Friday, December 27, 2013

Love, Off the Record

This essay was published in this month's new CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: the power of dating book. 

I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday; best wishes for the New Year!! 

By 1989, I had been happily divorced two years, having weathered a few semi-relationships that failed to get off the ground for various reasons, and several disastrous first dates.  The closest I had come to a serious boyfriend was an architect who lived in New York. Since I lived in Virginia and worked in D.C. at the time, the distance between us was perfect. But this relationship also fizzled out. I was fine with that. I was happy with my work and enjoyed hanging out with friends, my family, and my cat.

So I was unprepared for an encounter with destiny when my editor-in-chief tossed a project on my desk with the command to “interview this person.” 

As the associate editor of an architecture magazine, I  was responsible for writing features on new projects, news developments, and products. This particular design project, soon to open in Austin, TX, was a combination piano/pool hall. Not many of those around, I hazarded to guess. Eric’s Pool Hall, as it was called, was executed with whimsy and flair, and I looked forward to talking to the imaginative and witty architect responsible. I picked up the telephone.

Usually, when an editor from an architecture magazine is on the line, explaining the nature of the call, you can hear the excitement in their voice when they find out they are about to be published. The first words out of this guy’s mouth, however, sounded like a sneer. 
“What’d ya do? Pick that out of the round file?” he replied flatly.
Feeling chastened and not a little awkward and offended, I quickly replied with as much starch in my voice as I could muster that I could tell he wasn’t interested, thanked him for his time, and hung up. 

As I sat there wondering what to tell my editor, the phone rang. It was Mr. Surly Guy, all apologetic and charming. He explained he had been caught up short; he had tried to retrieve the project slides a year ago and had been told the art department had ‘lost’ them, and he had been annoyed. As he made his apologies I couldn’t help but note how warm and masculine his voice sounded over the telephone. We agreed to set up a phone interview the following day.

Typically my interviews are a mix of handwritten notes and a tape recorder used as a backup and safety measure. As I had hoped, the interview was a lot of fun -- more so than usual, in fact. As I replayed the tape, I was struck by the realization there was about a 50-50 spread of business and all ha-ha-ha personal information flying back and forth. We had gotten pretty flirty. 

Over the next two weeks while I worked on the piece and chose slides for the layout, I was always pleasantly excited when I had a reason to call him up to confirm a fact or ask about a detail. I couldn’t deny I called him more than I usually did a designer when writing up a project. Finally the article was finished. I was satisfied with it, knowing he would also be pleased with the result. A bit regretfully, I called for the last time to thank him for his time and input, and let him know when the feature would be published. I made sure to get his address to send a complimentary copy.
The following day the phone rang. 
“Hey, kid. I just missed talking to you,” he said.  

As much as I enjoyed it, too, it was obvious I couldn’t have a personal conversation at work. The next thing I knew he had my home phone, and it became a habit for him to call around 10 at night. Both of us were night-owls, and we’d stay on the line for an hour at a time. The nightly routine was one I looked forward to.

After four weeks, he began broaching the subject of meeting in person. I brushed it off each time. He lived in Maryland, more than an hour away from D.C., but truthfully, I was  enjoying my new telephone buddy and didn’t want to jeopardize our friendship. I was afraid the bubble might burst if he was short, fat, or bald. Enjoying my flirt fantasy, I continued to put him off. After a few more weeks he finally he told me was driving down that Saturday to take me to lunch.

“I can’t, I have to work,” I quickly countered.
“You have to eat; I’ll meet you in the lobby at noon,” he said in a voice that broached no further argument.
After brief descriptions “I’m tall and dark-haired,” “I’m tall with auburn hair,” we hung up for the night. 

That Saturday as the noon hour approached, I was nervous as I reluctantly sat on a bench in the lobby awaiting my fate for the next hour. (Or so I thought). 
Soon a very tall, good-looking, slender man with shoulder-length wavy hair pushed through the entry doors. My heart did an actual flip-flop as these thoughts bubbled in my head: Shit! I don’t want to get married again!


Many years later as we were having lunch with a friend, she asked us how we had met. As I told her this story with my now-husband listening beside me, I laughed, since I had never told him my first reaction to our meeting.
“You don’t know the whole story,” he said with a chuckle.

Apparently, when we hung up after my initial interview request, he had called my boss.
“What’s the matter, Don? Am I slipping? You or a senior editor have always reviewed my work before, and today I just got a call from some associate editor.”
“You want to meet this girl,” my editor-in-chief replied. “Don’t you have a restaurant you designed up there somewhere? You should take her to lunch.”
“What?! I’ve never had to take my editor out to lunch before!” now-hubby protested.
“You aren’t listening to me!” my editor replied, “You need to meet this girl.”

Don Canty. My crusty old editor-in-chief. A romantic, and I never knew it. How I wish I had learned the whole story before he had died. I would have written him to thank him for steering me into a relationship with the love of my life and into a very happy marriage, now in it’s 23rd year.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

I Flip for You

this is an essay I recently submitted for a contest about meeting my first 'kid,' I adopted as an adult...

I was 21 and living more than 1400 miles from home when I decided to adopt a cat. I had always lived with cats growing up, and was wildly lonely for their companionship. Arriving at the Humane Society on a mild winter’s day I was led by an attendant down a cinderblock hallway into the cattery. Then she left, closing the door behind her, and I was the only person in the room. Two banks of cages were stacked from floor to almost-ceiling on either side of the room, like kitty-condos. The animals were separated by sexual orientation.

Motivated by the fact males were five dollars cheaper to adopt than females, and money was tight, I stepped over to the boy’s side of the room. As I began peering inside cages I grew disappointed. There wasn’t much movement. Most dozed in tight fur-balls; others gazed into the distance, morose and avoiding eye contact. Some appeared so miserable I feared they were ill. My heart sank as I wondered if this had been a good idea, after all. I grew more depressed thinking about the fate of most of these sweet innocents. I tried talking gently to them and put my hands on the wire cages so they could smell my scent. None seemed interested.

By contrast the female side of the room was a beehive of activity. Some slept, but many others paced their compartments, watching their neighbors with interest. Kittens played as mother cats dozed nearby. As I continued to glance across the room one small cat in particular caught my eye. She stared at me fixedly. When I stared back she appeared to smile. She had the longest, curliest whiskers I’ve ever seen, and as we held each other’s gaze she seemed to beam like the Cheshire cat in the Alice in Wonderland book. 

And then she began to do something I never thought I would ever see a cat do -- something that confounds me to this day and causes people to shake their heads in wonder and skepticism when I tell them this story -- she started performing backflips against the door of her cage.

As I’ve said, I’ve lived with cats all my life, and I know they are quite acrobatic. But this was a new one on me. I hadn’t even seen kittens perform this feat. Entranced, I walked over until I stood before the cage, which was about five feet off the floor. After about four flips the cat stopped her performance, and we sized each other up. The sign on her cage said she was 12 weeks old and had come alone to the shelter. It didn’t say how long she had been there or what the circumstances had been.  

Now she sat quietly, an alert, seemingly pleased expression on her face. She was gorgeous --  I couldn’t believe anyone could give her up. One side of her face was orange and the other black, separated by a blaze of white down her nose. Huge green eyes stared into mine with a bemused expression. She was a tortoiseshell and her long, fine hair was a swirl of black, tan, orange, and brown. Aside from the nose blaze, the only white on her was a ruff of thick hair around her neck, white ‘gloves’ on her front paws, and ‘gogo’ boots on her hind legs. She appeared to have some Maine Coon in her, too, with her thick wicked hair and tufts of hair between her toe pads. 

We must have stared at one another several minutes before I realized the other cats around us, formally so active and vocal, had grown very quiet. There must have been 40 cats in that room, and there wasn’t a sound.

Feeling a touch apprehensive at the prospect of opening the cage, I hesitated. There was no telling what this cat would do! I introduced myself and asked if she would like to get out. She stretched in response and looked expectantly at the door. The room remained uncharacteristically quiet. I felt I wasn’t the only one holding my breath; the little cat, on the other hand, seemed utterly unconcerned. 

Once on the floor, after a cursory sniff of my clothes and shoes, she immediately began exploring her surrounds. She had obviously been curious about her fellow in-mates. I watched as she walked from cage to cage. After several minutes as she continued her exploration, ignoring me completely, I scooped her back in my arms. “Okay kitty. You need to go back in the cage. I’ve got a decision to make,” I said, placing her back inside the container. She replied by giving me a look of utter horror and betrayal, as if I had backed out of an agreement long since made. Then she started meowing. Loudly.
 As soon as she began to cry, all the other cats joined in. The room was suddenly such a cacophony of strident howls, I was afraid the shelter workers would run in and haul me away, convinced I was torturing a cat. “Okay, Okay! I’m sorry,” I said, hastily re-opening the door.

The instant I took her in my arms again all cries stopped instantly. I was stunned. And then she snuggled into my sweater and placed her soft furry face against my cheek. Both front paws wrapped around my neck in an embrace. We had found each other.


GoGo was my best friend for 17 years. We moved across the country twice and weathered six shorter moves, as well as marriage, divorce, re-marriage, and my chronic illness and subsequent 14 surgeries. That memorable adoption day was the beginning of a remarkable friendship I cherish and continue to miss to this day.

Monday, November 25, 2013


Since my last post --and all within 8 weeks -- after experiencing both parents diagnosed with cancer, wrecking a 2-day-old new car after the newly installed hand controls malfunctioned -- a car I still don't have back from the shop after 4 weeks and that is supposed to take two more weeks, incidentally -- tests for pain to determine whether or not the transplant was injured (it wasn't), a 1200 deposit not credited to my checking account, resulting in over-draft fees all week that had me tearing my hair out, two friends who died within a week, and not to mention 'mundane' concerns, such as financing a 1000 loan every month for the sanctuary to keep the mustang band intact -- I was beginning to lose it.

Believe me when I tell you you did not want to hear from me. Even I didn't want to hear from me. I alternated between wanting to burrow under the covers and wish sundown would hurry up so I could go back to bed, and selling my worldly goods on Ebay and loading up the cats and driving off into the sunset.

I'd be a bad daughter to leave now, as tempting as it is to consider. Or a wimp. Since I'm neither, I have had to wait until my innate positive attitude adjustment finally re-surfaced and I have begun to regain equilibrium again. No one's living an easy life these days (who I know, anyway). When suckiness piles on and you consider a name change to 'Job,' and wonder WTF the Universe has in mind, where do you go? What do you do?

I am focusing for the moment on simple pleasures of the now. Sometimes it feels like all I can process anyway. Cups of hot, properly brewed tea. A good book. Conversations with close friends. Dark chocolate. Cats. Exercise. Good food. Movies. (Yeah, escapism is definitely necessary).

This roller coaster will eventually flatten and the ride will ease up. And I'm tired of spending energy railing and grabbing for the rail bars in a panic. It's time to regain control over my actions and direct my energy to what positive emotions and pursuits I can.

Here are some wonderful things that have happened we have or are rejoicing in: Three sets of partners are now married in civil ceremonies ranging from New Mexico, New York,  and Vermont, with receptions to honor those commitments here at home; I won another essay to be published in December; all the animals are doing well; and I am hosting a baby shower for a young mom-to-be who became pregnant with twins on her first round of IVF...

Best wishes to everyone for a holiday of Thanksgiving, wherever you are and wherever you are on your journey. I look forward to watching the Macy's parade, as I do annually, LOL. With a lump in my throat. Blessings…….

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

LIFE. The four-letter word

I seem to have been in a mental fugue state the last part of this summer. I think it's slowly lifting. A dear  friend once noted this seems to coincide with my August birthday; not so much a cause for celebration, as a date with 'payment upon demand' notices, underlining just what I haven't gotten around to that I thought would surely have been addressed by now...Not that I mind getting older. I'm rather pleased about that.

I am regaining ground on the health-front. Getting the monthly infusions in the home state is a huge relief. The side-effects of the transplant that were the most unpleasant, to say the least, are easing, and a recent trip back east to NIH* last week proved to be a positive one (those pesky brain and spine tumors are behaving themselves).

The head of urology at NIH has become somewhat of a friend over the years. Since he was responsible for the loss of my right kidney in 2009 (it sucks to be a pioneer and a guinea pig for science at times), he was more than amenable when I asked if he would consider making a donation to my nonprofit kidney account, since I am going to be paying for these expensive transplant drugs for the rest of my life. Maybe he actually will.

Since June we have been trying to figure out how to save the sanctuary land and the mustangs (our partner decided she wanted to sell out, so we are scrambling to find ways to can buy her out and keep the horses together on the land they are used to -- all of which involves putting the house on the market -- something we planned to do anyway, just not under the gun like this). We have suffered through one real-estate company and agent, and are about to go through the trial of finding another to re-list the house. We are working through bank loans. Not sure any of this will work, or work in time, anyway. I am finding there is a reason so many jokes disparage bankers, lawyers, and agents...apologies to readers of any of these professions. I am willing to listen.

Both parents have had significant medial dramas this summer  -- the kinds that will I am firmly a bonafide member of the dreaded 'sandwich' generation (seriously, could we not have made up a better name? Plain stupid. But the people instigating the title are stressed and tired; I get it). I am lucky beyond measure they are both still in my life, and there isn't much I wouldn't do for them. I just wish there were more I could do that would make a difference. And that they wouldn't resist the things that would be make every-day things/life easier. This flip-flopping of traditional roles is as wearisome and tedious and predictable as everyone has talked and written about.

To counter all the stress I am turning more and more into myself. On the days I am lucky enough to spend at home, most days exercise, reading, and writing comprise the majority of the day. And at night after chores we settle down to a classic movie taped off TCM. Yes, it's a rut. After living through what we have and dealing with what we are, a rut sounds pretty good right now. There's a lot to be said for fantasy, and I am working on some fiction, something new to me, since my forte has always been non-fiction and personal essay. A few more essays have or are about to be published, and I am writing a memoir of sorts. What will be done, if anything, with any of that is anyone's guess,. But I find it necessary and cathartic.

This is also the time of year much of the wild-life move on. The beaver took off months ago, looking for more willowy green pastures (or murky-blue watery ones). He will be back to trim the shoots around the pond back this spring. The geese are busy taking the goslings out on practice runs and practicing take-offs and landings on the pond. The domestic ducks are getting upset they will be left behind. Somehow this summer another domestic duck showed up on the pond. Since they can't fly, we guess someone dumped him, much like they dump their dogs and cats on the mountain for someone else to take responsibility. I wish our three ducks were nicer to him, but they insist on making him feel an interloper, even though he's clearly here for the duration.

The fox family has gone. The six baby 'coons are almost as big as their momma now. Their rough-housing on the skylight  and gamboling on the terrace has become a thing of the past as they press on with more mature 'coon responsibilities, such as digging up the plants and gouging holes in the screen. Excy's favorite is a bold little guy who tries to enter the house when the door opens and likes to hang upside down on the screen or eye-level so he can fully beg to best advantage. I keep reminding Excy no new owner will be as enamored of 'coon pets and it won't be fair to them or the 'coons to let them continue to sponge off us. (Though if people move out here they had better like the country -- and wild -- life). My philosophy has been that once the 'coons are older than three months and mom isn't nursing, I cut off the gravy train so they can get used to no more hand-outs while it's still pleasant and the young ones can be totally self-sufficient before the cold months set in.

The cabin is finally finished but for re-daubing the exterior and landscaping, and although it's furnished, I will slowly be furnishing it and fixing it up nice enough for short-term rental. It's an awesome spot and people have told me they want to stay in it and gaze over the pond and watch the horses roam. I hope we don't have to sell it off and start all over again. It's taken a long time to see these things settle and fall into place.

*flying to National airport in DC (I can't call it Reagan Nat'l; it was difficult enough living there  thorough the Reagan years. Seems we left just when things were getting interesting with Clinton moving in the WH),  the day of the Navy yard shooting was interesting, to say the least. We also were at NIH the week after 9/11. Seeing tragedies up close compounds the horror.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Update: The 17th was the first anniversary of the kidney transplant. "Golden Champ" is working fine. I wanted to host a cook-out to celebrate with a few of the people who went out of their way to support us, but Cathy was out of town. Can't have a proper celebration without my donor! So we post-phoned until the fall. It will be cooler by then anyway. And Monday was the first infusion I had in Little will be a real blessing to us not to have to be on the road five days for a 2-hr appointment. When they saw us get up extra-early, the cats assumed we were hitting the road. They seemed happy the suitcase didn't come out and we returned that afternoon......

FROM the day we're born to the day we die we wear many hats as our lives unfold. They change constantly. Some we wear a short while and discard. Others we wear forever (sibling, parent, son or daughter, spouse, friend...)

Some are placed on our heads through actions and circumstances. Some we seek out or wish for. Others can wear us down, drain our energy, or take up too much time. They feel heavy, weigh us down, and can be a real burden. Others are light as a feather, and worn proudly.

Why are we given some hats and not others? Why do we select the ones we do? Some hats fit like a glove; others are so ill-fitting we can't wait to tear it off our head.

Are you wearing any hats you particularly like?
Or is there one you can't wait to have lifted off your head?

Here's hoping a stiff, strong wind blows that one away and soon...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Low-to-No Cash Withdrawal and Deposit

I've noticed I'll do everything I can not to spend the cash I've squirreled away for my 'rainy' day or for 'mad' money. Something about seeing that cold hard cash -- 20s, 50s, the occasional 100 dollar bill -- keeps it 'hands off.' When I do rifle through the stash, the low bills are the first to go.

Whereas I make the occasional dip into checking and even savings when things come up -- I had the pleasure of replacing the clothes dryer and the vacuum cleaner just the other week, for instance -- my cash box remains largely untouched. (Should you be looking for it, it's a small wooden box with the brass engraving 'I Love You Amy' that came from Excy with long-ago eaten chocolates inside).

Perhaps I should consign myself to become one of those 'ole Pioneer types who preferred to stash their cash in the mattress rather than in banks and investments. (I'd save money that way, apparently. In the bed-frame, I mean).

After I began to write about this, I read of this very phenomenon a  few weeks ago in Real Simple. There was an '09 study prefaced where people in an experiment tended to hang onto larger bills than the 5s, 10s and 20s.

When people receive a substantial note they subconsciously realize that once they start using it, it will go away quickly. Spending smaller amounts on impulse items like candy or a Starbucks beverage, was much easier. Since I don't have the money to invest in gold or bitcoms (which sounded pretty useless from the get-go), I guess I'll stick to my system and hope for the best.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Civility Matters

Civility is based on recognizing the difference between the words different and diversity. Civility does not stand in the way of truth and moral development, but rather is a precondition  for them. Civility is important because it allows disagreement to take place without violence and regularizes conflict disagreement to take place without violence. It regularizes conflict so that it can be productive. -- John A. Hall, The Importance of Being Civil: The Struggle for Political Decency

When I was growing up, my parents taught us not to discuss politics or religion with strangers or at social functions -- the gist of their advice being the two topics were 'hot' and likely to cause unnecessary contention.

As an adult, I don't necessarily find either subjects off limits, along with other things like race relations or public policies, but other than discussions with friends and family* I rarely do bring them up, though, because I don't care for the mean-spiritness and pettiness that is increasingly the norm when someone disagrees.

I am not a regular user of the social media. While I do use FB, I seldom am active, and rarely update my profile, post comments, or share photos. But I like to read how friends are doing and learn about upcoming events. It's handy. But I also find it dismaying to learn how nasty some people can get, disparaging the President or when they have a political bone to pick. There can be lots of carping and baiting.

Tragedies aren't hours old before someone places blame for a nutters shooting or bombing on the President or the political party they don't belong to, or aliens, or ((insert here)). If someone ventures a different opinion I have seen them mocked, or the recipient of nasty comments.

Clean debate that enables opposing partners to voice different opinions are increasingly rare, and  arguments quickly go south, devolving into rants and seemingly petty and personal remarks. I still can't forget an email a friend sent during the Presidential election...Obama's face morphed into that of a lowland gorilla. She wrote that she "wasn't a racist, she just thought the images were interesting." Say What?? And Jane Fonda will forever be reviled and branded as a traitor for touring Vietnam during the war and for that stupid pose...despite the fact she has apologized for "being used" and for being a "apolitical naive 20-something." It seems people will forever drum up hate towards her and keep forwarding email that keeps her mistake spewing to the forefront of everyone's consciousness. It will stain her forever.

I don't mean we should all join hands and sing Kumbaya, or shut up and stifle ourselves when confronting an opposing POV. Just keep it civil, people. I want reasoned arguments conducted in a civil manner. Parroting lines heard from some TV pundit who you believe has no real weight when you can't substantiate your own opinions, supported by fact. That doesn't hold water. Showing respect and allowing the person to articulate their dissenting opinion without interruption is only fair. Raising your voice and repeating the same things over and over again is not. It's highly annoying as well.

Staying respectful and positive, and curious about why they feel the way they do is a mature reaction more likely to gain respect. It's an apt way to make your point than baiting someone and using disdainful ridicule. You seldom change someone's mind or they yours, but learning why they feel the way they do is the closest you'll come to making headway.

*There's one in every family. (Hopefully just one, anyway). I can't have a dissenting discussion with the person in our family because they just don't argue fairly. They bait, refuse to listen, talk over you, don't let you speak without interruption, and spout facts they glean from articles that support their view while refusing to read material holding dissenting opinion. It's ridiculous.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Kinky Weekend

The two-night fundraiser this past weekend was a success. Everyone had fun, Kinky enjoyed his stay, he performed in high Kinster form, and the show and silent auction (horse-themed local art, of course), and auction of several of his 'Man in Black' tequila bottles brought in more money for Wing Spur than we have made in previous years, which is not only exciting but allows us to pay off the hay bills and order vaccinations as well as buy a new battery for the tractor. Woo-hoo!

Excy picked up Kinky from the airport Friday and they raced over to a local news station for an interview. The show that night was at one of the tonier theaters and he sang and told stories for 2 hours with breaks to meet folks and sign "anything but bad legislation." Even at half-occupancy it was a good crowd. Afterwards the guys went to a popular 'joint' made famous by President Clinton and the late Levon Helm to talk politics while I went home to 'put my buns in bed,' as his song goes. Saturday the thunderstorms came through again, so we didn't get to bring him out to visit the sanctuary and we were thankful we decided against having the second venue in Harrison, a town a few hours away. With the floods and torrential downpour I'm not sure we would have made it. Kinky fretted as it was that "maybe he'd be singing to 20 people," it was raining so hard, but White Water Tavern pulled in a good crowd, and everyone was more than willing to buy tequila shots and sing along with him.

Kinky was friendly and outgoing and gracious to everyone. He has the politician's genius of remembering names. People brought in old albums, books, hats, guitars made from his old cigar boxes, you name it -- he signed it, even the tequila bottles people bought. It was hard to think he was tired from his "Bi-Polar Tour," where he performed 36 shows in 35 days around Europe.

After Saturday's show I was a passenger in the car that drove him around, so ended up having dinner after the show. It was fun to learn about his life, his 60-dog sanctuary in Kerrville called 'utopia,' and his serious consideration of running for Governor of Texas, this time not as an independent but a Democrat. His close friend Willie Nelson pledges to assist with the campaign, and he's asked us to help, too. He's invited us to dinner when we are in Texas seeing our second grand daughter, who was born Saturday -- two weeks early! She was born in 19 minutes! Mom and baby are doing fine. All in all, a great time, and one we are glad to have pulled off, and that is over.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Finding Our Happy Place

When the third person in 10 days asked me if I had quit blogging, I knew it was time to get back here. I don't know why I expected life to get easier after the transplant. Wishful thinking. Of course in certain respects it has--after all, I'm still here and breathing--but there have also been ER visits and hospital trips, 'down time' emotionally and physically, and other fall-outs with family issues and attendant life dramas.

In just one day, for example, we learned our majority-share partner in the Sanctuary property is forcing the sale of the land. Just two short hours later, my dad fell and had a concussion, and my Aunt from FL died unexpectedly. That was a day! Dad's better now, though falling where he has had  two previous brain surgeries means a slower than expected recovery.

Our partner's lawyer suggested in one conversation we "sell the mustangs." Wow. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask a (supposedly) learned attorney what definition of the word 'sanctuary' he didn't understand. But I held my tongue so not to antagonize the man. You'd have been proud.

Obviously, the welfare of the mustangs are our utmost concern. So if there's a possibility we can buy the land and buy the partner out we will. We have been planning to sell this house and build a smaller 'retirement' house anyway. But now there is a crucial time-frame, with mortgages and loans involved. And my long dread and loathing of banks is intensifying. Adding to the stress we are in the midst of plans for a May 31 and June 1 fundraiser we need to pack both theaters for. Kinky Friedman will be performing for the benefit, fresh off his European tour.*

I am also negotiating with Emory to have my drug infusions done locally. We can't continue to drive 10 1/2 hours to Atlanta every month--a costly and time-consuming endeavor.

So blogging has clearly fallen off the charts a bit, although I have missed it, and missed catching up with all your news. I intend to get back into the swing of things, and I'm pretty sure it'll help my attitude.

There's a tree in our backyard that makes me smile every time I see it. I meant to take a picture of it and then it rained several days and the knob where the 'nose' is began to grow a shoot...on the bark of this tree is an honest-to-god happy face: eyes, nose, and curved smile. Now the knob that was the 'nose' has a branch that has diluted the effect. But the tree's happy face reminds me to keep on keeping on; keep shining. We only have today and no promises are made--so live in the now--and the now is all we should deal with. How successful we are and how we choose to manage our life is up to us.

My best wishes to all of you to keep 'shining through.'

* P.S. I will keep you up-to-date on the fundraiser. And post pics of Kinky's visit. We  have a great poster out (wing Kinky's manager sent a few pics, and we photoshopped two of them with two of ours. One has Kinky singing his heart out -- head thrown back, eyes closed -- sharing the mic with one of the mustangs, who also has her head back, eyes closed, and lips curled back (sniffing the wind, but it looks like they're singing a duet). The other has Kinky striding across the lawn, arms thrown up in the air, and the mustangs are lined up to the side, all looking his way.....I pray the fundraiser is as successful as the posters have come out!

All donations to the nonprofit sanctuary go 100% towards the horses's feed and medicine and vet bills. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

One Day At a Time

Hi. I'm Amy. I'm a recipe-holic.

Seriously, is there a 12-step program for recipe addiction? It has gotten seriously out of hand over the years. It started out innocuously enough, when I was first starting out on my own, accumulating cookbooks. But over the last decade I have been drawn more and more to cutting and tearing recipes out of magazines rather than looking them up in books and on the internet.

The single three-ring binder I used to glue these in became full to overflowing, and overflow eventually took up one entire row of the cookbook shelves in the kitchen. For several holidays I hinted -- and then outright implored -- Excy to make a present of buying and assembling more binders for me until I finally threatened I would not be doing anymore cooking until things were under control. That got his attention.

This Christmas I was given two more three-ring binders with lovely water-painted covers, colored sections, and a 500 pack of paper with the holes already in each sheet, plus a package of six glue sticks -- of which I ran out of before the task was complete! It took an entire week to cull through what I had accumulated, put them in categories with some semblance of order, glue them on paper, and insert them in the proper binder category. I'm in heaven feeling so organized. But even when I was in the middle of the project and cursing all the recipes I was wading through, I still managed to tear out more as I was reading monthly magazines. Now at least I have a proper section for them, even if I doubt I can make all the recipes I already have in one life-time. But my usual MO is to keep new ones out until I try them and then if they make the grade, glue them in the proper book. I think having three three-ring binders will hold me for awhile. One binder is sectioned 'misc,' 'drinks' 'appetizers' and 'soups/stews.' The second book is for 'salads,' 'vegetables,' 'fish, 'chicken,' and 'red meat.' The third is entirely for 'dessert.'

I made this recipe for a Valentine dinner party and it was a tremendous hit. Despite all the steps, it is not difficult, and well worth it for the delicious factor. Please note it must be made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight.

Clementine Pots de Creme
2 3/4 heavy cream, divided
Zest of two clementines, finely grated, divided
1/2 lb semisweet chocolate chips
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup plus 2 Tb sugar, divided
1/2 cup whole milk (I used half&half because I had it on hand)

In a large heavy-bottomed pan, heat 2 1/4 cups cream over med heat until warm to the touch (just a few minutes should do it). Add the grated zest of one of the clementines and the chocolate chips. Remove from heat and let steep 20 minutes, stirring a few times.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/3 cup of sugar and milk. Set six 6 oz ramekins in a large baking pan.

Return the chocolate mixture to stove top and warm over low heat, whisking until chocolate is smooth and warm. Set a coarse strainer over the bowl with the yolk mixture and pour the chocolate mixture through, pressing on the zest. Whisk well to thoroughly combine.

Pour into ramekins. Add very hot water to baking pan until it reaches halfway up the side of the ramekins. Cover pan loosely with tin foil and bake until pots de creme are set around the edges but jiggly in centers, 40-50 minutes or so. Transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Before serving, In a large bowl, whip remaining 1/2 cup cream to soft peaks and slowly add 2 Tb sugar and whip lightly to incorporate (don't do it too hard or it can turn grainy). Place a dollop of the whipped cream on each pot de creme and garnish with remaining clementine zest (or thin strips).

Serve and enjoy!
Active time: 20 min.
Total time: 1 1/4 hrs plus chilling overnight

Thursday, January 17, 2013

You Can't Be Too Careful... Lenny's motto.

Most of you know I have numerous cat companions to round out the myriad wild critters and wild mustangs living on the property and Sanctuary. Lenny was adopted after his stray mom and siblings were found 'forever' homes and Len was left behind. It was just a matter of time before I told Excy that Lenny had a home, and it was with us. He was named after the character 'Lenny' on the original Law&Order, whose quips we had always enjoyed. We have never given animals Christian names, but for some reason, it seemed appropriate to me, and it fits his personality.

Lenny is the most spoiled cat in our household (that's saying something), and a real 'mama's boy.' He, unfortunately, would also ride 'the short bus.' Lenny's special. But he's also, well, special. He talks -- a lot -- and his constant chattering and then real conversations with us always lifts my spirits. He is good natured. When he wants attention -- and also 'butt beats' (patting his behind is quite the fetish of his, and a bit embarrassing when he also insists on it from close friends he trusts who visit the house), he will do 'Lenny rolls,' unprompted, but also on command: rolling on the floor from side to side...I will tell him he's on a 'Lenny roll' when he surpasses four side-by-sides. His record so far has been 20 in a row.

For all his sociability with us, however, he is quite the introvert. Most cats prefer a quiet life of routine and stability, and Len is no exception. He dislikes strangers in his home, loud noises, door bells, sudden moves...the list goes on. But there is more to introversion and extroversion than quiet people and loud people. Psychobiology decides how we interact with others - and the key is in our central nervous systems. According to Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, introverts have a much higher and active nervous system, and extroverts have a high threshold for stimulation.

 A few years ago, for almost a week, Lenny went from  being my best little pal to freaking out when I walked into the room -- to the point he was afraid to sleep with me, sleep on the bed, or be near me, and when Excy held him and walked up to me in an attempt to show him it was 'just mama,' he leapt from Excy's arms, drawing blood. It tore me up, especially because my other 'mama's boy,' had died a few days before, and I was grieving and also wondering if he somehow made a connection with Scat's death in that pea brain of his.

 It took me four days to figure out what I had done, and then it slowly occurred to me I had used a fly swatter close to him as he was gazing unawares out a window. By the fifth day of Lenny's meltdown, as I was on the phone to our vet, tearfully consulting on how to bring Lenny around and discussing forms of 'kitty Xanax,' Lenny walked into the library and seemed a bit sheepish, said he was sorry, and presented his butt to me to be 'beaten.'

It was fortunately been quite a few years since Lenny has been traumatized by me, but last Friday he has decided to be terrified of my new shoes. I bought a pair of Oxfords and love them. Not being able to walk easily, their almost one-inch heel is slightly higher than what I am used to wearing, and I clomp around in them more than usual. My making more noise than usual has been enough to send 'Leonard' (sorry, he has a dozen nick-names, like every cat in the house), over the edge.

I am hoping in time he will get over it, as I am not giving up the Oxfords. We shall see.

In the meantime, I'm doubling up the dose of homeopathic remedies I put in their water.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We Was Skunked!! *

*more fun than proper grammar...

We had a severe ice and snowstorm that began Christmas day, leaving us without power for 22 hours, beginning at 2 a.m. the took four days to plow out the drive and use the 4 WD to get to my parents, who stayed here until their power was turned back on. By Monday,  New Year's Eve, they were back in their house, and we were tired, but getting ready to leave for Emory in ATL the next day for my drs appts...

Around 5 p.m., Excy was outside doing chores and noticed as he reached the front porch we had a visitor. He texted me to carefully crack the front door and see the skunk on the porch nosing around for food we keep out for the stray cats...the poor thing was super cold and his tail was encrusted with ice. Raccoons had cleaned out the bowl of cat food, so I threw out some more, but the skunk didn't appear interested...I shut the door. When it was safe, Excy made his way inside.

Around 10 p.m. we heard a knock on the front door but no one was around. I peeked out the window and saw the skunk on the front stoop...dude wanted inside!

I was inside my closet 30 minutes later getting my clothes ready for the trip when my boy kitty, Lenny, started sniffing the heating vent...and then I heard it -- two (at least) skunks going at it: either fighten' or fucken' under the house -- and then POOF! A bomb of eu Pepe la Pew enveloped the entire house -- and Excy yelled to come to the front -- the skunks had bombed the entire perimeter of the house! Two Lampe bergers and several candles didn't take care of the smell.

Guess they were pissed off we didn't let them inside.

The next day we took off in our rolling Pole Cat-mobile, trying to ignore the fact everything, including the suitcase and our clothes, smelled really really strong...

We got home last night. Fortunately, things have finally aired out.