Nov 21, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving -- Quick Note

Happy Thanksgiving to all. PLEASE TAKE THE THANKSGIVING POLL ON THE RIGHT. I want to learn about our readers' traditions. Choose all your favorite answers, and I promise I'll give you the results.

We are spending Thanksgiving at home with the kids. Unfortunately, Roberto has the flu, so we can't include him in the celebration. His fever went up to 102.8 today! We're sad about that, but we're all hoping he'll be well enough to help clean the dishes after the meal.

Thanksgiving means a lot to many people. My mom always made such a lovely feast when I was a child, and though it was just the five of us, we'd always dress up nicely and really enjoy the holiday. (For example, one year I dressed as a ghost and my sisters dressed as penguins.) Just kidding. Something special to me is that Mom was always in a nice dress, and dad would wear a shirt and tie. We'd wear our Sunday best to celebrate. That made it really special for me.

We no longer travel to see our parents for Thanksgiving, but that's what happens when one lives 500 miles away.

I'm thankful for my entire family, for friends, for good health, for Wednesday- and Thursday-night TV, for Martini and Rossi Asti Spumante, and lastly, for dark chocolate Raisinets. Today would have been my Nana's birthday if she were still alive, so I'm thankful for the time I spent with Nana too.

Thank you to the troops overseas who are always in our thoughts and prayers.

Everyone stay safe and don't eat too much turkey. I hear the strycknine in it will make you pretty sleepy! Happy Thanksgiving!
~ Jackie

COMMENTS:I did not know a llama hibernates. I guess that's why I don't see any walking around during the winter months. With all this winter snow, I'm sure many animals are starting to hibernate that usually wouldn't. Many Buckeyes hibernate once football ends and if they don't win their opener, they continue to hibernate until that first win. Michigan will hibernate through the entire season.
~ Johnny Wolverine, N.J.

Oct 31, 2009

Halloween: THE American Holiday

Today is Halloween. Do people celebrate Halloween in other countries? I could take a few seconds to Google it, but I’m too lazy. I’ll choose to remain ignorant.

I love how everyone in America passes out free candy every Halloween night without giving it a second thought. Why has no generation ever stopped it? I’ll tell you why. It’s because everyone puts their weirdness aside on this one night just to make little kids happy. What a sweet holiday.

Anyone can trick-or-treat in this country, regardless of your race, creed, or religion. Correction, they do discriminate when it comes to age, but I’ve gotten around that by choosing good costumes to hide my age. For example, I’m 44, so I’m going out this year as a 43-year-old.

Halloween is something Americans take for granted, but for any immigrant, especially those of us who came over in our youth, the holiday is just one more thing that makes this country magical. I was in the first grade when I came to America. Kids at school told me that you just knock on people’s doors and people give you chocolates, candy cigarettes, Milk Duds, and more. Free of charge. No strings attached. My imagination ran wild as I envisioned our kitchen being so full of treats that we couldn’t even move around.

My mom worked at the Woolworth’s five-and-dime store, so she took us there to buy costumes one night. “Choose any one you want,” she said.

The selection was sparse, as most of the costumes had been sold. My sisters probably chose princess costumes, but I spied a very special outfit that was calling to me, and somehow there were lots of this one costume left. It was Nancy. You know, Nancy from the newspaper comic strip? She was a character who made her debut in the 1930s. (I wasn't alive yet.) The comic strip rose to great success, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. Nancy was simple, innocent, and maybe not so funny, but I was all those things too, so it was fate that I was drawn to her costume.

I put on my Nancy outfit as soon as I got home and immediately went door-to-door in search of candy. People looked puzzled when I said, “Trick or treat." Maybe I was doing it wrong. The elderly neighbor lady gave me some ribbon candy left over from the previous Christmas. I got very few treats, but I did get a proposition from two creepy men who lived in the basement of our apartment building. I turned them down. What they showed me wasn’t candy. That’s when I figured out it wasn’t Halloween night. You have to trick-or-treat on a specific night. Good to know. I logged that important tidbit in my diary, lest I make the same mistake twice.

Undaunted, when the real Halloween night came, my sisters and I raced from door to door, looking for treats. The adults would make comments as they opened the door and looked us over. “Oh, you’re a witch; what a cute princess. . . .” Then they’d look at me questioningly, apparently disgusted by my choice of costume. “And what the hell are you?” one asked. (That's a direct quote from Father McCleary.)

“I’m Nancy from the newspaper,” I’d chirp. People would sigh, as if I had wasted their time. In those days, no one was too happy to see an immigrant to begin with, but one with an Indian accent who didn’t even know what to dress as for Halloween seemed to produce a lot of “tisk-tisk” type sounds. One pregnant woman punched me, and many a door was shut in my face right after my sisters were fawned over and given extra treats. It was a tough neighborhood.

But I didn’t care. I had candy, and I felt invigorated. I looked past the threatening taunts of “Go back to India!” I ran from house to house with the breeze flowing through my hair, giddy from the fumes of the lead-based paint on my cheap, plastic Nancy mask. I'd pull it off my face to get air from time to time, but suffocating or not, I kept going. In those days, there were no Halloween curfews, so the night went on and on. To this day, I can’t remember a happier night in my life. Not my wedding night. Not the night my first son was born. Not even the first time I went to a Taco Bell. This was something more special than all of that. I felt so happy that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, and that’s just what I did. I yelled things like, “Happy Halloween!” and “Only in America!”

When I got older, I continued to trick or treat into my teens and learned of another perk of Halloween. Annabel (my sister) and I kept going back to one particular house just to see the gorgeous guy who was answering the door. We had already knocked twice within the last ten minutes, when we knocked again a third time. This time, the man was annoyed, saying, “Haven’t you girls been here twice already?” That’s the day I hung up my Nancy costume forever! Thanks for nothing, good looking guy.

Now when Halloween comes around, I look at those little kids dressed as ghosts, goblins, and princesses and I’m horribly jealous. I want the candy. I want to rip their little masks off and run away with their bags of chocolates, but each generation gets its turn, so I fight such urges and the voices in my head. I just answer the door, dutifully distributing the old cough drops and expired medications we cleaned out of our medicine cabinet the week before. Happy Halloween everyone. It is your patriotic duty as an American to appreciate this holiday, so enjoy it!
-- Jackie

P.S. Thanks to my youngest son, Roberto, for putting Monster Mash, the only Halloween song I know, on this blog. The Nancy comic strip was provided by my oldest son, Hans. My middle son is a dud.


I knew it was YOU giving out those sticky old lozenges to the kids. You should be ashamed!
-- Angry neighbor

I said "heck." -- Fr. McCleary

Let's see, you're from India, your son is Hans and the other is Roberto. This has got to be a disfunctional family after all. Can't wait to see what you do for Christmas. You do celebrate Christmas don't you or are you Indians of the Jewish religion? -- Anonymous
I lied about being from India to throw you off. It's easier to pretend to be one of 1.7 billion people. I'm really from Liechtenstein, but if I told everyone that, it would be easy to guess my identity. There are only two of us Liechtensteinians with sons named Hans. And, no, I'm not Jewish, but I love latkes! -- Jackie

Just to let you know, Halloween in the UK is awful!! No kids came to my house trick or treating!! It's pathetic. -- k-bomb

Oct 11, 2009

Teenagers: They're Human Like Us

A lot of people don’t like teenagers. I do. Teens are much like three-year-olds. They want to assert their independence, but very few  have any wisdom. They are ferocious and fearless and think they’re invincible.

Teenagers’ have great passion for things they don’t understand. They spout fiction, thinking it's fact. One teen just told me that if you’re not born in America, you can’t be president – see what I mean? Teens think my music and my ignorance about computers and football is funny. They try to explain those things to me, not realizing that I don’t care about anything that doesn't concern me. One tried to teach me how to use the Interweb and explain why my floppy disk doesn’t fit into my computer anymore. He couldn't tell I wasn't listening. That’s what makes him cute. Yes, toddlers are adorable, but teens can hold conversations and control their bladders. That's quite an advantage, especially on a job interview.

I see teens all the time at my job at the quickie mart. That's why I’m such a big fan. I’ll give you an example. I was talking to one little cutie who was telling me about Green Day. I assumed that was a new, improved version of Earth Day, but it’s a band. He also went on and on about All-American Rejects.* To watch his eyes light up as he blabbered on about less fortunate citizens was heartwarming. As he kept yacking, I wondered if it's possible to lapse into a coma and keep your eyes open at the same time. But the boy spoke so animatedly that I couldn’t interrupt and break his little heart.

When he finally took a breath, I asked why he wasn’t in school on a weekday. (Get out your hanky. This next part will make you cry.) He explained how his sick grandmother had just come home from the hospital. He was taking the day off to take care of her. He said he came to the quickie mart just to buy her her favorite brand of chewing tobacco as a surprise. Now that just melted my heart.

As I handed him the package of tobacco and charged him tax twice (since he wasn’t watching carefully), I told him he should be proud of himself for being such a wonderful grandson. He beamed and smiled at me. You could see he was proud. Some say teens are nothing but trouble, I submit to you this example of a selfless, caring boy. I’ll bet he’ll be a fine young doctor or pharmaceutical salesman one day. Would an infant or toddler ever think to buy their grandmothers chewing tobacco?

Did I mention that my sons are all teenagers now? They are, though each began life as an infant. I loved them as babies, but now that they’re coordinated, I can’t help but love them more.

Being a mother to a teenager is a joy. The word “mother” has its origins in the ancient Aztec word “mothos,” meaning “moth eater.” That really makes no sense. I’m a mother, and I’ve never eaten a moth. It’s no surprise the Aztecs all died.

To me, mother is just a synonym for “responsibility,” but as your kids grow up, you learn to delegate. My kids do all the cleaning, laundry, ironing, and yard work. I've reached the stage where I just smile and spout positive affirmations like, “Great work, kid,” and, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” But soon I won’t have to do that either. My oldest son is learning how to give false praise too.

Having sons who are almost men is great. They're protective of their mother. If they hear me scream, theyknow I’ve found a spider and will come running to kill it. They’ll also kill other bugs. A cricket hopped at me from a dark corner of the garage one night, and my oldest son came running and killed it with a broom.

Another dark night when my husband wasn’t home, I spotted an intruder lurking in our back yard. I told the kids, and they ran outside and killed him too. They're always helping.

My sons are easy to be around. They laugh. They tell funny stories. The oldest will drive to the grocery store to pick up ingredients I forgot. All I have to do is nag and threaten. My youngest son will fix things. Not well, but a little better than my husband, at least. My middle son explained the NFC and AFC to me. I didn't listen well, but I had no idea that KFC had so much competition.

Yes, having teenagers means you never have a free night unless someone gets sick. You’re always at someone’s event, you experience many emotions as they start dating, and you run through money like water (we don't because we spend our money on ourselves, but other parents do). But you love every second of it. When my kids leave home and this roller coaster ride ends, I know my husband and I will be a wreck for several minutes. But for now, we just love having our boys with us at home. Each stage in a child's life is a blessing, and we are lucky to still be at an early part of this journey.

If you don’t have a teenager of your own, I highly suggest that you go out and get one! -- Jackie

*All-American Rejects is a band.


Jackie's Note: The original quote is, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it." -- WC Fields

Hold on, you said teenagers are supposed to be able to control their bladders? My brothers have some work to do... --Jackie's Facebook Tutor, Durham, NC

The potty trained ones are better! ROTFL @ the WC Fields quote, too. -- Crazy DB

I truly believe you will miss the little buggers when they leave the nest. Probably for way more than a few minutes. I know I miss mine A LOT. I only get to wallyworld TWICE a week instead of daily and I can tell you I miss seeing all the interesting shoppers!! NOW who can I look up to and model myself after??
Love ya!
-- Trainer Jill
Jackie's comment: She's right. I don't know what I'll do when my sons have all left the house. I'll turn into a weird lady who has 50 cats and never washes her hair. Heck, I've got over 30 cats now and wash only on Wednesdays.

Let's see, you're from India, your son is Hans and the other is Roberto. This has got to be a disfunctional family after all. Can't wait to see what you do for Christmas. You do celebrate Christmas don't you or are you Indians of the Jewish religion? -- Anonymous
Jackie's response: I cannot answer, as I'm sure anything I say from this point will reveal my identity.

Sep 20, 2009

A Natural Cure for Insomnia

I was wide awake at 3:00 a.m. last night. And the night before. And the previous night. Not sleeping much has become a regular part of my life for four straight days. Each night as I watch the hours drag on, I break out in a cold sweat, and not the good kind of good sweat brought on after engorging oneself with desserts and non-fat lattes.

Has this happened to you? I sighed as I got out of bed and got ready for another tiring morning. As I ate a bowl of Count Chocula cereal, I remembered watching an episode of Third Rock from the Sun with John Lithgow (he’d always come over and watch the reruns with me). In one scene, a church gospel choir sings, “Can’t sleep at night, and you wonder why -- maybe God is trying to tell you something.” God was clearly trying to tell me something, but what? I needed to look into my heart or into the forces around me.

At mass, I asked God to help me find peace. I searched my heart for distress, but found nothing but a couple ventricles and an artery.

If my heart wasn’t the issue, then it must be a disturbance in the forces within my home. On the drive home, I discussed the problem with my closest confidants, my husband and sons. One son told me that George Lucas and Liam Neeson are experts in “the force” because they made a movie about it. Now I was getting somewhere. When we got home, we googled George and Liam’s home phone numbers. Within a couple minutes, I had left messages on both of their answering machines. I explained that there was a disturbance in the force and that I needed a call back before nightfall.

I ordered lunch and asked Mr. Li, the guy who delivered our Chinese food, if he's ever had such a problem. He told me about feng shui. He said the positive energy of chi was being blocked in my house and that negative energy was coming in.

Chi, huh? I grabbed four offending Chia pets that had been growing on my front stoop and threw them all into the road in front of my driveway. Mr. Li chuckled nervously and explained that the Chia pets have nothing to do with chi. I looked at the broken mess on my sidewalk and my neighbor, Martha Jenkins, who was bleeding a little after being hit in the legs with shrapnel from the Chia pots. Why was she trespassing on my property anyway? Her cross words were ruining my focus. I went back into the house to think.

As I stuffed a stack of pennies into one of those 50-cent coin wrappers to give to Mr. Li as a tip, he told me that chi is the natural positive energy of the universe. He said I should remove the clutter from the house, rearrange the furniture a bit, and then I would sleep better.

“Imagine that water is able to flow into your home. If something blocks its natural flow, it must be removed,” he said. There were notebooks, socks, and a few garden gnomes laying in the foyer. Sure, all that looks beautiful to visitors, but to me, it was now nothing more than junk. Mr. Li warned that the chi shouldn't be allowed to stagnate or escape. He then shut the door behind me, and I heard him yell out in anger as he stepped on a piece of pottery from the Chia pets. Sounds like he could use some balance himself.

It was time to set to work. I didn’t need to imagine water flowing into the house. My garden hose would work just as well and help me define the problem areas. When I saw that the water had fully covered the first floor of my home, I turned off the hose and was disappointed to see that there was no "flow." The water was stagnant. Stupid Mr. Li! His plan didn’t work! Why did I waste such a generous tip on him?

Just then, my Silky Terrier doggie-paddled past me, and I noticed that he created little waves around him, which gave me an idea. I can’t entrap the water. I needed to open a door to create flow. With the front door open, the cleansing water began to flow outside.

And, as if by some feng shui miracle, I noticed that the water took with it all kinds of items that must have been creating bad kharma. The rushing water knocked down Martha Jenkins, who had just managed to get up. She must have been bad. Papers, a pair of overalls, a long forgotten house guest, and all sorts of junk were being cleared from my home naturally. I didn’t realize that my oldest son’s baby picture was emitting negative energy, but it must have been because I watched it float out the front door, followed by some legal documents and my grandmother’s diamond tiara. So that was the problem!

When the water finally subsided, there was a sense of quiet and peace in my home. I felt cleansed and happy. I looked outside and saw that Martha Jenkins looked quite nice wearing Nana’s tiara. It sparkled in the sun and illuminated her silvery hair.

I called the cops on her and then lay down for a long nap. I was able to sleep like a baby, despite the sounds of the sirens and the occasional gunshot at Martha out front. I wondered if this is how great Noah felt after the floods subsided and set down his ark. Thank goodness I didn’t have to build an ark or lasso any wild animals, like he did.

When I woke up, my family and I celebrated my newfound peace. Just then the phone rang. It was Liam Neeson, concerned about my issue! Liam said that he and George Lucas were coming over for dinner and bringing Irish food. Wow, talk about everything working out! What started out as a bad day turned out to be just another great day in my life, and I owe it all to the chi!


Count Chocula? As in name-brand cereal?
-- Nosy Reader
Yes, name brand! I buy generic for the kids and the real stuff for me. Don't you know me by now?
-- Jackie

Star Wars was on TNT last night.
-- Gina from North Jersey
Thanks for the heads up, valued reader!
-- Jackie

Is chi related to the drink, chi lattes?
-- Bobb, Beijing
No, that's "Chai," Bobb. Are you seriously from Beijing?
-- Jackie

Bobb needs to read a dictionary.
-- Derek, OH

Count Chocula? As in name-brand cereal?
-- AJR, Dayton, OH<>

Sep 6, 2009

My Friend Rick

Every now and then, someone does something so nice for you, so altruistic, that it changes your entire attitude about life and restores your faith in mankind. I am that person to my good friend, Rick Rhoman from Puerto Rico. (Remember, that’s not his real name. I added an extra letter to throw you off, but I won't divulge which letter.)

I met Rick 31 years ago when he was my ninth-grade science teacher. The guy was an absolute genius, ahead of his time. He taught us all about Darwinism, evolution, biology, and wizardry (way before J.K. Rowling stole his idea -- except his wizard's name was Norman. Norman the Wizard). Rick also told me I had artificial intelligence long before Al Gore invented the Internet.

God put Rick in my life as a guardian angel. I know this because he saved my life when I was 13. I was walking into his biology class and fainted right there on the classroom floor, but Rick had the presence of mind to quickly douse my face with nearby beakers of acid and formaldehyde. It worked wonders. The pain of the acid helped me regain consciousness and cleared up my embarrassing teenage acne. Yes, I needed plastic surgery afterwards and yes, he asked me to reimburse him for the formaldehyde,* but the important thing is that I probably would still be unconscious today if it wasn’t for him. [*Note: I had no idea formadelhyde was so expensive -- $60 for an ounce, plus $75 for each additional ounce, but you don't complain about money when someone just saved your life.]

Anyway, Rick is so bright that he’s the closest thing to a TV doctor that I’ve ever met. I’ve called him for medical advice more than two times in the past three decades. Once my husband had unbearable leg cramps, and Rick told us to get Joe’s appendix removed right away. Another time, my son was bitten by a frothing raccoon, and Rick explained that our boy probably picked up a rabie and just needed to walk it off. My son walked for three days, and now he seems normal. He does try to bite us now and then, but what teenager doesn't?

Many times in life I have called upon the knowledge wisely imparted to us in Rick’s classroom. Once I found myself trapped in an airport elevator with an electric eel, but thanks to Rick’s teachings, I was able to kill the eel immediately and dissect it with my exacto knife. I could even name the different parts of its anatomy – head, foot, clavicle, etc. Again, that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t met Rick. Of course, I'm not allowed to take my exacto knife into the airports anymore, but that’s ok -- I now take the trains.

You might wonder how someone like Rick got to be so bright. It’s a combination of being naturally gifted and learning at the best universities. I know he speaks fondly of the years he studied abroad in Rome, home of the Eiffel Tower. Also, despite being hit by lightning twice, Rick is almost always able to hold semi-coherent conversations in that broken English accent. Rick was such an effective teacher that both of my older sisters, who were also taught by him, came quite close to graduating from high school.

Rick has popped in and out of my life quite a few times, especially soon after I graduated from high school. He and his wife not only went to my high school and college graduations (though not invited), but they also attended my wedding and my sisters’ weddings (again, no invitation, and no gift either. Plus, they stole two dinner plates).

Rick got lucky and married a model who is from Sweden or some other country in Australia. Upon meeting Rick for the first time, Lori’s gut instincts and faulty prescription lenses told her he was "Mr. Right." They now have two kids who luckily take after their mother. Anyway, let’s just say that after years of knowing them, we’ve grown quite fond of the Rhomans, so fond that I would consider waving if I spotted them in the mall.

Anyway, I hadn’t heard from Rick for years and years, and suddenly we got a collect phone call at 2:00 in the morning, and there was Rick on the other end of the line, asking for money. I told him that Joe lost his job, but he was insistent that we give him money to launch his start-up business, promising to split the profits once he becomes rich.

Being on the inside track in the scientific world, Rick says he has foreseen the burgeoning need for wallabies here in the U.S. He is importing eight of the creatures and plans to breed these animals to sell to local farmers and high school students. He thinks the wallabies will be the newest craze, like Sea Monkeys or Sham Wows! (Sea Monkeys – just add water and stir. It sounded like a good idea, until I drank ‘em.)

Rick tried this wallaby venture once before, but he only imported males the first time. Reproduction of the species under those conditions, he learned after months of research, was nearly impossible. This time, he will import a female too. With eight animals in all, he calculates that they will reproduce and hit the million mark in just six months, despite the seven-month gestation period. Madness? No, I say he’s a genius . . . and others do too. Rick’s brilliant plan has already been endorsed by renowned scientist Stanley Hawking, who is said to be Steven Hawking’s step brother, twice removed (from prison – he got out early on good behavior both times).

Anyway, I have to admit I was feeling a little down, but Rick’s phone call changed everything. Sometimes in life we are overwhelmed with problems, but then someone comes along and gives us the best gift of all – hope. Thanks, Rick. It’s an honor to call you my friend. In less than a year, we’ll both be swimming in money or wallabies! It’s up to America to decide.

-- I like the bit about the trains. Please include more locomotion humor in future posts.
AJR - Dayton, OH
(Jackie's note: Will do, AJR! People just don't joke about transportation like they used to in the old days. I think it's a taboo topic in our modern world.)

-- Keep an eye on the wallabies, they may try to pocket the profits.
Ron - N.J.(What exit?)

--I was innocent!
Stanley Hawking, no longer in Leavenworth, KS


Aug 20, 2009

NJ Beach Vacation, Shore to Please!

After writing about NJ’s corruption a while ago, I started to feel homesick, so we packed up the car and took the family to Cape May. That’s a seven-square-mile, Victorian beach resort at the southernmost tip of NJ. Cape May was a great adventure.

First, I tried to go shopping, but was attacked by a swarm of wasps. They were all over me. I had to bat them away with my smallest son while trying to remember how to escape these stinging demons. Do you jump into water? I sprinted into a hotel lawn where the sprinklers were running, but that worked for all of 30 seconds until the sprinklers turned off. Rats! More bad luck, and the swarm was regrouping behind me.

Throwing another screaming son into the swarm to allow myself time to think, I decided it’s best to immerse myself into a larger body of water. I ran to the hotel's pool, and, dipping my toe in, found that the temperature was really too cold. I prefer my pool water tepid, so I couldn’t plunge in. Plus, I didn’t have my bathing suit on. It’s just uncivilized to jump in without your suit.

Fortunately, I spotted a crowd of school children getting off a bus in the distance. They were all wearing red t-shirts, so as not to get lost. Red is a color I know bees love, so I ran through the little children, shoving them out of my way and found that the swarm had taken the bait. Whew! The sounds of the children's cries told me I was safe to continue with my shopping.

When I looked down to examine my wounds, I found that I really had just been stung only once. I checked my sons, who had a couple stings each. I had some AfterBite, which works miracles on stings, but I wasn’t sure if it would be enough for all of us over the entire week, so I kept silent. My sons are really easy going, so they didn’t complain. I’d hate for their medical issues to ruin everyone’s fun.

Next, we continued our shopping by going to the Fudge Kitchen. Cape May’s Fudge Kitchen makes the best fudge in the world and they give out free samples. Our family walked past the sample girl enough times to fill our tummies with sugar. She finally said in a snippy voice, “One sample per day,” which is very crass, in my opinion, so we left.

Now it was time to go to the beach. As you know, they charge you to get on the beaches in NJ, which is unethical. We’re in America, and Americans shouldn’t have to pay to get on beaches that were free to the Pilgrims. Cape May is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year, and I’m sure people didn’t pay for the beaches for at least six of those years. I launched an angry complaint with the beach-pass lady who obviously didn’t know her history. She told me to either pay or get out.

Like Thomas Edison, who made 1,000 bad light bulbs until one finally worked, I am not one to give up. We walked casually past her watchful eyes and then made a run for the sand dunes. Once we got over them, we’d be home free on the beach. She tried to put up a chase, but her walker slowed her down in the sand. She gave us a New Jersey gesture and said a few choice words, but by that time, we were splish-splashing in the warm Jersey waves, being careful to dodge the needles and medical syringes that splash in from the waters of New York.

Next, we decided to go to the Cape May Zoo. I like that zoo because it’s a donation-only zoo, which, translated, means a "free" zoo. We pulled up, despite threatening storm clouds, only to find that they now make donations mandatory in order to get in. My husband begrudgingly gave up a $5 bill and we parked. Just then, lightning struck and the rain started pouring. It was a sign from God that we shouldn’t have paid so much. Everyone else was leaving, but I wanted my money’s worth. We went to the tiger cage and to see the monkeys, but all the animals were hiding under shelter. I felt cheated, so we smuggled out a prairie dog to even up the score and left.

By that time, it was time to meet my parents and sister’s family at the hotel. We went out to a lovely seafood dinner, which was great until the middle of dessert when little Albert, our new prairie dog, escaped from my purse and was found in the kitchen. The manager asked us to leave immediately. We didn’t even have to leave a tip. Now that’s hospitality. No wonder we love NJ.

It was a great day, and each day of the trip got better. Coming back is difficult after having such fun, but we will go back in two years, when the city’s restraining order expires. If you want a low-cost, fun-filled vacation, I highly recommend Cape May, NJ. It's the best!

Your friend,

Aug 8, 2009

An Interview with One of My Readers


Note to readers. I just got back from vacation and I am too tired to write another genius posting, so instead I’m running an interview with an old friend, Jane. You’ll find Jane very amusing. I wrote the questions, and the answers are all hers. Granted, she’s not as funny as she is weird, but you’re still in for quite a treat because she’s really, really weird. As for some background info, Jane was my friend in high school and a bridesmaid at my wedding. I had her wash my wedding gown, mop the church floor, and clean off the tables at the reception. And now, on to the posting, already in progress.

Every now and then, I would like to acknowledge some of our loyal readers who savor every line that I write and eagerly post comments within minutes of my publishing the blog. One such reader is the infamous Jane Doe, also known as Jersey Jane. She’s the one who verbally attacked a poor, sweet Amish man who wrote a comment on my blog. Some say this was an obvious attempt by Jane to make herself feel superior. Others say they don’t really care why she did it. Fascinating!

What does makes Jane Doe tick? When did she get that pacemaker anyway? And why is she so obsessed with The Way I See It? The answers to those riveting questions and more are below in an exclusive one-on-one interview that won’t be found anywhere else – not in People Magazine, not on the E! Channel.

Jackie: Jane, when did you first start reading my blog?
Jane: Right after you threatened to burn down my house if I didn’t.

Jackie: Why do you spend time on the computer reading what others write instead of attending to your husband and 11 children?
Jane: I read your blog whenever I’m feeling down. It immediately cheers me by reminding me that I’m not you.

Jackie: How did you come to have 11 children? Was it planned? Do you like having a family that is that large?
Jane: Eleven children?? Not me. You’ve confused me with one of your other bloggers . . . that woman named Bubba.

Jackie: What do you do for a living?
Jane: I’m a professional model who is finishing up my PhD. This Ivy League education will give me something to fall back on once my looks begin to fail as badly yours have. Too bad you never followed through with your own education and finished getting your GED. Then perhaps you wouldn’t be such the drain on the public welfare system that you are today.

Jackie: What is it you admire most about me?
Jane: Your moxie. It amazes me how someone as pathetic as you can continue to face the world each day.

Jackie: If you could be any fruit in the world, what fruit would you be and why?
Jane: A pineapple. They come from the most exotic locations and are in all of the cool cocktails. [Jackie’s note: That isn’t funny. It’s not even interesting. It was such a boring response that I yawned when she said that. Also, my son tells me that technically, pineapples aren’t fruits anyway. All fruits have seeds, and pineapples do not. I hope Jane doesn’t read this part. She’s sensitive and may be offended.]

Jackie: What if you could be a vegetable?
Jane: I’d be Jackie Phillips. It would be fascinating to learn what goes on (or doesn’t go on) in that so-called brain.

Jackie: Have you ever wanted to learn origami?
Jane: No, I avoid all things Asian for fear of getting the bird flu.

Jackie: Gee, look how quickly the time has flown by. I have to wrap up the interview. Is there anything about yourself that you would like the readers to know?
Jane: No, because quite frankly I’m afraid of your readers. I do my best to steer clear of prisoners, psychos and homeless people. The less they know about me the better.

Well, readers, there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. Hope you enjoyed meeting Jane. She’s refreshing as a root canal and quite the treasure. Her husband, “John Doe,” is a lucky man. Thank you, Jane, for opening your mind and heart to the public eye. I owe you one. Have a great week everyone.


So you're claiming to have a friend? That's adorable.
~Bob Loblaw, Anytown, USA

Does Jane have a sister?
~Bill Clinton

I was unable to locate your unextensive playlist. However, Lady Gaga started vocalizing about playing cards and being one crazy girl while I was trying to discern your anti-Jersey comments. Is she part of your musical repetoire?

AJR, you scrolled down and still didn't find the playlist? It's there. Try it again, but this time without the vodka. Also, it takes a bit for your computer to load the playlist box, so give it time. Since your computer is a 1928 model, it may take longer than other models.


Jul 30, 2009

Ain't Nothing Wrong with New Jersey

I was watching ABC World News on July 23 when I heard Charlie Gibson say the state of NJ “has a long history of corruption.” I take exception to that negativity. New Jersey is a state I once called home, and my family still lives there. I have very fond memories of NJ -- the Jersey shore, boardwalks, Philly cheesesteaks, pretzels, Italian water ice. And let’s not forget the toxic waste dumps, mafia, the highest car insurance rates in the nation, full-serve gas stations, and Wawa convenience stores.

But why is it that every time NJ is mentioned in the news, it’s always something bad? The state is a national joke, but it’s not funny to me. When we lived in Maryland, we used to call NJ the “armpit of the nation.” Now that’s funny.

If you’re not familiar with NJ, just think of the state as a giant suburb to New York City or Philadelphia. It’s also known for being a turnpike to those traveling to more important places, like Manhattan or D.C. The only part of NJ that really has its own identity is the Jersey shore, which New Jersians promptly put fences around and charge people high rates to use. Doesn't anyone admire that ingenuity? NJ also has the Pine Barrens in the south, a rural, sparsely populated forest area near the beaches that is home to the legendary Jersey Devil. It is said that the Jersey Devil was born a baby, but instantly changed into a winged devil monster that scares the locals and unsuspecting campers. Now that’s the NJ charm!

You can’t bottle all that goodness, but as I watched the news, Charlie Gibson talked about the dark side, saying 44 public officials, including three mayors, deputy majors, assemblymen, councilmen, rabbis and more were charged with taking bribes. What are people going to think about NJ now? The news reports hardly ever mention that NJ is called the Garden State or that it boasts a lovely, crime-free area surrounding the Atlantic City casinos!

Some people say corruption and criminal behavior are part of NJ life, but I say people from New Jersey are just more open to new experiences. For example, a Christian preschool teacher asked my Italian friend if he does “favors.” My friend understood the mistake (after all, he looks Italian) and told her he wasn’t connected. No biggie in NJ, but everywhere else people would make a federal case of having a preschool teacher ask if you could knock off someone for them. But my friend was born and raised in NJ, so he didn’t pay any attention to it. See, that’s called charming. New Jersians take life in stride and don’t let things bother them. “Fugget about it” is their motto, which they stole from New Yorkers.

What I see as the New Jersey persona begins to take shape quite early in a New Jersian’s life. Cute little toddlers would flip me off from their mom’s grocery cart if I smiled at them in the Shop Rite or Acme. Their parents had taught them to be wary of strangers, and the tots took it to heart. By first grade, street-smart youngsters were playing blackjack on the playground and told my sons that there was no Santa Claus or Easter bunny (which is just not true). I went to high school with a boy linked to a crime family and thought nothing of it -- in my mind, who didn’t know someone linked to the mob? When I was in college, I remember a group of truant 10-year-olds throwing beer bottles at me and other terrorized students as we tried to enter a building on Rutgers’ Camden campus. There was broken glass everywhere. Again, kids are kids. They just want to have a little fun. Are you telling me you think all those people will grow up to be corrupt or criminals? I’m 72% certain they won’t.

People look at the abrasiveness and anger, but don’t see the state’s focus on education. When a 12-year-old punk shot out my dad’s car window with a bb gun for kicks and my husband grabbed the little rascal by the neck, the kid shouted, “F--- you. I’m a minor. If you touch me, you’ll go to jail.” Now some teacher did a great job of teaching that youngster the law! That child was certainly not “left behind.”

Put all these stories together and you’ll get a bad image of NJ, but if you witnessed only one of these incidents each day, they’d soon become part of your daily routine and blend in with the woodwork. Eventually, it doesn’t even bother you. Heck, if you don’t get accosted or threatened in some way on a daily basis, you’ll begin to feel unsettled, as if the world is losing its balance.

I know that from experience. When I moved to the Midwest and no strangers accosted me or cursed at me for days, I felt sort of homesick, as if people here were just disinterested. Where’s the passion? Was something wrong with me?

My favorite NJ story occurred in South Jersey. My friend told me about it at a Jewish bakery, right after we dropped off our sons at preschool. She said the previous night, her sons were playing on her bedroom floor while she and her husband watched TV on the bed. The boys kept saying there was a man under the bed, which she thought was a game. Finally, she looked under the bed and found that there was an intruder hiding there! Talking with a mouth full of pastry, my friend calmly told me that she pulled the guy out from under the bed and “beat the sh— out of him” before her husband even had a chance to get to him. Her story was so matter-of-fact, a reflection that assaulting an intruder is no biggie for a Jersey girl. I looked at my friend in awe. What a story, and that too, told between bites of hamentashen!

I felt awkward, as if I needed to prove I was tough too. I thought about telling her what just happened in my neighborhood -- how the cops finally arrested a peeping Tom who made nightly visits to my backyard and my neighbor’s yard for almost a month. But how could I tell her I never confronted the guy? I would just call the cops at each sighting. My friend would have tackled him and put him in a headlock. I felt ashamed. I didn’t even have the guts to throw a rock at him. Well, we all have regrets in life.

Regardless, I may not be a Jersey girl, but I still love the state. My friends there are real friends, and I’m not just saying that because I’m frightened of them, especially Cindy. So what if a few rabbis, public officials, cops and mayors got arrested in the fifth-smallest state? It could happen anywhere. As my friend Jane would say, “Yous need to fugget about it.”


-- From Jersey Jane: "You misquoted me. It should read, "Yous need to fugget about it you morons."
And HOW could you write such a glowing article about NJ and fail to mention our favorite son: Jim "I am a gay American" McGreevey? You disappoint me, you moron."

-- You forgot to ask, "You from Jersey? What exit?"

-- BTW - more profound polls please. Especially if they use European spelling, as in "colour."

-- I think NJ is a great state. It's so tiny and inferior that I don't have to hear about its problems. Its sports teams are also really bad, so my favorite teams always beat them. That's why I like NJ.

-- I was unable to locate your unextensive playlist. However, Lady Gaga started vocalizing about playing cards and being one crazy girl while I was trying to discern your anti-Jersey comments. Is she part of your musical repetoire?

-- Apparently, I was not scroll-happy enough. I have now located the musak portion of this blog. Poker Face happens to be one of Riley's favorite songs....the video does have two huge dogs in it after all.
Jackie's comment: Sure, whatever you say, crazy person. I love dogs too.

Jul 23, 2009

Facebook or Satan's Playground?

I was talking to some friends at a party a few weeks ago when the hostess took me aside and asked me if I was on Twitter. On Twitter?!! The nerve! I threw my glass of soda in her face and told her I’ve never done drugs in my life. What an accusation!

Later that day, my kids explained that Twitter was a social messaging site on the computer. They said there are similar sites called Facebook and My Space.

The whole thought of someone communicating with others on a computer for social purposes seems ridiculous to me. If it was actually possible, wouldn’t it be awfully nerdy to sit at the computer talking to people you can’t see all day? Maybe shut-ins and hired assassins would have reason to do it, but certainly not teens or members of Generation X! And the claim that you can talk to lots of people simultaneously seems preposterous. Anyone who says you can type a message and hit one button to send it to over five people at a time is an outright liar. I’d stake my reputation on that – or so I thought. In the back of my mind, though, I knew I’d have to do some further investigating.

I began my quest at the nursing home where our family volunteers. Millie, the wisest woman I know, lives there. She was celebrating her 95th birthday when I asked what she knows about social networking sites on the Internet. She told me that all social networking tools and websites are part of a satanic cult! Millie met President Calvin Coolidge in her youth, so I believe her. Millie’s words scared me. I don’t want to be involved with Satan! I don’t know about you guys, but in my family, we don’t even like Satan. In fact, we have a sign painted above the inside of our front door that says, “Live, laugh, love” and then, on the adjacent wall, another painted sign reads, “We hate Satan.”

If Millie is right, our family was in danger. “Why did we buy the kids 13 computers this past Christmas?” I asked myself. But this wasn’t a time for regrets. It was a time for action. I invited my priest, Daniel, to dinner and asked him to bless our computers. He blessed them and doused them with holy water, rendering 11 of them useless and mistakenly electrocuting my son, whose hands were on one computer's plug and an electrical outlet at the time. Roberto was electrocuted only a little bit, but whined and cried like a school girl, despite still having full use of both legs. Both the priest and I told him to act like a man. Anyway, I am getting off track.

I needed to investigate more in order to give you some advice. I advise from direct experience, not just hearsay. For example, when my sons were little, I didn’t just tell them not to cross the street without looking both ways -- I showed them what I meant. Without looking, I ran into the street in front of my house as my neighbors were driving home from work. Although I sustained severe injuries, it was worth it. My kids now had practical knowledge and, more importantly, they learned that they can trust whatever I say. My method is so effective that one son is 17 now and never crosses the street. Another son is 15, and he doesn’t even leave the house. Of course, he’s developed crazy fears about the outside world, but that’s probably due to the influence of public schooling.

Anyway, the next step was for me to actually get on Facebook. I said a prayer and then created an account. I was armed with Bible passages to keep evil influences away. What I discovered will blow your mind. Facebook is an absolute delight! It turns out that Facebook isn’t a cult and Satan isn’t involved. The site is wonderful. I posted a status, and then people wrote back to me. I already have THREE friends, a testament to my immediate popularity.

So I take back what I said earlier. I now fully endorse the site and feel confident that I can speak for President Coolidge in saying that if he were alive and used a computer with an Intel processor, he would endorse Facebook too. So go ahead and create an account, and search for me, Jackie Phillips. I’ve posted a picture of my dog on the account so that you’ll recognize that it’s me. Put in a friend request, and I’ll befriend you, if that is the correct technical term.

As for Twitter and My Space, however, I have NOT tested those sites, so please DO NOT use them until further notice. I cannot assure you that they are Satan-free. My friends, Jill and Carole, have encouraged me to get on Twitter, which makes me distrust the site even more.

You’re probably thoroughly confused now. Twitter . . . Facebook. . . which is ok? Let’s make this as simple as possible. Just remember the acronym FUP, which means Facebook is Undeniably Pleasant. Twitter and My Space, on the other hand, are “Potentially Satanic – Do Not Use” or PSDNU (pronounced “Sudnew” because the P is silent). FUP and PSDNU should help you keep these lessons organized. Have a great day and remember to think outside the blog.


This post was so funny!!! You're the best Jackie, whoever you are lol. ~ Kaydia

Jun 22, 2009

Layoffs Abound

My husband was laid off from his job recently. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate rose to 9.4% in the month of May.

I’m not one to turn the attention to myself, but I was laid off once, and it was a very shocking experience. I was completely blindsided by it. I remember how it happened. My good friend/boss called me into his office and, me being naïve, I figured he was just chatting with me or showing me that day’s cartoon from his Dilbert calendar. But as I walked in, I saw that his face was serious and his expression pained. I wondered if it was a health issue. I asked him if he was ok. “I’ve got bad news,” he responded. “Corporate has been tightening our belts, and some positions have been eliminated in our company.”

“Oh my goodness!” I empathized. “I can’t believe they’ve cut your job!” I was dense. I started to offer my sympathy when it clicked in my brain that it was me, not him. Once his words registered, everything began to happen in slow motion. “Whaat? I’m laaaid oooooffffffff? Wheeennnnn?” I was incredulous. The room started to spin. How could this be? I’m Jackie, I thought. Nothing bad happens to me.

Random images and recollections flashed in my brain. . . the lunar landing, “One giant step for mankind,” . . . the theme song from Gilligan’s Island (the version where they sing “and the rest,” not “the Professor and MaryAnn” version), . . . the part of Star Wars when Darth Vadar tells Skywalker, “Luke, I am your father.” It was too much to bear all at once!

Within seconds, disbelief quickly gave way to reality and the fight-or-flight instinct took over. My martial arts background made the former my immediate reaction. Within two seconds, my boss had two black eyes, a dislocated shoulder, and a groin injury. I then surprised myself by unleashing a stream of unexpected obscenities that I heard on South Park on TV the night before.

What happened even after that was a blur. I know there was crying, biting, and I remember seeing a goat flying through the air in the office. When the incident was over, the goat was hiding behind a chair, and my battered boss tried to muster a sympathetic, understanding smile. He told me he’d take me to lunch in a few days. I apologized for the assault and attempted to make amends by petting the frightened goat. I threw a half-eaten Baby Ruth bar on the chair for him as a peace offering.

Though my head cleared later, I couldn’t figure out why the goat was present at the layoff, but when I called my old work number by mistake a few days later, I was taken aback to hear bleating on the other side of the phone. I should’ve known my boss was already grooming my replacement! And to think I shared a Baby Ruth with that goat!

My husband’s layoff was not a giant surprise, and no goat was present. Joe’s reaction to his layoff was different from mine -- very methodical and level-headed. He was upset at first, but like a machine, he generated resumes, made phone calls, and contacted the unemployment office. He has a routine he follows every day to look into new leads, make calls to old contacts, etc. It’s a wait-and-see game for us.

I don’t have a good stomach for such games, but Joe has his fail-safe backup plan of becoming a male stripper or male model if nothing happens in another month or so. He’s amazing!

The children are chipping in by waking at the crack of dawn and panhandling in front of the neighbors’ garages each morning. When the neighbors leave for work, the children let themselves in their houses and bring us food and clothing. They never steal valuables, however. That kind of behavior is beneath us.

I too have a back-up plan, unbeknownst to the family. I have taken all the money we have in savings and in the kids' college funds and bought TV network time at 8:30 p.m. on the 4th of July. I’m going to have a telethon to raise money for our family. It’s ingenious! I've contracted the most popular celebrities who appeared on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. These celebrities have great draw and somehow they all cleared their busy schedules and agreed to put on a variety show/telethon to raise money for our cause.

According to my calculations, in that single half hour (which will preempt the fireworks), we’ll raise enough money to live off of, to send the kids to college, and even to take a trip to Europe! I’m so excited. I am hoping my husband won’t discover that I’ve depleted our bank accounts and savings before the 4th of July. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

When I think of myself and all my wonderful attributes, I’d say creativity is one of my greatest strengths. I must also give credit to Abe Lincoln, whose words at his inauguration have inspired me. He said, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” and that’s just what I intend to do. Remember to tune in on the Fourth of July and send money.

May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day -- and Don't Buy a Pet

To pet or not to pet. That is the question. Ladies and gentleman, I haven’t written my blog for months and months -- and for good reason. I have been pondering the age-old question that man has faced since the beginning of time. Should I buy a pet or live pet-free? Fear not, I have an answer for you, and that too on Mother's Day.

The answer is . . . . you should not have an animal in the home. Hear me out. Many say animals are a source of joy and comfort, but isn’t it much easier to seek love through food or alcohol instead? I have tried both, and eating cupcakes or having a nice daiquiri are both cheaper and much more fulfilling than having a dog and cleaning up after it.

Many people who don’t have pets long to have a fluffy, little animal to dote on and love. If you are one of those people, I will gladly lend you my little dog to help you see what a mistake you’re going to be making. Sure, Lucky is cute to look at, but he’s dim-witted and not very clean. If he were part of the Indian caste system, he would be an Untouchable. He cannot fetch, stay, roll over or get me a newspaper. Is it my fault because I never taught him those things? No. Scooby-Doo solves crimes, Mr. Ed gives Wilbur philosophical advice, but Lucky does nothing.

Having an animal is like having a grown child with serious hygiene issues. This blog is rated G to hold on to our toddler audience, so I will refrain from telling you all the unhygienic things that animals do -- but, believe me, it is not a pretty sight. My old neighbor’s large dog, who was the size of a bear, once greeted me at his house by slobbering several ounces of saliva all over my feet. As he walked away casually, I saw him smirking with satisfaction. My kids have never slobbered on my feet or smirked about it behind my back.

Animals are also very dangerous. I’ve heard horrifying stories of animals who have taken people’s lives in anger. Look at Sasquatch and Godzilla. Their actions have been documented through video footage.

Even fish aren’t safe. My kids asked for a goldfish one Christmas, but the salesman convinced me to buy the cute little fish in another tank that was even cheaper. The boys loved showing “Goldie” to their friends until he bit off the neighbor girl's hand. Who’d have thought a cute little piranha could be so dangerous? What has the world come to when you can’t even trust a fish salesman?

I don’t like to write a one-sided article, so I will share with you the other viewpoint (the wrong one) that animal proponents will argue. They say having an animal will increase the years of your life and keep you youthful. Lies! My husband is allergic to our dog, and I’m sure the medication he is taking is decreasing his days. It was written in the insert that came with his prescription, "Warning: this medication may decrease your life span." In addition, prior to having the dog, my husband had a full head of hair. Now, suddenly, it’s all gone.

Proponents say animals will love you forever, unconditionally, whereas humans won't. They’re right on this count. Say my kid committed a serious crime -- I would cease contact with him except on Mother’s Day in case a gift was forthcoming) and never claim him as my own. But my dog would love my kid even if he was a murderer. So I’ll make an exception to my no-pet rule. If your teenage child is already showing signs of delinquency, maybe you should go ahead and buy that pet to prepare for future disappointments. If your child has no criminal record, however, I see no reason for you to get a pet.

Another pro-pet argument that I can’t refute is one that my friend Carolyn sent me an e-mail about. She said pets are truly man’s best friend, over all other friends – including humans. She had me take a simple test. I had to lock up both my dog and my husband in the trunk of my car for half an hour. At the end of the 30 minutes, when I opened the trunk, I would find out who was my best friend. Lucky was so happy to see me, but Joe was mad as heck. I tried this with my neighbors and a door-to-door salesman who rang our doorbell, and, let me tell you, the dog consistently won every time! So maybe animals are better friends.

On the pro-animal side, I’ve also heard stories of animals that have saved people’s lives – in the Alps and right here in the good old U.S.A. Look how many times Lassie had to save that dullard Timmy. But then I heard stories of people who have saved people’s lives too, so that makes this argument a moot point.

So if you are seriously debating getting an animal, consider the points I’ve made. Do you really want to have Cujo as a family pet? It’s up to you. I’ve armed you with the facts, and now it’s time for you to decide. Whatever you decide, I’m sure you will thank me.

This blog posting is dedicated to my mother, who has been like a mother to me for 40 years. The other 4 years, she was more like a third cousin twice removed, but Mom and I have put those dark years behind us -- the important thing to remember is that prison made her a better person in the end. Just kidding. My mom is the best mom in the world, a good woman who put her heart and soul into her girls and helped shape us into what we are today. Sure I was the only one that turned out great, but even a good mom can't have it all. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and all you other mothers out there too. My sisters are mothers, so Happy Mother's Day to Marian and Annabel too. Have a wonderful day! Make sure you milk it because you go back to being an indentured servant tomorrow.

Love, your daughter (or Jackie)

Feb 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is so exciting to most people. Not me. I just celebrated my 21st wedding anniversary two weeks ago. To celebrate love just a fortnight later is crazy. How much love can one feel?

I remember when I met my husband. I met him and knew I just had to marry him -- the INS called and threatened that if I didn’t get married soon, I would be deported. It was then that I realized Joe was the man for me.

Actually, I’m kidding. I met Joe in college. I was in the math lab. It was quiet. The mood was serious. People were deriving functions and solving equations. Then Joe walked in, and serious faces turned to smiles. The mood lightened up. People started calling out to Joe, talking and laughing. Everyone was suddenly giddy with glee. There was a sense of happiness and harmony that I’d witnessed only once before at a polka concert when the accordion-player took the stage. It was electrifying. Have you ever met someone who changed the mood of a room just by walking in? Joe did, and I knew I wanted to get to know him. We became fast friends, and within days I had a strong premonition that we would be married someday. I just had to figure out what to do with his current girlfriend, who was inconveniently alive.

Joe remembers our first meeting too, but his account is a little different. He remembers walking into the math lab and seeing this gorgeous, olive-skinned woman with long, black hair. I was standing next to her. Joe reminisces fondly that he liked me and thought I was kind, despite my homely appearance. As I recall, he was entranced by my unibrow and couldn’t get his eyes off of me. I knew I had him hooked at that point. The part of the story you don’t know is that that my sister and I both worked at the math lab where I met Joe. We didn’t work at the same time, so Joe didn’t know there were two of us. He thought we were the same person. To this day, Joe says he can’t be sure which sister he liked, but he’s 35% certain that it could have been me. Joe was excited about the thought of marrying me. He knew my father would offer a dowry if Joe married me, perhaps some cows and a few goats. Joe had always wanted his own goat. It was a deal he couldn’t pass up.

So, four years later, we tied the knot and never looked back. Marriage has been fantastic. There were some bumps in the road in the beginning – lies, deception, affairs with exotic women, but Joe has forgiven me for all that now. I lived at home until I was married, and then we started a new life in a crime-filled suburb of Philadelphia. It was a wonderful time. And now, 21 years later, it feels like we’re still those college kids. We really enjoy being around each other, and now we’re got three boys we love and enjoy, as well.

For our anniversary, we went for a romantic getaway. Things sure change over time. At our 10th anniversary, we went for a romantic retreat and Joe carried me over the threshold of the hotel-room door. This anniversary, Joe rushed to the door first, almost knocking me down as he tried to get in the room. Luckily, the weight of all the luggage he made me carry helped stabilize me, preventing me from falling. At our 10th anniversary, we were happy to be alone together. At our 21st anniversary, we were happy the room had a fridge and that we brought our reading glasses so we could see the numbers on the large-print TV remote. But these things don't matter. We are still happy to be together.

People have always told us that you have to work at marriage, but with Joe, I haven’t worked at all. I gave up on that a long time ago. We talk a lot, think alike, and we laugh more when we’re together than when we're alone. Most of it is cruel, angry laughter at the shortcomings of the other spouse, but who cares? Laughs are laughs. Plus, after years of training, Joe has learned to think like me, which makes me love him all the more. He’s finally accepted that my opinions are his opinions. For our anniversary, I got him a plaque that says, “If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.” I’m sure he was overjoyed.

So anyway, while many are celebrating a special Valentine’s Day, my husband is working on a science fair project with my son, I am typing alone on my computer, and I wouldn’t trade this for the world. Unless maybe George Clooney or Brad Pitt made me an offer. Then I wouldn’t give a second thought to old what’s-his-name. Just kidding. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Feb 1, 2009

A New Baby For "Dawn"

A friend of mine is way overdue with her baby – I think she was due a couple months ago. She's finally going to be induced tomorrow, Groundhog Day. Of all the days in the year, I think Groundhog Day has to be the coolest day to be born. My friend must think the same. She told me her due date has influenced the choice of a baby name. She’s going to name her little boy (to be) Punxsatawney Phil, the true name of the famous Groundhog Day groundhog. Isn’t that great? I always wanted to name one of my sons Punxsatawney, but I couldn’t spell it.

There are many groundhogs who are said to “forecast” the weather, but only Punxsatawney Phil is a certified meteorologist. He has even predicted in the presence of statesmen and presidents. He is published, a know humanitarian, and holds an honorary doctorate from Harvard University. Read more about him on this website:

But this article isn’t about that amazing groundhog, so I apologize for digressing. This posting is about babies. A few of my friends had babies recently, and boy does it bring back memories.

That moment when the child comes out and is placed on the mother’s stomach lives vividly in each mother’s mind forever. I was 12 or 13 when I had my first child out of wedlock, and when they gave him to me, it was a life-changing moment. I looked at little Hans and instantly felt a sense of awe. How could something so big come out of an area so little? One more look at him and I had to throw up. Not so romantic, but true. In my defense, seconds later, I looked at that adorable, hairy little baby with the big, gorgeous eyes. He looked like a little Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street. At that moment, my husband and I fell in love with Hans. (Oh, I remember my husband being there, so I must have had the child while married at a later age. Maybe I was 28.) Anyway, when a grown man and woman look past the unibrow and into the beautiful eyes of their newborn, the connection that is formed at moment and the emotions it evokes is called true love. I knew God blessed us with the greatest gift he could give a couple. Later, as I looked at some poor, ugly babies that were born the next day, I realized that not only was our child special, so was I.

Once you have your first baby, the next week is overflowing with emotion – love, exhaustion, happiness, and, my personal favorite, panic. The panic comes from having no idea what you’re doing. I came from a family of three girls, so it was very scary for me when the doctors looked at my sonogram and told me I was going to have a boy. I didn’t know how boys think or what to do with a boy. I wasn’t the athlete I am today, so I didn’t even know about sports. All I knew was girly stuff – that David Cassidy and Robert Redford were cute, that you shouldn't store an electric toaster near the bathtub, and that you should always act like a lady. How could I teach that to my baby? I didn’t even know how to hold a baby. What if he jumped from my hands? What if I broke the baby? What if my girliness made him effeminate? Those are the fears that danced through my brain when brain activity did occur. My husband, a very wise person, assured me that I’d learn as I went along and said he was certain the baby would come out as an infant, not a full-grown man. He also reminded me that he would be the male role model and that I wasn’t expected to play both roles. (I had an acting background.)

When we brought little Hans home from the hospital, I showed him the house for the first time. We showed him each room, his crib, where we keep the car keys, and where he was to store his shoes when he came in from the rain or snow. Then I read him a long list of rules about curfew, household expectations, the equal sharing of chores – all the standard stuff new parents do when bringing a baby into the house. I threw a pack of cigarettes out the front door as a visual symbol that smoking would not be tolerated in the house. Our orientation went well. The baby didn’t argue or appear to be surprised by any of the house rules. I had a warm feeling in my heart. I knew we succeeded at our first act of parenting.

We soon discovered that little Hans was a very hungry person. Not at all like me or my husband. We ate three good, square meals each day, but this tiny one had a ravenous appetite! He ate every couple hours and sometimes even more. Joe and I exchanged worried looks when Hans ate an entire turkey breast and then wanted crushed pears and Gerber sweet potatoes just an hour later. He was just a newborn, but here he was, developing unhealthy eating habits after a few days at home. We had to put an end to it or at least hide this peculiarity from others. We didn’t take him out in public, embarrassed by his gluttonous behavior. It took us almost two years, but we finally got Hans’s eating issues under control.

There were other, more sensitive issues too. The child couldn’t use the restroom until well after he learned to walk. He had so many accidents. Ashamed, we discreetly bought adult diapers for small women at the all-night drug store. We were able to cope using them. Again, we didn’t tell others about this problem, but I look back and realize it must have been related to the overeating issue.

Hans wasn’t very verbal either. He didn’t speak for a full year. We looked to our past experiences to figure out what to do. My husband remembered from his childhood that he had a dog that started barking within hours of bringing him home as a puppy. Joe didn't recall teaching the animal how to bark, but we had to give it a try. We barked a few times, but the baby didn’t respond. In fact, this child didn’t say a word. He probably felt fear or nervousness about the eating issue. We decided to play it cool and not mention it again. Within a year, our prayers were answered. He began saying small words like Mama, jew (for juice), ball, and some curse words he picked up at the local pub. We were so proud.

Now our son is 16. He's smart as a whip, sweet, kind, and we love him to death. We had two other sons we love just a much, but, sadly, I don’t remember anything about when they were babies or young kids. I just tell them stories about their brother and pretend it was about them. Sometimes I tell them stories about my own childhood and substitute their names. This doesn’t always work out. My second son now has false memories about when he was a ballerina in the first-grade play. Rather than tell him I'm a liar, I let it go. He can work it out in therapy during his 40s.

Having multiple children also challenges your brain capacity. You remember stuff about the first, but then you get confused a lot. Soon, you find yourself calling the boys by each other's names, and eventually, you start calling them the dog's name. They won’t tell you this in Planned Parenthood. It’s one of those big secrets, like Area 51, UFOs, and whether lunar landings actually occurred.

Anyway, I hope my friend, Dawn, has a good delivery. (She was so worried that I would use her real name, Karen Schwartz, in my blog, but I didn’t. I have a post-it note on my computer that says, “Do not put Karen Schwartz’s name in blog.”) Anway, I hope Dawn has a good delivery and has better luck in the first few months with her baby than Joe and I did.

Happy Groundhog Day to all of you, and, mostly, happy birthday and a rousing “welcome to earth” to baby Punxsatawney Phil. Congratulations Dawn and husband Sven! We are praying for a quick delivery and a healthy, happy little boy!