Bite Your Tongue, Young Lady!

The Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia
Ok. I admit it. I am a news junky. Ever since my days as an anchor for a CBS affiliate, I can’t get enough about what is happening in the world around me. My favorite shows are slanted to all events that impact my life via those intrepid journalists that let us common folk know what is going on between the lines of political jibber-jabber. That is until recently. I am over-saturated. I am done!

In this presidential election I am so finished with the mean political attacks and mud-slinging by those leaders that should know better. Why can’t we just focus on the issues? The economy. Poverty. Jobs. Immigration. Or whatever ligitimate concerns we have as voters.

During my career as I was climbing up the other side of the mountain, I have been privileged to interview many presidential candidates. (I once had to meet Hubert Humphrey in a small airport far away from my home base at an ungodly hour just to get an interview about his presidential hopes). But the closest and most intimate presidential encounter was with President Gerald Ford in 1980. (I know. I AM that old!)

I used to be so conscious of ‘doing the right thing’. Afraid not to follow protocol and, in doing so, putting others needs and wants before mine. It took dinner with a president to set me straight.

My husband and I hosted a financial seminar at the Greenbrier, the famous West Virginia resort within the rolling hills of that bucolic area.

Not only is the Greenbrier famous for its elegance, exquisite accommodations and cuisine, but built in the bowels of this grand hotel was a secret bunker for emergency cold wartime use.

While dining with President Ford on the last
evening of our conference we spoke of things politic and personal. President Ford was handsome and quite knowledgeable on world affairs and the current state of our union. He was so charming and interesting and made me feel so comfortable that I began to think of him as I would a nice next door neighbor and momentarily almost forgot his credentials and powerful position.

In the meantime, the Secret Service who had been hovering in the background with their earpieces and lapel pins, began to nervously look at their watches and finally came and whispered in my ear that Mr. President had his plane waiting for him and it was time for him to leave.

Having my “obey” antennas well extended, I turned to President Ford and politely relayed the Secret Service’s message.

He abruptly turned toward me, looked me firmly in the eyes, then turned toward the Secret Service standing behind us and snapped in a voice of complete power, “I am the President and I haven’t had my desert yet!”

That embarrassing moment in time taught me a valuable lesson about Presidential Power. No matter how much they want you to think you are one of them, you are not! Even if they are considered a ‘good guy’. Presidential power is quite heady and, as we are experiencing today, all gloves are off when that office is up for grabs. What you see is not always what you get. Promises made are not always what will happen when in power. The candidate who takes the moral high ground, in my opinion, is the one I can trust to work for my best interests and be respected by world leaders. A great lesson I have always remembered when I go into the voting booth.

©Sandra Hart 2012

Jersey Pride

Great news this past week. Last season of the awful Jersey Shore series. I have never met anyone like them in the 40 years I have lived here. Nor The Jersey Housewives. Have I been living under a rock?

New Jersey has miles and miles of beautiful beaches, more horses here in Monmouth County than Texas with miles of great riding trails, farms and the best tomatoes in the world (after all we ARE the Garden State), and beautiful mountains for skiing in the winter. And the best of all we are 14 miles by water to New York City.

In addition Red Bank is the birthplace of Count Basie and this state has given us Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Emerson Hart, Tom Cruise, Queen Latifah, Susan Sarandon and the great genius Thomas Edison just to name a few. Not bad for a state the size of Israel. We hold our own. Just saying!
Things To Do In NJ

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If I Were Only Eighteen Again

I’m in love with the guy who is painting my house. Well, not in a ‘Love’ love way, but in a sort of “if I were only 18 again” way. When I saw my painter balancing two stories high on a ladder with a paint can held by one finger, I was convinced painting houses was just his hobby. There was no doubt in my mind that on his ‘real work’ days he was in the ring giving a slam dunk to his WWF opponent.

Three men could inhabit his muscular body and there would still be extra room. His biceps are bigger than my husband’s waist and the dark hair on his head is even bigger. And the most attractive asset of all, he is young. What more could a woman want I fantasized while loading the dishwasher for the millionth time, my B-12 pill melting on my tongue without water because the dishwasher hose was still attached to the sink faucet. And never mind the herbal conditioner that was aimlessly dripping down the side of my neck from underneath my shower cap and onto my robe. The Rock, or whatever his name, was painting my house.

What caused me to begin to lose my Sassoned white head, you ask? Well, it all started when my husband sourly suggested he was becoming unnerved by listening to my classical music all day long and immediately put on a couple of rock CD’s by his favorite artist, my son. Emerson does create great music, but the soothing sounds of violins and cellos somehow help carry me through mundane tasks of the day.

I’ve always categorized my life in music phases: The Four Aces, Bill Haley and Elvis represent my adolescent memories; Johnny Mathis, Montavonni, and Peter, Paul and Mary my baby-raising years: Kiss, Springsteen, Buffalo Springfield and anything else my three teenagers played at mega-decibel levels represent my ‘whatever’ years.

And now, this seemingly useless information I’ve just shared with you about music tastes, segues us back to The Rock who is painting my house. I really didn’t fall in “love, not really “LOVE” with The Rock. I fell in love with the dichotomy between his physical age and appearance and his taste in music.

All day long, The Rock listens to his portable radio he never has more than five feet away from his ladder. And the music that filters through my windows brings me back to my teenage life. To my amazement, music of the 50’s is the music that makes Rock’s heart beat. It is his taste in music that I love.

And it is his music that makes me feel alive again by sparking anew the excitement of finding teenage love in a time once lived.

When his work is done and The Rock and his radio drive down the road, I’ll miss the journey his music has provided. So in the end, I guess it’s not all about youth and muscles or The Rock’s plentiful hair. And it’s not about painting either. It’s about comfortable memories and the ability to dream in your fuzzy slippers.
©Sandra Hart 2012

OMG!

Still Can’t Believe I Did It!
A younger friend of mine, I hate to tell you how younger-younger she is, but she could be my daughter, suggested that I join her in a Lance Armstrong 5K race. I thought she had either lost her marbles or secretly had a death-wish for me.

Now, I haven’t told you yet because I am a fairly new blogger here, but I have been a vegan for over 30 years and I have always pushed myself to exercise and keep my body moving beyond the daily routine of living and working, but by gosh I am….well, well over the other side of fifty – kinda’ reluctantly doing the down hill slide. But, I admit even when I don’t feel like it, which is honestly most of the time, I drag myself outdoors and always wind up feeling better for it. And for these last 40 years I have been lucky to live in an area with scenic paths along the ocean and green hills to climb. A great thing that kept me motivated in my pre-ipod years.

My young friend finally convinced me it would be fun and maybe the primary benefit to me would be a reality check on how fit I really was (or not) at my age. She wasn’t crazy enough to consider my placing, she knew I just would be grateful to cross the finish line without the paramedics waiting for me. My husband joked that he would take no odds on me, unless it was to be the ultimate loser.

With that cheerful send-off packed full of confidence building some husbands are able to endow their wives in times of need, I walked to the sign-up area in the park near the starting line, got my blue T-shirt and nervously made small talk with the mostly younger, younger men and women there. The majority with their glistening South Beach tans and flawless laminated smiles. I pulled my geezer Cunard Cruise Line ball cap lower to disguise my white hair and even though by now I was really having second thoughts, I would drag myself forward, knowing the show must go on.

The whistle blew and away we all went up Ocean Drive in South Beach and around the course that curved back to the initial starting line at South Pointe Park. Like a seasoned thoroughbred, I surprised myself at my steady pace. Surely, I didn’t want to drop dead on Ocean Drive and have the humiliation of people stepping over me. Just keep going and you’ll finally either have a stroke and will be on the evening local news, or just maybe you will be able to at least finish this thing, I kept telling myself. My pride was driving me more than anything. I am such a sick-thinking person, I would have murmured under my breath, but by that time I could hardly catch it.

I really didn’t pay attention to any of the other runners. I just kept running and the more I ran my energy grew. Wow. Not bad. Okay. I’m still alive. Surely the finish line is up here somewhere. My heart was pounding and I felt flushed as I gave one final sprint of energy over the finish line that was just ahead, finally in sight.

I saw the paramedic truck there, probably waiting for me,I thought, but my quivering lips just managed a shaky smile as I passed by. This senior has gotcha this time, fellas!

Well, I hung around to go home with my friend and what do you know, I got a nice little trophy to take home. Third Place. OMG. I couldn’t believe it. Now I REALLY am going to have a stroke! Wow! Not bad for an old gal. I sooooo even surprised myself! Way to go girl, I told myself.

I was feeling pretty heady for a few weeks until I got an email from an old high school class mate who is biking with her husband through Europe and loving the daily challenge of miles and miles of valleys and hills and mountains! Oh well, short lived glory is better than none at all!
©Sandra Hart 2012

The Rewards Of Prison Life

Sofi, My Prison Dog
She was running. Running from what she could never reveal. Running to go home, sorry she ever left? Running for her life? We’ll never know because the authorities picked her up before her end game could unfold. If she even had one.

She must have decided her escape route would be the backroads of Oldham, a small town north of Lexington in Kentucky. Safer, or maybe a better way home. The county sheriff apprehended her. Ended her plans. Picked her up with her hair all askew, her primitive tattoo obscured by the unwashed skin on her stomach. She was a mess in more ways than one. Nothing else to do but throw her in prison. Lock her up safely behind bars to keep her from running again.

Well actually it was the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, the first security institution to be built in Kentucky since the Kentucky State reformatory in 1937. The mission there is to prepare incarcerated felons to be capable of contributing to society in a positive manner upon release through the use of constructive classification, program and work assignment opportunities. What better place for her.

It was during her eight week incarceration there, that I first heard about Frannie through my daughter, Alison. She has always been active in rescuing those in need and when she met with Frannie, she immediately realized that her mother and Frannie would be able to help one another. Kindred souls, so to speak.

Frannie was in Camp Canine at the correctional complex, a joint venture between The Humane Society, Animal Control and Dr. Phil Heye LaGrange Animal Hospital. The program has 14 inmates and 12 dogs. Twelve trainers,one clerk and one janitor to take care of the messes. The inmates are responsible for the dogs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Frannie was assigned to one of those inmate handlers. During the course of this program the dogs are trained in basic obedience commands, so they will be more adoption friendly. Each dog must pass the AKC “Canine Good Citizens Test”.

I was on pins and needles during Frannie’s jail time. I was accepted as her adoptive mother, so that hurdle was jumped, but would she pass her tests and graduate? With my three children (none of whom have ever been in jail, thankfully) I had already been there and done that, so I was not too keen at my ‘over fifty’ age on going through this one more time. I was in love with my new little girl and did not want to be heartbroken if she had to stay longer or, as in some cases, not graduate at all.

Finally, the call came and I boarded a Continental flight to Cincinnati where Alison drove me to the Correctional Complex. Without phone or anything that would ‘bling’ I passed through the metal detectors and my Frannie was brought out with a bright yellow lead around her neck. She was beautiful and, for me, it was love at first sight. She was a year old cream-colored Lhasa Apso with a flowing plumed tail curled over her back. I cried. The administrator cried. I was told Frannie’s handler (we are both anonymous to one another) also cried as he handed her over for her jail walk to meet her new mother.

My husband’s late mother was named Frannie, so it was rather awkward calling our new dog the same name. Frannie quickly became Sofi (we live in Sofi in South Beach, Florida) and she has been a wonderful part of our family for four years now. Each Christmas Sofi sends a card to the folks at Camp Canine with a request to hand it over to her handler. And every time she curls next to me or looks up at me with that sweet face, I am so glad that she got in trouble and wound up in prison. Sometimes prison can be a good thing under certain circumstances. Incarceration in her case gave both of us a second chance for a new and better life.*

*My husband and I had been mourning the death in the months prior to finding Sofi our six year old Harley, a Shih Tzu.

The Plight and Flight Of A Snowbird

Martha Stewart go home please. I need a rest.

Today we are in the middle of packing up for the summer and traveling North for the snowbird flight we have been making for the last ten years. My wings are getting rather weary of leaving one nest for the other. I am longing to simplify my life and roost in only one nest and start living with the things that really matter.

Earlier this year we flew to in Los Angeles to visit with a male friend of my husband’s whose wife has decorated their home in museum-quality style. Now I
really love this woman. She is kind and intelligent and very generous with her time in helping others. But when it comes to her house, she becomes a
different sort all together.

So it was no surprise as we all showered that evening to go out when I heard a scream that rang from her cathedral ceilings and back again as she ran
down the hall.

“What! How could he! Arthur is using the guest bathroom!? Nobody uses the guest bathroom!”

As I opened the door, draped in an ordinary towel I found in the under-guest-guest bathroom, I saw my husband standing there like a sheep-faced child,
caught in a dastardly deed.

Our hostess quickly went into the coveted-never-used guest bathroom and proceeded to wipe the faucets spotless and clean up the chaos my husband
made of her perfect-to-look-at room.

That experience started me thinking about what type of person I was and forced me to look in the mirror at my own idiosyncrasies. I learned valuable lessons in Los Angeles. Mainly the most important was to be a more forgiving wife. And better yet, how to be a more compassionate wife. I had forgotten in my quest to be Martha Stewart, that hugging a mop is not as much fun as hugging a husband.

When I came home I threw out all of our old ratty towels with strings fraying at the ends and bought big fluffy premiere guest towels for Arthur. Who cares if our bathroom floor becomes the Nile River when he showers, or if I slip into the commode in the middle of the night because he forgets to put down the lid.

Now, instead of having a post-menopausal fit if I can’t find the new ten dollar herbal soap I just put at the basin, I forgivingly retrieve it in the shower from a cache of soap he constantly steals, because he forgets what he did yesterday. Today I found on our foyer floor a crumpled baggie carrying a bar he had stolen for the beach. I know Karma slipped it from his bag just for me.

I have even learned not to straighten up and fluff the couch pillows each time he or the dogs have rearranged them. I leave my grandchild’s handprints for a bit longer than usual on my mirrors. And now and then, when I am really feeling frisky, I tilt a candle in the candelabra just a bit to remind myself life isn’t perfect and human feeling and comfort are worth more than material things with esthetic balance.