This and That

Musings on Being a Writer and My Life

Driving as a Contact Sport

  • September 21, 2016 1:53 am
woman-in-car

Buffalo

  • August 15, 2016 2:19 am

new buffalo skylineDear readers,

I just returned from one of two visits to my hometown of Buffalo, New York this summer—the first to attend my brother-in-law’s funeral and the second, to celebrate a family reunion. I reworked this blog post from four years ago. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Buffalo, my home town. Name by French trappers, according to legend, after the river that flows through it. The Queen City of the Great Lakes, famous for snow storms, chicken wings and the Buffalo Bills and the Sabres Hockey team.

Buffalo is becoming an “It” city–with a newly revived waterfront that includes busy Canalside ( a terminus point for the Erie Canal), and the Inner Harbor. The lakefront is crowded all the time, as is Larkin Square, another historic area that is jammed with concert-goers, food truck aficionados and people enjoying the lovely summer evenings Buffalo offers. Travel through the Elmwood Village and admire the wonderful gardens that are lovingly tended, making Buffalo’s Garden Walk in July a highlight of the summer for garden enthusiasts from all over.

Buffalo is the place where I was born, attended grade school, learned about the world, came of age and earned two college degrees. The place where I made my first communion and was confirmed. The place where I fell in love, married and raised a child. The place I spent my happiest days and some of my saddest days. It is where my parents and one of my brothers are buried, and where two of my seven siblings live now.

It is also a city of uncommon beauty—wide boulevards lined with mature trees that are crimson and gold in fall, elegant public buildings—some designed by the most famous of American architects. Situated on Lake Erie—one of a chain of inland seas—cooled by breezes from Canada, it is circled by a necklace of Olmstead parks—green oases for the working class. Populated by the children of immigrants who came here to find the Promised Land and by the descendants of slaves who found refuge at the last stop on the Underground Railway.

I ran away from its harsh winters fifteen years ago looking for endless summer which I found here in Florida.

And now I wonder if I am called back to that place I never stopped loving.

I see a city rich with opportunity, full of the promise of intellectual and spiritual growth. A city where I can attend theater, concerts, and visit art galleries easily. (There is a saying in Buffalo that everything in the city is twenty minutes away…and it’s true.)

I can sit in bistros and watch the bustle of the world go by—and eat wonderful food and not have to mortgage the house to do so. I can drive through neighborhoods and admire Arts and Crafts style homes next to Frank Lloyd Wright houses.

I can be soothed by the rhythm of waves rolling into the marina, enjoy a sandy beach or drive to the undulating hills south of the city.

And I can be among those I share a history with—who have known me all of my life—who love me for who I was and am now. People whose memories I share, who loved the same people I loved. I can be among the next generation in our family, and revel in their beauty, intelligence and goodness. I can see our family’s heritage and the future in their eager faces.

Buffalo is aptly named. It’s is an earthy name—unpretentious, it isn’t a beautiful sounding word, rather one that jars a little. The same way we are jarred by the real thing—by reality. It is a genuine place filled with people who feel authentic.

The moment I arrive in this city—my city—I feel the joy of arriving home, like returning to the warmth of a mother’s embrace.

 

 

Image of Buffalo skyline at night courtesy of city-data.com

 

 

 

 

 

No Title

  • July 17, 2016 11:21 pm

It happened again—I had a great topic (I thought) for a blog post—and there was another national tragedy, the shooting and murder of police officers in Baton Rouge.

May the officers who lost their lives rest in peace, and may their families find comfort. I pray that the wounded will heal fully.

But, as I said the last time, maybe we need a distraction—or a reassurance that life, indeed, does go on and yes, we will survive.  

With those thoughts in mind,  I offer this blog post.

 

TV in Restaurants

I enjoy TV. I like watching favorite shows, and DVR many of them so I can enjoy them at my leisure.

But—and this is a big but, I hate TVs in restaurants (another thing I enjoy!)restaurant-1343327_960_720

First of all, I am highly visual, and I find TVs perched high on a restaurant’s walls to be terribly distracting. When I go out to eat, it’s not only because I don’t want to cook, but because I like the sociability of eating out. Conversations with friends, enjoying the restaurant’s ambience, and eating tasty food should be part of the experience. But, for me, those pleasures are diluted by the ever-present TV show that plays just above my companion’s heads. And because I am so visual, I find myself quite distracted by the TV.  I assume that other people feel the same way.

I wonder who thought that folks who are eating out needed the stimulation of TV.  I can understand it in a Sports Bar, where people go to cheer their favorite team, but  are they necessary in a restaurant that doesn’t necessarily cater to a sports crowd? And having a TV in the bar section of a restaurant might be a good idea—but placing TVs in the room dedicated to dining makes no sense.

There’s another problem with TVs in dining areas. In my most frequented local restaurant, the choice of programs can be questionable. First of all, I resent being forced to watch Fox News, but more than that, I hate to gaze at a dining companion, and catch sight of a gory “criminal procedural” program. What is less appetizing than pictures of the wounds someone sustained when being murdered? Or the reenactment of an autopsy? Why should I, as a patron, have to get the attention of a server and request that the station be changed?

I am not the only one who finds TVs distracting. Friends have been diverted from conversational topics by whatever is on the nearest TV—sometimes appearing to be more interested in the TV than their dining companions.

Wearing blinders when I am dining in these restaurants seems extreme— so maybe I need to think about eating in more upscale places!

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Antidote

  • July 13, 2016 2:47 am

 

Recently, I was talking to a friend who enjoys reading my blog. She mentioned that it had been a least a month since I updated it. There’s a reason why. When I started this blog, my main goal was to attract a following for my writing. I promised that it would not be political because I subscribed the old fashioned notion of avoiding talking about religion and politics.

But somehow, writing a blog like mine in the midst of mass shootings, including sniper attacks on police officers and the death of Black citizens at the hands of law enforcement seemed frivolous.  Every time I thought I had a good topic, another national tragedy would occur—so I decided to wait a week or so. The week turned into a month and threatened to become six months and then a year.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that especially because the news is so grim so much of the time, perhaps a blog entry that brought a smile or a nod of recognition to my followers might be cathartic.

This revelation came to me while I was perusing Face Book after the mass shooting at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, which is the nearest big city to where I live. Even though I personally didn’t know anyone who died that horrible night, I still felt deeply saddened. Face Book was full of memes about “love winning” and posts about the night of terror. The news was brimming with stories about the perpetrator and most importantly, the victims.

Then my brother-in-law died.  It was a tsunami of sadness and shared grief.

I found myself seeking out Face Book posts showing pictures of children, dogs and kittens—and gardens, rainbows and waterfalls and—well, you get the picture. I was seeking an antidote to all of the sadness around me.rainbows-1082107__340

So, I decided that it was time to get back to the blog and writing about the sometimes silly and quirky observations about my life.

I hope you understand. See you tomorrow.

(And here’s a picture of a waterfall and a rainbow!)

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

I Love My DVR

  • May 24, 2016 2:36 am

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Our lives are filled with time saving gadgets. We have dishwashers, washing machines, leaf blowers, lawn mowers we can ride, computers and printers—and my favorite, the DVR. What a great gadget! I wish I could thank the person who invented it personally.

While we’re busy living our lives, doing necessary chores like grocery shopping or more enjoyable things like attending a child’s  dance recital or graduation or just hanging out with friends, the DVR is there, making sure that we don’t miss any of our favorite TV programs. It even allows us to watch one show while it dutifully tapes another show that can be accessed later. We can even read the newspaper or a book basking in the glow of the red light that tells us that yes, our beloved TV program will be ready when we are.

I realized how much I like—no love—my DVR recently while watching a playback of a network TV show.  First of all, I was able to watch a half hour sit-com (my favorites) in 22 minutes. I was thrilled when I realized how much time I saved! I was able to skim over all of the ads which saved almost 10 minutes. That meant that I could watch almost three sitcoms in the time it would have taken to watch only two. What a time-saver!

But the best part for me was that I was not forced to watch any ads with Matthew Mc Conaguhy driving high-end luxury vehicles while talking to his dogs. That alone made using the DVR worth it.

Yes, The DVR is a great invention—easy to use, convenient and reliable. And it is my all time favorite gadget. It has saved me time and I have been released from the tyranny of Matthew McConaguhy!

Thank you, DVR.

 

Image –Pixabay

 

 

 

Ordering from Amazon

  • May 1, 2016 2:17 am

cardboard box

 

One of the great conveniences of the modern era is ordering stuff online. Because I live a healthy 45 minute drive from any decent retail (the nearest stores are Publix (groceries) and Wal Mart,  the expediency and ease of looking up whatever I want on Amazon.com has hooked me. In addition, I bought the Prime membership a couple of years ago primarily for the free shipping which was a money saver at Christmas—and now, of course, I enjoy all the perks of the endless TV, movies, and music that membership entitles me to. And getting the stuff I order delivered to my front porch in two days or less with FREE shipping –well, how can you beat that?

In addition, I don’t really enjoy shopping. First, there’s the drive to the store, finding parking, and then browsing through the thousands of items that populate a typical retail outlet. Temptation lurks all around and it’s easy to buy something because its cute –or it might be nice to have. Then you have to drag the bags or packages out to the car and then haul them into the house. Shopping eats up the better part of a day.

Online shopping eliminates many of these problems. You search for the item you want, read a description, decide whether or not to buy it–and then sit back with a good book.

Lately, though, I think that I’ve returned more stuff to Amazon than I’ve kept. The list includes a Kindle Fire  (which was a duplicate of an order), a pan, a Kindle Fire cover, and two jackets.

It occurred to me tonight as I was printing yet another return label that I’ve become quite the expert at returning things to Amazon.

I wonder if the experience of having to schlep the re-boxed and re-labeled items to a UPS outlet or a post office  so frequently will convince me to drive to the nearest mall and shop in person.

Nah! Ordering on-line is just too easy!

 

Picture Credit Pixabay

 

The Future and the Past

  • April 9, 2016 3:06 am

key west 14 7

 

After my recent shoulder surgery , I went to a rehabilitation facility to hasten my recovery. It was an unusually pleasant place—attractive, clean, with attentive staff.

During the ten days I stayed there, I experienced something that shook me to the core of my being.

I was much younger and healthier than the typical resident at the facility. It was like being a teenager at your grandparent’s fiftieth anniversary party.

Like most facilities of this nature, the staff provided stimulating experiences: entertainment by local people, bingo games, and movies. I attended several of these functions because the days often felt incredibly long. I soon realized that most of the people who attended these functions were “long-term residents”—a euphemism for people whose memories and personalities had been ravaged by aging.

I went to a community birthday party one afternoon. (The draw for me was the cake and ice cream!) I chose to sit at a table with a man and his wife—people I saw every day. They appeared to be in my age range so I thought that we might be able to visit with one another.  The woman resembled me somewhat—she was obviously of Irish descent, with dark, wavy hair, dark eyes and fair skin.

But when I attempted to chat with the couple, it soon became obvious that the woman had dementia. I watched as the husband tenderly attended to her, spooning ice cream into her mouth, and wiping her lips and encouraging her to take sips from a cup of punch.

At one point, I looked at him and smiled.  A tear trickle down his cheek. I wondered if I reminded him of his wife in better days; and that my presence was a reminder of all that had been swallowed up by his wife’s illness. It felt like entering into his private hell.

Looking around, I realized that the staff who took care of the long-term residents could have been me at the height of my teaching career.  And the long term-residents could be my future.

It was chilling to see my past and (possibly) my future.

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions

  • January 8, 2016 2:41 am

dreams-not-your-life-881020_1280

 

The New Year is underway, and somewhere, a well meaning soul is trying to stick to his/her New Year’s resolutions.

I wish him or her good luck. However, I haven’t made any resolutions.

Making resolutions is a time honored tradition at New Year’s. For most people, the resolutions are broken within the first month of making them.

That includes resolutions to lose weight that may include joining a gym or a weight loss program, both of which can have a hefty price tag.

It includes resolutions that have a tangible reward: a new wardrobe, a trip, better relationships, and better health.

It’s a documented phenomenon that New Years’ resolutions don’t work.

I wonder why this happens.

I think most people who make resolutions are sincere—they want a better life, to be healthier, slimmer, kinder, and all the other rewards that keeping the resolutions would grant.

Is it because we see New Year’s resolutions as something that can be broken?  After all, aren’t promises made to be broken, according to an old saying? Or is that making the life style changes necessary to fulfill the resolutions are too challenging?

Whenever I’ve done something to improve my life, it was a decision I made after realizing that  continuing to do what I was doing would not make me happy. In other words, making changes, at least for me, is not contingent on making a promise to myself or a time of year.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Have you ever kept any?

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

 

Her Favorite Color

  • December 18, 2015 10:48 pm

christmas gift clip art

It was her birthday and Lori woke up feeling apprehensive. Leave it to her husband to have to be out of town until the weekend. She would have to celebrate alone.

“Jack, can’t you get someone else to go to Rochester to fire those poor schmucks,” she’d asked.

Jack had slurped his coffee noisily.

“They’re not schmucks. And no, that’s my job.” Another slurp. “Jeeze, you’re forty five—it’s not like you’re a kid and I’m missing your birthday party. I’ll make it up to you when I get back.”

He downed the rest of the coffee. A peck on her cheek, and then he was gone.

Lori cleared the table. Grabbing her lunch, she checked the clock. Crap, I’m going to be late if I don’t get out of here.

The car seemed to be on auto pilot as she hurried to Healthy Smiles Dental Clinic where she spent the day picking tartar off other people’s teeth.

“It could be worse,” she’d tell her friends, after a few glasses of Merlot.  “My mother wanted me to be a teacher.”

Just dropping her children off at school when they were little was enough to give Lori a headache that lasted the whole day. She couldn’t imagine being locked in a room full of screaming kids.

After gliding into an employees’ only spot on the perimeter of the parking lot, she flipped the vanity mirror into the down position.  Tiny crow’s feet etched her eyes and mouth. Her smock stretched a little too tight across her chest and the elastic waist on the scrub-style pants pinched.

“Oh, well.” Lori sighed. At least Jack had stopped nagging her about the new rolls of fat that had settled on her midriff. She struggled out of the car and surveyed the distance to the office. Huffing and puffing, she finally reached the door of the building. The walk seemed more strenuous every day.  She promised herself again to get serious about losing a few pounds—or else get a job at a building with more convenient employee parking.

Three dreary days later, the weekend arrived and Jack reappeared.

“I’m beat,” he said, when Lori greeted him at the door.

She concocted a couple of martinis and clicked the remote to start the faux fire logs on the hearth.

Lori perched on the edge off her chair, waiting for her gift. She was dressed in her new one size larger black pants and a loose fitting tunic top.

“So, when do I get my birthday gift, Jack?”

Jack’s face was usually a mask. But this time, he looked alarmed.

“Oh, yeah. That…u-m-m. Hold on.”

He dug around in his overnight bag and fumbled with a package.

“Sorry, honey, I didn’t have time to get you a card.”

“Really? I would have thought that you might have passed about 200 Walgreen stores between here and Rochester. Isn’t there one just around the corner from the house?” Lori asked testily.

“I’ll get you a card later—when we go out to dinner. You did make a reservation somewhere, right? I hate waiting for a table on Friday night.”

He handed his wife a box with Lord and Taylor emblazoned on the top.

Eagerly, Lori opened the elegant box.

Nestled in crinkly, almost sheer tissue paper was a spaghetti–strapped silky wisp of a nightgown.

Lori drew it out of the box. The scent of an exotic perfume wafted from it. She thought she recognized Chanel #5, an indulgence she just dreamed about.

She examined the garment. It would be a perfect fit for a woman the size of a Barbie-doll.

Holding it up in front of her size sixteen body, she looked up at her husband. At that precise moment, a card slipped onto the floor. Lori and Jack bumped heads as they both bent to retrieve it.

“Sorry, honey, I guess I left the saleswoman’s card in the box,” Jack said nervously, as he slipped the tell-tale card into his pocket.

Lori stared at her husband. Seriously, she thought. Does he really want me to believe he bought this for me?

She watched him squirm.

Then in a voice hard with sarcasm, she said, “Jack, don’t you remember that red is not my favorite color?”

 

Picture courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

 

 

 

Morning in America

  • December 3, 2015 3:12 am

 

 

Another mass shooting today—it must be morning in America.

I don’t know which is worse: the feeling of helplessness that overwhelms me when these things happen, or the fact that they happen so often.

This one hit especially close to home for me. San Bernardino, where 14 people died for going about their daily business and 17 more were injured, is where my daughter works. Thankfully, she was never in danger. The shooting occurred at a county agency and she teaches at the university several blocks away.

Still, I was anxious—at first because I didn’t know exactly where the shooting had taken place. It took almost 15 minutes to find out. And because my daughter has friends who teach on that campus, too, people I know and like.  I worried for their safety as they traveled home later in the day.

Then I found out that my daughter was traveling through the city to another campus. I hoped that she wouldn’t be affected by the manhunt that was underway for the perpetrators.

Now I wonder how she and her colleagues will handle this tragedy when they gather with their students tomorrow.  I feel deep sympathy for the people who tonight are mourning loved ones or keeping a bed-side vigil for an injured friend or family member.

Both my daughter and her closest friend posted on Face Book that they were safe and had not been in immediate danger. Then they both admitted to being exhausted from the stress of dealing with the events of that day.

The fallout from this incident will play out for many days ahead.

Those of us who were not directly involved will forget and move on. Those who were in San Bernardino at the time will have to process what happened and attempt to make sense of it.

I wonder if we are safe—anywhere. Shouldn’t people be safe at work, at school, in movie theaters, in restaurants?

We all know we aren’t.

Instead, we try to compensate for our lack of safety. We’ve armed our police with combat gear. We’ve taught teachers how to properly lock-down their classrooms. Children understand the terms “active shooter” and “mass shooting.”

And the only solution many politicians and other well-woman-511849__180 Pixabaymeaning people can offer is “thoughts and prayers.”

 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay