I’m No Good At Small Talk

August 15, 2017

A. E, E 1981

Elizabeth, Emily and me in 1981

Whenever I meet someone new, I dread the small talk. It starts with “Where are you from?” “What do (did) you do for work?” And eventually “how many kids do you have?” That’s the stumper.

In August 1986, I was a single mother with two daughters. In August 1987, I was married with two stepsons living with me. That’s about as radical a change as life can throw at a person.

Thirty years ago, on August 16, 1987, my life changed completely. On that date, Northwest Airlines Flight # 255 crashed outside Detroit. Both of my daughters, ages thirteen and seven, were killed. It’s not something I want to mention in casual conversation. At first, I felt compelled to do so, to not deny their existence. That proved to be a conversation stopper; awkward for everyone.

I have written about my journey to go on to a new life in my memoir, As One Door Closes. I wrote the book so I wouldn’t have to talk about it. Anyone who has lost a child understands that the pain never goes away, one learns how to handle life around it.

The problem was I couldn’t promote the book as I would then have to talk about their deaths and the aftermath, negating the whole idea behind the book. I did one interview, on the Pat McMahon Show, He asked questions that surprised and ambushed me. I never did another interview.

This year is the first I can look at photos of my daughters and enjoy them, treasuring the memories.

If you see me on August 16, just give me a hug, but don’t expect me to talk about the crash. I can only write about it.

My memoir is available on Amazon

 

Pickleballing as a Single Person

August 3, 2017

pickleball Annie

There are many sports you can do as a single person or as a couple: golf, tennis, softball, bowling, and skiing. Unfortunately, I have no talent or interest in those sports. I do bowl with the grandkids, once or twice a year. That’s enough for me.

Pickleball is also a sport where you don’t have to be part of a couple. It takes four people to play a game. If more than that show up, people rotate in. Pinewood Country Club has four courts, but many times there aren’t multiples of four. There are couples who come to play, but they don’t usually rotate in together. This makes the sport especially attractive to single people or those whose spouses or significant others don’t play the game. There’s absolutely no stigma in going to the courts alone.

That having been said, some places make distinctions on the level of play. Good players prefer to play with other good players. There’s no handicapping, as in golf, to make up being teamed with a poor player. I always joke that I should have a handicap so whoever plays with me has a chance of winning.

I’ve played between fifty and seventy games this year. I’ve been on the winning side a handful of times. This would be discouraging to many people. I improve each year, but then so does everyone else. And many of the newer players start out better than me because they are athletic, which I’m not. It’s a good thing I’m not competitive or I’d get upset when I lost, which is most of the time. I see Pickleball as extra steps on my Fitbit and time in the outdoors spent with fun people.

 

Age Span

July 24, 2017

My granddaughters have been visiting the last two weeks. They enrich my life tenfold.

Abby and the doll she sewed.Abby and doll she made

Abby is ten and stayed the first week. She took sewing lessons as JoAnn’s in Flagstaff in the mornings (she was the only one to sign up so she got individual attention the whole time) and Volleyball at Pinewood Country Club from four to six p.m. We went out to lunch in Flag after her lessons, her choice. Both girls love to eat at Oscar’s Fiesta Burrito.

I saw an article in the paper about alcohol ink projects. I bought the paints and we decorated plates, mugs and glasses. When I washed a plate, all the paint came off. We were both bummed out. I inquired at Michael’s and found out that that type of paint is not permanent on glass or porcelain. We’ll have to redo them in the fall with different paint and a clear fixative.

Abby’s favorite dog has always been Louie. She lavished attention on him and he loved it.

We went bowling at Cliff Castle Casino one morning with a friend’s granddaughter. They love the fact that I have a Sponge Bob bowling ball. My youngest son was into tournament bowling in high school. When he won the Sponge Bob ball, he magnanimously gave it to me.

She was an absolute pleasure. She made her bed, brushed her teeth and made her own peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches for dinner. She’s a picky eater so it was difficult to get fruits and vegetables into her eating pattern. She rarely used her iPad except to face time her parents and to entertain herself during rides in the car. We bought an outfit for her to wear to a concert she attended the day she returned to Phoenix. We also bought her school supplies from the list provided by her school. That’s an annual tradition. I do so love school supplies.

This is her sixth summer of spending a week with me at the cabin. I was totally exhausted after her first visit, when she was five. She required much more physical caretaking and entertaining. That’s when I missed having a mate to “tag team” when it got frustrating or too tiring. Now she knows Granny’s Rules and I rarely need to correct her behavior. We both love reading and were content to read our separate books.

Savy, six, is visiting this week. She’s also incredibly well-behaved. Kudos to her parents, Shelley and Nick. I was wondering if it would be too much for me, now that I’m five years older than when I first had Abby visit. I’m glad to report that my physical condition has not deteriorated, and I have plenty of energy for this very active child.

Unfortunately, it rained all day, every day. Swimming in the country club pool was not an option. And she’d already seen the child-friendly movies that were playing in FlSavy paints 2017agstaff. The first day she found crafts to do for six hours.

 

Unfortunately, I didn’t notice she’d gotten “washable” paint on her favorite dress. I soaked it in Dawn detergent and scrubbed it but not all the paint came out and the whole dress has a rose tint to it. I went on line to find the same dress but couldn’t. I ordered a similar one she chose.

I discovered that I could get the Disney Princess channel on Pandora. I hooked dup my new speakers and she was a happy camper.

Since Savy was to attend craft classes at JoAnn’s, we went into town to buy the supplies. First, we went to the Flagstaff Farmer’s Market and bought some items including a watermelon. That’s her favorite snack, along with dill pickles. We had to make several stops for her craft supplies, plus we bought some more crafts for home. She knew that Abby had gotten an outfit so we shopped for one for her. We stopped at MacDonald’s for lunch. I was tired and she got to burn off some energy on their play equipment.

We made the cupcakes that she would decorate during her first class at JoAnn’s. She did the craft we bought by herself, but managed to get paint on her white tank top. I forgot to have her put on one of my old tee shirts. The next day we bought another white tank top. After that I remembered to have her wear my tee shirt.

She bought a large ball and I must admit the bouncing of it on the wood floors drove me crazy. I had to make the rule that it could only be bounced on the carpet in the bedroom or on the porch.

Savy was also the only student in the craft class so she did not get frustrated with learning new skills. Her favorite dog was Sparky, and she missed him. She didn’t warm up to Louie and shooed him off his favorite chair to sit there alone. I was more than willing to provide attention for Louie.

I used to visit my paternal grandmother went to Coney Island for the summer and I spent a week with her during the summer. She was kosher and made food I’d never tasted. She would only allow me to go on the carousel. I looked longingly at the other rides on the boardwalk. It had to be eighty degrees before she would let me go swimming. Friends of hers at the rooming house played rummy for money. One summer I won all the money. My father was not pleased. She was a wonderful storyteller.

I treasured the time I spent with her. I have a seven-month-old granddaughter. Question: Will I have the stamina to provide the same experiences for her? I hope so.

 

 

 

 

Heat Wave

June 25, 2017

I’ve never known it to be so hot for so long up here in the mountains. Ninety-five degrees, for gosh sakes! It’s times like this that I’m glad I’m single.

I wear tank tops and short to Pickleball, fat thighs and flabby arms notwithstanding. It’s too hot to look good. after taking a shower, I wear loose linen pants and a cotton tee shirt.

air conditioner at cabin

I do have one of those portable (?) air conditioners that you hook up a hose to a window. I would have bought a conventional window air conditioner but all my windows open side-to-side, not up and down. I placed the portable one in one of my living room windows. In past years I haven’t found it to be effective, barely cooling the room to eighty-seven degrees. Last year I didn’t even pull it out from behind my television.

With the heat wave predicted, I positioned it in the window. I knew to open the cabins’ windows at night and then close them when the heat started, trapping in the cold air. This year I turned on the air conditioner as soon as the room got to eighty degrees. Throughout the day, the room stayed between seventy-eight and eighty degrees, acceptable to me. I turned it off when it cooled down after eight at night.

Right before I went to bed, I opened the windows in the bedroom and turned on the ceiling fan. That got the room cool enough to sleep in alone. It seemed luxurious to have the cool sheets and the queen-sized bed to myself.

Louie on the bed

Even Louie, my dog, didn’t crowd up at his usual place, at the head of the bed where the other pillow would be. He lays down on the bottom of the bed, as anxious to get away from my heated body as I was to stay clear of his.

In the cooler months, I do crave a warm body beside me. Not just any body, but one I would enjoy snuggling with and helping me warm the bed. I draw the line at spooning with my dog. Ee-yew!

 

Decadence in the Pines

June 16, 2017

         

  When I first moved to Munds Park ten summers ago, I named my cabin “Chill on the Hill.” My friend Susan commissioned a sign in pottery to make it official.

I leave my over-planned life in Scottsdale behind. There I’m always busy watching independent movies at The Camelview, lunch and dinner dates with friends, weekly Happy Hours with my neighbors, comforting friends, giving advice, activities with my kids and grandkids and working an overwhelming contract job.

I still have some scheduled items up here, Book Club and Writing Group, but I get more time to leisurely read The New York Times and The Arizona Daily Sun while sipping tea. I take my pokey little puppy for walks. I write and reflect.

A neighbor of mine on Cedar Wood, Terry, went to Beauty School last year and passed her licensing test. She offers mobile services, but only the ones she like to render: Facials, Pedicures, Manicures, Clipper Cuts and Trims You go, girl. Do what you love. I arranged for a facial yesterday. It was an indulgence.

She arrived with many supplies, including the table and a crock pot with hot towels. I laid down on the sturdy cot and listened to a classical piano channel on Pandora. Terry has a light touch., She cleansed and moisturized. Who knew a facial massage would be so relaxing?

I had my choice of a fourteen carat or seaweed mask. I chose the latter. I should have asked Terry to take a photo of me with the mask on and the cucumbers overs my eyes.

Toward the end of the treatment, she put very warm towels on my face. Aaaah.

My faced felt soft and supple. And still does two days later.

As she packed up, I considered what to do next since I was so relaxed. Reading and savoring dark chocolate caramels, of course. I could tell Louie was jealous, so I gave him a massage later.

Life Imitates Art

May 29, 2017

           A few years ago, I wrote a one-act play called Brownies. It was about a woman in Sun City whose grandson helps her get a medical marijuana card to ease the pain of her arthritis. She bakes some marijuana and regular brownies and by accident serves the “potted” ones to her poker group.

My youngest son has been touting the benefits I would get from a medical marijuana card. He knows I wake up at two or three in the morning and can’t get back to sleep, due to anxiety. He worked an event for Green Star Doctors, a firm with a doctor qualifies people for the card and can sign the paperwork for it. My son said since he wasn’t getting a card, he could get me a discount.

I made an appointment for a Saturday and printed out the records from my most recent visit to my primary care physician, my annual checkup. I’m diagnosed with anxiety and depression, so I figured that would do it.

When I entered the Green Star Doctors waiting room, I was surprised that none of the people in the room were in the eighteen to thirty-two-year-old male group I had thought were the majority of Arizona Medical Marijuana Cards. I’ve since looked up the data on Arizona Medical Marijuana Cards. The latest statistics are from the Department of Health Services’s 2016 report. There were 100,000 people with cards. The age ranges of 18 to 30, 31-40 had 24% and 20% of the total number of cards issued. 61-70 year-olds had 15% of the cards issued.

There was a middle-aged man in a wheel chair and a woman who was a senior citizen. The waiting room had food available: cut veggies with a ranch and candy, lots of candy.

The doctor, dressed in jeans and a tee shirt, looked over my records. She told me that the only reasons I could get a Medical Marijuana Card were pain and PTSD. I told her I had leg pain and pulled up my pants to show her the six-inch ace bandages from my recent vein surgery. She said she would need a letter from the vein surgeon with my diagnosis and stating that I suffered from pain in my legs. I happened to have a post-op appointment with the vein doctor on Monday.

During my appointment on Monday, I mentioned to the doctor that I needed a note from him to get an Arizona Medical Marijuana Card. He didn’t blink an eye. He said he would write it and I could pick it up on my way out.

I went back the Green Star Doctors. The receptionist looked at the note. She immediately took me into a side room, took my photo on a computer and had me fill out the paperwork for the state of Arizona. I saw the doctor a few minutes later, and she verified that I was eligible for the card and signed the needed documents.

I paid $150 to the State of Arizona for a one year card. I paid the Green Doctors $100, since my son had arranged for a $50 discount. The receptionist told me that the card would come in the mail in eight to ten business days.

The card came two days before I moved back to Munds Park for the summer. I decided to wait and use a medical marijuana dispensary in Flagstaff. I knew there was one near the Dollar Store and across the street from Safeway on South Plaza Way. I’d gone there for research when I’d written the play. I asked my friends in California for suggestions on what to buy. (Although I went to college in the sixties, I rarely used drugs. My best friends weren’t into it and I knew two guys who had ruined their brains with acid and speed.) They recommended Setiva for depression and Indica for sleep problems. Since I’ve never smoked cigarettes or rolled a joint, they suggested I do a vape pen. I had tried edibles with them and didn’t like the inconsistency of the products.

I went onto High Mountain Health Medical Dispensary on a Friday afternoon. I had to fill out forms and show my Arizona Medical Marijuana Card and my driver’s license. They gave me a booklet to peruse as I waited my turn. It wasn’t very busy and the waiting room looked like the variety of people one would see in a grocery store.

When my name was called, I went into a locked room that held the products. There were counters and at least four staffed stations. Behind the counters were apothecary jars of “flowers” as well as small bottles with tinctures and “candy.” The edibles included gummy bears, sour gummy rings, and many more.

The staff person I dealt with seemed knowledgeable. I had to show my Marijuana card and my driver’s license again. I explained what I wanted and he showed me a “pen” and a vial with concentrate that the dispensary manufactures. He discussed the concentrations but it went over my head. I settled on a lower concentration of the Indica and a higher one for Setiva. The pens were $10 each, including the chargers. The Indica concentrate was $41.30. Since the Setiva was $65, he suggested that I come back the next day, Saturday, since it was always 25% off on Saturdays. He also said to order online so I wouldn’t have to wait. He gave me a wooden token and asked me to put it in one of three containers near the exit. The containers were labeled with names of Flagstaff nonprofit organizations. The container which had the most tokens at the end of the week got a donation from the dispensary.

I went home and charged the vape pens. After that, I unscrewed one of the chargers and screwed on the concentrate. That night, when I woke up at three in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, I took two hits from the vape pen. The effect was to settle me down enough to do my deep breathing and get right back to sleep. A miracle!

The next morning it took over forty-five minutes for me to figure out how to order online. Joan and I were going to a painting class as Warner’s Nursery that day, so I stopped by the dispensary before that. Although there were many people in the waiting room, my name was called very soon. I was again taken into the locked back room. I had ordered the wrong product, but the staff person steered me to what I wanted and, indeed, it was 25% off. I was given another token and off I went. According to my California friends, the amount I bought should last several months.

Later that afternoon, I tried out my Setiva. The concentrate didn’t fit into the vape pen. I called the dispensary and they told me I had been sold the wrong pen for that concentrate. I went back to Flagstaff and swapped it out for another pen. I took it home and charged up the battery. When it was ready, I screwed in the Setiva. But this pen wasn’t like the one I’d used the night before. That one I just inhaled and it worked. This one came with instructions that involved clicking five times to turn it on, three times to change the voltage (like I understood that,) and two times to preheat. I grew frustrated and decided to put it off for another day.

I did try it again the next week. It was weird because it lifted my mood but I didn’t get high or hungry. I guess that’s a good thing.

I was out of step with my contemporaries as far as smoking marijuana in the old days, so I can’t report whether the strains are more potent, although people tell me they are.

I’m dubious about using the products, but I don’t want to start down the road of sleeping pills or increase the dosage of the antidepressant, so I’ll give it the old “college” try like I didn’t do in the past.

 

 

 

The Fearsome Foursome Ride the Colorado River

May 8, 2017

 

 

 

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The Fearless Foursome (Donna, Judy, Shannon and I) headed from their homes in the Phoenix area to Peach Springs, Arizona for a one day white water rafting trip on the Colorado River in the western part of the Grand Canyon. The trip from Phoenix to Peach Springs took about three and a half hours.

We stopped at Seligman, an old town on Route 66. We visited in the souvenir shops and ate at Westside Lilo’s Café, a restaurant with excellent German and American food. My lunch, a dense and delicious carrot cake was so big I took it with us and we ate on it for several days.

After we checked into the Hualupai Lodge, Donna and Shannon got on their suits and went to the pool. Judy was still recovering from food poisoning four days before the trip. Donna and Shannon came back and convinced us to join them at the outside spa. The rules of the pool gave us the giggles, especially the exhortation to not go in the pool if suffering from diarrhea.

Judy and I went to the Lodge’s dining room for dinner. (Donna ate the leftovers of her lunch in the room. Shannon has a specialized diet and had brought her own food.) I tasted the Hualapai green chili, but it was too spicy for me. I ate the Haulapai stew instead. It was tasty and served with piping hot fry bread.

We did a lot of laughing before finally going to sleep.

We went to the complimentary breakfast the next morning, turned in our injury waivers, received white bracelets and awaited the start of our adventure. J.B., our driver, arrived in a van. He flirted shamelessly with Donna.

There were only six people on our trip. During the height of the summer, the trips had sixty to one hundred people. We met the other couple on our trip, Bill and Angela. It was his birthday. Donna and I were the oldest of the bunch.

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B.J. drove us from Peach Springs down to Diamond Creek, the bottom of the Grand Canyon. We had to stop for a rattlesnake that didn’t want to get out of the road.

After we visited the last bathroom for the day, Robert and Bronson, our boatmen, outfitted us with PFD (personal floatation devices) otherwise known as life jackets. There were two boats: one with us, Robert, and Bronson; the other with a camera guy, a boatman and an extra fellow.

The scenery was gorgeous. All the photos of the Grand Canyon cannot communicate its magnificence.

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The rapids are scored from one to ten. The river was low so the rapids we experienced were three to five, big enough for thrills but not dangerous or too scary.

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We had our ponchos and rain jackets on, but we still got soaked as the water sprayed the pontoon boat. I couldn’t stop laughing as we bounced up and down in our craft.

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We headed to a beach to take a hike to the Travertine Falls. I was worried about this part of the trip, concerned that I wouldn’t have the stamina. I went to the gym more than my usual once a week and put the incline of the treadmill up to “seven.” It didn’t make any difference because “hike” is a loose word for this part of the trek. It was more a rock scramble. Luckily there were only six of us and five helpers. We walked up sheer rock holding on to a rope. We climbed up two rope ladders. Since I have a size twelve foot, it was hard to get a toe-hold on the short steps. The helpers had us put our toes in rock crags and pulled us up.

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We walked in the creek, through a cave and came upon the falls. It was worth it.

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I bought Coolibar SPF 50 clothing for the trip, a long-sleeved tee shirt and beach pants. As the pants got wet, they elongated. I had to roll them up so I wouldn’t trip on them. However, I was the only person who did not get any sunburn.

 

When we got back to the opening of the cave, Robert suggested that I slide down. I sat down and away I went, ending up on my feet in a deep pool. A bit hard on the knees but so fun!

As we scrambled down the rocks, I substituted sliding on my butt for going down one of the rope ladders. Now my pants were brown and too long.

After a short rest, we got back in the boat and went through the bigger rapids. Everyone but me go into the bottom of the boat. I sat in the middle seat and hung on.

 

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We travelled about twenty miles on the Colorado River. We stopped at a sandy beach and had lunch. Luckily there was a salad that Shannon could eat. The cold cut sandwiches were hearty, too much for me. We also had chips and soda, tea or water.

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The motor boat took us the next twenty miles with no rapids.

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We were very upset to find out that we were not going to get the helicopter ride out of the canyon. I was sure I had arranged it. The booking agent had even asked our weights, saying it she needed them to balance the helicopter. The waivers we’d signed that morning also asked our weights. We left Bill and Angela at the heliport for their trip back to Las Vegas. That’s also where the glass bridge is that juts out over the canyon. None of us were interested in paying the money to see it.

We continued another seventeen miles to the end of the Grand Canyon. After we used the porta-potties, a different driver took us back to Peach Springs, via Kingman. It was a two-hour ride back to the Lodge.

I spoke with the man at the expedition desk. He said we could have added the helicopter ride that morning, but of course we didn’t know it wasn’t included in our package. I was not that upset, as I was not happy about going in a helicopter. The ride from the bottom of the canyon to the rim was only six minutes long and would have cost an extra ninety dollars.

We took much needed showers and went to dinner at the lodge’s dining room. It had been a long day and we went to bed early.

On the way back to Phoenix, we did car karaoke. We stopped at the Rock Springs Café for lunch.

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My thanks to Donna, who did all the driving. I think Shannon, who’s forty, found out that old people are fun.

I would do it again. We got the package with four to a room. There were two king-sized beds in the room. The package was $383 each, and included one night’s stay at the lodge and the one-day river trip, and trip insurance in case one of us couldn’t make the trip. The second night’s lodging was $112. Add $90 for the helicopter ride. Go to http://www.grandcanyonwest.com to book your trip. I think they’re running a Mother’s Day special.

A Grave Decision

April 14, 2017

Sparky

One of the best things about being single and living alone is I get to make all of the decisions. One of the worst things about being single and living alone is that I get to make all the hard decisions by myself.

Sparky, my Shih Tzu-poodle, is fifteen and a half years old. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. He’s mostly blind due to cataracts, and he doesn’t hear much anymore, not even the crinkle of potato chip or dog treat bags. When I come home, he doesn’t get up from his bed or foam mat to meet me. He has Cushing’s Disease so his back is bowed and his back legs don’t work very well. And his front legs hurt. Sometimes he shakes. I’m giving him medication for the shakes but it doesn’t entirely go away and I know he’s in pain.

I’m an expert at ignoring what I don’t want to see. Last week I took Sparky to a dog physical therapist, a referral from my vet. I figured if I could just get those legs stronger, he’d be happier. He perked up for the assessment and the exercises. I bought an expensive harness to be able to pick him up and put him in my SUV. It will also allow me to attach his leash at his back end and lift his back legs when they’re too tired to walk.

He’s never recovered from his workout. I bought the two by two sticks to do some exercises at home, but never used them.

I’m dog sitting for my friend’s dog Lilah. She’s six and very peppy. She isn’t trained to use a doggie door, so I walk her three times a day. By Tuesday, Sparky was barely making it to the corner. After that, he preferred to stay at home.

I’ve been finding evidence of one of the dogs throwing up and peeing, but thought it was Louie, who had dental surgery a month ago. Today I saw that it was Sparky. He looks thin. Since the dogs are on “free feed,” I wondered if he was eating much at all.

Then I realized he hadn’t wagged his tail in at least a week. That was my sign. It was time to let him have a forever rest.

It would have been an easier decision if I lived with someone. I would have had another pair of eyes to prove or disprove my assumptions. And someone to help me make the ultimate decision.

This morning I called the vet and made the appointment for this afternoon. I had Sparky on my lap all morning, petting him as I read the newspaper.

He didn’t want to go for a walk at one when I took out Lilah. I realized he could no longer walk.

I had him on my lap as I read the novel Bel Canto this afternoon.

Finally, but too soon, it was time to go to the vet. He couldn’t walk to the car, so I carried him in my arms. That made my resolve stronger. He no longer had a decent quality of life.

When I got to the animal hospital, he wasn’t at all interested in the dog and puppies needing forever homes. He didn’t even look their way when the scrapped with each other.

When the vet tech weighed him, the scale showed he’d lost four pounds in two months.

I held him until it was time, crying softly. I laid him on the blanket on the examining table. It took but a minute to put him out of his pain. I cried when they left me alone with his body.

He was a great dog. I had fifteen happy years with him. He saw me through many crises: divorce, my mother’s death, my son’s estrangement. He listened without giving advice or telling me what I should do. He was crate-trained but I promoted him to sleep on my bed when my husband left. The last few years he mostly slept on the foam mat because he couldn’t get up or down from the bed on his own.

He accepted Louie when I took him in six years ago. Sparky was always a bit jealous, but didn’t take it out on Louie or me.

I know I made the right decision, but it would have been nice to have someone else confirm it.

 

 

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Family Passover Dinner 2017

April 12, 2017

 

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On Saturday I started The Big Push, as we called it when my mother would start her preparations for a big gathering. Monday, April 10, is the first night of Passover. It’s observed at a seder, a special dinner. For the first time in quite a while I’ll have all my children and their families here. My newest granddaughter, Madison, was a preemie, and not allowed to go into society until after the RSV season was over. We missed celebrating my and Eric’s birthdays, so Shelley is bringing a cake for dessert.

The first thing was to plan the menu, which I did while listening to the Phoenix Symphony play Beethoven’s Ninth and Ode to Joy last Sunday with friends. I decided on matzo ball soup, brisket in the crock pot, asparagus, peas (for the grandkids,) and baked potatoes and sweet potatoes. I also had to get the items for the seder plate: hardboiled eggs as the harbinger of spring, morar, horseradish, as the bitter herb to symbolize the bitterness of the slavery of the Jews in Egypt, ingredients for the charoset (apples, chopped nuts, grape juice, sugar, cinnamon and honey) to stand in for the mortar the slaves used to build for the Pharaoh, and karpas, parsley, to remind us of the hard and cruel work the slaves did. And a separate plate of three matzos.

I also must get a few bottles of wine. The traditional seder calls for at least four glasses, but we take sips instead of downing the whole glass. My mother always served Manishevitz, but I’m opting for Ménage a Trois red blend.

My housecleaner comes on Mondays, so I decided to do all the cooking over the weekend so she could do the final clean up before the family came.

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I set the table ahead of time and put out the heavy glasses so the kids could feel they were included. It turned out no one drank wine and we all drank grape juice.

Only my son Max and I are Jewish, but the family enjoys the traditions I’ve shared with them. There’s a book, the Hagaddah, which is used during a seder to tell the story of Exodus, the story of Passover. We use a children’s Hagaddah to get the gist of the holiday without boring the pants off my young grandchildren, aged ten, six and newborn. And four. All kids like the end of the meal the best. Right after we begin to eat, I hide a piece of matzo, the Afikomen. In order to end the meal, the piece must be found. The oldest adult, or host or hostess, offers a monetary reward and the kids whoop and holler until they find it.

The matzoh ball soup came out the best of all the dishes. I used Susan Bailyn’s Tangy Chicken Soup recipe. I tried a new recipe for the brisket that included Grey Poupon but it didn’t taste any different from prior years. I tried using Wondra to make the gravy. It turned out great except it was impossible to get out all the lumps with the wire whisk so I had to strain it.

Shelley texted me that it was Savy’s turn to take the kindergarten class’s chicks home and they couldn’t be left alone. I said to bring them.

Liz, Max, and four-year-old Charlotte arrived first. I showed Charlotte my “Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly puppet and Liz had to sing it many times. When Savy arrived I did it with her.

IMG_0637_1396

 

Nick and his family arrived. I had expected little yellow chicks. Wrong. These were adolescents and black and white. They still captivated the children.

chicks

Eric and his family were running late so the three older children played while Nick and Max did the items on my “honey-do” list. I’d asked for no presents for my birthday, but rather for them to accomplish the items on my list. Nick and Max attached my headboard and screwed in the sliders for baskets under my kitchen sink. Eric was left with the task of replacing my kitchen ceiling fan, which he’ll do at another time.

After Eric, Amy, and Madi arrived, we started the seder. No one wanted wine, so I poured the grape juice into the sturdy wine glasses. Max said the blessings with me. We went through enough parts of the Hagaddah that I think the kids understood the meaning of the holiday. The children kept making up excuses to leave the table to look for the Aikman.

Below are me and Madi, Charlotte and Elizabeth, and Max, Eric and Madi.

Below are Nick and Madi; and Nick and Abby

Below are Savy, Amy and Madi and Shelley and Savy.

Max, Nick, and Liz cleared the table and rinsed the dishes. It’s going to take three loads to do them. I was sentimental and used my mother’s china, even for the little kids. Savy found it and was very pleased with the five-dollar reward.

Shelley had made a delicious birthday cake, decorated with Peeps. Eric and blew out the candles.

Eric and Annie bday cake

When Shelley took the second photo, the family photo-bombed us.

fam and photo bomb

I love doing these family dinners because my children and grandchildren genuinely like each other and have fun. As do I.

Mistake at the Movies

March 23, 2017

Recently, I went with Mr. Hot Stuff to a matinee to see Rogue One, a Star Wars Story. It was playing at Shea 14, an older theater not too far from my home in Scottsdale. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, but I do love Star Wars.

Friends always give me the Harkins shirt and loyalty cup for Hanukkah, so I can get a free popcorn and $1.50 soda refill each time I attend a Harkins movie theater. I upgraded to a large popcorn for a dollar so I could share with Mr. Hot Stuff and bought him a loyalty cup filled with soda. (He had paid for the tickets.)

It was already dark in the theater when we chose our seats. He sat on the aisle to accommodate his long legs. (He’s fix feet six inches tall.)

Of course, about three quarters the way through the movie, I had to go to the bathroom. I quickly exited, visited the ladies’ room and raced back to my seat. I didn’t want to miss the action.

After the movie, as the credits were rolling, I said, “Since this is a prequel, we know how it ends.”

“Yes, no mystery there,” came the answer from an unfamiliar voice.

I looked to my left to see a nearly bald man, Mr. Hot Stuff’s follicle situation, but I was definitely not sitting next to the person with whom I’d arrived. I blanched and looked around. There sat Mr. Hot Stuff across the aisle and a row behind me.

I went hysterical laughing. I got up and sat down next to Mr. Hot Stuff. We both laughed so hard we couldn’t speak.

The man I’d sat next to left his seat and stopped to speak to us. “Just don’t tell my wife.”

This cracked all of us up.

I was nearly gaining my composure when the people across the aisle stood and said, “We got it all on video on our phone.”

This set off more deep belly laughs.

As we exited the theater, Mr. Hot Stuff said between chortles, “I was worried. I thought either you hated the movie or I’d come out to find ambulances.”

That evening, every time one of us mentioned the incident, we burst into gales of laughter.

All that laughing di me a world of psychological good.