Sunday, June 29, 2014

These Times They Are A Changing...

I've written about how hard it is to find a job nowadays.  Just the other day my personnel service sent me on an interview for a TWO WEEK assignment for data-entry work and making phone calls.  No, not a two YEAR job... two weeks.


I decided I have time on my hands to do more than blog and be annoyed by these silly interviews. I've been volunteering since I was 17 years old for various non-profits like The ARC (special needs), PERG (environmental), EIES (radio for the blind), etc.  So, I drove out to a local historic park and filled out an application to do some volunteer work in tourism, like I did up in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

They emailed me later and asked if I'd ever had a BACKGROUND CHECK!  A background check to do volunteer work...


This was my reply:

Dear Ms. _______,

I've been shaken by this email regarding a background check for volunteering in ______ County.  I'm writing this response because even though I don't think this will make a difference, I feel a need to write.

No, I'm 52 years old and I haven't had a background investigation.  Ever.

I probably would like one for my Grandfather though.  He served in the 28th Regiment in both Mexico and in WWI.  He was mustard gassed in Belgium and suffered from lung disease until he died in 1951. My Grandmother never received government benefits because the records for the 28th, between WWI and WWII burned.  He loved our country though.  So much so that he founded the Philadelphia chapter of the VFW.

My Grandfather was a Doughboy.

My father would have bristled at a background check though because he believed in freedom and privacy.  He believed, as I do, in the United States.  He didn't need a background check to serve honorably as a Marine in WWII at Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands.  I also don't think they checked the backgrounds of my ancestors who served during the Civil and Revolutionary

Storming the Beach at Guadacanal.

So, no I haven't recently had a background investigation.  I actually just looked online to see what it involves.  No, I have nothing to hide but I have a lot I'd like to protect - especially my freedom as a citizen of the United States.  I really do believe in what Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty, or give me death."  
really do.

I'm an American and I believe in our Civil Rights and the Constitution.  
I believe in our laws and that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
I believe in freedom.  

In 2011 and 2012 I was honored and thrilled to work at both Plymouth Massachusetts Visitor Centers and speak with people from all over the world about the Pilgrims and their importance in the founding of our country.  It is work I am very proud of and that's why I want to continue doing this in beautiful and historic _______ County.

I love New Jersey.  I love our rich history.  I brag about our State to everyone who doesn't live here, and even to those who do.  I understand times have changed but I really don't believe our citizens should have their civil rights compromised.  I actually believe most people are good and decent.  

I'd love to promote the legacy of Washington and his soldiers and the beauty and history of ______ County and our great State of New Jersey.  I'd like to talk to you and give you references.  

Thank you for listening and taking the time for this email.  I look forward to hearing from you.

I have to say I got a very kind response back, but they say I still need to have a background check for the job...

Guess I'll stick with blogging for awhile.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Penny for Your Thoughts...

Actually, you can have my thoughts for free!  There's a bargain...

Speaking of bargains, that's the kind of shopping I've been doing lately.  While I've never jetted to Rodeo Drive or have been chauffeured along Madison Avenue to buy the latest fashions, I have been a fan of Williams-Sonoma, Bloomies, and other Yuppie enclaves.

It's just that we're on a budget right now, which means - NO designer names.  Actually, how about NO names at all?

Welcome to my new world of food shopping at Aldi's and buying greeting cards at (eeek!!) the "Dollar Store"!  (Believe me, they don't carry Crane's...)

Thursday is food shopping day, so I went over and picked up Mother.  Man, she LOVES Aldi's (who do you think told me about that place?)  Hey, the woman raised five children, sent them ALL to college, AND managed to travel all over the world with my father.  (ALL over - find me a place they didn't visit...)  And now she lives in a beautiful retirement complex with all the amenities.  How did she do all this?

By watching her pennies!

Why didn't I learn this earlier?  How did I become addicted to high-end restaurants and over-priced speciality shops?  Not from my Scottish Mother...

My thrifty Mom

I have to admit, I'm beginning to embrace this new life style.  It's like a challenging game to see how much I can buy and not only stay in our budget, but go UNDER budget!  I don't mind that the stores I shop in now aren't very pretty.  I can't eat pretty...

There ARE some things you can't skimp on though.  Like Heinz ketchup and Smucker's orange marmalade.  No name ketchup is always a funky dark color... like it's old.  It's not the Heinz cheerful red.  And a store-brand marmalade?  Yuk... I won't even go there.

But, I happily pick up my "Rice Krishpees", my "Cheriooos", "Trishkuts" and blocks of cheddar cheese that are half what they cost at King's or Whole Foods.  (One year I bought ALL my side-dishes for Thanksgiving at Whole Foods and almost fainted at the register when I saw the price.  It probably would have been cheaper to bring all my guests to the fanciest restaurant in town!)

The fact is, we're saving money and it's not even hurting (well, a little...).  I really think this is a good lesson to learn, no matter what our earning bracket.  And the best thing about having to think before I spend?

I appreciate what I do have, a little bit more...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Marty and Me...

Wrote to Scorsese today - yeah, THAT Scorsese.

I wouldn't say we're close.  Actually, I had to look him up on the internet so I knew how to spell his name...

But, I had to write to him because I have a great idea for a movie!  (My mother wants me to write it... but, I'm busy with other things, like blogging...)

Anyway, I know looking for work (and blogging) is my full-time job right now, but I still seem to have some extra seconds to read random things on the internet.  In one of those random searches I discovered an historic figure that really intrigued me for many reasons.

His name is Archbishop John Hughes - AKA "Dagger John."  Here he is:

Oops... wrong one.  (Hey - he popped up when I Googled "Dagger John"!)  Anyway, HERE he is:

"Dagger John"

He doesn't really look that tough, but there's a reason he was called "Dagger John."  He made it his personal cause to fight against Protestant oppression against Catholics - even going so far as using some of his parishioners as armed guards at the original St. Patrick's in downtown NYC.

Old St. Patrick's on Mulberry St., NYC.
The armed men aimed their rifles over those very walls.

(Actually, I'm looking back at that photo of the other guy - John Matthew.  He looks kind of tough.  Maybe he can play Dagger John in the movie!)  Wow... I can write AND cast films.  Mother's right - I SHOULD be in "the business"!

Anyway, here's the info on what John Hughes did that I sent to Marty:
  • Protected his churches with Irish armed guards (see photo above...).
  • Helped quell the angry mobs during the 1863 Draft Riots.
  • Supported the Young Ireland Movement and raised funds for weapons.
  • Began the Catholic School System (and was such a pain to the Protestants, the state passed the Maclay Act of 1842 – the separation of church and state).
  • Founded Fordham University (initially called St. John’s).
  • Began the construction of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  He laid the cornerstone in 1858.
  • Was instrumental in the Irish becoming policemen, firemen and teachers!  (My great-uncle Matty was a fireman and my cousin Brian was a cop in Philly.  The Irish tradition continues...)
Amazing, isn't he?  Also amazing is I don't know ANYONE who's heard of him!  I mean, what does it take to "go down in history"?!!

So, there you have it, Marty!

I bet he'll let me call him "Marty."

All the info you need to put together a great flick.

I await your call...


My dear friend Kathy called the other day and asked me to design Julianne's (her daughter) 21st birthday invitations.

Sure!  Jules is like my own daughter... but, isn't she just 15?  No -  She CAN'T be 21!


Why does it feel like all my nieces, nephews and friends' kids were all just toddling around my backyard and now THEY'RE having kids that are toddling around the backyard!  I can still see Jules as a little five year-old girl rollerskating down her driveway - a long STEEP driveway.  So daring and unafraid... a real tomboy!  (Now the "tomboy" is a beautiful and chic stylist).

Come to think of it, her mother and I were about that age when we first met in kindergarten at St. Joe's. Of course Kathy and I haven't changed a bit since Julianne was born!  No, not at all...

Think I'll go grab a glass of wine...

I hope Jules likes her invite:

Spoke with another St. Joe's friend Patty the other day.  We're going to plan our 40th Reunion next year!!

Kathy's on the bottom far left and Patty and I are on the bottom - second and third from the right.  Love all the straight long hair (except for Liz (in the middle) - her mom made her have short hair - she HATED it!).

Patty and I spent the other night laughing for about an hour about St. Joe's.  She remembers running down the hall with Danny (a boy I had a crush on) and another classmate Susan (next to me on the left)... pretending to be the "Mod Squad"! (Google it).  I asked who was Linc?  (Danny and Sue are White.  Actually, look at the photo - we're ALL White and either Irish or Italian!  Not a very diverse group...)

I remember the nun in the photo - our principal.  She loved to grab you by the cheek and pull you down the hallway when you got in trouble.  It never happened to me (I was a good girl!) but I remember Tommy (smiling in the photo above Kathy) always had pink cheeks...

Boy... it feels like yesterday.

Sunrise... Sunset...

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Urban Garden

My husband and I are getting used to being back in New Jersey after living along the water in Plymouth, Massachusetts for the past several years.  It was pretty rural where we were living.  How rural?  Well, my closet, and dearest, neighbors were a flock (actually, a "rafter" - according to Google) of wild turkeys.

I miss those guys!

Now we're living in Summit.  It's a pretty town about 30 miles west of NYC, and we love it, but I feel a little like the country mouse around here, and it's strange living in an apartment after owning homes for the past 20 odd years.  Although this winter was WONDERFUL!  I just sat looking out the window as our Super shoveled the snow.  I just would run outside to bring him a cup of coffee... (Did I mention that was wonderful!)

One thing I do really miss though is having a veggie/herb garden.  But, before we moved, I ran around the property in Plymouth gathering up plants that were important to me, including my Dad's peppermint and rhubarb.

Notice I said my Dad, not my Mom.

My Mother's not a gardener.  When she and my Pennsylvania farm-boy father were first married and living in an apartment, my Dad tilled a small plot behind the building and planted a vegetable garden.  My Mother - a Newark girl - decided to help him weed while he was at work.  When he came home he ran in the apartment crying, "Elizabeth!  Someone ransacked my garden and pulled out ALL the vegetables."  My Mother said, "Oh, dear... what a shame!"  She never went near any of his gardens again!

I'm a chip off my Father's block (so to speak):

My Urban Garden

I may be exaggerating, a bit, about our apartment being very urban.  It's actually a lovely garden apartment.  This is the view from our front door:

So, cry me a river - right?!  I'm really not complaining... ok, just a little.  I just miss having a plot to call my own.

Wow!  Just saw my Super out the window and went out to tell him about my blog and how I miss my garden.  He told me I can have a little spot of land for a six-foot garden behind his tool shed next year!  Who said blogging was a waste of time (besides my Mother...)

I can taste those warm, sweet stawberries already.... yumm!...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Is this Clarice? Why, hello Clarice...

Let me introduce our Russian Blue - Hannah:

Sugar wouldn't melt in her mouth (I never quite understood that expression... but, you know what I mean).

Once upon a time, Hannah was enjoying her life with my husband and me as an "only-kitty." (We had another cat, Maggie, who died a couple of years ago under suspicious circumstances.  We're not sure about this, but all trails lead back to Hannah - the last to see her alive...)

Then one day this past December - at the height of snow and cold - I looked out our window and saw a little Calico grooming herself on a snowdrift.  After spotting her for a few days - (I knew she was a "her" because ALL Calicos are females) - I realized she didn't have a home so, of course, we took her in.

Here's Calleigh, the Calico:

The plot now thickens, as they say...

Hannah immediately HATED Calleigh and tried to kill her every chance she had!  (Again, I wish we did an autopsy on poor Maggie before we had her cremated...)

Every day for five months I vacuumed up tufts of grey, white, orange and black fur off the floors and furniture.  Fur was literally flying and I thought it would never end.  Why, just last month they attacked each other on our bed. Unfortunately I was STILL in the bed at the time...

Later that day, after washing our blood-soaked sheets, I decided to vent my anger in a constructive way. (Lucky for them I'm a graphic designer and have Photoshop on my computer.  Lucky for them I'm not a taxidermist by trade...)

Since I felt like I was in the movie, "The Silence of the Lambs"...

I created this:


But then a miracle happened last week!  We had to take the cats to the Vet to have their nails clipped (salons won't see them).  When the cats saw the dreaded "cat carriers", they huddled TOGETHER and stared at us in fear and anger.  And suddenly we saw a light bulb go off over their heads...

They realized it was THEM against US!

"But the face on the pillow, rosy in the firelight, is certainly that of Clarice Starling, and she sleeps deeply, sweetly... in the silence of the lambs."

Yes... it's them against us...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Beaver Attacks... again...

Well, my husband and I are minor celebrities in our town since Barry's beaver attack hit the newspaper stands.

We went to our local community center today to sign up for the pool and the three people working there were like, "Hey!  Aren't you the ones who were attacked by a beaver?"

I said, "Yeah, I guess you read the paper."

"Nah!" they said.  "It was on the radio and TV."

So, I guess my husband won't be escaping the "Beaver Boy" label.

"Beaver Boy"

In other news, a friend of ours in Massachusetts (where we lived for awhile) called last night to tell me a man in Upstate New York was attacked by a beaver while kayaking the other day.  He's in the hospital now!

What's with these beavers?  My good friend Patty thinks it's a sign.  I'm glad I've started going back to church...

Ward, there's definitely something wrong with the Beaver...

Get a Job!

... Sha, na, na, nah... Sha, na, na, na, nah...

Yeah, this girl's gotta work (blogging sure ain't payin' the bills...).

I'll tell you, it's HARD out there!  I've been trying to get back into the "regular" work force after running my own successful textile/print design studio.  The industry kind of took a nose dive in the past few years - thus the job hunt.

I remember when I was first married and signed up with ONE temp/personnel agency. Man - the phone rang all the time and the agency would just say, "We have a two-week job answering the phones and filing starting tomorrow.  It pays $9.00/hour.  Here's the address - be there by nine sharp."

Easy, peasy.  The money was constant and the jobs were forgettable but fine for the time being.

NOW, 20 years later, the phone RARELY rings from the THREE temp/personnel agencies I'm with, and when it does, it's, "We have a company that needs someone for two-weeks. They need you to know the entire Microsoft Office Suite, prepare a Power Point presentation, do some online marketing, man the phones, do some data entry, etc., etc... Oh, and they're willing to pay $9.00/hour (well, THAT hasn't changed...).   No lunch break either, unless you want to come in an hour early. Let's set up an appointment for your interview!"


Aaargh!!  I'm really climbing that corporate ladder of life!  More like I'm "Slip N' Sliding" down the crevices of hell...

Listen, I'm willing to work hard.  I even risked my own life when I lived in L.A. in my 20s and worked as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesperson, in WATTS. You remember the riots in Watts?

Yes - THAT Watts.  (Hey - I thought I was helping to enrich the lives of the "down-trodden."  I remember wearing my best Norma Kamali native-print dress to try to connect and "fit in".


What an idiot!  I'm surprised I'm not dead yet with all the stupid things I've done...

I have a good work ethic.  I just didn't go the traditional work route that my college roommates and other friends did.  I never wore one of those infamous female "suits" my friends wore when we first graduated.  Remember them?  The blouses with the matching huge bow around the neck?  Think Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl."


Well, those bow-tied college friends did ok with sticking with their conventional jobs for years. They're able to see the retirement light at the end of the tunnel now.  But I, the non-traditional one, am working on reinventing myself, once again!  A lot of them chose to get on the Merry-go-Round... and that's a nice ride.  Some of them have even been lucky enough to catch the brass ring.

But, me?  I chose the Roller Coaster. It's fast, unpredictable and you never know what's around each bend.  I've had many opportunities to get off and choose another ride, but I keep jumping back on this one every time it ends.  I love it...

(Now, my husband loves "Whack a Mole"... not sure what THAT means.  But, that's a whole other topic...)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Weather or Not...

Spoke with my Mom this morning (speak with her every morning - I'm a good daughter!).  And I listened endlessly - again - about the weather and how hot it will be today.

Uh, yeah... It's June in New Jersey.  It's summer.  It's hot.  I get it. (got it since I was little... I'm kind of perceptive).

NOW, if it was COLD and SNOWING in June... that's kind of an interesting topic.  "Karen, it's snowing!" cries Mom.  "Hold on Mother!!  I just came in from outside and I have snow in my ears.  I was going to set up the grill, but the drifts were in the way!"

What would people talk about if we didn't have the "weather topic"?  Why do some people get so emotionally involved, or obsessed even, about the weather?

My husband - EVERY day he asks, "What should I wear?  What's it like outside?" And then he checks his iphone.    I don't know... Today the sun is shining.  It's June.  It's only a day after yesterday which was about 83 and sunny.  Let me guess - it's about the same as yesterday!

I'm writing about this because I just ran a few errands... and yes, today is hot.  I know that because our air conditioner in the car broke just when it started getting warm outside (hey, maybe it broke this winter... who could tell?  It's not like I checked...)

I gratefully went to a couple of food markets and stood for awhile in the frozen section (you know - the one you RUN through in the winter).  It was great, until I got in line at the registers and listened to other shoppers - "BOY is this a scorcher!"  "I can't believe how HOT it is today!"  "Oh, it must be global warming.  It keeps getting hotter every year..."

What do they talk about in other countries, I wonder?  Do tribes sit around in their villages in the deserts of Africa or the Amazon Rainforest saying, "Boy... it was hot in that hut last night!"

Do they complain about the constant drizzle in Ireland or - (again)...

 ... the Rainforest?

( I don't think I really want to live somewhere with the name "rain" in it.  I mean, you're asking for trouble if you have a basement and your address is "32 Rainy Lane, Drizzle, PA").

I just can't picture a beautiful young couple at a cafe/bistro in Paris/London/Rome, gazing into each other's eyes saying, "Gee, I wonder if it's going to rain?  We need the rain..."

Well, it's 3:30 now and I was going to join my walking group tonight at 6:00, but they canceled because the forecast called for rain.  I'm looking out my window now and the skies are a bright blue -not a cloud.

Weatherman's wrong again.  Now THAT's a whole other topic...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Beaver Tale

Well, my husband Barry and I could have been famous today.  CBS News called and our New Jersey Channel 12 called us too.  Why?

Because Barry was attacked by a beaver last week at a nearby park!  Yes, a beaver.

I thought it was my "civic duty" to warn the public, so I contacted the Star Ledger (New Jersey's largest newspaper).  The article came out this morning, and it was fun to see... but then we went to their online site -

Our story has gone viral!

Call me naive (I've been called worse...) but I didn't realize this would become such a sensation.  I also didn't realize just how funny my fellow New Jersians were until I read the comments to the online article.  Here's some from the 50 or so posted in the past three hours:

  • Ward, there's something wrong with the Beaver. 
  • Aw, jeepers Wally.
  • If a beaver is chasing you, climb a tree. No, wait! Don't! It will chop down the tree and kill you!
  • Did I just read an article from The Onion??
  • The New Jersey Beaver, being very conscious of current fashion trends, was shaved and waxed for summer. 
  • Snookie trying to get back in the news?
  • Governor Chris Christie stated he has nothing to do with it.

"My staff was doin' a beaver study."

So, we could have been famous if we decided to go on TV... but my husband is kind of annoyed about the whole thing so we're not going on.  He thinks he's going to be labeled, "Beaver Boy."  He has a point...

That's ok - I just put my own highlights in my hair this morning and I look like a giant carrot.  I'm better off staying on the other side of the camera.  I bet Snookie never had this problem - but, that's a whole other topic...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Goin' to the Jim

(The title's from a joke my sister emailed me - substitute John with Jim.  My sister loves goofy jokes.)

Ok... I decided yesterday to start "training" for a 5k (training in quotes because an overweight, middle-aged lady doesn't really "train" - she just basically stops sitting on her butt in front of the computer, or table, or tv...)  And why did I decide to start this?  Well, because I'm an overweight, middle-aged lady who watches too much of everything.

So, here's my "regimen" so far today (it's now 10 am):

  • Wake up later than I planned (I planned for 6-7 am.  I woke up at a leisurely 9...)
  • Decided it was too late to start (plus I drank too much the day before - read the previous post to see about the blueberry champagne...)
  • Next - decided to research online exactly how to train for this ("From Sedentary to 5k"... that's me!)
  • Researched where track fields are in my town (I'm not running on the street!  No one looks good when they run... especially an overweight, middle-aged lady).

So then I decided to blog about this.  Reading over the list I'm thinking about how no one looks good when running and why that is.  Actually, EVERYONE I see running looks miserable!  Think about it - have you EVER seen someone smiling and laughing when they do this?  I'm having another iced coffee and really think about this some more....

Besides, I've decided my "running regimen" will be on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  The article I found on training said to run every other day and rest every other day.

Today's Monday - my "day of rest."  My regimen has started!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Morning - Countin' my Blessings

I'm not a "church going girl," but I do have a pretty deep faith.  I definitely like checking in with the Big Guy, and not just on Sundays.  I just love the life He's given me.  (Hey, I like roller coasters!)

So it's Sunday - a day of reflection (let's ignore that "Sun" day is more based on a Pagan worship of the sun god and that the Catholic Church - when trying so kindly to "convert" people to their faith - switched the traditional Saturday day of worship to Sunday)... but, I digress.

I'm thankful today - Sunday - or any day:
  • I have a devoted and loving husband who stands by his wife, no matter what crazy situations she finds (or gets) herself her in.
  • I LOVE our apartment! It's a duplex - after living for eight years on a one level home I really appreciate that. (Don't get me started on how I once wanted a one level home.  Be careful what you wish for.  And, don't remind me I always thought owning a home was the only way to live.  I used to have a lot of insane rules of life).
  • Our two cats are finally getting along (hey, it only took five months...).
  • And, my Mom is coming over.

Mom.  She had me when she was 41 and now she's 93.  You do the math - I'm 36.  (So, I'm bad at math - I told you to do it!)  I'll write about her in another blog.  She deserves her own blog at least!

My Mom!
So, today I'm going to meet some friends for a walk (I am thankful for my health and friends).  Barry (my devoted husband) and I will take Mother to a car show in downtown (thankful for living in a wonderful town).  We'll come back to our place and have some grilled chicken and burgers - along with Mom's famous cole slaw.  "Bless us oh Lord..."

I'm looking out the window now (or trying to... Calleigh the Calico is sitting right in the middle of it)... It's beautiful outside.  One of those no-humidity, cloudless, perfect 68 degree days that you know you don't want to end.  Of course, in MY perfect world it would rain every night between 3-4:00 am (technically morning) and then be like this EVERY day.
Nah, scratch that last one - I like rainy days too...

Anyway - going out and enjoying today.  God bless this day.  God bless everyone.  I have a nice bottle of local N.J. blueberry (yes, you read right) champagne in the fridge that I was saving for a special day.

Today IS special.  Opening that bottle of blue with my Mom and hubby.  Definitely.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

This is my Blog

I think a lot... too much, I think!  I definitely need this forum to empty my mind at times.  So, stay tuned for rants and riffs about my car, my Mom, my cats... and husband, cooking, what food fads I hate, etc. I may even delve into DEEP issues like - how my best friend turned into a psycho killer (well, almost), how I dated a serial killer (once - that was enough!), why I fled home and moved to L.A. (and almost died and went to a MK Ultra party) and lost everything and had to move back to Jersey, why I fled home and moved to Massachusetts (and lost everything and had to move back to Jersey)...

Lots of fun stuff!

I'm happy (and still lucky) to be alive and I'm looking forward to spewing my guts.

Stay tuned...