The things we treasure

Beautiful Johnny Jump Up

Beautiful Johnny Jump Up

This last assignment in the writing challenge presented just that; a challenge.

I spent two days trying to conjure up a possession that I owned that I would consider a treasure and could not envision a one.

What I did envision as a treasure in my life is not a possession but living, breathing souls who have come into my life over the years that without their presence, care, support and love I would have become a much different person.

Blogger Shaun Duffus, after reading my post entitled, Mixed memories of a place I lived long ago | The Delicious Divas commented, “Your experiences can either make you happy or bitter and miserable. From reading your brief bio, I get a sense that you’re mentally tough”.

Yes, I am mentally tough, but because of the people in my life I have remained a woman with soft corners, an open heart and forgiving nature.

As a young child in Brooklyn a wonderful couple came into my life and, for a few weeks each summer plucked me out of the neighborhood taking me to a place of quiet, beautiful white birch trees, fields of tiny purple and white flowers called Johnny Jump Ups and a tire swing in their back yard.

These trips to the Connecticut countryside with this wonderful couple gave me an opportunity at a very early age to see that life was not only filled run-down tenement buildings, poverty and fear.

They gave me a sense of belonging, safety and love.  These summer vacations led to visits to their city home and a feeling of being part of their family.  These encounters also gave me a sense of hope that if I worked hard and got a good education, I too, could better myself.

One lifelong love I gained from these wonderful people was my love of books.  The room I slept in had a bookcase filled with a wonderful collection of children’s books that I read over and over.  My very favorite was Heidi.  Perhaps I could see myself in Heidi’s shoes even then.  But the story had such a lovely ending it gave me hope that I would have a happy ending too.

Then there was the auntie who, as my mother pushed me out the backdoor of our house, opened the front door to hers and let a rebellious teenager stay until things got better at home.  Her only request of me for this act of kindness was to be good, study hard and, have a forgiving heart about my mother’s on-going attempt have a better life.

I met my auntie when we moved away from the big city to a small town.  As a teenager this was not a positive move.  I was especially sad over the loss of a small gold ring that my mom had given me when I graduated from the eighth grade.  This little ring with two tear drops had a small ruby chip in one tear drop and a diamond chip in the other.  Unfortunately, my mom needed money to pay for transportation to our new home and felt it necessary to hock my ring.

This little ring was very special to me but I understood why my mom felt the move was the best for our family.  But I was still very sad.  My auntie learned about this and surprised me one day with a white gold filigree ring with a beautiful amethyst.   This ring was a prized possession of hers.  A ring that was given to her by her mother and she was passing it on to me.  I was filled with joy because the amethyst was my birthstone.  I loved it.

She was strict but possessed a heart so big it filled the whole house wrapping everyone in her goodness.  I lived there for a year until she succumbed to the ravages of breast cancer.  I have since passed on that ring to one of my girls along with this loving story.  My auntie will live forever in my heart and the hearts of my children.

I saved the pawn shop ticket and when I turned eighteen and left home I returned to Brooklyn in hopes I could find my ring and get it back.  A child’s dream.  The pawn shop was still there but, of course, the ring was long gone.  Only a trace of sadness passed across my face as I looked down at my right hand and saw the ring my auntie gave me.  The sight of the ring made me happy and filled me with memories of my auntie.

Then there are the friends I have made over these many years who have offered me their hearts asking nothing in return but friendship.  I have always had an issue with trust so my friendships are small in number but what I lack in numbers I have in immense caring and support.

I can be away from my friends for a long time but when we are together it is as though we were never apart.

And, then there are my children.  Oh, how do I explain what these wonderful girls have given me over the years?  Until I had children I was a young woman adrift and in search of who I was.  I had no background in a healthy family life, no experience on how to rear children and even less in creating a good home.  But, after my first daughter, Kara was born I learned to focus on someone else and started to mature and learn.  My next two children, Kristine and Jennifer put exclamation marks on that growth.

I made many mistakes as the girls grew up into beautiful women but because of our love for each other their hearts overflow with wonderful memories.

Now I have four wonderful grandchildren who are my heart.  Isn’t amazing how a heart can hold so many people close?

And last, but by no means least, there is the love of my life, my husband Randy who has taught me that there are truly good men in this world.

My life’s experience with men was not a positive one.  The men in my early childhood were alcoholics and abusers.  I could have become fearful, bitter and miserable about my relationships with men and for a time found myself struggling to find a relationship that was built on respect, trust and unconditional love.

But, eventually the glimpses I had of a better world and the beautiful people who entered my life when I needed their intervention the most kept the promise of a better life, friendship and unconditional love alive and I have been able to fight through the hard times and remain a happy person.

Enjoy,

Mary

Writing 101: The Things We Treasure

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Samsung finds its corporate conscience

Fridgeb

Well, we have come full circle with the, now resolved, saga of our defunct refrigerator.

I first wrote about this problem in my post, A foodie without a refrigerator | The Delicious Divas with a follow-up post questioning corporate integrity entitled, A loss of faith in corporate integrity | The Delicious Divas.

Now, I am happy to report that Samsung has finally resolved to refund the full purchase price for our unusable, smelly refrigerator.

But, even this decision did not come easily.  To add insult to injury, the company sent email instructing us to sign an affidavit attesting to the fact that we would not resell the refrigerator, requesting that we remove the serial decal from the product and, if you can believe it, sending along a picture of the electrical cord cut.

I looked at Randy and said, “Really?”  I thought to myself: Sometimes things are so ridiculous that you just have to step back and laugh.  I took a picture of Randy cutting the cord and happily sent it along. The company had no intention of sending anyone to pick up this piece of nonfunctioning debris from our home which is one of the reasons we did not run right out to buy a refrigerator at the beginning of this story.  We wanted to wait until it was resolved because most companies that sell refrigerators will also take away the old ones.

As soon as we received the email that the documentation was acceptable and the refund had been processed, we were off to the store to purchase a brand, spanking new LG stainless steel refrigerator which was delivered the very next day.  What a great, celebratory day, the old, unusable, smelly refrigerator was loaded onto the truck and a beautiful, clean, working  refrigerator took its place in my kitchen.

The very last communication we received from the company was a Samsung Satisfaction Survey from the Samsung Customer Satisfaction Team.  Now close your eyes and imagine what we will say on that survey.  It will not be pretty.

On a personal note, this whole affair has actually made me very sad.  We currently own a Samsung, microwave, stove, dishwasher, phone and computer monitor.  Until this very unsatisfactory treatment from the customer service department, we were happy with our decision to fill our home with Samsung products.  Not anymore!

We are hoping that the results of our survey will be used as an example of what not to do when dealing with good customers.

The good news is that soon enough I will be back in the kitchen whipping up delicious food and sharing tasty recipes with all my wonderful followers.  I am a happy foodie!

Enjoy,

Mary

Writing 101: Serially Found

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To Whom It May Concern

My dear, sweet friends,

As you know, I have been involved in a writing project.  Each day the participants in the writing project are given a topic and a prompt to use as inspiration.  On day fourteen we were to write a letter using a specific word. The prompt: “Pick the nearest book and flip to page 29.  What’s the first word that jumps off the page?  Use this word as your springboard to inspiration”.

After reading the prompt I turned from my computer screen and reached for the first book lying on my desk.  The book I now held in my hand was a book I recently purchased entitled The Woman’s Book of Confidence by Sue Patton Thoele. The book is filled with wonderful meditations for strength and inspiration.

It has been on my desk for a while now and until this prompt came up I had not opened it.  I did as suggested and opened it to page 29 and the first word that jumped off the page was solace.

I read the entire meditation entitled Finding a Hand Up When We Bottom Out and realized just how appropriate this particular meditation was for me.

The message of the day’s meditation was to have the courage to reach out for help in times of crises rather than suffer in isolation.  I was taken aback as I read because this reading had so much meaning not only for me but a loved one who, at this point in her life, has fallen into the pit of mental illness.

When I first learned of her plight, I found myself inconsolable, crying at every thought of her or mention of her name; I was lost.

Days went by and slowly I found myself reaching out and talking to you, my wonderful and dear friends.  I was not looking for answers or solutions and none were offered.  Instead you all listened with open minds and hearts offering me instead solace and support.    I am eternally grateful for your caring kindness.

I continue to be sad but am comforted knowing that I have so many people in my life that care for me and are willing to listen to me, hug me when I need it, and keep me in their prayers.

With so many prayers I know that I will have the strength to do whatever is necessary to help bring my loved one back to mental health.

I must finish now as I can no longer see the screen for the tears that are streaming down my face.  But know, that I hold you all, my dear friends, in my heart.

Love,

Mary

PS–A few days after absorbing this wonderful meditation, I sent a copy to my loved one in hopes that, she too, will read and heed its message.  I pray that she will gain the confidence to reach out for a hand up and take solace in the knowledge that she can count on the support of those who love her.

Writing 101: To Whom It May Concern

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A note found along a path

What a glorious day.  The sun is high in the sky, there is a gentle breeze blowing and I decided it just the perfect day to take a walk through our community Conservation Trail.

As I often do, I was admiring the backyards of my neighbors, the trees, shrubs and flowers along the path when I came upon a folded piece of paper.  The paper is a beautiful color of rose with scalloped edges and begs to be picked up.  Curious, I picked it up and thought: It is too pretty to be something that someone discarded. I wonder what it says.  I wonder if there is a name inside so I can return it.

I stop and read the contents of this note and was instantly taken aback.  It is a note from a mother to her daughter expressing such sorrow I begin to weep.  The note read:

“Dear, sweet daughter,

I am so sorry you are going through such a terrible time.  So many weighty problems have plagued you these last few years it is no wonder you have sunken into a quagmire of despair.  I have tried many times to reach out to you in hopes that together we could work towards making your life meaningful again but to no avail.  You have refused my help and the help of others and now find yourself alone and unable to fight your way back to sanity.  At some point when you have a moment of clarity of mind, please reach out and I will be at your side.  I miss you, I miss your smile, I miss your laughter, and I desperately miss you, my sweet girl”. 

The note ended there.  I could see tear stains on the paper.  I found myself crying even harder leaving my own tears stains on this beautiful piece of note paper.  There was no name, no signature so, alas, I could not return it to the author.  I put it back where I found it in hopes the author would realize that she had dropped it and would return to find it.

Mary

Writing 101–Day Five: Be Brief

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Happiness is spaghetti with red sauce

I have not always been a foodie.  Quite the contrary, in my tender years I was a very picky eater.  I would only eat cold cereal for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and, potatoes of any kind, peas and fried hamburgers for dinner.

Anything else placed on my plate and I would move the food around my plate, eat a little bit to make my mom happy and sometimes hold it in my mouth and then excuse myself from the table and spit it out in the toilet.

I was not an easy child to deal with when it came to food.  This was especially hard on my mom as we were very poor and food was not always easy to come by.  There were times when she would rifle through her purse, coat pockets and sometimes lift the linoleum up off the floor, just a little to see if any coins had rolled under.  She would give me the coins and I would run to the store and buy a large can of pork and beans and that would be our meal for the evening.

One evening my mom went to the pantry to prepare dinner and all that was on the shelf was a box of Ronzoni thin spaghetti and cans of Del Monte tomato sauce.  She came into the kitchen, looked at the expectant faces at the kitchen table and said, “We are going to have a treat this evening, spaghetti with red sauce”.

I loved it.  The combination of this perfectly cooked spaghetti and the sweet tomato sauce was so good I cleaned my plate.  I knew not to ask for more because even at that young age I knew that seconds were not an option.

I cannot explain why that simple meal became one of my all-time favorites but it did.  Was it the fact that my mom called it a ‘treat’?  I really don’t know but to this day whenever I am feeling ill or feeling low, I find myself searching the pantry for these two wonderful ingredients and prepare a bowl of spaghetti with red sauce.  I will curl up on the couch, put on one of my favorite shows, eat my spaghetti and in no time I feel better.  For me it was and has always been, a wonderful comfort food.

Over time I added a little bit of cheese to my favorite dish; sometimes Velveeta cheese, sometimes American cheese.

I tried to introduce this simple food to my husband and family with mixed reviews.  My husband did not like my wonderful dish however, the girls did.  So, whenever he was away on business, which he was most of the time in the early days, the girls and I would enjoy this simple concoction and eventually my ‘spaghetti with red sauce’ came to be known as ‘out-of-town-spaghetti’.

Of course, as the years rolled by my tastes became more sophisticated and I learned to cook many wonderful Italian sauces that include many delicious ingredients that I would never have eaten as a child.  But none of those dishes can compare to my simple ‘spaghetti with red sauce’ to cure whatever ails me.

Foodie or not I return to this meal for many reasons, memories of my mom and how she could make such a simple meal seem so special, perhaps remembering the hard times we all shared and overcame and, a reminder that simple things usually are the best.

Mary

Writing 101: Day Ten-Happy

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A loss of faith in corporate integrity

When I first started to write this I was thinking about telling a sad story of the loss of our family dog, Sam.  Then, I thought, no, I would write a happy story about the time when our cat, Shadow got lost for three weeks and how we came to find her.

But, the day I started to write I was faced with another kind of loss that has left me frustrated, angry about the loss of corporate integrity.

There was a time when companies stood behind their merchandise and made every effort to repair or replace their goods to keep their customer base coming back for the latest the company had to offer.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, A foodie without a refrigerator | The Delicious Divas, we have been enduring an ongoing struggle to get the manufacturer of our refrigerator to do just that; repair or replace our refrigerator.

Our journey towards that end started in January and here we are in April.  At this juncture, we have had six repair calls, several parts replaced, one twice, and each time it failed.  The last failure was catastrophic causing the compressor to blow and spill oil inside causing a terrible odor that permeated everything inside.

We sat anxiously waiting for the repairman to come to replace yet two new parts, hoping against hope that they would not work and he would finally deem the refrigerator unrepairable.

When he came that day, Chris walked in with a smile on his face and said, “Good news, I have been told to give you a ticket with a replacement number and I am to take away the parts”.

As he prepared to leave he said, “If I were you, if they haven’t called by Friday give them a call”.

Well, we did not hear so, Randy called and I thought he was going to explode.  I sat quietly as he talked to the customer service agent and watched as he became more and more upset.

At one point I heard him say with a great deal of frustration in his voice, “So, what you’re telling me is that you are not going to do anything about the refrigerator?”

“No,” the customer agent replied.

“Then why,” Randy asked, “did you give us a ticket number for a replacement?”

“We did that as a courtesy”, she replied.

With a great deal of control Randy said, “So you are telling me that the ticket means nothing”.

Her response, “I bet you think we are stringing you along until the warranty runs out”.

“Yes,” Randy responded, “between you and the repair company, I believe that you have definitely been stringing us along”.

She said, “It’s no good because you are out of warranty.  They are very strict when the warranty is up. That’s it.  It does not matter if they are working on repairs or not”.

Randy said angrily, “We are out of warranty because you dragged this problem out and have not fixed the problem”.

After Randy hung up he walked over to where I was sitting and, looking frustrated and drained said, “I think I am living in a nightmare”.

I felt so bad but there was nothing I could do or say that would help.

We sat for a while in silence and then the phone rang again.  The customer service representative called back and said she felt bad about the situation and would see if they could do something; perhaps refund at a pro-rated amount of the cost of the refrigerator.

After Randy hung up we just looked at each other and thought collectively: We’ll see.

What ever happened to honor and integrity? What ever happened to a handshake between two people meaning something?  What ever happened to two entities entering into a contract with both parties promising to honor whatever was agreed to?  We bought their product; they promised to fix or replace it.  To date they have done neither.

You would think the company would be concerned about their reputation.  But, I guess keeping your word, honoring commitments, living up to expectations by some companies are just words on paper and no longer mean anything.

Whatever the outcome of this twelve week nightmare, we have determined that even if we finally get the company to honor their commitment to replace our refrigerator, we will never again buy their brand.

So, now, the company’s loss is a very good customer.

Mary

Writing 101: Day four—Loss

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Mixed memories of a place I lived long ago

I spent my early childhood in a state that, at the time, was called the melting pot of the world, New York; specifically I lived in Brooklyn, New York.

At a very young age I lived in a Catholic children’s home.  My mom had tuberculosis and could not care for me.  I vaguely remember living in two apartment buildings after I was released back to my mother’s care, but at age twelve I remember clearly living in a three-story walk-up on Warren Street.  We moved there when I was nine because our family was growing and we needed a larger apartment.

When we first moved in, the neighborhood was quite nice with a mixture of one-family homes, apartment buildings, garages and a wonderful deli on one corner and a drug store on the other.

Our apartment was in a typical brick building with a fire escape anchored to the front of the building and a small fenced in area called an airy-way. The fire escape was a blessing on hot summer evenings to escape the stifling heat of the apartment.  It was also a great place to sit and listen as the Puerto Rican neighbors that lived next door would play their guitars and sing late into the evening.

Each floor of the apartment building was one apartment.  I lived on the second floor with my mother, three brothers and my brother’s father who from this point on will be referred to as, the-man-who-lived-in-our-house.

There was no air-conditioning so most summer evenings all the windows would be open and would stay open through the night.  There were two entrances to the apartment one entered into the kitchen, the other into the living room.  Having two entrances came in handy once in a while when the-man-who-lived-in-our-house would come home after a night of drinking and  kick in one of the doors and we would run out the other.

The roof was where the-man-who-lived-in-our-house raised homing pigeons.  The roof was always smelly.  And then there was the basement.  I only ventured down into the basement once and knew I would never go back.  It was dark and forbidding and always made me feel that there was someone or something lurking in the shadows.

Once as I was walking down the stairs and a rat suddenly ran from the basement and stopped at the bottom of the stairs.  I stood frozen on the stairs not knowing what to do.  I feared that if I tried to run it would chase me.  As I stood there thinking about what to do, the rat decided to jump.  All I could do was crouch down and pray it did not grab hold of me.  Thankfully, it jumped over my head.  I ran as fast as I could out of the building and all the way to the corner.  Breathless and sweating, I stood there for quite a while before gaining the courage to go back.  From that point on I never walked the steps, I ran.

The apartment was spacious with a large kitchen, two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom, a small hallway with a pantry and coat closet and one extra room the-man–who-lived-in-our-house used to repair TVs and radios. This small room eventually became my bedroom after the-man-who lived-in-our-house moved out.

The kitchen was painted white with white and black tiles, there was an ice-box, a wood burning stove, hot water heater, a sink and a large laundry tub.  The rest of the house was always painted in dark colors,  There was forest green, maroon and a very dark blue as I remember.  My mom was into monochromatic decorating so she would always change out the window blinds to match the colors of the walls.

My mom was the building superintendent.  The title of ‘super’ meant that she was in charge of keeping the building swept, mopped and reported any repairs that were necessary.  She was also responsible for keeping the airy-way and sidewalk swept each day.  For these responsibilities she was afforded a much cheaper rent than the other two tenants.

To this day I do not refer to any place that I lived as my home but rather places that I have lived.  A home, after all, should be a place that you remember fondly.  Unfortunately, I do not remember this particular space, or for that matter any other places I grew up in fondly rather, I remember the roaches that would scurry as soon as a light was turned on, sweeping up mouse droppings on a regular basis, and crying myself to sleep because the bed bugs would torment me each night as I tried to sleep.

What I do remember fondly were our neighbors.  The tenants on the first floor were American Indians.  The gentleman was a chief and would don his headdress each time he attended a parade or other special event in and around the city.  Their apartment was filled with dogs and cats and so much furniture.  They were fortunate because they had a wonderful back yard with a grape arbor.  I would look down and see their cats walking on the arbor all the time.  Every so often they would offer my mom a bowl full of grapes that smelled like cat urine.  She would graciously take them but I do not remember ever eating a one.

The tenants on the third floor were so friendly.  They both worked and had one little girl.  I do not know what the dad did for a living but he was an amateur photographer on the weekends and loved to play the xylophone.  I used to love hearing him play whenever they had parties.  He offered to take my First Communion and eighth grade graduation pictures.  They were lovely.

I also loved the neighborhood.  It was in this neighborhood that I came know of many different cultures, many types of food and music. It was as though our little neighborhood was a microcosm of New York City.

As the years rolled by many of the dwellings in our neighborhood became more and more run down and people started to move away.  We moved away when I was fourteen.  I returned after I graduated from high school to see if any of the neighbors remained.  There were only two left and they were packing up to leave.  I learned years later that the neighborhood had been torn down to make way for a hospital.

Mary

Writing 101: Day Nine-Home

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