Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


Almost Time

My cat is lying in a strange position on a towel near her water dish. She acts like I feel when I’ve had a really tiring day, numb to everything, but I think hers is a more permanent kind of fatigue.

When Sam was about 4 years old it seemed to be time to get him a pet. I had always been a dog person but was concerned a puppy would raise too much havoc in our situation. Sam’s dad Dave had had a stroke while on the operating table to debulk a brain tumor so had a double neurological insult. His walking was very unsteady and I assumed a puppy would get underfoot and cause Dave to fall.

So Sam and I headed over to the Nashville Humane Society where we played with a number of kittens. I had wanted to take home an adult cat, figuring we could at least know the animal’s personality better, but the boy wanted a kitten. First one, then another, and then 3 or 4 or 5 more. I lost count. Finally, there was Tiny Bug. She actually responded to us, enjoying being petted, purring.  I was hopeful she would be a good fit.


We took her home and she promptly got in Dave’s way while he struggled to walk down the hallway. Luckily he did not fall but it became apparent right from the start that we now were blessed with an animal who went where she wanted to go, laid down in front of people walking, and overall was not at all like a dog. She wanted to be the Alpha.

She always was good using her litter box, even as we moved and moved and moved again. Once shown, she would be consistent.

She always ate the same food. Once we transitioned from kitten food to cat food and she ate it well, I always bought the same thing. Dry food. No fancy cans of wet stuff. Easy on my budget. Once we ran out of cat food a day before payday, but no worries. I had chicken and rice and cooked her up a feast. She did not eat.  She gorged when we brought home the dry stuff and barfed. Of course.

We always kept her inside and she always wanted to go out. One day we carelessly let her escape and she was gone overnight. It was summer so not a bad weather time but she straggled back the next afternoon, looking very dirty. She did not enjoy her bath.

Years later, after Dave had passed on, Sam and I joined Graham when he went on sabbatical to Colorado. Graham owned a sun conure parrot, Sollie, and we had to teach Tiny Bug to leave her alone. With the help of a water pistol, the cat learned quickly, but the bird had a mean streak. She often would sit on my shoulder while I had the cat on my lap to clip her claws.


Tiny Bug got even a year later. We were having a screened porch built on the back of the house and as I stood in the open doorway from the kitchen the cat raced ????????????????????????????????????outside. The bird followed, winging quickly. As soon as the cat reached the deck she sat down and licked her paws as the bird circled overhead and then flew off. I had no doubt in my mind that the cat had instigated the whole thing. (We got the bird back a few days later, but that’s another story.)

While we lived in West Virginia my allergies and asthma got worse. By the time a friend talked some sense into me about reducing those allergens that I could we had 2 young dogs, the cat and the bird. We found new homes for the puppies but no one wanted the cat.  A friend was happy to adopt the Sollie.

Tiny Bug was not very social with people, ignored dogs, but attacked other cats. There was not much appealing to anyone to take her, even people who sympathized with my health issue.  I always joked that she would live to 25 just to spite me.

When we had driven back from Colorado to West Virginia in 2007 the cat had slipped out of the car before I had even shut the door. We got a call 2 hours later that she was wandering around the apartment complex. While Graham drove on with the U-Haul, I returned, got the cat and then caught up with him in western Kansas.

So it was maybe not a real joke when I said that if she slipped out of the car on our drive west during our move to Oregon, I would just leave her there.  We stopped for the night in western Kansas and came to the Colorado welcome station pretty early. Leaving the car windows open a little, we went inside to pick up some info we wanted and then back to the car. No cat. We pulled things out of the car in case she was hiding in a little nook. Nope. We wandered around calling for her (as if that would work) and of course, we didn’t find her. After an hour, we left our name and phone number with the people at the center and I drove on. I pulled over and even though Graham is legally blind and not supposed to drive, I couldn’t, so he took the wheel. He had gone about five miles when we heard a plaintive cry from under the driver’s seat.  I didn’t know if I was happy or wanted to strangle her.Tiny_Bug_finds_a_new_nest

She turned 15 last year and started throwing up a lot. The vet said it would cost a lot of money to run tests and maybe do surgery to figure out what was wrong.  It just did not seem right to fight hard at that age, so we asked if there was any other way. They suggested we change her diet to one of their veterinary formulas, give her a pro-biotic for a while to help her gut bacteria improve, prednisone to reduce swelling, and vitamin B shots once a month.  She started improving and after a few months we started dropping parts of the regimen and soon we just were using the diet. She was fine and Sam, returning home for the holidays from Vermont, was happy to see his cat. He offered to take her back with him but I was concerned that he would lose whatever security deposit he had on his apartment because of other issues with her.

banishedAs good as she had been all those years, she stopped using her litter box and would frequently mess on the living room rug (now trashed) and on the dining room table (scrubbed and scrubbed often scrubbed often). We banished her to outside during the day and the garage at night when we were having a house guest who we thought was allergic. (The fact that I suffer and deal with it does not mean anyone else has to when they come here.) We brought her back inside a few days ago.

This afternoon, Tiny Bug stopped moving. Her back legs will not support her. I clipped her claws and she did not complain. I touched her tail and there was no protest. She is there but not there and I believe she is on her way out.

I have horribly mixed feelings. I know my allergic issues will ease with one less allergen but she has been family for almost 16 years. While she never was a “dog” she got used to me calling her “Puppy” and would come to that.  She tried to fit in and we tried to make her feel very much a part of this home. Graham is holding her letting her know she is loved.




Journey to Another Land

I went to Texas last week to visit my wonderful sister-in-law and discovered I was definitely not in Oregon any more.

First I want to start by staying Oregon is not the liberal bastion it appears to be from the outside. I learned, once I lived here, that the major cities (Portland and Eugene, for the most part) are liberal, but the rest of the state, including where I live is pretty conservative. So, I am quite used to hearing local discussion about open carry and whatnot and gun ownership in Oregon is only slightly below Texas’s rate.

The first thing that hit me reading the Austin newspaper the next morning was that most people blamed the Oregon girl who was murdered for her own death. Even though the suspect is a troubled youth and he overpowered her and strangled her, the pundits believed if she had carried a gun she would have been able to protect herself. (This is a major difference between Oregon and Texas and not because the victim is from Oregon. It is because Oregon believes you do not blame a victim for a crime.)

And some of you are nodding but she was too young to be carrying. So even if she had an interest in having a personal weapon, it was not yet legal for her to carry one.

To me this stank like blaming the woman for the rape, not the jerk who overpowers her and assaults her.

Why are conservative men so full of doublespeak?  They want to protect their daughters from raping Islamist terrorists but blame other women who get attacked by the boy next door?  One out of six women are victims of rape or attempted rape in this country.  And men?  About 10% of American men are the perps, and over half of them blame the woman. Over two-thirds of all sexual assaults are caused by men known to the woman. Over 50% are white. And over a quarter are married. What is wrong with you guys?sexual-assault

Rape is not sex. Rape is assault. Get it out of your pea-picking brain that a woman who looks attractive is NOT asking for it. Use your self control.


The other issue that was apparent was open carry. This is also related to the death of the Oregon student on the University of Texas campus, which, as a public college, has to permit guns on campus as it is the state law. But we saw, walking through areas of Austin and then in more conservative areas a couple of hours away, signs not permitting people to come into the establishment with their weapons. Private stores, colleges and organizations can opt out of the state’s open carry allowance.

The idea of guns in a bar or winery or brewpub just does not make sense. While some people can agree that guns and alcohol don’t mix well, the point is you have no idea of who is carrying and what their anger managament control may be, especially as they begin to be affected by alcohol.

Still, some shops that do not even serve food had the no guns allowed signs posted at the entrance.


Who’d a thunk it that some in Texas do not want to see a repeat of the old wild west.  But I still prefer Oregon where pedestrians can cross the street without fear of being hit by a car….because life just seems to be valued in all ways there.


The Connection Between Us

Each of us is the center of our own universe and yet we experience similar pains and joys. I have learned that the ability to share helps me ease the anguish and magnify the happiness. Does your pathway include sharing?

About four years ago I started visiting farms that had expressed interest in providing food to The Wild Ramp Market in Huntington, West Virginia. A new concept, The Wild Ramp combines the shopping experience of the outdoor farmers’ market with the ease of indoor shopping.  It is a year-round indoor local food market that has increased in appeal since its inception about 4 years ago.

Although I had one grandparent who had retired from running a chicken farm, my childhood in the New York metropolitan area was focused on suburban and urban living. I even got a degree in urban planning. So you can imagine just how tickled I am that I have become enmeshed in the local food movement.

When I started I knew next to nothing and today I know just a smidgen more.  But armed with my curiosity, I spent an hour or two visiting the farmers, hearing their stories and learning about their growing practices. I then wrote blogs to inform the consumers, the better to market that individual farm and its products and The Wild Ramp Market overall.

My visit to Mil-ton farm in mid June 2012 just prior to the market opening was a learning experience for me. Dad Tim was working off-farm at his day job. Mom Stephanie was home with the four kids, in charge of daily farm chores and home schooling and also working a part-time job. Grandma lived on the land as well, part of the extended family.


My favorite often used photo from Mil-Ton Farm

One thing that immediately struck me was how curious the kids were. They came with us as Stephanie and I walked along, eager to show me things and be part of the experience. I learned a lot about that family that day and made a foolish assumption that all farm families were that cooperative and involved with life learning. No, as I learned over time, the Appletons are unique.


Tim and Kellen working to renovate the shop

They all pitched in, even the youngest, helping renovate the shop space. They all helped other farmers in the Wild Ramp extended family of farmers as there were calls for help. The kids helped develop salable items over the seasons.

Vivian helping raise a high tunnel at The Potager, a Help A Farmer Day project.

Vivian helping raise a high tunnel at The Potager, a Help A Farmer Day project.

The Appletons walk the walk. Caring, loving, with high standards and expectations to strive for them. They have a strong faith in God and strong belief in the goodness of life.

But Tim just died, after a long and valiant experience with cancer. The Wild Ramp family is feeling this pain.

Personally, it brings my own loss of a loved spouse very much back into my mind. I can clearly imagine how Stephanie, a pretty strong woman, must be spinning in torment, trying to comfort the kids to provide them a sense of security while not quite really sure intellectually and emotionally where her footing will be in this earthquake. And the kids, scared of future loss, needing a lot more reassurance that all will be okay.kids

Although she might beg to differ today while everything is so raw, I know Stephanie and the family will work through this. The hole Tim’s passing  has left is a horrible learning experience for all, but they will learn to meld the pain of the loss with the rising spirit of his memory.Stephanie and Tim

The outpouring of love and prayers for this family is a testament to the goodness they have been as a part of the community. Tim’s legacy is priceless. We ARE connected, all of us.



You’re Going To Die

Funny things happen when mortality hits me in the face. The last time, about 12 years ago, I was so sick with meningitis I didn’t even think about it until I was better. This time I have “something” wrong and the docs are trying to figure it out.

Am I gong to die? Probably not today. But yup, will sometime.

As will you.death-quotes.-Die-like-a-hero-going-home

So many people are AFRAID of dying. Other than I want to stick around to watch my kids mature and I have a few more things to do, I’m not afraid. Whatever your belief system, if you have faith in a religion, you have been told what the pathway is at the end of this life. So why be afraid? mark-twain-death-quotes-the-fear-of-death-follows-from-the-fear-of-life-a-man-who

The funny part is that some people think that just because they have a faith inspired belief in what happens upon death they don’t understand that that is not the common concept.  One very well intentioned 14-year-old once told me he was particularly worried about me because I am Jewish and have not accepted Christ as my Savior.  Because of that, he warned me, I would be going straight to Hell.  When I told him that Hell is a Christian construct and I was a bit concerned about any religion like his that had to use a stick like that to try to get their members to comply, he was confused.

So what do you expect? Is it scary? Why?

Me? I’m just going to try to keep on keeping on until my time arrives. My belief system is that good deeds done here and now is the way to live. What good is a promise of heaven if you never helped others lives here to be better? And so….onward.to the next adventure.To the next adventure


The Next Stage

Death. So final. At least from this perspective.

Why are so many people afraid of dying?Life-is-pleasant.-Death-is-peaceful-quotes

Judaism does not particularly get into an Afterlife, so it leaves it open to personal interpretation. The strong message is to do good deeds while living. In fact, there are 613 mitzvot that are required by texts in the Torah. That is the Old Testament for you Christians, so if you are really good Bible thumpers (literal followers, take heed) these are for you, too. Death may simply be a cessation of life, or there may be a Heaven, or there may be a rebirth.

Christianity, on the other hand, promises you Everlasting Life.  There is some teaching that good deeds are not important but there is also a bunch of good deeds that are needed to be done by a good Christian and even an admonition that without good deeds, faith is dead.  However, for the believer, death should not be feared.

The promise of eternal life refers to the soul and that is a commonality in most religions as well as New Age concepts.  Other religions also have concepts of reward or rebirth. Basically….this stage where we are now is only that, a stage…a short visit in the continuing growth of our soul.affirmation447

So, back to the basic question. Why are people so afraid of dying?

A huge change. Not knowing what will happen. Not knowing how it will feel. Sort of like me moving from West Virginia to Oregon…..well, almost Heaven to a beautiful place.

I subscribe to a daily email that is a very positive word from The Universe and want to share today’s email with you:

The top 10 things dead people want to tell living people are:

1. They’re not dead.
2. They’re sorry for any pain they caused.
3. There’s no such thing as a devil or hell.
4. They were ready to go when they went.
5. You’re not ready.
6. They finally understand what they were missing.
7. Nothing can prepare you for the beauty of the moment you arrive.
8. Don’t try to understand this now, but life is exceedingly fair.
9. Your pets are as crazy, brilliant and loving, here, as they were there.
10. Life really is all about love, but not just loving those who love you…

They also wanted you to know that they really do show up as orbs in some of your photos,  but so does water. Quite a talkative bunch.

Interesting to consider.Tattoo-Love-Life-For-Eternity

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Celebration of Life

My youngest, Sam, is now 20. Wow…where did the time go?  He was born when I was 40 and no, he was not an “accident”. Mature but still active hormone production was partly the cause for a  two-year effort but I also miscarried (1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage and I fit that statistic) and he actually was conceived one month after the D&C. I suggested to my OB-GYN that perhaps older women have more “gunk” (no, not a medical term) inside and maybe zygotes have more trouble attaching to the uterine wall. She thought it an interesting concept and was planning to review the literature.

Anyway, life with a baby and toddler and young munchkin can be full of excitement but when Sam’s dad, Dave,  was diagnosed with brain cancer before Sam’s 2nd birthday, that additional factor added a new dimension.  Dave swore to my mom he would live long enough so the baby would remember him. And he told me to keep life as “normal” as possible, so there was Cub Scouts, and family trips, and singing with the Nashville Boy Choir, and so much more.

FL SW hats

Flight attendants borrowed the kids’ Disney hats to present the safety talk-said it was the first time everyone actually was watching,

What was a 3-5 year life expectancy crashed 10 years later.  Dave died in his sleep the night after Sam’s 11th birthday. My daughter Lisa demonstrated some wisdom telling Sam how my father had died the day after her 14th birthday.  She said she believed he had waited until she was old enough to understand it was his time to go and while she would miss him, she would carry him in her heart forever. While Sam did not find complete solace in her words, they struck a chord and helped.

A year later my mom’s struggle with post-surgery complications ended three days after Sam’s birthday. (Doctor, the surgery was a success but the patient died.) And a year after that, two days before Sam’s birthday, Dave’s older brother also ended his fight against cancer. yahrzeit candle

This one week in October is powerful. At the time of Dave’s death I was very careful to help Sam see that his birthday was not ruined at all.  In fact, the timing  helps us remember and memorialize these special people. We light a yahrzeit candle and spend a few minutes sharing memories….celebrating life in its best continued form.

We chose this pathway instead of focusing on the pain of the losses. After all, in many ways, they are still with us.



A couple of my friends lost a parent in the last week. As my peers age, it is a normal part of life to face the illness and care of aging parents and their inevitable final passage.

With losing a husband to brain cancer after a ten year battle, I have had some experience to be able to offer a few words of what worked for me. Perhaps it might for you.

Be a realist

  •  Try to understand the cause of the illness. If you are reading this, you have access to the Internet and there are countless websites that can provide explanations that you probably can understand.  Do some reading in order to ask the doctors good questions.  Not knowing causes more stress than you need.
  • Fight (yes FIGHT) for good follow-up care, whether it is physical therapy or a home health aide.  Do not accept a guilt trip from anyone that you should be able to provide all care.  Even if you are a trained nurse, you are not able to be on the job 24/7.
  • Understand when things start to slide downhill that at some time, death will occur.  Trying to ignore it won’t make it not happen. Nothing you did or didn’t do caused that. The body gets awfully tired of the pain, the inability to take proper nutrition, the confusion. Recognize that this is not about what you are going to be losing, but making the time the best goodbye you can.


Be prepared

  •  Doctors have a tendency to refer the patient to hospice very close to the end. This is a horrible disservice not only to the ill loved one but to you. I guess the doctors think it mean admitting failure, but being realistic about the illness and the probably outcome will enable you to persuade for earlier admission. Hospice is a wonderful helpful system set up to care for the ill person in their own home or perhaps in a residence. They provide palliative care, keeping that person comfortable and always acting with high respect. They also help YOU with the emotional turmoil as well as practical issues that are part of this stage of life. Hospice will typically enroll a patient if the doctor indicates end of life will occur within 6 months. That’s a wonderful amount of caring that can be extended if the loved one lingers on.
  • Use this time to make pre-arrangements so there is no need for intense decision making when the person passes. In fact, before your loved one gets so ill, it might help you to understand if there is anything s/he prefers. Many people can’t talk about death easily. Let me assure you, talking about it does not make it happen sooner.comfort love respect

Keep grounded

  • If you have a spiritual connection, relax in it, even if only a moment here and there during the day. As one wise woman said to me when I asked if there were special prayers, “Don’t worry about the words. He knows all the words.” Take some time to complain, to cry, to be angry. It is okay. It is normal.
  • If you have some friends, now is the time to call on that friendship.  Not everyday. Not for long hours. But ask for one to bring a home cooked meal, do a run to the grocery store for you, sit with you and have a glass of wine and a hug. If any friends are very special, ask for a relief hour so you can go get a haircut or gas up the car or just drive over to the park to watch the sun set. If you are used to doing for others, it may be hard to ask for help. Don’t be concerned; the time will come later on to help others again. Now it’s time to let others love you.
  • Take care of yourself. If you are not eating well and not getting enough sleep, you too will get sick. Your immune system is already being attacked because of the stress. This is the time you need to love yourself a bit more.

You know the final day will come. We just don’t know when. Trying to move from a position of pending loss to one of making it the best goodbye you can will give you more peace than you can ever imagine. Hugs.