The Day The World Changed & How I Changed With It…

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The Day The World Changed & How I Changed With It…
Thanks to Shaun for asking me this question in July. He blogged about it, not knowing I was preparing to do the same today.

The world was irrevocably changed on September 11th,2001. Lives were affected globally. People cried and mourned, and unfortunately in certain countries, some people celebrated what they felt would be the demise of America. There’s a special place in hell for people like that, and I don’t even believe in a heaven/hell concept.

There’s really no one that can’t say that the events of 9/11 have had no effect on them whatsoever. You’d have to be completely heartless and brainless (I have a list of people that make the cut, as I am sure we all do.) to not react to what occurred and what continues to occur in this great big world of ours.

I will start by saying where I was that morning and how I look back on it.

As a native New Yorker, I watched a piece of my city be destroyed by pure evil, by unwarranted hatred. My mother had narrowly escaped the first bombing of the World Trade Center years before, so I already knew the towers were a target, but could I ever have expected to wake up one morning and watch the world change before my eyes in such a dramatic way? No. It still feels like it happened yesterday, except I know how much the world has changed and how much my own life has changed in the past 12 years since the attacks.

On that fateful morning, I woke up to take my Mom to work. She was returning to her job after a little over two months of being home recovering from failed back surgery. I was her primary care-giver/care-taker, so I was present for everything, including that morning’s events.

I am vividly reminded of that day because it started out like most people’s inevitably begin. I woke up and hit the shower. The key to my shower was that the radio was dead silence. Back then I normally listened to CD’s to drown out my own “mind noise”, but since I was in a bit of a rush after my CD fogged up on me, I switched on the radio mid-shower. The station I listen to is always rife with early morning talk and music. It freaked me out after a few minutes, because every single station I switched to was pure static, and the only brief thing I could make out through said static was that the World Trade Center had been hit by a “small plane”. I guarantee you that it was the fastest shower I’ve ever taken in my entire life, because I had to know what was going on, and if my family was safe. It was a total “What the FUCK?!” moment. Hearing those words repeated a second time on another radio station amidst all that static silence, I knew something was very wrong.

I remember throwing on clothes, going into the living room, turning on the TV, and watching the footage. Initially, I thought I was watching a trailer for a new Bruce Willis film, because that’s what it felt like. It was incredibly surreal and disturbing. This could not be happening on American soil! I was in disbelief.

Every channel was showing the footage, but they were claiming that a “small aircraft” had hit the World Trade Center. Surveying the damage, I knew that it hadn’t been a small anything, and that this was an act of terrorism, as opposed to an “accident”. Knowing the area well, I knew that a plane didn’t just swerve in that direction of its own volition.

I immediately called my father, who was working that morning in a government building in the city that had once been a target after the Oklahoma City bombings. He was asking me what happened because my view was different from his, despite his physical view being clearer and closer, and as we spoke, we both watched in horror as the 2nd plane hit the other tower.

We were both vehement in our belief that this was an act of terrorism on American soil, that it was Arab extremists, and we were both upset as all get out. We got off the phone briefly so I could take my mother to work. The devastation we were all feeling was so strong, you couldn’t have come at it with a sword. Anger, silence, worry, it was all in the air.

The news that the Pentagon has been hit, and that a plane had gone down in Pennsylvania were minor shocks at the time, yet all of it was terrifying. Planes entering U.S. airspace were now being re-routed to Canada to avoid further attacks via aircraft.

I returned home to make sure my Dad was still ok, and we talked for a while before an announcement was made that his building was being evacuated as a precautionary measure. The city was in chaos, and it took my Dad a while to get home, but once he was safe I was breathing a huge sigh of relief. My Mom called me throughout the day for updates on what was going on, did my Dad make it home safely, what else were we being told, etc. My brother and I were angry, and Americans were being warned that the attacks on our soil might continue, even after they closed all of the airports. Basically we were being told to watch our own skies. Living near major airports my entire life, the sheer silence of not hearing a plane go overhead for weeks on end was, and still is, freaky. Of course now, after all these years, I still watch planes very carefully.

Despite the phone lines being jammed in the tri-state area, I was lucky to spend part of the day mostly on the phone with my parents. My Mom was completely and utterly horrified after we’d watched everything that morning. When I picked her up from work later that day, as I did every single day until she left her company, that day had changed so much, and shifted the world and our view of it completely.

I was very lucky. I did not lose any friends or family members/loved ones. People I knew very distantly were affected, and for that I will always be sorry, even though I know full well that none of it was or is my fault. That level of tragedy is not something you can put into words, not really.

A week or so after the attacks, you could still see and smell the smoke heavy in the air. I cried seeing the wreckage, my city skyline destroyed, as I went over the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island into Brooklyn. Watching trucks in a single file going over the bridge all the way out to Arthur Kill to bring in the debris was awful. Cars, physical pieces of the towers, you could physically feel the spirits of people in the air, and it sickened me to my core.

I will never forget the friends from all over the world that went out of their way to contact me to make sure that I was safe, that my parents were safe, to ask if I needed anything. I remember exactly who contacted me as if it just happened, because almost all of them were overseas. A friend who had visited me the year before and gotten the “Lisa Grand Tour” of New York City was mortified. Eerily enough, one of the charms she had purchased for her charm bracelet had broken the day before. She immediately thought of us buying them together during her visit, and the following morning she took the broken charm as a sign alerting her to my being in danger, and she sent me an e-mail to make sure everyone was ok.

One of the biggest things conveyed to me since 9/11 is people’s fears of flying, be it domestically or Internationally. I’ve been flying my entire life. I have never been afraid to get on a plane and go somewhere, or get on a return flight home. I’ve been lucky to mostly have very smooth travels, and only one or two flights during really bad weather where I was grateful the pilot knew what he was doing.

Do I worry about clearing security at the airport? No. I’ve been hassled once, at Dallas-Fort Worth International where I was screened four times while people who were actually visibly questionable walked right through with no problems. This was at a time when the TSA was being warned to “thoroughly search single white women traveling alone”. I watched as they tore apart my carefully packed carry-on bag, rifled through my books page-by-page (I kid you not!), questioned a pouch chock full of nickels, dime, and quarters acquired during my two week vacation, and asked where I was going, where I was coming from, what my travel intentions were, etc. Texas is one of my favorite places to visit, and the experience with TSA did not sour me in the least, but once they finally cleared me after an hour of unnecessary hassle, a man in a cowboy hat and cowboy boots who’d been watching the entire thing go down told me how disgusted he was to have witnessed that, and that he came very close to intervening on my behalf. That was really sweet, but by that time I was exhausted, and honestly lucky to arrive at my gate to a two hour flight delay, as opposed to 30 minutes of time left before boarding.

Things have changed drastically since then, but my experiences at various airports have been fine clearing security. I’ve been subjected to one “hair search” due to a clip in my hair that had a metal core and one “pocket pat” to verify that what I was wearing clipped to my pants was indeed a pedometer and not a bomb. <rolls eyes> I don’t blame them for being thorough, but I definitely think they need to change a lot of their rules and make things less stressful for travelers who are already frazzled enough as it is.

In the days following 9/11, I remember a much greater sense of patriotism than I had probably ever felt in my life and I will openly admit to being proud of my President in times where I am positive his decisions were not easy ones to make. Standing side-by-side with FDNY firefighters, he made me proud of my city, of its people and resilience, and of basic human kindness and compassion. In general I don’t witness a great deal of human kindness or experience an awful lot of compassion, so it was a highly emotional time.

One thing I am keenly aware of is that I might very well have lost my life that day had I taken a job one year prior with a company whose offices were terribly affected. I like to think my intuition would have kicked into high gear and kept me home that day for a plethora of different reasons, but one never truly knows. When I heard about all of the people lost from that company, people who stayed behind and did not immediately evacuate, or those that went back in to help others, I am extremely grateful for my own life. It’s a humbling thing. Sometimes the choices we make save our lives and we may not always be aware of it, but that night, I was definitely more aware than I ever cared to be.

As a nation, I feel we are both stronger and weaker. So much has changed, but as I look deep within myself, I am glad that 9/11 didn’t harden me any more than anything else I have experienced in life. Certainly it raised people’s awareness to a whole different level and for a very long time fear was a motivating factor for way too many people. I refuse to live in any country and be fearful of my life or my safety.

Every single day we are given is a blessing. We all have our “list of shit” in our lives. Nothing and no one is perfect, but each day is an opportunity to make sure we never forget, to make sure we tell the next generation what happened, and how we all lived through a major moment in history.

In memory of those that lost their lives: You may be gone, but you are not forgotten.

On this day, please click on the FDNY link and donate whatever you can to the Official FDNY Widow’s & Orphan’s Fund. This charity was close to my father’s heart.

Why I’m Sick Of Hearing About “The A-Rod Scandal”: The Playing Field Is A Witch Hunt

Why I’m Sick Of Hearing About “The A-Rod Scandal”: The Playing Field Is A Witch Hunt

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As a native New Yorker who is also a die-hard Yankees fan, many people have been asking me about Major League Baseball’s decision to suspend Alex Rodriquez for 211 games due to the information provided to them by the former owner(s) of Biogenesis. Initially I wasn’t going to write about this, but as things have progressively gotten nastier in the media, I have decided to do so.

When the subject initially came up and I vaguely considered writing about it, my brother & I were discussing it on an almost daily basis and since he & I were completely in sync with our feelings on the subject, I felt like it was one I could handle with relative ease.

A slightly unknown fact about me is that, in the past, I’ve worked for a baseball player, so I feel like I can speak on this subject without it being an immense issue. Please be advised that I am writing MY views and opinions and while you may share in them, you may also firmly disagree. You’re entitled to your feelings and opinions, and if you want/need to express your views, please do so on your own blog(s), don’t bombard me with hate filled rants simply because our opinions do not mesh. If you want to debate with me like a rational human being, by all means, there is a comment button. I’m very cool when it comes to discussing a veritable motley’s crew of things, but I will not tolerate rudeness. Disagree, for it is your right to do so, but be respectful.

Moving onward…

Obviously people are full of their opinions in regard to this subject, most especially people that aren’t Yankees fans, or even baseball fans for that matter, which is more than a little disturbing, and is often one of those moments when “freedom of speech” starts to get on my nerves. It is in times of this nature where I often want to start suturing people’s mouths shut and taking away their smart-phones and laptops. This is when the assholes all come out from their caves. I find I have little tolerance for it.

I’ve always been supremely fair whenever I write about things like this. Up until a few months ago, I knew very little about this in its entirety. I knew only that Alex was being accused of something serious, but I did not know if he’d truly done anything warranting more than a mere investigation, or what the true nature of it entailed. I figured the worst they’d do was hand down a suspension of 50-75 games and fine him. I was ok with that because, based on the accusations, that’s really all that was warranted. Fine him, suspend him, but for God’s sake, he is NOT an animal to be slaughtered or a person to be stoned. It’s baseball, it’s not the end of the world.

I’m still not 100% sure he did anything because the facts are not sitting in front of me to be analyzed. There are no documents here, no physical proof of a damn thing, no medical reports, no financial documents, just the things Major League Baseball is spewing and spreading to the press like a disease. The more they talk to the media and spread various things to news outlets, the more I feel like it’s a smear campaign. I’ve seen this done to another athlete before when he questioned a team doctors’ misdiagnosis of something very serious, something that nearly got him killed. Incidentally, Alex told a doctor he did not trust him because he never informed him of damage to his hip during the 2012 playoffs, an injury that was severe enough to require off-season surgery. Can you blame him?! I’d have been all over that doctor like white on rice. The treatment the previously aforementioned athlete received by “daring” to question a team’s medical staff enraged me, so maybe some of that anger will creep into this piece and if it does, so be it.

For anyone to ask him to turn over all of his medical records, a request that was supposed to go to his lawyers and was “accidentally” released to the media is another load of shit completely disrespectful and if I am not mistaken, it is a complete and utter HIPAA violation to make such a request. He doesn’t have to give up his rights, tell you his life story, or have any more of his life dragged through the mud to appease anyone. 

Despite all kinds of drugs being wide-spread across every professional sport, and anyone scoffing at that statement is either lying to themselves or has been lied to, I see no visible evidence that he has been on performance enhancers during his tenure as a Yankee. He’d be playing a much better game all around if he were, and that’s a very simple fact. If you’re taking drugs that are meant to enhance your natural athletic abilities, then you’re not constantly missing fielding opportunities or constantly striking out. In my family, a missed fielding opportunity is called “an Alex Rodriquez”, I kid you not. There were kids in the Little League World Series playing better third base than I’ve seen from him in years. Should we drug test them too?

The suspension itself is grossly excessive. As a first time offender who openly admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs while he played for the Texas Rangers, I feel like this whole thing is coming ten years too late. You didn’t have a league drug policy back then, but seriously, that’s your big excuse?! If you were going to suspend him, shouldn’t you have done it when he was testing positive repeatedly for PED’s in 2003, policy or no policy?! Because that makes sense, this however just seems like a witch hunt, and that’s exactly what it is. Alex is the biggest name in baseball on the list of players linked to Biogenesis and performance enhancing drugs right now. Trying to make a public example out of him, and accusing him of naming all the other players currently on suspension, is a load of shit. How is he personally responsible for all of their poor decision making along with, maybe, his own?

He has openly stated that he has not used anything since 2003, and that when he did, it was based on pressure to perform due to the $250 million dollar contract the Rangers bestowed upon him, along with all their hopes and dreams of winning a ring. If Alex was batting above his shoe size right now, or above average for him, I’d say they need to be testing him every day and twice on Sunday, but he’s not. If anything, his performance over the past seven years has done nothing, but rapidly decline. I think that has more to do with age and the burning out of the body than anything else. Compare him to other players of his caliber that are in the same age bracket, and there are very few of them that have not taken PED’s at one time or another (whether they will admit to it or not, and the temptation to do so is always there. I’m not saying every single great player in any sport is on such drugs.), and fewer that are playing like they’re 25 when they’re pushing 40.

I both understand and find myself lacking respect for the Yankees organization for the way they have handled the situation publicly. You’re paying this man an outrageous sum of money to play for you, yet the second a hint of a scandal comes out, you’re jumping ship, openly discussing trading him, there’s media speculation (clearly SOMEONE is talking to these people!) that they will try terminating his contract so they can save money on the luxury tax fine the league places on them for being over the salary cap each year (which I am sure is more than made up for in ticket sales and merchandising), and just plain being snide and incredibly disrespectful in the handling of all of this.

Playing Devil’s Advocate for a second, if the roles were reversed and it was Derek Jeter being accused of this, the entire organization would be up in arms. They’d defend him to the death, or they’d cut him and let him bleed on the field. That’s how it works. You may be a part of a team, but at the end of each day, you are still expendable. It’s a business. Even if it means they have to find five people to “replace” you, they will all sleep like babies regardless. They really don’t care how it looks, sounds, or how it affects your reputation. They will send you out like a lamb to slaughter. I’ve always found it incredibly disgusting.

Playing in New York is very different from playing in Tampa, St. Louis, or Kansas City. While most major cities are behind their sports clubs with a ferocious passion, New York fans are supportive, passionate, and, at times, slightly rabid. I can’t tell you how many times I have personally threatened to rip a pitcher’s arm off and beat him with it for screwing up a game. In the same vein, if the team had been hitting, maybe it wouldn’t have looked like such a major fuck-up on his part, whoever “he” may have been at the time. I love David Cone, but when it was time for him to retire, I was sad to see such a brilliant pitcher lose his arm to the extent that he did. However, I didn’t want him out there risking further injury either. I respected his decision. If ever he was on a performance enhancing substance, you would not have been able to tell because he was both consistent and inconsistent in his outings. The same can be said for so many players in so many different sports. No one is perfect every single time and no one wins every single time either.

On a whole, I think baseball players are placed under incredibly heavy microscopes that athletes in other sports aren’t placed under. I’m not saying that is always the case, but in many respects, it absolutely is. There is always going to be some younger ace that they can sign for less money until they have to really start paying up. Considering that the average MLB salary was $480,000 just last year, compared to what Alex makes, it’s an immense payroll savings for the Yankees to have five players making half a million dollars, as opposed to what Alex makes on a seasonal basis. Do the math. To the Yankees it’s “more money, more problems”. Until there’s solid proof in front of all of us, not just media bullshit, judge not lest ye be judged.

For the record, I am not saying it is right to take drugs of any kind. I’ve never taken drugs in my life. I am a former athlete, I have worked for more than one professional athlete, and I’m 100% against them in all forms. When you’re in the public eye especially, you have to be careful in this day and age of cell phone cameras and people recording conversations and video that they have no business recording. You end up being treated as public property, which is unacceptable, but apparently this country doesn’t have a lot of laws to protect you, which i find disgusting.

If you’re in the public eye, have the common sense to keep your nose clean. No drugs, no drunken bar fights, no sex tapes, don’t fucking cheat on your husband/wife/partner, no beating your husband/wife/partner/children, no nude photos “accidentally” leaking onto the Internet, and for God’s sake, do NOT be a douche-bag when you’re being interviewed. Be direct, be terse if you must, but don’t be a blatant asshole because it really makes you look like someone people want to steer clear of, not support and cheer for. No one wants to pay hard-earned money for their children to cheer on a complete and utter jackass. I’ve seen how some baseball players act when they think no one is paying attention. Some of the batting practice and warm-up behavior is disgusting beyond words. I will never forget my personal reaction to a former player’s behavior towards his own hometown fans in Philly. I wanted to throw a bat at him. I won’t name name’s, even though I really want to, but I can say that I lost every ounce of respect I had for him in how he was treating kids that merely wanted a wave or a ball thrown their way. The look on my face said it all, and after that incident, I just couldn’t look at him as a decent person any longer. You’re standing around doing nothing, the least you can do is brighten a child’s day with a wave in their direction or by signing a few autographs. It’s what you’re supposed to be doing as a person placed in the position of role model, be an adult about it.

If you’re an athlete, know that PED’s break your body down so badly that it is almost guaranteed that you will die young. It will destroy your bones, enlarge your heart, and cause other problems as you get older. You may feel like a God in the moment, but you will live with severe regrets the second you are no longer in your sport of choice. If and when you ever test positive for said substance, or you’re considering “trying something out to help give you an edge”, just think of Lance Armstrong. People adored, respected, and revered this man until the blood doping scandal was a fact he admitted to. He was then stripped of all the accomplishments he’d achieved, and publicly humiliated his sport, family, friends, and fans. That is not something anyone should aspire to.

I know this might come off sounding like I’m the biggest Alex Rodriquez fan (I refuse to call a grown man A-Rod) and/or supporter, but the truth is, it’s been years since I’ve truly liked him. However, I noticed a shift during Sunday Night Baseball a few weeks ago when the Boston Red Sox pitcher for that evening’s game (whose name escapes me, because he was completely unmemorable, but clearly a dick. I refuse to look it up and mention him by name because he’s an undeserving dirt-bag. I am glad to hear he was suspended for what he did.) had the sheer gall to hit Alex during the 4th pitch of the 2nd inning. Throwing the ball behind his leg was enough with the first pitch, backing him off the plate was fine, but hitting him in the ribs? Not fucking cool!! Alex was so calm, collected, and reserved, which made me proud of him, but I just about lunged off my couch, hostility raging, as if he’d just personally harmed my brother. I said some pretty vile things that night, all of which I own (and won’t repeat here). When Alex hit that home run in the 6th inning, it was basically him pissing on the pitcher’s mound at Fenway Park, and I was proud & thrilled. That’s when i realized that I do indeed support him.

All this crap is going down and it continues to spread daily like wildfire, but I’m going to choose to remember Alex when he first started playing, because he was a sweet kid then and even though he’s clearly got some questionable morals and ethics, that’s really none of my business. I am not married to him, I do not share children with him, and I don’t have to live with him. How he plays the game, represents his team, and treats his fans? That matters. If he’s guilty, he’s going to have to suck it up and serve his time, though I hope for a reduced suspension. If he’s found not guilty of all these accusations, I don’t ever want to hear anyone utter a bad thing about him unless he goes out and shoots animals and small children, ok?

For those of you that want to see the man hung out to dry, ask yourself if you’d want your child treated that way before you start throwing stones.

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I’m going to support Alex, whether he is guilty or not. If he is guilty, the only person he harmed is himself. He hasn’t harmed baseball or affected the future of the game, and for anyone to say that is just plain ridiculous. There will always be drugs in professional sports. Anyone who denies that is in for a seriously rude awakening. No sport is 100% drug free. If he’s not guilty, I want every player that’s been Tweeting in judgement of him (and a long line of comedians who have been using him as their public punching bag) to be lined up to kiss his ass.

If this had never been made public, no one would be psycho-analyzing his every move, every word, his on-field performance, his injuries, his off-field behavior, or anything else. He would simply be the third baseman of the New York Yankees, one of the most hated and beloved franchises in all of sports. Criticize him all you want, he’s made his money, he has a World Series ring, and he earned every single Gold Glove at shortstop. He’s always been a talented player. If ever that was enhanced by PED’s, so be it. Because if ever it was, he won’t be the first and he certainly won’t be the last.

A Piece Of Big Apple PRIDE!

A Piece Of Big Apple PRIDE!

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*If you’re not a baseball fan, don’t read this. If you are, this is me, sharing my pride in Mariano Rivera, MVP of this year’s All-Star Game, which will be the final of his career. For those of you who don’t know, or those who live outside North America, Mariano is the ace of the New York Yankees bullpen. He has been our closer for 16 years of his 19 year career as a Yankee.

He is the epitome of humble, respectful, soft-spoken, and kind. As a New Yorker, and a born Yankees fan, I take great pride in the players that are “no laughs, no bullshit”. The ones that do their jobs, that don’t embarrass themselves, their team, their fans, or the city which they represent <cough, A-Rod, cough>. Mariano is that kind of player, the one that even opposing teams respect because they’re in awe of his abilities on the field, on a career that is damn near flawless in performance.

It was a great moment last night to see him respectfully applauded at Citi-Field amongst a, mostly, hometown crowd. Especially by his American League teammates and the opposing National League players. For his last All-Star Game to be in New York, for him to be the first closer to ever receive the MVP award at the All-Star Game, those are big things. This man is a future Hall of Famer for sure, and not only does he make me proud to be a New Yorker, he also reminds me that the American Dream of success and hard work is still alive and well.

I am SO proud of you Mo. I’ve watched you from day one and have always cheered you on and respected you. Last night made me emotional, knowing that you will retire at the end of this season. The team and baseball will not be the same without you. It will probably take someone the next 50 years to try to break all of the records you have worked so hard to achieve, rarely giving yourself the credit you so deserve. Believe me when I say that I will one day tell my children of your greatness, the same way my parents told me about Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, and a host of other greats that followed in their footsteps.

At the end of the season, win or lose, you will always be named among the greats. I am proud to have witnessed your career and will always smile whenever I see your face. I also promise to beat the crap out of anyone I ever see wearing the number 42. They’re not worthy!!*

Spring In The Yard

Spring Is In Pre-Bloom

Yesterday morning, as I was coming down the stairs, I noticed a lump under the grass in the backyard. My first thought was “Did that get pulled out of the ground during the last wind storm?” My second thought was “It’s March, it’s probably a bunny.” Yup, a little Mama moved into my yard and made herself a nest. This was an assurance because as I was thinking it, she moved, and that let me know she was there for a reason. When I went upstairs last night she was roaming the yard for food, and I haven’t seen her since, but I know she’s preparing to give birth, thus the nesting.

I thought about how most animals are single parents right after conception, pretty much, and I am totally cool with her hanging out and giving birth here. I knew it was something that might happen eventually, as last year around this time (especially with warmer temperatures and very little snow), the bunnies were out very early and for a few months I’d have between 6-8 in my yard at a time. Sometimes they’d be cuddled up together in little packs at night, but for the most part it was usually “the single gals”. You knew if a male came into the yard, because the girls would take off like a bat out of hell. “Closed for business jackass!” should have been a sign in my yard last Spring between the bunnies and the cats, seriously.

I really don’t use the yard, probably because I’m a city girl at heart, and the largest amount of grass in New York City is Central Park. I’m not from Manhattan, but I’m not from upstate New York either, so “The City” is “The City” if you’re from any of the Five Boroughs, which I am.

For some people, living in the suburbs (especially if you have children) is the ultimate goal/dream. Yards, wide open spaces, and for some people it gives them a feeling of security that nothing bad will happen to them or their family, since they are now far away enough from the metropolitan area, which to most people means “more crime”. For me, it was the right decision at the right time, it’s generally a pretty quiet neighborhood, and if I remain here once I get married and start a family (or once I become a mother, seeing as how I believe we have the right to decide what is right for us. If you can swing being a single parent, and you desperately want children, then you have the right to do it, so long as you aren’t harming anyone.), there’s a highly rated school district for my children to go to, which would make sense since I pay an outrageous amount in taxes to the school district any way.

But as a transplant, my lawn is what it is. It’s open space. I don’t have that OCD suburban need to mow it twice a week. I can’t garden to save my life, though if someone showed me how to do it right and how to get it to actually thrive, I would love a nice vegetable and herb garden. I think that’s fabulous if you’re able to maintain it and live off your own growth process, so to speak. Alas, I can’t keep bamboo alive after a few years, so I’m really not sure if a garden would be my thing for the long haul. It’s a great, calming hobby if you have a gift with plants and flowers and like being outside in the sun, but maybe it’s too outdoorsy for me. I have no idea, other than the fact that it would require a lot more sunscreen than I already wear.

So for now, since we’re in “Spring Forward” mode (Which is totally screwing with me!), I am totally cool with the bunnies doing their thing and keeping the circle of life going, even if it is in my yard. They can have it, but if they stay for more than a few months I’m going to have to ask them to start making monthly contributions to my mortgage.

March Madness

For those of you who don’t know, I am a sports fan of epic proportions. A native of New York City, I am a born New York Yankees, New York Giants, & New York Rangers fan. I admit the Rangers have sort of lost me after the last 9-10 years, but I will still cheer for them over most teams. I am also a diehard New England Patriots fan, which means I catch a lot of heat from my family and many of my neighbors since I live in Philadelphia Eagles country. Outside of those sports, I am a true blue Duke Blue Devils fan. March Madness starts on the 19th. No matter where you live, you’ll probably be able to hear me arm-chair coaching the team to what I hope will be a full-out victory. #CoachKRocks!

It’s A Cat Thing

“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”  -Robert A. Heinlein

I’m an animal lover. Not an uncommon thing in the world in which we live, but I’m so specific about it that it’s a little bizarre at times.

I love owls and their majestic beauty. I have a collection of owl items, from jewelry boxes to salt & pepper shakers. If my state allowed it, I’d have an owl in my back yard, no joke (Ok, I might have been partially kidding.). I am extremely breed specific with dogs, I definitely don’t love them all (and trust me, the feeling is mutual). What I do love with fierce consistency are cats. Wild, Hybrids, & Domestic. Cats are a definite passion of mine.

I’ve had cats in my life my entire life. Growing up it was my mother’s cat, a cat who had absolutely no use for anyone other than my mother. She tolerated my father, she tolerated my arrival, and the subsequent arrival of my brother, but she was a traditional cat in the sense that she loved one person and one alone, and if you did something wrong she knew about it before anyone else in the house. The only person she ever showed love to was my mother, and with just cause. When this cat was maybe 4-6 weeks of age, my parents rescued her in the middle of the night from where she cried, trapped in a rose bush. My Mom has been trying to rescue her off the street for a while, most especially after she’d crawled into a neighbor’s car from underneath in an attempt to get warm, a truly scary and dangerous thing for any kitten or cat to do. My Mom took her in, washed her clean of all the dirt, grime, and bugs of her short, but accumulative street cat life, and gave her a warm place to be. She gave her space, and eventually she wandered out of her one room solitude and became my mother’s first official cat baby. (Side note: My mother was a dog person and had no real intention of keeping this cat. For months my father kept telling her he was “searching for someone to adopt her”, and eventually she stopped asking and Lord knows he’d probably never looked in the first place! This turned my parents into “cat people”, and they definitely passed this on to their children.)

When we had to put her to sleep, it was an incredibly painful time for all of us. I don’t remember exactly how old I was at the time, but she developed diabetes, and would not allow my mother to give her insulin injections, and so the decision to not let her suffer was made.

I remember the drive to the pet cemetery where we had private time with her before the injection, and I remember very clearly that we buried her next to my Mom’s beloved dog. I remember sitting with her in the backseat, and singing to her the entire way. I find nothing odd about the fact that many, many years later my mother developed diabetes and would not give herself injections. She hated needles. She was willing to give her cat injections to save her life, but wouldn’t save her own with the same care. That little cat had found the right person, had spent her life being loved and cherished, and they were both blessed to have found each other.

We move to present day, I am the mother of a 17 year old cat that I have had since she was 8 weeks old and fit in one hand. I assure you this little darling is more than just a cat. She is without question my favorite human. I know that dog people think their dogs are people, but they’re wrong (partly). Dogs love without question, cats make you earn it. I’ve only met one dog in my life that I immediately fell in love with. She was an American Eskimo and I wanted her within three seconds of meeting her. I still adore the breed with a passion, and even though I promised myself I’d adopt one as soon as I bought a house with a yard, I have been here just slightly over three years and I still haven’t done it.

Several months ago I decided to give it a shot. I went and checked out dogs and met a beautiful Siberian Husky. I myself am part Yakuts Siberian and am proud of this amazing breed. Unfortunately and sadly, this dog was not for me. As soon as they brought her to me she got up on her back paws, technically still a puppy she was nearly my height. She needed to be able to run free, to be allowed to work off the excess energy she had pent up. I felt terrible for her. She didn’t try to hurt me, but she did bite me in her over-eager, aggressive attempt to seek out love and affection. I knew that I couldn’t have her. I know she will find the right home, she may already be in the right home. You couldn’t look at this dog and not fall in love with her sweetness or her strength, but as I walked away that afternoon I came to the very real conclusion that I am a cat person and not so much a person that can love dogs and cats equally. I’d actually come to this conclusion many years ago when the tiniest of tiny dogs started barking at me insanely from a good two block distance. Her owner informed me she was the sweetest dog and had never behaved like this before. Super tiny dog growling and trying to behave like a Great Dane in my presence, seeing me as some kind of threat. I brushed it off with her owner, explaining that I had two cats and that she probably smelled them and thought I was a cat too. We laughed and it was over, until my cat got sick in late 2007. I’d just walked into the vet’s office and signed her in when another pet owner’s midget dogs (also a small breed. I can’t remember exactly what they were, but I can still hear the yapping!) started to go ballistic in my presence. I really wasn’t in the mood for their yapping, so I turned around to inform them that “There’s only room for one Alpha bitch in this room and I’m it, so knock it off.”, and within a second or two of my saying it, they shut up and their owner chuckled at my reaction and response. She probably thought I was kidding, but I wasn’t.

Not long after that incident, that sweet cat died in my arms. My brother tried reviving her, but it was too late. I will never forget that moment because she looked at me seconds before it happened as I promised her I’d get her the help she needed and she just had to stay with me and hold on a little while longer. Earlier that same day the vet had told me to put her to sleep. I was furious with that kind of heartless response (and if you’d met this vet, you’d have felt the same way. He’s the kind of man that revels in telling young children that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist, that Santa won’t bring them presents because they’re bad, that the monster under the bed is real and will eat them. Seriously, he delivers bad news the way normal people deliver good news, it’s creepy.). I remember consulting with my brother in that moment and his response was “She deserves better than that from you. She deserves more than just you giving up on her. Ok, so she’ll need medicine, you’ve always taken really good care of her, that isn’t going to change.” and a little while later he also said that he didn’t trust this vet to take care of anything, leave alone this beloved cat

Needless to say, this little girl worshiped my brother and adored my mother & father. She was mine, she was supposed to love only me, but she was a true cat. She tolerated me, she saw me as her playmate and her food provider, she saw me as the person who took care of her when she was sick, but she also had no problem slapping me in the face with her huge paws if she didn’t like me walking around the house doing my Dobby the House Elf impression and she especially hated me when I walked around saying “My precious.”, because apparently this impersonation of Gollum also disturbed her. Losing this little ray of light came at a time in my life where loss superceded everything else. No matter where I turned, I kept losing. It took me two weeks to bury her, something I am not the least bit proud of.

Back to my original point (Yes, I’m long-winded, but I do eventually get back on point!!): I am a cat person. Cats respond to me like no other animal in the world. The relationship I have with my little macaroon is mother/daughter, best friend, therapist. She’s exceptionally sharp, intuitive, sassy, and is often the only reason I get up in the morning, mostly because she insists upon meowing around 4:00 a.m. and only stops for brief periods until I give in and feed her, change her water, do a little dance, or whatever else she has requested. Clearly I speak cat, but sometimes even I have my limitations! Regardless, this cat has staff and she likes it when we’re prompt.

Wherever I go, cats find me. Stray cats seek me out. A neighbor’s cat once came to my patio door, clearly confused that this was not “his” door. I took him in for the night, much to the chagrin of my furry owner, and because this neighbor had been in the process of moving, she & her family had not noticed that he’d escaped. Not only would I notice if my cat escaped, I would notice if I didn’t see her for over 12 hours. I’m also positive that I’d call in the National Guard* to find her.

I believe in adopting from no-kill shelters. I do not believe in purchasing an animal from a breeder, unless you are adopting a Hybrid which requires documentation of its parentage, especially in certain states where you may need a permit to own the animal. For example, New York City currently does not allow anyone to own or possess an F1 Savannah, and most Bengal kittens are also off limits. I live in Pennsylvania where Savannahs are considered domestic cats, as opposed to an exotic animal. I’d own one in a heartbeat, if I wasn’t so madly in love with my Tortoiseshell.

My no-kill shelter of choice is the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, NY. This is where every pet in my family has been adopted, except for the one family cat that was adopted off the street, and whose life was saved because when he was brought to the vet he was dying from an infection. He now gets proper veterinary care, doesn’t have to fight other cats for food, and is the king of the castle. He also receives insulin twice a day since developing diabetes two years ago. He’s the only cat that thinks smacking me around is a good time. He’s a beautiful black Ragamuffin named Venus (Only my Aunt would name a cat after the Goddess of Love, but in all fairness, she didn’t know he was male when she named him, She tried changing over to Elvis once she found out, but thought my mother would kill her. LOL.). Unlike my little muffin man, my macaroon has never intentionally bitten, scratched, or attacked me. She’s supremely calm, laid back, and gentle. Up until a few years ago, her meows were more like tinkling bells, and she didn’t hiss or growl unless she saw another cat. Now she tolerates absolutely no other animal. Last Spring she attacked my patio door when she spotted a baby bunny that was approximately 1/4th her size, taking a walk in the yard with its mother. Defender of the Mommy and the house, YOU BET!! 

Unfortunately, at age 17 she has her health problems. Three & 1/2 years ago my best friend was visiting from Germany and noticed that the macaroon was drinking excessively, and she was concerned. She made me promise to take her to the vet immediately. I did, and it was decided that she needed a radioactive iodine treatment. That treatment saved her life. The unfortunate side of this treatment is that it can bring heart and kidney issues into play later on. In the moment, you want your cat’s (or dog’s) life to be saved, but as they get older, you cannot imagine life without them.

Life is as short as it is long. If you want to save a life, adopt a pet. I know many people are allergic and therefore believe they cannot have any kind of pet, but there are hairless dogs and cats, and hypo-allergenic animals that you could have in your life. My brother is allergic to cats and I can honestly say I’d get rid of him before I’d get rid of a cat. I have developed an allergy to cats as well, but it will not stop me from continuing to allow these beautiful, amazing creatures into my life and heart. If I could have cheetah cubs in my house or a Serval, I would. I like who I am when I have a cat (or two) in my life. My cats have taught me tiny bits of patience (Hello, still the world’s most impatient woman!!), they have taught me that when I think I can love no more, there is still room for growth. They’ve taught me how to be a mother. I have also learned that a Queen size bed is apparently not large enough for a 7 pound cat with blanket stealing abilities.

Whether you love cats or dogs, or have the ability to truly love both, I hope that you will allow yourself to be blessed by these loving creatures at least once. Not only does saving a life help balance out your karma, but devoting yourself to someone that is totally reliant on you is one of the most rewarding things in the world.

If you’re thinking of adopting please go to: http://www.animalleague.org

North Shore Animal League

25 Davis Avenue

Port Washington, NY 11050

(516) 883-7575

or

PetFinder to find animals locally that need your help.

If you find that you truly cannot adopt, these organizations also accept donations, however large or small.

*Calling in the National Guard is an exaggeration. I’d be much more likely to demand the FBI work her missing person case. I would want Special Agent Seeley Booth here immediately, and if he was busy I’d be on the phone to Patrick Jane in a New York Minute!! (That’s a joke, you can laugh now.)

Holiday Gift-Giving & Outrageous Decorating

Unlike 98% of the people I know, I don’t celebrate Christmas. To this day people still act shocked when I say I don’t celebrate Christmas and never have. During my first year working on my ParaPsi degree, I stumbled upon Wicca. It turns out I’d been utilizing a lot of the minor nuances for most of my life, and have since adopted additional bits and bobs as a bit of a back-drop for me spiritually. Thank you Mom and your Kabbalistic teachings.

I grew up the daughter of someone who became über observant during the High Holidays, and downright neurotic during Passover. If it had been presented to me differently I wouldn’t have such an aversion to it now. I haven’t really observed the holidays over the last few years. It begins with losing both of my parents, moving into my house, and then realizing I can’t find a simple menorah, or the candlesticks that my Great-Grandmother brought with her when she emigrated from Lithuania. Technically they’re all in the house, but since more than half of it is still packed, pinpointing one or two items is exhausting. So for Chanukah, it comes down to simple gift-giving.

It’s nauseating to me how commercial the holidays have become. It’s always been over the top, but this year was definitely the worst in history, with stores opening up hours before Black Friday even became Friday. Instead of people enjoying  time with family, they were waiting on line to get into stores, acting as if they’ve never seen such wonders in a store before. It’s all the exact same stuff that was there on Monday, and unless it’s a brand new item you’ve never seen before as many new things came out at exactly 12:01 a.m. that Friday, it’s the same crap they always have, but now they’ve tweaked the prices to make everything seem extra special. It’s not.

I can’t begin to say how many people have told me that they simply dread their credit card bills right now, because in a country with so much excess, people actually feel that they have to buy every single person they know, are friends with, like, etc., a gift of some sort. It’s no longer about family, laughter, sharing, it’s all about the gifts. I realize it’s been like this for quite some time, but it’s actually never been that way for me.

Growing up, Chanukah was never about who gave and/or received the most expensive gift. It was a time where my close immediate family got together for a nice meal, my Grandmother would make enough latkes for three professional hockey teams and their families, and discussions would range from current events to complete and utter wackiness. The sounds and smells of home. For me, that’s been gone for a long time and it’s a piece of me that has died because only two of those family members remain. It is a piece of me that will be reborn when I have children of my own and become the matriarch I was born to be. Until then, it’s about thoughtfulness. A gift does not have to be outrageous, but it does have to be thoughtful. I try to give things that people would not buy for themselves, things they love, things they’ve talked about wanting, but generally things they wouldn’t spend the money on because they’ve got so much else going on that the funds simply aren’t there. I love things I can make for others, but I like to start the DIY stuff in August. It’s not some insane competition when you’ve given yourself additional time to prepare. I have so few people on my list any way, but I still like to give myself that extra time just in case I’ve procrastinated at some point.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the insanity of holiday decorations. I’m from New York City where it’s a nice blend of menorahs and Christmas lights. I love driving through the city during this time of year because you simply do not see menorahs in the suburbs. I live on a street where approximately 30 homes are decked out for Christmas. It’s pretty quiet here, for all intents and purposes. On neighboring streets the displays are bigger, louder, and a few spots in particular are horrendous eye sores the second it gets dark, which is literally by 5:00 PM. I drove past one a week or so ago and thought I’d go blind from all the action. One spot in particular is decked out to the point where you almost expect Santa to land there via helicopter. There may have even been a heli-pad on the roof, I’m not 100% sure because I had to look away fast, lest I lose the vision in my right eye! I will try to get a photo to share with all of you. It’s that obnoxious.

Living outside major metropolitan areas, you don’t get the balance of the city. Here, you might find one or two items amidst all the Christmas decorations in a store. Specialty items for decorating aren’t hard to find on the Internet. I have absolutely no idea what I’d do with an 8 foot menorah on my front lawn, or a 12 foot dreidel, but I’d love to see my neighbor’s faces if I ever do decide to purchase one and put it out before Thanksgiving even starts!

Suburban life, you’ve got to love it!