Rest in Peace, Aunt Barb

aunt-barba
On Sunday night, November 27, as my Aunt Barb and Uncle Lou were walking across a street, my aunt was hit by a speeding car which fled the scene after the horrific accident. She passed away the following morning, November 28, on their 52nd wedding anniversary. No words can ever express how much I loved her, and how her love for me healed my whole being.  Rest in peace, Aunt Barb.

Dear Aunt Barb,
I never knew anyone kinder or gentler than you
Your goodness shone brightly from the inside out
Your selflessness was your gift to all of us
Your caring attention which you so lovingly bestowed was unsurpassed
Your compassion, your beauty, and your purity was undeniable
I was so blessed to have been loved by you
So privileged that I held a special place in your heart
I adored you and cherished your opinion and your perspective
I saw a different Teri through your eyes
And I was ever thankful for your dignity, your calm demeanor
Your saintly way of helping me to see my specialness
I was looking forward to years and years with you
But life is cruel
And my future years with you are gone
You are forever missing from me now
The only thing I can cling to
Is the ever presence of your angelic spirit
And your resplendent soul
Rest peacefully
Watch over me Aunt Barb
And when you see my grandmother
hold her in your loving arms
until I see you both

Thanksgiving on Black Friday

thanksgiving2016a

Thanksgiving has traditionally been the one holiday where, like it or not, families get together, chow down, throw shade at each other, and oh yeah, give thanks.

Mothers, fathers, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and every other iteration of family and friends travel here there and everywhere to get together for some clan time.

Some of this “time” will inevitably be dysfunctional, but we all still participate.

Why?

Because good, bad, or ugly, at the end of the—in this case—Thanksgiving Day, we’re all kith and kin together. Hopefully.

And if you’re fed up or irked by a particular family member, remember this:

Just because they look like you, doesn’t mean they are you.

As challenging and painful as the day might turn out, most of us are celebrating Thanksgiving with our peeps.

We can all agree on two Thanksgiving Day things: Some familial dysfunction, and a hassle getting to your destination.

And while we can maneuver around family characters, there’s no getting around the holiday traffic.

Traveling on Thanksgiving Day is plain old horrendous.

And if you come from a divorced family, or are married and or involved with someone, everyone puts the guilt trip on you to show up for their Turkey event.

How many families do you know who strictly adhere to the every other Thanksgiving rule?

Now that we’ve established that Thanksgiving already poses a real dilemma for many, and is a downright miserable holiday obligation for others, I have two questions for you:

A) Why stress out on the day set aside for giving thanks?
B) Who says Thanksgiving has to be on Thursday?

Several years ago my husband and I asked and answered A & B and came up with our own way of celebrating Thanksgiving: On Black Friday.

No traffic, no scheduling dilemmas, no disappointed families, you can work pretty much all day on Friday, and best of all? No turkey.

But okay, we might still dish out some dysfunction.

Below are some of my Black Friday recipes should you want to change it up next year!

deconstructed-thai-salad
Deconstructed Thai Salad
Serves 8

Dressing:
1 can low-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1/2 small lime
Splash of sriracha
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

Place all ingredients above in a blender until very smooth. Taste it to make sure you like the combo. If not, add more peanut butter, curry powder or siriracha. Then put it in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer until reduced and thickened about 10 minutes. Cool down completely. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Salad:
6-8 small seedless cucumbers sliced
1 head of iceberg lettuce chopped
I pint of red cherry tomatoes whole
1 pint of yellow or orange cherry tomatoes whole
6 hard-boiled eggs halved
2 cups bean sprouts
16 ounces firm tofu

Place lettuce in the center of a large square platter, and then line up the other ingredients above in a row. Serve with dressing.

standing-rib-roast
Perfect Bone-In Rib Roast
NOTE:  When ordering a Bone-In Standing Rib Roast, figure you will need one rib per two people. This will also  ensure plenty of leftovers.

So for 8 adults I ordered 4 Ribs (1/2 rack), approximately 8
pounds. The price for 4 ribs was $148.00.

Nobody said this was a cheap meal.

Bone In Standing Rib Roast – 4 Ribs (approximately 8 pounds)
1 stick butter, softened
Ground pepper
Kosher salt
Garlic powder

Place Rib Roast on a plate and bring to room temperature, about four hours.
Then place the meat in a roasting pan that’s slightly bigger than the roast itself.
Slather the whole roast with softened butter. Then add salt, pepper and garlic powder to the entire roast.
Preheat the oven to 350°F for at least 20 minutes.
The roast should be cooked at 350 degrees for about 2 hours to 2 ¼ hours, depending on your oven.
You will need to check the roast with a meat thermometer close to the 2 hour mark.
When the meat thermometer reaches 110 to no more than 120 degrees, the roast needs to come out of the oven (for a perfect combination of medium, medium rare and rare), regardless of how long the roast has been cooking.
Remember that the roast’s temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after you remove it from the oven so remove it 10  degrees before the desired doneness. There is nothing worse than an overcooked rib roast.
Once you remove roast from oven, tent it with foil but put a hole in the foil to keep the crispiness of the outside of  the roast.
Rest the roast for about 10 minutes, and no more than 15 minutes, to let the juices redistribute throughout the  Roast and still be nice and warm. Also, if you decide to pour the pan drippings over it, the roast will cook a little  more as well.
If the roast still isn’t cooked enough for your taste, you can always slice it and then put part of it back in the oven  to cook it more. Better to under cook it than to overcook it. And you don’t even have to put on the heat, but you  do need to watch it carefully.
The slices taken from the ends of the roast will obviously be the most done, and the middle will be the least done,  so you should be able to suit the preferences of everyone at the table.
Also, remove the rib bones and put them back in the oven on high to crisp them up and then place them around  your roast.

If you want to serve your roast with au jus on the side, save the drippings and see the recipe below!

aujus
Killer Au Jus
¼ cup beef fat drippings from your prime rib
1 ½ Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Beef broth
Salt & Pepper to taste

Melt fat in skillet over medium high heat. Whisk flour into the beef fat, whisking constantly
while cooking, until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
Pour beef broth into fat mixture, increase heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Boil mixture
until it thickens slightly, season with salt and pepper to taste.

broccoli-timbale-b
Broccoli Timbale
Serves 8

Ingredients:
4 Cups Broccoli florets
1-1/2 to 2 cups whipping cream
5 large eggs
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons chopped scallion (optional)
Nutmeg to taste (optional)

Steam the broccoli (florets only), for 4 to 6 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking or souffle dish, 6 to 8 timbale molds, custard cups, or ramikans (each holding about 1/2 cup). I used an 8 cup Charlotte mold, which has slightly flared sides, making it super easy to unmold my masterpiece.

Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the mold(s); place in the bottom of the mold and then butter the paper.

Then prepare the Timbale mixture:
Place and beat 5 eggs in a bowl.
Set aside 1-1/2 to 2 cups of whipping cream.
Place the cooked broccoli in a food processor or blender and process with the eggs and cream until smooth.
The amount of cream you use will make the mixture more concentrated or more custard-like. I like to use 2 cups.
Season to taste with salt and pepper
Add a pinch of nutmeg if using
Add the scallions if using.
Pulse to mix.
Carefully spoon the Timbale mixture into the mold(s).
Cook the timbales in a water bath: Place them in a baking pan just large enough to hold them, pour in very hot water halfway up their sides and carefully place in the oven. For 1/2-cup molds, cook 15 to 25 minutes; for a 2-quart mold, or an 8-cup Charlotte mold cook 35 to 45 minutes, or until just set.
Carefully loosen around the edges and invert onto a plate.
Tip: You can make the timbale up to 2 days ahead, either in the dish or unmolded. Reheat for about 10 minutes in a 325-degree oven before unmolding.

whipped-and-baked-potatoesc
WHIPPED AND BAKED POTATOES
Half of a 5-pound bag of potatoes
Whole milk or whipping cream
Lots of Butter
paprika

Peel and cut up potatoes and cook until done.
Put potatoes in mixing bowl and mash or rice well.
Add butter and milk or cream to taste and mix with a beater until potatoes peak.
Put potatoes into a casserole dish and top with paprika.
The potatoes can be put directly onto a 35o preheated oven or put into the refrigerator until ready to cook.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown on top.

jello-fruit-compotea
AMAZING JELLO AND CRANBERRY COMPOTE
1 6 ounce package strawberry Jello
1½ cups boiling water
1 16-ounce can jellied cranberry sauce
1 small can of mandarin oranges
1 small can of diced pineapple
1 small can of peaches (cut up in bite size pieces)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Dissolve Jello in boiling water. Stir cranberry sauce in bowl until very smooth. Blend with Jello and chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Fold nuts and fruit into a decorative glass bowl and chill until solid. You can decorate the top after it has set with some walnuts and mandarin oranges. I like to make a kind of flower design in the middle.
Serves 6

baked-smores-a
Baked S’Mores
1 package golden sugar cookie mix (Betty Crocker)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
2 milk chocolate bars (5 oz. each)
1 7 oz can marshmallow Fluff

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8”x8” square pan. Combine cookie mix, (with butter if it calls for it), egg and water in large bowl. Stir until thoroughly blended. Divide cookie dough in half. Press half the dough evenly into bottom of pan. Place each chocolate bar evenly into the pan. Take a clean tablespoon and wet it. Then take the back of the spoon and spread marshmallow crème to cover the chocolate. Drop the remaining cookie dough by tablespoonfuls on top of marshmallow crème. Spread lightly with back of clean spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool at least three to four hours before serving. Cut into squares.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Times They Are A-Changin. But What About Us?

changes-us-elections

As I drove to my kickboxing class yesterday, Bob Dylan’s iconic song, The Times They Are A-Changin came on the radio.

Dylan’s call for change, written in 1963, couldn’t have been more prophetic. Less than a month after Dylan recorded the song, President Kennedy was assassinated.

I remember the first time I heard his haunting song about change, which was released in 1964. It came at a troubling time in American history. It seemed like our entire country had gone haywire.

Kennedy was dead.

His alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was shot to death on national television.

Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique catapulted the feminist movement.

The U.S. Surgeon General concluded that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer.  

Union leader Jimmy Hoffa was convicted of jury tampering.

Black teenager James Powell was shot and killed by a white off-duty police officer in Harlem, NY, prompting 8,000 people to take the streets, smashing windows, setting fires, and looting local businesses.

President Johnson launched a full-scale war against North Vietnam without securing a formal declaration of war from Congress.

In a collective act of defiance against the war, students burned their Vietnam draft cards and declared, “We won’t go!”

The FBI finally found the bodies of the three missing Freedom Summer volunteers, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, buried in a Mississippi earthen dam. Local officials refused to prosecute the case, causing federal investigators to step in.

The People’s Republic of China successfully tested a nuclear bomb, making it the fifth nation in the World with nuclear capabilities.

And Senator Barry Goldwater was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate, placing his conservative agenda in direct opposition to more moderate Republicans and declaring in his acceptance speech: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

We will never know how different our country would be today had Goldwater won the election.

As I write this blog and look back on the events following the assassination of President Kennedy, I am reminded that time indeed marches on and maybe it even heals all wounds. I said maybe.

But, our country more than survived the tumultuous and turbulent 1964. What seemed like a doomsday year was just a tiny blip on the American screen. So I still have faith in America and my fellow Americans.

And yet here I was driving to a workout, 52 years later, with Dylan’s resonating words and gravelly voice covering me in a blanket of anxiety—and goose bumps.

Come gather around people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing

Yes, indeed, times they are are a-changing. In ways that I both fear and welcome.

Let’s get to the bloody changes already. Because I am sick and tired of all the political ugliness.

And yes, in some ways I wish the media would change their monotonous tune. Because I’m sick and tired of all the spin spin spin for the sole purpose of ratings ratings ratings. And yet ratings aside, the media serves as an all-important watchdog. We all need to be vigilant in the coming days and months—including the press. Our lives and country depend on our vigilance.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon

For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no telling who that it’s naming

As I listened to Dylan’s soul searching song, it felt like he was singing about me. About 2016. About us.

And he had me captive audience in my ten-year-old car, asking myself a lot of things like:

Will Trump be receptive to moderating influences or will he merely listen to the last person he speaks to?

Will Trump do all the frightful things he said he would, to satisfy and appease his constituents, or will he reconsider his promises and do what is best for all Americans?

And Trump has on so many occasions bloviated, “We’re going to have so many victories, you will be bored of winning.”

Will we win? What if we don’t? And who is we? Am I part of the we party?

Will I be a bored loser or a bored winner?

For the loser now will be later to win
Cause the times they are a-changing

On the bright side, there’s always the 2020 election, which will start gearing up in early 2018.

Hell, for half the country it began on November 9.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so tired of it all. Maybe our elected officials are tired too.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s the battle outside raging
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changing

And what about us as friends, family, strangers? How about us as fellow Americans?

How will we treat those who we have hurt us and who we have disagreed with? Will we be receptive to change? How will we react to policies that may not be best for all Americans? And how long will all this changing take?

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
Cause the times they are a-changing

There is thankfully no deadline for mutual empathy, understanding, acceptance, or mending fences.

As I sadly hummed along with Dylan, all kinds of doom and gloom ran through my head. But then I thought back to 1964 and hummed it hopeful all the way to its end.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slowest now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
Cause the times they are a-changing

 

BINGO!!!!!

bingo

I fretfully fell asleep around 2 am yesterday morning, pretty much knowing Hillary Clinton had lost the presidential election, but praying for an electoral miracle.

I awoke at 3:30 am, and immediately morphed into a fretting-over-the-election-result-mode mess.

And to my chagrin and innermost fear—CNN confirmed the worst possible scenario: my girl Hillary was out.

Trump had obliterated my dream of witnessing the first woman president.

To be honest, I was devastated, paranoid, and unsettled. I sleepily turned to my rock solid husband and uneasily queried “Are we going to be okay?”

My husband, ever the pessimist answered, “We’re out of here already. It’s not our problem any longer. It’s for our kids and grandkids to worry about.”

His answer didn’t make me feel any less anxious, although it did allow me to fall back asleep.

Because my husband had so assuagingly, put it plain and straightforward.  We’re out of here already. It’s not our problem any longer.

To be clear, it takes a lot to rattle me. As far as I’m concerned, bad things happen to other people.

Simply stated, bad things don’t happen to my family, or me.

So why was I frantically asking my husband if “we” would be okay?

At 8:30 am, as I rolled out of bed, I painfully remembered the election loss, and cursed the day.

As I willed myself forward, I couldn’t help but obsess:

We’re doomed.  World War III is upon us. Trump is going to deport all of the Hispanics.  No one will have medical insurance.  Roe v. Wade is going to be eradicated.  My too-close-to-Jamaica-Bay house is going to float away.  The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School will never be vindicated.

I was in a funk. Yet I tried to put on a good face and make like I wasn’t crushed.

I listened to Hillary’s concession speech.

I cried.

I hung on every word as President Barack Obama congratulated President-elect Donald Trump, vowing to work with his team to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

I cried.

The only thing I had to look forward to was Bingo Night at 7 pm, organized by the New Horizon Counseling Center (NHCC), one of the largest non-profit providers of community-based mental health services in New York City, and extending their reach to residents of Nassau County.

Thank God for bingo.

As I attempted to shut out the noise of pundits, the media, the surrogates, I willed myself to think about Bingo Night and the incredible services that NHCC provides for mental health issues, developmental disabilities, alcoholism and substance abuse.

And since many of NHCC’s patients can’t afford treatment, I couldn’t help but stress over what would happen to NHCC when Trump is in charge. I quickly shoved that shuddering thought out of my Trump traumatized mind.

I was hell bent on enjoying a night of bingo.

Participate in a mindless game of chance, while imbibing in a glass or two of Chardonnay.

Chow down on some fund-raising food and hang out with a few friends.

No thoughts of glass ceilings, lost elections, Mexican walls, waterboarding, or locker room talk.

Plain old easy breezy bingo.

When I walked into the Lawrence Country Club, I spotted an old friend. We talked about the election, the disappointment, the fear, the unknown, the future.

And then we talked about her daughter.

She was hooked on opioids. She tried like hell to get help. But in the end, the addiction got the better of her. She died.

“I wish I could see her one more time,” she said to me through tears.“ She would have loved to be here and play bingo.”

No bingo or future for my friend’s daughter.

I grabbed her arm, and we walked to our table.

Bingo we would play.

Better than thinking about the rest…

Jemima Khan’s Controversial Melania Trump Costume at Star-Studded UNICEF Halloween Ball

Jemima Khan chose a controversial Trump inspired costume for the UNICEF Halloween Ball in London.

The 42-year-old journalist and campaigner Jemima Khan opted to dress up as Donald Trump’s wife Melania, but took the opportunity to adapt the look by having a blow-up Donald clinging to her back while  his inflatable arms mimicked groping her chest and pelvic region.

jemima-khan-melania-costume-ajemima-khanjemimajemima-khan-melania-costume
Heiress and journalist, Jemima Khan in costume on Thursday night, dressed as
Melania Trump, with her groping husband Donald in tow.

Read Full Article Here:

Donald Trump and Sexual Healing

sexual-abuse
Michelle Obama’s epic and deeply emotional speech denouncing Trump’s predatory language about how powerful men can do anything they want to women was the impetus for writing this blog post.

To be honest, this post has been in the making for what seems like forever.

The untold thousands of accumulated words painfully written here there and everywhere.

Some boldly stated in a diary, a folder, a Word document. Some more subtly hidden in a poem, a painting, a short story.

But ironically, Trump’s own words bragging about sexually assaulting women both infuriated and invigorated me to come out and finally say what I’ve wanted to shout from the rooftops for decades.

Okay, maybe shouting it out would still be too painful and way too shocking to those who know me, but don’t really know me.

Baby steps, I reminded myself as I tossed and turned in the middle of the night for the past week or so.

The question of “Why wait for decades before coming forward?” has dominated the recent airwaves.

Why would any woman wait for years to speak out against a man who has helped himself to her body parts against her will?

It’s a valid question, although I’m certain that if a woman is asking it, she has never been a victim of sexual assault or molestation.

Because if she had been one of the “unfortunates,” she would know the answer.

Like maybe they’re heartbreakingly too young to understand, or too frightened to speak up.

How about the fear of retribution or victim shaming? Or the accusations of scheming, man-baiting, lying, exaggerating?

Perhaps they don’t want to be shunned or rejected by their community, friends, family, or permanently branded as “used goods.”

Or maybe they’re not tough enough to fight the battle, the war of words, the degradation, the self-loathing, the guilt, the never-ending nightmare.

Michelle Obama’s quavering words salved my scorching soul and pretty much said it all: “I can’t stop thinking about this… It has shaken me to the core…no woman deserves to be treated this way…The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman… It’s that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them or forced himself on them, and they’ve said no but he didn’t listen …This is not normal…it is cruel. It’s frightening…It hurts.”

And then Trump’s response which sent chills through my body: “I’ll take all of these slings and arrows, gladly for you,” he bellowed as the audience roared with cheers.

Sure Donald, play the victim. Call it a conspiracy. Label your accusers as liars, unattractive, desperate for attention. That’s what accused men do.

Baby steps. One foot in front of the other.

I didn’t think Trump could ever say anything that would resonate with me, but I couldn’t have said it better myself when he uttered these words: “They will seek to destroy everything about you…they will lie, lie, lie, and then again, they will do worse than that.”

Yes, I agree with you, Donald. But not in the way you would want me to.

Because your “they” and my “they” are what sets us apart.

And to the Trump supporters, I say: Yes, indeed. Your man Trump speaks the truth for once.

After “they” seek to destroy, “they” will lie, and then “they” will do worse.

Baby steps…

The Midtown Tunnel and Second Avenue Gridlock Fiasco

traffic-37th-and-2nd-avenue
Photo: View of Second Avenue traffic leading into Queens Midtown Tunnel

Yesterday my husband and I drove into Manhattan from our house on the Queens border. We left at 4:15 pm, in plenty of time to make a 6:45 pm wedding at the Pierre Hotel on 61st and Fifth Avenue. The distance from our home to 61st Street is 20.3 miles and should take approximately fifty minutes with traffic, but one never knows what to expect, so we tuned into WCBS 880 radio as we always do.

The traffic report said one lane was closed in both directions at the Midtown Tunnel but did not report any significant traffic congestion so we assumed mild delays, and decided to take that route into the city. As we approached the Midtown Tunnel, approximately 1/4 of a mile away from the toll booths, the traffic was appallingly at a complete standstill.

We inched along for close to two hours before we finally got to the toll booths. As we waited to go through, I asked a traffic officer, who was busy eating a bag of potato chips, what the problem was. She curtly answered, “One lane going into Manhattan.” I replied to her that the situation was disgraceful.

Since we had nothing better to do under the East River, we tuned in again and again to WCBS 880 for their traffic report, shocked that this melee wasn’t major traffic news.

Despite tens of thousands of cars literally at a standstill in and around the tunnel, the traffic report said absolutely nothing about the situation except that there were delays due to lane closures.

Delays? This was a complete traffic meltdown.

I was astounded that no traffic officers were assisting in the chaos of the five lanes of crawling snarling traffic in front of us. Cabs were blocking two lanes, drivers were angrily sideswiping each other, and everyone was aggressively maneuvering to be the next vehicle to gain access to the one lane going to Manhattan. It was the worst traffic congestion I have ever witnessed, and it was not only alarming but potentially dangerous.

Now I don’t know the pecking order of what the bridge and tunnel officers can and can’t do. But it seems to me that thousands upon thousands of motionless vehicles for miles, a snarl-up of drivers fighting to get into the tunnel, and the tunnel jam packed and unmoving, should evoke action on someone’s part, don’t you think?

And I would hope that one of the many officers I saw standing around near the toll booths, including the woman who was eating a bag of chips, was in charge. One of those officers working at the tunnel had to know what was happening at the entrance and the exit of the tunnel, right?

Since the traffic in, out and around the tunnel was at a dead stop, it would seem to me that anyone with a brain would know that something was amiss, no?

As my husband wound his way in and out of traffic, almost getting sideswiped numerous times, intently and courageously attempting to get into the one lousy tunnel lane, I kept asking myself why there wasn’t anyone directing traffic.

Put your bag of potato chips down, and do something.

Once we got into the tunnel, we crawled through it for almost an hour. It was evident as we sat in an automotive deadlock in the dark, dank, claustrophobic tunnel for four to five minutes at a shot, then inch forward for a few feet, then back to a dead stop, that there must be something very wrong happening at the exit.

As the fumes from the other cars began to seep into our vehicle, I was fuming with anger and frustration.

This is what’s wrong with our country, I kept saying to myself. No infrastructure, total mismanagement, and a complete lack of respect for others.

Was it possible that no one in charge was aware that the Midtown Tunnel was at a complete standstill?

When we finally got out of the tunnel, there were two officers mostly ineffectively directing traffic in two directions:  Left, or right to 39th Street. One traffic officer would have been sufficient. Send the other one somewhere else. We regrettably turned right.

It was no surprise to us that there were no traffic officers at 39th Street and 2nd Avenue, where hundreds of cars were trying to exit the tunnel and cross over. And from the gridlock on 2nd Avenue, it was disappointingly obvious there were no traffic officers anywhere in the vicinity.

The cars on 2nd Avenue were completely lawless, with no regard for their fellow drivers, and blatantly ignored the yellow and red lights. The gridlock on 2nd Avenue was bumper to bumper, which did not allow for one car to get across it—thus the real problem at the Midtown Tunnel.

This massive traffic jam was not caused by lane closures. The real traffic culprit was that there was absolutely no way to exit the Midtown Tunnel because of the clogging of 2nd Avenue.  A handful of traffic officers could have solved most of the problem.

Now I am usually a very calm person, but I was beyond incensed at the massive traffic jam, the disgraceful mismanagement and complete lack of consideration and planning for the Midtown Tunnel lane closures, as well as not one officer on duty to direct 2nd Avenue traffic.

We finally arrived at the Pierre Hotel around 8 pm, an almost four-hour odyssey to travel less than 21 miles. Needless to say, we missed the wedding ceremony and the cocktail reception. I was so carbon monoxided out, I could barely enjoy the rest of the evening.

Am I the only one who is furious and exasperated by the complete lack of management, bad judgment, utter disrespect and ambivalence for drivers, and the enabling of vehicle lawlessness?

I don’t know who’s to blame: Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, the New York state legislature, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the MTA?

What I do know is that the lack of proper management and policies will continue to condemn New York City to years of epic traffic dysfunction.

Shame on all of them.

What to Do About Writer’s Block

writers-block-b

As a writer, I should be writing and as a blogger, I should be blogging, right?

Not.

These past few weeks, I have been making myself crazy trying to pull together a compelling blog post for The Teri Tome or a thought provoking article for my website worldpress.org.

It seems that I have everything yet nothing to share with my readers.

Because unfortunately the topics I want to blog about, or the situations around the world I want to highlight, don’t seem to be anything anyone cares about.

And all those familial memories I thought I could courageously share with my followers have become harder and harder to write. My “situations” that I have in the past been able to  articulate quite well, have been of late hurtfully gnawing at me and starting to feel too painful and too personal.

Have I lost my creative passion? Where’s the joy, the humor, the gut-wrenching irony?

I need to get my writing mojo back!  And fast!

So this morning, I figured I would jot down on a sheet of paper a few topics that have been floating around in my head. Lay out my ideas by hand, and you know, see if any of them have legs.

Here is what I came up with.

Trump’s love of Putin
At first, it sounded like the subject could work, but the truth is, Trump’s love of Putin can be covered in two quicky sentences. If Trump were a Russian citizen, he would be either dirt poor, dead or in prison. It doesn’t take a genius, or even Trump to know that if you live in Russia and don’t share your money with Putin, you’re probably going to be arrested, or poisoned.

Trying to lose those last five pounds
Everybody loves a diet story. But try as I might, I can’t lose the last five no matter what I do, so what’s there to write about? And okay it’s actually eight pounds, but who’s counting?

My obsession with germs
If you’ve read my blog entry about my sun phobia or my post about my biggest fears, I think you’ve heard more than enough about crazy Teri.

The next president of the United States is…
All I can say about this stomach churning topic is, “I have never…,” which doesn’t make for a titillating blog post. My anti-acids are at the ready.

Will I ever be able to retire?
More anti-acids. Plus this topic can be answered in one perfunctory word.  No.

Hillary’s basket of deplorables
I was only able to come up with three measly sentences for this topic, which a riveting blog does not make. (1) Let’s be honest, there are more than a basketful of racists, bigots, homophobes, and misogynists out there. (2) Tell me with a straight face that you haven’t met one, or six, or hundreds who fall into the basket. (3) Come on Mike Pence, man up and admit that David Duke is deplorable!

I need a new kitchen and a new car
I could only come up with five words for this blog post.  Not a chance in hell.

Syria
I can write for days on this subject. But the sad truth is, nobody really gives a damn. As an example, August 20 was the third anniversary of President Assad’s chemical attacks on his own people, killing over 1,000 Syrian citizens in 2013. Too bad nobody cares.

Milwaukee, etc.
As someone who lived in poverty as a child, I know first-hand that there are a thousand Milwaukee’s out there. But writing a blog post about Milwaukee or any other poverty stricken place in America would get me nothing but hate mail. Even though four out of five children, who live in Milwaukee, live in poverty. And even though that in 2013-2014, 84.3% of Milwaukee Public School students failed in reading proficiency and 79.7% failed in math. And by the way: Since Wisconsin was admitted to the Union on May 29, 1848, it has had 45 governors: 31 Republicans, 12 Democrats, 1 Whig, and 2 Wisconsin Progressives, so don’t blame the Democrats for this shitstorm.  The lives of people who live in poverty apparently don’t matter. Nobody wants to hear any of this.

Zika Virus
I tried to compile a travel blog and began to round up a list of places that were Zika-free, but I was afraid of getting sued or worse, be responsible for someone going someplace I recommended and then getting Zika’d. So the only thing I could safely say was this: Before you travel, be sure to visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So much for my Zika-free travel blog.

American voter suppression
Now this is a topic I could sink my teeth into. Because, as I write this, Republican-controlled state House and lawmakers across the United States are actively and openly trying to prevent people from voting. The 2016 election will be the first presidential contest in decades without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. This should be a national scandal, except nobody gives a hoot. And let’s be honest, even with this small tidbit of information, my email will undoubtedly be flooded with hateful messages and accusations that I am a God-forbid, liberal. (Even though I’m not.)

Look at that! I managed to create something out of nothing and everything.

My Anaphylactic Allergy – And the 500% Price Hike for an Epi Pen

EpiPen

My allergies started out gradually and crept up on me.

First, there was a metal taste in my mouth like I was chewing aluminum foil whenever I drank red wine, ate a handful of assorted nuts, a few cherries, or a side of mixed vegetables.

Then, in addition to “metal mouth,” it seemed like certain fruits I ingested, like apples, peaches, plums, and even raisins, would tingle my tongue or itch my throat. I had no idea what was going on.

Plus at night, I would writhe around for hours with abdominal pain, severe nausea and such intense stomach palpitations that I thought there was a jackhammer digging a crevice inside of me.

I went through untold numbers of laboratory, radiological, ultrasound, and endoscopic testing.  I suffered through a colonoscopy, a cystoscopy, and a CT scan.

After months of tests, my gastroenterologist sat down with me to tactfully explain my problem: It was psychological. He suggested I try a psychologist.

Really? All those raucous parties in my belly were caused by crazy?

Turns out he was almost deadly wrong.

I eventually discovered the reason for my “problem” the hard way—by snacking on a bunch of raw baby carrots, which caused an allergic reaction that almost killed me.

I had somehow developed a “priority allergy” and was little by little becoming deathly allergic to carrots. I had also developed a severe case of fruit-pollen syndrome.

I was later told by an allergist that in addition to having the fruit-pollen syndrome, my priority allergy to carrots, triggered a systemic reaction in my body that induced a near fatal outcome when my severe tongue swelling frightfully cut off my ability to breathe.

The way it was explained to me, is that my allergy to certain tree, grass, and weed pollens is why even a sliver of a carrot has become my mortal enemy.

The pollen molecules of weeds and certain trees like birch, alder, poplar, are so similar in structure to the proteins in certain raw vegetables and fruits that one of the body’s natural defenses against allergens—an antibody called immunoglobulin E—can’t tell the difference.

So when the antibody binds to a fruit or vegetable protein, anyone allergic to the pollens I described above, may develop an immune response that can cause metal mouth, itching, and tongue tingling.

The reaction can actually bypass the mouth and enter the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe abdominal pain, stomach palpitations, and nausea.

And my gastroenterologist didn’t know this because?

Now that I am allergic to birch pollen, I have also developed an oral allergy to apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, and kiwis. And it seems that every day I discover another annoying food I’m allergic to.

I recently ate a slice of rye bread and spent the next few hours itching and coughing, while clutching my at-the-ready EpiPen.  And then there was the lip swelling and tingling I experienced after drinking a Corona beer. Go figure.

I am also severely allergic to mold, which triggers my asthma, as well as dust mites, and pet dander. All three cause me to cough, wheeze, become dizzy and lightheaded, and run for my Epi.

Wool, many laundry detergents, sunscreens, eye shadow, nail polish, face makeup, mascara, shampoo, conditioners, perfume, and most fabric softeners give me severe hives. But the good news is—they won’t kill me.

But the worst allergy for me is called weed mugwort and has caused mild to near fatal allergic reactions in my system to carrots, bell pepper, caraway (thus the rye bread), coriander, aniseed, fennel, cinnamon, paprika, chamomile, green tea, and cumin.

There are a few foods I can still enjoy without my stomach cramping and my mouth tasting like metal. These foods include broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, peanuts, green onions, cabbage, watermelon, bananas, melons, citrus, tropical, and berry fruits.

So far, that is.

I have been warned that based on my allergic reactions to so many foods, and my anaphylaxis allergy to carrots, that there is an increased chance of my allergies progressing to a more severe reaction.

The bottom line for me is that I have a 50/50 chance that if I accidentally eat a carrot, I will go into anaphylactic shock and I could die.

So I carry two EpiPens and a bottle of liquid Benadryl with me at all times.

It was strongly suggested to me by my allergist that I purchase several EpiPens for home, in the car, in my purse, and in the office. Because, believe me, I can now attest to the fact that once the tongue starts to swell, your breathing passage gets blocked very quickly.

Most EpiPens come in a set of two. And EpiPens should be replaced every 12-18 months. My expiration date states 18 months, but last time I replaced my Epis at 12 months. Why would anyone take a chance and wait 18 months?

The last thing you want to do is stab yourself in the thigh while your breathing has all but stopped, only to find out that your EpiPen has expired and is too old to work!  That means death folks. I’m not joking.

I can’t even fathom how I would handle having a child with a deathly allergy. It must haunt parents 24/7. The only thing that can save your child from an anaphylactic allergy attack is to stick them in the leg with an EpiPen. But what if you’re not around? What if they’re at camp, in school, at a friend’s house?

As an adult, I can handle the realization and stress that I can die anytime, anywhere, anyplace. But there is no way in hell I could accept that kind of fatal possibility with my child.

I don’t know how a parent lives with the worrying all day every day. I do know they must buy a shit load of EpiPens to ward off any and all possibilities.

If I had a child who had an anaphylactic allergy, I would buy Epi sets for school, all the cars, friend’s and relative’s houses, camp and wherever and everywhere else.  And this is where a psychologist would probably come in handy.

Now comes the ridiculously unfair and outrageous part of the whole situation.

In 2013 I paid $264.50 for a two-pen set. I thought the price was absurdly expensive, particularly since I wanted to purchase at least four sets.

Now? The current price is about $640 a set.

The company Mylan, has a monopoly on the product for at least one year. That is when a generic competitor will hopefully enter the market.

Until then, Mylan is just straight up greedy, and is just another example of what happens when a monopoly situation ends up in a company’s lap.

It’s morally wrong, and shame on Mylan for putting innocent children at risk of death. Not to mention me.

Now, if I want to purchase a set for my car, my husband’s car, my purse, and my office, I need to shell out approximately $2,560. Will I get reimbursed? No, because I have a high deductible health plan.

And how about the families who can’t afford even one set? Or worse, who have no insurance?

If I had a child with anaphylactic allergies, I would buy as many as I needed no matter what the cost. I couldn’t and wouldn’t take any chances whatsoever with the life of my child. Who would?

But for my personal situation?

I carefully safeguard my two measly EpiPens and my bottle of liquid Benadryl, and take them everywhere I go. And I’m already at 16 months with the same pens.  Stupid decision, I admit.

A letter to Congress called “Stop the EpiPen Gouging” asks that there be an investigation and regulation into the 420% increase (adjusted for inflation!) in the price of EpiPens since 2004. And so far, 116,620 letters have gone out. Take that Mylan.

Please click on this link and fill out the form right now?

Your letter might not save all of the people who die from anaphylaxis this year, but it might save the life of one person.

anaphylaxis-symptoms-food-allergy

Yep. I made it to my 45th Staples High School Reunion!

Reunion 45th

To go or not to go? That was my Staples High School Reunion question.

But after all the handwringing, I came, I saw, I conquered.

After I had written my blog post about whether to go or not to go, I received tons of e-mails and postings from hundreds of people—many of them were former classmates but many were not. There was an incredible outpouring of support, but more importantly, so many of those who wrote to me opened up about their own heartbreaking high school experiences.

So I want to thank all of you for your honesty and compassion. Because in the end, you were the reason I decided to suck it up and go.

And sure, it was the same old reunion-type dialogue. We talked ad nauseam about the good and bad old days. We reminisced about this store and that restaurant. We told horror stories about our drunken forays from Portchester to Westport. Sit-ins, Cardinal Puff, detention, lots of pink and green, Devil’s Den, Steak and Brew, the girl from uncurl, blah blah blah.

But here’s the thing.

We also asked each other the deeper more meaningful questions. We talked about our parents, our siblings, our children, our grandchildren and our feelings. Nobody really cared about how we made our livings. It was more about how we made our lives.

And it was cathartic. Because for a brief few hours, I was able to go back to that time and place and rediscover that naïve teenager, with unlimited promise, within myself. I would like to think we all went back to that young girl or boy who possessed enormous opportunities; full of hopefulness, and youthful ambition and dreams that were actually possible.

It was restorative to hear stories about that young Teri I once was, and I was grateful to meet her again—this time through the eyes of others.

As Paul Simon so eloquently put it: “What a time it was, it was a time of innocence, a time of confidences.” But my time of innocence has long past, so it felt good to celebrate who I was back then, and now as I enter my twilight years, to give me pause to reflect on who I am now, and how my life has impacted the lives of others.

I drove by what was once Mario’s, Oscar’s, the Red Barn, and Sally’s Place. I made my way to the spots where the Big Top, the Ice Cream Parlor, and the Remarkable Book Store once stood. And despite the sweltering heat, I walked the length of the Staples football field and then took a peaceful stroll through the Nature Center. I drove by my old house—three times. And then I pulled my car over and wept. A mixture of tears of joy for all that I have and tears of sorrow for all that I have lost.

As I shared stories with my fellow Stapleites, I realized that we walk a similar walk. And talk the same talk. And in our conversations, we all agreed on this: that our lives were rich, precious, painful, complicated, beautiful, miraculous, cruel, messy and loving.

Life caught up with the most talented, the most beautiful, the best dressed, the most popular, and the most famous. And finally, after 45 years no one gave a damn who was the loser, how many times someone was married, who was the sports star, who was the captain, who was the smartest, or who was the reject.

Because at our age, we finally understand that no one has escaped the pain and disillusionment of loss, outer beauty, disappointment, illness, drama, death, poor decisions, bad relationships—you name it, we’ve been through it.

We spoke of our children, and grandchildren, of siblings, wives, and husbands who were taken away from us way too soon, parents who committed suicide, and a son in desperate search of his birth mother. Doctors, lawyers and Indian Chiefs. A pastiche of 1971 spirits cloaked in 2016 bodies.

Yes, I made it to my reunion—the one and only Staples class of 1971. I was surrounded by compassion, confidence, vulnerability, and genuine interest in what I have been doing with myself for the past 45 years. With no awkwardness and no judging.

Okay, there was one moment of awkwardness when a former classmate excitedly pointed to me and exclaimed “OH MY GOD! YOU’RE ALIVE!!!”

“Uh, yeah, last I checked,” I responded warily. She proceeded to explain (as best she could) that she had been telling people I was dead because my photo was on the deceased table.

The deceased table?????? I sprinted over to the table and to my relief there was no Teri photo. Whew.

But on the serious side, we lost so many classmates. A heartbreaking reminder that life is short, and that if you believe in God, He most certainly works in mysterious ways.

And how about that Reunion Band? Wow. A bunch of 60 somethings dancing and grooving to outstanding music thanks to the talented Charlie Karp, Brian Keane, Mike Mugrage, Bill Sims, Bubba Barton, Bonnie Housner Erickson, Rob McClenathan, Julie Aldworth McClenathan, and Jeffrey Dowd. And a shout out to the incredible singers Kim Sullivan and Linda Satin Pancoast. And of course, let’s not forget David Jones on the spoons.

And who knew that Charlie had recorded with Buddy Miles, opened for Jimi Hendrix, and toured with Aerosmith? Or that Brian was the winner of four Emmy Awards?

And I don’t know about anyone else, but they really got me with their last song of the evening: Forever Young. Oh, if it were only possible.

The photo booth, the hand painted rocks from Compo Beach, the old time candy, new friends, and old friends. All in all, it was an incredible couple of days thanks to the tireless and I’m sure often thankless effort by Joanne Romano-Csonka and Bonnie Housner Erickson. Without the two of them, I don’t know if we would even have a reunion. Time and time again, every five years, they put their all into making a beautiful event for the rest of us.

At the end of an incredible Saturday evening, we all said our reluctant goodbyes, full of bear hugs, kisses, and good wishes, promising to keep in touch. We probably won’t.

And the woman who thought I was deceased? Well, she wished me well and reiterated that she was thrilled that I was still alive. Me too, girlfriend!

So for anyone stressing out over an upcoming reunion—and who, like me, keep going back and forth anxiously asking themselves the “to go or not to go” question. I say go. Take a chance. Reach back in time. Feel like a kid again.

And God willing, I’ll see my 1971 buds in 2021!

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you
~ Paul Simon

Reunion 45th Deceased Table