December 27, 2004

Whose Bright Idea Was This?

Christmas is over and people worldwide are left with bandaged fingers, twisted elbows and some, with broken teeth because of it, and some jackass is sitting in a room someplace laughing himself silly about it. I can't recall exactly when it all started, but it had to be at least ten years ago. Some sadistic maniac invented that hard plastic protective, security wrap that covers everything from headphones to cameras to batteries for Pete’s sake! The problem is twofold ~ 1. You cannot open the stuff by normal means, and 2. Once you have finally worked at it long enough to get a corner of it opened, it now becomes a deadly weapon ripping apart already sensitive fingers and gums. (Yes, I've tried using my teeth. DO NOT try using your teeth.)
You know the stuff I'm talking about. I cannot be the only one suffering in the wake of this invention. Somehow, they take this plastic goop and mold it perfectly to surround every possible curve and groove of the item it is intended to protect. Then they heat it to some exorbitant temperature, suck much of the air from the package then surely freeze-dry it, thereby making it impenetrable. Grown men have been brought to their knees in anguish trying to get through this stuff. I've seen the military uncover shrink-wrapped Blackhawks faster than I can get at my new hairdryer.
The great irony here is that you can walk into a gun shop or hunting store and buy a shiny-new .45 or Safari 550, point the thing at the nearest wall, pull the trigger and create a new window ~ all within two minutes. But lucky for us, the dreaded and deadly Sony Walkman is safely tucked just out of our reach beneath a coating of what should be called “EverSeal.”
I don’t know about you but I’d sure like a suit made from this stuff. No more laundering of clothes, no more fatal car accidents, no more broken bones and hell, even physical abuse would become a thing of the past.

Next Christmas, the first two things I’m putting on my list are a jackhammer and a hacksaw. Then maybe I’ll have a chance to actually open other gifts without needing stitches!

December 26, 2004

Christmas Reflections

Christmas Day, for me, is always so bittersweet. The preparations alone for this day are a maddening series of spending, planning, shopping, rushing and wrapping. All of that deserves a separate entry, and if I have the energy, I might make a stab at it sometime soon... but for now... Christmas Day wins out.
The kid in me can never sleep well on Christmas Eve. I find myself checking the clock about every hour and a half ~ as if I might actually miss something or oversleep. Out of bed way too early, I drag myself down the stairs, eyes only half open and hair obscenely disheveled. I take the time to check and see that nothing's been forgotten and everything is in place beneath the tree. I tend to overdo this day. Presents never seem to fit "beneath" the tree.
Once everyone is awake, we share a quick breakfast consisting of cinnamon buns, juice and coffee or tea. Then we get down to the business of opening gifts.
This process takes a few hours, after which we're all exhausted once again.
Now we can all go off to our little corners and play with our new stuff. This year, I sat on the sofa with two new books, switching back and forth between them to decide which one I'll settle into first ~ a fresh cup of tea in hand to help me choose.
Everyone's quietly inspecting their take... I love this time of the day. It's a great time to reflect on Christmases past.
I remember as a young girl, my parents always made Christmas very special. The night before we'd go to the obligatory midnight Mass. Before I knew any better, I really liked this activity. I saw it (as a very young girl) as a time to meet up with all the neighbors in the huge church we all belonged to, sing lots of Christmas hymns and carols, and close up the night singing Silent Night in the softness of candlelight. I don't ever remember praying at all during this event, though, I suppose that's what we were supposed to be doing. My mind was way too busy to get religious on me.
On Christmas morning, we would get up at the crack of dawn, make our way down the stairs and sit before our breakfast, which we kids could never manage to eat no matter how hard we tried. Christmas morning breakfast is a waste of food for little kids. I often wondered how my mother could be so stupid to think it would ever change!
We would dive into our presents never skipping a beat until all had been opened. My poor father always ended up being the almighty assembler on this day. Sometimes we wouldn't see him for hours as he toiled away in another room nailing parts together or reading schematics. Occasionally we'd hear him swear ~ loudly.
After everything was opened, all we kids wanted to do was play with our new toys all day and eat all the home-baked goodies that we had been kept from all week long. Our parents had other plans.
Much to our disappointment, we'd all be hurried off to our rooms to get dressed for the visit to grandma's house. Ugh. Don't get me wrong, we loved our grandparents, but we JUST opened our presents and wanted to play, damn it. Every Christmas it was the exact same... until we had our own cars and could say "I'll meet you there later."
Going to grandmother's house on Christmas Day was a trip. Not in distance but in essence. There were twenty-seven first cousins in our family. Every last one of them showed up, (except the lucky few old enough to have their own cars or to live in Florida). Grandma was very old for all of my little life. I never remember her being the least bit spry... in fact, I have only faint memories of her standing at all... she was usually on the couch under blankets, with bottles of pills on the table next to her. Poor grandma ... probably the last thing she ever felt like at that point in her life was a house full of screaming kids! Still, it was tradition. It was expected.
So we'd spend the rest of our day waiting for Christmas dinner to be ready... running in and out of all the rooms in their big old house, arguing with each other and trading off the one new toy we were each allowed to bring with us. For some odd reason, maybe since we lived so close by, mom always figured we should be the last ones to leave at the end of the day. Great.
Once we got home again, we were allowed to stay up a little later than usual and play with our stuff. By then, we were almost too tired to fully enjoy this privilege.
I've asked myself dozens of times why it is that I still reflect on those olden Christmas days with a smile on my face. In spite of the drudgery of racing off to grandma's house and the hours spent waiting to return home again, there was something quite warm and snuggly about being a kid on Christmas Day.
I still feel warm and snuggly inside on Christmas Day, but now I tap those feelings while watching my daughter enjoy her new gifts for hours and hours without ever having to leave the house. The little kid left in me just likes to kind of curl up on the couch with a book and reflect a bit.

December 18, 2004

Cashews & Monsters

When you’re seven years old and mother tells you to go to bed, go. No, really, this is sound advice. If you don’t, you could die.
I don’t remember what month it was, or even which season. I was getting ready for bed upstairs when my second oldest sister started to chase after me playing monster. Have you ever played monster? That’s when one player puts her hands up in front of her face and with fingers curled up as though they were claws about to reach out for the kill, starts running after second player ~ complete with guttural growling sounds. Player two takes her cue and tries to put as much distance between herself and player one in as little time as possible; fun game when you’re seven and it’s 1962.
Well, being player two, I raced into my bedroom and shut the door behind me. I stood quietly for a moment and listened for the monster. Nothing. When I opened the door to have a peek, there she was rounding the hallway corner in my direction! I ran to my bed in an attempt to find shelter under the covers. On my way there I noticed the handful of cashews I’d left earlier on my nightstand. Who knows what possessed me to toss them into my mouth on my way beneath the blankets, but toss them I did. As my sister burst through the doorway and jumped onto the bed, I gasped … deeply. Within seconds, I was coughing, no hacking all over the room. The partially chewed nuts were not welcome in my lungs at all. I was coughing deeply and could not stop even for a moment. My sister saw how red my face had become and she ran to get our mother.
It’s a strange feeling being unable to grasp your breath. Talk about a total lack of control! It’s altogether different than just sitting and trying to see how long you can hold your breath. You know you’re running the show when you do that. I remember being frightened to death. Mother came running into the room and saw on the floor what little of the nuts had been released from my lungs, but realize we didn’t know yet that’s where they had come from. It was assumed that I had swallowed them, and then lost them from my stomach.
Finally, the coughing seemed to slow down some and I felt a tiny bit better. My breathing was slightly shallow but when you’re seven, you don’t even know the word “shallow” yet, so you can’t accurately describe how you feel. Mother led me downstairs to the couch where she wanted me to sit with her for a little while to calm down. I had been quite upset ~ crying with fear from this awful sensation. We were both yelled at briefly for playing around after I was supposed to be in bed, but it wasn’t one of those big lectures. I know my mother was aware that something wasn’t quite right yet. She was very watchful as I lay on the couch curled up in a ball.
I was exhausted and just wanted to fall asleep but I couldn’t get completely comfortable. Within twenty minutes or so (as told to me by my mother after all was said and done) I was struggling for air again and burning up with fever. I remember feeling as though I had just gotten out of the tub … damp all over. In those days, you didn’t rush to an emergency room but rather called the doctor to come to the house. My mother made the call and I could hear her telling the doctor just what had happened. It seemed like only minutes when he arrived to our house. He opened his black bag and took out his stethoscope and a thermometer. I was wheezing by then, and he knew exactly what to check into.
He spoke to my mother and father for a moment outside the living room, then he used out telephone in the hall. I learned later he was calling a pulmonary specialist to meet us all at the hospital as soon as possible. It seems my left lung had collapsed and the right one was sounding just awful. The doctor went out to his car right after he finished on the telephone and told my parents to follow him.
While my mother was rolling me up in a blanket and rushing around to tell my sisters where we were headed, I could sense her concern. I was still so tired, but now I was frightened once again and I clearly recall having an awful time trying to breathe. Dad carried me out to the car, laid me in the back seat and off we sped, following the doctor to the hospital.
When we arrived, it seemed like everyone there was waiting for me! Nurses rushed around and hooked me up to intravenous immediately. Doctors stood talking to my parents a short distance from where I lay on the stretcher. I was wheeled immediately into the operating room. From here on I recall nothing until I finally came to a day later.
What happened was that a few tiny specks of chewed cashew lodged inside the tender walls of each lung. “Specks” is an adequate description. Nuts do not dissolve. They saved them to show my mother just how tiny they were. Before they could ever get the bronchoscope down my windpipe, my right lung collapsed and I was turning blue. Whatever great force it was that drove my mother to make that phone call exactly when she did and not minutes later, whatever force let the doctor arrive to our house exactly when he did and whatever power let my right lung hold out until I was on the operating table, will be forever greatly appreciated.
Waking up from my sedated state was like a nightmare. As though it were yesterday, I vividly remember an overwhelming sensation that icy cold water was being sprayed into my face. In fact, I was inside of an oxygen tent and my “cold water” was actually fresh oxygen being pumped into the tent. I could barely make out the cellophane images of my parents standing at my bedside. I fought the whole business of being stuck inside this tent from the waist up. My arms were on the inside and the first thing I attempted to do was to push away at the siding. I guess they expected this type of reaction and a nurse was quite available to sedate me once again.
I had developed pneumonia during my little cashew adventure. It’s plain and simple ~ lungs just don’t like to be invaded. Since they had both shut down, oxygen had to be reinserted to get them going again on their own. Oxygen, as previously mentioned, is cold by nature. Cold air being pushed into a set of already disturbed lungs equals pneumonia.
This ordeal was not soon to be forgotten, but I was just so thankful to be home again. From that day and through most of my teens and twenties, I cut myself off from cashews and barely risked eating any type of nuts in their original state at all. No one told me to react this way, I took it upon myself.
It’s only appropriate to add a short but rather incredible story to the end of this piece.
Several months ago I was using my computer at home and received an email from a website called This site connects people to old friends via school message boards and email addresses. The email alert was telling me there were new profiles added to one of the schools I had listed. When I went in to have a look around, one of the new profiles was that of a Milton Edelman in California. “It couldn’t possibly be,” I thought to myself. This was the name of the doctor who came to our house on “cashews and monsters” night. He was our family physician and had also helped bring me into this world. I shrugged my shoulders and shot out an email asking if he was any relation to the dear Dr. Milton Edelman of Staten Island, who later went on to study Psychiatry. I didn’t go into any detail in my email except to say that this Milton Edelman had been my family’s physician for many years. I signed my email complete with my family name.
To my most pleasant surprise, I not only received an email back from this man, but it was the dear doctor himself and he also took the opportunity to ask if I were the same “little girl” who inhaled cashew nuts at my home some forty years ago! He said he remembered my family well and has never ever forgotten that particular incident. Truly, I re-read this email several times and was floored that I could have made such an impression on anyone at such a young age. What a thrill.
When I was fully healed from this accident/illness, my mother told me I’d have quite the story to tell my own children one day. Little did I know I’d end up with so many more!

December 16, 2004

The Beaches Are Empty

An amazing thing happened to me one evening just around sunset. I decided to take a stroll along the beach. Nothing too amazing about that, right? Well yes... there is. You see, the beach was empty! Devoid of people. Within my field of vision there was sand, washed-up shells, a lovely lighthouse (that's New England for ya), seagulls, parked cars up on the roadway and water... lots and lots of water. There were no people!
Why is this amazing? Because having read a gazillion personal ads by this point in time, it suddenly occurred to me that everyone is lying. No one was out strolling on the beach at sunset. No one but me, it seemed. The fact is, I've been to dozens of beaches at sunset over the past 30+ years and I've never counted more than three people on any of them ~ ever ~ and two of them were completely engrossed in metal detecting! All these folks who claim to walk the beaches at sunset must be crowded onto the same shoreline, or are simply sitting at home fantasizing about it!
Incase you don't see where I'm going with this, keep reading.

According to most personal ads, the U.S.A. should be the healthiest nation on earth. Apparently they're all out there hiking, mountain climbing, working out, eating their veggies (vegetarians), jogging or running, riding bicycles, and are generally an extremely fitness-conscious society. Most impressive, however, are the throngs of people who claim to walk the beach at sunset. Some even kick it up a notch by saying they like to sip champagne while doing so. I've tried that too. It spills every step of the way!

I do realize there are folks out there doing this stuff... (sans the champagne)... but come ON people. Is there really nothing else you could list as a favorite activity?

In the interest of honesty, I would like to offer a few realistic activities that most folks my age can relate to. Couch sitting comes to mind, but that's a given. Bill paying... there's one we all take part in. Though not terribly energizing, it can evoke great emotion, let's face it. Complaining ~ loudly. This is great exercise for the lungs and I have yet to meet anyone who is too out of shape for it. Road rage... for some reason New Yorkers adapt to this activity early on in life, PLUS, there's even an attractive amount of risk involved. This can be downright exhausting yet pleasantly rewarding at the same time. Certain fingers get quite the workout, or so I've heard. There is also much to be said for channel changing, with or without a remote. In this day and age, when television has so little to offer to our gray matter, it's common practice for anyone over thirty to tire easily and even drift in and out of bored-sleep while staring at the set. This is where the fine art of channel changing comes in. My guess is - if seventy percent of the world's population is sitting before the set between their hours of 7 and 10 p.m., millions of them are engaging in channel changing ~ some at drop dead speeds. We all do these things. These are the things we can relate to. Start putting them into your personal ads. People will admire your forthrightness!

In an effort to conform to this great society I live in, I must now go and change out the litter box. Since it's downstairs, I get a leg, hip and back workout in the process ... and depending on how much my cats ate last night, there could be heavy lifting involved as well. After I'm done, I might get online and look at a picture of an empty beach. God do I feel healthy!

December 15, 2004

A New Toy

I feel like a kid with a new toy! This is a whole new experience for me, (thank you DS) and one I hope to become more and more dedicated to as time passes.
I can't recall a time in my life when I wasn't either writing or thinking about writing. I went through a phase as a teenager when I concentrated on poetry. It was corny and mushy stuff, the kind of thing you pick up years later and say to yourself "I wrote this crap?" I remember thinking at the time I created it that as long as the last words each line rhymed, I must not be far off the mark! Cripes.

This bit will have to be brief (lucky you) because I'm still testing the water and it's feeling a bit cool yet.

My purpose here, for future reference, is twofold. I would like to have a quiet place to come to when I need to unwind after work or have a meeting with my own mind ~ but I also hope to entertain and evoke response. That's where you, the reader comes in. You wouldn't, after all, stop by someone's house and just stand there staring at them... I'm sure words would be exchanged at some point in time!

I can almost guarantee inconsistent frequency, unless of course you would like to pay me many dollars for my efforts {uh oh... secret's out, I can be bought!}. I will, however, try to be predictable in style and quality.

Looky there... I've played with my new toy. Now to publish so I can make sure I haven't broken the damned thing!