Monday, November 30, 2009

Healing Confession


It has been in the back of my mind to write about this ever since I began this blog. I have told very very few people about this, or at least the entire story. But I still cry when I think of it. I have deep lingering sadness that has been with me for years and years. But I know, if I write about it, it might ease my heart. So here goes:

I almost died when I was a teenager. I awoke one morning very very very sick. My dad took me to the doctor, Dr. Brezing, who immediately sent me to the hospital. I was hemorrhaging internally, and hemorrhaging badly.

Back then, they did not have the diagnostic tools that they have now. As a result, they could not find the cause of the hemorrhaging. They hooked me up to all kinds of tubes, and IV drips. The pain was unbearable.

I was in the hospital for three months, from June to September. Most of the time, I was not conscious. I would open my eyes and it would be daylight and somebody would be sitting in a chair next to my bed. The next thing I knew, it was dark and my dad would be sitting there. Once in a while I would open my eyes and watch fluid of some sort drip, drip, drip, either into or out of my body. all the while, the pain was there and it was bad.

They put me on morphine which dulled the pain for a while but then it stopped working. I still asked for it tho because it made me feel like I was flying and the pain was secondary to the high. But I was a smart little girl and I told the doctor what was going on and told him to take me off the morphine, which he did.

About a month into this I asked the doctor if I was going to die. He told me that it was a possibility. And I was filled with wonder because I wasn't frightened; I jut wanted the pain to go away. If I died, it was okay as long as I didn't hurt any more.

Then one day, I was lying there and a doctor I didn't know came into my room. At this point I was used to doctors wandering in and out of my room, examining me. This doctor gently pulled down my covers...and then he sexually accosted me. As sick as I was, I didn't know what was what and I remember wondering if he was just examining me. But my senses told hold, and I asked him what he was doing. And he stopped and left my room. As he opened my door to leave, Dr. Brezing entered, and they chatted briefly and it was obvious that they were acquainted. I was so confused. I couldn't figure out how that doctor could have really done this bad thing to me if he knew my family Doctor. I was really confused.

Eventually, I had a five hour exploratory surgery during which they found the source pf the problem. (I am not ready to talk about that, but it was bad.) I healed physically, with time.

I have a scar, both physically and emotionally. The physical scar has faded a lot and isn't all that bad. The emotional scar never healed.

If you have read all of this, I thank you; I NEEDED to write about it. I do not want to die with this unhealed. I have gone all these years without telling more than a couple folks because I felt ashamed. I felt dirty. I felt it was my fault. And you know what? I am letting that all go, right now, right this minute by writing about it here.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Memories of a Lima Bean

I was at the book store and this lady asked me to help her find a particular cookbook. I took her to that section of the store and we began to talk about favorite foods.

"I love lima beans." she told me. "I would rather eat lima beans than anything else in the world."

I just gawked at her. Lima beans. Lima beans???

"Lima beans over steak?" I asked.

"Oh yes!"


"Uh huh!"

"Chocolate cake? Ice cream?"

"Yep. Over any of those things. I'll eat them any way they are fixed. I love lima beans!"

I thought this was a bit strange. If you put a lima bean in front of me next to a piece of chocolate cake, or a steak, or a few crab legs, I would knock the bean to the floor in my rush to devour the other stuff. But I figure, to each their own, and left this lady to pick out her cookbook.

I began to think back on my own first experience with lima beans. I must have been about four or five years old. My mother put one solitary bean on my plate and told me I had to try it. Worse yet, I could not leave the table until it was gone.

I looked at that ugly bean. There was no way I was going to put that pukey thing in my mouth. So I did what any self respecting pre-schooler would do; I squished it up into my nose.

My mother did not see me do this but what she did see was the end of a mashed Lima bean sticking out of my nostril. She made me blow it back out into a napkin and I got sent to my room.

She never forced me to try any other food again, and to this day, you can't get me near a lima bean without my stomach turning.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey & Tetrazzini

And here it is, and it was wonderful. The table is not fully set yet and the wing came off the turkey when I transferred it to the platter, but it still looks pretty. I'll make turkey tetrazzini tonight.


3/4 lb. mushrooms
1 small green pepper, slivered
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3 Tbsp flour
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 1/2 cups light cream or half & half
4 to 6 cups diced cooked turkey (or chicken)
1 small jar diced pimentos
2 Tbsp sherry (optional)
6 oz thin spaghetti, cooked
2 eggs yolks, beaten
grated parmesan cheese

Slice and cook mushrooms and green pepper in butter for five minutes. Blend in flour and seasonings. Add cream, stirring constantly until thickened. Add turkey, pimentos, and sherry and heat. Add small amount of sauce to slightly beaten egg yolks; stir into remaining mixture. Pour over cooked spaghetti. Put into casserole dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Cover with foil. Bake 45 minutes in 300 degree oven. Serve with shaker of parmesan.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Morning

I jumped out of bed at 0-dark-thirty this morning. This isn't really a rare thing; I'm a very early riser as a rule. But this is Thanksgiving morning and I always bake pies at the crack of dawn on this day so they are as fresh as can be.

I did not get off to a good start. I pulled out all the ingredients, set them on the counter and whipped around at my usual high velocity..and knocked a dozen eggs to the floor. My kitchen floor is white marble. Transparent egg whites, especially at 0-dark-thirty, are near impossible to see. I did get it all cleaned up, but not before I walked through the sticky slimy mess and tracked in across the room on my way to the mop.

"Jeez," I thought to myself, "I hope this isn't an omen of how the day is going to go."

It wasn't, and the pies turned out perfect.

This year, we have a huge, HUGE, HUGE! turkey, weighing in at just over 24 lbs. This is not the biggest turkey I've cooked but it comes pretty darn close. Usually I make two different dressings, one in the 'fore' and the other in the 'aft,' but this year I'm making one, a cornbread and apple stuffing that's wonderful. (I cut the apples at just the right size so that there is a slight apple taste through the dressing and some really soft apples pieces throughout.)

I shove stuffing into the cavity. I don't spoon it in. I scrub my nails and hands and grab hold of it. This is this thing; I'm watching my hand with its little diamond chip on the pretty pink fingernail, go in and out of this big bird's ass end, and I'm thinking, "This is soooo me." And it is.

Would you like to see what a 24 lb stuffed bird looks like?

And to put it in perspective, here it is in the oven:

As you can see, it fills my oven. It'll cook for six hours.

I've used this lovely painted old turkey platter every year since I can remember:

Pretty, huh? And every year when i pull it out of storage, I know the holidays have truly begun.

There will be seven of us eating this turkey today. but, none of it will go to waste. in fact, I can promise you, it will be all gone by Monday. A lot of it will be taken up in a turkey tetrazzini that I'll make from scratch tomorrow. (It's a much anticipated tradition in my home.)

The next photo to show you, will be in a following post, and it will be a photo of the pretty platter with the finished product, all golden and juicy, on it. And I'll include the recipe of the tetrazzini.

Happy Thanksgiving, all. I'm so blessed with your friendship.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Me, The Red Faced Doggie Mama

Question; how many harried little Southern Italian mamas does it take to load a 100 lb rebelling dog into the back seat of a white compact car? One, if it's me. Yup, my darling dog, Abby, is ill again. It's not her fault; she has been cursed with a recurrent skin disease that covers her from the webs of her back toes to the dripping nostrils of her nose.

My son had been given strict orders; be home by 1:30 pm because I cannot get Abby into the car by myself. 1:30 came and went, 1:35..1:40...and it was clear to me that I was in this alone.

She was excited when I pulled out her pink leash. This is an enigma because I have never seen a dog who hated to ride in the car as much as she does. But it makes getting her out the door and to the car easy. Then the hard part comes; open the back seat door and she scrunches her rear end down into the ground and develops the hiney strength of Zeus.

I did, however, get her up and attum, tho she did tumble back to the ground once.

I talk to her calmly as we head down the road. I can hear her stomach heaving and I pray to God.

"Please God, let her hold it until I get there.." and my prayer is miraculously answered.

As I pull into the vet parking lot, my cell phone rings.

"Hi ma," its the man cave man.

"You are in trouble! I am not a happy mama. "Where were you??"

"Effen traffic ma!"

I'm thinking, "I wish I could boot your effen rump into that effen traffic right now."

Instead, I simply hang up on him.

Our vet's place is an animal hospital, not just, well, a vet's place. In fact our vet, Dr. Martin, teaches at Auburn University's veterinarian school.
So some of the clientele is rather rich and rather snooty. (I am not one of THOSE, trust me.)
And as chance has it, as I'm pulling my 100 lb cur out of the car, one of those rich Southern Magnolias is getting out of her BMW which is parked next to my little white compact car.

Abby scurries (as much as a 100 lb dog can scurry,) in front of her, hunches down and pees directly in front of this lady's classy black heels.

I scold Abby and apologise to Mrs. Magnolia, but what else can I do?

Abby and I head inside.

"Um, Abby just tee-teed in front of the door." The receptionist glances at Abby who wags her tail and belches.

I try to lighten the situation with humor.

"I've never had a daughter do that before."

She doesn't laugh.

I try to hold on to my dignity as we are soon led into the back room and head down the hall to what is known as 'the big dog room.' We are just about there when Abby rounds out her butt and to my horror, drops about the biggest bowel movement I have ever seen plop from the pooper of a living being.

The receptionist just stares at it. Then she looks up at me.

"I bet you never had a daughter do that before either, right?"

Dr. Martin soon checks Abby, gives us antibiotics and we head to the car, and what does Miss Abby do? yup, you got it..O0ps she did it agsin. Thank goodness there was no rich Mrs. Magnolia stepping out of the car next to us.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Half Broke Horses; Jeannette Walls

It's a damp, dark, drizzling day today but rather than staying warm and dry inside my home, I am about to head out with my friend Cynthia to go up to Troy University where I will help her sort out data she had compiled for her doctoral dissertation. So, instead of writing something brand new, I'm going to share with you a book review I wrote earlier this morning.

>Half Broke Horses; Jeannette Walls

I was a little hesitant about this one because I read the reviews were not as good as they were for 'The Glass Castle.' You know what I have to say about that? I say, "Shame on those reviewers!" I think they said that because they wanted to jump on a band wagon filled with self proclaimed literary aficionados, who seem to believe that a great first book cannot possibly be followed with an equally as great second book! In this case, that is exactly what happened however; 'Half Broke Horses' is not only as good as 'The Glass Castle,' it compliments it. It fills in a background of the family and we learn that the spirit of the family members is an inherent thing.

'Half Broke Horses' is the story of Lily Casey Smith, the author's grandmother, whom we first meet in 'The Glass Castle.' What a woman! Without people like Lily, the west would never have been settled. She was beyond feisty; she had a spirit that was beyond any possibility of ever being 'broke.' In fact, she was the tamer of wild horses, the one who knew how to take a fall and get back into the saddle, who knew you don't sit around moping when the odds are against you but instead, you just find a different way to saddle up.

Lily was a horse trainer by nature, possibly one of the first horse whisperers ever. But 'Half Broke Horses' does not really have much to do with the wild mustangs but more to do with people, people who do not profit from broken spirits but who fly the fields with fire and gusto.

After reading this, we know why an elderly Rosemary Walls, Jeannette's mother, was perfectly comfortable living on the streets of NYC, why unconventionality was simply, well, conventional for her.

This was quite a book. I was a bit put off because it's called 'A True Life Novel.' But Walls explains that in her Author's Note. She says, in part:

"I wrote this story in the first person because I wanted to capture Lily's distinctive voice, which I clearly recall. At the time I didn't think of the book as fiction. Lily Casey Smith was a very real woman, and to say that I created her or the events of her life is giving me more credit than I'm due. However, since I don't have the words from Lily herself, and since I have also drawn on my imagination to fill in details that are hazy or missing - and I've changed as few names to protect people's privacy - the only honest thing to do is to call the book a novel."

When I read that, I immediately thought of James Frey and all the hoopla that erupted when it came out that his memoir, "A Million Little Pieces," was in fact, not all true. and I wondered if that is why Walls labelled her book the way she did.

Regardless of that, I was as enamoured with this book as much as I was with Walls first.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Man Cave

My daughter loves to watch television in her brother's room. I don't know why this is because she has a beautiful bedroom, complete with her own tv set and cable. But he doesn't mind so I guess it's okay.

The real reason I don't understand this is because it's hard to find his television amid the mess. We know it's there somewhere because he likes to blast it. No, he's not hard of hearing, I think he blasts it because often he has his ear plugs inserted in both sides of his head and he needs to be able to hear the television over his tunes.

Last weekend, she went into his room and a few minutes later came downstairs to find me in the kitchen.

"Ma," she began," I had to move his pile of socks so I could find a place on the floor to sit."

"So? You ought to be used to that by now." I said.

"But mom. I stood his socks up on their own. Mom they were so stiff they could have walked away with no feet in them."

I tossed her the bottle of hand sanitizer.

"Oh! So that's what the stench is!" I had been trying to find the source of the blue haze emanating from there for a long time now.

Now, I would take a photo of his room to show you what we're dealing with but even I cannot be that mean. But let me tell you, we made a real man cave for this kid. Not only does he have has nice tv, stereo, computer etc, We gave him a dark blue sofa and set it mid room so it almost has a bachelor apartment effect. (I did draw the line, however, at the black satin sheets he requested. A man cave is one thing, a bordello is another. I cannot and will not promote his sexual prowess. It's a mom thing.)

Anyway, his sister, kind soul that she is, without a word ,set about cleaning her brother's room, much to my dislike.

So this morning, I asked my son what he wanted for Christmas.

"A car." he didn't hesitate.

"No." I didn't hesitate.

"Well, how about a 55 inch telelvision?"

"Son! Where would you put it? We can't find your walls!"

He didn't think this was funny and the conversation ended.

I suddenly had a brilliant idea. "Hey, Would you like me to rent you a bulldozer for Christmas? I'm sure we could find a little one that would fit through your bedroom door."

"Ma, I love you but you're nuts sometimes."

"Oh well, it was just an idea son."

Maybe I'll just give him a few dozen new, clean socks. And if he's real nice to me, some black satin sheets.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why Men Marry Bitches

So, I'm at the bookstore doing my work thing when this young, attractive, albeit meek looking, young woman comes up to my register to purchase her book. I glance at the title and read 'Why Men Marry Bitches.'

I have been married a couple of times. Does this mean I am a bitch? I never thought so, but according to this author, I must be! No no NO! It can't be! She must be wrong.

After reflecting on this, I can honestly say I really don't know a lot of bitches. I mean, there was my aunt (who was also my godmother.) Now there was a real bitch. Mean? This woman's middle name should have been 'Beware.' I'm telling you, she took no flack from nobody. She was the queen of nasty comebacks. She also made her living in politics, which suited her to a Tee. However, as bitchy as she was, she treated my Uncle Tony like gold. he was the exception to her bad treatment. And he adored her.

But back to the book. Could it be true? Do men prefer bitches? I don't think so. I think they prefer women who are confident. I think they prefer strong women. Or maybe they consider bitchy women to be a challenge.

Then I let my mind wander; Would we women want a man who had the attributes of what we commonly consider a 'perfect wife?' Think about it; A perfect wife would wait on her husband hand and foot. She would cook and clean and her heart's desire would be to spend all her free time doting on her mate. She would be ready for sex at the drop of a hat..or pants..or whatever. She would hang on her mate's every word and agree with whatever he said..

Okay, okay, I laid it on thick. But would we really want this in a husband? Yes! Yes yes yes yes! I would not prefer a bitch for a husband. Not a chance. EXCEPT! I would probably start to believe I was so worthy of all that adoration that I might figure I could do better than this milk toast man. Eventually I would want a challenge. I would want to match my power against a worthy 'opponent.' in other words, I would search out a bitch!

Maybe I should read this book, not that I need any help whatsoever in the husband business. The last thing I need is another man. but I do have a daughter. And I need to know if I should convince her to be a bitch.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Italian Express

I cook. I cook big. Don't put me in a kitchen and expect me to revel in frying up a hamburger. Set me in a kitchen with a recipe that calls for multi ingredients and mega time and I am in my glory. I will whip you up a feast that will make you weep with joy. I mean it. It is one of my God given talents. I came from a long line of Italian mamas who spent their lives creating culinary delights for their families.

My specialty is sauce. Any kind of sauce. I make a rose sauce that is a sensual experience to create. With a base of high quality cream, it really is a sensual experience to hold a fist full of crushed tomatoes and slowly squeeze them through my fingers into a simmering pot of the cream base. Add a lot of crushed basil and stir and not only does it delight the sense of touch, but also the senses of sight and smell. It is wonderful.

Besides the known Italian sauces, and trust me, a great one is near impossible to find in an American restaurant, I also make a fricasse sauce that is incredibly good. I always make my own broth for this with chicken, carrots, celery, whole cloves and an unpeeled onion whose skin adds the golden hue. This is strained and a smooth sauce is made with it. Add the chicken, add lemon juice and surround the platter with thin lemon slices. Top with trimmed fresh parsley pieces, and wow wow wow.

I know what good food is, and particularly good Italian food. And as I said, it's near impossible to find in a restaurant. But I have found one that comes close. We came upon this little, out of the way place, called Italian Express. From the outside, it doesn't look like much. Its doors are open only five days a week, and for only three hours, from 11am to 2pm. And it's not easy to find a seat in there.

Every now and then I will go and purchase a gallon of their sauce. Heaven. Absolutely heaven. I don't have the courage to ask what they put in it to make it so good. The place open a few decades ago as a mom and pop pizzeria and evolved into what it is now. If you ask the owner, Lisa, if she's Italian, she will answer honestly and somewhat sheepishly, "No."


Yesterday I went and bought sauce there. As usual, it was packed and hard to find an empty spot on the lawn in which to park my car. But when you do that and enter the place, you will not find much embellishments; there are no candles on checkered table cloths. No Pavarotti plays through well hidden speakers. There are no towel wrapped bottles of wine waiting to be brought to your table. It's bare in there. The only thing that attacks the senses is the smell of sauce. And it is enough.

After lunch time is over.

Last night I served this sauce over spaghetti and ate a huge plate of it. I was a happy camper. And a full one.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Peppermint Bark

I'm not a huge sweets eater. I just don't like to fill my body with too much sugar or anything not all that good for me. But this is my big weakness:

This is Ghirardelli peppermint bark. It's a bit expensive (I just noticed sells just over 9 ounces for just under $15.00) and only sold for a few weeks before Christmas. And it is heaven.

If you've never had this, let me describe it. Its peppermint bark, soft and delicately flavored, in a white chocolate which has a wonderful milk chocolate on the bottom. I bought a bag of this yesterday and I only allow myself two pieces at a time. Problem is, I am so zealous over it, that I share with everyone who will accept an offering. I've even given it away to shoppers at my bookstore. So a bag quickly diappears. And I share it because it's soooo good I can't keep it to myself. It's soft to chew and filling, so a little goes a long way. I love Ghirardelli chocolate anyway, but I can live without it. This peppermint bark stuff is another story.

My curiosity got the better of me when I wanted to know what exactly makes a peppermint confection 'peppermint bark.' I did find this somewhat lacking definition:

'Peppermint bark is a form of candy which is made in flat sheets; when broken up, the sheets resemble small chunks of bark, which explains the name. In addition to making peppermint bark, it is also possible to make candy barks with ingredients like nuts, fruit, and chunks of other candy materials, for a wide range of textures and flavors. Candy bark can be eaten plain or used to garnish desserts ranging from mousse to elaborate cookies.'

This didn't tell me much so I did another search and rather than finding a better definition, I found this:

Peppermint Bark

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen


Crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
2 pounds white chocolate
Peppermint flavorings, optional
Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Combine candy cane chunks with chocolate (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired.) Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle.)

Whoa! Now I can have it year round!! But I won't do that; instead I'll make some at Christmas time, take a photo and tell y'all about it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Marguerita Concetta

My mother's birth name was Marguerita Concetta Petruzzi. There was only one word to describe how she looked; beautiful. At barely over five feet in height and never weighing as much as 100 lbs, she was still a shapely lovely woman. Her hair was nothing short of glorious. It was that pure black that shone with blue highlights. She had that Mediterranean olive skin, with a natural moist sheen to it. Her eyes were dark dark brown, and large. Beautiful. And I indirectly caused her death at a very young age.

Mama developed a rarer type of gestational diabetes when she was pregnant with me. At that time, it was more difficult to detect, and after giving birth to me, she was left with a permanent diabetes. By the time they found it, her kidneys had been eaten away. For months she had complained of feeling poorly and after several hospital stays, they finally discovered what was going on. By that time, the damage was untreatable. She lapsed into a coma and for nine days my father, sisters and I stood for the allotted 15 minutes each hour at her bedside. I was the youngest and didn't really understand. Once I cried out, begging her not to die. A nurse chastised me, saying mama might be able to hear me and ordering me not to take the chance of upsetting her. then, at 9:10 on a Tuesday morning, ten days before Christmas, mama rolled her head slightly to the left and quietly died.

I stood by my dad as the doctor told him she had given up the good fight. I became furious. Furious! How could she do that? How could she give up when she still had me to finish raising! My anger continued for months. I hated her for it. I thought she loved me more than that. Simply put, I did not understand.

For a while I lost both parents. Dad became withdrawn. And as such, he was lost to me, too. Eventually he came around, and he even dated some after a few years (that's another story; I did not want him to date and I let it be known to any woman who I felt dared to try and replace mama. But date he did, in spite of his bratty youngest daughter.

my mama had been engaged to aother man, not my father, but once she saw my dad, who was a guitarist and vocalist in a band, she broke off her engagement and made an all out (successful) attempt to capture my Father's heart. This did not set well with my grandparents, particularly my grandmother.

Grandma's name was Maria Teresa Vaccaria DeGoia Petruzzi. That's a big name for a little lady! She might have been little but her spirit was tall and she was a powerful deterrent to any sort of marriage between my mom and dad. But my parents eloped and within a year, mom gave birth to my oldest sister. Grandma decided she had better reconcile with my mom. So things were patched up.

Mom was a traditional European woman. She raised me to take care of myself physically. I remember being about 10 years old when she started me on skin care!
She wouls say, "You need to suffer to be beautiful!" And I soon learned how true that is.

She had these little sayings. We called them 'Margieisms.' (Dad called mama 'Margie.') I have repeated these o often to my own kids, that they probably could be called 'Beejisms' at this point.

I had my favorites. One was "You have to be charming to be a good thief." She used that one whenever my older sisters became infatuated with a bad boy, charming but devious. Another was, "When money flies out the window, love walks out the door." That's a good one, don't you think? She was a pistol, my mom. There were many, many Margieisms.

Mama and dad's house was filled with company. They loved a good time. Dad was a drinker but mom was not. however she never complained when he imbibed. In fact, I remember once when my dad went on one of his week long fishing trips with his friends and their wives stayed at our house while they were gone. One of these women, an aunt of mine, was a nasty, shrilly complaining hag who spent the entire weekend bemoaning the fact that she knew my uncle was going to be sourly influenced by my dad and be drinking all week. All she did was piss and moan about him, and made sure to let the other women know that my uncle was going to get an earful from her when they got back. Mama made some punch and decided to spike it. She nervously handed this aunt q glass. My aunt sipped it, thought a second, sipped more and then gulped it down. "Why, Margie, that's the best punch I ever had! What's in it?"

I remember mom giggled. "A secret ingredient." she answered.

By the time the men returned home, my aunt was totally schnockered. I remember watching her scream with laughter over nothing, swagger on her frequent trips to the restroom, exclaim over and over how she loved mom's punch and generally act happier than I have ever seen her act. Mom never told her what she did but it became quite the family story.

Now I am a mama and I find myself using some of her mannerisms. I also see this in my daughter who never was lucky enough to know her beautiful grandmother. I do not know what its like to be an adult in a relationship with her own mom. And it is one of my life regrets.

She might have died young but she left me with so much. She was five feet of vinegar and love. a beautiful woman in every way.

Praise God, I'm Not an Elephant

My cousin sent this to me. He usually sends me crap and I delete most of this crap without even watching or reading it. But the topic line, Live Elephant Birth, intrigued me so I opened it.

This is not for the squeamish. But it is truly fascinating. It is indeed the live birth of an elephant. Elephants are not like us. Well, it's sort of like us but multiplied 1000 times. Lordie, I am delighted that I'm not an elephant!

I would wager to say, if human deliveries were like this, there would not be a father in this world who would be bedside for his wife. Heck, if it were possible, I'd reckon to say even the mothers would run and hide.

I listened to the narrator as he described the mom, Nikki, beginning to pass the embryonic sack. He quietly say, "Nikki is very calm."

Now, my dear friends, watch the video, especially where Nikki is passing this sack. Calm? CALM!!!!! Only a man would see this as calm. Look at Nikki's face. Her mouth is wide open in a silent scream. Her body is rocking back and forth and she is desperately trying to grab a fence post with her trunk. You call this calm??? This guy should try to poop a barn and see how calm he would be! Mister, her scream is silent because her voice box is being pushed out of her rectum!

Now after the birth, the good part really begins; Baby is not breathing. She appears to be dead. But, alas, apparently this is normal for a newborn elephant. What does mom do? She shoves it, she beats it with her trunk, she all but throws it in the air like a slightly deflated football. In fact at one point, she appears to be thinking of doing just that.

Does the baby survive? You'll need to watch the video.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shedding Head

My male lizard is shedding. Now how very cool is that??!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Execution

Tropical storm Ida, the remnants of Hurricane Ida, is rolling over my area right now. The sky is black, tree limbs are snapping, we have torrential rain. My yard is a carpeted with dead leaves which have been ripped off their stems.

This all adds to my mood for today. Because today is the day that the DC sniper, John Allen Muhammad, is to be executed. We lived in Virginia when he and his teen cohort, John Lee Malvo, went on their horrific killing spree. This changed my life forever, because I had always been against the death penalty. Then this thing happened, and my beliefs changed radically.

There is no way you can possibly imagine the hell these two put the people of my area through. We were ordered not to go out of our homes unless absolutely necessary. Malvo and Muhammad had let it be known that they were going to execute another school child and, because they were in my area near Richmond Va and had shot and killed their latest victim not all that far from my community, the FBI came in and ordered our schools closed down. For a week, my kids could not attend classes, which is fine because they were terrified to venture out our door. Just going to the grocery store or fill up our gas tanks was a frightening thing. The Guardian Angels, a pseudo vigilante group from NYC, came down to man the gas pumps in my area. Even crossing the street to visit a neighbor left one looking over a shoulder, just in case the white van, we had been erroneously warned to be on the watch for, came rolling by with a high powered rifle aimed at our heads.

Eventually they were caught. And I, the staunch defender of human dignity and anti death penalty beliefs, wanted them dead. I wanted them to fry. I wanted these monsters who had scarred my kids and taken away peace of mind, to suffer, to hurt, to be obliterated off the face of the earth.

This left me tormented. I truly believed it was a horrible desire. I could no longer honestly say I was against the death penalty. I had spent so many years arguing against what I believed was another example of mankind's atrocity against mankind, and now I hungered for it! It took me a long, long time to reconcile my heart.

Now the day has come. Tonight at 9pm Eastern time, John Allen Muhammad will die by lethal injection. Am I glad? Do I feel vindicated? No! I want to cry. I want to lie down and curl up in a ball. I continue to be tormented because this man destroyed my sense of altruism. A part of me will not recover. There is no justice. There is nothing but sorrow and despair.

I feel I should say a little prayer for his soul. But I can't bring myself to do that. Instead, I will eat breakfast, take a shower and head out to work. I'll come home tonight, fix dinner, read, go to bed. And before I fall asleep, I'll turn on the news to watch the reports of the execution. Then I will turn off the light and go to sleep. And hope I do not dream.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Clair De Lune; Debussy

I fell in love with this the first time I ever heard it, when I was 12 years old. My dad, much to my chagrin, insisted I attend symphonies for which he purchased seasonal tickets, and as much as I HATED it then, I am grateful today. (I was the only preteen I knew who could tell you the setup of a symphony orchestra.)

This still holds as one of my favorites after all these years.

Daddy, this is for you. Thank you, thank you for all you did for me.

Emily Bear

Oh. And by the way. She wrote it. When she was six years old. (Shes seven now.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Caleb and the Psychic

I met Dawn through the bookstore where I work but got to know her a bit better when I went to the alpaca farm not too long ago, where she goes to spin alpaca wool. She came into the store yesterday and looked unbearably sad. It turned out her dog had died suddenly, after surgery to remove gall stones.

Dawn's husband is career military and is in Afghanistan until mid January. They have no children so her pets have become her kids and she loves them with a true maternal love. She is mourning her dog. So I told her this story:

Years ago, I fell in love with a little keeshond puppy. These puppies look a lot like baby bears.

When Caleb was about a year old (I always seem to name my dogs 'people names.') I bought a brand new, baby blue convertible, and I loved to put Caleb in the front passenger seat, lower the top and take off for country rides. He just looked perfect for that car. It was enjoyable, for both him and for me.

Keeshonds are gorgeous animals and he was no exception.

He was, in fact, so perfect that when I talked to the vet about getting Caleb fixed, he talked me out of it, saying that Caleb was perfect and we really should show him. I guess you cannot show dogs who have been neutered because they are often used for breeding.

One day, Caleb and I were tooling around in my little blue convertible. I stopped at the beginning of our long driveway and jumped out to get the mail from the box. I slammed shut the driver's door and heard an immediate yelp. I had accidentally slammed poor Caleb's nose in the door! I took him to the vet, who was pretty furious at me, and found I had broken his nose. Trust me, my heart STUNG over this. There was no way to set a dog's broken nose. So in time, in did heal, but it healed crooked, at almost a 45 degree angle. (So much for showing my dog!)

My friends all knew how much I loved this dog and their way of trying to make me feel better, (thinking they would make me laugh, I suppose,) was to tease me unmercifully. After a while, Caleb forgave me. But I never really forgave myself.

Quite a few years later, I lost Caleb rather suddenly. One evening, he went outside and several discs in his spine crumbled. We rushed him to the vet, who told me it was time to put him down. Instead, I took that poor dog back home with me. I fought like a tiger to keep him going, but after several hours it was clear that it had to be done. As I lifted him into the back seat of the car, as much as I'm sure that process hurt him, he leaned forward and gently licked my hand. I took this as his way of saying "thanks, mommy, 'cause I can't go on."

About a week later I was sitting at my computer. My heart was still broken and I needed to try and get my mind off Caleb. ICQ was a new instant chat and I got a random message from this Canadian lady. After a bit of boring chat, she told me she was a psychic. I thought, "yeah yeah yeah, right.." But then she went on to tell me she felt I was grieving. Well, I perked up a little, but not much. She continued.

"You lost your dog. He was silver and black."

Lucky guess, I figured.

"He's telling me you don't believe. He said to tell you two words and then you will believe."

I read this but didn't respond. Then she said this:

"He said to say, "my nose."

I felt the hair on my neck rise. I called my daughter into the room (I think she was about 10 years old at that time) who read it and burst into tears.

The instant message box kept blinking with messages from this psychic lady. She kept saying "What does that mean? What does that mean? What does that mean?"

I didn't answer her question but asked one of my own instead.

"How long is he going to stay with me?"

"As long as you need him." she replied. "He wants to go but he wants to wait until you're ready."

"Thank you." I said, wiping tears off my cheeks. "Can you tell him he can go now?"

"Why don't you tell him yourself? He's sitting right next to you."

I looked down to my right and whispered.

"Go baby. Go be well. Mommy loves you."

And I pictured him licking my hand and gleefully running off.


You can choose to believe or disbelieve this; it doesn't change a thing. This is a true story. And I can tell you, it helped my friend, Dawn.

And if any you reading this have lost a beloved pet, I hope it helps you, too.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I Want To Be A Little Light

It seems that lately there has been, more than ever, a rash of unbelievably evil doings in our world. We have soldiers killing soldiers, as what happened at Fort Hood in Texas yesterday, babies being hidden in coffin like boxes under beds for twelve hours along with a box of baking soda to cover the inevitable stench of an unchanged dirty diaper, little girls taken from their very beds and slaughtered with absolutely no regard.

I don't know if these horrid acts have always existed to the extent that they do now, or if the media is just able to give it more coverage, but it is disheartening, to say the least. Each time one of these things happen, it chisels away at the goodness of all of mankind. It takes what sets us apart from the rest of earth's creatures and instead, casts us to the bottom of an abyss where we may not be able to recover as a species.

There is only one way to redeem ourselves. We must continue to quietly do good in each of our own lives. We must live quiet lives of faith, hope and charity; faith that we can more than balance out the evil with kind acts of caring and generosity, hope that we will continue to treat each other and all the living things in God's world with dignity as a way of making life better for others, and charity in that we show a broad sense of love.

My friend Sheila is about to travel to India for an extended stay in order to help others there. She is not receiving international fame for this, but simply and quietly doing what she can to make the world a better place for others. This is more than most of us are able to do. So we need to compensate in smaller, more personal levels. Feed the hungry who live on our streets. Give comfort to those who are suffering. Pray for people who seem to be victims of hopeless situations. There are countless ways we can counteract evil in our world, small ways that will receive no press but which will shine a little light in the life of someone who hurts.

I believe we all need to do this. we need to carry a beacon in order to light up our world. I've heard of this called 'random acts of kindness' but we don't even need to label it. Just do it. Otherwise, what will happen is this; all that will be apparent to our children is the treachery of selfish acts. And that's what will propagate itself.

I don't usually lecture here in this blog. I created it in order to lift others up, to brighten days with a touch of silliness, to add a little levity to the serious business of living. But, sometimes we need to vocalize things which should be obvious.

So today, I wish you all a day of contentment and peace. I have not a lot more to give to you, except to try and convince every one of you that FOR EVERY SINGLE HORRIBLE ACT OF HATRED, THERE OCCURS, SIMULTANEOUSLY AND CONSISTENTLY, TEN THOUSAND LITTLE ACTS OF PURE LOVE. And I pray for all of us that these acts are what we truly focus on.
So in the words of my 20 year old son,

"Peace out."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Re-embedding Diamonds

I had my nails done this afternoon which, in itself, is not blog worthy. But this was the first time I've had them done since I had that diamond chip embedded in my nail.

The process to remove the diamond was not really a big deal. He put some of that burny stuff on it, and then took a tool that looked something like a one sided tweezers, and carefully pried it off. Then he smoothed down the surface with this thingy that sounded like a dentist's drill.

After the manicure was done, he re-embedded the diamond. Here's the new result:

Pretty, huh?

Broken Stuff

A couple weeks ago, my house phone broke. I don't know what happened to it. It seems it was one of those mysterious demises that occasionally happen to things around my house. We do have an entity that lives here named "Not Me.' For years now, whenever something has broken and I've asked who did it, there would be a duet coming from my kids. "Not me!" they would say. Not Me has broken a lot of things over the years.

Well, apparently Not Me broke my cordless house phone and so I trotted off to Best Buy and bought another.

I go neither cheap nor extravagant. I tend to buy middle of the road, price wise. So the phone I purchased, tho not dear, was nor cheap either. Now here's the rub. I cannot get it to work. The damned thing's handset blinks incessantly. I am not talking about a non obtrusive little dainty light, either. The entire top of the handset blinks like a neon sign. I have tried to get it to turn off. I have poured over the instruction book that came with it,and there is no reference to this happening or how to stop it. It has blinked for two weeks now and it is driving me crazy.

On top of that, I can't figure out how to work the answering machine. I have phoned myself repeatedly, allowing the answering machine to pick up. But when I play it back, all I get is the dial tone. I hate this phone.

I would normally return it but, tho I have the receipt, I have tossed the box. So I am up a creek without a paddle..and without a phone too.

Did i mention that I hate this phone?

Then, yesterday, I was wiping off the burner plate on my coffee maker when I heard a snap. Apparently I am stronger than I knew because I snapped the burner right off the base. I do have a nice percolator, but I get up really early in the morning and do not feel like fussing with it and then waiting a half hour for it to do its thing.

So today I am going small appliance shopping. I am getting a new coffee maker and a new cordless phone. This ticks me off because I don't like spending money I have relegated for something else. Like my nails. Or my hair. Or clothes or my gym. Me stuff.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dumba Zumba

Okay, let me start by saying I won't go back to that class. You'll understand completely by the end of this entry.

I went with this little college girl who has kind of adopted me. She's a psychology major, about to graduate in December. Shes as cute as she is smart, very mature and a lot of fun.

We arrived a little early. We pulled up in the parking lot and noticed that we were the only females there. And what's more, we were the only white people there. We were surrounded by the most gorgeous group of young black men I have ever seen. All of them had dred locks. All of them were lean and muscular. I thought to myself, oh god, please don't let this be the zumba class. I mean. I am not prejudiced. My best friend is black. But I know, as much as I think I can dance well, I KNOW they will all out dance me.

Fortunately I did not need to find out if this was true.Turned out they were part of a basketball team meeting in the gym there.

So, we go into the area where the classes are to be held. I notice there is a healthy mix of all kinds of ages, from teens to elderly. I watch as one woman, I'd say about 75 years old and about 250 lbs, is energetically greeted by a group of women who must be regulars here. I think to myself, this should be a breeze.

Alison leans toward me. "Look at the instructor." She nods toward a stage at one end
of the room. This is not our instructor but it will give you a pretty good idea of what we were dealing with:

"Wouldn't you think the teacher would be in better shape?" Alison asks.

I'm sitting there smug as a bug in a rug. "Oh ho!" Thinks I. "I am going to shine tonight!"

The instructor calls us all to our feet and starts the music.

"What you are going to do, "she says, "is follow the leader! Me!"

Suddenly her hips move, her arms move, her feet move and this lady is rocking all over that stage. She yells out "cha cha!" and we all try to keep up with her magical feet which are moving like flying bullets all over that stage.
"Rumba!" she yells. Suddenly, we have a whole new set of steps and I do not know what the hell I'm doing. But I am trying to follow the leader.

"Ok class! slither down, make a fist. pull air to your hips!" Go up, go down, turn around and now!! We will cha cha line dance. Left foot, tap tap, right foot tap tap, pull air to your hips, jump left. Cha cha up down left right forward backward jump! Now, rumba!!"

"Shit." I think as I swing sweat off my bangs.

"Move that butt round and round!" The dancing marvel orders. I am trying. I am! My butt's going in circles, my hips are going in and out. Im pulling air to my hipbone. and cha cha cha jump!" In short, I am about to have seizure.

I glance over at Alison who is doing a pretty good job but is sweating profusely. Then I see her, right past Alison is this young woman who is as cool as a cucumber. Her hips are moving in time with the music, her hands are gently fanning her face as the Latino singer croons "OH baby, youre so hot so hot so hot.!" And Im watching her and thinking, "I can do that." Only problem is, I can't! I mean, in time I might, but not yet!

Just then the music changes. Our fat fearless dancing leader is leaning far over backewards, head thrown back. Her arms are up in the air, fingers splayed. Her shoulders are vibrating like an off balance washing machine on the spin cycle. The music is now drums and exotic bird calls.

"Eeee hay!!" She screams from the stage, her shoulders shaking all over the place. "Oy! Oy!" She screams. she looks like a woman possessed.

"Oy oy!""screams the 75 year old 250 pound lady, who looks like a zealot at a revival meeting, shaking all over the place, eyes rolling, tongue lolling.

"Where am I?" I wonder. "Am I hallucinating? Did someone slip something in a drink of mine and I am on this weird trip??"

I realize I need to get out of there so I stumble off balance to a chair that's conveniently next to a wall on my left. Alison follows, shaking torrents of sweat off her hair, like Rocky Balboa after the big fight.

"Wanna leave?" I ask her.

"Yeah I do." she squeaks out between gulps of air.

On our way home I ask her, "Do you want to join up?"

"No." she says. " it's not what I thought it would be. She's a sucky teacher. I think I'll join your gym instead."

"Yeah, good idea. Let's stick with the samba class. January's not that far aay."

"Yeah." she says.

Neither of us say anything for a little while and we finally catch our breathe.

"let's go eat." says Alison.

"Okay." says I.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Zumbo, Zumbas, Zumbat. Latino!

I start my first Zumba class in about two hours. if it doesn't kill me, I'm going to go again on Thursday evening. So my schedule will include three to four days at the gym, and two evenings with Zumba classes, weekly. In January, I will trade the Zumba lessons for Samba classes.

They say what doesn't kill you will make you stronger.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Reality Check

Miss Bea is a Southern woman in her eighties who comes to my book store several times each week. She is the epitome of Southern grace. There is no other way to describe her. Last week she came to me and asked for a book recommendation. I suggested a heartwarming memoir I had recently read called 'The Glass Castle' by Jeannette Walls. She purchased it, bade her goodbyes and left.

Yesterday morning she returned.

"Beej, I finished the Walls book and I loved it. Thank you for recommending it to me. I even phoned my daughter and told her she had to read it. What are you reading now?"

"Well, Miss Bea, I'm doing something I usually do not do. I always focus on one book at a time but right now I'm reading four books."

"I know you're reading Carl Jung's autobiography. What else?" she asked.

I told her I was also reading a Bronte book, a true crime book (loaned to me by a regular customer, a charming investigator who had worked on the murder that was the subject of the book,) and a new book by Robin Meade, who is the anchor for CNN's Headline News.

'What's the Robin Meade book about?"

"Its not what you would think Miss Bea. I love Robin Meade and that's why I picked it up, but it's really about developing self confidence."

She stepped back and looked at me. "Why in the world are YOU reading THAT??" she asked.
"You are the last person who needs more confidence!"

Well, if this didn't leave me puffed up. Obviusly Miss Bea must believe I am confident individual. How wonderful that others must feel I exude confidence! Wow, I am proud of myself!

Not ten minutes later, my best friend Cynthia comes in.

"Hey Beej. Whatcha say?"

"Not much Cynthia. "

"So whet are you reading?"

This all takes place in the bookstore so it's not rare for me to be asked this often. I go through my short list and she, like Miss Bea, asks about the new Robin Meade book and I explain that it's a book on developing self confidence.

"Why the hell are you reading that?"

Wow, even my best friend must think I exude confidence. I tell her about Miss Bea.

"Beej," says Cynthia, "if someone were to ask me to define self confidence, I would simply introduce them to you."

I am now proud. Very Proud. But I should have stopped and realized the old adage about pride coming before a fall. and then it came..

"Beej, you are so confident that you're cocky. In fact, you can be so cocky that it borders on arrogance!"

I study my friend's face to see if shes joshing. She is staring back at me with a dead pan expression.

"Cocky? Arrogant?? Me? MEEEE??"

She puts her hand on her hip and opens her eyes as wide as possible.

"Yes. You."

I study her for a minute.

"So?" I ask. "What's your point?"

She bursts out laughing. I'm hoping she's laughing because he's been teasing me with all this business. In fact, I am sure that's why she's laughing. She can't possibly believe that I, of all people, am cocky or arrogant. I am just too perfect to ever be that way.
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