Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Memories

Trick or Treating was big in my house, even as it came with its own set of rules. It was on Halloween, not a Friday or Saturday or what was convenient or politically correct. School night or not, we were out and we were going to get our loot.

My earliest memory of it was early grade school and that Cat outfit mom bought.  She was recently out of the hospital following cancer surgery and didn't have a lot of energy to sew one (she made most of my clothes with her little Singer machine), so she splurged on a store-bought costume.  I still have a photo of me in it, the black pants and top with a big glittery cat on the front, my cheeks flushed with the cold, one front tooth missing and a smile that said: "Look at all the candy Mom!"  As we got older, she encouraged us to make our own costumes, to spark our creativity (note to self - wearing Superman Cape does not enable the user to fly).

As an adult, I do the same, though it's a rare party I'll go to, preferring a home-cooked meal with the company of just one or two people, or even myself, to a crowd.  But sometimes I will venture out if the people are those I really enjoy spending time with, showing up with a smile and something hot from the oven to add to the table.

One party at a doctor's house, I wasn't sure I'd be off duty so didn't get a costume. A friend from work, (not boyfriend) also invited, was going and he was in the same predicament.  He was a pretty tall guy and ex-military, so I had an idea. I had him bring over a pair of fatigues. I wore the top half, which fit just down to mid-thigh, with flesh-colored tights beneath. He wore the bottom half with combat boots and a flesh-colored T-shirt that I'd picked up with the tights at Wal-Mart.

We showed up and the guests, most of them as well, in the medical field said - "What ARE you two?"

Upper and Lower GI !

As adults, we can still laugh, even if it's sometimes just at ourselves.

Childhood Halloween traditions never varied. There was always Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin to watch.  For dinner, we'd have hot dogs with sides of orange jello and some carrot sticks and a glass of milk.  Then we'd suit up as quickly as firemen, eager to be out the door, out into the night where the cool Fall breeze shivered and stirred the grass where the leaves had long since fallen.

I paired off with a brother who was older. We were limited to where we could go but we had pillowcases that would hold a LOT of goodies.

There would be an occasional homemade caramel apple, popcorn ball or another such treat from a couple of older ladies up the street, but they put little commercial address labels on the wrapped treat with a note so our moms knew immediately who sent it and that it would be good to eat.  But the occasional popcorn ball aside, what we were after was the commercial loot. Hershey's and Tootsie Rolls, Fruit Stripe gum, Sugar Daddies, Smartees, Milk Duds (still a favorite), Crows, Skybar, Nestle Crunch, Dots, Pixy Sticks, Big Hunk, Boston Baked Beans (those were given away, I still don't like them), Gobstoppers, SweetTarts (more, please), Charms, those little candy necklaces, Necco Wafers, Slo Pokes, Jolly Ranchers, Chic-o-Sticks, Bazooka gum.

The only thing Mom wouldn't let us keep was the Sugar Daddies. For some reason, she thought those would just ruin our teeth and would hide them away with a plan for them to be rationed out one by one over time. Usually, however, after a month, she'd forget about them. We'd run stealthy espionage missions into the kitchen until we found her hiding spot and would capture them and hide them in our secret fort to ruin our teeth at our own darn pace.

But the trick or treating wasn't just about the candy. It was being out, imaginations running free, flashlights shining into a future as exciting as we could imagine.

To each porch that had a light on we'd go, candy bag in hand. Trick or Treat, though with my front tooth missing, more like Twik or Tweat. Still that missing tooth got me extra candy (oh aren't you cute).

One house, always anticipated, had its owner dress like a witch, press on warts and all, and she'd have a steaming cauldron of dry ice and spooky music playing. That was the best part of that whole street. We'd approach the door, it would open with a haunting creak, the interior of the room blooming with light, a flutter of slender muscles in our arms as we held out our bags, trying to show we weren't really scared. That's just some kids Mom... right? She really doesn't turn into a witch every Halloween? Then she would laugh, more of a honeyed laugh than a cackle, blue eyes, sparkling, holding us silent with her lifted hand from which would pour down sweet goodness, not toads or bats or other scary things.

But the trick or treating wasn't just about the candy. It was being out, after dark, by ourselves, just kids, with scores of other kids, flashlights in hand. Out in front of us, two whole blocks, dozens of houses, the darkness slung low with lights, the night blowing cool and full of promise.
One year I was a ghost. That year a lot of kids were ghosts, the lumber mill had laid off a bunch of men, and money for costumes was sorely lacking. An old sheet, a couple of holes cut for eyes and you were a ghost. Pity the poor kid who was the pink ghost, he was going to get flattened like a pancake next time the boys played dodgeball. Other years, the costumes were as wide as our imagination and bigger than all our fears.

In our garb, we hovered over places of play, breathing sugar-fueled dreams like air, ashen figures gliding through the night on silent feet. To each porch that had a light on we'd go, candy bag in hand.  The houses weren't decorated up the way they are now, but on the porch would often be a lone jack o lantern, eyes shining from a candle or some fake cobwebs along the porch (those aren't fake! ack ack ack, get it out of my hair!) We'd pass each other wondering just who was that superhero, who was that under the Casper mask? We scurried along, hands waving, quick steps in time to the chatter of chilled breath, the blocks of a post-war suburb stretching out, the dim lights of small-town America.

As ghosts, cowboys, baseball players and Superman, we covered ground, drawing in deep breaths of it all, unutterably aware of how brief this night would be. I think even as kids we know that too soon we'd have to put this other life, this other identify away, as we melted anonymously back into our regular life, with wistful longing and the taste of sweetness on our lips.
Even though we were told to just do two blocks, we always went ahead and did that third one, or as much of it as we could fit in before our little watches told us it was time to back. We advanced, trudging up the steps to that first house, looking over our shoulders as if we could already see our Mom scolding us. We hit about six more houses, with other kids from our street, before as a group we agreed to go back. We swear each other to a secret, the words not spoken but carved into stone upon which lies a nameless and forgotten effigy, those secrets of childhood we bear with us always.

There up ahead, the lights of our house. Home! We cross the empty lot where a new house was going in, following a faint path were dozens of small feet had worn the rotting leaves down to the soil. We clicked off the flashlight, whispering there in the dark about Great Pumpkins and Ghosts, where overhead, Chestnut trees thinned against the skies.
The wind had blown the clouds away, leaving a bright starry night, imaginary bat wings beating in the trees, a black cat crossing the road under the silver echo of the stars. Smoke hangs on the air suspended, the ash of burnt leaves that once rattled on the ground like tin.  I stretch out my hand into the vast expanse of darkness as if to clutch a star, to save a sweet fragment of the night to tuck into the book of that day.

Too soon it would be time to go in, the night rushing past all too quickly, stolen moments of sweetness there in the dark. As children we live in the moment, we live in a sugary world where not all is a warning, where people are inherently good, and the goblins and witches and demons take off their costume and reveal a harmless smile. We know that in recollection, we see how quickly it all went past, and holding a sweet piece of time with blurred eyes, I realize we all have lost part of that, the innocence and the wonder, forever, even if memory remains.
When we got back to the house, Mom sorted through our candy, tossing anything not completely wrapped, being careful. But we appreciated that she let the two of us go without parental oversight those last few years; Big Bro being big enough to keep me safe in the street. There were so many other kids out, the streets full, an adult not in sight but for the ones with little tiny kids. She had to worry, it was dark after all, we were hardly isolated, but we were alone.

We probably didn't even look back as we ran out to start our night of fun. But if we had, we would have seen her standing there, evanescent and forlorn, even as she put a smile on her face and waved, so we'd venture forth with hope, not fear.
There weren't many more Halloweens with her there. Too soon we lost her. Too soon we were adults living on our own and learning that too much sugar can make you fat and that roses often draw blood. Too soon we'd understand the night's promise of unease, the dangers that lurk in the shadows, finalities that go beyond a grave. But she let us live with our innocence as long as she could, while preparing us to be fighters and risk-takers, teaching us to be not fixed, but flexible in the light, no darkness to flee through and knowing nothing we could not handle armed with faith and occasionally a firearm.
Tonight, the wind is silent and the house stirs, shadows gathering in the basement, a dark pine forever trying an ancient latch on the window of the room in which I sleep. I smile at a taste of sweetness on my lips, a stolen moment of childhood nibbled before bed. Around me are homes, some dark and cold, no pumpkins yet in the yard, the doors shuttered against laughter. There are always those that look at childhood dreams like viewing something through the glass, behind which is only vacuum, from which no sound emits and which, too soon, fades to where they simply live anchored, until they simply cease to exist.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Reporting Live from Jail

Reporting LIVE from JAIL - Yes, that's right, it's Abby and I'm in jail.  I think someone should call the Blogville Law Offices of Von Schnitzel, Ketchum and Dedum about this egregious mistake.

It all started last night.  Mom and Dad had a romantic dinner as Mom has a stomach bug on their anniversary so they didn't go out Saturday night as planned. There was yummy smelling food that Dad cooked for her, candles and wine.  Mom made silly. giggling noises and Dad was smiling a lot. Then it was time for "take the dog out".  Our house is in the city but it's in a deep, wooded lot that has all sorts of critters living in it and the park behind it. There in the back corner, I did my favorite roll in the grass, but it was even better as it was "roll in the smell" as something was deader back there in the dark.  I'm not sure WHAT it was, there was just a big, smelly stain in the grass and I rolled in it good.
When Dad brought me into the house, boy was I STINKY. Dad said "maybe it's just poop" and Mom smelled me and said, "no, I know that smell too well - that's deader". Mom was NOT happy with me but she got all kinds of warm, wet towels and wiped me down gently as best she could. But then they put me in jail. It was a small room cell blocked with chairs so I couldn't get out. I have a washable bed and my favorite stuffy, but I didn't get to sleep on the futon, OR the couch, OR with Mom and Dad. I'm innocent I say!
This morning, Dad went to Wall-GREENS and got doggie shampoo and gave me a quick bath before work and then put me back in jail until I'm a hundred years old "dry". Anyway - just letting you know in case one of you wants to spring me (my sister Larelei using this opportunity to hog the sofa to herself).

Monday, October 21, 2019

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Between a Goat and Dry Skin

I normally mostly do product reviews on the healthy living blog but these products were so great I wanted to share with a wider group especially before the holidays as they make great gifts.

Goats Milk toiletries from Bend Soap Company.

Dwight and Marilee Johnson (no relation to us!) and their family of 11 live on a 40-acre farm in beautiful Central Oregon. I know that area well. Back when I was playing airline pilot we had a run  into the Redmond/Bend airport and it was one of my favorite trips as we had a layover long enough to enjoy the amazing scenery.

 As the Johnson's raised a herd of happy healthy goats that ate only good food and were given natural substances to keep them healthy rather than medications that would then end up in their milk – they got the idea of making some soap with it. With a long history as a successful entrepreneur and the support of his creative and clever wife, Dwight's initial soap soon became a family effort as a result of crafting some soap from their farm’s goats to help with eczema that their young son Chance was suffering with.
Making some goat milk Kefir in my "cowboy wineglass"
 - no milking involved, just a trip to Whole Foods.

Consuming goat milk (which I drink in place of cow’s milk which I don’t digest well) the Johnson family knew the benefits of the milk nutritionally.

• Goat’s milk is full of vitamins, proteins, and minerals
• Is easily absorbed by the body
• And has a pH that is relatively close to that of the human body

Could that also help young Chance's skin if used topically?

They found that by putting a couple bars of their newly created honey and oatmeal soaps into the bath and letting Chance play and soak in the water for 15-20 minutes gave him great relief, and his eczema was practically gone after one week of daily baths like this. This is great news because it’s often recommended that you avoid frequent bathing if you have eczema as it dries out the skin, making the itching worse.
That’s the secret behind their amazing milk bath product. This was one of the first products I ordered, the online ordering easy and the products arriving quickly (with a free sample bar of tea tree soap - thanks!)

Rather than a powdery, strongly scented product like many bath additives, it’s fine shards of the purest soaps with essential oils (except the unscented one)  that dissolve in your bath like a cloud. Goats milk also has natural alpha-hydroxy acids which will gently exfoliate the skin. I used some for the first time last night, the “English Garden” scent, and my husband commented on how smooth my arms were when he gave me a hug as I came out of the bathroom in my pajamas. He also commented on how clean and pretty the scent was.

He then used a bar of unscented goat milk soap in his shower to wash his hair. When we first married and I moved into his home, I noticed he only used this one generic brand of dandruff shampoo. I told him several years later that it must work as he had no dandruff. He laughed and said, “I never have, I just hate the strong scents of drugstore shampoo.” Well, the dandruff shampoo was kicked to the curb. So much of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bodies that I didn’t want him using a medicated product he didn’t need. He'd found a couple of natural shampoos he liked but he loved the idea of a bar he can use to shampoo as much as he travels in his engineer job.

He washed his fine blond hair with the unscented Bend Soap and his hair was SO soft and shiny. I’m loving the soaps as well, the unscented for my face cleared up some "I can't have acne I'm over 50!" that developed after I used a new sunscreen that my face and rosacea did NOT like. Within two days, my skin looked 100% better. I’ve never been able to use soap on my face, too drying, but the goat milk soap left my skin soft and smooth, didn’t burn my eyes, and calmed the redness that is the bane of rosacea.

Got Pets with sensitive skin?  Made to lather well, the goat milk soap is easy to use on your dog or cat's coat.  It will get their fur clean, but it is a LOT easier to rinse off than most other pet shampoos.  Gentle and non-irritating on the skin it also doesn't contain chemicals that their bodies will absorb, or remain on the skin to be licked off later.  Always do a patch test first like any new product, but Abby has her baths with goat milk soap since we got her and her fur is SO soft and shiny.

For a shower or bath for we humans, it’s great. Most commercial skincare products are made with a mixture of alcohol, synthetic fragrances, and other chemicals that strip our skin of its natural oils that keep it protected and are intended to defend it against becoming dry, irritated, and unhealthy.  I had a little rubber bucket of assorted bath products for my nightly bath, but I couldn't use them every night or my skin would dry out and itch.  I hadn't learned yet that the GMO oils used in cheap bath products, even those touted as "moisturizing", can irritate and dry the skin.

 The Bend Soap and milk bath have made a huge difference in my skin and the milk bath is soothing and inexpensive enough I can use it frequently! I can’t wait to use the goat milk lotion on my face and body instead of the scented products that often make me itchy or break me out.

With the quality ingredients including palm oil, that they ensure is sustainably harvested, it’s no wonder.

So for my book fans and readers some questions

 •Do you suffer from harsh skin sensitivities, like me, spending thousands of dollars over the years trying to help?

 •Are you allergic or sensitive to many skincare products and can’t use them?

  •Are you concerned about toxic products in your body and the effect on you and your family's long-term health?

  •Would you love to use wonderful products to make your skin and hair soft and supple without spending $9 a bar or $30 a jar?

 Natural, gentle, deeply moisturizing, healing and convenient products from a family run company that's had years of happy customers.  What's not to LOVE.


There's soaps, lip butters, scrubs, lotions, and even a natural deodorant and lots of information on their company and products and it's obvious how close this family is.
I so enjoyed the photos on their website of their children helping with the chores and the production - growing up as I did doing things with my brother around our childhood Western home to earn a little money, learning responsibility, sharing, and commitment to something.  As I look at the smiling faces of the Johnson family, I can't help but think of what wonderful family memories are being made right now as they provide a product that supports and nourishes a community of people.

Go check them out, especially the gift tins with the holidays coming up (and seriously- orange Sugar Scrub? - you have to order that, I gave a tub to my dog walker and she is hooked!)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Walks With Sam

Barkley - keeping an eye out for garden squirrels.  I miss him every day.

I apologize for the lack of posts this week.  I had the biggest legal case I  was ever the "expert" technical consult on hit my desk this week and before I knew it, it was Friday.

Walks with Sam is a blog from a local Chicago writer, David Berner, a college professor here in the Windy City who has won numerous literary  awards for his memoirs and fiction novels (and rightly so, I've read all of them, and they are amazing.)  I'd bet money that David and I don't share the same politics, but one of the reasons I admire him so much is, in his writing, he looks at the world as a human being, not a political party, not an ideology, taking in all that is around him and processing people and events by how they impact the individual souls involved.  It's a view I wish more people took. It makes for reading that will touch everyone, no matter what their background or beliefs.

He has a new book coming out, which I beta read, called "Walks with Sam" which is about life lessons learned while walking his dog. I can't wait to see it in print - it's extraordinary.

Until the book is published he has his "Walks With Sam" blog.  Today, it features some of the Blogville blogs as he asked me to recommend some great dog blogs that don't feature a lot of advertising.  Time didn't allow me to include all of you, but I picked a few of my favorites and shared them.

https://walkswithsam.com/

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday Selfies

Solar Powered Dog.

Between the toys, the dish of vanilla yogurt and the soft rug, Larelei has gotten used to living inside instead of being in a pen in a barn having liter after liter of puppies.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Monday Smiles

 Those of us that are middle-aged will get this one!




 Somewhere out there is a squirrel being sexually harrassed by Pepe LePew Squirrel.



Sunday, October 6, 2019

Jail Break


Why are we in jail? The jailer just made muffins - BOTH corn and blueberry ones!
 Seriously Officer, there are unattended muffins out there!
One muffin for good behavior - please?
Wait, is that a muffin crumb?
What do you mean Mom we can't eat the sugar-laden muffins?

 You're going to give us a grain-free WHOLESOME treat?
"I hear the train a comin' 
It's rollin' 'round the bend 
And I ain't seen the sunshine
 Since, I don't know when 
I'm stuck in Wholesome Prison
 And time keeps draggin' on
 But that train keeps a-rollin'
 On down to San Antone"

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A Message From Speed Bump Dog

Mom - if you didn't want me to lay in a high traffic area, why'd you leave a dog bed on the floor after you did your workout?
One last thing - if you stretch yourself into a Pretzel when you exercuse (what Mom calls it when she skips half the workout cuz she's lazy) why do they call it Yogurt?  Wrong food!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Recommended Reading!

Recommended Reading. WRITER SHED STORIES is a Kindle collection of short fiction, memoir, and creative nonfiction from authors all over the world. The "Writer's Shed" comes from local award-winning author David Berner who has crafted a "Writer's Shed" at his home in Chicago that looks just like the one Poet Dylan Thomas ("Do not go gentle into that good night") wrote from. David's novels and memoirs are extraordinary good (he has been honored as the Writer-in-Residence at the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois) so I know these stories will all be excellent. Only 99 Cents! (P.S. if you don't have a Kindle, Amazon has a Kindle Cloud app that allows you to read any e-book on your computer - I'm a computer idiot and figured out how to make it work :-)

https://www.amazon.com/Writer-Shed-Stories-Eleven-Authors-ebook/dp/B07Y3DK8VZ/