Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Me

Here in the Midwest it is finally starting to feel like the autumn.  The leaves - delayed by hot, dry weather - have finally begun to turn.  The warm days give way to cool nights.  And the pumpkin spice products are everywhere.

Coffee shop windows declare that the pumpkin spice lattes and cappuccinos are now available.  Burt's Bees has come out with a pumpkin spice lip balm.  And grocery stores advertise pumpkin spice-everything, from baking chips to cereals to protein bars.

I am waiting for the local gas station to announce that pumpkin spice scented gasoline has finally arrived.

This pumpkin-flavored frenzy may seem a bit much.  But there is something that drives this pumpkin obsession: the words "available for a limited time only."

That is the problem with this beautiful season we call autumn.  It is with us for such a limited time.

Here in Michigan the winter seems like it will go on forever.  The spring brings a slow warming and a promise of what lies ahead.  And the lazy, idyllic summer days, when we are in the midst of them, often feel like they will go on forever.  But that is the thing about fall. It seems to go by in a heartbeat with the leaves falling from the trees before our very eyes and the temperature falling ever so steadily toward that first snowfall.

And with that sense of urgency comes an overwhelming desire to visit that pumpkin patch for the perfect jack o'lantern, take that drive to see the trees in all of their blazing autumn glory, and grab something pumpkin-spice before it is gone.

Now that November is upon us, pumpkin spice flavors will slowly be replaced by more traditional Christmas favorites like peppermint and eggnog.  And so, I will happily indulge in something, anything, pumpkin spice before--like the fall season itself--it is gone.

Here's hoping that you too find something to enjoy during this all-too-short autumn

Monday, June 26, 2017

Cat-egorically Speaking

With my children now grown, working and in college, the house is now quiet during the day.  It is the perfect setting to work from home--no arguments coming from the next room, no little fists banging on the office door, and no competition for my attention.

Except I forget one small detail.  I have cats.

I have a dog as well (two if you count the days my son's beagle puppy is here), but the dog does not seem that desperate for my attention.  She will bark at the door if she needs to go out, but other than that she is content to nap on the floor or patrol her domain in the backyard.

The cats are a different story.  Especially my son's cat, Saito.  He is a large black and white shorthair.  And when I say large, he more than covers the entire keyboard on my laptop when he decides he needs to lay across it.

My office is in our basement and gets quite cold, so I generally run a portable heater.  Saito loves the heater.  If he knows I am in here and the door is closed, he will scratch and screech at the door to get inside.  And then proceeds to lay directly in front of the heat.  I have had to move him away from it at times for fear that he will catch himself on fire.

You may be thinking to yourself, "That does not sound so bad. Certainly it is less distracting than working with children nearby."  But there are certain tactics that cats will employ that are far more annoying than a child whining in your ear. For example:

  • Your work space automatically qualifies as a cat bed.
  • If you have any document sitting on your desk that is the least bit important, it will emit some sort of chemical signature that signals to a cat, "I must chew on this."
  • Cables and phone cords are as enticing as yarn.
  • Pens, paper clips, pencils or any other small items fall under the category of "cat toys."
  • Paper coming out of a printer is a mortal enemy that must be attacked and subdued.

Working with pets may have its challenges, but there is also something soothing about having an animal companion nearby.  Studies have shown that workers who are allowed to bring pets with them to the office have higher productivity and lower stress levels.  For this reason, some companies have instituted special "Take Your Pet to Work" days.

I do feel fortunate to be able to work with my kitty companions nearby.  Right now Saito is curled up on a pile of documents on my desk.  And I would not have it any other way.  Even though I know my hand will be under attack when I need to retrieve them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Ultimate Gift

I recently had surgery on my left arm.  It is the second such surgery in five years.  I had the same fusion performed on the bones in my right thumb and wrist in 2012 to relieve pain from arthritis.  Only this second surgery was slightly different.  This time, the surgeon inserted tissue from a donor in two different areas of my wrist.

Certainly this was far less dramatic than receiving a lung or heart from a donor.  The entire procedure is out-patient and there is no chance that the tissue will be rejected.

For any type of surgery where a donor is involved, the recipient has the option of writing to the family.  This, in my case, is done through the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation in New Jersey. The donor is anonymous, but I was given a label to include with a card or letter through which the foundation can track the donor's family and forward any correspondence.

It took me several weeks to even figure out what to say, but I finally came up with the following: 

Dear Family,

I recently received a tissue donation from your loved one, and I am writing to thank you for the gift you and your family member have given me: the ability to once again use my left hand.

I suffer from arthritis in the thumb and wrist on both arms, which made basic tasks very painful.  I had a fusion on the bones in my right hand and wrist in 2012.  In January I had the same procedure done on my left arm, only this time the surgeon included grafts to replace some of the tissue that had degraded.

I cannot imagine the circumstances under which I came to receive this generous gift, nor can I comprehend the pain of the loss you must have experienced in order for me to receive it.  All I can do is express gratitude to you as this donation will allow me to function normally and with much less pain.  I am a writer, a quilter and an avid gardener, all of which had become difficult to do prior to the surgery.

Please know that I will keep your family in my prayers, including the one you lost.  I hope you will take comfort in the fact that a small portion of your loved lives on in me, as well as so many others.  This donation will make a world of difference in my life.   I promise to put it to good use and will never forget what your family has done for me.


The family has the option of responding, but whether or not I hear back is unimportant. Besides, the small amount of tissue I received pales in comparison to someone who received the heart or liver that literally saved their lives.

But that is not the point.  The smallest gifts can make the biggest difference in the life of another person.  And to the recipient of even the tiniest donation that gets their life back on track and allows them to function more normally, it is the biggest and greatest gift ever received.

I signed up many years ago to be an organ and tissue donor and have made sure my family is clear about my wishes.  And I urge you to do the same.  The material things we collect are just objects to be donated to charity and farmed out to family members as small reminders of the life we left behind.  But the gift of life will allow us to live on in others.  I can think of nothing better I would like to leave to someone if the time ever comes.

As the moral of Aesop's Fable The Lion and the Mouse explains, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."  To whoever it was who left this small act of kindness to me, thank you. You have changed lives in ways both large and small.  Your generosity will never be forgotten, and will be repaid many times over. May God keep you in His loving care and bless your family for the kindness, courage and integrity it took to give this ultimate gift to so many.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Ties That Blind

The latest presidential election has come at a great cost on many levels.  It has affected relationships between friends and co-workers and, as I can attest to personally, it has damaged family relationships as well.

Yesterday I shared a post from a friend that featured an ignorant woman screaming and swearing at a couple speaking Greek and insisting that they "speak @&$%#!* English."  The name Donald Trump was never even mentioned in the post, nor in any of the comments made by friends that followed.

Here is the link to that post:

A few hours later a family member chimed in.  This person claims I have made this woman a representative of everyone who voted for Donald Trump. They posted an angry and confusing message saying something about my valuing the Black Lives Matter movement over the lives of police officers and supporting criminals visiting the White House.  As far as I can tell, I am being accused of joining the Black Lives Matter movement and bringing criminals to the White House for a tour.

Then this person said they were only using my own "analogy" to make a point.  How there is an analogy between a bigot screaming obscenities and my apparent conversion into an African American White House tour guide for incarcerated individuals, I have yet to figure out.  Perhaps someone else can tackle that one.

I am connected to hundreds of people on social media.  At least half of them have political views that differ from my own.  I can have a rational, respectful and logical conversation with each and every one of them on any subject, including politics.  With the exception of this one person.

When confronted with the nonsensical, clarity is generally your best defense. I pointed out a quote featured put on this individual's own wall from Winston Churchill that said, "Some people's idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back that is an outrage." I told this family member that they must have directed that quote at themselves because they were incapable of responding to any difference of opinion without hurling rude and insulting comments. They are the only one I know who behaves like this. And all of this is coming from a person who puts the most vulgar and mean-spirited political posts on their wall that they can possibly find.

I then suggested that if they did not like my posts, perhaps they should simply not read them.  And as far as the ugly comments directed toward me are concerned, they would not be justified with any sort of response because I am not insecure and feel no need to stoop to that level.

And this person responded exactly as you may expect someone who has been cornered to reply.  They lie.  They attempt to manipulate words and statements to justify their bad behavior.  They repeated the statement about my using screaming racist woman as a representative of all Trump voters.  They repeated several times that I had declared I was no longer part of America.  I had my husband, son and daughter all read the initial post and asked them to point out where I had made either of those statements.  They all agreed that this person had fabricated that information.

And the coup de gras of this person's argument was that I had proved theChurchill quote right because I got mad.

People who live in glass houses really should not call out others on Facebook.

Anyone reading that exchange could easily have discerned the utter ridiculousness and immaturity of this person's argument and logic.  I certainly would have been justified in responding, even though I vowed I would not.

I didn't.  Instead I made a decision. As far as I can tell I am the only one in the family this person chooses to treat this way, even though not everyone in our family shares this individual's views.  This is not the first time this person has been abusive towards me over politics. But I decided it would be the last.

I went into Facebook and deleted most of this person's comments.  Then I went into my contacts and removed them from my list of followers. And I have no intention of making contact with this person through social media or on a one-on-one basis anytime in the near future.

Was I happy to do it?  Of course not.  This person has been part of my life for over 40 years.  Was it hard to do?  Not as difficult as you may think.

Because I came to a realization.  The ties that bind are often the same ones that blindfold us to the truth.

For some people, being right, justifying your viewpoints and using any means to make yourself appear superior override all else, including relationships.  People like this feel justified in exhibiting any behavior they wish, no matter how offensive, vulgar or ridiculous, but the fact that you express anything that challenges their view of the world is a threat not only to their superiority, but a threat the validity of their very existence.  And they cannot allow that.

More importantly, a person who has so little respect for your views that they would go out of their way in an attempt to publicly embarrass you has absolutely no respect for you as a person.  And life is too short to surround ourselves with people whose only intent is to use us as a scapegoat for their own insecurities and proceed to take pleasure in tearing us down.

Sometimes, for the sake of self-preservation, it is best to simply cut our losses and walk away.  Perhaps it preserves hope for reconciliation in the future.  But that re-connection will only happen with an apology, and whether or not that would ever come remains in question.  People like that tend to think they do no wrong.

For  the  time being I will allow myself to have contact with this person in group settings.  They have a birthday coming up and we will send our well-wishes as a family.  But as far as my having any individual contact with this person which will allow them to use me as the sole outlet for their anger issues and make me their political punching bag, they will simply have to find someone else.  I resign from the job.

Regardless, anyone reading this needs to remember to value yourself, your happiness and your well-being over all else, and most importantly, remove the toxins in your life as much as you can.  Let them go, no matter how hard it may seem.  Surround yourself only with those who value you.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."  Never, ever give it to them.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Presidential Circus of 2016

It is election eve.  Time magazine has posted a picture of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton together, holding a sign saying "The End Is Near."

That statement could be open to several interpretations

This current election cycle, however, is nearing its end.  It has lasted approximately 82 years.  At least it feels that way.

When thinking back on this election, I am reminded of a three-ring circus.  At the center is Donald Trump, the ringmaster who shouts insults and slanderous remarks at the circus performers.  Half of the crowd screams in approval.  The other half pelts him with popcorn and soda cups.

At the center ring is Hillary Clinton, who walks precariously on a tightrope above a huge pit divided into two parts.  One part contains thousands of swirling emails.  The other is occupied by a so-called "basket of deplorables" holding pitchforks and sharp sticks and eagerly waiting for her to falter.

In the left-hand ring, we have Bernie Sanders, staunchly trying to tame the lion that is the Democratic Party with a spray bottle filled with water.  The right ring contains a clown car out of which pop the 16 former Republican presidential hopefuls.  There never seems to be an end to them and they make absolutely no sense as they climb over each other and attempt to shout down one another.  They are, however, clearly terrified of the ringmaster, who declares them all idiots and keeps pointing to his hands, showing off how large they are.

I am not excited nor hopeful of the change to come in 2016.  If Clinton is elected, she will be continually surrounded by controversy, distrust and questioning of her judgement.  A Republican-held Congress would behave much as they have over the past six years by putting partisanship ahead of what is good for the country, preferring to mimic a group of preschoolers in a sandbox who will take their toys and go home if they don't get their way.

And if Donald Trump wins, there will be no more elections.  Either he will declare himself president for life, or we will all be dead in four years.

Either way, I am steeling myself for a not-so-bright future.  I wish I could be like an ostrich and simply stick my head in the sand until the next election cycle.  Or until the earth is blown to bits when some world leader says something insulting to Donald Trump on Twitter.

If you are excited about your particular choice for president, I wish you luck.  If you are like me, the best advice I can give you is keep drinking until the election is over.  Then stay drunk for the next four years.

If you are disappointed with tomorrow's results, don't despair for long.  After all, it won't be long until the circus is back in town.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Another One Bites the Dust

It is 2016.  Our world as we know it will never be the same.  The nation is truly in trouble.  Our faith in our leaders have been shaken to the core.

Brad and Angelina are getting a divorce.

The demise of this Hollywood super couple has grabbed headlines, at times overshadowing the presidential election. The public and media seem to be in shock that the ultimate Hollywood marriage has hit the skids.  I, however, am not.

Marriage is difficult enough with two distinct personalities carrying two varying perspectives trying  to survive in one household. Conflict is unavoidable in the best marriages, and the fight to work it through day after day can be overwhelming.

Add to that a gaggle of paparazzi reporting on your every move, going through your trash and hounding your children, and any semblance of a normal life, or a normal marriage, becomes virtually impossible.  No wonder so many celebrity marriages dissolve.

You would think that having it all--fame, fortune and a picture-perfect family--would translate to eternal happiness.  But according to an article in The Huffington Post, those are the exact reasons why these marriages fail.

The article by M. Gary Neuman, "Why Do Celeb Marriages a Fail?" lists some interesting reasons why Hollywood couples can't seem to keep it together.  Celebrities seem to accept that they will be spending long periods of time away from home and family and embrace the delusion that short visits at home to "catch up" is sufficient to maintain long-term relationships.

There also seems to be an issue with defining themselves as a "couple."  With much of their time spent living individual lives and pursuing their own careers at the expense of time at home, it is quite easy to realize that you can live without the other person. With more time spent on self-indulgence and less time building a life with their partner, separation becomes rather easy.

As the story of their own "conscious uncoupling" begins to evolve, we will surely be riveted to our screens with morbid fascination.  There is something a bit satisfying about perfect people having their dirty laundry aired in public.

So the next time I find my husband's dirty socks on the kitchen island, or he leaves the outdoor hose running for six hours for no apparent reason, I will not become frustrated.  I will realize how lucky I am.

After all, I could be jet-setting off to a Paris movie set, leaving my children with their au pair, while conferencing with my lawyers whether or not my pre-nup will hold up in court.  I could be Angelina.

The horror of it all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


While searching for some photos to display at my son's graduation party earlier this summer, I came across one that at first glance did not seem very worthwhile.  Upon retrospect, however, it speaks volumes.

It is a photo of Sean as a little boy, probably just over a year old, taken around 1998.  He is walking out of a room followed by his constant companion back then, our Labrador retriever, Zak.

Both of them are facing away from the camera.  In itself, the photo is unremarkable.

Until you realize that the dog in the picture passed away in 2010 after being part of our family for more than 13 years.  And the little boy in the picture started college today.

To me, the picture represents the passage of time. How a small child toddling from a room followed by his dog one day is suddenly headed off to his first college class.  And it seemed to happen in the blink of any eye.

We see our children every day, not realizing how much they grow and change.  Not understanding how quickly time will go by and how soon they will leave us to discover their place in the world. One day, they will walk out that door and be on their own.

There were days when my children were young and I would imagine how it would be when they are a little older, a little more independent.  Now, I would do anything to turn back time so I could savor every moment, not rush through them hoping for the next one.

There will be many more doorways in our future.  Now I understand that I need to pause those passages, just for a moment, to savor the smile, the hug, or the pure memory of it.

The saying goes when one door closes, another opens.  As they open for my children, I hope I have the chance to linger at them just for a little while. I know now that they will walk through the next one all too quickly.