Navigating the Fog – Part 4

Dad in his younger days.

Last year Dad sent me all sorts of old photos of his family. These two pictures above I lovingly keep in the kitchen window sill. His high school photo, which sat on my Grandmother’s coffee table up until her death almost three years ago, sits in my living room. When I glance at these pictures I can now see my Dad as a little boy. Not just from the images in the frame, but oddly enough I have a strange sense of what he was like as a child now.

When we are born, our parent’s childhood always seems like somewhat of a mystery. Once we are old enough to grasp the concept that our parents too, started off as children, it’s hard to really picture. Sure, we have these great black and white photos which offer a slight glimpse into their early lives but there’s only so much we can comprehend. It hit me recently that I got it. At least I think I do.

As I’ve written before, my Dad was always this larger than life being. He could fix anything, had a loud booming voice that often times even scared the family dog, and in my childhood eyes was only second to Superman. Over the past few months I’ve grown to see Dad as the person in the pictures on my windowsill. The vulnerable child still needing guidance during his days. My last trip to Boston opened my eyes to that realization. It is a gift, one I never had the concept I’d ever receive.

The Hero pill dispenser finally arrived at Sister 2’s house a week ago. Sister 2 set it up this past Saturday. Up until then Sisters 1 and 2, and myself have taken turns calling Dad to remind him to take his medication. I have been skeptical about this dispenser being a viable option. We have still had to call Dad to ensure everything is working smoothly. If we call even a few minutes late, he has no recollection of taking his medication. Is it working? I have no idea. Yesterday I called and he told he had taken apart a gel cap. Why he did this, I have no idea. He told me with his Parkinson’s that it took him a half hour to do. The insides, according to him, resembled coffee grounds. I spoke with Sister 2, who lives the closest to him, and she said it sounded like one of his vitamins.

There are days I talk to Dad and he is completely lucid. Other days he has developed conspiracy theories and thinks that I’m some sort of government spy. He’s never told me this but Sisters 1 and 2 have ensured me its been brought up several times. Sometimes Dad is happy and joking. Other days he calls crying, which breaks my heart. Somedays I think he is just lonely. Recently he called Sister 2 in a complete panic. He was concerned about an outhouse exploding.

Years ago Dad and his older brother had a running joke that they pushed my Grandfather over in an outhouse. It was years before it was revealed that this was only a joke and never really happened. Sometimes I think about how Dad’s brain must work and have deduced that he is afraid.

Earlier this week Dad called to say that I could live in his basement, something I hadn’t completely thought of for good reason. There are no windows in the basement. I’d be completely in the dark. It actually sounded pretty funny when I thought about it. 50 something years old and living in my Dad’s basement. Hilarious. I told Dad we would figure it out when I arrived.

This weekend I will fly back to Boston to live with Dad. My job gave me special permission to take my computer equipment to work from Dad’s. This will be the longest I’ve ever been away from Jayel since we met well over two years ago. We’ve spent lots of time together over the past couple of weeks. We rode our motorcycles one Sunday morning and went sailing on a local lake with friends this past weekend. Over lunch the other day I asked what I would do without him. It will be an adjustment for sure.

It seems so foreign but something I’ve gotten used to is having a partner who shares everything with me. Years ago I read a book that took place during the Salem Witch Trials. A husband was defending his jailed wife and he referred to her as his help-meet. Help-meet. My gosh, that is exactly it. I had gotten so used to doing things on my own, even when I was married I seem to operate independently. Jayel can make grocery shopping fun. His presence in even the most mundane and menial of things makes everything seem extra worth it. I often wonder why it took so long for us to meet but maybe I had to be ready to accept someone as special as him.

Jayel will fly back to Boston with me this weekend. He will stay for a few days and help get things set up with the computer. I’m hoping to show him around a little bit during his brief stay. Jayel and Dad have never met. It will be neat to have the first man I ever loved and the last man I hope to ever love under the same roof. Over the past few weeks I’ve wondered if I could do this. I’m working full time, am a college student (again) and am now taking care of Dad. But there’s no questioning, no wondering. Just doing. Just moving forward and taking each day as it comes. It reminds me of what we would yell as kids after counting to ten before a game of Hide and Seek. “Ready or not, here I come.” I hear this in my mind. And it is Dad’s childhood voice I hear it in.

Roses are A-bloomin’!

Last spring during the pandemic lock-down, Jayel and I planted roses in our front yard. We were new to the neighborhood and I will admit to having rose envy. Everywhere were these beautiful roses; adorning patios and peeking over the tops of fences.

Last summer was one of the hottest summers Phoenix has had to date. We lost two lemon trees in the backyard and I’m grateful the roses didn’t succumb to the same fate. Things were a little sketchy for a while but they’ve pulled through.

There are several buds on each bush right now and each time I spot them I wait in quiet anticipation for each phase of blooming. There is beauty in each.

Years ago I took a bus from Ensenada, Mexico to an area a few miles away that was home to many vineyards. As the city slipped behind me, the landscape ahead revealed rolling hills with rows and rows of grapevines. At the ends of each row was a blooming rose bush.

It was a warm day which was the catalyst for the fragrant rose scented air. I asked a worker what the purpose of the rose bushes were in the vineyard. He told me aphids. Apparently aphids will eat the rose petals first, which gives the workers time to get rid of them before they attack the grapes. Very clever.

Navigating the Fog – Part 2

In our attempts at getting Dad back on a regular routine of taking his medicines, my best friend brought to my attention the use of an automatic pill dispenser. Apparently this little countertop kiosk may be loaded with several medications and be set to dispense dosages at certain times. It will then send a text to the recipient’s phone to remind them to take their medication. While this seems like a great idea, I have my concerns.

In using the pill divider Sister 2 had originally set up, it was a complete fail because Dad still didn’t remember he had medication to take. He was even reminded with alarms set to go off at certain intervals to tell him it was time to take his pills. It seems to me we are only swapping the pill box for an automatic dispenser and are expecting different results. Time will reveal the outcome.

On the plus side, said medications will be dispensed into a cup. Nothing like living 3,000 miles away and your parent can’t get the childproof cap off his medication. I sent him a set of rubber dishwashing gloves via Amazon to help give him some traction. Regardless, I hope this pill dispenser will help.

Last week I ordered this device after consulting with Sisters 1 and 2. I expressed my concerns but everyone thought it was still a good idea to have this. In an assisted living situation it will also make the difference in the type of care Dad will need. I will write a review once it is up and running. It is being sent to Sister 2’s house as she lives the closest to Dad.

Hero Health Pill Dispenser

We’ll see how this goes when it arrives. I have a feeling we will still need to call Dad to remind him of the times he needs to take his medication. The cost of this is usually $100 but I got it for half that with a code provided on the website. It’s about $30 a month for the service. It will be worth it knowing he isn’t struggling to get the prescription bottle open.

Here’s other info on the dispenser: https://www.herohealth.com.

Navigating the Fog – Part 1

Last night I dreamt my Dad was strapped to my back like one of those babies I see in pictures of African countries, snug against their Mothers, tied with with a colorful sheet of fabric. Sometimes I see these ladies with their babies here in Phoenix. They are usually waiting for the lightrail or the bus, their children peer out at the world from over their shoulders. In the same manner I brought my Dad everywhere; grocery shopping, the park and to various appointments. He wasn’t a burden. He’s my Dad.

A few years back Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. His once agile hands now shake with tremors. The unfortunate part is how this affects his cognitive abilities. I had noticed on the phone that sometimes he would be speaking and forget a word. “Now what the devil was I going to say?” he’d announce. I would instantly start with an unintentional game of charades: sounds like? How many syllables? But things would progress.

About a month ago Sister 2 called. She lives the closest to Dad in our home state of Massachusetts. I was at an RV show with my other half, Jayel when she called. She explained that Dad’s condition had gotten worse and he could no longer drive a car. A week earlier she had placed all his medications into one of those pill divider cases that outlines each medication to be taken that day. She even went so far to set an alarm on his cellphone to remind him when to take each. A week later she went over to check on him and discovered a full pill divider case. He had not taken any of his medicine in a week. He simply forgot.

Sister 1 & 2 and myself got together and decided we would call Dad every day at different times to remind him to take his medication. Where I am the furthest west, I take the 5pm and 7:30pm east coast shift. Sister 1 resides in Ohio so she and sister 2 take the earlier hours. So far this process has been working. Sometimes Dad will call a few minutes before the scheduled time and he doesn’t always bring up that he’s calling about his medication. It’s like a shadow in his mind. He knows we will be in touch but the connection to why isn’t always there.

Things seem to have gone downhill rather quickly for Dad. He told me a few weeks back he was seeing the dog in the house. I assumed it was one of the Yorkshire terriers he had to have put to sleep a while back. I assured him it was normal to think you may see a departed pet in the house out of the corner of your eye where you are so used to having them around. What he said next blew me away. The dog he was seeing was our family dog from when I was a teenager. That dog was put to sleep in 1994! Apparently hallucinations are a big part of this disease. I learned later from my sisters that he had also seen my Step-Mother, who passed from breast cancer in 2015.

Sister 1 and myself flew to Boston to assess the situation a little over a week ago. I took the red-eye out on a Thursday night and a cousin of mine drove me the next day to Dad’s. It had been well over 2 years since I had seen Dad. He is not prone to traveling and due to the damn pandemic, I had not been out to see him. He appeared to have aged quite a bit and was very thin. I stayed at Dad’s. Sister 1 stayed in a hotel.

The weekend wasn’t complete gloom and doom. We discovered Dad has great long term memory. He could remember quite a lengthy cellphone password and talked about people and places from years ago. We made it fun and went out to a Chinese restaurant, which was a pretty big deal when we were kids. Dad and I still have the tradition of going for Chinese when I am home. We wanted to empower Dad to make his own decisions. We asked him what he wanted to see happen if he reaches a point where he can no longer be at home. Thankfully he agreed to see an assisted living facility while we were visiting. We told him the decision was up to him.

That Saturday evening I went to go visit my Mother who lives in a neighboring town. On the way back to Dad’s I had this awful foreboding feeling. No matter how much I tried to reason with myself, I just couldn’t shake this. Maybe I was tired still from the flight. I didn’t really sleep. I parked the car Dad no longer drives in the garage, went upstairs, and walked silently by his room. The door was open and it broke my heart to see my Dad laying there like a frail child. I went to my room and shed a few tears. Sleep would not come. I called Jayel in Phoenix because his voice has had a soothing effect on me since the get go.

Around midnight I could hear Dad calling me outside the door. He was standing in the door way with a hand written list of his medications that Sister 2 placed together. He asked if it was time to take a dosage. I reassured him that he was done for the day and to go back to bed. He told me that I hadn’t told him he was done for the day earlier. He was right. I hadn’t. An hour later I heard water running. I figured he had gotten up to use the bathroom. A few minutes later I heard water running again. He also has prostate cancer so it is not uncommon for frequent trips to the bathroom. Ten minutes later there is a knock on my door. I get up as I’m still wide awake, and Dad is fully dressed for the day. A friend is supposed to come in the morning to take him grocery shopping and he thinks he’s missed him. I reassure him again that he hasn’t missed his friend and it is the middle of the night. Dad’s concept of time is completely missing and I don’t know how to help that.

The rest of the night I lay there listening. Is he wandering the house at night? My stomach growls and I jump. I don’t hear him for the rest of the night and am grateful he is getting some rest. The next day he apologizes about knocking at such a late hour. So his memory isn’t completely gone. He seems to be aware later something is amiss. There are times my sisters and myself feel helpless. There is only so much we can do but we want to do everything we can.

There are days I feel so angry when I think of what an incredible mind Dad had. He could fix anything and was working on computers long before it became normal for people to have them in their homes. As a child he would restore old cars in the garage below my bedroom. I would hear the sounds of tools and metal on metal late into the night. He’s only 75. This just doesn’t seem f*cking fair! I look at Jayel’s 81 year old Step Dad and he still drives back and forth between Arizona and Minnesota. My next door neighbor is in his 90s and fought in WWII. Although his body is failing him, his mind is as sharp as a tack. Where is the justice? I want to beat my fists on the floor like a foul-mouthed 4 year old.

The day before I leave I’m helping Dad with his suspenders. He’s grown so thin that he has started using these. I asked him if these were part of the ‘old man starter kit.’ He laughs and runs one fore finger over the other in a ‘tsk, tsk’ motion. He asks me if I remember us kids doing that growing up. Indeed I do. It was probably me that started it. When Sister 1 or 2 was being reprimanded by him I often stood behind him so only one of them could see me and would repeat that hand motion. The man can’t remember what time it is but he uncannily can remember something obnoxious I did growing up. Over the weekend I would cast a glance over at him and he would raise his hands in the ‘tsk, tsk’ motion. Karma apparently has caught up with me.

Dad asked me to come and stay with him. I knew I needed to. I flew back to Arizona emotionally drained and exhausted. When I returned to work I withdrew my application for job I had applied for. I spoke with my boss about going back and working from Massachusetts for a while to take care of Dad. She seem to think it would be okay. We had had a meeting earlier in the day where someone who apparently doesn’t know or care what it is I do all day decided to change things up in our schedules. I voiced that I could not commit to that schedule. At this point I was really ready to scream. Or tell someone or everyone to go f*ck themselves. Just one more thing.

So, mid-May I will go back to Massachusetts. After being alone through the whole pandemic I am feeling privileged to have this time with Dad. I will stay a month and will transport my computer equipment to his home. Jayel will come with me for a few days to help get things set up. This way I can help Sister 2 take Dad to doctor’s appointments and I can make sure he is eating something besides trail mix and instant oatmeal. Where they are 3 hours ahead, I won’t start work until 11am. I sure hope this helps. I heard Dad’s friends say there was marked improvement with him after our little family get-together last weekend. I hope this lasts.

The morning after I returned I was laying in bed in between that silvery gray state of sleep and consciousness when I could see Dad standing in front of me holding a prescription bottle of his medicine. He was asking me if it was time for him to take it. I opened my eyes and could swear I could still see him standing there. As I came to, I watched his image slowly disappear into a fading silhouette. I checked the time and it was only 3:15am here, 6:15am there. Oddly enough he had woken me up a day earlier at precisely the same time with the same question. One night he called me at 3:30am here asking about his medication. I didn’t get upset. Any time my Dad calls will be okay. The day is coming when that phone will no longer ring with him on the other end. I cherish that voice on the other line.

I had abandoned this blog several years ago when the urge to write had just left for a while. Throughout this experience I have felt the need for an outlet. Not just an outlet but a need for connection with others who may be experiencing this same thing with a loved one. Today I am just getting this off my chest. I find myself crying at odd times, like even the middle of the night. And I know I need to get my shit together soon because I cannot show up in Massachusetts an emotional wreck.

I want to create an area where I can share some of the research my sisters and myself have done on some of the effects of Dad’s medications. It turns out that his cancer treatment may effect his memory. These are things I want to share. If there are others that need support, I want to be able to help. I am fortunate enough to have two siblings to share this with. Not everyone is as lucky.

We live a pretty good life in Arizona so I will include that here too.

Ode to Moonlit hikes, Pterodactyls and Sushi

Thursday evening my friend Kat and I hiked under an almost full moon. This particular trailhead sits at the end of an industrial park.  While the parking lot is dark, there are street lights surrounding the nearby buildings.  As I sat in my car to wait for Kat, a lone coyote appeared under the light.  He seem to be frolicking in the grass.  A few minutes later, the sprinklers turned on.  What appeared to be play was most likely an attempt to get a drink of water.  There is something special about watching wildlife when they are out and about doing their normal thing.

night hikeKat arrived and we hit the trailhead.  I don’t think there are any pictures that could accurately describe the beauty of a moonlit desert at night.  Everything takes on a silvery tint.  We passed a few other hikers along the way but other than that we had the desert, and this beauty, all to ourselves.  We did a little over 4 miles and with the moonlight, we barely needed a light.  The mountain tops were silhouetted against the night sky, all aglow as if kissed by the moon.  I could have just sat on a rock for a good long while and just basked in all that wonderfulness.  It was so very peaceful.

We rounded one corner and heard the noise of an animal up on the ridge to our left.  We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from exactly.  It continued to squawk as we drew closer.   I asked Kat what she thought it was.  She responded calmly that is was probably a pterodactyl.  It was exactly what I would expect a pterodactyl to sound like, too.  I had this picture of a pterodactyl appearing up over the mountain with its wings darkening the sky.  Luckily these beings have been extinct for a gazillion years so the thought of this actually happening brought about fits of laughter.  So there was our run in with the so-called pterodactyl.  Ha!  We still never figured out what it really was.  Once we passed, whatever it was seemed to think the threat was gone and quieted down.  Dang pterodactyl.

We finished up our hike and headed out to a sushi restaurant that Kat enjoys.  It was a bit of a drive and an even longer drive home, but it was a really fun experience.  At this particular restaurant, you sit at a sushi bar while a conveyor belt moves around the perimeter of the bar.  On the belt are small plates featuring various types of sushi.  You grab what you want and then they charge you based on the color of plates you have left stacked up in front of  you.

In addition to sushi, they had deep-fried jalapenos filled with cream cheese (maybe because this is the Southwest?) and edamame.  I saw a pudding cup go by on a plate, as well as a single serving size of peaches in a plastic cup.  Bottled water was also served on a plate.  I’m assuming it was bottled water because the label was written in Kanji.

sushiYears ago I visited a restaurant in Cupertino, CA where the sushi floated by you in little boats.  A trough filled with water wound its way around the sushi bar.  I don’t remember the name of the place or know if it still exists.  We called it Screaming Sushi because one waiter would yell something and the rest would yell back.  I like this concept.  It was a good way to sample some sushi items that I would otherwise not order at a regular sushi restaurant.  It was very inexpensive, too!  Ten plates later and a bill around $10.  Not too shabby.

 

 

 

A Night of Exotic Olive Oil Tastings

A little over a year ago, a shop selling the most wonderful concoction of olive oils and vinegars opened in my neighborhood.  One of the services they offer are tasting parties.  I did this back in the Spring with a few friends and it was quite a success.  The only ask of the owners is that each person in attendance make one purchase of their items.  Last night I hosted yet another tasting party and it was another success.  The owners are incredibly kind so there is this feeling of being around friends.

How this whole shindig works is that I bring lots of different foods that are devoid of any dressings or oils.  Oil and vinegar samples are set up on a tall table in the center of the shop.  So once my friends pick out the food items from the buffet table they are then able to go up to where the samples are and try the different oils and vinegars to see what they like best.

For food last night, I brought spinach salad, strawberries, apple slices, bruschetta fixings and of course cheese and crackers.  For desert, I had pumpkin bread slices, brownie bites and vanilla ice cream.  And yes, all of these items can be enhanced with different oils and vinegars.  That was the biggest surprise to me.

Both strawberry and blueberry vinegars went great on the spinach salad.  The pumpkin pie flavored vinegar was amazing on the pumpkin bread.  Believe it or not, the chocolate raspberry vinegar was divine over vanilla ice cream.  I also enjoyed a banana-walnut-caramel vinegar over the ice cream.  Definitely a bananas foster taste without the added calories.  Who knew?

My favorite ended up being a lemon flavored olive oil drizzled over apple slices.  With baking season ahead this could be added into a number of things.  And finally, here is a recipe using the oil pictured here.

Lemon Oil

Ingredients:

  •  1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 cups plus 2 tbsp. flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp. Grand Marnier
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • lemon zest

Preparation

1.) Preheat over to 325.  Grease a 3″-deep round 9″ cake pan and the outside of a heavy 3″-deep 3″ ovenproof ramekin or bowl with butter, then dust with 2 tbsp. of the flour, tapping out excess. Put ramekin or bowl upside down in center of prepared pan.  Alternatively, grease an 11-cup Bundt pan with butter and dish with flour.  Set prepared pan aside (Guess you have two choices here).

2.) Beat eggs and sugar together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale yellow, about 1 minute.  Add remaining 3 cups flour, lemon zest, oil, milk and liqueur and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Add baking powder and stir until thoroughly combined.

3.) Holding ramekin or bowl firmly in place, spoon batter into prepared pan around ramekin or bowl or spoon batter into Bundt pan, if using, and smooth out top with the back of the spoon.  Bake until cake is deep golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Transfer cake to a wire rack to let cool completely, in its pan.

Dream Big

Okay, so it’s been over a year since I posted.  It’s really started to hit me that I need to get back.  For the past year I’ve been in deep thought but didn’t feel the need to record those thoughts.  Sometimes you just have to let it be.  So here I am.  I’m back.  Hopefully to stay this time.

A little over two weeks ago I finally made the decision to end my marriage for good.  I had been separated for almost two years and in that time I kept waiting to see what he’d do.  Of course nothing changed.  It’s funny how we can fool ourselves into thinking that if we give it enough time that it will work out.  When I was done being angry about the situation I grew very sad.  Maybe these were the so-called phases of acceptance of the situation.  After all, no one goes into a marriage with expectations of things ending several years later.  I sometimes wonder if there were things I could have done differently.  I’m not sure.  He had an addiction problem.  I can’t fix that although, my gosh, I tried.  I often told him that it was no different than my trying to wrestle a knife out of his hands so he wouldn’t hurt himself.

When I first moved to Arizona 12 years ago, I remember passing a billboard for a sign that made a divorce look like it was so easy you could go out and get one as if you were running to the store for milk and bread.  I thought it was insulting to marriage in general.  How disposable our society has become!  But here I was, in the same business 12 years later, and it was as easy as it sounded.  Just a few signatures later and voila!  Over.  A girlfriend came with me that day.  We entered the building that looked like it hadn’t had an update since 1987.  I gave the pertinent information and they advised me to return the next day once the paperwork was printed up.  I went on my lunch break the next day with the same girlfriend.  We sat in a room in front of desk that showed no sign of any personal aspects.  Just a cold plain room with an old newspaper clipping from 1996 mounted on a faded frame exulting the business to be made off of divorces.  I found it a bit insulting.

After realizing the paperwork printed was incorrect and waiting for the correct paperwork to be printed, I sat in the room and had this feeling of dread.  There was a deja vu feeling.  When had I felt this way before?  I remembered bringing Monsoon to the vet for the final time a little over two years ago.  I remember holding her precious ill body to my heart for the last time knowing that at any moment the vet tech was going to come in and take her from me for the last time.  That is how it felt.  In moments a woman was going to arrive with the correct paperwork and would end my marriage.  Ironically enough, on the day of the vets the ex couldn’t be there because he was working.  So he said.  Finding a charge on the bank statement a few months later revealed where he really was that day.  Heartless.

The door finally opened and a too cheerful of a woman arrived and set the paperwork in front of me to review and sign.  She commented on our handbags.  When she left I told my friend that they were way too happy for this.  She agreed.  In tears I signed the paperwork.  My heart felt so broken but on the way back to work I started to feel like a weight was taken off my shoulders.  He received the papers this past week and he took it better than I thought.

Anyway, in these past two years I have discovered so much about myself.  I’ve become an avid hiker and kayaker.  My attitude is so much healthier and I have met some wonderful people.  I’ve also weeded out some negative ones as well.  It was time.  Perhaps beyond time.  I talked to my Dad this past week.  He told me he was proud of me and that it was time I dream BIG.  Sound advice.

I look forward to getting back to blogging and reading blogs.

American Potato Salad Recipe

After spending years purchasing the store-bought stuff I finally decided to make my own potato salad.  The women in my family have always made marvelous potato salads from scratch.  My grandmother made the best.  Afterall, her family had been potato farmers.  I recall that she won a ribbon at a fair for her potatoes.  I don’t know why I have been reluctant to learn to make this.  Maybe it has just been too easy to purchase a plastic bucket at the grocery store because I had a coupon.  I found this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website.  It was quite enjoyable, not to mention easy to prepare.

 Potato salad combines wonderful textures and tastes if done right.  There’s something about the tang of vinegar and mayo, the crunch of the celery and onion, and then the star of the show, the potato itself!

 

 

 

 

Ingredients: 

-4 lbs russet potatoes (about 8)

-1 tblsp, plus 2 tsps of salt

-3 tblsps cider vinegar

-3 large eggs

-1/2 cup plus 2 tblsp of mayo

-1/2 tsp celery seed

-1 tsp dry mustard

-1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

-3 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)

-1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch dice (1/2 cup)

-1 medium onion, finely diced (1/2 cup)

-10 cornichons, cut into 1/4 inch dice (1/4 cup) -(these are actually mini gherkin pickles –I had to look these up online because I had no idea what a cornichon was!  Leave it to Martha.  😉  )

-3 scallions, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)

-2 tblsp freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

-1 tsp paprika

1.)Place potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover by several inches.  Bring to a boil over high heat, add 1 tbsp of salt, and lower to a gently boil.  Cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes.  Drain into a colander.  Using paper towels or gloves to protect your hands, peel potatoes, and cut into 1-inch dice while still hot.  Drizzle with vinegar; set aside. (I let the potatoes cool a bit and then ran them under cold water before handling –we don’t wear gloves in Arizona)

2.)Place eggs in a small pan with enough water to cover by 1 inch, and place over medium-high heat.  When water comes to a boil, turn off heat, cover, and let stand for 13 minutes.  Drain, and place in a bowl with cold water to cover.  When cold, peel eggs.  Chop 2 into 1/4-inch dice.  Slice the third egg into 1/4-inch thick rounds, and set aside for garnish.

3.)Combine diced eggs, mayo, celery seed, mustard, 2 tsps sale, and black pepper in a large bowl, and whisk to combine.  Add reserved potatoes to mayo mixture.  Add celery, red pepper, onion, cornichons (gherkins), scallions, and chopped parsley.  Stir to combine.  Chill for 30 minutes before serving.  Garnish with paprika and reserved hard-boiled egg rounds.

 

Serves 10 to 12.

Just as a note, I omitted the celery seed and the scallions and it still came out just fine.  Enjoy!

 

Observation Mode

This, by far, has been the longest I’ve ever gone without posting a blog since my first Vox post in 2008.  Blogging is an activity I usually am chomping at the bit to get to but lately I’ve had a hard time making myself sit and do it.  I’ve figured out that I am in observation mode right now.  Here’s what’s been up:

Little Girl Grown Up

In early June I visited my sister and her family in Ohio for a long weekend.  My niece was graduating from high school.  Both my parents showed which was one of the first times they had actually been in the same room together and had a decent conversation.  The trip proved to be bittersweet.  While happy for my niece, it seem sad for the rest of us who had watched her grow up.  She is the first niece/granddaughter in our family and we definitely had a hard time letting go and accepting the fact that she is now a young woman.  So here is this young woman who I used to hold and comfort when she was hurt and now she is holding the hand of her boyfriend.  He seem to be a decent sort.  The first night there she had him painting her nails.  Wonder what his buddies would think of that scene?  The day my family was scheduled to leave and return to their parts of the country, niece’s boyfriend hugged us all.  “Be good to her,” I told him.

Or I will find you, is what I was thinking.

   That evening after dark, we all went out into the front yard.  My niece lit a lantern and we stood by and watched as it lifted into the night sky, where it competed with the light of the full moon.  My brother-in-law’s eyes filled with tears.  There was something so symbolic about watching this beautiful light slowly lift and gently move across the sky.  In all honesty I was a bit concerned about this thing landing on someone’s roof eventually and catching on fire, however, we had no indication that this happened, thank goodness.

 

 

 

 

 

The Abby Chronicles

Abby and I seem to be on better terms lately.  The changes that have come about the past couple of months have been hard on both of us.  I realized that most of my attention was being bestowed upon the weasel because that is how it had always been.  Abby belonged to the ex.  Smokey belongs to me.  The Cesar Milan magazine did arrive.  In fact I have received two issues so far and have only flipped through one.  It’s ok.  Lots of pics of celebrities with their dogs, etc…  a bit of advice but nothing so far that would be fitting to the situation.  I’d like to say Abby and I have called a truce and have become actual friends.  It seems the more I give her the more she gives back.  Her anxiety seems to have lessened and I am grateful.  She really is a good dog.

Observing Singles in Their Natural Habitat

Athletica and I have joined a hiking group that meets every so often.  We either brave the heat here in Phoenix or we head up to the mountains where it is a bit cooler (which is a relative term).  I’ve done so much watching of people lately and observing their actions.  Most in the hiking group are single and in their 40s or early 50s.  What I get from various conversations I’ve had with people is that they are pretty much all divorced.  No one is looking for anything but simplicity right now.  It’s been interesting.  Athletica received an email through the group’s website from one of the guys.  “I think he just wants to be friends,” she says.  “No,” I tell her. “A man usually doesn’t reach out to a woman because he wants to be her friend.  Call me crazy but I don’t think it works that way.”  Its been a while for me though.  Maybe the rules have changed in the past decade?

After a hike in Sedona a few weeks back, a gentleman walking behind me proudly announced that he had taken a picture of my butt and would be posting it on the group website.  Not sure if he was kidding or not but it was one hell of a pick up line.  Needless to say I won’t be contacting him any time soon.  Lucky for him no such picture ended up on said website.  Interesting times.

Saying Goodbye to a Trainer and a Friend

 I joined this gym back in February.  In that timeframe I never sweated, hurt or pushed myself so hard as I ever did in my entire life than at this gym.  The alarm would be set for 3:45am so that I could make it there by 5am.  B. was one of those people who motivated others to push themselves just a bit harder each time.  There were days I would puke and there were days when the work outs were so tough I wanted to  literally cry out.  Friday, July 6th was the last time I worked out with B.  On the following Monday he went missing.  Tuesday night I received a text from Athletica that read, B. is dead.   While I won’t get into it here, I will say it was very tragic.  I watched his dream come to life at their grand opening back in October.  His goals were written on a white board in his office.  Many were checked off but there were so many more to be achieved.  There is a celebration of his life this weekend and then the gym doors will be closed forever.  Rest in peace, B!

Life In Motion

Athletica brought a friend along to a hike we did a few weeks ago who I had met several times before.  Matteo is someone who had been interested in her for a really long time but I’ve known that feeling hadn’t been reciprocated.  After the hike the three of us went out for coffee and chatted for a while.  I had invited the both of them to come a barbecue of a friend on the 4th of July.  Athletica had plans already but Matteo didn’t.  He brought his two grandchildren who I immediately adored.  He had children young and so did his son so he is a very young grandfather.  It was an enjoyable day but the kids were getting bored.  They left before the fireworks started.  Later in the evening I received a text from him thanking me for a nice time and wanting to know if I’d be up for a motorcycle ride over the weekend.  Matteo rides a Harley.  So how do I describe how this felt?  Let’s see: scared, adventurous, wtf?, thrilled, and ‘what the hell am I doing???’.  I wasn’t sure.  First we were supposed to go Friday and I canceled.  (What a chicken, right?)  So Saturday I gave in.  Afterall, I’m usually the first in line for every puke-inducing thrill ride at an amusement part.  How hard could it be to ride on the bike of a motorcycle.  And a Harley no less!

So Saturday evening he arrived at my house.  I could hear that bike coming from two miles away.  Dang, those things are loud!  I had been instructed to wear jeans and boots (yes, perfect for 100+ degree weather).  I threw my hair up in a pony tail and listened to instructions on how to ride on this thing without tipping it over (or falling off), and then we were off.  We drove up Central Ave., which is a street I’ve traveled on millions of times, and everything looked so different from this view.  The buildings seem pasted to the skyline.  Everything seem to sparkle.  We went to a blues club and I laughed so hard at just various things.  It felt like hearing your favorite song from your teenage years or something.  I felt that happy.  Later we took a ride through the desert which was so much cooler than driving through the concrete behemoths of Phoenix.  We drove by Camelback Mountain, which was beautiful at night.  I took a million snapshots in my mind and have relived them during the week while I’m working.

 

Well, the observation of this strange and new life of mine continues. . .

 

The Dog Days of Whatever

In ancient Greece the constellation, Sirius, represented the dog. It was believed that when this dog constellation was closest to the earth (July and August) that milk would spoil, men would be become weak, plants would wilt and women would become aroused. I’d seriously have to question that last one. Incidentally, this is what we refer to as the “dog days of summer”.

While we are still a few months away from the “dog days of summer”, I couldn’t help but wonder over this past weekend if this dog constellation, Sirius, had some strange cosmic effect over a certain canine in my household, not unlike how those that believe in horoscopes are affected by the stars and the alignment of planets.

Friday after work I decided to take my bike out for an evening spin before hitting the hay. I changed into the usual garb; t-shirt, shorts, sneakers. Abby decided that she had to come with me. This was just not going to happen. I am lucky I can chew gum at the same time as walking, let alone ride a bike while holding onto a leash. Uh-uh. Nothing doing.

My usually pleasant pooch was not having any part of this. I was trying to get the bike out of the house where it had been parked in the living room (one of the joys of living alone –you can park your bike wherever you please) and she was bolting for the door like the place was on fire. I caught her with my leg and pinned her against the wall where she struggled to get away from me and into the freedom of the front yard.

Somehow I got the kickstand on the bike down without her sneaking by me. To enhance the mental image of this evening, I have sketched the following cartoon:

After literally wrestling with her, I somehow made it out of the house. I could hear her now in the backyard where she ran out her doggie door and was howling her disapproval. The neighborhood dogs all seem to howl back in agreement which made for the ultimate guilt trip. I made my way down to the canals quite frazzled after that display. Not sure what got into her but she was hell-bent on getting out that front door. After one glorious hour pedaling away in peace, I returned home. The neighbors were in for the night and all was quiet. What the heck, I thought. I’ll let Abby out for a few minutes of freedom. I opened the door and before I could get a word out, she flew by me, all 4 paws disappearing into a blur. I may have seen a few sparks fly out from behind her as well. She bolted down to the greenway. Meanwhile, I parked my bike back in the living room and went out to wait for Abby’s return. She usually runs down to the greenway and returns after a few minutes, having gotten the run out of her system.

Up until her return I had been standing in the walkway in front of the house. I was happily updating my Facebook status via phone when I heard the unmistakable sounds of dog nails on asphalt. Abby spotted something and was in a dead run towards it. Turns out my neighbors thought this would be the opportune time to also let their dogs out for a leashless run. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the other dog, a good thirty pounds heavier than Abby, is her all time nemesis. Suddenly my sweet little puppy with the seal pup eyes had turned into this snarling, vicious, hound of hell. I dropped my phone (suddenly posting about what a great bike ride I had had seemed severely irrelevant) and headed towards the commotion. My usually mild-mannered neighbor was screaming over the snarling already in progress.

Both dogs had each other down on the ground. I reached for Abby who slipped out of my grasp like a greased pig. all the while my neighbor is yelling, “Get your f’ing dog! Get her!!!” No, not yelling. She was screeching. It was complete pandemonium. Neither dog was backing down. Said neighbor’s husband is now using his foot to try to separate the dogs. Nothing doing. Neighbor and I are encircling the dogs like referees at a boxing match. Finally, neighbor’s dog runs into the house. This is the end of it, I’m thinking. No! Abby follows the dog into the neighbor’s house. Neighbor is now screeching again like a banshee. “Get her out of my house! Get that f*ing dog out!” Finally Abby cowers on the floor. She must’ve come to her senses and realized that hey, this isn’t my house. What am I doing here??? Now her ears were pinned back and she looked truly defeated. I scooped her up and headed out towards home, but not before mumbling an apology to neighbor and her husband. Nothing was said in return. The only sound is that of their door slamming.

As soon as I set Abby down inside the house, she ran towards her bed. I glared at her which resulted in more pitiful looks and the pinning back of one’s ears. Then she grabbed what was left of an old rawhide bone and headed out to the safety of the backyard through the doggie door.

I took a deep breath, still shaking after that incident, and headed back over to neighbor’s house. I rang the doorbell with my heart beating in my throat. Neighbor came out and I asked if her dog was okay. Luckily the dog was. This is how I found out Abby and her dog were arch-rivals. Something the ex never let me in on. She apologized to me for how she acted and then hugged me. It was a relief.

Before heading off to a well-deserved rest that night I texted the ex that he may have a new visitor in that frozen waste-land he now calls home. Either that or she would be shipped off to a country where dog meat is still seen as a delicacy.

On Saturday afternoon, while out and about, the ex texted me that he has something for me (paperwork for a quickie Mexican divorce perhaps? -No, one couldn’t be so fortunate). After reviewing my texts of woe, he had decided to sign me up for a subscription to Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer’s magazine, Cesar’s Way. At first I thought he was joking. No, this was no joke. I got the email to prove it the next day. Why not something I would actually read like, Women’s Running or Real Simple, or Is Your Ex Really That Clueless?

Oh, I am just waiting with bated breath for my first issue! Believe you me!

Abby seem to know she had done wrong. She sulked about the house for the rest of the weekend and didn’t give me a hard time again when leaving. I suppose dogs, like people, have their days. About 1am today I woke to the sounds of her nails on the tile as she entered the bedroom. Usually she doesn’t stray too far from her dog bed at night but last night was different. It actually sounded like she was tiptoeing in as not to wake me or the weasel. She leapt up on the bed, licked my shoulder and nestled down next to me in the crook of my knees.   A rare event in the Monsoon household.

Perhaps even Orion suffered through a few dog days with Sirius.

“Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky

On summer nights, star of stars,

Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest

Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat

And fevers to suffering humanity.”

-Homer in The Illiad