Monday, December 27, 2010

Being Jewish

When I was growing up in a blue collar area in Connecticut, right off "the thruway" (ie, I-95), I lived in a close knit neighborhood where people tended to stay for years. As matter of fact, I can still go back to that same neighborhood 30 years later and find one or two people I knew as a child, although they are in their sunset years now.

We lived on a dead end street, a great place for young families. As kids, we often played in the street, without any fear of traffic. The neighbors all knew each other, and each other's kids. Our house was smack dab in the middle of the street, at the "T" intersection of two dead-end streets. Kids took a shortcut through our yard to get to yet another dead-end street behind our house. Nobody minded kids taking a shortcut through your yard in those days. Well, except for the old couple across the street with the six foot tall evergreen hedge; we wouldn't dare try to get a ball back if it got accidentally thrown over that particular hedge.

I attended the public school, two blocks away, from kindergarten through third grade. Then, our parish school opened, so my dad sent all of his school age children to Catholic school, at great expense, since he had five children to educate. At the Catholic school, we wore uniforms, blue and green plaid jumpers over white shirts for girls and grey pants and navy blazers for boys. We got out of school an hour earlier than the public schools, and had different vacation schedules. We got out two of school weeks earlier in the summer, and had the day after Halloween off (yea! All Saints Day), which was great because we could sleep in after trick-or-treating the night before.

More than anything, I wanted to be like all of the other neighborhood kids. I wanted to wear my own dresses to school, not ugly uniforms. Most of the neighborhood kids, whose families tended toward the Protestant variety of Christianity, went to Sunday school. Our whole family went to Mass on Sunday mornings; religious education was just another subject to study during the school day.

But I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to go to Sunday school. I didn't want to be seen as special or different from the other kids in the neighborhood, which is the way the one Catholic family in the neighborhood (ours) was viewed by some of my friends.

And that is why have never understood why my (very few) Jewish schoolmates seemed so happy to be different, to be off from public school for special Jewish holidays, to go to Temple on Saturdays while the rest of us slept in and watched cartoons on TV. I figured there must be something really special about being Jewish that they would not want to believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. When I was six, in my childish attempt to make sense of this, I came up with the conclusion that Catholics believed in God, Jews didn't believe in God, and Protestants didn't know what to believe.

Fifty years later, I still don't understand why my Jewish friends love "being Jewish". Maybe one of them can clue me in.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Peace to All

Christmas Eve is almost upon us. And, I have done nothing to get into the holiday spirit. No tree, no cards, no gifts.

Christmas has never been one of my favorite holidays, thanks to the commercialization that we enjoy here in the US. I am not religious, and not into ostentatious decorations or spending more money than I can afford buying gifts. I would prefer Christmas be celebrated simply as a holiday about "Peace" and "Goodwill Among Men", the message preached by the man whose birth is remembered by many on December 25th.

But, the "youngsters" in our family, now teenagers, still expect festively wrapped packages, replete with shiny bows and ribbons, under the tree on Christmas morning, even though their belief in Santa was abandoned long ago. Fortunately for me, living 3,000 miles away, money or gift cards are very acceptable alternatives for teenagers.

This year I am starting a new tradition. The teens' presents will be New Year's Day gifts instead, given in celebration of the start of a new year, and winged across the country by an angelic cherub instead of a fat old man in a red velvet suit. And I will be very happily celebrating Peace and Goodwill Among Men on Christmas Day, in the company of good friends of various religious beliefs.

Monday, November 29, 2010

If Only

The photos were taken when I was almost thirteen and wearing a two piece bathing suit for the first time. My usually pale skin looks tanned next to the light blue of my suit in the photos taken of my siblings and myself splashing in the waves of the Atlantic ocean off the Rhode Island coast in early summer. "A typical family on summer vacation" the photos say, two parents, five kids, having fun running around at the beach.

Except, we were anything but typical that summer. That was the summer my mother died of breast cancer. But you can't tell that from the photos.

One last holiday with the family, before she went into the hospital for the last time. Her cousin lent us their family beach house for a week. And then, she went away, and we children never saw her again.

My mother looks pretty normal in the photos, a mother of five kids in her mid thirties in a 1960s style bathing suit. But I could tell something was very wrong. In the evenings, at the beach house, after the younger children were in bed, she would take very strong pain medications, which made it seem to me like she was drunk. All I wanted was a normal family vacation. And so, I acted out. I got in trouble, and was punished for it. This I remember very clearly. But I didn't care. I wanted my parents to act like parents, normal parents of a normal family. And this woozy mother didn't fit in at all with my vision of the way things were supposed to be.

We human beings have a very strong tendency to ignore what we do not want to see, to pretend things are normal even when they are not. "If only" we didn't eventually have to face the harsh reality of life (and death). "If only".

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Big Brother

My wallet was stolen way back in....June. In Paris, as I was exiting the subway. Not only did they steal my wallet, but my brand new camera and my old cell phone. The camera I could easily replace but I liked my old cell phone, even if it didn't play movies. It was functional, plus it had all my friends and family's phone numbers stored it in.

But worst of all, of course, was losing the wallet. Cash - gone. Credit and bank card - gone. California driver's license - gone. Luckily I had stashed my passport someplace else, or I might still be in France trying to get out of the country.

As soon as I got back to my friend's flat, I canceled the credit and bank cards and cell phone account, and spent several hours on the phone the next day trying to get replacement cards, which was not quite so easy, not to mention that the effort it took wasted half a day of vacation time. But it all worked out, except for the hassle and my financial loss. I finished my trip through several European countries and arrived back in California without significant incident several weeks later.

But guess what detail I postponed indefinitely? Yep, the trip to the DMV. Past visits must have left me traumatized from having to wait indefinitely. Despite three traffic tickets in the past two years (not one of them really my fault, I swear), I continued to drive, without a license in my physical possession for...over three months. (I rationalized this as OK because I do have a valid license, I just didn't keep a copy of it on me for a short period of time.) I did sign up online for an appointment - the system gave me an appointment 30 days out! By the time the computer generated appointment week arrived, I had a conflict in my schedule, so I set up a second online appointment - again 30 days out. All I can say is that the appointment system didn't work for me.

But, alas, this is not a tale of woe. It actually has a happy ending. With Thanksgiving around the corner, and me planning to spend it on the East Coast, the thought occurred to me that I might need to rent a car...for which I would need that hard copy of my driver's license. So, yesterday I hopped on the computer to see which DMV office was closest to my house. And, much to my surprise, I found that the California DMV has actually incorporated some 21st century technology. Each office posted current wait times online, both for appointments and walk-ins! Stunned, I located an office with a low wait time not too far from my house, and 20 minutes after walking in the door, I had my temporary driver's license.

However, California drivers, be forewarned. As of early October, California began issuing a "new" type of driver's license, one with enhanced security features, to make hard copy licenses more difficult to counterfeit. Having had my own license stolen, I'm all for that. But, these new security features include one I'm not so sure that I am happy about - you now also need to get fingerprinted to get a California driver's license.

I'm in the system now. And I am sure Big Brother will be watching.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Fall comes late in northern California. Its the first week in November before the leaves turn colors, the temperature drops, and the sky clouds up with winter rain. Halloween has come and gone, and if you are not a retailer, you begin to think about Thanksgiving. Even our chorus director, in his way of getting us all to know one another, asked the chorus members about their Thanksgiving plans last Monday evening. (He is hosting a Macedonian thanksgiving dinner at his house this year.)

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Its simple - eat, drink, give thanks, and be merry -- what could be better than that? Spending time with family and friends. Four days off work in a row (unless you are in the retail business.) Football and shopping for some. Deer hunting for others.

My son did not have a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family in Connecticut. Sean and I always visited my family in the summer, when the weather was not both cold AND rainy, and there was usually someplace I could take a restless child for a few hours, like the beach or the park. But the year Sean turned 17, he wanted to go back east for Thanksgiving to spend it with "family". Unfortunately, Sean never got that chance. I went back east by myself that November, and silently cried during the entire five hour plane ride east.

Now this year, my youngest niece, not quite sixteen, would like to have Thanksgiving at a friend's house, rather than with our extended family. While I understand her desire to do something different occasionally, and her boredom spending the whole day with her aunts and uncles, I can't stop thinking that my son would have given anything to spend just one Thanksgiving with "family".

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In the Back Row

Last night I went to hear one of my favorite bluegrass bands, "Blue Highway", at our local bluegrass hot-spot. Blue Highway is highly professional band; they have been nominated for two Grammy awards in recent years, and their dobro player is a twelve time national champion. All of the five members of the band have been together for the past 16 years, a rarity in the musical world. And, they can sing. All five of them. Together. In harmony. Wondrous harmony.

Redwood Bluegrass Associates, a group of bluegrass lovin' volunteers, arranges for bluegrass (and newgrass-gospel-country and sometimes jazz) related music once a month at a church in Mountain View, CA. Sometimes local bands play; sometimes groups come from Nashville. (And West Virginia-Kentucky-Virgina-Tennessee-Arkansas...) Some bands are youngsters just getting started, and some bands are well-known old-hands, at least in the bluegrass world.

Me, I came by myself, hoping to run into a friend or two as I often do. But, no one I knew was there last night, so I sat by myself, about two-thirds back in the church hall. Blue Highway was as good as ever musically speaking. And their jokes actually a bit better than I recall. But I was having a harder time than I usually do understanding the words to the songs. This I found quite vexing, and it was not the first time.

A few weeks ago, encouraged by a friend, I went to a political rally to support the Democratic candidate for governor of our great state of California, Jerry Brown. After hours of standing and waiting, my arches gave out and I opted for a seat in the back of the cavernous gym, in the handicapped section. After a near riot by the masses over seating, my friends finally ended up in the bleacher seats about midway back. When the speakers finally arrived (Gavin Newsome, Bill Clinton, and Jerry Brown), I found I could only understand what they were saying if I also watched their lips...on the BIG screen monitors. (I was too far back to even SEE their lips, even with my bifocals on, without the help of the large screens.) At the time, I blamed it on the "muddy" sound in the cavernous gym and my placement in the very back of it. My friends heard everything just fine.

My dad, who just turned 85, cannot "hear" you unless he can also see your face. I fear I may not be far behind.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Home Is Where the Heart Is

I have lived in California for over 30 years, over half of my life, having spent the first 25 years growing up in Connecticut. Somewhere during that time, California became "home" to me, the "home" I would long to return to after a long vacation or after visiting friends and family "back East".

Thirty years is a long time to live in one place. But I remember exactly when California first felt like home to me. I had been living in California for about three years. I had just returned from a trip to the East Coast and was so glad to see the golden brown hills of northern California, dotted with dark green oak trees, and the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean, foaming white waves crashing against the seemingly endless shore. Glad to return to our small, rented wooden cottage just south of Stanford University, to a mild temperature winter, and relaxed and accepting California attitudes.

And yet, there was a time, years later, when I thought about returning to Connecticut -- I would return after my son had graduated from high school, in order to spend more time with my five siblings and parents. But life has a way of not always turning out the way you expect. My son never graduated from high school, and when he was killed in his senior year of high school, I realized that California was where I truly belonged, where I truly felt at home. And California is where I have stayed.

Don't get me wrong - in my very worst of times, my family has always been there to support me, immediately and without question. And I would not hesitate to move back East if there were a family crisis, either theirs or mine. My siblings and I have an incredibly tight bond. I might not always have the luxury of living in California, which I love so well, but I am blessed with a loving family, which is something that not everyone experiences.

And while I'd hate to choose between the two, if it came down to that, I know I would move back East. I might be homesick for California for a long time, and I would definitely come back to visit every once in a while, but I know deep down inside that my love for my family trumps all, even my beloved California.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sean, Ten Years Gone

My son, Sean, left this world ten years ago today, on a cool October evening shortly after sunset. A young life cut far too short.

I miss you Sean. I miss you every day of my life. I will love you forever.

Forever and ever.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


All Hallows Eve. The night of ghosts and goblins and witches and black cats and haunted houses. The night when spirits from the afterworld are said to come back to visit the earthly realm. A night rooted in pagan mythology and old Celtic religion.

And, my favorite holiday, that is, right after Thanksgiving. (Turkey and pie and friends and family and no gifts or proscribed religious services -- what holiday could be a better than that? Well, if you are a kid, perhaps one that comes with lots of candy.)

I think Halloween was my favorite holiday as a kid. My siblings and I would start thinking about what we were going to "be" for Halloween as soon as the leaves started turning color in the autumn coolness of the East Coast that descended every year in early October. We didn't buy costumes back then; we made them ourselves, from our parents' discarded clothing and whatever scraps we could scrounge for props from the garage or attic.

It appears that Halloween is a very popular holiday, at least in my San Jose neighborhood, if front yard decorations are any indication (especially fake spider webs and tombstones). In fact, according to the press, Halloween is second in popularity only to the Christmas holiday season, at least in terms of money spent. Who would think people would spend so much money on costumes, decorations and candy?

I guess Halloween is as good a reason as any to throw one heck of a party.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Jewish services on Passover and Yom Kippur traditionally conclude with "Aliyah", a saying that translates roughly to "next year in Jerusalem". According to Wikipedia (the source of all truth) "aliyah" usually means the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel. More specifically, the term aliyah "includes both voluntary immigration for ideological, emotional, or practical reasons and, on the other hand, mass flight of persecuted populations of Jews."

Now, I am not Jewish, nor do I claim to have any depth of understanding of Jewish traditions or language. However, a twenty-something friend of mine and her young family is moving to the land of Israel under the Jewish tradition of Aliyah.

My young friend is Jewish and was raised in (smoggy, urban-sprawling, freeway-jammed, flashy, fashion-oriented, star-studded) Los Angeles. Her 30 year old husband was born in Israel, but has spent part of his youth and most of his adulthood in California. This couple have two very young children, "young" as in two and under. They also have a chance to make a significant change in their lives, by trying young married life on a large, modern kibbutz in Israel. And yet, they are young enough to return to the U.S. if things should not work out for them as they hope.

I myself have been transplanted voluntarily. Not across country borders, but from one end of the North American continent to the other. My bi-coastal cousins and I may speak the same English language but we have very different cultures. And after living in the sun-warmed, laid-back, tolerant San Francisco bay area for 30 years, its impossible for me to think about moving back to the (stodgy, rigid, and frigid) East Coast, even though my father and five siblings all still live there.

Thirty years is a long time to live in once place. However, it didn't take very long for me to feel that California was "home".

What if my friend doesn't like living in Israel? What if the kibbutz proves to be too confining? And then again, what if she loves living and raising her young children in Israel?

All I know for sure is that two California based grandfathers will be spending more time on international flights to Ben Gurion airport over the next couple of years.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dear Abby

Today's "Dear Abby" column was quite interesting. (Yes, I read "Dear Abby".)

The subject was about grieving after the loss of a spouse. The headline read "Life Is Too Short To Grieve Forever". The first letter written to "Abby" raised the issue of the "protocol regarding dating after a spouse's death". As in, how long should one wait after the death of a spouse before starting to date again.

A comment from a different Dear Abby writer struck a particular chord with me. This writer stated "There is a saying in grief recovery. Women cry, men replace."

Based on my own experience, I could not agree more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Blog Ideas

Blog ideas - where do they come from? Where do they go?

Tonight, I got an idea while waiting in line at the local yogurt hangout, the yogurt hangout in the pink building at the end of the main street in town, with the long line out the door, as is the case every Friday and Saturday night. On a Saturday night, waiting in line takes at least 15 minutes. Early in the evening, there are lots of little kids running around; later in the night, its mostly adults, with a high proportion of teenagers hanging out in groups, sitting in plastic chairs outside on the back cement patio and joking around with their friends.

I couldn't help but eavesdrop on the two young couples ahead of me in line, even as I watched a group of three teenage boys, in khaki shorts and sneakers, sitting in white plastic chairs near the door. Right front of me stood the two twenty-something couples, one obviously married and pregnant, the other one obviously "a couple", facing my direction. I don't know what led up to this particular point in their conversation, but the young man facing me suddenly stated that "its been reported that most men get married just to have regular access to sex", according to an article he read in some men's health magazine.

I don't think I have very many regular male readers out there in cyberspace, but I am curious if this statement is "true" or not. Is this what most guys really think? I am not sure that my readers' husbands or significant others will cop to the truth if asked directly, but in this day and age of letting it all hang out in cyberspace, maybe you can ask some of your "friends". You know, some of your 500 closest friends on Facebook.

I'll be watching for an interesting article on this subject on one of my reader's blog sites in the very near future.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Moving On

The house down the street where my friend used to live, the tidy grey house with white trim, with the white wicker chairs on the front porch and the aqua van in the driveway, has changed. Yes, the house is still grey with white trim. But the van and the white wicker chairs that made it Tim's house are gone, in fact, have been gone for a few weeks now, yet another indication that my friend Tim has moved on.

But the high school is where I most often saw my friend, either in the auditorium, or in his office on the main hallway of the administration building, right across from the auditorium, right in the middle of everything. And I have not yet been back to the high school since it opened its doors to students for the fall semester.

I did check out the high school's website. I have checked it once a week for several weeks now. Since school began a week ago, they finally added the name of the new drama teacher....and Tim's name is no longer listed.

But somehow I don't think it will really hit home until I walk into the administration building, and down the long hall, to the Drama office, and see another teacher in the place that for so long belonged to Tim. He had quite a few "offices" in different places over the 20-something years he was a Drama teacher at Fremont, usually due to one renovation or another. But he always dragged his old oak desk with him, no matter where they moved his office. And now, that old oak desk will be occupied by another drama teacher, and it won't be Tim.

It won't feel right and I won't like it one bit. But I will have to get used to it. I will have to get used to it because Tim has moved on, and I am still here, as are all the teenagers still passing through the doors of Fremont High School.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Why Are Guys So Clueless?

This may be a short post, because I have no answers to the title question.

I still read the paper version of the San Jose Mercury News, slim as it has become in recent years, the loss of its heft attributable to not only the recession (two full percentage points above the national average in the state of California), but also a victim of business decisions (it was bought by another newspaper company a few years ago) and technology innovations (instantaneous news on the internet).However, I am a loyal fan, especially of the high tech Silicon Valley business news, which often graces its front page in addition to the Business Section. And so when they offered me an incredible deal on the hard copy paper version for three months, I took it, unemployment be damned. (Although I do feel bad about having to recyle it every day.)

I still love to read the column entitled "Male Call". And yes, I have verified that it is indeed written by a guy. So it made total sense to me when the "Male Call" author responded to a question from a female reader about guys who "hit" on her in inappropriate situations. Responding from the guys' point of view, he pointed out that, for guys, its a matter of numbers - ask enough women for a date, and you are bound to score eventually, regardless of the fact that, say, you are at a funeral for her recently deceased husband or you are hitting on a female wearing her robe and slippers at midnight at the 24-hour pharmacy. I deduced from his answer that, yes, guys are indeed clueless much of the time.

Which brings me to the point of this post about timing and circumstances. My ex-boyfriend, who broke it off with me a little more than a year ago, and I are trying to remain on friendly terms. He broke off with me over the phone while I was a a very low point in my life, having recently lost my job, which is another story for another time. He had his reasons, but do timing and circumstances even register on a man's conscious?

We have gone out as friends on a few occasions recently to local musical events. There is no misunderstanding on either side that we are just friends, and neither of us want more than that. But, he does not seem to understand that I don't want to hear about his dating experiences. Or that I am not comfortable with his bringing a date (and sitting together) at a very small local musical event that we both want to attend. Or that maybe his "date" might not want to sit with his former girlfriend.

I would like to see my former boyfriend for a casual lunch, or to go listen to some music that we both appreciate, on occasion, as friends. But I just don't want to meet his date or his girlfriend, as the case may be. Not yet. But he just doesn't seem to understand this.

And so, after much situational explanation on my part, I am still left the same way I started out, with my title question unanswered. If anyone out there has any answers for me, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dutch Elm Disease

Many summers ago, when I was young and much more energetic, I was trained by the Agriculture Department of the State of California to detect Dutch Elm Disease. Identifying Dutch Elm Disease was drilled into me, and I spent four months scouring bay area neighborhoods looking for trees with evidence of the disease. I can still identify all five types of elm trees, and am pretty good at ascertaining which elm trees might be ailing from Dutch Elm Disease.

I can spot an elm tree two blocks away. I can identify Dutch Elm Disease without a lab test. I was trained 30 years ago, and I am still as good as ever.

For the uninitiated, there is no such thing as a "Dutch Elm Tree". There are European Elms, American Elms, Chinese Elms, Japanese Elms and Silberian Elms, but no Dutch Elm Trees. Various types of elms trees have been planted in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area over the years, and there are a few in my Willow Glen neighborhood.

On my daily walk to downtown Willow Glen, on the corner of Lincoln and Pine, are two large stately European elm trees. One, leafless, is clearly dead; the other one is clearly ailing, the leaves at the crest of the tree brown and dry and curled, clear symptoms of the dreaded Dutch Elm Disease.

I ran into the neighbor who owns the two trees. He seemed sympathetic. The trees both need to be cut down before the disease spreads, via an elm beetle that flies from tree to tree.

Perhaps now, 30 years later, there are ways to treat Dutch Elm Disease. Unfortunately, a dead tree is still a dead tree. And dead elm wood is still dead elm wood. Unfortunately, guess where elm beetles like to breed?

So if you have an elm tree, keep it pruned to remove the dead wood. And if the leaves on your tree are turning brown prematurely, get an expert opinion as soon as possible. If you act quickly, you might not have to take the drastic step of cutting down your tree.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Life Stage

I feel like I am going through one of those "stages" of know, one of those gawky, low self-confidence stages, with glasses and braces. I am sure you what I am talking about....the bodily changes of middle-age, the bi-focals, and dentures....I mean, braces.

Yes, I am actually wearing braces. Invisalign to be precise. Not because, at age 57, I am concerned that my teeth are not perfectly, celebrity straight, but rather in the hopes of reducing uneven tooth pressure that may be contributing to my receding gum problems. (Now that sounds more like a 50-something type of problem.)

If this procedures does not help, I may be prematurely in the market for dentures at some point in the not too distant future. And instead of taking my Invisalign braces out in order to eat, I will be putting my dentures in.

A sobering thought. And a very good incentive to wear my Invisalign braces 24-7.

The Dentist, Revisited

I have been afraid of going to the dentist for as long as I can remember. Maybe it has to do with my first experience with a dentist, which occurred when I was around six years old. It was not a good experience, and left me with nightmares for years to come. I had to have a tooth pulled, a back molar which had decayed, and the dentist, perhaps using common psychology of the time, frightened me, on purpose. He convinced me that all my teeth would fall out if I didn't brush them better. I remember him showing me pictures of toothless children who (he said) didn't brush their teeth. I don't remember actually getting my tooth pulled out (they must have put me under general anesthesia), but I do remember the dentist as a scary old man waving giant pliers in front of my face, just waiting to pull out all my rotten teeth.

How things have changed.

I am not a novice dentist patient by any means. I have had subsequent cavities (before most water was flouridated) that have been filled with mercury, half a dozen crowns, and several root canals, the crowns and root canals done in my later years. The young people of today probably don't even have cavities, never mind the subsequent crowns and root canals. They just get their teeth straightened and whitened and off they go on their merry, smiling way. Not so for the older generation.

Five years ago, I needed a crown to replace one of my ancient mercury filled teeth. This summer, that crown broke, while I was in Europe (naturally) and despite my efforts to save it to be "glued" back on, it was taken by the pickpockets who emptied the contents of my purse in a crowded Paris subway station.

But, hey, no worries, this is 2010.

My dentist can re-create the missing part of my tooth, thanks to some high tech photos he took of the remaining tooth, with an instrument about the size of an ordinary toothbrush, and with the help of some holographic technology, courtesy of 21st century software. And, he can do all of this painlessly in one visit. Did I say PAINLESSLY? This is a serious change from the painful, terrifying memories of my youth.

Just hearing the dentist drill used to make me wince. And sitting in the dentist chair, I would get white knuckles from holding onto the arm rests for dear life as soon as the dentist entered the room. But guess what? No more. No more wincing. No more white knuckles.

As for the nightmares - I still have them, occasionally. That ancient fear is buried deep in my psyche. But, you know what? Two out of three isn't bad.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dentist Visit

If nothing ever happens to you, you have nothing to write about. Well, I suppose I can comment on current events, but that's what Time magazine and Letters to the Editor are for. Blogging has seemed....well, more personal to me. (Not that I air my innermost secrets in cyberspace.)

So, I suppose I better start doing something, even if its only a trip to the dentist.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Generation Gap

There is a generation gap, and I tripped over it quite recently. Yes, I did notice "the gap" 10 years ago, when my son was a teenager. But I expected that - blaring music I did not care for, fashion I did not like (in my son's case, pants worn so low that his boxer shorts showed by several inches), tatooes and piercings by both sexes in places strange to my sensibilities (yes, I have pierced ears, but only one hole in each ear), extreme hair (such as in blue dyed, or spiked, or worse), and sometimes commonly used phrases and shorthand that I did not understand. But what I did understand was the need to express oneself differently from one's parents' generation. I had gone through all of this myself when I was a teenager, back in the Dark Ages (that would be B.C., as in "Before Computers").

In today's world, even the 50-somethings need to keep up with technology, including Facebook and Twitter, to be competitive in business. The twenty-somethings in the workplace are very competitive, and have energy that I admit I no longer have. All of this I expect, even if I do not welcome the changes.

I am talking about something else. I am talking about the twenty-something Mamas and Papas who are raising young children in today's world, a far different world than I inhabited as a young parent.

Some things have not changed. Yes, there will always be obnoxious characters in books, TV and movies that the children love (and want to watch repeatedly) and the parents loathe. The characters will change over time, but the situation will not. There will be discussions about breast feeding and co-sleeping and temper tantrums and other parenting issues that have existed for generations. The common wisdom of the day may shift, but the issues will still exist.

I think technology has changed something else -- not only the vast amount of time we spend "online", instead of being with family and friends, but also what is written. Blogging and Facebook and Twitter have allowed us, even pressured us, to reveal more of ourselves to the entire world. We spend hours with our new online "pen pals" (those of the twenty-something generation might have to look this up on Google), seeking advice, agreement and comment from people we might not ever meet.

I admit, I have a Facebook account, which has served a very useful purpose in connecting people when a good friend of mine passed away last April and in occasionally connecting with my teenage nieces. And I admit to having a blog (obviously). But I do not reveal my innermost thoughts and feelings or incidents on either, as some of the younger generation appear to do.

Wherein lies the gap, the gap in my understanding, of today's "blogs", and the desire to "reveal all". The internet has allowed an entire generation of parents to connect online, which is probably a good thing for sharing parenting information and strategies, and appeasing isolation of those caring for their young at home all day. But it has also encouraged them to reveal things they otherwise might not have, at least not to the whole world.

I wonder, what will their children turn out to be like? Having grown up in this reveal-all world, will they be as open or more open than their parents? Or will today's openness inspire a backlash of privacy when today's pre-schoolers become teenagers, as they wince while reading Mom's old blog a dozen years from now?

Only time will tell.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Long Line

I have been putting off going to the grocery store, for at least a week. Because of this, I ran out of ingredients for a decent breakfast. And so, for lack of any pancake mix or Cheerios in the house, I wandered down to the local Starbucks for a piece of banana bread. Trying to cut back on both expenses and calories, I was not planning to order my regular Chai Tea Latte (with extra foam), just a slice of banana bread.

It was mid-morning, after the commuter rush, yet there was a fairly long line at the Starbucks, which is in a shopping center just two blocks from my house. I was not in any rush, and the line moved fairly quickly. I was at the counter within five minutes. I have waited far longer in many a Starbucks line during the morning commuter rush hour. When I finally placed my order, for banana bread, but no drink, the clerk behind the counter remarked that I had waited in line "a long time just for a piece of banana bread". I said something like "well, the wait wasn't really all that long".

I paid for my order, and picked up my banana bread from the counter, then turned around to glance at the New York Times in the newspaper stand next to the counter. Pictured on the front page was a photo of another line, a much longer line. A line of people, hundreds of people, standing in a very long line that curved up and down the hillside, standing outdoors in the heat of the midday sun, empty tin pans held in their hands, waiting for a single serving of some mushy meal, the victims of flood ravaged Pakistan.

Indeed, my wait in line was not very long, not very long at all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cannot Decide

Although I occasionally use my blog to vent my frustrations, I usually try to find more interesting topics for discussion. But sometimes, I come up empty.

What should I write about? The Mark Hurd scandal at HP? Re-runs of NCIS on TV? Which new cell phone to buy? Facebook's new "I don't care" button? Gee, so much to choose from.....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Eat.Pray. Love.

I tried. I really did. I tried to read the book, but could not get into it. The writing style just didn't really grab me. And a book has to grab me in the first chapter or two or I just won't waste my time reading any further.

So, tonight I went to see the movie by the same name tonight at the cute little theatre in the shopping center a mere block away from my house. I thought perhaps this book might be one of those books that makes a better movie than it does a book, but I was wrong.

The movie didn't grab me either. The story seemed at best self-indulgent. The same kind of self-indulgence many of us went through in our twenties, ie, trying to figure yourself out. Self-indulgence is expected in the young. Finding yourself. Traveling to exotic places. Taking risks, like rock-climbing and sky-diving and bungy-jumping. Climbing mountains in the Himalayas. Very twenty-something activities, before you get serious about the "important" and serious things in life, like career, marriage and family.

So why does an over 40 year old female, without children, leave her husband and go off to other countries in order to "find herself"? To Italy to "eat" pasta and pizza, to India for mediation with a "guru" she knows absolutely nothing about, and then to Bali, to see a fortune teller who reads her palm. She could have done all of this without leaving the United States. We have excellent pasta and pizza in any Italian neighborhood in New York City; mediation centers exist even in suburbia; we have people who will read your palm on any street corner in any major city. Why could she not have "found herself" here in the good old USA?

I just don't get it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


A friend of mine writes about hilarious moments as a mother of a toddler and a six month old baby. And I've been thinking lately of the fact that I'm on the other end of the life-span spectrum. We all age eventually, but women go through a more dramatic change at mid-life than men do. Menopause.

If my twenty-something friend can write with brutal honesty about pelvic exams and childbirth, why can't I write just as honestly about the changes accompanying menopause?

First of all, I am not sure that I want to admit that, at 57, I am actually "menopausal". Menopause is seen as a loss of sexuality, a loss of fertility, a loss of "womanhood". Its a time of life when older women should be content with the role of grandmother, not sex siren. It can be a time of loss of sexual desire, and is often a time when men of the same age reach for younger lovers, often much younger lovers. Its a time of weight gain that turns your hour glass figure into the Pillsbury Dough boy and hot flashes that disrupt your sleep and social activities.

There are many serious "articles" on the internet regarding the physiology of Menopause. I am not sure there are very many humorous blog sites on the same subject. But then again, perhaps this "old lady" just does not know how to find them.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ripped Out

My heart was ripped out ten years ago, when I received the news that my son was hit by a train. Ripped out and shredded to pieces, and then punched in the gut until I doubled over unable to breathe.

This October 11th will be the tenth anniversary of Sean's death. Sean is almost ten years gone; it does not seem possible. It seems like only yesterday that Sean was a ten year old boy with a twinkle in his blue eyes and mischief on his mind.

And now, as the tenth year anniversary of Sean's death approaches, I am doubly sad. Sad that I have no Tim Shannon to lean on, to help me get through this significant anniversary date. Sad that I won't be able to spend time in the Fremont HS auditorium, as I have done every year for ten years past. Sad that I won't be able to sit in Tim's office during "lunch" and listen to the teenage prattle all around me, like a fly on the wall, listening in to the discussions of everything and anything, and believe me, anything and everything was said.

I miss them both, my 17 year old son with the wry sense of humor, who has been gone such a long time from my life, and Sean's drama teacher, mentor and friend, Tim, who had become my very good friend and support over the past ten years, both of them gone in an instant in the prime of their lives.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Like Sylvia Brown. Only Catholic.

Nine years ago this month, my step-mother died, quite suddenly, of a massive, fatal heart attack at the age of 73, while doing some rather vigorous yardwork. That same day, my dad asked for a sign that my step-mom was in heaven. Now, you have to understand that my parents are Catholic, very Catholic, as in go-to-church and say-the-rosary every day Catholic. As in volunteer-every-day-for-some-worthwhile-cause Catholic.

At my mother's wake, hundreds of people lined up to give their condolences to our family. These people were individuals that we, the family, had never met before, people who my step-mother had helped in some way or another in one of her many volunteer roles. According to these strangers-to-us, my step-mother was already a saint-on-earth.

So, the night she died, my dad asked my step-mother to give him a sign, a specific sign, that she was in heaven. According to my dad, he asked her to send him a white rose.

The day after she died, before the wake, a nun from the convent a few miles up the road, where my mother sometimes volunteered, knocked on my dad's door. He opened the door. Standing in front of him was a nun from the convent. She simply said "This is for you" and then handed him....a white rose.

Had my parents pre-arranged this? My father claims that they did not, and that the nun says she simply received a "message" from my step-mother, requesting that she deliver a white rose to my father's doorstep.

I myself remain skeptical, but I know my father to be a truthful man. Coincidence? Who knows. I only know that I cannot judge the experiences of others as to whether or not contact is possible with those who have left this earthly world.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Today would have been Tim's 50th birthday. Would have been, if he had not dropped dead of heart failure exactly four months ago. His friends and family will gather to celebrate and remember him, honoring a man who meant so much to so many.

I want to say "Happy Birthday, Tim", but its not the same without his actually being here. If he were here, there would be a party with good friends in attendance at the local Mexican restaurant, margaritas all around, Tim's cheeks dimpled and eyes twinkling. Now I will be bringing a photo of Tim instead to place at a chair in the middle of the table. Its just not quite the same.

When Sean's 18th birthday rolled around, three months after he had died, I invited some of Sean's friends to a (Mexican) restaurant to celebrate and honor their friend's memory. I invited Tim to join us. I remember Tim trying to cheer up one of Sean's best friends by doing silly things with her long blonde hair. Janny came to the gathering to remember Sean, but she was downright sad that Sean was not there to celebrate with his friends.

I feel the same way about Tim. He should be here with us, on his 50th.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Need to Know

Tim would have been the first to tell me to "drop it". I am referring to my obsessive need to know "why". Like most men, when a relationship ended, Tim moved on, seemingly easily in my opinion. I, like most women, wanted to analyze my relationships - what went wrong, what could I have done differently, did my ex still care for me, etc. I think its in my DNA, always analyzing the details, ad infinitum.

But I have to admit, after Sean died, Tim sat patiently with me in the auditorium, several times, as we discussed why teenagers take risks, and could Sean have possibly commmitted suicide, and could I, as his parent, have prevented the accident that took my son's life. It took me a long time to accept the untimely death of my 17 year old son. I spoke with the coroner, with the Amtrak officer who was first on the scene of the accident, and reviewed the Caltrain engineer's report of what had happened, trying to piece together how my very smart teenage son could have been accidentally been hit by a train. I had to have explanations first, in order for acceptance to follow.

My approach is no different in the case of the untimely death of my friend Tim, at age 49. Yes, he was a little bit overweight, but so are many of us over the age of 40. Yes, he had a family history of heart disease, but none of his relatives had died before the age of 65. Yes, he had high cholesterol, but so do many people and yet they don't die before reaching the age of 50.

Friday, August 6th, would have been Tim's 50th birthday, had he not dropped dead exactly four months before. It still does not seem possible to me that Tim won't show up at Aqui, the local Mexican restaurant where some of his friends will gather on Friday evening to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his birth. And I still have a hard time imagining that Tim won't show up, late as usual, with a wide grin on his face, his blue eyes twinkling.

The other day I walked past Tim's tidy grey house, just a few blocks from my own. His aqua van was no longer parked in the driveway, a "For Rent" sign leaned against the side of the house, his familiar white wicker porch chairs were gone, the house empty of furniture, the familiar bark of his old dog absent. When September rolls around, when I inevitably stop by Fremont High School, the high school my son attended under Tim's gentle tutelage, there will be a different Drama teacher in Tim's office, and that person won't be Tim Shannon. I know that I will feel like I am in an episode of "The Twilight Zone".

So yesterday, over-analyzer that I am, I stopped by the coroner's office to pick up a copy of the autopsy report on Tim's body. I have no background in medical lingo, but I was able to generate a rough translation of the cause of death thanks to Google's internet search engine. Evidence of cause of death (in layman's lingo): Tim's heart stopped, as evidenced by dead tissue in his heart and lungs. Cause of death: moderate to marked coronary artery disease. "Moderate" as in 40% blockage of coronary arteries; "marked" as in 65% narrowing of small coronary arterial branches.

The report does not indicate any significant clot or blockage of a main artery which might have caused a "heart attack". What it does suggest instead is that, a slightly overweight middle-aged man with high cholesterol and "moderate to marked" coronary artery disease", can die suddenly of heart failure, with no prior warning signs.

Life, so unpredictable, and sometimes, so totally unfair.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shit Happens

Just as sure as that little gray cloud is still following me around, shit happens, sometimes when you least expect it.

I was walking down the streets of San Francisco, toward the bay, on a gorgeous sunny day (which doesn't always happen in SF) after a typical foggy summer morning, just enjoying the rays and being in the city. Walking down a clean sidewalk toward the bay, surrounded by many other people taking a walk during their lunch hour. All of a sudden, water gushes up through four pencil sized holes in a small square metal plate in the street, splashing liquid all over me. At least I first I thought it was water, but quickly realized that it smelled a bit more fragrant than plain water.

My shirt was liberally sprinkled with what had to have been sewage. I smelled worse than a homeless person and my first thought was how could I ride the train home smelling like a baby's dirty diaper. Fortunately, I found a friendly Starbucks nearby with an unlocked bathroom so I could at least scrub my hands and face.

This mini-geyser happened in a split second and I was the ONLY one who got wet. I go to San Francisco two or three times a year. Why was I the lucky one?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Grey Cloud

That grey cloud is still following me around, hovering just behind my head, waiting for the chance to ruin my day. I was hoping that I had left my bad luck in Europe, where it started several weeks ago. I had not been in Paris for even two whole days when I was pick-pocketed while exiting the stairs of the Metro. (Wallet, cell phone and camera just vanished into thin air.) And just a day before I left for New York, I ripped my big toenail off on the corner of my runaway suitcase. I was hoping that I was leaving my bad luck in Europe along with it. (Said bad luck in Europe includes breaking a tooth in a Paris restaurant, tucking it into the presumed safety of my wallet, and then having the wallet stolen two hours later, among other exciting adventures.)

Once back in California and only a mile from the Pacific Ocean, my still black and blue toe did not keep me from walking the sandy beaches near the Santa Monica pier. I was not even sorry later that evening as my toe throbbed from too much walking in the soft shifting sand. However, I did find it annoying to discover an itchy rash on both ankles a few hours after wading in the summer warmed waves of the Pacific.

I think that little grey cloud follows me still.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hallmark Family

There is a Hallmark Family living in my dad's computer. None of us know for sure how just they got there. Like ghosts that invade your living space, one day this family just appeared on his screen saver. Yes, the photos that my step-mom put on the screen saver are there - colorful flowers, saintly pictures, my step-mother's beloved dog, and photos taken at family gatherings. OUR family gatherings, taken at my parent's house in Connecticut or my sister's house in New York.

And now? Interspersed between the familiar photos are other photos - of places none of us have ever been (a moose in Alaska, a rock in the desert, steep walled canyons of Arizona, a country farmhouse in Europe) and people we have never seen (a young girl with a soccer ball, children we don't know scrambling over bright orange pumpkins or dressed in Easter finery). Who are these people and how did they sneak into my dad's computer?

We have a theory, although my sister pleads ignorance, and in fact blames her teenage daughter, who is currently at camp and not able to defend herself. My sister, some months ago at my request, uploaded some photos from my son's high school years -- photos of his high school, his drama teacher, backstage photos, the old auditorium. And oddly enough, around the same time that the Hallmark Family made its appearance on my dad's screen saver, so did my son's high school photos and the photos of places we had never been. Coindidence? I think not, although my sister claims she did nothing but scan in the high school photos and email them to me.

Methinks it was the bored teenager in the bedrooom with the screen saver software that is the cause of the haunting by the Hallmark Family. But sometimes I like to believe that they just appeared by themselves, the software ghosts of a picture perfect family, come to give us pause for thought about the mysteries of life.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I think you have to be, when you are a mom. Ambidexterous, I mean. I have heard of stories of a certain breast feeding mom "zipping up" with one hand, to chase after a run away two year old in the local bookstore in LA, picking up the contents of her purse while in hot pursuit. (That would be TheCrazyBabyMama.)

On my return trip to the US, in a restroom in the airport at Dulles International, I was witness to another ambidexterous feat of motherhood. This was perhaps not quite as public an event as the CrazyBabyMama in the LA bookstore, but still, it was definitely testimony to the physical feats of motherhood, feats that often go unrecognized.

Holding a chubby squirming five month old firmly in one arm, and with a curious four year old at her side, a young mother calmly answered question after question from the four year old, while she washed her baby's butt in the sink with her free hand, dried him off under the hand dryer without burning him, shook out a disposable diaper (which she seemingly produced from thin air) and then quickly and deftly wrapped the disposable diaper around the squirming baby's butt with one hand while she held him with the other, still calmly answering questions from the four year old. That baby never touched a single germy surface of that public restroom, nor was he burned under the hand dryer, nor was he dripping wet when she put the diaper on. Then she just as calmly walked out of the public restroom, toting the now freshly cleaned and diapered cherub, still calmly answering the continuous repetitive questions from the inquisitive four year old.

If it had been me, even the me of 30 years ago, the kid would have left the restroom either dripping wet or with a third degree burn, while the four year old would have been whining half way through the baby-washing-act due to my lack of patience with continuous, repetitive questions. And the one-handed diaper act in mid-air? Not a chance.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Seriously Livid

Yes, I should be writing about the wonderful time I am having in Europe, but mostly what I've been having is a giant headache, thanks to pickpockets in Paris and bank bureaucracy. It is more difficult to get your credit card replaced than write a dissertation. Seriously. I've been without access to cash via credit card or ATM card for several days. Thank god for friends or I would have been sleeping on the streets of Paris and London.

After a phone call which lasted one and a half hours (at the courtesy of the bed and breakfast, since my cell phone was also stolen), I finally got my new temporary credit card delivered to my friend's house in England. I figured that I could finally charge things (you know, frivilous things like meals and lodging). But to get actual hard cash, I needed to go the bank to take out a "cash advance" since I cannot use the temporary credit card at the ATM. But what to my surprise when I went to purchase a train ticket on my new card - my bank, who was on the phone line with me and VISA, had put my card on hold. Why? Because I was making purchases in Europe and my address is in the US. They put my new card on hold as a safety precaution against fraud! I kid you not. Why on earth did they think I needed a temporary replacement card sent to England in the first place????

Come on people, use your brains! I know the banks use algorithms (automated ways to aggravate you) to decide to put your card on hold when it appears that transactions are not being performed by the valid cardholder, but what happened in my case was an exercise in stupidity. No one had the forethought to make a note in my file (or whatever they do) to change the standard algorithm? No, I guess that is too time consuimg to pay people to do that; they just wait (on purpose) until the card is automatically put on hold by the system, until the livid customer calls them to ask "why has my card been put on hold?" before they change or suspend the standard algorithm.

In the meantime, the "customer" may have been seriously inconvenienced. I may be a little biased after my recent experience, but for some reason, I do not think that concern for the customer is at the top of the bank's priority list.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Busy Girl

This California Girl has been very busy lately (the reason for my recent lack of postings). Chorus performance last Monday night (no, I did not sing but I had a very important role as after-party planner), final exam in Corporate Tax last night (I was woefully unprepared but hopefully I passed), and half my trip to Europe fell through at the last minute so I have been scrambling for where to go for ten days in July. (I did manage to buy Rick Steve's book on Amsterdam, although I have yet to crack it open.) Yes, its been a busy and stressful week.

I leave on vacation for New York tomorrow, Friday, with much planning left to do for my trip to Europe, for which I leave a few days later. The good thing is that I have not had much trouble finding places to stay in Europe. This is not good for the global economic picture, but its good for me.

I just wanted to let my faithful readers know that my blog is likely to be quiet for the next few weeks. I return to my beautiful California the last week in July. Hopefully I will have many new adventures to write about. Until then my friends, until then.

Friday, June 11, 2010

72 Degrees

This was the magic number when I was a child -- 72 degrees. When warm spring weather rolled around in Connecticut each May, we kids would tear off the sweaters or jackets we wore to school in the morning coolness and carry them home, along with the stacks of books we carried in our arms. (This was "BB", ie, "Before Backpacks", at least before backpacks were used by school children to tote their books around.)

But my mother had a "magic number", and that magic number was 72. No matter that we kids were sweaty from a long uphill walk home from school on a sunny spring afternoon, if the thermometor outside the kitchen window read less than 72 degrees Farenheit, the sweaters/jackets were supposed to stay on. No matter that we kids ran around like banshees playing tag, or hide and seek, or any variety of imaginative play, no matter that we truly got warm while actively playing, we were supposed to wear the sweater or jacket until that thermometer hit the magic number.

Of course, we didn't always comply. As soon as Mom was out of our line of sight, if we were running around and started feeling warm, we ditched the outer clothing layer. We could run around in 90 degree weather and 90 percent humidity back then. Now, I'm lucky if I don't faint on my way from my air conditioned car into the coolness of my Dad's shaded house.

I now live in California, a much drier, less humid climate. I never used the air conditioning in my car until a few years ago, except on those few very hot 95 degree days in the Bay Area summer. But I find that lately the temperature in my car is set almost permanently at 68 degrees because I am almost always hot. While not environmentally correct, I think this 56 year old female is entitled to a few extra degrees of coolness for a while. When I am 80 and want the heat cranked up to 75 degrees, I will happily pile on a few more blankets instead.

If she were alive today, somehow I do not think my mother would approve.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Love CVS

Why in the world do they put birthday cards for older folks (uhhhh...that would be me) -- you know, the ones with all the old people jokes in KNEE LEVEL? A toddler is going to pick them out? Come on folks - we are too stiff to bend, our eyesight failing and we are going to pick out cards knee level? OHHH...that's right...this is CVS, I forgot....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Walking on Water

My most humiliating experience ever....hmmmm, this will take some might have been the time I was at a party and "walked on water" (right across the built-in Olympic-sized swimming pool cover, much to the horror of the host)....or it might have been the time I was being given my annual gyn exam, and thought I'd tell a joke to ease the tension....and I didn't realize until afterwards that my male gynecologist's last name was Dworski, and of course I had told a Polish joke....or it might have been the time I was 14 and had my hair wrapped around my head trying to straighten my Shirley Temple curls in the midst of a humid East Coast summer, when the teenage boy I had a crush on knocked at the door (I locked myself in my bedroom and would not come out)....

But you see, I'm 56 now, almost 57, and embarassing things happen every day....but the good thing about being over 50 is that I no longer remember all of the embarassing things I did yesterday, or two years ago or even ten years ago.....and, in addition, it takes a lot more to embarass me now than it did when I was younger (mainly because I no longer give a damn most of the time). Obviously, I am not going to win this contest.

Besides, I don't think I am any match for the story about the toddler and the vibrating teething ring snatched from the bedroom drawer (see "")

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Read My Blog

The heading of this post should be a bumper sticker -- you know, like "Kiss My Ass". Actually, I hope "they" don't read my blog. At least, not yet. Considering that I only have 16 official "Fans", I suppose I don't have to worry about any of "them" visiting my blog.

I am speaking of the high school generation, specifically the high school students at the school where my good friend Tim taught drama for 24 years. Nah, I am sure that this is the last place they will look.

Every year I give out a scholarship in my son's memory, the Sean Emdy Memorial Scholarship, to a graduating senior who is going on to college, and who has a continuing interest in drama or technical theatre. This June 8th will be the tenth time that I have given out a scholarship in Sean's memory. Yesterday I received the two applications for the current year; I only get two or three applications each year.

I am always surprised when I receive the applications. The students who I think will apply, and who I hope apply, often do not. The students that do apply usually surprise me, and often impress me.

The application process is simple: write up one or two pages about your interest in theatre and what you've learned and what you've done and provide two letters of recommendation. Not only am I surprised by who applies, but by what they write.

Yes, there are the students who have been in every show since they were freshmen, who did summer theatre since they were five years old, who can sing and dance circles around others. These are not the students who receive the scholarship. I am looking for students who have learned something more -- the students who have learned to handle critical situations by themselves, who have learned how to work as part of a team, who have taken on leadership roles, and who, as a result, have gained confidence in themselves. These are the students who end up with the scholarship. These students represent Tim's vision of what high school theatre should accomplish. "They" are Tim's legacy.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Moving On

There are "things" which we all go through in life, things that move us through the various stages of our lives - graduation, moving, marriage, moving, career changes, moving, children, moving, divorce, moving, re-marriage, moving, retirement, moving, death of a spouse and more moving. It seems like are always doing these two things: growing older, and moving.

Some of us move more than others. A rare few live all their lives in the same house (my grandmother comes to mind). We move across the country, around the world, down the street, to another state. We rent, we buy, we share living spaces, we live alone, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by default.

In the end, we all move on to our final resting place - in a coffin in the ground or ashes dispersed over land or ocean. In the end, our physical body is recyled and becomes just a different part of our ever expanding universe.

During our lives, we make friends, start families, start careers, change careers, change friends, change families. All throughout our lives, as we move, we move on with our lives, whether intentional or forced. Friends and lovers come and go. Lovers break up with us, friends die and we are forced to move on.

Move on. Two words, so simple, and yet so complex.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Neighborhood

I recently moved into a wonderful neighborhood, a neighborhood where the neighbors have lived on the same street for ten, twenty, or even thirty years. On this street, it seems like everyone knows everyone else. I went for a walk the other evening, and ran into a young couple with their young son in a stroller, a couple I met shortly after I moved in and have seen several times since. (Actually, I borrowed an orange-picking tool from them.) My neighbors across the street, Terry and Barry, have four teenage children and have lived in the same house for thirty years. They have neighborhood potlucks on their front lawn. Barry is my" go-to" neighbor when I lock myself out of my house or need someone to help me pick up 25 folding chairs in his pickup truck.

This neighborhood reminds me of the neighborhood of my childhood. The neighborhood of my childhood was a place where it was rare for houses to change hands. My childhhood neighborhood was one where everyone knew everyone else, and everyone else's children. If Mr. Roger's neighborhood were to become a "real" neighborhood, it is my childhood neighborhood that I envision.

And yet, according to the neighborhood newspaper, we have crime even in this most neighborly of neighborhoods. Homes are being robbed in the afternoons, when they think no one is home, when both parents are working and the kids are in school. Robbers have heard of our wonderful friendly neighborhood and let themselves in the back doors in the afternoons, back doors left unlocked by trusting homeowners.

I guess its not really Mr. Roger's neighborhood after all.

Its a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

"Its a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" was Mr. Rogers theme song. For those of you who don't know or are too young to remember, Mr. Rogers was the host of a popular children's television show for many years. I grew up with Captain Kangaroo, and Mr. Green Jeans, years before Mr. Rogers had a children's television show.

Back when I was growing up, we only had reception for about seven TV channels. (Yes, this was BC, ie, Before Cable). We considered ourselves lucky because we lived just outside of New York City where TV reception was relatively good. At the college I went to, just an hour away, we only got three TV channels, and two of those were fuzzy at best. How times have changed.

I don't know exactly what prompted me to think of the theme song from "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood", except that I am sitting in my living room, looking out the front window, on a sunny afternoon on the first of June, the wind blowing a warm breeze around (that's another song for another day) and the thought just popped into my head. My June flowers are blooming, on right on cue.

Yes, it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Private Ryan

When my son was a teenager, he loved playing video games, like most young boys do. He especially liked playing rather violent shoot-em-up games, which I despised. This was ten years ago; I cannot imagine the graphics of today, which must be much more life-like than those of ten years ago. Some, if not most, of those violent video games Sean played were war games. I was concerned that Sean was taking the subject of war way too lightly and that war was far too glamorized in movies and video games. So, when the movie "Saving Private Ryan" came out the summer that Sean was 15, I knew I wanted him to see it.

We were in Connecticut for a few weeks that summer, staying with my parents for a few days. I thought it was important that even though we were only back east for two weeks each year, that Sean spend time with his grandparents while we were there. One rainy day, we all went out to see "Saving Private Ryan". I've seen my dad cry, but this was the only time I had ever seen my dad cry at a movie. My dad rarely spoke about World War II, of which he was an active participant. This movie just really hit home for my dad, and I think it changed my son's view of war. War is bloody ugly and real people die. Some friends and family members never return. One does just not "go on to the next level", unless you are referring to heaven. War is not a game.

Today is Memorial Day, a day to remember those who lost their lives so that the rest of us could enjoy picnics and barbecues on May 31st. Let us not forget those brave men and women in the armed service who lost their lives so that we could continue to enjoy ours in peace and freedom.


When I was a kid, Memorial Day meant that we kids got to wave small American flags all day, and that we were going to see a PARADE. This was pretty big excitment in my small five year old world. When we were really small, sometimes my dad would hoist my sister or myself on his shoulders to watch the parade go by. We watched uniformed men (and sometimes women) march by, bands would play, a few lovely ladies would wave from the backs of convertibles, and a baton twirler or two, in a shimmering, sparkling bathing suit and wearing tall white boots would strut their stuff in time to the band music and throw their twirling batons high into the air and then most amazingly catch them as the batons came twirling back down. Sometimes my dad bought us balloons from a street vendor on the sidewalk. Seeing the parade was fun, we kids were excited, and we all went home feeling proud of our country.

At the time, I am sure that I did not understand what Memorial Day was really all about, but even at five years old, I understood that we were honoring the men and women who went off to fight for our country. I did not then understand the horrors of war, or wars fought over oil, or the draft, or war protestors, or getting mired in Vietnam, Afganistan or Iraq. But, all of that does not really matter on Memorial Day. Memorial Day should be about one thing only - honoring those who fought and died for the rest of "us" Americans, no matter what war, no matter how just or unjust.

Jimmy was a childhood friend who lived across the street from me from the time I was two until we moved away when I was 14. Jimmy was a few years older than me, but I played with his younger sister Susie all the time. Jimmy came back from Vietnam and one day, shortly after he got back, shot himself in the head. His experience in Vietnam took his life from him. He might as well have died in Vietnam. Jimmy, Memorial Day is for you, for you and all of your buddies who served and died in Vietnam.

Vietnam was an unpopular war, a draft war, a war collective America would like to forget, a war whose wounded came home to glares instead of parades. Let us hope that we treat our returning war veterans from Iraq and Afganistan, two more unpopular wars, with the honor and respect which they deserve.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Road Rage Revisited

I am a pretty calm driver. I may get frustrated by traffic jams, but my response is usually to get off the freeway and try a different route, rather than taking my frustration out on my fellow drivers.

However, there is something else that frustrates me to no end, for which I have zero patience. And that "something" is trying to get information over the phone.

It used to be easy. Pick up the phone, "dial" a number for assistance, and someone with a lovely calm voice, in unaccented Amerian English would patiently help you. Well, as everyone knows, those days are long gone.

I try to accomplish what I need to do online. If I run into a problem online, as I inevitably do, I end up hunting for a phone number to call for assistance. This phone number is usually so cleverly hidden that it takes a good five minutes to find it. Once I find the number and call, there is the usual five minutes of recorded message, followed by five minutes of waiting on hold. (I think that the on-hold wait is mandatory just to discourage callers, even if there are customer service support people twiddling their thumbs at the other end of the line.)

A customer service person finally answers, and their accent is so thick I have to ask them to repeat everything they say, and to please talk more S-L-O-W-L-Y. We know where your customer support staff are located, Corporate Business Company; it is so obvious, please do not even try to hide the fact that they are all located in India, where they can be paid dirt cheap wages. Having already given my name, zip code and numerous other details to a recording, the human being asks me for the same information, which I patiently provide. But, of course, I am not speaking to the person who can help me, so I am transferred. THREE TIMES, and each time I have to repeat all the information I gave to the first person. Do you think I am getting frustrated yet?

I finally lose it when the United Mileage Plus customer service support person on the other end of the phone repeatedly (ie, three times) asks me why I have not yet updated Mileage Plus with my current address (I moved a month ago; believe me, it was not on the top of my list of things to do). Why do they even need this information, when Mileage Plus has not mailed me anything through the postal service in years? Why is my email address (and my birthdate and phone number if they want to be super careful) enough information to identify me? And why were they so concerned about WHY I have not updated my address with Mileage Plus? The folks at Mileage Plus asked me for so much information, it was ridiculous. (Past addresses, past phone numbers, past zip codes....note the PLURAL on all of these items, some of which I do not recall by the way.)

Paying with frequent flyer miles is a payment method, like using a credit card. Frequent Flyer organizations do not exist to identify terrorists; that is for the airline personnel and airport security to worry about. When you pay online with a credit card, you are asked for far less information.

I should issue a formal complaint to Mileage Plus. I am just not sure that I have the energy to do this. I expended it all on the customer service personnel, including the manager I spoke with (and repeated all my information to yet a fourth time). By the way, I have noticed that customer service representatives never apologize when you complain that you were on hold for 15 minutes, or that they are the fourth person to whom you have been transferred. An apology for the wait would go a long way in diffusing some of the frustration building up before one even gets to talk to the correct person. But I guess no one really cares about the customer these days.

Why do they even bother to call it a customer "service" organization these day? They should just rename it to match the actual experience. "Hello, I am your customer frustration representative". Then perhaps they would be able to accomplish their goal - receiving far fewer customer calls.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Toenails are highly overrated. Perhaps they served more of a function back when we were tree climbing apes, back when our toes were longer and grabbed a branch for a "foothold" as we contemplated which branch to grab and swing out on high over the jungle floor. Our fingers and toes are very sensitive, for good reason. We process information through our fingertips, more today than ever before. Touch is our very sensitive fifth sense. Protecting our senstive toes and fingers as they explored the world made a lot of "sense" during the days of early evolution. But once we stood upright, did it make as much sense?

Elephants have toenails too, as do many other animals. Animal "nails" serve different functions for different species. Dogs use their nails to dig. Cats nails have evolved into claws, useful for climbing trees to escape predators. I am not sure of the purpose of the elephants' nails, as they certainly don't have predators (a simple stomp of the foot can squash a stalking lioness that gets too close to junior ), or a need for digging holes to bury prey. Perhaps toenails served some functional purpose back in the Ice Ages, who knows.

As for humans, if we wear sandals, toenails certainly provide some protection for the heavy of foot, if say, you are ballroom dancing with clod who is wearing hiking boots. But besides that, I cannot think of a useful purpose for the troublesome toenail. (Do you know how long it takes to get an appointment with a podistrist?) And so, when confronted with toenail "issues", I sided with the Queen of Hearts. "Off with their heads!" said I to my doctor. And, with the simple snip of a knife (and, I have to admit, six shots of anesthetic), she cut off my nail.

Not only do I not miss my toenail, but I am much happier without it. If there were a painless, FDA approved, insurance-paying method for removing toenails, toes without toenails could even become a trend, similar to the trend of partially bald men who shave their heads. But somehow, I do not think that the nail polish industry would be in favor of such a fashion statement.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yo, Momma

A twenty-something friend of mine has a blog, which probably comes as no surprise to anyone at all familiar with cyberspace. Her particular blog is about being a new mom. She is not only a good writer, but hilariously funny. She writes about all those embarassing moments the rest of us would rather bury deep in our subconscious and forget forever.

None of this surprises me. What does surprise me is one of the things my friend has written about in several of her recent posts -- the seeming current societal acceptance of public criticism of one's parenting techniques by other parents. And these people are not family members or friends; these are people you meet casually, people you meet in the coffee shop or in the line at the grocery store. These are folks whose names you don't know and who you will most likely never run into again, at least if you change the time of your daily Starbucks run.

I admit, its been many years since I was the parent of a young child, but I do not remember other parents criticizing my parenting skills openly and directly. Perhaps talking to me indirectly (ie, hinting that a different approach might be worth my looking into) or talking to another parent behind my back about my less-than-perfect parenting techniques, but never giving me direct criticism to my face.

Is my memory faulty? Were the parents of my generation just as bad, just as smug, just as arrogant? Perhaps, but I don't recall that the superior knowledge of the all-knowing parents spilled over into bad manners back then. Has the ability to write anything you please in MySpace and Facebook and Blogger spilled over into actual conversation? Have these social networking sites thrown Miss Manners off the island? Has the twenty-something generation ever heard of Miss Manners? If so, do they even care?

Its a Brave New World out there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Ever notice how when you are trying to get pregnant, you notice all the pregnant ladies with their big baketball bellies sticking out in front of them? Not every woman in the world is pregnant at any given time, but it can sure seem that way.

I now see Lipotor ads on every TV channel during prime time, dramatizations urging men to take care of their heart health.

If only Lipitor could work its miracle by bringing my good friend Tim back to life -- that would surely save some of us from the searing pain we are suffering right now.

Friday, May 21, 2010


When did flowering plants invade our grocery stores, like invasive weeds?

I do not recall grocery stores selling flowers when I was young. The grocery store where I worked as a teenager did not sell flowers, it sold food. Food. You know, things you can eat.

It is now May, allergy season, in just about every state in the union. So why, pray tell, do some grocery stores, not only sell flowers of every sort of pollinating variety, but put those flowers right next to the cash registers, the only way out of the store? I am mystified.

When I complained about this at one of my favorite stores (Trader Joe's in Palo Alto), the clerk at the cash register, who was also apparantly some sort of manager of the store, did not apologize to me, but instead told me that the flower display would be gone "by next week". He told me that many people have allergies, including himself, inferring that I should just suck it up, or go get allergy shots, like he does.

Thanks. Thanks a bunch. I don't think I will be coming back to this store anytime soon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Allergy Season

I have been laid low by seasonal allergies and the asthmatic symptoms which these allergic reactions provoke. I will be getting my back pin-pricked by the allergist tomorrow morning, otherwise known as the fortune-teller with the crystal ball, the wizard who has ablities to fortell my future, at least as far as it relates to my breathing capability. Until I can get my physical health back to normal and catch up on my sleep, I may not be writing much in cyberspace.

But, I shall return, in good time.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Aunt Mary Jean

My Aunt Mary Jean was my mother's sister, now deceased more than 15 years. But my birth mother died 44 years ago; I had barely turned 13. I had two sisters and two brothers at the time of her death, all younger than me. My mother died of breast cancer in 1966, a sure death sentence back then.

My dad was left with five children, ages five to thirteen. He was 42 years old, relatively young, when his wife died. He remarried a little more than a year later. He and my step-mother were married for 34 years, until she died of a heart attack at age 73. Today, my dad is alive and well at age 84, almost nine years after my step-mother died.

Back to my Aunt Mary Jean. Mary Jean was at least ten years older than her younger sister, Connie (my mother). I remember a photo of my mother seated on Mary Jean's lap when baby Connie was about a year old; Mary Jean is at least ten years old in the photo.

After my mother died, even after my father had re-married, my Aunt Mary Jean used to come and visit us once or twice a year, usually on Easter, sometimes on Christmas. She would only stay for about an hour, often never taking off her hat and gloves. Aunt Mary Jean was proper lady. I don't think I ever saw her wear anything but a skirt and blouse and nylon stockings, except for the few occasions when my year younger sister and I were small and she took us to the beach.

Aunt Mary Jean used to send us cards on our birthdays, enclosing a ten dollar bill, all she could afford on her secretary's salary. She never married. But she remembered our birthdays for as long as I can remember. Every year when I would travel back East to visit my family, I would visit my aunt, if only for an hour or two. She never seemed to change. She could be, and often was, critical of everything and anything, and never shy to voice her opinion. I can still remember her shrill laugh.

I have to wonder what she promised her sister when Connie lay dying in the hospital. What would I have done if I was the 37 year old mother of five children, ages 13 and under? I would have asked my sister to watch over my children, make sure that they were well taken care of, follow their lives even into adulthood. I think perhaps that is why my Aunt Mary Jean came to visit us at least once a year, even after my father remarried. She made a promise to her dying sister, and she kept it.

Held in Check

Children have no inhibitions. They don't mind running around naked through the sprinklers on a hot summer day. They will pick their noses in public, much to the chagrin of their parents. They will happily show their family rabbi their mother's vibrator, as if it were just another toy, having somehow opened the nightstand drawer that was not childproofed well enough. Yes, children reveal all.

Somehow, as we get older, the parental messages are drilled into us. We learn not to talk to strangers, and not to ask Aunt Dorothy about the wart on the end of her nose. We learn not to reveal family secrets to our teachers, how much money daddy makes to the neighbors, or that Johnny still wets the bed at age five. We learn about "social cues" and how to pick up on them. This line in the sand is invisible and taken-for-granted, a " line in the sand" across which we must not step, lest others become upset. The problem is, we all have different lines in the sand, depending on our culture, family history, and country of origin, which can make for a few disagreements among family and friends.

In today's world, it is easier than ever to just walk away from friends with whom we disagree without confronting them-face to-face. I suppose this has been true since the development of the written word; "Dear John" letters spring to mind. But in today's world of electronic marvels, it is easier than ever to sever ties. One does not even have to leave a post it note. One merely "blocks" a "friend" on Facebook; that person is then simply erased from one's life by clicking on the "Block This Person" box.

Somehow, I do not think it should be so easy to "unfriend" someone, or, as they used to say back in my day, to end a friendship.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Parting Gift

Friends come into our lives, throughout our lives. Sometimes friends stay with us for a while, and sometimes they leave us. Sometimes they leave us permanently, through death, (although some may argue that death is just a different state of being.) Sometimes they leave us "for good", as in divorce. Sometimes friends move away and sometimes they just drift away. Sometimes they change, or we change and perhaps we both wonder why we were ever friends in the first place. We marry and have children and our friends become the parents of our children's friends. We divorce and lose half of our couple friends in the process. We lend our friends money, and never see the money or the friend ever again. And sometimes, years later, we find each other on Facebook, and become "friends" all over again. Well, at least in cyberspace.

I lost my good friend Tim Shannon about a month ago, rather permanenly, to the bony curled index finger of the Grim Reaper, beckoning Tim to follow. But in the wake of his dying, Tim left me something to remember him by. He left me his many wonderful friends, who have rallied around each other in his absence, trying to fill the giant hole he left in all of our lives, some of whom will become friends of my own. Of course, I would much prefer that Tim have his own life back, a breathing, heart-beating Tim, with a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face, back here on our spinning, little blue planet Earth.

If he did have to leave us all behind, I cannot think of a better parting gift.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Blessing

I do not have the writen story available to me right now, but it is an old story, a tale re-told many times over generations, I am sure. I will try to paraphrase as best I can.

A man who has had many troubles in his life goes to see the elder of the village, a wise old man, to receive words of wisdom and a blessing. He tells the wise old man his story of woes, and the wise old man says the following, in the form of a blessing over the younger man's bowed head.

"Grandfather dies, father dies, son dies."

And the younger man looks up and says, incredulous, "What, that's it? That's the best you can do for me?"

And the wise old man says, "You would want it any other way?"

It does not matter how old our children are when they are taken from us "before their time". If our children die before their parents die, it seems out of order. In our society, we feel that parents should die before their children. Sons and daughters should bury their parents, not the other way around. And yet, this is not always the case.

And when it does happen that a son or daughter (who could be a child or an adult) dies before his/her parents die, it feels not right to us in these United States, where we have top notch medical care and modern science to "fix" so many illnesses and damaged bodies. It just does not seem right.

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Three Men

There are three photographs on my glass dresser top, photographs of "My Three Men".

On the right is a black and white photo of the man who has been in my life the longest, my Dad. It is his yearbook photo taken when my Dad was a senior in high school. My Dad was quite the handsome guy back in 1943. My Dad is alive and well in Connecticut, now 84 years old, active in his church, volunteering in his community and playing golf when the variable East Coast weather cooperates.

On the left side of my dresser top is a photo of Tim Shannon, who died about a month ago, on April 6th, of an apparant heart attack, in his own home, at the relatively young age of 49. I still cannot believe that my good friend Tim is no longer part of my life, that I won't get a response to my email to "tjshannon", that Tim won't suddenly emerge from the double doors and stride down the auditorium aisle to the stage where he taught drama for 24 years.

In the middle of these two photos is a photo of my son, Sean, at age 17, his senior yearbook photo. Sean was killed in an accident nearly ten years ago, in October of his senior year in high school. I will always love my son and will feel the loss of his presence every day of my life. I would gladly give up my own life if Sean could have his life back. I think any parent, anywhere in the entire world, would do the same.

These are "My Three Men". Each of them will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Way to a Man's Heart

It has often been said that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. This may be true for some, however, I have found that for most of the men in my life, the way to a man's heart lies a short distance below his stomach.

For most of my women friends, having a relationship with a guy, a emotional and intellectual connection, is far more critical than performance in bed. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes all any of us are looking for is a short, temporary physical relationship. We are physical beings, animals with physical needs. We need physical comfort and touch. We need validation that we are physically attractive and desirable to others. We need a way to release the stress in our lives. We need to feel good physically. A good old romp in the hay now and then provides us with that.

But, most of the women I know want more than an occasional physical fling. We want the emotional and intellectual connection. We want to be romanced, to be treated like the most special woman in the world, to be brought flowers, to dress up and go out, to be treated to a nice dinner or evening of dancing. We want to be romanced, we want conversation, we want to share laughter. We want to feel a special connection with a man who genuinely likes us for our personalitiy. Only then do we want to head to the bedroom.

Do guys understand this? I think they "know" that this is what most women want, but I am not sure they understand us. If it was up to the guys, I think most would like to eat dessert first.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Shields Down

Since my good friend Tim Shannon dropped dead on April 6th, my inhibitions have not been inhibiting me. To borrow a phrase from Star Trek, my "shields are down". I am likely to "let out" just about anything, i.e. to say or do anything, without nervousness or embarassment, my normal social restraints temporarily lifted. But the flip side is also true; I "let in" almost anything these days. I find that I am much more empathetic to others, the flow of emotions passing freely from others into myself upon any physical contact. This invisible flow feels like a flow of free electrons from one body into another. I feel part Betazoid, like the Starship Enterprise's Ship Counselor, Deanna Troi, who is an "empath".

However, my ability to "read" other people's thoughts and ulterior motives is no better than it ever was, which I admit is poor at best. Suffice it to say that I am generally naieve and slow to pick up on social cues that appear crystal clear to others. It is as if I am colorblind, seeing only shades of gray in the colorful world of social cues apparant to everyone else.

On the other hand, when my shields are down, I seem to be more susceptible to feelings of paranoia. With my shields down, and my ability to pick up on the feelings of others heightened, are my feelings of paranoia justified? Or am I being unreasonably paranoid?

As Deanna Troi said to Lieutenant Data on tonight's episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation": "Sometimes a cake is just a cake."

Trust Your Gut

That is what my good friend Tim Shannon used to tell me when I discussed a problem I was having in my life -- "Trust your gut". I have to admit, I failed to do this on many occasions, and I was usually sorry I didn't follow my friend's advice.

I am by nature a planner, a list maker, a think-about-the-decision-overnight person. No rash decisions for me! Perhaps this quality makes me a good auditor, a level-headed manager, and a diligent accountant. In many aspects of my life, it serves me well. But not this time.

This time I am dealing with emotions, and emotions are not logical or rational. We are human, and we have emotions for a reason. Emotions separate us from lower animals. Emotions evoke empathy and caring, and that is the reason (along with opposable thumbs) that we humans evolved from apes in the first place.

Its taken me years, but I think the lesson has finally "sunk in". This time, I am following Tim's advice.

Different Approaches

It has long been said that men and women do not understand each other on some basic level. Think "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus". We think differently. We handle emotions differently. Our approach and solution to any particular problem is often very different from each other. Neither one of us is "right" or "wrong", just different.

I face an issue that the women in my life, who I trust, have suggested a certain approach in order to resolve the issue. And the men are suggesting a different way to handle it. When I stopped to think about the situation and the advice presented to me, it was clear to me that the "solutions" being offered were splitting right down the familiar male/female dividing line, like a bright yellow line. Its kind of like the elecronically created "10 yard line" that is shown in football games on TV that shows viewers how far the offensive team has to drive the ball in order to make a first down.

Different strategies from different coaches, one stategy clearly "male", the other strategy clearly "female". It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

3 am

Its 6 am and I am wide awake.....not preferable, since I was unable to go to bed until 3 am. But I guess three hours sleep is better than none.

I was up due to a most terribly painful case of acid reflux. It was so painful, I thought I was having a heart attack. The Zantac I took barely took off the edge. I just had to wait it out...remaining uprigtht....until it passed. When I think back on my recent diet, I can clearly see why this event occurred....but sometimes you do not see it when you are in the midst of living your life.

Of course, I did not want to go back to the Hopsital-With An-Attitude. If I had gone to this particular hospital to get checked out at 1 am, surely they would have mocked me. You are here for what? A little indigestion? Pleasee.......go home, and when you find yourself so short of breath you cannot talk, call 911 and come back to the Emergency Room. We only deal with the most serious of medical issues in this ER.

Yup, that is exactly what kept me from calling 911 while the most searing pain radiated from the middle of my chest. I kept thinking how the nursing staff at the local hospital would mock me if I arrived with an illness that was less than deadly serious. If it had been a heart attack last night, I could have died. I could have easily died. But, I would have rather collapsed here in my home with no one around to notice than risk being mocked by the ER staff for being foolish.

O'Connor Hospital has made a lasting impression on me. Unfortunately, the impression they made on me has scarred me into doubting my own judgement. I can only hope that the impression they made on me does not last for very long.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


The world is full of irony. If it were not, the word "irony" itself would not exist. I had my own ironic experience just yesterday.

My experience involved the world of medicine. It was right out of that well known TV show, "ER". Almost.

Late Wednesday night I ended up in the Emergency Room at a local hospital due to an allergic reaction I had that especially scared me. Hives breaking out at midnight, when even Urgent Care is closed. The Emergency Room staff was quite dismissive. Hives? You jest, of course. The Emergency Room is for serious stuff.....come back when your throat closes up and you find you cannot breathe. Go home and if you wake up at 3 am unable to breathe, call 911. Seriously, this is exactly what they told me. No sympathy here. Lady, you are just wasting our time. We have more important stuff to do in the ER.

So my case was not particularly dramatic. I was scared. I had an allergic reaction in the middle of the night when my friends are asleep. My family lives on the East Coast. I live alone and 3,000 miles away from my siblings. The ER staff was not very sympathic. Maybe they have watched too many cases of the television show by the same name, and were expecting someone with a metal rod sticking out of his chest that night. I left, not feeling much better, and stayed up for two more hours at home to make sure the allergic reaction did not get any worse. Fortunately I did not need to call 911.

Then, the following day mail I received a patient satisfaction survey in the mail from my family physician. I laughed. I usually do not fill surveys out, but toss them in the recycle paper bin instead. My family physician received the highest marks from me, all "fives".

If I get a patient satisfaction survey from the ER where I was treated, they will get all zeroes for their most callous attitude. But, now that I think of it, I doubt they will even bother to send out a patient satisfaction survey in the first place.