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Posts Tagged ‘life’

My life is so upside down at the moment, all I need is to slap some sliced pineapple dotted with a few maraschino cherries on it and call it good. The phone rings incessantly. Dale is a well loved man. It is a tribute to him that so many people care about his well being and wish him well. He is playing a good defensive game, with all of us at the sidelines as his cheerleaders, but eventually, not withstanding a miracle, the cancer will most likely be the victorious opponent. Meanwhile, we support him in any way we can, and try to make each day as memorable as possible to carry us when we no longer have him to create new memories. All in all, a very melancholy, sometime joyous, and totally exhausting rite of passage.

I wonder often, as I have been in this same position twice in three years, why some humans have to suffer before moving on. Why when our time is done here on earth, we couldn’t simply drift out in a poof of glistening, fragrant, smoke evaporating seamlessly into the hereafter. “What is the purpose of the pain?”, I ask before going to bed each night, but as yet I have received no answer.

Today was the first day of fall actually feeling like the season had arrived. The sky is slightly overcast, with gray clouds block the sun at regular intervals suggesting the storm predicted to be on it’s way. According to the weatherman, the expected rainfall is not by way of a blockbuster, providing torrential downpours, but rather a trickle as opposed to a a steady flow. As dry as we are here on the west coast any precipitation at all is a cause for celebration at this point, so we’ll take it. Bring it on I say.

As I’ve said ad nauseam at this point, I live in a very small house. It is a sweet, and seductively cozy house, but was I to describe it, certainly spacious would never be an adjective I’d employ. Built in the 1930’s, there is no garage. I downsized considerably when moving here after selling my house. That being said, even with sluffing off a lot of household possessions, I still had more than I had room for. To avoid paying additional monies out every month for storage, my son-in-law built me a storage shed in the back yard to store my overflow in. Needless to say, I have filled that area up quite nicely. There are two things I really miss in this house when comparing it to my previous. First, as I said, a garage, and I also miss my large capacity side by side refrigerator. Yesterday at Costco I spied one the size of Rhode Island. This monster was equipped with enough room top and bottom to store a whole human should the need arise. Let’s face it, it is getting towards Halloween, and one never knows when such a situation might come up. For a mere $3,100, I could have had that puppy delivered. For a moment, just a blissful moment, I teetered on the brink of contemplating ownership of that bad boy, before gathering my senses and better judgement together and deciding to leave the store without regret. Driving the route towards my house, I kept imagining the glorious abandon of having ample room to store leftovers without having to generate a flow chart and make unfortunate decisions about what container was to be saved, and which ones fate was to be written at the bottom of my kitchen trash bin. When I came home, I rearranged my small freezer for the fourteenth time in two days and reminded myself to find my grateful space and remain in it until I got over it. Still there.

Aside from turning the thermostat from cool to heat, it is also time to switch out my closet from summer clothes to warmer wear. This, I have to say, is a project I detest. “Susie, old girl”, I told myself as I schlepped one plastic bin after another back and forth from the shed to the house, “you have wayyyyyyy too may clothes”. I do love clothes. Can’t lie. I blame my mother for this. If she was standing here and I said that, she wouldn’t even defend the statement. Always, my mother was a fashion plate. Never did I see her disheveled or unkempt. He outfits were coordinated from the tips of her earlobes all the way down to the glistening shine on the nails on her toes. Her hair was styled weekly, and remained in that style until the following week when it was washed and styled again, and cut and colored as needed. My mother’s hair has always been a bit of a “thing” in our family. Literally, it was something to be admired and revered. As if an entity unto itself, we weren’t allowed to touch it or get it wet. Once, at a summer party, my mother accidentally backed into the deep end of my daughter’s pool disappearing under water. When she arose from the dark abyss like Phoenix from the ashes, her “do” was dripping limply in her face. We were all so shocked to see her like that, and yes a bit terrified, nobody moved to help her for a minute until she suggested someone needed to do so. That, shall we say, literally doused that evening’s plans and an emergency appointment had to be secured at the local salon the following day to repair the damage. I see you shaking your heads. Every family has it’s thing that places that seed of dread when mentioned, ours just happens to be my mother’s coiffure. What can I say?

nClothes came in a close second to hair. Mother had work clothes, play clothes, evening clothes, spring clothes, summer clothes, fall clothes, winter clothes, and shoes, oh, the shoes. Once, I counted sixty-five pairs in her closet. That was her all time record as far as I know. They were excellent quality, the lady had taste, and my stepfather I’m sure probably had no idea what the price tag of this stiletto collection actually amounted to. When hats were fashionable, the top of her closet was lined with colorful hat boxes. Inside could be found all manner of head wear, some of the small pillbox variety that perched on top of your head, others larger and covering more cranial space, some had veils, others without, and each was purchased with an outfit hanging somewhere in her closet. When she was gone at work, I would sometimes open the closet door and model some of the lovely creations inside in front of her full length mirror. Later when grown, she told me she knew I was doing this because I never put them back the way she might have, but she thought it was sweet so allowed me to continue. Whew, dodged a bullet there.

Since work is no longer a place I go to every day my work clothes have been donated or handed down to friends, and my closet mainly consists these days of play clothes. I have stacks of jeans, shorts, sweaters, blouses, tee shirts and sweatshirts. It’s rare these days I get dressed up. Where am I going? The Queen hasn’t stopped by for tea in years. People at the market, at least up here in our area, sometimes show up to shop in there pajamas, so a dress code is really not in play around here. It’s not like my social life has been abuzz with activity over the past five years. When Rick and I had the restaurant, I had a whole closet of dresses. We were in the restaurant most nights, so had to look like we were somewhat professional. Those too have disappeared in a bin somewhere with only a few stragglers left in reserve for weddings, funerals, or the occasional big night out.

I remember when I was little I had to get “dressed up” for church. My feet were held in check in the dreaded Mary Janes. Bunnies or ducks adored my ankles on the fold of my crisp white socks, and a hat was sometimes tied under my chin for good measure. Being more of a tomboy than a girlie girl, for me this was tantamount to being tied to a chair and given Chinese water torture. My grandmother never attended church in anything but a dress or a suit. Always there was a hat, usually with a veil pulled over her forehead, to accompany her outfit. A pair of gloves was either in her purse or covering her hands, and over her shoulder, in the winter months at least, was draped her fox stole. I never warmed up to that particular garment, largely because the foxes used to create it were still attached to it. To me it always looked frightening and smelled a little gamey, but to ladies of the time it was quite the deal. Each generation has their nuances, I’m glad that one didn’t slop over on ours down the road.

At any rate, I have managed to switch the closet. Sooooo glad that job is behind me. I took all the extra junk from the shed I didn’t need, and piled it into my car and went to the dump to dispose of it. What a fragrant and messy place that must be to work. All that aroma in one place sort of gets my stomach to turning. I’m not good with strong smells. Even those stores in the mall dedicated to fragrant soaps, perfumes, scented candles, and the like, make me feel like revisiting my lunch. I’ve always known I wouldn’t be the ideal candidate for nursing school or a nursery attendant. I remember when changing my own children’s diapers I had to use one hand, reserving the other one for plugging my nostrils. Ah well, each of us has different things in our makeup to contend with, that is mine.

At least I’m feeling so much lighter for now until, of course, I get new junk to replace that which I threw away. For today, however, I feel light as a feather, at least when it comes to possessions. At this crossroad in my world, I will take the highs when and where I can get therm.

Have a lovely fall day!! Talk soon.

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Recently I spent the night at a dear friend’s house on the way home from visiting my son in the Bay Area. Her house, a gorgeously appointed home, reminds me of an aerie. It sits perched high on a hill offering up a view of the San Jose valley stretching all the way to the Santa Cruz mountains. Typical of such a nest, birds seem to be visible anywhere you look. This, most likely due to the multiple bird feeders dangling from the branches of the prolific fruit trees lining the property. While sitting on her patio, it would not be unexpected to have a hummingbird stop by to check out who is hiding behind the sunglasses you are wearing, It’s a favorite hangout of mine. When I visit, we begin our days seated across the counter from one another in her bright, welcoming kitchen. There we discuss shared interests such as cooking and art, solve the world’s problems, and generally catch up on family news. While seated at that counter she has tried and failed miserably on numerous occasions to teach me to crochet. Crocheting is something she is exceptionally gifted at, and I, as my track record will attest, am not. This we always do over a cup of hot tea, served properly in a delicate china cup and saucer. Like me, she was born in Canada. You’d never catch a traditional Canadian serving tea in a mug. She was born on the west coast, namely British Columbia, while I arrived in the world all the way to the east in Nova Scotia. Though we’ve both kept a lot of the basic substance that makes us Canadian, she migrated to the U.S. as an adult, instead of coming here as a child as I did. Perhaps because of this, she has retained more of the Canadian colloquialisms in her speech. Eh, comes up often in her conversations, where in my case, you would rarely here me say it.

Cleaning up after dinner, I noticed her washing out a resealable bag. I asked why she would not just toss it in the trash. I didn’t think it would be a hardship for her to purchase a new box of bags should she run out. She explained, though financially comfortable at this time in her life, she grew up, as she put it, “church poor”. The clothes she wore were either hand me downs from her older sister, often missing a button or sporting a jelly stain on the collar, or something picked up at the church rummage sales formally worn by someone else’s child in the congregation. Once, she said, her mother got her a pair of shoes that were several sizes too big. In spite of the fact they didn’t fit her feet properly, she was thrilled because they clop, clop, clopped as she walked along, making her feel very grown up. That being said, she learned not to waste what she was given, lest a replacement wasn’t forthcoming anytime soon. Made me think about how much our childhood experiences are tightly woven into the fabric of our adulthood. Good or bad, our formative years, though they do not define us, do help to shape us into who we are as adults.

It’s funny how all the things we are taught as children seem to stick with us like flies to flypaper throughout our lives. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, but I make my bed every morning before coming out for the day just as I was taught to do in my first tiny bedroom. Traditions honored in our homes growing up, are often carried along with us when we have established homes of our own. Traveling across the U.S. in my earlier years I was privy to a lot of different traditions and ways of doing things. Some which I packed in my bag and brought along with me, others I sampled and left behind. While living in the south and in West Virginia, it wasn’t always possible to travel to the west coast to visit my family when the holidays rolled around. If in town, my husband and I often shared holiday meals with friends and their families living nearby. Traditions clearly illuminate themselves during such occasions. At each household where we enjoyed either a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, their families customs would be evident first and foremost in the kitchen. If a turkey was to be the main course, the stuffing (or dressing, depending on your preference), was usually a recipe handed down from the previous generation, who it turn had gotten it from the one before. Each house had it’s own approach to the same recipes. Do you add the giblets or leave them out? Is yours a mixture of cornbread and white, or do you stick with one or the other? Where some cooks stuff the bird before popping it in the oven, others cook the dressing separately. This followed on down to how they cooked the turkey, or if they had turkey at all. For some families it was ham or prime rib that was to be the star of the meal. However it went, it all seemed to align with what their parents had done at their tables and how they had prepared it. I know I often say if complimented on my potato salad, “thanks, it’s my mom’s recipe”. I know she learned it from her mother, because I heard her often say it when complimented herself.

Certainly there are recipes my children will ask for when I’m under their roofs. For my son, it would be twice baked potatoes, and my daughter often wants me to cook poached eggs. Funny, I end up doing poached eggs for friends as well. Interesting, it’s really not rocket science, but for whatever reason I seem to have developed a knack for cooking them well. A latent talent there really isn’t much call for in the current market.

Grandparents are tasked with passing on some of what they have picked up along the way to their grandchildren. When I was down visiting my son and his brood, I spent some time with his oldest, my granddaughter, Ailish. Ailish had gotten a sewing machine, but had never used one. I have sewn for years. At one time I had an entire booth set up I used for local fairs and art and wine shows to sell both my hand sewn items as well as my artwork. These days I still find myself seated at my machine around the holidays whipping out aprons for my friends or family members, or on occasion doing some quick alterations for people in my life who can’t sew. Other than that, I don’t have the time, nor the energy with everything going on at present to thread a needle. Being able to show my granddaughter, however, was such a treat. To hand down a few pointers to get her started for me was so very special. This was a gift that cost nothing, but gave something both to her and to myself. Loved it.

With our busy lives these days, a lot of traditions have been forgotten, or simply been thrown out the window. We eat on the run, rather than stopping for a moment to come together over a meal. Instead of being seated at the table with friends or family, we often grab something on the run or even eat at different schedules. Perhaps the kids eat at a TV tray in front of the TV or in their rooms with their video games or cell phones, while you find yourself standing at the counter picking at the remains of last night’s take-out order. There is something elegant, even decadent, about sitting down to a nice meal, to me at least. The act of removing a cloth napkin from a decorative ring, lighting a candle in the center of the table, and eating off a lovely plate at a nice place setting makes for a dining experience and not just something to put in your mouth. Several younger women in my circle make breakfast in a blender or bullet. Everything but the cat is dropped in there in there in the morning, and with the push of a button reduced to mulch. Once the caldron has been primed, the liquid is poured into another container, and either sipped or gulped down on the way to work, the gym, or wherever else they might be headed. In my experience no matter what goes in them, these drinks end up a rather uninviting green color. Though I have no issue with green, it is after all the color of nature. However, when offered up in a drink, I find it less palatable. There isn’t a green vegetable I’m not happy to see on my plate, oh, except kale and okra. God knows I’ve tried to like both, but there’s something about them that leaves me wanting less, or preferably none at all. I’ve recently discovered arugula, and find I really like it. Rick used to tell me his grandfather, a scientist, ate arugula every day to keep his mind and body healthy. This was a tradition Rick allowed to fade into the background and disappear. I wouldn’t need to have it every day, but it’s certainly better than kale.

My grandmother gave me so many traditions I still practice in my life. In my drawer the other day I came across a packet of letters written in my grandmother’s hand. Her handwriting was very distinguishable, almost artistic. I would recognize it anywhere. Up until the several years before she died, she wrote me letters. Always I enjoyed seeing one of her envelopes in my mailbox. With her flair for telling a story, she would bring me up-to-date on my cousins in Canada or what other relatives she was in touch with had been up to. It made me feel part of my distant clan rather than having the many miles we had between us. Nobody writes letters anymore. It is another lost tradition, as are thank-you notes. I think the only time I’ve gotten a thank you note in recent years was following a wedding where the bride was acknowledging a wedding present I’d given to them. I guess if they’re not even teaching cursive in the classroom anymore, I won’t look for these to make a resurgence in the future.

Aside from family traditions, we absorb traditions familiar to our area, our religion, our race, and even our neighborhoods. My traditions have at times varied drastically from the people I was associated with. Rick, as I’ve mentioned many times, was born in Cairo, Egypt. Cairo was home, until he came to the U.S. to attend college. Egypt has always held a sort of fascination for me. Growing up, I wrote nearly every essay in geography or history about Egypt. I wanted to be either an archaeologist or Egyptologist when I grew up. As I am not writing this in a tent at a dig in an exotic location, you might guess I really didn’t hit close to the mark. In the nearly twenty years Rick and I spent together, he answered many questions for me about life in Cairo and Egyptian traditions. The fact he had seen the great pyramids, even ridden there on a camel, was enough to make him a hero in my book. He had boxes of pictures for me to look at, and so many details to fill in, I would never had known had not he shared them with me. It was in such contrast to my upbringing in Nova Scotia. Had we planned it, we probably couldn’t have created two more opposite upbringings.

When we spoke of Cairo, our conversations often turned to food, and for Rick, coffee. Being foodies both were subjects we had a personal investment in. Coffee houses were big gathering spots in Cairo. At the time he was there, they were only frequented only by men. They would gather there to drink tea and smoke flavored tobacco through a hookah. Strong, turkish coffee was also served in these cafes as well as espresso. When he first arrived in Michigan, where he was to go to school, he was surprised to discover he couldn’t get espresso anywhere. Coffee wasn’t the trendy drink it has morphed into these days. Remember when you just ordered a cup of coffee, and the only additional information required by the server was whether you wanted it black or took it with cream and sugar? The original Starbucks opened in Seattle in 1971, so if you weren’t around before then, the answer to that question would no. Now when ordering a cup of coffee, you have to stipulate what blend, temperature, size, and even strength. You need a coffee map to order. When living in Boston, the first time I ordered a cup they asked if I wanted my coffee regular. I had no idea how to answer that question. Was there an irregular? Turned out regular was with cream and sugar, light just cream, and then black, if that was your preference.

Today is definitely not a hot beverage kind of day. The thermometer on the porch reads nearly 100. In spite of this fact, I noticed in the stores the other day Halloween decorations are beginning to replace displays featuring coolers or beach umbrellas. Fall, for me, can’t arrive too soon. With the delta variant of this incredibly persistent virus beginning to set the rules for the nation, it makes me wonder what the holidays are to look like this year. I was hoping with both Covid and the vaccinations behind us, there might be a lighter feel to the festivities this year. This remains to be seen, of course, and I will welcome the holidays with whatever they bring.

A friend asked me the other day if I thought our world would ever look the same. Tough question. Since I’m trying to give up clairvoyance, I didn’t have a good answer for her. Truth is does it ever look the same? It may feel like life goes on without change day after day at times when you’re bored or unmoved by what’s going on around it, but it is endlessly changing and we shift and change with it. Summer melts into fall, fall into winter. We tuck away our shorts in a box, and bring out our sweaters and boots. I thought by now I would have sacrificed my masks and begun a renewal of sorts when it comes to all the Covid reports, but it is what it is. I only have one friend who remains unvaccinated and we had a discussion about it yesterday. Being a friend, is staying on the sidelines often and keeping clean boundaries. Part of that is not butting in when we haven’t been asked our opinions on a particular subject and respecting the other person’s point of view. In this case, I stepped over the line for a moment, and suggested she put her arm out and get a shot. Her family has had theirs, and apparently now vaccinated people can transmit it to those who are unprotected. I explained I love her, and was getting extremely tired of saying goodbye to beloved people in my life. I believe my arrow hit its mark, as we signed off with her going to look for a local place to get the injection.

So, on that note I will look wistfully towards the end of summer and welcoming in the cooler months. Fall being the season of my birth, I have a special affinity for this time of year. There’s something so cozy about walking along a street, bundled up against a cool wind, and hearing the crunching of the fallen leaves under your shoes. When the days begin to draw in, and darkness falls earlier, I like to be tucked in and warm inside with a candle burning and something hot and delicious bubbling in a pot on the stove.

My grandmother used to always tell me “Don’t wish your life away”, if I wished for time to pass more quickly. This year holds so many mysteries yet to unfold, I will settle for being in this day and try to make it eventful and interesting. I wish you the same and a happy weekend.

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I am feeling decidedly world weary today. My mind is creating all kinds of scenarios. There’s the one where I am sitting in an outdoor cafe on the French Riviera or another with me basking on a sunny stretch of beach in Portofino. There are time in our lives when everything seems to come down on us at once. During those times, one of which I am currently experiencing, I try to find my center and stay balanced. Perhaps there hasn’t been enough air for me in between the last period of chaos and this one, for me to properly rebuild my stamina. Whatever the case, I am stumbling a little more often then I usually do when the chute opens and the garbage begins to tumble down. Please notice the white flag I am waving in my right hand. I am not signalling for the horses to leave the gate. Help.

My mother used to say, “You could throw Susan out a ten story window and that girl will always land on her feet”. Susan, by the way, is an address I only permitted from my mother and my grandmother. Susan is far too formal a name for the person I am, and whenever I hear my full name, I always assume I am in trouble. “Susan, get in this house right now”, was a familiar line thrown out our back door growing up. Susie, which is the name most people refer to me by, was my great grandmother’s name. I was named after Susie Mack, and from all accounts Susie was a bit of a character. I like to believe I take after her in that way. It is true, I am a survivor. That, in and of itself, is a gift. I try to pile the gifts I have in my life, which are many, on the plate with the less desirable things to keep everything equitable. Again, balance in all things.

To add to my crazy personal life, the weather isn’t cooperating. Those of us here in California, well on the west coast in general, are in the middle of the worst drought on record. My cousin in British Columbia said she was frying her breakfast on the sidewalk, and a dear friend in Oregon texted me it was 115 in her neighborhood. She and her husband were trapped in their house with three dogs watching the thermometer rise. Each year, it gets drier and hotter, while on the other side of the country it gets wetter and hurricane activity increases. I watched a news story this morning about how scientists can read the rings of the massive sequoias to tell the story of historical drought situations over hundreds of years. According to the rings, this one’s a pip. Our reservoirs statewide are at 50% and the snow pack melted two months earlier than it should have. With the fire situation being critical as well, it is more than a tad unnerving. As I said in my previous blog, if cows would quit burping and pooping we’d be in better shape. Hard to believe gassy cattle are contributing to global warming, but it seems to be a fact. I should have known I’d pay for a lifetime burger addiction in one way or another.

It is hard to keep positive when the world keeps throwing negative tomatoes in your face. However, the other day while driving I experienced one of what I call my “near perfect moments” which was a real shot in the arm. The day was beautiful, a nearly perfect summer day in California. For those of you who have been here and enjoyed such a day, you will understand the distinction. Blue, blue skies with white billowy clouds floating about, a slight breeze moving the warm air through the leaves of the trees, and a generally lazy feel as if time had slightly slowed down to an easier pace if only for the moment. Surely the sun comes up in other areas of the world, it just seems to do it so beautifully sometimes here on the western coast of the United States. I have been all across the USA, made my home in six states thus far, and as yet haven’t located anywhere I’d rather live. Don’t misunderstand me, each state I lived in had something good to offer, it’s just California always called me home again. Driving along, as I was saying, I had a moment. Creedance was telling me to “run through the jungle” on the radio, the sun was pouring in through the partially open window warming my back, and the road stretched out before me as if beckoning me to come along for the ride. Suddenly my heart was filled with such a thankfulness for being alive. It really was the most exhilarating feeling, bringing tears to my eyes and creating goosebumps running along my legs and arms. If I could bottle that feeling, I could buy an island in the pacific and retire in style.

Music always moves me. Sometimes when I’m home I crank up one of my favorites and lose myself in the melody and lyrics. Creedance, like many of the 70’s bands, often takes my mind back to my misspent youth. Recently I had a discussion with a dear friend of mine about the same age as myself. That age would be in between almost old and old, in case you are wondering. We were talking about how much we have seen and what we have lived through since planting our feet on the planet. Quite an impressive resume we have amassed, I have to say. I was born not to let any grass grow under my feet. It interests me that the kids coming up today seem to drag their feet when it comes to growing up. I was poised at the starting gate at eighteen and sprang out of the gate the moment the gun went off. I don’t believe I ever thought about remaining in my parent’s house once I was out of school, at least not for very long. My mother would have liked it if I never moved out. When I got married at nineteen it was very difficult for her to cut the ties that bound us. At my wedding reception, she consumed half the champagne available and was reduced to a blubbering, sobbing mess before I left on my honeymoon. At the time I had no children naturally (or at least hopefully), and at that age I was imbued with very little sense, so I didn’t have any understanding of why she was behaving in such a way. Now, of course, having children of my own, I get her “only chick”, as she likes to call me, was going out the garden gate and leaving her behind with an empty nest. Most valid things we learn, I have come to believe, come to us after we have at least turned thirty. Before that, we’re just a mold without shape. What business I had being married at nineteen defies logic. I did not possess one shred of life knowledge, and had not so much as a capful of experience or talent to bring to the table. I was as raw as a carrot in a roadside vegetable stand. I like to say, and there is some truth to it, I didn’t become a real girl (like Pinnochio) until I was fifty. That’s when some of the lessons I’d been given finally began to stick to the wall.

I have a huge repertoire of mistakes and wrong turns tucked away in my bag. I don’t carry them around with me anymore. I have already made my amends as best I could and put them away in my pile of lessons learned and promises broken. Each day I am given the opportunity to be better than I was the day before. I strive for that goal. Understand me, I often fall short, but I give myself at A for effort if I fall, and try to do better on the next day.

They say, though I don’t know for sure, that learning to love ourselves is the number one challenge in our lives. I know for me it wasn’t always easy. At this age I have found a comfortable spot in my own skin I call home and this is a good thing. In the process, I have come to love as well that little chubby girl who once greeted me in the mirror in the morning, so she can be at peace inside me. One thing I have learned through all this is to have compassion for the people around me. We are all human beings struggling to understand our world, our environments, the person sleeping on the pillow next to us, those who brought us into the world, those we brought into the world and most of all ourselves. I think of this a lot today because of the horrible tragedy going on in Florida with the condominium collapse. It is a striking example of the fragility of our lives. Makes you want to really appreciate the day and fill it with special people and happy moments.

So, on this rather introspective day, I send you a hug if you need one, or wish you a special dinner with someone you love, or a day at the beach with your kids or your dog, whatever makes your heart smile.

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I haven’t written in awhile. Life has been unusually hectic the past few weeks, leaving little spare time to sit at my computer. Don’t ask me what I’ve been doing, I probably couldn’t tell you in great detail. All I can say is somehow, each day managed to fill up to the brim as it folded into the next.

When I hit OVERLOAD on my time management scale, things begin to go south for me. Today, for example, I got up early and went for a walk. As is my habit, I grabbed the key to the house off the hook by the door, tucking it in my sweatshirt pocket. Stepping outside, the temperature was far colder than I’d anticipated. Only having on a light hoodie, I went back in the house to retrieve a heavier jacket from the closet. Turning the lock on the door before closing it, I enjoyed a brisk tour of the neighborhood, circling back to the house about forty-five minutes later. Normally, this would be just a day in the life of. Possibly it could even be considered yawn worthy, if not for the fact I’d neglected to retrieve the key from the pocket of the hoodie I originally had on. Duh, and double duh. I walked up to the door and tried the knob What? I know I locked it. Human nature being what it is, even knowing it was locked, I had to test it. You know I did. Tight as a drum. Yup, good job, Susie. I had a duplicate key made for such occasions. Peering into the also locked living room window I could see it hooked on the ring with my car keys. Perhaps I need to refine the thinking on that program? Both keys hanging on the same hook probably shouldn’t be Plan A. Fortunately, I had my cell phone. Like every electronic device I have ever owned, it is currently suffering from technical issues. Basically, I can’t hear an incoming caller unless I put them on speaker. Putting someone on speaker is not an option I always enjoy. One never knows what one might be doing while speaking on the phone. Also, I don’t want the cat listening in, you know how nosy felines can be. Before taking it in to Apple to get a tech involved, I decided to search on line for solutions. What did we do pre-Internet, I wonder? The answers to every question posed since the dawn of man seems to be found there. I performed all the suggested “fixes” noted on the tech driven websites. End result, you ask? I can’t hear anyone unless they are on speaker. Drat. Not the time to worry about the speaker as it wasn’t getting any warmer, I assessed my situation, Clearly, there were two choices. Either I could pitch a tent in the yard and wait it out until my roommate arrived home in 24 hours, or I could call my landlady and ask her to let me in. Sigh. So high school. Sometimes I think I need a keeper. Swallowing my pride, as my feet were getting colder, I placed the call to my landlady explaining my dilemma. She said she was in a meeting but could be at the house within the hour. Super. Thankfully, I had put on a warmer jacket because by the time her car pulled up, my feet had stopped receiving signals from my circulatory system.

Once inside I thawed out. Warming my hands on a cup of hot coffee, I laid my day out in front of me. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow so I needed to pick up a few cards and some candy for my mother. I figured I could squeeze that errand in the mix somewhere between the bank and the grocery store. Curious as to how the proceedings were going, I switched on the impeachment trial. There’s a happy way to jump start one’s day. I have limited my news input to no more than an hour a day. Immersing myself in what’s going on in our government at the moment will have me dusting off my green card and heading north for the Canadian border. Eternally optimistic, I still keep my fairy dust spreader primed and ready to go in the event our elected officials miraculously locate their moral spines and do what is right for our country rather than what is right for themselves personally. Fingers and toes crossed. Oh update on this, you can uncross all digits, their moral spines are still missing and remain unaccounted for. Wow. That’s all, just WOW.

Even before getting locked out, this week proved a bit of a bust. Yesterday, for example, I went to my bi-monthly hair appointment. Some women find days at the salon relaxing. I am not one of them. Not by nature a “sit still” kind of gal, killing time in a salon chair with goo and tin foil slapped on my head is not my idea of a fun filled afternoon. Armed with a new book and a bottle of water, I conferred with my stylist before getting started with the dye job about the direction my hair color was heading. My first stylist at this salon, Emily, moved on down the road last summer. Without consulting me or a thought to how I’d look, she picked up her family and relocated to a beautiful big house on a lake to provide a better life for her kids. Some people are so self focused. Hah. Before leaving, she recommended a replacement. This was tough on me, as I had just gotten her broken in. Women reading will understand this, it takes a while to break in a new hair dresser. Emily had been the perfect fit for me. Sarah was doing a pretty good job getting up to speed, but my “do” is not exactly how I like it yet. In trying to explain what I wanted, I included visuals of models with my basic hair cut colored the way I would like to see mine. Not rocket science really. Blonde highlights with light brown undertones. Easy peasy. One would think. When Sarah applied the color, it looked dark. Inquiring about the depth of color, I was told not to worry my little blonde head about it, Sarah was at the wheel. Kay. Forty minutes later the color was rinsed off and I was seated in front of the mirror. Not only was my hair now a deep reddish brown (emphasis on the red), but it was highlighted with thin whitish strands giving it the look of a large plate of spaghetti with meat sauce. All I needed was a dash of Parmesan and I was good to go. Oh yay. The look on my face made it obvious, I’m sure, to Sarah this was not going to end well. In response to my expression she commented, “don’t freak out”. “Kay. Why not exactly? I would like to freak out, and then I would like to cry, in that order.” Good lord. Several other products were applied in an attempt to tone down the red. In spite of her valiant efforts, I remained looking like an ad for an Italian restaurant. Along with my hair having a decided maroon tinge, my scalp now matched the color perfectly and had begun to itch from all the chemicals. Check please.

In the end, I was sent home with apologetic assurances Sarah would fit me in post haste to fix the problem. Great, does that assurance come with a bag to wear over my head in the meantime? Texting her this morning I asked when the fix might be done, to which she replied four hours later, “how about next Friday”? To which I replied, “how about, not”. Now, I never fault people for making mistakes. We all are human and, therefore, each of us fallible. However, if you do make a mistake…..if possible, fix it. Sarah made several wrong turns in dealing with her customer (namely me) in my humble opinion. Number one, she allowed me to stew in my own juices for four hours, and number two, she suggested resolving a problem she created at her convenience rather than mine. Both of these mistakes are likely to make someone who started out a bit reasonably annoyed to move the dial quickly over to really pissed off. I’m just saying. I used to train the serving staff in our restaurant. My first instruction was always acknowledge the customer. No matter how busy you are, at least stop and explain you are aware they are waiting, ask if they can get them a beverage, and get to them as expediently as you can. So, after I did not budge on sooner than later, we compromised on Wednesday. Momma ain’t happy, but it is what it is. Glad we have to wear masks at the moment at least I won’t be recognized.

I guess I should consider myself lucky. You may have read about that poor woman who sprayed gorilla glue on her hair because she was out of hair spray. I will say nothing here about why she would make such an obviously poor choice, as this lady has suffered enough. To get the glue off her hair, required a two and a half hour medical procedure. Rick would have completely understood finding oneself in such a mess. Seriously, the man could not be left alone with Crazy Glue.There should have been a warning label on the side of the tube saying “This product not recommended for men answering to the name of Rick”. Sometimes it was like having a big kid. When I handed him the tube I specifically cautioned him not to get any glue on his skin. Two minutes later I heard the dreaded words “oh-oh”. Going back to where he was standing I found him staring at his right hand. He had adhered his thumb to his index and middle finger and they were securely fused. To inject some humor in the situation, I told him his hand was set up perfectly for making rooster finger puppets should the need arise in the future. He assured me he saw no humor or comfort in this. Saving the day, the infinite internet provided a solution and after an hour and a half we were able to undo what he had done. Adding insult to injury, he had dropped the glue container on his new pants. True to the hype it was “permanent” and it was now firmly and undeniably attached to the fabric. While trying to get it off, Rick tore a large hole in the pant leg and we ended up tossing them in the garbage. Lesson learned.

I also launched a full on assault on Covid-19 vaccination sites this past week. My doctor suggested I needed to get the shots as soon as possible as they were now available for my age group and I have asthma. What a process. I felt like a kid trying to score a seat at a wildly popular concert. I’d log on, get on a site, and before I could book a spot that time and day would disappear. Can’t tell you how many times I did that. I’m nothing if not tenacious. After two days it became a sort of quest. Persistence paid off, and I finally got an appointment for Monday, as well as the follow up shot three weeks after that. I feel like I won the lottery. So, I am not sorry to say sayonara to this week in my life, although I do hear my grandmother whispering in my ear, “don’t wish your life away”.

Make it a safe one. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all and to my Rick, this will be my third Valentine’s Day without him.

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I am an only. My mother always enjoyed telling people she originally hoped to have six children, but once I arrived on the scene, she decided one was more than enough. Whatever, Mom. She calls me her “only chick”. Seems appropriate, as most of my life she’s leaned toward being a bit of a mother hen. Whatever the situation, however, she has steadfastly remained my number one fan. I strained this position often. There was the time I blew up the kitchen making mini tacos, or another when I forgot to remove the speaker attached to the window of her new car at the drive-in before exiting the parking lot. Undaunted, she still picked up her pom poms and cheered me on. Being an only chick does not come without the onus of responsibility. As an “only” you carry the torch for those kids who didn’t come before you or those not arriving after you. At one time or another you will be the oldest, the youngest, the best, the worst, the smartest, the dumbest, the happiest, the saddest, the tallest, the shortest, the fattest and the thinnest child your parents will ever have. Faithfully, I lived up to each of these adjectives during my tenure as my mother’s only daughter. Some days, depending on how the wind was blowing, I might have qualified for the whole set on either the plus or the minus side.

My childhood, well up until middle school, would have satisfied the “fattest” portion of the program. Mother referred to my extra padding as “baby fat”, although I had moved beyond the baby fat when my diapers and crocheted hat had been retired. My grandmother, in whose house I had been raised, liked to bake. I was her perfect foil, I liked to eat. A match made in heaven. Living in Nova Scotia, where I made my home until the age of nine, I don’t think I was even aware I was “chubby”. My world was buffered by loving family members and childhood friends. If they felt I was a little round about the edges, they were kind enough to keep that information to themselves. Immediately after celebrating my ninth birthday, my mother remarried. Hoping for a fresh start, and armed with a new last name and a promise of a job at a Southern California newspaper for my new “dad”, the idea of relocating permanently to California was born. To soothe the blow of being uprooted from my childhood home for me, the carrot dangled before my nose was Disneyland. Television was not uncommon in everyone’s homes by then. Children with access to a set, tuned in to the Wonderful World of Disney each week to be part of the magic kingdom Walt Disney had created. Disneyland was for us on the far east coast a dream land. A place built for the young and the young at heart with all manner of rides and excitement available to anyone who could afford the price of a pack of tickets at the gate. Back then it was nothing like it is today. The Matterhorn was still being constructed (I know – old as dirt here) the first time I visited. At the gate you bought books of tickets.They went from A-E. “A” tickets got you on the less popular rides and as you moved on thru B-D you moved up in fun an popularity until you got to “E” tickets which gained you entrance to the more exciting rides such as the Matterhorn once it was open. That first time at the park my mom spent $50, including meals and souvenirs. These days you’d have nearly that much out of your wallet just to pay the parking attendant. I haven’t been recently but I’ve heard there are very long lines and much expense involved in a trip. The endless lines don’t call my name anymore and if I’m going to drop a load of bills it probably won’t be to see Mickey and Minnie dancing down Main Street. I’m just saying. However, the memories of past visits are nice to paste in my memory book.

Even with the promised visit to Disneyland it didn’t take long for me to identify little plump Canadian girls were out of step with the golden girls of California. Blond goddesses, with slender bodies and golden skin. Lane Bryant would never have been an acceptable place to shop for anyone basking in the glow of their inner circles. Around middle school I began to realize I wanted to lose weight. My mother, aware of my struggle with food, stepped in to help. The baby fat had remained steadfastly in place. Knowing I was unhappy with my extra pounds, she offered me a challenge over the summer between eighth and ninth grade. First, she had a dietician at the hospital where she worked draw up a healthy diet plan for me to follow. The second part of the program was a contract between my mother and I agreeing she would pay me one dollar for each pound I lost, plus throw in a whole new wardrobe once my goal weight was achieved. Hey, a dollar a pound was pretty good back then, when a McDonald’s cheeseburger still went for fifteen cents. Aside from the forty dollars I pocketed, and the closet full of lovely new clothes, that shift in my eating habits was to be the beginning for me of a lifetime of healthy eating. Up until that time, I considered cookies, Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies a separate food group.

Conquering my perceived weight issues to some extent, I next slipped quietly into another phase of my young life. I went from being a nearly straight “A” student considered fairly “bright” in some circles, to barely advancing from ninth to tenth grade. This, satisfying the smartest and dumbest part of the adjective string noted above. The reason was not so much I actually became more stupid as the years passed, but rather I discovered boys in my world. Certainly I knew they were around prior to puberty, but viewed them as those annoying little dweebs in class making gassy noises with their hands under their armpits or pulling my hair at recess. Suddenly I saw them in a whole new light. Instead of making me irritated, they made me shy, made my heart beat a little faster, and generally swept me off my saddle shoed feet. Friends, dances, music, dates, proms, and all the other things high school brought to the forefront all stood first in line in front of learning, which had had somehow been demoted to the caboose.

in spite of the diversions and defying all odds I received my diploma. This was not without a few detours and blips on the screen which I will discuss at a later time. After graduation, I enrolled in computer science classes at the junior college, while also managing to obtain my first job. A local moving company had taken me on as a clerk typist in their dispatch office. My salary was to be $300 a month gross. These days that wouldn’t cover groceries.


Balancing a job during the day, and classes at night, didn’t leave much room for socializing. That being said, I still managed to announce my engagement to my first husband before lighting the candles on my nineteenth birthday. He and I had a shared history of eleven days of courtship when I made the announcement to my parents. Was my mother writing this chapter, she would pull the “worst” out of the adjective chain to cover this happy news. Cajoling ensued, bribes were offered, and begging was not off the table. Love, in the end, conquered all, and a date was set and plans were made for a wedding eight months down the road. Pulling the best out if the string to keep things even, we would fast forward to two and a half years later when my husband and I had welcomed a daughter and a son into our lives. We were only destined to share eight years of marriage, but the gift from him has always been these two special beings who have made my life so special.

I have spent most of my time living up to people’s expectations, sometimes even exceeding them, or being an abysmal disappointment. Balance, as I often say, in everything. Today I can say I am the oldest child, and I’m good with that. A little gray around the temples (okay a lot) and some scuff on my shoes may show some mileage, but also I hope they are an indication I have some acquired wisdom and character. I’ve earned what wrinkles are evident by smiling often, accepting some devastating losses, and surviving the trip.

Have a great day. A new president enters the White House and again we turn the page to a new chapter,

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This has been a busy week. My asthma had me visiting the ER the beginning of the week. They put me in the COVID section as my symptoms were shortness of breath and lung irritation which would mirror symptoms virus sufferers might present. That made me considered suspect. Wouldn’t be the first time. I wasn’t allowed to keep the door open to the room and personnel entering were fully gowned. All a bit unnerving when I already didn’t feel like myself. Thankfully after a healthy dose of steroids and several breathing treatments air found my tired lungs again. Thank God for these front line workers who keep us going. I would have been in serious trouble without them. While waiting for the meds to take effect, I got to wondering what people did back before all this modern medicine was available when faced with such a situation. My guess is that they died young, which is evidenced by medical records from back in the day, grave stones and history books.

Trying to move forward with conviction, the weather people were predicting a record heat event here in California. Those of us hailing from Nova Scotia are not bred for heat. This always brings to mind Harper Lee’s beautiful lines from “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

“Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”

I suffer when the temps start moving up over 100 degrees. Definitely a soft tea cake by evening. This week, lucky us, it will hold there and quite a bit above for the whole week. Yesterday I spent most of the day cleaning and trying to keep my mind off the fact I was stuck inside and couldn’t even enjoy sitting in my garden as there was no breeze and no shade and it was beyond HOT. Even Boo, the Queen of Cats, was sprawled out on the kitchen floor looking for some relief. When I moved in here I looked forward to sitting in the back yard on summer afternoons. The beginning of spring PG&E came to the door and announced they were cutting down the two massive shade trees by my fence as they were interfering with the power lines. Had to be done, but the lone tree surviving towards the back fence line doesn’t provide much cooling when the heat moves in. Soooo, I cleaned. I can say with some surety most of friends also have the cleanest houses they’ve ever had, and I know I certainly I do. With all this time inside you have to keep moving or you might begin to scream and simply never stop. Oh, sorry, lost my mind for a moment. Back again.

My new dining room table arrived several weeks ago and as yet I haven’t served a meal on it. Yesterday I decided to have a friend over who I knew had safety isolated. Both of us had COVID tests this week with negative results so we thought sitting far enough apart we could enjoy a social evening together and each provide the other with a little conversation and companionship. All good. I decided to break out the pretty dishes, pick some flowers from the garden, set the table beautifully and create a dining experience rather than just serving a meal. Yay.

Knowing it was going to be cranking up outside, I did the bulk of the cooking early in the day. Everything but the blackened tilapia which would be my main attraction, would only need to be reheated in the microwave. About an hour before my guest was to arrive I began to notice I was perspiring. I’m not a sweater by nature, but I do know the steroids can cause flushing and sweating. Okay. Pretty soon the cat was actually panting and I realized the temperature seemed warm. Checking the thermostat the gauge read 83. Oh-oh. As it began to move up with no response when I tried to adjust it, I texted my landlady who lives directly across the street. I like my landlady well enough, don’t misunderstand me, but whenever I mention anything is out of line with the house she says, “funny no one else ever complained about that”. Then when her husband comes over (he’s the handyman for their rentals) he always tells me about other tenants with either the same problem or other problems with the house. I just shake it off but I could live without this response from her. When it began to encroach on 90 in here I send up a white flag. Help. Hot. The walls were closing in. The butter had melted on the counter in the kitchen and I had begun looking up pet friendly hotels in the area with vacancies. Personally I didn’t want to to argue the point no one had ever complained about this before, I was complaining about it right at that very moment, and loudly. Her husband arrived at the door in short order and looked at the thermostat. He said he needed a part which had been replaced before and couldn’t get it until Monday. Always, in my life at least, when something like this is going to happen it seems to pick the absolute worst time to reveal itself. When I first moved in here a tree pierced the sewer line and I was awash with backed up sewage in the toilets and the bathtubs. This resulted in two months without the master bedroom bathroom and half the carpet torn up in there as well as the walls. That also happened on a Saturday and one when I had my mom with dementia sleeping in the spare room. I ended up taking the poor woman to CVS at 7:30 in the morning to use the public restroom. This time it was not only a Saturday, I was having company, AND it was the hottest day so far this year with excessive heat warnings in effect. Halelujah. Sooooo, we got it running somewhat so it will hopefully limp along until the cavalry arrives. We ate dinner with ice packs on our necks and drank enough water to keep an armada afloat but managed to pull the evening out of the bog. This morning is a bit better cool wise in the house but today is going to be hotter so I’m crossing my fingers it holds and keeping the list of pet-friendly hotels at my fingertips.

To add to the mix I woke up this morning and my laptop wouldn’t start. I stood at the window in my bedroom and asked if someone up there was generally pissed off at me or the world had suddenly gotten tipped on it’s axis. The response was shortly the laptop fired back to life and I relaxed a bit. Thank you.

2020 sucks. There, I said it and I’m not sorry. Hope your day is going better. Stay cool and hydrated.

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Another year is coming to a close, and an interesting year at that. You have to admit wherever your loyalties lie, it has been interesting. Perhaps others have different adjectives to cover what’s going on in our world, but for now I’ll leave it at interesting. From where I sit I could add a few more adjectives to the list. Stressful, chaotic and downright exhausting come to mind. Definitely a year full of memorable moments, some lovely and joyfully carried forward, others darker and better left in the shadowy corners. All in all, I will not shed one tear for 2017 as it makes it way off the calendar making room for 2018. God if you are listening (I realize it is your busy time of year) please concentrate your spotlight on somebody else for a while. I don’t want to be selfish and take up all your time.)

Changes are in the air for sure. Women are taking a stand moving sexual harassment to the front page, rather than where it is usually can be found swept under the mat. About time we planted our well manicured feet firmly on the floor and said enough is enough. Over the years there were many times when a man I was working with crossed the line. I handled it myself. Most women dealing with such unwanted attention back then did. You stayed out of their way, avoided being alone with them, and if all else failed talked your way out of it or threatened to tell their spouse if one was in the picture. There really wasn’t a lot you could do beyond handle it if you needed your job to put food on the table. If you told, as I once did, the response I got was “men will be men” and “I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it”. Once on National Secretary’s Day I had to take a cab home from a lunch when my boss, after several martinis, put his hand on my knee under the table and suggested we crank our relationship up a notch. I didn’t like the notch we were on prior to his suggestion. Shortly thereafter I updated my resume and found a new company to draw my paycheck from.

Hopefully this won’t tip the scales too far in the other direction as many of these hot button issues tend to do. Tipping too far in the opposite direction might make it uncomfortable for men and women to say good morning to one another without ending up across the table from someone in HR or being escorted out of the building. Hard to know where to draw the line and what constitutes “inappropriate” behavior. Bigger yet, who lays out the rules of engagement? Men may have a different spin on this as is evidenced by what you read and hear on the news, than their female counterparts. Ahhhhh, men and women are always going to be like piranha and catfish. In the same family, but certainly not the same fish.

Whether you agree or disagree with those in charge of manning our government these days, people seem to be having more to say about it. Social media, customers in restaurants, friends, and strangers I meet in line at the grocery store all seem to have an opinion on what is going on. At least there is an active debate in motion and not apathy. That I can applaud.

On a lighter and brighter note, Christmas is twinkling brightly just around the bend in the road. How I love the holidays. The day after Thanksgiving, if a wall of lava is heading down the hillside toward the house, you will find me in the garage digging through the mass of boxes labeled “Xmas”. Downsizing from 4,500 square feet to 1,600 has left many items unused in the mass of boxes lest we look like we’re having a giant holiday sale and Rick has to move into the garage to avoid being blinded by the lights. The cat, Miss Boo, fully participates in holiday festivities spending her time snatching rolls of ribbon out of my wrapping supplies or relieving the lower branches of the tree of what she appears to feel are superfluous ornaments.

Spending more time with my mother has been a plus this year. Well, most days. Insert smile here. I adore my mother but like most mother’s and daughter’s there are days or weeks when we don’t see eye to eye. As the years have gone by and the roles have shifted this has eased certainly. There is no doubt we are different by design. Often I tell her I’m sure she picked up the wrong baby in nursery. My mom is like the turtle, slow wins the race. I am like the hare, wound tighter than an eight-day clock but not always the first one crossing the finish line. A task that would take me five minutes including clean up might take her nearly an hour to complete.

Mother has suffered with OCD most of her life. Why her doctors never suggested anything to help or if they did remains a mystery. The effects of this have shown themselves more severely as she has aged. As an example, last weekend I gave her a head of lettuce to clean. Once clean she was to break it up in a salad bowl, add some tomatoes and veggies, and make a salad. I went off to fold laundry and clean the cat litter (life in the fast lane) leaving her to her task. Surfacing some time later to see how the salad had progressed I found mother standing in front of a ball of lettuce on the chopping board about the size of a softball and an empty bowl. Inquiring as to where the rest of the lettuce had disappeared to, she pointed to the trash can explaining the discarded leaves had some brown on the bottom so she tossed them. Ahhhhh. Exit salad stage left.

This brought to mind the great asparagus debacle of last summer. Company was coming. Behind schedule I asked her to clean and trim a bunch of asparagus while I took a shower and got dressed. When I returned forty-five minutes later there were three stems ready for the pot. It seems she trims each little leaf off every one before cooking. Had she worked in the kitchen of our restaurant we would have open and closed on the first day of business.

Was I to attach a label to this year I would label it patience. Patience is the key when working with everything in life. Life won’t be pushed or ordered into subservience. Like a cat, even if you ask nicely it tends to still do whatever it wants to and you must comply. With my mother I take deep breaths and remind myself that each visit is precious and someday these visits will be my memories of our time together.

I hope the holidays bring you laughter and joy, time spent with family and friends, and that the new year dawns with peace in the air and tolerance on the agenda.

I’m including heartfelt thoughts to those suffering through the persistent fires here in perpetually sunny California and to those brave individuals who step up on the lines and fight them.

I served this salad on Thanksgiving and everyone went on about it. The trick is to slice the apples thin and soak them in 2 cups of water with 1/8 cup lemon juice mixed in. So pretty on a holiday table and worth a second helping.

Red and Green Apple Spinach Salad with Sesame Seed Dressing

3 cups baby spinach, stems trimmed
1 green apple, cored and sliced thin
1 red apple, cored and sliced thin
2 cups water
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup dried cranberries, rehydrated
1/4 cup toasted pecans
salt
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Core and slice apples. Place in bowl with cold water and lemon juice and let sit for 8 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and pat dry. Dry roast toasted pecans in small frying pan over med-low heat watching not to burn. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Place dried cranberries in small bowl. Pour boiling water over the cranberries to cover and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 mins. Drain.

Add apples, pecans, cranberries and remaining ingredients to salad bowl and toss with dressing.

Sesame Seed Dressing

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. finely chopped green onion

Whisk together ingredients and refrigerate for 1 hr. prior to using.

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Was I to assign an adjective to this week I believe I would go with “weird”. In retrospect, I feel my monthly horoscope omitted some of the pertinent details in its projections for March. According to the writer of my favorite monthly star cast, the planets were aligned to provide a list of wonderful exotic adventures and undeniable riches for those born under my sun sign. I was excited! I immediately purchased a flat of lottery tickets which are now decorating the bottom of my trash can in the kitchen.

Friends far more versed on the nuances of predicting events through the alignment of the heavens tell me my rising sign as well as the time of my birth are important in narrowing the scope of the reading. Okay. My rising sign remains a mystery, to me at least. My exact entry into the world was in the wee hours of November 1st in a time before Starbuck’s, cell phones, and hand held devices.

I view horoscopes purely for entertainment, weighing astrology with an open-minded approach as most things I don’t fully understand. Who knows, in truth, what makes our world go round? None of us yet, as far as I know, have been handed the book with all the answers to the puzzles of our universe. Until such time, I  remain curious and willing to embrace whatever information is floating about as at least a possible clue to the secrets the world holds.

This month, so far at least, the lady at the helm of the horoscope site veered far off course when writing my forecast. Rather than reaping riches, I seem to be tossing money in the air. The adventures missing their mark wandering far from “exotic” leaning more towards “erratic” or “hectic”.

My first week of good fortune, I began with a visit to the emergency room. Two days prior to my visit I began a regimen of thyroid pills. As I have written many times I am not easily coaxed into taking medication. My daily intake of pharmaceuticals includes a small dose of blood pressure medicine and three times a week I pop a pill to keep my cholesterol in check. Other than that I’m a pharmacy free zone. I like it that way. However, after a recent physical it was found my thyroid was a bit “sluggish”. Not a big discrepancy, but enough for my doctor to feel I could benefit by taking something for it. Fine. The pill, a wee pink oval, was nearly invisible nestled in my palm.  How such a tiny thing could pack such a wallop continues to amaze me. For the first day or so I just felt slightly off. On the third day, however, my heart apparently decided to fight back against the new interloper and went on a rampage. The pounding going on beneath my ribs was accompanied by a screaming in my ears that would have drowned out a jet engine. Okay. Not enough weirdness, my feet curled and the calves of my legs cramped concurrently. According to Rick all this plus my beet red face was enough to convince him to either dial 911 or consult an exorcist. He chose the former. Afterwards he did tell me Linda Blair looked better in her worst scenes in the movie than I did when he picked up the phone. Not particularly a flattering analogy, but I digress. Fortunately, the symptoms began to subside after about a half an hour. Still, the ever-vigilant medical people felt I needed to go to the hospital be checked out further.

While en route to the hospital I could see the EMT tearing open plastic bags containing this piece of equipment and that. Not my first ambulance ride picturing the mounting bill which was adding to my discomfort. The last time I was transported by ambulance an item caught my eye when I received the substantial bill. A $50 charge for a heated blanket. I don’t remember seeing the blanket in my bag when I was released from the hospital five days later, so I have to assume the $50 fee was for the heat. I’ll update you when this bill comes in and let you know if there was a charge for the air I breathed while on the road. Once in the ER the usual battery of expensive tests were performed. The diagnosis at the end of the day, an unfortunate reaction to the medication. Ya think? When I called my doctor the following Monday to report the incident she asked if I’d be willing to try the medication again. Uh, let me think. NO!

The dust settled on that incident. An eerie quiet descended, allowing me to take a breath for a day or two. Having had a life full of craziness, I have learned from experience if the buzz of life tends to fall silent, it’s time to put on my hard hat and wait for whatever is on its way. I didn’t have long to wait. Yesterday round mid-afternoon my son called to chat. We were enjoying a rare uninterrupted conversation when a sudden huge crash from the back of the house brought things to a halt. Rounding the corner in the master bathroom I found Rick, last seen taking a shower, sprawled across the bathtub both legs straddling the rim. Time to hang up. He is telling me he slipped while reaching for a towel but didn’t appear seriously hurt. Inside the tub was the glass shower door pulled off when he fell thankfully still intact. The door had him jammed up toward and underneath the faucet. Every time I attempted to pull the door up, it jabbed into his side. Darn, darn, darn (or worse). “Okay”, I said to myself, “think”. I couldn’t get into the tub to get a better angle because the other door was up against his legs. Do other people find themselves in similar situations, or is it just us? I handed him a towel and stroked my chin with one hand.  This was not going well, Ollie. Other than redialing 911, I was out of options. Rick outweighs me by 100 pounds so just hoisting him up was not on the table. Being a helpful partner I said, “is there anything you need”? Thinking a moment he replied, “is there any corned beef left”? Really?  Finally, after several unsuccessful attempts to extricate him, I went off to see if I could locate a neighbor.  Finding a willing victim to help me, the bruised Rick was hoisted out and his pruney body dried off and dressed. The neighbor, most likely traumatized, headed home.

Thinking this was surely the end of my good luck, this morning I was running late for a meeting. Grabbing my keys I pressed the button meant to open the car doors  and nothing happened. Getting later by the minute I inserted the key in the lock (been awhile since I did that) and voila. Inserting the key in the ignition not only did the car not start but now the key was stuck. Goodie. Dialing road service I reminded myself to get some sage while out to remove the evil spirits from the house. Well, there might be some.

The handyman is here fixing the shower stall and contrary to my horoscope he’s not paying me for the privilege. So, I write this hard hat in place wishing you good luck on your day.

Another day in the life of Susie, thank you very much.

This is my go-to sauce for spaghetti. Sometimes I add meat and other times, like the recipe below, I like the vegetarian version.

Spaghetti with Tomato Basil Sauce and Zucchini

Tomato Basil Sauce

l large onion, chopped
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
32 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Heat olive oil in large deep saucepan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and continue cooking for 3 mins. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on med-high for 15 mins. stirring often to keep from burning.

Spaghetti with Zucchini

1/2 lb. thin spaghetti
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Mix in 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter. Keep warm.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in large skillet. Add onions and bell pepper. Cook and stir over medium heat for 6 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min. Add zucchini to skillet. Cook and stir another 6-8 mins. or until zucchini is slightly browned and tender but not mushy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve sauce over noodles an top with zucchini mix. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

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1

We’re bouncing around in California throwing chlorine in the pool and lighting coals on the barbie, in the midst of a faux spring of sorts. What an odd and unsettling year or so this has been in many ways. People on the eastern half of the nation are shivering under a blanket of frigid temperatures and blizzard conditions while out here on the west coast we’re dry as dust. I heard on the news this morning Chicago temperatures actually dipped below the comfort zone for the polar bears in their zoo necessitating housing the animals inside. Good Lord. Fire season out here could potentially be a nightmare, so do not envy us our warm weather. Bottom line, I’m doing a dance in the moonlight in hopes a few drops of rain might fall. Scary and weird times these.

I walked with a group of ladies today I’d never met before. Needing to walk and having no one to accompany me, even I tire of my own company from time to time, I felt the need to expand the playing field to include new players. It was cold enough starting out to require an insulated vest, but by the time we got our cardio up I could have easily have switched to shorts and a tee-shirt. It was nice to hear some new stories, and find out a little about the people I was walking with. When you don’t have children as a common denominator insinuating yourself in a new area with no job in place to expand yourself socially requires a little more effort. On-line I found a huge cache of local walkers welcoming newcomers to join the fold. Ten years ago I was in good enough shape to do an eight mile walk on an uphill trail without breaking a pant. These days vertical assents require a little added intestinal fortitude. Fortunately, it was two miles and relatively grade free.

A friend in the area has also suggested a jazzersize group downtown. Ach. Organized exercise is always a stretch for me. Sorry, puns seem to be my sickness. In my twenties I won a three-year membership to Jack Laine’s Health Club. Three days a week I met a friend after work and got myself in the best shape of my life. On the floor we squeezed and pumped our bodies into A+ condition. Following the floor exercises was a workout on the machines for an hour, then a quick swim and dip in the hot tub before calling it a day. I could balance a quarter on my abs. Ah yes, I remember it well.

People mistake being thin for being toned. I am here to report there is a vast difference. Working out, or regimented exercise other than walking daily, is on my larger New Year’s resolution list. As I mentioned in my last blog, the long list includes becoming an aerialist for Barnum and Bailey or possibly riding a bike to the moon. Exercising was on last year’s list as well. In January, typically the time one does such craziness, I signed up at a local gym. The first morning I arrived Spandex in place, fresh and brimming with resolve. As instructed, I turned on the video on the treadmill and walked the required thirty minutes to warm up. Easy peasy. My instructor, an ex-marine who I would place in his late twenties, guided me to my next group of machines, the ellipticals. These stair stepper type machines were obviously invented by someone of a deeply sadistic nature relishing watching others in pain. Ellipticals are meant to get your cardio up. True to their word, in minutes my heart rate soared to the notch reading “call the paramedics”, with “alert the coroner” lingering a racing heartbeat behind. While I labored drowning in my own body fluids, Biff, or whatever his name was, easily maneuvered the machine next to me. Toned harder than a granite counter top, he made the task look as effortless as lifting a powder puff from a plastic bag. Damn the man.

After two hours of extreme torture, I would have given up a kitten to a dobermain to make it stop. I thanked Biff for his instruction, grabbed my lovely new orange water bottle purchased especially to mark the occasion, and went home. I haven’t seen the man since. I know, I know, very poor behavior on my part. I paid thirty-five dollars a month for one year so Biff could enjoy a lovely vacation in Maui. Rick is kind enough to remind me of this should I suggest joining another establishment of this kind from time to time.

Back in the 80’s a friend from work and I signed up to take advantage of a work subsidized membership at a new health club in the area. In particular, jazzersize sounded interesting. Definitely I needed some toning up, and Sally was looking to take off a little after baby weight. Neither of us having participated in such a class before, we had no idea of the haute couture in place as far as dressing for the occasion. It seemed there were outfits required to fit in properly. Coordinated layers of Spandex one over another, sweat bands, slouchy socks and high-end brands of workout shoes were necessary not to stand out in the crowd. We didn’t get the memo. Sal showed up in gray sweats easily two sizes too large and I wore shorts and a beer tee-shirt with my gardening tennies on feet. Standing amongst the well-toned, impeccably clad ladies making up the rest of the group we stood out like two onions in a petunia patch. Always best to make a dramatic entrance if you can’t make a good one.

The instructor arrived shortly. Cut out of the same cloth as the other ladies, we gravitated toward the back of the room to garner less attention. Music flowing from a boom box, bodies began to move. Quickly it became obvious there was choreography involved here and between Sal and I we shared four left feet. We went right. They went left. We stood up. They hunched down. Humiliating doesn’t adequately cover that half hour. Without warning in unison all the women turned to face us and we found ourselves at the front of the line. At that point, I started laughing. Sometimes that’s the only thing to do. Finally, our instructor, not having broken a sweat, turned off the music. Thank God. We picked up our towels and headed toward the door when she loudly said in our direction, “Ladies”. I pointed at my chest and mouthed, “us”? “Ladies, where are you going? This was only the warm up.” That news sinking in we kept right on going and headed up to the juice bar for a stiff glass of carrot juice, toasting a great effort. Ah well.

I had a number of tomatoes and zucchini on hand and a chub of gruyere cheese. This was a delicious way to pair them up.

Tomato Zucchini Gratin

3 large tomatoes, sliced in 1/2″ slices
2 zucchini, sliced in 1/2 ” slices
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup dried basil
1/2 tsp. onion salt
2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated, divided
1 Tbsp. EV olive oil
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread tomato and zucchini slices on paper towel lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle both sides with salt. Let stand for 20 mins.

IMG_5431

Spray 2 quart casserole dish with cooking spay. Sprinkle 1/4 cup bread crumbs on bottom of dish.

Mix together rictota cheese, basil, egg yolks, flour, ad onion salt in medium mixing bowl.

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Add 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese.

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Place one layer of tomatoes on top of bread crumbs. Top with a layer of zucchini.

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Spread ricotta/Gruyere mix over top of vegetables.

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Top with remaining tomatoes and top them with remaining zucchini. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle green onions over top.

Bake for 30 mins. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining bread crumbs and cheese on top. Bake for 20-25 mins. longer until bubbly and golden brown.

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final

This morning I woke up motivated. I prep my food for dinner early in the day as quite often I run out of time later or energy. Always I have been a morning person. My favorite time being just before the sun crests the hill. An unfolded day in front of me, no phones ringing, no chores to be accomplished, nothing but blessed peace and quiet and a steaming cup of fresh coffee. Mmmmm.

I digress. Remembering something I needed in the garage refrigerator, I slipped on a coat and well, slippers, and unlocked the outside door. Opening the refrigerator I stared into the gaping maw realizing quickly whatever it was I felt I couldn’t live without five minutes prior had been eliminated by my receptors on the way out to the garage. Straining to see if I could revive the thought, I gave up, closed the door and went back inside. The minute I’d removed my arm from the second sleeve, eggplant popped into my head as clear as “an azure sky of deepest summer” to quote Alex De Large. Sigh. When brains have been around for a few years they seem to develop quirks like refusing to remember that blond guy who was in Rich Man Poor Man or whatever that city was you lived in when you were nine. Most annoying. Rick has taken to using “whatchamacallit or whatshisname” as standard phrases for everything or everyone he’s searching for in his memory but cannot find.

While visiting my mother I noticed she was doing this fairly often. Not enough to be alarming, but enough. What amused me was she commented on a friend saying he repeated himself regularly. This was the third time since I’d arrived she’d told me the same thing.

On the second day of our visit there was a scheduled weekly hair appointment. As I’ve mentioned before my mother has her hair done once and week, has for years, and she will make this appointment if she has to be transported by ambulance. I offered to go with her. It is an old salon reminiscent of the 1970’s. Most of the ladies seated in the chairs are older and the “do’s” pretty much of the assembly line variety, curlers, dryer, and tease, followed by a good coat of shellac.

Deciding to have our nails done while there. Mother said her manicure was set for 10:30 so we should get there a few minutes early because of the holiday. Okay. Getting my mother out the door is a process but somehow we got ourselves there and parked within minutes of the scheduled time.

Approaching the reception desk we were told her stylist, Henry, had gone missing. Apparently there had been a company Christmas party the night before and Henry had disappeared with one of the elves. To add to the mix, it turned out my mother’s appointment wasn’t until 1:00 for her nails with mine following at 2:00. It would seem we had a little time to kill until her hair appointment at 11:30, provided Henry rallied and arrived on the scene. Mother suggested we walk next door and get some lunch. This killed a half an hour.

Henry showed up looking a bit peeked around 11:45. His earlier appointments were backed up at that point so Mother was placed in the queue. The manicurist arriving early and unbooked asked if I’d like to fill the gap. For an hour the manicurist, a lovely Vietnamese woman who at forty-six looked like she was barely old enough to drive, regaled me with stories of her twenty year old son who refuses to go to work and doesn’t respect his parents. Hmmmm. Doesn’t matter where you come from, the story seems to follow the same theme.

I opted for a festive red with a bit of sparkle for my nail color. I have little patience for sitting so squirming usually commences about a half an hour in. Several times she looked up over her glasses as if to say, “really?”. Sorry. Once all coats had been applied, beauty is a process, a small heater was placed in front of me and I was instructed to place my hands inside. I did, both at the same time hitting one hand against the other. Now the glasses were perched at the end of her nose and the look was much intensified. Whoops. “One at a time, Susie”, she said. The “duh” was omitted in case a tip was imminent. Damage repaired, my nails were dried and I was done. I must write that down for next time, “one at a time, one at a time”. Duh.

Mother had progressed to sitting under the dryer, People magazine in hand, and a cup of Henry’s “special coffee” sitting next to her. Asked if I’d like the same, I nodded yes and was shortly handed a latte and offered a hair style magazine to peruse. Since I wasn’t getting my hair done I wondered if this was a hint, but chose another gossip rag instead and settled in the particularly uncomfortable dryer chair to pass the time.

Ladies around me were in all stages of being done. One, whose head was completely covered with tin foil squares looked as if she might be preparing to make a moon landing at any moment. Another had purple dye on red hair, eight earrings crawling up the side of one ear, and 10″ orange nails. She could have explored Cyrano de Bergerac’s nose with ease. Less colorful floats have appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Gossip was flowing like champagne on New Year’s Eve. Bits of it floated my direction allowing me to gather that Janice’s husband was painting outside the lines with a lady at work, and Rene’s son was in rehab again and his mother was supporting his pregnant girlfriend. Some things never change.

Finally at 2:30 with my behind having completely lost feeling and unsure I could stand without assistance, we made our way out the back door and into the Bay Area holiday traffic. Half way home my mother announced she’d forgotten her reading glasses. Back to the salon we went. At home, my other half had unleashed the dogs and alerted the media, but in the end we had a great dinner and a rousing game of trivia which with four people who can’t remember what they ate for breakfast, was memorable. Another day in the life of.

These were just plain finger licking good. I could have eaten four.

Tilapia Baja Tacos with Tangy Slaw

Tilapia Baja Tacos

1 1/2 lbs. tilapia filets, cut in half
1/3 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp. dried coriander
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. Freshly squeezed lime juice
Canola or Grapeseed Oil
Tangy Slaw (recipe below)
8 corn tortillas
Chunky salsa

Slather filets with yellow mustard. In shallow dish whisk together flour, cumin, chili powder, coriander, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. Dredge filets in flour mixture covering all sides. Drizzle lime juice over all. Cover and place in refrigerator for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap tortillas in tin foil, four to a package. Place in oven for 20 mins.

Heat 3″ of oil on high heat in deep heavy skillet. Cook fish in batches until golden brown and floating on top of oil draining each batch on paper towels. Keep batches warm in oven.

Place two pieces of fish on top of warm tortilla. Top with tangy slaw. Serve with salsa.

Tangy Slaw

1 14 oz. bag angel hair coleslaw mix
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Place coleslaw mix and red onion in medium mixing bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients. Add to coleslaw mix. Mix well and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hr. Serve on top of fish.

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