Sunday, April 13, 2014

If You Want Trouble, Find Yourself a Redhead

I haven't blogged enough this year. Not sure why, it just hasn't happened. So, I really wanted to do something but wasn't sure on what topic I should expand. In the past, I have put out feelers and have gotten back suggestions such as creepy clowns and an explanation of my disdain for birds. Other times, I have just scanned other people's blogs looking for a title (not the content) and then just expanded on it. In fact, that's how I ended up doing my 11 Lessons Learned in 2011 and the like.

This afternoon, I figured I'd try that tactic again and about 6 blogs in, I came across the above title "If you want trouble, find yourself a redhead". It ended up being a blog about dogs of all things and I have no idea how that even relates because none of the dogs were redheaded. But, I thought to myself, "Eh, why not?"

We redheads get a bad wrap. We really do. I mean, apparently, the blonds have all the fun, the brunettes make all the money and the redheads, well, we are just angry. It feels a little bit like a conspiracy against the gingers of the world. And it's not fair.

Yes, it is true, I have, over time, developed a fiery disposition. But, I wasn't always like that. As a little kid, I was as meek and shy as they get. I mean...look at me.

In a family of 6 kids, I was embedded between 2 girls; one nicknamed Patti Perfect, the other one sporting the name Gunk-a-berti. I'll be honest. They kinda scared the shit out of me. Patti Perfect, was, well, perfect. She was blond, petite, naturally brilliant and used to just break out into a full run in the front yard and do a back flip. Gunk, on the other hand, was hell on wheels. She cussed like a truck driver, screamed "Cookie Monster" because she could, and called the Catholic priest who came to bless the house "Dad" when my mother attempted to hurry him out of the house with "Goodbye Father" for fear Gunk would drop the F-bomb at any moment. I just tried to stay out of the cross fire by talking to my imaginary friend "Peter D. Ciliberti". (What kid with 5 siblings has an imaginary friend???)

I guess, it is true that I showed hints of fire as a young child. But only when provoked. I was forced to pull Gunk's hair out when I was 4 because it was the only way to get her to stop harassing me. And I do remember a full on brawl with my brother Michael in the early years that included a broom (Although I can't remember why or how. I just remember we were in the hall near the bathroom. It could have been a full on rumble between the four youngest of the group).
The above picture is right around the time I ripped Gunk's hair out

Maybe it was the hormones of adolescence that truly exposed my fiery disposition. Although I can't say that it is correlated with my red hair, since I was born all docile and shit. I will say, when I think about it, I did start acting a little bitchy around 14. But who doesn't? Yes, I headed up a crew that threw disappearing ink on a 23 year old Algebra teacher's white sweater and then admonished her for leaving the classroom to cry about it. Yes, I attempted to cut my favorite shirt off my sister because, as I told her, "I'd rather not have it at all then for you to wear it." And yes, I actually pushed a guy who was bullying said sister (that would be Gunk) into a locker and threatened him even though it was well documented that he was on steroids. Maybe, I was just crazy. Maybe, the red hair had nothing to do with it.

But people like to blame my red hair. I don't even think they use it as an excuse. An excuse would be "Well, if only she wasn't redheaded she wouldn't have told that girl in her Group Processes Grad class that she "didn't want or need to be her friend because not everybody ends up friends"". Instead, it's more like, "Did you hear what that bitch redhead just said to the HR rep?"

As an adult, I have earned the reputation of the bitchy, fiery redhead. And there are times, I can totally own that shit. I'm much less filtered than I ever have been and I don't have much trouble standing up for what I believe in. But when think about who I really am, I see an overly empathetic person who never wants to see someone make a mistake. And maybe that means I think I'm always right. But I think everyone thinks they are always right. If you have an opinion, whether informed or not, you believe yourself to be right. I don't have to agree with your opinion. And I probably won't unless I have the same one or you have a compelling reason why I should change my mind. I also see myself as someone who has developed a great sense of humor in light of a lot of shitty stuff that has happened in my life. I can out-laugh most people, even when I am having a really bad day. And I give my family full credit on that one. It's in the genes. We are a very funny bunch.

So, maybe you should find yourself a redhead if you want trouble. In the meantime, I'm going to figure out what that has to do with a blog about dogs.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Three Years Later: Max and his Mombo

Coming up on the third anniversary of my mother’s death, I wondered if there was anything left to say on the subject. I’ve spent most of the last 5 years assessing and reassessing my life, making changes (for the better, at least in my eyes) and putting things to bed. I’ve always used this blog as a way to reflect and clarify and about a month before this date, I felt like, maybe I had said everything I’ve need to say on the subject and didn’t have anything new to offer.

Silly, silly me. First of all, I rarely have nothing left to say. Secondly, I really do believe that life is an evolutionary process and if you aren’t evaluating it, you probably aren’t living it fully. So, on the day I said out loud, “I just don’t think I have anything left to add to the subject”, Max and I went out to dinner. Out of the blue, my very, thoughtful, introspective son offhandedly said to me, “You know, most kids my age haven’t been through what I’ve been through.” And he’s right. Max has been subject to, not only the break up with of me and Stephen (which is not uncommon), but having to go through the process of losing two of the “most important people in my life” (his words). In fact, during the same dinner conversation, Max announced, “No offense, Mom, but I’ve lost the most important woman in my life.” That woman was my mother, otherwise known as “Mombo”.

Now, I really couldn’t take offense to that statement. Yes, I was a little taken back at his frankness but, actually, I was more interested in why he felt this way. When I asked him why she was the most important woman in his life, he gave me 3 reasons. First, she always made special time for him. Second, she could simultaneously take care of him and spoil him. And third, she put up with his crap.
My first thought was, I do all of those things. What makes my mother more important than me? And then I thought about what it means to be a grandparent.

I’ll admit I was not very close to my grandparents. My mother’s parents died long before I was born and my father’s parents were not involved closely in my day to day life. My mother, on the other hand, was fully integrated into her grandchildren’s lives. I’ve said before, my mother was a mother’s mother. It was her mission and it was easy for her. That didn’t make her perfect; it just made her a mother.

When it came to Max (and the rest), my mother was the soft place to fall. After a day of being subject to the demands of his parents or school, Max thought there was nothing greater than walking through the door to my mother’s house and letting it all hang out. Special time was nothing extraordinary. It was very ordinary moments spent with someone whose job was to make him feel like he was the only person in the world. It was reading a book, throwing a ball, or singing a song.

Spoiling was not expensive gifts. It was a guaranteed soft pretzel on the planned afternoons they spent together. It was a secret stash of York Peppermint Patties that were passed behind my back. It was getting a gift, just from Mombo, on someone else’s birthday.

Putting up with his crap did not mean he didn’t get yelled at by my mother. It meant her fuse was longer than mine and fundamentally, she understood what a little boy needs because she had been doing this way longer than I had. And she got to send him home at the end of the day.

Max misses that. He misses the special, yet ordinary things about my mother that had, at the time, seemed very routine. The grief Max experienced after losing my mother was a tangible one and very different than what he experienced after my brother died. At 6, Max really didn’t understand what it meant to die. He learned that lesson by watching me fall apart and then by putting myself back together. On the other hand, losing my mother when he was 8 years old was a grief he owned fully. He spoke about it in the first person. He asked me the same questions I had asked my mother after my brother died: When am I going to stop crying? How am I going to stop crying? How can you not be crying?

Three years later, while I’m thinking there may be nothing left to say, Max said it all. He has lost the most important woman in his life. There is always something left to say.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why I Feel Great Disdain For Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz

I've threatened to write this blog for several years but after days of snow, ice, downed trees, no school, and polar vortex invasions, I've come to realize that I just need to get it out. Not to mention, my friend Jen brought it to another level last night when she asked, "But why is it that you hate Hurricane with such passion (or something to that effect. I was tired)?"

I've been really formulating this for a few weeks. I even did research. Because, when you lay out a controversial argument as to why you will never, ever "trust the bowtie", you better have your facts straight. But, let's not start with the facts. Let's start with my feelings. Because I have alot of them.

1. Hurricane just gets on my nerves. At one point I even had a group on Facebook named "Hurricane Schwartz gets on my nerves". And it had members. I was not the only one. People posted stories on it. People posted their own feelings about why Hurricane got on their nerves too. Unfortunately, I got caught up in actual real world problems for a period of time and Facebook deactivated my group due to inactivity. But I know you are out there and I feel your pain too.

2. Hurricane is like a train wreck. You want to look away but you can't. It's almost as if I cover my eyes partially as I anxiously look to see if the background in the weather center is orange (signifying a weather "watch") or a full on red (signifying a weather "warning"). Hurricane actually took what started out as security level threats related to international air travel and September 11th and applied it to the weather. His weather center has become a colorful representation of apocalyptic weather related doom.

3. Hurricane is a narcissist. Or maybe he's just brilliant. How one man can convince an entire network that naturally occuring events such as rain, snow and even sun should trump all other news stories is mind boggling. Maybe he is just brilliant.

Enough with my opinions, although you'll hear more as I review the facts.

1. Hurricane did not come to town bowtie in hand. This was news to me. The story goes (and my research backs it up) is that way back in the 90's when uber sexy weatherman John Bolaris was making the rounds all over town, creating sexual tension among various female news reporters, Hurricane was actually styled by the network with a bowtie and greased back hair to be the "anti-Bolaris".
****Now I ask you, what grown man agrees to be styled as a Pee Wee Herman look alike and embraces that image?****

2. Hurricane was the number #2 behind Bolaris at NBC until the Great "Storm of the Century" Debacle of 2001. Remember Bolaris and his insistance that the world was ending because snow was coming, long after all the other networks had backed off this prediction? Bolaris got his ass handed to him and was sent packing shortly after.
****Come to think of it, maybe Hurricane was part of that plan. Maybe older, wiser, unassuming bowtie wearing Hurricane said, "John, trust me. It's going to be huge. Trust the bowtie, John." And then he walked out and laughed maniacally, rubbing his tiny hands together.****

3. In 2002, Hurricane took over as Chief Meterologist and, in essence, President of NBC10 News. Trust the Bowtie became a part of the Urban Dictionary (I have not checked that actual fact but I believe it to be true). He began to amass his weather minions and sent them out to remote locations to cover waves crashing, snow falling and sun shining. Life was good.

4. Disclaimer****The following facts are why I have come to hate Hurricane. This was the turning point.**** On December 13, 2003, Operation Red Dawn was launched and the US military hunted down and captured Saddam Hussien, hiding in some hole in the ground. On that same day in Philadelphia, it snowed. It was a Saturday. There was no one on the roads rushing to work, no schools that may or may not be closed. It was just snowing. That's all. Now, I ask you, which event may of be more historical importance? Saddam in a hole in the ground or snow in the Tri-State Area? That, my friends, depends on what station you watch. You see, while ABC and CBS covered Saddam laying in a hole in the ground and had a small picture in picture in the left hand bottom corner of the screen covering the snow, NBC did the opposite. Hurricane took center stage while I struggled to figure out who the dude laying on his back covered in dirt and looking a little distressed was.****This is when I lost my shit with Hurricane.****

5. There are other facts, all weather as the top story, main story and possible story that add to my disdain. But that gets a little old. My final straw with Hurricane happened last year when he had his heart attack. Now, please all of my dislike of Hurricane, I have NEVER wished death on the man. In fact, it's terrible that he had a heart attack. Both my father and brother died young of heart attacks so I would never want that for anyone. But here's the problem. He turned it into a news story. He actually let cameras into his hospital room and let them interview him. And it wasn't pretty. In fact, it looked sad and pathetic. All it did was look like he was a man who can't not be part of the news. So, he was. It was gross.

After re-reading, Jen may be right. I may be a little too obsessed with my intense dislike for Hurricane. But I can't help it. He gets on my nerves.