Dad’s are a daughter’s training ground

Dad’s are their daughter’s training ground for dealing with the world of men. So it was with my Dad, and already is with Rog and our daughter Porsche. It happens like this: Dad is hard. Daughter is born. Dad makes daughter cry. Dad apologizes. Rinse repeat (many times). Daughter admires Dad. Dad shows girls how to handle men. Dad and Daughter have a special bond. Daughter goes on to be attracted to a man like her dad.  Daughter gets what she wants in the end. (Ok, so I made that last part up. It’s still a journey in progress).

We have a video tape of the birth with Porsche. Out she comes, healthy and crying, when Rog said hello. I turned my head to see him extend his mammoth-sized paw to her little hand, white from mucous and red with blood. Four little fingers wrapped around his one large forefinger, and she quieted immediately. The doctor, a wonderful, non-practicing Jewish man, stopped stitching me up, and said, “that’s a miracle,” then said, “did you catch that on film?” (ever the practical man was he).

That’s been a symbol of their relationship for the last five years. A unique relationship that defies words or description.

My own kind of unique bond with dad is seen in pictures.

Take my buck-tooth self at left. This was when I was eight. I loved coming from behind, playing with his hair, teasing him and snuggling. In a crowd of six kids and three horse-sized mastiffs, attention-getting was impossible. From-behind assaults worked better.

The next pic was when I was in my early thirties, visiting Arizona, hanging by the river during Thanksgiving vacation. Decades has apparently changed nothing. I loved being near him (dad) and once again draped my arm around him and give him a few, heart-attack inspiring bear hugs. Note we are both fatter-of-face and bigger of hair. Hidden under dad’s stylish hat is the Onassis-size shades he started sporting in the Jackie-O days. While my mom left her pillbox hat in the storage closet, dad defies fashion trends.

The last photo was taken this summer. My dad, surrounded by his humongous Onassis glasses san dark lids, has the same look of ‘why me’ that he’s had in the others, but clearly has given up trying to fight the photo-taking moments I’ve made him endure over the years. I still tease him, but now it’s about his hair–we are both impressed and amazed he still has quite a bit, AND the fact that it’s not completely grey.

When a family member sent me the two earlier shots in the last month, I was amazed I had this same picture-taking routine. Always from behind, invariably wrapping my small arms around his big-ol’ body as it, clammering for his attention, giving him my adoration with a sassy smooch on the cheap.

I always expect dad to remain dad. Strong, vigorous, boisterous, immovable, athletic, with a perfect memory and ability to eat prodigious amounts of onions-laden tomatoes, an entire jar of capers spread atop with a quarter smoked salmon for breakfast or midnight snack. The Dad who goes to church to relax (e.g. sleep) because it’s the one place on Earth he is free from fellow seventy-something industrialists who call, fax, email, text or show up, ready to “do a deal.” He sings off key, can fly a plane, snow ski like a pro, and is still so unabashedly, unpolitically correct, even Rog can no nothing but guffaw outloud and look both directions when my dad letser-fly about each and every off-limit, taboo topic.

Only Dad would set up his latest business venture by one of the most famous brothel’s in the country, his defensive, yet legendary mantra “wait to you hear the deal I got!” immediately invoked as a limousine full of ‘guest stars,’ pulls up.  My Dad, the lovable, former Canadian turned long-time American, who, like the local cougars, used to be afraid of my pitbull Penelope, and now just sees her as a mush. Together, they wrestle, cuddle, and generally speaking enable one another as one sifts through the fridge and the other sniffs approval (I’m not always sure who performs what duties).

That’s Dad. Of course, I’m going to throw my arms around his big, burly self and give a squeeze. Others may be intimidated, even a bit put off by his demeanor. Us daughter’s know different. I think that the big, gruff guys are the softest around. Having dad as a male-training ground was perfect, just as Rog.

Asian Style Crab Crepes

If you want an incredible tasting appetizer that is also beautiful, holds until the next day AND is fun to cook, this is it. For the carnivores at my gourmet cooking class a few weeks ago, this won top awards. (The vegetarians loved the artichoke bruschetta that best). When I say ‘hold until the next day’…to be clear, the batter must be separate from the filling.

Ingredients
½-3/4 cooked white crabmeat, shredded
7 scallions, both white and green parts, chopped
3 fresh hot green chilis
2 ½ cups chopped cilantro
¼ cp canola or sunflower oil
1.5 tbsp dark sesame oil
1/3 cup lime juice
1 ½ tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp chopped or grated fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed salt
For garnish, peeled shrimp, orange, lemon and lime wedges, dill sprigs and basil leaves.
Preparation
  • 1.     Toss together the crabmeat, scallions, chilis and cilantro (and yes, you will use ALL the cilantro)
  • 2.     Stir together the canola or sunflower and sesame oils with the lime juice, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Toss with the crabmeat mixture. Add salt to taste.
  • 3.     Cut the crepes in half. Warm them in a pan or in the oven at 350 degrees.
  • 4.     Fill and fold the crepes, arrange on the platter and serve immediately.

Crepes

1 1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp salted butter (melted)
½ tsp salt
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp butter all-purpose flower
Preparation
  • 1.     Sift dry ingredients together
  • 2.     Combine milk and melted butter
  • 3.     Add wet to dry, blend with old-fashioned egg beater or electric mix.
  • 4.  For a thin crepe, use 1/4 cup batter. For a thicker crepe, a bit more-like 1/3.
  • 5.     Pour in crepe pan
Note: to make the crepes look extra exotic, add chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, parsely, tarragon or chervil to the batter just before making the crepes. When serving…cut the round crepes in half. Spread the filling in the center–a little goes a long long way. Start at the corner, fold in, and make a nice folded crepe. If necessary, use a toothpick to hold the crepe together for a finger food. Looks great!!
The intimidation factor….
A few special notes on making the crepes, which freaks people out, but is very easy. If the few first attempts look terrible, read the a few times.
At the class, I used a full-size crepe pan. It’s about 9″ round. This was perfect for cutting the crepes in half, as noted above. I thought that was fine for a dinner, but for a party, the crepes and serving sizes needed to be smaller. So for a baby shower I was giving, I used my small omelette pan as well as the crepe pan, (any non-stick pan works fine) and made crepes about 3-4″ in diameter.
One last note of notes. With or without a non-stick pan, melted butter is a far superior substance than Pam, or even the expensive non-stick products. Better taste aside, the butter simply works the best. My trick is to melt some butter in a small bowl, place on a plate my the stove along with a tablespoon and a paper towel. After putting a tbs of butter on the surface of the pan, I spread with the papertowel, thoroughly coating the bottom and all sides of the pan. THEN pour in the batter, swirl around the bottom and sides of the pan. 
Unlike breakfast crepes, you don’t want the edges to turn brown before turning. Keep an eye on the crepe. It takes only a minute or two so on med-to-low heat on each side. The goal is to have the crepe cooked, but not brown.
When you are done, slide the crepe on to a dinner plate to cool. It will burn your fingers if you attempt to put the cold filling directly in the hot crepe. It will also change the flavors slightly. Of course, you can eat this app warm or cold, and it’s divine either way.

The well-dressed man at the grocery story

allthegood.jpgOnce a month, I visit a friend who shows me how to get back to basics. Quilting, sewing, things I should know how to do in case my electricity fails or I decide to become Amish. I return the favor my showing her how to make bread and cut cuticles. Life saving tips mine.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed her next door neighbor come and go, driving nice cars-not extravagant German models, but not the All-American mini-van either. The three year old neighborhood is squarely middle-class, full of two-story homes with fences and a playground across the street. Both friend and neighbor are behind on their mortgages, always days away from the foreclosure notice, but each scraping together the money to stave off the banker at the last minute. Both women work part time in different professions. The difference is that while both men have lost their jobs in the last two years, my friend’s husband has started a business (that’s struggling, but revenue is increasing a bit each month) while the other man has yet to gain employment.

Today, when I saw the neighbor walk out of his home in a dress shirt and tie, slack and shiny shoes, I was excited for him (whom I’ve never met btw).

“Looks like he got a job,” I said to my friend. It was an encouraging sign in a dark economy.

My friend shook her head sadly. “No. He’s going to the grocery store.”

She proceeded to explain that he’d taken to dressing up to go out for errands. At first, his wife, explained to my friend, he did it to hide the fact he was unemployed. He’d only go after 6 pm, when those from the neighborhood and church were likely to see him. He refused to go during 8-5, because it was ‘a sure sign he was unemployed,’ he told his wife.

After a year, his wife told him to stop pretending and be honest.

If I look successful, someone might see me and offer me a job,” That made sense, my friend and I agreed. Though I still thought it had something to do with not telling other she saw.

When I left her home, I thought about the image and reality of a provider, be it male or female. I believe another reason to keep up appearances is to avoid the questions…if I see a scruffy, downtrodden male, I don’t instinctively thing “out of work schmuck,” but that might be how the person I’m looking at feels. On the flip side, acknowledging unemployment opens up a whole new world that’s closed with the lie of employment continues.

For example, when I learn of an acquaintance, friend, or even friend of a friend, is laid off or has had work hours cut back, I always try to think of a creative way to re-employ the individual. Even an hour here or there of temp work is preferable to sitting at home and stewing. We’ve all been there. We might be there again. Rog doesn’t believe in much, but he’s adamant about good karma. “You help the world, and it’s (the karma) going to come around and help you,” he has said time and again.

I’ll give you an example. We were new to my daughter’s school when a mother asked me about talking to her son. He was a recent college graduate and “needed a bit of direction.” Would I speak to him, she asked. Sure, I said. An hour after the call, and a few resume changes later, the graduate was interviewed at a premier outdoor company here in Seattle, and thanks to his own skills and intelligence, was hired. What I gave was no more than a bit of direction and guidance so his resume would get past the filters and he could get the interview.

It’s been two years since that time, and we recently had the senior hiring manager of the company over for dinner (what are the odds of that right?). He knew we had a girl on the cusp of learning to ski, so he’d also brought along a set of skis, boots and a helmut for her. Rog started talking about the fantastic job the on-line group of the company was doing, and the man said “yeah, and it’s all due to this kid we hired, and he was local.” I asked for his name, and sure enough, the ‘kid’ was the same graduate that I’d previously spoken with abt the job. Rog then informed this man of the backstory of me talking with this young man way back when.

“That’s good karma for you,” the guy said, smiling.

Thinking back to the mom, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her to bring the subject up to me, a new member of her circle. She might have wondered if I’d think her son was a loser, unintelligent or misdirected. Nonetheless, she forged ahead and asked the question, because, well, that’s what moms do. It’s a bit harder for spouses, who might be sworn to secrecy. Pride, fear, judgment; those concerns and issues stand in the way of allowing someone to help another attain gainful employment.

According to the economists, it’s only going to get tougher for most folks. Perhaps me and my family. One never knows. If you see me in the checkout line all dressed up (and it’s not Sunday, though I shouldn’t be there on the Sabbath anyway, so if I am, scold me), ask away. I won’t take offense. I might be trolling for a job. In the meantime, take a second look at those who are there, looking all sharp. They might need your help one day. Or that day. Be prepared to give it. Good karma comes back around.

Postpartum Recovery

A fun topic, to be sure. But oh-so important, not just for the recovering/new mom. The dad, friends, other’s who get to share the join or listen to the answer to the “how are you doing” question. When your friend, wife etc., says–well, you know, ‘I actually hurt,’ or ‘I’m a bit depressed,’ as I did, you can offer up some natural, effective solutions.

After I had my c-section, a wonderful nurse on the night-shift told me about this book, and mentioned this recipe as one of many to use.
Women's Herbs: Women's Health
Postpartum Compress

I found this recipe in a wonderful book called .Women’s Herbs: Women’s Health by Christopher Hobbs and Kathi Kevill. Of course, my book is now so old (10 years+) and the cover so much uglier-but the content hasn’t changed a bit. It’s still wonderful and effective.

This compress is comprised of 3 Tbs fresh ginger root, chopped fine, 2 tbs comfrey root, chopped fine, 2 tbs comfrey leaf or fresh plaintain leaf, chopped and 8 cups or more of water. My grandmother, the fine Swede she was, used comfrey for healing every wound us 60+ grandkids inflicted upon ourselves. She always had a pot on the stove that she’d use to create a compress. A compress being a rag she’d dip in the water, sponge-out, then place on our wound/bruise etc. In seconds, the pain would go away. Today, you can find comfrey in the local health food stores, and also Arnica gel or lotion, another natural pain reliever. (You know Arnica has gone mainstream when even Target carries the stuff). I also use this Comfrey cream as well as having the Arnica gel in my emergency kits and baby bags.

Directions for the compress
Simmer the roots together for a half-hour, adding the comfrey leaves (or plantain leaves) and turn the heat to low. Steep for at least 10 minutes.

Immerse a clean diaper or towel in the hst mix, wring and apply to the vulva or perineum (if you don’t know what these are, you don’t have to worry about this). A side note on this: you may be surprised at how much heat you can handle in these areas. the hotter the better–but you will need to use dishwashing gloves when dipping or you’ll burn yourself. You can do this several times a day after you have given birth.

Engorged Breasts

Since I had a c-section, I didn’t require this “down there” but did need it on my breasts. I used a thin bath town and wraped it around, and under, the armpit as directed. I continued to do this until the breast was pink with heat. About that time, my chest felt SOOOO much better. This compress soothes sore breasts and prevented mastitis (in my case, anyway).

The brew can be reheated and reused, or kept simmering in a pot for up to 2 days. Then I replaced it. The key was to use a clean cloth with each application.

The nurse also recommended cabbage for engorged breasts. I thought she was nuts, but she had been delivering babies and assisting new moms for 30 years, not me. Who was I to argue? While I was breastfeeding, I had to leave on a two day trip. My breasts were exploding, so I dropped by the grocery store, picked up 2 cabbages (1 for each) and covered my breasts with the leaves, just as the nurse directed. Unbelievable–it worked (and I was in the hotel room, thx very much). I used this for 2 other pregnancies as well–when the compress wasn’t available (the compress worked faster I’ll say).

I’m going to refer to this book again and again in this blog. So if you don’t have the $ or inclination, don’t worry. But…it’s an awesome source for a new mom.

Postpartum sleep aid

One other tidbit….sleep deprivation makes no one happy. Valerian is a superior postpartum sleep aid (and frankly, I’ve used whenever I’m wired up and can’t sleep). It has a very strong smell and gnarly aftertaste though, so I blend it w/other stuff or a meal. I’ve never made my own capsules, but this can be done.

Using a tincture made from fresh valeiran, take 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon every four hours.

Lastly…use a Ginger compress for the lower back, breasts or directly on the perineum if you can’t find the comfrey or other items listed above. Fresh ginger can be had at any grocery story. Like the above recipe, boil it and use fresh, clean towels for every application.

Don’t be surprised that Rog has actually used this for his post-hockey game pain, particularly on his lower back. It’s worked wonders.

Workout Wednesday- Baby don’t got back

The last few days have had more than enough coverage of Kim Kardashian’s rear-end. Who is this you wonder? The daughter of a woman who divorced her now dead attorney husband (of OJ Simpson fame) to run off with Bruce Jenner (well, she ran off with Bruce before divorcing her husband), and who jumped out of obscurity and in to the real world with a reality TV show. Fortunately, I’ve avoided watching all episodes by keeping the tv off. However, I too, stand in line at the grocery store, and as much as I attempt to avert my eyes at the glimmering, intoxitcating photos of wanna-be, have been and presently, are what the world calls ‘celebrities,’ I am now more than familiar with Kim Kardashian.

Much coverage is given to her ample chest, narrow waist and rotund bottom, the latter being credited with her current annual income of between $3-5Million dollars. This is an outtrage, is it not? Shouldn’t all big-arsed girls be given the same type of attention by frothing papparazi and glossy magazine covers? Well, no actually. Did I mention the part about the sex-tape “accidentally leaked” by her then boyfriend? Sure. Like when former US spy Valerie Plame was leaked by a pissed off, bald chief of staff.

Kim’s 30th birthday, a recent, inescapable event for anyone with eyes, stuck in the grocery stand, made headlines as much for the shot of her rear than the milestone. I for one, would not want a fanny protuding like two large mellons, nor could I likely afford the custom made jeans designed for a physiological freak of nature. (I’d show a photo but don’t want to scare the young natives off the blog, or worse, get some horrid ads for shows I don’t want to watch).

All that said, Rog had a good point. “Doesn’t matter how bit it is, if it’s firm, it’s not half as bad.”

Spoken like a true pragmatist. Thus, we kick off this inuagural WW blog. How to get a hard butt, small or large, wide or thin.

Due to my desire to keep ridicule to a minimum, I’ve declined taking self-photos for this particular blog. Internet photos are eternal. Someday I might live to regret a picture of my derrier going up and down. (a flash image of the photos, placed to thumping music, sliced and diced ran through my head like a coyote chasing a deer in my lawn. ends with blood and a kill. not good).

Never fear–these exercises don’t require money, equipment, or special shoes. Just determination.

Standing exercises that firm up the outter, back and corner part of your butt (sorry, I didn’t take pre-med)

Leg Description Reps/sets
Right leg up lift Lift foot up, bent at 90 degree angle, then lift up waist high 25 reps/3 sets
Angle right leg lift Keeping the foot up, extend your leg back at a 45 degree angle 25 reps/3 sets
Back angle right lift Keeping the foot up, extend your leg back directly behind you 25 reps/3 sets
switch to left side
Left leg up lift Lift foot up, bent at 90 degree angle, then lift up waist high 25 reps/3 sets
Left right leg lift Keeping the foot up, extend your leg back at a 45 degree angle 25 reps/3 sets
Left angle right lift Keeping the foot up, extend your leg back directly behind you 25 reps/3 sets

A note on this…I rotate the three exercises on each side to minimize the burn on my butt. When I’m talking on the phone, I’ll stand and to these in the kitchen, using the counter for balance.

Just “She” says Workout Wednesdays

‘She’ is gaining popularity. A reputation more like it. She is my She Who Shall Not be Named, as dedicated readers know her, but that long sub-title is getting tiresome. Close as I am to Microsoft, I’ve been infected by the habit of giving everything an acroynym LPJ (Local Pizza Joint), MLD (Much Loved Dog). Rule number one of acronyms is one should not be assigned if it can’t fit in 3 letters. Last night was a breakthrough, because one of the members at the board mtg simply referred to my much talked about anonymous alter-ego as  “She.”

“I want to know who this ‘She’ is” the woman across the room said, as though the individual in question were Madonna. I think She would be flattered of the one-word name, but insulted about being visualized as a non-virgin wearing a see-through white lace corset ang leggings, with a big, fake-diamond-encrusted belt that reads Like a Virgin.



free avatar
It’s lacking the lip-piercing
but I like this pretend image of She

 Then I considered giving her a name like Matilda or Shaquila, but neither fit so well. She’s not the daughter of a couple famous for being an ex-druggy turned quasi author or a semi-successful rock back, nor is she Shaq’s daughter. Further, if I give this person an actual name, readers will assign a visual to her. My suspicion is she’d prefer the ghostly anonymity associated with She, and call it a day. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to create a special avatar for her with blue hair and a spike through her lower lip, just be different.

Yesterday, She called me and said,

“You have to get a system going,” she started. “Socialize readers to certain days of the week so they can get excited and come on those days.”

I pushed back immediately. “But part of the fun is I don’t know what I’m going to write or when,” I said, liking the freedom to choose a topic at the whim of Bill O’Rielly’s rant of the day. It’s like waiting to make  dinner plans until 4:30 on a Friday night. I keep my options open.

“But readers want some sort of regularity,” she argued. Uh, okay. “Like Workout Wednesday, or Family Friday or Thoughtful Thursday.” Ok, I made that last one up. I think she said something like Crazy Tuesday. Her point was my blogs are all over the map, not specialized. This is neither cooking blog, nor workout blog, nor a moaning, day in the life blog, full of the incessant, irritating ramblings that I can’t stand (or is this last part self-delusional?)

Readers might notice I get reflective on Saturday night, offering up stories on family then, as opposed to Friday, when I’m thinking about being outside, having fun, and skipping a blog altogether. On Mondays, I’m typically in a motivated let’s hold hands and climb Mt Kilamanjaro together. Wednesdays are–well–like today. A hodgpodge of activity/motivation/we-can-make-it-until-tomorrow day. Tues and Thursdays I tend to be in a household, frugal, do-it-yourself kind of mold, where I channel Roger’s home projects. On Sunday, I’m just burned out from writing my manuscripts.

I like the WW thing, partially becuase it fits with my philosophy on acronyms. I’m somewhat nervous I’ll have enough to fill a weekly blog on one particular subject. Jillian Michaels I am not, and two hundred million last year I did not make. (I’ve really got to find a way to patent and license my home made sweet pea formula). Until then, I can write about techniques for working out while pregnant, post pregnancy shape, getting a small butt, improving wrist flexibility (a very good one), Thai Chi, yoga…well, come to think of it, maybe I could fill a blog for a time. I’d write on other topics, but no one leaves comments (some do, but very few).

The other day, I was amazed I have readers from South Africa, Russia, Singapore, India, Germany, Malta, (where’s that?) and so on. Who are these people, how do they find me, and what in the world could I be writing about that’s of interest to someone from any of these areas? My husband suggested the Russians were interested in my piece on thin thighs “all those tall, gorgeous Russians,” but as She hypothesized, “perfect eyebrows are universal? Who wouldn’t want to know that?”

There is it. The secret to my success is the number one read blog, perfect eyebrows. I can die happy now, knowing I’ve edified people around the world with a cheap way to color and maintain brows.

Thanks She. Keep the good ideas coming. Now I must go write something useful, crank out some thigh lifts and check my eyebrows.

The necessary note

A good friend of mine up and disappeared one day, cut off all communication without warning. Nothing precipitated this event; no fights, disagreements, bad hair days. It was out of the blue. Sure, he owed me some money, but it was a small amount. It couldn’t be the reason he went dark.

He wasn’t dead. I checked on that with friends close to his home. He hadn’t left the country. He was seen driving in and out of his garage, and his coworkers verified he was at the office. My calls were left unreturned. Emails went in to the oblivion. I have long had this vision that some software start-up is collecting unanswered emails, and will in some way figure out to monetize the contents, either through some nice identify theft software, blackmail, or a really good gadget we all seem to want, like cowboy-themed Christmas lights.

In any case, I went through a cycle of mourning my mother calls the emotional pinwheel. This friend, who is older, portlier, and male, had been my friend for seven years. We’d worked at two companies together, sat on the same board of a non-profit, and even visited each other during holidays. We email or talked several times a week about all types of stuff. It was reasonable then, that I was at first worried to the point of sickness. Upon learning his routine hadn’t altered, I entered the confused/denial state.

“Was it me? What did I do?” This phase was short. A few days. I hadn’t done anything, and he was the one that owed me money.

This commenced the anger state and lasted a solid six months. According to the world of shrinks, anger is a second emotion to hurt. And since hurt is harder to manage that anger, anger lasts longer. (I think anger is a lot more fun actually. Get the scream out vs the tears, but then maybe it’s a Swede thing).

Then begat worry again, then disgust, then apathy. The entire cycle, a solid 2 years. It ceased being in the forefront of my mind. And since he lives on the east coast, and I on the west, I wasn’t going to stage an intervention.

At the very end, I was reading a talk on forgiveness, and of course, it hit me hard. I’d gotten over it, but not forgiven the guy. I had to be bigger than that. I knew he was good and kind, and really didn’t seem the type to ditch a friend. BUT, on the off chance I had done something, I wanted him to know it was unintentional. Thus, I pulled out my stationary (printed after my marriage to Rog, but before he’d freak on the cost of custom cards), and wrote in a note.

In so many words, it said the above….hope you are well…the family is well…if I did something of offend, I’m sorry. I hope we can regain what we had etc etc.

What do you bet, a week later, I had a long email in response. He was incredibly kind, gracious and apologetic. What he told me broke my heart…The gist was that his teenage son killed himself in a terribly sad way. He left a suicide note that broke my friend (and his wife’s) hearts. Because of the stress on the family, the man lost his business, his live savings having been poured in to the venture. The ripple effect had continued, the house was foreclosed upon, and he, his four children and wife, moved in to a rental. In the grand scheme of things, maintaining friendships–even telling anyone outside his immediate family–was  not a priority.

A few things happened to me when I read his letter. I felt incredibly ashamed of my feelings towards him. An image of his son, who’d I seen at a recent sporting event, came to mind. He was the kindest of the children, sensitive to his mother and wonderful with my young daughter. Now that I considered my own reactions, I’d given him the benefit of the doubt for a period of time, it wasn’t indefinite. At some point, my concern went inward, on myself, and my feelings (how could he do this to me? After all we’ve been through, me me me…etc). While Rog and mom told me this was natural and just, it didn’t lessen the self-hateration that I then endured (see how I made it about me again?).

More recently, this happened with another male friend. He went dark and left me and a lot of business associates in the lurch (took money and didn’t do the work) etc. Instead of blaming him or engaging in bad-mouthing, I counseled our mutual acquaintances to have patience and understanding, providing reminders that “this is not the person we know, or the behavior we’ve seen for seven years.” It worked. It helped him keep a job in one instance, and a few friendships. The tragedy in this case is that he’s now too ashamed to renew the relationships he tread on, even though we are all here, ready to welcome him back with open arms.

These experiences, now over five years ago, have helped me be a lot more understanding when someone-anyone–in my circle of friends or work associates goes dark. I don’t know their life, their situation, their problems, challenges. I’m certainly not the first or last person to consider if the world is shutting down. It was an incredible life lesson I wish I’d had in my twenties, and not my mid-thirties. It would have saved me a lot of wasted emotional cycles.

A woman, far more attuned than I, recently sent me a note of thanks for a mini-seminar I gave on a Saturday morning. It wasn’t something I longed to do–the topic was on motivation–and the group was small, only 11 women. The title of my presentation was “Stepping it up,” focusing on not simply achieving, but doing that little bit more than makes all the difference. The group was mostly silent, no questions, no comments afterwards. I left deflated, thinking I’d wasted my time, and theirs.

The note I received told me she was going through a divorce, her husband leaving her and the children after 22 years together. It was just the message she needed at such a horrid time in her life. I could not have been more surprised. She was the model mom, half of a picture-perfect duo that I’d envied as the entire family attended events in a way I never would with my own immediate family. How little did I know.

The power of the little note is great. And it doesn’t have to be on anything but a piece of scratch paper. I’m convinced that human nature demands attention. Demands love and harbors the desire to be loved. Sending a note to someone that has fallen out of touch or out of favor or needs forgiveness. Try it. Good karma means it will come around.

Saving your child from SIDs

When my daughter Porsche was two and a half months old, we had an incident that is every parents worst nightmare. I picked her up out of bed, cradled her in my arms and discovered she wasn’t breathing. I started hyperventilating, then realized I was going to lose both of us if I didn’t apply reason to the situation. In what I refer to as an out of body experience, I went through the options.

1-call Roger. No help. He’d tell me to call 911 and freak out.
2-call the neighbor. See above.
3-call 911. We are 20 min from the closed emergency, fire or police station. She’d be dead.

At that very moment, I had a visual to turn her on her left side and start pounding her back. I laid the little thing on my kitchen counter, cradling her chest with my left hand and used the flat of my right hand to jump start her little heart. As I did, I was crying, telling her to ‘breath again, just breath again.’ It did no good. She remained limp. Another visual appeared, this time, with her on the other side. I immediately flipped her over, and began the thumping with my left hand. A few moments later, she emitted a small cry. I had my baby back.

I held her, wept, then called the doctor.

“That was SIDs,” he said calmly. The emergency over, he took me through one of the most mysterious occurrences science has failed to properly explain or prevent. It’s sleeping on the back…no, it’s sleeping on the stomach….no, it’s only one kind of child….and so on.

Then I called Rog, who started crying on the phone, came home right away and held Porsche for hours.

To quote Bella–of two things I was sure. One, that had I not picked up Porsche at that exact moment in time, she’d be dead. Two, that I was never going to get another moment of rest until she was much older.

After sharing this experience with a few close friends, we decided to keep our mouths shut. As with many things in our lives (that I’m now exposing in this blog), the reactions were generally irritating due to lack of knowledge.

“Try feeding her red peppers before she goes to bed,” was one of the more memorable lines. It was like telling friends the name of your child just to be told the name chosen was that of an 18th century heretic. Of course, people were providing advice out of kindness, not to be annoying. Yet we realized the only way to be sure was to sleep next to her or beside her. And that’s just what we did for several years.

The incident never happened again, and though we replayed the environment of that day over and over, couldn’t come up with an actual reason. We have been on-guard with Sophia for nine months, and have been fortunate thus far.

I can only tell new parents my experience, and thank the Lord above that the visual I received. It saved my daughter’s life. Perhaps it can save someone else’s.

Emergency Preparedness-The First 24 hours

I must have a death wish. Or a desire to be near a catastrophe. Nothing else explains why I live in a veritable Bermuda triangle of potential natural disasters.

Day 1-fun times, great pics

“We have potentials for an earthquake (the fault lines), volcanic eruptions (Mt. Rainier), mudslides and flooding (everywhere) and tsunamis (the coastline),” said the Fire chief of the City of Issaquah. Twelve of us women sat with pencils and notebooks, as if we were going to save our communities and selves if any of these were to occur. “Worse, we aren’t allowed to get to you if you happen to live in a small neighborhood.”

At that point, I should have got my sweatpant-wearing self off the chair and left the room. For what was the point? I thought. My tiny 16-home community wasn’t even officially incorporated. We are on a community well that barely has enough power to satisfy daily requirements.

When me and my siblings earned our driver’s license, my mom put a 72-hour backpack in our car. It was for “emergencies,” she said. It had food, one of those shiny blankets that could withstand arctic temperatures. Wipes. Toilet paper and scissors. Aspirin and gauze. You name, that backpack had it. I kept in my car for twenty years, periodically changing the battery on the flashlight and rotating out the food.

Mom also had a two year supply of food in the basement, ready to go at a moments notice should the next seven-year drought occur (next following the first, as noted in the Bible a’la Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors fame). That too, was good advice. I keep a three-month supply of food in the downstairs laundry room and have three fridges. Rog is a supporter because he grew up with little food, and as a result is a bit of a food horder, thus the recent addition of a squat freezer in the garage.

I had my 72 hour kit, I told the chief, a generator and some food. I felt pretty good, I said.

The first chief looked at me with a bit of pity. “We won’t get to your home for at least two to four weeks if we have a real emergency.” In that time, he said, I’d likely have no heat, no water, no gas, run out of food, the gas stations would be dry, the grocery stores locked due to no lighting, and we’d be in a world of hurt.

“Get yourself a first response program,” he advised all in the room. “Do it now.”

Day 9-irritating, have to move
to the trailer-out of wood for the stove
and gas for the generator

That lecture was given six years ago, and in that time, the area has indeed had flooding and multiple power outages, some lasting nearly three weeks. We were lucky, as in, prepared. We had a lot of gas, two generators (a primary and a backup) but we learned a few things. The first is that our home cranks through a LOT of gas on a generator. We cut down heat everywhere, lit our handy-dandy camping lights and used the ovens sparingly. However, two weeks in to a power outage two years ago (where we had 3 feet of snow btw), we’d have been toast had it not been for a travel trailer we’d purchased on a whim. That thing ran for weeks on two small tanks of propane. We ditched our home to live in our driveway, cozy and cramped, until the state of emergency had ended.

The fire chief had been right on everything else. We had no gas (it eventually ran out), and we heard that no gas stations were open due to lack of electricity. The grocery stores were closed, the motels full up (those that had electricity that is) and entire swaths of high-rise apartments requiring propane were ice cold. Our small community had one more challenge, and that was we couldn’t make it down our steep hill, paved though it was. As an unincorporated road, the city was under no obligation to maintain it. It was over a week until the first cars made it down. (Side note: we have tractors up here, almost all homes have at least 1 4wheel drive, but it didn’t matter. The road was simply dangerous).

Day 15-no snow melt and we
are stir crazy but warm in the trailer
watching Disney movies

As uncomfortable as we were, some neighbors had it worse. At least we retained the wood burning fireplace in our home, and it while we remained inside, the house was very toasty. (but we were dumb. We hadn’t stocked up enough wood and went through what we had within days). Neighbors with neither wood-burning nor another alternative were literally freezing, and huddled up with us and one another. It was quite an eye-opener.

Since that time, State of Washington created a program called Map Your Neighborhood. Statistically speaking, most deaths occur in the first 24 hours after a disaster–the very time when response crews and personnel are completely overwhelmed.

MYN created a video to talk about the ways a “neighborhood” defined as 15-25 homes, can prepared. Although not all states have such a program, this one is easy to implement anywhere in the world. Actual materials can be purchased–and by materials, I’m talking the booklet that is a step-by-step checklist of the neighborhood requirements (e.g. chainsaw, generator etc).

Imagine if the folks in Chile had been able to band together after the recent disaster. This inevitably happened when the looting and rioting took over as the disaster overwhelmed the police and fireman. Much of the world lives in areas prone to the devastating forces of nature. Being prepared now can save lives.

A few highlights of the program and how-to:
1-hold a mtg w/the neighborhood homeowners/renters etc. (this works just as well w/apartments/condos/etc)

2-go through the checklist and identity the available tools and skills (who is handy with a welder, who has chainsaws to cut down trees etc)

3-assign “leaders” for critical check items. For instance, one person double-checks all the natural gas in the homes have been turned off. This is a huge risk factor that can wipe out homes and families in one explosion. Another key assignment is a ‘safe home’ suitable for the elderly or children, if relevant. Back-up power, heat, food storage etc are other critical components.

4-review when and where to place the Need Help sign found in the MYN booklet. This page can be torn out and pasted on a window in front. It immediately identifies to other neighbors and/or emergency personnel if you are in need.

5-hold annual meetings to update the information, ensure tools are working and in good condition (generators in particular).

It’s not very time consuming, and I’m a major advocate of this program. I’m currently working to deploy this through community associations and church organizations as a means to getting neighborhoods on board. It’s a small effort for a major, life-saving result. The key is to do it before the disaster strikes.

Preventing break-ins with 9 solid home security tips

This morning Porsche ran upstairs, screaming about the deer in our yard, alerting the house to the intruder at exacty 6:34 in the AM.

“Is that all?” I yawned. Thankfully so. I needed to get up anyhow, so down I went, in to her room that once held a cougar (the previous owner had a pet cougar, and the room as a 20×20 cage. we’ve turned it in to a bedroom, and it offers great views of the surrounding wilderness). In remembrance, we lovingly call it ‘the cage.’ (though admittedly, this is in-family only. Otherwise we’d come across all S&M)

Sure enough, a wonderful buck with four points (as Rog verified) stood right outside her window, eating what was left of my 2010 garden. I took a few pictures, then put on my slippers and helped it get out of our enclosed acreage. It now has only one path of entry, up three acres of six foot high blackberry bushes. Anything that can make it through that terrain deserves to eat my food. Nonetheless, I supposed this to be the same buck that previously came on with his dearess and fawn, got confused and we had to help off before my dog got in on the act. This was done by slowly walking behind the animal, encouraging it to find the only exit.

our breakfast companion
Mission accomplished, I remembered that I’d recieved a text yesterday suggesting I blog on home security.
Sadly, we’ve been violated several times since moving in to this area. It’s not prestine mind you; more Beverly Hillbillies than Hills. Yet it’s not trailer trash central either. Without giving rise to would- be stalkers, we are within five miles of mass civilization, but the proximity to land preserves means we have bears, deers, wolves, foxes, and an occasional burglar on the property.
When we purchased this home, it was a dump. Five acres of horse poop surrounding a home with an indoor outhouse (I’ll dig up some pictures in case you don’t believe that). It was all we could afford, and figured we had to start somewhere. In any case, we had no need for a fence or gate. The house was worth less than the land, and we couldn’t give our natural compost away. It wasn’t until four years later that we had to erect a gate. I’m all for freedom of speech, and the Jehovah’s Witness marauders are really decent people (plus quite creative: they pair a man with a young girl to remove the threat). They weren’t as bad as the weird breed of Sunday drivers (aka looki-loos) who mistake Private Property signs for Come-on-In, that put us over the edge. Instead of a much-needed trip to Hawaii, I got iron bars with spokes.

That kept out visitors well enough, but not the neighbors. We were cursed with a pond dug by the previous owner. It fills on its own, thanks to being at the bottom of our property. Nonetheless, the old codgers in the neighborhood are vigilant about water usage. A few have feuds dating back decades, a modern day version of the Hatfields and McCoys. These are the same folk that stew about our pond having more water than it ought, (thereby leaving their man-made horse pond dry), then redirect run-off gulleys directly in to a down-road neighbors driveway, just to flood it water. (For no other purpose that being an evil). But I digress.

I grew tired of having my garden hose ‘mysteriously’ turned off in the middle of the day. My solution was to head to Home Depot, purchase green stakes and some fenching material, a hammer, and erect a flimsy barrier. It wouldn’t keep out a determined person, I knew, but figured it would deter a seventy-something busy body.
In truth, it deterred neither.
One winter night, I left Rog in the bedroom and descended to the bottom floor where I could turn the heat up to temperature of the sun without nary a complaint from Rog. Our home is odd, constructed by a Boeing engineer and a few logs, the thing has two internal doors, lots of open space and at its base, is surrounded by concrete. I can’t hear Rog snoring from the depths below, another reason for my choice of leaving him that particular night.
At one in the morning, I noticed the light was on, and I woke up, bleary eyed, telling Rog to turn off the light, then promptly went back to sleep. A while later, three am by my clock, the light was off, but I saw Rog standing right in front of my bed.  I asked him why he was still awake, and if I anything was wrong. He said not a word, left to go upstairs, or so I thought. That pissed me off. I yelled at him to get back and talk to me (and I’m big enough to admit this) sitting up just in time to flick on the lights and see a man dressed head to toe in black running out of our home.
My immediate reaction was a) that’s not Rog b) he’d been in our home at least two hours, c) he’d been standing over me for who knows how long.
I could barely breath I was so terrified. I tried to scream and nothing came out. It was like those horror movies and bad dreams come true. I literally had no voice eventhough I was ‘giving it all she got’ (captain) (Sulu/Star Trek). Rog finally heard me, rushed downstairs but the figured was long gone.

When the detective arrived, we asked lots of questions and we learned a few things.

1-pay attention. Sounds obvious, but it wasn’t. The light on the garage had been unscrewed, as had the lights on all the backdoors. Rog, in his infinite, money-saving wisdom, had been known to unscrew the light(s) himself during the day, (not using the switch so I wouldn’t notice). For the last few days, I’d been screwing them back in, irritated, but thought nothing of it. Turns out, the night we got hit was one where I’d not bothered.

2-check the footprints. Also, the nights prior to this event, the ground had been hard with frost. I’d noticed footsteps around the backdoor, but once again, thought it was Rog. No one was ever that close to our doors. The detective walked us around the house, showing how the intruder had clearly cased the joint.

3-check wiring. At the time, we had one string of low watt flourscent path lights. That night, they’d been cut. The detective showed us where the intruder had hidden his handywork, placing a bunch of pine needles on the cut itself.

His conclusion? “Anyone who got this close to the property was watching you for a while.”

That wasn’t the worse part. Remember I wrote I’d been lying in bed and saw the person at the baseboard? He’d taken our cookie jar, a squat, red-faced porter figure, removed the head and positioned it right in front of me.

“He’s telling you he’s watching you” said the detective with that “straight-from-CSI Miami-look.”

our beast, Penelope the pitbull,
aka, lapdog on a friends lap
Not good.

4- get a dog. That was it. Rog and I stopped fighting about whether or not to “commit” to one another and went to the dog pound. (this was pre-kids. commitment btw, didn’t mean home ownership. anyone could do that. true love meant buying a dog together).

“Even a ‘yap-dog’ is a deterent,” said the detective. I don’t recall the statistical numbers he threw ou at us, but the likelyhood of an burgler (or worse) entering a home with a dog drops over 80% when a dog is present. Here that all. GET A DOG!

We went to the animal shelter, looked at every four legged dog present, then asked for the one with the best ‘ratings.’ In King County, dog shelters are required to test a dog on 8 traits–such as obedience, interaction with cats, other animals/dogs, kids, etc. This was where we found our pitbull. She was a mush (that’s pronunced mah btw), and she went home with us that day. I’ll save my love of this dog for another time. Turns out this pure bred dog was dropped off by a warring couple w/three kids going through a divorce, and couldn’t decide who kept the dog. Thus, they opted out of Salomin’s choice to cut the beast in half and instead, donated it to the local shelter. Suffice it to say she barks at anything around our perimeter, otherwise, she considers herself an 80 lb lapdog. We didn’t set out to get any kind of dog: we just lucked out with her. 7 years later, she’s proven a defender against other attack dogs (I was attacked by 3, with a newborn/another blog), identified a would-be intruder (another blog). Sorry-can’t help myself. love this animal.

5-use your security system. Dumb us. We had one. one of the best in fact. Didn’t have it on. In fact, we’d never turned it on at night. The area hadn’t had a breakin for twenty years. Little did any of us know the largest meth lab west of the rockies had been discovered a mere five miles from our home the month earlier. Nice. Think of the property value increase if we publicized that one.

6-get a real fence and more light. The detective also informed us two second and third detractors to an intruder are lighting and fencing. The lights because they have no where to hide. He pointed out the number of trees close to our house providng plenty of room to hide. Gone. Had those removed. The fencing had to wait, but now we have six foot high fencing. It keeps the dogs in and the deer out-mostly. Of course, if someone really wants to enter and get past my dog then I’m a dead person anyway.

7-hide your passport. Once again, dumb me. I had my laptop and passport in my briefcase. I’d recently traveled and not separated one from the other. It was gone. Fortunately, the passport was found in a ditch, but my briefcase was gone (I’d rather have lost the passport frankly. I loved that hand-stitched work of art. I’m still pining…)

8-post warning signs. I’d never thought this was a deterent, but statistics once again proved me wrong. We now have signs around the property.

Sadly, I’m in the majority of the population that does nothing ‘active’ about protecting the home until after the first breakin. That said, since that time, we’ve had zero break-ins, but homes in neighboring areas haven’t been so lucky. In each case, they shared some of the above items–no dog, no security system, no lights. OH–they were also hit during the day.

IMPORTANT: The #1 time for a home to be hit is between 3-4 in the morning, when the family is dead to the world (sleeping). The trait for this type of intruder is the person that likes a thrill, but isn’t “aggressive,” or in other words, they aren’t looking to kill anyone. They tend to hit homes with two stories (or more) and only go in and out on the bottom floor. In our case, the intruder didn’t make it upstairs for whatever reason.

The second most common time for a break-in is in the morning, when the dad is gone to work and the mom is off taking the kids to school. The detective told of a recent event where the mom came home early, as she forgot an item, and surprised the burglers. They tied her up, ransacked the joint, took her car, and she wasn’t found until her husband got a call from the school her children hadn’t been picked up.

9-mix up your daily routine. Even stay at home moms get routines. If you are in the middle of suburbia, change up the times for the gym, coffee at Starbucks and visiting the neighbor. Get a dog, use the security system, and watch the lights.

In my case, the detective was worried because someone who took the time to get the cookie jar, hover over me and place the figurine by my feet has a sick agenda. We (I) consider myself extremely fortunate. I also feel the Good Lord was watching over me, woke me at that particular moment, for had I not awoken, I know for a fact I’d have been bound, gagged and Roger wouldn’t have heard my screams. The concrete walls assured that, and this intruder probably knew it.
Knock on wood, we’ll be good for a while. Investing in the small stuff is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with good security.

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