Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ellen and Her Mom

Ellen and I met when we both worked in the offices of New England Life back in 1978. It was my first job out of college and I never felt like I fit in with the other girls in the office. Then Ellen arrived, we discovered we shared the same birthday, we enjoyed each other's company, and we started to hang out. She was my one friend in an office of male salesmen and their female secretaries.

Ellen and her husband Frank had moved to Cleveland from Boston. A few years after they moved here, Ellen's father got sick and Ellen gave birth to her daughter Bonnie. Ellen and Frank then returned to Boston.

We kept in touch with each other twice a year - sending each other a birthday card in July and a holiday card in December. Ellen had given birth to a son, Lee, and Frank had started his own business, which was doing very well. We were having some rough times with my own family, and I must admit there were times when I would get Ellen's bi-annual card and just stare at it, thinking I didn't want to open it to hear how wonderful everything was in her life.

I'd like to say it was a few years ago, but time flies, and I'm thinking it was 8 or 9 years ago when I got an email from Ellen out of the blue. I don't even know how she found me, but we began a very dedicated email relationship. Friendships change when you go from twice a year cards summing up the year to several emails a day (so what are you making for dinner tonight?...what's your weather like today?). I began to call her Betty Crocker for the healthy meals she prepared every night (always with a salad and every part of the food pyramid). We began to really know each other. One time a few years ago, Ellen's computer was down and she had Frank email me from work to let me know she wouldn't be on the computer. Frank could not figure out how we could rely on email so much ("why don't you just talk on the phone?"). I laughed at that. Cause anyone who understands the beauty of email knows it's totally at your own convenience. You can thoughtfully take your time about what you say, or you can quickly type an email full of typos and no one cares, but it's like getting mail 5 times a day. It's wonderful.

Seven years ago, Ellen's mother had a stroke. Up until that time, her mother had been living a very active life, in her 90s, at the assisted living facility where she lived. The stroke was disabling, and she had to move into a nursing home. And thus began Ellen's journey of helping to take care of her mother. After some not-so-nice treatment by a nursing home aide, Ellen was determined to spend as much time with her mother as possible. And so she went every day, for 7 days a week until she finally reduced her visits to 5 days a week. Ellen's sister was of no help whatsoever, so Ellen was on her own. I know it was very difficult, especially as her mother began to lose her interest in life and just wanted to sleep. Many times over the years there would be a setback, and Ellen would fear it was the end. With both of her kids away at college, she was resigned to deal with the end on her own, with Frank.

Last month, Ellen was visiting her mother at the nursing home and she tripped over a nursing cord. She broke her shoulder in 4 places and has been pretty much incapacitated. She had a shoulder replacement surgery. Driving was out of the question, and even being a passenger in a car was painful.

So our emails were suspended. And I missed them so much. Well Ellen finally arrived back on email last week. And I came in to work this morning with my usual email from Ellen. She would usually email me very early in the morning, before she went to see her mother. And since she's been out of commission, she's not sleeping so I guess she's up early in the morning. The first email told me about the call she got from the nursing home this morning, saying that her mother had taken a turn for the worse. The second email sent 40 minutes later, was to tell me that her mother had passed away.

Ellen's daughter graduated from law school in the spring and is working, much to Ellen's delight, as an attorney in Boston (taking after Ellen's father). Her son just got his master's degree a few weeks ago and he was taking a slow ride back to Boston, visiting friends along the way. He was set to arrive in Boston at the end of this week, but when he got the call today, he came right home. I am glad the family is all together.

Ellen had been expecting this for many years but said it was still so shocking when it happened. She had made a promise to her father when he was sick that she would take care of her mother. Her mother would have turned 100 in 3 weeks (she refused a party - when Ellen suggested one, her mother replied that she wouldn't be there). Ellen kept this promise to an extreme. I have never seen such devotion of a daughter for her mother. As her mother declined physically and mentally, it became more taxing to spend every day there, but it never stopped Ellen. Very occasionally, she would take a "vacation" day just to have some time to herself. But really, it was 7 years of giving her life to her mother. I am so impressed with her strength and the extent to which she honored her father's wishes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Well if I were like every other blogger, right about now I would be wishing all of you a happy and healthy holiday.

However, I sense that I am a bit more out of control than most of you out there.

Last year I decided to be really organized and put all my Christmas clothes in a box. Then they wouldn't take up valuable space in my closet. So I did that, and threw in Christmas towels, some wrapping paper, and miscellaneous things that were just sitting around after the holiday. And then I couldn't find the damn thing. I looked in the big walk-in closet we have upstairs, and discovered I couldn't walk in there. Heather, who is now 20, so I can't call her a teen, decided to stash all her belongings in that closet. Included in her stash, I discovered, was one bag filled with old bags.

Next I checked the attic. Same thing there. Everything is thrown in there. My favorite is the select comfort bed David HAD to have years ago. He really liked the idea of each of us being able to pick our own comfort zone. Well, the comfort was unsatisfactory after a while, as the bed started to sag in the middle. He realized that the plastic had warped. Now this was not a cheap bed, and he was angry about it. So he took pictures and threw everything in the attic, planning to write to the manufacturer and show his discontent. That was about 2 years ago. Since then, we have bought a regular, really comfortable bed. And there are all these selective bed parts taking up valuable attic space. Anyway, no box of clothes was found in the attic.

Finally the basement. David proudly organized the basement a few years ago, and when I wanted to store something down there last year, told me I wasn't permitted, cause it was too organized.

Anyway, I have not been wearing my Christmas clothes. And tonight, on Christmas eve, I discovered my box of Christmas clothes. Where? Why in my bedroom, below some other boxes of stuff.

We are having the family over for Christmas tomorrow and as usual, the house is a huge mess and we needed to shop. I HATE cleaning, but instead of using this bonus day off to clean, I decided to be the laziest I have ever been. I came downstairs this morning in my PJs, expecting to take a morning shower and then go out. Well the PJs stayed on, and I decided to take a nap with the cats in our bed. I love that and rarely get to do that. I was so lazy that Heather was up and ready to go out while I was lying in my PJs. I finally got up, and turned on some channel that had Dr 90210. I have never watched this show. All these women who are very into themselves electing to have plastic surgery, when they really look fine to me. Well I am now addicted to this show. It went on for 2 hours and I sat on that couch, still showerless and in my PJs, totally fascinated by this life. The most interesting was the relationship between one of the plastic surgeons and his wife, who was raised with money. She wanted to buy a 10,000 sq foot house (they were living in a 9,000 sq foot house). He said isn't this a democracy? She said no, you're never home. He said yeah, you're right, it's cause I'm an ATM machine for you. I was riveted. He then sat down with her a few days later and said that things needed to change, and that they needed to "get back to basics." "What do you mean," she asked, "are you saying you're going to leave me?" And he explains that he wants to go visit his adoptive family in Utah. His father in S. America had given him up and this Utah family adopted him and he wanted to see them. So the doctor and his wife and 2 young kids get on a plane to see his family in Utah. Then we learn that he hasn't seen this family in 30 years!!! He wants them to help him be a better husband and dad, and they were the only people who gave him love. But he hasn't seen them in 30 years!!! It is understandable how I was riveted. They get to Utah, and we meet the elderly parents, and he asks his wise old mom how he can learn to trust people, given that he was abandoned by his dad. "Love," she says "is the answer." And I'm thinking he couldn't have called her on the phone with this question?

Anyway, that's how my day went. Nowhere! David could see that my day was going nowhere and volunteered to do the grocery shopping. He got home from the grocery store and discovered 2 big blocks of cheese that he didn't buy (except upon further investigation, discovered he did pay for them). He said oh, someone's gonna be mad. Someone's gonna have a cheeseless Christmas! And that got me laughing.

Then I went to put a gift in our pile of gifts and saw one of the packages David made for his sister Mary. While going thru old pictures (we are giving his sisters Patty and Mary photo albums filled with old pix), he discovered Mary's old dental x-rays, from like 40 years ago, and he wrapped them up to give to her. And that also got me laughing.

I guess we need to celebrate our out-of-controlness.

So to the 3 or so of you who read my blog, I do wish you a happy holiday and a sense of humor to deal with the ridiculous stuff in life.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Dreaded Doctor's Scale

If I can think of one thing that almost everyone universally hates, it's got to be the scale in a doctor's office.

Many years ago, I had an OB GYN who weighed about 90 lbs. Every year when I went to see her, she would weigh me and say "you gotta take that weight off." So I had this major anxiety attack every time I went in to see her, til I solved the problem: I stopped going. Then one day Sharon told me that her GYN didn't require you to be weighed. So I immediately switched to him. I came for my first visit, and his wife, the nurse, asked if I "wanted" to be weighed. "No thank you," I politely responded. And that was it! The new GYN happened to be an adorable man, but throw in their philosophy of not requiring a weigh-in, and I was as happy as a clam. The next year I went for my visit, the wife asked if I would like to step on the scale. "No thanks" I again replied. I then further said that I liked it that I was not REQUIRED to get on the scale. And she told me all services in a doctor's office are optional, and you can refuse any service. Wow, I thought, I wish I had known this many years ago.

Well that philosophy is apparently not shared by all doctors, including my internal medicine (IM) guy. At my first visit to Dr IM, an assistant led me down the hall to a scale. "Oh, I don't want to be weighed," I told her. She said "you must. It's a requirement." So I got on the damn scale. And stopped trying to argue with Dr IM's office.

At my last visit, Dr IM, who has a much nicer demeanor than the cold 90 lb GYN, told me how many pounds he'd like me to lose by my next visit. Of course, I GAINED weight this time. I was not looking forward to today's visit, til a brainstorm hit me.

I was making cookies for the holidays and wham, I thought, hey I'll use these as a bribe! So I refrigerated the dough and baked some fresh cookies this morning. I put them in a nice "Happy Chanukah" bag and brought them with me to the doctor's office. I was again led down the hall to a scale, got on, and said "oh gee, this isn't good." I was then led to a room. Dr IM walked in and I held up the bag. "This bag of freshly baked cookies is yours if you promise not to comment on my weight today," I said. "DEAL!" he replied.

Being quite happy with myself, I called Sharon, who shares the same doctor, and told her my story. "I'm gonna try that!" she said.

So now I'm envisioning this doctor getting fatter and fatter each time we go to see him.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Malleys' Heaven

I went to my favorite chocolate store yesterday - Malleys Chocolates. I was going to get a few gifts. As I was shopping, I heard a customer ask a sales associate where the "Heaven" was. She said "we're all out, I think." He said "you can't be out - we came in just to buy Heaven. We were going to bring it to my mother." The saleslady said she would ask her associate, who I will call "Ethel." Ethel is a sweet old lady who has been working there forever. So the saleslady approached Ethel and asked about the Heaven, and Ethel shook her head and said "sold out." The customer was quite upset. So she told him she had put aside a box for herself and she would let him have it. He said oh, that's ok, and she insisted. So the customer yelled over to his wife "Honey, this nice lady wants to sell us her personal box!" And his wife said "no, we can't do that." And Ethel said "I insist. I don't need it. I"m a walking advertisement for Malleys." And in case you wonder, no, she wasn't fat. The wife responded "I don't care - we cannot take your personal box." So they argued back and forth. Meanwhile, the lady waiting on me as I paid for my purchases shook her head and said "It's bad. They advertised this product like crazy and we ran out." And I said "well I guess that's good, cause business is good for you" and she said "no, it's bad. Everyone is coming in here to buy it and they are all disappointed that we've run out."

Well after recounting this cute story, I regret to tell you that I left the store without finding out the ending. And that's not like me. I always have to know the ending. But I had other shopping to do. I just thought it was a very sweet gesture, and the ending almost doesn't even matter.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Cast Away Christmas

With the holidays approaching, I got to thinking about past holidays. We spend Christmas eve and Christmas day with David's family and it's always a good time.

Eight years ago, I was a frazzled mom. Things were not going well on the parenting front. We were expecting the family for Christmas eve and the house was pretty much ready and the food was done. The kids then started to fight with each other, and in the process, they broke a beautiful pottery dish I had bought at an art show. That was the final straw for me that day. With our company set to arrive any minute, I knew I couldn't handle another minute of this family life. So I got in my car (in the middle of a heavy snowfall) and just set out to drive. I had no idea where I would go, but for some reason, being in my car felt like the only place I could be and not lose my mind.

I thought about driving to a park and getting out and sitting on the ground, with the hope that I would freeze to death and end this pain. But I couldn't do that. So I decided to go to a movie theater, even though there were no movies I was burning to see. I drove to the theater, parked my car, walked in and got in line behind every other individual who didn't celebrate Christmas. It was the first time I had ever gone to a movie by myself. The movie was Cast Away. I settled down in my seat, wondered if I should call my husband to let him know where I was, and decided I just needed space from everyone in my family.

I was able to get very involved in the movie, which was a good thing. The movie ended and I drove home, much more at peace with myself. I came inside and the family was all gathered around and there was a fire in the fireplace. No one knew what to make of me and if I recall correctly, very little was said about my absence. I just joined them all as if my absence was nothing to be questioned.

For some unknown reason, I kept the broken plate. I had meant to try to glue it together, but I never did. So whenever I am getting something out of the china cabinet, I see that plate and it's a reminder of that night. I can't bring myself to get rid of that plate. I'm not sure why...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sweet Old Pix

Hubby David found a bunch of old pix and he made my day by emailing "David and Santa" to me at work. Isn't he sweet?

And then I came home and found David and Cousin Deet (aka Jeanie of the Marmalde Gypsy) when they were very young. Doesn't Deet look like a china doll?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ode to China Gate

A few weeks ago I was driving past Cedar Center. The whole north side is closed now, for a new development that is probably being postponed due to the economy. It looked very sad and desolate. At the end of the center was a now-closed China Gate and seeing that brought back a lot of memories.

I remember going there as a kid with my family. We didn't eat out much, and it was always a treat to go there. I especially remember the serving pieces - stainless steel pieces with a dome lid. All the food would arrive with lidded platters and the waiter would remove the lids with a flourish. And that was exciting. The anticipation of the wonderful flavors that we would soon be tasting - subgum chow mein, fried rice, tiny spare ribs, eggrolls...

As you entered the restaurant, you were greeted by a sign that said "Good Lunch! Wonderful Dinner!" Which made me smile. And the same smiling oriental man would greet you each time you came. Thinking back now - well I think he was a man who didn't age cause I went there for a span of 40 years!

As I grew up and got my own place, I would continue to go to China Gate with friends. By this time, there were newer, more trendy chinese restaurants around, and China Gate was starting to get a reputation as being dirty. But I loved it. The food was consistently good and I didn't see any dirt. It was like home - things didn't change much and the food was consistent.

I remember one night when I was living on my own and several of us were getting together to go to China Gate. Everyone was at my place and we were ready to leave. The phone rang, and it was my old boyfriend Larry. Larry and I were together for about 4 years, in Toronto. I moved back to Cleveland, and we continued to drive to each other's places for weekend visits. I think both of us knew this was not a relationship that was destined for marriage, but - well kind of like China Gate - it was old and comfortable. One day Larry called me and asked if I would move to Calgary with him. He was working for Arthur Andersen and he was being transferred there, and I said no. I was not ready to make that big step. But I figured we'd continue to be involved, even though we were seeing each other less and less. So that night, as we were on our way out the door to go to China Gate, I took the call and told the others to go ahead without me and I would meet them there. They left, and I sat down for a conversation with Larry. I asked what he was up to, and he told me he was married. Married! This was totally unexpected! So we talked for a little bit and said goodbye and I sat there with this big lump in my throat. All I really wanted to do was go to bed and let myself be depressed. But I had friends waiting for me at China Gate! So I forced myself out the door, and someone asked how Larry was and I had to tell them he was married.

I can laugh about it now; it wasn't so funny then. I think that may have been my last trip to China Gate. Occasionally my parents would have us over for dinner and they would pick up food from China Gate, but then we started getting food from other chinese restaurants.

But when I drive by and see the empty green restaurant, it will always be full of memories for me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Simple Things I am Thankful For

We alternate families on Thanksgiving. Even years, it's my parents. Odd years, it's David's sister.

The last time we went to my parents, my mother had us go around the table and tell everyone what we were thankful for. So I'm trying to give this some thought in advance. The last 5 days or so have helped me on this track.

Daughter Heather arrived home from OU last Wednesday with her big basket of laundry, proudly announcing that she had done no wash since her last visit here (about 6 weeks ago). That night, I decided to start in on her laundry. About 20 minutes after I turned the machine on, I heard David yell "A FLOOD!!!" Now God knows what he'd be yelling if we lived in New Orleans when Katrina hit. I came running into the utility room and yeah, there was a fair amount of water on the floor. The bathroom, which is right off the utility room, also had a fair amount of water, but upon further investigation, we realized the water didn't cross over from one room to another. We discussed if we could we have two separate problems. David said in this house we could have many problems. So we mopped up, the toilet seemed ok, and that was that.

On Thursday, David called me at work to announce that he was doing wash and flushed the toilet and there was water and poop floating everywhere. We discussed who he should call. We decided against the "weird plumber." My sister had recommended the weird plumber a while back. I thought he was pricey and David thought he knew what he was doing, and we both agreed that he was weird. He told us that my nephew, my sister's son, had large poops based on the plumbing he did. I told David I did not want this plumber announcing to anyone the size of our poops. So we agreed to find another plumber. He was successful, and it turned out the toilet had to be pulled out and we had tree roots underneath the toilet. The problem was fixed, for $300+ dollars. Did I mention that I had previously told David we needed to spend less this holiday season?

So the plumber left, and David gave the utility room and the bathroom a thorough cleaning. I thought well maybe this was a blessing in disguise; it's been a very long time since those floors have had a good cleaning.

On Friday at work, the roof over my office started to leak. Brown water started dripping in. I put a bowl on my credenza and was losing my mind with the sound of the drip...drip...drip. When I arrived home from work, my dear 14 year old dog Pepper was sitting in a corner, shaking like crazy. We agreed we would call the vet first thing in the morning. Meanwhile, Pepper started to pee uncontrollably all over the dining room. I mean huge puddles. I'm yelling "HELP!!!" Again, we can't imagine how we would respond in a real emergency. So we moved the dining room table and David gave the floor a thorough mopping.

Saturday I took Pepper to the vet, and a urinary tract infection was diagnosed. She had an x-ray and was given a shot of antibiotics as well as oral antibiotics to take home. It was also discovered she had ringworm, so we got pills for that. The vet wanted to know if she hunts. Hunts? Yeah, she wanders around the house hunting for crumbs. Her time outside is limited to slowly walking to the grass, doing her business, and slowly returning to the house. The bill? $188. It was when I returned home with Pepper that I noticed our kitchen faucet had stopped working correctly. The water would come out, but more was coming out where the faucet is attached to the sink (I am not a technical person). The problem got progressively worse, and eventually, when we turned the water on, it would fly straight up into the air, soaking the drying dishes as well as the person using the faucet.

After a morning of doing laundry, I went upstairs to rest. Poor Pepper couldn't climb the stairs. David decided to be nice and he carried Pepper up the stairs. He put her down on the bed with me and then yelled "OMG, she's peeing." Yeah, I had just finished putting the clean sheets on. The pee went through the quilt, the blanket, the sheets and the mattress cover. I said well I guess I know what I"m doing tonight. We normally don't have terribly exciting plans on Saturday nights, but this was ridiculous.

Sunday we had a group of guys over to play poker. David put a sign on the faucet that said "do not use." I had no idea how hard it is to LIVE without a working faucet. We served bagels for breakfast and switched to paper plates for lunch when we ordered pizzas.

This morning David called the plumber, who came out and fixed the sink. Meanwhile, I was at work and noticed a sudden dripping sound and saw that the leak was in a new spot. So I moved the bowl to the new spot. Then I noticed my hair getting wet - the roof was leaking on my head! So I removed all papers and books that were in the way. People joked about me getting an umbrella installed so that I could continue to work. I commented to a co-worker "I did not need this today" and she responded "well what day WOULD you need this?" And I said just not on a 3 day work week.

I came home and the sink was fixed. David commented that he has never been so happy to have a working sink. And I realized all of the things I have to be thankful for. Being able to wash clothes and flush a toilet without there being a flood. Having a dog that is healing and who does her business outside. And having a sink that works. It's the little things in life that mean a lot.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Apple Pie

I like to bake but have never been a big pie person. A few weeks ago, I decided to make an apple pie. Not completely from scratch - I bought a refrigerated Pillsbury crust. And I did not make it alone - I enlisted David to help cut the many apples (sliced very thin). And Pepper the dog sat with us, waiting for us to throw her apple slices. It was a wonderful pie. Came out a little too liquidy, so next time I would add a little flour to the apple mixture.


7 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced very thin
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t salt

3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/3 C chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Please oven rack in lowest position. Preheat oven to 400.

Put crust in pie pan. To prepare filling, mix together all filling ingredients (ADD A LITTLE FLOUR). Spoon into crust.

To prepare topping, in a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour and nutmeg. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut butter into brown sugar mixture until coarse crumbs form. Sprinkle apples evenly with topping.

Bake pie until topping is lightly browned and filling is bubbly, about 35 minutes. If pie is overbrowning, cover loosely with foil.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Celebration of Life

This weekend I went to my first "celebration of life." The mother of a long-time co-worker (Dick) died. Dick left our company a few years ago, so we see each other maybe once a year.

People in our company are really good about supporting current as well as former co-workers, and three of us set off for a 65 minute ride across town, in a driving rain, to attend this celebration ceremony (I was gonna call it something else to be less redundant, but what can you call it - bash?... I'll just keep calling it a celebration).

I have only attended official funerals in my life. I am a religious reader of death notices (I know I'm not the only one who's like that), and I have seen some celebration of life notices and wondered what they were like.

Some of the funerals I have attended have really been disheartening to me. They are held in a church or synagogue or funeral home, and sometimes the person speaking doesn't even know the deceased. In others, there are many prayers said and the deceased seems to be an incidental part of the service. I am not a big organized religion person, and I don't like the sitting, standing, sitting, standing, and reading of prayers. I know it brings comfort to some people - I am not one of those people.

So I have decided, after this weekend, that when it's my time, I want the "celebration" concept. The woman who died was very active and involved in life. She had been a teacher, was active in the boat club (where the celebration was held), and was a very youthful mom and grandma.

We all met at the boat club and went into a big room that had tables set up. Food (good food!) was arranged on tables. A person who described himself as a life celebrant or a name close to that, talked about Ruth. That was the sole reason for everyone getting together, and Ruth was the sole topic of discussion. Ruth had been living with lung cancer for a while and was doing well with it, until she ended up with pneumonia and quickly decided she didn't want any heroic means to keep her alive. She gathered her family to tell them that, and she was gone not long after that. She told her family she did not want a funeral. Well the funeral directors suggested that the family have this celebration ceremony - a "non-funeral." And the man presiding over the ceremony told us we were not to call this a funeral - this was a non-funeral. He talked about Ruth after meeting with the family and getting an idea of who Ruth was and what she was about. Then he opened the floor for anyone else to speak. One of the grandchildren (a CPA, he told us, who had been helped in math by Ruth, the former math teacher) got up to speak and his sister accompanied him "for moral support." He spoke very lovingly about his grandma and late nights spent playing cards at her house. And how all his friends just looked at her as being much younger than her years. One woman told the group that she had called her son, a former student of Ruth's, to tell him about Ruth's passing, and he told her he would always remember how kind Ruth was to a fellow student who had lost a parent at a young age. And one older woman, with advanced arthritis, explained that she wanted to talk but couldn't stand up, so she sat in her chair and told us what a good friend Ruth had been and how they would play cards together. It was all very informal, and there was none of the nervous feeling that you get at funerals. The family recognized that they were lucky to have had Ruth in their lives, and they all knew that a part of her would continue on within each of them.

Then we ate. And visited. Since I started working with Dick in 1978, there were people there from the long ago past who I had not seen in many years. It was just a very nice affair, getting together, giving our support, learning more about Dick's mom, and well -- celebrating a life. And that is how I think the end of life should be.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Office

Two of my favorite TV shows are on at the same time - Greys Anatomy and The Office. So every Thursday I go into the den and program the TV to record The Office. After I finished hitting record, I started thinking about the show and wondering what it is that makes it so appealing to watch.

Each character is so unique, but it's the combination of the characters, being forced to interact together for most of their waking hours, that is so interesting (and humorous) to me.

I have been at my current job for over 25 years. So I KNOW what it's like working with all types, day after day. Our company started out very small - there were 4 of us to start, and we grew like crazy. And it was like a big family. If someone was getting married, we were all there, planning a party. If someone had a death in the family, we were all there at the wake. It was like this for many years. It was a very cohesive group. We went through all of the life cycles together - there were the early years of the weddings, then the births, then the graduation, and now, unfortunately, we're in the years of the funerals of the parents.

We had steady growth at the company for many years, and then we went through a period of very rapid growth. We were hiring anyone. Food was being stolen from the kitchen. Toilet paper was disappearing from the bathrooms! We didn't know everyone anymore, which was weird. And then we got smaller again, but a lot of that cohesiveness was gone.

In spite of that, many employees who had left the company would stay in touch and remark that they loved working at our company cause it was like family. Well, I thought, families kind of go through their cycles too. And people change and people say things that make us angry and maybe work is like that now. We've got the lazy one, the one who always acts like she's gonna do something she's supposed to do and then never does. There's the bossy one. And the one who ignores us whenever we need information. And the spiteful one - beware if you get this person angry, cause then you'll never get what you want. Although there are a few left who will always help out when needed, it seems we've lost most of that. Which makes me sad. We used to operate like a well oiled machine. Now we're a bunch of parts that never quite come together.

I love it in The Office when they are all summoned to a meeting. The boss is up there trying to be so enthusiastic and the rest of the group is sitting there, collectively thinking "oh brother." Maybe this is what happens when the company has been around for too long. If I could pick any kind of employment situation right now, I would choose to work for a company that is just getting started. And I would choose co-workers who would be there for the greater cause. Because those were my favorite times in the life of our company.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Great Novel That Was Never Written

Like many people in this world, I always thought I'd like to write a novel. The hard part, tho, that I could never move beyond, is what would I write about? I love to read novels and as I read them I think how the hell did the author do that? It takes great creativity and organization to put something like that together.

Years ago, my friend Sharon and I started a notebook. We would save funny articles, typos in the paper, dumb ads, death notices, etc. and tape them in The Notebook. We have taken turns being the watchdog of The Notebook. Sometimes we'll call each other and say "I found something for The Notebook." We exchange magazines and coupons regularly, and sometimes the bag we present to each other will include an item for The Notebook. When Sharon turned 50 last year, I presented her with The Notebook, with a small note attached directing her to be the keeper of the notebook for the next 10 years, and to give it back to me on my 60th birthday. As I read through it before giving it to her, I laughed to myself as I found that I was still amused by the items we found funny 30 years ago. Several items had prompted us to say "that would make a great novel."

Sometimes we would find two death notices on the same person, showing the world that the family was at war. The different notices would include different people as survivors. Great novel material.

Sharon and I are both nosey, and we love to solve mysteries. One of our favorite times of year (and pardon our dark sense of humor) is when a certain family writes a poem about their dead loved one, a very pretty young woman who was murdered, outside in the snow, and the perpetrator was never found. The family, it seems, is sure that the woman's husband committed the act. Every year the poem is a little different, and there is a picture of the young woman. What we have pieced together is that law enforcement looked the other way, in the eyes of the family, and never arrested the evil husband. The perfect ingredients for a novel.

Part of my job at work involves working with large medical claims that are in "case management" which means a case manager contacts the family and helps them find their way through the medical system and the various therapies that includes. There are incredibly heroic people out there living under very difficult circumstances. Very ill people living with aging disabled parents and children with disabilities. I read those reports and wonder what goes on in those homes and think - yeah, this would make a great novel.

I don't know how to get started, but I still yearn to write that great novel. Maybe someday...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The letter C

When given a random letter, can you put up six things (or 10) related to you and to that letter. Things you love.

Well, Cousin Deet has assigned me letter "C" so, not being nearly as creative as Deet, I will do my best...

OK, C is for CATNIP. It was my plan to cut down the catnip plant today so that I can dry it and have entertainment for my 3 cats to last through the cold weather. Problem is, it's so damn cold outside that I'm a wimp and don't want to go out. But having written this, maybe I will be compelled to go out and do it. I even googled catnip this morning and learned all kinds of interesting stuff. Like when a cat encounters catnip, it usually sniffs it, rubs against it, licks it & finally eats it. It's actually the sniffing that gets produces the high, it's believed that cats eat catnip to bruise the catnip & therefore release more of the nepetalactone. The high produced will usually last between five & ten minutes.

C is for CANDY. One of the things I love. One of the things that makes me like a little kid. Baby Ruths, Peanut M&Ms, RED swedish fish, red licorice, chocolate Neccos. Dark chocolate covered caramels from Trader Joe's. Fruit slices from Malleys, especially the red ones. There is not much in the candy category that I don't like.

At the risk of being slightly redundant, C is for CAT. I was raised as a dog person and like most cat people who did not grow up with cats, I had to live with a cat to fully appreciate what they are all about. When I lived in Toronto, my friend Larry and I shared a cat named Kitty. Original, huh? We had an extra bedroom that had a big piece of carpet in it. When we vacuumed (a rare occurrence), we would always find like 30 rubber bands and paper clips under the carpet. We don't even know where they came from, but Kitty would find them and hide them there. Since then, I have owned many cats. Spunky was my first when I moved back to Cleveland. A beautiful calico, she was so loyal to her family (me) and was not so nice to anyone else. When I got married, she accepted David as a member of her family. When I got pregnant, my sister advised me to get rid of Spunky, cause you can't have a mean cat around a baby. Well Heather was born and Spunky immediately accepted her as family. Same with Joe when he came along. Right now we have Bing, the outdoor cat, and Missy and Milo, the indoor cats. We learned, after acquiring Missy and Milo from the APL together as tiny kittens, that most cats have an "M" on their head, so they were aptly named (by Heather).

C is for CHINESE. Who doesn't love Chinese food? Mmmmm. It's been a while since we've ordered chinese. I'm realizing as I write this that most of what I love is either edible or an animal.

C is for CHIMPANZEE. My favorite thing when I go to the zoo. I could just sit and watch them forever.

And last but not least, COUSIN DEET, for being the fun, caring, involved, interesting person she is and for getting me into blogging. Visit her blog at, but I figure anyone who gets onto my blog already gets onto hers!l

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Birthday Tribute to "Mr E" on Sunday Nov 9, 2008

On Sunday, Nov 9, 2008, our family sends our very best wishes to "Mr E" on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

The first time I saw Mr E, he was walking through a hallway jammed with kids at the end of the school day. He was wearing a hat, given to him by the parents of one of his students - since his head was bald from chemotherapy. He's a tall man, and stood out in the crowd of kids and fellow teachers. You could hear a lot of kids calling hello to him. And he cheerily answered back. And I thought who is this man who is clearly sick but so cheerful at the same time?

We would be making his acquaintance soon. We decided our son should join his after-school homework club. I apologized in advance, because our son was not exactly a model student who would sit and quietly do his work. He replied "oh, I can handle him."

The next school year, Mr E's position changed from having a classroom to - well I'm not sure exactly what his title was - but he was working with the more challenging kids. I think he might have been the only teacher in that school to enjoy the challenging kids. Maybe because he had grown up with some of his own issues, maybe cause he was a very creative sort, and would try different things to see what worked. I will forever save what my son wrote about him that 5th grade year. You have to keep in mind that my son never wrote anything, so this was quite a feat:

Life the Mr. E Way

Mr E's room is a safe place like well, a home to me. Mr. E. is a nice guy. He works with kids and he gets paid but he doesn't do it for the money. He does it from the bottom of his heart. He didn't tell me that. I knew it. I know what he's feeling and he knows what I'm feeling. It's like I have a guardian angel on my shoulder....

After our son left that school, we stayed in touch with Mr. E. He retired for a brief period, returned to school as a teacher for a year, came back to a different school in the district as a substitute guidance counselor, and then went back to retirement. But you would hardly call it retirement, cause he's a full-time caregiver to his youngest granddaughter, "the babe." And a chauffeur and a friend and a thousand other roles to his 2 other granddaughters.

One of our favorite activities is having Mr E over for his favorite meal. Grilled cheese sandwiches. With tomato soup. Try as we might, we can't get too fancy with the soup. We tried Panera soup the last time and he informed us he preferred "the usual stuff." I said the usual stuff is Campbells and he said "well that's what I prefer." And potatoes. Any kind. And water. No ice. The only thing he's not particularly picky about is dessert. And it doesn't hurt to have candy around. Chocolate, red swedish fish and red hots will always work.

Mr E has impacted so many families. He was a favorite teacher for the kids as well as the parents. When they took up a collection for his retirement, everyone wanted to donate.

Mr E is also a very gifted writer. I have helped with editing his writings, but honestly, they don't need editing. I'll correct the spelling of a word now and then, but he is a careful thinker and I wouldn't change any of his content.

Mr E is also a very private person and will probably not be happy with this post. When we met him, we all thought of him as this outgoing guy. Well he was that way at school, and he's that way with his family, but that's about it. He's much more of a behind-the-scenes guy. He quietly supports others and does not ever want to be the center of attention. He is a listener and a thinker. And a solid, loyal, loving friend.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dogs in Jackets

I LOVE dogs in jackets.

Pictured here is my very own Pepper (in sheepskin) and my Boston friend Ellen's Scruffy (aka Sargeant Scruffy). Second from top is Pumpkin, Sharon's son, wearing a Halloween costume. And just added,on top, is an ad from - I couldn't resist adding this cause I LOVE dachshunds.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Attempts at NaBlopoMo

NaBloPoMo stands for National Blog Posting Month. I just learned that a minute ago from checking someone else's blog. And thanks to the beauty of google, I asked google "what is nablopomo?" and found out. I feel very hip now, being able to speak the language of bloggers.

Having nothing brilliant in my head right now, I will just recount my day.

I have been very bad about going to water aerobics, my Saturday morning former activity. I like to sleep in on Saturdays. And drink my coffee, with some toast or a bagel. And read the paper leisurely. I like it much better than putting on a bathing suit, driving to the health club, getting into cool water, bouncing around for 50 minutes, getting into my clothes in a public locker room, and driving home. As a matter of fact, I can't think of anything I like about it anymore! But last night my friend Ricky called me and asked if I was going to water aerobics, cause she felt like going, after a long absence. I told her I'd go if she'd go. We agreed she'd pick me up, and that's what happened. The water was very warm, the class wasn't too crowded, and it was a nice work-out. And we both felt good doing it.

We both went to our respective homes and showered, and then met at a local bar, The Winking Lizard, for lunch. The Winking Lizard was very comical today. When we walked in, we walked past a large table of about 8 young men and about 12 very young kids. At first I thought it was a birthday party, and then I realized that what most likely happened is that 8 young wives said to their husbands "take the kids out today. I need time for myself." So they all gathered at The Winking Lizard, which has a kid-friendly menu.

After we were seated, I looked around the restaurant. There was one table of 8 older men. There were other tables of dads and kids. I said Ricky, look, there are no women in this restaurant. She looked around and said my God, this is weird. We are the only women here. And we were! It was like an episode of Outer Limits or something - like all the women of the world had disappeared.

After lunch, we went to Ricky's house. She just moved in last month, and I had not seen it. It was a cool house - a ranch with a huge basement. What was most noticeable is that it was kind of bare. And Ricky, like me, is a clutter queen, so it seemed so odd to me. I am wondering how long it will take for the clutter to re-appear. Because I firmly believe that once you are a clutter queen, you remain that way for the rest of your life.

Oh, I forgot to mention that while drying off from my shower, I somehow pulled something in my back. Hubby David came up to help me strip the bed and I said I can't bend over, and he said oh, did you injure yourself in water aerobics? And I had to say no, I injured myself drying off from a shower.

I seem to have a knack for this. When my daughter was a baby, we were driving to Michigan. She was in the back in her baby seat. She kept crying, and I leaned over toward her in the back seat, and in the process, I tore the meniscus in my knee. After our trip, I went through drugs, physical therapy, surgery and most physical therapy, but the second round of physical therapy was at a "sports medicine" center. And everyone was talking about how they got injured - tennis, skiing, etc. And here I had injured myself as a passenger in a car.

OK, back to my day. I stopped at the library and picked up a few DVDs, including Sex and the City (the movie). We ordered subs and I put a pillow behind my back and we watched. I watched the whole thing. David gave up halfway through. I enjoyed it; he didn't. Yeah, I know there were parts that were silly, but it held my attention and I loved the show, so it was enjoyable to me.

Throughout the day, I did my usual emailing. Of note was emailing my friend Richard in Australia - we are rarely on at the same time, so it was kind of cool to be on at the same time. And my favorite was my email from Ellen, whose daughter got her results of the bar exam in MA - this was great - unedited: "BONNIE PASSED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We handed me the letter and we both cried like babies." That's what email is all about - sharing in each other's joys and sorrows, and I had no doubt that Bonnie wouldn't pass, but sharing in the joy was just cool.

That's it. Day one of 30 days. I'm gonna do my best to do 29 more posts this month.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First Snow - Time to Hibernate

Yeah, I saw my first sprinkles of snow today. I am not ready for this.

At work, the heating system broke on our floor. As someone who is always hot, it was weird to be cold. Bone-chilling cold. I spent the day daydreaming about going home and eating pasta with our leftover sauce with sausage and meatballs in it. I also dreamed about coming home and putting on my giant sweatpants and a fleece top. And it felt so good when I finally got home and could do that! And then after dinner, I made myself hot chocolate (with stale marshmallows from last year, but that's ok - they were good!).

On my way home from work, I turned on my phone and saw that my trainer had left me a voice mail message - if I wanted to meet her up at the gym today, she'd be glad to meet me. I deleted the message and kept on driving.

I think we are all bears at heart. When that cold weather hits, we want hot comfort food. To hell with lean chicken and fish and veggies. We need sustenance - good sauces - heavy food - to feel good. But unlike those bears, we can't go to sleep for the winter. When that alarm goes off, we must get up. And it is getting tougher to do.

My friend Beth moved to Florida a few years ago. She loves it. I don't think I would love the constant heat. I do love the change in seasons. I just don't like the season we're just entering into. She and her husband came up to Cleveland last week so that she could have heart surgery done at the Cleveland Clinic. I imagine this weather is really tough on them and they will really look forward to returning south.

We signed up with yet another snow plow company this year. The last few years, three of us neighbors got together to get the same snow plow operation, thinking we can't get screwed if there's three of us in a row. Wrong. For the last 2 years, when we had really major snowfall, our plow guys never showed up. Last year, I looked outside and saw two police cruisers outside our next door neighbor's house. He's a doctor and needs to get in and out of his drive, and with no snow plow guy, he couldn't do that. So he started to shovel himself. Well, he's a heart patient and should not be shoveling. So his wife called the police! (People call the police for the most amazing things - a few years ago, a policeman came to our door and told us he was embarrassed to be coming for this reason, but a guy who walks around the block every day complained that some of us have branches that hang over the sidewalk, so this poor policeman had to go door-to-door and ask all of us offenders to please trim our branches). Anyway, the police came out and were actually shoveling the drive next door.

I will try to think positive about this weather - I'm gonna try some new soup recipes. And pies. And crock pot recipes. And I'll go to bed earlier cause bed's the warmest place. And I"ll bond with my cats as they join me in bed.

OK, I am almost ready.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Crockpot Pasta Sauce with Meatballs and Sausage

Crockpot weather has arrived. I assembled most of this before 7:00 AM and left a note for hubby David to add the meatballs and sausage at noon. I also put a frozen Rhodes loaf in a bread pan to thaw and rise. All day long I couldn't wait to get home and eat!

Olive-oil flavored cooking spray
28 oz can crushed tomatoes, undrained
28 oz can tomato sauce flavored with italian seasonings
6 oz can tomato paste
1 heaping T dried basil
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1 bay leaf
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
8 oz button mushrooms, thinly sliced
16 oz pkg frozen fully cooked meatballs, such as Trader Joe's flame broiled (turkey or beef)
12 oz pkg fully cooked sausage, such as Trader Joe's sweet Italian style chicken sausage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb any pasta, cooked
freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese (optional)

Lightly coat insert of crockpot with cooking spray. Add all entree ingredients except pasta and cheese. Stir gently. Cover crockpot and set on lowest temperature for 6 hours. Ladle sauce over pasta and sprinkle with cheese.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Unhappy Waitress

Friday night, hubby and I went to meet our friend Kenny at a neighborhood Italian restaurant. We discovered this place last year, and we really like it. It's very small, the prices are reasonable, and the food is very good. And it is never crowded.

Well we walked in Friday night and almost every table was taken. This was unusual. We sat down at a table to wait for Kenny and gradually the place started to empty out. Kenny arrived, and there were only two tables of people, including ours.

The owner sits up front at the cash register, taking carry-out orders and taking money.

So there we were, relaxing, waiting for our food, when the waitress, a woman in her 50s I'd guess, comes walking out of the kitchen, very purposefully and angry, heading toward the owner. He was on the phone at the time, and we heard him change the estimate of how long the order would take. He said "oh, I guess we are a little backed up in the kitchen - it should be about 40 minutes." And then we saw the waitress head back to the kitchen, saying "God damn it!" VERY loudly. The owner got off the phone and headed toward the kitchen, just as the waitress headed out of the kitchen. You could tell from her face that she was having a melt down. "LET THEM GET THEIR OWN FOOD!" she told the owner, and she sat down in one of the booths, and he responded "you've been serving for a long time - GROW UP."

Now keep in mind, this is a tiny restaurant, so this wasn't a quiet confrontation behind the scenes - it was right in the middle of the restaurant. And hubby said "I think maybe we won't be coming here anymore" and Kenny said "no, this is great - it's like a Seinfeld episdoe." And I asked "so are we supposed to go to the kitchen to get our food?" And so we sat, not having any idea what was gonna happen next. Kenny had been trying to get the waitress' attention for a glass of water but decided that was no longer a good idea.

Our food did arrive. The waitress calmed down. And it gave us a good story to tell.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Perfect Saturday

Today was a perfect Saturday.

I LOVE weekends, way too much. I love not being chained to a desk for 7.5 hours. I love being able to wake up on my own, without that annoying alarm clock going off at 6:00 AM.

Today I woke up early for me on a Saturday - at 7:30. I came down, fed the pets, made coffee and toasted a bagel, then sat down to read my emails, in a leisurely fashion. I even read the New York Times, which is emailed to me every day and I read it about once a week.

I decided to tackle a project I've been putting off - bathing Pepper the Dog. Pepper has very thick fur and usually loves to get in the tub but today for some reason, she was reluctant. I bathed her, brought her in our room to dry her, comb her and cut her hair. After 20 minutes of sitting on the floor with her, I stood up and could hardly move and I was reminded how old I am. Sitting on the floor, or maybe I should say getting up off the floor, is not an easy task.

Then I came down, had more coffee, read the paper, did laundry, and just relaxed. And for once, I had energy, so I tackled a job that is rarely tackled in this house - vacuuming under the couch cushions. I don't know how we turned into such a family of slobs, but we are a family of slobs.

Then I read the garage sale ads in the Sun Press. One caught my eye. First, it was today only, until 5:00, and it was already after 2:00. Second of all, it just sounded like my kind of sale. This was actually an estate sale and the owner made "award winning honey" and was a photographer, so there would be honey and photos to peruse. I called Sharon, who is on the same wavelength as me. I said what do you think? And she said I'll go! So I picked her up and off we went.

We weren't sure where the street was, but the ad said it ran off a major street, so we figured we'd find it. We knew we were lost when we saw the sign saying "Leaving Richmond Hts" and the sale was in Richmond Hts. But we did see a "Richmond Hts Farmers Market" and decided to take a look. It was a little bizarre. It didn't seem like a farmer's market - more like a mini grocery that you usually find with gas stations. We started to wander, and they had a whole section of foreign foods. We didn't even know what language was printed on the merchandise. Then we discovered a bakery with fresh strudel. Mmmm. I had to buy some apple strudel. And an eggplant, macadamia nuts and chocolate drizzled Humphreys popcorn.

Before we went into the farmers market, Sharon called her house to have them look up the street we were looking for. We waited and waited, as we sat outside the market waiting to go in. Suddenly I remembered I had a street map in my car. So we found the street we were looking for and realized there was a misprint in the paper. We headed back to the house sale. Arrived to find a very old house. Walked in, and it was like walking back in time 100 years. It even had that old smell - not unpleasant, but homey - cottagey. Sharon immediately found some Warner Brothers drinking glasses she liked. There was a lot of colored glass. I love colored glass. Then we walked into the room with the photos, and they were really amazing photos. Some had prices of $75 on the back. Sharon said they can't be selling them for that. So I asked, and was told the photos were $1 a piece. One dollar! Then I had to carefully look through each one again, to find the perfect ones. There was also a room with old frames for a buck. Man, this was my kind of sale.

I picked out my photos and frames, grabbed a jar of dark natural honey, and happily walked out with $9 worth of purchases. It wasn't only goods I was getting, it was pure entertainment.

Then a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up stuff for dinner, then home. I'm cooking an eggplant parmesan which I will bring over to Sharon's tonight.

I wish every day could be Saturday.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Memories of 4th Grade

Today I saw a dr friend of mine. He was in my 4th grade class. He said hey, you want to run through the numbers? (to be explained in a minute). And that got me thinking about the 4th grade year.

I loved 4th grade. In every grade, there is a teacher that everyone wants, and we had him. He did some odd stuff that none of us thought about at the time, but we later recalled these odd things.

Mr R was the cool teacher to have. He did fun stuff, like every Wednesday he would take 4 kids to Manners (now known as Bob's Big Boy, although that one he took us to is no longer there). After lunch we would go to Hazel's, for penny candy. We so looked forward to these outings.

He made class interesting and fun. We were all assigned a number, based on how we stood alphabetically in the class. When I get together with my peers at reunions (or even, like today, just seeing the dr), those of us from this 4th grade class will stand together and go through each number. For some reason, over 40 years later, we still remember those numbers.

And the funny incidents will stick with us too. Mr R was also a very talented artist. One day, he made an art palette for the retiring art teacher. It was his intent to have the staff at the school sign their good luck wishes on the palette. He informed us that he was having the staff sign it, and we were not to touch it.. Well, G came back to school late from lunch that day and missed the announcement that we were not to touch his palette. So he walked in, spotted the palette with other signatures on it, and added his own signature to it (in what one classmate remembers as his "dorky signature"). Mr R was not happy. He was actually kind of irate. Here he had this beautiful palette, signed by all the teachers. And G. As young students, we all found the incident to be quite amusing, and we talk about it to this day.

G happened to be my boyfriend that year. He was always trying to pick up my dress. Yeah, we wore dresses in those days. In retaliation for him reaching for my dress, I threatened to pull his pants down. That brought us both a visit to the asst principal, Mrs. W. Mrs. W always referred to herself as Mrs. W. The first several times I was in classrooms where she spoke of herself in the third person, I wondered who was this Mrs. W. One day I asked another student "who is Mrs W?" and she told me that's her. And I realized the woman seemed to be incapable of using the word "I." Anyway, this incident with me and G ended up with us being sent to Mrs W's office. She asked for my version of events and I told her. She told me I must never threaten to pull a boy's pants down (like I really could have done that). She acted like the whole thing was my fault.

Mr R also worked as a DJ and you were cool if you hired him to DJ at your party. He was just the fun guy everyone wanted to have around.

Now for the weird stuff. When we did something bad, Mr R would send us to a tiny closet in the cloakroom, where we had to stay until he released us. OK, that was a little weird, but then Mr R did something weirder. He would hug us until our backs creaked. I know he did it to the girls; I'm not sure if he did it to the boys. We all thought it was fun at the time. Then we grew up and thought my God, that was kind of uh - inappropriate??! In today's world, he would have been outta there. At the time, tho, he was just the fun teacher that everyone wanted.

A few years ago, a classmate hosted a reunion of the elementary school. There was a good turnout, and Mr R's widow was there. After she left, many of the conversations focused on Mr R and what a weird guy he was. It's kind of discomforting to find out that the guy you thought was everything was - well - weird, to put it mildly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Book Club That Doesn't Really Discuss Books

A few years ago, my friend Sharon decided we should start a book club. After a few member tiffs that resulted in some drop-outs, we now have a regular group of 6. We meet at a restaurant, sometimes related to the theme of the book. For example, this month we read Interpreter of Maladies, which I have to say is one of the best books I've ever read. It's a collection of short stories written by an Indian woman. Well, I think it's a woman. With those Indian names, you can't tell. But anyway, we will meet at an Indian restaurant to "discuss" the book.

The reason for the quotes around "discuss" is that our book club doesn't discuss books. At one of the first meetings we had, someone had picked a book that had a list of questions at the back of the book conducive to getting members to discuss books. We tried it, but it felt awkward. So our discussion is generally limited to "I liked it" or "I didn't like it" and then we go on to discuss what our kids are doing, trips we've taken, foods we've name it. Anything other than the book.

Well, I guess there was one exception - and that was Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors. That one was worthy of a discussion if only to ask if what he wrote about could really be true - could anyone really have lived that life? And, we took that one a step further by taking a field trip downtown to hear Augusten speak. That was cool. I even went on to read two more of Augusten's (I feel like I'm intimate enough with the man to be on a first name basis) books Dry and Magical Thinking.

At our last meeting, we discussed other books we had read. One lady in the club is so annoying, cause she's read like every book ever published. I love to read, but my reading is limited to bedtime, where I read about 3 pages, and hubby comes in later and removes the book from my hand, carefully marking my place, and turns my lamp off. This lady claims she reads so much cause that's all she does - her house is a mess but her books are read (well my house is a mess too, but my books aren't read!). Sometimes I think our book club members don't even read the books but just join us for dinner cause (1) it's a nice night out, and (2) the chooser of the book went to so much effort to find a date we could all agree on that they felt obliged to come. This kind of bugs me too cause I'm available like every night and everyone else seems to have such busy lives.

There are two cool things about the book club. First, we have an annual party where one member makes the best potato pancakes I've ever eaten, and we have a $10 gift exchange that is really quite fun. The second cool thing about the book club that doesn't really discuss books is that it forces us to read books we never would have looked at. Sometimes a member will announce her pick at the meeting and we inwardly roll our eyes and think oh no, that sounds like a terrible book. But I have never read a book in the book club that I didn't like.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Dumbest Purchase Hubby Ever Made

I was reminded of The Dumbest Purchase Hubby Ever Made tonight at dinner. I prepared dinner and told my son and hubby that it was ready. I was ignored. I sat down alone, with Pepper the dog as my companion. My son was busy on Facebook. Hubby decided he had to go downstairs to the basement to get ice, and he disappeared for 10 minutes. Which leads me to the title of this article.

Last year hubby proudly came home with the dumbest thing I've ever seen. The ice maker in our freezer had broken, and he decided it was too much of a pain to make ice cubes the old fashioned way - by putting water in trays and freezing them. I looked at this giant appliance and said I can't believe you bought that. He was very surprised. He thought I'd be doing somersaults over the thing, saying oh, thank you love, I have been wanting one of these my whole life!

It wasn't bad enough that he bought the thing, but then he felt a need to place it on the counter, where our coffee pot used to reside. Now we are people who can't keep things off of countertops. I analyzed this a few years ago and realized that whenever we don't know what to do with an item, it ends up on our countertop.

This giant appliance that took up such valuable counter space made me crazy. I finally gave him an option - either the ice maker goes, or I go. We compromised. The ice maker went to live in the basement. So every night before dinner, it's a major undertaking for him to take his bag downstairs and fill it with ice.

The ladies at work were very amused when I told them about the ice maker. When I invited them to a party for my son's graduation, they told me they planned to tell hubby that they needed more ice.

Last night I went down the basement to watch Desperate Housewives. I wanted no interruptions. Do you know how loud that
machine is? I had to keep moving the volume up to hear the TV!

Hubby recently told me to leave him out of my blogs. He's not gonna be happy with this post.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Tour of the End-of-Summer Garden

I had a very time loading the pix in this post. I don't get how sometimes I can upload those pictures like a pro, and a minute later, I keep getting "Safari is not responding." How does Safari decide when it will and won't respond? Wouldn't it be cool if we could all that - when the demands at work or home got so great that we could just send a message that we are not responding, and the person who needs something from us would then just kind of shrug and say ok, I'll try again later....

Anyway, I toured my gardens this weekend and the results are posted above.

The top picture is from next-door neighbor Harry's garden. Harry is a sweet retired pediatrician who taught himself how to garden and he grows the most beautiful dahlias, and they last longer than any other flowers in the neighborhood.

The 2nd picture is the only living flower that remains in the flower garden. I had forgotten that I planted these mums, but they are the surviving living flowers that are left. It's nice to know that not everything died.

The 3rd picture is the garden with the dying jack-o-lanterns, aka "Laurel's Garden." My sister Laurel took a garden that was full of 5 feet tall weeds and cleaned it all out as a birthday present a few years ago. A great present. Unfortunately, this garden is all stones, and they go way down deep. So we have learned which plants can survive anything, and those plants include the jack-o-lanterns that you see (quite beautiful in their blooming days) and mint. One planted sprig of mint yielded many huge mint plants.

The remaining pictures are what's left of the veggie garden, which Hubby cleaned out. What remains is what I call "Bing's Kitchen." Bing is our beautiful blonde outdoor cat (the brother of 2 indoor cats). Bing's kitchen consists of a catnip plant and some kind of mint plant that he finds to be even more enticing than the catnip. Lately, when we let Bing out, he heads over to his kitchen and munches on the plants, which for some reason I find amusing. There is one other outdoor cat in our neighborhood - a chunky, all black tailless specimen. Well I found him lying in Bing's Kitchen, right next to the catnip plant. I don't know if he was enjoying the scenery or if he was just plain stoned.

It's funny how the end of summer is such a melancholy time. No other season ending has that feeling. Fall just kind of turns into winter, and no one is sorry to see winter or spring end.

I have no idea why this just popped into my head, but years ago when we were at the cottage, my son was just kind of daydreaming and I asked what he was doing. "Glazing into my birdness" is what he replied. He has always kind of marched to a different drummer, but it was kind of a catchy phrase. So when we're out there on cloud 9 sometimes and someone asks what we're doing, we'll often reply "glazing into my birdness."


This one passed the kid test. He ate it as a late night snack instead of running out for his usual fast food.

2 C cubed, cooked chicken meat (I cheated and got chicken strips at the Giant Eagle salad bar)
1/4 C chopped onion
4 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 C sour cream
8 (8 inch) flour tortillas
1 1/2 C chopped tomatoes
1/2 C sliced black olives (I used chopped)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9 X 13 inch pan.

In medium bowl, mix the chicken, onion, 1 C cheddar cheese and 3/4 C sour cream. Disperse the mixture evenly among the 8 tortillas. Roll into enchiladas. Arrange in single layer in the prepared baking dish.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt together the remaining cheese and sour cream. Pour over the enchiladas (note, this was not a consistency to pour, so I spooned it over the enchiladas). Top with tomatoes and olives. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Ugly $500 Chair

At my menopause lunch today, I was telling the girls this story and they thought it would be good for the blog.

Hubby owns 3 hair salons. One of the salons is over the basement of a very nice furniture store. Last year, one of our salon employees decided to clean. We don't know quite how this happened, but she started to run the water and forgot to turn it off. The water must've been flowing for a very long time, cause someone from the furniture store called and said their ceiling was leaking from our water flowing. And the water got on some of their furniture. Well, they were able to clean up the tables the water leaked on, but there was an upholstered chair that had water damage, and we would have to pay for it.

Hubby went to check out the chair, and yes, there was water damage, but what was really bad was that it was the ugliest chair he had ever seen. So he called and told me we had to buy, for $350 (the furniture store's cost) the ugliest chair he had ever seen. About a week later we set out in his vehicle, which normally can hold a lot, to go pick up the ugly chair. We got to the furniture store, and they brought up what I agreed was the ugliest chair I had ever seen. And it wouldn't fit in hubby's car. So we said we'd figure something out, and we left. We debated having the store deliver it, but of course there would be a charge, and the only thing worse than buying the ugliest chair on earth is paying a charge to have it delivered!

Well not long after that, someone at the furniture store realized this chair had an ottoman, and there was no way they were going to sell the ottoman without the chair. So they called to inform us that we also had to buy the $150 ottoman. They did agree, however, to have the chair and ottoman delivered at no charge (we think they felt sorry for us).

So the chair and ottoman were delivered, and put promptly in the basement. Hubby had cleaned out the basement a year ago so that my son and his friends would have a place to play video games and hang out. Of course the chair didn't match (this chair matches nothing in the world), but it was fine down there. It's actually a very comfortable (albeit hideous) chair.

Last week I was thumbing through my Beautiful Homes and Gardens magazine, and there, in the "after' picture, to my great shock, was the UGLY CHAIR! So we can now call the ugly chair a designer chair. And, well, it gave us a good story to tell.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

In Search of the Perfect Cabbage Roll

I am in search of the perfect cabbage roll. I may have found it yesterday.

As background, let me say I have made cabbage rolls before, but they lack that certain "ethnic" taste. I can't describe what that taste is, but I know it when I taste it.

Yesterday hubby and I went to the North Union Market at Shaker Square. Along with selling produce and bakery products, they sell ready-to-eat food. One guy was selling cabbage rolls. And they looked like what I was seeking. I bought them and had them for lunch - and they were IT. The wonderful blend of tastes was there, and they cut like butter and melted in my mouth. I just need to figure out what he used.

I googled "ethnic cabbage rolls" yesterday and you would not believe how many nationalities came up. I don't like sauerkraut, so I had to rule those out, but I read about Polish, Croatian...and many more. I printed one recipe for Ukranian cabbage rolls that looked good and realized that this recipe had no meat inside - only a rice and onion mixture. But then one guy wrote in his comment that he made the recipe and added ground pork, and they were delicious.

Later in the day, I went to get my hair cut and I told my stylist about my search for the perfect cabbage roll. She told me she used her mother's recipe and her mother steamed them in a pot instead of baking them. That sounded interesting.

Then I came home and read the Cleveland Jewish News, and it was a serendipity type of moment - there was a recipe for cabbage rolls in that issue. These were also steamed in a pot, and in this recipe, you cut up the extra cabbage and line the pot with it.

So I'm about to go to the grocery store and try this recipe. Next I will try the Ukranian recipe.

I would appreciate input from anyone who has mastered the art of making cabbage rolls.

P.S. I made the Jewish News recipe. I learned that you can cook the rolls by steaming them. But I added too much water. AND I learned that hubby does not like cabbage rolls. This will make it very hard for my quest to find the perfect cabbage roll since I'll be the only one eating them....

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I felt like eating rather than writing! I admit, I stole this from someone at work. You just take mini pretzels, put a chocolate kiss on top (I used dark chocolate), put it in the oven at 175 degrees for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and put an m&m on top. You can try variations. Someone tried the chocolate kisses with caramel in them and said they were great. I was tempted to buy the kisses with peanut butter in them but decided to start with the basics. Refrigerate after they come out of the oven so that the chocolate will set.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Weekly Tabloid Roundup

Just got back from the grocery store to buy ingredients for noodle kugel. I made myself lunch - some linguini noodles with leftover chili that hubby made, and he makes the best chili in the world (he won a chili cook-off about 20 years ago). After that filling lunch, I ate a piece of Giant Eagle's freshly baked multi-grain walnut raisin bread. Mmmmm. And I sat down at the computer to read while I enjoyed this wonderful dessert.

Clicked on AOL news, and there's a picture of a skinny Kelly Ripa. Way too skinny. I can't relate, as I am about to consume my second dessert - a "fun size" baby ruth bar (I couldn't resist - they were on display at Giant Eagle). I smile whenever I think of fun size candy, cause as my large son says "why do they call it fun size? Fun size should mean it's a giant candy bar!" And he's absolutely right.

So the Kelly R title brings you to a Weekly Tabloid Roundup. Let's see - Angie is "forced into therapy." Well that makes sense, given the volume of kids she has. "Suri's Lonely Life" is spent with nannies. But you know, she is always smiling in pictures and just seems like a happy kid. "Have They Split" (referring to Angelina and Brad) - they would have to be saints to still want to have anything to do with each other with all those kids running around. "Sarah Palin's Other Man Revealed." Makes you wonder. I mean, her hubby seems like a nice guy, but he just seems out of place in their new world of campaigning.

Just came back with another fun size baby ruth. I'm trying to have some fun here, not that reading this stuff isn't fun.

"How I Stay Thin" about Kim Kardashian. Did you ever notice that it's very hard to look thin when you have big boobs? And finally, "I'll Destroy You" about Oprah and Dr. Phil. I think given a choice between the two, I'd side with Oprah on whatever it is they're fighting about.

I bought a National Enquirer once in my life, cause we were on vacation. The other ones I've read (which I have to admit, I greatly enjoy) I inherited from my friend Sharon, who inherited them from her hubby's grandma, and they are about 3 years old by the time we get them, but that's ok.

OK, it's Saturday, which means laundry, water plants, clean up the house, etc. It's a perfect crisp day, the sun is shining, and now I gotta go try to work off these fun size baby ruths.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


We just had a 50th birthday party for a co-worker this week. She used to work at fairs, so we had a fair theme. Sausage and meatball sandwiches, elephant ears, cotton candy, fries....we are REALLY good at this kind of stuff at work.

Well this morning I came in and moved my calendar page to October and realized HEY - this is it - one year since my last menstrual period! I am OFFICIALLY IN MENOPAUSE! So I sent an email to my co-workers suggesting that they throw a party in my honor to honor this sacred time in my life! And they took me seriously and are now planning my party!

Since I pride myself on being a good investigator, I googled "symptoms of menopause" to see just how far I have come. I found a website that lists 35 symptoms of menopause. I shouldn't have googled this. But I found that I can blame a lot on menopause, and for this I am somewhat grateful...

I knew about the old hot flashes. A sympathetic co-worker gave me a small battery operated fan last year. The battery died within 2 weeks. I was overjoyed to find a 6 inch electric fan that fits perfectly on my desk - I got it at Marcs for $6. This is honestly the best purchase I have EVER made.

I can now blame these disturbing feelings on menopause: irritability, mood swings, trouble sleeping, "crashing fatigue", anxiety, and feelings of doom. And I thought I was losing my mind.

I knew about the memory lapses. I no longer use names or words to describe things. Instead, I just describe them because the words escape me. So instead of stove, I'll say "the thing you cook food in." It takes me much longer to get my point across. And it has happened more than once that I'll be sitting across from a friend having a nice lunch, and as she's talking, I'm not listening, cause I'm frantically thinking "what's your name again?"

And the physical symptoms - yeah, I recognized most. Hair loss, irregular heart beat, trouble sleeping, gastrointestinal distress, aching joints, and weight gain.

I had recently diagnosed myself as having attention deficit disorder, but now I see that listed as a symptom. I have to take continuing education classes, and while co-workers are so happy to find an 8 hour class so they can get it over with sooner, I'm declining their invitation to attend, saying sorry, 2 hours is my limit. And 2 hours is pushing it.

I think there are 5 symptoms that I have not experienced. Some are too personal for me to include on a blog, but the non-personal ones include gum problems, burning tongue and tinnitis. By this time next year, I'll probably have added them to my list.

So October 13th is the tentative date of my party. I'll let ya'll know how it goes.

(P.S. We had our party today. Lori made pasta with chicken and broccoli, Marsha made a salad, and Donna brought a wonderful Mama Jo's strawberry pie with cream cheese. A nice break for someone who eats lunch at her desk everyday.0



1 16 oz pkg spaghetti
2 C shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
3/4 C grated parmesan cheese
1/2 C grated romano cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1 T olive or veg oil
2 t garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 28 oz jar spaghetti sauce

Cook spaghetti per package instructions. Drain. Add 1 C mozzarella cheese, parmesan and romano cheese, eggs, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Press into a greased 13 X 9 inch baking dish. Top with spaghetti sauce. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese and bake 10 minutes longer or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Lenore and Helen

Lenore is my mother. Helen is my friend Sharon's mother. This is the story of the friendship between Lenore and Helen. (Pictured above is a picture of me, Sharon, Helen and Lenore.)

When I came into the world, Helen lived a few doors away. Lenore and Helen each had 3 kids who were all the same age. Sharon and I were the youngest. Before Sharon and I came into this life, Lenore had two girls and a boy - one girl died as an infant. And Helen had two boys. I was born on a July day, when Helen was 6 months pregnant. Helen accused Lenore of taking the last girl, but then she gave birth to Sharon. Sharon and I became friends as soon as she was born.

Lenore and Helen had known each other in high school, but when they ended up as neighbors is when the friendship really blossomed. They were like 2 peas in a pod. They were in the mother singers group at the elementary school. They played mahj jong (just known as "mahj") together with some other neighbors. But mostly, they just liked to hang out.

Sharon's oldest brother married my hubby's sister. Our lives became so intertwined. Helen used to ask me if I ever could have imagined that Sharon and I would share the same nephews.

One of our favorite stories is how Lenore and Helen used to go to Wendy's together. They split the $1 order of chicken nuggets. They ordered water to drink, with lemon. Sharon tells me they brought their own packets of dried tea. This was a fun outing for them.

Helen's son tells me they used to shop at the grocery store together and share the big items, like watermelons.

Years ago, Helen got sick. It took a while before she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When Sharon told me the diagnosis, I could not bring myself to call Helen. I could not imagine having that conversation with her. So I didn't. After a while, she asked Sharon why I hadn't called her. So I finally made that call, and we both cried, and she told me she was just sad about leaving her kids behind.

She was treated with chemotherapy. She felt lousy, but Helen and Lenore continued to go out together every day. Maybe a trip to Marcs, maybe a trip to a department store. They found great joy in discovering bargains. Helen had always struggled with her weight, and with the cancer, she got very thin. She told me she had wanted to be thin all her life, and now that she was finally thin, she would give that up in a minute to get her health back. I hated to look at her at birthday parties - when everyone was singing Happy Birthday, she had tears in her eyes; she never knew which birthday was going to be the last.

Helen's kids knew she would love to see Phantom of the Opera, and they bought a pair of tickets. They assumed Helen would see the show with her husband. But Helen had other plans. She took Lenore, cause she knew that not only would Lenore love the show, but they would have a great time seeing it together. And Helen loved to talk about the day she and Lenore saw Phantom together.

Sharon told me Helen knew she wouldn't see her grandkids through high school, but it was her goal to see her youngest grandchild, Linda, finish kindergarten. She lasted over 2 years. Toward the end, she was at Mt Sinai Hospital and then transferred to the Cleveland Clinic. Our family was about to take a trip up to our cottage in Michigan. I called Helen at the Clinic to tell her goodbye because when someone is that sick, you just never know. Honestly, though, she never seemed that sick to me. During that call, she said "I think this is it. I'm not going to leave the hospital." I found that hard to believe, cause Helen always had a smile on her face and a positive attitude. She was a fun lady, and I was not prepared to accept the end. Our family took our trip up to Michigan. About 5 days into the trip, a neighbor came over to tell us that Helen was very ill. We made plans to get ready to come home. We got a call later that evening that she had passed away. We packed up the car early the next morning and took the long drive home, to arrive just in time for the funeral. It was two months after Linda's graduation from Kindergarten.

I think it is very rare to find that good friend who you are totally comfortable with; who you can call and say let's go out and do this and know this person will be immediately ready. And you're on the same timetable; you're never thinking your friend is taking too long or hurrying you too much. You are on the same wavelength. Lenore and Helen were on that same wavelength. Lenore had other friends, but not as special as Helen. When you lose a friend like that, it is a very tough adjustment to make, and life is never the same. Lenore and Helen had that special bond, and while the loss to Lenore was great, she knew she was lucky to have had Helen in her life all those years.