Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Holiday Message from Charlotte (Part Two)

After deciphering Charlotte's rambling message, John and I decided to donate a bunch of Christmas ornaments for her to use on the school tree. I called her back one evening to let her know we would be bringing some over.

"Hell-ooo??" Charlotte asked answering the phone in a sing songy voice.
"Hey Charlotte, it's Marc from next door. How ya doin."
"Why hello Marc from next door. I am fine." 
There was an awkward pause ....
"Uh well, I wanted to tell you that John and I are gonna bring you over some Christmas ornaments."
"Well, I don't know why ... I haven't got a Christmas tree...."
"Uh... you said you wanted some ornaments."
"I don't think I did, because I  haven't got a tree this year, just my decorations out front. I put up the lights and the garland. I have a wreath for the side door and a wreath out front and ...."
"Charlotte!" I interupted laughing. "Not for you, for the tree in the school."
"What tree in the school?"
"The one you said you needed ornaments for! You called us ... yesterday ... left a long message and got cut off?"
Another awkward pause.
Her light bulb went off. "Oh YES! Bring them over!" She hung up on me.

John and I brought over the ornaments. Charlotte was waiting in her kitchen with hot freshly made turkey pot pie in hand. True to Charlotte's form, she quickly opened the fridge before we could even get the ornaments on the kitchen table and started handing us chili, zuchini bread, potato soup, and whatever else she could get her hands on. As I have written before, we have become her surrogate sons ... willingly ... as she feeds us constantly GOOD FOOD. We drew the line on the two pies she pulled out of the freezer.

"NO!!!!" We both yelled with arms up waving the pies away.
"What?" she said looking dejected.
"Charlotte," I began slowly tiptoeing over my words. "We love the fact that you give us food, but we are trying not to eat sweets."
She quietly put them back in the fridge. "That's fine..."
We felt so guilty.
"OK, but just bring them to our Christmas Eve open house, OK?" John stated giving in.
"OK you got it!"

She walked us out to her back deck to say goodbye. John and I had our arms full with containers of frozen food.
"Now remember boys, I have an entire fridge in the basement filled with wine in case you need anything for the party. I just stocked up!" she smiled.
John turned around and thanked her. I turned around and said dryly, "Imagine that, Charlotte with a full fridge of wine. Who could ever imagine?"

All three of us bust out laughing so hard and she suddenly hugged me tightly. It was sweet. There we both were, me juggling a containers of turkey pot pie and chili and her hugging me.  Ahhh, the warmth of the season!  (Maybe it was just the turkey pot pie.)

Monday, December 17, 2012


I was in a large department store when I overheard this conversation. To my right, was a young Asian man of about 18 or 20 who was speaking into his cell phone in an Asian language I did not recognize or even try to guess.  I was busy looking at shirts when I heard the conversation begin. I quickly ducked behind the ties so I could listen in.

A thirty something father with his young son looked at the young Asian man and said, "Konichiwa." Now I don't profess to know any Asian language but I do know that this is a Japanese greeting.

The young Asian man halted his phone conversation, turned to the father and responded in English, "I'm South Korean."

The American man replied, "So? What's the difference?"  YES HE ACTUALLY SAID THAT.

The young Asian dude politely and calmly responded to him, "Well, you said 'Konichiwa' which is Japanese. I am South Korean and am speaking Korean."

"Oh ... I dunno the difference. That's the only word like, that I know."

The young man, now known to be South Korean, shook his head and walked away.

The moral of the story is that if you do not know what language someone is speaking, don't try and openly guess it or fake it! You will look like an idiot. If you must know, simply ask, "What language is that?" Is that so hard?  Forgive me, but it is people like this man which makes us look like the dreaded "ugly crass American."  Please remind your kids to pay attention in school so they do not make stupid comments like this.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Stuff I Hated to Eat

When I was a child, I used to hate peas. My Mom always served them for dinner and I just couldn’t stand them. I would hide them under the chicken bones, under mashed potatoes, under noodles, or even in my napkin. It was a very dramatic event, trying to get Marc to eat his peas.

Mom and Dad would tell me that I couldn’t leave the dinner table until I ate them. I would hold out and once even sat there for an hour after dinner until Mom finally gave in and let me go. There the peas sat on my plate, cold and mushy.

I think it had to do with the peas being canned. They may have been hot when served, but still ended up being mushy. Mom bought the canned peas because they were readily available and more importantly, cheap! Once we could afford the splurge of fresh frozen peas, with their fresh “snap” when you ate them, the tide began to turn for those peas. Now they still weren’t my favorite, but they were now palatable.

There are a lot of foods I disliked as a kid but began to like as I got older. Sour cream is another example as well as marmalade and rhubarb. My Dad grew up with marmalade and rhubarb pie. I shuddered at the thought as a kid. Now, not so bad! One food item I still don’t like to this day is cottage cheese. BLECH.

My Nana used to love cottage cheese and would serve it with fruit or jam for lunch. I refused to eat it and would go hungry. People must have thought she neglected me. My Nana’s friend Mrs. Block once asked what I had for lunch and I would say exclaim curtly, “She didn’t feed me at anything at all!!!” She gave my Nana this look of horror. Nana would roll her eyes and sigh.

Lastly, my brother Adam and I tried dog biscuits when we were 7 or 8. Now before you go “ICK!” it happened just a couple of times and more out of curiosity. We dared each other to eat one, I don’t know who went first, but I remember them being in different colors: brown, yellow, and green. We ended up snacking on them.

Gretchen, our German Shepherd, looked up to us sadly begging for her cookies back. We hid the box under Adam’s bed until Mom discovered them. She was completely mortified. She screamed to my Dad, “BOB! The boys are eating dog biscuits!” Dad hid the biscuits up on the highest shelf in the top cabinet of the breakfast room so we couldn’t get to them. Looking back at my dog biscuit eating days, I figured I have eaten far worse.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Holiday Apology to my Brother Adam

One Christmas, many years ago back in the late 70’s, my grandparents from Colorado came to visit us for a week over the holiday break. I was about 9 at the time. It was Christmas morning and we had all opened our gifts, had breakfast, and were just relaxing in the living room going through our new toys and presents. My brother Adam, a year older, had gone upstairs for about 30 minutes and came down dressed as Santa Claus wearing his red bathroom stuffed with newspaper for a belly. He has fashioned a white beard out of cotton balls and was walking around to everyone saying “Merry Christmas!!!” It was really cute and he did such a good job until I started getting antsy.

Feeling left out of the limelight (imagine that), I got up from my seat on the couch and much to everyone’s dismay, tore off his cotton beard while yelling dramatically, “YOU’RE NOT SANTA! YOU’RE AN IMPOSTER!” and effectively ruined his holiday show. Santa Adam, started crying and ran up to his room screaming, “You’ve ruined EVERYTHING!”

And I did. And now, I am formally and publicly issuing an apology for my immature horrible attention seeking behavior. I was extremely jealous of my brother’s spotlight and wanted the attention back on myself. Well I got it, and got the wrath of my parents, grandparents, and sister on top of it. So Adam … I am sorry for ripping off your extra large cotton ball beard and ruining your Santa impression. I hope your little brother has not scarred you emotionally.

I guess I should also apologize for accidently spraying my brother in the face with Windex while washing the car and accidently clocking my brother in the nose with a snow shovel while shoveling my other grandparents driveway. They were honestly and truly accidents. Nevertheless, I still feel bad for all of that.

But I do not feel bad or apologize for any of the drooling, punching, pinching, kicking in the shins, mutual noogies, wedgies, wet willies, la-la’s, hitting and or scratching of arms. They were not accidents and just me being a spoiled pain the ass little brother. No guilt there! And in my defense, my brother did the same to me on a regular basis minus the pinching, scratching, and kicking in the shins.

Adam also had on occasion, harassed and beat me up (as big brothers do), locked me in a cubby hole under the stairs, locked me in the dusty attic which aggravated my allergies, left me hanging upside down on my grandparents backyard fence after I had fallen from it and my pants got caught at the top, encouraged me to jump from the top of the house stairs (about 12 of them) when I had dreamt that I could to it, put me into the toy chest and sat on it so I couldn’t get out, and prevented me from joining he and my sister’s fort on the top bunk bed time and time again, effectively shutting me out from their fun.

So anyway, where was I … oh yes, sorry Adam! Love ya bro!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Holiday Message from Charlotte

By now, most of you know of my beloved neighbor Charlotte, a feisty 70 something woman with a small side of daffiness which adds to her wonderful personality. She is extremely active in her church and volunteers at the local school. She called John and I the other week asking for holiday ornaments to decorate the tree in her school. 

Below is the 'word for word' message that she left on our answering machine. We were touched by her sincerity with a bit of chuckling from the rambling nature of it. I think we have all been there though, rambling on someone's voice-mail until you are unceremoniously cut off! Try and follow it now!

Charlotte leaving her message:

"Marc. Hi John. No need to worry, it's Charlotte, your neighbor ... next door. We're doing a multiple Christmas celebration on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever it is for whatever we celebrate the birth of and whatever the celebration is for the holiday season. Do you have anything we can use, I have a Charlie Brown tree from Phyllis, I mean Linda next door, you know Linda on the other side, that she gave and we took into the school, to put on the tree that YOU DON'T WANT (Charlotte yelling this into the phone) that would be able to qualify for your holiday seasonings celebration or anything that we could, TELL US what we could use for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever celebration for this time of year so that the children could put it up in the hallway for us. I will..." (BEEEEP. CHARLOTTE GETS CUT OFF.)

From what we gathered and later confirmed, she was looking for ornaments for the tree which we gladly donated. I think Charlotte was day drinking again. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

See Spot Run

I had a twentysomething woman in my office the other week that could not read or write. She could sign her name but just barely. When I asked her to write down her children’s names because they were oddly spelled, she could not. Her children's father had to write down their names. It was very sad. Adult illiteracy is still prevalent in our county. According to the US Education Department, 14% of adults in the USA cannot read or write with basic proficiency.

I remember back to the 1st grade when I was beginning to read. I actually remember Mrs. Broomall, my 1st grade teacher from Wenonah Elementary leading our small reading group of 6 classmates. We sat in a semicircle reading from a Dick and Jane story with Spot the dog. I remember looking at the three word sentence and sounding it out. "See Spot run."  I am proud of this memory; my first true memory of reading on my own.

As we progressed with reading, I remember reading a children’s book in 1st grade on an young girl named Josefina February. She was a Caribbean island girl who lived with her grandfather. It was about her adventures as a child. I remember going home and telling my mother that I would marry this little black girl, Josefina February, when I grew up. I would travel down to her island and FIND HER! OK OK, so my idea of reality was a bit off as a 6 year old child. At that age I still had an imaginary friend named Baboon who was actually a baboon.

These days, I have three or four books along with some magazines bedside. I try and read every night at least for ½ hour. I just like having a bunch of different books available depending on my mood for the evening. If I want something light, I will grab a magazine: National Geographic, Country Living, Philadelphia Magazine or Men's Fitness. If I want something a little deeper, I hit the books. Right now, I have on my nightstand a pretty varied selection: Impressionists in Winter, The Biography of Monticello, Room with a View by EM Forster, and Fire by Sebastian Junger.

I tend to read a lot of art and architecture books. I don’t get to as many museums as I would like to these days so I try and expand my knowledge base on these subjects. The only problem is that I am usually sleepy and forget ½ of what I have read so I have to reread it! The evening drink count also sometimes affects my remembrance of what I’ve read.

If you are ever wondering about a charity to support or donate to, consider any child or adult literacy programs which are out there. Your local library has information on programs. You can also Google “adult literacy” or "literacy programs" for programs in your area. Here are a couple of programs that I found:
(Adult Basic and Literacy Education or ABLE in the Commonwealth of PA) (National Center for Family Literacy)

Monday, December 3, 2012

You Don't Look Jewish...

One recent evening out at the bar, a couple I was speaking with asked me about my plans for the holidays. I started talking about celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas and living in a multi-religious household. I was raised and am Jewish, but my father is Christian, and I actively celebrate those holidays for him and other Christian members of my family. And honestly, I just love Christmas!

At a table next to theirs was seated two good friends who I will call Michelle and Rihanna, whose nice evening was crashed rather abruptly by another woman who frequently drinks to the point of embarrassing inebriation. I will call her Mrs. Tequila. I actually had wanted to just say hi to my two friends Michelle and Rihanna but Mrs. Tequila wasn’t budging, so I chose to be polite and say hi to her as well. It just so happened though that I had caught Mrs. Tequila before she had begun imbibing so I figured it was safe. Little did I know...
Mrs. Tequila had overheard me telling the older couple that I was Jewish and loudly asked me, “So you are Jewish???”
“Yes I am Jewish,” I answered.
“So your mother and father are Jewish?”
“Well (not that it was any of her business) my mother was Jewish and my father is Christian. I was raised Jewish and again, I am Jewish.” I responded wondering where this was going.
“Well why do you celebrate Christmas?” she inquired.
“I celebrate both holidays. Alot my family members are Christian.”
She looked at me and said matter of factly, “Well you don’t look Jewish.”
I shook my head in disbelief and asked “What is that supposed to mean?”

At this point, Michelle and Rihanna were growing visibly uncomfortable.

Mrs. Tequila said, “Well, you are cute and you don’t look like other Jews.”

I responded raising my voice, “I just asked you what the hell is that supposed to mean?! I am cute and other Jews are not?”

“Well Jews have a certain look, dark looking and swarthy, You know what I mean. You don’t look like them.”

“No, I don’t know what you mean!” I exclaimed. “This is so ignorant, let me tell you about Jewish people…” I began schooling her on how Jews are not just one “look”. They are as varied as any group of people in the world!

“I know Jewish people, I grew up in North East Philly!” she retorted.

“WHAT? What are you talking about? You have no idea what you are saying or talking about, do you??” I yelled at her.

I began to tell her that my family mostly descends from Jews from Eastern Europe. “That group includes Jews from Slavic countries, Poland, Russia ….” I started.

“Oh my God, Russian people are horrible!!!” she belted out.
“WHAT?! I am a Russian Jew!” I exclaimed.
Mrs. Tequila continued rambling on. I just shut her out.
I stopped and stared into her eyes and stated, “I am so offended by you. I am done with this conversation.” I walked away.

Michelle and Rihanna just sat at the table in shock, equally offended.

At that point, one could begin screaming at or possible drench Mrs. Tequila with my drink, her drink, Michelle’s drink, and Rihanna’s drink but I did not. Sometimes even in this day and age, you come across such blatant idiocy and ignorance that it leaves you just absolutely speechless. There was no point in schooling Mrs. Tequila on her ignorance. The better thing to do is walk away and later, possibly have a conversation with Mrs. Tequila on how offensive she was IF I were to approach her again on the slim chance that she is sober.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Reflections on Mom

In the last couple weeks, two close friends have each lost one of their parents and I deeply hurt for them. When a friend loses their parent or family member, it invariably brings up memories of your own loss. I don't write about it much anymore but I wanted to share some thoughts since my Mom's passing three years ago.

When my Mom died, I just wished so hard that I could hug her once more, speak with her, just have one more day with her. Something real. But there was no tangible way that this could happen.  But I was desperate with a way to connect with her. I truly thought I would go mad at one point from depression and sadness. I had dreamed of her several times and it felt so real to me as if she were truly next to me. I haven’t dreamt of her much lately. It is more and more infrequent. Although I still think of her several times during the course of each day. I see her views and beliefs in my own choices. That is how I connect with her now.

I guess each of us that have lost a parent go through grieving in similar yet different ways. I was very open with my feelings when Mom died but really didn't go into too much depth about feeling depressed. I didn't want to seem like I was losing it. I eventually realized that she lives on in me and is very much still present in my life. I laugh and smile about her a lot, but it is tinged with sadness. I am resigned that I will never talk with her again and that part just sucks.

As I write this, I stop and take a break, just staring at my words on the computer screen. I will never talk with her again. It has taken me over 3 years for this to really sink in. I hate it and want to delete this entire damn blog post but I don’t. Death of a loved one completely exhausts you. It is such an emotional roller coaster  It makes you angry and sad but in certain circumstances, it also gives you relief.  I knew that Mom’s last wish of passing away at home was fulfilled. She just wanted to go home. And we gave that to her. Mom had been suffering such a long time. Months of up and down health. I feel she is at peace now watching over her kids.

I also have questions which will never be answered. I don’t even ask them anymore because the emotional turmoil they cause is just too great a price to pay. You still think about that person’s death, and it still hurts as much, but you become better able at dealing with it. I feel now that she would have wanted me to move on, do great things with my life, and enjoy the ride. I am starting to, but it still sucks the big one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Elevator Madness

I have a general dislike for elevators. Call it my unnerving fear of being crushed into two parts from faulty doors while the elevator is moving. It could happen! It did! Google it! Poor woman in NYC a year or two back. The odds of a person dying in an elevator accident are 1 in 10,440,000 (according to the website and I do not find any comfort knowing that I have a greater chance of being attacked by an alligator (1 in 104,600) or being injured by a drinking straw requiring a trip to the emergency room (1 in 166,600). Now I don’t consider myself to be phobic, just fearful. I will still ride them ... cautiously.

There are a set of elevators at my work that are continuously “on the fritz.” Because of this, I sometimes take the stairs to go up to our offices on the 3rd floor. I am in the basement level. It’s a good workout, keeps the legs in shape. But more often than not, I take my chances. The elevators are tempermental but for the most part, in workable order. It is often just a mild shaking or clanging as they make their way up.

First thing this morning, I took the elevators up to the 3rd floor to ask someone a question. It was just past 8:30, not even 10 minutes into my day. The elevator car slowly creaked up to the 3rd floor. The doors started to open and I went to step off the car …. then BAAAM!!! The doors swung violently open. I screamed “CRAP!!!!” and flung myself off of the car into the hallway like a clumsy frog, heart beating out of my chest. My pen and papers flew everywhere. Some dude from the architectural firm off the same hallway walked out of the mens’ room and got to witness my freak-out.

“Oh my god, did you just see that?! The door just violently opened slamming against the car!” I was breathing rapidly and heavily, trying to catch my breath.

“Yeah,” he said in a monotone voice, “It's been happening for a couple days.” He just kept walking into his office.

Uh… HELLO? I almost died here?? “WELL I GUESS I MISSED THE MEMO ON THAT!” I screamed after him. Mental note, take stairs from now on.

After I recomposed myself, I walked into our 3rd floor office and got my questioned answered. I asked a couple people about the elevator and they all said the same thing,”Oh yeah, it’s been like that since yesterday.” “Oh that’s why I take the stairs.” “I know, that happened to me on Monday.” Incredible, I received no memo, no email, no cute little FYI note with a smiley face stuck in the lunch room stating, “By the way, the elevator may make a slamming noise at the very top which may cause you to involuntarily crap your pants.”

I took a minute or two longer to say good morning to a couple favs up in the office and wandered out towards the 3rd floor lobby. Without thinking, I pressed the stupid elevator button. The elevator was apparently one floor below me and came up immediately, violently flinging the doors open “BAAAM!!!”

“DAMN IT!!” I jumped a mile and freaked. I screamed, “AGAIN!!” to know one in particular. I picked up my papers and pen and headed for the stairs, cursing under my breath.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Devil's Vote

I exercised my civic duty last night. I always have this overwhelming sense of patriotic pride whenever I vote. I feel it is an important expression of our democracy. It is obvious that not everyone feels that way: bitter people who don’t believe in our electoral process. Don’t worry, I still love ya.

Anyway, I made my way down to my small township building after work last night. I parked and got out of my car and then immediately fell in front it. It was so dark and well, walking sometimes is a problem for me. LOL.

I picked my clumsy self up and made my way past those political party volunteer people waiting for that LAST chance to change your mind. They always crack me up. They are just HOPING you will say hi to them and ask them something. Next time, I should just go up to each of them and say, “OK, give me your best argument!” just to mess with them. And then try and get them to brawl with each other. Mental note for 2016 election: “Make political party volunteers brawl at my polling place and then step away innocently like I don’t know what is happening …”

I went inside and waited in line. Everyone was in a good upbeat mood, smiling, exchanging pleasantries. The lady at the voting table was very nice. She took my ID, found my name and wrote it down on the large voter ledger book.

I looked down at the book as she was writing my name. For some geek reason, I like seeing what number voter I am for each election. There was my name and next to it, the number 666. I was the devil’s vote. Only me. What the frig!

“Well that can’t be GOOD!” I exclaimed. The older woman said, “What?” not even noticing.
“Look!” I cried, “I am voter #666!”

Everyone behind me collectively gasped. I was now a voting pariah.

“Well,” she began smiling awkwardly, “If it makes you feel any better, there are a number of absentee voters for the township. So really you aren’t #666!”
“Can you move my name to a different number?” I asked.
“Uh … no.”
“Then it doesn’t make me feel any better.” I retorted.

The stares were upon me as I cast the devil’s vote. Who did he vote for? What candidate gets the devil’s vote? Eyes drilled into my back. I sighed and walked out. And I thought the low point of my evening would be falling outside.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Faith in Halloween, Faith in Humanity

I was driving this evening with John to the local liquor store in Schuylkill Haven to pick up my weekly order of booze for the Lake Wynonah Lodge.  I was picking up around 6 or 7 bottles of miscellaneous booze. John was picking up or ordering some new Scotch that warranted tasting. There seemed to be something new each week that he needed to try.

I was coming off of a tough week. The hurricane was on my mind. We missed a day of work from it. Not too bad until you started reading the news reports of all the death and destruction. Sure my area was spared, but others ... not so lucky at all. Besides the total 8 million who lost power and billions of dollars in destruction, I was just so upset reading about the deaths from the devastating super-storm named Sandy.

A mother whose two sons, 2 and 4, were ripped from her arms by the storm surge. A man, filling his generator with gasoline, killed by a falling tree. A mother and father killed driving their sons to safety. A tree fell on the pickup. The parents died while the boys witnessed it and survived. They are now orphans. An elderly woman who perished from hypothermia after she became disoriented from wandering around in the hurricane for hours on end. Lastly, a son and father who died getting caught in the debris and storm surge ripping through their shore home.

But in the horribleness and devastation of it all, people helped one another. People rescued one another. People shared food, water, hot showers. Banks allowed people to do something simple such as charge a cell phone in their lobby. This small act meant the world to others so that they could connect with loved ones and let them know that they were alright. Strangers hung power strips at the end of extension cords outside of their homes for the same reason. Human spirit and kindness, even in my cynical mind, never ceases to amaze me.

I was sad and depressed from it all and still am. John and I drove slowly through Schuylkill Haven to the store. It was their annual Trick-or-Treat night for Halloween, a day late because of the storm. Cars slowly cruised watching the 100's of kids milling about. Parents and kids, just all over the place. There was a 5 year old giraffe.  Then a princess. Then the Hulk. Then a cheerleader and several more princesses, Superman, an army guy, Batman, Superman, tons of tiny ninjas everywhere!  Gothic kids, Spiderman, girls in wedding dresses, a sailor all of 7 or 8 years old. I smiled ... then fought the lump down in my throat and wiped a tear away.

I remembered when I was a little kid with my brother walking with my parents or my big sister around the neighborhood collecting candy, cookies, apples, and specifically Sucrets throat lozenges from the kind old woman on the corner of Maple and Clinton. This is what Halloween is supposed to be like. For the kids, fun and without a care in the world. Kids can wait until they experience the bad things in the world.

I am still sad about the hurricane or super-storm or whatever the freak you want to call it.  It will be years before people recover. But, a glimpse into my past ... through the children of our future, restored my faith in the holiday known as Halloween and a little bit more in humanity. Well ... except for that 7 year old girl dressed like a hooker. THAT was disturbing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thoughts of Hurricane Sandy

My thoughts go out to those that have been deeply affected by this hurricane, or superstorm, as they are now calling it. Sandy, as she became to be named, devastated large areas of the Jersey coast, New York City, and the two tristate areas. Raging blizzards pummeled parts of west Maryland and West Virginia. Those of us who survived this storm need to take count of our friends and family and consider ourselves lucky we made it through. Houses can be repaired, cars can be replaced. Human life cannot. 33 people so far have lost their lives in the US due to the storm. 33 families have lost love ones. Last night, as the storm hit my area, I was scared to death. The winds howled, rain pelted, branches crashed around the house, and trees fell in the woods behind. With every gust, I stiffened up waiting for the subsequent crash of something falling to the ground or being thrown against the house. I am angry at certain people that thought this storm would be nothing. Get a clue. You prepare and if nothing comes your way, consider yourself lucky. Others were not. What about the 1000's that lost their homes at the Shore less than an hour from Philly? What about the 80 or so homes devastated by fire on Long Island? To those who bitched that Philly got nothing after they prepared, you should just consider yourselves very lucky! I prepared by stocking up on cat food, people food, water, flashlights, and batteries. I filled the tub for extra water if needed to flush the toilets. I was on constant watch for any leaks in the our roof repairs. I made several meals which could be eaten cold if the power went down for a week. I got the box of MRE's out just in case it would be longer. I tied down everything I could so it would not become a projectile and damage my home or someone else's. THIS IS WHAT YOU DO WHEN FACED WITH A POSSIBLE HIT FROM A HURRICANE. It wasn't above and beyond. Lastly, one more thought to those that complained about having to prepare: just remember, that one time you don't prepare, you could live or possibly NOT live ... to regret it. I spent a day preparing and it was worth it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blogger is annoying me!

Hey Friends and Family, Sorry for the posts with the lack of paragraphs. I write with 'em, but Blogger isn't publishing them that way. Hopefully I can get to the bottom of this! Hugs, Marc

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Cultural Sterilization of America

One of the things which I have noticed while traveling across the great US of A is what I have come to see as the cultural sterilization of suburban and urban areas in America. Large swaths of our great country are developing a blandness to them which threatens the uniqueness which separates each regional area from the next. It could be considered a epidemic driven by corporate greed to spread mass consumerism to each and every corner of the United States. Walmart of course comes to mind, but this can be substituted with any large corporation which is opening up a location in the most desolate parts of the country. Replace it with McDonalds, Hair Cuttery, The Home Depot, or Autozone and you have the same scenario. Small town America is dying and mass consumerism is fueling its death. When John and I travel, we actively search out small restaurants, bars, stores, and other local businesses to patronize. I feel it is important to support these small businesses as they are part of the backbone of America and its economy. In my opinion, the small business owner is one of the foundations of our great country. While in Arizona visiting his brother, we went to Reds Lobby Bar at the Sedona Rouge Hotel, Plaza Bonita Mexican Restaurant, Mooney’s Irish Pub, the Olde Sedona Bar and Grill and the Grasshopper Grill. Each was filled with the locals who provided a colorful cross-section of this part of the country: Native Americans, Mexicans, local cowboy types, artsy and intellectual folk from the Sedona Arts Scene, farmers, crazy locals who preached the word of God, laborers from the local cement factory, the local law enforcement, retirees, service and tourist industry folk, and other travelers from all over the world. What better way to experience the landscape than by experiencing and conversing with the locals? John and I didn’t just do this in Sedona, we do it wherever we travel to. We aren’t the type that spend our time at the most posh restaurants or just shop in the most sophisticated stores. And on the other end of the spectrum, we don’t just spend our time at the most common chain restaurants or stores. We like to fully experience the people and places which makes a community tick, which makes it thrive! It is a great experience to hear the locals talk about their work, their lives, their pride in the town or city that they live. Or to speak with an art gallery owner about last week’s En Plein Air Festival. Or to commiserate with someone who just got off work and had a bad day at the local cement factory. OK, OK, I don’t know what a day at the cement factory is like, but I can commiserate with a Mexican cerveza over a bad day at work! I guess my point is that you can have the “endless bowl of salad” at Olive Gardens anywhere. You can shop at a Walmart from Florida to Alaska. How about checking out the local luncheonette or diner and find out what their regional specialty is? We ate some incredible BBQ and Mexican in Sedona! Shop the local boutiques down in Old Town, USA or support the local thrift or consignment store and see what they have available instead of shopping for something that you can get in any large chain store. If we don’t support these small businesses in our cities and towns, a little piece of small town America will die when these businesses shutter up.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Plane Companions

On a long plane flight, nothing is dreaded more than the fear of being stuck to someone who you don’t like, get along with, or find disagreeable. John and I travel very well together. We know each other’s quirks and travel eccentricities. When I travel with John, he likes the window seat and I am fine with that but it invariably means that I will be the one stuck sitting next to the stranger. Luckily for this past trip to Arizona, I was pretty lucky with the two individuals who sat next to me on the way out and returning from Phoenix. The first was a very lovely young Italian beauty named Isabella who was about 10 years younger than me. She had dark long brown curly hair with large expressive eyes who was deep into the popular women’s erotic novel, “50 Shades of Grey”. When we did start conversing the last 1/3 of the plane flight, I found out she was a high school counselor heading out to Las Vegas for a bachelorette party. Hmmm. Imagine that. She was meeting friends for a long weekend of partying and drinking. You know what they say, “What happens in Vegas …” I had a fun time talking with her. We connected on a lot of different levels and not just about the partying in Vegas thing. LOL. My travel mate on the plane flight back was a young woman as well. She was 20 something, quiet, mousey, bookish, and thoroughly into her novel of choice, “The Hobbit”. Completely different from the woman on the trip out, this one would probably be happier at a Sci-Fi Convention in Vegas rather than a Chippendales Revue show. She is quietly snoring next to me as a write this. On the return trip home, we were waiting for 10 minutes on the plane for takeoff and an older business man across the aisle was still on his cell phone. The stewardess (yes, I know it’s supposed to be flight attendant, but stewardess reminds me of the heyday of flight travel, when it was so much more glamorous, exciting, and fun to travel) passed by and said to him in a stern tone, “Sir, I told you five minutes ago to put that cell phone out and I’m not going to tell you again.” The stewardess gave him a “Don’t fuck with me fella” look and he withered in his seat. He replied, “Oh, OK I’m sorry, I’m, I’m done, I will shut it off now.” I turned and said to John, “That SENIOR CITIZEN over there wouldn’t turn off his cell phone! And then the stewardess got all upset and … blah blah blah.” John just looked at me as I trailed on and on, took out his ear plugs and said, “What?” I shook my head and left out a loud sigh and exclaimed “Never mind!” The hobbit woman, who had heard my one-sided exchange with John, turned to me and said matter of factly, “You know he’s old. And old people forget to do things. He probably heard her but then forgot about it a minute later. It happens you know … when you’re old.” I just stared at her thinking, Yeah, that’s it hobbit woman. And then I didn’t feel so bad for silently calling her a hobbit woman.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Dad the Artist

I also name this blogpost 'Art Bramble'. I think it sounds better than 'Art Ramble' because bramble sounds so much more fun! LOL. This blog is dedicated to my father for his upcoming birthday on September 23rd. Brief backstory friends:

My father, Robert E. Haynes is one of my greatest influences ... in mind, body, soul, ideas, ethics, morals, values, and art. His picture with me is the one at the top of this blog. He taught at Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, for 3 decades. Before that, an artist and illustrator. Presently, he is retired, loving retirement in the artistically incredible Humbolt County, California, as an artist once again and an arts educator on several boards in the communities of Arcata and Eureka, California. Dad, forgive me if some details are amiss. LOL. But my friends, you get the idea. Artist, traveler of the world, educator, and back to being an artist and arts administrator with a heavy influence in the community arts! In the arts community, Dad has done it all!

When other fathers were taking their kids to baseball games and football games, I was traveling the USA, visiting museums. Or I was back home going to art openings, museums, studios, and galleries. We visited the zoo, the beach, nature preserves, went camping, and visited historical sites.

We grew up in a house in Wenonah, NJ, which could be considered a gallery/art museum of its own. Mom and Dad decorated with photography, water colors, oils, prints, etchings, sculptures, antiques, gouaches, pastels, and charcoal drawings. It was incredible. Our family library included art books by Monet, Dali, Gothic artists, Persian artists, Oceanic artists, architecture, sculpture, Indian art, Eskimo art, African art, and so much more. It was just incredible and gave so many hours of enjoyment, learning, and instruction.

Dad would encourage us to create art from paintings, to photography, to pencil drawings, to clay sculptures, to papier-mache', to our favorite balloon plaster sculptures. These favorites were made with plaster in a container around a balloon. Let it dry, pop the balloon, and make a free-form sculpture. Google it kids! It was a great artistic experience! Dad even helped me construct an architecturally correct solar house in 6th grade. He was and is still the artistic god that I love.

Dad was more than art though. He IS the most incredible father. I feel like I can talk to him about anything in my life without judgement, even at the exciting frazzled age of 42! He is one of those individuals that you feel will always truly love you for what you are. I am the luckiest kid on Earth. My Dad is my mentor and as I stated before, one of my greatest single influences in my life. :)

My brother and sister went to Glassboro State where Dad taught. I sat in on a few of his classes but went to Rutgers University. My minor was art history. My major, psychology. Those who can't create art ... like myself, end up studying it! I should have brought it up to a major. I regret that. But studying art solidified in to a permanent place in my life.

When I lived in Philly, I used to attend First Fridays ALL THE TIME! :) For those not in the know, they were and still are, open gallery nights where each gallery showcased their works on the first Friday each month, having appetizers and some bevies (hopefully alcoholic!). What fun events they were! I was a young twenty something trying to meet artists and find out about their works while sipping on boxed wine and eating crackers and cheese. Fun times my friends. It was different from the crazy club scene I was used to and in the process, I was getting my art fix.

I miss it though. I am still incredibly into art but haven't attended many gallery openings since moving out to the 'burbs. I have moved further and further out into the country. Owning a home has taken priority and most of my time is encompassed by working, my part time job, taking care of the house, and writing.

I need that to change. I am longing for my roots. I need them, they are apart of me and who I am. I need to feel artistically fulfilled. No, I am not going to create art, crazy fools! I completely suck at it! I need to immerse myself in the art gallery worlds of the local community. So Reading, PA with your Goggleworks and Allentown, PA with your Allentown Art Museum, get ready, because I am coming back on the scene to critique, explore, and enjoy your art! Anyone who wants to go to an art opening in my area, let me know. I would love the company!

As I said, it's my Dad's birthday on September 23rd, HAPPY BIRTHDAY POP! I love you more than you will ever know. :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Charlotte has a Cold

I had just arrived home last night and was walking up my deck steps laden down with a bag of groceries, my briefcase, lunch bag, and several empty coffee mugs left in my car. As I came up to the front door, I remembered that we have a rather large spider, about two inches across, which has made an impressive nest in the back corner of the house. I decided to take a peek at it before I went inside. I dumped all of my belongings on a deck bistro table by the front door and headed to the back of the house.

I was observing the garden spider when from behind me I heard a shout, “WHO’S BACK THERE?”

I turned to see my 70 something neighbor Charlotte standing on her back deck peering over at me, her hand shielding the evening sun from her eyes. Charlotte was a good neighbor, always keeping an eye on who was in the neighborhood and if something didn’t seem right, she spoke up about it.

“It’s just me Charlotte!” I yelled back. “I was just looking at this huge spider spinning its web on the corner of the house.”

“I have a head cold! It’s real bad! I said I HAVE A HEAD COLD!”

“Oh, I heard you! I’m sorry,” I began turning to her. “An end of the summer cold, huh?”

“Yeah, it’s going around. All the kids in the schools have it. Everyone in church has it.”

Don’t ya just love it when people make such blanket statements. It is the truth as they see it completely stretched beyond the point of argument for the sake of conversation. They drive me crazy.

“Well, take care of yourself Charlotte. Can I bring you over something or pick something up at the store for you?” I asked.

“No, I have soup but I may be over later for a shot of whiskey!” she cackled.

“O-kaaaay.” I laughed.

“No, I’m serious; expect me in an hour for a shot of whiskey!” With that, she suddenly went inside and closed her door. I stared at the closed door and shook my head chuckling. I turned to the spider and said “Remind me to toss that piece of cake she brought over yesterday because everyone has a cold.”

She never did come over for the whiskey, but I will check on her this evening.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Parent's Night Out

I am going out to eat at a nice restaurant this evening and thought about getting a little more dressed up than usual. It’s a fun thing to do. Make yourself a martini or pour a glass of scotch or wine while getting ready. Turn on some mood music depending on the occasion.

It got me thinking to when I was younger, say before age 9, when my siblings and I would watch my parents get ready for a night out on the town. The smell of Mom’s perfume and Dad’s cologne still permeates these memories. We would watch them get gussied up in suit and dress. Mom would finish picking out her jewelry with Sheryl’s help. Dad would put on the little light in his closet and enlist Adam’s and my help in picking out that perfect tie. We would giggle and laugh at them while sitting with our legs crossed on their oh-so big bed, the small black and white TV on in the background.

Dad and Mom looked like the king and queen of the castle. They would sometimes have a cocktail first. Mom, a glass of Gallo or Mateus rose’ wine. Dad, a Dewars Scotch on the rocks or a bottle of Piels beer. Dad would let us have a sip of his Scotch or beer.

Pretty soon, before Sheryl was old enough to watch us, the baby sitter would come by. Usually it would be Betty Jane or her sister Susan Miller from next door. The evening would be spent watching TV or playing games with my siblings. There would be a dessert or snack worthy of keeping me happy and quiet. Although if it had a lot of sugar, you could guarantee it would keep this hyperactive child up quite late! Bed time would be at 9 or 10 pm. It was a special night since Mom and Dad were out, so we would probably coax the babysitter into letting us stay up a little later.

I don’t remember any of the baby sitters reading me stories. They just put us to bed. Sheryl would stay up later with them. Dad was the story reader in the family. I have fond memories of him reading from Aesop’s Fables using different funny voices for each character in the stories.

On babysitting nights, Adam and I would secretly stay up after we were put to bed. We would play until the dropping of a toy or getting too rough with one another would cause my sister or the babysitter to yell upstairs for us to get back to bed.

Eventually, I would be stirred from a restless sleep by Mom and Dad when they arrived home and came upstairs to check on us. We were lucky children. My parents were very affectionate and hugs were plentiful. I don’t think I ever slept very well until I got that kiss and hug from them, thus assuring myself of their safe return.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Smashing My Fingers

One of the things you find out when you get older is that when you hurt yourself, there is no one there to kiss it and make it better. You scream and move on. Correction, you scream DRAMATICALLY and LOUDLY, fall to the pavement with hand still attached to the garage door, and move on after you have pried your hand from the door.

It all started innocently enough (isn't that how it always starts?) when I realized it had begun to rain and I had left plastic tubs full of flea market items outside in the driveway. Obviously not wanting them to get rained on, I ran outside to bring the tubs into the house. Rain drops pelted my back but luckily not enough to warrant a "torrent." With much cursing under my breath, the three heavy tubs were safely inside the house. It was then I realized that that I had left a 1930's chrome Art Deco ashtray stand out by the garage.

I thought for a minute that I would leave it, considering it was under the deck and may only get a little wet. I quickly thought the better of it remembering how damaged and pitted chrome can get from just incidental moisture. OK, I justified, I will be saving this antique from impending disaster! I wouldn't bring it into the house, but just open the garage and quickly stick it in.

One more time, I ran out the front door, down the deck, with rain drops pelting my back. Almost tumbling down the stairs, I caught myself the last minute from an ungraceful swan dive into a trellis/planter. That was a close one, I thought. Almost home free. OK, quickly open the garage door, and shove the friggin' ashtray stand in and get back inside!

Oh it just couldn't be that easy, could it? I opened the garage door, quickly put the ashtray stand inside and grabbed the outside handle to pull the garage door down. For some reason ... I also pulled the door down on the joint with my left hand ... and forgot to let go. I am going stop here for a minute so you can all digest this. I grabbed one of the many joints of the garage door and FORGOT TO LET GO!

My hand was caught and smashed between two garage door panels while it dragged me down into on the pavement. It all happened in seemingly slow motion but of course went by so quickly. I screamed as I heard popping and cracking sounds as my index, middle, and ring fingers on my left hand were smashed down to the size of a pita bread ... or a duck's webbed foot ... which ever may give you the clearer impression.

I literally couldn't not see the ends of my fingers in garage door and I think I stopped breathing for a minute or two. As I slumped down to the pavement, I realized that I could not pull my hand out. The second thing I realized was "Oh f*ck, I have to open the garage door to get my hand out!!!"

I reached up, saying "Oh sh*t, oh sh*t, my fingers are broken!" and pulled the garage door up and open. My hand heavily fell out with fingers now POUNDING as blood rushed back in. I looked over to see if my faithful neighbor Charlotte could possibly be asleep on the front porch from evening cocktails, but of course tonight, she was out visiting friends! How selfish of her!!!

Cradling my throbbing hand, I ran into the house thinking my next call would be for John to take me to the hospital for X-rays.

Worried as I now know my readers must be, I will put you at ease. My fingers have gone numb ... no doubt from a combination of pinched nerves and 151 rum. But anyway, 151 rum aside, they are swollen, turning purple, and I fear a loss of fingernails may only be a week away. But I have survived.

After John came home, he brought me down to the garage and showed me the dents between two of the garage panels where he got two fingers caught in the joint when we first moved in. Ironically, my three fingers were caught two feet to the right in the same joint. I have three dents down from his two. Can't we do anything different? At least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have one more dent in the garage door than him. :)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Tennis Anyone?

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered tennis again. John asked me if I wanted to play tennis up at the Lake Wynonah Lodge. Well, not particularly. My idea of a workout these days is a very regimented 30 to 45 minute cardio workout on either an elliptical machine, stepper, or treadmill IN THAT ORDER. I throw in weights too every now and then, but nothing too Arnold Schwarzenegger. And I hate treadmills, did I mention that? BORING ... even with "American Pickers" on the TV in front of me spouting their latest treasures.

Marc with Ankle Injury

I hadn’t played tennis in over 10 years. I think the last time was when John asked me to play as well. I played to appease him and get him off my back, didn’t particularly enjoy it. I think I really sucked. I will even go as far as to say it caused me great personal injury. OK, maybe I got hit by a stray tennis ball and blacked out momentarily.

It wasn’t like way back when … picture it, 1982. I was taking tennis lessons at the Wenonah Swim Club. Back then I was the star of my tennis class ... yeah right, anyone who knows me knows I was hiding somewhere in the back of the class to avoid getting called. Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe were tennis idols. Every guy wanted to marry Chrissy Evert. I was just trying to get by without getting hit by those damn stray tennis balls. At least waaaay back then, I had a smidgen of tennis talent (I think.)

John Looking Too Serious

Who are we kidding, I was playing tennis every day, attempting to serve the ball, tossing it in the air, and having it hit me in the eye every friggin’ time! If I wasn’t taking professional lessons … which I sucked at … I was playing with friends in flip flops stubbing my toes to bloody pulps on the courts. But nevertheless, my friends and I did have countless hours of fun hanging out on those hot tennis courts. Sometimes we played in bare feet standing on our pool towels, trying ever so carefully to hit it to each other without having to run across the hot court. What were we thinking? We were definitely NOT the perfect tennis players of the 80’s wearing matching preppy Izod shirts, shorts, and white sneaks!

Once again, I matched that opposite look playing tennis with John. There I was in my Rutgers t-shirt, Under Amour shorts, Skechers sneaks with stand out black socks! But luckily, no flip flops. This time, I actually and completely enjoyed myself. I think it has to do with my age. After 40, I just don’t give a flying *@&# how I look as long as I have fun.

Marc Flailing About

John and I had such a blast. He was great volleying the tennis ball right at the net. I was great hitting the tennis ball over the 30 foot fence ... hitting the house 50 feet behind the tennis courts several times. I never did get their name to apologize to them.

Anyway, I finally found my groove and we volleyed back and forth. I slowly regained my nonexistent serve after all those years. And I didn’t even hit myself in the face again! Several times I did look rather ridiculous on the court, but I held my own. A couple balls whizzed past me while I swung at them like a mad man. John said I looked like a disabled goose flapping about.

I will play tennis again. No, not an official tennis match, but I had a blast just hitting the ball back and forth. I rediscovered I have a pretty mean back hand too. John was even impressed with that! Don’t expect me to know the difference between love, ace, and match point. Don’t expect me to wear matching Polo shirt and short sets saying, “Thanks Buffy, that was a smashing set!” I will play tennis, make a fool of myself, look ridiculous sometimes, and probably have a better time than most people.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Mentor Elaine

Writers block. I just hate it and have had it for the last week. It sucks. You just cannot figure out what to write about. Or, as in my case this week, I just feel uninspired. It's crazy, because I have lists upon lists of topics but nothing is just jumping out at me ... but wait, my memory has traveled back to someone very dear to me.

My mentor and former teacher from elementary school, Elaine Arbo, once told me that when you don't know what to write about, just start writing and see what comes out. You may find something. She is write ... LOL, I mean right. Ironically, I typed "write" when I meant the other word. I think I will keep it that way. :)

Elaine was my 2nd grade teacher at Wenonah Elementary School. She was a slightly eccentric and extremely creative woman with these huge glasses and brilliant silver gray hair. She was such a wonderful influence on me. Starting in 4th grade, Elaine taught a program on creativity for "gifted" students. I hated that term, by the way, "gifted." I never felt "gifted," just more like "geeked." I always thought that the eight of us were just kids chosen to this program to express ourselves in a creative outlet. It was voluntary. Elaine encouraged us to follow our passions, create projects, and write.

We brainstormed about ideas, came up with solutions, and even competed in a sort of competition called the Olympics of the Mind. I credit Elaine with fueling my passion and love of writing, art, and all things creative. Those 3 years with Elaine influenced me more than anything else save my parents and family.

The class was called ACE. I forget for the life of me what it means. If I remember, I will add a comment on the bottom. Anyway, we met a couple times a week. Elaine checked out progress on our projects. We were worked on these projects outside of class as well. My "project" spanning 3 years were stories on a grand race of friendly, clutzy aliens. I also wrote other stories surrounding my pets. I still have all of them to this day, tucked away carefully in a chest. My first pieces of writing are sacred to me.

The class ended when I moved onto 7th grade at Gateway Regional High School. Even though our contact is rare, I feel Elaine became a friend for life. I sometimes reach out to her and often send her updates on my blog. Our last week of ACE, Elaine took us to lunch at the Happy House Chinese restaurant near our elementary school. Even as 6th graders going onto 7th grade, I recognized the bittersweetness moment for what it was. Those were three extremely special years.

Thank you Elaine, for so far, a lifetime of continued writing and creativity.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Ta-ta's in the Trunk

Embarrassment. It’s a word that hides around the corner. When the opportunity presents itself, it willingly and eagerly jumps out of hiding to throw that curve ball into your day. Spinach in your teeth at a business meeting? Embarrassment is one of those people in the crowd laughing at you. Caught with your proverbial pants down? Embarrassment is probably the one that pulled them down.

With that being said, my good friend Renee knows that I have a small antique business on the side, nothing major, pretty small change … my fun money. I am frequently at yard sales, flea markets, and thrift stores, hunting for treasures to buy and sell. Renee lives on the lake and has a tiki hut lakeside with a life-size replica of the Blues Brothers holding court for all those to see when they sail by. So when Renee asked me for a mannequin as a lifeguard, I thought nothing of it.

Well John’s mom, I remembered, had a vintage dress mannequin and he offered that up for Renee. As a joke one evening, we dropped it on her door step and ran. It startled her mom Dottie when she was leaving, thinking someone was hanging out around the front door. Renee questioned me about it and of course I denied it at first but then with a big laugh, fessed up.

The mannequin was worn and really unsuitable for braving the elements out at the tiki hut. It soon ended up back at my house and thanks to Renee, it was wearing a pink Philly Eagles hat, sunglasses, a Hawaiian lei, and a pink shirt with enormous fake ta-ta’s underneath. These ta-ta’s would make even the most risqué person blush, being nipplely and anatomically correct. Renee wore them last Halloween as J-WOW from the shameless MTV show the “Jersey Shore.”

Renee and her hubby tried to drop if off back at my place without notice but unfortunately, Renee is not the most stealthy type and was caught red … or rather pink handed. Gotta love her but James Bond would have fired this woman if she ever tried to be a spy.

John and I kept Ms. Pink Ta-ta’s sitting on our porch swing for a couple days and then moved her inside. I had planned to mail it all back to Renee but the mailing costs for a mannequin with huge ta-ta’s was cost prohibitive. Ta-ta’s take up a lot of box space, although they are excellent for cushioning your breakables.

The mannequin ended up being donated to a local thrift store and I dumped the ta-ta’s in the trunk of my car with all the other pink lady gear until I could get them back to Renee. One week went by. Two weeks went by. You get the picture. I was driving around with a pair of exposed ta-ta’s in my trunk. I came to forget about them and would push them aside whenever I needed trunk space.

A week or two later, I had stopped by our local liquor store to purchase some items for the private lodge where I manage the bar. It was a routine pickup for me, buying two cases of liquor and wine. I walked in and the clerk from the liquor shore said hi. She’s always so nice, I thought, going about my business.

That day, she offered to help carry out one of the two liquor boxes. I stated that although I appreciated it, it wouldn’t be necessary as they were not that heavy. Well we went back and forth for about a minute and I finally gave in to her help. I justified in my mind that she would feel better helping me.

The clerk took the lighter of the two boxes and followed me out to the car. Once we reached the car, I balanced one of the boxes with one arm and fumbled for my auto trunk opener on my key chain. After about 30 seconds, I finally clicked the opener with a sigh of relief and the trunk ever so slowly opened up. It seemed like forever. She went to place her box in the trunk and jumped back, “WHAT THE HECK?!?”

Staring back at her were two bright red nipples standing front and center on the fake ta-ta’s.

“Oh my god!” I exclaimed, “I am so sorry, they are my friend’s! She wore them for Halloween!” (Sorry to throw you under the ta-ta bus, Renee!)

“I don’t want to know!!!” She retorted dropping the box into the trunk on top of the ta-ta’s.

“No! Seriously, they are my friend’s! They aren’t mine!” I repeated red faced from embarrassment.

She ran inside the liquor store while repeating “I don’t wanna know, I don’t wanna know, I don’t wanna know!”

“But I don’t even own a pair of fake ta-ta’s!!!” I yelled after her but it was to no avail. Some old couple stood across the parking lot staring at me. I gave a nervous smile and got the hell out of there.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Country Roads

I travel 50 minutes each day to work on PA Route 78. It’s about 48 miles. It’s not a bad commute, kind of long and straight, through valleys, farmland, and woods until you get into the industrialized part of Lehigh Valley. The route follows the last ridge of the Blue Mountains before the Atlantic coastal plain. Scenically, speaking, it’s very pretty.

The traffic flows smoothly. Truckers, I find, are pretty respectful of drivers on the roadway. The usual problems come with idiots speeding to and from work in their sports cars. I usually tune out to NPR, Elvis Duran’s radio show in the morning, or pop in a favorite CD.

During these last three weeks, three separate accidents have completely shut down the I-78 corridor during the morning. The first, occurred on a Friday morning by the Kutztown exit. A man in a pickup truck went down the embankment and crashed into a tractor trailer. Poor guy lost his life. The second accident happened one exit down the following Monday morning. A tractor trailer overturned. The third accident happened this morning, when a truck caught fire and exploded between those two exits.

As with each time, traffic was detoured today onto old Route 22, also known as the Hex Highway, referring the colorful Hex signs adorning barns owed by the Pennsylvania Dutch in this part of the country. Old Route 22 parallels Route 78, so I could see traffic lined up for miles on the highway. Not a pretty sight. People with dogs, business professionals, and truckers were all out of their shut off vehicles hanging out chatting while my long line of traffic slowly snaked by.

As we weaved through small towns of sometimes no more than 10 houses, I turned off the radio and started enjoying the scenery. The window was rolled down, a summer morning breeze entered the car, and I smelled honeysuckle growing by the roadside. Birds chirped, there was the screech of a circling hawk, and cicadas were trilling in the trees.

I started looking at these surroundings, really looking. Farmhouses from the early 1900’s passed me. Sometimes, I passed an old stone farm house dating back to the mid or late 1800’s with a jumble of outbuildings surrounding it. Several houses stood abandoned or dilapidated, with weeds overgrowing around rusty swing sets from decades ago. The children have probably moved away to suburbs with Wal-Mart’s and Targets. The parents are elderly, doing their best to try keep up these large places where once families with 5 or more kids lived.

In one town, Lenhartsville, the Deisch Eck (Dutch Corner) family restaurant stands proudly on one corner. Further investigation online of this restaurant shows that it obviously specializes in Pennsylvania Dutch cooking and is one of the finest restaurants around. I have to have dinner there sometime. Plus, it has a gift shop, and I am a sucker for any place that has a gift shop. Growing up and traveling with my family may bring memories of the tourist attractions to my brother and sister but I remember with fondness, the Stuckey’s convenience stores that dotted the mid West with their large gift shops inside!

I go through another town, Krumsville, by the Kutztown exit, and pass and Dietrich’s Meats Store Country , another family owned and operated establishment (aren’t they all like this in the country?). Pulling into the parking lot, you immediately smell succulent meats smoking in the smoke houses around back. Inside, sausages, pork, beef, and poultry await you as well as penny candy, PA Dutch cook books, chow chow (a pickled veggie mix), and Dutch desserts like shoe-fly pies and whoopee pies.

Lastly, as I pass through the village of Grimville, following other modern day sedans and pickup trucks at a 10 mile per hour pace, I spy to my left an antique car restoration business. Taking this “back country” road, although running along the highway, has brought me through towns suspended in yesteryear. And now perfectly, I have the restored antique cars to go with these towns suspended in time. The stresses about being late to work leave me for a bit. I breathe in the country air, gaze at the horses or cows in the fields, and feel relaxed.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Yard-ly Wisdom From Charlotte

I completed a lot of necessary yard work this past weekend. Yard work is a lot like exercise. I hate doing it, but when I start and get into it, it’s not so bad. Then, after an hour or so has passed, I feel like I can keep going and going. This weekend included mowing, trimming bushes and trees, and general yard maintenance.

John and I have had bad luck with the forsythias this past year. We planted a row of five of them two years ago. The one closest to the house is growing like crazy. The other four always seems to be struggling. Branches die, we snip ‘em off, others grow in their place. The troublesome four never seem to get beyond the scraggly bush phase. A friend in the Lake mentioned that he thought it was the soil. I don't know, just give me something that grows like crazy with watering.

The pussy willow, on the other hand, is just crazy all over the place. I try and keep it trimmed back so that it doesn’t look so wild. Our butterfly bushes have come back since last October’s snow storm. Vibrant purple flowers are attracting a myriad of hummingbirds, monarchs, and bees.

I haven’t seen our rabbit since the other week. I think it was traumatized by John mowing the lawn. We also saw a baby bunny that same day that darted into the woods. As it turned out, the hollow that I thought was the rabbit den may be the back entrance of a gopher hole. Now I swear that we didn’t have gophers on this side of the Lake. My stepdad Barry has some, but he is all the way across the Lake about 1 1/2 miles away.

Now I haven’t actually seen a gopher, but after John and I debated about the nature of the hole (rabbit, skunk, or gopher?), we decided to bring our friendly neighbor Charlotte into the discussion. Charlotte, whom I have written about before, is a wonderfully eccentric 70 something year old divorcee. She is very good to John and I and is always dropping off random items of food to keep us full: baked goods, one can of Pepsi, chili, ham and pea soup, fake crab meat, hot dogs, bay scallops, and the occasional odd small cantaloupe the size of a softball.

Charlotte was on her deck watering her marigolds when I called her to come over to the back of our house. “Charlotte! Can you come over here? John and I have to ask your opinion on something!”

“COMING!!!!” she yelled and pretty much bolted up the small hill as quickly as her spry frame could carry her. She certainly has a lot of energy for a septuagenarian.

“We have a hole next to the back flower bed and don’t know what made it. I say a rabbit, John says a gopher. Do you know?”

Charlotte looked down into the hole and then looked at John and said grinning, “Ooooh, that’s a hole from a nice fat gopher.” She held her arms up apart giving its approximate size as if she were showing us the size of a prize rainbow trout from the Lake.

“Yes!” John exclaimed, “I knew it!”
I was still in disbelief. “That can’t be a gopher. I’VE never seen it!” I huffed. "And I've seen EVERYTHING in this yard!" I hate being wrong.

“Oh Oh yes, he lives under my shed down the hill. He’s a big one,” Charlotte claimed.
“Well, OK ..., “ I gave in skeptically. (I still think it’s the rabbits or a skunk.)
We stared at the hole for a couple minutes and then thanked Charlotte for her “yardly” wisdom.

She started back towards her house and then turned quickly. “Now boys, I don’t want to worry you, but I am going in the hospital for surgery.”
“Wait! What’s wrong?” we asked in unison.

Charlotte needed “something removed”, nothing too serious, in an outpatient procedure. She said her son would take her there, stay with her, and then take her home. We offered to help her out in whatever capacity she needed and she was grateful. She began to talk about her woes.

“My elbows are going, my knees are going, everything is going!” she declared matter of factly. “I have no cartilage left in my knees!” she declared pointing to her nobby white knees. “John, if you put your hands on them and I bend them, you can feel them crack! Put your hand on my knees John! PUT YOUR HANDS ON MY KNEES, JOHN, WHILE I CRACK EM! DO IT!” she commanded. John and I stared at her with our mouths agape.

“Uh ….” John began, pausing awkwardly, looking for help and not sure where this was going. I looked at him and began laughing. “Uh … no thanks Charlotte,” I said, “If the neighbors see, they might think strange things!”
She started laughing, “Yeah, I guess so!”

With that, Charlotte bounded down the hill back to her marigolds. Gotta love Charlotte!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Charlotte and the Summer Storm

I had just arrived home from a horrible day at work. Pulling into my drive, I saw my favorite neighbor, the 70 something day-drinking divorcee Charlotte, suddenly leap up in the chair on her front porch and run into the house. I thought maybe she ran in to batten down the hatches as they say, as a major line of summer thunderstorms were quickly moving into the area.

The air was thick as only a summer storm can make it feel. The late afternoon sun became hidden behind a swirling mass of black clouds and approaching thunder. I quickly got my briefcase out of the trunk and ran to the mail box hoping to grab the mail before the skies opened up and poured down on me.

Running with the mail in one hand, keys and briefcase in the other, I skipped up the steps of the deck to the front door. There was the petite Charlotte, standing at my front door, juggling a small cantaloupe, 2 cheese danish, and a container of her famous chili. “Charlotte! What are you doing, it’s about to pour!” I exclaimed laughing fumbling for the house keys. “Well you boys have to eat!” she said laughing back.

“OK, OK, thank you! You are TOO good to John and I. Put the food down on the bench and I will open up the house first and then grab the food. Now get across the lawn before we get caught in the downpour!” Quarter-sized droplets were already making welt sized wetmarks here and there on my dress shirt. She didn’t stick around and had already bolted across our side yards as quickly as her little legs could carry her.

I got inside the house and dropped my stuff. I then turned back outside and grabbed the chili, cantaloupe, and cheese danish and attempted to close the front door with my ankle. The small cantaloupe slipped out of my hand and went rolling down the steps to the basement with Max and Moxie Cat chasing after it. “A NEW TOY!” they undoubtedly thought. I will get it later, I thought with a chuckle.

Raindrops were now falling heavily but it was not yet pouring. I went into the living room to turn on the evening news. From my large living room window, I spied Charlotte yelling for Abby, her gray tiger stripped kitty, on her back deck. “Abby! Abby!” I looked at the front porch and saw Abby lounging, then get up and start through the bushes for the back deck. Charlotte went into the house from the back and crossed through the house to the front porch.

Charlotte appeared on the front porch and yelled, “Abby! Abby! Come in, the storm is coming!” Abby now was on the back deck wondering where Charlotte was. Abby’s head perked up in the direction of the front porch and proceeded to go through the bushes back in that direction. Charlotte, in the meantime, went back inside and I saw her go through the house again to the back deck! I watched this comedy of errors happen two more times before I said to myself I need to put an end to this!

I went outside, now with rain coming down, trees and branches blowing all about, and yelled to Charlotte across the yard through the howling winds, “Abby is now on the front porch again! Stop changing positions! Just go and get her without yelling her name!” Charlotte nodded and ran through the house again to the front porch and collected her dear little Abby just as the storm hit with rains pouring down. Ahhh, I thought to myself, my work as a good neighbor is done here!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mr. Rabbit

Yesterday after the gym, I was driving down the street to my driveway and spied a rabbit nibbling peacefully on some grass in my yard. I smiled and observed him for a bit. It has been awhile since I have seen one in the yard. Call me East Coast sentimental, but I believe every grassy yard should have a rabbit, a chipmunk or two, squirrels, the occasional skunk, and some robins and cardinals. It is just enough wildlife to remind you that you are not the only living thing out there!

While spying on Mr. Rabbit, I remembered back to my youth when I lived on Maple Street in Wenonah, NJ. I was about 7 years old. Dad came in the house and asked if we kids wanted to see something neat. So Mom, Adam, Sheryl, and I followed Dad out into the backyard. We wandered over to the side of the house by the tether ball pole. Below that by the fence, we had a large forsythia bush.

Dad told put his fingers up to his lips and shushed us quiet. Slowly he bent down and parted some lower leaves and branches and pointed to a small hollow at the base of the bush. There was a litter of 5 baby rabbits hiding in a nest lined with rabbit fur and green grass. They had hair and were about 4 inches long. Dad pointed out the small one, the runt of the litter. He was about an inch shorter than the rest.

Dad said to us in a low quiet tone, “Now don’t touch them, or the mother won’t come back. We can’t disturb them or she won’t come back and raise them. OK?”

We nodded eagerly and quietly watched the little bunnies sleeping in the nest. We followed Dad’s advice and didn’t visit the nest again. Playing tether ball was also put on hold. About six weeks later, the bunnies were spied leaving one by one. A couple remained and we had more rabbits throughout the years, possibly relatives of that original litter which Dad showed us.

My rabbit continued to contently munch away on some grass, not a care in the world. He’s an Eastern Cottontail, maybe 4-5 pounds, with a beautiful brown coat. Hope he sticks around for a bit.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Ever have a reoccurring dream? I have had a couple of reoccurring nightmares since childhood. I have often wondered why these horrible dreams are lodged in my psyche. What part of my childhood initially triggered these torments of the night? The first involves zombies. John always wonders where my fascination with them comes from. I figure it must come from this reoccuring nightmare. I love the AMC TV series “The Walking Dead.” Can’t get enough of it! I love the gore, the fear of the people running from them, and hopelessness of a dying human race being overrun with zombies. Now everyone scream! When I was younger, I started dreaming of being chased by these undead monsters. I am in a dark wet basement, running from room to room. The air is damp, the concrete floor cold. I run into a dimly lit room and quickly close a door behind me, locking it. I am shaking with fear. They are outside of the door, beating on it endlessly, groaning at me in their zombie voices. I back up into the farthest corner of the room. Just as they break down the door and I scream my heart out but no sound comes out! I wake up in a cold sweat. Same dream, every time. I have had this dream so many times over then span of 30 years I can’t even count how many! The other dream I have over and over involves the sea, specifically the Jersey shore. Now before you all go … “Well of course it’s is a nightmare because it's the Jersey shore!” I say yeah whatever, heard it before. I love the Jersey shore, grew up summering down there and will always love it. No Jersey shore bashing allowed in my blog! :-) However, in my dream I am at the shore, wading in the water, close to land. Suddenly, I am drawn by some unforceable force further and further out. Something is dragging me down into the dark murky waters. I can’t swim, I feel like I am in quicksand. I can’t move my limbs. I am sucked down, choking on salt water. I can’t breathe and I black out. Once I wake, I am in my bed, sweating as they say … like a whore in church. To this day, I don’t swim out too far into the ocean. I have such a fear of being dragged out by rip tides. I know my fear stems from this dream, warranted or not. My question has always been what events in my childhood ingrained these dreams into my psyche? There is nothing I can remember. Maybe a bout of hypnosis would do be some good …. or open up events that create more questions. My friend Sarah pointed out that sometimes repressed memories can bring up some pretty scary things. I think she is right. Sometimes it is better to let sleeping dogs lie. So for now, I have these two dreams every once in a while. I haven’t had them in ages though. Maybe it's been a year since the last time. They also occur when I am stressed out. It’s surprising I haven’t dreamt them these past couple months since it has been a particularly difficult time in my life. When I do have them now, I have noticed that I have been able to recognize, “Oh … OK … this is that dream again. I remember this.” With that, I now wake up before it gets too scary. The zombies can stay on TV!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Right Place at the Right Time

After work the other evening, I stopped at the local supermarket to mail a letter. The supermarket has a small post office open during business hours. Yes, some people STILL use snail mail.

While I was walking into the supermarket, a visibly flustered woman ran right into me. With no apology, she looked at me, shook her head and continued on. Okaaaay, I thought, someone is having a bad day with a side of crazy.

I continued inside and made a left to the little post office. My heart sank. The line was 15 people deep and all I needed was a stamp. I let out a deep sigh. I wasn’t going to wait 30 minutes for just a stamp! The letter would have to be mailed tomorrow.

I turned around and headed out to my car. At least, I thought, I got a parking space close to the building. I suddently noticed a car backing up quickly while a teenager was walking behind it. I yelled “HEY!” but the driver didn’t notice. I immediately slammed my hands down on the front hood of the car screaming “STOP!”

The person braked hard and looked up at me. It was the flustered woman who ran into me while I entered the supermarket. I adamantly pointed to the teenager now frozen behind the car. She turned her head around, looked at him, and then looked at me.

“Thank you.” she mouthed to me. She looked as if she were about to burst into tears. The kid now continued walking and yelled, “Thanks!”

Sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bartending Ups and Downs

As some of you know, I am a part time bartender at the local firehouse social club and at the private lodge in my community. I make my “fun money” this way. I really enjoy it. Being a “talker”, I am completely in my social element. Usually it means a fun, busy evening of bouncing about pouring beers, making shots, and mixing cocktails!

Sometimes though, bartenders have to make difficult decisions which are not so fun. It involves cutting people off, sending them on their way, making sure they are alright to drive, or finding them a ride if they need one. I have on more than one occasion actually had to give a patron a lift home if no other ride could be found. As a bartender, you have the tough job of gauging people’s tolerance to alcohol. A sober person sometimes can quickly become a VIP (visibly intoxicated person)before you know it depending on if they are on medication, have had nothing to eat, or normally do not drink a lot.

The other week I had an issue with a loud obnoxious woman. She has come into the Lodge before and is usually a little kilter anyway. I always attributed it to her odd overbearing personality. She tends to really talk loud and other patrons eventually move their seats away from her. She drinks and gets louder. She is always nice to me but I sometimes have to tell her to bring it down a notch and keep an eye on her.

That night she had a problem with one of our waitresses and was grumbling to whomever would listen. I was told about it and had to make the difficult decision to place myself “into the issue.” So I jumped in, handled it, and it was soon resolved. Unfortunately, when she comes in, I roll my eyes thinking, “What will she be like tonight?”

My good friend at the Lodge asked me after the incident, “How do you place yourself into a situation without hesitation?” I told her at the time that you just do it because it has to be done. After thinking about it more, I realized that taking the position of bar manager or bartender comes with uncomfortable situations like this. You have to observe people who drink and then judge their behavior. Some people are happy drinkers, other are obnoxiously loud ones. Luckily most people fall in between. If there is a conflict, you have to gauge the situation on whether it’s more important to win the battle or win the war. How can this be resolved quickly? How do we not make this escalate into a situation where the police may need to be called? Should this person be banned?

During one night, a bar patron thought that I was being disrespectful to him by not allowing him to run a tab. He had misunderstood me and started getting loud in front of everyone, yelling, “I don’t need this! I will spend my money elsewhere!” He thrust his beers he had just bought back into my hand. It was embarrassing and I tried reasoning with him but to no avail. I backed away and let him go. You see, after trying to reason with him, I realized he was just not hearing me and it wasn’t worth any further scene in the bar. I acquiesced as I just knew I wasn’t going to “win this one.”

A couple months later, he came back in and I didn’t bring it up until he did. I explained that he had misunderstood what I had said and he apologized to me for his behavior. He continued by stating that he had been having a bad day and didn’t mean to take it out on the bartender. Sometimes that happens. We all have bad days and take it out on other people. All was forgiven and I bought he and his wife a round.

So next time, remember that bartending may seem all fun but it comes with a lot of responsibility. If I cut you off or tell you to calm down, it’s not because I am trying to rain on your parade. I am trying to keep order in an establishment that serves alcohol. I can and am held accountable by state liquor control laws. If God forbid something happens to you, you can be rest assured that something will probably happen to me as well.

And by the way, just a little side note from your friendly neighborhood bartender, Long Island Ice Teas and any frozen drinks of any kind are a pain in the ass to make.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Support "Lunchbox Envy": a Great Cause and Cookbook for Kids!

Hi Friends and Family,

Please take a minute to follow the link above to a great project which my stepmom Martha Haynes is involved with and watch the video to find out more! Please check out and support their project!

She is part of a group called Locally Delicious. Here is a bit about them taken off of their website,

Locally Delicious is a small non-profit organization in Humboldt County, California that advocates for healthy food and localized, sustainable food systems through education and grant-giving.

A few of you may remember the cookbook which Martha helped write:(taken from their website) Locally Delicious, now in its second edition, is 314 full-color pages packed with more than 200 recipes instructing readers on how to use local ingredients, where to find them and why it's important for their health and the health of the planet to do so.

Their latest project, Lunchbox Envy, is a cookbook aimed at kids 8 years and up on how to make lunches that are easy to prepare by families of all income levels.

I am very proud of Martha's involvement with this project. Please support their book with a pledge of $5.00, $10.00, or more. Please pass on the link. As of July 2, there are only 9 days left to raise the $15,000 needed to continue with this project. If you are a mother, a father, aunt, or uncle ... if you are a chef or a teacher ... if you are someone that cares about what are kids are eating and want to help teach them how to eat correctly, then please support this cause! Teach our kids that it can be a fun interactive experience! To make a pledge, please follow the Kickstarter link. I have included it again here:

By the way, at the 8 second mark in the video, my stepmom Martha is the one with the t-shirt that says "Badass"!!! Gotta love her! She is also at the 2:50 minute mark wearing the red sweater over her shoulders. I am so proud of her.


Monday, July 2, 2012

High School Gifts

My niece Angelica graduated from middle school this year and will be going onto high school. For her graduation present, my brother and his wife set up a scavenger hunt which ended with her graduation gift, an IPhone. I was excited for Angelica because she worked so hard this year and deserved it.

I thought about the high school graduation gifts that I have received in my life. My high school did not include a middle school and we went straight from 7th grade through 12th. When I graduated 6th grade Wenonah Elementary and went onto Gateway Regional High School, I was given the gift of false expectations. I thought everything would be the same as in 6th grade and it would be easy and fun and wonderful and I would fit it with everyone. Gee, was I wrong. My first day in 7th grade, I was assigned a locker mate. He smelled, was the age of a 10th grader, and had week long crust formed in his eyes. Don't ask me why, I never asked him. I promptly marched down to the front office and got my own locker after he told me we would not be putting a lock on the locker as it took too much time to get his "smokes" out.

Subsequent locker mates were not any better. My locker mate in 9th grade vomited one morning into our locker. Lucky for him, he only vomited on my side of the locker.

When I completed 8th grade and moved onto 9th grade, my "graduation" gift was getting tripped by a senior the first week in school. All of his friends laughed at me while "high-fiving" each other. "Good one!!!!" they exclaimed. Actually I said that to them like the geek in the movie 16 Candles.

I also was given the gift of horrible acne and greasy skin for my entrance to high school. The acne medicine back then was tinted one color, medium beige. So if I used it sparingly, I ended up looking like my face had been splattered with clay from art class. If I used it all over, my ancestry would dramatically change from white Caucasian to Hispanic within 15 minutes each morning.

My 9th grade class picture showed the pure humiliation I came to know those first couple years. The photographer said something to me while I was posing and I leaned forward asking "What did you (FLASH!) say?" So I was in mid sentence with my mouth hanging open drooling when the picture was taken. You can guess how bad it looked. I had a do-over done later that year but the damage was done with the photo now permanently in that year's school yearbook.

The last three grades in high school went much better than the first three. I actually began to enjoy it looking forward to graduation and my life beyond at Rutgers University. I was also so excited to get that all important graduation gift from my parents. Would it be a car? A trip out to see family in Colorado? Several hundred dollars in one of those narrow greeting cards that you know hold money before you open then up?

I received luggage. This was the gift that my brother before me received for his graduation. This was also the gift that my sister before him received for her graduation. My parents, LOVE THEM, justified that you will always need a good set of luggage for your "journey into adulthood." I see their metaphorical point, but … luggage.

For the record, my sister and I were cracking up about this on the phone the other day, and 30 years later, she still has one of the pieces of her set. That is entirely another blog … that's all I'm sayin'.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Take Time For Yourself

At what point does volunteer work become bad for you? When does it become septic and the good you feel from giving your time cost you in terms of mental and physical health? What do you do about the guilt you feel when you need to pull back and others say, "No, we need you! No one does that position better than you!"

I learned first hand this spring about the negative effects of volunteer work and helping others. For the last couple months, I loaded up on bartending shifts at the Fire House when others went on vacation, agreed to help at three major events for the Lodge (not to mention on top of my normal bartending and managing duties), collected boxes upon boxes of magazines to donate for the hospital waiting rooms, watched my neighbor's cat, watered her plants, and took care of her house while she has been away for two weeks, and tried to take care of my household. WHAT WAS I THINKING???

I can tell you I wasn't thinking NO! LOL. You want to be nice, you want to help out, but enough is enough! And it came at a particularly stressful time at work for one reason and another .... and another. :)

Don't get me wrong, I fully admit I chose all of this to do. I like volunteering for these groups and like helping others. Sometimes, it just gets a bit crazy and you realize, hey I have a little bit to much on my tray!

Volunteering to do things gives you a sense of self worth. It means helping others. It makes you feels good and gives a sense of satisfaction that you have made a difference in someone's life.

There is a point though, when you load more on than you can handle. You reach that breaking point where you want to explode, or in my case, crawl under the nearest rock and quietly implode. Volunteer work becomes bad for your health. You become resentful, stubborn in your views, and dare I say, a little touchy and grouchy at others suggestions on how things should be done.

Healthwise, you develop headaches, become restless, and a good night's sleep is a thing of the past! Allergies get worse, your immune system goes down, ya get a damn head cold at the end of spring. Your thoughts race ... did I forget that? Why does it seem like I am the only one helping? Why can't we ALL JUST GET ALONG!!!

Hopefully you don't implode or explode. I almost did. Now as I step back and view these last couple months, I realize I need to take more time for myself. We aren't gettin' any younger folks! For future reference, I will be enjoying my summer and putting in as little time as possible in my volunteer work.

It doesn't mean that I don't care and don't wanna help. It just means that at the end of the day, I am the most important person in my life and if I don't take care of myself, I won't be able to help others. Sounds a bit narcissistic but you know we all need to spend more time on ourselves. A little self pampering can go a long way.

I need to better learn what my limits are. I need to learn that it's alright to say no. That it's not the end of the world.

By the way, if you think this is about you ... it's not. LOL. It's all about me. But if it applies to you, I hope I helped you recognize your own frustration and I wholly commiserate with you! :) Stay strong my friends and take some time for yourself!