Monday, May 2, 2016

The Gang's All Here - Bloggers Night Out

The last few days in Chiberia have felt about as cold as Northern England, that damp wet that just chills, even though it's only in the 40's.  But there was a seriously bright spot on the horizon, an outing with the gang, the Lake Michigan branch of what was the Indy Blog Group for many years.

We joined Midwest Chick and Mr. B., Og, Mrs. Og  and M. the Original Partner in Grime, not a blogger but a lifetime (since childhood) friend of Og and a regular part of our little group. And of course MY Partner in Grime. It had been a couple months since we'd all been together, so we did what we normally do and met someplace that's about midway between where we all live, so no one has to drive more than an hour.

This restaurant, a long time fixture in the Northern Indiana area was special as it's one that both Mr. B. and M. and Og ate at with their parents when they were children.

It hearkened back to those late 60's meals, out with our parents, with the little basket of assorted crackers and bread sticks, baskets of hot yeast rolls and something Mom never started a dinner without, the relish tray, with pickled beets, coleslaw and cottage cheese (though Mom got ultra daring and added carrot sticks and pickles). Of course, as kids we'd notice all the OLD people eating at such places "look, lunchroom of the living dead!" only to realize that now the kids are looking at us like WE are the old people.

You could order a lunch or a dinner sized portion and with the fried chicken you could also order it "family style" with a whole bunch of chicken and all the sides served up in bowls to be shared.



We ate in the luncheon area, a lot quieter in the evening when most folks were dressing up to eat in one of the dining areas, so we had some space and a very attentive wait staff.


Conversation was lively - the multiple ways one can shear off a bolt and the mayhem that ensures, takes of youthful indiscretion involving Cremora (it WILL take off a dorm closet door in less than controlled situations) and alcohol (though no one topped the story of the fellow from the gun show that said he quit drinking after a bender where he woke up 2500 miles off base married to one of the local indigenous people.)

Then they our favorite stories of various tools  "broke the first time I used it, that stuff's made out of Chineseium!" and what the Oglette was up do, kicking butt on her college's male fencing team (they don't have enough women for a female team) while scoring some seriously high grades.  We can't wait to see her this summer.

And the food - on my, stuffed mushrooms and this bruschetta in a balsamic reduction spread on wafer thin garlic toasts, fresh Canadian Lake Perch, Walleye, fresh fried chicken, soup and mashed potatoes and stuffing and corn and then when you think you can't eat another bite, they bring out little bowls of ice cream (though tempted by the deep fried raspberry cheesecake, Midwest Chick and I thought discretion was the better part of valor and less likely for us to pop a button, especially after all the stuffed mushroom caps.

The evening then got interesting, as when I went to the ladies a room, a lady in there with me had her severe storm warning thing come up on her phone, respective to central Indiana.  Tornado alert! Severe Thunderstorms.  My phone was off so I had Partner check the radar, sure enough, some nasty cells were marching towards Chicagoland.  Looking at it, I figured we could dash between two lines of cells and though we might get some lightning and rain we wouldn't likely get sucked up in a funnel cloud (like a tornado could pick us up after all that food).

So we had to say a hasty goodbye to our friends who had a little window before the weather got to their planned route home and headed out.  It was a bit of a stressful drive in heavy rain, with some of the power out along the freeway, but we avoided the worst of the wind, and were soon home,  a finger of single malt in hand, thankful for the safe journey

Good food, good times, but best of all, good friends (and seriously you have to be faster than the roadrunner to pick up the check before Og does,)   Thanks my friend, for a wonderful evening for all.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

So - It's Sunday and There is Beer and something Cool on TV?

Ladies and Gentlemen - this is NOT a time for salad.

Range Fries with Bacon and Homemade Queso.

Cook up some Waffle Fries, a couple big handfuls per servings (I love the Alexia brand sweet potato waffle fries, regular waffle fries will work),

Fry up 1/2 to 1 pound bacon (depending on whether you are doing 2 or 4 servings)

Keep warm until ready to assemble or cook while you're making your sauce

For the queso (makes enough for four servings, and will reheat nicely)

In a sturdy cooking pot heat on low until steaming (do not be tempted to raise heat)

-1 a teaspoon of butter
-1 cup half and half on low until steaming

 SLOWLY stir in, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly and maintaining the temperature on LOW

-3/4 pound deli white american cheese, that you've finely shredded) do NOT use the cheap stuff
-1/2 pound deli fontina, also very finely shredded

When melted, add:
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped canned green chilis
-1/2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp Penzey's roasted garlic powder
-1/2 tsp onion powder
-1/2 tsp dried cilantro or 1/4 tsp oregano
-dash of salt and pepper

Layer fries and bacon and top with cheese.  If you like, pop it under the broiler for a moment to bown up the top (optional)

Serve immediately with a cold beer or beverage of your choice

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bringing Home the Bacon

As my long time readers know, I  tend to be in an environment on and off work where it's pretty much all male.  I'm used to that.  In my last professional position, the guy I replaced was a General (gee, no expectations there). My current  "Secretary" is a guy, ex Army.  One of my long time best friends, outside of Partner, is a guy, Army CID.  It's taught me a lot about honor, sweat, blood and hard work and pulling together as a team.

But it does give me a different perspective on how very different, and how very alike, we all can be.

Names have been changed to protect the guilty.  Remember a couple of years ago and a talk of a looming bacon shortage?

Me:  OMG Aporkalypse! 

A: (pulling out the news article and passing it around)  I sent messages last night to the guys on Facebook warning them about a possible bacon shortage!

B.  How did they react?

A. (with a look of concern) "Dude, they unfriended me!
I understand, because even though I eat a lot of fruit and veggies and bean and grain based proteins, I LOVE my bacon. Especially THIS Bacon - brought to us from Indiana.
Everyday friends like you on Facebook 

Once in a lifetime friends bring you Amish bacon from BeefMart when they come over.

It's Friday night - WHAT to do with the bacon? How about cheeseburgers with bacon caramelized with honey, molasses, bourbon and chili? (yes, some wine was harmed in the shooting of this food post).
Four pieces of bacon were brushed with a mixture of about a Tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon molasses, 2 teaspoons Bourbon and a couple of dashes of ancho and regular chili powder, as they came out of the pan, almost done, then popped under the broiler just long enough to caramelize the sugars and finish cooking
That topped a pound of burger mixed with a teaspoon of McCormick Molasses Bacon Grillmates seasoning, a pinch of crushed red pepper and half of a small onion caramelized in the bacon drippings, the patties then grilled on the barbecue.
Top with some smoked cheddar and fresh from the oven hamburger rolls (telework days allow for rising yeast) and insert theme from Jaws here as Abby pops up from the depth of the rug.
I LIKE Fridays.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Preparing to Prep - Living on a Minimal Food Budget

There have been a number of people posting about eating off the equivalent money they'd get on SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) to highlight how hard it is to eat healthy and economically on public assistance.

This post isn't about the habits of those on public assistance, as it's easy to criticize.  But I wanted simply to give an example of how, with a little planning, you can feed a family for much LESS than the amount of money normally allocated in such programs (about $194 per person per month) even assuming you contribute nothing of your own money towards your family meals.
Banana bread

This weeks food  - $50 for the two of us, including a sweet bread and some cookies.   I've rounded everything up to the nearest half dollar.  I do the bread baking on Saturday and make cookies or some other baked treat.  I make soup or stew on Sunday and chopped and Tupperware the veggies so there's little time to prepare them on a work night. Many meals are meat free, with beans and grain for complete protein. Nothing is wasted, so there's always little bits of peppers or chilis or such in the freezer to add to soup and beans dishes as well as some bones with a little meat on them for soups. Any leftovers not immediately eaten are frozen for lunches the following week. We have  brewed iced tea, not pop, and I'll make an "energy drink" out of a splash of fruit juice mixed with 2 Tablespoons of Braggs apple cider vinegar and lots of water and carried in a recycled glass beverage bottle.
Both of us pack our lunches and have a water jug AND a thermos and do not buy coffee or soft drinks at work or on the way to or from. I'll make muffins to have as a mid morning treat for coffee or tea. Plus - when a local Sears went south, we picked up a deep freezer for $100 for the basement.

So total food and treats if one is closely watching the budget and has essentials on hand in bulk already -  $200 for the month for two adults.

We are blessed with a good education (I paid for mine 100% on my own, my husband was blessed with parents, having done so themselves, were able to help him significantly). With that, we have jobs that pay very well  But being raised by parents that understood a budget, mine growing up in the Great Depression, we are quite fine eating on a budget so that there is money available for unexpected expenses, helping family members and charities, including 100% of all the sales of the Book of Barkley and Saving Grace to animal rescue. That's important to us.
Yes, we have some extra splurge meals with more expensive ingredients (Amish Bacon!  Scotch!) I'ts because we are blessed to where we  can and we usually eat out once a month, someplace cheap and fun like Thai.  But we also know that if money was really tight we could eat VERY well, with adequate protein and minerals with a little planning and some time in the kitchen.  Even with treats, an adult beverage on the weekends and sometimes extra dairy from a local dairy farm we spend less than $300 a month on food, that extra money going to help my Dad or others in need.  I've stood in line at Walmart and watched someone with a cart full of prepared and prepackaged meals and junk food spend that in a week for a small family.

There have been years we've gone in with others for a 4-H cow, the cost per pound being really low, but this year, with a move, and remodeling, we just watch for sales.
Range "MackMuffin" with whole wheat sourdough bread rounds.

But it takes planning - don't wait until you lose your job before establishing a larder of bulk supplies. Do it when times are plentiful, and you'll have less to worry about later, because it's vital that you have certain items stored up to make a super cheap meal plan work.  You will need to spend a months worth of food budget minimum, laying in supplies if you want the absolutely minimum cost on dried and bulk items, not something that's practical once the emergency strikes.

Bread - I make it from scratch, using a sourdough starter made out of wild yeast in place of commercial yeast and a food processor, it takes minutes to prep, then just the rise and bake time for a couple of loafs and a batch of muffins or rolls. An hour of prep, time to rise, and a couple of hours to bake up everything, and I've got bread products for the week for a couple of bucks.
Wild yeast sourdough starter

Shopping - I will hit 3 stores if it saves me 3 or 4 bucks, as long as the gas to go there doesn't eat up the difference. I regularly check ads to see what's on sale where and I'm not afraid to clip a coupon. Make sure you look at your receipt - I've been charged other than the sale price at a couple of the big chain grocers.  I make a list.  If I see something super cheap not on the list, I will pick it up to add to the larder. I will NOT buy something just because "it looks good!" if it's not on the list,

On hand:
Home canned: salsas, applesauce (I trade bread/cookies for huge bag of apples each Fall with non baking colleague who has a bunch of trees), some veggies, barbecue sauce
frozen soup bones from previous roasts
sourdough starter
powdered milk, vegetable oil, peanut butter, pasta
vinegar and spices in bulk
rice and dried beans - in bulk
flour and sugar - in bulk
water - we take refillable thermoses to work, the tap water here tastes good and frankly, half of the bottled water is from a tap in some other city plus we keep a minimum of  3 months of bleach treated water, per person (including the dog) with prepping supplies.
4-H cow burgers with homemade buns


Cost - About $50 for the week for Partner and I and that included a number of meals with meat and eggs.

Daily Goal  - 3 servings of protein
5 servings of fruits and veggies
A treat (usually a cookie, sometimes a piece of pie when fruit is plentiful and cheap)
3 servings of whole grain carbs (my husband may eat more, the bread is super cheap to make)
2 servings dairy

Cost:

Use of the bulk items for the week (spices, flour, bones, powdered milk, dried beans, oil, vinegar) $6.00
coffee or tea for the week (made at home and carried to work)  $2
Oatmeal $1
One small package chicken thighs (sale)   $2
package of boneless breasts (for sandwiches)  (free - this was a buy one get one from the previous week)
1 pound ground beef  $4 (if money was extra tight, I would replace with lentils for meat sauce or sloppy joes on the homemade bread)
Fresh Green Beans - $2
Fresh squash  - $2
2 Cucumbers (great with rice vinegar and a dash of honey as a salad)  $1.50
2 bags of apples (Aldi)  $5
Veggies: a number of cans purchased on  scratch and dent clearance  $4 total
Carrots:  2 bags on sale for $1.50
3 pounds oranges (sale)  $2
eggs - free - bartered with homemade bread for someone that has chickens but doesn't bake
bananas  .50 cents for a bunch on sale
Tibetan curried lentils

Potatoes 5 pound bag on sale .99 cents
2 onions   $1.50
package of  whole romaine for sandwiches and salad  $1
1/4 deli pound swiss (sale)  $1
1/2 pound mozzarella  $2
Canned mushrooms (sale).50
Bag of peppers  (Aldi sale) $2
Big tub of cottage cheese (or plain yogurt) $5
Bag of frozen dried berries (for oatmeal and/or muffins)  $2
Generic  boxed mac and cheese  .50
Butter (free with $25 grocery purchase)
Ham and Bean soup

Even better,  there will be some soup and beans to be frozen for a lunch the next week
Any leftover cheese  or chicken will be mixed with leftover pasta for a casserole or stuffed baked potatoes the following week.

Menu for the week:
Breakfast - work day oatmeal (with some powdered milk and cinnamon mixed in)  and tea or coffee or egg with toast or a homemade muffin
sourdough raspberry muffin

weekend - hash-browns with any leftover onions and scrambled eggs or omelette  or pancakes made with leftover plain yogurt and a fried egg

Lunch - For Partner:  peanut butter or chicken sandwich (sliced or chicken salad with veggie or fruit bits left from the previous weekend) with Swiss and homemade mayo and an apple
Homemade baked potato chips (400 F. oven, lightly coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with non stick spray.  Slice potatoes super thin with food processor and place 1/4 inch apart on sheet.  Season and bake, rotating halfway trough until golden brown - about 30 minutes)
extra fruit for afternoon snack
homemade peanut butter or oatmeal cookie

For me:  baked potato with a bit of salsa and cottage cheese with some carrots,  applesauce for dessert

or

Cottage cheese or leftover soup or casserole from the freezer with a slice of bread and a small apple
an extra fruit for a snack
Lebanese herbed rice - with homegrown herbs and bulk cow, less than .75 cents a serving

weekend lunches - boxed  mac and cheese to which I've added a little leftover corn, a little leftover chicken or ground beef, a little pepper and salsa, topped with buttered bread crumbs and baked
canned green beans

Leftover barbecue shredded chicken served on homemade rolls with extra sauce and canned corn.

Baked potato stuffed with  leftover veggies, salsa, cheeses, whatever bits are in the fridge.

leftover soups or stews (frozen)

leftover pizza

Dinners:

(1) Split Pea Soup (from Scratch) with potatoes and onions (beef bone to add seasoning)
Cornbread from scratch
Carrots

(2) Meat Sauce and Pasta (made with  from scratch sauce from previous week, adding peppers and ground beef).
Zucchini
Canned corn
Garlic toast (homemade bread, a little oil and garlic powder toasted in a pan)
S
Lasagna bread

(3) Baked potatoes stuffed with meat sauce with a sprinkle of cheese or lasagne bread (meatsauce, 3 cheese stuffed day old rolls)
Can of peas and carrots
Fresh green beans

(4) Homemade lentil soup (beef bone and spices for seasoning)
leftover cornbread
carrot sticks

(5) Chicken with  homemade canned barbecue sauce
Steamed rice
Canned corn
Remainder of fresh green beans


(6)   Pizza Night - deep dish this time, homemade. topped with  homemade Canadian bacon (much cheaper than the store bought), leftover veggies bits  and cheese
Carrots
Romaine salad with cucumber and homemade vinaigrette.  Croutons made out of older bread.

(7) White beans with ham shank and spices
Garlic toast made with homemade bread, sprinkled with a little cheese
Carrots or canned veggies of choice.
Cookies for dessert and some sweet tea sitting out on the front porch

So whether you are budgeting or just learning to be more prepared, start getting creative in the kitchen and with your meal prep and prepping.  It might save you more than a little money some day.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Barkley Memory - Sage Advice

Let go of the life that was planned.
 Only then can you see the life that was waiting.
 -  The Book of Barkley

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Lessons From Our Parents


There is no greater enhancement to beauty, than confidence.
- Brigid

I found it there in the closet of my big brother's room, a little Savage, that had been my Dad's. It still had no child safety lock and didn't when I first picked it up when I was 12.

My parents believed in providing us challenges. I was on the back of a big horse before I was even tall enough to climb on without assistance. At first I sat with an intrepid awkwardness, even with some lessons and the adventuresome spirit that seems to have been inherited by all the women in our family. The mare had been ridden by all the kids in the family and she seemed to sense my timidity and moved slowly and patiently as I took measure of her and myself as my parents watching carefully. I broke into a grin as she began to pick up speed with my encouragement. Leaning forward I let out a yell as we broke into a gallop, as if by doing so I could outpace the mare. We ran out free of the fence lines, free of ourselves, racing with a quality of movement in our motion totally separate from the pound of hooves or the whoop of joy as I discovered flight in its oldest form. So it was with all discoveries my parents exposed us to in that wild country, the next of which was in the form of that Savage .22.


For my parents a firearm wasn't some purpose of evil, but something that would help us learn and grow, with learning to use it as important as the possession. I held it, wood smooth under my hand, the sun at the quarry where we would shoot it shining off of the barrel. When I touched it, I felt an excitement of responsibility and promise whose reason I could not put into words at that age, being too young to articulate that. I felt responsible. Yes. Responsible. For something that cost most than many months allowance would ever replace. Responsible for the trust my parents put in me in handing over the legacy of guns in our house. Responsible for myself, my brothers. To use it properly.

So we watched, we learned. We started with soda cans in that old quarry, or out in the woods, using the center of the can as a little target area. We were well aware that for an adult it was a right, but a child it was a privilege, and one we worked hard at our schoolwork and chores, to maintain. Responsibility had to be earned. Trust had a price.

We paid attention, we listened. It didn't mean we didn't make mistakes, but they weren't potentially deadly ones. We weren't taught just how to clear a misfire, or clean our weapon or to hit a nice grouping. We were given the talents to be safe and ethical shooters, guardians of an outdoor heritage of survival, stewards of the essential liberties which we now pass on to our children.

When we showed we could handle the smaller rifles and shotguns, a family member let us try out an 8 mm Mauser. It was heavy, it seemed to be as long as I was tall, and when I fired it, the recoil about knocked me down. There was a flash of powder and light as Thor's hammer struck in a slow, solid repercussion of sound and force that I felt all the way down my legs, in muscles and places I'd forgotten I had. Then the air cleared, a vacuum, an interval of recognition and amazing clarity and I knew something; in the tremble of flesh and the warmth of my hands. I wanted this. I wanted this again. I don't care if it will probably hurt me some in the process.

So many days where we would go out. We shot until we were out of ammo and our arms ached, and even then, worn out from the day, handed the guns back carefully with deep and somnolent reluctance. Even today I feel that, ammo can echoing, trigger finger aching from the pull of the .38, and I hate to leave - one more, one more shot. Please. The last bullet is carefully loaded, and its discharge explodes into sound; a report out of proportion to the small piece of air it pushed aside, as if by firing it obtained some sort of ravening possibility, not to be inhibited by anything, not by threat, or by cold or by wind. It fired in a burst of sound that put one last neat clean hole through the dead center of the target. Then the echo of silence.

I gather my range gear in an old green military tote bag in which are a just a few pistol pouches and supplies. The bag is old and worn, not much different than that I used as a child. The smell of gunpowder kissing my hair, the ache in my arm and my hand making me feel so very alive, no different than those days so long ago. In the quiet of a range gone cold, I hear my Dad's voice in my head. Well done kiddo, well done. I'd been here two hours, I could tell that from the sun, and the sound of the many birds in the trees. They were everywhere, constant and ceaseless, happy, chattering along with the various conversations as the shooters took a break. Shooters sharing information, knowledge and history, just as my parents shared with us.


I was a bit stiff, the knee aching as it does when there is a pressure change in the atmosphere.  But the walk to the truck parked away from the range line would cure that, the urgent beating of my heart timed with the slap of the gun bag against my hip as I covered the distance across the now empty parking lot. My weapon, so much different than my first, yet still a paladin of equity, a fighter for justice.

I walk with that steady gait that is both aim and purpose, being free with that singular carrying of arms that abrogates both timidity and hesitation. It's a stride borne of training and practice so as to relegate fear to a place far away. I may be alone, but I am safe. I am safe because someone loved me enough to give me the tools to be confiden

Thursday, April 21, 2016

RIP Prince - Gently Weeping


Prince's music and his genius were the reason he was one of the few musicians that pulled me away from a budding career and schooling, a schedule too busy for the usual interests of young people. But I listened, so much and more than once, standing in line in West Coast rain to see the movie Purple Rain, and buying the music, even though money was beyond tight. That music got me through make ups, break ups, bad landings, and bad decisions, as I finally came into my own.

Look at the video. 2004 George Harrison Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction with Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff: Lynne and George's Son, Dhani Harrison. There  about 34 seconds in, when he picks the high E rapidly, while alternatively fretting the note and leaving it open. I’ve never seen anyone do this since. . . ever. Whether you are a fan or not, this is guitar legend. The look on George Harrison's son behind him says it all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Finders Keepers

Keep it, or throw it out?

In cleaning out the closest and drawers as winter clothing is cleaned and tucked away in storage, it's sometimes not an easy decision. Some items can be mended, but only if there is enough wear left to make it worth the time and effort.  Some items, that look like someone lost a jousting match with a paint can, are easier to toss away.

Most of us regularly go through our things, to clear space, to create room for new things, sometimes to the point it's almost an obsession.  I've met people that can not function if they don't shop almost daily, often for things they don't need, and can't afford, just because they have a psychological  need to buy something. I once was sent to a home that had belonged to a hoarder. There was barely any light but for the lamps, items piled up over window height; a gloom that  brooded over the clutter, as if angered by the light that came only with the flip of a switch. A single person lived there, with no room for family, for visitors, only for more possessions, most of which were in bags never opened.
I found that unbearably sad; even more so than the reason I was there.

Yet, in some ways, all of us are prone to gather up "things" that take up space.  I certainly have more lathe bits around than are likely allowed by law, and there are pots and pans of every conceivable size in the kitchen. There's also copies of cooking magazines, and oh, so many books. But those are things we use and re-read.

My first home on my own was a showpiece.  Three levels, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, full of beautiful new furniture, art and all the trappings of success.  I spent all of my time and money maintaining itwhich left little time or money for anything else. I liked to say I loved it, yet after another night alone in that place, but for Barkley, I had to admit to myself that there was a visceral response to the terrible loneliness of that open space, and I yearned for the lean days where life was simple and full of hope.

Giving most of it to charity; paring it down to just those things I really cherished, was the most liberating thing I've ever done.
I remember standing out that night in the woods a few weeks after I sold the house, duty having called, finding sense in the senseless, finding my purpose even as sparrows fall to earth. People watching from a distance would think me too quiet, too still, shouldn't this activity be a frenzy of lights and motion, like on TV?  But there is great activity in being the quiet observer, standing in a stillness that smells of silence,  breathing in so many scents in damp cold  air. Sweat, blood and a flower that only blooms in the dark, the wind so scant it's like breath on a mirror. Each smell blended yet distinct, always overlaid with the copper tang of life spilled. The air hums along to the nights quiet as all I see, smell and feel, forms into a substance I can almost feel on my flesh, capturing it, recording it there in the stillness. The truth is often still, inarticulate, not knowing it is the truth.
I knew then what my reality was, and it was not that house full of "things" Our reality is held only by us, not by others. They can only see the show, never really knowing what they are truly seeing.

Now my house is tiny, warm, full of the abandoned and reclaimed, almost every bit of wooden furniture rescued from a curb and restored. So much history here, so much laughter as that work was done. I look at it now, not with that quick glance that is a short day, greedily grabbed and then forgotten, but in the sustained light of memories made.

It was a busy weekend of "spring cleaning",  an old broken washing machine left out by the trash where it soon disappeared as planned, by others that look to take what is cast off and make something worthwhile from it. There were also bags of trash and non repairable clothing and such out in the bin to be discarded. The sun was setting, the sky and the horizon welded in one bright spark, soon to be snuffed out.  Everything around me dissolved into that last bit of warmth, bags of trash, heavy in my arms, everything in them at one time, fashioned out of love, duty or desire, which all bear their own weights.
Then, with everything out to be picked up, it was time to call Dad. For Dad is the one, person, more than anyone I know, who understands the importance of letting go and holding on.

I've written of it here before, as it's a journey many a family has been on,   Seventeen years into a happy remarriage after my Mom died from cancer, my stepmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She had long term care insurance, something she and her late husband had policies for. It covered nursing care, but Dad steadfastly refused to put her in a home, caring for her at home, even in his own declining years.
The disease's progression was as predictable as its course was certain.  Mood swings and aggression, words that made no sense, dropping to the floor like marbles, tears as she tried to mentally gather them up, anger at the very air around her. She always was gentle with my Dad though. Only with him would she remain calm, the reasoning that was blind and deaf somehow responding to something in him that her mind could still see.

Dad cared for her at home, no matter how bad it got. We couldn't visit, for we were strangers, and she'd go into a hysterical fury if we tried to enter the home.  Dad was her calm and her constant.  We arranged for someone to come in and lend a hand a few hours a week with the cooking and housework but he refused to let anyone else care for "his girl" or to send her to skilled nursing care. When she passed, it was quite sudden, after she contracted pneumonia. From her sudden coughing to her collapse, was just days.

Sometimes when you get to the far edge, the edge just breaks away.
We laid her to rest  on tree covered hill top. We visit, we bring flowers, we hug and shed some tears, neither of us immune to having our heart broken.  Then we smile through the tears, sharing their stories as we make the long trip home to photos and a little stuffed bear wearing the colors of the flag.

One of those photos is one of she and  Dad on their first date, and you could see something in their smiles that would be lost on so many people. Not many people could have cared for her by themselves as my Dad did, for so long.  But I understand.  Love is a story that tells itself.

On my couch is a the form of a black dog. Dumped during the holidaysheartworm positive at a high kill shelter. She responds with great plaintive urgency to the sound of small children laughing as well as men walking while smoking a cigarette.  The first time I witnessed it, I cried. Apparently she was with a family, with a smokermoney for cigarettes but not for the medicine that would have kept her safe.

Rescued, and recovering from a sometimes brutal treatment for the disease; we adopted her.  What was one person's decision to be rid of a burden was a saving grace in a house that had a gaping hole in it.
What we hold on to and what we let go, is as telling as the words we say. It took me years to understand it, but the words of Henry David Thoreau make perfect sense to me now.

"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it".

I realized that there were certain things, and in the past, even certain people, that simply violated my sense of thrift, exacting things out of me well beyond their worth. That concept was  lost to me when I was young, but as I got older, with truth stripped of its clock of immortality, it was clear.
As I take out some things to be picked up by AmVets, I look around me. Shadows move like ghosts over the sun, deepening the grass to the color of jewels. The last bit of snow has melted, the dark earth trembling to release spring's flowers.  At the side of a house an old trellis that needs to be repaired before new life grabs onto it yet again.  I gather it close to my chest to take it inside to be mended, rather than tossed away.  This is my home I think, as I bend my face down to it, breathing in the scent of old wood, holding the weight securely as I move inside.  I could bury my face in it, this small thing to be salvaged from this place that I had always been seeking..

Home and love, love and desire, can be what propels us silently onward.  Hope and love,  love and desire, can also be merely sounds, that people who have never hoped or loved or desired have for what they never possessed, and will not until such time as they forget the words. 
 - Brigid

Monday, April 18, 2016

Happy Birthday Mr. B.

Yes, I know they are your panties. I'm blaming Stockholm Syndrome and I did it for the Cat.

Happy Birthday

. - for many years of friendship and memories, especially those with our four legged friends.

Brigid

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016

When Dogs Dream

We've all seen our dogs when they dream. The back legs may twitch, sometimes they give out a soft little woof.  Barkley on more than occasion gave out a long  mournful howl, like the Hound of the Baskervilles.

But I wonder - what does Abby Normal dream she is doing?  Is she having an adventure?  Is she famous? Is she stealing stuffed animals with squeakers?













I guess I'll never know.