Friday, December 27, 2013

If You Just Believe

“Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world – stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death – and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.” Henry Van Dyke

The Christmas season came and went this year without too much of a peep. The kids and I picked out the biggest tree we could find: Ten feet tall and five feet wide. I prepared the usual pomp and circumstance of the season by decking my house from the inside out with lights and garland, wreaths and sparkling presents. Decorations were dazzling halls, cookies were baked and eaten, stockings hung on the chimney with great cheer, holiday parties happened, and carols were sung all over town.

My children were nestled all snug in their beds with the hopes that St. Nick would soon be near. Here in North Carolina not a single snowflake fell, and many a December day felt more like a warm summer’s eve than a scene from a Norman Rockwell holiday card. Still I’m sure the spirit was alive, I just didn’t feel it as much as usual. I am not really sure why.

Perhaps because Thanksgiving was a week later this year and everything Christmas had to be crammed into a shorter period of time? In an effort to put on the holiday show was there less time to savor and immerse oneself in the season? I noticed more people wishing “Merry Christmas” with pride and exuberance versus the hesitant “Happy uh, um Holidays?” so surely the spirit was alive more than ever.

I remembered the reason of the season and reminded the kids we were celebrating Jesus’s birthday. We went to church and prayed for peace and happiness throughout the land, filled shoe boxes to send to children in need, adopted an angel from a tree, listened to bells toll, and told stories from the past. All signs of good tidings were evident and we came all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.

My kids counted down the days to see if Santa thought they were naughty or nice. Would he bring them everything their hearts desired? Did they remember to tell him about the Furby, or that giant Nerf gun, or that last minute wish for that special Harry Potter wand? We were all very merry with yuletide trimmings shouting “Noel!”

Every morning my sweet five year old would come barreling into my room and tell me how many more days until Santa arrives. He would hold out his hand and count his fingers with such authority and assertiveness, and then smile with giant excitement in his eyes, giggling like a bowl full of jelly.

My eleven year old, bless his heart, still believes. He tried to talk himself out of the magic a year ago, but I talked him right back into it telling him that he’ll have everything he needs if he just believes.

My darling nine year old daughter was humble with her requests. She really did lose her two front teeth, plucked from her mouth by the dentist. Yet she could still whistle Merry Christmas.

All signs of everything Christmas were in full force, and I know the spirit was too, I just didn’t feel it like I usually do. Then it happened, just when I thought all hope of having my heart brimming with the enchanting aura of the holy time would escape me, I felt it.

Christmas Eve we made our annual hop, skip and jump to my aunt’s home for the traditional carving of the Roast Beast dinner. The table set with fine china and family heirlooms, with place cards thoughtfully arranged, we enjoyed the company of our family and friends. We ended the evening with a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” recited by my younger cousin. The reading was a tribute to my most respected and missed uncle who passed too soon and not that long ago. The moment was bitter sweet.

Christmas morning arrived. I knew long before the kids that Santa had not forgotten our home. She was up until 3:30 am wrapping presents and filling stockings with “The Christmas Story” marathon playing in the background. Nonetheless three innocent pairs of gingery footsteps trounced into my room to wake me, anxious to see if Santa came.

Just as they were about to race down the stairs I halted them, “Stop, let me check to see if he came!” but it was too late, their excitement could no longer be contained. In a peaceful truce with a cordial friendship in the works, their dad appeared shortly thereafter to share in the festive frenzy.

In a sea of paper and presents, the room was covered from tree to chimney. Not a single regret or complaint of disappointment was uttered, and smiles and happiness exploded amidst the mass of mess. All five of us, mom, dad, and three children, sat down to a lovely breakfast served in the dining room with Christmas carols enhancing the scene. We shared some laughs and stories, recounted our packages and showed thanks. But that was not when I was struck with the spirit.

My three children gathered their belongings and were off for the next week to spend some quality time with their dad. I spent the day in a quiet, reminiscent silence. Though I was not alone and my euphoric state had me flying.

Later that evening I was invited to the home of my dear neighbors and friends Dave and Debbie for Christmas dinner. Joined by their daughter Kristen, and Dave’s mom visiting from Ohio, we enjoyed a most delicious feast of a special secret family recipe called Shrimp Mangino, served with roasted brussel sprouts and Caesar’s salad. Dave, the ultimate wine connoisseur, selected the most delectable wine to pair with the meal.

Two years prior I had the honor of joining them on this very sacred night. We sat at the same table and enjoyed the same meal with the same company. Dave’s mom remembered our meeting and both of us were happy to be reunited. She is a pip of a hoot and a lady with a pep in her step and a sass in her humor. She said to me, “The last time I saw you, you looked older. You look younger now.”

Two years ago I spent my first Christmas dinner without my family. Although that seemed like eons ago, I recall the time not being one of my happier days. I may have had a smile on my face, but my sadness hung heavy and she remembered. She could tell that evening how sincerely time had healed me and I confided a little secret to her. She was beaming.

Amazing how much time truly heals. I spent a wonderful evening with my best friends and though my children were not with me, I was living in the moment, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. We gathered around the piano and their daughter Kristen played a most gorgeous Christmas ensemble that brought tears to my eyes. I asked her to play it again and she did. Then Debbie and Kristen sang a Silent Night duet. That was the moment. Music, the gift from heaven, the voice of God, brought the magic and spirit of the season to my heart. What a beautiful life.

Christmas came and went this year without a peep. I neglected to get out my Christmas cards, there were people I wished I had showed my thoughts with actions, I didn’t bake nearly the cookies I wanted to bake, didn’t spend nearly the time I wanted to spend with my children. Our gingerbread houses collapsed and we never made it to our traditional showing of the Nutcracker. I confess, we never filled those shoeboxes. Somehow our annual viewing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” escaped us, while our traditional readings of such sentimental works as The Polar Express or Santa Mouse sat on the shelf too often.

As for that Elf on the Shelf, screw him, he’s creepy and was never invited to our house anyway. I ran out of steam when decorating, so much that the last few strings of lights I just threw on a bush and called it a day. My gorgeous tree hatched a rather large family of spiders that brought new babies on the twelve days of Christmas. I didn’t walk around stores with that effervescent spirit of good will towards men. I spent more money than my budget allowed.

But on the final hour of this season, the spirit rained down upon me. And the day after all is calm, all is quiet. And I’m in love. Everything I asked for and more is under my tree. I can’t wait for next Christmas season.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Red Haired Red Neck

I dedicate this posting to a new friend whom inspired me to let my inner red neck out...that and too much Duck Dynasty as of late.

“Ain’t no point in beatin’ a dead horse….’course, can’t hurt none either.” Author Unknown

I am Master of my domain, Queen of my castle, Lady of my manor, Countess of the county! Prior to my single status, I was exempt from certain responsibilities. Now certain challenges have fallen upon me and I have tackled them with hesitancy and reservation. Once accomplished though I have become empowered. I am woman, hear me roar! I speak of yard work.

While I have alluded, alright admitted, to my princess status in a previous blog or two, I am not afraid to work hard and get my hands dirty. When it comes to yard work, I don’t really have a choice. Since my current budget does not allow the luxuries of a gardener, though that would be fun, I must dive in and do it myself. My yard, while fit for a castle, is a beast of a yard. It rests on an acre and a half on a rather steep hill, surrounded by a moat of trees. To maintain such an estate requires use of several pieces of mechanical equipment.

To entertain use of such equipment, I fashion my work shoes, some raggedy pants, and a beat up t-shirt. With my hair up, visor on, and $5 shades from Wal-Mart, I am quite the picture of ruggedness ready to tackle a manly job. Each item has had its own nuances, requiring the right amount of that special touch to get ‘em going: the leaf blower, the weed whacker, the hedge trimmer, the lawn mower, and alas my coveted John Deere tractor.

The leaf blower is really fun to use. Of course, taking care of leaves with some good old fashioned raking is better exercise but, considering the size of my lot, I have a lot of ground to cover and blowing is more efficient. Besides perusing the yard with a motor on my back is enough work for one gal. I am an expert blower now but back when I was a virgin I had the darnedest time trying to get that thing started. I would pump the gas into the fuel line, pull the string thing, fluctuate the gear settings, get a little motor action and then nothing. I spent hours doing this, cursing, sweating, shouting, and eventually kicking the thing where the sun don't shine. Then one day my neighbor and I were talking. I told him I couldn’t get my leaf blower to work. He pointed out to me that the off switch was on. You know what? I flicked the switch to “on” and that baby started right up. I am now really good at blowing.

Ugh, the dreaded weed whacker; my most despised piece of yard equipment. If I were smarter and of the more technical mind, I would invent a better weed whacker. One that doesn’t quit so quickly, doesn’t break its string every five seconds, one that automatically reloads and doesn’t require pounding on pavement, one that is more user friendly, careful not to have such a quick trigger, shooting debris into shins and eyes. There is just so much I would do to improve on this mechanical tool. I have yet to master the weed whacker and I have about given up trying. In fact, it currently sits in my garage, dissected into three pieces. To rectify the edging and weed creeping into garden beds, I have caved and resorted to using Round Up to edge my beds. I hate doing because I try to be environmentally friendly, but it gets the job done without all the mess and hassle. (I know I will be hearing from my EPA cousin on this one.).

The hedge trimmer is a beautiful creation of electronic yard equipment I just recently discovered. A well groomed yard goes a long way in keeping in good with the neighbors. Those shrubs grow fast. I found that a good bush whacking cleans things up nicely and the hedge trimmer is the piece to get the job done. There are some precautions to consider. First, while it works really well on shrubs and hedges, it also works really well on jeans and extension cords. I have learned that whatever is in its way, it will trim. I am lucky to have my leg and my life. Cutting live wires is a risky proposition.

Ah the lawn mower, my little hummer. This has had very little to learn surprisingly. I can start it up just fine but every now and then it needs gas. “Hmmm, which hole for the gas? Not the one for the oil. Oops!! Oh and what this random cap I found on the garage floor? I don’t know, don’t think I need it so I’ll just throw it out. Oops! Gas tank lid for mower. That’s alright, nothing a little Saran Wrap, aluminum foil and a hair band can’t cure.” Thanks to some creative ingenuity, my little hummer is leak free and happy.

The tractor; I am queen of the hill on my coveted John Deere; master of my domain. I rule the tractor. There is just something about the power of the motor under your body. With all the quirks in the topography of the yard I sometimes feel like I an expert downhill skier maneuvering moguls on an icy slope. Focus and strategy are key. You do not want the mower to tip. That would be bad. Too steep in one area and the grass clippings and I will become one. Patience is key. Sometimes Johnny can be sensitive. He is limited in his capabilities as he strictly cuts grass, but he does it so well. Sometimes I tempt him by running over pine cones, rocks, tennis and whiffle balls, but he lets me know such adventures are too much and he responds by growling as he viciously spits out the debris torn in shreds. Some days Johnny just doesn’t feel like starting. When this is the case, I give my ole Deere a rest and try to rev him up later.

Recently, with fall in full force, and the moat of trees around my house, I had to contend with a real leaf project. Several weeks had passed since Johnny and I had ridden. I went to start him up and he just wouldn’t turn over. I gave some lubrication to the motor, caressed the engine a little and still I couldn’t get Johnny up and running. I was really in the mood to ride him. I had leaves to run over and he was just the piece for the job. I was forced to resort to my trusty leaf blower. I spent hours blowing until the sun set and darkness prevailed. I still hadn’t forgotten about Johnny. I was curious if perhaps the mood suited him now that he had some time to think about working for me? So I moseyed on over to my Deere, jumped right on, turned him on, and low and behold he was ready to ride.

The yard was pitch dark but my Johnny has some pretty strong headlights. He’s manufactured for such situations. I rode my hot rod all over the yard, seeing nothing but the couple of feet he lit for me. Up and down, back and forth, together we worked to make a beautiful landscape.

Apparently we were really loud. My neighbors Debbie and Dave happened to be outside checking out their Christmas lights. They heard a mower in the distance. They turned to each other and said, “Is someone mowing their lawn at night?” Dave turned to Debbie and said, “I bet it’s MB.”

The next morning Debbie called to inquire what the racket was on my property. She inquisitively inquired, “Were you cutting your lawn in the dark last night?”

To which I excitedly replied, “Yes, yes, yes!! It was exhilarating, empowering, so much fun using those headlights. I always wanted to ride in the dark. Debbie, there is nothing like cutting the grass at night.”

To which she replied…

“You may be a red neck when you mow your lawn in the dark.”

Don’t that just crack yer yaller. I was grinning like a opossum shitting peach seeds. Can’t argue with that one. I done did that. Not worth a hoot and a holler. If ifs and buts were candied nuts oh what a Christmas it would be. That’s all I gots to say.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

DWTS Close Encounter of the Third Kind

"To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak." Hopi Indian Saying

After having arrived in Pennsylvania two days prior, Thanksgiving morning my brother, sister-in-law, two nephews, three kids, and myself piled into the car and made an hour and half drive due east to Central Jersey, venue of Turkey Day, home to Dad (aka Cranky) and Nona (aka Mrs. Cranky). They have a lovely home and Thanksgivings with them are always filled with warmth and good food. Mrs. Cranky’s family always joins the grateful gathering and I thoroughly enjoy their company. I expected to spend the day with the usual crowd.

So imagine my surprise when I enter the foyer, and lo and behold, beaming at the other side of the room, is a tall and handsome, OK gorgeously, beautiful man. Was it Christmas already? Had my gift come early? He spoke. My sister-in-law and I had to hold each other up as we were weak in the knees and fixed in a trance. With a deep and soft Russian accent this beautiful specimen spoke, “Hello, very nice to meet you. I am Andre.”

“Andre so nice to meet you. Do you want to marry me?” Well I didn’t actually say this. I did just meet the man.

“This is my wife Lena and my little boy Sergei.” Lucky for Andre he was married.

“Oh, so nice to meet all of you.” I say a little caught off guard, but not because he was married. Over the years I have met many unfamiliar faces at Mrs. Cranky’s, though they are usually named Uncle Paulie, Uncle Louie, Uncle Mikey, or Uncle Sal just to name a few. Mrs. Cranky has a large family of Italian heritage. I have never met an Uncle Andre with a beautiful Russian accent. Curious of their connection to Nona I ask, “So Andre and Lena, how do you know Mrs. Cranky?”

“From dance studio, “replies Lena. Nona works as the office manager at a ball room studio. I start to put the connection together. Lena continues, “Vee are dancers. Zough I don’t dance anymore after bebe born.”

“Oh, dancers!” I am instantly in awe.

Nona yells from the kitchen, “It’s his studio. He’s my boss so be nice.”

“Oh!” I am still in awe. “Oh, nice. Wow, ball room dancers. Are you familiar with Dancing with the Stars?” Stupid question.

“Ov course vee are.” replies Lena.

“Have you ever competed against any of the dancers?”

“Oh yes, dancing community very small. We know zem all.”

“Have you ever met Maks Smirsmirninoff?” I love Maks. He is one fine bad boy and who doesn’t love a bad boy?

“You mean Maks Chmerkovskiy?”

“Oh yes, sorry my Russian pronunciation is not very good.”

“Yes, ve know Maks. He wants to be an actor now.” She rolls her eyes.

“Do you know any of the other dancers?”

“Yes vee know all ov zem. Mark Balas and Tony Dovolani, zey plays in band together. Yes, vee know zem all. We pearformed vis dem. Dancing community very small.”

“You danced viz them, I mean with them?”

“Oh yes. Andre danced on first show season. Vee too busy to be on show. Andre vaz asked but vee no time. Too busy viz studio, students and now bebe.”

“Andre was on the show?!”

From the background my stepmom, aka Mrs. Cranky, hollers at me, “What are you, a celebrity whore?”

I respond with quite shameful pride, “Yes, I am. I am surrounded by greatness right now.” I mean, what are the chances? Here I am traveling to dumpy Central Jersey, and it is a little dumpy. I grew up there, I can say that. And here I am having a celebrity encounter of the third kind. Yes, I am a celebrity whore. I know it’s wrong but it feels so good. I can’t help but ogle and obsess with fascination. After my great interrogation of these poor, innocent guests I retreated a little and mingled with my family, but my eyes were on the dancers. Andre’s posture alone looked as if he were dancing standing in place.

Brunch was ready and it was time to sit down for round one of the feast filled day. Mrs. Cranky had a beautiful dining room table set and decorated. My dad and brothers sat at one end of the table and Mrs. Cranky’s family at the other. Since I was so caught up ogling and obsessing, all the seats at the big table became taken. There wasn’t a spot left. I was stuck sitting at the fold out table attached via “T” style, parked in the foyer, next to the front door. Being the princess that I am, I was slightly miffed. After all, I just drove north with three kids and a dog, eleven hours in horrendous traffic, and then hopped in the car again. I spent a lot of time traveling to spend time visiting my family and I get stuck at the kiddie table?! Really? This is how her majesty is treated?! “Oh well, no biggie,” I thought and quickly got off my thrown.

I took my place at the head of the fold out table and started to eat my bacon while five kids ages three through eleven reached and grabbed, were active and loud. Ready to pull out my hair, Andre and Lena joined me in the chaos. Suddenly the fold out table by the front door felt like the head table at the royal ball. I felt like I got the big end of the wishbone and my wish came true.

My daughter, mom and I watch the show “Dancing with the Stars” religiously. In fact, we just finished immersing ourselves in Season 17. We love the show and the dancers. We have gained such a keen eye we are able to accurately predict the judges’ scores and comments. The glitz and glamour is magnificently eye catching, and the dancers, those dancers, they are so talented. They are artists and athletes wrapped in a pretty, perfect packaged. They perform flawlessly to any dance style, have multiple routines seamlessly memorized like a pianist memorizes a ten page classical piece. But my fascination with ball room dancing goes even beyond the show.

Andre, Lena, and I conversed very nicely. They are super down to earth and very Americanized for two people who seem so foreign to me. As new parents, they were so cute and doting, and I loved observing their family interaction. We traded parenting stories, laughing all the while. But I felt compelled to tell them a story.

“Andre and Lena, let me tell you a story. A couple of years ago I was at your studio when Mr. and Mrs. Cranky had their après wedding celebration. Remember?”

“Yes, I do.” Andre responds.

“Well Andre, I was at a very low point in my life when I attended the party. I was going through something extremely traumatic and stressful.”

Lena said, “Traumatic and stressful? Try having to stand in line for a roll of toilet paper.” Well she didn’t really say this but I imagine she was probably thinking it.

“I was going through a difficult period. I felt very sad and my heart was very heavy. A dark cloud hung over my head.”

“I see,” said Andre.

“Well you see Andre, that night was magical. One of your dancers from the studio went around asking guests to dance. I was one of the chosen ones. This dancer asked me to dance the waltz with him. Why I had never danced the waltz before? Playing in the background was this beautiful piece. This dancer gently reached for my hand and told me he would teach me. He instructed me to dance one, two, three, four, in a square pattern. We glided around the entire ballroom as if we were floating on a white, fluffy cloud. I felt transported to a place of beauty. I felt stunning. We glided around and around. I felt elated. This dancer ignited a spark inside of me that was dead. I felt alive, I felt so alive. I felt happy, I felt so happy. I was glowing. That gift of dance reminded me what happiness was and gave me hope. Andre, after the song ended, I gave the dancer a hug and thanked him so much for giving such a gift. To this day I remember the feeling of gliding along the dance floor and how high I felt. Something as simple as music and a dance awakened my soul. I will never forget that experience.”

Andre listened so intently to my diatribe and replied, “Zat is za feeling I get every time I dance. Dancing is like a drug.” When he told me this he was glowing and beaming, truly loving and grateful for his talent and fortune to be able to have dancing in his life. Lena too, shook her head in agreement.  I felt as if as if I understood their world, speaking the same language, albeit a brief and passing moment.

Then Andre gently reached for my hand, held it lightly, and said, “My dear, I vaz za vone zat taught you the valtz. I am glad you enjoyed za dance.”

Lena, Andre and Sergei said their goodbyes as it was time for their son’s nap. They would not join us for dinner. My encounter with them was short but out of this world. I had been transported to another planet. I was grateful for so many things that Thanksgiving day. To be able to gather with family in a warm home with good food and good company is a blessing. Being able to revisit a special moment and catch a glimpse into a world of such talented individuals was the whipped cream on my pumpkin pie.

See for yourselves the beauty these too bring to the world. Thanks Andre and Lena!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Decisions, Decisions....

“Travel penetrates your consciousness, but not in a rational way.” Milton Glasser

The countdown to Turkey Day is tomorrow. Well at least it was when I wrote this blog. This past Tuesday the three kids and I, and the dog, drove north to be with our family for Thanksgiving. I had hoped to beat the major holiday rush. The kids missed two days of school, but I figured it would be worth it to get a jump start on the traffic. Maybe bypass most of it?

The trip started out promising. The roads weren’t too bad until, as expected, we hit traffic right before Washington, DC. I was hopeful we would bypass this likely scenario but no such luck. I accepted this setback as I always prepare for traffic at this stage of the trip. I was still hopeful that after we passed through our nation’s capital, the trip would be smooth sailing.

The rest of the trip was horrendous is the best word I can use. We hit pocket after pocket of traffic. For four hours traffic was stop and go, at speeds of 5 and 15 mph. What should have been a seven hour trip turned into eleven hours in a Nor’easter, with rain and wind attacking the road ways.

Keeping a sharp eye on the road for eleven straight hours, and grappling with the potential for hydroplaning, takes a toll on the body and mind; lights in front and to the rear, rain reflecting in every direction; stop and go, red and white, stop and go, red and white. My three kids were angels but even they reached their limit, and then mutiny erupted.  

Dehydration set in as I did not allow myself consumption of too many liquids in an effort to deter too many potty visits. I tried passing the time with The Sundays, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Billy Joel, Rage Against the Machine (too much to censor), and finally peace with Chopin at my son’s request. We could sail along at turtle speed with Chopin: Nocturnes, Fantasies, Polonaise, and Waltz. But then I couldn’t take them anymore!

I made a couple of phone calls of vents and complaints to my family. Some cuss words thrown in beneath my breath. Regretting my decision to make the trip, I swear to the kids that, “We will never, ever, ever make the drive north again over the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Inch by inch we finally arrive. Four hours after our initial ETA, I needed a big glass of wine. That night I didn’t sleep at all. I was so wired from the trip I had the worst case of insomnia. While awake through the night I did a lot of thinking. I did a lot of thinking about what I thought about on the eleven hour trip and what I thought about on the eleven hour trip was the same subject. The more I tried to change the subject in my head, the more it kept coming back at me. I was having a post travel break down and dwelling, alright obsessing, over past decisions.

Wednesday was a new day. Thanksgiving was a great day. Thursday night I was stricken with the same stomach bug my nephew contracted. So Friday and Saturday, not so good. The drive home, although late at night, was pleasant and fortunately I was not plagued with another episode of insomnia from a long drive. But while reflecting on the trip I wondered, was my decision to make this journey the right decision? We could have stayed in the comfort of our home, spent Thanksgiving with my aunt and cousins in North Carolina, and had plenty of chillax time; maybe gotten our Christmas tree a little early and savored decorating our house in preparation for Santa, saved some gas money too. But no, I had to revel in the thought of spending solid quality time with family members I rarely get to see. Nothing wrong with that but was it worth it? Was the pain of the journey worth the payoff?  I believe it was.

However, in questioning my decision, I flirt with a little philosophy on decision making in general. What I have concluded is that decisions are made based on the knowledge provided at the time. Choices are made for a reason. Make them and move forward. Make them with courage of conviction. Don’t turn back, because sometimes the roads are too deep for a U-turn.   

In the case of traveling during Thanksgiving week, the negatives were minor: a rather unpleasant day spent driving, a sleepless night, and the day after road lag. OK, and the stomach virus was not so good. However, the payoff of being with family was worth the minor discomforts. Other decisions have much greater consequences with pain so great that only time can heal and only time can tell where that choice will lead. Don’t look back. Was the choice a mistake? Maybe, but mistakes are part of life. We learn from them as parents always say. They leave room for growth and direction for the next trip; hopefully with no traffic to slow down the journey.

Monday, November 25, 2013


“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” Moslih Eddin Saadi

The sky is a gray, gray, November gray. Even when it’s blue and sunny, the sky still casts a soft, gray shadow in November. Most of the leaves have fallen from the trees and the spectacular show of color has faded into crunchy, brown debris. Signs that all the growth from spring, and all the heat of summer, will soon quiet for a long winter’s rest. Even in North Carolina, where the weather is like a box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re going to get,” the warm, sunny days still feel gray in November.

Just as autumn is about to turn in, a gaggle of geese fly in their V fashion disrupting the lull of the season. Their squawking heard miles away, the gray and gaggle are a wondrous combination, comforting and sweet like a warm cup of cider. Cursed with a great reminiscence of the past, I recall the days on the Eastern Shore this time of year. As the kids, dog and I prepare for our nine hour trip north to be with family, I am reminded of the trips south taken so many years with my parents and siblings. Thanksgiving on the Eastern Shore of Maryland spent with all of our cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents set on Trippe Creek. Along the way, the geese would follow.

Every year for Thanksgiving we would pile into the car for the three hour journey. Early days Dad drove us in his beat up, green Volkswagen Beetle; seventeen years later that was the car that taught me how to drive. Some years we rode in a dull, tan AMC Hornet station wagon, perhaps ugliest car ever to hit the manufacturing line. Other years, during the energy crisis, we rode in a compact, four door, silver Honda Accord with cranberry clothe interior. Later years, shortly before the boom of the SUV, a pearlescent blue, mega three row Mercury Sable provided enough space for three growing teenagers.

Regardless the style and mode of transportation, three hours with three kids is a long trip. The time spent on the New Jersey Turnpike seemed eternal until we’d hit the toll booth that allowed us to pass over the Delaware Memorial Bridge. That was a milestone on the journey as the Delaware River is a connection to the Chesapeake, our final destination.

The landscape would turn from a highway of busy cars, to a bridge high above a river, and onward to seemingly endless fields of gold, the absence of corn, harvested just in time for the big feast. With three kids crammed in the back seat of the car, we didn’t have I Touches or laptops to occupy our minds. Instead we studied the landmarks and landscapes, played “Punch Buggy” and counted cars. Of course that grew old quickly so I would assume the role of the great entertainer.

I would start with a little pinch and poke to one of my brother’s sides, maybe a little kick. I would consistently perform this dance until I reached my goal of annoyance. Then the fun would begin. My brothers would whine at me to stop. Of course, I kept annoying them, and then they would start whining to my parents. I would say, “What, I’m not doing anything?” And the sound of our bickering escalated to the point Dad could no longer focus on driving. He would reach back and start swinging his arm in the air while trying to keep a straight line on the road.

I would then throw in a Wet Willy to really get the back seat party started. This put everyone over the edge. Dad would scream and threaten to pull over if we weren’t quiet. This, in turn, caused suppression of giggles until we exploded with laughter giving Dad no choice but to pull over. That was enough to show he meant business and settle us down. The sisterly tormenting drama subsided, for a moment, and then I’d start again until even I grew feeble of my antics.  

Three hours with three kids is a long time. Poor Mom and Dad.

Along the way when Mom and Dad grew too weary from the drive and needed a rest we would stop at the midway point: The Dairy Queen surrounded by farmland in the middle of nowhere. Peanut Buster Parfait was my favorite treat.

After our pit stop, maybe a car nap or two, we knew we were getting closer as certain familiar landmarks gave away the closeness of the destination. Route 50 and 301 were barren back then but scattered with familiar landmarks such as the Black and Decker headquarters, the Talbot County airport, and Queen Anne Community College, the ice house where I first learned to skate, and the little shopping center with the only grocery store in Easton.

We would spot hunters coming out of the woods and fields with their camouflage and neon orange jackets, mesmerized by the freedom from which they carried around their shot guns. Pine trees lined the last leg of the journey, and we knew our destination was near. A quick cross over Peach Blossom Creek, a little turn in the highway, a quick cross over Trippe Creek where a tiny piece of my grandparent’s house could be spotted, and we were in the home stretch.

Oh, we were so close. Black Horse Farm and their two black and white ponies gave their contributory greeting as the stately red brick pillars of Harleigh permitted our entrance.

Ah, Harleigh Lane. Ask any of my family members, young and old, and I bet such a name will conjure up stories of walks along the lane, enjoying the quiet beauty of a simple stroll amid the company of a loved one. On bright, sunny mornings a bike ride with a destination of morning newspaper retrieval was in order. Maybe a flower picked along the way to show you cared. An outing for cousins to climb ancient trees, hiding for one to seek. Sightings of infamous ground hogs, a lost turtle or rare deer sighting; perchance a fox or snake? Wonders were abound on Harleigh Lane with memories weaved into shared experiences, etched as a keepsake of the past.

Harleigh was the portal to my grandparent’s home. Upon turning down the lane we’d sing with such sentimental, traditional enthusiasm, “We’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here.”

I never understood why we sang it, or what the song meant, other than “we were here.” To this day I still don’t understand the significance of the tune, but when my grandfather passed, we stopped singing it. I often asked why we stopped the music but in typical WASP fashion received silence as an answer or “We don’t talk about it.”

At the end of the lane stood a grand, white mansion, originally home to a Confederate plantation owner. Classic Eastern Shore railroad architecture, the house just kept getting bigger and bigger over the years, with wing after wing added to the north and south. A gorgeous Georgian window sat above the front entrance which provided, even in the distance, a vantage point straight through to the other side of the house, allowing Trippe Creek to filter through.  Right before we met the mansion, we made a sharp right turn onto a gravel, narrow, winding road that led to “Point of View,” the name my grandparent’s gave their home.

Over the years the road leading to my grandparent’s house went through many transformations. Back in the day before their house was even built, the property was supposedly the plantation’s slave quarters. Signs of such history often washed up on the shore in the form of broken pottery or rusted, oven doors with a date of 1846 seared to the front. We cousins would explore the shoreline in search of such treasures.

Many years later, when we traveled down the road, sheep graced the property, which was a real treat for us grandkids. A few years later the sheep were replaced by pine trees, in a Christmas tree growing venture, and every year we marveled at how much the trees had grown. Eventually the perfectly shaped evergreens were replaced by natural growth on one side and tennis courts put in place by the new owners of the big white house. Today the lane is monitored by cameras, a grounds keeper lives on sight, and the gravel road that took us to “Point of View” now paved.

Still the sound of gravel harkens recollection to the warm greetings waiting for us, the crunch beneath the wheels a chorus of our arrival.

All my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents would come running out with big hellos and hugs. Such excitement and a reunion of affection embraced us after the seemingly long journey. The smell of salt water lingering under the gray November sky, the creek in the backdrop with a small wake washing along the shoreline, to the tune of geese flying in the sky.

My cousin Jimmy, now grown with a family of his own, would draw attention to this sight, “Look I thee geeths!”

We would all pause and watch them fly above us on their annual Thanksgiving trek south. Too loud to even attempt to speak, we enjoyed their passage somehow feeling connected. Their annual traditions of traveling in a pack, and our annual family gatherings spoke of commitment and family ties that bind.

Every year thereafter the same ritualistic pattern was performed, ushering in the start of the bountiful weekend. Throughout the years, any time a flock flew over the creek and heralded their family song, we cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents would all shout, pointing to the sky, “I thee geeths!” a jovial reenactment of innocent youth.

Today we are all over the place; from east to west coast, with new families and new traditions. Some have passed. But I can tell you that never a gaggle of geese goes unnoticed without me remembering the journey and Thanksgivings spent on Trippe Creek.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"On Rainbow Bridge"

Aubrey’s Chesterfield Murphy 2001-2012

“My little dog, a heartbeat at my feet....” Edith Wharton

There was a fall chill in the air, the kind that awakens the body to remind one that winter is on its way. The evening sky cast a glow from the full moon reflecting sparkles from the stars. I sat in front of the fire with my little dog Buddy at my feet. The house was quiet; silence prevailed. Silence can sometimes be a comfort, but on a cold evening, when one is alone, silence can be deafening as loneliness settles a bit on the heart. The mind is left to wander and drift to buried caverns.

As I sat enjoying the glow and warmth from the fire, Buddy and I heard a thump from above. We remained still for a moment. Buddy became alert and on guard, his head tilted towards the ceiling as I too turned my head upwards, aware that the noise came from my bedroom. My heart began to race. No one was in the house except for Buddy and me. Did I have an intruder?

We sat still and listened for another sound but none came. The sound though was all too familiar: It wasn’t a crash, it wasn’t the floor settling, it wasn’t a door closing. It was a thump, as if something hopped off my bed and landed on the floor. I knew that sound all too well. I knew because I have heard that sound many times throughout the past eleven years. It was the sound of a dog jumping off my bed.

I realized, in that particular moment, I was lost in my thoughts remembering my dog Chester that passed a year ago. That chilly autumn eve I travelled to a place in my heart that welcomed a visit from my sweet Chester. Or perhaps it was the wind.

I will never forget the day we brought Chester home. We had the pick of the litter. There were so many cute fur balls, how could one possibly choose? My husband was impressed by the alpha of the pack, clearly the biggest in size and personality. With great big paws and staunch shoulders, this puppy trotted on over and began to tug and pull at shoelaces, nibble and chew, jump and wrestle with us. Then, as if to further impress, he performed in front of us, with inferior puppy pride, a great big poop over the air vent. From one alpha to the next, the deal was sealed. That fine spring day, we took him home with us. We named him Chester after our beloved Chester County, PA.

As I gathered him in my arms, we said a quick goodbye to his ten brothers and sisters, and a final lick and cuddle from his momma pooch Aubrey. I held Chester on my lap for the car ride home. He began to shiver, whimper and whine, calling for his family. My heart bled for the little pooch knowing he had just been ripped away from the only home he knew and placed in the arms of strangers. Sensing his despair, I promised him I would take care of him all his life long as I held him tight and gave him love. As I nuzzled my nose up against his soft, fuzzy head, his forehead smelled so sweet, like spring and all its’ blossoms. His scent was intoxicating. I closed my eyes and inhaled.

Springer Spaniels are medium sized dogs and can be either the field or bench variety. Bench bred are meant for showing whereas field bred are used for flushing out birds. Chester was a liver and white, bench, English Springer Spaniel. Being that Chester was a bench Springer, he did not incur the desired hunting instincts my husband hoped would flush out pheasants. In fact, after about two hunting excursions, with Chester cowering under a truck at the sound of gunshots, we deemed him suitable as a lap dog with show dog qualities; the perfect attributes for someone with narcissistic tendencies.

And Chester did make us look good. He was a gorgeous dog; prettiest you ever saw! People stopped us on the street, “What kind of dog is he? He is so good looking!” Chester was handsome. He had long, silky, pure white feathers that graced his arms, legs and underbelly. His markings were to perfection. He had a touch of lighter fur above his brows which indicated if he ever bred he would produce tri-colored puppies – a very rare and desirable trait. His snout was long and square with floppy ears that dropped to the perfect length. Coming from champion stock, Chester was a show stopper. If it weren’t for those droopy, bloodshot eyes, he too could have taken home some blue ribbons.

We weren’t interested in a show dog, just a dog to love. I believe that a house is not a home without a dog. Since we were newlyweds, setting up a new home, both of us having grown up with dogs, this seemed a natural progression to growing our family.

Chester was our first baby. We took him for swims in the Brandywine River, walks along Stroud’s Preserve where horses galloped past us in search of fox. Talley Ho! He had play dates out in the field near our home where all the dogs from the neighborhood would gather to run, chase, fetch, and be free. He often joined us on the Eastern Shore of Maryland filled with endless opportunity for swims in Trippe Creek, playing with crabs in a salt water bath.

Chester was with us when we made our big move to Kentucky. He adapted well chasing horses in the field behind our home. Chester kept me company late at night when tornado warnings sent us running for more secure shelter. We would huddle in the basement waiting for the storms to pass as the sky howled lighting up in blue and purple hues.

Chester always accompanied me on my walks. He was a companion on most road trips. He was always at my side, sticking to me like Velcro. If he wasn’t at my side, he was on my lap, all 50 pounds of him. He was a big mush ball. I swear he was part human. You could just look into his hazel eyes and see his soul. Chester would talk: Hungry, he had a sound; thirsty, he told you; needed to go out, he spoke; wanted your attention, he had sentences.

Chester could open doors and drawers with his paws, trash cans too. He must have had opposable thumbs. He was a good dog but mischievous at times. He often times tried flexing his alpha muscles which resulted in teenage battles between Master Mom and pooch. He always showed remorse and was quick to apologize, bowing his head and licking my hand.

He was around for the birth of our three children, our move to North Carolina, and often made appearances on our Christmas cards. He loved to swim, his giant, webbed paws could tread water for hours chasing sticks. He loved a good paw massage, and loved to have you hold him like a baby and rub his belly. He was ever so faithful, full of love, and very gentle and friendly with children.

Chester spent the rest of his days on the hill of our North Carolina home. He chased butterflies and squirrels, and before losing his hearing, he chased that yippy Schnauzer named Pepper which caused a bit of a conflict with the neighbors. He took less road trips with us, and a walk became a treat versus the norm of his past. I grew tired of his big, heavy body trying to sit on my lap so he was relegated to the floor.

I became frustrated with his ornery, mischievous ways. He took to jumping on counters and tables, stealing food sometimes straight out of your hand, and he seized any opportunity to get into the trash. Such naughtiness caused sporadic vomiting and diarrhea that left me to contend with a nasty mess. He constantly licked and slurped and made obnoxious noises such as snoring that shook the house. Sometimes I swore I had four children and not three. I was too busy for him. He became a bit of a nuisance for me and I grew tired of his shenanigans.

When our family became broken, Chester started to slow even more. He lost his master and was left to comfort our broken hearts. The last couple of years of his life he slept with my oldest son, providing him with much needed reassurance and security. The two became very attached and best friends.

I knew Chester was getting up there in years but I figured he had a couple good ones left. I took notice of his slowing and brought him to the vet just to be sure there was nothing serious going on in that aging body of his. The vet ran some blood work, but other than that “he checked out as healthy as a three year old dog.” The vet also added, “That’s not to say there isn’t something more serious going on that we just can’t see. We could run X-rays and invasive surgery but bottom line, dogs don’t live forever. They usually die of one of three things: liver or kidney failure, or cancer. That being said, he checks out fine, just has some arthritis which is probably what is slowing him down. Just enjoy him.”

A big vet bill later, I was happy he was healthy but adamantly protested to the vet, “That’s it, I am not spending another dime on this dog. He is just getting old, slowing down, and what will be will be. You won’t hear from me for a while I can assure you of that!”

A week later, I wanted to do more for Chester, he just didn’t seem right to me. I called the vet and another big vet bill later, he was on pain medication for his arthritis and an antibiotic just in case he had some internal undetectable infection. I swore, "This is it, I am not spending another dime on this dog."

We spent the last couple weeks of his life pampering him. I kept waiting for the new medications to kick in and perk him up a bit. I remember taking Chester on our last walk, not knowing at the time this was our last walk. We often walked along an old winding dirt road that weaved through woods and undulating hills. There, on that secluded path, I was able to take off his leash and let him roam free to smell every scent wafting through the air. He wouldn’t roam far as one call of his name sent him running towards me, ears flapping in the wind like “Mighty Dog.”

On our last walk we only made it half way when Chester just sat in the middle of the road. Clearly uncomfortable, I attributed it to his arthritis and carried that 50 pound dog home the rest of the way.

One crisp fall Saturday, we returned from my son’s lacrosse game. We found Chester lying by the garbage cans as if to say, "I’m done, put me out with the trash."

I thought it odd for him to be lying in that spot. "Silly Chester, what is he up to now?" I thought as he never once lay there before. "Perhaps he’s not feeling well from the mysterious bacteria in his system or maybe his arthritis is getting the best of him." I carried him inside and put him on the couch where he would be more comfortable.

I was concerned he wasn’t eating. In denial, once again I attributed it to the phantom infection. I wanted to rectify the situation. I grabbed the turkey baster, crushed his antibiotic and arthritic pain medication, let it dissolve in water, sucked it up with the baster and squirted it in his mouth. I thought, “Once the medication kicks in, he’ll be back to his spunky self.”

We waited all afternoon for him to perk up. We made his favorite, peanut butter cookies, but he didn’t want any. We sat with Chester on the couch all day long. We spoiled him and gave him lots of love.

I kept praying, “If only the medicine would start working, he’d feel a lot better.” But as the day progressed, Chester was getting worse. His legs gave out and he became paralyzed from the waist down. His constantly in motion tail ceased to smile. He began to moan a sound I had never heard. My children were witnessing his suffering and I realized the medicine was never going to work. I had to face reality.

I called the vet hospital to explore my options. I needed to make the decision that every pet owner dreads. Through my sadness, I was concerned about the cost. The hospital staff informed be about public versus private cremation. “But what is a public cremation?” I asked. Not happy about the answer, “A public cremation involves burning remains of all the deceased and is the most cost efficient.” My Chester wouldn’t have that. He deserved better.

I left the kids with my mom who fortunately was in town for a visit. I told them I was taking Chester to the hospital to see if they could make him better. “Will Chester be coming home?” they wanted to know. “We’d see,” I said.

I loaded Chester onto a big foam cushion and placed him as comfortably as I could in the back seat. The kids gave him a kiss goodbye. My little four year old was crying, and I didn’t realize that in his young years he was so attached. My eight year old daughter, the strong one, fought to hold back tears. My oldest son Tommy, the one whom shared his bed and most of his heart, stood a few feet away from the car and cried out for Chester. Tears streamed down his cheek, the weight of his sorrow was evident as he pleaded, “Don’t go Chester, please don’t go. I love you Chester, please come home. I don’t want you to go!” He knew he’d never see his furry friend again and there was nothing I could do to make it better.

I stopped at my neighbor Phyllis’s house. She had a particular fondness for Chester. An eternal animal lover, I wanted him to say goodbye to her. She gave him a kiss and assured me that someday we would all see him on Rainbow Bridge.

Fortunately my friend offered to drive me to the hospital which allowed me to comfort Chester. As I sat in the back of the car with him, his moans becoming more frequent and piercing, his suffering intensified. I held his head on my lap, caressing it, promising him it would be alright and that I’d take care of him. His gums started turning white and I could not stop the tears from flowing.

Arriving at the hospital, the sun had already set. I carried him in thinking "This is the end of the road." His time had come. I figured they would just whisk him away and that would be the end. When I signed in, they asked my permission to evaluate his condition. I hesitated, knowing they would want to run all sorts of tests that had already been performed, with exorbitant amounts of vet fees I couldn’t afford. I expressed this concern but they gave me hope that there may be something they could do to save him.

With a glimmer of hope, I gave my consent. I was starting to feel hope and my sadness and despair started to diminish ever so slightly. I knew this pooch had a couple more good years left in him after all!

The vet returned with news that they found an obstruction. “An obstruction! That’s all it is! I knew that dog got into something. Get it out, do what you have to do, I’ll take it from my savings no matter the cost.” I felt so relieved that his condition was just an obstruction. “Is it a tennis ball, golf ball, bone, plastic toy?" I asked.  "That Chester! Always getting into something. The kids will be so happy when I bring him back to them....”

The vet interrupted, “No, it’s cancer.”

Cancer. With that one word I knew the decision needed to be made. And just as I was about to make it, the nurse came in and said, “I think Chester is making the decision for us. It’s time, he is waiting for you. He is holding on to see you one last time.”

I went back to the room where he lay under a bright light. His gaze fixed on mine. His eyes never wavered. I held his paw and gave the doctor my consent to administer the drug that would cease his suffering. And then it all happened so quickly. I wasn’t prepared. I kept babbling about what a good dog he was, recounting all of his antics and silly Chester stories. Before I could finish, he was gone. My dear pooch was gone.

There was such silence. Such a peaceful silence fell over the room. My Chester looked so peaceful and at rest. I was struck by the beauty of death.

They placed a blanket over him, and he lay a vision of a sweet, sleeping puppy. With insurmountable dignity, they allowed me time with him in a private room. In silence, under the bright fluorescent lights, I sat there, just me and my pooch. I held his paw. I told him how much I loved him, what a good dog he was, how much I was going to miss him. I apologized for our fights, for the times I didn’t give him the attention he deserved, for the times I took him for granted. I wished for those times to return. I cried and then cried some more. My tears would not cease.

I knew I couldn’t stay in that room forever. Yet he still felt warm, I didn’t want to leave him. I leaned over for one last kiss, nuzzling my nose into his soft, fuzzy fur. After all this time it still smell so sweet, like spring and all its' blossoms.

When I came home, I told the kids the vet wanted to keep him overnight. I wanted them to have a good night sleep after such an emotional day. I kissed them all goodnight, and when deep in their slumber, I returned leaving each of them a plastered paw print of Chester near their bedside. When they awoke the next morning, they would know and could face the day.

The next day was somber but life goes on. As we all piled into the car to run errands, Tommy entered the back seat where Chester lay just the night before. Out rolled a giant poop. “Look Mommy, Chester left us a present!” So he did, so he did. We took comfort in his gift.

Chester was just a dog. He was a pretty dog, a good dog, and our dog. And he’s waiting for us on Rainbow Bridge.

To all the pets that have passed, and all the owners that have lost their best friend, I dedicate this post. In memory of Chester, Minnie, Amos, Teo, Nittany, Remi, Princess, Honey, Paddington, and Marley to name a few. They are our heartbeats at our feet. Without them, our home just isn’t complete. Until we meet again…

“Rainbow Bridge” Author Unknown
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge…
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


“Never eat more than you can lift.” Miss Piggy

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I know, can you believe it! Where did the time go? Soon we will all be stuffing ourselves like Tom Turkey. Come New Year’s, in typical American fashion, most of us will proclaim our New Year’s Resolution to lose all that holiday weight. This year, however, I began a strategy to combat the need for this most popular, cliché New Year’s resolution called dieting. I have crafted a plan to avoid gaining that turkey 5, drawing a map to prep my body for fat and food overload. Shortly after Halloween I started what I didn’t even realize I invented: The Candy Diet.

The Candy Diet is great. Everyone knows that diet is all about moderation. Here’s how you moderate: Don’t eat anything but candy. It’s all about caloric intake, and whether you intake calories of candy or healthy proportions from the five food groups, one plus one equals two; calories are calories, they all add up to the same number. Besides, the FDA pyramid is just a government conspiracy so don't feel badly about straying from it.

Conspiracy or not, this diet is very inexpensive. All that candy left over from Halloween needs a home. Now I know all about Operation Sweet Tooth where you gather up your child’s candy and donate to the military. Believe me, I tried this. My kids freaked, “You can’t give away our candy that we worked so hard to earn?” I suppose I need to work on the giving and gratitude aspect with my children.

That being said, regardless, we parents do not want our kids to have all that sugar and junk. As parents we often take the fall for our kids and protect them from harm. The Candy Diet has this covered. Here’s the plan: Sneak a few pieces of candy throughout the day from each child’s stash. Best times are during school hours, while they are at a friend’s house, and even at night when they are asleep. They may notice the subtlety in which their loot is being depleted. Be prepared and have your answers ready.

For instance, they may question the missing pieces of Twix “Hey, I had 10, now there are only 7?”

Your answer, “Sweetie, you ate three yesterday. You have had so much candy you can’t even keep track of what you’ve eaten. Bless your heart!”

They may shout in anger, “Hey, who ate all my Snickers!”

Your reply, “Calm down, I just took one. Can’t you even share a piece with your mother? After all I do for you!” (Driving home the guilt factor is important for this response.).

The sweet young one may tear at the heart strings when he brings to your attention, “Look Mommy, I forgot to eat the other half of my Reese’s!”

Play to the innocence of that young child, “Yes you did dear, yes you did.”

Or to the older child, not quite so naïve, bordering on sassy, “What the, hey, this piece is open. And someone took a bite!”

Demonstrate your mother bear instincts, “I was just testing it to make sure it was OK to eat. And it is, so you’re good to go!”

I admit, this is not a diet for the long term as it truly does lack certain nutrients, but if enough candy is eaten, the gaps in nutrition will be filled. For instance, chocolate has numerous health benefits such as powerful flavonoids which act like antioxidants, supporting the immune system; perfect for cold and flu season. Flavonoids also work as free radicals and prevent aging and heart disease; like a face lift and a work out in one. Chocolate also stimulates endorphins, the “feel good” chemical in our brain; perfect for feeling in love without the baggage. And, perhaps a little unknown fact, chocolate contains serotonin, an anti-depressant. Stave off the winter blues and save a few extra pennies on those overpriced drugs! Zoloft, Prozac? Just eat chocolate!

Nuts, such as those found in Babe Ruth and Snickers, give you that much needed protein to sustain and satiate hunger. The slogan “Snickers Satisfies” wasn’t created for nothing. Nuts are rich in fiber and also phytonutrients and antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium. “Sometimes you feel like a nut…” I always feel like a nut.

Worried about fat in candy? The Candy Diet debunks the traditional low fat diet. Recent experts demonstrate and prove in their specialized studies that fat is essential for our overall health. In fact, low fat diets are actually causing weight gain. The Candy Diet provides the necessary fat for our diets, thus supporting the new findings.

Now I know sugar takes the body on journey from high to quick low. This is where the Candy Diet once again is wonderful. Feeling sleepy? Studies have also proven that naps are beneficial in so many ways. A quick power nap boosts creativity, energy level, cognitive skills and memory. If at home, sneak a quick cat nap. If at work, sneak a quick cat nap – take an extended potty break, be resourceful about napping. This sleep induced sugar yo-yo will force you to take that so important afternoon nap necessary to maintain mental and physical well-being.

Oh, and, don’t worry about that sleepy feeling turkey gives you from the amino acid tryptophan – your body is already accustomed to feeling sleepy from the sugar of the past month. An internal clock for napping has already been set.

Aside from the sugar low, too much candy can make a belly speak. But then again, so can too much of anything shoved into a pie hole. Stick with it, this is training for the big T day. No pain, no gain, as I say on the Candy Diet. The more rumble in the bumble and the body will begin to get used to feeling like crud.

When gathering for the much anticipated meal, the body has been on a crud mission for an entire month, completely desensitized to any and all ill feeling. This is a license to eat your heart out. Your stomach won’t even notice the coagulation of all that variety of food melding together in one big blob: Turkey, mashed potatoes, candied yams, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie, Irish soda bread, creamed oysters, pork and sauerkraut, green bean casserole. Shove it all in. You can handle it! You have been Candy Dieting!

If this diet is properly followed, results of a shrunken stomach and a loss of five pounds should be expected. Starving and sustaining on nothing but candy for a month takes focus, but at the same time is really sweet. However, with any diet there are drawbacks. Here are a few I have experienced:

The first is a constant eye twitch. I am not sure what causes this. Then there is the skin issue. Similar to teenage acne, the diet does make one prone to breakouts and dulling of the skin. Just run with it and act like you’re young at heart. I have also experienced swelling and puffing around the eyes, which is bizarre and unattractive. Expect some loopiness in the head too.

Listen, with any diet come sacrifices. The pros need to be balanced with the cons. I say with this diet the pros win. Just remember, you heard it here first, “The Candy Diet!” *

Do not try this diet without first consulting a physician.*


Thursday, November 7, 2013


“If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.” Khalil Gibran

Yesterday, in haste, I posted a blog called “Smile, You’re on Candid Camera.” I thought it was brilliant. I felt really good posting it and just loved the sarcasm it oozed. Well, I admit, I suppose, it was a “vent” blog. I am kinda new to this blogging stuff. With anything new, there is a learning curve, and I am learning there is a fine line a writer can cross when trying to share experiences by channeling emotions which can sometimes be very personal. As humorous as it may have been, perhaps I crossed that TMI line. Thank goodness for the “delete” button and some blunt honesty from the ones that love me.

My dad was very quiet about it. TMI.

My brother was laughing up a storm. “It was hilarious! So entertaining!”

“I know! I said. “I thought it was funny too.”

To which my brother quickly responded, “At your expense. Kind of like Jerry Springer.”

Well I could toss in the towel and begin the whole to blog or not to blog question, but I am not going to do that; it’s redundant and beating a dead horse is mean. I will take the criticism, stare it in the face, and try, try again!!

I don’t know exactly who or how many people read what I post but a good rule of thumb would be for anyone who writes: do you want your kids or your parents to read this; or your boss, your husband, your ex, the President? The answer to that question in regards to the posting I deleted was a NEGATIVE. Delete!

As a side note, this was not my first, or second bout of criticism. And as a side note, I am a very sensitive person so criticism is a tough pill to swallow. But blowing smoke up my trunk is not helpful either. I’ve got my big girl panties on, show me whatcha got! But do be kind and gentle.

For instance, my elder cousin gave some constructive criticism regarding my profile picture. “What's up with the Avataresque photo. You are one of the most beautiful women I know…Just saying.”

I wasn’t upset and in fact, I could totally see what he was talking about. My profile photo is very Avataresque. Even my dad commented that I looked distorted in the picture. My plan when I posted the picture was not to look like a blue alien. I thought the photo was very euphoric looking, painted a profile of a very chill and laid back chick, apropos for a blog writer. The shot was taken on my birthday, I was at a John Mayer concert, tail-gated probably more than I should have and….

Wait, did I just commit TMI again?   

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


“I always believe that to be the best, you have to smell like the best, dress like the best, act like the best. When you throw your trash in the garbage can, it has to be better than anybody else who ever threw trash in the garbage can.” Lil Wayne

I am a princess. If you travel to Ireland, County of Cork (I think) or maybe Sligo? Anyway, what matters is that I am a princess. My 10th grandfather was head of one of the largest clans in Ireland: The O’Connor clan. So, should you ever travel to Ireland to that county, you will find a pile of rocks where once stood a grand medieval castle; that would be my royal lineage. And then the castle fell to ruins, the potato famine hit, and we fled to NYC, poor and destitute. My family was left rummaging to survive. There, in me blood, runs royalty; and also dumpster diving. I am a dichotomy.

So it should come as no surprise when I confess that I am a Princess Dumpster Diver. I take my own garbage to the dump. Of course, I do not take my garbage to just any dump. My dump, fit for a princess, is one of the finest in the land. I only know of one other dump of such fine real estate and that, my subjects, is on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; and I think they just take recycling. Here, this dump takes just about everything. Situated on a lake, what fine real estate she is with water front property, just a mile down the road from one of the most prestigious country club you have ever seen.

I could offer many reasons why I visit the dump on a weekly basis, but the real reason comes down to this: I am cheap. Why pay someone when I can do it myself? Many a time I swear that “when I get home I am arranging for garbage pick-up!” The dump is not a fun place. It is gross, smelly, and just nasty. Christians relate Hell to going to the dump, contrary to the image immortalized in Dante’s Inferno of flames. So for a good Irish princess like myself, nothing feels better than a good trip to the dump! Always feels good to get rid of that junk in the trunk. However, there are rules to the dump, and as any good princess would follow protocol, I will share the top ten rules that I have learned over the years:

#1 Always have wipes and sanitizer readily available.

#2 Gloves are important too as they protect not just from slime but also venomous spiders that lurk under the handles of trash cans.

#3 Itemize and organize trash so that you can get in and out in a flash.

#4 Make weekly trips to dispose of trash. During summer perhaps twice a week. Winter is great because you can skip a few weeks (a former neighbor, of great legal mind, shared this tip).

#5 Make sure that when you ask your son to take out the trash he places the lid back on otherwise when it rains you will have a soupy, nasty mess and you will be left dry heaving trying to contend with a zone of contamination.

#6 When scamming and perusing trash from other dumpers, be mindful of two things: one, they are planning to get rid of it. Two, is it worthy of humiliating yourself into retrieving? Trust your instinct though. Don’t get cold feet. If you see something and it looks like a treasure, go for it. You can always throw it out. Don’t let pride stand in your way of a good find! You know what people say, “Another man’s trash is another man’s treasure!"

#7 Back vehicle into the dump so you can be in and out quickly. No one EVER, I repeat EVER, drives their vehicle head first. You Never, Ever see this and if you do, they are an idiot.

#8 Be friendly to the workers. What a shitty job they have!

#9 If you are about to lose your grip on your trash can when dumping cause you are not so strong and you waited too long to visit the dump, just let it go, let it go. It’s just not worth trying to save. Trash cans are easily replaceable.

#9a Good rule of thumb is to bleach cans frequently and also replace every so often.

#10 Never wear flip flops.

Rule #10 is a recently learned tip. A few weeks ago I went to take a quick dump, I mean trip to the dump. I threw on some flip flops, hair up, just had a quick bag to drop. I backed into my spot, garbage itemized and organized, sanitizer on hand, gloves on, and this man, this fellow independent garbage disposer, stops me dead in my ricochet (oh yeah, I am mastering throwing my bags, kind of like garbage basketball).

“Ma’am, you should not wear flip flops to the dump. Do you know what a vile and disgusting place this is?”

As if this were my first rodeo.

He proceeds with his diatribe, “You cannot even imagine the filth and bacteria and scum that is on this ground. Just filth and maggots, just awful.” His face was curled in disgust and repulsion. Just looking at my choice of foot attire made him cringe yet, fool he was, he thought I was a novice. I was getting ready to explain to him that I am a princess dumpster diver, been coming here for years, and he does not know to whom he is speaking.

Instead, I climbed into my pumpkin, a maggot dangling from my freshly manicured pinky, and retorted, “Sir, I am well aware of the filth of this place. In fact, I sometimes wear heals when I take my dump!” And with that, I straightened my crown, waved him goodbye, and rode off on my horse.

I dedicate this posting to my brother, "Prince of Dumpster Diving" and my mother "Queen of Dumpster Diving"