Sunday, December 26, 2010


There's a new portable heater in the house. In an effort to save on fuel oil for the winter, Spouse, always chomping at the bit to buy the latest gadget, sat me down and gave an impassioned speech and checklist why we HAD TO HAD TO HAD TO have it and since he asks for so little and he insisted we could afford it, who was I to argue? I'm always cold, so it was a win-win for me.

So every day the Edenpure sits in the living room warming the first floor. It's a very attractive wood-grain box with a window inside where it appears to have glowing coals so it's got an aesthetic appeal and the heat is infrared so it's got that sink-into-your-bones heat that others often miss. In the evening Spouse carries it upstairs to the master bedroom and sets it on full blast and by the time this night owl gets to bed the room is sensually cozy and I've been foregoing my usual winter sleepwear of granny nightgowns or sweats and a tee to well...nothing. So, in the middle of the night, I usually end up kicking the covers off and in the early morning hours IT happens.

Because I don't get to bed until 2 or 3 AM, I usually sleep in until 10, so I wake up to sunshine streaming in from the skylight. I know a lot of people resent light of any kind when they're sleeping but I like opening my eyes to the sky although once, it was a friend of Spouse's who was helping him install a satellite dish on the roof.  He likes me a lot now.  That morning it was bright blue sky, fluffy white clouds and the brown wing of some unidentifiable bird passing over and as I stretched languidly, my long time enemy slammed me hard like a freight train. The Charley Horse.

Grrrrr. Oh the tears. If I were into pain, the sheer poetry of the anaconda wrapped around my thigh twice and then my calf, down the top of my foot and around every toe and then tightening, would be exquisite. However, although I have an unbelievably high tolerance for it, I try to avoid pain whenever possible. Leg cramps have been a bane to my existence since my teens and it is definitely inherited on BOTH sides so you can say I'm doubly blessed.

 A quick search on Google tells me the most common causes of leg cramps are:
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Heavy exercising
  • Dehydration
  • High weight (not necessarily obesity)
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Medications (statins, prednisone, others...) 
I laugh at #1 and 2 but have #'s 3, 4, and 5 in spades so I must always remember to drink plenty of fluids (I fail miserably), the weight situation isn't going to change and that's quite alright, and the electrolyte imbalance is being treated with prescription megadoses of potassium which much to my chagrin and subsequent agony, I often forget to take. Add to that a less common cause which is a draft across my bare legs causing muscle contractions. Oh the joy.

So here I am squirming and panting and blindly flailing because I don't know what to do. I've tried the acupressure thing with firmly pinching and holding the dimple between my nose and upper lip (Trivia buffs: It's called a filtrum) with limited results. Sometimes it cuts off the acute pain but doesn't stop the contracting muscles. Sometimes I hop around or pace or lean against furniture crying and moaning and have to wait it out for an eternity of ten or so minutes and sometimes if someone is in the room with me, the dance begins.

Oh the patience of a partner that shares a bed with me. From my early years of sharing a twin bed with my little sister, to doubling up with Mom at the summer trailer at Eagle Lake, to the lucky few men who've shared a pillow, they all get caught up in my ballet of agony.

First I scream in the night and they suddenly sit up disoriented from their golden slumber. I might be sitting on the edge of the bed, my back and shoulders shaking and they know, they just know and bless their hearts, they always ask, "Can I help?" and reach out to me whereas I always invariably shriek, "Don't touch me!" and collapse in a pitiful puddle of tears. It ain't pretty. I push (and slap) their warm strong hands away and I dance around the room like a demented marionette and the look of concern on their face fills me with guilt. Other than running to get a glass of water and some potassium gluconate, they can only watch me stumble and cry. Eventually the cramp will subside and I will fall back asleep exhausted for a few more hours until I wake up with a day-long achy reminder that it really happened and wasn't a bad dream.

I'm neither a kicker nor a toss-and-turner. I'm remarkably silent and still in my sleep except for the occasional laugh or sigh or soft sentence because I've been talking in my sleep since, well, I could speak, so I'm very safe and the benefits of sharing a bed with me far outnumber the disadvantages. Not to toot my own horn but I'm a big squishy soft warm pillow and I smell good too. What's not to love?  You can go back to sleep, right? I do. Suck it up, buttercup.

I'm not making any New Year's resolutions. They always seem destined to fail, a jinx so to speak and if there's one thing I'm superstitious about it's my personal jinxes so those little or lofty self-promises are not for this girl. Instead, I'm going to be both easier on myself as I really am my own worst critic, but I'm also going to be more disciplined. I have the drive and desire but not much energy so writing will be my 'job' and I'm sticking with it because I enjoy it. I also know my weaknesses which is good; something to be avoided, and I learn my strengths as I go along.

I'm learning that I'm far stronger than I ever imagined. I have faced, battled and tackled things I was sure would kill me. I've learned that a heart can grow stronger and love deeper after it's been broken, even more than once, and that my capacity for forgiveness can grow or die depending on my choices so I choose to grow. Pain is a great teacher, task master and reminder that I am only human, but that in itself is wonderful. There are people who are literally born without the capacity to feel anything and they live in fear of injury and death so yes, even Mister Charley Horse as much as I hate him, reminds me that I'm alive.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Angel

     My parents had left in a hurry. Mommy hadn't been feeling well all day and before we knew it, Daddy bundled her up and whisked her out the door and into the car. I looked out the window as the snow fell softly and hearing my grandmother's voice to come away from the window, I turned away. It was cold and I was only in my nightgown and she was reminding me to put on my slippers.

My brothers were already sleeping, visions of sugarplums truly in their heads as it was Christmas Eve 1972. The house was silent save the gurgling pump of my father's aquarium which stood near our Christmas tree twinkling with red pinpoint lights. I spent hours in my dad's bug chair curled up by that fish tank watching tiger barbs chase (and eventually consume) each other in the light of that tree which was bought the year I was born in 1967.

It was a sturdy respectable tree which ended up serving us well over twenty years and was replaced by a gigantic Siberian spruce replete with fake pine cones and snow and was so ostentatious in comparison to our humble first tree, that it only spent two or three Christmas's in our parlor before being exiled to the basement in favor of real trees, the first of which was some indiscriminate pine that leaked sap and dropped needles everywhere, and more recently a glorious Frasier fir, always with red pinpoint lights.

The phone rang and I walked over to my dad's stereo which back in the day resembled furniture rather than mere electronics. It was encased in a large mahogany cabinet which often served as a type of buffet surface whenever guests were served. There was a large area behind sliding doors where my dad kept his record collection and I often hid things there that my brothers wouldn't leave alone like Barbies and once, a diary with a lock that never worked. The telephone, an ivory colored Trim-line, sat on top of the stereo and I answered it breathlessly as ordinarily at 6, I was not allowed to ever pick it up.

I said hello and my father answered saying, "Hi sweetheart! Guess what? We have a Christmas gift for you and your brothers! We're bringing home a new baby sister and we're naming her Amy or Noel."
I was dumbfounded and delighted. I had no idea that a baby was coming (or even how a baby arrived) but the idea of A SISTER filled me with such joy that I turned and looked out the window at the falling snow and then back at the twinkling tree and that moment of me standing there in my white nightgown covered in holly, was imprinted on my brain and remains there like a photograph to this day.

I remember the heavy evergreen damask curtains and white sheers that my mother had hung up for the season, parted so we could see the streetlights and the snow piling up on the cars and sidewalk. I remember the glow of the aquarium that had red foil backing so itself was quite festive. I remember the manger under the tree and how Baby Jesus' fingers were always the first things to break off when I surreptitiously played with it. And I remember that Santa Claus brought me a baby sister for a Christmas gift.

I don't remember that Christmas Day...I don't recall even seeing my dad. I imagine he stayed at the hospital with my mom but they came home a few days later. Mom had more of a lap and was tired, but happy to see us and she held this little bundle in her arms. My brothers and I came over to investigate and found within the receiving blanket a baby, a little squirming doll that didn't look like any of us! We were all very fair with blonde to light brown hair. This dusky baby had beautiful dark skin and black hair and when she opened her eyes they were deep endless brown fringed by long curly thick lashes. She opened her dark rosebud mouth in a tiny yawn and looked at us and it was love at first sight.

I think we were at an age where this was the first arrival of a child that we remembered. I don't recall my brothers' births. I wasn't aware of any preparations or even talk of a baby and in fact my parents didn't even tell us my sister was coming. My mother had always been chubby, soft and round and evidently carried as if she just got bigger around as opposed to obviously popping out.  Perhaps they didn't think we would understand but that whole day before, my mother laid in bed softly moaning and when we came to her and asked her what was wrong she said she had a stomach virus.

In fact, she did indeed have a bug which is why she didn't know she was in labor until it was almost too late. My father was able to get her to the hospital but only so far as the steps when she almost delivered my sister there until she was brought inside. There in the emergency room, my sister arrived into the world, eyes wide open and meeting my father's eyes...the first (and only) of his children to do so, in fact, the first to be born naturally and in his presence. I don't recall if she cried but he said she entered the world as an old soul and I believe it. Their bond was strong and special to the end.

My mother kiboshed both names my dad liked in favor of Lisa and so she was, however we called her Sinky, because of her diapers and because Donny couldn't pronounce 'Stinky'. I called her Boo.

Lisa was a quiet and happy baby.  There was nothing she did that didn't fascinate us. Even a diaper change was an event and I'm sure we exhausted our mother with our antics jockeying for position to see who had the best view and who could help. Because of her coloring my mother dressed her in bright colors, in particular a yellow fleece onesie that zipped all the way from ankle to chin. I don't know if it's a coincidence but my sister's favorite color was yellow. I just realize now that I typed 'is' because she is still with me if only in my heart.

Lisa's arrival into the world and into our family was a surprise to my brothers and I and so was her death at age 35.  She slipped away in her sleep as effortlessly and peacefully and suddenly as when she was born.

The details of her death are still painful so I choose to dwell on her life. My sister was brilliant, intuitive, outspoken, generous, creative, supportive, open-minded, loyal, endlessly forgiving, funny as hell and had a heart of gold.

She was also spoiled, self-destructive, selfish, narcissistic, lazy, brutally honest, ruthlessly competitive, blunt and at times cruel. She was so possessive of me that no one...not one of my friends or boyfriends was good enough and she eyed everyone interested in me with suspicion. I was her hero and role model but she took it a step further and was a saturated more concentrated version of myself with no inner censor. Me, if I were a free spirited wild child. I adored her. I admired her.

The world is a better place for having her in it for a short period of time, and I pity those who never got a chance to experience her. It was truly a privilege and yet it had its price.

She was my only sister. I loved her more than I love myself. I miss her everyday. I ache for her everyday.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Christmas Angel.

Friday, December 17, 2010


     Okay, the Viagra story would have been a lot funnier if the person it was about wasn't sitting next to me but I got carried away.  I swear I don't know what comes over me when the storyteller demon comes screaming out like a Jersey Shore banshee. Yes, I can blame it on gin or cheap lambrusco and even garlic bread has a strange effect on me and yes I'm allergic to peppers but I can't pass up anything stuffed with cheese so I succumbed to popper seduction more times than I can count and yes yes yes that affected me too. 

Today I'm blaming it all on a pot of bold blast something-something coffee. It has extra caffeine which I'm really sensitive to in minute amounts so yeah..that'll work especially since I've been bouncing off the walls like a Superball since noon.

I think it's an addiction to applause or laughter or having everyone on the edge of their seat. I come from a long line of storytellers or bullshit artists or like Mel Brooks in History of the World, stand-up philosophers, so it's inherent. Whether genetic or environment I've been lovingly cultivated like a hothouse orchid to make people laugh, weep or think and it's so effortless that I feel it would be dishonest to take any credit for it. To say that I stand in awe of some of the shit I come up with is not bragging....I really don't know where it's coming from and even worse, when I'm gonna blurt it out. My inner censor was always much more of a polite suggester only -that weak little angel on my shoulder that the little devil would smack around and say, "Shut up, bitch. Who's yer daddy?" 

People often send me emails and messages or comments on Facebook saying they wish they were like me or more like me or as quick as me but I don't really think they would if they knew the havoc I wreak with my mouth or fast little mind is constantly racing and obsessing, often all night long and when something comes to me the focus is so sharp and fixed I think of nothing else. If I don't talk about it I write and woe to the person upon whom my talent is inflicted.  You might remember The Love Letters of Doooooom but there's countless other missives, poetry and essays I don't mention or submit for your approval (cue very appropriate Twilight Zone music) because after my general hysteria dies down, the evidence could and would be used against me not to mention people tend to look at me funny.

I'm channeling some of that energy into The Book. I've hit a bit of a slump now but Santa Claus has bought me a brand new big girl laptop and I'm dedicated to getting back to it in the new year. You're supposed to write about what you know and I know a lot about what I'm writing and it's become really cathartic and therapeutic.If only I could stop thinking of decorating the laptop in My Pretty Pony stickers since that model didn't come in pink but I digress.

I'm excited but also dreading it. My creativity has often been like an unruly puppy that everyone loves but no one wants to clean up after and the idea of reining in that puppy to make it a more productive working dog does have a lot of appeal but I'm worried that discipline will take all the joy and exuberance out of it. Still...I trudge on because I'm a hopeless optimist and romantic (the book is romance novel--chick-lit to be exact) and want it and me to have a happy ending which at the moment is unbelievably elusive but still worth the effort.

Someone asked me about my dreams and I couldn't answer because I thought I had none. I'd been so busy supporting other's dreams that I'd set aside my own. I gave it a lot of thought though and did come up with some good ones I'd suppressed and one of them was to be renowned for something. Since being an axe murderer or mother to the world's first surviving octuplets is already taken, I'd be happy with 'successful writer'.

My friend who's a psychic saw a future full of promise and even fame and while it seems so outlandish I do like the fairy-tale aspects like walking a red carpet in Hollywood and kissing at the top of the Eiffel Tower. My friend saw me sharing this future with a special someone and that person is unfortunately not part of the equation anymore but she still sees ME accomplishing these things on my own which astounded me. Again I thought I would be in some supportive role but she assures me that no....actually it's me...and then I think about the book and I realize in some ways that she wasn't wrong at all and I may start out on my epic adventure alone and unsure but the journey and the story is worth it. 

A while back an acquaintance asked me if I was a writer and at the time I didn't really identify as one and asked him why he thought I was. He said he could tell from my Facebook pictures that I have a story to tell.  Another said the same thing...only that I had many stories to tell and it's funny because that's what I've been doing my whole life.

When you are given a gift and don't recognize it for what it is, you're foolish and ungrateful. When you refuse that gift, it may be lost to you forever. I'm choosing to learn from both what I've lost and what I have to give and running as far as I can with it. Apologies in advance if I embarrass you along the way. But if I do, remind me to mention you when I'm up on that podium giving my acceptance speech. I promise whatever I say, will be funny.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Baby's Day Out

     Chronic fatigue is not for sissies. I've come to terms with the fact that I have it and it's probably never going to go away and I have to deal with the frustration of wanting to do do do and just not having the energy.  Add to that an anxiety disorder and throw in a wee bit of agoraphobia and it's a potent cocktail that can be overwhelming to this social butterfly (er..bumblebee) who really wants to do and see and buzz around more than her body allows.

When you're tired all the time people think you're lazy. They see you getting up late or not at all and make comments or recommend vitamins or exercise routines or diets. I take prescription vitamins.  I wish I could do a circuit at the gym and am jealous of people who can walk around the corner and I dieted so successfully I ended up with a few hospital visits for severe malnutrition at 350 lbs. I also lost my hair for a  long time and stopped producing blood temporarily and remain chronically anemic.

  I think I can safely say I enthusiastically went down a lot of long windy roads with many hairpin turns and came out of tunnels exhausted but as one of my friends always says, there are no failures, only steps to success so at this rate I'm thinking I must be pretty close. I'm thankful I'm alive. I'm blessed.

Today was a good day. Spouse was excited to get a small bonus so he went off with his buddy to buy a new gadget and I dragged myself out of bed determined to at least get to the nail salon. I am a very determined baby but I don't know if my body will be as agreeable as my will and if those two have an uneasy truce I still don't know until I'm dressed and ready to walk out the door if my mind is going to start saying, 'No, don't go out, what if, what if what if." 

"What if" can mean anything as in 'what if I break down and my cell phone can't get a signal or I can't remember or find the number to the emergency service company?", or "What if I get so tired that I can't sit down and I get disoriented or overheat or throw up or pass out?" the possibilities and combinations of them and fears are endless.

I don't want to live my life in fear. I resent it. I'm not a coward. It's hard for me to tell people about these things about me because I don't want anyone's goddamn pity or to be treated like a fragile china doll. I'm pretty tough, a little damaged but not broken.

So encouraged by my mind and body being pretty much in agreement, I made for the garage door and walked outside. It was cold but bright and crisp, a beautiful day. I was happy I made it today.  I got into my car, changed my CD to something happy, put my sunglasses on and went on my merry way.

I've been working on a self-help series that talks a lot about attitude. That most of how we think is actually a defensive reaction to previous hurts and that we should take note of how we judge others and that it's indicative of how harshly we judge ourselves. I've been taking that to heart lately and remembering that I can't control much of anything except how I behave and react and I have to stop myself when I try because it's futile and frustrating.

Today when I hit the road,  I looked at everyone wondering how they were spending their holidays and if they were on a daily routine like me or shopping for Christmas. It's not my nature to look at someone and discount their appearance (one notable exception was a beautiful girl who looked very sick and immediately concerned me)because there's an emptiness there..what you put out you get back more in return and I really want to be a loving person who projects positivity.

I couldn't find a space at Walmart no matter how patient I was driving around and around.....I have a handicapped placard but there weren't any spaces in the overflow lots either so after about a half hour I drove off, smiling and thinking at least I got some fresh air. Normally, this is when the agoraphobia kicks in especially following a disappointment with my plans and I made immediately for home but as I waited at a stop sign and let a guy in a scooter pass in front of me, I smiled at him and he smiled back. I let someone else go too and we smiled at each other also and I forgot about getting home so fast.

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for some white hot chocolate and they were out of my flatbread sandwich and.... it was okay. The girl at the window was really crabby and I asked her if she was having a crappy day and she stopped and smiled and said, "Yeah" and I said, 'It'll be okay. Have a nice holiday and thanks."  It wasn't profound or witty but I'd been thinking we can spread happiness or spread negativity and even if I have no energy I do have a mouth and can say, "It's okay", and "Yes, please", and look someone in the eye and say, "Hey, thanks a lot", and as an added bonus I feel good too. I don't really know if it will be okay for her, honestly but sometimes just saying that is reaching across a lonely divide.

I stopped at the butcher shop for the first time in months to get a few groceries and waited for the guy in the space next to me to get into his truck. He looked up at me probably expecting me to roll my eyes because I had to wait but I smiled and shrugged and he waved and drove off. I walked into the store and took a deep breath. It had been a while. The anxiety started to flicker in my chest and tighten.

The owner, a guy I only knew from brief chats while he'd weigh my veal chops or chicken cutlets walked over to me and asked me where I'd been and we picked up as if I'd only been there yesterday. It was nice and easy and even when some other customer started following me around the store telling me how nice I smelled, I was still okay. I stopped and browsed some canned goods (pickled okra anyone?) which was something I hadn't done in months and bought a few treats for Spouse who'd been nice enough to finish decorating the tree when I got too tired to continue.

I often compare myself to a baby not because I'm cute and certainly not over my size, but because babies know no boundaries or limits. They want and do but don't understand why they can't and keep trying until they do accomplish or someone comes along and helps them a little until they can figure it out for themselves. The most simple things bring them the most joy and they don't look around and think, "I shouldn't, I won't, I can't"--they don't know they can't. They also greet everything in life with wonder and enthusiasm and they're fresh and new and haven't yet experienced everything life has to offer and aren't jaded to its disappointments either and I think that's a good attitude to have. A baby never thinks, "Well, I can't run. I can't do anything" and so lies down and dies and neither should I. Everyday might be a struggle but if a baby can do it, how could this baby girl do any less?

Friday, December 10, 2010

O Christmas Tree

    Every year around Thanksgiving is The Big Discussion. I anticipate this with as much glee as a root canal. Do we get a real tree (I vote yes) or use the giant Siberian spruce that Mom got on clearance (it was only missing a few key branches that couldn't be replaced cos it was discontinued SUCH A DEAL) that was residing in the basement. It takes hours to assemble the fake one. It takes minutes to choose a real one, wrap it up and tie it to the roof of the car. This is not rocket science, except to Spouse who is not a rocket scientist.

He worries that we'll get to the seller (camped out in front of the local supermarket) and they'll be out of our favorite, a Con-Color which smells like tangerines. He keeps forgetting the guy hasn't sold them for years and he won't even be open until the second week in December. We just have to hurry.

I don't want to camp out in the parking lot unless I'm waiting for concert tickets for something awesome and even then the thought of me camping anywhere sends me and anyone that knows me into peals of laughter.  Spouse would have to wait until the guy actually showed up to worry but his philosophy was why wait when you can worry now so I left him to that and kept typing.

He's Jewish and until me, never celebrated anything. Now he prepares with the puritanical fervor of a founding father and leaves me in the dust but he's happiest when he's busy and I'm happiest when he's busy too so while he's stringing popcorn, I'm eating it, because dammit, I'm doing my part too.

I have a few pecadilloes of my own. I only want red lights on my tree, preferably chasers (blinkers to those not in the know) and they have to be pinpoints, not those giant honking bulbs. This can be a problem if you have a fat seven-footer. We're talking 5 or 6 sets of lights. That all have to work. Together. And woe to the man who puts a set on backwards and the end of one thingamajiggy doesn't fit into the angel on top.

Ohhhhhh the angel. Heh.  Lizzy gave me the angel. Among other things I owe her for she's soley to blame I mean responsible for Spouse and I meeting and in a fit of remorse and regret, gave me a Madame Alexander babydoll Christmas Angel topper as a consolation prize. She's cute, the angel that is. So is Lizzy (and single) in case anyone is interested. The angel's skirt and the little candles in her hands light up like road flares. Festive. The angel goes on last. Spouse always makes sure to put it on first.

So 'tree guy' opens and Spouse is chomping at the bit. I want two wreaths too. I like the way the whole house smells like, well, the outside of the house because we're surrounded by woods where there are hundreds of trees for free but we don't do free. We have to buy it from a guy who wraps it up in white twine and ties it to our roof with the doors closed and then has to untie it to let us in the car and do it over. This happens every year. I don't say a word because I'm usually too busy sucking down a toffee cappuccino and eating gingerbread cookies. I also like to see the men running around in their buffalo check jackets and deer stalker (think Elmer Fudd) hats little clouds of breath puffing as they huff and run around in the cold. 

Even though we get there early, tree guy tells us he only has one wreath left in the size we want. The only other size would be appropriate to decorate the outside of an airplane hanger so we pass on them and grab the one wreath until his new stock comes in. The irony is not lost on me that I can make my own wreaths from my own woods but where will I find plaid ribbon ans those cute doves with the googly eyes? Etsy? Come on!

The tree is a glorious frasier fir. My kinda tree, it's full and decidedly round-ish. If it were a man and gainfully employed, Spouse might have competition. He still might. It's that good. He watches me eyeing the tree, him with suspicion, me with admiration and possibly lust and he tells me to go in and hold the door open which I do laughing.  Then the lights.

The lights are all wrapped around newspaper (my idea) and he checks each set several times. They all work but the tree has to settle. Settling can take days or a week depending on the tree. The branches on this tree are rather sturdy so we wait a few days for it to acclimate to its new environment while I tape Christmas cards to the front door and eat more gingerbread cookies. My habit is three a day and climbing. My tolerance for icing is growing and I may have to step up my visits to Dunkin Donuts for my frequent fixes. The jones is that strong.

I decide to take a picture of the naked tree and post it on Facebook. It becomes so popular someone suggests it gets its own fanpage. Wonton vetoes the idea because she still doesn't have her own. She's also drinking all the water in the tree's well in an effort to cause her competition to die of thirst. Meanwhile Facebook tells me that it's been reported that I have an offensive photo on my profile. The naked tree.

Today the lights went on. He was pissed because he wanted Chinese take-out and screwed up what I wanted to order and when we called the restaurant they screwed up and deleted his dinner. He checked my food at the restaurant when he got there but didn't think to check his own until already home. It's 15 degrees out. I offered to share my dinner. He stomped out and drove another 45 minutes to pick up his order. I drank two glasses of wine and chatted with my friend in Australia. He got home, ate, put the lights on backwards and threw an extension cord across the room. Wonton is converting to Buddhism and the tree is leaning left but I ain't saying crap.

Tomorrow: ornaments. <Note to self: Buy more wine.>

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let Me Eat Cake

I eat all night
I eat all day
My love for junk
Is here to stay
To diet is 
a phrase unkind
The thought is foreign
To my mind
My clothes don't fit
But I don't care
I'll even burst my underwear
And when I'm dead
Don't think I'll stop
You'll find my grave
With a cherry on top - Anon

I found that poem in an issue of Seventeen magazine when I was a kid and loved it so much I made a poster of it and hung it on my wall as an anthem. Not so much the dying part but the hell with you part. And not so much the junk part either because while I do often go slumming for Little Debbies Nutty Buddies, if given my druthers (and I like big druthers) I'll choose treats of the gourmet variety, like hand dipped chocolates, tiramisu from the local salumeria and my favorite restaurant's hazelnut green tea creme brulee with the candy crackle still hot from the mini torch. (I have three)

I'm also a pastry and cake snob. Not a fan of fluffy or light, I like dense and moist and covered with icing, glaze or fruit. When I see people eat the cake part and discard the frosting, I recoil in horror. That's the best part!

Being the descendant of quite a few people who liked to cook, I'm going to go right ahead and believe that along with an as yet discovered gene for being fabulously fat, and without any proof other than my own tongue, I also inherited great taste and superior taste buds and for that I'm eternally grateful.

I like the flavor of things, the way they roll around on my tongue, and that rich creamy mouth-feel that signifies when something is GOOOOOOOOOD.  Recently, I found out that I was correct in my genetic assumptions.  I took the test available on and discovered that I probably do have a gene for an unusually high number of taste buds.

Also, I've known for some time that I have a certain enzyme in my saliva that makes cilantro (or coriander to my friends outside North America) taste soapy. I wondered for the longest time what the big deal was whenever the praises of that particular herb were sung. Yesterday someone asked me if it tasted like Head and Shoulders and true to my supertaster super buds, I could honestly discern that it in fact tasted like Ivory soap. Like parsley, basil and mint, I'm wondering if cilantro comes in other varieties and soapy selections but not too curious especially since as a kid I got a bar full of those bubbly flavors shoved in my mouth for free whenever I got caught swearing. 

Coming from a big family who enjoyed their food, I didn't often have to hear anyone I was related to discussing how fat and/or disgusting they were while cake was being enjoyed. I did have a grandmother who had a very twisted love/hate relationship with food--she cooked for an army and demanded everyone eat or she'd be offended and most of her family was fat in part due to her encouragement, but here's the twist--once you ate, she'd then make really hateful comments about fat on her and others and the success stories of people who didn't let themselves go. In fact, she herself was very thin.  My mother, a beautiful fat woman, intensely disliked her mother-in-law for this among many other valid reasons and kept us children away from us as much as possible so it was more of a holiday anomaly than a weird lifestyle or even maybe......fetish. Which I didn't even know existed until a few months ago.

So I didn't have too much food/self hate experience going on when I began working in an office setting at 19. There I would observe in dismay, even disgust, at every single birthday celebration that women would stand around clucking about how fattening the cake was and either accept only the thinnest whisper of cake (and not eat frosting grrrrrr) or eat it but interject every single bite with, "A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips," or "I'm not going to be able to eat for days (weeks, months, years) after this."  To tell the truth, I didn't think such good cake should be wasted on such idiots and some of these idiots were my own size. Who were they trying to fool? They had the same chips and cookies and snack-cakes in their cupboards as I did. Hell, some of them considered ice-cream one of the food groups.

What's the big deal? If you want to eat something eat it. If you don't, don't but shut the hell up about it. Stop spoiling it for the rest of us who want to enjoy our food. Keep your food issues to yourself. If you don't like how or what I eat, be prepared for me to tell you how *I* don't like how or what you *don't* eat.  I've seen enough of you eating to know many of you can put a lot more food away than I can so don't assume I eat more than you. In fact, the thinnest person I ever knew was a proud glutton. She used to talk about eating, then forcing herself to vomit so she could eat again. She also hated fat people.  That's sick but damn...she was still thin!

The other day my friend Chris said to me in matters of love, 'You're perfect the way you are and if someone doesn't realize that, it's his issue. Don't make it yours,"  which I thought was so simply brilliant that I made it my Facebook status for the day and many of my friends copied as theirs. But it goes so much deeper than love or romance. Don't let anyone's issues become your issues. If they don't want to eat cake, fine but don't allow them to stop you from enjoying cake or even your life which is really, really what it's all about.

One afternoon on lunch break I was cutting a birthday cake for my boss. I had special ordered it because it was his favorite --moist super-fresh chocolate sheet cake filled and topped with clouds of fresh whipped cream. No fruit or custard filling...just delicious cream, and as I began to cut slices, two of my coworkers began to complain how fattening it was and maybe we should all try something else for birthdays and on and on and on and I looked up at both of them with the knife in my hand which was covered to the wrist in whipped cream and said seriously, "if you don't like it, leave," and with that my boss grabbed my arm and licked all the icing off my hand getting it all over his face and leered at the two party poopers laughing at them.

He was a big guy himself, in fact quite imposing and we didn't even really like each other but in that moment we found solidarity in cake. If only all the world's problems could be solved with baked goods but in the meantime, can't we just let each other eat cake?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Extreme Hoarders Condiment Edition


I found 27 packets of Chinese mustard in my kitchen. Nobody in this house eats mustard. Why are we saving this crap? 

 There's a colander on my counter that isn't being put to its intended use because it's filled with sauces. Taco, duck, soy and hot to mention a few . Even if in some post-apocalyptic future these packets are used as currency, I'm wondering if it might be considered overkill. 


 Today, I had a serious discussion over the value and virtues of honey packets with my friend Tina. We've decided they're liquid gold because some restaurants have switched to an inferior honey 'sauce' so their value has increased sharply with their scarcity as with any precious commodity.  I've been made an honorary administrator of a sweetener packet liberation front because of my heroic efforts but I don't know how far that will carry me as a leader in a war-torn flavorless condiment-less future. 

If I open a drawer there are 400 packets of ketchup, both Heinz and Hunts because it's not Hunts fault it isn't Heinz, is it?  How many times have I gone through a fast-food drive-thru and asked for ketchup and they gave me exactly three?  That's got to be illegal somewhere. It's inhumane. Even if you count all the french fries I eat on the way home, there still isn't enough ketchup-to-fry ratio and this could throw my whole dining experience off kilter.


Once, in the throes of a momentary lapse in faith in humanity, I asked a drive-thru associate for an 'obscene' amount of ketchup in the hope of getting more than the reluctant grudgingly given trio. I knew I was taking a risk but sometimes I will dance on the razor sharp edge of the disposable butter knife just for the thrill of it all and damn skippy if he didn't wink and reward me with a big sack filled to the brim with the good stuff. I was triumphant.  I also outed him as a fifth-columnist to my comrades in the movement.

 A year later we're still eating the ketchup. According to a condiment packet expiration chart on Google, we've got a good year before I either have to go on another packet safari or break down and buy a squeeze bottle. Either way, it's these small victories that propel us who dream of bigger and better trophies like those adorable Andes mints from Olive Garden and miniature bottles of Tabasco you can find in some casino hotels. 


Yeah I may not have any room in the fridge for lunch meat because of the butter pats crowding the drawer but have you seen the price of butter lately?  Go ahead and laugh but I've got enough individually wrapped sporks to feed that future army and who you gonna call when you have nothing to eat your Chinese mustard with, huh?  You want something to spread on those packets of saltines from Wendy's? I'm your girl. I have those awesome little foil pans of seedless blackberry jam found only at Crackerbarrel.  


Before you judge my condiment confessional, reconsider. Everyone I know has a dirty secret in their junk drawers. My dad has twist-ties.  Someone else I know has rubber bands. Spouse keeps used batteries.  I have no idea why but at least he doesn't keep them in the refrigerator anymore because that's where I keep those little half and half cups I get at the diner.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gentle E-Reader

     The E-Reader has a lot going for it. It's something lightweight you can easily carry and use while you pass the time away waiting on line or in traffic.  It helps rid the world and overflowing bookcases of the bulk, waste and demand of pulp paper output so it's 'green'.  Many popular authors now publish some of their work exclusively in the e-book format so you have access to books you wouldn't ordinarily have. And if you love to read, you literally have a virtual library at your fingertips.

So why am I not in love?

To get me interested in anything is easy. To get me to commit is another thing entirely. When I first heard about e-readers (online of course) it made my heart go pitter-pat because it had all the hallmarks of something that would appeal to a dedicated reader. I've been reading online for over fifteen years now and thought I could make the smooth transition but then I'd look longingly at my overstuffed bookcase and felt a twinge of guilt and confusion.

When I was very small, I used to snuggle up to my dad after dinner every night and listen to him read aloud from one of his paperbacks. They were in a pile on the floor next to my parents' bed and were as reliable a presence to me as my dad himself. I didn't care much for the subject matter (he was on a Hal Lindsey kick for awhile) but early on I associated reading with warmth, security and closeness.  I think too, because my dad's always been a big guy, I also associated it with heft and ponderousness in a very good way.

I like all things big, probably because I'm big myself and have known that all my life. I swoon when a big man envelops me in his arms and pulls me towards him. I luxuriate when I'm sitting in my friend Catherine's big Sebring convertible and it's as if I'm in a rolling comfy couch. I surround myself with heady scents redolent of far off lands and ancient spices and appreciate the decadence of a down comforter so heavy I could give myself a hernia just pulling it up around me as I drift off to sleep, I enjoy the weight of a platter full of delicious food as it's lifted and carried to its home as the centerpiece at the holiday table, and I love the weight, heft and texture of a book in my hands. So something with an e-reader has been lost in translation, I fear.

One girlfriend was not a reader by any stretch of the imagination before she bought her Nook. Now she has over fifty titles downloaded and gets as excited as a little girl when a new title comes out and she has access to it in 60 seconds. Of that, I AM envious. Still....

Another friend trusted me to read his unpublished book which is on a subject I adore and and I've tried to get into it several times and have failed miserably.  I'm ashamed of it, to tell the truth.  The story itself is riveting and worthy but if I can't even feel paper in my hands, I'm at a genuine loss. It's as if I've lost one of my senses and it alarms me.

I have other friends who are authors who encourage me to self publish my novel with Amazon and I feel a sense of betrayal to my as yet unfinished work, my child, my legacy.  It's probably silly because they're making money with every  download while I'm agonizing over physical pages when I could be sipping prickly pear margaritas at a resort across the country and laughing about my initial reluctance.

I think eventually, I will give in to a point. I'll buy a Kindle (or even an iPad because the possibility of endless applications is very appealing to this girl who likes options), but I can't turn my back on my simple literary roots. I'm still the same kid who found comfort hanging out in the stacks at the library and used to surreptitiously sniff the pages for that heady pasty gluey scent that is still as alluring to me as any expensive perfume. I'll never forget reading something forbidden under my parents' bed while I ignored them calling for me to come to dinner. A recent epiphany is, as much as I like to eat, I have to admit I like to read even more.

Books, the printed word especially, are food for my soul and when I want truffles and champagne, a Hershey bar and a diet Coke are just not the same thing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This Little Piggy

     Christmas is upon us once again and so are the catalogs. Today I found 35 in my mailbox and the substitute letter carrier in a fit of frustration and slippery snowy rage told me to my face that she hated me. I don't know her and looked at her sideways while I yanked another thick Swiss Colony brochure out of my little slot in the box at the bottom of my hill. I wish there was an adjoining dumpster, whether for her or for the books, I'm not quite sure. She says people like me make her life hard. Some would argue we're the reason why she has a job but I've got family working at the USPS and I know they hate to hear that more than 'your insurance premiums have been raised.'

My brother David is a letter carrier in my hometown, a small city with a lot of people who know each other. I visit very occasionally and I'm bound to be approached at least once on the street by a smiling someone asking if I'm Dave's or Donny's or even once in a while, Lisa's sister. Forget six degrees of separation. Like the oft ridiculed incestuous family trees of the deep south that don't fork, my hometown might MIGHT have two degrees of separation and even one of them is probably related by marriage. So when I recounted my interaction with the harried mail-lady Dave got all huffy and told me to locate and complain to the carrier supervisor which made me laugh because it sounded exactly like, I'm Gonna Telllllll.  He DID tell me that it costs a lot of money (relatively speaking) to mail a catalog so that's big revenue for the post office.

Now I'm not a squealer and I wouldn't be one today. I live on a steep hill off an even steeper mountain road and under the best conditions, when you're not dodging a pick-up truck barrel ass-ing down past you from the dude ranch at the top of the peak, you're on the lookout for Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo and your front bumper can look like a mighty fine pic-a-nic basket if you're smelling like the meatloaf you've had in the oven for the last half hour so I wasn't going to argue with the whiny chick with the uniform and I wasn't going to tell her boss. I've had bad days too and although I don't recall taking it out on any of my customers when I worked with the public, the post office is not the most rewarding and fulfilling of career choices. I've been told employees need to sign forms in triplicate and get a supervisor to notarize requests to urinate.

I turned around and got in my car and sat there dividing everything into my toss and keep pile and wondered aloud over how much money was being wasted on catalogs. I looked into it and I'm not going to bore you with the scary details but it's millions and millions of dollars and what makes the pages all ooh-shiny is a clay coating which basically renders all of it un-recyclable. I confess I'm not the must enthusiastic recycler. I do sometimes reuse plastic cups, cutlery and foil pans. Maybe a zip-lock too because those gallon size suckers are just too valuable to squander. I do have a separate barrel in the garage for plastics, cans and glass and a big box for newspapers. Recently the town recycling drop-off has started accepting those catalogs and also cardboard so I have more piles I'm trying to keep separate and mouse-free in a garage where keeping the door closed seems at best only a suggestion to Spouse and a source of contention whenever I go out there in my nightgown to get another can of crushed tomatoes from a storage shelf and get frostbite on parts I really prefer to keep toasty cozy warm.

I'm keeping  Dean & Deluca, J.Jill, Williams-Sonoma, Swiss Colony, Sephora, Smithsonian, Vermont County Store (recycled paper YAY) Acorn, Harry and David, Ulla Popkin, Silhouettes and Hammacher Schlemmer.  The TCM 2010 catalog was so big it came in its own box and last remaining magazine subscription which I won't allow to lapse under pain of death, National Geographic....still an impressive pile. There's also a couple of Italian clothes and objet de art catalogs I can't be bothered typing the names of.  Just take my word for it.

Before you think I've got the money to burn, I don't. Well, not much. But I do have a handful of pretty things to look at while I'm in The Library (or what you peons call the bathroom) or while I'm on line or sitting in traffic. They're free (for me, at least) and I can fold over the pages of what I'm pretending to buy when I win the lottery I never play and then most of them eventually hit the recycling bin.  I find it hardest to throw away Williams-Sonoma or any if its clones because the images literally make me all tingly and wanty and drooly but then I recover and have a candy cigarette.  Ahhhh....satisfying.

I'm satisfied with what I have for the most part. In fact, I feel blessed and privileged. This season is supposed to be all about giving but for the longest time I've been discouraged by the 'what am I getting' attitude that permeates everything. I do 'want' things but in a distracted detached sense of, "Well, it would be nice," rather than an, "I gotta have it."  I don't want to constantly 'want'. It seems such a never ending struggle and the more I pay attention to that the more I get sucked into it.

So now, I look and ooh and ahh for a few minutes and then throw all of it in the recycling bin where it belongs and my eye-candy jones is satisfied. Until the mail arrives tomorrow with probably a death-threat from my letter carrier. I wonder if I should get her something from Swiss Colony.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First-Class First-Aid for Boo-Boos.

I banged my arm hard the other night at my dad's while everyone was watching TV in the dark. The space between the couch and the gargantuan entertainment center (the latter of which can probably be seen from outer space) is hard to navigate unscathed in bright light nevermind in the blue flicker of a 50" LCD TV playing Alien, a film not known for its moments of blinding sunshine.

Normally, when I get a boo-boo I'm uncharacteristically silent except for ahhing over the crown of Tweetie-Birds circling my head but this one took my breath away and I stumbled back to my seat and held my arm rocking and panting in pain, crying.  And.....much to my surprise everyone came running.

Now, this isn't something I'm accustomed to. I'm the runner. I'm the temperature checker and shoulder rubber. You'll find me in the bathroom rummaging through the medicine cabinet for Tylenol and antibiotic cream, tearing apart my purse for a cough drop or looking for a bag of frozen peas to use as an impromptu ice pack before you'll hear a peep out of me that I'm injured.

  In fact, I often push people off saying, 'don't worry about me. I'm fine. I'm fine.' when I'm very clearly not. In spite of my obvious need for attention (blog anyone?) it makes me uncomfortable when the focus of concern is on me which is ironic because there is nothing more I would like than to be enfolded in someone's arms soothing, 'It's okay. It's okay."

I watched as people leaned over me and examined my large immediate and very black bruise and its nasty centerpiece of a 3" long cut which began to enthusiastically drip blood. Alcohol was found and administered (oh how I danced) and a honorable effort was made to stave the flow of blood with a cartoon character band-aid (comical but useless) the only bandage in the house, unless we were going to start tearing towels into strips and begin boiling water in earnest a la Gone With The Wind. Thank God no knowledge of baby birthin' was needed for this motley crew of well intended relatives because mother and child would certainly have been lost in the heroic effort. I insisted a trip to the ER was more melodramatic than necessary. We celebrated the successful procedure with pumpkin custard pie.

The following day I sat up in bed and examined my sore arm closely. I gingerly tore off the Dora the Explorer band-aid which due to its size was also attached to the injury and when I looked at it I instantly regretted it and almost threw up. I've had cuts and bruises before but in the morning illumination of the skylight above it looked even to my 'been there, done that, has the hospital bills to show for it'  sensibilities like I'd lost a cage match with the entertainment center. I wondered if I need to go to the doctor to have it looked it. A bad bout with a staph infection years ago left the possibility open that I might be colonized and vulnerable to re-infection but I cleaned it instead (I didn't look) and covered it with a more appropriate Hello Kitty band-aid and went on with the rest of the day, forgetting about it except for the occasional bump or jostle. Then, I'd whimper or gasp but got over it and before I knew it, shockingly the cut began to very quickly heal and the bruise turned yellow and faded. I think it had something to do with taking care of it right away. It had to because I was normally lax and blase' about taking care of scrapes and bumps.

Recently, I had an injury of another kind and it too took my breath away. I cried and my friends came running, some in person and some online. I tried as was my habit to push them off and say everything was okay but they didn't buy it, none of them. They all said..'NO, you're NOT fine' and all in their own special unselfish way came to my side. One reminded me of a similar experience she had and was coming out of so I could see that it would be all right. Another reminded me that my worth wasn't defined by anyone else's opinion of me and that other people's issues didn't have to be my own. One just held my hand, fed me and told me I was wonderful and beautiful. Another said she knew me from childhood, who knew me better than her and to stop the nonsense. I was lovable. I am lovable and to get back to myself. Another asked me for advice on a subject close to her heart and didn't even realize what a great necessary distraction that was for me, or maybe she did.  The newest friend made me laugh by sending me pics of himself telling me he still loved me, writing a fictitious final act to a difficult play and sending me lyrics to songs he wrote.  He'd even check in on me with a cartoon before he'd leave for work or go to bed.  All bandages for my heart boo-boo. All first class first aid.

And like that ugly wound on my arm, I began to feel lighter and better much quicker than I expected.  I realized that when I needed help it was okay to ask for it and if I was too proud to ask, at least accept when it's offered. I also learned during this time that sometimes the best way to heal, is to help someone else and that it can bond people because suffering and sorrow is universal. It also makes us much stronger and able to reach out to the next person.

The wound is still there. And so is the one on my arm. But it's fading. They both are. What stays is the love administered when I was in pain and that's something that won't ever fade away.

Monday, November 29, 2010


 When I was in eighth grade we were all told to line up and march over to the nurses' office and dutifully did so. Then we were assembled for a surprise weigh-in. Each kid came and went and I sweat more profusely as I got closer to the front of the line. I was a big fat target and the teachers turned a blind eye on such a regular basis they could moonlight as football referees.

My turn came and with it was stomach churning dread. But the nurse had a special treat for me. As I left her office totally humiliated, she stepped out into the hall and announced with a triumphant smirk, my weight to all of my remaining classmates. The following day, in science class, one particular comedian christened me with a nickname that would last all through high-school,  Jupiter.  In case you don't know it, it's the largest planet in our solar system.  The teacher, a veteran of eating disorders herself (unfortunately for me at the other extreme of the scale) thought that was JUST CHARMING.

Life was hell for many years. High school was not The Best Years of My Life or my Glory Days. I can actually relate to bullied kids hanging themselves or lashing out in horrific news-worthy tragedies. I can't excuse or condone it, but I do sadly relate.

But along the way, something happened and a lot had to do with the fact that while both of my parents were insecure and communicated with each other exclusively via screaming, they were both fat and other than a few strange discussions with my dad (mostly projecting his own poor self-image), home was a very safe place. We were all fat so it was a non-issue. I didn't have to be afraid to speak up (and I did often, to their dismay) I could look in the mirror and think, 'ya know, I don't care what anyone thinks-I AM beautiful,' and picked up a 'fuck you' attitude pretty early on. I developed what my dad calls a 'hot mouth'.

Until episodes like that in school and being approached in public by strangers, I didn't even know I was fat, and if someone mentioned it, I never knew it was a VERY BAD THING. Boy was I surprised! But the tables did indeed turn when I exercised that hot mouth. I had power and woe to the fool who crossed me.

Not only that I was blossoming into a serious beauty and all those mongrels who spewed spitballs at me were suddenly secretly liking me. They began to call me 'Joops' almost as an endearment.  I had an inkling about the tide turning in school and it was later confirmed by confessions on Facebook by former classmates looking me up and apologizing. I'm mostly over all of it except when there's talk of a reunion or a past offender emails me and brings it all up again. Then I'm 15 again and being following by a clown screaming 'fat' in my ear and throwing my books to the ground. Now I'm writing books. Tables turned?  Naaah...I don't want to be angry anymore. I consciously choose not to stew and wallow in rage, but it doesn't hurt to use those memories for good (and profit).

Now that I'm older and wiser, I've long grown to love my beautiful body. It's all mine. I love my jiggles, curves and roles. My chubby cheeks (both sets) boobs and thighs. I love fat on others and will readily admit I favor the fat kid. I hang out with people who love their bodies no matter the size and respect others and not judge them based on their shape or weight.

They have their struggles like everyone else but they strive to be true to themselves, to not be so hard on themselves, to forgive themselves and forgive others and to love. I've come to believe through them that people who judge others harshly are truly judging themselves and that knowledge alone can be a big step in healing, self-acceptance and self-love. And when you can love yourself, you're capable of freely and fully loving others. Those are the people I like to associate with.

And, I've come to love that planet Jupiter too. I think it and its beautifully named moons are the most spectacular bodies in our solar system, not unlike..... mine.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Apple Pie and The Tsunami

     The other day I flipped the mattress over to keep it from being uneven and woke up sore this morning.  That it was a Saturday and being a lady of leisure, I rolled over at some point and almost fell off the bed.   This happens pretty frequently because I'm not the most graceful person.  I consider it an accomplishment if I actually find the floor.

For a year now I've had a growing pile of clothes on the chaise next to the bed. I call it affectionately, The Tsunami. As it grows larger and more imposing I regard it with more respect and a little fear. I don't know why I can't just put the damned clothes away. I mean, they're all clean and I have several closets and dressers but I watch Hoarders on TV and am beginning to wonder. Spouse makes faces at it and says nothing to me but I know it irritates him because he's the neatest person I've ever met in my life, insufferably so. In fact, I'd probably feel a lot better about things being more equitable if he left his boxers lying around once in a while, but I have better odds of being struck by lightning in my own bathroom.

I sat on the edge of the bed and studied The Tsunami. It was all clean clothes and some still with labels on or in the bags they came home in. I'll wear all of it, except for the dress I keep promising my buddy in Australia and contemplate beginning to organizing it today today TODAY. I look at the three closets around the room, originally 'his', 'hers', and 'theirs' and now 'hers', 'hers', and 'hers' simply by necessity. I'm an inveterate clothes horse and Spouse is strictly a jeans and tee-shirt man. Everything he wears fits into three dresser drawers and he's already fearfully looking at me sideways knowing the inevitable. The garage and the basement are all his so he can hardly argue with me and won't but still he growls a little when he walks past my friend Tsunami which at this point has now become my big warm dependable buddy. It's definitely a co-dependent relationship.

"Are we gonna get started on that today?" he sighs. He knows. I look at it. I look at him. I look at it again. The cat looks at it and resumes licking her butt. Nothing to see. Move along. Move along.

I get up to open a closet door and he says, "I'm going downstairs to make coffee. Want some?" I exhale in relief. The mostly pink elephant in the room gets a reprieve for another day and I go downstairs and eat leftover apple pie for breakfast.

Friday, November 26, 2010


     Last night, while my father was screaming at the Cowboy's game and my grandmother, bundled in a pink comforter, was napping on the couch across from me, I decided to take advantage of my brother's new wi-fi and router and logged in to check my email.

Like me, a lot of my Facebook friends were only checking in and calling out holiday greetings across the miles from their cellphones, but I did see someone online and turned on my Yahoo chat to see if he was logged in. He contacted me before I could click on his name and asked if I'd had enough turkey and stuffing. I was drowsy and felt like a turkey myself and told him. We have an easygoing friendship. His English is probably better than mine (he was once an interpreter) and I'm charmed by his effortless use of our idioms and appreciation of our culture. God only knows what he finds charming about me but we have a lot to talk about.

At some point my grandmother stirred and in the dim light of the living room I saw her eyes twinkles awake and she sat up. She was covered in my dad's three cats who naturally gravitate to her probably because of the fresh chicken breast she's always cooking up for them and she looked tiny compared to the huge felines currently snoring in her lap. She made that pink comforter herself with down from a goose farm she used to work at where she was displaced worker another lifetime ago in Germany.

She asked me what I was doing and I told her I was talking to a friend online. She asked me where 'she' lived and I said, "He lives in Holland"...she thought about it for a moment and asked me where there was a Holland near us and I said, "Not in the US, Grandma. There's a Harlem in New York, but this is Holland, The Netherlands, in Europe." She got excited and marveled how we could now talk to people anywhere in the world on a box. I told her that this box was called a laptop and she stated, "Rock, stone, same thing." She knew it wasn't but was being cute which IS cute.

  Then she asked that if my friend lived in Europe, maybe he knew my cousin Tomasz in Poland and I asked Frank to indulge her and he said he did and would tell him hello.  She knew we were teasing her gently but she liked that indirectly she too was talking to Frank in Holland.

My grandmother is 85 now and has been slowing down for the past few years. She's often wondered aloud why all of her peers have 'kicked the bucket' and she's been 'left behind'. I remind her that we love having her around and maybe right now we need her more than God does and she just looks at me sideways. She comes from a time I've only read about in books and seen in movies. Right now 'my' time overwhelms her.

Recently when I came to visit she pulled my coat off me and sat me down and over a shared glass of wine, demanded I tell her what gay sex was. She said she saw something on TV and asked about it and no one would tell her. She wondered if it was because they thought she was a stupid old lady.

She may have only had a third-grade education but she was hardly stupid. She survived child abuse, a trip in a cattle car and barely missing being left at Oswiecim (Auscwitz) and then being a war refugee until she orchestrated taking up the Red Cross' offer to emigrate to another country. She chose the United States and THEN told my grandfather. She worked hard, raised a family and saved enough money to buy several houses. Not stupid.

So I sat there in my father's kitchen and explained and answered her questions while my dad and brother looked on in horror. They interrupted with frequent, "Did she just ask you what I thought she did?" and I said simply, "Yes" and kept going until her curiosity was satisfied. She told me I was the only one she knew would tell her.  I finished the rest of the wine. It was.....interesting.

I think of the friends I talk to everyday who live in other countries. Most of them I'll never meet, although Frank is hellbent and determined to track me down on his next visit and I'll be there to meet him, but I can only dream about meeting most of them unless my book becomes a bestseller and series and I get to travel the world, which is a new dream and a worthy one.

But then I think of the little old lady sitting across from me who I've been avoiding for months because she asks me questions I can't or don't want to answer and I realize the bittersweet reality that her traveling days are behind her and there's only one trip she's really looking forward to, the one where she believes (and I do too) that she'll be reunited with all those who went on before her.  Soon, the distance between us will be greater than any country and no box or phone or laptop will be able to bridge that so, for now, I can let some things go and keep her close 'til then.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Love and Leftovers

     My dad woke me up at 6:30 this morning to discuss the final details for Thanksgiving tomorrow.  As he's getting older, we're having most holidays at his house now so he and my grandmother don't have to travel. We've been doing this holiday thing for years probably since I could pull a chair up to the stove to stand on it to stir a pot.

My husband picked up the phone and said, "He wants to know what you want to drink on Thursday." Being more than half asleep, I thought maybe he meant I should bring wine along with the things I was making but I didn't feel like wine. It has the strange effect of having me pick up the mood of the company I'm in and my dad is, frankly, really cranky.

Do I honestly have to say, "I love my dad"?  The man brought me into the world and 40 something years later is still content to put up with my crap. He still calls me regularly, doggedly, loyally and asks when he's gonna see me again. Wants to know how my day is and what's new. Though I've never been Daddy's Little Girl, (that was my sister) I was his first and that's special too. Never has any man been more devoted to me. I could not NOT love my dad. But there is the cranky thing.

Here's the thing; probably because of him, I actually like grumpy guys.  Do the love and the cranky go hand in hand like a little girl and her daddy? Could be. Maybe it's a good counterbalance to my own sunshine and loopy lollipop demeanor. I feel like I can tone down the volume around a grump if that makes any sense. I even dote on my grouchy cats and zero in on the counter guy with the grimace (or gas) on his face at the butcher shop. Maybe it's like a really complicated form of peekaboo--what can I do to make you laugh?  I bet I can make you laugh!  Laugh!!  Who knows why, but the laugh has always been reward enough for me. It really doesn't take much to make me happy.

I don't follow sports, and Dad's an ex-football coach.  I like old movies and he prefers to scream at anything on SyFy channel.  I like Koontz and King and he's demanding I admit that McCammon is better. (He is. I still won't admit it)  He often says, 'You don't want that. You know what you want?" which drives me up a wall.  He doesn't know how to talk about a lot of things and like most men 'feelings' makes him sweat. The conversations always end when he says I 'shoulda been a Philadelphia lawyer' and 'Do you want some pie?"

Thankfully, there IS one thing that my dad and I can agree on enthusiastically and that's food, and particularly cooking.

Three people taught me how to cook. At the same time, they also taught me how to love.

My mother taught me participation and precision. A good cook would be ashamed of dull knives. Make sure you have plenty of cutting boards. Stir frequently. Keep a low flame. Cook your onions slowly and lovingly. Learn your cuts of meat and what cooks best on the stove or in the oven. Throw a pat of butter in with olive oil to temper it. Peel your celery, for God's sake, you aren't a heathen. Check all your expiration dates and crack eggs into a separate cup in case one is bad. Make friends with your butcher and grocer and above all, everything must be fresh and clean. Mom was tough as hell but the hardest teachers always got through my thick stubborn skull and that knowledge stuck for good. Stick with it, Honey.

My mom's mom, Granma, taught me primarily through observation.  Watch, learn, be patient and improvise. I sat on a stool or at the kitchen table, looked and listened. Measuring cups were only containers to her. She taught me how to 'eyeball' before Rachael Ray was even born. A former war refugee from Poland to Germany, she had to learn how to make filling, simple and healthy meals from the most humble ingredients. If you had a potato an onion and a strip of bacon or an egg and some black pepper, you had the makings of a delicious meal and somehow it could feed, like Jesus' loaves and fishes, a multitude. And she did it quickly, like Jesus, like magic. She took care of her children and her husband.  Responsibility? Yes.  Duty? That too.  Love? There was no doubt of it.

My dad was the artiste', the most daring.  Rules? He didn't need no stinkin' rules. Cookbooks and recipes were mere suggestions and he substituted ingredients with impunity.  He taught me the sheer joy of planing menus and cooking for fun. We would 'rehearse cook' for holidays. Even his most abject failures were delicious.  There was and is a lot of laughing in the kitchen with Dad. He taught me to approach cooking not with fear but with wild abandon. He taught me collaboration.  That same philosophy, those little lessons, can be applied to how to love as well.

They all taught me that to feed people is one of the greatest, most creative yet simplest expressions of love.  Why, the first act of love everyone on earth experiences is before they're born; being nourished from their mother's body, so is it any wonder, any mystery that both food and nourishment are associated with love, enjoyment and satisfaction?  I'll admit I'm biased because so many of my happiest experiences involved both happy feasts for twenty and simple intimate conversations for two over saltines with butter and jam. But to me, to deny oneself of food and communion of it with others is to deny oneself of love. I could never and won't separate the two and I don't want to.

That's not to deny that there are many ways to express love. Before I die, I hope to experience them all, giving and receiving but this one is the native language of my family, my people, my clan.

Every lesson learned at the elbows of my cooking teachers at home wasn't intended to impart how to love but rather how to feed.  Inadvertently, irrevocably, however, it came to mean both to me. How could it not?

Tomorrow, my father will call to remind me to bring extra foil, gallon size storage bags and plastic containers for leftovers. I'm to take some love home with me too. This is how he speaks to me. This is his language which I speak fluently and I am so very grateful for love and leftovers.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Champagne Tastes and Teabag Pockets

I wake up when my cat tells me to. This is okay because my current work schedule (meaning none) is very flexible. Wonton likes to find the squishiest parts of me (barring my elbows, scalp and collarbone this is not too difficult a task) and goes to town with the dedication of a Turkish massage therapist and the delicacy of Freddy Krueger. My husband finds it endlessly entertaining to see a loud blonde of very ample proportions in a coral babydoll being pinned down to a mattress by a six pound cat.

The cat, when satisfied with her ministrations climbs up and chews on my earlobe purring sweet nothings with hot tuna breath. She loves me. She really really loves me and in spite (or perhaps because) of her wicked wiles, puncturing punishing inclinations and appalling fetid breath, I indulge and adore her.

I have a penchant for luxurious and often decadent things like clothing (particularly lingerie) which in my size is a challenge to find, jewelry, liquor, kitchen gadgets, household objects, gourmet delicacies and evidently, adjectives. When, not 'if', my book (and ambitiously, a series) is published, that will also extend to travel and art.

My mother used to love to tell the story of me as a toddler accompanying her window shopping at a jewelry store and upon being asked which ring I liked in a display case, chose the most expensive object in the place.  I have an uncanny and at times disturbing knack (or perhaps innate style) for picking the best of everything, but rarely possessed the means to obtain them. My mother called it 'Champagne Tastes and Teabag Pockets'

This isn't, however, limited to objects. I've always had ridiculously high expectations and standards for just about everything, especially friends and the rare lucky men whom I fall for.  Thankfully, fortuitously for me, they don't. I cherish and am devoted (often disgustingly sappily so) to everyone I love and I do love all my friends, even the ones I haven't seen for years or only see on Facebook with a passing 'like' or tagged note. Some of my friends find this characteristic of mine endearing. Some find it dismaying and aren't shy voicing their disapproval of this dogged loyalty. Maybe it's a character flaw. I don't know.

 A lot my appreciation has to do with admiration and gratitude for the beauty and art of people and things (Wonton is the former, not the latter). If I'm brutally honest, much of it has to do with qualities in those people and things I desire to see in myself.  They, all without exception, inspire me.

I am, like a crow or baby, attracted first to the shiniest brightest substances.  I can't deny it.  But it's what's beyond the gilded, whimsical and superficial that keeps me. Subtlety is often inexplicably lost on me, of this, I'm acutely aware but I do look into the depths, into the mirror too, of what lies beneath.

I can only hope that when weighed in the balance, I too am not found wanting.

Monday, November 22, 2010

She Can't Sleep

     I'm curled up under a warm heavy down throw, with a hot cup of creamy something beside me. Wearing long thick socks and my oversized Dickies hoodie, I'm surrounded by pillows for insulation as the room and I are cold.  The automatic thermostat has gone into night-mode. The residual heat from the fire has long died down and the damper and doors are closed as the wind would only swirl down the chimney and add to the chill.

Everything quiets down, even for a brief respite, the cats. TCM is on, as usual, my night companion. 'Leave Her to Heaven'. Gene Tierney and Vincent Price...both treats for me. Everything is low and quiet and resting, everything that is, except me.

Since the crib I've been a charter member of the night-owl club, a vampire of the night, or in my case, a sparkle fairy (pink of course). It started when I was six months old and my parents, desperate to get some sleep themselves, read in a trendy childcare book that they needed to let me cry myself to sleep to get into a regular routine. My father told my mom to go out with a girlfriend and he sat beside my crib for hours while I screamed and then fell asleep exhausted.

I have no desire to skewer my folks' choice of parenting styles (which was mostly 'fly by the seat of your pants' as I was their first); their motives were pure. Baby needed sleep. Mommy and Daddy needed sleep. The End. Every night they kept me to a schedule of bed by 8PM regardless of whether or not I was tired. and every night as far back as I can remember, I looked out the window or up at the ceiling or at my closet door and clutching my doll or a teddy bear for company, I thought. And thought. And thought.

For the most part, I didn't fight the bedtime routine unless I could hear the sound of Muppets singing on Carol Burnett drifting through the house to my room and I would scream and throw myself on the bed, at the door, on the hot pink shag area rug over the giant daisy linoleum on the floor, my little white ruffled granny gown flying,  my little feet running across the room like an elf on speed. Sometimes my dad would relent and let me in. Not so much my mom. She needed a break. Can't say that I blame her.

If I didn't get my way, and fell asleep crying, I would have horrible nightmares, well the same nightmare, of 'The Hands'. The Hands reached up at me through either side of my crib and squeezed me tight and tickled me until I screamed only I couldn't scream because I was being held so tight. I was terrified and shrieking inside and no sound could get out, I tried, I tried to scream, my eyes would bulge, my little body would heave and to stop it I would force myself to calm down and The Hands were finally satisfied and withdrew.

Until the next time. So I pretty much decided at the ripe old age of maybe.....two, that there would be no crying in bed for me. No way. No how. Not gonna happen. I was a very determined little girl. Even now I feel the fear and that same fear kicks in whenever my anxiety kicks in and medication is necessary.

Very early on, I figured out a a way to disassociate myself from that scenario. A way to avoid or escape the sadness, fear and loneliness. I just removed myself from it by imagining I was somewhere else, sometimes in the room floating on the ceiling or through the window, sometimes another place or time entirely. And when I
got a little older and more mobile (climb out of crib <check> 'fall' out of bed <check check>) it morphed into a healthy fantasy life including a very loyal and entertaining imaginary friend whose name will not be mentioned to protect the innocent (and nameless. I just can't remember).

Interestingly enough, my dad, a warehouseman who worked the night shift would often come home at dawn and hear me talking animatedly with my imaginary friend. He'd throw open the door in panic and looking around say, "WHO'S IN HERE WITH YOU?"  I'd look up and smile and say, "Nobody, Daddy." HE still talks about that. Bless his grumpy heart.

My imaginary friend disappeared around the time we got a dog or my sister. The timing there is a bit fuzzy.

  Sleeplessness plagued me for years and I fought it. When I slept, I did so deeply and woke remembering long vivid rich dreams that could rival any old Hollywood extravaganza. They were in technicolor and had a score and soundtrack and in them I was a major character but also an indifferent narrator and some people or voices that were in those dreams I didn't know then but would at some point come to know which disturbed me. 

In fact, when I tell that to people now I fully expect them to be skeptical and chalk it up to fancies of a precocious little girl but I still have those dreams and still are meeting those people.

Recently I saw a video clip of a man I never met but wanted to and perhaps it was that desire that influenced me but I recalled his voice from a dream, several in fact.  My heart leaped, not in surprise but in the delight of recognition. (Well, also because his voice thrilled me but that's neither here nor there.)

I don't look forward to those dreams as much as I used to. Sometimes I can't figure out if there was ever a point or lesson to be learned or if like Scrooge said, "You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato." Sometimes a potato is just a potato and not a blueprint for the future.

Sleep is for amateurs. I am at peace that it doesn't want or need to be my friend although I would like its assistance from time to time. Four or five hours a night will refresh me and seven or eight seem like a luxury I can only hope for, less realistic though than my ridiculous wish list.

The upshot is that I have plenty to do. I joined several internet forums and groups, can search YouTube and Google without interruption and will talk to anyone who won't ask for pics of my sexxxi asz on Yahoo IM.  I have quite the little world on Facebook and am truly tickled when someone 'likes' my stuff or 'pokes' me back. I'm also working on a chick-lit novel that is practically writing itself, reading every fiction writing guide I can get my hands on and have recently discovered the joys of blogging.

The communities I've joined have yielded warm friendships which I consider quite real and now some have even punched through the digital membrane of anonymity and spoken with me in person which makes me quite happy because to me, it validates, it acknowledges the friendship. It's not so easy to pull the plug and pretend another doesn't exist because you now have seen their face on cam, then in person, shared coffee at the local bookshop and laughed and snarked and heard their voices for real, for real, and not just in a dream.

I met my husband over the internet. We then began to talk on the phone in earnest and then after a week or so he wanted to meet me (and I him, of course.)  At the time, the internet was fairly new to me. I had no idea we were on the cutting edge of new ways to reach out, meet and touch someone first in pixel, then in person so it was strange but fun. I considered that budding relationship real, as all my friendships now.  I cherish them all.  

So, I no longer consider insomnia a curse or some further proof that God has passed me over once again and found me unworthy, in this case of sweet peaceful sleep. If not for my steady constant friend, I would not have this second world to dive into and the many fellow travelers on the same road, "Hey how long has it been for you? Oh...weeks on and off." "What do you think of valerian tea?" "It stinks! What about Melatonin?" "Nothing." "Yeah, well...did you try not having the TV in the bedroom thing?" "Yeah" (shaking head) "I hear ya. Well, good luck." "Yeah, you too. Sweet dreams." "Ha. Funny."

Sweet dreams.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


     When I was a little girl, I thought being a witch or genie were viable career options. I poo-poo'd my friends' dreams of becoming a ballerina or veterinarian, pony or princess and aimed higher. I wanted superpowers and since Batgirl didn't even rate second fiddle status (losing to a kid named after a dumb bird) and I couldn't reconcile myself to villainhood as a kick-ass Catwoman, I chose to go the 'magical and supernatural cleverly disguised as a domestic' route. The former had exciting careers but no one to come home to. The latter (in my opinion) had it all and I was convinced. I was sold. I practiced and perfected Samantha's snark, smirk, raised eyebrow and nose wriggle and Jeannie's wide-eyed devoted not-so-dumb blonde routine and the arms-crossed head nod-y blinky bouncy hair thing. I didn't even care much for "Master'...he was a bumbling pompous horses ass and Darren was so scared of Samantha he up and died and had to be replaced with an even prissier doppleganger midway through the series. I, like Samantha was non-plussed. Business as usual.

When you're little, you don't know the meaning of the word, 'limitation'.. That's probably why when you're told for the first few years of your life, 'No', 'Can't', 'Don't' and 'Shouldn't', you behave as though the world has ended because well, in a way, it has. Someone has placed boundaries on you to protect you from and prepare you for the realities of life when you really thought you could fly, and breathe under water, or talk with animals.

I used to believe that flowers, animals and toys, especially dolls and bears all talked with each other and if I could sneak up on them fast or stealthy enough, I would catch them in the hopes that they'd invite me to join them. I made sure to water and aerate my grandmother's African Violets and whisper encouragement into their petals and fluff up their dark loamy soil. I tried very very hard to not show favoritism to my cats and dogs and if I sensed any were feeling neglected, I would shower them with an extra helping of TLC and snackies, and my dolls and bears had regular union meetings where we discussed their feelings and also health care benefits. I even provided tea and pretzel rods at the end of each meeting. I was one devoted neurotic little kid.

I had a lot of friends but also enjoyed large chunks of time alone and spent it either reading, making stuff in the garage or attic (I was my own Icarus, fashioning kites out of construction paper and Tinker Toys but I wasn't allowed past the driveway, never mind reaching for the sun.). I conducted magic shows and backyard theatrical productions of my favorite episodes of Star Trek with my imaginary friend, a tall black man with a deep voice (who in hindsight could actually have been a neighbor. If he had climbed in my window and said he was a fairy I would have believed him) and I explored going on long walks or bike rides to nowhere, just looking and soaking everything in.

So it was with great delight and anticipation when my father would pack us all up in the car weekly and take us to the big park in the center of  town and drive down to the bottom level which was off Newark Bay, across from a large container facility. While my dad would set his crab traps with bait, I would watch the ships and follow their slow courses as I walked along the low pebble wall that looked awkwardly out of place, as if it belonged in a mermaid's garden rather than in a small fishing spot just off a parking lot.

One fourth of July, the area was particularly crowded in anticipation of a fireworks display to begin at dusk and after blowing and making a wish on the bait in my father's crab traps before he'd throw them over the wall, I began my usual path, running my hand along the small stones and shells set into the top railing like little jewels in an ornate box. The sun went down slowly. Its departure was lovely and many of us stood there admiring it while listening to the low murmurs and music of people around us enjoying their day off and I looked down into the darkening water and saw something large floating and bobbing along the wall.

It was ovoid, white and smooth and my little heart leaped with joy as I watched it make its way slowly down the promenade and I ran along the wall keeping up with it. At times I had to push past people leaning against the wall or talking in groups around it, while they were laughing and drinking beer and I was standing breathless pleading, 'Excuse me...Excuse me."  They would smile down at me and let me through and I followed the object down in the water which was maybe fifteen feet below with rapt attention.

When it appeared to have momentarily bumped against some kind of pylon or structure I couldn't see,  I ran screaming through the crowd to find my dad.  I was out of breath when I caught up to him and he knelt down with concern asking me what was wrong. When I'm very upset or excited I tend to become temporarily speechless and even at times unknowingly hold my breath and my father shook me a little to break me out of it. I inhaled deeply and smiled. "Daddy, I found a dinosaur egg."

He smiled and shook his head in an, "Oh you're so cute" way but still, took my hand and asked me to show him. We walked through the crowd together, me telling him about finding it in the water and wanting to climb down and rescue it and, "What kind of dinosaur do you think it is, Daddy?"

He sometimes called me Peaches. He sometimes called me Pickles. He usually called me by my given name which was the beloved name of his only beloved sister who died tragically before I was born, but he said it a certain way that no one else did and I liked it. It was like our secret little language.  Our private code.

He looked over the edge of that mermaid wall and his face changed. He scooped me up and kissed me and said, "Look closer. Do you see it? It's rolling over. Look"  I did. My heart broke. It was a watermelon, bleached from being in the water and sun for God only knows how long.

I was disappointed and unnaturally quiet on the way home and I know he felt bad for me. I felt silly and stupid. How could I be so dumb. Why couldn't it have been a REAL dinosaur egg?  I was experiencing disillusionment and discouragement for the first time and I know this must have been playing across my face as I sat in the dark car, the lights of the storefronts we were passing briefly illuminating me, and then my father took my hand.

"It's okay, you know. Why don't you write a story about it? That way it WILL be real.  I'll read it and later tonight you can stay up with me and watch a monster movie. Just me and you. You'd like that right?  I nodded and went home and started writing my story.

Thus began my habit, ritual, self-therapy, whatever you want to call it, of writing when I was down or scared or disappointed. Or delighted or in love or on the verge of something unknowing but probably powerful, great and wonderful.  I realized then and over time that there are limitations and boundaries on everything and with that comes the bad stuff like hurt and discouragement, but so does the good stuff like empathy, compassion, and feeling safe and loved within and in spite of those limits.

Like the mystical, mythical and magical, I don't believe there is any limit to what a wide open heart and imagination can accomplish.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Merry Heart

     A few years ago I was very sick and it was touch and go for over a year. My husband was falling apart with worry and was going through the motions just to survive the day-to-day and even in my drugged stupor I knew he had a breaking point.  Leaning on him any further would have broken him.  He's only human and I have to give him credit, during that time of sheer hell he endured it all and stood by me the entire time.

For a while I was on oxygen 24-hours a day, and because I wasn't strong enough to carry the portable machine up and down the stairs with me, I would wake up before dawn with him and without complaint he'd clean my wounds, get me dressed and ready to spend the day downstairs and even make me breakfast and gather a lunchbox, books, magazines, medicine, the phone and the remote, before he left for a two hour commute to work in Westchester.  I was an invalid. And even now see the bleak duality of the word like a double entendre gone horribly wrong.  Invalid. Invalid. InVALid. 

I was drugged, anxious, felt like a burden and so so so guilty and deeply depressed. My injuries and illness seemed to have no end and I was afraid to add one more straw to the proverbial camel's fractured back. Then, my only sister, my baby sister Lisa, died suddenly and in my grief alone in that cold quiet living room, I began, in earnest, to talk to my cat.

If you don't have a cat, you will probably not get it. If you never had a 'special' cat, you definitely won't get it.  They choose you. You can't force them to see things your way or impress them or convince them of anything. They don't pity you or offer useless platitudes or criticize.  They judge you but if you're lucky you're deemed worthy. I was lucky. I was loved and tolerated by a snotty kid in a cat suit.

Peachy slept beside me or on my lap. Occasionally he would look up and gaze at me, examining if all was well and put his head down and return to dreams of laser pointers and feeble mice. At night he slept on my left hip and even hung on when I tossed and turned in pain from my infirmities, like a rolling ship on stormy waves. Like my long-suffering husband, he hung on. Always.

After the death of my sister, I decided to detox myself of the opiates I was dependent on simply to grieve naturally. I had been hallucinating and at one point drooling and barely could remember her laugh and it shattered my heart so I went cold turkey from Fentanyl in six weeks. My visiting nurses said they knew something had changed when my TV viewing habits shifted from Spongebob to Nat Geo and TCM but that I was very stupid because I could have had a fatal seizure from doing it my way. I didn't care. I already felt like I had died.

As my head cleared, I noticed something change in Peachy and mentioned it to my husband. He was overwhelmed with the usual events and just wanted some peace and suggested I could be imagining things but after he saw me fretting for weeks agreed to take him for blood work. They came back with nothing to say really...Peachy was clearly annoyed but the lab showed there was nothing wrong. It was chalked up to us living with a moody cat and possibly me being a bit paranoid due to my meds. But he continued to decline and my heart was filling with dread. They went back for blood work. Nothing. One more time, I begged, I insisted.

It was liver cancer.

One night, after countless struggles to convince him to take his chemo peacefully, and we were at a unsteady truce, he struggled to climb onto the protective pillows around my pain-filled body. He wouldn't let me help him. He did get to the top of the mountain after a few minutes and sat and looked at me, searching my face, my eyes.  I burst into agonized sobs, then wails. He was asking me to let him go.

For the last time I sang to him-- a little church chorus I'd been singing to him for years, and lately, with prayers to God to bless his little body with health and long life and if not that at least less pain. When he'd been healthy he would roll around in the bathroom sink in delight as I began to sing and he even waited expectantly for me to repeat the simple little verse over and over again which I did, often laughing at the joy he shared with me alone. Private little moments, precious pearls.

"A merry heart
doeth good like a medicine,
like a medicine
is a merry heart.
A broken spirit,
dryeth the bones,
but a merry heart
is the joy of the Lord."

The following morning I was strong enough to take him to the waiting doctor. Moments before she walked into the room, he had a seizure and slipped away. It still hurts my heart.

R.I.P. Mr. Peaches