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.