Friday, December 19, 2014

SONY Hacked Over “The Interview”

but all joking aside...
 

We’ve been hearing about the SONY emails that were hacked and the threats by North Korea over the movie, The Interview.” Everyone has an opinion. We shouldn’t show it, it’s too dangerous. We should show it and not cave in to terrorism. We shouldn’t allow our freedom of speech to be violated. And on and on it goes.

I am just a simple person. I have no sake in this issue either way. I rarely go to a movie anymore. I probably wouldn’t go to this one. But, every time I hear a news story about this situation I want to cringe. We do have more important things to focus on in the US and globally. This ridiculous movie it taking time and attention away from far more serious issues.

Here are my thoughts. I think just because we have freedom of speech, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it responsibly. There has to be some degree of common sense applied when you are planning to open a can of worms. There will be consequences to free speech. Those consequences should have been considered prior to making a moving provoking and antagonizing a man, a tyrant of a communist country, who doesn’t have any love for our country. A man who watches his own people starve while he expects to be treated as a God. A man who has access to nuclear weapons and has alliances with China. A man who would not take kindly to being made a laughing stock in front of the world. Did SONY really believe that a man like this would just do nothing while their movie ridiculed him on an international level? Or didn’t SONY care, thinking what can he possibly do about it? Well, now we are finding out what he an do about it. Their precious, scandalous company emails are being exposed for all the world to see. Who is laughing now? This is just the tip of the iceberg too. I will be willing to bet they have far more damaging emails to release when they feel the time is right. SONY is now so concerned, they are willing to pull a $200 million dollar movie to prevent more embarrassing exposure of their executives. But is this the end of it? Will things get worse? They have set something in motion and don’t have the means to stop it.

Every idea someone in Hollywood has isn’t necessarily a great idea. This is one of them. Those who feel the movie should be shown, despite the threats, really have no idea what the consequences will be. Movie theaters won’t show it because they are now on notice that they may be putting people’s lives at risk. Did we need to be put in this position? Did we need another international problem to deal with right now?  Thanks to SONY we have one.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Counting Christmases . . .

 

I have always loved Christmas. The other day it occurred to me how few Christmases we have to enjoy in a lifetime. I lump Thanksgiving in too, because both holidays are for celebrating time with loved ones, great food, laughs and memories. And that’s special and important, right? But do we really appreciate Christmas as much as we should?

Let’s say we live to be 100, just to make things simpler. That would mean that out of the 36,500 days we walk the earth, there are only 100 Christmases (and most of us are going to have a lot less). Just 100 days or however many our lifetime allows. That doesn’t seem like enough to me and it’s kind of sad.

We can’t spend those 100 Christmases with all our loved ones. First, our parents and grandparents already used up a lot of their Christmases before we were even born. That means we might be lucky enough to share about 50 or 60 Christmases with them. By the time our children are born, we have already used up a chunk of our Christmases, so we may have 50 or 60 left to spend with them. There is going to be some overlap when we can have both our parents and our children with us for Christmas, those will be fewer yet.

All this calculating made me realize how much more precious these holidays are to me. My parents are long gone. I can't share any more Christmases with them. I can’t bring them their favorite jumbo shrimp or pignole cookies that they were too frugal to buy for themselves. I can’t hear my mom telling everyone how her cooking is better than mine or how beautiful my girls are. I can’t hear my father’s laughter as he hugs and kisses his only grandchildren on the cheek. Those Christmases are gone.

My girls are still living at home. They aren’t babies any more, those Christmases are gone. I try to pretend they are as excited about Christmas as they were when they were young children and still believed in Santa. I try to buy gifts that will surprise them, which gets more difficult every year. They don’t get us up at the crack of dawn any more. Now my husband and I are up early and the girls sleep in. There is none of the anticipation about what is in the colorfully wrapped packages. They know they will find items they put on their “list.” No real surprises. Now, we even wait for my brother to arrive and we all open our gifts together, not first thing in the morning. We make the most of the day, while our parents are noticeably missing from the conversation. We reminisce about Christmases past. That’s all we can do.

Better cherish each Christmas we are given. Time with our loved ones is the real gift of Christmas. There is never enough time to spend with those you love, and there are never going to be enough Christmases for me.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Who is Bill Cosby?



I grew up watching Bill Cosby on television. I grew up laughing at his jokes and stories. He was a family man. He was an intelligent man. He was a role model. He was funny. But, no one is laughing any more. Another woman came forward today, number 14 I think, with rape allegations. This isn’t doesn’t fit with the Bill Cosby I knew and loved.

Who is the Bill Cosby I know? About 30 years ago, 1986 to be exact, I found out I was pregnant for the first time. The news coincided with my brothers birthday. My husband and I decided to get three tickets to Cosby’s one man show on Broadway and take my brother. We had a great time that day. Cosby sat in a chair in the middle of the stage and did some new material and some of his best loved material. The thing that stands out in my mind is his routine about going to the dentist. We had lots of laughs. Fast forward to 1998. I had two daughters, ages 10 and 7. Cosby was auditioning children for a new show, “Kids Say The Darnest Things.” My husband and I took our girls down to try out for the show. There were so many kids there that day. My girls weren’t the most outgoing kids, but they were smart and cute. They weren’t picked, but the whole experience was exciting and a lot of fun. Around that same time, give or take a year, I got four free tickets to a taping of “Cosby,” the show that followed “The Cosby Show” with the Huxtables, which featured Madeline Kahn. We couldn’t bring the kids to the taping because no one under 18 would be admitted, so we asked our friends to join us. The taping took a couple of hours. They shot two different endings to see which one got the most laughs. It was very entertaining and we all enjoyed ourselves. That is the Bill Cosby I know.

One thing I will never forget was the day the news spread that Bill Cosby’s son, Ennis, was shot to death while changing a tire on the highway. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the depth of his sadness of losing his only son in such a senseless act of violence. Bill Cosby was at work when he was informed of his son’s death and went home to comfort his wife, Camille. The media, like a pack of wild wolves, followed him to his home, flashing camera lights in his face and imploring him to make a statement. Standing on the front steps to his door, seconds from going in, they yelled to him, “how do you feel?” With grace and composure, Bill Cosby, still in shock about the devastating news, made a brief statement about his grief before entering his front door. That is the Bill Cosby I know.

I’ve heard Bill Cosby speak out against the ills of society. He blamed parents for the high incarceration of black youth, for their illiteracy and drop out rate. He has spoken at many university commencements. He has no shortage of advice and wisdom for college graduates on what they should do with their lives. He has advice for everything: parenting, marriage, education, declining morality, you name it and Bill Cosby will talk about it. He will talk about everything except these rape allegations that go back 30 to 40 years.

Recently, Hannibal Buress, a comedian, made a joke about the rape allegations against Bill Cosby, during one of his sets in Philadelphia. Here is what he said that ignited a huge controversy:

“It’s even worse because Bill Cosby has the fuckin’ smuggest old black man persona that I hate,” Buress said. “He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the 80s! I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom!’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches.”

"I guess I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch Cosby Show reruns," Buress says later. "I've done this bit on stage and people think I'm making it up.... when you leave here, google 'Bill Cosby rape.' That shit has more results than 'Hannibal Buress.'"

Shortly after this incident, Bill Cosby (or more than likely his social media manager) invited everyone on Twitter to make memes of him. The unexpected results were a barrage of Cosby memes all about rape. And now, Cosby is being cancelled from a booked personal appearance on Letterman.

Today the fourteenth woman came forward with rape allegations against Bill Cosby. Fourteen woman have said something. It makes me wonder how many haven’t? I have read a couple of their stories and they were similar. I find it hard to believe that Bill Cosby, a beloved comedian, could be an alleged serial rapist. I knew of one case where a woman said she was the mother of his child and the matter was settled out of court. That’s it. I chalked it up to a case of marital infidelity that resulted in a pregnancy. But apparently there was a story about his being accused of rape in People Magazine many years ago, that I never heard of. I don’t understand it. How could he do the things he is accused of and how did I not hear of it before now? This is not the Bill Cosby I know. So who is Bill Cosby? I just don’t know any more.

 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Continued Disappointment in the Catholic Church . . .

 

It’s really, literally a sin that I can never find a “good” story about the Catholic Church. I never hear anything good, for example, about the Church opening up a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, donating money to Doctors Without Borders, helping to end the genocide in Africa, feeding children in Third World countries etc. Maybe they are doing something and it’s not being publicized, but I doubt it.

Yesterday I happened to come across two stories that turned my stomach. The first one had to do with the Vatican speaking out against the assisted “suicide” of 29 year old Brittney Maynard. Brittney, who had everything to live for, was diagnosed with brain cancer and told she had six months to live. She suffered from excruciating pain and seizures and decided she was going to end her life, on her terms, on November 1st. She moved to Oregon with her husband because it is legal to end one’s life there with dignity. That is what Brittany chose to do. She chose to end her suffering and that of her family, She chose to decide when she was going to die and not allow cancer to pick the date for her. She chose to be surrounded by her family and she passed from this world into the next. And then the top “bioethics” people at the Vatican decided to weigh in. They called her actions “reprehensible.” They say her actions were undignified. Instead, she should have lived out her remaining days in agonizing pain while those who loved her watched her suffer. Is this what the Church calls love and compassion? Brittney was dying, it was inevitable. She didn’t choose to get cancer. Why should she let cancer choose her final hour? Why did the Church have to say anything at all? They want to make their position clear that suicide, for any reason, goes against their teachings? So what? The Church itself is responsible for many reprehensible things. You don’t here them denouncing their actions. All I ever hear about from them is damage control and excuses. Brittney had every right to end her own suffering. Oregon gave her the legal means to end her life in her own terms. No one asked The Catholic Church to weigh in on her very personal decision.
 
Anyone who has witnessed a loved one dying in the throes of pain, from cancer or any other disease, would praise Brittney and be happy she found a way to end her suffering and leave this world peacefully. I watched my father die in pain. I begged the hospice to help him. They told me they were afraid to give him more morphine because it might kill him. My father was pleading to die. Instead of dying peacefully, in his sleep, from morphine, he died in agonizing pain. I would not wish that on anyone.

Moving on to story number two. A pastor of a Catholic Church, Our Lady of Pompeii, in Greenwich Village, Manhattan decided to end it’s decades long lease with Greenwich House’s Senior Center. He told them they would have to leave the premises, causing panic among the members. Although the seniors paid $2,000 a month in rent to the church, Father Walter Tonelotto decided he was able to make more money from renting the space to film crews. The choice was clear. Get the seniors out. (Do you think the Vatican would call this “reprehensible?”) The seniors serve 1,400 meals a week to people in need. The space occupied by seniors is also shared with homeless and handicapped people who hace come to depend on the Senior Center. When a lawyer for the seniors raised their concerns with the Diocese of New York, they were told no such plans were in effect. They spoke to the pastor and he denied asking them to leave. That’s when the lawyer produced a letter from the pastor, to the group, asking them to find another location by June 1st, 2015. There will now be an investigation into the matter. Is this the action of a charitable, compassionate, loving church?

The Church has a very long history of reprehensible acts. Their despicable actions go back in time for centuries. I would love to read a book, or series of books, focusing on that subject. I only know the tip of the iceberg and I am disgusted. I am sick of the hypocrisy. I am sick of them telling followers how they should live their lives and then breaking all the rules to suit themselves. This reminds me of something Cher said when we were in the middle of the Church’s child sex abuse scandal. The Church had the audacity to criticize Cher and Madonna for wearing very large, gold crucifixes. Cher’s response was that the Church should clean out it’s own house before pointing it's finger at others.
 
I can’t help but wonder when is the Church going to clean out it’s house? When are they going to be the Church they profess to be, the Church they want us to believe they are? I don’t think it will ever happen.


Friday, October 24, 2014

My Thoughts on Ebola . . .

I wouldn't make a very good medical technologist.
 

I know we are all sick of hearing about Ebola, but I am preserving my thoughts for posterity. Since Ebola broke out in Texas, I have been doing a lot of reading and questioning about the disease. I am not a doctor, nor do I have a medical background of any kind. I do, however, have a pretty good understanding of medical conditions when they are explained to me. So, I do understand that Ebola is not highly contagious, but at the same time there is no question that it is a deadly disease for which we have no vaccine or real treatment.

Here are the facts as I understand them. When Ebola broke out in Texas, there had been no preparation or real protocols in place there or anywhere in the United States. This lack of preparation was a huge mistake because we knew it was just a matter of time before someone would enter the country carrying the disease. Because of that, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) put lives at risk. When the Texas hospital called for protocols, they were told to look online on their website. They had no training. The healthcare workers caring for patient Duncan had no protective gear to wear for two days. They were told to cover their exposed necks with medical tape. Even though they were highly exposed to the virus, none of them were quarantined for the full 21 days. Instead they were told to self-monitor until they had symptoms, while going about their daily routine. The first nurse, Nina Pham, notified health officials when she started running a fever. She was diagnosed with Ebola and hospitalized. The other healthcare workers were still not quarantined. The second nurse, Amber Vinson, managed to take two flights to and from Ohio and go to a bridal shop for three hours before showing symptoms. The response was to hospitalize her and try and track down everyone who was exposed on those flights, retracing her steps to all other places she happened to go. Common sense tells me if she had been quarantined from the beginning, no one would have been exposed and no resources would have had to be spent tracking down people, but what do I know?

Next thing I hear is that they are going to exercise precautions at certain airports in the US by taking the temperature of everyone who comes off the plane from affected countries. Seriously. My first thought was, why aren’t they taking the temperature of everyone before they board the plane? What happens if they develop a fever two days after getting off the plane? Again, I am not a medical expert. I would love to know why they didn’t just quarantine all passengers arriving from the affected countries in Africa for the full 21 days? After all, that would seem like the best precaution to me to avoid risking other people’s lives here. I questioned these things based on common sense. I think the CDC may be finally coming around to my way of thinking on this.

I know Ebola can only be spread by contact with the bodily fluids of a living or deceased person who has the disease. The CDC says it’s not airborne. Not airborne, means the droplets don’t dry in the air and remain there, like the flu. However, if a person with Ebola sneezes or coughs due to allergies or a cold, and you happen to be nearby, there is a chance you can be infected from the propelled droplets. The CDC says the Ebola virus can live on surfaces for hours, but I read a study that it can survive on glass and plastic for days under the right conditions. The CDC doesn’t mention that. The CDC cleverly says there have been no reports of people getting Ebola from dogs. Yet Nina Pham’s dog was quarantined and the dog of patient in Germany was euthanized. I ask myself why? So I researched and found a study that says dogs can be infected with and carry the Ebola virus and potentially infect humans. Now it makes sense. Maybe no one has gotten the virus from a dog in the US, but the potential is there. I don’t trust the CDC to tell us all the facts, just the facts they want us to know. I don’t trust most media organizations to do responsible reporting and give us the facts without sensationalizing every story for increased ratings. We have to educate ourselves in these matters if we want to get to the truth, everyone else has an agenda. My agenda is to know all I can to try and keep my family from being exposed to even the slightest risk of getting Ebola.

Dr. Tom Frieden is the head of the CDC since 2009 and is tweeting all kinds of facts about Ebola and the care of patients. He may be a highly qualified medical doctor, I don’t know. What I do know is that from 2002 to 2009 he was the Commission of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The only other thing I remember about his tenure is that he seemed overly concerned about “supersized sodas.” I wish he had been as concerned about Ebola and our country’s preparedness for it. Instead, it “sounded” to me like he was blaming the Texas nurses for not following protocols; the protocols that he never put in place. He finally had to admit he underestimated the need for healthcare workers having intensive training in handling patients with infectious diseases, effective protocols, and a closer monitoring of those people potentially exposed and at risk for developing the disease. Finally, it seems he is taking action that makes sense.

The risk of getting Ebola may be very small, but when it comes to my loved ones, it’s a risk I’m not willing to take. So, in my opinion, we should be erring on the side of caution. Those exposed to Ebola should be quarantined immediately for 21 days, not allowed to go about their business until symptoms develop. Healthcare workers should be protected by the strictest of protocols and the best protective suits. They shouldn’t have to risk their lives and those of their families because the CDC was not ready for an outbreak. If we aren’t going to stop flights from the afflicted countries, then all those arriving from there should be quarantined for 21 days, fever or no fever. Maybe my ideas are extreme, but I believe in better safe than sorry.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Teachable Moments . . .

 

If you are a mother, you know that you are always trying to find teachable moments for your children. Sometimes these moments will present themselves and sometimes we have to create them. We start teaching from the day our babies are born and never stop. We teach them their first words. We read to them so them develop a love of books. We tell them not to touch the stove because it’s hot. We teach them self help skills like getting dressed, eating with a spoon, using the potty. And, even as they become adults, we go on teaching by imparting the lessons and wisdom we have learned throughout our lifetimes.

This morning I woke up thinking about this because last night I watched a two and a half minute video/advertisement for feminism that had five little girls in it using the “F” word. I know they did this to make a point and for shock value. Everyone is probably talking about this video today. It was all over the news last night. But no one is talking about their topic of “feminism” and inequality of pay. Everyone is talking about how offensive this ad is and how they exploited these little girls. They are trying to understand how the parents could allow their daughters to be used in this way. The video is supposed to be about the power of women, but is anyone getting that message when all we can focus on is the young girls using profanity? What are we trying to teach our girls? Vulgarity equals power?

I recall years ago riding the bus with my husband and my girls, who were about 7 and 9 at the time. A teachable moment presented itself. Diagonally across from us were four or five teenage boys and girls. They were laughing and talking loudly so we couldn’t help but hear them. Every other word they used was the “F” word. They used it in every part of speech possible: verb, noun, adjective, adverb. I was appalled because I didn’t want my girls listening to this vulgarity. Then I realized that as much as I wanted to, I could not protect them from the realities of life. There were going to be times they were going to hear the “F” word when I wasn’t around, and I didn’t want them to think it was okay. So, I used this as a teachable moment. I asked them if they heard what these teenagers were saying. They quietly nodded with eyes wide open. I told them this kind of talk is not appropriate, it’s not cool, it’s not funny. People who have to talk like that have a limited vocabulary. It shows a lack of intelligence. Our language comes with thousands of words we can use to express how we think and feel. The “F” word never has to be used at all. It’s not nice. It’s offensive. We don’t use that word. The girls seemed to understand my point and I was satisfied that I had turned a negative experience into a positive lesson.

Years later, when my older daughter was about 15, the word “whore” was being used a lot. It was used in conjunction with other words like “attention whore,” “shoe whore,” “food whore,” etc. I don’t know how this fad got started or why. Even Mario Cantone had a Broadway Show called, “Laugh Whore.” One day my daughter came home and told me she is being called a “- - - whore” at school, and she thinks it’s funny. I don’t happen to recall what word they placed in front of “whore” because all I could hear was the word whore. I was stunned for a second. I told her I didn’t find it funny. She explained how it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just what people do now. Everything is followed by the word “whore.” I told her I had never heard of this before and didn’t like it. I went on to tell her she needs to put a stop to it and now allow herself to be addressed by any form of the word “whore.“ Of course, she thought I was making a big deal out of nothing, it was all fun and games. If you know anything about teenagers, you know that they know everything and parents know nothing. It’s harder to get through to them at this age, if you can get through to them at all. I decided I needed to have a serious little chat with my daughter about this new trendy usage of the word “whore.” First of all, I explained to her, that the word “whore” has been a derogatory and vulgar way to address women since the beginning of time. This word is not funny. It has a long history of being offensive to women. It doesn’t make it okay to use now because it’s attached to another word and meant to be funny. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke. Secondly, you should respect yourself enough not to allow anyone to address you by any term using the word “whore.” What starts out being funny can sometimes stick, like nicknames. I asked, “Is this the way you want people to think of you?” By your allowing them to refer to you in that way and laughing at it, you are condoning it and saying it’s okay. It’s not okay, it’s sickening. Just because other kids think it’s funny, doesn’t mean you have to go along with it. Maybe they aren’t old enough to appreciate the degrading meaning this word has for women. But, I’m telling you and now you know it’s unacceptable. You should tell anyone who calls you that to stop, you don’t like it.

My daughter listened to my lecture. I didn’t know if I had gotten through to her or not. I couldn’t be with her at school to see if my words had any impact. I know I gave her something to think about. She had a decision to make. I just had to hope she was going to learn something from what I said and correct the situation. She did. A couple of days later she came home from school. She told me that this boy was referring to her as “- - whore,” and she told him to stop because she didn’t like to be called that. I told her I was proud of her, it was the right thing to do. More importantly though, I believe she really understood why it wasn’t a joking matter. She understood that she had to value herself enough not to allow herself to be degraded, even if it was supposed to be "all in fun."

 

 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Half-Empty Nest . . .

A rare occurence these days
 
 
For twenty-five years I had a full nest. My two girls commuted to and from college every day and spent plenty of time at home studying, watching television, leaving clothes and shoes around the house for me to trip over and a sink full of dirty dishes to keep my hands sanitized. Nothing much changed from their transition from high school to college. We still managed to have dinner together as a family most nights and exchange stories about our day, our friends, and the ups and downs of life. But one day my older daughter graduated from college and went to work. She was missing all day, every day. Then, three years later, my younger daughter graduated and got a job working the second shift at a lab. My daughters are two ships passing in the night. They went from seeing each other all the time to maybe one or two evenings a week. Our regular family dinners have been slashed to once a week. And although I know I am lucky to still have them “home,” I still miss us all being together. I miss watching my girls interact with each other. What’s a half-empty nester to do?

I hate setting the table for two or three, when there should be four of us sitting there. Sometimes I have to rearrange my daughters’ seats so there isn’t an empty seat separating three of us, and making the absence of the one that’s missing that much more obvious. I change my meal plans for dinner based on which one of my daughters will be eating with us. They each have their preferences and I try to accommodate whomever is home that night with something they will enjoy. I have to make extra of certain meals because I need leftovers so my younger daughter can have her “dinners” at lunchtime the next day, before heading out for work. The “leftovers” also fill in for my older daughter’s hot, healthy lunches for work, since she hates sandwiches. So now, instead of planning nice family dinners, I have been relegated to a short-order cook.

When I dust and vacuum the floors, there are no feet that need to be lifted, no shoes to pick up. I just go about my business in a house that is so quiet that the eerie noise from the refrigerator motor is all I can hear. There’s even less laundry. My older daughter has decided to take care of all her laundry herself even though I tell her she can add items to the family hamper. I can buy less snacks because there is no one home to eat them. The sink doesn’t get full of dirty dishes during the day. As soon as a couple of breakfast mugs are washed, the kitchen is closed pretty much till dinner. In fact, the whole house stays a lot cleaner, a lot longer, when I am the only one roaming through the empty rooms. I guess I should be happy.

It’s not like I miss the extra dust, laundry or dirty dishes. We could all do with less of those things. But I do miss the reason for the extra work. Those not so little feet going up and down the stairs to get their laptops, are now running around an office. The hungry little mouths opening refrigerator and cabinet doors looking for snacks are waiting for their lunch break. Today, as I walk into their rooms, I fix the slightly askew comforters on beds that were made in haste, not out of laziness, but out of a rush to get to work. I close the wardrobe closets that were left half open after the day’s outfit was selected. I adjust the couch pillows and see the jackets that were thrown haphazardly on them last night are gone this morning. And there goes the refrigerator motor cranking its “American Horror Story” noise.

I remember watching the movie “Marty,” starring Ernest Borgnine, years ago. It’s a great movie about a single guy who is still living with his mother into his thirties. One day his mother is talking to her sister about the “empty nest.” Here is what Aunt Catherine had to say (in her Italian accent):

“These are the worst years, I tell you. It's a gonna happen to you. I'm afraid to look in a mirror. I'm afraid I'm gonna see an old lady with white hair, just like the old ladies in the park with little bundles and black shawls waiting for the coffin. I'm fifty-six years old. And what am I gonna do with myself? I've got strength in my hands. I want to clean. I want to cook. I want to make dinner for my children. Am I an old dog to lay near the fire till my eyes close? These are terrible years, Theresa, terrible years . . . It's gonna happen to you. It's gonna happen to you! What are you gonna do if Marty gets married? Huh? What are you gonna cook? Where's all the children playing in all the rooms? Where's the noise? It's a curse to be a widow, a curse! What are you gonna do if Marty gets married? What are you gonna do?”

Okay, maybe things are as bleak as Aunt Catherine makes them out to be, but some of her words do hit close to home. I guess I better start preparing myself for the full empty nest and figure out the answer to Aunt Catherine’s, “What are you gonna do when your girls get married? It’s a gonna happen to you. What are you gonna do?”


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mind Your Own Business . . .


 
"Mind your own business . . . it’s a very popular expression, but I don’t even know what it means. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t mind my own business. Maybe it’s my nature or maybe it's a learned behavior I acquired from my mother. My mother’s policy was just like New York City"s terrorist slogan, “If you see something, say something." Only in my mother's case, she took it a few steps further: “If you hear something, say something,” if you know something, say something,” “if you feel something, say something.” My mother didn’t need much in the way of provocation to add her two cents, whether the situation concerned her or not. I find myself doing the same thing more and more and yet I don't feel that I am a meddler.

And what’s the harm of it really? I’d rather say something and risk someone may get angry with me for butting in, than for something to happen and regret not saying anything at all. My intentions are always good, at least I think so. My advice is always free. People can always ignore what I tell them if they don't want to hear it; just ask my daughters, who are both very skilled at letting my words go in one ear and out the other. In their defense though, they do get a lot more of my unsolicited counsel than anyone else I know.

I guess you can look at not minding your own business two ways. On the negative side it can be perceived as “butting in” when the matter doesn’t concern you. Some people might reason you only have a right to say something if the issue directly affects you, if not, don’t add your two cents. Sometimes people can misconstrue “butting in” an being nosy or invading their privacy. And there are many times people just want to vent their frustrations and aren’t looking for help or solutions at all. To this last group, I must apologize for my valiant problem-solving efforts. I am a nurturer and "fixer" and can't help myself until all is right with the world.

On the other hand, if you see someone struggling with something and you feel you can offer some good advice or kind words, is that a crime? Not minding your own business, when you have purely good intentions, can be a blessing to someone else. It can be very helpful or comforting. Their struggle may not be your business, it may not affect you at all, but what if you can help them carry that load or even lighten it a bit? How much easier would it be to just walk away and say or do nothing? There would be no risk of meddling, interfering, or invading privacy if you keep silent and ignore the problems of others. It’s much harder to step up and offer a helping hand . . . a hand that one day you might even need in return. This is why I don’t mind my own business. If I see someone drowning, I am going to try and throw them a life preserver or a rope. They are going to know that someone cares. They might appreciate the concern even if they don’t need any help. And if it becomes a problem for them, well then they can always tell me to mind my own business and maybe I will.




Friday, October 3, 2014

White Privilege Is Just Peachy . . .

Crayola's Ethnic Box of Crayons (1992)
What color are you?


I often learn a lot of things from my daughters during our little chats. For example, the other day I was having a conversation with my older daughter. She was telling me about a friend of hers, who is conservative, and doesn’t feel racism is still an issue or that there is such a thing as white privilege. She told me about their conversation and what she said to him. She explained it’s not always the big or obvious events that show racism and inequality is still an issue. She said sometimes it’s the little things that we take for granted. For example, she said, did you ever realize that band aids are “flesh” tone, but only made for the color of white people’s skin. There are few, if any, flesh tone band aids made for people of color. Then she went on to explain that even in cosmetics, white women have a wide range of colors to choose from, while cosmetics for black women are much more limited and, if they need other shades other than those available, those are considered “specialty” items. She told me, with some satisfaction, that she could see her point was getting across. I learned something too from my daughter, and started wondering what other little subtle ways racism is embedded in our society without “us” even realizing it. And by “us” I mean white people, because I am sure this doesn’t go unnoticed by people of color every time they need a band aid.

I checked on my daughters claims, and of course, as usual, she is right. Band aid skin tones and the lack of make-up for women of color are two very real examples that show being white has its privileges. So I did a little reading of my own. The “nude” bra is also an example of racism because the only skin tone it matches is Caucasian. I’ll be honest and say this never crossed my mind until now. I recall bra shopping with my daughters and the sales clerk corrected me when I told them they need white bras to wear under light or sheer clothing. The clerk said, “Actually they should wear nude.” And since that time we no longer even look at white bras. Now I wonder what she tells a mother who has a black daughter? What color does she wear under sheer clothing? Does she tell her to wear a black bra? If so, that would be equivalent to my girls wearing white bras. There are no “nude” bras for woman of color.

And, I don’t often buy pantyhose these days, but when I did there were plenty of “nude” shades to choose from. So many in fact, that I would get confused. Still, I would always manage to find shades to match my tanned summer skin, as well as my pale winter look, without a problem. And another thing I noticed, but it never struck me in this way before, is in the hair care aisle. There are so many hair products for white women in every product imaginable, that it takes me forever to pick out what I need. I can find my hair care products everywhere too. This is not true for ethnic hair care products. If you even are able to find them in a store, the section is very small and limited. Ironically, I have learned over the years from black friends I have had, that their hair is more fragile and takes more care to maintain and keep healthy. So where are their hair products hiding?

Remember when Crayola had a “Flesh” colored crayon? I never cared for the shade, but as a kid I used it to color all the people in my coloring books. I read that back in the 60’s, Crayola changed the name to “Peach,” when it was challenged during the Civil Rights Movement. And then, thirty years later, Crayola created a set of eight crayons to cover “all” skin tones . . . only problem is, it doesn’t. In fact I don’t anyone’s skin that matches most of those colors. But, on a positive note, at least Crayola recognizes everyone isn’t “Peach,” unlike the band aid, fashion and cosmetic industries.

 
Picture Credit: Wikipedia

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Hunt for Boots . . .

 

Every couple of months we use the excuse of going to the mall to make a family day out of it. We shop till we drop and then go have dinner. Saturday was one of those days. Both of my girls needed new boots for winter. I thought it would be a good idea to get out early in the season so they would have a nice selection in their size. My older daughter has a small foot, so they don’t order too many shoes in her size. My younger daughter has a popular size foot and that size tends to sell out fast. I thought I came up with the perfect strategy to shop for boots before the rest of the world figured out winter was around the corner. We all have a job on this mission. My daughters pick out and try on the boots. I offer some petite criticisms on the boots and the situation. My husband carries the boots.

First stop is at JCPenney, where we have had luck before. My younger daughter finds two pair she likes and wants to try on. I take them up to the clerk. Problem. There is only ONE clerk in the whole department who is trying to get several customers shoes while tending to the cash register. We put the boots down and decide to look elsewhere and/or return later. Off we go to Steve Madden to check out their boots. Both my daughters find a pair they like after four or five sales clerks ask us if we need help. No shortage of help here! As soon as they find boots a clerk is right there to go get them each a pair. My younger daughter is lucky, they have her selection in her size in stock. My older daughter is not as lucky. They do have her size, BUT it’s the display pair which we can clearly see is scuffed up and scratched. She doesn’t want to pay $200 for damaged boots and I would kill her if she did. The salesperson says it’s a popular style and it’s flying off the shelves. She wants to give her 10% off the display pair to make the sale. My daughter says no, it’s not worth it. So the clerk comes up with a plan B. They will call other stores and see if one of them has the boots in stock and then they can mail them to the house. Fine. I mention to the clerk we do not want a display pair from another store. They call around and finally find a store that has them. My daughter hears the salesperson say are they the “display pair?” because the customer has a problem with our display pair being scuffed. Now my daughter is annoyed that they are making her sound crazy and also because I told the salesperson we don’t want a display pair from another store. After twenty minutes the transaction is complete and the boots should be here in a few days, hopefully undamaged.

Now we return to JCPenney, and it seems they have a second clerk on the job in the shoe department. We find the boots my daughter liked and ask for them in her size. The short, black pair fits fine, the tall gray pair seems impossible to get on and the zipper sticks. I talk her out of getting the gray pair. It takes her long enough to get ready for work without spending an extra 20 minutes trying to put on these boots. Besides, I have a feeling the zipper will break in a week’s time, so we leave with the one pair. We will return in a couple of weeks or so and try again. But, seriously, it shouldn’t be so hard to get boots in September!

To complete this “boot” mission, we end up at The Cheesecake Factory, where we all enjoy a nice dinner and some family banter. Then we order a couple of slices of cheesecake to go. Now we are all satisfied.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reconnecting With A Friend . . .

A gift from a friend
 
 

I have been talking to people on the internet from the moment my computer was up and running with AOL back in 1999. So a few days ago, when I was messaged on Facebook out of the blue by someone asking if I was the person they chatted with over 13 years ago, my mind drew a blank. She told me her name and where she used to live and said we had lost touch after 911, but it wasn’t ringing any bells for me. I wrote and asked for more specifics, but she probably felt she had the wrong person and didn‘t reply. I trusted her memory more than mine, so I started to think back. I was getting a vague memory of a young mother, in her twenties, with a son. She was very sweet and seemed to be struggling with something. She needed someone to talk to. Not everyone has someone to talk to. I replied once again asking if she was a young mother with a son. Still no answer. She must have thought she had the wrong person. I wasn’t 100% sure either, but something told me she was right about it being me.

As fate would have it, my brother came over yesterday and a memory crossed his mind which was totally unrelated. It was also something that happened online years ago and I went to get my notebook where I had jotted notes on this incident. On the page next to those notes were the woman’s name, address and phone number! That was all I needed to confirm we had known each other years ago.

I soon recalled how I chatted almost every morning with this young woman. It was hard for her to open up. Then I remembered a gift I had gotten in the mail long ago. It was a small basket with note stationery. I have kept this gift in my kitchen all these years. I even had a few pieces of the stationery left. I took a picture of it and sent one last reply with the photo. I asked if she was the one who had sent me this gift and told her how I still had it.

It was then that I received a reply. She said that she did send it to me all those years ago. She told me I had sent her a Christmas ornament, with a friendship inscription, that she has been hanging on her tree every year. She said the reason she wanted to contact me was to thank me for being so sweet to her when she was going through a hard time and say hello. Her son has grown up and she has moved, but she has often thought about me all these years. We caught up briefly on what has happened during these 13 years and then she said she never forgot my kindness. And with that, we wrapped up our brief conversation.

We may talk again, we may not, but I was very glad to hear from her and to know that she is happy now. You never know what a few minutes of your time and a few kind words can do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Domestic Abuse: It's All In the Family



Ray Rice is making headlines for abusing his wife in an elevator back in February and being released from the Ravens. I have to wonder what took so long? Is it really because the owner and team didn’t see the entire video? Is it all about damage control and disassociation from the scandal? Maybe something good will come out of this by shining a big spotlight on the epidemic of domestic abuse. It may even save some lives if it causes other women seek help before it’s too late. But it makes me wonder when did it become “acceptable” for men to hit women?

This situation brings to mind a story I have heard over and over again in my own family. My maternal grandfather was an abusive man. He came over from Sicily in the early 1900’s with no money. He brought his wife and children here for a better life. He also brought with him the accepted “right” that men in his culture had to beat their wives and children. I often heard my mother and her siblings tell stories of how their mother was beaten for basically no reason because she was a “saint.” My grandfather would go out gambling and drinking at night. My grandmother would worry and sit at the window waiting for him to come home. When he found her sitting at the window, he would accuse her of waiting for another man. Then he would fly into a drunken rage and beat her for this imagined offense. My grandmother was pregnant fourteen times, but only had seven children. It’s been said she was beaten while pregnant and lost seven babies. In those days there were no shelters and divorce wasn’t an option. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to grow up in a household with that kind of abuse and chaos.

The fact is that my grandfather also beat one of his sons. My uncle worked in a bakery to earn a little money to help support the family. He was very young at the time (maybe around 8 years old). He had to be at the bakery at four in the morning and help stack bags of flour. Often he would fall asleep at the bakery, from sheer exhaustion, after doing his job. He missed school once too many times. The truant officer went to see my grandfather about the problem, causing him to miss work. My grandfather was very angry and beat my uncle, kicking him with his heavy work boots. The other children were too afraid to come to the defense of their mother or brother. My grandmother often prayed aloud for ten years of peace after her husband’s death. She died almost ten years to the day after my grandfather died.

When my mother married my father, a marriage arranged by her mother, she told her mother if he ever touched her in an abusive way the marriage would be over. My father also came from Sicily with his culture and beliefs ingrained in him. One day, during an argument early in their marriage, my father raised his hand at my mother. Before he could lay a finger on her, my mother took off and went straight to her mother to tell her what happened. My grandmother stepped in and talked to my father. Whatever she told him, nothing like that ever happened again.

As for my grandfather’s legacy of abuse, none of his sons were abusive, as far as I know. None of his daughters married abusive men. The cycle of abuse ended with my grandfather. Thank God.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Plagiarism: An Ethical Dilemma



Years ago, when I was taking graduate French classes, there was a student in my class, a young French teacher, who was caught by one of our professors for plagiarizing his paper. The professor had called him up after class and was visibly angry. I couldn’t hear the verbal exchange, but word soon spread as to what it was all about. Plagiarism is very serious ethical charge against a student at a university and it places the professor in a very uncomfortable position. I distinctly recall that this professor made a point of emphasizing that plagiarism would not be tolerated and it was also boldly stated in the syllabus she handed out the first day of class. It’s no wonder she was angry.

The student’s case was still pending when I met up with him again the following semester, in another French class, with a different professor. We were assigned papers once again and also had to present them orally in class. I couldn’t help but be curious if he had learned his lesson or had once again plagiarized someone else's work. Who would be so arrogant to even think of trying it again and jeopardizing their education and job? On a whim I used one of the tools that is designed to find plagiarized work online. Within a few minutes I had found that he had taken an article and claimed it as his own. The article was several pages long and fairly dated, so it wouldn’t readily appear on the top of a Google search. However, I searched for the specific words that he had read in class and was astonished to find a paper that was identical to his. He hadn’t just taken a few paragraphs or ideas, he had taken the whole paper in it’s entirety, word for word. The only things he changed were the name of the author and the date. There I sat, in front of the computer, overwhelmed by a moral and ethical dilemma. I wished I had never done the search because now it placed me in a bind and I was torn about what to do. I knew what he did was wrong, but he needed this degree to continue teaching. I also knew that a second blatant act of plagiarism, with the first still pending, would certainly be cause for expulsion from graduate school and the French Master’s Program.

I agonized over what to do for a while. I didn’t know where to go for advice. Then I thought about Googling “What to do if you discover a student is plagiarizing.” That search turned up a professor’s blog on plagiarism, and he had included his email address for readers. I decided to write to him about my dilemma in detail and ask his advice. I needed an objective opinion from someone who understood all the ramifications any action on my part would have and, at the same time I knew I didn‘t have to take the advice if it didn‘t feel right about it. I received a compassionate reply to my email not long after. He said it was evident that I was struggling with this issue and explained to me how plagiarism affects education and how serious a violation it was etc. He advised me not to get personally involved as the “whistle blower.” Instead, he suggested that I create an anonymous account in order to email the professor the link to the plagiarized work and leave the rest up to him. In the end, after some careful consideration, that is what I decided to do.

I still feel bad about exposing this student’s academic crime and the consequences that likely followed. At the time I felt that he had more than likely been using other people’s work to get through college and that these two incidents were probably not the only times he had done so. Sometimes doing the right thing for the right reasons doesn’t always make you feel good. However, thinking back on it, I feel it was the only thing I could do.

 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Catholic Church Opposes Ice Bucket Challenge . . .


 

The Catholic Church is one of, if not my biggest, pet peeve. This time I have a new reason to be flipping my lid. For maybe the first time in a very long time, ALS is getting a lot of attention and significant donations (42 million) are being made to fund research and medication. So what does the Catholic Church do, specifically the Archdiocese of Cincinnati? They come out against the Ice Bucket Challenge, which the biggest cause for hope and life that people afflicted with ALS have had in our lifetime. Only 30,000 people suffer from this disease in this country. That means it is not profitable for pharmaceutical companies or researchers to find cures or drugs for this small population. Without help, these thirty thousand people will deteriorate physically until they are in a vegetative state and die. No hope, no cure, no nothing . . . until now. But the church wants to put an end to this.

You may want to know why the Church would take such a stand? It’s urging all members of the church and telling principals of Catholic schools to stop students from taking the challenge. It seems part of the research being done for this disease uses embryonic stem cells and that goes against church doctrine. It’s not moral according to the Church. The ALS Association isn’t considered pro-life because of the type of research they fund. But the research they are doing is for the purpose of saving existing lives and ending suffering. They are trying to save the lives of mothers, fathers, young men and women that are their sons and daughters. ALS is a fatal disease that causes years of suffering. How is trying to end that disease, by whatever scientific means possible, not pro-life? How long will it take for other dioceses to jump on board and try to put an end to the hope all these people and their families have had for a brief few days? It’s unconscionable plain and simple.

ALS patients need a cure and these donations may well bring about one or at least get them closer to one. The Catholic Church has too much say over what we do or don’t do. They want to tell us what movies we can watch; whether or not we can use birth control; how much money we should put in the collection plate; who to vote for; and now what charity or causes we can donate our money to! Meanwhile, they have their own set of problems that they need to focus on. Priests are still abusing children. Victims of prior abuse are still suffering the effects of that abuse. They have a long history of immorality within the church and plenty of documents that they have hidden away or destroyed. How about they turn their attention internally and leave the daily living of our lives to us. We were given free will and a conscience to guide our actions and that is exactly what we should all do. I don’t think the Church, with it’s long history of immorality, should be counseling anyone about anything.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Mother's Worry Is Black and White

 
Amadou Diallo Died February, 1999 

Last night I woke myself up, tossing and turning, and suddenly found tears streaming down my face. The picture of Michael Brown, the teenager killed in Ferguson, flashed in my mind. Unarmed and killed with his hands in the air by the very police who swore to protect the citizens of that city. He was going to start college the next day. Then more tears. I’ve been reading a lot about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri and it’s affected me deeply. I think back to Trayvon Martin, who was hunted down in Florida by vigilante, George Zimmerman, after coming back home with snacks he bought. He was walking through his own apartment complex, but he looked suspicious because he was wearing a hoodie in the rain. I recently read about John Crawford, the 22 year old black man who was shot and killed by police in a Walmart in Dayton, Ohio, for holding a toy gun. He was on the phone with the mother of his two children at the time. She heard the shots and his cries. And then there is Eric Garner, the man who was placed in a chokehold in Staten Island and died moments later. His crime? He wasn’t doing anything when the police went up to him. He did have a rap sheet and pending cases for selling illegal cigarettes. Illegal cigarettes have been sold on the streets of New York since I was a kid. My mother would buy a six month supply when the truck came up our block. It’s nothing new. Garner was not armed. He weighed over 300 pounds. He had asthma. Police say he resisted arrest. How much resisting could he do against four officers? Maybe he was resisting arrest or maybe he was resisting harassment. How far could this man have gone if they left him alone while they found a less forceful and legal way to arrest him? He even said, “I can’t breathe,“ six times. It fell on deaf ears. Now this man, the father of six children, is dead, killed by an officer with a record of falsely arresting and abusing people.

All this was swirling around in my mind. It wasn’t because I can relate to the black experience. I don’t know what it is like to be black in America. I only know what I have read and heard of the injustice and inequality, of the racism and hatred that still exists today. I never quite understood that black men, sons and fathers, could be shot and killed in cold blood, by police officers, for doing nothing. The first time I can remember being stricken by a similar story was back in 1999. A 23 year old immigrant from Guinea, named Amadou Diallo, was shot outside his apartment in the Bronx. He was mistaken for a rapist in the area at the time. Four police officers were involved. A frightened Diallo reached for his wallet to show them his identity and, as he did, forty-one shots were fired, 19 of them hitting the unarmed young man. His parents came to claim the body. The officers were acquitted. I was stunned by the outcome and never forgot it.

And, in between 1999 and now I learned that this is the “way” it is. Black mothers and all mothers who have black sons, have to worry about their sons being murdered for doing nothing at all. In America. They can be gunned down for wearing a hoodie, for reaching for a wallet, for carrying a toy gun, for selling illegal cigarettes . . . for just about anything. They can even be shot with their hands in the air. And their grieving mothers cannot even be sure of getting justice for their sons because they were killed by police officers who were “doing their jobs” to uphold the law and protect citizens. How do you live with that?

While I was tossing and turning and trying to go back to sleep, my mind wouldn’t let me. I kept thinking of all the mothers who lost their beloved sons. I thought of their lifetime of worrying that something like this could happen . . .and then it does. I understand the worry of a mother. I have two girls I worry about all the time. I worry when they are out driving, when they are sick, if they have to be in a parking lot late at night. As mothers, we all worry about our kids. When you have a child you will worry about them from the moment of conception to the last breath you take. You want the best for them. You want them to be healthy and happy in life. It’s unconditional love in it’s purest form. I worry about everything, but I never felt the need to worry that my girls would be shot and killed by the police for doing nothing. I can’t even begin to imagine having that kind of worry. No mother should have that kind of worry. My heart goes out to all the mothers, those who have lost their sons and those who have to worry it can happen to their sons, just because of the color of their skin. I pray for justice, I pray for peace, I pray for the America that should be, the one where everyone is respected and treated equally as stated in our Constitution. I pray for every mother who has a black son, that she will someday have one less thing to worry about.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Turning Sixty . . .

 
 

In less than a week I will be turning 60 years old. It doesn’t seem to bother me. “It’s just a number. You’re as old as you feel. Sixty is the new 40!,” are the wise adages we have created to help us feel better about getting older. But I don’t feel the need to soften the blow. At 50, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t expect to hit sixty. So, you better believe I am damn well happy about being able to celebrate this birthday, sharing it with my family and having a nice piece of cake.

Sixty years can feel like a long time or as though they went by in the blink of an eye, depending who you talk to. For me, the years went by pretty fast, even though I am living a fairly boring life. There was very little excitement to speak of, just the normal, every day challenges to deal with. I can probably sum up my whole life as: I was born, graduated college, married, raised two daughters, and you can fill in the blah, blah, blahs yourself. I lived the life I envisioned, the life I wanted to live. I can’t complain. I have been very blessed. I do the things I want to do, the things that make me happy. I don’t care what most people think of me, just those I am closest to. I have learned from my own experiences and those of others. I have given and taken advice. I have known the heartache and grief of loss. I have known the joy of love and happiness. I have acquired wisdom. It’s been a good life and I don’t dread turning 60 for one minute.

However, I can’t speak for all my body parts. Some of them are having a bit of a hard time dealing with the changes of this past decade. My eyeglasses need to be “tweaked” a little more often than they used to. Making the font larger on the computer seems to help them feel they as though they are as sharp as ever. The past year, my left ankle gets swollen every day. It needs a little pampering and elevation. I don’t want my right ankle to feel bad because I am favoring the left, so I put both my feet up during the day to keep them happy. My muscles, if you can call them that, ache with every little thing I attempt to do. If I carry a little shopping home from the store, my arms ache. If I bend to do a little cleaning, then my back aches. If I walk around the park for exercise, then my legs ache. It seems like my muscles have taken early retirement and forgot to send me a memo. My stomach, which has been fine digesting whatever I liked in the past, has decided to become much more finicky. Everything seems to upset it. For example, though I have been a meat eater all my life, but beef and pork have become difficult for me to digest. My stomach prefers chicken and fish now. Salads are great, except my stomach doesn’t like any kind of vinaigrette dressing and immediately acts up. Too much of anything upsets it: too much junk food, too much candy, too much fiber, too much fruit . . . it doesn’t matter if the items are good or bad for me, my stomach will only tolerate so much of it. Ironically however, that hasn’t stopped me from gaining weight or having high cholesterol. Hearing and memory diminish greatly with age. This is really difficult to adjust to because most of us need to remember the things we hear, that is, if we hear them in the first place. When my husband tells me something and then has to repeat it, I don’t know if I forgot what he said or didn’t hear it in the first place. To save face, I tell him he never said it. Sometimes I say something and repeat it five minutes later because I forgot I said it. It’s not always something that bears repeating either. Thank God my husband has the patience of a saint. I still have all my teeth, but some of them have become very sensitive to cold things. No one has tampered with these teeth that I have had all my life. The fillings are all the original ones I got as a kid. So why are my teeth causing me problems now? Maybe they don’t want to be left out? It could be peer pressure from the other body parts or maybe they just want some attention? Who knows? As for the rest of the body parts, they still work pretty well for now. I’ll have to reassess my situation a year from now and see if I have any more setbacks.

Last week I went to the salon to get my hair cut and colored. My hair is vain and still wants to look 40. While I was there, an older woman started chatting with me and asking me all kinds of questions. I am an open book so I volunteered the answers and then some. She asked me about my family and I told her I was 29 when I got married and have been married 31 years with had two daughters. Then we got to talking about my parents and how they were first cousins and had an arranged marriage. She said, “but they loved each other right?” I immediately answered with a drawn out and emphatic, “No.” To which she burst out laughing at my honesty. Then she asks, “How old are you?” I answer, “Sixty.” She almost falls out of her chair with disbelief and tells me it can’t be. I tell her I just told you I was 29 when I married and I am married 31 years, the numbers don’t lie. Then she tells me never to tell anyone my age because I look 40 and don’t have a wrinkle on my face. I think to myself, looks can be deceiving, as my other body parts would attest to. As I leave, she wants to know when I am coming in for my next appointment so she can meet me there and chat some more.

The next thing on my agenda is looking into taking a college class on creative writing, maybe even this fall. I love to write, but my imagination needs to be resuscitated, if it isn’t totally dead. We’ll see what happens with that adventure. If it doesn’t work out, I always have blogging.

 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Pope Francis Says 2% of Priests are Pedophiles . . .

. . . that translates to about 8,000 pedophiles, out of 400,000 Catholic priests worldwide or 1 out of 50, if we are to believe this estimate. Are we supposed to be happy that a “low” number is being reported, or horrified at how many are still out there abusing children? The Pope even says that some of those include cardinals and bishops. And if they admit to 2% are there likely to be even more? According to one article, “At a United Nations hearing this year, the Vatican said it had defrocked 848 priests over the last decade and ordered 2,572 to “live a life of prayer and penance” because of abuse allegations.” Those numbers add up to 3,420 priests. I am not happy about the fact that over twenty-five hundred were sent to “pray” or that 848 were merely defrocked, with no mention of real punishment for their heinous crimes. And, it leaves me wondering about the rest of the alleged 2%? Where are the 4,580 other priests included in this estimate? Are they still out there abusing children? This scandal erupted over ten years ago and yet the problem continues and more children are being abused on a daily basis by the holy men they are taught to love, trust and respect.

The Catholic Church needed someone to “handle” this scandal and convince us they are doing something about it. So, for the first time in history, they made Pope Paul step down and elected Pope Francis. Pope Francis says a lot of the right things, the things people want to hear. He vows to find a solution to this serious problem. He is popular, but can we believe what he says? Only time will tell. The Vatican is already doing damage control over statements made by Pope Francis in his interview quantifying the number of abusers. In the meantime, more and more children are suffering sexual abuse at the hands of priests and more “secrets” are still being revealed about the church’s cover up.

I came across a recent article about a pedophile priest, Michael Wempe. Wempe was sent away for six months of treatment at a center for pedophile priests back in 1987. When he was released to return to his diocese, he made out a list of concerns. He requested that all his files from the treatment center be destroyed. But the Church didn’t destroy his records. The Church doesn’t destroy records. The Church, it seems, has two sets of records, one set of files about things no one cares about and the other concerning secret matters of a sensitive nature. The whole story can be read here:
Secret Files of Church. So why should we believe anything the Church or it’s officials have to say now? If they were interested in “coming clean” and doing the right thing, shouldn’t all those records be open? Or, if not all of them, certainly the ones protecting pedophiles? Shouldn’t the Church be in the business of protecting its innocent children instead? It’s been over 10 years and counting since the scandal broke out and they are still looking for a solution?

I would love to believe Pope Francis and take him at his word. Until I actually see some actual progress towards a solution I will remain skeptical. Centuries of systematic lies and cover ups don’t just end overnight. They don’t just end with one man. I wish Pope Francis the best of luck and I will even pray for him.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sister Wives, A Polygamist Family Reality Show

Wives: Bottem Meri & Robyn, Top: Janelle & Christine

First of all let me say that I would not normally be watching this show under any circumstances, but my older daughter is infatuated with this lifestyle and I watch it with her. That’s the kind of mom I am.

The show is about Kody and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robin; and 17 or so kids. He believes in plural marriage and so do the wives. I’m not sure the first wife, Meri, knew there would be more wives down the road, but now they are one, big happy family . . .or not. They moved from Utah to Las Vegas because they wanted to get four homes all together on a cul-de-sac. Each wife must have her own home and this arrangement saves Kody a lot of leg work, as he has to spend time with each wife and her children. Did I mention I can’t stand Kody? Although the wives seem to vie for his attention, I think secretly they are more than happy to share him and only see him once or twice a week. The wives all claim they are happy, but if you watch the show you can see that they are not for one reason or another. Let’s face it, a man has all to do to keep one wife and 2.5 children happy, let alone 4 wives and 17 children. Kody is not all that. In all fairness, as much as the show grates on my nerves, there are plenty of fans who love it and I will have to research why. So now to the current drama . . .

Meri is the first wife and was only able to have one child, a girl, who has now gone to college. She wanted another child, but that would require a surrogate and Kody is against doing things the unnatural way. Therefore, with her empty nest, all that is left for her to do is help the other wives. Robyn is the last wife and was married before, so she comes with three children in tow. As far as I know she has had another baby boy with Kody, making it four. Robyn has started an online business “My Sister Wife’s Closet.” They sell silver jewelry to women 18 to 50, so that leaves me out. Meri agreed to help her with the business. Recently, Meri had other ideas. Instead of pursuing Robyn’s dream of the business, she wants to go back to college and pursue her own dream. This didn’t sit well with Robyn, who was counting on Meri to be her personal business slave. After all, if Meri goes to college she might meet other people, develop other interests and go off and do other things and where will that leave Robyn and her “Closet?” Robyn is all about “me, me, me.” Meanwhile, while Robyn is stressing out about being overwhelmed with her business and resenting Meri’s need to pursue her own dream, she wants to have another baby. Yes, Robyn is overwhelmed and yet wants to have another baby! We suspect she is already pregnant and it hasn’t been announced on the show yet. Remember that last season Meri spent much of her storyline trying to convince Kody to let her have another baby, but that was nixed and she had all the time in the world to raise one. So what I gather is that Robyn was planning to dump more of the business responsibilities on Meri while she is off having her baby. Nice.

This week Meri broke the news to Robyn that she is going back to college, but will continue to help her with her business as always. Robyn seems skeptical or at least thinks she cannot rely on Meri 100%, as she is now doing. God forbid Meri has her own life. I decided to check out the website for My Sister Wife’s Closet. Like many other people watching the show, you can’t get on the website when the show is on because it is being bombarded with hits it can’t handle. I look at some of the customer reviews on their facebook page. One woman complains that her piece of jewelry came tarnished and when she called to complain she was told to go buy silver polish and polish it up. Another woman ordered a Christmas ornament for a friend that didn’t come on time. Meri, whose job is customer service and to make sure people receive quality jewelry, tells her she can always use it next Christmas. Some people complain the merchandise is overpriced. Obsessed fans don’t seem to care about quality, they just want something from the “Closet.”

The whole show revolves around Kody, who always meeting with all his four wives to discuss what direction to take the family in; or individually if they have an issue if their own they need to talk t him about. Maybe if Kody was more likable I could stand to watch it. I can see why plural marriage would fascinate my daughter. We are probably never going to know a family like this personally. That’s probably for the best. Instead of trying to borrow a cup of sugar, they would probably need a 5 pound bag! It’s not the worst reality show out there and it’s been on for 5 seasons so people are watching. I just don’t know why.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

There Was a Painter and an Electrician . . .

Sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s not. Many of you have been following along with me on this journey of moving to the new house. There have been some ups and downs and lots of work along the way and, in July, we’ll be living here one year already. Hard to believe. Time flies . . . yada yada, yada.

Last September, for the entire month of September, we had the whole house painted by Jimmy/Eldin (for Murphy Brown fans). It was quite expensive, but it was a big job . . . 6.5 rooms and hallway with ceilings and closets. You may recall how complimentary I was of Jimmy’s work, how neat he was and how he paid attention to detail. You may also remember how much I appreciated my electrician/handyman, Frank, who did a lot of electrical work and anything I asked of him, as long as he knew how. While Jimmy was here working, I offered him drinks and meals, mostly which he declined. When Jimmy left we had paid him in full, over $5,000 (labor & materials) and we gave him a $400 bonus, which amounted to an extra day’s pay. We felt he earned it and he was very grateful. As he left he said if we had a problem with anything we should call him and he would take care of it. Of course I took him at his word, but didn’t expect to run into any issues. As the cold weather moved in, the caulking he used to seal cracks in the molding stretched and cracked. In the basement one of the walls developed a straight-line crack about 18 inches long. Not too noticeable, but I wanted it fixed. I texted Jimmy and he called in February to see what I needed. I explained what had happened and he said he would come over and take a look. While here he made a few notes and I also added a couple of other jobs I wanted done. He said he was busy at the time, but promised he wouldn’t forget about us and left. At the end of April I texted Jimmy to see if he had an idea when he might be coming to do these few jobs. No answer. I called and left a message. No answer. I emailed him. No answer. Needless to say I was upset, more hurt than angry really. He could have at least texted to say he was busy and hadn’t forgotten about me. But no, he couldn’t even spare the time to do that.

Now it’s June. We had a heavy downpour of rain and it was obvious the gutters needed cleaning. Frank had told me he would take care of them whenever I needed him to. So yesterday I texted Frank and asked him if he could call when he had a minute. He called me two minutes later. I told him the gutters needed cleaning and an outlet needed to be changed, and I also had a couple of other jobs if he could do them for me. He said he would come the next day and take a look. He showed up today two hours early. It was good to see him. We caught up quickly on our families and then I told him about the gutters, the gfi outlet, and all the jobs I had told Jimmy about. Frank took notes and said he could come next week on Monday and Tuesday. He apologized for the delay, but said they were having a big graduation party for his son on Saturday. I told him it wasn’t a problem, none of it was an emergency and he could even come evenings during the week so he could keep his weekends free. That Frank is such a nice guy and so dependable.

Meanwhile, I sent Jimmy an email back at the end of April so he doesn’t have to worry about coming back here.

Hi Jimmy,

Happy Easter. I hope things are going well for you.

I have to write this note because it's the only way I can communicate with you. I am very disappointed to say the least. I don't understand why you haven't returned my calls or texts over the past 3 weeks. When you came in February to check on the couple of things I had problems with, you said don't worry I won't forget about you guys. That was over 2 months ago. Maybe you haven't forgotten us, but what I think is worse than forgetting is not responding to a simple text message. I just wanted to touch base with you and get an idea when you could come. I thought we left off on good terms when you finished the job here. You said if there were any problems we should call. I waited to call until after the holidays because you said it was typically your slow period. Luckily you have been working steadily, and I'm happy for you. But I would have liked these minor things here fixed at some point. I'm getting the feeling it's not going to happen and it's upsetting to me, especially since I knew you to be a person who always tries to do the right thing. I don't get it.

Anyway, I hope you have a productive year with your jobs, your antiquing furniture, and have made progress with your invention. I wish you the best.

Nina



 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Tupperware Party!



Yesterday morning my very nice neighbor, Gina, invited me to her Tupperware Party. When she told me it was last night at 7 PM I hesitated. I was think about my CT scan this morning and didn’t feel like going out. But I talked myself into it. It would be a good and fun distraction for me. I haven’t been to a girl’s night out in ages, and to a Tupperware party in over 30 years. Before I married the wife of my husband’s friend invited me to one at her house. Being I was in the midst of buying everything we would need, I over estimated the necessity of Tupperware. Therefore, as I listened to the sales pitch, everything sounded like a “must have, something you couldn’t live without” item. And when I put my order in I did so accordingly, buying up everything they were selling. I used a fraction of it regularly and the rest sat around for special occasions while the others spent a life sentence in my cabinet waiting for the right moment for a debut that never happened. When I moved I threw out almost every piece of Tupperware I owned except for a couple of favorite pieces that I love.

Promptly at 7 PM I went to ring my neighbor’s bell. She lives just two doors away and seemed surprised to see me. I told her it was a very long time since I had had a night out and it was a good excuse to give my husband some peace and quiet. It was a pretty small gathering of about 10 guests and two sales consultants. I’m sure you know how it all goes. We go around the table saying who we are, how we know Gina and what our favorite piece of Tupperware is. My favorite all time piece of Tupperware is the 4 cup plastic measuring cup (which is as big as a bowl) that comes with a cover. I use it to mix all my cake mixes and they easily pour them into pans and cupcake trays. It is a big time saver and a lot less messy for a klutz like me. Every time you say something that helps promote Tupperware you get a raffle ticket. But the sales lady took a liking to me and kept giving me tickets whether I earned them or not. My next door neighbor, the one between us, was also invited. Her name is “Ina,” and she looked like she didn’t even want to be there. Gina kept offering her wine, but Ina kept saying no. She didn’t try to engage in any conversation and as soon as the demonstration was over she walked out without even trying to buy anything. Oh well.  Now for a little commercial:


The Amazing Macaroni Maker!



Now, I know very little about Gina, the hostess, so when they announced the first game would be to write down what Gina would answer to various questions, how the heel would I know. He mother, sister, long term friend and coworkers were there. I think they had a leg up on me. However, despite my skeptical attitude, I ended up winning making logical guesses. For example when they asked her favorite color, I said “red” because as I looked around her kitchen for clues I saw the Solo cups were red. When they asked her favorite music, I picked country because we are around the same age. When she said “Disco” I piped up, what about country? To which she said yes she likes country music a lot, I gave myself a point for that.

I interacted in all the games, was my nice, witty self, and made everyone laugh. They started a conversation about high schools they went to, I was polite and didn’t chime it right away. Then Gina asked are you around our age and did you go to Grover Cleveland H. S.? I said I’ll be 60 in August and yes I went there too. Then everyone was shocked to learn I was 60 and I just said I had good genes! This is why I don’t get why anyone would shave years off their real age and look like an old 55 year old instead of a young 60 year old . . . But that’s just me.

Then we get to the role playing. The sales lady is trying to compare working for Tupperware (yourself) as opposed to working for “Starbucks.” She needs two “volunteers to help her so she picks one woman she has a kitchen full of Tupperware and me. The woman is playing the role of the new Tupperware saleslady and I am playing the part of the Starbuck’s barista. The saleslady is holding some giant $100 bills to give us. She gets to work whatever days she wants and I am relegated to working weekends. She gets two hundred for every one hundred I earn. She gets twice the pay and earns vacation points. So the third time she offers me $100 I told her I have something for you too . . . My resignation letter. Everyone got a laugh out of that.

Comes to the end of the demonstration and she gives us all a penny and we have three choices: One we can put it in our pocket and she wishes us all good luck, two we can take it up with our order and she will deduct it OR three we can pick out a straw with a message attached to it that is either a prize OR a commitment for a Tupperware Party. She comes to me first, because she likes me. What do you want to do with your penny she asks? I say, “Well I’m not buying one of those straws because I can’t have a party. I don’t know enough people to invite.” She got serious for a second. I guess she didn’t like me any more but that was the honest truth. I have no one to invite and it would be a waste of everyone’s time.


 
The Chop n Prep

I jotted down some of my favorite items like the Chop & Prep, the macaroni cooker, the omelet maker, an ice cream scoop that warms up when you hold the handle, a nice wine corkscrew that has a an attachment that slips over the bottle for easy opening and I ended up ordering two. The macaroni cooker was very intriguing. It’s a long blue box that holds one pound of macaroni that cooks in the microwave and then has vents to drain out the water. That would save me time and clean up. So I asked the Tupperware expert a long side me about it and she said it might work but your microwave has to be large enough for it to go around. She didn’t think hers was and I had no clue if mine was. I ordered the Chop and Prep and omelet maker for starters. I figured I could get anything else from the saleslady in the future from her website.

Omelet Maker

When almost everyone was gone Gina asked me to stay with her mom, sister and friend and we had a lively conversation. Many of my topics came out of my pet peeves on noisy neighbors. No need to rehash any of that here.

If you get a chance go to a Tupperware Party! It was fun and you may want to have one of your own and get free gifts and discounts on more Tupperware.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Family Tree: Tracking Them Down

My mother, Jennie


My daughter has picked up where we left off digging up information, documents and pictures tracing our family tree. She even started a blog called, "Tracking Them Down," where she writes about some of her experiences. She has tried her hand at colorizing pictures too, starting with one of my mother that we all love (see above). It's a great hobby that she enjoys when she has the time to devote to it.

While she is working on documenting all her information on charts, she is also scanning every picture she can get and scanning them into the computer. She is noting names and dates and whatever else she feels is important. Eventually she plans to put them on on flashdrives and give them to her cousins. Then everyone will have a complete set preserved for their families.

This April marked the anniversary of my Uncle Tony's death. We were going to his daughter, Maria's, house for Easter dinner. We came up with the idea of making a collage of her father's old pictures to surprise her. My daughter had a few pictures in mind and she printed them. The collage came out pretty nice and Maria was very touched and appreciative to have gotten it. She looked at it for a long time and almost couldn't put it down.

Her father's Confirmation, Graduation, Graduation with his mother, Army
 

This weekend we were invited to Maria's for a Memorial Day barbeque. Seeing as how Mother's Day fell in May, I thought it would be nice to make another collage to go with the first one. This time I asked my daughter if she could find pictures of my grandmother, two aunts and my mother, the women who we all grew up with as children and the women my uncle Tony was closest to in his family. And here is what she came up with:
 
Our Grandmother, Sisters Mary, Vincenza, and Jennie (my mom)
 
 
When I handed her the package she knew immediately it was more pictures, but she wouldn't unwrap it right away. She spent a few minutes guessing which pictures we possible selcted. She wasn't sure if they were more recent pictures of us as children, or more old pictures of aunts and uncles. She was pretty close! She was once again surprised to see all her aunts and her favorite picture of grandma, who died a couple before she was born and after who she was named. I'm glad we came up with this idea because Mother's Day was in May and it was so appropriate to put all the "moms" together. Of course her own mom, my Aunt Mary, isn't in this frame, but one day the two collages will be tied together with the most important woman in my Uncle Tony's life and the next big event in his life" their wedding picture. The only thing that remains is to find an original picture to copy. You can see, in my uncles collage above, a small copy of that picture that will one day complete this set.
 
I'm very happy my daughter has a love for her family history and that we took the time, before she was born, to find out all we could. One day soon, my daughter and I are planning to make a large family tree wreath. I have been thinking of the best way to go about it and I need to get craft supplies.
 
I would encourage everyone who is interested in doing the same type of thing to start as soon as you can. Memories fade over time, the elders in the family pass away, and it gets harder to get the rich details that you don't want to lose for generations that follow.