Sunday, July 27

Waiting for 50 Years For True Love

Who says you can never find your way back to your one true love?

Loni Anderson, who is 62 years old and has been married three times, most famously to Burt Reynolds who shocked her with divorce papers out of the blue, has been reunited with her first boyfriend and true love, Bob Flick. She met him when she was a teenage model and was hired to pose for pictures at one of his folk music concerts. They dated for seven months. Now, almost 50 years later, they got married, after Loni got back in touch with him and they had a long-distance relationship for a year.

How sweet is this story? It's even sweeter knowing what Loni went through with her divorce to Burt Reynolds, but rekindling a romance 50 years after it started and falling in love gives me goosebumps! She found her soulmate after all. "Never give up on true love," she was quoted as saying.

Good for Loni!

Friday, July 25

From the WHAT THE HELL? Department

When it comes to naming children, I'm pretty traditional. I'm big into maintaining one's ethnic heritage or choosing a name that won't get a kid beaten up at school. However, as this is a free country, I do respect the right to name your child whatever you want, even if it makes you look like a weed-smoking idiot.

That said, an article popped on my yahoo screen about a poor nine year-old child in New Zealand who was cursed with the name "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii." Yes, you read correctly. Talula Does the Hula... From Hawaii. I suppose it could have been worse, because other nutty New Zealanders have also tried to name their children Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Stallion, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit, only to be blocked when they tried to register the names. "New Zealand law does not allow names that would cause offense to a reasonable person, that are 100 characters or more long, that include titles or military rank or that include punctuation marks or numerals."

I want to laugh at the thought of someone being named "Fish and Chips," really, I do, but it's too tragic. I mean, come on. Sex Fruit? How much crack does one have to be doing to want to burden their child with this name, which is not even a name? What is wrong with people?

Why stop at these names, though? I have some I think should be considered:

Female Pajama (Pronounced: Fe malay- Pee-jah-may)
Lemon Pledge
Ink Jet Printer
Nostril Hair
Go Eagles! (exclamation point must be included)
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Library Card

I thought Michael Jackson had lost it when I found out he calls his youngest child "Blanket," and Gwyenth Paltrow named her kid "Apple." That's nothing after reading this.

Tuesday, July 22

Picture it, Sicily, 1923...

She was not really Sicilian but she did a lot of things that reminded me of my Sicilian grandmother. I loved the character of Sophia Petrillo on the Golden Girls, played by Estelle Getty, who died at 84 today. I know, she looked 84 when she was on the show in the 1980's but she was actually younger than Bea Arthur, who played her daughter! I never missed that show as a teenager and I still watch the re-runs on my little treadmill television at the gym. Very uncool, I realize, but the only reason I go to the gym is to pick up octagenarians.

I crack up when I hear her crazy "picture it, Sicily" stories, like the one when she was friends with Mama Celeste, or she slept with Pablo Picasso. I found the clip on YouTube:

Her character's sarcasm was unparalleled. Here are some of my favorite lines of Sophia's:

Sophia: Make way for the victors.
Rose: You won the big game?
Sophia: No, Rose. We lost and we all changed our names to Victor.

Rose: Penny for your thoughts Sophia?
Sophia: You’re and idiot and that’s on the house.

Rose; Did they have chores in Sicily?
Sophia: Are you kidding? They invented chores in Sicily. Crossing the street without getting pregnant was a chore in Sicily

Estelle Getty was Jewish and she played a Sicilian immigrant. She's not the only one, though. (Allow me to digress from my tribute to Estelle...) It always struck me as odd how Hollywood casts so many
Jewish people to play Italians. Case in point:

- Sophia Petrullo- "Golden Girls-" Estelle Getty
- Dorothy Zbornak-"Golden Girls-" Bea Arthur
- The Fonz- "Happy Days-" Henry Winkler
- Frank DeFazio- Laverne's father on "Laverne and Shirley"- Phil Foster (born Arthur Cohen)
Paul Muni, Edward G. Robinson- played Italian gangsters in movies.

I know there has never been a shortage of Italian actors so what gives?

Supposedly, real Italians don't look as Italian as Jews. I don't know what that means or who the Italians are that the casting agents saw but they need to visit my family and cast a few of us.

But, I've also heard that Italians look more like native Americans.
Remember this guy?

He was known as Iron Eyes Cody (from the pollution commercial) but his real name was Espera DeCorti, and he was Sicilian-American born in the US of Sicilian immigrants! (However, he did live his life as a native American, marrying a Native American woman, adopting Native American sons and dedicating his life to native American causes.)

So it is a sad day for Estelle Getty's fans. Looking on the internet for a video of her I found a huge amount of tributes and comments from fans, so I know I an not alone. The poor thing died from dementia, a really terrible way to go, and to picture her dying like that is the total opposite of how many of us remember her in real life, both on the show and off. Rest in Peace, Estelle.

Sunday, July 20

Can't Wait For This Book! "Drop Dead, Neighbor"

I'm a book dork. By that I mean that several times when I finished a book I really loved, I wrote to the author. I figure that if my book ever gets published (or finished) one day, I'd like to hear from someone who read it and was moved to either laugh or cry.

So a few years ago I wrote to Saralee Rosenberg. It was the first time I wrote to an author and I didn't expect to get a response, but I really loved her book "Claire Voyant," which I just happened to pick up at Wegman's supermarket. The cover caught my eye so yes, I judged a book by its cover. Bad book dork, bad! I laughed so hard in some parts that I remember having tears streaming down my face-- especially a part about spam emails. I also got misty-eyed at another part, but that was because it was so sad.

So, not only did Saralee respond, we exchanged a number of emails over the following weeks. In fact, I almost got her to come to the high school where I teach and give a presentation but I think it fell through on my school's end because she was definitely willing- in fact, it was her idea.

So, after reading "A Little Help from Above," which I also loved, and then "Fate and Ms. Fortune: A Novel," the trifecta sealed my place as a confirmed fan. When I found out two weeks ago that Saralee has a new novel coming out on 7/22, I cheered a little. 'Cause I'm a book dork, remember? It's called "Drop Dead, Neighbor," and here is the summary:

In Mindy's yoga-obsessed, thirty-is-the-new-wife neighborhood, every day is a battle between Dunkin' Donuts, her jaws-of-life jeans, and Beth Diamond, the self-absorbed sancti-mommy next door who looks sixteen from the back. So much for sharing the chores, the stores, and the occasional mischief to rival Wisteria Lane.

It's another day, another dilemma until Beth's marriage becomes fodder on Facebook. Suddenly the Ivy League blonde needs to be “friended,” and Mindy is the last mom standing. Together they take on hormones and hunger, family feuds and fidelity, and a harrowing journey that spills the truth about an unplanned pregnancy and a seventy-year-old miracle that altered their fates forever.

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead is a hilarious, stirring romp over fences and defenses that begs the question, what did you do to deserve living next door to a crazy woman? Sometimes it's worth finding out.

If you are looking for a great book to read, check out any one of these, if you like chick lit, you'll love them!

P.S. I am not being paid by Saralee Rosenberg to plug her books.

Thursday, July 17

Remembering Rosie

Two years ago today my mentor and dear friend passed away from breast cancer. Dr. Rosario Caminero was my graduate school Spanish professor whom I had met two years before starting grad school when I worked in the Foreign Languages Department as an assistant. I got to know her very well working there and by the time I got my B.A. and signed up for her grad courses, I already had a tremendous respect for her. Her knowledge of Spanish linguistics and composition was vast and her classes were always upbeat and interesting. I looked forward to those intensive graduate classes-five days a week- and even the compositions, because she was the professor. I learned more from her in two years than I had in the four previous years- she was that incredible.

Cuban-born and bred, she had the most wonderful accent in English and in Spanish. Dr. Rosie, as I called her because I respected her too much to call her by her first name as she asked, dressed with panache. She always wore a brightly colored dress or skirt to teach or a beautiful pantsuit, and never without stylish shoes. She walked with a clip and always seemed to be in motion, talking with her hands- her Spanish and English coming out rapid fire. She smelled of Giorgio perfume, a scent I liked so much I bought it myself but it didn't smell the same on me. Simply put, she was my guru, my mentor, my inspiration to become a teacher, for when I first met her I was not a teaching major- I was set to graduate with a B.A. in Spanish which did not qualify me to teach- I needed a B.S.Ed.

I began the graduate program immediately after I graduated so I could become certified to teach. Still unsure of my decision after many mornings full of pedagogy classes, my future as a Spanish teacher eventually fell into place in the afternoons in her classroom. Her love for teaching, her patience and her passion were all qualities I wanted to emulate. She made teaching look fun, enjoyable and dare I saw... rewarding! I wanted my students to enjoy my classes as much as I enjoyed hers. She counseled me on boyfriend troubles, family situations and taught me what it took to be a great teacher. She was my surrogate mom.

Rosie lost her battle with breast cancer on July 17, 2006. The only time I have felt as sad as I did that day was when my grandparents passed away. I am grateful for having had her in my life to inspire me, to guide me and to be there for me to try to emulate. Her stylish pumps are way too big to fill but she is always present for me to look to as an example. And I will never forget the advice she gave me on my wedding day, which I am so happy was caught on videotape: "Claudia, acuérdate quién es la jefa." ("Claudia, remember who is the boss"- she used the feminine form to mean me.)

Rest In Peace, Dr. Rosie

Tuesday, July 15

Someone Took My Sunshine Away

Pec and I had lunch with Julio yesterday. He was the only thing that kept us sane at work and this year he left to pursue his doctorate at Georgetown. Even though I tried to push the fact that he was gone out of my mind this year, spending a few hours with him yesterday reminded me of how crappy it is at work without him. All our silliness and goofiness, his advice, not to mention my total dependence on him as my personal Spanish reference manual was noticeably absent from my free periods. I'm happy for him, of course, but man, it sucks to be me without him!

Monday, July 14


...when you were young and you could sit and play in the sand all day and not care where it ended up?

Gabriela would sleep in the sand all night if we let her. Me, not so much.

Adios, Big Guy... Rest in Peace.

My sister just called me to tell me her gigantic dog, Zeus, died. He was a big, gentle, Great Pyrenees who I admit, always got in my way because he was immense, about 100 pounds. I always joke that he should have a saddle. But regardless, he was a nice, calm dog and my sister loved him to pieces-- he was a stray when she found him about 5 years ago. At 11:30 tonight the vet called her to go to say goodbye. Zeus gave her his paw to hold as the vet injected him to put him to sleep, her choice so that he didn't have to suffer what probably would only have been hours anyway. So needless to say she is distraught beyond words. And I know what she is going through and it feels terrible.

So we were on the phone talking and I got emotional thinking about my own dog, Zorro, who I got from the Humane Society in 2002, where he had been taken in as a stray. He was a pomeranian mix and had been very neglected, his teeth were broken and was a little mangy-looking, but hokey as it may sound, he connected with me during our visits. I remember how angry I got when they told me he hadn't been neutered--they estimated he was around 8 years old, which means some cheapskate never bothered to get him fixed in all the years he owned him. The day I went to pick him up one of the workers there thanked me for choosing him-- he was on death row and scheduled to be put down that week. He had been there so long and nobody wanted him. I felt special, like there was a reason I connected with that particular dog. Turned out that dog loved me- followed me everywhere and when I took a shower he waited for me on my bathmat. When I scrapbooked in the basement, he parked himself next to me on the lineolum floor. In fact, it was Holy Thursday when I went to buy him a piece of carpet to lay on so he wouldn't be on the cold floor in my scrapbooking area. When I came home he had gotten sick and had an accident. When I scolded him he just looked at me. I picked him up and he snuggled into my lap and I called my husband down and told him "Zorro is dying." I just knew. He took him to the hospital and I took my daughter to Holy Thursday Mass and when we got home, Zorro was gone forever.

So I know my sister's pain. I know crying for three hours, bawling into my pillow at how unfair it was that I only had him for 6 months. How unfair that I didn't get to say goodbye. I know the pain that feels like you are losing a human being- a family member. And lucky for me, everyone close to me at that time understood what that felt like, because almost everyone I know has a dog. And when I woke up the next morning, unable to open my eyes from all the crying I had done, and I realized that my Zorro was still gone, it hurt all over again.

People who don't have pets have no idea what it is like to consider a pet as a family member. You feel helpless when they are sick, you are nervous for them when they get their shots, you worry if they dash across the street if they will get hit by a car, and sometimes, you worry someone will want to steal them. You buy the best food to keep them healthy and supply them with toys and their choice of sleeping area, you brush them and dress them up in Eagles jerseys. (Ok, that may just be me.) But you love and care for them like a child, and you get back from them what you get from a friend. Their love is unconditional- they just need some food and water but they will love you if you forget. They love to be pet and stroked, but they will be there for you anyway if you don't pet them. They will alert you and protect you, comfort you and entertain you. They love it when you come home and are sad when you leave. So how can you not feel like a member of the family has died when your pet leaves this earth?

You can't.

So, may Zeus not have been in pain in his last hours.
May Zorro know that I loved him, even though I didn't get to say goodbye.
May they know each other in heaven and become friends.

We used to get Zorro. It searches the SPCA's and rescues to find you a dog. We also got our Zorro look-alike, Sammy, from a shelter- he was a Katrina rescue who still had no home 7 months after the hurricane had hit Mississippi. Please don't rule out the great pets you can get from rescues and SPCA's and give a dog another chance.

We have three dogs now- Sammy from Mississippi, Rico, who had been adopted after being abused, and Rosie, from a breeder. They drive me crazy with all of their noise but I love all of them.

Sunday, July 13

For you IPhone Phans

And this, my friends, is why I don't buy Apple anymore.

Pilfered from my friend Alberto de la Cruz at Babalublog

Friday, July 11

I Flip for Waverunning!

I love jetskiing. The wind in my face, the salt on my lips, the thrill of zipping over water- I look forward to the shore just for that. I always go to the same place-- the owners are Claudio and Claudia and they are both from Argentina, accents and all. They make a big fuss over me because of my name and we always speak in Spanish, which was my problem today, but I'll get to that.

So today I took my oldest daughter and her BFF with me. They screamed and hollered and my daughter's arms were squashing me through my life jacket as we bumped and flew over giant wakes caused by the other six skis that were with us. The water was choppy as a result and a few times I had to fight to get control of the ski to get back on course and stay within the designated area. Several times a giant wake or two completely doused us with foam, which was all part of the fun.

What I did not count on, however, was having problems docking. I cut the motor as directed so I would drift over to the dock. But, instead of drifting forward, I drifted backwards. I started the motor again and turned around and cut it, this time drifting toward the patrol boat not far from the dock. I started the motor again to get away from the boat and turned to the left, hard. In doing so, I flipped the ski over, sending two teenage girls flying into the water. But while I was doing this, Claudio was on the dock yelling to me in Spanish while using gestures. I couldn't hear or understand him and as I opened my mouth to say "Como?" I flipped right over the ski with the girls, unplugging the kill switch attached to my jacket and, mouth open, swallowing a whole lot of the Atlantic's saltiest. I popped up and instinctively reached for the girls, grabbing one with each hand while I tried to get back to the ski and tread water-- impossible to do. The patrol boat guy told me he'd take one of them. Well, neither wanted to get back on the ski with me, so I dragged them over to the boat and they hopped on, and I figured I'd just swim to the dock. "Uh, you have the key," the guy said. "Oh, yeah, guess I have to get back on." And that, I'm sure was a sight, as I mounted the triple ski from the back, throwing myself onto it like a sick fish and crawling up onto the seat. Claudio was ready again to get me to the dock, yelling for me to give it gas and swing it around. I'm thinking to myself- WHY IS THIS SO HARD? I never had problems before! Same marina, same dock, what gives? I docked it, much to Claudio's relief, and still sputtering from drinking a cup of sea water, I went to the shop and got my keys (that's shah-vays in Argentine Spanish) from Claudia who felt bad that I was soaking wet and tried not to laugh.

My daughter and her friend actually enjoyed it, as now they have a story to tell when they get home. I reminded them that we went over huge wakes, got cut off by a rule-breaker who almost tipped us over, and I was flooring it much of the ride and nobody fell over until I tried not to hit the patrol boat, and that was the story I wanted them to tell. My perfect record is ruined. And on top of that, my arms are really sore from driving.

Sunday, July 6

Cursing, Italian Style

I'm in the car on my way to the Joisey shore for a week. Since I am no lover of sand, this is more like my yearly penance, thrust upon me because my inlaws have a house there. I am looking forward to jet skiing which I love.

So we're on I-95 now (I'm not driving, though that would be a trick) and my two kids are fighting and the dogs are barking. My 13 year old has her BFF with her so we're trying to make her think we are not the boisterous Italians that we really are. That's no mean feat because hour two into the trip I deviate from my planned course of civility and let rip the following:

Which is coined from my Dad's homemade cursing of a hateful pig-faced medagon and used for really, absolutely any reason whatsoever.

My oldest shot me a look like "Mom! You Guido! You promised!" and I shot her a look like "would you like to ride strapped to the roof rack?" She stopped instigating and for effect I threw in a loud "MADON."

Other handy expletives and insults you might like to try:
Managia! damn!
faccia di chooch Horse face
State zito! (statazeet) Shut up!
fon-gool (everyone knows this one- it's very vulgar)
Fanabala (va en Napoli- like saying the above but nicer, telling someone to go to Naples instead of doing something to themselves)

my daughter should be grateful that I didn't curse in English, no, I don't get any thanks. Just her malocchio.

Tuesday, July 1

Happy Birthday, Aunt.

Today is my beautiful Aunt Carole's birthday. (She has always been just "Aunt.") She is also my godmother and a wonderful human being and I love her very much. She is my mom's younger sister and is still plenty young with many years ahead of her.

Unfortunately, because of an insect, the past 4 years have been a living hell for her. My aunt is suffering terribly from late stage Lyme disease- you cannot even imagine what this disease, if left untreated, can do to a person. It invades every part of your body and can make you a mere shadow of your former self, rendering you unable to walk and talk, gasping for breath, and you may not even know why. Such is the case with my aunt. She had no telltale bullseye mark after being bitten. She just started getting stroke-like symptoms which got progressively worse. She has finally, after four years, been diagnosed with Lyme, after first being MISdiagnosed with everything from ALS to Parkinson's to Multiple System Atrophy at hospitals including Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Mayo, in addition to local doctors. She can't even count how many doctors she has seen, many of them dismissing her with "It's Parkinson's, no cure," and some even laughing at her when she asked if it could be Lyme. She has taken multiple medications for diseases she doesn't have, filling her body with drugs that didn't do a thing, all while the Lyme burrowed its way further and further into her body.

After a doctor took a chance on my cousin's gut instinct and treated my aunt with medication to make the Lyme leave the tissue and enter the bloodstream where it could be detected, was she finally diagnosed. The relief we all felt was immense- one doctor had told her she had 3 years left to live, another had given her the diagnosis of MSA, an untreatable and incurable disease with less than a year to live. Now she has a light at the end of the tunnel.

But the recovery is not easy and the herxheimer reaction-- killing off the Lyme bacteria, causing them to release their toxins into the body-- makes her feel worse. That often makes her stop the treatment to get relief from the pain, and she backslides. I know it's hard, and I know the pain must be unimaginable. But she needs to stick with it and finish the treatment so she can get her life back. She has lived through problems in her life that seemed insurmountable before and she came out on top- she can do this, too. I know that with determination she will soon get out of that wheelchair and put on her stylish suits and walk and talk like before. We pray for her every night and fear that she is simply exhausted-- too exhausted to fight anymore, but we know she can do it. This disease has not only affected her and her children, but her 10 grandchildren have missed out on their once vibrant and energetic grandmother, too.

So, Happy Birthday to my Aunt, I wish her strength, perseverance and may next year's birthday find her shopping at Talbot's and celebrating her new life, free of pain and disease.

I love you.

Please help me to send words of encouragement to my aunt, who is unable to talk to me on the phone because Lyme left her unable to speak, by leaving your comments below. Even though she may not know you, knowing that people are praying and rooting for her may help her to stay with her treatment and get better.

For more info on Lyme disease please check out these sites.

Protect Yourself Against Ticks and Lyme
PDF Downloads about Lyme
NJ Lyme rates by county- If you live in Jersey, like my Aunt, watch out
Meant for doctors but very comprehensive information about Lyme
Lyme Diagnosis
What Lyme Can Do to Your Brain
Why Lyme diagnosis gets delayed
Lyme Vaccine Gets Pulled for Poor Sales
Daniel Wood's Story
Personal story- Roger Doyle
Shelly Pinter's Story