Sunday, September 14, 2014

Take Five, People

I am preparing for the annual camping/sailboat outing which takes place 'out East'.
Or, Indiana.
I believe that after last year's camping infestation of college kids I swore I would never camp again. This may have been a rash statement, made in the throws of sleep deprivation.
Or, I will do anything for a 'mini-vacation'.
Or I have a very bad memory or how uncomfortable I was.
I don't ask anymore. I think it is the pre-Alzhiemers.

Consequently, my brain is not really wanting to focus on much of anything except how to pack three days worth of food into a cooler on ice without poisoning anyone.
So I thought in lieu of a new and entertaining post, I would take you all on a little mini-vacation of your own.

Welcome to the Sailboat Races!

Some of the racers preparing their boats.
 There is a scene in the movie Jaws where everyone is talking all East Coast and the only sounds you hear are the water lapping the shore and sails flapping. I had a very distinct feeling of being right in the middle of this scene while I watched the racers set up. I kept a very trained eye out for that enormous dorsal fin and that guy who likes to grate his fingers down the chalkboard in Chief Brody's office. Oh, and Richard Dreyfus.
More boats. And the tent? This is where the really loud HORN lives.
We were just observers on this particular race day. Hoping to get an idea of how the whole process works. The best I can tell, there is a configuration of buoys which you are expected to sail around.
BUT - you don't start sailing around these buoys until the person in the white tent (see above) sets out a series of flags and blasts an air horn into the peaceful calm at which point I jump and, if in the boat, most likely fall into the lake.

These boats are lined up and ready to race. Or, they are coming across the finish. I don't know. 

The boats are divided up into two categories. Larger, heavier boats and smaller, more petite boats. We would naturally fall into the larger heavier category. I feel slightly insulted. But, the larger heavier boats get to go first so NEENER to all you people who always picked me last in PE.
 I call this Boats. With dock.
Standing on the shore, watching as the various rigs floated away, the race began to look more like people having a lovely afternoon on the lake while I sweated and got bit by flies on the shore. There was no swooshing and near crashing like in America's Cup. Although I did watch one kid lean a little too far over the rail and slide - slow motion - into the lake. His buddy was in complete control of the boat and actually stopped immediately allowing for re-boarding with only a minimal amount of lost time.
Seriously. Beautiful.
We left for home before the races were over. But best as I could tell, we were the only losers, for not having taken our boat and entered too.
Oh well.
Next time.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

And still we wait....

Three years ago, on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack, a young acquaintance of mine wondered at the significance of ten years. Is the loss any smaller this year than last? Will it be less next year? The truth? No.
Let me be clear here. I did not lose anyone in the September 11, 2001 attack. I spent the day in the safety of my home, watching the devastation on television. But loss is tricky. My husband called me on his way home. He told me to go outside and listen. It was silent. The normal air traffic had stopped and we were surprised at how obviously normal that noise had been. I baked cookies for our kids. I worked that evening and I wanted their arrival home to feel normal.
I worked in an emergency department back then. None of us lost flesh and blood but we all lost family. All you had to do was look into the eyes of every fireman, EMS worker and police officer that came through our doors that night. We all saw the look of quiet anticipation on the faces of the emergency workers in New York – the chaos at Ground Zero, the IV bags spiked, the stretchers lined up – waiting for casualties that never arrived. But we went about our jobs that night as though nothing had happened; keeping the doubt, fear and questions pushed back for another time. And that connection, with those waiting- hoping to do their job as though nothing were different but never given the chance - changed me.
Loss is tricky. What we lost that day was the normalcy we had grown up with. The safety of being 'an American'. For our children, normal began on September 12, 2001. They will never know the 'normal' that we had. Suddenly phrases like 'home land security' and 'terrorist threat' became their norm. For our children, our country has always been at war.
But while we lost the definition of our 'normal', we did not lose our Freedom. Sure, we may have to practically strip down to board an airplane. But we are still Free to complain about it. We are Free to gather together to celebrate football and baseball and pop music stars who are suppose to be our next 'idol'. We are Free to question the banking industry and point fingers at our elected officials and say "What the Fuck?" And we are Free to come together and remember.
No, loss does not change with the number of years. But what is 'normal' most certainly does. And that is something we must never forget.

 The following essay was written five years ago on October 25, 2009. A few days prior, I found myself on a different part of the Mississippi River coast and quite by accident was witness to the scene above. I don't know why I happened to be there at that moment in time. I am not a particularly 'political' person. I did not lose anyone in 9/11. But as an ER nurse I felt a painful connection to those in service in New York and Washington DC. I guess THE COSMOS is throwing me a hint, but I am not good at guessing games.  I do know those images will stay with me forever and there was something calming for me to see the people waiting for the ship.There was an overwhelming spirit of America. But there was also an overwhelming spirit and desire for peace. 
And still we wait.....


The rocks on the shore of the Mississippi are damp and the path is precarious. The atmosphere meets the muddy water and shrouds the banks in fog. The humidity of the October morning has dampened my clothing and my mood.

Stretching out for at least one mile, the riverbank is lined with people. Some are sitting on rocks or grass. Some stand. One man, dressed in the Stars and Stripes and waving a huge flag has taken the anchor position in the crowd. 


We are all waiting for the US New York to float past us on its way to New York City for commissioning. The warship has left the shipyard where it grew from the melted remains of the Twin Towers and our naive country’s sense of safety.

We all wait, straining our eyes across the foggy river that defines this part of the United States and I consider my place here.

I sat in the CafĂ© du Monde, the evening before, surrounded by family and friends. We talked and laughed; attended by a Chinese man who barely spoke English. We read aloud our writings – poems of life, stories of love and protests of war. We read aloud for ourselves but not unnoticed by those around us. And I wondered, just what does the Chinese waiter think.

We are here, reading aloud in a public place, presenting our opinions and the response is laughter, and smiles and applause. In his country such a display holds the possibility of prison, torture and death.

We wait for the ship. Peacefully gathered. Civilians and police mingle and the atmosphere is celebratory but it is also bittersweet. Waiting.

I remember an image from the early hours after the Towers fell. Hospital workers in ER bays, IV’s spiked and empty stretchers – waiting. The distressed faces of the staff haunt me. They reflected the reality – those stretchers would remain empty. Would it have been better to have had them full?

Silently, the US New York slips through the fog and collectively the crowd is on its feet. Flags are waving and a band plays in the distance. I am overwhelmed with pride. We never catch a clear image of the ship. The fog on the river shrouds it behind a veil. 
If you look closely towards the back you can see the crew waving. Ghostly, huh?

As the ship makes its way around a bend I see the silhouettes of the crew. They stand aft, waving back towards the shore. A chill runs through me as I feel the souls of those that are gone. Do the people here on the banks feel it? They must, the banks are silent. Does the crew feel it?

And I wonder, was a warship really the best thing to come of all that loss?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

And Just as Quickly...

It was just a week ago...

Temperature in the 90's. Humidity in the 200's.
Lounging in a friend's pool.
The unofficial last day of summer.

And today?
Temperature in the 70's. Humidity? What's humidity?
We spent last night with friends, under the stars, with music and laughter.

A portion of Soulard Market under a beautiful September sky.

Sharing a moment of life.

Once again, I must ask you to take a moment.
Recognize the briefness of these experiences.

The little one I mentioned last week has moved on from her earthly life, to one without the boundaries a fragile body bond her to.
Miss Layla, I am so happy I had the chance to meet you.
Four years should never be a lifetime. 
From the 2013 Heart Association Heart Walk. Please support your local Heart Association.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Accentuate the Positive

It is early Sunday morning.

The cat has taken up his morning spot on one of the deck chair cushions, placed specifically for him. A squirrel is cursing me for interrupting his breakfast by moving a finch feeder. The One Million cicadas in the back yard have brought the decibels down to intermission levels.

I am sitting at the patio table, a cup of coffee cooling beside me – which is pretty impressive considering the 100% humidity.

I am looking forward at a pool party, a family bbq and two more days of downtime.

Labor Day Weekend on the Coast of Illinois.

But, across the river, in a very big hospital is a tiny little girl, the daughter of a co-worker.I have only met this cutie a couple of times but she is the person I have been thinking the most of the past few days.

She is facing a very big test. It is not the sort of test which Dora the Explorer or the Bubble Guppies could begin to help her prepare for.

Nor is it the sort of test that falls in the miscellaneous category at the back of parenting books.

There is very little grading curve. But she is one tough little cookie.

Positive is the word of the day.

As a rule, I try to use this forum for happy, silly thoughts. I don't want to compromise anyone else with my ramblings. And I certainly don't want to be that person who seeks to gain from another's difficulty.

But as a nurse, I know how important positive thinking is.

Which is why today, I am challenging you.

From this point on – for the next 24 hours – I challenge you to think and speak only positive thoughts.

No complaints.

No excuses.


Let there be a tidal wave of positive thoughts, prayers and energy crash onto the Coast.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend.

(9-1-14 UPDATE - Little Girl passed her first big test and is moving forward  to be placed on the heart transplant list. Not an easy thing to do for a tiny 4 year old. Keep those positive vibes coming!)

"Accentuate The Positive"

You've got to accentuate the positive
eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
But don't mess with mister inbetween

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
have faith, a pandemonium
Libel to walk up on the scene

To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the Whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do
just when everything looked so dark

They said we better
accentuate the positive
eliminate the negative
latch on to the affirmative
But don't mess with mister inbetween
(Sam Cooke)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Happy Place

It has been a rather down and depressing week here on the Coast of Illinois. Extreme heat. Extreme storm. Extreme civil unrest.

I don't like to use this blog as a place to debate anything but happy thoughts. However, I would like to take the opportunity to say this:

St. Louis is a wonderful town. The people who live here are kind and thoughtful and try to do the right thing. Of course, there are those who live outside the Golden Rule. But we can not let them overshadow what is good about our city.

The weather likes to play by it's own rules.

So I am traveling back to a happy place.
The year is 1985ish.
Picture a young woman in a stylish khaki jumpsuit and enormous Sally Jessi Rapheal-ish glasses and a young man channeling Billy Joel, in a white button down shirt, faded jeans and white Nikes. They are out on the town for dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant. 

Yes. I stole a menu. It is hanging in my kitchen. I believe statute of limitations is up on this one.
 Rossino's no longer exists. But it was one of our first and favorite places to eat. The actual restaurant was in the basement of a rickety building on the edge of a questionable neighborhood. The tables were barely a foot apart, which made for a whole lot of crowd interaction as you were taken to your favorite booth. If you were tall, as the fifty year old head waiter was, you actually had to duck to keep from knocking yourself out on the pipes which ran along the ceiling.
Bart and I would go there when we wanted a 'fancy' dinner. Or just dinner.
Most expensive item: Strip steak for $12.50. including a crisp dinner salad, french fries or spaghetti and a glass of wine.

We always had Mateus. (Which went for $7.50 a bottle, but as noted above was included in the cost of the meal.)
He usually ordered the chicken parm or the pizza.
I ordered the spaghetti ala Natalie or the spaghetti ala Thomas. Both were baked pasta dishes. Both were in a brown butter sauce and covered in melted provolone cheese. Natalie came with two enormous meatballs under the melted cheese. Which seems sort of odd as Natalie is a girl name and these were ENORMOUS balls...

This was the first sit down restaurant we took our small children too. We didn't want to be that couple with the shrieking children who ruined everyone's dinner. And it was clear, from the look on the hostess's face that she didn't want this either. But our kids have always been well behaved in public and they rose to the occasion, gobbling up every bite of their kid size portions, which while not on the menu, was offered by the hunched over waiter. And as we left, the nervous hostess complimented us on our lovely children and offered them each a fortune cookie from the jar by the door. (Why an Italian restaurant had a huge jar of fortune cookies is a mystery which will never be solved.)

Cleaning your plate was VERY important here.
Bart and I ate dinner one evening before attending a concert at a nearby theater. The servings were always more than generous and while we tried our best, neither of us cleaned our plates. Normally, we took the left overs home but it was summer and we didn't want to leave melted provolone, butter sauce and chicken to ferment in our car. So, when the seventy year old hunched over waiter came to clear our plates we declined the doggy bag.
"You didn't like your food?" he asked.
"Oh no. Delicious as always" we replied.
"Then let me bag it for you. Take it home. Don't waste it." His disapproving shadow loomed over our wasteful, guilty plates.
"Thanks, but we don't want to leave it in the car." We avoided all eye contact.
"No problem. I'll but it in our refrigerator. You pick it up on the way home." He smiled. Conversation over.
We picked up the food on our way home.

Years later, we took our now teen age kids and one of our son's buddies back for dinner. We warned Zac that he would be reprimanded for not finishing his food. He looked as us in his 'You parents are so goofy' way.
And then we began to order.
Our daughter ordered the chef salad. She was informed by the now ninety year old, hunched over waiter, that that was an awfully large salad for such a tiny girl.
Zac's eyes widened.
At the end of the dinner, as the waiter cleared our table, he looked at Zac's half eaten plate of pasta and said, "you ARE taking the rest home, aren't you." (I am punctuating this with a period as there was really no question to it.)
Zac never doubted us again.

And then suddenly, Rossino's closed.
Never mind that it had been opened for a million years and the waiter was now one hundred years old, could only see his shows as his back was now unable to straighten without surgical intervention and he was clearly the only waiter working there.
I was sad.

Until Bart came home one day with a surprise. He had been working up in the neighborhood and passed the restaurant site. A construction crew was busy gutting the building, prepping it for condos. He stopped and chatted with one of the guys, reminiscing about what a wonderful place Rossino's had been. He carefully asked if maybe there was something he could take home as a keep sake for his wife.
This is what he brought home: 
I know it is difficult to see here but this baby measures 4 feet by 2.5 feet.And it is steel.
There are many great Italian restaurants in St. Louis. We have a new favorite in a different part of town. I can make a mean chick parm at home. And you can actually buy a bottle of Mateus for less than the bottle price on that old menu.
But to this day, there will never be another Rossino's.

Everyone has a favorite restaurant. But what about those places that only exist in your memories? What is your favorite of those old places? 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Like My Butt Depends on It...

For the sake of Full Disclosure:
This is NOT a sponsored post.
(although, come on, if this subtle thing doesn't start working...)
This IS a blatant Self Promotion
so, please, click HERE and VOTE
you will know who's life depends on it by the end of this post.

This is how you wind up making a 17 foot long main sail:

First – marry a man who's Dad was in the South Pacific during WWII.
The South Pacific was never safer.

Okay. In all fairness, these guys were probably all of 19 years old. They made these boats with odds and ends of wood and parachute scraps.
 Second – allow your children to grow up, no longer requiring weekend trips to the zoo and the
                   park, thus giving you and your husband too much free time.
They look like their father.
 Then – Buy a satellite radio receiver which is permanently tuned to Margaritaville Radio, thus causing both you and your spouse to become inadvertent Parrotheads.
Truck sailing is mandatory at all Jimmy Buffett concerts.

After which – the above husband reads ALL the books about sailing.
I think my favorite is the one titled 'A Speck on the Sea'.
And – you foolishly convince the book reading, son of a sailor, to MAKE the wooden mast as it will look so totally awesome with the rest of the wooden boat.
This is called scarfing. Or as I refer to it - trying not to sand the crap out of your fingers.

23 feet. That is one big toothpick.

This is the very top end. That hole is where the lines for the sails thread through.
 While – you both read and re-read The Old Man and the Sea.
Think how much more popular the story would have been with the addition of ZOMBIES!

After which – the delusional husband tries to sweet talk you into MAKING a sail for the awesome wooden boat, and when that doesn't work he shows you how much more buying a sail would cost.

So – you order a sail making kit from Sailrite.
Sure. Simple...
And – you spend approximately six weekends rearranging tables, oiling the twenty-eight year old Kenmore machine, zig-zagging weird plastic-feeling fabric. And when it gets too big, you roll it and make the &*^^%^* husband help feed it through the tiny machine which until now has only made a few items of clothing, some curtains, an 8th grade dance dress and several outfits for Barbie. 
I think this is actually a picture of me working on the jib. Which was smaller. Barely.
 But when it is finished, and the bleeding has stopped (from a thumb piercing needle injury) -
You get to sail your beautiful, completely hand made boat in the Gulf of Mexico!
(Well, the Choctawhatchee Bay, which is pretty salty and very tide-y.)
That's your basic salt water splash right there.

Which shortly after – you realize that your fifty-three year old butt needs some cushions. And Sailrite also sells fabric for cushions.

So – Please! Click on the link below and VOTE.And then, take a minute to go to their website and look around. They have everything for sails as well as out door furniture cushions and so much more!
                                      SailRite Photo Contest

My butt will thank you.
After I finish cursing you and everyone else who aided in me being forced to make the cushions. So, technically, no one will die. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

And God said, "She shall have uncontrollable tear ducts and then I shall cut off her hormonal control."And it was so. It WAS NOT GOOD.

First off:


If you ARE NOT a Peri-menopausal Woman


If you have NEVER heard the word Peri-menopausal


If you are a male of ANY species

DO NOT read this post.

INSTEAD, click HERE for an appropriately MALE picture which should wipe out any possible memory of any unpleasant images the word Peri-menopausal has put into your brain.

There. Now that that's done.

I recently conversed with my GYN and it was decided that, perhaps, I should start tapering off on my hormone replacement patches. I have been on these patches for heading up on eight years, ever since one brisk November day when I walked into work so drenched in sweat that I had to change clothes. My GYN and weighed the pros and cons and determined the benefits out-weighed the risks.

One year ago, my sweet GYN suggested I try this weaning process. But she made the mistake of asking how things in my life were. Upon hearing about our oldest moving into his first grownup apartment and our youngest graduating college and moving home, We weighed the pros and cons. It was determined that 2013 was not the optimum time for decreasing my hormone stability.
2014 seemed to be much more conducive to a hormone vacation. Everyone in my little family unit is reasonably content. I have some fun plans throughout the year to look forward too and apparently I have 'amazingly firm' internal abdominal muscles. (As I have an extra twenty pounds camouflaging my external abs and this declaration was from my GYN doc, I will let you figure out how she came to this conclusion.)

So on Sunday, it was with NO very little trepidation, that I slapped on my half strength hormone patch. Sundays are such pleasant days. I spent the better part of this day on the deck, reading my stack of magazines. I told myself it is a good three months before they start playing those tear-jerking Hallmark and Folgers holiday commercials and the television gods haven't shown a clip of a newly shorn Anne Hathaway singing about the shambles that is her life in almost a year. It got a little dicey when the House Hunting couple had words over whether closer to city center was better than a large backyard, but all in all, Sunday was a good day.

And then the alarm clock went off to Monday.

My first thought: Bart seriously needs to step up his lottery ticket purchases.

This was followed by a entire fleet of thoughts flying around my head:

how cute the kids were on their first days of school

how sweet our first family dog was

how much I miss that sweet dog

which led to reminiscing about everyone I know who has passed away over the years

and how dangerous Bart's job once was

and what would I ever do without him...

By the time I got to work I was one dropped M&M away from a cry-fest.

But, I held it together.

Until I actually had to start working.

I should mention here that many of my patients receive extremely devastating news in the recovery room. And some receive extremely happy news. Either way, people start crying. I can usually maintain a quiet, supportive composure.

But not today. It went something like this:

Patient got good news.

Husband begins to cry with relief.

I hand him some tissues, offer a comforting hand on his shoulder.

I take the tissues away from him to blow MY nose, wipe my eyes and excuse myself to the bathroom.

At lunch I read a blog by one of my favorite writer/cooks.

It was about a wedding and how she began crying the minute the bride walked down the aisle.

I joined her in tears.

Sort of an emotional Band of Weeping Uteruses.

And so the day progressed.

I called Bart as I was walking to my car to give him a heads up that I was leaving work and was so relieved to hear his voice that I had to choke back a sob.

And for fun, I stepped on the bathroom scale. Because nothing says comfort like those enormous numbers which haven't budged in two months. (Unless you have been counting calories so long you sound like Rainman as you examine the cupboard for an evening snack.)

Now, it is 9:45pm.

As I sit here writing this post I have before me one half of a Figgy Piggy calzone, the last drops of Cabernet in the bottle which has been on the counter for a week and the last three hormone patches in the box.

Okay. It is an empty box.

I have weighed the pros and cons. 

Yes. Figgy Piggy. It is applewood bacon, figs and marscapone cheese wrapped in a delicious crust. Weird combo? No doubt. Delish? YES!  This delightful weirdness is from Sauce on the Side.

On a semi-related note: I have recently begun an association with two wonderful websites devoted to the journey that is Middle Age. Please take the time to check them out. They are only a click away! 
                                 Adventures of the Empty Nesters
                    (thanks for adding me to your contributors!)
                                       Midlife Boulevard
(and thank you for adding me to your on-line, facebook community!) 

I should also mention that NONE of the links or products or stores mentioned here are paid endorsements. But I will freely admit to liking them all.