Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Stop it. This is hard."

I have to say, Ann Romney, just shut up and stop complaining about the course you and your husband have chosen to take.  No one forced you to go out on the campaign trail.  You certainly knew you were in for a fight.  You certainly knew that lots of people would choose not to like you or the policies you espouse.  You had to know you would be criticized.  Once again I say, you chose it, so shut up and do it or go home, but don’t complain about how difficult it is to walk the path you’ve chosen. 

I do, however, love the sentiment.  I would give anything to have told today to “stop it,” to not have had today happen.  And it was hard.  But it was not a chosen path.  It was one thrust upon us.  Good people lost their jobs today.  They did nothing wrong.  They are intelligent and highly competent.  They worked diligently and were dedicated to the company that employed them for years.  Through no fault of their own, they were eliminated.  Why?  Because when all other measures don’t balance the bottom line, it gets balanced with staff reductions.

It was an incredibly hard day for me, and I wasn’t among those who are now gone.  Wonderful friends in my group and in my building had a day so much worse than mine.  I wanted to scream “Stop it.  This is hard.”  Instead, I wept as my friends and coworkers left the building carrying unemployment information and severance paperwork. 

So shut up and stop complaining, Ann Romney.  You don’t know what hard is.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Memories of 9-11 - The Horror of the Unanswered Phone

This post is a slightly edited redux of last year's post.  It is one worth repeating.

I was running a few minutes late for work that fateful Tuesday morning, and I pulled into the parking lot just as the announcement came over the air that a passenger liner had stuck the first tower. I grabbed my purse, hurried into the building, and raced to my office. I announced to all who would listen that a plane had hit the Trade Center and everyone started searching the web for information…everyone but me. I was dialing my phone, desperate to reach my son. When the second tower was struck, I dialed faster. 

And so began the worst five hours of my life.

Chris was in New York City on job interviews. We talked before he left, and he had told me that he was very excited to have an interview at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning in the World Trade Center. He thought it would be a neat place to work. But as we watched news shots of the towers collapsing, mortified at the thought of the massive loss of life, I tried to stay calm as Chris’ cell phone remained unanswered.

Soon the stories were coming in from the Pentagon and about the missing airliner that had come so close to Cleveland before heading toward the White House. I continued to watch in horror, but I kept dialing. My husband got through to me around 11, wanting to know if I had spoken to Chris. By that time, I was on the verge of hysteria. Needless to say, no work was getting done in our office as we all took in the destruction that was unfolding in our virtual backyard.

Around 2:30 in the afternoon, I dialed for the about the thousandth time, and he answered.

“Oh my God, Chris, where have you been? I’ve been calling you for five hours!”

“What’s up, Mom?”

“What’s up? The world is ending! Can’t you look out the windows in Newark and see the smoke?”

“I’m not in Newark.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m in Perry. What’s going on?”

“You don’t know? Terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers around 9 this morning. They both collapsed, killing thousands. The towers are both gone. The Pentagon was hit, too. And a fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. I thought YOU were in one of those towers. Didn't you have a job interview this morning?”

There was very long moment of silence.

“Yes, I did, but I finished my Monday interviews early, so I called the guy at the Trade Center and asked if I could come in Monday afternoon instead. He said yes. I interviewed early and headed back to Ohio. I got in around 2:30 in the morning. I didn’t want to wake you or Dad, so I went to Brian’s and crashed there. I just woke up.”

Chris was profoundly affected by that massive tragedy. I am sure that he still wonders about the twist of fate that kept him so far away from that place where he was scheduled to be at that moment.  I am eternally grateful that my son's life was spared on that awful day. 

I experienced five hours of the most intense fear I have ever known waiting for Chris to answer his phone, and I am haunted still by thoughts of the thousands of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, and friends who spent hour after agonizing hour dialing phones that were never answered.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nothing like a 3-Day Weekend!

It started with me and my cohorts from St. Cyprian’s Choir singing a rousing Star Spangled Banner at the final regular season game at the Captains Stadium. We sang, we ate, we cheered and did the “Tony Dance” as our Lake County Captains overcame the opposition’s lead to win the game 9-3. There was much celebration on the field, not to mention a spectacular fireworks show, as the Captains are heading directly into the playoffs. If you’ve never gone to a Captains game, you’re missing a really fun afternoon or evening.

Saturday was fraught with all the usual tasks. But later in the afternoon, I headed out to Ashtabula for the St. John Class of 1970 birthday party. It was held at the Elks Club on the Lake. I had never been there before, and since the invitation said Lake Road without specifying east or west, my trusty Tom-Tom sent me on a goose chase to North Kingsville. Fortunately, I was finally able to get a friend on the cell (thank you Pam!) and turned around and headed back toward the Harbor. Soon I was on Lake Road West and found the venue without another hitch.

We had a pretty good turnout. About a quarter of the class showed up, some with a guest, some without. Pat Kilker provided the venue and arranged for the birthday cake. Martha Roach organized the help and took care of the details. Tim McCarthy created and sent out the invitations. Tom Timonere, Mike Guerini and friends brought the old band out of the mothballs and provided the musical entertainment (they still know how to rock!). The Elks kept the food and libations coming, and a great time was had by all!

I was particularly outgoing (it wasn’t the wine, honest!), and because there were people we didn’t know milling about, I offered to just go up to someone, shake his hand, say “it’s good to see you again” and then walk away. I understand the look on the poor guy’s face was priceless, and he spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out who I was and why he didn’t remember me. I came clean before the end of the night and told him I was very pleased to make his acquaintance. 

I also dragged Pat Kilker up to the microphone and we led the class in a rousing rendition of “Gaudeamus Igitur” in honor of our Latin/French teacher. She had always called it the Song of the Latin Students. Had I known the literal translation, I might have refrained. The first two verses are as follows...the rest of the verses are rather rambling and somewhat non-sensical to my way of thinking.

Let us therefore rejoice,
While we are young;
After our youth,
After a troublesome old age
The ground will hold us.
Our life is brief,
It will shortly end
Death comes quickly,
Cruelly snatches us;
No-one is spared.

Tom and Mike were also gracious enough to let me steal the mic to do a few songs for the crowd. I’m hoping those few songs were more comforting and more enjoyable (or at least, less morbid!).

Sunday brought the annual Baumert Labor Day weekend picnic. Laurie opens her house to friends, family, and coworkers and everyone brings incredible food. We talk, play games and catch up with people who come and go all day and into the evening. I have been making a killer stuffed portabella mushroom of late and decided it might translate into a casserole. It turned out very tasty. But what I discovered later was that it made one hell of a dip with tortilla chips! I may have to bottle the stuff.

On Monday, Meredith, my cousin Diane and I went to the Ohio Celtic and International Fall Fest at the Lake County Fair Grounds. It was hot and humid, and we found shelter from the sun in the vendor buildings. We listened to the music of Mossy Moran and the Willis Clan. Meredith and Diane had Irish Nachos (made with potatoes rather than tortilla chips, of course), and I settled for bread pudding with whiskey sauce (incredibly filling and enough carbs for the month of September all by itself).

We hung around a while as I discovered that Lost State of Franklin was scheduled to play. It was good to see Scott and Tyler again. They have a terrific band. If you get the chance, check out their website, buy their CDs and go see them perform. You just can’t help but like their music.

And now, back to work!