Monday, March 6, 2017

Kale Salad = The Jane’s Domain Squinchy Face

I’m working from home today, so I decided to eat a salad for lunch. Since the Salad Fairy is off on Mondays, it was up to me to prepare my greens.

Oh, who am I kidding? The Salad Fairy is a myth. There is no Salad Fairy, I’m afraid. Around here, I’m the only one who wields the salad spinner and chops the lettuce.

Anyway, I wasn’t in the mood to either wield or chop, so I went with Plan B, which was the already prepared Salad Kit in A Bag.

Only problem was, this particular kit (from Costco, by the way), is a kale salad.

Blechh.

I’m sorry – I know kale is supposed to be good for me, but whenever I eat it, I feel like I’m munching on the dead grass outside in our yard. Except I’m guessing that the dead grass outside in our yard is a little more tender has a touch more flavor.

Ordinarily I love salads. I cut up lots of veggies and use dark, leafy greens. My salads are pretty tasty -– just ask Vince. And they are legendary – just ask me!

But, noooo. I had to go with Plan B.

Now Costco ingeniously provides some sort of poppyseed dressing to go with the kale salad because they know that otherwise, ain’t nobody nowhere buying that bag o’ cud. Problem is, it’s a big bag of salad and there are only two packets of dressing. By the time you’ve thrown a couple handfuls of kale in a bowl and topped it with (okay, drenched it in) dressing, you’re out of dressing.

And today, I sent Vince to work with a bowl of cud, er, kale plus the other packet of poppyseed dressing to “enjoy” for lunch. 

So my dressing choices were either (a) a light balsamic vinaigrette or (b) a delicious Hartville Kitchen Sweet and Sour dressing with about a bajillion calories per teaspoon. 

And, yes, while the balsamic would have been a better choice as far as fat and calories go, I knew that the little bit of flavor it would provide would not be enough to mask the taste of the kale.

So here, too, I went with Plan B. (If you have not tried Hartville Kitchen Sweet and Sour dressing, you should. It’s decadent, albeit hard to find as it’s made near my hometown of Alliance - in a tiny town called Hartville. Hence the name on the jar.)

Usually I try to be judicious when using this Hartville dressing as it’s thick and pretty flavorful, so you don’t need much. But remember, we’re talkin’ kale here. So I did the drenching thing.

But it didn’t help!

Once I started eating the salad, I wondered where all the dressing went. Kale apparently has magical absorption properties as the salad was still dry and bitter.

Weird.

So after about an hour of eating – and making my squinchy face (which is now leaving permanent lines so I should stop making it), I finally admitted defeat and I put down my fork.

As you can see from the photo here, I didn’t make much headway.

Fortunately, kale salad is also very filling and I’m no longer hungry enough to seek out something tastier. This is a good thing.

Because I think there is a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints in the pantry.

I better not investigate.

And tomorrow? Well, if I have a hankering for a salad, I’m going to have to wield and chop. Either that or hire a Salad Fairy. 


(Oh, and PS, you should totally click on the Squinchy Face" link above - it was a blog I wrote in 2011. It was funny. Guess I was funnier in 2011.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What Happens in Vegas Stays in…Aw, Who Am I Kidding?!

Vince and I recently returned from a quickie trip to Las Vegas. 

I get a constant barrage of flight “deals,” but I never seem to be able to work out the logistics. The "special" $55 flight ends up costing $355 by the time I get the dates and times entered. 

This time, however, it did work out and we got an amazingly cheap price on direct flights to Vegas, so I snapped ‘em up and we headed west.

While both of us have been to Vegas before, we’d never been there together and we were looking forward to spending a few days away without thinking about work or dog walking or family obligations. We brought a few bucks for gambling, although Vince isn’t much of a gambler and I don’t do anything but play on the penny slot machines.

Before leaving, I also purchased tickets for a couple shows – the Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil. I’d never seen either before and couldn’t wait for a little Las Vegas entertainment.

Because our flights were so reasonable, and I booked our hotel at the same time, I got a price break on that as well. So we stayed at the Bellagio. You know, the one with the dancing fountains?

See the building to the left? We were over there...
When we checked in, the clerk tried to bump us. For a mere $30 a day extra, we could stay in a room that overlooked the fountains. Vince, being the cheap, er…more frug…er…more “economically-minded” spouse between the two of us said no. He then amended his answer to say, “Well, whatever she wants.” But, somewhat to his surprise, I also said no. I was not interested in spending all of our slot machine gambling money on a view in a room we weren’t planning to spend a lot of time in.

The clerk, thinking he was doing us a favor, said he’d give us the room anyway without the bump in price.

Little did we know, it was a room overlooking a parking lot. Big whoop. Although off to our left we could see the fountains. We were in one of the side buildings. I didn’t even know there were side buildings at the Bellagio. And, yeah, it goes without saying that the Bellagio hotel is H-U-G-E! 

So, while we did enjoy watching the dancing fountains (and listening to the music play concurrently on the television in our room), I will also say it’s a good thing we weren’t paying an extra 30 bucks a night for the room. Because our main view was of the parking lot. Guess Vince isn’t the only cheap…er…frug…er, “economically-minded” partner!

In hindsight, I sort of wish we had stayed in a smaller hotel. Although “small” hotels in Vegas aren’t that easy to find. 

We packed walking shoes since we knew we’d do a lot of walking, but we neglected to factor in the half mile walk just to get from our room to the hotel lobby. One day, according to our handy dandy smart watches, we learned we’d walked over seven miles. And that wasn’t even the day we walked the Strip. 

That’s a whole lotta walkin’, my friends.

One afternoon, we dragged ourselves back to the hotel intending to go quickly to our room to drop off some purchases, change for dinner and then head back out. We rode the elevator to the 11th floor and walked around the corner to head to our room. Except the numbers were incorrect. Yes, we were on the 11th floor of the Bellagio Hotel – but in the wrong building! We had to go back down the elevator, walk across the casino to the lobby, past that and the myriad of shops and down another hall to our correct building.

Yeesh.

By the time we finally reached our room, I was so tired, I needed a nap. And a foot rub.  Neither was in the offering, however, and we had to head back down to the lobby to catch our Uber to make our dinner reservations. If we hadn’t already purchased tickets to the show later, I would’ve bagged the whole thing and stayed in our room and ordered incredibly overpriced room service.

On our last full day in Vegas, we walked along the Strip doing some sightseeing and a little shopping. We made the requisite stop at the M&M store with its four floors filled with all manner of things M&M. On the way back toward the Bellagio, we passed scantily clad girls in provocative outfits hoping to part tourists with their money for a “fun” picture to bring back home. We declined many an offer for things I didn’t even want to know about, although Vince somehow ended up with a pocket full of cards with even more scantily clad girls on them.

And in between picking up the obligatory Las Vegas T-shirt for Vince and grabbing a sandwich before the 7pm show for the Blue Man Group, we got tattoos.

What?

Okay, so not really. But we DID get temporary henna tattoos.

Even the mere consideration of entering a tattoo parlor is something so outlandish that nobody who knows either Vince or me would believe it. I’ve never been a big fan of tattoos and Vince has been quite vocal in his opposition to them.

But his son, the Marine, recently got a big tattoo on his chest and Vince wasn’t too happy about it. Not that he could do anything about it. I mean, it was decidedly not a temporary henna tattoo. And anyone old enough to defend our country is old enough to decide what he wants inked on his body.

But as we were passing the tattoo parlor, we decided it would be sooo funny if Vince got a temporary tattoo and sent a photo of it to his son. Wouldn’t that just be hilarious, we thought.

And we hadn’t even been drinking, so we couldn’t use total inebriation as our defense.

Nevertheless, in we walked to the first tattoo parlor I’ve ever entered. We talked with the heavily pierced, tatted, multi-hued haired girl behind the desk.

I thought it would be funny if Vince got the Chinese symbol for “Regret” as his temporary tattoo. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be obvious that it was tongue-in-cheek and it would lose something in the translation.

And then, as we were looking at the choices on the wall, somehow or other, I got roped into getting one also. How did that happen?

Eventually, we decided to get the other’s name on the inside of our arms. Since Vince calls me “My Janie” and I call him “My Vince” that’s what we decided on. After all, we knew these would last only about three weeks and there would be no need to regret the decision.

On the other hand, once the tattoo artist was done, we did have a couple regrets. One was that even though we were supposed to let the henna dry for only about a half hour (and we allowed an hour to be safe) both our tattoos smeared.  Makes it hard to convince anyone that a tattoo with smeary ink is real.

The second regret is that it was $25 a pop for each of those tattoos. You know how many slot machines I could’ve hit with 50 bucks?!

But anyway.

We’ve only been back about two weeks and there is no trace of henna on the inside of my arm, and I’m okay with that. Every time I caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye, I thought my arm was dirty and needed to be washed.

So I’m guessing I won’t be walking into a tattoo parlor for a real tattoo anytime soon.  But, in the end, we had fun and had a Vegas story to tell afterwards.


So that was just a little bit about our trip to Las Vegas. My review of the shows we saw – and the scads of money I won (ha!) – will have to wait for another blog.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I'm Jane's Domain. And I Belong to a Book Club.

About a year ago I joined the neighborhood book club. It seemed to be a good fit – I like to read and I’m not shy about sharing my opinion about any book I’ve read.

My only hesitation about joining the group was I didn’t want to feel like I had to take notes in order to participate fully in a discussion about the plot and characters of any book. It has been a while since my last college literature course and my study habits are a little rusty. Okay, a LOT rusty.

But I’m glad I joined because we’ve read some pretty interesting and varied books. I tend to stick to one genre and follow a select group of authors. And I realize that life is made up of more than the typical James Patterson “whodunit”!

And, even though there are two former teachers in our group, I’ve never felt like anyone was taking a mental red pen to my words or grading me on my participation.

So this month’s book was Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run.  A little different than the other books we’ve read, but something I was eager to read. After all, I was a big fan of The Boss in my younger years and I thought it would be interesting to learn more about him.

Because my mom broke her hip on New Year’s Day and has been in the hospital and in rehab, my schedule has been off and I had difficulty reading the book in a timely manner.

So with the Tuesday book club meeting quickly looming, I did what I used to do in that long-ago college literature course. I crammed and pulled an all-nighter.

Well, sorta. “All-nighters” to me these days mean waking up at one in the morning and reading ‘til about three.

Close enough.

Once I got up in the morning, I read feverishly until I finished the last page, which was about an hour before the meeting started. This was fortunate as it left me enough time to shower and make myself presentable before showing myself in public. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing everyone there was grateful that I’d showered. Ha!

But I found the book surprisingly readable. Maybe it was a little slow getting into it at first because Springsteen wrote a LOT about his very early years and then a LOT about his first bands and about his bandmates.  And I’m not necessarily talking about the E Street Band guys, either.

Reading the book – and consequently re-watching his videos and listening to his music again – reminded me of an earlier time in my life. It made me remember the people with whom I listened to Thunder Road and Tenth Avenue Freezeout in Animal House during my Ohio State years.

And it made me remember the time some coworkers and friends and I won a contest on one of the local radio stations at the time (anyone in Columbus remember 92X?!) We walked away with six tickets to the Springsteen concert in Pittsburgh. My memory is a little faulty these days and I can’t remember if this was back in ’84 or ’85, but it was at the height of the Born in the U.S.A. era and we were so excited to take our road trip and attend the concert.

I even took the time to paw through some old photos and unearthed the picture of three of us on our way to the concert. Fun memories!

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band did not disappoint back then. His concert was more than three hours long and we were thoroughly entertained and sang along to every word. Well, except for certain songs. Like who knows what he’s singing on the song, Blinded By the Light

(And, okay, so I looked it up: “Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.” Ah. THAT’S what he’s singing!)

So I got a little nostalgic and my life got tangled up with his life – and so I had myself a little walk down memory lane while learning more about The Boss. (Although I read somewhere that he doesn’t like that nickname…)

Springsteen may be 67 years old today, but from all signs, he’s still going strong and his concerts are still more than three hours long. That takes a lot of dedication and perseverance.

And after reading his autobiography, I understand. 

If you were ever a fan, I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping I get a chance to read next month’s book selection in a more timely manner. I don’t think I can pull another “all-nighter.” I still haven’t recovered from the last one.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Mom's Turn

Added 1-15-17. Mom in rehab facility - doing great!
So as I sit here in yet another hospital waiting room waiting for mom to come out of surgery for the broken hip she somehow sustained yesterday, it occurs to me that I’ve been in far too many hospital waiting rooms through the years.

From my dad’s many hospitalizations – heart bypass and pacemaker surgeries, problems caused by the blood thinners he was on that landed him in the hospital numerous times and even the time I drove to Alliance to find him gray and barely able to draw breath due to the pneumonia  that was choking him, he was always the one in the hospital bed – not mom.

And even though this hospital is different than the one where dad passed away only six short months ago, it feels all too familiar.

Now that dad is gone, it’s apparently mom’s turn. And it’s so odd to see her tiny form in a hospital bed wearing the requisite hospital gown that snaps up the back and exposes her thin, white shoulders.

The difference is that with all of Dad’s hospitalizations, I was still the kid – the daughter who came to keep mom company as she sat in hospital waiting rooms for dad to come out of surgery. I didn’t have to bring the insurance forms or provide any information to the nursing staff who were there to help make dad better. Mom was always the strong one who conferred with the doctors about the best course of treatment for dad.

I don’t even remember my mother ever being in the hospital, although she surely was when she had her children and when she had to have an emergency D&C after losing her last baby over 50 years ago.

But all that doesn’t matter, because she’s in the hospital now and it’s my turn to be the “person” for mom – the one who has to bring the insurance forms and provide information to the nursing staff who want to ease mom’s pain and make her better.

It’s an odd role reversal that I’m still not comfortable with, but I do it without question because I love my mother and I hate to see her hurting.

Since last night when Vince and I went to the Emergency Room where she had been transported after an X-ray showed the fracture in her hip to today when I held her hand to comfort her while we waited for her to be wheeled into surgery, mom has continually apologized for “causing so much trouble” and “putting us through this.” I’ve soothed her, I’ve told her she doesn’t need to apologize, and that it’s not a big deal, but she sticks with that theme and it upsets her to be the one needing help. Sometimes I can make her smile by agreeing with her that she’s being a pain in the patootie – and I feel a small sense of victory by getting that small reaction.

I tell her that she has always been there for us, but she dismisses that notion as if she were merely doing her job.

I don’t talk about it because mom won’t remember any of  it, but I remember all those times when mom was there for me. When I fell off the monkey bars and cracked open my head and had to have stitches – to the time in college when I had to have my wisdom teeth extracted and was put under anesthesia. When I woke up sobbing (because I had pretended like it was no big deal, but inside I was terrified of having surgery), it was mom by my side who held my hand and comforted me.

Dad was there most of those times when I was a kid and needed medical help to get better – but  mom was there always.

And, while I know it’s going to be a difficult road ahead because hip replacement surgery on anyone is difficult enough, let alone on someone who has dementia and is 92-years-old – we are going to be by her side, comforting her and holding her hand.

But if you want to say a quick prayer for all of us – or send positive vibes our way – we would be most appreciative.

Hospital waiting rooms are not my favorite place to be.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

That Darn Grinch

I’ve been working on conjuring up some “Christmas spirit” this year, but it hasn’t been easy.

It’s not like I’m intentionally practicing my mean ol’ Mister Grinch impersonation or anything. Mostly because, well, let’s face it, green is not my color. And I’ve done the whole decorating and shopping and card-sending and baking thing in an effort to dispel any comparison to the Grinch, but sometimes it all feels a little hollow.

Cindy Lou Who, I’m not.

It’s hard to feel festive when we’re missing family members this year.  This will be the first Christmas without my dad and it’s amazing how big a hole that man left in my life. I miss him so much.

And, even though she’s not sure how long ago she lost him, my mom misses him even more. He was such a reassuring, loving and caring presence in her life – and without him, my mom is even more mired in her confusion. 

Vince and I brought mom over here the other afternoon for our Christmas celebration and, even though on the surface we had a wonderful time together – underneath it all, my mom was agitated and muddled. She wasn’t sure what was expected of her or what was to happen next. And, after dinner, when I told her we were getting ready to take her back home, she couldn’t remember where “home” was.

When we arrived back in her apartment at the memory care unit, she wasn’t sure what was expected of her and what was to happen next even then. Was she supposed to stay there? Was I staying there with her? When was I coming back?

Someone recently made a comment that resonated with Vince – and with me, too. She said, “Watching someone with dementia is like {experiencing} thousands of little deaths.”

And it’s true. One minute we have a positive experience or interaction, and the next minute, mom isn’t sure whose house she’s in or what day it is. So every day we try to learn how to make life easier for mom as she struggles with this ugly disease. We love the woman she is now and help her as best we can, but we mourn the woman we have loved and lost.

It has also been a sad year with other close losses as well. One of my dearest friends lost her husband only two short months ago. My mother-in-law lost her brother. And my brother-in-law lost his father. I know people who are dealing with life-threatening illnesses and others who are watching their elderly parents decline - and there is nothing they can do to make things better.

And just last week, my brother John lost his wife, Oneida. She had been in ill health for quite some time, but we assumed she would get better and continue on as they had been. But her heart stopped and she never regained consciousness – and she passed away in hospice on Thursday. So John is reeling with yet another major loss this year – and we don’t know what to do to help him.

So I’m just so darn sad right now. And tired of being sad.

I think I’m waiting for Cindy Lou Who and the people of Whoville to clasp my hands and sway around the gaily decorated tree and sing, “Welcome Christmas” so my heart can grow three sizes again.

For years, one of my favorite things to do to get in the holiday spirit (usually as I was facing the challenge of bringing all those heavy boxes of decorations down from the attic), was to listen to B.E. Taylor’s Christmas albums.

B.E. Taylor was from the Pittsburgh area and when I lived in Steubenville in the late 90s, I went to his concerts every Christmas season with my friends. He had such an amazing presence and spirit – and he put his own spin on many Christmas hymns and classics. 

We always left those concerts in a joyful and festive mood – and it has been my “go-to” album of choice at the beginning of every Christmas season ever since.

Except for this Christmas. Even playing B.E. Taylor’s music made me sad this year. Why? 

Because I really AM the Grinch?

No…it’s because B.E. Taylor himself passed away in August of this year. Another sad and – to me – an unexpected loss.

I think it’s just about time for the little black cloud that seems to be hovering overhead this year to mosey on along.

Ah well. Loss is just as much a part of life as is love and light and laughter.

And I’ll have to practice that whole “fake it 'til you make it” thing until I can truly find my smile again.

Fortunately, getting together with family and friends helps – and we’ve have several gatherings recently that lifted my spirits.

The place where mom lives sent me a card the other day. In it, they enclosed a photo of mom with Santa. That picture made me laugh out loud in delight.

And tonight I’m meeting another friend for happy hour, so I have something fun on the agenda.

So I’ll continue to function every day as if I have nothing more taxing than a hangnail to contend with. In that way, we’ll muddle along this Christmas season and trust that things will get better.  

Fake it – right?

Since I am pretty sure this will be the last blog I write before the 25th, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a joyful holiday and a Happy New Year. If you have a house filled with family and friends to celebrate with count yourself extraordinarily blessed.

But I’ve also learned that even if there is only one other person you love – but you get to spend time with that person – then you should also consider yourself extraordinarily blessed. I know I have that – and that alone is enough to make my little ol’ heart grow three sizes.

See you in 2017!


PS. Sorry if used too many Grinch references! 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It’s About the Dementia – not about the Cranberry Relish

I’m sad today. I was supposed to have lunch with my mom at Parkside Village where they were having an early Thanksgiving buffet with turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing. Probably even cranberry relish. Not that I’m a big fan of cranberry relish – but it’s an “official” Thanksgiving meal if there is cranberry relish.

But I don’t have turkey. Or mashed potatoes. Or stuffing. Or especially cranberry relish.

Why? Because when I arrive to get mom for lunch, she doesn’t want to go.

My first clue that the day isn’t going to go as planned happens before I even reach the nurse’s station. I am met by an aide who tells me how glad she is to see me.

Uh oh.

Well, it’s not that people aren’t just stinkin’ delighted to see me all the time, but that particular aide has never said that to me before.

So that is my first inkling that there is trouble afoot. She then tells me that mom refuses to get out of bed, refuses to take a shower, refuses to eat breakfast, and refuses to get dressed.

That’s a lot of refusing from a 92-year-old and, frankly, it sounds rather like a temper tantrum a 2-year-old might have let alone someone 90 years her senior.

So then and there I realize we are probably not going to see any turkey or cranberry relish today.

I mean, it’s one thing if you pop over to a friend’s house to pick her up for lunch and she has inadvertently overslept. Unless she’s your most diva-ish friend who requires 2.3 hours of hair and makeup prep time, she could probably grab a quick shower and be ready to head out the door in a few minutes.

But a 92-year-old with dementia? “Quick” is a word that will not be uttered at any time. Ever.

Cursing myself for not having prepared a back-up lunch plan like slapping together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and throwing it in my bag before leaving home, I sigh as the aide and I head down the hall to mom’s apartment.

There, we find her sitting in her rocking chair all bundled up in her flannel nightgown and blue puffy robe that has seen better days. Heck, it has seen better decades, truth be told. But mom refuses to part with it.

The aide, finding mom at least upright and out of bed, heaves a sigh of relief and leaves the room.

So I sit down in the chair across from mom and ask her if she is interested in having lunch with me as I’d made reservations and everything. But she says no.

So, sighing a little myself, I hand her the daily newspaper to read while I start “fussing.”  This is Jane-speak for gathering up old newspapers, collecting dirty coffee cups, making her bed, setting clothes out for her to (hopefully) change into, and generally making myself busy because I know I have a couple hours ahead of me of sitting in a sweltering room trying to stave off hot flashes. Which is almost impossible to do when the thermostat in there is set on “sauna.”

After about a half hour of mom constantly asking what day and time it is, I gently tease her about how late it is and coax her into getting dressed for the day. It is now a little after twelve-thirty in the afternoon.

But the sad part is, I realize that mom no longer knows how to get herself dressed and ready for the day. She looks at the clothes on her bed and then looks at me and asks me what she should do. So I tell her I’ll help her.

But seeing her like that breaks my heart a little bit more.

What happened to that strong, intelligent woman I’d known my whole life? The one who raised four children and who almost single-handedly kept my dad’s defective heart beating in his chest almost 50 years after it had wanted to give out on him in his early 40s. The one who could stretch a dollar until it cried “uncle” and the one who could tell if one of her kids was fibbing just by the inflection in their voice when she asked them a question. And this was, mind you, when she wasn’t even in the same room as the fibber.

I then thought about mom in her later years – the woman who loved meeting new people and who couldn’t wait to pack a suitcase to go on their next adventure. Whether it was to some exotic location or an Elderhostel at a university to learn something new – or simply to head to one of their grown children’s homes for a visit – she was the first to suggest a road trip because she couldn’t stand sitting still for too long.

And now I couldn’t get her to walk down the hall with me simply to have some lunch.

After I help mom get dressed and I hang her ratty blue robe in the closet, we sit down again – mom in her rocking chair and me in the upright purple chair across from her. I look at this once proud and dignified woman who now can’t even get herself dressed and I try to keep the sadness from my face.  She looks up at me and raises her hands in supplication and says, “Now what?”

I smile at her gently – and this time we both sigh.

After a while, I start gathering my things and I tell mom I have to leave to run some errands. I hug and kiss her goodbye and tell her I love her.

She asks me when I am coming back and I tell her I’ll be back tomorrow. At 2 o’clock.

She can no longer tell that I’m fibbing.

Because, you see, I don’t know if I’ll be back tomorrow at 2 o’clock, but it appeases mom to have me say it. She won’t know the difference if I show up at 1 o’clock or at 3 o’clock. Or if I don’t show up at all until the following day.

But I blow her a kiss as I head out the door. And, because she can hold on to this thought for another fleeting moment, she quickly says, “I’ll see you tomorrow at 2 o’clock, dear.”

And when I shut the door, it’s all I can do not to start crying as I walk down that long hallway to the nurse’s station and then out to my car.


And, oh, how I wish the tears were because I didn’t get any cranberry relish today.