Friday, July 03, 2015

A chip off the old block …


Here’s my dad in 1948. He’s working on his favorite Sunday event...first reading The New York Times from cover to cover and then attacking the Puzzle. I recall many times when we would hold up our usual 4 PM Sunday dinner until he was finished.

I’m definitely a chip off the old block when it comes to this. For many years I’ve worked a crossword puzzle every night in the hope that it will stave off Alzheimer’s disease or, at the very least, help to keep me halfway alert in my old age ! 

Many of my contemporaries have done the same thing but we all seem to agree that it’s no longer as much fun as it used to be. It seems that the puzzles now are filled with current TV or Hollywood names and, since they hold little or no interest to me, the only way I could get the answer would be to look them up on the internet. Even the clues seem to have gone from “hard to solve but interesting” to “Oh, well. Another trip to the Computer”.

This all became very clear to me last night when I was stuck on a five letter space starting with the letter “P”. The clue was: “Unmilled rice in the Philippines”. Really??? For you die-hards out there the answer is PALAY but for me it was almost the last straw.

I still have Dad’s dictionary on display so I decided to look up that word. Of course it was not there. The closest word was PALAVER …definition “folderol” and that seems to say it all for me !

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The wonders of surgery…

Here is my son Mark in 2008 hugging one of the Pantheon columns in Rome, Italy. We were on the trip of a lifetime and, other than keeping sure that he cared for his diabetes, we had little to worry about.  We now fast forward to last week and, once again, diabetes had become the concern. Mark was admitted to the ER with a very high blood sugar and dehydration. I was very worried but knew that a few days on fluids and he would probably come out of it.

Imagine our surprise when they started questioning him about his heart. Evidently the EKG was out of whack and the next thing you know he was sent to the Cardiac Cath Lab where they found blockages in four of his coronary arteries.
It is interesting to note that this came as a complete surprise to all of us, not the least one being Mark himself. No wonder they call this the “silent killer” or the “widow maker”. If the diabetes had not acted up I dread to think what might have happened. 

They wanted to take him to surgery immediately but his elevated sugar levels made this impossible so they spent two days nursing him back to “normality” and then, last Friday, they were able to perform open heart surgery and a quadruple bypass.

Luckily we have a state-of-the-art heart center connected to our hospital here in Pinehurst and his care has been outstanding. He has literally been given a new lease on life and, knowing Mark, he will
grab it with gusto. As for me … I’m still in shock!











 






 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Growing more than IVY ….


This is an ivy plant that resides on my front porch. I water it once a week and, other than keeping it alive I rarely think about it. So why should this week’s watering be any different?

Well, it seems that the thick foliage of the ivy is a perfect hiding place for a birds nest. It can be really well hidden as you can see by the picture and I had no idea that it was there. I was startled, to say the least, when a tiny Carolina Wren flew out of the ivy as soon as I started watering.

 

I’m sure the mama bird was as alarmed as I was so, as soon as I took this picture of the nest, I left her alone.
 
Can you see the hole in the center of the picture and the egg? I have since had a chance to look closer and there are actually four eggs in there. The Carolina Wren is such a sweet little bird and I am glad to play host to her. I pray that she and her little ones will stay hidden from other predators until they can all fly off to more lofty digs in the future.




 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught" … to hate

In 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein produced a musical called “South Pacific”, starring Mary Martin. It became a hit but received much scrutiny for its commentary regarding relationships between different races and ethnic groups. Some legislators actually implied that interracial marriage was an implicit threat to the “American way of life.”

I would like to believe that things have improved since 1949 but it was with a heavy heart that I watched the news last Wednesday and realized that very little has changed. A 21 year old boy who stopped going to school after the ninth grade, had few (if any) friends, and spent most of his days in his bedroom suddenly takes matters in his own hands and goes on a hate filled killing rampage. It made me think of the words in “South Pacific” that state: “racism in not born in you! It happens after you’re born” , followed by this song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” :


“You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!”


I still get chills just reading those lyrics.

Hatred is still alive and rampant in our nation but my hope is that the newborn babies of today will be more carefully taught … not to hate but to accept, embrace and love those with differences. I know that is naïve but I hate to see what will happen to us if we fail to heed the warning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Two Curious Incidents …

Here’s my beautiful granddaughter Faye. I’ve introduced you to her before and you might remember that she is a little girl with a lot on her shoulders. She is a diabetic (with an insulin pump that she’s learned to control on her own) and also is diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. The reason I tell you this is because it plays into what I am relating here.

Faye just turned 13 recently and her Dad and I and three other grownups took her out to dinner as a birthday treat. At one point we were all discussing the books that we were currently reading and Faye held up her hand to get out attention. “Let me tell you about my favorite book”, she said …

“I loved the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time because I could really relate to it. It’s about an autistic boy, Christopher, who goes way out of his comfort zone to try to find the person who killed a neighbors dog. I didn’t just kind-of relate to him. I actually felt like I WAS him ! If you want to understand me read the book.”

I think we were all a bit overwhelmed. This was not Faye simply telling us of her love for the book. She was offering us a look into the world as she knows it and asking us to share it with her. It was a powerful moment.

And now to the 2nd “Curious Incident.” I had no idea that the book had been made into a play so imagine my surprise when I watched the Tony Awards and saw that it is not only a successful off-Broadway production but that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time won for best play of 2015. I guess Faye wasn’t the only one who loved this book !
 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Then and now …


This is the jigsaw puzzle that I just finished. It seems to be the latest trend … puzzles in the shape of animals, birds and the like. It took a long time to complete but half the fun of doing them is the challenge.

It seems a far cry from this “Jonah and the Whale” wood puzzle that my daughter and son-in-law gave me a few years back:



 It came from an Estate in Garrison, NY. and I assumed that it was from the Orient until I read what Bob Armstrong*, a leading expert on the subject, had to say. He tells me that jig-saw puzzles are a western phenomenon. He also surmises, since the pieces are not interlocking, that it probably dates to the late 1800’s.

This, of course, is not technically a “jig-saw” puzzle because the pieces were probably cut by a fretsaw, but the theory is the same. A picture was adhered to a wood board and then dissected. Evidently this whole puzzle craze started around 1790 when a London map maker mounted a map on a sheet of hardwood and then, using a fine thin saw, cut around the boundaries of the counties. It was his idea to use this as an educational tool to help children learn geography and I remember doing just that, as a child.

There are lots of advantages to working a jig-saw puzzle. The simple act of looking for pieces with another person seems to open the lines of communication. It also provides hours of entertainment for a small price, the puzzles can be recycled and traded with other enthusiasts and it is a great way to reduce stress. Of course it can become addictive…but, as addictions go, it is certainly a harmless one.


* Bob Armstrong's Old Jigsaw Puzzles



Saturday, June 06, 2015

"That" CLUB …

Every once in awhile I will read something with a lightly veiled reference to Alcoholics Anonymous. The author will be writing his or her history of social drinking and wondering if it has become more than that and then concludes the internal debate with a sentence such as “thank goodness I don’t have to join that club.” That not-so-subtle put down of Alcoholics Anonymous never fails to amuse me.

 
I look back on my 25+ years of being a member of “that” club and I marvel at the transformation that has taken place in my life … so much of it as a direct result of my association with AA.

I have to admit that I felt the same way when I was first introduced to AA. I had many reservations and, even as I attended the meetings, I would wonder how this strange assortment of human beings could possibly change my life for the better. As it says in our literature “We are people who normally would not mix.” How true that is and I wouldn’t change it if I could.

If any of you out there think you may have a drinking problem please give AA a try. Just open your mind and sit back. As Herbert Spencer said it so well:
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. That principle is: CONTEMPT PRIOR TO INVESTIGATION.”