that long-gone gold

Those really were my golden years — those four college years between 1957 and 1961. And so I was willing to help plan our 50th class reunion. I even sewed a big 50th reunion banner and put up a class reunion blog. That was the fun part.

But it turned out that my closest “girl” friends couldn’t be there for the part that was supposed to be the most fun. When I checked in with one of them a month before the event, I found out that she had moved into an “assisted living” facility (in the same nursing home building where her husband, also a good friend of mine, was confined to a wheel chair with a deadly combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases). She told me that her daughter had taken away her car and license, and so there was no way she could attend the reunion.

(If she is there, will I not be far behind, I wonder. We are the same age, same height, same coloring; we shared wardrobes for four years and together descended on Fort Lauderdale, Florida for one glorious Spring Break. Life is not fair.)

A week before the event, my other close friend called to tell me that she had just had a mammogram and was told to go in for a biopsy. The biopsy turned out to be early Stage 1 breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy yesterday and will proceed with the recommended treatment. Life is not fair.

So, did I have fun at my 50th college reunion?

Well, I have to admit that there was a certain amount of pleasant nostalgia that propelled me through my planning committee tasks. Some things went right. Some things went wrong. What went wrong had to do with logistics; what went right had to do with having a chance to connect with some of the 50-years-older people whom I knew and liked back in those golden years.

As a female college freshman back in 1957, sharing a room in a small “group house,” I lived under rules that today’s female college freshmen would never tolerate: we had curfew hours, dress codes, no males allowed beyond the front room and not even there after 10 pm. Two of the girls who shared that group house with me came to the reunion. Seeing them again was part of the fun.

At the reunion dinner, a table covered with memorabilia from those golden years included a copy of the annual literary magazine from 1959. No, it didn’t include any writing by me. In 1959 I was too busy dancing in college musicals and writing a gossipy column for the college newspaper. And drinking beer. And dating. And joining a sorority. And cutting classes to TGIF. Many of my reunited classmates tell me that they remember me as always smiling and happy. Heh. Why not. Daddy was paying the bills and I was off absorbing the joys of life, the universe, and everything.

That’s right. I was no scholar. I managed to balance out my Cs and Ds with a greater number of As and somehow graduated as the B+ person I continue to be. But I digress.

From your absinthe tinted green dreams and
soulless wanderings across deserts of the mind, came truth–
ice-essence truth……

On page 32 of the literary magazine, I find a poem that begins with the above lines — lines inscribed on the flyleaf of a paperback book of Rimbaud’s poems by the talented young man who wrote the poem and gave me the book. I learned that he passed away a year and a half ago. I wonder if he had still had that tousled red hair, that red beard, that passionate, dark, beat-poet intensity. He almost seduced me. But I wasn’t ready yet, back in 1959.

The literary journal also had some pieces by his best friend, who also was my friend, and whose family became friends with my family after we both married and had kids. He is still writing. We lost touch more than a decade ago, although I had learned about his wife’s tragic illness and death sometime along the way.

Bob decided to come to the reunion at the last minute, and we sat together at dinner, recalling those mellow days and nights when we hung out together in front of his future wife’s sorority house — he and his dark-haired Irish lovely, and me with my brooding red-headed boy. And he asks me if I am happy. And what I can answer is that “I am not unhappy.” We plan to keep in touch. I went and ordered his recent book of short stories.

I supposed the ego-stroking highlight of my class reunion (which was part of the university’s Homecoming Weekend) was having a good-looking gray-haired guy (who was a college year behind me) come up to me to tell me that he still remembers the first time he saw me. I was sitting at the long table at the bar we all went to on Friday afternoons. He said that he remembered what I was wearing — a brown skirt and sweater. And I was smiling. And he thought I was gorgeous.

I guess it was a good reunion after all.

why I’m addicted to pesto

I’ve been making fresh basil (from my garden) pesto and now I put it in just about everything except desserts.

You can find lots of recipes for basil pesto on the web (and all of them work fine), but I like my own the best — I use Basil, walnuts, honey, some fresh parsley, a lot less parmesan cheese than usually called for, and a little more garlic.

I put in on fish instead of tartar sauce. I even add it to V8 juice and my homemade gazpacho. I mix it with a little mayonaise and lemon juice and use it as salad dressing or a dip. The Food Network as a great list of 50 things to make with pesto.

And a basil pesto addiction is a really healthy one to have.

Accoring to here:
Basil has more phytochemicals than vegetables, has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants effects, protects the chromosomes and cells from damage, is good for digestion and stomach problems, and contains these minerals:
magnesium that helps relax heart and blood vessels.
vitamin C
vitamin A to protect cell damage
vitamin K for coagulant factors in the blood and strengthening of the bones

As far as I’m concerned, the more garlic you add to the pesto the better. Garlic can lower your blood pressure decrease triglycerides and the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing the good cholesterol (HDL) The sulphur compounds in garlic can help with inflammations that may be causing arthritis or asthma. The sulphur compounds also act as antibacterial and antiviral agent. That is why they recommend eating garlic to keep colds away.

According to here:
The phytonutrient in garlic, called allicin, may help you maintain or even lose weight. Garlic gives great taste to all meals and can be added in all meals, sauces, stews, dips like hummus, guacamole, and mashed potato. You can even add it to a raw fresh delicious juice or smoothie. (Um, I think I draw the line at the smoothie thing.)

I add parsley for lots of reasons. According to this, parsley contains:
— myristicin, an organic compound found in the essential oil of parsley, not only inhibits tumor formation (especially in the lungs), but also activates the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which helps the molecule glutathione attach to, and fight against, oxidized molecules. Myristicin can also neutralize carcinogens like benzopyrene in cigarette smoke that can pass through the body, consequently fighting against colon and prostate cancer.

— an antioxidant arsenal that includes luteolin, a flavonoid that searches out and eradicates free radicals in the body that cause oxidative stress in cells. Luteolin also promotes carbohydrate metabolism and serves the body as an anti-inflammatory agent. Furthermore, two tablespoons of parsley contain 16% of the RDA of vitamin C and over 12% of the RDA of vitamin A – two powerful antioxidants.

— luteolin and vitamin C, which serves as an effective anti-inflammatory agent within the body. When consumed regularly, they combat the onset of inflammatory disorders, such as osteoarthritis (the degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone) and rheumatoid arthritis (a disease causing inflammation in the joints).

— folate (or vitamin B90, which helps convert homocysteine into harmless molecules. A regular garnish of parsley can help ward off cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis.

— vitamin K, which is necessary for the synthesis of osteocalcin, a protein that strengthens the composition of our bones. Vitamin K also prevents calcium build-up in our tissue that can lead to atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and stroke. The vitamin K found in parsley (wo tablespoons of parsley have a whopping 153% of the RDA of vitamin K) is essential for synthesizing sphingolipid, the fat needed to maintain the myelin sheath around our nerves, and therefore our nervous system as a whole.

And, on top of that,

Parsley is the best weapon against garlic breath. That’s why many recipes that include garlic also include parsley. Chewing parsley with your garlicky meal seems to contain the problem to some extent.

But it’s not enough to just sprinkle a little parsley on top of what you’re eating. You need to chew at least one sprig of fresh parsley, ideally more, with your meal. Chop up a sprig of fresh parsley or two and add it to the meal somewhere, or put it on the plate as a garnish.

In case you’e wondering, here’s why I make my basil/parsley/garlic/honey pesto with walnuts:

Walnuts, a rich source of the omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), improve artery function after a high fat meal and may be even more important in a Mediterranean-type diet than olive oil in promoting heart health, suggests a small study from Spain (Cortes B, Nunez I, J Am Coll Cardiol).

Finally, I always cook with honey.

From here:

HONEY, a most assimilable carbohydrate compound, is a singularly acceptable, practical and most effective aliment to generate heat, create and replace energy, and furthermore, to form certain tissues. Honey, besides, supplies the organism with substances for the formation of enzymes and other biological ferments to promote oxidation. It has distinct germicidal properties and in this respect greatly differs from milk which is an exceptionally good breeding-ground for bacteria. Honey is a most valuable food, which today is not sufficiently appreciated. Its frequent if not daily use is vitally important.

OK. Now I’m hungry.

almost as immorally nuts as GOPers

I gave up raging over the mess that the GOP so-called “leaders” have been making of my country. It seems like too many of the people on this planet are hell-bent on helping with the demise of sense and sanity.

All of the following are excerpts from this week’s Harper’s Weekly Review, where you can find documentation and a citation for each of these discomfitting reports.

A Walmart in New Jersey asked all black people to leave.

An Ohio man told police that since January he’s been sucker-punching little children at his local Walmart for thrills.

A Kentucky man was charged with wanton endangerment after he got drunk and put his five-week-old son to bed in an oven.

Wachovia Bank was fined $50 million, and required to remit a further $110 million, for laundering funds for Mexican cocaine cartels.

A Swedish report found that the United Arab Emirates is now the fourth-largest importer of weapons in the world.

Dutch officials repudiated a claim by U.S. general and former NATO commander John Sheehan that the gayness of the Dutch army had rendered it unable to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to Ireland to apologize for the sexual abuse of children by Church leaders.

A lawyer in Oregon was planning to release the Boy Scouts’ “perversion files,” a secret archive of 1,000 documents identifying Scout molesters.

A cable network in North Carolina played two hours of porn on the Kids On Demand channel.

Then there’s the “a little nuts but not immoral” category:

Members of the Winnemem Wintu Indian tribe traveled from California to New Zealand to beg forgiveness of the salmon.

Mexican police were praying to spirits and sacrificing chickens to protect themselves from drug lords.

The Vatican was investigating the daily appearances in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, of the Virgin Mary, who is crowned with stars and floats upon a cloud.

Indian politicians wanted to ban both black magic and Lindsay Lohan.

Finally, neither nuts nor immoral, and maybe a good idea — especially since I haven’t been able to wear my removable bridge because my gums are swollen:

A Bavarian baby-food company said it was planning to market its product to adults who dislike chewing.

Makes you just want to break out in song, doesn’t it?

Stop the World I Want to Get Off


Stop the World I Want to Get Off


Stop the World I Want to Get Off

Our new toy is a tiller.


Well, it’s not MY toy, really. I just sit and watch. And take photos.

This spring it will be a bigger garden plot, with tomatoes of all colors. With lettuce and beans and squash and other vegetables that their fertile fancies haven’t yet decided upon.

I grow the herbs on the other side of the house, where even now the lemon scented Melissa is boasting a mass of bright green leaves. It will make a relaxing summertime iced tea after those hot days tending the garden.

I noticed that the poppy seeds I planted in the fall are starting to poke up through the covering of autumn’s leaves that have kept the ground from freezing all winter.

Things are springing. They are tilling. I am waiting.

Killing the Buddha at Christmas

I am watching the evolution of the third generation of our family’s non-believers. He’s 7 years old now, asking questions like “if everyone has a mother, than shouldn’t the first mother have had a mother.” And so he learns about evolution.

He doesn’t ask about god or the first Christmas. He knows the stories. The various creation stories. The various winter celebration stories. He knows that different people believe different things when it comes to all things “god.”

He’s never been to an actual church service, although he might when my 94 year old Catholic mother finally passes away. He understands death as the final human event, and he participated in our ritual when we sent his grandfather’s ashes into the sea. He understands the power of ritual, apart from its religious associations.

What causes him to wonder, to experience awe, are the questions of science. What makes him feel secure are the roots of family. What sparks his creativity is the vitality of this planet’s various mythologies.

I brought up two compassionate, ethical, moral children (now adults) without a belief in in god. If they feel the awesomeness of the divine around them, it is through the natural world and their connection to it. And through their example and teaching, my grandson is sensing that divine as well.

Some people find comfort in faith. That’s OK. It’s just not us.

But we do find comfort in some cultural traditions. Christmas, for example.

It’s Christmas Eve.

For dinner tonight, we will have beet barszcz and three different kinds of pierogi. My daughter has kept part of the family’s Polish food tradition.

We will open family presents tonight in front of the lit Christmas tree, and Santa will come when we are all asleep and fill our stockings. For us it’s a cultural thing, not a religious. After all, stories of virgin births are a part of almost every cultural mythology.

We will set a place for the absent member of our family, way out in Portland, Oregon, who, we hope, will enjoy the box of gifts we sent out to him.

On Christmas Day, we will go to my son-in-law’s family to continue the feast.

Christmas, Xmas, Yule, Saturnalia, Solstice. We celebrate our family and hope for a future in which we all will thrive.

Merry Christmas.

GERD and the Munchies

Nope. It’s not the name of a new alternative rock group. It’s the two related problems that have been plaguing me for years. I always seem to be hungry, and the food cravings are especially bad before I go to bed. The result is acid reflux and accompanying insomnia.

I’ve tried all sorts of pills — for the reflux, for the munchies, for insomnia. I’m still on a proton pump inhibitor, which helps with the acid reflux except when I have the nighttime munchies.

After exhaustive Googling, I finally found something that seems to curb my appetite and stop the acid reflux.

I tastes a lot like alka seltzer, except that alka seltzer contains aspirin and citric acid, as well as bicarbonate of soda. It’s the acid and the bicarb that combine to make the fizz. But both the aspirin and citric acid in the alka seltzer are not really good for anyone with stomach problems.

My remedy fizzes also, but the acid component is mostly acetic acid.

Apple cider vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda), added to water and drunk twice a day work for me.

There are some ads on the net for books that will tell you how to use three ordinary kitchen items to heal GERD. I haven’t read any of those books (refuse to spend the money), but my bet is those books add some honey to the basic apple cider and vinegar concoction.

Apple cider vinegar and honey mixed together have been considered a “tonic” for generations, thought to help everything from arthritis to weight loss.

I don’t mind the taste even without the honey, but I think I’ll try adding that third ingredient to my mixture and see if it works any better.

Meanwhile, I’m successfully cutting down on my late evening snacking — which means my acid doesn’t reflux, and I sleep a lot better. And it’s cheaper — and healthier — than popping pills.

chicken soup as catalyst

I made a big pot of chicken soup the other day (see previous post).

Except for echinacea and goldenseal, I have never found any concoction that does battle with a sore throat and cold better than chicken soup. Of course, you have to add lots of garlic and onions. I also add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to leech the calcium from the chicken bones into the broth. And I load it with all kinds of other vegetables, which I discard after I have strained them out of the soup.

I picked out the wishbone to take home to my grandson so that we can both wish that his run-away cat would come home. That darned cat has been gone for almost a week — gone from the house (he’s been an indoor cat) but not from the property. He shows up every night on the outdoor camera that has been set up near the dish that’s left outside for him. I’m betting that he’s having the time of his life, and that even my outstanding chicken soup would not lure him back into captivity. On the other hand, he might come back for the love that awaits him behind that door that he now just ignores.

As I was ladling the hearty broth into freezer containers, I had flashes of some lines from an August Strinberg play that my once-husband once directed. (He was a big Strindberg fan.) It had something to do with servants discussing the fact that even though their employers got to eat the meat, the servants got the broth, and that’s where all the nutrition really is.

After my broth has cooled in the containers, I skim off the chicken fat accumulated at the top of each. I pick some up on my finger and taste it. Yum. Tasty cholesterol. When I was a kid, my mother would save the chicken fat from the soup and use it to brown chicken pieces for chicken fricasee. (Does anyone make chicken fricasee any more?)

My mother made chicken soup a staple in our house when I was a kid. Back then, in the 1940s, she used chicken necks and wings because they were cheap. (That was before chicken wings became so popular, of course.) I would help her pick out the meat from among the tiny boiled bones so that she could make chicken salad.

These days my mother doesn’t seem to like the watery consistency of chicken soup, so I thicken the broth into gravy, add the boiled chicken and freshly cooked vegetables, and turn it all into a hearty stew.

These days it’s hard to find food stuffs that mom really likes Something she devours one day she will refuse the next time it’s offered.

That’s the one thing you can count on regarding dementia — you can’t count on anything working more than once.

As it should be, there are all sorts of experiments going on to find ways to prevent and stall the progress of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. What I wish is there was a better understanding of how to “make comfortable” people like my mother, who are at the far end of the journey and for whom there doesn’t seem to be any medications that are able to give her the peace of mind and pain-free body that she deserves.

I’ve already warned b!X that, before I get that bad, I will move in with him in Oregon, where they have a Death with Dignity law.

Or maybe I’ll just OD myself on chicken soup.

old remedies, old bones

I’m back in the place I left. Blood sometimes takes away the choice.

Plans hardly ever go as planned around here. New roofs sag, ceilings get cracks, seeds planted and nurtured succumb to frost, walls never get painted.

My plan for this trip to visit my mother was to help a new live-in aide acclimate to my mother and to this forsaken place. But, after an on-site interview, the aide changed her plans and is not coming after all. I can’t say I blame her. It would take a kind of frontierswoman personality to take on the situation here.

So, I’m here, instead to nurse my mother through some kind of sore throat. Or cold. The doctor said it is not strep.

She can’t seem to swallow pills any more, so I’m giving her liquid Tylenol. There are two bottles here, one is labeled “sore throat relief” and the other is “rapid blast.” The ingredients of both are identical. I guess the marketing ploy works, because here I am with two separate bottles when one would do When she wakes up at night, I make her tea with lemon and honey..

I am making a big pot of chicken soup. A whole chicken. Five cloves of garlic. Lots of carrots and celery. A parsnip and a turnip and onions. I wanted to put fresh parsley in the for Vitamin C, but the grocery store was out of parsley. Something to do with Easter and eggs, I’m supposing. I will cook the soup for hours and, hopefully, she will drink the broth.

She hurts all over. Our bones are tired.

I miss my grandson, he of the wall of hats, one of which belonged to my dad and is over a half-century old. Here he is, wearing it, acting out scenes for Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

From my daughter’s post on Facebook: Mr. Magorium: “You don’t have to be happy that I am leaving. All I ask is that you turn the page, keep reading, and let the next story begin. And when someone asks, tell them my story, with all its wonder, and end it, simply, ‘he died’.”