Tag Archives: life

Love Letter To America

Like any true love, we want the best for those we care about. It is also essential to be honest. And so I will be honest with you because I care and because I love you. We were tested by this pandemic America…and we were found lacking.

While politicians and business owners are chomping at the bit to resume life as usual, I feel that something will be lost if we don’t take time to consider what the Corona virus shutdown was meant to teach us and why we are so quick to act like like it never happened.

Although I am not a nurse, doctor or respiratory therapist, I was considered “essential” and therefore worked through the last 6 months of this ongoing pandemic. It is perhaps the fact that I was not furloughed or quarantined that I find myself longing to embrace a once in a lifetime chance to see how the world was without us in it and to see what we can now bring to our lives that we wouldn’t, had we not been forced to pause.

I feel strongly that we got a glimpse of what life would be like without humans. And it was amazing. When human activity came to a halt, murky lagoon water returned to a beautiful aqua color and dolphins frolicked in the canals of Venice. Around the world, animals came out of hiding and took up residence in city streets and town centers. The air was clean. Even though I continued to trudge back and forth to work, the peace in the air was palpable. It was quiet!

I suppose I quasi-quarantined at the weekends and when I wasn’t on the hunt for toilet paper and Clorox wipes, I began to feel the need to gain some control of my reality by beautifying my back garden with flowers and doing a quick redecorating of my living room. I checked on family and friends, relieved that they were ok. I felt that we were all part of something bigger than ourselves. Yes this was global technically but the pandemic called us all to rise above routine and comfort, above convenience and what is known.

It wasn’t until people took to the streets with signs saying “I want my manicure” that I realized we were not all in this together. Other than procuring essentials, there was nothing to busy ourselves with. This was a chance to see the world differently and to perhaps make some changes. It was the first time I could glimpse peace on earth.

Yet people screamed out “I HAVE TO WORK?” “OPEN UP!” We have been tested America and we have been found lacking. This was a golden opportunity not to only stop a pandemic (that has gone on to kill over a hundred and sixty thousand people…and counting), but to reset, regroup and maybe even get in touch with our hearts that have been crying out for change. People complained before this that they felt lonely, unfulfilled, that they hated their jobs. That they didn’t have time to exercise or meditate. People in the millions were playing the lottery, hoping to strike it rich so they could walk away from soul-destroying jobs. What are we racing back to? Smog, traffic, pollution, sick wildlife? To paraphrase Thoreau, did we really want to race back to leading lives of quiet desperation?

People were willing to risk their lives, as well as ours, to work, when every health expert advised against it, not because they loved their jobs, but because they hadn’t saved ANY money or prepared themselves in any way for the eventual disaster that would befall them. We’ve seen severe reactions and blatant disregard for human life in the name of desperation. Protesters belittling and spitting on battle -weary healthcare workers was the breaking point for me. This is not us being our best selves. I promise you I’m not here to judge, I’m just asking you to think about what transpired. Because people don’t plan or save.

It’s more important in our society to have the latest iPhone, or the newest model car than to be adult and make our selves feel safe. So afraid are we to be judged or found lacking that we put our own lives at risk. Believe me, I’ve had to learn some hard lessons too but that is the thing, are we willing to learn from this and make better choices?

If everyone had a year of savings to get them through tough times, what would this time have looked like? Would people still have taken to the streets to demand to return to dead-end jobs? Who knows what life may have looked like. Some may have taken up painting or learned to play an instrument, they may have welcomed time to rest or learned to perfect that souffle. Others may have delved into nature or started reading books. We didn’t just fail our healthcare system and those who perished, we failed ourselves.

What I found most striking was the sheer inability of people to calm and soothe themselves. Some people were making more on unemployment than they did in those jobs they screamed to get back, Instead of being more loving, caring and generous, or adopting the “neighbors helping neighbors” mentality, many responded with anger, nastiness , hoarding and pushing others around in supermarkets. We witnessed something I never thought I would see; grown adults having temper tantrums in supermarkets and stores that attempted to protect their employees by asking them to temporarily, wear a mask. Temper tantrums! And denial that this virus even existed was off the charts. People were so accustomed to soothing themselves with things. That they were jumping out of their skin when left to sit with their own thoughts. Many took up drinking as a pastime and still others gave up completely.

My dear fellow humans, we must do better. We have to be able to endure, to soothe ourselves when life events take us by surprise. We must be able to handle distress when it comes to our front doors. I give you that this was a shock, most of us have not experience wars, famines, plagues or natural disasters. Yes it was stressful. Yes we had to take a step back and figure this thing out, maybe get creative and find new solutions. But to see the most basic aspects of civility, values and decency go out the window because people were unable to regulate themselves?

Again, we failed to teach ourselves, our students our children, the fundamentals of something we all have….feelings, and how to manage them. What do I do when I’m scared, when I’m lost, when I’m paralyzed with fear? What do I do? I know I didn’t learn that at home or in school. Why not I find myself asking now? Why not? What messages to do we get in our society about feelings? There’s no place for feelings in the workplace, in the military and in many homes. It’s ok to be happy right, but what about all those other feelings? We get the message that we should keep them to ourselves. Black people know all too well that they are not “allowed” to be angry in society. That doing so can at best have them judged and stereotyped or at worst get them killed. Women are supposed to be pleasant, have it together. What do we do when she’s crying uncontrollably or seething with rage? We don’t like it. And men of all colors learn very early on that they can’t be themselves, that they can’t cry, they can’t be confused. Look at the language that’s cropped up in the past 15 years or so “Man up, Suck it up, put on your big girl panties”. If you don’t hear it anywhere else, know that these are insults. These are negating statements meant to keep us in line.

We must be able to identify, acknowledge, process and release our emotions. It is essential to being human. How likely do you think it is that a young boy of 16 would shoot up a school if he had been allowed to own his feelings and those feelings were validated by others? So often we choose being cool and being aloof, cutting ourselves off from our own humanity.

To add insult to injury, we just happen to have a political system and media system that pushed fear agendas prior to and during this worldwide event. It is so easy to see the shortcomings of our country because we watched as country after country before us, handled this virus that was heading straight for us. They shut down, people donned, masks, they helped one another, they sang to each other and they cheered their health care systems. Their news was not alarmist, it was factual. Countries pulled together as we did not and have not since in many respects. We should not be too proud to learn from others. It’s a sign of intelligence.

Instead we fought with each other about science, about facts, and cue Q Anon…some of us left reality altogether! We blamed each other, railed against recommendations. We fought over rolls of toilet paper or we shunned our civic duty, refusing to do our part to contain the virus. At the time of this writing, people are getting summons for having Covid parties and not wearing masks. Other countries have seen us as the “teenager” in the room, always brash and unsophisticated in the ways of the world, but this time of lockdown showed us to be petulant children.

The good news is that many people did show up by helping others, wearing masks and understanding frayed nerves rather than striking back. We can still make lasting changes. We can learn to take care of our emotional states by using coping skills. We can reach out to others, to groups, we can journal, meditate, use mindfulness techniques, we can take walks in nature or get a pet. We can ensure our security by putting money aside. We don’t have to go from crisis to crisis. We can choose to pay of credit cards instead of buying that new video game or iPhone. We can choose love over fear, knowing that it will be ok, that we will make it out of this stronger and wiser for having had the experience.

What will you tell your grandchildren when 2020 goes down in history? That you refused to wear a mask, that you threw your groceries around or coughed in someone’s face? Or that you helped neighbors obtain groceries, that you learned to meditate and it made you a better person. That you realized with some quiet reflection that you don’t actually like being a lawyer and you only did it to make your parents happy. And that is what made you the best at what you do today.

Grasping or holding on for what was, only gets you more of the same. We could have come out of this time wanting to save our beautiful planet, having valued so much how the earth renewed herself in mere weeks. We could have championed the rights of animals after we saw how they gathered when not constantly harassed by well-meaning humans. Such was the case with a pair of pandas that finally mated when they were afforded some privacy!We could have opened our hearts to so much more love and compassion; having empathized with the staggering suffering we saw before us.

Is it too late? I don’t think so. It is never too late to love and be loved, to care for the earth and the animals, to beautify your lives and listen to your heart. Yes this is America, and we have choices. Let’s choose the healthy ones, the grown up ones next time around. Let’s connect to our human-ness and take care of ourselves and each other.

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My Lunch With Maya Angelou

Maya%20Angelou

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I was in college and standing in the Student Life office when another student came in to say that they had extra tickets to hear Maya Angelou speak at a local business lunch. This person waved an envelope around carelessly and asked if anyone wanted to go. I gasped inside and tried to quell the rising excitement inside me. Kids walked around busily and no one seemed to know who Maya Angelou was or what this lunch was about.

Is that for anyone?” I asked.

“Yeah” came the reply. “You want a ticket?”

I looked around and wondered why people weren’t knocking each other over to grab one for themselves. Just a couple of years before Maya Angelou had been one of only two poets to have spoken at an Inauguration and the only African-American woman to do it. She was an accomplished and highly respected author, Pulitzer Prize winner, civil rights activist, friend of Malcolm  X and Martin Luther King! She was Oprah’s friend and mentor, for heaven sake.  I thought it was only a matter of time before these tickets disappeared and so I grabbed one for myself.

The lunch was that same day and I did not have time to go home and change. As I walked into the hotel lobby, I felt intimidated walking into the ballroom filled primarily with businessmen in suits. I increasing believed I really didn’t belong there in my shorts and t-shirt. I also knew I could not pass up this once in a lifetime chance to meet an icon who inspired my life. I wondered if the message of this poet would be lost on a room full of businessmen who thought in dollars and cents.  After some preliminary speeches, Dr Angelou was introduced. She stood taller than many and spoke with a deeper voice than I had heard a woman speak with before; a voice filled with the conviction of the truth she spoke.  She assembled her words differently than I was used to, and I had to adjust my ears to receive her message. In no time, the room was as one. We sat before this sorceress who wove words in an alchemy that cast its spell spectacularly. Ideas swirled and danced and with each rhythmic phrase, she pulled down walls and facades.

As this event occurred in 1994, I do not recall the details of her speech, however I do remember that the room was transformed and transfixed. There we sat, fellow humans, in awe of the greatness that was before us. Dr Angelou had an ability to speak to the soul, not the ego and we were humbled. For a brief time, we sat as children watching magic as her words came to life in hearts and minds.

After her speech ended and the applause and standing ovations subsided, Dr Angelou stood at a long table and graciously signed autographs. I brought along my paperback copy of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, feeling unworthy and wondering if she would sign my little book. Dr Angelou took my hand, which was at once dwarfed by hers. Her long fingers coming to rest above my wrist as we shook. I honestly thought I would pass out. Although I was raised to see people as people and no better or worse than me, this was different. She was a force. I remember too, the single gold ring she wore which appeared to have been sculpted in the shape of an elegant crane. An appropriate symbol, I thought, for this most regal of women. Cranes represent good fortune and I could not think of anything more auspicious than having this gift of listening to the thoughts of Maya Angelou over lunch. Lunch! In sunny Ft Lauderdale, Florida and for only a roomful of people, as the rest of the world went about its business as if nothing extraordinary was happening!  She signed my book in swirls of black pen and thanked me as I gushed and fumbled my way through a rushed introduction. I remember walking back out into the radiant sunshine not believing my luck and just wanting to be a better person. Such was the power of Maya Angelou.

I’ve not spoken of this event much throughout the years and until today I was not sure why. I think it was so special and her words so beautiful that anything I could have said would not have touched the depth and breadth of it. It goes without saying that meeting Maya Angelou was an experience I will treasure always.

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When Intelligence Takes A Vacation

Image

mdebona

Frustratingly, my cat meows loudly when I am on the phone. She jumps up on the chair or sofa where I sit and attempts to climb up on me, meowing all the time.  She can sleep all day and half the time I don’t even know where she is.  But as soon as I start a conversation on the phone there she is “MEOOOOOWWW, MEOW, MEOOOWWW.”

I have to push her off of the furniture to get her to stop.  It is very annoying.  Everyone can hear her. “Wow, she’s loud” they say, “She must want attention.”

Thought number one:  “What is the matter with her? Can’t she see I’m on the phone!”

Thought two: “I’ll Google and see how others have dealt with this and what they believe her behavior means. I felt there must be some biological or mysterious reason behind this specific behavior and more than a mere look at me, pay attention to meeeeee!

I began to type in why does my cat meow when I’m… and lo and behold the subsequent “on the phone” popped up. Aha! Others have had this same question and surely I will find my answer. I opened up the first website and the first thing I read was “she thinks you are talking to her.”

Thought three accompanied by uncontrollable laughter: My cat does not understand the concept of the phone and talking to another human being by way of telephone lines, modems, Bluetooth or routers.  She hears my voice and assumes I’m talking to or summoning her! The simple answer “she thinks you are talking to her” was like the snapping up of a shade on a sunny day or as if someone threw cold water in my face.

Thought four: What an idiot! I just researched, RESEARCHED for an answer to a question I should have known!  Correction.  For an answer I already knew!  I actually reminded myself to look it up. I typed in the question. Plenty of time to come to my senses! Surely I could have stretched the limits of my own mind to answer this myself!

I turned back to Google to find out how many results there were for this question. My ego scraping around for proof that I was not alone in this cerebral wasteland I found myself in. The answer was 18,500,000. I’m sure not all applied however I clicked on the 10th page of results which luckily still referred to cat behavior and the phone. Ego bruised but not broken, I scooped up my cat with better understanding and compassion for how confusing it must be to live with a human, especially when intelligence takes a vacation.

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A Silenced Writer

Writer's block

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How does one write about not writing?  I’m not referring to writer’s block. I’m talking about when a particular topic is off-limits.  I’m talking about wanting to write about something so bad it hurts.  It is right there in front of me, tempting me all the while.  It’s like when someone tells the  funniest  joke you ever heard.  You are about to burst with laughter when your boss walks in the room and you must reverse thrust to avoid being inappropriate.  It is a lot of energy to hold back, like a sneeze.  The kind of feeling that sort of implodes and you are left feeling somehow frustrated and unfulfilled. You knew it would have been such a good release but now the moment has gone and you are left alone waiting for it to kind of reabsorb.   My writing is relegated to talking about things outside of my profession. If it wasn’t, I’d have an easy book to write, let me tell you.

I am ever the observer as sentences and images form in my head constantly. Images which have flown out and crashed to the ground as of late, grudgingly censored by me.  So frustrating!  My fingers have been twitching to bang out letters on the keyboard, illustrating idiosyncracies, inconsistencies, contradictions, kindnesses, heart wrenching tales which would make grown men cry and mind-blowing stories that have brought me to my knees. But I can’t!  For this reason I have written fluff instead of substance.  Why I can not compartmentalize and move ahead with other thoughts and projects I have no idea.

I have gone through a series of experiences recently which were overwhelming, exciting, scary, frustrating, stressful, invigorating and did I mention overwhelming? I am not permitted though to bring them into the public domain.  I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. I’ve jumped through hoops, I’ve been flexible and most of all,  I’ve listened and learned. And, I hope my listening has helped.

Other ideas have paled in comparison and so I decided not to write about them.  Writing about not writing and picking at the edges of this larger experience is helpful to a degree I suppose. Getting it out there to be able to move on is the goal.

What I can say is that doing something scary, that moves me out of my comfort zone, has in short order proven to be an invaluable experience.  I have been honored to learn more about a group of people who have humbled me, to say the least.  I so wish I could share the experience with you.

We rarely move out of our comfort zones and don’t realize that we have until we are shocked and horrified, usually with an accompanying “what was I thinking?”   I think that making major changes in life will always be a rewarding experience, no matter what the experience turns out to be and I recommend it highly.  As for this dramatic Italian though, the silence is killing me!

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A Christmas Limmerick!

merry-christmas-winking-santa-claus

There was a plump, rose-cheeked man named Claus

He was jolly and cute but had flaws

He wore women’s shoes

When the reindeer would snooze

And a glimpse gave the Mrs to pause

 

This surprise though it wasn’t enough.

All sorts came from this man in red fluff!

He wasn’t opposed

To some knickers and hose

“And my best Christmas apron” she huffed!

My mother sent out an email saying we had to come to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebration at her house with a story or poem that she wants us to recite. Of course the email drew groans…but, I’m finding I need find humor wherever I can find it these days so this is what sprung to mind!

Wishing all my friends, old and new, a very Merry Christmas and Holiday season and all the best for a Happy New Year!

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On Being Italian

OK. Not all Italians are easily excitable, dramatic, exaggerate and gesture enthusiastically but it is not uncommon and I’m afraid to say I got the gene! I do not speak for all Italians. I speak for me and those I know.  I can also tell you honestly that the times I’ve visited Italy it was heartening  and satisfying to see all the characteristics mentioned above, playing out in lively scenes that are deemed “too much” or too dramatic here.

Outsiders can mistakenly think Italians are upset, angry or yelling but we are just showing interest in a somewhat loud way. Every man who joined our family asked the same question, “what’s wrong?” What do you mean one of us would say quizzically. “Why are you all talking and yelling at the same time?”  Yelling!?! We aren’t yelling, we would say, looking at time as if they were crazy.  My interpretation is that we care about whatever it is that has caught our attention.  I would think people would appreciate this fact! I am always suspicious of people who don’t show any emotion…what are they hiding?  What are they not saying? Eh, must be the Sicilian in me.  I just don’t understand this I’m-too-cool-to-release-an-emotion, thing.  We all have them people, let them out!

Drama. One person’s drama is another persons way of life.  When an Italian says things like: You’re killing me here, Madonna Mia! (as in virgin mother not the stroppy singer), Va fancula (don’t use this one), A Fa Napoli (go to hell or get the hell outta here), I can’t take it!  (In Brooklyn “I caaaan’t”)….It’s language meant to express the feeling they are having. They don’t necessarily mean what they say. It is the same reason I exaggerate.  If I say it’s 100 degrees in here. I don’t really think it’s 100 degrees but that’s what it feels like.  When there were two dogs in the house I would say things like , oh God, I can’t walk with 27 dogs in my way!  Again, capturing the feeeling, nothing more nothing less.  I crack up when someone tries to explain the realities to me. “Dana it’s only 72 degrees in here.”  You’re killing me!

A typical conversation between my husband and myself:

Me: “When are you going to mow the lawn?”

Him: “Later”

Me: “But it’s 7:00pm now”

Him: “I know”

Me: “So you’re going to mow the lawn at 12 o’clock at night?

Again, simply underscoring the late hour. The come back is always an explanation of the actual time and how he didn’t say he would mow the lawn at 12 o’ clock. Sighhhh…message lost.

When I’m upset or excited about something, it will be expressed in hand gestures or my speech or both. One way or another it is coming out! It doesn’t matter what the reality is. So one will hear: I’ve had 100 calls today at work (20), I had to pay like $1,000 to get the car fixed ($350), There were 57 people ahead of me in the supermarket line….you get the picture.  And, when I hear something upsetting for myself or someone else, I’ll gasp or say WHAT?!!!  I think being Italian and apatheic is impossible!  Contrast this with my husband, a Brit, who would respond to the same information with “riiight” as he calmly took in the information.
I could write a post on the phrase Oh My God alone. It is used liberally and in many different situations. It is not reserved for a calamity.   There is “Oh my God!” meaning, I don’t believe it, I’m shocked or got bad news. Then there is oh-my-God which means, he or she is an idiot or something is ridiculous.  Let’s not forget  OhmyGod! which means I forgot something or someone or something is in danger and action needs to be taken. And lastly, Oh my Gaaaawd which is said as a cry (not a whine) which means I’m being stressed to the max . Usually because someone is doing my head in and/or annoying me. When this is used the receiver of the phrase will have a short amount of time to correct their offending behavior because the sender is about to blow up!  Each version is said with its own inflection and different words are stressed.  Of course Italians don’t own these three words and other nationalities have their own versions.

When I lived in England, exclamations were frowned upon. Though Brits do know how to curse and do so very well I might add, Brits do not appear to be comfortable with general outbursts as a rule, rather it seems to be a source of pride that one can keep it together in any situation. Keep Calm Carry On was a war slogan meant to remind people that they were not to freak out once bombs started dropping remember!  I once called (called mind you. I didn’t shout or scream) to my husband who was further down the supermarket aisle than I was and everyone turned around. His face went pale and I thought he was going to pass out. He looked at me as if I’d jumped into the refrigerated section and was throwing thing around like an ape.  I’m not uncouth and am appreciative of manners and etiquette.  I was innocently holding  a package of fresh mozzarella but when I saw that it had come from Italy, I had to share it and thought he’d be as happy as I was.

Ever see someone you hadn’t seen in a long time? Do you quietly approach them or call to them in whispering tones? Or do you act Italian and squeal “oh my God! I can’t believe it! Hiiiii!  How are youuuu??? Complete with delight and lots of hugs and kisses? Again, demonstrating care and interest!

I don’t know if it’s an Italian thing or a New York thing but when I get angry, I curse.  I don’t know many New Yorkers who have a problem with this. Cursing is not seen as coarse or crude, rather it is a creative way of expressing one’s self.  Cursing and degree of anger are positively correlated.  Spouses take heed!  Again, it was nice to hear people exclaiming, cursing, and generally expressing themselves in Italy without it being seen as a character flaw!

Italians talk. They talk with their mouths, their hands, their facial muscles, their shoulders, their whole bodies really.  You will always know what we think, how we feel and where you stand.  If we love you, you will be showered with affection and if we are angry you will know it, the offending situation will be addressed and it will be done with.  We are an expressive people and don’t usually hold things in.  What’s the point of having emotions and feelings if you can’t express them?  Viva Italiano!

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Craziness Part 1-Driving

 

Here are the 13 craziest things I’ve noticed

other drivers doing on the road lately, all whilst in motion:

1) Woman using an eyelash curler then putting on mascara.  Not lipstick. Mascara, that entails putting a very pointy wand near the eye, not to mention the need to stare closely into a mirror. Not the road. A mirror!

2) Men, speeding up, then slowing down, speeding up, slowing down….oh! they are on the phone and unable to take in information, process it and respond while maintaining the same speed.  Cut to me, accelerating, slamming on my brakes, accelerating, slamming on brakes, cursing, slamming on my brakes. Gotta love the narrow corpus collosum and inability to multi-task.

3)  You knew texting would be on this list-I see people looking down, looking up, looking down longer than looking up and getting the full effect of my horn which beeps more than bellows when they regularly cross the double yellow line and are heading right toward me.  Daily occurence this.

4)  People holding a cigarette in one hand, and phone in the other. Others hold coffee cup in one hand and ciggie in the other.  What is driving the car? And, you’re “driving” behind me!  That’s comforting.

5)  Man driving glacially slow in front of me.  Why?  Well I found out as I passed him at the earliest convenience, dirty look at the ready. He was patting down and trying to brush his very messy bedhead with his little stubby fingers. He then proceeded to whip out his electric shaver. Sigh.

6)  A maddening 30 minute drive behind a woman who put on a full face of makeup-from foundation to mascara. Her car was slowly drifting off to the shoulder and I prepared myself to have to maneuver around her when she finally went off the road. So, should I make out my will because she’s running late?

7) Woman driving slowly because she’s talking to her kids in the car- reaching behind her to get “things”, pulling “things” out of a bag, hoisting bag from the back to the front seat, passing “things to said kids in backseat. I never understand why these parents don’t have a problem putting their kids lives at risk.

8) Older gentleman driving ridiculously slow.  Why you ask? Because, he was thoroughly enjoying watching his lap dog enjoy the wind in its hair. At 8am in the morning? Are you trying to give me a stroke?

9)  I was driving behind a man who was there one minute and gone the next as his head popped down and then stayed down! Where did he go?  Uh, hello? Who is driving the car!?!  Did he check into an alternate reality?  Was he hungrily fishing around for old french fries? Sending a fax? Let me guess, he dropped the cell phone while texting and putting all of our lives at risk while he attempted to retrieve it!   I’m sorry, that gets an automatic beep from me.

10) Woman, um, teacher? Marking papers on her steering wheel while driving to work during rush hour.  What a sterling example of those setting examples for your children.  Just thought you should know.

11) As I approached a left turning lane and proceeded to steer through the intersection, I noticed that the woman to my right was holding a china dish in one hand and flatware in the other, eating what appeared to be an enjoyable meal with not a care in the world.  Again, what was driving the car?  The all-seeing knee?

12)  A couple of weeks ago,  I witnessed a  woman driving as she took a picture of herself.  She was drifting all over the road, then decided the first pic wasn’t good enough so gave it a good smile and took another, at speed. Surely you can finish off your online dating profile when you get home…if you get home, I should say.

13) I was waiting at a light to make a left hand turn. The light turned yellow (amber for my Brits) and something told me not to go. Sure enough, a man ran the light that had turned red, as his head and neck were facing the back seat. That bears repeating. The man drove through a busy intersection, through a red light facing the opposite way! Gobsmacked!

I find myself beeping at people to help them from hurting themselves. I’m more afraid for them than I am for myself in most of these scenarios. To paraphrase the captain in Hill Street Blues, for the love of all that’s holy, let’s be careful out there!

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A September Morning

The sky

Crystal blue in its brilliance

The air breezy, light and warm

A beautiful day but not perfect

We remarked that there were no clouds

And wonder now, were they frightened away by impending

Horrors to come?

The bliss of our ignorance a comfort still.

 

A glorious backdrop

For a summer day thrown into sharp contrast

A decent into darkness, confusion and doom.

From ferries, bridges, building windows and street corners…

We came to identify, were slapped hard by, the worst within us

We came to know and taste the hate

We shook from the violation

We cried from the pain, the loss, the fear.

 

We saw what we should not see

We smelled what no one should smell

We felt, though we could not feel

Our senses blurred and betrayed

Our minds unable to conceive or believe.

A sleepless city silenced and stunned.

 

From near,  explosions ripped through buildings and  hearts

Fire and noise and glass and panic

Plummeting potential lost to despair

Then, billowing clouds of smoke and death

 

From far, the stillness remained for a time. For a time.

As news traveled, streets emptied

No traffic. No people. No noise and, no planes.

No planes.

 

Unrelenting rays of sunshine attempted to warm blood run cold

An endless sea of blue sky our only shroud for man-made hell

Heaven a far away witness

As we reached out for desperate consolation.

The Sky

Crystal blue in its brilliance.

(2004)

It took me 3 years, after witnessing the explosions on September 11th, from a Staten Island ferry set to take off for Wall Street, to write this poem. What could not be conveyed on the Evening News  was the smell of death that hung over the city for weeks as the fire continued to burn from within.  That the National Guard stopped us in cars and buses to sweep for bombs before we drove over bridges and into tunnels or patrolled commuter buses, staring us down, to ensure there weren’t terrorists in our midst. That the only sound that we heard at first, and what persisted for weeks and months were sirens from police and fire department vehicles.  That no matter where you went, from supermarket to library, there were pictures of those who perished, plastered everywhere. And so many funerals that whole streets were blocked off and traffic diverted, for them to take place.  Funerals that went on for years.  That FDNY firehouses lost large numbers of men, my fire department having lost 11 (11 in Heaven). That people were panicking-in subways when hysteria set in and in underwater tunnels when traffic was stopped on the FDR highway for the huge metal beams from the WTC to be transported to barges.  That in a city with 3 major airports and constant air traffic, the resulting silence was deafening when that traffic came to a halt.  And when planes took to the skies again, people held their breath or panicked when planes went overhead or seemed to fly too close.  Not to mention that only two months after the attacks on September 11th, there was a major plane crash in Queens, NY, where another 260 people died and which sent us all over the edge again. And that if there was a possible threat, the city would shut down essential bridges and tunnels leaving people stranded or unable to return to their homes for hours. The effects of this day lasted years and for those who lost loved ones, a lifetime.

We Will Never Forget all who lost their lives and all who worked “the pile” to  reclaim the World Trade Center and our city, piece by piece.

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Hot Flash? News Flash!

MENOPAUSE

(Photo credit: tejamen1947)

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been filled with a mild anxiety.  Am I perimenopausal?  Men? Come back, come on back, it’s ok. I’m not going there.  I wondered this because every evening for the past couple of weeks, I began to feel flushed  around 9pm and could not understand why. I was downright hot and had to turn on the ceiling fan in whatever room I was in.  Then the gasp. Oh my God is this a hot flash?  Do women become hot all of a sudden? Is this it? I tried to calm myself down thinking ok I’ll research menopause and see what I have to do.  There must be something I can do I thought, as I fanned myself furiously. I figured that I would need a game plan to come to terms with early aging and all that entailed.  One thing I knew for sure is that I would not take hormones.  Didn’t they say wild yam helped? Or edamame?  There was so much to look up!

Then the other day I came home and instead of walking into the kitchen with my mail as I usually did, I saw my cat in the dining room and went in to scoop her up. As I did, I passed the thermostat.  78??? How is it 78 degrees in here?  It didn’t feel like 78 degrees and was “in recovery” trying to get back down to 74 degrees.  I have a programmable thermostat and in the spring and summer leave it on 74 degrees all the time. I never even thought to check the thermostat when having these “hot flashes” because I knew I had it set to 74.  Lo and behold! I looked through the schedule and it had re-set itself to 83 degrees at 8pm. No wonder! So by 9pm the whole house was hot, it was not me! It also dawned on me that approximately 2 weeks before we had had a huge storm and the electricity had been out while I was at work as evidenced by the microwave and stove blinking the time at me.  Ah, so the power outage caused the thermostat to reset. I see. Wait for it….Oh! That means I’m not having hot flashes after all! Yippeeee!

How funny it is that one life event can have us re-evaluating it all. That’s it, I’m old!  This is the beginning of the end! I’m going to fight it every step of the way.  Oh the joy when I realized that fight would be for another day, hopefully a long time from now.   At least for now, homeostatis, hormones and my thermostat are holding steady.

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What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

I got the bright idea to begin car shopping so as to maximize the amount of trade-in value I could get for my car.  This began a series of interactions that I  1) thought I had learned from already and 2) assumed were antiquated and therefore no longer in play.

My first interaction was with Car Max for a purchase price for my car. I must say, Car Max has a very efficient and easy system in place and I was in and out of there in about 20 minutes with a top book value offer on my car.  Though this would seem like a good thing, it made me venture further into the jungle that is the car dealership world.

My second stop was at a hardcore dealership. This scenario never changes apparently. You’re browsing at the cars and the salesman sidles up quietly. Seems friendly enough outside, all smiles and jokes. But not unlike guys at a bar around closing time, they turn on you becoming very serious once you go inside the showroom.  They want something from you and they really don’t care what’s in it for you!   “How much do you want your monthly payments to be?”

You said that if I came in we could go over all the numbers to see what was possible. Can you tell me what your best price would be? How close to invoice can I get?

“Are you looking to trade in?”  Yes. “I don’t think you’ll get that much for it.”  I already checked Kelly Blue Book and NADA and Car Max offered me book value, sigh.  When I told him what the offer was he said there was no way he could match it.

“I’ll be right back” Ugh the dreaded visit to the manager already?  As if this guy doesn’t know what the car I’m looking at costs after dealing with hundreds of customers a week. He returns.

“Good news! What if I can put you in to [this] model?’

Um, I thought we were talking numbers first.  Plus, I wanted that model and that engine.

“But if I can put you into this for this much a month?”

But what is the price? No answer. He leaves again.

“Ok we’re going below invoice on this now. I can’t go any lower.  If I can get you into [this] model for this payment would you take it?”

Ok! What you are not hearing is that I don’t want that car. I want the other model with the bigger engine. I don’t want to ride a $25,000 lawnmower, thank you very much. You are also not discussing figures as you said you would. Now, I’m pissed.  This was all a waste of time and he just wanted to get me in here to play his little game.

“Well I know I can get you a good price on this car, I don’t know how much I can help you with that car. Do me a favor, take the car home tonight. Try it out, see what you think.”

I don’t want to take it home.

“Just take it home and see what you think, then just bring it back tomorrow.”

You just want me to take it home, knowing I don’t like it, to get me back in here tomorrow.

“Well, I’d like to get your business.” So, again, just wasting my time then.

And for kicks, you like manipulating people, is that it? I said to myself.

Then get me the car I want at the price I want? How about that?

I left this dealership never knowing what the actual price of the car I wanted was. There was no way he was going to tell me what the invoice price was, what the APR actually was or what credit score he had pulled up.  What I did know was that he wanted me to help him reduce the stock he had on hand and was not interested in anything else. Why would I want to give my money to him?

The next day I got 2 calls in a row from him. I didn’t answer as I was at work and didn’t have time to BS with him.  I listened to the voicemail message.

“Dana, I have great news for you, give me a call.”

I called back.

“So if I can get you the car you want for this price ($40 over the monthly payment I was willing to pay) would you want it?” Oh! He had heard me. He wasn’t deaf after all.

I thought you said you had good news. What was it?

“Well I’d have to call the bank and talk to the manager but if I can get it for you at the monthly payment, would you take it?”

What’s the price? And again, you called me saying YOU had good news. What was it? $40 over my limit was not “good news” air-quoting as if he could see me.

Obviously there was no communication going on here and I fell for the “good news” bs!  This guy did not have the ability to take in information, process it and give feedback based on said information.  I kept presenting him with my reality and he stayed in his own cloak and dagger world of smoke and mirrors.

I’ll think about it, I lied.  And why does it feel so right to lie to a car salesman?

Next dealership, same situation. Can  you do better than the MSRP? Again the answer that comes back is a question, “what do you want your monthly payments to be?”  I don’t know! I’m not making any decisions about anything until I know the best price I can get, here or someplace else.  What happened to the days of getting $2,000 to $4,000 off MSRP?  I need to feel that I’m getting something out of this transaction.

Is it because I’m a woman?  Do they not realize that there are more women than men out there? That even when men are present, a woman’s opinion weighs heavily in the transaction?  Don’t they have wives or girlfriends they must interact with on a daily basis? Are they stupid?  Because they really seem stupid. But I know they are not stupid. They are dumb as fox. They are playing the same game they played when I bought my first car. The day they mugged me right there in the dealership when I fell for every trick in the book.  I know better now. I know I’m not going to fall for inflated APRs or for higher prices. The problem is, I did want a car and could not get past the manipulation to get one! Why was it so difficult to get straight answers?  And, car dealers seem to enjoy dragging it all out with phone calls for days. Sorry! I’m done. I don’t have the patience for all that.

I went back to Car Max which reminds me of a restaurant.  You sit in an office with the menu displayed on the computer in front of you and you choose what you want and go outside and test drive it.  I know they build in cushion on trade-ins and the price of the car is probably $1-2,000 more than one has to pay but you don’t have to sit through hours of mind numbing double-talk and they are nice and they don’t have to speak with their managers.  The figures are right there in front of you and the application is done on the computer you are facing.  If I’m going to pay more than I should either way, I’ll take my car sunny-side up with a side order of satisfaction, and you can hold the crazy bullshit!

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