Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Friday, December 18, 2015

For Mom Verno

Ann and Joe Verno, Arizona 2011


I ended up having minor surgery in the beginning of December due to some complications from my hernia surgery a couple years ago. It was successful and I am basically on the mend. In fact, this first blog for December was going to be all about that surgery. I know, I know TMI. That all changed a couple days after the surgery.

Quite unexpectedly, John's Mom passed away on December 7th and everything changed as it does when one loses a parent. I know that very well as you know with my Mom passing several years ago. The horrible fact is that John has now lost both parents within 6 months of each other.

John's father, Joe, passed away on May 30th of this year. He was 96. And as often happens, the spouse passes soon after. Mom Verno, as I lovingly referred to her as, passed on December 7, just after her 94th birthday on the 2nd. I seriously considered her my other Mom. She was the kindest, most genuinely person who did things without being asked, just because she enjoyed doing nice things for others. She was so devoted to her husband Joe that possibly she knew it was time to be with him on the other side. This is my justification. I don't know, we often try to justify the death of a loved one by trying to understand it in this way. It makes us feel better in our pain. 

She didn't suffer and passed peacefully. John was lucky enough to speak with her on her birthday and she was happy and content. She seemed to be doing better than ever, stating that she missed John's Dad, Joe, but she did enjoy Thanksgiving and her birthday. 

How could I not write about this wonderful woman? So therefore this particular blog post is dedicated to Ann Verno. I wanted to share a bit about her. As I did with John's Dad, I set about to help write the obituary.  Below is some info about this incredibly loyal wife and doting mother that I had the privilege and honor of befriending. 

Ann Verno was born in 1921 in Stowe, PA to her parents  Antonio and Julia Guida. Her father was extremely successful owning his own shoe store line which unfortunately was lost during the Depression. Ann then married Joe in 1946 and were married 68 years. They had two sons Joseph and John, settling on High Street in Stowe in 1957, the year that John was born. During World War II, she served as an Air Raid Warden for Pottstown. 

Ann was also active in the Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary and loved her job of 30 years plus as a manager at Zipf's Candy Store in downtown Pottstown. John would reminisce how holidays were so special in the 60's as Mom Verno would bring him to the store to show him all of the candy and chocolate displays set up for Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, and Halloween. And yes, he got first pick of the chocolates. 

While cleaning out the attic of their High Street home several years ago, John and I found countless gifts and knick-knacks that Ann purchased at Zipf's Candy Stores. I joked she used her employee discount as often as she could. Later in her life, Ann was also active and made so many friends in her local TOPS club where she strived to always loose that extra 10 pounds. I laughed with her that this would never happen as long as she continued to make her incredible Italian cooking.   

After my Mom passed and I moved up to Lake Wynonah, I visited Joe and Ann each morning on my 1 1/2 hour drive to work when I was a domestics officer down in Montgomery County. She would be ready at the same time each morning with my coffee, juice, and Pop Tart. I didn't have the heart to tell her I had outgrown them and maybe I didn't because  I needed a Mom in my life so soon after my own Mom's passing.

Joe and I would discuss the day's news and Ann would refill my coffee and offer me another Pop Tart. I would take a list of things they needed for me to pick up and drop off while passing through at the end of my day. I loved this routine and was sad to see it end when I got my current job in Allentown. It was a special time in my life interacting each day with Mom and Dad Verno. Great memories.

When it comes down to it, there is no easy time or way to lose someone. She may be 40 or she may be 94. It may be sudden or it may be drawn out. It may be in April or it may be in December. It just hurts and just overall sucks. Especially when it's your Mom. I know. And let's face it, it hurts when it's your Dad too.

I hate that we have to go through this in life. We need to hold onto those memories and move forward. I hate the cliche' saying "Time heals all wounds." It does not "heal the wound," Instead, you learn how to deal with it better without falling apart emotionally. The wound will always be there. Until then, cry, sob, mourn, whatever you need to do. But above all, cherish those memories.

***This blog post is also dedicated to my classmate Heather Ausmann Beilat who lost a brave courageous battle with cancer on December 15th this year. May she rest in peace as well.


Monday, November 23, 2015

My Sister's Thanksgiving Message

November 2014, one of my fav pics of Sheryl and I
A pic of my big bro Adam (So he doesn't get jealous)
Many of you know my older sis Sheryl. She, along with my older bro Adam, have been the rocks in my world. I lean on them for inspiration, laughter, support, and advice. My sister had a difficult Fall emotionally with the loss of a close coworker. You will read the reason why below. Coupled with the recent terrorist attach in Paris, France, she felt compelled to write an early Thanksgiving message below addressing the uncertainty of life and how we need to not take life for granted. 

Sher's message comes from the heart. I hope you take it to heart as well and apply it to your life. In the blink of an eye, it can change forever.  -Marc

From Sheryl:

Hello Family & Friends,

So forgive this ramble but I’ve been mulling it over in my mind. Maybe with age I’ve become more sappy / nostalgic or the recent France bombings moved me, but I had a very sad experience at work last month that has compelled me to share this message. My immediate boss died last month at work. He was literally walking through the front door, passed out from a heart attack and in a couple hours he was pronounced dead at the hospital. My job that day ended up being picking up his Partner and driving him to the hospital to identify his husband and spend his last few hours with his husband. 

Needless to say I was in shock all day. Yes, my boss was gay and had just gotten married to his Partner about 6 months ago after being together for 30 years. It was heart wrenching to think they had JUST started the next chapter in their already long life together, only for my boss to drop dead 6 months later. If these last two sentences don’t convey the message then pacify me and read further. 


In any given moment, everything in your world or your loved one’s worlds can END in less than seconds. All the various problems we each slug through on a daily bases don’t mean jack, because it can END in seconds. All the time we spend on arguments, blaming each other, picking at each other, mocking one another is wasting an exorbitant amount of time that could be spent cherishing our time together. Was that argument or hurtful statement really worth the energy and time??? Do we really ever feel better after??? 


All the time spent NOT addressing issues or resolving problems wastes that much more time of being together; not valuing the time you have together because it can ALL END in seconds. And if we really don’t want to be where we are then truly move on so that everyone else can value and cherish the time they have together. But if we choose to be where we are, then make EVERY moment COUNT. 


Tell your loved ones how much you care about them. Don’t hesitate to hug and love them because it can ALL END IN SECONDS. Why am I repeating this statement? Because as smart as human beings are, it still takes 7 times of a repetitive statement for humans to REALLY absorb, remember and learn what we hear. Some of you won’t even absorb this now, but I truly hope something sinks in about make every moment together count. I appreciate all of you pacifying me by reading this and EVEN MORE for touching my life in some way. Make every moment of this Thanksgiving count. 


HUGS & LOVE! Sheryl


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pickled Sweet Banana Peppers!

I have never pickled though I have been VERY PICKLED many times before. This summer, I decided to try pickling some sweet banana peppers which I grew myself on my deck. I started with a young pepper plant and planted it in a large planter with plenty of direct sunlight. Luckily I did not kill it during the first week. It must have felt sorry for me and my pathetic attempts at "deck farming" and soon enough, four small white flowers started to bud.

I hadn't planted the banana peppers with the idea of pickling them. Initially, I wanted to grow them and possibly stuff them with Italian sausage as sort of an appetizer. I'm not a big fan of hot peppers so I figured these would be good to try, not to mention they are pretty colorful.

The four initial flowers quickly grew into peppers and within another week, I had about 6 more flowers appear. Then a week later, something came by and ate every damn fresh little white flower! ARGH! I was so mad! Luckily, the original four peppers were still intact so I counted my blessings and began nurturing them.

After they were ripe and the most vibrant red yellow color, I picked them and searched for recipes. If I had been able to grow ten or more of them, I would have gone the sausage stuffed pepper appetizer route. But alas, these four ripe lowly peppers sat there on the counter staring at me as if they were saying, "OK Farmer Brown, you grew us, now whatta ya gonna do?" After an Internet search, I found an easy recipe for pickling the peppers which wouldn't require me to attend a pickling class at my local college. Here is the link for the recipe from Food.com:

http://www.food.com/recipe/sweet-pickled-banana-peppers-17254

The recipe was easy to follow and extremely user friendly for the novice pickler. I adjusted the recipe because unfortunately I had about 1/3 lb of the peppers and not the 1/2 lb called for. I am also happy to say that a certain trained monkey named Marc was able to follow the recipe to a "T". Why was I so scared of pickling?

After the jar was sealed, the tough part was not touching them for two weeks! (I have learned that I am not a patient pickler.) I wrote the "open" date with a Sharpie pen on the lid, placed the jar in the back of my fridge, set a reminder on my phone and hoped to forget about it. Luckily two weeks went by rather quickly. Apparently time flies when your peppers are pickling. I have to say that the peppers came out great: sweet, vinegary with a slight crispness. They would be awesome on a sandwich, hoagie, or in eggs. Um.... I ate them straight out of the jar. :)   Now that it called the "Pickler's Prerogative"!


PICKLED SWEET BANANA PEPPERS
(from Food.com)

Ingredients            

Yields: 1 1/2 pint jars
  • 12 lb banana peppers, seeded and sliced cross-ways into rings
Pickling juice:
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 23 cup white sugar
  • 12 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 12 teaspoon celery seeds 

Directions

  1. Sterilize 2- 1/2 pint jars.
  2. Bring the vinegar, sugar, mustard seed and celery seed to a rolling boil.
  3. Place peppers in the 1/2 pint jars.
  4. Pour on the hot pickling juice and bring liquid to within 1/2" of the top.
  5. Be sure the edge of the jar has no juice on it.
  6. Place lids and screw on bands finger-tip tight.
  7. Seal jar and leave for 2 weeks. (I refrigerated the jarred pickled peppers for the two weeks.)

**This is an heirloom recipe that uses a method no longer recommended by the USDA/NCHFP (National Center for Home Food Preservation). Current guidelines recommend processing in a boiling water bath at least 10 minutes at sea level to 1000 feet in elevation (more time at higher elevations) and left to cool, upright and undisturbed, on a cloth-protected counter for 24 hours. Check for seal; if the jar hasn't sealed, either re-process the jars within the 24 hours or refrigerate and use first.







Wednesday, November 11, 2015

10 Second Memory: Nana's Beef Tongue Sandwiches

John and I spent a Saturday morning at the famous Renniger's Kutztown Farmer's Market searching for antiques and good eats! We've been there before and I've blogged about it. (http://frazzledatforty.blogspot.com/2011/06/farmstands-and-farmers-markets.html) Love this place! We got up extra early, UGH, and I made it there by 7 am... grumbling. I was jonesing for coffee but more so jonesing for antique bargains and immediately found the ultimate serving dish for relishes, pickles, and olives. It is a vintage mid-century heavy frosted glass based divided serving dish with a bird relief on the bottom. Totally incredible and totally affordable at .... $1.00!!!! Couldn't pass this baby up!

Vintage Relish Dish
After that, we meandered around the indoor flea market and came across a great antique Lincoln-influenced desk lamp for $125 and an oil for $70. Both affordable to our budget but we passed. I'm keeping these in mind for possible Christmas gifts. :)  


We instead headed to the farmer's market area indoors to fill up on fresh meats, spices, and veggies. We picked up cheap bananas ($1.00/large bunch), Romaine lettuce ($1.50/bag), Brussels sprouts ($1.00/basket), and spices like pine nuts, or as John, the Big Ragu calls them pignoli nuts!
Dietrich's Country Meats
While walking around the various vendors, we passed by one of our favorites, Dietrich's Country Meats. We tasted some samples ... ok ALOT of samples, as they ALWAYS put out and joked with the other customers how we were having our breakfast on the samples. They agreed! LOL. 

Cooked Beef Tongue
Then I spied some ... beef tongue. I hadn't had it in years! I remember my Nana serving me beef tongue sandwiches as a young child and I eating them without regard for what they were. They tasted good and I enjoyed them. I remember her specifically stating that the beef tongue has to be sliced thin ... VERY THIN. She said it with such a commanding voice, It completely scared my 6 year old soul! Now, as a 45 year old, I channel Nana when I need to speak with a commanding voice.

Anyway, the tongue was ordered and I told the butcher at Dietrich's that it needed to be sliced THIN ... but alas, was not sliced thin enough to this guy's or my Nana's liking. Still though, I accepted it with happiness. I went home and did not make a sandwich but devoured it right off the plate. 

I ate it with some gourmet AWESOME horseradish pickles from Peter Piper's Pickle Palace at Renninger's. (peterpiperspicklepalace@gmail.com) They were a great accompaniment if I do say so myself. 

Sliced Beef Tongue YUM!
It was SOO good and took me back the the 1970's when my Russian Nana would feed me sandwiches of beef tongue, onion, muenster cheese, and whole grain mustard on white bread. Beef tongue has the taste and texture reminiscent of roast beef. It is softer in texture and flavor though. More mild and delicate. Any thoughts of it being gross are SOO over-rated as it is actually more palatable than an organ meat such as the heart or liver. Beef tongue is AFTER ALL a muscle akin to any other muscle in a cow or steer's body so ... GET OVER IT. 

Try something different, BUT ask for it to be sliced THIN. Think of Marc's Nana and that tough Russian Babushka may just come out of you at your at your local butcher!


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Need Your Approval? Keep Walking...

WORK IN PROGRESS
In the course of this past week, I discovered that someone had dropped me on Facebook. Bwahahaha. What? Moi?? LOL Whatever dude. It happens and it's no big deal. My crazy frazzled life (and subsequent retelling of it in every detail) is not everyone's cup of tea. I totally get it.

What gave me pause and a momentary sense of insecurity was that I was actually pretty close to this guy back in my college years. I thought to myself, "What did I do?" And then I quickly got over it with a chuckle. You do that when you hit your 40's. Thankfully stuff doesn't bother you like it used to. You realize there are FAR MORE important things to deal with than someone not being friends with you or acquaintances or whatever the fuck that you may call them on Facebook these days.

To that dude that dropped me:  I say good-bye, sayonara, adios, auf Wiedersehen, arrivederci, au revoir BUTTHEAD.

I was intrigued though on why I felt that momentary sense of insecurity. I guess my years of psychology classes at Rutgers still have me questioning my undoubtedly questionable mental capabilities (or is it stability?). I mean I still get insecure, I've admitted that often enough. (See blogpost earlier this month for how neurotic I can get, LOL.) I got no problem with my neuroses. If you do, obviously your issue.

But what was it about this friend in that discovering that I was unceremoniously dropped, gave me an unsettling pause? I thought about our past friendship and then realized through introspection that I had ALWAYS been trying to prove myself to this guy. I had been seeking his approval since I met him. As embarrassing as it is to admit now, I had more or less been trying to get him to like me since day one. He did during college I am sure, but I never truly felt part of that "in crowd" with him. I always knew that in the back of my mind, and hence, kept trying to seek his approval. (HURL)

Well, I can tell you ... no more! His approval when I got it, didn't help me one bit. You what helped me? MYSELF. I seemed at some point in this fascinating period called adulthood, to transcend that place where I needed the approval of people like that. It is an amazing, wonderful feeling. So when I found I had been dropped, that unsettling pause gave way to a bit of chuckling, then laughter. 

Life's lessons. Hmmm. You really give a sigh of relief when you have one.  I get it now. And now I am onto the next neurosis ... #workinprogress

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Favorite Kitchen Items: Part Deux

Tovolo Pot Lid Lifts
In keeping with the theme of a previous blogpost of my favorite kitchen tools, http://frazzledatforty.blogspot.com/2015/02/favorite-kitchen-tools.html, I wanted to tell my readers about some other favorite items I love to use in the kitchen. This time, I included a couple food products I use often as well as one non-kitchen item, my Alessi hedgehog paperclip holder.

The first item that I really like is my "Lamb" Tovolo Pot Lid Lift. My sister Sheryl picked up this little gem for me while we met up one morning at Amy's Place, a kitchen store in the Reading Terminal Market in Philly.  Sheryl picked up the pig while I picked up the lamb. It is so whimsical yet it works and helps keep your pot from boiling over.There is also a chicken available. If you can't get to Amy's you can pick them up on Amazon.com.
My "Lamb" Tovolo Pot Lid

Zipstrip







The next favorite kitchen gadget that I love is my Zipstrip by Chef'n. This handy little item makes taking off rosemary leaves so easy. You stick the stem through the appropriate hold and pull it through. The leaves are deposited in the little attached cup. It is dishwasher safe and also has measurements for teaspoon, tablespoon and 1/4 cup on the actual cup itself for easy measuring. I also picked this up at Amy's Place in Reading Terminal Market.

Vintage glass banana dish 
I also tend to go for kitchen items which are aesthetically pleasing. This is where my crystal banana dish falls into place. This mid-century vintage glass boat gently curves around the banana bunch neatly holding it for display on your counter top or kitchen table. You can find them online for $15-$30 or at flea markets for $20 or less. You can also find them in different style and different colored Depression glass such as amber, green, white, or blue.
Vintage glass banana dish

Handmade Oven Rack Puller
My last official kitchen item in this post that I couldn't live without is my oven rack "puller." I found this trusty wooden gem at a flea market. It was handcrafted and part of it's charm is the burnt oven marks from continued use over the years.  This allows you to check on those casseroles or pies baking in the oven without burning your fingers. Of course you can find newer models made of heat-resistant silicone but I love mine for the simple fact that it shows it age and use.



Alessi Hedgehog Paperclip Holder
The following item is not a kitchen tool but I love it nonetheless and had to include it as a favorite! I found it at a yard-sale for 50 cents. It retails online for $29.00! It is my Italian design Alessi magnetic paperclip holder. I bought it not knowing what the heck it was but recognized the Alessi name on the bottom. I have loved Alessi products for years but usually they are beyond my budget. They are sleek, polished, or completely whimsical, like the magnetic hedgehog! I'd say I got my money's worth on this one. You can find it on Amazon.com as well.


Plugra European Salted Butter
The next three "items" are actually food products which I use quite frequently. The first is Plugra European Style Butter. You can purchase it either salted or unsalted, One can blame this favorite on my years working at the Ritz-Carlton. The chefs swore on using this butter. I have come to love it and consider it a budget-worthy indulgence. I personally like the salted butter. I don't use butter often and the salt extends and preserves the shelf life of the butter. Some say that unsalted butter has a more mellow sweetness. I say try both and pick which ever you like better. LOL, easy as that. I've seen 8 oz, on sell for as little as $2.00 on sale to as much as $7.00 in NYC.

McCormick's Southwest Spice
Another food item that I LOVE is McCormick's 'Perfect Pinch' Southwest Sweet 'n Smokey Seasoning. There are several varieties in the Perfect Pinch spice line including Cajun, Asian, Caribbean Jerk, Italian, Mexican, Fiesta Citrus, and several others. This is my "go-to" spice when I can't figure out what to put on something. I have used it on eggs, pork, chicken, steak, and various seafood. It's flavor it not too strong and obviously can be adjusted depending on how much spice you add. I'm always a fan of the shaker top bottle too since I'm usually the idiot who would accidentally pour the entire bottle on a grilling chicken breast.

Blaze Balsamic Glaze
Lastly, another favorite kitchen cooking ingredient is the balsamic glaze. I am a big fan of Blaze Balsamic Glaze. This was the first one I tried and if I can find it, I buy this brand over others. At this point, there are many brands now available on the market. I really love using balsamic glaze in my cooking as it saves you a tremendous amount of time having to cook down balsamic vinegar to make your own 'glaze'. It adds a tangy sweetness to whatever your are sauteing or grilling. I usually finish off a dish with the glaze, creating a dramatic design or pattern worthy of a 5 star chef. :-)  I use the glaze on grilled chicken, steak or vegetables. It goes particularly well with asparagus, zucchini, or Brussels sprouts. You can of course drizzle it on a traditional Caprese salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. I have read of cooks using it to finish off risotto and fresh strawberries and even ice cream!

I hope you have enjoyed this blogpost. I like sharing items I find which I feel others may appreciate. I'll keep an eye out for other kitchen items and ingredients and will then post again soon.







Monday, October 19, 2015

Our Neurotic Routines

Neurotic!
I have come to realize that as we get older, so much of what we do is so routine based. It has helped me to understand that if someone is their 40's and single, it is much more difficult to merge households in a relationship than someone say in their 20's. You are much more "set" in your ways ... or routines. Maybe you can't teach an old dog new tricks, eh? Or it may just be a bit more difficult.

The routines which drive me have been established over years of a repetitive nature. It is a comforting and relaxing. My routines may seem a bit neurotic to others, but to me they give me peace and allow me to continue parts of my day stress-free. Other's routines I may find downright odd but I accept them nevertheless as they are what drive themselves. I guess we shouldn't judge another's routines! Accept theirs because yours maybe be a bit quirkier. LOL

Sometimes you may find a friend in your life that you are in sync with and what a wonderful feeling that is. My friend Annie and I both are addicted to our paper planners and lists. When something changes, we "white it out" in our planners so we can then write over it. I remember when we discovered that we both did this and it was like we were connected on some spiritual level. LOL ... we were connected all over Wite-Out!  I once tried an electronic planner when they first came out but had a mini-breakdown when I lost all of my info over a dead battery. NEVER AGAIN.

After further discussion, Annie and I found that we are both list writers.  Lists are another comforting habit. I just love writing lists out of what I need to do. It relaxes and puts me at ease. I create a daily list of what needs to be done but I also have a master list AND a monthly temporary list. The master list has three columns labeled A, B, and C denoting the items importance. As something gets completed, it gets crossed off.

My temporary monthly list are items which I know won't get done on the daily list but are not important enough yet to be transfered to the master list. Neurotic? You BET! Me? Absolutely! Who needs Xanax when I have my lists to comfort and relax me.

I get my neurotic list writing behavior from my Mom. Every morning over coffee, she would transfer yesterday's "items to do" to that day's "items to do." That was her daily routine done over coffee and the morning talk shows.

Routines are established and followed, sometimes blindly. They can help serve as a memory crutch if we happen to be forgetful. I have my morning and evening routines.

My morning routine is planned down to the second. It's like a finely tuned machine. It takes me 45 minutes to complete before I go to work. In truly exhuastive detail:  I get up, use the bathroom, pet the cats, feed the cats, take my pills for my various ailments, make coffee, shave first then hit the shower, brush my teeth, apply some sort of goop to the hair, inspect the face, turn on the iron in the laundry room, throw the pants into the dryer with a wet washcloth to get out wrinkles, run upstairs, get lunch together, run downstairs, iron shirt, grab Moxie who has followed me down and take her back upstairs so she doesn't get stuck in the basement, run downstairs, takes pants out of dryer, unplug iron, get into clothes upstair, get morning coffee ready, pack lunch bag, get my messenger bag, double check cats are upstairs, grab keys, grab wallet, grab cellphone, DOUBLE check the coffee pot is off and then DOUBLE check that the iron and dryers are off. After a quick good bye to Max who is now sleeping in his favorite spot on the guest room bed, I make my way to the front door where Miss Moxie is crying incessantly because I am leaving. I give her an extra petting and I'm out the door!

Now this routine, including the visits with the cats and the OCD moments of checking and rechecking the iron, coffee pot, and dryer are perfectly timed out. There are even other things I do but just failed to mention. I can and do get it done within 45 minutes or less. And luckily the cats are completely in sync with the morning routine.

But if John gets up and starts moving sleepily about the hallway or kitchen, it throws me completely off!  Our house is just a bit cramped with all of the antiques. Throw in two sleepy guys and two hungry cats, the morning routine is thrown out the window.  The cats don't know who to get food from. John and I are like bumper cars in the kitchen knocking into each other, each vying for the microwave, fridge, or coffee pot. Cats are getting under foot, getting more anxious and excitable with each passing minute. My finely tuned machine breaks down and I end up needing an extra 15 minutes to deal with the ensuing madness!

The evening routine involves feeding the cats, cleaning the litter box, doing dishes, a spot of laundry, and working out. I won't go further into the night's boring routine but I will say that it is just as neurotic and usually involves a nightcap or two and several creams to keep me looking young and wrinkle free. LOL...yeah right! I then sleep very well at night, as long as the machine doesn't break down!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

10 Second Memory: Charlie the House Spider

Hercules the Spider
I grew up in a home built in 1927 in Wenonah, NJ. I have fond memories of that house: it's creaking floors and stairs; the great big trees in the yard surrounding the house; the large wooden front door; the steep staircase and elegant wooden oak banister; the 70's style kitchen. There are just too many to list. Curiously, we also had a bunch of house spiders. Not too many, just here and there. They would hide out in the room corners of the 10 foot ceilings.

The other evening I was in my current home in Lake Wynonah, PA , (yes basically same name, pretty ironic, huh?) and came across a VERY LARGE furry wolf spider. I was fascinated by it. He was by far the largest spider I have seen in the last couple years. This sucker was a good 1 1/2 inches across if not larger! He was pretty bold and didn't try to get away until actually went after him. And so I named the brave spider Hercules.

I called to John who was in the next room to come and see this huge tarantula! He exclaimed WHAT??? I said, OK OK, it's not that big, but big enough! He wanted no part of it but I convinced him to get me a cup and beer coaster so that I could scoop him up and deposit him outside ... the spider, not John.

I am a catch-and-release type guy wherever possible. Bugs, spiders, and creepy crawlies don't bother me. In my eyes, they are G-d's creatures and deserve to live, just not in my house but perhaps in the woods out back?

I moved in to scoop up Hercules the Spider and he knew I was coming after him. After a tense moment or two, I gently flicked him with the coaster into the cup and took him outside but not before snapping a pic or two and spying on the little furry beastie. He was a beautiful specimen I have to say.

With it being one of the most holy days of the Jewish faith, Yom Kippur, AND with Pope Francis visiting the US on a historic trip, I chose to follow through with my catch-and-release mantra and release him out behind the house. I released him onto the base of a large tree while balancing a flashlight on the little beastie. He turned around, paused and looked at me before quickly scurrying down the trunk into the dewy grass.

I remembered back to those house spiders in my home on 205 East Maple Street. We would see one once or twice a month and get scared by it. Dad came up with this ingenious idea of naming it Charlie rather than trying to perform a balancing act on a ladder to try and get it. So every time we saw a spider way up in the corner of the ceiling, we would just say "Oh, it's just Charlie! Hi Charlie!" We came to see those house spiders as a good luck symbol of sorts.

When we were out on the road on vacation in an unfamiliar hotel and would see one, we'd just say it was Charlie's cousin from down South or from the West depending on where we were. Dad would then dispose of it as we went about our business going through souvenirs or writing postcards. Haha. :)  I love my Dad because he took the fear out of spiders for us. Whenever I see one, I think of Charlie. And now if I see a really BIG spider, I'll name him Hercules.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Remembering Past Voices

This blogpost is a bit sad and melancholy. As the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, arrives at sundown, so begins the 10 days of Atonement, culminated by the most sacred of Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur. After a day of fasting, we ask for forgiveness from G-d of our sins. We also say prayers to honor the departed in our lives, the Yizkor or the Kaddish. I guess that is one of the reasons I began to think about those that have passed on in my life.

I was listening to CNN awhile back in which reporter Anderson Cooper was speaking about sadly losing the memory of people's voices as time moves on. I have been lucky enough to remember most of the voices of those that I was close with. His report got me thinking that we often remember people's faces and experiences with them, but how often do we actually try to remember our conversations with them and what they sounded like?

One of negative aspects of growing older is that you start experiencing forgetfulness sometimes referred to as "tip of the tongue" phenomenon. Forgetting voices is another example. I remember the voices of those who have just recently passed on much better. Those from years, or rather decades past, tend to be now snippets of conversation, various words a person said, or just feelings associated with a loved one's vocal sounds.

I guess you also tend to remember "how" someone spoke to you:  hard, soft, with an accent, mellifluous, words perfectly accentuated, positively, negatively, just to name a few examples.

I remember my Mother's voice very well. She had a pleasant medium-pitched voice. It wasn't highly pitched or overtly feminine. Unfortunately, towards the end of her life it became wheezy due to her emphysema and asthma but it was still a lovingly nagging mom-voice. I hear it in my dreams just as clear as the last day we spoke. I can still hear my Mom yelling my name, "MARC!" for me to come downstairs to do my chores or come to dinner.

I remember my Aunt Janet Newman as being soft spoken. Her husband, my Uncle Julian, had a very very deep voice. Almost scarily so. My Aunt Emmy had a gravely voice and her husband, my Uncle Chic, spoke in a very intellectual way, clearly thinking out his thoughts before speaking. Their daughter-in-law, my cousin Jean, had a motherly nudging air about her voice, with a strong North Jersey accent.

John's father, Joe's voice was haltingly gruff tinged with years of proud hard work in a blue collar job at Bethlehem Steel. If Joe was pissed off, he sometimes interspersed his conversations with the more colorful Italian words. I learned a lot of old school wisdom from that man.

I remember my father's close friend Tia's voice as soft, breathily and endlessly romantic. Mellifluous and poetic. I love how she spoke, like a walking Harlequin romance novel.

Close family friend Debbie Clement spoke lovingly with a soft Southern Jersey twang. Her voice reflected a kindness that so many who knew her remember to this day.

With some people you only remember their laughs. I lost four friends when I worked during my years waiting tables in Philly. My friend Mel, who was friends with the City Tavern gang, had a deep laugh that went on forever. I loved to get  him started laughing because he just couldn't stop. The manager James, whom I became good friends with, had this sing songy Southern twang and the most delightful cackle when he laughed. I worked with a gal named Kim Haynes at Houlihan's. She and I used to joke we were husband and wife working together. Her voice was deep and raspy from years of smoking and her hearty laugh reflected that. My good friend Don's voice, my manager at the Westbury, was rather halting but in an instructing, matter of fact tone. It was a kind voice though, almost fatherly.

Unfortunately, I just have snippets of certain voices that I play back in my mind. My grandparents, Leslie and Lavina Haynes come to mind. They passed away in the 80's. Her's was a soft Midwestern accent. Grandpa Haynes' was the rather flat but folksy monotone reflecting his years in education and teaching. My Mom's parents passed in the 70's. They are harder to remember, with Nanny's being slightly gravely from age but nevertheless soft spoken and Grandpop's voice remembered as booming, deep, and commandeering to my young ears.

I don't remember the voice of my Dad's dear friend Wayne Ackerman, a big grizzly bear of a man who was dear to us. Not quite yet an uncle, but much more than a family friend. I remember just more emotions associated with him, such as kindness and trust.

Think back and remember those voices of your family and friends who have passed on. In a quiet space, or before bed, try to remember what they sounded like in conversation. You may find yourself dreaming of them, and wouldn't that actually be wonderful?


Sunday, August 23, 2015

10 Second Memory: You Bastard!

I came home one day from 1st grade in tears. My sister, Sheryl, 5 years older, came running over to me asking me what had happened. I started crying and related how a couple of big kids had come over and called me a bastard! I was so upset and I didn't even know what it meant!

My sister hugged me and comforted me. She told me it was alright and that the word just meant 'bad man.' 

Now ... the debate is still up in the air on whether my dear sister was merely trying to comfort me and steer me away from using the word OR she didn't know what the word meant herself. Sheryl is currently claiming ignorance of the entire event. Right .... LOL. 

For those of you that don't have a 25 pound Webster's Dictionary lying about, the word 'bastard' traditionally means 'a person born of parents not married to each other.' I am, as the definition goes, not a bastard. I don't even think those mean older kids knew what it meant.

Nevertheless, I was comforted by Sheryl and carried on with my afternoon snack of Nutter Butters and milk while watching Scooby Doo on TV.

The next day I went to school determined not to let the bullies bother me. And I didn't as my sister helped to instill a bit of confidence in me knowing that the word 'bastard' could not hurt me. 

Unfortunately, I ended up calling several classmates "You bastard!" thinking I was calling them a 'bad man.' Um ... THANK YOU SHERYL. 

I was sent to the Principal's office with my Mom being promptly called. The Principal calmly asked her why her child was calling half of his classmates 'bastards.'  Oh what a fun afternoon that was after school.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New Projects, New Horizons

A fellow old soul urged me to share something which has been on my mind as of late. His advice has always been sound and after some consideration, I decided to listen to him and write this post. By doing so, I am giving myself a bit of a kick in the ass to keep moving on with this passion of mine:  writing!

I have come to a crossroads within my passion of writing. When I started this blog 5 years ago as almost an homage to my departed Mom, I wanted to document my life turning 40. I have notebooks filled with potential blog posts which I have not yet written. Some are just mere ideas or snippets of a memory. Others are fully fleshed out memories almost ready to post. They range anywhere from work, to play, to life, to relationships, to even a more private side of me that only close friends and family know. Some I may never publish, I am just not ready to get that personal with certain subjects in my life. Others are well ... LOL... just NOT that interesting. :)

I have included stories and anecdotes of where I have been, where I am presently, and where I hope to be. I guess you can file this post under the latter two categories.  First of all, once I reach 300 essays published on my blog (I have published 275), I am going to start researching how to transcribe my personal favorites or most popular into a manuscript form. So many of you have asked me about this and been kind enough to suggest it. Well, I am going to do some research on it and see if it is viable. With this in the works, I will seek out an agent to represent myself for possible publication.


New Beginnings
The second "project" I am considering, is writing a memoir of my years in the hotel and restaurant business. I have wanted to do this for awhile and maybe the time has come to give it a go! Throughout my Philly years at Houlihans, the Omni Hotel, the City Tavern, the Ritz-Carlton, and catering, I have kept notes and lists of celebrity run-ins, experiences, mayhems, misses, and fun times. I have detailed experiences of the good times to the bad. An outline is already fleshed out, I just need to get my ass in gear and begin connecting the dots.

I will still be writing essays for the blog but not as many as before. I am also going to complete the blog project of my mother's favorites recipes and am actually pretty close to doing so! The unfortunate part is that I am now getting into the "baking" recipes which is definitely not my forte'. You can expect plenty of burnt cookies and under cooked pies, breads, and cakes.

Lastly, life is about the journey and our subsequent experiences along the way. I am on that journey still learning how little I acually know and being kind of alright with it. I am constantly being reminded that wisdom comes from the experiences and you can't buy it at Walmart or Amazon. But once you have it, it is one of the greatest gifts. With that being said, I am learning that it is also OK to move from one project to another.


Wisdom

I have no current plans to end this blog and have no desire to at this point. But if in the future I choose to end it so that I may pursue other projects, I am OK with that. This blog has been a wonderful experience for me. It has taught me that I can write, write well (most of the time. LOL), and have fun do so. It has been a tremendously humbling experience to have people read what I post. I am truly thankful.

Thanks to the young "old soul" who pushed me into writing this post. Sometimes even the "youngsters" have some good sound advice. (((Shudder at the thought)))

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Stop Texting While Driving

Logo from CHP campaign
I decided last week to conduct a very unscientific experiment and keep track of how many people I passed on my way to work who were either talking on their cell phones or seen obviously texting. There is room for error as some people may have been looking for someone's number on their phone. THIS, by the way, is not an acceptable excuse because you are still reading and scrolling through your phone's contacts while driving.

Each day, I travel a pretty long commute from Schuylkill County to Allentown, the seat of Lehigh County, PA. It's about 40 miles, most of it on one major highway, Route 78 which is highly traveled by commuters and tractor trailers alike.  When I'm on Route 78, I travel with the speed of traffic. And by the way, I won't be divulging my rate of speed except it allows me to pass those in the slow lane.  :)

I counted about 50 cars that I passed over the distance of 40 miles. Within those 50 cars, I counted 10 people speaking on their cell phones without hands free devices and 5 people actively texting with their eyes down on their phones. You can always tell those people in front of you who are texting. They started veering off to one side or the other. I usually try and pass them as quickly as possible. I don't want to be caught up in their bad driving habits.

Now I will say I am not 100% innocent in this subject. I would be a hypocrite if I said I never did it. I would say I am actively reforming myself of those bad habits and I have taken steps to stop them. I now use a hands free device for my phone. If I have forgotten the ear buds, my smart phone allows me to call people via voice commands and I then put them on speakerphone. If I find myself desperately in need of checking or sending out a text, I pull over and put on my hazards or just pull into a parking lot somewhere. A couple years ago, I picked up a yellow rubber thumb ring by GoGo which states: "NO TXTNG-TXT L8R". I stopped wearing thumb rings about 17 years ago so instead I have put it around one of the knobs on my car radio so I see it every morning as a reminder.

You can also get anti texting thumb rings at: http://www.textingthumbbands.com/ From their website comes this interesting and scary bit of info:

"Texting while driving takes your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of a football field completely blind! Doesn't sound too smart does it?"

Even if you are at a stop light, it is not safe to text. I personally know people who have been in fender benders because they are slowly rolling forward into another car while texting. Or alternatively, they preemptively step on the gas while finishing their text thinking the car in front of them is now moving when they are not!

I am now an advocate for this. I yell at my friends. But I also have my friends yell at me if I slip up and do something stupid while driving. Your life and possibly someone else's may be at risk for your stupid foolish behavior. No text or call is worth a life.

On a lighter note, I passed one child picking his nose. I then passed a station wagon with at least five dogs romping about from chihuahuas to pugs to yorkies. And lastly, I passed a man eating a danish. I secretly hoped it was an apple danish because I really like apple danishes.



Thursday, July 30, 2015

Amish Fried Tomato Slices (UPDATED!)

Bobalu's Florida Keys
One of Mom's favorite restaurants in the Florida Keys was Bobalu's Southern Cafe' on Big Coppitt Key on US Route 1. When she and my stepdad Barry lived in Key West, they would often go there for lunch. It was a favorite restaurant of mine as well when I would visit. I would always get their conch fritters and upon the urging of my Mom, it was the first place I ordered fried green tomatoes. Mom said she loved them and so did I.

Bobalu's still exists and has been open for over 20 years. It has changed owners since Mom and Barry lived in the Keys but still has the great carefree Key West atmosphere which has attracted years and years of tourists and locals. Even though this recipe is technically an Amish  one, I still thought of Mom and the Florida Keys while making it.

Now I can only surmise that Mom had chosen this recipe so she could make them on her own when she came up North to her home in Lake Wyononah. Well unfortunately she never made them for me and I honestly don't know if she made them for herself or Barry. I do know that she liked them and had intended to make them one day as I found this recipe tucked away in one of her recipe boxes.

Ingredients!
The first substitution I have made is that I used Panko bread crumbs instead of using cracker crumbs. I couldn't find any cracker crumbs at the supermarket and didn't feel like making my own. Panko seemed like an acceptable substitute. I also used butter flavored cooking spray instead of butter. I tried one batch using butter and everything fell apart, or maybe I just wasn't patient enough. I didn't want the tomatoes and coating to get bogged down with butter yet I still wanted them to have the butter flavor. The second batch came out better using the butter spray.

Final verdict:  While tasting really good, I wouldn't make this recipe again. The tomatoes and breading still kind of fell apart while sauteing them in the butter spray on medium heat. The outside also cooked too quickly. Perhaps a lower heat would've worked better. I would also try using cracker crumbs per the original recipe instead of the Panko bread crumbs. In a nutshell, I was very happy to make this recipe in honor of my Mom but ... once and done. I'd rather make the return trip to Bobalu's in the Florida Keys and have some authentic southern style fried green tomatoes!

UPDATE:
My friend Troy, who is the cook at the Lake Wynonah Lodge, told me what went wrong. Mom's found recipe down below did NOT include dredging in flour. When you fry pretty much anything, dredge the food item in flour BEFORE dipping into the egg mixture. The flour acts as a binder to help the crumb coating stick to the food! I knew this but forgot it. He also stated to salt the tomatoes prior to dredging in flour to draw out excess water. I added both points to the recipe below. I maaay just try this one again. Thanks Troy. :)


FRIED TOMATO SLICES (Amish Recipe)
As selected by Abby Deeds

2 firm almost ripe tomatoes
1 egg beaten
2 Tbsp milk
FLOUR
Amish Fried Tomato Slices
1 cup cracker crumbs
1/4 stick of butter or margarine (2 Tbsp)
salt and pepper

1. Slice Tomatoes into 3/4" slices. Salt for a couple minutes to draw out excess water.
2. Combine egg and milk
**DREDGE THE TOMATO SLICES IN FLOUR
3. Dip tomato slice into egg mixture and then into cracker crumbs
4. Melt shortening and fry coated slices
5. Brown on both sides, turning once
6. Season with salt and pepper

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mom's Potato Salad

A summer pic-nic staple is the potato salad. It seems as if everyone's family has their own recipe. As with many of the recipes that I have posted, there are just so many variations out there. My mother's recipe is a family favorite and below, you will see that I have chosen to tweak it to suit my own tastes.

I had always wanted to make potato salad and when I started this project, I was pretty excited to discover my Mom's recipe. She made this for our spring and summer pic-nics and barbecues.

While preparing the ingredients, I have such a new found respect for my mother and sister Sheryl. It's not that it's hard or difficult, it is just a bit time consuming. And you gotta love a recipe with only four basic commands: boil, chop, mix, chill!

In retrospect, it did seem like Mom was making it for hours in our 70's kitchen in my childhood home. Always chopping and mixing and then ordering us kids to get out of the kitchen. Like the previous recipe I posted for Shrimp Macaroni Salad, my sister has taken this one and perfected it.

For my variation, I changed things up a bit. I love my Mom's recipe but I wanted to leave my own imprint on it. Instead of white onion, I used red onion. I like their milder flavor. They are not as pungent as the other varieties (minus the sweet vidalia or walla walla of course). I also substituted Hellman's Olive Oil Mayo for regular mayonnaise. My Mom was a big fan of Miracle Whip. I love the mayo's out there today made with olive oil. Very flavorful.

I also opted for smaller potatoes because that's what I had on hand. In retrospect, I wouldn't use small potatoes again. I had to leave the skins on because they were so small and the skins just got in the way while cubing them. I'm surprised there wasn't a chopped off finger floating around the finished recipe.

For mustard, I remember my Mom using French's Yellow Mustard in this recipe. Ummm, I really only use that mustard for my hot dogs. LOL. I wanted something different so I chose French's Dijon Mustard. It definitely has a more tart vinegary flavor than regular yellow mustard. Much more complex flavor which added nicely to giving the potato salad. It definitely gave it more depth.

Lastly, the pickles. I searched the fridge for a jar. I always have them on hand and I had none! I really wanted to get the recipe completed that night so I went from the fridge to the pantry in search of a jar. Lo and behold, I found a just purchased jar of  Vlasic Bold and Spicy Sweet Chipotle Pickles, I thought to myself, why not? After all, I switched up the mustard. Why not give a little bit more kick in flavor with some sweet pickles with heat? I noticed a flavor kick but it wasn't overwhelming at all. The mayo tempered any heat.

Mom's original recipe appears below. Searches can be made online for other variations that you, as the home chef, can try. I'll let my sister Sheryl make the original one perfectly while I will continue to mix it up a bit!



Mom's Potato Salad served in John's Mom's Serving Dish from the 50's
MOM'S POTATO SALAD
By Abby Deeds

Serves 6
1 cup mayo
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
4 cup cubed cooked potatoes
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped pickles

1. Combine mayo, mustard, celery seed, salt and pepper. Mix well.
2. Add potatoes, eggs, onion, celery, and pickles. Mix and chill.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Evolution of the Word Bitch

This is a great article from the April 2015 issue of The Atlantic entitled "Meet the New Bitch" by writer Britt Peterson about the origins of the word "bitch." I really enjoyed it and wanted to share. It makes you think of how words lose old meanings and gain new ones over time.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/04/meet-the-new-bitch/386246/

The biggest example that I can think of is the word "awful". This word once referred to the inspiration of awe, fear or wonder. These days, it refers to something so horrible or unpleasant. How it got from one to the other beats me. I didn't get that far. LOL

Another word that I remember which once meant something else is the word "myriad." I specifically remember this word from my SAT vocab study courses back in high school. It's a noun meaning a great number but it once meant 10,000 of something, such as a myriad of troops.

So the next time you are saying something, realize that it once may have meant something else or had an entirely difference connotation!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Shrimp Macaroni Salad

Colorful Ingredients!
This is a great summer pasta salad which my Mom made throughout a good couple of decades of Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day festivities as well as the occasional family BBQ. It is a favorite recipe of my sister Sheryl's, too. It is a "Haynes go-to recipe". Can't decide what to make or bring? Make the shrimp salad recipe! LOL. You really can't go wrong with it.

I like it because it is not too heavy and pretty refreshing. For my salad below, I doubled the recipe for a summer cocktail party I had hosted and ended up using a little bit more French dressing than called for but it still came out great. Instead of pimentos, I substituted chopped roasted red peppers. I also substituted an olive oil mayonnaise instead of Miracle Whip. If you want to use the medium canned shrimp or fresh frozen shrimp, you could do that as well. The canned shrimp is used for ease in preparation and it still tastes so good. Lastly, I used chopped up orange peppers instead of green as I like the sweeter flavor better.


I always love when my sister makes this summer salad. It brings back great memories of BBQ chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers and fun family events. I have been known though to just to eat a big bowl of it and forgo the other foods. I remember one year my Mom yelled at my brother Adam and I to stop hogging the shrimp salad so others could have some!


Shrimp Macaroni Salad by Abby Deeds


Shrimp Macaroni Salad
Serves 6
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1 cup Miracle Whip or other mayonnaise
1/4 cup French dressing
1 1/2 cup cooked macaroni
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion chopped
1/4 cup green pepper chopped
1/4 cup pimentos
1 - 7oz canned tiny shrimp
2 hard boiled eggs chopped into big pieces

1. Stir pasta, salt, paprika, Miracle Whip, and French dressing.
2. Combine remaining ingredients.
3. Chill well before serving.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

10 Sec Memory: My Sis and I in NYC

My sis and I do a lot together. Besides my brother Adam, she is my best friend. Back about 4 years ago, Sheryl and I found ourselves in NYC overnight. I was supposed to see friends and then share a hotel room with Sheryl. My plans fell through and I was so upset. My weekend was ruined.

Being my big sis, Sheryl made sure the rest of the trip went great. We decided to bring our friend Elsa to a piano bar called the Duplex in the Village to listen to some music. We got there and it was sooo crowded. As luck would have it, two small tables opened up right next to the piano and we snatched them.

We had such a great time that night with the singer on the piano turning out songs from the 70's, 80's, and 90's, keeping us entertained with jokes in between. What an incredible evening it was. The singer belted out Chicago's "Saturday in the Park".  I looked at Sheryl and Elsa and we all were singing along to it at the top of our lungs! I remember looking at my sister and we smiled at each other.  I thought how much I loved that gal and that I was having such an awesome evening.  :)





Friday, June 5, 2015

In 1979, It was NEAT to BE ME!

Happy 45th Birthday to myself!! It has been a rough week for various reasons. I wanted to put up a post for my birthday that was whimsical and fun. While going through a box from the attic, I found this paper out that I filled when I was 9 years old waay back in 1979 in ACE class (a creative class run by one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Elaine Arbo) at Wenonah Elementary School. It was actually titled, "It's Neat to Be Me." You can't make that stuff up!

I reference war and world peace a lot which I figured out was due to the Cold War deterioration in the 70's. I still want to be a billionaire but I don't think I'd give all my money away to the poor. I never became a surgeon, sorry Mom (looking up towards Heaven). LOL

Some answers are so typically 70's such as the velour shirts that I liked, the TV show "Dallas", and liking disco. Actually I liked disco A LOT but was embarrassed to put it down so I said I liked rock ... and a little disco. LOL. Another embarrassing item was that I thought I was brilliant ... twice. I'm sorry. So embarrassing. I'm laughing as I write this.

Lastly, some things have not changed. I still like the color blue, I still like steak, And I still like mint chocolate chip ice cream! You can't go wrong with that! And for the record, velour shirts were really in style back then.

Some of it is typical of a kid, some of it rather quite philosophical. I like how it shows the positivity and idyllic nature of youth. But oh how I've changed...

IT'S NEAT TO BE ME   by Marc Haynes

I like myself best when:   something goes right for me.
Something I'm really good at:   being brilliant.
I am unhappy when:   my parents are mad at me.
I enjoy reading about:   stories with happy endings.
I wish:   I could fly and also change my size.
If I had a choice, I would:   become a billionaire and give money to the poor.
Someday I hope:   there would be no more wars.
The one thing I most want to accomplish:   is world peace.
When I grow up, I would like to be a:   surgeon.
The thing I am most concerned about:  is us getting into another war.
A person I really admire is:   my mom and dad because they teach me things.
Some adjectives that describe me are:   handsome, brilliant.
My favorite color is:  blue.
My favorite ice cream is:  mint chocolate chip.
My favorite food is:  steak.
My favorite sport is:  soccer and swimming.
My piece of clothing is:  my velour shirts.
My favorite animal is:  a duck.
My favorite subject is:  social studies.
My favorite season is:  summer.
My favorite number is:  5.
My favorite day is:  Saturday.
My favorite holiday is:  Hanukkah.
My favorite hobby is:  collecting stamps.
My favorite games are:  Maniac, Clue, and the Mad Magazine Game.
My favorite TV show is:  Real People and Dallas.
My favorite music is:  rock .... and a little disco.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Saying Goodbye to My Fraternity Brother

A couple weeks ago, the weekend of Mother's Day, I had to attend the funeral of a beloved fraternity brother from the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, Tim Reeves. I received an email from my other fraternity brother Kent, who informed me that Tim had passed from cancer that Tuesday and services would be held the following Saturday morning.


Best friends Tim and John H.
Tim was 46, very private about his medical issue and had kept the gravity of the situation, for the most part, secret. Needless to say the email came as a shock. I had no hesitation when I emailed Kent back that I was rearranging my schedule so that I could make it. There was no question about it. I needed to attend and support Tim's family and my fraternity brothers who were close to him.

I had met Tim when I went to Rutgers University. By the time I became a brother, he was no longer at Rutgers but still remained a brother for life coming to our events whenever he could. His best friend was my other fraternity brother, John Hammell. John and Tim attended high school together and following that, college. Their friendship and bond remained as strong and close as ever until Tim's untimely passing.


John gave one of the eulogies recounting how genuine Tim always was.He entertained us with stories of Tim's love of golf.  Tim was always so positive, uplifting, ready to crack a joke, and ready to help anyone in need. It was just such a fitting tribute. Tim was a big guy and when I first met him at a Phi Psi football tailgate, he gave me a big bear hug which I think cracked three or four vertebrae. LOL. That was Tim: he greeted you with a big smile, then the fraternity handshake, and then a big bear hug. And he always meant the hug. Such a great guy.


Kerry and I acting crazy in the late 80s!
I became good friends with his sister, Kerry who was two years younger than me. As they say, we just clicked. Although she went to West Deptford HS, we had a bunch of mutual friends in my high school too. Unfortunately as life happens, we grew apart. But I knew in my heart that I wanted to attend the funeral, not only for Tim, but also for Kerry.

Tim's Mom spoke briefly at the funeral. I was holding it together until she stated how upset she was that she would not be receiving a Mother's Day card that year from her son. I broke down into tears as did most of us by that point. For me, it brought back memories of how close I was with my deceased mother with that mother - child connection.  Tim's wife also spoke, thanking everyone for attending. The pain and sadness was so evident and overwhelming.  Tim leaves behind two incredible children, Caitlin and Collin, who were so brave at the funeral.

Tim and Kerry
Kerry gave the last eulogy. She spoke wonderfully and spoke of fun times with Tim, their constant jokes and teasing of each other as brothers and sisters do. She also showed me the side of Tim that I never knew:  the family man, the son, the brother and the father. And what you saw with Tim was what you got. So real, honest, and genuine whether it was with his family, his friends, or his fraternity brothers. Such a rarity these days.

Kerry concluded her eulogy with shots passed around of Tim's favorite Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey. There must have been at least 50 shots passed out. I stood with my fraternity brothers. At Kerry's direction, we all toasted to Tim and took the shot. Upon leaving, we also received golf tees in remembrance of his love for the sport! It was a truly fitting send off.

Brothers Tim, Dave B., and myself


I looked around at these guys, my fraternity brothers, and marveled at how we all came here for Tim and to support Tim's family. There were those brothers that couldn't attend but had wanted to. We understood that. These guys are the same guys that have met up for the last 25 years at McSorley's Old Ale House in NYC for our annual reunion in November. Tim unfortunately couldn't make it this last year.

I love these guys like family. I want you to know that I went to the funeral also for them. I wanted and needed to support their loss of their close friend. I did not know Tim as well as my brothers did but of course he was still my "brother". I was closer at the time to his little sister Kerry.

My brothers were the ones that went to school with him, pledged with him, and golfed with him. I came along after but Tim being the great guy that he was, treated me as if I were always part of that original group. That was Tim. That meant the world to me and I will never forget that.




Thursday, May 21, 2015

Don't Touch the Emergency Brake!

Chevy Chevette Interior (photo from Galleryhip.com)
I was driving my normal commute this morning and like every morning, I let my mind wander. Just looking over the pastures racing by, the Blue Mountain in the distance running parallel to the highway, a turkey vulture flying overhead, I glanced at my speedometer and then down at my emergency brake. A memory flashed into my mind and I laughed out loud.

Back when I was five years old, I was riding with my Dad in our Chevy Chevette. I mentioned that car before, it's the one my big brother Adam crashed up whilst in college. LOL sorry Adam. :)

Being that it was the 70's, I was riding up front (with my seat belt on) and not in the back in a child seat. Luckily, Dad and Mom were big on wearing the seat belt in the front but not in the back seat those days. We were speeding along one of the local highways, I think it was actually Route 130 in South Jersey. It's crazy how some memories are so vivid.

I was looking around the car and focused on the long black handle in the middle of the front seats. This, I would later come to learn, was the emergency brake. I thought to myself, just ever so briefly, "What does this do?  Hmmm."

In a split second, my childhood instinct and naivete' took over. I grabbed the lever, pressed the button, and pulled it up fast and hard before Dad even noticed. Dad screamed "What the!!" as the car swerved all over the lane before coming to a screeching grinding halt in the middle of the road. Thank God traffic was able to avoid us.

"What were you thinking!? Why did you pull the emergency brake!?" he exclaimed.
"I don't know," I whimpered on the verge of tears. "Because it was there?"

Dad pulled the Chevette over to the side of the road visibly exasperated. After a minute he calmed down and explained to me why a passenger in a car never pulls up the emergency brake while the car is moving. I said OK, I'm sorry, and we eventually continued on our way.

BUT ... I looked over at that emergency brake and I was sooo tempted to pull the brake up again as soon as the car started!