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Tasty!

Someone once told me, in reference to fashion, that “that lady’s taste was all in her mouth.”  Pretty rude comment, if you ask me, especially because the first part of my professional career was spent in sales in the apparel industry, and “that lady” was one of the designers for whom I worked!

That being said, I tend to be more literal in my old age, and I do believe that taste really is mostly in your mouth… with a little help from your nose.  The smell of my mother’s kitchen on the morning of Thanksgiving of onions sautéing, or the aroma of cookies baking heralding an afternoon or late night snack with a glass of cold milk.

I happen to be one of the adventurous types, and am willing to taste just about anything once.  Some of the things I’ve eaten, I’ve had three times: first, last and only.  Like octopus.  That was one of those foods that was prepared ever so delightfully, but no matter how long I chewed, I couldn’t bring myself to swallow it.

I was raised on “no-thank-you portions.”  We would sit at the table, and be coerced to put a small portion of everything that was served on our plates, and then have to sit there until our plates were cleaned.  I figured out early on, that my napkin could be a good friend.  Many times, I wiped my mouth free of a mouth full of creamed spinach, excused myself, and then flushed it down the guest bathroom toilet.  I thought I was being so clever.

We came to find out later on that my father, in his efforts to present a united front in parenting with my mother, was a very good sport.  One evening, during a family dinner, with all of his adult children seated around the table (a very rare occurrence), my father finally, after thirty years of marriage, balked when the broccoli was passed to him.  “I don’t care for any,” he declared.

“Why not?” my mother asked.

“”I hate broccoli.  I’ve been eating it for 30 years to set a good example for the kids,” he lamented.  “They’re grown now, and I’m never eating it again.”

Years later, although my rules at the table were a little more lax, a similar ruse was played upon me.  Our table rules never included cleaning your plate.  At our table, you were only requested to taste everything that served, and if you didn’t care for it, you didn’t have to eat it.  (I may have served the same thing many times, and my kids had to “taste it” many times, but they were never forced to eat more than one mouthful).  Consequently, they grew up with, I believe, healthier eating habits.  I did, however, find out that my daughter used the same napkin deception to rid her plate of that lone standing Brussel Sprout, every time I served them.

Today, both of my kids eat mostly everything.  They’re slim and trim, and healthy. I, however, could stand to eat a little less.  But I have good taste!

 

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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All in the Genes

Margaret Meade did countless studies on Nature vs. Nurture.  In today’s world, the “nurture” part, I think, has suffered due to the breakdown of the institutions of marriage and family.  I am grateful, however, to have come from a long line of fine people.

If I could have picked out the best qualities, in my own eyes, of those who came before me or were around me as my personality, my character and the sense of who I would turn out to be was being formed, I would have likely chosen the following.  Please know that this is an extremely incomplete list, derived strictly from MY memories and feelings, although it’s likely to start a firestorm amongst other family and friends…  Please family and friends, feel free to chime in.  (I chose not to mention my own siblings as I can’t publish those nouns).

My Mommom’s worldliness, understanding and back-scratching ability;

My Poppop Jack’s faith, perseverance and altruism;

My Poppop Daniel’s spontaneity, lust for life and sense of humor;

My Nanny’s green thumb, etiquette, and ability to finish a crossword;

My father’s persistence, sales ability and silver hair;

My mother’s looks, positive attitude and baking ability;

My Aunt Ticky’s artistic talent;

My Brecker Cousins’ musical talent and passion;

My Uncle Danny’s business acumen, vision and confidence;

My Bernheim Cousins’ fairness, capacity and tenacity;

My Aunt “A”s optimism, goodness and laugh;

My Miller Cousins’ resiliency, inspiration and creativity;

After living with my husband for thirty three years, I have to believe that he came from a long line of good genes too.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t see in my own children: my daughter’s wit, inner beauty and conviction, and my son’s compassion, perceptiveness and charm.

That, my friend, is a bunch of nouns.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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What a Co-Ink-i-dink!

There are many instances when my thoughts go back to my childhood days, whether it’s a particular song, a letter or email from an old friend or coming across a bit of memorabilia.  Since my dad’s passing fifteen years ago, every time I see a rainbow, I think of him.  Every time I hear Barbra Streisand sing “People,” I think of him.  Every time I eat broccoli, I think of him.  That may sound like a strange combination of things to make me think of my father, but then my father touched me in many different ways.

Growing up with a dad who had all kinds of silly names for people and things, I’ve almost added them to my vocabulary as if they were accepted by Webster.  He never called any of his kids by their given names, that is, except for my brother Richard.  I still can’t figure out the stream of consciousness that got him from Judy to “Gnu,” but that’s what he called me.  It was at one point Elsie Gnu, but then he just dropped the Elsie part.

He had nine grandchildren, and if he didn’t make up strange names for them, he just kind of mangled the names they were given.  He called my son Maniel Dason.  You figure it out.  He called my daughter, Smudlyn.  He called my nephew, Aaron Ocoggy.  I have a niece named Yexis, and a nephew named Schmichael.

Mom and DadDad wanted to know, “what are you didding?”  It was, in a sense, his own vernacular for “whazzzzzup?”  So much of this came rushing back to me in the past few weeks as my mother was sorting and packing her belongings to move to her new home.  Pictures and mementos, letters and telegrams, collectibles and awards, everything that was Dad went into boxes for moving, selling, recycling, donation or throwing out.

Mom took along a beautiful photograph of my father that was taken when he served as the Chairman of the Board of Parkway Hospital, which is now Jackson North.  I looked at the picture for a few moments and thought about the expression, “turnabout is fair play,” because when I eulogized Dad, I used all of the names with which people referred to him.  As a kid, he was known as Ticky, and my Miller cousins knew him as Uncle Ticky.  My Brecker cousins called him Muck.  The guys at Citizens Crime Watch called him Smooth Blend- his CB handle.  He was Mel.  To our friends, he was Mr. T.  He was Dad, or Daddy when I wanted something.

When Mom finally made the move last month, I was standing at the front desk in the lobby, next to a sign that said, “Welcome Jean Tecosky,” when a lady approached me and asked me if I was a Tecosky.  I said I was, and she introduced herself as the daughter of Abe Tecot, my grandfather’s first cousin.  She and my Dad were second cousins.  All I could think of was that Dad would say, “What a co-ink-i-dink!”

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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My Advice

I’ve seen a lot of How-To articles, and a lot of stories that were long discourses on how someone would do it, if they had a chance to live their life over again.  But I also read somewhere that you are supposed to “express and opinion, but send advice by freight.”  I would attribute the quote appropriately, but being one of those people who are old enough to suffer from senior moments, though not yet silver-haired, I can’t remember where I saw it.  So I write this, mainly to remind myself, but also to intimate that there may be some wisdom in my suggestions as well.

Having been on this earth long enough to have my own memory lapses, I decided to write down a few things that I have learned while I’ve been here.  Before I forget.

The first thing I’ve learned is to respect older folks.  Learn from them.  They have, as they say, been there, done that.  They carry around with them a wealth of intellectual lore, right there in their heads, and even if they can’t always remember what they had for lunch, they possess such valuable wisdom, earned simply by living life.  If nothing else, I’ve learned that there are really no big deals.

My grandmother gave me two choice pieces to live by.  One was that it doesn’t pay to get upset about something that money can replace.  That was after I spilled tomato juice on her brand new lemon yellow carpet.  “It’s just a thing,” she’d say.  “If something bad happened to you, then I would be upset.”  The other thing I gained from her was that worrying is like wasting energy and emotion on something that hasn’t happened yet.  She told me to pick out one hour a week during which to worry.  Hers was Tuesdays, between three and four AM.

The second thing I’ve learned is to respect younger folks.  Learn from them.  You can gain so much by growing along with them, and looking at the world through their innocent and questioning eyes.  They help you to forget being jaded and pessimistic, and remind you that anything is possible.  While raising my kids, I tried very hard to respect their points of view when making decisions that affected them.  Often, they had valuable and practical input that was worth considering, and would change the outcome.

If they didn’t, I stuck to my original plan, but I showed them the same respect that I wanted them to show me.  In the end, both of my children grew up knowing that they have a voice.  And I grew up right along with them, understanding that I don’t know everything, and never will.  A one hundred year old friend of mine once told me that when we stop learning, we stop growing.  She continued to take classes at the community college until she couldn’t travel anymore, at age 102.

I’ve never been a religious person, however I am spiritually connected.  I believe there are forces greater than my own will at work in the universe.  Over my lifetime, it’s been made abundantly clear to me that I talk a lot, first by two of my three brothers, who each gave me nicknames that depicted that quality: one called my Yak, and the other, Herkimer J Mouth.  My grandfather would often ask me if I ever stopped talking.  So in the spirit (pun intended) of a higher power, I’ve developed a prayer that I say probably too often, and that is, “God, keep one arm around my shoulder, and one hand over my mouth.”  As I always told my children, you can think whatever you want, but as soon as you say it out loud, you can’t take it back.  Ever.

Through my own life experiences, I’ve learned that we only get one shot at life.  I’ve taken some twists and turns, some of which I regret, but most of which I do not.  What came out of all of it is that I found that you should never do anything to sacrifice the integrity of your own potential.  Treat yourself well, body, mind and soul.

That’s my advice.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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My Family Tree

When we all get together and reminisce, I sometimes find it hard to believe that this family tree of mine ever took root, at least on my mother’s side.  That’s not being said to be derisive in any way.  My mother’s family was and is lovely in many ways.  But there was one member of her family, who, in his own way, could have shattered any hope, of any of the female members of the family, of maintaining a relationship, much less getting married.

Starting with my mother.

Mom tells many stories of the ways in which my grandfather scared many of her boyfriends away; things like coming to the dinner table dressed in my grandmother’s bathrobe and shower cap, or sticking his thumb in a piece of chocolate cake as it was passed by him, only to “see if it was fresh,” or the ultimate story, which commands its own paragraph.

Mom had been invited to Princeton weekend by a young suitor, but before she would be given permission to go, the young man was invited to Friday night dinner at her home.  Friday night dinner was always a formal occasion.  My grandfather would come to the table in a suit and tie.  This particular evening, someone spilled a bit of gravy in front of him.  He proceeded to add some salt, pepper and ketchup to the stain, all the while stirring it with a spoon.  The young man just stared in disbelief.

Subsequently, while quietly enjoying the repast, he reached inside his jacket, fumbling around the shoulder area, and then took his cufflink off, and promptly pulled his shirtsleeve out of his jacket sleeve.  He then proceeded to do the same on the other side.  By the time he had finished his antics, he was sitting at the table with nothing but his jacket and tie… no shirt.

Needless to say, not only did my mother never get to Princeton weekend, but she never heard from this young man again.  I remain grateful that my father was able to withstand my grandfather’s antics.

Far be it for me to expose the private and very personal lives of my female cousins, because there were, indeed, other “Poppop” interventions.  For me, however, my boyfriend met my grandfather under typical circumstances.

My grandparents, like a lot of people from the north, wintered here in South Florida, and were here for Thanksgiving.  My boyfriend was a little bit of a prankster and jokester himself, so as we walked up to my parent’s home, I begged him to behave himself.  I didn’t want to be embarrassed.  We were greeted by my Dad, as usual, by an offer for a cocktail, and took our seats on the couch, opposite my grandfather.  After very cordial introductions, my grandfather piped up with, “So, Judith, do you have socks in your bra?”  My boyfriend looked at me and calmly asked, “And you wanted ME to behave?”

Less than a year later, my grandfather had the opportunity to meet my soon-to-be father-in-law.  You see, not even Poppop was able to scare off my boyfriend.  Nor was my grandmother, who tried to fatten him up for the kill by piling food on his plate at every meal.

It was the night of the bachelor party and Poppop had been remanded to the back patio to smoke his cigar.  When my father-in-law arrived, my grandfather yelled into the house, “If you want to meet me, you’ll have to come out here.  They won’t let me back in the house.”  My father-in-law had been warned, but in his sweet, southern gentlemanly way, he started to say, “I’d tell them to go jump in the river.”  He never got to finish, as Poppop, once again, tried to impress (or stun) by saying, “I told them to all go pound sand up their asses.”

Yes, we got married.  My grandfather danced “The Bump” at my wedding, but sadly, all that’s left are the memories, stories and laughs.

We named our first born after him.  I imagine what really took root in our family tree is the love.  Today, my mother has four children, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren (so far), and they all know who Poppop Daniel was… the Patriarch of my mother’s family, who gave us all his wit, his sense of humor and his lust for life, which I believe are three very good elements for growing a family tree.

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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The Other Shoe

It’s a Chicken Little kind of feeling that the “sky may be falling,” or an Eeyore lament of “Oh well.”  It’s a feeling that things are going too well… an impending sense of doom, a fear of the inevitable, when the other shoe is going to drop?

Last fall, when my mother celebrated her 83rd birthday, I wrote her a letter telling her how I had learned so much from watching her go through the phases and challenges of life with such poise and grace.  Mom has always faced change well.  She has been a “fatalist” all her life.  She fears nothing, not even dying, as she has said for as long as I can remember, “When your number’s up, its up.”

This most recent change is no different.  She decided to move herself to an independent living facility.  Mom determined, on her own, that she needed to be around more people, that she didn’t want the responsibility of being a home-owner anymore, and she certainly didn’t want to be a burden to her children should something happen to her.  She found the place she wanted, and with a little help from me, made the arrangements and moved this past weekend.  I helped her sort through her belongings, determining what to take, what to sell, what to give to her children and what to throw away.

I helped her pack, forward her mail, list her condo, change her power and cable service and secure a mover.  And it was done.  We moved her most prized possessions ourselves, and let the movers do the rest, and before we blinked, she was making new friends, enjoying the cuisine and taking walking trips to the bank and drugstore.

I’m so very proud of her and very grateful that she is happy and healthy, as I look forward to many more years with my best friend.

So what is this other shoe thing going on?  Maybe I feel like it went too smoothly, because NOTHING ever goes smoothly in my life.  I’m used to looking at everything that way.  We’ve never made a purchase when we didn’t come home to find a broken section or a piece of the hardware missing.  That’s just the way it always happens.

And I never win anything (except Scrabble against my husband).  Haven’t had three numbers at Lotto in 12 years.  Or, I don’t deserve the praise…  I could have done better… that kind of thing.

I do know that I had wanted to move out of town; almost secured a job to take us there, but it fell through.  Then I tried to slow it down by trying to find a part time job.  Thought I had a fabulous opportunity, but that fell through as well.  So, now mom is settled in her new place, locally, I’m stuck working at the same job, locally.  Once again, I have to adjust.

Perhaps instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop, I need to just switch to sneakers.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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Right at Home

There is certainly no shortage of animal lovers out there.  If you have a question, just take a few minutes to look at Facebook or Instagram, or any other of the social media.  And the cute kitties and stupid dog tricks will overwhelm you.

I’m not really different from most of them.  I, too, share plenty of photos of my “pets.”  Notice how I cleverly put the word pets in quotation marks?  That’s because I’ve never really owned a pet.  In my adult life, or during my marriage of 32 years, my husband and I have raised two human children and have adopted four four-legged ones.  Since I’ve written copiously about my two legged children, I thought maybe I’d spend a few minutes reflecting on my other children.  Some of the latter have behaved better than the former in a lot of ways, but they all had a way of making themselves right at home.

Fake BlackyHad the internet and Facebook been available to me early on, I could have shown you how Blacky, our white Boxer, protected our children, stole entire loaves of bread (and then hid the wrappers in the corner under a chair), and pulled the covers off of my husband when she wanted to go out for a walk.  Blacky hated when the kids went swimming, and hated taking a bath herself.  She was strong, husky and aggressive toward anyone who seemed a threat, yet would belly crawl across the floor to a baby who was playing on a blanket in the living room.  She allowed my daughter to put dresses and tiaras on her, but would tear through a rawhide bone in three minutes.  Blacky was truly a member of the family.  (This is a substitute photo.  It is actually a Blacky look alike named Hector.)

Our second adoption came three years after Blacky left us.  My husband was in no hurry to have the responsibility,Sophie and Daniel nor the expense of another “child.”  Sophie, however, was in dire need of a home.  Her original family had a new baby who was violently allergic to her.  They were also not aware of the fact that cats eat when they’re hungry, but dogs eat when there’s food.  Consequently, Sophie was a prime candidate for Woof-Woof Sophie Weightwatchers.  We put her on a diet, and after losing 30 pounds, she   was sleek and slim.  She was still lazy.  Sophie required emergency  surgery four months into her stay with us.  Six huge bladder stones and $2,000 later, Sophie made herself right at home.  She found her spot on the couch, and while Blacky didn’t care for the aluminum foil placed there to keep dogs off furniture, Sophie just kicked it off and got comfortable.  Unlike her predecessor, though, she liked water.  In fact, she liked it so much, she would climb in the shower with me.

When it was time for Sophie to go, I had convinced my husband, that the best way to replace the emptiness of losing a four-legged family member is to get another one.  Enter Goyo.  This old man was seven when he came to live with us, Goyo hugand he did so because I was afraid nobody else would adopt an old dog with existing medical issues.  He wouldn’t let me leave the Humane Society without him.  He barked until we took him, and then never said another word.  And he showed up just in time.  Soon after he came home, I lost my job.  We really needed each other during that time, because not only did I have no place to go during the day, but both my kids were away at school, so I had that empty nest thing going as well.

Goyo must have come from a different generation.  I say that because he had better manners than most people I know.  First, he would sit with his legs crossed, paw over paw, like a true gentleman.  Second, when he was finished playing with his toys, he would put them away, and I didn’t have to tell him to do so.  Years and Goyoyears of asking, begging and cajoling and my children never learned to put their things away until they moved out and had to live with other people.  Maybe that was my fault, as I eventually ended picking up after them.  Goyo, like Sophie, was satisfied eating ice cubes and carrots for snacks.  None of our canine kids got table food as a general rule.  Goyo did, however, become my spaghetti tester.  He never told me if the pasta was ready.  He just kept asking for another and another and another strand of whatever pasta was being served.  Goyo was not only my food critic, my exercise partner and my therapist, he was my best friend. Goyo and I made a pact.  He was in pain from arthritis and was losing his hearing and eye sight.  He promised to let me know when it was time to go, and I promised not to make him stay one minute longer.

Only two weeks after we had to put Goyo down, I was already at the Humane Society where I met Alexander for the first time.  Again, my husband wanted a break, but I was devastated over losing my Goyo.  I wrote about him, I sang about him, I drew pictures of him and I talked about him constantly.   When I met Alex, I was told that he had been at the Humane Society for almost Alex hiding heada year and a half.  That broke my heart, and for the next two months, unbeknownst to my husband, I was visiting this boy.  I was bonding with him, and trying to figure out a way to bring him home.  We had agreed to wait until Labor Day, when we could spend a long weekend getting him used to our home.

I couldn’t wait.  I made arrangements with our vet, and with our dog-sitter, because we already had plans for a long weekend away.  When that was accomplished, I brought Alexander home.  This boy really needed (needs) a lot of love and patience.  He had a tragic beginning.  He was so skittish that even after several months, he still hides his head when he sleeps.

Alexander is no dummy, however, and has figured out who does what and when in our house. Alex protecting bowl He knows where the treats are, who gives the best scratch behind the ear and when to hang out in the kitchen (I’ve gotten softer in my old age, so Alex gets bits of chicken when I make soup).   Alex was extremely particular about what he ate in the beginning, and got very attached to his bowl.  In fact, he takes it wherever he goes.  He just picks it up with his teeth (and it doesn’t matter if it’s full or empty) and carries it to a place in which he feels more comfortable.

Alex with stolen blanketWhile doing some cleaning and downsizing, we left a pile of linens, pillows and blankets in the hall that we were going to donate, however Alex, in no uncertain terms, has told us that HE would like one of the blankets.  He dragged it out of the pile and just plain took it.  He pulled out one of the pillows, and used it like a toy (needless to say that one ended in the garbage).  Ultimately, he decided that the energy expended wasn’t worth it and made the whole pile into a bed for himself.

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the presence of my grand-doggy, Harvey at the tableHarvey Richard Fisher.  He was given the middle name by my daughter, although it is my son and daughter-Harvey on blanketin-law who adopted Harvey.  Harvey, wherever he goes, walks around like he owns the joint, and although I love him very much, he doesn’t give me any attention.  He is, in no uncertain terms, his father’s son.  I hope that if and when my children have children, they do a better job with table manners than they have with Harvey.  That’s all I’m saying.

I imagine these stories, if told about my human children, wouldn’t be as amusing as some of the others I’ve written.   I love my children first, but it is my four-legged children who will forever leave reminders that they have been there.  We are still finding Blacky hair, and she’s been in doggy heaven almost 15 years.   (What does that say about my housekeeping?)  It says that they all made themselves right at home.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in General, Phase 2

 

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