It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

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That is the title of a 1997 song from REM.  I miss that band.  I have some time now so maybe I’ll Google what has been happening with them. We all probably have more time now.  It’s odd, isn’t it?

Usually we humans are rushing about getting ourselves and our family members to all the scheduled and overscheduled obligations with which we fill our lives.  And now, we are not.

While the world is experiencing a pandemic of COVID-19, we are ceasing all outside group activities, are stocking up on food and toilet paper and cleaning products and being told by our government leaders to stay home.  People who can are working from home.   Social gatherings are being postponed or cancelled and only really essential businesses are remaining open.  Everything else is shutting down.  It is a scary situation but hopefully temporary.

No one knows what is going to happen.  This is definitely unprecedented in the modern world.

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I’ve done some research recently on the flu epidemic in 1918, and as everyone else who has internet access, I have an unlimited supply of articles to read.   Here is what I learned from Wikipedia.

The Spanish flu infected 500 million people around the world, or about 27% of the world population of between 1.8 and 1.9 billion. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest epidemics in human history.

Most people have passed away who lived to experience that pandemic.  The last many generations have never seen anything like this, so therefore, may not be taking the protocols seriously.

In 1918, people weren’t travelling like we do now, or did until recently anyway, so I worry that if this really does become serious, we could have staggering loss of life. 

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Knowledge is power, but in this instance, I think it would be wise to STOP Googling things around the virus or watching news stories and just shut off the devices.   Instead, get back to the pastimes of the predigital age.   Read books, write poems, songs or stories, do crossword puzzles, play boardgames, exercise in your house by doing sit-ups and pushups, pull out the vinyl records and show your kids the amazing album covers and music of your youth, do some arts and crafts projects, learn a new skill and by all means, avoid human contact as much as possible.  

All of the professional speakers I know have had events cancelled or postponed through April 2020, and few groups are booking events for the foreseeable future either.  In just this one industry, think of the repercussions and lost business. Commerce in that sense has STOPPED for everyone.

Many people we know work at or own retail stores and gyms, work in restaurants and bars or provide non-healthcare services of many types and those businesses are not operational right now.  There is a real fear about making money to pay bills, but most of us are all collectively in the same boat.

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The government is trying to stave off total economic panic by lowering interest rates, halting trading and implementing other things to try to stabilize the wildly fluctuating markets and economy.  I guess it would be a good time to refinance a mortgage, but I think we will just wait things out and see what happens.  We truly aren’t “buying” anything right now, and we most certainly are not checking on retirement account values.

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We are very lucky, and many say smart, to have left the city and bought our farm three years ago  We have been implementing homesteading techniques and learning to live simply which requires a lot of physical work and planning. 

At this time of year, I would always be tapping maple trees and making syrup, starting all the pepper, peas, eggplant, rhubarb seeds and also many lettuces and herbs.  I will say depending on what actually happens in the world, I will be planting WAY more vegetables than I usually do.  I have the greenhouse ready to grow many more varieties of vegetables, and we have some ideas about adding other crops as well.  I am also taking really good care of my chickens as they give us eggs. I bought a ton of locally grown and milled ancient grain flours and yeast to make bread. 

We were talking last night about putting the freeze dryer back into operation again and making a lot of dog and cat treats from chicken and cuts of beef.  We can also freezedry food for ourselves, which we haven’t done in a while.   

As long as things don’t really go crazy and we maintain electric service, we should be okay because we are pretty self-sufficient out here, but, electric is really important and hard to do without.  I made sure all the flashlights and oil lamps are loaded with fresh batteries and oil, and yes, we did some target practice this past weekend.

Am I getting paranoid worrying about everything that could happen during a complete social and economic breakdown and apocalypse?  I am an avid horror fiction reader and show watcher, so have seen in make believe what happens to cultures when we have some sort of massive shift change.  I worry about the what-ifs.  It is my nature. 

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I worry about our friends and family in densely populated areas.  People who live in crowded urban areas can’t easily escape masses of humans and the germs we can transmit.

I have German relatives and we have been Direct Messaging daily going over the latest developments in our respective countries.  Everyone is self-isolating.  Worldwide, schools are at least temporarily educating students online and people are practicing lots of healthy habits that honestly we should have been doing all along.

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purz

Being the daughter of a nurse, it was drilled into my head as a child to NEVER TOUCH YOUR FACE, wash your hands as soon as you enter from the outside and be as clean as possible with your personal hygiene and belongings.

I am lucky that I don’t anymore work in an office environment or a retail store.  I have worked in both types of places and definitely had more illnesses when I had greater exposure to humans, no matter how many times I washed my hands.  Germs are spread through the air and human contact, so this social distancing we are hopefully all practicing for two weeks or longer should help stop the widespread travelling of this virus.  We have to protect ourselves and others, especially the elderly and immunity-challenged/compromised.  

Yes, life has changed, and no matter what happens with this virus, whether we have mass casualties worldwide or the majority are spared with these good practices and healthy immune systems, our awareness about our fragility has changed and will be forever etched into our psyche.  After this is over,  I do not believe humans will as carefreely bebop around the planet without considering what we and others could be carrying around and giving to one another and what our actions do to each other.   I think there will be a heavy layer of innocence lost and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  I think we take for granted our 21st century healthcare and our ability to source everything we need quickly.  I wonder if we truly appreciate our democratic society that provides a nice place for us with pretty much all the goods and services that we need to survive. 

I think that as we all together face the unknown and the loss of income and personal freedom, the suspension of socializing for any reasons; weddings, funerals, sporting events, music and dance recitals, charity fundraisers etc., that we may gain a greater respect for what is truly important. 

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I think this could be a good opportunity to learn and practice more empathy, more caring, more kindness, understanding and compassion and gratefulness for what we do have even now.

Hopefully we will come out of this on the other side better people and stronger for the next pandemic that will eventually come.   I hope our world scientists find a vaccine and life returns to normal soon.

God bless us all.  #grateful #helpothers #wewillsurvive


Mentors are so important!

As we grow and develop into hopefully fully functioning humans, we most likely had a little help and guidance along the way.

Recently, I was thinking about people who took an interest in me and I immediately thought of three important people that definitely made a positive difference in my life.

I want to thank them.

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When I was 14, I took tennis in gym class and started hitting balls around.  I really liked the sport.   When I was a small girl, I used to watch my mother hit tennis balls against a wall in Leetsdale and one day while she was doing this and I was walking along the broken fence passing the time, I slipped and got my ankle caught in the steel that was disconnected at the bottom.  That was my first stitches experience and trip back up the hill to Sewickley Valley Hospital where I was born and it was horrible.   I still vividly recall the whole ordeal. 

Anyway, fast forward 9 or 10 years and I bought a cheap used tennis racket at the thrift store and started hitting my own balls against any flat wall I could find. 

My mother was the kind of woman who really wanted to be involved in everything that I did so we would go to my high school and hit balls pretty much every day on one of the four hard courts.

One day, an old man with no teeth wearing a thin white t-shirt, raggedy shorts and really thin flipflops came up to us on the court and told me to work on my second serve first.  I didn’t even know what that was. 

His name was George Koernich and that may not even be the correct spelling of his last name, but he will forever remain in my heart. 

George was the kind of man who most likely played in all whites with the Rod Laver crew back in the long pants history of tennis.  He knew what he was doing for sure.  That summer he spent tireless hours with me teaching me everything about tennis.  My mother scraped up some money to buy me a new wooden Tracy Austin tennis racket at K-mart and I played the hell out of that racket.  I probably played 5 hours every day that summer learning everything I could and I loved it. 

I remember George bringing dozens of old balls from home that didn’t have any bounce left and we served hundreds and hundreds of balls with those.  They still had life for that!

He taught me how to slice the serve and return a slice, explained and showed me how to deal with topspin, taught me defensive moves like how to lob, play the net with volleys and really gave me appreciation for the game.   

At the time, Chris Evert was being usurped by powerhouse Martina Navratilova and I watched every match that I could, read every tennis magazine the school and local Laughlin Memorial library had in its archives and really did nothing but learn and play.

I will say that the local players were never kind nor helpful or encouraging to me, him or us but I’m guessing they watched the progress.

With George’s help I made the tennis team that first year and he and I even ended up entering some regional tournaments playing mixed doubles which yes he played in old flipflops.  George was one of a kind.  He tapped maple trees and brought me the water to drink and it was delicious.  Every time I put a tap in I think of George!

I ended up quitting the tennis team soon after I started my first job at the Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe at age 16.  The coach was not understanding that I HAD to work to help my mom so I quit the team.  Priorities!  😊

Enter mentor number two, Andy Amygdalos.  Andy was an amazing man who passed away a few years ago.  Years later Andy told me that when I came in and filled out the application he thought I wasn’t going to be able to hack it.  He didn’t know about my tennis muscles!!!  I could lift those 50 pound buckets of chili and haul boxes of meat no problem!   It ended up being that I became his favorite and best employee of all time or so he told me.   I stayed there with Andy for 7 years.

I have blogged about that first job before but I didn’t say much.  Today I want to share tales about a man who was more of a father to me than my own and I loved him.

Andy had come from Greece and had loaned fellow Greek, Lou Pappan, money so he could open Pappan’s restaurant, which became a very successful Beaver County chain.  I know the fact that Andy worked tirelessly and hard for DECADES for can I say it, (a jerk) that he could have ROCKED his own restaurant no issue, but he didn’t.  Life is about choices.  Andy taught me that. 

Andy taught me responsibility and trusted me to count the daily register, showed me how to schedule employees, order supplies, serve and treat people, make tips, cook, clean and WORK HARD.  Within a year or two, he trusted me to train all the new employees and he knew I would do things as he expected.  I respected him. 

During the first year of college I lived on campus but came home on weekends to work and he always gave me as many hours as I could handle. 

To this day my biggest regret is moving home after Freshman year.  One day I will blog about my mother but not yet. Suffice it to say she was incredibly lonely without me and guilted me to come home. For three years I had to take two busses and spend three hours each day to travel back and forth but I did it and I worked the whole time as many hours as I could.  During college, I didn’t go to a single football game or do the fun college stuff but again, life is about choices and honestly, those “sacrifices” made me who I am today. 

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Andy would let me study and do my homework when we were slow and he was always interested in what I was studying, and included me in his family.  I know he felt like I was a daughter to him and I felt it too. 

Andy had a bad heart and took nitro pills and once in a while he struggled.  One day he had to sit down for hours and rest and I ran the restaurant.  I LOVED that I could help him and wished he didn’t have to work so hard. 

Andy put his three kids through college and one son became a doctor.  I remember his daughter Julie’s graduation party where he made me a high ball drink which just about put me under the table!  He also filled me with terrific Greek food and taught me to speak conversational Greek.  The little old Greek men who spent their days at the counter, smoking their cigarettes and drinking coffee with just a touch of cream also helped shape me.  They sat and watched me, commented on any friends who would stop in, gave me gifts for my birthday and really became a needed family for me.  I still remember them and am so grateful that they also played a part in my development. 

For some reason as I write this on my 52nd birthday I think of the people who knew me between the ages of 16 and 22 and it is making me cry.  I miss them.  They loved me and it was so awesome!

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After college, I got a job through a temp agency at Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith in downtown Pittsburgh.   This was a really male dominated place but there were a handful of strong female brokers and I had the pleasure of working with one such woman named Marta. 

Marta still is a beautiful, smart and accomplished woman and successful at work and in her family life.  She has a great husband and a fabulous son who keeps her busy plus adult stepchildren and dear friends that she cultivates relationships with.   

Back in 1990 when I started there, I knew absolutely nothing about being professional.  Marta and the two leading ladies, Nancy and Karen who were the direct bosses of all us sales assistants, really helped shape me into a working woman.  They were encouraging to me and after a couple of years when I knew what I was doing, also trusted me to train new hires.  I loved that.

Marta was an only child too but she had a great upbringing with loving parents and included me in so many fun things that I would never have had a chance to experience.    And she appreciated how I helped her in her business and treated her clients and she spoiled me. 

I think Marta may be the reason I have taken on the role of mentor with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. I mentor a growing girl because Marta’s friendship and love meant so much to me. I appreciate what Marta did for me so much that it was and continues to be inspiring in my life.

Even after I left that job 7 years later, she and I are still connected and she was there for me when I left my first husband and embarked on my new life.  That was a hard time for me and I love Marta for being supportive.  She will always be someone that I respect and adore.

Photo by Karina on Unsplash

I really hope that I can be a great mentor for my Little.  It isn’t always easy knowing if I am being a positive influence and teaching Maci how to be a full functioning person.  I want to expose her to all the things I can and give her experiences so she has a fuller life than what I had as a child.

It is a journey that is two years in and we have 4 ½ years yet to fulfil our commitment to each other. 

I am looking forward to sharing the lessons we both learn from this experience in future blogs.  Maybe someday she will take on a Little of her own! We shall see what life brings to us both but for now, I heartily thank the people who helped me in so many ways. They are definitely still with me!

Music makes the best connections!

A few times a year now as opposed to weekly like when I was a young lass, Mitch and I venture out to sing a few songs at a local bar.  We are still exploring the area around us in Washington and other points south of Pittsburgh.  We are also old now so instead of going out at 10 pm, if I can find a karaoke bar that starts at 8 pm, I jump up and down.  Add the idea of a NONSMOKING environment and this is the trifecta of perfect karaoke.  We recently had one of those nights and it got me thinking.

A few weeks ago, I was in line at the local post office where I often find myself and instead of scrolling through FB or IG I am known to engage my fellow waiters into conversation.  These are always fun chats.  I meet the most interesting humans in lines and it passes the time as well as opens the doors to new friendships.  It also gives me a chance to try and spread the word about my personal chef business.  I literally carry my business cards in a Seresto collar tin.  It is the perfect reuse for something that I hated throwing away.  I can’t tell you how confused everyone is when I pull that out of my purse!  😊   

One such day I was chatting up the person in line behind me and passing out cards when a stout little smiling man came in and asked about a photocopy machine.  He was told there was one up the hill at the Shop n Save.

I happened to glance at what he wanted to copy and saw it was a flyer about karaoke on Wednesdays 8 pm at the Bradford Lounge.  I knew exactly where that was.  I had toured the George Washington Hotel in the hopes to have Mitch’s upcoming 60th birthday party there but it was sadly booked.  This bar was part of that cool old venue.

“Hold it,” I said.  “I need a snap of that flyer.”  He gladly obliged.

This place is smackdab in the middle of town across the street from the beautiful and historic Washington County courthouse and steps away from Bradford House for which I’m guessing it was named.  Festivities for the Whiskey Rebellion are held every summer right in this area.  That is a terrific 3-day event full if history, music, storytelling, reenactments including a REAL tar and feathering and endless fun.   

Washington like many such towns in the Pittsburgh and surrounding areas have seen some hard times through the last several decades but just in the almost three years that we have lived here, I can see sparks of resurgence happening and I hope a continued trend upward becomes the norm.   

We have enjoyed some really tasty meals at several GREAT restaurants in town too but had yet to wet our whistle at this place.  I was excited!!!

At 8:05 pm we showed up and ordered drinks.  A quick look around the bar showed just 3 others in the place all crowded at the far end of the bar.  Mitch told me at that point he thought this was going to be on the boring side where we would sing a couple of songs and quickly go home.  That didn’t happen.

I informed the karaoke guy who was set up right at the front of the bar that we were there to sing and he smiled and gave me slips of paper and a pen.  OLD SCHOOL is what I thought. 

Back in the early days of karaoke, there were actual books, papers and pens all over and you pored over the books and wrote down your song choice titles, the artist’s name and your name and then passed it to the karaoke people and waited your turn.  Usually in every karaoke place I go, people are shy or need a drink or two to sing, so I start the karaoke,  but this place was different.  People kept arriving and adding their songs to the lineup and list.  I was 3rd in the rotation and everyone was WONDERFUL.  We quickly made friends, started sharing business cards and cheering each other on.  What we loved SO much was the many different kinds of songs everyone was singing.  It was glorious because this group was all folks in their 50-60s I would guess and the music and talent was incredible.  NOT that karaoke is about being good, but it certainly makes it more interesting when the singer can hold a tune and he or she chooses really cool music.

Who knew we would be in the company of Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Dennis DeYoung from Styx and more legends of the good old days?

The bartender who as soon as we started singing seemed to be a bit more generous on my pour, (Mitch was driving) came up and helped me sing The Chain by Fleetwood Mac.  She just ran around the bar, grabbed onto the mic and started belting it out with me.  I was thrilled she loved the song as much as I did.  The fact I had never sung that song in public before is amazing.  I keep waiting for more members of the band ( I have yet to find a Lindsey Buckingham) to show up and sing with me, but since karaoke has all the backup vocals, it was high time.  What a thrill!!!

During the next three hours, I did more Stevie Nicks, some Walking After Midnight from Patsy Cline, sang a little Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and more Fleetwood Mac.  It was an old time karaoke night for me which I adore.  Mitch sang a great Rolling Stones tune, some Mark Cohn, Tom Petty and rocked the whole place.   

The lady sitting next to us who sang some fun songs too wanted to tell me about her teenage years going to concerts at the Meadows, a local racetrack that has entertainment. I can’t even imagine what the place was like in the 50s! She regaled me about a night when she was a teenager and saw the Platters, the Drifters and The Coasters together and seeing the Beach Boys in her youth too.  I loved hearing her fun musical memories.

Everyone there shared stories of the bands that all have played in or still play with and the great musical acts they have seen.  The gigantic smiles of everyone there was a sure sign everyone was connecting through music.   

Being the only child of a single mother, I often stayed home by myself while she worked.  I played her records over and over and learned about singing harmony from the Mamas and The Papas, practiced my Soprano with Barbra Streisand and am still haunted by the song Suzanne by Judy Collins. 

Photo by Dmitry Bayer on Unsplash

The thousands of hours I spent listening over and over to those records seriously created the foundation for my musical tastes today.

I could recite albums front to back, and would never tire of listening to music.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, music is my favorite thing and for my 40th birthday I had help creating a double CD of my favorite songs to gift all the party guests.  One CD was For the Heart and included love songs and the other was For the Feet and a dance compilation.  I borrowed that idea from the late George Michael. 

For my 50th birthday party, I made  a thumb-drive with my favorite 50 songs of all time with MP3 files.

I wonder what technology will exist for my 60th.  I am already thinking of what that musical gift will be and jotting down long forgotten tunes. 

#musicmemories #singkaraoke #karaokerocks

Life is all about Perspective

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I’ve been saying this for years.  

What I have learned about perspective is sometimes funny, at least for one side of the situation.  For example, during the recent deer hunting season my husband relayed a story about a hunter who was regaling him about how delicious suburban deer taste.  The residents who live in the suburbs care deeply for their bushes, shrubs with tender growth and flowers and lament the destruction deer do to them.  The hunters who later kill those well-fed deer can TASTE the expensive landscaping and he/she and their families appreciate and benefit from that.  I thought that was seriously funny and a PERFECT example of how depending which side of the fence you are on, (your perspective), you can relate.

Professionally, for a couple of decades, I have been working with folks who speak for a living and have matched up hundreds of corporate, association, government and education audiences with speakers.  The folks who I have booked sometimes have gotten no speaking fee for their time and a few have been in the $25,000 (plus expenses) PER HOUR range but most have fallen in the 5-10K area.  What I have always found is that the groups who have a really low budget for speakers are the most grateful planners and audience.  If they are a nonprofit and have maybe $1500 for a keynote slot and a speaker who usually gets a lot more for basically that same speech agrees to do it, those speakers are treated so WELL.  Those groups really appreciate the time, inspiration and energy a speaker shares with them.   

Sometimes the speakers have told me NO to the reduced fee invitation.  They tell me it’s about fee integrity and worry they would be cheapening  their “brand” to full fee clients by taking the severely reduced fee. 

It is a whole different world.  I won’t comment beyond saying, again, it is about perspective.  $1500 to one group is like that $25,000 to the other but everyone has a value in their mind for their time.  

Photo by Charlotte Karlsen on Unsplash

Next up is a story about a dear friend of mine.  She is a retired Army veteran and had two deployments, leaving her husband and two children, her company, family and community to serve our country.  During her final deployment in Afghanistan, she was blogging and I believe it was her final blog that really struck me.  It was called One Pullup and I remember being amazed at her courage and commitment.  Pullups are really hard for woman.  I have never been able to do one and have thought many times when I have a particularly challenging moment in my life about Chris and her success at setting the goal, working toward it and DOING IT.  Good for her.  One pullup may not be a triumph for an elite athlete, but it indeed was a triumph of body, mind and spirit for Chris.  It’s all about perspective.

My friend Richie died a few years ago.  He was in his mid-40s.  That is WAY too young.  Richie turned his financial life around by working a lot and was saving and saving and saving. He had 4 mortgage free properties and was paying for everything in cash, setting himself up for a stress-free early retirement.

I wanted him to have a romance, a relationship and I told him that.  He told me in no uncertain terms, “I want to retire in two years and the only thing that is going to F*&# that up is a woman.” 

One of the last times I saw Richie, he came to our house on the river and I had painted a quote that was hanging on the wall.  It begins…. Love Fiercely, Cry when Worthy …..and ends with Life is NOT a rehearsal.  I have a very distinct memory of Richie telling me that day, “Remember, Life Is Not A Rehearsal.” 

A month or so before his retirement he was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer.  Richie fought the cancer bravely but succumbed.  In the end, I don’t know if he regretted all that work and independence or not.  All I know is every time I hear Melt With You and Drift Away, I remember karaoking with Richie and sigh about what could have been.  Life is all about perspective. 

My dad is a hard one for me. 

He was there when I was very young but not there really much at all as I grew.  He wasn’t there when I learned to drive, went to college, got my first real job, suffered my first broken heart, moved into my first apartment, got married the first or second time and I literally had to set up a ruse with a friend to see him in the mid-2000s.   He made a lot of bad choices in his life and he admits this.  He has been trying to make amends during the past 6 years or so but he frustrates me A LOT.  When I NEEDED a dad, he wasn’t there.  I was hospitalized when I was 4 years old.  I had what I guess was stress induced blood filled colitis.  I can only assume my condition was caused by living in an environment that was coming apart into divorce and two households.  I remember those several days really clearly yet my father doesn’t recall this at all. That blows me away.   Now, he needs me and I’m here for him, but it is not always easy.

Without embarrassing him and now at 77 that he is on the internet, connected to the world and following what I do, say, cook and write, I don’t want to say anything more except that I have been cautioned by a friend who no longer has a father that I need to forgive all that and just accept what he is now and what we can be together.  It is about perspective and being grateful.  I am trying to see things from his side of life and trying to be more patient and kinder.  My gramma would have wanted that.  She died when I was 6.  I have only a few memories of her and in every one she adored me.  I felt it.  I’m glad I had her for even those few years.  I know it is more than many get to experience and my dad misses her every day.  She adored him too.

So yesterday, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and 7 other people died in a tragic helicopter accident. I am not a basketball fan and probably have watched less than two minutes of professional basketball in my entire life.  However, I know who he was and that he was widely respected, revered as an athlete, family man, humanitarian and philanthropist.  He was also really young and had so much more to do. 

I can’t even imagine what his wife and surviving daughters are going through or the family and friends of the other people who died.  It is simply horrible.  I’m guessing they are thinking about what could have been if things had been different, if they had more time, if….. so many things. 

Photo by Taneli Lahtinen on Unsplash

No matter what happens, don’t waste your time on those useless activities.  In the end, I don’t think any of that will matter.  

We need to be present, appreciate every experience, good and bad and inhale and exhale deeply every breath we take because remember, Life is NOT a rehearsal.  No one knows how long we have here.  Make every moment count!  If life is all about perspective then try to take a step back and see your situations and relationships from the other side.  I’m going to really try to do better at this.  I want to have more empathy, more fun, less worry and stress, more quality time with friends and family away from my phone, sing more, publish my cookbook, volunteer more, exercise more, learn to bake REALLY good bread and see more of the world. 

The secret of life

The Secret of Life is enjoying the passage of time.  That is the first line of a song by James Taylor.  I love his music and this song, but I think the secret of life is really PEOPLE. 

While we can all count so many examples of humans being really awful to each other, animals, the earth, property, whatever, there are people doing good things too. 

At holiday times we hear all the news reports about good things humans do to be kind and I think we should all make a concerted effort to do more of that all year long.

In a previous blog I mention the two ladies who live down the street from us.  There was a brother and his two older sisters and they lived all together in this little block house which is prone to flooding as it sits in a valley.  I always worried about them.  Gary, the baby of the family, was always putzing in his garage where he had a really nice Corvette, a cool old truck and lots of “toys.”  When I would walk the pups down the dirt and gravel road to their house, we would often meet up and have a nice little chat then I would head back up the hill.  I gave them eggs and lollipops every time I made a fresh batch.  When I was tackling the landscaping around the house, I pulled out a ton of bulbs and they planted them all around their house.

On the visits I learned about their parents, the apple trees they used to have and we talked about the farm and what we were growing.  They love fresh veggies and gave me a huge bag of green bean seeds to plant.  I grew beans and passed them along.

Two years ago in the fall, Tractor Supply advertised that they scheduled a farmer day where farmers would set up their wares in the parking lots and I asked for a spot.  TSC management was THRILLED I wanted to participate in their event.  I told the neighbors I would be there.

It turns out I was THE ONLY farmer to sign up so I chose a good spot outside by the entrance, set up my table and tent and waited.

Nobody else that I told came, but the neighbors did.   They bought a few things, I gave them some things and it was just so nice that they CAME. 

That was the last time I saw Gary.  He died of a massive heart attack a couple of weeks later at the age of 60 and on my next trip to see them I learned the news.  I was shocked.  I asked why they didn’t call me.   I asked if they were alright.  I asked if they needed anything and asked what were they doing for Thanksgiving.  Betty said, “We aren’t having Thanksgiving.”

I said, you must come and spend the holiday with us. 

From then on in earnest I check on the girls.  Neither one ever learned to drive nor marry. I’m not even sure if they worked outside the home.   They were now alone.  Gary was their EVERYTHING. 

I learned they do have a nephew nearby but I have never seen anyone over there so I make it a point to check in and bring them soups and stews and whatnot when I cook and make sure they are ok.  They sold all of Gary’s vehicles and arranged for a service to take them shopping and to doctor appointments.

The girls spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holidays with us.  They came for my dad’s birthday dinner this year too.  Dad is in charge of bringing “his girlfriends” to the house and depositing them back home safely.  I know he gets a kick out of it.  I was really glad they came to the Fall Festival and it is a pure delight for me to see them smiling and having fun.

At Thanksgiving we were talking about the oil lamps that I collect and one of the gals said they have a bunch of them.

A few days later I stopped in with eggs and they presented me with 15 antique oil lamps and I swear none of them have ever been lit. 

I have them filled with red and clear lamp oil and have been enjoying the warm glow and that delightful smell lamp oil brings to the air when it burns.   They are so beautiful. I just LOVE them.   I can’t WAIT for Christmas day to show the girls.    They have little in property but had something they weren’t using that I would appreciate and they gave.  They GAVE.  This makes me weepy every time I think about it. 

I asked my friends and family for examples of kindness they have experienced or given and I was overjoyed to read some amazing tales from a total stranger being present when my cousin lost her first husband and father of her children to a car accident and was crying in a parking lot.  A man seeing her distress took her hand and said we both needed each other today.  She still remembers that meaningful act of kindness 7 years later.  Others spoke of the kindnesses their family has shown them and the support they get and some mentioned the little things I like to do and give that they have received from me. It is heartwarming.

Recently, I was at CVS and there was an older gentleman with a cane and he had these hearing aids he was trying to get to work.  He was asking the clerk for help but she was busy.  I took them and yelled in his ear that my husband uses hearing aids and I would try to help. 

I found the batteries that would fit and assembled them.  He asked me to put them in his ear.  He told me his friend gave them to him.  I was skeptical that they would work as hearing aids are personal and built to fit YOUR ear and your particular hearing needs, but I put them in his ears as best I could.  Can you hear me better? He looked at me and smiled and said it was ok and went on his way.  The clerk thanked me for helping and it felt good to help.

People, we all need each other.  There are animals that need adopted and my husband and I talk about how we could never volunteer at a shelter as we would bring them all home, but we can do more and we SHOULD.   We can brighten someone’s life, help people load groceries into their car, be patient, consider what may be happening to people and give folks a break once in a while.  We can pay a kindness forward and connect with people, give them some time, LISTEN to them.  Sometimes it just takes a minute, a gesture, a touch on the shoulder to make a difference.  It is a finite time we have on this earth.  Let’s make the best of it.

I am teaching my Little Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters to pick up a piece of trash when you see it, place things back on the shelf that have dropped, do something to HELP others and the planet!  I think by showing up and being a positive person we can inspire ourselves and others.  Let’s do it!

To eat or not to eat, that is the question.

To me, food is life.  

Since the beginning of the world and life on our planet, we eat to live.  We eat because we are bored, we eat for comfort, we eat as members of our communities at fairs and festivals.  Many times throughout the year for all sorts of occasions, we gather with family and friends and EAT.   We eat special foods or fast for religious reasons.  Food is a huge part of our lives. Do you attend meetings for work or groups that you belong to?   Inevitably, food will be available. 

We are in the throes of holiday merriment now and overindulgence is the rule, not the exception.  As I write this blog, I am also working on the list of ingredients I need to purchase and prepare for a event I am catering next week.  Food is on my mind pretty much all the time!!!!

So, what kinds of food should we be ingesting?  Do you find the bombardment of commercials, news reports, documentaries, books, the news, magazine articles, food and travel networks and cooking shows espousing their ideas contradictory and confusing?  I sure do.

Food is very important to me.  I plan my gardens and crops carefully, tenderly tend to each plant hoping it reaches a delicious and nutritious end, and feel sad when things go wrong.    After the plants are done producing, I save seeds to help propagate the next crop.  I am always seeking new plants to grow and I rely on our bees to pollinate pretty much everything.  As a cook I care deeply about what I prepare for myself, loved ones and clients alike and am always interested in what the newest science might be saying about the type of diet to which we humans should be subscribing.   

I have read many books that discuss what we eat and why we should avoid certain foods.  For me it started with Wheat Belly by William Davis MD and that book pretty much convinced me that the wheat we consume now is not the same wheat with which our grandmothers baked bread.  The wheat that most of our commercially produced food is made from has been genetically changed.  While in some cases, there is a good argument for GMO foods, in this case the truth seems to be that wheat as we know it, is a fast producing, disease resistant dwarf wheat which has led to all these celiac issues. 

So, after reading that, I started looking for sources of ancient grains and for the most part avoided traditional wheat products.  I had stopped eating cereal years before. 

Then my friend Amy gave me a book called Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan and I was entranced.  Read that book too.   Both books really delve into what we eat, how foods are produced and explores ideas of what we should consider is food.

We all know that if you want to be a healthy person, you should eat less (or no) processed foods, we know it.  Yet, 75% of the grocery stores are filled with packaged crap and new “foods” are being invented every day to keep up with the demand we have for JUNK.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have eaten A LOT of that crap in my life.   I still walk by Kraft Macaroni and cheese or Poptarts (Cherry or brown sugar and cinnamon were my favs) and remember EXACTLY how they taste.  I enjoyed the heck out of those things but now I care more about what that stuff does to my body that I just can’t eat them anymore and I will encourage you to avoid such items as well.

About 18 months ago we watched a show on Netflix called The Magic Pill.  At the end of that program we decided to make some big changes to what we ate.  The gist of that show boils down to a few simple things.  Mainly, that SUGAR IS EVIL.  If we took only one thing from that show, it was that cancer cells need sugar to reproduce.  You eliminate sugar from your diet, you WILL be healthier.  Of course all the sugar consumption in our country has resulted in an epidemic of public health problems, diabetes being the main one. 

Basically, they were touting the Ketogenic diet which recommends 70-80% of your daily calories come from animal or plant FAT, eating an adequate portion of protein (fist size) and the rest of your foods should be plant material.  They were of the opinion that we should concentrate on low carb veggies and limit fruits and with this diet, we could heal our bodies and reduce symptoms of autism, cancer and more.  It was REALLY convincing.  Basically, you are training your body to burn FAT for energy instead of the mass quantities of sugar Americans consume which creates insulin resistance.  Stop consuming the carbs (sugar) and you will train your body to burn Fat for Fuel, a book by Dr. Mercola.  I read that book and his cookbook and several others on the keto diet.  It is truly fascinating. 

So, on our farm we harvest honey from our bees and tap maple trees.  That is ALL SUGAR.  They are natural forms of sugar but sucrose none the less. 

I am a major purchaser of sugar.  You may not know this but I am the Sugar Fairy and I make all kinds of lollipops and confections.  I don’t consume hardly any personally, but I am a pusher for sure.  I wondered if I could still make all these sugary treats for others when I wholeheartedly believed we shouldn’t be eating sugar.

By eliminating most things that contained or broke down in the body into sugar, I learned a new way of cooking.  I experimented with cheeses and almond flour and learned to make a really convincing pizza crust.  We did try the cauliflower recipes too but NO ONE was fooled into thinking that was PIZZA.  My husband’s acid reflux disappeared with keto and as men will do, he dropped 30 pounds like INSTANTLY.  I stopped drinking wine which is sadly all sugar.  I learned about Stevia, erythritol and xylitol and could use those to sweeten items so we never felt we were missing out on treats.  I can even make a grain-free cookie that will knock your socks off. 

As with anything, 21 days of doing something makes it a habit so now when we are being strict, I just avoid most carbs and never feel deprived.  If eating out, there are tons of low carb and keto-friendly options and if I am given bread, I take it home for the dogs or chickens.  My weight is really good and I feel healthy.  We eat a lot of vegetables and in my opinion, we have a healthy diet.  I control the food in the house and we eat REAL food.  I am proud of this. 

Recently though, several of our friends from different camps started talking about another Netflix show called Gamechangers.  I knew it was about a vegan diet and purposefully didn’t want to even see it as I could see no reason to not consume meat, dairy and eggs.  I mean, pretty much the whole reason I wanted a farm is because I wanted chickens.  I LOVE my girls and their eggs which are amazing tasting. 

Last fall we bought a half a grass fed cow from farming friends in Erie and have LOVED the meat. We are almost out of that.  The freezer is almost empty!   

Right now, it is hunting season in PA and Mitch has been hunting deer on our property for almost a week now.  I’m reading a book on raising Dairy Goats and had dreamed of making my own cheeses. I mean, we are pretty entrenched in animal products around here!

But we watched it.   

While we aren’t elite athletes which this show featured, the report was compelling.  The scientists, researchers and doctors all had extremely good arguments for why we should not eat animal products.   Besides the environmental issues which are real, it seems like our bodies would be healthier if we gave up meat and dairy.  Maybe we should consider this.

We talked about how it COULD work.   We are taking a trip to Europe for the new year and I fully intend to imbibe in Portuguese foods which will include wine, cheese, seafood and more, but  we are thinking when we get back that we will start with dairy.  Slowly we can eliminate the cream, cheese, cheese and did I say CHEESE?  This is going to be a hard one for me.  With keto, my snacks are nut butters and cheese with almond crackers.  I currently have at least 7 kinds of cheese in my fridge. 

On the plus side,  maybe we can have oatmeal again but use almond milk in it.  Hmmmm….  Maybe or would we just keep with the no grains and eliminate dairy too?  That sounds so restrictive and would that be sustainable?

I personally don’t HAVE to eat meat.  While I enjoy a few gyros a year, I could stop eating meat.  I did it once for almost a whole year and it was a Primanti’s sandwich that brought me back.  Corned beef egg and cheese…..  fries on the side please! 

Anyway, so Mitch has agreed we will start with the dairy and finish off the beef in the freezer and then stop the meat. I think this will be hard for him. 

I am ordering The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100.  I saw this featured all week on the Today Show.  This National Geographic researcher went to different parts of the world where people have excellent health and longevity and learned what they ate.  I am pretty sure it is mostly a plant based set of recipes so I will approach with a good attitude and report my findings.   

I believe the plant based eating thing will indeed become A THING and you will be seeing this everywhere. 

If any of you try it, please drop me a line and tell me your experiences. I am attending the school of life which is continuous learning.  I’m up for any new knowledge on all things food. 

Eat eat eat and bee healthy!  😊

Sing, sing a song

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I like to sing, in fact I LOVE TO SING. 

One magical day during my sophomore year at Pitt, there appeared in the middle of the Student Union a big booth.  Within minutes kids started gathering around this big booth and soon it was discovered you could go into the booth and sing a song which could be heard all around the union.  From that moment, I don’t think anyone passing through attended classes that day, instead waited their turn to sing A SONG.  I remember an Egyptian girl singing a country version of Amazing Grace and an Indian friend of mine singing some Beatles.  It was very cool and fun.

A few years later in early 1992, my piece of crap car, with the check engine light on, was stolen from my unlocked unattached garage outside my 3rd floor walkup apartment in Bellevue.  I was so BUMMED.  It was a 1981 Buick Skylark (my first car ever) and I didn’t carry anything other than collision insurance.  At the time, I was making $14,400 a year as a sales assistant and didn’t even know how to take out a loan to get a replacement car. 

Trying to cheer me, my mom picked me up and took me to this bar called Gary’s II to show me something she discovered the week before.  It was karaoke. 

I saw booklets all covered in spilled beer, little sheets of paper and pencils strewn about the tables and bar.  I picked one of the booklets up and looked through it.  Oh WOW, all kinds of songs that I knew were listed and there were microphones and a machine that this older couple were operating and no one was singing.  I put in a song from the soundtrack of Top Gun by Berlin, Take My Breath Away and KILLED IT.

The karaoke guy was like, “YOU ARE SO GOOD.  Put in another song and we will put you right at the top of the line.” Thus started my karaoke singing career. 

A day or two later my car was discovered a couple of miles away from my apartment.  It had a new quart of oil sitting on the front seat (they saw the check engine light too) but my Entertainment Book was gone. Remember those?  Oh well.  I was thrilled to find the car and I promptly stole it back then spent fifty bucks on THE CLUB so that wouldn’t happen again.

A week or two later it was Valentine’s Day and I had taken a chance on something. 

I had spied a very handsome and tall man getting his coffee and getting off at the law firm a couple of floors below my office.   We always smiled at each other and I found out his name was Michael. 

Being Valentine’s Day and all I decided to get a bunch of flowers, leave a note on them and drop them off at his office.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

I waited all day for some phone call or a visit or something and when 5 o’clock came and went I went down to the office to see what happened to my flowers.  It was reported to me that HIS GIRLFRIEND HAD PICKED THEM UP.  Well, here I was bummed again. 

So, single as could be, I got my friend Heather and we went back to Gary’s II to drown our dateless sorrows and sing a few songs.  It was that night that I found my singing partner, Scott, and we have been dueting now for 27 years.  Scott is my best male friend and about the best singer I know!!!!

That night Heather sang her first karaoke song holding my hand and sitting on the stage.    She sang The Rose and I will never forget that.  That night started hundreds of karaoke nights for us and we still get together to belt out a few classics and try new songs as often as we can.

Since then, I have sung thousands of songs and every town I visit I seek out a karaoke bar.  I have waited 4 hours to sing one song at Cat’s Meow in New Orleans.  What is cool about this place is there are HUGE crowds there and everyone is INTO the karaoke.  It is nice when people actually listen to the singing.

I have sung 99 Red Balloons in Germany and was surprised that no one cared.  The song is by a German artist so I thought it would be cool.  Apparently, I was the only one!  😊

I have won contests and lost more, I have seen shy as can be wallflowers grab onto the microphone with clenched fists and leave the stage confident and exhilarated.  I tell you EVERYONE wants to be a rock star. Even you, yup you! 

Back in the early days when we would sing at Mad Anthony’s in my hometown, I remember the Fox’s Pizza Den delivery guy popped in and sang Lady, by Kenny Rogers and it was AMAZING.  I remember it decades later because he was SO GOOD. 

We recently had probably our 15th private karaoke gig.  I am older now and have some resources.  Instead of going to smoky bars and waiting 30 minutes between songs, for special occasions or if we just really feel like having a party, we hire our own professional karaoke DJ.   I can tell you if there is karaoke at one of my parties,  I don’t even talk to anyone at the party. I work on the food and just sing and encourage others to sing.  I’m apologizing now to everyone who has ever attended any of my parties and I didn’t talk much to you!  Sorry, not sorry… see line one of this blog.  I LOVE TO SING!!!  

This last party that we had was very special.  It was the first time we ever had a karaoke bash at someone else’s house and many people had never sung karaoke before so I knew this was going to be FUN.

In attendance were captains of international banking, lawyers, a chief grievance officer for the US Postal Service Pittsburgh Metro area,  a titan of Pittsburgh retail, a transportation specialist, and folks who work in all kinds of areas.  Within an hour or so, everyone was singing and dancing and having a SUPER time.  Yes, many people need some or a lot of liquid courage to get on up there, but many are just raring to go and seeing stars in their eyes.  It is a terrific way to let loose. 

I’m seeing my favorite high school pal this coming Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving for some karaoke and I can’t wait for her visit back home and to sing with her!!  It is the busiest party night of the year so I hear.   

This holiday season I encourage any and all karaoke virgins to get your sing on and hit me up for some karaoke. I’ll be happy to show you the ropes!!!! Sing it loud peeps and sing it proud!  #karaokerocks #pghsinger

Wo ‘Man’s best friend

I love being a dog mom and I can’t imagine my life being complete without a big dog or two.  I have cared for dogs only in adulthood beginning with a 4 ½ year old chocolate lab we named Sophie that we acquired in the late 90s.  Sophie was apparently a breeding dog as everyone loves those rare chocolates and seemingly had never been walked on a leash nor lived outside of a cage environment.  She was tattooed on her udder 4A26.  I will never forget that! 

Sophie needed to be taught how to do everything except be a loving and sweet dog.  I enjoyed Soph so much that when the same neighbor who told me about her said, there are more dogs that need rescued, let’s go, I did.

These labs were in a situation as I remember it where their owner suffered from depression, had stopped taking her medicine and the dogs were in peril.  There had been a lot of them apparently.

I went to the house that the dogs had been moved to and there was this smaller two year old black lab tied up in the house barking her head off.  My lack of dog owning experience made me not have any concerns about a dog tied up INSIDE the house.  I liked her size as a dog that I could probably handle so with zero questions to the current caregiver, much to her assured relief, I loaded up this dog and took her home.  I named her Carly.  She was 60 pounds and took to Sophie right away and she also loved me and my husband but anyone else, eh…. not so much.  OK, so I now had one dog who loved everyone and another one who scared anyone coming close to me, the house or anything that was the family unit.  Now, I was beginning to understand why she was tied up in the house.

This girl was not particularly friendly but boy was she smart.  I started teaching her words and her ability to comprehend language was really remarkable to me.  I LOVED my Carlycue.  She and I definitely had a strong bond.  She was my constant companion and had the funniest sleep rituals which started on a particular side of the couch.  If we had a guest who was sitting there when sleepytime came, Carly would stare them down till they moved.  No other spot would do. When she was ready to go to bed for real, she would pick up this giant purple stuffed alligator toy and take it upstairs to bed with her.  She was just a dear to me.

I feel very bad when I think of one thing.  Carly incessantly licked her paws.  The vet said she was anxious, which I am sure was true and gave me a spray to treat her paws.  What we didn’t know then and I’m ashamed to admit it now, Carly most likely had an allergy to the lamb and rice that we fed her.  Today we know that people and animals may be allergic or sensitive to grains and I beat myself up about the fact that she would have had a better quality of life if I fed her a grain free or even a raw diet.   

We had Carly till she was 9.  She did mellow a bit with time and so much so that in her last year of life, neighborhood kids who were home schooled walked both dogs while we worked away from the house.

Carly developed a tumor in her colon so for the last nine months of her life she took stool softeners and still had a hard time passing poop.  She would look at me with those amazingly emotional brown eyes and I knew that she KNEW, something was really wrong.  During the night she woke up and tried to poop every two hours which was really hard on me with the constant interrupted sleep but as a committed dog owner, I was willing to do whatever to keep her as comfortable as possible.

When we knew it was time to put her down,  we cried and cried and as I write this, I have to stop and give in to the cry at the memory of all this.  It was HORRIBLE to have to put a dog down who in every other way had so much life in her yet.  She was far too young.   In the song Mr. Bojangles, it goes His dog up and died He up and died. After twenty years he still grieves.  Sigh.

Since Sophie had been malnourished in those early years, she had gum disease which resulted in multiple teeth extractions.  She was also covered in lipomas but none of the ones we ever tested had issues.  The vet had said she would die of organ failure eventually but didn’t need teeth and was in good enough shape. So, we spoiled her and rubbed her belly and got her really soft beds to ease aching old joints.

Sophie lived till a ripe old age of 16.  We took her to PNC Park on her last birthday May 20th 2008.  They have Pups in the Park events which are awesome.  She had a BLAST. 

In the end, she was a very lumpy, bumpy and smelly-mouth girl, but she had a GREAT life and I wasn’t as heartbroken about her when she passed.  EVERYONE loved Sophie and remembered her name.  Carly was an afterthought as a common black lab and few remembered her name.  Of course her lack of putting herself out there to anyone probably had a lot to do with that!.  She was just misunderstood!  😊

I had two cats when I first got married who were already older so with Carly’s passing, things started going downhill fast.  Every time I walked into the vet’s office, they handed me a box of Kleenex. Over 24 months, we lost them all and were parents no more.  It was weird.  It was too quiet and part of me was gone too not having any fur beings to care for. 

After both dogs were gone, I remember dreaming about them being alive and in the dreams I would look at people and ask them, ”DO YOU SEE THEM TOO?”   It took me a long time to recover from the losses of those dogs.  I don’t know if it is because I don’t have children, but I really REALLY connect with my dogs and I missed them so.

Many years later in my new life, I wanted Mitch and I to have a dog.  Friends of mine had posted on Facebook about a litter of labs recently born in my hometown of Ambridge and I thought how full circle that would be, so we took a look. 

We brought a cat collar and I told Mitch to pick one.  The little puppies were exactly what puppies are.  They were brown, blacks and yellow bits of fur, small, soft, noisy.  They were scampering and rolling around, piddling and mouthing each other.  Only black ones were left at this time which was fine.  We watched them in awe. 

We met momma and daddy and now with many years of dog owning experience under my belt, I saw dad was HUGE and was mildly worried at the size these dogs would become. 

Mitch had owned labs in the past and assured me we could handle it so he chose one and placed the cat collar around his neck.  A BOY.  I had never been a momma to a boy dog.

It was going to be a few weeks till the puppies were weaned and allowed to come home so we set about getting things ready.  We needed a name.  I went through about 100 suggestions then said BANDIT and Mitch said YES.

Bandit puppy and his littermates were born on Leap year so will have his 2nd official birthday on Feb 29th 2020 but he is 8 years old.  He has one gray hair on his whole body, several lipomas now and as Carly was before him, he is SMART.  He likes to be with me ALL THE TIME and first thing in the morning, when I am peeing, he likes to get his morning briefing to see what the day has in store for us.  I swear to you, he understands it all. 

This is Bandit Puppy!!!

Bandit is with me with every chore.  He helps me feed the chickens and let them out in the morning, he is with me in the gardens, the greenhouse, helps me cook dinner and cleans up any spills unless it is of a vegetable nature.  Those would rot before he would eat them but he loves anything meat, cheese, egg, bread, and PIZZA related.

At night, he closes up the chickens with me too and loves to see the eggs.  He and Bubba, his brother who we rescued from up near our cabin, get eggs on pretty much every meal.   

Bubba and how we acquired him is worthy of his own blog which is coming soon but suffice it to say, the addition of Bubba to our family has been a blessing for all.  Even the cats have warmed up to him and we can ALL lay on a bed or couch together. There is definitely love between cats and dogs which is a first for me.  The only time Sophie, Carly, Katerina and Hercules would tolerate each other was when momma lit the wood fire at 5:00 pm and laid out THE BLANKET.  For some unknown reason, everyone was lulled into a trance in front of the fire and during that time, all trespasses were forgiven.  When I look back at those early days of being a dog momma, I think of those winter nights and the love we all shared staring at the dancing flames and am content. 

All I needed was a Rock and a few Rolaids

If you are of a certain age, you will remember the television commercial in the 70s,  How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S. 

Well, thank goodness for heartburn because antacids are basically chalk and just what I needed to keep me occupied whenever the adults were doing something outside that I wouldn’t find exactly scintillating. 

I remember going to the horse races with my uncle and aunt when they were first married in the mid 70s, and as an only child, I found ways to entertain myself.

There was an outdoor area near the Meadows track that was just a simple fenced in area that you could watch the races from.  I think now that perhaps you weren’t allowed inside with a child but I’m not sure.

I remember asking for Rolaids or Tums which all the adults that I knew seemed to carry around.  I would draw a hopscotch board on the ground, find a rock and play.  A good rock could also be used to draw on concrete.  Of course, gravel surfaces were a bust and harder to make work but a kid with a good imagination can find a game or entertainment pretty much anywhere and with anything. 

There was another game I used to play with a ball.  It was called 7 Up and is a simple game any person can play.  All you need is a ball and a wall.  I would spend ENDLESS hours doing this. 

I used to read a lot too.  I mean A LOT.  During the school year and all throughout summer I read books and there used to be this MS Read-a-thon where you would read books and get people to pay you per book.  I remember all the neighbors I pestered about this were alarmed at how many books I did read.  I mean, honestly, I had nothing else to do and I LOVED to read. 

Do you remember reading and re-reading the books that you loved?   I would often finish a book and immediately start reading it again.  I wonder now if there was something wrong with me.  I must have read Heidi 1000 times, seriously.

I would take as many books out of the library as I could carry and read them all, return them and get more.  My library card was a PRIZED possession.  I love to talk with my husband about his favorite childhood books and reading.  We are 8 years apart but really in the same generation pretty much and I was and am still very glad that he has a love of books too.  Reading more and more advanced books is how I got such a good vocabulary, spelling and grammar skills.  I love reading so much!!!!! 

While these days,  I mostly read books and magazines on health, cooking, gardening and raising animals, I intend to get a few novels and biographies and do a little non-work fun reading this winter.  I am dreaming of digging in to those books, with a mug of warm tea in hand and a soft blanket plus a kitty and puppy or two all snuggled up. The Howard Stern book about his best interviews is waiting by my bedside.

I wonder if the last several generations of kids use their minds to entertain them.  I worry there is too much screen time for everyone.  I mean, I get gas at the BP and as soon as you turn on the pump you get some guy giving you headlines and telling me a bunch of crap on a screen built right in the gas pump.  Can’t we have even a minute of no digital media???

Hand held video games were just in their infancy when I was a kid.  I had a football game that I would hide with at night under the covers and play play play trying to keep the bells from letting mother know I wasn’t sleeping.  I did enjoy that game immensely.  Then of course there was Ms. Pac Man.  I indeed spent lots of quarters on that game.  I am as guilty as all the other kids of that time trying to master the games in the arcade.  I could make a quarter last a long time though. 

As a kid, I did have a Sony Walkman and I would listen to the few cassettes I had over and over and over and never tire of them.    I remember listening to AM radio late at night in my bed too.  There was this guy named Doug Hoerth and I just loved his show.  I was a weird kid I’m pretty sure.   I didn’t have much but didn’t need much and I don’t ever remember being bored. 

There was no cable TV in my house.    When MTV came to be I do remember wanting to see music videos and looking for baby sitting work that I could do so I could watch Friday Night Videos.  I have vivid memories of watching David Bowie in this banana yellow suit with his hair all floppy just rocking my world.  Those were good times and again by myself.  The kids were soundly asleep! 

My childhood in the 70s and 80s was a simpler time I guess.  We didn’t have internet or email, cell phones or I-pads.  There were only a few networks on television so we all watched the same shows pretty much and you had to actually go to the theater to see a movie.  It was an occasion to go to a show, the theater, an amusement park…. It was a BIG DEAL and I looked forward to and appreciated those fun moments. 

Today, life is full of those moments constantly for kids.  There is no waiting for things.  The kids of today experience so much more than we ever did as kids.  Is it good?  I don’t know.  I liked having things to look forward to growing up to be ABLE to do.  There was an absolute separation of children and adult activities where today, there doesn’t seem to be.

I’m going to write another blog about all that.  Today, it’s just a rainy monsoon type of Halloween and I was thinking of my childhood games.  Oh and yes, we trick or treated in whatever kind of weather we were experiencing.  There was no rescheduling due to rains, even hard rains……. What is the world coming to???? 

The Song Remains The Same

That by far is not my favorite Led Zeppelin song, but I had been thinking about the title for this blog and that sounded perfect to me. 

I am a music lover.  I mean I REALLY like music.  Most of these blogs have had some reference to music which is no accident. I walk around all day with music in my head.  

Years back there was a movie starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan and Nic asked a little dying girl what her favorite thing on earth was and she said “Pajamas with the feet.”  Well, mine is music.

While I usually stay in the 70s and 80s in my listening, my gym classes and friends with kids have introduced me to some really awesome modern tunes.  The joy of satellite radio can really keep me in my favorite tune zones with no commercial interruption but that has kept me from hearing what the kids are listening to, so once in a while I pop on over to the pop stations and give a listen.  I am definitely a fan of Bruno Mars, Christina Aguilera and some others. I would say though, that modern music is NOT what it used to be.  Yes, I am perfectly aware I sounds like a curmudgeon but I truly feel classic rock n roll stands the test of time.  To me, there is just so much really GOOD music in that era that it would fulfill me a lifetime and is seriously timeless.  I plan to be 85 years old still jamming to Heart, Cream, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Pat Benetar, The Eagles, The Beatles and hundreds of other groups.

When I was very young, there was always a radio on wherever we were.  Radios back in the early 70s were small and portable with a rolling dial.   I remember 13Q in Pittsburgh before FM radio came to be popular and really loved singing along with the catchy tunes that I heard.  I laugh today when I think of the song Afternoon Delight by the Starland Vocal Band which was a hit song in the mid 70s.  I LOVED the harmonies of that song and basically would sing it at the top of my lungs not having any idea nor caring what the song was actually about.  And though I love harmony, I usually sing lead!  😊

I remember as a child going to see Sonny and Cher impersonators.  We watched their variety show religiously and I loved singing about being a vamp, another thing I could not define but caught the innuendo and loved it even as a kid.  I loved Chastity Bono, who is my same age, having matching dresses and jumpsuits as her mom Cher. Boy did I want to be Cher belting it out and being really sexy!!!I was definitely trying to grow up as fast as possible.  The kid music was never my style.  I wanted to be Sandy in Grease or even Marie Osmond.  When I watched the Donny and Marie Show, I had a microphone that I made from two plastic spoons put facing together and wrapped in aluminum foil.  That handy microphone was with me all the time.   You never know when you would be asked to do an impromptu concert. I was READY!

As a young kid, I remember the hours and hours that I spent spinning the vinyl records, reading the inserts and really pondering the covers. Those were the days, man. I think today’s kids have really missed out on a tremendously awesome experience.

I wanted to sing for as long as I remember and I have gotten the chance to sing in multiple choruses, my temples, on stage with a band and have been singing karaoke for more than 20 years.  It is still a great thrill to sing and as I write this I am planning our latest private gig.  Oh the fun I have creating and then whittling down my song list.

Mitch and I have gone to a LOT of concerts in the past 10 years and before that I have been seeing my favorite musical acts live on stage since 1982.  That concert was The Police and to this day, they are still my favorite band.  Sting, the front man and musical genius of that band is my one CHEAT if I ever get the chance.  You all know what I am talking about.  I LOVE STING and except for a few minor songs, love his entire catalog of music.  I have seen Sting by himself, with special guests like Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and Shaggy and the whole Police band more than any other group.  I have travelled across the country to see and hear him and am seriously considering a stay at his Tuscan Villa where he keeps BEES.  You can actually rent his whole place anytime except for the month of August when he and Trudy are there.  You can bet I am planning for my 60th birthday……  we can save up for the next 8 ½ years for that one and ask friends to join in and share those 10 bedrooms and make it affordable, well more affordable.  What a bucket list item that would be!!!! 

So, since we are 51 and almost 60, Mitch and I have been seeing some of our favorite bands who are all celebrating 40 to 50 YEARS of being together.  That also means, they are aging and some have passed. 

We saw Gregg Allman a few years ago and I knew something was seriously wrong with him. Apparently he had cancer and did in fact pass away not long after. Same situation for Steely Dan with half of the core band being Walter Becker passing, Tom Petty, Prince.. the list goes on and on.

We recently saw the genius behind ELO, Jeff Lynne and he barely moved nor did he sing his own songs. He had a HUGE orchestra with him and I was disappointed to know his band director had to introduce the players as Jeff admitted, he just couldn’t. I am definitely worried about him. He didn’t have much energy at all but played guitar and kept giving us the thumbs up sign. Things have changed.

The last time we saw all the Eagles together about 5 years ago when Glenn Frye was still alive, we were amazed that is was such a docile show.

Phil Collins did a Still Ain’t Dead Yet tour though that we saw and he also barely moved. His 18 year old son is playing the drums for him. He did pound a bit on a handheld drum but he has become pretty feeble. He has had back surgery and was definitely in pain. Having back trouble myself I watched him carefully and sighed.

The music sounds the same, but the background and some main players are changing as these amazing rock starts are dying off. It is the cycle of life I guess.