Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Candid Camera

I’m an early riser…always have been.  This morning, about five a.m. I was up before the coffee pot timer went on.   After switching that on I had time for one of my favorite morning things; I went to get our one-year old Chorkie, Maddie, out of her kennel.

Maddie is a cuddler…my kind of dog.   After snuggling for a bit, I put her electronic collar in place and headed to the back door.  These chilly late fall mornings are very dark where I live, so we keep a battery-operated lantern by the back door.  Maddie and I stepped into the inky blackness, me waving my lantern in front so frighten off any critters that might be in search of food…or puppies.

Instead of her usual charge ahead on the sidewalk, Maddie “woofed”, snuffed a late blooming flower under the dining room window, the returned to my side.   It was unusual, but a car snaked quietly around the corner, the headlights raking over the two of us as Maddie decided it was okay to head out into the side yard after all. Mission accomplished, we went back into the house.

Time passed, my husband joined us on the couch for coffee.  As we sat watching the news the electric eye at our front door bell detected motion.  It was only a quarter to six, so Larry went to check that out. Finding nothing that should have tripped the sensor, he eventually checked the video camera to find a young male wearing a hoodie and gloves had been trying our front door.   Hmmmm……an unexpected guest?

Daylight prompted a more thorough investigation that produced a torn/cut window screen on one window, another removed from the frame in the dining room window.   The would-be burglar dropped some money as he removed screens, or perhaps as he fled when I came out the back door; we may be the only place that cost him money.  Either way I hope his evening of thievery costs him more than the eight bucks he dropped here.

Later when a nice young police officer showed up at our door we turned the “candid camera” picture over to him.  Another officer fingerprinted windows and doors, taking notes as they explained there was a rash of break ins all around us last night.  Seems this group, the Future Felons of America, went into houses, stealing and frightening people, for blocks around. 

I pride myself on learning something from every experience, and this is no exception.  Lesson One:  Never go out into the dark unless you are prepared to defend yourself (and your puppy). I won't make that mistake again.  Lesson Two:  Fingerprint powder is very, very difficult to remove from window frames.  Lesson Three:  Always lock your doors and windows. Always. 

There’s something I’d also like to share with the fella’s who tried so diligently to get into our house early this morning:  There is nothing in this house, either money or possessions, that is worth your life…but the lives within these four walls are worth defending at any cost.   Understand that.

                                                                   Life is Good


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Negotiating a Birthday

I think birthdays make a person more reflective than they might ordinarily be.   I know that is true for me.

Next week is my birthday.  It’s not a milestone birthday, doesn’t require any great attention or special celebration.  This anniversary of my birth is just another stake in the ground that marks my progress through what has become a life that has already lasted longer than I expected.

When I was twenty, forty seemed to me to be the beginning of old age.  When I was forty I was sure fifty-five was the offending number.  By fifty-five I thought sixty-five, the expected year of retirement for many Americans, represented the year one crumbled into ruin.  By age sixty-five I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about.  It didn’t feel much like a milestone to me, and since I was immersed in a new career (retired broadcaster now working on the dark side of the print world) I thought sixty-five was a breeze.   I did give a slight shudder at the thought of turning seventy…but that was years away and who knew if I’d be here anyway?

Many of my generation, the Baby Boomers, had the mistaken idea we might live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.  Dying young like Buddy Holly, James Dean or Marilyn Monroe meant you’d be forever remembered as a young, vital person and not as a decrepit oldster pushing a walker with tennis balls on the front legs.  Not a well thought out theory, since most of us are not famous or beautiful or exceptionally talented.  We do, however, have a growing population of people piloting walkers. 

The truth of the matter is, none of us expects to get old.  That’s not to say we expect or want to die young, we just think the aging process applies to every other human being except us.  It’s the only explanation for stopping in the grocery store to talk to someone you knew from high school and walking away thinking, “Goodness, he/she looks awful for his/her age!”.  What we don’t acknowledge is that both participants in that conversation are walking away with the same exact thought.

And so, time marches on; I have arrived at yet another birthday.  The changes over the years are more apparent, and the years are heavier some days than others.  I am now at an age where I must begin negotiations with my body each morning as I think about getting out of bed:

Body:  I don’t want to get up.

Mind:  But you must.  There are other parts of us who are demanding that happen; it’s not all about you.

Body:  No.

Mind:  If you get up and transport me to the bathroom I will give you a reward.

Body: (coyly) What kind of reward?
Mind:  Breakfast and two arthritis strength aspirin?

Body:  I’m tired of eggs, and you’d better consult the stomach about all that aspirin.  But…there is that left-over cheese cake.  I could talk to the arms for you if you want to get that from the back of the fridge.  And coffee! Nothing happens without coffee.

Mind:  Fine, coffee and cheese cake it is.  You rally the troops and we will get this body on the move.   By the way…you have a birthday coming up next week.

Body:  Wait while I groan and put our hands over our face, then we’ll bet this show on the road.

At my age I’m just grateful my body is still speaking to me at all; I’ve not treated it well over the years to be honest. My negotiations used to be much more direct: “Okay, do what I want, when I want for as long as I want, or I’ll bring this body to its knees.”  

That kind of rhetoric doesn’t work anymore; if I brought this body to its knees I’d never be able to get back up.

                                                         At every age….Life is Good.   

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Sweet Smell of Success!!!

I seem to be on a roll with car stories, but this one is too good not to share.

Last year my husband wandered into a car dealership, just killing time.  There he met a little number, a GMC Terrain, in burgundy that met his criteria for the perfect automobile. Needless to say he drove it home.

An uneventful year has passed since that car batted her high beams at him; they’ve been very happy together up until a couple of weeks ago.

On a return trip from the grocery store I sniffed the air conditioned breeze and commented, “something smells funny”.  I have a remarkable sense of smell, honed by raising three children.  My senses only grew more acute as they became teens.  I knew when my son was home from the smell of young, male sneakers under the couch.   I could detect cigarette smoke at fifty paces, and teen drinking never made it past the front door undetected.   I am Mom...The Nose...but even I could not ferret out the source of the increasing stench.

Over the last two weeks the smell in that car had grown to frightening proportions.   Even he could smell it, and that’s saying something!  Last evening it came to a head when we exited a restaurant with friends, only to have them recoil as they stood on the sidewalk and my husband opened the car door.  It’s one thing to have an odor you need to track down, it’s quite another to have it stop foot traffic in restaurant parking lots.

It’s not as if we hadn’t tried, but nothing seemed to help.  Vent deodorizers added a sickening sweetness to the problem, removing the glove box to check for goodness knows what proved fruitless, under carriage washes and seat removals all left us stymied.  The odor bloomed and our hopes plummeted.    I was ready to call in the cadaver dogs, but my husband is a more practical type.

Finally this morning he squared his shoulders, dragged the shop vac into the driveway, and announced this was his last attempt to find the offensive odor before he took the car 🚘 in to the dealer for help.   His determination was impressive, his expression said the smell had increased again over night.  I hid in the house and pretended not to hear the racket going on.

Two hours passed before he finally stuck his head around the door, “Wanna know what a ball of mozzarella cheese smells like when it’s been stuck behind the spare tire in a Terrain?”  He had located an indentation we had no idea existed.  At some point the well-sealed ball of cheese found its way in there and snuggled in.  The expiration date was September, 2017 so it had remained under the radar for a long time; until the heat caused it to swell and leak we had no reason to complain.

He is my hero! To the victor go the spoils...in this case my poor husband had the honor of disposing of a very spoiled ball of cheese.   His victory is the fact that, once he puts everything back together, he can settle back into his happy relationship with his sweet ride.  Finally Mom the Nose can breathe a sigh of relief, although we do seem to have more seats sitting in the driveway than I remember.....

                                                                  Life is Good

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Summer of Ginny

For some reason summers have always been the most memorable season for me.  I can’t really recall anything, other than Christmas, that happened in the cold months of my youth…but summers are forever etched in my memory. 
When I was a little girl I looked forward to summer because we visited my grandparents for two weeks.  An only child, my summers were spent there with my cousin, Theresa, exploring the orchard and playing in our grandmothers wash house in the hot Kentucky sun.  Old dishes became our banquet, old curtains our ball gowns and we caught lightening bugs in a jar in the cool, dark evenings.    
It was summer when I “became a woman”; a disquieting female event that interrupted a perfectly good baseball game with the neighborhood boys.  The summer I was fourteen I met a special boy, and that meeting changed my summers forever.  Later, summers were spent taking our three children to their grandmother’s cabin at the lake, on picnics and vacations.   
Before we knew it the kids were gone, and it was a special summer when we bought our own place at the lake; kayaking and beachcombing quickly became my new summer favorites.  That first season was spent exploring the area, looking for a golf cart and meeting new people.   What a great summer…
Now we are in a different season of our lives, but summer is still my favorite. This summer is special because I’ve officially declared it the Summer of Ginny.
The first car we bought when we got married was a VW Beetle.  It had a crank open sun roof, just enough power to get over a hill (if it wasn’t too high) and a heater that guaranteed snow in the floor boards until at least the middle of May.  It was my first experience with a stick shift.  I remember once parking on a hill; I ended up waiting in the car for over an hour until the person parked in front of me left so I could pull forward out of the parking space.   I hadn’t mastered backing up…that came much later after tears and nail biting and embarrassment had worked their magic.  I loved that car.
Years later I found a VW Beetle classic convertible and I bought it.  I meticulously restored it, had it painted fire engine red and kept it in tip top shape.   I drove it two summers before my husband’s misgivings about the car won out.  While I saw a beautiful, red convertible my husband saw a four wheeled bomb.  Every time I left the drive way he held his breath until I returned, and he never wanted me to drive it on the highway.   Eventually his distress outweighed my enjoyment and I sold it.
For several years I drove a Sebring convertible, another favorite.  A few summers ago I sold that and, like a good grown up, drove a “sensible” car for three or four years.  My Chevrolet Impala was the automotive equivalent of sensible shoes and cotton underwear.  They have their place in the landscape of your life, but too much can change who you are. 

As this summer approached we discussed my continued longing for a convertible; when my husband discovered this is the last year they’d be producing the VW Beetle convertible he alerted me to that fact. As I continued to try to argue myself out of such an impractical purchase he was looking on line at the dwindling supply of the little cars.   Eventually he put things into perspective for me when he said, “It’s your decision, but life is short…buy the shoes”.   The man is a great communicator.   
This is the summer I’m enjoying my new white VW Beetle convertible with the black top.  You must be an optimist to buy a convertible and live in Ohio, but it fits me to a “T”, and it puts a kind of automotive parentheses around my adult life.  I’ve named the car Ginny…short for Generic.   Our dog Maddie often rides along, curled trustingly in the passenger seat as we zip along, trailing oldies music in the summer sunshine. 
                                                Ginny and Maddie and Me….Life is Good     

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Worm hole:  A theoretical passage through space/time that could create shortcuts for long journeys across the universe and allow time travel.

Last weekend we went with friends to “The British are Coming…. Again” show on the Ashland University campus.  It featured local musicians and singers recreating the music of the British invasion of the 60’s.   Still performing today after their years as The Ohio Express, Dean Kastran and Dale Powers were two of the performers that came together for the Saturday night fund raiser.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that we are blessed with an amazing number of gifted people in our area.  From the symphony, to the actors on the stage at Renaissance Theatre and Mansfield Playhouse, participating artists at The Art Center, and summer performances in The Brick Yard…there’s something for everyone and we are fortunate to have a thriving arts community. 

Usually it only happens at class reunions, but on this particular evening I was delighted to discover myself in a room full of folks “my age”.   When the band started it didn’t take long for the worm hole effect to kick in; without invitation people came out into the open areas and danced to the delight of the performers.  The crowd had been transported back to 1965 through the magic of the music.

Just as they had in the high school gyms and union halls of their youth the gals formed circles; as the years fell away they danced with abandon.  Men whose time is currently divided between recliners and riding lawn mowers were sheepishly dragged onto the floor.  Suddenly they were busting moves they had forgotten they could make.  Slow songs brought out couples who snuggled and smiled and swayed to the music. Faces relaxed, illness and aggravation fell away just for the moment, and the smiles came from deep in their memory banks.  The worm hole that only music can open transported everyone back to a gentler time.   The concert had become a young people’s dance that could have been held at any high school gym, or the YMCA, or The Friendly House. 

Always a dedicated spectator, I sat watching from the comfort of my rut.   It would have been nice to be as free as the writhing dancers, but that was never true for me even when this music was new.   It was a great evening; the band’s enjoyment was obvious and their talents as sharp as ever.  How fortunate they are to have been given this gift of music that they have shared for so many years, and hopefully many more to come.

Unfortunately, nothing comes without a price; I’m sure there were plenty of the Saturday night revelers with sore muscles and tired feet to contend with on Sunday morning.  But when you get right down to it, isn’t that a small price to pay for a trip through the worm hole?

                                                                           Life is Good


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Coffee for the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

This very early morning in the very early spring I am enjoy a cup of coffee on the first day of the rest of my life.  Today is my first day as the retired editor of Heart of Ohio Magazine.  It’s a day I’ve known was coming for some time, but still I sit here sipping coffee wondering what comes next.

It’s not as if this is the first time I’ve gone thru this coffee ritual.  I remember sipping a cup of coffee with my new husband at our first breakfast together.   We were on our honeymoon; this was the first day of our married life.  The future seemed to open before us…. now that was one great cup of coffee.

A few years later I sat propped up in a hospital bed having a cup of coffee after our son had been born very late the night before.  The coffee was, well, hospital coffee.  But this was the first day of the rest of my life as a new mother and I looked at the future through the filter of my inexperience.   It was a terrifying and wonderful future that stretched out ahead of me.

Peering at the future over the rim of a coffee cup brings back so many times when the piping hot liquid anchored me.  The first morning after the death of a dear friend or family member…the first morning in the kitchen of a new home…and the nights when sleep was impossible; the only thing allowing the early morning to arrive a bottomless cup of coffee.

My first cup of coffee the morning after my retirement party from a long broadcast career stands out because I wasn’t sure this “retirement” thing was for me.   As it turned out I was right, no amount of coffee could change the fact that I needed something to do.  That’s when, over a cup of coffee, my friend Diane Brown and I put our heads together to bring her idea of a local magazine to fruition.  With no experience in producing a magazine she went from printer to publisher and I went from retired broadcaster to editor.   It turned out to be a great experience that bonded our friendship and introduced us to so many interesting places and people that the nine years have passed in the blink of an eye.

Now Great Lakes Publishing (Ohio Magazine, Cleveland Magazine, etc.) is going to take Heart of Ohio Magazine to a new level.  Diane Brown will continue to supply our community with printing and graphics services, just as she has for so many years at Sun Graphics.  I’ve chosen to continue to look for stories to write for Heart, but I will no longer be editor.  Diane Brown and I will serve on an advisory board meeting periodically to help maintain the local flavor and interest of Heart of Ohio Magazine.   

And so, this cup of coffee is the first cup of coffee as I begin this new chapter of my life.  What comes next?  I haven’t a clue.  But, based on so many “first cups” over the years I can’t wait to find out. 

Relax and have a cup of coffee…. the best is yet to be. 

                                                           Life is Good

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Introduction

Recently the world lost a true role model, the Reverend Billy Graham.  He was a fiery evangelist and a gentle human being.
When I was growing up our small, black and white television was always dedicated to the Billy Graham Crusade when one was on.  My mom admired him, and his altar call at the end of the broadcast never failed to bring her to tears as people surged forward to stand before God.   From the opening hymn sung by George Beverly Shea to the closing when they played “Just as I Am”, my Mom was glued to the set.
Personally, I always like to hear Billy Graham speak.   Not necessarily the fire and brimstone message, but the flow of his accent and the rise and fall of his hypnotic voice.  As a little girl I always thought God must look like George Beverly Shea and sound like Billy Graham.  Much later when Hollywood tried to convince me George Burns was God, I rejected the idea completely.   Even when they paired Burns with John Denver (my favorite)  in one of the movies, I still couldn’t accept the idea that my personal deity was an aged, cigar chomping burlesque star.  It just never worked for me.
Growing up I went to church with Mom and Dad, but when I married my expanding brood went through times when we attended church, and times when we did not.   My mother was the dispenser of all things religious, taking my children to church and encouraging them to keep God at the center of their lives.  I know it made a difference in who they turned out to be…. a very good difference.  As her grandchildren grew my mom continued to watch Billy Graham crusades on television.   Late in her life she even found a channel that played his sermons almost every day; he was an anchor in her religious life. 
Time passed so quickly; before we knew it, mom and dad had reached the age when going out to church became more difficult.   Television became more important as mom faithfully watched evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Baker, Ernest Ainsley and others.   While most of those preachers eventually proved to be wolves in sheep’s (designer) clothing, Billy Graham continued to command their admiration because of the simple and honest life he lived.   Over the years I must have heard my mom and my dad say, “I’d really like to meet him”, or “I’d like to shake his hand”, often “I’d like to pray with him” when they spoke about Billy Graham.  He was someone they felt they could relate to because they all spoke to the same God every single day. 
The outpouring of feelings when Billy Graham passed away was heartwarming.  His family conducted his services with the dignity and simplicity he had always displayed in life.  I watched the services, wondering how many ministers have the President of the United States show up at their funeral?  What a tribute to an amazing life.  His prayers for the nation, like my mother’s prayers for me, will be greatly missed.  
Billy Graham was once quoted as saying, “When you hear I am dead don’t believe it.   I will be more alive than I have ever been”.  I have only one thought to add to that.   I rest easy in the knowledge that, after all these years, my parents have finally gotten to meet Billy Graham.  

                                                                  Life is Good

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Give Me Some Credit!!!!!

There are things that cause a sinking feeling in the stomach that everyone has experienced.  That feeling when you reach for your purse and it's not there...the shock of spinning your car on black ice...an unexpected call from the doctor's office after a test.  Here's another one I experienced for the very first time today:  "Your credit card was rejected".

We finished lunch, and my friend and I stuck our credit cards into our individual black restaurant folders for the chirpy waitress to pick up.  When she returned she said in a cheerful voice, "Here you go ladies, and your credit card was rejected."  Her tone was so happy that I thought for a second I'd misunderstood what she said.  I had not.

"Did you try it twice," I asked?   She had.  Of course I said what everyone says in this situation, "There's no way it shouldn't work".  Bet she's heard that one before, but in this case it happened to be true.  I was totally mystified.

Back at the office I couldn't wait to rip the offending piece of plastic out of my wallet and call the infinitesimally small number on the back of the card.   I was in such a hurry I misdialed twice, but I finally got the phone tree that told me to press one for this and two for that and three if I was from Mars....something like that.

After being told that my entire conversation would be recorded for quality and training purposes (I was really hoping this conversation wouldn't deteriorate into a training moment but I had no guarantees to offer) I was greeted by a very professional voice who was more than helpful; she was polite!

After jumping through all the security hoops I was allowed to explain my dilemma. That was accompanied by the clicking of keys, and the helpful woman's voice informed me they had frozen my account.  "Did you make any charges at 2 o'clock this morning?  An air B&B?"

Resisting the temptation to put that training moment in gear I replied, "No, I did not".

"Someone tried to charge $8,427.00 to your card in four separate transactions. (There's that stomach drop!)  They managed to get two of the charges past, but we stopped the other two.  You have $2,300.00 on your card right now. (A training worthy shriek almost escaped my lips)   I see another $10.00 charge was rejected today," she finished.

"That ten dollars actually was me, but they wouldn't take the card," I sighed.

The thought of being part of a training module on how to handle crazy customers, or perhaps having my voice show up on a Christmas party tape for a group of drunken office workers to hear kept me in check.  I can tell you that $8,427.00 is enough to make me waffle on that, however.

She continued, "I will send you a copy of all these charges and list the ones that are fraudulent.  Our no risk policy means you are not liable for the theft, and we will send you a new card in seven to ten working days."

This lady could have informed me they'd be sending me a dead mackerel in the mail after telling me I wasn't liable for the $8,427.00 some jerk(s) had just charged to my name and I still would have sent her a birthday present.   I was one very relieved person.

I've got some clean up work to do on line, but so far the experience has been relatively painless.  I have no idea if a restaurant server out of sight with my card made a copy, or if a card reader had been installed on a gas pump.  Someone, somewhere had the numbers in hand to make my life miserable for a while and I have no idea how they got them.

I may never know how some criminal element came up with my card, but I am I'm relieved that I don't have to come up with $8,427.00 to pay for someone else's vacation.  I'm also grateful for the calm voice on the other end of the telephone who simultaneously soothed and informed me, thereby keeping me from becoming a cautionary tale to other customer service reps.

                  Thank you faceless, nameless professional...you really made my day.

                                                             Life is Good

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Law of Unintended Consequences

               Sunshine…it lifts the spirits and brightens the day; don’t get enough sunshine  and you just might become depressed. We all get an important vitamin from that glowing ember, sometimes supplementing with a pill to keep those all-important levels of vitamin D where they’re supposed to be.

                In my long ago childhood the sun seemed white hot, and I remember being a happy cowgirl during the long, humid days of summer.  The neighborhood kids would yell from the street, and I’d strap on my Dale Evans holster and off I’d go.  Cowboys and Indians and bad guys and good guys, racing around the neighborhood on bikes till the street lamps came on.  Then, red skinned and ravishingly hungry, we’d go in to eat before running back outside to play hide and seek in the dark.  Not a worry in the world, and it wasn't really summer until you had a sunburn…now that’s a childhood!  

               Before long we were a neighborhood of teen agers. Never mind sunscreen, in those days we slathered on baby oil to heat up the frying process and make the burn more even.   My pasty skinned girl-friends and I added iodine to the baby oil, alternating with applications of Coppertone, we'd stretch out in the sun for as long as we could stand it.   Tanning was a healthy, golden kiss; the look every teenage girl and shirtless boy strove for.  Summer stretched before us and it smelled like a warm macaroon.  We knew the sun was our friend.

                 Smiling and thinking back over those long-ago years I remember the faces, the freckles and nicknames.  What a great bunch of kids to grow up with.  They’ve all scattered to the wind, but I bet we still have a lot in common. The law of unintended consequences has likely knocked at the door of many of my old friends.  I know it has visited me several times.

               Like so many things in my life experience I’ve enjoyed too much of a good thing.  My yearly trip to the dermatologist has turned up yet another spot of skin cancer.  Where did I get this one?   Was I drawing down on a bad guy with my trusty cap gun, or could it have been while I was talking to my BFF while stretched out in the back yard on a beach towel?  Maybe it was a combination of too much time on the ball field and too many afternoons at the pool…hard telling.  It’s my fourth go-round, and if I live to a really ripe old age it likely won’t be my last.  The bad thing is you can’t personally undo ‘too much of a good thing’; you need a surgeon to try to do that.

             If you’re reading this before you keep an appointment at the tanning salon….don’t go.  If you’re leaving for a month in Florida and you don’t want to bother packing sunscreen, pick it up first thing when you arrive in the sunshine state.   Today’s damage was done many years ago, and you can’t go back.  What you can do is try to prevent more damage going forward by using sun screen as part of your daily routine.  Consider this a public service announcement from someone who has always learned things the hard way, if at all.

          I wish you lots of sunshine in your life…just not the kind that causes skin damage!

                                                                     Life is Good

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Staying in Touch

The day before Thanksgiving finds me where it has for many years…in the kitchen.  Looking at all the stacks of pots and pans takes me back to so many holidays before.  In the early days of our marriage I spent the day before feasts trying to decipher a recipe I most likely found in Woman’s Day or Good Housekeeping.  The holiday tables would be full of my mom’s and mother in law’s excellent cooking; their signature dishes center stage.  My contribution was small and usually not very memorable.

As for my mom, the holiday dish she was best known for was her delicious pumpkin cake.  We always joked that it served as our youngest daughter, Tracy’s, birthday cake as well as her Thanksgiving specialty.  Moist and sweet and topped with a cream cheese icing that was to die for, mom’s pumpkin cake was the favorite of most of our clan.  I think the recipe  originally came from my aunt's sister.   From there it was adopted and adapted by my grandmother. Knowing how much I liked it, pumpkin cake became something she always made when I visited.  Eventually mom made the cake, her favorite too, and so it became a constant on our holiday table.

Mother in law, Katie, always made oyster dressing for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I realized soon after the wedding that my new husband didn’t think it was a holiday without the smell of that dressing filling the house.  Katie tried her best to teach me to make it, but my first solo attempt looked like a baking dish of tree moss.  She helped me fine tune it by limiting the amount of sage she let me put into the mixing bowl.  Over the years I got better at it, but to have good oyster dressing you had to have it in Katie’s kitchen.

The years have passed and today I’m in the kitchen alone recreating these two dishes in honor of the two women I loved dearly.   I reluctantly learned to make mom’s pumpkin cake a few years ago when cooking became too frustrating for her.  The last Thanksgiving of her life my daughter, Wendy, and I took all the ingredients to mom’s house to make the cake under her “supervision”.   We encouraged her to stir a little and watch us as we put it together, and hoped she’d feel more included in the holidays.  From that time on it fell to me to lovingly make the cake that still celebrates our many holidays together. 

I finally mastered Katie’s oyster dressing, too.  I’ve found shortcuts to make the outcome more predictable, and learned that sage is a spice best used sparingly.  The smell of oyster dressing fills our home and brings back happy memories of holidays spent at Katie’s house.

I must have watched mom make her cake a hundred times.  I still go thru the steps she took, even the ones I don’t understand, and the cake seems to be a winner every time.  How I’d like to turn to her and ask, “Now, why are we boiling these raisins again?”.   Didn’t occur to me when she was making it, but I’m not going to try to improve on perfection.

I didn’t even know I liked oysters till I had oyster dressing at my mother-in-law’s house the first time.  I was nervous about trying it, but it was love at first bite.  Digging into that casserole reminds me of heaps of buttered mashed potatoes, steaming pots of goulash and stuffed peppers.  Kate was a quantity cooker, always prepared to feed her big family and all the friends they brought home.  The food was hearty and plentiful, and her smile constant.

Snapping the big mixing bowl from my KitchenAid mixer I remember mom stirring cake batter till her shoulders ached.  “I can have this done before I can find all the parts to my hand mixer…” she’d say.  Chopping the onions and celery for oyster dressing I remember being in Kate’s kitchen before the holidays where she would have slices of bread drying on every kitchen surface to make dressing the next day.  How lucky I am to have had such wonderful women in my life, and how fortunate I was to share a kitchen with them from time to time.

There are two important ingredients in these two dishes that were a constant then and still are today.  They are thankfulness and love.  I make them every year with that thought in mind.  This year once again I will look around the table, smell the delicious dishes, and send up a prayer of gratitude for everyone who is there today and the loving faces we miss so much.

                                                                         Life is Good

Monday, October 23, 2017

New and Improved.....Again?

Here’s a question that plagues me:  If company’s want us to practice “brand loyalty” why don’t they make the same things two years in a row, so we can become invested in the product?

This morning I used the last of a small pot of eye shadow that I’ve had for some time.  I like the shade, the texture and the wear ability of this product.   In spite of that, I won’t bother going back to the makeup counter because I’m sure since I purchased this small container the color palette for eye shadows has changed a hundred times and has been “new and improved” just as often.  The only way to beat the system is to buy six of anything you like because you’ll never find it again.

Before “branding” came to mean top of the mind awareness for the company and not the product things were much simpler.  I remember mom always bought Ivory soap.  We didn’t know who made it, but it had to be Ivory soap because it was 99.9% pure (pure what we didn’t question) and it doubled as a bath toy because it floated.  My mom was susceptible to that advertising because her blue-eyed, blonde haired little girl (namely me) developed skin rashes just my saying the words.  Ivory soap never changed; I can still the delightfully creamy scent and see the blue and white wrapper in my mind’s eye today. 

Another must have at our house was Prell shampoo.   What was not to love?  It was shamrock green liquid in an hour-glass bottle.  I remember the time they put a plastic pearl in the bottle and it moved around in the lovely green liquid as mom poured the shampoo onto my hair.  Now that’s marketing. 

Today everything is new and improved, bigger and thicker and faster, battery operated and less fattening.  The packaging changes all the time; often I’ll overlook something I want to buy because it doesn’t look familiar.  I can’t become attached to a product because it’s gone from the shelves before I have an opinion…good or bad.  In the ancient past we just assumed it was as good as it could ever be, and on the shelf it always looked the same.   My whole childhood was one, long, Ivory soap commercial.

With all the problems we have today this isn’t an earth-shattering change…. just disconcerting.  All those years ago shopping with mom meant picking up the things we always used and trusted.  If there was something written on the packaging, we never knew it.   Today the must-read label information is almost overwhelming…. country of origin, ingredients (listed in order of included amount) and nutritional information.  They want me to know if it’s been produced in a plant that processes peanuts, whether the plastic bottle is PBA free, and if the product can be microwaved.  I’m sure there are other things I could find out if I was just smart enough to decipher the small print.  Oh, and don’t forget to check your product alerts before you go shopping so you don’t buy something that’s been recalled for some life-threatening reason.

Whether or not you believe life was better in the “good old days” you must agree life was simpler because we were simpler.  We believed what we were told about products and we stuck with them year after year.  I don’t necessarily think I want to go back to those days, I just want to be able to buy an item I like and know it will be there when I return next week.   Well, that and I want my soap to float……

                                                                Life is Good


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Home Again


Having a new puppy is very much like welcoming a new baby.   There is a great deal of excitement as the time for the date approaches.  Do we have what we need?   Bed…. dishes…. food…. treats…. what should we name the new arrival??    Finally, the day comes when you bring your new family member home.  Then it’s all smiles and cuddles and chuckles until the dog settles in.

Larry and I brought Maddie (half Yorkie, half Chihuahua) home about a month ago.   Her first couple of days she stayed cuddled on my lap, looking up at me with those big, liquid, puppy eyes.  What a piece of cake, I thought.   This dog is peaceful by nature, quiet as a mouse, and she sleeps a lot.   What more could I ask of an eight-week-old creature?

Fast forward one month. 

Our originally-pretty-but-now-ugly baby gate, woven with fabric and duct tape and zip ties, still won’t contain the hound as she runs through the house as if her closely bobbed tail were on fire.  We’ve become programmed to take her out to the same spot every hour in the hope she’ll pick up her own scent and realize this is THE spot to do her business.   Unfortunately, the spot she has adopted for this purpose is immediately in front of our dishwasher.

After much discussion, we are still convinced it’s best to crate train our new housemate and, uncharacteristically, we’ve managed to stick to that.  (Usually by this time in our relationship the puppy is taking up more than his/her share of our king-sized bed.)   Every night we tuck her into her kennel, where she vocalizes into the wee hours.   For a month now she has sung the song of her people, howling for the mistreatment of puppies everywhere, all night long.

Today my normal routine consists of getting up around five, grabbing a cup of coffee and rescuing Maddie from the crate.   The moment she’s free of the cage she goes into a deep sleep, so the next couple of hours till dawn I sit with her in my lap trying to make my coffee last and wishing I’d grabbed the remote before settling in.   If I move now she will wake up, I’ll have to take her out and risk having her slip her harness and disappear into the darkness.  And so, I sit nursing a half cup of cold coffee, trying not to disturb the sleeping puppy, while struggling to reach a magazine on the floor with my toes. Just. One. More. Inch.  Darn!!

I keep telling myself we’re only a month into this new living arrangement.   One positive is that she will get older and with that will come some form of calm and understanding on her part.   One negative is that I, too, am getting older and with that comes a lot less patience and stamina on my part.  

She is adorable, and often enjoyable, and always energetic.  Just like childbirth you must forget the pain or you’d never do it again, so I will focus on the innocent eyes, the puppy breath and the pitter patter of four little feet.   My defense wounds from fighting off her puppy play and sharp puppy teeth will heal.   She hasn’t done a lot of damage, but the next time I’m in a department store I’ll need to pick up a new pack of golf socks.  For some reason, I have only one each of four different colored pairs left intact.

It’s a big commitment, and just like having a baby, you’re all in or you’re all out.   Understanding that, I’ve decided the early morning with her snuggled in my lap is a great time to be quiet and listen to my own thoughts.  She’s an addition to our exercise program, because the necessity of frequent trips outside makes both of us move more, and that’s a good thing.  Watching her learn about this new world around her makes us laugh, and seeing the trust growing in her eyes gives me a feeling of accomplishment.  

 As aggravating as it can sometimes be I know it’s time well spent; our little Maddie will be a good family friend for a lot of years.  More importantly, if there’s a takeaway from having a puppy it must be this:  it’s not what you say, but what you do that makes a difference.

                                                                Life is Good