Hair has been a distraction to me for my entire life. My do usually didn’t. In grade school I sat next to Carol Dumphey who could receive the brunt of a tornado and come out with every single hair exactly where it should be. On the other hand, I could sit in a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall’s back porch and my hair would still sproing like a too tightly wound guitar string.
Over the years, in order to reduce my frustration, I have developed a wash and go style which includes getting a haircut only when-I-can-no-longer-stand-the-length. No scheduled appointments every two weeks for me. To me, this makes for a dramatic change in my appearance between when I walk into the beauty parlor in contrast to how I look like when I walk out. I don’t get trims; I get inches cut.
Evidently this isn’t obvious to Husband of more than twenty-seven years.
He has two reactions to my tonsorial changes. I’m not sure which I prefer.
The first is to say absolutely nothing. I’m convinced it is actually because he has gotten so absorbed in something (a video game, a TV show, a fire call, etc.) that his brain has been wiped clean of my whereabouts.
The second routine has developed over the years as a result of my vocal frustrations that he hadn’t noticed what, to me, couldn’t be missed.
I would return from the beauty parlor, take no more than two steps past the front door and hear Husband, in a very deliberate but robotically stilted voice say, “Gee, mom. Your hair. Sure looks. Nice.”
At least he was trying – very trying.
Recently, I did something for only the second time in twenty years. I got my nails done. The winter was unbelievably tough on my nails. I needed professional help. I made an appointment with a nail salon.
While there, I made a daring decision. “Do you have green?” She did.
My nails complimented my wardrobe and cane. I left the salon with a confident strut. That strut lead me through our front door to hear Husband’s the dulcet vocal tones, “Gee, mom. Your hair. Sure looks. Nice.”
I laughed resoundedly as I turned to face him, “That’s all well and good except that I had my nails done.”
I didn’t let his conservatism deflate my feelings. After all, he’s lived with me for so many years his Christmas present to me several years ago was my green cane.
He had developed a way to acknowledge by beauty shop visits, he could find a way to deal with green nails.
It’s not like it’s a really disgusting color. Like pink.

Billy Joel has long been one of my favorite pop singers. Part of our courtship included sitting with my not-yet-husband in the nose-bleed section at one of Joel’s concerts in the late 1980s. Where I sat didn’t matter. Joel put on a great show.

Over the years, I’ve read very little about him in the press. I knew he and Christie divorced. I knew of a series of car accidents. Coincidentally, a few weeks before I started this book, I saw the PBS program where he was honored by the Library of Congress with The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

Billy Joel by Fred Schruers and published by Crown Archetype gives a lot more of the famous songwriter’s story. (I received a free copy of the book for this review from Blogging for Books.)

Schruers portrait includes many familiar settings: absent father, raised by single mother with little money, poor school performance, naive trust in others all of which often result in bitterness and resentment.

Joel’s feelings pour out in the music and is able to stay on civil terms with most who have wronged him. He is wise enough, though, to walk away from those who don’t work for a common good – whether it be a show or a marriage.

The early pages present a few branches of the Joel family tree accounting for his grandparents emigrating from an unsettled Europe because of Hitler’s actions.

The bulk of the book explains the music business and the seminal moments of individual songs (The Stranger, Piano Man, Uptown Girl).

The story of any individual song emphasizes that most of what Joel writes is autobiographical, something that won’t come as a surprise to ardent fans.

What may surprise readers of this book is how much Billy Joel is a common man, looking for love and fulfillment, like his fans. Just with a tad more capital at his fingers.

A few days before Christmas, Husband, planning for a trip to the grocery asked, “How about lasagna for Christmas Eve?”

“Sounds good. Are you going to cook it?”

“Well, kind of.”

I knew immediately that meant he would be perusing the frozen food aisle of the store. I thought I could do better, so I said, “I’ll make it.”

I have a lasagna recipe that I found in a Good Housekeeping magazine in the 1970s. It was a “Susan learns to cook recipe” that I had never had any complaints about, but neither do I receive accolades the last time I served it to Husband and Son.

“It’s okay.”

Not what I want to hear after spending hours preparing a meal.

I knew immediately where to find a new recipe.

I had seen someone on a morning show make her recipe to raves from the rest of her cast members. I’d try that.

I sat down with my computer and googled, “Joy Behar’s lasagna recipe.” Of course, the result was hundreds of sites offering the recipe.

I started with the first, clicked on the link and started to read. The ingredient list appeared short; it didn’t even include lasagna noodles. I scrolled down to the comment section where the first one mentioned the abbreviated list.

Back to Google, I chose the second link. I read the list of ingredients which was longer than the previous one I had read. I did, however, come across something even I, the self-acknowledged recipe follower rather than cook, questioned. About half way down the list I found this: 1 oz. crushed italian tomato.

One ounce crushed italian tomato?

I felt sure it was supposed to be 1 ounce of capitalized Italian tomato paste or capitalized Italian tomato sauce or anything other than the teeniest bit of capitalized Italian tomato.

Back to Google and a third recipe.

This time, the ingredients list seemed complete and understandable.

I made a grocery list derived from the recipe and went to the store for the ingredients.

A couple of hours before supper, I started to prepare the sauce. Soon I called Son to help with preparing the lasagna noodles and chopping onions, parsley, and basil.

I then asked him to prepare the cheese and egg mixture.

I had what I thought I needed for the sauce at arm’s length so I could quickly add ingredients as the directions called for.

All went well until the directions” Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, basil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper.”

I added the crushed tomatoes. I added the tomato sauce. I had Son help me with the tomato past since the easiest way to get the most from the can is to open both ends and push the paste through and then removing the lid from the top of the paste glob. Next oregano.


I asked Son if he could find oregano in the list of ingredients.


I didn’t have the fresh that the recipe called for. After a quick examination of the cupboard, I found dried oregano. I dumped (yes, dumped) a bit in the almost sauce trying to compensate for the age of the herb.

Can no one get this recipe right?

I let the guys layer the ingredients. As they were ready to put the dish in the oven, another light bulb went on over my head.  I said, “We forgot about garlic bread.”

Fortunately, the grocery was open for about 40 more minutes, so Son and I took off in search of garlic bread.

Of course, while we were in the store, we thought of a couple of other things we’d forgotten. We split up to get what we needed and allow the Kroger employees to get out on time.

I rounded a corner by the pharmacy seeing the pharmacist in the aisles. Having seen me earlier in the day with a very large bottle of cream sherry, she questioned if I’d run out already. (I wasn’t making that recipe until Friday.)

She shared that there wasn’t a drop of egg nog in the entire store. “It’s our family tradition.”

I suggested that she might make her own.

“How do you do that?”

“Well, when you get home, sit down at your computer, bring up Google, and type “e-g-g n-o-g.”

I’m willing to acknowledge, now, that I evidently suffered a disconnect from Google recipe experience.

The finished lasagna was a hit. Son had at least 3 helpings. Husband gave me better than, “eh, it’s okay.” I was content.

Stouffer’s might have been easier. Stouffer’s might not have tasted as good. But Stouffer’s wouldn’t have given me the family time nor this great story to accompany it.

Now, how much oregano do I need to add…?

No matter how easily my fingers fly around the keyboard, this blog won’t be easy to write. Better put, it won’t be easy to share. It’s personal. It’s very personal and has been for a lot of years.

Strangely, it’s easier to explain that I “suffer” from depression. I put the word in quotes because I now have more up days than down ones. I was willing to be the poster-person for depression. I know, as many do, that it is an illness. I couldn’t help it.

Okay. Deep breath.

I got an early Christmas present today when I read this headline in the New York Times: 

F.D.A. Lifting Ban on Gay Blood Donors

Why would I see this as a gift for me? Because I’ve been affected by that decision to ban made decades ago.

My father was often a blood donor. His donation was often prompted by a phone call that his type of blood was needed. My dad modeled. I followed his example for many years. Until I was asked one question which put to death my life giving gifting.

The question? “Have you ever had sex with someone who had anal intercourse with another man?”

My answer was yes. Someone I knew intimately had been raped as a youth. That was enough to disqualify me.

The first time that I was denied the opportunity to give blood, I tried to argue…

“I’ve been married and monogamous for years.”

It didn’t matter.

“I don’t have HIV or AIDS. Neither does he.”

It didn’t matter.

I remember the days when AIDS first hit the headlines. It included the time my husband and I started dating. I was anxious and said so to one friend. She counseled me that with him, I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. I remember coming back with “HE’s not the one I’m worried about. It’s who else he’s been with.” My friend was silent to my comeback.

To discover had a problem more than a decade later was astounding.

I guess, as shown by the ebola crisis this year, we are quick to fear and slow to investigate.

Will that ever change?

The article states the changes are coming in 2015.

It will be interesting to see how quickly I’ll be able to donate again.

Merry Christmas

A couple of weeks ago I was eating lunch at my favorite local diner. I always use that opportunity to read while I eat alone.
I decided to try to “drum up business” for the next book discussion at the library. I had set up something special and wanted lots of people to attend.

The waitress had not read “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” and the book discussion group was going to be Skyping with that author.

I also mentioned that I was finishing the book from the month before which I was very emotionally involved with “The Light Between Oceans” so…

After my meal, I went to the library, checked out both books and brought them back to Laura, the waitress.

She read and loved the first book, but did not make it to the discussion. She then moved on to the second book.

Knowing the due date was approaching, I asked her about it last week. She was savoring it – delaying finishing it because she didn’t want it to end.

Today, I had a hankering for a cup of coffee, so I stopped in for a coffee to go. She greeted me, face aglow, telling me how much she enjoyed both of those books and then she told other customers how I had picked two fantastic books for her. “I’m ready for another Would you pick another one for me?”

She commented that she liked not knowing what she was getting in to. I took this opportunity to tell her about the postal book group I’m in that puts me in that exact position.

I was partially tickled, she was animated and excited as a child on Christmas morning, and dismayed. What had I started?

Now, what to pick next?

I trudged through Koch’s previous book, “The Dinner”, since I had immense trouble with the actions which were the basis for the dinner.
After reading this book, I really wonder about the writer’s mind. A mind that can write so brilliantly such a despicable tale.

Dr. Marc Schlosser is a general practitioner whose contempt for his patients oozes from the page, so much so I had trouble being pulled into the story. I detested Schlosser. Why would I want to read almost 400 pages about this sleeze?

The answer is that one of his patients dies and the reader is slowly manipulated into hanging on to find out exactly what the doctor did and then why he did it. It quickly becomes clear that the doctor was seeking retribution, but for what?

Not everything in the books or about the doctor is repulsive. The love and affection he has with his family, especially his daughters. He would do anything to protect them.

Still, Schlosser does tend to think of himself and his needs and desires first even if no one else in the family goes along with his decisions.

The book may have started slowly, but the last half of the book I read in marathon fashion. Hang in until the end and see the just or unjust desserts.

In 1969, for most occasions, I gave up eating potato chips. That simple effort accompanied by an increase in bicycle riding resulted in my loosing about 25 pounds. I was amazed at my results.

This does not mean that I do not eat potato chips ever, but I’m in enough control that I won’t devour the entire bag – even Lay’s.

Even though the weather hadn’t become autumnal, critters have been seeking asylum within our walls. During the month of September, thanks to live traps, we have relocated seven mice from our kitchen to the river. We patted them down prior to the trip to make sure they weren’t packing any breadcrumbs to drop, a la Hansel and Gretl, to find the way back to us.

Son had a stare down with one more the other night. Son at the counter, mouse in the cupboard. I made plans to get all packaged good into glass or plastic.

Last week, I had a hankering for chips. I grabbed the bag from the top of the refrigerator and took the bag to the living room. I was sure from the number of times the bag had been folded that I was probably only going to have chip crumbs. I was right. I was very surprised to discover that these remnants were not crisp. They were stale.

I held the chip bag up to my chin to catch crumbs, but was soon surprised to have crumbs on my shirt. On the other end of the bag. “How the…?”

That was when I found a hole in the bag. I quickly lost my appetite for chips. I was pretty sure how the hole got in the bag. (When I told husband, he commented about having had stale chips a few nights before.)

Tonight, I heard a very loud rustling of paper in the dining room. I was home alone, so I tried to ignore the sound. I concentrated on answering the questions on Jeopardy. The rustling was hard to ignore, but I stayed in the living room. There were too many places in the dining room overflowing with paperwork to check out and from the living room I couldn’t pinpoint the location of the noise.

It didn’t take long after Son got home from school and settle behind his computer in the dining room for him to question, “Was that you?”

I had done such a great job that I hadn’t really registered that I had heard the rustling until he asked the question. I said, “No, that came from the dining room.”

I asked if he could tell where it came from.

“Near the waste basket, I think.”

The waste basket was on the floor next to the table where we accumulated our paper recycling.

A few more rustles tempted Son away from the computer to investigate the continuing distraction.

He turned on the overhead dining room light. Shortly he was laughing uproariously and inviting me into the dining room to see what he had found.

“Where?” I asked tentatively.

“In the waste basket.”

Before I got close enough to look in to the container I could see the top of a tossed potato chip bag. It was wide open.

I looked into the trash receptacle around the chip bag, but saw nothing. I looked into the snack bag without bending over. What I did see looked like mouse leavings, but not mouse.

Son came over, picked up the chip bag and rearranged to I could see the blind corner. Our rustler was in that corner. It tried to jump up and out, but it couldn’t jump high enough to escape the slick sides of the potato chip bag.

So this mouse has proven my theory that eating potato chips is hazardous to ones health.

Meanwhile, there’s another trip to the river in our future.


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