Thursday, December 20, 2007

how a memory tastes

Julie and I made thumbprints today. They are her favorite Christmas cookies, although that is not the only reason we made them. This year, we will have three different kinds of Christmas cookies: thumbprints, nutballs, and sugar cookies. We really only bake cookies at Christmas time in our house, so needless to say, they are very special and very much anticipated.

We made the thumbprints pretty much the way my mother and I did when I was a girl. I have never really liked to bake, but sitting at the kitchen table and chatting with my daughter as we rolled the dough into little balls and dipped them in egg whites, then ground nuts, didn't seem like such a bad way to spend a winter afternoon.

After we baked the cookies, I stacked them in a square plastic container with wax paper between each layer. I remembered how we used to stack the different boxes of cookies on the bench in the office of our house on Denison Avenue. Because they were right by his food dish, Bobo thought the cookies were his, and would guard them fiercely from Tom and Julie, growling and even nipping if they got too close. Just because he couldn't get at them didn't mean that anyone else could.

Julie wanted to try a slight recipe variation this year, and I was game. For half of the ground walnuts, we substituted ground flaxseed. We only tasted one cookie each, but the result seemed to be a much lighter and more delicate cookie. Just when we thought they couldn't get any better. I include my recipe here, although I'm sure any good cookie cookbook would have a similar one.


1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp. good vanilla extract
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1&1/2 cups ground nuts (or 3/4 cup ground nuts & 3/4 cup ground flaxseed)
1/2 cup sugar
raspberry preserve (with seeds)

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, flour and salt until well mixed. Your hands will work best for this, so just dig in. Form dough into a large ball. If dough is very soft, you may want to chill it before rolling it into small balls. (We did not and it was fine.) Take a pinch of the dough and roll it into a ball, then place the ball on a sheet of wax paper. We like these cookies to be bite-sized, and so made ours pretty small. Our yield was 80 cookies. You can make them bigger if you want larger cookies, but remember to increase baking time. Continue until all the dough has been rolled into balls.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine ground nuts/flaxseed and sugar. Place the egg whites in a small bowl. Dip each ball into the egg whites, then drop it into the nut and sugar mixture. Roll it around until well coated, then place it on a cookie sheet, 20 cookies to a sheet if they are small. I used parchment paper this year, and highly recommend it. To make the "thumbprint" in the cookie, use the round bottom end of a wooden spoon to press a hole into the center of each cookie. Do not break through the dough at the bottom of the cookie. The cookie should look like a miniature birds' nest.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on size of cookies. (12 minutes was plenty of time for the petite cookies we baked.) To check for doneness, turn a cookie over and see if the bottom has turned a golden brown. If so, they are done. Remove cookies to cool on paper towels. When they have cooled, store in an airtight container, with wax paper between the layers of cookies.

To serve cookies, put a very small dollop of raspberry preserve in the center of each cookie, right before you are ready to serve them. Do not fill ahead of time and store. Thumbprints are wonderfully attractive on a plate with other holiday cookies, and are best served with Constant Comment tea.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

a winter walk

The sky is a brilliant and cloudless blue as Rufus and I set off on our morning walk. I don't feel any wind at all, but twice the trees above us drop a shower of snowflakes as we walk beneath them. They sparkle against the bright sky as they float to the ground.

It is very cold and the snow is freshly fallen, so it is still bright white and glittering on the yards and sidewalks. Each snowflake is a tiny prism, shooting off multi-colored sparks in the bright sunlight. The long shadows of trees lay across the sidewalk, tinted a deep blue. Their delicate shadow branches tangle in the snowy lawns and are lost.

As we walk up the driveway, I see the shadow of the redbud tree we planted in the front yard sharply etched on the garage door. I stop for a moment to look at it, but Rufus tugs on the leash, eager to be inside. He's right, of course. It's cold out here. But I have tarried long enough to remember the beauty of this winter morning.

Monday, December 3, 2007

random thoughts about the holiday season

For many years, December has been the most stressful month of the year for me. Even this year, when I lead a virtually stress-free life, I found myself filled with anxiety when I thought about all the things I "had" to do before December 25th. All the shopping, all the mailing of packages and Xmas cards, all the baking, all the decorating, all the gift-wrapping, all had to be done, by me, to the most exacting standards - mine. However, since I actually have time this year to just sit and think, that is exactly what I did: sit and think about it.

First of all, a little history might help. When we were kids, my mother always got "sick" on Christmas Day. To this day, I don't know what that was all about. I have a couple of guesses, but that's all they are, guesses, and I'll not share them here. In the event, what that meant for us was that she laid down on the couch in the living room, covered by a blanket, and told us all to be quiet so that she could rest. Now, the living room was where our Christmas tree was and where all our presents were, and was the only place we could play with them on Christmas Day. To say that she ruined the day for her children would simply be a statement of fact. Fortunately, from the time we could read, we always received books among our presents, so at least we could quietly read. Definitely not a model for how I wanted my own kids to spend their holidays.

When Tom and Julie were little, I was, by choice, a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to make their Christmases special in every way, and because I was the one at home with them, a great deal of the work that went into a big production fell on my shoulders. And that was fine. But, as things do, the celebrations got bigger and more elaborate as the years passed, and I began to feel that it was all just more than I could handle. I just kept feeling that way, year after year, even as Ben and the kids quietly took over more and more of the tasks that I found so overwhelming. I haven't baked a sugar cookie in years, for example, and yet, every year we have them with the thumbprints and the nutballs and the Constant Comment tea that make up our holiday desserts.

That's just one example. I'm sure if I thought about it, I could come up with a dozen more. My family has, in fact, taken over most of the tasks that threatened to paralyze me with anxiety over the years. I just never realized it before now. All I really have to do is acknowledge their help and sit back and enjoy the season. That's actually what they want me to do. Aren't I lucky?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

November numbers

I took six days off again this month, so that means 24 days of exercising. It would have been 25, but I took an extra day off Thanksgiving week. For dinner, we ate vegetarian five times and had beef four times, so we met our goals in that area.

I set a more modest weight loss goal for November, as I knew it would be more difficult to lose weight in the month that contains Thanksgiving, the holiday that celebrates overabundance, overindulgence, and overeating. My goal was to lose six pounds - I lost seven! I am delighted. I can only hope to do that well this month. I do love Christmas cookies, though...

Friday, November 30, 2007

health care update, part 1

When last we saw our heroine (me) she thought she had made arrangements to have some blood work done so that she would be allowed to purchase the medication that keeps her healthy. The plan, as she understood it, was that her cardiologist's secretary would fax a script to the lab of her choice detailing the tests that had to be done on her blood sample. This was on Tuesday morning, as I recall. On Wednesday (at the very end of the day, when we receive all our mail, but that's a rant for another day) I was surprised to receive the script in the mail.

I hatched a plan to have my blood work done first thing Thursday morning, since I had to fast for twelve hours prior to the test. I understand that no one likes to do the fasting, but I find it especially difficult now that I eat a very meager, albeit healthy, dinner, with no evening snacks. To put it simply, I am starving when I get up in the morning. Anyway. I know the lab opens at 8:00 a.m., which was always quite inconvenient when I was working, because my work day started at that time, as well. So did a lot of other people's, evidently, as there was always a crowd there at that early hour. I don't have to worry about that punching a time clock thing, anymore, so I didn't have to be there when the doors opened. However, I still had the whole ravenous hunger thing to contend with.

I put my plan into action when I got out of bed at 8:15 yesterday morning, and immediately washed up and got dressed and headed for the lab. I was well-supplied for my journey. I brought a book with me to read in the waiting room, and a little bag of fresh grapes to eat as soon as my blood was drawn. I figured the simple sugars in the fruit would do me the most good the fastest until I could hurry home and have breakfast. The waiting room was empty when I arrived, and I was able to turn in my script and answer all the questions right away. I barely had time to start my book when the lab tech called my name.

I was pleased to notice that it was the same woman who had drawn my blood on previous occasions. She is an elderly woman and she is straight and tall, with a long white braid down her back. She seems to be a no-nonsense-type of person, and doesn't waste one's time with sugar-y small talk. In recent years, I have been told repeatedly that my veins are difficult to find, words one dreads to hear from someone wielding a painful needle. This skilled technician had no problem, however, and I really did feel only a prick as the needle entered my vein. Practically before I knew it, I was finished.

Back out in the lobby, I immediately opened my bag of grapes, and popped one into my mouth. The red grapes we have been getting recently are a little too sweet for me, but they seemed to pop with freshness as I bit into them. I ate the whole bag as I drove home. The whole ordeal had taken less than a half hour. Later that morning, I called the doctor's office, as I had been instructed, to inform his secretary that I had had my blood drawn, like a good girl. She promised to call me after she finally calls my prescription in to the pharmacy.

So, just to re-cap: I called the cardiologist's office on Monday, for what I assumed would be a routine request for a prescription. It is now Friday, and I still don't have my medication. I doubt the prescription will be called in tomorrow, since it's a Saturday. I am hoping for next Monday. It's a good thing I didn't wait until I was down to three pills to get this process started. And I haven't even started to try to get the new insurance company to pay for it yet. That's something to look forward to, eh?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

just hope you never get really sick

Almost twelve years have passed since I had a heart attack. I was a 43-year-old woman, and because of that, I was seriously mis-diagnosed. After a series of tests, the G.P. I was seeing remained clueless. When he finally asked me if I was "having problems at home" and if I wanted a prescription for a tranquilizer, I told him what I wanted was a referral to a doctor who could figure out what was wrong with me. Fortunately, he referred me to Dr. Razak Kherani, a caring, compassionate cardiologist, then affiliated with the Elyria Memorial Hospital. It didn't take Dr. Kherani any time at all to figure out what was wrong with me. The episode I described to him: intense pain under my left arm that radiated up into my neck and shoulder and left me writhing on the floor in agony, was clearly a heart attack. Couple that with my inability to climb even a single flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath, and, clearly, I was in trouble.

After he examined me, Dr. Kherani invited me back to his office for a consultation. He would prefer to get me into the cath lab that very day, he told me, but regretted that we would have to wait through the weekend for that. He made the arrangements for the following week and gave me a prescription for nitro tablets. When I had to take one of the tablets, and it relieved my pain, it all became real to me.

My trip to the cath lab showed that one of my arteries was, indeed, 99% blocked. Dr. Kherani immediately performed a balloon angioplasty. I watched on the monitor as the team worked on me in the cath lab, and found it surreal and fascinating. If my relative youth had masked my coronary artery disease, it also helped in my recovery from the procedure. And, really, I was a model patient during my rehab. No, really, I was. They ran an article about me in the local newspaper, with a photo showing me and my golden family, walking down a leafy, sunlit street.

I saw Dr. Kherani every six months for the next couple of years. What a wonderful man, what a compassionate doctor he is. Each time, he examined me, then invited me to his office, where we chatted. He knew where I worked, and how my kids were doing in school. Dr. Kherani was pleased with my progress, and let me know it. He clearly cared about me. I don't think I am exaggerating to say that he saved my life.

Time passed, and, of course, I backslid. We moved to a new town where instead of being within walking distance of the hospital, we didn't even have one. When the familiar pain returned, I found myself in an emergency room in Akron, forced to deal with whatever cardiologist was on duty that day. His name doesn't matter, but I will say that he belonged to The Heart Group, a large group of cardiologists who seem to have a lock on all the heart patients in several surrounding counties. Another trip to the cath lab showed no blockage, and I received virtually no follow-up care. I was, however, given a prescription for a statin, to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and so had to have periodic blood work done.

Several years went by, until during a phone call to the doctor's office for a new prescription, my file garnered some unexpected attention. As I gave the woman on the phone my information, she was amazed to see how much time had passed since my last appointment. "Honey, you need to come in and see the doctor," she told me, and set up an appointment for me. He didn't remember me, and I didn't like him any better than the last time I had seen him. I decided to switch doctors. I could see someone closer by, I thought, and he couldn't be worse than the cardiologist handling my case. Well, as I said The Heart Group has a virtual monopoly in this area, and I ended up with another one of their doctors. While he isn't any worse, he isn't any better, either. It is amazing how impersonal and indifferent both of these men seem.

Since I switched to this doctor, my annual appointment has been in the fall. Accordingly, I called his office earlier this year to schedule an appointment. The doctor's secretary was incredulous that I expected to get in any time soon. "We are now scheduling for (six months out)," she told me. "Well, perhaps I should just see one of the other doctors, then," I told her. "Oh no," was her response, "their schedules are the same." "What a racket," I replied. "Schedule me whenever you can, then, but I will need a refill for my prescription before then." "That's not a problem," she reassured me. "Just give me a call when you need it."

My supply of pills has dwindled since then, so I called her yesterday for a new prescription. She cheerfully offered to call it in to the pharmacy of my choice. I waited until today to pick it up because I didn't want to make a needless trip. Do you think my prescription was at the drugstore waiting for me? Of course it wasn't. I made another phone call and reminded the secretary that she promised me just yesterday to phone in my prescription. "I think you have to have a blood test first," she told me. "Let me check. Yes, you need a blood test before your prescription can be renewed." I was sorely tempted to ask her when she intended to share that information with me, but instead took a deep breath and made arrangements to have my blood work done later this week.

Hopefully, soon, I will be allowed to purchase the medication I need. I am not getting my hopes up, however. How I miss Dr. Kherani and his kindness and concern. The doctors in The Heart Group would do well to take a page from his book and remember that the assembly line of half-clothed bodies they briefly see in their examining rooms are actually people they need to look in the eye and treat with respect. I'm not holding my breath for that, either. I'll let you know if I get my pills.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Upon reflection, I have found that the people who care about me are right, and that I do, indeed, have many things to be thankful for. Here are five of them:

1. A husband who has encouraged and supported me for the last four months, as I have healed and (hopefully) grown, without hardly ever asking me when I am going to look for another job.

2. A daughter who loves to be at home with us, and who helped me bake two pies, make cranberry sauce and stuffing for the turkey, and who has brought her fiance, whom I love like a son, into our family.

3. A son and daughter-in-law who are willing to load everything, plus two little dogs, into their car and travel at the busiest times of the year, to be with their families.

4. My dad and brother, who are always there to support me in every way I could possibly need, even when I let too much time go by between visits.

5. The good friends I made during five years of working a job that started out good and slowly turned toxic. I'm looking at you, Kristen and Cortney, Vince and Joany, Kathy and Sgt. Buckey.

Hm-m-m... I guess I could just say that I am thankful for family and good friends, but sometimes I think it's important to spell it out. I hope you all have as much to be thankful for as I do.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving: it used to be about family

Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday when I was growing up. We used to go to my Aunt Louise's house in Canton for our big family dinner. Aunt Louise was my dad's oldest sister, and she and her husband, Uncle Virgil had three children, my cousins Butch, Barbara and Greg. My Grandma Fischer, my Aunt Isabel and my cousin Dave, who all lived together, would be there, and sometimes Uncle Virgil's mother, Mrs. Smith, would join us, as well. Assorted dates and, eventually, spouses of my cousins were sometimes present; it seemed like there was always room at the big table set up in the family room.

My dad was a lot younger than his sisters, and so, of course, we were a lot younger than our cousins. We were the only ones who had left Canton, and, in addition to that, the rest of the family did not like my mother, so we really were the odd ones out. I don't know that either of my brothers liked going there as much as I did, but I loved it. I think I was too much like my mother for either of my aunts' liking, but I was the little princess my boy cousins doted on, and I loved them all right back. In my dad's family I was called "Anne Louise", sharing a family middle name with my cousin, Barbara and, later, her daughter, Chrissy. Being relegated to the kids' table wasn't so bad when at least one of our big cousins always sat with us.

When Ben and I were first married, we spent our Thanksgivings at his parents' house in South Euclid. I loved being there for my favorite holiday. His younger sisters, Liz and Laura, and his brother, Vic, still lived at home then. Later, after they were married, Laura would be there with her first husband, Al, and Liz's husband, Jim was there, as well. My mother-in-law makes the best stuffing in the world - my favorite part of the meal - and she always made enough for us all to have second and third helpings of that and everything else. (They are Italian, after all.) I thought we would always spend our Thanksgivings together that way.

We have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner since we moved to this house seven years ago. My dad and my brother always drive out, and when Bill was dating Laura, he used to bring her along. Tom and Julie were always home for the holiday, and I remember one year Andrew was here, as well, so we set up a "kids' table" for the three of them - probably the only time my kids were relegated there. It is a huge amount of work, but what a great feeling when it is all cleared away, the dishwasher loaded, and the turkey carcass simmering in a stockpot.

This year, Tom and Kristy are in Oklahoma with her family, and my dad and Bill don't want to make the drive. I'm not sure yet whether Andrew will eat here or with his family. Chances are it will be Ben, Julie, and me for dinner. I never imagined our Thanksgivings ending up like this. Well, the food will still be good, even though I never did learn how to make stuffing like my mother-in-law.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

good for you and tasty, both - who knew?

I found this recipe in the Plain Dealer recently and thought I would try it. It is really so good. Some of you - who may or may not be my children - might think you won't like it because of the eggplant, but, really, give it a try. We found it to be especially good as a vegetarian dinner on a rainy November evening. It was not as good when I re-heated it for a side dish, but I think it might have been because the vegetables lost their freshly-roasted flavor and texture.

Rotini with Smoky Eggplant and Red Pepper Sauce
makes 4 servings

1 large eggplant, cut in half
3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into quarters
8 oz. rotini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbps. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat broiler. Place eggplant halves, cut side down, in the center of the broiler pan. With a small sharp knife, prick through the skin of each half in several places. Arrange the peppers, cut side down, around the eggplant. Broil the vegetables until the pepper skins have blackened, about 20 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10 minutes to loosen the skins. Return the eggplant to the broiler and cook until the skin has blackened and the flesh is completely softened, about another 10 minutes.

While the vegetables broil, cook the rotini in lightly salted water, according to package directions. In a large, bowl, combine the olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and garlic. When the eggplant is done, let it cool slightly, then use a large spoon to scrape the flesh from the skin onto a cutting board. Don't worry if the eggplant is "seedy". Chop the flesh to a chunky consistency and tranfer to the bowl with the olive oil mixture. Stir well.

Peel and discard the blackened skin from the cooled red peppers. Coarsely chop the peppers and add them to the eggplant mixture. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce and toss thoroughly to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

memories are where you find them

I finally got around to folding the clean cleaning rags in the laundry basket that had been kicking around the basement for a couple of weeks. Surprised to learn that I fold cleaning rags? Well, that's what I was taught to do, although I have at least rebelled against my mother's strict system of sorting the rags into three distinct piles. There was the dusting pile, made up for the most part of old t-shirts. 100% cotton only - synthetic blends need not apply. There was the window-cleaning pile, mostly thin old cotton sheets that had worn through where our feet had restlessly kicked at night. Finally, there were the old towels, saved to soak up all the spills and accidents of a growing family.

I am happy to just get the rags folded into one neat pile. They are predominantly old towels, I find. Bath towels and wash clothes, hand towels and dish clothes, worn thin from repeated use. Some of the blue and yellow bath towels go back to when we lived on Longford. The pink and green patchwork-patterned ones (they look as bad as they sound) date to before the bathroom re-model on Denison. Some of the kitchen towels we took to Chincoteague and back, to the little house on Lewis Street where we stayed each summer.

There are not just old towels in my clean pile of rags, however. I find pieces of Ben's old flannel shirts, that always seem to grow too short in the sleeves before they can wear out. Oxford cloth shirts that he wore to work make excellent cleaning rags, and I find a few of those, as well. I don't find any of the kids' old clothes, and that puzzles me at first, until I remember that we always gave those to someone we knew with younger children or bundled them off to Goodwill.

The remnants of my own old clothes are the most poignant reminders of the past. Here is a panel of those flowered Liz Claiborne shorts I wore when we took the kids to Disney World. How I regretted wearing shorts that had to be unbuttoned and then un-zipped for each of my many trips to the restroom! Here is the front of that over-sized New York Yankees t-shirt I bought to wear when I was pregnant with Tom. It reminds me that I saw my first major league baseball game during that pregnancy - the Cleveland Indians played the Yankees. (Reggie Jackson hit a solo home run in his first at-bat.) I don't seem to have a single remnant left of my dad's old flannel shirt. I wore that all the time when I lived in the dorm, and for many years after that. When it was beyond wearing, I cut it up for cleaning rags. It seems even those are gone now.

That's the interesting thing about it, I guess. The cleaning rags just wear away over time, some taking longer than others. As I fold them, I remember. It's not such a bad thing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

oh my gosh - check this out

My blog was mentioned again in Blog 5, "a roundup of opinion and information from local blogs" in the online Cleveland Plain Dealer. It is the fourth blog mentioned. Here is the link:

the first snow

It was cold and blustery when Rufus and I went out for our morning walk today. Leaves of red and gold and burgundy and brown swirled down on us as we walked along. We had dressed for the weather, however; Rufus in his thick black fur coat, and I in layers, including a long-sleeved knit shirt, a hooded sweater, and a warm leather jacket. I also wore gloves and the beret I bought for Julie years ago.

I can't speak for Rufus, but I was enjoying the weather. Then I noticed - could it be? - a snowflake blew by. Hm-m-m... maybe just a fleck of something white that the wind had picked up. No, there was another one... and another. It was definitely snowing. I was utterly exhilarated to think that I was actually outside when the first snow of the season began to fall. Oh sure, it snowed for less than a minute, and I don't know that any of the flakes even made it to the ground, but I was right in it. It was wonderful. I wish it would have snowed longer and harder, but I am sure I will experience plenty of that before too long.

Monday, November 5, 2007

how women measure weight loss

I have nice pairs of jeans in three different sizes. Needless to say, I have been wearing the largest size ever since the weather turned cool enough to wear long pants. Today, for the first time in about a year and a half, I am wearing the middle-sized pair - and I didn't even have to lie flat on the bed to zip them up.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

don't buy this book

I mentioned in a previous post that I am a proud member of LibraryThing, an online forum where booklovers can catalog their libraries and discuss books and why they love them. LT offers an Early Reviewers program, where selected members receive free copies of recently published and pre-pub books. A requirement of receiving these books is that one must write a review and post it on LibraryThing. Members who have blogs are asked to post reviews there, as well.

I received a copy of On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell late last week, and this is my review of it. I must say to my loyal friends and blog readers that I do not recommend this book. Well, read the review and you will see that.

On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell

As a life-long atheist who finds Mormonism to be one of the more ludicrous of the Christian sects, I don’t feel qualified to comment on the religious merits of this book. However, as an avid reader who deeply appreciates a well-written book, I can tell you unequivocally that this isn’t one. The author offers the book as an homage to Jack Kerouac, with frequent quotations from his work throughout. I must state that I find any comparison to Kerouac an insult to that fine author.

The novel, a thinly veiled autobiography, appears to end before the protagonist’s 20th birthday. Unless that protagonist’s name is Holden Caulfield, I am not interested in his teenaged, self-absorbed, philosophical musings. Perhaps this book would best be marketed to the Young Adult crowd, who may find these ramblings unique or meaningful; although I would be concerned that they might be impressionable enough to buy into some of the author’s conclusions.

The author, a former PR man for the LDS, uses the house publishing company, Zarahemla Books, in an attempt to package his adolescent life story as "a love story about a girl and a guy and their search for heaven – a lotta love, a little heaven, and one heck of a ride in between." In reality it is just a public relations guy trying a different tact to sell his product, the Mormon religion.

Friday, November 2, 2007

lost and found

Well over fifty years ago, my dad worked at Timken Roller Bearing in Canton. When I was a little girl, he had a couple of roller bearings in his top dresser drawer - a place of utmost interest to every child, I think. One of the bearings was about an inch in diameter, and the other one was at least twice that size. I was utterly fascinated by their intricate design and by the smooth movement of the rollers. (Don't know what a roller bearing is? Look here:

When I was in elementary school, I received a house key for the days when my mother would not be home when I got there. (Our "house key" was actually a big skeleton key, but that is a story for another time.) I had a key chain for that one key, and my dad gave me the smaller of the two roller bearings to put on it, as well. I was so proud and excited! Other kids had house keys, but no one had ever even seen anything like my roller bearing.

Although even as a child, I was not prone to losing things, I lost that key chain. It is not an exaggeration to say that I was devastated. I didn't care so much about the house key, but my roller bearing was gone. My dad walked the five blocks back to school with me, searching all the way there and back, but we never found it.

He always kept the remaining roller bearing in his top dresser drawer, but whenever he would let me take it out, it only served to remind me of the one I had lost. When I was at his house earlier this week, he started to tease me about losing that roller bearing, and I think my response surprised him. "I still feel bad about that!" I told him. "I can't believe I lost it. I never lose things." It was my turn to be surprised by what he said next, "Well, would you like to have the other one?" I looked towards my brother and asked him, "Would you mind if I had it?" "No, I don't care," was his immediate reply. "I think it's in my room, actually. Let me get it for you." He gave me the roller bearing.

I look at the roller bearing from time to time where it sits on my desk as I write this. I pick it up, feel its familiar heft in my hand, and spin the rollers. It's not as shiny and smooth as I remember it, but it is, after all, almost fifty years older. I don't know if I can articulate how much it means to me to have this here. I hope this post will serve to do that.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

statistical data for the month of October

I worked out 25 days for the month, and took six days off. I had hoped to only take one day a week off, but I needed a couple extra.

Ben and I had beef for dinner three times throughout the month, which exceeds our goal of not eating beef more than once a week. We had a vegetarian dinner five times, which meets our goal of eating vegetarian at least once a week.

I took Rufus for two 20-minute walks a day every day unless inclement weather prohibited it. I think throughout the month I may have missed three or four walks, and Julie took him on his evening walks some of the days that she was home.

And although I did not meet my goal of losing 10 pounds for the month, I did lose 9 pounds, and I am pretty darn pleased about that!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I drove out to Elyria today to spend some time with my dad and brother, and I had a great time. We talked and talked. My brother, Bill, cooked out burgers on the grill for us, and we had some of his home-grown tomatoes, as well. He also made his (deservedly) famous pasta salad. (Thanks, Bill!) Man, was it tasty! It will be Slimfast for dinner tonight for sure!

What I really want to talk about, however, is that while we were sitting in the living room talking, I thought I heard the marching band. My dad lives a few blocks away from the elementary school that Tom and Julie attended, and it occurred to me that it might be the annual mini-parade around the neighborhood for Halloween. The sound faded away, but it came back, and it was definitely the percussion section of the marching band. They still haven't banished Halloween from McKinley Elementary School, by god! I was thrilled! Later, as I drove out of the neighborhood, I saw a few stragglers walking home from school wearing their Halloween costumes. I was really just delighted. Good old Elyria - still not P.C.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

good luck with that

I wanted to verify a rumor before I shared it, and I was able to do that yesterday when I stopped in at the office to deliver my gift of Halloween mix. (The visit went very well, but that's not what I want to talk about right now.) Anyway.

When I left my job over three months ago, the position was duly posted, applicants were interviewed, and the position was offered to one of the applicants - who refused it. Hm-m-m... Why would someone apply for a job, interview for it, then refuse it, you ask. Well, maybe because the job sucks. So, back to the drawing board. I found out yesterday that the position was re-configured, given a new title, and re-posted. What is the difference between the two postings? Well, the new title offers more money. Isn't that ironic, dont'cha think?

I'm not saying that I would have stayed if they would have offered me a promotion, but it sure would have made me feel appreciated. Now I just feel vindicated.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the mix

I first tasted the mix years ago when one of my co-workers at the library brought it in. "Try this," she told me. "It tastes just like a Payday, but doesn't stick to your teeth." Sure enough, the mixture of candy corn and peanuts did taste just like one of my favorite candy bars, and it didn't stick to my teeth. It was great. Everyone on the library staff loved it. I knew my family would love it, as well, but it just seemed so unhealthy. Then I had a brilliant idea. I will add some raisins to the mix, I thought. Then it will be healthy. My own personalized version of the mix was born.

I think I must have taken it in to work the very first October that I worked at the university. I bought a big, old-fasioned glass jar with a screw-on lid, and filled it to the top with the mix. My co-workers loved it. When they weren't munching on handfuls of it, they were talking about it; what peanut to candy corn ratio was the tastiest or how healthy the raisins made it. Frequently, we talked about it and ate it at the same time. I made several batches that year, and in subsequent Octobers, as well. I even bought some inexpensive little black and orange plastic cups so we could take some back to our desks. (How disillusioned I was the year one of the cups was never returned. One of my co-workers had stolen it from me.)

Last year Vince kept asking me, "isn't it about time to bring in the mix?" All I could say to him was, "I'm just not feeling it, Vince." Because I wasn't feeling it. And I never did. Today, however, I bought all the ingredients for the mix and put them together. I will take it in to them one day this next week. I am looking forward to it.

If you want to make the mix yourself, the ratio is totally up to you. This will get you started.

3 or 4 - 11 oz. bags Brach's candy corn (I prefer all candy corn, but if you like those big pumpkins and blobby shapes as well, why, include them.)

1 lb. can cocktail peanuts (not dry-roasted)

2 or 3 cups raisins

Pour everything in a big bowl, get your hands in there and mix it all up, and it's ready to eat. I like it in my clear glass jar, as I think it looks festive and attractive. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

time to say good-bye to Chief Wahoo

I feel that I gave the Chief one last chance. Maybe he really is a good luck charm, I thought. The Indians have done so well this year. Well, the series with Boston put paid to that theory, and I can no longer think of a single good reason to continue with a mascot who doesn't bring good luck and who offends so many people.

I used to belong to that group of people who thought that Native Americans should just lighten up about Chief Wahoo and not be so easily offended. I don't feel that way anymore. I don't get to decide what offends other people or other groups. If they find it offensive, then it is offensive.

You've probably heard this example used before, but look at it this way. What if the Brooklyn Dodgers had decided to re-name their team the Brooklyn Negroes to honor the great Jackie Robinson, the first African-American major league baseball player? As their mascot, say they adopted lovable old Uncle Remus, a clever and harmless character made famous in the stories of Joel Chandler Harris.

Now, fast-forward fifty years or so and observe the now-Los Angeles Negroes, I suppose, in the play-offs. Rabid fans with their faces corked black like Al Jolson to resemble Uncle Remus are cheering on their team in the stands. They are broadcast live on national television. This idea is so unacceptable that it is ludicrous to even consider it. As Chief Wahoo should be.

So, good-bye, Chief Wahoo. Your time has come and gone. Perhaps a new mascot will bring the beleaguered Tribe better luck. I sincerely hope so.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

the death of Halloween?

I read in the truly wretched local newspaper this morning that the celebration of Halloween in Portage County elementary schools is being phased out. In fact, according to this article, most area schools have already substituted "fall festivals" or "harvest parties" for the traditional Halloween party. Children are no longer allowed to wear their Halloween costumes to school nor are their classrooms decorated with ghosts and witches, but with corn shocks and bales of hay instead. Pardon my French, but what a crock of shit.

Although the reporter dances around the real causes of this phenomenon, for the most part it seems to be parents who are members of the rabid religious right complaining about celebrating the occult and the devil and witches and really bad things like that. It's the same old story of a handful of people ruining things for everyone else. I truly hope this is merely a local ignorant redneck trend, but I fear that it is not. Chalk this up as just one more reason I am glad that I am not trying to raise young children today. What a world.

Monday, October 22, 2007

random thoughts on Tom's birthday

Today is my son's 27th birthday.

He is named Thomas for his uncle and he shares the middle name Joseph with his father and grandfather.

Ben was working the night shift the week Tom was born, so I was home alone when my water broke in the middle of the night. I jumped out of bed, and stripped the sodden sheets off the mattress before I called him.

Some time in the middle of my seven-hour labor, I told Ben, quite sincerely, "I changed my mind. I don't want to do this right now. Let's go home." He dissuaded me.

Although my labor and delivery were quite normal, Tommy (as he was called then) and I stayed in the hospital for five days after he was born, which was standard for that time.

When Ben's parents came to visit us in the hospital, his father looked at our three-day-old son and told us, quite solemnly, "Before you know it, he'll be in college." We laughed at the time, but now I would amend that to, "Before you know it, he'll be a married adult living in a big city far away."

My own father was out of town on business when Tom was born, so was unable to visit us in the hospital. He did, however, bring our infant son a souvenir of his trip.

Since Ben and I are both eldest children and we were the first in our circle of friends to get married and have a child, we pretty much raised Tom in a vacuum. We really knew no other children to compare with Tom, and although we thought he was quite amazing, we didn't realize how far above the norm he was for some time.

We kept waiting for Tom's remarkable blue eyes to turn brown like ours, but they never did. He still gets comments on how beautiful his eyes are.

Tom's first year was one of the best years of my life. I felt as though I grew and changed almost as much as he did. I loved being a mom. I still do.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Tom! I love you very much.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

let's go peek in the windows*

Even though Rufus and I hurry out every night as soon as I clean up after dinner, it is inexorably darker each night than the one before. We usually leave the house around 7:00 and are back before 7:30. Of course I know by December it will be quite dark out at that time, but hopefully we will be used to it by then. I am trying to memorize where all the uneven places in the sidewalk are now so that I don't trip, as our neighborhood is surprisingly poorly-lit. People don't walk much, I guess, particularly after dark.

One of the things I love about being out and about in a neighborhood at that time of day is that I can peek in the lighted windows of the houses as we walk by them. I have always been fascinated by that magical time late in the day after people turn the lights on in their houses but before they pull the drapes. The small town where I grew up had a well-known gay man who, surprisingly, was well-liked by the community. If I walked by his house in the early evening, I would always see him and his partner seated at a table by the front window, having dinner together. They were the picture of normalcy, and I learned something from that even at an early age.

I also learned a lot about how to decorate a home from observing how other people had decorated theirs. There was no attempt at an attractive decor in the house where I grew up, and as a child I was fascinated by the tableaux I saw through lighted windows as we walked downtown in the evening or as I accompanied my dad on a walk to the neighborhood carry-out for a six-pack. I particularly loved to see a small lit lamp on a table in front of a window or an overstuffed chair with a gooseneck lamp for reading right next to it. I loved the striped wallpaper in dining rooms and the cheery curtains framing bright kitchen windows - all the things we never had when I was growing up. I wonder if children from happy families peer so yearningly at other people's lives.

I still love to peek in at prints over mantelpieces and dimly-lit stairways leading up into darkness, but I also enjoy turning up our own driveway and seeing a comfortable-looking room bright with color and full of books and pottery and prints on the walls, and lit by a lamp in the front window. I don't have to keep walking past this home. It's mine.

*This may be such an inside reference that no one gets it anymore but me. I don't know if that's sad or just pathetic.

Monday, October 15, 2007

5 good things

I think it is important for me to remember (and share) good things in my daily life. This may be a recurring feature on my blog - depends on how many good things I can think of, I guess.

1. the beautiful fall weather when I took Rufus for a walk this morning.

2. the fact that I am home to take Rufus on walks on beautiful fall mornings.

3. the (almost) week that Julie and Andrew spent with us.

4. the upcoming weekend when Tom and Kristy will be here to celebrate Tom's birthday.

5. the fact that our children and their significant others like us and enjoy spending time with us.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

you're as young as you feel

I think we all tend to grow more reflective as an impending birthday draws closer. I had an interesting conversation with Tom last night on that subject, and I hope he won't mind if I share it. (If you hate this, T, just tell me and I will delete it.)

Tom was telling me that on his birthday last year, he realized that he had become the age that Ben was when he was born. I think it freaked him out a bit, and he told me that he felt totally unprepared to become a parent even now, a year later. "I'm still a kid myself," he said, "I have so much growing up to do yet." I hastened to agree with him - heck, yes, he is still a kid. My kid. And Kristy is a kid and Julie and Andrew and all their other same-aged friends are still just kids. That is my emotional response to the thought of any of them becoming parents.

When I look at it rationally, however, they are all at least in their mid-20s heading into their late 20s now. The same ages Ben and I were when they were born. None of them are emotionally-stunted or immature, but they seem so much younger to me than we did at the same age. Why is that? I think one reason is that my generation has consciously or unconsciously (or perhaps a bit of both) tried to keep their generation feeling like children.

I don't think it was done maliciously. Like much of our generation, Ben and I always wanted to raise our children differently, better, than we were raised. Although my dad never made me feel as though he resented spending money on me, Ben had a different experience. As he was growing up, his father made it abundantly clear to him that as soon as Ben turned eighteen and became an adult in the eyes of the law, all of his father's support and obligations to him, legal and otherwise, came to an end. We never set a use-before date for the love and support we offer Tom and Julie. It is endless.

However, this loving attitude has a bonus, if you will, for my generation which I think must be acknowledged. As long as they stay children, we stay young. If we are forced to recognize this generation as adults, parents even, what does that make us? Well, grandparents, of course, and, let's face it, older rather than younger.

I have a feeling this new way of looking at things was invented by us bounteous baby boomers, but I could be wrong about that. This is certainly the first time I have ever been this age, and I suppose it's possible that each generation feels this way about the subsequent one. Some further research in this area may be required. I've been thinking about driving out to see my dad, anyway. Stay tuned for updates.

Note: I suspect this post assumes way more responsibility for the way our children think than we actually have. But, hey, it's my blog, and the opinions expressed herein are mine and this is where I express them. See?

a stray irritation

When Rufus and I take our daily walks, at one point we pass four or five locust trees planted in a row. As we walked along there yesterday morning, yellow locust leaves rained down all around us when a sudden gust of wind blew. The falling leaves were a golden shower in the morning light against the blue, blue autumn sky. As I thought that, I was instantly irritated that I can never use that phrase without a vulgar, sexual connotation being attached to it.

In fact, it irritates me every time I think about it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

at summer's end

It looks like yesterday may have been our last day of temperatures in the upper 80s. Our protracted summer is finally drawing to a close in the second week of October. I generally don't care for late summer - too hot, too humid, too many bugs - but this year I have enjoyed it. It has been strange, though, out walking Rufus in shorts and a sleeveless top while brown leaves fall all around us.

I know in the past (before we lived in a house with central air) I would have absolutely hated this weather. I always felt that once October had arrived, I could expect to sleep comfortably at night. For me, that means sleeping temperatures in the 60s and no humidity. I now have that luxury year-round, so it just doesn't matter as much to me what it's like outside.

The dogs have been enjoying the weather, and I like the fact that it is easy to get them to go outside and stay there for more than a minute. I love it when Lucie finally lets down her defenses, and stretches out on her side in the sunlit grass. She lies there like rumpled laundry, and looks like she doesn't have a bone in her body. Rufus, being a black dog, wisely rests in the shade.

I think, for the most part, the reason I am enjoying the seasons so much this year is because I am actually experiencing them instead of sitting in a windowless cubicle all day, every day. I relish this unexpected opportunity to heal and to think and to observe.

Friday, October 5, 2007

lack of progress report

So now I have a big blister on my right heel because my shoe has a worn spot, almost like a hole, on the inside part of the shoe where my heel rubs. Now, I would think that because there is a "hole" there, it would be more comfortable for my foot instead of less, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The blister hurt too much to wear the shoe last night, so I wasn't able to use the treadmill. I showed the shoe to Ben, and he said it can be repaired with that good old American fix-all, duct tape, so I may try to do that today.

I couldn't find any nice green grapes when I went to the grocery store yesterday, so the only fresh fruit I currently have in the house is apples. That doesn't seem like enough (any) variety to me. There wasn't enough low-fat granola left for me to have for breakfast this morning.

I made the mistake of weighing myself again after only three days on the treadmill, and instead of losing weight, I had gained .5 pounds. I tried on the next smaller size of my jeans, and they still don't fit me.

This is the type of minutiae I get bogged down in when I try to focus on my healthier lifestyle. But I will persevere. What choice do I have?

Monday, October 1, 2007

day 1

I have known all along that as much as I hate the thought of it, the day would come when I would have to get back on the treadmill in the basement. My twice-daily walks with Rufus will only take me so far on my journey back to a healthy lifestyle. Yesterday was that day.

I thought that after our morning walk would be a good time to check out whether the treadmill would even work or not. It has been almost two years since I used it on a regular basis, and when Julie tried to use it this summer, she reported it as non-operational and "smelling bad". So I wasn't real optimistic as I turned it on and climbed aboard. I only walked for three minutes, but it seemed okay. There was some "slippage", as I reported to Ben, and he said it might be because he had adjusted after Julie tried to use it last.

Ben and I made sure everything else was just the way I like it down there - the neon clocks synchronized, the little oscillating fan operational, and my Neil Young CD in the boombox. Next I had to find the clothes I prefer to work out in. That's not easy to do. My dresser is in perennial need of a good clean-out, and the clothes I don't wear for a while get buried under the layers of stuff that I do wear. At last - biking shorts and a sports bra and a light-weight, loose-fitting cotton t-shirt. Comfortable walking shoes and socks, and I was all set.

After our evening walk, I changed my clothes, grabbed my water bottle and headed for the basement. The first thing I always do before I get on the treadmill is weigh myself, and last night was no exception. I was not really that surprised at how much I currently weigh, but I had hoped it wouldn't be quite that bad. I am too embarrassed to say how much it is, but suffice it to say that I need to lose a minimum of thirty pounds to even get close to a healthy weight.

Neil Young started to sing, and I was off. I walked for a half hour, which is my normal walking time. The slippage was quite alarming, but tailed off the more I walked. I did notice a slight "burning smell" at about two minutes, but kept walking, and it didn't seem to get worse. The biggest problem was the noise. That treadmill is so noisy! I am hoping that once I start walking on a regular basis, it will run more smoothly (and quietly). I am sure it could do with a tune-up, but that's not something I can afford right now.

Neil and I sang, he wailed on his guitar, then it was time for me to do my cooling-down and stretching exercises. I hate this part way worse than the treadmill part, so I figure it must be good for me. Fifteen minutes of that, and I was done. I took big gulps of cold water as I powered everything down: clocks, fan, and boombox.

I turned to head back up the basement steps, and the last piece fell into place: Rufus was waiting for me at the top of the stairs, just like Bobo always did. That was one of the reasons I had to stop before. Bobo had just died, and he wasn't there anymore. When I saw my little black dog waiting for me last night, I knew this was going to work out all right.

Day 2 Update: Ben adjusted the belt so it doesn't slip anymore, and there was no "burning smell." He also made some critical adjustment that made it less noisy. Just about an optimum experience if I truly have to do this.

Friday, September 28, 2007

a book review

I guess it's kind of odd that with all the reading I have done over the past couple of months, I haven't included any book reviews on my blog. I have read some really interesting and thought-provoking books, and I do write short reviews of them on LibraryThing, but that is more for my own reference.

I recently read a book, however, that I do want to share. It is Miss Alcott's E-mail: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds by Kit Bakke. I took it off the new book shelf at the library and paged through it several times before I actually brought it home with me. It is a difficult book to describe. Although considered "fiction", it is actually part memoir, part biography, and part social history.

The author, Kit Bakke, must be a few years older than me as she was very much a participant in the turbulent political conflicts of the 1960s. Seriously. She was a member of the Weather Underground. As a middle-aged wife and mother, she is now wondering how she can stay vitally involved in the important issues of today. She decides to "contact" a woman of a similar age who was known to be an ardent reformer all her life - Louisa May Alcott. So Kit e-mails her, and Miss Alcott replies. Okay, you do have to suspend belief for that part, but I don't have a problem with that. The important thing is the dialogue between the two of them.

When Kit e-mails Miss Alcott, she details her own early life of activism, and then shares what she has learned from books and letters and diaries about Miss Alcott's life among the great thinkers of her day; Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, her neighbors, foremost among them. Miss Alcott, when she replies, reminisces about her life as a writer and ardent abolitionist, and corrects some of the misconceptions we commonly hold about her.

You might think otherwise, but this literary device really works. The imagined interplay between their two personalities is fresh and believable, and, my gosh, I learned a lot. Not only about Miss Alcott's early life in a commune and her brief stint as a nurse during the Civil War, but about Kit Bakke's years on the run from the United States government, as well. And the author does an admirable job of presenting the slippery concept of transcendentalism so that even I can understand it.

I enjoyed the book a great deal, so I did something I have never done before. I e-mailed the author and told her so. And you know what? She e-mailed me right back and thanked me. How cool is that?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lucie-inspired haiku

I used to write haiku about Bobo, and when Ben asked me why I never wrote any about Lucie, I told him she has to inspire me. So she did. Here are some haiku I wrote about her. (Yeah, she's been barking a lot lately.) The last one is my favorite, I think. I'm not sure...

the little dog starts
then the bigger one joins in
what an awful noise!

Sunday newspapers
quiet afternoon reading
shit! Lucie went off

Lucie! shut up now!
can't you see I don’t need that
adrenaline spike

didn’t you know that
when Lucie swims through the air
she just wants closer

it is so quiet
when the little brown dog sleeps
then she growls softly

Lucie warned me twice
before she bit my face off
she's not a pillow

Oh, and here is my favorite one that I wrote about Bobo. A copy of it is in the urn with his ashes.

a hot summer day
the white dog sleeps in the sun
what does he dream of?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

spinach... it's not just for Popeye anymore

All right, I know. The rest of the civilized world has been enjoying the taste and health benefits of spinach for some time now, but it's just hard for me to learn to eat cooked vegetables. When I was growing up, all the cooked vegetables that came to our dinner table started out as frozen bricks in the freezer with "Birdseye" on their labels. The spinach (served weekly with a particularly awful homemade macaroni-and-cheese that had nothing to do with creamy) was one of the worst. The texture was incredibly slimy, exactly like the seaweed that wraps around your ankles when you walk in the surf. As I well remember, if you let the spinach get stone-cold sitting on your plate, it doesn't smell as bad, but it does make you gag when you try to eat it. So, cooked spinach has been verboten for me for a long time.

We do occasionally eat spinach in salads, but we find that we cannot finish a whole bag of it before it starts to go bad, unless Julie is home, and then she eats most of it. I have had a lot of success adding spinach to different recipes. We really like it mixed in with couscous, and I have added it to a variety of homemade soups. It is really good in fried rice, as well. The fact of the matter is, it pretty much disappears in these dishes, and that is what makes it palatable to me. I had some cooked spinach at a restaurant last week, however, that was so good that I am on a mission to replicate it at home.

When Ben and I were finally able to go out to dinner to celebrate his birthday (that's a whole other story) we went to Mangiamo in Twin Lakes, where we frequently like to eat on special occasions. Here is the link: (Again, sorry that I don't know how to pretty that up.) Anyway. We have eaten there many times since they opened, but I think I had the best meal ever there last week. In keeping with my healthy eating regimen, I ordered the "Pan-roasted Atlantic Salmon", which you will see if you check the menu. My dinner included lobster-chive risotto and crispy baby spinach with balsamic drizzle.

My meal was delicious. As I said, probably the best I've ever had there. Here's the thing, though: every component was perfect, even the spinach. It was like crisp little pieces of parchment that dissolved on my tongue. The familiar spinach flavor was negligible, and the balsamic drizzle was the perfect accent. I resolved to make spinach just like it at home.

When we went grocery-shopping, the bags of baby spinach were buy-one-get-one-free, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for experimentation. I checked on line for recipes for "crispy spinach", and I found quite a few, actually. The bad news was that they uniformly called for the spinach to be deep-fried. Now, I have never owned a deep fryer, and have no desire to have one now. Here's where the experimentation comes in.

Using one of the bags of spinach I spread it out in a thin layer over two cookie sheets. (There was too much spinach for one sheet.) I drizzled enough extra virgin olive oil over the spinach to coat it all, and also to prevent it from sticking to the cookie sheet as it dried out. I tossed the spinach with my hands to make sure it was coated, then sprinkled it with sea salt and freshly-ground pepper. I put it in a pre-heated 400 degree oven, and I watched it carefully. It wilted pretty quickly, but I could see that it still held a lot of water, and I wanted to drive that all out. When I noticed that a couple of spinach leaves had turned brown (as if they had burned) I removed the spinach from the oven. I drizzled the spinach with balsamic vinegar, and Ben and I ate every bit of it - a whole bag of spinach.

I have to say that the "recipe" is not perfected. I think the next time maybe I would keep it in the oven longer at a lower temperature since the object as I see it is to dehydrate the spinach as much as possible. If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to send them along.

Who knows? Maybe I'll be eating asparagus next... Na-a-ah!

Monday, September 24, 2007

natural radiance

I was sitting on the patio yesterday when a stray ray of sunlight illuminated my leg, and I noticed, to my delight, that my natural radiance has returned. Yes, I could see tiny little sparkles all over my calf and ankle. Ben laughed when I pointed them out to him, but they make me very happy.

Okay, it's not natural, strictly speaking. My radiance is a result of finding a new source for Aveeno Positively Radiant Moisturizing Lotion, which isn't carried anymore in the store where I used to buy it. I looked everywhere I could think of, but couldn't find it anywhere, and couldn't find an acceptable substitute. This is a constant problem for me, and many other women, as well, I suspect.

I used to buy all my moisturizing products at Bath and Body Works, but I stopped shopping there several years ago for a couple of reasons. First of all, there was their incredibly annoying habit of systematically getting rid of every product they ever made that I actually used and liked. I tried not to take it personally, but there it was, all the same. The reason that I actually quit spending my money there, however, is that their parent company is politically red, that is to say, they contribute more money to Republican candidates than to Democratic ones.

I found this out at a nifty website called, which currently seems to be defunct. As a Democrat living in the corrupt red state of Ohio, I tend to feel somewhat disenfranchised. I can, however, "vote" with my purchasing dollar when I spend my money at establishments that support the same candidates that I support. So, no more shopping at Bath and Body Works for me.

When I found the Positively Radiant lotion, I was very pleased with it. It has a pleasant but not overpowering scent, and it rubs in easily without being sticky. It's not real expensive, and I could buy it at the local Walgreen's. Oh, and did I mention that it makes me naturally radiant? Then, as I said, they stopped carrying it. In desperation, I recently looked at one of the local grocery stores, even though I knew they never used to carry it. Now they do! I resisted the urge to buy all the bottles of lotion on the shelf, but a couple of weeks have passed now, so I may have to go back and get some more.

The next time you see me, if I look positively radiant, it's because I am, but it's also because of my lotion. (But don't tell anyone.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

going to the chapel...

I went to a wedding last weekend with my friend, Kristen. Our good friend, Vince, married his long-time sweetie, Kristin, on a beautiful fall afternoon. I love going to weddings, especially when I know that the bride and groom are absolutely meant for each other, and I am confident about their happily-ever-after.

Kristin wore a beautiful ivory wedding gown and a tiara, and she looked like a real princess. Vince was dashing in an ivory tux, and their 18-month-old daughter, Skyler, was in ivory, as well; the skirt of her little dress was many layers of tulle, like a ballerina's. What a beautiful family they are.

I most especially wanted to see the look on Vince's face as he watched Kristin walk up the aisle towards him, and it brought tears to my eyes, as I knew it would. After the service, Skyler waved to her parents as they walked, newly-married, back down the aisle.

We had a great time at the reception, in spite of getting hopelessly lost multiple times on the way there. I am not exaggerating when I say that I think our very first turn out of the church parking lot took us in the wrong direction. But we got there. We got there.

Over the years we have known Vince, Kristen and I have often wondered (frequently to his face) why he had never married. Now we know. He was waiting for Kristin. Good things are worth waiting for.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

is it warm in here or is that my blood starting to boil?

KSU is in the local newspaper again this week. One of this morning's front page stories informs us that university president Lester Lefton has hired a "special assistant" to "develop university and business sector partnerships meant to capitalize on university research and intellectual property, while assisting with resource development efforts." He will also "serve as a key adviser and strategist to Lefton on vital opportunities and policy issues."

The story does not tell us what salary this special assistant will be receiving, but the article directly below it states that KSU students may soon have to pay a "$100 to $500 technology fee to be charged to students for the purpose of updating aging classroom technology." This would be in addition to the cost of their tuition, which has been frozen by the state. The fee would be for a technology update, you understand, not to pay Lefton's new assistant.

Now, I guess I can understand that Lefton might need an assistant for that sort of thing. I mean, he is kind of an old guy, and he has to attend a whole lot of fund-raising luncheons and dinners all across the state of Ohio. It's just more than he can handle, you might think. But, no, you would be wrong about that because earlier this week the university announced that not only would Lefton be receiving an increase in his already obscenely high salary, but a bonus of $70,000 as well, because he has just been doing such a darn good job.

Let me summarize for you. Lester Lefton will be doing less work for more money and the students will not be paying for his raise or his new assistant with this new "technology fee," which is not a tuition hike because the university is not allowed to raise the tuition. And if you believe all that, then I wish you a belated happy birthday because you were born freakin' yesterday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September morn

Personally, I think Ben is a little biased, what with September being his birth month and all, but I do understand why this is his favorite month. There is a certain quality to the air, especially in the morning, that is simply lacking the rest of the year. It is a clarity, a freshness, even a smell, that is uniquely September's. Then there is the color of the sky on a clear September day. It is the very essence, the definition, of blue.

I might even join Ben in his preference for September were it not for one thing - yellow jackets. I know there are perfectly valid scientific reasons for why they act the way they do this time of year, but I just can't deal with it. Now that it is finally cool enough to eat outside comfortably, I can't, because I will be swarmed by yellow jackets trying to eat my food and land on my hands and in my hair. I try to keep my hands in my pockets whenever I am outside because it just freaks me out when they crawl on me. I can't sit outside and read (which I love to do) for the same reasons. As soon as it cools off, I am longing for the first frost to kill, kill them all.

Rufus and I have increased our twice-daily walks from two blocks to three, and it is an absolute joy to be out on mornings like this. Rufus is a good little walker, and generally trots right along, but he has started to develop the bad habit of stopping at each acorn he finds on the sidewalk and picking it up. He generally drops it after a few paces, but this time of year there are countless acorns on the ground in our neighborhood, and we just can't stop at all of them. So we are working on that.

It has been a long time since I have been able to experience the changing of the seasons as I am this year, and believe me, I am savoring it. I will continue to try to share it with you. Stay tuned.


Today (September 19th) is Ben's birthday. Please join me in wishing him a good one. You can post your good wishes here or on Ben's blog at:

Just go ahead and post your comments on his Necco wafers post. He'll find 'em.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I read the news today, oh boy

Lots of photos in the local newspapers this morning of a grieving family at a military funeral. A young man from the little town just up the road was killed in Iraq on his 21st birthday. When I first read reports of his death, my heart ached for his parents and for his very young widow, whom he married before he left. Then I read that his father was not only a veteran himself, but an "unpaid volunteer military recruiter", whatever that means. This guy has a rec room full of military paraphernalia that glorifies fighting and war, and he invites local high school kids there to try to talk them into enlisting.

Here's what I think about it now: At least he got his own son killed instead of someone else's.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

if it's fall, it must be time for grape pie

We went to the Farmer's Market yesterday morning. I love going to the market this time of year, when I know the produce is genuinely grown by local folks instead of being shipped here from somewhere else. I was mainly looking for tomatoes, which I love more than any other seasonal produce. I wanted big, red tomatoes to slice thick and eat with my dinner, and I also wanted more of the heirloom cherry tomatoes we bought last week. The heirloom tomatoes are mottled purple and green, and very flavorful, with none of the acidic taste so characteristic of most tomatoes. Happily, I found all the tomatoes I wanted.

I noticed a dealer with a peck basket full of Concord grapes. He was selling them for a dollar a pint, but I bought everything he had for eight dollars, at Julie's encouragement. "We don't want to do grapes this weekend, do we?" I asked her. "Yes, we do," was her quick reply. As the dealer was bagging the grapes for me, an older woman with a strong eastern European accent asked me what I planned to make with them all. "I'm going to make grape pie filling," I said. "Have you ever had it?" Most people have never tasted Concord grape pie, but it is an old family favorite at our house. My mother used to make it once in a while, and my understanding is that the recipe was passed down from my dad's Grandma George - Carrie Krear Gould George, whose father was killed in the waning days of the Civil War.

When we lived in our house on Denison, Ben planted grape vines along the chain-link fence at the back of our yard. Before too many years had passed, we were harvesting enough grapes each September to make several pies. Eventually, it was quite a production. Ben and Tom would harvest grapes and put them in five-gallon pails, which they would flood with water to drive off at least some of the assorted critters. Julie and I had our assembly line set up in the kitchen where we would pick the grapes from the stems and wash them, then skin and boil them until the seeds cooked free. Then we would just add sugar and freeze the grapes until I was ready to bake them into a pie. Some years we froze fifteen or twenty bags of grapes. We ate most of the pies ourselves, but they were also in great demand at family gatherings and at our workplaces. As I said, most people had never tasted grape pie before, but became fans once they tried it.

If you want to make a Concord grape pie yourself, I include my recipe. I warn you, although it is not difficult, it is quite labor-intensive. I think if you try it, though, it will become one of your favorites, too.

Concord Grape Pie

4 very full cups Concord grapes, removed from stems, and well-rinsed
1 shallow cup sugar
3 Tbsps. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 Tbsps. butter

Begin with a pan and a bowl, set side by side. Each washed grape must be squeezed above the pan, so that the pulp and seeds fall into the pan, then the skins are dropped into the bowl, which is set aside. The pulp and seeds should be boiled on a low flame until the pulp has completely broken down and all the seeds have floated free.

Pour the hot grape pulp into a strainer above the bowl of grape skins. Force the pulp through the strainer, and onto the skins, leaving only the seeds in the strainer - these are then discarded. Dissolve the sugar in the hot grape mixture.* Add the flour, salt, and lemon peel, and mix well. Pour mixture into pastry-lined pie pan. Dot small pieces of butter over pie filling, then cover with second layer of pie crust - I find a lattice is very attractive on this pie. Alternately, a streusel topping works very well on this pie in place of the upper crust.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling starts to bubble. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. You'll thank me if you do.

*This is the point where I pour the mixture in a bag and put it in the freezer. You can do that, too, if you want to.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

only my hairdresser knows for sure

When I was growing up, I never liked my hair, and it seemed like my mother didn't either. Before I left for school every morning, she would brush it back and braid it so tightly that I cried as she worked. She would get angry, then, and, let's just say, my days didn't start off well. When she tired of that, she got my hair all cut off in the "pixie" style that was so popular in the late 50s. Photos show me smiling happily with my new short haircut, and I'm sure I was delighted to have my daily hair-pulling at an end.

As I got a little older, however, my mother decided to put my hair up in pincurls every Saturday night so that it would look "nice" for church on Sunday mornings. I hated that. Once again my mother pulled my hair to make the pincurls and poked my head with the hairpins as she worked. Then I had to try to sleep on the bobby pins that encircled my head. I guess my hair didn't look "nice" enough, though, because I was taken to the beauty salon for a perm. And taken back again because the first perm didn't "take" to her satisfaction.

Then there was the color of my hair - a light brown that became lighter in the summer, but was darker the rest of the year. The terms my mother used for it were less than flattering: "dirty blonde" or "dishwater blonde." So, no, I didn't like the color of it, either. I always thought my brothers had nicer hair than I did. Thomas' hair was so thick and dark and wavy, and Bill had beautiful red curls that stood up all over his head when he was little.

In the 60s, when I was in junior high, I let my hair grow out. I longed for it to be straight, like the Yardley's of London girl, but it always fell in unattractive bumps and waves. Still, I let it grow and grow, all through my high school years, and my mother threatened to cut a big chunk of my hair away as I slept so that I would have to get the rest of it cut. When I lived in the dorm, every night I pulled my hair into a loose pony tail on top of my head and rolled it on three huge rollers so that it wouldn't wrap around my neck as I slept.

The first time I colored my hair I was a sophomore in college. My friend, Gloria, and I streaked each other's hair with blonde one Saturday night in the communal bathroom of our dorm. I loved it. For the next ten years, my hair was always streaked with blonde, at first Ben doing it for me, and later I had it done professionally. Eventually, I went all blonde, and I stayed that way for many years.

A couple of years ago, I felt ready for a change. I still loved the color of Bill's hair, and believed myself to have a redhead's fair complexion. So I became a redhead myself, with fiery red hair that caught the sunlight. I have to say, I really liked it. I thought it suited me, and so did most of the people who knew me. I never thought of myself as a redhead, however, and was genuinely startled when an elderly woman at an antique show complimented me on my "beautiful" hair color.

I have always been afraid of becoming one of those women like my Aunt Joanne, who doesn't know how to age gracefully, and began to feel that it was time for me to let the gray hairs, which I knew were there, show through. My friend, Kathy, who is a month older than me, stopped coloring her hair several years ago, and she looks fantastic (and much younger) with her salt-and-pepper hair. Well, she would look fantastic no matter what, but thanks to her, I felt ready to take a peek after all these years, at what my natural hair color had become.

My hairdresser and my manicurist and all the other sweet young things - still in their twenties - at my salon dissuaded me for a while, but when I left my job, I knew I wanted a radical change. "Cut it off," I said. "And let's start getting it back to my natural color." So right now, I guess you could say my hair color is in transition. It is two shades of brown with some blonde highlights, but I am done with having it colored for now, and, hopefully, soon the brown and gray that I see in my roots will be the new color of my hair. And, you know, I think I'll like it. I think I'm ready for it.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Art in the Park

It's a good thing we went to Art in the Park yesterday, because it is pouring rain today, and it doesn't look like it's going to stop. That may be a good thing for me, though, because I am sorely tempted to go back and take another look at one of the booths where we made a couple of purchases yesterday.

I love going to Art in the Park, and we have attended it every year since we moved here. I will tell you two awesome things about it, right off the bat: it is free and it is a five-minute walk from our house. Once we get there, we stroll through the rolling hills of Fred Fuller Park looking at a wide variety of beautiful and interesting things created by talented artists and artisans. There are paintings and photographs, jewelry and clothing, handcrafted wood and ironwork, and, our perennial favorites, blown glass and ceramics. (Some of you may think of it as "pottery," as I did prior to my stint in the College of Fine and Professional Arts.)

If we only had the money to buy everything we wanted, our house would be even more overloaded with beautiful and unique things. But we have to choose carefully, which is not a bad thing. Yesterday we bought a Christmas present (for one of the regular readers of this blog, so I can't divulge what it is - other than to say that it is beautiful and unique, just like the person it is destined for.) Ben bought me a necklace that is a ceramic (big surprise!) leaf on a cord. It is in beautiful earthtones, and I put it on as soon as he bought it for me.

We also bought two ceramic pieces from an artisan we had never seen there before. She is from South Euclid, actually, and attended Ben's alma mater, Charles F. Brush High School. Her work is so interesting and different from the things we usually see there. It is her booth that I would like to take a second look at, but perhaps it is best if I don't. Although I think I could fit another piece or two on the bookshelf in my bedroom...

Friday, September 7, 2007

look out, Mama...

Ben was listening to some Neil Young music that he had downloaded the other night, and it reminded me how much I love Neil Young's music. Not all of it, of course. I mean, there is just too much to love. The man has been writing and performing music for, like, forty years now.

I love the songs on the Neil Young tape that Ben made for me so many years ago. And I mean those songs and those versions, specifically. No others will do. And Julie feels the same way I do about that. We have nearly driven Ben crazy over the years, with demands to exactly replicate that tape before it is worn out and lost to us forever. (As an aside, I am delighted to report that the tape has been successfully tranferred to CD, so it will never be lost to us, but that is not what this post is about.)

I love different songs for different reasons. You might think Four Dead in Ohio would be my favorite, what with living in Kent and all, but after parking in the lot every day for five years where four innocent college students died, it's just too sad for me. Southern Man always takes me back to the times when Julie and I sang or hummed the song softly to each other as we walked through countless flea markets and antique shows all across northeastern Ohio.

Hurricane was my favorite for many years, and how convenient it was that Ben had placed it as the first song on Side 2 of my tape. I could re-wind and play it over and over again. And I did. I loved the story Ben told me that this particular version had been a pre-concert sound check, and the musicians just kept playing as they realized how incredible it sounded.

I realized a couple of years ago, however, that my favorite Neil Young song was actually the live version on my tape of Powderfinger. To tell you the truth, I don't know why I love that song as much as I do. Well, there is Neil Young's guitar-playing, of course. Need I even say that? But, also, I find the lyrics so sweet and sad and evocative. Imagine my surprise when Ben and Tom and Julie all agreed this was one of their favorite Neil Young songs, as well. Ben even found some fascinating on line discussions where other fans discussed what they thought the enigmatic lyrics meant.

So, what the heck, I include the lyrics below. What do you think they mean?


Look out, Mama,
there's a white boat
comin' up the river
With a big red beacon,
and a flag,
and a man on the rail
I think you'd better call John,
'Cause it don't
look like they're here
to deliver the mail
And it's less than a mile away
I hope they didn't come to stay
It's got numbers on the side
and a gun
And it's makin' big waves.

Daddy's gone,
my brother's out hunting
in the mountains
Big John's been drinking
since the river took Emmy-Lou
So the powers that be
left me here
to do the thinkin'
And I just turned twenty-two
I was wonderin' what to do
And the closer they got,
The more those feelings grew.

Daddy's rifle in my hand
felt reassurin'
He told me,
Red means run, son,
numbers add up to nothin'
But when the first shot
hit the docks I saw it comin'
Raised my rifle to my eye
Never stopped to wonder why.
Then I saw black,
And my face splashed in the sky.

Shelter me from the powder
and the finger
Cover me with the thought
that pulled the trigger
Think of me
as one you'd never figured
Would fade away so young
With so much left undone
Remember me to my love,
I know I'll miss her.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

blowing my own horn a bit

Hey, check this out! I found it today when I was, well, googling myself. Oh, come on, you do it sometimes, too. Anyway, it seems that the Cleveland Plain Dealer considers this a "local blog", and, well, I guess it is. How about that? Here is the link: (Just disregard the part about lice - that has nothing to do with me.)

libraries (day three)

Yesterday's list was not meant to be an exhaustive one of all the libraries I have ever been in, of course. I have been in most of the public libraries in Lorain County at one time or another, for example, and I remember that Ben, Julie and I went to a branch library somewhere in Columbus one time when Tom was participating in some sort of academic competition. (Help me out here, guys. I don't think it was Academic Challenge - some sort of math competition, maybe?) I remember my dad taking us into the Carnegie Library in Oberlin once when we were kids, and being quite awed by it.

Of course, there are the libraries I have tried to visit, but found them closed. Ben and I stopped several times as we drove through Wellington to check out the lovely little Herrick Memorial Library, but it was never open when we were there. Julie and I found the Reed Memorial Library in Ravenna not yet open at 10:00 a.m. on a weekday morning, and decided it wasn't, perhaps, the library for us. I think we tried to visit the Bowling Green Public Library one weekend when we were there, as well. And we did wait in the parking lot of the Athens Public Library while Julie went in to pick up her Phi Beta Kappa cord right before commencement, but I don't really think that counts.

As Julie pointed out in her comment, there are the university libraries I have visited. Our landmark library at KSU, of course, and the library at LCCC, to begin with. I have been in the libraries at BGSU, OU, and the U of D, and, also, it occurs to me, the Mudd Resource Center at Oberlin College. I may well have gone into the library at University of Chicago with my brother, but, alas, that is too long ago for me to remember now.

And, you know, I want to say that I feel guilty that I have damned the Elyria Public Library with faint praise in my earlier posts. It is a fine little library, and what makes it that way is its collection of books, of course - and everything else a library has to have nowadays. But equally important is the library staff. Some of the women on that staff have made it their life's work to serve at that library, and they have done a damn fine job. I mentioned the wonderful children's librarians who enriched my kids' lives in an earlier comment, but I also want to recognize the outstanding reference staff of Rose Burton and Eve Major and Marianne Mahl. And I can't forget Terri Miller, who has been ably running the circ desk all these years. If each of these women has not yet reached twenty years at the library - and I know some of them have passed that milestone - they are real close. They are just as crucial to the library as the bricks and posts of the building and the books that are housed there.

I thank you for your time. *steps down off soap box*

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

libraries (cont.)

My family often chides me that I make my posts "so long that no one will read them," but I was not finished with all I had to say about libraries.

Although my heart will always belong to the old library on Third Street, I do love libraries in general. For eleven years while Tom and Julie were growing up, I worked in the square, brick box the library re-located to in 1968, when the old one was torn down. The library had followed the YMCA to the wealthier north side of town from their central locations near the town square. The YMCA closed its doors several years ago, and the library has long since outgrown the small lot it occupies, so I can't think the city planners were very forward-thinking, but that's often the way of things.

On the vacations we took when the kids were younger, we often stopped at local public libraries in the places we visited. We have been in a small branch of the Morgantown, West Virginia library, near where my sister-in-law and her family used to live. We have been to the small Chincoteague, Virginia library on Main Street, and on days that it rained, we left Chincoteague, and visited some of the libraries farther south on the Eastern Shore. We have been to the library near Ben's parents' house in Tampa. (If I am forgetting any, you guys just jump right in and tell me.)

More recently, we have been to the Harold Washington Public Library in downtown Chicago, and Julie took me to the very nice Bel Air, Maryland library, where she and Andrew now live. Tom and Kristy live right next door to a library, just like Ben and I did when we were first married, although I am sorry to say I did not find time to stop in there when I was in Chicago last year. Next time for sure.

There are other libraries I have missed seeing, as well, and I regret that. I never went to the library when I was in New York City, and I have never been to the Library of Congress. I would love to go there and request the book we wrote, which I know is there, because I have searched for it on line. If Las Vegas has a public library - and I assume that they do - it would have been fun to see what that looked like.

Well, perhaps tomorrow, we will examine university and college libraries. Who knows?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I love my library

I went to the local public library today. Although, here in Kent we don't have a "public" library, we have a "free" library. Now, I like that distinction, but my cousin, Dave, says it is just like us fucking hippies in Kent to have a free library. I have tried to explain to him that it is called the "free" library to differentiate it from the old concept of paid subscription libraries, but those of you who know Dave know how he would react to that.

I have tried to like the library in Kent, and I am still trying. The good citizens here actually passed a levy to build a big, fancy, new library. They have attached it to the old Carnegie library, which I feel was a mistake. The old library sits forlornly off to one side, looking dowdy and small and slightly embarrassed. Maybe I am just resentful of the fact that the old library here in Kent was saved, while my beloved old library in Elyria was thoughtlessly torn down.

Words fail me when I try to describe how much I loved that library. It was in the old Reefy house on Third Street across from the old YMCA. The house had a big wraparound porch, and the late return box was actually a big wooden box that sat on the front porch. To get to the children's room, we had to go outside and down the steps on the side of the porch. There was a separate entrance, and inside the door, sandstone steps led down to the Longfellow Room, as the children's basement room was called. The sandstone steps glittered and crunched underfoot as we walked down them. Miss Vivian Hackett was the children's librarian, and Miss Yarish - who liked my brother, but not me - worked there, checking out books, until she got married.

My family always walked to the library - which was a good thing, as there was virtually no parking. I walked there with my dad, I walked there with my mother, and when we got a little older, my brother, Thomas, and I walked there together many times. When we were children, we were only welcome in the children's room, and our cards would only check out books down there. Needless to say, there were no CDs or DVDs or video games. The books were enough. And how proud we were when we were allowed to switch to adult library cards and check out books from the big upstairs library. After that, we never went back to the children's room.

There were small reading rooms across from the circulation desk, and old men sat at the long wooden tables there, reading the newspaper on wooden dowel rods. I longed to be a grown-up and read my newspapers that way. Alas, by the time I grew up, that library was long gone, and I have always had to read my newspapers the regular way. A new library was built in the late 60s, and the church next door bought the property and demolished the old one.

Of all the places now lost to me, the door to that old library is the one I long to walk through more than any other. With Thomas Wolfe, I lament, "O lost."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

sad news, indeed

I got an email from my brother, Bill, with the sad news that his friend and neighbor, Joe Boyson, had passed away. I know Bill and my dad will miss Joe very much, even more than they miss his old dog, Jake. But the death of Joe Boyson is also a loss for the city where he spent his whole life, repairing shoes in a little shop on the main street. I know, people don't get their shoes repaired anymore. They throw them out and buy new ones. But the American Shoe Repair shop was one of the few remaining links with the bustling city that Elyria used to be, and with Joe gone, one more reminder of that time is gone, as well.

When I was a little girl, it seemed like every trip downtown included a stop at the shoe repair shop. My dad's wingtips needed re-soled or my mother's purse strap had broken. My brothers and I loved going in there. The dark, narrow shop had a wonderful smell. It was the smell of shoe polish and leather, of course, but also the smell of the belts and pulleys and brushes on the well-oiled machines behind the half-wall at the rear of the shop. How exciting it was when the machinery was actually running!

We were fascinated, as well, by the row of six or eight raised chairs along the wall to our right. In all the many times I went in there, I never saw them in use, but they were shoe shine chairs. The customers would sit resting their feet on the two narrow iron stands in front of each chair to have their shoes polished. We were not allowed to clamber up onto the tall chairs, but I always wanted to.

Along the left-hand wall of the shop was a large wooden shelf with cubbyholes holding the shoes and boots and purses of Elyria. Each of them had a tag on a twist of wire so they could be claimed by their owners. On the counter, there were racks with little drawers holding shoe laces of every size and color, and a round spinning rack that held little tins of Kiwi shoe polish in a dozen colors. Cordovan was always my favorite.

Old Mr. Boyson, Joe's dad, would be behind the counter, and to me, he looked exactly like the cobbler in every children's book I had ever seen. He was short and bald with bushy white eyebrows above glasses worn low on his nose, and he always wore a dark apron over his white shirt. When Joe was there, as well, he was usually working in the back, and I picture him wearing a sort of smock, like a druggist would wear. He was tall, with a full head of dark hair, and I am surprised to think how young he must have been back then.

Joe is gone now, and the shoe repair shop closed. It is a loss for his friends and neighbors, and a loss for his city, as well. I hope he will be remembered by them all. I know I won't forget him.