Thursday, December 31, 2009

Deja New Year All Over Again

The other day I wrote about New Years 10 years ago with my 9 year old son and his friend.

This afternoon, my 19 year old woke up, went out for a while, and came home with a friend - and a new Craftsman tool.  Son is probably keeping Sears alive single-handed.

We sat down to watch the 4pm programming.  First was a glimpse of fireworks somewhere (Moscow?) to which he gave a mocking comment.  Then we switched between the People's Court and Judge Joe Brown, to the immense entertainment of son and his friend.  People and their antics are immensely popular in the 19 year old age group-Jerry Springer type entertainment and the show Cops being highlights in their daily programming.

Then tonight he goes to work.

10 years can be a long time.   The 9 year old is now a lanky adult, owner of two (yes, two) cars and a ton of tools.

In 10 more years he will be 29, hopefully happily married with family, and I will be...yikes, let's not go there.

As for us: We decided not to go to First Night; spouse says it is really slippery out and he was thinking of my back after all.  What I really think is that he didn't want to go.  If I needed to go to work today, he wouldn't have told me to stay home.
But we will have fun, and we will try our best not to fall asleep before midnight.  Yes, that is still important to us.

So one more time.....Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Around The World

As snow steadily comes down outside, I feel so happy that I took today off.

Right now I am alone. Son sleeping, spouse at work.  It's daylight, here on the last day of the first decade of the 21st century.  I should grab myself a cup of hot chocolate and a pair of fuzzy slippers.

On CNN I saw a glimpse of the Auckland fireworks at 10am our time, then the Hong Kong fireworks at 11.  So in a way I am recreating what I did with my then 9 year old son and his friend 10 years ago, when we watched the start of a new century from around the world.  Now, with You Tube, I've already watched a few minutes of the Sydney fireworks.

We have come a very long way from a short, fuzzy broadcast so many years ago of London. live on the Today show, brought to us by Telstar. (this may not be fully correct, I am going by memory here.).  Our world is bound together in a way we never dreamed would happen in our childhood.

For good or bad, this is part of what ruled our past decade.  September 11, 2001 defined our decade in many ways, and I fear what happened Christmas day on that Northwest flight will only be the beginning of a new round that may define our next decade.

I hope I am wrong.

Don't know if I will write again this year.  If not, Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

10 Years Ago - Happy New Year!

How time passes.

10 years ago ..... I had a 9 year old and the day off.  New Years Eve 1999.  I spent part of the day with my son and one of his friends celebrating the last day of the 20th century (although technically it wasn't).  We tracked the New Years on a globe and watched a bunch of New Years fireworks - Sydney, Australia, Egypt, London.

I don't want to ask my son if he remembers; it would probably embarrass him.  And he had a falling out with this friend early in high school.

Nothing like tracking your life through what you did with your children and when to really make you feel how quickly time passes, and how you need to treasure all the things you do with your young children.  Because one day they will have their own lives.

Now we are about to enter a new decade.  May it be a better one than this first decade of the 21st century.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Save Columbus! Save the ......New York City High Schools!

Through Facebook, I found that another local high school where I grew up, Christopher Columbus High School, will be closing as "low performing".

What is going on here?

When I was growing up, people aspired to get into Columbus.  One heard of the lucky kids who had relatives in the district, ready and willing to give students their addresses to get them into the district.  (of course, I knew no one who actually did that).  I wanted to go to Columbus because they gave Latin as a foreign language.  I was lucky enough to avoid Evander Childs (which has closed-I blogged about this some months ago), which already had a bad reputation, in order to attend the Bronx High School of Science.  It was a good thing too because I wasn't lucky enough to have relatives in the district.  But I did go to college with a couple of women who did attend Columbus (legitimately, I might add.)

I am not an expert in education, but am friends with two retired NYC area teachers.  I wonder if they know anything about this....

There is a Facebook page for "Save Columbus" I won't join as I was not directly connected to the school but I wish them the best of luck.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Binghamton Blue Christmas

My heart and prayers go out to several people I know, or know through other people, this holiday season.

There is the beautician I blogged about several months ago, whose teenage son was partially paralyzed in a car accident earlier this year, not long after he got his drivers license.  I had my hair done earlier this month, and this young man was in the back yelling out demands.  When his mother (who was cutting my hair at the time) didn't immediately respond, the "f" bomb and other comments followed (directed at me as the customer).  It is obvious that my beautician is subject to the brunt of anger and other feelings from this young man.  I do not work in this field, so I do not have any bright ideas, but it took all of my willpower to not march back there and give him a piece of my mind.  The only reason why I didn't is because I don't know what it would have done for her except make things worse, probably.

I am not a stranger to the world of disabilities (my father suffered a tramatic brain injury before I was born) and I do want to help, but not in a misguided way.

Next, there is the woman who works at my company.  Her brother has cancer, and she offered to be a donor for the bone marrow transplant he needs.  At first (I don't know which) he refused but either he relented or she went ahead and got tested for suitability anyway.  And what did she find but....she has the same cancer.

She had been feeling very tired, had colds she couldn't shake, but had marked it down to getting old. (She's in her early 60's). 

My walking companion went to high school with her.  When I found this out yesterday, my companion was off, but when we all return to work Monday, I will have to find out if she knows more. 

I know this sounds like something from a bad novel, but you can't make this stuff up.

Finally, another person at work...the assistant pastor at his church, who has done much to build the congregation and does many youth activities, had a major stomach ache soon after Thanksgiving.  It was bad the first day, really bad the second, and he went to the doctor.  Later that week he is being operated on for stomach cancer.  From my family history of pancreatic cancer (and I also lost an aunt to stomach cancer) I know what the prognosis is.

These three people all need our prayers.  When I wrote the article on "Blue Christmas" in my company newsletter, I never dreamed of how soon it would be put into practice in real life.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Gingerbread and Sustainable Agriculture

I saw the most amazing display of prize winning gingerbread houses today on Good Morning America.  It is even more amazing for me as I have two left hands and I couldn't decorate a gingerbread cupcake, never mind create a gingerbread house.  Trust me, I know.

So seeing the White House chef gingerbread recipe posted made me wonder...should I attempt it?  I am not the biggest fan of gingerbread but this does sound good.

Will I make it?  If I do I promise to blog about it.  But I don't have the correct pans, so don't know if I will bother.

Meanwhile, what about the White House Gingerbread House?  Complete with marzipan garden?  Monument to sustainable agriculture, White House Lawn style?  I am torn between the beauty of this and how much taxpayer money must have been spent on it.  But on the other hand, many natural materials were used in decorating the White House.  And, using local honey was a nice touch with the gingerbread house. 

All in all, a lighthearted moment in what is becoming a Christmas season filled with not always the best news.  My next post may not be so lighthearted.

Dear John in Afghanistan

Dear John somewhere in an Afghanistan combat zone:

"Thank you for your service" sounds so lame, so I am not going to say it.

I've only met you a couple of times, at company picnics, while you were growing up.  You aren't that much older than my son.  And you share something with him, a love to work on objects, to repair them.

Like many young men, you didn't have the easiest time of it in school.  But your Mom was always there for you, fighting when she had to so you could get a free, appropriate public education.  She was so proud of you, John, when you became a weightlifting champion.  And stood by you when you made some bad life choices.  But you rejected that road, and put yourself back on the right road.  You married your high school sweetheart.  You joined the Marines.  And last month, you were shipped out.

I think about you although I barely know you, John.  I've met some other men, all older, who have been back from the combat zones, both from Iraq and from Afghanistan.   I have never been in combat, although I know those who have been (including at least two people who have supervised me at my various jobs.)  I can not begin to imagine what you are going through now, and how it will change you.  And change you it will.

I won't question the war or support it-this blog does not take political positions.   What I will do, John, is pray for your safe return home.  For the sake of your high school sweetheart, and your mother.  And our country.  We need you, John.  And we need all the other brave men and women who put their lives on the line so the rest of us can sit here on a Christmas Eve and go about our everyday lives.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kim Peek and the World of Disabilities


But if I say "Rain Man" everyone will know who I'm referring to.

Initially, Kim Peek, who died December 19 at age 58, was diagnosed with a condition called Macrocephaly.  It was said he had autism, a developmental disability that my youngest brother in law also has.  But in recent years, that diagnosis was disputed.  It is possible that he had a rare syndrome called FG Syndrome.  What we knew was he was a genius in some ways, but unable to take care of himself.

No doubt though that the Rain Man character had autism.  That movie probably did more to advance the cause of dispelling prejudice about mental disabilities than anyone else. The character was sympathetic and believable.  We cheered for him.  When we think of autism, we think of Rain Man.

Kim Peek, as a result of the movie, also had a chance to become, if you will, an ambassador to break down the barriers between those with autism and those of us who people with autism call "neurotypical".  I've read that he traveled more than 60 million miles during his life, sharing his story and skills with students all over the world.  And now that the latest estimates of children who will develop autism are one in every 110 live births, we need all of the knowledge we can get.

We didn't feel sorry for Kim Peek.  We didn't feel sorry for Rain Man.  And that is how it should be.

Monday, December 21, 2009

One Day I May Dance

This holiday season I have been granted the gift of movement.

I am back to water aerobics, 2nd class in a row, although I still can't do all the movements. I do the best that I can and it is so wonderful to move in the water once again.  The exercise class is almost empty this time of year, which is good for me.

  My physical therapist has now given me a number of exercises to do, to relieve pain, to start the process of strengthening my abdominal muscles, and now, to try to stretch my right leg so I can straighten it without pain.   She had me on the treadmill today, and had me do a stretching exercise with a long belt.

January 6 I get results of my MRI and maybe then I will know why I am still having the issues I am having.  Or maybe the surgeon will tell me that the MRI didn't show anything.

I remember the joke about the man asking his surgeon if he'll be able to play the piano after his surgery, the surgeon says "of course you will" and the man says "that's funny, I can't play it now".  I have never danced.  I was born with two left feet.  I envy the people on Dancing with the Stars who can turn and spin and do all those movements.  But maybe, when I emerge from this back problem stuff, I will be able to dance.

Or maybe regular moving around will feel like dance.  Because now I know what it is like to be in such pain one can barely move.

So now I am grateful for my everyday walking, and for being able to get back into the pool.

Winter Begins-Arctic People Cheer

I don't know how cheerful they get over this but Fairbanks has "bottomed out" on their shortest day.  So now the daylight will soon start to increase until they reach the summer solstice.

Today the stats are:  Sunrise 10:59, Sunset 2:41 (3 hrs 42 min of daylight)

Tomorrow the stats are:  Sunrise 11:00, Sunset 2:42 (3 hours 42 min of daylight)

You may ask "why is the sunrise still getting later"?  Actually, this happens with us here in upstate NY too.  Our sunsets have already "turned around" but our sunrises will keep getting later right into January.  We never noticed that sunrises and sunsets never increase and decrease "evenly" until we owned chickens.  Instead, sunset will increase or decrease for a while, then stay stable while the sunset advances and retreats.  And then vice-versa.

I'm not a scientist so don't ask me why.

Meanwhile, up above the arctic circle in Svalbard, Norway, it is fully dark and will continue to be for months longer.  Alas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Let it Snow-Somewhere Else

One of the nice things about not living on the coast is that we here in the snowbelt of upstate NY (really, the outer fringes of the snowbelt) can amuse ourselves when the tables are turned on those outside of the snowbelt.

Such is today, as the East Coast gets pounded with rain or snow and we here in the Triple Cities....nothing nothing nothing.  At least right now.  All....(chortle) somewhere else.

Here's a nice blog entry regarding snow and the White House.  And, the White House gardens....ooops, now Blogger will really consider me as a garden blog.

Oh, and speaking of "somewhere else", it's even snowing in the United Kingdom! 

But, alas, try as they might, these places may have a long way to go to beat us (and other upstate NY cities) in the Golden Snowball Award.

But in the meantime....let it snow, let it snow, let it snow....somewhere else!

Sorry You Lost Your Job-Here's a Card

Hallmark is no stranger to trying to sell cards during the recession.

And no stranger to layoffs, either.


I was on the Hallmark site, sending some ecards this afternoon.  Hallmark has a nice selection of ecards-many cost 99 cents each, or you can buy an annual subscription and send unlimited card.  These are high quality ecards, too.

Here and there they offer free ecards.

I noticed that there was a "care and concern" catagory, and they offered some cards to console those who had lost their jobs.

Twenty four cards offered for the people wanting to console job losers. 

Perhaps I am in my "bah-humbug" mood (which will last until Christmas Eve, probably) but I should applaud Hallmark for owning up to the fact that times are tough and offering people a way to send a few moments of cheer or inspiration to someone they care about.  I personally don't think I would do this but the option is there for those who would.

I wish I had a clever ending for this post, but I don't.  I am lucky to have a job but I know others who don't, or who are sweating out whether they will be on the next layoff list. 

We can all hope this category shrinks substantially next year.  Why don't we go see next December?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Rotting Disney Theme Park

Have you ever wondered what would happen if man disappeared from the earth?  Or at least what would happen to Disney properties if man disappeared from the earth?  Or if no one suddenly cared about All Things Disney any more?

If that happened, it might look something like what happened to an abandoned Disney theme park.

There is more information on this fascinating event here.

Considering how carefully Disney orchestrates every part of their properties, this being allowed to happen, quite publically, is of great interest to those of us who love history.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Truth About Obama

For some time, the Blogger service has had a "next blog" link:  when you are at a blog you hit "next blog" and you got another blog.  For a long time it was totally random.  Most of the time you got something in another language.  Fine if you were multilingual or if the blog was rich in photos.  But most of the time, it was a total waste of time.

Recently, however, Blogger instituted a "smart" "next blog" feature.  This somehow analyzes the blog you are on and will bring you to similar blogs.  So far, it seems to work pretty well.  When I want to randomly investigate other blogs I get blogs in English.

So, what kind of blog am I?

Most of the time I end up on gardening blogs.  I didn't think most of my entries were about gardening but Blogger apparently thinks I am a gardening blog.

So...what about other blogs?  For example, what is the truth about President Obama?

I checked some other blogs I follow by hitting the "next blog feature and I thought I would check a "liberal" blog just to see what would happen.

When you go to the Obama Foodorama blog and hit next blog, this is what you get: a conservative blog!   I don't know if this will happen every time but....does Blogger know something about Obama that the rest of us don't know?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fairbanks gets ready for its Winter Solstice

Tomorrow in Fairbanks: day length only 3 hours and 45 minutes.  They lose a minute from today.  As do we here in upstate NY.

The webcam at the University of Alaska shows a snowy landscape, no sun visible today.  And, you can be 100% certain that Fairbanks will have a White Christmas.  Global warming or no global warming.

So, like all good cities should do, Fairbanks makes the most of their winter solstice with a celebration.

But for tomorrow, here are the official statistics.  As much as the extreme swings of day and night fascinate me, I'm glad this isn't here.

DECEMBER 17 2009..........SUNRISE  1056 AM AKST   SUNSET  241 PM AKST 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh Chanukah - Made in China

A couple of weeks ago I overheard a conversation.  Someone from out of town was asking directions to a store here because he was trying to find Chanukah candles that were made in Israel, and not in China.


In my childhood Chanukah candles were made in Israel.  There were two types.  The "cheap candles" were all white.  For a little more, you could get colored candles.  Usually the colors were white, yellow, green, blue and red.

Nowadays, there are a lot of "gourmet" (or maybe "artisan" is a better word) Chanukah candles.  Beeswax candles.  Hand dipped candles.  But the old standby colored candles (not the all white ones-I haven't seen them for years) are still in the grocery stores.

An informal survey of three supermarkets in this area found one selling only Chinese made candles and two selling both.  I found the same brand, which I will not name, made both in Israel and in China.

I guess that is why the "cheap" candles are cheap.

I won't comment otherwise.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blue Christmas Continued

My recent entries on "Blue Christmas" encouraged me to write a little article for my company newsletter on the subject.  I wrote about those in pain, and gave some general suggestions I felt were appropriate, based on my own experience of 11 years ago when my father in law passed away during Christmas night.

I must have hit some kind of nerve; in the first several hours since it appeared I got two comments about it.   The article hadn't even been announced yet.  And, the person who takes contributions for the newsletter was interested in running it because she knew people in pain - people who had suffered recent losses.  The way we celebrate Christmas was causing them even more pain.

Obviously there is a need for a recognition out there of those who find only pain in the nonstop "all Christmas all the time" blitz our society subjects us to for a good three months of each year.  It is impossible to escape. 

It is good to see that churches are recognizing this, and hold "Blue Christmas" services.  And it is better seeing that many of these are open to those of all faiths, or no faiths.  Pain knows no religious boundary.

My heart goes out to all those "celebrating" a Blue Christmas this year.  May you find comfort, and may time help to heal your pain.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rebooting Money

This afternoon we were in a local supermarket.  At the checkout we tried to use our debit card, and got an error message.  The young bagger, perhaps still in high school, immediately declared that the debit card reader needed to reboot.  So he pressed some buttons and we waited about 3-4 minutes while the reader slowly and painfully (especially for the next people in line) went through its cycle, complete with cryptic notes.  Finally it was ready and we were able to complete our transaction.

He wasn't surprised, and explained it must be because so many people were probably shopping and using their debit cards, right at that exact moment.

So let me see here.  Did spouse and I almost bring down the entire U.S. economy?

That would have been embarrassing.

Hmmm....  On Black Friday we shopped in two stores where computers were either down or just had gone back online.  And today we nearly weren't able to buy some groceries.

Says a lot about the electronic economy, doesn't it.  And the really scary part is that we are in a recession and people are still holding back their spending.

What happens when everyone feels comfortable enough to start shopping again?  And if they all decide to do it at the same time? 

Has anyone thought about this?

Better keep some money under the old mattress just in case.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Eternal Darkness of the Arctic - Almost To the Solistice

Surfing to the three Fairbanks webcams I view occasionally, I watch at about 1:15 - 1:45 pm their time.  It's an hour or so before official sunset in their 3 hour and 55 minute day now, here a little less than a week before the winter solstice.

The sun barely hangs above the southern horizon, lighting the partially cloudy skies with a bailful diffused light.  The sky is streaked dark blue and purple except on the horizon, where a glimmer of sunlight shows.  The washed out light barely lights downtown Fairbanks.  Streetlights are on.

The feeble sun, drained of almost all its energy, crawls just above the southern horizon.  Soon it will set and the arctic night will descend again.

It's about five below zero, not bad for a mid-December day.   Snow blankets the ground, as it will for several more months.

Will there be an aurora later today?  Or will there be nothing but relentless darkness?  Could I face it, as the natives in Fairbanks do every winter?

Monday I will go to work in the morning here in upstate NY, see the dawn, and imagine myself in Fairbanks at noon.

The Finding Lost Friends - Should I Try?

A new Facebook site for people who grew up in the Bronx attracted my attention when one of my high school friends joined it.  So I did too and I am now treated to daily internal Facebook emails asking for my input on various topics.

One email asked if I had any friends from my past that I wanted to track down.

So here is my chance to try to find my elusive friend with the unique first name that I wrote about on this blog a few posts ago.  And, maybe even try to find another friend I've been thinking about trying to locate (with her, I lost track in college).

Should I?  Shouldn't I?

I do spend a little time on Facebook each day attending to my FarmVille farm so it wouldn't take much out of my life.  But this kind of thing also makes me feel a little exposed.

I'll report on if I do this, and what happens.  As I have found out, the news isn't always good, but do I want to take that chance?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Diabetes 1960's Style

I've been reading Mary Tyler Moore's recent book about her experiences in living with Type 1 diabetes.

It sure did resonate.

I don't have diabetes but my late father did.  He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 48, in the early 1960's.  He found out a very hard way-he had been hospitalized with pneumonia and somewhere along the line he got his diagnosis.

My Dad never had to take insulin, at least while I was growing up, but - as Mary Tyler Moore pointed out, diabetes management in the 1960's was a whole different world than today.

Although I don't have diabetes, it seems sometimes that I've been surrounded by people who do.  A good childhood friend had a sister in law with type 1 diabetes and her young child had it, too.   One of my managers at a former job had a wife with type 1 diabetes, and their three children all had type 1 diabetes.  So that, plus my father, and an assortment of other people in my life with type 2 diabetes has surrounded me with the knowledge of how bad a disease this can be. 

It seems people today trivialize diabetes.  You'd think all that was involved was occasionally poking yourself with a meter "you no longer have to code" (whatever that means-they never seem to explain that).  And oh yes, never ever ever being able to consume anything with even a trace of sugar.  And, that all people with diabetes are vastly overweight, and they only have themselves to blame.  And that, if you are diagnosed as an adult, you never will have to take insulin.

WRONG WRONG WRONG!  (for example, my Dad was never overweight-in fact for a lot of his life he was probably underweight - my son follows him in body build, too.)

But what I wanted to talk about was diabetes back in the early 1960's and what my Dad had to do.  This will show how far we have come, and tracks with some of what Mary Tyler Moore experienced.

My dad was sent home with a very strict "diabetic diet", which had obviously been designed by someone who never tried to stick to it, and a test tube with something called "Clinatest Tablets".

First was the testing.  Every morning and night, my Dad peed into a test tube and dropped one of the tablets in.  I would watch sometimes as my Dad would perform the test.  The tablet did its work and the contents would change color.  This was the moment of truth:  would the contents turn blue (good) or one of a wide range of yellow/orange/red (bad/worse/yikes).  I think, only one time in my presence, was it never blue.

Then again, I highly suspect this wasn't a very accurate test. But that is all they had for home use in those days.

Next, there was the Diabetic Diet.  This was something called an exchange diet, and I remember the various exchanges included:  bread exchanges (bread and related foods, pasta), fruit exchanges, meat exchanges, and two types of Vegetable exchanges.  Type A were unlimited foods, stuff like green beans, tomatoes, brocolli, lettuce.  Type B were things like corn, green peas, carrots.  There was also a fat exchange: butter, margarine, oil, and so forth.

I may not be remembering this exactly, but it is important to know that this is NOT exactly the exchange diet that some diabetics utilize today in the 21st century.

My Dad was allowed so many exchanges per meal, and a total numer of exchanges per day.  There were three meals and I believe two snacks.  He was not allowed any kind of sugar.  No more regular ice cream or cake/cookies.  He sweetened his coffee with saccharin tablets (that's all there was back then) which were more bitter than sweet.  He also wasn't allowed any type of alcohol.

I remember my Dad was very conscientious about following the diet, at least when I was growing up.  But it was a very hard diet and took a ton of willpower.

This influenced me in a lot of ways growing up.  For a while, I had thoughts of becoming a dietitian but I was not that science oriented and when I got to college I saw all the chemistry courses required-so I chose a different major.  But interestingly, what it also did was give me a taste for lightly salted or no-added salt foods.

In those days, much of what was canned or frozen without sugar was also processed without salt.  So unintentionally, my Dad created in me someone who does not crave salt.  I'm worse than when I was young, but I still find a lot of processed food way too salty.

Recently, I've become very interested in diabetes and "its state of today" and things are very different.  Diabetics do not have to say goodbye to their favorite food together.  And, blood sugar control is much easier to test.

And, insulin is not the only option, and if it is the option you must utilize, I am told it is a lot easier to administer.  (It still gives me the creeps-let's hope I never have to go that route.)

Diabetes, fortunately, is another one of those things that definitely was not better in the "days of black and white".

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tis the Season....for Sadness

Happy Holidays!

No, that's not true.

The holidays are not happy for everyone. 

11 years ago December 25.....  Spouse and I were at my in-laws on Christmas Day.  They live about 150 miles from where we live.  We had a nice day with other family members, and settled down to watch "It's a Wonderful Life"  with my mother in law and father in law.  Then we went to bed.

My father in law never woke up.  He died during the night of a massive heart attack, his third.

Imagine my mother in law, spending the day after Christmas arranging for the funeral of her husband of nearly 50 years.    The decisions that had to be made quickly, oh so quickly.  The little things, like flowers being almost impossible to come by (flowers being a part of their culture's funeral tradition).  Or us having to borrow clothes for the funeral-most people don't visit for Christmas with black clothes in their suitcase!  Those little details, in a sea of all the major details, on a holiday weekend.

The family gathered again but this time for a much sadder occasion.  Many people came to the funeral home, and it was a great comfort.  But then everyone had to go home, including us.

And then the next Christmas rolled around.  It was not easy.  But we survived, and each year it became easier.  My mother in law has established her independence, and enjoys Christmas with family.

It never goes away but it does become easier.  Although, I have never watched "It's a Wonderful Life" again.

Years ago I worked with someone whose husband died from cancer on Thanksgiving.  In my youth I couldn't understand why Thanksgiving was so hard for her.

Now I understand.

"Blue Christmas" is more than an Elvis song.  For those who have experienced loss:  loss of a loved one, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, the holidays can be so hard to survive, even if you are not a Christian.  Whereever you go, you are surrounded by smiling Santa's, by holiday decorations, by endless carols blaring at work, at the supermarket, at the mall, by constant reminders that everyone is happy.  Except you.

But, you are not alone.  And you will get through it, although it may take a long time.

Time is your friend.  It was for me.  I hope it is for you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Lost Friend-Wherever You Are

I have a long lost childhood friend who should be turning 57 today, December 7.  It was so easy to remember her birthday because it was also Pearl Harbor Day (back when it was a big deal.)

We even went to the same sleepaway camp a couple of times.

When we were in 6th grade she moved to another borough - from the Bronx to Queens, to be exact.   For those who grew up in NYC, you know, if you depend on mass transit as we did, that is like moving to the far end of the Earth.

My parents and I visited her several times, and I went to her 16th birthday party - and that is the last time we ever saw each other.  Although we had written, we had grown away from each other.

But for the last few years, I've wanted to reconnect just to see how her life has been.  

She was a wonderful artist and I've always hoped to see her works somewhere.  She had an unusual first name.  But I never have found anything and for all I knew she got married a long time ago.

Or I've written, there are risks to trying to find long lost people in your life.

I've tried Facebook, Google, and even some of the "deep internet" search engines without luck.

I won't publish your first name.  But wherever you are, I hope you had a happy birthday.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Tribute to an ACA Shooting Victim at Hanukkah House

Hanukkah House is a teaching museum located inside Temple Concord in Binghamton, NY.

For years, a woman by the name of Roberta King donated many of the dolls in her extensive Madame Alexander doll collection, and some of her dollhouses, to grace Hanukkah House.

On the morning of Friday, April 3, 2009, Bobbie King should not have been teaching at the American Civic Association.  However, another teacher wanted the day off to celebrate her 40th wedding anniversary and Mrs. King. always willing to help, swapped days off.

She died there that day.

Today, spouse and I visited Hanukkah House on a cold day, featuring the first snow of the season.  (would it feel like the holidays without snow?  Well, the snow has finally arrived.)  The dolls and the doll houses are there, thanks to her family.

What a wonderful act of generosity.  Hanukkah House would not have been the same.  And after the senseless murder of a BU professor yesterday, we need all the generosity of thinking this community can muster.

And for those of you living in Binghamton, please visit Hanukkah House this year before it closes for the season on December 29.  This community needs to celebrate our various cultures more than ever at this sad time.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another Tragedy in Binghamton

Eight months almost to the day of the American Civic Association shooting comes the on campus murder of a gentle retired Binghamton University (BU) professor.

This was with a knife, at the hands of a 46 year old student who, apparently, has confessed.

Right now, motive unknown.

Right now there is nothing more to say, as this is still a developing news story.

As someone who majored in cultural anthropology I am more than saddened.  I will be most interested to see where this is going.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Back in the Water Again

Today, thanks to physical therapy, I was able to return to my water aerobics class.  Mind you, I can't do most of the exercises yet, but I wanted to be there even if I couldn't truly participate.  After all, I've been going to water aerobics for 14 years and I'm not about to quit now.  The physical therapist agrees water walking is good for me:  but no twisting, no bending, no using water for resistance, no anything that even would start to give me pain or stress my back.

Water walking on a somewhat numb right foot was interesting.

It's really too bad that the classes more suited for people with various "issues": arthritis, etc. - are during the day, as if people who work during the day don't have a need for, say, arthritis classes. But I understand a lot of their clientèle is elderly and the elderly tend to go more to the day classes.

My regular instructor was out of town, and will be the next two weeks.  So the class was taught by two teen lifeguards.  One wore flip flops and read from a list of exercises.  "Do Nemos.  You know what a Nemo is, right?" she offered as we moved around.  I stayed in the pool about 1/2 hour, including walking around before the instructors showed up.  To be honest, I would have been disappointed if I was in peak shape.  But in a way it was just what I needed for a first time back.

My upper body is going to hate me in the morning.

Wait till I tell my therapist!