New Year's Eve Shopping

There is something peaceful about the early morning hours in a large city. The streets are serene under a dark sky, the pavement wet and lacking footprints. Storefronts cast a strange glow (if they have windows at all) and sounds are amplified; there is a uniquely wet and delectable sound made by a hefty halibut hitting a metal pushcart.

We made our way into Pittsburgh before the sun had even considered rising. Our route in affords us a vantage point that few major cities can boast about. Imagine for a moment that you are riding along with your eyes covered by a friend and, at the perfect moment, they pull their hands from your eyes and you take in the completeness of Chicago, New York or Pittsburgh. This is the effect one feels as they enter the Ft. Pitt tunnel and emerge on the other side. You can see shades of something fantastic at the other side of the tunnel but you don’t fully breathe it in until it hits you fully the moment you clear the tunnel exit. In a flash, you’re galloping over a river via a massive steel bridge and before you is a gorgeous skyline.

I have been to Chicago and lived to tell the tale. It’s my opinion that Pittsburgh has far more “whoa!” moments, primarily in the form of sudden road merges, splits, exits and entrances, all of which are taken at a break-neck speed. People are generally kind out here (unlike Chicago’s drivers) so things sort themselves in the end. This morning presented little traffic and our commute from the Tunnel to the Strip was brief.

We parked in our favorite lot ($10, holidays you know.) I won’t list all the haunts we visited, but we managed to procure the best deli meats and cheeses (thanks to some very gregarious and very Italian gents behind the counter), dig up the ingredients for Better Half’s red beans and rice, browse the fish and meats at Wholeys (we found a nice rabbit, fresh) and take in breakfast at DeLuca’s.

DeLuca’s is always a treat. Where else can you get a fresh seafood omelet with hollandaise sauce for under $10? We laughed over the ancient dishwasher, which hummed along like the alien signal out of Independence Day.

Better Half bought a woolen hat to match my woolen jacket. I haven’t had a hat with earflaps in years. Here Better Half models it:

Our final stop was across yet another bridge. My aunt has battled cancer for several years now and it’s proven to be a challenge this time around. She’s at Allegheny General. We arrived early and they had brought her downstairs for a PT evaluation (as she’s losing strength in her legs from lack of use.) I’m seriously worried about her.

I’m equally worried about my own mother. She managed to put off seeing the doctor (“it’s the MSG from the Thanksgiving turkey!”) until this week. Her delay means that she’s now battling a wicked infection. I’m so fucking frustrated with her Eeyore defeatist attitude. I don’t use the f word routinely when writing. My apologies. I’m leaving it there because it’s a garish reflection of the anger and sense of helplessness that I’m feeling. I want to fly out there and thank her for depriving me of more years with her; I want to say, “you hold yourself back from moving” and “you don’t need to hold on to stuff.”

When I get my settlement, if I get my settlement, I’m flying out there and packing my parents’ belongings onto a moving van. They can sit in an empty house for all I care – but knowing them, they’ll follow their file cabinets filled with scripts, their clothing, their pots and pans, their food and their bed.

Parents never know what’s best for them. You spend your entire life raising them, seasoning them so that they turn out well rounded after 21 years of upbringing, and they repay you by digging their heels in and being stubborn.

Better Half's Red Beans & Rice
is simmering on the stove

Heavy bags laden with goodies.


Betty Boop/Cab Calloway: Snow White

I find an interesting old cartoon every so often.

Betty Boop is not one of my favorites but there are a few out there that I love. This one is the 1933 rendition of Snow White, with a guest appearance by Cab Calloway.


2008 Year in Review

Annie is too clever for my own good. She found this fabulous idea for reviewing our year. "You simply write the first line of the first post of each month. Include a picture if you like and, voila, you have your year in review." Visit There is no place like home. You can also share it at My Romantic Home, which Annie found as well.

My 2008

Every now and then I stop to read the news
(picture: snow granules on leaves at the VAMC)

Tonight was “Mambo Italiano”, a sampling of Italian wines at our favorite Friday night haunt.

(picture: snow covered fern pot on our front porch)

Pesky Lawn Care Man ~ Outside window clearing snow ~ I ask you, “How much?” (~ A Pomku ~)

(picture: the pom who wrote the ku)

Fridays should never be “hurry up and wait” days; they should be sampled at leisure, savored like a fine wine.

(picture: our tree behind the house)

Cork dropped a bundle of humor into my mailbox today in the form of some untitled cartoons.

(picture: newly painted stairwell leading to our basement.)

This might be Mattie’s last day.

(picture: our Mattie. This was actually taken in May, but I choose to remember her like this, strong and curious.)

July 1st – a relaxing day.

(picture: sunset the day before my birthday)

Do you ever get the feeling that today is just not your day?

(picture: our 'fridge, with two shelves of tomatoes from our garden. They became sauce the next day. It's an Italian thing.)

This fellow was clinging to our window screen today.

(picture: the bug)

The interview that left O'Reilly speechless.

(Picture: the toad that lived in our garden.)

I have a blog.

(picture: old barn at the Christmas Festival)

Gennaker passed away on December 11.

(picture: Gennaker)

I look back on this year and say, "I need to approach life with more vigor." My writing is not due to the normal "mental blocks" or a hectic schedule. We endured many painful things this year, including the death of two animals who have been my shadows ever since Better Half and I were married. The year's events have taken a toll on me, emotionally and physically.

I take refuge in my husband's love. I throw the ball for our other shepherd, daydream about my garden for next spring, and remind myself that mental ward food tastes terrible.
Besides that, they are going to put in a brand new gas main line and connection lines from it to the houses: 2.2 million dollar project and I simply MUST oversee my lavender. Besides, construction workers are HOT. They should be: this entire area is populated by Italian stallions and corn-fed bulls. Really, Better Half, I just moved here for the moo, I mean, view.

Now I fee cheerful. The thought of Better Half scowling at me in that special "haha you so funny, NOT" way always does that to me.


Eartha Kitt

Farewell to a fascinating woman ~


I Believe...

I believe I’ll have another cup of tea. You don’t mind if I pour while imparting a bit of pre-New Year’s Eve advice, do you?

Down through the ages, as the dying year wisps away at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, man takes it upon himself to make an Avowal of Resolution to Determine to Commence to Eradicate all the Bad Things from Life that coming year. Silly sounding and grammatically superfluous, isn’t it? Please pass the sugar bowl.

We seem to abhor the Things that Haunt us, embrace the Things that Please and, despite our best efforts, muck it up royally. We sit on our thumbs and deduce what Things are Bad and what Things are Good. Often, what we think of as Good is in fact very Bad for us, such as money or immortality. Consider immortality. You would need to reinvent yourself every thirty or so years; have you any idea how much of your immortal time would be caught up just in waiting for your new passport?

We give birth to the Things that Haunt us. An IRS audit would be a Bad Thing for most. You thought that claiming $10k in donations to the Red Cross would be a Good Thing (unless you only dropped $10 into a charity bin.) Fibbing would be a Bad Thing to do. If you did fib, that Good Thing-cum-Bad Thing is a Thing that Haunts your mind. You forget the audit itself and you concentrate on the thought of the massive IRS police who are going to clap you in irons and haul you away to the IRS jail.

Likewise, an upcoming surgery becomes a Thing that Haunts; we spend countless hours fretting over silly things. We might even conjure up an image of our trusty surgeon slipping upon the miles (surely there are miles in there) of intestine that have accidentally spilled to the floor. We forget, in that moment of worry, that we are only going in for a simple eyelash biopsy. In both cases, we tend to put the issue (the Thing that Haunts) as foremost in our minds even as we push the Thing itself to the back.

I acknowledge the Things that Haunt me. They loom ferocious. (That was poetic license. They don’t actually loom at all and they are in fact rather pathetic Haunting Things that have no more power other than that which I choose to endow them with. The only Ferocious Thing looming over me is a monster Headache that seems to be working itself into a proper Migraine.)

Am I attempting to make a point? Yes and no.

I believe that there are times when one should pointlessly write for the sake of acknowledging Things that Haunt. Did that make sense? Perhaps it will once you’ve pondered it.

I could make my point by stating that people who capitalize Words in order to impart a greater sense of Distinction are, in a nutshell, pointlessly pointing these Words out to us, as if we really needed to ponder Pointless Things any more than we actually have to; that the exercise of capitalizing Words is a method of drawing us away from the things that are (comparatively) muttered (via a lower case letter) between the Lines. We must go through the pointless motion of pointing out (to ourselves) the stupid Things that Haunt - “pointless” because we do not always believe what we tell ourselves.

Simply stated: we all have avoidance issues. We all use stupid excuses to avoid confronting our avoidance issues. Things that Haunt are Pointless Things. They block us from seeing the things we need to see.

Sometimes what we need most is to take a moment to remind ourselves that some Things are pointless while other Things have merit. Sometimes what we need to do is let go of our beliefs about some Thing and simply profess “I Believe I’ll have another cup of tea,” and then pour ourselves one without any regard to the Things that disrupt our day. Speaking of that, pass the teapot, if you please. Thank you.

We will have to face those Things eventually. They are lurking within our sight, cringing in the corner like a misbehaved puddle of cat sick. We can put a rug over it when company comes to call, and top that with a lovely ficus (not to be confused with a fichus. The fichus would not stay put unless you nailed it to the floor.) We could pick it up, but that would be too much. Too much what? I haven’t a clue. Find an excuse to go with that avoidance issue and you’ll have yourself a well-rounded Thing that Haunts.

I suggest that we nod in the issue’s general direction as we add a sprinkle of sugar to our cup. Acknowledging the Thing that Haunts has a disastrous effect: it strips that Thing of its claws. The Thing has a tricky time finding purchase in our hearts and minds. We can better deal with it. It may still loom larger than life but I firmly believe that it can be conquered.

Wishing you success in 2009 as you battle with your own Things that Haunt. Believe in yourself and you can’t go wrong.

Visit here to see what others believe
Sunday Scribblings

Gennaker Leah Ann

Gennaker passed away on December 11. She was 15 years old.

We’ve been though a lot of grief this year, first with some very private matters and then with Mattie passing away (not too gently) this summer. Gennaker came as a shock, although it wasn’t unforeseen; she was elderly, nearly deaf and a tad forgetful.

I picked Nen out of a litter of puppies slated for a “pregnancy spay”. Her mother was a white shepherd mix from the pound and the new owners didn’t feel that they could handle so many little burdens. The mother went into labor the night before her surgery and the spay drop off appointment became a newborn pup check. I told the woman I would adopt one of the pups in eight weeks.

Nen was the only “shepherd colored” pup of the mix and she was the runt. She had the most intelligent eyes I’d ever seen in a dog. Better Half wanted one of the really furry black and tan ones. No, it was the shepherd one, and that was final. We named her Gennaker after a sail and Leah for some odd reason. Ann sounded good at the end.

Our friend, Miss, once remarked that someone must have taken a sharpie marker and traced around Nen’s ears. She had beautiful coloration. She was love on four legs, always polite and quick to train.

We had Samantha Jane at the time, a cinnamon red chow (please don’t think of a typical chow chow. Groomers heralded Samantha as “the world’s most friendliest chow”. She was my shadow.) Nen took to Sam quickly and they became buds. Six months after Nen was born, we added Waltzing Matilda to the mix. They, too, got on splendidly.

Nen was, as I said, intelligent. We would joke that she was the reincarnation of J. Robert Oppenheimer. If it moved, she would nudge it with her nose. She never pushed hard enough to knock it over, but it seemed as though she were testing to see just how hard she could nudge before it would fall over. Tap, tap, tap and the bottle stayed upright. Nudge, nudge, nudge and the book would reach the very end of the table but would remain there. She enjoyed motion or perhaps she was into physics. Who are we to say?

My Mum babysat her when she was small. I don’t really remember Nen misbehaving for her Nonna but it was apparent that Nen was her favorite. The day before Nen passed away, my Mum told me to tell her she was still beautiful.

There are the funny memories (especially with a dog that seemed dedicated to being the goofball omega.) We had gone to visit our friends Rich and Miss, bringing our dogs along. We let them into the backyard so they could do their business and a squirrel darted down the tree and up a fence. Samantha Jane went after fast as lightening and Gennaker, scared to death by the sudden movement, jumped sideways into the screen door. It didn’t hurt her a bit, but it was the source of chuckles for ages.

Nen also jumped sideways into one of the shop doors in downtown Colorado Springs. That really has no bearing on memories except to say that she honestly thought that she could go into the shop.

We forever talked about her fear of thunderstorms. We were going to visit friends (yes, the dogs were tagging along) and it was pouring rain. Better Half ran out to the car with her in his arms, unceremoniously dumped her into the back seat, and came running back in white-faced. I asked him what had happened and he replied that lightening struck only a few feet from him. I asked where the dog was and his reply was that she was still in the car. Nice. By time the rain let up enough for us to run to the car (I was fuming at him the whole time) Nen had done what any petrified dog would do: she expressed herself. The car reeked for a while after that.

She was one of our Manitou dogs. We’d get a plain vanilla ice cream scoop and allow her to lick it. We brought her along when we visited The Spice of Life and she was happy to sit outside with me and share my love of people watching.

We had a consummate babysitter. Friends would drop in with a baby in tow, and we’d set up a playpen for the baby. Nen guarded the children. She would wander down the hall and let someone know if the baby needed changing or had woken up. My deepest regret is that we never had a child of our own during Nen’s time; we had always spoke about what a good thing it would be to have a devoted dog helping us keep watch on our baby.

There really are too many memories to write down. It would be easier to say that she was a comforter, a companion, an inspiration, a therapist (you could talk to her about anything and she’d never gossip behind your back), a therapy dog for any who needed a smile, and a member of our family.

Her passing was mercifully painless. We had gone shopping in Robinson and, thanks to the snow, had to go slow to get back home. Better Half went downstairs to let the dogs out and I was sweeping the sidewalk free of snow. I heard him call me, and there was urgency to his voice. I ran back inside and found him laying in the dining room with Nen, who was on her side.

Better Half was panicking and I began to order him to do things (I feel badly about that, but an animal can pick up on those things.) We covered her with a blanket and added my heating pad for good measure. She didn’t have any reaction to stimulus when I pinched the folds of skin between her paws, and she could not stand upright. She had other indications of a stroke as well.

We allowed her to lie down and (very loudly, as she was almost deaf) we told her that we loved her, and that she was a good dog who had earned the right to go be with God. Yes there are animals in Heaven. John talks about it in the bible, for Heaven’s sake.

She passed shortly after that. It seemed to us that she had purposely waited to die, waited for us to return so that we could say goodbye. She was considerate in that way. That was “Nen”.

I am grateful that we arrived home and did not run to the vet (they were closed) because had we done that Nen certainly would have died that night all alone. The thought of that upsets me to no end.

We have lost dogs in a variety of ways. We had a puppy die at home from Coronavirus (the vet misdiagnosed it.) We lost our Samantha Jane at an emergency center (the vet didn’t diagnose the collapsed lung in time.) We lost Baron to a stroke. Mattie, as you know, died a rough death. Gennaker’s passing was as gentle as her nature. I can’t think of a more fitting end to a beautiful life than to be surrounded by your people and pack as you ease out of this world.