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 May 15, 2017 in General


Lobster in the Sky

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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in General


My Empty Nest…

(a rewrite of One Door Closes…)

The bedroom doors on the south side of the house used to be open.  All the time. That’s the only way I could hear if they were crying, or awake and playing.  When they were in grade school, I could jump on their beds to wake them up, or plop on the floor to help with a project.

When they hit their teens, the doors closed. They wanted privacy. They didn’t want me or their Dad to interrupt them with their friends. They wanted to blast their music without being asked to turn it down. They were probably doing other things that I didn’t want to know about.

The doors remain closed now, except on the rare occasion when the dog pushes them open to find a comfortable, quiet place to sleep. And it’s quiet. There is no longer any music blasting. The sound of teenaged girls giggling is gone. The thumping and thudding of an occasional wrestling or weightlifting episode has died down.  The silence is clamorous.

When they first left, I kept the doors open. Often, I would walk in and inhale deeply, trying desperately to get a sense of their presence in a lingering aftershave or scented candle. I would walk by my son’s room almost expecting to see him sitting at the computer with his guitar on his lap, laboring over tabs for the latest song he was learning. But he wasn’t there.

Two steps further and I would be in front of my daughter’s bedroom door, forever adorned with pictures, quotes and flowers. That door now reminds me of just one more household project that my new best friend, my husband, and I can complete together. We have to remove the old, sticky tape, sand and paint it.  It’s barren.

Keeping the doors closed now is my way of separating myself from that chapter in my life when the machinery of parenting required so many more adjustments and tune-ups. Today, a little oil on the hinges and they swing open and closed for a quick visit, once in a while, and I go back to opening new doors on the north side of the house.

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Posted by on March 9, 2017 in General, Phase 2


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A Fond Farewell

I’m not very good with death.  In fact, I’m not good at all with it.  I can’t cope with the thought of my own mortality, and therefore am extremely tuned in to every little change in my body.  Some people call that hypochondria.  Others call it neurosis.  A friend of mine recently referred to it as Judyism… not to be confused with the religion, although I am Jewish.

I received the news this morning that a very dear friend of mine, and of my mother’s passed away.  Howie was 87, and some would say he lived a long and fruitful life.  So what?  It still hurts those whom he left behind.  I’m still devastated by the loss of a man who came to be thought of as my second father.  (By not only me, but by Howie himself, and by his daughter, who refers to me as her sister from another mister).

So, I hurt.  I grieve.  And that’s okay.  That’s how I feel, and I always tell people that feelings are the one thing that are entirely your own, and nobody has the right to tell you how to feel.

A long time ago, I came across the poem below on a greeting card, although I cannot recall the author, or even if there was one to whom it was attributed.  I share it often; not only when people have lost a friend through death, but when they are hurting because they have been wronged by someone who they thought was their friend.

Ships that Pass in the Night

There are those who pass like ships in the night,
Who meet for a moment, then sail out of sight.
With never a backwards glance of regret;
Folks we know briefly then quickly forget.

Then there are those friends who sail together,
Through quiet waters and stormy weather.
Helping each other through joy and through strife;
And they are the kind that give meaning to life.

Howie came into my life at an extremely critical time, and therefore, gave that “real meaning” to my life, of which the poem speaks.  It was shortly after my own father passed, I had only been working at a nursing home for a little over a year, and I was struggling with a very personal issue.  When he came to volunteer there, he pretty much fixed EVERYTHING, simply by being my friend.  I was lost, and he found me.

His compassion, his sense of humor and his lust for life somehow overshadowed it all.  His overwhelming and undying support of my endeavors, both personal and professional, helped me unfold into the person I was supposed to be.  He made me laugh when I needed to, and he listened, sometimes for hours, when I needed an ear.

He was, in essence, filling the role my father had played, without even knowing it. When I was little, my father would hold me up with me sitting on his shoulders at a parade, so I could see. Into my late fifties, it was Howie who held me up so I could see.

So today, I bid you a fond farewell, Howie.  May you bring to heaven as much joy as you created here on earth.  Rest in Peace.


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Posted by on February 23, 2017 in General, Phase 2


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Express an Opinion…

Having just found out the delightful news that my closest friend was going to be a grandmother, i immediately took the opportunity to give some advice to the expectant mother.  Or should i say, express an opinion.

When I first got pregnant, I got the best “advice” ever given to me. It was from my cousin, the mother of three boys and a girl.  She actually gave me two pieces of great advice.  She told me, first, “Never take anyone’s advice.  Listen to your heart and to your doctor.” 
There was solid reasoning behind this most ridiculous statement. You see, when my cousin was attempting to nurse her first born, she was encountering some difficulty.  Her mother suggested that perhaps her milk was too thin and the baby wasn’t getting enough nourishment.  Her mother-in-law, on the other hand, felt that her milk was too rich, and the baby was having trouble digesting it.  This is when she learned to listen to the advice she so graciously gave me.  She went on to have three more healthy, well-nourished children, who, by the way, are all healthy, well-adjusted, thriving and successful adults! 

The second pearl of wisdom, was that when I was at a point of total frustration with the baby, on one of those colicky nights when I couldn't get him to stop crying, or when she was in the middle of a "terrible two" tantrum, it was suggested that I think of the "dumbest person I know who is a mom, and tell myself if she can do it, I can do it."

I am reminded of the time we asked a friend of ours, who was carrying her first child, if she knew the sex of the baby.  Her answer we found funny, or maybe placed her in that category of who we might call to mind when we needed a little hope, because she told us that “the baby won’t decided its sex until its four months old.”  With slight allowance for a language barrier (although Hispanic, she had been born and raised in the states), it was then that my husband and I knew we could face parenthood.

My advice?  Listen to my cousin’s advice.  Don’t take any advice… Listen to your heart and your doctor!  

And one more thing... Express an opinion, but send all advice by regular mail. doctor!

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Posted by on February 21, 2017 in General, Phase 2


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DoYa Dare Me To?

My cousin’s wife once told me that the true goal of parenting was this:  you don’t want to embarrass your children… you want to thoroughly appall them.  Originally, I found that to be funny.  I thought that I had the upper hand.  I soon learned otherwise.

My earliest memory of embarrassing my kids was when they would have friends over and I would attack them with a water pistol or sing or deliver their clean underwear to their rooms while they were entertaining guests.  These were simple.  They were effective.  But soon, both my son and my daughter learned how to get around them.  I would pull practical jokes on them, but when they attempted, futilely I might add, I merely told them that I had taught them everything they know, but not everything I know.

We always sat down to dinner together as a family.  It was really the only time we could be together considering work, school, club and team schedules.  Having extra kids at my dinner table was a regular occurrence.  This naturally provided another opportunity for me to achieve my goal.  All we had to do was reminisce and tell baby stories.

By the time they were teenagers, I came up with a way to humiliate them in public when I would drop them off at school.  When they had gotten far enough away from the car, I would shout, “Do me a favor, while you’re here… learn something.”  The first time I did it, they both turned around with knowing smirks on their faces.  The next few times, they groaned.  Finally, they learned to jump out of the car and run.

Later on, my creativity began to wane.  I then would ask them if they dare me to… jump in a puddle…  or tell the waitress I have an imaginary friend…  or  sit down at someone else’s table at a restaurant and start to eat off of their plates.   There were times when they would dare me, and I would do it, much to their chagrin.

My daughter finally grew weary of this game, and said to me, “Mom, I dare you to behave yourself.”  So, my endeavors to thoroughly appall both my kids came to a screeching halt. She finally informed me, having reached her early twenties, that “Mom, you’re not embarrassing us, you’re embarrassing yourself.”

They are both now married, and I imagine they will soon start families of their own.  It is then they will know the true joy of driving their kids crazy.  It becomes, if you will, a quid pro quo, and they will appreciate the value in it, but I imagine, too, that they will do it with love, as I always have.

And always will.

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Posted by on February 17, 2017 in General, Phase 2


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My Mother’s Hands are now My Grandmother’s Hands

Oh, how we become our parents as we age.  While I was raising my two children, I often heard my mother’s words coming out of my own mouth.  I assume that’s because as an adult, with my own children, I finally came to realize that my parents weren’t as dumb as I thought they were when I was a teenager.  It comes full circle when your children present you with the same issues that you presented to your parents, and they to theirs.

While I believe fully that where human beings are concerned, there really is nothing new under the sun, technology has shown us that there are always new things out there.  I also believe that if you don’t learn and grow, and keep up with the times, you aren’t being fair to yourself, and you cease living authentically.

I was looking at my 85-year-old mother’s hands the other day, and recalled, very vividly, the hands of my grandmother.  I then looked at my own hands and saw that I was well on my way to perpetuating the family genes.  This prompted me to dig up an essay I wrote when my mother’s mother passed away.  I’ve shared it below.  Enjoy.

My Grandmother’s Hands

Originally written in 1992

My Grandmother!  She seemed so unapproachable, yet I had been able to get under her skin just enough to develop a delightful relationship, which I cherished during her life and remember with great fondness since her passing.  I remember that she was stand-offish when we tried to show affection, turning her cheek when we tried to zero in with a kiss.  My cousin, Sally, had given her the ultimate challenge when she said, “Nanny, if you really loved me, you’d kiss me on the lips.”  She would give in, because she loved us— all of us, each one in her own way.  There were many sides to her.

The one thing I remember vividly about my grandmother was her hands.  She always kept them neatly manicured, yet I used to marvel at her past and wonder about the millions of things those hands had done in her lifetime.  Did she scrape her palms when she fell while roller-skating down her street?  Had she ever held a butterfly in her palm or had she pointed to the sky to count the stars?  What was she thinking when my grandfather slipped a wedding band on her ring finger? 


I know she had a love for things that grew, and I can still picture her with dirt under her fingernails, having just repotted a philodendron.  Had she ever felt compelled to make a fist and strike someone in anger?  I couldn’t imagine that.  I recall watching when she would knead yeast dough for her cinnamon bunds, or roll the kifflin cookies in the powdered sugar.

My grandmother loved to work the daily crossword puzzle, and I can see her tapping her pencil in thought.  She would very carefully calculate the numbers on her purchase orders for the kitchen at the family’s summer camp.  My grandmother did a lot of needlework.  One piece hangs in my dining room, a constant reminder of her.  Nanny also painted.

I can just imagine her wringing out a cool wash cloth to lay across the fevered brow of any of her three children, eight grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.  I heard stories of how she would carefully tear off just the right amount of toilet paper for everyone during the depression.

Though she tried to appear tough, there was always evident a distinguished tenderness when she would wipe away a tear.  I remember the way she held my face in her hands on my wedding day, noting how soft her skin was against mine.

When my children were born, I typically counted their fingers and toes.  I watched their chubby little hands grasp a pencil or crayon that was just fat enough to enable them to handle it gracefully.  I’ve noticed, as they’ve gotten older, how they have lost their baby fat and have grown slender, right down to their fingers.  And I’ve wondered what magnificent things they will do with their hands, and will their grandchildren marvel at them?

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Posted by on February 7, 2017 in General, Phase 2


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