Popping The Cork for 2022

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Wowza it’s been a couple of weeks! I’m just now literally exhaling (e.g. relaxing) from the whirlwind of all the holiday activity.

The house was practically bursting at the seams with family and friends. It was truly lovely to have sis and family make the excruciatingly long drive from Northern Virginia for their first Florida visit. Though sis said it was to see us settled in our new home , I’d say (wink, wink) they visited (earlier than anticipated) to see their second grandchild who had entered the world just six weeks earlier. My brother-in-law was bowled over with love the second he laid eyes on his granddaughter and his radiating joy while holding her truly lit up the entire room. My daughter and her husband also made the trek, via airplane, from Chicago. The duo brought with them fabulous cheeses from Chicago’s Eataly for our noshing pleasure as well as cooked up a steam in my kitchen preparing delicious fare including from scratch Foccacia with fresh herbs and savory sweet potatoes Au gratin from our favorite Ottolenghi cookbook. Not to sit by idly, my nephew, who at thirteen is growing increasingly adept in the kitchen, whipped up a couple of pies (one Key Lime and one pumpkin), my sis made her delicious meat sauce for our meat lasagna, while I prepared Marcella Hazan’s fabulous vegetable lasagna. Later, the guys inaugurated our new outdoor grill–grilling a hefty sized eye of round to melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

While our area–sorely lacking in good restaurants– did not particularly thrill my daughter, a three-hour sunset kayaking tour through mangroves did. We all had a Christmas Eve blast–as well as a good workout–navigating through a dense mangrove forest and a myriad of water trails on the Indian River that had us in a twist as to sense of direction. No siree-Bob… I was not (ahem) one bit afraid of the approaching blanket of complete darkness. Let’s just say ’twas a very good thing we had an excellent guide as I suspect we’d all still be trying to find our way out of the maze of waterways! Unfortunately, during our kayaking adventure we did not manage to see manatees as they opted for warmer locations on the Banana River, a thirty-one mile lagoon between Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island. Nor were we lucky enough to spot dolphins that frolic in the area…however, watching the sun set over the water was spectacular!

A Merry Christmas Eve adventure looking for manatees and other creatures

We did have one surprising visitor that had us laughing in delight. Imagine our shock at finding Glorfindle-the-Christmas Elf hanging out in our pool just days before Christmas! Of course we were concerned that he’d forgotten sunscreen but that mattered not; he seemed to enjoy five days of pool time, each day in a different pool floatie and I’m certain he was happy not to have to wear a mask! Miraculously too he managed not to get eaten by The Poodle!

Glorfindle visits the free state of Florida!

After family left I’ll admit to feeling mighty blue for the day. The house was quiet once again and The Poodle was depressed too without his best friend Nica to pal around with. To get my head out of my heartache for a spell I cleaned like a fiend. Out the door went another three containers to the donation center! After all that work we popped the cork for 2022, making it ’til well past midnight, with sincere hopes to an end of mandates and other such madness happening around the world.

Finally, on New Year’s day after a scrumptiously delicious meal of Lentils and spicy sausage I took down the tree, shedding a nostalgic tear or two as I went about carefully packing away my prized tree ornaments. I couldn’t bring myself to pack away Flora the Flamingo that sis had brought us. She’ll sit in outside on the patio, at least for awhile longer, because…well….it brings a certain amount of bliss to my day.

And, speaking of bliss; for this new year, do something, no matter how big or small, that brings any amount of bliss to your day. I for one hope that a Rumi saying helps guide me even an inch forward this year. That would be something!

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love; It will not lead you astray


It’s Gonna Be a Martini Night

It’s a sunny day in my neck of the woods. The winter sky is a stunning blue with wisps of white clouds here and there. I’m thinking of a multitude of things as I walk at a fast clip in a effort to stay warm. Still, the cold penetrates my mittens and I find myself constantly trying to stave off numbness and tingling in my fingers. Oh how I dislike the cold but honestly, with Raynauds, I could be living in 105-degree desert heat and walk into an air-conditioned building and the cold effects on fingers and toes would feel just like a walk in the woods on a crisp-cold winters’ day.

Principally, more than usual, thoughts turn to my mother on this day which would have been her 84th birthday. She left us four years ago and yes, though ours was a messy complicated relationship, I miss her. She was an unusual flower–belonging really, in a totally different universe…on a different planet perhaps. She added distinct bursts of color to a somewhat drab world. She certainly did not fit into the world she found herself in when she married my father. I’d venture to say my mamma (nor my father, for that matter) should never have had children…or, at the very least, she should have waited until her thirties. I’ve definitely got some baggage from both parents. But as God is my witness, though it took over forty years, I’m ever so grateful for my scars. It’s made me who I am and given me a resilience to which the snowflakes of this generation (and those past) could not even begin to hold a candle.

Mamma was a force of nature and mighty opinionated. I’ve lost count of how many times she’d say something inappropriate or cringe-worthy, and often in public, and yet sometimes I secretly admired her unabashed directness. She didn’t care a wit about political correctness or what the “Jones’s” might think. I’ve thought a great deal about my mamma during this past year, one that has been fraught with violence, cancel culture, pernicious woke-ness, deep political divide and all topped by a global pandemic. I’ve held many conversations in my mind with mamma as to what she’d have to say about Trump or his often ridiculous tweets or all the destruction and mayhem in cities across the U.S. I think we’d surely disagree with each other on some topics as she would be all-in for Trump, as opposed to my more measured (dare I say, balanced) opinion. I imagine too that some conversations would surely get a little heated and would end, as often would, with a dismissive wave of the hand, an eye roll, and a “whatever.” And, oh boy….I just cannot envision mamma wearing a mask even if her life depended upon it. She’d likely would have spit bullets and forgo doctor appointments and the like rather than don a mask to go out. I almost feel it’s a Godsend that she left us well before the world turned upside down with such venomous discord and tribalism, as well as the devastating effects of a pandemic. She would have listened to the news non-stop and it would have only served to heighten her agitation, and those around her. I could be wrong in all of this; she could be looking down on us from above in horror as to how the world seems to be teetering on its axis or she could be blissfully unaware sipping a martini on the rocks before playing something lovely on her white baby grand piano.

I struggle to erase the last vision I have of mamma. Unfortunately it was in a hospital and she was on a ventilator. Her face was terribly bruised from the fall she had suffered the day before in her apartment. She never regained consciousness from that fall. I often refer to one of my favorite recent photos of her but still…the image of her connected to tubes in a hospital bed superimposes on anything that I look at. I keep hoping that this will pass as the years go on.

Mamma gave me a love of classical music so on my walk this morning I listened to a few of her favorites–Chopin, Albinoni and Beethoven, just to name a few, as I walked down the path leading to the small neighborhood lake. I looked for beavers and was disappointed again. The family seems to have found new digs this year; we haven’t seen them in ages. But a heron has come back to grace the banks of the lake and it is there that I paused this morning, with eyes teary and a body weary from all that has happened this year. I love you mamma I say aloud as I looked out over the water and took in the quiet majesty of the heron.

I think of words by a young poet:

“Some broken vases can still hold beautiful flowers”.

Munia Khan

Even with a relationship marked by voids, I hold that unique flower that was my mother in my heart and soul and yes, I miss her dearly. So I say: Happy Birthday Mamma. Tonight we’ll raise a glass to you.

Martinis, with three olives, were her favorite. I’d like to think she is enjoying endless martinis in heaven as well as colorful conversations with her favorite personalities.

Golden Rule Moments…

It’s never an easy thing to spend time visiting someone in a continuing care facility, though I have to admit the place in Arizona where my mom spent the last year and a half of her life was pretty close to a five-star resort–and therefore, actually a lovely place to visit.  For example, the spacious marble-floored halls on the main level were adorned with works of art fit for fine museums.  Holiday brunch was a dress-to-the-nines affair and the food was fantastic.  On one visit I got to swim in one of two large saltwater pools.  At this “convent” as my mother would inexplicably call it, there was even a beautiful, fully stocked bar –resort-worthy–where residents could enjoy evening–or, more accurately,  early afternoon, libations.  In a grand ball-room, monthly entertainment featured chorale and quartet performances as well as guest speakers, solo musicians, dancers, poets, authors…basically, all sorts of talented, top-notch performers.

Alas, five-star living is not in the cards for Rocket-man’s mother who is now in a memory care unit for dementia.  The facility is in a small country community outside of Pittsburgh.  I won’t name names, but apparently the company boasts the following on their website:  “Proud recipient of the 2018 Best of Senior Living Award from SeniorAdvisor.com the largest ratings and reviews site for senior care and services in North America. To qualify for this award, you must be the best of the best in senior care, based on online reviews written by seniors and their families.”

Without going into details, let’s just say I disagree. 

Okay…I will admit that is not altogether fair to compare the two care facilities; it’s an apples and oranges kind of thing.  But I also base my Opine on the fact that I worked as a marketing assistant in a continuing care facility some years ago and while it wasn’t five-star resort worthy it was, hands down, a far better place than the halls I walked through just days ago.

Sigh…How I wish money wasn’t an issue; it would have been lovely to give this woman brighter surroundings.  The place where she is spending her final years is exceedingly depressing, nowhere near the grandeur that my mother was fortunate to have lived in even for a short time. The fact that  my mother constantly griped about “her circumstances” made my head spin at the time, and this…my third visit to see my mother-in-law in such dismal place, makes it spin once again…

I know, I know. I must let it go….

So….The plan was to spend an overnight in a nearby hotel so that we could have as much holiday time with mom as possible.    Unfortunately weather would throw a monkey wrench into our plans as snow was indicated for our drive into the Allegheny mountains.  We’d been tracking the weather reports for Pennsylvania for a week and things were looking pretty certain for a  lovely white Christmas in hubby’s home town.   Given that the weather guys often miss the mark my sis–who would watch The Poodle for the night– seemed puzzled that we were adjusting our visiting plans due to possible inclement weather.   I understood where she was coming from; she, like me, didn’t want a family member in a nursing home to be forgotten about during the holidays.

“We’re not spring chickens anymore,” I told her.  “We don’t think it’s safe for us to make the five-hour drive (one way) navigating through freezing rain and snow in the mountains and on the forever-being-worked-on Pennsylvania Turnpike.” So the original plan was scrapped and instead we made it an up and back trip–all in one day, in order to beat snow that was forecasted for the following day.  We didn’t quite succeed in beating freezing rain and yes…we got to see a bit of the white stuff while traveling through the mountains which actually made us feel festive through the heaviness of our purpose.

Although quantity of time was an issue, quality was not.   Ever mindful of how invisible  most senior folks often feel, I was determined to make an effort to connect with every resident I encountered during our brief visit.  In the dining room where some folks sat slouched in their chairs (or wheelchairs) over a lunch that looked thoroughly unappetizing,  I mingled with as many folks as I could.  I sat with Naomi, whose lips were painted a bright cheerful red, and her table-mate Tiki, who spoke in barely a mumble, listening to their stories.  I shook hands with “George” who sported a Korean War baseball cap and I thanked him for his service.  He talked about a boy (his son?), rambling on quite a bit but there was such a delightful twinkle in his eyes that I happily stayed at his table for a spell.  I mingled with other residents too as Rocket-man continued sitting with his mother…he struggling to have a good conversation and she, unaware, confused… but poignantly resigned that there was nothing remotely to be excited about on this day, or any day for that matter.  And though I took issue with certain things I saw during my visit–like a resident slouched in sleep in her wheelchair that was parked in the middle of the hallway for much too long–my heart swelled at the sight of one staff member sitting on the edge of a single bed reading a letter from a family member to a resident whose deeply wrinkled face was peaceful and his frame withered to a feather-light whisper…

We will all be there…

So kind readers, I will admit that I’ve never been able to feel a close connection with my mother-in-law.  It’s just the way it has always been.  But her sad resignation during a moment of her crystal-clear thinking made my heart immensely sad for her.   I know too that Rocket-man felt enormously guilty about such a short visit just two days before Christmas. 

How blunt are all the arrows of thy quiver in comparison with those of guilt.
– Robert Blair

We did our very best to spread cheer.  I spent time rearranging items in her room after she unwrapped gifts.  I had to grit my teeth over all the layers of dust on furniture and the general disarray and clutter that we encountered in her room.   I gave Rocket-man “the look”…as in, nearly $4k a month and this!?  I knew from the set of his jaw that he’d be talking, once again, to the facility director.

And, yes, I simply could not hold back my unsolicited opinion about Rocket-man’s younger sister who lives less than three miles away from where her mother now resides.  Honestly, I tried to zip my lip with Rocket-man but I couldn’t help the anger that escaped as I fussed over setting things better in the small room. 

“Without hesitation, you’ve done all the hard stuff,” I said in a hushed whisper while his mother was in the bathroom.   “…and from hundreds of miles away.  Your sister has the easy part now–it could be as simple as short visits a couple of times a week to check in on mom and make sure things are being properly taken care of here in her room.  Yet she cannot seem to put her ego aside long enough to manage that,” I seethed. 

Let it go….let it goI breathed.  Of course, my anger will not help my husband’s head.

Suffice it so say said sister is a grand disappointment though that doesn’t sufficiently convey my feelings.  Family dynamics can be awfully messy to be sure, but when the chips fall,  elderly parents in their declining years should not have to be subjected to neglect and abandonment.  Kick family baggage to the closet, I say!  In the end we must take the higher road.   Follow the Golden Rule:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

As the year draws to a close and a new one begins with hope and promise, consider a resolution to add to the list:  If you have a friend or relative in a nursing home set aside even an hour once or twice a month to visit them.   Understandably, that might not be feasible due to distance or the mess of life, so send flowers or small care packages.  Write a letter and ask that a staff member read it out aloud.  I can tell you that witnessing that simple act of kindness was a huge relief to me; somehow, it gave me a sense of peace and hope for my future.

No….it is not fun to visit anyone in a nursing home, particularly as it forces one to face mortality.  And no, it is not easy especially if family histories were fraught with difficulty and conflict …

But simply think about that Golden Rule.  How do you want to be treated during your final years?  Whether you are fortunate enough to be in your own home or must call a care facility your final home, I’d posit that you–like me–would want to be treated with loving kindness and the simple act of attention.

Through thick and thin and everything in between, wishing you and yours Bliss in the new year.

Mother and son


I’m standing in my kitchen pouring salsa into a small bowl.  I’ve already got the tortilla chips arranged on the chip platter….and I’ve got some mixed nuts out too.  I make a mental note to check on the kabobs marinating in the refrigerator (which, thankfully is humming along perfectly after it’s repair).  I check my watch.  Sis and family won’t be arriving for our little cookout for another forty-five minutes or so.  I’ve got time to sip on a white wine spritzer while reading my latest pick-up on Kindle, Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani. 

Before I reach for my wine, I remember the beautiful hot cherry peppers I had picked up at Wegman’s specifically for my brother-in-law.  I didn’t want to forget including them with the other items we were planning to grill.   I pull them out from the fridge and rinse them.  As I stood at the counter drying them off the doorbell rings. 

“Ciao CC,” says my sister as she tentatively pops her head in the doorway.

Hmm They’re early!  Often, they run late….

My nephew runs in and promptly gives me a bear hug as his mother sets a large Whole Foods bag on the island counter.  She has all the fixings for a lovely Caprese salad including a generous bunch of fresh basil she’d brought in from her yard.  Her basil is still growing ever-so-vigorously in a large barrel planter; everything in it is still thriving in a sunny location in front of her house.

“You’re early! I say as we air kiss each other’s cheeks.  I give her a run-down on what we’re having for dinner later as I continue drying off the peppers.  Rocket-man has also stepped into kitchen with beers in hand for himself and his bro-in-law.  He sets them on the counter.

“Where is your husband?” I ask sis.

“Oh, he’s out walking the dog.” 

And then it begins….

The Poodle, who is out on the screened-in porch, begins to bark like crazy.   Though irritating, I think nothing of it as there surely is a squirrel taunting him from a tree.  Then the tenor of his bark changes to that familiar oh-my-Yippee-ki-yay excitement that overtakes when he sees his bestie Nica, my sister’s dog.

The patio kitchen door opens and in bolts Nica followed by my brother-in-law. He’s got his martini glass Hawaiian shirt on.  Now we are all around the kitchen island.  The guys have their beers and sis and son are oddly at rapt attention as I show them the peppers that I had picked up for grilling.

Hmm.  Faintly, my senses tingle….

The dogs start their two minute uber-exuberant zoomie ritual that always results in rugs askew.  This time however, the excitement between the two is strangely magnified times ten.  The barking and excited whining has not stopped as quickly as usual.  In fact, the barking was getting annoying enough that I was ready to banish the two to the basement.

It would be just a nano-second after that thought that the reason for their excitement would be revealed.

“…And I’m so disappointed that Wegman’s didn’t have any of their gourmet burgers available yesterday…” I say as I feel a light tap on my left shoulder.  I turn my head, but just barely, thinking it’s just my nephew wanting to know if he can get a treat from his designated space in my pantry. 

WHAT the…?

She had come through the back yard and stealthily up the back deck steps.  She had opened the door whisper-quiet and because my back was to the door it would be simple enough to take me…


Happy Birthday Mom. 

It’s my “baby” girl.  She had flown in from Chicago.  Weeks in the making, the family had cooked up this surprise which left me speechless and in a puddle of happy tears.  Needless to say, this was the best birthday present ever.

Sixty-one is starting out wonderfully blissful.

Raining Blue

No one saves us but ourselves.  No one can and no one may.  We ourselves must walk the path. –   Buddha

The morning air was as heavy as my heart as I listened to the music of Philip Glass while walking The Poodle.  The ground is still saturated from days of nearly non-stop pouring rain. We’ve finally had a break in the weather and with any luck from Mother Nature we won’t have any more rain through the weekend.  As I walk up the street towards my house I feel like I am pulling myself up out of a hole of quicksand.  I awaken from my thoughts to note that indeed, I am walking ever so s-l-o-w-l-y.

This is not my usual pace, I think.  Wow. Is my mood raining this kind of blue?! 

Let’s blame it on The Poodle.  He’s like a slug behind me though I think he’s happy for the slow pace, for once.  His snout has disappeared into a laurel bush just off the sidewalk.

“Come on,” I say as I pull on my stubborn love.   Out comes his head and along with it a snout covered in dirt.

We both drag on into the house.

Later I’m on the yoga mat trying to get into the rhythm of a practice that I had selected on Yogaglo.  I’ve been barely ten minutes on the mat when The Poodle decides to plop down, between my legs, smack dab onto the middle of my mat.

“Really dog!?” I say in exasperation as I nearly fall out of warrior II pose.

The sun shines warm through the window in front of us.  I can see that it is bathing my poodle in light and a comforting warmth. He looks content beyond measure.  I don’t have it in me to break up his happy place so I abandon the practice and instead reach for my little red pillow.

Now I opt to sit with Headspace Andy’s gentle voice.  I choose a twenty-minute guided meditation on managing stress as The poodle sleeps soundly by my side.

It was not easy to connect with my breath.  The “video” of two days ago is like an infinite slow-motion loop through my head-space.

So the “soft” kick-out took place.  My basement is empty once again.  Fortunately the day went without drama. No shouting nor expletives…no blaming or shaming.

Kind readers I am sure you’re scratching your heads over my blue mood.  After ten months of many purple minion moments you’d think I’d be doing cartwheels of joy across the living-room floor.

You’d be wrong.

My daughter calls to check-in.  She asks if we’re happy to have our basement back again.

“There is no joy in any of this,” I tell her with sadness coloring every part of my being the darkest blue.

My son has left in a position much like he arrived in.  He’s gone back to Pennsylvania.  He’s barely got enough to pay one month’s rent for a room that is smaller than the little study from which I write. And, his head is still stubbornly on backwards.


My efforts to make a difference seem to have been fruitless.  The bullet points of my plan (less than five to be exact) to help him help himself seems to have failed miserably.

I’m crushed. We have all been in the trenches with this soul for ten months and nothing worked.

I know, I know, I know….

Not my fault.

But still.….

I am the mom.

After the last item of what little he owned was loaded I hug him and tell him to be careful driving in the rain.

“You have it within you son to figure it all out and while you do so, never ever forget that I love you… to the moon and back and beyond.”

My thoughts inexplicably go to the ocean.  I see my eight year-old boy playing in the water.  He’s on a skimboard and he’s lost in the wonder of “skating” on sand and water.

The memory makes my heart swell.

There is bliss in that….

Flop 2.0

Kind readers, Parenthood 2.0 hasn’t been all that swell. Actually, It’s been an abysmal flop. I had hopes, though not high nor lofty….just hopes, that the second time at it, so to speak, would work out better…smoother. Alas, that was pie-in-the-sky dreaming.

Ten months ago my son showed up on my doorstep, penniless and homeless.  I told him to come, of course, when the call came from out of the blue.  I can remember that night as if it were yesterday.  After the call I had a hundred things swirling around in my head.  A do-over might be just the thing to break the estrangement …one that he initiated, I might add.

He rolled in around midnight looking nothing like the son I saw some four years prior. He said “Hi Mom. I’m tired….I need to sleep.”  Not even ten minutes later he was in the basement.  It’s been his cocoon since.

My bullet point plan to help him get back on track has been met with both stubborn resistance and absolute refusal every step of the way from day one of his arrival.   What was I thinking? I should have known I could never break through, after all he’ll be 36 once summer is over.

It is what it is now.

I seethe that his father enabled him financially for fifteen years.  His idea of showing love was not to get down into the trenches but to throw money from afar.   If our son would have been forced to fall on his face at 21 it would have been much easier to break bad habits, form new ones, LISTEN to sage advice, LEARN from mistakes…and so on and so forth.  In other words….GROW UP.

Of course that is just my humble opinion.  But, what do I know?  I’m just the mom.

I’m split into: one part of me knows unequivocally that I did everything in my power.   But the other part of me?  I feel like a complete failure.

I’m done, inside and out.

Once again I am showing him the door.

Once again he is nowhere near a path that will help him flourish…

It’s a cliché…but ever so true in our situation: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” 

My heart aches.

Tears dot my cheeks as I listen to music by Ludovico Einaudi.

Blue thoughts swirl around me as his soulful, contemplative notes linger in the afternoon air…

Will I ever be able to sleep without profound worry again?

Let it go! ….says a voice from somewhere.


Yes.  It’s all I can do in this moment.

Do I dare continue to have hope for him? 

Of course I do.  I will go to my grave taking hope with me…

I’m the mom.

My Love is infinite…To the moon and back and beyond…for both my son and daughter.

I’m reminded of a Tweet just this morning from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh

Nourish Yourself: The Buddha advises us to create the feeling of joy and happiness in order to nourish ourselves before we deal with the painful feelings.

I like that sentiment.  It’s just what I need now.

I think a walk with The Poodle is in order….

then perhaps a dip in the neighborhood pool.

Nothing like water –whether it’s from a swimming pool or the ocean–to wash the blues away.

There is bliss in that.

Just Bee Calm


My sis–B. for short–is the creative one in the family.  She knows color, she paints, she’s always got clever ideas for everything from home decorating to her son’s school activities… and she’s got a fashion sense.  She puts energy into dressing her hubby to the nines, even for his work attire and the same effort goes into her son.  He’s perfectly attired whenever he has a function to attend.  Just the other week he looked terrific–and so adult– in coat and tie at his piano recital.

Moi?  I’m not sure what happened–perhaps an event of some such occurred in utero?  Or, more plausible, the military doc smacked me too hard as I came into the world.  I lament the dearth of creative genes.  I’m sure I’ve got one or two but not nearly enough for an aesthetic loving Libra!  And while I’m fairly adept at creating a beautiful home with what I have I cannot seem to draw a stick figure.  And don’t get me started on selecting colors (whether it’s for painting a room or putting together something decent to wear): It can be tortuous because indecision rules making it nearly impossible to “pick and stick” on a color.   And as far as attire goes, I want uncomplicated, easy… which means I do not want to think about it.  Ah…you guessed it: yoga attire and Birkenstock’s.

Okay….hmm…so where was I even going with this…..?

Ah yes.

So my sis cracks me up just the other day.  We’re outside on her screened-in deck enjoying coffee and a sweet treat.

“I’ve bought a bee house,” she says

“A bee house?” I repeat.

“Yes,” she says sweetly as she sips her coffee.  “Bees need a place to live too so I’m giving them their own Bed and Breakfast (A Bee B&B. Yep, see…I would have never thought of that.)  “Look…” she says as she points out into the yard to a tree that is just at the start of the very path we both worked on to connect our two back yards.

Ah…and there, so lovingly attached to a tree is a quaint little Bee House.  I should say that it is ever so sweet.

I wasted no time….

YIKES!” I cried out. “Really? You actually want to attract bees?!” I ask in distress.  “And, by the way, I’ll have to walk past this…um… bee hotel every time I walk over here?”

For a moment sis is clearly perplexed at my reaction so I refresh her memory.

“You’ll recall the bee incident when I was out in Arizona caring for mom two years ago.

“Oh….yes…..right,” she says.  “But these aren’t Africanized bees.”

“Still sis….you had to be there.  I still have nightmares!  And how, pray tell, do you know that one of these bees hasn’t decided to go rogue and join a TERROR CELL?  After all, Africanized bees are “killer” bees! They actually aggressively go after people!”

Sis understands my…er…concern.

“Remember…one minute mom and I are sitting on the patio enjoying our morning espresso and the next minute we hear the handyman roar “RUN…GET INDOORS NOW!”

As part of my efforts to clear my mother’s home and get it ready for sale I was having a ginormous fallen saguaro in the yard hauled away.  It was quite some distance from where we were sitting on the back patio. It only took an instance for the handyman doing the hauling to learn that it contained a large hive.  Before we could blink our quiet morning desert bliss was invaded by swarms of thousands of bees.  Extremely angry bees I might add!  Oh sure…I’m supposed to feel sorry for them as they are simply trying to defend their hive. Alas, On this, dear Buddha I have not evolved when it comes to Africanized bees. In any event, the handyman made a mad dash for it into the house but not before he was stung at least five different places on his face as well as multiple times on his arms.

Mom and I were in a state of terror and frenzy as I tried to move mom as fast as possible given her condition. It was barely five steps from her seat into her room that was just off the back patio but as she relied on both a wheelchair and a walker it was impossible to make a run for it.  She ended up having several sings to her face, one pretty close to an eye.  One side of her face swelled up in less than a New York minute.  Somehow I managed to escape with only one sting to my shoulder.

The handyman was a jewel, helping to calm mom down and even made her laugh as he used his credit card to scrape the stingers out.  The day proceeded with a confirmation by not one but TWO different Bee extermination companies, “You’ve got Africanized bees.”  It took all but nuking them to get the battle under control.

Thankfully mom didn’t require a hospital visit.  Applying cold compresses throughout the morning helped reduce the swelling and by later in the day there was barely a trace of the morning’s mayhem.   Moi?  Just the sound of a bee buzz made me jump and run.

…and still does today.

The memory of it all starts me down a path of anxiety.  Breathe in….breathe outJust BEE calm….

And when the calm returns I can confess…

…that yes, it really is a cute little Bee House.


B.’s bee house…

Same Song, Second Verse

I put my feet to the floor at just after five in the morning. Slowly I press down to stand up. It takes but a moment to be accurately aware; I am not twenty anymore.

“Ay…” I mutter as I attempt a few sun salutations to loosen up.

The stiffness in my lower back is more pronounced than usual after five hours in the car. Leaving yesterday evening with The Poodle in tow, we’re in a Marriott just outside of Pittsburgh.  Rocket-man still slumbers (um…and yes…I am still struggling to come up with a name change in lieu of events in the past months, if you get my drift!).

Suggestions are welcome by the way.

The Poodle does not stir from his place on the bed although he’s got one eye open…surveying…and quite ready to bolt off the bed should I make steps towards the door.  He is not oblivious to the fact that our routine has changed.

I make thoroughly unremarkable hotel-room coffee which is nothing more than a cup of translucent brown lukewarm water.  As I sip I’m thinking about the task before us in just about an hour from now.

Yet again we are faced with the task of aiding an aged parent.  It’s literally same song, second verse, this time it’s hubby’s mother.  We realized a little over two years ago that it was past time to start the process of getting her into a care facility.  Naturally this meant getting Rocket-man’s two other siblings involved.  Furthermore, it made sense to task the sibling that lived the closest to get the ball rolling; after all, said sibling, the youngest at 50-something, lived twenty minutes –for good measure…one more time…20 minutes — from her mother and who also held power of attorney.

Well, let’s just say we had to go to plan B as that sibling essentially jumped ship.  She’s got …enter air quotes here…”issues” with her mother, bless her little Ole heart.


Yep.  Some weeks ago Rocket-man finally had to take matters into his own hands.  He saw his mother into an assisted living facility in her home town. Thankfully oldest sibling was available for accompanying him on that difficult task.   At eighty-six, Mrs. C.’s long-term memory is pretty darn good but short-term memory ….not so much.  She doesn’t remember five minutes ago. While she gets around without the aid of a walker she shuffles when she walks which is another factor indicating vascular dementia.  The process of going into assisted living was a thousand-fold easier than with my mother. Mrs. C was pretty much calm as a kitten and happy too unlike my mother, who in spite of being wheelchair bound, fought to the bitter end, leaving this earth terribly unhappy with everyone in the world.  Mrs. C. appears so far to be doing just fine.  Thankfully, she seems to be happy to have three square meals a day, social interaction, and endless card games and other such activities.

Now the task of clearing her home has landed pretty much on our shoulders though oldest sibling–we sincerely hope– plans on helping at some point in the weeks to come.  My sister and her family offered their help and support as well, and in fact they are just several hotel rooms down from us, God bless them!.  But the daughter that lives in the same town couldn’t be bothered with taking care of her mother in her declining years much less helping clear the family home.  This is where I bite my tongue ’til it bleeds because it would be incredibly easy to unleash a venomous diatribe against the egregious behavior of said sister.  Suffice it to say that there seems to be one like her in every family.  Just as there was one in mine…a feckless sibling who cannot seem to boot pesky little demons regarding their parents (and I do mean little in this case) into a closet somewhere long enough to take care of their parent’s basic needs in their years of decline.


Forgive me when I say that I am buoyed by the fact that the universe will respond…and in fact, already has.

I’ll admit that I’ve never been particularly close to my mother-in-law. Let me be clear:  she is not a bad person. We have simply never connected.  Still, as I began the task of putting things into contractor-strength trash bags I’m barely able to contain my anger.  I am appalled at the mess before me and naturally so is Rocket-man.    Mrs. C. could never afford the luxury of a cleaning service but she was able to maintain a decently clean home, that is, until her husband passed away more than a decade ago.  There was not a broom to be found in the whole place let alone a toilet brush.  No one deserves to live in this kind of filth. The collection of years of dust and dirt on furniture crammed to the gills with fifty-plus years of stuff put there by depression-era parents made us cough and wheeze throughout the day.  My sis wore a face mask which helped but still, the condition of the bathrooms, kitchen and basement made us wretch on more than one occasion.

Just the tip of the iceberg….

Many times throughout the day we shook our heads, vacillating between sadness and anger.  “I get that your mom has been alone for years since your father’s passing and she just couldn’t keep things up…. but really….There is just no excuse for this…. with a daughter that lives in the same town!” I cried. 

“I know,” said Rocket-man.  Barely an hour into our work he’s dripping with sweat from moving heavy bags of junk and furniture out the door.  It was then I could tell from his body language that he was taking this mess all on the chin. 

The blame is mine; I should have done more for my mother….and sooner.

“This is not your mea culpa,” I said as I hugged him during a break from clearing out kitchen cabinets.  “I’ve known you for twenty years and there is not a week that goes by that you don’t call and talk to your mom.  It’s not your fault that your career path took you away from your home town.  And besides, as much as you travel, you’ve seen and done a hundred-fold more for your mom particularly in these past fifteen years than your sister has and she lives just minutes away.  And what about her five grandchildren!  They live in the same town too!    Where have they been?  Your mom may have been a busy-body grandmother but she was always available;  baby-sitting at the drop of a hat and endless sweets and treats for her grand-kids!

With a heavy sigh, Rocket-man nods his head in agreement.

“And besides,” I add “You’re not the who collected THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of newspaper and magazine recipes, cutting them out and stuffing them into a gazillion little photo albums!”  

“Yeah…what’s up with that; she really didn’t even cook,” said Rocket-man with the hint of a smile.

I’m not sure my words helped much but I noted a softness in his jaw and a twinkle in his eye as he turned to continued hauling stuff out the door.

At the end of the day two, between the five of us, we had filled the driveway’s car port and driveway to the gills with bags to haul away as well as two 400 cubic feet truckloads for the 1-800-GOT-JUNK folks.   Those guys were a Godsend; they did all the heavy lifting and with smiles too.  It soothed Rocket-man, and sis too, to learn that not everything would be thrown into the local landfill.  The 1-800-GOT-JUNK folks separate out items suitable for donation to local homeless shelters and other such centers. 

Now “back at the ranch” and with a day to recover I’m once again in pitching mode, Ala Marie Kondo.  I thought I’d done enough of that for a while when preparing for the move from middle-earth Alabama to Virginia just a year ago!  Now. I’m on a mission to keep things as simple as possible for my daughter, because It’s not a matter of IF…but WHEN.  My time WILL arrive.

I’ve already got four bags of stuff ready for donation and there is potential for more before the day is over.

Without doubt, there is bliss in De-cluttering. But more importantly, I’m beyond grateful for the love and support of my sister and her family.  Not only did they do a lot of heavy lifting, they helped keep things real which translates thusly: spontaneous eruptions of laughter in the midst of incredibly unfavorable conditions.


Miss Cookie Does it Again….

Buddha: Smithsonian’s Freer/Sackler Buddha exhibit

I was setting out on an afternoon walk with The Poodle when the phone rang.  I look at the caller ID and see that it’s Miss Cookie.

I’d been thinking about her for a couple of days and poof….she calls.  It often happens that way.  How lovely is that, don’t you think!

“….Just calling to check up on you,” she says without preamble.

“I’m okay….well…mostly,” I said.

….as good as one can be with issues swirling around like a pile of dry autumn leaves on a windswept day.

“I know…I know.  I know why you’re worried,” I replied…..”I haven’t posted in my blog for a spell.”

I assured my friend of forty-some years that I’m still among the living…and yes….even though spring seems to be dragging her feet in our neck of the woods.  Her call and an afternoon sun struggling to peek through the gray lifts my spirits as my poodle love and I walked through the woods in our neighborhood, stopping more frequently than usual so that The Poodle could enjoy the potpourri of smells that jazz him so.

I am still on the phone with Miss Cookie a mile and a half later when I get back to the house.  Once inside, I continue walking, pacing the kitchen floor as we talk.  I used to log lots of steps in my sizeable middle-earth house when I was on the phone with a friend or family member.  I’d pace in large circles or figure eights through the family room, kitchen and formal living room.  I logged three miles once on the phone with my friend Miss Sue as we caught up with many moons worth of life’s issues.  Our current home is smaller so it is not quite as easy to get a good clip going.  In fact, if not careful, one could easily become dizzy!

Still, as I paced the floor I listened intently to my friend talk about her latest hobby; making pottery.  She had me in stitches at one point when she described her artistic attempts versus those of her potter-mates.

I tell her I’m quite in awe of her new hobby.

“I don’t seem to have an artistic bone in my body,” I said. “In fact, the only thing I’ve created were two kids…and well, one of them, has failed to launch,” I lamented.

“How IS that going?” she queried.

“He is still in the basement but we are giving him another deadline to move out.  I believe he thinks we are bluffing. I’m baffled beyond belief that my thirty-five year old son believes I should still take care of him.”

Miss Cookie continued lending her shoulder while I poured out a month’s worth of aggravation and lament over my son’s state of affairs as well as my sadness over my mother-in-law’s declining health. “We will be moving her to an assisted living facility in the next couple of weeks and, as often seems the case with life, it’s not without a bit of family drama to make things ever so swimmingly…um… fun.”

“You do have your plate full,” agreed Miss Cookie.  She wanted to know how she could help which made my heart melt with gratitude.

“Don’t worry,” I said.  “I’m getting through this chapter with plenty of good wine, long walks with The Poodle and meditation too.  And you just made me practically bust a gut over images of throwing clay!

Laughter is the best medicine!

Without a doubt, I have not evolved to a sublime state of enlightenment and daresay, that will not happen in this lifetime…nor the one after that!   There are still angst-filled days, sleepless nights, and too many moments of feeling like a failure, throwing up my hands in utter hopelessness or excessively letting expletives fly.  But seriously, I am making progress!  I am much better at letting things go. In fact, in a better-than-baby-steps manner. There simply is no other alternative to getting through this period with grace, not to mention, sanity intact.

We finished up our conversation and said our goodbyes promising to talk again in a week or so.  I exhaled a long a sigh of contentment. Though there are problems big and small in my little speck-of-sand world, I think of a quote by The Buddha (at least I think it is attributed to him): Nothing is permanent.  He also said: There is no path to happiness.  Happiness IS the path. 

And seemingly on cue, the universe responded!  The sound of my nephew knocking on the front door jarred me out of my thoughts.  He’s peering through my front door window, smiling from ear to ear as he sees me approach the door.

Pure happiness is the color of that moment!

Without a doubt, with Miss Cookie calls and a host of other blessings in my day, I can absolutely sail through stormy seas.

There is bliss in that.

His Lucky Day

I’ve been holding my breath for a week now. Sleep (and bliss) has been tortuous with a million “what if’s” invading the space between hitting the hay and dawn’s early light.

I have exhaled. Finally. But this moment of bliss is sure to be a fleeting….

The saga with my son continues.

So, he has not been to a dentist in more than fifteen years. 

I knowright? Your head must be popping!

My head certainly did when I heard this months ago not long after he arrived on my doorstep pretty much destitute, in the middle of the night.

Since that evening, on and off, he’s been complaining about bleeding gums and swears some teeth are ready to fall out.  With everything else that seems like a train wreck … now this.  Of course I’ve been through the whole drill on the importance of dental hygiene.  And, for the record, lest you think I’m a neglectful mother, I did this throughout his childhood, maintaining regular dental visits from his first one at the age of three until he was nineteen…not to mention braces for two years.

Since he won’t floss, I bought him a Waterpik® this past Christmas.  “I know flossing can be a hassle…and yeah….you’ve got this lazy streak….so do this.  It’s easy and it’s the next best thing to using dental floss.  But, you must be disciplined and use it everyday.”

“Maybe,” is his reply.

ARGH!  Was he dropped on his head when he was a baby and I don’t know about it?!

“You’ve got to get a job with health and dental benefits!,” I all but scream at him in complete frustration as I contemplated sprinting out of the house (still in my morning robe) in search of peace and sanity.

“I did have dental benefits at the one job, he said. “I just didn’t want to go to the dentist.”

I stop in my tracks.  SAY WHAT?  You mean to tell me that you had some dental coverage but didn’t take advantage of it?! Are you nuts!?

“No one likes to go to the dentist mom,” he says to me in  that tone…the one that suggests I have just fallen off a turnip truck.

Weakened by weeks of head-banging frustration over my son’s inability refusal to launch, The Purple Minion erupts once again.  I’ve had far too many of these visits in these last few months.


Honestly, I cannot wrap my head around his refusal to take responsibility for himself.   I had thought by his 36th year he’d have learned to manage his white-coat syndrome, to some extent at least.  Dentists and doctors make him nervous.  It’s understandable: I’ve had my fair share of negative experiences with less than stellar doctors.  Still, I try to reason with him telling him that there are plenty of good doctors and dentists out here and that he must take responsibility for his life, starting with better lifestyle habits.  But I may as well be talking to a brick wall.  It’s another in a list of reasons of why–IN MY HUMBLE OPINION— he needs to agree to counseling.

“So wait, why don’t you, until all your teeth rot out; sounds like a plan to me,” I erupted in Vesuvius fashion.    I’ll admit that for a nano second I thought of the silver lining in losing all his teeth; he wouldn’t be able to eat the crap food he purchases with what little pennies he has left.

“And oh, by the way,” I added as I slammed silverware into the dishwasher, “your grandmother did just that and by the time I was able to force her to get to a dentist (after some thirty years) she needed thousands of dollars in dental work.  How are you going to pay for that son, WITHOUT A JOB?”

The next day however, we have a fraction of a step forward, which means that something must have reached him.  Frankly, it shocks the hell out of me as other matters of critical importance (e.g.  GET A JOB…GET COUNSELING) have been summarily dismissed.

“I made an appointment with a dentist mom, for a cleaning. It’s the dentist you recommended….your dentist.”

I’m sure my mouth fell to the floor in disbelief.

So, for the past week, waiting for that appointment to take place, sleep has eluded me more than usual.  Images of gum disease, rotten teeth, solidified tartar, systemic bodily infection, not to mention dollar signs, have ruled the night.  I’m sure he’ll have the worst news possible regarding the state of his chompers.  How can he not have full-blown periodontal disease with never flossing or having routine dental visits for fifteen years?!

It’s no surprise that I was a nervous wreck for my son the day of his dental visit.  To get myself out of my anxiety-filled head-space I actually made it to a yoga class at a studio some thirty minutes from home.  It was my first time at this studio and my first time back on a studio mat in ages.

As I sat on the mat with eyes closed I listened to the instructor’s opening guidance for the class.

“As we begin,” she said, “set your intention for your practice this morning.  Perhaps its prayer for someone who seems to have lost their way or someone in your life who needs extra loving today.”

It’s like she read my mind.

And so, I carried my son with me, in my thoughts and movements, throughout the 75-minute class.  Each inhale and exhale I asked the universe to see my man-child through the day…and yes, to give him a knock upside the head to listen and act upon the loving guidance that his family is giving him in order to get his life on track.

How did it go, you ask?

Let’s just say for once, it was his lucky day.  He came home with a smile on his face.

“Mom, I actually liked the dentist.  He was cool.  Nothing major is wrong.  A ton of plaque build-up that made it longer than usual for the dental hygienist and one filling that needs to be addressed sometime soon.  And of course the dentist advised that I not go another fifteen years because I wouldn’t be so lucky then.”

No shit I muttered as I exhaled in one long breath after a week of holding it in.  In fact, I dissolved into a puddle of relief for my son.  I gave him a big hug as I praised him profusely for taking what was obviously a very difficult step.  You are extremely lucky son.  Don’t blow it.  Start taking care of your teeth from here on out.

Relief was just as visible on his face, although I am not sure he took my words to heart.

I killed the moment, I am sure, as I said, “Now apply similar action to other parts of your life; get a job and… schedule a counseling visit.”

“Ya well, counseling is never going to happen,” he said as he headed back down into the basement.

Told you so; the moment of adult-child-bonding bliss was fleeting.

While images of gum disease won’t keep me away tonight a hundred other things will.

Two steps forward but 1- 3/4 steps back.  It’s a struggle, to be sure; still I will call it my moment of bliss for the day.