Friday, July 6, 2018

Remembering a hero for our time



     Don’t get caught without a Kleenex while watching “Won’t You be my Neighbor?”  I think a lot of my seatmates at the theatre were in the same boat as me rummaging through their pockets for something to shed a tear or two for pure nostalgia’s sake. 
    I will go out on a limb and rate it one of the best movies of the entire year. 


     The minute the familiar theme song came on and Mister Rogers walked through the door on the giant movie screen, the floodgates opened. Memories of my daughter growing up glued to Sesame Street – that was her favorite show being a lively kid – where numbers and letters were taught in a bouncy way, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the quieter series dealing with feelings in a sensible manner, took me bunny hopping down a trail of reminiscence. 

     It’s good to sit with your feelings –happy or sad - and not push them away.

     I had much to process, and I would suspect the rest of the audience did, too. If we could have sat around after the show and related our own special Mister Rogers’ moments, I believe we would have gone from strangers to neighbors in no time flat.  Mister Rogers would have liked that, too. 
      The movie skillfully used old footage telling a narrative applicable to contemporary society. Truth, honesty and love were the themes of Fred Rogers’ on and off-air ministry – he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. However, today’s device-oriented generation might find it difficult settling in to his gentle, slower pace for relating to life’s complexities. 
     Morgan Neville’s documentary shared the public Mister Rogers more than his private life. I always wondered about a Mrs. Rogers, and she appeared with their two sons throughout explaining bits and pieces. 




     One afternoon I recall my daughter telling me to “leave the room because I am talking to Mister Rogers.”  Her eyes were red-rimmed from crying and tears were streaming down her face. 
    The day before my daughter had done a real no-no when a younger child and her mother came to visit. The girls went to play in her bedroom. At one point it got very quiet and I became suspicious. I went down the hall, opened the door to discover my daughter with scissors in her hand and locks of blond hair all over the floor. Both girls stood frozen. Suddenly the little guest flew out into the living room escaping from a dreadful ordeal and into her mother’s arms.  Her hair was chopped off in a ragged mess. 
     How does a parent deal with that? It was a touchy situation.

      Mister Rogers came to the rescue. He taught the children of the late 1960s to the early years of this decade how to navigate some of the more difficult parts of life.  I don’t know how it was resolved in her mind, but my daughter came upstairs in better shape than previously. She and I made an uncomfortable visit to the friend’s house to express her sorrow soon after. 

     Thinking back, I would often sit in the corner of the living room soaking in Mister Rogers’ advice, too. I was going through a rough patch finding my way.
    Although he zipped up his sweater to be more informal, Mister Rogers’ kept his tie intact with gentle formality. He took the responsibility of rolemodeling seriously with his puppet alter egos. That’s his legacy.  
     He’ll forever be Mister Rogers - never Fred Rogers - no matter how grown up we think we’ve become.
      


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Homeland Security clears passport issues



     AND ONE MORE THING… is a running social commentary on a wide variety of subjects. Occasionally there is a story that is open-ended. This week I want to tie together loose ends. 
    Whatever happened to my travel frustrations?



    If you recall, back in December 2017 I wrote a column, “Searching for Answers to a Travel Nightmare,” about my hassles at airport TSA lines and customs points all over the world.
     I decided that I was going to tackle my problem starting with Homeland Security. 
    It’s hard work advocating when it’s on your own behalf.       
    People misunderstand your intentions, too.  I heard about it from readers after the column went online.
     Someone criticized me for whining too much. I shouldn’t single myself out as special when national security is at stake. 
     A second person reminded me that there are bigger fish to fry. Apparently, he believed that I needed a life and baited me for an answer. He doesn’t know much about me from that comment.
     Another said that I must obey the laws like any other citizen. 
     On the other hand, I did have supporters who agreed with me and told me that if they were in my place, they might have quit flying all together. That’s going to the other extreme. 
    “Be persistent” was the best piece of advice I received, and it was from another LCN columnist. 
     I started sorting things out. I went to Homeland Security’s website, and after scrolling down, I found the forms. No government agency makes that task easy as if it expects you to get frustrated and quit before you start.
    After filling out detailed boxes about specific conversations with customs officials going back five years as best as I could remember, I sent the packet away. There was no way of telling if my answers would be sufficient. I had never kept a written log of my problems like a truly efficient person since I never dreamed it would come to this point.
     Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much. 
     6 weeks later I had a reply letter from HS in its best legalize – I read it over 3 times for comprehension - informing me that they had noted my issues and would make the necessary adjustments on my passport.  HS neither denied, nor confirmed anything. I had a redress number, too, to use with future airline reservations.
     There was something to my concerns and I wasn’t exaggerating.
     I have been on the African continent this spring traveling back and forth between four countries. I purchased visas on the spot using crisp American dollars and I endured hideously slow lines in ineffective air conditioning. 
     Officials carefully read every little detail about my travel history standing tall with their full authority to make or break my admittance. They looked back and forth between my documents on the computer – most of the time the system was down - and me. 
     Each time my passport was stamped with a firm welcoming declaration, I could take my mind off the technicalities of travel and onto the real reasons for my visit.
     By making it through each point of entry no differently than any other American citizen, I had achieved my goal.
     I can let my breath out now. My record has been cleared and my credentials are intact. 
     
     



Sunday, June 17, 2018

Reviews are promising

Pity Becomes You

Order online @Amazon in paper and Kindle versions.
Check the reviews coming in, too...awesome



How to get yourself back on track




     Getting stuck. Not a single one of us is exempt. 
     That thought occurred to me the other day when I reached into my pocket and found a crumpled slip of paper with a Chinese fortune. 
     “You’re stuck in a rut.”
    Chinese proverbs appear to be timeless. 
     By the way, for you social media buffs, see what #stuckinarut conversations are trending, 
     Don’t feel defeated. Look on the bright side. 
     Your inner self is telling you, “Shake things up a bit. Get off the treadmill.” 
     Which reminds me, did I ever write a column about the missing hamster that miraculously turned up days later – thank goodness - in the basement during a Mr. Roger’s kiddie television show?  
     Here’s a dose of advice from someone who has lived a few years and been stuck in numerous ruts along the journey. 

     1. Realize that you are stuck.  
     Until you recognize that important fact, you are going nowhere. 
     Often it is your own adult children that question you. 
     Oh, I’ve had that happen, and I sputtered a very unconvincing reply like I’d been caught red-handed in the cookie jar and needed to talk my way out. That was role-reversal in its finest hour. 
     

     2. Question yourself. 
     What is the worst thing than can happen if you do make a change? 
     Do you have all the right motives? Is this the right timing – if there ever is the right one? 
     Then again, change for change’s sake, is not the best way either. 
      Often, it is wise to stay the course. 
     Whatever way works – lists, a mental debate with yourself – exert the brainpower and get it out in the open. 

     3. Come up with an action plan.
    Successfulleaders usually have a plan before they launch their project. They have it down to the minor details and ask trusted individuals for their opinions.
     Use that same technique. 
     Beware: Don’t overkill, though. You can get stuck in the thinking process and never move forward. You and I know people who never “launch” and only dream big. 

     4. Take it a little at a time. 
    Easy does it, the old saying goes. Please, don’t expect miracles. 
     After all, look how long you were engaged in the first place. Besides, anything worth doing takes a lot of effort. 
     There will be steps forward, and steps backward. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

     5. Thank all those who helped you, and don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back, too.
Share your gratitude in appreciation for someone’s wisdom. They might never know otherwise.
As for yourself, you are smarter than you think, and you deserve a standing ovation. 

6.  Move forward.
     Don’t second-guess yourself. Make the decision and do not look back and wish you hadn’t proceeded with your plan.  
     When I signed the paperwork for retirement - it was an option I had to make in two weeks – 3 of us went on a hike on the Genesee Valley Greenway celebrating and I never revisited my choice.    
     Enjoy the results of your new actions. 
     
       



     

     


  
       








  
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Come join me as I introduce my first novel


A story unfolds on a plane



    I don’t know why I am writing about a bizarre experience I witnessed on a plane. Perhaps, you had to have been there to find it amusing. Then again, you might decide that it is an example of rude behavior, and scold me for making light of it. 
     People go about life oblivious to those around them. Take that lesson from my column if it suits you. 
     Here’s how the story unfolded and got put back together. 
     On an overnight flight from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand I was seated next to a young gentleman in his twenties who was spotlessly dressed in a shiny black suit with a thin dark tie and a crisp white shirt. 
     We nodded and went about our own business anticipating dinner, our sleep hours and skipping forward a day passing the International Dateline. He was glued to his iPad.
     In the past while in assorted countries, I have seen men in Economy class similarly dressed wearing a uniformly acceptable style for a midlevel businessperson. 
    Compared to the way other people dress for long flights, this gentleman was on the formal side. Even I felt a little grungy in my comfortable, loose outfit seated next to him. I had been on planes all day getting to the West Coast.  
     After our meal was served, I hopped up from my aisle seat and went to the lavatory to brush my teeth and do what I could to mentally prepare myself for a few hours of shuteye. When I returned back, my seatmate wanted out. He reached into the overhead compartment, opened his suitcase and took out a plastic packing cube. He reverently carried it flat in both arms to the lavatory like a valuable object that couldn’t get harmed. 
     I walked the aisle to stretch my legs and sat in my seat killing time before he returned. Then I could I buckle in, pull up my blanket and close my eyes. He didn’t appear to be the kind of person who would nudge me every hour or so to get up throughout the night. 
     I waited. And waited. I glanced up a head to the lavatory and noticed a line up of people knocking on the door. It was rush hour. Patience was running thin. A flight attendant was called, and she banged on the door. No luck. 
     When the flight attendant passed my row I pointed to the empty seat next to me, and she thanked me. Once in awhile a kid fiddles with the latch and it locks when they leave she told me. Not in this case. 
      Eventually, and I mean eventually, my seatmate came out of the lavatory in a gray short sleeve t-shirt, baggy pajama bottoms with little gold designs and floppy slippers. 
     My rough guesstimate of the time was twenty-five minutes in and out, and I’m not exaggerating.
     He looked at the line-up of restless travelers, but was unaware that he had overextended his stay. In fact, he nodded ever so politely to each one. I felt others were holding back out of courtesy, too. There could have been an international situation here. 
     People are not mindful of the space they share with others.  
     He carefully opened the overhead bin, placed his packing cube into his suitcase and came to his seat. 
     I thought to myself that if that suit stays folded and comes out unscathed, then my seatmate is a testimony for one of the big travel outfits pushing plastic cubes. 
     After eight hours of darkness, light began showing through the cracks in the window slits, and I got up to do my usual morning routine hoping to beat the line. I did. 
     Next up came my seatmate and he performed the entire routine in reverse. The line up of folks waited to take care of nature’s urgent needs was somewhat more restless.
     When he walked back up to our row he was immaculately groomed down to the finest detail including a whiff of aftershave a bit overpowering the area.  He was in his suit and dress shoes once again. 
     He put the cube back into his suitcase and closed the overhead bin.
     He was a neat freak, and I’ll hand him that.
     Honestly, I cracked up laughing under my breath. 
     Perhaps he was dashing off the plane directly into an important meeting that could shape his destiny well into the present century. 
     I can imagine all I want. The scene would fit into a paragraph or two at one point or another in the future. Not like other writers who journal all these threads right at the moment, I remember them in my head.
     I had to share this unfolding story with someone right away. It was too priceless to let go.
     My friend was sitting a couple rows a head of me, and I went up to her and asked if she had witnessed this young man’s actions during the past fifteen hours. She hadn’t seen a thing. She did say with her usual dry wit that she was glad that I found something to be amused over. Her seatmate had snored all night and she wasn’t in the brightest of moods without her rest. I feared that we would be having a long day with many cups of coffee together.
     Social media and technology have made us into a society often insensitive to others in face-to-face situations. We hold up our devices and fail to see the world passing in front of us unless someone gets in our way. 
     
     

     

      

Friday, April 27, 2018

One thing leads to another

    

      Late Thursday afternoon my husband and I sat out on our front porch eating fresh corn on the cob.
     There. I grabbed your attention. 
      No, it really didn’t happen last week. 
     The part about eating corn did; yesterday it drew me back into a pleasant memory from last summer. 
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     There’s no better time to write about warm weather than when you and I are getting restless for an extended seasonal change that will remain more than a 30-minute spotting of sunlight if you are lucky enough to catch it.
     Like all respectable and well-bred Western New Yorkers, you know that a day over 90 degrees is a one-of-a kind gem. You will do anything to hang on to every single second. The more you can spend outside in the summertime, the happier your frame of mind index rises on the celebration scale.



     I don’t recall the rest of the meal, although I would suspect the meat or fish was off the grill and the salad greens came from our porch garden containers. A colorful array of food literally popped off the plate with a distinct wholesomeness. That’s right first-class living. 
     The sun wouldn’t set for 3 more hours and the laziness of the day seeped into our bones gladly interrupted from the energetic two boys down the road and their mother stopping by for a visit. The boys much preferred keeping active and riding their bikes on our asphalt driveway, while their mom geared down for a bit of catching-up with us. 
     Cars and trucks drove by beeping their horns reminded us that rural living is not as isolating as you might believe. Folks like their space, but when push comes to shove, they are there for one another. Our neighborhood is like that.
     Breaking the continuity of routine is healthy for the soul, and it revitalizes the possibilities for tomorrow – hopefully, a repeat of the weather conditions along with fresh salads and corn.



     Let’s get back to yesterday’s meal. 
     My husband rummaged around in the freezer and pulled a quart baggie of corn out of the freezer.  He’s the one in charge of rotating its contents routinely, and suggested that we add it to the beef stew for additional flavor. 
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     Suddenly, my ears perked up. 
     “Do you remember when we had corn on the cob in August and we had one leftover ear that you chopped up?” 
     My husband didn’t.
      Normally, we cook only what we can eat. If we do have leftovers, we’ll take advantage of them for a second meal. 
     I could visualize the whole corn on the cob scene as clear as day.  There is no reason why it came to the top of my brain when it did. Frankly, if you are in my age group, you are grateful you remember anything whatsoever of remote significance let alone what you ate 8 months ago. Ask me where I laid my car keys a couple hours ago…you get my drift. 
     While I cleared off the plates in the kitchen, he cut up the corn. One cold snowy day in winter we would pull this baggie out of the freezer and be thankful that we had spared a couple extra minutes back in the summer. 
     Those of you who do major canning or freezing understand exactly. All the hard work pays off year round, especially on a night when you are desperate for a meal and don’t want to go the route of fast food.
     Now my husband is the corn fanatic of the two of us, and he waits patiently for the signs on the highway to go up near our local vegetable stand. 
     I call it a summer ritual, and those announcements drive our lives with traditions like chicken barbeques and dandelions. 



      Similar to you, we have our preferred farm place – we love Rauber’s farm on Route 63 in Wayland - and we hardly deviate. If we do, we are right back there for the bulk of the season. They produce an excellent corn crop and are Johnny-on-the-spot with service when customers pull up to the stand. Besides, its location is convenient. 
         Local is best. When you take full advantage of what is offered agriculturally, you appreciate where you reside. 
     When we first married my husband would polish off a half dozen ears at a sitting, but now that’s not the case. 
     Like penning a quality piece of writing, less is often better. 
     Growing up on Eastern Long Island, selected farms were experimenting with Cornell’s bread and butter varieties. That was my favorite and I think I was most attracted to the unusual pattern of white and yellows. I could sink my teeth into juicy kernels and fill my belly almost forgetting to save room for clams.
      Something stuck in my noggin – or a tidbit of corn in my teeth - that connected to the little baggie of frozen corn. I joked to my husband that I could write an entire 900-word column on the topic if I so desired; furthermore, it wouldn’t be corny. Folks would relate to my piece and its few kernels of wisdom.
     He laughed, and knew I already was composing in my head while walking from room to room hunting for the car keys. For the record, they turned up in plain sight dangling from the front door lock.
     Like anything else, one thing leads to another and another. 
     
    


Friday, April 20, 2018

Local writer/blogger pens first fiction book



     After a lifetime of writing non-fiction, Kay Thomas has written her first novel, Pity Becomes You. It is the story of a woman facing dementia who has never dealt with the reality of life in the first place. Unfortunately the truth of who she is finds her in the end. 

     Parts of the novel are told from other people’s perspectives giving readers a sense of the scope of Vera’s problems. There is a story within the story layered and intertwined. Perhaps, there is a third story, too, reaching out for readers to discover.

 is found on Amazon in paperback and e book.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Mystery of the home invasion






     The grown-ups failed to investigate why the cat bowl was empty. It happened several days in a row.
    When the big people went to the kitchen the first thing each morning, no light bulbs went off in their heads.
     Something was very, very wrong.
     When the full story came out in the feline social media world, it was posted that the grown-ups in charge had bombed at detective methodology 101. They were put to shame with tweets and hashtags paws down condemning their inexcusable laxness.
     All those dozens of mysteries that the grown-ups had read over the years must not have sunk in to hone their sleuthing skills when decisive action was most needed during an emergency.
     Simply put, animals are predictable. Humans should know when something is not right with their pets and go on alert.



     Dickens, the sole tiger cat and ruler of the grown-ups at this particular house, has a habit. He leaves three to four pellets of dry cat food in his metal bowl as a “just in case measure” whenever he gets low on food. He’s been that way forever since he was collected from the Hornell Humane Society as a 6-week old kitten.
     What was going on?
     Dickens was not gaining weight. His bowl sat cleaned out daily.
     The grown ups never put two-and-two together, and certainly neither of them had a cat’s curiosity. Sorry, I couldn’t help tossing that pun in there.
     A neighboring black cat was in the yard howling during previous weeks and hanging out on the back porch making a general nuisance of himself. The big people tried to “shoo” him away to no avail. A search for his owners came up empty.  
     Dickens has one of those magnetic collars that allow him entrance through his magic “Harry Potter” pet door. He is used to running in quickly and going out at will at all hours of the night. He leaves behind his perceived enemies, and in the country, there are a lot of those critters roaming at night believe you me.
     Little Dickens, as he is often referred, weighing in at nearly12 pounds, is not one to have tons of cat and dog friends. That’s not his nature, and he doesn’t score high on the sociability charts. Most others in the neighborhood have lost interest in him and found other playmates.
     Not this particular black cat. He had a determined streak.
     Animals are opportunists. The black cat obviously had watched Dickens make swift entries and tried himself to get through, but to no avail. Possibly he almost made it on Dickens’ tail before the door slammed shut.
     He banged and rattled. He was a patient one, and finally wriggled at the door probably worn out after 11 years of use. and gained entry at midnight. That’s a perfect time for a black cat, right?
     There was another theory: the black cat also had a magnet collar.
     Dickens’ caregivers didn’t know how many days this had been happening.
     The black cat began coming in and out without a fight from Dickens, a peace-loving boy, who was providing sanctuary instead.
     Meanwhile, the grown ups slept through the home invasions without a notion that extra feet were walking on the carpet down the side hall to the kitchen for nourishment and back outside.
     One of the grown-ups insisted that their house had been compromised. There was an eerie feel about the place. The other grown-up couldn’t believe it was possible, but basically took measures to appease the worrier of the two.
     First, the grown-up put the trail camera in the kitchen aiming at Dickens’ food bowl. The first night Dickens came to his bowl twice. The second two pictures showed a darker cat munching away.
      How could that black cat have gained entrance? Neither of the grown-ups believed what they saw even though every move was recorded as proof.
     Finally, the bigger of the two grown-ups put the trail camera on the inside of the house aiming at the pet door, and set up a ringer to go off with entry. Using a cell phone app, activity could be monitored. The second grown-up got the “willies” at the thought of having a stranger lurking in the house.
     That night with the plan in place, the female of the two grown-ups could hardly sleep. Sure enough, at twelve o’clock the chime went off and the nervous grown-up bolted up in bed.  Low and behold, there was a video on her cell phone of the black cat coming in quietly and walking down the hall like he owned the joint. The one grown-up alerted the other grown-up.  
     Waiting for the perfect moment so as not to scare the cat too much and have a major fight on hand, the unafraid grown-up opened the back door. The cat fled. The scared stiff grown-up huddled in bed under the covers.
     The distressed grown-ups decided to take drastic measures. One installed a brand new pet door. The other informed Dickens that there would be a lock down after dark and he would no longer have freedom for his nightlife.
     The black cat tried to gain entry for a couple more nights, and then gave up. He wasn’t welcome anymore. Word must have gotten out in the neighborhood not to mess with those homeowners.
     Mr. Dickens is nothing worse for the adventure, and he is eating well now that he has the daily rations to himself. He’s calmer the grown-ups suspect, too, and is adjusting to staying inside. The grown-ups feel less threatened, too, by uninvited 4-legged creatures. Life goes on.