Browsing Category The Way I See It

Giving Forethought to Never Saying Never

“Nothing like that ever happens in this neighborhood.” How often do we hear someone being interviewed during a TV news segment say that?  The thoughtless statement always makes me shake my head in dismay. Don’t folks know that there is a first time for everything?

I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for 43 years. (Obviously, I like the place.) During that time, I have never seen so much as a fistfight in our complex, not even among the children when they were growing up here. (Correction, I do recall one fight among two sisters.) Overall, ours has been a sedate place, where neighbors feel like family and look out for each other. The milieu changed yesterday.

It was around 10:15 a.m. I was doing what I normally do, sitting at my computer, zoned-out in my literary domain, composing essays that I hope would bring me extra bucks like they sometimes do. Suddenly, a deep male voice yells “Get your hands up!” And I nearly fall off my chair.

I had been so focused on what I was writing that the first time I heard the order I thought it was coming from the TV since the set was turned on. But the volume was low. Had the volume suddenly jumped up? I wondered. That thought got nixed when I looked over my shoulder at the screen to see an animated bear shaking its rear and singing about a clean hinny. Then, I heard the booming voice again. Shouting twice. “Get your hands up! I won’t say it again.”

In temporary bewilderment, I almost raised my hands, until it dawned on me that I was home alone, and my door was chain locked. That’s when my frayed nerves relaxed, and I realized that the voice was coming from outside my window. I got up from my chair and looked through the Venetian blinds. What appeared to be a platoon of police officers was standing strategically all over the yard and on the sidewalk outside the gate that surrounds our complex.

I backed away from the window, turned, and hurried downstairs. I opened the door, a few inches at first, in case shooting started, forcing me to retreat inside. After a few seconds, I summoned the courage and went outside on the porch. Some of my neighbors also began coming out. Cops were everywhere. Some of them guardedly glanced at us.

A young man who looked to be Hispanic and was wearing all black, including a black hoodie that partially covered his head was pinned face down on the ground beneath my window. One officer was handcuffing him while others stood vigilantly nearby. A second Hispanic man similarly attired, was being led through the courtyard. He, too, was handcuffed and flanked by a trio of officers. Both men appeared to be in their late teens or early twenties.

The commotion of what could have been filming for an episode of Cops was over in about 10 minutes, although some officers stayed around for at least an hour searching the grounds. During that time, a truck with “Investigation Unit” printed on its side arrived on the scene. I never found out what the two suspected lawbreakers did that led the cops to chase them onto our property, but I later learned from one of my neighbors that the cops found a gun near the trash bin. One of the two fugitives had accidentally dropped or purposely ditched the weapon after jumping the fence during the chase.

Yesterday’s event was the most attention-grabbing incident to occur in our neighborhood since one afternoon, in 1988, when a homeless advocate affiliated with Mitch Snyder’s CCNV climbed the 761-foot transmission tower (that is higher than the Washington monument) and hung a banner from it that read, “Housing Now.” We stood outside for a few hours, until sundown, as did police until the tower climber was eventually persuaded to climb down. He was promptly arrested.

Unfortunately, the state of this world provides no safe haven. Whether you live in a gated suburban community or an upscale urban neighborhood, you should never say never. Due to factors over which we have no control, none of us can predict what will happen from one minute to the next.

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Give Them Something to Talk About

Steve Goodier says, “A sense of humor helps us to get through the dull times, cope with the difficult times, enjoy the good times and manage the scary times.”

Humor is not an antidote for everything, but like Goodier, I believe that doses of it help ward off physical and mental woes. Since I’ve been blessed, thus far, to age healthfully, I feel obligated to share with my geriatric peers some lighthearted tips for surviving happily ever after you’ve climbed the hill of life, rounded the top, and are repelling down the other side. Observing these 12 dos and don’ts will help the mature person waylay worries about aging and live life to the fullest.

  1. Don’t make a side-by-side comparison of your high school yearbook photo with the headshot you’ve recently taken at your grandchild’s wedding unless you want to hurt your feelings. No matter how your mirror and mind fool you into thinking that you look decades younger than you are, reality checks can be shocking.
  2. Do write on a notepad what you are going after in another room. Then, tear off the sheet and carry the note with you. If you forget to bring the note and can’t remember what you came into the room for, go back and get the note, if you can remember where you left it. If you can’t find the note, backtracking will often refresh your memory of what you went to get in the other room.
  3. Don’t store something important in a particular place in your home, thinking that you’ll remember where you put it. You won’t. Hide it in plain sight.
  4. Don’t fume over your arthritic knee or bursitis hip and then angrily shout, “What next?” As sure as you ask the universe that question, your next doctor’s visit will reveal gout, hypertension, cataracts or some other age-related ailments.
  5. Don’t pluck your gray hairs. Stop fighting them. After a while, it becomes a losing battle anyway. Just resolve to make hair color your new best friend.
  6. Don’t tempt fate by getting down on the floor to exercise, thinking that after you’ve finished you’ll jump right up. You won’t. If there is no one nearby who you can call to come and help you up, roll over on your side, get on your hands and knees, crawl to a chair or sturdy table and pull yourself up. A similar principle applies if you have been sitting for a long time and feel stiff when you rise from the chair. Sometimes this is embarrassing if you are in a room with other people. After standing, pretend that you are doing the robot dance until your joints feel limber enough to allow you to walk naturally.
  7. Don’t be embarrassed about taking a nap in the middle of the day. After spending over half your lifetime in gainful or unprofitable employment, you’ve earned the right to rest whenever you feel like it.
  8. If you are home alone and your favorite party song from back in the day comes on the radio, go ahead and dance like nobody’s watching. Just make sure you’re wearing your medical alert bracelet.
  9. When your architecture has gone from a brick house to a falling hut, stabilize it with appropriate props. And banish the cropped tops and spandex leggings from your wardrobe. Chose comfortable clothes over stylish ones. If you are tempted to dress like a juvenile, remember the Bonnie Raitt song “Give them something to talk about.” Don’t.
  10. Don’t curtail your love for books because you hate wearing reading glasses. Order books in large print.
  11. Don’t’ worry if your children gifted you with a smartphone, a smart TV, or a smart Fitbit watch, and you feel like an idiot because you can’t properly operate it. You have plenty of company.
  12. Don’t despair. Even as we age, in our minds, most of us remain essentially our younger selves. Aging isn’t just a number, it’s another challenge. The secret to aging gracefully is to remain young-in-heart and youthful in spirit. For as long as you can, continue doing the things that you enjoy even if others think that you look ridiculous. Eventually, you may lose your hair, your teeth, and your looks; just hold on to your faith and your sense of humor and you’ll be all right.
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Pushing Up Daisies

I’m sitting here thinking about putting a light spin on what is a dark part of every one of our lives. It’s something that no one wants to discuss. That unwelcome visitor that everyone knows is coming who makes us want to snatch the welcome mat from in front of our door. That one-way trip that we will all take eventually whether we want to go or not. That journey to the valley of death.

Since I’ve got more years behind me than before me, I’ve been giving the subject a lot of thought. Certainly, after I fall into the big sleep, I won’t have a say over anything concerning my former self, so I am herein expressing my last wishes for funeral and burial.

Before I continue with details, let me reiterate what I have often said – that I hate attending funerals and avoid them when I can. But as we all know there is one funeral that we won’t miss. Our own.

About funeral-goers. I put them into three categories. First, there are the truly bereaved mourners who have lost a loved one, relative, or friend. Second are the curious, casual acquaintances of the deceased whose ulterior motive for attending the funeral is to get a copy of the program, with the hope of learning things that they didn’t already know about the deceased. The third group attends funerals because it is a social gathering. During the hour or two, while they are attending the service and the repast, it breaks-up the monotony of their otherwise mundane life. I’m not judging. I’m just calling it as I see it.

Skepticism aside, we all have limited time on earth. Before my time comes to be the grim reaper’s reluctant guest of honor, I want to make my last wishes known to my family. And family, don’t feel guilty if you do not comply with these requests because as I’ve learned over the years not everyone’s last wish is granted. It is the living, not the dead who have the final say over the dead body. I’ll give you an example.

After mother died, a few days before her funeral service, my sister and I carried the outfit for her to be buried in to the funeral home. On the day of the funeral, I arrived shortly before the wake was scheduled to start. When I looked in the casket, I was beyond upset. Mother’s chemo-thinned, silvery hair had been nicely pressed, curled, and styled, BUT that was not the issue. She had worn a wig for years before she died, and while on her deathbed, when she was suggesting to my sister and me which outfits we could bury her in, she said, “And don’t forget my wig.”

We had placed the wig neatly on top of the clothing in the bag before carrying it to the funeral home. The undertaker’s grave mistake was that he or she inadvertently forgot to put mother’s wig on her head. That’s what I mean when I say that the dead don’t always get their last wish fulfilled, but there was a twist to this.

Mother’s wig was ultimately retrieved by the undertaker after the first service and was placed on her head before her body was transported over 200 miles away for a graveside ceremony and burial in her hometown. My cousin, who had attended the first service and then followed the hearse to the burial site, later told me that when the casket was opened for the graveside service, she was surprised to see mother was wearing her wig.

I repeat. I do not want an open casket funeral. I don’t want people walking up to my casket gawking over me and then later telling others how I looked. I know that people mean well, but during my lifetime, I have heard (and overheard) too many obtuse comments made about dead people.

“Ms. Estelle sure looked nice. She had on a hat and gloves, dressed like she was going to church. They even had her usher pin on her lapel.”

Or here’s another one, “LaQuita looked good in that white casket. Her weave was tight, and that purple eye shadow matching her lavender shirt was nice. Her boyfriend should not have did that to her.”

It is the female corpses that get scrutinized most, but occasionally comments are made about the males. “Why did they bury Mr. Johnson in his glasses? It’s not like he’ll be able to see where he’s going.”

Undertakers deserve credit for doing their best to make corpses presentable. Still, the thoughtless remarks that some people make after the services bothers me. The sad fact is that no matter how well they are laid out, the bodies of dead people look just like what they are – lifeless and dead. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I say that with much respect.

Like every other corpse, I will have no control over what I am wearing, how my hair is combed or whether my lips have been fixed to look like I am smiling on the way to eternity or pissed off because I am in the land of the dead. Therefore, I repeat, I do not want an open casket funeral. Sadly, I make that request knowing full well that I won’t have the last word about that. You, my family, will.

I tell you what, let’s not have a funeral for me. Services and headstones are expensive. Use that life insurance money for something else. Cremate me. I don’t care. Cremation is cheaper, and think, in the future, you’ll be able to truthfully tell your friends that I had a smoking hot body.

And another thing. I’ve seen insensitive people take pictures of the deceased when they go to view the body. Not only do I think that is inappropriate, but it is downright disrespectful to the family and the deceased. The deceased deserve the dignity of going to their final resting place without a photo op.

If you have a service for me, please call it a funeral. Do not call it a homegoing. I know that term is popular and frequently used. But I never liked it. I understand the concept of homegoing to a heavenly home. But when I think of home going I envision myself taking out my key, unlocking the door, and walking into the place where I live, not transported in a hearse to a cemetery.

In the great scheme of things, we are all insignificant. When and how we are born into this world is the luck of the draw. We have no say in the matter. Who will be our birth parents? Was our birth planned and eagerly anticipated or a fluke? Will we be born a rich child, into a wealthy family, or a poor child in poverty? How we fare in life is a game of chance, and it is pretty much the same when we depart. We don’t know when or how we will leave here. Natural causes. Murder. Accident. Suicide. It’s paramount to live our best life and celebrate it now. When we come here, how long we stay, and when we leave is not a choice.

The Bible prophesizes, and people can speculate all they want, but who on earth can say for sure what happens to us after we die? Christians believe that depending on how we live; we will ultimately ascend to a heavenly home or spiral down into a hellish abyss. Who knows? The hereafter is as perplexing as the present day and time. The goal, oh yeah, and a song you can play at my service if you wish is Stayin’ Alive.

This composition began as a personal letter to my family, but while writing it, I decided to post an alternate version with the hope that it might make someone smile about a subject that is often taken deathly seriously.

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Thank a Mother – Revisited Again

A message for women who have a good man. What many Boomers know and some Gen Xers and Millenials have yet to learn.

If you are in a relationship with — or married to — a man who you love because he respects you, provides for you, and treats you like his queen – thank his mother. Listen up women, while nothing is set in stone, there is much truth to the adage that the way a man treats his mother reflects on how he will treat you.

We’ve all heard conversations on TV talk shows and among women who we know personally, where the subject is mother bashing — not their mother, but his. I am talking about women who are filled with resentment or envy because they begrudge the relationship between their man and his mother.

I discount the myth that sons who are close to their mothers are mama’s boys, in every sense of the words, though in some cases it is true. I’ve known a couple of mama’s boys in my lifetime, who could not cut that apron string. Bye-bye baby. However, the closeness between a mother and her son could indicate that he is a loving man, who knows how to treat a woman because he learned from his mother how a good woman deserves to be treated. He’s the kind of man that most women want.

Whether a son is raised by a strong, determined mother in a wholesome, nuclear family unit, or in the home of a struggling, yet well-grounded, single mother, if he has the guidance and the mindset to do so — that boy will grow up to be a well-adjusted, independent man. And ask just about any woman what qualities she desires in a loving relationship with her man and many will tell you that – aside from the essentials like respect, love, trust, and accountability — affection is high on her list of desirable traits.

From the time my two children were born I constantly showered them with hugs and kisses. Such affection is the norm in our family. When divorce forced me to become a single working parent and to assume the roles of both father and mother, the bond between my children and I grew even stronger.

I groomed my daughter and son to be responsible, compassionate, and affectionate adults. Both of them are now grown and married with families of their own. And I proudly boast to anyone in earshot – that in spite of the many challenges our young family faced years ago in our single-parent household — my daughter now writes poetry and my son is a successful entrepreneur. But this post is intended to be about sons more than daughters, so let me get back to the point.

According to William Pollack, Ph.D., “Far from making boys weaker, the love of a mother can and does actually make boys stronger, emotionally and psychologically. Far from making boys dependent, the base of safety a loving mother can create – a connection that her son can rely on all of his life – provides a boy with the courage to explore the outside world . . . a loving mother actually plays an integral role in helping a boy develop his masculinity.”

There is always an exception to every rule, but more often than not a good man was molded by his mother.

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Coffee — If Loving You Is Wrong

As soon as I get up in the morning I turn on my mister. (Not that mister. Get your mind right.) My Mr. Coffee automatic drip coffee machine.

Experts suggest that upon rising after a night’s sleep we should drink water; at least 2 cups or one 16oz bottle. Water rehydrates the body. It also fires up the metabolism and helps the body flush out toxins. They further recommend that coffee lovers like me delay that cup of joe until an hour after we awake.

If you – like me – wake up thinking about coffee, you’ve got a serious case of coffee on the brain. We are bonafide coffeeholics. The good and bad of that is this. We may crave caffeine, but unlike addictive drugs, caffeine doesn’t threaten our physical, social, or economic health. And as you may already know coffee has health benefits. (An hour is an excruciatingly long time to wait for that first sip).

On mornings when I go to the gym, water is my first drink of the day. I usually finish a bottle of it during my pre-dawn workout. Sip by boring sip. But on days when I don’t exercise, all bets are off. Coffee is my go-to beverage. I like it freshly brewed and strong every morning. Sometimes I drink it black, or occasionally with a little cream, but never, ever do I add sugar. Confession – decades ago when I began drinking coffee, I could only tolerate it with 4-6 heaping spoonsful of sugar. Yucky! I know. I can’t tell you how many times back then someone would flippantly say to me, “I see you take coffee in your sugar.” I stopped that. Now, when I need a sugar fix with my coffee, I have a blueberry muffin on the side.

Coffee is one of the world’s most consumed beverages, third place behind water and tea. Studies show that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of some serious diseases likely due to the high levels of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients in the beverage. Coffee improves various aspects of brain function and the body— including memory, mood, and energy levels. It increases fat burning and physical performance which is why some fitness enthusiasts drink coffee before working out. On the rare occasions when I drink coffee before exercising, I do notice that my energy level increases.

Studies also show that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer diseases.

Black coffee is calorie-free. Anyone trying to lose weight should avoid the cream (or milk) and sugar (and probably the muffin, too).

Excluding bacon frying in a skillet, coffee is the next best thing to smell in the morning.

Cars need gas to run, and I need coffee. I prefer it hot, strong, and fresh. I occasionally drink java after it has cooled to room temperature, but hours-old or microwave reheated coffee not only diminishes the taste it’s downright nasty.

I’m a frugal hometown girl so I rarely buy gourmet coffee, but I hear that some brands are so good they will make you jump up, click your heels together and spin in circles. Among the top five gourmet brands, you’ll find La Colombe Corsica Blend, Peet’s Coffee Big Bang Medium Roast and Death Wish Whole Bean Coffee. Billed as the world’s strongest coffee, Death Wish is highly rated and highly caffeinated. It has double the caffeine of your average cup. One bag will cost you around $20.00.  You’ll recognize the brand by the skull and crossbones on the package.

I have no taste for instant coffee so I’ll skip it. I prefer to brew one of my favorite regular brands each morning from any one of two or three 12oz packages of ground that I keep on hand. Each cost around $7 or $8.

There are over 100 brands of coffee. Over the years, I have tasted many brands though probably less than half. Among those that I’ve sampled are Maxwell House, Folgers, and Gevalia, but my favorites are Dunkin Donuts (Hazelnut), Starbucks (Breakfast Blend Medium Roast) and Seattle’s Best. Seattle’s Best is currently my go-to brand. It’s mild and delicious.

Let me share with you a mugful of more tips about coffee strength and coffee roast. Coffeeholics don’t particularly care about stuff like this, but I’ll tell you anyway. The ratio of coffee grinds to water during the brewing process determines the strength – the actual caffeine content – in a  particular amount of coffee. There are three main stages in roasting: drying stage, browning stage, and development or roasting stage. Light roast coffee is mild. Dark roast is bold. Many dark roasts are used for espresso brands. Medium roast and medium-dark – medium brands are not too light, not too bold. Breakfast blends can include different types of coffee beans and different sorts of roast levels. Like medium brands, blends are not too strong and not too weak.

Decaffeinated coffee – forget it, drink water instead. I mean without the caffeine, what’s the point? Coffee minus caffeine is like Christmas without carols, a beach without an ocean, a popsicle without the stick. Clearly, I dislike decaf coffee and that’s that.

Take note coffee lovers. To maintain freshness and flavor, packaged coffee must be kept away from moisture, heat, light, and strong odors. Refrigerating it is not a good idea because moisture will quickly deteriorate its quality. Instead store your package (especially after opening) in an airtight ceramic, metal or plastic container until needed.

As I see it, coffee tastes better when drinking it from a ceramic mug instead of a Styrofoam or paper cup.

That’s my spiel on the brown beverage. Stay grounded and take time to smell the coffee.

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