Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Month and a Day

Oh, blog! I have not abandoned you, much....just giving you a bit of breathing room..yeah, that's it.

In the last month - well, actually since March - I've been increasingly busy at work, which is no excuse, but there it is. I've still been reading my favorite blogs, watching the news, staying up to date on I've had all sorts of jumbling tumbles in my mind of things to blog about.

But, then again, I've been questioning the whole blog thing and whether it's really for me. I've come to the conclusion that it's not. I'm sure that's really no surprise, being that my last post was a month and a day ago, and my existentialist blather brought about exactly zero comments. But that's fine. I wasn't expecting any. I used to fret about that. Why doesn't anyone like me? Why doesn't anyone respond? Is my writing that bad? I re-examined the issue and figure it this way:
  • For a good part of my life, I've always been on the outskirts of normalcy and popularity and all that jazz, and I quite rather like it there. There is enormous freedom in it. I don't need thousands of followers to verify me or my writing. So...
  • Part of being a popular blogger is writing comments on other blogs and that sort of back-and-forth play. I don't really like that. I'm sorry. I know it's against the blogger code. But it's true. A comment I received on one of my latest posts was as transparent as the wind; it had nothing to do with my post - it was virtually online pimping of this person's own blog. If I feel so inclined to comment on your blog, I will. And I would like you to do the same. Don't comment because you expect something in return. And I certainly will not comment because I want anything from you.
  • I just don't have the time to keep up with my blog. Plain and simple.
  • Just because everyone's jumping on the bandwagon, does not mean that everyone needs to go along for the ride. I've looked into Twitter (yes, I still have an account but don't live on it, so it's updated even more irregularly than my blog), am on Facebook but am starting to be bored by it, have all but abandoned MySpace, and only go into LinkedIn when I get a request from someone. In other words, I'm in more places in cyberspace than I need to be. Does my blog add anything of value to my life or yours?
So, what does this all mean for The Humble Pen? Honestly, I'm not sure. I almost gave up before, took some time off, and regrouped. Now, the luster of blog upkeep is just lustrous to me anymore, although there are certainly enough things to write about that just don't fit within the 140 character limit of Twitter or my status updates on Facebook. So, let's leave it at this for now: This isn't goodbye; it's just Auf Wiedersehen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Leaving Your Mark (pt 2) get back to pondering about "leaving your mark"...

Lately, I've been reading one of those thin "Images of America" books from my town's historical society - you know the ones: a sepia photo on the front with lots of black and white photos inside and little tid bits about "what was" compared to "what is now." I love learning the history of people, places and things, especially when it's so close to home - literally. That parking lot? Used to be where the town stables were. That housing development? Used to be verdant fields stretching as far as the eye could see. I don't know any of the people in the photographs, but it doesn't matter.

As I flipped through the pages the other night, my husband commented on the photos and wondered what the "next generation" photo book would show. Years ago, at the end of the 1800s through the early 1900s, photographs were a big deal. The technology was new and exciting. Photos were special treasures. They captured moments in time that gave insight.

Fast forward to 2009. Digital technology is current. Photos on digital cameras and phones, no more film. Kodak has recently discontinued Kodachrome film (even if I still love the Paul Simon song). I actually miss taking my roll of film to be developed, anxiously waiting to receive that small package of processed 4"x6"surprises. I supposed you could still have film developed, and I have to say I'm jealous of those who have their own dark rooms and know how to process film.'s 2009. For the casual photo-taker like me, it's point, shoot, look at the playback to decide if it's acceptable, download and share. With the exception of my wedding and honeymoon photos, I haven't had photos printed in years. KodakGallery even threatened to remove our online accounts because we continually uploaded albums online but have not printed in the last 12 months.

So, where does that leave our "next generation" photo book? Some might say, nothing's changed. Technology is better, faster, sharper. We'll always have photos. Maybe. But will future generations get a feeling for how we lived? As evident by the ease of deleting photos, among other things, we have become a disposable society - daresay, a restless society - one that may not value things the same way as earlier generations. What do our photos say about us?

Don't mind me...I'm just feeling a bit nostalgic again. But it's food for thought, don't you think?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Radio, Radio (volume 2)

I never thought I'd be saying this, but I found a new love. Or at least, a new crush.

You've read my rave about WRXP (still the best rock radio station in the NYC area, hands down.) But when I'm not in my car (I think that's the only place I intentionally listen to radio these days, when I'm not plugged into my ipod), or, more accurately, when I'm on the computer, I listen to Radio Paradise.

Call my discovery of this Radio Paradise a very happy accident. I had read something about Pandora Radio and wanted to check it out. But because I have a poor memory, I searched Paradise Radio. The link for RP came up, and the rest is history. I still haven't gotten over to Pandora Radio, so I have no input on that but I hear it's also awesome. If you've listened, by all means, please share.

So...I am in music heaven...or Paradise, so to speak. It's an online radio station based out of Paradise, CA...or so I can gather. I really don't know much about the station other than the music "is mixed by real humans" and that mix is out of this world. While most radio stations (online or otherwise) stick to one genre, Radio Paradise plays an eclectic brand of music...and to my ears, the best stuff I've heard...maybe ever. For instance, when was the last time you hear "London Calling" by The Clash immediately followed by the "Twilight Zone Theme?" Or "Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo (The Good, The Bad & The Ugly)" followed by Imogen Heap?

There are songs/artists I have never heard before, songs/artists that I have never heard on radio's a weird, but pleasing mix. Kind of like my ipod on steroids.* The assortment of electronica, modern and classic rock, world music, classical, jazz is great, but if you're looking for standard pop, R&B, and hip hop, you might be disappointed (but I doubt that you will).

RP has been around for a few years and I'm shocked that I am only now finding out about it. Better late than never. And I want the world to hear what I hear. Oh, the goodness!

*The Humble Pen does not promote steroid use. Just in case you needed to know.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Leaving Your Mark (pt 1)

This weekend, I saw a bumper sticker that read "Leaving your mark is overrated."

Those 5 simple words struck me. Probably not in the way they were intended, but they struck me just the same.

The bumper sticker was from the "Leave No Trace" Center for Outdoor Ethics shop . The center is basically to help foster understanding, respect and commitment to enjoyment of outdoor activities with the least amount of damage to the environment.

When I saw it, though (ironically, as we were both stuck in NJ shore traffic, no doubt adding to our carbon footprint), it translated in my brain as "Leaving a legacy is overrated." And it blew just about all I had known out the door for that brief minute.

I cannot think of a single person who does not want to leave his or her "mark" on the world. I know I want to. You probably do, too. When my mother passed away over 18 years ago at the age of 39 (8 years from my current age), she had already built a "legacy" that is still highly regarded. As a parent, she, without a doubt, left a lasting impression that shaped (and continues to shape) her children. As a teacher, her students learned lessons that they carry with them today. As a person, she conducted herself with grace, intelligence, and love that remains with all those who knew her. She did not plan or map this out as some kind of strategy; it was organic. It was truthful. She didn't even have social media to help her extend her reach (imagine that). So, then, I ask myself...what will be my so-called legacy.

I struggle with this all the time. Maybe you do, too. Maybe not. Some people are satisfied with just living and having it all sort of come together. What happens, happens. If a legacy emerges, fine. Others have a very specific plan. Whether genuinely philanthropic or self-serving, they may chose actions that change the condition or situation of people or places that will, one way or another, be least for a few years. For generations? That would depend on alot of factors, which I won't get into now.

I stress over what my "mark" will be. What are we doing here? What am I doing here? Our lives must serve some kind of purpose, right? Am I doing anything that will improve someone's life, that will make a difference? Is it something that I sought or something that sought me? Am I forcing the change, and is the change needed? Years from now, will anyone even care that I lived? Will I be remembered as a good person or a selfish, lazy one? Does it matter what people might think about me?

Yes, I can really be that neurotic. Welcome to my world. But in all seriousness, after seeing that bumper sticker, it had me wonder...why am I stressing over this? Do I really need to leave my mark? What difference would it make anyway?

I suppose it comes down to this: Whatever the reason for our existence, we are not here to suck dead air and take up wasted space. We are on this earth with each other for a reason, and I believe we each have a talent to bring about a change. Now...all we have to do is figure what that talent and/or change may be...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Not "The Answer Girl"

I just watched "The Answer Man" this weekend, with Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham. The story is (more or less) this: a man writes a book about his conversations with the Almighty, publishes it and becomes a worldwide phenomenon. He encounters many people, including two new friends, who really need answers to help them through difficult times, but he is reluctant in what he tells them. He avoids interviews, fans, etc. {SPOILER ALERT} In the end, he admits that he, in fact, did not have the conversations with God but rather wrote the questions he had for the Almighty and responses he would have liked to have received. In other words, he was human like the rest of us, without all the answers. (there's more to the story than that, and I do recommend you see the whole movie...)

Now, I can hardly compare this story with my life. However, lately, I've had a few good people ask for my advice on things like career changes, whether or not to get into a relationship, whether or not to get out of a relationship, and how to handle all things considered. I appreciate that these good people come to me and trust me to give a bit of insight. When it comes down to it, all I can do is examine the facts put before me, look at all sides as best as I can, and listen to my heart. But I don't have all the answers.

Also, in my experience, giving advice is a touchy subject - even when solicited. You ask me for feedback? Then, feedback you shall receive. But, it seems, often, that people don't always appreciate the advice unless it's something they want (or expect) to hear. I'll tell you this - you may be as close as blood to me, but I will always try to be impartial and fair and realistic. You want the moon and stars to come down to you because you think you deserve them? Fine. But, please don't expect me to tell you that you're the world's best astronaut.

At the very least, I have this request: if you ask me for advice, please listen. You don't have to follow it, but just listen. I've invested some of my time to give you honest feedback because I care about you. Maybe my advice totally sucks. Again - I don't have all the answers. But an open ear and a "thank you" are always appreciated...someday, I may need your advice.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Benefit Bike Run This Weekend!

Ok, just a little plug here for fundraiser happening THIS SUNDAY, JULY 19 for a very important cause...For all ya'll in the NJ/PA/NY area:

The Official Info
Liberty Towers (in Newton, NJ) will host its 5th annual Benefit Bike Run on Sunday, July 19th, rain or shine, starting and ending at VFW Post 5360, Newton to aid residents of Sussex County’s only senior public housing authority. AMA Sanctioned/Escorted Ride. Registration: 9-11am at VFW Post 5360, Mill Street, Newton, NJ. $20 rider,$10 pass. The escorted run will go through scenic Sussex and Warren counties. The day will end with a picnic, raffles, door prizes, music and vendors til 3 pm. For info: 973-383-5191 ext.23. NO BIKE? NO PROBLEM! Chicken BBQ for $10 each (pre-registered) and $12 at door.

The Real Deal
No bike (like me)? Don't even ride (like me?) Don't even own a leather jacket of any kind (like me?) Not to worry! It's a fun day regardless. I have to disclose that my sister is the Executive Director of Newton Housing Authority (among other things), so I got in at the ground floor when this event started 5 years ago. Since then I've seen the crowds quadruple from that first race. And it's really impressive to see hundreds and hundreds of bikes lined up, motors rumbling in those low tones that make your chest vibrate (in a good way)...then to see the bikes rolling, two by two for as far as the eye can see down a country just have to experience it.

And, "why would I want to do that" you may ask. Because I said you should, that's why. And because you'd be helping to improve the quality of life for a growing population of low-income senior citizens through the Newton Housing Authority. It's a win-win.

So...the weather's going to be great, the crowd will be excited, the food is going to be delicious, prizes are to be given out (I'll probably be working that table, so I'll see what I can do to help you in that department), and the bikes will be LOUD! Come on and join us!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Triteness of It

I just read this story on about how the word "absolutely" is overused these days. While the piece itself seems like it should be a feature in The Onion rather than a credible news outlet of CNN's stature, the article does kinda have a point.

I mean, when you stop and think how often you hear the word (or say it), you realize its frequency far exceeds its need. Totally. I myself try to switch off between "absolutely" and "definitely" just to mix things up a bit to prevent sounding like a broken record. I'm not even sure why I use those words rather than "yes," "for sure," or the ever-popular "indubitably." As the article says, "absolutely" sounds solid and confident. That is, until it doesn't, when it becomes a hackneyed soundbite that cannot carry the punch we think it will.

Although the article is referring to confident language in not-so-confident times, the principle really applies to other words. One word that irks me is "actually," not only because it's overused, but because alot of people tend to use it incorrectly. If something happened, it happened. You don't need to throw "actually" in the mix as every other word to make your point. Another one is "yeah." I say this like there's no tomorrow; I'm casual like that. A former coworker of mine hated using the word so much that she forced herself to not say it; she thought it sounded childish and, as it were, not confident. I supposed she could have used "absolutely."

There are a ton of other words that irritate the heck out of me for being overused. What words do you either say, or hear others say, way too much? (please keep this clean!)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Remembering Michael Jackson

Why is it that only upon death do we realize how special someone is?

Unless you live in a cave without any form of communication with the outside world, you know that the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, passed away yesterday. Suddenly, it's cool to like Michael Jackson again. For years, he has been at the center of pop culture controversy (child molestation charges, his ever-changing appearance and disappearing nose, Neverland Ranch, dangling his infant off a balcony, and so much more), the punchline of many jokes, and in most circles, the epitome of lame. But there was a time when he was not just the King of Pop; he was the King of Cool.

My earliest memory of Michael Jackson was the Thriller album, which my big sister owned. The video to "Thriller" scared the bejesus out of me for years. I remember visiting family friends in Virgina the summer that Thriller was huge. Walking around their complex, I could hear songs from the album drifting from open windows and cars. I don't know why I remember that; I guess it was that big of a deal then.

Years later, Michael Jackson still managed to creep into my life, even when I decided that alternative music was way cooler. In 1995, when MJ released HIStory, he had giant statues of himself all over the world. That summer, I was in Berlin, and there was his statue, perched high atop some building. It was smaller than I thought it would be, but a secret part of me thought it was a little cool. In college, a friend loved to sing Michael Jackson songs at karaoke; he did the King of Pop proud. Just last spring, another friend busted out dancing to "Thriller" at a bar in Boston - and that was before we started drinking. These are just some of my favorite MJ memories.

He's gone now, but his music will live on. So, he was weird. Really, really, weird. But it's not like that weirdness came from thin air. He was a troubled soul, trying to find his place in the world and a little love. He gave everything he had to his fans and those in his life. Today, let's remember what he gave us. Won't you share a memory or two?

In the meantime, here are two of my favorites from MJ:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

There and Back Again

So, I just returned earlier this week from my first trip ever to Puerto Rico. I first have to say how fortunate I am to have a job where I get to travel to cool locales like that. The intent of the trip was to oversee an educational meeting in Santurce last Thursday with primary care doctors who treat diabetes. Overall, a good meeting.

I decided to stay in Puerto Rico through Sunday in San Juan, and was happy to have company this time - my lovely sister, Kim. We both were way overdue for a little R&R, and we certainly took advantage of it...while seeing the sights, of course! Friday, we toured Old San Juan, including Castillo San Felipe de Morro, the 16th century fort built at the tip of the city. I'm always amazed to walk around buildings that were built before the first settlements were established in my own country, to breath in the history and imagine my feet touching the same ground that people from centuries ago touched. And it's really amazing to go to places where the culture and history are honored and, in most cases, well-preserved. The United States is a proud melting pot, but very rarely can we find remnants of something from centuries ago. Out with the old, in with the new. Always. But I digress...

While we saw beautiful architecture, drank the rum the island is known for, felt the history around us, I found the most intriguing thing (as with most trips) to be the locals. I loved watching the hundreds of school children fly kites in the field outside of the fort's entrance. I loved the warmth and friendliness of the people, from the taxi drivers to the shop keepers and beyond - there was no pretension. I have to admit, I do not warm up to people easily; I don't trust immediately, I'm skeptical, I try to sense the vibes coming from others. Maybe that's just the Northern New Jersey side of me. So, to say that I had in-depth conversations with the locals would be a lie. But I appreciated their warmth just the same and it really added to the trip.

...and the beaches. My goodness. I forgot what soft sand between my toes and the warm ocean gently lapping the shores felt like. I forgot what sunlight felt like (yes, it's been raining way too much at home!) It was heaven. Even when it rained, it was wonderful. Loved. It. Next time, I'll have to stay longer to check out the rain forests and bio-luminary lagoons, and all the secret treasures of the island.

Now I'm home, still reveling in my relaxation. What would have made things all the better would be if my back didn't go out again. And it's not just that it went out. It left without leaving a note. A few years ago, I had the same problem, but even after therapy, the only resolution was surgery. Followed by more therapy. And a big scar on my lower back. So, to think, I've returned to that state where I might have to go through all that's really a buzz kill to my wonderful trip, where just a week ago, I was walking around like no one's business. For the last few days, I haven't even been able to stand upright. So, a week of highs and lows...but that's Life and it goes on and on...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Do Unto Others

I'll preface this by saying that I'm not an overly political or religious person. Still, I believe in doing what's fair and what's right, in recognizing there are two sides to every coin, and following the Golden Rule.

Apparently, not everyone is on the same page when it comes to treating others as they would want to be treated.

This week alone, we saw an angry white supremisist open fire at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, killing one. A few weeks ago, a doctor who performed late-term abortions in Kansas was shot to death. A few months ago, another racist went on a shooting spree, among other horrible acts, against any "non-white" people outside of Boston. Then there are those who are vehemently against homosexuals, with current hot topics being the continuous fight against same-sex marriage, as well as some hateful words thrown in Adam Lambert's direction since the American Idol contestant "came out of the closet" earlier this week.

It really saddens the heart.

I appreciate that, under the U.S. Constitution, we are all supposedly protected by the First Amendment. I appreciate that there are people in this world who do not share my viewpoints, and I don't share theirs. What I cannot appreciate is the violence, the hatred, ignorance, and bigotry that still plagues our nation...and the world, for that matter. It's a story as old as time, but you would think as we continue to progress as a modern society, that people would educate themselves and learn to co-exist, respect, and (dare I say) even like those that share this world with them.

Oh (if you'll allow me a few more minutes on my soap box)...and I love when people throw God into the mix. I will not repeat those statements here because, simply, I do not want to give anymore time to them than required. But you know the statements. Now, again, I'm not religious. I recognize that not everyone believes in God, but I do, so if you'll allow me this sentiment...I believe that we are His children and made in His image. I believe that He loves us all the same, regardless of race, religion, creed, sexual preference or whatnot. And I also firmly believe that He would welcome those who live a life of honesty, love, humility and respect (again, regardless of background) instead of those who live with hatred and violence in their hearts.

I'm sorry if I have offended anyone. I just feel that something needed to be said. With that, I leave you with this famous quote from Martin Niemöller

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me -
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Such Random Things

Nothing extraordinary to write about today, so I'll just post a few things swimming around in my head at this moment:
  • My prayers go out to the families of those on Air France Flight 447. What a terrible tragedy.
  • How does Air France Flight 447 have a Wikipedia page already?
  • Susan Boyle will be just fine. After a bit of rest, she'll have the fantastic singing career that she deserves, and hopefully she'll get used to the fame that comes with it. Diversity reminds me of those super choreographed cheerleading routines...but maybe they'll get a job as backup dancers to Britney Spears? What else could they do?
  • Why can't "America's Got Talent" be more like "Britain's Got Talent" rather than a weird carny show?
  • The Pope is getting techy on us: (Replacing former Website*
  • My husband's 20-year college reunion is this weekend, and although I'll only know a handful of people, I have to wonder if it will be like Romy and Michelle....or I Remember Andrea (yes, so they were both about high school get my point). I guess in the end, not my reunion - not my problem.
  • Speaking of 20 year anniversaries and reunions...The Stone Roses should reunite. The former band members say no dice, but there's always wishful thinking. Pleeeeeease?
  • This is one of the best songs ever and I've loved it since the 80s. (Pretty Please???):

* This was never a real Website...but it should have been!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chi-town Showdown

I'm in Chicago for the second time in a month. Over a course of 5 years, I've been here so many times, I lost count. But, I have to say, Chicago is a beautiful city and I enjoy coming here...minus the traffic from the airport to downtown, and the winters. Otherwise, yes, it's a great place (at least, from my visitor's eyes. I'm sure the locals will have their own opinion.)

I'm here for another conference, of course...working a booth in the exhibit hall for the first time in my life and I have to say, I'm not lovin' it. No, sir. Not one bit. But it's easy work, and my expenses are being paid, so...there it is. Luckily for me, I'll actually have some "down time," albeit, on my own, and for the first time in all the times I have been to Chicago, I'm hoping to steal away a few minutes to actually enjoy the city. See the sights. Relish its charms. Hopefully.

It's a weird thing, enjoying a place on your own. I mean, it has been done. But in my opinion, it's always better to enjoy a place with someone else, so you can have someone to share the experience and memories. I'll always remember being at Half Moon Bay, CA, at the Ritz Carlton (for a meeting, of course), and walking down to the lonely strip of beach washed by the cold waters of the Pacific at sundown. It was gorgeous and romantic and solemn, and I was standing there, alone. It broke my heart to experience it without the love of my life by my side. Chicago - she's a different animal. Soaring architecture and history, there's alot to see. I have no problem going to discover it on my own, but I have to find the courage to enjoy it. It's just me and the city now.

So...if you have any suggestions on some things I must see, please let me know. I'm here a few more days.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Today, let us take a moment from our barbecues, picnics and leisure to remember those who fell - most of whom were taken too young -fighting to protect our freedom and the freedom of others around the world . We owe these brave men and women so much; let us remember today their sacrifice and courage.

Thank you.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lagging Online

Oh, Time. Where do you always run to?

It's been a few weeks since I've contributed anything new to this here blog, but believe me, it's not for lack of things to say. It's been for lack of a spare second to meander through this world of frivolity. And I'm glad to say, I know I'm not alone. Just today in a local paper, one of my favorite contributors, Kathleen O'Brien, mirrored my sentiment with this piece about "curating" (or lack thereof) her "online presence."

She wrote about a seminar she attended that pushed the idea that "people are judging you based on information on the Internet, so it's important to manage that." Whether you believe this to be true or not, you're right.

I know some people who work intently on honing a presence online and creating a pseudo-celebrity who is part reality, part fiction, all in the name of readers and being in the public eye (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'm in awe of these people. I mean, one would have to assume that their sole means of employment is something other than blogging, so anyone who finds time to keep updates current on top of the obligations of daily life is a marvel. I haven't been able to master that yet, and am in no rush to do so anyway. I just take one day at a time. Sometimes, that's all my hands can hold.

Like Kathleen, I find my to-do list to be ever-growing, even as things are checked off. I try to make it a point to push myself each day to accomplish things that others would find easy to postpone until tomorrow. My list in the last few weeks has grown in leaps and bounds, with some things that have been on there for months: Buy a dress for the reunion gala dinner. Speak with the architect about revisions to the house plans. Review those resumes before conducting the interviews this week. Make an appointment for a hair cut. Buy a birthday card. Book my business trip to Puerto Rico.

Update my blog.

While it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not...not really. But I'm not apologizing, either. This blog is a fun thing for me, and I hope for you too, but in no way will it ever become more important than real life.

So...let's get off our computers now and do what we can to make today count. Our computers can wait.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Can it be May already?

A few days ago, it felt like July around things are just about back to "normal"...relatively speaking.

Today is May Day. Ironically, mayday is also recognized as the call of distress.

Things have been more than hectic for me these last few weeks - in a good way, but still a very, very challenging and time-consuming way. It's all coming to a I know if I can get through today intact, it will be smooth sailing. Perhaps. (Who am I ships won't be sailing the glass seas until at least July). But the point is, I'm getting there.

So, my posts will continue to be sporadic, but please keep checking back. My load will lighten up soon and we'll be back sailing along together.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Let's start at the very beginning...

A very good place to start...

A little known fact about me (unless you're in the inner circle) is that I'm a huge Sound of Music fan. When I was a kid, the movie's opening aerial shots filled my heart with the desire to travel and see those beautiful places. And I did. When my husband and I went to Austria a few years ago, we went with one main goal - to go on the Sound of Music tour (everything else was just icing on the cake....I'm so happy that he shares my passion for this film.) Years before that, relatives went to the Trapp Family Lodge - a ski resort in Stowe, VT run by descendants of the famous family - and brought me back a book about the family and a CD of the real von Trapp Family Singers, which have both become staples in my collection. I've also read the original book that inspired (but was not mirrored in) the movie. And the movie...I lost count how many times I've watched it. I not only know the songs front and back, but also know the behind-the-scenes dirt (here's one for you: Charmian Carr, who played eldest daughter, Liesel, slipped when dancing during the gazebo scene, fell into the glass window and cut herself. If you look closely, you can see the bandage around her ankle.)

I owe alot of who I am today to this, magical, movie.

So, it's with a goofy grin and a warm desire to have been in Antwerp, Belgium during this wonderful scene that I watched this:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Avril 14

From where I sit today, the skies are gray in layered masses, waiting for the tenderness of the morning to transform into a raw day before the rain drips down, one sober drop at a time. The trees are starting to wake from their winter slumbers, with just a hint of colored buds...but not enough to wash the landscape in a soft green fuzziness. Daffodils are in bloom, are the cherry blossoms...

On this dreary kind of a day, I turn to a song I heard a few years ago. At times, I hear echoes of Spring attempting to shake the last bit of sleepy Winter from its eyes. Other days, the song conjures up images of a light day soaked in warm sunshine and washed in wildflowers. A song that could not be more appropriate for today:

Avril 14 (Aphex Twin)

So, what images come to mind when you hear this song?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rocco deLuca

Last night I had the privilege of attending an exclusive event hosted by my favorite radio station, RXP, with - as they've been described, "the best band you've never heard of" - Rocco deLuca and the Burden.

First, I have to give a huge thanks to RXP. It all went down like this: I posted earlier this week about how much I love the station. And I do. Seriously, if you haven't listened yet, do so...and soon! So, then, I shared my link on the RXP facebook page, just to let them know I think they're doing a great job. I actually didn't think anyone would read my post. Well...folks at the station did read it, liked it, and before I knew it, I was contacted by a lovely girl in their promotions department, offering me tickets to the exclusive event at The Studio at Webster Hall (a special performance of several songs followed by audience Q&A)...and also to the scheduled concert at the Bowery Ballroom. How cool is that.

Second - not only was it a thrill to have been recognized in such a cool way by the station, but it was to a show for a band I actually listen to!

Rocco deLuca and The Burden is a band that formed in California, and they are now promoting the release of their second album, "Mercy." I have their first album "I Trust You to Kill Me" (it's really not as morbid as it sounds!), and I have to say, as incredible as they are on the album, they are absolutely amazing in person! Awe-inspiring! I have been to many shows, and maybe it was the intimate setting of the event at The Studio, maybe it was because the show was stripped-down acoustic, but, by far, Rocco's voice is the best I've ever heard in a live setting. Fantastic. The music has a definite bluesy sound mixed with a hint of rock. Lyrics are soulful and heartfelt. I highly recommend you give them a listen if you haven't already:

So, an amazing night all around. I didn't get to meet Leslie Fram (she's a DJ at the station and was MC for the event...the "promotions" girl told me that Leslie read my blog, loved it and wanted to meet me, but it was not to be.) But that's ok. I still had the time of my life.

Monday, April 6, 2009



With all the excitement, stressful or otherwise, in my life lately, I almost forgot - April is National Poetry Month and National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo)!

Now...for my regular readers out might recall my struggle to participate in last November's NaNoWriMo - where participants were to write an entire novel within 30 days. In my mind, that was just over the top. As Mike Snider said on his blog, NaPoWriMo is not quite as crazy as NaNoWriMo. I have yet to officially participate in National Poetry Writing Month, so I couldn't say...but I would imagine, based on my own writing style, that he's right. I find much more pleasure in writing poetry than novels (not to say that I will never again try the novel-writing thing!) So, 30 poems in 30 days is a much more managable task.

So...I'm totally psyched that poetry has its own month, and, although I will not make any promises on how much poetry I'll get to write between now and the end of the month, it gives me a good goal - especially since my poetry writing has taken a back burner to a little thing called Life. Stay tuned, since I'll probably be posting some of it here just for you :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Radio, Radio

This post is a bit o' advertising for one of the best...nay, THE best rock radio station in the NYC metro area. I normally don't do this sort of thing, but I believe in the product...and being that one of my closest friends just started listening...I realize that the word isn't completely out yet and I'm willing to be the prophet in this juncture.

I love music...but you knew that already. Music is like religion to me. I'm quite selective in my music and which artists I consider "good," "better," and "best" in exalting the form to a new level. I think to appreciate music, you have to listen to a wide variety of artists and genres, not just what's "cool" today or what the mainstream radio stations want you to listen to. They're paid to tell you what to listen to, people.

Then, there is 101.9 WRXP.

If you haven't heard of this station, listen to it and you, too, will become a believer.

For years, 101.9 was synonymous with jazz here in the New York area - CD 101.9 to be exact - which I listened to from time to time. Like the day, just about a year ago, when I tuned in for some relaxing jazz...and instead heard a rare Clash song: "Whu-what?? Uh...oh...OH! Oh my god! This is awesome!!" And so a love affair was born.

It's not just a rock station - it plays the deep cuts that most mainstream radio stations have NEVER played. It plays classic rock, modern rock, and the alternative songs from the New Wave and Britpop eras that I loved. [Back in the '80s/'90s, there was an alternative radio station based in Garden City, Long Island 92.7 WDRE (later WLIR). My older sister listened to it, so of course, I listened to it. They played the likes of The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Ocean Blue and so much more. The sound was like none other I heard - and remember, this was during the days of MC Hammer, New Kids on the Block and the bland sounds of Huey Lewis and the News. The music on WDRE was original, intelligent, exotic. Top-40 didn't cut it anymore for me, and still doesn't.]

I've since been struggling with the gap between my taste in music and what radio plays.

I believe that New York is a "rock-n-roll town". Yet, lately, it seems top-40, rap, R&B and teen pop are the only options out there. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The few stations that once played rock have faded out/changed formats in favor of terrible music-of-the-minute pop hits, like 92.3 K-ROCK and Jersey favorite 106.3 G-Rock. 92.7 WLIR is now a Latin-music station. There is still the class rock played by Q104.3 and some local sprinklings (89.9 WSHU - a station from Seton Hall University with mixed programming; and 105.5 WDHA). While all of these stations that have, so far, resisted the sting of changing formats, they still - in my ears - are dismally disappointing.

So - 101.9 WRXP. Do it. Your ears and mind will thank you....profusely.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Baby Boom

Maybe it's just my imagination, but this year more than any other that I can remember in recent history seems to be another big Baby Boom year.

It started slow. A good friend announced her pregnancy with her second child in January. I couldn't have been happier for her. Then a week later, I found out another friend was expecting....then another, and another. Then I learned of a few people I know who recently gave birth. One, in fact, recently delivered twins. Then another pregnancy announcement...

It's been like that since the beginning of the year. I think, all told, between women I know who are expecting and those who have just given birth, there are 12 friends (or more) bringing new life to 2009. And each new life brings so much joy.

I'm not sure if this new Baby Boom is because we are now at an age where we're settled and able to raise families, whether it's a sign of hopefulness for the new Obama administration, whether it's a sign of hope for better times ahead, or just mere coincidence. Me? Well, let's just say my day is still to come.

So, here is a big, warm, heartfelt congratulations to these wonderful women and their newborns! All the best!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tune Therapy

This is just a semi-short post to say "Never Underestimate the Power of Music."

I had a pretty stressful day - to the point that I had to avoid certain people or else I would have certainly screamed at them for being idiots. I was burnt out, tired, aching as if I had been hit by a bus. I was cranky, my nerves were raw and all I wanted to do was crawl up into a ball under my fleece blanket and go to sleep as soon as I could.

Did I? No.

I went to the mall instead. I know. Not quite the place to release least, not for me. But then, something happened.

In one of the stores, I heard an upbeat song about being thankful for so many beautiful things in life, including good friends. I don't know who sang it or what the song title is (it sounded like India.Arie, so if you have an idea of what I'm talking about, please chime in). It brought a smile to my face, and the lyrics alone made me take a breath and think, "yeah, ok. Relax. It's not so bad. You have a lot to be thankful for, too."

The transition from ogre to civilized, and happy, human being continued in my car with the help of one of my favorites, The Killers, with "Human" followed by unbridled singing and car-dancing to Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself." Enough said.

Thanks, music. You've worked your magic once again.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What Would You Do (Pt. 2)?

The other day I told you about a situation I found myself in that presented a moral and obligatory dilemma. And you responded. Thank you.

So, now - here's another one for you to think about.

Later that same day...
I went to a local pizzeria for lunch. Inside, a woman sat quietly on the bench near the hostess stand...just sitting there. For how long, I don't know. A shopping bag from Bath & Body Works had been placed in the middle of the floor, half way between the hostess stand and the restaurant counter. The woman was slim in dark clothing with a brown substance smeared on her face and what appeared to be black eyeliner encircling her eyes and filling her lips. She was, as the locals call her, The Mud Lady - a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who is homeless. The pizzeria's employees were clearly uncomfortable having her sit in their restaurant. She wasn't disturbing anyone or anything; still, they asked her to leave. Without argument or fuss, she picked up the shopping bag and walked out.

The Mud Lady has been known in this area for years. The stories told about her make her almost a mythical being - a strange creature who smears "mud" on herself as makeup, who once had a good home with a husband and family, a good job. A coworker of mine formerly work with her and said she used to be beautiful, a former model. The tales of "how she came to be on the streets" seem to grow more fantastical as the years go on. As a paranoid schizophrenic, she, unintentionally, has become an oddity - one to be avoided/stared at/mocked/scared of. I've encountered her many times, and from what I've seen, she's harmless. Out of the norm? Sure. But it would seem "the bark is worse than the bite", so to speak. Still, it seems the reaction to her is always the same, and the stigma of people with psychological disorders is still alive.

So - in this situation, I'd like to know what you would do? Knowing her condition and her demeanor, would you have accepted the restaurant kicking her out? How would you react if you saw her on the street or in the restaurant? Would you avoid her? Make fun of her? Lower your eyes? Say hello? Buy her a slice of pizza?

I don't want this to be a "gotcha" scenario, but am just curious about behaviors. The thing we think we would do isn't necessarily always the thing we end up doing. So, let's talk about this...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What Would You Do?

This morning, I felt like I was walking through a scene set-up for ABC's show "What Would You Do?" - and failed miserably.

Here's what happened: At my place of employment, I park in a covered garage. I was walking from my car to the building entrance, when I heard slamming of a door and a man' s voice, clearly agitated. As I got closer to the noise, I saw a man either loading or unloading a wheel chair-bound woman from the car. He was slamming the passenger back door and yelling, throwing what appeared to be pieces of the wheel chair (the foot rests?) in the backseat. The woman, who I did not see but heard, sounded like an elderly woman in distress. She kept yelling "Stop it! Stop it!" and then something else. It didn't seem that the man was physically violent toward her, but was verbally abusive. But from a few second snippet, I could not truly tell what the situation was.

I looked over at him, surprised to see and hear what was going on. He looked back. I kept walking.

As soon as I passed them, something in me said to go back. See if everything is ok. But I didn't.

Afterward, it took everything inside of me to not cry. It really bothered me the rest of the day. What if something was really going on there, and that woman needed help? I can't say that I'm proud of my action...but what could I have done? I could have said something to him, but then what? Would I report the man to building security? Would I call 911? What? Was it even my place to say something? I'll never know.

Elder abuse is something that should never be tolerated. EVER. I think of my own grandparents, who both turn 90 tomorrow. Every senior out there could be my grandparent when I think about it, so I want them all protected. So, why on earth did I let that situation go this morning?

I know this morning's incident will stay with me for a long time. I would like to know, what would you have done if you were in my shoes?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On the Tip of my Tongue

Ok, let's not beat around the bush here - I suck at this blogging thing. I know that. You know that.

Don't get me wrong - this isn't a pity party. I actually find it quite amusing that you still come back time after time and read my gibberish. It brings a smile to my face that my words matter, even just a little bit. Many a day I ask myself "What are you doing on here?" and "Why do you even have a blog?" My content lacks the flair that it should have, and my posts are irregular, plus readership has never been explosive. So, what's a girl to do?

For those of you who know me, you know how much I love to write. I have several notebooks and journals and slips of paper tucked away with scribbles, anywhere from poems to short stories to my awful attempts at a novel to titles, subjects and just phrases that I like. But, like many of you, I have a full-time job that is, in no way, related to creative writing. In fact, my job is not very creative at all, but it is my job and that's where my energy goes. The remainder of my energy is spent on family and friends and chores. So where do I squeeze in time for writing? Here. And, as the adage goes, if you want to be a writer, write something everyday - no matter what it is.

So I started this blog to force myself to write. Selfish? Indeed. I'm not offering any kind of service to you really. My blog began as an outlet for my poetry, which morphed into an overall poetry-awareness sort of thing, which got kicked in the head and spun into a blog about my thoughts and whatnot, and now, I couldn't even tell you what it's all about! Craziness. I wish I could stay focused. There are so many blogs that stick to a theme, so you know when you go to XYZ blog, the blogger will talk about xyz subjects.

What's my point today? I apology of sorts to my readers for not offering the scintillating kind of read that you deserve, but also a big thank you to the readers who have not given up on me for the very same reason. The words and ideas are just on the tip of my tongue and I need your help to pull it out...and blog about it. I'll keep working at it :) Maybe if you let me know what you'd like to hear about, what matters to you...I'm all ears :)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Letter of Apology

Dear Blog,

Please accept my sincerest apology for not giving you the attention lately that you deserve. You've been a good friend to me and the least that I could do is stop by and let you know I'm thinking about you. I've let you down and will try to do better.

Although there is no excuse for my behavior, my attentions have been focused elsewhere recently. Sure, there was the Frivolous, like being wonderfully Wicked or watching my team lose the big college basketball game right before my eyes. There was the Annoying, such as having the punks drop by again for a visit, staying for 2 weeks straight and wearing out their welcome as soon as they arrived. Snot was the worst, but I finally kicked him out, too. Then there was the Unavoidable, such as the quick, but taxing, business trip to Dallas, which began on Tuesday with a 6:45 am flight and ended last night at midnight with the return home...followed by an early morning staff meeting. Now, there's the Absolutely Necessary time for sleep and recuperation.

So, I just wanted to let you know that I haven't forgotten about you. I'm hoping that we can catch up again next week. Thanks for all your understanding.

Talk to you soon,

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lots o' Words

There have been recent reports that this year - April, to be more exact, the English language will reach a milestone of having 1 million words in its lexicon.

Really? In all these years that people have been speaking English, we haven't surpassed that milestone yet?

There are all sorts of statistics - and frankly, I'm feeling a little lazy today and don't want to be bothered looking them all up - that even though we have all these words at our disposal, on any given day, the "average" English speaker uses only a tiny fraction. I had heard somewhere a few years ago, too, that the "average" English speaker communicates on a 5th-grade level, meaning that the more advanced words don't come up in conversation. I would like to see some more data on that.

When I was in college, I took a linguistics course, and remember the professor saying that we invent new words every day, and others that have been in use fade away with time if they become outdated/antiquated. I mean, in today's world, we generally don't use the same language or phrasing that Shakespeare used. Which had me thinking about Urban Dictionary, which brings us all things slang in the English language. Some of the words are just plain funny, and I'm sure the site is really no more than a modified "wikipedia" of language (yeah, you know what I mean).

So, do these slang words count among the verified million? When do we allow a word to become accepted as part of our lexicon and dictionary? Does the million-word-count allow for attrition? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on our approaching one million words. Have any words to add?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lightning Crashes

Death...and Life. The circle continues...

My previous post was about the anniversary of my mother's passing, 18 years ago. While the sorrow is still there, time has allowed me to move on. However, others I know are not as fortunate to have "time" just yet. In the last few weeks, it seems that so many people in my life have been touched by loss and grief, sickness and death. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of them during this difficult time.

On the flip side, during these last few weeks, I've also learned that several people I know are expecting, and for most of them, it's their first child. My heart is full of joy for their good news and blessing.

Such a bittersweet moment, trying to share in the happiness of some and console the anguish of others.

I think of the Jack Johnson song If I Could, and the lyrics "They say that new life makes losing life easier to understand." It may not help us to understand loss any better, but it should give us hope, at the very least, that life continues, and, in that life, there should be better days ahead.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Winter of '91

Today is the 18th anniversary of my mother's death. It was a day that changed my world in almost every way imaginable. I apologize for the somber tone of today's post, but wanted to pay tribute with this poem I wrote a few years ago.
The Winter of '91

The chill of the winter blast cut deep
with its icy razor, through the skin into the bone,
cut deep but blood froze on its way from the throat,
and the fingers of the brilliant sun
tossed salt onto the icy patch, salt upon the back
cut deep by the thrash of the cane whip.

In my 7th grade English class, I sat
still as the frozen day outside, limited speech,
eyes fixed on the sky, blue terrain over white,
I sat while the kids rehearsed diagrams and lines;
and they came. Called my name for the somber ride,
came up three floors to the unit hall, came
through the doors to the bed where she slept –
slept, but beginning the trip – packed and ready,
while we stood in the room unable to move –
in that room like all the rooms we’d known before.
Monitors kept time, breathing life, dripping slow,
keeping minutes like days. Could she stay
just a little longer?
No, no, she’s ready now.

I had walked away for a momentary break
but the clock stopped short before my return.
The words dropped from their lips, I paused
my reaction in disbelief. It cannot be.
She was the fortress of the lion, a Capricorn star.
The brightest constellation clipped its string from the sky.
Her brilliance was stolen by that demon sun,
The way it reared its head higher over white terrain.
A brilliance my eyes shunned, and that silenced the tongue.
Caught within the tunnel that allowed only half the light,
Like months of Arctic night, turning days to years.

I remember the funeral, and then pouring tea
for the comfort of friends, comforting them! Stood straight
in the room where she was, not a week ago –
her essence pervading the walls, her touch on the cups.
And all that I’d known, all who showed pity shifted
in tag-team parallels with those who stayed back from hell.

Then words stopped completely.

Years have passed now – how I’ve grown!
My sister and I became women too quickly, we were
women of 12 and 17, yet I still dreamed
of that winter white brilliance, transcending
the bitter incision and salt-sting on my back.
How the skin pulled tightly over the sores and blood,
frozen from its way up to the tongue.
Now my blood flows swiftly and warmed by the sun,
I take in the light, swallow its rays – swallow
and keep it to counter other sharp winter days.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Unreality TV

Last night I was flipping around the tube to see if there was something better to watch than "The Biggest Loser: Couples;" I stumbled upon "90210," this century's version of the 1990s TV staple. The thirty-seconds I watched were painful to say the least, with a strained conversation between Kelly and Brenda, also staples from the 1990s that were brought back to life for a new generation.

I'll admit - I watched the original "Beverly Hills, 90210" back in its hey day, for all the trash and unlikely circumstances they all found themselves in. It was the "Dynasty" of our age. And what girl didn't swoon over Luke Perry or Jason Priestley?? When they recently decided to bring the show back, I rolled my eyes and thought, "oh great, another show about spoiled teens in California. How novel." However, when the original debuted, believe it or not, it was novel. Back then , us kids didn't have a show to call our own with heavy drama - however unrealistic...and we had to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways, with newspaper tied around our feet...

In those days, I also watched another "novel" show that was created to counter the fake sun baked brattiness of BH - "The Real World." It was one of the first "reality" shows to grace TV, and, although it played on character stereotypes, seemed about as real as it could be - then. But it opened the door wide open - actually, you could say it just broke the door off the hinges - to more seasons of "The Real World" and cheesy spin-offs, and now we find ourselves swimming in a sea of so-called reality TV that is about as real as the Tooth Fairy. You name it, there is a reality show about it, and more often than not, the people on the shows depict the lowest denominator of our society.

Sure, there are good, scripted shows on TV today - some of my favorites are "House" "Flight of the Conchords" and I hear "Dexter" is worth a view. But these days, I have to wonder when we will ever return to quality programming that doesn't involve ex-strippers, jockeys, fat camps, wannabe rappers, wannabe singers, wannabe dancers, and just plain wannabes.

I thought about this last night as I changed the channel back to "The Biggest Loser."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Monday

I have nothing earth-shattering or thought-provoking to say today, but I'm feeling good and thought I'd share.

Today is President's Day here in the U.S. My company had the good sense to declare a holiday, so I have been savoring my extra day out of the office. Some other things about the long weekend that brought a smile to my face:
  • My wonderful husband and the nice Valentine's Day we spent together, eating Indian food and seeing a new movie in the theatre
  • Reconnecting on facebook with not one, but three people from Germany that participated in a student exchange with me back in the day
  • Learning that a good friend of mine is expecting
  • Successfully baking for the first time, from scratch, all fresh ingredients - eggplant parmesan
  • Finally taking a step toward home-reconstruction. Finally.
  • Having the sun shine in a way to remind me that spring is coming soon
  • Sharing an afternoon shopping trip and lunch with my wonderful sister

It's the little things that make me smile. What has made you smile today?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Whether you're humming "L.O.V.E" or shouting "Love Stinks" lately, the inevitable is just 4 days...

Valentine's Day!

It's such an odd holiday, really, wrapped up in chocolate coating and Hallmark tissue paper. For those who may be single, the day has a tendency (not always, mind you) to exasperate the feeling of being single and alone (even if only in your head). For those in relationships, it's a day programmed in our psyche where we MUST buy gifts and go out to dinner and spend all kinds of money to show the person you're with that you REALLY love them. But the TRUTH is that if you really love the person you're with, you should be expressing your love every day, not just on Valentine's Day. Plus, as J Lo would say, "Love Don't Cost a Thing." But I digress.

Last week, I watched Love and Other Disasters - a cute film about the complexity of budding relationships. One of the lines struck me: "Love is not an event but a process." That's probably one of the best arm-chair therapist clichés about love and romance that has graced the silver screen (anyone remember these cheese-filled quotes: "Love means never having to say you're sorry" or "You had me at hello"?) For all the advise dispensed out there to, well, just about anyone who is of age to be in a relationship, what it comes down to is this: You gotta figure it all out for yourself.

Still...think about it. Love is a process. You may experience love in a new relationship, but it grows deeper over time (or at least, it should); it evolves. It's not like once you're in a relationship (or married, even) that you've reached the summit and that moment is the end-all, be-all. There's more, if you allow it.

The other thing is that it's a process within ourselves. Hopefully, we grow and mature and learn from the other person. If the relationship doesn't work out, maybe even ending horribly, with any bit of luck, you'll come out more aware of yourself and what your needs are. {This has been a PDA from yours truly}. But seriously. I didn't truly understand that until just a few years ago and I think most people don't. You have to love yourself first before truly loving others.

So, while Valentine's Day is that "special time of year" to celebrate the love of your life, take time to love your life and yourself, too. Here is a big hug from me to get you started!

Friday, February 6, 2009

When the Moon Hits Your Eye... a big pizza pie, that's amore!

And amore for pizza it is!

Without hesitation, that's probably the one food that I can eat every single day without a problem. Well...maybe a little problem - ok, maybe a huge problem. Weight gain.

Even Papa John's founder would agree - all in moderation.

Now, I haven't had chain-store pizza (i.e., PizzaHut, Domino's, Papa John's) in about 10 years. I want the authentic taste of cheesy goodness melding just right with the sweet tomato sauce and spices - not the taste of a grease wash. Not to say those chain-store pizzas don't taste good...but for me, it got to a point when the grease overpowered the pizza, and, well - without mincing words or imagery - I just found that my stomach and gastrointestinal track couldn't handle them quite as well. No, I prefer my local pizzeria.

So, I think it's kind of ironic that the founder of one of the gr-izza chains would say (to a British audience, mind you, not to the markedly-obese U.S.) to limit your intake of pizza to 1 or 2 slices. This is a reaction to current anti-obesity regulations in the U.K., where the chain has a strong presence.

All of that is good and well, but what isn't emphasized is just what is included in those 1 or 2 slices from Papa Johns in terms of nutritional value. Clearly, no one eats pizza because it's healthy; we eat it because it taste good and is quick and convenient. But, knowing some statistics about pizza consumption in the U.S. (94% of the populations eats it and is the most popular prepared food), and that there's even National Pizza Month (October), maybe these chains should focus on making their pizza a tad bit healthier because, even if we stick to only 1 or 2 slices, our collective waistbands aren't shrinking and, unless you have the strongest will power known to man, it's only inevitable that pizza will remain the fast food of choice that we will continue to consume in the foreseeable future.

At least, I know I will. Probably tonight.

Monday, February 2, 2009

California Dreaming

I just spent the last few days in one of my all-time favorite cities...ever. San Francisco. Those words alone give my heart an extra beat. Tony Bennett sure knew what he was talking about. Of course, I was in the city to attend a conference, and, as with most business-related travel, I hardly had any time to step outside the hotel let alone go sight-seeing. Still, when I did leave the hotel, it was a pleasure to find myself soaked in warm sunshine and not requiring the typical 5 layers and a parka that I normally wear this time of year.

I traveled West on the day that we here on the East Coast received yet another reminder that it's still winter - Wednesday. It wasn't a terrible storm, just an annoyance. I returned home just in time for another one of Old Man Winter's calling cards; tomorrow, we're supposed to have more snow, then colder temperatures. And I ask myself all the while, why did I leave the 70 degree weather of a beautiful city? That, my friends, is the question of the day.

Especially since our little furry friend, Punxsutawney Phil, decided to see his shadow today and claim 6 more weeks of winter. Not very scientific, I know. Quite a stupid tradition, if you ask me. But nonetheless, there it is. I'm certainly California dreaming on this winter's day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oh, Deer!

Last night when I came home from work, I flipped through the various envelopes and circulars delivered in my mail. There was a large postcard among the bills. It was announcing that a local park - a reservation just down the street from where I live - would be closed Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next month, starting January 27.

Why? you may ask.

Because, for the second year in a row, our lovely county has given the green light, amidst much protest, to move forward with the deer hunt in South Mountain Reservation.

This cheeses me off like you wouldn't believe.

The supposed reasoning behind the deer hunt is to cull the deer population by bringing in licensed marksmen to shoot - and kill - deer in the park, mostly females, to ensure that the population doesn't get out of control and that they do not suffer a shortage of resources, like food. The unofficial reason is that many who live in the area, who have expanded into the natural habitats of these animals, can't deal with having deer in their yards - eating their plants, crossing the well-traveled roads, existing in "human space." There are just too many of them!

Last year, the first hunt was held after years of protest. By the time it was all done, more than half of the estimated deer population in the reservation were killed. As mentioned earlier, this park is not far from my home. During the month-long hunt, it sounded like 'Nam in the morning.

Now, my neighborhood is anything but rural. The local train line run passed one end of our street, and a main road runs passed the other. Two major highways are nearby. Houses are built almost on top of each other. Not to say it's a bad place to live - in fact, it's a pretty, wealthy, upstanding kind of place - but like most towns in Northern NJ, it's overpopulated with people, roads and shopping malls. So - where do you want the deer to go, people? We have a family of deer that come into our yard now and then, and it's beautiful. To think of them being hunted down is more than tragic.

This hunt is so wrong is so many ways, it would need its own blog to discuss all the issues. But for sake of brevity here, I will say this. As far as I am aware, the citizens of Essex County had no say in this. There was no vote among the people; it was determined by county officials. Also, shooting an animal is not humane, no matter how loudly Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo says that it is. Lastly, at the end of last year's hunt, DiVincenzo claimed it was a success and that people in the community were happy about the results. Really? Who were these so-called people? No one that I know.

How much longer will this go on? I just hope that, come spring, our deer family returns to our backyard once again, unaffected by all this madness.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Presidential Poetry

Tomorrow is going to be a huge day. HUGE. Not just here in the U.S., but no doubt, around the world. It's Inauguration Day for our new President.

From my previous posts, one might infer that I do not support our soon-to-be President. That would be incorrect. He is clearly an intelligent man with a new approach to things and has given our nation hope in one of its darkest hours. I may not have shared the fervor that so many have expressed, as I am a skeptic all around and prefer results rather than speculation; I may not agree with all of his proposed plans, and am not easily persuaded by his iconic stature, but I do look forward to better times ahead and, like many, am filled with hope that it all begins tomorrow.

But first, the celebrations. The swearing-in ceremony, the crowds, the music, the speeches, the poetry. Yes, the poetry - a small, but significant part of the day. The first inaugural poem in recent memory (not mine, mind you!) was read by Robert Frost at Kennedy's inauguration. Only Bill Clinton followed suit, having an inaugural poem at both inaugurations. Now, it's up to Yale Professor Elizabeth Alexander to capture the momentous occasion of having the first African American become President. The pressure is on to select just the right words, both solemn and celebratory, because, for certain, will the poem be immortalized. There was an interview yesterday with the poet; the interviewer asked if it was difficult to create a poem "on demand." She agreed it was, but said she was not scared by the challenge.

I am so glad to have the inaugural poem receive so much awareness and anticipation. Readers of THP version 1.0 might recall my attempt to encourage awareness about poetry in our times. It's not "fluff." It deserves attention, and tomorrow will put it front and center, if only for a minute in history. As one who dabbles in poetry myself, I admire Elizabeth greatly but do not envy her in her task to encapsulate the day. It is a tremendous challenge, indeed. But, I look forward to hearing her words tomorrow.

So, kudos to Elizabeth, and kudos to President Obama. Tomorrow will be their moments to shine, and we will feel the warmth of the glow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Charlie Browniest

To say I love Peanuts is a huge understatement. Totally.

Snoopy and I go way back. I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say over the year I've amassed a collection of Peanuts paraphernalia that could easily fill an entire room in my house. When I was two years old and hospitalized for spinal meningitis, I wasn't allowed to have any toys or dolls for fear of infection; once I began to recover, the first doll that I received was Snoopy. I still have that doll. In college, I gave a presentation during my public speaking class on Charles Schulz, Peanuts and the evolution of his comic strip (it was made more poignant when he passed away shortly thereafter). Faithfully, every year for each holiday, I watch all the Charlie Brown cartoons on TV (the ones from the '60s were the best, in my opinion); I have the DVDs. And that's just a sampling.

I'm an adult now and don't have any children. But Snoopy and the gang just hold a soft spot in my heart, and no matter how old I get, they will always be with me. Which is why I almost cried tears of joy when I saw this commercial:


Monday, January 12, 2009

Hindsight is 20/20

How will history remember G.W.?

In the immediate future, no doubt, it will recall an inept, bumbling boy-man who just could never get it right. Ever.

At least, now in his final days, he's seeing that...or, more properly put, admitting it.

In his defense, being President is probably the worst job in the world. I mean, think about it. Sure, you're in a position to make change and have real impact on the world. But, especially in G.W.'s case, your very being - every move, every word, every gesture, every slip-up - is watched and criticized by the entire world. [I get upset if a single friend slights me. I could not imagine having the entire world burning my image in effigy...or metaphorically throwing shoes.] Not to mention, if anything goes wrong or some group doesn't get what they want, you're the one to blame. It doesn't matter what Congress does, or how this Committee or that Committee votes, etc. It's your fault.

Now, I'm not saying that G.W. is a victim of circumstance. He dug his own hole. The number of mistakes he made is nearly as high as our national deficit. But I'm not saying that Obama will be our savior, either, as so many believe. He, too, is just a man, and will be scrutinized as anyone in that position would be. But let's all hope that history won't repeat, and that our leaders will be a little more responsible. Mission (not yet) accomplished.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I Want to Believe...or Not

This past Monday, there were reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs - but no one is saying "aliens") in Morris County, NJ - very close to where I work. Per this article in a local rag, police are saying it was a prank and they're determined to catch the bugger. Others who saw it with their own eyes are not so sure.

Unfortunately, I missed it. I would have loved to have seen those red, throbbing lights in the sky. Instead, my eyes were focused on my laptop and finishing up something for work. But I digress...

Are UFOs real or not? Common sense would say "no" - and not to spend another minute thinking about it. Your archived "X-Files" episodes or Close Encounters of the Third Kind DVD are about as close as you'll get. [And don't even get me started on Signs; those green-suited men - come on, now! Don't insult us like that.] We've seen time and time again all the hoaxes (and some, very convincing) that people enjoy pulling on the gullible public. BUT...what if something is out there?

Now, I'm really not one of those sci-fi geeks (nothing personal, people), I never got into the "X-Files," I believe in evidence-based conclusions and not speculation...BUT...I have to admit, I've had my own sightings. Both were during the day in clear blue skies, both were in the same general geographic area, but happened a year or so apart. The first sighting was a single, shiny metallic "thing" extremely high up that stood stationary for the longest time then disappeared. The second sighting was three shiny, metallic "things" that formed a sort of "V" and again stood stationary, then they formed a single unit, then suddenly disappeared. Luckily, I had 2 or 3 other witnesses. Being in the NYC metro area, we are smack in the middle of the flight plans for hundreds of flights, so it's not like it's a big deal when there are things in the sky. But with airplanes, you can at least see a progression and movement, maybe vapor trails, whatever. The things I saw didn't have that - they hovered in the same exact spot for minutes. Were they UFOs? Definitely. Were they "aliens from outer space?" Who knows?

The same local rag gave some links on how to identify a UFO. Here's one of those links.

What do you think? Have you seen anything unidentifiable in the sky? Is it a big government conspiracy or just overactive imaginations running amok?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Year of Change

If you've been to my blog before, you'll notice something is a little different. (Hmm...what could it be?) Well, if 2008 is my self-proclaimed Year of Firsts, I think 2009 should be christened the Year of Change.

In a few weeks' time, we'll have ourselves a new president. Sure, he'll be the first African American to hold the position in the U.S., but more importantly, he's broken the Bush-Clinton-Bush chain (ok, so Hillary won't be that far removed from the chain, but still...). Whatever happens, we are guaranteed change - and hopefully (let's not count our chickens before they're hatched, people) it will be positive change. We certainly are owed that much, don't you think?

Another thing I hope is that we, as a society, learn to change our living habits. Sure, going green is trendy now but I'm thinking more about change in our spending and rethinking need vs. want. I'm talking about simplifying things. We really don't need all the stores and shops that now exist, do we? We managed before without all that "stuff" (and most of it is just crap, admit it). Maybe it's good that Linens'N'Things, Circuit City and others have closed, and that the U.S. auto industry is now forced to rethink it's position in the global market. I mean, in the immediate future, sure - these tough times won't help anyone. Many have lost, or will lose, their jobs and the near-halt of commerce has pushed us into recession. BUT - now's the time to rethink how we live, and what we need to live. I don't think any other country in the world produces quite as much crap as we do - and the funny thing is, up to this point, no one seemed to mind.

Lastly, I hope with all my might that this year brings change in the form of peace. Every day for the last week or so, I hear about the fighting between Gaza and Israel. We still have fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan; tension between Pakistan and India; tensions between this one and that one, and the U.S. sticking its nose in the middle of it all. Enough already. For once in our lives, can't we have peace? Say it now: Peace. That is a change that will be most welcomed. Let's hope it can begin in 2009.