Just seeing this dessert listed on a menu makes me drool with excitement. The crispy glazed sugar-burned topping, the warm, sweet yellow custard that lies beneath the surface. Decadence in every tiny spoonful, today’s choice is brought to you by my taste buds: Creme Brulee.
When our dog, Callie died, I thought I would never feel happiness again. She was my first dog, the most gentle, shy, docile animal on the planet. She was scared of everything and only wanted reassurance and comfort; she loved my lap and my bed. She was frightened of external stimulation, loud noises, new people, she just felt safe with her family. We, of course, got her from an animal shelter and adopted her at six weeks; she had already been adopted at four weeks by another man. She was sweet and loving, and could read my feelings better than anyone else. Callie saw me through my father’s death, the most painful experience of my life. When I cried, she licked my tears and wouldn’t leave my side.
The risk you take of getting a shelter dog is that their past is somewhat of a mystery and you need to accept that. The dogs or puppies do come with some baggage, but really, don’t we all? I’m definitely a rescue dog person, I can’t, personally, see the need to go to a pet store to buy a pedigree but it’s just my personal preference.
Callie was an amazing first dog, she was not a problem for one second except that she was afraid to socialize with other dogs, wary of new people and was anxious. Our backyard was fine for her, walks were okay but she needed to stay close to home and she hated the car. I always dreamed of taking her to the beach or a lake so she could swim but she got near water and ran away, terrified.
When, from one day to another, she wouldn’t look me in the eye and yelped quietly twice, I brought her to the vet, he told us that there was a mass on her spleen and he needed to operate. Once he operated he saw that 75 percent of her body was filled with cancer. We were in shock; there were no signs. She didn’t even trouble us in her pain, her last, dying days. We did not want her to suffer, the vet suggested we end her life while she was in surgery and we agreed. With the lovely technician, Stephanie, covering her face with kisses, Callie left our world, without suffering any pain. Pain was for the human beings she left behind, extreme pain.
I didn’t think I could get over it. I cried, all day and night, she was my girl. We understood each other and for at least a solid month I was depressed and nothing could get me out of it, except time. I found I also needed to be near other dogs so I visited other animal shelters. I wasn’t ready to adopt but being around dogs helped me heal. I went to shelters about twice a week, looking at the older dogs, smiling at the puppies, asking about volunteering. Each time I thought I was honoring Callie, little did I know I was helping to heal myself.
My husband and I went to a couple of shelters together, he was definitely not ready to adopt but he was open to looking. We looked together but there wasn’t a dog that “felt” right and that was fine. A couple of weeks later, I went with my friend, Sarah, and what I was looking for was sleeping right in front of me, curled up like a little cinnamon cupcake. I loved her immediately, or rather fell in love with her. I did walk around the shelter (not really seriously) but I came back to “my” dog and asked to hold her. It went quickly from there, adoption procedures were started, I welcomed her to our family.
Yes, I thought about my chronic illnesses, Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and my age, 55 with a new puppy. It really is like being a mother to a newborn. Did I doubt myself? A couple of times. Did I regret it? Not for a second. Is it challenging? As Sarah Palin used to say “You Betcha.” I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Lexi is NOT Callie’s replacement, there is love in my heart for many people and now I know, many dogs. She is nothing like my first dog, my first love. She is a rambunctious, rebel-rouser, biting, jumping, super-active pup. She has found the stairs and climbed up them in three days; we had to train Callie to go up them because she was so scared. Lexi is fearless, too fearless sometimes and we need to work to reign her in. As you can imagine, my nickname for her is “Marley to the Max” based on the wonderful book “Marley and Me.”
How can you heal a broken heart? Many different ways, of course. For me, I welcomed a homeless puppy into our home. One crazy, willful, gorgeous, “*mutt-a-gree” dog with big brown, rebellious eyes and short, warm, silky fur. Do I still have my chronic aches and pains? Yes. Do I feel them more? Sometimes, but I can’t concentrate on them, I don’t have the time. Am I happy? Absolutely. Did I do the right thing? For me and my family, for our new puppy? Without a doubt, yes. There is no doubt about it, we saved each other. each other.
**Lexi, 10 weeks
DEDICATED TO STEPHANIE
- Breakfast for Dinner
- Breakfast, Anytime Except For Breakfast
Syrup & Pancakes I am a major fan of breakfast for dinner, or lunch… just not for breakfast. A cup of strong, steamy coffee is all I need for breakfast to wake me up, with fat-free half and half and a packet of chemical sweetener or Truvia/Stevia, to take the edge off the bitterness.
Any other time, breakfast is my favorite food group. I’m drooling just thinking about the options: pancakes, soft, buttery, drenched with (real) maple syrup, scrambled eggs, extra crisp bacon, whole-grain toast kissed with butter, eggs benedict, home fries, extra crispy…..Breakfast for dinner, breakfast for a snack: in our house we have cereal together after dinner and before bed, it’s not only comforting, it’s a tradition.
- Previous Answer
We carry our illnesses like a papoose; they clutch us firmly yet we can’t put them down for a minute to rest. There is no relief from chronic pain. I used to think that sleeping was my cure; it used to be but not for a long time. Sleep was my escape for any emotional or physical pain, now it just adds to my frustration. I can fall asleep easily enough (with medication) but then I go through long periods of time when I wake up at 3:30am and am up to at least 6:30am if not longer. Sometimes I fall back asleep for a few hours but it is restless and fitful, with anxiety dreams, tossing and turning.
Who are we, these invisible people of pain? We are mothers and daughters, sons and fathers, sisters and cousins. We were not born this way but one day our “normal” lives changed, forever. For me, my life changed with menopause at age fifty. My body fell apart and it hasn’t been the same ever since. I developed thyroid problems and body aches and pains that left me limp, in bed, groaning in pain. No doctor could help me, my internist looked disgusted as she left the examining room, leaving me inside, alone, weeping with pain. “There’s nothing more I can do for you” she said and slammed the door. I felt bad that I had bothered her, actually she made me feel bad; it was NOT my fault.
I’m not saying I ever ran marathons but I didn’t have to wait to plan the day’s activities until the very last moment. I could plan going to Central Park to meet a friend a week in advance, or to see a new Woody Allen movie with a friend, or go drink a mimosa with brunch. Now, I always have to add: “but I will call you in the morning to see how I’m feeling.” My true friends understand; I’m the one with the problem. I feel ninety years old and handicapped, actually my eighty-five year old mother is in much better shape than I am, for that I am grateful.
I’ve given up hope on a cure for the future, I’m happy that the Rheumatologist I have not only believes in Fibromyalgia but takes it seriously and wants to help me. He also appreciates me because I understand the parameters, there is no cure and when he asks me how I feel I tell him “that under the circumstances I have been doing fine.” I am not bitter, I am sad once in a great while, and enormously uncomfortable. I thought losing weight would help but I lost twenty-five pounds and the pain is still the same.
For the last two weeks I’ve been lying down in the back of our car for four to six hours per day; tomorrow after a grueling tour visiting my daughter’s second college choice, I will sit for another four hours going home. Once home, I will take a hot bath and put on the jacuzzi jets and there I will stay until I can stop screaming silently with pain.
Everything I try to write seems awkward. Nothing flows like water winding down from a river or a stream. I am thinking in short, staccato, choppy sentences even though I am feeling more in harmony. Maybe different parts of me have to catch up with each other, I don’t know. I feel that I don’t have anything to write about but I’m sure I do. Or do I?
The grief that I have gone through the last three weeks over my dog dying has been intense but it is better now. People grieve in different ways; I need to cry and let it come out and I need to look at my dog’s picture and have a conversation with her ( it’s easier than saying she had a conversation with me because most people think I’m a nut case) but we did talk. I am cherishing the ten amazing, pain-free years we had together which were nothing short of a miracle, all hugs and kisses, warmth and happiness. We both had a very good life. Change, especially shock, is NOT something I am good with but we all learn to adapt, we have no choice.
Of course I still look for her to give her the remnants of my hamburger and yes, I do wait for her at the blue front door but she is not there. I keep wanting to say “Up, Up” for her to come on my bed and lie next to me, her most favorite place, but ten years is a long time to automatically forget things like that. I don’t feel the stabbing pain anymore which is good. I will love her always but I know I can love another dog too, I also know she would want me too.
I look through the pages of the ASPCA, I drove to the shelter I brought Callie home from to pay my respects; my husband is adamant he is not ready for another dog. I do not live in a vacuum, I must respect my other family members on the other hand, they need to respect me too. I’m in a bit of a quandary. I don’t want to adopt a dog this second but I have to admit looking at adoptable dogs is making me happy, the thought of adopting a homeless dog is giving me a reason to smile.
However, ten years ago, I did not have Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis; I was also ten years younger and I really need to think about that, seriously. Will I be too weak, as I am some days, to take this as yet unnamed dog for a walk? Will my joints hurt so much that all I want to do is lie on the bed and sleep? I don’t have an honest answer for that. Callie was a dog that was gentle and she was a homebody, she didn’t particularly like being away from home so a small walk was fine, being in the backyard was even better. I know if I had an energetic dog that had to run for miles I would be unhappy and so would he/she. That would not be a good match and not fair to either of us. Of course I would try to be matched up with a gentle dog but that possibility of chance is always there.
I’m a little scared.
I also really miss having a dog in my life.
Any thoughts, comments or advice appreciated.
LEMON MERINGUE PIE…….
Don’t you just start to smile at the thought?
the tangy/sweet combination bursting
on your tongue?
I save it for special occasions in the summer,
when the hot sun is on my back and I want to feel cool and refreshed.
Lemon Meringue Pie is a summer treat!
As a child I laughed and wept, but nobody heard me. I lived in my own world of stuffed animals and dolls and they were my friends. Once, when I was about five years old, my mother, from another room, asked me who I was talking to, I replied ” my friend.” There was not another child in the house.
My mother said I “could always occupy myself” unlike my older sister who always had to be entertained. “Play with me” she would whine to our mother and so my mother would play with her. Was it out of default that I didn’t even try or was I really happy in my own little world? I can’t say for sure but I think it was a combination of both. I’d wager a guess that I was never big on competing, sure I would fail. My confidence level was always low; a loving gift from my mother. I knew she never meant to give me low expectations but her fear and worry overwhelmed her and so she thought she was protecting me when in fact she was holding me back, making stress and anxiety my constant companions.
At night, every night, my father would sit at my bedside and I would ask him the same series of questions. Would anyone go to the hospital? Would there be a fire? Would the birds come? (We had bats once) Will the boys come (My sister once had rowdy boys come on Halloween, banging on the door relentlessly and I was terrified) and a few more I don’t remember anymore. It was a ritual, a scared girl, needing momentary comfort every night, while the orange light from the hall beamed.
When I was told that my mother had to go to the hospital for a hysterectomy I remember sobbing that night when I asked my father the questions. I told him that the answer to the hospital question would be “yes” and I was inconsolable. The order of the routine was changed, the answer to one of the danger questions was wrong and I was filled with fear and doubt.
I never wanted to try anything new, I was scared and I always made excuses to get out of doing new things, fear held me in it’s vise-like grip until I could only choke-out syllables of lies. It was a long time before I could be honest and the first time I was honest was with my sister, on the telephone and it was such a relief. She told me step by step what to do and how to get to her house by subway and I got there, for the first time in many years feeling brave. What gave me the strength to tell her then, with my mother on the other line, I have no idea. Maybe I was just sick of being sick and holding all my fear inside me.
Eventually, I became more and more honest with people, telling them my fears or my utter lack of sense of direction. I felt safer in the world by becoming stronger as a person. It was okay to have shortcomings because apparently everybody did; I wasn’t the only person that was weak, everyone was weak in some way, I just didn’t know it. Now, I consider myself a very strong person, realizing my strengths way before my weaknesses and yet having weaknesses made me sensitive to others and to how they feel. I can read someone’s feelings just by looking at their face, I can see what someone is feeling instinctively, whether they are ready to acknowledge it or not.
I get messages from the deceased, I have a sixth sense, I knew that when I was in third grade, learning it as I walked down a street in my home town. My parents always called me “over-sensitive” as if I were to blame for feeling hurt, the truth of the matter was yes, I was sensitive, but looking back, they were not.
- The Penny Debate
- “ALMALFI” Made in Italy – original photo of platinum-colored leather penny loafers I have to say I’m sentimental about the penny. After all, that’s where wishes and dreams came from; if you found a penny on the street (heads up) it was lucky. I would throw pennies for other children to find so that their day would be a little bit happier. What about the penny loafer? Has anyone thought about that? Putting in a nickel, just would not be the same. Here’s for nostalgia and the good old days. Keep the penny, and give us a great big smile.
Oh no, not again, you did not just pull that smirk on your face again. I told you Alicia, I would not put up with it anymore and I mean it. I have brought you up like one of my own and you have just crossed the line. I will give you your space, I will not smother you with kisses or even try to gently hug you when I feel the winds of icy coldness come wafting from you. I know better. Am I disappointed? Sometimes. Heck, yes. Apparently, that has to be my problem, not yours. I can deal with that but I am not going to be hurt any longer. If anyone has to toughen up, it’s me. You’re too tough. Sometimes I wonder what your dearly departed parents would think? I know I did my best.
You have enough armor up around you that you won’t let any emotions get to you; you are going to miss a great deal of life, girl. I mean that sincerely, with my heart. You are young but growing up will be hard for you if you don’t open yourself up to learn from the lessons in life, learn to give, to feel, to be sensitive to others. You need to feel for other people and not just for yourself. I hope you will able to learn that one day. I tried to teach it to you and failed, Life will have to teach you the hard way. I just hope it’s not too late for you to learn and I fear it may be.
I took you in as an infant after your mom and dad were killed in the car crash; you never knew them. To us, you were like our own little girl growing up in our family just as your mom and dad wanted. Of course we told you the truth and we kept your mom, my sister, and my brother in-law alive to show you what good people they were. It was an accident, Alicia, it wasn’t our fault.
Be the person you want to be, I will not hold you back. I will accept you and love you but I will no longer be treated with disrespect and utter annoyance. I am still the mother that raised you and there is a certain amount of decorum that needs to be maintained. I am trying not to care as much, it isn’t hard to do if I can stay on top of things and not take things too personally.
We are opposites, I know. One person brimming over with emotion, the other barricaded inside. It doesn’t mean that there is no love between us because there is a lot of love. Hopefully you will see that clearly, maybe one day you will act nicer to me, to your dad and brothers and sisters too.
I will always love you and I will always be here for you. You know that. Please remember dear girl, that I lost my sister, my best friend and I miss her dearly. You should know that all your mom and I wanted for you is your happiness. Parents are human beings, we all have flaws,we are not perfect. Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, we do the best we can, we don’t have all the answers but we try our hardest.
I love you, Alicia but I need to love myself too.
I will always be here if you need me.
Love, Aunt, Janis
I moved to Boston from NY in the eighties, alone, after deciding I wanted to live there. I found a job, and looked for lodging that was near a train line so I could commute to work. Luckily, I found a room available at a local inn. I went to meet the manager, Barbara, who was a woman about my age. I felt a warm flood of relief fill my body slowly as she showed me my room. I felt like I had a safe, temporary home for as long as I wanted to stay.
That night, after I had settled in, there was a knock on my door while I was unpacking in my room. It was Barbara, “Hi,” she said with her sparkling eyes and her open, deep, friendly voice “I’m making dinner for a bunch of my friends, wanna come?” I couldn’t even start to get shy and make excuses because she took me by the arm and led me down the stairs. Without her, I would have likely stayed in my room the entire time. I was invited to an impromptu home-cooked dinner: I met Teddy, Barbara’s dog, Rami-Pastrami, a girl named Nancy, a guy named Steven/Stella and others. Within ten minutes even I had a new name. Teddy, could not remember my name; he called me Lisa, he called me Laurie, he called me Lisa-Laurie, shortened that night to LL. I didn’t know that Barbara was an amazing chef; the smells from the kitchen were tantalizing. We had home-made tomato sauce, pasta, carmelized chicken, so sweet and tender it fell off the bone.
On my second day there I knocked on her door after work to give her a check and I read sadness in her face. “Are you okay?” I asked. She said “yes” but it was not convincing. “Really?” I asked “Do you want me to come in so we can talk” She pulled me in her apartment and the façade of her happy face started to crumble. She told me about her upcoming divorce from Teddy, pain etched on her face, like a pear, getting riper with each word. She allowed me to see how she really felt, something that did not come easily for her. I stayed a long time, by the end of the night we were best friends.
After a few months I moved to a studio apartment down the street. She came over once and all I had to eat were Ritz crackers and peanut butter and jelly and she proclaimed the meal “the best peanut butter and jelly with Ritz crackers” she ever ate. That was Barbara. We went on adventures every weekend, sometimes to Parker’s Maple Barn in New Hampshire for blueberry or banana pancakes, or to look at discounted antique furniture. Ba, as I called her, came to my wedding in 1988, when my husband and I still lived in Boston.
Barbara had moved around so much I no longer had room in my address book to keep up with her; I had at least eight addresses that were no longer current. We kept in touch occasionally, two Libras always exchanging birthday wishes, wherever we were. My husband and I moved to a house in the suburbs of Boston which Barbara visited once. Years later, after having children, and elderly parents, we moved back to New York. Barbara was on her own journeys to Florida, North Carolina and back.
Our children are seventeen and nineteen now. Our son is in his first year of college, our daughter graduates high school this June. My husband had three vacation days that he needed to use in March or he would lose them, we also had five nights free in a hotel. Our beloved dog had passed away unexpectedly; when the time felt right, we decided to go.
I called Barbara and she talked us into staying at a hotel in her town, not the one we had looked up in a book. It just felt right so that is where we went. It was delightful to spend time with my husband. The ocean, sand and seashells are my favorite things and I could heal here, physically and emotionally. The weather was good for my Fibromyalgia; we took long walks, we picked up seashells and swam in the ocean. We still grieved the death of our dog but we were no longer in shock.
We saw Barbara the next day when she burst into the hotel room, cradled my face between her two hands and in excitement, burst into tears. We hugged and she didn’t let go. We saw her again at her house when we were supposed to go out to dinner and I got to meet her famous mother, Lucille, and her dog, Daisy. I thought seeing Daisy would make me sad, but Daisy opened my heart, instead of clamping it shut. I think my dog Callie was telling me it was okay to love another dog and when we are ready, I know we will. I had teasingly asked her if she would “cook for me” like the old days but her health and strength was not very good either. When we got there she surprised me and served her famous pasta sauce with carmelized chicken that I remembered from the past. I was so grateful, so honored and so touched. I still am.
It was so easy and relaxed with Barbara that it didn’t seem like twenty years had passed; it was if we had been in touch every day consistently. How could I have forgotten that feeling? I felt like I had a new, old, best friend. Someone to share memories with, someone to confide in, the one person I could always trust completely; I could ask her anything, tell her anything. She would never judge me nor I her.
We came on vacation to get away, we stayed on vacation for pure joy, we left the vacation begrudgingly. I left crying, not over my dog’s death but saying “good-bye” again to Barbara. Tears dripped down my face as I sobbed. How much time had we wasted or had we? Maybe we weren’t meant to reconnect before this, I have to believe in that.
We’re home now, back with both kids home for spring break. I woke up this morning and started to write a note to Ba, only to find there was one from her already waiting. Everything makes sense if you pay attention to the details: A knock on your door, watching someone’s sad eyes, holding hands with your best friend, every detail in life is important. Trust yourself to pay attention. Be someone’s best friend. For life.
This is dedicated to Ba from her best friend, LL.