November 30, 2022

 

Mrvos Christmas cookies, baking holiday cookies in October, eggs
                                                                                                                                             Photo: Simply Recipes

A LITTLE HOLIDAY COOKIE DRAMA  

I bake holiday cookies in October.  Way before Halloween.  

People look at me as if I'm crazy, but honestly, this way I'm not rushed during the holiday season.  Getting a head start and doing one batch a week makes baking more fun for me.  

I make five holiday favorites, beginning with the easiest recipe, the chocolate crinkles.  Then, I move on to the more time-consuming recipes.  By mid-November, the Christmas baking is finished.    

I rarely have trouble making the holiday treats, but this year, I decided to add a new recipe:  Grandma's butter cookies.  I was shocked to see a pound of butter is used (that's four sticks!) so I halved the recipe.  Referring to my late mother-in-law's recipe, I noticed that the baking time was missing.  It only read to bake until brown.  Okay, most cookies take about 8 - 12 minutes to bake, so I put them in 10 minutes.  And afterward?  Pale, blah-looking cookies.

I kept them in the oven for 5 more minutes.  That ought to do it.  

Nope.

I baked them an additional five minutes.  

But they never turned brown, even after 20 minutes in the oven.  I was getting frustrated.  

My husband Jim asked, "What's wrong?"

"I can't figure out why these butter cookies didn't get brown."

"Did you follow the recipe?" 

"Of course," I said indignantly.  

And then I remembered...

I had separated the yolks from the eggs and added them to the batter.  But I had forgotten to brush the cookies with the egg whites before baking. 

This was like the time I set out three eggs to come to room temperature to make a pound cake, and then forgot to add the eggs to the batter.  In my defense, I was distracted by two hungry cats and I didn't realize something had gone wrong until after the oven timer went off.  Needless to say, the finished product looked like toffee. 

I thought about the sad pound cake while staring at the failed butter cookies.  Jim told me he'd work on them.  He found a basting brush and covered the already-baked batch with egg whites and put them back into the oven.  The batch browned nicely, giving Jim another cooking story to lovingly tease me about. 

Trying to forget about the butter cookies, I turned my attention to more familiar recipes like peanut butter blossoms, bird's nest cookies, nut horns, and sugar cookies.  Since I had been making these for many years, I had no fear that they'd turn out well.  But of course, Jim taste-tested them, just to be sure.

Photo: Cookie Connection
After baking each batch, I freeze them for the holidays.  When Christmas rolls around, they will be ready to be placed in tins for our family and neighbors.  With six different kinds, there will be plenty of variety for everyone. 

Sometimes, I get defensive when people ask why I begin baking so early.  They just don't get it.  It's what I do.  For me, October is the perfect time to start holiday baking.  Having baked two months in advance allows me more time to enjoy the holidays...

and I bet you were thinking...more time to go shopping for gifts.  

Actually, that's not the case.  As you might guess, by August, half of my shopping is done! 

  

To my faithful readers, thank you for reading my blog. 

Wishing you a sweet holiday season. Joyeux Noël! 


November 1, 2022

a writer takes care of an injured stray cat

BANISHING FEAR WITH LOVE

Putty was injured and I didn't know how to help him.    

Nine years ago, this gravelly-voiced, black and white stray showed up on our deck begging for food.  My husband and I have been feeding him ever since.  

Over the years, I've noticed minor cuts on Putty, nothing serious.  But one day not long ago, I noticed Putty was limping.  At first, I thought he had broken his leg.  There wasn't an apparent wound, yet he could only walk on three paws.  Putty squinted.  His wounded leg quivered.  He showed little interest in food.  I could sense his pain.  Being Sunday, I had to wait a day to call my vet.  But when Monday rolled around, the veterinarian was unable to make a house call until Friday.  I didn't think Putty could wait that long. 

I called my neighbor Sherry who also feeds Putty.  She gave me the name of her vet because he makes house calls.  But when I phoned him, I got an answering machine.  Dr. MacDonald wouldn't be back in town until Wednesday.  I left him a message about Putty's condition.  My poor kitty appeared to be suffering, he was barely eating, and he would have to wait two more days for help.  

On Wednesday, I noticed a smear of blood on Putty's hip.  As he limped on our patio, I finally saw the cause of his injury.  There was bloody abscess about the size of a half dollar on his hock.  I was sick with worry.  This did not look good.  Luckily, Dr. M. returned my call.  He could come out to our house, under one condition:  I'd have to trap Putty.  

This was easier said than done.  

"Can you pick him up?" asked Dr. M. 

"Uh, no."  And in my head, I'm thinking:  Are you kidding?  This is a semi-wild cat who didn't always trust me.   

But the vet needed Putty in an enclosed area so he wouldn't run off.  I told him I'd try to trap him.  I loved Putty and was determined to get him the medical attention he needed.  

My husband and I backed our cars out the garage.  I moved bins and tubs around on shelves and blocked places where a cat could hide.  When every area of the garage looked safe, I pulled out a can of tuna.  Putty was in the backyard.  I wondered if I could tempt him with the tuna and get him to hobble over to the driveway and into the garage.  I worried how to keep him contained in the garage once he was inside.  Luckily, he did manage to follow me.  I got him as far away from the garage door as possible so he wouldn't make a run for it and motioned to my husband now, quick, close the door.

And we had him safe inside.  Dr. M. arrived in five minutes.  Finally, Putty was going to get some attention.  But when I opened basement door to the garage, Putty was nowhere in sight.  Sh*t!  I walked the perimeter of the garage.  No Putty.  I was so embarrassed.  Where was that cat?  Had he squeezed out of the corner by the garage door through an impossibly narrow opening?  I looked again on the verge of panic.  But there he was, trying to hide against the back wall of a shelf.  After coaxing him down, he moved to another corner of the garage, where the vet could work his magic.  

I was concerned Putty would not be a cooperative patient.  But Dr. M. wrapped Putty in a blanket and then in a calm voice, he told me I'd be his assistant.  My job would be to hold Putty while he prepared the injections.  I slipped on garden gloves to protect my hands, but Putty hissed at me.  The vet said the gloves were probably scaring him, so I had to help bare-handed. 

Putty's razor-sharp claws had scratched me more than once and now that he was scared, he was likely to bite.  I was terrified.  Mortified.  I really, really did not want to do this.  And there wasn't much time.  Who knew how long Putty would stay put?  I was a nervous wreck.  But I had to pull myself together.  So rather than stressing, I focused on how much I loved Putty and centered my attention on helping the vet. 

Dr. M. showed me how to grab onto the scuff and wiggle it to distract him as he inserted the needle.  Believe you me, I wiggled the hell out of the scruff.  After the antibiotic and the pain shots were given, he removed the blanket.  Putty was free to go.  With that, I opened the garage door and he limped away.  

Before Dr. M. left, he handed me an oral antibiotic that I would need to give Putty twice a day.  Good luck, I'm thinking.  If Putty was traumatized, he may never come back.  I could have scared him off for good.  My sweet little stray.  

But that night, Putty returned and he wolfed down all of his food with the antibiotic in it.  I was so relieved to see him come back the next day and get more antibiotic into his system.

Surprisingly, within a day after the injections and a day's worth of oral antibiotics, Putty looked better.  His eyes were brighter.  He could put weight on all of his paws.  

Putty still has a long way to go, but he'll get the care he needs and all of the food he craves.  Looking back, I was surprised how frightened I had been.  I was scared of being hurt and afraid of letting Putty down.  But through this experience, I found determination can conquer fear.  And anything is possible with love.

 À la prochaine! 




October 1, 2022

 

enabling, dependence, guilt, family problems
                                                                                                                                                                Photo: Simran Sood

ENABLING, DEPENDENCE, AND GUILT   

I let others burden me with guilt.    

It happens because I allow it to happen.    

Back in my twenties, I was stronger.  I dated a guy who threatened to stop seeing me if we didn't become intimate (I was a virgin and we had only been dating for a few months).  I wasn't even sure he loved me, at least he never told me.  Then he had to nerve to say, and I'm not making this up, there was no guarantee that afterward he'd still date me.  Really?  That was going to convince me?  I told him to get lost.  Screw him (pun intended).  I wasn't going to let him lay a guilt trip on me.   

But I've softened over the years.  Become a pushover.  It's really not becoming.  It's not strong and it's not who I want to be.  

Having no backbone, I allow people to lay guilt trips on me, like the person I'll call Tim.  Tim volunteers to run errands for elderly members of our family.  One time, Tim notified me that he had a scheduling conflict.  Not wanting to disappoint Tim but wanting to be supportive, I filled in for him and drove 160 miles to help.  A few months later, he needed my assistance again.  I hesitated to reply.  

This time, it bothered me.  Why hadn't other options been explored?  Couldn't he have asked someone who lived closer to help out?  I needed advice.  One girlfriend basically told me to suck it up.  Wow, that surprised me—I thought she would rally behind me.  But another friend told me (and let me preference by saying she's super honest and blunt) I was being used. 

I finally realized that Tim had enabled elderly folks to become dependent on him.         

An enabler is not necessarily a negative label.  According to Healthline.com , the term “enabler” generally describes someone whose behavior allows a loved one to continue unacceptable patterns of behavior.  

Healthline.com says, "Many people who enable others don’t do so intentionally. They may not even realize what they’re doing.  Most people who enable loved ones don’t intend to cause harm.  In fact, enabling generally begins with the desire to help."  

But how did helping get so out of hand?        

I don't have an answer for that.  But I needed an answer for this troubling situation.  Fortunately, the article gave me some direction.  I learned it's okay to support the enabler, but not in ways that back the dependence.  

So, the big question is, what's going to happen if Tim has another conflict?   

In the past, I've said yes to appease and to avoid arguments.  I let myself be imposed on because I wanted to be a team player and didn't want to cause hurt feelings.  But if Tim won't consider other options, the best thing I can do for myself is to set boundaries or say no if need be.   

I'm sure my behavior will be looked upon as heartless and selfish.  But I have to stop worrying about how others will perceive me.  I want to focus on becoming stronger.  It will take practice to remain firm.  But if I want to be happy, I have to put an end to being burdened with guilt. 


À la prochaine! 



September 1, 2022

 


WAIT, WAIT, DON'T TELL ME

I'm not a fan of surprises.  

But recently I attended two events with my husband where I let myself be open to surprise.  I didn't read any reviews or research the shows to find out what to expect.  All I knew was at the van Gogh venue we'd be seeing Vincent's art, and at a historic home in Lexington, we'd be watching a play written by Chekov. 

The Van Gogh Immersive 

I'm a big fan of van Gogh.  I've read about him extensively, and I've gone to many museums to see his famous works.  My husband and I even had the opportunity to go to the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam (one of THE best art museums I've ever visited).  But here, in Cincinnati, there was uncertainty and excitement—we didn't know what paintings would be displayed and how they would be presented.   

At the entrance, we found a bust of van Gogh suspended in midair and on it, paintings were projected onto the face.  A little further down the hall, we discovered a wall covered with 3-dimensional golden sunflowers, where people posed to have their pictures taken.  Of course, we obliged.

Onward into the next hall, we viewed his most famous works: canvases of sunflowers and self-portraits.  Besides each one, little cards gave details about the paintings. 

We shuffled into the adjourning room where the The Bedroom had been recreated.  No doubt, Vincent's spirit welcomed me to sit and rest my feet.  After we posed for pictures, we went into a stairwell where the steps and walls were painted in deep blue with yellow-glowing stars.  It was as if we were floating in the skies of the painting The Starry Night. 

And then, we opened a curtain and stepped into a large room where scenes of his paintings were projected on all four walls.  But it didn't feel like we were inside a room.  It felt as if we were outside in a field at dusk with people sitting on lawn chairs and benches.  We dropped to the floor on a blanket and watched the images flow from the left wall to the front wall and around to right side and then to the back of us.  We were awash in the art of Van Gogh.  And as the music played and Vincent's quotes were read, I felt his highs and lows, a full range of emotions of a man who suffered for his art. 

Uncle Vanya

Like the Van Gogh Immersive, I had no clue what to expect from this play.   

On a hot summer night my husband and I were greeted just outside the parking lot and escorted to the garden of a historic house in downtown Lexington.  Twenty chairs had been arranged alongside a flower bed.  We were invited to take a seat.  And then, the action began and we were part of the set! 

Two cast members were seated at a table while another actor slept on a blanket on the grass.  Casual conversations began and slowly the plot was revealed.  As other actors entered the garden, the drama unfolded.  With every line of dialogue, we were getting to know these characters, their relationships, their troubles.  After the last line of the act was recited, an usher led us into the house and upstairs through a darkened passage. 

Upon reaching a bedroom, we heard thunder rumbling as we were seated against a back wall.  A storm was brewing (figuratively and literally).  Actors burst into the room venting and sobbing.  The tension had increased and each character grew more miserable—many of them having fallen in love with someone who didn't love them.  

When the act concluded, we were ushered back to the garden for the intermission and refreshments.  Afterward, we were escorted to a dining room.  We sat against a back wall watching as the tension came to a climax.  So much emotion and unease.  So much gloom and doom.  Just when we hoped things would get better, a character waved a gun, and we were abruptly led to a parlor for the last act.  I wanted the play to end on a happy note without a murder.  At least one of my wishes came true.  There was no violence.  But as the final lines were recited, we found that the characters had changed.  Their lives would be harder and probably sadder, and yet somehow a gleam of hope prevailed.   

Upon reflecting on the play, I found that though the audience was a feature of each scene, we didn't participate.  We were merely dropped into the middle of a Russian manor.  But we did have a role—to observe the actors up close.  And being part of the set, I got to know the wants, loves, goals, missteps, and misfortunes of each character.  

What one gains in an immersive art or theatre production is personal.  There really isn't a middle of the road feeling.  You either like it or not.  For me, the experiences will likely stay with me for a long time because I allowed myself to welcome something new, something original, something daring.  By being surprised and not knowing anything in advance, I experienced the art and the drama more deeply.  I became aware of the energy and creativity needed to pull off these shows, and I left feeling humbled by talent.    

 À la prochaine! 

 



 



August 1, 2022


loving two cats, losing a cat
It may not look like it, but they really do like each other.

THE KING AND THE QUEEN RULE THE CASTLE

I never imagined I'd be taking care of two cats. 

That wasn't the plan.  Though I believed Ozzie, our adopted tabby, would want a brother or a sister, my husband Jim convinced me that Oz would never want to share his domain with another cat.  We were a one-cat family and Ozzie was king of the castle.  

And then Ozzie abandoned the castle.  The basement door was accidently left open and just like that, he disappeared.  

From the day he was adopted, Ozzie had always been an indoor cat.  He didn't possess the skills to survive outside.  I was devastated and heartbroken.  I imagined the worse—it was November and the temperatures were plunging.  How would he stay warm?  How would he find food?  How would he make his way back home?  

After ten days, I was beginning to lose hope that he'd return.  Nevertheless, my husband and I drove to the Humane Society hoping someone had found Ozzie and dropped him off.  But Ozzie was not in the room for lost pets.    

On the way home, we stopped by PetSmart.  I wanted to see if a kitty would brighten my mood.  And then I spotted a black and white five-month-old kitten named Abby.  I couldn't resist.  She had the same name as our daughter.  We adopted her on the spot and changed her name to Lizzie (double z's in honor of Ozzie).

It was an impetuous move.  I didn't know if I could love Lizzie as much as Ozzie.  

Seven weeks later at the end of January, I got a call from a neighbor who saw a picture on Facebook of a cat she thought looked like Ozzie.  When I took a look, I wasn't sure if it was our pet. The picture was fuzzy.  Still, it was worth looking into.  My husband located the address of the person who had posted the picture.  To our amazement, the address was only a half a mile away.  We dropped everything and raced to the townhouse.  We were ushered to the basement and there was Ozzie, all skin and bones, too weak to meow, to limp to hold his head up.   

When we brought him home, our plan was to take him to the vet to have him checked out, feed him so he could put on weight, let him rest, and keep his curious sister away.  Which she obliged.  She must have sensed he was in bad shape. 

In two weeks, he gradually got stronger and Lizzie was over with being patient.  She had to check out her new playmate.  Which for Ozzie, was something he hadn't anticipated.  He had overcome the ordeal of living outside in the freezing snow and ice, trying to forage to find food, and now he had to contend with an energetic kitten.  Let me tell you he wasn't in the mood to be pounced on by Lizzie.  This was new to him.  He had never played before and having no claws, he had no way to defend himself.

Gradually, and upon Lizzie's insistence, he got the hang of rough-housing with her.  As he put on more weight, he grew bigger than Liz and he could wrestle with her, pin her down and nip at her paws.  From the sound of her squeals, you'd think she was in pain and she's had enough, but she always came back for more.  

On top of Lizzie's playfulness, Ozzie has to put up with her piggish eating habits.  If I'm not present to guard Ozzie's food, she would gobble her kibbles and then shove him out of the way to eat from his bowl.  Being a gentleman, he would simply sit and watch her chow down. 

During the day, Lizzie climbs into my lap as I write and Ozzie hangs out behind my computer.  At night, Lizzie gets more wound up and nips at my toes and calves.  Ozzie snoozes or watches his wild sister.   They may wrestle a bit, and Ozzie may even instigate it.  And when they settle down, I give them both chin and belly rubs.  I gaze at one and then the other, at one who survived the unimaginable and at one who had been called Abby.  Who would have thought there'd be two cats in the Mrvos household?  Life in the castle changed.  The king lives peacefully (for the most part) with the queen.  

Things come and go and come back.  Things grow and grow and what's left is love, an abundance of love.

 À la prochaine! 



July 1, 2022

showing gratitude

WHAT UP WITH DAT?

I get pissed off when people can't say thank you. 

For instance:  Several years ago, my husband and I received a graduation announcement from the son of a couple we used to see on social occasions.  We had lost touch with them.  But twenty years later come one May, we received the announcement that their son was graduating.  We sent a check and a card.  But the graduate never bothered to send a thank you note.

More recently, we received a graduation notice from the son of a couple we had known three decades ago.  Three decades ago!  We only stay in touch with Christmas cards and they live hundreds of miles away.  WTF?  Or as Kenan Thompson of SNL would say: What up with dat?  

Maybe they sincerely thought we'd like to know about his achievement.  But honestly, it felt more like they were asking for a gift.  And if we were to send a check, what are the chances we'd receive a thank you note?  I'm pretty sure the graduate would never acknowledge the gift.  Now, I could be wrong.  He may be a very nice kid who plans to tell friends and relatives he's grateful they thought about him at this momentous occasion. 

But my gut feeling (and cynicism and experience) tells me otherwise.  

Ingratitude happens on many occasions.  Take weddings:  My husband and I drove nine hours to Washington, D.C. to celebrate a cousin's wedding.  We sent them an expensive gift and never heard a peep from them.  Take birthdays:  We sent generous restaurant gift cards to our nephews.  Neither one of them wrote a thank you note.

I'm not sure why ingratitude is so prevalent.  Have parents forgotten to teach their kids to say thank you?  Or do kids feel they don't need to say thank you?

According Theology of Work, "ingratitude wrongs the one who should have received thanks. But there is another penalty that is paid when we are ungrateful. We lose the opportunity to delight in the blessings of our lives. We deny ourselves the joy that comes to us when we give others the joy that comes from our thanks. Ingratitude deprives the one who should offer thanks of a deeper, richer, fuller experience of life's goodness. So, ingratitude hurts the one who should receive thanks and the one who should give it. Not surprisingly, therefore, it also fails to nourish the relationship between the two parties. Whereas, a word of thanks can build intimacy and trust; thanks neglected creates distance and guardedness."

When I was young, my mom insisted that we write thank you notes for the gifts that we received.  My husband and I taught our daughter to do the same thing.  This may not be the practice these days.  Attitudes have changed.  And then again...

My husband thanks me for the meals I cook each night.  Writers thank me when I waive the editorial fee.  Friends and grocery clerks thank me when I surprise them with flowers or a gift card. 

So, when I think of those who are less grateful, I remember others who are appreciative.  They may say thank you by writing a short note, giving me a call, or sending an email.  They get it.  Showing gratitude is not hard.  It's a beautiful gesture and it's the right thing to do.     


À la prochaine! 






June 1, 2022

spirituality, music, synchronicity
                                                                                                                                                 Photo: Fine Mayer from Pixabay 
     
I'VE GOT THE MUSIC IN ME*

Whenever I hear certain songs that play repeatedly or strike a chord with me, I believe spiritual synchronicities are at work delivering a message, providing guidance, or giving reassurance that I'm on the right path.   

The best way for me to explain is through some examples.

Before the pandemic, I used to listen to music as I worked out in the gym.  I never made a playlist.  I'd listen to whatever played on Spotify.  Whenever I rode the bike or lifted weights, I'm Turning Japanese by The Vapors would play ninety percent of the time.  It was crazy.  Mysterious.  And predictable.  Back in 1980, it was the favorite song of a former boyfriend.  

So why did I hear this song—forty years after we dated—fifteen years after his death?  Perhaps his spirit had always been trying to send me a message.  Now this song easily reached me through Spotify.  Hearing the song played repeatedly made me feel like it was his way of emphasizing how sorry he was about our messy breakup and for my heartache.   

Another song caught my attention recently.  My husband and I enjoy the show The Charismatic Voice.  Producer and vocal coach Elizabeth Zharoff discussed the song Kashmir sung by Robert Plant.  While watching, we learned about the compositional structure of the song, the boldness and carelessness of Plant's style, the timing of the vibrato, the decision to slide or stick a note, and the giving of generosity (of his voice) when he approached the microphone. 

A day after watching The Charismatic Voice, I went to physical therapy.  As I warmed up, Kashmir played.  This coincidence registered with me.  But why did I hear this song again?  Was there a message?  I took a closer look at the lyrics and found that the song is not merely about a place, but about a journey.  After having received a rejection on one of my beloved manuscripts, I found that the lyrics served to remind me that writing is a journey, so be patient and enjoy the steps along the way.

While on the subject of the writing...my husband and I attended an Elton John concert last month.  When Elton sang I'm Still Standing, it resonated with me more than ever that night.  Hearing him sing the song gave me chills.  But why this song and why now?  The power of the song reassured me that I am still standing, still persevering despite rejection.    

I haven't been back in the gym since the pandemic or go to concerts often, so listening to music regularly doesn't happen often.  However, while grocery shopping, going to PT, or watching a television show, I may have the opportunity to hear a song that can be meaningful.  And if I hear that song frequently or if it touches me to the core, I attempt to find the spiritual connection to the music, to be more in touch with my life journey, to 'get' the message.  

Amanda Meder of the Spiritual Living Blog says, "Songs can elicit in all of us intense positive emotions and stir up wonderful memories, so they can be a great way to get a message across.  Songs can also cause you to rethink things, too.  They can shift your outlook, mood, and entire day—which is why they are a very typical ‘sign’ that is sent.  They activate the soul.  If you hear the song synchronistically, this is a sign that you are becoming more in touch with your life path, keep going."

That's what I aim to do, to be aware of the synchronicities and the spiritual power that they hold. Synchronistic experiences give comfort, guidance, and faith.  And if I pay attention, I may understand the perfect timing and the deeper meaning of songs. 

À la prochaine! 

* The Kiki Dee Band  



May 1, 2022





GETTING IN THE MOOD TO WRITE 

I love coffee.  There's nothing like a hot cup of French Roast to put me in the mood to write. 

This caffeine craze began when I was six years old.  Every time my family visited my grandparents, I'd beg Bubbie for a cup.  My grandmother always gave in.  She spooned three teaspoons of Folgers coffee into my mug of milk.  It wasn't like I needed to feel like a grown-up.  It was the aroma and taste that I craved.  That coffee-milk concoction was the best thing ever. 

I began regularly drinking coffee with cream and sugar after I graduated college.  Now days, I drink black coffee and my favorite flavors are French Roast, as well as Guatemalan or Columbian coffee.  Holding a steamy cup warms my hands and fingers and the taste gives me a little caffeine buzz.  After a few sips, I'm ready to edit my manuscripts, do some marketing, and respond to clients and critique partners.  I'll sip coffee throughout the day, less than 2 cups, which is a fairly harmless custom compared to the habits of some famed American authors. 

I did a little research.  According to Tom Dardis, author of The Thirsty Muse, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Eugene O’Neill got in the mood to write with alcohol.  Dardis reveals that these writers inherited their alcoholism from their parents.  Dardis states that the first three burned themselves out before they reached their creative potential.  I'm not sure I agree with him in regards to Hemingway.  

Judy Reeves, author of A Writer’s Book of Days, observes that several famous authors had healthier “getting into the writing mood” methods.  She notes that Alexandre Dumas (the elder) ate an apple early each morning.  Charles Dickens took long walks every day.  Modern day novelist Stephen King has a glass of water or tea, takes a vitamin pill and listens to music. 

So, it seems common that many authors rely on some stimulus to prepare themselves to write.  A cup of java usually does the trick for me.  But on the rare occasion coffee doesn't get my creative juices flowing, I put my writing for a little bit and:  

  • study French     
  • answer emails
  • work on client's manuscripts and query letters   
  • take a walk and mull over ideas
  • read inspirational quotes on writing
  • go to Pinterest to get visual writing ideas
  • read Facebook posts until I figure I've got better things to do with my time 

Putty Cat
Taking a break works wonders.  I am refreshed and ready to write.   

While the water boils for a fresh cup of coffee, I take care of the cats; otherwise, two of them will be hopping on the keyboard.  First, I feed our kitten Lizzie (to distract her from Ozzie's bowl because she's a bit of a food hog), and then Ozzie, and lastly, Putt-Putt (our lovable stray) because he's staring at me through the screen door,

and then feed Ozzie and Lizzie again because they see Putty is eating, so naturally, they want more food.

Whew!  After making sure all three of them are well-fed, I pour myself a cup of steaming hot coffee. 

I turn on the computer and I'm relaxed, open to the flow of ideas, and in the mood to write.



À la prochaine! 






April 1, 2022

Migraine headaches

MIGRAINE MISERY   

I've suffered from migraines for decades. 

One of the worst things about these debilitating headaches is losing time to write.  With a migraine, the precious day fades away without the opportunity to pen a single word.  It's impossible to be creative with a pounding headache.    

A migraine feels like the tip of a knife stabbing the temple of my head.  With this amount of pain, it's difficult to think clearly or to make good judgments.  Once while driving with a migraine, I bypassed a familiar street I needed to travel on to get home.  The ability to think straight had been lost and I drove past my turn.

At times, a migraine can produce flashing lights or zigzag patterns.  It can also bring on the chills and nausea, and it may affect the bladder and bowels.

Like most migraine sufferers, I have triggers that set off the pounding headache.  Of the fifteen common triggers listed below, the first eleven can give me a migraine.

Loud noise
Bright lights
Air travel
Stress
Alcohol
Foods with additives like soy*   
Changes in barometric pressure 
Female hormones
Certain medicines
Certain fragrances
Certain baking odors
Hunger
Dehydration
Caffeine
Change in sleep patterns

Though I know what can set off a migraine, sometimes it's difficult to control or to avoid these triggers.  So, for years I explored methods to give me some relief.  I tried a bioidentical hormone cream, acupuncture, essential oils, and cannabis, but none of these treatments worked. 

Finally, I saw a neurologist.  He too, suffered from migraines.  So, here was someone who understood these debilitating headaches.  He prescribed the vasoconstrictor Imitrex.  And voilà.  Imitrex stops a migraine in its tracks.  I reach for this wonder med at the first sign of a migraine attack, which in my case can be any of the following:  a tightening across my forehead, sinus pressure, feeling foggy brained, seeing light flashes, or having blurry vision. 
 
It's a godsend to have a reliable medicine.  Without Imitrex, I'd be curled up in bed for up to six hours trying not to throw up and missing out on composing blogs, editing my stories, fine-tuning queries, advising clients, and doing social media marketing.  A migraine can make me feel miserable and can ruin a major portion of my day.  

Migraines will probably affect me for the rest of my life.  That's a fact, not a complaint.  I accept this.  Luckily, when I feel one coming on, there's a medicine that brings relief in about fifteen minutes.  As long as I can get ahead of a migraine before it manifests, I'm good to go.  Pain-free, I can tackle my writing tasks.  And without a migraine, I can make the most of a precious day. 

Carpe diem! 

*Soy lecithin is added to many foods such as ice cream, soups, breads, and chocolate.  If you get headaches after having a meal, read the packaging labels.  Find out if soy lecithin is one of the ingredients.




March 1, 2022


ODE TO OZZIE

I had given up hope that my cat would return.  

Ozzie escaped on a frosty November night.  A week later, I wrote this poem to come to terms with his death.     


ODE TO OZZIE


That's the way it's meant to be

you and me

and the silver moon

and open doors with scents galore

unexplored

'til now.

That's the way it's meant to be.

You left me for wooded fields

and starry nights of winter chill

to roam the verdant virgin hills.

Bed you down safe and sound

gather round angels

to bring you home 

and keep you bound in peace.  

No longer by my side, 

you padded off with Nature's guide 

to wooded fields 

and verdant hills,  

for that's the way it's meant to be. 

 

Epilogue:

Near the end of January, a couple found a stray hiding in the bushes by their home.  He was crying.  He was starving.  They took him in, fed him, and then posted his picture on Next Door.  

A neighbor called me to say she had seen a post of a cat that might be Ozzie.    
  
With a little detective work, my husband and I were able to find the people who rescued the stray.  Down in their basement was skinny cat that could barely meow, that could barely lift his head.  He had two different colored eyes.  They had saved Ozzie.   

Ozzie had travelled to the outskirts of our neighborhood.  He braved snow and predators and single digit temperatures.  He had been missing for two months. 

With the guidance of angels and the kindness of strangers, we have been reunited.


Je suis reconnaissant (I am grateful)



Exhausted, but happy to be home.












February 1, 2022




LOSING A PET 

I grieve for my pet.    

On a frosty November night, our beloved cat Ozzie ran away.  The basement door was ajar and he slipped outside.  It's been months since he's disappeared.   

Ozzie was always intrigued with the outside world.  He'd attempt to sneak out whenever we opened the deck or patio doors.  He'd push against the screen door trying to tear through it.   

A few months before his departure, he'd hop up to a table and stare longingly through a window at the backyard.  I thought he might be watching for opossums, raccoons, or stray cats.  Perhaps, he was pining to be outside and planning his escape.     

Two years ago, he got outside through the basement door that led into the garage.  When we discovered he was missing, we searched the garage, our yard, and the neighborhood.  Ozzie reappeared in the garage about four hours later. 

Since that day, I bought a tag for his collar which was engraved:  Ozzie.  I'm an indoor cat.  I don't belong outside.  Please call my mom.   

But the tag didn't help.  Ozzie is still missing.  

Here's what I think could have happened:  
  • Ozzie may have appeared at someone's doorstep without his collar (it was a breakaway collar that may have been snapped open) and taken in, appearing as a friendly stray.  If he was adopted, the good-hearted neighbor may not have given any thought to having his microchip read, which would reunited him with us.      
  • Ozzie may have been sick and traveled to the woods beyond our backyard to find a place to die.  He had been sleeping a bit more than normal and he wasn't as social as he had been.  Cats hide their illnesses and Ozzie may have been concealing the fact that his health was failing. 
  • Ozzie may have been lured by curiosity and gotten lost.
  • A predator may have found Ozzie.

I believe if Ozzie wanted to, he could have come back the night he escaped.  The door had been open for several hours.  It was cold outside and the terrain beyond our property was unfamiliar.  Occasionally, I had taken him out with a vest and leash to enjoy the backyard.  I think he would have recognized the difference in the smells of our yard and the area beyond.  

A week after Ozzie's escape, my husband and I went to the Humane Society hoping to find him, but no one had brought Ozzie to the shelter.  While we were there, we played with some kittens that were up for adoption.  One of the little bitty cats let me hold her in my lap without squirming.  What were the chances on that day we'd find a kitten with the same name as our daughter?

We adopted Abby, but renamed her Lizzie (a double z in honor of Ozzie.)  Several days later when I took Lizzie to our veterinarian, I told him about Ozzie's disappearance.  Dr. Vice had taken care of Ozzie for seven years.  As he gave Lizzie a rabies shot, he said that no other cat will replace Ozzie.  He said, "Now you have Lizzie and she will have her own story."

I miss Ozzie.  I may never get over losing him.  He was my bud.  I hear stories about pets finding their way back home months after they've disappeared.  So, Ozzie may return and have a baby sister.  But for now, my life is different and I have to deal with the devastating loss and the crushing heartbreak.    

I stroke Lizzie's little face and rub her furry belly and ask, "Lizzie, do you know where Ozzie can be?"  She looks at me tenderly, as if pondering his whereabouts, as if she knows.  Then I ask her one more question:  "Lizzie, with what will your story be?"


Ozzie me manque  








January 1, 2022


                                                                                                                                                    Ozzie has table privileges


SPOILED 

Written before Ozzie escaped on Thanksgiving night. 

He has not returned.


I spoil our cat Ozzie.  Ollie (our first cat) died from kidney disease when he was only eight-years-old and the loss was so devastating that I go out of my way to indulge Ozzie.      

My sweet boy gets to eat a dish of dry kibbles and a dish of meaty wet food—yes, he has two food bowls.  And he gets to eat whenever he wants, which is throughout the day.  If I'm in the kitchen he waits by his tray.  He's got me pegged.  I fill both of them for him before I have a bite to eat.

When he's finished, he gets to watch the birds.  In the summer, I open the kitchen door for him and Ozzie lies against the screen, soaking in the sun.  He enjoys the variety of the birds that come to the feeders:  cardinals, wrens, woodpeckers, goldfinches, doves, chickadees, titmice, sometimes a rose-breasted grosbeak and hummingbirds.  If he's lucky, he gets to say hello to Putty, a stray cat we care for who frequents the deck for food.

In the mornings, Ozzie usually lies behind the computer screen.  I slide the keyboard to the front edge of the desk so he has plenty of room to stretch out and listen to bird-singing Youtube videos as I work.  

After lunch, Ozzie gets to nap on the guest room bed.  I give him a chin and belly rub before his eyelids get heavy. 

Then late afternoon when he awakens, he gets a dish of wet food—served in bed.

At supper time and before we have dinner, Ozzie gets two more dishes of food.  Then he jumps to the kitchen table and he gets to lounge on a place mat at the end of the table.  He's not reprimanded.  My husband and I know it's useless.  Most of the time, he naps unless he is intrigued by the food on our plates.

During the evening when I'm watching television or reading, he gets to make muffins on my lap. I don't move until he's tuckered out. 

After that, we may rough house.  He gets to swat at my arm.  He gets to gently bite my hand and clench it in his mouth.  When it's bedtime, he gets to curl up by my feet or on my pillow.

The only things he doesn't get to do is walk across the stove and sneak outside, both for reasons of safety.  And he doesn't get to body slam against a closed door—it's uncalled for and annoying.  But overall, Ozzie Mrvos has it made.  He gets lots of love and attention.  From I can tell, he shows his gratitude by butting his head against my hand.     

Without a doubt, I pamper Ozzie.  He gets table privileges.  He gets to watch birds, live or on video and so much more.  Is he spoiled?  Perhaps.  Do I mind?  Not one bit.  

Anything for my sweet boy. 

Ozzie me manque