Monthly Archives: June 2012

MAMA’S GOT A BRAND NEW BIKE!

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When I was a kid, I used to spend most summer days riding my blue Schwinn bike. The Christmas morning I received the bike stands out in my mind as one of the best Christmases ever just for that reason. Talk about freedom!  From the pool to the park to the corner store I’d go.  Over this friend’s house and that friend’s house. There was no stopping me. My friends and I could go anywhere we wanted – within reason, of course. I even had a basket on front where my dog GIGI would sit and go spinning with me.  She loved it just as much as I did. I’m not sure whatever happened to that bike. I rode it for many years and then it stayed parked in the garage after that.  I guess my Dad eventually gave it away or maybe it rusted beyond use.  I feel bad that I don’t really know because it meant so very much to me.

It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden a bike, and even longer since I owned one.  So imagine my excitement when my family gave me a brand new 26” Huffy Panama Jack for my birthday! WOO HOO!!!!  This is not a ten speed.  This is an old-fashioned push pedal bike just like the Schwinn I had as a kid.  You really have to work it to get it to where you want to go, and I love it!  The fat around my mid-section is definitely not going to like this!  Begone, oh fatty, fat-fat!!

So yesterday when I got the bike, I took a ride to the bay and back and was ready to die when I returned. Keep in mind that the last time I rode a bike was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Although I’m going to blame the gusty wind I had to fight all the way there and back, I know my age and sagging stamina played a major role.  But today I hopped back on Jack (my new pet name for my bike), and we took a spin around the neighborhood AND to the bay and back.  Guess what?  I’m good to go.  No stamina problem today.  I feel great.  (It must have been the wind. :)) And talk about that peaceful, easy feeling …it’s like I’m eight-years-old again.  Jack and I are in the beginning throes of a brand, new love affair. I can tell we are going to be inseparable!

So if you want to have tons of fun and feel footloose and fancy free, go get yourself a bike – not the fancy schmancy, hundred-gear, rough and tumble bike – but the old-fashioned, push with all you’ve got to get to where you want to go kind. Sort of like a metaphor for life.

Well, I’ve talked myself into another spin with my new main squeeze, Jack.  See ya!

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CAN I GET A DO OVER?

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My first birthday.

Friday is my birthday.  As a kid I used to love my birthday.  My Mom would always throw a nice little party with my relatives where we’d eat her wonderfully sweet homemade cake and pretzels and candy and chips.  I used to love all the fuss my loved ones use to  make, but the tide has turned over the last few years.  I want to be excited with anticipation like I used to be, but instead of looking forward to celebrating another year, I dread it. I know it’s because my age has run amuck. When I say the actual number of years I’ve lived out loud, I almost choke.  I become very introspective as I “shoulda, woulda, coulda” myself to death.  If only I had done this; if only I hadn’t done that, yadda, yadda, yadda. I can’t help myself.  Maybe it’s because things haven’t turned out the way I planned. But when does life ever actually turn out the way you plan?

And so I ask…can I get a “do over?” I know the answer is a resounding no, unless it’s in the next life, which is much too exhausting to even think about. And I understand that you have to keep looking forward and not back and keep living life in the present and not the future.  But I still like to play this “what would I have done differently” game.

So, if I had to do my life over, I would have…

… gotten a degree in theatrics or journalism because that is where my heart has always been.

… chased my dreams until I caught them.

… taken more chances.

… not settled for less.

… tried to be who I wanted to be instead of who everyone else wanted me to be.

… not wasted my precious time in an unhappy place.

… been braver and stronger.

… stayed in California awhile longer to see if it would have worked.

… stopped in Vegas on the way home to see my friend Dave who had sent me a dozen red roses to bribe me to stay.  This is a big “I should have.”

 

 

 

…called my parents more.

… tried to better understand my Dad.

The loves of my life.

never, ever married the ex. BIG mistake. HUGE.

… however, I would have had to miraculously conceive my daughters because I couldn’t live without them.

… never lived in Pennsylvania. Every one of the three moves around the state was a mistake.

… said exactly what was on my mind without considering the circumstances, because to keep silent and just take what I got turned out to be my nemesis.

Time, time, time.  It tics and it tocs and before you know it, you are in the latter chapters of your life wondering how you got there so quickly.  You try to look forward but you keep looking back to see if you can discover the key to why things have turned out the way they have. But good, bad or indifferent, it’s your life.  It’s my life. And you can’t do it over. You have to dig deep and focus on the positives, which cancel out the negatives.  Sometimes…

What would you have done differently?

Making a wish…fingers crossed.

CATCH OF THE DAY

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A big yellow school bus jostled down the rocky dirt road to the welcome table at the Lighthouse Environmental Center in Waretown, New Jersey, on June 23rd.  When the bus door opened, thirty young children, who are stationed with their parents at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, bounded out of the bus excitedly, ready for the day’s events. The annual Youth Fishing Seminar is run by The Fish Hawks Saltwater Anglers Club of Forked River and sponsored, in part, by Exelon.

The day began with each child donning a brand new yellow tee-shirt and enjoying a light breakfast.  Then they broke off into groups and rotated to five different stations including:  casting, knot tying, boat safety, fish identification and fish cleaning/preparation.  After a picnic luncheon feast, they had an informative presentation by a person representing a local terrapin association who explained about the different species of turtles native to the local area, and afterward the children did a craft called “fish prints.” The day finished out as each child got a chance to fish off the dock at the beautiful Barnegat Bay, with the catch of the day being blow fish and crabs.  Then they were each presented with a brand new fishing pole and tackle box.

Kids and volunteers fishing on the Barnegat Bay.

What an exciting day of fun was had by all, and what a privilege it was to be a volunteer at this very special event. I couldn’t help but think about what these children go through during their parent’s military service –deployment, the loneliness of moving from place to place and fear of not knowing what their parent’s involvement in combat will bring. Although my heart ached for them, I also felt very proud of their bravery. 

As they boarded the bus to go home – tired but grinning from ear to ear – I couldn’t help but feel a satisfaction that in some small way we showed our appreciation and support to our extraordinary military troops by providing a venue for their kids to get out, enjoy a unique experience and have some fun. It made us all happy to see them benefiting from the opportunity to learn a new sport and experience the water and wildlife of the New Jersey shore. Hopefully, this would initiate a lifetime love of fishing and the sea. 

And, when all was said and done, the real catch of the day turned out to be our hearts.

ROLL OUT THOSE LAZY, HAZY, CRAZY DAYS OF SUMMER!

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Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. 

Those days of soda and pretzels and beer.

Roll out those….those…uh…well, that’s about all of the lyrics I can remember…

Anyway, Happy First Day of Summer, everyone!

Yahoo! It’s finally that time of year we’ve all been waiting for, am I right?!

Summer is more than just a season.  It’s an institution. So many images and memories are conjured up from that one beautifully simple, wonderful word – SUMMER.  It’s like FREEDOM!  It’s like FUN!  And, I don’t know about the soda and pretzels and beer thing, but when I was a kid it was more like iced tea, hot dogs on the grill and chocolate covered vanilla bars from the ice cream truck.  I can hear that annoying sing-song “Mr. Frosty” theme as I write this.

Summer was also bologna sandwiches on Wonder bread with salted fresh Jersey tomatoes and gobs of mayonnaise. Or freshly steamed crabs laid out on newspaper on the picnic table. Can you smell the Bay seasoning?! And don’t forget Charles Chips and a huge dill pickle from the barrel at the local store. And the summer CANDY!!!! Orange circus peanuts, spearmint leaves, orange slices and chewy sugared watermelon shaped jellies. HHHMMMMMMMMMMMM.  How my heart is still beating my thickened blood through my clogged arteries from all this fat and sugar-laden food is beyond my understanding.

Summer wasn’t only about eating, though, it was about NO MORE SCHOOL, sleeping late and swimming at the local pool, riding bikes (sometimes behind the trucks spraying mosquito repellent) and catching lightning bugs in mason jars until the wee hours of the night. It was catching sunfish on bamboo poles at Gropp’s Lake. It was fireworks on the fourth of July and a new pair of Keds sneakers. It was drive-in movies – how fun was that?!  Remember listening to the soundtrack through a little metal box and burning little coils on the dashboard to repel mosquitoes? What was up on that war against mosquitoes that’s now considered lethal weapons against humans? 

Summer was going to the shore, collecting shells, soaking in the sun until you turned beet red and jumping the waves until you were so exhausted you could barely walk. But then later on you would muster up the strength to walk the boardwalk and eat pizza and caramel corn or a Kohr’s orange/vanilla twist.  Maybe summer IS all about eating!

Summer’s really a time to slow down, relax, get outside and enjoy God’s beautiful green acres. This is the time to take a break from the rat race. It’s waking slowly in the morning to songbirds twittering  just outside your opened, screened window and then being lulled to sleep at night by the rhythmic chirping of the crickets. Summer is the bright sunshine and warmth upon your skin. Summer is peaceful evenings on the porch, gazing at the moon and the stars with your family and talking about a lot of nothing.  It’s cherishing old friends and making new friends. It’s simply heaven on earth.

So roll out those lazy, hazy crazy days of summer – you’ll wish that summer could always be here.

 

 

Celebrity Crushes

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Out of sheer boredom, or maybe the need to be warply entertained, I started watching the television show, “Millionaire Matchmaker.”  It’s interesting to realize that even rich people don’t have any idea about what dating etiquette is all about. Some even belong in the “no clue at all” category. One of the first questions host Patti Stanger asks her clients is “Who is your celebrity crush?” From that answer she gets a feel about what type of appearance and personal traits her client is looking for so that she can weave her magic with perfect matches.

This has gotten me to thinking about who my celebrity crush might be. The celebrity crush thing for me actually started a long time ago in a galaxy far away.  At the age of 7 or 8, my first celebrity crush was Jerry Lewis.  (Yes, I was a weird kid.) He made me belly laugh, and, apparently, that is the most important thing 7-year-olds are attracted to. I also thought he was cute and loved watching his movies, although I could never figure out why he wore his hair long and greased back on the sides with a flat top.  Didn’t matter, when he went into that stupid slapstick circle dance with arms and legs flailing, I just could not resist him. But then I found out he was married with 5 or 6 kids, and we were finished. After all, I was Catholic.  Plus, I started a real life crush on a kid named Brian who lived around the corner and focused on tormenting him instead.

At the age of 13 I saw my first risqué movie, “The Graduate.” By today’s movie standards, this movie is a walk in the park. Well, out of this movie came my Dustin Hoffman phase.  Short and dark did it for me.  And, he had a cute smile and was a little naughty. (What I knew about naughty at that age was next to nothing, but I was curious.) It’s then that I decided I was going to become an actress, star with him in a major motion picture and marry him right after I graduated from high school. I had it all figured out. Little did I know that in senior year things would change with the release of “The Godfather.”  Move over, Dustin; enter short, dark, smoldering Al Pacino.  Al started my whole “want to be a mafia wife” phase. I mean, who couldn’t resist Al Pacino, for gosh sakes?!  Those fiery brown eyes held me captive. When he said, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse,” I wanted him to know I wouldn’t have refused any offer he made.  And it would be strictly personal, not business with Al, let me tell you.  I can’t tell you how many times I saw that movie just dreaming of a chance to “go to the mattresses” with him. Once I even saw him get out of a taxi on the streets of New York and followed him down the street like a stalker until he ducked into the backstage door of a theatre, thwarting my attempt to…well, I’m not really sure what I would have done with him if I caught him. That’s better left unsaid.

I’ve had a succession of other crushes in between that didn’t last nearly as long as these did. I even had a thing for Woody Allen for awhile because I completely got his humor, was a groupie for his movies and thought he was brilliant.  I also have an unprecedented weakness for musicians – Springsteen, Carradine, Fogelberg, any one of the Eagles, etc., but that’s another blog for another day.

Now that I’m older and wiser, my taste in celebrity crushes has shifted but in some regards has come full circle. Tom Hanks is my current crush simply because he makes me laugh.  Not in the Jerry Lewis slapstick or the Woody Allen sarcasm sense of the word, but in the witty, wisecracking, exaggerated, rhetorical kind of way. In addition, he’s got the “cute” factor.  The bottom line is I’m looking for a man who can make me laugh and is kind of cute. Is that too much to ask?  Just in case Patti wants to know…not that I’m a millionaire or anything…

MY DAD

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My Dad was a good guy.  He grew up during the Depression, third oldest in a family of nine children. Food and money were tight, and they often did without.  His dad was callous, raising his family with an abusive iron fist.  His mom was gentle and kind but intimidated by her husband’s temper.

My Dad was tough and brave. He never finished high school since he was expected to go to work to contribute to the household.  He got a job painting, and then started his own business as a painting contractor that was to become his life-long career. He didn’t want for much in his life and didn’t aspire for great things. He enlisted in the army during World War II and became a sergeant driving a Sherman tank in the Battle of the Bulge. He came under enemy fire, was injured and received the Purple Heart.

My Dad was steady and strong. After the war he met my Mom at a dance, married and bought a house in the suburbs in the 1950’s where he and my Mom raised my brother and me.  They eventually paid off the mortgage and lived in that same house for the rest of their lives. Although he didn’t attend church, he drove us there every Sunday in an American-made Chevrolet, one of only 4 cars he owned in his lifetime.  He had a quiet faith that he chose to keep private. He survived health problems including a brain tumor, a heart attack, heart bypass surgery, skin cancer and then bravely dealt with mini strokes and the onset of early dementia.

My Dad was faithful and honest with a heart full of love. He stayed faithful to my Mom, even though their marriage wasn’t always a storybook and took great pride in his family.  He said exactly what was on his mind whether you wanted to hear it or not, and his temper flared like a time bomb, although he was never abusive.  We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. He never said “I love you” to me until much later in his life, but I knew he did by the way he danced with me atop his shoes, watched me act in my plays and cried at my wedding. Grandfather was his favorite role.  The intensity of his love and concern for his two granddaughters was amazing for me to watch.  I was almost jealous to see his playfulness, caring and overt affection for “his girls.”

As this economy brings us to our knees, we should take notes from my Dad’s generation on how to live within your means and to be content with the simple things in life. He proved that you don’t need a succession of huge, stepping stone houses, fancy cars and tons of money to live a good life. You just need to be tough and brave – steady and strong – faithful and honest with a heart full of love.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

ANGELS AMONG US

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The first time I met my friend, Angie, I have to admit I was a little intimidated by her. She came for a job interview where I worked, and instead of being upbeat and perky as you would expect someone looking for a job to be, she was pensive and stand-offish.  However, she had the right experience and credentials for the position and was hired immediately.

Angie seemed disillusioned with the job at first. She became a figure in the office that you felt you needed to tip toe around.  She said exactly what was on her mind without hesitation, and I had to chuckle at her unfiltered forthrightness in certain situations. She was usually right, though.  Angie never minced words. Although I hesitated at first, the more I got to know her, the more I liked her.  I found her to have a very kind and caring heart, and she had a wealth of wisdom she began to share with me.

One day out of the blue she said, “Something is wrong here.” That “something wrong” she noticed early on was definitely a dysfunctional presence in the workplace. It caused quite a few people in the office to seek employment elsewhere, and I was one of them. Shortly thereafter, I began to go through my “annus horribilus” (year of horror) where everything that could possibly go wrong, did. Angie was always there for me.  She called me every few days to check in with me, and we talked for hours. She took me out for a meal when I needed it. She was my shoulder to cry on and the voice of reason I needed to hear. She always had the uncanny ability to say just the right thing at just the right time, which convinced me it was divine intervention.  There are “Angie-isms” spattered throughout my journal during that year. “Sell the house and get out from under it.” “You’re better off without him.”  “You need to start over in a new place.”  I’ve felt comfort in her guidance and advice. It has always proved to be helpful.

Angie’s latest words are, “You have to keep your heart open because you’re too young to be alone.”  When I complained to her that I just don’t have the energy to start over in another relationship, she ignored me and continued, “Keep your eyes opened to the possibilities around you.”  Maybe I will.

Take the time to get to know the people around you – those you work with, your neighbors, and other acquaintances you meet along the way.  Listen to what they have to say. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the angels among us.