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27 December 2009

A Meaty Perfection

We've been sick, on and off, with winter colds for a couple of months. The weather hasn't helped out much either, varying from cold and rainy to windy and f*#$ing cold. I always like to remedy winter ailments with slow cooked hot meals.

Having absolute fond childhood memories of pot roast and potatoes, I decided I would attempt this feat. It seemed scary at first. I grasped the idea of cooking the root vegetables but how was I going to find a pot roast? Is that what it's even called at the grocery store? I did some searching through my cook books and found that all I had to do was go to the meat counter and ask for a boneless beef roast. So for this huge round slab of de-boned meat, I decided I should go all out. I bought a 4 lb fully organic free-range sirloin roast (I know, I know.).

Within 10 minutes I had all the ingredients assembled and loaded into the crock pot. I turned it on high and left it to do its thing (now that is the type of cooking I like to do!). In the interim, I dyed my hair, took a 2 hour nap, watched football and talked on the phone. The house started to smell like an accomplished chef. Every inch of air smelled like cooking meat and made the dogs, as well as us drool. At the 6 hour mark I took the string off the roast and it magically fell apart. Apparently that is a good sign. After a quick call to my mother for a refresher on how to make gravy, the meal was ready.

I scooped out the steaming hot juicy pieces of meat, potatoes and carrots steamed to perfection and topped it all off with a creamy peppery gravy. I poured a glass of wine and we started chowing down. Oh me oh my, every bite was delectable, not to mention, the lovely comments coming from my husband who was enjoying what he was calling the best man meal he's ever had since he was a kid.

So I did it and that's why I'm writing all this. I cooked a successful meal, a meal my husband loved and I didn't mess it up - not even a little bit. I'd like to say I could do it again, but the statistics prove that is unlikely. So for now, I'm just going to revel in my status as a good cook, even if it is just for today.

16 December 2009

Butter Me Up

I can live for two months on a good compliment. ~Mark Twain

Learning to genuinely accept a compliment - takes some training. Usually when I'm complimented I debunk myself. Compliment: Wow this is great homemade soup! Me: Thanks, I should have put more salt in it. Compliment: I like that shirt! Me: Thanks, it helps to cover my ass. There's really no reason to put myself down. I've got learn to accept these accolades with gratitude.

One thing I can say though, is when someone praises or flatters me, it does make me feel good inside, boosts my self-esteem up a notch for the day and lasts on through the night and into the next day. Usually I float on the words until something brings me back down from my buttered-up high. These lauds to my self-esteem come in all different ways. The spoken words, kind smiles and bear hugs are saved in a special compartment of my heart. The written emails or notes are filed under a folder called 'cheers'. On down days, I access these files to remind myself that I am groovy, my actions do make a difference in people's day to day lives. Compassion, heart-felt goodwill and putting in my all into everything, no matter what, always feels satisfying. And when that is sensed by others, and relayed back in a compliment of sorts, it just encourages me to love myself and to keep on keepin on.

10 December 2009

Rise and Shine

Though the circular round-and-round of routine be the bulk of life's affairs, make an occasional jutting diversion - of fun, love, or something that will outlast you - so the shape and motion of your life shall resemble the round lifegiving sun with bright rays shining forth from all directions. ~Destin Figuier

There is no hope for a civilization which starts each day to the sound of an alarm clock.
~Author Unknown

If people were meant to pop out of bed, we'd all sleep in toasters.
~Author unknown, attributed to Jim Davis

If you follow my blog, if you know me well, you know that I am definitely not a morning person. It is rude and unnatural to disturb a peaceful slumber. That is why for the last 6 years my morning routine has rarely varied. It has to be the same because I do not function well when my body has been thrown off of it's natural rythm by an alarm clock. One thing I always loved about my mornings was that I could get ready for work by myself becauseWarren was off to work at the butt crack of dawn. I'd muddle around the house with my eyes half open, cursing the gods of morning and wishing I could be more like my black lab who rises with ease as the sun pokes it's head above the horizon. He wiggles and shakes in his happiness to have woken up again. It's a brand new day, he says, every god damn single morning. It was a blessing that Warren wasn't here to see me in all my glory. He knows what's good for himself! I could be frustrated all by myself and I was perfectly fine with that.

Then one day, Warren got a new job and his schedule changed. He was now going to work the exact same hours as me,. Which meant of course that he was going to be here in the mornings getting ready with me. Now hear me when I say this - I really want to stay married, but with the way I work in the mornings, or should I say don't work, our love would soon grow stale, if not sour very fast. He would tire of my tragic morning mood and I would be more than ready to vent my pre-dawn frustrations. But I didn't have time to ponder because his new job was starting the next day. I couldn't let him start a new job by waking up to a miserable sourpuss. I held my breath as my alarm went off, sparking and waking up angry nerves in my body. I forced myself to smile but my lips were frozen in a scowl. I had to smile, it was the only thing that was going to get me through this. I kept trying but nothing was happening on my face. Finally, I used both hands to pull my lips into a smile and held it there. Eventually, my cheeks stopped fighting and my heart gave in and I was smiling. God dammit I was smiling at 6am. What the hell. Somehow I made it through the morning in an awkwardly cheerful mood. It became easier every morning. My smile was less forced and I actually looked forward to waking up. It's cool to get ready in the morning with Warren, the morning person. Where before I would have been bitter at any hint of happiness, I am now relishing in it. Without any planning, we naturally worked out a routine where we each get a few minutes of alone time. Time to drink our coffee and space out. It's cool and I really like it.

There have been setbacks. I've slept in a few times, pissed off at the alarm clock and forgetting to put my smile on. But they are fewer and farther apart. Could things be turning a new leaf for me? No, I will never like to be roused from my dreams but I have come to really cherish the time I get to spend with Warren and the dogs in the mornings. Plus it forces me to get up on time because if I don't then everyone is going to be running late. I don't think I have made it out of the house on time in 6 years, until now. So, a change of routine is good now and then, especially when it's unexpected. I'm learning to make friends with mornings although I'd like them better if they started later. It's a slow and sometimes painful process but I'm thinking that maybe we'll be good friends one day.

Absence Makes the Blog Grow Fonder

Pardon my somewhat long absence from the blogosphere but things have been a bit hectic around here. I'll fill you in so put on a pot of brandy, sit downand and let's get started. My writing inefficiencies are due to three main issues that have come knockin at our door - mind you, we did not invite them.

First comes Thanksgiving. We are hanging at my sister's house drinking wine and catching up. We end up waiting a little extra longer than usual for the turkey to finish cooking (yes, it was defrosted the night before). By the time the turkey is done, we are buzzed and hungry. My sister sold her dining room table and turned her dining room into an office/library so we huddle in close together at her tiny kitchen table with the kids at a miniature table next to us. We pass the food around quickly and soon all is quiet as we start shoveling food into our mouths. There's no need to speak we are so hungry. Not a word is said. Ok, well some words were muttered here and there - pass the butter and more potatoes please. Soon we realize that our eyes were bigger than our stomaches and we start to moan. We tell the kids to go play while we recline in silence, holding our bellies, subtly unbuttoning our pants. Eventually we get the table cleared and the dishes washed. A child mentions we forgot to have dessert. No, honey, we didn't forget. We aren't having dessert. Mommy is going to be sick. Warren and I drive home in a semi food induced coma. Once in the confines of my home, I rush to slip out of my nice clothes and into my sweats. I sit on the couch drinking water and sucking on tums. The next morning I punish myself with an hour and a half walk. I take the dogs up to the mountain where we walk and walk and walk until I feel I have walked off every calorie. I'm feeling better as we drive over to Warren's aunt's house for our second thanksgiving dinner. I've already mentally prepared myself for tonight. Just a little of everything and stop before I'm full. I'm proud of myself as we drive home, I didn't overdo it. I spend the rest of the holiday weekend working out.

Second comes Sports. It's a busy time of year, you remember - basketball and football are in full swing. This year has brought our teams some seriously messed up karma. Our beloved Favre who is having his best year ever, throws 3 interceptions and has the worst game of his career. The Steelers lose their 4th game in a row in very lackluster performances and the Blazers lose key players Oden, Rudy and Outlaw to injuries for the rest of the season. These sports crisis are overwhelming and painful. We discuss them at length with family, friends and eachother - analyzing and strategizing with what's left of our teams and morning our losses.

Third and finally, two essential household items decide they no longer wish to live - our furnace and our computer. Our computer perished first. It caught a nasty winter virus that it could not fight. I decided to humanely put it down until my brother-n-law Daryl sent me a new operating system which flushed out the germs and now, as you can see, is as good as new. Then, on a wintry 21 degree night, we arrive home from work to find our heater blowing cold air. We called every oil furnace repair shop near and far but all their service men were already booked overnight, fixing those furnaces who called first for help. So we borrowed space heaters from our neighbor, put on our long underwear and hats, covered all the pipes and set all the faucets on drip. The 3 space heaters kept us from freezing although we blew a fuse every couple of hours. We had a 3 dog night and actually ended up staying pretty warm.

Needless to say, I've been a little distracted. I haven't forgotten about blogging, in fact, I've written more than a dozen in my head over the last couple of weeks. However, I've either been preocupied with winter sports woes, too full, too cold or lacking technology to write. So, I'm back. Put on another pot of brandy because the stories are about to begin.

20 November 2009

Winter Maladies

A bad cold wouldn't be so annoying if it weren't for the advice of our friends. ~Kin Hubbard

Winter's in Oregon are long and drawn out, damp, and cold. That's why I'm almost positive that we have the most alcoholics, the most bars with home brews per capita, the most overweight people, and the most home remedies for winter maladies that strike our sun-deprived souls. Depression strikes a lot. I mean who isn't depressed when you can't remember the last time you saw the sun. So we try to remedy our seasonal sadness by drinking with eachother in smokey bars. The velvety rich specials brews along with the greasy appetizers make the waist-lines expand. Often times we find ourselves rundown and laden with colds we'd worked so hard to avoid. 'Tis time to prepare for a battle. An herbal assault is waged against these winter micro-organisms.

Every person owns the patent for the secret to winter health. No two tonics are alike and probably differ widely outside of this lush green state of Oregon. However, there are two categories they all fall into: Prevent sickness and treat sickness. Basically we want to put off getting sick for as long as we can so we boost our immunity ahead of time, usually right after summer has left us and fall has just barely begun. We are northwesterners and we believe in our natives, thus we commence with tinctures of elderberry for strengthening our respiratory systems, western red cedar for increasing our white blood cells, oregon grape to purify our liver, and st johns wort to increase our happiness. Of course we include other non-natives like echinacea to increase resistance to viral invasion, goldenseal to ward off bacteria, and astragalus for deep and long immunity. We take in large amounts of vitamin C, eat extra kale and swiss chard, and exercise plenty. However, when we do succumb, we cannot wait to share our long lost family secrets to wellness or the latest trend which aids in decreasing the time we are convalescing.

If you are sick, I can supply you with not just the aforementioned therapies but I can let you in on some ancient secrets that will help ease your misery. If you're nose is plugged up, I know steam treatments and homeopathics that work well in draining cavities. If you have a cough I can ease it with coltsfoot and herbal cough remedies. If you crave a tincture that will make you sweat, sleep and feel good, if only temporarily, I will make you a whiskey-cayene hot toddy. I know two good ways to jump start your immune system - alternating hot and cold in the shower on your chest and going to bed with wet wool socks under dry cotton ones. Most of these are tried and true, by yours truly. However, there are a few that I have not had the opportunity to assess yet.

I always get a taste of my own medicine. If I am sick, all I want to do is lay under the covers and moan. The last thing I want to do is adhere to a wellness routine. Drink water? Forget it. I need a hamburger and salty fries because I can't taste anything with my plugged up nose. Sure I'll take my herbs and steam in the shower, that is, after I moan a while longer and try to sleep through my misery. But someone well-meaning soul will always ask me if I am following my own advice to get better. After which I will drag my sorry ass into the kitchen on a more regular basis to down my tinctures, swallow my hot toddies, then into the bathroom to submerge myself in hot steam.

This week I was completely laid out with an early winter cold. My husband being on the mend from the week before, probably thanks to my healthful advice, asked me if I was going to do the wet sock thing. The wet sock thing - oh you mean the thing that you wouldn't try when you were sick? Ah yes, but you did take my spoonfuls of cough syrup and chew the vitamin c and take shots of my herbal juice drinks. Ok, yes, I will take my own damn advice. I will wear the wet socks to bed. It seriously wasn't that bad. It was actually very soothing, relaxing and refreshing at the same time. And it was true, I woke up to completely dry socks. And I did feel a lot better.

I am back among the living now and I've just cracked open a winter ale to wash down my pizza as the weekend begins. It's forecasted to be cold and rainy for another 4 or 5 months. I'll be sure that tomorrow I remember to pick up that chinese herb my chiropractor told me about. He hasn't been sick in 3 years since taking it. And yes, I need to get a six-pack of that 100 proof holiday ale that is sold at only this time of year. Ah, I can see the crusade to achieve optimum winter health physically and mentally has begun, again.

10 November 2009

A Loaded Holiday

~Thanksgiving toast, from the Movie Sweet November

I have serious trouble with the American Thanksgiving holiday. I think that over the hundreds of years, the real reasons for this holiday have become blurred and eventually forgotten.

Now don't get me wrong. I see nothing wrong with celebrating the fact that we are thankful for eachother and that we cook a wonderful meal and celebrate in thanks with family and friends. In fact, I relish in the family time the holiday offers and believe we should always be thankful to the spirits. But everytime I see a little thanksgiving nativity scene of pilgrims and indians feasting peacefully together, I want to throw up my pumpkin pie.

All I'm saying is that in a couple of weeks, when we sit down to bless our food, that we say a prayer of thanks that the circle of life continues and send a blessing of love to the original inhabitants of this land. And when a glass is raised in toast, our libations are about teaching the truth and making peace with the past.

09 November 2009

A Day of Sentiments

Go the extra mile. It's never crowded. ~Author Unknown

For someone who makes sure her schedule has plenty of downtime, Saturday was a rare exception. Not only was my day packed, but I traveled plenty of emotional miles. I awoke quite luxoriously (in otherwords, without my alarm clock) only to remember too soon that I needed to get going. After a long walk with the dogs in what appeared was going to be a gorgeous day, a quick pick up of the house and a couple of cups of coffee, it all began. They clouds turned dark and the sky opened up in a monsoon of torrent winds and pounding rain. An omen?

Not long after, my sister arrived with her husand and my 2 month old neice who were here from out of town for just a couple of hours. The purpose of their trip - to place their dog into the hearts and hands of a new family. As the rains flooded the streets and the storm flew in, they made the exchange quickly and arrived back at our house, soaked in tears. When their sorrow subsided a bit, we celebrated a long waited reunion with eachother as I held and pampered my plump little neice. They couldn't stay long but as I watched them drive away, it seemed like this moment in time had been a gift for my soul.

Before we knew it we were on the go again, this time headed for my other sister's house to celebrate my nephew's 15th birthday. As we drove onto the free way, the sun boldly pushed it's way through the gray creating the most beautifully intense double rainbow. The rainbow followed us for a while until I saw what it was telling me. There could be beauty even amongst storms.

At my sister's house, were my parents and my other sister. We celebrated this birthday with homemade chili, garlic bread and chocolate cake. I danced in a tiara with my neice, chased my nephews around the house, and coaxed the 15-year old into some camera shots with smiles. The house was crowded and the noise level was high. But every inch was filled with love and laughter. I relished in it.

When we arrived home, we had just begun to wind down when our evening company arrived, cousin Rae and her Peruvian love. We sat in the garage together around our new bar table amongst bottles of wine and beer, cigarettes, candles and music. We commiserated about life, laughed about our day, and ate lots of Tims jalepeno chips - all the while our dogs were chewing our couch pillows to shreds. Another celebration was in order, for Rae and Juan Carlos had announced their plans to marry eachother. Our fiesta turned to cheers of declared love.

As the evening wound down and our company departed, I sat relaxing in Warren's arms as we listened to a Bob CD as the storm outside continued. The rains would not cease today and I had no expectation anymore that they would. Today's weather was not an omen. Today's weather was a reflection of the day. As busy and as chaotic as it had been, the day was ultimately fulfilling. Every event today was a colorful mix of mournings, celebrations, miracles, and sacrifices. I easily gave every part of myself today, experienced a flood of emotions and I felt strangely at peace. I immersed my being into the lives of others and in doing so, my packed calendar was not so overbearing anymore. Yes, my downtime was at an all time low today, but the extra mile was worth everything.

06 November 2009

The Land of Tears

Let your tears come. Let them water your soul. ~Eileen Mayhew

I must have been tense. No, I know I was tense and irritable. I could have blamed it on PMS but really it was much more than that. Warren offered to give me backrub. In fact, he offers backrubs to me every night and I would be a fool to turn him down. But tonight when he offered, I resisted. I didn't want to feel better. Only because I knew I was a volcanoe ready to blow, I finally gave in. As his strong hands massaged my rock hard shoulders, I slowly resigned myself to feeling better. But with each kneading, I could feel overwhelming emotion building up and filling every inch of my cellular makeup. I swallowed hard, choking it back and in the process tensed up again. Dang it, I was going to have to let the monster loose. Instead of tensing, I exhaled and along with each movement of pressure, a tear was released. Over and over until tears were silently streaming down my face. Each tear that escaped me was leaving my heart a little bit lighter. When Warren saw my tears he gathered me into his arms and told me it was all ok. Even though my circumstances had not changed at all and I cried until the tears had decided they were done, I was well again and I could smile. Every now and then I visit the land of tears where the salty water flows freely and emotions are entrusted to another. I should not delay my trip so long next time!

05 November 2009

Granddoggies Never Forget

Elephants and grandchildren never forget. ~Andy Rooney

When grandma Pat met her first grand-puppy, Huckleberry, there was an immediate bond. Grandma wanted to spoil and Hucky wanted to be spoiled. She wrapped grandma pat just perfectly around her little paw. Hucky was just a puppy back then and was in what they call the 'chewing phase'. A phase in fact, that she has never grown out of 4 years later. She kept sneaking into the guest bedroom and stealing items from grandma's luggage but we'd catch her in the act everytime for she wasn't a very sophisticated thief at her young age. But she did put one up on us finally. Somebody left the guest room door open and when we realized what had happened it was too late. Grandma's slippers had been chewed to itsy bitsy pieces and were scattered all over the floor. Lucky for Hucky, grandma wasn't mad and she laughed and forgave her instantly.
The next time grandma visited, she actually brought an old pair of slippers for her to chew with permission even. However, Hucky was a bit older this time and had taken to ingesting the items she chewed now so we had to supervise the destruction of the slippers then take them away when she started swallowing the pieces. Over the next couple of years, it has remained a steady joke each and every time grandma comes to stay, Hucky makes a bee-line for her suitcase, perfecting her thief-like stealthiness each time. Last summer grandma unknowingly left her slippers behind. We had no idea because we cleaned the guest room and didn't see anything left anywhere. However, not long after grandma left, we walked in to find Hucky happily taste testing grandma's forgottten slippers.

This year, grandma arrived as usual and as we absentmindedly stood around hugging and swapping gifts and giving welcome hugs, suddenly Hucky came flying out of the guest room with one of grandma's pink slippers in her mouth. Her eyes were wide, her tail was wagging and she pranced around the room as she gave the slippers the death shake. Then she looked right at grandma all proud of her find. Hucky never forgets. Never, ever. She sees her grandma and she immediately thinks that grandma has brought her slipper treats again. Makes sense you know? Us girls never forgot the specials we got to partake of at our grandparents houses for they always had their kitchens stocked with our favorite indulgences we rarely got at home - candy bars, sugar cereal, root beer floats, ice cream, white bread and real butter.

I'm happy that grandma and hucky get along well. They are both tough mamas and you wouldn't want to mess with either one of them. However, they have hearts of gold and will love you, support you and stand by you loyally until the end of time, oh and they both love slippers!

01 November 2009

Bank of the Cosmos

My poverty is not complete: it lacks me. ~Antonio Porchia 1943

Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
~ Lao Tzu

Like I've said before, I was born and raised to spot a good deal. It never mattered if you could afford the item full price. More importantly, the question was - could you get that item cheaper elsewhere? Always, that is how I have lived my life. In fact I have never really thought twice about it. The whole money thing has always been really wierd to me. When I was a self-employed gardener, I bartered a lot. I'd weed your yard and you'd give me a massage. I'd weed your parking strip and I'd get a free chiropractic adjustment. It's not really about keeping tabs though. It's about accepting payment enough to satisfy a category of need, but not beyond it.

I've always lived paycheck to paycheck squeezing in splurges for a night out with my friends, a gourmet dinner for a birthday, or a bbq at my house for a summer fiesta. Oh ok, and a trip to Value Village now and then.

We've furnished our house with items found on sidewalks on trash day, discounted at the local second-hand store or willed to us by family. I love the outdoors so much that when we decorate our house, I try to bring the outdoors in, adorning the table tops with plants rather than nicknacks. I found my own style of clothing and find the best deals in my sisters' closets, friends giveaways or at value village. I'm proud anytime I find a good deal and can bring it home.

Every now and then we go through a rough moment in time. A delayed paycheck, an unexpected bill, a car breaks down, temporary unemployment... All of which puts a small damper on our fun. Obviously we aren't frivolous spenders, but when a lack of money means I can't get my bottle of wine or cheese to go on my burrito, things appear to get tough. But only momentarily. All I have to do is look around me and I'm in total awe of what I have, not only physically, but spiritually. I'm in tune with nature, in connection with my spirit helpers, in love with my husband, my family knows I adore them and that is all that matters. Let me say that again, in the end, that is all that matters. I'm not going to stress about tomorrow. I've never needed much in the way of material things. But I have always found it vital to have a full spiritual connection with the web of life. I am not poor by any standards. I have eliminated the parts I do not need. I am cultivating a healthy abundance of spritual fortune in my bank of the cosmos. And I will always be on the lookout for a good deal.

31 October 2009

Delicious Autumn

Last weekend my mother-n-law came to visit. I'm sure it was to see us of course but the real purpose of her visit was to absorb herself in the mosaic of fall colors. She loves this season most of all, which is why we can always expect a visit around now. Her arrival was perfect timing for a harvest road trip. We met her at the airport, grabbed breakfast and before we knew it we were on our way to Hood River, home of the famous Fruit Loop. I could tell you this celebrated loop was just a bunch of farms selling off the last of their summer's bounty but that wouldn't even come close to the experience.

As we arrived in Hood River, we followed signs that put us on a tiny two lane road. Not sure where to begin or find the first farm, we drove for a bit and marveled at the glorious colors around us. Every way you looked were tall dark forests of green pines and flaming yellow and orange trees shimmering in the morning sun, almost lighting our way. And yes, it was sunny, the only day predicted in the last two weeks and in the following two weeks to be dry and warm.

Our first stop was a winery in an old plantation house. We tasted a couple of wines, bought some of our favorite red pears and hopped in the car. Farm after farm, we found earthly delights and delectable seasonal fare to tempt our taste buds. One farm had a kitten for sale. I carried that little black ball of fur around with my trying in vain to get my husband to hold him. He knew, one touch and we'd be bringing another kitty home. We tasted our first pear pie. It was so good that we inquired about the recipe. Turns out it was a secret family recipe that my mother-n-law was determined to acquire. She sent us out to the fields to play and when she returned, we had us the recipe to the pear pie!

At another farm, we petted the world's wierdest looking alpacas, and devoured apple cider donuts. Eventually we met up with aunts, uncles and cousins at the German apple festival. While the adults gobbled up sausages, sauer kraut and fresh pressed cider, I perused the aisles and aisles of apples, taste testing and filling my bag these wonders of nature. Yodelers filled the air with far away songs and kids ran through the endless rows of apple trees.
Finally, as we were closing in toward the end of the Fruit Loop, we arrived at the farm I had been dying to get to. Apple Valley Farms. For they were serving up fried biscuits and apple butter, huckleberry milkshakes and pear brandy. Oh if that weren't heavenly enough, the inside store was filled with open jars of every kind of berry jam you could think of. When we left there, we were so full we weren't sure we'd make it home.

However, we had one more stop and that was the lavendar farm. Even though the lavendar beauty had already been harvested, the relaxing smell was enough to make you want to lie down in their fields and take a long afternoon nap. We met Bubba, a 90-year old, feisty woman who every year, presses the lavendar to make the oils, lotions and potions. We promised we'd see her again next year as we reluctantly returned to our car to head home.

As we drove home, it was difficult to leave this delicious autumn beauty behind. It's been just a week since then and already the trees are almost bare, their leaves now laying a carpet of colorful hues on the earth's floor. My distress over how swiftly this season passes us by, was taking comfort in knowing that what we lose in flowers and colors, we more than gain in a bounty of late harvests and other pleasures. All of which will make our winter dinner gatherings all the more warm and enchanting and seasoned with sweet memories of a season departed.

20 October 2009

An Old Fashion Love Song

An old man in love is like a flower in winter. ~ Portuguese Proverb

I shall not die of having a cold. I shall die of having lived. ~Willa Cather

We went to a funeral today. The celebration of life was for Cliff, a vivacious man who danced through life with a smile for 92 years. His wife Jan, 20 years his junior, is our neighbor. We met Jan just over 5 years ago. We chatted over the fence as she hung her laundry out to dry. Mesmerized by this tough broad, we became instant friends and took it upon ourselves to look after her. Cliff got sick just after we met and for the next 5 years, Jan devoted herself to caring for him at home. When we got news that Cliff had gone on to the spirit world, we rushed to her side to be sure she wasn't alone. No, exactly the opposite, she was surrounded immediately by family and friends.

At the memorial service today, the story unfolded, telling the more intimate details of Cliff and Jan's love story. They met at a dance. He was 80 and she was 60. It was love at first sight. She asked him to dance and that was that. They became solid fixtures at every dance in town. Everyone adored this dancing couple who only had eyes for eachother. We perused the family photo album that was out on display. Most of the pictures were action shots - Jan twirling in Cliff's arms both with huge smiles; arms around eachother looking lovingly into eachothers eyes; mouths wide open giggling about something only they were privvy to.

You could feel the love, you could sense the love, there was no doubt there was love in the chapel today. 150 people came to show their love of Cliff and to support Jan. I watched as Cliff's younger brother listened to the service. I tried to imagine what he was feeling by gaging his outer emotions and the energy around him. I could see he was deeply hurt but he was being strong. I could see he loved his brother. He nodded at the open casket when he passed by it. I left at that moment because I couldn't endure living his or Jan's heartache. My heartaches are sure to come. Today was a reminder. Instances like these, we tend to re-examine our lives. Today I was reminded that I am still alive.

19 October 2009

Mark THAT on the Calendar

Once in a blue moon, my wonderful husband will adore a dish I randomly cook for dinner. Now check this out. He is the worlds MOST pickiest eater. If it's not traditional bland american, he is quite skeptical and will not usually even taste it just to see if he might miraculously like it. Even if he does taste it, he won't like it because he has already convinced himself otherwise.

We've been together about 11 years and he honors me with at least one dish annually that he absolutely loves. He raves about how good it is, takes seconds and calls his mom to tell her to try this recipe. He tells me I can cook this any night of the week, every week. The problem is, I can't recreate the dish. For it is an anomole. Yeah so I had a recipe and I can give you the recipe. But it will never taste like it did tonight. Why, do you ask. I have a little bit of a hard time following the actual recipe. Like a pianiast who plays by ear, I cook by taste. And not to sugar coat it, I just cannot follow a recipe. Try as I might (and I do try), I always have to add just a little bit of that, a little less of this and oooh, just a touch of something that cannot be found in the recipe ingredients list - all of this making the dish intrigingly unique.

When the meal is prepared, cooked and ready to be tasted, I always wonder, will he like it? If his particular tastes do not approve, he will still eat it but I will see he's not pleased by every blink of his eye, every hesitant bite he takes and the careful avoidance of the phrase 'Mmm, this is good' for fear I may cook it again. But when he likes it, and I mean really likes it, I mark THAT recipe on the calendar and I run to a corner in my mind and try to recall each and every little thing I put in that dish. I say a silent prayer to the gods of dinnertime that my cooking karma stays on the good side. And no matter what, I stand up straight and tall with my head held high, proud of my wondrous culinary moment in time. Because as Harriet van Horn says "Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all".

15 October 2009

Its Up To You

The last of the human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances. ~Victor Frankl

My biggest challenge yet. Every day life happens and it presents me with opportunities to react. To react in a myriad of ways. Each time I must choose, it's up to me, to decide how to respond. My reaction time to these life moments has always been a bit dramatic. Usually there I am, jumping the gun, putting my foot in my mouth, regretting those damn words that escaped my lips before I could censor them or cut them off completely.

I've been putting myself through boot camp lately. Actually for about a year now, maybe longer because I don't really know when I started this. But I have given myself permission to slow down when life happens. Take a second to absorb, take some deep breaths, and try to wrap my brain and heart around what has just transpired. How I react can set the tone. The tone with which the new path this circumstance is taking me. No one can take that away from me. It is an inside choice. I reach down inside myself and scoop out whatever it is that I need. Courage, hope, self control, respect, ambition, love, compassion. Whatever it may be, I've got it in reserve somewhere deep within me. Always.

If I so choose, I can be stubborn. Oh yes can I be stubborn. It's the bull in me, the Taurus bull. But that's the thing. I can willfully push away what I am given and what I already have, or I can determinedly reach out my arms and embrace life. It's up to me.

14 October 2009

A New Leash On Life

We made many minor mistakes as young doggie parents do, but one that we corrected right away was the length of our puppies' leashes. Falling prey to colorful displays in the pet stores, we bought our three dogs each a collar with a matching 5-foot leash. Even though they were now styling and hip pups, soon we found out during walking all three dogs at the same time that they could wrap us up like spaghetti noodles on a spoon. Meandering back and forth all over the sidewalks to sniff, their leashes would tangle and soon we were all in a knotted mess. So we took to wrapping each leash around our wrists until the leashes were short enough to allow them to only dream of wandering towards each and every wonderful smell. But that grew old soon enough. When one dog decided to poop, we'd have to unwrap the leashes to let them go do their business and then re-wrap everything again. Things were just getting too complicated.

I was leaving my current job at the time and my co-workers, who knew of my animal kingdom at home, gave me a gift certificate to a fancy dog store as a parting gift. As Warren and I perused this up-scale dog boutique, we couldn't really imagine ourselves with any of these hoity toity doggie items. I mean seriously, we had labs, they would chew up just about anything. Then we came across these 2 foot leashes and something clicked. How easy it would be to control the dogs with these. Why hadn't we known about these earlier? Was this something only wealthy dog owners knew about? I only foresaw one problem, they weren't really cool looking. Just plain black. Dang, didn't they have some cool patterned ones somewhere? Well, we were looking for practical right? So we bought three of them and headed home to try them out. Oh it was a dream come true. Walks become joyous and no longer a twisted jungle of leashes.

So things stayed pretty much the same for the next 3 or so years. Then Huckleberry's 4th birthday approached. Labs are supposed to begin to mellow around the age of 4 right? Would our little girl who prided herself on her passionate view of life, even slighty be tamed? Warren decided that as a big girl now who understood and followed very well the rules of dog walking, deserved a brand new leash. Not just any leash, mind you, a big girl leash. A leash that was 5 feet long. Oh boy this was a massive undertaking. A gamble. Would she behave on it? Since it was her birthday, we opted to take her for a walk all by herself to try out the new leash. As we walked down the street, she slowly realized that she had some lee-way here and there. As soon as she figured that out, she began prancing with her head help up high. Oh how she had longed for us to see her as a big girl. Just like any young dog, you give them a few extra feet of leash and they take full advantage. Soon she was bounding ahead of us and then stopping abruptly to sniff something only dogs can smell. Our lovely walk was fast becoming a race to keep up with where Huckleberry wanted to go next. As much as we hated to rain on her parade, we roped her in and made her heel. She listened pretty well after her initial excitement but she still held her head high because she had a new leash on life now, she was four now and her brothers didn't get to be in on this game. It was all about her and that was the best birthday present we could have ever given her.

The Big Yawn

I knew it was coming, I could smell it in the air. But it's here and it's here in full swing. I"m talking about Fall, the last season of color. Intense colors that serve as powerful reminders to commit the beauty to memory, because soon, that is all it will be, a distant memory. The chilly winds remove the leaves from the trees one by one, exposing the bare branches. It's like mother nature is inhaling and exhaling in a big yawn, getting ready for her long winter's slumber.

01 October 2009


"I must do something" always solves more problems than "Something must be done."
~Author Unknown

Last night my friend Deb came to visit. She always laughs because she says whenever she comes over, there is always some sort of excitement and drama that surrounds her visit. One time there was a prostitution bust right in front of our house, another time it was homeless cats vying (very loudly) for our front yard as new territory, police cars not-so-randomly driving by or parked in surveillance down the street, an ambulance arriving at a neighbors house, chasing someone's dog that's on the loose and sometimes it's just ventings of our own personal dramas.

So last night, when Deb arrived, my first thought was, we needed a mission and I had just the idea for one. We would go undercover in the hood and do some investigating for a non-profit I volunteer for that rescues chained dogs. She agreed full-heartedly to my mission and off we went, well, almost. Logic was beyond us in our hurried excitement so luckily Warren suggested we bring one of our dogs with us. We chose to bring Tahoe, our scrappy little brown dog and ultimate protector, not to mention he is Deb's personal favorite of our three amigos.

As we arrived near the neighborhood we fondly call 'felony flats', I went over the steps of our mission. Act like we were just out on a walk with our dog. Find the suspect house that has the chained dog. Gather the dog's general health, situation and location. Do not interact with the household members. If I can, snap a picture as evidence. Man, I should have been a PI. This is thrilling fun!

It was getting dark as it does this time of year, but we took Tahoe and started walking the hood. A large and luckily fenced dog came rushing at us, barking and alerting everyone we were not from around here. Geesh, dog, please, we are doing a good deed here. Quiet now! On we walked, further and further away from our escape vehicle. I wasn't really all that scared because Tahoe will very impolitely eat anyone or anything that attempts to mess with us. Plus, I am here and undercover for the sake of a dog who is being chained and mistreated. Need I say more. We passed by this house surrounded by chain link fence. The only thing that drew me to look it's way was the flashes of light coming from the other side of the house that seemed to light up the night sky. That's when I saw it, the dog house. I knew it was the right house as you do with these kinds of instinctual things. But I couldn't see the dog, yet, so we walked passed the house and down the street before we turned back around to get a better look. As we approached the house again, I was able to see who was possibly one of the occupants. A large, no, let's say very large Samoan looking man working under his attached garage. He looked up momentarily at us but without giving us a second thought, went back to his work. Phew! Close call. No blown cover just yet.

As we rounded the other side of the house, I gave Deb the leash and she walked slightly ahead with Tahoe. I walked slowly up to the fence to view the dog house. That's when I saw the chain. I followed the length of the chain for a few feet to find myself looking straight into the eyes of a little black puppy sitting atop a mess of white fuzz of what appeared to once have been his dog bed. He didn't bark and I didn't make any attempt to communicate. I had to get a picture. I snapped a couple of pictures and then I sent him message from my mind to his - I am here to help you. You will be rescued. Don't lose hope. Then I glanced around me to be sure all was safe and slid off into the night to meet up with Deb and Tahoe. Luckily she was thinking straight and asked me to 'take another picture of them', so I did. Good call on her part. That way if anyone saw the flashes they would think we were just taking pictures of each other.

Mission accomplished we walked quickly but as normally as we could back to the car. Once safely inside the confines of locked doors and rolled-up windows, we breathed a sigh of relief. Deb thanked me for another adventurous visit and I thanked her for obliging to be my accomplice on this undercover assignment. I had to go report my findings now and we parted ways for the evening. Although I did feel a lot like a kid playing Nancy Drew, there was a more serious side to this - a motivation and compassion of the heart to be one of the many hands helping to save these innocent dogs. I can guarantee you I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

26 September 2009

Super Star

Leave me alone. Go away and stop bothering me. Leave us all alone for that matter. We don't need you, we can figure it out amongst ourselves. I'm talking about this world we live in. It's so lame. Do this, eat that, buy this, have that. Is that all that is important? Where did you get so lost? When did you forget what matters? Relationships are where it's at. Connect the dots and you will see that we are all in this together. Love yourself, love eachother, love the earth, love the universe. You got to realize. Realize your priorities. That is what I'm sayin to you. Lose the facade, ditch the wish list of material things and start filling your re-usable bag with soul food. You and me are here because we chose to be here. I can tell you will not stop bugging me so I will shut you out, ignore you. I can live without your shallow materialism. For I am a star. My spirit came to earth for this experience and I will not let you misguide me. Open open open open your eyes and see the brilliance of this world. Many, too many in fact, have forgotten, so start now while you can. Resist the urge to lose yourself in the way of life that is almost in a way directed and demanded of us. You can live in the here and now and be happy. Hold onto your strength and your confidence and find the wonderful in today, in this very moment. Remain strong and confident, even when at times you only have a small thread to hold onto. You are stronger than this world, than this body you live in. You are a super star.

25 September 2009

How It Happens

So this is how it happens, the urgency, the anxiousness - the need to do something. But what? Start a project, rearrange my houseplants, go to vallue village? No, I need to write. I need to go to that place in my head and get lost for a while in my thoughts and I need to do it now. If there's no time, I'll jot down the concept to recall later. But when I do sit down and begin to type, I settle in and prepare to be carried away. My mind re-focuses and directs itself toward my intention. I am drawn further and further into the universe of my thoughts as they begin to take form and become words. This is the only moment that exists right now but strangely that feels ok. Soon my story is told and there are no more words to say. The trance begins to lift and a sense accompolishment rushes over me. Hurriedly, I publish my post and and view my blog to re-live what just poured out of my soul. I exhale contently and resume my life. And that is how it happens.

23 September 2009

Soul Practice

Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still. ~ Chinese proverb

So, as a spiritual being on a human journey, I am always renewing my soul. Sometimes it's a massage, time at the beach, a long walk in the mountains, a big long hug; or sometimes it's about more about a small change to a regular routine. I was vegetarian for 14 years. That small change to my diet lasted a while. It was good and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things I hadn't known about before. I added long jogs to my daily routines, a small hour in a long day but well worth the mental cleanse it gives me. I stopped wearing makeup years ago. A small change to my appearance but a vanity that I did not want to focus on anymore. Because of a lack of adequate funding and an insane urge for a good deal, I started shopping at second hand clothing stores. A small change to my wardrobe but a thrill each time I find cool clothes for dirt cheap. I started eating local and organic, buying less packaging, focusing more on friends and family, smiling at strangers, and on and on. These small changes happened one by one and over time. That must be why our elders are so wise. They have had many years to practice.

As is part of my nature, I am going to begin intentionally walking a new yet well worn path of soul practice. It consists of precepts (teachings, instructions) of which I will pick one per week that I will mindfully meditate and place my focus on. Some of these precepts will be those of Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tik · N'yat · Hawn) who is a Buddhist monk living in exile in France. He's only exiled from Vietnam because he tried to teach the people of his country about peace but apparently that was labeled as a communistic activity so he had to leave. I like his teachings and have come across quotations from him so often that I have decided it is a sign. A sign for me to acknowledge that I need to expand upon the inner depths of my soul and help quiet my mind. I was never one for sitting in a classroom. I learn hands on and at my own pace. I will be my own teacher but let the words of the wise ones and the spirits guide me.

And in the very own words of Thich Nhat Hanh I conclude with this: "Do not believe that I feel that I follow each and every of these precepts perfectly. I know I fail in many ways. None of us can fully fulfill any of these. However, I must work toward a goal. These are my goal. No words can replace practice, only practice can make the words."

19 September 2009

May the Wind Take Your Troubles Away

(not using proper punctuation tonight). i have a little bit of angst in me. i always do this time of year, mid september. the hot dry month of august is over, the sky sends down mists of rain here and there, the sun makes less daily appearances and the warm yet slight cool winds roll in. yet i can still wear my flip flops and get away without a sweatshirt at night.

i'm just not ready to give up my summer freedom yet. i love drinking my coffee in the backyard on weekday mornings, watching the sun rise as the dogs noses rise to read the morning air. i sit barefoot in the evenings out by the fire or i wander down to the neighbors with my hair in a bun on top of my head, shorts and glass of wine. no hesitation. it's all about a level of comfortableness that is thoroughly and satisfyingly achieved with ease. but that is all about to change and everyone senses it.

the mornings are little cooler, night falls slightly earlier than usual, and the internal debate is on if i need a sweatshirt or not or if i should put that warmer blanket on the bed at night. it's a little bit of denial and a little sense of excitement. the winds of change are near. if the seasons did not change, neither would we. it is time to prepare, it is an instinctual time. gather the harvests, stock up on necessities, begin to modify our wardrobes, all with the feeling of an eventual slowdown, a sort of hibernation you could say.

it's good that things don't stay the same. it makes me stronger and more aware of my surroundings. every shift in the seasonal climate affects me. i look forward to the different pace as much as i silently refuse to acknowledge it. summer time to me is when i get to be fully me, in the au naturale. hair long and wild, tanned arms and legs, barefeet, sundresses, skirts and tanktops. a light glow from the heat of the mid summer sun and fans blowing in every room. it is intoxicatingly lazy, for the overwhelming heat of the day prohibits you from doing a thing. that is my nature. my toes are never scrubbed clean and my nails have a permanent case of garden dirt tones.

yet if things stayed that way, there would be nothing to continually awake my senses, alerting me to pay attention and prepare for a change. i am just as much comfortable in my summer skin as i am in my fall, winter and spring skins. it's just the settling into and accepting of the coming cooler season that is troublesome at first. there's a secret in the air now. it is the wind that will carry any lingering troubles away and breathe the change with me. and soon, it will be just as fun to drink my my morning coffee bundled up warm in my robe and long socks, snuggled next to my husband, my dogs and of course, the heater.

10 September 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Football is not a game but a religion, a metaphysical island of fundamental truth in a highly verbalized, disguised society, a throwback of 30,000 generations of anthropological time. ~Arnold Mandell

Summer isn't yet over but Fall isn't quite here. We're kind of in limbo, seasonally speaking. But it is actually the most wonderful time of the year, for today, football season began. It is the first step towards summer's end. School just started, the sun is showing itself less and less, clouds dominate the sky and the yearly family and friends football pool is officially on.

Every Saturday will become filled with the urgent rush to get all chores and to do lists completed because every Sunday will be come sacred. Where you set your alarm clock to be sure you have enough time to get set up on the couch where you will spend the remainder of the day. Or if your team isn't being shown on regular TV, you haul your tired ass to a bar where you will wash down hashbrowns and eggs with too many bloody mary's. Either way, the whole day, or at least for the next 8 hours, you live and breathe football. Trips to the bathroom or for a smoke are timed perfectly for commercials. Foods are ordered in and by delivery. Half-time is left with just enough time to call your friends and family to discuss the first half highs and lows yet still leaves you rushing back to the couch to catch the beginning of the 3rd quarter, hopeful that the short rest gives your team the undeniable urge to win it for you.

As your team volleys back and forth between injuries, sacks, dropped balls, victory runs and amazing catches, you look hard at the football pool spreadsheet of picks. If you are victorious, will this win put you in the lead, tie you with your arch-rival, leave you bummed cuz you're dead last? Finally, in the last game of the day when the game clock hits 0 seconds, win or lose, there is a sense of accomplishment. You have vast new knowledge of each team and how they rank that week. Then you start thinking about next weeks game and discuss the possible outcomes.

I don't know why I like football and I have gone over this many times it my mind. The short season, 17 weeks, 1 day per week (usually), is easy to follow. The excitement of those few weeks is electric because every single game counts. Playoffs lead to the most celebrated should-be holiday of every year - the super bowl. Even the rules of the game itself can be caught onto easily. There's a fierce competitiveness that surfaces - people and bars are choreographed into team colors and paraphenalia extravaganzas. Plus, the fact that these players don't mind being clobbered over and over is almost like you have to keep seeing it to believe it. Thank you to replays, we can re-live those important game moments.

When it really comes down to it though, football season rules because as the winter months set in and we are homebound and wrapped up warm next to our heaters, for 17 weeks straight, we are in continual close touch with our friends and family members who are in the football pool. The texting, emails and phone calls go overboard as we send messages to eachother wishing luck or talking shit. So tonight, as tradition called for, we spent the opening night of football, eating sliders, drinking lemon drops, lounging on the couch and ending the night with our first win. Let the season begin!

09 September 2009

Interruptions of the Mind

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Remember that commercial - 'Calgon, Take Me Away' - with the busy woman who just needed to get away from it all so she took a soapy, perfumy, chemical-filled bubble bath? Give me a break, when was the last time I've had time to take a bath and I wouldn't touch our bathtub with a ten-foot pole because I haven't gotten my request to have a maid yet. But no matter... We've all been there, in total shock, in pain, in disbelief, in awe, in excitement, in sadness, in anger, in stress, where we forgot to breath and someone said, 'Just breath', and you did. Such a simple idea but so hard to do in those moments of chaos. Yet that gentle reminder helps you slip back into reality but this time with a renewed focus and a sense of calm.

It is true, breathing is the means we use to merge our body and soul. I found that out when I was taking hot yoga a couple of years ago. My first class was quite an awakening. The room was heated to 105 degrees and we were holding poses for long moments of time. The combination of the heat, sweat pouring out of me like niagra falls, concentrating on holding a position meant for a cat would make me forget to breathe. It must have been a common occurrence because our teacher constantly reminded us to breathe. She told us that we needed to focus only on our breathing which would take us away from the heat and the pain. She said after practicing, we would eventually find our breath. I had no idea what that meant so I just kept trying. But I soon found out. Probably 3 classes in, I wasn't even concentrating on remembering to breathe. I realized that I was naturally breathing and extremely centered. What amazed me was how quiet my mind had become. I wasn't worrying about the extreme heat or fighting with the continual nuances and interruptions that flow in and out of my head. As long as I breathed, I remained tranquil.

I've held onto this philosophy and made it a way of life for myself. When I get stressed out, I take 3 deep, long, slow breaths. Those breaths renew my sense of calm and help me prepare to deal with the present in a buddah-minded way. I can breathe subtly if there is no way for me to escape my situation or I can go hide in a bathroom stall and breathe deeply there (and roll my eyes and make faces at the wall).

Breathing will get me through those moments but there are other pieces to this puzzle of obtaining a calm mind. Breathe first, the forgive and let it go. Forgive yourself, forgive the other person and say it over and over and over until you believe it. This could take a while. Then let it go. It's seriously easy to let it go once you forgive. And don't reheat it for breakfast, ever. The final step is to absorb yourself in a strenuous activity - hot yoga, an extra long walk or jog, hike or ride your bike up a big hill, sex, etc... My philosophy is that if you get your heart rate up and get your breathing going for a period of time, you actually release (and sweat out) any lingering issues that are stubbornly staying in your mind.I don't know but it works for me. And I think you should give it a try - more than once. And if it doesn't work, and you are going to resort to a bubble bath, at least get the kind without perfume and chemicals!

23 August 2009

Betty Crocker From Hell

'Tis the season. The season for Rhubarb, my all time favorite ingredient for pie. RP (Rhubarb Pie) - that's what my grandma called it. She knew just how much I loved RP. Everytime we came over to visit her, she'd say "Oh Sarah, come look. I made you 3 RP's". Rhubarb is an acquired tasted. Most people have one of two opinions about it - they love it or they think it's gross. As the former of the two, I lose no chance to take advantage of Rhubarb harvests.

This weekend, I was lounging out in the sun when I heard a chainsaw right behind me. I looked up to see the tree that is growing between my fence and my neighbors fence was being cut down. Holy sheeez, I thought, that's our 73-year old neighbor Jan with a chainsaw! I jumped up and grabbed Warren out of his peaceful mid-afternoon slumber. We had to go help her, not that she isn't quite the most bad-ass elderly woman I have ever encountered, she is. But she was going to need to some help. Luckily, her neice was there but still. So, we arrived at her house and began helping catch the branches she was sawing off, dragging them to the front and loading them in the truck. When we finished, Jan disappeared for a few minutes. She came back with an armload of freshly picked, you guessed it, Rhubarb for me. Now I love receiving locally farmed food as gifts, but Rhubarb was an extra-special blessed delight. As I proudly walked home I could almost taste the RP I was soon going to make.

I searched epicurious and found 2 good recipes for RP. I combined them and rearranged them to my liking and went to work cooking. The recipe - Strawberry, Raspberry Rhubarb Pie with cinammon and orange peel and a butter brown sugar crumbling topping. I meticulously followed my recipe, enjoying every moment as I chopped my precious Rhubarb. I displayed my masterpiece to Warren and put it in the oven to do it's magic.

About a half hour later, I checked my RP and saw that it was going to possibly bubble over a little and since our oven is pretty new, I didn't want to have a mess. I got out cookie pan to slide under it to catch any drips. As I began to slip the pan under the tilting pie dish, something happened. As I look back now, it had to have been a blip in my common sense. I should have been more careful. I mean this was RP. Somehow, don't ask me how, the pie flipped over in the middle of the oven and as it did I jumped in horror knocking the pie straight to the bottom of the oven burner and bumped the oven door which slammed closed on my finger. A bundle of expletives followed along with painful cries and a heart crushed. After I could breathe again, I tentatively opened the oven door. There was my beautiful half cooked pie smooshed all over the bottom of the oven with bits of berry and rhubarb mash hanging off the oven racks and burning into charcoal and smoke.

Warren came running to see what on earth I had done this time in the kitchen. He helped me clean up the sticky mess as he said, "Oh I am so sorry Sarah, your Rhubarb Pie, Oh I am soo sorry. " You know he was thanking the good lord above that he would now not have to endure a taste testing of my pie for he was not born a Rhubarb lover. After I got over the initial shock, embarrassment and pissed offness of losing my beloved Rhubarb Pie, I finally laughed and figured so much for trying to be little Miss Pie Cooker Homemaker. I am a Betty Crocker from hell. Instead, I think I will have a glass of wine and walk down to our local cafe and buy myself a slice of homemade RP, I mean, the worst that can happen is they won't have any right? Ok, let's not go there.

21 August 2009

So Done

I am so done.

This way of life is too pre-determined

It holds me to this track on which the expected way of life travels

I resist by jumping from the train cars

Smash landing into my own free will

Light and easy I frolic in my alternative existence.

But that train catches up with me, throws me back on, slapping an itinerary in hand

Temporarily stripped of my individuality and free-roaming thoughts,

I am bound for a course of destruction.

My spirit will not allow it.

I will play the game for you, but in this case I will cheat.

Parts of my star-like quality will leak out, spreading their infectious flashes of seemingly frivolous

Connections to something deeper, something more alive.

So I am done.

I will ride the train of rules but only when necessary.

I will dodge the well worn paths,

And take hidden trails,

slashing my way through a jungle less explored.

I'm not irresponsible,

I am accountable.

Accountable for keeping it real.

Fuck corporate culture.

I can do it myself!


After taking a much needed vacation break of 12 days, I woke up for my first work day on Wednesday - on time, too! I was well rested, my mind was calm, and I was eager to begin my regular routine again. Don't get me wrong, I would have been more than happy to extend my vacation indefinitely, but that just is not in my forecast for a while. Needless to say, everything soon caught up with me. Things began to return back to normal soon enough - not enough hours in the day to get my work done, tired when I get home, re-assuming routine responsibilities, wore me out by the 3rd day back. Now I don't have kids and can pretty much pick and choose when to relax but I do have a life. I had to get back in touch with friends, sisters, parents, my blog, bills, grocery shopping, watering the yard, and of course, my daily jogs with the dogs. Today is Friday and I am plum out of energy. The only way I can deal is to prepare myself a smashing double vodka and pomengranate juice cocktail. After two, I am feeling mighty warm and finally, yes, finally, relaxed. I made my list to do for the weekend, dividing it up so I am sure to have time to nap and lay out in the last of the summer sun. I really do not believe in working so hard that life passes me by. In fact, it would be much preferrable for me to work 3 days a week, volunteer 2 days a week and take the other two days to do whatever I please. But even though we live a meager way life, I still cannot afford to have that kind of a schedule. So, if I am going to have to work 5 days a week for 8 hours a day, I have to be willing to let things go. And most importantly, as I transition from the easiness of vacation life back to reality, I have to hold on to a piece of the alternative reality to keep me going. Life can be busy and consuming but only at times. I CAN choose to relax. As I transition from vacation mode to regular life, my weekend list to do is written but there is no use worrying about what needs to be done tomorrow because that is all in the future. And what I re-learn from each vacation is that now is most important. Vacations are all about now. Who cares what we are eating tonight, we will worry about that when it is time. Now is all I have. Now is more fun. With light preparations for the future, now is all that matters, now is all I have time for.

14 August 2009

Beach Cruisers

Diamond Lake was our vacation destination this summer. Two cars, one piled with kids and parents, the other with grandparents and Warren and I, we drove 4 hours through the southern Oregon forests until we arrived at the resort hidden carefully in the mountains. Our little cabins rested on the south lakefront overlooking the docks of boats and choppy waters. The lodge and general store lay just within a stone’s throw. Upon further exploration, Warren found a bike rental shop. Without hesitation, we rented two beach cruisers and set upon the 11 mile bike trail around the lake.

The trail first took us through the campground that had served as a 24 hour pit stop 7 years ago the night after our wedding. Then it veered off away from the lake and into the forest for a while. We peddled pretty hard up the slight inclines sometimes wishing the cruisers had gears. Suddenly we entered a clearing of tall grass shimmering in the sunlight. I wanted to rip off my clothes and dance through the meadow. I withheld though because there were other people using the trail. The beauty ended as the trail suddenly took a turn uphill. I pedaled with every ounce of strength I had left in my body. I could tell Warren was workin hard but he was getting way ahead of me. My thighs burned and I was positive my ass was going to be eternally numb. But no pain no gain right? Plus with my father n law’s cooking which entails three full meals a day, had me working hard to make room for his dinner when we returned. Just as I thought I could take no more, the trail began to slope downward. Now this was more like it. This was beach cruising. I could stop pedaling and started coasting as my bike flew downhill. My heartbeat began to return to normal and my breathing steadied. Soon we rounded a corner to find ourselves right back at the lodge. We’d made in just under an hour and enough time to return the bikes without extra charges.

Patting ourselves on the back, we made instant plans to ride it again the next day, and maybe this time, I’ll park the beach cruiser for a quick frolic in the tall grass another thigh burning adventure!

Maddie's Secret Recipe

Maddie is 6 and she knows everything. She also is the keeper of her very own, self-created, secret family recipe. She decided to share it with me and wrote it down as I spelled each ingredient for her. When everyone was busy preparing dinner, I gathered up the kids and walked them down to the neighborhood store to purchase the secret ingredients. Maddie proudly read her list to me as I put the items into a grocery bag. Colin paid the grocer and proudly stuff his change back into his wallet.

On our way home I pulled out one of the secret ingredients – whip cream. Oh my favorite! I shook it up, took off the lid and squirted about a cupful into each of our mouths as I promised them that after dinner we’d prepare the recipe. Before we knew it, dinner was over and Uncle Warren had a nice fire going out back. Maddie and I gathered the ingredients and layed them out on the picnic table. The kids went to town roasting those marshmallows. Warren helped them properly hold the skewers over the coals and blew out each marshmallow as it caught on fire. I think we went through a bag of them, all burnt to a crisp.

As the mallows cooled, we piled the ice cream, caramel, cherries, chocolate and whip cream in a bowl. Then we added the marshmallows. Now it was time to feast.

After they had stuffed themselves and their bellies were protruding, fingers sticky and faces charcoaled, they waved good bye as they left for their hotel. I said a silent prayer – Yes, the kids thought we were cool, but please, Oh please don’t let those kids get sick tonight, their parents would never forgive us.

Soggy Island

Berry pickin takes on a whole new meaning when lil kids are involved. We took Warren’s family, who by the way are in town visiting, down to Sauvie Island for an afternoon of berry pickin. Upon arrival we immediately hit the farmer’s store, full of freshly picked and rinsed produce from the grounds surrounding the store front. Admiring the bounty before us, we resisted and instead picked up our berry baskets and headed out towards the endless berry patches. But we detoured first to the local pig, obviously being fattened up for a winter’s worth of bacon breakfasts. After the excitement of Tilla the Ton wore off, we soon encountered a chicken and her baby chicks. We tried to get pictures as the kids eagerly ran up towards them, making them cluck and run for cover.

Just as we approached the berry patches, we were stalled yet again for sunscreen. Time to slather the kids up in SPF 30. But the protection devices didn’t stop there. The kids each put on a sunhat and sunglasses and then were deemed safe to begin picking. Well, ok, there was a photo session to capture their berry picking armor. It can be dangerous out there with those berry pickin fools from the city.

Many of the bushes were picked clean or dried up and everyone wandered farther away to try to find treasure. I stayed behind because I knew there were berries, I just had to look carefully. A bush that appeared to be bare was actually loaded with plump blueberries, subtly hidden in the innermost parts of the bush where no human hands had ventured. Soon I had filled up three pints and I couldn’t stop. Every time I tried to walk away, I saw another berry calling my name. The kids had wandered into a tire swing and were happily sailing through the air with intense smiles on their faces. Berry picking was all about finding a hidden playground for them.

Eventually we made our way back to the farm store and loaded our baskets with crème sodas, fresh ears of corn, and berries. The kids proudly declared that ‘Soggy Island’ was a success. We laughed to ourselves as we loaded everything into our cars and headed back home – soggy we were from hours in the hot sun chasing those kids.

05 August 2009

Change of Pace

I sit and think, what should I write about tonight. What was it about my day that inspired me? My day did start out on a good note - I got up almost on time. Miraculously, I pulled myself out of bed just a half hour after my alarm went off. That left me time to go for a jog with the dogs, leisurely sip my coffee and check the news. Getting up almost on time was inspiring.

At work I was able to be quite efficient, getting to piles and emails that needed attention. I had a free stamp on my coffee card so I got a coffee ice cream smoothie, extra large and with whip cream. The productivity and thrifty splurge was inspiring.

When I got home tonight, we threw out the week's menu and went to taco bell for dinner. After which I pulled weeds from the crevice between the sidewalk and the road in front of our house. It's Shark Week so I caught a new episode. I reminisced with Warren about big hair bands and listened to old albums. The endless heavy heat of late summer had finally dissapated and an ever so slight chilly breeze made me shiver.

That's what it was about today - the change of pace was inspiring. It's time to stir the pot.

Happy Dawgs

Happy Tahoe

Happy Huck

Happy Bettis

03 August 2009

Daring Rescues

If you haven't any compassion in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.
~Bob Hope

I don't know what it is but I have always been involved in pet rescues - mostly with dogs. They seem to gravitate toward me and even as an adult these instances have continued. I don't know, maybe I have a dog spirit or maybe it's karma from another life and dog spirits are naturally drawn towards me. Whatever it is, when I am presented with a case, you can count on me to help. I guess my earliest memories are as a child when my sisters and I found a lost little black spaniel that we proudly brought home and promptly named Cassie. We assured our parents that we would just keep it until it found a home - which our parents made sure was right away. Then we found a yellow lab named Major that after a few days in our backyard, we found out came with a $25 reward! Needless to say, the owner came and got him right away.

I can never let a wandering dog with no human at it's side to pass me by and neither can my husband, Warren. I will always stop and coax the dog over to see if it has a collar. I will be late to work if it means that I can rescue a lost dog. Once I was driving and I found a dog meandering all by it's proud self down the street, crossing back and forth without looking. I pulled over and called to him, but he ignored me and turned around and went down another street. I followed him for a while, with my passenger door open, beckoning him with treats. Eventually he stopped and stared at me as if to say, look lady, I'm not interested! Finally a woman stepped out of the house we were in front of and gave me a look of horror - like I was a dog napper. Then she called her dog over and told me that this was her dog and that I should leave it alone. I of course let her know right away that I thought it was lost because it did not have a collar and was cruising around the neighborhood alone. She gave me the evil eye and took her dog inside. Well, fine. Since then, I see that dog all the time, wandering alone. I
can't help myself. I stop and tell it to GET HOME! Dumb dog-owner.

Another time, I was walking all three of our dogs when a little black labbie came bounding over to us, wagging her tail. Again, no human in sight. I was able to manage to get a look at her collar and found out her name was Poppy and that she lived 3 houses down. I grabbed her collar along with our three and walked her home. No one answered so I put her in the backyard and told her to stay.

Other rescues have been more humorous. This one happened about 2 years ago. We had just woken up on a Saturday morning and were standing out on our front porch, half awake with our coffees and cigarettes. I happened to glance across the street to our new neighbors house when something moving on the roof caught my eye. I blinked and looked again. Holy cow, it was the neighbors dog and it was on the roof. I yelled to Warren, 'Dog on the roof' and ran inside to get my shoes. He grabbed the 6 foot ladder and we race
d across the street. We banged on their door but no one was home. Warren set up the ladder while I coaxed her to stay still with treats. Every time Warren got near her, she'd move to the other side of the roof. We caused such a commotion that a few neighbors came out to help along with a guy who pulled over when he saw our dilemma. Between all of us, we got her to one side where Warren lifted her off the roof and passed her on to another person down the ladder. We thanked everyone for their help as everyone dispersed and grabbed the ladder and started across the street. Just as we did, our new neighbors rounded the corner towards their house. The look on their face was classic - here we were leaving their house with a 6-foot ladder and their dog. We immediately started explaining what had just transpired. The story lives on and has been told many times. It gets funnier with every telling.

Our most recent daring rescue was just this last weekend. Again, it was early morning on Sunday. I was in the kitchen and happened to glance out of the window. I saw a little Collie sniffing around in the house across the street. I said to Warren, "I didn't know the new renters had a dog". Warren said, "They don't". Then we looked at each other - yes, another rescue was at hand. This was such a regular occurrence now that we di
dn't even need to stop and think, we reacted with adept proficiency - we grabbed dog treats and a leash and ran out the front door. When we got nearer to the dog, we realized she was just a puppy so we showed her the treats and called her with enthusiasm. It worked immediately. She came leaping and romping towards us. We made her sit for her treat and as we gave it to her, we leashed her up. After spotting her pink collar with rhinestones we felt relieved - she'd have a phone number to call.

But it wasn't going to be that easy. Daring rescues never are. Her tags only had her microchip 800 number. After calling that, we found that the owner was not answering but the second contact was a hysterical sister of the owner, Leanne. Turns out, the owner was in Alaska for a few weeks - without cell service. His dogs were being dog-sat by his friend - BUT - she didn't know where or who these friends were. She raced out to get the puppy - who we now knew was Jezebel. We fed her because we weren't sure how long she had been wandering - it could have been days since she had eaten. Sadly, we found out that Jezebel had a brother but we hadn't seen another dog wandering around. Apparently, the last time Leanne's brother went out of town, the dog he had at the time had gotten out of the dog-sitters house and gotten run over. She was just in tears as it seemed as if this nightmare was happening again. We gave her our number and told her we would help in any way we could. We also talked about who this 'dog-sitter' could be. She said she thought it could be Bud, a tall native american with greying hair. Both Warren and I said, oh man, that's Toby and he lives just down the street - 4 houses down to be exact. But no, this guys name was Bud, not Toby. So she left and we promised to stay in touch. About an hour later, she called to say she had found her brother's dog sitter - and it WAS Toby - down the street - and the other dog, Taz, was fine and still there.

So the story goes like this: Toby, aka - Bud, fed the dogs and put them in the backyard with bones. Jezebel dug a hole under the fence and escaped. When we found her, she had only been missing about 5 minutes. Taz didn't get out. Toby didn't realize they were missing until he got the call from Leanne but was immediately assured that a nice couple down the street had rescued Jezebel, who by the way, now had the squirts from 2 breakfasts, a bone and the excitement of being a runaway, all within one hour. Leanne thanked us profusely and apologized for not having any money. I will tell you what I told her - We do not want any money. The only thing we hope is that if one of our dogs ever got out that someone would put forth the same effort to find it's home.

Daring rescues involve quick, decisive action, sometimes a little creativity, some waiting time and lots of explaining. But in the end, compassion and kindness win and the parties involved are pleased with the outcome and thank you's are abundant. But we don't attempt these rescues for the recognition. We do it for the love of animals and to protect the hearts of the humans who love them.