Category Archives: Observe & Ponder

Respect — Just a Little Bit

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that my life was forever changed in the summer of 1967, when I was the ripe young age of fourteen.

1967 was a tumultuous year for me. The rest of America was in a tumult as well, dealing with peace rallies, the Vietnam draft, race riots, and war demonstrations.

A real shitstorm of a year that I wish I could forget.

But what I will always remember was the connection I had with the then unknown Aretha Franklin’s hit song:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.

What R-E-S-P-E-C-T meant to me in 1967 was a hope for dignity, bravery, empowerment, strength, guts, courage, nerve, daring, confidence.  Every time I heard that song, I felt a kinship with it.

A year later, in the late great 1968, Aretha released (You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman, but this time her words did nothing for me.

I was certain that no man could ever make me feel inspired.

But then I heard it on the radio in 1984, and it was like I was hearing it for the first time.

It was a few months after my son was born, and it hit me that I could indeed be inspired by a man. Not as a wife, but as a mother to a son.

When my soul was in the lost and found
You came along to claim it
I didn’t know just what was wrong with me
Till your kiss helped me name it
Now I’m no longer doubtful, of what I’m living for
And if I make you happy I don’t need to do more

Rest in peace Aretha and thank you for inspiring me.

Spring Cleaning Tips

I am writing this blog for my own benefit,  because I know if I write my spring cleaning tips in a post it will be forever immortalized on The Teri Tome.

This way next spring, when I can’t find my spring cleaning check list, I’ll know where to go!

Spring has sprung, and I know what that means.

I’ll be cleaning, and my husband will be…

…I know what I have to do, but I don’t really want to.

And I don’t really need a checklist, because I know the drill.

Wash the windows, wipe down all my ceiling fans and lights, change out the cabinet shelf liners, degrease the kitchen, give the refrigerator a full clean out and clean up, wash the curtains, vacuum under the beds, tip top the bathrooms, degrunge the grout, and so on and on and on.

I’m already exhausted and entirely turned off.

But I gotta do it.

And my husband?

He knows I gotta do it too…

So here are some tips:

Clean your glass shower doors: The easiest way to remove hard water stains and soap scum? Dryer sheets. Yep. Try it. Wet a dryer sheet and working in a circular motion, clean the glass. If a film remains simply wipe it off with a glass cleaner and paper towel.  You can also use dryer sheets (unused or used) to buff spots off mirrors, bathroom, and kitchen fixtures.  They also remove rings around the toilet and are great for baseboard cleaning.

Shower scum: Fill a dish wand with half vinegar and half dish soap. I highly recommend blue Dawn. (Make use the Dawn is blue.) Then scrub away. You can also use an old sponge, Dobie pad, toothbrush or scrub brush and just dip into a cup of the same solution.

Degrunge your tiles and grout: First sweep or vacuum. Mix warm water and powdered oxygen bleach to create a thick paste consistency. Not runny. (OxiClean is the best). Do not use regular bleach. It won’t work. Then apply the bleach paste to the grout with a sponge and let it sit for 5 to 30 minutes. For large surfaces work with small areas, so the solution doesn’t dry on the surface. Then take a scrub brush and tjuz it around. (Or is it zhoozh?) Whatever. You get the point. Then rinse with hot water.  As the grout or tile dries, it will brighten up without the hassle of heavy scrubbing.

Removing mildew from white grout: Try using a bleach pen. This method is tedious, but the payoff is worth it.  Use the pen to draw the bleach into the grout lines. The pen allows you to target the grout without getting bleach all over the tile. Wait 10 minutes and then rinse. For really mildewy grout, you may need a second application. It can also help to gently scrub the bleach into the grout with a toothbrush and then wait the 10 minutes.

Remove stubborn toilet and bathtub rust stains: If you have a lot of iron in your water and struggle with rust stains in your toilet or bathtub, the perfect solution is a product called Acid Magic. Acid Magic is the user friendly Muriatic acid replacement, and is safer because it won’t burn your skin and has up to 90% less fumes. But make sure to take all the precautions you need to, like wearing gloves and safety glasses when using it. To clean rust from toilets and other porcelain surfaces, add three parts water to one part Acid Magic. Apply the mixture to the rust stains with a sprayer, brush or foam pad and watch the stain dissolve. Rinse with clear water. You can also use it full strength for stubborn stains. Avoid getting the acid on metal parts because they can discolor.

Remove tough stains from vinyl flooring: f your vinyl floor has marks or stains that won’t come off, try using Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). Using rubber gloves dampen a white rag and rub it on marks and stains.  Don’t use anything but a white cloth to avoid color staining.

Take advantage of your dishwasher: You can save yourself a ton of time by washing all kinds of stuff in your dishwasher. Be sure there are no plastic parts that won’t be able to withstand the heat and run them through a “normal” washing cycle. Some examples of stuff you can run through your dishwasher on a “normal” cycle: silicone oven mitts and trivets, toys, figurines, kitchen brushes and sponges.

Ceiling fans: Take an old pillowcase and spray the inside with Pledge, Endust or any all-purpose cleaner. Slide the case over the blade and then slowly draw the fabric back. All the dust and dirt will stay in the pillowcase instead of flying everywhere.

Keep your refrigerator squeaky clean: Wash the interior with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda for every quart of warm water. Loosen hardened spills on fixed parts by wetting the area with the mixture, allowing the residue to soften. Use a toothbrush to scrub crannies.

Lint free television and computer screen cleanup:  Spray a touch of screen cleaner to a coffee filter and wipe away the dust with no lint worries.

Clean your blinds: Combine equal parts water and vinegar in a bowl and get a sock to put over your hand. Dip the sock in the solution and then run it over each slat of the blinds to remove any dirt or dust.

Remove tarnish: Place sterling or plated silver in an aluminum pan. (It must be aluminum.) Sprinkle 1/2 to 1 cup baking soda over the silverware. Keeping the pan in the sink to minimize splashing, pour enough boiling water to cover the utensils. When the tarnish disappears, remove the silverware and buff with a soft cotton cloth.

Wash small neck decanters and pitchers: Fill the bottles with water, drop in a tablet or two of a denture cleaner such as Efferdent, let stand overnight. Then scrub with a narrow nylon brush.

Stainless steel appliances: For an impressively clean shine, put some rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth and wipe those annoying fingerprints away. You can also use a drop or two of olive oil.

Your couch: Baking soda can help remove lingering smells and break up stains on the fabric. Start by brushing off the surface of the couch, then sprinkle baking soda on the area you want to clean. Let it sit for about 20 minutes and then vacuum it up using the brush attachment.

Quick and easy way to clean up dust, dirt, and crumbs:  Use a lint roller to pick up dust, dirt, and crumbs pretty much anything your house.  It’s perfect for lamp shades, drawers, tablecloths, carpets, and window screens. If you have fabric that needs a face lift, lint roller it!

Remove kitchen/bathroom cabinet gunk: Mix together a solution of vegetable oil and baking soda, and then use an old toothbrush to scrub all that gunky stuff out of the corners of cabinet surfaces.

Get your rings to shine again:  The safest way to clean an engagement ring or any other type of ring with precious metals is to mix warm water with a small amount of blue Dawn dishwashing soap and let the ring soak for about 10 to 20 minutes. Then use a soft toothbrush to make it sparkly clean.

Get rid of mold: Clean mold the same way you clean cuts. Mix one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide with one cup of water. Wipe the mixture on the moldy spots and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Then scrub the area to remove all mold and stains, and wipe down the surface.

Hardwood floors: Make a magic solution by combining 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon castile soap, 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, with 2 cups warm water. Then pour the mixture into a plastic spray bottle. Apply this cleaner over stained hardwood areas, wipe with a soft cloth and you’ll be amazed at the shiny results. Take special care not to get your floor too wet while cleaning.

Porcelain tile floors: Start by sweeping the floor to remove any dust on the porcelain tiles. You can use a dry dust mop or a vacuum. Use a damp sponge mop and a solution of 1/4 cup of white vinegar to 2 gallons of water.

Quartz countertops: Wipe countertops clean with a damp cloth. Use a mild, nonabrasive detergent soap for deep cleaning.

Erase Scuff Marks: Clean off shoe scuff marks from vinyl flooring with a clean, dry tennis ball. A light rub and heel marks are erased.

Outdoor aluminum chairs: Combine blue Dawn with warm water and scrub with a Dobie pad. Then rinse very well.

Trex Decks:  Combine an equal amount of water and white vinegar and use a soft cloth to remove dirt and grime. Rinse thoroughly after use and do not leave the vinegar in contact with the surface. A nylon scratch pad or toothbrush can be used on harder to clean areas.

Quartz composite sinks: A wipe down with a damp Magic Eraser works every time.

Magic Erasers are indeed magic. You can use them on pretty much anything.

And blue Dawn works miracles on most stains. Just take a white cloth and dab it with a touch of Dawn (only blue), then rinse it off and wait for the shockingly positive results.

Happy cleaning!

Oh, and if I missed anything, please share your cleaning tips with me!

And if you have any brilliant ideas for how to get my husband to help me, fess up!

#NoMakeup

The no makeup trend purportedly started when Alicia Keys announced in May of 2016 that she was quitting makeup—not just in her daily life but also on her airings as a judge on The Voice as well as her professional life.

Lots of celebrities quickly followed suit, inspiring young girls to show off their unfiltered self with boldness, courage, and confidence.

No disrespect to Alicia, and the rest of the VIP’s, but I quit makeup over ten years ago.

Which got me to thinking:

Did I actually start the No Makeup movement?

A few years ago a friend wanted to share something with me, but she didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

I responded with an immediate “please tell,” but inwardly nervous about what she was going to divulge.

She hesitated awkwardly and then blurted it out.

“You look so much better with makeup.”

My response: “Uh duh. You think I don’t know that? But I like my makeup free look.”

My daily beauty regimen goes like this:

Wake up. Wash my face. Slather on sunscreen. Wash my face. Go to sleep.

I’m not saying I’m anti makeup. Trust me, when I’m in the mood, I can cake it on with the best of them.

But 99% of my life is spent free of anything on my face but SPF 30.

So sorry Alicia, you did not start the no makeup trend. It was Moi!

And I also think I should get credit for the #NaturalBride movement!

Here’s why…

At my then hair salon five or so years ago, a pretty young blonde girl walked in with her mother for a bridal makeup trial. I can still vividly recall that her youthful face was perfection. Her clear, bright skin was dewy and unwrinkled. She had piercing blue eyes and naturally pink lips.  Gorgeous!

The three of us left the salon at the same time. I hated my hair, and there was no denying from her body language, Miss Bride-To-Be hated her makeup.

She looked older, and her face was laminated with a combo of foundation and blush. Her eyes were darkly lined and thickly mascaraed, their cerulean color barely discernible. And her ruby red lip corners turned down in sadness.

For whatever reason, she asked for my opinion. Her fretting mother looked miserable.

“What do you think?” I asked the once fresh-faced, soon to be bride back at her.

“I feel clownish and way too done-up,” she whimpered. “I barely recognize myself.”

Pathetically, she looked to her mom, who in turn looked to me and asked, “What do you think?”

Now, if you know me at all, my mantra is this:

You may not like what I have to say, but you’ll always know where I stand. So, if you don’t want to know what I think, don’t ask.   

They both asked, so I went in for the kill.

“When you first walked in, you were beautiful, fresh, and natural. Now? Not so much.”

I looked from daughter to mother, and no one was crying, so I plowed on.

“Why not go for a touch of mascara, a tint of blush, some lip gloss, and be done?”

Mother and daughter looked at me like I created a miracle, collectively shouting “YES!” and then gave me a too long and too hefty of a hug.

Awkward!

But I bet she made a beautiful bride.

#TeriStartedIt

Fifty Shades of Grey (Paint)

One of my Facebook friends thought I made a typo when I wrote that I was going through a kitchen takeover instead of a kitchen makeover.

I made no typographical error.

If you have ever renovated a kitchen, you know the drill.

TAKEOVER!!!!!

Let’s start from the very beginning.

I have always dreamed of having a white kitchen.

I know what you’re thinking. Get a life. People are starving. In places.

It’s lame. I get it. But that was my if-I-ever-had-the-pleasure-of-renovating-my-kitchen dream, so try not to judge me too harshly.

As it happened, when we were looking for houses in the mid 90’s, the house we now live in had a white kitchen, and I took it as a sign. Sold!

So 22 years ago, my kitchen was my favorite non color but admittedly long in the tooth. It had white Formica cabinets, counters, and back splash.

It was worn out, but it was white, and I was happy. Having spent my earlier years in a Bridgeport Connecticut tenement, I was living the dream.

Fast forward 22 years…

I finally convinced (okay more like coerced) my husband into renovating the original-to-the-house kitchen. And I knew from the get go, that it was going to be white.

My contractor, cabinet guy, plumber and some of my peeps tried to talk me out of it, telling me white was passé.  They all had their opinions about white being cold, hard to keep clean, and sooo past tense.

But for anyone who knows me, I tend to march to the beat of my own drum.

Tell me something is passé, not in, or past tense, I could give a you-know-what.

I have no interest in keeping up with the Joneses—or anybody else for that matter.

Passé? Past tense you say? Don’t care.

I was going for the whole white shebang. Passé shmasse.

White floor, white cabinets, white counter tops, white faucets. That’s what I wanted. And that’s what I was going to get.

Oh and I decided to throw in a white high gloss exterior door and matching white high gloss window trim, and white eggshell walls and ceilings.

Okay, if you’re rolling your eyes over the white on white on white, even I will admit that my obsession with white was a tad too much.

So along the way I made an executive decision to get off the all white kick—change it up.

…and go with a grey wall.

To be precise,  white on white on white with two and a half walls of grey.

The white part was easy peasy.

I ordered white high gloss cabinets, white quartz counter tops and matching back splash, white hardware, and a white porcelain floor.

The grey walls? Not so easy.

Once I decided on grey, I began my usual laser focused OCD-ish quest for the perfect grey.

This was easier said than done.

What I discovered was that the color grey is elusive, schizophrenic, unreliable, misleading, two-faced, three-faced.

Yet warm, inviting, calming and cool.

There are indeed fifty shades of grey. Or is it gray?

Thus began the process of priming and painting, and priming and painting and then priming some more. I could NOT find a grey that I liked.

The first time I walked into my local paint store I told the salesman I was looking for grey paint.

He looked at me in semi disgust. “Which one?” he asked me as he intently picked paint chips off the front counter.

“I don’t know, you tell me. I’m just looking for a regular old grey,” I responded.

“Good luck with that.” He said under his breath as I strained to hear what he was saying.

I had no idea how accurate this salesman’s words would end up being.

I showed him a photo on my phone of a grey kitchen wall I liked.

He squinted at the image and then muttered four words: Barren Plain and Wish.

I asked him if that was one color or two. He answered me so softly that I had to ask him twice.  Even after answering me again, I still couldn’t hear him.

So instead of asking him a third time, I filled up the space with nonsensical talk about my counters and back splash, blabbing about how I was told that quartz is the new granite, droning on about my peninsula, my hardware, blah blah and blah.

By the time I finished my verbal dissertation he was at the other end of the store whipping up my paint.

I took the sample size paints home and had my contractor put them on two pieces of wall board.

I then intensely inspected both of them. Intensely being the operative word.

Barren Plain (2111-60) didn’t look grey at all. At first, I thought it looked beige, but then when I looked at it for like the 30th time, it didn’t really seem like beige either.

I went online and looked up the color, and one blogger called it greige—a combo of grey and beige.

Get out the primer!

Then I moved on to Wish (AF-680).  I was hopeful about Wish because as a wordsmith, I tend to find signs and meanings behind words.

And for whatever reason, I felt a kinship with the name. Wishful thinking because it did not work out at all. I wish I never tried it. It was a weird taupey color. Something you might find in a diaper. Not what I was going for at all.

More primer!

I then trudged back into my paint store lugging the two pieces of Barren Plain and Wish painted wall boards, and shared my misery with the salesman who recommended the two shades of grey in the first place.

“Why do the colors look one way on the swatch and another way on the wall? Why does the paint stick not match the paint on the wall? And why do the greys look one color on one wall and another color on the other wall?”

The salesman shrugged and said, “That’s grey for you.”

I found his answer to be wholly unhelpful.

My response? “Anastasia of Fifty Shades, the novel, said it best. Oh, my.”

He looked at me blankly. He apparently had never read Fifty. And he was also apparently not feeling my paint pain.

We stared at each other awkwardly.

“I mean,” I finally said, breaking the silence. “Why is grey such a problem?”

He looked at me like “duh.”

“It’s all about the LRV,” Mr. non personality blurted out, rolling his eyes before he turned his back on me to help another customer.

“The wha?”

He was preoccupied ringing up customer B, so he didn’t respond.

So I asked again.

“The SUV?”

“The LRV. The light reflectance value,” he said with some annoyance as he rang up customer C.

“Can you write that down for me?” I asked him.

“Are you serious?” he asked me.

“Well yeah, I need to look up that thing you said.”

“LRV,” he repeated as he wrote it down.

“No, not the letters, the words of it,” I said leaning in to see what he was scribbling.

He looked up and gave me an awful look.

“Would this be a bad time to ask for a couple more grey suggestions?” I asked him tentatively.

He walked into an office behind the counter.

I wasn’t sure if I should take that as a yes or a no.

He came back with a piece of paper with two lines of words on it.

I read the words out loud to no one in particular: “Stonington Gray and Gray Owl?”

“And is it G-R-E-Y  or G-R-A-Y?”

When I looked up, he was gone.

“HELLO? HELLOOOO?”

The salesman popped his head out from a back room. He was visibly aggravated. “I’m on lunch.”

“Okay, could you just whip me up these gray-with-an-A paints real quick?”

He zhoozhed up two pint size cans of paint. As he took my twenty dollar bill, I asked him what his name was. He said it softly, and as I strained to hear, I had to ask him a second time.

“Okay thanks for your help Robert,” I chirped as I walked out with my “grays.”

I ran home and tried both paints on some wall scraps I found in my garage.

Then I googled “light reflectance value.”  The first article I found was titled: “LRV and why you should NEVER choose a paint color without it.”

NEVER?

The article read more like a science experiment, full of incomprehensible information like: A color’s Light Reflectance Value (LRV) measures the amount of visible and usable light that reflects from or absorbs into a painted surface.  LRV is measured on a scale that ranges from zero (absolute black, absorbing all light and heat) to 100 percent (pure white, reflecting all light).

What?

Oh, and there was an app I could buy called LRV Guru which assists with calculating color contrast ratios and would do the math for me.

Wait. Now there’s math involved?

This LRV thing was getting way too complicated, so I went back to painting wall scraps.

Stonington Gray (HC 170) was too blue. Urgh.

Gray Owl (2137-60) was a nice gray but slightly darker than I wanted. I moved around the sample scraps from wall to wall. Gray Owl on the wall with the three windows looked great, but on the wall with no light, it looked dullish. “That damn LRV,” I mumbled under my breath.

I was all but giving up, thinking maybe I should just go with Gray Owl and be done with it. I was running out of time. Plus I was running out of wall boards.

My husband nixed the Gray Owl, so I was back to the drawing board or should I say painting board.

I drove over to Home Depot and found a paint swatch there that I liked. I then headed directly over to my not-so-trusty paint store.

My not-so-favorite salesman was having lunch. Again.

“Hi, Robert!” I said overly loudly, feigning enthusiasm. “I’m baaaack!”

He looked up from his sandwich and said: “It’s Richard.”

“Oh okay, Richard. So when you’re done eating can I show you a swatch I found at Home Depot?”

“Home Depot don’t carry Benjamin Moore,” he said in between munches.

“Yes, I know, but can you try to match the swatch up with something nice for me?” I asked him gingerly.

I think I was getting on Robert’s nerves. I mean Richard.

“Pleeeeease?”

He put down his sandwich and concocted something called Graceful Gray (PPV18-12).

I thanked him profusely and ran home to paint it out. But Graceful Gray was a very dark taupey greigy color. I was all but losing hope.

On the way back to the paint store I picked up a Caramel Brulée Latte at Starbucks for Richard. I was hoping that maybe a bribe in the form of a coffee would help me to get the grey/gray I so desired.

I ran into the paint store, Starbucks gift in hand.

Richard was very excited about the coffee concoction, and in between sips he gave me the inside scoop about lightening or darkening gray with percentages of other colors.  Then he confided in me that most people call him Dick.

Did that mean I had to call him Dick? I so preferred Richard.

And the Latte was a huge success because Dick was impressively accommodating and very full of a lot of words. He also happened to have a beautiful smile.

He worked up two versions of the same color: Classic Gray and Classic Gray darkened by 25%. Maybe it was the caffeine, but Dick was a new sales man.

I quickly paid him and drove off to do my painting thing.

The Classic Gray (OC 23) was a warm gray but had a purple undertone. I really wanted this color to work. But the purple was literally bouncing off the walls.

The LRV was B-A-D.

I was hopeful that the Classic Gray darkened by 25% would result in a bit more contrast with a little less purple. Nope. Didn’t work.

The following morning I dejectedly drove back to see Dick. This time armed with a Starbuck’s Caramel Macchiato and a blueberry muffin with yogurt and honey.

When he saw me walk in his face lit up. “I knew you’d be back. And I think I found the grey for you. 1611. Gray Tint.”

As the machine shook up 1611, Dick sipped on his Macch and chattered away, telling me among other things that his mother calls him Dicky. Or is it Dickie?

As I paid for the paint pint I was thinking to myself. Really? Gray Tint?

Why didn’t Dick think of this in the first place?

Gray. Tint.

A tint of Gray.

Come on Dicky. You should have thought of this one right out of the grey gate.

I was hopeful as I watched my contractor paint the wall next to the window.  The gray lived up to its name and indeed had a tint—of lavender, which happens to be my favorite color, so I took it as a sign.

Each wall looked slightly different, but the hues were all warm and a lovely contrast to the white window trim and ceiling.

LRV and all, it was perfect!

(There is a part two to this story, which is that after the painting was completed, I discovered that the white porcelain floor was laid down incorrectly and had to be ripped up. As flooring experts marched in and out of my house, they all agreed on the same two things: My beautiful and expensive white floor had to be trashed, and the color should be changed up. To what else? Grey! I mean Gray!)

Ask Billy Bush

On Monday, “Access Hollywood” host Natalie Morales had this to say about Trump’s recent delusional attempt to deny the authenticity of the now infamous tape: “Let us make this perfectly clear. The tape is very real. Remember his excuse at the time was ‘locker-room talk.’ He said every one of those words.”

On Tuesday, Republican Senator of Arizona Jeff Flake said it best when asked about Trump’s attempt to reinvent history: “You didn’t win the popular vote, there weren’t more people at your inauguration than ever, that was your voice on that tape.”

When the “Access Hollywood” tape, that had Donald Trump boasting about grabbing women’s genitals surfaced, I sadly assumed he would get away with saying it—as well as doing it.

Most powerful men do.

And I was right.

Trump quickly came out and blamed it on locker room talk.

He blamed it on a locker, and sadly, a ton of people fell for it.

Even his wife Melania backed him up.

She told Anderson Cooper at the time that her husband’s lewd comments about sexually assaulting women were just “boy talk.”

As I sat there listening to her tripe with my mouth hanging open, she continued saying how he was “egged on” to say “dirty and bad stuff” by Billy Bush, the “Access Hollywood” host at the time.

She blamed it on Billy, and sadly, a ton of people fell for it.

Melania actually referred to her husband and Billy Bush as “two teenage boys.”

Donald Trump was 59 at the time, not exactly a whippersnapper.

Then, more than a dozen women came out and accused Trump of all sorts of unseemly acts.

But I still knew it wasn’t going to make a damn bit of difference.

And it didn’t.

While Trump became President, Billy Bush became a pariah.

Billy didn’t assault women, he didn’t grab at their genitals, and he didn’t force himself on them.

He chuckled, acted foolishly by playing along, and sucked up to Trump.

And for that Billy’s world imploded.

He lost his job a week after the tape came out and his wife of almost two decades left him this past September.

On Monday, the poor guy landed in a hospital after being hit in the head with a golf ball.

This has been a tough few months for Billy.

I say the guy should get a break. I say after Billy recuperates from his golf ball injury he should be interviewed.

Ask Billy Bush.

If there’s anyone out there who wishes the tape was fake, it’s the guy who lost his job and probably his wife because of it.

And who knows, maybe if he takes to the air waves, all the people who fell for Donald and Melania’s lame excuses will finally forgive Billy…

…for the simple sin of not having the strength of character to change the subject.

Freedom of Speech via Blood and Bones

Trump, Jeff Sessions, and the rest of his administration are trying hard to undermine and erode our press freedoms. I say good luck with that.

As American citizens, the appalling and worrisome efforts by our president to suppress our free press and freedom of speech should be our “red line.”

And I have unquestionable faith that if ever our press freedoms are in real jeopardy, most of us will do whatever it takes to protect our right to speak freely and the written word.

I must say though, that I am unnerved and alarmed not to be able to write “all” of us.

It is my belief and faith in “most” of my fellow citizens that Trump and his political lackeys underestimate the power of the written word.

Below is a heartbreaking but hopeful story about freedom of information, and the unsinkable power of the written word.

Syrian human rights activist Mansour Omari was arrested in his Damascus office in February 2012.

His crime? Fighting for freedom of speech.

For his offense, Mr. Omari spent close to a year in a series of wretched prisons.

Nine of those months were spent in a fetid underground jail overseen by Maher al-Assad, the brother of the brutal dictatorial Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The why and how Mr. Omari was released still remains unclear, but while he was detained he never gave up on the written word and the power of information.

On Tuesday, August 8, Mr. Omari carefully and tenderly laid out five scraps of worn material that had secretly traveled with him in the collar and cuffs of his shirt, to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s preservation center.

Those five scraps contained the names of 82 prisoners in the faith and hope of informing their families of their whereabouts as well as to document the atrocities against them.

The fading names on the five scraps, which included the prisoners’ names and location, were scratched on small bits of fabric cut from the backs of their shirts.

The invaluable information written on those five measly strips was produced by using broken chicken bones from their paltry food rations as pens, and a mixture of blood from their rotting gums and flakes of rust from their iron prison bars as ink.

The written word in blood and bones.

The scraps of priceless information were carefully and secretly sewn into Omari’s shirt, as ruthless Syrian government guards fastidiously watched over them.

Omari eventually smuggled those bloody scraps out of his deplorable underground prison, past brutal Syrian government forces, and safely across oceans.

Nothing was going to stop Mr. Omari from immortalizing the names of his fellow prisoners.

Let Mr. Omari serve as a courageous and heroic symbol of the power of the written word and the lengths someone will go to disseminate information and stand up for truth and justice.

 

Just Call Me Chicken Little

I recently posted the following messages on my Facebook page:

“Right before Trump’s recent visit to Poland, the White House insisted that he be met by cheering crowds. So Poland’s authoritarian and nationalist Law and Justice Party accommodated Trump and bused in untold numbers of cheering crowds who created the illusion of a strong American leader adored by masses of foreign citizens. WOW.”

Followed by:

“Too many people take for granted the freedoms we enjoy in this country. Instead of the left and right and everyone in between going after each other, we should take an “honest” look at what is going on and have the guts to speak up for the truth.”

A Facebook friend replied to my posts with the following four words:

“Don’t worry Chicken Little.”

CHICKEN LITTLE ??????

Now I remember those delicious mini sandwiches at KFC called Chicken Littles. (BTW, only people who were born before the 1970’s will remember the fried chicken square, topped with a weensy piece of lettuce and thrown into a mayo ladened bun.)

[I’m pretty sure that my friend wasn’t accusing me of being a chicken sandwich.]

I distantly recalled a children’s book having something to do with a worried hen, but I had all but forgotten the story line, so I looked it up.

I quickly discovered that Chicken Little was indeed a character in a book also titled Henny Penny.

So I kicked off my research frenzy with:

Henny Penny – The Book
Convinced by Chicken Little that the sky is falling, Henny Penny and a band of gullible friends march off to tell the king, only to meet their end at the hands of a wily fox.

[Whoa. Henny Penny and her gullible friends met their end? I’m most certain my friend meant me no physical harm.]

But Henny Penny’s unhappy ending caused me to curiously type on.

Chicken Little – The Book
A folk tale about a chicken who, when struck on the head by an object from above, believes the sky is falling, and the world is coming to an end, causing widespread panic.

[To be clear, I Facebook spoke about fake crowds and telling the truth. Who ever said the world was coming to an end? Although I’ll admit, I do believe civility in politics has come to an end. But could my words actually cause widespread panic?]   

And lo and behold, through my continuing and admittedly obsessive research, I discovered that in 2005 Chicken Little was made into a movie!

Chicken Little – The Movie
Chicken Little mistakes a falling acorn for a piece of the sky. After ruining his reputation, the young and inexperienced chicken is determined to restore his good name. But just as things are going his way, a real piece of the sky lands on Chicken Little’s head. Now he has to figure out how to come to the rescue of his fellow citizens against the aliens who have started an invasion.

[Hmm. Was my friend suggesting that I had ruined my reputation by posting that people were bused into the streets of Warsaw Poland to fake-cheer for Trump? If so, how will I ever restore my good name? And as an aside, don’t expect me to come to the rescue of anyone, because I am a bit of a…chicken.]

Once I googled around, there was no end to the Chicken Little definitions.

Chicken Little (Two Words) – Urban Dictionary
A man with a little penis.

[Obvi not what my friend accused me of, but I do know of a certain “someone” who was accused by Marco Rubio of having this “situation.”]  

Chickenlittle – Urban Dictionary – One Word
Nickname for someone who is dumb.

[I sure hope my friend doesn’t think I’m dumb! Being called dumb wouldn’t be a Facebook-friend deal breaker, but to quote our President, it’s not nice, it’s not fair, and it’s mean mean mean.]

Chicken Little – The Merriam-Webster Dictionary – Two Words
An alarmist or doomsayer. A euphemism for doomsday preppers. Someone who makes a big deal out of nothing. A person who constantly warns that a calamity is imminent. A vociferous pessimist. Someone who makes a big production out of a small event.

[Okay, I will agree that I can be overly pessimistic. Or maybe you could call me realistic. And you got me because I admit that I do think Trump is a calamity waiting to happen. But to be fair, a lot of people feel that way.]

Now you may think what I’m going to say next is way off track, but I can’t help my pessimistic self, so stay with me. Don’t go anywhere yet.

This past Wednesday, Trump called Venezuela’s President Maduro a “bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.”

Should we call Trump “Chicken Little” because he thinks President Maduro of Venezuela is the opposite of nice, and that he has managed to do a lot of unfair things such as:

  • Demeaned his opponents, including but not limited to journalists, governors, mayors, and even his attorney general.
  • Dismantled Venezuela’s rule of law.
  • Overly uses the phrase: “We need order and justice.”
  • Packed the Supreme Court with his loyalists and cronies of his political party.
  • Appointed Judges who have been overturning laws he and his party oppose.
  • Approved the Supreme Court’s ruling to dissolve the legislature entirely (This move provoked a “Chicken Little” outcry by hundreds of thousands in Venezuela, so the decision was reversed for now.)
  • Created a political body called the “National Constituent Assembly” who will be tasked with rewriting Venezuela’s Constitution and restructure or dismantle any branch of government seen as disloyal to the president and his political party.

Call me stupid, but it looks like Venezuela’s democratic sky is indeed falling.

So go ahead—call me Chicken Little if you so choose.

I haven’t said the sky is falling—yet.

Because I pride myself in thinking that I am part of the media truth tellers.  And all that talk of fake news, is well, fake. All trumped up so to speak.

And I’m not an alarmist—unless it’s time to be alarmed.

If I cry out that “the sky is falling,” in all likelihood, it will be.

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.