Shannon Ingram's Place

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Location: So CA

Musings of a woman who left her corporate career to become a caregiver for elderly parents, wrote a book and found her way back to corporate - with love, instead of fear, leading the way.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Girls in the Heat

It was 95 in San Juan Capistrano today and three girlfriends and I met to dine outdoors at a wonderful restaurant called Ramos House Cafe, right next to the train tracks. This luncheon had been planned for a couple of weeks and we weren't about to let the heat stop us. Of course that's because we have been in denial about what extreme temperatures do to a menopausal body. Kathy J and I were "human saunas" by the time we left, pulling our shirts away from our skin so we didn't look as if we'd been on a fast treadmill for an hour. Dru and Barby seemed quite cool and collected. Maybe that's because they're blondes.

We had a lovely time in spite of the heat, laughing and talking incessantly throughout the Southern-style gourmet meal. My favorite dish was the bloody mary served in a jelly jar with a cute little crab claw and pickled beans sticking out of it. Every quarter hour or so a train would roar into the station and give us a start - kind of a "back to reality check" causing our conversation to move to a different subject.

I enjoyed every minute, even the sweaty ones. We had such fun talking about kids, husbands, grandkids, parents, sex, drugs, parties, friends, dreadful bosses, stresses and jewelry, that I forgot all about my mini-doomsday problems of the past few days (like a crippled water heater, medical bills, Mom's bleeding legs, yada-yada-yada). It was pure heaven to sit and laugh, sympathize, share and care with a bunch of girlfriends in the heat on a summer day in Southern California.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Emma Sue

My friend, Christy, daughter of my very good friend, Linda H, gave birth to a gorgeous new baby girl earlier this week. Christy and husband Rob named her "Emma Sue" and I have to say it's the cutest name I've heard in a long time. Just last Sunday, Gary and I were discussing the way names change from generation to generation - especially girls' names. Some names seem to survive for generations, like Emily, Jane, Ann, Sarah, Rachel, Emma, Elizabeth, Mary and Hannah. Maybe the Bible and timeless literature have something to do with it. Some names don't last - there aren't many Myrtle's, Mildred's, Evelyn's, Gertrude's, Doris's or Virginia's around today under the age of 80. Many of my contemporaries' names are no longer on the top 10 list - Karen, Kathy, Debbie, Laurie, Dru, Terry, Candy. Of course I don't know many Tiffany's, Ashley's, Caitlin's, Lindsay's, Megan's, Serena's or Britney's over age 40, either. And there aren't many Apple's or Coco's around, period. I've always loved the name Susan and all it's variations - Suzanne, Sue, Susie - and I have known many women my age or older with the name. I have a wonderful Aunt Sue. Maybe the name Susan will come back, as Violet has, thanks to the Affleck's. My childhood best friend, Patty, had a granny named Violet.

Back to baby Emma Sue. As I said, she's beautiful. I know this because the day after she was born, her mommy (or could have been her daddy) uploaded something like 100 photos of her first 24 hours on the planet onto Shutterfly and sent it to friends. I felt as if I'd been in the delivery room with them! How cool is that? I guess if you're going in to have a baby these days, you need to put on makeup and be prepared for your close-up when it appears on You-Tube. Emma Sue didn't need anything - she was utterly perfect as she wailed through clean-up and then slept soundly and adorably for the first time out of the womb. I can't wait to meet her in person.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What I'm Reading

I am so excited! I don't get many comments on this blog - although I'd love it if you would respond (click on comments at the end of the post - where it usually says "O comments"), but several of you read the blog and send me email messages (preferred email is info@orrenstewartpress.com). And tonight, for the first time, someone sent me an email to ask what I was reading and watching on TV these days. I feel as if I'm in People Magazine!

I recently finished Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which validated my decision to avoid ashrams this lifetime, and to travel to Italy often. Obviously the "Eat" part resonated with me. After that, I read The Lovely Bones while on vacation in Oregon. I'd had the book for several years, and it was time to read it. GREAT book--brilliant storyline. Now I'm into Running Scared, the book about Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas mogul, loaned to me by my pal, Terry. It's not a flattering portrait, but I still love Wynn's hotels and casinos.

Because I enjoy following pop culture, no matter how out-of-control it's been lately, I read People, and enjoy Real Simple , Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler. Newspapers are still in my veins, so I read all of the local ones.

As for TV, I don't have much time to watch. I have it on as "white noise" on some days while working - mostly the morning news shows, "Regis & Kelly" and the Food Network. I "brake" for Oprah and Ellen - stop work if I can and watch whenever their shows are new and I'm at home. I love reality TV, especially "Top Chef" and "Dancing with the Stars." If I'm lucky, I get to watch the occasional "Ugly Betty," "House," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." I join Gary for Monday Night Football, golf tournaments and Denver Bronco Football on Sundays, plus his beloved "Myth Busters" and car shows (not my faves, but hey, he watches "Ugly Betty" with me).

Our latest homespun fun is to watch TV on the front porch. One recent evening when it was ridiculously hot indoors, we decided to sit on the porch because there was a breeze, but Gary still wanted to watch TV. He had the brainstorm to put the guest room TV in the front window so we could turn our comfy glider chairs around and view TV from the cool outdoors. We've brought redneck trailer life to our neighborhood and had several comments about it from neighbors lately. It doesn't get any better than fresh air, wine and TV on the front porch these late summer evenings...

Veterinary Forensics

Remember the pet-sitting nightmare I related in a previous blog entry? Well, it happened again last night. Wily Coyote has obviously staked out our front yard as his personal dining area. When we bought our home, we fell in love with the front yard - it's the largest one on the block and we'd never change it. That being said, we'd like to discriminate against coyote dining on our grass, especially when the coyote is consuming neighborhood cats and leaving entrails. I had to clean up the mess from his most recent meal, which I discovered when I took the trash cans out this morning. YUCKO.

I was proud of myself for cleaning it up instead of calling Gary to come home and do it. Animal Control told me there really wasn't anything they could do except send me some flyers to distribute to neighbors about the dangers of coyotes roaming the streets these days. I'll keep my eye out for posters about missing cats - this one was obviously gray. Needless to say, I didn't eat breakfast. I'm on the coyote diet. Guess that's something positive!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Get Organized for Eldercare

One day you drop in on Mom and Dad at noon and discover they are both in their bathrobes and the house is a mess. "Hey, why so lazy?" you ask. They tell you they didn't feel like getting dressed because they have nowhere to go today and they will clean the place later.

A couple of days later, you call your parents to say you're coming over and they tell you to wait an hour. When you finally arrive, you notice dishes in the sink, crumbs and coffee stains on the kitchen counter and dining room table. Mom's hair is dirty and her blouse is stained. Dad's shoes are untied and his sweater is soiled. Newspapers are piled on the patio and the place smells terrible because the kitty litter box hasn't been cleaned in days. Checking their bedroom, you notice several different sizes and colors of Dad's pills have spilled on his nightstand and onto the floor by the bed. You tell him about it and ask, "Did you take your pills today?" He replies, "Of course I did," and Mom adds, "No you didn't, but the cat ate one." When you take a plastic bag of cat droppings to the trash can in the garage, you notice a broken headlight and a big dent on the front fender of Mom's car. You ask her what happened, and she says, "I thought the car in front of me had turned already."

Welcome to the beginning of caregiving for elderly parents. If you and your family have talked with your folks about what's going to happen as they age and you've made a plan together, then consider yourself lucky. If not, it's time to have that conversation, learn exactly what they want and what you and the rest of your family can accept and support. If they want something that's not affordable or is impossible for you to handle, then you must discuss alternatives. It's not easy, but with planning it's bearable.

Without planning, you could end up doing what my sister, Meg, and I had to do with Mom and Jack, who refused to discuss any changes in their living conditions even after they had suffered strokes and falls. After one of Mom's late-night falls, Jack finally agreed that it was time to move to someplace where they would be safe, but Mom said "absolutely not." Jack and I dragged Mom to visit three of the six places I had researched and selected for them to view, but she refused to comment about any of them. In the end, it was Jack, Meg and I who decided where they would move. Mom chose to ignore us.

On moving day, both of my parents stayed in bed. My pre-teen niece, Hannah, sat with them. They let the professional movers, plus my brother-in-law, Ted, Meg, Gary and I work around them. When it was time to load their mattress and box springs, they were crushed and inconsolable. We just kept telling them we loved them and everything would be all right. Hannah held their hands and walked them to the car for the trip to their new home.

By late-afternoon, the new apartment was set up and the whole family went with them to their new dining room for dinner. It was Valentine's Day and there was a big party happening. Ladies and gentlemen were dressed up and a band played love songs from the 30's and 40's. Mom perked up a bit. She sang songs and accepted a rose from the dining room manager. On the way upstairs, she said, "Maybe this won't be so bad."

After a few months, they decided they truly liked the place. Today, Jack is on the resident board and enjoys his twice-weekly exercise class. Mom likes Friday happy hours and afternoons in the garden talking with friends. They get their med's every day from the staff and have a caregiver to help at the apartment, as well as the comfort of staff assistance at night if they need it.

I share this story because I want everyone who is approaching the role-reversal that is caregiving for aging parents to know it's easier to plan ahead. Research caregiving agencies if your parents want to stay in their home (and can afford to do so). Interview them now instead of when you need them after a stroke or fall and have to settle for less than the best. Read articles on the AARP web site about caring for the elderly. Read my book (of course), and get a copy of A Caregiver's Journey - Finding Your Way and its companion workbook by Karen Twichell (available on amazon.com). It will help you get organized and avoid the drama and serious stress that comes with the sudden realization that Mom and Dad or Grandpa or Aunt Doris are slipping physically, mentally and/or emotionally. Don't hang out in denial thinking they'll be ok where they are until they die. That's not usually how it happens, in my experience.

The worst part of eldercare is simply admitting to yourself that they need help. Once you get beyond that biting reality, there are great resources available to you. Get started learning about eldercare now!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Order Books Online

Happy Sunday. You can now (once again) order copies of The Heart Way-A Journey from Corporate to Care from this website, as well as from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. If you know anyone who is caring for aging parents or even having difficulty deciding if they want to stay put in a stale career, this is the book for them! Thanks so much for your support.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bless the Beasts & the Children


One of the best ways to offset the distress of caring for elderly parents is to spend some time caring for children or pets! I know that sounds crazy because if you've spent several days with octogenarian Mom and Dad this week the way I have, it's hard to imagine that caring for 2-1/2 year-old Keegan, or a goofy pet such as our "grand-dog," Oreo, for an hour or two is going to be an antidote. Yet it's Keegan who makes me laugh while he demonstrates how he is learning to pull up his shorts by himself. It's Keegan who warms my heart when he climbs into Papa's lap with his blanky and waves at me. It's Oreo who shocks me into laughter when she busts out of our backyard gate only to run around to the front door and bark like crazy to get inside.

I think God put little children and pets in our lives to remind us that life is to be enjoyed, not feared. If you're sad, scared or depressed, import a child or a dog or kitten for a couple of hours and you will most certainly feel better. It's cheaper than drugs or a shrink, and it is indeed that simple.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jack's Gastro Diagnosis

Jack has been having some gastro-intestinal problems the past few weeks, which were making him very nervous. I took him to his gastro doc this afternoon. His appointment was at 3 PM, which was convenient for me because Mom's blood test was at 2:30 and their doctor's offices are close to each other. We arrived on time and Mom chose to sit in the car and listen to the news on the radio. I helped Jack find a seat in the waiting area, but unfortunately, the receptionist informed me that she didn't have Jack's name on the schedule. After some private conversations behind the desk with other women in bright-colored medical uniforms, she said they would fit Jack in, but we'd have to wait over an hour. Jack decided that would be OK, so I trekked out to the car and told Mom she might want to come inside. She agreed.

After 90 minutes, Jack and I made it to an exam room. The doc came in and told Jack he could take an Immodium every day, along with his other med's. I said, "What about his diet?" And the doc said, "OK, what about it?" "Can he eat Mexican food?" I asked, because Jack wanted Gary and me to take him and Mom to Mi Casa for their anniversary dinner tonight. "Not a good idea," said the doc. He turned to leave the room and Jack said, "What about prunes?" The doc's neck practically snapped as he turned around. "You're kidding, right?" "Welllllll, no, I have three or six prunes every morning for breakfast because they're supposed to be good for old farts like me." I was stunned. The doc sat back down and put his hand on Jack's knee, looked him in the eye and said, "Jack, prunes are a serious laxative. If I ate three prunes every morning, I'd have diahhrea, and I've never had an ulcerated colon. The prunes are the problem. Don't eat prunes and don't take Immodium for now. Let's wait a week or so and see if your problem subsides when you stop the prunes." And then he shot me a look that must have translated as "DUH" and we both chuckled as he left the room. Jack exited into the waiting area and told anyone who would listen, including Mom, that his diagnosis was apparently all about prunes. He was happy to admit he had cheated death again. We celebrated with cheeseburgers instead of refried beans.

From Corporate to COPE

It's important to think happy thoughts, feel grateful for all the good things in life and have a positive attitude. I have made positive thinking and having a strong sense of humor a daily practice along with meditation and prayer. Yet there are still days when I wake up wanting to fall back asleep into dreams and not face what's confronting me if I get out of bed. Caring for elderly parents can be rewarding, but also depressing. It's hard to see your parents decline in health and wealth, complain about almost everything happening in their lives and lean on you for physical, mental and emotional support. If you're working, it's even harder. Maintaining a good and focused attitude at work is challenging when you get frequent calls from Mom or Dad about bathroom accidents, falls or "the TV remote doesn't work."

I took care of my parents full-time for two years. I wrote about the experience in my book, The Heart Way. They entered assisted living two years ago and now have a caregiver ("Saint" Norma) who is with them six days a week for eight hours a day, plus regular daily assistance from their community. The medical staff administers their medications. Norma cleans the apartment every day, helps them with bathing and grooming, walks the dog and does limited shopping for toiletries, household supplies and snacks. I'm still handling most of their routine finances (with help from my sister), driving them to doctor's appointments and physical therapy (sometimes three appointments a week), shopping with them and taking them to meet old friends for social occasions. I also make a point of joining them for lunch at their dining room at least once or twice a week. Although I don't take care of them full-time, I'm still a busy part-time caregiver, and it's way more difficult now that I am also a full-time freelance writer, speaker and copywriter. Gary and I have to pay our mortgage and expenses and found that we needed the double income after all.

I'm writing about this today because I don't want any of my readers to think life is just a bowl of cherries (or even cheese goop) when you leave the corporate world to pursue a passion. It's painfully hard sometimes not to have a regular paycheck and the perks of a "real job." My coping skills are getting better, but I admit to days when I think I can't bear another second of "senior whining." I have trouble accepting the high monetary cost of keeping two elderly adults in assisted living - up to $20,000 per month.

Jacqueline Marcell, author of Elder Rage and an expert in eldercare, once told me that she nearly had to declare bankruptcy because of the costs associated with caring for her parents for five years. Ultimately, neither Jackie nor I would do things differently because our parents have meant so much to us. Nevertheless, it's not easy going "from corporate to cope" so if you are faced with a similar eldercare scenario, be sure to surround yourself with people who care for you, too. My friends - including Gary, Cory and his family and my sister and her family - are the strongest fibers in the fabric of my life these days. They bring me through the rough spots with emails and phone calls, laughter, hugs, sympathy and love. For that, I am profoundly grateful.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Doctor Sighed

Mom's doctor is one of the best I've ever encountered. He's young, brilliant, funny, and has a great way with words. I'll just call him Dr. Mike because I don't do last names in this blog. He let Mom explain why she wanted the motorized wheelchair and then very politely and sincerely told her that he considered himself a bit lazy when it comes to moving around and if he had an electric wheelchair he wouldn't want to walk any more. He asked if she might feel the same way and Mom, with her sweetest smile, said, "No." Then he shared with her what could happen to her if she stopped walking - stuff like weakness, atrophy and just about everything I've told her the past few times we talked about it. I said nothing, mostly because when I blurted something out early in the dialog, Dr. Mike told me to bite my tongue. I let out a big sigh and then promised to let go of the mouthpiece and let Mom talk.

After the doc's great dissertation on the reasons why Mom shouldn't have a motorized chair, he asked, "OK, Marianne, now that you know all of this do you still want the chair?" Mom said, "YES!" It was Dr. Mike's turn to sigh - big time. He turned to me and said, "If you're writing about this, will you please point out the doctor's big sigh?"

On the way to the car, Mom was in a jovial mood. When she was seatbelted and we were underway back to "the Palace," I asked, "Well, now you have your wish granted and the wheelchair's on its way. What do you plan to do next?" And without skipping a beat, Mom said, "I'm going to Disneyland." Gotta love her sense of humor!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Electric Wheelchair Traffic School

Mom and I will be visiting her doctor today to discuss Mom's desire to have an electric wheelchair. I wrote about that a couple of weeks ago. While I was away on vacation, the doctor called Mom and said he had changed his mind about granting her wish. He said he wanted to meet with her and me and discuss the hidden dangers of electric wheelchairs before he makes a decision about whether or not she can have one courtesy of Medicare.

When I returned from Oregon, Mom told me that her "little friend" who owned the shiny red model Mom coveted, had passed away "two days ago" and that perhaps we could just buy her motorized chair from the family. Who needs an ambulance chaser when you have an electric wheelchair chaser in your midst? When I suggested that it might not look too good if Mom was trying to get the wheelchair before the woman's funeral, she backed off. I told Mom that she and I will go to the doc's "traffic school" and if he decides it's ok, then she gets one. If not, she keeps walking.

Six Degrees of Chiloquin


Here's another story from our recent adventure in Oregon. After a long day of fishing at the Lake of the Woods, we stopped at Melita's Cafe in Chiloquin for dinner. Melita's is out in the middle of nowhere-land on Highway 97, but we had heard good things about it from Pam who owns the Ranch House on the Williamson River where we were spending the week. And the good news was that Melita's also had a big "LOUNGE" sign, so we knew we could order a cocktail to celebrate Barry's and my winning "biggest fish" and "first fish" respectively.

Melita's Cafe is pure country, with bright lighting, wood-paneling on the walls, lots of knick knacks and a big glass case displaying their prize-winning pies. The adjacent lounge is dark and the drinks are ice cold. We sat in the bright room so as not to befuddle the bartender, Ruthie, who gasped when six of us entered the lounge and asked if we could eat dinner there. "I guess if you insist," she said. She suggested we take a look inside the restaurant, and after Terry went to check it out we decided it was best to move. Ruthie didn't have to serve dinner that way, but she did bring us some great cocktails.

While waiting to order dinner, I noticed a man sitting across the room with his back to us. He was wearing the same T-shirt as Gary, which wouldn't be so unusual if it was a mass-market item like those "Old Guys Rule" shirts. This gentleman, sitting with several other people, was wearing the Reyn Spooner Newport Beach Centennial T-shirt. I pointed him out to Gary, Terry, Barry, Bob and Laurie. It seemed odd to find two guys with the same Newport Beach T-shirt in Chiloquin, Oregon. Gary immediately got up and went over to greet the guy.

Thankfully I knew what Gary wanted for dinner, because when he goes to introduce himself to someone, he's always gone a long time in my experience. This was no different. I ordered his chicken fried steak while he was over there laughing, patting the fellow on the back and comparing notes about where they got their shirts. I heard the man say he was from Newport Beach and then Gary pointed all of us out to them and we waved. Finally Gary returned to tell us the man's name was Allen and he was with his friends, Chuck and Charlene, and all of them came up from Balboa because they had property in the area. Before they left, they stopped by our table and we had a nice chat. I took a picture of Gary and Allen in their t-shirts and if I can ever get my camera fixed so the photos can be downloaded, I'll add it to this post.

We told Pam and her husband about this funny chance meeting at Melita's and now she is going to contact them to introduce herself. I'm sure that won't take as long as Gary's intro, but they'll undoubtedly have lots to talk about relative to Chiloquin. Apparently Chiloquin is way better known than I thought it was!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Margaritaville

"If I make strong enough margaritas and serve dinner late enough, anything will taste good." That's a tip from my friend, Marianne, who is having "foodies" for dinner this weekend. I make great margaritas, so I'll be sure to serve them if I ever decide to make the infamous cheese goop again.

Many years ago when I lived on a 46' sailboat in the Virgin Islands, Jimmy Buffet was a neighbor at the Yacht Haven Marina in St. Thomas. He had a sailboat too. This was probably right after his Margaritaville joined the ranks of all-time favorite, best-selling summertime party anthems. I worked for the Virgin Islands Charteryacht League and my office was on the dock - a little "closet" with a desk, typewriter and phone. I liked the commute - a one-minute walk from our boat.

Jimmy was often on deck, and although he kept to himself, he was friendly and would always wave at passersby, like me. I made a point of passing his boat several times a day and humming Margaritaville, but he never invited me aboard. Little did I know then that I would become an ardent parrothead just a few years later. When we drove a rented convertible from Miami to Key West a few years back with niece Lindsey and her friend, Sydney, in the backseat, I insisted on blasting Jimmy's greatest hits incessantly to the point where Gary said he'd rather hitchhike. These days, Gary is the one listening to classic Buffet in his truck, his fave being "Wish I had a Pencil-Thin Mustache" (or any mustache that didn't make Gary look 10 years older).

Jimmy's from the South. Maybe he might like some cheese goop in paradise...Now there's a thought.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thanksgiving

Mom has been obsessing about Thanksgiving since New Year's Day. She wants to know where we'll be celebrating this year. When we tell her we'll be at the Ranch as always, she insists that it's too much trouble for my sister and her family. She also wants to know who will be invited.

The first few times Mom brought up Thanksgiving 2007, we chalked it up to her dementia and simply told her we'd be at the Ranch and we don't know who will be joining us. When she asked about it for the twentieth time before Memorial Day, I asked her why she was so focused on Thanksgiving. I wanted to understand what was fueling her concern. She said she didn't want my sister to work so hard cooking for everyone. I took a deep breath and told her that Meg and I enjoy cooking for Thanksgiving, no matter how many people attend. And of course Mom said, "I didn't know you did any of the cooking, Shannon." In light of my recent posts, please don't get me started on this subject.

I shared Mom's comments with Meg and we laughed together. A few days after Memorial Day, I asked Mom to stop bringing up the subject of Thanksgiving until later in the year. Sure enough, on the 4th of July at our home, Mom blurted, "Can we talk about Thanksgiving now?" As everyone winked and giggled, I held onto my hotdog bun and said, "No, we can't talk about it now because Meg and I don't know what we're doing." Mom shrugged and said, "We could all have dinner at our place."

When I heard Mom say "at our place," I knew she wanted us to come to "Geezer Palace" to celebrate with them at their home. I felt torn because my sister and her family and my whole family enjoy the tradition of Thanksgiving at the Ranch. It occurred to me that my parents want to "stay home" and not have to drive a long distance to be with the rest of us. It might be time to have a dialog about what to do when the patriarch can't travel to be with the younger members of the family.

The subject of Thanksgiving came up again today when our family was together for a summer outing. Mom asked, "What's happening with Thanksgiving?" and everyone laughed, tongues in cheeks (including me). We laughed without concern or commitment. Upon reflection, I think it's probably time to explore answers to that nagging question about which generation gets to choose the celebration. In our case the question is, do our parents feel they can no longer make the four-hour trek to and from the Ranch in one day to give thanks as we have always done? The answer may reveal the truth of Mom's Thanksgiving obsession. We have a couple of months to ponder this question and figure out how to proceed. Mom and Jack will no doubt help to keep us on topic until a family decision is made.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jack and Marianne Dine Out with Friends


Got another call from "the home," as my parents call their assisted living community. I call it Geezer Palace because it's such a genuinely splendid place for a bunch of crabby old folks to reside. And thankfully there are several very nice people too - Helen, Milt, Charlene, Hank, Lee and Betty, to name a few. The staff is awesome - friendly, funny and extremely caring, which one doesn't always find at these patience-taxing geriatric resorts. The residents need some assistance in their daily living routine, but haven't reached the need for skilled nursing.

This time a staffer called to let me know that Mom and Jack went out to dinner with another couple the other night. This is a couple that still drives, and they were kind enough to invite Mom and Jack to join them for Mexican food. I don't know who ratted on my parents, but somehow the news got to the staff that they shouldn't be leaving the property without a caregiver or a family member to help them get around. Apparently they were a handful for the other couple.

When I asked Mom about this, she told me that she had already received a scolding from the medical services staff and didn't want to hear another one from me. She preferred to discuss the so-so Mexican food and magaritas that couldn't come close in quality to her favorite restaurant, Mi Casa, in Costa Mesa. Then she told me that she had a huge, painful bump on the back of her head from "falling backwards into the car" that night. Oh, and she forgot her cane and had to hang onto the gentleman who drove them, who was also trying to hold onto his girlfriend and my dad. I had to giggle, because then Mom said, "I'm not letting these people tell me where I can and can't go, but I'll be damned if I ever take a ride in a dinky little Lexus again." Sounds like she has come up with a dignified way to accept not leaving the property without me or Norma (our saintly caregiver) or another family member. Bravo.

And because I'm drunk with power (as opposed to a margarita) now that I've discovered how to put photos on this blog, I'll include a picture of Jack and Marianne during a recent visit to the one and only Mi Casa with Gary and me. Hasta la vista.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Cats


Several people have emailed to request a photo of the cats. No one has ever asked for pictures of my parents, husband, dog, house or dinner - so I guess this is a good thing. IF I can figure out how to upload the photo, it will will be here. If not, this is just another useless but well-meaning post...

Joys of Pet-sitting

Our neighbors, Nicole, Christine and Ray, took care of our cats, Poudre and Molly, while we were in Oregon earlier this month. Nicole and Ray came over for a brief "orientation" about caring for the cats. Poudre, the big old famous cat featured in my book, came out to greet them, but Molly doesn't like guests, so she hid somewhere out of sight. I demonstrated how to clean the litter box, etc., and gave Nicole a sheet of paper with all the details, including our cell phone numbers.

About 10 minutes after we returned home from vacation, Christine and Nicole knocked on the front door and came in to share with us a pet-sitting horror story. A couple of days after we left, Christine accompanied Nicole to our house to feed the cats and clean the box. Poudre was there to meet them, as always. Molly was not. As they were leaving to go home, Christine noticed "something strange" on the front lawn near our lighthouse fountain. She told Nicole to stay on the porch and ventured over to the fountain to discover a cat's head and front leg and paw on the grass, along with some gross-looking entrails...

About this time in the story, I'm ready to lose my Burger King Whopper Junior on the living room sofa. I'm feeling very grateful that I've already seen both of my kitties, so I know the victim wasn't one of them. The story continues...

Christine says she whipped around and asked Nicole, "Honey, have you ever seen Molly?" Nicole said no. They both went back in the house and searched everywhere for the elusive little kitty, but couldn't find her. Christine didn't let Nicole look at the cat remains as they left to return home, and then she quickly called Animal Control to come and clean up our yard. She felt worse and worse about the situation and almost called us in Oregon to ask what Molly looked like in hopes of figuring out if our cat had met her demise. She told us she didn't think Molly could have slipped by them when they had the back door open to clean the litter box, but she wasn't "totally certain," which caused great anxiety. She didn't make the call to us because she wanted to talk to Ray first.

Ray came home to "trauma central," listened to the nightmarish story and said he'd go over to our house and search high and low to find Molly. Thankfully, he found her under our bed, no doubt noticing all the other embarrassing items we keep there, which will remain unidentified. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but still mourned the loss of what must have been a fine dinner for a local coyote. I managed to overcome my urge to hurl, and gave young Nicole a big tip for handling the situation so well. Actually, I think I told her to buy something nice for her mommy.

I hope Nicole and Christine won't give up on pet-sitting, but if they do, shy Molly and I will understand.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Recipe from Louise

Louise, a good friend and fellow board member at the Center for Spiritual Living/Orange County, read my last post and sent this great response:

After reading some of your blog, I knew you could use this recipe to wow them!!!
This recipe includes the use of popcorn as a stuffing - imagine that! When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect for people like me, who just are not sure how to tell when poultry is thoroughly cooked, but not dried out. Give this a try.

BAKED STUFFED CHICKEN
6-7 lb. baking chicken
1 cup melted butter
1 cup stuffing (Pepperidge Farm is good.)
1 cup uncooked popcorn (ORVILLE REDENBACHERS LOW FAT)
Salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush chicken well with melted butter, salt,and pepper. Fill cavity with stuffing and popcorn. Place in baking pan with the neck end toward the back of the oven. Listen for the popping sounds.

When the chicken's ass blows the oven door open and the chicken flies across the room, it is done.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Get over it



Gary has two favorite sayings: "Release it to the Universe" and "Get over it" (which happens to match his initials, GOI). I mentioned the first one in my book, as I've always found it helpful and motivating. I'm not as fond of the second one because he's usually telling me to get over something I'd rather dwell on and/or blow out of proportion, which is innate in my personality. While on our fishing trip to Oregon, I wanted to help with the cooking, because I like to cook. I haven't done much "gourmet" or what I now call "Top Chef" cooking the past few years because Gary likes simple fare. My ego was all over cooking with my friends at the lodge. I envisioned thrilling them with my competency in the kitchen, probably because I seldom invite anyone besides family members for meals at our home. So one afternoon when the other two couples were out fishing, I made a cheese appetizer that I'd recently taken to a "celebration of life" party following a memorial service. The appetizer is very "Southern comfort food" and I got the recipe out of Paula Deen's first cookbook. The folks at the memorial service had raved about it. Unfortunately, I had forgotten a key ingredient when I bought groceries in Klamath Falls and didn't want to make a 50-minute drive into town for that one item, so I winged it. It was one of those instances where you make something that you like, but then nobody wants to eat it, except you. And then the other two couples descended on the kitchen and got busy preparing a totally amazing, luscious fish dinner with grilled veggies and - hey - channeling Bobby Flay and the Silver Palate girls! I was asked to dip the fish in cornmeal, which I did, all the while thinking about my wretched big glob of cheddar cheese goop in the refrigerator. Gary came in to help cook the fish, but thankfully, one of the girls suggested the fish was getting too done. Gary likes it that way. I backed out of the kitchen and helped set the table instead of interfering with the Top Chefs. We had a fantastic meal - probably the best fish I've ever tasted. A couple of nights later, when we were packing to leave the next morning, I snuck into the kitchen and dumped my cheese crap down the drain. Afterwards, I told Gary that I just couldn't measure up to these chefs - and he told me to "get over it." Before I made the choice to stop dwelling on my appetizer fiasco, I had an "aha moment." I realized that for the time being, I must simply accept myself as a cheddar cheese woman in a goat cheese world. Then I released it to the universe and thanked "my friend," Paula Deen, whose recent memoir is titled, It Ain't All About the Cookin'. Amen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Gary's Golf Game

Gary says he doesn't play golf - he plays "OH S#^!" That's mostly because he's always so busy with work in the construction biz that he doesn't get out to hit golf balls or play a round, except maybe once or twice a year. This year, his great golf outing was this past Monday. He realized one of his golf dreams - playing a course at Pebble Beach. Our good friend, Brian, who lives in the Pebble Beach community, treated Gary to a round of golf at the Del Monte Course - probably one of the best birthday gifts ever. When they finished, Brian greeted his wife, Marianne (who happens to be the reigning California Senior Women's Amateur Golf Champion for the past several years) and me with "Guess what? Gary shot a 90!!" I looked at him in appropriate disbelief as Gary was coming around a corner into view, whereupon Brian added, "On the front 9!!" Gary said it was more like "the first hole." I have to hand it to Brian, a fantastic golfer in his own right, because he was kind enough to play with Gary, as well as the other two players in their foursome, Gordon and Mary. Gary had a great time and is already looking forward to next year's game - maybe at Augusta National.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

River Adventures in Oregon


We just returned from "The Great Road Trip of 2007" to Oregon for a week of fly-fishing with my high-school pals, Terry and Laurie, and their husbands, Bob and Barry, and then to Pebble Beach to visit our friends, Marianne and Brian. While in Oregon, we had Gary, Terry and Barry, all of whom would answer when one of their names was called. Unfortunately, the fish didn't want to answer to any of us. Barry caught one big rainbow trout and some smaller fish. Gary caught one medium-sized rainbow trout and the rest of us caught little guys that we tossed back into the lake or river. At least we had one great fish dinner. We stayed at what is basically a "fishing lodge" called The Ranch House on the Williamson River. It's near the town of Chiloquin and has one of the most beautiful and serene views I've ever encountered. One day, when the two other couples were fishing on boats way downstream from the house, Gary and I watched 56 snow geese swim down the river past our porch. We were in awe. That tells you how old we are now, because we would never have sat still watching geese swim until arthritis set in! We would have been hiking, mountain-biking, river-rafting, swimming or at least fishing non-stop. Not this trip. It was great to chill on the porch with a lemonade or iced tea and enjoy the wildlife show. I did join Bob for a canoe ride down the river one evening. Barry and Laurie went in another canoe. Gary and Terry stayed home, which made communication between the canoes much easier. For days before I left on vacation, my dad warned me about the dangers of stepping in holes in the river while fishing. Who needs fishing? I managed to step in a mud-hole clear up to the top of my thigh while canoeing. We stopped to pull the canoe out of the water for a short walk to avoid the rocks and rapids coming back upstream. I stepped out of the canoe onto some wet grass, but my red-orange Croc sandal just kept on going down, down, down. Eventually I just sat in the mud, and when I finally got my leg out, I looked like I'd had a major accident without a diaper! Thankfully, none of us had thought to bring a camera. Bob was kind enough to reach way down and pull out my muddy shoe while I went out into the icy cold river to wash off. When we arrived back at the house, Gary took one look at me and laughed out loud. "That's my woman," he said, alluding to my stellar reputation as world-class klutz. I got back at him a few days later in Pebble Beach when he played golf with our friend, Brian. That story, and others from this weeklong adventure, will be in a future post.