Friday, December 29, 2006

A Very Sad Day

This is a picture of my mother-in-law, some time ago, with one of her great-grandchildren.

"JoAnn" passed away at 2:45 A.M., December 29, 2006.
She will always be remembered.
May God Bless her and keep her.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Waiting

The past two days have been some of the most darkest days in our lives here at the Signtopia home. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come.......and it appears to be coming sooner rather than later. My wife's mom appears to have taken a sharp turn for the worse. She is no longer able to swallow.........cannot speak.....and is unable to eat or drink. Last night, she had eaten a meal that she had asked for.........a fish dinner from Long John Silver's. She enjoyed every bite of it.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the airport to pick up my wife's sister. She flew in from Indiana earlier than she had planned because her mom had told her on the phone to "hurry". On the way home from the airport, I stopped by Long John Silver's to pick up a meal that my mother-in-law had been asking for since before Christmas. I am glad I managed to get it when I did because she hasn't been able to eat anything since. It's a hard thing to watch someone in the process of dying. This has been rough on everyone.....some seem to have been able to deal with it better than others. We have been hanging in there but it has been particularly tough for my wife.

The whole idea at this stage is to try everything to make her as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, nothing can make the rest of us comfortable with the situation.

There will be no more pictures taken of her....this is the last one......and this was on Christmas Eve. She opened her presents and had a good time with the family around her. Today, she is nearly comatose. It is not a happy time here tonight.

She had said, in recent months, that she does not want to die at our house......that she does not want to put that kind of burden on our family again since we had already been through that experience with my father. We all want her here with us and we are stubborn enough that we will not accept any other options. This is the tough part...........waiting......and that feeling of having no control over anything. All we have at our disposal is the meds and alot of prayers.

Give your mom a hug today.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Summing Up Christmas

I had been determined to eliminate as much stress as possible for the holidays. Here I am at the mid-point between Christmas and New Year's and so far so good, I suppose. It could have always been worse. Christmas is always a joyous occasion and this one was as well. As I had said before, stressful things seem to come your way even though you had done nothing to deserve it. At least nobody was maimed or beaten or starved to death......hehehe. Everyone was reasonably happy considering the monster looming over us. My wife's mom appears to have been on a downward curve moreso for the past week. Halucinations, delirium, bizarre comments...........stuff I am not particularly used to dealing with since the hours and hours I spent chatting on Paltalk.....hehehe. I try to make light of this situation, out of the need to retain some sort of buffer.....I cannot let it get to me. The picture is not getting rosey, that's for sure.

Christmas Eve was wonderful here at the Signtopia household. There is nothing better than the times when everyone in the immediate family gets together. Good food, good hugs, and more memories added to years of prior Christmases. That this is surely my wife's mom's last Christmas made it an even more memorable, albeit somewhat somber. Presents were exchanged, food was devoured, and all Christmas lights were still functioning. I didn't get to attend midnight mass this year...........we needed to be home to tend to my mother-in-law. One of the most memorable moments this year was when I called my relatives in Tennessee on Christmas Eve night. Our own celebrating had winded down and theirs was still going on. They had put me on speakerphone and the entire gang sang several Christmas carols to me. They all sounded so good.....I shall never forget it. While I did not get to hear the choir at Holy Rosary Church this year, I got treated to the voices of the Signtopia Tennessee Tabernacle Choir.....hehehe.

Christmas morning was peaceful and calm this year. The kids have all grown up, which means there was no screams at 4 A.M. of "Santa Came!". Also, no hours of time spent "assembling" toys. The mayhem this year would be at my daughter's home because she has children. She knows now what her mom and dad went through all those years.......but it's all good.

I smell a Super Bowl a comin'........and my unrespected Ravens will stun the nation. The powers that be in Batimore announced that they will name a street after Nancy Pelosi..........hehehe.....NOBODY will want to steal THAT sign.

I got a new camera for Christmas! Once I figure out how to work it, I will hopefully have better pictures on the blog for everyone to see.

And now...for the bigger picture.......

My wife, Nurse Ratchet, told me about a few of her patients in the emergency room. Two children, an eight year old and a four year old, had been left home alone. They messed around with the stove and the house caught fire. Christmas for them came to a cruel, senseless, inexcusable end. The kids were expected to be fine...they are fortunate to have survived. This kind of thing happens way too often.

Gee, I am a lucky guy....things could always be worse.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas - Mr Bean:

Church on Sunday with Mr Bean

A bit of humor for the holidays!
A Christmas Carol

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

"Christmas Eve" Eve.........Last Minute Assessment

Here it is the day before Christmas Eve. I am sitting here thinking about what has taken place. I am also thinking about what has yet to come. It's almost too much to consider, and too much to try to fully understand. Regardless, it shall be a joyous Christmas but, as with each Christmas, it happens way too fast.
I recently paid a visit to my last surviving uncle. He lives a somewhat reclusive existence. All of his siblings have passed away and he is finally alone....left to his own devices.....and nobody around that he has to take care of.......just himself. He has a group of friends in his neighborhood......what's left of them......most of them have died off too. I have a history in his neighborhood. I was born there. All of the things that could have been, never happened. All of the things that could have been said, never was. All that is left is some memories, which I have hung on to and cherished. I never got to really speak with my grandparents. My grandfather had died before I was born, and my grandmother never spoke the English language. My recollection of communication with her was as follows:
"This is your grandson!"

My grandfather wasn't a bad looking guy. I wish I could have met him. I did, however, meet one of his father. It was said that my father was alot like his father.

My grandmother. "Booshe".......that what we called her. It was short for "babooshka" Both of my grandparents were from Poland. I feel an indescribable connection with Poland. I cannot explain it outside of heritage. She wasn't a bad looking woman either. She produced nine children from two marriages. Her first husband died at an early age. My grandmother always looked like an old woman to me. Obviously, in this photo, she was not old at all. I never had any hugely memorable moments with my grandmother. I never stayed overnight at her home. We never walked around the block or the park. I never had that kind of relationship with her. She was just simply......there. I do not know what she thought of me and I am not so sure she even knew what we thought of her. It is a void that I have often thought about.

So I cannot change the past.......I can only try to do something about the here and now......and try to have some effect on the future. In the picture shown above, is my granddaughter, "The Princess" with one of her great-grandmothers. She is having an experience I never had. And those moments in her life are now documented and shall never be forgotten. These opportunities do not simply happen on their have to make it happen. Unfortunately, these moments will soon exist no more..........that is sad. I doubt my granddaughter has any clue as to what is going on......or how ill her great grandmother is. When she grows up, she will be able to look back and be grateful.

For Christmas, all I have of my grandmother to hang my Polish heritage. I hear the Polish music and I think of her. I do not know if it's possible for her to know this, but I hope she knows she is remembered. Meanwhile, I will crank up the koledy and eat some kielbasa and sauerkraut.......wolf down some chruscikis and be happy. I couldn't be doing this if it wasn't for my grandmother giving birth to my dad.

alicja majewska i chor UR, pytanie na sniadanie #4

Part 4 of the Polish Christmas program.

I have a few surprises for you next time.
alicja majewska i chor UR, pytanie na sniadanie #3

Part 3 of the Polish Christmas program.

Gotta love this stuff!
alicja majewska i chor UR, pytanie na sniadanie #2

Part 2 of the Polish Christmas program.

Keep enjoying!
alicja majewska i chor UR, pytanie na sniadanie #1

Yet another Polish Christmas is the first of four installments.

Merry Christmas - Mr Bean:

One of the greatest ever.


Friday, December 22, 2006


Here is what we miss when we don't go to the show.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 12-9-06

I wrote about the HUGE Christmas tree......and that it had lights.....but I was there in daylight. I found this video on You Tube that puts it all in perspective for ya.
Macy's Christmas Windows

Nobody does it better.
Happy Holidaze Hon from Hampden

Only in Baltimore.....Hon!
Merry Christmas, Hon

Yet another look at glorious Hampden,a Baltimore neighborhood.
Miracle on 34th Street

More Baltimore Christmas lights....Hampden style.

Quick New York Trip

With all that has been happening in my immediate world, I never figured that I would find my self standing in Times Square with three days until Christmas............but there I was.

My son, Dash Riprock, insisted that I accompany him for a quick trip to New York so that he could attend a casting call for a movie. Initially, I couldn't see how I would be able to go there with him, but things came together and we both made the drive to the Big Apple. There was a huge amount of traffic heading north but things went rather smoothly. We located our destination..........a somewhat seedy looking black door. The casting company was located on an upper floor. We were there early......way too early......and we had some time to we started walking around. (by the way, it costed us $29 to park in an underground garage for four hours)

Ok..........we figured we would head toward Times Square.........of course......and by golly, we actually started walking in the right direction. I was a bit surprised at how many people are walking around and how much activity is around that early in the morning in New York City.

I remember saying to my son that there was no way in hell that I would want to be here on New Year's way.

It is quite a sight though.

There is a feeling I get whenever I am in feels like I have tons of cement above me.......especially when I enter one of the buildings. Its hard to explain that.

On one corner, there was a large crowd blocking up the sidewalk. Turns out it was the Good Morning America folks broadcasting something Christmasy......hehehe.......or should I say... hohoho. I am not a crowd person......I need some space. You can't enjoy anything when there are all of these people crawling up each other's rumps trying to get a better look at what's going on.

You would think they were giving away free stuff on that corner..........but no, just ABC doing their thing.

There was a distinct chill in the air yet we continued to march along a look around, we still had a lot of time to kill off.

Christmas decorations wherever you look.

We walked past Macy's department store. We tried to imagine what it must be like right there when they hold the annual Thanksgiving Parade.

Each window is decorated for the holidays........and nobody does it better than Macy's.

Every once in a while, we would hear sirens screaming and echoing through the cavernous monsterous buildings. Each time I heard them, my thoughts immediately were taken back to 9-11.

We managed to find ourselves at the News Corp building............News Corp is the parent company of Fox News. On the ground floor, you can stand outside the windows and see inside the studios as they are on the air. They have some kind of yellowish film covering the glass which makes it difficult to get a decent picture, but this photo will at least give you some idea of how it looks. You can see Brian Kilmeade, Gretchen Carlson, and part of Steve Doocy in this picture.

One of the group of people standing outside that window, was holding up a "Steelers" scarf...........BOOOOOOOO! Needless to say, me and my son made it known that we are Ravens fans........hehehe. After some typical choice football rival verbage.......we all shook hands and wished each other a Merry Christmas..............better luck next year Pittsburgh......hehehe.

The neat thing about Fox News, is that the celebrities will exit from the building and meet and greet their fans. We stuck around long enough to see Steve Doocy. He is a great guy. He posed with my son for this picture. Of course, security was around, standing watch, but this celebrity has no problem mingling with the fans.

As we walked away, I looked back and snapped this picture. The woman in the very center, facing the camera and holding a cell phone to her ear is former Miss America and current Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson. You can see the security guy hovering around her. Looking behind the planters to her left, you can see Steve Doocy still hanging out with the fans.

These Christmas decorations are HUGE!

No stroll through Manhattan would be complete without walking past the Radio City Music Hall. The last time I was ever there was when I went to see Todd Rundgren's Utopia......back somewhere around 1977.

Right up the street from the Radio City Music Hall, is the NBC studios. Didn't see Conan O'Brian anywhere, but we didn't go inside. That's my son, Harry Hollywood, with the nice sweater on.

Around the corner from the NBC Studios is Rockefeller Center. This is a picture of part of the NBC Today Show outdoor set.

Another large Christmas decoration at Rockefeller Center.

Ice Rockefeller 9 in the morning!

The famous Rockefeller Center fountain.

And you cannot miss this HUGE Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. It's a major attraction each year and appropriately gigantic. As much trouble I had putting lights on my Christmas tree this year, I can't even comprehend the enormity of the job they had to put lights on this tree!

Well...........there I was. A last minute, unplanned whirlwind trip to New York City at Christmastime. I enjoyed every minute of it. We walked back to where my son needed to be for the audition....he did his thing.....and we headed home to Baltimore. A little father and son bonding opportunity.............and we both needed that.

I rescheduled my cardiologist appointment for Friday............he will have to wait until January 31st to see me. I feel fine. All in all, while in New York, I walked about 50 blocks in a cool brisk air and we walked in a fairly quick pace. I had told my son, "If I make it until you do your audition and I am still breathing.......I will have passed my stress test". I passed it. I didn't drop to the ground....had no trouble chest pain.....everything was good.

A few observations about New York City:
  • It seemed like foreign people have taken over.........I don't mind that they are immigrants........I just would like it if they could actually speak the english language.
  • There is a Starbucks on every corner.
  • Police are everywhere.
  • And what is up with all of those people at every turn trying to hawk haircuts at some barbershop. They were even handing out flyers to bald people!
  • There is no horizon.
  • You are always in the shade when in New York City.
  • Alot of blind people walking around........I don't quite understand that.
  • Everyone that we encountered was helpful and friendly.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas at the world famous 34th Street Hampden Hon


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Maryla Rodowicz - Dzisiaj w Betlejem & ?

A Polish Christmas carol.........and it just ain't Christmas without it.


It's almost here.
Lara Fabian & Zucchero - Everybody's got to learn sometime

Zucchero is one of my favorites. Great songwriter.

Give it a listen.
Christmas Pirogi making

Somebody might find this interesting.
A Polish Carol in English

Polish students singing "Wsrod Nocnej Ciszy"

Now you know the english words.
Ich Troje - Koleda

More Polish Christmas stuff.

Are you feeling Christmasy yet?

Monday, December 18, 2006

dean and jerry - under the mistletoe

Gotta love it!
Edyta Gorniak - Silent Night (Polish) LIVE

Maybe I have missed something....but it seems that we do not see many things on US tv like this.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Annual Christmas Parties

There are a few occasions where I am required to wear something other than my usual Hawaiian shirts or t-shirts and jeans along with a cap. So I sacrifice comfort clothes to escort my wife to two huge Christmas Gala's each year.

The first of these Christmas parties was held at Martin's East in Baltimore County and was for the Emergency Staff at Franklin Square Hospital. I didn't get many photos since we had arrived late because we had been dining at The Melting Pot in Towson. That dining experience ate up alot of time.......but that was okay by me.........this event was exactly the same as it was last year and even the band "Bobby & The Believers" played the same exact songs in the same exact order. It was a nice occasion, but in comparison to the next night's event.........this one comes across as very tacky. You feel like you are zapped right back into 1975......same songs.....same decor........same old, same old. The intent is good, the people are great, the cause is honorable and everybody still had a good time.
The big event was Saturday night at the Gramercy Mansion (shown above). This Christmas Gala was put on by Chesapeake Medical Staffing and was for the benefit of Healthcare For The Homeless. It's a bit strange to wallow in such opulence and glamourous digs for such a is quite a contrast to the cause being at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum as we were. However, when you consider the end result of such an affair, alot of good was done. The Healthcare For the Homeless organization managed to get a Christmas gift of over an estimated $22,000 dollars. These funds will go a long way and more is needed. Not many people are aware of this effort for homeless people and you would do well to find out more about them by visiting their website at

The Gramercy Mansion is a secluded spectacle. A feast for the eyes. It is also a Bed & Breakfast, and considered one of the most romantic places to stay.....anywhere. Aside from that, they also host many special events. You can visit their website at to find out more about it.

Outside the Gramercy Mansion, the Christmas lights are minimal but just right. The inside of the building is a different KNOW its Christmas when you enter.

Decorations inside are a stunning and are just about everywhere. The grand staircase is adorned in a way that does not take away from the natural beauty of it. I could picture this staircase in a castle in England. The only time I have ever seen anything like it....was on the old Bee Gees "Cucumber Castle" album cover.
This is an old harpsichord. All of the furnishings inside the mansion are wonderful.
Not a great photo but this is looking up that staircase. I took this shot just in case............maybe the camera would catch a ghost that I couldn't see with my own eyeballs....hehehe.

There are fireplaces in every room and each mantlepiece has Christmas decorations. This particular one has the nativity scene. It is great to be able to go somewhere where they have not forgot the reason for the season.

The entire place is eye candy. Everywhere you set your eyes, there is something to behold.

They had quite a collection of Nutcrackers.

Stocking hangers.
Christmas trees in just about each room. This was in the room where the disc jockey was set up.

A definite "old world" feel to this place.

And what do you do when you have a large collection of preserved wild animals? put Christmas decorations on them too!

Okay.......enough about the mansion........let get to the event. As I previously mentioned, this event was held for the benefit of Healthcare For The Homeless. In one room there were many items and services on display that were up for bidding. My wife mentioned the necklace and purse combo I figured I had to make an effort to get it for her. After all was said and done.........we went home with that purse and necklace, and Healthcare For The Homeless got another hundred bucks. Not a bad deal at all.

Gotta mention the food. The Gramercy folks do it perfectly. Crab cakes, Chicken Wellington, Spring Rolls, Soft Crab, Steak, Jumbo Shrimp, and Artichokes were paraded around throughout each room by the service staff. They also had this nice fellow (shown in the photo) who was shucking oysters for anyone that cared to eat them. I am not an oyster person..........I can only think of one thing that it resembles and I always cough that up and spit that out. The folks that enjoy oysters, informed me that the oysters he was serving were great.

Deserts, candies............beautifully presented......and very tasty.

Lots of fruit and veggies too.

Awards were given to those nurses and techs that had the most hours accumulated. Needless to say, my wife Nurse Ratchet, was one of them.

All of these folks are good people. They are the ones that take care of you when you are at the hospital. They take their jobs seriously and their career of Nursing is, according to an AOL survey, the most respected and honest of careers.

And we danced................I am not one to cut a rug..........but I can do the slow songs.........and when your wife looks like wouldn't refuse.

I am a lucky guy........and a happy one too. Here I am dancing with my eldest daughter "Mrs. Rockefeller".
I also danced with my youngest daughter "Cheer Leader". You can tell that me and the wife made some great looking kids.
Everybody was dancing and having a wonderful time.

That's my wife, Florence Nightingale I, on the right. The other three are nurses also.............and each and every one of them was drunk as all get am just kidding......hehehe.

It was a great night out and these gals will be immediately planning on what they will be wearing next year to this event. Me?.........well............I won't be holding my breath in anticipation of a t-shirt event.........I have my suit.