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1-9-1-4

March 20, 2011 3 comments

Did you know that dialing any combination of 9-1-1 connects you to a 911 operator? It’s true.

For instance, if, let’s say, you are a nine year-old kid and your mom has a cell phone that has a 914 area code and you live in an 845 area code, when calling her from your home phone, you have to dial 1 (for long distance) 9-1-4… to reach her. At nine years-old, you may not be too land-line savvy. You might be a little slow on the dialing or you don’t always remember the “4” fast enough because you have to remember the 1 at the beginning. If there is any hesitation in getting to the 4, just dialing the 1-9-1 combination connects you to 911. And if you’re nine, no matter how many times this happens, you just think the call isn’t going through so you hang up and try again. While you’re trying again, the 911 operator is calling you back to make sure everything is “Okay” but you’re not answering the second line because you are calling your mom again on the first line, remember?

Did you also know, that when you don’t answer a 911 operator’s call back, in New York at least, they automatically send law enforcement to your house. And when they come to your house, in addition to making sure everything is “Okay“, they request to see and speak with the 911 caller.

How do I know this?

They’ve been coming to my house for years. It used to be once or twice a year since the time my son was a toddler and would find his way into our basement office and “play” with the fax machine. I never heard the return call on the fax machine from the 911 operator so, a police officer would be dispatched to our house. It took three visits before we figured out it was the toddler and the fax machine. I used to think it was only local police that responded to 911 calls but lately, it’s been a NYS Trooper. And over the past several months, the Troopers have come to our home so often, that last month when the Trooper pulled up in front of our house and my son saw him from the bay window in our living room, he simply called out:

“Hannah! Someone’s here to see you!”

Yes, it’s my nine year-old Hannah, who is responsible for our more recent meet and greets. It seems that nearly every time she tries to call my 9-1-4 cell phone, a NYS Trooper ends up at our door. No kidding!

And as of this month, it’s not just our door either!

A few weeks ago, when I went to pick up Hannah at school, I noticed a State Trooper pulling out of the parking lot as I was pulling in. I’d say that would raise a curious eye brow for any parent picking up their kid but it was me who the “porch” teacher met at my car. He came bearing the news that after trying to call me from the school phone unsuccessfully, 911 was accidentally called by my daughter. Hence the State Trooper, who apparently had a “nice little chat” with Hannah. This, was so not surprising. And it’s probably a really good thing that I work there three days a week.

I think it’s important to nurture a sense of independence in children. I think they should feel they can be trusted and shown that you have confidence in them. And it’s only in the past several months that we’ve felt comfortable enough to resume moving forward in this effort. So, I was pleased when Hannah opted to stay home alone for the 6 minutes it would take me to drive my son to his tennis lessons and come back, about a week ago.

Ah, I should have known. I hadn’t even shut the door behind me after returning when I glanced over my shoulder and saw the all too familiar, navy blue vehicle with yellow lettering pull up onto my front lawn.

“Hannah?”, I called inside the door, “Any idea why the State Troopers would be coming to our house?”

“Oh, um, yeah” she said, “that could be me.”

Between the tennis run last Friday and a quick jaunt to the post office a little later this week, the Troopers were at my house, twice. Yes, that’s twice in one week’s time.

I wonder if calls from our house are somewhat expected now or have become part of the training program for the new guys? A different Trooper comes every time. The last fellow that came was awfully, young. I suspect it’s also possible that our address has been “red flagged” for other reasons. Either way, it is always a State Trooper and, they come fast!

I never get rattled though, when I see a Trooper pull up to my house. In fact, I don’t think it’s the worst thing for my neighbors to see the company I keep. Besides, I find things like a 6ft cardboard cut-out of a vampire and NYS Troopers at my front door, comforting these days.

I also happen to be a bit partial to NYS Troopers and to one in particular, whom I will forever be indebted.

To all the other Troopers that are perhaps, taking turns coming to my house, meeting and speaking to my Hannah, I thank you for your service to our community and most especially, to my family.

I Heard the Plunk of Hope This Week!

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I love living in New York. I enjoy the seasons and like to feel the weather change. Variety is a friend to me. I’m not real big on extremes. It’s all about balance. So, after we were hit by our eighth snowstorm this Winter, I started to get a little wary. Actually, (like so many other moms, I’m sure) between the shoveling and baking on our already too many school days off, I’ve just about had it! But thankfully, it’s February and February, is like Wednesday. It’s the hump month of Winter. Get through February and Spring is like Friday, you can see the end in sight. It’s right around the corner! February is also fickle. It’s weather often provides a teaser to what lies ahead; Spring plays a game of peek-a-boo. That’s fine. I’ll take it because I am ready.

Like a snake that sheds it’s skin, I’m ready to rid myself of this winter’s dread, trying not to let it bog me down or suffocate me like I know it wants to. It’s hard not to just succumb. I need encouragement from the environment to hang in there! For me, Spring is a time of renewal and I have a lot of renewing to do! My life requires a complete overhaul and I want to get to it. In general, I’m not a procrastinator, so when the doldrums of Winter seem to be hanging on, putting Spring on the back burner, I tend to get a little antsy. Like everyone else, I’m eager to go outside with out the fear of freezing. I want to literally smell the roses again. Okay, I realize I  may have to wait until May for that but there’s no harm in thinking ahead, is there?

Thankfully, this week I heard the plunk, plunk, plunking sound of sap dripping its way into those aluminum buckets hanging on the maple trees at the school I work in. It’s truly a sure sign of proof that Spring is indeed hovering in the air. It is the environment, clearly and loudly telling me,”Hang in there! We’re at the front door of brighter days!” After all, the sap only flows right before Spring, when the nights are cold and the days are warm.

Yes, I heard the plunking sound of sap this week! Oh, the sweet sound of the plunk! Now, I have hope.

After a few days of hope, gratitude will seep in and with gratitude, all things can be accomplished.

Categories: Comfort, Life Tags:

Freaky Frieda and Her Wiener Dog, Heidi!

January 9, 2011 6 comments

This is a (true) story I’ve told my kids a hundred times. They never tire from it and always want to hear it again and again….

My dad had a red Volkswagen bus when we were kids. The kind with a sliding door on one side. Every summer for many years we would pack up the bus on a Friday night and make the 14-hour trek from New York to South Carolina for our family vacation. (Think Little Miss Sunshine without the dead body and you have us pegged.) My Dad is from Germany and had older friends, also from Germany, in Carolina who we visited. Frankly, we were less than thrilled to be going to see them but happy I suppose, to be going anywhere.

Powell and Frieda. Powell didn’t say a lot. He pretty much ignored us, unless of course he needed help shelling shrimp. Then he’d waive us over in the backyard and simply point to a bucket of hundreds of shrimps he and my Dad had caught the night before. There we’d  sit, shelling and de-veining shrimp for hours on end. A kid’s vacation dream. Frieda on the other hand was quite vociferous. Although she rarely spoke to us and when she did, it was in German, assuming we knew what she was saying. Her face was stern and wore a permanent frown. Her hair was black and shortly cropped. She had very pale skin which she highlighted with a deep red lipstick; a bit scary as I recall. She was rather stout and fond of wearing the same outfit every day; neatly ironed shorts with a button-up, sleeveless, white or yellow cotton blouse. This left the extra skin under her arms free to flap loosely in the wind whenever she got excited and raised her arms (which was often). We stayed at their house twice. After that, we rented. It was during our second visit that things came to a head and it was clear that Powell and Frieda’s tolerance for children was well, below sea level at best.

We rolled in on a hot Saturday afternoon in mid-July to what appeared to be a birthday party reception. There were decorations, hats and even party blowers nicely arranged on the kitchen table in their small, immaculate home. When we asked whose birthday it was, Frieda flapped her arms in the air and replied excitedly, Heidi‘s! The thing about this, is that my older sister’s name is Heidi and her birthday is July 15th but just what had changed we wondered from the previous year when they pretty much ignored us? Children have a keen sense about adults who don’t like them and quite frankly we were suspect. Rightfully, so.

What was different we soon found out, was Heidi. Not our Heidi but their Heidi. Heidi it turned out was their new baby; a four-legged dachshund doxie baby but their baby or at least Frieda’s baby, none the less. Heidi was a wiener dog. And it was her birthday they were celebrating. We were okay with that, after all, a party is a party and quite frankly, the wiener dog provided a little hope for us. Maybe this vacation wouldn’t be so bad after all. WRONG! Unfortunately, not only was there no cake and no ice-cream at this party, there was absolutely no blowing of the blowers either and the next few days set the stage for a resentment build up of epic proportions against Heidi

Heidi, Heidi, Heidi! Every other word out of Frieda’s mouth was about Heidi. “Look at Heidi. Where is Heidi? I wonder if Heidi is hungry?” Don’t play with, chase or scare Heidi. Don’t walk Heidi. Do not touch Heidi and for God sakes, don’t leave the door ajar or Heidi will run out of the house! As for Heidi, the spoiled little wiener dog, I swear she would start yelping like crazy if one of us even walked passed her, sending Frieda into a screaming, arm flapping, frenzy about how we were tormenting her poor, little Heidi. This domino-ed into my Dad yelling at us for upsetting Frieda, leaving us longing for the year before when Powell and Frieda just ignored us. By mid-week, we hated Heidi and Frieda even more. We were miserable and the only bright spot came when my parents announced we would be going to Myrtle Beach. Finally, some reprieve!

As cool as my dad’s VW bus was, it didn’t come with air conditioning and much to our dismay, Heidi the wiener dog was coming with us to Myrtle Beach. My dad and Powell sat up front. Mom and Frieda (with Heidi on her lap), in the middle seat, the human Heidi, myself and our younger brother, Peter were cramped together in the very back. Upon our departure, Frieda announced it was Heidi’s napping time and we were meant to be “quiet” while the dog slept for the hour’s ride. It was okay however, for Frieda to huff and puff and complain loudly about the heat for the first 30-minutes of our trip though and we watched the back of her head bob up and down wildly, while she waved her short stumpy fingers frantically in front of her face like a fan, sending sweat from her brow flying throughout the bus .

“Oh, mein Gott ist das so heiß!”

(Oh, my God it is so hot!) she repeated over and over again in German.

I’d say it was midway to Myrtle Beach when Frieda reached her boiling point– literally. Without warning she stopped waving and began to unbutton her yellow, sleeveless blouse. At first we weren’t sure what she was doing but once we saw her pass the garment up to Powell to hold, it was clear, the portly German woman in her late 50s who was sitting in front of us had just removed her blouse, completely! Seeing the thick white straps of her brazier alone, was enough to send us into an uncontrollable “snicker” as my mom would call it but when the now freaky Frieda turned around to see what all the ruckus was about, the reality of what she had done was just too much to hold in.  And now, there was all kinds of moist, milky-white skin flapping in the air in front of us as we came face to face with the largest bosoms squeezed into the biggest, white-est, lacy-est, cross your heart bra, any six, eight and ten-year kids had ever seen! Needless to say, the frontal view sent us gasping for air as we tried to contain the “snickering” which quickly turned into pure unadulterated laughter. Even mom who at first put the “sshhh” finger up to her lips behind Frieda’s back was now turning a crimson red, desperately trying not to bust a gut with her own laughter. Frieda didn’t see the humor or anything wrong with removing her blouse in the car on a hot summer’s day.

Honestly, this bra doesn't give the visual we were exposed to as youngsters justice but it's close and you get the idea.

We’d just about calmed ourselves down when Dad pulled into one of Myrtle Beach’s parking lots. With miles of beach before us, Dad snaked in and out of endless rows of cars to find a space. Maybe it was the heat of the moment or the heat itself, the need for air after all that belly hurting laughter or perhaps it was just a kid being a kid but for reasons we’ve never cared to discuss, the moment Dad pulled into a space and brought the car to a stop, my little brother jumped out of  his seat and opened the side door. What happened next is indelibly etched in my mind’s eye and I’m somehow able to replay the event in slow motion, moment by moment, which is truly a gift and leaves me forever grateful for it.

At the sound of the door sliding open, Heidi the wiener dog, bolted from freaky Frieda’s lap making the leap of her life for freedom and vanishing into the sea of cars, in the blink of an eye. Frieda, in absolute hysteria was next to take flight, leaving her blouse behind and frantically screaming “Heidi, come back! Heidi!” while chasing the yelping dog through row after row of cars. This buxom babe was bouncing all over the place in the parking lot, in her big, white, lacy, cross your heart bra for all to see! For just a moment, the three of us stood there by the open car door with wide eyes and dropped jaws, stunned by what we saw. Next went Powell, yelling in his thick German accent… “Vait! Frieda, stop! Come back! Vait! Vere are you going?” And finally, my Dad jumped out of his seat and ran after Powell who was running after Frieda, who was running after Heidi. Mom, (bless her) stayed back, unable to control herself as we all were by then, unable to control the howl of laughter that roared from the deepest, purest part of our happy souls.

Categories: Laughter, Life Tags: , , , ,

Oh, Go Ahead and Cry For Me Argentina!

December 6, 2010 3 comments

I am trying to recall the fateful infraction that made my mom go from being awesome to embarrassing when I was a kid.  I can’t quite pinpoint the exact offense but I think I was around the age of 12 or 13.  Sadly, I think the image change is all part of the natural process of separation and signifies the beginning of our break- away to independence.  As a parent now, I’ve been careful to keep the public displays of affection toward my children to a minimum.  It’s a conscious effort to prolong the process and hang on to the image of  “awesome” for as long as I can.  Well, it was anyway.  It’s just another pipe dream now.  The cruel truth is, nature stops for no one.

Perhaps, the natural process of aging and the separation process, go hand in hand.  In the last year or so I’ve started to hear myself saying things like, “Excuse me, can you repeat that please?” or “Pardon me? I missed the beginning of that.”  It’s bad enough when you are speaking in your native tongue to not hear everything but now imagine being in a foreign country, say Mexico for example, where I’ve been for the last 10 days and where they speak Spanish and I don’t.  My kids do however and I’ve relied on them often to translate for me.  Although, there is a certain level of comfortability that comes with visiting the same city for eight years in a row.  You pick up words and phrases after a while and feel confident using them.  Let’s face it, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand simple things like “hola” or “gracias”.  Heck, everyone knows that means “hello” and “thank-you” in Spanish.  So, when the nice gentleman in the elevator, or the waiter, house keeper, hotel clerk, driver or merchant would kindly wish me a “good afternoon” in Spanish over the past week or so,  I simply smiled, repeated back what I heard and went along my merry way, at first anyway.

After a few days however and many, many “good afternoon” exchanges, I began to notice bewildered looks, odd expressions, a smirk here and there and the most common; a blank look accompanied by a hollow smile, in return of these greetings. What??  Was there something stuck in my teeth?  I didn’t get it.  Not until my 12-year old son was with me one afternoon that is.  As per usual, with a huge smile and an air of confidence, I kindly reciprocated a store merchant’s “good afternoon” with a very cheery, “Buenos Aires!”  Again, the perplexed look and hollow smile was received in return.  It wasn’t until we were out of ear shot and the store that my son turned to me with a look of pure mortification on his face and said, “Mom, what did you say to that guy?” “Buenos Aires. Why?” I replied.  “Why did you say Beunos Aires?” he asked.  After explaining I was just trying to be nice and insisting I knew what I was saying, after all I had been “Buenos Aires-ing” people all week now, he looked up at me with that ‘I am so embarrassed by you’ look in his eyes and said, “Oh, my God mom, come on! Buenos Aires is a city! That’s like someone saying good afternoon to you and you replying, ‘New York‘!  They are saying Buenas Tardes not Buenos Aires!”  (Apparently, the “t” in tardes is silent. Who knew? Obviously, not me.)

Good Lord, now it all made sense though!  Okay, so people were wishing me a good afternoon and I was cheerfully replying with the name of a city in Argentina.  Nice move mom.  Now my 12-year old son (who has been showing signs of approaching that point of separation over the last several months as it is) won’t even go to the hotel lobby with me. Yes, it seems I’ve lost my “coolness”, at least for the next 5 or 6 years where he’s concerned anyway.  Nature set its course and me and my slight loss of hearing were in it’s path.  Inevitable.

So by all means, go ahead and cry for me Argentina and all the other parents who are in the same or soon to be same boat!  But before you do, please tell me your “I used to be awesome until..” story.  You know what they say, misery loves company and I know I can’t be alone on this one.

Categories: Life, Parenting Tags: ,

Where did the Curtain and Lever Go?

November 11, 2010 5 comments

“Mom, where did the curtain go? That lady standing next to us is looking at your paper. Why do you have to fill in those bubbles now?” These are just a few questions my 9-year old daughter started asking me during our voting experience last week. I say “our” because she’s been voting with me since she was a baby and is rather familiar with the process, well she was anyway.  Like so many other bewildered New Yorkers this year however, she too wondered…”what the heck?”  What was so wrong with the previous system?  I actually enjoyed the privacy of the curtain drawn by the lever.  I didn’t feel rushed or as though someone was looking over my shoulder like the way someone was literally, looking over my shoulder this time. And it’s not just me, my 72-year old mother openly admitted to looking over her shoulder while voting. In fact she “noticed” that my 70-year old dad, who was in the station next to her, was voting for all the “wrong” people, so she felt compelled to point this out to him and made him erase and fill in the “right” bubbles, right then and there. Isn’t someone supposed to be watching out for this sort of thing? And what if, I mean just what if, he was actually voting for who he really wanted to be voting for? I’m just saying. That would have never happened with the curtain and lever system.

Oh,  this new system is easy enough for most and for me, the bottom line is that I am still grateful to live in a country where I can vote but filling in bubbles with a number 2  pencil? Honestly, is that the best we can do for the $50,000,000  price tag the NYC board of elections has put on this leap in technology? That sure is a lot of pencils! I may just be a middle-aged mom but it seems more like a step back in time rather than a step forward in technology to me.  And what is the deal with the big cardboard sleeve? It “hides” the ballot while walking from your station to the scanner.   “The ballot needs to be inserted into the scanner far enough that the feed rolls can catch the ballot and slide it the rest of the way in to the machine leaving the voter holding the now empty sleeve.” Actually, I felt silly carrying it. It looked silly.

My daughter was ultimately fascinated by this new process and that evening it wasn’t the process by which we voted but the fact that we voted that was the topic of conversation. So what I am truly grateful for is that the act of voting and exercising that right is what had the biggest impact on her.  I strive to be a good power of example for my children and without a road map to follow, I don’t always take the right path, so it’s a little comforting to know that while I do miss the curtain and lever, I didn’t miss the mark and the example set on this day, was a good one.

Tell me New Yorkers, did you vote? What did you think about the new voting system? Did you miss the curtain and lever as I did ?

Categories: Parenting, Politics Tags: ,
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