Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Day In (This) Life

Ugh, I've been coming back to this post like six or seven times now in the past two weeks.  At a time in my life when I finally have time to write and to share, I've got nothing
...well maybe that's not true...    

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Did that make you smile?  Cringe?  Gasp in horror?  Roll your eyes?  Well, if this picture caused you to do any of these things, then at least you've taken one moment out of IT.  You're welcome!

I took that picture (and a few choice others) a little more than a week ago, as part of a homework assignment I'd given to my students.  We were told to get them away from their computers that week (spring break was cancelled in favor of continued distance learning.), so I gave them a little fun project.  They had to take one picture a day of how they were experiencing the quarantine and post on it Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, whatever, with a caption for each day of the week.  Pretty cool assignment, right?  

This Sucks!

I think I speak for most people around the world when I say that this moment we're living in right now absolutely sucks!  In all of my years of life on this Earth, and pretty much all of you can say the same thing, I have never experienced such a shitty time to be living.  I could deal with it better if only we knew when it was going to end.  

Different Shades of Day

I don't know about you, but my days are almost always a roller coaster of emotions.  I start everyday with a cup of coffee in hand and I'm at the laptop doing my Song of the Day posts, checking email and working.  At that moment, the day is fresh and I'm generally optimistic, especially when the weather's nice.  Well, the optimistic feeling is probably because I'm really just occupied with my work and not thinking too much..

Before you know it, morning soon creeps into early afternoon and suddenly the reality of the situation hits me...again.  What am I going to do today?  What can I do?  What should I do?  I'm still in my pajamas.  Should I take a shower?  Make a phone call?  Work out?  My motivation wanes until it's finally I decide it's time for lunch.  

Lunch is done.  What to do next?  Should I clean out a closet?  Work on that book I've always wanted to write?  Catch up on some new shows on TV?  Go for a walk?  Clean a closet?  My mood slowly sours as the day wears on and I've spent more time contemplating than anything else.  The reality of this daily sameness creeps over me.  Before I know it, maybe I've showered and graded a paper or two, but as day turns to early evening, I simply feel like a zombie, merely existing and not living.

Occasionally, I'll have a distance walk date with a friend or an afternoon phone call which'll brighten up my day a bit, or sometimes I'll have a mission, like going to the supermarket or out east on some sort of errand for work.  Those days I've got a little more bounce in my step, but underneath it all, there is still despair.  

I think my mood swings are not too different from most people.  Living alone has definitely affected me in a bad way.  On one hand, and I hate to say this, I like being isolated, left to my own devices to do whatever the hell I want to do.  On the other hand, though, I feel very alone and very glum, though I have little motivation to reach out and call someone.  

I am sure that being stuck with other people must have it's downfalls, too, and I can't imagine it.  I've heard marital issues have been rampant, and moms and dads dealing with their kids 24/7 must be driving them crazy.  I'd rather be in the situation I am in.  It sucks either way!

Give Us This Day Our Daily Walk

The only thing keeping me sane these days is walking...oh, and taking pictures.  I like to walk anyway, and these days I have more time to walk longer.  Walking is very therapeutic, especially on a nice day.  It's also good exercise.  I've been averaging between four and six miles a day.  Who knows, maybe I'll finally lose a little weight once this is all said and done.  Besides, I've been photo journalling my own experiences through this period, and I am actually loving the results.  If you're a friend of mine on Facebook, take a look at my Scenes From a Quarantine album.  It's pretty cool, I think.  Here are a couple of samples:

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A distance picnic with my pal Tara

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Stormy sea

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Teaching my students how to make a face mask

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Empty streets


Above all of the despair, I am trying to create the positive, like writing once again.  I am contemplating moving my blog over to WordPress so maybe I can start earning a couple of bucks.  I'm also working on a book, which I will share with you at a later time.  Oh, and I'm learning how to speak Italian, too, with Duo Lingo.  That's coming along nicely.  Finally, I'm saving a lot of money, too.  There's not much to spend money on these days...I've only filled my gas tank once in the past month, and so I should be in good shape for the summer, that is if there is a summer.

A couple of months back already, our school trip to Europe was cancelled because of the coronavirus.  I remember that day clearly.  It was surreal that we had to take that route for something that then seemed so distant then.  Now it hovers over us for who knows how long and there's noting but uncertainty and fear ahead.  I'm desperately trying to hold on to hopes that I will still be able to take a trip I've been planning to the west coast in July.  The prospect doesn't seem likely, but we've still got two months.  We shall see.

So another day closes and I will be up until all hours mindlessly watching T.V.  Tomorrow another day comes.  Another roller coaster to ride.  Let's just hope these roller coasters will be like the real ones and give us a shorter ride.    

So if you're reading this, I hope you're taking solace that you are not alone.  We're all experiencing this in our own ways, and dealing with the ups and downs of every single day.  We have to be patient, for one day this will all be a distant memory.  

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Life Is Right Now

I’ve got this plaque hanging up in my bedroom. It’s just one of those cheap, wooden ones with a saying, like you can find in pretty much any novelty store. I bought it because, to me, it’s one of those reminders that we need to look at every once in awhile so we don’t forget. Life is right now. Not yesterday, not last week, or last year, or tomorrow even. It’s right now. And right now, just a day after saying goodbye to my sister Christine, I and the rest of my family, can finally begin what I’m sure will be the very long process of healing.

I can’t speak for my mom or my siblings, nor the dozens of people who knew my sister and will have their own bit of healing to do. I can only speak for myself and my right now. Of course, for me the sadness is raw. I haven’t said this publicly until this moment, but I was the person who found my sister after she’d gone missing for a day. I’ve been reliving those moments in my head almost all day, everyday, since Monday night. I already realize that I’ll never be able to wash away the memories of the week, but I recognize that I’m probably going to need to seek some professional assistance to work through it, something I never thought I would have to do.

Of all the things that made me cry this week, it was the countless personal messages I’ve been receiving from friends and family, and even strangers who my sister touched in some way. Crying is therapeutic, and no matter how a person may feel about offering such words of condolence, I think it’s important to know that it doesn’t matter what was said or how it was said. Just the fact that someone found the strength to reach out means the world to the person who is grieving. To that, I offer my sincerest appreciation to everyone who reached out to us. Please know that however small you might think your gesture was, it meant the world to us.

Chrissy’s wake was surreal, as you can imagine. Being a part of her immediate family, I felt like a ping pong ball all day, with people waiting sometimes five deep, to offer their condolences.To all of you who came, especially on my behalf, and with whom I could only spare just a moment or two, I want you to know that through all the blur of yesterday, I remember that you came, and that you came not only out of respect for my sister, but out of love for me. My love for each and every one of you is returned tenfold.

I wish I could bottle up all if the humanity we experienced this week and keep it for all time. As happens, though, I know that life will continue and in some way that humanity will dissipate, sadly. We’ll maintain our political opinions and our personal issues with those in our lives, and that’s too bad. That’s really the tragedy of life. Well, not for me anymore. I know that life is too precious, too short, to be angry or to hold grudges. Right now, I have nothing but love for my family, for my friends, and for the compassionate side of my fellow human beings.

They say it often brings tragedy to bring people together, and I experienced that first-hand this week. In the days and weeks to come, I’m going to build on this, hold onto all that love, and carry it with me wherever I go. It is my hope that some who read my words will take them and run with them too. Reach out to those with whom you may be estranged and truly miss deep inside, give someone a hug, treat people with kindness. My heart is full right now, not only with sadness, but with love for you all. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Baby Sister

If you looked at my sister's Facebook page, it would be easy to see the type of person she was, the things that were near and dear to her heart, her humor, her sentimental spirit, and most of all, her ever-present glimmer of hope.  I've been perusing her Facebook page on and off ever since she passed on Monday night and I can't help but feel that I wished I'd looked at it more before then.  Though I felt like I already knew her before, and I did, the things she posted there, oftentimes simple little memes or GIF's about animals, the good old days, family, and lots more completed the three-dimensional image that was her essence.

I don't know if anyone can prepare themselves for the loss of a child, or in my particular case, a sibling  No matter how often or how little you interact with one another, there is a bond that exists with an immediate family member because you've been a constant in one another's lives since the beginning.  I am the eldest of six siblings, and Chrissy was the baby.  I remember the night she was born, mom and dad off in the hospital and the rest of us sleepless at home with nana and grandpa babysitting, waiting for the news of whether the new baby would be a boy or a girl. Having only one brother and three sisters, I was praying for the former.  Nonetheless, when nana woke us up in the morning to tell us we had a new sister, how could any of us not still be excited?

Chrissy's first day of school

Back in those days, my family struggled financially, and not long after Christine was born, mom had to go back to work at McCrory's in the mall a few nights a week.  I, as the oldest at 13, was relegated to chief babysitter.  I changed Chrissy's diapers, prepared her bottles and fed her, and I played with her, put her to sleep, and kept her occupied all the while keeping the other foot soldiers in line until daddy came home.  This lasted a couple of years until dear Aunt Vi came to mine, and Chrissy's rescue.

Though Aunt Vi loved us all, everyone always knew that Chrissy was the apple of her eye.  Whereas Aunt Vi saved me from my job as chief, cook, and bottle washer, Chrissy saved her from the despair of being newly widowed.  My sister gave her purpose, and a companion, and the two of them spent the next few years doing homework together, playing cards, and Aunt Vi spending all of her money buying Mister Softee for all of her friends on hot summer nights.  It was one of the happiest times in my aunt's life.  The two of them were the infamous frick and frack for those formative years of my sister's life, and her passing a little over ten years ago left a hole in Chrissy's heart for the rest of her days.  One of the only comforts of this week for us is knowing that the two of them are probably playing gin rummy once again.

Dave, Chrissy and I

Sadly in the years since Christine was little she and I were never really too close again, as I went off into my adulthood and she remained a still home-bound youngster now becoming one of 'the girls.'  Though my sisters were never always bosom buddies, they did share a bond that remained throughout the years, and Chrissy, the baby, was always an integral character in that mix. 

Snapchat silliness with Gina

Throughout her adult life, my sister Christine would become a beautiful young woman, with a smile that could light up a room and small circle of really good friends who to this day would have done anything for her.  Unfortunately, not all of her friends were a positive influence.  My sister was also a very trusting person, and despite all of her attributes, she had a low self-image and a trusting nature that gave in to most anyone who paid her any attention.

For the past twenty-plus years, Chrissy's life somewhat resembled that of a pinball machine.  She moved around from place to place, spending time in both Kentucky and Florida, dodging her troubles whenever she could.  We all had our own periods of frustration with her and would sometimes lose contact, but her devotion to her family would never let that last too long.  Despite all of her troubles, we all still loved her.  Every last one of us!

Whenever Christine would be away, she always harbored a longing to return to New York, her home, and her family.  I remember most recently, when she was in Florida, that she spoke of returning for months before she actually did, and once she came back, my mom had no choice but to give her some tough love, having her try and make it on her own and alleviate her problems once and for all before she could come back into the house.  I think that we would all agree that in the last few months, she did her best.

Despite all of her own misgivings about herself, Christine was always an optimist, as anyone could plainly see from her Facebook postings.  This past holiday season was especially hopeful, as she worked hard at mending both herself and her relationships with others.  She and I had been communicating often lately, and had been making plans to do things together.  The day after Christmas, she sent me these texts:

I had a great time at your house. Thank you for being so welcoming.  I'm trying to be a better person and I appreciate my family's effort.  I feel truly blessed this holiday season.  

I told her to keep doing what she was doing and sent her a virtual hug.

Thanks John.  You always make me feel hopeful.  I love being around you.  I want to make myself proud and secondly my family.  That's why I'm doing therapy.  I'm done doing negative and I want to be surrounded with positive people.  I love you and I'm sorry I neglected you and the rest of the family.  I'm trying to make it up to everyone.  

We had a couple of more conversations like that in the days after, and during the last one we had, a week ago today, we made plans to go to breakfast on Saturday so she could meet Vinny.  She said she was looking forward to that.  So was I.  Four days later, she was gone.

I can't tell you how much it hurt to have lost her.  I don't think that in my 55 years of life on this Earth that I've ever felt this sad.  I am proud of my sister for being the person she was, for her optimism, for her humor, for her loving spirit.  I'm not going to say goodbye to her because she will live on in my heart for the rest of my days.  I will always remember her smile, her voice, and most of all her unconditional love for me and mom, David, Linda, Ann Marie, Rhiana, and Gina.  And who knows, maybe she'll use her newfound powers to help the Yankees win the World Series this year!  Rest in peace baby sister!


Saturday, November 30, 2019

Turning a Corner I Don't Want To Turn

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About ta month ago, I went to Hershey Park with some of my friends, and as we waited on line to buy tickets, I noted the price posted on a sign above the ticket counter.  Adult admission: $41.75.  I pulled out two twenties and a five and waited for my turn.  When I got to the window, the girl at the counter said "$32 even."  I was surprised and even stepped back to look again at the sign, thinking perhaps there was a sale I didn't know about.  Befuddled, I handed her the two twenties and she gave me my $8 in change.

"Tara, how much did you pay for your ticket?"

"Oh, like 42 bucks or something."

"Dita, what about you?"

"The same."



"Oh my God, look at your ticket," Tara interjected.

Panicked, I looked down at the ticket in my hand and right there, in the middle, was the word "senior."  My worst nightmare had come to the surface.  Fuck, I've turned that corner!

A few years back, my friend Rich showed me a recent picture of a co-worker of his whom I've hung out with many times before.  I'd always admired this woman, who had immigrated here from Poland many years ago and made a sweet life for herself here in the States.  Not only was she a genuine and fun person, I'd always admired how she carried herself, always dressed to the nines and looking fabulous. 

Well, the picture Rich showed me of her was not good.  She looked old.  When I made a face, Rich shot me a knowing glance.  She had turned that corner and finally looked her age.  Though it shocked and saddened me a little, I was still a few years younger than her, so I didn't worry about it too much...until now.

I've been feeling it a lot more in recent months.  Of course working with kids, who are brutally honest, if not too naive, gets you a lot of harsh criticism.  Though I know they're joking when they call me viejito or pelon, it only works to make me more self-conscious.  Why do people always need to remind you of your faults?  Especially the physical ones that you have no control over? 

Yup, aging doesn't show mercy on anyone, and it's finally gotten me.  With a receding hairline and wrinkles I never had before, I am starting to look, gulp, like a senior.  The funny thing is, I don't feel it at all.  In my head and in my body (well, most of the time!), I feel like I'm 30.  It's not fair!!!

I should have prefaced this post by saying that today is my 55th birthday, so I am feeling it a bit more today.  I really stopped looking forward to birthdays a long time ago, but this year is really the shit.  The only thing good about today is all of the love I have been receiving pretty much since I woke up this morning.

I'm not going to give up, though.  I'm gonna keep taking my vitamins and using minoxidil and face cream and working out because I've still got it.  Somewhere inside I've still got it!