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Archive for the ‘the world we live in’ Category

I was up earlier than usual that day, feeling reasonably peppy and up for some exercise. Hurriedly finishing my first cup of coffee, I laced up my sneakers, zipped my hoodie and headed outside for a run. It was pitch black and the sky was studded with twinkling stars. I inhaled the crisp September air and started to compile my mental checklist of what was on tap for this Tuesday, September 11. Drop off the kids a few minutes early, I reminded myself. Gotta get to work in time for an 8:30 meeting.

The streets were quiet, most houses dark with slumber. I jogged up and down the hills of my neighborhood to the beat of Bruce Springsteen in my headphones. As the sun began to rise, I reached the last leg and chugged toward home. My neighbor’s son stood on the corner waiting for the school bus. “Hey Ben!” I called out to him. He waved.

Aren’t we all reliving that day, September 11, 2001, and don’t we remember every tiny detail? The day that began like any other. A normal Tuesday morning, distinguished perhaps by the vivid blue sky. Normalcy turned into something too awful to have ever imagined. The disbelief that a plane, no, four planes, could be used to attack our country. The confusion, panic, not knowing if my city, Philadelphia, was next to be attacked. The surreality of a traffic jam in mid-morning as office buildings emptied with horrified Americans desperate to get home, to pick up their kids, be with their families. Looking up at that cloudless sky, so deeply blue, now devoid of planes. Glued to the TV, unable to do much of anything else, except cry.

I was in the midst of that 8:30 meeting. A colleague sat in my office. We heard a commotion out by the secretaries’ station. Someone had called with the news. Dumbfounded, we all rushed into a conference room and turned on the television, just in time to see the second plane crash into the south tower of the World Trade Center. Life changed forever for all of us that instant.

Today, ten years later, we remember this achingly sad day. Our country’s pain has not dulled, not really. That terrible day is so fresh in our memory, could ten years really have elapsed since then?

We grieve for the innocent men, women and children who lost their lives that day. We grieve for the families whose suffering will never end, the children who are growing up without the love of a parent, the parents whose children never came home.

We will never forget. Not ten years later. Not ever.

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I’ve been harboring a secret that is bursting to get out. What I am about to tell you may change your mind about me. You might think I’m, well, shallow.

Deep breath.

I stand before you and shamefully admit to an addiction.

No, it’s not drinking. I assure you that I am a one-glass-of-wine kind of girl. Nor is it drugs. Are you kidding? I can’t even take a Tylenol PM without getting woozy.

My nasty habit is … dum da dum … reality TV.

I can trace my addiction back several years when, absently channel surfing one evening, I came across something called Jon and Kate Plus 8. With index finger poised to move on to the next channel, I stopped in mid click. Whoa! How adorable were those kids? Would you look at that, eight of them! I guiltily settled in for what felt like legal voyeurism, intrigued by control freak Kate, impassive Jon and the chaotic day in, day out with their lively brood.

I was hooked. I got to know each little tyke by name (the two twins, Mady and Kara, should have their own show). Like a doting grandmother, I oohed and aahed when Kate dressed them in identical outfits. I loved the little day trips they took — to the zoo, to a Phillies game, or simply the grocery store. Even the potty training episodes brought a knowing smile to my face.

Then came Keeping Up With the Kardashians, a Hollywood fractured fairy tale featuring whiny, raven-haired, olive-skinned princesses with fancy cars and an eponymous boutique, a bossy loudmouth mom and faded Olympics superstar stepdad Bruce Jenner. Their lifestyle fascinated me, as did the absence of any discernible talent on the part of the princesses.

Next were the Girls Next Door, starring Kendra, Holly and Bridget, with Hugh Hefner making an occasional pajama-clad appearance. I ignored the creepiness and happily followed the crazy exploits of the girls until Kendra decided that 20-somethings and 80-somethings don’t really have all that much in common and left the Mansion for younger football-playing Hank.

So of course I had to watch Dancing with the Stars since Kendra was in it and, although she was eliminated in just a few weeks, I got completely swept up in the drama with Kirstie and Max (were they an item off-screen, do you think?) and the amazing dancing of Chelsea and Mark. The addiction got worse.

Before long I was sucked into The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Can true love spring from a reality show? I wondered. Ali and Roberto found their way, but sadly, like the withering petals on the final rose, romance died for Emily and Brad as soon as the season ended. The next season featured Ashley, a Penn dental student and Brad reject, now searching for another Mr. Right. And she found him in J.P., the studly construction manager from Long Island, leaving second-place Ben at the altar. Poor Ben.

Perhaps most achingly poignant is Ryan and Tatum: The O’Neals. After years of estrangement and bitterness, this father and  daughter have resolved to give their relationship one final chance. In stark and rather uncomfortable sessions with their psychiatrists, we watch them peel back layer after layer of resentment to try to uncover the familial love that existed long ago. I find it hard to watch, but hard to turn away.

Maybe it’s because I am secure in my reassuringly humdrum life that I can peek into these other worlds with fascination but not jealousy. I liken these forays to the thrill a sociologist must get when embarking on an anthropological dig, exploring unusual customs in a native habitat.

Life under a microscope must be lucrative, and fame must be irresistible, but I will contentedly remain perched on the outside looking in. And enjoy every minute. But that’s between you and me.

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