Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On Thanks

I'm getting things ready for tomorrow.  Just a fairly simple meal by myself as I go on duty at midnight Thursday, offering to cover a shift so someone on my team with youngsters doesn't have to. My husband will be at his parents, a single day off not allowing me to travel. Dad will eat with friends, 1200 miles away, but we had a good time together just a couple of weeks ago.

It wouldn't be the same with both Mom and my brother gone.  But thinking of that got me to smile with a memory from a Thanksgiving long ago. Mom had read somewhere that cooking the turkey in a bag would render the turkey very juicy. Except she missed the part about low temperature and the type of bag. So Mr. Turkey went into the oven in a Safeway paper shopping bag,  pop-out timer side down.

 As he roasted, the juice and grease pooled in the bottom of the bag. When the timer popped, "turkey's done" it popped THROUGH the bag, releasing all the hot grease onto the burner.


Big Bro calmly said "Mom, the turkey blew up!"
It was the first and only time I heard my Mom say a four letter cuss word. Dad admonished her to leave the door closed as she turned the heat off.  He simply stood in the corner of the kitchen, muttering "Oh, the Humanity", tears rolling down his face as he was laughing so hard. We had KFC that year as the remains were removed in a bucket.

After Mom took ill, there were other events. A time at the vacation cabin where Dad cooked pancakes. I'm not sure how he did it, but you could hardly cut through them. He gave one to our wiener dog Pepper, who took it outside and buried it in the sand along the shore. Big Bro threw another one in the fire. It didn't burn.

I can picture that as if it were happening now, the splash of sunlight on cedar, the memory, of the smell of wet dog and the taste of laughter, of where people have lived and will always.
Hygge.  The word comes to mind, especially at Thanksgiving.  It's a Danish word that roughly means eating and drinking and being together with friends, a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary everyday things simply extraordinary. We don't have any such word in the English language, and life today seems to rarely accommodate such a ritual.

I can be insular, and driven. At work I take no quarter and am not intimidated by blood, death or bad hair days.. Yet at home, I am a caregiver, as my Mom was with us. Even when she was tired, she would make us homemade cookies and pastries to have after school or with our lunch. Shortening scrapped from its can, dough formed and rounded, rolled flat, and rolled up, carefully studded with fragrant spices and baked golden.
When at school, I'd open up my lunch box, and find every given day, a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, coins for milk and an ice cream and a small tinfoil packet I'd unfold with great care. Inside, the scraps of her making, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, soft and whole. I do not share. I scrape the foil clean.

Dinner at the big table wasn't just on Thanksgiving.  It was every night but TV Tray in the Family Room Night. But on those dinners around the big table, I can't recall so much of what we talked about or who said what, but I do remember the gathering, the smells of beef and fresh vegetables, of laughter, of stories from school, from work, a discarding of weighty thought and the simple gathering of those you love, for nourishment of the soul. I can't recreate the exact moments through what I cook, or who I serve it to, but I still can remember how those simple meals  made me feel, the redemptive power of the communion of those who love one another.
Dad is clearing stuff out of the house, as his days grow shorter.  Having just downsized and gotten rid of so much, the only things I wished  from it were small; things of worth, but perhaps not value. A couple are tattered cookbooks in which are written Mom's notes of when she made something new and if we liked it. One was a folder in which Mom placed hand written menu plans for family gatherings and holidays. Some were planned dishes, some were instructions for the meal itself. Piece after piece of small lined paper, on which her handwriting lay.
So many scraps of paper, so many meals, some dated 1962 when she and Dad were still new in the house.  It was the house she lived in the remainder of her life and to which they brought me and Big Bro home as small, scared children, to heal with them, then to belong, as family.

I hold those pieces of paper and feel the warmth, a woman preparing food for her family, for her friends, small hieroglyphs that tell me nothing but that someone loved us, scribbled messages that would not make sense to everyone  but will never fail to be understood.

At that family table we learned many things.  We learned patience (I tell you young lady, you are going to sit here until you eat that squash!) We learned aerodynamics (spoon at 45 degrees, wind from the SE at two mph, PEAS, initiate launch sequence!)  We learned thanks, and not just at Thanksgiving. We learned comfort and safety.

As I went out on my own, even when I didn't have a family of my own, there was a gathering, even if I just invited over my bachelor colleagues, put together a ham and some homemade mashed potatoes and the trimmings while we listened to music and actually talked about something other than our jobs. For it was the sharing and the care that was important, not necessarily what we ate.
Hygge, it's something I learned from my Mom as I watched her growing up. Even as Dad bought her the latest appliances to ease her burden as she grew sicker, she continued to make things as her Mom and generations past had done, stirring by hand, shaping and crafting, only forming a brief and sullen armistice with the food processor when her arthritis flared up..
She made meals in health and she made meals in sickness, those last days where there was a look on her face as if having seen something which she knows existed even as she refused to believe in it. She'd pause, blink as if the sun was in her eyes, then go back to peeling the carrots for one of perhaps thousands of relish trays she made in her life. Then she'd set it upon that old dining room table with the captains chairs that looked like something taken off an old schooner, a table that looked out of place among all the 70's orange and yellow shag, but was as timeless as that moment.

She carried more than meals to the table, she carried us, with broken dreams and broken hearts, holding us together, even as she left us.

 "You did good Mom" I say to an empty kitchen, the curtains in the window moving with the opening of a door, as if breath. Then the curtains fall still, the room quiet, as if this hushed little space is isolated in space, without time or dimension, hollowed whisperings of love and safety amidst the turmoil and fury of time. There is no light in the room now, but for one small kitchen candle, the flame standing sentient over the wick as I wait for the sound of steps on the porch.

My Dad's table will not ever be graced by all of us again, but it will be the inheritance of those who remain, few of them family by blood, but all of them family by acceptance. I hope that one day, long after I am gone, a small child will sit at it and say "tell us the story about when Great Great Aunt Grace's turkey blew up". . . .

. . and laughter will ring out again.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pet Dander Allergies? - Pure Beeswax Candles May Help

For years I used the typical decorative candle that smelled like apple pie or cinnamon or such.  I also attributed the constant sneezing and sniffing when I was burning a decorative candle to seasonal allergies.  But when I started cooking and canning and doing more things from scratch around the home, I looked into a better, cheaper option.  Well, beeswax isn't cheaper, not at first glance, but it is SO much better, an ultimately, a good value.

Hundreds of years ago, candles were made from beeswax.  Over time, those beeswax candles were gradually replaced by tallow (animal fat) candles, and then in the last century by paraffin candles.  If you look at the candles in your home, that's likely what you have. But what exactly IS paraffin?

Well, it's made from the goo found at the bottom of barrels of crude oil, which is then treated and bleached with chemical solvents such as benzene and toulene  to "clean it up".  This is AFTER the stuff to make asphalt is extracted.  There's a reason such candles put out soot and smoke when you burn them, along with some tasty carcinogens.  To get around that natural "diesel fuel" smell the makers add synthetic fragrance oils, many of which can be toxic if burned.
No wonder I was sneezing and sniffing.  The minute particles of that sludge byproduct, over time, can also stain walls, and drapes.

Then I discovered 100% beeswax candles.

Not only do beeswax candles not put out the pollutants, they also help clean the air, for as the candle burns, negative ions are emitted that clean the air.  How?  Negative ions are drawn to positive, and positive ions attract and hold on to airborne things such as mold, dust, bacteria, viruses and odor causing pollutants, and are suspended in the air.  The negative ions latch on to the "contaminated" positive ions and weigh them down where they fall to the ground.  It's similar to a the cleansing of the air you see after a thundershower a negative ionic event if there ever was one.
I have no hard science as to the allergy connection, but several friends for whom I gave beeswax candles as gifts, say they have seen a marked improvement in their allergies, burning a beeswax candle in their bedroom for about 3 hours before sleep.  I burn one for a few hours in my small home prior to a visit from a friend that's sensitive to pet dander and she says it helps immensely.

But LB!  You're Scot!  You're a spendthrift!  You refinish and reupholster throw away curb furniture and bake your own bread.  Those candles are rather pricey.
100% Beeswax candles burn 3 times longer than traditional candles.  Considering that, they are quite competitively priced with  most high commercially sold candles. It's dollars well spent.

Home Emergency Supplies - candles are a part of most smart folks ready reserves for natural disaster or electrical outage.  Not only does the beeswax candle burn cleaner, nice in close quarters, but it has a flame that's much brighter than traditional candles, with the same light spectrum as a ray of sun.  I keep one in the glove box of my car, in case of an on road emergency requiring a bit of natural light and heat without polluting the cab of the bat truck.
But (there's always a but).  Not all Beeswax candles sold are 100% pure. Labeling in the US requires only that they be 51% beeswax to be pure (much like some of our food labeling).  Look for the phrase "100% pure beeswax" and note the  unique and fresh, subtle honey fragrance.
I get mine from  Morningsong Gardens.

They are a family owned, Midwest based Company and their bee balms (from unscented to my favorites lavender/vanilla or almond/vanilla) have saved my hands for years from the constant scrubbing that is sometimes part of my day and I love them as face creams when my skin is extra/extra dry. I'm a big fan of honey based products for my skin and always carry in my field kid the poison ivy bar, itch relief and wound salve another great Ohio faced bee-based line -  Meadowlake Farms

The Morningsong Gardens bee balm, especially the Calendula Pomegranate is wonderful for the skin, for exama as well as just very dry skin.  It's also wonderful for folks going through radiation with cancer treatment and I try and send a jar out to bloggers I know are going through that or have a family member who is. Like other beeswax based products, it's, natural SPF 15 with no chemicals that can be used on the face for light daily sun protection (though being redhead, if I'm out in the strong sun for a long period of time, I need a hat, SPF50 and a few of those tiles they use on the space shuttle).
So, when I saw they also made 100% pure beeswax candles, made in the USA with pure cotton wicks (no lead). I ordered some and have been so happy with the speed of shipping and the quality.

Plus I have the little animal ones around my tub now instead of those Ikea tubs o'tealights for ten bucks, which just sooted up my shower curtain. These candles produce NO smoke and last SO long, while your drapes, walls and air stay fresh and clean.
Whether you are a candle lover, a homesteader, someone who loves their "Calgon Take Me Away" candle accompanied baths, or live in an area with power outages, add some pure beeswax candles to your supplies. You might just like them because your house is full of dog hair and you're sneezing all the time.  For whatever the reason you, will find the slight amount more you pay has benefit beyond compare.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Barkley hits the United Kingdom

The Book of Barkley has hit the top 100 in Dog Genre books at Amazon three times since it was published this summer thanks to the support of those of you who have read my blog and various magazine stories over the years.   But I was very excited this morning to get the first review up at Amazon UK, as it's only sold a handful of copies overseas. Thank you Paulette - herself an award winning author of two books including "His Name Was Ben"which  also a story about a wonderful dog that I look forward to reading soon.  Thank you all of you who are sharing the book on your blogs, twitter, or Facebook-- by reviews or links or telling a friend.  So far almost $1900 in royalties on the book have been donated to dog rescue efforts in the United States, as well as several dozen  autographed copies of the book for animal rescue auctions.

She gave it 5 stars.

By Paulette Mahurin
Format: Kindle Edition

Between two photos—one a black-haired puppy and the other an older dog, the hair turned gray—is a story, a love story of a woman and her dog, Barkley. Those of us dog lovers (dog parents) know this story all too well and yet it can never be told enough for in the reading a joy is rekindled of what it is to adopt a puppy and share our lives with them as they grow and forever steal our hearts. But this is no ordinary dog story about the love of a dog, it is a soul-searching journey on the depth of passion brought to Johnson’s life from Barkley, where the light shines brightly and reflection begins to make new sense. Flashbacks of the author’s past are interspersed throughout the story to give depth to Johnson’s relationship with Barkley: as he picked her to own him, when he discovers that doggie perfume does not spray out of skunks, his first bath and swim in a pond, singing along on a car ride, his fast-eating-and-barfing presents, wily antics to steal pancakes, and so much more. This is a dog the reader will fall in love with. This is also an author the reader will fall in love with as we get to know her, as she opens her heart, and pours out her soul. “I talk to my dog,” she writes, and one can only imagine that these are some of her best conversations with her beloved friend, Barkley, the friend who brought her to her destiny—the man she was to marry. This exceedingly well-written story, commendable for a first book, will leave you wanting to hug Barkley. And, his best friend, L. B. Johnson

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Paw-ing It Forward

I just left the Hendricks County Humane Society Wine Tasting and Silent Auction, with my little point and shoot camera (it goes until 9:30 but after being up since 4 and doing a 12 hour day, I was done.)

There were dozens of beautiful, cute, and flat-out whimsical gift baskets to be bid on--wine, dog gifts, weekend getaways, sporting tickets.  So many people donating so generously to an organization that does so much in Indiana for the dogs--rescue and adoption, education programs, spay and neuter and even donating $10,000 to the first leash free dog park in the county (where I lived for many years before moving). I was driving, so I had one taste of wine, an Elk Cove Pinot Gris which I WILL be buying more of. They had all kinds of wines to try, and food, and chocolate. What a great idea to get animal lovers together.

And look!  Up by the raffle tickets with Billie Jo and Linda from HCHS -  a familiar face! It's Barkley!  I autographed a BUNCH of the books, which I had bought direct from the publisher and donated, to add to baskets and sell at a bargain price, with all of the proceeds going to HCHS.
One of the people that bought a book said "You're on the top 100 best selling list  for dog books at Amazon!" at which point I said "seriously?"  There it was. Cool.  Barkley would be happy to be famous enough to help the people who helped make the dog park he loved in his last days actually happen.

So many people put time and effort into this but I wanted to offer a big thanks as well to sponsors- The UPS Store in Brownsburg, Ray's Trash Service (removing shredded  and de-squeaked Barkley toys for years at my old home) and Big Red Liquors (a seriously good selection of Single Malt's and the nicest people).
I missed a night home with my husband, but he understood that I wanted to help and that I have seen first hand, the good this fine organization does. It was worth it (and I seriously hope I'm the winning bid on the basket that had all the dog AND people snacks in it!)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Photo Memories of Barkley

Barkley was unimpressed with The Force. - Christmas  2012

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Rescuers - A Tale of Dogs that Got Lucky and Some Needing that Luck

I sent the picture above to a pilot friend of mine with two German Shepherds, saying "I found the picture your Mom posted on the internet when you were learning to drive".  Both of his rescue dogs were pretty much unadoptable.  One was very large and not at all socialized, and the other was very, very sick with heartworm and other issues.  He still took them in, providing some patient socialization and training, never giving up.  Now he has two wonderful dogs and loyal companions..  Not all dogs need that effort.  Abby my rescue lab mix came here fully trained and well mannered.  Like most  of the dogs in rescue, she wasn't a problem dog, she was just unwanted and was just really, really scared, on the "kill list".  In her case,  Love of Labs volunteers drove 12 hours round trip to save her from being put down simply for being heartworm positive and unwanted.  They got her the Vet care she needed to save her life and got her into a loving home, in this case, one very much in need of the love of a Lab.

Not all dogs have it so lucky.  On this Saturday while you enjoy your day, take a moment to read about a dog that could use a friend.  I made a small re-occurring donation via Pay Pal, and hope you will consider it. With what I have learned about rescue organizations since I got Abby, I made a commitment to donate at least 10% of the proceeds from The Book of Barkley to many such organizations and am trying to spread the word as best I can.

Even $5 can save a life. If you can't donate, please spread the word via social media or email.
click on the name of the organization above to go to their website.

Last call before it is too late for Camilla!
The crowded animal shelter was just terrifying for her - she probably has never been out of her own backyard before. She tried her best, but all she seemed to be able to do was huddle down in the far corner of her run, quietly shivering. She wanted to try to make friends but she was so overwhelmed. She knew things weren’t going well; she had a sense of the imminent danger that was upon her. We want Camilla’s story to have a happy ending.
Can you help?

Please donate to keep this sweet girl from dying:
No amount is too small. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for caring.
CMcA for RJ

UPDATE:  I was contacted by the Westside folks last night and Camilla has been removed from the shelter prior to being put down and is being readied for adoption.  Thank you everyone here and all the folks who also supported her on Facebook, which is where I found out about her.