My grandmother and I had a very special bond. We were a lot alike, both spirited and stubbornly determined. She played a very large role in my upbringing, as her and my mother were almost never apart. I feel it’s my responsibility to keep her memory alive as best as I can although I’ve probably procrastinated doing so for a while. In response, I’d like to share some of my more potent memories about her that might give a glimpse of who she was.
The earliest story I ever heard about my grandmother was when she was very young and had to be rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendicitis. It had burst on the way and she was going in and out of consciousness. At the hospital, while my grandmother lie dangerously close to death, one of her family members was holding her hand when she asked her, “Can you see them?” The family member looked, confused, around the room at the doctors and nurses scrambling and said she didn’t know what she meant. “The angels. Can’t you see them?” At that, the nurses came around and swooshed her away. I’m not sure if she remembered this after she woke up from surgery (successfully) or if her family later recounted what she had said. She would tell me about this when I was young and I would listen, in awe, and think how lucky she was to know that she had angels by her side. I think this story both defines and exemplifies how much faith my grandmother had in God. Her faith never quavered, not once.
My grandmother was born in 1926 and raised on a farm in rural Ohio. Her parents were of Irish and Italian descent. You can only imagine the kind of temper she inherited from pure genetics. I don’t recall many stories about my grandmother when she was an adolescent but I can safely presume that because she was an only child, she was bored and found entertainment in mischievous and rebellious ways. I can safely presume this because I recognize those traits reflected into my own personality.
My grandma left home when she was 16. She fell in love with a man whose name I think was Danny. When her parents wouldn’t let her be with him, she decided to run off and marry him. I’m under the impression that her temper towards her parent’s restrictions was more of her reason to get married then her actual love for this man. Maybe she just wanted to see what else was out there instead of settling for the life in which she was raised. Either way, she just made up her mind and left.
One of my favorite stories about my grandmother was when she was married to her first husband, this “Danny” fellow. He wasn’t faithful to her and when she found out, she confronted him and he retaliated by slapping her. So, she stormed into her kitchen, picked up her heaviest skillet, and gave him a baseball-swing to the head in which he slumped to the floor. I find it very testimonial that my grandmother fought back after he hit her and saved herself from a potentially abusive relationship. I realize how difficult and terrifying it is to fight back an abusive husband and so I can admire my grandmother’s bravery and strength in this matter. That was just her spirit.
She had had two boys with Danny, my uncles Jerry and Jack, when she was around 18 and 20, before the incident described above. She had to become a ‘working woman’ which I don’t imagine was easy in the era of housewives. Apparently, she had to let her mother take care of Jerry and Jack in order for her to maintain her job but she never told me about this herself so I’m not sure to what extent.
I guess it all turned around when she met my mother’s father, Kenny. According to my mother and grandmother, he was a dreamboat. I know he fought in World War II because we have some of his memorabilia- his tags, a few faded Sepia photos with names scribbled on the back, and a yellow stale newspaper clipping. Kenny’s father owned a used automobile shop which Kenny eventually took over. I have a wonderfully romantic photograph of the two of them embracing which I think tells their story quite perfectly.
They married and had my mother, Karen, and lived as a traditional nuclear family would. They had beautiful holidays, Grandma cooked dinner every night and my mother grew up happily. Mom loved her dad with all her heart. She was 15 years old when he had a heart attack on a roof in freezing cold weather.
I’ve never asked my grandmother’s reaction after Kenny died, if she was emotionally distraught afterward or if she summoned all her strength for the sake of Mom. Neither of them ever really told me what life was like after he passed. All I know is they survived. My mom looks happy in photographs growing up, my grandmother usually somewhere in the background ready to assist as needed.
By the time my mom had left for college, met my dad and had my older sister, my Grandma remarried a man everyone called “Lucky” and who I would eventually call Grandpa for a short while. Grandma and Lucky were good friends with each other and with each other’s spouses while living in Columbus. Grandma and Kenny, Lucky and his wife, along with other couples in their ‘group,’ would drink and smoke and play cards together and laugh because life was good. Many years later, after Lucky too had lost his other half, he and Grandma found the familiar companionship with each other that they had shared so many years before. I never regarded them as passionate lovers but as two lost souls who were craving familiarity.
I came into the picture next. She and Lucky moved to Tampa from Columbus after I was born to help my mom out. 5 years or so later, she had to put Lucky in a nursing home where she would visit him every day until he passed away. I really don’t know that much about Lucky at all; I know he was buried with his wife whom Grandma was good friends with and I know he was a good person but I don’t even know what he died from, honestly. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who’s still alive who I could ask.
My grandmother was always in my childhood. She was my second mother. My parents split when I was young which meant Mom needed to work, so my sister and I would take the elementary school bus home to Grandma’s house where she would have hot dinner waiting for us. We had a neighborhood of friends where she lived along with all the yummy food we ever wanted, taped recordings of shows she knew we loved to watch, and a house FULL of what we considered artifacts and play things. (She considered them antiques). We would play dress up with her vintage clothes and jewelry, would smudge all her picture frames with our sticky fingers, and get lost in her garage which was dangerously packed full to an organized-hoarder’s intensity. It was my playground and world of wonders.
After my mom remarried, we moved to another part of Tampa, 30 minutes away. My grandmother would still make the drive everyday to come over and either cook, clean, babysit, run errands or launder clothing that weren’t hers. She was my mom’s best friend, helper, personal assistant and confidant. She was always there to please or to appease. If I mentioned how much I liked a certain kind of pizza, there would be two boxes of it waiting for me when I got home from school. She would cut out newspaper clippings for me; buy Archie & Jughead comic books when I was obsessed with them; surprise me with cookies & pies; and lay down next to me before I went to sleep despite having an uncomfortable twin size bed.
The first signs of dementia came when she got into a car accident by becoming disoriented during a U-Turn and started driving against traffic. She wasn’t hurt physically but saw a doctor anyway who told her she had a small stroke. She didn’t drive again after that.
We had to move her to an apartment that was closer to us so that we could look out for her better. The moving process was extremely painful. The home she had inhabited for 10 or more years was packed to the brim with things that she considered indispensible but that my mom and I considered just last week’s newspaper. I wouldn’t consider her a hoarder just as anyone else wouldn’t call someone who grew up through The Great Depression a hoarder. That generation learned that everything had value because it was better than nothing. Cleaning her garage was the most I ever saw her and mom fight. It was at this point that I saw her personality start to change which the doctor had warned us about.
She would become paranoid and angry very quickly, as anyone would whose world is telling them they’re wrong. She would ask the same question every 3 minutes for an hour and still not be satisfied with the answer. We were patient with her as much as we could be but I could see mom’s frustration teeter at the surface on occasions. She just wanted her mom back. I think Grandma felt she was being bombarded, like if my whole family was telling her that she was wrong, I think she felt defenseless and ganged up on. At a certain point in time I just started agreeing with everything she was saying because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings or cause her anymore sadness.
It was around this time that we started having drama with the remotes. We both had the same TV remotes, our house and hers, and when she came over she would always think that her remote was at our house instead of thinking that there were 2 copies of it. So she’d sometimes put that remote in her ‘pocketbook’ and go home with it! We’d drop her off only to turn around again to get our remote back. One time she got so angry at my stepdad for disagreeing with her over the remotes that she threw one at his head.
This lasted for a couple years. It wasn’t until we moved her into a retirement community that we started to see improvements. She started to accept that she had dementia. Though she still had paranoid tendencies, like leaving powder on the floor inside her door to indicate if people had been walking there, she was more willing to believe us when she asked us questions or if we told her she was mistaken. If we corrected something that she said, she would just say OK and smile. She seemed happier and not so panicked. She also had many friends at the retirement community that probably helped her sanity, versus only relying on us to get her out of the apartment and for entertainment. It was like this for another year or so before her physical health started to retreat.
In just under 2 months, my grandmother’s health plummeted from independency to assisted breathing. We spent her 80th birthday with her in the hospital, when she was still lucid. Jack and Jerry drove down from Ohio to spend it with us. My mother purchased balloons, flowers, presents and a cake and she made it feel cozy and serene. We sang and laughed and kissed and hugged each other and in that moment of relief we were able to forget that the reason we were there was to say goodbye.
Seeing her on her deathbed was shocking. She was a different color and hollowed out. She was completely unresponsive and the nurses were just waiting for it to end naturally. I didn’t know how to react, and in response to this sight, I became stolid. My mother was touching her and hugging her and telling her that it was okay to leave but I wasn’t sure why; it seemed like she had already gone. I could see that my mom wanted me to have an emotional response, like her, and I wanted to very badly but I just didn’t feel it would make any difference. I thought of her story when she was a child getting an emergency appendicitis and seeing angels above her hospital bed. I hoped she felt as comforted leaving, and not in pain.
I wish so badly that I would’ve asked my grandmother more questions about her life; I wish I would’ve known her now that I am an adult. All those hours playing Rummy together could’ve included learning more about her, and in turn, more about my family and me. To be quite honest, I tried writing this conclusion over and over again and I still cannot come up with 3 sentences that could sum her up. And I’m glad I don’t, actually, because a meaningful complex person should not be concluded; she shouldn’t be briefed. Each story above sheds a different light on her- she was rebellious, brave, a survivor, in love, a party doll, a wonderful mother and grandmother, a silent matriarch, helpful and necessary to my childhood, a woman of faith, and one of the greatest examples I could have ever observed. Rest in Peace.
*I tried to find a good audio clip of all my favorite songs this month but for some, YouTube was the only original I could find. Listen to the YouTube videos with your eyes closed first so that you can form your own opinion of the song without letting the artist’s vision dictate yours. Then watch but you might find them unfavorable. (My disclaimer, bitches).
Marvin Gaye- Sunny (Mercury Edit II)
Flume- Left Alone ft Chet Faker
The Rubens- My Gun
Wild Child- The Escape
Damien Rice- The Blower’s Daughter
How It Ended- The Drums
The Beta Band- Squares
Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Zero
Local Natives- Breakers
LCD Soundsystem- New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down
Original Publication: Charged Magazine 3/4/2011
Never before moving from the “Sunshine State” Florida did I realize how much I depended on good weather to motivate me. I’d always believed that optimism and happiness came from within, but I am here to tell you that this is only half true. You WILL notice disastrous effects if moving to an area with less average sunshine than from where you came from. Atlanta gets a relatively median amount of sunshine per year (compare Atlanta GA at ~217 days; Tampa FL at ~244 days; Seattle WA at ~164 days) but the pitiful winter here harbors few sunny days. Gray skies can last for 3 days straight, the harsh cold wind is relentless, and February seems like the longest month of the year despite having the least amount of days.
What bugs me is that threatening clouds could hover over the city for days but never DO ANYTHING. At least in Florida, when clouds come, they produce rain, thunder and lightning for an hour then get the hell out and the ordeal is over. But here, when the weather wants to be gloomy, it’s taking you down too. It never helps when my family, still residing in Florida, tells me they’ve taken the boat out every weekend since February 1st.
It’s amazing how the weather can be a source of depression. I’m sure you’ve heard of seasonal depression, which is technically called Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you haven’t, it is a type of depression that occurs when bright light and sunshine is limited, most often during the winter months. Sunshine is the obvious treatment for the disorder but just how effective is sunshine? Especially when every dermatologist and health magazine advises you to block the sun?
A sunny day does more than just boost your mood. Studies have shown that it also increases levels of natural antidepressant in the brain. It produces more of the mood-lifting chemical serotonin on sunny days than on darker days. This is regardless of the season. Not only are serotonin levels higher on bright days than on overcast ones, but the rate of serotonin production is directly related to the duration of bright sunlight. No other atmospheric conditions are related to serotonin levels (article from WebMD Health News).
When sunlight interacts with our skin, Vitamin D is produced through photochemical reactions. Of course, prolonged UV exposure can be harmful for your skin, but some exposure is extremely beneficial. (DO: Be active in sunlight when possible, with at least 25 SPF on. DO NOT: Lay by the beach all day without lotion). Vitamin D works together with calcium to build strong bones and maintain bone strength. It also has a preventative effect for some cancers including colon, breast, ovarian and prostate. A deficiency in Vitamin D is linked to these types of cancer as well as to depression, lowered immunity, osteoporosis, and arthritis.
You might have been aware that sunshine was positive for you, but here are some fun facts that maybe you didn’t know:
- According to Healthkicker, people tend to buy more lottery tickets on cloudy days because weather-induced bad moods deplete self control, making us vulnerable to temptation. (Ladies, think Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pint intakes – were those ever on bright sunny days?)
- People use more alcohol, coffee, tobacco and chocolate when there’s less sunshine because they feel the need to compensate artificially as means to elevating their mood.
- Getting a daily dose of sunshine increases your number of white blood cells, which in turn enhances your immune system, stated by Natural Health Restored.
- Sunshine encourages healthy circulation by also stimulating the production of red blood cells, which increases the amount of oxygen in your blood.
- A study performed at the University of Michigan proved that sunshine is strongly correlated with daily stock returns. Stocks traded on sunny days yielded nearly 25% more money than those traded during cloudy periods. Psychologists attribute this to people’s tendency to view situations more optimistically when it’s sunny, and less likely to scrutinize an investment they might cast aside when feeling grumpy.
March is only a few weeks away, which means warmer weather is coming. Besides the fact that spring is my favorite season, I am SO excited to shed my layers of fuzzy clothes and to enjoy Atlanta’s parks again. When the time comes, do yourself a favor and GET OUT of the library, frolic in the daylight like a fool high on Vitamin D and always wear some sunscreen!
In the spirit of things:
I’m not someone who can see one person’s trash as my potential treasure. Those who can are extremely creative and visual, and I am jealous of their thrifty ways. They see a fully-sequined shoulder-padded tuxedo jacket, buy it for $2.75, maybe fix it up a bit, and pair it with something in their closet that I otherwise would’ve thought only paired with boring jeans. Or they see an old wheelbarrow wheel and twiddle it into a coffee table that could be featured in Elle Decor. Point being, those crafty fellows ALWAYS go to flea markets to find their little muses. So, a friend and I went to a flea market recently to try and find some brilliant sources of inspiration but unfortunately (and not surprisingly) we came up short. Apparently she’s not too good at ‘gently-used’ either. This trip did give me a chance to use my new lens with a tiny f-stop that lets me shoot macro pics like it’s no one’s business. Voila:
I’m often complimented on my apartment decor and I attribute this mainly to the various flower sets that unexpectedly brighten up the place. I’ve never thought that a green hydrangea could make such a large difference in a big space, but thanks to my Elle Decor Magazine subscriptions for ideas and their consistent use of colorful hydrangeas, I’ve caught on to apartment florals. Here is my guide to apartment florals.
1) Coffee Table- If eyes are drawn to the center of your living room, then your coffee table should be visually appealing- colorful, bright and textured. I’ve placed some of my favorite coffee table reads in little stacks in a circle around the coffee table, each pointing to the center. I found a silver vase that matches my exposed grey ceilings to house four bright green hydrangeas, which lies in the center and to which my books subtly form around.
2) Blank Wall Space. If you can’t paint your walls, trick the eye with florals. These are on top of my kitchen bar where it solves the too-skinny-of-a-wall-to-put-a-picture-on dilemma.
3) Geometric Surprises. The vases that hold interesting greenery are just as important as the main show. My television in the family room was too tall to hang a picture behind it but too short to take up the large white wall behind it. I found a long skinny vase at Z-Gallery to put beside the television, then found some equally-as-long greenery and a brown complimentary feather to fit the vase perfectly. It helps break up the large white wall space.
4) Bathroom Glamour. I have a lavender theme in my bathroom because I love the smell so much- lavender towels, lavender-striped rugs, and lavender soap. It was only natural to put lavender-colored hydrangeas as the centerpiece of my bathroom counter top.
5) Working with what you got. Above my toilet, there is a towel rack that is too close to the toilet to actually hang any towels and too far away from the sink for visitors to walk over and use any hand towels hanging on it. So I saw another opportunity for aromatic flowers. I used a little tray from Ikea, hanging wire, and dried lavender flowers to make a hanging flower pot.
6) Bedside Tables. Against my black bedroom furniture, nothing looks better than a bright green hydrangea in a simple geometrically-pleasing white vase. Place this on top of a stack of worn novels and you’ve got the essence of home right next to your head every morning!
7) Surprises Surprises. Any little blank space that needs filling would be the perfect opportunity for tiny accent flowers. This jewelry silhouette looked lonely by itself on top of this shelf, so I placed a few soft-colored spring flowers in a plain vase and called it a day.
8) Don’t be afraid to get artsy-fartsy. My bedroom has very bold colors already. I have two beautiful paintings hanging above my bed (which you can see in the mirror’s reflection) that provide enough busyness to the room already. On the other side of the room, however, was a boring old plain black dresser with just a mirror on top. I needed something to tie in the paintings and to make the room more cohesive. So I bought a vase that was the same color as one of the brush strokes in the painting, and filled it with the most spunky filling I could find. This also satisfies the geometrically pleasing rule since the adornments are the same height as the mirror.
Well that is pretty much it for my guide to apartment florals. The best advice I can give is to try a large number of combinations of arrangements AFTER you’ve set your furniture in place so you don’t go crazy with options- to see what looks best where. I know it gets tiring after a while, and your vision will be close to what you want a frustrating number of times, but I promise the AHA THAT”S IT moment will happen! Good luck.
Governor Cuomo of New York is a smart guy. According to the New York Times, he is proposing a $400 million housing purchase program to “purchase homes wrecked by Hurricane Sandy, have them demolished and then preserve the flood-prone land permanently, as undeveloped coastline.” (The article can be found here).
Cuomo is not only acknowledging that there’s climate change but that the ‘change’ part is happening now and preventative measures need to be taken. Especially for the developed shorelines of the northeast. Those people have been battered by storm surges and the possibility of flooding will only get worse with time.
Termed ’50-year storms,’ which is a phrase used to mean storms that hit once every 50 years (and is basically a measure of intensity), are now becoming 25-year storms. Flooding events are more frequent and more intense. To rebuild land on the outer edges of Manhattan and Long Island, where homes were damaged by waves or consequent fires and such, would be unwise and ignorant. Even for those people who still associate ‘climate change’ with some political hoax and who do not want to believe it is happening cannot ignore the damage done by Hurricane Sandy and cannot think it won’t happen again.
I am empathetic to those who lost their homes to the hurricane and hope they will take Gov. Cuomo’s buyout and move to a location that will give them less heartache and worry. On another note, coming from someone whose hometown is on the West Florida coast, we’re next. It is amazing how many hurricanes have slipped by, including Katrina and Charles (which destroyed Punta Gorda right south of Tampa) instead of targeting us in Tampa. We have NO flood prevention system in place. Our most beautiful historic homes sit right on the edge of the water completely vulnerable. Being as ‘Bayshore Blvd’ was always the waterfront property I wanted to live on as a successful adult, I’ve had to come to the slow painful realization that I could never live there without serious risks. Those properties are a ticking ‘wave’ bomb, if you will, and the probability of a damaging flood is too high.
Rotterdam, Netherlands and other cities across the world are realizing their chances of damaging storm surges and have taken precautions already. The picture second below is in the port of Rotterdam and the white ‘arms’ off to the side will slide into the port when storm surges threaten the coast to prevent a flood. Something similar is under construction in Venice, Italy and should be done soon albeit financial issues. Gov. Cuomo is taking the first steps (helpful evacuation) to also engineer a structure to prevent further flood damage. Unfortunately, it would be very difficult to do the same thing in Florida because we’re talking about over a thousand miles of shoreline (versus ~130 miles for New York). California has ~800 miles of shoreline and, like Florida, is nearly impossible to protect without building giant sandbar sponges around the perimeters of the state. There is much room for innovation regarding those two coastlines but unfortunately steps will not be taken until there is horrible damage for them too.
It is for this reason that I support Gov. Cuomo’s decision to face climate change head on and his ability to take the uncomfortable first steps in the US of saying we’re just as pervious as anywhere else.
Original Publication: Charged Magazine 10/16/12
It seems like every other day, a friend of mine declares a newfound dedication to the Paleo Diet. Nicknamed the “Caveman Diet,” Paleo is this season’s slimmer, fitter (but just as raw) Atkins diet. I first learned about the elusive Paleo from my dedicated Cross-Fitter friend after asking her for an afternoon snack. I fully expected some Goldfish or hummus-like options but my friend looked carefully in her fridge and gave me a choice between freshly-watered lettuce or coconut flakes. Apparently my disturbed look alluded to what I was thinking (when did you start hating your taste buds?) because she then confessed to me that she started this Paleo Diet. She explained how she stopped eating bread, to which I replied “Dear God,” and went on to describe her new enlightened Paleo lifestyle.
The Paleo diet theoretically takes us back to our ‘caveman’ days when we hunted rodents with rocks and scurried for nuts and berries. Protein heavy; processed foods are out of the question; dairy is for infants; and sugar is the devil. I’m not sure how the Paleo people know this, but apparently cavemen never ate any grains whatsoever, so neither can my friend now. She carries wild canned tuna in her purse, munches on dried jerky meat from a bag fit for an astronaut (right picture), and mumbles about bacon all the time.
Shocked at the idea that someone couldn’t indulge in croissants, muffins, or baguettes with chunks of melted brie, I left my friend’s place horrified. I thought of the possibility that lobbyists for the meat industry were behind the whole conspiracy and hated wheat with a passion. I needed to find out for myself. What’s the health benefit behind this fad? Is there any? How has this pandemic spread to several of my friends already? Will my love of carbs be strong enough to fight the Paleo takeover?
The premise behind the ‘Paleolithic’ eating is that humans should only eat what we’ve been genetically adapted for. For 2.5 million years, the length of the Paleolithic Era, our human ancestors were just a bunch of fit muscular naked hunters-and-gatherers. Human diets changed 10,000 years ago when agriculture was developed, but our 2.5-million-year-old genetics did not change the way we digested food. Proponents of Paleo blame ‘Industrial Era’ food such as beans, dairy, alcohol and salt for obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. However, I could not find any known cardiovascular benefits to becoming caveman again. There IS an increased risk of higher cholesterol because of the increased meat intake, so Paleo might not be a good idea if you have high cholesterol already.
Paleo basically hates carbohydrates. They attribute carbohydrates to high blood sugar, insulin resistance and eventual morbid obesity. Doug McGuff, MD and proponent of the Paleo diet, broke it down like this (with perhaps a few more sophisticated explanations):
Paleo says that in this metabolic state, consuming high fructose corn syrup, sugar, or fructose of any kind will amplify these effects. The only way to reverse this is with high intensity exercise.
In theory, I’d say this Paleo diet sounds good. But all diets sound good in theory until you’re hungry. Examples- a few of my Paleo zombie comrades have cheated on a few occasions which they don’t want to admit. They’ll crave a banana nut muffin all week and allow a bite on an upcoming weekend. The pizza or cookie monster inside of them might emerge at 3 AM on a Saturday night. They’ve also ordered light spring salads at dinner only to reach for my deep-fried chicken finger basket after they’ve digested their lettuce in 4 minutes flat. This worries me. I do have to say, my friends look extremely fit and healthy, and probably the best looking I’ve seen them in the last 6 years I’ve known them. So something is working. It could be the strenuous Cross-Fit workouts though.
I’m very cautious about new hip diets so even after my research I was still not convinced I could get on board with the
I HATE CARBS Movement Paleo diet. I needed to do some field research. Meandering through the bookstore, I came across a Paleo Recipe Book and immediately started perusing through the pages. The recipes looked pretty delicious so I snapped 18 pictures from my iPhone when no one was looking (don’t judge, I’m on school loans) and dashed from the aisle like a bandit. I thought cooking one of the recipes would really make up my mind.
I decided to conjure up some balsamic braised short ribs with a carrot puree and frisee parsley salad. I wasn’t sure what to expect but, I have to say, it was damn good (pictured right). I started to think maybe I could ‘have Paleo and eat it too’….but only on Sundays, and with friends who could split the grocery cost with me.
All in all, I might consider going temporarily Paleo if I want to shed a few pounds but I’m gonna stick to my own health theory which is ‘everything in moderation.’ I don’t know about you, but I can’t get used to having my milk and cookies without either milk or cookies. Plus diets that completely eliminate certain food groups are difficult to follow and can get very pricey. If anything, I believe cutting red meats or the Weight Watchers diet are the best ways to go. What diet could you get on board with?