Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Taking Inventory

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I had been planning for a while to include a post about all the things for which I'm thankful. When I finally sat down to write it out, I realized there are way to many things to be included in one post. In fact, I could probably use each post from here on out to list all the things that bless my life. That in itself is a blessing.

So, at the top of my "thankful list", I include:
- My loving husband
- My supportive family and friends
- Having a good job and being respected by coworkers
- Having enough money to pay bills and such
- Our home

Then there are many other things that are often taken for granted but are no less important, and therefore, no less appreciated:
- Our fireplace
- Having a car
- The Internet
- Living in an area that offers many opportunities
- Having the right to vote and speak for/against our leaders
- Being able to openly speak my mind, right or wrong
- Being able to blog about my life and opinions and having people actually read it!

This is just a sampling. Now it's your turn. What are some things you are thankful for?

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Thankful Heart

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. That day also marks an important event in my family: my grandparents' 70th wedding anniversary. 70 years together. Can you imagine? In addition, both of them share the same exact birthday (same day/same year) so we say they've been together since Day 1. They actually met as children in grade school but lost touch for a number of years when my grandfather's family moved to another town. As if Fate offered a helping hand, they unsuspectingly ran into each other years later as teenagers, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting my grandparents will be quick to tell you what wonderful people they are. And they are. They truly have the kindest and most generous hearts and welcome everyone with open arms. They have survived wars, the Depression, the loss of a child, taking care of eldery relatives, medical conditions, hospital stays, the ups and downs of life. Still, for all that life has thrown their way, they have remained steadfast in their love and the love they share with others.

So much of my life's happiness is wrapped up in them. To my sister and I, they have become second parents, not just grandparents, and every day I thank God for blessing our lives with both of them. So, this Thanksgiving will be extra special, for we have so much to be thankful for in our family.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Puzzle Pieces and Such

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I know - how hackneyed, right? Well, I've seen it with my own eyes. It's true. I may not realize it at the time, but when the pieces all fall into their places, I can see the big picture and think "aha!" I wouldn't call myself a religious person, but it's those moments that make me a believer in divine intervention.

Case and point: A few years ago (I often say "in a previous life"), I worked at a large corporation. It was a wonderful job - an experience like none other in my life up to that point. My coworkers were truly like family. I also was dating someone in the company, but that's neither here nor there. Life was just dandy. Flash forward to post 9/11. The company took a big hit and downsized its workforce, including me. My surrogate family was cut off. My relationship fell to pieces. Things were about as low as they could have been....until I started working at another company. The job itself was terrible, but it was there that I met the man who is now my husband. SO (taking the long road like I usually do to make a point) had those events not happened, as bleak as it all seemed at the time, I would not have found my best friend, my inspiration, and the true love of my life. And for that, I am grateful.

TMI? Yeah. That's how I do. So, why do I tell you this? Because there are those days that seem like life just keeps ripping the carpet from you, that things are as low as they can get, but I believe there is a bigger plan. I remind myself of this every time that I am struggling - it's all just a piece to a bigger puzzle. Be patient. It will come together.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Digging Digital

On February 17, 2009, all television stations in the United States will broadcast only in digital, ending all broadcasting in analog. Rabbit ears will no longer work. What a shame. According to the FCC, the digital conversion will allow improved picture, better sound and more channels.

For months, there have been commercials on TV asking "are you ready?" and if you're not, go out and buy a converter box. You can even request a coupon for $40 off the retail price of the box, which is anywhere between $50-$70. I think, like most people, my husband's stance is, who cares? Everyone is digital these days, and if you're not, you'll be left behind in our dust. (I joke, of course). On the other hand, my heart goes out to the poor, especially seniors, who maybe can't afford to go digital and are happy with their rabbit ears or roof-top antenna. Maybe it's stupid, but that's how I feel. Not to mention (and maybe I shouldn't admit this) we have a TV in our bedroom hooked up to an antenna that only gets Channel 7 (ABC). I'm not sure why exactly, but probably because we originally agreed not to have TV in the bedroom. Anyway, I watch it now every morning. Come February, if I don't have my box, I can say goodbye to Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer. That makes me sad.

The two of us have this conversation on a regular basis, and he loves poking fun at me on this. So, without further ado, this video is courtesy of my husband...

I love it! Absolutely hilarious.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We Need a Little Christmas

Would you believe there are only 37 days until Christmas? Holy cow.

I suddenly feel like I have that deer-in-the-headlights look. 37 days. Doesn't seem like that big of a deal until I start factoring how those days will be spent: a few days here for Thanksgiving, a few days there for business travel (fingers crossed that I'm not snow-bound on my trips), a day or two for the Christmas cookie baking marathon with my sister, a few days to write out and mail cards. Then there is the annual tradition my husband and I have of going into "the city" (NYC to the rest of you) to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, window displays, St. Patrick's Cathedral - all the usual holiday tourist traps. I won't even mention the shopping for both sides of the family. It's because of the holiday mall madness that I now prefer to do as much shopping online as I can, any time of year.
For all the craziness of the season, I love it. I really do. There is a warm glow about the holidays that is not duplicated any other time of year. The excitement of anticipation and preparing...and wishing for snow on Christmas day (yes, I've had the same wish every year since I was a kid.) So, this morning as snow flurries floated outside my windows, the excitement started to build. I even listened to a few Christmas songs on my ipod driving to work.

I know, I know. Normally, I would say that it's way too early for that. It's not even Thanksgiving, for crissakes. No doubt, retailers are pushing the holidays big time this year, too, doing all they can to encourage people to buy, buy, buy in these hard economic times that could mean the store's survival or demise. But - to repeat the cliche - the holidays are not about buying. It's not about the lights and decorations or songs. It's about the love and the spirit of giving. This year, probably more than any other in recent memory, I think it's important that those who are able give what they can to help others. Seriously. I'm not going to list all the charities that are out there, and I'm not going to plead with you to donate to them; that has to be your own choice. But I do ask that you remember, maybe a little more than usual, that there are many more this year that need help - and it's never too early to start giving.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

High School: The Requiem?

The other day I ran into an old classmate from high school. I haven't seen her, in person, since the day we graduated, over 12 years ago. I say "in person" because, of course, there is always the virtual class reunion of facebook.com (I'm sorry, classmates.com; let's face facts - you just never possessed the same luster or the addictive quality of facebook.) For the most part, after graduation, it was like the majority of my classmates just dropped off the face of the earth, and - like that long-lost Hollywood actor or actress, if they are not continually in the public eye, you just assume they are dead. All of a sudden with facebook now, it's like a miracle! They live! They have families! They live in California! They're...wow, they actually seem nice now!

I envy those people who rejoice in recollecting stories about high school and claim that those days of teen angst were the best of their lives. My high school years, well...let's just say, I became a much happier person after high school. Like most people, I was awkward and shy and had, like, zero confidence. My home front situation was less than ideal and contained enough material for several Lifetime (or maybe even Sci-Fi) movies. It was only compounded by the fact that my two best friends transferred around the same time, leaving me to my own defenses when everyone already seemed sewn into their cliques. It's not like people were mean to me; in fact, I think I got along with most people. But, paraphrasing what one person once said to me, "some people were more interesting than others." Yep. I suppose they were.

Then 12 years happen. Change happens. The class b*tch suddenly has a heart of gold, and the class beanpole suddenly has gained some muscle mass, and so on. We are now adults with careers, mortgages, maybe even families. Some of us have traveled extensively; some have moved to other states. Some have suffered tremendous losses; some have achieved tremendous success. Still, being as honest as we can with ourselves, that small fraction of who we were in high school will forever exist in the brains of our classmates.

I looked at my former classmate the other day, thinking two things: she's shorter and more soft spoken than I remember. I can only imagine what she thought about seeing me again. The good thing, though, is that I don't think either one of us cared - we were just happy to see each other.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Three Cheers

I saw this video on today's Good Morning America. This kid has that crowd in the palm of his hands. He's gonna go places with that kind of power! Aren't there some days you wish you could raise your hands and have the same reaction?

This just brought a smile to my face and thought I'd share:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Let Love Rule

There has been a substantial buzz lately about Proposition 8, which was a ballot proposition that received majority vote in last week's election in California. In essence, it would overturn a recent California Supreme Court decision that had recognized same-sex marriages in California and only recognize marriage as an act between a man and a woman.

Now, I'm not a gay American, but I have many friends who are. And, sure, I live all the way on the East Coast in little New Jersey - a state, as far as I'm aware, that only recognizes civil unions and domestic partnerships, but has not taken the full leap to recognize same-sex marriages. So, what do I care about what goes on in California? Well, I guess because it's a fight that has been happening all across our country, and while California's debate is the most visible right now, it reflects the struggle going on in every state and home town, and it's time for the country to open its eyes, minds and hearts.

There are many conservatives who will argue that marriage is a sanctimonious act reserved, per the Bible, ONLY between man and woman. It is, indeed, sanctimonious, but the way I see it - if you love a person - whether same sex or not - and are willing to spend the rest of your life with them, share a home, share maybe even a family, then why shouldn't you be married? I've seen too many heterosexual couples get married for all the wrong reasons, only to end in divorce. But because the couples met the criteria for what a "traditional marriage" should involve (i.e., being a man and a woman), does that mean their unions were more holy or acceptable than same-sex couples who have stayed together for decades with unwavering love? Not in my eyes.

Bible thumpers and old timers will say that allowing same-sex couples to celebrate marriage and receive all the rights and benefits reserved for married couples will hurt "traditional marriage" by teaching immorality to our children. What? Next thing you'll say is that a black man should never be allowed to become President (..oh wait...) By allowing Prop8 to be pursued doesn't mean that gay people will simply go away. They should not be shunned in such a gross, deliberate form of discrimination. They are people, too, and should be given the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. The fight continues, but in this day and age of progress, should it really have to?

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Century Mark

When I first started The Humble Pen in May of this year, I already had two failed blogs under my belt, a lack of audience, and some serious apprehension about starting up a third blog susceptible to the same doom. The name of my third blog is derived from the Paul Simon lyrics in "Hurricane Eye": "you want to be a writer/but don't know how or when/find a quiet place/use a humble pen." I'd take all the guidance I could get. Sure, THP had its rocky moments, and if you scroll through September, you can see the seams literally coming undone. Once designed as an outlet for me to write and discuss poetry, it became a real albatross, and due to the lack of interest and minimal feedback, I was not only questioning my purpose as a blogger, but also my ability as a writer. And that, my friends, was not a good feeling.

So, after a few adjustments and continued pursuit of improvement, here we are - Post #100. I'm glad we made it here together. For some of you prolific bloggers out there who have been doing this for years, I bow down to you.

With that, I thought, for today, I'd take it back to where it began: Poetry. I wanted to make mention of a new book coming out about my absolute favorite poet, Elizabeth Bishop, and the letters she exchanged with fellow poet, Robert Lowell. The book, "Words in Air" was reviewed this past weekend in the Wall Street Journal and in today's LA Times, and I'm psyched to read it. I love her writing, and have a topical knowledge of her life, but am looking forward to reading this book to learn more. She, in my eyes, is the reason why poetry will always be relevant.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tag stag

With all the excitement of Halloween, the election, NaNoWriMo and just daily life, I forgot to tell you that I was tagged on Cosmopolite Kaffeeklatsch last week. I usually don't do the tagging thing - why? I don't know, I'm wacky like that - but I guess being tagged means it's time to share 7 random things about myself to keep the chain going:

1) I went to the same elementary school that my sister, my parents, and my grandparents attended
2) I'm addicted to Twizzlers candy
3) I almost died when I was two years old from meningitis
4) I was in college when I took my first and only trip to Disney World
5) The first car that I owned, all by myself, for the first time was a Honda del sol, and it was totaled a month after I bought it
6) I'm a Leo
7) My first concert ever was to see The Cure

So, now it's time to tag 7 others:
Coming full circle...again and again
Lilly's Life
Me and the Blue Skies
Rambling Rose
Life as I know it
My Random Thoughts
Christinchen's Soapbox

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Here We Go!

Today is a new day. For good or bad, Americans let their voice be heard and we have ourselves a brandy new president-elect. Half the people I have spoken with today are elated beyond words; the other half express disappointment and a little fear and skepticism. Me, personally? Well, all I have to say is that:

  1. I was happy that so many people got out and voted. They said this was the largest turnout in 100 years. Wow. That is tremendous. I went to the polls first thing in the morning before work (foolishly thinking I'd be in and out in a snap), and because the lines were so long, I had to come back after work to get the job done. Now, if only that many people voted in EVERY election, we'd really be on to something.
  2. I myself am a skeptic. I've been fooled before, and hope with all my might that the American people have not been fooled again. No matter who won, I would feel this way. Promises are one thing; action is another. I still feel that it all remains to be seen.
  3. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. No more commercials, no more debates, no more pundits filling air time with exorbitant claims. No more tug of war. It's over. Done. Now we can get back to our "normal" lives after 2 years of this crap. And for that, we can all celebrate!

So, with that said, today is all about moving forward and onward and upward and outward and...well, it's about progress, right?

Speaking of progress, I'm well under way with my novel. Sure, I'm only half way to where I'm supposed to be, word-count wise, at this point. But it's still progress. A week ago, I still didnt know what I'd write about. The funny thing is that I forgot how writing like this consumes you. And (I'll let you in on a secret since I like you), since the story is loosely-based on actual events, it really drains me reliving those moments as I twist them into fiction. After I've been typing away for a few hours, I have to snap back to reality and present-day, with the residual effects lingering. A very bizarre experience but worth every second.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Time for a Change!

I don't need to say it, do I? You know what you need to do today.

Just remember, though - you are an individual. Listen to your gut. Make your own choice. Don't let mob mentality sway you. The future of the free world is in your hands [no pressure]. But seriously, now is the time to let your voice be heard. VOTE!

Now, go get 'em!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Do or Die Time

Happy Monday! I'd like to apologize for my tirade the other day. As you could understand, my feathers were ruffled a bit and it was a reactionary post. But I've had a weekend to cool down, gained an extra hour of sleep thanks to the end of daylight savings, and am ready to start the week anew...and what a week it is expected to be!

Unless you live under a rock, you would know that tomorrow, November 4, is Election Day in the United States and the biggest seat in all the land is up for grabs: the presidency. Personally, I will be as happy as a clam to see the election season come to an end. Let's be honest here: Every presidential election year, we are forced to choose the lesser of two evils. Sometimes, that's not easy to do, so I completely sympathize with the people, who, with less than 24 hours left before making their mark on history, have not yet decided. For the people who are 110% behind their candidate, that's great that you are so strong in your choice, but I think to a degree it's blind. BOTH candidates have their faults, despite mob effect of the throngs of Obamaniacs and McCainiacs who would fight to the death to prove otherwise. Both lie. Both bend the truth. Both have made less than favorable decisions that leave you to wonder if either is capable of handling the supposedly most powerful, and no doubt most hated, country in the world. I really, really just encourage people to not take things at face value. Ever. Really.

What is amazing is how closely this race is being watched, not just by Americans, but by the world. Take for instance, a blog that I follow, Cosmopolites' Kaffeeklatsch, written by a Canadian living in Germany. I think this blog is fantastic, not only for the humor and great writing, but also for the unique perspective on the presidential race. It's blogs like this that remind me/us that our votes do not only have a direct impact on change in the United States but for those around the world (and not just in the obvious places like Iraq or Afghanistan). Yeah - it's that big.

I will not disclose which candidate I'm voting for because, for as much as I like you, it's none of your business, just like it's none of my business who you vote for, either. BUT, with that said, I strongly urge whoever is still undecided to take today to study up on the facts, the proposals, the promises and IGNORE THE COMMERCIALS because they're just full of sh*t anyway. If you are 18 or over and qualify as a registered voter, you have no excuse to not vote. SO DO IT! See you at the polls tomorrow!

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