Thursday, December 31, 2009

A few things I would become a "FAN" of in the New Year.

Facebook is always inviting me to become a "FAN" of something or other, so here are three groups I would join if they existed.


Derbe, "Skip" Eckhart is the idiot owner of Almost Heaven (But more like Hell) kennels who had several hundred animals seized from his property in 2008 during a raid, yet still claims he was only looking after their best interests. The legal battle still rages almost 15 months later. Here is hoping a judge sentences him to live in the same putrid conditions he thought those poor animals enjoyed. That likely won't happen, but I can hope.


Just turn off the TV, and refuse to read any rag that puts those two media whore train wrecks on the cover. If you really have to watch the boob tube, boycott any show that makes them the lead story by changing the channel. PBS is still decent, watch an episode of NOVA if you can. Hell, I would even watch project Runway or queer eye for the straight guy reruns if that was the only choice I had.


If you live in the Lehigh Valley, and have picked up a copy of the Tribune company's publication recently, you know exactly what I am talking about. Here are two recent headlines:

"Volunteer Firefighter sentenced for driving Trunk Drunk" and "Valley came into its down in the last decade."

It is a tragedy the way the owners of this conglomerate have gutted the local paper. All in the name of the bottom line. The daily misspellings and errors have become part of our local entertainment, as well as headlines concerning events that happened over a week before. Any day now I expect one informing us that we have a President who may not be white!

Okay, that is three things I would become a Fan of, what about yours?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The End of the year as it looks from my perch on Mount Trexlertown

I am one of those people who thinks it is absurd to use the last week of the calendar year as a reason to make a list of who died in the last 12 months and review it. It IS important to remember those no longer in our personal lives, but I did not see any celebrity as a particularly great loss.

In the Post "John and Kate" world, I think our culture has lost a piece of our collective soul by valuing such idiocy as relevant. I think we should be more concerned with improving the lives of those in our immediate community than following the lives of such starved for attention media whores like John and Kate and the balloon boys' parents.

We have truly become an ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) culture, we are unable to pay attention to the things we should for more than 5 seconds, before becoming distracted by news that some famous person was a) arrested, b) cheating on their spouse, c) trying to adopt a kid from a foreign country, or d) running for elected office, despite having nothing more than a pretty face.

Is it the End of the year, the end of civilization, or both?

What is really bothering me is that last Monday one of my relatives, Kenneth Casey died. We were both born at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Brighton Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. We were born eleven days apart, and like me, he just turned 48.

Last summer he was diagnosed with an inoperable Esophageal cancer. He went through the whole schedule of radiation treatments, and when he returned to the doctor in September, they told him he had a month left. In November they told him two weeks. He was in Hospice for the last month, and on Morphine during that time as well. He had slipped into a coma over the last weekend, and God in his mercy did not bring him out.
I didn't find out Kenneth was sick until my Uncle called me to tell me that he died, and make me aware of the service to be held on Saturday January ninth.

Kenneth Casey died at home with his daughter and grandchild nearby. Nothing makes you more aware of your mortality than the death of a family member close to your own age. He was the youngest of eleven children and the first of them to die.

I wept for him Tuesday night as I digested the news. Lately I have found reason to cry regularly. I find myself tearing up at the sight of military families as they stand beside the casket of their loved returning from overseas a final time. I cried as the vet gave Ethel an injection that ended her misery after a stroke.

I also cringe in anger as ideologues in government bicker over semantics as millions of Americans can't afford to both eat or pay for medicine that would improve the quality of their life or lengthen it. That doesn't make me cry, but it makes me angry.

It is absolutely mind boggling to me that I can take my terminally ill pet to a vet and end her misery. Yet for some reason a human being enduring horrific pain and near lethal levels of morphine to manage that pain is not allowed to ask for the same humane treatment. When we do it for a family pet, it is humane, but when we ask for it concerning a beloved family member, it is considered murder. Thank God that we are allowed to file DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders.

For the life of me, I can't understand why some ideologues insist on inflicting their religious beliefs on everybody else. One of the base tenets of all known religions is Mercy. Many of the so called great preachers of our time love to cite MERCY when it suits their purpose. Maybe in 2010 they will discover a new use for MERCY, but I doubt it. They have squandered their soul decrying the virtue less lives of those on reality TV, instead of addressing the real needs of those suffering in the real world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom, and thanks for the Christmas gifts.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the first full day of winter and every December 22 I think of my Mom, who was born on this day in 1916. Yes, my Mom would be 93 today if she were still alive.
My Mom was quite the story teller. As a woman who ran a foster home, she needed to have stories at the ready for every occasion.
When I was around twelve years old, we had a Christmas where the house was literally full of kids.
I had abandoned the whole Santa thing as early as first grade, but there were a couple staying with us who still counted on him.
That Christmas Eve we had a lot of snow, but at 6 PM Mom and Dad herded the half dozen staying with us the half block down East 6th Avenue to St. Thomas Church for the Christmas vigil mass.
I was an altar boy then, and I remember being on the altar, looking out at my parents and the unruly mob of orphans seated on the pew between them and smiling at them.
Today's blog is not about going to church on that Christmas Eve, it is about the story my Mom told the three kids under the age of seven to get them to go to sleep later that night. They had doubts that Santa would find them. They even argued that one of them should stay up to keep watch, and make sure he found them. So My Mom took a seat on one of the beds and called all of them over to it. Then she told them what she said was one of her tales from her own childhood.
The story was about how Santa got back to the North Pole just before dawn, and realized he had missed a stop at an orphanage. Despite being what my Mom described as "Bone Tired", he went into his shop, gathered up some toys, and headed back out. He delivered the toys as the sun was breaking the horizon, and the children in the orphanage rose just in time to wave to him as his sleigh lifted from the building's roof.
She told this story because one of the kids, I am not sure which one, asked her if Santa would be able to find him. He was worried because he had moved around so much and lived in so many different homes. This put doubt in the mind of a couple of the little girls, so my Mom decided to put that doubt at ease.
My Mom's point in telling that story was to reassure him and the other foster kids who were only staying with us on a temporary basis. She told them that Santa would always find them, no matter where they were.
In retrospect, I see it as the extraordinary act of kindness that it was. Every child in our home got a gift that Christmas, as they did every Christmas.
I feel very fortunate that I learned at a very early age that at Christmas time we don't always get the gift we want, but somehow we always end up with the gift we need.
Sometimes whether we want it or not.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I have had some bad weeks in my life. Last week was not the worst, but it was definitely not the best. So for tonight (Tuesday as I write this) I am going to focus on something I am happy about.

This year I finished a novel. Not 75%, n0t 90%, but 100%. I wrote it from start to finish over seven months. I based it on the outline I wrote seven years ago when my dog Fred died. This past Saturday Ethel joined him. In a way, I guess it symbolizes the cycle of life. I finished a book based on Fred, I have started one about Rags, the dog that preceded him, and now I wrote a brief history of Ethel to work from later.

I am happy that I had three such faithful furry friends around me, during my many good and bad times. I still have Lucy and Sally, and God willing, there will be more in the future.
But there is one distant memory I recalled, that in my all recent sorrow, managed to make me smile.

When I was growing up we had all kinds of animals around our home, not just cats and dogs, but rabbits, ducks, hamsters, and even a tortoise. And like all living things, eventually they would die, and my Dad would inter them in our personal family pet cemetery at the rear of our yard. In doing so, we would say an Our Father, a few words about our late pet, and then bow our heads. Dad would always close things up by telling the same old joke about an old Irishman and his dog. Dad would always change the name of the dog to the same as that of the pet we were burying, I think it was his way of reaching out to comfort whoever was mourning.

The joke went like this:

There was an old Irishman who had a faithful dog that went with him wherever he went. One day the dog died, and the Irishman wanted to give him a proper burial, so he went down the road to the nearest church, which happened to be Protestant. He walked up to the pastor and asked if he would have a service in memory of the dog, and let him bury the dog on the church's hallowed ground. "Lord, no," replied the pastor sternly. "We can't go burying a dog in the cemetery with people."
Disappointed, the old Irishman thanked him for his time, and went down the road to the next church, which happened to be Baptist.
Once again, the pastor was adamant there as well, that burying a dog in a cemetery with people just wasn't done.
So the Irishman went back on the road and continued along until he came to the local Catholic church.
From the Priest he got more of the same. "We just don't bury dogs in our cemetery," the priest shook his head sadly. "It isn't proper."

The old Irishman took a step back, and with a tear in his eye, bowed his head. "I would have thought there would be one church willing to bury my dog for $500 dollars."

The Priest's attitude immediately changed, and he let out a hearty laugh. "By God man, of course you can bury your dog here! Why didn't you tell me the dog was Catholic!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Missing Snuffy

I promise this will not turn into a "I miss my dog blog" but I have to get it out of me, this sense of loss I feel.
I thought I was getting past it, but this morning it really hit me. I got up for work at 4 AM, and when I opened the bathroom door after showering and shaving, she was not there waiting. I let my other two out into the yard, and I didn't have to go out and find her to get her in so I could leave. I knew where she was, to the left of the door, next to the Virgin Mary. I wouldn't have to mop the foyer from her contribution of muddy paws anymore.
But it really hit me as I went to leave, and I started to cry. I did what I have absently done so many times before, laying three treats out on the kitchen table, one for each dog. They always sit patiently as I handed them out. Because of her failing vision I would place it directly to her mouth, and she would take it gently.
I had three treats, but only two attentive dogs to give them to. I gave Sally and Lucy their treats, and went out the door, with the third treat in my hand. Instead of turning right to my car I turned left, walked into the grass and stopped at Snuffy's resting place. I did not toss it, I gently laid it on the ground. Then I went to work. I usually listen to the radio on the way, but today I couldn't even bear Christmas carols, I drove in silence.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ethel Mae Teresa Casey 6/26/96 - 12/12/09 Rest in Peace

On the left is Fred, and on the right is Ethel. My wife and I could not have been more blessed than to have the companionship of these two dogs in our lives.

Fred lived 16 years, I had his pain ended on May 9, 2002.

Ethel made Fred's last 4 years as his health gradually failed easier for all of us to cope with.

She didn't just rescue Fred, she rescued my wife and I as well.

We think she suffered a stroke last night as we were awakened by her crying around 3 AM. She was unable to get up and walk, her back legs kept falling out from under her and she kept falling down. My wife and I spent the early morning hours discussing options, but knowing in our hearts what we would eventually have to do.

My Wife had always promised Ethel she would not let her suffer and keep her alive for livings sake. As dawn came Ethel could not raise her head. She wouldn't eat or take any water, but the most important thing to us was she did not wag her tail. When we looked into her eyes, we could see that the dog we had loved for so long was not there anymore. She moaned, whimpered, and continually shuddered. She did not return our gaze, instead, she seemed to be distracted as if staring off into space.

I rose early and went out after 7 AM and started digging. I made the hole between our statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Anthony. It is right outside our picture window and the Morning sun shines brightly down on it and a Rosebush behind it. I called the Vet at 8 AM as soon as they opened, and explained the situation. They said to come at 9:15 AM. The Doctor who saw her was the same one who she has been seeing all her life. My Wife had to carry her into the Vet. The doctor calmly confirmed our observations, and my wife did me proud.

She followed through on her promise to her friend. She did not let her suffer.

We were back home by 9:45, and my wife spent a few minutes alone with her at my car's hatch/trunk wrapping her up in old blankets. When she was ready I carried Ethel to the rear of the yard and gently put her in her final resting place. We put two of her favorite balls in with her. It took me more than an hour to dig that hole, but less than ten to fill it in.

I cried the entire time, and I can't help crying now. It may sound ridiculous, but I was not going to leave her body at the Vet's office to be cremated along with a half dozen others. She was not just another dog, she was Ethel, and an Angel of God in her own way. This was her home, and she helped us make it a happy one. This is where she belongs, and she belongs here always.

Seven and a half years ago when Fred died, I wrote his story. Tonight I will write Ethel's. It is the least I can do for a Angel that didn't have wings, but had plenty of soft fur, and a very wet and sloppy tongue.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I am not ready for an AARP card, but I'm not bummed by it either.

I am not ready for it, but I have one in my wallet.

So another year has passed, and my downward march continues into oblivion. But there is hope!

Guess what my daily Horoscope in the paper says today?

Check this out:

If December 10 is your Birthday - Between now and mid-February, you might feel like that battery bunny that just keeps going and going. You possess initiative and business savvy, so you can make your fondest dreams come true. January is especially suitable for launching new business projects or working your way up the ladder of success. In May and June you may have the same urges to compete but could be misled and deluded into thinking you can win when the cards are stacked against you.

We believe what we want to believe, but more importantly, we always have hope. We always have a choice in the direction we take our lives. I don't plan my life around what I read in a horoscope. I hope most people don't but I understand there are some people that do.

Growing older is not something to fear. Getting an AARP card is not a statement about how far over the hill we are. It is more a statement of how far we have come, not har far we don't have left to go. And who is to say we don't have farther to go than we already have?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is this Your Neighbor? Bet you are glad you don't have their Electric Bill

It is Random Tuesday Thoughts time, and I have had a whole bunch of things running around inside my head the last few days.
Have any of you been into one of the Home Improvement stores lately? I think Lowes and Home Depot are having a contest to see who can sell the most stuff people can put on their lawn for any reason.
I really believe the Electric companies are behind this craziness to sell every power sucking idea they can come up with to the gullible consumer.
I don't mind the Christmas spirit, but really, some of these people are going too far. If the International Space Station can see your house without using a zoom lens, I think you have gone over the edge.
I appreciate the well done, attractive display as much as anybody, but some of these look like the participants are trying to push the Nuclear Reactor down near Pottstown to the limit. I can see the steam cloud from that baby from my house, and even at more than 30 miles, I think it is bigger than normal this time of year.
My real beef here is that some people leave their decorations on all night. There's nothing like having your neighbors 10,000 kilowatt flashing reindeer beaming from his roof through the drapes of your bedroom window all night, is there? The place for that stuff is Disney world, not your local neighborhood.
I hate being all Grinch like, but show some restraint people. It is a good thing Christmas doesn't happen in the summer when everybody has the AC on, we would probably have rolling blackouts at night from the drain on the power grid.
I personally don't want to get a quadruple digit electric bill in January, so whatever decorations I put up I put on a timer. They go on at dusk at shut off around ten. I don't believe I have an inalienable right to bother my neighbors with any possible glow of lights into their house while they are trying to sleep at night. But that's just me, Chris Casey, Mr. Considerate.
So here's my hope for a Merry Christmas. I like the lights, but please show some taste. And if you can't outdo your neighbors, do this: Buy stock in the Electric Company. It might be the only bright spot you can really appreciate.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bow Down, Bow Down, Before the power of Santa! And the Perfect Christmas gift? A bulk family casket package from Sam's club!

I love Christmas. At Chrismas time, there are people who act like assholes, and then immediately apologize!
I have noticed in recent days that many of them blog!
Because we all know, Santa is watching! and Reading Blogs. God knows he has nothing else to do.
Today's topic is how many American consumers have become victims of what I refer to as the the real Jolly Boots of doom, OUR CHRISTMAS CREDIT CARD DEBT.
Yep, the debts many Americans take on in December to feel good about themselves for about twelve minutes on Christmas day. Talk about having some body's boot on your neck? Well there it is. You buy your 8 year old nephew Timmy the Toy train set that was on his Christmas wish list his parents sent out to all 800 other family members, and your stomach turns as he picks up the box, takes a bite out of it, and sets it aside. He spends the day playing with the cardboard box his dad's new 54 inch TV came in, which is bigger than your apartment or house, and you sit in the corner crying. It wouldn't be so bad, but after buying your spouse/significant other a gift worth several grand, they have just informed you that they still aren't interested in sex right now or they appreciate the gift but think it best they move in a different direction.
I am lucky I have never been there, but God knows I have witnessed it. The Power of Santa is all consuming, if you don't realize how overpowering it can become. My wife will tell you, I have a very hard time getting money out of my pocket to spend it.
I don't bow down to the power of Santa, but I do double over in laughter at those of you who can't escape it. That's why I love Christmas. You always make me laugh. So Consider this a big thank you.
And if you really want to crack me up this year, take Grandma or Grandpa to Walmart online to pick out their casket or memorial earn. It's never too early to save a few bucks! I can't wait until Sam's Club starts selling the family pack in Bulk! Always low prices starting at 39.96. can you imagine if they had a display in the store?
Nothing say "Merry Christmas, I love you!" like a bulk casket purchase for the whole family.
Bow down before the power of Santa, and be happy he never tried to deliver caskets in his sleigh. That is one thing you wouldn't want to see under the old Christmas tree!