Saturday, December 19, 2015


When is a journalist a journalist?
Listening to the radio last night, I heard a performer refer to herself as a journalist.
It made me cringe.
Most of the news readers and show people who clutter the networks are nothing more than pretty faces employed by mega-corporations to jack up ratings by reading prepared texts in as menacing and frightening voices as possible.
Often, I wonder if they actually believe the nonsense their masters put in front of them.
To be sure, they play it well.
They proclaim "Breaking news!" with such gusto we might actually fall into the trap of believing the hype.
And that's what's wrong.
It's hyperbole, melodrama, controlled fearmongering.
Purposeful phony hysteria.
Polls, polls, polls.
Manufactured controversy.
Negativity above all.
I used to defend news readers.
It seemed impossible to me that they would be overpaid shills for their corporate masters.
But my eyes are wide open now.
While the Martha Raditzes, Richard Engelses and a few others who seriously research their topics and report from that research are clearly the exceptions, the so-called "journalists" like John Dickerson, Wolf Blitzer and Chuck Todd are mere celebrities, readers of scripts.
It's all about ratings.
It's all about viewer share.
It's too often about who can be most sensational.
There are few people I listen to or watch anymore. BBC News, Al Jazeera America and NPR can always be counted on to give fair, unbiased news.
When I want educated commentary, I turn to Rachael Maddow, the smartest person on any network.
Labeling performers as journalists does a huge disservice to the dedicated men and women who capably "journal" the events of our times.
It's also an indictment on the gullibility of today's news consumer.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

If a greeting card could speak

It is 33 years old this year.

When I bought it in 1982, Hallmark charged 75 cents for it. Today it costs nearly four dollars.
There's nothing that noteworthy about the card... a guy with a Santa hat and red bowtie in red elf slippers with bells on them... flinging his arms open wide, saying, "Merry Christmas to a really wonderful, witty, charming, intellligent person!"

Inside, it reads, "Save this card! You can send it to me next Christmas!"

I sent it, way back then, to Michael DeNardo, a young Temple student whom I'd followed during his years at Edgewood Regional High in Winslow. Mike was studying to become a radio broadcaster, which he did most successfully. His voice still can be heard on KYW news radio.

In 1983, much to my surprise, the card reappeared, returned by Mike as a typical joke.
I saved it, and sent it back to him in 1984.

Each year, as it traversed from wherever I was living to wherever Mike was, we appended a one-line comment by way of greeting.

Gradually, we ran out of space inside the card (even writing sideways one year).
So we graduated to the back from 2004 to 2012.
That being filled by then, the following year, Mike inserted a plain white piece of card stock with the words, "This should carry us for a few more decades!"

Today, December 8, 2015, the card arrived again. It was Mike's turn this year and he did not disappoint. He said, "Our card endures. It'll be eligible for Social Security soon!"

The last time I saw him in person was at my 60th birthday party, 14 years ago. He looked like the teenage Mike I remembered and his infectious laugh hadn't faded.

But whether we are able to meet or whether our only contact is the Christmas card, we know our friendship has given us a wonderful tradition.

When the inevitable Christmas sadness settles on my heart at the absence of so many people I've loved and lost, I can look at the card Mike sends and get a boost of joy.

Little blessings mean so much and Mike is always there to provide one of my favorites.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Beachgoers' lament

It's quiet in the house this morning.
Howard is on the balcony, watching the early beachgoers haul their chairs and paraphernalia toward the sand.
Erica is reading.
Soon, we will join the steady trek of sun worshippers as we find a spot on the huge beach that is Wildwood Crest and relax for the afternoon.
I say "huge" because it is. Not quite as wide as it is farther north on this barrier island, where seasonal storms keep depositing the sand of northern communities on our beaches. But it is still a beautifully wide stretch of beach.
A few days ago, though, Erica and I were sunning...reading, dipping in the warm ocean occasionally, watching for dolphins out past the breakers.
It seemed we were the only people there.
Until it didn't.
We heard them coming before we saw them. Voices... strident, loud, some infantile...crying, fussing.
Then they were upon us.
Seven beach chairs, two beach caddies, two rather large tents, coolers and other beach goodies.
We hoped they would continue on to an emptier area where their entourage would have ample space to spread out.
We were amazed when they began setting up their equipment (more like an encampment) not three feet from our umbrella.
Erica, the frank, honest daughter who usually speaks her mind tactfully but meaningfully, suggested to one of the settlers that they might move where they would have more room.
It's a big beach, she reminded them.
So they inched one of their tents another foot or so away from us and proceeded to dig in.
We weren't interested in the conversations from their group.
We didn't care what foods they were passing around.
We didn't want them in our space.
Had we been able to move away easily, we would have done so, but our umbrella was firmly planted in what had been our little piece of sand.
So we endured.
Then we packed up and left.
Finally, they would have the beach to themselves.
Someone among them needs to read a book on beach etiquette.
If there isn't one, I volunteer to be the author.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Keeping my finger on it

Two years ago, the index finger on my right hand started snapping when I tried to straighten it.
Trigger finger, said the doctor.
Just a quick shot of cortisone and the issue will be resolved.
I'm allergic to corticosteroids.
So, surgery was required.
A year ago, the middle finger on the same hand exhibited the same characteristics.
A second surgery.
Now, it's the third finger of my left hand AND the thumb on the right.
Stop already!
Surgery on the left hand will be Monday, the 11th. The doc wants to do the thumb just two weeks later.
I am reluctant, since there has been no difficulty bending the thumb, just discomfort. So I will wait until it becomes a necessity.
Then, another surgery.
Where will it end? I still have six fingers left that can develop the triggering.
AND, says the doc, this disorder can recur, even after surgery.
He's just full of happy news.
Thankfully, I have a pretty high pain tolerance. What I don't have is a high patience tolerance.
I find attempting to do essential tasks without the full use of both hands distinctly difficult.
I want the problem fixed...NOW.
I suppose that is characteristic of most of us...the inability to wait for a desired result, especially when the result allows us to fully function.
What causes this disorder?
No explanation. Doc says I am "prone" to trigger finger(s).
Compared to other things I could be "prone" to, I suppose trigger finger isn't all that bad.
So think of me Monday and then whenever this happens again.
I'm not looking forward to any of it.
But oh what the heck... I'm an old hand at it by now.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April showers and memories

It's been raining and showering off and on these last few days, but today the sun is shining and all is right with the world.
Summer is on the way; the flowers are beginning to bud.
I can't wait for my knockout roses to bloom. They bring a smile to my face every time I see them from my living room windows.

April brings memories of friendship and love.
Doris Cahoon Perry, the first counseling psychologist at Trenton State College, was born in April and died in April, too, some 73 years later. I think of the hours I spent in her company with sheer joy, remembering her infectious laugh, her beautiful blue eyes and her gift of empathy, which she showered on me during some of the neediest days of my life. I remember her in April and cherish the knowledge that she gave me the gift of her friendship.

April brings memories of mothering and unconditional love.
Catherine Rossette Rubba Caroccio was born on April 24, 1916 and died on December 3, 1972. From my earliest memory, she was the one constant in my life, the person who never judged, always supported and ever opened her arms to me, no matter what. I never imagined her not being with me well into old age (hers and perhaps even mine!), so her death at 56 was such a blow it left me bereft and feeling totally alone in the world. I look like fact, last week when I came home sporting my new haircut, I passed her picture which hangs in the hallway of our home and had to stop to stare in amazement at the resemblance. We have the same oval-shaped face, the same eyes, the same smile and, thanks to my hair stylist, even our hairdos are alike!

Unlike my mother, whose friends considered her to be a saint, I am not such a mild-mannered, soft-spoken person. My mom, it has been said, never raised her voice to anyone, never was given to fits of temper. I, on the other hand, am prone toward letting my feelings, positive or negative, show and no one I know would ever describe me as saintly.

Still, I am proud to carry her resemblance so that anyone who knew her would give a quick intake of breath upon meeting me and say, "Oh my goodness! I thought for a minute you were Kate!" Sadly, those people are also leaving this world, probably to sit for a cup of coffee and a good laugh with my mom, wherever she is.

April also brings some anxiety over the health of a dear friend, who will undergo surgery on my mom's birthday. Knowing my mother as I do, I know she will, at my request, be watching over Carole and guiding the hands of her surgeon on April 24th. Mom's goodness will bring a blessing to Carole, just as it did to everyone who loved her.

April is a warm, happy, loving and compassionate month.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Waiting for summer

The end of March.
The end of winter? Millions on the east coast fervently hope so.
Seems it's been cold, snowy, windy and/or rainy/icy forever.
Only visions of sparkling ocean water, hot, burning sand and brilliant sunshine has kept me going.

As a kid, I wasn't much for the beach. My mom didn't like it at all and my stepdad, ever conscious of the club foot for which he hadn't been treated as a child, didn't go barefoot. Ever.
So the few times I got to the beach was in the company of my aunt and uncle or with the parents of friends who had a house somewhere along the Jersey shore.
I never learned to swim.
I was always terrified of water being too deep to touch bottom.
Maybe I'd drowned in another life.
So I sat out the beach trips lying on a towel or blanket, people-watching or reading, always nursing the hope of a gorgeous, even tan at the end of the day.
Naturally, a painful, red sunburn was the reality, along with humidity-flattened hair that screamed to the world that I'd been at the beach, without any of the glory of it.

Then I grew up.

When my girls were young, I was in a relationship with a man who had a house at the shore.
We took our kids and often their friends for weekends at the beach and on the boardwalk.
The beach was the best. It didn't carry any of the scary memories from my girlhood. No, it somehow became a place of refuge from stress, where behind my eyelids I could envision the waves and hear the squawking of the seagulls as they swooped down to steal a piece of popcorn, hotdog or potato chip from a dozing sun worshipper's hands.
I could never get enough of it.

Now the girls are grown.
They still love the beach and we gather there regularly to feel the sand between our toes and the sun on our faces.
Only April to survive...perhaps with the assistance of some tulips and daffodils, even warmer temperatures and sunshine.
Then will come May, June and the true summer months.
We are waiting, although not patiently.
Is it beach weather yet?