Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Enjoy the 'Now' While It's Still Here

Yesterday afternoon, Madelene and I went to go to the farm to pick out our Christmas tree. Y'all know me better than to think that I chopped it down myself. (I have no idea why I got all southern on y'all.) It was really nice though, because we walked through the rows of firs, wreaths and homemade ornaments that were so beautiful. There were a ton of assorted Christmassy lanterns hanging up above in various colors that lit up the long outdoor aisles. At the end of the row, I noticed a very large wreath that had homemade red roses made out of nylon or some sort of similar material. It also included large metal rods that were meant to be placed into the ground of someone's graveside. In the middle of the wreath it said, "DAD". I instantly got a lump in my throat and my eyes started to well up with tears. When Madelene finally caught up with me, she looked down and then looked up at me.

"Get it, Deb..."

I couldn't speak. If I were to try, I'd probably burst out into tears balling in the middle of the farm. Something came over me that I haven't felt in a long time -- I can't even explain it. I was doing "okay" -- I wasn't this upset lately. At least, I didn't think I was. As the Christmas carols blared out of the small speakers they had up above, I just kept getting flashbacks of my father's preparations for Christmas. I soon snapped out of it and then realized that Dad's "resting area" for his ashes was in the strangest area to which he requested -- make that to which he "demanded".  I used to make fun of him asking, "Why there? I don't get it? Why there?" He would laugh at me and tell me to "fuggedaboudit". It was a place he went just to sit and think, have his cigarette and daydream a while. He and my mother would sit there together talking in that very spot. I may not know exactly why he wanted his ashes placed there, but to him it meant everything. So be it.

"No, too creepy, "I said, still staring at the wreath. "This belongs on an actual plot or grave."

I could actually hear him laughing at me saying, "Oh God! How crazy dis' kid is!" He would always take off his glasses to wipe the tears of laughter from his eyes when I would mess with him.

"The nut doesn't fall too far from the tree, Dad..."

Madelene's plaque.
We started walking back toward where the Christmas trees were. Something grabbed my attention to look under this wooden divider of the aisle. Below it, sat a homemade stone bench that sat low to the ground. On the top of it read a poem -- the same poem that Madelene used to place onto her father's graveside. It was if both our dads were with us at that very moment. They truly wanted us to be happy during this time. The message I got was, "ENJOY Christmas! Don't mourn or be depressed! Listen to Christmas carols, be together, love each other and stop holding off Christmas just because you miss us!" Isn't that what we do though? We sort of hold off the holidays the best we can because we don't want to go through another Christmas without them. We don't want to see that empty chair at the table. We want to hold onto everything we had, and with that, we sometimes forget to hold onto everything and everyone we have right now, at this very moment. We're so busy remembering the past that we seem to forget to enjoy 'the now' -- the people who are still with us and the memories we have yet to create.

When we left the farm, we went out for a little bite to eat and headed home. Mom joined us as we put up the tree and tried our best to decorate it. (Needs a little more work but it's quite festive enough!) Mom always hated Christmas -- not really hated it -- but more like hated the music, the decorations and other "side trimmings" of the holidays. Whenever she hears Christmas music, she shutters and says, "Turn that off!" She didn't have very fond memories of Christmas growing up, so she sort of lugged that into her adulthood, but made sure her children's holidays were the happiest times they ever had. Mom joined us to decorate the tree last night and to listen to Christmas carols without complaining for the very first time. We placed Dad's memorial ornament up that my sister gave to the family. It has his name in the middle with the dates of his life, along with all of our names around it. Kind of a reminder that Dad's still around. Afterwards, we all sat by the fire talking about everything while staring at the tree without any bad memories. We were enjoying the moment and in 'the now'.

Holidays can be strange in many ways, especially if someone is going through a breakup or divorce. The traditions held may have been different or the entire "feel" of Christmas spent with whomever was unique. There's a subtle sadness when someone is removed from your life, whether through death or by breakup -- there's this unexplainable void. I truly believe that's why many people hate to hear Christmas music or start to shiver once Christmas commercials start coming on before the turkey is served on Thanksgiving. It can definitely be bittersweet, trying to enjoy the holidays to the best of your ability all the while missing someone, and sometimes, very secretly. It can feel like you're all alone putting on your 'best face' while being in the company of people who truly want to be there with you. In many cases, there are those who try to not make a big stink of the holidays because it actually IS a big stink for them. It's the one holiday they wish they could enjoy with the same people places and things that used to be present in their lives. It's the past they hold onto so tightly while missing out on the true meaning of the holidays: togetherness. Being that I have a close-knit family, we drew even closer once Dad passed. The togetherness made the holidays tolerable, enjoyable, and I want to say even more appreciated since we know that at any given time, someone from our little group can be taken just. like. that.

My clan. 
Treasure all you have right here, right now. Hug the past, but then let it go so you can hug the present.  Love one another and show it by whatever means you can. Gifts are meaningless without heart. I'd rather be with the people I love rather than to receive gifts. This whole Black Friday/Christmas shopping fiasco has gotten so out of hand and so stressful for many families. What if Christmas could be more like Thanksgiving? I am so incredibly thankful to have my family here this year. So, with that, I ask that you pray for my mother. Tomorrow she is going to get a procedure done where they will determine how well the chemo and radiation worked. We're hoping for a good bill of health and that she's cancer free. That would be the best present ever for Christmas! So please, prayers prayers and more prayers! And thank you in advance.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The New Definition of Loyalty: Perfection

It's a gloomy Sunday afternoon and I'm stuck home because I decided to do a "cleanse" yesterday morning that should have lasted approximately 5-8 hours. Unfortunately, that's still not the case. You can slap a big "TMI" over this post, but it is what it is. Needless to say, I've been online a lot. I mean, more than I have ever been online -- between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever-gram -- it's been interesting. We put a lot out there, don't we? From our obsessions with independent films to our fixations on borderline racially motivated politics -- we kinda' get the gist of what makes our friends and acquaintances 'tick'. And you certainly get your share of reading about my twisted life and views, as well as an overabundance of Lola. And now, you get to learn about my clogged up pipes, which is why I'm writing on a Sunday afternoon. I shouldn't be sitting in my office right now. I was supposed to pick up a new faucet, an attachment to our oven range, and of course, a new toilet seat. I'm missing out on all the fun as Madelene treks off to Home Depot. The tree chopping 'n trimming will be put off until tomorrow. So there's that.

So anyway, I'm online and I found this incredible photo with a description about being human. I can't even imagine if they practiced this sort of thing here in the states. To take someone in the center of your city or town and say all the good things that they have done when they committed an immoral or inexcusable act is just too beautiful for even us to understand. I'll take it even a step further: when you think about your ex and how much they hurt you by cheating or lying or whatever offense was done -- now take them "in the center of the village" and start chanting about all the good things they have done. You know what's really interesting to me -- is that many people end up hating all the qualities and quirks that they fell in love with the person in the first place. It's no longer a "quality" but a "flaw" now. But think back. What good things can you say about a person (an ex or a former friend) after they have have hurt you so deeply? Are they rotten through and through, or is it your heart that seems to fog out all of the magnificent light because it was broken and shattered into pieces? Think back to 'why' you fell in love with him or her. Think about the way they made you feel, or a nice thing they did for you that you'll never forget. The view certainly gets distorted.

I saw a post by a friend on Facebook yesterday saying, "I miss him." Of course it was semi-subliminal, so only her close friends would kinda' gather who she was referring to. I just put a heart emoticon to acknowledge her pain. I truly believe we never stop loving someone in our past. We fell in love for a reason. Mind you, the "in love" part can fade, but that deep love for the person you fell in love with still remains. Memories and special events that were attended, gifts that were given, Saturday mornings under the covers, long kisses after a petty argument and and and, forgiveness. Handwritten letters, poems, emails, photos, text messages, an old sweater...and now complete strangers. And sure, for good reason. For good reason... There's a reason why so many older folks are still together after 50, 60 or more years. They never gave up on one another. They focused on the good, even when given the bad. They had a true sense of the word "forgiveness" and giving the person that they claimed they loved the benefit of the doubt. What happened?

What happened?

We made more of an effort back in the day. Commitment, no matter what it entailed, showed a dedication and a genuine sense of loyalty. We're all flawed and each and every single one of us makes mistakes from time to time. We are human. We are flawed by design. A friend said to me a couple of weeks ago that we were not meant for monogamy. There is literature (somewhere) about it which proves to be true, to a degree. What is the true meaning of "loyalty"? It's defined as "a strong feeling of support or allegiance" and "faithful to one's oath, commitments, or obligations." But what if you were asked to be "loyal" to perfection? What kind of toll would that take on a human being to be "LOYAL" to "PERFECTION"? It's impossible. Yep -- I said it -- it. is. impossible.  In fact, there are some people who are in relationships or marriages who view watching pornography or pornographic images as "cheating".  Even "impure thoughts" -- fantasies -- those are all considered "cheating" to some. But what if...what if...you can share all of those fantasies with your spouse? Is it immoral to share your fantasies and desires with the person you made the commitment with? And if you decide to be in a polyamorous relationship, is that seen as taboo? I personally can't do it. Between my OCD of germs and just keeping up with one person is quite enough for me. But I would never expect perfection from her, even though she's faithful as a ... umm ... my Lola.

When you think about all of your past loves, think about the way you feel at this very moment. (Ok, don't throw a shoe at the screen!) But think about what you feel right now. And although you would most likely never, ever get back together with them again (soooo Taylor Swift of me) -- you still "have them in your heart" as we always say. To "have someone in your heart" means to have some level of love for them still. I have personally been in four long-term relationships (minus the semi-dating-friends-with-benefits type of deals), I can honestly say that I still love them all. I love them in a way that doesn't make me text them at 2am -- I'm talking about a gratefulness in my heart that I got to experience the time and love that I once shared with them. I hold zero bitterness for anyone I shared my life with. That's gone. I talk about the good things -- like that photo above. I proverbially take them in the center of the "village" for two days and say all good things they have done. And I dated some pretty awesome people, so I have a lot to say. A lot.

Let your past make you better, not bitter. Forgive. Forget. Remember the good.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Philophobia: Do You Have It?

If I had to say one thing about my friends, I would definitely consider them to be my chosen family. When I bring someone into my life -- or better yet -- when someone chooses to spend their time with me, I never take it for granted. Just like a relationship, I always try to seek out a lifetime friend. Of course you're either going to get 'for a reason, a season or a lifetime' -- and that's okay. People that come into our lives are meant to either teach us a lesson, to help us in times of trouble or to simply make you laugh and smile for however long. And as we grow older, that whole "BFF" thing sort of takes a left turn to Albuquerque. It's okay to have that once a month friend (and no I'm not referring to Flo), and it's okay to pick up where you left off after 6 months of not seeing one another. I have friends that I haven't seen in almost a year, where I can talk to them this very minute and it feels like just yesterday. That's what I call a bond. As of lately, I have been very close with quite a few people in my life. My friends know they can come and talk to me without any judgment, and I know I can do the same.

Respecting boundaries is very important in a friendship. When someone says, "I'm always here for you," -- to me that says, "Yes, I will help you when you need me," but at the same time, people have to realize that there are circumstances when you just cannot be to their avail 24/7. We try, but some things in life occasionally takes center stage. This is what any friend has to accept. This is also important in a relationship or marriage. Respecting boundaries is very important. I had an old friend who had texted me out of the blue after a few months of not speaking, asking me to call her right away. Madelene and I were sitting at the diner having breakfast. It was our first day off in a very long time. I texted her back, "Can I call you later, I'm in a diner having breakfast. Are you okay?"

I got the big caps that said, "I DON'T KNOW IF I'M OKAY BECAUSE YOU WON'T TALK TO ME!" Although this is a common occurrence with her (she always has an emergency that isn't really an emergency), 95% of the time I am always there for her.

I don't subscribe to psychotic issues, because I have enough of my own to deal with. This is why I have a therapist. I texted her back. I basically told her that I am in no mood for guilt trips and if she cannot wait until later to talk, then to contact someone else who is closer to her. Was I being insensitive or just being respectful of Madelene's time? So now, the phone gets put away (as it should have been) and when I am in anybody's company, I will not answer any texts ever again. I will keep my phone on vibrate in case there is an emergency. But that just got my blood boiling and I thought to myself -- you can't expect someone to just drop everything and come to your rescue -- especially if you're 1,000 miles away. If I needed to speak to vent to one of my friends and he or she was not available, I would totally understand. It's called life. I'm sure they'll return my call if they know I'm in need. I don't have to piss them off just because they're busy doing something else.

Which brings me to my next topic: it's a two way street. "How are YOU?" I sincerely want to know. I want honesty and your ability to trust me. I also like the "how are you" back. And hopefully I won't chew your ear off. Friendship can be therapeutic in many ways. This is another reason why I am so picky with choosing a therapist. Since I have anxiety disorder, I need my therapist to be compassionate, but yet clinical at the same time. I have gone through many therapists who have been helpful, in a friendship kinda' way -- where I mutter to myself, "I should have just went to my friend's house instead of sitting here and paying someone to pretend to be my 'friend'." I'm not implying that therapists are insincere, but there is no value of your dollar if you're just sitting around with someone shooting the breeze as if you were hanging out with a friend. I need clinical advice -- I need survival techniques on how to deal with my panic attacks or issues or anything else I am paying them to help me with. There have been countless times when I found myself feeling the need to ask the therapist, "Hey -- are you okay?" Most are grasping at straws trying to find solutions to your problems, all the while trying to find solutions for their own. I guess we're all human trying to make our way through the maze. My point is: friendship and therapy are two entirely different things. If your therapist feels more like a friend, then you may need to see someone else. If your friendship feels more like a therapy session, then the same applies. There has to be a balance.

What about intimate relationships?

Wouldn't it be nice if your partner or spouse were your best friend? But, isn't that how it's supposed to be?  Madelene and I were best friends for a couple of years before we made a commitment. Oddly enough, that commitment was made on December 10th (today's date) in 1996. I met her in '94. When a relationship stands on a foundation of friendship, you can get through most of life's issues together. I have been in intimate relationships that started on a very sexual note, which usually ended up on bad terms because there was no foundation of friendship to begin with. So our entire 'relationship' overall just crumbled as a house would when there is no foundation of its own. In a relationship, I need to feel loved. I also need to show my love. Love isn't just a feeling, it's an action too. You do things out of love. You'll demonstrate how far you'll go for someone without even saying, "I love you." But don't forget to tell them "I love you" every single day. They'll already know because they feel it. They see it. They know it. You should, without a doubt, know how much someone loves and cares for you if you are in a relationship or marriage with them. When my wife says, "I love you," she then asks, "...but do you feel it?" I think that's pretty cool after knowing her for over 20 years.

Vulnerability means instability to some.

And that's very normal to feel. It's scary to be completely vulnerable to someone, especially if you were hurt in the past. Your walls are high and your bricks are thick. Nobody's busting through. But you know something -- life is too short not to be vulnerable. Take those risks for someone you love. We're always going to get hurt, whether through a breakup or through death of our loved ones. There's no stopping it either. But it hurts more to be closed up. I closed myself up for a very long time after being hurt. I pushed so many good people away and ended up feeling very lonely -- even if there were many "acquaintances" around me. I didn't feel connected. I felt like I lost myself over a hurt that I wasn't "allowing" myself to get over. I became bitter, and with that, I started hating myself. I started feeling insecure and scared. I started blaming everybody else for what people did to me in the past. It all had a ripple effect. The day I opened up -- the day I became vulnerable, was the day I felt free. It was the day I allowed someone else to love me. It was the day I allowed myself to love someone in return, even if...I got hurt again. And wow, it's such a scary feeling. The one thing I learned is that we have to do things in fear, or we'll never do them at all. And not to say that you still won't feel the hurt from the past, but it does get better. I can still think about a past offense from someone I once loved and cry my eyes out. It's still 'there' -- but I survived. I guess in a way, this entire paragraph made me feel a bit vulnerable. I'm a bit emotional writing it, but if it helps someone else who is going through what I went through, then I'll refrain from deleting it. Unconditional love is hard to find, unless you have a dog. That's just my two cents.

"Vulnerability is the essence of romance. It's the art of being uncalculated, the willingness to look foolish, the courage to say, 'This is me, and I'm interested in you enough to show you my flaws with the hope that you may embrace me for all that I am but, more important, all that I am not.'" --Ashton Kutcher

"Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can't ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment's notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow -- that's vulnerability." --Brene Brown

Philophobia: The fear of being in love and falling in love. The risk is usually when a person has confronted any emotional turmoil relating to love in the past but also can be chronic phobia.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

License to Discriminate

Christianity. That word alone sends shivers down our spines. Christianity. There's a sense of fear and avoidance to it. Christianity. There's a tinge of anger and hostility, perhaps a lot in some cases. Christianity. People flee from the "Christian life" to live a life free from judgmental holy rollers with big bibles to thrash around. They highlight their cherry picked scriptures in their sacred holy books, without noticing the black and white texts to which describe their own lives. The only word that they see is HOMOSEXUALITY. They grab a hold of it and bash the people in the next pew for loving a person of the same gender. However, they never complain about being a divorcee with a new spouse. Isn't that...adultery? They never once mention how they love seafood (crustaceans of the sea which is an abomination in Leviticus) and fail to mention their clean shaven faces. Their tattoo of Jesus on their right arm is a reminder of their faith. But hell if they're gonna be a "homo". In fact, let 'em all die!

This is what the state of Michigan has done to their LGBT people living among them. The statehouse passed a "license to discriminate" bill that would give anyone the right to refuse services, such as medical care and EMTs coming to their rescue. So, if a gay or lesbian person were to collapse in the middle of the street, an EMT can refuse a life saving technique due to their views on their religious faith. "Well, he/she's a homo, so let them die. WWJD...? In fact, Jesus said nothing about homosexuality in any of the books within the bible. The old law was abolished when Jesus gave His life, but sadly, many believers feel that the old law still applies to Christians. But but but -- it doesn't matter. No matter how much you want to put your "GOD" into the equation, you may be dealing with a gay atheist, or a lesbian Episcopalian. We are all different: different religions, different races, different lifestyles. We do not all conform or subscribe to ONE faith, ONE god, ONE viewpoint. If you are a faithful Christian, then act it. In the same breath, also realize that you cannot control the world. We have people from every single lifestyle out there. It is not your job to play God. It is not your job to decide who should go to hell...or die in the streets due to your "license to discriminate".

Jesus said: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck out of your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5)

We should not judge in matters of opinion.

"Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:1-4).

"But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.' So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way." (Romans 14:10-13)

There's another sad situation that I'm currently experiencing with a friend of mine who struggles with these types of prejudices because she's black. There was once a time when her relatives were not able to be seated among white people nor were they allowed in the front of a bus. They had minimal rights like the LGBT community, but it wasn't so much based on religion as it is with homosexuality. My friend, however, feels that being black is much different from being homosexual.

"We were born this way, Deb."
"Me too. I was born this way."

Same struggles.
Whether or not it is a lifestyle vs. skin color, both of our rights were on the table, mine still is in various states and countries. I can be killed for being gay in some parts of the world.

She stated to me, "Being homosexual is a sin, it says so in the bible."
To which I replied, "It also states in the bible that being a slave is okay."

Do you see the madness?

Jesus is probably weeping over these ridiculous debates. What about just simply loving one another or at least, respecting one another regardless? Isn't that what God commanded us to do...in the bible?

Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

We are not doing this!

And even when we are facing the same struggles, we fight and we fight and we fight. We judge until we're blue in the face. It's disgusting what goes on when there is a situation like the Ferguson case or what happened to Eric Garner. On social media, people who you thought were "friends" instantly become enemies. Your opinions means war. Beliefs becomes factual events, like Christians trying to pass laws to discriminate in the name of God. Well what about extremist Muslims who want to kill in the name of God? Their God. Not our God. Whose God? And so, the battle will continue as it did for a thousand years.

Let's face it. We will never come to terms with racial, antigay or antisemite type of situations. (I'm sure I'm missing another 5,000 groups.) We will never see eye-to-eye when it comes to our faith; our core belief system. We will not deter from it nor will we ever stop fighting about it. Unless, we can safely sit back and watch it all unfold before our eyes without saying ONE word. Can you do that?

I can't.

I can do one thing. I can listen. I can tell you what I interpret the biblical scriptures to be, because there is no concrete answer when it comes to the bible. I know I can't change the world with this lil' ol' blog of mine, but maybe I can inspire somebody who's reading this to actually see a different side to all of these arguments stemmed from racial and antigay events. Maybe I can try to make an antigay Christian person see that there are much more "sins" in that big book of theirs -- a huge list of people that they congregate with -- sins that go against their "religious beliefs". Would you steer them away from your business or refuse medical help on them if they needed it? What about your friend who cheated on her husband? Would you call 911 if she needed help? Or would that go against what you stand for?

So I'm going to ask all of you who are reading this article to do me a big favor. In the comment section below, or on my Facebook page, please list the sins that would also qualify for their "license to discriminate" due to their religious beliefs.


For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Crooked Star

It must be that time of year, because I constantly keep thinking and talking about my dad a lot. It's only been two years since he passed, yet I sometimes feel like he's still here in a way. I still have those dreams, where I wake up in the dream while meeting him, and I always say, "Is it really you, Dad?" And he quickly motions his hands to come over, "Yeah yeah -- it's really me, hurry!" We have a 10 second "meet time" where we hug and say hello and then it's over just. like. that. Poof. Gone. I wake up almost instantly, either smiling or crying. It depends. I do believe these "meetings" in my dreams are real, because I verify it right in the dream itself. "Is it really you?" Or, "Is this real?" -- Meaning, 'am I really and truly seeing you in my dream as an actual meeting' sort of question. But why for only 10 seconds or less? During Mom's last day of radiation when they made her ring a bell to signify her treatment was over, I literally saw my father standing behind my mom, smiling from ear to ear. Then the image was gone, just. like. that.

With so many memories, I ran out of tissues.
December 5th, 2011, yes today -- I remember it was a Sunday. Madelene and I had gone to the farm to pick up a Christmas tree. Dad was done with his radiation treatment and waiting to undergo other procedures. He was okay for the most part and living life normally, whatever "normally" is. He laughed while watching Madelene and I carry this monstrous tree inside the door. Needles and branches were breaking off (bad sign) and we lugged it into the middle of the living room. We stood the tree into an incredibly small base and started getting out the decorations.

"Would it be okay if I sat here and watched you two decorate the tree?"

The actual tree from Dec 5th, 2011.
As if he had to ask. As a tradition, Madelene and I always make Bailey's on the rocks while decorating the tree and listen to Christmas music. We poured one for Dad as well. Mom always twitches once the Christmas music goes on and then locks herself in another room to avoid it all. Dad sat there and laughed the entire time giving us his two cents, "Dat' star is crooked," as Mad and I bickered about how the decorations should be.

"The lights are supposed to go on first and inside the branches!"
"No! Put the tinsel up first!"
"He's right, the star is crooked, move it to the left!"
"Cut the stem because it's gonna start to limp!"
"It's fine! Just plug it in already!"

As normal as we can to try to move through the holidays, there's always that strange void. I always have those memories of when I was growing up with my sisters on the night before Christmas Eve. I miss the preparations for the Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian tradition held in many households. I miss smelling shrimp boiling on December 23rd, to prep for the big Christmas Eve party. There are no smells of lobster and crabmeat salad being mustered up, no delicious aromas of garlic and breading for the stuffed clams wafting up into our area while we all slept (or tried to) 2am in the morning. Dad would retire and head off to bed at around 5am, sleep the entire day off and then wake up at 5 or 6pm to shower and get dressed for the festivities. Mom would start frying shrimp and yellow tail around 6pm, batting me off with a spatula as I tried convincing her that I'm the "taste tester". She'd create this amazing antipasto, along with Italian bread, assorted cheeses and a ton of chips just to nosh on before the real deal came shuffling out of that tiny kitchen. That was all I have known Christmas to be for the past 35 years or so.

Dad always dressing up as Santa.

Christmas is still as beautiful as can be...it's just different.

I met an old friend the other day in the supermarket. I hadn't seen in him like 20+ years or so. He asked how I was doing and then started reminiscing about my father. He said, "Oh wow, I remember coming to your house and your father feeding me this enormous plate of food that was so delicious, I nearly rolled out of there! He was great!"  I didn't tell him anything and just smiled. I pictured it too. Both my parents always did the same thing -- fed you till you couldn't breathe. I think most Italians tend to do that to make you feel welcomed. I have come across quite a few people who remember Dad and 99% of the time, I don't say anything, unless they ask, "So how is he?"

The best team ever.
There's a huge part of me that feels awful about writing about dad because of my mother. The both of them together did so much for the family during the holidays, and mom still does so much till this day. I don't mean to put Dad in the limelight because Mom and Dad were quite the team. But when you lose someone, especially a family member, I guess it's pretty normal to feel it more around the holidays. We feel the loss of the other "team member" a little more. There's no wood being chopped outside, backhoes running up and down the hill fixing the road or snow getting plowed without calling up a contractor to do it. Last week we had roofers here to fix some things around the house. One of them asked, "I remember your father hired me to do his roof years ago," as he stared off into the view. I responded with,"Oh yeah?" Nothing else was said. I wasn't in the mood to fish for another, "Oh, I'm sorry," or any other sort of sympathetic response.

When somebody is missing, what do you typically do? You look for them. Or, you look for signs of them, perhaps even memories and dwell on them. For instance, last June my BBQ that I bought for Dad broke. I got it for him on Father's Day. Oddly enough, the first time we wanted to BBQ was on Father's Day. I bought this huge stainless steel BBQ grill that day and secretly wished him a Happy Father's Day while we put it together. It was twice the size of our old one. I hope he saw it. Regardless, there are so many reminders, so many memories that come flooding in because of my Dad's excitement around the holidays. He loved every second of the holidays because he loved every second of being with his family, regardless of how many times he would shout, "Get outa' here, Debbie!"

So yeah, December 5th. I remember it well. I think I always will. I remember him sipping his Bailey's and making fun of us while we trimmed the tree. "Ugh God! You two are crazy, you know dat'?"

He'll always be missed. I'll make sure the star isn't crooked this year, Dad.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Social Media Wars Over Mainstream Media

This world hasn't progressed all that much. People can put on a good facade and appear openminded and accepting of those of a different age, race, creed, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation and identity. But if their core belief is discriminatory, I'm not quite sure it can be altered all that much. For example, if a person was taught from the first day they were on this earth, that Jesus is the only way to get into heaven, then even if he or she changes religions later on in life, their inner core belief will always give them a tinge of guilt or perhaps even fear. "Am I going to heaven or not?" If someone grew up in a household that deemed blacks and hispanic people to be "bad folk" -- most likely, that child will grow up to be a racist. Same applies for anyone who grew up being taught that homosexuals are perverts and should be shunned. And there you have the ingredients for homophobia. Society has definitely progressed, but more so in legal terms. Blacks and whites can now sit together in a diner having lunch. Gays and lesbians can now get married, without the risk of sexual relations or marriages between interspecies. Your goat is safe.

Who knows? Is this fabricated too?
We all have our opinions and how we love to post them up onto social media. I know I do. We have a voice beyond just picking up the tin can and string and venting to our best friends about it. The world can now know what we think. But, does the world even care? Surprisingly, yes. Anytime national injustice, murder or scandal takes place, especially blasted out on the mainstream media, it goes right onto social media. Especially considering the case in Ferguson, people will either be for or against Michael Brown or the officer who shot him, Darren Wilson. I cannot tell you how many sides of this story was shuffled about. First Michael Brown was getting arrested because he robbed a bodega. Then, word had it that the officer didn't even know he was running away from a robbery. Was it a close range shot in self-defense, against a few eyewitnesses saying it was a shot from a far distance with the boy's hands up?

If you don't believe that we still have a problem with racism, then you need to get out from under the rock and look at the world a little bit closer. On both sides, blacks and whites still  have tension. It's sad, because this world is faking "acceptance" -- it is trying so hard to be what it isn't: equal. The one thing that angers me -- yes angers me -- are ignorant right winged conservatives who believe anything and everything they see on the net. The conservatives who watch FOX news endlessly. The ones who mock every single equality battle that people are so desperately trying to gain. The oppressors. The ones who judge. The ones who think they are holier than thou. Those right wingers -- because there are good right wingers, even gay right wingers who are called, Log Cabin Republicans. They're not all the same.

Yesterday morning, I saw a bunch of photos with this black kid holding a sign up. I read it, and then had to read it again. About five of my friends had posted it...five of them, who were 'foam-at-the-mouth-conservatives' who bitch and moan about any sort of equality movement going full steam ahead. "Love the sinner, hate the sin" kinda people. Their brain only travels one way: right. Even if it's dead wrong, they will defend it until they turn blue.

So to all who posted this photoshopped image -- I'll be honest. You're assholes.
This is the photoshopped version.
Here is the real photo.
Most ignorant conservatives won't give you the whole story. They only show you one piece of the "lie" and then spread it like wildfire on the internet, causing grief within our society and much more angst amongst blacks and whites. It only takes seconds to look up the truth on the internet if you see something a bit 'off'. Conservatives are lazy though. They don't want to do a little fact checking, but they will not hesitate to post something like the first picture and spread it so that people's opinions will hopefully change. They only want to be "right" --- not wrong. They can't be wrong, because...they're "right". I sifted through my feed and saw friends and family fighting about racism and even going beyond that, fighting about homosexuality! How did it end up there? They fought about everything under the sun in order to make people think that their truth was more legit than the actual truth. Do we even know the truth?

Bill Cosby. The name alone stirs up such anger and animosity. It stirs up memories of those who had been raped or molested. This is an emotional scandal that is affecting women all over the United States. Over on Facebook, I had written a status message that got a lot of people a little heated, especially one comedian named, Jimmy Dore. You can read the entire thread here to see how crazy this got.

My status message said this: "What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Why would you want to see someone flung into jail without proof? Or do you really feel that these women are telling the truth about Bill Cosby? If he did it, then he's a scumbag -- BUT -- these women freely walked into his hotel room, had a drink, accepted drugs on their "free will" and then cry rape almost 40 years later? Rape is horrible! But so is lying in order to get $$$."

My point was that I do not know who is telling the truth. I wasn't there. Many women have come out accusing Cosby of drugging and raping them. Then again, there have been similar cases like this before which weren't true. There have been many innocent men who have been thrown into jail for many years over something they did not do. All I asked for was proof or at least, give us something concrete to which we can use. If Bill Cosby raped these poor women, then yes he is a scumbag. If not, then shame on these women. But, I never said these women lied -- I said it would be a shame if they did lie. I simply. do. not. know. Neither does anybody else.

There is nothing wrong with giving your honest opinion and sharing it. But what happens when someone gets so emotionally involved in whatever story, and then takes it upon themselves to insult you or even go to extremes and tells you to kill yourself over an opinion? What a scary world it's become.

So Mr. Jimmy Dore took it upon himself to write on my wall publicly, telling me things like I'm a subhuman and that I should kill myself for my opinions. You can read the screenshots below. His wife made a statement as well.

Then Jimmy Dore took it over to Twitter to blast a fellow writer who happens to have a blog as well. He also told her to "kill herself". 

Brianne, being the blogger she is, posted an article about Jimmy Dore's behavior. You can read it here

But it didn't end there. Jimmy Dore's wife, Stefane Zamorano left a nice comment on Facebook as well, as you can see below. 

My point is, nothing "horrible" was said in my status message. I left an opinion that demonstrated that we need proof in order to throw accusations and possible legal actions against someone. If the judicial system threw everyone who was accused of anything straight into jail, how many innocent people would be left behind bars? It just doesn't make sense. I realize that the statutes of limitations are up and I also realize that women who have been raped sometimes never tell what happened...until it's too late. Almost 40 years later, these women are all coming out of the woodwork. My heart goes out to each and every woman who had to live through these torturous nightmares of reliving a possible rape. Yes, "possible" -- because let's face it -- we. were. not. there.  But how can people who have nothing to do with Bill Cosby OR these women, go on social media telling people, "Go kill yourself!" Stefane stated that I said "horrific things" about the women who accused Cosby or rape. Where? She called my friend Dorothy and I, "misguided dimwits". Nobody said anything negative about these women, except for wanting to know the full story...the truth.

Out of the blue, Jimmy Dore flat out lies and says that I called the women accusing Cosby "whores". First of all, that's not even something I would say, especially to women who may be victims of a horrible crime. To lie about someone's character on the internet is pretty much illegal. It's called, "defamation of character". It is libelous and can be very detrimental if used in court. I never once called anyone a "whore". He then tracked me onto Twitter and left this little message.

I have a big problem with D-listing wannabe celebrities trying to lie and tell people that I'm shaming rape victims and calling them whores. What happens to someone when they get sucked into a story that has nothing to do with them, that they feel the need to attack others on social media? And it's not just random people you don't know -- it can be a friend or family member who has a different opinion than you on a particular topic. So the buzz gets started and so do the fights. It's so unnecessary and this is one of the biggest aspects of social media that I really dislike. Social media is supposed to bring people together, right? But instead, it has tore us apart as a society, showing our true colors and especially our rage against those who think differently, like Jimmy Dore and his wife, Stefane Zamorano. I really don't blame her for not wanting to change her last name to Dore and be affiliated with a moron. But then again, if you back up a moron who tells people on social media to "go kill themselves" over an opinion, it doesn't make her much of a strong-minded women in my opinion. She lives under the thumb of some joker who is trying to make his way up by making people laugh. I'm not sure if I find him funny, neither did a lot of people who came across him. Maybe he should tweet when he's not so stoned next time. 

Moving on...

I truly find it amazing how there are so many people who feel that they can express their racial and bigoted views onto social media without thinking that there are any repercussions whatsoever. People get fired over this stuff all the time. Even if your settings are private -- they are not private, if even one person sees it. And do you trust everyone you know? Screenshots and possible hackings are being done all the time. On the other hand, there are people who know how sensitive racial or any other discriminatory statements can be, especially if seen by your employer. On Gawker, they had an article about this crazy guy who framed his ex-girlfriend on Facebook. He created a fake account with her photo and posted racists status messages.
NOT her account! 

While taking screenshots are seemingly trustworthy, they can also be altered and falsely made. On a Tumblr website called, "Racists Getting Fired", he smeared his girlfriend's name all over their website. The smear got thousands or reblogs, which prompted readers to contact the employer and get her fired. 

Back in the day, it was good to have a voice. It was good to have the internet, blogs and social media as soap boxes. But now, all of our once positive tools have turned against us. It's given more drive to make enemies, as well as to be framed and misquoted with the libelous count of deflation of character. I'm not even sure if it's even good to be on the net at all! But who's gonna be without it? People want to be in the know. People want news -- no matter where it's from, sadly. People rely on spoof websites, comparable to The Onion and get their sources from blogs, and extreme left or right winged news sources -- none to which are credible and then they base their opinions on that. The only good thing about social media now is, you can weed out the crazy people and their idiotic news sources and opinions with no factual basis and chuck em' to the side. And, you can always un-friend and block. 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Do You Empathize or Criticize?

When I started elementary school, it was a strange time for me. There were kids from all walks of life, all different races and religions. In my mind, I thought everyone grew up like I did. We lived in a large five bedroom home on top of a huge mountain overlooking three neighboring towns. We had ATVs, Cadillacs and 4x4 cars and trucks. We were considered a "well to do" family. I never knew that there were people less fortunate out there, until I began making new friends. (I know some of my old friends will know who I'm speaking about once reading this.) I will change his real name to, Ted. This boy befriended me on the bus when I was 10 years old. He was funny, quirky and made me laugh all the time. My bus stop was before his, so I never really knew how far down the road he lived from me. One day, he asked me to come over and hang out after school. He told me it was a short walk from my bus stop, and to get off at his instead. I remember the bus dropped us off at the end of some dirt road. It was a short ways up to his house, which was a tiny little log cabin set up on a hill. As I walked up to his property, he had a huge kennel full of hound dogs and a chicken coop on the side. He said, "That's where we get our eggs from, we never go to the grocery store."

That's when I started to realize a lot of things, especially when he walked me into his house. When the door opened, you walked straight into their kitchen. The smell was musty, old with a tinge of something rotting somewhere underneath something. It was dirty and unkept. I asked for a glass of water, and he apologized. They had no running water in the house and if I needed to use the bathroom, I had to walk across the driveway into an outhouse. They would grab buckets of water from the lake below and put it on a fire outside to kill any pathogens. I asked him where he took his showers. He would go to the high school a few times a week and take a shower in the locker room of the gym. Sometimes he and his father would just go right down to the lake if it was warm enough just to wash up. My heart sank. I couldn't believe this young kid lived like the Amish, but even worse off -- the living quarters were far from sanitary. I started to feel bad asking him to come over to my house because he truly had nothing. His bedroom was a makeshift loft made out of the trees they grabbed from inside the woods nearby. They were squatters and didn't have a mortgage or rental agreement.

That summer we had off, he became one of my best friends. People called him names and referred to him and his single father, "the bum family".  

"Don't worry, I'm used to it," he said as he shrugged it off. 
"You shouldn't get used to this." I replied, fuming from anger over these little spoiled brats who didn't know anything but being brought up in a huge house with running water and silver spoons shoved down their throats.

I would take my quad and drive through the Appalachian Trails to get to his house. His father was an avid hunter, making us try fresh deer meat and even rabbit occasionally. They lived off the land. We would go up to this mountain and cook all the food that he just caught over an open stone fire. I never tasted such good food -- food from survivors -- food from people who had nothing at all, but their generosity.  After dinner, we sat by the fire staring at the stars, telling jokes and laughing till we couldn't laugh anymore. When I think back to that time, I have to say it brings back such warm memories of how amazing some people can be. I was treated with more respect than any of my rich friends' parents had ever shown me. These people weren't "bums". The father was a hard working man, unfortunately unable to afford what most could. He was a single parent trying to do his best. He didn't do drugs or any of those stereotypical reasons of "why" he was so poor. He just fell on hard times and was trying to get back on his feet. They soon came into money from an inheritance and finally was able to buy a home upstate with running water. 

Has it changed today? Have people's perceptions of the less fortunate change all that much? I was proud to be friends with Ted. He had everything to me: the love and effort of his father to raise his kid and feed him with whatever means it took. Not many people can say that. What happens when kids are intermingled in school? From poor to rich and in between -- are the poor kids still being mocked for having less than the average person? Sadly, I see most of the prejudice against the poor in adults. They compare what kind of cars they drive or what kind of house they own, and squeamish over those who dare to rent. Most wealthy Americans are usually in over their heads in debt, having materialistic things that they truly do not own. Regardless, what makes a poor person lesser of a person from the rich man? Is it the lack of education? Is it their financial status' that make them lesser of a person? 

My question is: does wealth bring happiness? 

Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth--except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers? People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich are always worrying and seldom get a good night's sleep. --Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 

I have observed something else in this world of ours. The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle. The wise are often poor, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being at the right place at the right time. People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a snare, people are often caught by sudden tragedy. --Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

My friend Ted was mocked for years while he was in school because he was poor. The "rich kids" all made fun of him and called him a redneck and even worse off names. They never wanted to get to know this awesome guy -- this kid who had a wonderful personality. But later on in life, when I look at those very same people who mocked him for being poor, I now see drug addicts, struggling to make ends meet and I also see the rich kids who grew up with their houses under foreclosure. I'm not a fan of "karma", but there has to be something said for the outcome of people's behaviors. 

I also see so many people who have gone to college who winded up working as a cashier and still trying to pay their student loans back. All the education in the world doesn't guarantee a high profile job, nor does it prove that you have any sort of wisdom that goes beyond the books. Education does not mean you have empathy for others. I truly believe that God is in all of us. So why would someone mock another person for having less than they have? If they do, then help them. Remember, God is inside them. It's a test -- a test in your character of how well you will treat others. What if tragedy struck your home and you had to struggle making ends meet like the people you mock? Do you grasp for every possible excuse in the book? Or do you finally 'get it' -- that life isn't always easy? Sometimes it takes experience -- to be in that person's shoes to finally empathize with them.

Please watch this video below. There's a huge difference between sympathy and empathy.

Please click here if you cannot view the video above.

When someone loses their sense of empathy, they lose their sense of what it means to be human -- to love one another as you would love yourself, to treat one another as you would treat yourself. Truth is, we all struggle, whether rich or poor or somewhere in between. We have heartbreaks and tragic losses. We suffer from anxiety or depression or even both. We know what it's like to have our hopes and dreams crushed. But what if we all understood the meaning of empathy? What if we all helped those we saw before us who are less fortunate? How much better would this world be? But no -- we're still posting up offensive photos of cartoons mocking people who are on welfare or SSI disability screaming, "We're paying for your lifestyle!" You resent helping the poor or needy -- you are angry at those who can't make ends meet. Where is that anger coming from? And while it's only fair to say that yes, there are some people who do take advantage who are are lazy and don't want to work, but there are many people who suffer in many different ways in this world, some unseen like mental illness or suffer a physical chronic ailment. I wish some people would take a little stroll in other people's shoes for once and realize how hard it really is out there. Before you criticize someone for being out of work, try looking at the jobs in their area and find out for yourself how difficult it can be.

But no. We're all too busy counting our money and our Louboutins we have stashed in our walk-in closets, probably the size of a studio apartment.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Growth Spurts

Yesterday, someone shared a quote with me that resonated with me so much. She said, "Just remember, trying to hurt me by bringing up my...