~ Expressing random thoughts and issues is my thing.
~ I’m complicated.
~ I understand quirky.
~ I'm a work in progress.
~ I've discovered I'm pretty strong.
~ I'm trying to become the me I've always wanted to be.
(Essays are original works of the author. All rights reserved.)
I was recently notified through a member of his family that Colonel Louis F. Makowski passed on September 8. I was deeply saddened to hear this, even though I had never met the man.
Who was Colonel Makowski? He was an air force navigator who served our country during the Vietnam War. His plane was shot down, and he was taken as a Prisoner of War on October 6, 1966, spending 2,342 days in captivity then released on March 4, 1973. As an adolescent, I bought a metal POW bracelet inscribed with his name. I wore it every day in support of him and prayed for his safe return. I was deeply opposed to the Vietnam War, watching the horrors unfold on the news along with the accounts of so many young men killed in action. I was afraid my brother would be called up in the draft. It seemed like a death sentence to these young boys, really, who were shipped off to fight such an atrocious war. It was a time of unrest, turmoil, and deep divide in our country. Considering present day, we really haven’t come very far as a country where peace and unity are concerned.
After I wrote about this on my blog and in a local newspaper, I did some investigation and was able to contact Colonel Makowski. He was now retired and enjoying life with his wife and family. We wrote and emailed back and forth a few times, and I was able to express my thanks as an American citizen for his bravery and his service. I was so thrilled to have made that connection with the unknown soldier whose inscription I wore on a bracelet on my wrist for so many years. I received emails from others across the country who also wore his bracelet and who were happy to hear of his whereabouts. I can’t help to think that in his captivity and isolation in the Vietnam prison camp, he really had no idea of the many people who were supporting and praying for his safe return. He was never alone.
I lost touch with Colonel Makowski after that, although every now and again he crossed my mind. Last week I was emotionally touched that two of his family members contacted me to first say he was battling Covid and then he had succumbed to the virus. It was maddening to think that after all he went through in his life and all that he had survived, that in the end, he would suffer with this horrible virus that would take him. He was 90 years old.
I pray for his family in their sorrow and for all the families who have lost loved ones in military service and Covid. There just doesn’t seem enough prayers in the world you could say to honor these heroes.
In closing I would like to leave you with words that Colonel Makowski expressed to me in our last contact. He said, among other things, that he still had high hope for the future and our country’s winning back our God-given American values. The lesson he has taught me through this experience with him is no matter what your circumstances and how hard and challenging life can get, be strong, be brave and be hopeful. You can survive the trials you go through and go on to live a happy life.
I have been stalling on this post for quite awhile, mainly because I didn’t want it to be discouraging or make anyone apprehensive when it was their turn to get the vaccine. Not that my “millions” of readers are going to care. 😉
I was one of those people who was affected by the second dose. All went well and ran like a fine-oiled machine at the Atlantic City Convention Center facility when it came to getting the second dose. But shortly thereafter I became sick with the usual headache, chills and body aches, fever – and then somewhere in between I had contracted a cold, which added to the mayhem. On top of that, I came down with a serious stomach issue that knocked me out. The symptoms I got from the second vaccine only lasted for about five days, but the cold and stomach issue remained off and on for weeks. These were not caused by the vaccine. And then I lost my sense of taste and smell which lasted for weeks. I even went to get a Covid-19 test, and it was negative. So it was probably caused by the cold and allergies? Who knows. It was a dark few weeks for me because I just didn’t feel well and was not making any progress at all in getting better.
Then, suddenly, I felt better.
I know people who have only gotten mild reactions or no reaction at all to the vaccine. My 92-year-old aunt had no reaction at all, and that made me happy. Seemed the women more than the men I knew had symptoms. My daughter Megan pointed out that men and women are getting the same dosage, so it would make sense that a smaller, thinner woman would have a reaction more than a larger, bigger man.
In any case, I am so thankful I have had the vaccine. I feel it is a gift not to have to worry so much. I, of course, still take precautions wherever I go. But I feel I am surrounded by a forcefield of protection from this deadly virus and am so forever grateful for the scientists and medical professionals who have brought this to fruition.
Go get your shot! So what if you have some kind of minor reaction you have to work through for a little while. You may be one of the lucky ones who have no reaction at all. Isn’t it better than suffering in a hospital from this deadly, miserable Covid-19?
It has been hard to acquire an appointment to get the Covid-19 vaccine for so many of us. Going on the computer and logging in day after day to different sites had been fruitless and frustrating. But don’t give up. Keep logging on or calling. It will happen. Thanks to a savvy relative who was able to get in, miraculously, I had a date and time, and it was the following week! I was so excited!
On that day, I ventured down to the Atlantic City Convention Center with a friend who had gone through the same the day before. I felt better knowing she could tell me where to go, where to park, etc. I was so happy that I was practically skipping to the entrance, feeling I was a part of making my mark in history and being safe from this horrible virus. Watching the sick in the hospital day on TV day in and day out along with the overworked healthcare workers was daunting. Seeing Dr. Fauci on TV almost daily and heartened by the many people getting their doses, I was thankful that I was now going to be a part of crushing Covid-19 and helping the cause of herd immunity. I was thankful I would hopefully be safe. I know many of you are waiting and wondering what this experience will be like, so I just wanted to tell you about mine and give you a head’s up.
First, let me say it was a great experience! I went to a mega-site at the Atlantic City Convention Center which was so well-managed and organized by the military and police. It was easy to get to and to find the entrance, and there was plenty of free parking on the first ramp under the facility. I walked a short distance to the entrance, and a young man in military gear greeted me at the closed-door entrance. Do you have an appointment? Yes! What time? 4:45. He opened the door for me. It was almost like going into the entrance of a line at Disney World! The next gentlemen took my temperature and asked some questions about my health which is rudimentary wherever you go these days. Then I went to the third station where a gentleman checked my registration information on his computer. He gave me a card with a number on it and told me to take the escalator to the second floor, and that is where the line began – with people 6 ft. apart – outside of the ballroom. Once inside, the line serpentined through roped areas like you were waiting to get on a ride. The area where the vaccines were given was screened off for privacy, along with another area you went to wait the mandatory 15-30 minutes after the vaccine.
I waited in line for not more than 20 minutes. It moved along nicely. Once at the entrance to the screened-off area another officer took my card and checked on the computer. There were many tables set up to question people more in depth and then moving on to vaccinate. There were tons of military directing where you should go, so it was exceptionally smooth. I was directed to a table of another person who asked a few more intrinsic questions some of which were: if you ever had a severe allergic reaction to certain drugs like polysorbate or injections, to any other vaccine or whether you had cancer, were HIV positive or had any allergic reaction that required use of an EpiPen among other questions. I removed my sweater to my short sleeve tee shirt thinking this was it, but they moved me along to another table with a nurse and the vaccine. I walked to the table one arm out with my sweater dragging on the floor and made a few jokes to the people directing me saying I was a little too anxious.
The nurse’s name was Fran, that of an old friend of mine. I knew it would be OK. She was friendly, asked again a few more questions about reactions to different drugs and then it was time. I turned my head away saying I was not going to look, and no sooner that the words were out of my mouth, it was over, and I never felt a thing. I was amazed after watching all those news reports and commercials showing needles jabbed into arms. I thanked her for being so painless and she was pleased. Thanks, Fran. I was given a card with the kind of vaccine I was given – Pfizer- and the date. I was directed to the post-waiting area where more military and EMTs stood by with watchful eyes. At the end of 15 minutes, they came around person by person with their I-pads to reserve your second appointment date and time. You were given three days to choose from and then different times. They were very accommodating. They told you to take a picture with your phone camera. You will also receive a confirming e-mail. I realized it was all basically paperless. Then they told me that I could go.
That was that!
I’m pretty sure I jumped up and clicked my heels as I left!
My arm felt sore that night, and I had a bout with chills for a short period of time. They tell you to take only Tylenol, which I did. I got warm under the covers when I went to bed. The next day I had soreness in that arm, which only lasted one day.
It was a good experience, I felt safe, nothing bad happened, and it was so smooth from start to finish. So, please, do not be afraid to get the vaccine. Go for it. It could save your life. It could free you to do so much more and worry so much less. Of course, still wear a mask, wash your hands, and take the precautions you know you must do. But also know that once that second dose is administered you are going to feel so much more open to live your life. I hope this was helpful and encouraging. I’ll try to be back with my experience on Dose 2.
I went to the park today because it is a beautiful day for a walk, but more importantly because I am missing my dog Bella who passed one year ago today at the age of twelve-years-old. I knew I would be sad today, but I am so thankful to have had her in my life for all those years – probably the most difficult years I personally had been through. She was always by my side, keeping me company, giving me a reason to live, keeping me active with walking and giving me someone to care for when no one else was around. She was friendly and funny, loved everyone and went everywhere with me. She knew when I was happy; she knew when I was sad, comforting me always and making her presence known.
I went to the park today because it was her favorite place to be, and I wanted to walk the paths we used to walk and sit at our place under a shade tree where she used to like to take a rest. At one point during my walk I sat on a bench. A woman walked by with the cutest little dog that looked like a puppy Rottweiler. She was black with brown spots above her eyes. The dog came barreling over to me, jumping up to say hello and kissing my hands as I pet her. She plopped down between my feet and leaned on my legs. I struck up a conversation with her owner, a genuinely nice lady. The dog sat contently, occasionally looking back at me every once in a while. I found out she was not a puppy, but a twelve-year-old. Her name was Lulu, and she came to the US from Puerto Rico as a rescue puppy. I explained to the lady why I was at the park, and she said I should get another dog because they are so good for us physically and emotionally, and I agreed. Lulu didn’t want to leave, but the woman finally coaxed her to go. I continued with my walk deep in thought. Maybe Lulu was a sign from Bella to say hello and let me know she is fine and was with me. At least I would like to believe that to be true.
I have had dogs all my life, ever since I was four-years-old. I have had them two and three at a time. I love surrounding myself with animals. To be honest, I would have another dog in a heartbeat, but circumstances haven’t allowed it thus far. Being without one now feels so strange and lonely.
I know in my heart of hearts that there is one more dog to come in my life. And I believe I will know when I know. Until then I will keep on keeping on. Remembering Bella with fondness and enjoying other dogs who say hello and dogs of relatives. I will wait for that day my little one will come along. I will bring her/him to this park and show him/her Bella’s favorite places. At least I hope it will happen.
I hope you are running around in heaven with all the pets I have had in my life, my sweet Bella. And until we meet again thank you for loving me and please know how much I love you.
Life is a series of adjustments and choices. Some minor; some major. The way you react to what happens along the way becomes either a major or a minor adjustment – or a minor or major choice. Liken it to when your back or neck is hurting so you go to a chiropractor and have him align your skeletal structure. If it works, it is a minor adjustment. You are able to move on with less pain and more strength. If the pain is still there, you must choose to maybe see an orthopedic doctor for further evaluation. How long you suffer is up to you. You have to make that choice.
Let us begin when we are born. Birth itself is a plethora of adjustments as you come into the world and adapt to a multitude of so many changes as you grow moment to moment. At this stage in life, there are no choices to make. They are made for you.
The next would be reconciling from home to school. Sometimes very scary situations arise as you go from the safe cocoon of your home to the outside world. You meet many new people – teachers, other children. Some kind; some not. You learn, you work, play sports, learn an instrument, sing, do science experiments, be in a play. It is a barrage where bending and shaping is paramount to becoming the person you are meant to be. So many adjustments and so many choices. What do you like to do? What kind of friends do you want? Do you choose to stand up if you are bullied or stand down and let it happen? Are you going to do your assignments to the best of your ability or choose to just get by?
You enter puberty. Bodily changes, wants, needs and everything in between that projects you into adulthood. You choose right or wrong. Choose to follow your urges or suppress them.
You graduate high school/college. Graduating high school is a feat in itself and quite an accomplishment from grueling years of social and educational reconciliations. It is a relief, in a way, to have finished what is required educationally. You choose to go on to higher education or start a job. Choosing college will be extending your educational process. Working towards a career of your choosing. Or you learn a much-needed trade or enter the military or civil service training. You will be exposed to many personal, social, and educational experiences. It will be hard, even grueling as you navigate yourself through the years when you truly grow into an adult. Life-changing choices and so many adjustments.
You begin a career or a job. You begin to learn how to stand on your own two feet. Make a living that can support your independence from your parents. Always an adjustment with workload, new people and getting along, making enough money to pay your bills.
You have relationships. You grow and experiment with different people and personalities to find the type of person who matches what you need. You find people who are right or wrong for you and learn how to tell the difference. You choose a person that hopefully lifts you up and does not beat you down. You have heartbreaks – many along the road of life. You date. You break up. You commit. You uncommit. He commits. She does not. She commits. He does not. Heartache aplenty. You love. You hate. You stay. You move on.
You marry. Maybe. So many adjustments and compromises and ups and downs and ins and outs. You hope for the absolute best as you take that leap and maybe you have found your person who will be a partner for all of life’s compromises. Making a choice and knowing the right person from the wrong person is something not all of us figure out. This, to me, is one of life’s greatest challenges, hardest adjustments, and so many ridiculous choices. You want to trust. You want to love. You want your person. But you must ask over and over before you decide: Is it he/she?
You stay single. You learn to build a life on your own, on your own terms. Although it may be nice to have a partner, there is a lot to be said for standing on your own two feet and letting that be the core of what sustains you through life. But it is lonely and that is a big adjustment. But that is your choice.
You start a family. Greatest responsibility in life. Raising another human being to be a good, decent person. Sleepless nights. Strained patience. Worries galore. Best job in the world despite the crazy amount of challenges and choices and adjustments along the way. But you gladly take on every one of them on an almost daily basis because there is no greater love in the world.
A loved one passes. Parent, spouse, friend, sibling. Maybe your relationship was the best. Maybe it was toxic. Maybe it was not enough. Maybe it was just good enough. You grieve in a way that steals your soul and questions your mortality. But eventually you adjust to them not being there. The void never really goes away. But you must choose to find a way to move on.
You change locations. Maybe once or twice. Maybe many times. Each time adjusting to your new home/apartment, surroundings, neighbors, and community. Exhausting, invigorating, fun, scary. So many things.
You get divorced. Sometimes it is a relief. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is ugly and painful and sad. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is just what you needed to move on and have peace. You adjust to living your life on your own terms. And the void you feel vanishes as you adjust to a life on your own.
Your children grow up. They leave. Go off to college. Move onto their new independent life. It is happy. It is sad. Sometimes you let go easily. Sometimes you hold on with all your might. You try to figure out what your new life without children in the house looks like. It is the movement and hecticness and craziness pushing you to your limit that you miss. The time you dreamt of having is here and most of the time you cannot remember what it is you wanted to do with all that time. You may have trouble filling your days. Or maybe you find fun, new, fulfilling things to do and new friendships that sustain you.
You remarry. Maybe. Maybe not. Either way you know more about what you would like in a partner and what you do not want. Maybe you meet someone great who fills the void and lifts you up and rekindles your faith. Maybe you learn to fulfill your own wants and needs in life. Either way, you explore with someone new or not.
You have grandchildren. Hopefully, you do because they are the greatest blessing in the world besides your own children, of course. You love them and they love you unconditionally. They fill your life with joy and laughter and fun. You look forward to your time together like it is a big, special event because it is. You spoil them and laugh with them and would give your own life for them.
You retire. It is a relief to be done with work that you were not crazy about. Or it is sad to be without the work you loved. Now you have all the time in the world to do what you wanted if you can remember what that was. You hope you have enough money to last you. You hope you have enough ideas to fill your time or try new things and come up with something that brings you joy. So many choices.
You get old. Ugh. Not sure what this one will bring as I only now venture into that territory. Optimistically, you can live out your days without an overabundance of medical issues and be able to live independently. Or maybe at some point you will need assistance. It may be difficult, but it will be OK. You will adjust as maybe that choice is made for you. In any case you’ll be wondering what the hec happened because life goes by fast! So try to remember to have fun whenever you can.
Finally, you pass. Who knows what happens next?! With utmost faith you will be adjusting to paradise and resting in God’s arms. You hope to be hearing the words, “Well done.”
Each and every stage of life warrants some kind of realignment and innumerable choices. Major or minor will be determined by the way you handle it through your own strength, conviction, or sheer will power. My wish is that you remain standing strong and able as you move from one phase to the other without dislocation or an abundance of angst. You and only you can make that choice.
In my junior year of high school, way back in the 70’s, a fight broke out between a group of white and a group of black students. It happened outside of the school during a recess period. I heard it got violent, the police were called, and I don’t remember many other details except that I was in class and the school was put on lockdown. I do remember we were all frightened because we were not exactly sure of what was happening or why. The students involved ran, and I don’t know if any were caught or detained. The principal would not let anyone out of the building. The buses would not run that day, and you were not allowed to walk home. The administration started calling parents to pick their child up as they were not going to be allowed to leave without a parent or guardian accompanying them. My mom didn’t drive, so she had to find a neighbor who did, and that neighbor came and picked me up with my mom.
Since I had just transferred from a strict Catholic high school, I was overwhelmed by all of this. I was quiet and reserved, and this was mind-boggling. We were all apprehensive after that never knowing the real story vs. the rumors or whether it would happen again. The situation was never addressed or clarified in any way. No announcement; no letter home. But eventually life went on and besides a few minor skirmishes, nothing major happened for the rest of the year.
That time period, in general, was one of great unrest in the country at large, and it was not unusual for schools to have random clashes between the races. It was not unusual to have kids smoking pot out in the courtyard during recess either. Civil unrest was at full tilt in the world with protesting galore. The Vietnam War was stealing our youth with senseless deaths. Peacemakers John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. Four students at Kent State University were killed and nine others injured during a protest against the Vietnam War by the National Guard who open fired into the crowd. It was one of the greatest tragedies in our history. I remember a few years later stopping at Kent State University while driving across the country wanting to see the place where this had happened. It was eerily quiet and felt like sacred ground. This was the place where four young college kids lost their lives at the hands of the National Guard because they dared to march for what they believed in, which, ironically, was peace. There was now only a plaque commemorating that fatal day. Their bravery in standing up for what they believed was heroic. I was just rambling around trying to figure out what to do with my life during this hostile era. I really hoped for the end of the Vietnam War and wanted peace. I really wanted racial harmony and the end of brutality. But I did not proactively take a stand or try to do anything to help make it happened. If only I had tried…
The world is still a mess. Today we have people protesting the brutal murder by police of George Floyd and the many others victimized by police brutality. We also have a horrendous pandemic with US deaths by Covid-19 surpassing a total of 110,000 today. Protesters are literally risking their lives to make a stand against horrific racial brutality. There is no peace. Our nation is crying out for change. Change that is so desperately needed. And yet we have the so-called leader of our country hiding in a bunker below the White House ranting incoherently through social media. A so-called leader who commissioned the national guard to push peaceful protesters back with tear gas and rubber bullets to make way for his photo opt in front of a church holding a Bible. Not his Bible, by the way. “A bible” he clarified when asked. Did he say a prayer? No. Did he offer words of encouragement to a hurting people. No. If only…
If only…systemic change was proactively initiated back in the 70’s or 60’s or 50’s or in 1619 when slavery in the United States began. If only…I had been more proactive at a younger age in recognizing the need for and advocating for change. If only… I, as an individual had chosen another path in life to work towards a better world. If only…
I pray that reform will be initiated now for the good because we just cannot go on with the way history has played out in this country up until now. I still look to the future with hope that we as a united people will do better to make this country and the world a better place. I know in my heart of hearts that it can happen. I wish I had done more with different and wiser life choices to help to bring it about. I wish I had paid more attention to the details. But I ask you through my failures to find out the facts of what is happening and why and how you can be a part of making it materialize. And I will try to find a way in this late stage of my life to make a difference as well. I know I can immediately start by voting.
Please remember this moment in time and how our leadership is failing us and vote. This is the one most important thing we can all do right now for the common good.
My prayer is that God will bless America and help us to do better as a nation united together in understanding, love, kindness, caring and harmony. No more “If onlys…”
Today is a day to honor our military who have lost their lives in defense of our country. It is not a happy day. It is not a day to celebrate. It is a day to pause in silent remembrance and to be thankful and to pray for those who lost their most precious gift of life fighting for our freedom. These courageous warriors charged into war zones afraid but determined to overpower evil forces to keep us safe and keep us free. There is no amount of commendation that would be enough for these selfless, brave heroes.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, in all types of uniforms, in all walks of life. Today I would respectfully like to add another category of heroes who are also determined to overpower another type of evil force. And they are the healthcare workers – doctors and nurses, assistants, EMTs and all involved in the combat. They have selflessly put on their uniforms and trudged into horrific enemy territory to save us. Deliberately exposing themselves to rescue us. Many have lost their lives caring for those who are battling a different kind of terrorist in a different kind of battle in a different kind of war – the war against Covid-19.
Today I salute all warriors from the Revolutionary War, Mexican-American War, U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the battles in between. And even though our present war is not one of brutal force and weapons, it is a war nonetheless. A war against a vicious invader ravaging and stealing precious lives, and I salute those heroes today as well.
Thank a veteran.
Thank the military.
Thank the healthcare workers.
Pray for the sick, for those who were disabled and for those who have died.
So, did I tell you the one about the lady walking a pig in the park….
No, for real. Getting out for some exercise today in our newly reopened park in New Jersey proved to be somewhat of a hallucinogenic experience for me. Imagine you are fast walking on a path with the brilliant sunshine warming your face as the wind ruffles your hair with its warm breeze. You are greeting people walking safely six feet away, practicing the mandatory social distancing. You are so happy to be out of the house breathing the fresh air that you are giddy with glee and feeling like you are having a transcendent experience.
And then through the glare of the sunny/shady walkway you see it. It looks like a lady with an extremely obese dog. As they get closer, you realize it is not a dog at all. But what?! No, wait…could it be? Now you are positive you must have taken a mind-altering drug and are having an out-of-body experience. You feel your forehead – no fever. You rub your eyes – you can see just fine. Yes, indeed, it is a pig. A lady walking a pig, as a matter of fact.
As they come closer, I begin to giggle. It is the first time in quite some time I’ve had a reason to laugh. I mean, it was so bizarrely funny. The lady smiled and I just said, “she’s beautiful!” (It looked female to me.) “And such a good walker,” I continued. Am I insane? But what do you say to a lady walking a pig in the park?! I wanted to pet it, but social distancing and all did not allow for that. I walked on shaking my head and smiling. I could hear people behind me giggling as well and sending her well wishes.
I eventually did an about face to find them and ask the owner if I could take a picture because who would believe me? She said I could. So, here it is:
During this time of unimaginable horror caused by this unrelenting pandemic and all the heart-breaking stories, I thought maybe we could enjoy a brief bit of levity. It was brilliant of this lady, however unintentional it may have been, to take her pig for a walk in a public park and give us a reason to chuckle. It definitely added a bit of fun to my day!
I hope you are smiling as you read this. Remember to look for and find things that make you laugh – that make you happy. You are allowed to enjoy your life!