Category Archives: Family

Editing

“The Book” is being finished. It is a technical tome that I’ve not read. As a writer and editor I do not like to look at what my husband writes every day because I need a fresh eye to look at it and mark it up. Both of us are concerned not about content but readability and as he is physics/software engineer and I am a soc/psych I’ll be a test reader! Awaiting the day he’s ready.

I love having a blog because I write what I want to write. I do in 15 minutes what he does in five hours. He gave me this blog ten years ago to challenge me, and he did. I was a consultant before he married me and dragged me throughout the country and world so I retired.

At least I got a dog, who is now very old, kind and as my brother would say, “needy.” She’s a herder, what would one expect? Except she was even afraid of baby goats I named Rosa (Parks) and Eleanor (Roosevelt) for strength. Not here, at his parents’ farm where I learned how to feed baby calves. That’s another story.

There is something to be said about marrying someone who is brilliant. I’m smart and can keep up with him on many levels, not physics but in social interaction. I’ve a resume of my own that brought us together for 16 years, married near 15. I’d like to renew our vows near his family home because we eloped and his grandmother would want it. Shhh, don’t tell her! Cheers, Dee

 

Mom Was Right

My husband is a sweetheart. A messy one. He is not called the “human tornado” for nothing. I named him that 15 years ago.

At first it was OK for him to get water above the shower and around both sinks. He’s been home for a bit writing a book, so he wants spaghetti and meat all the time and the sauce goes all over the walls.

Then he wants to do dishes, which means water all over the counters and floors. I’m a trained chef. Mise en place and clean up whatever you mess up, right away. I have to follow him like Ratatouille cleaning walls, counters, bathroom mirrors, floors.

I helped fellow graduates cook graduation dinner at the James Beard House in Manhattan. Yet to meet my love, my family was the largest to attend so got the best table in the House.

It was James Beards’ bedroom, with mirrors on the ceiling. If I’d have known my husband way back then, he would have gotten tomato sauce on the ceiling. That is my human tornado. I hope the book is done soon so he can be out of my hair a few hours a day.

Even our old dog Zoe doesn’t want to be up on our bed any more. Talk, turn on a re-run or touch her fur with your toe and she goes UBD. Thats Under Bed Dog. She crawls under on my side where I can’t miss her and leave without walking or feeding her. Smart dog. Herder. Whenever she misbehaves, my dear one says “we should have adopted the dumb one.” I disagree. I occasionally tell her we can take her back to the animal shelter. Well, I can’t yell at her or touch her! Nearing age 14, or ever in past or future, would we ever take her in for return. We’re in it for the long haul. Here’s to being a dog parent and spouse of the human tornado. Dee

 

Docs and Codes

I went through a lot helping spay/neuter 2,500 feral cats, many more now since I moved to a place where they shoot cats and ask questions later.

As head of Transport I made sure the cats got down the line from tipping (tip the right ear as these cats are smart enough never to be trapped again and caretakers know which ones had already been done), so ears and vaccines. At the end of the line was fleas and combing. I had to make sure the cat did not awaken during that time before he/she was put in a numbered crate. We took good care of them as I had crate cleaners pre-surgery and breathers post-surgery. Good folks.

If the tag came out with a code for tapeworms I knew the docs or ER would take care of it. If I found it I just brought the cat back into the OR to document the issue so ER could issue the drug. Docs asked how I knew a cat had tapeworms. Little pieces of rice that move. After a couple of months they believed me and signed the order. This is the only time this cat has to be healthy so if he/she has any type of worms it is the time to fix it.

I quickly learned all the codes I had to transmit to ER and Transport and Breathers, they made rounds and made certain they were breathing until they awakened from anesthesia. I made my own wake-up list on my computer so they could check a form so they knew one had not awakened as yet (extra care) and another was just taking a nap.

Two stories, sad and scary. I’ll do scary first.

An eight-week old kitten came out of surgery and was barely breathing. ER was a van. I climbed in and had to give him slight acupressure until he was breathing on his own. I called for a volunteer to get his crate by number and lifted him into it. He had extra breather instructions to keep a close eye on him and he was OK.

The saddest was when I saw a Dr. code I did not recognize. HBC. I asked ER what it meant. She said Hit By Car. The docs did everything they could do but he didn’t make it and died in the van. We all cried. Fellow volunteers took photos that day, one of my butt reaching down to check on a cat before we had tables (made by volunteers, more like folding sawhorses with plywood). Heaven will bless them for that gesture. The other was of the cat, hoping for the best and not getting there that day. We did make a great difference but it was so sad to see one go.

Often when a family member is ill and actually has health insurance and is in hospital or hospice the best thing you can do is be there. Years ago my mother had cancer surgery and my new husband and I flew out to see her. We walked into the room after she had dismissed us over Thanksgiving then the next day because I got the flu and my dear husband said, after a couple of years, hello.

He changed the subject. He was not talking about her cancer, but about his father and selling the dairy and starting the ranch. He left to use the restroom and she said the nicest thing she ever said to me, “he’s a sweetheart.” I know, mom, I married him. She appreciated that he told her stories from a kind of life she’d never lived.

Be kind. Back up your beliefs. Love your family and friends. Cheers, Dee

Siblings

Always different, never the same. That is why we have varied actions and reactions. The last time we got together that may be the last ever was at Dad’s funeral over the holidays.

I am eldest and was the dreaded word “babysitter” as when I was 11 my parents would leave me in charge of three kids. I went away to college before they were grown and they resented me for it.

Little sister, I tried to put her up to the bed at bedtime but preferred for her to stay up by the windows and await our parents’ arrival. Then she’d run back to bed before their car arrived. We had time, it was a country road.

My brother was the trouble maker. He would do anything like climbing the tv tower at age three. Then he’d tell on himself saying “Mommy, I’m not being ‘haved” and she would hug him. Nothing he could ever do was wrong in Mom’s book. He ended up Dad’s best bud and executor of his will, as he should have been.

Baby sis was a standout from day one. Oh, I was not allowed to see her in the hospital but folks came home and they said they were naming her “Chipmunk” because of her cheeks. I said no way, you already saddled me with a name the teachers cannot spell or speak. They were joking. She has a nice name.

We had a little dog back then, a rescue that was huge in the winter then had a summer cut to keep her from burrs et al. She was a basement and outdoor dog and I wish I’d known Dr. Dog’s theory that a backyard dog is a dog without a home, back then.

That advice was not around when I was eight, I’d have known it from PBS. Our dog is sleeping on our bed with my husband right now. She is old and lets us know when she wants her only toy, Precious, or to go out again. She is great in elevators, with people, other dogs (except hateful ones where she steps away) and even cats.

I’ve had some wonderful shelter pets in my life and do consider them family, not siblings. Believing that one’s pet looks like you is one thing, I do believe you chose them to act like you, to show your persona to the outside world.

Everyone knows our old girl. Someone told me years ago that I was a terrible person and should never have been born. My girl is my presence in the world and anyone you meet in several neighborhoods around the country will tell you that we’re good people and dogs and that we go out of our way to care for others of the human, canine and feline societies. Ghostbusters aside, Bill Murray would have liked dogs and cats living together, as it always worked for me. Dogs used to run away from home to visit my cat. I’d get a call at 7:00 a.m. “Is he there?” Hold on, I’m at my desk. “Yep.”

“I’ll take him inside until you get here.” They used to go out through their garage to get the newspaper, dog ran. We had a system. He also had play dates outside with next-door neighbors, three different-sized Shisa dogs and the Shi-Tzu used to wrestle with him.

A Corgi also caught his eye. The dog used to put my cat’s head inside its’ mouth and he thought it was great! He ended up living with them for a couple of years as after I married my husband was deathly allergic to cats. I believe coyotes lured him off his back yard tree house and maybe he was ready to go as he was nearing ten years.

Family is what one does with blood and friends. If we are lucky we each make a family for ourselves. I’ve the Three Musketeers and many more around here, plus others, one of which you can put a prayer in for, a mentor for over 25 years who is in hospice care, another who is in an assisted care facility and calls me her daughter. Dee

Weeds

Friday is flower day. 1/2 off at a terrific florist right up the street. My husband never notices the flowers I get him every week so I started buying vintage chemistry flasks (Erlenmeyer, Florence, a graduated cylinder for single arrangements. He noticed.

I also got him miniature milk bottles (he grew up on a dairy) in a metal basket. He noticed. I’ve had those flowers for three weeks. The flowers are for my husband, me and our little dog Zoe. Our family.

Today I bought three yellow spider mums and placed them with three-week old greens to honor the memory of my father, who died over the holidays.

For the kitchen I got yellow and purple daisies and strange green mums for a large mason jar.

I moved the tomato plant to a gallon container as we currently have three babies on the way, of the Sweet 100 tomato variety, and we installed a cage. The plant was 8″ tall when I bought it five weeks ago, it is now taller than me. We have been self-pollenating, just tapping every new flower with a pencil. I also moved the basil out of a 4″ pot to a larger Green Bay Packers popcorn container. Both are looking a bit sad and shocked now but a bit of sun, water and plant food will help. Tomorrow.

With the basil gone from the three-pot wooden container I needed something else. As a kid I saw these beautiful flowers and gathered some up to give to Mom. I handed them to her and she immediately tossed them into the trash and said, “they’re weeds!” No, Mommy, they’re beautiful! Today I bought one gorgeous Queen Anne’s Lace flower and it is in my living room in a shot glass with flower food and water, standing in for the basil. It is beautiful and I will never think of it as a weed.

It has a hallowed place in the middle of the “nun desk” with Dad’s Turkish pashmina scarf and sacred ornaments for me, including my rosary from First Communion, and the mini milk bottles of course! The desk was a gift from neighbors who moved down the street to a more eco-friendly building that he re-designed back in the 1950’s. They bought it at auction at a nun’s school in town. It is gorgeous oak and the one drawer now holds all my cards for thank you’s, holidays, and other occasions.

We lose some things, we gain some things that provide memories for a lifetime. Cheers! Dee

btw with all I got today, it was under $10 of flowers and a weed.

Trying vs. Doing

A good friend of mine, my late father and my brother has been transferred to hospice care. I think a lot of what he meant to me in my life, getting me consulting contracts, being on the Board to support my views on the problems the organization was facing.

I remember, being retired, that looking for a job is far more emotionally exhausting than doing it. You get the job, have no idea of the subject matter you’re analyzing and give yourself a crash course so you can hit the ground running.

My first real job after college was as an assistant legislative analyst for the Speaker’s office. The analyst was off on maternity leave. I was asked if I knew anything about insurance. Well, I have car insurance.

Do you know McKinneys? Who is McKinney. Law books. No. That was a Friday. I started my new job on Monday and went to a bookstore and tried to cram over the weekend. All I could find was one hardcover book, brand new, with a guy in a pinstripe suit on the cover that was about insurance.

That book even had a chapter about Gerber Life insurance, which they’re selling on TV now. It was called “Like Taking Candy from a Baby.” Bosses and lobbyists did not like that book so I took it home and learned the real stuff at work.

I remember introducing an incentive for insurance companies to offer well baby care in the early 1980’s. They wouldn’t hear of it. Every bill report I made to the Speaker, everyone of my party in the Assembly, was sent to lobbyists and the opposition before the meeting as per FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), for which I was later responsible when I got a permanent job as analyst for another committee. For every such report the insurance industry said “Will Raise Premiums.” That’s it. I should have stuck with Gerber and the first book I read.

Everyone who has health insurance (soon to go away) has well baby care now and it is somewhat thanks to me. The insurance companies finally realized that well babies cost them less than sick ones, preventive care works, and as they never lowered premiums they could put their extra money into offshore accounts and reinsurance and the stock market. And be given billions of taxpayer money for being “too big to fail.”

I have done many good things for people and animals in my life. This is not one of them. It was only four months and a “hazing” that landed me a permanent job doing the “grab bag” committee. Pick an issue, fill the bowl and let me in with the claw to pick up anything and I’ll learn it. Native American Rights, Veterans, Cable Television Franchising in NYC, Fire and Building Codes. Reapportionment, Legislative Ethics (?), how to raise and lower the American Flag, Human Rights, Civil Rights, Military Code, Sexual Orientation, holidays and non-holidays.

The biggest holiday to celebrate was MLK Day, the first, we all drove to D.C. and went to several services, the most moving of which was at the AME church where Coretta Scott King delivered a eulogy for her husband, with a choir.

The other holidays were more days of remembrance, such as Haym Solomon for financing the Revolutionary War, and Raoul Wallenberg for his heroism in WWII. It was an honor to do this for our country. Veterans was taken off my burden of a slew of bills before computers, by a veteran who sat next to me for several years. He saw stuff we never heard of from anyone, including him, in Vietnam and was mustered out to Texas for two weeks. They ordered him to go to Chicago for the 1968 Democratic Convention, as part of a military presence to suppress the people.

He refused. He said he’d do KP (dishes and kitchen prep) for the rest of his time but he would not fire on American citizens. He had been through enough. Now he is a leader in an anti-war organization made up of veterans.

I’ve had many experiences looking for work, but in the end if you interview the interviewer first, you’re better off if they offer the job. I flew in from the Rockies for a breakfast bagel at the Carlyle in NYC and was offered my own office, twice my salary. My new boss made me into a hamster going around a wheel. I left and spent my life savings to go to …… cooking school. I recently received photos from my aunt from our graduation dinner at the James Beard House, that I had framed.

Yes, I cooked at the James Beard House, and as our family was a large group they were upstairs in the loft where his bed had been under a mirrored ceiling. We cooked our hearts out that evening and everyone gave me the food they made so I could toy with it and make breakfast for 14 family members and 20 neighbors. They were proud of me.

Yes, I do read about cooking and have many books. I do cook. I do not do that much French anymore, more Italian or Greek. Normandy and Provence. Best ingredients, simple preparation. I’m only cooking for two a la minute.

Big storm coming in. Must get offline and check on my husband and old dog. Thanks for sticking with me over the years. I appreciate it. Cheers, Dee

 

Set, Spell a Bit

It’s cool on the porch today, sweet tea and biscuits?

It is nice under the umbrella table now, some iced tea and fresh cherries?

North and South, it is our nation and I grew up in the North (father-in-law says I singly staged the War of Northern Aggression). I assure him it is not my fault as I could never be that old. I married Texas and the South.It seems 1860’s to me but it’s only 15+ years.

How about some chicken enchiladas? I made them for the hands.

Would you like some beef rouladen with spaetzle? Then I learned about Lady Bird Johnson’s recipe for Pedernales Chili, 1962. They cooked for 5,000 including JFK at the Johnson family ranch in Pedernales, outside Austin. It’s Texas. No beans. I purchase and grind my own beef and choose my spices. I’ve never made it for his family. His cousin S made a good version of chili, a wonderful Texas gal, and she added beans! That Lady Bird chili I started making years ago brought my sensibilities about The Empire State and The Lone Star State together. We have a lot in common!

The funniest thing is that both our families hail from infamous towns in Switzerland. My husband grew up on a dairy, and I on what might be called a “hobby farm” with Dr. B and a northern family.

The southerners still don’t “get” the flavors of lebkuchen and mincemeat, but bet they would love prime rib and Yorkshire pudding over the holidays. Alas, I only cook there for Thanksgiving and m-i-l and I spend up to five days preparing for the feast. She loves having our old dog Zoe there for the marathon because it saves on vacuuming!

In every country I’ve visited and spent much time in, I have found the southern regions more amiable. I once had a non-conversation with a Greek cigar merchant knowing good morning, thank you, you’re welcome (kalimera, efharisto and parakolo), laughing and doing hand movements while my sister and I tried to purchase a few cigars for my father as a souvenir. You girls want to smoke cigars? No, they’re for Dad!

Twenty-five years later I named every mezede (appetizer) on the table for Dad’s 70th birthday aboard a sailing yacht. The staff, chef included, were speechless. Hey, I’m smart, and I listen. Spanakopita, dolmades, keftadakia, risosalata, taramosalata, tyroppita and I went on to include eggplant, octopus and more. I make a great moussaka but my husband will not eat eggplant. Go figure, he’s from Texas! Cheers and good cooking! Dee