going to look at furniture this weekend. I have to change our address on everything, and hope the Post Office does it’s part in forwarding our mail to our new address. I have to figure out where to place the furniture. The layout of the rooms is very different. I need to contact a moving company and a junk removal company as soon as I get a closing date. Then, I have seven days to move out, but I need to have the wood floors redone in the new house. I am worried there will not be enough time for that. Once we move in I will need a painter for all the rooms. The outside of the house needs a lot of work that I want to have done this fall. Believe it or not, I am trying to take one thing at a time, but I can’t stop my brain from working overtime. I know it will all get done eventually, it’s just that I have never been a patient person.

So far it looks like both closings will be scheduled for the 15th of July, or there about. Seven days later I should be moving in. My younger daughter took a week vacation around that time to help me with everything. Hopefully we can get all the essential things in place so we can carry on our normal routines. My goal is to be settled in by Thanksgiving. If I can accomplish that, I will have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Faith And Hope: A Conversation…

Before my husband and I had children, we discussed how we would raise them and the subject of religion came up. Neither of us went to church on Sundays or adhered to the rules very strictly. We didn’t go to confession, we ate meat on Fridays during Lent, and we didn’t get ashes on Ash Wednesday. But, we did obey the ten commandments and try to live good lives, as best as our imperfect selves would allow us. But when it came to our children, I wanted them to have a good religious upbringing and faith. I believed faith was important, and along with it comes the power of hope. How many times had faith and hope gotten me through life’s difficult moments? I wanted to be sure they had that in their lives. We did try to instill faith and religious beliefs in our children, but I will admit, we could have done a better job. They went for religious instruction from the ages of seven to thirteen, as the church required, and made all their sacraments (baptism, communion and confirmation). When my older daughter was sixteen, the pedophile priest scandal broke out. My younger daughter was about to receive confirmation in three months. I wasn’t a happy camper about this turn of events, but felt she should finished what she started in case she wanted to marry in the church in the future and needed it.

It was at this time that my older daughter informed us that she was an atheist. Frankly, I was stunned, but honestly thought this is just a phase she is going through and she will snap out of it. She explained to me all her reasons for not believing in God or any of the Bible “stories.” I told her she should keep an open mind and do research before she dropped her faith. She told me she had been researching and that she was going to continue, but she had pretty much made up her mind. I blame it on her high intelligence and science. Science has really pretty much done a number on religion. Religion was created by man centuries ago to explain things that were unexplainable at the time. However, science has managed to explain away almost everything and added to the scandals of the church, it makes it hard to believe in anything. I understood where she was coming from and still hoped she would manage to find her faith in tact in the end.

At about this same time, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer. I was devastated and scared. I called everyone I knew to tell them and to ask them to pray for me. The irony that my own daughter could not pray for me because she didn’t believe in God or heaven, saddened me. I felt if God was going to listen to anyone’s prayers in this matter, it would be hers, but none would be forthcoming. She was an atheist.

One day, while we were talking in her room, I told her that it bothered me that she did not believe in God. I explained how she wouldn’t get into heaven even though she is living life as a good person should. I asked her, “What will you do when the time comes and you find out there is a God and heaven waiting for you, but you can’t get in?” I told her, with tear filled eyes, that I had needed her prayers and was sad that she couldn’t offer any for me. And then she looked at me, tears streaming down her face, and she told me she felt bad for me. She told me she was afraid that when I died I would find out there was no God and no heaven and this was all there is. She said she was the one who felt sad for me because I would be very disappointed. I didn’t know which one of us to feel more sorry for. It really was a profound moment we shared. There was no way for me to change her beliefs. Her knowledge and experience lead her to this place. I felt partly responsible because I had not made religion a more important part of our lives. My parents never made religion a priority, but my brother and I grew up with out faith in tact. Who knows what would have happened or if it would have changed anything for her had we done things differently. It is what it is. I love my daughter and I always will.

It’s now ten years later and she is still an atheist. It doesn’t seem to bother her that she is missing a religious dimension to her life. I don’t know how she gets along without prayer or where she gets her hope from, if she has any. Maybe we need to have a new conversation so I can understand it better.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Packing/Hacking Continues….

I was in the mist of packing when  came down with what seemed to be a slight head cold. However, it wasn’t long before my nose was running like a faucet and eventually I developed a dry cough. I was able to deal with the headache and runny nose, but the dry, hacking cough almost killed me. It just kept getting worse, until I sprained every muscle in my upper body. It took a few days of Robitussin to loosen it all up, but the damn thing still wants to hang on. I eventually got a good night’s sleep the night before last. Then last night I get a call at 1 am from my brother. I just out of my skin because I know he is supposed to be sleeping and he gets up at 5 am. I answer, but there is no reply. I lay there awake wondering if I should call him back. What if he is sleeping? What if he needs help? What if he is sick? What if someone broke in despite his steel security door? While I am pondering every situation, the phone rings again. It’s my brother wanting to know what is wrong? It seems my older daughter didn’t want to lay awake all night worrying, so she took the bull by the horns and called him. He returned her call thinking there was a problem. We explained that his phone had called us ten minutes earlier and we were worried. With that, we all hung up and went back to sleep.

So this morning I concocted a theory about how such a thing could happen. He has one of those damn “smart” phones that will dial anyone you want if you say their name. Now I am thinking he called out my name in his sleep and that lead to the first call from him at 1 am. And, I am not a happy camper since I have been desperate for sleep for over a week. I write him an email. I tell him I thought you keep your cell phone off during the night? How could this happen? He tells me he left it on last night because he thought his office might call. He left the cell next to the cordless phone and his radio and that somehow the signals must have crossed and dialed me, since I was the last person he dialed. I ended by telling him to call anyone else before he goes to bed, in case that happens again, so it won’t call me. Reminds me of Gilda Radner’s saying “It’s always something, if it’s not one thing, it’s another…”

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way and the “mystery” is allegedly solved, I will get back to packing again today. The house is full of boxes…empty boxes, full boxes and boxes from UPS with the new things I am ordering so I won’t have to run from store to store after we move in. Today I have in mind to pack my curio. It’s full of tiny porcelain animals that my mother bought for me at a store located directly across the street from Radio City, in Manhattan. Why did she go there? There’s a story for that…

Every year my mother liked to take us to see the Easter show at Radio City Music Hall. They would run a popular movie first. One day she took us to see the Unsinkable Molly Brown, starring Debbie Reynolds. The line was very long when we got there. We got on line and waited, but we didn’t make it in for the first show and she wasn’t going to stand outside for three more hours for the second show. So we meandered across the street to pass a little time before heading home. In the window of one little store were some shiny, miniature porcelain animals. I fell in love with them. There were little families of Chihuahuas, Siamese cats, lions and tigers and bears (oh my). My mother could see that I really wanted them, so she said to me I could pick out any two sets I wanted and she would buy them for me. I was torn. They were all so cute, but I eventually decided on the Chihuahuas and Cocker Spaniels.  I loved them. We went home with my new little treasures. For my birthday, my mother took me back to the store and let me pick out more animals. And, when Christmas rolled around, you can imagine my surprise, when I opened a few little boxes and there were more sets of animals in them. Eventually I had at least 20 to 30 different sets and no place to display them. So my mother went out and bought a corner curio with four shelves for me to showcase my little collection. And when I got married, she insisted I take the curio with me to our new home. These little animals and the curio have been with me for a very long time. A lot of memories come flooding back to me now. I remember how my mother loved the black panthers for some reason. It was always hard for me to pick a favorite set. I had a soft spot for the horses because the baby horse’s legs were so thin and fragile. The baby chicks that went with the rooster and hen, were just yellow little dots.

So today, I will dismantled the collection, wash everything and carefully pack them all away. I’ll think about my mother and of all the times she went out of her way to make me happy.

P. S. Here is a website with typical little animals like the ones I have...good thing this wasn't around back then LOL Porcelain Animals of all kinds

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Under Contract"

Right now I am “under” two contracts, one for the sale of my house and one for the purchase of our new house. I am also under pressure. The buyers of my house want us out as soon as possible. They have a commitment for June 17th. But, since I had no house at the time of their offer, we stipulated that we would close no sooner than July 15th with 7 extra days to move. They came back with their contractor last week to look around and get estimates for the work they want to do. Once again they asked me if we could move out sooner. I said I would try. I told them I had just found a home and we agreed on the price, however we hadn’t seen the lawyers yet. I tried to explain that even if we were both ready to move, the people in the house we are buying may not be able to accommodate our time table.

At the new house, the sellers told me that they could work with me on the date because they are moving into her father’s house. Her father has been ill and she wants to be right there to help her mom care for him. I am hoping that they will move out before the closing and leave the house vacant so I can try to get the wood floors done. I also hope they will agree to the July 15th ballpark closing date. Right now their contract says August 1st, and that will make my buyers very anxious. The lawyers are working on the date issue right now. I don’t think I will push up the date for my buyers, from July 15th. I need the time to pack everything and so do my sellers on the new house. It would put extra pressure on us to try to move any earlier. I also have one more good reason not to accommodate them.

The buyers of my house pulled a little “stunt” early on. After you agree on a price for the sale of a house, the buyer has an engineer inspection done to see if there are major problems. Instead of bringing an “engineer,” they brought their friend the contractor, who was going to do all the work they wanted. He pretended or presented himself to be an engineer and found dozens of things wrong with my house. It looked like the sale was dead. But, as it happens, the buyers still wanted it, they just wanted me to come down $35,000 on the price for all the work that needed to be done. My realtor told them no way that was happening. So they wanted us to drop it $25,000. My realtor said no. He asked them who was going to do the work? Their realtor said what does that matter? My realtor said well, if they are having friends do it, then the price is inflated. She agreed. Finally they proposed that we meet in the middle and drop the price $12,500. We agreed to that, however, we did not know at that time that the contractor was also the engineer, and had exaggerated all the problems to help them get the price reduced. So, my realtor was very shrewd in not giving in to their demands, even though it may have cost us the sale of the house. And, this is the main reason why I am not so sympathetic to their need to get in sooner rather than later. July 15th works out well for me and I hope my sellers too.

The next few weeks we are going to be packing and purging the whole house. I find it hard to throw things away. Yesterday, for example, I found all the little ceramics pieces my younger daughter painted at various birthday parties. It’s quite a collection. For years those works of art hung in her room. There will be no place for them at the new house, but it bothers me to dispose of them. I am too sentimental. There are memories attached to too many things. I suppose many of those things will have to go, like it or not.

Today we will go back to packing up the basement. This week I will try to do the dining room and the remaining things in the kitchen that we aren’t using. I am washing everything first, and packing them in plastic bags, so can just place them in right in the closets and drawers later. I’m trying to be organized, but my mind is all over the place.

One good thing about moving and packing is that it is an instant cure for insomnia. When my head hit’s the pillow I feel like someone has given me an anesthetic. I guess it will be like that for a few months, until everything is unpacked and we are settled.

Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Jodi Arias Hung Jury…

I really didn’t want to have to blog this last development in the Jodi Arias trial. I had hoped that the jury would reach a unanimous decision and grant Travis Alexander justice and his family peace and closure. I cannot even imagine every way they have been affected by being in the courtroom every day for five months after waiting five years for the trial. I cannot imagine how sick it must make them to look at Travis’ pictures: his throat slit from side to side almost decapitated, 29 stab wounds and a bullet to the head. All they wanted and prayed for was for this ordeal to be over so they could try and put the pieces of their lives back together and move on. The jury was told, from the outset, that this was a death penalty case. They knew if the evidence proved excessive cruelty that the death penalty was in order. They knew the circumstances of the murder. They all said they would have no problem voting for the death penalty. Juan Martinez, the prosecutor, all but drew them a detailed map leading to the death penalty. He described every way in which the murder was cruel. He told them how, for two very long minutes, Travis knew he was being murdered and was helpless to defend himself. He eliminated every one of the ridiculous mitigating factors the defense and Jodi tried to present. There were no mitigating factors. So what if she was 27? Twenty-seven is young, but not so young that she had no life experience. So what if she is an artist? She has some artistic talent, but what does that have to do with the murder? So what if she never was convicted of another crime before this one? Does that mean she gets a free pass on the first murder? So what if she had an “abusive” childhood and was hit with a wooden spoon? How many of us have been similarly punished by wooden spoons, switches and belts? So what if her mother paid attention to her baby sister and Jodi felt neglected. What child with younger siblings hasn’t experienced that? So what of she gave her hair to “Locks of Love”? Maybe those receiving her freaking hair wouldn’t even want it.

Jodi, who changed her mind in a couple of days about asking for the death penalty, “pleaded” for life in prison for the sake of her family. She outlined what she would do in prison to benefit society. She would start a book club so the inmates could discuss literature. She would teach literacy and Spanish to those who want to learn. She would start a recycling program. She will sell her “Survivor” T-Shirts to raise money for domestic abuse victims. As I am tying this I just want to scream. Who the hell cares what she would do? Who the hell can believe her anyway? It’s what I didn’t hear that bothered me. She never apologized to Travis’ family for the pain she caused them. She never even showed a bit of remorse or emotion. Her first concern is always addressing the media and granting interviews. She demands make-up and that they do not film her prison stripped pants. She needs to do her hair. WHY are they allowing her to give interviews at all? Haven’t we seen and heard enough from her already. It’s not like we are learning anything new or truthful. She just lies so easily, it’s like breathing for her. And if those of us who watched the trial could not stomach the sight of her, just imagine how Travis’ family and friends must be feeling?

Yesterday the jury came back with the non-verdict on the penalty phase. After having no trouble of convicting her of first degree murder and extreme cruelty, they failed to follow through and give her the sentence the law demands in such a case…death. They could not reach a unanimous decision. We don’t know the breakdown of what went on in the deliberation room, we just know they could not agree. And now, they leave this final job for a new jury. A new and impartial jury must be impaneled by July. However, this new jury doesn’t know all the facts. Much of the evidence will have to be rehashed for their benefit. The Alexander family will have to sit there and endure more testimony and look at the horrible pictures of Travis, slaughtered with his blood everywhere. They will have to look at and listen to Jodi Arias lie. They already heard her lie about how Travis was abusive. They heard her lie about his inclinations towards pedophilia. They heard her lie, assassinating his character, to build her defense to the very end of the trial. Now they have to endure more. Isn’t this cruel and unusual punishment being inflicted on this family by the jury’s lack of agreement? It’s not that I don’t feel bad for these people who have devoted a so much of their time to this case. They must be exhausted and drained from it. It’s taken over their lives. But they were so close to the end and failed to complete the job. I wonder if any of them thought about how this non-verdict would affect the Alexander family. Jodi gets a reprieve and his family gets tortured some more.

And Arizona just complicated the whole process. Their law requiring a second jury to decide the penalty, rather than the judge, is the reason this trial could not be over yesterday. And Jodi will very liking require two new attorneys, who will need to get up to speed, because these two tried to get removed from her case twice in the past week, saying they could not provide adequate defense.

It just angers me that the system bends over backwards for people like Jodi, who are clearly guilty of a heinous crime, but slacks when it comes to considering victims and their families.

Now we will get at least a two month break, before the final phase begins again. I hope this new jury gets it right.