Saturday, September 25, 2010

Life Song; My Nephew, the Bonecarver.

My nephew is a professional artist. He slices and carves deer antlers, the 'new ivory,' sometimes so miniscule that he carves under a microscope.
His work has been published in art books and is periodically displayed in New York museums. We are so proud of him.

About the last half of this video; that is my family's property in beautiful upstate NY, about 250 acres of totally undeveloped land. Okay, this is the you watch this I would like you to think about what I am about to tell you and realize the significance of the song and the second half of the video. Here goes:

Monday morning at about 5:30am, I received a phone call from my nearly incoherent brother in law. I have two sisters. Our parents are gone. And we three are incredibly close, because for a while, we were all we had. My brother-in-law called to tell me that my sister Jeanne, mom of this talented artist, was rushed to the hospital a few hours before, with a 108 degree temp. She was in a coma, the doctors recommended last rites and told us her chances for survival were negligible.

Tuesday, we were told we had a choice to turn off all machines and let her go peacefully. Her brain was inflamed and infected and they didn't know why. Or we could transfer her to a top notch hospital as a 'last ditch' effort to save her life. Her husband and children opted for the latter choice.

Wednesday evening, her fever broke. Thursday, she opened her eyes. Yesterday, Friday, my phone rang. It was Jeanne calling from icu on her cell phone, which my bro in law had dialed for her. If there was brain damage, it seemed to have effected only her speech. In a weak, shaky, tearful voice, she slowly told me she almost died. I told her how much I love her. This has been a week of true hell and true heaven.

She is not out of the woods, but it appears she will make it. She will remain in icu for at least another week, and then go to rehab.

Life Song. Indeed. I am singing it well.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Shrimp and Cheese Rotol (or how I came to say the f word at the dinner table.)

See these little guys?

These are shrimp. They died for no good reason and I sincerely feel bad about that. This is a pound or so of shrimpers and I used them to make dinner tonight. I'm going to share the recipe and I'm going to post photos but let me tell you, this was one of those dishes where you want to say something out loud that you shouldn't say out loud. Especially at the dinner table. something like "Oh fuck."

Sorry, friends, but there it is and that's what I said after slaving in the kitchen for two hours!! Yup, two hours from the time these buggers were taken out of the fridge until they entered my face. One bite and the F word came out of me.

This sounded sooooo good when I found it in a cookbook yesterday. And it had such an impressive title:


You gotta admit, that sounds wonderfully impressive, doesn't it? Reading through the recipe, it honestly does call for 'many cloves' of garlic...25 cloves to be exact. But more about the sauce later.

Sooo, there I was at about 4pm, cleaning a whole bunch of shrimp, steaming them, shelling them, de-veining them, and cutting off the tails. Now all those little pink bodies needed to be minced, so mince I did. (okay, okay, I cheated and used my food processor, tossing 3 cloves of garlic into the mix.)

After that, the pink stuff that resulted from the mincing business was mixed with ricotta cheese, a half tablespoon of marjoram and thyme leaves added as well as a quarter tsp of pepper.

As soon as that was all mixed together, I put 12 lasagna noodles into a pot of boiling water and proceeded to peel over 2 dozen cloves of garlic. This took time. Yes it sure did, even using my big chopping knife to mash down on each clove, splitting the skin and making it easier to slip out the pungent insides. These were placed in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and heated, covered, for ten minutes, until they were soft enough to mash slightly with a fork.

While the garlic was cooking, I drained the pasta, spread the shrimp and ricotta mixture on each noodle, and roll it up, placing each seam down, in a roasting pan.

I added one and a half cups of chicken broth and some snipped fresh parsley to the garlic and then tempered 2 tablespoons of flour with a bit of broth in a little bowl, and added it to the pot, stirring it over low heat until it thickened.

I poured it on to the rolled lasagna noodles. covered it all loosely, and baked it for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Let me tell you, all that garlic, simmered in chicken broth, all that shrimp...the smell w as heavenly. Oh, be still my heart, but that set me to almost weeping with anticipation. It made the mess that was my kitchen just an unimportant sidenote, even tho there was not a spot in my rather large kitchen that was not covered with some dirty dish or another.

We waited. And Waited. A half hour. It looked lovely when it came out of the oven. It looked lovely sliced on the dinner plate. The entire house smelled with such a wonderful mix of aromas.

We sat down at the table, took a bite. And it popped out of my mouth.

"Oh fuck."

it had little flavor and what flavor WAS there, was plain awful.

John set down his fork and pushed his chair away from the table.

"Yup, sometimes you just gotta say it."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pig Tales

If you've been visiting in these parts for a while, you might have already gleaned that, tho I was a bright child, I was inquisitive and daring way past the point of common sense. Being a mother now myself, I know that's a fairly normal state of affairs for kids but I often fell short of 'normal.' The pig we purchased is an excellent example.

When I was about nine years old, my Italian mom decided we needed to get a pig. Not a living pig (if that were the case I would have probably begged for a horse too, which I truly trusted I could keep alive and well in our basement.) No, she did not want a living pig. She didn't even want a whole pig. She wanted half a dead pig. So off we went, mom and dad and I, to get half a dead pig.

We drove into the country and pulled onto a dirt driveway which ended at the opening of a pretty rough looking barn that had a huge opened double door. Mama and dad got out and went to the farmhouse which was next to the barn. I stayed in the back seat of the car. If my folks had known what I was about to witness, surely they would have taken me inside the house with them.

I sat in that car wondering how you get a half a pig when suddenly a man came to the opened double door of that barn. I do not remember what exactly led up to it, but there was also a huge pig on a huge chain. Some way or a nuther, that chain hoisted that pig into the air. Before I could say, "holy ham hocks, Robin!!" that pig gave one long and loud shriek as a big power tool thingy came down on him. He was rather quickly split in half from the middle of his ham ass end to his snout, the tail having been spared being split and, instead, hung there in its entirety on one of the sides.

They loaded our half pig into the trailer attached to the back of our car, mama and dad came out of the farmhouse, and off we went. But not before I noticed something delightful.
We got the half with the tail.

We pulled into our driveway, our half pig in tow, and a good dozen of our relatives standing there waiting to help unload the pig. It was taken into our basement (I was kind of glad at that point that I didn't have a horse down there. God only knows what those Italians would have done to it.) The women retreated to the kitchen and through the next few days, they boiled, chopped, steamed and stuffed various pig body parts that had been handed to them from the basement.

The men were a bloody mess, but happy. The women laughed as they did their culinary miracles. And I stood around making a promise to myself (one that I vigorously kept, much to my parents' dismay) that not one iota of that pig would enter my mouth.

But my real focus was on that tail. I wanted it. Badly. It was was not curled into a spiral the way I always believed a pig's tail to be. It was rather straight. No matter. I desired to own that pig's tail more than I had ever wanted anything in my life.

"Aunt Mary, can I have that tail?" I asked.

"You needa aska you mama."

"Ma!" I yelled as a ran up those stairs, taking them two at a time.

"Aunt Mary says to ask you if I can have that pig tail."

"What would you do with it? No, you can't have that. Besides, I'm going to use it to lard pans."

I went down the stairs to where the 'butchering' was taking place and saw that someone, probably Uncle Tony, had cut the tail off of the pig. It lay there on the table. Pink. Rather straight. Calling my name.

I grabbed it and slowly walked up the stairs and into hallway and took a washcloth from the linen closet. Once in my bedroom, I wrapped the tail in the cloth, opened my underwear drawer and stuck that tail as far back into there as I could, covering it with a bunch of panties after.

Of course, there were questions as to where the tail went. Of course I was staunchly accused of taking it. Of course I staunchly lied and said I did not, that the dog must have eaten it. (Poor dog, who was not allowed in the house during this entire process, got the blame for lots and lots of things I did back then.)

Eventually, they forgot about the tail. Only thing was, I forgot about it too.

Fast forward about two weeks or so. Sho'nuff, I'm digging through my drawer and what to I come upon? Yup. A rolled up washcloth with a pig's tail in it. It was no longer pink. In fact, it was no longer solid. It was hollow and empty. Except for the maggots inside.

There was no cry for mama to help me clean out the disgusting thing. The punishment for disobeying, stealing and lying about it would have been far worse than cleaning up a rotted, hollow, maggot infested pig's tail from my pantie drawer.

Did I learn a lesson from this? No, not really. I mean, how often does one get the opportunity to stuff a pig's tail in one's underwear drawer?

I think it may be a once in a lifetime event. And that's plenty enough.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Little Girl in the Road.

You're driving down the road, maybe faster than the 30 mph speed limit. It's a balmy day, kids are at school, and you are thinking about the sale at the local grocery market and wondering if you remembered to cut all the coupons you'll need out of Sunday's paper. Suddenly, a child runs out in front of you, chasing a ball. You slam on your breaks. The car behind you doesn't stop in time and crashes into your car. You take a deep breath, make sure you're not hurt, and get out of the car, cursing yourself, hoping the child is okay, as well as the driver behind you.

You get quite the surprise:

There isn't a child. There never was a child. What there is, is a sort of weird 3D optical illusion, of a disproportionally sized girl, projected onto the road. The city of Vancouver, British Columbia, will be using this device created by two Canadian safety organizations at the cost of $15,000, to train drivers to expect the unexpected.

It sounds good in theory but I'm not sure it won't cause more problems in the long run.

Monday, September 6, 2010


...I love EVERYTHING about this edgy, raw, very sexy Melissa Etheridge song:

Love; Part 3

The last two entries have been about love, but I am not done. I need to write one more. I have long believed that what we need, the way our lives work in a common and universal manner, all has to do with preservation of the species. We eat. We bathe. Fight or flight is still a basic instinct for survival. We have finger and toenails as a means of protection against damage and infection to our digits. We have body hair to either retain body heat and/or to keep the sun from scorching us. Even the tiny nose hairs help us to survive by filtering particles in the air. We sleep in order for our bodies to replenish. and it's not just mortal creatures that follow this preservation of the species thoughts. Fruit falls from branches, the seed inside nourished by the outer pulp of the fruit as it lies on the ground. Growth in plants all but halts while it flowers, focusing instead on the tiny seeds within.

But where does love fit in? How is it beneficial as a tool for preservation? I'm not talking sex. It's pretty obvious that sex is necessary in order to procreate. But love is not sex.

We all need love and we sometimes do some really strange things in the name of love. If it were just a case of love binding us to another person in order to better protect and care for our offspring, I could understand how it all fits in. But there has to be more to it.

A prime example would be the elderly, who fall in love just like their younger counterparts, without the possibility of procreation on the horizon. Love is a factor that we seek always, or that we depend on always. It doesn't seem to be limited to any age, any intelligence, or with any concern of health. Is it only a human condition? I don't know if animals fall in love, but I think it's entirely possible.

Lately I've been thinking a lot of Mrs. Brown. She was my older sister's mother-in-law. Her husband had passed away years before. She herself died a couple of years ago at the age of ninety three. Sadly, as she entered that latter years of her life, her mental condition suffered along with her body. In fact, for the last few years of her life, she suffered from dementia.

As her health deteriorated, her family decided it would be best for her if she moved in with my sister and my brother-in-law. (Mrs. Brown's son.) It was obvious that the end was not far ahead.

The family set up a pseudo hospital room in the house and rallied around the elderly woman whom they loved. One of her family members was my bro-in-law's nephew, a strapping, handsome young fellow, perhaps nineteen or twenty years old. One day he visited his grandmother who studied him for quite a while and in her confusion, decided he was one of her long ago 'beaus.'

She was in love, head over heels in love. She would awaken in the morning and immediately ask whoever was caretaking her, if 'HE' was coming to visit. Whenever the answer was in the affirmative, which was almost daily, she would ask for her hair to be 'fixed,' her nightgown to be changed, a pretty smelling lotion to be smoothed over her skin and sometimes even requested a little lipstick be applied.

This young man was extremely unomfortable with the situation. But he adored his grandmother, and simply held his discomfort at bay. He would sit for literally hours, holding and stroking her hand as she drifted in an out of sleep, gazing at him with adoration whenever she awakened. He certainly earned a star in his heavenly crown with the way he dealt with this.

She died a month or so after this 'affair' began. She died believing she was loved by a handsome young man whom she adored.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Love Letter

A man walked into my bookstore yesterday. He moved slowly, carefully feeling his way with his cane, an old military helmet on his head. He wasn't very old, maybe middle-aged, tho it was difficult to tell with any confidence. My guess was that the helmet was used as a means of protection, maybe after some sort of accident. It was obvious that something had happened to him, maybe a stroke or a brain hemorrhage, there was no way of really knowing without asking, which of course was out of the question. I even wondered, with Fort Rucker right up the road, if perhaps he was a veteran who had been injured overseas.

He made his way to me and smiled. He opened his mouth as if to speak, and I waited while he tried to form the words.

"I wa wa a boo on how do wrie a ledda." Tho he struggled, I finally determined that he wanted a book on letter writing. No problem. We have plenty of books on that.

"What kind of letter?" We have books that are pretty specific.

Again he struggled.

"A La,la, Lo Lo ledda."

(A love letter.)

Okay, I am a softie. I admit that. Any man who can walk up to a stranger in a store and ask for help on finding a book that will instruct him on the art of writing a love letter is one hell of a man, in my opinion.

"I nee do dell her how ah fee. Do you ha anah ide hau ah ca tell her?""

(I need to tell her how I feel. Do you have any ideas how I can tell her?)

I wanted to just reach out and hug him. How very very sweet.

"Can't you just tell her?" I ask.

"Ah don know wha she lis."

(I don't know where she lives.)

Well, this opened a lot of questions in my mind. Was she someone he met online? Perhaps in a chatroom dealing with those who might be stroke victims or otherwise handicapped? Was she a nurse who took care of him, perhaps overseas where his injury might have occured? I will never know, so either will you, my dear reader. And in reality, it doesn't matter. What matters is this gentleman, with his soldier's helmet and his cane, unable to clearly articulate, loved someone and wanted to let her know that in as beautiful a way as he could..through a love letter.

This still has not left my thoughts. It made me remember a time, years ago, when I was a child snooping through my parent's dresser, just to see what they had in there of interest. I had never done this before. In fact, we weren't allowed in their room. My mother had hung a painting of Christ on her bedroom wall, and if I did go into her room, His eyes in that painting would follow me.

(This is the painting that hung on her wall. You cannot keep His eyes off of you. It's impossible.)

It was enough to make me leave that room. It's one thing to have your parents see you do something you weren't supposed to do. It's far worse to feel Christ's eyes burrowing into your snooping, sneaking, evil body at every turn. But one day I hardened my heart to that painting and ventured into the most secretive place in that room, my parent's dresser drawers. There really wasn't anything that caught my eye until I reached way into the back and found an envelope, yellowed with age. I opened the envelop and pulled out a bunch of papers and began to read.

Oh My letters! From my Dad! To my Mom! They were IN LOVE!!! Oh crap, how embarrassing and fascinating they were, all at the same time. They were only dating, not married, no kids...and my dad is writing all these tender mushy words to my mother. I never knew! The closest thing to mush I ever heard coming from my dad's face was "Margie, good meal." or "Margie, the house looks nice" And I couldn't even confront either of them about the letters because I wasn't supposed to be in their room in the first place, much less snooping and reading love letters.

(Years later, after both parents had passed away, one of my sisters found the letters and gave a copy of them to me and our other sister, but even then, I didn't tell my siblings I had already read them.)

My point in telling y'all this is because it brings home a point that a love letter, written on paper and sent to someone special, often lives on. It's not like an email. Or a verbal affirmation of love. It's tangible and often cherished by the one held dear, a remembrance that they were, indeed, worthy of another's great love.

I hope that gentleman finds an address to which to mail that love letter. The object of his affection may not return his love (then again she just might, who knows?) But I would bet you anything, she will hold on to that letter for all her life.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In the Name of Love

Oh, what people will do for love. and not only that, even the brightest of the bright will sometimes do incredibly stupid things in the name of love.

Take this lady:

Her name is Jacquelyn Kotarac. This woman is beautiful, but she's not just beautiful. She's smart. Very smart. So smart that she's a doctor. But she's not just any doctor. She's an internist. And she graduated from medical school with honors. She's received many accolades locally, not only for being an internist par excellence, but also for treating those who had financial difficulties, free of charge. So we have a lady who is smart, beautiful, accomplished and on top of that, kind hearted and caring.

There was, however, one area where Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac struggled; she had no common sense in matters of love.

Dr. Jacquelyn Kotarac had a long term 'on again, off again' relationship with her boyfriend, William Moodie. Last week they were in one of their 'off again' stages. Our dear doctor decided to resolve this and went over to Moodie's house with the intention of confronting him about their problems. He would not let her in. She tried to break in using a shovel, but it didnt work. In the meanwhile, and without Jacquelyn's knowledge, Moodie sneaked out the back door.

So what does a normal smart, successful, beautiful and accomplished woman do?? Usually not what Dr. Kotarac did..she climbed a ladder to the roof and went down the chimney. The only problem, once she got to within two feet of the fireplace opening, there was not enough room for her lungs to expand, and she died of aphyxiation.

They did not find her body for three days. It took the fire department over five hours to dig her out.

I cannot figure this out. Why would someone, with so much going for her, be so desperate over a man that she would go to such lengths to reach him about their relationship? I don't get it. I'm sure she could have her pick of fine gentleman.
She lost more than her life. she lost her dignity.

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