Sunday, July 22, 2012


These have been difficult days for many Americans, heartsick and shell-shocked in the wake of the Colorado movie theater ramapage. In the pre-dawn darkness of Friday morning, in another time zone two hours ahead of Colorado and unable to sleep, I stumbled onto some of the first reports out of Aurora. I was transfixed. As minutes turned into hours, I couldn't comprehend the death toll on the bottom of the television screen: 14 at the time, later revised back to 12 where it still stands. A half-dozen people are still clinging to life in critical condition.
My inability to fathom such senselessness and callous disregard for human life was wrapped like a hot dog inside that theater, a presumably safe haven where generations of families flock to escape the weather, the challenges of everyday life, and immerse themselves in the art form of movie making and entertainment.
The innocence of an outing as American as apple pie was shattered with each and every bullet. Our children love going to the show. I thought of the countless times we have gone together, or I have dropped them off for a couple hours of fun and enjoyment.
And I thought about the parents who had done the same Thursday night in Aurora. The mother who is paralyzed in a hospital bed with a bullet lodged in her throat, unaware her six year old daughter is among the fatalities. And Alex Sullivan, eager to ring in his 27th birthday, unaware it would be his final minutes of life inside the death chamber of theater number nine, while his father awaited his return home in a few hours.
This tragic, dark chapter in America's history has resonated with our children in a way unlike others such as the Tucson shooting a year-and-a-half ago. It is as if they have experienced a death in the family, aware now more than ever of their own vulnerability. Like so many,they want to help in some way. Naturally, their 'Pennies From Heaven' service project will be deployed once again.
But helping them make sense of this also means trying to explain the unimagineable, why someone would methodically calculate to end or destroy so many lives? We'll probably never know the answer to that, but in the midst of such devastation, the discussion must include the stories of the many good-deeds that attempted to triumph over evil just after midnight in that Century movie theater: The boyfriend who took a bullet for his girlfriend and her brother, the moviegoer who instructed strangers to 'play dead' in order to walk out alive, the police officers who abandoned standard emergency proceedure by loading people into the back of squad cars to rush them to the hospital, and the person who tried in vain to carry a mortally wounded victim to safety.
There was a lot of good embedded in those horrific minutes early Friday morning. May we as a nation remember that even in the most abominable of times, that benevolence and mercy will always try to rise above the smoke and poisonous gases of the most heinous and wicked acts.

Monday, July 16, 2012


I've been spending the better of the day (since the crack of east coast dawn) preparing for a visit from a good friend and her son. Our daughters, no doubt overcome already by the fumes of cleaning spray, think i'm in a panic over a royal visit. My gal pal is royally fun, for sure! But the girls have amnesia, unable to recall surrendering their bedroom when our friends last visited. We've been going round and 'round ever since. Naturally, besides providing another great opportunity to nag my daughters about social graces, I knew there was a blog in here...somewhere...between the freshly washed towels and flowers.
Our family LOVES to entertain, no matter the zip code or level of formality! Opening one's home to visitors is a good reason to get our summer slugs up off their beach blankets, but it is also a great way to put so many lovely touches into a 24-hour or 48-hour window.
If you invite someone from out of town to visit, absolutely insist they stay under your roof, unless you live in a studio apartment furnished only with a futon and a bean bag. In our case, our guests will occupy the spoiled teen suite, forcing a temporary relocation of the natives upstairs. [Insert eye rolls and gasps here].
Like a bowl of She Crab Soup, they are warming to the idea, even getting involved in the preparations. Make sure bedding and linens are fresh, and don't forget to provide clean sets of towels as well. I like to have a small vase of flowers on the nightstand.
In our family, 'mi casa es su casa' is our mantra, so with that, I make sure the refrigerator and pantry are fully stocked with fruit, munchies, and beverages. It isn't necessary, but another thoughtful touch is to do some advance activity planning so everyone doesn't sit around staring at each other. Conversely, make sure to give your guests some down time to relax, especially if they have traveled some distance.
Plan your meals before guests arrive, so as not to put them on the spot about dining out. Make sure not to keep them up late either. They will be exhausted, and surely be anxious to get a good night's sleep.
Like dinner parties, entertaining guests overnight is about making them feel welcome and comfortable. If you're uptight, they won't be at ease. Remember, the goal is to create an environment conducive to spending time together, catching up and making memories. Remember, It 'Manners' A lot!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


"Uh, is [inaudible] there?" the voice on the other end of the telephone asked. "Who?" I inquired. Insert more garbled audio here. "What number are you calling?" I asked politely.
"Oh S@#t!" screamed the caller before hanging up.
Lucky me, I was the recipient, not once, but twice more after that awkward and impolite attempt to connect with someone else through my number. Had he called again, I was tempted to remind him of the right way to end a wrong call.
We've all done it. A harmless mistake, that can be easily rectified by saying something along the lines of "I'm sorry, I must have dialed the wrong number."
Punctuating the mistake with expletives is truly bad form. Simply hanging up is even ruder.
The next time you call someone by mistake, keep it short, polite, and clean. If you are on the other end of the line, same goes. "I'm sorry, I think you must have the wrong number" is all that needs to be said. To be sure, these types of calls can be annoying, but they needn't be occasions for rudeness and impoliteness. Remember, IT 'MANNERS' A LOT!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


There is no better slice of Americana than Independence Day, when, from sea to shining sea, friends, family, acquaintances and even perfect strangers will gather to celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. We will do it on land, aboard vessels, alongside barbecues, with burgers, beer and bravado. And at sundown, with bombs bursting mid air.
Growing up, standing on our front lawn, gingerly writing our names in the air with sparklers, my sisters and I thought that was the bomb! Then our father would set off some 'safe and sane' numbers out in the street. There were no bottle rockets, molotov cocktails or tree fires. Just good old-fashioned patriotic fun.
Somewhere, i'm sure, there was mischief, as there will likely be again tomorrow. But on this Fourth of July eve, herewith are some important things to remember:
Be obedient. Respect authority and the traffic cops policing crowds. If you aren't in familiar surroundings, make yourself familiar with the restrictions regarding firworks, alcohol consumption, etc. When someone else gets ticketed, you'll be glad you did.
Be respectful of the property of others - whether it be public or private. July Fourth IS NOT a license to disregard the rights of others and torch consideration in a blaze of glory.
Clean up after yourself. Make sure you have a bucket of water on hand for the used fireworks, along with trash bags to haul your leftovers. Don't assume someone else will come and clean your mess!
If you plan to put on your own show, keep it LEGAL. Don't endanger yourself and others by lighting up gunpowder in order to show your patriotic pride.
Remember, too, to respect the noise ordinance. If you are still firing off smoke bombs at midnight, your neighbors will want to declare their independence from you!
The Fourth of July, wrapped in stars, stripes, patriotism and good times, should also be a display of the very best in us, courteous and civilized, respectful behavior. Because It 'Manners' A lot!
Happy Birthday America!