Category Archives: Observe & Ponder

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.]

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

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.

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.

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

My Staples High School Reunion—to Go or Not to Go

Nervous woman

As of right now, I plan on attending my 45th reunion from Staples High School in Westport Connecticut next weekend.

But to be honest, over the past few weeks I have gone back and forth and forth and back about whether to go or not to go.

At 63, I see myself as independent, confident and strong willed. But I wasn’t always that way.

My looming reunion has me going back in time to my 1968 self—anxious, teased, meek and weak.

Taunts like “Theresa the Greaser,” “Olive Oyl,” and “The Mod Martian,” were some of the names I painfully recall when I look back on those not so wonderful years.

I wasn’t invited to any of the fancy schmancy parties, although I would strain to hear the popular kids excitedly talk about them before class, in the gym, and at lunch.

At dances, I was the perpetual wallflower, sitting in a corner uncomfortably observing high school life passing me by.

And the fear of having my name “Theresa” be forever associated with the word “Greaser,” was the reason I decided to drop the name altogether and use my nickname, “Teri.”

I grew to hate my own name. If anyone called me Theresa, I refused to answer to it. As a result, I haven’t referred to myself or been called Theresa for over 48 years.

Now, I don’t want you to think I had zero friends because that wasn’t the case at all. I had some really terrific friends, which is why I’m on the fence about going to the reunion. But what if they don’t show up? Who will I talk to? Who will I hang out with? To go or not to go.

And I also don’t want you to think there were hundreds of haters out to get me. No, not hundreds, but enough to make my 10th year in high school unbearably lonely and downright miserable.

To ward off the haters, I reinvented myself in the summer of 1969, in preparation for the 11th grade. To give credit where credit is due, my best friend at the time showed me the wealthy way to fit in: the latest and greatest hairstyle, expensive, somewhat revealing trendy clothes, push-up bras, and makeup. Lots and lots of makeup.

I called it my war paint. To this day I despise wearing makeup and still refer to it as war paint. I artfully paint it on whenever necessary and wipe it off as quickly as possible.

But in the summer of 1969, I wore that war paint proudly—and often. And with the makeup, along with all the other superficial fixes, I succeeded in throwing Theresa far far away.

And I won the war. Because guess what? The haters stopped hating. Which was weird, because I was the exact same person. Okay, to be sure, I had way nicer clothes, straighter hair, and at least the appearance of bigger boobs.

My early high school experience definitely shaped who I am today; steadfastly intolerant of bullying and totally and utterly unimpressed with the rich and famous.

And all of that rejection was forever ago, so in preparation for possibly attending my 45th reunion, why is it that I can’t stop feeling like that anxious, skinny, homely girl back in 1968?

Which is why last night I made a final decision not to go.

Only to wake up this morning and decide to just suck it up and go already.

I don’t know if I’ll show up or not. I guess I’ll wait until next Friday and see how I feel.

At least I don’t have to worry about getting a huge ass pimple on my face. That was so 1968.

But, to all my fellow Stapleites: if I do happen to show up for the reunion, and you happen to see me sitting in a corner—wallflower style, pretending my phone is blowing up with activity, please say hello and let’s remeet each other.

Because I’m Theresa, hear me roar.

Teri Gatti 1971

The Fledgling Bird – Was It Pushed out of the Nest or Did It Fall?

The-baby-bird

My daughter stopped by today to explain as lovingly as she could to stop trying to fix things. She asked me to listen to a podcast about accepting that some things aren’t fixable, nor should they be. It’s part of life. Situations happen. Things aren’t always meant to be fixed. Accept situations for what they are. Accept people for who they are.  Face it. Mommies can’t fix everything.

After my daughter left, I decided to spend a little time trimming back some flowers. Chillax. Reflect on non-fixing.

As I hummed along, I thought I heard a faint cry of a bird. I looked around and couldn’t see anything so I resumed my trimming.

As I reached to pull a weed out from under one of my Leyland Cyprus trees, there it was—a tiny fledgling, struggling to fly and crying. I immediately and angrily looked up into the trees. Where was its mother? Couldn’t she hear its call of distress?

The phone rang, and it was my girlfriend. I told her about the bird. “Leave it be,” was her advice. It’s not me to leave anything be.

I ran into the house and pulled apart a slice of bread and ran back to the tiny bird who was still crying helplessly. I was fairly cognizant of the fact that the fledgling probably couldn’t eat bread, but I was in the fixing mode.  Podcast shmodcast.

I cooed softly to the baby bird asking “where’s your mommy?” I inspected the ground to make sure there were no ants or other bugs that could hurt it. And then I went into my office to try to finish up a project I was way past deadline on.

But every couple of minutes I had this nagging pull to go outside. To see what was going on. Look around for the mommy. And make sure no cats or squirrels were lurking about.

All afternoon I ran in and out of the house watching this stupid little bird. Why wouldn’t it just fly away? Jump onto a bush already, get to higher ground. Why didn’t it stop crying and try to help itself?

I googled what to do if you find a baby bird out if its nest. What I read was that maybe the baby fell out of its nest or maybe it was pushed. Pushed? What mother would do that I asked myself.

After some reflection, I answered myself. Okay, I suppose it depends on the child, or in this case, the fledgling.

No matter whether it fell or was pushed, I frantically continued to run back and forth from my office to the fledgling. The hell with my deadline.

On my way out of the house for like the fiftieth time, I saw the mommy, perched on my deck. I got very close to her and was able to take a photo. Okay, it was a little blurry because my hands were shaking but she never moved. This mother was defiant.

The-Momma-Bird

When I tried to get close to her baby, she swooped down but kept her distance.

I felt tremendously relieved that this baby bird had someone who cared after all. The mommy was hopping closer and closer to the fledgling while keeping an eye out for me.

I went back into the house, but I couldn’t focus on work at all. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t focus on anything but that damned baby bird. How long was it going to hop around? Was it hurt? Was it incapable of flying? Was it hungry? Please stop crying already.

Was there anything I could do to fix it?

I poured myself a glass of wine to calm down a bit. This bird had me all nerved up. I had been at this for five hours already! If you’re wondering, yes, I recognized the ridiculousness of the situation, but I simply couldn’t control myself.

That’s when I decided the only thing to do was write this blog post. Try to calm myself down and record it.

In between running in and out of the house checking on the bird situation, I was writing this post—cell phone in hand, should a photo op present itself.

The mommy bird was edging closer and closer to its baby but not fast enough for me. What was she waiting for? Come on. Help out your crying kid already. Fix the situation. Solve the problem. Avert disaster.

I finally had them both in my window view so I could now stay comfortably inside my house and go from window to window between the baby and the mommy. Willing mommy to come closer, I couldn’t stop going back and forth, window to window, the glass of wine still in my hand.

My husband warily observed the absurd situation and just shook his head in amazement. Nothing surprises him about my behavior any longer. He knows my MO.

I finally gave the bird fiasco a break and forced myself to try to burn some of my energy on the recumbent bike. All the while forcing myself to stay put—to keep peddling. Willing myself not to think about the fledgling. Leave the worrying to someone else. Someone else? Get a grip Teri. We’re talking about birds here.

Okay, so forget about working out. I jumped off the bike to check on mommy. She was still standing guard and hadn’t budged.

I thought about getting back on the bike, but I just couldn’t. I was too anxious. So back on the deck, I went.

The mommy was gone! But the baby was still crying. My husband, relaxing on the outdoor swing watched in astonishment as I ran in and out, out and in.

And then I saw the mommy! She was hidden in the tree coaxing her baby bird to join her, teaching survival tactics. Showing her baby how to blend in and conquer a dangerous world.

The sound of the ringing phone brought me back into the house. It was my girlfriend again. “You’re still screwing around with that bird? It’s been over eight hours!”

While on the phone with her I ran back out to the deck listening for the crying bird, my husband now in tow. And to my relief, the baby was still crying but high up in the tree this time.

Kudos to the mother. She had done her job. She had fixed things. Her baby was safe for now.

 

Microsoft Windows 10 Upgrade—When No Means No

Windows 10 automatic update
Windows 10 upgrade automatically downloaded onto my computer Thursday night at 11:15 pm.

To be clear, I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t want it, and I didn’t click on anything.

I simply woke up to this frightening choice on my desktop screen on Friday morning:

KEEP MY FILES
Removes apps and settings, but keeps your files.

REMOVE EVERYTHING
Removes all of your personal files, apps, and settings.

Geez, thanks, Microsoft.

How about a third choice: REMOVE THE WINDOWS 10 UPDATE, WHICH I DIDN’T ASK FOR AND REPEATEDLY CLICKED “NO” WHEN THE UPGRADE PROMPT WOULD APPEAR ON MY DESKTOP SYSTEM DAILY.

When I frantically called Microsoft Product Services at 1-800-642-7676, the technical support person was painfully aware of the problem. According to Mr. Techie (name has been changed to protect his identity), Windows 7 computers are automatically being upgraded to Windows 10 without permission—basically disguised as a security patch.

According to Mr. T, the automatic upgrade has affected thousands of people, and the only way to avoid the automatic update from occurring again was for him to manually delete any and all files on my system that are pushing the Windows 10 upgrade.

For over two hours I sat on the phone with Mr. T, while he painstakingly had to disable hundreds of embedded auto upgrades and updates from my system. Then he had to write and add a script to my system to make sure all automatic Windows updates were forever removed—hopefully.

And according to Mr. T, my computer system does not even support Windows 10!

How Microsoft Windows could automatically update my computer system, even though I had repeatedly clicked “NO” when asked if I would like to upgrade to Windows 10 is beyond my comprehension.

Especially when Windows 10 is not even compatible with my system and had I clicked the wrong button, I could have easily and irreversibly deleted every file, app, and setting on my computer.

Additionally, Mr. T informed me that anyone who has a Windows 7 system is in danger of this happening to them.

Listen up: According to Mr. T, anyone who has ever been prompted to update to Windows 10, should contact Microsoft Support and ask them for their assistance in physically deleting and uninstalling any and all files that are pushing the Windows 10 update before it’s too late!

And one more thing: Mr. T told me that the problem is going to continue until at least June 29, which is the last day that Microsoft is offering the free Windows 10 upgrade.

Until then, Mr. T said he has been working all day every day with angry people like me to ensure that their systems weren’t at risk for a Windows 10 hostile takeover.

Ms. New York Senior America–Wait, Me?

Beauty Pageant Winner Brunette
I recently received a call from a colleague asking me if it would be okay if she nominated me as a Ms. New York Senior America contestant.

Me? Ms. New York Senior America? Oh, puleeze.

I mean I’m all for world peace, but this was a stretch, even for me. I wasn’t sure how to respond. So I said nothing. Which is highly unusual for moi.

I guess my pregnant pause caused my colleague to assume that I was interested, or, at the very least mulling it over.

So she enthusiastically jumped right in assuring me that I had an excellent chance of winning because I exemplify what a senior woman is all about. Geez, thanks.

My response was to tell my overly zealous colleague that I was honored she thought of me while simultaneously trying to drum up a way to say NO CHANCE IN HELL diplomatically.

But before I could muster up the words she gushed away: “I’m e-mailing you the information right now. Don’t move.”

A few minutes later I had the lowdown in my e-mail folder.

CHARM  •  DIGNITY  •  INNER BEAUTY  •  APPEARANCE  •  ATTITUDE • ACCOMPLISHMENTS  •  ENTHUSIASM  •  TALENT  •  GRACE • ENERGY

Hmmm. My competitive self couldn’t help but read on…

The 60 years or older contestants, are judged in 4 categories:

1. The Interview: Private meeting to analyze personality, poise and ability to effectively communicate. Ms. New York Senior America needs to be able to wow the public-at-large as well as the media.

I could like, sooo do that.  

2. The Evening Gown: A runway look-see for judges to establish the presence of elegance, poise, and grace.

No brainer, duh.

3. Life Philosophy: A brief statement limited to 35 seconds.

Hmmm, since I am the queen of verbiage, I like, literally can’t even. But I could try.

4. Talent: Music, the arts, or any other activity appropriate for an elegant, senior woman.

I take this to mean that pole dancing is probably off the table.

Oh and the talent presentation is limited to a maximum of two minutes and 45 seconds.

Since I am basically talentless, this category was the deal breaker. Plus, sorry people, but two minutes and 45 seconds seems like eons.

I responsibly called my colleague back to explain to her that I had no talent whatsoever. I left out the eon part.

“I’m sure you can come up with something,” she cajoled and asked me to get back to her.

Now I’m supposed to get back to her?

Okay, maybe I do have some talent.

Let’s see: I could write a poem or read a snippet from one of my blogs. Snoring.

I could whip out a George Foreman grill and create a killer egg-in-a-hole. But could I debut egg-in-a-hole in 2 minutes 45?

I consulted my husband, who had a brilliant idea: I could take a computer and a screen on stage, and create an Excel pivot table from scratch!

OMG! I got so excited about the genius of his suggestion that I started to imagine all sorts of possibilities and scenarios.

Me, in an interview wowing the judges with my bada bing bada boom.

Me, in a ball gown, strutting and sashaying my creaky self.

Me, and my philosophy and mission of world peace and my game plan for obliterating ISIS in 35 secs.

Me, formulating and titillating the audience with my Excel spreadsheet brilliance.

The more I thought about it, the more invigorated I became. And the more sense it made.

I admittedly give a mean Queen of England wave, and I love to travel.

I could be the face of dignity, glamor, maturity, and inner beauty, to all old people.

I could share my spreadsheet talent with AARP chapters, nursing homes, senior Expos, and the elderly like.

As Ms. New York Senior America 2016, I could be the touchstone for the geriatric masses.

I could be a contender!

I CAN SEE IT NOW:

AND THE WINNER IS…

TERI SCHURE • MS. NEW YORK SENIOR AMERICA 2016

Teri Schure, a peppy 62-year-old, grew up on the wrong side of Bridgeport Connecticut, and has been a fairly reputable Long Island resident for the past 32 years. She never graduated from Brevard College in Brevard, North Carolina, and wasted precious time majoring in music theory and minoring in piano. She never obtained a degree of any kind, nor did she earn any certifications. Her passionate and fascinating working career consisted of Excel spreadsheets and calculators. Since she doesn’t have enough money to retire, she continues to eke out a living doing a plethora of grunt work and continues to bust her butt every day to improve her skills.

Since Teri does nothing but slog and toil, she has yet to devote her time and skills to charity, volunteering for various non-profits, or any other causes in her community. Since she is a slave to the almighty dollar, she does not actively support any organizations at all.

Her interests include cleaning the house, paying bills, grocery shopping, laundry, and making sure there is dinner on the table every night.

Since she is still trudging and grinding away, she has no interest in art, dance, horseback riding, gardening, travel, piano, or theater.

Teri is thrilled and honored to be Ms. New York Senior America 2016. She looks forward to proudly promoting a positive image of oldness, while simultaneously extolling the importance of graceful perseverance and acceptance of the inevitable, to all women past their prime.

Her dream is to pageant beyond New York and become Ms. Senior America of 2017.

 

American Express Small Business Saturday Statement Credits Are Canceled for 2015

American Express Cards

The first Small Business Saturday took place on 11/27/10 and American Express encouraged people across the country to support small, local businesses by offering a generous statement credit of $25 off $25. The event was hugely successful, with people coming out in droves to shop and use their Amex cards.

For the past five years, small business owners have relied on the American Express statement credit program on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The program has helped to counter balance lagging traffic and sales during Black Friday weekend for thousands of small business owners.

My question to Amex: You didn’t think your decision to effectively cancel Small Business Saturday didn’t warrant an announcement on the home page of your Small Business Saturday website?

Shame on American Express for not making sure that small business owners were given a heads up that, for the most part, Small Business Saturday has gone bust.

When I went online today to find out what kind of credit incentive Amex was going to offer for the 2015 Small Business Saturday, I saw nothing on their website. But I did find several articles claiming that an American Express announcement that no statement credits would be offered this year, was buried somewhere in their FAQ section. I looked around on the Amex Small Business Saturday website for quite some time and found no such announcement in their FAQ section or anywhere else.

I ultimately sent an e-mail to Amex directly, asking them if they were in fact canceling statement credits. I received the following e-mail reply back from them:

As in years past, American Express will continue to drive awareness of Small Business Saturday and encourage consumers to shop small through local and national advertising.

This year we are not offering a statement credit offer for Card Members on Small Business Saturday, but are instead increasing the support and resources we provide to help small business owners market the day within their communities and truly make it their own.  Learn about the materials we make available at ShopSmall.com/GetReady:

  • Customizable marketing materials
  • Free online ads
  • Shop Small merchandise kits (while supplies last)
  • Educational event guides

We are also significantly expanding our grassroots advocacy efforts, such as the Neighborhood Champion program, to facilitate more community events and activities to engage local communities to shop small on Small Business Saturday.

Why would Amex have a Small Business Saturday and not have statement credits? What would motivate people to shop on that day vs. any other day?

Sorry, Amex but your offer to increase support and supply materials isn’t going to bring the store traffic to small businesses that your statement credit program did. It won’t even come close.

The popularity of Black Friday Weekend has lessened in recent years, as e-commerce has completely changed the scope of holiday shopping. And now Amex has decided to quietly cancel their statement credit program?

As the Executive Director of my local Chamber of Commerce, I have seen firsthand how successful stores have been on Small Business Saturday, thanks in large part to the American Express statement credit incentives.

I also witnessed hundreds of shoppers who swarmed the stores that day with loads of Amex cards. And I mean loads—per person. I saw one shopper with at least 50 credit cards. And I witnessed store after store printing out sales receipts that were eight feet long nonstop until they closed at midnight.

A little-known rule regarding American Express cards, is that you can have up to 99 authorized users on any one card—each with their own card, and more importantly, their own individual statement credits.

So I am assuming that American Express was tired of shoppers abusing the program. But they could have easily limited the promotion to one card per person, and that would have been the end of the abuse.

Instead, they canceled the program entirely, with no formal announcement. Not yet, anyway.

Below is a history of incentives going back to the 2010 launch year:

2010: $25 off $25 offer announced on 11/08. Registration opened 11/08. Spending valid 11/27-12/31/10.

2011: $25 off $25 offer announced on 10/06. Registration opened 11/01. Spending valid 11/26/11.

2012: $25 off $25 offer announced on 09/24. Registration opened 11/17. Spending valid 11/24/12.

2013: $10 off $10 offer announced on 10/01. Registration opened 11/24. Spending valid 11/30/13.

2014: $10 off $10 valid 3 times per card announced on 09/27. Registration opened 11/16. Spending valid 11/29/14.

2015:  No formal announcement made yet, that Small Business Saturday statement credits are canceled for 2015.

I get that American Express is trying to cut costs, but in my opinion they should have canceled Small Business Saturday altogether. Let’s get real, without a financial incentive, people won’t pay attention. Wasn’t a financial incentive the whole point of the program?

Incentives or no incentives. At least let small business owners know.