Took me over a year to find something good I could sink my teeth into and took me just over a day to finish reading it.
One hundred and forty-eight pages of beautifully written prose by a woman that needs no accolades by this poor excuse of an essayist, so I won’t waste your time or my poor writing skills trying to do so.
There were so many things about Toni Morrison’s book, “Home,” that can be written and talked about, so why does a two worded answer to a simple question resonant with me so?
The 24 year old African American Korean War Vet and main character of the book, asks a simple, direct question of a very bright eleven year old who had his arm shot up as an eight year old by an over zealous cop:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The eleven year old’s straightforward (and highly profound) response:
Not a scientist, a doctor, a teacher or postal worker.
Thomas, the pride and joy of his parents, who has scholarships pouring in from all over the country, simply wants to be, a man.
This eleven year old, People, just wanted to make it to manhood.
Chew on that for a minute.
The story takes place in the 1950s, but here we are in 2023 and I worry that we could get the same response from other precocious (and not so precocious), eleven year olds today.
What a pity that we are so technologically, medically, etc., advanced in so many areas today, but still continue to be so very backward and ignorant in so many other areas.
Education and intelligent discussion helps. Withholding information, proselytizing, and politicizing does not.
It’s 2023, People, we shouldn’t still be having eleven year olds worried that they won’t make it to manhood because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation or their cultural heritage.
Life’s too short and too precious to waste on such nonsense.
But what do I know? I’m ornery and old.
Have a nice day and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.
Childhood memories do not come easily to me. Unlike friends in my life who can recall moments from their infancy (I kid you not), I do not have that talent.
So when I recently thought of an incident that happened in Mrs. O’Neill’s Kindergarten class, I was pleasantly surprised.
Times weren’t easy for our family back then. Money was tight. My father was wrestling with undiagnosed PTSD and struggling with inconceivable demons from the Korean War.
And my mother, well, my mother was doing everything else. Mom was our rock back then and throughout our lives.
And was the rudder to our well-worn ship throughout our lives until she passed.
So, when I came home from school that December and informed her that I’d need a gift for our class Christmas party, she took it in stride and off to the local Woolworth’s store we went where we bought one nifty (and highly desired) Barbie and Ken Colorforms Play Set.
On the day of the party, I could hardly contain my excitement. Mom had baked and decorated cup cakes for class, wrapped my gift and off to school I went that morning.
“How could life get any better?” I thought to myself as I trudged through the snow carrying my special Christmas packages.
“I had a neat secret Santa gift, Mom made her special cup cakes, and it was only a few days before Santa came to town. Dang! Life was good,” I told myself as I entered the school.
Mrs. O’Neill greeted me and the other children as we stomped off the snow from our boots, busily chatting with each other while hanging our jackets on our assigned hooks.
“Children,” she said.
“Put your secret Santa gifts under the tree and then find your place mats on the floor,” she continued.
“You need to settle down so we can finish making our Xmas projects for our parents and sing some songs.”
“The sooner you settle down,” she patiently continued, “the sooner we hand out our secret Santa gifts.”
Not one that liked to stop socializing with my buddies, I wasn’t too thrilled to stop chatting, but saw that Cathy Persico was quietly on her floor mat and thought I’d be damned if I ended up on Santa’s naughty list this close to Christmas.
(And I’d be double damned if I’d let “Ms. Goody two shoes” get one over on me.)
“No siree-Bob! This girl wasn’t getting coal in my stocking for Christmas. I’d worked too hard all year long,” I thought to myself as I bee lined for my assigned mat and quietly sat down.
We could barely control our holiday excitement, but managed to hold it together long enough to finish our projects and sing and then lo and behold, those long awaited words from our teacher finally came.
“Children,” she started, “It’s time to hand out our secret Santa gifts. I’ll call out your names and you come up to the tree. Tommy will play Santa’s helper and hand out your gift. When you get it, please go back to your mat and do not open it until everyone has theirs and I tell you to open them,” she instructed.
And then she proceeded to call out our names and one by one we were given our gifts.
Mine was wrapped in white tissue paper and felt like two thick pencils.
You could feel the excitement in the air as Mrs. O’Neill gave us permission to open our gifts.
I ripped off the tissue paper and stared dumbfounded at my present.
“OMG,” I said out loud. “This is my gift?”
“Two white candles? Really?”
I started looking at everyone else’s gifts and suddenly felt sad and somehow cheated.
Kids were excitedly showing me their presents and asking to see mine and all I could say was, “ I got two stupid candles.”
I didn’t know if I wanted to cry or be angry.
Then I noticed the brown-eyed girl with a pageboy haircut standing behind my group of friends looking down at her shoes while slowly lifting her head.
It only took one look into her now misty brown eyes to know that this girl was my secret Santa.
She was the one who gave me the gift.
I felt terrible.
I told a group of kids that it was a “stupid gift” and suddenly realized that what I said was hurtful. And I didn’t know what to do or say.
I wasn’t happy with getting candles as a gift, but I certainly didn’t want to hurt this little girl’s feelings.
Who knows why she gave me candles as a gift? Maybe she forgot to tell her parents about getting a secret Santa gift for our party. Maybe her family couldn’t afford to buy anything.
Could have been one of a dozen reasons.
I don’t know.
I just know that I hurt her feelings and that it was a pretty yucky feeling.
To this day I regret what I said. And what’s worse, is that I never had the chance to apologize to her.
The little brown-eyed girl with the pageboy haircut never came back to school after winter break. We were told that the family moved out of town.
And that stupid gift I received as a five year old, was the gift of a life time; only I didn’t know it until years later.
Many years later…
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a healthy, Happy New Year!
For the past year the Princess and I have been fostering a 17-year-old cat, named Mabel, who has end-stage cancer and is a little sweetheart.
A sweetheart in every sense of the word except when it comes to taking medication.
Mabel does not do pills. Mabel does not do medications that are syrups. Mabel does not do anything that you try to “sneak into her food and/or mouth”.
Mabel is a cat with simple needs: change her water bowl after she drinks from it, clean out her litter box after every usage, answer her cat calls when she yowls, and stay the hell away from her mouth.
Two weeks ago, my unwitting partner forgot how testy our little Mabel could get when she’s trying to give her oral medications.
The Princess went to open Mabel’s mouth. Mabel got pissed. The Princess got bit.
After washing the wound and putting antibiotic on it, we watched it slowly get swollen and red with the passage of time and decided to call the medical hot-line who advised us to seek immediate medical attention.
We end up in urgent care, get a 10 day prescription of antibiotics and go home only to watch the hand get redder and more swollen. We make another phone call to the medical hotline, get told that it hasn’t even been 24 hours for the antibiotics to start working yet and maybe that’s the problem.
Go to the doctor if we feel we need to, but maybe give it a bit more time.
Up to us.
We didn’t wanna seem like we were over reacting, so we went to bed. At 4:30 the next morning, the Princess decided that her hand was not “looking too great”.
Once again, we called the medical hotline and this time we all agree that the situation called for a trip to our local ER thirty minutes away.
I grabbed some blankets (for ME), loaded the Princess and her swollen hand into my car and off to the ER we headed.
After sitting in my car with blankets wrapped around me for 2 hours, the Princess texted me and let me know that she was hooked up to an IV, had had x-rays and blood work done, but that she had no idea when she’d be finished, so for me to go to my morning doctor’s appointment.
After debating the pros and cons of this, I agreed to it and left.
I go to my appointment and texted the Princess that my apt was finished and that I was on my way to the hospital to pick her up and asked her for a status update.
“Had a Thai tea and doughnut, got bored waiting for you, left hospital and am now on an adventure,” she texted back.
“ADVENTURE?” I wrote back. “And what, pray tell, does that mean?”
“I’m on a bus,” she answered. “Having fun. Have been talking to the bus driver and playing tourist. Will explain everything when u pick me up. Meet me at Home Depot.”
I send her a thumb’s up and headed out to get her.
“So,” I asked after she got into the car, “What’s the status on your hand and how did you end up on a bus?”
“Did you know that you have to PAY to ride the bus?” she answered with no response to how her hand was.
“Yes,” I slowly answered. “And why are you even asking me this? Of course you have to PAY to ride the bus.”
“Well,” she responded. “The bus driver kept looking at me when I got on and asked me if I had a bus pass. I didn’t know what a bus pass was, so he explained and then told me that I could use cash if I didn’t have a pass.”
“Seriously,” I said to her. “You seriously got on the bus and thought that the bus was FREE?”
“As in no money FREE? “
“Yup,” she innocently answered while I shook my head and drove us home.
“More importantly, “ I said to her. “What the heck were you doing on a bus in the middle of a pandemic with an open wound? Why didn’t you wait for me to pick you up?”
“Ya know what,” I continued.
“Don’t answer that. You’re o.k. I’m o.k. And we both need naps today.”
Life is good, People. Have a great day, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.
First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me
Martin Niemoller, German Lutheran pastor and theologian
I consider myself to be a kind woman, a compassionate woman – a woman of integrity and morals. I love my partner, my family, my friends, and my country.
That being said let me take the time to say that what I have witnessed in this country over the past week is far from kind, compassionate, loving or moral.
And I am disheartened, disappointed and dare I say angry with those among us who keep supporting a leader who continues to breed contempt, misinformation and division among citizens that he took an oath to protect and represent.
Mom taught me to respect different religions, cultures, opinions and political persuasions.
God and my innate ability to see right from wrong has taught me that I can not remain silent when I witness overgrown school yard bullies harass, intimidate and threaten those among us who try to be reasonable and understanding.
So today I say to you:
Do not assume that my silence has been one of approval.
I do not approve of the hatred and violence that is being shown by some of my fellow Americans.
Do not assume that my tears that are flowing are tears of weakness or old age.
My tears represent my humanity and the wisdom of a life long lived.
And by all means, do not assume that I believe in liberal or socialist views because my opinions are steeped in the belief that education is important to a free, democratic government.
My openness to people’s differences and my wishes to help my fellow man were fostered not by just a well-earned education, but by a hard-working woman raised by proud, hard-working Italian immigrants.
What we witnessed at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 was not an act of heroism or courage, as much as an act of cowardice and terrorism incited by individuals who truly have no business in governing this country.
And I am sad and ashamed for my country and for myself.
We can no longer remain silent or politely “stand by” because to do so makes us complicit in what we know in our hearts is wrong.
This is not a political issue as much as it is a personal one, People.
It’s time to start speaking to each other (and for each other) before there’s “no one left to speak out for you”.
I sincerely pray that all of you remain safe and healthy and I’ll catch up with you the next time, looking at life from my shoes.
Now for those of you who intimately know me, this is not exactly a news event. My ability to stay organized in my head, depends on where I “see things” on my desk (or any other flat area in our home, for that matter!)
Don’t get the Princess started on this endearing habit of mine. She’s threatened to divorce me many times over.
And we are not even married.
I don’t know how my teaching assistants put up with me all those years, but they did and here I am today: retired with a desktop that you can barely see.
So, I woke up at 5 this morning and told myself that I wanted a small Xmas tree in the corner of my room, but I wasn’t going to put it up until I cleaned off my desk top.
Being the person that I am, though, I couldn’t start with the offending piece of furniture that needed organizing the most.
I needed to start way to hell over at the other end of the room with my bookshelf. A bookshelf, mind you, that has more stuff on it and in it than books.
An hour into the dusting and organizing, I came across a folded up letter that was dated December 13, 2007. A Christmas letter addressed to my Mom, written by me, that my sister-in-lawmust have found in my mother’s belongings when she died and gave to me with some other mementos that I had stored away in 2018.
I should be ashamed to say this, but I’m thinking it’s probably been 2 years since I’ve dusted this particular piece of furniture. My Mother is in heaven chuckling right now because she, of all people, knew how I loathed dusting.
I could never, for the life of me, understand how as a youngster it was one of MYresponsibilities to do and not one of my BROTHER’S responsibilities. I would have gladly taken out the garbage once a week rather than had the job of dusting the furniture.
Guess my Mother never quite grasped the concept of “gender neutral jobs” in the 60’s.
But I digress.
In the letter I told my mother, “You’ve brought me much laughter, much joy and much love. You’ve taught me to be a woman of honesty and integrity; my morals and values of life are your morals and values. You’ve taught me to be loving and kind and accepting; and above all else you’ve taught me the value of friendship and how important family and friends are in our life.”
I went on to write that “it is not the money that we’ve made or how many degrees we have that will define our self worth, but how much we’ve loved and how much we are loved that will matter most when it is time for us to leave.”
My letter ended telling my Mom that she “was so very rich in friends and love of family and [more importantly] in the knowledge of what is truly important in life.”
I pray that with the coming New Year that I take the words that I said to my Mother and use them (to heal) in my own life.
I, like many in the country and world, have had a challenging four years since our last Presidential election.
And I’m tired.
Tired of the vitriol. Tired of the hatred. Tired of the threats.
We need to heal. (I need to heal.)
And what’s more important is that we need to talk to each other and be heard. Heard not as black people, or gay people, or Republicans or Democrats.
But simply as people; as caring, loving people.
My tree finally got put up. Unfortunately, my desk is still a mess.
But it’s ok, because it was important for me today to share my mother’s letter, to share my mother’s wisdom.
I sincerely wish for you a safe, joyful holiday season and a happy, healthy New Year and I’ll see you in 2021, looking at life from my shoes.
“We’ve probably got rats!” the Princess yelled while all 3 of us stared at the wall with the offending scratching sounds.
“Great. Just great!” she continued.
“I told you to take care of that darn garage door sealer way back in June,” she said with disgust, while Mabel and I slowly got up from the lounge chair.
I’m no expert with rat scratching and I didn’t want to make a bad situation worse, (because I really wanted to get back to the show we were watching), but from what I was hearing, it sure as hell didn’t sound like any rat to me.
Whatever or whoever was scratching on our living room wall sounded bigger than a rat, but I wasn’t ready to argue with the Princess.
“You’re right, hun,” I said.
“I’m not quite sure how a rat could have squeezed himself into one of those two miniscule spaces at the end of the sealer, but why don’t you call your humane exterminator out here tomorrow and I’ll give Jeff, our handyman, a ring to come out and fix it,” I continued.
Well, long story short: the exterminator dude came out, checked our home for rodents, told us that the buggers probably got in via the little spaces at the end of the garage door sealer, charged us $350 for that brilliant fact and went on his merry way.
So now we’ve dished out mucho bucks to a rat friendly exterminator, plus the cost of our handyman.
And all because I didn’t listen to the Princess way back in June.
When your partner’s right, they’re right. Ya just gotta apologize and go on with life, ya know?
So, last night I went out to empty our garbage and surprise, surprise. I opened our laundry door to go into our garage and lo and behold the outside garage door was WIDE open and had been left opened since 3 p.m. when the Princess came home from her bike ride!
Hm…ya think maybe an opened garage door is large enough for a rat (or any other creature for that matter) to enter?
At this point, I’m thinking we’re starting the winter season, somaybe it’s best we just leave food, water and bedding for the little guys and all just get used to living with each other.
I’ve had stranger bedfellows.
Have a great day, People, and stay safe.
May you all be blessed with a healthy, happy Thanksgiving and I’ll catch ya the next go round, looking at life from my shoes.
Three months ago when she called me to tell me that she had stage 4 cancer, she let me know that her biggest regret about this “whole cancer thing” was that she probably wouldn’t have the time to see the results of the presidential elections.
She was right.
What she DID have the time for, though, was to make sure that her many friends were all made abundantly aware of her love and appreciation for her time with us and that each of us were a joy and gift to her and sent us blessings via emails that her daughter graciously sent on.
And in this solitary gesture of love and kindness, what she did was to give us a gift; one last (and in some ways, lasting) gift from a woman who had given so much joy, kindness, laughter and encouragement to so many of us.
I am heart-broken, but so very grateful and honored to have known her and to have called her my good friend.
The last message to all of us was for us to “be as loving and compassionate as we can, to our self and others” and then she fell asleep!
My dear, sweet Rozie Roo. She was my mentor, my friend and my surrogate big sister.
And I loved her with my whole heart.
Thank you, dear Rozie, for your gift of joy and kindness; thank you, dear friend, for your unconditional love.
Got my official mail-in ballot last week and decided that I better take a few moments today and give it a serious look-over.
I opened up the envelope and saw that we have 36 candidates running for state governor.
Yes, you saw correctly – THIRTY-SIX people!
But that in and of itself isn’t the only little caveat that has me raising my hairy, untouched, pandemic eyebrows; it’s the fact that these candidates belong to parties that I never heard of!
We’ve got one who prefers the “Stand-up America party”, another one who prefers the “Socialist workers party”, one who likes the “Propertarianist party”, (yeah, I had to Google this one myself just to pronounce it), one who’s affiliated with the “American patriot party”; another one who prefers the “Cascadia labour party”, and another one who affiliates with the “New-liberty party”.
The candidates who have listed themselves as preferring the “Trump republican party” are pretty easy to understand.
And I guess I get those who have identified with the “Pre-2016 republican party”. But what, pray tell, is a “Fifth republican party”? Did I sleep through the first four republican parties?
One of the candidates listed himself as preferring the “Fifth republican party”.
Guess I’m gonna be busy today.
Hopefully, you’re all staying safe and sane during these challenging times, People!
I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.
For those of you who know the Princess, you know she loves animals – really LOVES animals and anything living. She tried her darndest years ago to resuscitate a caterpillar by flipping over its lifeless body and gently rubbing between its legs to bring it back to life. Her innocent attempt actually succeeded and the little bugger crawled happily away.
I, on the other hand, am very selective with my love and have a slight fear of any animal that shows too much enthusiasm. Jumping dogs. Bucking horses. Running bulls.
And if the truth be told, I’m guilty of stepping on spiders, squishing most insects that I find in my home and am not a fan of bees while I garden.
You get the picture.
This coronavirus pandemic has us (like most of society) stressed to the max. So we’re making a lot of cupcakes, eating bags of popcorn and cookies, and binge watching a lot of Doc Martin, lately. (If the woman calls me “tosser” one more time, I’m gonna toss her and her little animal-loving self out into the cold!)
To offset this binge eating, we’re taking daily walks. For most couples this is a lovely, outdoor experience bordering on spiritual enlightenment. For the Princess and I, there are times it turns into a lovely tug-of-war; with SHE running over to pet and love on one of the neighbor’s dogs, and ME gently reminding her that we have a “six foot rule” to abide by.
So yesterday during our daily outdoor ritual, I saw one of the neighbors give her dog a treat for not running toward us and jumping, and I got an idea.
Today we went for a walk and the Princess smiled at the dog-walking neighbor, said, “Good morning” and kept walking.
Genius here pulled out a Hersey Kiss, gave it to her and said, “Good job!”
Needless to say, I now have a black and blue arm and she has been calling me “tosser” most of the day.
Oh well, a moment of levity in the midst of a pretty scary time in our lives.
Stay healthy and safe, People, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.