Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Not lonely here

Did you ever feel lonely?  (Sounds like a country and western song.)  Did you ever sit by yourself, maybe watching the rain splatter against the window, or all alone in a near empty airport late at night with nothing to do but feel the heavy press of loneliness engulf your soul?  Have you said good by to all the family and friends after a joyous occasion at your home and as the last person shuts the door; you stand alone and a sudden pang of loneliness clutches at your heart?  Have you?  How about when you're alone taking the Christmas tree down, storing all the lights and accessories then you look at the emptiness?  Does a melancholic loneliness grab at you?  Does it?  Sometimes I hear people talk about being lonely in a crowd, in a bed sleeping beside a partner, in the forest, or on a beach.  There are so many instances loneliness can capture your very being...but not mine. 

Loneliness has chased me around the world, nipping, swiping, but it never caught me and never will.  How have I successfully avoided this dreaded emotion?  The answer is simple -  great memories.  I retain countless memories of love, joy, family and friends.  Even bad memories allow you to elude loneliness and thank God, I don't have many of those..  I'm not pretending I didn't do some bad things, even real stupid things, but I usually had a tremendous amount of fun doing them.  Those memories sometimes make me laugh out loud.  (Yes, I've received some questioning stares.)  I have been blessed with a life filled with love ranging from tenderly warm to passionately intense.  I've experienced more joy than any one person deserves.

My reminiscences aren't always about the highs in my life, a few relate to the lows.  One thing the lows make me mindful of is why I nurture my faith.  When I had hit my nadir, the Lord has always sent someone to see me through, lift me up.  That's why I accept my faith, not question it.  Great stuff, huh?  And that is the reason loneliness is just a word to me, not a feeling.

Have a wonderful 2012...I know I will because I'm setting my goals on making great new memories. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Shopping

Ah, Christmas!  What emotions the word brings to all Christians.  One of the two most significant days in the Christian faith.  No one can escape it, the Hallelujahs, spiritual decorations, the joy.  The spirit of Christianity abounds during this season.  Through the years, how many Noels have you sung?  How many special events have you attended at church?  The birth of Jesus Christ...WOW...quite the celebration... as it should be.

Then there's the secondary phase for Christmas, the giving of presents derived from the Magi.  Remember the story in Matthew about the Three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem?  The Eastern Christian Church celebrates Epiphany on January 6 and sets the number of Magi at twelve, but Western tradition sets their number at three, probably based on the three gifts of “gold and frankincense and myrrh.

When you were a kid, do you remember what a big deal Christmas was?  (Good for you; some of us can't.)  Most youngsters relate to the event by thinking about presents.  We instill this in children's minds with letters to Santa, sitting on Santa's knee at the local mall telling him what they want, making out lists, etc.  It's not a bad thing, but I wish parents would emphasize the real meaning of Christmas a little more.  As an example, my daughters have a special birthday celebration for baby Jesus, including a cake.  I realize churches do their utmost with Christmas pageants and services, but I believe parents should communicate the true meaning of Christmas at home.

Speaking of presents brings up the subject of shopping for them.  Normally I'm a traditionalist; I love old customs that help family units and friendships bond.  However there is one old practice I'm ready to cease, abate, quit, stop, give up, never do again--Christmas shopping, at least in the traditional form.

I once had a business agent in South Africa say,  "I don't know how you Americans can make a decision.  You have so many choices."  He hit the nail on the proverbial head, but he should have continued with "and so many stores to buy them in."  One would conclude that you could go to a single place to purchase all your gifts.  But not at Christmas time.

As she's putting me to bed, placing my head, shoulders and feet in the correct position so I don't wake up looking like a saltless pretzel, Gal Friday mentions,  "We're doing a little shopping tomorrow."  Sounds innocuous enough, right?  So I give her the ole,  "Sure, Honey."  (Bite your tongue, Edward.)  In the morning she helps me get out of bed, into my chair and into the bathroom.  Then the fun begins.  She undresses me, helps me into the shower chair and bathes moi.  After the towel dance and application of various lotions, of which I'm afraid to inquire about, she dresses me, gets me back in my chariot and we're ready to go.  Oops, I forgot breakfast.  I'm already exhausted and ready for a nap.  I figure she has to be too.  But there's something amazing about women; no matter how tired or sick or depressed they may be, they can always muster up strength for shopping.  God gave them a special organ called the shopping reserve.

We are lucky, depending on your point of view, to live just a short twenty miles from an outlet shopping complex.  This fact, along with the absence of state and local sales taxes, initiates a warm glow in the hearts of all area women.  At this time of year the warm glow heats up to a white hot flame.  Is it the shopping or spending that evokes such rapture? I'll never understand, but then again, I don't think we guys are supposed to.

Gal Friday is ready; she has made out her list. List-making is a favorite sport of hers. She has elevated making lists to an art form. The problem sometimes arises when she forgets where she last placed her lists. Regardless, she has her list, which is long enough to challenge a roll of toilet paper. I've learned not to have her secure my chair to the van floor because of the numerous times we'll be shopping in different stores. It takes time and effort on her part to continually tie me in and let me out of the floor four-buckle system and this alone would wear out a healthy teenager.

The outlet center is not like going to a mall where all the stores are under one roof. The center is spread out over approximately the same distance as from L.A. to Bangor, Maine. If you have twenty items on your list, you will have to visit about thirty stores. Many shops will be out of the item and they'll direct you to another. What fun to find thirty different parking spaces. What a joy to find thirty spaces that allow the van's ramp to deploy. Handicap parking spots are always taken and we have to park so far away the lights from the emporiums are dim. Why is it that there may be a row of stores a mile long, but only one of two places for a wheelchair to get up the curb to store level? Why don't these palaces of pleasure or pain, depending on one's outlook, install automatic doors, not just for handicapped people, but for anyone inhibited by opening doors? By the time I roll down the ramp in East of Eden until I get inside a store, I'm tired and frozen. Gal Friday sneaks me into the ladies room and uses the hand drier to defrost me. We love the family bathrooms.

OK, we're in the store, I'm back to a near normal temperature and Gal Friday's ready with list in hand. She tells me to follow and don't get lost. She starts down a main aisle but then darts into an alley about one foot narrower than my chair. As commanded, I follow. The slim path reminds me of a Lionel train track. Have you ever shopped from a sitting position? I have a great chair that goes forward, backward, up, down, but not in and out. You can't shrink the size of my ride. When in these narrow aisles, usually my chair extends about six inches into the items hanging on both sides. I'm a fairly adept pilot, but nobody can navigate through a maze of tiny pathways bordered by racked clothing without a single mishap.

Invariably, my trusted leader winds me through the women's undergarment department. Sometimes I exit with a bra, usually A cup, hanging off one ear and a pair of thongs that could encircle a pregnant elephant. Does Gal Friday do this on purpose...nah, she's too nice for that...isn't she? Speaking about bras, brings to mind a grievance of mine. My chair height places my eyes at the same level as most women's breasts. I'm so sick of looking at lady's endowments. Er, I lost my train of thought. Oh yes, the wonderment of Christmas shopping.

After plowing through hundreds of these slim pathways, we come to the department claiming one item on her list. At the third garment of the same item, with a jeweler's loop, she examines it for flaws and finding none, decides to make the purchase. She asks my opinion. I didn't care if the item was slashed on Elm Street, extra large for a petite niece, or made on Mars, I tell her it's perfect. I am so ready to go. We depart for checkout. Whoa, all but one checkout counters are closed. This one is manned by a feeble old woman who reminded me of Whistler's mother. I checked her pulse to confirm life. Her speed...reverse. A line that could circle the globe waited to ring up their purchases. Sometimes a wheelchair comes in handy. Some people simply wore out waiting. The store manager thoughtfully furnished oxygen and in extreme cases, cots. I was ecstatic; only twenty-nine more stores to go.

Next year, instead of Christmas presents for adults, I'm making donations in their names to charities. The kids--well there's shopping on line.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Penn State and Syracuse

As many of you know I was a co-founder and first board chairman of the Tennessee 9th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in 1999.  It now is named "Kids First."  We treat ages 3-17.  Our mission is to intervene in cases of child abuse.  Nothing less than a herculean effort by many gifted and determined people was needed to bring this project to success.  Our dedicated board members worked with state, county and city governments to assure we met all criteria and, of course, to beg for money.  I wore out the knees in a dozen pair of slacks from begging, pleading and grovelling.  Then again, I shouldn't complain, it was excellent practice for marriage.

Raising money in Appalachia was like cleaning I-95 with a toothbrush.  After constantly hitting the bricks days and nights with our message, people began to listen and understand the child abuse issue and the epidemic proportions it had reached in our district.  We presented in every conceivable place we could.  We talked to audiences ranging from a lone individual to gatherings of hundreds. After a year and a half of exhausting efforts, we started receiving donations from various sources including families, businesses, churches, civic organizations and governments.  We also applied for grants from every foundation with a mission even remotely close to ours.  Believe me, it was no picnic filling out those requests for proposals.  As I look back, I'm amazed we pulled it off, but somehow we did.  My hat goes off to this stellar group of volunteer board members who worked so diligently, giving so much time and effort to our cause.  God bless you all. 

Before we established the CAC, an abused child would submit to an investigative process almost as traumatic as the actual event.  An example would go like this:

Little Shirley, a six-year old, acts out in class and the teacher observes this behavior and decides it's suspicious.  She calls Child Services.  By law, this department has to respond within two days.  The next day they send a case worker to the family home to interview little Shirley to determine if something is wrong.  Can you imagine little Shirley having to tell an adult stranger about the worst thing that's happened to her in her whole life and possibly in front of the perpetrator?  To the best of her ability, the case worker will determine who the non-offending individual is so they can deal with him or her.  In an extreme case they remove the child from the home, but not usually.  If the case worker feels there is enough evidence to proceed, the local police are informed.

Unknown to most not living in Appalachia, local police stations often are also jails and to describe them as throwbacks to medieval times is more than complimentary.  Appalachia is a poverty-ridden area and can't afford modern jails.  Most of the time they are pretty old, beat up, dingy, dirty edifices  Many times the inmates are lounging around out of the cells chatting with the police personnel.  Can you imagine little Shirley carted to an environment like this to once again tell her traumatic story to another total stranger and this one in a uniform of authority?  During my research, I visited some of these jails and always was happier than hell to get away...scary places.

Weeks later Shirley has to go to the District Attorney's office and disclose her awful story again.  By now her story may change a little because of so many retellings and time gone by.  The prosecution rate is low, which means these molesters are still lurking out there waiting for their next victim.

Next our six-year old girl has to be examined by a doctor trained in child forensics.  This is a specialty and sometimes it takes months to get an appointment because the case load is so heavy.  Some kids handle this waiting period well while others don't.  Their anxiety level builds with each passing day.  The exam itself requires special equipment and is invasive.  No child should have to go through it.

Finally, though not always finally, comes therapy for Shirley.

Not a very pleasant story is it and I haven't included all the details.  Do you know a little six-year old girl?  Can you imagine her going through all this?  Do you understand why I say the process is as traumatic as the actual act?

The CAC changed things.  We at first rented but eventually built a child-friendly place to bring the kids to.  (See picture below)  All the land, furniture, toys, handmade blankets, equipment and many services were donated.  All the wall paintings were done by volunteers from a local art guild.

The kids initially come with fear and anxiety, so we have a playroom to relax in and wonderful volunteers to play with.  The room is decorated in fanciful colors and themes.  Then, when it's time, we have a professionally-trained forensic interviewer on staff who conducts the ONE-TIME interview in a specially designed room with a one-way mirror.  In an adjacent room, unbeknown to the child, the interview is observed by a team including the CAC director, a member of the police from the city or county where the child lives, a member of the district attorney's office and a doctor or nurse .  During the interview,  if any of the team members needs a question answered, they can communicate with the interviewer by way of headsets.  The CAC even keeps the rape kits and chain of evidence.  Shirley has to tell her story ONE TIME and in a warm, child- friendly environment where kids get validation and support.

We also have on staff a specially trained volunteer doctor and nurse who do the forensic exam.  The medical room is also finished in a children's decor.  Each child is given a soft handmade blanket before the exam to take home.  After the exam they go to our toy closet to choose a toy to take home too.  We strive to do everything possible to comfort the kids.

Please notice our sign in the picture below.  The logo was designed and donated by my daughter, Kris, who is a graphic designer and marketing professional.  Some of our staff is pictured.  We use the car for our outreach program to schools, churches and other groups.  Teaching young people about awareness is important and helps to break the abuse cycle.

We have two certified therapists to engage, not just the abused child, but also the remaining non-abuser family members, in our counseling program.  Therapy is extended until needed no more.

Our staff also includes a person to help the family through the court process.  Like all of our services, it's free of charge.

In 2010 we had 342 cases and that just covers an area of four small counties.  Those are reported cases only.  The national statistics claim one in every five children are abused in some form.  Because of our efforts, kids and families heal and go on to brighter futures.  Since we opened ten years ago the prosecution rate has risen dramatically. 

So, what do I think of Sandusky at Penn State and Fine at Syracuse?  If they're found guilty, I don't think there is an adequate punishment to mete out.  I think the same is true of authorities that allow this behavior and cover it up.  I've seen way too many little Shirleys.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Home

Well, here it is...the new shack about two weeks ago. That's me sitting on what will be the partially covered patio. That is if the money holds out. The project is moving along rapidly, more quickly than we ever expected. The sun room, to the immediate left of me, is yet to be framed and roofed. We're waiting for the therapy pool to arrive before we can enclose the room. The turret roof on the tower (extreme left) was finished since this picture was taken. This shot is the rear of the house taken from the water's edge.

The three windows in the topless tower are in my new office. Gal Friday's office is above mine, but no windows. When she's in her office, I want her working, not sitting idly by looking at the beautiful sight of the Albemarle Sound. Bah humbug!

Please notice the "Carolina Blue" sky. All University of North Carolina fans insist their school must be the best, otherwise, they ask, why did God make the sky "Carolina Blue." Duke fans have tried all kinds of skulduggery to transform the sky to a darker shade, but it just ain't happenin'.
 
The view below shows the water from the kitchen and the missing glassed-in sun room. I forgot to take a photo of the front of the house. Truthfully, I'm not positive there is a front to the house. I gallantly tried my best to direct the design/builder's focus on the back where I'll be spending all my time.

Our regulation size (10' wide by 60' long) bocce ball court will be constructed at the rear of our shack. We hope to get a neighborhood league going and the only fee charged will be beer. Gal Friday is contesting this arrangement, but I'm stubbornly holding out. It's like a labor vs. management dispute with Gal Friday obviously representing management. They usually win, don't they? Hell, we'll probably end up supplying and serving wine, if not more stimulating libations.

Despite my initial objections, we are installing an elevator which enables me access to the second floor. I had no reason to go to the second floor. The second floor is where Gal Friday's office sits and I knew going to her office would somehow transform into work for moi. Besides, the cost of the elevator wiped out Ed's playroom over the garage. She changed my "no" vote into a "yes" by explaining this contraption would allow me to get to the guest bedrooms and read to my grandkids at bedtime. I retaliated with, "I can read to them downstairs before bedtime." I thought this a lucid retort. Then she delivered the clincher. "But, Sweetheart, this will let you say prayers with your grandchildren when they're in bed." How can you fight that? That's why she's management.

Speaking of grandchildren, mine are, of course, above average. Every grandparent feels the same. We had the pleasure of spending Thanksgiving with them. Oh yeah, I think their parents were around too. Those two boys and two girls light up any room including that special room in my heart. Part of the reason for building the new house is to be closer to all the kids- including my two girls and their husbands, who are still kids at heart. Next Thanksgiving we hope to have them all celebrating at the new homestead.

When we bought this property, I had envisioned building a fishing shack suitable for my wheelchair. This image has been torpedoed. The reality reminds me of a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly and while the butterfly is definitely prettier, like most beautiful objects, much more expensive. I'll be mailing out donation requests soon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Go Team

Who should I root for?  Pulling for the hometown competitors in pro football has been a passion I love.  My problem is when I move to another location, it's hard to disengage from the last team I felt so zealously about.

Growing up in upstate NY, I had blind allegiance to the Giants.  Every Sunday we would gather in front of the tube to watch and cheer on our beloved players like Conerly, Gifford, Huff and Grier.  This was  facemaskless  football and on black and white TV.   Back then,  if a man danced in the end zone, everyone would think he was coming out of the closet.   Upon graduating college, I heeded the advice of Horace Greeley and sought a future in the West.  Unfortunately GPS was yet to be invented and I ended up in Miami, Florida.  Obviously I made a wrong turn. 

I arrived in the land of sun and fun just in time for the Dolphins' initial year in the old American Football League.   George Wilson coached the teal and orange-clad squad.  His son quarterbacked.  I remember the Miami Herald's front page picture of young Mr. Wilson posing on the beach dressed in his colorful uniform with the blue waters of the Atlantic as a dramatic backdrop.  Quite a kaleidoscope of color.  The plea was to come out and support your new champions.  Exciting times in the land of the palms.   Trying to be  loyal to this new team, I suffered terribly.  Wrenching my affiliation away from the boys in blue and transposing my affections to guys dressed in teal and orange--teal, my God--caused physical and mental problems.  Waking up sweating and screaming from nightmares caused by guilt produced so much misery, I decided to move back North.

I searched for work and landed a job in Ithaca, NY.  Aha, back to the land of Giants.  My tortured soul was calmly soothed and piece of mind followed.  I began a position with an utility company selling gas.  Selling gas was not an exactly difficult proposition; people were clamoring for gas.  I actually worked at my job on Monday morning and the rest of the week tried to keep myself busy with long lunches, shooting pool and golf.  Recognizing alcoholism just around the corner with this lifestyle, I sought new and more challenging employment.  

Buffalo became my next place of residence.  My job was definitely more satisfying, but I faced once again switching football allegiance.  At least this time the team had blue in their colors.  At that time the Buffalo Bills had a running back named O.J. Simpson and he was worth the price of a ticket.  Sitting all bundled up in the cheap seats of the old War Memorial Stadium was icy cold but thrilling.  Jack Kemp did such a good job as QB, he got elected to Congress.

Now I had a soft spot in my heart for three teams--the Giants, Dolphins and Bills.  Sundays I spent a lot of time exercising because TV remotes weren't available yet.  One morning my office phone woke me and I learned of my transfer to Washington.  No man or woman who lives in the DC area dare not sacrifice one's  life, kids or right to vote, for the Redskins.  Sundays got harder.

I moved to North Carolina.  NC didn't have a pro team then--phew.   North Carolinians rooted for the Redskins.  Next came South Carolina.  South Carolinians pro team of choice was called the Falcons, who played out of Atlanta.  Hell, if I had room in my heart for four teams, why not five?    

As luck would have it, when I returned to NC, a new team started.  These guys, the Panthers, wore some color close to teal, but regardless, I championed their cause   Now Sundays became a nightmare.  Thank God for remotes.

Titans in Tennessee.  Yep, Jeff Fisher and his crew became my local hometown favorites when I retired to a pastoral village on a lake near Knoxville.  By now I purchased a TV with a feature called a picture within a picture so I could watch two games at once.  By deftly using my remote, I could orchestrate the channels to observe parts of four games at a time.

Trying to keep count, I believe I'm up to seven favorite teams.  It's difficult being a true fan of seven favorite teams, but thanks to Sunday double headers, Sunday night football, Monday night football and now Thursday night football, I have a chance. 

I now live in Delaware where the fans are split between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens.   I'm too old and feeble to take on yet another favorite team.  Next year Gal Friday and I are moving into our new "Aging in Place" house on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina.  Back to the Panthers.  Were these the guys wearing teal?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Old friends, old values

I received an email recently that warmed the cockles of my heart, whatever that means.  I just looked up the definition and it is described as "the core of one's being."  That's pretty heavy stuff, but so was this email from an old high school friend named Connie.

Connie sent me some pictures of her granddaughter getting her hair cut to donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.  I can only imagine the joy and self-esteem these real hair pieces bring to these youngsters.

When serving as a member of a state Make A Wish board, I witnessed so many bald children, mostly from chemo, who wore hats to cover, not only their heads, but also to hide their shame.  I know a hairpiece would have made a tremendous difference to these children.  They suffered a lot more than loss of hair, including the loss of life, but their baldness acted as a searing scar that caused attention to their awful plight.  Hairpieces would have meant so much. 

I thought what a great thing to see Connie's daughter instilling these types of values in her girl.  Seeing an eight-year-old giving of herself instead of asking for more, caught my attention.   But should it?  Why did I jump to a conclusion this act was abnormal?  Why did I feel today's children aren't caring and giving? Why would I think this new generation would be less so than the previous?  The quick and obvious answer is media.

My daughters have made sure their kids know about the correct values in life.  My wife and I taught our girls the concepts of caring for others, loving thy neighbors, helping the less fortunate, and they have passed these same values on, just like my parents did.

Since Connie is a high school friend, I began thinking about other high school friends and how they brought up their children and if their children continued teaching values to their kids.  After reflection, I could easily see this was exactly what took place.  I'm not naive enough to believe every child who is raised with good values turns into a productive adult, but most of the ones I know have.  And I have no reason to believe my friends are different from people in any other part of America, with the possible exception of California...just kidding, John.

So the next time you see or hear "shocking" news about some kid "gone wrong," remember there are thousands more "gone right."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Help

Yikes, please help me.  I'm more confused than ever.  It's about this global thinking thing.  As I understand it, the global economy means a world wide network with unrestricted movement of capital, goods, services and labor.  It seems to me, since we shifted our focus from our country's finances, productivity, civil rights, trade, etc. to the international stage, things haven't been going so well for our citizens.  Our government has directed us toward global interest and our so called economists do the same.  Am I being ultra patriotic to think our government should pay a little more attention to our national interests?  Is global thinking non-patriotic?  Is it OK to root for America to regain the stability it once enjoyed at home and its status internationally?  Am I a traitor for thinking globally or a traitor thinking nationally?  The Olympic Games are on the horizon; is it OK to shout U-S-A?

Our strategy to join with other nations, most of whom are somewhat dependent on us anyway, to upgrade the world seems to me to be diluting our strengths at home.  Are we actually helping other counties while asking our citizens to make sacrifices on our own terra firma?  The globalists say that may be true, but it's a temporary condition and the world will be a better place in the long run.  I'm beginning to question if this country will even be around in the long run.  What is the long run--when all people sing in perfect harmony and everyone drinks Coke?

Mentioning the Olympics brought to mind China with its billion (that starts with a B) residents.  The Great Dragon's tail was dragging, but now is wagging.  They are purported to be the next super power.  The United States of America is now borrowing money from them to bail out our financial gurus.  These same Wizards of Wall Street and Corporate America sent our nation's jobs over the Great Wall so they could make a little more profit.  Congress abetted them by passing laws like NAFTA.  Of course we all know who runs those 535 jokers on the Hill.  So the toys we loved are now being manufactured in China, not here.  Guess what?  While we suffer high unemployment, our government is now telling us these toys are not safe.  Hmm.  Is this a nightmare I'm experiencing or is this for real?

How about our textile industry?  Oh, never mind, we don't have one anymore.

Yes, let's think globally.  Look at foreign aid.  Could it possibly be time to restructure that policy?  We give aid to people who hate us.  We also give aid to their enemies so some balance exists that might eliminate conflict.  It's really helping in the Middle East where people are being killed daily.  Look at the money we've given to starving people around our globe that goes to some dictator's coffers, while the deaths pile up.  I guess the argument for global thinking could make a case, I think.  I don't get it, but I'm just a simple citizen.  I can't help wonder what some of this money would do to help modernize our infrastructure or eradicate poverty or improve our educational system.  Will it happen?  Not with our current circus of lawmakers.

So I have this conundrum, globalism versus nationalism.  Which seems more patriotic?  I looked up the word patriotism and it's defined this way - "love or devotion for one's country."  Then I consulted Mr. Webster once again and looked up the word nationalism.  Here's the definition--"loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups."  Nationalism took on a pretty bad connotation because of Nazi Germany, but that kind of nationalism was to a degree of lunacy.

OK, so I love my country, but my government is telling me to think more globally.  It's rather difficult watching big business send jobs overseas so their shareholders can make a few more bucks, while unemployment is killing our country.  So am I unpatriotic to want a little nationalism?  This introduces a whole new set of questions and the main one is this - to be a patriot should one be devoted to one's country or one's government?  We pledge allegiance to our flag which represents our country and its constitution, not its government.  To answer these types of questions, I often refer back to history, especially American history.  How would our forefathers respond?

Well, ole' Tom Jefferson would probably retort with something like this.  "Are you crazy, knucklehead?  What the hell do you think we're revolting against?  Why are our citizens dying in a war against those tax-happy Redcoats?  We're trying to rid ourselves of a government of monarchy and form a new government, a perfect union for the people and by the people.  We are loyal to our country and hopefully our new government.  However, when government doesn't abide by the rules of our constitution, revolt may be necessary, you jerk."

Jeez, Mr. Jefferson, I was only asking.  So I guess that question was a no-brainer.  I wish our Congress would read the Constitution of the United States of America.  I don't remember anything in it about global thinking.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

America

This is not a warm, fuzzy, feel-good essay about our great country.  This is an observation from a guy who has been around the block a few times.  Did you ever stop to think about--I mean REALLY think about--what a blessing it is to be born in this country?  I never did until I traveled around the globe for business. 

As a little boy, I didn't know anything about the world past my own block, much less other countries.   When I grew into my teens, I was so busy having fun that worldwide events didn't concern me.  My biggest worries were passing tests, acne and dating--although not necessarily in that order.  Since I attended a local college, my life was an extension of high school--without the acne.  My draft rating was "Four F" so the Viet Nam War didn't drastically impact my life.

It was when I left the Mohawk Valley and transported this naive young man to Miami that my awareness grew.  I now lived about 90 miles from an island named Cuba.  Wait a minute, Cuba?  Wasn't that the place where the Communists had missiles pointed directly at South Florida?  I began talking to some of the Cuban refugees in Miami and learned that a fellow named Castro took away their freedom and dictated everyday living.  Some of the stories I heard made an horrific impression.

The first Cubans who escaped to Miami were  those who could afford to buy their way out.  These were professionals--doctors, lawyers, professors, educated people.  They couldn't practice without American certification so they took menial jobs but they stuck together and improved old run-down neighborhoods.  They were honest, hard-working people and I give them a lot of credit.  The same is not true of the second wave of Cuban refugees.  Many were the criminal element that invaded Miami when Castro emptied the jails.  That's when the drug problem started.

Later I entered the textile industry and traveled domestically throughout the South and Northeast.   When I advanced to international sales, I began world travel.  Wow, what an eye opener.  Seeing other cultures and living conditions is a true education.  Something happens to you.  It's not like a sudden change--that proverbial bolt from the blue--but instead, a gradual maturation of awareness.  Subtle happenings you experience manifest thoughts migrating from your subconscious to a conscious level.  You begin to identify with images you observe and realize differences from "back home."  Often these images distinctly tell a story about what's not there more than what is. 

I read somewhere being born in the USA automatically places you in the top 97th percentile of wage earners in the world.  Hello!  How's that for luck?  We didn't do anything to earn this, just fortunate enough to be born here.  Now that's what I call a real entitlement.

But what about our poor people?  Many of the people our government classifies as poverty level would live regally in many other nations.  I'm not saying it's good or bad, but I've seen the difference.  One of the great notions in this country is helping others and we do.  We are rated as number one in charity, but we shouldn't take pride in that fact.  We SHOULD be number one.  We are no more altruistic than the people of a third world country.  It's just that we have the resources to reach out and help when they don't.  They are fighting for survival.

I've lived and volunteered in Appalachia.  For years I helped to better the condition of the poor.  At Christmas we gave gift packages to impoverished kids and families.  Some of the children's packages consisted of toys, bikes and all kinds of clothing including shoes and coats.  Some poverty-level families have many more than one child and by the time we finished lavishing all the gifts out, I couldn't help but feel guilty when remembering starving kids dying in other countries.  Poverty in this country isn't exactly the same as many other places.  I hope we can someday eradicate poverty in America and move on to other locations.

Because of the Internet, facts and figures showing how the good ole USA compares to the rest of the world are at my rigid digits, but figures on a sheet of paper don't tell the story.  Let me put it this way--when I go to bed, I thank God every night for being born in America.

Think about all the daily choices you make.  Just having choices is a big deal in other parts of the world.  In some locations the choice of the day is eating a scrap of food or giving it to your child.  I've seen whole communities of people living in cardboard boxes with no electricity or toilet facilities.  We take insignificant and major modes of living for granted.  When I first went to Mexico City, guards with automatic weapons were stationed at bank doors.  I remember my shock at no toilet paper in the office building's restrooms.  Many didn't have toilet seats.  Real poverty can turn honest people into criminals and they steal anything that will help them survive.  In the Philippines kids bathe and play in open sewers.  In South Africa, female textile workers go to their jobs only when their tribal chief allows.

When I pledge allegiance to our flag, I also include a heartfelt thank you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mom's Towel

An e-mail I received today from an old high school friend opened a floodgate of memories concerning my much loved mother.  When I say "much loved," I don't mean just by me or our family but by everyone who came in contact with her.  I truly don't remember anyone saying a bad thing about Mom.

The note from my friend Dave, explain he found...well, let me show you his words..."Been cleaning out some stuff here and found an old face towel. The ends were decorated with beautiful blue, homemade edging. This was part of a wedding present your mom gave us 46 years ago. The other pieces were long ago worn out. I think I will keep this one."

Yes, that would have come from my mother.  Mom was an invalid.  She coped with muscular dystrophy and heart problems.  Her vision was problematic too.  She had to undergo cataract surgery brought on by the MD.  The operation was much different then.  In fact I brought her to Ithaca, where I lived, to have the procedure done.  As required back then, she had to recuperate for many weeks and my wife at that time, my dad and I nursed her back to health. We did the same for the second eye.  Boy, it's a lot easier today.

Because she was housebound, she couldn't get out to buy gifts.  She wouldn't let anybody do it for her either.  She insisted on making something special for each person.  She said she wanted each gift to contain some of her love.  It wasn't an easy task for her.  Besides muscular weakening in her arms and hands, the MD also caused drooping eyelids.  We used to tape her eyelids up and rig special lighting so she could perform her work.  I vividly recall her hunched over with her glasses close to her project and knitting or crochet needles almost clinking against those specs.  It would take her days to accomplish what a healthy person could do in minutes but she always managed to live up to the challenge.

Once I asked if I or anyone could help her.  She refused any assistance saying it wouldn't be right.  She wouldn't take credit for a gift from her if it wasn't totally her craftsmanship.  She explained her effort was part of the love she wanted to convey.  I often wondered if some of the recipients realized the sweat equity and love their presents represented.  Many, like my friend Dave, did.

Dave mentioned the wedding present was given 46 years ago.  Mom was 64 at that time, five years before her death.  Those were tough years for the regal lady.  In February of '69 I had just come back to Ithaca from visiting Mom in the Ilion hospital, when my brother-in-law called to tell me of her passing.

Through the years I've read many descriptions of people's reactions to news such as this but I honestly don't believe you can describe it.  I've heard people say it's like getting a blow to the gut or knocking the wind from your sails  but it's so much more.  I remember I felt an immediate sense of loss of boundless love and unconditional protection.  And that was just the start. (I never thought this would be so hard to write about.)

My wife was eight months pregnant with our first child, Danielle, and Mom had told me she'd try her best to see our baby.  She promised, with all her will and strength, she would fight off the grim reaper to hold my daughter in her arms.  It's the only time in my life Mother didn't keep a promise to me and it took death to make it happen.  The early morning of my mother's funeral we rushed my wife to the hospital to give birth to a premature, jaundiced little girl.  It was symbolic Dani was born in the same small hometown hospital mom died in.  I'm convinced God conceived this scenario to ease the pain of my mother's death with the joy of my daughter's birth.  Later that morning I left the hospital to attend Mother's funeral.

While cleaning out a closet a  few months ago, Gal Friday found an old, small, flat cardboard box.  Inside she discovered a few linen handkerchiefs with dainty crocheted edgings of various colors.  I recognized Mom's handiwork.  I thought about the work and the love they represented.

At first I considered giving them to my daughters, but young folks today don't place the same value on things like this as we did.  It's OK, I guess.  Things are a lot different today.  The modern lifestyle, with so many built-in conveniences makes it hard for younger people to have any kind of rational touch with yesteryear.  They never experienced life without computers, cell phones and other electronic gadgetry we older folks never dreamed of.  I still remember ice boxes, ice wagons and milk delivered to the backdoor in bottles with cardboard tops.  How can that compete with an IPad?  During my lifetime the world has experienced more change than ever in the history of humankind.  Is it any wonder kids can't relate?  Why would they?

So I decided to give these special gifts to a person who could sincerely appreciate what these linen handkerchiefs, with the crocheted borders, really meant.  I gave them to Gal Friday's 94-year-old Aunt Esther.  She absolutely loved them even before I told her the story behind them.  You can't believe how much happiness these hankies brought to Aunt Esther.  It was just as mom would have wanted.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Confused

OK, OK  for those who know me well, my being confused is not exactly a news flash.  As my dad used to say about ten times a day, "Boy, you ain't right."  Well, things haven't changed and I'm sure my dad, mom, brothers and sisters sitting or standing or in some form of repose (what do they do in heaven?) are up there looking down at me and still shaking their heads.

Many people, throughout the course of my stay on this planet, for no better reason than to explain my actions, have called me complicated.  "Oh, yes, Ed, well, you can't really say he's...er...well...not exactly crazy or, er...stupid, I mean he did graduate elementary school - twice.   He's certainly not sophisticated or well-rounded...well, except for his shoulders.  I guess you could call him a loyal friend, but his loyalty kind of borders on infringement.  He really doesn't shine in any certain activities; in fact I can't think of any outstanding qualities about him--let' just say he's...hmm, what's the word that won't hurt his feeling?  I got it, complicated.

Yeah, thanks a lot.  Even I can see through that one.  My niece, when seven-- her not me -- asked me if I was complicated.  Before answering, I asked "Who said I was?"  She replied, "Everyone."  This did not help my ego.  It did not bolster my self-esteem.  I don't think I'm complicated, but I am confused.  You may ask what confuses me.  I wouldn't dream of  running down my whole list, but to satisfy your curiosity, let me throw out a few tidbits.  Notice how I turned the onus on you and rid myself of responsibility?  Since you asked, I'll tell you -- a basic type of switcheroo.  This way I'm not forcing you to read on; you asked for it.

I got an email yesterday morning about "Being tired."  It was attributed to Bill Cosby and supposedly he's tired of people not working, Muslims who are killing innocent people yet proposing Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood, distributing wealth from the rich to the poor, entertainers and sports figures making gobs of money and still complaining, etc.

Yesterday afternoon I received a second email with the same text, but this one was attributed to Robert Hall.  There was a guy with the same name at myhigh school  He supposedly ran off with one of the teachers.  I think she taught sex education.  The only other Robert Hall I remember was a name on a chain of men's stores.  So we have Cosby vs. Hall.  I'm confused.

In various denominations preaching the word of God, why do we have black churches and white churches?  I'm confused.

Why do we have a Congress that has to rush into special sessions to vote for money to keep our government operating.  This is a fundamental responsibility of Congress.  This is A of the A,B,Cs.  While on the subject of Congress, why are we voting in so many criminals, men of low morals, and lawyers.  The way I look at it, lawyers direct the flow of this country.  They make the laws, enforce the law by prosecution, judge outcomes and if you are passionate enough and have untold bucks to take your case to the Supreme Court, guess who you're pleading your case to? 

Our forefathers intended citizens to serve Congress for a short period and then go back home to tend their crops, shoe the horses, still some whiskey, whatever.  The problem was a lot of these guys were students of law.  Through the last two centuries our lawyers have converted Congress into small kingdoms over witch they reign.  They are not subject to the same laws we are.  They enjoy special privileges  past czars would have loved.  Inside the beltway around our capitol, life is not the same.  These clowns don't work for the people; their motivation is self promotion.  If something gets done that actually helps the populous, it's because it benefitted some politician.  If you haven't already guessed, I'm in favor of term limits.  Why did we let this happen?  I'm confused.

Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?  Why is the third hand on a watch called the second hand?  I'm confused.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spiritualism vs.Religion

The other day on Facebook I saw a question posed by a minister of the church I belong to.  The question dealt with the difference between spiritualism and religion. I shot back a quick and succinct answer--"Spiritualism refers to one's relationship to God and religion is a relationship to man."

This, of course, got me thinking about myself. I am a very spiritual soul but not so religious anymore. This is surprising because I grew up in my church. As a youngster, I had so many perfect attendance pins on my Sunday "go to meetin'" sport coat, I could barely hoist the garment to put it on. I mean it was so heavy in the front, everyone in my church thought I had spinal curvature. In my teens I presided over our youth group and the district youth group. In my twenties, I taught Sunday school, served on church committees and counseled teens. I began college with the idea of becoming a minister.

So I grew up totally immersed in my religion learning God is love and we should turn the other cheek, help thy neighbor, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, etc. Hey, sounded good to me. When I graduated college and stuck my nose into the real world, things changed. I quickly realized my training in church didn't prepare me for the business world. Now everything was about "getting ahead" and to do so meant not helping your fellow man but stepping on him. The new mantra became reaching for the top, getting rich.

Wait a minute, didn't the Bible tell me a rich man had about the same chance of going to heaven as a camel passing through the eye of a needle? Although I'm not too brainy, even I thought that looked like a pretty hard act to pull off. So stepping on other's toes, attaining wealth and hoarding it, all of which were just the opposite of what I learned in church, were, instead of getting me into heaven, now keeping me out--according to the Bible. Hmm. So why am I working so hard?  Maybe churches should drop Bible study and replace it with "How to Succeed in Business 101" and give up the camel/needle thing. So what was I to think--maybe we should replace capitalism with socialism?  Sounded pretty drastic to me.

In spite of myself, my career flourished and I reached a position that allowed me to travel world-wide. Traveling, seeing other cultures, observing different lifestyles is an education all its own. I concluded governments are different--but not people. I discovered varying religions preached basically similar tenets. So why has religion been the source of so many deaths? Remember the Middle Ages and the Crusades or how about the Spanish Inquisition? How about today's terrorists fighting the jihad or holy war. So what's the deal? Let's look at my shortened version of religious history.

Unless you are an atheist, you believe in a super power, supreme being, an Almighty. We may call him Allah or God or whatever, but most individuals on this planet believe in Him. Our belief in Him is real and our relationship to Him is spiritual. He's the one who created the universe and this globe we inhabit. There are different versions on how He did this, but in the long run, does it really matter?

Next He creates man and man conjures up this thing called religion. It grows from tribal rituals invented by man into organized entities also developed by man. Men pen letters about stories others have told and these letters become a Judao-Christian Bible or a Muslim Koran or a Buddhist Tipitaka. Then men make church laws to be adhered to and if you don't, watch your back. Ask the girls in Salem. Then this group of men differ with another group and we have man-made crusades and inquisitions. We have young men strapping bombs to their bodies and blowing up themselves and others who have been declared enemies of their religion. Did God really want this? I suggest no way. Religion was created by man and man has used it for his own purposes.

Did God say take the money and, instead of helping the less fortunate, build big temples, mosques, churches to glorify Him? Why is the richest institution in the world a church? Poor believers all over the world sacrifice to give to the rich church. Doesn't this seem a little convoluted?

How come the church tolerates and covers up for the Jim Swaggarts and Jim Bakers or the priests who defile God by actions with young boys? Boy, those are spiritual leaders. What do we say? Holy Crap? What about all of us who attend a religious service once a week and go our merry way the remainder of the week? How many of us never investigated which religion we thought would make us more spiritual but just joined because our parents belonged? It's sort of like joining a political party when you turn voting age.

What about the politics of religion? I'm not even going there.

I don't attend church regularly anymore. Do I miss it? I miss the trappings like the organ music and hymns but not the religion. I have been accused of losing faith. No, I am deeply faithful...to God. When I'm communing with nature or saying my prayers, I feel more spiritual than sitting in a pew. Will I attend church again? Yes, but I'll probably feel like a hypocrite.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Esther

A couple of weeks ago I penned a birthday poem for one of Gal Friday’s favorite relatives. This lady, named Esther, is a single parent who lives in a fashionable apartment on the upper west side in New York City and epitomizes the modern, free-spirited working girl. Taking advantage of most everything the megalopolis offers, she dines in fine restaurants, attends concerts and shows, takes walks in Central Park, visits museums and entertains guests. Being so active, I often wonder how she has enough time and stamina to perform her job as a receptionist for a business management company in the telecommunications industry.

My last conversation with Esther left me somewhat confused when she mentioned the possibility of quitting her job. Well, she didn’t actually say quitting her job--she’s too refined for that; instead she said taking “early retirement.” “Early retirement” has a totally different meaning to her than the rest of us. Of course, I’m not positive but I have an inkling that living her lifestyle in NYC is rather expensive, damn expensive. So how can she manage to not be gainfully employed and continue her status quo? I asked Gal Friday and she mumbled something about Esther having enough savings to live off--at least for awhile. Being the suspicious writer, I can’t help but imagine something dark and mysterious in her past.

The last time Gal Friday tied me in our mobility van and drove me to the city to see Esther, I practiced singing old Broadway tunes and such because Esther has a penchant for bursting out in these types of songs and she loves me to accompany her. I don’t warble well, but I know she appreciates my following her lead as best I can. It surprises me she knows the lyrics to some old tunes because she’s such a vibrant New Age woman.

Esther knows  fashion. Creating her own sophisticated yet conservative style, she always looks so glamorous. Her knowledge of fabrics and their proper applications astound me. She can detect clothing quality, or the absence of it, in a New York moment. She’s the type of woman, when stepping out of a taxi or entering a restaurant, people notice; heads turn.

I’m not sure what Esther’s politics are, but she sure stays current on all local, national and world events. She can astutely discuss politics with anyone and not just recent happenings. Her knowledge of 20th Century NYC history is voluminous and most interesting. When talking about this favorite subject, she gets so intense she makes you believe she lived it.

Because Esther is, not only a family favorite, but also a simply outstanding individual, Gal Friday insisted I include my birthday poem to her. So here it is. By the way, did I mention Esther is Gal Friday’s aunt who is now 94 years young?

Happy Birthday, Aunt Esther

In Flanders Fields
Doughboys in mourn
The world was at war
When Esther was born

Neighbors smiled
On the Lower East Side
Benjamin and Sarah
Their hearts filled with pride

Three years before
Prohibition started
When bullets flew
And people darted

Before the Empire State
To watch was so thrilling
102 stories
The world’s tallest building

Before Rockefeller Center
John Junior’s plan
Year 1930
When construction began

Preceding Esther
Came visits from stork
Each one a male
Joyous cries in New York

She loved her brothers
Who totaled five
But sometimes wondered
If she’d survive

Their memories remain
In mind and heart
A love so strong
To never depart

First came Jules
Then came Moe
Next came Phil
The last was Joe

'Tween Phil and Joe
Sarah did cram
A small baby boy
By the name of Sam

A special bond
For this brother
A little stronger
Than any other

Years have passed
And so have they
But this lady knows
That is God’s way

Enriched by “Greenie”
They sold candy
Showing the line
She was a dandy

Independent still
She harbors no gloom
As feisty now
As first pulled from the womb

So much experience
She claims a wealth
She’s a history book
All by herself

She’s seen it all
Time flew too soon
From horse and buggies
To a man on the moon

We all love her
At year 94
And look forward joyously
To many more

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Internet

Yes, yes, the Internet.  Out of all the inventions in my lifetime, including  television, the Internet has changed my life more than anything else.  Don't get me wrong. I'm not degrading  placing a man on the moon, cell phones that do everything but clean your toilet, or even the electric toothbrush,but nothing else has affected my daily living as much as that incredibly mystifying, unfathomable, amorphous form of communication called the Internet.

We take for granted "www," but stop and think of what it means - world wide web.  We thought TV made our world smaller but consider the web.  I'm sure glad Al Gore came up with this little idea.  We can see, hear and talk with anybody in any place on this planet,  if they have the right software and hardware.  Hardware used to be a store full of tools.  Our language has changed; web was something spiders weaved or that small piece of leather in a baseball glove. Our breadth of knowledge has increased. Our understanding of  other cultures is now more focused.  So this is all great, right?

As I mentioned, the Internet now dictates how my day is spent.  After being helped out of bed, one of the first actions of my day is turning on my computer.  This is before shaving, breakfast or brushing my remaining tooth -- the reason Gal Friday refers to me as "Fang".  One may wonder why I don't get upset by this dubious moniker but it's better than a lot of other things she calls me.  I check out my Inbox, Facebook, Twitter, my blog for comments and then I'm ready for my first nap.  Sometimes I miss breakfast.

It's rather amusing learning about all the correct variables in life like what to eat, what exercise is best for you, what car to buy, how to build a bomb -- you know simple activities of daily living.  But the next day can be a little confusing when you receive information contradicting yesterday's pearls of wisdom.

As a writer with a pea-size brain, I have to rely on the Internet for much of my research.  This can get real interesting.  Did you ever feel like a rat in a maze?  There is so much conflicting information on the web you begin to doubt it all.  I try to determine the validity of information by using fact-finding sites, but then I read on the Internet they aren't truly factual, but lean to certain points of view.  And how can politicians quote the same statistics and come out with dfferent numbers?  If it's on the ole "www," it's possible -- anything is possible.

I fought against buying a computer for years, but when I finally went "on line", I quickly realized I had struck gold.  I was like a naive kid checking out all kinds of web sites, some I'm too embarassed to mention.  I couldn't believe all this information was at my rigid digits.  Then I discovered email. And then came spam and hackers.

I recive 30 to 50 emails a day; some are humorous, some informative, but most are pretty much a waste of time.  Here's my conundrum; I can't resist looking at every email in hopes the sender is transmitting something worth reading like getting a personal letter delivered by our postal service.  You do remember letters, don't you?  Try to remember 'cause the old US Post Office isn't going to be around much longer.  Instead I'm inundated with recycled jokes, pictures of naked women, religious musings and political tripe.  Of course, I also get a few requests to send money to some poor shmuck  in Africa or the Middle East who will then send me a couple of million for my effort.

My problem is because I read each email, I spend countless hours at my computer instead of doing something constructive -- like napping.  So email can be a heartwarming friend or a time-stealing foe.  Hey, that's just like the Internet.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Killer Nashville - 2

Well, Gal Friday did it again.  This time she outdid herself.  She packed the van, directed me in, tied me down, headed the nose southwest and put the pedal to the metal.  We left Delaware at 4:30 AM.  Did you get that?  That's the time we left.  We went to bed at 1 AM.  AM means morning.  4:30 AM is when I used to drag myself home from an "evening of enjoyment."  4:30 AM used to be part of my night--not my morning. Maybe I should say "mourning." Egad, my life has flipped over.

We left DE and drove to my daughter's in the Greensboro area of North Carolina where we stayed for two wonderful days.  We loved the time spent with her family.  Heading farther west, we hit the pavement again and drove to Nashville, TN for the writer's conference.  After the conference, we headed for Tellico Village, TN to spend a couple of days with old friends.  Next came Raleigh, NC to choose stone for the new house and then to Edenton to meet with our builder.  The following day we drove to Elizabeth City, NC to select flooring and tile.  Now did we stay overnight to rest and drive back to DE the next day?  Oh no, when Gal Friday sets that imaginary chauffeur's cap atop her head, she doesn't stop for bathroom breaks much less rest periods.  She did slip in a little nap, but unfortunately it was while she drove.  That constituted a little "white knuckle" time for me.  This journey took 10 days and covered 2,000 miles.  It took us two days of sleep to recover.

Now for the "Killer Nashville" writers' conference AKA three days of intense terror.  The conference was held at a five-star hotel.  I didn't understand why it garnered such a high rating.  The rooms were nice, but not more so than most average chains we stay at.  Leaving our room on the seventh floor for the conference area reminded me of a treasure hunt.  We had to take an elevator to the second floor, cross a route through the parking garage and then take another elevator back up to the sixth floor.  I didn't consider this too high class.  Of course one main reason for a five-star tribute is the hotel's food.  The menu seemed the same for lunch and dinner.  The cuisine approached an attempt at sophisticated Continental fare with names I couldn't pronounce.  Basically it offered pasta, fowl, fish and meat.  All were overspiced and decorated with extra sprigs of parsley.  We lunched in the hotel restaurant on Friday, but the next day walked across the street for some real food at Arby's.  Don't knock it; Arby's has good roast beef.

This was my first full scale writer's conference and I felt certain I'd be uncovered as a fraud pretending to be a writer.  Maintaining a low profile, which is difficult when you're the only person in 300 navigating around in a wheel chair, I escaped being exposed   As I mentioned in my last posting, Gal Friday made an impressive attempt to prepare me for this event.  She did everything except kick my butt to motivate me to action, but of course to no avail.  So I sat there completely unprepared among professional agents, editors, publishers and writers.

Friday and Saturday went fairly well because all I had to do was scrunch down in my chair and listen as we attended panel discussions and workshops, but Sunday was "D Day."  Sunday morning I was scheduled to pitch my book to an editor, an agent and a publisher.  All the work Gal Friday tried to make me do in the last few months had to be crammed into a few hours the night before.  She was not a happy camper.  Our heads hit the pillows around 3 AM and I didn't sleep as I kept trying to memorize that one crucial sentence.  Which crucial sentence you may ask?  Now get this, you have to tell them what your novel is all about in one sentence.  Huh?  One sentence!  It took me six months to compose this sucker and many more months doing rewrites.

You got 10 minutes with each professional and mine came consecutively, or as my dad used to say, back to back to back.  That meant one-half hour trying to sell my manuscript to accomplished people in the publishing world expecting to hear a professional presentation.  I've made many professional presentations all over this globe and I know about butterflies in the stomach and dry mouth, but I never experienced as much pre-pitch fear as that morning.  I was damn scared about, not just being rejected, but being ashamed.  I was out of my league and I knew it.  Truthfully, I think what I dreaded the most was Gal Friday's disappointment.  She really believes I have a great talent for writing and has been my biggest supporter.  I hated letting her down.

A young lady escorted me into a large room with each interviewer sitting at a small table.  The tables filled the room.  I wheeled up to the agent, introduced myself and spit out my one-liner.  I looked into his eyes hoping to see a twinge of excitement.  His response, "That doesn't turn me on."  Oh, shit.  I could imagine this half hour could be the worst of my life.  He asked me about the plot and I mumbled something I tried to remember from Gal Friday's early morning training session.  I have no idea what I rambled about, but he ended up asking me to send him three chapters for his review.  This is a very big deal, getting an agent to ask for your work.  My 10 minutes were up so I kissed his ring and wheeled to the next table.

Then came a female editor whom I remembered well from the panel discussions and what I recalled wasn't too encouraging.  She had been very critical about the rights and wrongs of grammar, punctuation and the story's point of view.  When talking about the right way, she cast her eyes over the room but I swore when she expounded on the evils of vile wrongs, she looked straight at me.

After I popped off my hook line, she retorted,  " I like that."  I was so flustered, I couldn't get my business card out of my jacket's inside pocket.  She stood, came around the table and picked it out for me.  This was a magnanimous gesture on her part and somehow established a bond between us. Before the 10 minutes ended, she asked for the whole manuscript.  I was on cloud nine.  I kissed her feet and left.

While being escorted to the next table, I remembered he was "the deal."  I was going to sit before a publisher--actually have a publisher personally listen to my plea.  By now I was two for two and really didn't care what this guy said.  Well, that's not completely true, but my tension had eased off.  I had already accomplished much more than I ever anticipated.

As I approached, he stood to shake my hand and introduce himself.  This was a first.  This guy was a gentleman.  My tension backed off even more.  When asking about my novel, I let the one-sentence pitch roll of my tongue like it was as natural as giving birth--not by me, but by my Aunt Dorie who had 20 children.  Once again, I couldn't free my business card from my jacket and he too, stood and took my card out.  Most of the 10-minute period we spoke about hurricane Irene and before I left he asked for a sample of my work.  Three for three plus another request from an agent who had earlier critiqued the first 10 pages of the manuscript.  Four for four.  Zowie!  Later that day I talked to a published writer who kindly offered to have me send him my first 50 pages and he would forward them to his publisher.  Unbelievable.

Sandblasting couldn't get the grin off of Gal Friday's face.