Every Child is Precious

Have you ever been in a situation where you witnessed a parent so stupid that you felt compelled to step in and protect a child from their own parent? I’ve witnessed this a few times and have come to the conclusion, or Kaneclusion, that certain people should not be allowed to procreate.

Case in point. About a year ago, we were at a show in an arena. A man was standing with his three year old daughter by the railing on the stairs that overlooked the below section. The little girl kept climbing on the railing, while the father was on his cell phone, not paying attention. All the adults were sitting on the edge of their seats watching this, waiting for the girl to fall through the railing, imagining her plummeting to the below section to her death. While everyone watched, one man out of at least 200 onlookers, got out of his seat, walked up to the little girl and swooped her up in his arms and handed her to her father and said, “Watch your little girl!” The father, annoyed that he had to put down his cell phone, took it as a complete blow to his ego, and started to yell at the guy and told him to keep his hands off his daughter. If you can fathom this, the father was angry that someone else was protecting his daughter. Instead of thanking the stranger for keeping his daughter out of harms way, he started yelling at the guy. It almost came to blows. My friend ran to get security who came and calmed the situation down. But at one point, it was almost as if the father was going to put his daughter on the railing again just to prove a point.

One man was a hero, and I told him so. He did what the rest of us wanted to do but we didn’t have the guts to get involved. The other man, the father, should not have had children because he didn’t know how precious his little girl was and took it all for granted. In an instant, his whole world, and his little girl’s world, could have changed. Which raises the question, at what point is it okay to step in to protect children from their own parents.

This weekend, I went with a friend to see the movie, Precious. Wait, let’s back up for a moment. Before that, I had seen interviews on TV with the actors of this movie and knew the context before considering going to see it. It wasn’t in my top ten movies to see because of the subject matter. Typically when I go to the movies, I want to be entertained. I either want to laugh, be inspired in some way, or cry. A movie is an escape for me from my everyday life and I generally don’t like coming out of the theater more depressed or upset than when I went in. So I’m not the type to go see slasher movies or gang banger movies. But the friend that I was going to the movies with had Precious on her “must see” list. Since it was her turn to pick the movie, it was one of the choices for the evening. I thought I was in the clear when it wasn’t playing anywhere locally. But as luck would have it, it was playing in Hartford and I happened to have a babysitter for the entire evening. Without a good excuse, all things were pointing in favor of her dragging me to go see it. How bad could it be, right? If I go to this movie with her, then I get to pick next time and then we can go see The Christmas Carol, something a little more up my alley. Fair enough. I conceded.

I knew that it was going to be a deeply disturbing movie. The main character, Precious, is an obese, illiterate teenager who endures life in Harlem. She survives incest and molestation by the hands of her father, with the outcome producing two children. The movie centers around her tumultuous relationship with her mother and what she does to try to better her life. That much I knew before going in. Lighthearted, it wasn’t going to be. But I’m an adult and I could take it. I kept telling myself that other people had sat through it so it couldn’t be that bad. No big deal. It’s just a movie. I’ll watch it then forget about it. I’m in it for the popcorn.

When we got to the Cineplex, the theater that the movie was playing in was packed and all the stadium seats were taken. We ended up grabbing two seats up front where it was less crowded. During the previews, even the seats up front rapidly started filling up. Generally speaking, a good rule of thumb is, a packed theater indicates that a movie is good. I started to feel better about being there, under the notion that it must be a good movie if so many people were there to see it.

The last preview played. My friend and I settled into our seats and waited for the show to start. The true horror of the evening, something I had not anticipated, was just about to begin for me.

“Precious.” A word meaning dear; beloved. It also means having high cost; valuable; or excessively delicate.

In the dark of the theater, in walked a mother and her two children who sat in the row diagonally in front of us. I sized the boy up to be around my daughter’s age, 8-9years old. The girl was probably 4 years old. I looked at my friend and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me, right? Isn’t this film rated R?” I was in complete disgust, but was giving the mother the benefit of the doubt that surely they wandered into the wrong theater and will figure it out soon enough. They’ll leave once the mother figures out the horrible mistake she’s made, that this wasn’t Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

The movie started. In the first five minutes there is an onslaught of bad language and physical abuse which takes place between Precious and her mother. I looked at the boy’s face that was in front of me. He was looking back and forth at the screen, and then looking at his mother. I interpreted this to mean he was looking for some kind of reassurance from her or some kind of acknowledgement that it was okay that he was watching this violent exchange. I witnessed the shock on the little boy’s face during the flashback scenes of the character’s father raping his teenage daughter. It was bigger than life on the big screen. The mother sitting in front of me, ignoring her son while he paid close attention to every gory detail, was wrapped up in the movie so much that she never glanced once at either of her children to see how they were handling it. The details of each scene permeating these children’s precious minds, and was no doubt shaping the way they will think in the future, but to what end is yet to be determined.

I tried my hardest to ignore that they were sitting in front of me but couldn’t. I was totally preoccupied with these tiny little people absorbing this information into their brains and visualizing what kind of messed up lives they must have to be in that theater. I had a growing contempt and fury for the mother, with her three-inch hollow puffy gold, over-the-top square earrings, and her hair weave. What stupidity and selfishness on her part. To subject her kids to what was clearly adult content to satisfy her own immediate need made me quiver with anxiety coupled with hatred.

At every horrifying clip in the movie, at every violent action, at every sexually revealing segment, I watched the boy’s face, his mouth gaped open, his wide-eyed whites of his eyes glistening in the dark, in shock like a deer in headlights. He didn’t speak, but rather was transfixed on the movie screen. The little girl, three quarters of the way through, lost interest and started playing with her hair band. Thank God! Thank God for the act of boredom to act as protection. The mother, absolutely oblivious to the fact that this might harm her children, sitting there engrossed in the movie, shoving her face with popcorn. I question if she even knew her kids were there at all.

Unlike most of the other people in the theater, who were openly gasping at the constant abuse the character endured in her life, I was totally absorbed in listening and watching the victimization through the eyes of the children in front of me. Yes. The movie was disturbing. There is no doubt that the characters symbolize the non-perfect world of growing up in a rough neighborhood, and being subjected to things that children should not be subjected to. But what is worse? Watching a movie on the big screen where actors are merely portraying cringy moments of a mother continuously choosing not to protect her child, and acting out how she subjects her child to the horrors that life has to offer? Or sitting directly in back of a mother who would bring her grammar school-aged children to watch a movie like that? I watched, like I did the movie, a mother who did not protect her children and offered no consolation to her children, right in front of me. It was art imitating life! And it took everything in my being not to open my normally big mouth.

When the movie first started, I still was giving this woman in front of me some type of benefit of the doubt in my head like, “well, this is just the beginning and maybe it’s not as bad as the critics and tv shows made it out to be. Maybe there is a redeeming message that this mother wants her children to learn and I’m being too hard on her.” As the movie unfurls, however, the answer to all my doubts is an unequivocal NOT! Without giving away the end, I would say in the last 1 minute of the movie there is a redeeming moment. However, does one subject their child to 108 minutes of pure evil to get to the one minute of redemption?

I wanted to say something to this woman when the movie ended but my friend said don’t bother. She was probably right.

Ironically, the same thing happened to me when I went to see the The Passion of the Christ. Again, I was prepared and ready to be horrified. What I wasn’t prepared for was to watch the movie through the eyes of the child sitting in front of me whose parent thought it would be a good catholic lesson for his child to see the blood and gore of scourging! I was completely disgusted at the parent then as I was this past weekend. I want to scream from the rooftops to these parents, “What are you thinking?” With a follow up question of “Where do you send your children to school so I can make sure my kids don’t come in contact with your kids, who will inevitably need help due to your lack of being able to make proper judgments!!!”

Was the movie, Precious good, you ask? Who knows. I know two children and I are 3 people in the world that didn’t think so. Although, under other circumstances, I might have thought so. I should have come out of the theater talking about the tragedy of what I just saw on the screen. But instead found myself discussing how some people should not have kids and how terribly irresponsible it was for that parent to bring her children to the theater to see an R-Rated film.

A part of me feels like a failure in the respect that I said nothing to the parent in front of me in the theater. I said nothing. And in my silence, like all the other people in the theater, we condoned her bringing her children to an R-Rated film. I don’t know how many, if any at all, people in the theater were bothered by it like I was. But I assure you that nobody said anything to her about it. There is a fine line between being a coward and being rational. I rationalized it, thinking that as parents we have the right to make decisions for our own kids. But I think I was wrong. I should have spoken up. I could have complained to the management of the theater. But I didn’t, due to my own fear of retribution. I didn’t because I didn’t want to cause a scene

My Kaneclusion is that having kids is precious. Their minds are precious little sponges that absorb everything. What parents put into those sponges is what those children will become. In the computer world we have a saying “Garbage in Garbage out.” In the movie Precious, the character is told from the day she is born that she is nothing. In the movie, of course, she improves her life overcoming the insurmountable odds making something of herself. But in real life, is that really the case for children who are abused, tormented, belittled, and left to the evil of the world with nobody protecting them? It begs the question, if you ever witnessed a mother treating her daughter the way that the character did in this movie, would you have the gumption, the nerve, the moral fiber to stand up, jump in and protect the child being abused. If you asked me that question last week, I would have said, “Hell yeah, I would get involved.” But I didn’t, did I.

I hope that if you go see this movie, if there are kids in the audience, that you remember this blog. Maybe you will have more courage than I did to act. Let the benefit of my hindsight lead you to complain to the Theater Manager. R-Rated is not Parental Guidance. It means Restricted. Period. Wished I had thought of it while I was sitting there, missing a movie I never wanted to go see in the first place.

So Many Things to Be Thankful For, Even the Crap

Rachel's Thankful List (verbatim)

  1. I am thankful to have Mommy.
  2. I am thankful to have Dianne.
  3. I am thankful that I have friends.
  4. I am thankful for the clean air.
  5. I am thankful for my house and food.
  6. I am thankful for the electricity.
  7. I am thankful for my bed.
  8. I am glad there are second chances.
  9. I am thankful for my school.
  10. I am thankful for my hearing aids - I would be learning sign language without them.
  11. I am thankful for all the clothes that I have.
  12. I am thankful that the dreams I made came or is coming true.
  13. I am thankful that I have the ability to do many things.
  14. I am thankful that we are all happy, well-fed, healthy and together.
  15. I am thankful for the toys and books that I own.
  16. I am thankful for our family's warmth when needed.
  17. I am thankful for the extra classes my parents payed for to have fun.
  18. I am thankful for my dollter, Sarah Jane Kane (American Girl Doll)
  19. I am thankful for the privacy of my room.
  20. I am thankful for not only electricity but technology.
  21. I am thankful for the fun stuff I get to do.
  22. I am thankful for music.

With Thanksgiving upon us, I thought I would write a little bit about what I have been thankful for this year. It seems to me that when the holidays start to come around, everyone gets wrapped up in trying to figure out who is eating where, who’s cooking what, who’s avoiding who, what am I going to wear, when is my mammogram scheduled for. Alright, maybe we all aren’t thinking about that last one. But it does seem that we tend to lose the meaning of the holiday.

It is tradition in my family that while I’m cooking and slaving over the stove, everyone has to make a list of the things they are thankful for during the year (i.e., a tv so we can watch the Macy’s parade. You might think it's petty to be thankful for something like that, but do you know how many people DON'T have that?) Rachel's is above. Which, by the way, she got no guidance or tips on. Those are purely her own thoughts. I loved it because as much as she's still a little girl her list has depth. What child says she is thankful for technology? Or warmth when it is needed?

I make a list too, in between basting the turkey and whipping the potatoes. Mine always ends up looking grease splattered and stained. It’s not pretty, but it’s full of meaning. Inevitably, I always end up adding a last minute item on the list that reads “I am thankful that the dinner is done cooking, I didn’t burn the gravy, and now we can eat.” Something I am perpetually grateful for. Thank God my mother taught me how to cook. I think my family is grateful to her for that as well. I think they should be thankful to ME for paying close attention to what she was doing all those years that she did the cooking. But I guess that will occur to them someday.

I had an extraordinarily rough year this year. Although, now that the year is coming to an end and I look back, many good things came from those rough times. So my list this year will be quite extensive for the things I am grateful for. I’d like to share some of those things with you in this blog. (I have to leave some things out for my stuffing-covered list that I read to my family during dinner. Sorry folks. Unless, of course, you want to invite us all over to YOUR house for Thanksgiving and you can be included in on the good ones I list for them? No? Any takers? I’ll bring dessert! Stott’s Pie! Come on!)

2009 The Shit and the Potatos That Grew From It

One Potato

I had a rough, rough, rough year this year professionally. Albeit, some of you had a rougher year by losing your jobs, getting laid off due to this tough economy. To you, I say that better things are coming your way. When one door closes, another one opens. I’ve been laid off three times in my life and every time it happened, it was devastating but something better always came along. So keep the faith, all of you that are unemployed and struggling to find a job. Try to remember that things could always be worse.

Without going into too much detail about the rough, rough year I had this year at work, I hope I can wrap it up into a brief paragraph. If I can’t, well, you have nothing better to do than to read this blog anyway. So stop rushing me. Here goes. A woman was hired into my department and the day she started, her goal was to wreak havoc. I can’t go into too much detail because I never know who is reading this blog. But she did something at work that she wasn’t supposed to. She got in trouble for it. In retaliation she filed complaints on everyone else, pointing the finger at everyone else around her, hoping that her offenses would be taken more lightly. There were investigations that followed, both internally, and externally with the FBI. I was interrogated several times and had to submit a statement. Lots of innocent people were involved in what turned out to be quite the scandal. The end result was my director at the time found another job and left; a co-worker took a lay-off that was offered to him and he too left; another co-worker transferred to another department. The woman that caused all the drama was terminated but threatened to fight it, meaning the saga was never going to end.

If there could be anything that I could be grateful for that came out of this experience is that she ultimately lost her job and is now in another state, far, far away, where she can no longer hurt anyone I know professionally. The experience was so emotionally draining that, although we were all friends before this woman joined our group, none of us speak anymore. I’m not grateful for that by any means. But I know that time will heal the wounds that were inflicted during that rough time and maybe someday all of us can look back at this unfortunate series of events and possibly laugh.

I am thankful that I still have my job and I came out relatively unscathed. I am thankful that the others are happy and have moved on with their careers. There was a time when everything was up in the air and I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up, whether I would get fired, whether I would get transferred to another department; whether the nightmare would ever end. But my new boss has been great to work for. I’m thankful that I actually ended up on my feet.

Two Potato

I had a horrendous accident 5 years ago while on the first day of my vacation in Cape Cod. The story is too long to tell here. But a few details were that I was stopped at a yield onto a highway and was broad-sided by a vehicle. Rachel was sitting behind me in the car and was hit as well. Our car was pushed sideways into guardrails. Once the cars settled, Rachel, who was 3 at the time, started screaming. I tried to turn around to see what happened to her but couldn’t turn due to being pinned between the door and the console. Plus I had a sharp pain in my back that prevented me from turning around. The rear view mirror had fallen off the broken windshield from the impact so I couldn’t see her through that either. She was screaming and I couldn’t see what had happened to her. I pictured the worst. Her arm severed off, her head bashed in, my imagination ran wild. To make a long story short, she had a few minor cuts and bruises and escaped being seriously hurt because of her car seat. I always had my car seats and any car she drove in inspected by the CT Safe Kids Clinics at the hospital and was thankful that I did. It saved her life. I did a news segment on TV about it because CT Safe Kids asked me to when they found out about the accident. If doing a segment on the news got only one parent to have their car seat inspected and saved only one child, it was worth doing it.

I, on the other hand, had to be extricated from the car. They tried using the jaws of life but to no avail. They had to cut the roof off the car and extricate me from the roof while being on a backboard. The nearest hospital was an hour away. I rode in the ambulance to the hospital not knowing my fate. The longest ride of my life.

Making a long story short, for five years I endured physical therapy, shots, emotional anguish from reliving the horror of the accident, I lost time from work, and I live with pain every day due to that accident. That’s the very short story.

Why am I bringing up an accident that happened five years ago? THIS year we finally went to court to sue the man who actually hit us. We had to go to Cape Cod, MA five years to the day of the accident and testify against him. We knew for years that we had to go to court, but it wasn’t until the week before, that my lawyer told us we couldn’t bring kids into the courtroom. Stressful to say the least, especially since Rachel had never stayed away from me for more than one night, I wasn’t about to leave her indefinitely while we went to Cape Cod for an indeterminate amount of time for the trial! Frantically, I called the Cape Cod YMCA Camp in Hyannis. With Rachel, I can’t just drop her off at any old place just like that. Staff have to be instructed on how her hearing aids work, etc. But they took her in and took great care of her. I am thankful for them and their staff for making accommodations for Rachel. She loved it! And I was able to focus on the trial of the century knowing she was being well cared for.

The trial itself was a nightmare. I had to relive all the gory details of the accident, which traumatized me all over again. I had to go through all my medical history worrying about whether I was going to remember everything. In a word it was torture. The trial lasted 4 days. A jury of my peers were tasked with deciding whether the man who hit me was negligent or not. I was stopped at the yield so it was never a question of whether I was at fault. The lawyer for the other side conceded that. Once both lawyers rested, the jury of my peers were handed a stack load of papers to review in the jury room to reach a decision on whether or not: someone speeding through an intersection that had a blinking yellow light who didn’t slam on his brakes because there were no skid marks on the road, who lost control of his vehicle, was negligent or not. The jury left the room with specific instructions and what they were to do and not to do. Fifteen minutes later, they came back in, announcing that they, the jury, did not find the driver of the other car negligent. They took fifteen minutes to decide my fate. Granted, the man that hit me was from Cape Cod, I wasn’t. The jury, comprised of Cape Cod residents, viewed us as tourists. And granted, that the woman in the back row in the jury box slept through most of it. And granted, the insurance company lawyer could afford an accident reconstructionist and hired the Chief of the Quincy Medical Center at $500 per hour to testify against us.

Bottom line, we lost. It was a painful experience that I hope I NEVER have to go through again. I’m not sure what was worse. The actual accident, or the trial.

But here is what I am thankful for this year from that experience. 1) That we are all alive and able to tell the tale. There were times while I was trapped in that car, smelling leaking gas, with responders not being able to get me out, that I didn’t think I was going to make it. I had a talk with God and promised that I would get my priorities in order if he pulled me through that event. I can tell you that in the time I sat there while people worked around me to try to get me out and on the ride to the hospital not knowing if I had internal injuries that were life-threatening or not, I had plenty of time to think. Before this accident, my priorities were different. Such as I worked hard on renovating my house. I focused on my career. Friends were disposable and exchangeable. This accident changed all that for me. In the moments that I thought I might be dying, I never once thought about the things I had to do to my house, or my house at all for that matter. No material things came into mind. I never once thought about my career or the promotion I was trying so desperately to get. All I DID think about were the people in my life. That if this was it, if I was dying, how much they would miss me and how much I would miss them. It was people’s faces that came into my mind, not the things I thought were important before. That all made me have a new outlook on life. They say that near death experiences change people. This one surely did! Now, if I have a paintbrush in my hand and a friend calls me to go out and do something, I drop the paintbrush. The house can wait. It’s not important. The friend is. Now I am trying to cultivate friendships with people that understand that life can be taken away in a fraction of a second.

I am thankful for Dianne who was also in the accident with us. She not only survived the accident itself, but got Rachel out of the car successfully during the accident to show me that Rachel was alright. We survived having to go through all of the heartache that the accident brought on for both of us. She survived the trial with me, which at times it would have been real easy to point the finger at each other, but we survived that as well, coming out the other end closer for having had to go through the experience together. I am thankful that I had her to laugh with, to cry with, when nothing was going right or in our favor. For having her give me no other option than to get back in my car and drive again when emotionally and psychologically I didn’t think I would ever drive again. Although we both got physically hurt and will live with the pain for the rest of our lives, I am thankful that we both still can walk, talk, do the rake dance, and do things with my kids. When you’re sitting in a car not being able to feel your legs or feet, believe me, you appreciate all those things that weren’t taken away in that instant. I could be very angry indeed over the outcome of the trial. I could be very angry over the amount of money and time this all took up. But instead, since it is Thanksgiving, I am choosing to be thankful for all the experiences it gave to me. It changed my life, just like any other traumatic event does. But it also taught me a whole heck of lot. And for that I’m grateful!

Three Potato, Four

I am thankful for the friends that came into my life this year all so briefly and then exited again. As disruptive as these quick relationships are, they are all learning experiences. Some harder to understand than others, but I am thankful that we were able to reconnect, even if only for a short amount of time. In those short times, they gave me a wealth of material for my blog and stories to tell for the rest of my life. So I am grateful to you for that, in an off kind of way.

I am grateful to Facebook, to which I have become completely addicted. Facebook opened up so many more doors for me to make new friends and to release my creative side. I am even thankful to those that have deleted me on Facebook. They taught me how to be more sensitive to how to go about deleting a person. As much as it is frustrating at times, that people still let you down, that it can be trying at times, I still am thankful for this new social networking tool because, let’s face it, most of you reading this right now would not be, if it wasn’t for Facebook. Can I get an Amen on that!

Generally speaking, I am thankful for my children who bring me light every day. I am thankful to God for keeping them safe and out of harm’s way every day. I am thankful for the food that is on the table every night so that my kids and I don’t have to starve. This all might seem cliché, but shouldn’t we be thankful EVERY day instead of just one day a year when we’re forced to make a list or pull something off the top of our heads so we can hurry up and eat turkey?

You agree? Ok then. Thanksgiving Day is over and I’ll start. Today I am thankful for this blog. I am thankful to those of you reading it. I would be even more thankful if you clicked on some of the ads so I can get paid! But whatever, that’s secondary. I am thankful today for all the wonderful feedback I have received on this blog. It makes me happy when I get comments that I have made someone laugh, or that I actually helped others, like the time I got a comment from a friend whose aging mother came alive when reading my “In My Little Town” because it brought back memories for her. Or the fact that I can write about something and have it trigger thoughts within you of what you experienced. Or compliments containing phrases like you think I am “an excellent writer”, or “one of the best writers I know” and others. I am thankful for those comments and they touch me deeply. I am thankful for every single comment because each one has told me something about myself, or has told me something about you. And that can never be a bad thing.

My Kaneclusion is maybe you, too, should make a list, whether privately or something you would like to share with others. It helps to remind us that with all the trials and tribulations that we deal with, there are always lessons to be learned, that quite possibly good things can spring from bad seeds. That life is good, as long as we are still breathing. This holiday, try to remember that you are fortunate to have your family there with you, for next year it might not be that way.

Here was my list:

1) I'm thankful for my family, for they made me who I am today. (So if you don't like me, blame THEM, not ME!) :-)

2) I'm thankful for having somewhere to lay my head every night instead of having to be out in the cold. Even though it's a pig sty right about now. It's MY pig sty! OUR pig sty! With a whole lotta love in it! I wouldn't change a thing. (But if you got me a maid for Christmas, I wouldn't protest.)

3) I'm thankful for being able to hug my Mia goodbye before spending her first Thanksgiving away from me EVER in her life. Sniff! There's a hole in my heart that not even stuffing can fill. :-( She's here in spirit. And speaking of Spirits...where's that bottle?

4) I'm thankful for my little kitchen helper, Rachel, who diligently plucked away at stuffing bread, taking a break only to jitterbug with me in the kitchen to "Rockin' Around the Xmas Tree" (premature, yes, but she wanted to listen to Xmas music - I try to keep the help happy.) Btw, the girl can dance! Rachel is pretty good too. (And no, I hadn't hit the bottle yet.) She also did the Cranberry sauce, opening the can for the very first time with a can opener. Remember how hard that was when you were a kid? She did a great job. She also made the butter pickles for Dianne, a Thanksgiving tradition for her that makes her happy.

5) I'm thankful for my job. In an economy where others have not been so fortunate, I am grateful to MPTN for providing me an income that allows for the finer enjoyments of life. This year alone it provided experiences like trips to Las Vegas, Cape Cod, and Disney World. I couldn’t do any of those things if I wasn’t working. I am eternally grateful for that. It also provides us with health care, not something I take for granted. Albeit, stressful at times, and comes with a huge responsibility every day, I couldn't imagine losing my position. I am extremely fortunate to have been given this opportunity and this path to go on in life.

6) I'm thankful for "Glee". I'm also thankful for Tivo, so I don't have to miss any shows. I'm thankful for the comfort of laying on the couch and having the ability to laugh. What a luxury that is that we take for granted!

7) I'm thankful for everyone in my house waking up Thanksgiving morning, as opposed to the alternative.

8) I'm thankful for forgiveness, that I can forgive those that have judged me, persecuted me, talked smack about me, who don't really know me or have not really gotten to know me. I forgive those who have hurt me with their actions, words and/or their silence. I forgive those that pretend to be caring individuals but when push comes to shove, they really don't care about others, just their own causes and agendas. In this same vein, I'm also thankful for those who have forgiven ME for MY trespasses. Next year I'll work on the forgetting part of the forgive and forget equation. Unfortunately, I never forget.

9) I'm thankful that we decided not to go to the Macy's parade this year and instead stayed home and watched it on the big screen, in the comfort of our own living room in our comfy jammies, with a cozy fire. Watching the tv, is it wrong that I expected to see Balloon Boy in the parade?

10) I'm thankful for Julia Child, who made it ok to have a glass of wine while cooking. And slightly off topic, what the heck did Carly Simon do to herself? Holy crap! Barely recognizable in the parade.

11) I'm thankful for my family's continued excellent health. Barring this week's flu, how fortunate I have been! I am thankful that my kids are healthy. Both my children are in good physical shape. My daughter Rachel outran all the kids in her class for the mandatory gym class stats test, of which she was very proud. She is also excelling in the jump roping class she takes. You may not think this is something, but when was the last time you jump roped? I tried it in my driveway with her and I almost broke my knees on the first jump! She can do all the double-dutch whatevers, the four point jump in and out, twist and turns and hopping on one foot. She played soccer and was an excellent forward for the team. Even though they lost every game but the last one, she was happy to be on the team and playing and it was wonderful to see her never give up, even when she got hurt twice in one game, she still kept going. She won a patch for that game because of her persistence. One of Rachel’s biggest accomplishments this year of which I am grateful for is that she learned how to ride a bike. It was touch and go there for a while. Lots of tears and frustration. But once I stopped crying, it seemed like all of a sudden, she got on her bike, held her balance for 3-4 rotations of the peddle and off she went! I am thankful for then getting a brand new bike and being able to bike ride with her.

My daughter is hearing impaired and suffers from progressive hearing loss. It is always a good year when she can hear and has not lost more hearing. She got new hearing aids this year and she loves them. The cruel twist of fate is that she is very athletic and could probably play any sport she chose and would excel in it. But because a blow to her head could cause her to have more hearing loss, I have to keep her back. I struggle with this every year when soccer comes around and I have to make the decision of whether she can play or not, based on whether I think she will be clobbered in the head by another girl or not. She loves soccer. How can I make that decision? So this year, I am thankful for a successful year for her in soccer, that she didn’t get hit in the head and my decision to let her play was a good one. As with any child with special needs, all these accomplishments seem to be more prevalent than others. As much as she has been taught that she can do ANYTHING she wants to in life and that her disability will not keep her back, it’s still remarkable that she does all these things. Sometimes I forget she has a disability, which is a blessing all unto itself.

Mia turned into a teenager this year. Thirteen. And with that came the necessary body changes that adolescence brings. She’s tall, my height, and when I talk to her now, I am face to face with her instead of looking down at the little girl I once knew. But even though she’s my height and still growing, the light in her eyes and the smile are the same as the toddler that stood up in her crib with arms extended for me to pick her up. When I hug her she is no longer a skinny little string bean, but rather a young lady that now has muscle, and curves where there weren’t any before. I’m so proud of her for embracing the beginning of what the rest of us women know we have to endure for years. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. It was a big year for Mia in this respect. Coupled with breaking up with her boyfriend, unlike me who was a blubbering idiot over it, she handled it with the utmost of grace, poise, and maintains a friendship with this young man who I still love and adore. I am thankful that it wasn’t traumatic for her and that she is learning how to handle the breakups of relationships (because they happen!) in such a positive way.

Both my girls are beautiful inside and out and I'm so proud of them. Blessed!

My health, which is secondary to my kids, is great so far. I had a scare earlier this year but the test results came back negative and all is fine. I have had the pleasure of looking at photographs via facebook of other people my age that I graduated with and find that I’m aging quite well. Thank ya’ Jesus! Although, with all the tough things that happened this year I did age a bit. I now have “laugh lines”. They are not wrinkles. If you say I have wrinkles you will no longer be able to read my blog. They are laugh lines. And I’m glad I have them because it shows on my face how often I laugh. The deeper they get the more I’m enjoying life. So there, old age! Take that!

As for everyone else in my family, all is good on the health front as well. I could tell you about all their ailments that I’ve had to listen to over the past year but I respect their privacy. Plus, I half-listened anyway. If they didn’t end up in a hospital, all is good, right? That’s how I look at it. If they weren’t transported by Lifestar, then how am I supposed to remember the stories?

We welcomed a new addition to our family this year, Janiah Kane-Butkiewicz-Williams-Vasquez-Jones-Smith! Wait until she has to fill in the bubble sheet for tests! I am thankful that she is healthy, beautiful and has come into this world to alleviate Jayden from being an only child.

12) I'm thankful today to the person who invented the electric hand mixer. And to the person who invented the pop up timer. And the people who invented paper towels? Do they ever get thanked? I think not. Anything that makes my life easier and not harder I am thankful for!

13) I'm thankful for pineapple cream pie from Stott's. And speaking of piece of pie, I'm thankful for world peace.

What? There isn't world peace?


You mean there are people not with their families today because of war?

Yes...and you're an idiot.

I've asked you not to call me an idiot...moron.

Must we fight like this in front of the kids? It is a holiday you know.

You're right. Peace.

Peace. Now eat your piece of pie.

(If only war was this simple to fix. I am thankful to our military.)

14) I'm thankful for Rachel's kindness. She pointed out yesterday the man on the street, holding his sign, "Happy Tkanksgiving. I will work for food" and said to me, "Mom, can't you give him work?" With regret, I said no, but showed her how to make a plate of food for a stranger and bring it to him. Wish I could remember to do these things every day.

15) I'm thankful for my monthly poker games. I started this 3 yrs ago as an outlet for myself, to have some time to escape from my otherwise hectic, stressful world. My idea originally was to assemble a group of diverse women who could get together to socialize, eat and share recipes, relate to one another, laugh, and if the circumstances warranted, cry together and offer support. I yearned for a way that I could leave work, legal issues and family drama behind and be wrapped up in something, if only for a couple hours a month. On the whole, it has been just that for me. Although the faces have changed over time, regardless of who is playing, poker with women is a riot. And the more mistakes the better! It gives us all something to laugh at together. Diversity is what makes the conversation flow; but poker is what brings us all together on one playing field. It's supposed to be light-hearted. Although people have been left behind and not included again for annoyng things like name-calling, giving continual grammar lessons when they weren't warranted, inability to commit from month to month. Things of that nature. It's supposed to be fun and it's not fun when people are getting picked on or are being belittled in any way. There is definitely good natured ribbing. But sometimes the ribbing goes too far. I was called the "poker nazi" one too many times one night and we haven't seen that woman again since. Of course, like any other game, there are rules, but it's not meant to be competitive. And if it gets that way, or if people start nitpicking at each other, and it stops being fun, then it becomes stressful and unenjoyable.

Typically, I have had the best time with some of these ladies over the last 3 yrs and I'm grateful for the laughs and conversations that have taken place. In my humble opinion, losing a pocketful of change at poker is some of the best money well spent. I'm appreciative to all who have come and gone through the years, and to those that know what it truly is all about.

16) I'm thankful for my friends. Dianne, who is always loyal, level-headed, quick-witted, and all-in-all my best friend. And my other friends, Jocelyne, Sheila (who puts up with me every day!), Mrs. B (she knows why!), Marian, Dominic, Dan and Bonnie (Red Cup Society Members), Carolyn, Sandy and Jodie who I knew when I was just a teenager and have reconnected with after many, many years and have found them to be delightful women. I'm sure I'm leaving people out. Please don't be insulted. It's not like I'm at the Oscar's or anything. If you've made my life better somehow in any small way, believe me, I am thankful to you.

Ok, that concludes my list. Now back to being an ingrate for the rest of the year!

Intermediate Facebook 201

Welcome to my Blog!

The pre-requisites for this article are Let's Get Started, and Introduction to Facebook 101. If you have not read these articles, please do so by clicking on the links before proceeding to the following article. You don't HAVE to, I suppose. But don't blame me if you don't get what I'm talking about or don't find any of it funny because you chose to not follow my instructions of reading the above first. I'm just sayin'! If you have already read the pre-requisites, then my apologies for making you read this paragraph. There's always one or two keeping the whole class back, isn't there?

Let's move on. The "others" will have to catch up.

Now that you have been on Facebook for a week (which is 3 years in facebook time), it’s time to get more acquainted with the other entertainment that fb has to offer other than stalking. Let's face it, you've already looked up all your ex-boyfriends/girlfriends and now you're wondering "what else is there to do?" Right? I'm going to tell you about some of the things I have found on Fb.

For the purposes of this exercise, I'm making the assumption that you are still on facebook and haven't gotten frustrated with the whole thing and deleted your account. If you have and you are turning to my blog because you miss me and my wit on Facebook, there is no comparison. First of all, you're putting too much pressure on me to be funny on my blog. On fb, I can have a whole slew of one-liners because others are always providing me with such great material. If you're a friend of mine, then you know this already. But I can't have a whole blog of just one-liners just for you. (Or can I? Hmm, we'll see.) Although I have to say, unlike fb, I do enjoy this one-sided conversation we are having, where I type and all you can do is read. Especially nice that you can't hijack my blog like you did with my status updates on fb. Hmm. Maybe you should stay off fb for a while. Yeah, maybe this will work out just fine for us.

Nah, get back on Facebook. You're missing so much!

Anyway, for those of you that have hung in there and didn't do something as drastic as deleting your account, thanks for hanging in there with us. Facebook appreciates it and I do too. But please know it's time to increase your fb skills to the next level. You don't want to be left behind like the "others", do you? I didn't think so. So let's begin.

More Advanced Acronyms and Language

In my Introduction to Facebook 101, I covered many acronyms, and hopefully by now you have used one or two of them. Here are some more that I had taken note of since the last time I posted:

ROTFLMAO = Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off. Unlike the "thumbs up" which people don't actually do, the rolling on the floor DOES actually have to happen. Don't be afraid to get right down there on the floor. Nobody can see you. This acronym is used when, and only when, someone has said something so brilliantly funny that it makes you laugh for more than a minute. It's not a snicker. It's a full OMG (learned in Introduction 101 if you were paying attention). It's SO hilarious, your laughter makes other people in your household wonder what you're laughing at, causing them to have jealousy over a computer screen. Using the ROTFLMAO is sacred. It is not to be used lightly. It is the utmost in the whole I-can't-see-you-so-I-need-to-type-letters-to-indicate-that-was-funny category. Use it sparingly and people will know that you really found something funny. Use it too much, and people won't have a frame of reference to know when you thought something was really funny. Oh I suppose you could type TWSFIAPMP? (That Was So Funny I Almost Peed My Pants), but trust me folks, nobody is going to know what you're talking about if you type that, so just stick with me on this and you'll be fine.

Some people, not me of course, but some people have found the need to reduce the use of expletives but find it so hard to cut the habit completely. That's where the “curse word filler” comes in. I liken this to a heroin addict using methadone just to get by. There is a list of choices to use and no matter which one you use, WE all know what you REALLY meant to say. Here are the substitutes:

Freakin' (please don't say "freaking". It makes you sound like an annoyed scholar and it loses its edge. Definitely have to leave the /g/ off for the whole substitution of the real word effect. Or is it affect? I always eff that one up.)
Effed up

Imaginary Worlds on FB

I have very little knowledge of this genre. But this I do know. People have totally lost touch with reality and really feel the need to participate in the imaginary cyber life that it offers. I've witnessed status updates cursing fb out if people can't get to "water their cyber plants", can't “feed their pig", can't "get a bullet to shoot their mafia friend" and God forbid they don't "clean their fish tanks for a week" causing it to get all green and slimy with algae because of their negligence. These are games fb offers to suck you in. It’s all just one big conspiracy to get us all hooked so that when they want to start charging us a fee for fb, we can't possibly let our plants, fish or pigs die, or let our mafia friends down. Mark my words, Folks. Better slaughter the pig now, hit the mob boss, rip the plants up, and put the aquarium out at the next Yard Sale. (Some of you already have your credit cards out, ready to pay fb for this entertainment, don't you. Yeah, me too.)

Then there are the cyber gifts. Good heavens, the gifts! I find that people on fb are extremely generous with sending flowers, beads, smiles, LOVE, you name it. What the heck. It's FREE! In real life, when was the last time your friends sent you a real diamond in the mail for no reason? I'd venture to guess never! But on fb, there's a plenitude of free gifts to send, and send they do!

I think fb has missed the boat on this a little though. To make it more real life, don't you think they should have a link that says "Return gift for cash"?

Then there's the pressure of having to reciprocate the gift-giving. If you don't send a gift back, you run the risk of showing your friend that the friendship is purely one-sided; the scales are tipped; they care more about you than you of them. And God help you if your mutual friends see that you sent someone a gift and you didn't send them one! Drama ensues and before you know it, you're wishing for the real world back where nobody got you any gifts!

In summary, your friends are cheap bastids who expect you to fall for the cyber gift. Just keep that in mind for the next time someone sends you some bogus box of chocolates that you can't actually eat but can only stare at on the screen. It's bordering on sadistic. And really, with friends like that, who needs enemies, right? Am I right?

(And we wonder why the economy is down. Everyone is buying "pretend" gifts for each other and not spending money in real stores!)

Posting Comments on Status Updates

For some people, making comments is as easy as just typing whatever comes in their mind. Some people always know the exact right things to say. (I'm not one of those people. We hate those people.) For other people though, it's like being in a classroom and being called on to answer a question. They know the answer, they just get flustered. They type, hit post, and then say, why did I type that? Sometimes it seems that a person isn't exactly paying attention to the discussion taking place within the posted comments. So out of nowhere they make a comment that doesn't correlate to your update. This is called “hijacking” the post. It's not their fault that they can't stay on topic. Let's face it. These people in real life can't stay on topic so why would we think they can on a computer. HELLO?

Anyway, sometimes it is necessary to delete comments for various reasons. I've deleted my own comments at times. I type what I want to say, hit post, and then for some reason, I reread it myself when it gets out there for everyone to see, and somehow through cyberspace it changed and took on a totally different meaning. Not in the way I had intended for it to come across at all.

I’m not going to lie to ya' folks. What happens next sucks!

At the moment that I realize I shouldn't have hit send/post, immediate panic ensues. I frantically try to "recall" the message. No wait, I can’t do that. That only works in email; I try to "cut" it out by selecting the text and right clicking. Nope, not an option. It's posted there and not moving. Tick tock, tick tock. More people are reading it and I don't know how they're taking it. FRIG!!!! The blood pressure rises and my face turns red. How do I get that blessed thing off there?!? SWEET MOTHER OF GOD!!!!! I'M GOING TO HAVE TO CANCEL THIS ACCOUNT AND START ANOTHER ACCOUNT WITH NEW FRIENDS. HOW DO I DELETE THAT COMMENT. HELLLLLLLPPPPPPP!

Now folks, if this is all happening to you while you’re on a laptop or PC, this is very easy to fix. It takes only a minute or two to delete it. Therefore the only one(s) that will see the ridiculous comment you made are the friends that read their notifications instantaneously (and you know who they are!). For those folks, it's too late. They read it and all you can do is accept that they are now judging you and you need to beg for forgiveness. The damage is done. Can’t unring the bell. They will probably end up deleting you. But that was coming anyway, wasn't it? Weren't you sick of their crap anyway? I say, good riddance!

(God, I miss them)

Anyway, deleting comments on a laptop or PC. You simply go to the idiotic/ inappropriate/uncalled for/rude/obnoxious/whimpy/too revealing comment you made, and simply click on the link that says "delete". Had you not panicked, you would have seen it there right under your comment. I know, that’s way too simple, isn’t it? I will say this, you will never be so happy to see that word “delete”. Then, to waste more time for a few more friends to read your unwanted comment, fb asks you, "Do you really want to delete this comment?" The sweat is pouring down your forehead into your eyes till you can't see. You scream at your computer "#$#&* YES!" and hit confirm, praying that the system doesn't crash at that very moment to leave you wondering if the comment was removed. (Yeah, I've had some experience in this area. And I know for a fact some of you have too. Btw, I’m an instantaneous notification reader and…I forgive you.)

Now on the Blackberry platform, that's a WHOLE different story!! (Iphone might be the same but I don't know. You folks are on your own.) When you make a comment from your blackberry, which 9 out of 10 times I am, it is way more complicated when you send something that you want to rescind. First of all, the chances of wanting to rescind a comment you sent increases because 1) you're typing with your thumbs so there are always a typo or two. 2) You're viewing everything on a screen that is half the size of a credit card. So if you type a lot, you can't see the whole comment at once. I'm not making excuses (well, yes I am) but sometimes, errors are made. Barring these few instances of misdemeanor type offenses which are forgivable, there are more offensive type comments that clearly you wouldn’t say to a person but felt the courage to type it and then immediately regretted it after hitting post/send. These offenses are mostly due to the handheld device owner not thinking through well enough the impact the comment will have on others. After typing everything with your thumbs, which is a skill unto itself, here’s the sharp stick in the eye. On the Blackberry (BB), there IS no feature that allows you to delete a comment. So once you post it, it's out there Baby!!! So the lesson in this kids is, make sure that if you're going to say the most stupid thing in your life, make sure you do it from your laptop and NOT your blackberry. Otherwise, you will be finding yourself racing home to your computer, leaving work early if necessary, to delete your "OMG I'm surely going to lose friends over this one" comment. (Also note: Typing comments that you want to delete will cost you $$$. Inevitably, out of sheer frustration, you will end up throwing your blackberry, and damaging it. So please folks. Read your comments 10x before hitting post/send if you have to, to make sure it's what you want to say. Would hate to see some of you go through withdrawals while waiting for a new device from Verizon. Not pretty.)

RIM/Blackberry/Verizon/Facebook needs to address the lack of the delete feature in their next upgrade. I may have to write a letter. For someone like me who 1) exhibits an error in judgment nearly every day with what I type to people and 2) makes the amount of typo mistakes as I do, purely because of the amount of typing I do, I NEED A QUICK WAY TO DELETE!

At this juncture, I’d like to give props to those of you using fb from regular cell phones. You are THE most committed. I couldn't do it. Anyone that has to hit a key 3 times just to get a letter /c/ is working 3x harder than the rest of us. So let's give those folks a break. Let's send them a gift of a cyber blackberry, shall we? My treat.

Deleting Chat Comments Not An Option

Having "Chats" on fb are not forgiving either when it comes to saying stupid things. There is no delete feature in a chat so be careful what you type. Once you type and hit send, it's out there. Definitely can't take those comments back. Need an example? OK. Hmm, which blunder should I use. Too many to choose from really. Ok, here's one. I had made arrangements to chat with a friend at a certain time, but this friend typically was late or didn't show up. I waited, but it was starting to appear that they were going to be late again, but they were available to chat so I was free to type whatever I wanted. I was bored waiting so I started typing comments to entertain myself, and thought that when they do show up, they'll read it and laugh. Comments that I THOUGHT were funny. Comments like, "Did I ever tell you I hate being stood up?", a few minutes later "Did I ever tell you I have dropped people off fb for less?" Funny, right? Nope, not to the person who was late who read it and was immediately enraged by it. I never would have guessed that the person wouldn't know I was kidding, but with all of this newfangled communication-by-typing, there is no tone. So I guess one never knows if someone is serious or not. The response I got to my chat comments was that I needed help and all this person's friends that read my comments (unbeknownst to me) think I'm a certifiable whack job. True? Maybe. But warranted to point out in a chat because I typed a few comments that I thought would be funny? Not really. Guess I should have put in a few LOLs, huh? Not to worry. This wasn't the first time this person got all over me for something I typed that I was kidding about, so it was for the best that I deleted this friend off fb. Life is too short to have to explain everything you type. But I will say that if you are going to type to others in the chats offered by fb, that you chat with someone that somewhat understands you. Too much room for error and miscommunication. And no deleting feature once you hit send makes it nearly impossible that you won't offend someone at some point. Don't say I didn't warn you.


At one point or another, someone will send you a note. Some of the notes I have received are like filling out an application on Match.com. They ask you all kinds of questions pertaining to yourself and it seems all of them start with "I'm sending you this note to find out all your private stuff, but not in a creepy way." That cracks me up.

Notes like these are generally like surveys. Normally they clearly give you directions at the top of the note instructing you on what to do. But for some reason, people totally ignore those directions and start answering the questions in the comments. I can't explain that. I've had friends think that I have created the note itself. I haven't. It came to me from someone else and I simply followed the instructions given. You'd be surprised how many people don't get that.

I’m here to dispel any myths about these types of survey notes. This comes down to a very simple process for those of us in the 21st century. If you receive a note survey from someone, here are the steps:

1) Click on the link to the note.
2) Read the note entirely to see your friend's answers to the questions in the note.
3) Once done (here comes the hard part) CUT AND PASTE, PEOPLE, CUT AND PASTE into a NEW note and then replace your friends answers with your own.

That simple.

Then you can tag people to send it to. Listen, I don't have time to explain EVERYTHING to you people so you're going to have to find some things out for yourselves. But here's a hint - type the names of the people you want to send the note to in the "Tag people in this note" box. I don't know why or how the word tag came into play. Is it a reference to "Tag, you're it"? Don't know. Maybe someone else can research that.

Creating your own note is also useful when you find that the character limit in a status update is insufficient. A note is more appropriate for a story or anything that is lengthy and you can tag people there as well. Please note that a note about notes is not note-worthy for fb notes. LOLOLOLOLOL! (REALLY funny but not a ROTFLMAO. Certainly people who type this to indicate laughter aren’t really Laughing Out Loud Out Loud Out Loud Out Loud Out Loud Out Loud! So I don't know what to tell you on that one. I guess just be complimented that they thought something was funny.)

My Kaneclusion for this week is that when one is asked to type their response to a given situation, whether it is funny, sad, debatable, or so on, mistakes can happen. Even when you’re face to face with someone, one can misspeak. We expect our elected officials to be skilled orators, and even as trained as they are, they make mistakes when expressing views and comments. So let’s give our friends a break when something they type doesn’t come across as well as they would have liked. In fb world, let’s make a concerted effort to give the benefit of the doubt to our friends. But if they continue to disrupt posts with their lack of judgment, feel free to say “eff the freakin' bastids!”

I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family - US President George W. Bush (January 27, 2000 in New Hampshire)


Disclaimer: I am not a fb instructor, nor do I claim to know everything there is to know about fb. This blog is not intended for those without a sense of humor. It is also not directed at ANYONE. So please don't take it personally if you have done these things. Or did not do these things, as it were. It's all in good fun. ;-)

In My Little Town

I recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with a friend from my home town, and she gave me the inspiration to want to pay homage to the place where I grew up. Like the Simon and Garfunkel song, My Little Town, "Coming home after school, flying my bike past the gate of the factories...nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town".

There are certain words that trigger an automatic recall of a place vividly in one's mind. When this old friend asked me if I remembered Durables, for some reason, I almost died laughing. Durables was in Norwich, CT and was THE supermarket before Stop and Shop came into town and certainly well before Walmart was even a thought. There is something funny about the name of that store that only those of us that went there and remember it could appreciate. I would imagine that in your home towns you have similar places that you remember that no longer exist but you remember them just the same. This blog is for you and although it focuses on Norwich CT, I’m hoping that it triggers good (and possibly bad) memories of where you grew up. To those who grew up in Norwich, let’s see how many things you can remember. If you can remember things I haven’t listed, please feel free to write about them in the comments section of this blog.

Now on with the stroll down Memory Lane (which, by the way, I looked up and there IS no Memory Lane in Norwich, so I’m not sure why I’m even saying that. But somehow it didn’t sound the same saying, “Now for a stroll down Yantic Lane.” Let’s all pretend there is a Memory Lane. No one will know unless you tell them. Or unless they look it up on their GPS. But those things are never accurate anyway. Our little secret.)

Let’s Start With the Dives

Norwich was a town subdivided into smaller sections that were defined by the factories that were built there. Taftville had the Panema Mills factory, Greenville had the Broadwalk factory and Table Talk pie factory, on the Yantic River there was Falls Mills, a textile mill, so on and so forth. As is true of any small town that had factories and mills as its industry, there were bars that gave the workers somewhere to go to unwind at the end of their day.

I'm going to start with one of my favorites. I went to school with a boy named Tom LaFrenia whose parents owned the best little local bar in town called Bid’s Tavern. Bid’s Tavern was the type of place that had pickled eggs in glass jars on the bar; sacks of potatoes on the floor by the door; pool tables in the middle of the room with a beer advertisement light hanging over top, and an ornate woodwork bar that patrons could either sit at, or choose to sit instead in old mahogany pew-like booths with light green and gold flecked Formica tabletops (popular in the 50s and 60s). The place was old and gave the appearance of not being clean, but it never bothered us or stopped us from eating there. At Bid’s Tavern, you could order quarter drafts and a “combo sandwich” which consisted of shaved steak, a sausage patty, grilled onions, peppers and melted cheese on a fresh roll, all for under two dollars. When I turned 18 years old, which was the legal drinking age in CT back then, we would go there and order $2 pitchers of Genesee Cream Ale from the tap, and just have a great time. The owners were respectable people who never let anyone get out of hand. Somehow they commanded respect. Nobody wanted to get so drunk that they weren’t allowed back in to Bid’s, so nobody did. To get belligerent in Bid’s would be hurtful to Old Man LaFrenia and nobody wanted to do that. I can still picture the man in his stained white apron, spatula in hand from frying the grilled sandwiches on the grill that resided behind the bar, taking orders and making everyone feel at home. He ran a nice, calm, respectable environment. Or at least every time I was there it felt like a safe place to be. Sometime in the mid to late 80’s, Bid’s was sold and it was never the same again. The new owners raised the prices, did some renovations, and changed the whole essence of what Bid’s was. It became just another bar and the clientele changed. It was no longer a great place to stop and get a great sandwich. It was now just another bar where the drunks would hang out and cause trouble. Shame.

Cheerios Tavern was another local hang out but was more inclined to attract the drunks in the neighborhood. As a kid I remember sitting in the back of my father’s car, driving by Cheerios Tavern, watching as police were breaking up a fight outside. I was petrified. So even as I became legally able to consume alcoholic beverages, I never did go in there out of fear. The same clientele that went there also frequented the Maple Shade in Yantic. The Maple Shade was a little bit more, well, shady, as the name would depict. I think at one point they offered strip tease shows. So it was definitely one of those places that was less respectable and a bit seedier. When I was 16 hanging around with kids that were older than me who had already turned 18 years old, I had to use a fake ID to get into certain places. The Maple Shade was one of them. There was nothing more embarrassing than to go to a bar with a group of friends, be carded and not be able to get in, making everyone have to leave because of you. Not for any other reason, but the Maple Shade became a favorite place only because I knew I would get served there.

There were many specialized bars like the Germania Club, Club 41 (had the best pizza in town!), The Polish Citzs, The VFW, The American Legion. All these places had reduced priced alcohol and if you knew someone to get you in, granted these places were dives, but they were a cheap night out!

The Lincoln Inn on the west side of Norwich was another bar that had employees who couldn’t tell a fake ID from a real one. Woohoo! Score! My 16-17 year old west side friends and I would all go there for cheap pitchers of beer, which is what we could afford based on the allowances we were getting from our parents. (Of course our parents didn't know that the allowances were going to beer funds.) I have great memories of going to the “Blinkin’ Lincoln to do some stinkin’ drinkin’”. When I wasn’t with my friends, I would sometimes go there with my friend and her mother for dinner. They had $1.99 spaghetti and meatballs specials on certain nights that my friend's mother liked. I would hide behind my menu hoping that the waitresses wouldn’t ask me if I wanted a beer in front of my friend’s parent, recognizing me from the night before when I was there with my other friends boozing it up. (The Lincoln Inn. Ironically, my younger brother bought the Lincoln Inn, did some renovations to it and sold it a few years ago.)

As I got a little older and could officially drink, wait, let me rephrase that, after I graduated high school I was still only 17 but was close enough, my friends and I would frequent a place that was a renovated funeral home called the Village Green. It was the local disco dance club. It was the only place in Norwich that had a disc jockey. If you wanted a REAL disco, you could go to Groton to a place called Rhanna Pippins. That place was ahead of its time. It was our local version of Studio 54 with multiple disco balls, loud dance music, and a big dance floor. But what made it different and oh so memorable were the pillars that held up the ceiling that were in the shape of frogs. A little unnerving at first, but then you barely noticed them after a few drinks. Nobody cared. You went there to dance.

If disco wasn’t your thing, and you wanted rock and roll, you went to the Brown Derby in Montville. The Brown Derby occasionally had live bands like Maleana. Never heard of them? I think they’re still alive and kicking at fairs and small venues across the state. I couldn’t tell you if they were any good or not. The only thing I know is that they were a local band. If you could afford the cover charge at the Brown Derby, and the bouncer bought your fake ID, you could see live entertainment and at the time, it was the only place that offered that. The Brown Derby is still there, which goes to prove that Rock and Roll does indeed withstand the test of time.

Entertainment in Norwich is a Contradiction in Terms.

There wasn’t much to do in Norwich when I was growing up there. It was pre-casino days when Ledyard and Preston were nothing but farmland and corn fields. If you wanted to go see a concert, you couldn’t just go to a casino. You had to drive to the New Haven Coliseum or the Hartford Civic Center, or wait for the annual Rose Arts Festival to see a one-hit wonder sing their only hit song. (Although I saw Harry Chapin there before he died which was big-time for Norwich.) The only entertainment that Norwich had at that time was the Norwich Duck Pin Lanes (props to Donna Fargo Terenzi for revitalizing that brain cell in my head! Lots of memories were had at the Duck Pin Lanes), Norwich Ten Pin Bowling Alley, and downtown Norwich had two theaters – the Midtown Theater and the Palace Twins. I have fond memories of walking from my house to downtown Norwich to go to the movies with my friends. We weren’t worried about getting abducted in those days. There was no CNN alerting us to all the dangers in the world so we never knew bad things could happen. Thank goodness they didn’t. We were lucky I suppose.

The theaters in Norwich weren't the megaplexes that they are today. The Midtown had one movie theater and the Palace Twin had two choices. They both had matinees where you could see a movie for $1. On rainy days on the weekends, my friend and I would meet our boyfriends (who happened to be best friends too) at the theater. My personal favorite out of the two theaters was the Palace Twin because there was a smoking room, and at the time, I smoked cigarettes. The smoking room was cinder block construction, with one wall having a glass window, approximately 5’ wide by 2’ tall that extended the length of the wall; it had one speaker so you could hear the movie; along the ledge of the window was a moat-like sand ashtray that was full of cigarette butts. If my friend and I didn’t have money to buy cigarettes, we would scour the ashtray for half-smoked cigarettes, light them up, without a thought in the world of who had it in their mouth before us. I know! Ewww, right?! I’m wiping my lips as I type. I can’t believe we did that. But we did. A true testament to the power of nicotine and what one will do to get it once one starts. Anyway, the smoking room was standing room only, there were no chairs in there, and the place reeked of smoke, like standing inside an ashtray. I saw many Vincent Price films from that room and I can’t see him on tv without thinking of that room in the theater.

The other option for movies was the Taftville Drive-in, which sadly is no longer there. The drive-in - a dying piece of Americana. I loved the drive-in as a kid. The funky big speakers that would hang in the window of the car. The concession stand that sold popcorn and hotdogs. The intermission ad songs like “Let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobby, to buy ourselves some snacks.” Classic. I have fond memories of sitting up front in the car with my parents. Most cars back then had bench style seats, so three people could sit up front comfortably.

Other entertainment, if you want to call it that, was going on the school field trip to the Uncas Museum in Uncasville. Back then I don’t remember any Indian tribes in the area except for the Mohegans. I suppose because of those field trips to Mohegans’ itsy, bitsy museum made it memorable. All I remember is learning about Chief Tantaquidgeon and watching some Indian customs. But I distinctly do not remember them covering anything about casinos, gambling or Indian bingo. This was well before any of that came to light.

Norwich - A Shopping Mecca

So many stores have come and gone through the years, but all of us that grew up in Norwich remember the names of the places and remember where they were.

Zayres, Barkers, Caldors? Styles? That’s where I used to put my corduroys on layaway. Jeans North was cool but a bit pricey for my purse. – Sandra Davis Hill, fellow Jr. High and High School Classmate and Norwich Historian on Facebook.
I loved my hip hugging, straight leg corduroys! In high school my mother worked at Styles so we used to get a discount. I had every color I think. But my favorite ones were the off white ones or the baby blue ones. They had to be cuffed at the bottom just so. Three inches was too much and definitely uncool. Only one inch missed the mark too. It had to be two inches or not at all. I would wear my cords with my leather belt that had two rings that looped, not really offering any type of function or support, but just there for aesthetics. I was too cool.

Back to shopping, downtown Norwich consisted of several streets merging into the middle of town. On one side of the road, there was Teppers, or otherwise called the Five n Dime. It was a general store and the owners were on heightened security alert protecting their inventory from teenager shoplifters. Kids of my age were not allowed to go downstairs to the toys and games department without a parent, and if they did allow you down there by yourself, the highest scrutiny of a one-on-one salesperson per child ratio was in order. Upon leaving the store, the owners, if they were able to, would have patted us down. As kids, my best friend and I decided that Teppers was not where it was at. But Woolworth’s, on the other hand, was right next door. They were more lenient towards kids coming into their store. We could hang out there all day and nobody would say anything to us.

Here’s my own personal story about Woolworth’s. My mother came from London and didn’t have her driver's license. In London where she lived there were taxis and double-decker buses on every corner. So there was no need to get a driver's license. When she married my father and moved to the States, I think she attempted once to drive but got discouraged and scared and never pursued it again until later in life. As a child, I had to either walk everywhere or ride my bike because my mother couldn't transport me. If my mother had to go somewhere during the day, we relied on the Norwich Taxicab service for transportation. My father worked and back then fathers didn’t have time to take off to take their children to doctor’s appointments and such. I have vivid memories of taking a taxi cab to downtown Norwich, sitting on the seats that flipped up from the floor of the taxi that looked like mini bar stools, that folded back into the floor when we got out; of watching the meter run, trying to calculate how much the fare would be. I mostly associate these trips with visits to the dentist.

The dentist’s office was a cold, unfriendly, dismal place, located across the street from Woolworth’s. Once inside the waiting room, there were uncomfortable mix matched chairs, with a few magazines like Redbook for the moms and Highlights for the children. I always enjoyed the Highlights magazines there because that was the only place that I got to read it. My favorite section was trying to find what was different in the two pictures. There is a cat in the tree in this picture but not in the other one. Wish I had a pen so I could circle it. There I was, always minding my own business, enjoying my magazine, all was good, until that dreaded dentist’s door would open up to the waiting room. There was no receptionist or nurse in my dentist’s office. Just him. There he would stand in the doorway, wiping his hands off on a towel, calling his next victim, I mean patient, into his torture chamber. He would smile at my mother and nod as if to say, it’s your daughter’s turn for the slaughter. My mother would politely smile back as if to say, thank you for taking her in, oh great and powerful doctor. Do whatever you wish with her today, doctor. I would begrudgingly put my magazine down, marking the page, (but never getting the chance to return to it). I would say my goodbyes to my mother, giving her a look like please, do I really have to go in there?, never sure if I would make it out of there alive. Upon sitting in the chair, he would flash his reflective mirror thingy on his forehead into my mouth, all the time I would be counting the nose hairs he had sticking out of his nose. In those days they didn’t wear masks, or rubber gloves for that matter. I could feel his breath on me. I remember the absolute glee on his face when his dental instrument would detect a small crevice in one of my teeth. He would pick at it and pick at it until it would hit a nerve. Once I jumped or squirmed, he knew he had hit pay dirt. I swear, once I saw actual dollar signs in his eyes during one of my examinations. I tried telling my mother but she just shrugged it off. Oh Sharon, she would say. My cue to let it go.

Dr. Phillips would open the door to his waiting room to inform my mother that I had a cavity. Giving an approving nod, she would indicate to him to “go ahead and fill it” which brought a smile to his face, acknowledgement that he was indeed going to be able to pay his rent that month. That was the ONLY thing that ever brought a smile to that man’s face. There was no tv to watch, like my daughter’s dentist has. No Novocain to alleviate the pain, matter of fact, the more pain the better. (Sadistic #$%^!) If there was Novocain offered, the way in which those older dentists administered shots was more painful than the drilling. So I always passed on the shot. There were no stickers handed out for doing a good job. Instead, if you didn’t stay still while he drilled and drilled and drilled into every nerve that existed in that tooth, you would get punished. Good old Dr. Phillips only charged $7 for a filling which was a bargain, or so thought my mother. It would be an issue if we had to find another dentist who charged possibly $10 per filling. So behave yourself, Sharon, and just let the man do his job.

I swear there were times he had his knee on my chest to keep me in position to stop me from writhing from pain. I can still imagine the taste of metal in my mouth, the smell of burning enamel from the drilling; the sound of the drill boring a hole in my tooth. ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZzzzzzzz…(foot off the pedal for a second)…ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ. Spit. Then filling my tooth with what looked like solder and packing it into my tooth. Rinse. Spit. “You’re done.” “But Dr Phillips, it feels funny.” “You’ll get use to it.” “But…” Washing his hands and reaching for the towel he had used to dry his hands when he called me in his office, he opens the door for his next unsuspecting victim. “Mrs. Smith? Come on in.”

But hey, he was family. He was the brother of my aunt’s husband’s sister. Surely he wouldn’t do anything to ruin THAT relationship. He was a complete stranger in my book. A mean stranger at that. And not such a good dentist. Every one of the fillings he did eventually fell out. Solder doesn’t last forever you know! I’ve had to have them all replaced. Nobody back then questioned doctors or dentists. Nobody asked to see an x-ray. I bet I never even had one cavity. Who would know any different? People in the medical profession that had a certificate in a frame hanging on the wall in their office were just believed to know what was best in those days. We’ve come a long way baby on that! (Remember the cigarette ads?)

Anyway, after the dentist appointment, my mother would take me across the street to Woolworth’s. Woolworth’s had a food service counter and we would always order the same thing. My mother would order a cup of tea and I would order a coke. You know, coke, to make some more cavities because the experience was so enjoyable. We both would order an apple dumpling, served piping hot, which came with vanilla sauce on top that was to die for. I have never been able to recreate that dessert nor has my mother. Both our recollections of the Woolworth’s apple dumplings were something neither of us could or wanted to recreate because it was best left in the past as a fond memory. I can still see us sitting at the counter, on swivel stools, a memory I will always cherish. Upon finishing, they would call us a cab and we would return home.

How rough of a childhood did I have that one of my fondest memories was going to the dentist in a cab? While most of you were taking vacations to Disneyland, little did you know the really good time was in downtown Norwich at Woolworth's!

Another place in downtown Norwich was a record store called Gaffney's. Gaffney's had the only soundproof booth in town. One could pick out an album (for the younger readers, an album is a round circular disc made of vinyl that had music that only a needle would make audible. Some of us had record players at home so that when you bought an album or 45 (smaller version of an album but only had one song on either side of it, known as the A and B side, or the flip side), you could play it on your phonograph. There wasn’t a Rhapsody.com or Itunes back then, kids!) To listen for free you had to go to a store like Gaffney’s and they would let you listen to a record to see if you liked it before buying it. After buying a record or two, we would go next door to the Beverly Tea Room. I’m not sure why it was called that. I never bought tea there. But I did have a coke or two there, putting a dime in the jukebox to hear 3 songs, and just talk with my friends. It was similar to a Friendly’s before Friendly’s opened up on the west side. Booths, ice cream. A hang out for kids with nothing better to do. That was us.

Once that excitement was done, one could head over to the amusement park in downtown Norwich. Don’t tell me you don’t remember the amusement park right there next to the Otis Library? Come on. Really? Oh wait, you probably know it by its official title - Reid and Hughes. Reid and Hughes was a department store that had an elevator, people! A real live elevator! It went up 3 floors and down 3 floors. Nothing like Mr. Bigs, which didn’t have a second floor at all! I remember going to R & H with my friend and riding the elevator for hours, pressing all the buttons, like it was our own private amusement park ride. We didn’t have an amusement park within 50 miles of our house. No roller coasters or flume rides. The only thing we had in comparison was the St Mary’s Carnival which consisted of booths and a maximum of 6 rides tops, if that. Whatever rides they could fit in the parking lot of the school. The Ferris wheel and Round Up were the big thrills. But that only stayed in town for a few days a year. Back to the excitement at Reid and Hughes. One day, the manager of the store caught on to our little antics of getting free thrills on the elevator and asked us to leave and never come back. Needless to say, when my father took me there to go shopping for my mother for Mother’s day, I was sweating bullets, hoping the store manager wouldn’t recognize me and tell my father that I was banned from the store. Hey, we made our own good times.

Oh sure, times weren’t always that bad. Sometimes as a family we would venture out of town to go shopping. By venturing out I mean we would leave Norwich. And I don’t mean we would go to New York or anything as preposterous as that. Back then if you had four kids in your family and only one income, New York may as well have been in Australia. No, when we ventured out to go shopping, I mean we would all pile in the Oldsmobile and drive to New London to go to Two Guys Department Store. Two Guys was similar to Walmart but not as big. Eventually Two Guys was bought out and became BradLees. To this day I’m not sure how that was pronounced. Was it like Brad Lees? Or was it more like Bradleys. Either way, we would go there for pre-school shopping. That store turned hands many times, turning into O’Malley’s in the early 80’s and then eventually being torn down completely to have a plaza be put in its place.

Sometimes we shopped locally and went to Grants which was in Norwichtown. Or Barkers which was on the other side of town. I vaguely remember Grants but do remember that the Norwichtown Mall was built to connect to Grants, but then Grants turned into Caldors. Caldors, was like an Ames. Oh, you don’t know what a Grants/Barkers/Caldors/Ames is? Ok. It’s like a Target I guess, but smaller I think. It was great having a mall finally in Norwich. Although, no more long excursions to New London for us! The Mall had everything you would want. Paperback Booksmith, Rexall Pharmacy, a stationery store, a pet shop with real live puppies and kittens, a place for Santa and the Easter Bunny to come to. What else did Norwich people want or need? We had it all!

In a subdivision of Norwich called Taftville, the streets were named after the alphabet like North A Street. Similarly, Greenville, another sub-section of Norwich, had streets that were all on a grid in blocks, but used the number system. There was 2nd Street all the way through 14th Street. (Hey, don't ask me what happened to 1st Street. Maybe the person that developed the grid scheme couldn't count. But there definitely wasn't a 1st Street. I lived next to 4th Street and it's only now that I am realizing that there wasn't a 1st Street. SO I'm going to cut that guy some slack for this one since I never even noticed it was missing either. We Greenville folk were smaht.) Those streets intersected with North Main Street, Central Avenue and Prospect Street. I grew up in Greenville. I remember Rudy’s Barber shop where my father and both brothers got their haircuts. From what I’m told he is still there cutting hair today; Central Soda Shoppe, where my older sister hung around, got in trouble, so I was never allowed to go there; Pooza’s (sp. Puza's?) was like a general store but had penny candy like candy wax lips, candy cigarettes, teaberry gum and blackjack gum. My favorite candy to buy from Pooza’s was shoestring licorice. I would tie it in multiple knots, then put the whole thing in my mouth, reducing it to strawberry goodness that still makes my mouth water. If you grew up in Greenville, you got your drugs from Rexall Pharmacy. Let me clarify, prescription drugs, that is. Ironically, if you go to Greenville today you can buy all the drugs you want and not have to go to Rexall’s. It’s become the drug zone for Norwich. Sad. Anyway, back in the day, Greenville was a nice place to live. Huge houses and none of them were alike, not like a subdivision. We had local stores that one could walk to. I loved walking down 4th Street to Pillar's Market to buy double stick lime Popsicles and banana Fudgsicles from the deep freezer case. At the end of Central Avenue, was Alex’s Flea Market. I never went there but there were always the most interesting things outside there when we drove by. Antiques, stage coaches, mirrors, old antique cars. The place always looked like it was rat infested. As long as it was there, I don’t think I ever stepped one foot inside the place, but remember it vividly.

In that same area of town, there was a natural spring. Every Sunday my father would load us kids in the car, taking our empty containers to go to the spring, and fill up on spring water. It was nothing fancy, just a rusty drain pipe sticking out of the ground with water coming out of it. Was it ever tested for bacteria? I doubt it. But we filled up our jugs and drank it anyway. Right around the corner from there was Tiki Gardens.

When we used to ask our dad what Tiki Gardens was, he never gave us a straight answer....hmmm never figured that out. HAHAHA!!!! – Sandra Davis Hill

I never knew what it was either nor did I know anyone that went in there to ask. So what WAS going on in that Tiki Gardens? Anyone?

Fine Dining in Norwich. Seriously?

When we were kids, we didn’t have the fast food choices we have today. I remember when the McDonalds Restaurant (yes, restaurant it is called) opened up in front of the mall in Norwichtown. It had a big sign in front that kept track of the number of people served. “3,543 people served”, two years later, “125,444 people served” to what it states now “Millions and millions served.” Back in the day, there weren’t “kid’s meals” that came with a toy. We were happy with the hamburger and french fries themselves. That was a treat in and of itself! We didn’t need no stinking toys. We could play with the environmentally-unfriendly Styrofoam box that the Big Mac came in. And who didn’t know the jingle, “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.” I say that now and my daughters look at me like I’m nuts. Just order, Mom.

McDonalds was the best. We never had french fries like that until McDonald’s came to town. But THEN…Burger King opened up across town. THEY served tomatoes on THEIR burgers! Had Onion rings! And Dr. Pepper! It was nuts. Real food had arrived in Norwich. Real burgers that had real black charbroil lines on them that tasted like they were cooking them on a real charcoal grill in the back. Or at least looked that way with those black lines. Insanely good! And to boot, they did it your way, however you wanted it. “I want the cheese underneath the tomato not on top of it.’ “Yes, ma’am! Have it your way!” My brother who hated onions but could never get McDonalds to take them off, thought we had died and went to heaven.

And then, and then, and then, Wendy’s came to town. SQUARE hamburgers? It’s a world gone mad! Who would ever eat a square burger? Wait. These aren’t too bad. And they’re juicy! But what about McDonalds and Burger King? We have three choices now? Whatever are we to do?! Norwich people aren’t used to having choices. Then Dairy Queen opened up in Taftville with their spin on the burger, the Brazier. The rest is history.
Do you remember First National grocery shopping. They used to give you numbers and [Put your groceries in carrying] carts [that they would roll out to you outside, that you would collect off the conveyor belt made of rollers.] 6 kids in a station wagon on Thurs nights this was the highlight of the week. Oh I'm wrong. Kellys hamburgers were the best time.... - Sandra Davis Hill

I could go on and on, so maybe there will be a Part two to this blog. But for My Kaneclusion this week, I will be stealing sentiment from one of my favorite prolific writers:

There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all.
- John Lennon


Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Unlike the other holidays, like Thanksgiving, I don't have to be confined in a space with my dysfunctional family. Matter of fact, on Halloween it is my motivation NOT to see my family. I use this as an inspiration to come up with a really good costume, making me unrecognizable, just in case I should have the misfortune of running into any of them. I don't want them to be able to tell it's me.

In addition to being family-free, there are hoards of candy. Need I say more? Halloween isn't constricted to just chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and marshmallow peeps. No limitations on chocolate balls and candy canes in stockings. No, this holiday is ALL about the variety and bulk. How can you go wrong?

But mostly the reason I enjoy Halloween is I love the fact that on one day a year we can dress any way we like and not be judged. Men get to dress up like women and see what it's like to put on fishnet stockings and walk in heels. Women who are normally considered "nice" break out into their witch costumes so their true selves can come out; children get to live out their fantasies of becoming their favorite movie or TV characters. One day a year, we all get to act like 3 year olds and pretend to be something or somebody else. What is there not to like about that?

I can remember being seven years old and my parents taking me to Mr. Bigs to buy me a Halloween costume. There it was, on the shelf, the costume for me. Back then, costumes came in a box. Through the cellophane of the box, all I could see was the Snow White mask that I just had to have. It even came with black painted hair on the top of the clear plastic which matched MY hair perfectly. Although my parents were not convinced, I talked them into buying it for me. I got it home and immediately wanted to try it on, but was told I had to wait for Halloween. But that was a week away! A lifetime for a little kid. Halloween night was the first and only time you wore your costume back then. No preceding firehouse parties, birthday parties, school parties, neighborhood block parties, et cetera. I couldn't wait.

Halloween night came. I got the box and opened it carefully to not rip it because after I wore the costume that night, my intent was to put it all back in the box to play dress up with it at a later time. I finally got to try it on. It was bright red, white and blue satin with a real velvet collar. I was excited and thrilled that it fit so well as I checked my look in the mirror. I ran to show my parents, only to have my happiness dashed away by my mother who informed me that I had to wear my winter jacket underneath it. What? She must be kidding? Snow White doesn't have a puffy winter jacket with a fur-lined hood sticking out underneath! I'm going to look like Snow White on steroids!! That's it! I'm not going trick or treating! I'll stay home and give out candy instead. Curses! But since my entire family was going, staying home alone was not an option. I just prayed I didn't run into any of my friends from school looking like that.

I have vivid memories of walking around my neighborhood with the clear plastic Snow White face mask on, not being able to breathe. Condensation formed on the inside of the mask caused by the contrast of my hot breath bouncing off the inside and the cold October night air on the outside; my face getting chapped from the mixture of moisture and sub-degree temperatures.

Who could breathe through those microscopic pin holes that those masks had? Seriously? My mother tried to make the holes a little bigger to let more air in, but that just made the plastic have sharp edges that hurt my nose. And couldn't they have made the elastic a bit thicker or the staple a little stronger so the mask wouldn't break? Although, I think I broke mine purposely so I wouldn't have to wear the darn thing. I couldn't breathe! Or see, for that matter, through the small eye holes! After not being able to see the steps to houses, I ended up wearing the mask on my head like a bonnet. Not what I had planned AT ALL!

Upon the trip home, the costume was taken off and put back in the box in a crumpled up ball, not folded like I had previously thought I would care for it, never to be taken out again. I don't think I ever looked at store bought costumes the same way again. Especially those clear plastic face mask type. What kind of sham were they anyway. I didn't look a thing like Snow White.

Anyone can buy a costume in the store or buy a mask and put it on. And I'm not knocking you if you do that. At least you're dressing up, which is more than I can say for the folks that don't dress up at all. I think people that don't dress up are generally insecure and feel like they are revealing too much about themselves if they do. My personal opinion is, those people are revealing so much more about themselves by NOT dressing up. But there are always going to be those folks that don't. And that's okay. There's room at the party for those folks too. I recently met a woman who was divorced and came to a Halloween party with her wedding ring on, saying that she was coming as a married person. Goes to show that you don't have to wear makeup and be able to sew costumes to be inventive.

I like Halloween mostly for the originality that some people come up with. They say that on Halloween, people's alter egos come out. As I was getting my annual exam this week, my gynecologist was telling me that this year she was scheduled to be in the ER on Halloween night so she had to be somewhat tame, but was still going to get dressed up. She went on to say that she is 39 and has no children. She and her husband have decided that they will not have kids, but their families keep putting the pressure on them. So she decided to go to Goodwill and buy eight baby dolls, she bought a long black wig and some big red lips. She planned on going to work in the ER as the Octomom. I loved that!

I often think back to the 80's when I was friends with a couple drag queens. To them, Halloween was like Christmas morning. The months prior to Halloween involved endless shopping to find the right size pumps, size 14 extra wide. Wig selection - smart, tidy brunette or blond bombshell? Chiffon or taffeta? Go all natural? Or show total commitment and shave their chests, legs, arms and who knows where else. All for one day of being able to express the person they were inside. What joy to see them so happy! "Deck the Halls" should have been a Halloween song not a Christmas song. "Don we now our gay apparel, fa, la, la..." Who other than gay men would sing "fa, la, la" with such enthusiasm?

Anyway, there's something daring, something courageous, about dressing up. It's fun while you're getting ready, but then you have to actually face people in your get up. It always makes me a bit nervous as I'm sure it does others. But I find that if you're with friends that have a sense of humor, it can be a blast.

One of my favorite costumes in the past that I dressed up as was a Bumble Bee. This consisted of a striped black and yellow sweater, yellow jeans with black tape rings, six legs made from tin foil, black tape on bent metal clothes hangers and tennis ball antennae attached to a head band. A stinger lay limp on my butt, not providing much of a threat, but was there for the effect. This was one of my favorite costumes not because it was elaborate, but because of the puns I could come up with all night. "Hey, Bee quiet!...You, Bee-have!" and "Man, I'm buzzzzzzed!" An endless night of funny one-liners about the costume is what makes it fun.

I dressed up one year as Edward Scissorhands. I entered a bar contest even though the competition was quite stiff that year. But remarkably I won. I enjoyed that costume because I had a good time giving complete strangers pretend haircuts and watching their reactions as I clinked my scissors around their heads. The reactions ranged from, "Get the heck away from me" to "Just take a little off the top." The one drawback to that costume, should you want to copy the idea, is that drinking and eating presented a challenge, just like in the movie where he would cut himself. Have you ever tried to pick up a cup with a bunch of scissors taped to your hands? More of a challenge is bringing the cup to your mouth without poking your eyes out.

A popular Halloween costume any year is any character from The Wizard of Oz. One year, three of my friends and I decided to dress up like the characters of the Wizard of Oz. We had to decide who was going to be who. We could have drawn straws to see who would play each character, but that wouldn't have been the right thing. You have to pick the character that you can identify with the best. Let's face it. I didn't qualify for the role of Dorothy. Nobody wants to see me in pigtails, kind of like seeing CarrotTop in pigtails. When you look at him, you have to wonder what is he thinking, don't you? I would have gotten the same reaction. Plus, I'm not the ruby slipper type. (Although I might have looked good in that little checkered number. Oh well.) The scarecrow wasn't an option either because I wasn't smart enough to figure out where to put the straw. Plus my friend had the perfect IQ to play the part. It really came down to the choice of the Cowardly Lion (cowardly I am not) or the Tin Man. It was decided that since I didn't have "a hott", that I would go as the Tin Man. I can hear some of you saying, yup, dead on! But remember, this is the ALTER EGO, which means that I really DO have a heart, just like the Tin Man did. Case in point, who was the one in the movie that was always crying, caring, inclusive, and sensitive, huh? The Tin Man, that's who! It was only fitting that I take on that role.
"Cuz Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn't, didn't already have." - America

I liked dressing up like the Wizard of Oz in a collaborative effort with the other girls because it was a team approach. We had to hang together all night, in unity. We had to skip together like there was a yellow brick road, to show off our costumes to the judges. We won the contest in a packed New Haven bar that year and it was fun sharing the experience with others for a change. I have fond memories of that evening.

It's the homemade costumes that get props from me. My kids have always had some kind of homemade job that has been on the creative side. Anyone can be a witch, a princess, vampire, ghost or dress up like the opposite sex. No offense, but boring! The true Halloweenians take the challenge seriously and search current events and capitalize on the moments in time that are controversial, funny, warped, or sometimes even sad.

Suffice it to say, that this year when my daughter insisted that she wanted to be a witch and saw the perfect costume that she wanted at Walmart, I was greatly disgusted and disappointed. But I remember how important it was for me to get the one I wanted, cursed Snow White, so I let her be...a witch.

It killed me to let her be a witch. But I thought, I'll get her back when I tell her she has to wear her jacket underneath! Nope. Plan foiled. It was 72 degrees this Halloween so she didn't have to be subjected to being the jacket-plump witch. All in all, a lovely night and no emotional scars were inflicted. Drats!

If I can digress for a moment. Is it me or have Halloween decorations gotten more elaborate? No more plain jack-o-lanterns with triangle eyes and nose, but instead fancy carvings of witches on broomsticks and Spongebob Squarepants carved into pumpkins; houses lit up with orange string lights; blow up Grim Reapers; and plastic pumpkin candy containers to collect the candy in? What happened to the plain old pillow cases that we used when I was a kid? People are spending their disposable income on all this stuff and then skimping on the candy! My daughter didn't get one full-size chocolate bar. Not one! When I was a kid, I would at least get 1 or 2 full-size Hershey bars. I guarantee my daughter couldn't care less about these people's fog machine and forgot about it the minute she stepped off their porch. But had they given her a full size bag of M&Ms, she would have remembered their house next year. Have we lost the meaning of Halloween? The over-indulgence of candy? The not-being-able-to-carry-the-sack-of-candy-because-you-got-too-much dilemma? Or is it all about how pretty or scary people's houses look now? Ok, I'll let it go. I'll go to Walmart and buy full-size candy bars marked down. And maybe some marked down orange lights while I'm at it.

Since my daughter did not allow me to let my creative juices flow this year (a witch! I'm still not over it), I decided to dress up myself. But like I said, no store-bought costume for me. I decided this year I was going to make a political statement. My friend and I got all geared up in army fatigues, army boots, me sporting a mustache and cigar. My friend's name tag read: Don Task. My name tag read: Don Tell. It might take a second. Give it a minute before you read on if you haven't caught on.

Now, since this is MY blog, I'm merely expressing MY opinion on the subject. You don't have to agree, and this particular blog is not about political stances. So don't be sending me comments about your stance on this issue. (Unless of course you agree and, in that case, I'd love to hear from you!) But I do want to state that I dressed up like this because I just think that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell solution to gay people in our military was and still is such a ridiculous solution. Leave it to Clinton to come up with it. Maybe he was referring to his own sex life and didn't want anyone "asking" him about it and he didn't want to "tell" what he was doing with Monica Lewinsky. But with the Democrats in control again, I am hoping that this becomes less of an issue and if gay people want to serve in the military, they should be allowed to, openly; that they shouldn't be made to feel different, act differently, or keep quiet about their sexual preferences. I hope there will come a day when our children ask the question, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell? What was THAT all about?" We will tell them and they will say "How silly!" So I wanted to do this before it becomes a non-issue, which I hope it does in the near future. So my costume was political, and yet funny. Plus I had army fatigues in my closet so it was easy.

My second choice was to go as balloon boy. I was going to get in a box with 2 X 4's glued to the sides as rafters. Next year.

My Kaneclusion: If it is indeed true that dressing up for Halloween brings out people's alter ego, then what I really want to be in life is an openly gay man in the military, who has no heart, who would rather be cutting hair, who walks around buzzed all the time, looking for dwarfs. Interesting. Maybe in my next life. But if it really just means that the people who like to dress up on Halloween just enjoy having fun, then that alter ego crap is exactly that.

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