Sunday, August 20, 2017

Jerry Lewis...thanks for the memories!

Jerry Lewis ---there are so many great memories from my youth wrapped up in that man. I grew up in the 70s watching him on TV and listening to him on old time radio shows. Back then when I had to stay home sick from school and spent the day eating chicken soup and coloring in coloring books, I'd watch his movies on TV along with The Lucy Show.  

The biggest impact he had on me was the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. Every Labor Day, our family would make a point to watch the nearly 24-hour event and every hour when they tallied we were on the edge of our seats! Applause erupted at the final tally knowing he'd broken the previous year's record.

Jerry with dear friends Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra
I remember all the celebrities he had on that stage--most of them were my faves, people my parents had taught me to appreciate, whose music, films and television I had loved all my life and still do. I remember the pride I felt when Presidents of major corporations would walk on that stage and hand Jerry and Ed a check after check after check---for millions of dollars--all raised by employees and customers in stores across America. Every major corporation donated millions to Jerry's kids. There was such pride in those moments.

Jerry gave it his all. I remember the exhaustion in his eyes in the hours before it ended. I remember that he never gave up, as tired as he was, until the very final moment it was all over when he'd sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." He cried, I cried, we all cried. Jerry Lewis gave me hope, he made me believe in the goodness of people. To a child, that is everything.

A high-ranking exec with MDA once said that the reason the telethon was changed from 21.5 hours to just 6 was that the American audience had changed. “A 21.5-hour show doesn’t fit in a 140-character world," she said.

Maybe it doesn't fit, but the telethon was a part of our history, and an important part of the lives of at least three generations of kids. Jerry was an American icon and that telethon was an American institution and when we lost both, we lost something truly special, indeed.

Jerry and the beloved Sammy Davis, Jr.

Jerry may have said some controversial things over the years that had people wondering "WTF?" but he did a lot of good--a LOT--and to me, that's what matters. No one will ever do as much for kids as Jerry did for "his" kids. He gave his heart and soul to them for 59 years and I am forever grateful for that and for what he gave me--hope!

You know---when I was growing up, even though I did not have MD, I always felt like I was one of Jerry's kids. I guess I always will!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

The significance of the Declaration of Independence has not diminished

It was a hot and balmy summer of 1776 when the Continental Congress, a group of fifty-six delegates from the thirteen colonies, convened in a meeting hall in Philadelphia to discuss, among other things, the drafting of a formal declaration from the colonists to the King of England, stating in no uncertain terms, the intent to form an independent and sovereign nation. 

The delegates chose five men to write this document; Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Thomas Jefferson. It took nearly a month to complete the first draft  draft to present to Congress and several days to amend and eventually ratify it. In order to make it clear to King George that the colonies maintained a unified stance against England, the Continental Congress declared that ratification of the Declaration had to be unanimous. It was all or nothing; there could be no dissenters. When the fifty-six delegates signed their names to this document, they essentially placed a bounty on their own heads for they knew should the war for independence be lost, they would surely be hanged.

The Declaration of Independence is often criticized because of the alleged hypocrisy of the statement "All men are created equal" at a time when slavery was prevalent and women's rights did not exist. It is important to understand that historical events must be judged within the context of its time thus while the document may seem incomplete, hypocritical, or flawed in 2017, it wasn't necessarily viewed as such in 1776. It is important to take into account the culture and events of the time in which it was written. Take for example the issue of slavery: The Declaration of Independence initially included a paragraph related to slavery; however, in order to ensure ratification by the southern colonies, Jefferson had to remove it. While slavery was an important human rights issue, independence and separation from England was an even greater issue at that moment and had to be acquired first. There is no question however that while the Declaration did not address specifically the issue of slavery, it was symbolically important in later years in the quest to abolish slavery in the United States.

The Declaration of Independence is a testament to the human spirit. The innate desire to be free fueled the sacrifices on both the battlefront and homefront. The Continental Army was essentially a ragtag collection of poorly trained and under-equipped men (and even some women!) who left their jobs, farms, and families behind to fight against the most powerful military force in the world, knowing the odds were against them. They fought in the worst conditions and thousands died from pneumonia, malnutrition and disease. The women who followed the soldiers supported them by doing laundry, cooking and nursing the sick and injured. These women endured much hardship but stayed with their camps, following them from one battle to another. On the homefront, the families left behind forged ahead without their husbands, fathers and sons. Women were especially important as they ran farms and businesses, defended their homes and families from invading troops and supplied food, garments and ammunition to militias. Some women even served as spies.  America's war for independence was won through the sacrifices made by all -- on the battlefield and the homefront. The colonists knew what was at stake and losing the fight for independence was not an option.

Two hundred forty-one years after it was signed, the Declaration of Independence has not lost its significance. It inspires us to do better and to strive to uphold the principles outlined in it -- among them -- that all men are created equal, the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and that government derives its power from the consent of the people.  Not only do we have an obligation to defend and uphold equality and freedom here in America; we have a responsibility to support and encourage people in oppressed nations around the world in their quest for the same.


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Grams: A Life Well-Lived!

Today would've been Grams' 100th birthday. If only she'd just stuck around just two more years -- but even that wouldn't have been enough; we would've wanted more. She was such a powerful presence in the lives of all who knew her that we never imagined a time when she wouldn't be here. She left us so suddenly and unexpectedly that's still hard to believe. People often look at me funny when I say that grams died unexpectedly at the age of 98. They say, "But she was 98!" and I just laugh and tell them they had to know her to understand what I meant.

It's true, you had to know Grams to understand that her age in numbers didn't define her. She was always a force to be reckoned with -- when she was a young child all the way up to her final days. She lived independently, drove, did her own grocery shopping, cooked for herself and paid her bills, among many other things. She'd slowed down physically and there was do doubt that age was taking its toll but not to the extent we'd expect at that age. The people who knew her were not surprised by her strength as she'd always been that way but the people who met her for the first time---when they talked to her, watched her move around, they were absolutely amazed by her.

Grams lived life to the fullest and enjoyed every waking moment. She was vibrant, strong and fiercely independent. She was warm, loving, compassionate and honest. She had this way of making everyone feel special. Grams gave so much of herself and asked so little in return. She never cared about money or material things; she cared about people and animals. The most important thing in her life was her family. We all have so many wonderful memories involving her. So much fun, so much laughter, so much craziness. So many of our memories involve grams and what wonderful memories they are!

Grams used to say, "I'll stick around as long as I'm needed", but when she left us, we still needed her. We will always need her but she left us with valuable lessons and a lifetime of memories to sustain us. Her presence was so strong and so interwoven with our lives that it's difficult to express the power of that presence and exactly what she meant to us, in mere words. Someday maybe I'll be able to find those words. I know if she were here, grams would have no doubt that I could. For now though, I'll just say that Grams truly was the greatest person I've ever known.

Click on the photo to enlarge and view just some of the wonderful memories!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Random thoughts

I'm tired.
I'm tired of being tired.
I'm moody.
There aren't enough hours in the day.
Life is short. How do we make enough time for the things that matter?
I'm asking the big three life questions: Who Am I? Why Am I Here? What is My Purpose?