Monday, January 15, 2018

Up In Arms!

On a bright Saturday morning nearly eight years ago now, I received a phone call from my brother, Dan, begging me to come to his house, it was an emergency. I quickly dressed, grabbed the car keys and flew out the door. Normally it would have taken me about 20 minutes to get to Homestead, but I swear I was at his back door in ten. Since the door was locked, I peered into the window, but could only see the kitchen table and my brother's empty chair. I ran to the neighbors and asked to use their phone. I called 911 and in very short order the police and paramedics arrived.When they busted the door down, my brother was lying on the dining room floor with the phone still in his hand. He was already blue and nothing could be done to save him. I believe I was the last person to talk to him before he died. 

Since I was his only sibling, his wife in a nursing home, and his son in jail, and me being the executor of his will, it was my job to dismantle his home. After we buried him, my hubby, Barry, and I began packing up everything that could be salvaged. As we cleared out each room, we trashed outdated and unusable items and only saved a few cherished pieces.

While my husband was in the kitchen, I lifted the mattress in the master bedroom and found a 38 revolver. I knew Dan purchased a gun many years ago when his son first started using and selling drugs. He always said it was better to be safe than sorry. Just the sight of the weapon made me nauseous, and yelled for Barry to come to my assistance. We were glad to have found it though, since my nephew was due to be released soon and might have gotten his hands on it. We took the revolver home that day and have kept it under lock and key.

Fast-forward to last week. A friend on Facebook was looking for a few people who might be interested in taking a firearms course. If she could get a group together, the cost for each would be discounted by 25%. Over the years, I had actually inquired about getting the gun registered in my name. Nobody seemed to know exactly how to go about it, so I figured it wasn't meant to be. But when I asked if she had any knowledge regarding registration, my friend suggested I call the place where the course was being offered. I was told that since I was the executor of my brother's will, legally I was the owner and registrant of the gun. There was nothing more I needed to do according to the law.

My first one-on-one lesson with a certified instructor is scheduled for this week. What happened to all the squeamishness I suffered when I found the gun those many years ago? Well, let's just say that after watching the news every single night I've come to the same conclusion my brother did, it's better to be safe than sorry! Immoral people, addicts, and the mentally-ill are up in arms now, carrying guns to wreak havoc on anybody they deem a threat.

My nephew, who has been in state prison for seven years, will be released this November. He used to be a sweet kid with a drug disease, but after all the time he's spent with hardened criminals, who knows what he's become. Since I'm his only living adult relative, although I've made it very clear that he isn't welcome in my home until he receives help, most likely he'll look me up. Sadly this fact alone is enough for me to become adept at using a firearm for my own protection.

From now on, I will be up in arms, but for no other reason that to ensure my safety as well as the safety of the people I love. My home is my sanctuary, and I will not allow anybody to violate it. I plan to learn every aspect of this revolver,  how to handle, load, maintain, and, yes, even fire it if the need arises.

There are those who strongly disagree with my decision, but I think that in today's world, being up in arms is not only a good idea, but a necessity. Possessing a weapon, knowing how to use it, and always being aware of your surroundings is wise in this day and age. To stick your head in the sand and be in denial is foolishness. The choice is yours!

Blessings and Peace



Monday, January 8, 2018

Soup! It's Not Just For Lunch Anymore!


Yes, my New Year's resolution is to lose weight....again! However this time I'm super pumped because my hubby and I are going to Switzerland in September to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, and there's absolutely no way those 'Swiss Misses' are going to look hotter than yours truly!

The biggest problem I've always had when starting a diet was what to eat for breakfast. No matter what I had chosen in the past, it was not beneficial to weight loss. Donuts, danish (just kidding), a bagel, toast with peanut butter, even cooked oatmeal left me hungry at 10:00 and from that moment on I'd opt for high calorie foods for the rest of the day.

About a month ago, I was invited to a juice bar in Irwin called 'The Green Berry' (209 Third Street), and introduced to Jen, the owner and operator of this cozy shop. Jen not only makes some of the most delicious smoothies I've ever tasted, but she's always willing to answer any questions about the ingredients used, the healthy benefits of eating fruits and veggies, and where to go on the web for free recipes to try at home.

Saturday before last, while waiting for Jen to prepare my order, I complained about not knowing what a 'good breakfast' consisted of. "Soup," she said emphatically! Making a pot of vegetable soup with some ginger and turmeric is not only filling, but has the right properties to aid in weight loss."

I'd never ever thought of soup as a breakfast food. I went on 'Medical Medium.' a website Jen suggested, and found the recipe, 'A Healing Broth,' which consists of sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, tomatoes, ginger, turmeric and water. The only thing I did differently when making this soup was to substitute chicken broth for the water, but don't believe any negative repercussions have resulted from the exchange. I made it on New Year's Eve and have lost 5lbs. in seven days.

For lunch Jen suggested smoothies and again provided two terrific websites for a variety of healthy recipes. 'Oh She Glows' and 'Fully Raw Kristina' offer plenty of choices from which to choose so you don't become bored with lunchtime meals.

For dinner I have a protein, lots of veggies, and even a single portion of something starchy.

Around 8:00 in the evening, I'll have a cup of  'skinny popcorn'. I'm never hungry and am delighted with the quick results I've seen on the scale!

I truly believe it's the SOUP, my first meal of the day, that sets me up for success.
According to Jen, there are several cookbooks on Medical Medium loaded with lots of soup and smoothie recipes! I intend to order one or two before the day is over!

I'll keep you informed of my progress periodically, and all I can say is, 'LOOK OUT, SWISS MISSES, because this HOTTIE is coming to town!

Monday, January 1, 2018

MY NEW YEAR'S WISH FOR YOU!

You are so lucky to have lived through another year becoming a better person, growing, learning, laughing, and living every single day the best way you know how!

With the arrival of 2018, you’ve been given the chance to live yet another year to become a better person, growing, learning, laughing, and living every single day the best way you know how!

I have faith that you believe in yourself enough to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and turn each one into a fruitful success.

I earnestly hope you don’t take life too seriously, but rather see the humor in your mistakes and be able to graciously laugh at yourself. 

 And I truly love you simply because you are!

I wish you Blessings and Peace of mind, body and spirit for the ensuing 365 days! Happy New Year!

MY NEW YEAR’S WISH FOR YOU!

Beautiful dreams,
Loving relationships,
Exotic adventures,
Spiritual renewal,
Spellbinding surprises,
Intellectual curiosity,
Nature’s best,
Gentle breezes,
Sunshine and roses!

            AND

Playful pleasures,
Eventful moments,
Ambitious aspirations,
Calming seas,
Energy of life!

Love ya’ll 

Monday, December 11, 2017

CLINICAL DEPRESSION: What does that mean?


There is a horrendous disease out there killing folks of all ages because it is taboo to talk about in social gathering or even at the family dinner table. First let me present the official definition and symptoms for clinical depression taken from the Mayo Clinic files: 
What does the term "clinical depression" mean? Answers from Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.
Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the more-severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn't the same as depression caused by a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder.
To diagnose clinical depression, many doctors use the symptom criteria for major depressive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Signs and symptoms of clinical depression may include:
  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Symptoms are usually severe enough to cause noticeable problems in relationships with others or in day-to-day activities, such as work, school or social activities.
Clinical depression can affect people of any age, including children. However, clinical depression symptoms, even if severe, usually improve with psychological counseling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two.
Now I will tell you about clinical depression from my own personal experience not to solicit sympathy, but rather to shine a light on the reality of recovery. In 1983, I began having serious symptoms in my neck and shoulder areas. In addition to severe pain, my neck muscles involuntarily twisted so that my head  stayed turned to the right. This caused me to lose my balance, making it impossible to walk or drive. My shoulders ached because of the awkwardness of my head positioning. At first I went to my family doctor who prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine, and ice and heat treatments. After two weeks with no change, my hubby and I sought help from several neurologists. After being pricked, scanned, blood tested, and a ten-day stay in the hospital, none of these men and women could come up with a diagnosis. One told my husband that I was suffering from a degenerative muscular disease that would ultimately kill me in six months. 
It was with that dire announcement that severe depression kicked in. Besides my husband, I had three children that needed me and I was totally useless. I stayed in bed 24/7 in the dark, refused to eat or have any human contact, and had thoughts of suicide. When I looked into the mirror, I didn't see my 'self' anymore, just a hollowed out shell of what once was a person. About three months into this hell, in the wee hours of the morning, I quietly opened my secret stash of pills, spilled a pile of them into my hand, and proposed these two choices: swallow them all and be relieved of my suffering, or face up to the fact that this was my 'new normal' and make the best of it. I threw the pills up against the closet door and watched them rain down like snowflakes, rolled out of bed, crawled to the stairs and slid down to the main floor on my butt. Upon reaching the kitchen. I pulled myself onto a chair and waited for the household to stir. Needless to say, everyone was more than surprised to see me sitting there. By no means did this one act eradicate my depression, but it was a start.
From that day on, it was my mission to find out exactly what I had and to find ways to either cure or curb the symptoms connected with it. Dr. Zorb, a neurosurgeon in Oakland who couldn't identify the muscular abnormality, encouraged me to see a psychologist since he believed certain diseases can be mentally induced. After being diagnosed with clinical depression, for two years of talk therapy with an amazing psychologist, biofeedback, and the right dosage of an antidepressant, the depression as well as the physical torment faded, and I was able to go on with my life! Was it easy? HELL NO! Was it worth it? HELL YES!
In 2000, my symptoms reappeared, but this time I was ready to be proactive. I researched online and found a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic who specialized in cervical dystonia, my condition finally had a name!.  After a thorough evaluation, Dr. Walter began Botox injects in my head and neck, which relaxed the muscles so that the twisting subsided. To-date I still receive these shots  every three months at UPMC, Oakland. 
As far as the depression goes, when my symptoms reoccurred, I immediately sought out a therapist and began sessions again. Within three months, my depression all but disappeared and hasn't been a problem since. However, because I never again want to find myself in that cold, dark hole, a place without hope or allowance for human comfort, I continue to take a maintenance dose of an antidepressant and most likely always will. 
I tell you my story so that when you personally or others you know and love are faced with the two choices that I contemplated those many years ago, you will choose the latter. If I hadn't, I'd have missed out on some of the most awesome times of my life.  Depression is an illness like cancer or diabetes. It is nothing to be embarrassed about, and can be treated so that you can return to the living. Don't give in to the desperation, be your own activist, and emerge a winner! If I could do it, so can you!

Blessings and Peace!

One last note: Depression heightens during the Christmas holidays. Be vigilant especially towards folks who seem disconnected from family and festivities. Make a little extra time to be there for them in supportive and caring ways.










Monday, December 4, 2017

My Most Meaningful Christmas Present

One day this week, someone posted this question on Facebook, "What was the most meaningful Christmas present you ever received?" Answers ranged from a return to health to a jet black Jaguar and everything in between. No matter what you perceive to be the gift you'll always treasure beyond all others, that special something is always tied to a specific time and place in your life.

Christmas Eve was a very sacred event in our family when my brother and I were growing up. Since we lived in Zedo's house, naturally his rules on this day were religiously upheld. No one other than the immediate family members were permitted to enter the house and sit down for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Once seated with Zedo at the head of the table, Baba to his right, and the rest of the guests gathered according to seniority, Zedo would pray in Slovak, then lift his shot glass to wish his wife, children, their spouses, and his grandchildren a blessed Christmas. The adults did likewise as they toasted Zedo in return. Next every child would stand and recite Christmas wishes in Slovak. Zedo and Baba would beam with pride to listen to us, perhaps going back in their minds to their childhoods when they'd done the same so long ago.

(Since we all attended Catholic school, the nuns began teaching us a festive speech early in November. No two classes ever learned the same greeting for that particular year.)

The women would then return to the kitchen to bring out the mushroom soup. Everyone received a small bowl and ate the sour mixture in silence. We were told that the meaning behind the soup was a reminder of the suffering we all must face in life. And since it wasn't the most pleasant-tasting soup in my opinion, the suffering started right then and there, at least for me!

When the bowls were removed, traditional favorites like babalki, langosh, navy beans, and fish were passed around the table and enjoyed along with happy conversation and boisterous laughter. At the end of the meal, Zedo again said a prayer of thanks, and after hugs and kisses, everybody returned home. Those who left would be back on Christmas Day to gather around Zedo's table once more, this time including some very special family friends.

As clean-up got underway, my brother and I were told to go upstairs, get into our jammies, and jump in bed! Nobody had to tell us twice on this Night of Nights!
About an hour or two later, we'd hear a loud bang and run to the top of the stairs. Zedo would be standing at the bottom, smiling and pointing to all the presents surrounding the 8ft. tall tree he'd cut and trimmed just days ago.

I know it's taken me a while to get to my most meaningful Christmas present, so here goes. Instead of rushing to see who's name was on the largest package like my brother, I'd immediately go to my stocking hanging from the mantle. It was about two feet long and always contained the same things each and every year until we were practically in our teens. There would be a coloring book, a fresh box of crayons, a drawing pad, pencils, gloves, socks, candy canes, AND MY MOST MEANINGFUL CHRISTMAS PRESENT, the largest, roundest orange I'd ever seen that smelled absolutely heavenly! It was always on the very top of the stocking so I could see its brilliant color peeking out as if to say, 'Merry Christmas, sweetheart, and a Blessed and Peaceful New Year!' I would hold it gently in both hands and kiss its sweet skin. Just looking at this simple piece of fruit brought tears to my eyes, yet put a smile on my lips.

The orange had and still does have a special place in my heart since it was my Dad's favorite fruit. Baba told me that he'd even eat the peels!

Merry Christmas, Dad, and a Blessed and Peaceful New Year!
Always and forever!

One last note on our Christmas Eve dinner: By today's standards, our family's traditional meal would be considered a 'poor man's' sustenance, but we felt like royalty at my Zedo's table!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

My Favorite Time of Day

I'm a morning person, always have been, so for me my favorite time of day is very early when the light begins its ascent in the eastern sky. I'm usually outside with my dog breathing in crisp, fresh air and looking up at the stars. I'm an old hand at spotting the Little Dipper and the North Star, which by the way, isn't the brightest one in the heavens as many of you have been led to believe. Its astronomical name is 'Polaris' and can be found by locating the last nova at the tip of the ladle's handle.

Before coming back into the house, I like to play this little game of trying to witness the appearance of dawn from the start. Funny thing though, because I take a few seconds to check on Shadow, pull a weed, or inspect a brown patch of grass, more often than not, I seem to miss daybreak's arrival altogether. 'Dawn', my latest attempt of poetic expression, gives you a more eloquent explanation of this unusual ritual, and I included it at the end of this post for your perusal.

Once inside, it's the silence that I absolutely love! The peace and quiet allow me to pray, meditate, and center myself without interruption. It's my own personal time to assess my 'self' identifying the areas which need a little work; it's my own personal time to get in touch with the Spirit within; and it's my own personal time to reflect on what I'm being called to do.

Since I'm up between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m., I have plenty of 'alone' time. Drinking that first cup of coffee and reading the newspaper while listening to the gentle breathing of my dog as she takes her early morning nap, is priceless! I wouldn't trade these special moments of my day for all the gold found in a rich man's house.

During the early morning hours, I also spend time writing. Whether doing a post for my blog, working on a new book, or just dabbling in poetry, this is when my mind is the clearest, my imagination, most creative, and my resolve to complete a story or poem is at an all-time high.

After three hours of precious silence, the creak of footsteps above me signals that the end is nigh. With the sound of running water, I know hubby is awake and will soon be coming down the stairs with a smile and a happy greeting. If I must forfeit the treasured moments of the early morning, giving them up to seeing my better half, sharing the newspaper, and talking about our plans for the day is well-worth the sacrifice. Besides, there's always tomorrow!

As promised, here is my latest poem, 'Dawn'. Comments and critiques are welcomed.


                                                                                                                  Dawn


Sitting and waiting,
Facing the East
Determined,
I will not fail.

Time passes slowly,
Like forever.
Steadfast though,
I dare not blink.

A mere distraction
Robs my resolve.
Yet again,
I’ve missed my chance.

   Far in the distance,  
Dawn has appeared.
Quietly,
Her presence made.

Strokes of light color
Splashed ‘cross the sky,
Replacing
The blackest clouds.

Yellow and orange,
Some white, some blue,
Gradually
She ousts the night.

Softly and subtle,
Her kind rays glow
Unassuming,
But far from weak.

Amazingly strong,
So bold her intent,
Arming all
With hope and promise.

As Day brings the sun,
Dawn’s gift remains,
Replenished
Possibility.

Perhaps tomorrow…

Sitting and waiting,
Facing the East
Hopefully,
Her coming, I’ll see!


          Enjoy your day, no matter what part of it is your favorite! Blessings and Peace!













Monday, November 6, 2017

MAKING LOVE vs HAVING SEX!

During a recent episode of the Dr. Phil Show, a divorced couple railed at each other's lack of parenting skills with regards to their thirteen year old daughter. The father's expectations of the girl included making good grades, following house rules, and abstaining from drugs, alcohol and sex. On the other hand, the mother allowed, even encouraged her child to quit school, smoke weed, drink, and have sex. Her main objective was to be a friend to her daughter not a parent!

Initially, the mother's lack of healthy parenting skills angered me, but upon further consideration, I concluded that she had gone astray and was in need of a serious wake-up call before she lost her precious daughter to drugs, alcohol, and sex forever.

Today's post is my attempt to deal with just one aspect of this dire situation, having sex too young and for all the wrong reasons.  I feel compelled to define both making love and having sex by utilizing simple metaphor. My hope is that their differences will be evident, one, a sacred union between two people who love and respect one another, and one, a human drive that once met dissipates until the next urge arises.

****************************************************************

Yesterday, since we were having company for dinner, I decided to make one of my famous apple pies. I began by gathering all the ingredients needed for the crust: flour, salt, Crisco, butter, ice water, vinegar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. After placing everything on the counter, I went in search of my huge mixing bowl.
I'm never quite sure where I'll find things because when my hubby empties the dishwasher, if he doesn't know where something belongs, he tends to put it in the most unusual of places! Eureka! Found it exactly where it was supposed to be. "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!"

First I measured out the flour and salt and, after sprinkling in a whisp of sugar and cinnamon, mixed everything into the bowl. I eyeballed the recipe's amount of Crisco and softened butter and added them in. Using a pie crust cutter, I furiously worked the concoction until tiny, pea-sized balls began forming. Once I'd completed that process, I dropped a tablespoon of vinegar into the ice water and poured small amounts of the liquid over the 'peas' while stirring them with a fork. In a few minutes, a cream-colored dough ball emerged, and after cutting it in half, wrapped each smaller ball in waxed paper and stuck both in the fridge for an hour.
If using vinegar in pie crust seems odd to you, try it just once and I guarantee you'll never go without it again. My Baba swore that the vinegar made her crusts flakier, and only divulged her secret to a chosen few. Consider yourselves chosen!

Now for the filling. Upon opening the fruit bin, I discovered there were no apples! I knew I purposefully bought two bags on Thursday to make the pie. Before I could question him, my hubby retrieved the fruit from the hall closet asking, "Where do you want me to put these?"
You can guess where I'd like to have suggested he put them, but I graciously refrained from doing so. 

After washing and peeling a combination of Gala and Granny Smith apples, I doused them with water and lemon juice which keeps the fruit from turning brown  (another technique my Baba taught me). I then placed them in another large bowl, added a handful of sugar, cinnamon, and corn starch and blended everything altogether and set them in the fridge, too.

Since the 'chilling' hour hadn't yet lapsed, I had time to clean off the counter, get out my rolling pin (actually I still have the one my Baba used), prepare the glass pie pan by spraying it with PAM, and place two pieces of waxed paper adjacent to one another which I use as a dough board.

Next I carefully removed one ball from the fridge, placed it onto the waxed paper, and trying to handle it as gently as possible since the heat from your hands can actually change the molecular make-up of the dough, covered it with another sheet of waxed paper and began rolling away. After achieving the desired pie shape, I lifted the top sheet off, picked up the dough by the bottom layer of waxed paper, and deposited it into the prepared pan.

It was time to add the filling. While in the fridge, the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch intermingled, forming a kind of syrupy liquid which is exactly what you should expect. Using my hands, I palmed every last bit of mixture into the shell and dotted it with pats of butter and set it aside while I tended to the upper crust. Once finished, I positioned it atop the juicy filling, gingerly squeezing the edges of the two crusts together to prevent seepage.
Again these little things were handed down to me from my Baba, who was the smartest woman I ever knew!

Finally I set the oven temperature to 410 degrees, and the timer for 20 minutes. While preheating, I brushed the top shell with egg whites.When the oven signaled 'ready', I placed the raw pie on the middle shelf and waited for the magic to happen. When a second ping sounded, I lowered the temperature to 375 degrees, again programmed the timer for an additional 25 minutes, and when finished, eagerly anticipated the emergence of a picture-perfect apple pie!  Lastly, I removed the pie from the oven and placed it on the cooling rack where it would remain until after dinner .

With our company's arrival, squeals of delight penetrated the air. They were enticed by the tantalizing aroma of apple pie, and had no qualms about expressing their elation.  "We knew you'd make one of your famous apple pies," one guest exclaimed, "You're the best!"

After enjoying dinner and meaningful conversation, I served each one at the table a piece of pie topped with vanilla ice cream. I watched as they took their first bites, and was extremely gratified upon seeing their smiles of contented satisfaction.

Although from start to finish, it took me about three hours to prepare, bake, cool and delight our company's taste buds, in my opinion, it was time well-spent!

AND THIS MY FRIENDS IS THE MEANING OF MAKING LOVE! (metaphorically speaking)

*****************************************************************

Yesterday, since we were having company for dinner, I decided to buy an apple pie. I drove to the store, found a stack of humdrum choices, paid way too much for one, returned home, ripped the pie out of the box, set it on a plate and shoved it in the fridge. When our company arrived, the whiff of Febreze for Pets floated in the air causing one guest to remark, "How old is Shadow, now?"

After a dinner devoid of meaningful table conversation, I attempted to serve each of our guests dessert. Two of the women refused, one complaining of a headache, the other saying she was on a diet. All the men, however, woofed down the cardboard crust and canned filling in seconds. One even had the audacity to quip, "Hey, how about another piece?"

From start to finish excluding the shopping trip, it took no more than five minutes to unbox, plate, slice, and serve this facsimile of a pie, and in my opinion, was definitely far too much time spent on something that offered little in the way of satisfaction! I didn't see any smiles either!

AND THIS MY FRIENDS IS THE MEANING OF HAVING SEX! (metaphorically speaking except for the headache and being on a diet part )


I'm not sure if my simple metaphor to explain the differences between making love and having sex brings home my intended message, but for the sake of that child and her misguided mother, I had to try.

As parents, our primary job is to RAISE our children, NOT BEFRIEND them!