Thoughts with my brother

From time to time,  my brother and I engage in a conversation centered around Alzheimer’s and cancers of various types. Apparently, our family lineage has proved to be weak in regards to battling these health care issues. I am still of the belief that most health issues can be thwarted with consumption of the appropriate non-processed food products. Currently I’m all in on red cabbage and brussels sprouts. This innocuous globe of goodness (red cabbage) sits casually on the grocery store shelf waiting, waiting for someone to say come home with me. I was recently in the checkout line when the Kroger’s cashier could not remember the code for this item. After all, this is southern Ohio and she oddly enough remembered the code for asparagus. So I asked ‘ …..not sell much red cabbage?”. She replied that she did and it sort off took me aback. In this day and age of processed foods, others take the time to prepare red cabbage? Or are old agrarian society values allowed it’s participants to be healthier without having the underlying knowledge? Another reason I use good ‘ole fashion Calamine Lotion for my occasional rash. Hydrocortisone lotions are worthless.

I recently had a job interview at Purina in St Joseph, Missouri. I was kind of excited about this. But became less so when I drove into St Joseph. It was 3 days of rain and wind warnings of 30 mph gusts. Not my type of weather. But during the interviewing process, they spoke of how great it was to have a company store where they sell all Nestle Purina food products discounted to employees. Just grab yourself a Lean Cuisine as you leave work and there’s dinner. To some maybe, but to me no way am I clogging up the brain pathways with processed foods. I rarely stray away from the perimeter of the grocery store because it’s just too scary to wander down the aisles. Unless of course you are lingering in a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Now we have some interesting labels to read. But, in the end the saying goes…….you are what you eat……and I have found that to be true most of my life.


I recently took my brother and his wife to California for a vacation. The touristy spots of San Francisco aside, Pismo Beach is where the action is for those of you with an adventurous soul.  The 3000 acres of sand dunes to enjoy with ATV’s, the totally awesome and I mean totally awesome cinnamon rolls at The Old West Cinnamon Rolls and Espresso shop (Cinnabon is nothing compared to these buttery babies), and the finest seafood around cooked to perfection. And for those of you that don’t know, Pismo Beach is the Clam Capitol.


Before leaving California we made a run to wine country. Oh how I love wine country in the fall! We had opted to tour the cellars of Robert Mondavi. During my 10 years of habitation in the San Francisco area, the Mondavi Cellars is probably one of the few wineries I had never visited. The tour with tasting was fantabulous. At the beginning when the guide talks about Robert and his history of wine making, the discussion with pictures just solidified my belief about the value of drinking wine on a regular basis. Good ‘ole Robert drank a bottle of Cab every day. The man died with some good looking skin. Ohio has a long history of being involved with wine making. The natural progression of my life from my German heritage, born and raised in Ohio, to living near California wine country and now back in Ohio where there is a re-surging art of extracting and fermenting the juice from the grape (or other fruits) is becoming again, a viable industry.


But in the end,  it’s all about raw foods containing the color red and the healing qualities of anthocyanins. So hail to the red cabbage and enjoy a good glass of Cab. Fighting disease can be tasty!



Neighbors and their Fences

During the past couple of days there just hasn’t been anything to write about. For one, I’m just not home much. For another, the crazy antics of last summer have not been occurring. Given, it is mid-March and summer has hardly started.

Even though Helen still sits daily in her comfy rocking chair to read, she has not been fussing about the neighbors. Fussing about the neighbor directly behind us and continually questioning why their dogs are on a leash outside. No longer, commentary about the siding and roofing work done on their house by the half-naked men who worked all day in the blazing Ohio sun without many breaks. At the time, I told her she should stir up some lemonade and shuffle on over to assist in quenching their thirst. Who is impolite enough to  turn down lemonade from an eighty-something woman? Personally, I liked eating a meal at the table and watching the men-show. Since they worked long hours, it was a treat during both breakfast and dinner meal times. I suggested she should just sit back, relax and watch with a smile on her face. 

Sadly for now, she has just been doing a lot of nodding off in her chair while trying to read.

Also last summer, she was so upset when the house across and one down built a high and solid fence on the two sides of their property line but not across the back. She asked me “How are we to watch them?”. I replied with, “I don’t care to watch them.“, unless of course they are hosting a wild evening party. In which case I would have to go over with a pitcher of Sangria and introduce myself.  Since it took them some time to get the fencing up, and Helen’s memory was starting to decline, this had been a daily question. 

They both fussed about the neighbor next door when they built their new fence last summer. According to Jane, it is directly on the property line. My household felt it was inappropriate and questioned his apparent insensitivity and fencing judgement in relation to their property line.  I don’t know, the guy seems intelligent and nice enough when I engage him in conversation. Personally, who cares. It’s a pretty fence.

There was also some remarks about a house across the street and several down. They must have some type of spa or pool in their backyard. When ever the household sat on the front porch, there would be conversation about their fencing and colorful use (or misuse) of beach umbrellas.

Fences and neighbors can be a problem over time. Do fences make good neighbors? Look at the problems with the US border and Mexico. There are lawyers who actually specialize in fencing law. Cities and sub-division homeowner associations implement rules and guidelines.  When is homeland security a solo concern for lack of ineffectual or inappropriate communications?

I am waiting for summer to arrive. To see what kind of conversation arises in the household this year about the fencing by neighbors. And to see if the question remains…………..”Do I know a big strong guy to help move the patio furniture up from the basement?”.

Relationship Foundations

When you have a crappy, awful day, and you want a little bit of sympathy…………where do you turn? alcohol? mindless TV? a cigarette? a person? religion?

Saturday night, I chose to overeat and drink some home-brew. In knowing full well the consequences of that decision. Although in the mindless tv category, Steve Harvey on Comedy Central made me laugh.  This was after I made a serious attempt to get wrapped up in a Russell Crowe movie that had something to do with medieval battle scenes and a character called Maximus. And, Bobby Flay wasn’t doing much for me on The Food Network with his food narrative on Ireland.

I had been avoiding conversation from the housemates about my job interview on Friday. I feel it is none of their business. As interviews go, it was more of the same and essentially benigne. Nothing really worth retelling. 

But when I made an attempt to communicate my current despair at being bitched at one more time by a thirty-something for having been inconvenienced by whipping out an ID for alcohol and cigarettes, my friend laughed and said “Oh well”. Then proceeded to minimize my feelings. Because to her, her day was horrifying. She not once, but several times had to walk to another building at her job site at the prison to accomplish job related tasks. “Oh my”!

To walk, to move, to ambulate………….I would much rather do than stand at a cash register for 8 hours without a lunch break and listen to adults rip me up one side and down the other because of state laws and company policies. Displaced aggression, poor anger management, passive/aggressive behavior………….. maybe entitlement (not sure).

So I one more time shut myself up in my half-painted bedroom and contemplated societal manners and the “me” complex. I have been trying to think of the last time I treated a sales person badly. Or smarted off the response “don’t these wrinkles tell you my age“? I have come to realize that a person’s age can truly not be judged by using visual acuity to assess the number of wrinkles on their face. The past couple of weeks, has brought back childhood memories of summer trips to Cedar Point and the young man at the guess your weight station. Alternatively, you could have him try to guess your age. I always went for the age. Looking younger than I am, nobody ever guesses my age correctly. I thank my sales girl at Saks Fifth Avenue for introducing me to a wonderful skin care line, my consumption of organics and salmon, and regular trips to a day spa. In my current job sabbatical from my profession, I’m carding people much younger that look much older. It makes me thankful for the investment I have made in myself.

In this economy, you never know who your speaking with. After all, we are truly six degrees away from someone else. Some one of importance. A connection, a potential comrade, a hook-up.  I have gotten all of my really cool jobs by a “hook-up” and not from a job application. I also think periodically about the book  Nickle and Dimed, Not Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenrich. I highly recommend it if you have not read this tale of jobs that you cannot make a living from. The rudeness of the general public has slapped me back into reality and sent me running back to my comfort zone in the veterinary profession. Another period of professional burn-out solved.

But on Sunday, I was exhausted and slept until noon. Helen had as well. I then cleaned myself up and went to the grocery store. Upon my return to the house, Jane had returned from church. So one more time, I engaged in conversation. Church must have brought home a behavioral/life point as she proceeded to be more compassionate to my feelings.  I then asked them if they would be interested in an outing later this evening to the local Bob Evans for coffee and dessert. Helen was up and scrambling with her walker, motivated to get dressed. But, I wanted to paint for a little bit and Jane wanted to nap.

 Bob Evans Farms

At 7pm we were finally together and had one hour to eat dessert before Jane wanted to get back home to watch her usual schedule of TV shows. Eating at Bob’s is always a good time, involving relaxing conversation and a couple of laughs. I don’t have to listen to dogs whining for handouts. Helen usually can’t keep her spoon in her own dish. Even though we all ordered something different, today she was satisfied with her selection. For this hour I engaged in the conversation of religion and inquired about recent events at their church. I’m not religious but will listen about religion.

I noticed in the car to and from Bob’s, Jane had increased respiratory sounds and a wheeze. Apparently she has made an action plan to decrease her smoking from two packs to one pack a day. When I quickly calculated the costs of this habit, it made me feel less guilty about my occasional trip to Starbuck’s. But, I don’t go to Starbuck’s at all for now so I can save up for a vacation to Portugal next February. This morning, Jane is coughing before even getting up for work. It is concerning. She went to the doctor last week because she said she ached all over.

I recently returned to a semi-vegetarian method of eating in an effort to be supportive to my daughter and her vegan vegetarian lifestyle. She had an auto-immune thyroid disease as a teenager and now her bad cholesterol is too high. She has been eating organics for several years now and they raise their own chickens for eggs. Eating in the same manner makes it easier to swap recipe ideas and keep the momentum rolling. I will have to think of ways to be supportive to Jane and her stop smoking ccampaign. She has tried before and has not been successful. Since I don’t smoke, it will take more thought to develop a plan to help her out. But, a solution will present itself…………….it always does.

A House of Beige

Have you ever walked into a house and all the interior walls are beige? There is nothing warm, homey, or appealing about it. It is just monochromatic walls. Walls covered with the paint of choice by the contractors. No personality shining through. No reflection of its inhabitants. No cohesiveness of interior design.

When I stay at my brother’s home I am always impressed by their color choice. He is a plain sort ( As siblings, our polar opposite lifestyles is a running joke between us.), not one for the cultural side of life, works hard, is a good citizen, is always there for me. Although, he is crafty in that he makes wood items and stained glass projects in his basement. His kitchen is painted an unusual bright green, one bedroom is bright yellow, the living room is a deep peach, his wife wants to paint the master bedroom red.  His home is full of colors I never would have expected for him to embrace. A picture to his soul that I didn’t know existed. It’s a relief to realize he is not beige.

So I asked for and received permission to paint my room. I needed to feel comfy cozy in the space in which I spend all my time when I am at home. I needed their influence out and mine in when I shut my door for privacy.In this room, I felt stifled, stymied, caged. I requested help from my Tuesday hangin-out bud. She is very stylish and would get me started in the right direction at a reasonable cost.

I cruised on over to her place and we drove to our first stop. An oasis of cultural life in Columbus called German Village. A unique area of the city close to downtown. It has its own energy that changes your attitude the minute you hit the brick streets. Another friend of ours had just started her own dog grooming salon and we have been wanting to surprise visit and check it out.

After a visit with her, we headed to one of the best eateries in town called Schmidt’s Sausage House.  As the name implies, German food. German food in all it’s glory. In all my travels, this is the best German food in the country without going to Germany itself. It was once featured on Man vs Food for its gigundo cream puffs. These baby’s are huge and de-li-cious. I had taken a pepcid before leaving home so I could minimize the after effects of eating wheat. The buffet was an epicurean delight and under $10.  You know you are  eating good food when the next day you wake up and weigh yourself to find you lost weight from eating a buffet instead of gaining weight. During lunch, I drew out a diagram of the current situation in my room and potential color schemes. And we bantered thoughts back and forth.

With full tummies, we opted to forego our usual Tuesday walk  and instead headed to Big Lots with feelings of anticipation. You never know what you are going to find and it’s exciting to search the nooks and crannies for hidden treasures. Because the true buys are never located on the end caps or in the main aisles. 

And there it was. In the framed picture aisle. The focal point needed to make a wall headboard for the bed.

With excitement, our next stop was Lowe’s for paint. Historically, looking at paint swatches is about as exciting to me as watching it rain. Not very.  But the bud, made it easy, fun, and most of all……..painless. In 10 minutes we had the colors of choice. The main wall would be dark walnut and all other walls a pounding surf blue.

A final stop to Garden Ridge to find a few organizational items and then off for home. Currently, just the main wall is completed. Just some dimension needs to be added to the squiggles. The energy in the room has immediately changed. I no longer feel like I’m living in an old folks home. Not meant as a derogatory comment toward retirement villages or long-term nursing care facilities. I believe in the power of Feng-Shui. 

The others peek in on a regular basis to monitor the progress. It is going to take a few weeks to finish the painting. I like to maintain a balance between work, social, and personal life. But, I’m motivated. Motivated to change my little corner in the house of beige.

Bare Necessities of Life

The nice part of being gone from the house for the better part of my day………….I don’t have to listen to the melodrama of other’s lives. The pettiness that comes from the depths of a soul because they think their life is always inconvenienced. The pettiness that comes from constant negativity. The pettiness of selfishness.

There was a time in my life when I spent days, weeks, months traveling to the Native American reservations and some Latin America jungles to help the impoverished with veterinary care. My daughter, as a young teenage,  traveled with me on a couple of occasions. She came to understand the true meaning of hardship and realized her life was not so bad. She no longer made requests for items she thought were” all the rage” and a necessity of life.

That the first floor of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the basic tools to survive, are being meet. And as this is not enough for most people (henceforth, workplace competition, personal and professional status) it should be a remembrance to most people.  Remember the Jungle Book song The Bare Necessities of Life?

A little extreme maybe but it helps to illustrate my point. A lot of people need to be content with what they have.

Today it is Sunday. And Once more the alarm has been buzzing for some time.  Yesterday, the alarm buzzed once and she was up and out because she was off to spend her mother’s money. She never spends her money. But greedily dips into her mother’s bank account. And proceeds to be self-righteous to all about how she doesn’t have credit cards and she’s a financial wizard. However, the IRS didn’t think so much of her financial capability.

I am a firm believer that Karma (the law of moral causation) comes to everyone, even myself. We create our own Heaven and Hell, our own happiness and misery. But Karma is only one of the five influences of Buddhism.

So to this I say in the words of Norman Vincent Peale……………

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

“I use to go away for weeks in a state of Confusion”

Words by Albert Einstein.  I visited his home in Bern, Switzerland on my first day of a two-week spur of the moment vacation during a midlife crisis. It was obvious the man had a lot going on in his brain. His thoughts were written every where.

There are times when confusion runs our world. I always have the hope they don’t ruin my world. When even the simplest of daily tasks can take what seems like a millennium of time to complete. A void in the mind as the mental rolodex flips. Flips as it trys to find the last moment of recognition to key ourselves into action of what we were, in just a split second, about to accomplish. There is reportedly 780 causes of confusion from lifestyle choices to disease processes.

There are many times in the past months,  items of refrigeration end in the freezer. Usually bottles of products, once a basket of fresh tomatoes.  Twice, a carton of ice cream has been found in the fridge.

Confusion………….. to become befuddled, chagrined, distracted, disoriented, dumfounded. 

I walk with a friend on Tuesdays and then we have lunch. Usually followed by an excursion to Borders, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or some other trinket shop. During lunch this past Tuesday, I had one of those moments in conversation where I was taking the long road to make a point and then forgot the point I was trying to make. Which makes me reflect…..have I become more verbose? Is the point I am trying to make really significant? Do I just want to hear myself talk? Do I make significant and important points? Are my friends being overly kind, polite and not really interested in my points; therefore, they just sit patiently and wait for me to stop talking? Have you ever thought about how many times you forget what you are doing and you have to go back and retrace your steps to reignite the synapse pathway that took a detour or just decided to stop firing?

I would like to belive the quote by Michael J Gelb that “Confusion is the welcome mat at the door of creativity”.

Pet Parenting

Yesterday was a day of true writer’s block. I sat at the computer putzing around for an hour, but there was nothing to be found to write about. No words jumping at the opportunity to be read. So today, it’s just  a go as you please moment.

Tuesday was a beautiful Ohio day for the first day of March. I had just started my spring cleaning/reorganization when Helen came to my room interested in my activity. I asked her if she would like to go for a walk and she replied that she hadn’t thought about it but would put it under consideration. She was back 10 minutes later and we were out the front door in five. Since they had done nothing but sleep their weekend away, she was easily exhausted. The entire time I was thinking to myself I hope I never get this way. A decline in my ability to ambulate would be devastating to me in even the minutest of terms.

After we safely walked back into the house, she plunked herself into her comfy rocking chair and fell asleep. I went back to my room to find that the dogs had gotten into my trash. With a sigh, I re-cleaned a spot I had thought to be completed. At least my underwear was safe this time.

Yesterday, I had an especially harsh day at work. A day of mean customers and an eight-hour shift with only a 1/2 lemon flavored Clif 20g Protein Builder’s bar for sustenance. I knew it would be rough when thirty minutes in, I spilled my coffee. And thirty minutes after that I accidentally spilled a co-workers coffee. And an hour after that while stocking the beer, I accidentally made a 6-pack of Bud light unsalable.

Upon my return home, I find once more, my bedroom door open and my trash spewed around. With swear words uttering under my breath, I quickly flip through my laundry basket to make sure the crotches to all my pants and underwear were still intact. ( Back to the post of 2 days ago, Swear words…..what are they good for?!) At 9pm, dragging the Kirby to my room to one more time clean the carpets, was not what I envisioned as my end of the evening wind-down activity. I wanted a soft Pinot Noir, my comfy flannel Victoria’s Secret jammies, a reassuring text from a significant other, The Food Network, and to reheat the left-over yummy vegetarian tacos I had  concocted and consumed before leaving for work.

So let’s take a look at the vandalizing culprits.

This is the ring leader………….Lauren. Looks harmless enough, doesn’t she?

The side kick……………….Stewart Little sporting his “saucy expression” (as the AKC puts it). At 3# he can get into those nooks and crannies that the chubbier ring leader can not.

I announced to Jane that I would not be responsible for any foreign body obstructions should they occur in her dogs within the next few days. Since my bedroom door was firmly shut when I departed for work. This is why I own a bird. A bird confined most of the time in a very large cage in my room. Him and his cage use to be in the living room. But every time he made a sound, the other humans in the house thought it was a cry for food and fed him.  This is the usual response by Helen and Jane every time the dogs make a sound. Especially, when they beg at the dinning room table as the two of them eat their meals. (I eat in my room since as a veterinary professional, I cannot witness pancreatitis in the making. ) Now in the 18 years as a pet parent to a bird, I have never seen Number 3 over weight. It is not a pretty site and the image has scared me for life. But it took a serious threat of financial responsibility to get them to understand the medical consequences of overfeeding a bird.

As much as most pet parents love their pets, there are those times when pet behavior ignites human frustration and exasperation. But, those are the times, after the pet has passed, that our minds do the miraculous and replaces the disgruntlement with humor and laughter. Ask Number 3 how many times I have threatened to set him free into the world if he didn’t stop squawking while I was sleeping (at a time in my life when I worked nights and had to sleep during the day)………………………….not that I ever would.

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