This and That…and discussions

After two full days spent in pajamas, eyes dripping, blowing copious amounts of mucous from my nasal passages, and coughing, I finally felt well enough to get up and get out of the house. I haven’t had a cold hit me this hard in a long time, plus I had three days in a row with Miss G and Miss C, who literally wore me out. Anyone know where I could get my hands on a hazmat suit for the next time those girls want to share their germs?

Alison and I met up and we went for a walk near her apartment. She lives up the hill from the bay and there is nicely paved walking path that goes for miles along the water. We actually ended up at a new development that sits on what was once a smelter. This place is ultra-ritzy, comes with overpriced condos, shops and restaurants, and it is all built on contaminated ground from the smelter…did I mention that? There is no way that I would ever consider living on that land. I don’t care how many assurances the EPA wants to declare regarding full removal of toxic soils and water and a now safe environment. You can’t ever scrape enough lead and arsenic contaminated soil away to make me believe that it’s okay to pay money to live there, or even live there for free. A huge condo sits on the hill overlooking this project. That development replaced a school that once housed the program I used to teach for. The first time I entered that building I was told emphatically that I should NEVER drink any water from the taps in that building. I often wondered how many years the children attending that school drank from the taps. Today I wondered what the folks who bought those units are drinking…

Anyway, it was pleasant to be outside in the sun, but high-priced, possibly deadly reality overshadowed most of our conversation. And, we’re still unclear as to the purpose of the large areas of cleared, mounded ground, covered in ultra-heavy black tarps with that venting type system you often see winding over the landscape at a landfill. I can’t say as either of us have ever seen a construction site quite like that…

I visited with the cat, who clearly does not miss me at all. She did sit in my lap for a bit though, and was happy to eat a few cat treats near me, but then went back to sleep in the corner.

We talked of Oklahoma, and the recent earthquake and the likelihood that fracking was the cause, and the subsequent shut-down of wells since the occurrence. There was a short period of time, when she was newly graduated and desperately searching for employment, that Alison actually considered applying for positions associated with this process. Passing thoughts really, as she knew that she could never live with herself working as a geologist for an oil company.

We talked over end-of-life issues. That isn’t a topic we often spend time on, but I recently made a document stating my wishes and directions. My oldest daughter is the primary agent. Alison and her brother are the alternates. Alison is my supremely logical child so I thought it a perfect time to reiterate some of the things we’ve discussed before. Stuff like organ donation, my desire for simplicity above all else, tossing me off a mountain top because in life I am terrified of heights…things like that.

She mentioned hearing some loud noises the night before, then noticing police activity just a few blocks down from her apartment. Ironically, there is a police station exactly where she assumed the action to be. I had an email from her when I got home with a link to a news story. A 41-year-old man had been shot, found on the lawn, transported to the hospital and died two hours later. No suspects, no one in custody. So there’s that to contend with. Gangs – likely. Drugs – just as likely. She happens to live in what has long been known as one of the worst areas of that city. It’s hit and miss, with pockets of neighbors who are trying, and then those who won’t, can’t, or simply don’t have the means. Safe isn’t a word I can use to describe much of the area that surrounds her, although I’m not sure how safe any place really is. We both agreed, as we were driving back to her apartment that the ultimate change agent for that area seems likely to be gentrification, but then all the amazing diversity and cultural enclaves that occupy the neighborhoods now will probably disappear. The families and lives that built this area and were once vibrant and crucial to their neighborhoods will be overtaken by money and people with homogeneous skin color. There’s a lot wrong with that picture.

I love the conversations that I have with Alison. I love that we can share opinions, even when we don’t necessarily agree. But most of the time we do agree, or are at least open to the others point of view.

I’m even okay that the cat really doesn’t care if I come to visit or not. She’s happy and seems content and has found the place she wants to be.

It was a good day.



This hasn’t been a good week. I’m trying to remind myself, borrowing from the wisdom of a strong woman (A, her name is Alice) who has had, and is dealing with, her own setbacks and steps forward, that I have to stay on the path that makes the most sense to, and for, me.

It isn’t easy. Life refuses to stand still to accommodate my plans. Nagging doubt, worry, and even guilt get in the way. I question myself as I imagine others must be questioning me. Why should I give any credence to what ‘they’ might think, or believe, or be told about me. I do care though, but how incongruous that seems when I have no clue if their thinking and opinions and questions are really happening, or simply being fabricated by my own weary brain.

I seem to be investing my entire self into a battle that the other half of this equation simply shrugs off. I know that this behavior, by nature, speaks to the way I handle most things in life. I’m an all-or-nothing person. I don’t have the capacity to come at something half-assed. I don’t have the ability to trust that things will get done, or be handled. Nothing is simple in my world, yet I wonder time and again if I am the one making life this way. Is control the ultimate goal, and at what price happiness…

Curiosity caused me to spend some time with Google last night, searching out the answer to a question about anxiety and stress. I’ve witnessed a specific behavior over the years, witnessed it again yesterday, and I was pretty sure that I already knew the answer. I was correct. Anxiety and stress can manifest in numerous signs and symptoms for different people. This very specific sign, and the surrounding drive to withdraw from stressful situations, is a coping mechanism in and of itself. In other words, I’m being hit in the face yet again with a clear message: rather than be present in this world; rather than work to solve or move ahead; rather than take responsibility, the choice is to shut down – retreat – ignore, and when you pretend that you are helpless long enough your life gets very easy. You can go about your days letting others handle things for you. You can be indecisive, feign ignorance, and go on living a lie, presenting yourself to 98% of the outside world as an adjusted, rational, normal person.

Some days, like today and like day after day this past week, I would so like to be that person. I would relish the freedom to let the world lead me and do for me, knowing that the only effort I would have to expend would be a handful of hours here and there, keeping up the pretense for those few who are relatively insignificant in my life while avoiding the ones who should matter most.

Some days, like today, I am so very glad that I am not that person. I am so very glad that something (stronger?) within myself allowed me to choose a different path. It’s not a perfect choice, and my own actions will never be perfect, but every time that I am witness to the consequences of inaction I am renewed in my focus. I have to remind myself that I don’t have control over what others will see, or think, or believe. I have to remind myself that, while at this moment I may appear selfish or unkind or disinterested to others, the opposite has been true for decades.

Some days though, I am just so tired. Some days it would be so much simpler to be the person I was 30 years ago. If I do that, if I make that choice, then I will continue to live a lie. I think I owe myself more than that.

Bragging Rights

I just cannot resist posting these pictures. I haven’t given in to my grandmotherly urges as much with GD (granddaughter) #2 – Cece Mae, but with just two months to go until this precocious little girl turns 1 year old, I thought I would share.

She stands and walks along the furniture – any furniture, even it if won’t hold her – but crawling is still her main mode of locomotion. She still has no teeth and she refuses to learn how to drink from a cup. “Baba” will likely be with her for some time. She loves to dance to the ABC song, waves bye-bye, signs for more, shakes her head no, makes a mad face, but can melt your heart in an instant with her smile. She says mama, coco (the dog) oh-oh, and ga-ga (her sister Gisella). I still haven’t heard her say dada.

She is a joy, just like her sister. I believe they will both take over the world one day.




I met the nicest man this morning.

I had scheduled a service appointment for my car at the dealership very early. Little did I know that they are doing Major renovations there, like they literally have no showroom at the moment and are working from construction trailers. I only needed an oil change and tire rotation, but when I saw plywood and tarps and lots of hardhats I began to wonder if I should have simply gone elsewhere and paid out of pocket.

It became even more interesting when I told them that I planned to wait while the service was performed, yet I noticed the usual entrance to the waiting area was boarded over. The manager saw my glance, chuckled and said, “I’ll walk you to our waiting area.”

We left the building, walked all the way around the front, all the way down the side of their old showroom along temporary chain link fencing towards some of their back lots. I spotted a trailer and assumed that was the new ‘waiting area’ but no, we walked beyond that, and there tucked into a corner of the very back lot was a large tent lined with tables of coffee and water, and snacks, as well as the old black leather chairs from reception. A portable white picket fence enclosed some picnic tables and chairs. It was really rather ingenious. I wish I would have taken a picture to post, but I didn’t.

I sat down to read and the early morning sun shining on my neck was already warm. We are expecting 90+ degree weather for the next few days so my choice of an early appointment was genius. I think it would have been unbearable under that plastic tent by noon.

So, on to the gentleman. I noticed him as I made myself comfortable in a chair. He looked to be in his 70’s and was wandering the lot, looking at cars. A few other customers came into the area to wait, but you know how it is in waiting rooms of any kind. You always try to pick a chair well away from others if you can. It must be that whole personal space thing I guess. So when I saw the older man enter I assumed he was going to sit in one of the readily open spots.

Nope. He very purposefully strode toward my row of chairs. I was on the end, saw him and probably gave a courteous half smile while quickly realizing that he was quite clearly headed directly to the open chair right next to me. Even before he sat down he had started talking.

“Well, have you noticed that the Forester and the Outback are really about the same size now? When I was looking for my last car I compared the two and the Forester was just too small. I couldn’t get my wife’s wheelchair into it and the Outback seemed bigger. Now either one has gotten smaller or the other has gotten bigger I can’t tell which…”

I wrote the above with clear sentence structure and punctuation, but the reality is that all those words came out of him in one sentence. And then he kept going…off to another subject.

I think my mouth may have been hanging open a bit. I also believe I was in a little bit of shock. I’ve had people; men, sit down next to me and say a few words or make a small comment, or even strike up a short conversation, but I’ve never encountered anyone who came prepared to have a purposeful non-stop conversation like this man.

He wasn’t odd, or creepy, or pushy, or anything negative. He wasn’t an old fart who had the gold-chain lecher qualities either. He was clean, dressed casually but nicely, well-groomed and polite.

Within those first few seconds, as I took this scene in, I realized that he was a man much like a few dear old patients that used to routinely come into the office: older, intelligent, and lonely. It was clear that this was a man who was gregarious and someone who enjoyed conversation. It quickly became clear that he was very much alone and lonely. As he asked questions and we chatted a comment came out about his wife. In fact, he actually had to stop for a moment, almost to collect himself, before he noted that she was now “in a home.” I really was taken back to a few very special patients that we often suspected would come into the office with phantom tooth issues simply because they needed someone to talk with.

We spoke for perhaps 5 minutes, and then my phone rang with the technician telling me that my car was done. I gathered up my things, all the time he was still talking, and as I rose from the chair I gently touched his forearm, looked him in the eye, thanked him and told him that it had been a pleasure passing time with him while we both waited.

I meant those words very sincerely. He was an absolutely charming bright spot in my morning.

Kitty goes home…

Today was the day. Kitty, aka Snowflake, has gone to her new home. Alison has fulfilled her summer work/travel duties and came to pick up the kitty this morning.

I was ready in many ways, but also not so ready. I am delighted that I will have more freedom. This is literally the first time in more than 31 years that either a child or pet has not been dependent upon me for care or food. Snowflake helped make the transition of Alison moving out a bit easier, but today I can truly claim to be an empty-nester. She has missed Alison, and I know that Alison has missed Snowflake greatly.

Right now I’m finding things odd, more than sad. I can visit the cat, and in the long run I think that will be enough and suit just fine. Odd it is though, when you expect to see an animal curled up in it’s bed on the couch it’s been occupying for years. Odd when you realize that there is no more liter box to clean, or cat food to buy, or a furry yowling alarm clock to raise you up at exactly 5:30 AM without fail.

The move seemed to go off without a hitch and Alison sent these pictures of kitty in her new home.



Her bed and her cat grass. What more does she need.

A loaf by any other name…

…is nothing more than an oblong shaped conglomeration of items – sweet or savory or protein filled, baked, sliced and possibly drowned in ketchup-y tomato sauce if meat is involved. I believe, although I have no facts at hand to back this up, that meat type loaves were designed especially to stretch the housewife’s dollar in the 1950’s and 1960’s. You could feed a few more hungry kids with a loaf and maybe even have leftovers for sandwiches.

Alright, you may be asking why I am posting on the topic of ‘the loaf.’

My daughter shared with me a recipe for Spicy Tuna Cakes. She makes these a lot as they are gluten free. Obviously not baked in loaf form (hence the name cake) although I suppose it could be, the little tuna cakes are baked in a muffin pan. They turned out to be quite tasty. It was the ingredients, process, and the overall look  of the mixture that made me think of a few loaves that used to be common in my childhood home.

Meatloaf is a given. My mom made a pretty good one actually. Along with the hamburger and other typical ingredients she added pork sausage. As that loaf cooked the grease would rise to the top. When I was old enough to safely navigate a hot oven I would often have the duty to skim off the excess grease as the loaf baked. She baked this meat mixture in a round Pyrex bowl, not a loaf pan. I have no idea why. She also never used that tomato sauce topping that is so common to the meatloaf. Again, I have no idea why. The best part of this whole process…cold meatloaf sandwiches. White wonder bread, two slices of loaf, and for me both mayonnaise and ketchup.

The other popular loaf in our home was a salmon loaf. The smell from the canned pink salmon would permeate the entire house. It was dumped into a bowl and she (I, again when I was old enough) would use a fork to pick through the meat, scraping and removing any really dark skin and looking for the stray back bone pieces that always were included in each can. I forget exactly what she added after that. An egg, and crumbled saltine crackers for sure. This loaf was a true loaf. the mushy mixture was dumped into a pan and baked until brown and set. Sometimes, if we had any extra, she would put a few pieces of bacon on top to bake with the loaf and get crispy while imparting that smokey taste into the salmon.

The tuna cakes are a much healthier version of the loaf as their binder consists of egg, but mostly mashed orange sweet potato. You get your veg and your protein all in one, unlike my experience with the childhood versions.

So how about you? Were ‘loaves’ a big thing in your family growing up? Were they mostly sweet, like yummy breads, or of the variety that easily stretched protein a bit further for hungry mouths. Do you make any sort of loaf still as a regular go-to recipe? If you have an outstanding one, feel free to leave the recipe in the comments.

And, may your loaf always hold it’s shape and slice without crumbling to pieces…