A Mermaid Farewell, or The Last (Hip) Hurrah

While deleting over a hundred spam hits, it really drove home how lax I have been about posting anything.  Distraction has been the issue.  A lot of new things have popped up in my life that have grabbed my focus away – things that deserve comment and will be shared in future posts, I promise.  New dog.  New grandbaby.  And very, very soon, a new hip.

Why someone Not That Old should be needing a total hip replacement is something that continues to floor me.  What caused this to happen?  Was it the major fall I took from slipping on smashed green beans while hurrying past a salad bar in my clogs on New Years Eve, so many years ago?  Was it all that yoga, where I pushed myself into positions just beyond reach in the quest for greater flexibility? Is it genetic?  Or just bad luck?

Whatever it is, the increasing instance of pain has curtailed just about anything I have wanted to do and has had a major impact on my life.  Hiking? A thing of the past.  A trip to the city?  Out of the question.  Even a walk through a shopping mall, which is something I never do anyway, is not an option.  Soon it was trying to get up stairs, or walking a few blocks uptown to the farmer’s market….. and then even sleeping at night began causing pain if I moved the wrong way.

But it has been intermittent pain.  One minute the stab of lightning is so great it makes me gasp, and then a few moments later perhaps nothing at all, as if the hip is just fine and it is all my imagination.  Which is part of the reason I waited so long.  Maybe it would get better on its own. Maybe it was all in my head.

I got a few medical opinions – conflicting ones, which made the decision even harder to make. Yes, the damage shows on the x-rays, but the “good” hip that doesn’t hurt actually looks worse than the one that does.  At one point I had finally decided to go ahead with it….until the surgeon sent me home with some pamphlets that had cartoon depictions of hunched over ninety-year old people with walkers, limping through their recovery.  Talk about bad advertising!!!!!  Where was the pamphlet targeting younger people with sports injuries?  Where were the people like me?

I was so turned off, depressed, and freaked out by this that I actually cancelled the surgery date.  I know people have this operation all the time and do well, but to be honest, the thought of having the top of my femur sawed off and some foreign body installed that will be setting off TSA alarms in the airport for the rest of my life is beyond less than appealing. I am mourning the imminent loss of my hip. And because I am sort of geeky in this way, I’ve watched those YouTube videos of the surgery and have managed to skeeve myself out pretty well.  But finally, I am caving in to the total hip replacement – by the anterior method –  which is happening tomorrow, in fact.

So ………while getting some things in order this past week in anticipation of being slowed down, a friend asked me – quite spur of the moment – if I would like to go to the annual Mermaid Parade on Coney Island.  Those of you who read this blog might recall that I ended up in the parade two years ago - here.  I figured that was more than it for me.  But suddenly, this option manifested itself and seemed like the opportunity for a Last Big Hurrah for my old hip.  And so I decided to go.  With a cane.  And analgesics.  And back-up pain medication, if needed.  I mean, really, what else could I do to it at this point?  It might as well go out in style.

I am impressed to say I walked the entire length of the parade in my mermaid blue; all the way down the crowd-lined street and up the board walk in a blur of kaleidoscopic color.   OK, there wasnt’ really any dancing involved, but I made it with the cane and some Extra-Strength Tylenol.  I didn’t even need to break out the Big Drugs.  The weather was really nice and my friend was so well prepared in the most motherly sort of way, so we had plenty of water and healthy things to snack on.  We rested on the beach in the shade of a building afterwards, and later I walked down to the water for a glimpse of the sea.   We had made it through the day.  People cheered us on and wanted to pose for photo opportunities with us. It was a major party.

Although I don’t think I will do the parade again, for this hip it seemed a fitting  farewell.

Daejas View - the mermaid

Posted in Aging, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

The Hamantaschen Fail

Hamentaschen (or Hamentashen, or Hamantashen), the tri-cornered cookies filled with poppy seeds, fruit jelly, nut mixtures, etc.  were not part of my childhood holiday experience.  Torrone nougat candy, bow-ties covered in powdered sugar, Italian bakery cookies,  sesame and pistachio halvah……these things were.  Regardless, having a penchant for experimenting with holiday favorites – anybody’s holidays – I might make an Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter Bread for Easter, potato latkes around Hanukah; and of course the usual pumpkin and pecan pies for Thanksgiving, the Christmas cookies at Christmas.  You get the idea. Celebrating with food is just such a great thing to do, and any cause for celebration is a good cause.  Give me your holidays and an idea and I just might try it.  Eid ul-Fitr, Makar Sankrat, Pongal, Chinese New Year.  Any and all are wonderful.  I’m game.

This year, more than usual and probably due to social media, I have been noticing much mention of Hamantaschen for Purim.  I have eaten them but never made them, so I decided to make my own, for the first time.

Here is a beautiful photo of what they are supposed to look like:

Hamentaschen perfect

Here is what I am trying to achieve – the Perfect Hamantaschen

Before I go any further, it is a good idea to mention that I am not proficient at baking.  I love to cook.  I love the freedom of manipulating a recipe and being loose with it. And as a matter of fact, my forte is being able to whip up a meal when there is virtually nothing left in the kitchen and it is well past the time to go grocery shopping.  This skill, born of past necessity, has managed to serve me well.  Show me that old can of beans in the back of the cabinet, the few stragglers at the bottom of the vegetable bin.  The forgotten last bit of dried quinoa stashed in a jar.  The one lonely egg.  A can of tuna fish maybe.  Some cellophane noodles from a Thai dish that was never made.  Some left over nuts. It doesn’t matter what it might be.  With a few spices and some ingenuity, I can probably pull something together – often something interesting and filling that still tastes good.  At times it has even been sort of a personal challenge to still see how long I can go until someone has to cave in and buy some more food.

But baking.  Well.  Baking is just a little more precise.  It’s not that I don’t follow the directions – I do, even though I hate hate hate to follow directions.  And the results always taste good.  The problem is that they rarely look good.

When I see the gorgeous Christmas cookies that some of my friends make, I am in awe of their skill, of the perfection, of the Martha Stewart-ness of it all.  Mine (which are usually only your typical oatmeal cookies – I can’t move beyond that) are juvenile by any comparison.  My cookies are too fat, too thin, too weird looking. My cakes are crooked.  My icing is bloppy.  OK, I’ve had a few successes with pies, but not always.  I concede baking is just not my thing. It is just not relaxing.  However, that doesn’t stop me.

So back to the Hamantaschen.  Although I had a recipe from a friend, I decided to first check the internet and found a Jewish site with a Hamantaschen recipe.  I figured that was probably a good source – who would know better?  But almost immediately, I began having trouble with the dough.  Part of the trouble is that I ate a significant portion of the raw dough before even getting started.  While the dough was chilling, I was going back and forth to the refrigerator to take more and more pieces of the raw cookie dough.   It is something I just can’t resist.

The next day, the remaining dough did not want to roll out very well.  I finally got it going, cut out my circles, filled it with poppy seed filling, made the three corners per the directions.  They looked really cute going in.  But when they came out of the oven, they looked like this (Don’t laugh. OK, you can laugh…. just a little bit….):

1-hamentaschen fail

Hamentaschen Fail #1

I was flummoxed!  They must have been overfilled.  And I must have cut the circles too small.  They certainly tasted good, with a dough that was not too sweet, which countered the very sweet filling.  But they looked so unappetizing.  Luckily, the Significant Other didn’t seem to be put off by appearances, and ate most of them (which were not many, since I had already ingested the aforementioned dough).

Undaunted, the next day I actually tried again, which is rather unlike me.  But really, who can’t make a triangle?  This time I used a different recipe I had gotten from my friend R. – a sugar cookie recipe that she stated could also be used for Hamantaschen.  It rolled out a lot easier.  One setback – I also ate a whole lot of the raw dough again; a much sweeter dough.   Luckily, there was a lot more left to work with, as this made a big batch.  This time I cut the circles bigger and used less filling.  I also included some apricot filling in addition to the poppy seed ones.

Imagine my dismay when the first batch came out like this:

hamentashen fail2

Hamantaschen Fail #2

These are not beautiful triangles.  The photo doesn’t show it, but they are nicely browned on the bottom.  They are tasty and sweet.  But really, not very attractive.  Actually, they are downright ugly.  I figured maybe I should go back to some smaller circles, now that I had a more pliable dough.  I also adjusted the temperature on the oven a little higher so they might brown a little bit quicker.  While assembling this third batch, it became necessary to start drinking copious amounts of water (caused by all that dough eating).  Honestly, I also began to get burned out on the whole situation. This was not fun anymore.  Actually, it wasn’t fun after the first round.  Sometimes perseverance prevails though.  So I tried one more time.  All apricot, smaller circles, higher temperature:

hamentashen fail3

Hamantaschen Fail #3

I don’t even know what to say.  How utterly embarrassing.  Out of this batch, there were two cookies that almost passed.  I was so excited about these two at least that I had to take a picture of them. Here they are:

Two lonely almost passable Hamentaschen

Two lonely almost passable Hamantaschen

I certainly hope that the S.O. will enjoy all this Hamantaschen – three large containers of them –  because I would be too embarrassed to even give these away. Were I still employed there, I would not even bring these into an office filled with hungry coworkers who eat just about anything, for fear of ridicule the minute they set eyes on them.

I will add that, by this point I was almost going into sugar shock from all the dough eating.  So badly in fact, that I actually had to go lie down with a headache.

Afterwards, because for some reason I just can’t let this one go,  I researched and found yet another recipe and instructions for Hamantaschen that seem to address a lot of the problems I was having.  But I think it is time to move on to another holiday.

Maybe I’ll try again next year.

.

Posted in Cooking, Food, Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Homescape Throwback

I just stumbled across this old photo and it made me laugh again.  During this endlessly snowy and cold winter, it felt good to do that.  Perhaps it is just something unique to me, but since I haven’t posted in a while, I will share my this inside joke with you, which is a slice of weird relationship humor.

This is an old photo from a former house I lived in.   Walking into the bedroom one sunny weekend afternoon, I found that the S.O. had taken his t-shirt, socks and pants and arranged his laundry into a body on the bed, using the pillow for the face.  He didn’t say anything about it and was not present when I discovered it.  I thought it was such an odd thing to do, and it caused me to laugh aloud, all by myself.

Instead of mentioning it to him, I took some of my own clothing and pillows and arranged another laundry body lying right next to it.  I thought the black bra was a neat touch.

When he discovered the update, he didn’t mention anything to me about it either.  I don’t know if he laughed too, but he snapped a photo of it, which I later discovered blown up and tacked to the bulletin board in his office.  On this cold afternoon I came across it again and enjoyed it just as much as the first time. It is not the greatest quality photograph, but you get the idea.

daejasview-bedcouple

~*~

Posted in Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Pink Snow

The inside of this small oval basket of woven rush is filled with very old potpourri, atop which rests a small bottle of peach-scented oil.  The basket, which once belonged to my mother, is stashed behind some framed photographs on a dresser in the spare bedroom of my home.

It used to sit on an end table in her living room. Every once in a while she would enliven the potpourri with the oil, or add a few drops to her vacuum cleaner bag to freshen the house.  She used it in moderation, and it is a light, pleasant scent, which for years my children and I have associated with her clean, bright home and our happy and loving visits with her.  It is one of the items I retrieved when she passed away.

During those moments when I am especially missing her, or sometimes when I just feel a Mom Fix is necessary, I will go into the room, open the top of the basket and inhale this scent, which brings me close to her.  When the smell of peaches begins to wane over time, I refresh it, and thus have been able to keep my Mommy-visit going for many years. Olfactory memories can elicit powerful, vivid connections.  This ritual might bring a smile or tears, depending on my mood or what is going on in my life at the moment.  It is unpredictable and sometimes painful, but always worth it.

1-peach basket2A number of days ago I was in the room, spied the basket, instantly missed her and decided to indulge. It was apparent the potpourri was losing it’s scent, and realizing it was time to refresh, I opened the bottle top and shook some out, totally forgetting that it did not have one of those dropper tops that essential oil bottles often have.  Subsequently, more than half of the remaining peach-scented oil dumped out into the basket.  And onto the rug, the dresser, the floor, my slippers.

I was beyond dismayed, not because of the overdose of concentrated peach (which at that amount is overwhelming, and will be for quite a while), but because I had just lost a large piece of original, Mom-related memory that should have been made to last for many more years.   In addition to whatever landed on the rug, it also was all over my hands and did not fade after vigorous washing.  Whatever was spilled on my slippers got tracked around the house.  As a matter of fact, it transferred onto the towels and into the laundry too.  Because it was essentially invisible, the spread of the peach oil could only be followed by smelling it instead of seeing it.  The way it spread about, I was reminded of the Dr. Seuss book, The Cat In The Hat Comes Back, where a pink bathtub ring left by the cat keeps spreading from one point to another until everything, including the snow outside, becomes one big pink spot.  I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry.

There is still a little bit of oil left in the bottle.  I will have to take better care to make it last, this small but potent remnant of my mother.  Eventually the scent will fade, the metaphoric pink snow throughout the house will be gone. But I think I might need something like Little Cat Z to remove his hat and release some Voom to clean up my heart.

Posted in Regrets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Just Breathe

We were parallel parked on the left side of a one-way street, waiting to pull into traffic.  This was following a rather lovely lunch on a cold, gray day, with a bit of snow just starting to spit from the sky. There was a guy in a blue car across the street from us, parallel parked on the right side and also pulling out.  Either he didn’t look, or he assumed the traffic was going to stop to let him pull out.  He nosed his blue car into the road right as a larger black car was moving past us.  He almost hit the guy (or maybe he almost got hit, not sure from my angle).   Blue Car honked his horn in annoyance (even though he was in the wrong).  Black Car threw up his hands to indicate, “Whaddaya want from me, you jerk?”.  Blue Car couldn’t just let it be, and immediately zoomed out of the space, speeding right up to get on  Black Car’s rear bumper.  A couple of more cars came along behind them, and then we pulled out into traffic behind all of them.

roadrage2Black Car didn’t manage to get very far though, because the traffic light had turned red as he approached it.  Blue Car was clearly still seething – he just couldn’t let it go and again crept up to Black Car’s butt.  I don’t know if Blue Car yelled anything to Black Car, but suddenly the guy in Black Car got out and came around to Blue Car’s driver side window.  Words were exchanged that we could not hear.

The light turned green then, but nobody was able to move anywhere, so we waited for this altercation to end so we could escape the drama and all go our (now not so) merry way.  But it didn’t end.

After the guy from Agitated Black Car said something to Aggressive Blue Car, he turned around to get back in his vehicle.  But it still was not over even then.  Blue Car must have then yelled something really nasty to him as he was walking away.  Or maybe he made a lewd gesture, because all of a sudden, the guy from Black Car turned around and headed back to Blue Car.  This is where I rolled down my window (from way back, anonymously) and yelled out “Please, just get back in your car!”   But apparently he wasn’t going to heed my advice, or didn’t hear it, because he went over to Blue Car’s window and punched the Blue Car guy right in the face!  Really hard!

We were stunned.  “OMG!” yelled my daughter. By now, someone in one of the buildings who must have witnessed the whole thing from a window above started yelling something down to the guy from Black Car  (still couldn’t hear what it was).  Guy from Black Car, agitation x 10, turned around and yelled something unintelligible back to the window caller.  At that point, my daughter rolled down her window and yelled something too, then reached over me and honked our horn. “OMG, don’t do that! That guy is crazy!” I said.  She assured me the other motorists were honking too,  but I couldn’t hear that either.  I just wanted to get out of there, away to safety.  But we were on a narrow, one lane, one-way city street and there was no place to go.

Then an older woman with short white hair  seemed to be wandering in the street.  We were not sure if she was related to the guy who got punched or the guy who did the punching and had gotten out of the car…. or maybe she witnessed it from White Car behind the two of them…. or maybe it was none of those things, and she was just trying to cross the street and got caught in the insanity.

The guy from Black Car then got back in his vehicle and zoomed off around the corner.  Guy from Blue Car sped off after him.  Everyone else went straight, but we were turning too (very cautiously now), only to see the tail lights of Black Car vanishing in the distance and no sign of Blue Car at all.  Perhaps Blue went to find the police.  Or an emergency room. Or just went home.

In this crazy world, it would not be beyond the possibility that either of those guys could have had a gun.  And used it.  Over something as ridiculous as one guy pulling out of a parking space without looking and the other guy not stopping and making him wait.  No accident involved.  No parking space argument either.  Just ridiculous, petty, overly-emotional human insanity and rudeness.  Worst case, someone could have died.  Best case scenario, everyone’s day was ruined.  As it was, somebody actually got hurt.

Was all this really worth it?  Are those people happy about how their day turned out? I doubt it.  The next time I find myself feeling frustrated in traffic,  I am going to reflect on Misters Black & Blue,  and really try and remind myself to Just Breathe.

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I’m Not That Old

Today was the first time I have been in a movie theater to see a feature film  in longer than I can remember.  With the exception of attending foreign films with subtitles, I have pretty much given up on going out to see a movies for decades because I have not been able to hear them.  My experience with the headphones they give you in the theaters has been less than stellar. Although the Sony FM set I have at home is pretty good, the ones I have experienced in the theaters have been of such poor quality (some are worse than others) that it almost hasn’t been worth using them at all.  At this point, I think I am beyond what they can do for me anymore, anyway.  I need closed captions.  It  means that I hardly ever get to see some of the indie and art films that seem so interesting, and I have had to wait until the big-name movies come to television so I can watch them with CC at home.  Not that I was ever a big movie-goer anyway, but it has been just one more socially isolating situation, not being able to go out and be included with other people, even if I wanted to.

Up until now.  The technology hasn’t been available, but suddenly, in the Regal movie theater chains – and as I understand it, thanks to CEO Randy Smith Jr. , who has worked for years to find a solution –  the technology has arrived in the form of closed-caption glasses.  This is a very wonderful thing. An incredibly wonderful thing.  I was so excited about this, that I could barely wait to attend my first movie house film again and test drive them.

My friends and I chose to attend a Monday matinée.  I am not sure if it was due to being hard-of-hearing (which for me is not an age-related thing – I lost my hearing when I was young), or because it was the afternoon (and only Old People go to the movies in the afternoon, right?), or because I (we) just looked older (women who don’t color their hair probably get this a bit more), but I was automatically given the senior discount without asking. GAAAAAHHH!!!!!   The Senior Discount!!!!  I am not That Old!  Really!  Really!!!! It was sort of like being reverse-carded. While there was a minor thrill for the (very small) bit of savings, it was disconcerting to be considered a “senior”…..for the first time in my life. Especially since, I’m really not.

Not yet.  With conflicted emotions, I signed out the glasses and took them into the darkened theater to test drive them.

caption glassesThe first twenty minutes prior to the featured film, there were so many previews and commercials (an incredible amount of previews.  I was so surprised), that I sat there without the glasses on, since these things were not captioned anyway.  The glasses, which are adjustable, are a bit heavy, and have a wire and some kind of battery pack attached to them.  Once the movie started, I finally put them on and had to find the spot on the bridge of my nose where they would be most comfortable.  Once I got that together, suddenly the words appeared to float in front of me in bright green.  Wow!!!!

They move whenever your head moves, so I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out exactly where I wanted to see the words, and tried not to move my head too much while watching, because if you do, then the words move around the screen.  I had a little fun with that, making the words flash across the actors faces, then across the top of the screen, finally settling at an angle where they would appear in the dark area below the picture.  It took a while to get the hang of it, but eventually I found my position and got into the movie.  It was a real thrill to finally get to go out to the movies with friends, and to at least now have the choice of being able to, after all this time.  It was beyond a thrill.  As a matter of fact, I almost feel tearful as I write this.

Even if they thought I was a “senior” – I’ll take it.

Posted in Aging, Coping, Deafness, Hearing Impaired, Uncategorized, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

All Manner of Comfortable Things

I’m built for comfort, I ain’t built for speed”.

This line from a song keeps going through my head.  I think it was Howlin’ Wolf .  Didn’t Canned Heat do a version of it also? (I can’t find it if they did).  I looked it up and it’s written by Willie Dixon.  It’s been sort of an ear worm throughout the holiday season. I used to be built for speed.  But things seem to have shifted in the other direction.

This holiday I have been showered with family and love…and also lovely gifts that were thoughtfully chosen.  What I have noticed is that there has been a bit of a theme – things that I either wanted or were chosen by the giver, with a focus of well-being, relief and relaxation in mind.

yoga pants

No, this is not my butt!

Along with a variety of  thoughtful and even righteous gifts (a significant donation to the local food bank in our names, for instance) from immediate and extended family and friends, the running theme really was All Manner of Comfortable Things For the Aging Woman.

In no special order, the Items Of Comfort included: a good lumbar pillow for back support, an array of dry skin products, a couple of pairs of yoga pants, stretchy leggings, a loosely fitting shirt and dress that hides lumps and bumps, a really good leave-in conditioner for dry and crazy hair, an interesting book,  yummy home-made cookies and cakes, organic dark chocolate bars filled with ginger and spices, and (now, don’t laugh ….) a Chillow (as seen on TV!) for those night time hot flashes.

Out of all this, my guess is that some of you might have questions about the Chillow.  Does it really work?  My assessment thus far; sort of, yes.  (And no, I have no affiliation with the Chillow company, whoever they may be). It’s somewhat like a vinyl, inflatable pillow that doesn’t inflate. It has fake suede-like material on one side of it and just the plain vinyl on the other.  Inside it is filled with a flat sponge.  You open the cap, add water, and let it disperse throughout the sponge.  Then you wait a number of hours before using.

ChillowIt might be a bit difficult to honestly assess, since it has been about ten degrees here, and all of the pillows leaning against the outside wall of the bedroom are absorbing the chill.  So as soon as I warm the bed pillows up with my unpredictable furnace of a body, I flip the other sides against the freezing wall and repeat…all night long.  But I will say that so far, when I tuck the Chillow under my face or neck, it seems to be pretty cold all on its own.   I tried putting it in its own little pillow case, but that seemed to take away from the effectiveness of it.  So I keep it lying against the top of the bed to be grabbed if one of those hot flashes should occur.

The only thing problematic about it I have discovered is that if you are one of those people who scrunches up your pillow while you are sleeping, it can bunch up the Chillow and make it lopsided.  Then you have to smooth it out.  And having your face on it is just not as cozy as an actual pillow. But I guess in the throes of a hot flash, who cares about that? The other thought at the back of my mind is hoping it doesn’t somehow spring a leak or have the fill-cap open up. That would not be a fun situation.  But so far, so good.

There are also such things as psychic relief and comfort. The gift I specifically asked for from the S.O. concerned that kind of comfort.  The thing I have been wanting for six years finally manifested itself.  Outlets.  No, not retail shopping outlets; regular plug-it-into-the-wall outlets.  The comfort and ease of having outlets.

The entire upstairs of this very old house is rather short on electrical outlets.  Because of that, a jumble of extension cords, power strips and cables is strung across the floor, the rugs, along the wall.  This makes for fierce competition between phone chaoutletsrgers, reading lights, electric fans (hot flash fans!), the cable box, television, computer, printer.    All those technological wonders we have filled our lives with.

In one room there is no place to plug in both my sewing machine, an iron and a light at the same time.  In another, you have to snake cords out into the hallway to find a place to plug something in.  The bedroom is a jungle of tangled, unsightly electrical snakes just waiting to trip you as you vacuum or make the bed…. and probably a fire hazard too.  It has bothered me.  Every. Single. Day.  For years.  I have asked the S.O., who is quite adept at doing these things, many times if he would please provide outlets to the upstairs.  In that “cobbler’s children have no shoes” way, it never happens.  So this year, I asked if I could have outlets for Christmas.  “All I want for Christmas is outlets, please.”

He said he would do half of them. OK, I’ll take it!  So two of the rooms now are outfitted with power.  I feel so much more Comfortable not having to look at the messy wires (I am my mother’s daughter for sure. I can envision her face and feel her incredible discomfort, her angst, at such things).  That little bit of “less chaos” feels a whole lot better.  And as a bonus, he removed the thick black TV cable that ran across the floor from one end of the room to the other and replaced it with a white cable, which is now neatly tacked out of the way along the white baseboard.  And I feel relief.

Reflection on this throughout the holiday, all manner of comfortable things, I feel tremendous gratitude for the incredible privilege of simply having electricity, or heat, or hot running water; of cookies and chocolates and comfy clothes, of good food to eat, when so many in the world are without.  We are fortunate, blessed, to have such things, and I would not want to do without them, nor give up what by comparison is a comfortable life.  I will be enjoying these wonderful gifts, while reminding myself to keep it all in perspective.

~*~

Posted in Aging, Holidays, Humor, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

E

My right ear rings all the time.  One day, about twenty years ago,  it just started buzzing and it has never shut off since.  As the hearing loss has progressed in that ear, the noise has seemed to get louder and more distracting.  It’s an internal thing, so nobody else can really hear it (although I have pressed my head up against plenty of other people’s ears to check; “Can you hear that ringing in my ear?  No?? Are you sure???”).

ear against ear

It started out sounding like a dial tone.  Not one note, but a blend of many notes in discord.

dial_toneEventually it morphed into a combination of different frequencies – as if someone is trying to contact the planet Mars, or perhaps a distant radio galaxy via a home-made short wave radio, adjusting back and forth between stations and just pulling in some wild hisses and noises; a dying star, or the pulse of a quasar……”Come in Omega Centauri….Earth to 3C 373... Cygnus A…. Messier87, come in…..can you hear me?”…….

messier87There are many causes of Tinnitus.  Without getting into the explanations, I will just say that in my case, as my hearing fails, my brain is substituting other noises to fill in for the losses.  You would think it would just want to sit back and enjoy a little silence, but no, there has to be this tortuous barrage of ongoing sound.  Forever.  The huge and constant rush of noise is so loud that it appears as if it is drowning out my ability to hear, but actually there is not much hearing in the right ear for it to interfere with (which is why this is happening). It can be distracting and upsetting, and can derail concentration.  Sometimes it keeps me from falling asleep at night.  Every once in a while it gets so loud that it wakes me up.  There are times that it can be ignored, but other times it drives me nuts.  A few times the intensity and relentlessness of it has even made me cry.

At this point in life I can’t even sing along easily with the radio in the car.  Entire frequencies are missing when I listen to music.  Emotions attached to this have ranged from frustration to devastation, and grief.  I mourn the loss of my hearing.  I hate the tinnitus.  I try to cope with it, to be philosophical, to accept things as they are now.

When I was growing up, with great hearing and musical inclinations, I had perfect pitch.  It was a pretty cool thing.  Someone would hit a note on the piano and I could call it.  I took it for granted, until it was gone.  It is hard to believe that it ever was so.  Often now, a strike on a piano key will elicit a wavering, calliope of sound.

Piano_KeysBut a funny thing happened yesterday.  When I woke up, the ringing had shifted into more of a harmonious chord, with one prominent note.  And I swore it was an E.   Eeeee!   EEeeeee!  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeee! One big, endless EEEeeeeeeeeee going on in my head!

I looked up some tuning fork frequencies on the computer, cranked them up loud and tried them all to see what it was.  And damn if it wasn’t an E!  Tuningfork

EEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Posted in Aging, Coping, Deafness, Hearing Impaired, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

The Sore Throat Remedy in Our House

It’s that good ol’, bad ol’ winter cold time again.

There are a few theories as to why this works (and it does).  I envision the bacteria in your throat, your lungs, your sinuses, being killed off naturally – just being mercilessly bombarded from so many different angles.  I think envisioning helps…but that’s just me.

In a nice, big mug – put about 1/4 cup (or less) of Apple Cider Vinegar.  I like the organic kind.

apple cider vinegar

Add about 1/4 cup (or less) of Lemon Juice (better if you have fresh lemons, but from the bottle will do).

Lemons

Add a Big Blob of Honey to taste.

Honey

Fill the rest of the cup with Boiling Water

tea kettle2

Breath the steam and sip slowly and constantly while it is hot.  Feel it attacking those stuffy-headed, throat and tonsil aching, lung and sinus irritating bugs!

For those who can’t handle the taste of the vinegar, try adjusting the proportions a bit.  Keep drinking it.  And all of a sudden you will realize that sore throat and cold is gone.  Sometimes I use hot pepper infused honey for an extra kick (somewhere I read that cayenne is good for eliminating bad stuff.  I have no idea if this is so.  Not doing the research here, just sharing my own thing).   You can add a pinch of cayenne or a small shot of rum, brandy or whisky to make sort of a “toddy” too (but I don’t do that).

My family has been using this Sore Throat Recipe for years.  Not everyone likes it (one of my kids just keeps resisting), but we swear by it.

This is not “medical advice” (disclaimer*disclaimer*disclaimer!!!)   I am just sharing a bit of home remedy with you here.

May your winter and change of seasons be free from colds, or may your colds be uneventful!

snowflake

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Double Zipper – New Year

double zipper coat

Okay, it’s not so classy, but it’s warm…

A few brief years ago, I finally reached what I consider a small plateau of maturity –  determined not to freeze through yet another Very Cold Winter, I purchased an insulated down-like coat that was long enough to cover my rear end, that both zipped and snapped all the way up the collar, sporting a hood with fake fur trim for extra wind-blocking. One that was roomy enough to wear a significant sweater or a fleece vest beneath, for those really frigid days. I chose a black coat, which would absorb the heat from any sunlight that might be shining upon it, and hopefully not reveal the fact that I often eat copious amounts of chocolate while driving. One that would match with just about anything I decided to wear, and easy to accessorize with.   Years beyond the point of wearing cute little jackets that just hit your waistline (um…OK….what waistline..?)  or just cute little jackets that hit anywhere, I had been holding out on purchasing a serious coat up until then. Practicality and comfort is where things are at now.  At This Age.  The cozy, intelligent choice is what I decided to be about.

The only thing I really hate about it is that it has a double zipper.  There is a bit of embarrassment admitting that I have struggled since childhood – and still struggle – with double zippers.  Lining them up in order to get them zipped creates a low to medium level of anxiety for me.  Impatient and frustrated with them, using double zippers are a basic skill I never quite mastered.   Inevitably, at some point the bottom of the zipper will come up and then not want to come down. Or I am just unable to properly line up the bottom and have it zip up in the first place.  With long coats they are difficult to avoid, but I try to not buy something with a double zipper if I can help it.   When I do find myself dealing with them, I never unzip the bottom, because if I do, I know I will be doomed to a zipper disaster.

On a recent visit to a friend in New York City, I traveled by bus and wore the black coat, with layers beneath it, in anticipation of some icy city winds and deep cold.  It was sleeting a bit when I left; it was a good time to be wearing it. However, the temperature on the bus was a humid seventy-eight degrees. I know this because I was sitting only two seats back and I could see the inside/outside temp gauge on the driver’s dashboard.  Just to add to  the discomfort, the damp, steamy atmosphere within the bus seemed to spark a hot flash, a runny nose, and a few small fits of coughing.  So I started peeling off layers and piling them on the empty seat beside me, where they were not compact, but lay in rather a high pile on top of my backpack, which I kept near me for easy access to all sorts of goodies. Prepared, I settled in for the rather long ride with my magazine, my cell phone set to the bus WiFi, my bottle of water and an energy bar.TrailwaysBus

Two stops later and the last pickup stop before our bus went express the rest of the way, people began to board and  I just had a feeling someone was going to try to sit next to me, even though there were plenty of empty double seats on this off-peak bus.  It’s funny how sometimes you just know when something is going to happen.  Being the anti-socialite I was feeling at the moment, I tried to discourage this in the most subtle of ways. I did not make eye-contact with anyone boarding, but decided to look a bit Engrossed in my magazine, and perhaps look a little Crazy too, while extending my coughing fit a bit longer – long enough to be an undesirable seat partner.  I hitched my frizzy, purple ponytail up a bit higher on my head, stretched out my legs a bit, coughed loudly into my hankie and sent out some serious “leave me alone” vibes.

But apparently I did not appear as Engrossed or Crazy or Sick as I had hoped.  Honestly, would you want to sit next to someone with crazy hair and a big pile of stuff on the seat, who was incessantly hacking and wiping their nose, while avoiding looking at you and sending off a mildly hostile vibration? I wouldn’t, but clearly there are people who do, because a woman who appeared about ten years older than me boarded and made a beeline for the seat I was sitting in, asking me – just like that – to move over.  So now there are two of us crammed into that hot little area, with my stuff piled up on my lap.   She put her arm rest down with a bang, and for the next two hours, out of the corner of my eye, I watched her make long columns of tiny writing in a small notepad with yellowed pages that she held in her lap. I threw in a few coughs just for good measure, but she wasn’t budging.

When we finally arrived into the city, she wasn’t real quick to get up, and so I struggled into my coat while sitting down.  Wouldn’t you know it – the double zipper would not zip, but hovered jammed about one-quarter of the way up.  I stood up and wrestled with it, at which point the center unzipped itself and separated, while the top and bottom end remained tightly closed.   Vexed,  I got myself off the bus and continued to fight with it while walking through Port Authority, twirling around in circles with my backpack on my back, hot-flashing and sweating with frustration, cajoling and finally forcing the thing to open.  I was able to re-zip it, but from then on, it would no longermummy cooperate.

Arriving at a wonderful Turkish restaurant that evening,  I soon discovered I was trapped inside my coat and could not get free of it.  Unzipping it as far as I could, I shimmied it down around my waist and sat there eating dinner, and then shimmied my way back into it, until later, when I could spend some time to tackle dealing with it.  I have since found myself trapped like a dancing mummy inside that coat at doctor appointments, meetings and all other manner of events.  It’s a nice, warm coat, but it will suddenly part open and jam without warning. I am  beginning to really dislike it.  I’ve had it too long to return it anywhere, so I am just going to have to deal with it.  I actually wonder if it is possible to crazy-glue the bottom zipper down so that it never has to be engaged at all.  Has anyone ever done that?  I am afraid that might be the end of the coat if I try that…but I wonder.

However, it’s just not this coat.

A few months ago, I was standing in the kitchen with a couple of friends, trying on a beautiful sweater.  As I slipped into it, everyone was saying “That looks sooo great on you, what a perfect sweater for you!”.  But as I went to zip it up, I noticed that it had That Kind double zipper of Zipper.  With dread I said “Oh no, it has a double zipper!  I don’t do well with double zippers!”  Sure enough, I could not get it to engage and zip it up, at which point they both looked at each other with quick eye-rolls and then at me with some disbelief before saying, “Are you kidding?  It’s easy!  You just have to line it up and do THIS“.  Each one then leaned over me and independently showed me how to easily do it.  Apparently you have to hold the bottom zip a certain way while pulling back the cloth, and then either hear or feel the “click” it makes when it engages.  They made me do it over, and over, and over again until I could prove to them that I could handle a double zipper all by myself.   It was like being in kindergarten.  Of course later, back on my own,  I still struggle with it.  Just about each and every time.  I don’t know why that is.  It reminds me of both my grandmother and my grandmother-in-law decades ago, ripping out the stitches of what I knitted wrong and having to start over again.  “Do it again.” And again. And again.  Until I gave up on knitting altogether.  It is times like these where I reflect and have to wonder what is wrong with me.  It’s not just zippers either.  But that is for another post.

We are in for another cold freeze in a couple of days.  I intend to start off the New Year the same way I intend to approach my double zippers – with flexibility and patience anew.

~*~

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Rejoice the Winter Solstice

Rejoice!  The Winter Solstice.

The day began with a cup of chai.  Then lunch at a little French bistro with  family I haven’t seen in months.  Warm holiday feelings. Chocolate.  Baking.  My Mother’s Boots.

There are some fruit flies pinging around in this house, although the ripe bananas are long gone…..I wonder where they are coming from?  They make me think of spring – it’s only three months away!

The Christmas lights twinkle on the miniature fake tree. I forgot to put the grapevine wreath on the door this year, but the prayer flags on the porch are festive in their own way and will suffice  – with prayers, and peace.

Now here I am, cozy in my fuzzy leopard print pajamas.  No parties for me on the longest night of the year.  I love my bed.

From here, the days will be getting longer again.

winter solstice2jpg~Happy Solstice!~

Posted in Holidays, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , | 3 Comments

What Do You Do All Day?

Since I have been officially out of the workforce, people who are working full-time or who I have not seen in a while will inevitably turn to me and say “So…….now that you are not working, what do you do all day“?   Every time this happens to me, which is rather frequently, I am caught off guard.  There are plenty of things I do all day, but I never really made a laundry list of items to have prepared when the question is posed.  For some reason they feel like excuses, and I really shouldn’t have to be making excuses for where I am now in my life.  I’ve been working since I was fourteen years old, most of those years in the service or health fields.  I think I have paid my dues to society, to the government, to my family, to myself.

Today I attended the annual pre-Thanksgiving office party at my former workplace, which I was invited to, with the request that I bring my famous (at least famous there) Party Artichoke Dip, which I did.   So there I was, sitting at the end of a long row of tables filled with former coworkers, supervisors and HR people, when suddenly someone from the other end of the table called out That Question; “So now that you are not working, what do you do all day“?  The room seemed to get pretty quiet.  Suddenly all eyes were upon me.  As usual, I was not prepared and caught off guard again, although I thought I fielded it pretty well.  But I left out a lot, and on the way home I thought about it a whole lot more.

Perhaps my defensiveness is just my perception of innocuous questions put forth by people genuinely interested in how I am spending my (unplanned, unanticipated, unprepared for)  retirement.  But sometimes when I am asked this question, at least by some people, there tends to be a glimmer of something else attached to it, the way there might be a shade of an attitude when you sometimes hear certain working mothers talk about stay-at-home mothers (or vice-versa).  Just the faintest hint of a verbal smirk.  A holier-than-thou-ness.  A vague but palpable tinge of resentment.  Not all the time, but some of the time I get the feeling they think being home is like being Cleopatra, reclining on a chaise lounge and getting served all day.

lounging-all-day

I’m just lounging around all day being waited on.

Well, in case anybody is still wondering, you don’t have to ask because here is how it is.  At least once a month – sometimes once a week, sometimes a few times in one week, depending  – is spent at medical appointments.  Most of these appointments involve anywhere from two to three hours of travel time in addition to waiting, tests, and the actual doctor visits….and the expense attached to it.   A number of unanticipated days a month also involve downtime surrounding not feeling too well, which is part of why I am out of work in the first place.

I am still fielding questions and providing help to my former colleagues.  It is not unusual to get a phone call, text or email at any given time asking where something is, needing to be walked through a computer issue, asking my recollection of an event or my opinions on a situation.  Since I left on good terms, I am not opposed to helping them achieve the best possible outcomes.

I have been devoting a number of volunteer hours a month to an organization that runs a clinic providing free holistic health care to the community.  Sometimes I put in more hours, sometimes less. These hours are mostly at my own discretion.

The time frame for accomplishing things in my life, including necessary chores, has mostly changed, but as your obligations change, the rhythm adjusts and the days still tend to get filled.  For instance, instead of doing laundry at 9pm in the evening or waiting until the weekend, laundry might be getting done at 10am on a Thursday morning.  I might do three loads of laundry in a day.  I might spend the entire day doing laundry.  I might wash every single thing in the house.  Or not.  Perhaps the linens on the bed will get changed on a Wednesday instead of a Saturday.  The breakfast dishes will get done in the morning instead of sitting in the sink until I get home after 5pm.  The house is a bit cleaner, and I can take my time doing chores.  I might take two days to vacuum the house instead of one.  The mail is getting opened the day it arrives.  The bills are getting paid sooner rather than later.  Meals are maybe a bit more comprehensive. There has been a little more attention to detail. The pace has changed.

Instead of attending an art exhibit or other venue on a weekend, I might go see it on a Tuesday at eleven, when it is less crowded and easier to enjoy.  I spend more time reading and more time on the internet, although the latter is something that I would like to curb a bit.  Movies that were missed the first time around because they weren’t captioned when they were in the theaters are now coming out on cable television, captioned, and so I am catching up on them too.

I am reconnecting with old friends I hardly ever saw anymore because we were all too busy or too far away. I am indulging in some newer friends too.  I am spending more time with my children and family.  I have lunch with friends. Or dinner.  It’s great!  My plants are alive because I am seeing them and remembering to water them.  I am noticing what they look like in the daytime instead of with their leaves closed when arriving home in the evening.  I have been experiencing what my neighborhood is like during the week, during the day – who is out and about, the pulse of the block, of the local businesses.

Sometimes I stay up later because I can.  This means I sometimes stay in bed later in the morning too – because I can.  Anyone have a problem with that?

There is a  Bucket List, which has been in existence for many years.  Things on that Bucket List are getting checked off, because if not now, when?   It is an opportunity to be more artistic and creative again – doing the things I have let go from my life while I was too busy doing something else, exploring new ideas that are out there, returning to some old ones I let fall by the wayside, practicing things I already know.  In many ways, it feels like being twenty again, except wiser.  In many ways, it’s like going “back to the days of Christopher Robin, back to the days of Pooh.”  There is a sweetness and a nostalgia going on, as if a second childhood, almost.  I am a lot more relaxed. Waaaaaay more relaxed.  Incredibly more relaxed.

At least this is how it is for now.  Hopefully this has cleared up any questions for those who are wondering.  Maybe I should make a copy of this to pull out for the next time somebody needs to know.

~*~

Posted in Aging, Are you kidding me?, Bucket List, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Writhing With Guilt

Today I realize my shoe-a-holism has gotten a bit out of control.  I sit here and writhe with guilt.

As posted previously in this blog, I have a lot of shoes.  Shoes of many colors. Not “designer” shoes,  just comfortable, fun shoes and boots.  If I like something, sometimes I get the same thing in two different colors.  I save my shoes for years and years, which adds to the volume.  I am pretty set for shoes, which adds to my angst this morning.

There seems to be a bit of a trend – I am drawn to red shoes. I have red sandals, red flats, red slip on shoes and red cowgirl boots, so there is pretty much a red shoe available to be worn at any season.  Although truth be told, the red sandals are over ten years old and slightly out of style, the red flats are shredded and have a hole in them, the red slip-on shoes make a really annoying squeak when you walk and bleed red dye when they get wet.  The only really viable red shoes right now are the cowgirl boots.  I have a serious thing for cowboy boots; I have four pairs at present – all different, but still four pairs…. which leads up to the psychic pain this morning.

A few years ago for my birthday I was gifted this beautiful pair of red, ankle-height, pointy-toed cowgirl boots. They have tan heels and a bit of red stitching on them.  I have worn them often enough that they are very comfortably broken in.  I love wearing them, love to look at them, and I love thinking about my sister who bestowed them upon me.  They are cool boots. They are lots of fun and go with much of what I tend to wear.  I have mostly been blissfully happy with my boots….the only thing I wish that was different about them would be if they were a little less pointy.  Back when I got them, there was not that option.

But then, O Traitor that I am,  here it is a few years later when I stumble upon yet another pair of red cowgirl boots.  Ankle-height.  Rounded-toe.  Black heels.  White stitching.  I honed in on them like a heat-seeking missile.  I hovered about them like a moth at a campfire.  I didn’t need another pair of red cowgirl boots.  And yet.  And yet……

They are similar in the shade of red as the boots I already have. But the cut at the top is different. The toe is definitely different – I like the rounder toe.  The heels are black.  They are a tiny bit clunkier and less stream-lined than my current beloved red cowgirl boots.  They feel different but are comfortable, and fun.  They present with a slightly different look, although I cannot articulate exactly what it is.  The other thing about them is that I have this same pair in black/gray from a few years ago.

I picked them up.  Put them down.  Tried them on.  Then I tried on another pair of red shoes that were totally different, hoping they would pull me away from the redundancy I was on the verge of committing.   But no, it was the red cowgirl boots.  I sighed.  I tried on a pair in tan. They didn’t cut it for me.   I do not need this second pair of boots.  Then  I rationalized that I will now always have a pair of red cowgirl boots, with no worries about them ever wearing out.   I rationalized that these particular cowgirl boots will look very nice with long pants, and that they are somewhat different.  I rationalized that cowboy/cowgirl boots never really go out of style. Then  I put them down. But then I picked them up again.  As if magnetized, they slowly but steadily gravitated towards the register.

Yes, I bought them.  Yes, I really like them.  I do feel excited about wearing them, when I decide to wear them.  But right now I am afraid to wear them. I feel like a frivolous, disgusting American in a consumer-driven world of excess.  The excess part of this sickens me.  There was no need.  I envision my frugal, practical mother shaking her head.

red boot toeThey sit in the box.  I take them out, put one on, put my other pointier red boot on the other foot, look at them both.  Wrap them up and put them back in the box.  If I don’t wear them outside, I still have the option of returning them.  But I don’t want to return them.  Or maybe I do.  I am afraid if I do, I will be sorry.

I realize in the scheme of the world that this is meaningless, vapid, spoiled-brat kind of stuff.   I also realize that some people go out and drop big money on lots of shoes (and other things) without batting an eyelash.  I am very aware that some people have no shoes and some people are starving.  I am also struggling with the fact that I am now unemployed and have much more pressing things to do with my money. I know some people should be so lucky to have such a stupid problem. I realize if I keep these shoes, not only will I need to get good wear out of them to alleviate my guilt, but I will also need to balance that with my already beloved but pointy and slightly different red cowgirl boots in order to transcend the guilt.  On some level I believe I am just thinking about this too much.  It might be helpful if some other shoe-a-holics out there weighed in.

~*~

Posted in Fashion, Perspective, Regrets, Shoes, Shopping, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Disposable World

There’s really no reason to get rid of my Sears Kenmore CounterCraft Food Processor if it’s still working, right?  All it needs is a replacement part. It gets taken out of its box a few times a year for some major processing and that’s it, which is perhaps why it’s lasted as long as it has. The annual pesto making.  A number of batches per year of natural cosmetic creams.  And most recently, to grate a few pounds of cheese for some marathon quiche making.   The once ivory colored plastic on the machine has yellowed over the years, just from age.  And the mixing “work bowl” has a crack in it, which is now leaking when I use it.  That is the only thing wrong with it.  So I went in search of a replacement bowl.

workbowlOK, the thing is Rather Old, I will admit that.  It was a gift in the 1980’s, and indeed, the still intact instruction/recipe booklet at the bottom of the box was printed in 1977.  But it works! The motor is fine.  The blades are fine and all there.  I have a problem with  throwing away something that works if it still functions and can be fixed.  It is such a disposable world now.  I love new stuff as much as anybody, but there is something so wasteful about junking something that works.

So why shouldn’t I be able to get a part for it?   What did they do with all the spare Sears Kenmore CounterCraft Food Processor mixing bowls that were manufactured back then?  They must have made hundreds!  Thousands! Surely there must be one bowl sitting on a shelf in some warehouse somewhere, right?  And so the adventure begins.

sears countercraft

First I went to the Sears site and looked up “Parts”, filled in my model and serial numbers and came up with zip.  Next I engaged in the Live Chat, where a very polite guy using very polite and formal English tried looking it up for me; after a lengthy wait he regretted to inform me that they are so sorry my part is not available at this time.  When I asked at what time it would become available again, I think he got a bit flustered.  He then let me know that Sears does not have that part and that I would have to contact the manufacturer directly for it.  But isn’t Sears the manufacturer of the Sears Kenmore CounterCraft Food Processor?  Apparently not.

So who is?  After more waiting, he tells me that Hamilton-Beach is actually the manufacturer of the Sears processor, and then suggests I “Google it!” to find out who to contact.  I told him I thought it would be terribly wasteful to have to throw out a perfectly good food processor just because the plastic bowl had a crack in it.  He did not respond to my comment, but invited me to contact Sears again if I ever needed anything.

By the way, maybe Hamilton-Beach made the Sears Kenmore CounterCraft, but the plastic work bowl was actually a product of General Electric and was made from something called “Lexan”.  Out of curiosity, I looked up Lexan to see what it actually was, and discovered that Lexan is no longer made by GE but is now a product of SABIC Innovative Plastics.  Lexan is a polycarbonate resin thermoplastic.  It’s the same stuff that they made the  helmets out of that the Apollo moon astronauts used.  They use it to make bullet-proof windows and the headlight housings on cars.  They make signs out of it.  Given all that tough stuff, I find it amazing that the Lexan bowl on my food processor could not withstand the rigors of a few rounds of pesto, some beauty creams and a few blocks of cheese.  I think someone should let NASA know.

apollo11Back to the task at hand, I dutifully googled the Hamilton-Beach site and filled out the “Parts” section with my model and serial numbers.  And came up with zip yet again.  There was no Live Chat with a friendly out-sourced customer service person to engage with this time, so I then went to Contact Us and explained my problem in an email.  I even let them know that the bowl was made of Lexan, formerly by GE, just in case that would help them in some way.  It’s been two days now and I haven’t gotten a response.  Even if I do get a response eventually, something tells me they are going to be about as helpful as Sears was.

So I turned to Ebay.  And guess what?  There was my part!  It was the only one, right there, with my very same serial number, as if it was waiting just for me!  But here’s the thing about it.  The shipping costs more than the actual part.  Given that, I figured maybe I should just  get a whole new food processor and give up this fruitless pursuit.  So I did an internet search to see what a comparable machine is selling for new…..and discovered it is ridiculously too much, given the limited amount of use it gets around here…..and the fact that my reality is entrenched in the 1980’s regarding kitchen counter appliances.

And so, in between writing the paragraphs of this very post, right now in real-time,  I have just contacted the seller of the used Sears Kenmore Food Processor workbowl, just to make sure it is intact and without any cracks. The seller, Rick, immediately responded and assured me that it is in good shape.  Hopefully it will be.  Here it is.  Recycle, reuse, renew!

food processor work bowl

~*~

Posted in Are you kidding me?, Humor, Rant, Shopping, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Hiding Behind a Tree

As if my heart could not get any fuller, my first-born grandchild started his very first day of pre-school this morning.  Wasn’t it but yesterday when I had to leave my first child in daycare?  There was no choice…I had to go off to work……. I left her there on the playground, hid behind a tree watching her, aching with separation and worry.  I hid behind that tree and cried.

Today it was her turn in the wheel – in the ever turning wheel.  It really goes so fast, too fast.

Here are my grandsons, two brothers waiting with excitement on the first day.

first day of preschool~*~

Posted in Aging, kids, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Two Boy Wedding

It is a few days past the wedding, and I am still awash in an almost dream-state; every once in a while welling up with emotion which brings me onto the edge of tears.

It is an honor to be a guest at any wedding, and I tend to get a bit weepy when I see two people making a major commitment. The tenderness and love that I felt at the wedding of my own beautiful first-born child, knowing she had left my nest forever to make a new one with her husband, is a feeling etched forever on my heart.

But something quite different and rather magical occurred at this particular wedding of friends over the weekend; the wedding of two wonderful, wonderful guys – yes, a two boy wedding.  The visual input of the venues alone was almost too much for the senses to process.  The emotional vibrations surrounding this event left a wrench in your chest, your heart feeling as if it was continually opening over and over again, like so many flowers within flowers within flowers.  The day was awash in rainbows and bubbles and joyful tears and so much care.  It left me gasping for words, walking around with a lump in my throat, speechless.  So many people working together so incredibly hard for so many days to pull off this event – such an outrageously beautiful, joyous, three-day party of families, extended families, friends, extended extended extended.  Lights dancing in the trees, lightening zipping through the sky, feathers and sparkles and kaleidoscopes of color and music vibrating, peals of laughter and hearts thumping wildly…… all dusted with some major magic.

Again and again I kept overhearing people saying that “This is the First Gay Wedding I have ever been to”, followed by saying it was also “The. Best. Wedding. Ever”.   The one thought that kept going through my mind was that I hope someday soon it becomes such a regular event for anyone to marry,  so much so that gay wedding” will just be referred to as a “wedding“,  so commonplace that there will be no need for a preface.  But still, beyond that, there was nothing common about this wedding on any level.

All said, this Two Boy Wedding was still the most spectacular wedding event I have ever attended, and I have been to a few Big Events in my time.  Those who hosted it truly know how to throw a party, and everybody present knew they were part of something Special.  Honestly, I have no words to adequately describe it without sounding trite, and still am unable to clearly define the jumble of emotions enough to give a solid description.  I just wanted to go around hugging everybody I saw. Seeing photos now as people start to post them is evoking feelings that have set me weeping and smiling all over again.  And those photos still just barely touch on the glowing aura of it all.

I wish this couple the very best relationship filled with love and care as they go forward. Perhaps too plain to say it so simply, but what a happy, happy day.

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Spidey

We have had ants this summer, the large black variety.   Not too many, but occasionally one will be spotted making its was across the kitchen floor or even the counter.  There have been so few compared to other years, that there really has been no need to do anything about them besides keep the counters and floors clean, the food covered and put away.

A few weeks ago while mopping the floor of the small downstairs half bathroom, I found a dead ant dangling just above the tile floor, in the corner between the bottom ofbathroom floor the sink vanity and the wall. I almost missed it due to the optical illusion of the black and white tile.  It was caught up in what looked like a small cobweb/dust bunny.  I bent down to inspect the smallest of haphazard, gossamer webbing, which was not arranged in any particular pattern, but was more like a jumble of disorganized strings.  As I leaned in, my movement startled and revealed the resident of this messy little web – a miniscule spider.

I have to say that I was impressed that the little being had set up camp so quickly and caught an ant easily two or three times its size.  Because I am kind of a geek when it comes to this sort of thing, I decided to not clear out the web right away, but to mop around it and let it be.  OK, maybe that’s a little weird, but the spider was so tiny that it was almost a speck. It was a ghost of a spider, and it really wasn’t hurting anything.  And it caught a great big ant!  It was Useful.

Not all insects who enter the home get this kind of invitation, but I have granted some clemency in the past.  When hundreds of ladybugs used to arrive inside the window frames every autumn (in an old country residence of the past), I would let them live there and only vacuumed up the dead ones that fell on the sills. They didn’t seem to be hurting anything.  As their numbers decreased I would wait to see if any of them would make it through the winter.  By January there were usually only a few stragglers left.  I admired their tenacity.

And then there was the The Daily Spider.  The Daily Spider sat waiting for me in the bathtub just about every morning.  It wasn’t a scary-looking spider at all,  but I would rinse it down the drain each time anyway……. and the very next day it would be back again.  Sometimes it would appear in the sink, but usually the tub.  I wondered if it was the same spider or yet another one that looked just like it.  It was remarkable that pretty much each day the spider would be sitting there before I took my shower.  Here is an actual picture of The Daily Spider.  You can see how small it is, which eliminated the fear-factor for me.

The Daily Spider

Here is a close-up of TDS.  Some of you might say “Ewww”, but I think it’s rather interesting to look at.

A closer look at The Daily Spider

Anyway, back to the story,  I left this particular “Spidey” on the bathroom floor there in hopes that he would continue to trap ants and earn his keep, and so I could watch him.  No doubt anybody who sat down on the toilet in that bathroom and happened to let their gaze fall towards that corner of the floor would notice the messy web and probably the dangling ant.  The spider itself was so small it was easy to miss.  Visitors to the bathroom probably thought I was just a lousy homemaker….but the rest of the bathroom was clean!  Really!   I alerted the S.O. to Spidey’s presence – he was only mildly impressed (“Why don’t you vacuum that thing up?”).

Spidey was there for about two weeks when I decided to try to snap a photo of him with my iPhone to show you.  Unfortunately, you are going to have to use your imagination.  I turned on the lights, got down on the floor and moved in close – and totally freaked the spider out, because it immediately scurried away and I have not seen it since.  I continued to try and clean around the web for a few more days in the event he decided to return, but I must have caught the edge of it with the mop, because the ant is now gone too and there is nothing left but a messy little hint of fuzz.  So that is that.

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Left Out

There are always challenges in the reshuffling of families, friendships and loyalties when it comes to a divorce.  Over the many years since mine occurred, there have been waves of   problems laced with intense hostility interspersed with moments of peacefulness and pleasant coexistence, and sometimes even laughter.  One of the complicated issues is that my Ex and I live within very close proximity to each other, with an overlap of friends, in a county where everyone seems to either know each other, be related to each other, was married to each other, or has slept with each other.  There are a lot of tangled webs around here.

tangled webs

I have divorced friends and acquaintances who have totally cut their ex-spouse out of their lives, to the point where the ex was not even allowed to come to the door or even step foot on the property to pick up their children for the weekend, sending the kids down the driveway or by the side of the road to wait.   Or some who have just taken the kids and moved far away to get away from the ex.  I know one who expected the ex drive two hours each way in heavy weekend traffic to pick up their kid without doing any accommodating to make this any easier for anybody, including their own child, and another who would not be home to greet their children at the appointed time and would leave the ex-spouse and her children waiting in the driveway for a good amount of time.  I know someone who would send the kids off for the weekend without adequate clothing to wear (especially if the ex was taking them to a dress-up event), and sometimes didn’t send them with their medication! Many I know have arranged to have the Support Collection Unit be the intermediary regarding their child support payments, and a few have had to go after their exes to the point of threatening jail or actually jailing them for non-payment or lapses in support.  They essentially have no contact with their exes.  And when they do, it is always Weird or Unpleasant.  In hindsight perhaps a few of these were prudent things to do, especially regarding the support part.  Time and again people have told me that I need to protect myself from my Ex, both financially and emotionally.

People divorce for a reason, and I will take ownership for my part in it. But at the time I was going through divorce, all these maneuvers seemed so geared to not being a “nice person” and certainly not towards creating any sort of peace.  These tactics seemed to go against my grain and appeared counter-productive to how I believed maintaining a decent post-marriage ought to be.   I had seen how my own mother had been just severed from not only my father, but all their friends and his family after their divorce. A lifetime of relationships just erased. It was so terrible, and it caused her tremendous pain.  Couldn’t there be a better way?  I always felt it was about all of us, just not about me.  And so I have been perhaps a bit Too Relaxed concerning the “Rules of Divorce”.

Throughout the past twenty-some odd years,  but mostly when my children were younger,  I had always felt it would be best to accommodate The Ex in most things concerning the kids.  I invited him to their birthday parties so he would not miss out on those moments.  I actually felt guilty that he was missing those moments, because I knew how I would feel, I knew how painful it felt to be left out, so I tried to include him where I could.  I thought the kids would want him there too.  I kept him informed of their music and play recitals, what was going on in school, teacher meetings, who their friends were,  medical updates and any problems or emotional issues – even when it seemed he was not interested – because I felt as a parent he should know.  I didn’t want to keep him so distanced from what was going on in their lives, now that he was no longer regularly part of those lives. Although he did not reciprocate the courtesy, I thought I was being Fair, and perhaps would just have to be the bigger person about it.  I met him half way to drop off the kids on his weekends or even delivered them to him when I knew his car was not running well, or running at all.  I even allowed temporary postponement and lapses of the child support when he had lost his job and was looking for other work, or when his car engine blew up and his money had to go into fixing it (to pick up the kids, to get to a job).   I didn’t see the point in pummeling him.  I figured I would get it back at the end and that it would all come out in the wash. I didn’t see the point of making everything Horrible, or making the spectre of divorce more horrible than it already was.  Because it was painful, and it was horrible.  But I believe in Good Faith.

divorce Okay, call me a fool, I know, I feel the smirks and eye-rolls.  In that crystal clear hindsight, perhaps I should have just taken the kids and moved back across the country to be near my own family, had the Support Unit garnish his wages and go after him for lapses, and just never talked to him or his people, or any of our friends again.  But you know, I come from the Old School of Hippies.  My heart is an open book.  I knew people whose divorces were so incredibly hostile, so filled with acrimony and acid, that their children were puddles of emotional, weeping mush.  I didn’t want that for my kids, even though I had become the puddle of emotional, weeping mush.  I wanted everything to be mellow and relaxed, even when I desperately knew it wasn’t quite going in that direction.  I had a vision of what I had hoped it could be.  And I loved my in-laws, who were all good people, and just couldn’t see throwing out the bath water with the husband, so to speak.

As it goes in divorces, the friends pretty much sorted themselves into their respective camps.  There was some overlap, but essentially the loyalties were pretty clearly divided.  Sad, but it seems it’s always that way.  Despite the loss of some old and dear friends, some wonderful ones stuck by me.  Beyond that, over the years I have maintained very good and loving relationships with my Former In-Laws; the Ex-In-Laws….the Out-Laws….whatever you might call them.  We have come together for births, weddings, funerals and reunions – those special events. My family has still been happy to see my Ex when these things arise too.  In that respect, it’s been rather remarkable.

While we no longer share holidays together, for a number of summers in a row I have been graciously invited to my Former In-laws for the family reunion.  I don’t stay for the whole weekend-long event, but I usually come for an afternoon to visit with everyone, catch up, give hugs, eat some good food, and then I leave.  It’s been this way for some years now and it has been a nice thing.  Not only does it leave warm fuzzies to see them all and the expanding generations,  but they have even made my Significant Other welcome in their home. In addition, it has been an opportunity to see my own children and grandchildren interacting with their cousins and extended cousins that I have known since birth.  Things have seemed to go along pretty well.

This year I was not invited.

I got wind of this because my children were talking about going and the logistics of getting there, and I hadn’t heard anything about it yet.  My Former Sister-in-Law, who I consider a friend and who I am in contact with via email and Facebook probably a couple of times a week, had said nothing to me about it.  I was flummoxed.  And I felt incredibly hurt.  When I vented to my friend on the phone about this mixture of sad and painful feelings, she said “It really hurts to be left out”.  That pretty much says it all.  It doesn’t matter if you are eight or eighty, in kindergarten, high school or the nursing home –  it really does hurt to be excluded.

excluded
I didn’t know if I should just say nothing and sit here feeling badly, or mention it and end up coming off as rude, because of course they have no obligation to invite me to anything, and I feel they have been gracious all these years.  But also, a precedent had been set, and these are people I have been related to and have been in contact with for decades. The worst part was that I actually found myself feeling way more depressed about it than I expected to be or wanted to be, or maybe should be – but I could not shake it.  Both my kids felt I should ask my Former Sister-in-Law why this year was different.  I hesitated, but then I did, and she told me.

It seems my Ex is bringing a date.

The Ex and dates are nothing new at all.  There has been a very, very long line of “dates”.  I think if he was introducing someone new to the family, this sort of would make sense. Who wants to be introduced to a family when the ex-wife is present? If they were worried about weirdness, I think it would have been the decent thing for my SIL to cue me in to the reason for the sudden non-invite.   But the interesting part about this date is that it is someone who is not new on the scene.  She has been there before.  It is someone I actually know, and happen to like very much….and we are even Facebook friends!  Not only that, we have run into each other and had lengthy chit-chat at the supermarket, at restaurants and at other social venues before, including sitting at the same table with her, The Ex and my S.O. at a wedding.  All has been easy and fine with us.  She seems as much at ease with me as I am with her.  She’s actually someone I would have no qualms about inviting over to our place for a holiday event.  Given that, in a way I feel even more hurt and disappointed at how ridiculous and unnecessary the exclusion was.  I think it would have been fine.

But it is not my party. And honestly, I am suspecting that it is my Ex who really didn’t want me there, and that his sister acquiesced to him.  Blood truly is thicker. Given that, I am still just so disappointed in the evasive way this went down.  Which makes me feel that all my misguided hippie-dippy efforts to try and make everyone be “friends” and “get along” –  all my accommodations and unappreciated good will towards trying to make this work all these years has been stupid and fruitless and delusional. It has been all for nothing.

It is times like these where I wish I had taken the children across the country and back to my family, or had locked the doors and made him stand at the far edge of the property like an outcast while he waited for them to come out.  It sort of makes me wish I had contacted Support Collection from Day One and let them kick his ass instead of having to call him each and every time a payment was due, because he has never voluntarily sent it unless I asked for it.  Each and every time. For years.  It makes me wish I had never shared any information about our children, had never met him half way, never extended myself, never cared how he might be feeling at all, just let him remain a stranger. It makes me wish I had started a new life, far, far away.  Perhaps it would have been so much better for my own mental health and self-esteem.  Perhaps I should have just let things get way uglier than they ever had been.

I hate wishing I was that person because I hate that person.  I just really hate feeling like this.

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Elusive, Delicate Rainbows

A small thing for the Bucket List, but one never-the-less.  I have always wanted to visit a butterfly sanctuary, and it finally happened.

Walking into that sheltered world of warm breezes, tropical flowers and rainbow-hued butterflies elicited pure joy.  They are truly elusive, delicate, spectacular beings, and like rainbows they are fragile and short-lived.

As they flutter about you there is almost a giddy feeling of lightness.  Examined up close, each is a work of art, a topographical map, a photo of a distant planet.

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Our Lady of the Perpetual Kitchen

My grandmother was Catholic, my mother was raised Catholic, and so she tried to raise us as Catholics too.  I consider myself a “Collapsed Catholic” and will usually check “none” on any form asking my religion.  I never was able to assimilate, and have my issues with organized religion in general and the Catholic church specifically.

Along with certain beliefs and expectations came a bit of related paraphernalia, mostly by way of my grandmother.  It was not unusual to find a holy medal pinned to your mattress or attached to the window visor in your car to keep you safe, or to be gifted a set of rosary beads in a small box. At one point in our growing up, my mother had procured some very beautiful olive wood relics originating in Italy, which included two detailed crucifixes.  She hung these crosses over the beds of my sister and I.

Instead of feeling protected, I felt extremely uncomfortable sleeping beneath the image of a suffering, bleeding and crucified Jesus, even though it was beautifully rendered in olive wood and stain.  I did not want my crucifix, and I expressed my distaste for it, even at a young age.  Eventually my mother took it out of my room.  I am not sure what became of Charlotte’s, but one ended up in my Mom’s bedroom, and one of them eventually found its way into my aunt’s home, where it remains today.

Most likely from the same source, she presented my sister and I with olive wood statues of the Virgin Mary.  They were finely carved and lightly stained with color.  My sister Charlotte’s statue was of a slender Mary in blue and white robes who stood upon the world with her hand benevolently stretched outwards and a benign smile.   The Virgin Mary given to me held flowers in one hand, but the other hand was touching her heart, which was outside of her chest and glowing (or burning, or bleeding) and surrounded by roses.  Just like the Jesus suffering over my bed, this Mary seemed also to be in some pain, perhaps more internal.  Maybe I identified with that on some visceral level.

Our Lady of The Perpetual Kitchen

My mother’s purpose in giving us these statues was not entirely clear to me, but I acknowledge that it was out of love and perhaps meant also for protection, or focus.  It meant something to her.  So the Mary sat on a shelf in my room amidst the row of Breyer model horses I used to collect.

When I grew up and moved away, Mary always ended up packed in a box, following me.  Maybe it was just because my mother gave her to me that I allowed her presence, but for years she would reside tucked beside a book on a book shelf, or standing among the bottles of perfume, hair clips, candles and picture frames on my dresser.  When I let go of some of the items from my past – my beloved model horses, the Peruvian statue given to me by my fifth grade teacher, my original 1969 poster of the Woodstock festival on White Lake, my high school diploma, ribbons won at horse shows – when I eliminated these things from my life in a moment of change,  the Virgin Mary always survived the cut and remained……even though I was not religious.  I didn’t think about it much, but she was just always there.

All grown up with a family, the Mary statue eventually found its way onto a shelf of knickknacks in my kitchen, right above the sink.   There were five of us living in the house at the time.  We did not have a dish washer, and it seems I was always doing the dishes, making a meal, cleaning up in that kitchen.  I lived in that room. We lived in that room.  That is where the dog slept, where the fish tank was, where we kept the lizards;  that was the room that had the bird feeder outside of it and a view of the garden.  That was where we would cram in extra chairs and extend the table and have Thanksgiving For Strays and birthday parties and cups of tea.  The kids and I closed the doors and huddled around that stove while I kept on baking to keep warm when we had no heat.  Mary stood on that shelf just above eye-level, looking down at me, watching over us, and one day it just came to me that she was Our Lady of the Perpetual Kitchen.  I felt that was a fitting name and that she presided over the home in the most obvious place, a place of honor at the helm of the action.

And so she was that for many years, until one day my mother came to visit and noticed the location of the statue.  She felt that Mary deserved a more fitting place than hovering over the dishes in the sink, and when I told her that she was Our Lady of the Perpetual Kitchen, she indicated that it was a bit disrespectful and asked if she could take the Mary home with her.  It seemed to mean more to her than to me, so I gave her back to my Mom.

Our Lady spent the next number of years on my mother’s polished maple dresser in her clean, quiet bedroom, next to her jewelry box and with her back to a large mirror.  The original Jesus on the cross was also in her room – I am not sure if it was mine or Charlotte’s.  These items seemed to give my mother comfort.  And that is where they remained until the day she died.

When we were cleaning out my mother’s home, I took Our Lady back home with me.  I left the Jesus crucifix, which was taken by Aunt M, who hung it up in her house and has no knowledge of its true history.  Last time I saw her she announced to us that she wonders who she will leave her beautiful crucifix from Italy to when she dies.  I hope it is not me.

Back in my home, Mary spent the next few years tucked into a corner of the pine hutch in the dining room with the “good” dishes and “special” things.   But now she resides in the guest room.

I call it “The Deity Room” because there is a lovely painted cloth on the wall of Krishna dancing with the Gopis.  On top of a Mexican chest are a number of statues of Sarasvati and Ganesha.   There is a carved wooden statue of The Virgin of Guadalupe in that room, which I had bought for my mother when she got sick.  I felt Our Lady of the Perpetual Kitchen would fit right in there, and she does.

Today when I was dusting the chest and all the Deities,  I picked up Our Lady and took a good look at her again; her downward cast eyes, her Roman nose, her glowing heart coming out of her chest.  I decided to look up The Immaculate Heart.  This is what it said:

“The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a devotional name used to refer to the interior life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, and, above all, her virginal love for God the Father, her maternal love for her son Jesus, and her compassionate love for all persons”.

It took me fifty years to get it.  I wish I could talk to my mother right now.

~*~

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Salmiak is Salmiak

Licorice is one of those things that people usually like a lot or totally abhor. You are pretty much into it or you’re not, there is not much waffling on the fence concerning licorice. I am in the licorice camp.

So there I am on a summer’s day; a kid wandering through Woolworth’s after finishing up a banana split ice cream sundae that I scored for twenty-three cents – you picked a balloon and they popped it and you paid whatever price the little piece of paper in the balloon said. After finishing off that, I became distracted by the pet section with the white mice, the hamsters, and the parakeets. When I left the store and got out to the sidewalk, I was lured by a spicy aroma into the small specialty store next door. We called it “The German Deli”, although that was not the name of the store and I am not sure what other countries the store actually represented…..it was probably more like a gourmet import store. I was maybe eleven years old at the time, if that.

In this “German Deli” there were sausage-y, rich, spiced scents that seemed to seep from the walls. The inside was dark and close. The wooden shelves were stocked with bottles and cans of exotic, Weird and Unfamiliar Things; the things you normally did notgyms see in the supermarket in those days. Chestnuts floating in syrup, pearly white onions in brine, jams made from exotic fruits, unidentifiable items with pretty labels and unpronounceable, magical names. These Unfamiliar Things lured me. I was curious to try something, but almost everything I saw was outrageously expensive to me. However, on one of the lower shelves, a shelf I could easily reach and inspect, round metal tins of Pastilles were arranged in rows. A white tin with little black diamond shapes printed on it said GYMS in black and gold lettering. I did not know what “GYMS” meant, but I assumed the diamonds referred to something like licorice. The writing on the tin was not in English. The tin was affordable to me (especially since I had made such a killing on the banana split) so I bought one.

When I pried the top off the tin, it was filled with little black diamonds that gave off a tangy, acrid, licorice but not licorice scent. Testing one of the diamonds on my tongue, I discovered this licorice certainly was nothing like the licorice that I knew. It was salty, and something else besides. And from that moment, I was hooked. I could eat them one after another. Whenever I happened to be down that way, I would always make a detour to “The German Deli” for more GYMS.

It turned out none of my friends or siblings had the same attraction to the GYMS – as a matter of fact, most of them were disgusted by it – so I was pretty much on my own concerning this discovery. I ate GYMS for years, until “The German Deli” closed…and then we moved away and I forgot about them.

My next encounter with salt licorice happened in Yiftah in the Golan Heights of Israel, where I met a Dutch woman who had brought some from home. She told me they were called “Drop”. These were not little diamond shapes but round and oval black shapes. Again, my immediate reaction to them was so powerful that I was instantly craving them, wanting more and more. dubbel zout

For some reason, Dutch friends keep appearing in my life – none of who know each other – and each one has turned me on to the salt licorice. The second Dutch woman, who I befriended when I parked myself next to the food table at a party (stuffing my face), brought back a bag of black coins when she was visiting her family in Holland. She told me the drop were “zout” and “dubbel-zout”, and indeed the ones with the “DZ” on them were killer salty. Every time her family came to visit or she would visit them, she would bring me a little bag of “zout drop”.

I went to The Netherlands with her, where they have candy stores filled with all sorts of loose drop that you can mix up and buy in bags. It was drop heaven. Some of it was surrounded by a sugar-coating, some of it was softer, or in different shapes. There were sugared, square cubes of chewy stuff called Griotten which also had that taste. It was in one of these drop stores where I discovered the softer, light brown salmiak coins, which are like the salt licorice, but there is something else about them also. They are milder but incredibly addictive.  The light brown salmiak became my thing.  I will say while I type this, right at this very minute, I am actually salivating for salmiak.

What is this stuff? I had to know what this salmiak was! So I asked our host, my Dutch friend’s cousin, who looked at me like I was insane and said “What do you mean? Salmiak is salmiak!” I took that at face value. There must be something called salmiak that they make the salmiak out of. One and the same in name?

The third Dutch friend entered my life through an internet group of cancer survivors. Not only did she have salmiak, she had it in a kind of chalky round, grayish-tan candy form that came in a roll. I liked this even better. But it seems you could not find this in “regular stores”. salmiak coins

By the time I met my fourth Dutch friend at a holistic center, I figured all these Dutch women and their salmiak was a sign. I am not sure where that sign was pointing, but I went on a quest to find out where I could get salmiak here in the states instead of the intermittent care packages from Holland.

Well, you can Google anything, and I finally did. Salmiak, which is familiar to the Netherlands, Nordic countries, the Baltics and parts of Northern Germany, is salty licorice that is flavored with ammonium chloride, or “sal ammoniac”. It is the ammonium chloride which gives it that kick I so crave.

With a name like ammonium chloride, I have to wonder if it is Bad For You. A quick Wiki check reveals that it is used in metalwork; in zinc carbon batteries; as a food additive in baking; a flavoring for licorice; is known as noshader in India and Pakistan, where it is used in food for crispness; is sometimes used as an expectorant; and also as a soldering flux, to name a few things – not all very appetizing and maybe a bit questionable. Dutch health organizations advise salmiak skullsnot eating more than 50 grams of licorice a day, as the body would have to metabolize the glycyrrhizine, which is the compound which provides the sweet taste. Too much of that stuff can cause edema and hypertension. However, it is also supposedly inhibits liver cell injury. All of this is more information than I think I need. I have never gotten to the point where I have keeled over from salmiak, and none of my Dutch friends have ever had a salmiak-related problem either.

So far I have not found a really good source for salmiak.  I think I might look for a store and order it. Tonight.

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Slowly I Turned……

“Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch….”

I realize I am dating myself here, because about half the people I have said this to know what I am talking about and the other half don’t. The line is from a skit in “I Love Lucy” and also appeared in “Abbott and Costello” and “The Three Stooges”; old, classic shows from childhood. Those of us who watched them recognize it, and perhaps anyone else who is into cult television. The key word is “Niagra Falls”.  Hearing the words “Niagra Falls” would evoke a memory in one of the characters that would put them into a rage.

Slowly I turnedSo, now that you have that background, one of the things on my Bucket List was to see Niagra Falls. I don’t know why I never managed to get there. So many of my friends had gone, my sister had been, even one of my kids went there.  When I mention visiting The Falls to people, time and time again they say “Oh, how romantic!”.  Well….no romance happening on this trip!  The S.O. had absolutely no interest in driving to Canada to see big, loud water. So I turned to my friend K., who is often up for an adventure, and had never been there either. Road Trip! Thelma and Louise!

The adventure actually started with a little bit of a hiccup as soon as we were backing out of my driveway. The tires had not even hit the street yet when K. realized that she didn’t have her passport. You need a passport in order to get into Canada, and you need one to get back into the United States. We had planned this trip many weeks ago, but after we planned it she had sent her passport off to a clearing house in order to get a visa for another trip, and she forgot about it. So she didn’t have it because they hadn’t sent it back yet. And she just thought of it now. GAH!

So she called the B&B where we were staying, who called the Customs office, who said it was OK as long as she brought lots of identification. This meant driving back to K.’s house to get all that stuff. This set our trip back only about an hour, but put a tiny bit of uncertainty into it, as we didn’t know what they would say when we got to the border. However, we figured they would let us through. They would see us and just welcome us right in! What’s not to like about us?

The all day drive went fairly quickly, probably because women like to talk…and stop for Starbucks.  Then we got to The Rainbow Bridge, and sat in traffic there for a while, waiting our turn. If you looked over to your left you could see The Falls in the distance. We were so excited!  Niagra Falls!!!

Niagra Falls 1We crept slowly up towards the border checkpoint, until there was just one car ahead of us. This is where I made my faux pas. When the guy in the car in front of me pulled up to the booth, I followed him and drove up right behind him. It’s an automatic reaction when you are in a line of cars. A person pulls up, you pull up behind them, right?  But suddenly, the customs guy came bursting out of his booth and began angrily pointing, waving his arms and yelling “GET BACK! BACK UP! BACK UP!” and I realized that I had rolled through the stop sign – that there was supposed to be distance between us and the car in front of us and I should have stopped. He sure was mad! Really Mad. This did not bode too well for what was to come next. I backed up. And then it was our turn.

border niagra fallsSo now we have one majorly pissed off inspector, asking us for our passports. And K. doesn’t have one. Actually, she does have her old, expired one with her, and a driver’s license, and an email letter saying that her current passport is in transit. But this is not good enough for our Now Very Angry Border Person. I think it didn’t help that it was the end of the day, which probably made him even more cranky.

“Why would you plan to leave the country knowing you didn’t have a passport?” he asked.  This caused K. to become flustered. The perfectly good reason was because at the time the trip was planned she had the passport, but she sent it off and now she didn’t. However, she wasn’t following his line of questioning exactly and so wasn’t giving him the answer he was demanding.  And they were both starting to get a little bit of an Attitude.  I tried to chime in and explain that our B&B host person called Customs for us and was told it was OK to come as long as there was other ID.  I kept reiterating that.  But of course, we didn’t have the name of the Customs person that she spoke to on the phone.

“How do I know you spoke to anyone if you don’t have a name?” he said. Throughout this exchange, the Border Guy would seem to soften and almost relent, only to get revved up all over again every time K. said something.   K. was starting to get defensive with him. He was doing his job but also digging his heels in a bit. And here I was, deaf as I am, trying to navigate this conversation, since I was sitting in the driver’s seat closest to where he was leaning out of the booth. Throughout all of this, like an earworm, I kept thinking, “Slowly I turned…step by step…inch by inch…Niagra Falls!”

In the end, what probably decided things in our favor was the fact that we were a couple of older (at least older than he was) white women in a compact car and we were U.S. citizens. He probably thought we were Harmless Ditzy Old Women. There certainly must have been some privilege in that, because I think had we been young, or men, or of another color, of another country, or maybe driving a van, he might have given us an even harder time than he did. Perhaps he would have made us pull over and inspected the trunk of our car, or he might have even turned us back. With a look of total disgust, he handed us back our papers and waved us through.

Big FallsThe Falls were massive, grand and mesmerizing. Early that evening we did our first immediate tourist thing and took a ride on The Maid of the Mist. We got up close to the thundering water and laughed and got wet, despite wearing the blue rain ponchos they give you to put on. Gulls swooped down past the cascading water. There were rainbows arcing all over the place. Slowly I turned. And the sky was as blue as blue could be.

niagra falls rainbow

~*~

Posted in Bucket List, Friends, Hearing Impaired, Humor, Travel, Uncategorized, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Octopie

I just could not resist the creativity of it.  OK, I know I have been running on about berries the last few posts. This is the very last thing I am going to post about pies, or blueberries, or probably even baking this year at the very least.

This photo has been going around the internet and I don’t know who to credit it to.  But I will say that it is delightful, and I think next year for blueberry season I am going to be making this for my grandkids.  Or my kids.  Or actually, for myself.  Is this cool or what?

octopus pie

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Tradition

The tradition continued into the next generation when I took my three-year-old grandson blueberry picking for the first time.  With his little pail and my big one, we ventured off into the field and down the row of bushes together.  I picked high and he picked low.  Of course, more made their way into his mouth (and mine) than into our buckets.  But he managed to collect the nice blue ones, not the old ones past prime, not the unripe. And when it was time to leave, he didn’t want to quit.  We both found ourselves wandering back to the car while still picking berries along the way.

I think he has my foraging genetics.

After nap time, we made a blueberry pie together.  Of course, we all had it for dessert that night.

blueberry picking

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Pie

I made a blueberry pie from all those blueberries I picked.

Then I ate it for breakfast two days in a row.

Just because.

blueberrypie

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The Other Car

Once we had children, I became the driver of the newer and larger car, the “safer” car, as I was the one shuttling the precious cargo around. So by default, my Then Husband, who I will call “Howie” for the sake of this story, took over our older, other car, which he commuted to and from work in.

The Other Car was a Toyota Tercel with over 100,000 miles on it (rather impressively, it actually made it to 250,000 and was then sold to someone else – still running). The car was a stripped down little roller skate of a vehicle; 5-speed standard transmission, no air conditioning, roll-up windows, no frills. We did have a decent sound system in it, with home-made speakers housed in large boxes (Howie insisted on that). Because of its age, the car naturally had some issues. tercel It rattled very badly. It was rusting through in a number of places.  We lived in the woods and the mice had found their way inside some of those holes, making nests within the car. You would find mouse turds on the floor. Sometimes when you got into the car, a shadow of a mouse would dart away beneath your feet. One time while he was driving to work, a mouse actually jumped up on Howie’s shoulder – unbelievable that he did not drive off the road, for I probably would have.

The headlights on this car kept burning out quickly for some odd reason, which was a major nuisance, because it was difficult to get your hands into that small space where the bracket was to replace them.  It was the kind of car that you had to keep some tools in for quick repairs whenever you drove it anywhere.  It was a bit unnerving to drive The Other Car, and I started to avoid it as much as possible. To his credit, Howie seemed to just deal with all of it…..not like we really had any choice.

It was a very warm spring evening when he drove off  to attend a course at a community college, in pursuit of educational and economic betterment.  The college was situated in a small river city not far from where we lived. I made dinner for the kids, cleaned up, tucked them into bed and waited for Howie to come home.  When he arrived back a few hours later, he was a bit shaken up and had this story.

After class was finished that night, Howie was headed home his usual way.  He had all the car windows open and was enjoying the unseasonably warm night air, when he came upon existing road work and a detour. This detour took hRodney_King_Riot__1992im into an unfamiliar area of the inner city. The year was 1992 and a decision in the very emotional Rodney King case had just been handed down. Los Angeles was in the middle of six days of rioting. Unrest was happening in smaller cities across the country too. Lost in the dark and with only one headlight working (he had not gotten around to fixing it – the replacement part was sitting in a box on the floor of the car until he had time to install it) Howie detoured into a neighborhood where people were outside and angry in the streets. Suddenly, they started throwing garbage pails at the car as he drove through. It was a scary situation but he managed to find his way out, unnerved and unscathed, except for maybe a couple of more dents to the old car.

Emerging from the detour onto the familiar state road once again, he continued heading towards home.  Stopping at a traffic light, he sighed with tremendous relief, popped a tape of the Grateful Dead into his very good car stereo, and prepared to unwind for the rest of the drive back. But as he waited for the light to change, the car began to shake, and then a thundering roar suddenly drowned out the music as a number of bikers on their Harleys pulled up at the light and surrounded him. One big, brawny guy pounded on the roof of the car and leaned his head into the open window.  Howie started to wonder if he was really going to make it home that night.

But the biker grinned and yelled “Grateful Dead! Turn it up!”  Amazed (and again relieved), Howie complied by cranking up the Grateful Dead on those home-made speakers so they could hear it over the roar of their engines. The light grateful deadchanged and they all started off down the road together. There were bikers in front of him, behind him, and on the side of the car. The windows were all open, the Dead was blasting, and Howie had an escort as they all picked up speed together. The warm spring wind was blowing through the open windows and all was OK with the world once again.

That is, until the bikers suddenly veered off in different directions. Howie looked into his rear view mirror to discover that they were gone.

In their place were the flashing lights of a police car. He could not believe how the night was unfolding. He pulled over.

policelights“Good evening sir. License and registration please. Do you know you have one headlight out?” Again. Of course.

Well sir, yes, I know the headlight burned out, and I actually have the replacement right here in the car”, said Howie, and he reached down to pick up the box on the floor of the passenger side that held the spare headlight.

“DON’T MOVE! Keep your hands on the steering wheel!” the officer sharply ordered. “Do you have any weapons in your possession”?

Howie quickly complied, hands on the steering wheel and in full view. “No sir, no weapons“, he said.

The officer came around to the passenger side of the car, opened the door and began shining his flashlight around the vehicle.  And then he reached his hand under the passenger side seat to check for contraband.

Suddenly there was a loud snap, the police officer yelled and quickly pulled his hand away from under the seat – with a mousetrap attached to his fingers.

I believe Howie figured it was all over for him then.

Much to this officer’s credit, and despite the obvious pain he was in (and luckily for Howie) he sort of kept his cool.  Through his teeth he said, “Why do you have a mousetrap under your seat?

“I have mice!” said Howie, as if that was obvious.

With all that they see and hear, I do believe this might have been a first for this officer. Miraculously, he let Howie go with just a warning about the headlight.  Actually, it was rather incredible, given the circumstances.

When Howie got home, he related his tale of his adventure to me.  As you can imagine, he was animated and sweaty and looked way whiter than his usual whitish self.

The thing about it is, as wild a ride as it was that evening, in so many ways this kind of event was sort of our “normal”.  And you know, it seemed to make perfect sense to me that we had a mouse trap under the seat of the The Other Car.  With peanut butter as bait.  I mean really, isn’t that how you catch mice?

mouse trap

Posted in Animal Stories, Are you kidding me?, Humor, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Meditation in Blue

There is a place I consider somewhat sacred – a place that I have been going to for decades.  It is an orchard farm not far from my home.

my sacred placeIt has been the place I would go to pick berries, apples and asparagus before my children were born.  When the babies came, I would take them out into the fields strapped to my chest.  As they grew up, they carried their own buckets and ran through the rows each season, collecting and laughing, filling their faces with the sweet delight.

blueberrybliss2It is a place that I have shared with family, friends and lovers.  It is a place I have gone to alone, to process, heal and free myself from grief.

When I come to this place to pick berries, I can feel my heartbeat quicken in anticipation.  Once out in the fields, away from the stresses of life, the magic begins.  Birds trill in the distance.  The light in the sky shifts as clouds build and the sunlight moves, leaving blue shadows across the fields.  Soft breezes caress the leaves, and my skin.

out in the fieldsThe best time to come for berries is in the morning, just as the dew begins to dry, before the sun gets too intense, before too many people get there, and usually not on a Saturday or a Sunday when the weekenders arrive with their animated chattering, stripping the bushes before you of their ripened fruit.  The best days to come are days that are not too hot or humid – days when there is a slight breeze. Today was one of those mornings, with a sun that was bright but not burning, and a gentle wind blowing.

Blueberries tend to be easy, relaxing picking.  With your bucket tied to your waist, they are mostly right there for the asking, a dusty gray-blue or a shiny bruised purple, beckoning.  Gathering them this morning against the backdrop of cerulean mountains, the meditation set in.  The plumpest, most enticing berries are the ones you have to reach deeper for, the ones underneath or at the center of the bush, hidden in those darker places that have not yet been discovered, or down at the bottom where others do not want to stoop to reach.  It seems perhaps a metaphor for those things in life that require perseverance and effort in order to bring about the rewards – in this case the sweet-tart bliss which can be savored while you work your way down the rows.

blueberry loveThere is distraction!  The berries over on the other side or further down the row look so much bluer, the same way the neighbor’s lawn seems to always appear greener, the most enticing pasture calling from the other side of the fence.  But are they really? When you change direction and go after them, it turns out they are usually just as good as the ones where you were standing all along.

If this wasn’t enough, then there are the raspberries, which take a bit more mindfulness I think, to deftly lift each branch and allow the ripened berries to fall into you palm without tearing the frond off the bush, to avoid the stickers, and to work among the honey bees.  But the rewards seem all that much greater.  The bees alight and bounce among the white raspberry blossoms.  We coexist in that space in those moments. To date, I have never been stung by a honey bee while collecting raspberries, nor have my children.  They tend to go about their business as you go about yours, and they will avoid you if they can.  They usually do not land on the fruit, but seem only interested in the nectar of the flowers.  The first time I encountered so many among the raspberries on a hot summer’s day, I was taken aback, yet found there is even peace working along side them, a cooperative consciousness.  A day with a steady cool breeze is still best for picking raspberries, as the wind tends to blow the bees away.

Today’s raspberry picking was sparse and not as rewarding.  Sometimes that happens.  But today’s blueberry picking was bliss.  I will put some up so the taste of these blue days of summer will be remembered long after this season has passed.

the taste of summer in blue

~*~

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Crossing a Line

No stranger to comfortable shoes, one peek in my closet will reveal a significant selection of Birkenstocks, Danskos, Naots, Merrills and Clarks.  I have spent good money on good shoes because I can’t stand it if my feet hurt.  I might be a shoe-a-holic, but I am not a slave to shoe fashion in lieu of comfort.  My old shoes are rarely thrown out unless they are decimated, and so the collection is rather remarkable in size, but mostly outdated.  When I am not wearing the most comfortable of shoes, I am barefoot.

Air-Jesus shoes

Air-Jesus shoes

Comments from my family about my assortment of un-hip shoes range from “I wouldn’t be caught dead in those” (my sister – referring to a pair of Bjorn sandals) to  “Ugh, you wear those ‘Air Jesus’ shoes!” (accompanied by laughter from my brother, about my well-worn, eighteen year old pair of original style Birks), and a variety of smirks and eye-rolls from sisters and in-laws.  Anything with much of a heel has not been worn in years -even with my penchant/addiction to cowgirl boots,  the field has been narrowed down to the requirement that they need to be extremely comfortable and very supportive on the arches.

A few days ago my sisters, niece and I took a long road trip out-of-state to visit our ninety-year-old Aunt M. in the assisted living facility where she resides.  She is bent and frail, feisty and intelligent, and not the nicest or happiest person you would want to know…the minute one of us would leave the room to attend to something, she would say something catty about the absent person.  But, well, she’s ninety after all (although she’s always been that way, I guess ninety cuts you a lot of slack) and the last living relative of that generation, and so we sighed and accommodated.  She wanted shoes and some new clothing – and mostly to escape from the very clean, well-kept and quite lovely facility she lives in (“Get me out of this prison for a few hours”).  So we took her out to breakfast and then to the local outlet center.

Maneuvering her in and out of the car was a trip in itself.  Although she can get going and work up some significant speed with her walker once you get her standing, first you need to get her out of the chair and on her walkerfeet.  She’s very bent over, so she’s sort of looking down instead of forward.  Then she crashes into walls and other objects while trying to steer, before becoming exhausted, at which point she stops cold and demands to be helped back into a chair.

After getting her out of the facility, into my car, in and out of the restaurant and finally to the outlet center, we located one of those borrowed wheelchairs from the center office for her.  That made things a lot easier.  The first place she wanted to go was the Easy Spirit shoe store.  She was wearing a pair of Easy Spirit sneaker slip-ons, and she liked them so much that she wanted another pair.

I have never owned a pair of Easy Spirit shoes. I have a friend who has been wearing their very nice looking athletic sneakers for many, many years, even before we became “middle-aged” (or, OK,  past middle-aged) and swears by their comfort, but for some reason I never considered them.  I guess I figured they were for “old people”.  Being in that store with Aunt M. was a reinforcement of that opinion.

Aunt M’s new shoes

There was a buy-one-get-the-second-pair-for-half-price sale going on, so we got her two pairs of shoes. She was very particular about what colors we got her, no pushing your opinions and tastes on Aunt M., that was for sure!  She didn’t like coral but she thought the lavender slip-ons were nice.  We got her both lavender and blue pairs.

While one sister catered to her, the rest of us killed some time wandering around the store looking at what Easy Spirit had to offer.

Most of what I saw did not appeal to me….some of it screamed “Comfortable Old People Shoes”…..but suddenly I noticed some cute open-sided gray suede sneaker-shoes….on sale.  And then my sister found the cutest pair of blue and white sneakers!  And they had purple ones too!  Suddenly, there we were, trying on these shoes –  comfortable, foot massaging, supportive shoes.  My teenaged fashionista niece was adding her opinions on what looked good and what didn’t.  The next thing you know, we were standing up at the register getting our buy-one-get-the-second-pair-for-half-price  old people, comfortable shoes.

My new blue suede shoes – cute or what?

My sister turned to me.  “I think we have crossed some sort of line here” she said.  We both glanced over in the direction of Aunt M.

I sighed.  I guess maybe we have.

~*~

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Saturday Market

tomarkettomarket1tomarket3

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Flamingos Spotted in the Northeast!

flamingos

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Green

As a child, my father and I would occasionally enjoy a delicious glass of carrot juice together.  Many years later, he introduced me to the idea of doing some serious juicing myself when he gifted me his old Omega juice machine.  The interest waxes and wanes regarding juicing, but right now I am in one of my juicing phases. This week when I went shopping for fruits and vegetables, I found myself suddenly getting a bit gaga over all the green in the produce section.

green produce1 Everything was so textured and vibrant.  I couldn’t help but stop to gaze at the greens and take a few pictures.

green produce2But when I got home, instead of using the juicer machine, I decided to squeeze some fresh orange juice by hand. I remembered that somewhere, stashed away, I had a little glass citrus squeezer which predated the electric juicer.  I found it safely stowed on the bottom shelf of the dining room hutch, a hutch which had been in our home when I was a child.  I remember my parents dragging the old pine piece home and my Dad refinishing it.

On a very green morning years ago, when the cicadas where whining and the heat was  just starting to build up to a humid afternoon,  my Dad and I attended a large flea market together.  Both being collectors of a variety of treasures, we stopped to marvel and comment at each booth, but we did not buy – until we came across a little glass citrus juicer.  We thought the green glass was so beautiful.

the green juicer from my dadHe bought it for me. It is one of my treasures, a small gift with a special and loving memory connected to it.  This luminous, timeless green connects me to my Dad on this Father’s Day.  I pushed each orange half against the glass, and reflected.

~*~

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Cicada Love

They have arrived in some areas here, the emergence/invasion of the cicadas….pockets of ringing, singing, screaming cicadas.  Then you turn the corner to meet a vacuum of silence where there are none.

I stood among them watched them climbing the trees, singing in the leaves, climbing up, up… climbing me….and just listened and laughed…..there is something odd, and wondrous, and magical about the entire process.  Their big, buggy red eyes, their irridescent wings…..Here now, then gone for another seventeen years.

cicada love

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Revival

When I first moved to this latest house in a long line of homes, one of the more lovely aspects of the place was a gorgeous, well-established white peony that someone had planted by the front of the fence. The peony flowers, along with a couple of very large poppy plants, were the only bright spots in yard that was otherwise a sea of weeds and garbage.

A lot of energy was generated trying to create new garden beds and clean up what little had been there before. But after pruning some twisted, overgrown vines off a strangled apple tree, I got a pretty bad case of poison ivy. Further investigation yielded the discovery that The Beautiful Peony also had poison ivy growing all around it.  This put a major dent in my gardening mania.  Bummer.

poison_ivyI was rather surprised when  the S.O., rather out of the blue, decided to get involved and remove the poison ivy.  He bombarded it with what must have been some evil, nasty, very toxic stuff.  It decimated the PI but also appeared to kill the peony plant in the process.  Because the plant had been so large and beautiful – and also one of the few nice things in the yard at that time – I became a bit upset about losing it. I can get like that about some of my plants (and not others).  The World War Three type wasteland the weed-killer created became a well avoided biohazard area.  Any new perennials were planted elsewhere, with hope that the peony might – by some miracle – return the next spring.

Sure enough, the following year I was elated to see that the peony appeared to be coming back.

Well, something was coming up where the peony had been.  But it was something no longer the same.  A gnarled monkey’s paw of a hand came reaching out of the earth.  When this “hand” opened to sprout into leaves, they were all misshapen and claw-like; a chemically altered, distorted, mutant plant. I think I actually said “Oh My God” out loud upon seeing it.  There was something rather horrifying about it, horrifying enough that you have to wonder, if these poisons can do this to a living plant, what are they doing to us?

The leaves were actually a lot weirder than this

The leaves were actually way weirder than this. This photo was taken in year three.

The mutant peony continued to shoot up stalks and more thin, bent, rolled-up leaves. With each new leaf I hoped it would return to normal, but they never quite unfurled.  They were oddly shaped,  each one revealing itself as a skeletal finger.  It never developed any flowers either.  I have posted a photo here, a few years after the fact.  I cannot find the photos I took of that first “Return of the Peony” but it was rather scary stuff.

The year after that, the peony did the same thing yet again.  I was hoping that the poison would run out of its system, but apparently it did not.  It seemed forever damaged on some deep, cellular level.  Finally, realizing it was not going to produce anything but these horrible leaves, I cut it way back to the ground so I would not have to look at it.

The third spring when the monster hands began to reach up out of the earth again, I was so creeped out that I decided to dig it out and get rid of it.  It had a significant, old root in the ground and really required some hacking to remove it.

At year four something new started growing in that spot.  Emerging out of the poisoned, dug up spot.  I awaited with trepidation – how was it possible for anything to grow there again?  But lo and behold (this is actually what I said out loud when I saw it - “lo and behold!“) it was a normal peony!  With normal leaves!  Not only did it flower, but the ants were crawling all over it, which I think was a very healthy sign.

poppy budDid it reboot itself?  I have to wonder at the resilience of it all, of the ability to regenerate and heal.  This spring the peony has returned yet again.

lo and behold!

lo and behold!

photoI am so amazed at its revival that I have repeatedly gone outside to keep inhaling the heavenly scent and to take photos of it, even after the last hard rain, which has flopped them over and mashed the peony flowers into the ground, leaving them looking like so many boiled cabbages.

~*~

Posted in Daeja's Garden, Gardening, Photography, Spring, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Art of Napping

Why can’t I nap? Taking a nap is probably a very healthy thing to do.  There is actually a study out there stating that people who nap may have a lower incidence of coronary disease.  Sounds like a lovely way to avoid a health problem, but it’s not something that happens for me very often.

We know babies and children need to nap to renew themselves during the day, otherwise they are pretty cranky.  The S.O. takes naps during his down time to recharge his body after hard physical work.  My former almost-inlaws used to take daily naps together (followed by “high tea”) and seemed to be living a very long and healthy life. I often wondered if there was something to it, the siesta or riposo, where everything is shut down and a rest is taken during the hottest hours of the day.

Excepting those naps taken during times of illness, I have napped so rarely that I actually can remember specific ones and have my own “hall of fame” of naps.  I often wonder if this inability to take any downtime on weekends to rest is in part due to memories of my father on Sunday afternoons, where he would be listening to classical music and falling asleep on the living room couch.  We were then expected to keep quiet and tiptoe around him during the weekend, lest we disrupt the nap and end up with a very moody father, which nobody particularly was interested in having happen.  (OK, seems we can blame just about anything on our childhood if we want)…

The handful of Blissful Nap Memories that stand out for me: Drowsing on a summer afternoon to the distant drone of a lawnmower and the scent of newly cut grass. Drifting off to the whine of cicadas and a warm breeze. Falling asleep on the sand to the lull of the waves. Curled up on the bed with a baby who just finished nursing, the buzz of their breath like a bee, the sweet clean smell, the slight dampness of their skin as we both dropped into slumber. Napping on the couch on a bright winter afternoon – this particular couch situated beneath a large picture window facing southwest, the room heated by the afternoon sun.  I dubbed that couch “The Sun Couch”.   The Sun Couch must be twenty years old by now and has been moved to a multitude of homes since.

curtain breeze

Another Blissful Nap Memory occurred on Nantucket Island on a hot summer afternoon, in the upstairs bedroom of a house we were lucky enough to stay in for a number of years when the kids were younger.  Everybody had gone to the beach and I opted to stay behind by myself and read.  There was a large fan in one of the windows, which produced a low hum and blew a hot, steady, gentle wind across me as I lay minimally dressed on a very large bed.  Occasionally an alternate breeze would puff through one of the adjacent open windows, carrying the scent of the ocean.  I read until I was drowsy, falling into a delicious nap that I still recall with pleasure years later.

And then there were the daily naps that I took during radiation treatment, when I would come home from work and pass out on the Sun Couch every afternoon, sleeping a dreamless, bone-tired sleep.  Sometimes I would be awakened by a kiss…..

Over the last number of years at work, I have found myself starting to crash post lunch, especially around 2pm.  Part of this could be attributed to the tremendous concentration devoted to trying to hear when I couldn’t hear – constantly trying to decipher and translate that now foreign language called “speech” –  watching faces and movement for cues to apply to whatever sounds I thought I heard – something that is mentally and emotionally exhausting for hard-of-hearing people.  By the afternoon I would find myself craving rest, sometimes barely able to keep my eyes open,  forcing myself to push through and focus as if pushing through water, or mud. No doubt part of this was compounded by age, but not all of it.

However, when the weekend would roll around, I would feel guilty about lying down to take a nap, as if doing so was wasting valuable daylight time that could be put to much better use.  Now that I have had the opportunity to do so, I haven’t been able to.  Until today.

Today it was too hot and humid to work in the garden.  I did not feel productive, contrary to my personal vow to Do Something Productive Every Day.  I went into my very small front room, which is sort of a female version of the Man Cave (a “Women Nest”, if 3-IMG_6658you will).   This Nest contains the original Sun Couch from years ago. On this couch are pillows from Istanbul, Nepal and India and a rich, colorful quilt made for me by a relative, specifically meant for cozying under.  The floor is parquet, over which lies a small, very worn oriental rug that belonged to my father. One wall contains a floor to ceiling bookshelf built by the S.O., which is filled with favorite books and framed photographs of loved ones; ceramic bowls made by my children in summer camp, containing beach glass and shells we collected together on a California shore;  gifts  and little treasures picked up on world travels.  The other walls are covered with paintings and handwork done by good friends and family, and a Talevera tiled mirror I found in Santa Fe during another lifetime.

4-IMG_6654My mother’s rocking chair is in that room, the one she rocked children and grandchildren in. There is a small hexagonal Moroccan table at one end and a small marble table from India, inlaid with semi-precious stones at the other.  In front of three west-facing windows is another end table a friend and I dragged back from Vermont in the bed of a pickup truck on our way home from another friend’s wedding decades ago. On top of that table is my sister’s stained glass lamp, a sculpture done by my mother, and an orchid plant from my daughter. On the floor is my drum and a basket containing some toys belonging to my grandkids.   The room is vibrant, warm and cozy, filled with meaning and memories of those I love.

The early afternoon sun was casting a glow within the room as I lay down on the Sun Couch with the latest issue of a literary magazine.  Not two pages into it, I glanced up towards the bookshelf at a framed photograph of my beautiful sister Charlotte, and 5-IMG_5234was almost immediately overtaken by the urge to nap.  Two hours later I awoke from beneath the quilt with a small dog lying on top of me and the aura of a rather weird dream dissolving.

So I had taken a nap, my first official nap since being unemployed.  Or, let me correct that…since being “on Sabbatical”.

And now, well…now it is late and I am awake.  I suppose there is some knack to this, learning the Art of Napping.

Posted in Aging, Deafness, Hearing Impaired, Uncategorized, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Change of Status

I am unemployed.  Or “retired”, as some people have congratulated me on, although that word doesn’t seem to quite fit.  I feel like I am actually a “retirement imposter” in a sense, because this “retirement” was mostly unplanned, not affordable, and certainly not the way I had always imagined retirement was supposed to be.  Not finding myself out there smiling on some sunny golf course (well, OK, I don’t golf), or painting wildly on large canvasses; not walking across Spain or a beach at sunset, nor traveling around the world sampling foreign cuisine; not busy buying and decorating a new condominium or cottage.  Not relaxing on the front porch of the little farmhouse I always dreamed of.  Not living off a hefty and well thought-out IRA.  Not being especially creative either….not yet.  Not doing anything depicted as “retirement” in those commercials.  I don’t see myself as that smiling woman with a short gray bob hairdo donning gloves and garden shears, clipping roses while her athletically built geriatric husband waters the lawn in the background. That’s just not happening.  Not finding myself “old enough” to be retired – Gak!  Not Old!!!  It’s just not how I imagined it in my mind at all.

This seems to be causing a bit of an identity crisis at the moment, a Who Am I? question regarding this Change Of Status that has occurred much earlier than I expected it to, and a big “Uh oh, what happens now?” question surrounding the future.

sunset

The reality is that for the last couple of years I have been struggling with a number of health-related issues that finally culminated in a point of malfunction, where I realized I would have to abandon a long career of  dedicated and hard-earned gainful employment.  Once I accepted I couldn’t keep going (and coming to an acceptance was a very difficult part of this; dealing with, living with, making peace with a disability), things unraveled pretty quickly from there and I made a quick exit.  I left without the long goodbyes, the “she’s a jolly good fellow” party, the proverbial pocket watch.  Like the vapory wisp of a ghost slipping out the chimney, a mere echo after the door is shut, a hint of breeze as the window is closed, I was gone.  I actually prefer it that way.  The satisfaction, purely personal, is knowing that (even though they may not know it) I have made a positive impact in the lives of a number of people during my career.

But that is the past now.  I worked for a private, non-profit agency and, um… non-profit is the operative word here, as I do not have a pension that will take me past a year. No longer generating an income and with bleak financial straits on the horizon, it is ironic that where I once had the money to participate in some adventures, there often was not enough time or energy left to carry those desires out.  Now that I have the time, I have not the money to accomplish the big-ticket items sitting on my bucket list.

And there is an extra monkey-wrench thrown in, because those very issues that have caused me to leave my job are also the same issues that are keeping me from participating in some of the cost-free endeavors I would like to be taking advantage of now.  I am sort of “grounded” at the moment. So, being grounded, I have decided to try and create a new reality as best as I can, to reinvent my life, deal with this Change of Status, and make the necessary modifications to accommodate this.

For the first week or so I found myself sleeping late.  A strange, lazy sort of a buried-in-the-blanket bliss, wrapped up in a tremendous relief that I would not have to stress about my job and continue pretending to do the things I could no longer do there. It was also a bit naughty and delicious, like an unanticipated snow day from school, or the first few days of summer vacation.  Yet, it was disconcerting at the same time. Truly being The Early Bird, much as my mother was,  I love the dawn, the sunrise streaming in the windows, the birds waking up, and I hate to waste those beautiful morning hours. But down-time is necessary to recharge your body and soul.

After that first week or two where I was drifting around the house getting my bearings, it was clear to see there has been so much left neglected or unfinished that I have not found time to address.  Seems like the time to deal with it has arrived. One thing I have learned from over two decades of working with people who have disabilities is that productivity is very important for the worker-bee in all of us, no matter what level your capabilities are.

Applying this productivity theory, I made a pact to myself when this happened that I would try to accomplish at least One Productive Thing every day. I revisited the abandoned Pack Rat Project  from last year, trying to clean up and sort through each room, each drawer, each cabinet and closet, day by day by day…. until it is finished.

Which it is not.  Because I am slowed down a bit, each project gets broken down into baby steps, intentionally or not.  There is a lot of stopping, sitting down and then starting again; whether it is during gardening or cleaning or even reading.  There is frequent tiredness.  I get distracted.  Many cups of tea are consumed. There is no rush, just taking things a little at a time. There is some grace in that.

teaIn addition, I have begun making Lists Of Things I would like to accomplish. The Lists are necessary because I get side-tracked (if you read this blog, you might know about “The little distracted bee that flits from flower to flower“).  There is great satisfaction in crossing things off The List, and maybe some excitement in adding new things to The List too.  There is The Grocery List, The Chore List and then there is the more fun Bucket List…..step one will be to just get some of the unfinished things out of the way and discover some new horizons as I ease into this other reality.

listsOne of the most wonderful parts of it all is that I have finally been able to make more time to be with the people I love.  I have seen my family more and connected with friends, old and new.  In the long run I am finding this is what really counts.

Someone suggested that I should call this a Sabbatical.  I really like the sound of that.

Change of Status: Sabbatical.  OK!

Posted in Aging, Hearing Impaired, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Heads Up

The light fixture that hangs in the front porch over the door is old and has one of the glass panels missing.  There are three sockets, one of which is empty and the other two which hold energy-saving bulbs.  The porch light is supposed to come on automatically at dusk, but the thing that makes that happen stopped working a long time ago, so it is on just about all the time now.

A few weeks ago when I walked out the door, something swooped out of the light and past my head.  I thought it was a bat, but discovered that birds were building a nest there.  With the one open socket, the location, and the light always on, I figured this was probably not the healthiest place to start nesting, so I reached in and dismantled it before they could really get anything started, hoping they would choose to move under a soffit or into one of the hanging plants.

But those birds were persistent, and no sooner had I removed those bits and branches before they were at it again.  It was hard to tell what they were because they would startle and dart away before I could get a good look at them. I thought they might be phoebes, since we have had phoebes nesting in the linden tree outside the front door for years.  Usually the phoebe will dart away onto a neighboring branch and wait there, bobbing its tail.  But the phoebe is not here this year.

birdz-in-lightA few days later and independent of my efforts, the S.O. also noticed them and decided it was not the best of locations either.  He reached in to remove the nest and ended up breaking an egg.  Awww, gee.  So there it was, too late to take the nest apart. With no going back now, we decided to leave it and whoever might be left inside to see how they fare.

There is still a bird (or birds) startling out of there at warp speed, but from what I could see from peeking through the sidelight window, it appears they are sparrows. I wasn’t sure if any of the other eggs had made it, until this past week when the porch directly in front of the door started to pile up with bird turd.

birdzdooJPGNot only are the bird turds all over the porch, but they appear to be copiously filling and spilling out of the porch light (if you go back and look at the porch light picture above, you will notice the turds, if you hadn’t before).  At this point there is really not much to be done about it, so I go out there every day and clean it up so the mailman (or anyone else) doesn’t step in it.  It’s pretty stubborn stuff.

Today I dragged a chair out there and climbed up to look inside.  This is what I found:

birdzThere appears to be three of them and it seems like they are starting to mature.  I suppose it won’t be long until they leave.  In the meantime, it’s heads up!  Watch where you step!  And don’t stand under the light. : )

~*~

Posted in Animal Stories, Birds, Spring, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Accepting What You Do Not Want (or “When is a Brulee not a Brulee?”)

Yesterday I was accused by my daughter of becoming more cranky and less tolerant about certain things as I have gotten older.  This statement was made following the specific incident below, in which I actually was a bit cranky and less tolerant….

This is my birthday week, which I have been celebrating in a variety of ways, mostly food-related.  Essentially, I have been eating my way through the week via a delightful combination of delectable fare at some lovely venues, accompanied by beloved friends and family. It has been decadent.  It has been good.

Birthday Lunch yesterday found Daughter#2 and I at a restaurant known for its distinctive Northern Italian cuisine – one of those places with a wood-fired oven and a very good local reputation.  Slightly after the lunch rush, the place was mostly empty. I think there were maybe two other tables occupied at the time, and those diners were clearly at the end of their meals.

wood fired oven

The waitress led us to what was probably the least intimate and uncomfortable looking table in the place.  I looked around at all the other available, cozier, more acoustically friendly spots and requested a different table. She looked at me as if this was some outrageous request that nobody had ever made before.  She then accommodated us.

We ordered our meal.  It was delicious, as the food at this restaurant always is.   We sampled and shared off each other’s plates. I gazed lovingly at my beautiful girl across the table.  I felt content and happy, and so very lucky.

When it came time for dessert, we decided we would split a Key Lime Brulee.  But our waitress was busy chatting a man up front by the bar.  She did not turn around to notice we were ready to move on.  We waited.  And waited.  The wait was sort of breaking our momentum.  I kept looking towards her direction, sending her psychic “turn around” messages through her back, hoping she would pick up the signal, catch my eye, notice us. I did not call out or say anything, I just looked in her direction, willing the waitress to return to our table.

“Mom!” hissed Daughter#2, much the very same way she used to at age eleven, when every word I said, every action I ever took was surely designed only to embarrass and mortify her.  Except she’s in her twenties now.  Do they ever outgrow their impatience and frustration with their mothers, or are we destined to forever be a potential embarrassment?

Eventually the waitress returned.  We ordered the Key Lime Brulee to split between us.  Our waitress then went back to chatting with the guy up at the front of the restaurant.  We waited.  And waited. And waited. We wondered how long it could possibly take to torch the top of a Brulee.

I saw the plate come out of the kitchen and go out on the serving counter.  The waitress still kept conversing up front and did not turn around.  I bored few more holes into her back with my laser beam eyes.  “Mom! It’s OK!  What’s the rush?” said my daughter again……as if my impatience was inappropriate; as if I was ridiculous to think it is not OK to sit there waiting while your dessert sits on the counter and the waitress is having a social moment.

Finally our waitress must have felt the smoking holes boring into the back of her skull and took our dessert to the table.  We looked at it. Then Daughter#2 and I looked at each other.  It was not a Key Lime Brulee.  “This isn’t the Key Lime Brulee”, I said to the waitress.  “Yes it is, this is the Brulee!” the waitress insisted, and started to walk away.

I checked again with some skepticism.  I had never seen a brulee that looked like this in my life.  It was a cake-like pile of stuff with a little scoop of ice cream on the side. Daughter#2 and  I discussed the dessert with puzzlement.  We figured then it must be some new kind of creation this nouveau restaurant decided to call “Brulee”, perhaps some signature Northern Italian Brulee we had never heard of, a custard-less, cake-like Brulee?  I suppose anything was possible. The waitress hadn’t brought us any utensils to eat it with either,  so we had to ask her for spoons before she vanished again.  I was starting to feel more than a little annoyed at the turn of events, but I figured I would just go with it.

We dug into the “Brulee”, and damn if it didn’t taste like bread pudding to me.

BreadPudding

Does this look like a Key Lime Brulee?

I don’t care for bread pudding, I really don’t.  “This is bread pudding,” I said to Daughter#2.  “MOM”, she hissed again. “The waitress said it’s Brulee, so it’s Brulee! Stop it!”  

That’s my kid, not wanting to make any waves, even if it means calling a Blueberry Bread Pudding a Key Lime Brulee.  She might accept that.  However, I can be a wave-maker when the occasion calls for it and I sort of felt this did.  I had been looking forward to a nice, light brulee, not a heavy bread pudding.  It was my birthday, after all.

“I don’t taste a hint of Key Lime in this Brulee thing” I continued, just not letting it go. “Well, I taste the lime!” Daughter#2 said.  But that was wishful thinking on her part. There was no lime in this imposter dessert.  There was no way I was going to get psyched by anybody into believing this was a Key Lime Brulee.

The waitress came by again and I reiterated, ” Excuse me – but this is not Key Lime Brulee”.

“Yes, it IS!” she said again, with the emphatic insistence. “It’s just more like a bread pudding”, she said, and walked away again.

Because it was my birthday and we had apparently ordered this Not Brulee that we didn’t like much, I finished it, although I did not enjoy it.

Then there was more waiting for the check.  By the way, we were the only ones in the restaurant at this point, and there she is talking with some guy up front at the bar again.  I grabbed a menu to check and see what it was she had actually given us.
“Mom!  What are you doing?  Why do you have to look at the menu?  Just leave it alone!  Mom! MOM!”

Well, sure enough, bread pudding was on the dessert menu, along with the Key Lime Brulee, and that is what she had brought us – bread pudding.  You know, it’s one thing to make a mistake and bring the wrong dessert, really, no big deal there.  But don’t be telling me I don’t know what I am eating. When she returned with our check I told her I had looked at the menu again, and that indeed she had given us the wrong dessert.  What she should have done then was offered to take it off the bill.  Instead, she just shrugged her shoulders.

At the point of the shoulder shrugging, which really pushed a few of my buttons, I should have put the ball back in her court and insisted she take it off the bill.   But my daughter had become so impatient with me over the whole thing and my potential for wave-making, that I said nothing more……at least not then.

Daughter#2, who graciously insisted on paying the birthday bill (despite being under- employed at the moment, which made her gift at lunch even more generous), left a twenty percent tip, too.  I said nothing. We left. Once back in the car,  because I was a little more than annoyed, I emphatically pronounced, “That waitress was an idiot”.

“MOM! What’s the big deal? So we got the wrong dessert!  We had a nice time! It’s your birthday!  You know, you are getting cranky and intolerant about stuff as you get older!”

Intolerant.  Well.  In the scheme of life, the wrong dessert is a non-issue. As a matter of fact, as I write this I admit I have actually stopped between sentences to laugh aloud at how ridiculous the whole scenario was.

Question: When is a brulee not a brulee?  Answer: When it’s a bread pudding!

I am sure we will laugh about this story again some time down the road.  What I didn’t like was being told what I knew to be right as wrong, and treated like some fool that didn’t know what she was eating…and paying for it too.  It was not about the bread pudding, or the cost of the bread pudding.  It was about respecting the customer. It was about not accepting what you don’t want when you don’t have to.  What bothered me most of all was that my daughter could not understand why I was making my point.  It bothered me that she wasn’t demanding that same quality – not for me, but for herself as well.

So this is something I have learned “As I Get Older”, and if it comes off as cranky or impatient or less tolerant…well, too bad.  If I pay for something, I expect it to be what I pay for, whether it is a product, a meal, an experience, or decent service. I’ve worked hard for my money. If it is not up to that standard, then I might let it ride, but I just might have a say about it too, depending on how I feel, which is OK.  And I certainly don’t need anybody, especially some stranger, telling me something is not what it clearly is.

The finale to this story is that after sleeping on it, this morning I decided to send off an email to the restaurant, letting them know what happened and how I felt about it, because it wasn’t OK with me.  I didn’t really want to get the girl in trouble, but it wasn’t acceptable to me.

I immediately received an apology from the General Manager for the actions of the waitress, who was fairly new and green.  This is exactly what a venue with any class and reputation should do.  In addition, he offered to send a gift card as a token of appreciation for our business and for the dessert that we did not receive.  I thanked him for his generous offer ….and gave him my daughter’s address.  I want her to know that although sometimes it’s OK to let things go, there is also nothing wrong with standing up for yourself either.  There is no reason to sit in an uncomfortable seat in the restaurant, nothing wrong with asking to be moved away from a blowing air vent, or the bathroom.  There is nothing wrong with asking for the dessert you ordered.

Yes, when you get older you learn what things to let go and what’s important. You learn to accept the things you cannot change, but also to change the things you can…….if you want to.  Even if it is only a dish of Key Lime Brulee.

Posted in Aging, Are you kidding me?, Humor, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Stitches

Found in the bottom drawer – my mother’s pillow cases.  She loved those cotton slip cases that came lightly pre-stenciled with designs, which she would embroider over in bright colors.   Unlike her own mother, my Nona, embroidery was not mom’s specialty.  She always made a point of telling me that, how her own mother’s old-world stitches were so perfect.  And OK, it was true (although, so what?), on the reverse side of her work I discovered the very same knots, criss-crosses and imperfections that will be found on the back side of my own needlework.  This has endeared me to her even more.

moms pillowcasesButterflies, hearts, flowers, and some with a grandchild’s name embroidered across them. The beauty in these things lies not in their skillful execution, but in their love.  I know that every stitch she made was intended for those that she cared so much for.  The bright colors she chose reflect that happiness and the caring thoughts that accompanied these knots and stitches.

moms pillowcases3My mother also ironed her sheets and pillow cases. This is something that you will never see me do, not in a lifetime!   But I will say that coming home to her,  sleeping in a bed made up of her clean, ironed, fresh-smelling sheets – resting your head on one of her sweetly embroidered pillow cases – was always a little bit of heaven.

I miss her so much.

So….. to the present…… these pillow cases have been sitting in the bottom drawer of a small dresser, and once again I have been cleaning and organizing in my circuitous way.   I took them out,  stared at them, held them to my face to see if I could detect even the faintest trace of her….felt the lump forming in my throat.

I have been afraid to use the pillow cases again, lest they wear out or become worn and stained, as they are a piece of her I cannot let go.  I know this is silly.

mom's pillow cases2There is one set that are still ironed (from her) I had not used.  The crisp creases from  the iron are still in them.  The rest are not ironed, nor will they be (she would disapprove).  I took them all out, washed them, stared at them, laid them out on the bed.  I will put them on the “less-used” pillows so that they can be appreciated.

I think she would like that.

~*~

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Nettle Peace

A few years ago I was drumming  with a number of women on the side of a mountain not far from where I live, at the home of a local herbalist.  Outside her front door she had a patch of nettles growing, which she used in her tinctures.  Familiar with nettles only as a dried medicinal tea for arthritis, or a rinse to make your hair shiny, I reached over to gently inspect them further, touching them ever so lightly.

ImageSuddenly most of my hand was on fire – I looked around for the offending bee or wasp but it was not an insect – it was the plant that had stung me, and stung me good.  Those hairy little needles beneath the leaves of the Stinging Nettle packed a punch filled with all sorts of irritating chemicals, including histamine and formic acid – the same stuff you find in ant and bee venom!  I don’t know if my reaction was the typical reaction or not…..perhaps this happens to everyone.  But it was nasty.

Despite washing my hand thoroughly, the burning agonizingly persisted.  All day.  And then into the night too, finally subsiding after about a full twenty-four hours. Nothing I applied to soothe the burning seemed to help. I decided my relationship with Nettles was not something I planned on continuing into the future.

Stinging Nettle close-up (from Wikipedia)

Nettles grow all over, especially enjoying places where it is wet and damp; places like the northeast and the Pacific northwestern United States. They send rhizomes underground, spreading easily.  I cannot imagine planting them in my yard. The thought of having to try and remove invasive nettles is an unsettling image to me.  As I said, I disassociated myself from the nettle and that was that.

Flash forward a few years to just yesterday. I happened to stumble upon an event that was happening nearby, an “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Nettles” situation.  Despite the nasty experience, for some reason this sort of piqued my interest.  Perhaps it was time to Make Peace With The Nettle?  Or to Overcome the Nettle. Or maybe even get Revenge On the Nettle for past insult?  Or more productively, to see if the nettle could give me some relief from this very uncomfortable arthritis I have been experiencing.  I don’t know what got into me, but without thinking much about it I made a split second decision to check out this nettle fest.

It was a little cold and damp, with occasional spritzes of rain happening when I arrived at a location that, ironically, was almost across the street from the home of The Ex-Husband (who would never attend a nettle situation, but still, I checked just in case).  Donning gloves, I tromped up a hill following a number of potential nettle aficionados – surprisingly, some of which ended up being my neighbors – to inspect the nettle patch.  For the next hour or more we stood there learning everything you ever had wondered, wanted to know or didn’t want to know about Urtica dioica, the Stinging Nettle.   It seems if you are bold and bossy and just take firm hold of the nettle, it is less likely to sting you, but if you brush gently against it there is a good chance those hairs are going to sting.  A rather passive-aggressive plant….

After this lengthy discourse, we harvested some nettles in order to bring them back into the kitchen to cook.  Despite my gloved hands and my attempt at directness and boldness in addressing the nettle, those damn things stung me right through the gloves anyway, and I spent the rest of the day and night with my thumb on fire.  Again.

gathering nettlesThen began the preparation of the nettles, using a variety of recipes in order to prove just how versatile the nettle can be.  It started out with nettle tea, followed by an addictive nettle/onion/mushroom soup.  Moving on from that, indulgence in a nettle and garlic saute, some nettle and pignoli quiche, a bright shocky green nettle pesto with pasta, and nettle lasagna roll-ups.

nettle quichenettle pestonettle roll-upsThe Big Question of course: Yes, once you blanch them – once they are immersed in hot water or cooked – the sting is gone and they are nothing but green, green, green nutrients and goodness.  Blanched nettles are filled with Vitamin A, B vitamins and Vitamin K, high in calcium, iron, magnesium and manganese.

The Second Big Question:  Is there an antidote for the sting of the nettle?  Through discussion and net research, the suggestions – after thoroughly cleaning the affected area – include Aloe vera gel, a paste of baking soda, slathering on mud, or pressing leaves of the Yellow Dock plant or Jewel Weed onto the affected area.  I put some chickweed salve on mine, which did not do much.  However, when I woke up this morning, the sting had abated.

Following the clean-up of this whirlwind of  gastronomical creating, there was a final discussion about making nettle tinctures. By this time I was very tired and ready to call it a day.

nettles for tinctureSome people went out into the rain to take home a few intact nettle plants with their roots in order to start them at home.  Definitely not interested in introducing the nettles into my own yard, at that point I came home with a bag of nettle tops I had gathered – and quickly got to work brewing up some tea.  And making some yummy nettle pesto, which I will have with ravioli tonight.  Because you see, I am craving nettles.  I am sitting here typing this and craving nettles at the moment.

I supposed you could say I have made peace with the Stinging Nettle.

Posted in Daeja's Garden, Gardening, Spring, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Stealth

When it came to a choice of animal companions, my family always fell into the “dog people” category. But there hasn’t been a dog in my life for a very long time.  There are a number of reasons for that, including this reason.  So over the years since then, I have lived a relatively pet-free existence.

The obvious perks to not having the responsibility of a dog in the home:  Cleaning up after them – the extra vacuuming, dealing with the hair.  Housebreaking. The freedom of coming and going as you please –  not having to adjust your schedule to get home in order to walk and feed them. Being able to go away for long weekends or trips without worrying about who will watch the dog.  The expense of their health care, food, grooming, parasite control, and boarding if necessary.  And the emotional investment.  There is that part, getting attached to something with a somewhat predictable, relatively short life-span.  For me, that has probably been one of the biggest hurdles to having one again. Loss and abandonment issues? Maybe a little….

Last winter a friend asked if I could watch their dog for a long weekend while they were away.  The dog is a small little rescue dog, about a year-and-a-half old.  I had actually gone along on the excursion to pick up this little adoptee, who rode curled up in my lap for the ride home.  With the sketchy history that many of these rescues possess, he’s an odd little guy with a few quirky habits.  A little fox of a dog,  he’s possibly a cross between a Papillon, a Pomeranian, maybe some Chihuahua mixed in.  Relatively quiet, he appears sort of timid regarding the world around him, at least initially.   With one ear up and one ear down, he’s incredibly cute. Since I was there for his arrival, making me sort of a “godmother”, I figured it would be no big deal to watch such a little imp for a weekend, do friends a favor and perhaps provide a little bit of a re-initiation regarding having an animal back in my life.

My friend dropped off the dog, his crate, his food, his treats, his leash, gave me some last minute instructions, assured me the dog had just been walked, and gratefully said goodbye.  Within literally five minutes of his departure, the dog crapped on the floor.

Over the next three days, I discovered that our little friend was what I would dub a “stealth-crapper”.  Luckily, he would not pee in the house, but he preferred to leave surprises on carpets – not the wood or tile floors but the carpets – in secret.  I would take him out for lengthy walks (in the snow and cold, at all hours), and he just would not go outside.  Then we would get back in the house and he would immediately slink off and leave a surprise.  Luckily, being a small dog, his surprises were small ones; but surprises never the less, and sometimes messy ones.

The second thing that snapped me back into the reality of pet ownership was having to get up earlier in the morning, or going out later at night (in what was then bitter cold) to take him out.   Back when I had dogs, I always lived in rural settings.  We used to just let the dogs out the back door, they would do their business and obediently return.   Now here I was living in a fairly urban environment without even a fenced backyard, an environment where you have to walk your dog on a leash and pick up their poops in little bags.   This scared little fox was slinking down the sidewalk, cringing at the sound of every car that went by, skittering away from snowbanks that were larger than he was, tail between his legs.   Although he was cuddly and sweet, he was a bit high maintenance.

Experiencing the oddly dead stillness of my neighborhood  in ten degree weather at 4 a.m because he was crying to go out was something new.  This did not go over well with the S.O. either.  Apparently the schedule this dog had gotten accustomed to with my friends (vibrant, late night people) was different from ours (old, farty, early to bed people).  I rearranged my weekend plans in order to accommodate his needs and issues. Because of his lack of housebreaking, he also spent a little more time in his crate than I would have liked.  Despite his sweetness, I was relieved by the time the dog-visit was over and he was picked up to go home,  reinforced that a dog was not in my near future.

Flash forward – here it is spring and my friends are leaving on a two-week road trip.   I asked them “Who’s going to watch the little pooper while you are gone?” because I knew it wasn’t going to be me.  They had a list of possibilities, including boarding as a last resort. However, when it came down to the very last day, the list of possibilities had petered out and the final option fell through. The price to board was prohibitively expensive.  They asked me if I would consider taking him again……except this time it was not for a few days, but a couple of weeks. And so, against my prior convictions I said I would, if it was OK with the S.O.  He said it was fine as long as I did all the care and cleaned up any messes.

So “the pooper” arrived with the food, the treats, the crate, the leash, his brush and a towel (“because he pukes when he rides in the car”). Our first evening was uneventful and I was feeling pretty confident about having him.   On day two “the stealth-crapper” bombed both the oriental rug in my living room and the sisal rug in the dining room.  I also stepped in one of his poops with my bare feet.

After that, I came up with a system for confining him to non-rug areas until after he had done his business outside, that followed by lots of praise.  The first two days I took him out for walks he was a skittish mess.  When a truck drove by and its air brakes hissed, the dog literally levitated off the ground.  When someone walked up behind us on the sidewalk and spoke, the dog flung itself to the end of the leash and did a back flip in mid-air. When a large leaf got stuck to the back of his furry pantaloons and dragged on the sidewalk behind him, making a skritching noise, he totally freaked out but would not hold still for me to pull it off. He was a nervous wreck of a dog.   I wondered what he had been through in his prior life, and how my friends had been dealing with his quirks. I wondered what I had gotten myself into yet again.

And then on day three and four, an interesting thing happened.

We got into a routine.  The little guy came to expect when he was going to go out and what time I would feed him.  I got to know when he tended to poop (first thing in the morning and again an hour after eating), after which time he was allowed the run of the house.  There was no more stealth-crapping.  He got used to the sounds of the neighborhood and began setting up his territory, marking every tree as his own.  He began strutting up and down the street with a bit of bravado, kicking up the dirt after he left his calling cards, trotting up ahead of me on the leash with his tail waving high.

For me, taking care of him meant getting up and getting out of the house instead of lounging on the computer.  It meant getting a little exercise.  I began taking him for excursions beyond our block, on both sides of the street, into areas I usually would not walk.  Suddenly I was greeting neighbors I normally would not see, noticing houses and gardens, changes and nuances of the neighborhood.  As it is springtime, each time we would go out for a walk there was another difference in the flowers, the buds on the trees, an awareness of how quickly everything was changing and growing right before my eyes – the magic.  Even the S.O started taking him out unbidden.

At night after the last walk, “the little pooper” would settle himself in his open crate.  A few hours later he would then visit us by jumping up into our bed to spend the rest of the night, sleeping curled up against us.   In the morning he became animated and playful, with harmless little puppy-like bites, a lot of head-shaking, posturing and running in circles.  As timid as he can be, his attacks on both the broom and the vacuum were filled with tremendous ferocity as he defended the household (and dust bunnies) from mechanical intrusion. He made me laugh out loud and I would find myself talking to him throughout the day.  He became a cozy, cuddly, very loving little companion. We developed a nice bond.  I found that I actually was rather attached to this little dog, whose care has given me a new view of my own environment, and who has soothed an old wound.  It is remarkable how settling, how calming, how grounding it is to have a warm, loving pet by your side.

This little visitor has stolen my heart.

He went back home to his people today.  They have been missing him, and I can see why. I am going to miss him too, miss his companionship and sweetness.  As I sit here writing this, it is already apparent that he is absent and it feels a little empty.  Just a little bit.  Some of my reasons still stand for not wanting to commit to another dog (yet), but a door has been opened to future possibilities.  However, like grandchildren, it is sort of nice to be able to enjoy and love them up for a while, then send them back home to the responsibility of their parents.  I think he will be welcome to stay here for another visit again.

Posted in Animal Stories, Dogs, Friends, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Major Artistic Deficit Disorder

Having grown up the child of artists, it naturally followed that those we interacted with and bonded with would lean towards the creative.  And so, throughout this life, I have found myself  surrounded by an abundance of talented friends. I gravitate to them like a bee to sweet and brightly colored flowers, and they seem to gravitate to me. It is as natural, as important, as breathing air.

A richly textured swirl of graphic designers, crafters, painters, illustrators, bakers, chefs, jewelers, beaders, seamstresses, quilters, knitters, every kind of fiber artist.  A kaleidoscope of talented gardeners, musicians, designers, writers, singers, actors, woodworkers, builders, dancers and dreamers. It is a wonderful thing to be touched by so much creativity, both inspiring and awe-inspiring, evoking admiration.  Also intimidating, because sometimes I have to wonder what it is that I can do well…….where is it exactly that I fit in?

Looking back at what has been accomplished and perfected over time, I have discovered that I am not really that good at any one thing at all; the quintessential Jill of All Trades who truly has not mastered a specific skill.

There are so many artistic endeavors I have sampled over the years, never able to settle down to focus on Just One Thing, suffering from a form of ADD that I would describe as Major Artistic Deficit Disorder.  Not denying my share of inherent talent, to a degree…….the “deficit” does not lie in the lack of potential but in the inability to settle into one task.  One of my Extremely Creative Friends tells me that is part of my problem – that I should not be so scattered and spread so thin, that I have to choose something and just concentrate on that, just immerse into that One Thing to bring it to a higher level of skill.  Of course, this makes absolute sense.  But it is something that has been almost impossible to accomplish.

“Back in the Old Days”, those golden days before accepting Total Responsibility, those days when time stretched out endlessly before us, where every day was a new adventure, when we were young and immortal and anything was possible….back then it seemed every day dawned with the potential of another creative adventure.  There was always a drawing in progress, a project to be dyed or painted, a new song to learn, something to sew or re-design or embellish. The parameters of originality were challenged, all the way down to the way we dressed.  There is something so satisfying about immersion into the artistic project – almost to a compulsive degree.  For some people, it is a necessity.  It had always been for me. But it seems somewhere along the way I have veered off the path and am desperately struggling for more of that fresh air.

paintbox

When did it stop? What happened?  It is not as if there wasn’t potential and interest there. My children’s clothing, when they were younger, was hand-made, embellished and unique.  I quilted.  I put rush seats in chairs and stenciled them, refinished furniture, wrote and illustrated an (unpublished) children’s book, took up photography, developed and printed my own black and white photos.  I painted designs on tee-shirts to sell at craft fairs, painted logos and hippie art on cars and clothing, embroidered pictures on fabric and on denim jeans and jackets, dabbled in batik, painted in water-color and ink wash.  I sold some illustrations to be used as props in made-for-television-movies and designed a logo for a friend’s business, made and sold ethnically inspired beaded jewelry. I sang in a couple of bands.  I tried to learn piano, guitar, mandolin and clarinet, although never really stuck with any of them enough to master.   Over the more recent years I have taken up middle eastern drumming and re-learned to crochet (a little).  Beyond this, I actually have a degree in Visual Arts.

But there has been no centering, no perfecting of a craft, absolutely nothing that is done so well that you would stop and say “She is an illustrator (or a quilter, or a singer, or……….).  I want to know it all.  I know not enough of any of it.

The unfinished applique quilt has been sitting in the box for almost thirty years. I would take it out periodically, look at it, and then could not bear to deal with it. The child it was meant for now has children of her own. The cookbook I compiled just needed to be proofed before being passed on to a friend who had graciously offered to set it up for publication….for over ten years now. The children’s book I wrote, illustrated and did a mock-up dummy for has been sitting in a trunk for twenty years.

More often than not, for some reason strangers will approach me and ask, “Are you An Artist?”  At my very core I want to say “Yes”.  But then the following question, the inevitable “What do you do?” does not correlate, leaving an awkward, uncomfortable pause.   Often I think taking on a full-time job that veered away from artistic inspiration has been the dagger to the heart of my own creative expression.  I tried to bring as much ingenuity into my job as possible, but I know it was not enough.

There are people who have made their art their professions and have always walked that truth.  It seems while I am an “idea person”, I tend to be a catalyst for others and not very much for myself.  The imagination runs wild but the action is static.

There are some of us that have gone down different paths and yearn to return to those roots, that center.  I have wandered off that path, but lately, somehow, I feel I might be heading home.

~*~

Posted in Aging, Friends, Perspective, Regrets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Season of White Jordan Almonds

There is something about the blossoms of spring and those white Jordan Almonds. They are connected for me.

springtrees

Weddings and blue sky and white, white sweetness.  That little bundle in the mesh bag, a small handful like tiny birds eggs; my mother would save them to bring home for us after a wedding reception.

The trees are blooming and so my craving, as the season for white Jordan Almonds has arrived.  And so I have indulged.

jordan_almonds

Posted in Spring, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Up Seat

Not having posted anything in a while, I really hate to pick up the blog after a hiatus by opening with a pet peeve, but I suppose this annoyance is the impetus that has provided enough kick-start to sit down at the computer again.

We all have our habits and areas where we are lacking.  Realizing this, I have come to expect that certain things which bug me about sharing a home with a partner are not going to change and that I have to make some adjustments if I expect my own idiosyncrasies (of which there are plenty) to be accepted.

For instance, after all these years, I know that if I am not the last one out of the bed in the morning, the S.O. is not going to make the bed when he gets up. While I like need the orderliness of having the bed made daily, and enjoy need to get into a neatly made bed each night, the S.O. doesn’t seem to care if he climbs into a disorderly, twisted jumble of blankets and sheets at the end of the day. If I go away for a few days and come back, I know he will not be making the bed for himself while I am gone and will think nothing of it.  If I make a unmade bed2point of asking that he please, please, please make the bed before I come home, he might (just maybe) throw the bedspread over the lumpy mess of un-straightened, balled-up blankets underneath.

Some people are just like that. I have friends like that. It doesn’t seem to bother them.  Personally, if the bed is made, it is like having at least one island of order despite other household chaos. I wish he would appreciate this enough to participate.  I wish on weekends he would help out by changing the sheets together with me.  I think that is a chore couples should share together. But he doesn’t.  So OK,  I do this for myself.

It is a fact that I am living with a real live version of Pig Pen.  It is a remarkable phenomenon. There is an invisible (and sometimes not so invisible) whirlwind of dust and mess which surrounds, follows, and is generated by the S.O.  He is a contractor who very physically gets into his work. He keeps himself clean, but everything around him is not.  He tends to destroy his clothing.  All his clothing.  This includes shoes.  Anything new will inevitably end up with paint, or grease, or a tear on it within a week or two. Sometimes even within a day.  Even during his down time when he is not working, this is what he does. Then, when he needs to wear something nice to an event, there is nothing available because he has already ruined the item.  At that point panic and frustration will ensue, but he never seems to learn the lesson.  He probably has Pig-Pentwenty stained or ripped shirts and pairs of jeans he could wear on a construction job, but he will consistently reach for the brand new pair of pants or shirt he received for Christmas or a birthday, only to come home with a great big oily stain or drips of white paint on the front of it.  I try to hide a few good things for these occasions, but somehow they always seem to end up back in the drawer and are wrecked.

When he cooks something, the stove will be left covered with spices and egg drippings, the counter spattered with cereal, batter or coffee grounds.  Bottles of oil, jars and containers left open without lids, plates and pans will be left out. Nothing will be wiped up. He does not clean up after himself much.  When he does, it takes him a very long time to get to it.  If he opens a package or the mail, he will rip into it like a child and drop the paper or box right on the floor, where it might remain.  If I don’t clean up after him, he could live like that for days, or even weeks.  I cannot stand it. I cannot wait weeks, or even days.  Honestly, I don’t like to even wait hours for something like this.  Clearly our perception of time and mess-threshold tend to differ.

His vehicle is a rolling trash can.  Riding in it means sweeping the junk off the seat and sitting with your feet in a pile of garbage. His office is such a mess that I cannot imagine how any work can be accomplished there.  The “man-cave” where he likes to relax and watch TV is an uncomfortable eye-sore filled with cans of WD-40, assorted nail clippers, cans of screws, unidentified metal things, piles of stuff.   It is sort of like living with a perpetual adolescent in the house.

Now, given the above examples, one might wonder how a person who is bothered by such things could put up with this, and more specifically, why I have.  The reasons are many, some of it clearly tied up in the relationship dance that we do, which defies a simple explanation – at least one I would delve into here.  But there are things that he does do that are good things – very good things –  and some of those things that he does are things that I don’t do myself.  I certainly have my own clutter issues, mostly confined to my own spaces, which he (usually) does not complain about.  We have (sort of) fallen into certain unspoken roles and responsibilities over the years.  So I have, for the most part, just come to accept that this is how it has been and how it is going to continue to be.  Sometimes I complain.  Sometimes he almost makes an effort.  But it always reverts back.  Despite my frustration with it at times, there has been one oasis throughout the years which has made it bearable…..

Oddly, the one thing that has kept me from totally losing it regarding the messiness is the fact that the S.O. has mostly kept the toilet clean and the seat down.  I have found this to be of great relief and much appreciated.  I have found it to be respectful.  I haven’t Toilet_seat_upquestioned why he has chosen to maintain this specific task, but have been very glad for it.  And it has been a constant over the last eleven years….that is, until the last two weeks.  All of a sudden, the S.O. has started leaving the seat up on the toilet.

The reason I noticed is because I sat down on it and fell in.  It took me so much by surprise that I didn’t even realize what was happening.  I actually laughed.  I thought at first that a visitor must have been there while I was at work and had left the seat up, because the S.O. has never done that, ever.  I have heard about this being the bane of male/female households, a major thorn of contention between the sexes about leaving the seat up or down.  Normally I would have thought it was not such a big deal……but this one last bastion of civility is one thing I really need to hold on to here.

So I mentioned it and asked if he could please leave the seat down.  However, the seat has been up again for the last week. I know this  because I sat down without looking and fell in yet again.   “What gives with the toilet seat?”  I asked.  The thing is, as much as I find it respectful to leave the seat down, unless one is living in a frat house I think The Up Seat is terribly disrespectful to women. And I think it looks bad too.  The Up Seat is like the unmade bed of the bathroom.   He says the question isn’t “Why is he leaving the seat up?” but “Why am I not noticing and still sitting down first?”

Am I crazy here?  Does anyone else feel the same way?  Any solutions?  Is this more adolescent defiance behavior or has he become a total burn-out?  Is this part of the war of the sexes?

Posted in Humor, Rant, Uncategorized, Vent | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A Golden Squirrel

My sister Charlotte always had squirrel-like attributes.  As a child, she tended to hoard her things. As an adult, even in the leanest of times, she managed to save, to “squirrel away a little something” for the future. Looking at old family photographs of us as children, there is almost a chipmunk cuteness to her face, something bright and inquisitive, in awe of the big world.  There is a bit of mischievousness in her large eyes, a compactness to her small frame.  Charlotte was agile, vulnerable, good and yet naughty.  She was practically like a Squirrel Nutkin illustration from Beatrix Potter.

Squirrel_Nutkin

Because of this connection, our mother gave Charlotte a small charm – a tiny little golden squirrel to wear on a chain around her neck. It was so perfectly her, and she wore that necklace into her adulthood.  She would sometimes reflect upon her habits and justify them by saying “You know me – I’m a squirrel!“.

To elaborate further, Charlotte was also a little crazy, in the way squirrels sometimes can seem a bit nutty (no pun intended). She often dashed into life situations without looking, as a squirrel will change directions and dash into the road. Because of this, I gave her a pair of bronze “sister” squirrels that she displayed in her bookcase.

squirrels sister brass

Seeing squirrels usually sets me thinking of her.  When the unavoidable misfortune of running over them occurs, I pretty much always cry, probably more than the average person might.  Not only because the squirrel has lost its life,  but because of the association to Charlotte.

My sister Charlotte did lose her life – she died in her forties; untimely, tragic, as these things usually are.  My participation  in cleaning her home of her belongings was approached in a rather stone-like manner. With anger, confusion and disbelief, I could not come to grips with the circumstances of her death, could not process it, and could not cry.  I found many things she had squirreled away.  I discovered the set of bronze squirrels.  And then I came across the little golden squirrel charm from our mother.  Finding this tender reminder that had been given with tremendous love from a mother to “her little squirrel” triggered grief that allowed the tears to flow.

squirrel gold C

Two weekends ago I was driving to do some holiday shopping, singing along to the radio and having a generally good day, when a fat little squirrel darted into the road with what appeared to be a massive apple, or perhaps a black walnut, in its mouth.  It was as large as a tennis ball, almost too much to handle,  and I thought a rather ambitious endeavor.  I swerved to avoid it.  I felt the thunk.  The day was suddenly ruined.  And I burst out crying for Charlotte.

At the store I passed a display of glass Christmas tree ornaments, mostly picked over so close to the holiday.  Glancing among the remaining rows of red Santas, green pickles and silver snowmen,  something caught my eye.

Just one golden squirrel alone in a little box.

Unpacking the ornaments this year, I reflect again upon the french horn that signifies my father, the angel that is my mother, the flower fairies that are my little sisters, the mallard for my brother, and the God’s-eyes and precious trinkets made by my children when they were young.  I smile with the anticipation of seeing my young grandchildren soon – their excitement, their own tree awaiting the ornaments they will add to it someday.  On my own little tree this year I have added a golden squirrel, dedicated to the memory of my beautiful sister, Charlotte.

golden squirrel3

Posted in Holidays, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Certain Unalienable Rights

Second section in Declaration of Independence, 1776 – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Hold on to that premise for a minute, OK?

The Second Amendment, adopted years later in 1791 – “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  Well-regulated militia.  Militia.  A militia with muskets, with the intention of keeping our country free.  Not politically motivated lobbyists with an agenda. Not mentally ill individuals and untrained citizens running loose with declaration of independencehigh-powered assault weapons, with the possibility or intent to slaughter innocent populations at whim. It seems the meaning of our Second Amendment has become grossly distorted.

Want to talk about rights here? When you can no longer ride public transportation, shop in a mall or supermarket, go to work, enjoy a movie in a theater with friends, attend a place of worship with family or even attend school without fear of being killed or maimed by madmen “legally” or illegally armed with assault weapons, I would say that your Certain Unalienable Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness has been severely infringed upon – has pretty much been taken away.

It is ironic that with all the armed personnel on base at Ford Hood in 2009, it did not prevent the mass killing at that military installation.  And that all those self-armed citizens who happened to be packing weapons on their person that very day in a Tuscon supermarket in 2011 were unable to use them due to the chaos that ensued, the fear of killing more people by accident, their lack of training.  Arming teachers? Arming students?  Assault weapons?  A mad rush to Walmart to buy your gun “just in case” they are banned? Child-size bullet-proof book bags being sold this week following the tragedy?  As a country have we really reached this level of insanity?

Today –  December 21, 2012 – according to some misinterpretations of the Mayan calendar, was to be “The End of the World”.  For those children and families of Newtown, their apocalypse occurred a week early.  Their certain unalienable rights were violated in the most horrific of ways.

It seems the end of the world as we know it in this country has already arrived.

Posted in Are you kidding me?, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Angels Must Be Weeping

Even the angels must be weeping – Sandy Hook Elementary School 12.14.12

angeltears

Posted in Coping | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

No Thanks, I’ll Pack Myself

I assume the pay scale for checkers and baggers at big chain supermarkets is probably rather pathetic. Perhaps because of this, some positions are filled with less than stellar employees. But really, does anyone even train these people on how to pack groceries? OK, it’s a little bit of a pet peeve here. I realize I am sounding a bit Andy Rooney.  So what?! I suspect I am not the only one who goes through the following scenario.

In the spirit of conservation, I am one of those people who usually remembers to bring their own reusable grocery bags.  In addition, I like to bag my groceries myself.  I see no crownpoint in standing there like a queen while the poor checker is running through a large order and then has to stop so she can turn around to pack bags, resulting in holding up the entire line. When I see one of those entitled “princess” customers standing there doing nothing and making everyone wait while expecting the checker to stop and pack, it really annoys me.  Unless you are aged or infirm or injured, there really is no reason for that.  Bagging is something I will gladly participate in.  I want to do this. I actually like doing this.  It insures that the cold items are packed together, that the powdered sink cleanser is not put next to something like an open bag of damp produce, that the bags are not so over-packed that I cannot lift them, that the meat is put into a plastic bag so it does not drip all over the cereal box, and that all items make it into the bag and nothing is left behind on the counter.

But after the above mini-rant, this is not about that issue. It about the check-out lines that already have somebody stationed there to pack for you.  It is their job, so it leaves not much room for butting in and packing yourself, although I am always inclined to help out. I don’t want them to get in trouble for not being at their station packing, but I really would rather be doing it myself.

Now, I am not talking about some of those very sweet developmentally disabled people who have jobs in supermarkets gathering carts or bagging groceries, because generally – and perhaps ironically –  they are the ones who are  trying very hard. They are fastidious about their job and usually get it right. And if they don’t, well, we cut them some slack, of course.  It’s about the other bored checkers or the space-cadets standing at the bottom of thbagging groceriese conveyor belt who grab your stuff and just shove it into bags at random.  They really don’t care. Where is the QA in these supermarkets?

Yesterday at the check out there was a guy standing there doing the packing. I had no choice, there he was.  So I handed the bags  to both the bagger and the woman at the register, which included a couple of insulated ones for cold items.   I indicated the insulated bags by saying “These bags are for the cold things”, because for some reason they are usually unable to discern this.  So he started packing, and at the very end the checker packed the last bag herself.

What I ended up with – one of the bags were so overly filled that I was barely able to lift it out of the cart and into the car – and when I got home I could not easily get that one bag up the stairs. All the half-gallon liquids were packed in there, making it weighted and unwieldy and subject to dropping and breaking.  I was sure the handles of the bag were going to tear off. It was worse than an overfilled suitcase! The “cold” insulated bag that the checker loaded was filled to the top and wide open. It had a few cold items but mostly was stuffed with a bunch more that weren’t.  I don’t think she got the fact that an insulated bag only works when you can seal it closed, by shutting it with the Velcro strip at the top.  If you are not going home right away and have cold items, it’s helpful to use these bags.  Lastly, I removed the S.O.’s dripping steak out of the bag and put it into a plastic bag first.  The checker made a face. Don’t they see this stuff every day? Does anybody teach them? Maybe a refresher in-service?

Upon getting home, realized the lettuce was missing.  It costs more in gasoline to drive back for the lettuce than the lettuce cost.

Really, these stores need to train their people right, or maybe do some spot checking.  Thank you but no thanks, I’ll pack myself.

Posted in Humor, Rant, Shopping, Uncategorized, Vent | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

The Holiday Visitors

The Holidays are upon us and the visiting has begun.  This year, along with their significant others and the grandbabes, both of my children insisted upon bringing their dogs home for Thanksgiving . It was sort of chaotic, but they are “family” and part of the package.

These two presented as quite the odd couple.  Both rescue dogs, they interacted minimally but became constant kitchen companions while I prepared meals.  They paid rapt attention to my every.  single.  move.  Such fickle adoration, they sat sharply focused. One could almost feel flattered, if you wanted to make believe leftovers had not been involved.  Anything dropped barely had time to hit the floor.

TGdogs

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The Memory Box

One of the drawers in my bedroom is filled with socks.  In the back of that drawer, buried behind those socks is a green and orange lacquered box which was carved and painted by my father many years ago.  It is chipping and old and the clasp that keeps it closed is on the verge of breaking.  On the top of the box my father drew a unicorn.  On the front is an angel. On one side there is the face of the family dog from that time, an Airedale. On the other side are two sheep (I cannot remember why, if there even was a reason, probably because I was an animal lover), and on the back of the box it says “Love Story”, with the faces of a boy and a girl who are supposed to be me and my then high school boyfriend.  The boy’s face looks like he did, the girl does not look like me at all.  Hopefully – wishfully – I just checked the bottom of the box (again) to see if he had signed or inscribed it, as if I could magically make that happen.  I knew he hadn’t.  I am sorry that he never did, as now he is gone.

When my father gave mememorybox this gift, I collected up all the mementos I had saved at the time and put them in that box.  Over the years I have added to it periodically, although it is now so full that it barely will close.  It is an assortment of varied and poignant articles, mostly from childhood but not totally.    Tonight I was putting some things away and found something I wanted to add to the box, so I dug it out, and of course, got lost in those memories  once again.

At the bottom of the box, covered by a piece of maroon velvet, are some notes and letters. One, a valentine from my high school boyfriend, reads “Although the road was long, although the going was tough, you’re still my valentine after 2 1/2 years of your stuff.”  Actually, he had spelled valentine wrong and there was no punctuation.  There is a little drawing of Jerry Garcia’s face at the bottom of it (he was a serious Dead Head).  I laughed seeing it again, just as I have every time I have come across it.  We had dated for a few years.  He put up with my “stuff”. That boyfriend tragically died later on, when he was in his thirties.

There is the newspaper clipping want ad from a job I was hired for thirty-some-odd years ago, as a veterinary technician.  Airmail letters from another relationship, luring me across the ocean.  Love letters from the man who later became my husband and many years later not my husband anymore – letters that I found so incredibly moving still, after all these years, that my throat tightened and had to wonder sadly “what happened?”.

There is a telegram that was sent to me when I lived abroad with a message that is made of the stuff you see in movies.

The birth announcements for each of my children.

And a card with such sweet, promising words that had accompanied the gift of a beautiful string of pearls, from a fiance who eventually became corrupt, leaving me to wonder if any of his words had ever really been true.

A Polaroid photograph of the S.O. and myself taken by one of the kids, which used to grace our refrigerator door –  the first photo of us together (and one of the few where he is actually cooperating and smiling).

On top of the paper items sit a variety of small objects.  A sample of whamemoryboxairmailt is contained within:

A tiny valentine made by my youngest sister, then a child, and a paper ring made as a gift by another little sibling long ago.

The ID tags from the collars of beloved dogs.

A little red plastic fish change purse that my mother had given me when she returned home after a long hospital stay, the blue fins having broken off long ago.   Inside that change purse is the key to my first car and the key to my first apartment. The key to the first apartment was red because in my youth I thought having a red key was such a hot thing to do.

Polished rocks my little brother made in his rock tumbler when he was a boy (I can still remember my mother complaining about the ongoing noise as that thing ran 24-hours a day).

A scrap of fabric from the living room curtains of a little magic cottage in the woods I once lived in.

Shells collected on various beaches.  Keys to diaries long gone.  A small license plate with my name on it from the 1963 World’s Fair. A postcard sent to me from Japan, wishing I was there too.  A cast bronze peanut from an art foundry I once worked at.  A tiny plastic daisy decal I wore glued on to my face around 1969.

A small sample vial of perfume that my mother used to keep in a box in her drawer.  She didn’t wear that scent and never used it – and neither have I.

A rock shaped like a heart.  A pistachio shaped like a heart. Beach glass, some shaped like hearts.

One of my favorite things is a small, smooth, turquoise colored stone that my father used to keep in what must have been his own memory box on top of his dresser.  I had always wondered what it had meant to him, the story,  but I never found out.

A peach pit that I had smoothed flat by rubbing it over and over on the pavement when I was a kid, with plans to cut out the center and make a ring (I never did).

A bullet that a boy sitting in front of me in high school physics class gave me.  I had thought it was so cool at the time.  He never really talked to me but he gave me this bullet, like a prize. I wonder if he had liked me – or maybe not liked me.  I was so shy back then….

Newspaper clippings listing the winners of a few horse shows, of which I came in second place, third place and sixth.  Seeing these brought memories of how I had thrown out the winning ribbons, coinciding with my heightened aversion to competition.  At the same time I also threw out my high school diploma coinciding with my aversion to high school. One earring worn to my senior prom, which I really didn’t want to attend but did because I felt I had to prove something. There had been a lot of aversions and subsequent purging during those years.

A silver necklace of wings and a tan-colored center stone bought in Provinmemorybox-contentscetown, back in the days when P-Town was a hippie haven. The vendor swore, subject to suspicion, that it was “mastodon ivory.”  We camped out on the beach, got bitten by sand fleas, had the most delicious fish soup with friends.

Puppy teeth from two of my dogs.  One wisdom tooth that was mine, removed in Oregon.  A tooth with a gold filling which is not mine.

My wedding ring, which was a silver and turquoise Hopi band, with a nick in it from the time I fell off a step stool and the ring caught on a metal kitchen cabinet, in the farm carriage house we lived in long ago.

Subway tokens of various sizes (now obsolete).  Foreign coins and foreign phone tokens, also obsolete. My roller skate key from the Chicago Skate Company, a relic.  My grandmother’s pink-gold ring from Switzerland that she wore as a girl, sans stone. She had told me it once had a green Peridot stone in it. I always meant to get one to restore it but hadn’t.  And the ring is too big for me.

A necklace made of cloves.   An IUD.

A ducky diaper pin from the diapers of my first baby.

The gift note from the favor bag on the table at my daughter’s wedding.

A small plastic black cat from off a bottle of wine or liquor that my father had tossed at me while we sat at a table after having fondue, saying “here, Strega”.

A ticket stub from a Jackson Browne concert.  A holy card with a guardian angel on it.  A tiny clay bear made by a sibling. A wine cork.

Hair.  Mine when I cut it off, my children’s golden locks, my mother’s when she died, somebody’s hair entwined with red thread – whose? –  used in a long ago magic spell?

A tiny turtle, a plastic bunny, a little duck.   A holy medal that my grandmother had secretly pinned to my mattress, to protect me from harm.   A poem about nature from my daughter to my mother.

These are only some of the items in that box, which is not very large and yet holds a lifetime of emotions and events. Looking at each object took me to places both good and not so good. It was a re-examination of a deeply personal journey.  What was important right then, what was happening at the time these objects were put into the box, who they were attached to, what their story was.  Some of these things made me smile and some brought about a wrench in the chest, an ache of the heart, some tears.  There are items in the box connected to events that required emotional processing, and those things took time.  Over the years I have removed and discarded a few of those hot items from the box attached to issues that have since been resolved and purged.   Surely there are people who would say “Why do you hold on to that crap?”, but in some ways I think The Memory Box has been therapeutic.

It has occurred to me that my children will not know or possibly care what is in my Memory Box, why these things have been kept all these decades, what they meant to me; much the same way I never knew why my father kept the blue stone or my mother had that little sample of unused perfume saved. I wish I had known the myriad events that made my parent’s stories.  I wish they were here to sit with me and tell me the tales of the things they saved in their top drawer, in a dish on their dresser, in a little container. The Memory Box is really just a physical manifestation of what we lock away internally.  Each of these small moments that shape our lives is another fiber to our weave, another pearl lost in time.

pearls

Posted in Aging, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hacked

My credit card bill came in the mail today.  Usually this particular card is only used for online purchases that use secure sites, and there were only a few purchases made this month, so the anomalies jumped out at me immediately.  There were about eight or nine unauthorized charges to Facebook, of all things, totally over $150.  At least that is what it says, but I think they might be bogus charges under that name with the charges going out to someplace else, possibly not even in this country.

I am not connected to any apps, I don’t play games online, I never have ordered anything through there.  On top of all that, I am one of those people who fanatically, ritualistically and religiously shreds their discarded papers and mail.  Everything. For anybody to get my info out of the garbage they would have to be insanely compulsive trying to put that puzzle back together. I am sure there are much easier pickings around.  I also change my passwords and use ones that come out as “strong” or “very strong”.  Needless to say then, this was more than disappointing.  It seems nothing is safe and secure.

But what was even stranger is that on the same day these eight charges were made, each one was also reversed and the credit returned to me.  Did the bank get hip to this and make amends as it was happening or what?

I called the bank, made my complaint to a very friendly woman who was blessedly articulate and clear…..but then got transferred and had to explain the complaint yet again to woman number two, who was the person who would be closing out my account and sending me instructions on how to proceed.  I say “woman” but she had the voice of a girl….actually one of those exaggerated “Valley Girl” type voices that sound affected and silly and trill.  She sounded as if she had gum stuffed in her mouth.  Like something right out of a teen genre film.  Actually, I almost thought she was joking at first.

Add to that the fact that I am more than sort of hard of hearing and the phone connection maybe was not the best.  I don’t understand how person number one could connect and come in loud and clear and person number two was a mumbling mess of fuzzy words, but that is how it was and how it often is – the unpredictability of the next call.  Sort of an anxiety producing scenario for most deafies I think.  I should have been on my Caption Call phone for this conversation, which would have used some voice recognition to repeat her words, albeit with the slightest time lag.  But when I saw the bill I was so taken aback about it that my knee-jerk reaction was to pick up my cell and just dial the company immediately.  By the time I realized the problem, we were too deep into the situation and I would have had to hang up and call back from another number, probably starting all over again with a new customer service representative.  So I blundered forward.

There was a lot of WHAT? and HUH? and EXCUSE ME? going on.  I know she must have been very, very frustrated dealing with me;  probably more than I was with her, but she kept her cool and did her job patiently despite the repetitions.  I think the person who “may be monitoring this call” that they always warn you about at the beginning of these types of business phone calls would have been proud of her diplomacy, and I hope she got some good brownie points on her customer service corporate score card for that.…despite that voice of hers.

After they checked my credentials and I proved my identification, they sent me an affidavit in an email to sign and I sent that off.  Then I was instructed to cut up my card.  I have had this account for twenty-six years.  Just having to do this really pissed me off.  Now I will have to figure out which online accounts I had it connected to, make those changes and start all over again. Following that, I did an internet search to see if there was anybody else getting these bogus Facebook charges.  Indeed, these identical types of charges were showing up on the statements of other people too.

Oddly enough, the business card that my supervisor at work uses was just hacked last week, the statement filled with movie rentals and charges to porn sites. This epidemic rash of identity thefts and illicit purchases totally creeps me out.  And to think my friends and I came from a time when nobody even locked their cars or houses.  When “Identity Theft” meant a spy in a trench coat walking around with your name and your life story while conducting espionage…. where at the end of the movie he/she would suddenly stop and slowly peel off the remarkably life-like rubber face they had been wearing to reveal the true identity of the person within.

OK, so these cards are incredibly convenient and, in this world, now almost a necessity if you need to complete certain business transactions.  But not having them or rarely using them? Very tempting food for thought right now…….

Posted in Are you kidding me?, Deafness, Hearing Impaired, Uncategorized, Vent | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments