Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

More Things for Losers

Back in spite of absolutely no demand! 10 Things for (older) Losers to Do on Their Birthdays:

1. Experiment with serving other birthday pastries, such as bagels. Decorate with cream cheese and lox. Place Magnolia-scented votive candles in the center.

2. Put your various old age medications in little boxes and wrap them all up in festive wrapping paper. When it’s time to take them, rip off the wrapping and exclaim, “Whee!”

3. Stand in front of a mirror and practice hoisting up all of your saggy parts (omg, I really do this).

4. Pull your hair back into a really tight ponytail and pretend you’ve had a face lift.

5. Instead of sticking candles into a cake, try less sugary food items, such as Sugar Free Jello, pork chops, or leftover lasagna.

6. Walk past construction workers and yell, “Woo Baby, shake them cakes!” to get them back for when you were young.

7. Get the nakedest poster of Brendan Fraser you can find. Play “Pin the Loin Cloth on George of the Jungle.” Miss a lot.

8. Dab Ben Gay behind your earlobes as perfume. Also, say things like, "Dude-I scored some Actonel from my doctor." This will make you sound very cool and street-wise.

9. Chug a can of beer and see if you can belch out the Beatles’ “Birthday” song.

10. Go into your bathroom and sing to the mirror, “Happy birthday to me/I live in a tree/I might be damned old/but I can’t get P.G.!”

“I am not superstitious…but I am a little stitious.” ~Michael Scott, “The Office”

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fall is Budding Out All Over

One of the things I love about my tropical fragrant plants is that they occasionally bloom their little buds off long past the time when our northerly seasons are done. That’s been especially welcome this year because it’s been raining…and raining…and raining.

The above is plumeria (I believe it’s ‘Celadine’ but hopefully will find out soon).

Right is hedychium coronarium 'Dr. Moy' (also known as butterfly ginger).

Left is epiphyllum anguliger (also known as Fishbone cactus).

When I lived down South, I was shocked to find out how much I missed the different seasons. I admit…I am season-greedy. Best of all to me is getting several different seasons at once. Ah, variety.

Mistakes are opportunities in disguise. They offer you the opportunity to look at a situation from a different perspective. Many inventions and discoveries have been the result of a mistake. Columbus discovered America while searching for the West Indies; he simply got lost! ~Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Raining...Dog Stuff

Recently my writing friend Becky said, “Pretty cool...and fascinating ...to have ‘met’ people all over because of our writing, huh?!”

How true! I am mentally trying to prepare for a time when our 13½ year old dog is no longer with us, so the stories I wrote for Chicken Soup for the Soul What I Learned from the Dog had to do with grieving. Now, suddenly, I’ve been hearing from people who can relate.

One specialist in pet grief from Nova Scotia, Canada recently asked to use one of my stories on her website. I appreciated that and am flattered by the distinction.

Then yesterday I was interviewed by one of the writers/editors of several Chicken Soup pet books, Jennifer Quasha, for an article on grief for “Dog Fancy” magazine. I asked her ahead of time to edit out any stupid things I may say, but fortunately, I think it went pretty well. Jennifer was an easy person to talk to, and it’s always nice to get to talk to other animal lovers.

We got to talking about my last dog, Griswold, who was a doggy genius…which brings me to the above picture. One day when I was out, my neighbor looked up and saw our dog taking a stroll on the roof. Fortunately for us, she was able to get inside the house to coax him in and get the screen latched. But when she looked up again, the dog was back. What none of us knew was that he’d figured out how to unhook the screen. “I’m sorry,” she laughed, “but by the second time around, I decided I had to get my camera before I went back in to rescue the dog.”

The second time she shut the window. Whew.

We aim above the mark to hit the mark.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, October 23, 2009

Random Thought #1

Here is today’s random thought. There are so many coincidences in life. Sometimes I wonder—what if life really is just a dream, a figment of our imaginations? But then I realize the undeniable: I am neither genius nor masochist enough to have dreamed this up.

If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain. ~ Morpheus, “The Matrix”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where the Word "Dogged" Comes From

My dog is dogging my footsteps. Again. In his case, arthritis has its benefits.

That’s because I give this 13 ½ year old lab & golden retriever/terrier mix a variety of arthritis treatments. He actually gets around pretty well and doesn’t have any of the dreaded hip problems, but it’s clear his joints just aren’t as cooperative as they used to be.

First there’s the liquid glucosamine, which I originally bought for myself on sale. One swig, and I couldn’t help but imagine a frustrated chemist in the glucosamine lab, attempting to come up with a way to make this foul fish-liquid into something palatable. First he tries grape soda. Then orange cough syrup. Then chicken broth, Liquid Pledge, a few urinal cakes and some liquid cherry Tylenol. It is a vile and violent war of flavorings, and the even the dog was so unenthusiastic in lapping it up at first that the children and I had time to take bets on whether he’d give up altogether. I guess he eventually decided that anything under the heading of People Food is worthwhile, because now he’s convinced himself that it’s a yummy alternative to the constant diet of senior formula dog food.

After that I give him an omega 3 wrapped in cheese, and it gets sucked down so quickly that I have to stop and count my fingers afterwards.

Then he gets a dog biscuit to help clean his teeth.

I originally spread these things out to make his night more worthwhile, but it’s made my nights miserable with the continuous begging. And don’t tell me dogs can’t count. That dog knows exactly how many things he gets and at what time. So night after night, he stalks me with wide, pleading eyes. And when we are finished for the night, he stalks me some more.

I used to think it was that he was getting forgetful…and then I realized there are nights when I honestly can’t remember which I’ve given him, so I give him some more, just in case.

That dog is smarter than he looks. I’m no longer sure the problem is his senility. Could very well be that he's just exploiting mine.

The dog has got more fun out of man than man has got out of the dog, for man is the more laughable of the two animals. ~James Thurber

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Room Just for Sun

It's been cold and rainy the past couple of days, and I'm wet and chilled from bringing plants in for the winter.

This is one of my very favorite places in all the world—my sunroom. This picture was taken back in July, and right now it leaves me with a sense of longing. I love the way it faces east, so I can watch the sun come up on weekend mornings, and south, so I can sit in the reach of a long ray on weekday evenings.

The direction of the windows means that the room glows most of the day, casting the doorway in its own golden, beckoning aura.

And when I do walk into the light, there are pools of aureate air where I can drench myself, feeling my pores opening in the baptismal beams as if in worship.

To me, it is a poem of light, this room...a prayer.

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don't know what was in the newspapers that morning...a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. ~Joseph Campbell

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Speaking of Soup

As I said in another posting, the tomatoes were very late this year. The good news, for me, was that the final ripening coincides with…soup time. Any chill in the air makes me think of soup, but this year I can’t help but think of tomato.

My grandmother used to make a tomato/potato one she called “Butter Soup.” I used to think it was a weird name for something that had no visible evidence of butter, but you don’t argue with an 80+ year old woman who is also a wonderful cook.

Before she passed away (at 102 years), I tried to get some of her recipes. She just frowned and said, “Oh, Honey, I don’t use recipes; I just make those ‘by thought.’”

That thought-method of cooking, though, made trying to pin her down almost painful. For example, I’d ask her how much of an ingredient to use.

“Oh,” she’d say, cupping her ancient hands to measure the imaginary ingredient, “You know, ‘some.’” And I would watch her hands carefully to guess about how much “some” was. So it went.

Sadly, my grandmother’s true Butter Soup recipe went with her. This is the best I could do. It’s always been a simple recipe, but I think it manages to be delicate, warm, and comforting—all things which happen to describe my grandmother as well as her soup. “Merlee” was the name my older sister gave her as a toddler, and it stuck. It was the only name I ever knew her by.

I figure I might as well throw in a recipe. Guess you could say my blog is a soup of sorts.

Merlee’s Butter Soup (makes—you know—some)

2-3 garden tomatoes, peeled and diced
3 T butter (I used a light one)
2 ribs celery, diced
½ med. onion, diced
14 oz. chicken broth
1 largish Yukon Gold potato or 2 red potatoes, peeled and diced
11.5 oz. can tomato juice
white pepper
Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt or other spices of choice

Fill a medium saucepan with water and boil; drop tomatoes in and remove as soon as split appears. Rinse till cool, remove skin, and dice.

Dump out water and use saucepan to melt butter. Sauté onion and celery until onion is transparent. Add chicken broth and diced potatoes. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer till potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add tomato juice and bring to boil. Add diced tomatoes and heat through. Season to taste.

“We can do no great things—only small things with great love.” ~Mother Teresa