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Archive for November, 2008

What a Day

Today’s blog is more to let my “blog” family know that I have not abandoned blogging, I am going to share a letter—a bit revised—I first sent to my beloved youngest and only sister. There once were four of us. Without further ado, I give you …

Happy Midmorning Thanksgiving Day, Jean,
I think I’ve recovered sufficiently from what can best be described as, “one-hell-of-a-way-to-begin-any-day, Thanksgiving Day, Occasionally, only occasionally, I’ve gone from one room to another to find I’ve forgotten what it was I wanted. However, I can remember doing that when I was many years younger and I never allowed the incident to upset me. But this morning was a morning I never want to repeat.
My first thought every morning upon wakening is to get Scamp outback on his long leash, which I did. Then I went back into the bedroom for my glasses that I always, and I mean, always, take off and place on a shelf of a bedside table. They weren’t there. Went to the last place I had been before going to bed, the bathroom, and they weren’t there. Thinking I might have left then on the sink after putting my dentures to soak—I hate admitting that—went to the kitchen. Nothing. Went into the bathroom off my studio. I even went outside thinking that when Scamp let me know he was finished with his “before bedtime toilet duties”, that when I bent over to pick up the retractable leash “container” that I drop over a metal rod , they might have fallen on the grass and I was too sleepy to have noticed. Of course they were not there.
I then stripped the bed, raised both the foot and head of my adjustable bed thinking my glasses had fallen to the floor and somehow slipped under the bed after hitting the floor. I looked under the bed. Nothing. I tore apart the corner where my lounge chair sits in the living room, knocking over the floor lamp and breaking a bulb in the process, Nothing but a sore knee when I lost my balance and fell. I went back into the bedroom and, once again tore the bed apart and once again raised both the foot and head. I searched the house. I even looked into the frig and the microwave, thinking I must have gotten up at night and hid my glasses. I was having some odd dreams during the night. I searched every possible spot where I might have put them. No luck.
I could not help but ask myself, ‘Is this what is like to slide into Alzheimers? Finally, for the third time I returned to the bedroom and for the third time repeated the tortuous routine. Talk about panic attacks: I was well on my way to sheer terror. Jean, I could hardly believe it, but those glasses had fallen to the floor and had slid under the bed, but could be seen from but one viewpoint only. It wasn’t until I pushed aside a dresser that I keep at the foot of the bed and looked under the bed from that position that I could see my glasses. I never want to go through something like that again. If there is one thing for which I’m thankful today, it’s this: I guess my mind is still intact after all.
It must have been shortly after twelve, when a young man from across the park showed up at my door and invited me over for a Thanksgiving meal with the family. As much as it pleased me to be invited, I told him no, that I had other plans. I am a firm believer in that both Thanksgiving and Christmas is family time. I am a family to myself and trust that is the way I feel for the balance of my life. I then asked, ‘Did Marcie—wife—bake a pumpkin pie?’ He said she did and I said I’d love a slice of pumpkin pie, but was going out for dinner. Problem was, I decided not to go to China Gardens that I knew would be open, but tried Applebees because I am partial to their pecan chicken salad. They were closed. So, I stopped at a Cumberland Farms and purchased a package of old fashioned, all-the-fat-in-it, bologna! Though I prefer it, I rarely purchase it by gallantly choosing to purchase what is supposed to pass for bologna, the 98 percent fat-free turkey style. Upon looking back over the day, I could become a first class martyr if I chose to. I had a first rate example in whose footsteps I chose not to follow: my hateful, long dead mother-in-law.
My Thanksgiving Day dinner? Scamp and I shared a bologna sandwich on which I did not spare the Miracle Whip! It was delicious. Except, I would have preferred it to have been made using that super-soft, the-whiter-the-bread-the-sooner-you’re-dead, bread. Just could not bring myself to buy a loaf of white bread for just one sandwich. Not even for Thanksgiving. Christmas? Perhaps.
Not too long after I had feasted, Marcia came over with desert but it was not pumpkin pie. Arron—her husband—told the truth about her baking pumpkin pies, but they were for a school function. She did bring over some pecan pie, two pieces of spice cake and a small loaf of pumpkin bread. I really live in a nice neighborhood.
I declare it to have been one wonderfully nice Thanksgiving. Love, Mom Well, to you out there in blog land, what the heck, Love, Mary from Meander With Me, Mary

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Thanksgiving Every Day

THANKSGIVING
Mary A. Gallagher Kaufman

From too much love of living; from hope and fear set free,
we thank with brief thanksgiving whatever gods may be . . .
so wrote Swinburne, poet, he,
some of my favorite poetry.

I’d like to take those words he wrote
and add my own unto the quote.
I thank whatever gods abide
in this world or those outside
for the fact, though aged in years,
in spite of woes and many tears
my brain came through them quite intact:
discarded lore, accepted fact
and faced with this reality,
I, too, thank what gods there be
that I paused to seek, pursue,
quite another avenue:
a path that thoroughly freed my mind
I didn’t know was reason-blind.

I’ve many things I’m thankful for:
family, friends, my health and more
but most of all for being free
from doctrine and mythology.
If I were inclined to pray,
especially on Thanksgiving Day,
I’d thank whatever gods there be
for freedom from theology.

I truly thank the day when I
first began to question, why
I must believe,
I must conceive
that without God there would not be
anything—not even me!

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One Day At A Time

I suppose it has something to do with old age that finds me glancing over the obituary columns every morning … right after the news, the opinion pages, Dear Abby, Dr. Gott, Dr. Donahue, and the comics. I do so on the pretense I’m merely checking to see if or not I recognize someone I might know. What I’m really doing is checking their ages when death overtook them, and I know it. Helps me to be ever more aware that time is slipping from me and that I should make the best of it. One of the ways I am doing so, is by not trying to set the world on fire but to enjoy each and every day, and, keeping tabs of just how lucky an old woman I am. For one thing, I’ve escaped Alzheimers. This morning I read a sad account of a daughter and her plight. She is a wife, mother of small children and the sole caretaker of her mother, a victim of Alzheimers. One of my greatest fears is that I might end up depending on my children for care. Right now, I’m in little danger of that. In spite of two accidents I had during the early 1990s, and I’ll admit the first one was my fault, I can still rely on good reflexes when behind the wheel of a car. I proved that a few months ago when a driver pulled out of a side street and in my path. More than anything else I read this morning to cause me to ponder on what makes people think the way they do, was the story of an elderly veteran and his sad demise. Unable to care for him, he was shifted from a hospital to a hospice, or something like that. Seems the hospice wanted him to return to the hospital because they lacked some meds he needed. The hospital would not take him back because the veteran would not follow directions.What was his “crime”? He was overdosing on medication and he might kill himself! The poor guy was already dying, why keep him alive? What is back of such nonsensical thinking? What else? A religion that does not permit one to decide for him, or herself, the right to die when he/she decides it’s time to “call it quits”. Hence, the following poem.

 Choices: Faith or Reality?

Mary A. Gallagher Kaufman

There was a time, I will admit

I made a choice that led to woe.

For lack of facts, I joined a church

whose members lived the status quo:

no doubts, no questions, no relief

from simple, everyday belief

that the Bible is God’s Word

and holding all we need to know.

But doubts crept in and questions rose

to test my faith, to question why

I must believe—as Christians do—

in the When and in the What,

in the How and in the Who.

By challenging both church and creed,

I discovered, and gave heed,

that when I sought tranquillity

I bought also, credulity

that definitely was not for me.

I’ll clarify.

I wanted facts and not the myth.

I wanted truth and not the lie.

Unproven tales caused me to doubt

that I should love and glorify

a God that I can’t touch or see.

I’ve peace in knowing that when dead

and done with living, I need not dread

some baneful, dire eternity!

Knowledge keeps me glad that I’m

certain when I’m out of time,

out of take and out of giving

that life, for me, was worth the living.

Though reluctant I might be,

when time to leave, this much I know:

Death’s curtain falls on final show

and will not lift again for me.

 

I’ve searched the Bible, read it well.

Lost hope of heaven and fear of hell.

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Show me the housewife and mother who does like to brag about a Christmas treat that she is under the impression that she, and she alone serves her family, and I’ll show you a housewife just a wee bit lacking in what I think of helps to make Christmas just a wee bit merrier. So it was that a neighbor and I were boasting before Christmas, sometime during the 1950s, each insisting she had the recipe for the world’s best fruit cake. “Tell you what,” I suggested. “Come Christmas, I’ll bring over a sample of the cake I’ve already baked and we’ll compare it with yours.” She acquiesced.

     Come Christmas Day, I did what I said I’d do. I showed up her front door with a  small fruit cake in hand. My neighbor brought forth from her kitchen a slice of fruit cake for me, a spare plate, two forks and a knife for cutting the cake I brought. We dug in. Then we looked at each other with evident surprise. Except for the candied fruit I had added to my recipe, we couldn’t tell the difference. Her grandmother and mine had both handed down the identical recipes to their daughters! Here is the recipe for the fruit cake of all fruit cakes I love, but seldom bake anymore.

     Now, I’ve gone and made myself hungry for just such a treat on Christmas, and there is only one way to satisfy the craving. Halve the receipe and get busy. I can always make a New Year’s vow to go on another diet. 

I LB fresh ground, unspiced sausage

5 cups brown sugar

1 tbs. soda in …

1 pint strong hot coffee

1 tsp. each cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

6 cups flour

1 LB raisins. I use both the golden and regular.

1 LB currents

Glazed fruit, pineapple, cherries, citrus, as desired. Be creative. Shoot the works. This cake can take it.

     Add the baking soda to the hot coffee and pour over the sausage and brown sugar. Add spices—I include a teaspoon of Allspice—and stir thoroughly. Add flour. Because this produces a thick batter, I find a large wooden spoon best for mixing in the flour. Original recipe does not call for glazed fruit, but can be added to taste. Candied fruit was probably not available to most housewives back in the 1980s. Add as desired. The batter should be thick enough to be smoothed into the corners of a baking dish. Add a little more flour, if not. As a rule, I divide the batter into at least four cakes.

Bake at 325 degrees for four hours. I’ve never figured out the reason for it, but this cake, when first taken from the oven is too firm for cutting and without the aroma one would expect from a cake with spices in the mixture. It needs to “ripen” in an air-tight container for at least two, three, four or more weeks in advance of being eaten. During the last week or two of the ripening process, my mother wrapped each cake in a slightly wine-moistened cloth. Come Christmas, we feasted.

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Just Plumb Weary

How does one regain motivation in anything once inertia has taken root? Well, perhaps in my case, coming to a decision of any kind just might prove to be, for me, the answer. One of the first items on my late husbands agenda once we located in Port St. Lucie, Florida, was to enroll both of us in a creative writing course at a local annex of the Fort Pierce Community College. We started our first class in the Fall session, 1989. I’ve been a faithful member ever since …  that is up until just a month or so ago. This coming Thursday, I plan on returning but with a definite change. I believe the following email which I sent to a Diane Desroches who had her book, Sunflower, a tale of a young native American girl, published will explain my dilemma:   

Good  Morning Diane,
   My sincere congratulations and best wishes for your continued success. Thinking you might wish an extra copy or two, I saved the page containing the outline of your story and that really good photo of you. Just let me know if you want it. Also, will the group be back in the large library annex this coming Thursday?
    Diane, I have come to a decision: I have decided that unless I am specifically asked for an opinion of another’s work, which I will gladly give, I am through forever with any and all critiquing. I have grown weary of reading work brought in by those who appear, to me, to have been brought it in for but one purpose only—to read it and to be praised. Fortunately, that type of writer invariably gives up and seeks other “pastures.”
    I am weary of reading work that appears, to me, to be written for readers who have not graduated from cheap paperback novels which sell, as far as I can determine, for their eroticism. I am weary of reading work written by those who fail utterly when it comes to “getting into the mind of their characters.” I am weary of reading work written by those who appear, to me, to have been written by those who have read too many paperback detective stories. Not every detective is a “Sam Spade.”
    I am, and I know it, just too damn old and too damn weary of critiquing and yet, I know I need—every now and then—to be in the company of human beings who haven’t allowed their brains to go “soggy.”
    I am, as my mother would have said, between a rock and a hard place.  Mary

There you have it. I’ve been, in some small way, at war with myself these past two or three weeks and more. I’m going to make a serious effort to get “back on track.”

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