Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Is it wrong to want Deviled Eggs at Christmas time?

Didn't sleep well last night. Watching the Christmas Light program for two hours while wedged into the love seat with daughter #2 left me with a strained back and pain in every joint of my body. Getting old stinks. Feeling pain stinks more.
Anyway, I was up half the night trying to find a comfortable place anywhere in the house for my aching body.
And thinking about deviled eggs.

I could make them easily enough. Right now, actually.
Hard boiled eggs, mayo, two kinds of mustard, sometimes horseradish...done.
But that would require me to go downstairs and start the process.
I'm still sore and miserable.

So, I guess there will not be deviled eggs today.

But why am I even thinking about that?
And since this is the time of good cheer and love and all that, and the birth of Jesus, how come I'm even thinking of something with the word "devil" in it?

Bring me back to the 1950s.
My mom getting ready for one of the few big parties they ever held.
Trying to make hors d'oerves (I can't ever spell that word) with Ritz crackers and assorted gooey things to put on them.

My mom, I do love her so, but she really wasn't an imaginative cook. Or a really good one. So, for her, Ritz crackers had Kraft pimento cheese spread thinly on them, or caponata from a can of Progresso stuff, or some of that deviled ham spread with the little red devil rampant on the paper cover.
This fits right in with the deviled eggs I have been craving!

It's not the devil bedeviling me into coming over to the Dark Side, it's a fond memory. I learned how to make deviled eggs at her side.

People partied differently back then. There were lots of mixed drinks going around in appropriately shaped glasses. Hi Balls came in tall glasses with little sleeves on them so the hand could grip the icy glass better. Every house had a cocktail shaker. Vermouth was popular, I don't know why. Four Roses was in every house for parties. I don't even know what kind of whisky that is, but my parents did. Beer flowed gently. People dressed to the nines. Men in suits and women in dresses with wide skirts and small waistlines. Nobody wore blue jeans. There was a sort of elegance, but not really. Not compared to the parties rich people had.

Ritz crackers, Kraft pimento cheese spread in a little glass container, caponata and deviled ham. Not even a cheese plate and most certainly, no veggie platters because nobody had ever heard the word crudites. God forbid!

But deviled eggs were just fine.

Friday, December 18, 2015


If you have ever seen the movie Old Yeller, you will understand.
Spoiler alert: the dog dies and everybody cries.

I don't know how old I was when the movie came out, but we saw it at the Brook Theater in Bound Brook, NJ. Showing with it was some sort of Disney life in the desert movie. I remember running up to the candy stand to avoid seeing the snakes...and there were lots of snakes. So many, they almost made me forget the end of Old Yeller.

But not really.
Here, so many years later, dwelling in the shadow of this movie and hearing all sorts of publicity about the current Star Wars movie, I guess I draw a parallel.

But I won't spoil it for those who have not seen the movie. I haven't even seen the movie, but I know what happens and Old Yeller flashes before my eyes.

Dogs cannot die in a book or a movie without getting a very negative reaction. About the worst thing, next to the protagonist in a story biting the dust, is to have the beloved dog die. Cats never die in books or movies, but dogs die horrid deaths frequently. I can rattle off at least five important dog deaths in books/movies that tore our hearts out. But no cats.  They never reach the end of their nine lives.

We've had a few dogs. Not as many as other people, and we haven't had one in about fifteen years, but last night I remembered the demise of those beloved pets and it hurt all over again. More than the lost babies I never really got to see, the dogs had been with us a long time and loved us as much as we loved them.

No, they are not more important than people. Lots of lovely people I know have passed away and their deaths hurt me terribly. But in a weird way, not like Old Yeller. I can view the dog romping through the fields with Tommy Kirk and Moochie over and over. The loved ones who are gone, though, I can't flip a switch and see them laughing and singing and hugging me any time I want.

There's something oh so sad about this, but you can't make something happen that didn't happen when it should have.

Tell the people you love how much you love them. Do it now! Don't wait. Don't put it off! Do it now.
You need to do this for your own sake.

Old Yeller was a good dog, until the end.
Remember that.
Think of the good times, not the bad.
Tell people you love them today!

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Things I am sick and tired of and have absolutely no way of fixing:

This gun shit.
This shooting shit.
Stupid people.
Not sleeping enough.
Cluttered house.
Cluttered counters in kitchen.
Dirt and dust.
The never ending cavalcade of bullshit which I am subjected to all day long, every day.
The insipid use of 24/7. the word "icon" when you refer to somebody famous, Beach Front Bargain Hunt and the ilk where people put three kids of opposite sex (well, two of them) in one cheapass bedroom.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The First Thanksgiving

No native Americans, no Pilgrims, no venison or pumpkins or beans or corn.
Pity, that.
What we did do was have Thanksgiving dinner at a colonial era tavern in a quiet part of the county with my mother, brother and his wife. Just the girls and Herb and me.
And a thousand other people.

Now I know why we have never ever done this before and will never do it again.
The old tavern was a slew of tiny rooms and one big one, even rooms upstairs which we did not get into, thank you very much. It was difficult enough going from our table (which was between some weird wooden columns and very tiny) to the buffet (which I must confess was quite good and plentiful) and back to the table through four little rooms and one big one and a bar. Holding a plate in one hand and my cane in the other. But I made it before I dropped the plate.
Because it is such an old place, the wide plank floor was squishy and very uneven, which is disturbing because since I can't feel my feet very well, it was like walking on water.

There were lots of elderly people, lots of little kids, lots of women with sneers on their mugs (probably thinking this was a pain in the butt and wishing they had stayed home), an abundance of canes and walkers. With Herb only having one hand to use, me with the cane and thus one hand, and Mom being so tiny and confused looking...we fit right in.

Karyn wasn't nuts about the whole restaurant idea. She and Elyse proclaimed that they would make Thanksgiving dinner next year.

Maybe their cousins will be off work and be able to join us.
Maybe we'll all be together, which would be super nice.
Like it has been for so many years. Just nine people I love at one table.

We neglected to say grace.
That wasn't good.
So I will write it now, the way it was said once a year at our house when I was growing up.

Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, through  Christ our Lord...Amen.

Amen and God bless us all!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Go away!

Uncle Gene was the third of five brothers, one having died quite young, another born well after him. He passed away at the age of 73...by dropping dead while eating Chinese food for his birthday. At my mother's kitchen table. Just another story about this uncle...one who was extremely dear to my heart.

Unk was a state champion wrestler in high school. An Eagle Scout. He was in the Navy during WWII and later the Merchant Marines. He traveled the world and brought all his nieces and nephews fabulous presents from everywhere. At one time, this adventurous man owned a Ferris Wheel and ran with a carnival. When he was off ship, he loved the horses and made a comfortable living at the racetrack.

 I never heard him say anything bad about anyone who wasn't a moron or a hypocrite.
Just before his father passed away, he made Gene promise to take care of his mother, which he did until she died. He attended mass every week. He loved his family and his grand nieces and nephews. All of them.  I can't even count how many there were.

But Uncle Gene didn't tolerate nonsense from people. In his vast wisdom, garnered from years of traveling the world, he was very quick to size up people. The non-tolerating of morons is a genetic trait in our family and this kind, gentle giant spoke from the heart and mind at all times.

Now, I am writing this for a purpose. With the current world situation in the aftermath of Paris and the World Trade Center and the horrors in Africa and every other place where people have been randomly killed off...I have to comment for my uncle as he is not here to give his opinion.

Remember, he was a good man and a tolerant one, but he was not god.

He used to do the shopping for my mother and an aunt and my husband and me for the girls. He would go well out of his way to get bargains or special toys or videos for my kids...going to a store early in the morning just to be the first to get The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, etc. 'cause my kids loved the stories. He did it for them.

But we all have limits.
One day, while standing in line at a local supermarket, he was behind some younger woman who was bellyaching to her friend. "Oh, this is so expensive. It's so much cheaper in Pennsylvania. In fact, everything is so much nicer in Pennsylvania. How can you stand to live in Jersey?"

Very quietly, Uncle stepped closer to her and said in the nicest tone possible, "Lady, if it's so much better in Pennsylvania, why don't you go back and stay there?"

When I thought up this little post, I had a good reason. It meant something to me to write it. Now, I realize it might not actually fit in with the situation in the world. Unless what I meant was that if you keep bitching about something but are not about to do anything to change things, maybe you better shut up.

The whole story doesn't really apply to anything...unless you stop and think that the people who have left their homes in faraway lands have no homes to go back to. Uncle Gene would have seen through all the fears and gotten straight to the point. To those who have no place to go...America's supposed to be the best place to go. We're sorry you have no place left to call home. We'll see what we can do about that. I hope.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Veterans' Day

Tomorrow, the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, is designated as a day to honor all veterans of all the wars, those living and those long gone, for their service and sacrifices.
I live with one of those men. I was nearly considered a veteran myself, having been a WAC one summer, but I don't really qualify except for knowing part of what these people went through.
All honor is theirs.

In my brief experience of boot camp and being treated as an officer...I saw all sides of the army and myself.
I was not suited for the rigors of military life. Here I was, 21 years old, sent off willingly to Anniston, Alabama (a hole in the world) in the middle of that ugly Vietnam war. I knew so many men over there...my own brother and eventual husband. They were there fighting for their lives while I was suffering in the hot Alabama sun.

It wasn't fun, even the brief time I spent in the army.
The tedium. Standing for hours for absolutely nothing. Learning army protocol then marching. Lining up to get a meal, eating in a rush to line up to stand for nothing again. Marching with a pack to nowhere. Crawling, jumping, climbing on an empty belly at dawn. Not my idea of fun summer camp.

But you want to know why?  How I got myself into that situation?
Because my college was closed down in protest to the war.

Jerks from Rutgers came up to agitate, causing all sorts of trouble. Two guys came into my lit class and started screaming. This was one of the classes I did not share with any veterans, but my brother was over there, risking his life for these morons.  One guy, I will describe in the immortal Eric Burdon's word as "a long haired leaping gnome" actually jumped over a desk in his fervor, right in front of me. I told him to get the hell out of my face because my brother was currently in Nam. I didn't appreciate this asshole with some red masking tape over one lens of his eyeglasses and red paint dripped over his t-shirt.
As I look back on it now, I see it as sort of a loud pantomime of reality. His, not mine.

So I decided to enlist or see if I could do something. I was filled with as much fervor as this guy, only pro-the soldiers serving at the time.
I went to an enlistment center and found out about spending my summer in Alabama at Fort McClellan, to learn how to be a WAC officer. I did take the opportunity. If I stayed, I'd have my college paid for. I would also owe the Army two further years of my life.
I went.
I learned lots of things: the Army is hard on the soft human body, it is loud and dangerous and exhausting. I also learned that there was way too much Mickey Mouse (military slang for bullshit) for me to tolerate. After all, I am not a physical person, I'm more mental and creative. But it was good to know what was going on and how necessary it is for some people to be in the military.
Just not me.

It is different now. Instead of being separate, women and men work together. I could never have done it. The women who qualified as Rangers were extraordinary. I'd never have been able to do all that without killing myself.
And women at that time were not allowed to carry firearms, except officers. Now they can blow the hell out of enemies...something I applaud, only I wish no one had to worry about such a horrible thing.

I wasn't military stuff, though I was asked repeatedly to sign up. A WAC didn't do much more than paperwork and fill in for men at that time. What they did was important and necessary, but not really active. The old laws about women being weaker than men held fast. And, their softness assisted in being something for the active men to want and date. Perhaps people thought that was their most important part of being in the military...it wasn't true, but people thought that. They actually thought WACS were whores. Nurses were treated differently, but in the old days, like WWII, WACS were not thought of highly enough.

It's different now. Or is it? I don't know for sure, but I understand that women are mistreated, raped, ignored, worried about, shot at, blown up...all while being women.

It wasn't for me. I learned a great deal and will never forget what I learned about the Army and war and the men and women who serve.
We owe them our very existence.
We should honor them every day.
We should thank God that they are willing to sacrifice themselves for their country if necessary.
They deserve so much more than our country seems to be willing to give them back.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


I've written about this in other places, at other times.
My Hallowe'en was first of all, spelled that way. All Hallow's Evening, as a contraction. That goes back to when people cared.

We would dress up in costumes, never store bought. Sometimes we were bums. Once, Mom cut up an old fur coat to make my older brother a cave man. Another time, he wore one of her bridesmaid dresses and heels and a wig.
I remember being a bum. I remember being a cowgirl. I was a minuteman one year because we'd been to Williamsburg and I had a tricorn hat. One year someone lent us a toreador costume, with a weird hat and I wore that. No princesses, no gypsies, no brides. Only what we could fix up and Mom, bless her, wasn't very creative.

But here's the thing. We would trick or treat for miles! Our immediate neighborhood had three solid streets of houses shoulder by shoulder. Good pickin's. Then there was a newer development with three more streets of "ranch" houses. We'd go there and even sometimes across the brown bridge to the other side of the lake because we knew lots of people over there.

And nearly every house gave out "nickel bars". These, back when candy was candy, were about the size of three or four mini-bars of today.
Sometimes people tried to pawn apples off on us.
Sometimes they put little candy corn stuff in a bag with a penny. That got chucked.

One house even took our pictures...I wonder where Mrs. Gillings put them. Wish I could see them all.

Hallowe'en was and will always be, the best day of the year.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The end

There is no fruit or vegetable better, in my opinion, than a tomato nurtured and grown in the red shale soil of New Jersey.
Yes, other places grow tomatoes. Lots of 'em.
California, North Carolina, Mexico, Chile. Sure. They grow 'em. But they don't taste like ours.
Unfortunately, because we are a northern state with cold winters and late springs, we can only plant the seedlings in mid-May, perhaps pick the first by mid-July and enjoy them until the first week of October if we are lucky.

The first hard frost kills the plants completely.

We had our first hard frost yesterday.

Now, all the red globes of pure delight are shriveled and deceased.

No more baloney, mayo and tomato sandwiches on squishy white bread for me.

One of my English friends once told me she'd heard about Jersey tomatoes and thought they came from the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel.  I had to correct her misconception.

No tomato could possibly be better than those grown in the Garden State.

And now they're gone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Home from the war the hard way

       Going around to the side of the house, he looked up toward the light coming from Number Five.
      She was there, silhouetted, leaning against the window, traced in silver from starlight. 
      To his eternal shame, his body reacted to the vision of her, wanting to take her in his arms and hold her, smell her hair, feel the softness of her body against his.
      How much torture could one man take?
      He went inside. Flicked on one light. Pulled down the shade, remembering her intriguing silhouette and his reaction to it. He swallowed hard.
      To add to his torture, he opened the closet door in the big bedroom he had claimed for himself.  In the back, where he’d shoved it, stood his duffel bag.  Someone had delivered it from the Army hospital to here, the only address he had been able to give anyone, back when his aunt and uncle were still alive. He guessed they didn’t know what to do with it, either, but had put it away to be safe.
       For when he came back.
       He’d never looked to see what was inside, but now he did. Anything to take his mind off…things.  It stunk.  A mixed odor of body and seawater and whisky and military. GIs all over the world recognized that stink, especially if it had been some time since it had last been encountered.   Canvas.    
        Musty canvas.
        Ah, hell, he hoped there wasn’t mold inside.
        He reached in and pulled out his kit, tossed it onto the bed. Some rolled up socks…pungent as all hell. Somebody must have gathered up his stuff and shoved it all into the duffel without caring what happened to the stuff. He probably would have done the same.
       Until he pulled out his uniform.
       Good Christ Almighty.
       Wrinkled enough to get him demoted, stiff, not as vividly colored as he remembered, but then, he had taken a head wound. Someone, however, had added new ribbons, including the Purple Heart.
Lee debated what to do with the stuff.
        “I ought to throw this shit away,” he growled.
        But in the end of the debate with himself, he couldn’t. Instead, he hung up the uniform jacket, tried to smooth out the wrinkles but gave up.
       Some day, when the world is straightened out and all this shit is a bad memory, I might need to wear it in a parade.


Monday, October 12, 2015


In My Fair Lady, the great movie with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, when they come home from the party where he has successfully passed her off in society as a lady...some kind of Hungarian princess to be exact, he asks for the jewelry she is wearing to be given back as "it is rented". She assumes he thinks she will steal it unless it is put away in the safe, so she throws a hissy fit, removes the jewelry and hands it over, but she has a small ring on her finger that she doesn't want to take off because "you gave it to me, you bought it for me" somewhere. She's in love with Higgins. But she's also pissed off and throws it at him. It lands in the firebox, which fortunately is not lit.

After he leaves her to stew, she rushes over to retrieve the ring. It is all she will have of him because the experiment is over and she is to leave. She got what she wanted...she can speak like a lady and can work in a flower shop, not sitting on the curb in Covent Garden selling flowers by the stem.

My gripe is...it would have been so much more significant if somewhere in their travels together, the filmmaker had shown the purchase of that ring.
It comes out of nowhere and the significance is lost, at least on me.

Onward. Yesterday on the Hallmark Channel was a movie about a woman who inherits her sister's five Amish kids and how they don't adjust to living in the modern English world. Well, it turns out some of them do, but there has to be the drama. Their aunt leaves them back in Amishland because that is what they so desire. She drives off, in tears, because she had grown to like them, even if they didn't much like her, but she was their mother's sister. Moving along, she is driving away and they realize they were shits and had hidden a letter from their mother to the aunt/sister in which she asked that she take the children. The eldest didn't give it to the aunt because she was a selfish prig, Amish or no. She was at least that bit human.
I'm getting to the point.

They ride in a buggy after the woman in the Suburban with the license plate reading "write4u" (she was a journalist) and after several missed opportunities, they catch up with her. I kept thinking the poor old horse ( named Dobbin) was gonna die, but it didn't. Anyway, they stop her from leaving, give her the letter to read; they ask her to STAY and there is a group hug. So she's gonna stay in Amishland with them. Last scene has her sitting at a table lit by kerosene lamps, working on her laptop.

When is she going to recharge it?????

Continuity, folks!
Make sure when you're writing something, anything, that it flows and is logical and that you don't mention something in the end that you have not alluded to in the beginning, especially if it is going to be very important later on!

That ring should have been at least mentioned earlier in the movie. We would have known how much it meant to her. Digging in the ashes showed how very much she cared, and how very much she was hurt.

I missed mention of that letter in the Amish story...I may have dropped off, and I must assume, since it was a made for TV movie, that since the letter was so important, it had been made apparent.
Okay, this isn't really continuity, but, for heaven's sake...where is this woman going to charge her computer in Amishland?  No way. Do something. Don't bother showing it! Have her call in from a phone booth or at least show her in the Lancaster PA Starbucks doing her writing.

Yes, I am in a bad mood. Over the weekend I had my empathy drained from me and it's going to take a while to get it back. I need a recharge of good feelings. But I can plug myself in readily here in my torn apart house.

Once more...house construction. Will it ever end?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Good morning, Wretched Refuse!

I woke up this morning with that poem about the Statue of Liberty going through my brain. For some unknown reason, I have memorized the first stanza...probably because it was a song or I did it for the heck of it. But it goes something like this:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,
The wretched refuse of the teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless tempest toss'd to me!
I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.

This is what Emma Lazarus thought of the onslaught of refugees and immigrants who showed up in America. I don't know much about her, but as I thought about her words, I kind of got angry.

I have absolutely no Native American ancestors. All my people came to America from some other teeming shore. They were tired and poor and I assume since they came here in steerage, they did some huddling.
But I draw the line at them being considered wretched refuse.

They were uneducated, but hard-working folks who learned English and lived the American Dream. They didn't accept any sort of hand-outs; they paid for what they had. They did not keep one foot in the old country while reaping the benefits of this new land. They weren't wretched nor were they garbage.

Ms. Lazarus, Gosh, I hope you weren't sitting in some posh apartment in NYC penning this! I hope you didn't scold your maid if she was a tick late getting you your toast and eggs.

But I am being unfair. I gotta look her up. She may have been a welfare worker or a church lady who helped immigrants assimilate into the US. BRB

Okay, I looked her up. She was born in NYC as I guessed, of Sephardic Jewish parents, so that may have qualified her as in the know. She did work with immigrants, wrote poems about them, championed various causes to uplift the poor and died of cancer.
I apologize, Ms. Lazarus, for thinking you hated my grandparents.

But I still don't care for the wretched refuse bit.
Oh, unless you're writing about the earlier immigrants called the colonists.
Now, considering the religious refugees and the prisoners shipped over here to the new world to chop down trees to make their own homes, to learn from and fight off Native Americans upon whose sacred land they encroached...hey, let's not forget these folks!
Remember when Castro unloaded the mental defectives and prisoners on US?
Various kings and governments from Europe did that long before Fidel.

Most of the ordinary people who came from England, say, had their crimes branded onto their hands.  Now those might be considered wretched and possibly dangerous.
Or were they?

I'm glad my ancestors, those teeming masses, got here. It must have been a hard trip and what was waiting for them was no picnic. No streets lined with gold. No free land, but a land of the free.
That's what my ancestors, my assorted relatives wanted!

Thank you for coming here, for facing all those trials and tribulations!
Thank you, homeless tempest toss'd!

You did the right thing.
But I'm glad none of you could read the English words at the base of Liberty Enlightening the World.
Best not go there.

Thanks for everything.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Thank yous

On a game show this morning, in honor of October being Breast Cancer awareness month, all the women in the audience were breast cancer survivors or those who supported them through their trials. I know how hard it is to be there for someone fighting cancer, so I was hoping everybody would win something. But when the women were given the opportunity to salute people on TV for the whole viewing audience to see, they thanked their doctors and nurses and therapists and family and their supporters. Made me think.

There are some people I need to thank for lots of things.

First, I have a little story. Back in 1987, with Elyse born and me pregnant with a month or more to go, I started bleeding.  Having lost three babies already, I called my doctor and all he could say was "Call 911" over and over in a panic. Well, we didn't have 911 yet and my husband was somewhere doing a side job. All I remembered was part of the customer's last name and that the street had some kind of water in it.
I called 411 and got a live person after awhile. I have no idea what her name is, but she performed a small miracle. I told her the circumstances. I told her the town and the partial surname I remembered, and the fact that the street had some kind of water in the name.
God bless her to this day.
She found a phone number. The street was Running Brook or something like that, the town was right.
I thanked her profusely and called the number. I got the answering machine, but luckily, the message got through out loud, my husband heard it and, though half an hour or more away, he started home.

But there's more.
I was getting very shaky. I had my 14 month old running around, I feared I was going to miscarry, so I called my mother who said she was on her way and I called my neighbor across the street, Laurie Hazen. By this time, I was about crazy because the bleeding didn't stop.  Laurie had her toddler at home, but her husband was home, so she dropped everything and came over the calm me down.
Completely selfless, she came to help me when I really needed it.
I don't know if I ever truly got to thank her, so here it is now.
Thanks Laurie.

Mom came, took Elyse home with her. She had a nursery set up in her house, so all was good there. Husband came home...must have broken every speed limit...but he was there for us. We got to the hospital. Baby was coming.
Oh, did I mention it was a few days before Christmas???

The doctors tried to keep the baby from being born. We had loads of tests, were her lungs developed enough? Amniocentesis. No amniotic fluid left to test! This kid was done cooking!

Karyn was born Christmas Eve.
She was perfect, except her fingerprints weren't quite in there. They eventually showed up.

So...here is my thank you. I wish that operator could know how much she did for our family. I know my neighbor will read this and laugh, but it deserved to be written.
There are other people in my life who also deserve my gratitude, but that will have to come another day.

It is never too late to say "Thank you."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

One little thing

Something went through my brain this morning...a scene from my past...and I was determined to write about it as soon as I could. Here. It was a little moment of a memory, but it was interesting as I hadn't thought about it in years.

But, of course, I forgot what it was.

I've been searching my brain, trying to remember, but it is gone until the next mental hiccup (I usually write "hiccough" but this time I didn't) when it comes up again.

Now, there's the pity.
At the time I thought about this event, I realized that it would make good blog. That it would enrich the reader and make me happy for posterity, as I do sincerely hope this blog never goes away...not like LiveJournal which is dead to me.
And I wanted, no, needed to share.

But alas, it is gone.

I don't know whether to blame chemo brain or descending dementia. I hope it isn't dementia as I wouldn't really like to burden my loved ones with that. I remember all sorts of stuff from lots of times before the cancer...but afterwards...sometimes I actually go blank.

Words are the worst. If I am near someone who knows me well, they usually can supply those pesky missed words that were in my head one second and the next, vanished...poof! Just like that.
I hate to be speaking and have that blank come and people look at me and wonder what the hell is preventing me from saying it...but it is gone. My grey matter blackboard is wiped clean.

It is very frustrating.

Though, yesterday, Karyn and I gave a talk to some lovely mystery writers. I didn't miss a step or a word. Everything came out smoothly. What was I talking about? Paranormal stuff, stuff I've known since before college...and that is a long time ago. But it was clear. I didn't miss a word. I even made some jokes that made sense.

So why am I forgetting so much stuff?
Herb told me today that last year he made leek and potato soup. I hope he did and I hope I liked it. I don't remember it at all.

My biggest fear is that this is really serious and I am on the verge of forgetting all the great and fabulous things in my life and only remembering those things that keep me awake at night, wondering why the hell I did what I did when I did it.
Or not remembering anything at all.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Gimme an ah-hah moment, please

From The Mermaid Arms
Sometimes two crabs would be feeding at the same time and both would come up together and continue to fight in the bucket. Scrabbling and scratching against the metal.  Gurgling and smelling like salt water and seaweed and…wet crabs. The girls happily pulled in crab after crab, going through all the bait quickly.  
When the bucket was full, Lee stood, rubbed his leg and stretched out the stiffness.  “This ought to please your mama and Posey,” he declared.  “Let’s pack up and go back.”

Sally got up and twisted a few times while Lulu looked over at the bucket once more and announced, “Yes, mama will be pleased.”

“You’re terrific crabbers! Wish we could take a picture of your catch. I bet your daddy would like to see how well you did today.”

The little one shot him a look he didn’t understand, though he never really could read her expressions.  Lulu’s chin lowered to her chest.

“Our Daddy was lost at sea. He’s in heaven with Jesus now.”
Lee had no words.  His voice choked in his throat and he closed his eyes at his stupidity. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Can a person be gruntled if they can be disgruntled?

We were on vacation last week.
We were down the Jersey shore, one of my very best favorite places to be. It is there I got the idea for the Mermaid Arms story and I worked on it several times previously while there...we were in the same rental house we've used three previous times. It's a nice enough place, but it is showing its age and very little has been done to keep it up.

Anyway, I worked on the story that is being pieced together as I have mentioned about a million times before...following the timeline I wrote two years ago and tried to adhere to when the daughters helped me put all the pieces into one big file. Well, as I was reading, I came to two pieces of an event but could not find the first piece...the set up for the situation.
I searched, using those little helpful hints in  WORD like search and find.
Couldn't find it.
It actually kept me up, trying to figure out where this part was. I had the file on the laptop, but it was missing the first bit, also. I checked and rechecked the hard copy I always carry with me and came to realize if it wasn't there, it had to be somewhere because I remember writing it!
Where was it?

Ah hah! Elyse had put all these little bits and pieces into a sort of junk pile that I had not sent to the laptop.

The minute I got home, I came upstairs, turned on the old machine and searched the junk pile.
I found it easily enough...the fourth segment attached to something completely out of sync...something I just kept writing on without thinking of putting it where it belonged.
STUPID MOVE on my part for sure.

But I have to say this now. I think there is something pushing me to stay away from this story. After the sickness and the resulting  broken legs and all that problem with them and not being able to get around easily, and all the other BS I've survived (infectious disease, breast incident, teeth, sleep test) I still have it in the back of my head that if I finish this story, I will die.

You know the story about the Winchester mansion. The builder's father made the famous rifles that were used to kill Native Americans, slaughter them, really, and used in the Civil War and to kill off the bison. She was told to build this huge house but never to finish it. The architects had to build in stairs that went nowhere, rooms with no floors, all sorts of traps to capture the spirits of the dead who were surely haunting her. If the house was ever finished, she feared she would die because the ghosts were sure to get her.

I kinda feel that way about this story.
It is rather frightening.
I've faced death far too many times to give up the fight, so this story may never ever be done.

Too bad. It's at least 3/4 of the way done.

I'm being silly, I know.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Religion and marriage

If I found out my husband was a rat bastard who lied and cheated on me and molested little girls, no matter what religion I had, I'd dump the guy so fast his dick would spin off.
What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.
Well, if it is the man who is putting things asunder, let God punish him, not the wife who has to look at the lying, cheating, fornicating, perverse asshole every day.
Or better yet, if she feels some sort of obligation to remain in the same house because of the kids, I'd make sure there were plenty of separate bedrooms and locks on the kids' bedroom doors with access windows for them to escape.

Or something.

I hate liars and cheats. I also detest grown men who lie and cheat. Worse yet, I hate men who think it is perfectly okay to have sex outside of their marriage.
What would they think if their wives strayed?
Or worse yet, what would they think if their wives had a profile on that cheaters' website and they were matched?

Yes, I like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain.
Just not caught with someone else in my bed.

Rant over for now.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Changing times

Congratulations to Cpt. Kristen Griest and 1stLt. Shaye Haver for making it through West Point and the Army Rangers' program. It couldn't have been easy.

How do I know?

A long time ago, I was in the Women's Army Corps. I was a WAC. They don't exist any more and I wasn't in long enough to do much damage. There were plenty of young women, strong, courageous, talented, intelligent young women who were in for a full enlistment. To them, I tip my hat.

Basic training back then was hard, though not as hard as it was for men during the Vietnam War era. I wasn't athletic, but it sure would have helped. Most of the women who were with me (150 of them) were as soft and girly as I was. The physical pain and endurance was hard. Staying awake all night and marching five miles with a full pack in one day was hard. Attending classes for hours in the Alabama heat. Crawling on your belly, getting tear-gassed, buttoning buttons and zipping all zippers, scouring toilets and polishing floors...I consider that hard.

What these two abovementioned women did was stupendous.

I was a WAC because there was no other way I could support the fighters though not the war. I had to prove to myself that I could DO something, not just sit around and complain or watch television news and wonder if that was my brother being blown up. (He was there.)

But as much as I admire these women, something inside me, the real inner me who is old and physically past any prime I nearly had, wonders if it is going to be worth it. Is it going to be worth being the two Rangers in a field of so many strong, brave, powerful men who in the long run will probably be physically more fit because they're made that way?
Once again, I am thinking of myself in their boots and that is wrong. So wrong.

I wish you both enormous luck and safe journeys. Godspeed.
I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Daddy and the Hundred Dollar Bill

It was the 50s, to be sure, possibly '57 after we got the Pontiac.
I think, unless I am disremembering, that we were going on vacation...somewhere. We went on vacation every year, even if it was just upstate NY to see Niagara Falls again, hoping against hope to see the colored spotlights on the falls. It never happened, even when Herb and the girls and I went there some years ago.  I must bring on the breaking of the spotlights. Lucky me.

Anyway, we were going to go away. Dad must have gone to the bank to take out some traveling money because he came back with this great smile he was capable of smiling, the one he practiced in the mirror.
Mom called it his "shit eating grin". I think that was an ancient Ukrainian expression because I never heard anybody else ever use it. Stands to reason. Ukrainian expressions tended to involve fecal matter or wishes for dread diseases. I digress.
So Daddy walks in the side door with his grin in place and calls my older brother Jack and me over, he has something to show us.
We're all excited because Dad was not the demonstrative type, not really. But that grin let us know there was something afoot.

He bends down and takes a $100 bill from his wallet.
We gasp!
This is more money than we had ever seen in our lives. Jack had a paper route and regularly made about five bucks a week from it. He was a wealthy, hardworking young man. I probably had never held a dollar bill in my short life at this time.
And here was Dad, showing off his hundred dollar bill!
He was rich!
We were rich by proxy or proximity.

I don't know what happened to the money, how it got spent, if it got spent or put into the bank. Maybe we visited relatives in Canada that year and gave it to them...I don't know. They didn't seem poor to me, but Mom always gave them stuff. They were refugees, I was told. They came here with nothing. They couldn't come into the US for some reason, not to live, but I never knew or understood why. Not that Canada isn't a nice country, but, really. I was a kid, full of Eisenhower and patriotism.

That would be the end of this little story except for a little footnote: While driving our brand new Pontiac with a huge engine on one of the president's new superhighways, Daddy floored the engine and we went 100 miles an hour for a brief couple of yards! I know because we leaned over the back of the front seat and saw the speedometer slide over the 100 mark.

Wow. Such a little thing, such little things were so cool to unjaded kids in the '50s.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lee the ogre has an epiphany

     "Don't touch that!"
     Lulu and Sally jumped away from the guitar. Lulu's eyes rounded while her sister's immediately filled with tears.
     Lee stood framed in the doorway, scowling, looking down at the two girls who had edged away from the instrument.
     "Ah...no. Don't cry!" A sharp blade of guilt stabbed him.
The girls' reactions had ratcheted up to fat tears rolling down their rosy cheeks.
     He'd seen tears before. The little Italian kids, half starved and tattered, had rivulets of tears coursing down their dirty faces more often than not. At first, he had tossed chocolate bars and gum at them. After awhile, though, there had been so many damp faces, he realized no chocolate or chewing gum would make their world any better.
     Lee allowed his humanity to surface.
     "Two things," he said softly. "Two things are important right now."
     Lulu wiped her eyes, leaving a wet smear. Sally blinked several times and sniffled. Their expressions were ten times worse than any little Italian kid's.
     "There are two things you must know." He paused.
     Lulu looked up, wiped her nose again. "What two things?"
     Lee straightened, felt the cramp in his scar and chose to ignore it.
     "Thing number one," he began, "is that the guitar, this particular guitar, is  a very delicate musical instrument. It is not a toy. Only people who really know how to play a guitar should touch it. Gently. Carefully. Do you understand rule number one?"
     They nodded, solemn as a pair of tiny nuns.
     Lee choked back a chuckle and continued. "Rule number two: if you really want to learn how to play the guitar, meet me back here after supper and lessons will commence."
     Lulu scrunched her nose. "Is that a rule?"
     "Yes. Yes it is."

Saturday, August 1, 2015


We had a lively, fun dinner this evening.
The girls started remembering places we'd taken them on our trips, every museum, tour, boat ride and Civil War something or other.
Each place evoked memories.
Hated it or loved it.
Civil War stuff bored the pants off them, along with the Corning Glass museum (which I liked), but DC was cool--Arlington, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Korean monument and the pain of the Vietnam Wall. I knew two people who had died in 'Nam and we looked them up. Brought tears to my eyes for sure.

It was fun. They remembered most of our trip to England, but in a totally different way. Take the Tube. They didn't remember the ride, they remembered that there were Cadbury candy dispensers on the columns. Frankly, I thought that was also the best part of the Underground.
They remembered chicken sandwiches in York that had butter on them and how packed the McDonalds was in Chester. Lake Windemere, how old everything was, Daddy and the peacocks.

It made me feel good, knowing that they had good memories of us all being together, learning even if unwillingly, the food we ate, Reed's drive in in Lockport and the white hots and red hots.

They're too old now to see things through innocent eyes.   Elyse has been to England and Scotland several times. Karyn has been all the way to Russia!

I do miss us all traveling and experiencing life outside Bridgewater...together.
I'm glad we have so many good memories.  All of us.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The sleep test

Tangled up in about 40 wires, seven electrodes stuck on my scalp with glue, a thin cigarette case sized metal thing dangling on my breast, two around the chest straps keeping things tight...a contraption on this thing between my nostrils to measure my breathing, wires going down my back and front to my legs.
Sure, Irene, now sleep.

I didn't.
The tech said I slept for long enough to get some measurements, but I deny this vigorously as I heard every inhalation and exhalation I made. I couldn't turn. I couldn't sleep on my belly without pulling wires from my flesh that had to be replaced.
After 2 am, I was through trying. I sat up uneasily and watched TV.
Just like at home, only with the wires.

I felt like a fish caught in a net. Or one of those porpoises caught with the tuna. Or a fly stuck in a spider's handiwork.

It was not fun.

Why did I allow this to happen? According to the cancer doctor and somebody else, my hemoglobin had risen, sign of something awry. First thought, naturally (?) was lack of sleep since I don't get enough restful sleep. So, I had to have this test.

It is easier for me to go into the other room or make up the sofa bed and sleep. I do sleep well in either place as long as I am not aggravated.

When I was picked up by my husband (who had not slept since 2 am anyway) at 6:00, he drove me home, made me some breakfast, told me to go up and get a shower. He later joined me in bed for a snooze. I slept. Like the dead.
Yes, I can sleep, thank you very much.
And I will sleep very well when I am dead.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It's in the book

Every week I get about five fat lady catalogues from various companies who thankfully sell clothing for women with more than size zero bodies. I look through them, turn down page corners, sometimes I even buy clothes. Usually I call in my order because I like to talk with one of the eight hundred or so operators who handle catalogue sales. Sometimes I order online. It is impersonal, I often screw things up, but eventually I get what I need.

Today I got a new catalogue. The beautiful woman on the cover was probably a size six. I guess the photographer thinks that's hefty.

I looked inside. Lovely clothes for women with jobs or women who do not sit around in their pajamas writing most of the day. Then I get to about ten pages in.

Now...this catalogue is supposed to be for women of a certain size. Big. Not zeroes. Big ladies with hips and breasts and thighs. Not teeny tiny bodies. Big ladies.

The two pages contained dresses in animal prints. Tigers, zebras, leopards, cheetahs...the only thing missing was an elephant print. Of course, the models were slim. How could they put a zebra print on a woman with substantial body parts? It would look terrible. Scary. Nearly as awful as a woman wearing something in a cow print. Talk about setting oneself up for mockery.

Yes. I realize a woman should be able to wear whatever she wants to wear without fear of somebody pointing at her and laughing. Or wanting to jump her and rape her. Bikinis and halter tops and hip hugging short shorts should be fine. On some little twinkie perhaps, but not on someone with overly sufficient flesh.

Unless they want to hang out in Wal-mart and have their photos taken so the entire internet can laugh at them.

There are ways to dress and ways not to dress. This may be old fashioned of me, but oh, well, I'm too old to display myself. Back in the day, however, it wasn't the case. But I still went toward the more conservative side. I thought a little guessing was preferable to leaving nothing to be desired.

I am old.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Say cheese!

Gawd. I look awful.
Just got a gander at the photo I posted of the husband and me together. Granted, it was about a year after chemo, but it doesn't look like the me I want to see.
It's reality.
It's ugly.
How can that be the same person...uh, yeah. It's me, all right.

Let's face it.
I got old.
Wrinkled. Grey haired. Fat. Fatter.

Now, just to make myself feel better, I oughtta look up photos of me when I was in my prime.  Too bad I can't get them into the computer...I may have to ask my kids.

The only one I have of me from a long time ago is this one, and I've posted it several times.  It makes me feel better, though, so you're gonna get it again.

This is August, 1970, right after the Army.

This is us, 2014. Not my best angle. Friends since 1960. You can't go back, though. The ravages of time.

Monday, June 22, 2015

23 JUN 65

A day that shall live in infamy...no...wonder and delight!
On this date, I met the man I was to eventually marry, on the boardwalk at  Seaside Heights, NJ.
This photo was taken years later, about 2011.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Out of the depths of my past

This is a photo of the combined kindergarten classes of Mrs. VanWinkle from Pierce School, 1955. I don't know where Sandy got it, but we're both in there, along with so many others. I can pick out maybe half of them...we have all changed. 
I am the last person in the bottom right...leader of the band.
Sandy is the second from the left on the middle row.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

10 only

What if some totally misguided authority declared that each individual could only have ten people they could love? These people would have to be named to a semi-permanent list and the names could only be updated, say, once a year?

We're talking dystopia for sure, but aren't all futures possible?

I don't know what made me think of this, but it's just one of those things that comes up as I am unable to sleep.
And I had to think of ten people, just to satisfy the non-existent rule.

Immediate family= 3

That puts me down to six left. I have two brothers who are married and have two children apiece. Already I'm over ten and that's not including spouses. No room for them all if I cut and cut.
I figure these would be my people. The other relatives would have to take care of themselves, making sure that everybody was loved and/or cared for.

But where does that leave friends?
I have lots of friends that I truly love and would want to include them somehow. Yes, their own could take care of them, but I'd want them on some sort of reserve list. If I had to wait for someone to pass on or for me to want to exclude them from my yearly list, that might make room for others, but not those I wish I could include.

When we got married, my parents wanted some sort of wedding. Mom drew up a list of people she'd invite and while most of them were lovely, others I did not want to invite. I didn't want a big deal; I wanted something intimate, quick and painless. No big party. No bunches of people eating chicken and complaining about the cake. When I proposed having Chinese food for a few friends, that didn't go over well at all.

I'm not a big to-do type. Not unless it would be for my coronation, and we all know that ain't gonna happen.

So, go ahead. Try to limit yourself to the ten people you would hold most dear.
It ain't easy.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Dead men tell no truth

How does one go about writing a eulogy for a shit?
A person more despised than adored?

I've noticed that, recently, it has been a custom to deliver some sort of individual speech at a viewing or funeral for a deceased person. If you care enough to attend the viewing or funeral or both, you ought to have something to say. I can't imagine standing before a group and telling them what a jerk or bitch you thought the deader was. But to tell the complete truth in this instance would be falsifying evidence.
So, you are left with half truths and kindly words meant to ease the pain of those this body has left behind--even if they thought the deader was a skunk who has left them better off for passing.

If called upon, I would suggest some sort of vague excuses for not really knowing the person, but knowing what kind of person he/she was. Considerate, a joiner, loyal to causes, veteran, hard-working, devoted to the family...that sort of hogwash. One would not talk about negative things here. Speak only good of the dead.

I'd go further back. "God doesn't make junk." How the person came into the world, all innocent, pure of thought and action--what happened later was the choice of the individual or circumstances beyond anyone's control. Burying Caesar, not really praising him. Leaving the eulogy up to God and anyone who would tell the truth about how much of a shit the deceased actually was.

God made the person perfect. Made the mistake, perhaps, of gifting a human with free will. In that way, what God did wasn't a mistake, but what the poor soul chose to do with life was totally up to them. Good or ill. Kind or...not kind.

I write this because some day I will die. I would hope those burying me would have better things to say than "she was a real shit".

Monday, May 25, 2015

God willing and the creek don't rise

Yes, I have plans for this week.
This story of mine needs to be put all in one place so I can start working on what needs to be added, what needs stringing together and what I can possibly do without.
There have been more words written, but I sincerely doubt it is near 85K. One of my best buddies loves to "write tight". But there is tight and there is "slight", which this may be.

First mistake, as I have mentioned time and time again, was writing out of sequence. A thought here, a bit more here, writing what I felt like writing at the moment...dumb, dumb, dumb. Stupidest thing ever for someone who is so linear. Granted, I did start this after the first cancer and wrote some of it between and then wrote some stuff while undergoing chemotherapy. Whoa! You oughtta see some of that crap! Or, no, really, not. It is such garbage, but I had to write something and until I totally went off into the time travel delusion/nightmare, the WWII story suffered.  Luckily, there isn't much of that garbage, but the time travel story...oh, Lordy.  Karyn says it is the absolute pits.
We shall see.
That, at least, is novella length.
Unfortunately, I wrote it in Livejournal and copied and pasted it onto paper. It did not do well. I would have to retype the entire story into the computer.  Oh, boy. Not fun.

So. Plans for this week:
Place the hard copy of the additional words into the proper stack of hard copy so I can locate it in the computer then copy and paste it where it should be. If I can find where it should be.  There may be things I have recently written that need their own chapter piles!

Dumb, dumb, dumb. If my mind is failing, I'd better hurry while I can still manage to handle this. I hope with concentration, I can get things in order. If not, I'm going to require the assistance of my artistic kid. Or the ultra-logical one who is hardly ever around. She did help with the initial hard copy sorting, so perhaps she can help with this.

Never, never, never again, Irene. You have had the entire story plotted for seven years. Yes, seven! You just need more words in the right places.
This is my most favorite story ever.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Meet me again in Dreamland

She was about 17 or 18.  Popular, pretty, smart.
Perhaps too smart.
That's why they came for her, in the dark, searching outside the second story bedroom with lights and small flying drones, peering inside the two small windows on either end of the housetop.
They'd been by before, rising over the house across the street with their huge moon-colored ship, hovering without sound, suspended over the neighbor's house...waiting.
She'd seen them, the only one on the block to see that huge ship. No one spoke of it, no one in the tight little neighborhood had been awake.
Or perhaps, they slept in induced sleep, caused by them.

After the sighting came the calling.
Through dreams and echoing in her head to the point where she thought it madness.
But always, always quiet and urgent.
What would happen if she ignored the summons?

She did.
She hid.  She kept away from windows at night, not wanting to see that big ship, not wanting for them to see her.

They called.
She refused to answer.  She refused to allow them into her mind.

In dreams, they got her, but not for long.
Her mind refused to allow them control and she would awaken and force the thoughts from her mind.

Nights without sleep. Long summer nights of hiding.
Threats against her and her threats against them eventually must have worked.

The ship stopped hovering. Perhaps they had been seen by someone else. Perhaps they picked on someone more susceptible to their calls.
They are now only hauntings of her willful mind.
But, they are gone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I have two daughters.
The first one came after the loss of three boy babies. I prayed, I promised God, I stopped doing things that were no longer important to me in a crazy attempt to have a live child.  All I asked was for the baby to be healthy, happy and strong.
She came out perfect in every way.
She's a scientist now and I'm very proud of her.

When she was five months old, one morning, only one morning in her baby life, she went back to sleep after rattling the crib bars and another miracle happened.  We got pregnant again in the quiet of that one morning.

I didn't think I could have a second miracle, but Someone was smiling at me.

Daughter #2 didn't open her eyes for me for a whole month...the month she was supposed to be born but surprised us early. She was perfect in every way, just early. And vastly different from the first baby. I couldn't go by anything that had happened with #1 to figure out how to handle #2.

This one was so interested in tactile sensations.  She adored color and played for hours with toys that the other one eschewed. They did play together, but it was odd to watch.  The younger one established the scenarios for their play and the older one followed along. The older one, who could read before she was two, would share books with her sister. I guess it was a mutual thing, this sharing, and sometimes it wasn't mutual.

The younger kid displayed talent in the ways I could thoroughly appreciate.  Singing like an angel, artistic to the point where she can draw just about anything...just ask her.
She has drawn the covers for my newest books and novellas.
She is responsible for my new website.  It is her gift to me and my stories.