Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen, Voices whisper in the trees, "Tonight is Halloween!" ~ Dexter Kozen

Amanda and I just got back home from the big Town of Plainfield where she and Nicole visited our old neighborhood in the hopes of pulling in a haul of goodies that will rot their teeth, plump their waistlines, and give them a brief sugar-high.

Back in the day when I was still married to my albatross of an ex-husband, we lived on the edge of Colonial Woods - a reasonably sized housing development that was the ideal spot to take the kids trick-or-treating as we could easily walk from door-
to-door and leave the car at home. It was about as close to the trick-or-treating that I did as a kid on military bases when you could easily hit over 200 houses in a night and come home with a haul that would last well over a month if you didn't go hog-wild with it.

Amanda decided that she wanted to go trick-or-treating with Nicole this year as she hadn't had the chance to see her in awhile and it also saved Nicole from be
ing banished to Rhode Island with her grandmother. I figure Amanda doesn't have too many years, if any, of trick-or-treating left in her so agreed to drive the 20+ miles for the girls to get together for the evening.

With Amanda dressed as a gypsy and her make-up done courtesy of Baby Liz, we wandered up to Plainfield around 5:30 where we picked up Nicole and made a swing by my mother's house in Canterbury and then to my Aunt Eleanor's. After brief visits at both places it was off to the fertile land of Colonial Woods for the more intense part of the even

It's been a good six years since we lived up there and apparently in our absence it has become even more popular of a trick-or-treating haven. When we got there the streets were lined with cars and masses of people were already out ringing doorbells. I parked in a strategic spot, let the girls hit the candy trail, and watched the parade of costumed characters walk by. Some were good - some were not so good - and some needed to go home and put some clothes on for God's sake!

The pickings were apparently not as good as the girls hoped as people ran out of candy early due to the hordes of fairies, witches, super-heroes, and other assorted characters that had descended on Colonial Woods. Still, they got a reasonable amount of bounty and had the chance to spend the evening together - something that they both seemed pretty happy about.

After making the 20+ mile drive back to Norwic
h, I am beyond tired and more than ready to call it a night. No doubt part of that exhaustion might be from knowing that with the passing of Halloween we have now officially jumped into the "holiday season" and there will be very little slowing down between now and New Year's Day - and that's a very tiring thought!

Amanda & Nicole

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Fear grows in darkness; if you think there's a bogeyman around, turn on the light." ~ Dorothy Thompson

Of course fear is what Halloween is all about so in the spirit of the season Amanda and I went to the Nashoba Valley in Massachusetts last night to a place called Witch's Woods, a Halloween Screampark and Haunted House, that is apparently quite the popular attraction.

Under normal circumstances, there is no way that I would even consider driving almost 100 miles on a school and work night to go to a converted ski area with the express purpose of being scared but the circumstances were special in that the outing was part of Tegan's 16th birthday celebration. Tegan is one of Amanda's cousins who lives in Shirley, Massachusetts with my cousin Becky and her husband Glenn (my former brother-in-law) and their other daughter Vicky. As they live a little over an hour from here, Amanda doesn't get to see her cousins nearly as often as she would like so when she was invited up for this outing I couldn't very well say "no". Well, I could have but I knew she really wanted to go and what kind of mother would I be to deny her child the opportunity to get the beejeebers scared out her so I could simply sit home and watch Desperate Housewives? Sigh ... That said, it was off to Massachusetts shortly after I got home from work.

As a side note here, let me just say that I absolutely positively hate driving through Worcester, Massachusetts. Hate may seem like a harsh word to use but in this case, I feel that it is truly justified as that is one of the worst cities I have ever driven through. I've driven in New York City, I've driven in San Francisco, I've driven in Seattle, I've driven in Chicago and countless other big cities. I have mastered the intricacies of driving in Southern California which generally involved switching between the 5, 405, and 210 at very high rates of speed. But out of all the places that I have driven, I despise driving through Worcester the most. Talk about taking your life into your own hands as soon as you hit the City limits! My father always said that Massachusetts had the worst drivers in the country and it seems like every single one of them drives in Worcester! If it were possible, I'd throw the car into auto-pilot, close my eyes, and cower in the driver's seat until we got to the other side but unfortunately that's not possible so instead I grab the steering wheel a bit tighter, pick a lane, and hope for the best. For me the scariest part of the whole night was simply the drive through Worcester!

By the time we met up with the cousins and over to Littleton, it was good and dark (thanks to that hour-early thing we previously discussed it was really dark!) and the place was packed with people looking to have the daylights scared out of them. The first major fright came at the ticket booth when Glenn shelled out $22 each for 15 tickets! I'm sure Glenn would rather have a vampire sucking the blood from his veins rather than having that kind of cash sucked out of his bank account but his oldest daughter would only turn 16 once and he seemed to handle it quite stoically with only a slight grimace rather than the blood-curdling scream that would have escaped from my throat!

From there it was off to the four various parts of the Screampark - Castle Morbid, The Keeper's Crypt, The Haunted Hayride, and Nightmare Mansion. Various screams and moans could be heard as we waited our turn in line - and that was just from the kids that had come to help celebrate Tegan's birthday! Amanda had no trouble fitting right in with Tegan's friends and seemed to have an absolutely wonderful time. Even though I was freezing, hungry (stupid me forgot to stop to get something to eat on the way up), and not even remotely scared it was worth the trip to see Amanda having such a good time with her cousins. Even though I'm far from being her age anymore, I remember how much fun it was to get together with my cousins for special trips and events.

Around 8:30 we took our leave from the group as we had over an hour and a half to drive back to Connecticut but if Amanda could have had her way we would have stayed right until the very end and beyond. She took quite the liking to Nate, one of Tegan's friends, who seemed to like most of the same things that she did and even knew how to dress (i.e., he had chains on his pants and a shirt that Amanda declared she wanted to steal). Again, even though it's been a very long time since I've been 14, I haven't forgotten what it's like to meet a cute guy and hate to go home but alas, that's exactly what we had to do so after good-byes to her new friends we started began the trek home.

Driving south through Worcester wasn't nearly as bad as the trip north as it was getting fairly late and everyone else was apparently home watching Desperate Housewives so I was able to relax my grip on the wheel a little bit. We arrived back home around 10:30 and even though it was late and we were both tired (and I was still cold!), Amanda declared it to be a great trip and she was glad that we went.

Oh, and for the record, she wasn't scared at all - as she said "it's kind of hard to scare someone when they're into Goth anyway, Mom". Oh yeah, I forgot that! Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

"Time and tide wants for no one." ~ Sir Walter Scott

However, that doesn't mean that man doesn't like to mess around with it twice a year! Once again it's that time of the year to go through the house and change the seven clocks and who knows how many watches that I own while we "fall back" out of Daylight Saving Time in the government's effort to give us more hours of daylight in the morning versus the evenings.

Though Benjamin Franklin initially conceived of the idea of daylight savings way back in 1784 in an essay called "An Economical Project", the United States didn't do anything with it until 'An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States' was enacted on March 19, 1918 during World War I. The law proved to be so unpopular that it was repealed in 1919 but came back in the form of "War Time" in 1942 when it was instituted once again by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II. At that time, States and localities were free to choose whether or not to observe Daylight Saving Time (DST) and could even choose when it began and ended which obviously caused a lot of confusion - especially with the railroads, bus companies, and airlines.

In 1966 Congress finally decided to step in and end the confusion caused by 100 million Americans observing Daylight Saving Time based on their own local laws and customs. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 was signed into public law on April 12, 1966 by then President Lyndon B. Johnson exempting only those States that passed legislation keeping them on Standard Time. In 1986, Congress once again tweaked the law to begin DST on the first Sunday of April and ending it on the last Sunday of October.

One more change is planned here in the U.S. in 2007 when The Energy Policy Act of 2005 goes into affect extending DST to start on the second Sunday of March and not switching back until the first Sunday of November. Of course, Congress has retained the right to revert to the previous law should the new change prove to be too unpopular as so many in the past have been. Daylight Saving Time in the rest of the world is highly variable but most of the countries of Western Europe switch over the last Sunday of March and switch back on the last Sunday of October.

Confusing? You bet! But not as confusing as it is to some people:

"In September 1999, the West Bank was on Daylight Saving Time while Israel had just switched back to standard time. West Bank terrorists prepared time bombs and smuggled them to their Israeli counterparts, who misunderstood the time on the bombs. As the bombs were being planted, they exploded — one hour too early — killing three terrorists instead of the intended victims — two busloads of people.

"To keep to their published timetables, trains cannot leave a station before the scheduled time. So, when the clocks fall back one hour in October, all Amtrak trains in the U.S. that are running on time stop at 2:00 a.m. and wait one hour before resuming. Overnight passengers are often surprised to find their train at a dead stop and their travel time an hour longer than expected. At the spring Daylight Saving Time change, trains instantaneously become an hour behind schedule at 2:00 a.m., but they just keep going and do their best to make up the time."

Leave it to man to screw up the entire concept of time and not leave well enough alone! Daylight Saving Time has many detractors, especially people who are prone to Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder such as myself who don't like the extra hour of darkness in the evenings and would rather get it over with in the mornings when I'm still half asleep! But it has its proponets as well who believe that DST saves energy for lighting in all seasons of the year and even believe that it reduces traffic accidents and fatalities by more than one percent.

All told I've got to agree with Robertson Davies in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, "I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind ... At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier,to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves."

Naturally I have NO objection to being able to catch an extra hour of sleep tonight though I certainly do miss it in the Spring! How about you? Are you for DST or against it?

Friday, October 27, 2006

"Good news will be brought to you by mail." ~ Last Night's Fortune Cookie

Since the advent of the computer and electronic messages, regular old snail mail has been more or less reduced to an array of bills, advertisements, and a lot of crap that goes directly into the trash can in the kitchen without even a second glance. Real honest-to-goodness letters are very few and far between and even I am guilty of not writing to people as often as I should anymore.

Growing up on military bases far away from Connecticut, I used to get a lot of letters from my grandmother and grandfather and even had friends from other bases that we'd moved from that kept in touch via letter. When my Dad was stationed in Vietnam and then Iceland, I wrote to him on a regular basis, too. Of course there was no such thing as the Internet back when my Dad was being bombed nightly at DaNang so we didn't have the luxury of getting a quick email telling us that he was still alive when we'd hear of a particularly horrific bombing on the news. We had to wait until another letter written in his shakey hand while waiting out the attack in a bomb shelter arrived. Needless to say, my Mom relied greatly upon the United States Postal Service in 1966 - 1967.

When I found myself in basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, "Mail Call" became one of the highlights of my day and was my one connection with the outside world. My best high school buddy Carol wrote lengthy missives every day and she would even write a note on the back of the envelope to the rest of my Flight as I had told her that my TI (training instructor) would make us stand at attention in the front of the room while she read aloud whatever was on the back of the envelope. It got to the point where the rest of my Flight looked forward to my letters from Carol as much as I did! Letters were a true lifeline back then and also while I went through my eight months of electronics training in Mississippi following Basic Training.

These days I write to Jamie and she occasionally gets to send a letter back as long as I've provided the envelope and postage and it meets the strict guidelines that her father has set for letter-writing (apparently any complaining about life in Kentucky is NOT allowed) and I write to my former grandmother-in-law from my first marriage in Stockton and she writes back in a script that almost requires a professional translator because her vision is failing but every letter sends love and blessings and lets me know that she's still alive and doing relatively well.

Other than that, getting the mail is no longer the daily event that it used to be. I have a pile of stuff on the kitchen counter that I need to go through and either file or chuck as that's where it seems to end up once it comes out of the mailbox and into the house. Still, to not ask what came in the mail is a hard habit to get into. Even Amanda will come home from school and ask if there was anything for her in the mail. I told her I'd be happy to give her one of my bills or the latest political advertisement but she doesn't seem much interested in those things. She's probably still waiting for a letter from her father who hasn't written her once since she moved back here over a year ago but thankfully she isn't holding her breath for it.

When I read my fortune from last night's cookie after dinner at the Eastern Sake Buffet I had to laugh a little as I thought about what sort of good news could possibly be brought by mail ... would Publishers Clearinghouse send me the winning ticket for their sweepstakes?; would I get a letter from some unknown attorney telling me that some relative I never knew I had designated me their sole heir and a check for BIG BUCKS was enclosed?; would there be a letter from some long-lost friend who had found my name in the phone book and just had to write?; would the IRS send me a check for overpaid taxes?; what sort of good news could it possibly be??

Ah well, at this point, the good news could be the ceasage of useless political ads as those seem to make up over 50% of my mail these days. That and catalogs with things that I can't afford to buy even if I wanted to. SIgh ... where has all the good mail gone?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"We do not remember days; we remember moments." ~ Cesare Pavese

We all get them - those little quizzes in our email that are designed to give us a chance to show how well we know each other - or don't, whichever the case may be. I rather enjoy these little quizzes not necessarily to see how well someone does or doesn't know me but because I like to see what memories stand out the most to them. It matters not if they can remember the names of my siblings, the color of my eyes, my middle name, or the place of my birth. Those things are pretty inconsequential as far as I'm concerned.

I sent one such quiz to my friend Cyndi awhile back and in her usual it-takes-forever-for-me-to-get-to-it style she recently sent it back. In reading some of her answers, though, I have to say that it was well worth the wait - well, I wasn't really waiting as I had forgotten I sent it to her but you know what I mean! As always, her answers brought back some pretty great memories of times gone by and I thought perhaps I would share a few of her answers here as a way to let my readers know me just a little better ... well, sort of ... at least from Cyndi's perspective!

What is the best feature about me?: Your genuine humanity, followed closely by your incredible sense of humor. I also appreciate your understanding and tolerance of my eternal procrastination.

Am I a rebel or do I follow the rules?: You follow the rules. Exhaustively. You would follow the rules down I-95 clear to Key West on a 100 degree summer day, even if the rules were riding a Greyhound with a malfunctioning carburetor spewing fumes everywhere and you were driving the car behind sucking all that in through the air conditioning. You are the Obi Wan of Rule Following. You have only one ongoing and completely laudable exception: You have the ability to chuck the rulebook and make everything up on the fly when a critical situation can't be resolved within existing rules. God knows a dispatcher must be able to do that or they can't hack the job. Clearly you do fine in that area. The ability to do this is the only thing that holds you back from making Yoda in this area (Jeff gets that, although he is getting better as he gets older). I only know of six times you have broken rules outside the dispatcher's exemption, which makes you a great deal better behaved than most people. Details on request.

Any special talents?: You are the world's greatest natural dispatcher & you make killer cheesecake. You also write better than I do -- Curse the Irish Storyteller in me that keeps me from 1. going straight to the point & 2. taking the time to spell check stuff -- Heaven knows I spell well but me fat fingers tend to create some pretty unbelievable typos.

What's your favorite memory of me?:
Halloween night 1986 on the desk. Wow, did we kick ass or what? Five shootings, three of which were fatal, four armed robberies, any number of strong-arm robberies, Multiple TA's including two fatalities, a two-alarm fire requiring crowd/traffic control, and a swat call-out for some darned thing that currently escapes my memory. All added to the usual fun & frolic in Tuleburg. I think we switched back and forth between working critical incidents on one side and holding down the entire city on the other so often that we wore out the 900 beeper. We had so much fun ... and so did our officers -- amazing. That runs a close second to the fact that you attended my son's wedding and even tolerated my brother's somewhat cynical chatter despite nursing a severely broken heart.

In addition to the above, Cyndi also managed to get all of my names right (married - divorced - married again, etc!), was able to name all three of my brothers, knows what types of music I listen to, and knows that I enjoy reading intriguing books and watching sappy chick flicks. She doesn't, however, remember my eye color but that can be forgiven as I don't remember hers either! And there was one more rather critical thing she missed - she said we met in 1985 but that's not true, I have known this incredible woman since October of 1984 and meeting her was one of the greatest blessings of my life. She has been a true friend in both good times and bad times and even though we haven't seen each other in over three years and are separated by over 3,000 miles our friendship remains solid and strong.

Now if I could just talk her husband into letting her come out for a visit so we could take Paula up on her offer to buy margaritas while we exhange dispatch "war stories" and add to our collection of memories. Come on, Jeff, please? Pretty please??

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians." ~ Charles de Gaulle

Just as Amanda and I attempt to share a cup of tea in the evenings, we also try to share a cup of coffee in the mornings before heading our separate ways to either work or school. We don't always manage it as there are some days when it practically takes an Act of Congress to get me out of bed but for the most part we are able to spend at least a little time together before the rest of the day intrudes.

That little bit of time is generally spent on the couch while watching a bit of the morning news or, more appropriately these days, the parade of political commercials that is occasionally interspersed with a news item or two! After acquiring my cup of coffee this morning I told Amanda that I was going to sit down on the couch for awhile to watch the political commercials and I certainly was not disappointed.

Bob Maxon on Channel 30 caught me up on the weather for the day before I got to watch three political commericals for various candidates in a row followed by two minutes of news and three more political commericals. Thinking that we might have better luck over on Channel 3, I switched the channel only to catch the tale end of Rachel Lutzker's traffic report followed by four more political commericals. We didn't fare any better over on Channel 8 as they, too, seemed to be infected with political-commercial-itis.

To say that this is ridiculous might just be a teeny tiny bit of an understatement. I'm beginning to think that I'm going to vote for the candidates that I've never really heard of simply because I'll know that they didn't spend thousands, nay - millions, of dollars on advertisements that have flooded not only the TV and radio airwaves but also my mailbox. This kind of out-of-control spending is just ridiculous, to say the least, and there's probably no need for it as I don't know of a single person who votes for someone based on their TV/radio commercials or mailbox flyers.

Thank goodness it'll all be over in less than two weeks but as Amanda warned me yesterday - if I think this is bad, wait until 2008 and the elections then. She has a very valid point hence the reason I think I'm going to put in for a leave of absence from work and move to Cananda for most of 2008!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"When all other means of communication fail, try words" ~ Some Really Smart But Unknown Person

Just as a quick update to those who might be wondering what happened to my feeling so unappreciated and burnt-out at work last week ... I had the chance to sit down with my supervisor on Saturday afternoon and talk about just what it was that was bothering me and why. It was very cathartic and has made all the difference in the world to me.

First off, let me just say how very much it meant to me that he took the time on his day off to come in and speak to me. The fact that he did that proves to me that I have not been wrong about what type of supervisor and human being he is and why I have the utmost respect for this man.

Like most things the problem came down to one of communication - or lack thereof to be more precise. I didn't tell him what was wrong and his mind-reading abilities were preoccupied with the many other things that he needed to take care of. As I have said before, we're short-handed right now and things have been plain crazy at work most days so I'm sure it was hard for him to keep track of every little thing including the fact that I was going into a funk.

That said, he didn't make any excuses for not noticing that I was "out of sorts" and apologized for not addressing it sooner. Helen was right when she wrote under the comment section that
"jobs are like any other relationship -- after we've been in it a while, it's easy to be taken for granted." I think that's probably what happened here without anyone meaning it to.

Sad to say - but very true - that sometimes the place where the communication is the worst is in the Communications Center of a company - especially in a job where the stress levels can and do go through the roof on a regular basis. This isn't the first dispatch center that I've worked in where this has happened but I am happy to say that my supervisor is one of the very first who has taken it seriously and addressed it accordingly.

Of course my "being appreciated" has now become a running joke with a lot of people at work and even my daughter has taken to chiming in on a very regular basis with comments like "have a very appreciated day at work, Mom!" Just a little while ago she tried to circumvent the task I gave her to pick up her clutter in the living room with an "I appreciate you, Mom" ploy complete with a hug - which didn't get her out of doing the work! I'm glad that I can joke about it now, both at work and home, but that wouldn't have been possible if my supervisor hadn't taken the time to help resolve it.

Thanks, Matt, I really do appreciate it - and, Frank, if that makes your stomach turn - so be it!

"There's a flu bug getting passed around, and it's spreading like fire through the town ..." ~ Squirrel Nut Zippers, 'La Grippe', 1995

There is definitely something going around. A nasty little bug that leaves one feeling somewhat ill to their stomach coupled with a nasty headache and a feeling like one's been run over by the proverbial truck. Normally I don't fall victim to the something going around but such was not the case this past weekend.

I started feeling not so good on Friday evening but I chalked it up to the stress that I had put myself through for the past several days in regards to my unrest at work, etc. It was either that or I thought perhaps I had eaten something that didn't agree with me when I went out to dinner with my cousin for a somewhat (okay, quite) belated birthday celebration. I went into work Saturday morning chewing Pepto Bismol tablets and hoping that whatever it was would soon fade away.

Such was not the case, though, and despite the fact that I made it through my 16-hour shift, I went home that night feeling quite worn out and don't even remember falling asleep. Now I used to think that was an odd statement - to say you didn't remember falling asleep - well, of course you didn't because you fell asleep! In retrospect though, most times I can remember back to the moment where I've decided that I'm quite tired and I roll from my back to my left side and then fall asleep. Saturday night I'm pretty sure I fell asleep without the nightly ritual of changing positions and hence the reason I don't remember falling asleep.

I definitely remember waking up the next morning about 15 minutes before the alarm clock and thinking "wow, I don't feel a bit good" (to quote my old Gram B!) My stomach hurt, my head hurt, and I felt like I was trying to fight my way out of a bog rather than bed when I tried to get up. It was at that point that I decided that work was not going to be an option so I called out for the day, climbed back into bed, and stayed there until almost noon having the oddest dreams!

Even when I finally managed to drag myself out of bed and downstairs to the couch where I watched episodes from the first season of Arrested Development on DVD, I wasn't feeling any too good. I spent the rest of the day sipping tea while nursing a lousy stomach and achy head and when I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer I crawled back into bed at 8:00. As I told Amanda good night she suggested that perhaps another sick day was in order for Monday but I explained to her that two days out of work without pay was not a financially good idea. Once I told her my rate of pay and she multiplied that by the amount of hours I would be missing she decided that she did, indeed, like eating too much for me to be out another day and wished me a speedy recovery!

I felt a little better on Monday so went into work still feeling a bit washed out and a little queasy around the insides but well enough to tackle the job. While there I found out that I wasn't the only one who had been falling prey to something that has been going around. Baby Liz came in but left a few hours into the shift with symptoms eerily similar to the ones I'd had all weekend; Jennifer, another scheduler, was looking somewhat peaked and said that her head and throat were starting to really bother her; and a couple people on the road told me that they weren't feeling any too great themselves. By the end of the evening Andrew, one of my favorite medics, was beginning to look like death eating a cracker though the something that he had come down with seemed to be more in the form of a cold than a stomach bug but no less debilitating.

Today one of our very reliable chair car drivers called out as well as another of our medics while we were still without Baby Liz as she was spending another day home sick. If this is any indication of what sort of flu/cold season we're facing this year, methinks it's going to be a long winter!

How about you? How have
you been feeling?

Friday, October 20, 2006

"There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea." ~ Bernard-Paul Heroux

It's probably only a coincidence that I have a collection of 17 teapots and 17 different types of tea as of this writing. I generally have more tea than that!

Shortly after Amanda moved back out from Kentucky, we took up the habit of having an evening cup of tea together while watching TV on chilly Fall and Winter nights. I find it to be a very soothing and relaxing way to end the day as well as warm up a little bit. With the long winter nights fast approaching, it's time to break out the teacups and start sharing an evening spot of tea once again.

Even though there is nothing like a hot cup of plain ole' black tea, there are so many flavored ones out there now that it's sometimes very hard to decide which one to try next. Between Bigelow, Lipton, Tetley, Celestial Seasonings, etc. there are probably well over 100 different types to choose from.

Some of our favorites are Honey Vanilla Chamomile Herb, Imperial White Peach, Sleepytime, Red Zinger, Tension Tamer, and Madagascar Vanilla Red. I've recently branched out into the Thai teas and have found a vanilla chai that is absolutely fantastic and going fast. One of Amanda's new favorites is a tea by Lipton that comes in a pyramid-shaped bag that reportedly allows more of the tea's flavor through as well as being "totally cool". We've tried the Red with Strawberry & Passionfruit but the one I really want to get is the Vanilla Caramel Truffle flavor that sounds totally YUM!

While sharing a cup of tea in the evening gives Amanda and I a chance to spend a little time together and catch up with each other, it also provides added benefits in that tea combats heart disease, lowers cholesterol and staves off several types of cancer while protecting skin and strengthening bones and teeth. All that while giving our minds a chance to relax a little and wind down after all of the various stressors of the day! Not a bad deal at all if you ask me!

And on top of that it's all just so downright civilized! Just be sure to extend that pinkie finger while sipping!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” ~ William James

I haven't been feeling very appreciated at my job lately.

That probably sounds like I'm whining and, to a certain extent, I guess I am but I feel that every once in awhile I'm entitled to that. I try not to do it on a regular basis as I know full well that whining gets a person nowhere and only annoys those around us within earshot but I also think that occasional whining is good for the soul. Of course, having now put that in print, I rather expect Amanda to pull it out and use it against me on a fairly regular basis! "But, Mom, you said it's okay to whine sometimes ..."!!

That said - back to work and not feeling appreciated lately ... I have been putting in A LOT of hours at work for the past, well, geez, I can't exactly remember HOW long but it's been a long time as we've been short-handed for quite some time in addition to Jen being out on maternity leave, etc. It's the nature of the beast in dispatch centers to generally have trouble being up to staff and staying up to staff because it's not a job for everyone - you have to be certifiably insane to want to make dispatching your career and a lot of people get into it only to find that it's not their cup of tea at all. Dispatch is sort of like an iceberg - what you see on the surface is nothing compared to what lies beneath. And if I thought that dispatching for a municipal police or fire department was tough - it's nothing compared to dispatching at a commerical ambulance/Emergency Medical Serivce provider.

In an article on Emergency Medical Dispatching by The National Academies of Emergency Dispatch, Dr. Jeff Clawson, father of EMS dispatching and founder of the Academy states:
"Dispatchers, in a way, are responsible for the overall flux of what's happening in the system. They are in charge of every scene until someone else gets there. No one knows more about a call than the dispatcher because that's the only person who has talked to someone at the scene. Once EMS arrives, there's a new commander. Dispatchers have to be multitasking, fairly unflappable, and have to provide leadership and empathy to people who are in the midst of a crisis. On paper, their job is more complex than a field responder's - not more important or harder, but more complex. They change hats a lot in what they do."
You don't schedule calls for police or fire, you don't worry about insurance and billing information, you don't deal with a spreadsheet that resembles a large Tetris puzzle as you try to drop calls onto it in a manner that fits the times facilities want but is also fair to all of the road crews, and you don't worry about a myriad of other things that were completely foreign to me when I started at American. I may have had close to ten years experience under my belt when I took the job at American but it was nothing like I had dealt with before. I can remember sitting behind the console when I first started and thinking "I will never, ever in a million years be able to do this job". It scared me, it intimidated me, it challenged me.

But I did learn the job and I think I learned it well. I'm not perfect - no one is - but I try my best every single time I sit down behind that console. I take my job seriously, I take the performance of my job seriously, and I expect the people that I work with to take it seriously also. This isn't just a job for me - it's a career - and it defines a very big part of who I am. I am a dispatcher. From time to time I have been told that I'm a damned good dispatcher and because of that I try very hard to live up to that reputation. Not necessarily because I don't want to let other people down but because I don't want to let myself down.

Of course, like anyone in any job I occasionally like to be told that I'm doing a good job, that I'm important to the company, that I'm appreciated but lately I don't feel like I've been getting that. I know we're shorthanded, I know my supervisor is stressed out, I know there's a lot going on but how hard would it be for him to say "thank you for the extra effort"? I'm not a machine, I'm not putting in 56-hour weeks just for my own benefit - I'm trying to be a team player but right now I'm losing my enthusiasm and motivation.

There's a very real thing amongst emergency dispatchers called "dispatcher burn-out" and it's an occupational hazard that all of us in this business are susceptible to. I know enough about it to know that I'm probably pretty close to it right now but I also know that it can be prevented. Recognizing it is half the battle and I think I've done that.

Now the next step is to take a break and relax a bit. To that end, I am not working either of my two days off this week or next week or even the week after and I am going to do as little as possible while I'm home. It's hard for us "Type A" personalities to do but I am going to be completely and totally lazy for the next two days and I am not going to feel the least bit guilty about it! It might not be a complete and total cure for not feeling appreciated but it's a start ... right, Cyndi??

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"If you put your peas in your mashed potatoes, they don't taste so bad" ~ Jonah, age 10*

I received the following comment on my post regarding potatoes the other day and thought that it posed an interesting question and the opportunity for a good follow-up entry.
Bulldog68 said ...
"I, too, am a big fan of mashed (white) potatoes, but here's a question for ya ... have you ever noticed that mashed potatoes made for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas Dinners seem to taste that much yummier? Who in your family made the best? My late Grandfather and my Dad are tied for first place in ours! *just a pre-holiday musing!*"
I've got to agree with him - mashed potatoes do seem to taste best at holiday dinners but I don't think that has anything to do with the potatoes themselves but more with the occasion. I believe our minds trick us into thinking that things taste better because it's a special occasion shared with family and friends - we have all the foods we love along with all the people we love at the same time and how can that NOT make things taste better??

Mashed potatoes hold a special place in my heart as they were always part of Sunday dinners at my "sainted" Grandfather's house along with the best roast beef I can remember. Gramp didn't mash his own potatoes, though, that job was usually left to one of my aunts or sometimes myself or one of my cousins.

I can still remember my Aunt Mary teaching me how to make proper mashed potatoes after I had totally goofed them up one day and served up a lumpy mess! Aunt Mary worked in the cafeteria at the Dr. Helen Baldwin School in Canterbury at the time so she was quite the expert in all things food. I believe I was in seventh grade at the time but I distinctly remember her telling me to be sure to use a masher first and to make sure that I mashed the butter in with the potatoes so that it melted thoroughly before using the electric mixer to whip them up with milk, salt, and pepper. These days I add a dollop of sour cream when I've got it (a trick I learned from my first husband) and that makes them even creamier.

Maybe part of the reason that mashed potatoes are such a comfort food for me is that they evoke childhood memories of happy times spent at my grandfather's house when the whole family would get together for Sunday dinner. They also remind me of holidays past when again I was surrounded by family. These days those family get-togethers seem to be mostly a thing from the past as everyone just seems to be too busy these days. We're even so busy that you can now buy mashed potatoes in containers at grocery stores and even though they aren't half bad, they don't hold a candle to the ones my Aunt Eleanor can make. She gets my vote for First Place for Best Mashed Potatoes as no matter the occasion she makes fantastic mashed potaotes! That's not to say that there's anything wrong with anyone else's but hers were always the best!

How about you? Do YOUR mashed potatoes taste better on holidays and who in your family makes the best? Inquiring minds wanna know!

*quoted from Generationterrorists.com

Monday, October 16, 2006

"What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow." ~ A.A. Milne

Somehow or other we ended up talking about potatoes today at work, I think it was the off-shoot of a conversation on the "No White Diet" wherein the dieter does not eat any white foods at all - no white sugar, white flour, white milk, white potatoes, etc. That conversation led to the nutritious value of sweet potatoes versus white potatoes and the next thing I knew we were talking about the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1846 to 1850.

Liz, one of the schedulers, mentioned that she had recently seen a show on The History Channel about said Potato Famine and brought up the rather interesting, and previously unknown to me, fact that the average Irishman prior to the blight and famine consumed almost 18 pounds of potatoes a day. Hokey smokes, Bullwinkle - 18 pounds of potatoes a day?? Not necessarily doubting Liz but thinking she might have had potatoes in her own ears and not heard that correctly, I came home and ran a search on the subject myself. What I found was the following from the website DoChara.com, a website with all sorts of Irish information for travelers.

"By the early 19th century everyone ate potatoes, from rich to poor, and no meal was complete without them. For some this was almost all they ever ate. A report on the food given provided for inhabitants of workhouses in 1840 would have been an extreme, but not untypical, example of the diet of the poor."

Men4lbs potatoes, 1 pint skimmed milk.The same, with herrings instead of milk in Winter.Not always provided.
Women3 lbs potatoes, 1/2-1 pint skimmed milkThe same.
Men5lbs potatoes, 1 pint sour milkThe same. Herrings when milk cannot be had.The same
Women3lbs potatoes, 1 pint milkThe sameThe same

Okay, so Liz was only off by a few pounds as it appears that some men did eat up to 15 pounds of potatoes a day - Faith and begora but that's a lot of spuds! According to the website, "Many dishes looked on as being typically Irish - champ ( potatoes and scallions, or spring onions), colcannon (potatoes and cabbage), Irish Stew (the poorer cuts of meat with potato and vegetables), boxty (fried potato cakes) - were developed at this time in an effort to eke out the food available and, presumably, to relieve monotony."

Apparently if eaten in a proper quantity, they were considered quite nutritious but these days the poor white potato seems to have a cursed reputation. Dietitians everywhere decr
y them as "bad for you" and encourage you to eat their cousins, the sweet potato or yam, instead. That's all well, good, and fine if you happen to like sweet potatoes or yams but I don't - I like white potatoes - mashed, fried, scalloped, baked ... serve them up in style you like and I won't turn my nose up at them! There's something comforting in potatoes - especially mashed!

Amanda seems to have inherited my love of white potatoes as she was lamenting just this evening that I hadn't made nearly enough fried potatoes to go along with dinner. (I did notice that she managed to toss the fresh vegetables that I had cooked, though!) Despite the fact that I like to tout myself as an independent thinker, It seems that I am a product of our American culture and fear that too many potatoes aren't good for us so I try to only make a small amount for a side dish on occasion. And that's too bad because we both like potatoes and if an entire country subsided on them for years and years then they can't be all that bad! Can they??

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I grew up listening to a lot of parent-isms. Things like "how many times have I told you?", "do you want me to give you something to cry about?", "if your friends jumped off a bridge would you join them?", "you'd complain if you were hung with a new rope" ... the types of things that all parents say to their kids. Of course, like all kids, I vowed that if I ever had kids of my own I would never in a million years say those sort of things to them - I would be more compassionate, I would be more understanding, I would be a better communicator, I would be ... just like my parents and say the same things!

I guess when we hear something enough times it becomes ingrained into our heads and just automatically pops out of our mouths from time to time without our really meaning it to. As we become parents ourselves, we become more and more like our own parents in our style of parenting. Leastways, I have found that to be the case in some areas, though certainly not all.

I can't really complain about my upbringing, though as a teenager I'm sure I thought I had it just as rough as every other angst-driven teen out there. I spent my fair share of time being "grounded" for either legitimately doing something stupid or for my brothers telling my parents I did something stupid that I hadn't actually done. Growing up the only girl with three brothers (one older and two younger) can be downright difficult and lest you think I was spoiled because I was the only girl - think again! My father grew up with three brothers and no sisters and I'm pretty sure he didn't know what to do with me. And I'm darned sure I didn't make it any easier on him! My poor mother ran interference for us constantly and looking back now as an adult I can see where perhaps I should have been the one to give in occasionally rather than defiantly expecting my father to, which you can bet your life wasn't going to happen either! Talk about the home version of
Family Feud!

Because we were both so stubborn and my mother needed a break from the two of us every once in awhile, I would occasionally end up spending a few days at my Old Gram B's house just so there could be some quiet on the homefront. At the time, Granny lived near a brook in beautiful downtown Scotland, Connecticut (translated: the middle of nowhere) and I had the run of the place such as it was. I can remember spending many an afternoon sitting by the side of the brook with fishing pole in hand trying to catch one of the many catfish that liked to tease me by eating the bait and swimming quickly away. Truth be told, I didn't really
want to catch one because they were so ugly and I had heard that their whiskers stung but it was a fun way to spend the time!

As previously mentioned, my father's mother is an old swamp Yankee from back in the days when Connecticut was mostly swamp! She was a Butler prior to marriage and we can lay claim to Susan B. Anthony as an ancestor on her mother's side of the family. Granny and her sister, Effie, used to love to take the trolley to New London on weekends to go to dances at the armory and that's where she met my grandfather Red who, as she always told us, "was a swell dancer!" He obviously swept Granny off her feet as they married, had four fine young sons, and moved to Illinois where she experienced her first and only tornado. You could almost see and hear that tornado when she would tell us the story of how "the sky became darker than pitch and it sounded like a freight train rumbling through the house." She must have been scared to death but it was quite the adventure for a girl from a small town in Connecticut and she sure loved to tell us that story in her later years.

Unfortunately, her marriage to Red was not to last (something about him throwing an ashtray at her head one day ...) and they eventually divorced. Back in Connecticut she lived with her parents in Willimantic where "those Butler boys" as they were known were quite the little hellions. My Uncle Alton can tell stories about he and his brothers that to this day will make tears run down my face because I'm laughing so hard! But in spite of the antics of her sons, Granny found another man to marry and I'm pretty sure I can remember her telling us that Maurice was a "swell dancer" also. Apparently my grandmother loved to dance though I never once saw her do it myself except through her reminiscences of times gone by.

Eventually Maurice and Granny sold the house in Scotland and moved to a small house built above a garage across the yard from my Uncle Alton and Aunt Eleanor in Canterbury. It was a comfy little house and she loved to have company come over and sit on the couch to visit while she sat in her recliner and told us the same stories over and over and over and over again. It was from listening to her tell those stories that I picked up a handful of phrases that just pop out of my mouth from time to time without my even thinking about it. "Homely enough to scare a bush", "I don't feel a bit good", "oh for cat's sake", "odder than two sticks", "it's a shame to get that old and die" and - my all-time favorite - "you look like death eating a cracker"!

The older I get, it seems the more I sound like a combination of my father and my grandmother as I catch myself saying things that I know for sure came out of their mouths long ago. Ay-yuh, at the rate ah'm goin' ah'm sure to sound like an old Swamp Yankee myself before too long - if I don't already! But in thinking about it, it's really okay because through the things I say and the way I say them, my Dad and my Old Gram B continue to live on. And I, for one, think that's pretty cool!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person." ~ Mignon McLaughlin

Having been divorced twice, one might think that I would be rather cynical on the whole concept of marriage but that's not the case at all. I admire good marriages; I love good marriages; I am envious of good marriages; I wish I'd had a good marriage! As I have written before, my parents had one of the best marriages ever and it was great to grow up knowing that my parents loved each other more every single day in spite of life and all that it had to throw at them. If my Dad hadn't passed away in 2003, they would have celebrated their 50th anniversary this past June and I'm sure that they would have been more in love that day than they were the day they first took their vows. And who can't admire that, envy that, wish for that themselves?

That said, I want to wish a very happy anniversary to Andrew and Bethany who are celebrating their 11th wedding anniversary today. Though it's a long cry from the years my parents had together, it's a marriage that I think will last that long or - God willing - longer. Theirs is a marriage that I admire because it's a marriage where the two people involved not only love and respect each other but genuinely like each other, too!

Friedrich Nietzsche, a German-Swiss philosopher and writer, as well as one of the most influential of modern thinkers, said it best when he wrote: "It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages." Too many times we see marriages where the couples involved just don't seem to like each other anymore but they stay together for a myriad of reasons - finances, kids, religious vows, appearances, etc. - that have nothing to do with how they really feel about each other.

Sometimes I think it's easier to love someone than it is to like them and before you decide I'm crazy on that one, think about this ... it has been said many times over that love is deaf, dumb, and blind because when we are first falling in love with someone we want to believe the best about that person, we don't want to know their shortcomings or faults. When you live with someone day in and day out you have no choice but to look closer at that person whom you share your life with - faults and all - and that's where the true test of any marriage comes in. It's not enough just to say that you love someone - you also have to like them and respect them.

Perhaps that's the part that I'm really envious about ... couples like Andrew & Bethany, Cyndi & Jeff, George & Rhonda, my two brothers & their wives, my parents - all of the marriages that I know of that are solid ... they all possess the three main ingredients that were missing in my two marriages - love, respect, and friendship. Together those three form a very solid base but take one away and you're left with something that wobbles and, chances are good, will eventually fall.

By all means a successful marriage involves the two people joined together falling in love with each other over and over again but don't forget to be friends, too. That makes all the difference in the world - trust me, I know!

Addendum: After reading his comment posted here, I wanted to note that I attended the wedding of Bulldog and Melissa two years ago and it was by far one of THE BEST weddings that I have ever attended. Not because it was extravagant or lavish or anything like that but because it was a pleasure to watch two people who so obviously not only loved but liked each other exchange vows and start their lives together as "man and wife". I don't think there was a single person in attendance who had the cyncical thought of "let's see how long this one lasts" because we all KNEW that this was a marriage that was going to last. A belated happy anniversary to you, too, my friend, and I wish you and Melissa many, many more years of happiness and friendship and love!

Friday, October 13, 2006

“The very first step towards success in any occupation is to become interested in it.” ~ William Osler

Back in the old days my family participated in what was known as "dinner-time". This was when families gathered around the dining room table at night and would actually partake of a meal in the company of each other. It was a great opportunity to catch up on what was going on in each other's lives, lavish compliments upon my mother for her prowess in the kitchen, and invariably get insulted by one of my three brothers for one reason or another!

During the course of this ritual, it was also quite common for my father to put his fork down, look me in the eye, and declare "you're going in the Navy when you get out of high school." I, of course, would answer "oh no I'm not" every single time. Now that's not to say that there's anything wrong with the Navy, I'm sure it's a fine branch of the military service, and I was even a Navy wife for awhile during the course of my second marriage. However - when I was 16 - 17 years old, I was just as stubborn as my father and if he said I was going to do something, invariably I would want to do the opposite. I later found out that this was my father's intention all along and that he had practiced a great deal of reverse psychology on me in my youth. I can still remember when I called him on that one evening and he said, "well, it's about time you figured it out." This was, of course, when I was home on leave after I had joined the Air Force and not the Navy as my father had decreed!

For some reason, the memories of this were going through my head yesterday while I was at the doctor's office getting my weekly infusion of iron and looking out the window at the nurses leaving for the day. I wondered how people decided what they wanted to do for their lives, how they picked the occupations that eventually defined who they were in life, how many people were really doing the things that they wanted to do, and how on earth did I get to be a dispatcher of all things???

I always knew that I was going into the military after high school. When others were taking the PSATs and SATs I was taking the ASVABs (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). While my friends were all taking college prep courses, I was taking business courses because I knew I wasn't going on to college directly after high school. I was raised in a military family; my Dad was career Air Force and it was what I knew best in life.

At the age of 17, my Dad found himself on a troop ship heading over to Korea before he even had his high school diploma in hand. He later went on to earn not only his GED but took many college courses and always scored high in his classes. He got out of the service a few times but always went back in and in 1974 he retired after twenty years of service with a long, distinguished career record complete with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star medal awarded during his time in Vietnam.

At the age of 17, three days after I had my diploma in hand, I found myself on a plane to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for six weeks of basic training to be followed by eight months at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi for training as a ground-to-air radio communications equipment technician. It was never my intention to become an electronics technician when I first decided to go into the Air Force. I wanted to be a Law Enforcement Officer but I had scored high on the electronics part of the ASVAB (how - I just don't know!), there were no openings in Law Enforcement at the time of my enlistment, and my recruiter talked me into giving radio repair a try. In retrospect, perhaps I should have been as stubborn with him as I was with my father but it turned out okay and I met some great people throughout my career - even though I spent most of it stationed in New Jersey!

As for how I ended up in dispatching ... well, I needed a job after my first husband exited stage-right from mine and Michael's lives and I eventually saw an ad in The Stockton Record for telecommunicators. Even though I had no idea what the job entailed, the pay looked good so I applied, took the test (which I thought I had failed miserably!), and soon found myself emerged in the sometimes exciting but most times frustrating life of a 911 operator and police dispatcher. I've left dispatching a time or two in the past vowing to never put a headset on again but it must be my calling because I've invariably gone back to it over and over again. If you had asked me when I was a kid if I wanted to be a 911 dispatcher when I grew up I would have probably looked at you like you were crazy! Most people don't even know what a 911 dispatcher is - never mind want to be one! And usually once they found out what one is, they still don't want to be one! We are a unique breed unto ourselves!

If I had it to do over again, I would still have gone into the Air Force and I think I probably still would have been a radio repair technician for awhile but I also think I would have gone onto college and become a history teacher. For those of you who are sitting there and reading this and thinking "but you could still do that now!" let me just say - no, I can't. I know that a lot of people start their careers over even when they're older than I am but I'm not one of those people. Maybe I don't particularly relish the thought of myself dispatching for another 15 years or more but it's what I do best in life; I have a gift and a talent for it even if it does drive me crazy from time to time! I like the people I work with and they seem to like me and sometimes in careers, that's half the battle - finding something you like to do, something you can do well, and liking the people that you're doing it with.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone." ~ G.B. Stern

Too many times it seems that people forget to say "thank you" - two simple words that can make all the difference in the world and that take no time at all to say. The 2006 Lenox etiquette poll found that nearly five out of every 10 people don't always say thanks. The annual survey of more than 2,000 people by the Lenox Company of New Jersey tracks trends in etiquette, gift-giving, home trends, and pop culture, and provides an annual national barometer of how Americans incorporate manners and thoughtfulness into their own lives.

Is it really that hard for people to remember to say thank you or is just that we expect so much that thank you no longer seems necessary? I find it hard to believe that our lives have become so fast-paced that we can't take the time to extend a few courtesies or remember that our parents taught us some form of manners when we were growing up. As a child I can remember being told to always say "please" and "thank you" and I have taught my children the same thing. As I have told all three of them many times over, no one has to give you anything, they do it because they want to - but they might not want to if you don't take the time to express some gratitude.

This doesn't just apply to gifts but to every day life. If someone holds a door for me, I say thank you; if a driver lets me into a crowded line of traffic, I wave thanks; if one of my favorite EMTs brings me a much needed cup of coffee, I say thank you then, too. And for the record, I owe Miles more thanks than I can express for his continued thoughtfulness not only towards myself but to the others I work with in dispatch/scheduling! That's not to say that Miles is the only one who brings coffee (not by a long shot) but I want to set the record straight for those in the bay who think that he's sucking up to dispatch that just IS NOT the case. Miles gets no special favors from myself or anyone else for his thoughtfulness and generosity, I think he's just being a nice guy and there's nothing wrong with that in any society.

Why has it come to mean that someone is being a suck-up or trying to gain some special favor when they're just being nice? Why does there always have to be an ulterior motive behind someone's actions? When did we all become so suspect of people just being nice?? I would be willing to bet that Miles' parents taught him manners when he was growing up and there's nothing suspect in that - at least not as far as I'm concerned. Considering I'm old enough to be his mother, I would be proud to have Miles as my son.

At some point in history we became an overly cynical and critical society. We expect people to do things for us without thanks, we no longer say "hello" to strangers as we pass, we have forgotten what simple courtesy is, and unless some national tragedy hits we just don't give a rat's behind about our fellow man most of the time. Somewhere along the lines our priorities got all screwed up and I just don't understand it.

When I first started writing this entry today, it was not my intention to get up on a soapbox and preach about the shortcomings of our society but to simply say "thank you" to those of you who take the time to read my writings. I had the pleasure of meeting some of my "readership" this past weekend and it totally blew me away to have a total stranger walk up to me and say "I read your blog every day and I love it!". Wow. There is no way to describe how that made me feel, to know that I'm making someone else laugh a little bit or nod their head and say "yep, my kids do the same thing". It makes sitting down in front of the computer trying to think of what on earth to write about all worthwhile and I wanted to say thank you for reading and for your comments - I'm honored to be a part of your lives even in this small way.

As the Bard himself wrote, "I can no answer make but thanks and thanks and ever thanks." If you haven't said it lately - try it, I'm sure it will make someone's day that much better!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Grandchildren don’t make a man feel old; it’s the knowledge that he’s married to a grandmother." ~ Dame Agatha Christie

Last week was pretty rough at work. We were still down two dispatchers due to people having left the company awhile ago, Jen is still out on maternity leave, Erik went on vacation, Matt & Brad went down to North Carolina to pick up a few new ambulances, and several other people were out sick. I put in way too many hours and am going to end up with a ridiculous amount of overtime in my check that will definitely make Uncle Sam very happy. Suffice it to say, the week wore me out and I think I've been carrying over some of that residual tiredness to this week. After all, I'm not as young as I used to be - a fact that people just love to remind me of on a regular basis!

I was still feeling pretty worn out the other morning when one of the paramedics that I work with referred to me as "grandma". Initially I took offense to the comment and then the light bulb went on ... "DUH! I am a grandma!" Because my son and his wife live in Rhode Island, I don't see my grandson very often so it's a little too easy to forget that not only am I old enough to be a grandmother, I am a grandmother.

I think part of the problem is that I don't really consider myself to be old (even though there are days when I feel like I was around before Rome was in ruins) and for some reason I have the mindset that grandparents are, well, old! What I keep forgetting is that I am at the age where a lot of people become grandparents for the first time. My own parents were only 46 when my son Michael was born and my friends Cyndi and Rhonda have both held the title of grandmother for several years. Ealier today I came across an old newspaper announcement for the birth of a granddaughter to one of the guys I used to work with at Norwich PD and I initially thought, "wow, he can't be old enough to be a grandfather" but then I thought, well, why not, his son is older than mine. I have to wonder though if, having kids at home younger than mine, he feels like a grandfather? Which brings me to the question of "what exactly is a grandparent supposed to feel like?"

I was very lucky when it came to my own grandparents though I didn't have the requisite two on each side. My mother's mother died when I was only three months old but my grandmother on my father's side was your typical "granny" and that's exactly what she was called - though in later years she always referred to herself as "Old Gram B". If I've inherited nothing else from her, I have acquired some very unique phrases that I hope to write about in a future entry! My grandmother was your typical old Swamp Yankee who used to knit clothes for my dolls, made a mean raisin-filled cookie, and treated me like gold. I can still remember trips to the big "city" of Willimantic sitting between her and Maurice, my step-grandfather who always smelled (not unpleasantly) like the barns he worked in.

On my mother's side, my grandfather was my idol (and still is). If ever there was a storybook grandfather, my Gramp was one and then some. He had the patience of a saint, a fantastic sense of humor, and brewed a homemade root beer with a kick like a mule! Some of my fondest memories are of times spent with my grandfather - Sunday dinners at his house, car trips to apple orchards or to get ice cream with six of us cousins stuffed in his old bought-at-auction State police cruiser, trips to Mystic Seaport and Sturbridge Village, or just sitting on his lap while he read the Sunday comics to us. I swear there are times when I can still smell his Old Spice aftershave and feel his whiskers on my cheek.

Maybe that's why I have so much trouble picturing myself as a grandparent - I'm still looking at grandparents the way that I looked at mine and my best memories of them were when they were older. Technically, though, they weren't exactly old when they became grandparents - only a few years older than I am now - which is a sobering thought! I think they grew into being fantastic grandparents over time and someday I think - I hope! - I will, too. Right now I'm not very good in the grandparenting department but I hope that when Mathew is older, he'll have good memories of me, too. Memories that perhaps 30+ years later he'll be sitting down to write about if he inherits my enjoyment of writing about everything and nothing!

Maybe that's the greatest thing we can leave our children and grandchildren - memories that they will treasure for a lifetime. I know I treasure the memories my grandparents and parents have given me and, no matter what else I might forget in this life, I hope I never lose those memories for they're truly my inheritance in this life.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Man is the only creature that dares to light a fire & live with it. The reason? Because he alone has learned to put it out. ~ Henry Jackson Vandyk Jr

The week of October 8th to the 14th has been designated Fire Prevention Week by the National Fire Protection Association and is celebrated by Fire Departments all over the country.

The first National Fire Prevention Day Proclamation was issued by President Woodrow Wilson in 1920. Since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9th falls. That date marks the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the tragic conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, and destroyed more than 17,400 structures.

In this year's Proclamation by the President of the United States for Fire Prevention Week, 2006 George Bush stated, "Our Nation's firefighters selflessly risk their lives to protect their fellow citizens. These brave men and women play a critical role in safeguarding our families, our households, and our communities, and their courage and dedication are an inspiration to all Americans. Fire Prevention Week is an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of fire safety, celebrate those who devote their lives to protecting others, and honor the memory of our Nation's fallen heroes".

Please join me in thanking all of the dedicated individuals, male and female - paid and volunteer - young and old, who tirelessly devote themselves to ensuring that the rest of us can sleep comfortably knowing that they are but a phone call away if we need them.

Thank you all!!

Monday, October 9, 2006

"If I cannot fly, let me sing." ~ Stephen Sondheim, "Sweeney Todd"

I definitely cannot fly and I love to sing though I definitely can't do that either! Because of my shortcomings when it comes to any musical talent whatsoever I usually try to do said singing in a fairly secluded place where I am quite certain that I'm not going to make anyone around me suffer. That usually translates to mean "in the car when I'm alone" but there are times when I will break out into song when Amanda is with me simply because she's my daughter and I believe I have some sort of parental right that gives me the leeway to make her suffer every so often. "Payback" and all that good stuff!

Such was the case this evening when we driving back from a visit to my mother's house in Canterbury and the latest Evanescence song Call Me When You're Sober came on the radio. The song begins with lead singer Amy Lee belting out the opening lyrics in a range that is definitely out of my league but I love to try to sing anyway! Imagine the surprise on Amanda's face when out of nowhere I started singing:

"Don't cry to me.
If you loved me
You would be here with me,
You want me,
Come find me.
Make up your mind!"

Ah, the joys of a captive audience! But I've got to give my daughter credit. After the initial shock wore off, she joined right in and sang the rest of the song with me. We had a good laugh when the song ended and I think my daughter was rather impressed that I knew all of the words. Of course, this was probably nowhere near as impressive as when I was able to rap along with Eminem on Without Me and Cleaning Out My Closet. Amanda was so impressed with that feat that she just had to tell Nicole who was also duly impressed as Nicole is totally nuts about Eminem (to which I have to ask ... why???) and her Dad probably couldn't string two words together, never mind two songs!

When I was growing up my parents listened to their music when we were in the car and that was that. There was no negotiating over radio stations, no suggestions that they turn the dial to whatever the local pop or rock station was. Nope, either we listened to what they were listening to or too bad. Because I chose the first option, I grew up with an appreciation of country music which I still have. To this day I can't hear old Johnny Cash or Jim Reeves songs without remembrances of my childhood flooding back and I can sing along with most of those, too. I own a rather extensive collection of country CDs that share the rack along with classic rock, pop, heavy metal, Broadway soundtracks, bluegrass, and Lord knows what else. To say that I have a very eclectic taste in music would probably be an understatement!

Because I love all sorts of music, I have always been willing to listen to what my kids were listening to. With Mike that was Metallica and Green Day, Jamie is into AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, and Amanda leans towards H.I.M. and Linkin Park. That doesn't mean I like all of it (I'm sorry, Amanda, but I'm still having trouble with the Avenged Sevenfold stuff!) but I like listening to what the lyrics have to say.

I tend to quote song lyrics a lot in my life because there are just so many good things that are said via music - things that I wish I had the talent to put to music because I've felt those very things myself from time to time. People are not afraid to express themselves in song and I think that's been the case ever since the first caveman took a stick and rock and found that he could pound out a beat.

As Victor Hugo once said, "
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." And sometimes I just find it downright impossible to be silent when a good song comes on the radio! Much to Amanda's dismay I'm sure!

Sunday, October 8, 2006

“I'm disappointed, but I'm not going to run around like Dennis Rodman and head-butt somebody.” ~ Greg Norman

It was an absolutely beautiful day today. The sky was the bluest it has been in a long time, the temperature was perfect, and the leaves were starting to show some color on those trees that haven't been affected by the blight. All in all, a glorious New England autumn day to take off out of work a few hours early to go on the "Graves and Heroes" Walking Weekend Tour of the Yantic Cemetery.

As those who read this blog will recall, Yantic Cemetery is my very favorite cemetery and I was really quite excited at the prospect of being able to learn some of the history of the people buried there for I'm sure that every grave has a story. I had been wanting to go on this particular event for several years but always had to work and couldn't find anyone to come in early for me but this year I was able to get coverage and was delighted that the day had turned out so beautifully.

I arrived at the cemetery with plenty of time to spare and after signing in (something about insurance purposes) I took my copy of the hand-out and waited with approximately 30-40 other people for the tour to begin. I had mentioned the tour to Frank from work so he and his girlfriend, Dawn, joined me just before the "walk" began.
The gentlemen conducting the tour introduced themselves and then proceeded to read from the hand-out that we had been given. I thought, well, okay, perhaps the introduction is a little dry but I'm sure it will get better once we get moving and can see some actual graves of Civil War heroes from Norwich. All told there are 375 Civil War veterans buried in Yantic Cemetery. Amongst them are five generals and one admiral along with William Buckingham, Connecticut's Governor during the Civil War. In addition, the grave of Lafayette Foster, Vice President of the United States following the assassination of President Lincoln can be located there. A very impressive line-up indeed!

We finally moved from our spot in front of the cemetery and walked to our first grave which was that of Major General Henry W. Birge, Norwich's highest ranking officer. While we stood gathered around his modest grave, the gentleman leading the tour again started reading from the hand-out that we were all holding in our hands. As he read, I watched the people around me start to fidget and glance around the cemetery at other graves and other places; some started to break away from the group and walk around on their own; one actually laid down on the grass and looked for all the world like she was settled in for a nice nap.

I leaned over to Frank and commented that this was not what I was expecting, that I had been hoping that the tour would be led by someone who had a good grasp of the history of the place and its inhabitants, that I would be learning more than what was already typed out on the papers in my hand. To put it simply - this was boring - completely and totally boring. Frank said that the guy sounded like a nervous fifth-grader reading his history report - a badly written history report at that!

Eventually what was left of the group moved a few feet over to the next grave and again information was read from the hand-out. That was it, we'd had enough - myself, Frank, and Dawn had completely lost interest in the tour and instead branched out on our own. I showed them the graves that I thought were the most interesting while we took our own walk through the back half of the cemetery. Apparently we weren't the only ones who had lost interest as there were small groups of people walking around on their own in all areas.

Now, while I would enjoy any opportunity to walk around in Yantic Cemetery, particularly on a glorious Fall day, I have to admit that I am very disappointed in the way this "tour" turned out. It was nothing like I thought it would be and the knowledge that I had hoped to gain was not to be found. I've been told that some of the Walking Weekend tours that they have are absolutely fantastic but apparently this wasn't one of them. That's not to say that it was a complete waste of time for I did get a poorly typed, misspelled in many places, batch of papers to use as research material on my own and that's not something I had before!

Once again, though, I am reminded that so many things in life don't live up to the hype that proceeds them. So many things sound good or look good but they just don't turn out the way that we expect them to. Perhaps that's the problem with expectations - we expect too much from them.

Oh well, there are worse disappointments. I just can't think of any right at the moment!

Friday, October 6, 2006

"Oh, shine on, shine on harvest moon up in the sky." ~ Jack Norworth, 1908

I love the night sky with its mysterious stars and planets. Gazing up on a clear night is a humbling experience as it's then that you can see how very big the universe is and how very small a part of it we are. That's even more the case this time of year when we have just passed the autumnal equinox, one of the two times a year when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are of equal length, and we get to enjoy the Full Harvest Moon.

As defined in the Old Farmers' Almanac:

Full Harvest Moon - This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. At the peak of harvest, farmers can work late into the night by the light of this Moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice the chief Indian staples are now ready for gathering.
This year's autumnal equinox occured on September 23rd which makes the full moon this weekend a Full Harvest Moon and it will be at its glorious peak tonight at 11:12 p.m. If you never go outside and look up in the sky to look at the moon, tonight would be the perfect time to start as it's going to be absolutely beautiful and breathtaking.

Due to a call-out at work yesterday, I ended up working a ridiculous amount of hours (close to 21) and when I left work at 3:30 a.m. the moon was a beautiful sight hanging over Norwich. Unlike the sun, when the moon illuminates the landscape it's kinder to it and it can make just about any place seem enchanted. Walking up my porch steps (okay, more like dragging myself up my porch steps!) when I got home, I spent a few moments standing on the porch and looking up into the night sky. The moon was brilliant, the stars were just as bright, and I felt that all was as it should be.
"God's in His Heaven, all's right with the world" ~ Robert Browning, English poet (1812-1889)
I hope the weather allows for the moon to be seen again tonight for even though I have no crops to gather or moon rituals to perform, I'm sure it will be a beautiful sight. Take a look up at the night sky and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

"After eating chocolate you feel godlike, as though you can conquer enemies, lead armies, entice lovers." ~ Emily Luchetti

Paula called me last Friday evening and asked if Amanda was going to spend the night at her friend Rachel's again as she seems to do just about every weekend. That was, in fact, the case which meant that I had a free evening to myself which I had planned to spend hunkered down on the couch in front of the TV while catching up on recorded shows on the DVR and ignoring the cat's plaintive cries for "Food! More food!".

Paula had a better idea and suggested that after I drop the kid off in Preston I continue on up to Canterbury for steaks on the grill and a bottle of Sam Adams Oktoberfest. That sounded like a darned fine idea to me as a grilled steak with fresh vegetables (yes, Amanda, I said fresh!) sounded wonderful, a Sam Adams would take the edge off of a long week, and Paula is infinitely better company than the cat! It was an easy choice to decide to make the trek to the wilds of Canterbury and that's exactly what I did.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by Paula and an ice-cold Sam which went down surprisingly easy considering I drink beer or ale generally only once in a blue moon. As a matter of fact, the last Oktoberfest ale I had was again in Paula's company over at Mustang Mary's on Laurel Hill across from my house (which sadly appears to have either closed up shop or is under-going the world's most extensive renovations as the sign out front has been proclaiming that for almost the entire year!).

During the course of a wonderful dinner (thanks again, Paula!), her mother shared an article that she had recently read in Prevention Magazine about the benefits of dark chocolate entitled "Why You Need Chocolate". No doubt this article was geared to women everywhere and there isn't a single one of us that wouldn't rejoice at its findings!

Several studies have confirmed that the antioxidants in dark chocolate help lower levels of "bad" cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, and help prevent type 2 diabetes. There is also research indicating that the flavonols in chocolate may have cancer-fighting qualities though more research outside of a test tube needs to be done.

According to the article, the trick is to eat the "right" chocolate - the chocolate with the highest amount of flavonols (antioxidants) as that is what's going to give you the most health benefits.
"Flavonol content can vary widely among chocolate products. According to Harold Schmitz, PhD, director of science at Mars Inc., a chocolate manufacturer, how the cocoa beans are grown, picked, fermented, transported, and processed can all reduce flavonol levels. Mars is trying to remedy this with CocoaVia, a line of chocolate products made with Cocoapro, its own specially processed cocoa that is engineered to be high in flavonols. "It's the first cocoa product designed to taste great and overtly make a contribution to heart health," Schmitz says. Cocoapro is used in Mars' Dove Dark chocolate, and independent studies have shown that 1-1/3 ounces a day of Dove Dark delivers cardiovascular benefits. Just remember: That amount also packs 200 calories."
The on-line article also offers a link to a page on the best dark chocolates which breaks the top nine brands down by nutritional value, cost, and where to buy them. I'll bet it was hard to be in on that study! Why do I make my living dispatching ambulances when there are great jobs like that out there??? How many people are lucky enough to say "I have to go to work to eat chocolate today." ... oh sigh ...

All in all I would have to say it was a Friday evening well-spent; I had a wonderful time at Paula's casa where I not only got to eat a great meal that someone else cooked but I learned that it's not only okay to eat chocolate - it's good for me! I couldn't have asked for a better evening! Now, if you'll excuse me I need to go become godlike ...