Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wise Advice from a Wisenheimer

Without intention, I attempted to send the year out with a bang. I had an accident in my car today. Oh no, I didn’t mean I had a motor vehicle accident. I meant I had an unfortunate incident while driving in my car. I had a misunderstanding with my soft taco supreme that did not end well for my sweater. So my advice to all of you is to never, ever attempt to eat a soft taco supreme while driving. It is simply not a manageable situation and you will be quite embarrassed when you have to walk around the library and then the grocery store with sour cream, taco sauce and small bits of lettuce down the front of your shirt.

This taco altercation got me thinking about what other advice I might want to share with friends and family as we ease into the New Year. I always thought I should be an advice columnist. I am a wonderful listener, very empathetic, and usually able to offer sound, objective resolutions to people’s problems. Of course, when my own personal life unraveled like a cheap sweater this year, I realized I might not be as suited for this position as I thought, though I do still have the empathy thing going for me.
So here is Cindy’s advice for 2012. Like your Margaritas, take it with a grain of salt.

Take your keys out of your pocketbook and pay your bill BEFORE the manicure is done. If not, you are going to be cussing the whole way home about how you messed up your nails AGAIN before you even left the nail salon.
If you treat yourself to a Sonic Blast more than twice a week, you are going to gain weight. It doesn’t matter how many extra sit ups you do or walks you take, your jeans are going to get tighter.

Grandchildren are for spoiling.
When your kids get older and become financially independent and they want to spend money on you, let them.

Drinking Sleepytime tea does help you to fall asleep faster, but you are going to wake up an hour later to pee. It’s one of those Murphy’s Law kinda things.
Deciding to let the hair go gray is not a good idea. If you want to walk around with gray roots for two weeks to prove this theory, be my guest. But make it easy on yourself and just trust me on this one.

You can remain a Deadhead no matter how old you get.
The Bedhead look is never attractive and should be avoided, even if it is just to run to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee.

Once you reach our age, your butt is going to look fat in any pair of jeans you wear. Stop putting people on the spot by asking them about it.
Scanning the radio channels and finding a Beatles song will ALWAYS bring a smile to your face. There is a memory attached to every one of them. Savor the moment.

Men will always look at younger women and think it’s a good idea at the moment. Eventually they will come to their senses and give themselves a face palm. Allow them their moment.
Women will ALWAYS think a younger man will make them feel younger, will satisfy them sexually and will be great eye candy to show off to their friends. They are right.

True love never runs smooth.
True friends will always smooth out the rough spots in your life.

The truth will set you free.
Happy New year to all those near and dear to me.  I wish you love, health and happiness in 2012; and for me, I wish I win the lottery.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Too Old for Christmas?

It’s over and I’m glad. I am not typically a bah humbug kinda girl, but let’s face it, this year sucked and the holidays are simply a culmination of the crap. I now need to survive New Year’s Eve and then I can be done with it. Of course NYE is a bit easier to handle because overindulgence in alcohol is expected, not just tolerated. Out with the old and in with the new – yes, baby, I am ready for that.

I wonder if I am just getting too old for Christmas.  There were some definite signs that the holiday simply doesn’t pack the punch it used to for me. For example:
I didn’t get kissed underneath the mistletoe.

Jack Frost tried to nip at my nose so I tasered him.
Good golly Miss Molly, there wasn’t a damn thing that was holly or jolly.

There were no chestnuts – roasted or otherwise.
I never heard what she heard or saw what he saw. Who are those people anyway?

I didn’t rock around the Christmas tree, deck the halls or don any gay apparel.
I did, however, have a blue, blue Christmas…the result of a little too much ho, ho, ho.

But lest I sound too dramatic, the holiday wasn’t a total loss. In fact, when properly reprioritized the special moments rise to the top. My daughters, who have been my angels this past year, gave me the best presents ever. It was amazing how it all went down. They asked me what I wanted, I told them and that’s what they got me. What a great concept.
A week before Christmas, we did a mother/daughter/grandson day complete with lunch, shopping and sibling bickering. While strolling through the mall, the girls decided it made more sense for them to get me my iPhone that day since we were right in front of the Verizon store. I panicked! I am not good at making major changes and I wasn’t “prepared”. They dragged me inside and instructed the salesperson to “just do it.” It was like ripping off the Band-Aid. I left there shaking, holding a new phone I didn’t know how to work and lamenting the loss of my saved texts, voice mails, ringtones and ringbacks. I was in shock, but the girls insisted I would get through it. I did hang up on a few friends, had no way of knowing who was calling by the ring and I sent a few texts to the wrong people…oops, that could be trouble. I think I may need a 12-step program.

My other gifts included a gift certificate for a mani/pedi, a new wallet just like my daughter’s and a certificate to Chief’s Wings and Firewater that will be redeemed during Clemson’s 2012 football season.  
Of course all the bahs and blahs went by the wayside on Christmas morning.  At 8am, I started the coffee, set out the cranberry muffins and fried two pounds of bacon – one pork and one turkey for all the health-conscious relatives. Nobody ate the turkey bacon, exclaiming it was Christmas and they were treating themselves to the good stuff.

And then the true purpose of the holiday sprang to life as my little guy woke up, rubbed his sleepy eyes, walked into the living room and spied what was under the tree. I’m not sure how Santa got all those items down the chimney – a Sit ‘n Spin, books and puzzles galore, building blocks, stuffed animals, DVDs and a big, old fire truck. Then there were the gifts from grandma, nana and poppa, and mimi and grandpa. Wyatt oohed and ahhed as he pulled tissue paper out of bags and stuck his head in to see what he could find. He was like Little Jack Horner sticking in his thumb and pulling out a plum. His smiles made all the bad stuff disappear in an instant.
So now it is onward and upward to face the new year. Mark my words, there’s gonna be some changes in these here parts. By next Christmas I plan to rock, roast, nip, hear, see, deck and don. And I am definitely getting kissed under the mistletoe. Now who knows the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Cup Runneth Over

I got to pee in a cup today. It is not typically how I enjoy starting my day, but my future employer wants to be sure they are not hiring a pill head or drunk. Those who know me also know that I am hard-pressed to even down an aspirin. It has to be a really bad headache, or those times when my sciatica acts up, before I dive into the Advil gels. Other than that, and my daily dose of Synthroid, there isn’t much going into this body.

But you do have to take pause about the state of our society. Drug testing is a fact of life. If you want a job, you pretty much have to be willing to submit. Though we should all enjoy basic human rights, if you refuse to submit it presents the appearance of guilt, and employers have every right to say “thanks but no thanks” to your job application. How did we get like this? And more importantly, who licked the freaking cherry off my lollipop?
The drinking age was 18 when I turned 18, how convenient. I still remember my first legal drink. Richie Appleyard, my friend Janet’s older brother, took me to the Bluebird Bar in West Islip. I don’t recall what it was I drank. I’m sure Richie, the older and wiser of the two of us, ordered appropriately for me. Richie died a few years later, apparently having dove into an empty swimming pool while under the influence of alcohol.

My only foray into alcoholic beverages prior to my 18th birthday was Boone’s Farm Apple Wine or Colt 45 drunk through a straw. I would take a few sips with friends, more succumbing to peer pressure than trying to get high. I was much too afraid of the wrath of mom to come home plastered. I did, however, make up for lost time after 18. My biggest accomplishment – downing 16 shots of tequila celebrating my college graduation. I was in bed for three days afterwards, eating toast and drinking chocolate milk.
My generation drank and smoked a little pot. We imbibed on the weekends after working hard all week. We kicked back at a local bar, sat around trading stories of our youth and our dreams for the future. The rowdiest we ever got was getting up to dance if the juke box played a particularly invigorating song. My personal favorite was Mack the Knife by Bobby Darrin. We were peace-loving hippies and we enjoyed the simple pleasures. And we didn’t hurt anybody. And more amazingly, if we got pulled over on the way home and the cop thought we shouldn’t be driving… he drove us home and told us not to do it again. And that’s the God’s honest truth.

So which of the generations that followed ruined it for the rest of us? Who decided they needed more, more, more of a kick? Who brought in the cocaine and, worse yet, the pharmaceuticals? Who decided Oxycotin and its derivatives were now the cool drug of choice?
Somebody is to blame for this more, more, more attitude. The technology has to be faster, the movies have to be more violent and the drugs need to produce a bigger and better high. Why? Was the beer and marijuana cocktail all that bad? Hell, I have friends old enough to collect social security who still find this combo more than enough.

Today I can’t go downtown and enjoy myself before assigning a designated driver. Even then, we have to be wary of public drunkeness citations.  Is my generation of senior citizens wearing tie-dyed clothing and carrying peace-symbol key chains really an issue? Do we really need to be subjected to three field sobriety tests by a Doogie Howser looking trooper looking to nail us? Do I really need to pee in a cup?
My parents raised me to work hard, never call in sick, give 100% to my job, respect my employer, follow the rules and participate in the retirement plan. Does an employer need to know more than that to size me up as a valued employee? Trust me, by Monday morning the hangover and the sweet scent of Mary Jane will be undetectable and I will be ready to report to work with a salute. So don’t ask me to pee in a cup. It insults my intelligence and my values.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What Came First - the Devil or the Egg?

This Thanksgiving, I didn’t cook a turkey. Well I did, but not until the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  It was not a conscious choice; it was a matter of menu logistics.

I was invited to spend Thanksgiving with my daughters and grandson. Holidays should be spent with family, and I was appreciative of this opportunity. The feast was being hosted by my ex-husband’s wife’s sister and brother-in-law. Sound complicated?  Welcome to my life.
It’s been a rough year.  So when I received the email invitation that included a note specifically welcoming me, I did what any sad woman with a broken heart does – I burst into tears.  After cleaning off the running makeup and downing a glass of wine, I read the rest of the email. There was a menu attached, along with suggestions for items that were still needed.  Deviled eggs. They needed deviled eggs.  I like deviled eggs.  I like experimenting with recipes.  So I signed on for deviled egg duty and commenced to searching for recipes.  My recipe search included two objectives – one was to find an outstanding recipe for the egg filling, the other was to find a recipe for making the perfect hard-boiled egg.  It was pretty easy to find both quickly.

I was planning to make two dozen eggs, which meant 48 halves. I calculated this would be enough for the 30 people who were coming for dinner.  Not everyone likes deviled eggs, and there would be so much other food.  I almost felt guilty about choosing such an easy assignment. This wasn’t going to be deviled eggs, this was going to be a piece of cake.
Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house it smelled like methane gas. There were 24 perfectly cooked eggs sitting in the sink in a bucket of cold water. They needed two hours of refrigeration, so by 9PM I would be ready to start peeling. I set up shop in front of the TV thinking it would be almost meditative, though really it would be vegetative.  I carefully chose the first egg from the bowl, gently cracked it against the side of the bowl and started to peel.  Hmmm, the shell was not sliding off the egg as the recipe said it would.  I applied a bit more pressure and a few little chips of shell came off the egg, along with a big chuck of egg white.  OK, so I got one bad egg out of the bunch.  I spent a good five minutes, which in egg peeling time is a lifetime, to remove all the shell from just that first egg. The egg looked like it had fallen onto an IED in Iraq. It was pitted and uneven and little tiny slivers of shell were embedded in it. I remained optimistic about the other 23 eggs. I was so wrong. For two hours I fought with those eggs. Pieces of shell covered the chair and the floor around me. When all was said and done, I had a bowl of 24 of the ugliest eggs I had ever seen. It looked like a science experiment gone awry. Thank God for deviled egg trays – they would hide the damage – at least until an unsuspecting diner slid one out of its cozy nook. I know I overheard a few, “What the heck…..s” as everyone slammed through the buffet line. I simply didn’t take credit for making the deviled eggs. I told everyone the awesome Mac n cheese was my creation.

Joviality aside, the holidays are not about the food or the presents or the parties or the decorations. They are about family and friends and the home front. Late last night I was winding down, checking email and Facebook before heading off to bed. As I logged onto FB, I looked to see who was online. I clicked on a name and typed “Hello”, not sure if I would receive a reply. And just that quickly, I became engaged in a conversation that literally transported me round the world.
Michael Roberts is a US Army helicopter fighter pilot currently serving a tour of duty in Iraq. I came to know Mike through my daughter and her circle of friends. It was 11:30PM here on the east coast, but for Mike, it was 7:30am and he was just starting his day. It felt strange communicating with someone who was on the other side of the world on the other side of the day. It was just some small talk, catching up. But it ended with my usual plea – “Stay safe and come home soon.”  I realized that Mike, along with thousands of other servicemen and women, had spent Thanksgiving in the Middle East, far from friends and family. And most of them will also be spending Christmas away as well. So when you get frustrated because the malls are crowded, holiday traffic is a nightmare, your in-laws are overstaying their welcome or you screwed up the deviled eggs, take a minute to think about just how good you have it. I bet those soldiers would trade places with you in a minute – and they would have loved those eggs.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin

A little Sly Stone memory there.
For those who have followed my blog from the beginning, you know that one of my favorite holidays is approaching.  Ah yes, turkey sandwich day is around the corner. Thanksgiving is a time to ponder all those good things we have in life. It is a time to give thanks for the big things, the little things and all the incidental things in between.  And so, I bring you my list of things in my life for which I am most thankful.
I am most thankful for my two beautiful, intelligent, awesome daughters. They are more precious to me than they will ever know.

I am thankful I was able to experience two forms of birth when I had my daughters – with epidural and without epidural. I am more thankful I didn’t have to make a decision between those two methods after my two girls were born.
I am thankful that at my age, I still have a full head of decent hair.  I am more thankful to John Frieda for inventing his foam color product so no one, including me, knows just how much gray is in that head of hair.

I am thankful to my two ex-husbands, each of whom will always hold a special place in my heart. I am more thankful to their wonderful wives who have always welcomed my daughters, and even me, into their lives.
I am thankful to have known love for another person that is so deep, so strong and so unconditional that it takes my breath away.

I am thankful that even though I am not right now where I want to be in my life, I do have a roof over my head and food on the table.
I am thankful for an abundant network of amazing friends who are always there for me. I am more thankful that even though my political views do not always match theirs, they still love and accept me (even though Mikey called me an old lady, LOL).

I am thankful for a little boy who has crawled so deeply into my heart that he can never escape.
I challenge you all to think about those things for which you are thankful, and I double-dog challenge you to find a way to show your appreciation of those things. We all need to know we are loved, needed and desired, so pay it forward.

Now, as you prepare for Black Friday and holiday shopping, please remember if you are going to make a purchase from Amazon, you can go through the portal on this page and help me out. Simply put anything in the search box to be brought to the Amazon site. Complete your order within 24 hours and bingo…my blog gets a payment. And some have asked if you have to do it each time you order – the answer is yes, sorry. Just bookmark this page and you will be good to go any time you want to order from Amazon. As always, thanks so much for your support. Happy turkey day to all and to all a good sandwich.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Do Overs

Up until the time I reached my teen years, much of my social life was based around street games. With 20 houses lining our half of Krause Street, there was never a shortage of kids to form two teams for any number of games. The most popular were kick ball, whiffle ball, stick ball and good old-fashioned baseball. The concept was the same for all of them – the batter hits the ball as hard and as fast as possible and then attempts to run the bases before being tagged out.

I know there is a statistic about the average household having 2.5 children, though I doubt that was true back in the late 50s and early 60s. Seemed like the households on our street had a minimum of three kids each, the average closer to five. The Hamilton’s had a dozen, but they lived on the other section of the street and did not join in our activities.
The other statistic of which I am unaware is the ratio of boys to girls in families back then.  I know our street had more boys than girls, and being a girl was a disadvantage – at least until we hit puberty. When teams were picked, the girls inevitably got picked last. We were considered the weaker sex when it came to athletics.  There was no Title IX yet, so girls and sports just didn’t appear to be an appropriate combination. The boys knew they had to let us play, otherwise the moms would be called in to have a talk with them. It was easier to just include the girls, placing them strategically in the least effective positions. I typically batted last in the order and played a shallow right field.

I preferred whiffle ball. I wasn’t afraid of being hit by the lightweight ball that sailed slowly toward me, usually in an underhand throw. I could typically make contact with a whiffle ball. Stick ball was my least favorite. I simply didn’t possess the coordination to hit that little pink Spaldeen with the thin broom handle we borrowed from someone’s garage.
If I put on a good showing on my first two pitches, showing some actual possibility toward full contact, the boys would encourage me to hit that last pitch with all I had in me. And as I would swing through the air, so hard I practically cork-screwed into the asphalt,  one of the boys would yell “do over”, thereby awarding me one more chance to get a respectable hit. Do overs were bittersweet – it was thrilling to get another shot at making it to first base, but you knew it was a sympathy call. Sometimes, if really downtrodden, you would decline the do over and let the next batter take your place.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could have do overs in real life? I often say, “I would love to go back in time, but only knowing what I know now”.  Hmm, what would I do differently?  Well for one, I would start saving money from birth. I would never pick up that first cigarette at age 16 just cause it looked cool. I would make exercise a focal point of my life. I would never miss one of my daughter’s school functions because it conflicted with work. I would choose doing something fun over cleaning the house. I would start living life as a turkey sandwich way sooner.

What I would not do over is anything that would impact my relationships with family or friends. Those were chosen correctly the first time around. Oh, but I would have bulked up and practiced more so I could play a kick ass game of stick ball.
Hey – super special thanks to all of you who placed your Amazon orders via the link on this page. I made $16.49 this month! Don’t forget, Christmas shopping is around the corner. Bookmark the page.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Is Texas for Exes?

We baby boomers redefined marriage – and divorce. I believe the statistic is that 50% of boomer first marriages end in divorce. That translates to a lot of exes, perhaps even too many for a state as large as Texas.

This week, two very dear girlfriends each received the news that their ex was getting remarried. Though I don’t think either of them were pining for the ex, or waiting on any type of reconciliation, it was still a jolt to the system. Emotions that we work diligently to keep tucked away and hidden suddenly rise to the surface, and we have to face them head on. Though we heard the music in the background for a long time, now the fat lady is actually singing.
I have two exes. I am a lucky lady. Both of my exes are wonderful men and I remain friends with each of them today. I am also friends with their wives; vibrant women who have always been kind to me and most of all, extremely kind and loving to my daughters. We are all able to gather together for monumental family events like graduations, weddings and the birth of our first grandchild. When you share years of marriage with someone, you can’t simply discard all the feelings and memories because the relationship comes to an end. Well, at least not without a lot of therapy.
I certainly have many friends who would gladly ship their exes to Texas if they could. Not everyone is able to remain friends after a divorce, and it is usually for good reasons. Things like physical or emotional abuse are unacceptable and cannot be forgiven. In those cases, it is best to cut all ties and be done with it. But for those of us who were lucky to have shared a marriage with someone wonderful, it is a blessing to be able to maintain a friendship and retain the happy memories.

So what do you do when you get the news that the wedding bells are getting ready to chime for your ex? Here are some handy tips from someone with lots of experience:

Deal with those initial feelings and get them out of your system. If you need a good cry, rent a DVD like Hope Floats or anything based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. Grab a half-gallon container of your favorite ice cream, along with a box of tissues, and have at it.
Plan a dinner party inviting all your divorced friends. The theme for the evening is “Reasons We Got Divorced in the First Place”. Rehash all the things about your ex that drove you to drink.  Start off with their annoying habits. This is sure to lead to uproarious laughter which will set the tone for a fun, though productive, night.

Reflect on all you have achieved in your personal life since the divorce, especially the rebound fling with the hottie who was ten years younger than you.

Start the diet and exercise program   again.
Call your ex, congratulate him, wish him the best and then ask when your invitation will arrive.

Send the happy couple a card or even a small gift – even though you weren’t invited.

Take those old records off the shelf, sit and listen to them by yourself. Mandatory listening includes Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, Helen Ready’s “I am Woman” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”.
Decide if you want to test the waters and find a soulmate with whom you can grow old. If the answer is “yes”, book a flight to Texas. I hear there are plenty of available singles living there.

Note: Special thanks to those who made a recent Amazon purchase via the link. I know at least one of you has a motorcycle. Remember, if you plan to buy something from Amazon, simply enter the site from the link at the top of the page. Doesn’t cost you anything, helps me keep the blog going. Love you all!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Depression is Depressing

Those of you who had been following my blog have been asking where I have been. Well, I’m back and with a bullet. I was on a trip to life’s amusement park, but there was nothing amusing about it. I spent the entire trip riding the roller coaster, and there were definitely more dips than ascensions. The person who designed this ride must have been on drugs. All I know is that I don’t want to ride it again.
The trick in taking an adventure to hell and back is to learn something from it. I learned a lot on this last one and I am happy to share the bullet points with you.

·         Don’t take things for granted. Every facet of your life, especially relationships, must continually be nurtured, fed and exercised.

·         The rug can be pulled out from under you at any time.  I have decided to stand on solid wood floors only from now on.

·         You discover your true friends when you are down.  Friends who you haven’t seen in years appear out of nowhere just when you need them (including California). They warm your heart and they thump you on the head when you need it.

·         Family is family. They will stand by you no matter what happens. Remember to always be there for them as well.

·         A broken heart will not kill you. It will come close, but it is a survivable illness.

·         Never underestimate the healing powers of sunshine. 

·         That whole theory about exercise and the release of endorphins is not a bunch of hogwash. It works.

·         Those disclaimers at the end of commercials for antidepressants contain very valuable information. Heed the warnings. Better yet, stay the heck away from them.

I will be updating the blog on a regular basis in between my paid writing gigs and spending my days with that very special man in my life, my grandson.

On a side note, as you know Google decided my blog was getting too popular and they apparently didn’t have the money to pay me that $300 I had accrued over six months time, so my Adsense account was inactivated. You can find a link to Amazon here on the blog. It’s pretty simple - if you are going to order something from Amazon, please enter their site from my page. It costs you nothing and it takes you directly to their site. If you buy something, I make a few pennies to pay for the blog.

Thanks again to all of you who held my hand as I walked through the valley of yuckiness. You guys are the best and I couldn’t have done it without you.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Top Five Career Choices in Today’s Market

There’s no doubt, these are challenging economic times. The stock market is taking more dips than the Coney Island roller coaster, and my retirement account is taking the ride along with it. I feel like I am in the dreaded last car, ready to fly off the back of the ride at any moment.

Making a living as a combination freelancer/granny nanny also comes with its challenges, though the pros are still outweighing the cons. But like most of us, I am keeping my eye on the situation and formulating a few backup plans in the event the bottom falls out. I try to stay abreast of the current job trends – what’s hot, what’s not. I am also an avid newspaper reader and television news watcher. Based on some recurring themes in the news, I think I have figured out the most lucrative careers to consider. This is not based on any published salary figures, government data or economic indicators. It is simply based on the fact that if I am seeing it in the news every day, there must be something to it. If these careers were not money producers, why would so many people be choosing them?
So I am about to let you in on my secret discovery of the Top Five Career Choices in Today’s Market. But hey, keep the info to yourself so we don’t have a glut in the job market.

Copper Poaching – Apparently there is big money in stealing copper from a variety of sources and selling it for cash. Qualifications for the job include being handy with tools, namely wire cutters, having reliable transportation, namely a getaway car, and the ability to carry heavy loads – think of the weight of jars of pennies. Applicants should enjoy working late at night and with little overhead lighting. You should also have knowledge of electrical systems as it appears several electrocution deaths have occurred in this field. (I wonder if OSHA has weighed in on this).

Meth Lab Operation – This is a great career for the chemistry major, or anyone who simply enjoys the thrill of mixing dangerous chemicals. The labs can be easily constructed in small spaces such as apartments and single-wide mobile homes, so overhead is low. For those who prefer to be on the road, you can set up a mobile meth lab in the back of your vehicle. I believe you are then able to claim the standard mileage reimbursement on your taxes.

Breaking and Entering – This age-old career is currently in resurgence. Though a good set of tools is required, apparently they are not always needed as car owners simply leave doors unlocked, windows open and keys in the ignition. A good night’s work translates to wallets, jewelry and a bevy of electronic devices. Form a relationship with a good pawn broker for top commissions.
Bank Robbery – Best-suited for masters of disguise. Successful robbers with unique disguises can actually develop a cult following in the media. A colorful career for the adventurous – especially when the dye packs go off. No equipment required, but you need manual dexterity to point your finger under clothing to give the appearance of a gun.

Counterfeiting – Initial investment necessary – high quality copy machine. Also need acting skills to be able to purchase a 99 cent pack of gum with a hundred dollar bill and keep a straight face.

It’s nice to know these opportunities are available, but I realize there is a drawback that might keep me from pursuing them – I’m allergic to jail cells.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Game On!

It’s Wednesday night – I’m playing the lottery game. I don’t just mean that I purchased a ticket, I mean I am playing my version of the lottery game. I play it every week, usually on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  I alternate the playing pieces depending on the day of the week. It’s either a Mega Millions ticket or a Powerball ticket.  And the game is called “What Am I Gonna Do When I Win?”
People always like to dream about what they would do if they won the lottery. I love the ones who say they would keep their job. Yeah, right! I would hang up my hard hat in a heartbeat. How is that for alliteration from a freelance writer? Seriously though, discontinuing working for a living would be the first item on my post-lottery winning checklist.
The initial part of my plan is quite practical. Let’s say I win $50 million. Wow, I like saying that. I like writing that. It has a nice ring. Anyway, the state would take about half, so now I am down to $25 million. Whew, I think I can manage on that reduced amount. And I would feel good knowing the other half was paying for scholarships for South Carolina students to attend college. Go Tigers!
So first I would take maybe three to four million off the top to set myself up for life. Why such a small percentage? Come on, just how many millions does one person need to live the rest of their life? At 57, we are not talking a hundred years. I don’t need luxury, I just want some comforts.

Next comes family members. I would pay off one daughter’s mortgage and buy a home for the other. That’s one way to keep her close by. Trust funds would be set up for each of them, as well as grandchildren. I remember years ago when my daughters were still students. I told them if I ever won the lottery, I would set up a fund that paid them each week but only if they were working full time. My younger requested partial payment for working part time. Always thinking, that one.
When all the family members are taken care of, it’s time to start having fun with friends. I picture myself going to the bank and paying off mortgages, but not telling them. Then I want to wait for the day the bank calls and says, “Um, Mrs. Jones, we received your mortgage payment but that loan has been satisfied by an anonymous donor.”  Yeah, I just want to be there when I see the look on their face! It doesn’t get better than that.

I have some specific plans. I am buying myself and my good friend Molly matching condos downtown. We will either be overlooking the Reedy River or Greenville Drive Stadium – or maybe both. We will never need to decide again who is going to be the designated driver when we party downtown. We will just catch the trolley home. Nirvana.

I know it’s a silly game. But sometimes it gets me through the night. I know the odds are like a billion to one, but hey, somebody’s got to win it. Why not me? Game on!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wearing My Scars Out on My Sleeve

My 57-year-old body bears some scars. There is a large round one on the back of my left leg. My college boyfriend went through his motorcycle phase. I didn’t know much about riding motorcycles, including the fact that you should wear long pants to protect your skin from exhaust pipes that reach extreme temperatures. I can still remember how my skin actually seared to the pipe as it tore away from my left leg.

I also have a scar on the inside of my right forearm. Unfortunately, the location makes it look like an attempt at slitting my wrist. But it is actually what I call a love scar. The night before my daughter’s wedding, I offered to iron my future son-in-law’s shirt for the rehearsal dinner. A combination of excitement, exhaustion and trying to do a thousand things at once resulted in a nasty burn from the iron. As ugly as it appears, it always reminds me of my daughter’s wedding and how ironing Eric’s shirt was sort of a rite of passage. Silly, but to me it means something.
My most unfortunate scarring incident was caused by me, but left its mark on my daughter. She was about four years old and we were living in Salt Lake City. I noticed a spec of dirt in her eyebrow and unconsciously picked at it to clear her face. When she erupted into full-blown chicken pox two days later, I realized it wasn’t dirt after all. My daughter relishes telling the story whenever someone questions the still noticeable scar. It has become one of our family jokes.

My mother bore many scars on her arms and hands, some from her days working with hot solder at her electronics job. But most of them were oven burns. My mother loved to cook and bake, but somehow she never mastered the art of pulling pans in and out of the oven.
Scars are permanent and we are reminded of them each time we scan our bodies. But there are also internal scars and although we can’t see them, we shouldn’t forget how we got them, how we healed them and the lessons we learned. These scars are usually the result of a loss – a friend, a family member a lover. The injury that causes them is usually much more painful than that of a physical scar and it endures for a longer time. The most frustrating thing about internal scars is that they are so much more difficult to treat. You can’t apply aloe and a bandage and hope for the best. There is no steadfast treatment that works like a charm. You simply wade through the pain, one day at a time, waiting for it to subside.

As painful as the internal scars may be, we learn a lot about ourselves from them. Since they are inside, often on the heart, we do a lot of self-reflection as we attend to them. We grieve, we vow not to make the same mistakes in the future, we usually come out stronger on the other end. And as ugly as they may be, we become a better person because of them.
We sometimes forget about our internal scars, until a life event rattles our cage and the painful memories come flooding back. The trick to healing is to focus on the positive things you learned from the experience, rather than the pain itself.  We need those reminders to nurture our relationships, to keep them healthy and scar free. I am planning to wear mine on my sleeve as a reminder to avoid pitfalls and focus on positive energy. I just have to figure out how to do it on sleeveless shirts.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Life Becomes Art

Building a turkey sandwich is an art. First you have to pick the perfect bread for the base. It might be fresh-baked whole wheat sprinkled with grains, or it could be marble rye with seeds. I am old enough and wise enough to not settle anymore for plain white.

Condiments go on the bread next, usually mayo, but sometimes I add a little spicy mustard for some kick. Next come the layers of thinly sliced turkey carved from the roast, covered with a slice of Swiss or Vermont cheddar cheese. I gingerly add tomato slices and then gently drape a piece of crisp lettuce on top. For a special treat, a few slices of freshly fried, extra crispy bacon are the finishing touch.
When we construct a turkey sandwich, we take our time to layer every ingredient just so, and then the top slice of bread is applied nestling all the ingredients together so the flavors can blend. Ever so gently, we slide our fingers under the sandwich and slowly pull the entire creation toward our waiting lips and mouth. And just like that, the insides begin falling out – onto the plate, onto the floor, flinging themselves while splattering mayo everywhere. The whole damn sandwich falls apart right before our eyes.

Isn’t this the way of life? We plan, we maneuver, we work hard, we follow directions, we set goals and we build dreams. We take our time, carefully choosing our friends and our partners and building solid relationships. And sometimes, just like a house of cards, it crumbles. It happens to the best of us, it happens when we least expect it. It’s a wakeup call about shifting priorities, shoring up relationships and making smarter decisions.
When our turkey sandwich falls apart, we curse, we whine, we bitch and moan. And then we pick up the pieces and we start over. When your life is like a turkey sandwich, you have to have the fortitude to accept the stumbles. Learn from them, choose an alternate plan and start to rebuild. Sometimes we just want to throw the whole damn sandwich in the garbage and go hungry, but let’s face it – you know you really want that sandwich and it’s not going to make itself.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Fountain of Youth

Baby Boomers, in general, do not enjoy aging. Though I refer to myself as a “gracefully aging Boomer”, there honestly isn’t a graceful thing about it. I hate the wrinkles and brown spots that have invaded my body. I cuss the aches and pains I feel each time I go from a sitting to a standing position. I do my best to cover the gray, and I visit my local Curves five times a week in an attempt to shed my love handles.  And it certainly doesn’t help that I have one of those tall, skinny boyfriends who doesn’t show his age.

I find myself squinting more and seeing less. I have to say, “Excuse me, can you repeat that?” more often than I like. I can no longer wear spikey heels and most of my tops hang loose as opposed to getting tucked in. I keep trying to hold back this freight train called aging, but it is picking up steam every day.
The average Boomer medicine cabinet is chock full of anti-aging products.  There are creams, lotions, and gels that profess to keep the skin smoother. There are capsules, liquids, tablets and green teas flush with anti-oxidants. Teeth whiteners, age spot removers, slenderizers, tenderizers and mending implements.  If you have seen it on an infomercial, chances are we have purchased it. It’s a billion dollar industry.

Put away your wallet, throw away the creams and get ready for some exciting news. I have learned the secret to feeling young. My honey and I discovered it quite by accident on a recent road trip. We found our fountain of youth in Bethlehem, PA, but there are hundreds of them dotted across the country.  They are easy to find, they are fun and you can get in for free. The minute you walk through the doors, you will instantly feel more youthful. They are called casinos.
You think I am kidding, but I swear the moment we walked into the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, we looked around, then looked at each other and said, “We are the youngest people in here.”  The men all appeared to be in uniform – plaid Bermuda shorts, strange colored golf shirts, white tube socks and athletic shoes with an orthopedic look to them. The women had beauty parlor hairdos, elastic-waist pants and gobs of brightly-colored, but tacky, jewelry. And lots of red lipstick. Some were in wheelchairs, while others dragged oxygen tanks behind them. I have yet to figure out how being in a room that allowed smoking was a good fit for them. They were seated at penny and nickel-slot machines, pressing buttons and pulling levers. The sad thing is, no one was smiling. They appeared almost zombie-like. Even when their slot machine rang up three cherries and erupted into the sounds of bells and clanking coins, they appeared motionless.

I am going to continue with my regimen of exercise, eating right and slathering anti-wrinkle creams on my face. I am going to continue to put up a fight against this freight train of aging. But when I get into a slump and need a boost to make me feel like I am not an old lady, I am gathering up my quarters and heading for the slot machines. Hey, we do whatever it takes.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Taking Things for Granted

One of the benefits of living life as a turkey sandwich is that you tend to lessen the penchant for taking things for granted.  But it’s human nature to fall off the wagon, even when we are making a conscious effort.
There are many things I absolutely no longer take for granted.  Important things – like a steady paycheck and health insurance.  I wouldn’t trade my current status for life back in the daily grind, but there was some comfort in knowing that if I had an off day and chose to sit at my desk looking busy even though I was day dreaming, I still got paid for it. As a freelancer, the formula is pretty simple – you no work = you no get paid.
I try my best to appreciate everything I have in this life – family, friends, good health and a comfortable living environment.  I work at maintaining my health by eating nutritious food and exercising.  Material things are no longer the priority, and I have discovered that a simplistic lifestyle actually soothes the soul.
And yet I still catch myself at times faltering in the appreciation department. Perhaps a friend calls and I choose not to pick up the phone because I am in the middle of something.  I chain myself to the computer trying to make a few extra dollars and go an entire day without stepping outside to breathe the fresh air or feel the sun on my face.  I let a day go by without telling my soul mate I love him and that I think he is grand.
I was traveling the past two weeks.  The first half was a road trip from South Carolina to New York.  The countryside I saw on those 900 miles was exquisite.  When you see the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley or the green farmland of Pennsylvania, you really don’t have to think twice about whether or not there is an almighty power – it is truly God’s country.  The second half was spent in Vermont, right smack in the middle of the Green Mountains.  I did appreciate the cool temperatures at night after the sweltering heat we have had in the South.
I was alone for the 900-mile drive back to SC – a great experience that allows for lots of reflection.  I find it funny how my brain writes while I am driving long hours. I have written entire books in my head during these road trips. Now if I could find a mind-reading book publisher, I could be famous.  Along with writing the world’s greatest novel during my drive, I also gave myself the pep talk about how and why not to take things for granted, especially relationships. We must nurture them, work at them, shine them up like a fresh apple before taking a bite. If we don’t, they will wither or become stale.
The magnificence of life, love and family became apparent within hours of my return. I had a visit from Wyatt and was truly amazed at the changes in him in just two weeks. I watched him sit on the floor completely engrossed in a stacking toy – placing each piece one on top of the other, removing them, and starting all over again. And then his mom asked him, “How does the duck go?”  He looked at me, eked out a loud “Quack” and broke into a giant, proud smile.
As we hustle through our busy days with endless errands, work projects, phone calls, traffic jams, aggravations, emotions and just a plethora of junk and static – stop, even if for just a moment, and really smell those roses. Remember what life is all about. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, reshuffle those priorities. If you see everything in a different light when you reopen your eyes, savor it for a minute. And make a solemn vow to not take it for granted, because there are no guarantees it will be there tomorrow.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Customer Service - A Dying Art

I have become my mother. I find myself all too often referring to how things were “back in my day.” I guess I knew this time would come, though I swore for many years I would never be one of those people. But apparently it is a requirement of the aging process to get that way. It is part of the grand scheme of life for things we took for granted to start to lose their luster, thereby forcing us old fogeys to make comparisons.

For six weeks now, I have been “communicating” with my insurance company over hail damage to my car. I have been with the same company for many, many years and I have always been more than pleased with their service. But the ball got dropped on this one, actually, it got dropped three times. It was on my mind while driving this morning because I had a voice mail from a manager wanting to discuss the claim. 
I decided to pull into Mickey D’s for an iced tea. In the south, sweet iced tea is the equivalent to the nectar of the gods. It is one of my many vices, so I try to limit myself to one or two a week on special occasions. I was headed to my daughter’s to help her get the house ready for my grandson’s first birthday party this weekend. I knew that big, old 99 cent iced tea would taste good while cleaning house and working up a sweat. Indeed, this qualified as a special occasion.

I pulled my car flush with the ordering speaker and waited for instructions to speak. “I’ll have the 99 cent sweet tea please,” I ordered politely.
“Hdahiw wkhcowb aschowdho shbcia,” was the response I heard. I sat there stunned, not knowing if I should ask her to repeat it, say my order again, or just drive forward. It was just a tea, nothing complicated. So I decided to drive to the payment window and hope for the best. I gave the cashier my one dollar and eight cents, and inched forward to the pickup window.

A nice young man gave me a wide grin and handed me my tea. I looked at him a little confused and he said, “Do you need something else?
“A straw please,” I replied.

“Your Egg McMuffin will be right up,” he said as he handed me the straw. Now I got a really confused look on my face and he knew something was wrong. “I didn’t order an Egg McMuffin,” I said.
“What was your order?” he inquired. Now he had the confused look on his face.

“Just a tea. But I ordered the 99 cent large tea,” I explained. He took the small tea back and grabbed the correct sized tea from the counter and handed it to me. I noticed something dripping down the side of it. It looked like milk.
“Can you wipe this, there’s something dripping down the side,” I requested.

“Oh my gosh,” he said as he took it back and grabbed a napkin. “Sorry about that,” he apologized.
“No problem,” I lied. I smiled at him, told him to have a nice day and drove off.  It was not a day of good customer experiences for me so far. But hey, I am working hard on not sweating the small stuff. After all, I live my life as a turkey sandwich now. So I got the wrong tea, he exchanged it, he wiped the dripping foreign matter off the side, he smiled and told me also to have a good day. Move forward, go enjoy my grandson and the rest of my day. Besides, a good long sip of this yummy sweet tea is going to taste great.

Imagine the look on my face when my mouth filled up with unsweetened tea! Yuck!
And that’s when I started mumbling about how customer service today is not like it was “back in my day.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Father’s Day never held much meaning for me. My parents divorced when I was two years old. I have no memories of my father living in the same house with us, and few memories of weekend visits that halted abruptly when I was still very young.
I never felt as if I was missing something by not having a dad around. My mother somehow managed to play the role of both parents. At times she worked two jobs, making sure we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. She put me through college and gave me my first car. She was disciplinarian enough for both parents, but also provided double the love and comfort when I needed it.
I had a bevy of wonderful uncles – my mother’s five brothers. Uncle George was always chewing gum. I knew when I saw him, it wouldn’t be long before he would offer me a piece, which I always accepted. He would remove that slender pack of Wrigley’s from his pocket, and he had a way of presenting it with one stick slid in front of the others so it was easy to retrieve. It was like the ultimate magic trick to me. Uncle Allen worked behind the bar at my grandfather’s place. I saw him a lot when I was younger because I spent many weekends and summers with my grandmother. I would walk downstairs and stick my head into the bar. We were not allowed to walk into the bar unless we got the “ok” nod from grandpa. Uncle Allen would pop the top off a cold green-glass bottle of Coca Cola and hand it to me, along with a kiss on the top of the head. Uncle Arthur was the youngest of the brothers, staying busy with three children of his own. But he was never too busy for a hug for his sister’s children. Uncle Bob was always special to me as he was my godfather. With no children of his own, he had plenty of love to share and often spared no expense for holiday gifts. I will never forget the tape recorder he bought me for my birthday. It was the best, and probably most expensive, gift I ever received as a youngster. Uncle Eddy will always be remembered for his dry sense of humor and wit. He assumed a patriarchal role in the family early on.  He was quiet and unassuming, but a tower of strength and knowledge. We grew up knowing that Uncle Eddy was the one you consulted if you needed advice. I didn’t have to think twice about asking him to walk me down the aisle when I got married; he was simply the natural choice.
I also had a plethora of substitute dads on our street. Russ Goss lived next door and had five children of his own. He was the dad who would play catch for hours with us, tossing it gently to me in between firing shots to his four boys. Richie Vancott was the ultimate dad who would pile all the neighborhood kids into his station wagon for a trip to the drive-in movies or the ice cream parlor.
Though my mom never remarried, she did date a few men who impacted our lives in very positive ways. Our favorite had to be Charlie, a gregarious gentlemen who had more energy that the Energizer Bunny. He would show up at our house early on Saturday mornings, ready to tackle a weekend project. This annoyed my mother to no end as she viewed Saturday mornings as a day to sleep in after working all week. But Charlie did amazing things to our modest home including a backyard patio with hand-laid bricks and the assembly of our three-foot swimming pool complete with filter and ladder. He mowed the lawn, painted the shutters, put up a fence and organized the garage. But the straw that broke the camel’s back of my mother’s patience was the day he cleaned out her junk drawer, rendering her incapable of finding anything.
I grew up without my biological father, and though I sometimes felt the flutter of the loss, I really had no particular emotions about it. I didn’t hate him, I simply didn’t know him. He passed away several years ago leaving behind six girls, three from each marriage. His death culminated in a barrage of communications among us, flooded with the few, but meaningful, memories we did hold from the early years when there was still visitation.
My half-sister, Pat, resisted the initial coming together. She and I were each the youngest of the two families, and probably felt an obligatory loyalty to our respective mothers. But apparently dad was manipulating things from above, and eventually she and I found our way to each other. I went to visit her and we instantly became the sisters we were meant to be all along. We sat at her kitchen table until the wee hours, drinking wine, looking at pictures and sharing stories of our own children. And then she shared stories of our father, including his bout with cancer and details of the day he died. She made me see him in a new light and I left there with a completely different attitude about my father. I now have feelings that have filled a previously empty space.
To all those uncles and neighbors and friends who played pieces of dad roles in my life, thank you and Happy Father’s Day. And to my dad, thank you for five sisters who each have affected my life in their own special way. I know you because of them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Vicarious Living

Vicarious living is fun.  It is similar to day dreaming, imagining you are someone else.  It typically is harmless, unless you become obsessed with it – or them.  But for the average person, it is meant to serve as a little mental getaway when the brain goes on overload.
When I was married, I would sometimes live vicariously through my single friends.  They would be out at night, dancing and drinking, while I was home changing poopy diapers and bleaching the mildewed grout in my shower.  Of course when I was single, I lived vicariously through my married friends.  While I was struggling to support myself and discovering there were no single nice guys to be found, they were enjoying candlelit dinners in their beautiful homes with adoring husbands.  You can see from this description, vicarious living is directly associated with the grass being greener.
I actually have some friends who are living vicariously through me right now. Since deciding to live life as a turkey sandwich, they envy my lifestyle as a part-time freelancer and full-time granny who seemingly has no schedule and works in her pajamas.  Of course they don’t experience the daily fear of running out of paying jobs, rejections of hundreds of queries and the fact that my soul mate is 1000 miles away.  I must admit I no longer live vicariously through friends doing the 9 to 5, one-hour commute, sit-at-their desk-all-day stuff.  Though my lifestyle has its uncertainties, punching a time clock and ducking from a looming monthly mortgage payment no longer have appeal.

All in all, my life is pretty satisfying at the moment.  I love being closer to my daughters after six years away, I adore my grandson who gives me a reason to smile every day and I get a thrill each time I complete a written piece and see it published.  But it’s still not the perfect life and I believe I need the vicarious-living getaway on occasion. So I have decided to live vicariously through my grandson for the following reasons:
He never gets tired or bored with a simple act.  He will pull himself up to standing, wait for you to say “Go boom”, drop onto his butt, laugh out loud and start the process over again.  So long as you stay engaged in the act, he will repeat it a hundred times, laughing just as hard each time.  Perhaps this is how assembly line workers get through their day.  Sometimes we just forget to appreciate what we have and we are too quick to give up and go in search of the new fix.

He thinks my electric toothbrush is the funniest thing in the world.
He always wakes up smiling.

All you have to do is ask for a kiss and he gives it to you – no questions asked.
He watches and analyzes before making a move, especially if it is potentially dangerous – like touching the cat’s tail.

He gets to take naps twice a day and to sleep for as long as he wants. 
He gets to watch animated television programs without anyone saying, “I can’t believe you’re watching that stuff.”

He does not get accused of being drunk if he chooses to crawl into a room.
Someone else picks out his outfit every day – and it’s never too tight.  He also has really cute shoes to match every outfit.

You can see, choosing him is a no-brainer. However, I am reserving the right to also sometimes live vicariously through leggy, gorgeous, shiny-haired, twenty-something girls – just to know how it feels.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Grandma Needs a New Pair of Shoes

A little less than a year ago, I took on the proud new role of grandma.  It was a defining moment for me, and the one that prompted the decision to begin life as a turkey sandwich.  I embraced it and I have relished it, and for the next four days, it will be snapping me into reality.

The kids took off at four this morning for their first trip away from baby.  They are San Francisco bound – Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Tony Bennett’s heart.  Knowing my daughter, there will also be a long stop at Ghirardelli’s for a hot fudge sundae.  With baby closing in on a year old in three weeks, it was time for mom and dad to have a break from being parents and spending some time as a couple.
I chuckled as I watched my daughter preparing last night. There are four suitcases at the front door. Mind you, these are not their traveling suitcases; these are for me to take along with baby!  One is filled with clothes, one is filled with food, one is filled with toys, and the fourth is filled with anything and everything that did not fit into the first three.  In addition, there is a car seat, a Pack ‘n Play, a high chair and a diaper bag.  I am thinking of charging them $25 per bag to travel in my car – each way!

Lucky for me, junior mastered a new trick just this past week, just in time for grandma to endure….I mean enjoy, enjoy.  It’s called climbing, and it can be done on furniture, stairs and anything else that is in his path.  Though his house has a long, steep set of stairs to the second floor, thankfully my abode is all on one level.  Of course I do have my roommate’s poodle who tends to go a little haywire when the baby comes to visit. She’s great with him; she just enjoys licking his face incessantly.
I am looking forward to the adventure, but not without just a little trepidation.  I love spending time with my little guy, I simply haven’t come up with the plan yet of how and when I accomplish simple tasks like taking a shower, or going to the bathroom, while he is venturing through our totally non-baby proofed house and licking dog.  Oh, and did I mention he crawls at about 60mph?

I’m sure by the end of four days I will be exhausted, smelly and possibly constipated, and the soles will be worn off my shoes.  But hey, I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China (or chocolate at Ghirardelli’s).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Well it's 1, 2, 3 .....

…. what are we fighting for? 
 Memorial Day.  Yes, the holiday is actually a “day”, not a weekend.  It used to be celebrated on May 30th each year, no matter what day of the week it fell upon.  But in 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act which morphed it into a three-day weekend.  So now when you ask people “What is Memorial Day Weekend?” you get told it is the beginning of summer, the weekend our pool opens, the first cookout of the season or the weekend we put our boat in the water.
There was a time when we understood the true meaning of Memorial Day.  I am happy to say I lived during that time.  I can still muster up some remnants of it, though it is difficult to compete with the giant sales at most retail stores.  They try to make it authentic by splashing the Stars and Stripes across their advertising, but let’s be honest, we’re all missing the boat.
I can’t remember the last time I saw veterans selling the poppies.  When I was younger, you would see them everywhere.  They were small, they were artificial, they were bright red like my mother’s lipstick. My mother would always buy one and display it on the sun visor in our car. It would stay there long after Memorial Day, fading to pink before she decided it was time to throw it away.  I guess we could use that analogy to describe the demise of the holiday.
There are varying feelings about war, depending on which one occurred during your lifetime.  My father and uncles all fought in World War II, the big one.  They came home as heroes, welcomed with the GI Bill, college opportunities and the burgeoning of suburbia. We waved out flags proudly, saluted them and recited our Pledge of Allegiance in school each morning.  We never stumbled over the words to the Star Spangled Banner.
It was different when we became involved in the Vietnam Conflict.  Soldiers, many of whom had to be drafted, traveled across the world to fight without really understanding the cause. They came home to anti-war protestors who burned flags and draft cards. Many of them never recovered, physically or emotionally.
Today we have soldiers spread all over the Middle East, terrorism the target.  Ask any American their opinion on today’s war efforts and you will get a different answer.  Our opinions are as scattered as our armed forces.  And though many of us do not support these “wars”, we do support our soldiers.
Take a minute today, in between grilling the burgers or heating up the charge cards at the sales, to reflect on what today really is all about.  Say the Pledge of Allegiance to yourself, and savor the words.  Sing the Star Spangled Banner or God Bless America, do it with your kids or grandkids.  Fly your flags, attend a parade, salute a soldier.  And please, let me know if you find anyone wearing a poppy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Can of Cancer

Doing my best to adhere to my new turkey sandwich lifestyle, I spent the afternoon at the park with my daughter and grandson the other day.  I still had to wrestle with my conscience that was telling me it was during “working hours” and that I was somehow playing hooky, but I got over it the minute I stepped outside and found sunshine and 75 degree temps.

My daughter’s sister-in-law and children were also there.  Shortly after we arrived, the girls started rummaging through their giant pocketbooks and diaper bags.  “What are you looking for?” I queried. “Cash for a drink,” they responded, “but we know we don’t have any.”  It’s not a matter of not having money for these two, it’s simply that this generation somehow does not ever think to carry cash.  They can whip out their debit cards faster than a speeding bullet, but if they want something that requires a cash payment, they immediately start looking around for an ATM machine as if there should be one on every corner.

My generation is never without cash, though you may not realize it because we tend to stash it in hiding places.  Mine goes in a double-secret folder in my wallet and stays there for emergency purposes only.  In the old days, we referred to it as mad money.  

“I have cash, what do you want to drink?” I said to the girls. 

“I’ll take a diet c….,” Danielle stopped dead in her tracks and looked at me, then at my daughter, with a look of horror on her face.  “What’s wrong,” my daughter asked her.  Danielle looked sheepishly at me, then back to Vicki and said, “I feel like I am asking your mom to buy me a can of cancer.”

We all laughed out loud, but she was serious in a way.  I continually spout off about the detrimental ramifications of diet sodas to my daughters and have actually threatened bodily harm to the person who offers my grandson his first taste of Mountain Dew.  I have become much more aware of what goes into my body these days and subscribe to the age-old adage of You Are What You Eat.

It took me years to be enlightened on this subject.  I literally shudder when I reflect on my eating habits as a young adult. It’s no wonder I have never been happy with my body; I abused it for years with white flour, preservatives, salt, MSG, saccharin and way too much sugar.  My mother was one of the old-time “meat and potatoes” cooks, and those old habits died hard after she passed them down to me.  But I have seen the light and I am trying to make up for lost time.  I strive to eat vegetarian at least two or three days a week.  I avoid white flour as best I can and look for all-natural products when I shop.  I have completely sworn off soda products, especially diet versions.  Basically, if I cannot pronounce the ingredients in something, it’s not going into my mouth.

I know I drive my daughters and their friends a little crazy when I analyze their food, but it’s only because I love them and want them to be healthy.  I want to share with them what it took me well over fifty years to figure out.  I may be living my life as a turkey sandwich, but I’m not eating one unless the turkey is cage-free, the bread is whole wheat and the lettuce and tomato are organically grown.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I've Got Dibs

I have never really been a politically-charged person.  When I was a little girl, my grandfather ran a private club and bar. He served as president of that club known as The Naugatuck Democratic Club.  As a child, I had no idea what that meant.  I just knew that a lot of men would come there every day, sit around the bar, drink and tell stories and jokes.

My dear friend, Richie Rothstein, passed away two years ago.  A year or so after he died, I went to visit his wife.  She handed me an envelope full of pictures that Richie had taken while we were both students at SUNY New Paltz.  I was surprised to see a slew of photographs of George McGovern, taken during a campus visit in the early seventies.  I felt almost a bit ashamed by the fact that the event apparently meant so much to Richie, yet nothing to me.  My priorities during college did not include politics.
I was already in my thirties the first time I exercised my right to vote.  My second husband was a former Air Force Captain who awakened me to my responsibilities as a citizen.  Once I voted in my first presidential election, I realized what a privilege it was and I have never missed an election since.  Every four years, I voted for the person who I felt best represented my beliefs.  Some years it was a Democrat, others it was a Republican.  I honestly never felt the need to pledge allegiance to one side or the other.  Sometimes my candidate won, sometimes he didn’t.  But whoever won became my president for the next four years and to me, he was the person in charge.

The political climate in this country has changed and it seems you are no longer allowed to straddle the fence.  I sometimes feel as if I am back to being a kid, once again playing Red Rover.  I despised that game.  As a slow runner and a puny girl, I simply didn’t have the strength to ever succeed at it. Before I knew what was happening, I would get picked for a side (often the last pick) and the next thing I knew I was interlocking arms with the rest of my “team”, unsure if those were the people with whom I should be aligned.  Why couldn’t they have some non-intrusive positions in that game, like a line judge or umpire?  I wanted to be the person that settled disputes and pointed out the strengths of both teams.
I feel the same way about politics.  Forward thinkers exist within each party; it’s just a matter of getting them to work together.  Yet it seems if we express an opinion on any issue, we are automatically associated with a particular party. The scary part is that those affiliated with the other party react as if we have contracted leprosy.  I honestly have friends among whom I am afraid to express my opinion for fear of being ostracized.  It all has become black and white, or actually red and blue, and apparently gray has been completely eradicated from the color spectrum.

I am fearful about the direction we are headed and envision a complete division of our country based on political beliefs.  But how will the division be achieved?  One group lives in states that start with the letters A to M while the opposing side takes N to Z?   Will it be east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet?  Will some go to the mountains and others to the prairies? Let’s just go back to the civil war division, no sense reinventing the wheel.  But I’ve got dibs on the south since I want to be near my grandchildren.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

You Know You Might as Well Face It….

You’re Addicted to?
According to Robert Palmer, it’s love.  But let’s face it; addiction has been a problem in society for, for, ever.  I remember my first foray into the notion of addiction.  It was the first time I watched Frank Sinatra in The Man With The Golden Arm.  I was still young and didn’t fully grasp the concept at the time.  I feel pretty certain that humanity has dealt with addictions of some sort since prehistoric times.  I bet the cavemen got a rush from sniffing the dust of certain crushed rocks.  The human body is susceptible to cravings of monumental proportions that need to be fed; it’s that itch which needs to be scratched.

I was in high school when I discovered friends were experimenting with marijuana.  By college, I was exposed to methamphetamines as students pulled all-nighters cramming for exams.  Likewise, when the weekend rolled around, they dove head first into an alcohol and downer cocktail.
After graduating college, I noticed how rampant cocaine use had become. Perhaps it was because I was living in New York City and it was the “in” drug.  I never got involved with cocaine.  I think it had something to do with my financial upbringing by depression-era parents.  The truth was, I simply had no desire to take my hard-earned cash and literally put it up my nose.

Now I find myself this aging baby boomer embarking on a new lifestyle, one with less routine and restriction.  It has been emotionally liberating, to say the least.  I find I am more open to exploring new things, much less fearful of the consequences.  Is this the reason I now have to face the fact that I have fallen to my own addiction? Can I deal with it at this juncture of my life?
I am not really sure when exactly it happened.  I cannot recall that first exposure, that temptation that I allowed myself to give into.  I don’t recall if it was peer pressure, doing it because my friends were doing it?  All I know is that I now have a serious problem that I need to face head on.

It’s a common drug and doesn’t require a prescription.  I am able to secure it easily on the street with the convenience of a drive-in dealer.  When I get the craving, which is now almost on a daily basis, I grab my purse and keys, and jump in the car.  Sometimes it happens late at night, long after I have gotten comfortable on the couch in my sweats or jammies.  It hits me like a ton of bricks, and with adrenaline pumping, I am out the door.  I don’t know what the pharmaceutical term is for it, but it goes by the street name of Sonic Blast.
Some addicts take theirs topped with M & M’s or Butterfingers, but my choice is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.  When I pull up to place my order, I am anxious and jittery.  Knowing I am that close makes the withdrawal more intense.  As my car inches its way toward the delivery window, I practically foam at the mouth in anticipation.  When I finally get to the window, I hand over my cash and peak inside to see it if it is ready yet.  I once asked the clerk to put extra peanut butter cup pieces on it for me.  He informed it would cost an additional twenty-five cents.  Like a typical addict, I now find myself rummaging through pants pockets and winter coats, looking for errant quarters to help feed my habit.

The clerk hands me a napkin, rolled around a plastic spoon and a long straw, providing me options of how I want to inject myself.  And then I see it, that giant Styrofoam cup with the clear plastic lid.  I can see the frothy whipped cream and dusting of candy on top.  I grab it from him and speed away, the craving having completely overtaken me.  I live but five minutes from the Sonic Drive-In, and yet, there are times I have to dig into that ice cream if I get stuck at one of the two traffic lights in my path.
I know I have to get hold of this problem before it starts affecting my work and my family.  I had hoped I could count on my roommate for an intervention, but you know how we addicts abide by the “misery loves company” and “partners in crime” way of life.  Yes, I did it.  I brought her one and now she is addicted as well.  

And in case you were wondering, yup, it tastes great with a turkey sandwich.