Monday, August 31, 2009

History Lesson

I was flipping through the channels tonight looking for something interesting to watch and came upon a program on PBS called History Detectives.

A story about a POW during WWII in Stalag 17 caught my eye. The story of his experience in the camp would have made a great program, but there was another angle. A man who was a prisoner had a portrait of himself that was done by another prisoner. They never kept in touch and the man was curious about the artist. The investigator for the program searched the archives of the names of those who served in WWII and found someone with the same last name, but a different first name. Not only did the artist survive the POW camp, but he became a prominent lawyer in California. His name was Harold Rhoden and he died in a plane crash in 1989. His son confirmed that the portrait was indeed the work of his father.

They then went onto another story. A woman had a huge shell that her mother had used as a doorstop. She believed that the shell came from an explosion on Black Tom Island, about 1/2 mile from the Statue of Liberty. I don't recall learning about this in school. This explosion took place July 30, 1916 when a German spy ring carried out a well-planned set of synchronized explosions on Black Tom Island in New York's harbor, using the United States' own cache of munitions produced to aid Britain and France in World War I. Two million pounds of exploding ammunition rocked the country as far away as Philadelphia, blew the windows out of nearly every high rise in lower Manhattan, injuring hundredsand causing some damage to the torch on the Statue of Liberty. Initial news reports said that this was an accident. The United States at the time wanted to remain neutral and President Woodrow Wilson was running for reelection. He didn't want it known that this was caused by German sabotage. It was not until after the war that the truth came out. Germany was ordered to pay reparations in 1939, but that didn't happen until about 1979.

They also did another story about seadromes, which were expected to be floating airports in the Atlantic Ocean, but I didn't pay as much attention to that one. The design of these seadromes was used later for the floating oil rigs.

This was a very interesting program and I enjoyed it very much. It's really a shame that we get so used to watching the same program week after week. I've seen some really interesting programs when I just roam around the channels. Maybe channel surfing is a good thing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


When I started work as a secretary right out of high school, I never dreamed I would end my work days in an insurance company. After all, I worked for an engineering company, then patent lawyers, then Wall Street. After being home for 15 years, I got a job at an insurance company. It turned out to be the best job I ever had. I had dreams of staying there until I retired. That didn't last because of a takeover of our company. I then went to another insurance company.

My 17 years experience in insurance has had its effect on me. I once had a lawyer tell me that he would never pick me for a jury because I had an "insurance mentality". I laughed it off. Now, I'm beginning to believe him. I find myself looking around and seeing some sort of risk everywhere.

Knowing my background, you will now understand what I'm saying now. Our parish recently built a new church and rearranged the parking lot. I see a lot of risks. For one thing, there is a lot of wasted space in the parking lot. Sections of the lot are divided by ravines, which in themselves are not a bad thing, but when it rains (and we've had a lot lately), we have standing water which is a breeding ground for mosquitos. I also worry that someone will pull into the space too fast and go into the ravine.

Once you get past the parking lot, you enter this very modern church which is designed to resemble a tent (I can't imagine why). The Holy Water Font is quite large and impressive. The problem with this is that it is on two levels. The top level is high enough to dip your finger into, but the lower level is only about two feet off the ground and quite large. It's hard to miss. I wonder how long it will be until someone falls into it, or a child decides to take a dip.

OK, now we've passed the Holy Water and it's time to walk down the aisle to our seat, which is very comfortable. Unfortunately, the aisle is on a slant, I've seen an elderly man with a walker have a hard time walking down the aisle. There are many senior communities in our parish and I believe this is an accident waiting to happen.

There also is the problem of a funeral. We all know the casket is wheeled into the church and up to the altar. I'm sure the funeral director and pallbearers have a hard time keeping the casket from speeding down the aisle.

Or, how about a wedding with a flower girl who goes rushing down the aisle, what if she gets going too fast and falls.

I've even had a problem with the slant when I used to go closer to the altar. Now I stay further back and it's not as bad.

I can see the lawsuits now. What was wrong with the architect who designed the church? Didn't anyone see these potential problems? Or, is it me? Do I really see risk at every turn and do I really have an "insurance mentality"?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Girl Returns a Woman

Wasn't that good news coming out of California today? A woman who was kidnapped 18 years ago when she was just 11 years old has been found, alive. I'm so happy for her and her family, even though they will have some very hard times ahead of them.

Back when the girl was kidnapped, her stepfather was a suspect and never cleared. Eventually, her mother and stepfather separated. Unfortunately for this young woman, she was held as a sex slave for her kidnappers, a known sex offender, and his wife and had two children by him, the first when she was just 14 years old. She never went to school or had any medical attention.

She must have been so terribly frightened, taken away from her family. Who knows what lies she may have been told and then she was raped, at least twice and who knows how many more times.

She was kept in a shack in the yard of her kidnapper's home. The police were called to the house a couple of times, but they never found that girl.

I hope this woman and her mother can reunite and have some semblance of family life. I'm sure both will need extensive counseling. And, I hope that her kidnapper and his wife receive a speedy trial and sentence and never see the outside world again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

National Health Care

When I heard the news this morning I realized that it's looking more likely that we will be getting government socialized health care.

The democrats are pushing the health care bill to honor the great escape artist and swimmer, Ted Kennedy. Nancy Pelosi said in a written statement, "Senator Kennedy had a grand vision for America, and an unparalleled ability to effect change. Ted Kennedy's dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and his inspiration."

He was a firm believer in health care for all so, in his memory maybe this bill should be called the Sen. Edward Kennedy Memorial Health Care Bill.

I guess the fact that 80% of the population is happy with their present health care and the majority (I don't know the actual percentage) of the citizens don't want socialized medicine really doesn't matter.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I have a reputation. I didn't realize it until just recently.

My reputation isn't bad, at least I don't think so. My reputation is as a traveller. Every time I see someone I haven't seen for a while, the first question they ask is, "What trips have you taken lately?" I never made the connection before. Everyone just expects that I either have just returned, or am going on a trip.

Just because since I've retired, I've driven across the country, taken a train trip across the country, visited the Canadian Rockies, cruised to Alaska and the Caribbean, gone to Seattle at least 3 times, travelled on a barge in France and keep my suitcase ready with some staples, people think I like to travel. Wherever would they get that idea.

Now, I'm almost ashamed of myself. This year I've only been to Lake George and will go to Boston next month. I'm really slacking off and there are only 4 more months to go this year. I know I have to reschedule my Gettysburg trip, but I have no other plans.

Hopefully next year will be better. After all I have my reputation to consider.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Bold Fresh Read

I'm in the middle of reading Bill O'Reilly's latest book, A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity. Although I'm a bit older than he, we had the same type of background and education. He had 16 years of Catholic school education, the first 8 years with the nuns.

While reading, I could see the same scenario playing out in my own Catholic school with the nuns and their battles or set-to's with the boys. Of course, the girls never did anything wrong, the boys on the other hand bore the brunt of the discipline.

The discipline, or maybe it was the sense of responsibility instilled in us, allowed us to learn even though there were 60 children in a class with one nun and no assistants.

I am enjoying this book immensely. Some parts bring me back to my own childhood in Queens and the freedom that we had. Summers were a time to enjoy at our own pace, we had no schedules. Ah, the good old days. The lazy, hazy days of summer.

If you get a chance, read this book. It is particularly enjoyable for anyone who came from a blue collar working neighborhood and had the opportunity to attend Catholic school and be exposed to the nuns. What a wonderful education I had.

Now I have to get back to my book.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Week That Was

I've just had the busiest week in ages. It seems that every day I had at least two things to do. There were so many meetings this week - travel, newspaper, writing. Then I had two luncheon dates and my nephew came for dinner one night, along with the usual games afternoon and canasta night.

On top of that, at the end of the day when I thought I'd be able to blog something, we would have a thunderstorm, or the threat of one. Whenever we have a storm I turn my computer off. I never did that before, but when I lived upstate NY in the money pit my TV and water pump were struck by lightening and had to be replaced. Now I take no chances.

The best part of my week came today when my niece invited me to her house for a small family get together. She is one of nine children, so a small event usually has about 30 people. Her sister was up from Florida and it was so good to see her again. Her mother, my sister in law, was also there. She hasn't been feeling well, so it was doubly good to see her again.

The worst part of the day was seeing the next generation of children, that is the grandchildren of my nieces and nephews. I guess they would be considered my great grand nieces, or something like that. But it makes me feel so old.

Anyway, it was a wonderful end to a wonderfully busy week. Who said retirees do nothing but sit on the porch and rock all day long.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Today, our travel group made the selections for trips in 2010. We will be going to Branson, MO, the Greek Isles, a cruise on the Yangtze River in China and a cruise to Alaska with possibly an extension for a land tour.

It was a very productive meeting. We even selected some trips for 2011. These include a cruise through the Panama Canal, a cruise up the New England coast, a trip to Moscow and a trip to Mackinac Island.

It's going to be a very busy two years. I'll have to make some decisions. I can't go on all the trips, I have so many other things going on, and if I leave Crash and Burn too often they may not let me back in the house. As it is now, the lay down in front of the door to keep me home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

License Renewal

About a month ago I got a notice from the Motor Vehicle Commission that my license would expire the end of August and that it was time to renew. I thought that was OK, all I had to do was fill out the form, enclose a check and mail it back and I would have my new license.

But no, I was wrong. I had to renew in person. I kept putting it off, after all I've had dealings with the Department of Motor Vehicles in NY and those people definitely didn't believe in service for the customer. Today I decided I might as well visit the local office.

Armed with the various forms of identification, passport, old license, ATM card, bank statement and directions from Microsoft Streets and Mapquest I took off on the journey. I followed the directions to the letter for most of the trip. Then I saw signs pointing the way to Motor Vehicles. I followed the signs, which showed a different way from my directions. I turned right when the sign said to. Then the signs stopped. I followed the road for a bit, but realized I must have passed the office, so I went back. I tried one collection of buildings, but that was wrong. Then I went across the road to a mini-mall. I tried that and found the office. Finally.

There was a long line for information, but I saw a woman sitting in the area marked for licenses. That was where I was supposed to be. She took all my information and various forms of ID. Then she gave me a number and said to wait until I was called. I must have waited all of 5 minutes when another worker took all my paperwork.

It was obvious that this woman really liked her job. She was so pleasant. She gave me several chances to sign my name on the electronic recorder. The area where I signed was so marked up that I couldn't see what I was writing. I finally got that right, then she asked if I wanted to use my old photo or if I wanted to take a new one. Since the old one was only 4 years old, I opted to keep it.

All in all, except for the lack of a sign telling me to turn left, it was a very pleasant experience. The office was well organized, the people were very pleasant and helpful and I was very surprised.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chardonnay Tasting

Tonight we had another meeting of our wine tasting club. The wine tonight was chardonnay. I'm not a fan of chardonnay, but we had a good variety. The prices of the wines ranged from $8.99 to $16.99.

I wasn't crazy about the $8.99 bottle, but I also didn't like the $16.99 wine. I still prefer a chardonnay that doesn't have an oaky flavor. To be honest, the oaky flavor is the only one I can actually pick out. They were supposed to have traces of apple, peach, pineapple and citrus flavors. I can never pick them out.

My two favorites were a Michel Picard Chardonnay Bourgogne from France and Wakefield Unwooded Chardonnay from Australia. Both were priced in the middle. Most of those at our table gave a big thumbs down to Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay which was the most expensive. I guess that proves that most expensive isn't necessarily best.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I read in the paper today that a homeowner in Long Branch, NJ had called the police because there was a man wandering on her property.

When the police responded they saw a man wearing black sweatpants tucked into black rain boots and two raincoats with the hood pulled down over his head. The man carried no identification. The police officer asked the man what he was doing, he said he was looking for shelter from the rain. He gave his name as Bob Dylan, but the police officer who is 24 years old didn't recognize him.

He said he was doing a show with John Mellancamp and Willie Nelson, but the officer thought he might be a joker or a thief, or that he came from one of the hospitals in the area. The officers then put Bob Dylan in their patrol car and drove him back to the hotel where he said he was staying. When they got to the parking lot, they saw the tour buses and knocked on the door of one of them to see if they knew who was with them. Eventually the staffers showed Dylan's passport and the police thanked him for his cooperation.

Bob Dylan is a world famous singer and performer (although I don't think I'd recognize him either) who showed his class by being cooperative with the police and not flashing his celebrity around. He realized that he had met a young person who is not familiar with his work.

A certain Harvard professor could take lessons in class from this gentleman, Bob Dylan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I just finished watching a show on TLC called, Truth Be Told. I don't know if the subject matter is the same every week, but tonight they dealt with hoarders.

It's really frightening to see how these people have lost control and can't throw anything out while still accumulating more. They showed one woman who was driving with her son to Goodwill to make some donations. She insisted on stopping at one curb to pick up something that someone else had thrown out. They had a huge argument and she drove off without him. She is still "collecting".

There was one success story. A man who had so much stuff that he couldn't use his bathtub was helped. He had an organizer work with him and show him how he could conquer the mess a little at a time. He has gotten his apartment in order and can now take a bath. He also continues to work at cleaning everyday.

While I was watching, I started looking around. My house is nowhere near as messy as those shown, but, with very little effort I could let things go around here and make excuses for not throwing out some of my junk. While the show was on, I got a box from my closet. It was full of underwear two sizes too small. I can see holding on to one size smaller, but two. It was a small box, but I threw everything out.

I feel so inspired I just want to attack my closet tonight, but I still need my rest so it will wait until tomorrow. I need a little reminder every now and then to keep after the junk, or someday you'll read about me as another Collyer family member. Hoarding is a sickness, but it starts with saving little things, then progresses to saving and collecting everything.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Health Care Bill

Since I've been taking it easy this past week, I've had time to do something that not many of our elected representatives have done. I've been reading the house bill on health care reform. There is a lot of mention of boards or committees. This is looking like the start of a huge bureaucracy, something we simply cannot afford.

I've been looking at the advance care planning consultation which should take place every five years, or more frequently if there is a change in the patient's health or a chronic condition develops. After such a consultation, it is required that there be an "order regarding life sustaining treatment" with respect to an individual, an actionable medical order relating to the treatment of that individual that is signed and dated by a physician or another health care professional. How would this affect a medical power of attorney or proxy that has been given to a trusted friend or family member. Would this be voided by the word of the physician? We need answers to this.

Unfortunately, we won't get the necessary answers because some representatives are cancelling their public meetings and instead making health care events "invitation only". That's a certain way to make sure all in attendance agree with you.

As a special comment to Nancy Pelosi, I offer this quote:
"I'm sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and disagree with this administration, somehow you're not patriotic. We need to stand up and say we're Americans, and we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration."
Thank you Hillary Clinton.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New Adventures in Self Medicating

I guess all the choices I made last week were wrong. By last Friday, I was still sick with cough, fever, no appetite, etc.

I decided this cold wasn't going to go away so I called the doctor Friday evening. Of course, I got the answering machine with several choices. First they said that the doctor's hours were Monday through Friday and they gave the hours, then they gave a number to call if it was an emergency, several other numbers to call if you're a doctor, a pharmacist, etc. Finally they left room for a message. Since I didn't think I had an emergency, I was just uncomfortable I left a message.

I expected a call back on Saturday, after all this was how my doctor in NY would have done things. He would have checked messages and returned calls. But, I had to remind myself this is not NY. So I decided to try again, this time I called the emergency number. This was the number for the real answering service of the doctor. As soon as I left my number and disconnected the call, the doctor called back.

He listened to my symptoms and asked for my pharmacy's number to prescribe something. It was the same medication I had last Spring and it worked wonders then. I'm happy to say that it worked again this time, my fever was down the next day.

I've learned a few things this past week. They do things differently here in NJ. I really should give up on self-diagnosis and call the doctor as soon as I don't feel well. Because I've had two really bad colds (or whatever) this year I'd better get a flu shot this year and not push my luck. Usually the only time I see my doctor is for my annual check-up.

The downside of all this is that I missed what I'm sure was a wonderful dinner with friends, an event at the clubhouse and I'm going to have to cancel my reservations for Gettysburg for this coming week. All because I thought I knew more than a medical professional.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I hope that none of you was inconvenienced by the tremors in the earth yesterday. You see, I did a terrible thing yesterday. I did the unthinkable. I told my age.

Age in my husband's family has always been a deep, dark secret. They feel that a woman should never reveal her age. I, on the other hand, feel age is a thing to be celebrated. After all, isn't it great to add another year?

I have a sister-in -law who actually gets insulted when anyone, even a doctor, asks her her age. She's well up there, quite a bit older than I (she has a daughter who is 7 years younger than I). I'd consider it quite an achievement to make it that far and I would shout it from the rooftops, if anyone would listen.

Anyway, again, I hope you weren't inconvenienced by the tremors and noise. It's just my husband and mother-in-law spinning in their graves.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Adventures in Self Medicating

I have a cold with a dry cough, queasy stomach and occasional headache. It's all very all simple. I went to the local drug store (do they even call them that anymore).

The assortment of remedies was mind-boggling. It was very hard to find a simple cough medicine. I don't need Nyquil or Dayquil, I have no trouble sleeping, unless Burnie decided to play. I finally found one. Then it was time for the cough drops. What happened to the Trade and Mark Smith Brothers, Ludens and the Pine Brothers? All I saw was Halls, which I really, really don't like. I decided to buy Halls.

Then came the next decision. Do I want euchalyptus, lemon or some other flavor I don't remember. I also had to decide between sugar-free and regular, which was very hard to find by the way. I decided on the regular lemon flavor and I took a bag of the euchalyptus regular just for good measure.

Now I realized that my supply of aspirin was running low. Last Spring when I had some flu-like symptoms, I followed the doctor's advice and bought one of the aspirin-free either Advil or Motrin. It was so effective that I don't remember what I took. The next problem was deciding on the aspirin. Did I want low-dose, back & body pain or regular. It took a lot of hunting, but I finally found regular, good old fashioned aspirin. I don't take pain pills that often so I really don't see how they could cause bleeding in my stomach as the doctor said. I'm 70 years old (shs don't tell any body) and have never had a problem.

Now I was armed with my good old Bayer Aspirin, Halls Cough Drops, Cough Medicine and it was time to look for my Maalox which was also running low. They had Pepsid, Tums, Rolaids, etc . and way down on the bottom shelf was the Maalox.

I like to keep my throat moistened when I have a cold, but I don't want to take too much medicine, so I went looking for Sour Balls. They were nowhere to be found. Don't they make them anymore. Again I had my choice of regular or sugar-free hard candies. I settled on lemon drops. Finally, after almost an hour in the store I had everything I needed. So I paid for everything and came home.

My question is this, why do we need such variety in such common everyday items. At the urging of my dentist I stopped eating regular hard candy and switched to sugar-free. There was no difference, I still lost most of my teeth.

Why do we need low-dose aspirin? What's the problem with cutting them in half? I actually used to chew them because in my younger days I couldn't swallow pills.

I hate to sound like an unflexible person (I was once told on my job that I had to be more pliable). Maybe so, but, do we really need all that variety in pills. I know we've become a nation of pill poppers and the companies want to fill (or create) a need.

If you've read my post to this point, thanks for letting me rant. I feel better already.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Adventures with Chow

When we bought our house in Queens, we immediately got a cat and I have had cats almost all of those 40 years. Our first cat was named, imaginatively "Baby". The next one, whose mother was "Ching", we named him "Chow". A year or so later, because we were stranded upstate in NY because of the blizzard of 1969, we were not able to keep our appointment with the vet so Chow and Baby had kittens. We kept one of them and named him Mein. Today's story is about Chow. Just like Winnie the Poo, Chow was a cat of little brain. But, he was so lovable. More stories about him at a later time.

Around this time my father retired from the NYC Transit Authority after working there 50+ years. My mother decided to surprise him with a party. The major problem was that he was home and she was still working. She blamed my brother, saying that he was having a party and would my father clean the house, shop for food and maybe cook for the party. He agreed.

The night of the party, because we were young marrieds and our cat was family, we brought Chow, the kitten, to the party. You know, love me, love my cat. At one point we left Chow alone in the kitchen. When I went back into the kitchen, there was a suspicious hole in the potato salad and mayonnaise all over Chow's face. Between fits of laughter, I called my husband and my mother. Now we were all laughing. I quickly cleaned Chow's face, took a spoonful of salad from the dish and spread the salad around so it looked like nothing was wrong.

Everything went without a hitch, no one was the wiser. They all thought Chow was the cutest kitten. Oh yes, my father was surprised. I think he was the only person ever who did all the cooking, shopping and cleaning for his own surprise party

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Burnie was up to his old tricks again the other night. He was doing what he does best - hiding. When it was time to go to bed, Crash obediently walked into the bedroom. I closed the door and then looked all over the house for Burnie. He wasn't on any of the chairs, or in the office. I simply couldn't find him.

Since I was tired, I gave up and decided to go to bed. I closed the bedroom door and the closet door. Later that night I was awoken by he sound of someone knocking on the door. I got up and opened the door, but there was no Burnie. I figured he gave up and went back to hiding so I went back to bed and sleep.

A little while later I heard the knocking again. Again I got up and opened the door. Still no Burnie. Then I heard a faint meow. He had been hiding in the closet. I can't imagine where he was, I looked in there with the flashlight and couldn't see him.

I wish I could say he learned his lesson and won't hide again, but I know Burnie. He's a very sound sleeper and loves to hide.