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"

Friday, November 1, 2013


Halloween 2013 was uneventful, and this is a good thing! No drama, no victims, no crying, no complaining; just pure old fashioned, simple fun had by all. Well perhaps simple is not exactly the correct word. Costumes today are a lot more elaborate, replacing the standard material of cardboard, spray paint, and an old pair of pajamas. The traditionally carved pumpkin is now replaced by an elaborately stenciled masterpiece. Special effects such as light up masks and tombstones, or masks and corpses that shoot out blood, or masks and figurines straight out of a Hollywood make-up artist’s closet, have become the standard. Still creativity existed this Halloween and, more importantly, the kids had a blast dressing up as their character of choice.

This year my kids and I were unfaithful to our neighborhood by choosing to join our friends, the “L’s,” in their neighborhood. Mr. L loves Halloween. Mrs. L says she can take it or leave it, but she still was the most ghoulish hostess.

Mr. L had his supersized garage man-cave all decked out with decorations, burgers and dogs kicking off the night, punch filled with candied insects for the kids, chips, dips and no, no whips, but there were a few axes and scythes! He hitched up his flatbed trailer to his massive SUV, filled the bed with bales of hay and BAM! instant hayride for the Halloween Express.

The homes in Mr. and Mrs. L’s neighborhood sit on over an acre of property with driveways a mile long. So, needless to say, the kids really had to earn their candy, especially when they trekked down or up a driveway and no one answered. This was extremely inconsiderate on the homeowners end; after all it’s Halloween. Everyone knows that lights on or lights off send the message as to whether or not you are a Halloween scrooge.

Mr. L drove that trailer all around the sprawling neighborhood as we, adults included, hopped on and off, traipsing from house to house. Expressions such as “I got a big stash!” to “We cleaned that house of candy!” could be heard from door to door.

Some of the homes really went overboard with their decorations. One house had about ten blow up, creepy decorations such as a twenty foot light up cobweb with a giant spider, a giant blow up gargoyle and a really cool blow up cemetery. Some homes were staged with the Texas chainsaw guy lurking in the woods ready to frighten the kids. Other homeowners just took sheer pleasure when the trick or treaters shouted “Thank you! Trick or Treat! Happy Halloween!!”

We exited the neighborhood and paraded to the local country store. We were probably breaking a hundred laws by having thirteen kids hanging from an open flatbed, no seat belts, no air bags or safety harnesses, but Mr. L was only driving about 15 MPH and it was Halloween; a day when rules may be broken a little. Of course when Mr. L got all giddy and bumped it to 30, well that was a joy ride! Yee Haw!!
Anyway, we drove past the local country store where some of the locals were hanging outside, drinking beer, playing corn hole and shooting the breeze. We hollered and screamed “Trick or Treat!! Happy Halloween!!” The owner of the establishment ran inside and grabbed bags of candy. She came running out and started throwing candy at us to catch. Kids giggled and grabbed, the corn hole spectators cheered in the background and, with the pillow cases starting to get heavy, we journeyed up the country road some more.

Mr. L insisted we stop at this old, historic landmark house on the hill. Upon reaching the historic site, the kids read the plaque that noted the history of the dwelling. They were mesmerized that a home could be so old; 1900!! "Is it haunted?" one kid questioned. So when no one answered, even though the lights were on, they acted as if standing on the hallowed grounds was enough of a treat. Or, perhaps the rather large boxer of the canine persuasion that came barreling toward the group was plenty of trick for treat.

Onward we turned onto a dirt road scattered with random country homes. I don’t think the residents of the homes expected any trick or treaters. So, imagine this little old lady’s surprise when thirteen ghosts and goblins appeared at her door shouting “Trick or Treat!!” This dear, sweet lady stood there for a moment, looking perplexed. I was a little concerned and felt badly for interrupting her evening, but she was delighted as she began counting the figures that stood before her. In a sweet, Southern drawl she said, “Naw, y’all sit still fo a moment.” She stepped away for a second and returned with thirteen mini moon pies for each child. Then she said in her sweet, Southern drawl, “Naw, be shaw I deen’t miss anyone. Ya shaw y’all got somethin’? Y’all come back naw if I missed anyone. Promise?”

Traveling to the next country home, the kids ran up and then ran back screaming, “This was no trick!” this home, that had on their lights, also had signs that read, “Go away,” “Do Not Enter,” and “BEWARE!” The children rattled off in distinct detail, “Gun shot shells covering the front porch, trash all over and beer cans too. These people mean business!! That’s a scary place!”

With our joy ride coming to an end, it was time to head back to the L’s house for the kids to take stock and accounting of their earnings. They sprawled the candy onto the garage floor, itemized, and then traded what they did or did not desire. Once they made note of their inventory, all jacked up from a sugar high, they ran rampant all over the L’s property, throwing footballs, chasing one another, just being kids and having fun.

Mr. L made an announcement for all to hear. It was a very important announcement:

“November 1st is a national holiday. No school tomorrow!!”

This sent the kids into an even greater tizzy as they shouted, “Yay, no school tomorrow!!”

If such a wish could come true, perhaps, but sadly for the children, this was just an announcement made by an overgrown kid upset that his favorite holiday was coming to an end.  Having to burst the bubble of the Hubba Bubba, my kids expressed minimal drama at their displeasure that I would not go along with the L’s tradition of All Saints Day being a revered and sacred holiday. My tween Lord of the Rings Orc, little Ring Wraith, and 70’s Retro Disco Chick didn’t put up too much of a fight as they were pretty beat from their event filled day.

Home safe and sound, tired, and along with their stash of treats, good memories filled their pillow cases.
Thanks L Family for your wonderful hospitality and for bringing out the kid in all of us!!