Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The End of the Innocence

"Everybody's innocent in here. Didn't you know that?”
                                          ~ Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

I’ve been called for jury duty and will find out later this week whether or not I have to serve. I not averse to serving, but now is not the best time, so I’m trying to figure out how to get out of it. I thought I might say that my personal mantra is “Hang ‘em high” and see where that gets me.
Seriously though, thinking about jury duty takes me back….
When I interviewed for what would later become my job as a general assignment reporter for the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY, I was asked if I had any court reporting experience.
Let me stipulate (Woohoo! Check out that legalese!) that by court reporting, I do not mean stenography. 
I have a cousin who is a “court reporter,” but trust me, she wasn't nearly as lucky as me. I got to hang out with the scum of the earth. Aren't you jealous? 
But I digress….
Prior to joining the Gazette staff, I’d had limited legal reporting experience, but what few stories I’d written for my weekly paper had been significant. Towards the end of a highly publicized murder trial in which the defendant was a police officer, I filled in for our court reporter who was very pregnant. It was decided that there was enough drama in the courtroom without Alice going into labor, so I was sent to cover closing arguments, the verdict (guilty!) and the sentencing.
For someone who’d been hooked on “Law & Order” forever (and still is), it was very exciting. 
Those stories helped secure me the assignment of covering the courts when I moved to the daily paper. In addition, I went to the county jail every day to check the arrest log to see if there were any interesting cases to write up.
For security’s sake, to get into the jail from the parking lot, you had to cross a wide courtyard before reaching the front door.
Now, it stands to reason that in the course of about two years covering the jail, which was run by the sheriff’s office, I got to know some the deputies who worked there rather well.
One day, I was crossing the courtyard when one of my more “favorite” deputies came out of the building and began walking towards me. Thinking I was being clever (You really think he hadn't heard this one before?), I said, “I didn't do it!”
The joke was on me….
The deputy looked at me with amusement and frustration and said, “Y’know, Daphne, just once I wish someone would say, ‘I did do it!’”

Written for The Writers’ Post Weekly Blog Hop #25. Theme: Innocence

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Tisket. A Tasket. Surprise, An Open Casket!

“I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” 
                                                                       ~Woody Allen

I've made some bad choices in my life, but I can only think of one that repeatedly comes back to “haunt” me.
In the late 1990s I worked at a weekly newspaper in lower Westchester County, NY. It was a small paper, but a formidable one. Indeed, for local news, we couldn’t be beat. If there was something important going locally, we were on top of it.
As the sole reporter for two beats, which in this case meant two towns and all that came with them from schools to crime to town government, human interest and more, if something important happened I was on top of it.
With a writing staff of … hang on… two, I was the consummate “general assignment” reporter. One day I might cover a school board meeting only to find myself writing about a murder trial, a construction project or a wedding the next day.
So, after learning that a dearly beloved local priest had died, I was “on the case” when my editor dispatched me to a funeral home to pick up information for his obituary.
An aside: Strange as it may sound, I've always thought it would be a great honor to write obits. After all, on some level, it’s the last story that’s ever going to be written about the deceased. Wow. And to think that I wrote it… .
Well, I wasn't going to be writing this one, but I liked my editor and always wanted to be involved in “the story,” so I had no problem being the messenger service.
I drove over to the funeral home, went into the office and got the press release announcing Father Attridge’s death.
Whoa. Sorry. Make that Monsignor Attridge. He’d been elevated not long before he passed away.
I was working at the paper when it was announced that he was being made a monsignor. That was big news. I mean this guy had a serious fan base. It’s said that 5,000 people attended his funeral. Wow!
So I’m leaving the funeral home office after picking up his bio and I see this long line snaking around the corner out of some nearby room. I’m not sure how I missed the line when I went in. I must have been pretty focused on picking up the paperwork I was there to get.
Well, I’m curious by nature. That’s why I became a journalist, after all. So I can’t let a question: “What are these people standing in line for?” go unanswered. What harm can it do if I take a peek, eh?
I walked alongside the line up to the point where I saw it disappear and craned my neck around the corner. To my surprise and horror, what did I see? None other than Monsignor Attridge, in full regalia, lying in state.
Though at that point in my life I’d attended a few funerals, I had never seen an open “occupied” casket. Caught completely off guard, it was all I could do not to scream out loud.
Reflecting on the situation later that day, it was all I could do not to laugh out loud. 
After all, what did I think people were lined up for at a funeral home? The refreshment stand, perhaps?

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #24. Theme: Your Choice!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Am Thankful ...

Inspiring and inspired writing, like the work I see here on a regular basis.

Another blogging “challenge” that drives me to stretch myself artistically.
My husband, whose presence in my life has changed it immeasurably.

Technology that has helped me learn, grow and become a better person.
Home and the feeling of security I get knowing it’s always there for me.
Acquaintances who have developed into supportive allies and partners.
New occasions daily to live life to its fullest.
Knowledge I can share with and gather from all who surround me.
Family, friends and the myriad opportunities to connect and reconnect.
Urges that move me to tap my creativity, for better or for worse.
Love and laughter, after all, what’s life without them?

For all this and much more, I am thankful.

Written for BFF Inspiration #143. Theme: What I’m Thankful For

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Loose Lips...

When was the last time you said something and then immediately afterwards thought, “Oh my God! Did those words really just leave my mouth?”
Looking back, it seems my body was mapping out my future with Gary before my brain and heart got on board. Talk about a lesson in biological priorities…
We’d only been dating about a month or two, I’d say, and were still really getting to know each other, when Gary mentioned to me that he played poker once a month with some guys from his neighborhood. It sounded kind of fun to me, having never played, and I wanted to know more.
What I’d come to find out in short order was that the game’s two key features were the low stakes (nickel-dime-quarter) and the absence of women. This get-together was boys only, thank you very much.
That, I thought, was unfortunate, because I would have liked to have gotten to know the guys and perhaps even played a hand or two, not that I knew anything about poker… I couldn't have known then that the “no women” rule would be relaxed after we got married and I would, in fact, be invited to join in. At that time, I was going to have to be content as an observer.
So be it. After all, I liked what I heard about the game and its participants. I especially liked hearing stories about Chuck, a retired race car driver.
The closest Gary will get to driving a race car.... 
Chuck, it seems, had more than a few cars in his driveway/garage. I don’t know anything about cars, but I know I enjoy looking at them. I especially like Porsches. On the understanding that they pack quite a punch under the hood, I think they’re just “adorable.”
Yeah, I know. That’s not a very “manly” description. Sue me…
In the course of conversation Gary told me that Chuck primarily raced Porsches. No way! Now I really wanted to meet this guy, who, it turns out, was also a Marine. Kinda fits, no?
So here was I with this ridiculously romantic notion of Chuck , the race driver, in my head and one day Gary tells me that Chuck is prepared to sell him a Porsche for a mere few thousand bucks. You’d think I’d have jumped at the chance, right?
Not. So. Much.
In my wildest dreams, I never expected to hear what came next.
“I don’t think so, Honey,” I said, “It’s not a family car!”

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #23. Theme: Priorities

Friday, November 11, 2011

You Can’t Tell a Man by His …

I’m either the best daughter-in-law ever or I’m certifiable. You decide.
Next February my mother-in-law will celebrate her 70th birthday. As a gift for her milestone birthday, Gary and I are going on a week-long Caribbean vacation with her.
I could end this blog post right here, right now, because I’d be willing to guess that for some of my readers, the very idea of spending a week with your mother-in-law makes you laugh out loud. Alternatively it makes you break out in hives…
I’d like to point out that this trip was my idea. As I said, I’m either the best daughter-in-law ever or I’m certifiable.
Truth be told, I’m really lucky. My mother-in-law is pretty hip. Even so, a week with her will probably feel long.
But I digress….
Once we decided on this “gift” for her, the question was where to go?
One of my favorite places to go in the Caribbean is St. Maarten. Being ½ Dutch and ½ French, the 33½-square-mile island is a mini wonderland. On the Dutch side you have casinos, nightclubs and an Orthodox rabbi and on the French side you have an enclosed butterfly habitat, grocery stores with every kind of pâté you could ever want and … a nudist resort complete with beach (
The resort is private, but the beach is public. Fear not, pictures are prohibited.
On our first trip to St. Maarten in 2009, Gary and I stayed on the Dutch side at a timeshare property (We rent. Owning is just not for us.) complete with pool, despite being situated right on the ocean. Even so, we couldn't not sunbathe on the French side at least once, right?
Our routine was as follows: Beach during the day and pool in the evening, followed by a good long soak in the Jacuzzi tub on the balcony of our unit, which, to my chagrin, turned my skin a delightful shade of green. Lest you worry, it did wear off eventually, but not before we went to Orient Beach.
Yep, we went – twice, I think, if not more.
While there on one occasion, I took a walk on the beach and saw a naked guy who looked familiar, but I couldn't quite place him. I said hello and he politely greeted me in return, but I was vexed. Who was he? Where had we seen each other before?
Later that evening, I figured out who he was. ‘Round about the same time he and his family showed up – fully clothed – to swim in the timeshare pool …
“Oh, that’s who you are! I talked with you at length last night,” I said to myself, adding, “It probably wasn't smart for me to think that I could discern who you were by looking at your ….”
The upshot is that we’re taking my mother-in-law to St. Croix.

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #22. Theme: Vacation!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Retail Therapy

Is it just me or has the fun been sucked out of retail shopping?
I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but trying to communicate in English with staff in retail shopping venues in Northern Virginia is an exercise in futility.
Don’t get me wrong. I support and indeed, encourage, English and non-English speakers alike to get legitimate jobs. What’s more, I admire the immigrant population, because, to support their families here and abroad, many of them will work in seemingly “menial” jobs (use your imagination) that we native born Americans wouldn't deign to take. Shame on us, eh?
However, as a consumer, I have a much better experience – and probably spend more money – when I can understand what’s being said and know that my comments are understood.
Today, at the grocery store I failed miserably at getting my question (“Are these chicken thighs boneless?”) answered. Maybe it was my fault though. I guess my expectation that the staff at the Salvadoran market would speak the King’s English was a bit high….
Muslos de pollo deshuesados!
Actually what I asked several times was, “Como se dice en español, ‘boneless’?” in an effort to get to my second question. In other words, in Spanish I asked, “How do you say ‘boneless’ in Spanish?” It was a lost cause. I asked three times and got three different answers complete with hand gestures that I can only hope weren't insulting…
Defaulting to Italian didn't help, because I don’t know the Italian word for “boneless.”
So I didn't buy chicken thighs. But I bought other items and for the second time in three days, was overcharged. 
It seems today’s check out clerk is incapable of simultaneously answering questions and ringing up merchandise. I’m at a loss for why. After all, they’re just passing a bar code over a computer scanner.
That said, I've learned to check my receipt, since some places give you an item for free if it rings up incorrectly. At minimum, I’d think, they’ll make some concession if you’re overcharged.
Not. So. Much.
This smiling lady? NOT me. 
On Friday, I went to World Market where I bought two jars of hummus marked “Two for $5.” When I looked at the receipt and saw that I’d been charged $3.29 for each, I asked why and what the store policy was with respect to the overcharge. 
The checkout clerk – who spoke fluent English – looked at me blankly as if I’d asked her to explain quantum physics. When I asked if I got the product for free, she gave me a look that intimated, “Are you nuts, Lady?” and said something akin to “No way.”
That was all it took to unleash my inner witchy woman.
I opened a can of bi*** on her, demanding a manager “pronto” and she actually fled the register. Lemme tell you, it was no picnic having to deal with the manager to get things straightened out either.
Some people go shopping for therapy. My version of retail therapy was the meditation I did afterwards.
Maybe next time I should try some deep breathing before going into the store….

Written for BFF Inspiration #135. Theme: Witchy Woman

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dictation and Desecration

It wasn't on purpose. Really, it wasn't.
About ten years ago I desecrated a cemetery. What the %&$@*?
At St. Peter’s Cemetery in Troy, NY a woman named Kate Mullany is buried in her family’s plot. Mullany (1845-1906) was an early labor leader; she started the all-women’s “Collar Laundry Union” in Troy in 1864. Her “bona fides” include leading 300 female co-workers from the area’s commercial laundries in a six-day strike to cast attention on the need for greater safety on the job and better wages.
In 2000, Mullany – a local heroine – was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY.
In 2001, there was some sort of ceremony at her grave. Ten years later, I have no idea what was being celebrated/recognized/commemorated. All I know is that as a staff member of the local daily newspaper, I was there on assignment on a cold, damp Saturday afternoon.
There were a number of local officials there too, giving speeches. Dignitaries do that, don’t they? And as they tend to do, they spoke at some length.
As I tend to do, when people speak at length, I settled in for the long haul. In a cemetery, getting comfortable meant leaning against a headstone.
Really. Bad. Idea.
I was engrossed in taking notes as VIP after VIP talked about how wonderful the event (whatever it was) was and how happy and proud they were to be there. In my state of concentration, I was blissfully unaware that the marker I was leaning against wasn't designed to prop up a full-sized adult.
Damn you physics and gravity!
One minute I’m copying a quote and the next, I’m on my tush on the ground. Well, technically, on top of the gravestone that’s given way underneath me and fallen backwards to the ground.
To the best of my recollection – I've tried hard, however unsuccessfully, to forget that incident – I hurriedly got up and made a feeble attempt to stand the stone back up again, before beating a hasty retreat out of there.
I wasn't in a haunted cemetery, but that day in the cemetery will “haunt” me for a long time to come, I fear.
Happy Halloween!

 Written for BFF Inspiration #134. Theme: Haunted Cemetery

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anger Management

Hello ladies (and gentlemen…)!
So, our blog hop assignment from Jenn Duffy-Pearson this week is to write about a favorite movie. 
As you wish, Jenn….
If, like me, you’re a die-hard fan, you already know what one of my favorite films of all time is. For those of you who are not as passionate as I am, (Don’t tell me, please. It’ll break my heart…) the film of which I speak is the much acclaimed, “The Princess Bride.” It has been called a “cult classic” and make no mistake, that term is dead on. The movie, released approximately 25 years ago, has its own website and a Facebook page with more than 1.75 million followers.
No joke. Check it out at:
Here’s a really fun fact: The cast loves it, too. In an interview earlier this month with Good Morning America, Billy Crystal, aka “Miracle Max” called it, “A great screenplay. It was the perfect cast [and] the perfect movie for us.  For me, I’m so proud to be in it….”
And from Chris Sarandon, (“Evil Prince Humperdinck”): “It’s eternal. It’s multigenerational.”
I couldn't have said it better.
I’m embarrassed, therefore, to say that I just discovered the Facebook page. Yes, I liked it the moment I saw it, because it’s the right thing to do. I mean, seriously, how can you not love this movie?
To begin with, there’s that cast I mentioned: In addition to Crystal and Sarandon, think Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Carol Kane and Robin Wright. Need I say more?
Then there’s the cinematic brilliance. First, let’s talk set design. At the end of the movie when Westley and Buttercup kiss with the sun setting in the background…. Hello! Tissues, please!
And can we discuss the costumes? I think that Robin Wright in the wedding dress and tiara is about as beautiful as they come. What I wouldn't have given to look like that at my wedding…
And please don’t forget the mechanics and technical aspects of the film. Can't you just envision “The Machine”?
But what stands out the most for me (and seemingly for most other fans) is the dialogue. I wish I could say that I can recite the entire film word for word. Not quite, but I certainly know lots and lots of the lines.
Crazy thought it may sound, I sometimes default to the movie’s dialogue as an anger management tool. 
Consider this: There are certain lines in the movie that when said, or heard, make it absolutely impossible to be angry.
Perhaps the most successful line cum mantra for me is Fezzik’s “Hello Lady!” quote. This is the quote in its entirety:  “I saw the prince's stable, and there they were, four white horses. And I thought, ‘There are four of us, if we ever find the lady.’ Hello, lady!”
Unfortunately, the scene is not available on Youtube, but I found it here and it’s worth a gander. (Click on either prompt on the clip in the upper left corner to watch).
Am I right or am I right? Were you able to watch the clip and keep a straight face?

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #19. Theme: Take Me to the Movies

Monday, October 17, 2011

Shake It Up...

If you ask me, I’ll say that I lead a fairly ordinary life. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very blessed, but no one’s going to make an action picture based on my life any time soon, if you know what I mean.
That said, every now and then I like to shake things up.
It was not my intent, however, to shake things up at lunch this past Friday.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a bug lover. Being a gardener, I tolerate them, but life without them works just fine for me, too. Yeah, I know they’re part of the ecosystem and as such necessary, blah, blah, blah and all that. Even so, I just can’t get excited about them.
Last Friday I had lunch at La Madeleine – a French-ish cafe with locations in DC, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland and Virginia. I rarely eat out, especially for lunch, but I was meeting a colleague who is leaving the agency where I work. It was a rainy, cold day that capped off a really stressful week, so lunch out felt “right.”
And it was. The fellowship was terrific; the food – potato soup and spinach salad with strawberries – was yummy; the restaurant was warm and cozy, complete with a roaring fire in the fireplace. Mmmmm!
It was all good ... until I got ready to leave.
In addition to my purse, I was carrying a shopping bag with a book and a few other things in it. One of the things in it, of which I was unaware, was a stink bug. Ick!
For some reason, as I approached the door to the restaurant, I opened my bag and saw the stink bug. I started shrieking and swatting at it like a crazy woman … just as a group of young professionals walked through the door into the restaurant.
All eyes were on me, as several staff members rushed over worriedly inquiring whether everything was okay.
“Yes, yes,” I said. “ I've got a bug in my bag. It’s no big deal.”
No big deal, for me, that is....
Reflecting on the situation a few days later, I realized the ramifications my actions might have on business. I’d guess that when it comes to projecting the image of their atmosphere or “ambiance” for prospective customers, the restaurant staff probably doesn't favor wild gesticulations and loud discussion about bugs in bags…. 

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #18. Theme: Atmosphere

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It Speaks for Itself...

For Wordless (sort of...) Wednesday

Stuff, Stuff Everywhere....

Earlier this year, Gary (my husband), who rarely gets sick, woke up one morning complaining of pain in his side. Being a trooper, he decided to “fight through it” and go to work. He made it one stop on Metro before calling and saying he needed to come home.
He went to the doctor later that day, was given a prescription and told if he wasn't feeling markedly better the next day to go to the hospital for x-rays. He took the medication, crashed and that was the end of that day.
The next morning he “iffy,” but well enough, he thought, to go to work. This time he managed to get all the way to his office. But, after half a day I got “the call” saying he needed to go to the hospital. Hearing that from my husband, who is my rock, made my blood run cold.
Off we went to the hospital at full tilt.
Several hours in the emergency room accompanied by “tests” – blood, urine, CAT scan, x-rays, etc. – revealed that Gary had an infected kidney stone.
As if that weren't disturbing enough for me, the doctors said that the best course of action would be to keep him overnight in the hospital for monitoring.
The hospital is located about five miles from our house. The drive home that evening was one of the longest trips I've ever made.
When I got in the front door, the silence was absolutely overwhelming. Hovering between total exhaustion and all-out panic, all I could do was cry. I called my parents and cried to them, then I called a girlfriend and cried to her. At some point, I couldn't cry any more nor could I keep my gal pal on the phone all night so I wrapped up the conversation.
But I was too wound up to sleep. So I paced and took in my surroundings. I saw a decent-sized HD television; lots of clothing, jewelry and other accessories; two cars and a motorcycle; two computers; a stereo; LOTS of books and more. In short, stuff, stuff everywhere.
And I had an epiphany.
None of our “things” meant anything to me if I wasn't sharing them with Gary. If I didn't have him, I didn’t need the rest of it. I was fully prepared to walk away from all of it.
The next morning, when I spoke to Gary, I told him as much. “I don’t care about anything we own, Dear, all that matters is you. Our stuff is so unimportant without you to share it with that, in fact, I could get rid of it all,” I said.
Sick as he was, Gary still had some mental faculties about him…
His reply, “Please don’t!”

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #17. Theme: “Walking Away”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Herman Cain vs. “Occupy Wall Street” – The Rock Opera

Instead of an alarm to wake us up, Gary and I set our clock to a talk radio station. For the past several days, we’ve been roused by ongoing reports about the movement known as “Occupy Wall Street.”
As a huge admirer of the Brooklyn Bridge, which was more or less “in my backyard” when I was a child, the pictures of protesters on the bridge have attracted my attention. My Dad walks over the bridge every morning on his way to work. What’s it like for him, I wonder, walking through the throngs of demonstrators? (I keep neglecting to ask….)
And now the marches, rallies, etc. have spread to our area – Washington, DC – too.
Living in DC, it’s hard to escape politics, especially when things are heating up in the race for President. Accordingly, candidates are weighing in on what’s going on.
The other morning, our “alarm” (you be the judge!) was a vignette about Republican would-be candidate Herman Cain’s take on Occupy Wall Street. The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO said in an interview, Don’t blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself. It is not someone’s fault if they succeeded, it is someones fault if they failed.”
Easy for him to say…. In mid-June Cain’s net worth was given as approximately $18 million. 
Why do I think he didn't get there completely on his own?
Anyway, I was thinking about protests and the civil rights movement came to mind. No great surprise, I suppose. Being a child of the ‘60s, I then began channeling Pete Seeger and this is what sprang to mind.

With this tune in mind, I offer these lyrics instead:

If you miss me at the back of the bus,
And you can’t find me nowhere, whoa-oh-oh
Check the limo that’s parked next to the bus,
I’ll be riding in there.

I’m a charmed millionaire, oh!
Sometimes life just isn’t fair, whoa-oh
My name’s Herman Cain,
Go right ahead and complain
Truth is I just don’t care!

Guess you know who I won’t be voting for in November if he’s on the ballot….

Driving the Heavenly Highway

As I write this, the sun is setting, signifying the day’s end and the end of the Jewish High Holy Day known as “Yom Kippur” (the Day of Atonement).
Maurycy Gottlieb's "Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur," 1878
Yom Kippur, which falls 10 days after Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – is a 24-plus hour period of introspection and self-evaluation all leading up to being “pardoned” by God for the offenses we perpetrated in the year that just ended.
In an effort to focus on “soul-ful” matters – repenting for our sins, re-setting our minds so as not to commit those transgressions again and seeking clemency from God, among others, we forgo attending to bodily needs, including eating and drinking. There are other activities we are instructed to abstain from too, like bathing, but I’m so not down with that….
As for the fast, I usually hang in for about 24 hours of “no eating and drinking.” Then I start getting light-headed and crabby. So I almost always break fast early.
Per usual, this time around, after approximately 24 hours, Gary and I concluded that we were ready to throw in the towel. But, it seems, God wasn’t done delivering a message to us …
We had decided to break our fast at a buffet restaurant about five miles from the house. From our house, there are several ways to get to the main road that leads to the restaurant. I volunteer not far from the restaurant and I always take the back way. But I was tired, so Gary drove. He chose to go a different way. One might say we were traveling “the road not taken” (by me, anyway).
The route he picked put us on the main road much earlier than the one I generally take. When we turned onto the main road, we were behind a van with the following license plate. 

The Lord works in mysterious ways….

Written for BFF inspiration 129, Theme: “The Road Not Taken.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Poor Nutritional “Model”

Last month I learned through a friend (Thank you, Beth Steinberg!) about a company called, simply, “Good.”
The group’s mission is, “In a world where things too often don’t work, GOOD seeks a path that does. We are people, businesses … organizations, policymakers, students, teachers…. All united in one simple idea, each elevated by being connected. Let’s do what works and never default to what doesn’t.”
The group has a website ( on which, among other things, they host challenges. Last month’s challenge was to connect with people. I didn’t fare so well with that one…
This month’s challenge, for which I’ve signed up, is to “get healthy.” I hope to do better with it for more reasons that one. It’s not like I’m unhealthy, but every now and then I could use a nudge – or a shove – in the right direction.
When it comes to getting healthy, I regularly encounter a BIG roadblock. It’s so obvious it’s almost laughable.
Here it is: I love to eat. Like I said, totally obvious.
Thing is, it’s actually a little more complicated than that….
Sometimes my stomach rules my brain to the point where I seriously lack discretion in picking “rations.”
One especially memorable – and very near dangerous – case of “food faux-pas” occurred during my senior year of college when I lived with a theatre major.
I came home from class one day to find a can on the stove filled with amber blocks that looked very much like dried papaya.
“Canned, dried papaya. How odd,” I thought, even as my hand reached for a piece.
Before I removed one of those scrumptious morsels, however, my sense of propriety kicked in. This was not food I had purchased, therefore it was not mine to take. I’d wait ‘til Kate got home and ask her if I could have some before chowing down.
It kinda looked like this...
So that’s what I did and a good thing, too.
When Kate got home, I told her I felt bad because I’d almost eaten her dried papaya and would it be okay if I had some now? She gave me a blank look.
“Y’know? Your dried papaya? On the stove? In the can?” I said.
“Daphne!” she shouted, scaring me something fierce.
Oh my God! What had I done!
Next thing I knew, Kate was erupting in laughter.
“That’s not papaya,” she said, between guffaws. “It’s modeling wax!”

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #16. Theme: “Road Blocks”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Wanna Grow Up…

A Buddhist monk in New York City walks up to a hot dog vendor, hands him $20 and says, “Make me one with everything.”
The vendor pockets the money and hands the monk his frank. After a short while, the monk says politely, “My change?” The vendor smiles and says, “Change comes from within.”

Today is my nephew’s 18th birthday. Whoa! I need to say that again. Today is my nephew’s 18th birthday.
I can’t believe it. I remember when he was so little that he could fit into a large turkey pan and I – affectionately, of course – called him, “Oven stuffer roaster.” (My sister wasn't too pleased with that moniker, truth be told….)
I feel like I blinked and 18 years flew by.
Fast forwarding a bit, continuing the transformation begun when I got my hair styled for the first time in 2½ years, two weeks ago I got glasses. I look undeniably “hip” (C’mon folks, humor me here…) but as I take in my new look, a voice says, “You’re getting older.”
Sadly, I’m not yet at that age where I can say whatever I want to and everyone will have to find it charming…. Of late, however, I am more of a curmudgeon than I used to be, especially when watching television, which, it seems, I have less and less interest in each day.
And there’s that little voice again saying, “This is how old people act.”
I feel like I’m being bombarded from every direction with signs that I’m aging and in the immortal words of Peter Pan, “I don’t wanna grow up.”
But then I stop and think about all the exciting aspects of growing up:
·         I can eat dessert before dinner!
·         I don’t have to eat my veggies if I don’t want them (although that’s never happened…)!
·         I can stay up (and out) as late as I want to without breaking curfew!
·         No more homework!
 Y’know what? Growing up is okay. In fact, there are lots of things I like about it. 
My absolute favorite thing about growing up has been living on my own, by which, I mean with my husband. Despite the presence of more gray hair, less patience, more aches and pains and less resilience, in the past six years with Gary, I feel like I've gotten younger. So much so, that yesterday I fairly leapt out of bed at 5 AM to get Gary ready for an early morning on the job.
I don’t typically jump out of bed at “o’dark thirty,” but yesterday was special. At 5:05 AM autumn officially began. At 5:06 AM I celebrated the arrival of autumn by dragging out my slow cooker.
Change definitely comes from within. In my case, within my stomach, and it’s all good. 

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop # 15. Theme: “Changes”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bugs in My Britches

The Ant by Ogden Nash
The ant has made himself illustrious/Through constant industry industrious.
So what?
Would you be calm and placid/If you were full of formic acid?

In a recent post, I wrote about being raised in New York City. People take from that that I’ve never seen a blade of grass or a tree. Lemme tell you, more than one tree grows in Brooklyn…
Seriously though, growing up in “the cement jungle,” where roaches were abundant (ick!), I never got very comfortable with bugs.
My antagonism presents a problem these days, because I’m a gardener. Not only do I care for the land around my house, but, my husband and I are so enthusiastic about gardening that we rent a public plot from the county parks department. 
When one rents a garden plot, much like renting anything else, one must adhere to certain rules regarding maintenance/upkeep. Recently we were notified that it was time to start cleanup and prep for the fall growing season.
This has been a tough year for us. As an at-home wife, one of my regular chores is tending to our garden plot, but I was unable to get there for more than a month this summer while recovering from surgery. Since Gary (aka “the husband”) was occupied with looking after me, he, too, was unavailable to weed, pick, water, etc.
Then a super-hot spell, which kept us away, was followed by heavy rain, prompting the weeds to really take off. When we finally got out there, we had a daunting task in front of us. But we enjoy the yield (This year we had peppers, melons, cucumbers, asparagus, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel and tomatoes) so in spite of it all, we set to cleaning up. 
I’m suppose I’m kidding myself if I think gardening is going to be a bug-free activity, n’est-ce pas?
Case in point…
This morning, while weeding one of six beds, I disturbed a colony of ants. In short order, they were crawling on my shoes and, because I was wearing short socks (stupid, stupid, stupid!), making their way onto my legs where (with nothing else to do, I guess) they began stinging me.
I looked a bit like this minus the cute dress:

I can just see my niece and nephews’ reaction after I share this story with them. They’ll say to their friends, “Have we told you the one about the ants in our aunt’s pants?”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Buildings as Babysitters, Family and More

Ten years ago today, I was a newspaper reporter, living in Schenectady, NY. That day, there was a primary election in my coverage area, which meant a late night and hence, a late start.
Not quite ready to start my day, I was watching cartoons in bed when my phone rang. I picked it up and it was my Dad, who said, “I just want to let you know that Mom and I were attending a program uptown and we’re okay.” I had no idea what he was talking about. He went on to tell me how a plane had accidentally flown into the World Trade Center.
I immediately switched channels only to see the rest of the horror story that wasn't fictional unfold.
I have strong feelings about the loss of life that occurred that day, but on a more personal level, I was affected by the loss of the physical buildings. It sounds odd, but they played a big role in my life.
For 18 years, growing up in Brooklyn Heights, I looked out on those towers from my kitchen window. They always delighted me. A hundred and ten floors! Wow! (It’s still pretty awesome, truth be told ….) But what meant more was that I could see them from my house. (Y’know, like “someone else” and Russia?)
When saying you were from Brooklyn merited a “Where’s that?” it was pretty darn cool to know how close I lived to “The City.”
But I’m more closely “related” to the towers through my paternal grandparents.
In 1977, we celebrated their 49th (and last) anniversary, at “Windows on the World,” a gourmet restaurant on the 106th and 107th floors of the north tower with sky-high prices to match. I remember everyone being so warm and friendly and looking so festive. Today, most of the people at that party are gone, making the memory even more poignant and special.
The north tower also boasted a 727-foot communications antenna on its roof. Returning from college in St. Louis, we’d often fly over NYC on approach to La Guardia Airport. One exceptionally gray day, the clouds were super low. Just before landing, I saw this spike sticking up into the sky, coming seemingly out of nowhere. It was so surreal it scared me. It took a minute to realize that it was the antenna. It was awesome to realize in that moment that this building literally “scraped the sky.”
But what I remember best is going with Grandma to a kite exhibit on the tippy top floor of the north tower. I’d guess I was six or seven years old. In those days, going to Manhattan was an occasion that warranted dressing up for. I recall standing in the foyer of my parents’ apartment – the one with that really cool view – while my grandmother “fixed her face.” All of a sudden she turned to me and very seriously inquired in her high-pitched, nasal voice, “Do I have on enough lipstick for this occasion?”

Written for BFF inspiration 122, Theme: Time Traveler

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Time to Tinkle

Exactly four weeks from today a gal pal of mine is getting married. I can't tell you how thrilled I am. But not necessarily for the reason you think.
Well, lest you think I'm completely irascible and cynical, I am happy for her. But here's the thing: I'm also overjoyed that the whole affair will be over in exactly four weeks. Allow me to explain....
Back when I got married – six years ago – Facebook didn't exist. I wish I could say I'm disappointed....
Over the course of the last year or so, I've been "treated" in acute detail to what stage A. is at in her wedding planning. In the last few months, it's gotten really "interesting." I know who's RSVP'ed; how the pumpkins are doing (I concede I have no idea what they're for...); when A. has her next dress fitting and on, and on, and on....
Some of the details are cute, some should be filed under "I'm sorry, but why do I care about this?"
I've asked myself again and again why she's sharing all these details. The answer I keep coming up with is that she's nervous and as such, isn't thinking straight, because I think she knows better than to share all this inconsequential information. I just hope she doesn't feel the need to "tweet" as she walks down the aisle....
Seriously though, I can relate to being nervous about getting married. Before my wedding there was so much to do and I was so uptight that it was all I could do to remember who I was and who I was marrying. Y'know? Good ol' what's-his-name, sitting next to me here on the couch... 
Truth be told, I almost missed my wedding because of nerves.
For those of you who've gotten married, attended a prom or had a coming out party you know what it's like to use the "little girls'" room in your dress. It requires at least two people.
C'mon, admit it. You couldn't really manage all that fabric and the crinolines by yourself, could you? I swear I couldn't have had fewer than four layers going on below my waist...
So I'm standing at the top of the aisle, my parents on either side, video camera trained on me. Everyone else has had his/her moment and now it's my turn to "walk down" and wow everyone and all I can think is, "Oh my God, I need to pee! Any chance we can stall while I use the ladies room?"

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #13. Theme: Thoughts on Time

Friday, September 9, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude: The Liebster Award

It takes a LOT to render me speechless. A few days ago Susan Dusterhoft darn near got me to that point, by selecting me for the Liebster Award. 
The award, which got its start in Germany (according to the translation I found, Liebster means "favorite") is designed to highlight blogs with fewer than 200 followers. I have five followers (C'mon people! Just kidding.) so it appears I qualify.... Seriously though, regardless of how many readers I have, I'm thrilled that a fellow writer would deem my "product" worthy of recognition. I am grateful indeed, Susan. 
As an award recipient, it is now up to me to "return the favor" by bringing to your attention five blogs I find myself returning to again and again. 
My first nominee is (drum-roll please!) Laura Hansen. Love your work, Laura and the photos are delightful.  
Nominee number two: Autumn Saylor. A "wickedly" funny and most informative blog, Autumn. Love it!
The third slot goes to: Lisa Marie Earnest. Lisa, your blog has a refreshing honesty to it. Very nice work. 
My fourth shout-out is for Ashley Ormon. Those are inspiring words you write, Ashley! Great job. 
And my final award goes to my wonderfully creative college pal, Jennifer Zander Wilck. Jen, what can I say? You are inspirational and I'm so, so fortunate to know you. A terrific writer and an even better person. No wonder I want to hear everything you have to say, eh? 
Ladies, now it's your turn to "pay it forward" (and backwards). Please find five blogs you each can't live without reading and let your readers (like me!) know about them. Be good enough, too, to give me "props" for selecting you for the award. (I'm not sure why you have to do that, but it's "in the rules," so...)
I can't wait to hear what each of you has to say next. Congrats and, all of you, keep up the great work!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Planet Janet

When I’m not engaged in blogging, gardening, cooking, eating figs or a host of other seemingly routine activities, I volunteer.
Since leaving my (detestable) job in 2009, I've been working two days a week as a job seekers’ writing specialist at a local one-stop career center.
About 99½ percent of the time I love what I do. Then there are those moments when I think that it’s fortunate I have really thick hair, ‘cause that way no one will notice if I rip some of it out. Today was one of those days.
Meet Janet – a middle-aged woman with a master’s degree who held a job as a clown. That just about says it all, doesn't it? As such, Janet’s reputation precedes her.
Today Janet asked for my input on a resume. After looking it over, I concluded that what she thought she’d written and what, in fact, she had written were two different entities.
During the discussion that ensued, she got visibly upset. When I asked why, she said I’d been needlessly abrasive 90 minutes earlier. It seems it takes a while for things to register with her….
I conceded that I had been snippy adding, “But, I confess, I was confused. Why ask me to review your work and then, in the next breath, say that you don’t want to use it? That’s not an effective use of my time.”
Forget the fact that she wanted to use the same resume for two jobs: (1) a social worker and (2) a meter maid. Yeah, they use a lot of the same skills….
So, after sorting things out, we went on to discuss resume formats and what would work best. 
Now, my “best practices” MO is to ask lots of questions. I admit I don’t remember what I asked, but at some point, Janet said, “I’m applying for government positions because I want a job that’s not stressful.”
Wow. A government job with no stress. A social work position, no less, with no stress. 
No comment. 
I’m pretty sure the waterworks would have begun again, if I’d articulated what I was thinking: “Tell me, please, what color is the sky on Planet Janet?”

Written for BFF inspiration 120, Theme: “You Color my World."