Archive for June, 2010

Our Childhood Roots….

On Saturday afternoon/evening I attended an impromptu reunion of sorts.  It was a “call out” on Facebook about a month or so ago to anyone who graduated or attended my grammar school (Live Oaks School on Merwin Avenue in Milford, CT),  between the years of 1970-1980.   I did not know what I was going to walk into or who would attend.  There were many “attending” confirmations and then again…many “maybe attending” confirmations.  What I was met with over the 6+ hours was something I would not want to trade in a minute.

I walked in to almost an empty deck at the downtown Milford Restaurant, Stonebridge.  I sat on the deck and ordered a beer knowing that someone who I basically had not seen in almost 30 years would soon be there.  I was nervous…and laughed to myself that at my age, I really should not be nervous reconnecting with someone I considered a childhood friend, a link to the past, and someone who held many of my childhood memories and insecurities in the palm of their hand. 

In a sense, I was eager to relive childhood memories, when life seemed so simple compared to now – we solved things with paper, rock, scissor, or other non-violent ways.  I was eager to catch up on every thing that happened over the past 30 years, but all in all, I did not want to rehash the past 30 years of our lives, as we each had both been through many totally unexpected heartbreaks – her so much more than I.  I guess I was looking to just validate that in those tender years of grammar school that our friendship and my memories did matter. But when she walked in, any insecurities or nervousness vanished into thin air – I felt 12 or 13 again and was gitty, happy and totally psyched at what the rest of the afternoon would bring. 

I guess in many ways, I got more than I bargained for.  As each person walked onto that deck, it brought back memories of the times gone by.  With each new arrival, I remembered something about them, their older or younger siblings and memories that actually brought tears to my eyes several times during the afternoon and evening.

I then began to think that this is just the circle of life.  With each memory, each story I began to realize that each of these people or possibly their brother, sister or even parents, had touched my life.  I looked at each person –   the AV guy; the cheerleader; the band geek under Mr. Neznik; the straight A grammar school student; the basketball player under Mr. Flaks; the most optimistic (Lyons); the Noisiest (Tim); The Most Talkative (yep, both were there Gina and Tim); the class artist (again Gina and Tim); The First to Wed and Best Dressed (Becky); and the Most Likely to Become President (Lyons)..    I silently thought about how labels defined so many of us back then and in more ways than one defined who our friends were or would eventually become.  OK, I am getting another vision now…it is from the movie Breakfast Club…

But I also realized that our meeting this past Saturday was meant to be.  There was a reason, (other than the posting on Facebook calling all Live Oaks alumni) that we all met up with eachother, regardless of what year we attended or graduated L. Oaks.   In my case it was a bit of curiousity, a case of hoping for some humor out of the whole experience and in another way, attending was a way to validate those tender and trying years – to make sense of this thing called life and where each of our roads had taken us. 

The conversations were amazing in a sense…sharing memories and stories of a classmate of the L.O. Class of 1976 who perished during 911 working for Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center (God Rest Your Soul Michael Miller);  looking at yearbooks and laughing at what we wrote during those grammar school years; debating who were the class officers for certain years; speaking with a friend who lost her husband to a tragic accident but gallantly raising her sons as a single mom; a twice divorced woman who found her true love on the pages of facebook (and yes, he is NOT a L.O. alumni but I think Seabreeze or Fanny Beach – the shame of it all…LMFAO);  single parents; heartbreak; stories of the good things in life and great experiences; parents who had lost their sons or daughters; friends who had survived illness or that of a family member; friend’s siblings who I remembered fondly or worse yet…had the “hots” for or ….were “Crushing” on 30 years ago…even though they were so and so’s older brother or sister at the time and THAT was NOT allowed…ewwwww….and the horror to think I admitted this on Saturday night…LOL. Or stories of escapades we heard about from our own brothers and sisters. 

I am sure I am not the only one who wished I could have kept up some of these childhood ties.  But then I thought to myself that we all took the paths we embarked on so many years ago to get to that exact point in life on Saturday night.  Oh how our dreams, expectations and especially our opinions we held as children change over the years.

To give you a little insight…I will quote my 8th grade yearbook of those in my class who attended this event on Saturday – who they were and expected to become…(please note that MANY others were there from other classes) 

Mark Attolino – Mark’s main interest is sports.  He participated in intramurals and was a member of the 8th grade team.  He was also a 7th and 8th grade class officer.  He will attend St. Joe’s and hopes to become a professional basketball player.

Tim Attolino – Tim’s main interests are sports and art.  He is our class treasurer.  He participated in intramurals and was a member of the 8th grade basketball team.  Time plans to attend St. Joe’s.  He plans to have a career in sports or commercial art fields. 

Rebecca Cantwell – Becky’s interests are dancing, roller skating and ice skating.  She served on the dance committees and was a member of the yearbook staff. She plans to attend Foran High School and become a secretary.

Gina Gallinoto – Gina is interested in sports and playing the clarinet.  She participated in intramurals and was on the art committees for all the dances.  She was also on the cheerleading squad.  She plans to attend Foran high and her plan for the future is to become a commercial artist.

Sandra Hagan – Sandy’s main interest are sports, collecting stamps and playing the clarinet.  She participated in intramural sports and was a member of the basketball team.  She worked on the 7th and 8th grade dances and placed third in the Science & Social Studies Fair.  She plans to attend Foran High and become a hairdresser.

Charles Haynes – Charles main interests are models and skate boarding.  He was on the dance committees and worked on the school newspaper.  He plans to attend Foran and become an airplane pilot.

Ann Heldman – Ann’s main interests are ice skating, swimming and sports.  She participated in intramurals and was on the cheerleading squads.  She plans to attend Foran and her future is undecided. 

Kathryn Lyons – Kathy’s main interests are bowling, swimming, tennis and reading.  She was the president of the 8th grade class.  She participated on the dance committees, was on intramurals and was on the yearbook staff.  She was also a cheerleader.  She plans to attend Foran High and go to college. 

Ut oh…Breakfast Club is coming back again…After typing the above, a few thoughts come to mind from this movie… “we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But, what we found out is that each one of us is: a brain . . . You see us as: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, princess, and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other.”

OK, I’m back and YEP, That’s the way we saw each other …  30 – 40+ years ago (depending on when you started going to Live Oaks and when you graduated)  For me, I started in 1968 and graduated in 1976…EGADS!!!!!…  But now, after Saturday night let me ask you this…How do you see yourself and each and everyone who attended the reunion on Saturday and how have your opinions and thoughts changed over time?  Do labels from others define a person or does each person define and/or defy the labels associated with them?    If we were each assigned a homework assignment to write our bio for a yearbook today…yes TODAY…what would you like yours to say and what would you like others to know?


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A month or so ago,  I was looking at resumes and actually interviewed two potential staff members.  As I looked over the resumes, I wondered to myself, what did that typed piece of paper really mean – the words on the resumes, the words on the application…?? 

It is like playing connect the dots or looking at an obituary in a sense.  You see dates, time lines, spans of years, maybe even decades.  But do you ever really get the picture of the typed words, the life behind the words, or the essence of a person?  I always liked the reference that it did not matter when a person was born and when the person passed … it was all in actuality, what they did in between that “dash.”  What really happened in the span of the years they graced us with their presence.  That is the true measure of a person.  Whether it be a few years or a lifetime, what did that dash really stand for? 

As I called the references of the two potential staff members and spoke with them it was apparent that the handwritten application did not mean a thing.  It was the spoken words and the stories that meant the most.  Granted, when interviewing we would like to choose the best person for the position.  We depend on the college degree, the schooling, the work experience, but until you are able to break through the wall of typed words on the white paper does the essence of a person become clearer. 

Today, I opened the New Haven Register and was saddened by the passing of a client – he was born in 1917 which made him…if my math is right, 93 years old.  He was an endearing man who adopted the women in our front office as his own.  When he came in he would stand at the front window, with his glasses, and hat (he always wore a hat) and spoke of the days gone by.  Many of us adopted him in our own minds as a grandfather persona.  No, I did not personally hang out with him, but I did interact with him on several occasions, waving from across the parking lot, giving well wishes, friendly hellos and smiles. 

As a child, I did not have a grandfather on my dad’s side and my maternal grandfather passed away when I was the tender age of 7.  I remember my grandfather ( my mom’s dad) in various ways, his wooden leg – as he lost his leg to diabetes, he spoke very broken English and he was a “Hunky.”  A Hungarian coal miner who crossed the Atlantic at a young age for a better life.  Each of his children (my mom included) where born in various states within the U.S. depending on where the mining work was, but mostly in the South.  The span between the dashes are amazing in a sense as it took an ocean for him to meet my grandmother – here in the good US of A, when they really didn’t live far from each other in Hungary near Budapest…My grandmother in her broken English told me that the river separated Buda and Pest.  

As I drank my coffee this morning I found myself mesmerized and pouring over the obit of my client and I realized I had a newfound respect for him and his precious life.  He graduated high school at 16 due to his extraordinary intelligence.   He turned down a college scholarship in the 1930’s to stay with his family and help support them during the Great Depression… He worked in the court system right here in New Haven, and did that proudly for 43 years.  He was the sole reporter for the first of the Black Panther trials in New Haven and his work during this trial produced 5,000 pages of transcripts, using shorthand.  imagine recording 250 words per minute by shorthand and 120 once he got his hands on a typewriter.  He travelled the world when it was not “chic” and befriended everyone and anyone.  Never did marry but he lived a full, fulfilling life, sharing his experiences with everyone and making a difference.  His “dash” is every so brilliant in my mind tonight and he made his mark on this world, and New Haven in general.  My encounters with him showed a perfect gentleman in all senses of the word – kind, considerate, endearing, engaging, honest and polite. 

I have often thought of my family and friends and the “dash,” and wondered if others see them as I see them – or for that matter if they see themselves as others do.  If only others could realize or know what I see and have experienced so far in their “dash.”  The many lives they have touched, and the difference they have made in their time here on earth.  Many of these family members, extended family members and friends are lucky enough to have NOT hit that final number beyond the “dash.”  And it makes me wonder what else or how else can they and I impact one single person, a child, a family, a neighborhood, a state, or a nation. 

Then again, many have also ended this chapter on earth and that “infamous” dash is enclosed and enveloped by an ending date.  I have a framed poster in my house (given to me by the Publications Department at Subway Headquarters when I left in 1998) with the following verse that states…

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go, some people move our souls to dance.  They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon.  They stay in our lives for while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” 

That was more than 12 years ago, and at that time I took it upon myself, as morbid as it may seem, to place the memorial cards of those who have passed in my life around the edges – some cards that were otherwise stored in photo albums or in the back of dresser drawers.  People who have made a difference in my life – three grandparents, many aunts and uncles, friend’s parents, their brothers, sisters, nephews, a grammar school friend who perished during 911, high school and college friends and their family members.  Each card brings back many memories, thoughts, experiences, and each is a tribute and recognizes a precious span between the dash – Whether the span be 30 years, or 88 years…each card represents a life and what they accomplished, lived, loved, experienced and stood for between the dash. 

I guess in a sense, this reflection is about something as simple as and actually probably overlooked in many ways – it’s all about “the dash.”  Think about those in your life.  Those who are no longer with you, and those who are ever so present.   And lastly, think about yourself.  What do you want your dash to symbolize?  Have you left footprints in the sand, another’s life and have you made a difference?

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Today I find myself very reflective in a sense.  I am running things through my mind and trying to figure out what gives a person the strength or determination to carry on, or to make things better.  A week or so I talked about the “strategic planning session” at work and how it mirrored life in a sense.  Our goals, our hopes, dreams and where and what we wanted to accomplish. The strategic planning process makes us look at the internal and external strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats in an agency but this same process can be used in each and every one of lives. 

But what if life hands you the wrong cards all of a sudden?  What if everything around you seems to be falling apart or astray?  Kenny Rogers sung about this in his song the Gambler…Do you have to “know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away or know when to run?” 

They say that only our “maker” knows what our destiny is, but does that mean that each one of us should just leave it be and let it happen, give up or just accept what is in front of us – never really living life to our full potential, never being satisfied, or pushing aside our personal hopes, dreams, desires or unexpressed agendas?

Or should we face life’s trials and tribulations with both fists thrust into the air, almost as a dare…(picturing Sylvester Stallone here in Rocky…LOL)   Is there a proper time to just throw in the towel and give up?  Or is this thing called life worth fighting for? 

In my own opinion, the answer is HELL YES.  Regardless of those trials and tribulations, unexpected road bumps or devastating events, I say to myself…we only have one life to live (and I am NOT talking about the Soap Opera here) and it is worth fighting for or at least giving it the best we have at that moment of time. 

No one really knows when our time is up but does that mean we should just concede and say …  “it is what it is” or should we take life by the horns or balls and make it what we want?  I guess in a sense it is up to each individual, we can either weather the storm or just ignore the awesome opportunities that life offers each and every one of us every single day.  OK, forgive me but Barbra Streisand is coming to mind now….

They say, there’s a universal plan  – for every woman, for every man
I do believe, there’s a higher power
but in our darkest hour, it’s hard to understand
so we start to question, start to doubt
we lose faith in what life’s all about

But is there a way to stop the questions, the doubts, or losing faith? 

This is what is bothering me tonight…the Four “C’s” … that being…  “Faith, Family, Friends and Future.”  Again, to quote “Babs”

The more I live – the more I learn.
The more I learn – the more I realize… The less I know.
Each step I take – Each page I turn-
Each mile I travel only means The more I have to go.
What’s wrong with wanting more?
If you can fly – then soar!
With all there is – why settle for… Just a piece of sky?

You might be wondering where I am going with this and rightfully so.  I am thinking how I lost my dad and how much more “life” he had in him and how his passing was a shock.  I am thinking of a dear friend’s nephew who suddenly, without any warning, lost his life and left behind a young wife and two children but he lived life to his fullest – every single day and how he touched so many people in his life  (which was apparent with the long lines and an hour plus wait at his wake in the pouring rain). I am thinking of another family who is dealing with cancer and I just attended a benefit for him and how he is fighting for his life, to be around for his children and wife and the future he dreamed.  And  I am thinking of a dear co-worker and friend who seems to be lost and not sure what the future holds and if it is even worth carrying on. 

I guess in a sense I am blessed to be able to annunciate my feelings when so many before me no longer have the option.  But all in all, I think still of the fists thrust upward and pumping…saying “Come on … is that the best you can throw at me. “  There is a think called Hope, Determination, Will, Strength and Fighting for what we believe in, want and desire. 

Again, Life hands us a lot of things.  But as I said the other day… “We all have to go through this thing called life and it is up to each one of us how we emerge, scathed or unscathed, a lesson learned or ignored. ”

Reminds me of a Simon and Garfinkle song (The Boxer) which I have always loved beyond belief….

“In the clearing stands a boxer, And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders Of ev’ry glove that laid him down

Or cut him till he cried out In his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving.” But the fighter still remains.”

So my question tonight is….can or will you be that fighter?

Will you thrust both fists in the air and proclaim, “I am leaving” and give up or will you  stick it out and take whatever punches life may throw at you?   Or will you concede and just give up?  Give up your hopes, dreams, desires, and the future?

 I honestly believe we all have that fighting spirit.  Get your game on and vow to be victorious. 

LASTLY…..again, quoting my “Babs”… With all there is – why settle for… Just a piece of sky?

Oh, and one more thing, if ya can, say a prayer for those who are experiencing a rocky road, a roadblock /speed bump or those who have lost faith – regardless of the situation or what life has thrown their way.  We have all been there in one way or another and having the thoughts, prayers, encouragement or support can work wonders.  God Bless…..

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Today as I am sitting here, I keep hearing my father’s voice.  “Sandra” or “Sandy” he would say.  Maybe, “how’s my little girl doing today,” or “Hello daughter, my one and only daughter.”  I think back on faded photographs of the days gone by.  I know in many senses my friends can relate to this as they too have lost their fathers.  Regardless of birth order, how many years ago, what the situation might have been, or how close or distant they were at the time… they lost their dads, they lost their fathers also. They were in one way or another “daddy’s little girl,”  “the first child, daughter or son,” or “a living legacy between a span of children/offspring.” All of us were still a child of our father, carrying on the name, the family lifeline, the genes, the blood line, the legacy.

I was blessed and lucky enough to have my father in my life for 40 years.  He passed away at a tender age of 67 in 2002 – way too early in my opinion but I guess he had a higher purpose in his afterlife.  I have come to terms with that but it took me many years to accept that fact: the absence of a man I looked up to, the absence of a man to stuck by my mom through the best and worst of times – when he could have just walked away; the man who showed the true meaning of his marriage vows…in sickness and in health. His passing still hurts and I regret that he has missed so much in my life and I think about every day of my life…

I think about him and just how much he loved my mom and his children and grandchildren.  How he was able to experience so much in his life and wanted his children and grandchildren to experience so much more or better in a sense.  He was not a man of outward feelings but he gave out an aura that made me realize (maybe too late) just how much he loved each and every one of us – His stories, his smiles, his laugh and hugs.  I remember stories of his childhood, and how I wished I could have changed so much for him, his mom (my grandmother, Sarah Olah Hagan)  and his younger twin brothers, Patrick and Michael, his older brother William and his one and only sister, Sally.  I look at the black and white photos of his family, look at the photos of our family and realize that it can’t be any other way.  He had to experience what he did in order to offer and experience what our family was able to experience.  Every little gesture, stolen moment, good times and bad in his childhood brought him to what we (his wife and children) became as a family.  It couldn’t be any other way. 

In a sense, we all have to go through the ups and downs, twists and turns, heartache and heartbreak of our family ties.  We all have to go through the stern looks, the disappointments or mistakes in our lives, or even seeing the disappointment in our parent’s eyes (that is the ultimate killer, btw).  The times I cursed my parents, hated their rules, swore that I would run away, snuck out the bedroom window or out the front door or even told a fib/lie about who I was hanging out with and where we were actually going.  The same way I look at my dad’s upbringing and wish I could have changed things, I understand his frustration and tears when he wished he could have changed things in my life and my brother’s lives.  But it really couldn’t be any other way.  We all have to go through this thing called life and it is up to each one of us how we emerge, scathed or unscathed, a lesson learned or ignored. 

I remember my dad crying with me on the phone from South Carolina when I called him and my mom from Connecticut when a relationship went bad – someone he embraced and loved, and treated like an extended person of our ever growing family.  I remember years later after he passed wishing I could call him and tell him about the current love of my life as they were so much alike in so many ways and how he would have embraced them also and considered them family.  They both had a unique sense of humor, dedication and that pioneering spirit, that handyman sense…

I remember the good times seeing my parents on the sidelines of my softball games from 3rd grade through high school, (well, actually I was cut sophomore year from the softball team).  Or how my dad would come and video tape the Subway HQ softball team games (yes, I was on my company team for at least half of the 7 or 8 years I worked there). 

They say you never forget your first love. I honestly believe that my first love was actually my dad….the man I looked up to, who comforted me when the thunder and lightening struck, the first man I danced with (even though I was standing on his feet); the man who gave me my first sip of beer (wow, I felt like a grown up that day on the patio on Windsor Road); the man who was there when relationships went bad or I was fighting with my two older brothers or younger brother; the man who talked to me when my mom was not there and comforted me when someone broke my heart (regardless of who’s fault it was). The man who taught me so much about life, relationships, honor, dignity and and self. 

So here’s to you Dad on Father’s Day.  I wish you could be here with your family today.  Mom really misses you – every day of her life and over the years has told me so much of your courtship (yep, that is the word they used back then) and the early years of our family.  You would be proud of Keith, Kevin and Richard, and your grandchildren Patrick, Derek, and Fatima (Derek big sister by marriage) and Amanda (who you never did get to meet). 

As for me Dad, I know we have something special as you show yourself through the ladybugs and four leaf clovers (thanks for the two the other day) and thanks for watching over me every day of my life.  I miss you and Love you Dad (or as I would say on the phone each and every time I called South Carolina “Hi ya Daddy.”)  No more words are necessary dad. You know where I stand.  Proud to be your ONLY DAUGHTER always…..From down here on earth up to Heaven…. Happy Father’s Day Joseph Edward Hagan, my dad, my mentor, my friend.

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PRELUDE TO THIS…I am NOT on any online dating sites…this is something I wrote about 2-4 or so years AGO, never did anything with what I wrote, except send it to a couple of choice friends and I am just putting my updated thoughts out there with additional comments as my blog this week… 

HELLOOOO   Ahhhh..online dating.  Let’s see, there’s match.com, mate1.com or maybe .org, Yahoo or AOL personnels, not to mention eHarmony, craigslist, Yahoo personals, or millionairematch.com… So many sites, so many possibilities to find that “perfect match.”

Six months free if I don’t find my match…personality test…special matching tools, we guarantee you’ll find your match….free for the first month….better than all the other sites…there are hundreds of men/women in your town searching for you.  Woo Hoo, enough to get anyone excited…in a sense…Imagine that, hundreds of people in MY HOME TOWN.  EGADS!  Give me a freaking break.   

So Dr. Phil tells me “it’s OK to look,” OK, so I’ve looked and I even filled out a profile now and again.  I get such a kick out of the profile forms.  Some ask the strangest questions and they are multiple choice.  Well, what if my answers do NOT fit the choices given, what if the choices given suck and why, praytell, should I list my political preference.  Hell, everyone knows I despised President Bush Sr. and Jr., but love Busch Light and for that matter … well!

Let’s talk about categories here…

Last book read…well, if I wasn’t on this computer forwarding emails so I wouldn’t miss out on email tracking and payments from Microsoft, completing surveys for money, signing up for free Pepsi for life, warding off the sex gods who will take away all urges if I don’t forward the emails to 10 friends, the bad karma and bad luck for seven years for not passing on the dancing kittens with halos, checking facebook, regular emails, work emails, and blogs…well, I MIGHT  just might have time to read a freaking book.  Actually, I did recently read a book….it was called Drinking and it was quite the “sobering” experience.  I also have a stack of four books I have started but never seem to have the time to read.  I am now getting them all mixed up trying to figure out which chapter I am on in each and they are now all a blended version of all the themes, trials and tribulations….if only you could ease drop on the dreams I have been having.  That is why Benadryl is my drug of choice.  Forgetaboutit…..take a few of those pink little Benadryl pills and I am in la la land…..no confusion there…just a heavy and good night’s sleep.

OK, back to on line dating…see what the mind does when I am on a roll. 

So let’s discuss interests here….the categories are so lame in a sense…where does it include writing, carving, cuddling, photography, drawing, bepbopping in a bandanna around the house while doing housework, singing in the shower????? What about “people watching” from the front porch, actual handwritten letters to family and friends or spur of the moment cards for no reason but to say “hey?”  Where are the categories for “just relaxing,” doing yard work, tending a garden or drives to nowhere, tag sales, flea markets or fishing? 

I never cared about marrying a millionaire so why does it ask my salary and why is it anyone’s business.  Since when did money preempt the basic qualities of a relationship?  As long as I am happy and content, does it matter what a person makes.  If I connect with someone with only a high school diploma is that so bad???  OK, enough of that….did ya notice I say “OK” a lot???  Guess that is my way of changing subjects here when I am on a rant. 

The subject of photos….They say a picture is worth a thousand words…can you say….WTF, OMG, WWUT????  Have you looked at some of the photos online?  I can’t even fathom what these people were thinking when they uploaded these photos. Some of these photos could ward off the devil him (her) self!  And what’s with the “body” parts????  I would like a face to connect me to who I am chatting with, not one or two breasts, a bare ass or a man’s crotch.  HELLLLOOOOOO… I will gladly send one but you can bet it won’t be of some body part. Plus, as much as physical attraction might be an important part of any relationship, I think deep down the mental and emotional connection is just as important, unless someone is just into it for blanket bingo.  What number does the “O” go up to?  Hmmmm….

I always wondered why I could not find someone who is a combination of all my dearest friends….someone who accepts my interests but embraces our differences, and above all understands my craziness, quirks, etc.   If I could tailor the perfect partner from all my friends and ex’s that would so cool and absolutely perfect in a sense… 

So where’s the juicy stuff…is that what you are wondering at this point?  Ah Ha…so you want the Dirt…where is Courtney Cox when you need her???  Then again her show was cancelled…right??!!

OK, so you twisted my arm and I will give you some dirt without the details….But remember, this was years ago, but so worth mentioning in so many senses….as it still cracks me up.

So I was talking on line and on the phone for awhile with a certain person.  It was time for “the first date.”  First red flag…they were late…when I say late, I do not mean five or 10 minutes.  I mean nearly an hour.  Did I mind….well…LOL…not really as there was a guy who bought me a drink and how could I refuse such a nice gesture. He was on a softball team and within 10 minutes tops, I was part of that team…who could ask for anything more…I felt like the Bachelorette with a whole infield and outfield of men to choose from.  Where are the roses when I needed them???? 

Anyway, when they finally arrived and we got a table, (awww, my softball team had to be sent away and to think I was having so much fun)… Anyway, the conversation went straight to what my date would do to me once we were alone.  We’ve never so much as had a cup of coffee together and you already have us sleeping together.  Then there were the eyes.  I do not consider myself large in the bust area, average at most, but hey, can you talk to my face….those babies cannot answer you.  Look at me when you talk – not the front of my shirt.  It wasn’t like I had spilled a drink or food, or was wearing some sexy camisole.  Hey…I’m up here…HELLOO!

OK, by minute 10 I knew I did not have that “spark”  or anything that resembled a twig, a flint, a match, a fire….All I had was the urge to run, and when I say run…I mean far, far away, or at least back to my softball team!  I was beginning to feel smothered, uncomfortable.  I tried to beg off nicely…early morning meeting and I go to bed rather early on a “work” night.  I actually convinced my date that I was beat and I was actually out of there shortly there after, thank God. I wanted to go back to the softball team, but figured that would have been rude in a sense…LOL   But the next day was the clincher.  I received my early morning before work phone call and got quite confused.  All of a sudden there were rules….wait a minute… when did “we” decide we would date or for that matter become a couple?  I left early last night, HELLLOOOOO.  First there was…I don’t want to meet your friends, I don’t need any friends and have no desire to become friends with your friends as they are not my friends and will not be my friends.  Weekends are for us to spend together.  Also, we should see each other at least 2-3 times per week and exclusively on weekends.   If you’re on the phone with someone you should hang up and take my call regardless of who you are speaking to.  Let me have your work schedule for the next week so I know how to get a hold of you.  Do you have alternate phone numbers?

So I did the inevitable, a few days later I said…”I don’t think this is going to work out.” For the next month I received emails, phone calls and IM’s telling me that I am walking away from the best thing that ever happened to me and I did not realize what I was giving up.  HEEEEELLLLLPPPPPP.  Don’t you have to have something first, like a relationship or friendship before giving it up.  That failed online date is known as the “STALKER” in my conversations with others.  I guess, I was sleeping when this whole “relationship” had taken place and we got all serious.  I blocked phone number, emails and also changed an email address I used for the dating sites.  Never can be too careful.  I have no idea what happened to this person but about two years ago, I heard they were still prowling the dating sites…I wonder were they late for other dates, if they forced their rules on another or what the real deal was.  But then again…did I really care….heck NO. I do every so often wonder who this person is stalking now.

Shortly after that I went back online to the endless dating quest and was amazed that I had three emails.  One was from the UK….a little far for me to travel and I don’t think Route 1 will get me there.  They did mention they wanted to move to the “States.”  Another was from Seattle, WA, and the last one from New York. I know these are desperate times but in my profile I specifically said within 30 miles from New Haven, CT.  Yes, that is New Haven, Connecticut.  Oh, I also failed to mention that another site produced several emails.  One was a married guy who had a girlfriend who had a husband, whose wife had a boyfriend but no one was screwing around on each other.  Let’s see, Wife with husband and boyfriend, Husband with girlfriend, and boyfriend with girlfriend…I think this had way too freaking many in the “mix.”  Then there was the 18 year old who said age didn’t matter……HELLLLLOOOOO I am old enough to be your mother or grandmother in a sense.  The last one was the kicker…they hated smokers, drinking, was allergic to cats and loved seafood. Holy shit….did ya freaking read my profile or what?  And if ya did … are you that hard up or what?  BTW, I am a smoker, allergic to shell fish, I love my beer and have three cats. 

Not that it has been all that bad….I still corresponded for awhile with several people that I actually went on first and second dates with.  They have become friends and we discussed at that time our trials and tribulations of dating in the twentieth century.  They have been in and out of relationships within the past two or three years.  As for my ex’s, who at one point or another I had serious relationships with,  I honestly consider several of them very dear friends still.  We just had different paths in life and it was not our time, season, or place.   They are and will always remain very dear to my heart and life, even though they are not an active part of my life anymore – the memories and times we shared can never be discounted or ignored.  

So here I sit this evening, going over in my head … pondering if my life is really that bad.  I have my “goons from grammar school” and dear friends who I cherish beyond belief and who enrich my life in so many ways and a family (who I do not see often but love them still the same).  I am very set in my ways, independent in many senses but dependent in many other ways.   Regardless of what age, our experiences, or our past lives, it takes someone special to break down the barriers and walls to develop a relationship that lasts a lifetime.  But regardless of whether it lasts a season, a few years, a decade, or a lifetime, it is still a chapter in our lives. 

OK, now I am running the scene from Adam Sandler “The Wedding Singer” through my mind when he sings the song on the plan to Drew Barrymore “I want to Grow Old With You” and Billy Idol sitting there on the same plane…LMFAO. 

Am I bitter, angry, or hopeless of what I have experienced in the past, hurts that I thought would never go away, scars that would never heal?  Actually NO!  I take each one in stride and as an experience, a learning one at that.  I still and will always believe in fairy tales, that every person has the perfect…or not so perfect match…but when you find that someone you connect with, can envision spending the rest of your life with…well…it’s worth the chance…

Regardless..most of you reading this are probably married or in a relationship, but those of you who are not…Believe in Dr. Phil…. There is that perfect match for you… Someone just for you.  You never know…it could be the person in the car next to you at the traffic light, The person behind you in line at the Post Office Or the person you receive your next email from.  Take the chapters and see where it might lead.  It could be an unfinished chapter, a novel in the making, an epic, or a never ending story.

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Are we not forever “searching?” 

Searching for something or searching for answers? 

Today when I went to leave for work, I found myself forever “searching”…Searching for my keys, then once I got in the car…searching for my phone charger (even though it is not a car charger).  St. Anthony didn’t help at that point…either he was sleeping or tending to someone else’s search for something missing.  Then searching for change when I bought the newspaper.  Once I got to work, it was another story in a sense but still searching.  Searching for an answer as to why someone’s email did not work, what was wrong with the printer in the other office down the hall, why someone couldn’t download something, searching for an answer to why when no matter what I had planned for during the morning or afternoon, that it did not ultimately work out (forgot to write a meeting in my day timer, didn’t pack/eat lunch as I thought I was going out to lunch but couldn’t because I forgot about the meeting I never wrote down)…something always came up…Then I realized that “life happens.”  We or I cannot stop it…other things got in the way.  Phone calls, emails, voice mails, last minute …”can you do me a favor requests.” 

I came home totally spent from a day of searching only to find out once again, in the comfort of my own home, I am once again searching for answers, some serious and some very trivial.

“Why are several people I care about ill or hurting and why do I feel I am powerless to help?”

“What can I make to eat for dinner as I am hungry and have nothing defrosted?”

“Where can I find that one document I know I wrote on this computer and can’t find no matter how many searches I do and under what file name?”

“How can I make my cat stop crying all night for no apparent reason?”

 Then came the realization…I cannot be the only one forever searching.  How many times have you said to yourself?

“why did this happen to me, a family member a friend?”

“how can I make ends meet and make a little bit more money?”

“why was I not promoted?”

“why can’t I lose weight, stop smoking, drink a little less, go to the gym more regularly or eat better?”

“why can’t I stand up for myself and say what I feel, mean or deserve?”

“How can I find the time to catch up, make those doctor appointments, call or visit a family member or friend?”

“why can’t I find the perfect job?”

“why did he/she cheat – what did I do wrong – is there something wrong with me?”

“will I ever be happy and content?”

“what is my purpose in life?”

I believe we are all searching for answers, time, solutions, reasons and peace of mind – no matter how trivial the internal search might be.  Unfortunately, our personal searches are not the easy searches and fixes we look for on Google or Ask.com.  They are not like an ebay or amazon.com search that brings up thousands of options.  They do not come with a nice listing of all our choices, alternatives or solutions lined up in a row where we can pick and choose.  Personal searches are a lot more difficult, time consuming and sometimes require a bit of solitude and looking deep inside ourselves, our very beings.    

During the past two months my agency has taken on the strategic planning process.  It started with the SWOT tool which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  We asked all staff members, board members, past presidents and stakeholders to look at our agency and let us know what our Internal Strengths and Weaknesses were and what our External Opportunities and Threats were.  After tabulating the results, we saw patterns in many areas.  Our goal now is to take the answers and thoughts and come up with a short term and long term plan, immediate goals and goals set with timelines.  It is a way of taking a deep look inside our agency, and realizing the problems, issues and concerns that exist today, searching for answers to these things and figuring out a game plan and assigning goals and planning for the future. Whether it be immediate, a one, two, three, five or 10 year plan….Just getting it down on record and hoping for the best…

I believe that this same process can be used in our personal searches in a sense.  Where am I/you now, where do I/you want to be, what are the obstacles, threats and opportunities – both internally and externally?  Are there ways we can make things better, are some things better left for another day, year or lifetime and can we find a way to find the ultimate things we are all searching for? 

 Acronyms….Always loved them….LOL

Seriously, think about the SWOT tool and what the real Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are in your life.  Now, think of all the possibilities keeping in mind the original initials SWOT.…

Somebody Will Overlook This (she doesn’t know what she’s talking about)

Several Will Obsessively Think (what are my strengths and weaknesses)

Some Will Obviously Talk  (what can I/we do to improve things in my/our life)

Some Willingly Overlook Truths (am I lying to myself and others)

And lastly….

Sandy Wants Our Thoughts…

Good luck in your personal SWOT Tool and searching for the answers to the burning questions in your mind and life.

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Father’s Day is coming up and I want to honor my dad.  A gentleman who gave me life and shaped who I am today.  Below is the original eulogy I wrote and read during his memorial service in July 2002 with my newest comments at the end.  This is dedicated to you dad…Joseph Edward Hagan March 1, 1935 – July 11, 2002  I love and miss you so much. 

Joseph Edward Hagan –  son, brother, husband, dad, grandfather, uncle, friend, artist, and poet.  These are just some of the roles or words which could describe our father but not all that he was.

As a husband, he was dedicated unconditionally to our mother for 44 years of their marriage.  Since retiring to South Carolina 7 years ago, my parents were finally able to relax and enjoy the benefits of our father’s hard work as a lithographer, where before retiring he would leave for work daily before 5 a.m.  In South Carolina, he enjoyed the sunshine (and no more unpredictable New England weather – thought they did get snow and sleet within a year of moving down there…).  He joined the local Moose lodge, played Bingo every Wednesday night, swam, shopped, and even painted flowers on ALL the street sign posts throughout Island Green (the community he and my mom lived in), a job that consumed many hours but allowed him to show off his artistic talents.  He became an avid gardener.  He took pride in the grapefruit seed he saved from his Connecticut breakfast and nurtured into a large tree on his lawn in South Carolina.  He had a pineapple plant he also started from a CT breakfast and would you believe, that plant, after years of nurturing, gave him pineapples.  As my mom has said, the past seven years have been some of the best of his life and they together had just started living, laughing and loving.

As our father, I’m sure we weren’t the easiest bunch (Keith, Kevin, Sandra and Richard) but our father took not only our accomplishments but our failures in stride.  He made sure his children experienced what life had to offer – fishing, camping, vacations up and down the East Coast and Canada, musical instruments, baseball, softball, football, track, basketball and scouts.  Regardless of where life led, our father was always in the stands cheering us on.  Even when he moved, he was still on the sidelines, cheering and rooting for us and was always, at a moment’s notice, ready to catch us if we should fall.  He was proud of us regardless of where we had been, who our friends were or what we had become.  He accepted our friends into his home, and made them feel special.  Even his screen name on the computer showed his pride as it was the first initials of each of our names in birth order…KKSRdad.  He looked forward to calling us and telling us his latest escapades or what new project he started and was always interested in what we were doing.

As a grandfather, Joe wanted to be a part of his grandchildren’s lives since we basically grew up without our grandfathers.  Right after he moved, his first grandchild, Patrick Joseph Hagan was born and he and my mom came back to CT to welcome the next generation to carry on the Hagan name.  Derek Joseph Hagan followed and through marriage of my youngest brother Richard and his wife Tina and her child,  Fatima Streeter Joe was the proud grandfather of three, talking on the phone to them when they could not yet utter a word and drawing pictures for them and anticipating each visit and phone call. 

You could say our father was persistent and stubborn but that’s not a bad thing.  From his Rubik’s cube that took months to complete and which he proudly displayed on his headboard for years to his various other projects.  He was our “Joe of all trades.”  He knew a little about a lot of things.  He argued with TV commentators, had solutions to international unrest, the running of the nation and just about any other topic you could mention.  He did not know the meaning of the words, “it can’t be done or it’s impossible.”  Whether it took a piece of tape, a screw here or a twist there, he would spend countless hours to fix something or make something work.  It was his unique way of “Joe rigging something.”  That is one thing I believe all my brothers and I have inherited from my dad…the Joe of all trades. 

Our dad was also a talker and he was renown for going to the store for milk and not returning for two hours… of course, with the milk he originally set out to get, in addition to bags of other things and tales of who he ran into.  He was famous for impromptu conversations over backyard fences, driveways, in the middle of department and grocery stores with strangers and friends.  He was a friend to animals, from countless cats, to any strays that landed in our yard.  Although NOT a cat person, he developed a bond with my cat TJ, my large coon cat and they would go for walks together in the field, the cat right by his side without any prompting.  He just had a manner which attracted others to him, with his waves, friendly “good mornings” and his unique laugh.

Words cannot even being to sum up our father’s life, But then again, it is not necessary.  He was and will always be a remarkable man.  I believe if his life touched another’s life or made an impression in any way, then his time here was meaningful and a great success.  It’s a comfort knowing that although he is not physically here with us today, he is watching every aspect of our lives, and he is still our biggest fan, still cheering his wife and children on from afar and he will be patiently waiting until the day we meet again.  Dad, you will always be a part of us, and our love and we miss you very much.  Your loving wife Julie, Keith, Kevin, Sandra, Richard, Alice, Tina, Patrick, Derek and Fatima.

OK so that is the eulogy I wrote 8 years ago but I have so much more to add.

Shortly after his passing, our family was blessed with another grandchild/niece who we welcomed into the family, Amanda…a beautiful, blonde little girl he was denied of ever meeting and she too was denied …  denied of meeting a remarkable grandfather. 

The passing of my dad was an event that totally made me question life, and in the past 8 years, has totally changed so much I believed in.  That same year, 8 years ago, right before my dad passed, I also lost a grandmother who I adored – Sarah Olah Hagan.  I believed that as the years went on, it would get easier, but you know what, it doesn’t in many ways.  I cannot even tell you the number of times I just wanted to pick up the phone and call my dad and say the familiar, “hi ya daddy,” and hear his familiar … “hi ya Sandra.”  I cannot even begin to tell you the void his passing has left in my life.  I can still hear his voice in my head and I am thankful of that. I also have a VCR tape (how old fashioned) of when he and my mom came to CT just a few months after moving to South Carolina to meet their First Grandchild Patrick.  In a sense, that helps to keep the memory alive..so many in that tape have now passed and it is ever so important to me internally to keep their memory and spirit alive. 

But I can tell you that, regardless of whether it was one year or now going on eight, my dad always with me, everyday of my life.  Within a day or so of his passing, I awoke to find my condo with lady bugs all over the inside ceiling in just about every room.  You see, me and my dad always had a thing with lady bugs and I believe it was his way of telling me he was OK and he was watching over me.  And we cannot forget the four leaf clovers…my dad could walk anywhere and look down and find a four leaf clover.  Those of you that know me, KNOW that….that is one of my talents, looking down and finding a four leaf clover.  They say that finding one is a 1 in 10,000 chance but ask those who I have given one to.  I find them all the time and each time I pick one, I say…”thanks dad,” as I know there is a reason he is saying hi and checking in. 

In memory of my dad, I actually got a tattoo about 1 ½ years ago of a lady bug on my leg.  It has on one side, three dots and on the other side one dot…signifying his birthday, March 1st.  This year I plan on completing honoring my dad with a four leaf clover band around my ankle with the center being a four leaf clover with the fourth leaf falling off and drifting away.  On this Father’s Day and always…Dad I Love you and Miss you so much. 

-Your one and only daughter…Sandra…

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