Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Humanity and Horror

I recently got back from a family vacation in Washington D.C. While there, we did the usual historical sightseeing things...the Smithsonians, the White House, the Capital, the monuments. We also went to Arlington National Cemetary and the Holocaust Museum.

I had been to Arlington National Cemetary before and remembered it as one of my favorite places to visit in DC. When telling my 11 year old son about it, he found it strange that it would be a favorite place to visit...being a cemetary and all. But there is just something peaceful to me there even though many of the dead are as a result of man's brutality to man. Walking amongst the white gravestones, reading the captions, looking at the rolling hills, and glimpsing the monuments of DC in the distance just fills me with peace and even hope. I don't know why, it's just how it is. It fills me with gratitude for those who fought to preserve my way of life, for those who showed a bravery that I can't imagine, for those who died with so much living still to do.

The Holocaust Museum, on the other hand, was not something that could be "enjoyed" in any way; but, instead, something that I felt a need to experience. It was horrific. But, I needed to see it and have my kids see it. I wanted them to know that there are people out there who are able to do such horrendous things to other people. That there are people who exist who feel no regret or responsibility for their actions. That there are people who can treat another human being with depravity and degradation. I know they won't understand it, because I certainly can't, but they needed to know that it exists.

When we left the Holocaust Museum, we were like "now what?" What do we do now...get an ice cream? Enjoy the beautiful weather? Traipse through another museum looking at ladies' ballgowns? Suddenly, things seemed rather inconsequential. Yet, we did exactly that. Because those of us here must continue to live, to experience, to enjoy what life has to offer. Yet, we can still remember, and be aware, and strive to prevent future atrocities.

When I think of the "bad" in the world, I always end up thinking of the "good". Maybe it's self defense, maybe it's denial, I like to think of it as hope...

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Fire & Fear

I've always had a fear of fire. Now, I would guess that it is probably normal for most people to fear fire, but my fear was somewhat more than "normal" (I think). I don't really remember when it began, but one of my clearest memories of the "fear" was when I was 8 years old. We lived in a home in the inner city. The houses were mainly what we called triple decker houses (3 apartments, 1 per floor). Ours happened to be a single story home, but we had a triple decker right next to us. I went to bed (the bedrooms were on the second floor). My parents and grandma were still up watching tv and my aunt and her friend were also visiting. Shortly thereafter, my mom came running upstairs and told me there was a fire next door. As I came down the stairs I could see smoke coming in through the corner of the ceiling in the living room. We all went outside. When I got outside, I realized I had left my "Lambie" (a stuffed lamb that played Brahm's Lullaby) back up in the bedroom. After seeing me burst into tears, my aunt went back to retrieve my lamb. Luckily, our house turned out to be fine, other than smelling smoky. My father opened a bottle of Galiano afterwards and gave everyone a drink (even I got a sip)...then Lambie and I went to bed.

Anyway, my fear of fire has always expressed itself by my storing the things most important to me close to my bed-those things that I would want to grab first (other than people) if a fire ever occurred. Back as a child and even a teen, it was Lambie. After my mom died and as a young married adult, it was pictures...irreplaceable photo albums of family and my wedding pictures. As a young mom, it turned into pictures and videos of my children. As my kids grew, it became all of the data, pictures, and memories stored on my computer and external hard drives, *sigh*. The list is far too long. Now, I lay awake wondering if a pillow case would be big enough to dump all of the stuff in for me to haul out the window. Heh, who am I kidding? I'd need at least 5 pillow cases. Oh, and Lambie still sits on my night table.

Here are some pictures of one of my prized possessions, an autographed "In Tune" magazine. "Most prized" because I can not replace it and because of the memories of the Meet & Greet where I obtained it. Hey, look at it this least I'm not posting a picture of Lambie. Unless you really want one that is *g*...

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Worth the Risk...

I've never been a risk taker...not physically or financially. I'm a chicken. I would never jump out of a plane, go bungee jumping, or scuba diving. What little money I have is invested in safe (as in "so little interest it's barely there") mutual funds. I would never desire to own my own business, I'd rather someone else pay me and take care of my benefits. I sometimes envy those who are willing to take risks. I do feel that to achieve a lot or to live life to the fullest...risk-taking is necessary. But, I guess I'm content to be a middle achiever and live life enough, while staying "safe".

My 11 year old son went on vacation this week with his best friend. During the vacation, my son went parasailing. When he called me on the phone to tell me he "did something really special", I held my breath. When I found out that he had been floating 400 feet above the ocean, all I could think of was "thank God he didn't tell me until it was over". I surely would have said "no". From the sound of his voice, I can tell it was an experience he will always remember. I'm glad he'll have that memory. My 13 year old daughter is a gymnast. She does things on the beam and bars that send chills through me at the mere thought of duplicating the process. Heck, I could never even do a cartwheel... She soldiers on, even when afraid. She is a "do-er", ready to try most anything. No amusement ride has ever gotten the best of my kids *g*. I hope they continue to take risks, to achieve, IF that continues to make them happy. Otherwise, they can be like me, satisified to just "be", that'll work too.

I'll be watching those risk takers from my safe little corner of the couch...confident that all of their dreams will come true.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006


I've always enjoyed a good story. And listening to one in song is no exception. James Taylor is a fine storyteller through music and lyrics. I didn't really listen much to James as a teen or young adult, but as I got a bit older, his music began to appeal to me more. Clay Aiken seems to appreciate James Taylor and has incorporated Taylor songs into his tours. Clay also has the beginnings of being a wonderful storyteller. He sings to you, not at you. He brings you into his story. Here are a couple of videos, one of James Taylor singing Sweet Baby James and one of Clay Aiken singing Sweet Baby James. Each different, each beautiful. Enjoy.

James Taylor - Sweet Baby James...

Clay Aiken - Sweet Baby James...

~video by Spotlightlover

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Monday, May 22, 2006

The City Mouse and the Country Mouse

I spent the first 28 years of my life living in East Boston, at the time, an Italian, Catholic, blue collar community in Boston. I enjoyed growing up there, especially when I was quite young. I have so many fond memories...

~the milk man delivering ice cold glass bottles of milk to our doorstep. The bottles were covered with little paper caps. That milk tasted so much better than any milk today.
~the traveling amusement truck that wound it's way up and down the one way streets. The one I remember most was the The Whip.
~the man selling watermelons off his truck.
~the ice cream truck playing its music during hot summer nights, while kids rushed up and down the block with popsicles and fudgsicles.
~playing marbles in the sewer grates that aligned the sidewalk.
~families sitting outside on the doorsteps every warm summer evening.
~spending the mornings playing with the ants that lived in the brick foundation of our house. I had named 2 of the ants Susan and John. I even had an ant hospital, which was a hole in the telephone pole. The ants would go there when they had been accidentally stepped on . Hey, I was an only child...

Yup, life was good. But, as I entered my pre-teen years, East Boston began to change. Crime and drug use was increasing, housing was becoming run-down, the school system was in disarray, racism was rampant, desegregation/busing was being enforced within the school system and rioting and civil disobedience was becoming the norm. As the years went on, trouble was available if you chose to find it. Thank God that through common sense and a mom who brought me up to have a mind of my own...I didn't go looking for it....much *g*.

At 18, I went to Boston College...what an awakening that was for me. I had grown up in a major city, yet remained pretty insulated. It took going to a major university for me to meet anyone who wasn't Catholic or Jewish. Yup, it took me 18 years to meet a Protestant or an African American. I didn't live at BC, I commuted instead, traveling an hour and a half each way. I loved BC, it enabled me to meet people that I wouldn't have if I had not ventured out of the insular confines of East boston...people of other cultures, other nationalities, other races, and other religions.

Boston had a lot of attraction for a newly graduated, now working, young adult with some free money to spend. I worked in the financial district with many others my same age. We had so much fun at work and especially after work. Almost every night involved hitting a Boston watering hole either in the financial district or the area surrounding Fanueil Hall Marketplace. I think I sowed my wild oats during this time...from what I can remember of it *g*.

Shortly after this, I fell in love with my husband to be. We talked often about where we wanted to live and both agreed that the city was not where we wanted our kids to grow up. Plus, Boston had become incredibly expensive. Housing prices were astronomical. I wanted to be a stay at home mom while my kids were small, and there would be no way to ever do that in Boston and own a house. So, we moved. To Aiken, South Carolina. My husband's dad lived there, we had visited and fallen in love with the town.

Living in Aiken is like being on vacation every day. I have now lived here for 16 years, but sometimes I just can't believe how fortunate I am. I have a yard! A whole acre! Hey, that's a big deal for someone who grew up with a patch of concrete as a yard. My yard is filled with squirrels, birds, a stray bunny or two, moles, an occasional snake. I've had opposums and raccoons in my carport and I've even seen an armadillo crossing the street. Hee, the only wildlife I saw in Boston was pigeons, rats, and skunks. The first time I went grocery shopping in Aiken and pulled into my carport and then carried my groceries up 5 stairs...I thought I had died and gone to heaven. What a change from double parked cars and 3 flights of stairs! I have a pool! My God...who ever thought I would have a pool? I feel like I live at a hotel *g*. Aiken is just wonderful. I love that it has a little bit of everything... shopping areas, malls, fast food, movie theaters, restaurants and then, country lanes, wooded trails, horse pastures, polo fields. It's green, not grey. Aiken also has the largest park set in an urban area (nearly 2000 acres)...Hitchcock Woods. We have spent may days hiking through those woods...memories I'll always cherish.

Anyway, I am grateful to have grown up in Boston when I did. I'll always remember the close-knit communtiy that I experienced there as a child, knowing everyone you bumped into, walking to the corner store, chatting with the next door neighbor from window to window across the alleyway. But I am so blessed to now experience the peacefulness and beauty of living a less hectic lifestyle, of savoring a sunset, or seeing a star filled sky not obscured by lights. I truly have had the best of both worlds.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

My Own Best Friend

As a child, teenager, and even young adult, I craved company. Maybe growing up as an only child contibuted to the desire to always be around others. As a child, when weekends would roll around, the first words out of my mouth to my mom on Friday night would be "where are we going?" or "what are we going to do?". We would then find someone to go visit, or invite someone over for coffee, or go out for a daytrip in Boston. I hated staying home or being alone.

As a teen, friends and eventually a boyfriend or two, kept me busy. Then, as a young adult, college and beginning a career took up my time. During my 23rd year, my mom died at the age of 53. She and I had been in the process of renovating a new apartment that we would soon be moving into. Now, I had to move into the apartment alone. The beginning was so very hard. My days were kept full with working and my evenings were kept busy by going over my best friend's house. But, going home... I distinctly remember falling asleep night after night on the couch watching tv, just feeling "alone"...and not in a good way. I think I may have actually had the beginnings of a few panic attacks during that period, but fought through it.

Eventually, as time went on, being alone became a bit easier. During the three years after my mom's death, I fell in love and got married. Within two years, we decided to move to South Carolina. Moving 1000 miles away, from a bit of family and all friends, should have been intimidating and scary, but, the truth was... I was ready for change. So, instead, it all seemed exciting and adventurous. We had already purchased a home in SC ten months, we had a place to live...but we didn't have jobs. After numerous interviews and temp positions, we both eventually found jobs and settled in.

We had our first baby two years later, a daughter. Being a mom had always been my dream...and now it was a reality. Two years later, along came our second and last child, a son. The hardest thing about being a parent for me was the lack of time for "me". I had grown into loving my own quiet time. Time where I could just "be". I no longer had the need to always be around others. I had become my own best friend. I don't know what contributed to this shift in me...was it the solitude of moving from the city to a country like atmosphere? The slowing down of life from the North to the South? The lack of friends in a new environment? Or growing up? It was probably a combination of all of these. It was quite ironic to me that no sooner had I started enjoying just my own company, I now had two babies that left me without a minute of time. Of course, that special time with your babies can never be replaced and I relished every second of it. But, I must admit that as they got older, I sure did enjoy getting back some of that "me" time.

I love doing things by myself now...going for a walk, reading a book, listening to music. I also travel by myself and go to Clay Aiken concerts alone. I'm even one of those strange people who will go to a restaurant alone *g*, and like it. When I think back to who I was and who I now sometimes confuses me. How did I get from there to here? Of course, intellectually I know that the events of your life, the people, the surroundings, the experiences...all contibute to your growth and development. But sometimes it amazes me how much I have changed in different ways. I can't picture the "me" of "now" back in the days of "then".

Friday, May 19, 2006

I'll Take Water Any Day...

I was adopted at the age of 5 days. It was a private adoption. For ease, I’ll be referring to my adoptive parents as my “mom” and “dad”, and my birth mother as my “birth mother”. My adoptive dad had a criminal record and therefore my parents were unable to adopt through an agency. But, my father had found out about me through a mutual acquaintance of his and my birth mother. Apparently, my birth mother already had 4-5 other small children, she was in her late 20’s and lived in the “projects” of a Boston community. I have no idea whether she was married or not. My dad made the arrangements and went home to tell my mom the “news”.

My mom had wanted a baby desperately, but had been unable to conceive after 11 years of marriage. When my dad came home that day and said “get ready, we are getting a baby tonight”, my mom couldn’t believe it. Of course, they were not prepared in any way…I spent my first night with my mom and dad sleeping in a banana box…yes, a banana box! Why they did not take a picture of this, I don’t know, but I sure would love to have seen one.

I grew up with the knowledge that I had been adopted. I never remember being “told”, it must have just been something that was talked about with me since I was a baby. However, I never knew the exact circumstances of the adoption. My mom used to tell me that she and my dad went to an orphanage and picked me out especially from all the babies. I don’t know why they felt the need to explain it this way…I guess they wanted me to feel “special”. It really wasn’t necessary, my mom made me feel “special” my entire life…I really didn’t need explanations, I had all the love anyone could want.

When I was around 10, I was looking through my mom’s hope chest and found a baby blanket. When I asked my mom what it was, she got a weird look on her face (she never could lie). There was a stamp on the blanket with the name of a local charity hospital. My mom had always told me that I was born at a certain private Boston hospital. Once again, I have no idea why…maybe she just didn’t want me to know I had been born in poverty. But, the funny thing was that we were not much better off economically, so again, the decision was strange to me. Anyway, that is when she told me the truth about my adoption…that it was private, and why. It was no biggie to me. I simply found it interesting. I think adults sometimes overthink things…kids understand the things that really matter. Unfortunately, in addition to my adoption being private, it also had never been legalized. This caused problems as I got older since I didn’t have a birth certificate in my adoptive name. Luckily, my dad knew someone in the local city hall, and managed to get it rectified prior to my attending college. Heh, my dad and his connections…there’s enough there for a book, never mind a blog…

Anyway, my dad was Italian, his parents were quite old-fashioned and really didn’t believe in adoption. While they were never unkind to me, I always knew that I wasn’t thought of as one of their “real” grandchildren. When reading Learning to Sing, by Clay Aiken, I could totally relate to his chapter on his step-dad and how Clay knew that his step-dad could never accept him as a child of his own since he wasn’t blood. Quite a sucky feeling that I knew only too well, thanks to my grandmother…

My dad ended up back in jail when I was 9, and remained there until I was 12. My parents were divorced by this time. During the 2nd year of his incarceration, I went to visit him, in jail in Pennsylvania, along with my grandparents. Of course, I was nervous sitting in the waiting room. We had just driven into the jail grounds, with towers at each corner containing officers with machine guns. We had just gone through a search of our bags and pockets before entering. So, yeah, as an 11 year old, it was pretty intimidating. As we waited for them to call us for the visit, I was sitting and holding a tissue in my hands. I was nervous, so I was kind of wringing the tissue. My grandmother looked at me and said “if you think you’re nervous, just imagine how your grandfather must feel, I mean, blood is thicker than water”. I just looked at her. It bothered me, but I had other things on my mind at that moment. Of course, when I got home, I told my mother and made her promise not to say anything to my grandmother. Of course, she did anyway…heh, my mom was great.

Well..the moral of this story is *g*…blood certainly isn’t thicker than water…not when it comes to love. I grew up with family that was not blood, and friends who meant as much as that family. Today, I have new friends, who, too, are like family. I just had to shake my head when I attended Clay’s Joyful Noise 2005 Tour, and before the last song he talked about how family has nothing to do with being related. Hee, Clay and I have a…wheeeeeeee!

Clay Aiken singing “Don’t Save it all for Christmas Day”…

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