Monday, December 31, 2012

The end is just the beginning?

Every year we celebrate the arrival of the new year, but when that beginning is but a distant memory, it's hard to remember how we began the preceding year.  Oftentimes, we reflect on the year that just passed and look forward to the opportunities that await us in the year to come.  Perhaps it's our way of dealing with those disappointments that we prefer to forget.  In a sense, it's a way to reset the clock and wipe the slate clean.

Either way, my wish is that 2013 is filled with good health, happiness, and opportunity; but most importantly, I pray for peace, never to have it end, and to that I say, "let it begin with me."  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

The Peanuts animated Christmas movie became an instant classic when it first aired in 1965 and has been a holiday favorite ever since.  In fact, I think I've watched it every year since that first airing myself.  Although it may be a movie, the message that is delivered remains timeless and is at the very epicenter of the true meaning of Christmas.

Of course, right from the beginning, you get the feeling that the celebration of Christmas for the those cast of characters was not unlike what we experience today with Black Friday, cyber Monday, and all of the commercialism that follows.  However, when Charlie Brown becomes frustrated and asks the question, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"; Linus answers, "Sure Charlie Brown", and the attention turns to Linus' speech revealing the meaning of Christmas.

With all that we face in this world today, Christmas, with its true meaning, provides us with the hope that something better awaits, if we don't let ourselves become misguided.  In many respects, life is simple, and we ought to keep it that way.  Merry Christmas to all and may God bless!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Making sense out of senselessness

When the horrific events from last week's tragedy unfolded,  we were once again thrust into a sense of disbelief, sadness, vulnerability, and extreme heartfelt loss for the victims, their families and friends.  As the information streamed in from the various news outlets, it became apparent, yet again, that this act was as senseless as any of those that have preceded it.

We live in a world of great challenge today with the many issues facing each of us personally and collectively.  Regardless of the times or the circumstances, we must turn to each other and offer comfort and support.  Good triumphs when we reconcile those differences that keep us apart.  Tragedies are just  that , and no sense can be made of them.  We need to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that makes sense to me!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Too late, already gone over the "physical" cliff

With the impending fiscal cliff lurking on the horizon, there has been much discussion in Washington and around the country about its impact going forward.  Tax cuts are set to expire and the operating budget is in jeopardy.  Where will this all lead "US"?  Hopefully, the men and women who have pledged their allegiance to this great country and represent "US" in Congress can put their egos aside and resolve this and the many other issues facing our nation.  Ironically, however, some of us have already had to deal with the "physical" cliff, and retrospectively, it's only about "half" as bad as the original projections, and allow me to elaborate.

If you recall, I wrote about this very phenomenon in a blog titled, "Aging isn't bad, it just makes you Half Fast".  So when the pundits started reporting their concerns about the "fisical" cliff, I wondered if they just were oblivious to what's been obvious to many of us who have been experiencing the ramifications of the "physical" cliff for years already.  Those long runs of 6-8 miles now are 3-4.  A regular workout used to be 60 minutes or more, now it's 30 minutes.  If there is a threat of inclement weather, the workout gets shelved, and it's off to the coffee shop for a lively discussion.  Instead of swimming 2000 yards, 800 yards will do.  Does any of this sound familiar?

We are on the brink of the fiscal cliff, and the folks in our nation's capital who can resolve this matter seem more concerned about partisan politics than real solutions.  Well, in the grand scheme of things maybe the fiscal cliff is just as inevitable as the "physical cliff" has been for those of us who have experienced it.  However, regardless of its unwelcome arrival, those of us who enjoy exercise get up each day with one thing in mind, we'd rather be doing something, even if it's "half fast", than to do nothing at all.  That first step is always the toughest, but it's never too late to start.  Come on people, let's get "fisical"!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Stairway to Heaven...just got easier

When I was in high school, Led Zeppelin came out out with their immortal song "Stairway to Heaven", and because of its popularity, it became the theme song for the prom that year.  I'm afraid that's about the extent of my memory for that segment of my life, but it always confused me because I really hadn't thought of the mode of transportation to heaven's gate.  In my minds eye, I envisioned some other sort of "teleportation" manner of travel.  However, in the end, as long as the final destination is realized, the mode isn't particularly concerning, now is it?

As the years have rolled by, my parents' ability to negotiate the stairs they once bounded up and down have become their personal Mt. Everest.  They carefully calculate their daily assault on the summit, and with the help of Sir Isaac Newton, they manage to bring themselves in for a return to base camp each morning and afternoon.  However, the perils of the twice daily trek were beginning to challenge even the most experienced "guides", so after the requisite team meeting, the decision was made to guarantee passage of that now treacherous ascent and descent ie. install the lift chair.

Now, just after a couple of weeks of commuting by rail, my parents have adapted to their new found freedom, and collectively, we have relieved ourselves of yet an additional worry, an unprotected fall from the top.  Life certainly has its ups and downs, and hopefully, none of them threatens the very fragile aspects that this life eventually offers.  However, for two individuals who one day will be welcomed at the eternal banquet table, they'll just have to settle for their slice of heaven here on earth where access just got a little bit easier!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts over 3 centuries ago,  little did they know how the Thanksgiving holiday would evolve.  Controversies have existed regarding their menu and when they actually celebrated the fruits of their harvest, but in my humble opinion, Thanksgiving is such a quintessential holiday.  Most of us will gather with family or friends to celebrate the day, and likely, the festivities will carry on through the weekend.

However, there are some who aren't as fortunate, so on this day to give thanks, let us be forever mindful that life's greatest pleasures come from helping those who can't help themselves.  Thanks to those who protect our freedoms and to those who dared to cross the ocean for the hope of a better life.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Gift of "Lives"

As part of its slogan, The American Red Cross refers to blood as the gift that keeps on giving or the gift of life.  However you look at it, blood is ,without a doubt, a very critical element to the vitality of one's life.  Equally, when one looks at blood lines, often times you can get an idea of an individual's traits from those ancestral connections.  Well, for one aging woman, her gift of life was to give her children theirs; now that she is turning the page on yet another year, it's time to sing Happy Birthday once more.

Four score and fourteen years ago, my grandparents celebrated the birth of of their second child, my mother.  Unfortunately for them, they had to endure the heartache of losing their first, so when my mother arrived, the tragedy of one life was replaced by the joy of another then another and another and another and another, but because of that birth order, my mother had assumed certain responsibilities that only the "oldest" would bear.  She was an example to her brothers, first as student and later as a wife and mother.  When I asked one of my uncles what they called my mother when they were younger, he said, "hey you'!  I believe that her childhood and later her education as a "Bacteriologist" prepared her well for the role of mother to 8 children.

As yet another year has elapsed, and for my mother, that number is now 94, all I can say is thank you and Happy Birthday.  She has unselfishly given of herself to others, both family and friends.  The gift of life may be blood, but for my mother, she has given the gift of "lives", ours, to my brothers, sisters, and me.  We love you, and we all wish you Happy Birthday Mom/Grandma/Great grandma!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Always just a bit older but a whole lot wiser

Most of us are quite familiar with the expression, "older and wiser".  The implication is that we become wiser as a result of life's experiences, but that of course, assumes that we learn from our mistakes.  However, some people are simply born older, so they seem to possess wisdom that you'd generally expect only from an older individual.  Well, I have a friend who is both, so allow me to share the story.

Our paths first crossed many years ago when we were students in high school.  I sat behind her in World History class.  The teacher had a rather interesting way of reporting our test scores.  He had assigned each of us a letter, and he'd read off the grades to the whole class using this alphabetical code.  Well, after a while you could figure out who was who, and it didn't take me long to realize that she typically had one of the highest grades in the class.  Meanwhile, I was still struggling with the difference between "Plato and "Play doh", although if I recall correctly, wasn't one of them some ancient Greek guy?

During the summer, we also enjoyed the annual camping trip to the White Mountains to climb Mt. Washington with the local CYO.  Instead of walking down the trail on one of those "beautifully", rainy , cold summer days, we opted to walk down the auto road, hoping to lessen the burden of the descent.  Using that valuable bit of experience from the past, the Cog Railway became a very wise choice for a descent down from the storied mountain on a recent return trip to the summit.

Of course, since those days of our youth, much has happened to both of us.   However, despite life's ups and downs, the strength of her character has remained.  Perhaps that is why she chose a career of helping those who couldn't always find their own way, without that gentle hand to guide them.  Yes, there is little doubt about her wisdom, but since our respective birthdays are just a day apart, I'm afraid that she'll always be a bit older too.  Happy Birthday CJB!

Friday, September 7, 2012

66 years after "I do"...they still are

A year ago, I wrote a blog about my parents who were celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary, and here we are, 365 days later, they are on the doorstep of yet another anniversary celebration.  In the year in between, they have each grown a year older by the calendar, but the chemistry that brought them together remains as energetic today, as the day they met.

To my parents on their 66th wedding anniversary, congratulations from all of us, your family and friends alike.  You have unconditionally given yourselves to each other, and that unselfishness has been a quality few couples share.  Happy Anniversary and may the good Lord keep you both well!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Pesky "Poll"

I have been a Red Sox fan for my entire life, and this past week Red Sox nation mourned the loss of one of its family, Johnny Pesky.  He had been a fixture with the Sox for more than a half century, so he represented one of those vestiges from my earliest childhood memories of the franchise.

The right field foul pole in Fenway Park bears the name of Mr. Pesky for reasons that have been disputed over the years; nonetheless, it was formally dedicated as the Pesky Pole for his 87th birthday.  After watching this man and his contributions to the Red Sox over the years, I have my own opinion about the Pesky "poll".  He loved the game of baseball and his beloved Red Sox, he valued the fans especially the young, but more importantly he remained humble throughout all his success.  Those are qualities that make him a Hall of Famer in any one's book!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Is this your first?

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to become parents, the anticipation and excitement associated with that nervous occasion is certainly unforgettable, and once you hold that little bundle of joy for the first time, every ounce of worry seems to be melt away.  Granted, the time ahead may present a host of other stumbling blocks and challenges, but few would deny that for an instant in time, all of life's issues are but a trivial concern.

My older brother recently told me a story which involved his "first" experience with impending fatherhood.  Long ago, in the days preceding "modern medicine", the labor room was off limits to everyone, except the key players: the expectant mother, the nurses, and the physician.  Everyone else was banished to the waiting room, and the news of the birth was then personally communicated to the father and others by either one of the nurses or the delivering doctor.  My how that process has evolved since those "olden days".

Well, on this particular occasion, my brother and father were evidently out at the local park hitting a few baseballs when the urgent call came requesting my father's presence in Labor and Delivery, so the local constable was dispatched to the ballpark to deliver the message.  Evidently, there must have been some urgency to the situation because, instead of dropping my brother off at home, my father elected to bring my brother along with him to the hospital.  In a bygone era, the nurses were quick to provide some short term child care in such circumstances, however, as you might imagine in this case, they had other, more important obligations.  So, the logical alternative became none other than the expectant father in the nearby waiting room, a perfect distraction for an anxiety laden individual.  Being the precocious son of a doctor, my brother acted cool calm and collected, as he witnessed this adult pacing anxiously about the room.  Evidently, my brother felt compelled to help provide some distraction for this man during his hour of need, so he broke the nervous silence with a question, "Is this your first?"  I can only imagine the scene as it must have unfolded in that waiting room from that point on.

When my brother shared this story with me not too long ago, I laughed until it hurt thinking of a young boy witnessing this adult and how did he ever come up with such an insightful yet quizzical question?  Life's true stories do provide the best entertainment, and this one ranks right up there.  As for my brother, I suspect that it was a first for him too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia Child's memory lives on

Had Julia Child been living today, she would be celebrating her 100th birthday, and with her volumes of recipes,  one can only imagine the menu at her party.  Although cooking is not among my many interests, the end result of those efforts generally has me circulating in the kitchen lurking to assist with the "cleanup".  Regardless of one's aptitude for the culinary arts, few would argue that Julia Child brought a unique "flavor" to her craft that will be difficult to recreate.

Julia Child spent a lifetime mastering her passion for cooking and then bringing it to an audience of "hungry" followers, but what many truly appreciated about her was her witty and carefree style with her TV audience.  My brothers and I occasionally would happen upon her show and were routinely entertained, not for cooking at our age, but for her perpetual lighthearted humor.  Her demeanor reminded us of our mother who took a similar approach to life in the kitchen and elsewhere, and it has been because of these similarities that the memory of JC lives on in living color for us.

Yes, Julia Child brought us French cooking, but more importantly,  she showed us how to master the simple joys of life.  This has been the recipe that my mother mastered best along with this icon of the kitchen.  So, when I hear my mother's voice, replete with her positive outlook on life, I am reminded of Julia and that will always keep her memory alive for  me.  Merci to the ambassador of Bon Appetit!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Newest Food Group

For years,  everyone has been made aware of the 4 major food groups i.e. dairy, meats, fruits and vegetables, and grains.  This, of course,  has led the dietary experts to tailor their educational programs to helping their clients make good choices based on the nutritional and caloric value of those foods, and as our understanding of nutrition advances, the experts typically modify their teaching to reflect the changing data.  Bearing that in mind, it's time to include another food group that many of us have known about for years, but because of the lack of evidence to support it and too, because of its inclusion in an already recognized group, it has been overlooked as a group unto itself.  It now time to give this group its just deserts.

It may not come as a surprise to anyone who grew up in New England, but the residents of these 6 states consume more ice cream per capita than anywhere else in the United States.  Ice cream stands dot the landscape from Connecticut to Maine and all the states in between.  Why, even the nationally recognized Ben and Jerry's ice cream producer is based out of Waterbury, Vermont, and in my opinion,  that location isn't by coincidence.  There are several theories circulating around the reasons for the "excessive" consumption, but one of them suggests that the long, cold winters are justification for the frequent indulgences.  Some contend that the ice cream made here in New England just is better than that made elsewhere around the country.  In either case, if you like ice cream, then you can find your own reasons to justify this tasty behavior.

Long before the age of evidence based medicine, much of the teaching and practices resulted from personal experience and accepted practices, as passed along from generation to generation.  Perhaps this is why New Englanders represent such a large group of ice cream consumers; it simply has to do with their history.  After all, much of NE is comprised from several of the original thirteen colonies.  However, for evidence proving that ice cream should be considered its own food group I simply say, if you are given the option of eating ice cream or something from one of those readily recognized food groups, whether you live in New England or not, most of us would choose ice cream, because there is always room for ice cream.  In fact, it has been my personal experience that it isn't just for dessert anymore either, and that's the scoop from here!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sign here, please

Josiah Bartlett
If you have ever purchased anything with something other than cash, you know that there typically is a signature required to make your purchase.  Certainly, if you have purchased a home or some other large ticket item that requires financing, then you can appreciate the countless number of documents that have to be signed to execute the transaction.  As you can see, with one swift stroke of the pen, one's signature can carry a rather large responsibility.

Well, if it hadn't been for those brave signers of the Declaration of Independence, we wouldn't be enjoying the freedom and liberty that we Americans so value today, especially on this Fourth of July.  So, to the men who bravely dipped their quill pens into an ink well and set forth this proclamation that we could enjoy Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, I say thank you.  Although it took a veritable instant, the actions sanctioned by those men with a simple signature, forever changed the lives of the many who have followed.  Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's a 10

On the day after the Celtics lost to the Miami Heat with their version of the big 3, Mother Nature countered with one of this season's near perfect days.  Lately, New Englanders have been making good use of their umbrellas and raincoats, but in the wake of the Celtics 7th game disappointing loss, Mother Nature had the remedy for the pall.  She dialed up a perfect 10 today.

The future of Boston's big 3 may be in question, but their impact on Celtics fans is undeniable and that makes the day a 10 all around.  Thanks for all that sunshine from your fans who recognize and appreciate perfection!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Assigned Seating

Have you ever been to a formal, sit down affair with assigned seating such as a wedding?  If you have, then you know there are only a limited number of seats that you can choose from, once you arrive at your table.  Alternatively, the option of open seating presents the dilemma of choosing from all that available seating.  What is interesting, however, is how people tend to gravitate to the same seats, even when there is an opportunity to make a change.  Well, when I go to morning spin class, one would think that we had assigned seating for those stationary bikes.  On second thought, maybe we do, and permit me to explain.

I have been attending a spinning class at the local fitness club for a year now, and it has been my observation that the attendees typically gravitate to the same bike at the start of each class.  Whether this is due to being creatures of habit or because particular bikes may be more finely tuned, it remains a puzzle to me.  Regardless, when the instructor appears on the scene and opens the door, there always seems to be a mad dash for that favorite bike.  But after everyone settles in and the music starts, the real challenge begins.  Forty five minutes later, after a series of sprints and hill climbs, you feel like you had joined the peleton, earned some sweat equity, yet are relieved to be finished.

When it comes to spinning class, it has been my observation that it appears to be an open seating arrangement, but I can assure you that it's "ass-hind" seating only!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Reasonable Fairness

When a group of individuals differ on their opinions regarding a particularly controversial topic, it can be very difficult to come to a just and fair compromise.  Clearly, there are some issues that aren't worth arguing over, but when it comes to one's ethical and moral beliefs, it is fundamentally important to take a stand.  Otherwise, what does any one of us really stand for?  Unfortunately, differences of opinion can create division.  Remember the words of Lincoln, "a house divided against itself cannot stand".  Although the very differences that make us unique, may also prevent us from acting as one.

A gentleman I met once used the term "reasonable fairness" in preparation for a negotiation, and I truly believe that life's negotiations should be fair and as equitable as possible, given our existing differences.  There is no such thing as a perfect world, but it's imperative to be fair and reasonable to each other, regardless.  Although we all have opinions, keep the peace my friends!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

This MD is both a BD for an MD and a BD for Us

We live in an age of acronyms and abbreviations so much so that I feel at times we are conversing by using nothing but a kettle of alphabet soup.  In fact, I recently was researching a topic on line, and the article frequently used acronyms that were unfamiliar to me which, in fact, further compounded my problem.  However, once you get some frame of reference for those letters, it all begins to make sense, so with that, I suppose it's time to unveil the mystery behind this collection of "characters".

As most people are aware, today is the day any woman with a child loves, and of course, that would be Mother's Day (MD).  When I was younger, I remember making some home made gifts for my mother, one of which included giving my 2 younger brothers back to her along with one of those treasures!  In typical fashion, my mother reacted by saying how beautiful and thoughtful it all was.

Although today is recognized as MD, this day also marks another special day as well; May 13th is remembered in my family for my father's birthday (BD).  This year he will celebrate his 92nd BD, and for him, he would say, it's no big deal (NBD); however, for his family and friends, we all feel quite blessed by his presence all these years.  His years of influence and teaching, both personal and professional, could only be characterized as priceless.  As a physician (MD), he quite literally saved lives, and how does one assign a value to that?

As for my siblings and me, we have been the beneficiaries of the life created by 2 people who have become blended as one.  Without that first BD for the MD, my mother likely would not be celebrating today as MD, and that would have been a BD (big deal) for us, as we would be DNE (do not exist). Today we celebrate both Mother's Day and my father's birthday, and what a fitting coincidence that they share this day, just as they have shared their lives together for all these years.  Happy Mother's Day Madre and Happy Birthday Padre!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Some Oscars aren't so grouchy

Many of us grew up watching Sesame Street's cast of characters and through their collective behaviors, they taught us about letters, words, numbers, and a whole host of other valuable life lessons. However, they not only introduced us to those fundamentals, but perhaps more importantly, they passed along key insights into interpersonal relationships. For this reason, Sesame Street proved to be a leader in early educational programming. Oscar the Grouch was one of those characters, in spite of his pessimistic personality, but once you got to know him, he was as lovable as the rest of them. Well, I know one Oscar who favors his lack of celebrity far more than his on screen counterpart, and permit me to share my story.

I first met my friend I called Oscar years ago when we were freshman in high school while playing for the freshman basketball team. Over the course of the season, his round ball skills advanced while mine on the other hand, fell out of bounds. But in spite of our talent differences, our friendship grew, both on and off the court. We shared a number of classes together, but our athletic pursuits only crossed during the basketball season, as Oscar hit the gridiron in the Fall, while I rooted the team on from the stands. The annual Thanksgiving game, played against our arch rivals across the river, was held our Junior year under rather frigid conditions. The field was frozen, so the players opted to wear sneakers, instead of the traditional cleats. I had a pair of Chuck Taylor leather sneaks that were ideal for the tundra like track, so I loaned them to Oscar for the game. On a quarterback sneak in the first half, from our side of the fifty yard line, Oscar ran untouched to the end zone for our only score. I recall cheering for my friend running furiously in those "blue suede shoes", and with that scamper, he forever linked us in the lore of this annual clash.

In addition to the typical antics of high school, we were fortunate to have a mutual friend whose father loved playing golf, so our summertime activities would often take us to the links. We fancied ourselves better than average golfers, but the fellowship and laughs we enjoyed, far out weighed our talents. We learned about Little Joe's, Tres, golf etiquette, but most of all, we learned what is was to be friends. On one occasion, when I wasn't actually present, Oscar hit a divot right into the ear of one of our other friends. That particular incident is still brought up at social gatherings, even today.

Since those glory days, our paths have crossed far less frequently; however, whenever they have, the history between us allows the conversation to resume right where we left off. The quiet reserve of "middle age" has tempered those care free days of our youth, but through it all, the friendships remain. And in all the time I have known Oscar, I can honestly say that "grouch" would never have been used to characterize his personality. On the contrary, it might be more appropriate to think of the red carpet and that little statuette because he has always been the best. Happy Birthday JB!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Play Ball Fenway

When Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, replete with its famous Green Monster and storied history, opened its gates 100 years ago, few people would have thought that this grand old park would have been the center of attention for a city a century later.  Well, today the Fenway faithful, along with several generations of players and fans, engaged in a real life depiction of the "Field of Dreams".  It was as if everyone had "dipped themselves in magic waters", and today's celebration was a fitting tribute to a national treasure.

Congratulations, and thank you Fenway for your part in contributing to  a 100 years of history and for so many, those priceless memories!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Match made in...the Cemetery?

Likely, you have heard the expression, "a match made in heaven", and for those fortunate enough to have experienced this, it is indeed a true blessing.  Sadly, the statistics show that more than 50% of today's marriages end in divorce.  This may be quite daunting for those contemplating this next step of a relationship, however, for some, the prospects of a life shared together far outweigh the alternative.  Recently, my father shared with me a personal story of how his parents met, and for my paternal grandparents, the quiet surroundings of the parish cemetery provided an unusual but safe place to start their courtship.

Visiting the parish cemetery to view the head stones of relatives was not an uncommon Sunday afternoon ritual for my grandparent's families.  Sadly, my grandmother had several siblings succumb to the Diphtheria out break in the late 1800s, so her family made regular visits.  On one of those occasions, my grandfather approached my grandmother and that encounter eventually led to a first date and subsequently, their nuptials.

My grandmother died before I was born, but through stories and pictures, I have created an image of a grandmother I never knew.  My mother tells me that her most vivid memory was Grandma's unbridled commitment to her faith and family, along with her daily routine of bread making.  My father concurred, and also remembers her intense work ethic, milking the cows, if she had to, and her willingness to assist in the fields when harvest time arrived.  My recollections of my Grandfather are scarce, but he loved baseball and had the biggest feet of anyone I had ever seen.  My father claims he had such warm hands, he never needed gloves or mittens, even on the coldest of days.

When my great grandparents moved into town years before, they built their home directly across the street from the parish church, just so they could attend daily mass; my grandparents moved into the family dwelling, after a life spent on the farm, so they could do the same.

Although most of the memories I have of my grandparents have come second hand, they all seem quite real to me.  In fact, my grandmother would have celebrated her 122nd birthday, if she was alive today, and unfortunately, her life came to an untimely end when she was just 62.  When my grandparents met in that cemetery many years ago, it was a match made in heaven, and after all the stories I have heard about her, I am sure she is smiling down from there right now.  Happy Birthday Grandma!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Life before the Big Mac

How many times have you heard the expression, "back in the day"?  Generally, when individuals are referencing the past, they may preface their remarks with this lead in phrase, as it's a nice way to prepare for some sort of reference to the past.  Of course, it usually means that one of the parties involved may not have a recollection of the past event.  Many people may remember, but there once was a day when you wouldn't see the landscape dotted with those very familiar "golden arches" we associate with hamburgers, french fries, and happy meals.  Well, I remember the very first roadside stop for a taste of a hamburger with that special sauce, so permit me to retell the story.

While driving through southern Connecticut in 1968, making one of our family visits to Long Island, my mother spied the now famous golden arches and suggested we try eating there for lunch.  Evidently, she had read about this "new" chain selling hamburgers, french fries, and the then recently released, Big Mac.  As for my brothers and I, we were just interested in eating anything.  In those days, the Big Mac came in a foil wrapper.  The ad campaign that familiarized America with the Big Mac went like this:  "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun", and I suspect that any of us who grew up with McDonald's can hear that little jingle in the recesses of our mind right now.

Little did we know that that afternoon stop for a burger would be part of the first million burgers sold, and who knows how many billions have been served since?  Over the years, my brothers and I have done our fair share to insure the future of Ray Kroc's vision, but what we didn't appreciate, of course, was just how those golden arches would eventually dot the countryside.

In the words of the "famous prophet", Ferris Buehler, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."  Those words couldn't be more true today, as it only seems like yesterday when there wasn't a fast food restaurant at every highway interchange or in every small town.    In fact, if we wanted one of those famous hamburgers when I was still in high school, my sister would have to drive us to a nearby community, because there wasn't one just down the street.  

Yes, life was simpler years ago, and according to my parents, it was even more simple when they were kids.   However, on the rare occasion when I bite into a Big Mac these days, I am reminded of my youth, and it tastes just as good now, as it did the first time.  Some things never change!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'd Love a Cup of Tea

Have you ever read or heard of the book, "Tuesdays with Morrie"?  Mitch Albom wrote this delightful book from a collection of stories he had gathered after reestablishing his friendship with a former college professor after he learned that his professor, Morrie Schwartz, was suffering from ALS.  After graduation, he promised to stay in touch; but like so many of us, life's demands oftentimes change that vow and a day turns into a week and a week into a month and well, you know the scenario.  However, once he learned of Professor Schwartz's malady, Mr. Albom recommitted to his prior promise and thus became the substance of his now, well known book.  Most of us could do the same thing, if we only would take the opportunity, and for me, that time comes on Thursdays at tea time.

For years, my mother has enjoyed a good cup of tea.  I suspect her love for it came from my Irish born grandmother who would savor a good cup many afternoons herself.  During those casual afternoons away from work, my mother and I oftentimes enjoy a good cup of tea late in the day.  But what this little ritual offers is far more than just a boost for that late day slump.  The stories we've shared are filled from the memories of a lifetime spent accumulating them.  We have relived her childhood at Bristol Road, her trips to Canada on the boat out of Boston with her aunts, her academic achievements at St. Clements and later at Regis college, how she met my father and later her future in-laws, and some of the tales from my own childhood would find their way into the story telling.  And when my father or anyone else for that matter sits in, additional details are sprinkled in to reflect the differences in our recollections.

Yes, "Tuesdays with Morrie" captured some wonderful stories shared with an old friend, and hopefully, it has inspired others to take the opportunity to exchange similar life stories before they are, for whatever reason, forever forgotten.  There is something special about reliving the past while sitting around the dinner table, around a camp fire, or with your mom and a good cup of tea.  The memories we share are but the true gifts that life has to offer; and in the end, they are our legacies.  Mom, how would you like another cup of tea?  I can only imagine her response now, "I'd love it", and on Thursdays or any day, so would I!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fortunately, enough people said, "Y" not

When I moved to Delaware in 1995, I queried several community leaders why Delaware didn't have its own community center, and in time, I recognized that in spite of a spirited group supporting such a facility, the critical mass needed to launch such a project hadn't yet been reached.  Fortunately for Delaware, Ohio Wesleyan's symbiotic relationship with the city helped to offset some of the city's needs.  For years, the Hayes swim team made Pfeifer natatorium its home and many residents were members of OWU's athletic club.

Now fast forward to 2008; Delaware had grown, the need for a community center still existed, however, the critical mass to support this project still rested among the city's voters.  The citizens group, CPR (Citizens to Promote Recreation), took this challenge on, and they are to be commended for their insights, as they kept the enthusiasm rolling right on through election day.  Thankfully, the residents came out in support and passed the necessary tax levy to make this dream a reality.

After passage of the levy, CPR continued working cooperatively toward designing a center that embodied the wishes of and promises to the taxpayers.  Following the dedication in December and during a recent return visit to Delaware, I was able to make use of the Y at the Delaware Community Center.  Without hesitation, that experience confirms that you should be proud of your state of the art facility that is the product of perseverance, vision, and more importantly, dovetails beautifully with the common goals set forth by those trusted civic leaders.

Although I no longer live locally, from what I have seen, this project will go a long way to promoting the health and well being of an already vital community;  as an advocate for good health through exercise, I strongly encourage you all to continue "exercising" that wonderful sense of community.  Congratulations!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gone to the "other side"

"Ghost" is an entertaining movie which hit the box office in 1990 starring Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze, and Whoopi Goldberg.  Sam, Patrick Swayze's character, met with an untimely death at the hands of a "mugger" only to find out, as the movie unfolded, that it was not a random act of violence but a planned event orchestrated by his coworker and friend, sadly for his own selfish, financial gain. This is what sets the stage for contact between the world as we know it and the "after life" or the other side.  However, at one time or another, most of my family has gone to the other side, and "miraculously", they have all returned to tell of their experience.  Allow me to explain.

Several months before I was born, my parents realized that they needed more room for their expanding family, so they moved the family to a quieter neighborhood and larger home.  My sisters have related stories of dancing in the empty spaces of the new home before the move and imagining which rooms would be theirs.  Naturally, my parents got the master bedroom, but the other rooms were commandeered in order of age.  That meant that the two rooms that were once the maid's quarters and separated from the main part of the house by the second stairwell, logically became the older siblings new digs.  To this day, those rooms still are referred to as "so and so's old room".

The stairwell that led to those back rooms created a natural boundary between the front of the house and the back, and as you would expect, the two sides of the house have a connection through one of the bedrooms as well.  Consequently, we began to refer to this part of the house as the other side.  Over the years, for some reason or other, nearly all of us have made the other side of the house a resting spot for some period of time.  This is what makes the other side truly a domain unto itself; it remains connected but separate.  And for those of us who have actually gone to the other side and returned, it has oftentimes provided that much needed respite from life's occasional disruptions.  There certainly is solace in knowing that a place like this really exists!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Caught" out in the cold

The NFL playoffs are well underway with several of the second round games wrapping up this evening.  As a New England Patriots fan, the outcome of their game appears to be a mere formality at this point.  However, in the infamous words of Yogi Berra, "it isn't over until it's over".

Although New England winters are typically harsh, especially in January, this one has been rather mild by comparison to most; but tonight the temperatures have dipped into the single digits which can make playing football outside considerably more challenging.  In spite of the frigid weather, the Patriot's offense fired on all cylinders, as did their defense for that matter, and with it, they tied a number of offensive records. Even my dad, who prefers watching baseball to football, was in awe of the complete team performance turned in by the Patriots tonight.  It just goes to show you that sometimes getting "caught" out in the cold can score big points with the fans and in this case, for the home town team too.  Go Pats!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

It's in the Cubby Hole

When my daughter was young, I remember reading a story to her called, "The Bear Under the Stairs.  The story was about a young girl who had this typical childhood fear about a monster bear under her parents stairs.  To appease the bear, she routinely threw banana peels into the dark abyss where the bear resided in order to avoid the bear's evil wrath.  Who didn't have one of these childhood "monsters"?  My siblings and I called the monster in our basement the "boogie man".  However, unlike the scary cave inhabited by the bear under the stairs, the cave under my parents stairs was affectionately called, the cubby hole.

Our cubby hole served as a storage area for card tables and chairs and at times, the vacuum cleaner.  However, when the weather outside turned foul, the cubby hole served as our "tree house".  "Systematically", we removed all the contents of this coveted space, and there, we set up camp for the day and then just let our imaginations run wild.  There are plenty of memories "stored" in that cubby hole for sure.

During the recent holidays, while preparing the family dwelling for the celebration, my sister asked where the extra card chairs were; when I said they were in the cubby hole, she smiled and then laughed as it triggered her own memories of this indoor shelter.  As for me, I prefer to think of our small cubby hole as just a little, childhood wedge of real "escape"!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Resolutions for the New Year

New Year's has always been a time for merriment and celebration with Time Square residing at the epicenter  of those "parties".  However, when the sun rises, it's just another day, with one exception; many people look at this day as an opportunity to erase past mistakes or failed commitments.  This is the year for yet another resolution, but this time it will be different for sure.

Unfortunately, for the majority of individuals, the legendary NewYear's resolution is broken shortly into the new calendar year.  Many times, the excuses for failure are as creative as the resolutions themselves.  Well, I would like to propose this.  Make your resolution, not just for this day, but every day for the rest of your life.  Since many of those failed resolutions are focused on healthy lifestyle changes, I hope that this is the year that you are successful with those worthy resolutions.  The clock is running, so good luck and Happy New Year to all!