Silent Screams (and other odd sounds)

This is what I'm thinking RIGHT NOW. It may not be what I'm thinking tomorrow.


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From Christmas to Giftmas

I wish, for once, I could accurately articulate the multitude of reasons that I wish Christmas and the entire Holiday season would pass from my eyes unnoticed.  Christmas is not a joyous time for me.  It can be a time of pain and sorrow as we remember what once was and what will never be again.  Many suicides are attempted at this joyous time of year and that mere thought makes me sad knowing that those who attempted to die feel they had absolutely no one they could have reached out to to give them one moment of comfort that could have lead them into a new year and possibly a new hope.  My heart breaks for them, and for their families who have now lost a loved one.  The hurt breaks both ways.

For me the “Holiday Season” begins right before Thanksgiving and ends shortly after the New Year.   Yes, I say, “Happy Holidays” but it is not to take Christmas out of the season, it is to include Thanksgiving and New Years into their rightful places in the festivities.  I do say “Merry Christmas” on Christmas Day, and I say Happy Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day and I say Happy New Year on New Year Day, so why do so many people want to correct me?  I am wishing all people a festive holiday SEASON, not just happiness on one particular day.

Christmas has changed over the years for me.  Perhaps it is because I’ve grown up; perhaps it is because I haven’t grown up at ll.  For me, the anticipation of Christmas was never the shinny gifts under the Christmas tree or the brightly wrapped packages; it was the smell, hustle, and bustle of Christmas – said simply – it was the electric energy that traveled through every person – pure excitement.  I would wake up early on Christmas Eve and my mother would already be slaving over a hot stove making pies and cakes and all sorts of “Christmas” goodies that we, as children, had grown accustomed to.  “Merry Christmas Eve,” I’d excitedly shout out to her and she’d return my salutation with a big kiss on the cheek.

About noon, Christmas Eve guest would begin to trickle in.  Some were relatives, some were friends, and some just wanted to give us a few of their cookies they had baked to thank my mom for all she has done for them throughout the year.  Some stayed a short time, some stayed a little while, and some stayed until the Christmas Eve festivities began.  As my mother spoke to her guests, she’s pop out a couple of pumpkin pies here and some apple pies there, along with her Philadelphia Cream Cheese Pies that have never been completely duplicated to this day.  It was all good to her and the more people that dropped by, the more festive she became.  My mother was the center of Christmas.  She knew how to get things done AND enjoy all the holiday had to offer.  I never learned that from her; I wish I had listened or watched more closely.

When the official start of Christmas Eve started, the feast of the 7 fish commencement……and stunk.  My aunts and uncles from all over would congregate at my house to begin the eating of the fish.  Yuck!  I stuck with tuna fish which for me was the least of all the evils; but as I grew up, I came to realize that shrimp and and crab weren’t too bad either.  Christmases of past were special, they embodied all of what Christmas should be.  They did not have the “what did you get me for Christmas” present attitude.  Christmas was about helping, having, loving, and being with those you cared about.

Christmas is gone.  It is now merely Giftmas.  Giftmas says, “How much am I going to get from you for Christmas and are you going to like it?”  Giftmas says, “How close to the time can I get to your house before it’s actually time to eat so I don’t have to help you set the table or put out the food”  The real sad thing about Giftmas is….”How long can I stay away from those I love or profess to love so I don’t have to feel the true meaning of Christmas.?”  It is just so much easier to thank someone for a gift.


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A Heart Still Broken

It has been 3 months and 8 days since my baby girl Faith left me for another world and it has been 1 month and 8 days since my Red King Rory left me to be at her side.

On good days I see them playing together in an open field.  Faith is running with her hair flying around her and the Red King is at her heels protecting her from all sorts of harm.  After a little while, they stop under a big oak tree and Rory stretches out his long body while Faith curls up near his nose, her body almost as big as his head.  They momentarily look at each other and then close their eyes.  My eyes strain not to close just so I can envision them longer, but soon the vision fades and the realization that they have both entered a grander plane floods me.  I should be happy for them but I have to shamefully admit that my heart remains broken.  It seems I can not fully adjust.

Faith’s death was painful but understood.  She had been ill for quite some time and when her final end came, it was not unexpected.  I was able to mourn her loss but still understand that she was made whole after her death.  Rory’s death was untimely, unexpected and much more painful.  He was playing in the yard, collapsed and was gone within seconds.  I didn’t have a chance to hold him like I held Faith during her last few minutes of life with me.  I was not able to sing to him the song I sang to Faith as I rocked her in my arms when she took her last breath.  I was only able to hold Rory close to me after he died and kiss his nose as I so often kissed it when he slept; but this time I knew he would never wake.  I cried out to God, but he wanted Rory for himself or he knew what Rory’s destiny would be if he had not died that day.

After reading all I could about how to “get over” the death of a pet, I took some advice and two weeks after the death of Rory, I bought a puppy.  Wyatt, is the new addition to my house.  He is the same breed as Rory but I have to sadly admit that I do not feel for him what I felt for Rory.  Right now, when I look at Wyatt, I see a beautiful Doberman Pinscher puppy that is so eager to please and be playful; but there are times when I look at him, all I feel a deep feeling of  loss for the companionship that Rory gave to me. If the truth be told, today, I would trade this little eager puppy for one more day with my Red King.

I did what was suggested and bought a puppy; not to replace Rory but to help heal myself from the pain.  I should have waited.  I pray that someday I will be able to give Wyatt the love he so richly deserves.

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

Author unknown…


 


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In a Heartbeat – Man’s Best Friend

When my oldest daughter finished her residency and was able to devote time to a pet, we started to search for the “perfect” pet for her.  Since she was going to live alone, she decided a dog that would afford some protection would be a good idea.  Since I had owned a Doberman Pinscher previously, I suggested that perhaps that type of dog would be a good one to consider.  I knew Doberman’s to be protective as well as loving.  They are often called “velcro” dogs because they tend to stick to the owner like glue.  My daughter said she’d consider one but wanted to see a few first.

We went to a reputable breeder who breeds Doberman’s not for profit but for the love of the breed.  On the premises were 6 adult Dobermans:  2 black, 2 red, 1 blue, and 1 fawn.  All of the dogs ran freely on her property so it wasn’t surprising that they all met us as we pulled in to the driveway.  They barked briefly to alert the owner of the property to our presence but then stood and looked at us warily.  It wasn’t until the owner came out of the house that we made the first move to get out of the car upon the owner’s assurance that the beasts before us would cause us no harm.

The breeder took us into the house where a massive black Doberman met us at the door, sniffed and then turned away.  In a large box in the corner of the room was a red Dobergirl guarding her Doberpuppies.  The breeder quickly let the Doberpuppies loose in the  house but kept the Dobermom in the corner.  As the breeder explained to my daughter exactly what Dobermans are like as a pet, one of the puppies came and sat near my feet.  He had the biggest paws I had ever seen on a Doberman and his legs were lanky and clumsy.  As the other Doberpuppies tried to gather at my feet to see what this visitor was all about, the Doberpuppy with the big paws kept every other puppy at bay.  He would not let any other puppy near me.  The breeder joked about him not letting me go home without him and I just laughed knowing that I didn’t need a big goofy Doberman to chase my two small Yorkies into a frenzy.

Since my daughter didn’t want a puppy for a few months, we looked at the Dobergirl who was due in about 5 months.  She had been breeded to the massive Doberman who met us at the door – so had the goofy, big pawed- red dog that wouldn’t let any other Doberpuppy near me.  We left that day with a lot of information.  My daughter left with the breeders phone number and the due date of the Dobergirl about to give birth.  I left with the goofy red dog who would later look like this:

My husband was not a happy camper when I brought Rory home.  He complained that he cost too much, he was too big for the Yorkies, and he would eat us out of house and home.  He was right, I was wrong.  Rory stayed and moved into our hearts.

As with most Dobermans, Rory quickly became the classic “velcro” dog.  He followed whoever was being the most active at the time.  He especially watched closely his blue ball, which became his constant appendage.  He never went anywhere without it.  He even slept with it.  A trait so endearing, that we couldn’t help but make sure he had two or three blue balls all the time, just in case one met with an untimely demise.

Soon, Rory took over my husband’s heart and the two developed a routine.  The routine was:  What Rory wants, Rory gets.  Rory waited patiently for my husband to get home from work, but the minute he walked into the house Rory would grab his blue ball and demand that my husband play with him.  Of course, my husband would call him a big red ass or say some other un-flattering name but Rory was persistent.  If he didn’t get the attention he wanted right then, he would thump my husband in the leg with his blue ball.  The exchange was a ritual and fun to watch.  Rory demanded attention.  He felt he had to the be center of our world because, after all, we were the center of his.

In a heartbeat, the attachment occurs:  the love between a dog and his master.  If the truth be told, I am unsure in a human/canine relationship who exactly the master is.  I’m pretty sure it is not the human.  Rory was the master of us all.  He played us like a finely tuned violin.  Rory pouted if he didn’t get his way, whined if you didn’t pay attention to him, caused mischief with the Yorkies at times and was the best friend a person could have.  He was more than canine, he was more than human, he was …Rory – The Red King.  Rory was a part of the family and lived in our every heartbeat.

After a long day, Rory felt it was his right to stretch out on the sofa and relax after a long tedious day of playing and protecting the homestead.  Of course, his blue ball was always close at hand.  At 120 lbs, Rory still thought he was a lap dog.  If able, he would cuddle up as close as possible as if to warm his body with ours.  An annoying, but endearing quality all at the same time.

Yesterday, while running and playing outside; something he loved to do, Rory left us in a heartbeat.  He was running and playing and then all of a sudden he looked up, collapsed and his spirit soared into the universe.  He left my world to enter another dimension.

Red Dog had a good life.  Red Dog had a happy life. Red Dog had a short 4 1/2 year life.  Red Dog will be remembered by me always.  I miss him more than words can say.

I love you Red Dog, Red King, Red Drooley…….  I love you Rory.


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Fine Italian Dining

In a little while I’ll be leaving to attend the local Italian-American Heritage Festival.  For most Italians, it is a festival not to be  missed.  My mother loved going to the festival.  For her, it was an opportunity to meet up with a group of friends who would reminisce about the past.  While others were chowing down on pasta, meatballs, sauce, and other Italian dishes, the friends that my mother would meet up with rarely consumed such festival cuisine.  Why would they when some of the best Italian food ever tasted came directly from their kitchens.

Since I was privy to some of the best Italian food ever consumed by human beings, and since there is little else to do at the festival, I didn’t attend often.  I only attended when my mother couldn’t find anyone else to take her there.

Today, as I was thinking about attending the festival for the first time in what must be over 10 years, of course my thoughts turned to my mother.  I can see her face as her eyes would light up when she suddenly spotted someone in the crowd that she knew.  I can hear her telling me how “I” should know who they are, but in reality if I knew them I didn’t remember.  I remember her friends telling me, “I remember you when you were ‘this big'” and I’d smile just a second before the Italian (and hands) started to fly.  Today, I wondered if my mother thought of her own mother at the Italian-American Heritage Festival as she socialized with so many people.

I wonder, is it the connection to the not so distant past the draws so many people to the festival?  For Italians, it certainly can’t be the food!


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Teacher….I Hope You Learn

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Yesterday, I read a post at All Access Pass about how teachers leave impressions on their students.  I can’t tell you how much I agree with the post.  Each adult, especially those in positions of authority leave lasting impressions:  some good and some not so good.  I’d like to relate a story of a first grade teacher who left a lasting impression on my youngest daughter.  The impression was such a strong one that my daughter can vividly recall it to this day; twenty one years later.

One day in early February, my daughter jumped off the bus at the end of our driveway, ran past me and quickly took something out of her book bag and threw it away.  Thinking she was acting rather strangely, I went to the trash can and picked out of the trash a paper “groundhog” that she had cut out and colored at school.  I turned and held up the ground hog to her and asked her why she wanted to throw it away.  “It’s ugly,” she said.  “I hate it.”

“Well, I absolutely love it.  I’m hanging it up on the refrigerator,”  I replied as I cut a piece of tape and hung it to the refrigerator.

“No you’re not.  You hate it.  I hate it.  It’s ugly.  Throw it away.”

“Absolutely not!”  I replied firmly.

The conversation was over and she went off to her bedroom to change clothes.  She never mentioned the ground hog again until her friend since birth, Heath, and his mother came over for a visit later that evening.  Since Heath’s mother and I were close friends, the children saw each other frequently.

Heath’s mother and I settled into tea and conversation when my daughter’s young friend ran into the kitchen to tell his mother some exciting news and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the groundhog taped up on my white refrigerator door.  “Ohhhhh…we weren’t suppose to bring our ground hogs home, you’re going to get into trouble” he said to my daughter in a sing-song fashion as he turned around to see if she was following him into the kitchen.  Suddenly his demeanor changed as he said, “Oh, that’s right, you were allowed to bring yours home.”

I stopped talking to Heath’s mother so I could ease drop more clearly on the children.  “What in the heck was the deal with this darn groundhog?  Was it going to come to life and eat us all while we were asleep?”  I stood up and un-taped the groundhog and called both of the children to my side.  “Which one of you is going to tell me the story behind this groundhog?” I asked both of them.  Both of these innocent six year old children stood silently for what seemed to be a long time before until Heath spoke up.  “She was allowed to bring hers home, none of the rest of us were allowed.”  Still confused by the whole situation I asked him why my daughter was allowed to bring her groundhog home and the rest of the class was not.  Waiting for an answer that I thought would involve my daughter acting out at school or doing something terrible with her groundhog that would make her teacher want to send her home with her groundhog in tow, I was heartbroken with the next words I heard Heath speak.

“Our teacher said her groundhog is too ugly to hang up with the rest of our groundhogs so she let her bring it home.”  My daughter eyes filled with tears.  I looked at her then at Heath and then at her again.

“Is that true?”

She just nodded her head and began to weep a little bit harder.  I froze.  I hugged her but didn’t know what to say.  I couldn’t take back somebody else’s words.  I couldn’t make right what a teacher had made wrong.

When I regained my voice and the anger and resentment started to build in me I asked Heath to tell me exactly what had happened.  He was reluctant at first to spill his guts about his teacher but the friendship he and my daughter shared won out.  He explained to me that each child was given a picture of a ground hog that they were to color and then cut so that the teacher could hang it on the wall for when the parents came to meet the teachers.  He said that my daughter was having a hard time cutting her ground hog because the scissors she had didn’t work.  (She was using right handed scissors and she is left handed.)  He said the teacher got real mad and grabbed her ground hog and held it up so we could all see how ugly her ground hog was.  He said she kept saying, “Isn’t this the ugliest ground hog?”  Then he said the teacher told her she could take hers home because it was just too ugly to look at.

My hands curled into fists as I listened.  My lips tightened.  I could feel my whole body tense.  I had made my plans. The next morning, the teacher and I were going to have a little face to face and she was going to see things from a whole new perspective.  My husband, being the voice of reason after I explained to him what had transpired, asked me to wait until the end of the week when I had a pre-arranged parent teacher conference scheduled and I would be a little less angry.  (He was hoping I’d be a little less angry.)  Much to my chagrin I complied with his wishes.

That Friday couldn’t arrive soon enough.  I was not less angry.  I was, however; more in control of my emotions.  I walked into my conference with confidence and a smile.  I sat and nodded my head so sweetly as this “teacher” told me how wonderful my child was.  She went on and on about how much of a joy it was to have her in her class room.  Her words ran out of her mouth like Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup over a stack of hot cakes.  It was incredible.

I stood up and walked the short distance to all the beautiful groundhogs that were hanging on the locker doors.  “Did the chidren do these groundhogs?”  I asked just as sweetly as I could.

“Why yes, aren’t they adorable?”  the teacher replied.

I nodded my head looking at each and every one until I came to the last groundhog.  I turned to her and said, “I don’t see my daughter’s groundhog.  Where is hers?”

“Oh, she was sick the day we did those.  She wasn’t in class.”

“Really?” I replied.  “I don’t recall her missing any school this nine weeks.”

“Yes, she missed this day.  I asked her if she wanted to do one but she said no.”

“Really?”  I once again replied.  “Hmm, funny.”  I turned and looked her square in the eye.  “Wait, I know where her ground hog is.  It’s on my refrigerator at home.”

“Oh, that’s right.  She brought it home but she wasn’t suppose to,” explained the teacher.

I shook my head.  “No, that isn’t what happened.  She was allowed to bring it home because you told her it was too ugly to hang up with the groundhogs the other children did.”

“She’s not telling you the truth.  She’s lying.”

I smirked at the teacher and said, “You know, I might have believed that but she wasn’t the one who told me about her ugly groundhog.”  I had her.  Busted!  Get out of this one you fine specimen of a teacher.

The teacher, in all her babbling glory, attempted every explanation to ease her discomfort.  I looked at her and didn’t say a word as she babbled on and on.  She knew I wasn’t buying a thing she said, and I didn’t have to tell her.  The truth was out there in the form of an innocent boy’s words.

After her attempt at explanations I folded my arms across my chest and said to her, “Care to try again because I’m afraid I just don’t find you credible at this point.”

Was this teacher done?  No.  She went on to tell me how many times my daughter did NOT wear a dress to school.  She told me that my daughter lets her friend Heath carry her books for her; and what is worse, SHE carries HIS books at times too.  She went on to tell me how she gets Heath’s coat for him if he is running behind at the end of the day and he does the same for her.  She explained that she’s a tom-boy and likes boy things.  She hinted that her playing basketball, baseball, football, and tag with the boys would probably lead her down the road to (gasp) homosexuality.

She was in deep.  The more she rambled the more I couldn’t believe that she was molding young minds.  The thought sickened me.  It still does.

Years later how does this affect my daughter?  Every time I asked her to cut things using a scissors she tells me she can’t because she has “cutting” issues.  We smile at each other because we both know what that means but the reality is…after 21 years she really does avoid cutting things out with scissors.

So, what kind of grade do I give this teacher?

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A Different Kind of Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day.  I’m pretty sure that there will be 10,258,265 blogs today that at least mention Father’s Day.  I’m also pretty sure that about 1 out of 3 families who have a living father will have a picnic or some other get together to celebrate Father’s Day.  I will be among the 33% of families who will celebrate with a picnic.

Today, as I was preparing food for the picnic my mind drifted back in time to when my daughters were 6 and 3.  I was sitting on a park bench at the softball fields watching my oldest daughter practice and my youngest daughter play with the other children in the dirt pile.  Halfway through the softball practice my husband arrives at the park and immediately my youngest daughter runs up to him gleefully calling, “Daddy, Daddy.”  In my mind’s eye he picked her up and twirled her around, but in reality I think he just picked her up to kiss her.  

Shortly after my husband’s arrival my oldest daughter runs in from the field to the park bench where I was sitting.  Nearly in tears she blurts out that the girl she was standing next to in the field told her that her sister and her could not have the same daddy and that one of them had a different dad.  My eldest daughter’s dark brown eyes were as big as saucers as she demanded to know, “Whose daddy is he?”

Since I really didn’t have a clue what the two children talked about in the field I was more than a little confused.  My oldest daughter’s heart was breaking before my eyes before I realized that she thought the man who she had called “daddy” over the last six years might not be her father.  After understanding her fear, I reassured her that the person she knew as “daddy” was indeed her father.  Slowly I saw the heartbreak leave her eyes and for a moment the air was light again.  Her head tilted to one side letting me know the wheels of her mind were spinning.  “Then who is my sister’s daddy?”  Once again I was lost.  What the heck was she talking about?  I could feel the tension mounting in her body once again as she wondered about her little sister’s paternity.  

Not having a clue what craziness had entered my daughter’s little head, I clasped her hand in mine and we went for a little walk to the end of the softball field so we could be alone.  We sat on the grass and I asked her to explain what in the world she was talking about.  There, at the edge of the softball field she explained to me that the little girl in the field had 6 brothers and sisters and they all had different dads.  The little girl explained to my daughter that kids could have the same mommy but they couldn’t have the same daddy.  

I sat for a brief moment not knowing what to say.  My daughter’s eyes were burrowing into mine waiting for a reply.  All I could do was hug her and re-assure her that her and her sister did share the same father.  Briefly, in a fleeting manor, I also explained that some children can have different fathers and different mothers but that didn’t mean that the person who lived with them didn’t love them just the same.  

I suppose she was happy with my answer because she smiled as she got up from the ground to join her friends at practice.  I watched as she ran to meet up with her friends.  My eyes first focused on my daughter and then on the little girl who told my daughter “her” facts of life.  

I think of that little girl often.  I wonder how her life is and has been.  I also wonder why I thought of her today on Father’s Day.

 


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All for a Little Fun in the Sun

Pool opening day is a special event for my whole family  The joyous union of my children, husband and father coming together for such a special event is almost more than any sane person can comprehend.  The mere thought of all us standing around the still-covered pool looking first at the pool cover then each other sends chills down my spine.  Opening the pool this year was even more special than some of the previous years.  Pool opening, as well as many other special events in the life of a family, are memories that will endure a lifetime.  Thankfully, most of “special moment” memories are distorted just enough in the future to make the family laugh instead of want to strangle each other as the actual event unfolds.

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While the pool is still covered hope remains.  I can only imagine that those standing around the “beast” are offering up silent prayers (like I do) that this years unveiling will go smoothly; that all those involved will remain at least on speaking terms when the event is complete.  Personally, I pray to my Higher Power that my tongue will be seasoned with kindness and my actions will be controlled so as not to “accidentally” push anyone into the pool.

In my humble opinion, herein lies the main problem when opening the pool.  Nobody listens to me.  Everybody involved has their own idea how things should be done and when things don’t work out; others are blamed.  In my opinion, if everyone would just let me run the show things would run so smoothly.  Instead, my father has to point out my mistakes, and I, in turn have to point out my husband’s mistakes, and my husband has to point the blame on one thing or another that our children have done wrong until there isn’t anyone else to blame except for the dogs (and trust me, they get blamed as well).  Don’t get the wrong impression, we don’t just start out yelling and screaming at each other.  We start out calmly and build up to a frenzied crescendo like any other respectable family does.  As the mid-day sun rises and the temperature increases; so do the tempers.

All of the fussing and fighting up to this point is expected and may be even a little understood as normal.  It’s only when the “disaster” happens that tempers really flare.  Now, I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, like I say to myself, ‘if they would only listen to me disasters wouldn’t happen.”   My point exactly.  If only everyone would do exactly as I say, things would just work out flawlessly.  Life and pool openings would be nirvana.  Well, needless to say nobody listens to me, life isn’t ecstasy and disaster happens.

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Something like the pool cover falling into the pool dumping all the debris the family has meticulously tried to avoid happens.

Silence.  Pure unadulterated silence.  Nobody says a word; all hoping that the mud slowly infecting the pool is only a figment of our imagination.  This can’t be happening.  No.  Stop.

Without warning, the first swear word is uttered…and then another…and then another until the only words spoken are the words one can not find in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.  Fingers are pointing, blame is being laid at everyone’s feet without anyone really knowing how the hideous event actually unfolded.

…and so, summer is officially here…let the fun in the sun begin….