Monday, December 19, 2011


Here it is five days before Christmas. Is it time to panic yet?

I just got the last of my cards out. My baking is not done. The online items I ordered have not all arrived. I still need to find stocking stuffers. Not to mention the pile of gifts that still need wrapping.

I saw a commercial for a retailer that stated "Santa has elves. You have Target." Forget Target. Where can I find a few elves?

Santa should branch out into the personal service industry. He could make a fortune. There must be thousands out there like me who see the giant Christmas clock ticking and are using every bit of self-self control available to avoid a nervous breakdown in the middle of Walmart.

Imagine if you could order an elf for the holiday season to do your shopping, wrapping, cleaning and baking. We could spend the days leading up to Christmas drinking eggnog and watching endless reruns of "Miracle on 34th Street." All stress would melt away as we order a tiny person to cook a five-course dinner and kick fellow shoppers in the kneecaps while fighting the crowds for this year's hot item at Toys R Us.

Unfortunately, the odds of finding elves to do our bidding is as likely as Santa leaving a maid, a million dollars and a house in the Virgin Islands underneath my Christmas tree. We must face the holiday crunch time alone.

I do, however, have something that Santa does not: children. I am starting to think my 14-year-old son would look good in an apron. I think the time has come to share with them one of the joys of the holiday season--the wonder of manual labor.

Santa may have elves, but I have offspring.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

We Were. . . Penn State

Anyone who has ever set foot inside Beaver Stadium on a football Saturday at Penn State can attest to the fact that the mood is electrifying.

When half of the stadium yells "We Are" while the other half echoes "Penn State!", the atmosphere in Happy Valley is more than the combined efforts of 100,000 plus fans cheering on their team. It is a reflection of the belief these fans hold in their football team and its coach. It is also a statement of pride for the integrity of the university that sponsors them.

Scandal is nothing new to college football. And Penn State certainly is not immune to the pressure that any top-level collegiate team is under to perform at its best and, above all, win.

The difference has been the refusal of its coach and athletic department to bend to that "win at any cost" philosophy. In the past, there have been players who were placed on academic probation, were involved in questionable behaviors on or off campus or have been proven to accept gifts from boosters. They either were suspended or dismissed from the team. There were no attempts to make excuses or circumvent regulations.

The fact is that Penn State Coach Joe Paterno understood something that many others do not: that winning a game at the cost of your integrity is no victory at all.

That philosophy seems to have been lost amidst scandal now that allegations of child molestation have been brought against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky allegedly abused young boys that he "mentored" under the guise of a charity he started for underprivileged young men.

This action in itself is inexcusable. Worse yet is the fact that university officials knew of these accusations. How much they knew is unclear, but their behavior most definitely must come into question. Even Paterno is not unscathed since he reported an incident of abuse witnessed in 2002 by a member of his staff to athletic director Tim Curley.

Granted, Paterno was relaying something second-hand and had no authority over Sandusky, who had retired several years earlier. But Paterno also knew of his close affiliations with children. Wouldn't you, at the very least, follow up with university officials on the status of the investigation? And why did no one bother to report this incident to authorities?

Curley and Penn State Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, both of whom have been implicated in covering up the scandal, have departed the university. Rumors abound that President Graham Spanier and Paterno himself will be next.

I have been following this story in the press, on Facebook and on Twitter. I can say that, as a Penn State alum, this has rocked us all to the core. No one is defending the actions of the university. No one is placing the blame on the the victims themselves, the police, NCAA regulations, or any of the other nonsense that usually crops up in college sports scandals.

We are upset. We are disheartened. Above all, we all share in the embarrassment brought upon our university. We are demanding justice for the victims.

It is disheartening to know that our beloved Penn State, in which our very alma mater states "may no act of ours bring shame," is affiliated with such a horrible situation.

On behalf of all Penn Staters, I apologize to these young men whose lives have been ruined, possibly at the cost of Penn State's desire to protect its reputation. You deserved better. College athletics deserve better. Above all, those of us who love Penn State--and now mourn the loss of some of that Nittany Lion pride--deserve an explanation.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Words Of Wisdom

Storytelling is an art that preceded that of the written word. Generation after generation has benefited from the wisdom and experiences of their elders.

My family is no different. We enjoy sharing stories and passing our knowledge on to the young. Our experiences, however, are less like words of wisdom and more like some episode you may have seen on the MTV series Jackass.

Nevertheless, when gathered with some good friends following a recent family wedding, we decided that our words of advice could benefit future generations. At the very least, they will lead far less embarrassing lives than their ancestors.

So, in an effort to preserve our family wisdom for posterity, I give you these sage words:

Don't fry bacon naked.

Don't put dishwashing liquid in a dishwasher unless you want a room full of suds.

Make sure you put your car in park when stopping at a drive-thru.

Even if an approaching train is going only five miles per hour, do not cross the tracks in front of it. In spite of what you might think, the train engineer is not waving you across the tracks.

Never clean a coffeemaker by running bleach through it.

Don't clean a fiberglass tub with steel wool.

Do not iron clothes while they are still on your body.

Never get drunk and dance with priests (don't ask).

Do not melt Limburger cheese in a microwave.

Leave bikini waxes to the professionals.

Don't put apple pies on the floor to cool unless you want them decorated with footprints.

Never test a staple gun on your fingers.

Hopefully, our experiences will have a lasting effect on the lives and well-being of future generations. After all, no one wants to go down that great highway of life with their dress tucked up inside their pantyhose. It almost caused an accident.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Stupid Groundhog

Here we are, barely a month past Groundhog Day, when Punxsutawney Phil's shadow did not appear and he declared an early spring was on its way.

Looking out my window, there is a fresh layer of snow on the ground and the temperature is 32 degrees.

I do not wear fur, but at this point I would be willing to make an exception for Phil.

Where is our early spring? Where are the daffodils that are supposed to be peeking up through the ground? Is Phil perhaps getting too old and is eyesight is failing?

Maybe I should cut Phil some slack because he is, after all, just a groundhog. These creatures are better known for digging holes in our yards and running out in front of our cars than for their meteorological prowess.

In the immortal words of Today Show weatherman Al Roker, "What do you expect when you trust a rodent in a hole?"

I often wonder how the tradition of Groundhog Day got started. Who decided that a groundhog's shadow could predict when winter would end? Surely it was not the groundhog himself. Ever watch the Groundhog Day ceremony in Punxsutawney? They drag that poor thing practically kicking and screaming out of box just to check if he casts a reflection on the ground. If you don't like being awakened from a sound sleep, imagine how the groundhog feels.

Perhaps, like us, our ancestors were just grasping at straws looking for some reflief from the long, cold winter days. Some poor, unsuspecting groundhog stuck his head out a hole, looked around and decided it was not worth freezing his behind off to come out of his nice, cozy den. Some farmer probably witnessed this event, and a holiday was born.

So let us give groundhogs everywhere a break and stop blaming them for the extended winter weather. Spring will come in its own time.

Until then, I am going to take Phil's advice. I will be sleeping for the next three weeks. Wake me when spring gets here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Confessions Of A Mother Of A Teenage Boy

I think teenage boys are God's way of testing not only our patience, but also how much we can stomach. You haven't seen "disgusting" until you have removed six moldy, festering bag lunches from a locker.

This is but one of my experiences as the mother of a 13-year-old boy. I am starting to realize that my son is in the running for one of the most disgusting creatures on God's earth.

They ignore the manners you have been teaching them since they were toddlers and prefer instead to amuse themselves with such behaviors as burping and unleashing other bodily functions at the dinner table. They forget to flush toilets. They leave a trail of trash, dirty dishes, clothing and school papers throughout the house.

They also stop talking and prefer instead to mumble incoherently and grunt. I have heard of tribes in Africa that communicate though a series of grunts and clicks. I am considering sending overseas for a translator.

And they lose things. His cell phone was missing for over two months before he finally found it under his bed. The only reason he bothered to look for it was because I refused to get him another one. He is constantly looking for his ipod.

Although we have developed a system of binders with folders, notebeooks and pencils for each of his classes, he refuses to use them. He prefers instead to borrow pencils and paper off everyone from the person sitting next to him to the school custodian. Homework papers are shoved in the bottom of his locker, his backpack, or in the pocket of his jeans. Many are lost or simply never turned in.

Most of the time, my patience with him is at its breaking point. In my weaker moments, I think that mothers who eat their young out there in the animal kingdom may have the right idea.

But then they do something that reminds you that they are, after all, still your "little boy" even though they are now taller than you. The other day as he was walking out the door for the bus, he looked back and shouted, "Love you, Mom!"

So, for now, I will resist from either killing him or grounding him until he is thirty. At least until his grades come out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Enter At Your Own Risk, But Please Bring Chicken Soup

If you visit my house this week, don't be alarmed if you see a big "quarantine" sign on the door.

I am just now recovering from an upper respitory infection. Shannon has a sinus infection. Sean was just diagnosed yesterday with an ear infection. Even two of our cats have colds in their eyes.

Apparently, the First Horeseman of the Apocolypse, Pestilence, has moved into my guest room. Either that or we are living in a giant petri dish.

Somehow Cliff has managed to stay healthy in this biological house of horrors. The dog seems to be doing fine as well, but what do you expect from someone who regularly eats out of the trash can. That dog would probably be immune to the Ebola virus at this point.

In my quest to get everyone healthy, I have spend numerous hours over the past few weeks in doctor's offices and pharmacies. I am even trying some herbal rememdies from a local health food store. I am determined to get everyone well and spend the rest of the winter in good health.

If only I get Pestilence off our couch and pry the television remote from his hand.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year--And Pass Me The Nasal Spray

2011 is upon us--time to start the New Year with a bang.

Unfortunately, mine is starting with a whimper as I have contracted an upper respitory infection. It will also be beginning with a trip to the mall as our puppy ate a hole in the quilt on my bed while my son was "watching" her.

Okay, so we're not off to a stellar opening.

I always find it hard to muster a lot of cheer for the start of a new year because I am a holiday junkie. A new year means the that the wonderful holiday stretch from Thanksgiving through January 1st is over. We now have the long winter laid out ahead before any major holidays appear. I don't count Valentine's Day as a big holiday because the only way I get a box of chocolates is if I buy them myself.

When the kids were young and would become sad when the Christmas tree had to come down, I would remind them that we now have a whole year ahead of us to do all of the fun things we did last year over again. I try to remind myself of that "blank slate" before me that is full of possiblities and promises, not only to do things over but also to do them better.

I am not big on resolutions because when I "resolve" to do something, I always feel terrible when those expectations are not met. Instead, I like to set goals that require a number of steps to reach them. That way, at least accomplishing some of these steps means I'm on my way to achieving that goal.

Over the last two years, my main goal has been to compete in walking races, working my way up to the Crim 10-mile race and hopefully placing in some of them. I'm happy to report that I had three third place finishes last year and placed in the top 15 in my age group in my first 10-mile race. Mission accomplished.

Among my goals for 2011, I have decided to:

-Increase my speed in races to get below a 12-minute mile.
-Take at least one writing class
-Keep better contact with friends, especially those living out-of-state
-Eat more chocolate

As you can tell, I like to throw one in there that is really easy to reach.

No matter what your goals are for 2011, I hope you meet them. May the new year be filled with promise and potential, and may all your expectations come true.

And may you also get to eat lots of chocolate.