Monday, January 31, 2011

Standing on the side of freedom...

With all the hype over the situation in Egypt I just thought I'd weigh in with my two cents. I'm on the side of freedom, period. If the people want it, I say let them have it.

The Egyptian military spokesman called for an end to the protests and told the protesters that their message and demands had been heard by the government.  But what if being heard isn't enough? Just recall the early history of our own nation. It began with words (and most definitely not being heard) and ended with bloodshed. There were two choices: accept tyranny or reject it. Americans rejected it and in the end freedom won.

There are those who fear that if Mubarek (whose presence graces the list of World's Worst Dictators) steps down, a radical Muslim faction will take the reigns and so much for freedom. There is that possibility. Then again, there was always the possibility the American colonies would lose their fight to England and become even more reigned in by an angry tyranny. But did the patriots give up? No, even with some very close calls they kept fighting and in the end America won her freedom.

We don't understand what life is like under oppressive rule. Even with all the crap that goes on behind the scenes in Washington, we still live in a free nation. There are not some 30,000 political prisoners incarcerated in America. Americans are not prevented from dissenting peacefully against their government. Our internet and other forms of communication are not censored. We are not oppressed and intimidated to the point where only 3% of the people show up at the polls on election day. If millions of Egyptians are protesting in the streets against a corrupt government and a dictator, that's saying something about the situation they live with every day. Who are we to stop them just because we fear what might happen? 

If the people of Egypt want change, let them have it. They have a right to it and we should support it, even if it means the possibility of someone else taking charge. Free nations were not born overnight and free nations in the Middle East are nearly non-existent. We should be supporting this fight. When asked "Where do you stand as a nation?" regarding the situation in Egypt, the collective response should simply be "We stand on the side of freedom", no more, no less.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

No takesie backsies here...

I had a conversation with mom the other day, it was actually kind of funny. You see, I told her that there is a slight possibility that I may move my two week road trip vacation to California from May to September. I told her I'm not cancelling it, just giving myself a "Plan B". I'm actually known far and wide for my "Plan B" as I always say you've got to have a backup plan in case of a SNAFU.  So during the course of this conversation with mom, she says,  "well you know your grandmother is planning to drop dead in May when your vacation was originally scheduled so really maybe you should call her first and make sure it's ok to postpone until the fall? You know, to make sure she doesn't have any other plans?"

This of course is in reference to my recent post (click on link) where I talk about how my grandmother suddenly decided that mom should have her power-of-attorney (I currently have it) while I'm on vacation in case she drops dead. I'm not kidding, she really said that and what's worse is she means it.   Now it's one thing to pick your drop dead date and announce it, but seriously---to change it? Whatever happened to "no takesie backsies?" I mean is there no honor left?  When you pick a date, you stick to it. You can't just go around screwing up everyone else's plans just because you want to get the last word in. Really now. You tell people and then they put it on their Outlook task lists, their calendars and planner,  they rearrange their schedules to accommodate your passing and then you change it? So not a way to pack the church at one's funeral!

It kind of reminds me of this scene from "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" which is one of my most favorite comedies ever. Mickey Rooney (Dingy) and Buddy Hackett (Benji) are begging a pilot (Jim Backus) to fly them to Rosita Beach (to search for the hidden treasure under the Big "W" but they don't tell him that...) 

Dingy: "You see our grandmother lives in Rosita Beach, see, and she's dying and she would kinda like to have us with her when she goes" 

Benjy: "Otherwise she won't go"


That's sort of what we have here. If I don't go on vacation, she's not going to go. At least not till she knows it's the perfect time to get in the last word.

The only thing I can think of is not to tell her when I'm taking my vacation and then she won't know when to kick the bucket. Of course I could make this really fun and just keep postponing my vacation and she'll just have to keep changing the date. Now that would really be funny!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

This dream beats all...

I'm known far and wide for my strange dreams. Last night's was a wild one. In this dream, I worked at some kind of company, I think it might have been a Development and Construction firm, the owner was none other than Carroll O'Connor. He was a great boss and everyone liked him but there were a few guys who wanted to take this company out from under him. The office walls were this nice blue color, with wooden doors to the offices. Everyone there seemed nice, we liked working there. As I recall a couple of the guys at the company were snuffed out but I can't remember too well and I think it was because they were trying to take over the company. But the boss didn't do it, someone else did.

Next thing I know I was sitting in a chair next to some guy with a glass window behind us, in some sort of office, but there were people milling around. I was watching this baby that wasn't mine, the baby was sleeping in an open paper bag (LOL!) and I guess I was doing someone a favor by babysitting. I fell asleep in the chair and when I woke up the baby was gone, someone had stolen it. I immediately called CSI. Catherine Willows came out and told me to call Nick. I asked her for Nicky's cell phone number and she gave it to me. When I called, the voice mail of the CSI office answered. Finally I got Nicky's right number and he came out. Apparently we were friends and said we would talk about what happened. When they came out to investigate, I was helping but Grissom got upset because I was inadvertently contaminating the crime scene.

In the meantime, during all of this dream, I was back at home with mom and dad and dad reminded me that my sister Kim and I were supposed to accompany mom to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for her followup appointment to the surgery she had last year. Now, I was angry that I had to go because I am the one who always helps take care of family business. I was angry at my sister because in the dream, she apparently never had to do anything to help out. I was really angry in this dream, dad knew it too, but I didn't want mom to know because I didn't want her to think I did not want to help her. Sometime during the dream I was so busy at the office and also trying to help CSI investigate a crime I realized that it was 1:30 and Kim and I were supposed to meet mom in Jax at 2:00. It was a ninety minute drive and I knew we would never make it in time. I could not for the life of me remember mom's cell phone number (which was weird because that happens a lot in my dreams, though in real life I am like a walking talking telephone book, I remember everything!) and so finally I got the number for the clinic and the nurse told me mom had left already. The nurse also told me that her doctor had been ill and lost some weight yet I didn't know what that had to do with anything.

Next thing I know I woke up. There are other minor details, I can remember them but I can't make enough of a connection to put the details into words. Sometimes that happens. I know what the details are but don't know how to write them. Isn't that strange?

So...what did I eat or watch last night that might have triggered this?  Well yesterday I had two egg mcmuffins and an orange juice for breakfast, a mini-bagel for mid-morning snack, a yogurt and orange for lunch and since I'd gone grocery shopping I picked up a meatball sub at Subway for dinner on the way home. When I got home I put away groceries, watched the last half of "House" then turned off the TV till later and watched "CSI" from 9 to midnight, then went to bed.

You can sit there all you want and think I'm a nut job and that there must be some reason for this dream but the reality is this happens on a nightly basis. I have the strangest dreams of anyone I know. I've come to accept them. In fact, I look forward to them because I love the look on people's faces when I tell them about the dreams the next day. They're like "WTF?" and really the looks I get are priceless.

Feel free to analyze the dream. Should be interesting. Oh and if you don't know who Carroll O'Connor is, shame on you, look it up!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grandmothers and the Martyr Complex...

Over the years I've come to take extreme pride in my dysfunctional family. When I was a kid, I was probably embarassed by it but now I embrace and accept it. I am who I am in part because of it and that suits me fine.

Though nothing that happens in this family should surprise me, every now and then I am just taken back in amazement at what some people will do for a little attention. Take my grandmother for instance. Now if you're thinking "Oh my God tell me she is not going to tell the entire world about her grandmother" rest assured, yes I am and grams does not read my blog, she doesn't even own a computer. This means I can say whatever I want and she'll never know.

Everybody lies! Of course she'll know. She's grams, she knows everything. Somehow this is going to get back to her. But long ago I said to myself that if I'm to write about my life, at least some parts of it, then I have to be honest. And I love to be honest about my dysfunctionality because most people can't be honest about it in their own lives. So, if they can't laugh at theirs, at least they can laugh at mine. I've got my own personal sitcom here known as my life and it would be a downright shame not to write about it, don't you think?

So back to my grandmother. Ninety-three years old, 5 feet tall, jet black curly hair, feisty, lovable, stubborn, born and raised in a well-to-do family in New York, from Italian & Sicilian descent, married into a Jewish family, used to throw silverware (she denies it), and wore a lampshade on her head after having a bit too much Mogen-David wine (according to my grandfather, though she denies it), and she's been known to hold a grudge. Oh yes, Italians hold the best grudges. Best word to describe her? There isn't one. One word wouldn't suffice (though once dad did refer to her as dragon lady, affectionately of course). Grams is an interesting person, she can bring out the best and worst in you. You can love her and think she's a pain in the ass all at the same time. She's a wonderful giving woman with a huge heart and there is nothing that she wouldn't do for her family. And this wonderful woman we all love to pieces has a martyr complex as wide as the day is long but she'll deny it to the end. And this makes it all the more fun to write this next part.

In times of crisis, I'm generally the type of person people go to for help. It makes me a good problem-solver which is one of my strengths. I'm the one who gives advice, analyzes problems and researches solutions. When there's a problem, both at work and home, people come to me. So it comes as no surprise that a few people in my family, like my parents, my grandmother, her sister and my own sister have asked me to take care of things for them in the event of an emergency. I have no idea what makes me so adept at this sort of thing, I guess I was born this way. Had my parents seen this "gift" in me early on I'm sure they would have had me preparing for the LSAT and entrance to Harvard Law School at the age of three. Anyway, given my talents at administration, organization, and problem-solving, and my rather fair and just nature make me perfect for the job.

When grams asked me to take care of her power-of-attorney, medical proxy and her will, I was fine with that. I mean, she wanted to make sure that her daughters didn't have to worry about it when the time comes for her to go to that great Italian restaurant with red-checkered tablecloths and chianti, in the sky. We discussed what she wanted me to do, I listened carefully, filed it for future reference, said "ok" and that was that, or so I thought. With grams, nothing is that simple. It seems that every other month she wants to remind me that she has put in her savings the amount of money necessary for her burial as well as every other thing I already know. There really isn't much to know which is why I have it all memorized.  I don't like to rehash it, I mean I don't want to think about the day she goes, but I'm not an idiot and I don't need to be reminded every sixty days. That said, grams is grams and she always has to have the last word and she's never one to let something just go, no she has to develop something out of completely nothing. Which leads me to this past weekend's events. Mom and grams were having a conversation and out of the blue, grams says to mom:

"Naomi, I want you to have my power of attorney, just in case I drop dead while Jessica is on her vacation." 

WTF?

Now what grams said may not seem a big deal but then again You. Don't. Know. My. Family.

As morbid as it sounds, the first thing mom did was laugh (inwardly I'm quite sure) and the first thing I did when I heard this was laugh hysterically because...this...this was so typical of grams. Nobody else could come close.  Here she is in perfect health with absolutely no medical problems. I guess at her age, she could go anytime, most likely of natural causes, but seriously here she is planning for her final exit during my roadtrip vacation, planned for May. This vacation all alone is a big deal to me, and I haven't had a real vacation in 20 years. This is so like her to pick that time to go

Now, there's only one of three reasons she said those words to my mother. One, she's upset with me because I haven't talked to her in a month (mind you it's not personal I just haven't felt like talking lately), two, she's losing her mind (just not possible, I mean she can still run circles around the rest of us), or three, she's actually getting the last word she so utterly craves every moment of every conversation by actually planning her permanent visit to the big Italian restaurant in the sky to coincide with my vacation.  I'm going for door number three because nobody likes to have the last word more than grams does. Nobody.

Now, none of us wants to think their grandmother as the Great Manipulator but seriously I know this woman, she would actually do this. She would actually plan to just go while I'm on vacation. Actually it's really epic, I mean for her this would be the ultimate final exit. Not even Gloria Swanson's performance in "Sunset Boulevard" would compare. Grams performance would be so worthy of a special Academy Award for "Best Performance of a Martyr" and maybe, just maybe, if I prepare ahead and write the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences right now they can have the award ready in time for the big event. Of course, just as Christina Crawford did in Mommie Dearest, I'd be getting the last word because I would be accepting the award on her behalf. After all, she'll be dead right?. Wearing an incredibly awesome strapless Vera Wang gown, I'd rise from my seat between my pals Helen Mirren and Ben Kingsley to give my acceptance speech on behalf of my grandmother of course. I'd take out the acceptance speech which was of course tucked neatly in the upper part of my gown along with a digital camera I'd be using to take pics of my buds in the audience while onstage (a la Lisa Edelstein at the PCA),  and then my speech would go something like:


"And I'd like to thank the Academy on behalf of women everywhere whose stubborn old grandmothers with martyr complexes embedded in their DNA going back generations, decided to get in THE last word by choosing to drop dead while their beloved granddaughters were on the first major vacation they've had alone in TWENTY years. Thank you so much."


Naturally, I'd receive a standing ovation. I mean come on, there's no way my grams is the only grandmother like this!

Oh grams will deny the martyr complex but really the damn thing is hereditary. She gets it from her mother Josephine and her grandmother Giovannina,  both of whom were stubborn, hard-headed, Sicilian women who always thought they were in the right, and I do mean always. Now while it is handed down from one generation to the next, thank God it skipped my mother and her sister and my sister and me. Now my dad, may he rest in peace (until mom or grams gets there anyway), would probably disagree that it wasn't passed down but you see, given that he's no longer with us to share his humble opinion, you can just take my word for it. It didn't get passed down. Of course mom isn't 93 years old yet so there's still time. But it'll never get passed on to me. I don't need it. I can skillfully manipulate but by using common sense and logic, not guilt. I have to admit though, if the Academy decided to give a Statue for the "Greatest Performance of Manipulation Using Common Sense and Logic" I'd be worthy of it. By that I mean I'm just good at convincing people to compromise based on just plain old common sense and appeal to logic, fairness and justice.

Yes, I'm that good. And if my grandmother can win an Academy Award, why can't I?

Now I'm asking myself how I am going to approach this subject with grams because this is just too good to let go. I'm picturing the conversation we've yet to have. It would go something like this:

Me: "Now grams what in hell is going on with you planning to croak while I'm on vacation?" and trying not to laugh of course because that would sooo piss her off.

Grams: "Hey watch your language. And you know we need to have a plan in place just in case something happens"

Me: "You're going to just keel over while I'm on vacation? Seriously, who does that?" 

Grams (with eyes rolling): "Oh stop it, that's just nonsense. I'm not saying it will happen, but if it does, we'll be prepared. I don't want there to be any problems."

Me: "What problems? We'll just wait till I get back to bury you. They have freezers in the morgue."

Grams: "That's ridiculous."


Me: "No it's not. Ok look you're not going to that big pasta palace in the sky while I'm on vacation and if you do, well I'm not going to cancel my vacation. Geez grams, you couldn't pick any other time to go? I mean there are other great times of the year to up and die and make people feel guilty like oh say my birthday, or even your daughters' birthdays, or better yet--hey how about Christmas? Now there's an idea, nothing like shouting 'here comes the big one Elizabeth' while holding your hand to your chest and and then falling down the stairs as you're getting ready to sit down at the table and have Christmas dinner with your family."  

Now of course after grams picked her jaw up off the floor, I couldn't even predict how the conversation would go after that and maybe I don't want to because in her younger days she was a pretty good aim with silverware. But I'm sure I would make dad proud to make her speechless for once and I am sure that it wouldn't be all me doing it either. I imagine I would somehow be channeling dad at that moment so I could blame it on him right?  Something tells me though even if I did make her speechless it wouldn't last long and she would eventually get the last word. I know that woman. Even after she's long in her grave someday she'll still have the last word, even after I accept the Academy Award on her behalf, she'll still come back with something, somehow.

In the meantime I can't wait to call her on the phone and ask her why she plans to drop dead during my vacation. I seriously can't let this go, it's just so damn funny.  I don't even know how I'm going to keep a straight face. I know I'm just awful aren't I?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In a split second...

Of all the things I feel the need to write about right now, just one stands out in my mind. I found out yesterday that Royal Marshall, longtime co-host, producer, and engineer of the Neal Boortz show died suddenly and unexpectedly at his home in Atlanta on Saturday morning. When I  heard the news, I was in shock.  Royal was only 43 years old, married with two young daughters. He was so happy and he loved his life and it seems so weird that when we tune in tomorrow to Boortz, it isn't going to be the same. Royal had become a friend to millions over the years and we will miss him greatly.

I first tuned into Boortz in 1996 and from the first broadcast I was hooked. I liked the show because it wasn't left or right, it was just common sense. Every day I looked forward to listening to the show and I especially loved the banter between Neal and Royal and Belinda.  There were so many times Neal and Royal vehemently disagreed on issues. In a way Royal was Neal's conscience.  Both would argue but never in anger. Both were adamant about their stance on the issues but they never became rude or nasty to one another. Neal and Royal proved that you could respectfully disagree on an issue and still remain friends and colleagues. I loved the disagreements between them because they both brought out important points of view and they were both very passionate about their position on the issues. As much as they may have argued sometimes, the respect and admiration they had for each other was always there. It did not take long to understand that they were not just colleagues and friends, they were family.

I remember for years when he was single Royal would travel to Rio on vacation and Neal would tease him about it. Royal looked forward to his vacation, talked about the gorgeous women in Rio and when he got back he'd tell us all about his trip. I remember when Royal got married, here I thought he was the eternal bachelor but he proved us wrong. I recall how he talked about Annette and how wonderful she was and you could hear the happiness in his voice. And when his wife was pregnant with their first child, he talked about it all the time, and those of us who tuned in regularly were so happy for him. Neal would tell him all the things to prepare for and how it would change his life and Royal listened to him, taking in all the advice. I would say that Royal had it all. He had a wonderful family he always put first, he had a strong faith, was active in his church and he had a job he loved along with many friends and people who cared about him. He never set out to be a role model for young black men but he was just that. Just by being a good person with character, honesty and integrity he became the kind of person young black men wanted to be like. And he didn't even have to try to be like that, he just was.

So many things sadden me about his death--that he was only 43--two years older than me, that he was a father of two young girls who will grow up without his love and guidance, the emptiness felt by those in his church where he was so involved as a Deacon, and that the conscience of the Boortz show is forever gone. Royal may be in a better place but it's always hard for those left behind. I feel for his family, his friends and his colleagues for losing an amazing person in their lives. If anything his death reminds us once again how short life is and how we must continue to strive to make the most of it because in one split second it could all come to an end.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Out of the mouths of morons...

Every now and then something so good comes out of the mouths of our elected officials, that I just have to jump all over it.

Recently, former Congressman Paul Kanjorski wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in which he stated:

"We all lose an element of freedom when security considerations distance public officials from the people. Therefore, it is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely, without fear of violent confrontation.  That is why the House speaker, John Boehner, spoke for everyone who has been in Congress when he said that an attack against one of us is an attack against all who serve. It is also an attack against all Americans. "


Now that's a fine statement and I agree with it, except that it reeks of hypocrisy which makes me cringe. This same ex-Congressman stated back in October, to the editorial board of the Scranton Times-Tribune:


 "That Scott down there that's running for governor of Florida," Mr. Kanjorski said. "Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him. He stole billions of dollars from the United States government and he's running for governor of Florida. He's a millionaire and a billionaire. He's no hero. He's a damn crook. It's just we don't prosecute big crooks."
Now I didn't vote for Rick Scott and I think he's a crook too but the point here is that you can't just run around making the statement you want to see someone shot and then three months later cry out against that kind of behavior while, singing "kumbaya" and calling for us all to work and play well with one another. Seriously, this guy is an idiot. Did he not think we would remember what he said in October? Thank God he's no longer in office but fear not, there are many more like him who are and whatt's worse is there are people (of all political persuasions) who keep voting for them.

Having been called out recently for his hypocritical remarks, Kanjorski replied that people who took his statement about Scott literally are "fruitcakes". Ok let's say that's so, let's say that the real idiots are the people who thought his statement was wrong and in poor taste. Let's give Kanjorski a free pass because he's known for his "colorful language" (by his own admission). What about the recent remarks blaming Sarah Palin for the shootings in Tucson?  Palin's website used scope targets on a map in an effort to show which areas Republicans needed to unseat Democrats. I'm no fan of Sarah Palin but really now but she didn't pull the trigger in Tucson any more than Kanjorski was endorsing the murder of Rick Scott.

But...as has been drilled into us forever....words have consequences, actions have consequences. And these stuffy, egocentric, loudmouth idiots whose only objective in office is power and not serving the people are not making things better, in fact they make things worse. They're the ones spreading the hate, discontent, negativity and hypocrisy. Does the philosophy "divide and conquer" ring a bell?

My philosophy differs. It goes something like this:

A good leader leads by example. 
A good leader is honest.
A good leader has values.
A good leader has integrity and character. 
A good leader practices what they preach. 
A good leader admit their mistakes.
A good leader is first at the front line and the last to leave the battlefield.
A good leader never asks their followers to do anything they are not themselves willing to do. 

When I see that with my own eyes, then I'll follow. Until then, I'm better off on my own. We all are. 

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Good outweighs evil...

I was just sitting here thinking about something Annie wrote in her blog recently. It was a great post that really got me to pondering some things....

We're surrounded by the notion that the world is going to pieces. We're not the first generation to be subject to that either. Our parents and grandparents going back generations all had their share of woes. But it seems things have become darker as time goes on. All around us we see, hear and read about the awful things going on in the world. I won't even go into detail because I'd be spending days writing out the list here. You know what I'm talking about because you are exposed to it too. Frankly it's just frustrating to be bombarded with it day after day, so I decided to tune it out. I'm not in denial, it's just that I get one life to live and I sure as heck don't want to spend it worried about the world collapsing around me. Although I will admit from time to time, I am greatly bothered by the events taking place around us. Sometimes it's hard to shove aside the things you read, hear and see.

It's a shame that all the good things going on in the world (and there are so many) aren't newsworthy. Having studied the history of journalism, I can tell you that it's generally been this way since the beginning and it's not about to change. The media will continue to report the really crappy stuff, that will never change. It's what sells, it's what people want. But, despite all the bad news we're constantly bombarded with, the truth is that there are good people doing good things all around this world every single day. I believe people are inherently good, if they weren't, we wouldn't be here, we'd all be dead, the world would already be decimated. It's a struggle but overall, I believe good constantly outweighs evil every single day. We just have to search a bit to find it, but trust me, it's there.