Category Archives: Observe & Ponder

Every Shoe Tells a Story


I recently spent a euphoric family sleepover weekend at home with my loved ones.

In the middle of a sleepless night, as my loved ones slept, I passed the pile of shoes near the front door and was compelled to photograph them.

Proof that although I was stressed and sleepless, love was all around me.

The image of my families’ footwear told the story, without my having to say one word.

The adult female and male shoes, baby girl shoes, and little boy shoes, helter skelter in the entrance way was the dead giveaway that a lot of my favorite people were “in the house.”

As I recently combed through my phone photos, the shoe image jumped out causing me to pause and reflect on the whole shoe thing.

Shoes can speak volumes about a person and their personality. And shoes can often times speak for themselves.

They can also serve as a symbol for family gatherings, historical events, and more.

No matter what the situation, shoes will most likely tell a story.

Where have your shoes taken you? What do your shoes say about you? If someone were to spend a day in your shoes, what would they experience?

Early in my life, I recall feeling horribly embarrassed by my shoes. Many of them had been purchased at the Salvation Army, and because my feet were so big (I still wear close to a size 9), I often wore boys shoes.

And everyone has heard the old adage: You can tell a man by his shoes.

Two starkly different perceptions are conjured up in my head when thinking about my view of shoes: The dark vs. the lighter visual.

The light side first:

My babies’ first pair of shoes. (How I wish I would have bronzed them). My daughter’s orthopedic ankle-high boot that attached to a bar brace at night, ballet slippers, tap shoes, and her first pair of heels. My son’s first pair of soccer cleats, ice skates, and wing tips. And all those uber-expensive sneakers the kids insisted they had to have because everyone else was wearing them.

My despised but admittedly comfortable saddle shoes I was forced to wear at Saint Ambrose Catholic School for eight long years, my white go-go boots, penny loafers, and Mary Jane’s.

My first pair of designer shoes; Manolo Blahnik’s bought in error. After an afternoon of champagne celebrating at the Four Seasons, I saw a gorgeous pair of black bowed heels in a store window. When I tried them on they fit like a glove. I thought the price on the box said $77.00. I charged them in my champagne stupor, and only realized on the train ride home that my receipt said $770.00. Non-refundable.  What a difference a 0 can  make.

If you are a regular reader of my blog posts, you know there will always be the darker, more sinister side of things.

The dark side now:

I insisted on burying my grandmother in her slippers because she always complained that her bunions were killing her. Except lung cancer killed her in the end.

On 9/11, as the towers burned and then crumbled, women yanked off their high-heels so they could flee the cataclysm as quickly as possible. Heels don’t make for fast running. A pink spike here, a wing tip there. Blood-stained, dusty, almost-unrecognizable shoes from that unfathomable Tuesday. One woman got her shoe and foot caught in a piece of twisted steel and thought she would die there. Someone helped to free her foot, and she recovered her shoe. He saved her life but she never found him to offer her thanks. Maybe he died. Others discarded their shoes as they trudged through stairwells flooded with water from fire sprinklers. And the entire floor of the Battery Park tunnel was strewn with shoes from people taking them off to run as fast as fast could run.

A grisly photograph sent to me by a colleague of a pile of bloody shoes belonging to victims from a site of a terrorist blast in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 23, 2016.  Some still had bodiless feet and legs attached to them.

On a visit to D.C., a lone pair of dirty old boots left at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

And the hundreds of shoes piled high at the Washington, D.C. Holocaust Museum. In a room full of smelly, nauseatingly musty shoes. Heels, flats, sandals, loafers, wide, narrow, old, new, worn, withered, scuffed, colorful, dark, white, leather, cloth. Men’s and women’s shoes. And baby shoes. Lots and lots of baby shoes. A mountain of baby shoes. No missed bronzing opportunities for them.

On the wall of the shoe room was the following poem by Moses Schulstein:

We are the shoes. We are the last witnesses.
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers
From Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam.
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh,
Each one of us avoided the Hellfire.

 

 

 

 

 

House Republican Beer Bash After AHCA Passage

AHCA: The American Health Care Act. You may have noticed that they didn’t call it the “Affordable” Health Care Act.

And since the AHCA seems so un-American to me, I came up with my own word-morph to describe it: TryanCare.

Trump and Ryan, they keep on tryin.

Several reporters photographed and described stacks of Bud Lite being wheeled into the Capitol around 2 pm on Thursday, May 4, shortly after the vote to approve TryanCare began at 1:30.

My first thought after getting an email from a reporter friend of mine describing the beer fest was: Alcohol is allowed in the Capital Building? Is that even legal?

So let me get this straight. The Republican Party, who are vehemently “pro-life” for “persons” in the womb, are now celebrating because millions of those very same people could die without proper medical coverage?

And please don’t try to explain the moral logic to me.

I know why they were celebrating, and it had absolutely nothing to do with health care.

Let’s call TryanCare what it is:

A moral travesty, which will deny health care to tens of millions of “post-fetus persons” for the sole purpose of handing the very wealthy a near-trillion dollar tax cut. Individuals with incomes over $1 million will save an average of more than $50,000 a year. (Pittance to a multi-millionaire.)

There you have it, folks. What better time to wheel out cases of beer on government property?

They had time to plan a 2 pm on-the-job beer bash but not to read the bill or get a CBO score?

And call me parochial, but the Capitol Building seems like the wrong place to throw back a few cold brews. If our Representatives were in a celebratory mood, there are sports bars for that.

And I can’t help but wonder how many of our “Representatives” drank at the office and then got behind the wheel of a car for their drive home.

Oh and one more thing: The Center for American Progress estimates that premiums for someone seeking treatment for addiction will rise by $20,000 under TryanCare. But not for members of Congress: Republicans voted to exempt their health insurance from provisions of the health care law.

 

 

 

Whatever Happened to Steak and Champagne in Coach?

Before the Arline Deregulation Act of 1978, the government was in full control of what the airline industry charged for seats, and which routes they received.

The only way for airlines’ to compete against each other, was to offer the best customer service and flying experience they could.

As a Delta Airlines flight attendant in the early 70’s, I worked hard for the money.

Back in 1972 Delta offered a complimentary filet mignon steak dinner and all-you-can-drink champagne in coach.  Business boomed as flyers flocked to Delta for patience, empathy, a man size slab of beef, and bottomless bubbly.

I’ll share that nightmare job with you in some other blog post.

Delta’s advertising back then boasted that their flight attendants “walk over five miles on a typical flight.”

And trust me, I’m sure I did.

“She hangs your coat, offers you a pillow, comes around with magazines, briefs you on safety procedures, brings you your choice of drinks, serves your meal, pours your wine, answers your questions, helps your children, refills your coffee cup, points out landmarks, takes your tray and brings you your coat. And she takes it all in stride.”

(Not to mention, service with a smile, even when the men would pinch my butt, not once but numerous times.)

Delta hyped us as attractive, considerate, courteous, kind, orderly, personable, poised, polite, truly dedicated and goes far beyond the call of duty.

(I’d certainly call letting passengers pinch my butt going far, far beyond the call of duty.)

And as if their ads weren’t sexist enough, Delta came out with a targeted campaign for U.S. military personnel, offering them a 50% discount for “The guy who’s got a girl in every city.” The ad displayed six bathing suit clad women with names like “Your Chicago cutie,” “Your San Francisco sweetie,” or “Your New York knockout.”

I kid you not. And so you don’t think I am exaggerating, take a look at the ads for yourself:

But nothing could beat the sexist “Fly Me” advertising campaign that National Airlines rolled out with just around the same time.

National offered up their modelesque flight attendants as part of the airline travel experience. The company painted the ladies’ first names on every plane and mandated that the attendants wear “Fly Me” buttons during in-flight service.

And when their revenues increased by 23% as a result of their advertising, National upped the sexual innuendos in their ads by having their flight attendants look seductively into the camera, and softly whisper, “I’m going to fly you like you’ve never been flown before.”

We’ve certainly come a long way from the 70’s.

Fast forward to 2017.

Children with peanut allergies and their families are roughly removed from planes, a young mother who is trying to manage twin babies is hit in the head with a stroller, a 69-year-old man suffers serious injuries after being slammed and dragged off a plane to accommodate an airline employee.

Good ole deregulation.

And if you’re lucky enough to survive an airline personnel bully, you still have to be jammed into a packed plane, with no leg room and no food. And how about the dreaded reclining seats?

I wish the airlines would wake up and make the seats immovable. Why they think there is any available space for reclining is beyond me.  It just makes the ride that much more unpleasant.

And I hope that passengers continue to record the antics of airline personnel bullies and to stand up and say something if they see something.

I don’t expect to dine on steak and champagne in coach, but I’m tired of being treated like a piece of meat.

Beware of Tick-Infested Acorns

Who knew Oak trees ladened with acorns could result in Lyme disease?

In 1969, the first case of Lyme disease in the U.S. was discovered in a grouse hunter from Wisconsin.

But the disease didn’t get its name until 1975, when there was an outbreak in children from Lyme, Connecticut.  And then in 1982, the bacteria responsible for causing the disease was finally identified.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website states that in 2009 95% of reported cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. occurred in the following 12 states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, and Virginia.

According to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, a bumper crop of acorns could be putting the U.S. on the brink of an unprecedented outbreak of Lyme disease. Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute, estimates that 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, but that the illness is now on track to being the worst in 2017.

Because acorns are a critical food for white-footed mice, as acorn production surges, mouse population climbs, giving rise to more disease-carrying ticks. White-tailed deer also feed on acorns.

The mice and deer both carry ticks that drop off in the winter. The following year the female ticks lay their eggs and hatch larval ticks. Those larval ticks become infected when they feed on the mice and deer, so the whole process takes about two years.

Additionally, the Lyme bacteria has also been found in Eastern chipmunks, short-tailed shrews, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, and feral cats. Domestic animals including cats, dogs, cattle, and horses can also become infected.  The bacteria have also been found in many bird species including but not limited to the ring-necked pheasant, mallard, wild turkey, house wren, song thrush, American robin, gray catbird, song sparrow, and house sparrow.

With no Lyme disease vaccine available for humans there is not much that can be done to prevent the illness except for the standard anti-tick measures like head to toe clothing when in the woods and diligent tick-checks. There are Lyme disease vaccines available for pets.

Ticks can be as tiny as a pin prick, and easy to miss. Not everyone gets a rash, and flu-like symptoms are easily overlooked and/or misdiagnosed.

Bottom line? Stay far away from acorns.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Hamlet, in the Shakespearean play of the same name, was despondent and feigning when he declared: “To sleep, perchance to dream–ay, there’s the rub…”

The prince contemplated suicide, although in the end he was poisoned by Laertes, and not by his own hand.

I have always preferred my own interpretation of Hamlet’s words though: That a sleep full of dreams might help to offset troubles and sufferings in life.

A pair of papers was recently published in the journal Science, offering evidence that we sleep to forget some of the things that happen to us each day.

Sleep to forget. Maybe that’s all that the heartbroken Hamlet wanted to do, and then, perchance, to dream.

I am not a good sleeper. I lay awake each and every night with a million thoughts running in and out of my brain.

And when I am lucky enough to catch a break, and fall into a deep sleep, I have some sicko, frightful, extremely detailed dream that never seems to end.

Most times I forget them by morning, although when the dreams wake me up in the middle of the night, with my body drenched in sweat, and my heart pounding out of my chest, I recall them all too vividly. And as I lay there shaking in my bed, I analyze what in my life is causing such terrifying phantasms.

People have been pondering the meaning of dreams for centuries. Sigmund Freud’s theory centered around the idea that dreaming allows for the sorting through of unresolved events, and/or repressed issues.

Sleep to forget. Dream to sort through issues.

I recently purchased a book about interpreting dreams. My interest was less about the interpretation and more about Freud’s take on things: Produce a dream based upon a particular issue or event.

There was a section in the book that provided instruction on how to provoke a dreaming state of mind.

Remarkably, I was successfully able to sleep, and then elicit, not one but five dreams using the techniques from the book.

Here’s how I did it.

The book first emphasized that unemotional focus was key, and that it may take several nights in a row to produce the dreaming state, although it took me only one.

It was also recommended to view any problems or events from a distance.

Additionally, the book suggested that if you didn’t have a specific problem or dilemma, but just wanted to look farther into the future, the same process would apply.

The most important part of the exercise was not to think too hard or worse, overly obsess about the issue at hand, because that would only thwart sleep, and result in wakefulness.

The advice was to analyze the event or problem from an objective point of view and purposefully remove yourself from the issue altogether.

The goal was not to try to solve anything, but instead to focus on the issue itself, in the hopes of working through it in your dream state.

The bottom line was to specifically focus on what it was you wanted to zero in on before you fell asleep.

And most importantly, make sure to keep a pen and paper next to your bed so you can write down all of the elements and particulars about your dream as soon as you awake.

Since dreams are mostly fleeting, they need to be written down in as much detail as possible.

So that first night, prior to falling asleep, I placed a pen and some paper on my nightstand. Then I tried to remove all thoughts from my mind and as the book instructed, forced myself to totally relax.

Next I thought about something that had been bothering me terribly, but I did it without emotion, and didn’t try to solve anything.

And I didn’t place any blame or ask myself why it was happening.

I merely pinpointed the issue, and then began to analyze some of the aspects of the situation.

I first asked myself what the dilemma was about. Then I asked myself how it made me feel, and who was involved.

As I organized my thoughts and feelings, I kept pushing and pressing my psyche to gain clarity through slumber.

And then I must have fallen asleep.

Because I need to protect my situations and events, as well as the people involved, I am going to be somewhat vague about the dreams I had.

But I will tell you that there was nothing remotely vague about my dreams that night. And my five dreams were broken up. I had one, and then wrote that one down. I was awake enough to write, and excited at the eliciting of the dream itself.

And then I had the second and third together. And once I wrote those down, I fell into a deep sleep, and then came the fourth and then the fifth dreams, which I wrote down, quickly falling asleep in between them.

When I awoke the next morning, I was well rested but at first extremely disoriented and groggy.

I had all but forgotten the dreams until I read what I had written down, and was stunned that the entire night of dreams shockingly tied in with many of the situations I so desperately needed to sort through.

Here they are:

Dream One: There were two calendar dates, one was in March, the other in July. In my dream I was very afraid I would forget them both. One seemed more important than the other, and in the dream I actually analyzed whether there was really only one date that I needed to focus on, but just in case, and to cover any possibility, I needed to remember both. I was obsessed with the dates.

[I can only tell you here that I woke up at about 2 a.m. and wrote both dates down. The date in March turned out to be freakily significant. Since the other date doesn’t happen until July, I won’t know if it is significant or not.]

Dream Two: It was a bad storm, and the rain was whipping like this: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Blinding, crazy rain. I needed to get to the beach, to be with a girl. I didn’t know who the girl was, but she was important to me. I knew I shouldn’t drive in such bad weather, but it was imperative that I be with this girl.  I kept asking myself that once I got to the girl, how would we be able to sit outside in this violent tempest? I kept asking myself that question over and over again. The wind and rain would make it extremely dangerous to travel, but I felt I had to go, that I needed to go, no matter what.

Dream Three: I was standing on a balcony, high up in a building, staring at the churning ocean. There was a path in between the water and the building. A path of sand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

water

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

l                         l

l                         l

l                         l

l mom/child l

l                         l

l                         l

l                         l

_____________________________________________________________                                                                                                                       me
______________________________________________________________

A mother and her child were walking toward the building. I didn’t know them but I was nervous that they should get away from the water, get closer to the building. The water was rough, and I was afraid for them.

Dream four: I told a loved one (I will call the loved one “X”) that I was going on vacation. X called me on the phone to say that while I was away X was going to have a few friends over. I told X that I didn’t care about the friends coming over but that I needed to trust X and that X needed to be responsible. I told X that X never calls and the last time I saw X was over a year ago. I started to cry and told X I needed to get off the phone.

Dream five: A woman got a disease on a ship and a man was sitting next to her and consoling her. He put a blanket on her and set it up like a tent to keep her warm and then sat under it with her. He kept talking to her and reassuring her. Then some boat staff came by and said they had to remove all of the dead bodies. The woman thought she was alive, but they thought she was dead. They poured gasoline everywhere, on suitcases that were strewn all around, and on the deck, as well, and were getting ready to light everything up. As the woman watched, they pulled the man away.

[Even though my dreams were frightening, I woke up calm, and at peace and I am looking forward to trying it again tonight.]

$95 a Month for Health Insurance and You Voted for Trump?

I promised myself and my readers that I would not talk about anything political again.

Sorry, I can’t help myself. I tried, and well, it didn’t work.

So here goes:

There was an article today in the New York Times about what people in Utah pay to be part of the Affordable Care Act (A.C.A.).

First things first. And I repeat: The AFFORDABLE CARE ACT.

Please call it what it is, and stop calling it Obamacare. He’s history. And if the Republicans have anything to do with it, so is the A.C.A.

But I divert.

According to the New York Times article, one woman in Utah receives an A.C.A. subsidy, and then pays $95 per month (a whopping 51% increase from $47 in 2016), with a $2,500 deductible. This woman pays under $4,000 a year for insurance. And that’s horrible because?

Just to be clear, I never had a real issue with the A.C.A. People need insurance. I get that. And I’m not putting this woman down for being on it at all.

And this 30-year-old woman, who doesn’t make a lot of money, voted for Clinton. And the poor thing has breast cancer. So I feel for her. I really do.

But Trump won the state of Utah with 45% of the vote compared to 27% for Clinton. (21% went to an Independent.)

Here’s a second statistical doozy from the same article:

Another mother in Utah pays $75 per month for a plan that covers her family of three. That’s after her subsidy of $558. She didn’t mention what her deductible is. She is 39-years-old and also has breast cancer. She voted for Trump. She was quoted as saying that her voting for Trump was “one of the biggest regrets of my life.” She now feels like plenty of other Americans who are part of the A.C.A. and who voted for Trump.

Too little too late.

And according to the Times article, plenty of the people who voted for Trump in Utah participate in the A.C.A. health plan. And now they are concerned and afraid. Big league.

This is not fake news. This is the “sad” truth. And easy to understand. Buyer’s remorse. We’ve all experienced it.

But what I don’t understand is  why people whose lives and families depended upon getting critical health care via the A.C.A. voted for Trump, knowing full well he was going to “repeal and replace.”

They trusted Trump? The liar he already showed himself to be time and time again?

So when Trump gets out there and tells the American people that the increases in the A.C.A. are HUUUGE, take a gander at the statistic above. In the first example I mentioned, the 30-year-old woman, who has cancer, is paying 51% more for insurance than last year.  From $47 to $95.

And then there is the regular Joe Schmo, like me, who has too high an income to qualify for the A.C.A.  He too is from Utah and has a wife and three children. He pays a premium of $1,200 per month. That’s over $14,000 per year. The Times didn’t say what his deductible is. I’m sure it’s very high.

He was quoted in the New York Times as saying “Doesn’t feel like insurance. Feels like punishment.”

Amen.

So, here’s my question. IF YOU PARTICIPATE IN THE A.C.A. PROGRAM, WHY DID YOU VOTE FOR TRUMP?

Whatever the reason, Trump supporters clearly didn’t do their health care homework.

Lesson to be learned right?

Except for this: An A.C.A. repeal will likely affect access to badly needed programs for Americans with mental illness and drug addiction. And even though many of the states with the largest population of opioid drug abusers overwhelmingly voted for Trump, that would be devastating.

Many Trump voters are now making it clear that they will not support any plan that deprives them of the health care they desperately need, and now have.

And how about those people who might never have, like the catastrophic effect a repeal will have on Americans 50-64 who have not yet become eligible for Medicare.

What will happen to those folks?

Democrat Senator of West Virginia, Joe Manchin recently said it best: “Voters may not know how they got their health care, but they sure will know who took it away.”

Oh, and a shout-out to the Republicans in office: GOOD LUCK WITH THAT REPEALING AND REPLACING TASK.

 

Happy 90th Birthday Sidney Poitier


On February 20, 1927, Sidney Poitier was born in Miami, Florida. His parents were poor immigrant farmers from the Bahamas, where he and his family eventually returned.

When he was 15, he moved back to Florida, eventually making his way to New York’s Harlem where he became a dishwasher.

He served in the army, and then joined the American Negro Theater working there as a janitor in exchange for drama training.

In 1961, while the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was organizing the “Freedom Ride” Poitier appeared in his first major movie appearance when he played Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. While Poitier’s fictional character was mired in neighborhood tensions over interracial population in Chicago, the original Freedom Riders were being beaten by mobs in several places, including Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama.

The movie was terrific, but Poitier and the film didn’t get much attention. If you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly urge you to do so.

Two years later, a quarter of a million people participated in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, and heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech.

That same year, Poitier starred as Homer Smith in the 1963 movie Lilies of the Field, and he was finally recognized as the star he was. The story of an African American itinerant worker who encounters a group of East German nuns in Arizona, who believe Smith has been sent to them by God to build them a new chapel, hit moviegoers hard.

I will never forget the last scene of the film, with Smith slipping quietly away into the night.

I recall my mom weeping next to me in the theater, and my grandmother later telling me “things were changing.”

Changing, indeed. The movie debuted just one month before Kennedy’s assassination.

Poitier’s role as Smith earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor, making him the first African-American man to win the honor.

I saw both movies as a child, but to be honest, I was too young to fully understand the importance of the films, or how talented Poitier was.

It wasn’t until 1967 when I was fourteen that I fell in love with Poitier in his role as a high school teacher in To Sir With Love, a British drama film that dealt with social and racial issues in an inner city school.

It was also in 1967 that the changing times had divided most Americans into “them” and “us.”  Following a police raid on a black power hangout, Detroit erupted into the worst race riots our country had ever experienced, with 43 people dead—33 African Americans and 10 whites. Hundreds of racial disturbances were reported across the country that year, including major riots in Tampa, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Newark, Plainfield and Brunswick, New Jersey, which killed at least 83 people. It was also the year that Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for resisting military draft as a Muslim minister in the Nation of Islam.

I am embarrassed to say that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend any of it.

But To Sir With Love left an indelible mark on me and forever changed my view of black vs. white.

Poitier played teacher Mark Thackeray, and it was the first crush I ever had on an actor.

I can still vividly recall when at their end of the school year class dance there was a “ladies choice,” and tough girl Pamela chose Thackeray as her dance partner. That scene hands down just blew me away.

The film’s title song “To Sir With Love,” sung by Lulu (who played the unforgettable Barbara Pegg in the movie), reached number one on the U.S. pop charts.  I can’t tell you how many thousands of times I played that 45 record. (See the YouTube video of it below.)

In the same year, Poitier followed up with In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, where he starred opposite Katharine Hepburn, as a black man in love with a white woman.

Art indeed imitated life—the film debuted the same year that the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage in the landmark case Loving v. Virginia.

The lyrics of To Sir With Love ended with “A friend who taught me right from wrong
and weak from strong, that’s a lot to learn.”

But if I’ve learned anything, it’s something my French-American grandmother used to tell me over and over again: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.   The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Happy 90th Birthday Sidney.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8-M_wg8AI4

Not a Creature Was Stirring, Not Even a Mouse

What’s your very first memory?

I often ask this question to family, friends, and colleagues.

The answer to my question never fails to enlighten me and speaks volumes about the person remembering.

Here’s mine:

My First Memory—December 25, 1957

It was late Christmas night and Mammy, (pronounced May-me), and I were sitting on the couch admiring what I thought was a truly magnificent Christmas tree.

Mammy was my grandmother—my surrogate mother. My mom was divorced, and very young when she had me, so Mammy was raising us both. I never knew my father.

Mammy used to explain to me that when I was a baby I was confused and couldn’t figure out who was the Mom.  Mammy used to call herself Grammy around me, but when I was old enough to speak, I bestowed upon her the weird name of Mammy.

According to Mammy, at ten or so months old I had brilliantly managed to come up with a name that was a cross between Grammy and Mommy.

Mammy was also divorced, so I never knew my grandfather. And Grammy Nadeau, my great grandmother, was a widow and lived with us too.  And like my father and grandfather, I never knew my great grandfather either. Grammy Nadeau was sleeping that Christmas night and my mom was on a date.

Mammy was busily crocheting an afghan. Almost sixty years later I still have that afghan. I curl up with it nearly every night and wrap myself in Mammy’s memory.

Back to my first memory: Christmas night 1957.

I was four years old, and my head rested on Mammy’s shoulder. I was trying to be especially quiet because Mammy was preoccupied with her crocheting, and I was hoping that if she forgot that I was there, I could stay up a little later. I closed my eyes and was drifting off until Mammy began to softly poke my arm.

When I looked up at Mammy, she had a mischievous look on her face, as she put her finger up to her mouth to shush me. She then took her finger off her lips and pointed toward the tree.

So I took Mammy’s cue and gazed at our sparsely decorated tree, adorned with a single strand of blinking lights, a teensy bit of tinsel and a few ornaments, most of them home-made.

Underneath the tree sat my treasured present from Santa Claus.  She was the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. I named her China because she had the silkiest long, shiny black hair, and a flawless porcelain face.  It must have been an expensive doll—much more than Mammy or Mommy could afford.

Anyway, China was sitting under the tree, wearing a red organza pinafore that Mammy sewed for her which to my delight perfectly matched the red Christmas dress she had designed for me.

As I sat looking curiously at the doll under the tree, wondering why Mammy was pointing and shushing, I noticed a tiny mouse sniffing around China. I looked up at Mammy terrified, but she was smiling ever so softly, still shushing me with her pursed lips.

So I looked back at the mouse with a different eye—from Mammy’s tender perspective.

As a child, I was entirely molded by those three women in my life. What they saw I saw. What they felt, I felt.

Mammy had no problem with the little mouse—it was just a baby after all, and so I was all right with it too.

The mouse sniffed around my doll and then snuggled in its lap.

I looked at Mammy’s bright and smiling face, as she lightly kissed her index finger and then playfully touched the tip of my nose with it.

Taking my cue from Mammy, I lay my head back on her shoulder, watched the baby mouse sleeping and then closed my eyes, and drifted into my own peaceful sleep.

 

Drinking Alcohol. How Much Is Too Much?

I recently went to my allergist to be retested for certain fruits that have lately been causing me extreme stomach pain, lip throbbing, nausea, and internal palpitations.

As I breezed through filling out the medical forms, one question, in particular, gave me pause. How many alcoholic beverages do you have a week on average? I lied. Bigly.

After my tests, my doctor wrote down the following fruits to avoid: Cherries, blackberries, peaches, plums, and grapes.

She further explained that as part of getting older, my body chemistry is going through a change, thus all of the new allergies I have developed. The cursed female change wasn’t enough? And hello. DID MY ALLERGIST JUST SAY TO AVOID GRAPES?????

“What about wine?” I asked her hesitantly.

“Yeah, I’d definitely stay away from wine for a while,” she said like it was no biggie.

Whoa. Stay away from the vino?

Before I could fully process her suggestion, my allergist followed it up with: “As a matter of fact, I would like you to stay away from all alcoholic beverages for at least a month.”

I was speechless, so I just gave her a super ugly grimace.

Yikes! Her dictate swirled around in my head. This is what she’s asking me to do a week before Christmas???????

Could I actually go cold turkey for a whopping four weeks?

Okay, maybe I could, but definitely not until after the New Year.

After the New Year, I reiterated to myself. But not a day before.

Okay, so I’m at the allergist because my stomach pain is so bad I can’t sleep, I’m throwing up in the middle of the night, my lips are regularly throbbing and swelling, and I have an incessant metal taste in my mouth.

And I’m resisting my doctor’s recommendation, because?

My brain was turning and churning. As I mentally processed if, how and when to stop drinking, I asked myself: Why do I drink?

Easy enough to answer.

I drink to relax, I drink to celebrate. I drink to calm down. I drink when I’m lonely. I drink because it’s hump day, Friday and Saturday. I drink because it’s Monday. I drink because it’s snowing, storming, sunny, cloudy. I drink because it’s my birthday. I drink because it’s someone else’s birthday. I drink because it’s Mother’s Day. I drink because it’s Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve… Dang, I drink for any old reason.  Plain and simple: I like to drink…in a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on a train, in a house, with a mouse. Here there and anywhere.

My allergist interrupted my rambling thoughts: “It seems to me that you’re unnecessarily obsessing over my suggestion. If having a drink is that big of a deal, and you can’t let it go, then have one drink, and don’t beat yourself up over it.”

Gee, thanks, Doc. One measly cocktail.

I responded to my doctor with: “One drink a day? One drink a month? Define one drink.”

“Remember that this is your decision and your decision alone,” she replied. “You’re in control.”

“I’m not sure I am in control,” I weakly blurted out, shocking myself at my honest candor.

And therein was the elephant-in-the-room question: Was I in control of my drinking or was my drinking in control of me?

“Go home, think about it, and do some research,” my allergist suggested as she led me out of her office.

And as most of you know, I am the fact-finding Queen. So I dug right in…

Below is everything I wanted or needed to know about alcohol abuse but was afraid (or just didn’t give a hoot) to ask:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate drinking is defined as up to 7 drinks a week for women and 14 drinks per week for men. [There goes that gender gap again.]

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for women, and 15 or more drinks per week for men. [Eight lousy drinks per week? Uh-oh.]

Binge drinking, the most common form of excessive drinking, is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks during a single occasion for women, and 5 or more drinks during a single occasion for men. [Do the number of hours per a single occasion change this statistic up at all?]

In the United States, a standard drink contains 1.2 tablespoons of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content). [Don’t drink it. Don’t care.]
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content). [What’s a malt?]
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content). [Aren’t there 8 fluid ounces to a cup?]
  • 5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey). [Yikes, no wonder those martinis always do me in.]

Most people who drink excessively are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent.  [Whew. Good to know.]

The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink. [what’s a couple of bucks here and there?]

Okay, I was on a research roll. So I kept on trolling:

    • Do you really want a drink or are you drinking out of habit? [To be clear, I really want a drink.]
    • We live in a very boozy world. [You got that right Jack!]
    • Being sober does not mean you have to spend the rest of your days living like a nun. [Then why am I feeling one with Mother Theresa?]
    • If you look carefully, you’ll see there are loads of people out there leading full and happy lives without alcohol. [Carefully is the operative word.]
    • A glass of wine has similar calories to a slice of cake. [I’d rather drink my calories. Just sayin.]
    • The body can’t store alcohol, so it metabolizes it right away and gives it priority slowing down your metabolism. [As Bob Dylan would say: The slowest now will later be fast.]
    • The Arthritis Foundation has linked alcohol to inflammation of the joints resulting in arthritis. [So what if I can’t open a jar? That’s what husbands are for.]

All kidding aside, after my extensive research, I decided to dip my probably arthritic toe into the no alcohol water. No plunging head first for me, though. Not yet anyway.

Starting today, until January 2nd, I have imposed a new alcohol rule on myself: No more than one glass of wine a day, any three days per week. And never two days in a row. So the end result is that I am going to consume no more than three glasses of wine per week through January 1st. Yes, I can, yes I can.

Okay, I hope I can, I hope I can.

And on January 2nd? I’ll keep you posted on that.

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…