A Day in the Life: Today’s ‘Pet’ Peeve

catseyes

Story (L) and Wall-e (R)

I’ve never been a particularly vocal pet lover, although I’ve always had dogs or cats or both, or other pets. They have been part of our family, whether growing up as a child, or as an adult with my own family. At one time, I had six indoor cats (Bubba, Rocky, Sam, Lizzy, Patton and G Kitty), a [mostly] outdoor dog (Windsor), two indoor rabbits (Easter and Sunday), a hamster (Hammy), an anonymous anole, and two indoor-outdoor kids and husband—all under one roof. There were five litter boxes, scooped morning and evening and in-between, as necessary. All of them, including the kids and husband, always had abundant water, sufficient food and shelter, and when the temperature was too hot or too cold, Windsor stayed cool downstairs in the basement with everyone else. I currently have two adopted cats, Waldorf and Astoria (Wall-e and Story), indoor cats who are well cared for and much loved.

We are currently under an extreme heat advisory, with dire warnings about dehydration and heatstroke. I’m now stepping up on my soapbox.

What I cannot, and never will understand, are those inhumane pet owners who leave their animals out in life-threatening weather, often without water, and chained or enclosed without shelter from the elements. Why on earth would anyone treat an animal to that which humans would not tolerate? What is the point of keeping and mistreating an animal? No, they are not human, and no they are not like children, regardless of what anyone may insist. However, they are living, sentient beings, sensitive to heat and cold, thirst and hunger, and that should be enough to treat them humanely. When there’s a heat advisory, with a heat index of over 100°F, how could anyone chain a dog up outdoors without shade or fresh water? When it’s -20°F, how could anyone leave an animal, or worse, a child, in a car alone for any amount of time in these severe weather conditions?

Have those who do these things descended to such a low level that their humanity has all but abandoned them? Especially for the people down the street, who thought nothing of leaving their dog out in any sort of weather, whining, crying and barking all day and night, why was it necessary to call animal services to come to your pet’s rescue? What the hell is the matter with you?

Please, remember that when it’s too hot or too cold out for you, it’s too hot or cold for most household pets. Treat your fur family with the same concern you show for yourself, or don’t have pets. End of rant. Stepping down from soapbox.

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A Day in the Life: First World Problem

For the entire summer (actually since May 27), until yesterday, the central air in my house was deader than a doornail. As the temperatures soared into the 90s with humidity in the 75%-90% range, I made do by running the three overhead fans continuously day and night, and with window fans in the living room and bedroom. And then there’s the three-foot-in-diameter fan, which on its lowest speed is loud and very aggressive, and which I suspect on highest speed (5), would blow out the windows in any room where it resides. Cool cloths, cool showers, ice packs and sitting in front of the fan worked well during all but the hottest days. On those days, my muscles rebelled and I could scarcely get up and about. (Myasthenia gravis doesn’t like extremes of hot and cold; neither do I.)

When my home warranty provider denied my claim to repair or replace the unit, which dates from the 70s, I accepted the fact that I’d have to pony up the $3000 to replace the system, but I had to wait until the middle of July to scare up the dough. With a small loan from the bank and the extreme generosity of my brothers, I was able to have a new system installed yesterday. I sat back and reveled in the cool, quiet house. The fans were extremely loud, and for a person who resents even the noise the refrigerator makes when it kicks in, the silence was especially golden. I realize that this is, no doubt, a first world problem, and that I am spoiled by modern conveniences.

Now, I distinctly recall that growing up, we had no central air. In the first house I remember, on the Connecticut shore of Long Island Sound, a whole house fan in the attic drew the heat up and out, making it quite comfortable most of the time. Our large family’s next home was an old, brick “mansion” in the Midwest, where temperatures and humidity were often the same numbers. Built in 1900 or so, it featured a 1000 square ft. ballroom and servants’ quarters on the third floor. (I can only imagine how incredibly uncomfortable the servants must have been in the heat.) “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” dominated talk about the weather. We had window air conditioners in some of the rooms, powerful window fans in the others, and for the most part, we were comfortable. The dungeon basement, always cool, provided respite in case the heat became too much.

We first encountered central air in the ranch house that followed the big old house. My mother, in the full bloom of menopause, preferred to keep it cool, really cool. “If you’re too cold, put on a sweatah (Manhattanese for sweater).” We were completely spoiled by central air, and I vowed never to live without it again. Life, however, interfered. My college dorm room was on the first floor, and while warm, it was never as hot as the upper floors, and besides, I had an ancient window fan donated by my next older brother, who no longer needed it. A series of apartments and tiny houses came without air conditioning and we survived. By the time we bought our first house, central air was a deal-breaker. With one child and another on the way, I could not contemplate being pregnant during the muggy summer months, when my little darling was due. (He was born in August, and it was hot hot hot.)

After a divorce, my kids and I moved into a lovely old, brick, prairie-style home with incredible woodwork and cavernous rooms, albeit in a sorry state of disrepair. No air conditioning, but I had my trusty, ancient box fan in the metal case. (Homes with AC were beyond my meager budget.) Over the first Labor Day weekend there, ripping out horribly odoriferous wall-to-wall shag carpet that covered beautiful oak floors, I thought I’d melt, even with the fan aimed directly at me. Some nights, we slept on the living room floor in front of that fan. The basement playroom and studio provided cool relief in summer and surprising warmth in winter. After three years and another husband, we installed a huge window unit on the first floor, and another smaller unit on the second floor, with the fan to push the air around. Once again, we enjoyed comfort.

big fan

Another divorce, another home, this one in which I now live. Once again, central air was a deal-breaker. I suppose I’m very lucky that the vintage system, c. mid-1970s, functioned well for as long as it did. I just wish it had held out for another year, as it died just as my beloved kitty, Story, had to have surgery to remove an obstruction in his intestine, my Macbook Pro (my livelihood) fried and had to be replaced, and expenses for a trip to Washington, D.C., for work all came at the same time as the necessity of purchasing my elder son’s ticket home from Thailand, where he has lived for nearly a year. In addition, the rear brakes on my car were down to 3% and the front to 15%. (Brake jobs on a vintage Saab are not cheap, but that’s just another Saab story….) And so, in a word, I’m broke in the first world sense.

On the up side, the universe (and my family) has taken pretty good care of me. I have a home (with AC!), enough to eat, two great kids, two delightful cats, wonderful family and friends, I’m sort of reasonably healthy, albeit a bit broken here and there, and work that is also my play. For all of this, I am ever grateful. Life is good.

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A Day in the Life: Inspiration VIII

For some time, I’ve been feeling uninspired under the pressure of financial disasters: nearly dead cat (had to have surgery), dead central air system, dead laptop, and medical bills that just keep accruing as I go to physical therapy twice a week for a bum shoulder. I’ve managed to produce only two pieces of art in months, have made no jewelry, except for restringing two necklaces for a client. In fact, the only real work I’ve done has been production of a 40-page, tabloid-size newsletter published quarterly and a a couple of rather simple posters.

This morning, while drinking my coffee and planning my day, I encountered the work of artist Matteo Massagrande, which blew me away. I’ve always been fascinated by abandoned architectural spaces, and have even created a few pieces of art based upon them.

door to my dreams 6"      oldhomestead-6"

I was so impressed with Matteo Massagrande’s work, I’m sharing it here, today. From his profile on Artsy: “Matteo Massagrande paints interior scenes with multiple focal points, a compositional style absorbed from having studied Renaissance masterworks while working as the assistant to a restorer of 15th- to 19th-century artworks. He blends late 19th-century Italian Realism with contemporary photorealism and Renaissance art techniques. Addressing themes of remembrance and temporality, Massagrande depicts interior spaces in varying states of deterioration. His cinematic perspectives and eerie light effects suggest the presence of previous inhabitants and their former lives. The artist builds each composition in sections, adding texture and patina as if restoring the painting while creating it. Massagrande once met [artist] Giorgio de Chirico, who inspired him to develop his own style rather than adhere to more popular abstract styles.” You can see Matteo’s work here:
www.artsy.net/artist/matteo-massagrande.

The detail in these is amazing. A few of his works:

la stanza gialla-massagrande

La Stanza Gialla. Matteo Massagrande

terraza massagrande

Terraza. Matteo Massagrande

poggiolo-massagrande

Poggiolo. Matteo Massagrande

For more very cool inspirational works, check out Katy Cowen’s Creative Boom blog.

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A Day in the Life: Who’s the Leader of the Dave Clark Five?

dave clark five green

The Dave Clark Five on the set of ‘Hold On-It’s The Dave Clark Five’ (1968 PKT3243 – 228710) DAVE CLARK FIVE pop group first became popular in 1963, and were the first pop group ever to reach the Top Ten while they were still amateurs, with a record called ‘Glad All Over’.

“Who’s the leader of the Dave Clark Five?”

So complete was my humiliation as a sixth grader that the memory of that moment has stuck with me now for more than 50 years. Sixth grade was not a good grade for my little girl self. Being the weird kid back then wasn’t easy—I was pudgy, “blossoming” in a big way, wearing thick, cat eye glasses with rhinestones in the corners, and living, apparently, under a rock. Not the rock n’ roll kind, just the big isolating boulder of my awkwardness and my family situation.

When Cindy C with the white GoGo boots, one of the most popular girls in the sixth grade, approached me with her group of friends that morning, I was in no mood for her daily taunts and bullying. I’d had a bad hair morning, an ugly clothes morning, a bratty little brothers morning, and during breakfast, had learned that we would be moving out of our big, old, beautiful mansion to who knew where. I loved that big old house, its Italian marble floors, crystal chandelier, intricately carved front staircase and cavernous rooms, ballroom on the third floor, the five plus acres of room to roam, trees to climb and the myriad places to lose myself.

No Mary Janes

No Mary Janes!

The fifth of six kids, and the only girl, I was the apple of my daddy’s eye. My mother’s disappointment in me was palpable—I was the wrong kind of girl! Oh, she wanted the dainty little flower, who would play with dolls, have tea parties, and wear dresses and Mary Janes and love them. But I was the dungaree and sneakers clad, tadpole catching, tree climbing, baseball walloping, free spirited tomboy kind of girl, and I could not have been less interested in the Dave Clark Five, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or any other rock n’ roll band of the day. Aside from a bit of folk introduced by my eldest brother (11 years my senior), the only music we ever listened to in our house was classical, and mostly, emanating from the piano on which my talented brother (3 years older) practiced for hours daily. (I bought my first album ever, The Doors, in high school.)

So, on that fateful morning, facing the derision of Cindy C and her gaggle of prepubescent girls, I simply shrugged my shoulders and stood mute, my ignorance exposed for all to see. I did not know who the leader of the Dave Clark Five was. A “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” kind of question, I had no frame of reference on which to peg it. They could have been little green men from Mars, as far as I knew. Seething with the shame of my ignominy, I slunk away to my seat in Mr. Oglesby’s classroom. I’d like to be able to say that I somehow evened the score, but Karma did that for me in 11th grade, when Cindy C, no longer the most  popular girl in our grade, had to drop out of school, pregnant. (Back in the day, that was a terrible sin, unlike today, where mere children have babies daily.)

Still the weird girl, albeit with long, luxuriant dark hair and round, wire-rim glasses, I was proud of my artsy weirdness. I still am.

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A Day in the Life: Accepting What Is

life is a lot like jazz

For just about the entire 34 years since I moved to this town, I’ve dreamed of escaping and living elsewhere, preferably someplace with a diverse cultural scene, a healthy arts community, and above all, less severe winters. By March of this year, I had finally decided that this was the time to go. My plan to move in August was waylaid by my older son’s plan to return to the states in August. I moved my date to mid-October, and then due to work obligations, to the end of October. I looked forward to never spending another winter here, to spending more time with my brother and his wife, to a vibrant arts community, and to starting fresh in a new place. Ahahaha!

This has not been a good few months. In mid-May, my sweet little cat, Astoria (Story), swallowed a jagged piece of plastic and had to have surgery to remove it. An amazing friend helped me out with the vet bills, assuring me that I could repay her whenever I got the money. The following week, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to work for a couple of days for the FDA. On my first day there, I went to dinner with an old friend, and upon returning to my room, I found my computer dead—blammo—completely unresponsive in any mode. And of course, I had no money to replace it—Macs are extremely expensive for no good reason—but with 26 years of Mac files and programs, I really had no other good choice. I had to do something very quickly, since I had the summer issue of a quarterly tabloid-style, 40-page newsletter to produce.

Upon my return from Washington, I discovered that the central air in the house was broken. No problem, my home warranty would cover that. Except that it doesn’t because they claim there is faulty wiring (it’s been this way since I bought the house in 2001, and not one of the techs who has been out to work on it over the last 15 years has ever mentioned it). I will have to replace the outside unit to the tune of $2150 (best estimate).

Fortunately, I was able to arrange the replacement of my Macbook Pro through my younger son, with interest-free, car-payment-sized installments over 11 months. Unfortunately, when I travel to D.C., I have to pay my expenses up front and wait for FDA to reimburse me—six weeks later and I’m still waiting for a sizeable check. Meanwhile, I have yet to purchase my other son’s return ticket, flinching as I watch the price rise daily, with the number of hours of travel rising accordingly. This is, as a little boy I once overheard say, a real “fustercluck.”

What it actually means is that I will now not be able to move, a reality that hit me squarely between the eyes with such force that it left a huge depression (figuratively speaking). As the days have passed, I’ve come to accept that I will spend yet another miserable winter in this place, and that I’ll be up to my earballs in repaying debts for the next nine or 10 months, all the while racking up additional medical bills for physical therapy on my badly damaged shoulder. This is a long-term owie rehab, and of course, my insurance calendar year began July 1, so co-pays and out-of-pocket will have to be satisfied before I get a break. It’s just another pile of money I don’t have.

SO, I was feeling very sorry for myself, [not so] quietly pissing and moaning about my thwarted plans. After wallowing for a couple of weeks, I came to the conclusion that I could either let it go and accept things as they are, or NOT. Past experience has taught me that NOT is a pretty unproductive way to live. Instead, I can embrace the extra time I now have to de-clutter, downsize and get rid of all the junk, to make better choices about what I will take when I do move, spend more time with people I care about, who I will eventually be leaving, and I can appreciate what I do have—a wonderfully supportive family and friends who have been here for me at every turn.

Yes, my inner child is still disappointed that she can’t have what she wants, but nowhere is it written that just because someone, anyone wants something and make plans, it will happen. Life is like that. As a completely detestable fellow I worked with years ago once said, “Life is like sh*t on a wheel. Sometimes up, sometimes down.” Or, in the wise words of the incomparable George Gershwin, “Life is a lot like jazz…it’s best when you improvise.”

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A Day in the Life: Toxic People

Abstract spectrum background

We all, at one time or another, have dealt with toxic people in our lives—you know, the ones who manage to drain you of every last iota of energy. They are our family members or people we may consider friends. Sometimes, they are simply people we know or interact with in a larger group of friends and acquaintances. Regardless of who they are, toxic people can be incredibly damaging if we allow ourselves to be hurt by them. 

I know how difficult it can be to jettison a toxic person from one’s life, especially a family member. I know, because long ago, I closed the account with a sibling who did his very sociopathic best to wreak havoc in the lives of everyone he encountered throughout his life. Unable to explain to the rest of the family why I had eliminated this person from my life, when it became necessary to be in his presence again, I experience extreme revulsion. My children and then-husband couldn’t understand why I was “over-reacting” so.

The time had come to reveal the ugliness that led me to sever ties so many years earlier. Trust me, there are a thousand things I’d rather have done—even cleaning toilets—than to tear open old wounds. However, I was fortunate to encounter their love and support. On the other hand, I also encountered from some others the “blood is thicker than water”, “he’s your family”, and “you just need to forgive and forget” rhetoric, none of which moved me. He was simply an accident of biology. Forgiveness is one thing, but in my heart of hearts, I know, without a shadow of doubt, that I am not “enlightened” enough to erase history as though it never were.

Abstract spectrum background

Then there was the woman to whom my children and I referred as “Boobhead”. A very large, very loud, very intrusive woman with big hair and no friends, whose daughter was in my son’s class in early elementary school, she glommed onto me when I made the mistake of being nice to her once. Once was all it took.

I’m not a phone person; in fact, as a result of my interaction with her back in the olden days of land lines, I learned to turn the ringer off and let the phone ring, relying on the answering machine to do the job for me. But before I got smart, Boobhead began calling me daily. At the time, I worked in my own graphic design studio in my home. I just didn’t have time to listen to her recitation of the minutia of her day—itemized lists of what she was making for dinner, how many loads of laundry she was doing, her dating life (OMG)—but worse, a constant stream of complaints, hypercritical blather and negativity about nothing and everything, during which I made appropriate noises, but never did manage to get a word in edgewise. A few days of being nice left me feeling as though every last cell of energy in my being had been sucked out through a loooooong straw.

Her account was seriously overdrawn—no overdraft protection. My equanimity had been deeply disturbed. In self-defense, I simply stopped answering the phone and deleted her messages without listening to them. On the odd instance where I might run into her, I did my best to remain invisible.

At the time, I felt a bit unkind, but I realized much later that I had simply done what was necessary to protect myself from her negativity. It is not unkind to take care of yourself; it’s an absolute imperative. Recognizing and removing a toxic person from my life is an act of self-healing, moreover, it is an act of self-preservation. Allowing anyone to sap my energy and overwhelm my psyche is self-sabotage, and the sooner I end it, the healthier I am.

If, as I did at one time, you’re feeling unkind about cutting the ties to someone, keep in mind that you are simply acknowledging your boundaries and enforcing them. You are, in fact, loving yourself.

Now if I could just recognize them before they ever get started….

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A Day in the Life: Kitchen Adventures—Experimental Schnitzel

schnitzel

It’s no secret that I love to cook. Nor is it unusual for me to experiment with even the most basic dishes. Today, while grocery shopping, I decided I had a taste for schnitzel—the crispy, breaded, fried sort that my mom used to make every blue moon. She rarely prepared anything fried, so those occasions when it appeared on our dinner plates were particularly memorable for me. I needed to run to the store for a few things—cat litter, laundry soap, eggs, celery…and a small pork tenderloin, because I’d been thinking about it all morning. And I knew exactly what to use for the breading.

After putting the groceries away, I got to work. I cut the tenderloin in half, froze the half I wasn’t using, and set about slicing the meat into cutlets and pounding them until they were thin. I used a plastic bag and a leather mallet, excellent for releasing any aggression from dealing with the throngs of people at the grocery.

The other day, I noticed several boxes of various flavors and types of Triscuit crackers up on the shelf. I knew they had to be stale by now, but not wanting to toss them and waste food, I combined them in the food processor and pulverized them into crumbs. Rosemary and olive oil; brown rice, sweet potato and sea salt; roasted sweet onion; sea salt and black pepper; tomato and sweet basil…all combined to make the tastiest, most delicious crumbs I’ve ever tasted! Since they were already full of flavor, I didn’t have to add any further seasoning.

I beat two eggs, poured the crumbs into a bowl, added a liberal shake of garlic powder, and started dipping and coating the cutlets with crumbs. When I finished, I heated the iron skillet for a few minutes and then added peanut oil for frying. It needs to be very hot before putting the cutlets in. Two minutes on each side, and I had the crispiest, most flavorful schnitzel I’ve ever made! As I removed each batch from the pan, I checked to see that they were done inside, and laid them out on a platter covered with paper towels to absorb the grease.

While they were cooking, I put tiny new red potatoes in a covered glass dish in the microwave to cook for eight minutes. When done, I sliced them in half, seasoned them with Himalayan salt and black pepper, and put a tablespoon of real butter in the casserole dish. I added a sprinkle of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, covered them up, and with another 30 seconds in the microwave, they were finished.

For my veggies, I steamed pea pods, which were on sale today. Dinner was awesome. I still have half a jar of cracker crumbs left. The lesson here is to be creative. Use what you have and try not to throw things out. I wasn’t wild about all those flavors individually, but I figured if I combined them, they’d make dynamite crumbs for frying.

The only drawback to making these scrumptious morsels—any time you fry food, there’s grease. Cooking and eating is a lot more fun than cleaning up!

 

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