What A Job!

Posted by Vicki on September 7th, 2015 under aspirations, inspiration, projects
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Our house is filled with clutter. This does not mean the floors are not passable or that we are hoarders. In fact, we are constantly throwing things away. And yet, they continue accumulating, like wire hangers do.

When we had our bathroom remodeled two years ago, of course from the time it was gutted to the moment it was ready for us to use, we had to move all our stuff out of it to the basement bathroom. When it was time to move the stuff back, we had some nice new drawers to put it in. I organized some of the drawers and cabinets pretty nicely, but there were other things, like small items for traveling, cat care and first aid products and jewelry which i knew would require a lot of time which I did not feel like I could spare. I keep a lot of my everyday jewelry – all costume jewelry, so don’t get any ideas – in the bathroom because that is where the mirrors are and my makeup and where I get dressed in the morning. But because I had a mountain of this jewelry all atangle, I had access to only a fraction of it, the pieces I used most often. So I threw all the tangled jewelry in one drawer without even looking at it, and kept the frequent flyers in the top drawer, but never really bothered to organize it in any sort of systematic way. What I needed was containers with dividers. Eventually I bought some, but ended up not using them at all till last week, and even then using them for organization of the other disorganized stuff that I had stuffed in some of the other drawers. Since two years ago, I meant to take care of this problem but never seemed to get to it, for obvious reasons. It got so bad that I was down to about three pairs of earrings because the others were haphazardly strewn about in the top drawer so that every morning I would have to hunt and hunt to locate both members of a pair. To make matters worse, all the other drawers had reached such a state of disarray that I could no longer stand it. By last week, I had had enough and resolved to attack and conquer, even though it would mean sacrificing much of the upcoming long Labor Day Weekend. I took care of the other drawers first – medicines, first aid, cat stuff, travel stuff, makeup, perfume, etc., and that took about three hours. Most of yesterday and today I spent untangling, cleaning, de-tarnishing the jewelry. I separated it into keep and Goodwill piles. Some things were hard to let go of, for sentimental reasons, or because I thought getting rid of something like the breast cancer pink ribbon pins might be bad luck, but I decided if I asked myself, “Do I really love this?” and I did not, into the Goodwill pile it would go! I got dividers to separate earrings , bracelets and necklaces, toe rings, anklets, pins: and further subdivide the earrings: posts, singles, pairs, dangles, hoops, favorites. I even got a separate divider for the Goodwill stuff, because what would they do with a tangle of non-sorted out costume jewelry? I have so many silver pieces that had tarnished and were unwearable. This process took hours and hours. But I did it, and the drawers all look beautiful. I hope I can keep things this way for a while. I am cautiously optimistic.

Next – and I actually got started on this today, right after completing the jewelry project – I am tackling all my sewing and quilting supplies so I do not repeatedly buy stuff I already have, and, once again, so I can find stuff. I am already amazed at how many straight pins, safety pins, and needles I have, how many spools of thread of the same color. I may have enough for the rest of my life! I have about three or four seam rippers, six pairs of scissors, four of those rolling fabric cutters, and so far, I have found two tape measures.

These are the small projects. After that, I have a ton of crap in boxes lining the staircase going up to the boys’ room, a closet in our bedroom, and the basement which is kind of scary. Then the garage, and the back room of basement which is unheated and exposed to the moisture and outdoor elements where everything in there is mildewed and disintegrating by now. There are also boxes in each of the boys’ rooms and a closet in the finished part of the basement. Boxes and boxes of books, and nowhere to put them since we got rid of all our rickety Ikea or Kmart bookshelves. Before my Mom died, I had gotten the basement in decent order, but then she died and I got boxes of her stuff delivered, many of which over a year later I still have not unpacked. We have a huge file cabinet in the basement which has files from a million years ago – I have no idea what is in there. Somewhere amidst all this, I hope, there may some things I have been looking for for a very long time.

You never know. Why, just today, I found some earrings and necklaces I thought had been lost, or I guess they had been lost but now they’re found.


Posted by Vicki on September 5th, 2015 under aspirations, cats, compassion, craziness, dilemma horns, friends & family, Funny things, love, priorities
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I have always wanted a dog. I would have been happy to have a cat, and now we have one, a cat we love. My Mom let us have those tiny turtles, goldfish, a 10 cm tortoise and a pair of gerbils, but nothing that could mess up the house and nothing that would require much work, because she knew she would end up taking care of a creature like that. My Dad brought a dog named Tally-ho to his marriage, but he died before I was born so I lost my one opportunity to grow up with a dog.

It was when the boys were in the process of leaving home and launching themselves into adulthood that we got our two now late bunnies, and Catja walked into our lives, all welcome distractions from the feelings of loss I was experiencing. All summer long, I wondered how it would be when Mollie left for Bryn Mawr. I worried that cb would be devastated and become depressed. Despite this not happening with the boys, I thought he would experience Mollie’s departure differently, because she is a “Daddy’s Girl.” Which, by the way, does not mean loved more. I also worried about how I would take it, because of the significance of the last child going away, and the oppressive thoughts of aging, feelings of loss and sadness, even grief that threatened to overwhelm me. Before Mollie left, I dragged her to Petland, where we played with the two most adorable kittens, and became exuberantly allergic in the process. So no more cats. When I made a semi-spontaneous stop at Petland on Thursday en route to Trader Joe’s, I said to myself that if they had any very young puppies that were extremely adorable, it would be a “sign” that cb and I should take one. Most of the time, Petland’s dogs and cats are older. All cats and dogs there are rescue now, which is wonderful. I like it better than going to The Animal Rescue League location where things seem so much more disorganized.

Wouldn’t you know it, though. This time, there was an entire litter of puppies – 4 boys and 2 girls, 9 weeks old, coonhound-husky mixes, absolutely adorable, among the most adorable puppies I had ever seen! Back story: rescued from a house in West Virginia where someone was hoarding dozens of puppies. These six puppies were in process of being de-wormed and had already been examined by the vet, received one or two shots, had collars on and all seemed extremely frisky. The two components of this canine mix are reputed to have wonderful temperaments, loyalty, intelligence, and socialization. They are gentle. They are not hypoallergenic and they tend to shed a lot. Of course, I was taken with them. I asked if I could play with the two girls, one of whom (Lucy) was the runt of the litter, white and black, and the other of whom (Ruby) was brown and black and had brown eyebrows. In the little back cubby, I held and petted each in turn, and then let them wander on the floor. Both were very cuddly, loving to be held, and both wagged tails incessantly while exploring the cubby with delighted inquisitiveness. They also wrestled each other in the cutest possible way. I asked the staff member all sorts of questions about puppy care, and on Cloud 9 , left the store, shopped, got home with plans to create a yummy dinner. Surprisingly, cb left work early and drove up just as i was unloading car, by 6 pm. So excited was I about puppies – kind of favoring the runt at that point – that I burst out with the news of their existence and adorableness, and my willingness even to postpone the evening meal in order to introduce cb to Lucy and Ruby. Let me digress a moment here to explain why I believe I prefer female dogs – because male dogs tend to be more territorial and many also seem prone to hump furniture and legs, even after being neutered, which I hate. Anyway, cb agreed to check them out, but warned me not to get my hopes up. At this time, I was quite sure we needed to get one of these puppies. This time, both of us played with the two puppies. cb liked Ruby the best, deeming Lucy “funny-looking.” Which she is not, just smaller.

By yesterday morning, I was pretty hyped up about getting one of the puppies, worried that by this time, someone would surely have snapped all of them up. All day, I chatted with patients and colleagues about how I wanted one of the puppies, and without exception, everyone I shared my thoughts with opined that I should definitely go for it. I would not regret it, they promised, although with frequent caveats about how much work it would be.

Peops also say marriage is work, a belief that never resonated with me. Raising kids is work, though, in terms of care, feeding, discipline and time commitment. To raise children, you have to be willing to put certain things on the back burner for a long time, but while parenting limits you in some ways, it is a remarkably mind, heart and soul expanding experience filled with unequalled challenges and joy. To me, marriage has not been limiting in any way, so maybe that is why I have not considered it work.

Having a cat requires minimal commitment and expense. There is the annual vet visit, occasional sick visit, occasional flea treatment. They housebreak themselves; we merely empty the litter box. We also feed her, and cuddle her when she wishes it. On occasion, we have needed to bathe her and replace a lost collar. We have Au Purr to care for her when we are out of town and they do an excellent job. We do sometimes attempt to rescue still-living creatures she brings inside, and sometime just clean up what remains of macerated corpses. Since we learned of the deaths of those two tiny baby bunnies in July, probably due to occult internal injuries and sepsis, I now suspect that even the creatures we rescue and release probably are doomed either because of similar internal damage, or possibly cat-caused disabilities.

I get that dogs are as high maintenance as cats are low maintenance. Besides the basic feedings, there are so many other things. They need to be housebroken, walked multiple times a day, trained not to chew up furniture and other items, to stay, sit, heel, and not to bark, jump, bite or claw. You have to carry around plastic bags in which to collect their poop. They demand a lot of attention and play time. They like to jump on tables, eat anything that is lying around, and run after cars and bicycles. They are escape artists. Going out of town on an impulse is not possible. Vacations must be planned with them in mind. They need to be walked during the day while one is at work, and on freezing cold or rainy or icy days, and very early and very late at night.What does a dog do while one is at work? Is crating a dog cruel? How well does the dog get along with the other pets? Does the dog make a racket, barking, when one is not home? They need frequent baths, because they stink otherwise, they have bad breath, and they shed a lot. We would not know how allergic we would be. And so much more that I do not even know about, because I know nothing about dog care.

So the cuteness and the companionship, loyalty, and unconditional love a sweet, affectionate puppy and later, dog, provide are all well and good, even wonderful, but with the other things I want to do – getting house in order, working out, more quilting, advancing career, traveling a little – do I really want to tie myself down again?

Besides, the panic I felt at Mollie’s leaving is gone. The sadness I expected has not happened. The days before and immediately after dropping her off were, I admit, a bit rocky. But I am not worried about her now because she seems to be adjusting well so far. And work and life are so busy, there is no time to brood. I realize she spent less and less time at home over the past few years, so as I sit here blogging this Saturday morning, she might just as well be right here, home in Pittsburgh, sleeping in within her bedroom downstairs or out doing something or other as being in Philadelphia. I sometimes missed her presence when she was asleep or doing her own thing even while she was still home, but other times, I got so absorbed in the things I was doing that her whereabouts did not cross my mind. I find that now is hardly different. I do not see her in the mornings or evenings now, but before, I might not either, for days – during school, she would leave earlier than I and over summer, would rise later and often be home after my bedtime. And cb is so involved with various looming deadlines that he has not had time to dwell on Mollie’s being away. So we are both doing fine.

It would probably be a good idea to get used to and enjoy this new era of coupledom that cb and I have. No need to complicate it with a dog just yet. It feels like the puppies are the only and cutest puppies ever and this will be our only opportunity to own such a delightful creature. But let’s be realistic – that is not true. There will always be a puppy in need of a good home. Ruby and Lucy are not the only cute puppies I will ever see. I need to learn – at my leisure – about what it would take to own a dog. I would like to have fewer work demands before making such a commitment so that I would have more time to devote to caring for, hopefully, her. Although I am getting older, it is not like my life is over. There will still be time to fulfill the dream of dog ownership even if I wait five years. It does feel like part of my heart is being torn out, or at least bruised a bit, as I move to decision to forego acquiring Lucy or Ruby, because I did fall in love with them a little.

It is just not time yet.

Still Here!

Posted by Vicki on August 30th, 2015 under Attitude, Exercise, fitness, friends & family, love
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Our empty nest is not so bad. It is really not that much different, to be honest, because Mollie had not spent all that much time at home this summer anyhow. It has been very busy what with being back to work and exercising and helping cb with the party he gave yesterday for some of his students in the PSTP program. We spent the day shopping for food and cooking and preparing the dinner, so very distracting. And having to prepare a talk for the support group this coming Wednesday also took up some time, which did not leave much left over for brooding. I think I got all my tears out before she left and on our way home. I had been stressing out about it all summer, having no idea how I was to cope, but I seem to be coping ok now that a few days have passed. More ups about Donald Trump than about Mollie being in college. Of course it was helpful that she sounds great on the phone and that she did not contact us yesterday. We will call her because she is starting her classes tomorrow. I think she will like the classes she chose. She has a beautiful single room in a new dorm which is in fact named “New Dorm,” which I assume has got to be tongue in cheek, although that really is its official name. I finished her quilt on time, so got to see how it looked on her bed, which was very nice. Woody and Max actually came to Bryn Mawr the Tuesday we took her there, we all stayed overnight in the Radnor Hotel, and the five of us had dinner out, walked three miles to an ice cream place, then walked back to hotel, then the next day all dropped Mollie off at her dorm, and while the guys went and got her a couple of fans and a rack for hanging drying clothing, I helped her unpack and set up her room, and then we had lunch at Erdman, a dorm where cb used to live when he was at Haverford (they were allowed in the Bryn Mawr room lottery), and then the boys went back to NY and cb and I drove back to Pittsburgh. Having Woody and Max there was a real treat and made the time more bearable, but seeing them go was very sad, as it always is.

But it was not really an empty nest – Catja was waiting for us.

I was pretty bereft on Thursday and at work on Friday, but seem to have perked up a bit. For the first time since my injury several weeks ago, I rode my bike (yesterday) and went to the exercise class at Shape Training, and i actually ran three and a half miles today, something that I avoided since injury since I was afraid running would be too jarring to brachial plexis, which was injured during that fateful fall. And now that I am done with both preparing and practicing the talk, I can just relax for the rest of the day. It is already six, but that gives me a few hours, and I do look forward to going to work tomorrow, and going for my personal training on T and W, and there are two parties to go to next weekend and Rosh Hashanah the week after.

Things are very busy, which is great.

And cb just got home from work – was at his office all day today! And he had a miserable time going through some data.

We will have to call Mollie to cheer him up!

Our Last One: She’s Leaving Home, Bye Bye

Posted by Vicki on August 22nd, 2015 under Attitude, fond memories, friends & family, howque?, Lifestyle, love, philosophy, priorities, stress management, venting, Wellness
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Tuesday is the day we transport Mollie and her belongings to the other side of the state, and these are the last days of having her live with us in the way she has since she was born more than 18 years ago. Each time one of our kids trundled off to college, I felt like something was ripped right out of me, leaving a hollow sad place, but this time it seems even worse. For it will be the first time on 27 years that none of our children have lived at home.

Mollie is our last one to leave. She is very ready for it, way more ready than I am. cb did not have that bad a time when each of the boys went, but this time he will. Although for the last six months, and especially this summer, Mollie has been pulling away from us intentionally because “I need to learn to be independent,” she is still home, albeit sometimes not till four in the morning, every night, and I see her, for at least a glimpse, almost every day. She makes my coffee. She runs errands. She takes out the garbage every week. We have mommy-daughter time. She drives me to work so she can have the car. She asks for advice, and confides in me. cb, Mollie and I discuss politics, and what is in the news, focusing a lot of our talk on how the transgender topic is being handled by the media, not to mention how Donald Trump is being handled by the media. She never brings her boyfriend around, though, for reasons which remain obscure offering a million and one excuses – first he was too uncomfortable,then she was too uncomfortable, and now they are both too uncomfortable because there is too much pressure and they feel under a microscope. Whatever. But her leaving is so very right, the way things should be. I realize this. I am very happy and proud that our kids have all turned out to be kind, capable and responsible adults, who are making their way in the world. The boys are completely independent, asking for very little guidance or any kind of help, although we – especially I, of course – would be more than happy to offer advice. All this is true, but I have experienced each of their leaving as a tremendous loss. But now. An empty nest will await us upon our return from hilly next Wednesday. Yes. This empty nest phenomenon is something I have dreaded and dreaded for so many years but could not conceive of what it would be like. I did not want to think about it, but at moments, thoughts would creep in.

How many things in my life have I been apprehensive about? How much of that anxiety was unwarranted, or at least disproportionate?

Loss, though, is real, and always as painful as I think it will be. Lately, thoughts of loss occupy so much of my brain space there is little room for much else. There have been so many losses. First the boys going off to college, now Mollie. So many of our friends have moved away from Pittsburgh. There is an indescribable ache every time I am reminded -and this is often – that my Mom and Dad are gone forever. So many people I know are retiring, choosing to embrace entry into the last stage of life! Because, that, loyal readers, is what I believe retirement is: the end of life. This is why I do not ever want to retire, and why I am sure my Dad chose not to until age 91. And of course, within months of that, he did die.

I am now one of the oldest wherever I go. My practice is aging – many who have been patients for hears are now getting Medicare exams. And it is such a shock every time I am actually referred to as “older,” which happens increasingly frequently. When I look in the mirror, I see someone else, someone older than I am. I think that, all at once, I am looking old. When my Mom was my age, she had finished law school and finally passed the bar, and was working part-time in a law office, and was at this office on the day the call came about my Dad’s MI. She was exactly 61 then, like me. She was full of energy then. My Dad was 68. This was his very first health setback ever. Both were very healthy and could not have been more active and socially engaged. Whenever I would complain about them, which I would do from time to time, cb would remind me, “These are the good years.” Little did I know how prescient he was!

cb and had been married only three years when Dad had the MI – it would be another before Woody was born. Within twenty years of that health crisis – a twenty year interval – a “score” – now seems so brief – my folks would have moved out of their dream house in Armonk that had been designed just for them and into Kendal On The Hudson, where they had dreaded going, because they perceived it (not only realistically, but accurately) as their “last stop before. . .” but where, once they settled into their lovely apartment, were whipped into a social frenzy, sucked into an eddy of bonding euphoria, far beyond even that pinnacle which they had previously enjoyed, and this ecstatic state which some might say was a form of denial would, within a short year of the move from Armonk abruptly end in one split second – due to a minuscule but fateful flooring unevenness between kitchen and entryway of said apartment – when my Mom “went down,” suffering the hip fracture whose xray appearance was reminiscent of a slim tree with the top half of its trunk vertically severed by lightning, the injury that catapulted her into her final decline. I think of this defining moment in my Mom’s life when I do things like fall on my chin, as I did two weeks ago. I am a faller. I fall five times a year, at least, and almost fall more than once a day. A fall at sixty one is far more consequential than a fall at 40; the deterioration of the human body between 60 and 80 is terrifying.

I was never sure how I would take aging. I guess I either hoped or expected I would meet it with grace. But I find that even the word – when applied to me – sends a chill down my spine. It turns out I am not facing this period of my life with that equanimity I had imagined. Quite the contrary. I am sad and angry that there seems to be so little time left to do all I want in life, and that I look old and that this will only get worse. When my Mom and Dad got so depressed about their infirmities, I did not understand why. I wondered why they could not just acknowledge their limitations (like not being able to walk, for example) and suck it up and enjoy the wonders of life they still could access. My Dad would look at his wasted arms and say, “I am so weak. I used to be so strong.” As a younger man, he would beat everyone – and I mean everyone – in arm wrestling. How lucky Mom and Dad were, I thought, and also of course expressed to my family members. They had us, after all. They still had each other. They had plenty of money. They had a beautiful home, friends, intelligence. They may not be able to go out much, but they could still meet their friends in the dining room, and there were activities and meetings and things to participate in. There was always a jigsaw puzzle. I thought to myself how nice it would be, even if I could not do much, to just go to that little alcove and work on the jigsaw puzzle every day! There were books, the news, movie night, TV, parties, music. And lots and lots of old peops who would love to be their friends.

I feel now how it might be when I am really old: not being able to hear and so being left out of conversations because the pained expressions on peop’s faces when you ask someone to, once again, repeat something – it just is not worth it. Besides, even if one could hear the words – how fast these conversations move – so fast, it is impossible to process the first witty remark before the next one erupts. And the references! What are they even talking about? It is not that I did not understand that this must be what my folks were experiencing, it is just that even now, I am beginning to perceive inklings of this in my own life. How horrible my folks must have felt when the rest of us would go off to the country without them because they could not go anymore, or when we would go into the city to see a show. We would offer always to take them, but they would decline because they could not manage the logistics – the long car rides, getting in and out of vehicles, navigating steps, using the bathrooms. And of course they knew how depressing it was to visit them – sitting around, not even being able to have conversations with them any more. It got so Mom could not even follow her own train of thought; was unable to turn her head at all, would fall asleep when anyone spoke, even if she asked a question. During her last two years, she would always have have these things right next to her – the phone – her lifeline – her glasses, a box of kleenex, and a small ziploc in which to place the used kleenex. Once, when my Dad was still alive, right when my Mom was recovering for the second time – the first day she got home from rehab, about three months after the hip fracture, she had Immediately fractured her vertebra by bending over to put on a shoe so went right back to the hospital then and more rehab – but while recovering from this, the ability to walk remained out of reach for quite some time – she called me while I was at work to tearfully tell me, “I walked!”

So all this runs in a loop in my mind as I fast forward the next twenty years. So much will happen, right? I will be around, right, to see my kids more, and see what happens to them, and there will be lots more summers, and I will probably be able to do most things for a long time yet, right, like visit my boys in New York, and my girl in Philly, and see my friends and my family who live far away, and I will still be able to work and write and travel and bicycle and run and do all the things I love. God willing, we will all stay healthy for a good long time yet. In the past few days, I have begun to have big mood swings, and by that I mean downswings. I have not laughed a whole lot or felt deep joy. I have cried quite a bit, and even now feel on the verge of tears.Or have been cranky, on edge, jumpy, defensive, touchy and irritable. I have been impatient, intolerant and downright mean. I was mean to two patients this week. It is terrible. My words were not mean, but my attitude was disdainful and I was unable to feel sufficient compassion or muster sufficient strength to squelch those persistent evil forces which dwell within.

The Walking Wounded

Posted by Vicki on August 11th, 2015 under craziness, gluttony, howque?, Illness
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If only i had not gone back to get the water bottle I had left on the rock formation, this never would have happened. I had just found two four leaf clovers side by side about a half hour before, also. Some, and I am among them, would say that I am lucky. I should have been forewarned when Shannon emerged from the woods, limping, after twisting her ankle on the thick bumpy tree roots that served as stairs on the way down to the “Little Niagara Falls,” an Eden-like hideaway we decided to hike to on our penultimate day in Pleasant Mount.

I told myself I would just be very careful and would not trip over the roots. And I did not! First the group of us heard, and then we saw the bubbling waterfalls under the canopy of the tops of ancient gnarled trees, several levels of them, streaming over slabs of slate rock. You could travel across these slabs by stepping onto the drier, less slippery areas, which is of course what I did, carrying my bottle of water and cell phone. I was very very careful. Woody had not joined the rest of us – he was back at the house resting his foot, which he had injured a day or two before. However, He had come to get Shannon and Max after Shannon’s accident. So it was just Harry, Buddha, Curtis, Jenna, Mollie, cb and I going from rock to rock. mollie and I sat on a rock formation, taking in the cool air and the view, and trying to get some good photos with our cell phones. Then we all began photographing each other in groups of twos and threes – Mollie and cb, Mollie and I, Mollie, Jenna and I, Curtis, Buddha, Harry and Jenna. We were about to head out when I noticed I had left my bottle of water on the rock formation where Mollie and I had been sitting, so – carefully – I went back to get it, not wanting to be a litterer. Just doin’ the right thing, ya know?

On my way back from those rocks, bottle and phone in hand, I suddenly felt myself tripping over my own feet so fast there was barely time to register what was happening before my chin struck one of the slate slabs so hard that my entire head vibrated. As my peops all ran toward me, I had already started getting up. I had not lost consciousness. My ears and jaw throbbed and rang with a terrifying intensity – I realized I was wailing: “Ohh. Ohh. Ohh!” I felt like crying but did not cry. I have TMJ and wondered what the fuck I had done to myself this time. My palms were covered in blood, which I realized was dripping from my chin. It seemed I had partly broken the fall with my hands and knees – my left palm especially. I wondered aloud if my cell phone was ok, even as a family of strangers was asking me if I was. cb assured me the phone was fine, with a bit of expansion of the already existing crack. On the hike back to our place, which I was able to do just fine, although very very shaken up, Curtis and then cb each gave me a section of paper towel they happened to be carrying with them in their respective pockets. When we got back to house I examined chin – there was a laceration that kept oozing blood – it needed either sutures or steristrips, and cb and Mollie drove half an hour out and back to get some, and I showered and cleaned up the best I could while they wee gone, then cb performed minor surgery and put my chin back together with Nu Skin and steristrips.

Now I am a member of the (barely) walking wounded. We just got back from our almost perfect vacation Sunday (go back to work tomorrow). I have a healing contusion on left palm and steristrips are off – cb did a great job – coulda been a plastic surgeon! For a reason I have not yet determined, I am left with the after effect of searing and intense pain over entire left ribcage, worse with moving or breathing (!). Pain so very intense, and intensified further as I took a walk today, I actually took two very old leftover Vicodins today which I hate doing because of the resulting inevitable constipation – nsaids kill stomach and plain tylenol wasn’t doing the trick. Vicodin takes edge off. This pain is about a 7 or 8 out of ten, worse when I take a deep breath. The jaw hurts a lot a lot a lot if I chew down the wrong way, or even the way i usually do, so in past few days I have had to slow down chewing and not bite hard into things, which may be a good thing because maybe it means I am eating less. Anyhow, on the vacation I exercised but nowhere near enough to compensate for huge amount of food I consumed, and have not yet weighed self and WW weigh-in is on Thursday

If by Friday rib pain is no better I will get chest xray to make sure I did not fracture ribs or get a pneumothorax. I might have something like this because when I do take a deep breath, I feel a weird sort of crackling sensation within my left chest cavity. OMG, I sure gave myself one hell of a good wallop. It amazes me that one tiny little fall – although I suppose a slate slab would be considered a pretty formidable opponent – could cause so much damage. And how someone of my advanced age weathers such a seemingly minor incident so poorly. The prospect of getting even older is pretty daunting, given my clumsiness and tendency to fall in the best of times, despite all the work with trainers I have done in order to prevent such eventualities. Wishful thinking. My clumsiness may well be my undoing, although we never know for sure what will get us in the end.

I cannot even imagine how horrible it must be for survivors of real trauma, the kind of trauma that Stu Wang sees -and treats! – on a daily basis.

I just discovered that Shannon hurt her other foot and ankle as she, Woody and Max headed back to NYC because our car door closed on it or something.

Last Day In The Mountains

Posted by Vicki on August 8th, 2015 under Uncategorized
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We have had absolutely perfect weather all week, and but for one thing, it has been an absolutely perfect, dream (the good kind) week. We all got along, no blow ups or major drama, yotta yotta yaffs, all doing what we wanted separately and together. I got to be with my gorgeous, fabulous fam, my fave peops in the whole world, for a whole entire week, starting off with the Goshen and Kindred Farm trip. But today is our last day and tomorrow we all head off on our individual ways: the boys and Shannon to Manhattan by bus; Curtis and his fam here for one more week then back to work; and us back to Pittsburgh and the stresses (cb is the one with the most stress) that await. I have already booked a week back in the house for next summer, hoping for good health and safety for all of us till and beyond then. Ten days would be better but not sure we will all be able to do this – asking the owner of house if this would work! The house is just fabulous. Could not be in a better location. It is not expensive. It has two floors, two full sizable bathrooms, a huge dining room table, a big kitchen, three full bedrooms and other places to sleep, a big living room with netflix tv downstairs, wifi, a patio, a pond replete with frogs, a huge field with a path leading into the woods to a great trail. It is only three miles from Unc’s house. The place is uncluttered, not dusty, big windows, contemporary design. The guys who own the place are a couple who live right down the road in a magnificent home on a grassy knoll with lots of trees. They also own the best store in the town of Honesdale – Milkweed – which carries all sorts of wonderful and novel things – clothing, kites, kitchen and home utilitarian and decorative items, quilts, toys, cards, and lots of other things. We have gone for walks, runs, shopping trips, and done a lot of cooking. We had a birthday party for Max last night (not quite his bd yet). I have just about finished quilt except for the final touches. mended clothes I had in a mending pile for a year. Jenna who is in process of becoming certified as a yoga instructor led two long yoga sessions and was by far the best yoga instructor I have ever encountered, mostly because she is completely free of the customary affectations that most yoga teachers seem to possess. Of course reading and sleeping and just hanging out and joking around made the trip complete. And I have gotten to thrice blog!

Of course the one thing that has gotten in the way of perfection is the fact that I have consistently eaten weigh too much and will be up in weight upon arrival home. Weigh-in on Thursday will not be pretty, if I even get on scale at WW. It will be pay the piper time. I must say, though, there has been no bingeing at all, mostly just big meals, and desserts, but not enormous desserts. I have been exercising daily and tracking calories daily – about 1700 to 2000 – This is good, but what is bad is that even with 10000 steps a day, calorie burn is so much less than even last year that this will be enough for a several pound weight gain. Do I feel it? And how! In the entire midsection. Not enjoying eating would be a sad option so let chips (as long as not in my mouth – potato or corn – although available I did not eat!) fall where they may.

Tonight we are making our annual foray to Thompson to the ice cream place whose name escapes me. I so hope it is still there! They have a marvelous peanut butter chocolate flavor that is to die for and I get in a sugar cone with chocolate sprinkles. The Last Hurrah!

Off to Jenna’s for a run, then later a big walk to a little mini niagara falls. I will sooooo miss it here!

We will get a photo of all of us. Soon all this will just be a beautiful series of memories.


Posted by Vicki on August 6th, 2015 under friends & family, Lifestyle, love
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It is already Thursday late afternoon. We have only today, tomorrow and Saturday and we go home Sunday. This week has just whizzed by. These weeks with my fam always whiz by and then I have to wait such a long time before seeing ev again, and this time, we will have only two more weeks after getting home before we must drop Mollie off for her Freshman year at Bryn Mawr and return to our empty nest. A day I knew would arrive someday, a day I am glad is arriving but I will miss Mollie so, just the way I missed each of the boys when they left home. She will be fine. But when the kids move away, of course the relationship changes, as it should, but they are no longer “yours” anymore. Although if you are lucky, you remain connected with them, but their lives are no longer intertwined with yours, you know little about what is happening with them on a day to day basis. Phone calls, skypes, emails, texts, Facebook posts – all help but they are not the same as being together. The together times happen a few times a year and are always way too short, usually long weekends or holidays when so much else is going on. Ever since 1991 when my folks decided to host us all for week long summer vacations, I have looked forward to them all year long, knowing my Mom and Dad would not be around forever, and of course they were not. The last few years of their lives they were no longer able to join us on these trips. This saddened them. We would visit them for a few days first, which was always so depressing, even more so after my Dad died and we would have to leave my Mom to go to Curtis’s place in Pleasant Mount. The last year or two, as one by one, her faculties slipped away, I am not even sure Mom quite understood where we were going, although sometimes she would say she wished she could go with us. I think they would be happy to know we have continued the tradition. They, especially my Mom, were always a little worried that Curtis and I would have some type of blow up that would destroy our relationship. Because it used to be that every summer, there would be at least one incendiary incident between Curtis and me, and/or Curtis and my Mom. Our fights would go from zero to sixty in a second flat. One of us would say something which would trigger a reaction from the other which would explode into a screaming match which would cast a pall on the subsequent hours or even days. Horrible. Interestingly, things calmed down considerably when Mom and Dad could no longer be with us on these trips. Curtis and I have had some friction here and there, but so minor and so quickly resolved. Through my folks’ illnesses and death, I have come to realize more than ever how precious Curtis is to me and how preserving our relationship is as important as anything in life.
I of course would never tell him that – it would sound really lame and swell his head besides. . . or who knows? Maybe I will say something. Stranger things have happened you know.

Max and cb just went out back for a walk and tell me the blueberry bushes are all dried up. That seems so strange – this time last year, they still had so many berries. I do not understand how that could be, but oh, well. Tomorrow we are celebrating Max’s birthday, since we will not be with him on his real birthday, August 18, and since we did celebrate Woody’s birthday with him the last time he visited. We are making him a special dinner and maybe going on a hike. I will have to pick up a few things at the supermarket tomorrow because he wants some very specific things which we do not have. Saturday I will finally have to do laundry so I do not have to do it when we get home.

I am looking out the window at an idyllic landscape. I think I could live like this forever.

Kindred Farm Revisited

Posted by Vicki on August 3rd, 2015 under Uncategorized
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I finally dragged my entire crew, not quite kicking and screaming, but a bit under duress, to Goshen. Robert Wolfson, my second cousin, and his wife, Donna, and his sister-in-law, Ginny, hosted an afternoon get together for any relatives who could make it to what is really a family compound, although one on which the March contingent no longer owns property. We could, if we wanted to, buy in again, but my Gramma’s old house is in such a state of decrepitude that it would be a mistake – Pittsburgh is so far away from Goshen, and Curtis already has his cottage in Pleasant Mount. Investing time and $ on renovations to the Goshen place does not really make sense for either of us. At least not right now. We basically ate all afternoon long, because first there were appetizers, then there was a lunch with food from a Middle Easter restaurant, which was yummy, and then a couple of hours later, a barbecue! Our hosts really knocked themselves out for us – Robert’s and Donna’s daughter, Michele, is getting married next weekend, so the timing for putting this day together probably could not have been worse – but they insisted upon doing it in the most gracious way possible. My kids and cb all finally understood what I was talking about when I spoke of Kindred Farm and all my great times there in my youth, the weeks of liberation every summer from all worries and cares. My Dad would be in Ardsley during the week, working, and come up for weekends, and my Mom, Curtis and I would stay at Gramma’s for either three or four weeks in a row. We would “time share” with my Mom’s brother and sister because Gramma had neither sufficient space nor forbearance to deal with all three families at once. So I think every summer one fam got four weeks and the other fams got three. Anyway, although it was a good long time, it was never enough for me. Such excitement upon arrival there each summer, and such sorrow and despair upon leaving my beloved oasis. I think part of my freedom from most anxiety at these times had something to do with the differences in my Mom. Since we spent most of our time outdoors, and there was not much mess to clean up, Mom was never on our cases. Curtis and I would be released every morning after breakfast and wander all over the farm playing with our cousins. Even on rainy days we would be out of Mom’s hair – off to the social hall to play ping pong or rehearse one of our annual plays, or to someone’s screened in porch to play cards for hours and hours and hours. It was so great for my Mom not to have to supervise us constantly – something that drove her insane and into foul moods back in Ardsley. For my Mom, motherhood of small children, even very good, well-behaved children like us, was fraught with tension, which manifested itself in constant irritability. She was too much of a control freak to be a content, stay at home parent. There was nothing Mom liked more than Curtis and me out of her sight, the only time she was at peace. When we were underfoot, we were either demanding something of her or making a mess that either she had to clean up or force us to clean up according to her specs, and she hated all of it. She also despised cooking, and shopping, and in Goshen, she did not do any of that. My Gramma hired someone every summer to cook and clean, although sometimes Gramma did the cooking. But Mom did not. Often I would get meals from all the relatives – one after the other. Mom could chill for the only time all year, mostly visiting with her own cousins, or uncles and aunts, or maybe just reading. She would leave us completely alone. Never was she more relaxed than when she was in Goshen, as close to a reprieve from parenthood as she could get short of being away from us with my Dad on one of their romantic getaways. And when Mom was relaxed, I could relax, too. At Kindred Farm, there were no constraints, no yelling, and no social or school pressures.

I felt that so much yesterday. This tradition was carried forward by other families, something very nice to see, but our kids missed out on it because of the rift between my Mom and her siblings (on Gramma’s behalf) and their cousins. Now, maybe we can visit at least once a year and stay connected. Mark and Sheri are responsible for the reestablishment of relationships because they are the ones who have steadfastly been having Grashow, Asbell and Ginsberg reunions in Brooklyn every few years.

One more quirk in my fam I forgot about. I have already explained that whole thing where Uncle Sam Asbell – brother to my Great Gramma Luba Grashow, nee Asbell, who married Victor Grashow – married Tante Fannie Ginsberg, who was my Grampa Leo’s (Ginsberg) older sister. Sam became both an uncle and brother-in-law to my Gramma Mollie Ginsberg nee Grashow, resulting in every relationship among Asbells, Grashows and Ginsbergs to be double-sided. What I neglected to mention is the incestuous connection – that my other great Gramma, Bubba Rosie, who may herself have been a Ginsberg originally (I will need to corroborate her maiden name), married her first cousin, Julius Ginsberg. Marriages between first cousins were common back then, not to mention perfectly legal. So this just adds intrigue to our already unique family saga.

We are all together now – my brother, Jenna, Harry, Buddha, Mollie, Max, Woody, Shannon, cb, and I. We are all going to be here for the rest of the week. No one is taking off early. Today was our jaunt to Wegman’s, but from now on we will not be driving so much. Unforch, so far. have been eating like a pig, not really counting calories or points, just knowing they are too too much. Did walk five miles yesterday and about to do this again now.
Also almost done with Mollie’s quilt, although there will be a remaining troublesome corner Sara will have to help me figure out I cannot do so myself. Cannot believe it is almost done.

Taking A Little Break

Posted by Vicki on July 31st, 2015 under aspirations, Attitude, Bunnies, cats, Exercise, fond memories, friends & family
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So as my readers who are on facebook already know, the bunnies died. We did get them to a person who brought them to the wildlife center where injured and/or orphaned wild animals are cared for until ready to be released into the wilderness, and they lived for a short while, but ultimately did succumb, probably consequent to injuries inflicted by our own Catja – infection or bleeding or irreversible organ damage of one sort or another. But at least the two litter mates got to meet each other and bond and cuddle against each other. Such perfect little creatures, such brief, sad little lives. I am heartbroken and also mad at Catja, even though I know she cannot help it, it is the natural order of things, and even though it is our fault for letting her continue to be an outdoor cat once her care was transferred to us five years ago. We could have made her stay inside, but we did not.


First thing tomorrow morning, Mollie, cb and I will hop into the minivan and begin the drive to Pleasant Mount, PA, for our one week summer sojourn with family. Both boys will be there, and Shannon, too, and of course Curtis, Jenna, Harry and Buddha. We leave Catja behind – bringing cats along on vacation seems like it would be really tricky – she would not get what was going on and would be likely to just run away. Plus, no pets allowed in the house we are renting. Mollie will not be complaining, but I think she is ambivalent about going away – from Pittsburgh and her boyfriend of the past six months – especially since she just has a few precious weeks left before we take her to Bryn Mawr.

It will be the first time in 25 years we have not had at least one child in day care or public school. That is quite a thought. I am very happy to not have to worry about what draconian measures the Pittsburgh Board of Education will dream up next. When the boys were little, it was a good school system, but since then, there have been so many cuts and of course the destruction wrought by the Who Else Can We Kick in the Behind Act. These thoughts somewhat assuage the sadness that wells up on a daily basis when I contemplate a Mollie-less house. But, as she reassures us, she will be coming home “at least every six weeks” because of all the school breaks she gets.

Even now, so many years after the boys left home, I often miss them terribly, although I am finally getting used to them not being here. They do a pretty good job of keeping us posted about what is going on with their lives, considering that they make sure to omit anything personal or revealing from our discussions. Every once in a while, we get thrown a small tidbit, but for harmony’s sake, the fewer the questions asked, the better. Readers who are also parents of a certain age will know exactly what I mean.

Also, in case you were wondering, guys are different. On a good day, I can barely get anything out of even cb, my loving, affectionate, dear and not in the least bit aloof husby of over 31 years. He just does not tell me much. Neither did my Dad tell my Mom much. It is just the way it is with guys. Then every once in a while, when you least expect it, they will spill their guts. Only for about five minutes, but something is better than nothing. Girls just communicate differently. It is a whole different way of existing, one that I,of course, prefer, and one which I think sometimes makes guys a little jealous and, frankly, pisses them off, because they feel left out, mostly because they just do not know how to join in our sorts of intense, involved, emotionally based discussions about subjects they know nothing about.

Mollie and I spend hours together chattering about everything and anything. Same thing with all the women I feel close to, but interestingly, even with women I am not close to. Things are just understood. It is much easier to chat with girls than with boys, always has been. In fact, despite what I just said about cb, he feels more comfortable in a group of girls than boys, and not only more comfortable, but prefers it. He says the conversations are more interesting. He’s got that right! So even though cb does not communicate in exactly the same way I do – he does not emote, for example, not ever – I have never seen him cry in the whole time I have known him – which is not something he could say about me – I feel extremely comfortable telling him anything. I can’t really explain this comfort level. It is just very nice to be in love with your best friend. He does really try to get what I am talking about, and I believe he does a pretty good job.

Sunday, we are all going to take a day trip to Goshen, which is about a two hour drive from Pleasant Mount, to visit some of my relatives who still go up there in the summers. Not sure how much time they actually spend there each year. In a couple of prior posts, I wrote about Kindred Farm, the place purchased and named by my grandfather and his siblings in the 1940’s. My Gramma sold her share, but a lot of the offspring of my Grampa’s siblings still own the original homes. I hope cb and the kids all come along, but I know Curtis and I are going.

Since I spent the last few days catching up on paperwork, emails, phone calls to patients and tying up all sorts of loose ends, which I managed to finish, or pretty nearly, I will be able to do vacation-type things this next week – visit, exercise, read, cook, finish Mollie’s quilt which I am bringing along with me – all that remains is the binding – and getting in a few blog posts. All this will be very nice.

My feet are throbbing – could use massage – because my step count today was about 22 thousand. That is a lot of steps.

A Baby (Newborn) Bunny

Posted by Vicki on July 23rd, 2015 under Bunnies, cats, compassion, Eating Behavior, Nutrition
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Mollie pointed to the floor, with a freaking out expression on her face. Oh, no, I thought. Another casualty courtesy of Catja. At first glamce, it looked like a dying mouse, crawling in a last effort to escape a painful fate. Catja had had this poor creature in her clutches and had almost, but not quite killed it, and now it was suffering and what was I to do about that?

I gently took the creature into my hands and inspected it to see if there were obvious injuries which there were not. Then I realized it looked nothing like a mouse – the ears were too long, and the tail was extremely short, and that it could only be a very young, probably newborn, probably less than a day old, bunny. It looked to be a boy bunny, from what I could tell. I could be wrong. Mollie, in a heightened state of excitement, all the while repeating giddily, “We’re keeping it! We’re keeping it!” ran downstairs to retrieve our animal carrier. It already had a towel in it for when we take Catja to the vet, but per instructions she found on some random baby bunny care and feeding website, she covered the cage with another towel after I awkwardly placed the bunny into it, onto the towel. The bunny had been nosing at my palm, which I interpreted to be a sign of wanting to nurse. How were we to feed the bunny? Mollie’s google search also brought up an image of a newborn bunny, which looked identical to our foundling. How had this bunny gotten into our house? Catja was nowhere in sight. About ten minutes earlier, when I had been in the midst of brushing my teeth, I heard what I thought was the squealing of an animal. Not a bird, not a squirrel. I could not help wondering what Catja had been up to, then dismissed the thought, because of course the sound could have been anything, there are so many dogs about, and other cats, and all sorts of rodents and children besides who make all sorts of noises at all times.

But once I realized about the bunny, my imagination began to work again. How HAD the bunny found its way to and inside our door? I had been seated at dining room table, as I am now, when the bunny had entered through the partly open sliding glass door to the back deck, which also opens into the dining room, where the table is only a couple of feet from the door. The deck is raised – a bunch of wooden stairs lead up to it – and it is highly doubtful that the mama bunny had nested on the deck, so I can only speculate that someone or something had brought the bunny to the deck and the door, and maybe even into the dining room. This very young bunny would not have been capable of getting himself up the stairs, nor would this have been his desire, and had he been dropped on the deck, in order to get into dining room, he’d have had to climb about four or five inches up a small step , crawled along it for another four inches, then up another inch, then drop down an inch to the dining room floor. Not only is this bunny weak, but also probably effectively blind, with its closed eyes. So had Catja deposited bunny and abandoned him? This would have been uncharacteristic for our tenacious cat, who loves to torture her captives – methods include carrying in her mouth, cornering them, chasing them, and batting them around, alive, half dead and dead until finally losing interest in the play and getting down to the business of eating the head and leaving the body, then later finishing off the remains for a, perhaps, midnight snack. I cannot imagine why Catja would not have followed her usual routine, unless she had been distracted by the knowledge that there were more of these, in a bunny nest in the yard, which may be where the sound I had heard had originated. I am frankly scared to know the truth, because Catja is still out there somewhere. Anyone who is a parent knows that when it is a little too quiet, something sinister must be afoot.

Anyway, at this moment, I do not know if “our” bunny is even still alive. Mollie and cb are off getting baby bunny feeding supplies – I had found a website with explicit instructions – I made my first egregious error already – had not washed my hands prior to picking up bunny, thereby permitting the bacteria on my hands to wreak a horrible, probably fatal infection because the bunny’s tiny, inchoate immune system without its mama’s antibody-rich colostrum, would not mount a sufficient, if any, defense. I am afraid to checking on bunny – it would be terrified, possibly to death. I believe this poor bunny’s chance of survival through the night is slim to none. He is awfully damn cute, though. Would it not be amazing if he did survive?

The troops are back.