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  


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It's a Dogs Life

If you’re a dog lover you know how difficult it is to let go of a long time, four-legged, family member.  That’s just what my husband and I had to do last month with our 17-year-old Yorkie, Molly. Just like every family dog on the planet, Molly was unique.  She was loving and long suffering and spoiled rotten…and we loved her. 

Larry and I find ourselves at the stage of life where many couples don’t take on another furry friend.  The adage, “Life begins when the kids move out and the dog dies”, is very true.  For just a moment the thought crossed our minds that this might be the doorway to the freedom years.  No more waiting in the rain for a dog to complete its mission…no more bounding out of bed to the unmistakable sound of a dog hiking up a hair ball, or a dead mouse, or whatever disgusting thing it’s digestive tract might be expelling.   Tempting……

The siren song of freedom lasted exactly two days.   That’s how long it took our girls to take their mother on a puppy hunting mission.  And guess what?   We found one.

Enter Madison…. Maddy….3.2 pounds of Chorkie attitude.  This eight week old ball of fire, half Yorkie and half Chihuahua, charged into our lives to remind us how pleasant life actually is with an older dog.  No long adjustment period for this gal; she immediately began tearing through the house at breakneck speed as she explored every inch of carpet and happily christened half of it.

We had promised ourselves not to make the same mistakes we made with Molly, so Maddie is being crate trained.  In truth it sounds more like crate torture because she screams most of the night.  The only pay off seems to be that her exhausting nights keep her sleeping much of the day…. a side effect I can live with.

To corral the critter, we went on line to find a reasonably attractive baby gate to use until she is trained.  After carefully measuring we decided on the expensive, but less obnoxious, wood and metal version with a door in it. The thought was we would let her sleep in the kitchen, allowing her to come and go from the crate, thus giving her the feeling she had her own little “home”.  Isn’t that sweet?  As we patted ourselves on the back for this great plan after finding and installing this piece of art, Maddie walked right through the bars and stood watching our progress from the other side.

Not to be outdone, Larry squared his shoulders as he headed to the basement to find something to help us out.   He returned with a roll of fine, plastic screen which we carefully wove through the wooden bars to create a particularly ugly barrier.  Maddy climbed over the screen.   A second layer of screen blocked the bars entirely, but it wasn’t until the next morning we discovered she could weasel her way between the carefully woven layers.   I found her blissfully asleep in a pair of my husband’s athletic shoes under his desk in the den.
Without adding barbed wire I can't see a useful future for this gate.  Until further discussion it will remain where it is, flapping uselessly in the tail wind created as Maddie blows thru the kitchen at warp speed.  This useless piece of equipment gives our kitchen the look of someone preparing for a terrorist attack, but it is what it is.

Maddie-2, Humans-0

Three weeks into this experiment in forming a new family unit we are enjoying a vigorous exercise program that consists of taking Maddie out every hour, chasing her down and clearing her mouth of mulch, and fending off her little shark teeth (I clipped her fish hook toenails). 

Like the pain of childbirth, I know the pain of housebreaking and training will pass.  I will forget the gnawed shoes and the ravaged socks, and my defense wounds will heal.  There will come a time in the months ahead when it will no longer be necessary to type with one hand and fend the dog off with the other.  And, best of all, I won’t have to keep the carpet cleaner on speed dial.  This too, in time, shall pass as I keep my eye on the prize.

It is my nature to reflect on the events of my life, and I’ve decided the challenge of adjusting to a new puppy is just a short story about life.  You cannot replace a loved one, but you need to move on.  It will be painful at first…but like breaking in a pair of shoes the new normal becomes more comfortable with time.  Like it or not, pain and joy is the cycle of life.  Add to that puppy breath and you know things are going to be just fine.

                                                                    Life is Good

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hermetically Sealed

Of all the things I miss about the time in which I grew up, I miss the packaging most.  Yes, the packaging.   In simpler times, we didn't wrestle with childproof caps, tamper proof shrink wrap, vegetables and foods sealed into bags that would withstand rocket re-entry from a moon voyage.  No! Caps twisted, popped and bags zipped open with ease....sigh.

This all came to a head this morning as I struggled to open a bottle of rice vinegar.  The screw off cap seemed to be quite enough protection to me.  (After all, the terrorist warning codes for vinegar haven't been elevated in months.) The inner plastic block with a round rubber pull-ring seemed over the top.  It is, after all, vinegar.  Of course, the pull ring broke, leaving me with two options.  One: find a very sharp, thin bladed knife and dig the whole thing out or, two: get dressed, get into the car and drive to one of our local football-field sized grocery stores to look for more.  I opted for the first, all the while cursing the people who work overtime to come up with the impenetrable packaging that protects us all from those who would foul our vinegars.

These small aggravations always make me think how unnecessary this stuff was in my youth.  I guess one might glean from todays security measures that people are more inclined to tamper with food or steal things nowadays.  I've read a few stories about tampering with food and OTC drugs, and I understand the bulky, uncooperative packaging of so many items is to make theft more difficult.  This wasn't something necessary to keep me on the straight and narrow when I was a kid, because I had the greatest deterrent to theft ever known to the world....a fully engaged mom.

I am not looking back at my childhood with rose colored glasses, lots of kids has "sticky fingers" back then, too.  I remember some girls bragging about shop lifting; they considered it a sport.  I asked one girl, sporting a freshly acquired cashmere sweater, how she accounted for a stack of things that didn't belong to her.  Her response was her mom didn't pay any attention, and if she did notice the girl just said she had borrowed it from a friend.  No problem.

Here is just one of the ways my life was different from those gals: boy did my mom did pay attention!  If, on some sunny Monday afternoon, my mom had been filling my dresser drawer with freshly washed, Montgomery Ward cotton underwear and her fingers had struck a vein of cashmere she would have investigated immediately.  Her mom-radar would have locked onto anything that had not come through our front door under her watchful eye.  She knew what I owned, how much it cost, and what my babysitting money had been used for.  In true Mom fashion, could also detect a lie before it crossed my stuttering lips; if she had identified a stolen item I guarantee the woman would have marched my shameful butt right back to the store to return it. It never would have crossed her mind that I might have been embarrassed and scarred for life; no excuse would have changed my fate. In addition, I'd have been grounded so long she might have missed out on grandchildren altogether!

We certainly weren't rich, but I had the luxury of a stay-at-home, dinner-on-the-table, full-time parent.  She wasn't Donna Reed or Harriet Nelson....but she did her job so well I was shocked to discover how tough her career choice had been when my own kids came along. We need more fully engaged moms and dads today, an army of parents armed with love and expectations!

Next time you're struggling to open a vinegar bottle, or free a cd case from its three-foot square, shrink-wrapped block of plastic, or locate someone in the store who can open a locked case so you can buy a phone cord, remember this:  When we don't have the security of enough fully engaged moms and dads, we must make up for it in other ways.

It's a different time and a different world, but the need for parents who pay attention has never been greater.  Hold your kids accountable...and hold them close to your heart.  Let them know you’re on the job, because it's the only way to teach your kids the things that stay with them for a lifetime.

                                                               Life is Good


Monday, July 24, 2017

The New Continental Breakfast: Politics and Hashbrowns

This morning, like most Monday mornings, my husband and I met a group of neighbors for breakfast.  Although we’ve moved from our old neighborhood, these are people with whom we keep in touch because we like them. 

Like most weeks the discussion eventually wound up on politics.  Understand, this is a diverse group.  We have feminists, democrats, republicans, concealed carry advocates, vegetarians, and one person who is politically confused…that would be me.

Sometimes the discussion gets lively.  Other times, like today, the conversation might be full of dismay.  It’s never dull, it’s hardly ever shrill, and it sometimes changes the way I look at things because I come away with someone else’s viewpoint to measure against my own.   In short…it’s healthy.

As the coffee pot made the rounds we talked about how politics had become so volatile, severing friendships and dividing families.   For me, I can honestly say many of my long-term friends have been in my life without my ever knowing (or caring) what their politics are.   Every now and then a badge or bumper sticker might show up, there might be some ribbing associated with it, and then the subject was dropped to discuss more important things like kids, house repair and vacations.   I don’t attribute this to the fact that I only associate with politically and intellectually lazy people, I know it to be quite the opposite.

Today it is so easy to be angry; each television channel and radio broadcast is filled with political rants and venomous attacks on every political figure and everyone with whom they’ve ever had a conversation.  The internet is filled with misinformation, ugliness and hatred.  People aren’t just convinced they’re right, they are foaming at the mouth right!  Do unto others has been amended to ‘do it to them first’.  As we left the restaurant I had to pause and wonder how such a group as ours could meet each week and not end up in a food fight.    

Somehow our little group does okay, and I think I have it figured out.  I like these people, and I know them.  Despite any political differences we have I believe I could ask for help from any one of them and they would reach out a hand just as I would for them.  I believe when they make a decision it is based upon a good moral character and a kind heart.  We have a great deal in common; love of family, home and community. The fact that we may differ politically does nothing to convince me that these are anything but good people.  I respect their right to disagree with me, and their opinions more than anything I see on Face Book, in a right/left wing newscast, and more than any political ad.  For the most part we listen to one another, and while we haven’t had an “conversions” we sometimes leave the table with more than we had.  

Unfortunately, our breakfasts won’t cure the problems of this shaking, quaking country or calm the nerves of its citizens.  But, for half a dozen people enjoying breakfast and conversation, it gives us a look into the thoughts and lives of neighbors with whom we may not always agree, but always welcome with care and respect.   It’s a start.

                                                              Life is Good


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Surviving the C+ Mom

Having a good Mother is a wonderful thing...being a good mother is quite another.   My children are grown and I am watching them raise families of their own now.  Each of the three is half of a team of very good parents...two of the three are mom's.  This particular blog posting is to remind them what good mothers they are in spite of the very "I'm only human" woman who raised them.  

I married quite young; it seems to me I went from cuddling a Betsy Wetsy doll to the real thing over night.  We had three babies in three years, and overwhelmed became my middle name.

Our son was born April 24th of our second year of marriage.  The middle daughter was born August 27th of the following year, and a second baby girl arrived November 26th the year after that.  At least I think so.

While everyone was tiny I managed with a production line approach to most things.  Like three little ducklings they followed me from room to room, and when they didn't I knew they were conspiring against me and destroying property.  Feeding, bathing and dressing were all done together...keep the line moving, was my motto.

The real tricky thing became finding time for each child, just 'me and thee' time to do some important parental bonding.  And of course, we always made each one feel special on his or her birthday.

The birthday boy or girl got to choose their favorite meal for dinner, and there was always a special birthday cake, and ice cream, and gifts, and doting grandparents.  Birthdays were a very special day, indeed.

Eventually everyone was in school and life with little ones slowed a bit, but  now a full time job in addition to family life kept the pace healthy.  At some point our middle daughter needed her birth certificate for a long forgotten reason, so I went to the family album to fish it out. To her horror (and my embarrassment) we had been celebrating her birthday on the wrong date for years.  The August 27th And November 28th..or was it November 27th and August 28th?   Whatever...I had been doing it wrong.   That means the piƱata had been hung on the wrong date, the Barbie doll cake devoured at the wrong time.  Even the cupcakes had gone to school for the class treat on, you guessed it, the wrong day.

In my defense,  I'm not a total wash out....I get their ages right and the month is solid.  It's just that stinking 26-27 or 28 that gets me every doggoned time.

The years have passed and I'm happy to say my daughter has forgiven me.  The whole family was together to celebrate her brother's birthday last month, and she made it a point to tell me I should just forgive myself for my birthday date faux pas.   "After all, was only the first eight or ten developmental years of my life," she reminded me.  Such a sweet girl!  I'll have to come up with something really special for her birthday this year...on a date in August that will be announced later.

Happy Mother's Day to my  two beautiful daughters, Wendy and Tracy and my wonderful daughter in law, Carla.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Roughing It

Just this past weekend I had the honor of doing an interview with a vibrant, interesting woman who hiked the Appalachian Trail. (The article will appear in the July/August edition of Heart of Ohio Magazine.) She completed the over 2,000 mile hike and has been sharing her story with groups and in articles written by wimpy people like me who enjoy spending a couple of hours living vicariously through her experiences. Talking with her about her four and a half month meander through the wilderness made me think seriously about what it would take to do something like that.

In truth I think I'm roughing it if I find I've arrived at the grocery store without my cell phone. The thought of hiking over rocks, up mountains and down into ravines...of traversing narrow trails and watching for bears without a weapon (or an armed guard) is more than a little unnerving. As the story of this woman's adventure unfolded I realized I will am much better off staying in my comfortable seat and be part of the admiring audience. I'm just a city girl.

Think for just a moment of four and a half months without a chair to sit in, a bed to sleep in or a refrigerator to rummage through. Ten days between showers, wearing the same clothes for days on end and knowing everything you have with you fits into your back pack requires a self confidence I can't seem to muster. I carry more stuff in my handbag when I go to the movies than this woman carried into the wilderness; the more she talked the more I felt like Private Benjamin. (Goldie Hawn: “I wanted to join the other army, the one with the condos”)

Don't get me wrong, I'm not helpless. I can fix a kitchen sink with a nail file...but if I break a nail in the process I'm down for the count. Four and a half months without a hairdresser is cruel and inhuman punishment and, while I don't consider myself to be high maintenance, I think all that time without a facial would be pretty rough. After a day of walking twenty miles through the hill country, munching on beef jerky and trying to avoid being downwind of your companions, I would need more than a sleeping bag in a three sided shelter or a pup tent to prepare me for the next day.

I really was mesmerized by her story, and I listened intently as she spoke about the beauty of the countryside, the joy of discovering the great outdoors and the feeling of self sufficiency that was so satisfying. I am totally in awe of her tenacity and fortitude and, for just a little while, I felt inadequate when I measured myself against the yardstick of her courage and strength. Fortunately, that didn't last long.....

There is a place in this world for each of us. Her place is the brave female explorer who seeks to understand what she is made of. Mine is the bespectacled writer who takes her story to people who will also enjoy hearing about her adventure. I admit it, I'm a woosie whose biggest energy expenditure occurs on the stationary bike at the gym while listening to an audio book. At the end of the day I look forward to a glass of wine and a memory foam mattress...snap on the ceiling fan and life gets even better. Most of my enjoyment of the great outdoors comes from watching the Smithsonian Channel; it's likely to be the closest I'll ever get to a mountain trail or an ancient ruin. So be it.

Thank you Patty Stechschulte for sharing your story with me and allowing me to put it on paper to share with our readers. You keep exploring and I'll keep writing...your personal rewards will be great, but I get to wear prettier shoes.

                                                                Life is Good

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Here kitty, kitty.....

It was late and I was locking up, getting ready to head off to bed.  As I snapped the lock on the basement door I heard a kitten crying.   I opened the door, snapped on the basement light; hearing nothing I decided it must have been outdoors.

My regular morning rush consists of packing my lunch, raking a comb through my hair and getting my third cup of coffee into a travel mug.  I stood by the basement door, ready to launch, when I heard it again.   A kitten mewing…but this time I knew it was in the basement.

This is the point in my story that I have to confess to being a dog person.  There are cat people, dog people, and a variety of other types; I am a dog person.  The only Cats I've ever enjoyed I saw on Broadway.

I put down my lunch bag, my travel mug, my huge purse and a slice of toast.  Tiptoeing to the basement door I eased it open; the stairwell acted as the sound conductor for a series of tiny mews.  There was a cat in the basement…there should not be a cat in the basement of a dog person.

I called to my husband aand proceeded to head downstairs to look for the source of the sound.  Quickly I discovered the cat was litter trained.  A box of white sand I brought back from Florida to put around some houseplants had served the purpose.   Drats!

Searching for the cat, Larry went one way and I the other.  Finally I saw something move, then jump to the window sill. 

A kitten, probably two or three months old, was pressed against the glass trying to escape. It was black as coal, its eyes were matted closed and it definitely had not had an easy life so far.   This was the offspring of one of the literally more than a dozen feral cats that roam the area.   Our neighbor thinks she is being kind, feeding the legion of strays that people drop off in our country setting.  The numbers have continued to grow to an overwhelming wave of stray cats.

Now I stood trying to decide what to do about this one.  It was small, very likely sick, and wild.  I went for my trusty broom, a plan to sweep it out the door forming slowly in my head.

Larry chased the terrified cat behind a stack of picture frames, “Can you grab it from there,?” he said.

“Uh….noooooooo,” I replied.  I mean really…who grabs a stray cat?  

The cat darted under the basement stairs and I swished at it with the broom.  From the laundry room I heard, “Get this off me!”   Larry emerged from a corner with the cat hanging from his right hand!

I grabbed the cats back legs as they flailed around, trying to connect with his arm. 

“Let’s work toward the door, when I get it loose toss it out the door,” I said.

In an “I Love Lucy” shuffle side-step movement we inched our way to the outside door.    I let go of the cat’s legs and pried open his jaws, Larry flung it out the door!  Blood dripped from his hands and seeped from scratches and bites on my own.

Without even seeming to touch the ground the cat shot off into the back yard and never looked back.   Two other large cats stood watching us curiously, then turned their backs and sauntered off into the woods.

As soon as the cat hit the ground I realized we hadn’t thought this through very well.  The cat could have been rabid; at the very least it looked sickly.   Uh-oh.

We trooped upstairs to scrub with antibacterial soap and pour alcohol into the teeth marks and scratches.   I called our family doctor for advice; the nurse agreed that someone should check us out, so we headed to the emergency room.

I felt pretty silly walking into the hospital emergency room to explain we had been attacked by a kitten.  It crossed my mind to embellish my description of the animal, but I thought better of it. 

The PA who tended to us explained that a cat bite/scratch is much more serious than a dog bite.  In addition to the worry of rabies, there is catch scratch fever and some unpleasant infections that can follow an episode like this.   More people are hospitalized from infections from cat bites/scratches than from dog bites/scratches.   Who knew?

Two hours later, antibiotic prescriptions in hand and our freshly administered tetanus shot sites band-aided, we left in search of lunch.

A week later we’ve talked to the health department, they wanted to put an APB out on the black cat……good luck with that.   They also say we might want to consider taking a series of rabies shots;  we’re still kicking that around.  

Like all experiences we have learned something from this….or at least I have.

1.      Never grab a cat.  Never.  Ever.

2.      Nothing in this experience changes the fact that I am a dog person.

3.      If you’re in a tough situation with someone, get your plan straight.

4.      Never use your hands for something you can do with a broom.

                                                        Life is Good



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Appointment

At no time in our history has communication been easier. Cell phones, texting, email, Twitter, Facebook, Skype.....and on and on. It seems to me that my purse is always ringing, and at home I may have two phones demanding my attention at the same time.   Communication...non stop communication.

While most of us generally appreciate the contact with family, friends and acquaintances there is another communication that has taken an ugly turn, and that is with your health professionals. Oh how I miss the days when I made an appointment and never heard another word till I walked through the door of the office.

Today in the world of medical and dental care time is king. It seems we are allotted less and less time with our professionals, more and more time with surrogates. Nurse practitioners, dental hygienists and medical assistants fill the void that now exists as the doctor or dentist moves through his day of fifteen minute appointments at the pace of someone walking a five K with a storm blowing in. Because of this time compressed workday everyone associated with the practice shudders to think you might forget your appointment. This is where the desire for a non-stop system of “communication” comes from.

Last month I had an appointment with my nameless professional, a standing six month check up that has become least for me. I've grown accustomed to the day before reminder; I've always appreciated that. Unfortunately my health care provider seems to have been introduced to some cutting edge technology, and the whole thing has changed.

Two weeks before my scheduled appointment I received a “robo-call” instructing me to push 2 if I planned to keep my upcoming appointment. I pushed “2”, and went on with my life.

The next day I received an email telling me to respond if I planned to keep my scheduled appointment. I ignored this because I had just informed the nice robotic voice yesterday of my commitment by pressing 2.

Three days later I received the same email. I responded “yes” this time since ignoring the last one only got me more email.

Now we are in the week of my scheduled appointment and the whole system steps it up a notch. I received yet another canned phone call telling me if I needed to reschedule my appointment to please do it now. The auto caller went on to explain the financial penalties for missing an appointment without 24 hours notice. Feeling as if I had just been subjected to the Vulcan mind meld, I decided 24 hours notice was probably unnecessary. This system seemed to be tracking their patients with everything except ankle bracelet monitors, so I'm pretty sure they could fill my empty fifteen minutes in record time. Anyway, since I had already tried to reassure everyone by phone (please press 2) and by email (please respond in the positive) that I DO plan to make the appointment and did NOT need to reschedule, I reluctantly hung up on the robot.

Next day I get another email....which I also ignored.

Not to be outdone, the day before my actual appointment I get a reminder call from a real person. I assured the nice young lady that I really, really planned to be at my appointment the next day. I also told her that they could call off the robots, shut down the email blasts, and call back any drones they may have sent out searching for me. I would be there. I hung up convinced there are people being stalked who hear from their tormentors less frequently than some poor schmuck with a medical appointment.

I guess technology has taken over every corner of our society, however I personally I think this intensive system of “reminding” needs to be reserved for husbands who forget anniversaries and deadbeats who owe you money.

Press 2 if you agree with me......

                                                         Life is Good

Thursday, January 5, 2017

No change is Good Change

Here we are, starting another brand new year.  Some of us look ahead with dread, after all it's been a tumultuous year politically and every other way.  Still, some look ahead to what they believe will be better times.  Either way many of us march into the New Year with a list of personal changes tucked firmly under an arm.   Ladies and Gentlemen….I give you the dreaded New Year’s resolution.

Like every adult in the U.S.A. I’ve made more than my share of them, and my New Year’s resolutions have included but are not limited to:

I will lose ten pounds (or twenty or fifty)
I will stop smoking (which I did many years ago without the help of a New Year’s resolution)
I will be more patient (generous, tolerant, attentive, etc)
I will work harder (or not as hard)
I will learn to ski (or roller skate, or sing, or play the harmonica or something)
I will stop swearing (cough)
I will spend more time with (put the name here of someone who drives me nuts and I consciously avoid a minimum of 364 days each year) and I will be kind.

That's certainly not a complete list, but you get the picture because like every single adult in America you’ve made them too.

Having shared that list with you I have an important announcement to make:
I NO LONGER MAKE New Year’s resolutions.   Not one….nada….zip….zilch.

I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you it’s because I believe I’ve reached perfection.  I only know that for years now  I have gone into the New Year with one thought…..I am enough.   Perhaps this epiphany has come to me in the form of wisdom at this later stage of life, or perhaps it’s just fatigue, but it’s what I know.

New Year’s resolutions are a search for perfection after we have compared ourselves to others and have been found wanting.   Over the years I’ve gotten past that and I’ve given myself permission to be who I am...a woman aware of her shortcomings and quite comfortable with them, thank you very much.  After wishing to be taller, smarter, more attractive or to find some previously undiscovered talent, I have finally come to this understanding:  I can wear high heels to feel taller, I can read more to learn more, I can comb my hair more often, and I can admire other people’s talents….but I am who and what I am.

Over the years I’ve come to the gradual realization that I am “hard wired” in some areas of my personality, and my belief system has evolved through my life experiences.   I think I have always tried to be the best “me” possible, but trying to be someone I am not is a waste of my gradually diminishing energy.

Who wants to be perfect anyway?  The Kardashians are perfectly famous.  Caitlyn Jenner is perfectly beautiful.  Donald Trump is perfectly ready to be president.  I wouldn’t want to trade places with any of them….would you?

I know I’m flying in the face of tradition here, but I think you should consider joining me in my “no change…no way” mind set.   Check your emotional “basement” to make sure the foundation is secure, and then forget about the rest of it.  Maybe we’re not perfect, but then who is?  

                                        Be who you are….because you are enough.
                                                Happy New Year... Life is good

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Contented Re-gifting

One thing is for sure in this great country of ours....if you live a long time you accumulate a lot of stuff.  Hence the explosion of places where you can rent a space, store your junk, then lock it up and forget  about it.   Then, after paying some ridiculous monthly fee for a couple of years you can revisit your mildewed, melted and unrecognizable...and arrange for the dumpster you should have ordered two years ago.    It's the American way.

When we moved last year I was forced to take a look at my own accumulation of stuff.  It also gave my husband a chance to view my previously hidden stash of scented candles, paper napkins and other things I had squirreled away.   It was not quite ready for an episode of Hoarders, but moving in that direction.  Being the good Mother that  I am I filled the cars of my children, giving them the chance to stash more stuff in their own bulging storage rooms.  It's Moms way.....

It was during this soul-searching purge that I discovered two items that needed to be "re-gifted" to people who didn't know the items existed.   Neither was worth much in the way of money, but both had sentimental value that I wanted to share.

The first item is a small table that belonged to my Mother.   Her brother, my uncle, made the table in a shop class at school before I was born.  It was one of only a few things mom held onto her whole life.  When she died two years ago it was one of only a few things that survived when her house  burned after her death.

My uncle preceded Mom in death by a year or so; eventually his oldest daughter purchased and settled his house.   I thought about her often as her financially and emotionally draining work on the house progressed.  By that time I was going thru my own painful process with mom's belongings, and the little table stared at me from the corner of the basement.

My cousin seemed pleased when I told her about the table; it seemed things had come full circle to have it find a place in my uncle's former home. It took a while to get it to her because we live in different states, but I happily delivered it to her last fall.  I know she will enjoy having it for years to come...the little table is really home now and my mom would be happy about that.

My second re-gifting was just this week.  As a little girl I was always bugging mom's girlfriends for their "old jewelry".   Broken earrings, beads and anything that sparkled filled a little jewelry box I carried around constantly.   It's likely because I badgered her relentlessly, but one of mom's friends, Dorothy,  gave me a bangle bracelet with her "D" initial engraved on it.  It fired a love of monogrammed things I've carried all my life!   I must have been about seven when the stainless steel bracelet joined the treasures in my little jewelry box.

Mom and Dorothy remained friends for the remainder of their lives.  When both could no longer drive they talked on the phone, finally their failing hearing made that impossible, too.  I took Mom to her friends 90th birthday party...Mom being the younger gal by a couple of years.

Suddenly both of these good women are gone, with the two remaining daughters becoming friends on Face Book.  Now, looking through things I rediscovered the bracelet Dorothy had given me over sixty years ago, and I knew it also needed to go home.  This week we got together and I passed the monogrammed bracelet on to Dorothy's daughter, Denise.

To my way of thinking this is the best kind of re-gifting.  These items have gone thru many hands, but they are tied right back to the original gift giver by a ribbon of love.  They will rest happily in their new homes, the memories they have accumulated passed on to their new owners.

                            Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays....Life is Good