March 25, 2006

Grated Memories

If memory is like a hunk of hard cheese, these are some of the gratings rolling about in my mind today.

~ I remember the time I stood at the edge of the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, New Jersey watching the “Jet Star” amusement ride fly off the end of the pier and into the ocean like a Tonka toy being hurled into a wall by an angry child. This occurred during a hurricane sometime in the early 1970s. After watching this eerie sight, I finally decided I should follow the rules and go back home to hunker down.

~ I remember the time I drove miles out of my way during a cross country trip just to see The Great Continental Divide. My excitement grew almost as much as each highway sign pointing me in the right direction. When I got there, my heart was broken to see a pole in the ground with a little hand written sign that read, “The Great Continental Divide.” I still don’t know quite what I had been expecting to see, but I know it wasn’t that.

~ I remember the time my sister and I climbed up to the old railroad tracks that bordered an open field to watch a Young Rascals concert which we couldn’t afford to attend. From the top, we were just a few feet higher than the nosebleed bleacher seats on the field but we felt like we had the best view of all. We were so cold until they started to sing “Groovin” – then we didn’t even notice it so much. I couldn’t have been more than thirteen years old.

~ I remember the time my sister and I stayed up in the country at a cottage with our neighbors. One of the boys and I made fake bear-prints in the mud by the lake while my sister and her friend were out walking in the woods (an expressly forbidden activity in bear country). They came back, spotted the fake prints, and were horrified. I laughed myself silly.

About three hours later (toward evening), we were all sitting out on the porch when our friends’ dad saw an odd trail of prints nearby. These were fresh – much larger than the fake ones we made – and we had all been together for hours this time. They couldn’t get me out of the cottage the rest of the weekend.

~ I remember the time I woke up in my hospital bed with the curtains drawn all around me and room lights brightly lit. It was in the middle of the night and I wondered, “What the heck?” Then I overheard the nurses discussing which one of them would call the family, and I watched in horror as the gurney wheels passed beneath the rim of the curtain. The old woman next to me had expired in the night and they were removing her. I was quite young and had never been so close to dead person before. It’s not a nice feeling for a little kid.

~ I remember the time I got a three foot doll with long blond hair for Christmas. She didn’t even do anything but stand by herself and I thought this was the most fabulous gift in the world. Most of my dolls up to that point were hand-me-downs with holes in their head where hair used to be. I would sit and comb my new doll’s hair for hours on end, just because I could; I was completely entertained by this. I was about five or six years old.

~ I remember the time I was hired by the New York Telephone Company as a Toll Operator. They broke their rules to let me in. I was a high school dropout and the youngest full-time operator on the entire staff in all five boroughs. Following my interview, I had to take several dexterity and memory tests. I passed them all with flying colors. They later told me that I earned this opportunity because of my brutal honesty and my ability to hold a fine conversation. I was quite proud of this at fifteen years old.

~ I remember the first adult book I ever read in two days from cover to cover. It was “Jaws” by Peter Benchley. Usually, it takes me about a week to finish a good book; longer if it’s slow moving or it sucks. It was in mid-March, 1975. How do I know this? It’s written in one of the diaries I’ve managed to hang on to through the years. I must have really liked that book. (Egad … 31 years ago this week)

~ I remember the first time I saw real tumbleweed rolling across the highway in front of my car. I was awestruck. I had always thought tumbleweed was phony stuff they just used for effect in cowboy movies. I was so thrilled by this that I made my companion stop the car; I got out and grabbed a handful to send home to my mother. This revelation took place in Oklahoma, 1980.

~ I remember the time my friend Richie brought his small black and white television set up to the playground where we all hung out in the evenings. Everyone wondered why he brought such a thing.

To our amazement, Rich proceeded to dismantle the bottom section of the metal street light pole and after playing with the wires for about ten minutes, he had the damned TV working perfectly. Considering he was only about fourteen years old, this was brilliant! We sat along the cement wall and watched it for about an hour till we knew the cops would soon be patrolling the area. We had the cops’ schedule down tighter than the Department itself!

~ I remember the time I took second place in a bumper-pool tournament in the park’s recreation building (same park as mentioned above). I was the only female in the top six contenders. I had an edge; my dad and I played bumper-pool in our basement every night for about an hour after dinner (we had our own table). He taught me the ever-so-tricky jumpshot. I haven’t played in about 25 years but I have a feeling I’d still be quite good at this.

“It’s funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating.” Jack Handey (“Deep Thoughts”)

"Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.” Pierce Harris

March 21, 2006

When Animals Speak

I was flipping through some of my zoo and outdoor photos recently when I noticed a disturbing trend. Either I am the world’s worst photographer ~ often capturing all BUTT the moment ~ or animals have the ability to spin on a dime within a fraction of a second. Or both. In any case, they sure do have much to say.

"Another camera ... Quick! There's a clump of trees over here!"

"No no no, it's LEFT foot out, left foot in, you can't shake it all about till you've followed all the steps!"

"Pose for you lady? In a pig's ass I will."

"Hmph ... I don't think we're in Kenya anymore."

"I got your stripes right here lady ... get your own stars."

All of the above photos were taken at Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island.

And sometimes, just sometimes ... the creatures actually cooperate!

"These morning workouts are killing me - though it does appear I've lost a bit of shell this time around."

"Phew! Just made it. I love playing "chicken" with fishing boats."

"Put that camera away or we shall SPIT in your general direction!"

"What? You want "smile"? This is the best I can do."

"Mmmm... my little sugar pie. WHAT'S THIS? You've shaved your neck again?"

"I was going for the muddy-foot look. Do you think I've captured it?"

"And on tonight's menu ... woodpecker with a side of sparrow..."

[Meet the theraphosa blondi - this goliath bird spider lives in the jungles of South America and feeds on small birds. With legs fully stretched, he is the size of your average dinner plate. He is about as harmful to humans as a wasp, and even at that will only attack when threatened (i.e.boxed in, etc). This guy was a guest at the aquarium during a special exhibit they featured during my employ there. And nope, I didn't touch him.]

*Congrats to June for scoring the highest on my little quiz (Ed and SJ don't count - they are family!). Thanks to all who took the test - hope it was as fun for you as it was for me!*

"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Mahatma Gandhi

And I couldn't pass this one up for all the tea in England ...

"When I see professional clowns, mimes, or people that make balloon animals, I always think of their relatives and how disappointed they must be." Source Unknown

March 15, 2006

Do You Know This Blogger? (Sharpen Your Pencils)

I've always enjoyed reading people's "100 Things About Me" list. It offers a bit of insight about the person, and sometimes their personality, writing skills and humor truly shine through. Other times it forces out a bit of the serious-side, which can be rather interesting as well.

Because I've already posted about sixty "About Me" facts (Hagtoids) throughout the past year, I'll spare any more for now ~ but I'm curious to know what, if anything, they have thus far taught the reader about me.

Thanks to a fellow-blogger, I stumbled upon this nifty little quiz thing where I can ask ten questions and provide my own multiple choice answers for participants to choose from. I don't mind telling you right up front that the winner gets zip ... nada ... zilch, except of course, you can earn respect-points should you score high enough.

Without further ado, I present to you The Hagsperiment.

It's free, it's harmless and odorless, it will only take about six minutes more than you initially planned to spend here, and I can promise it's at least mildly entertaining.

Follow the above provided link and don't forget to return here to let me know what you thought of this quiz.

Thank you in advance for participating!

~ Newcomers - Don't be shy. Just go with it. Give it your best shot! ~

March 11, 2006

Things This Week

Things I found particularly annoying this week:

1. Blog surfing with dial-up.

2. I got half way to the gym before realizing I’d left my water at home. Only to me, perhaps, but this was tragic.

3. Reading three items that included the phrase: “could of” or “should of” … it is “could HAVE” or “should HAVE” and it’s really not that difficult. Guess I really could HAVE continued reading the rest of the articles upon arriving at these gem phrases; no, I really couldn’t HAVE done so.

4. After getting completely dressed, realizing that I had only shaved one leg.

5. Trying on a pair of pants that STILL don’t fit me yet; not even close. What slim-fairy did I think visited me during the night, anyway?

6. Hearing my daughter tell me that her boyfriend has a stomach virus and following up with “Oh gee, this means I’ll probably get it too!” I guess she didn’t take me too seriously back when I explained that kissing (or other stuff) can be very dangerous.

7. Seeing that god-awful outfit and hairstyle Paris wore on AI for ‘results night.’ What six year old’s birthday party was she headed to after the show? As Simon might have said, “That was GHAAAASTLY.”

8. Driving EXACTLY the speed limit past the point where I got pulled over a few weeks ago, only to find that there was no cop in sight. I don’t know which time I cussed out that cop more … upon getting the ticket or upon doing the right thing with no flipping audience.

9. Finding cat puke on the living room floor four days out of five (the most special treat was stepping into it with a stocking foot – in the dark)

10. Realizing my hair drastically needs another trim already. What have I done? Now that it’s layered, it has to be maintained. This translates to spending dollars I do not have and is something I’m simply not accustomed to. Crap.

Things that elated me this week:

1. Three words: Sixty degrees ... OUTDOORS.

2. Light out till 6 p.m. without needing headlights

3. Finding no cat puke on living room floor Friday morning

4. Realizing that I will not die if I don’t have a piece of chocolate, even though I was truly convinced otherwise

5. Finding a CD “With All Due Respect” by diva, Betty Miller (my best friend) in the rubble of my workspace. I thought I had lost it. It’s a compilation/tribute to various jazz artists. Yay!

6. Hearing the downstairs door open at 1 a.m. after my daughter enjoyed a night out in Massachusetts. Only parents will fully grasp this one.

7. Reading Genna’s post about self-image. If you have a minute, it’s really brief, lovely … AND encouraging.

8. Finally receiving my book called “The Easy Way to Quit Smoking.” The jury is still out on how this book might help, but I’m eager to give it a shot. Anytime I read the words “The Easy Way to …” I feel as if they were written just for me.

9. Being asked to come in, man the desk and close up the gym the other evening. It’s always nice to be deeply trusted by someone who barely knows you! (plus I got in another workout that wasn’t planned)

10. Watching the first season of the British version of “The Office” … I get a kick out of the fact that they can be a bit less censored. I also like that I can now understand what they’re saying (after watching just two shows) without constantly rewinding. Either version, American or British keeps me in stitches.

And ~ there were a few things I just plain didn’t understand this week:

1. Why that little wormy kid on AI is STILL on the show. Yes, he can sing. I’ll even go so far as to say that he can sing well (sorry Ed). BUT ... putting him up against the other guys, there’s just no comparison, and frankly, I’m getting a little tired of the ‘granny votes’ joke. Get him outta there already. He’s not going to win. Why prolong it?

2. Why the man next door feels he has to start with the power tools at eight o’clock three mornings this week. Yes, I’m awake and dressed by then, but my brain can’t filter out that sort of nonsense until at least 10.

3. Why fiber causes such flatulence. Of course, I’m not talking about ME (tiny lie), but come on … it’s like a bad joke ~ “EAT MORE FIBER, kill everyone within a two room radius.” Good lord.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

"Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit" Elbert Hubbard

March 05, 2006

Jack of All Words; Master of Nun

"I will email a word-a-day to Little Hag"

Back in fifth grade at Sacred Heart School in Staten Island, my teacher was a nun named Sister Mary Rita. Sr. Rita was every child's worst nightmare. She was about 5 Ft tall and as big around. She had a resounding voice with a hateful tone. When she taught, the underlying message was something like "You WILL learn this and you WILL like it!"

At that time in my life I was a skinny little platinum-haired beanpole, shy and quiet...the kind of kid nobody really took notice of. I got good grades and minded my own business. I liked it that way.

One day the entire school was meeting together in the auditorium for an assembly. As we were lining up to leave the classroom, me always at the rear of the line (family name starting with a "W" back then ... I was used to being last), Sr. Rita turned and said "Haglette, bring my statue downstairs with you and be sure to turn out the light." Now, even for a fifth grader, this seemed like an odd request, but because it was Sister Rita, you just did what you were told.

This statue greatly resembles the smaller one I mention

In the front of the classroom there were three statues on the wall above the blackboard. One was Jesus, one was the Blessed Mother and one was some other guy, I don't recall who... maybe their plumber because that statue had a distinct crack in the lower back of it.

Anyone who knew Sister Rita was well aware that her favorite of the three statues was the Sacred Heart (Jesus). Whenever she was about to clock one of us for talking out of turn, she'd spin around and ask Jesus for his forgiveness. No, seriously.

I had to come up with a way to get this statue off its pedestal and I had to think fast. The only way I could reach the thing was to drag a desk over to the chalkboard just below it, stack up a few books, and pray. I worked quickly so as not to be late for the assembly. The last thing I wanted to do was to walk in there late, try to find my class, and to be ~ (gasp) horror of all horrors ~ noticed by anyone!

I remember thinking while struggling to get this heavy two foot tall statue off its perch "Come on, show me a miracle, jump down." This was no lightweight statue! I had to maneuver it very carefully so that it didn't come tumbling down ~ cripes, I had missed Mass one day recently and had to stand in the back of the room for two hours... what would she do to me if I broke Christ?

After I got the thing safely into my arms I struggled off the chair and made my way out of the classroom, careful to turn out the light with my elbow. I moved carefully down two flights of stairs, balancing with my hip which was seemingly glued to the handrail the whole way. I could barely see in front of me. I shuffled as quickly as I could down the long hallway and into the back of the auditorium; I was quite proud of myself ~ not only for being chosen to deliver Christ but for getting him there in one piece! This thing was at least half of my own weight.

As I stood at the back of the auditorium, I scanned the large area to find my own class. Soon, I noticed Sister Rita's pumpkin-like head sitting at the end of the row about halfway down in the middle section. I made my way over there and stood before her, trembling from the weight of this Lord-load, yet proud as punch to deliver it her. You could hear a feather fall in this huge room. The assembly was about to begin and everyone was at full attention in their seats.

Sister Rita took one look at me, turned as red as a brick and stood up screaming at the top of her lungs "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" I could barely move, let alone speak.

When I found my tiny voice, I whispered "I have brought you your statue." Even at the sight of her, I still felt proud of my accomplishment in front of all the now-gaping students.

Her next words were seared into my brain for all of eternity. "You STUPID STUPID kid... I said my SATCHEL, NOT my STATUE!" And the entire room pointed, stared and roared with laughter. Even the other nuns were doubled over and holding their hands to their mouths. "NOW PUT IT BACK AND BRING ME MY SATCHEL, THE ONE WITH THE LONG STRAP!"

My face was burning. Even now, if I close my eyes and return to the moment, I can still feel it. I'm surprised I did not fall dead right there, clinging to Jesus in the auditorium.

Worse than that was that I was expected to carry the silly thing all the way back down the long hallway, up the stairs and into the classroom, get him back on his pedestal in one piece, then figure out what in the hell is a satchel! I had no idea. I hadn't heard the word in all my ten long years thus far. The shame of it all!

When I got back to the room, my knees were wobbly and tears were falling from my eyes. I managed to climb my little book-ladder on top of the desk once again, boost Jesus back up to the pedestal and climb back down without breaking anything; anything but my spirit, that is.

I looked around the room while I was putting things back in order and thought carefully about what Sister Rita had just said ~ "...the one with the long strap" ~ and there it was, right on top of her desk. It was a small, black leather bag... a purse, a book bag, a pocketbook for Pete's sake... why couldn't she have called it by any of these more familiar words?

The fact is, I'm convinced I did not hear her correctly the first time around simply because I had never heard the word before and, said quickly, it could be mistaken for "statue" - at least when you're a skinny little kid, intimidated by the mere sight of the person saying it!

The moment I got home from school. I asked my mother if she'd ever heard of a satchel and she said "Of course, look it up." And that was the very beginning of my love for vocabulary.

I'll tell you this ~ I don't let the meanings of words escape me for too long anymore.

I assure you that from that day forward, I have never let a day go by without looking up any unfamiliar word that came my way. There are still a gazillion words I've never heard, but I still have some time. If I see an unfamiliar word in writing, I take twenty seconds or so to look it up ... if I hear it in conversation, I rarely hesitate to ask.

Nowadays, one of my favorite leisure activities is solving a challenging crossword puzzle. Not only have I enjoyed countless hours solving them, I've also created more than a few. The New York Times will always be one of my favorites, but The London Times is a bit too "out there" for my liking. I'll usually try it and get part-way through, but I don't enjoy it as much.

One day, many years later, while riding the Staten Island Ferry home from a hard day's work, I was completely involved in a crossword puzzle when the word "satchel" appeared as a clue.

After filling in the answer, I gently put down my pen, stared out at the New York skyline and thought to myself, "Isn't life just grand?"

(This is an edited and enhanced version of a post I originally published on Feb. 13, 2005)

March 01, 2006

All Bottled Up

Happy March to all!

My gym-chant for today will be “Spring is near so WORK that gear!”

Things feel good these days. I’m feeling more and more like my old self, but less and less like my tired old self. The days are longer and my mind is stronger. Can I get an “OH YEAH”?

I’ve always wanted to find a message in a bottle. There’s something so romantic about it – don’t you think? Even if the message were a simple “hello” from a far off land, I’d rejoice … I’d feel special.

This morning I sat and thought a bit about what I’d write if I were so inclined to send one out. After you’ve read my messages, see if you can come up with one of your own and add it into comments or post ten yourself. Might be fun!

Top ten things I would write if I could send a message in a bottle:

1. If you are reading this, good. We already have enough illiterate people in the world.

2. I’ve never met you but I know we already have three things in common. I too would walk along the shore looking for a bottle with a message in it; I too would dance that nifty little sand-jig you danced while opening this note; I too would be gravely disappointed to find that it lacked profundity.

3. I have discovered the ultimate secret to longevity ~ never read notes found in floating bottles. Ever.

4. This is a really and truly a school project. Please add your name to the bottom of the list, copy it and send it out in 30 other bottles. Please don’t break this chain or bad things can happen to you.

5. By opening this bottle, you have unleashed all of the evils of the earth. To redeem yourself, you must tap you right foot to a four count, flail your arms over your head and sing the entire tune “Who Let the Dogs Out” to the first four passersby.

6. Finder … please accept this carefully rolled hundred dollar bill as a special, once-in-a-lifetime gift from a total stranger. Oh wait. I must have left it in the car. Maybe next time.

7. Dear reader … please get off me.
Sincerely, the scallop that is under your left foot.

8. I am a blonde. A lot of people in my country say we are dumb. I don’t think this is true. When you find this, could you please tell me if it’s the same in your country? I am enclosing extra paper and a pencil for your convenience. I shall patiently await your reply.

9. A half hour ago, I tossed this into the ocean hoping it would travel far and wide and there you stand twenty yards from me, ruining my entire plan. Killjoy.

10. If you are standing on the shoreline in New Jersey, excuse the call, clearly I've gotten a wrong number.

Well, I did say I was back to blogging, but I never promised you a rose garden. This is all I've got for today.