Dog Envy

My sister, a retired kindergarten teacher, recently started a dog walking business. The featured pooch is one of her clients. I imagine it is a very rewarding job. Dogs are always happy to see you, especially if they think they are going out for a W-A-L-K. I envy my sister some days strolling in the open air while I am schlepping to work in the dark.

My neighborhood is perfect for dog walking with its park-like setting, and ample sidewalks. Every day there is a new little puff-ball cuter than the last. Dog owners look so peaceful just following along behind their masters.

Fluffy tails, floppy ears, fuzzy-wuzzy puppy dogs in all shapes and sizes; morning, noon, or night I see them trotting through my neighborhood, walking their owners. Big, small, squatty, tall–I feel the tug on my heartstrings, and I want them all!

Sadly, having a dog is not going to happen in my near future. My life is too hectic and household space is too limited. Half of the time, we cannot even find the cat.

“Where’s Licorice?!?!? Has anyone seen her today?”

“Did you check the closet?”

“How about the dryer?”

Cats like to hide. It is one of their favorite games. Licorice is jet black, so if she has tucked herself under the bed, or if she is lurking in some dark corner, you cannot see her until she opens her eyes. Usually after I spend twenty minutes frantically searching for her, and calling her name, she silently appears, right behind me. It is a little creepy.


But she gets me. I wonder if a dog would. She sits on my computer when she wants attention, or grabs my leg when she wants affection. She love bites me when she is tired of being petted, meows when I forget to feed her, and stares at me when her cat box needs changing. Cats are excellent at keeping distracted humans in line.  

Is it true that you are either a cat or a dog person? Can you be both? I think that I have always been a cat person with dog envy. Perhaps I lack the level of commitment required to be a dog a person. All of the dog people who I know treat their dogs like their children.

Dogs seem to be so much more demanding of time and energy than cats do. Cats are amazingly self-sufficient. And then there is dog breath and drool. And there is dog hair that seems to be everywhere.

Cats are very neat. They clean themselves, no bathing required.The short haired variety do not even require brushing. You can leave a bowl of food out for a cat, and she will only eat what she needs.

Adopting a dog is something I will have to work up to doing. I like to think that when I retire I will become a dog owner. But then, I will want to travel more. Will a dog hold me back? Dog people always find a way to take man’s best friend along. They take dog friendly vacations. You see, there is no commitment here!

For now, I am content to covet the dogs of others with my eyes, and to be thankful for my very independent, and somewhat faithful feline. I am simply suffering from a temporary affliction known as dog envy. I am certain it will pass, and that Licorice will never need to find out about it!

Thanks for reading and keep writing!


Saturday Night Malbec

Darkly fruity flavor and oak combine to create this smooth Malbec, perfect for sipping slowly on a cool, Autumn evening. I like to taste the wine before I read the label so as not to be influenced. The oak makes its presence known immediately followed by blackberry and dark cherry.

If you have not yet explored Argentinian wines, consider branching out, you will not be disappointed. The Mendoza region of Argentina has the perfect combination of climate, soil and passionate wine makers who are producing world-class wines.

Pair it with Gouda or a spreadable blue cheese. Try it with roast beef and harvest vegetables, or a hearty stew with crusty bread.

Thanks for reading and keep drinking great wine!

Friday Night Chardonnay

Crawford Chard of the week

Hello all! I’m asking you to take your taste buds on a trip to New Zealand with this Friday Night Chardonnay pick, Kim Crawford Chardonnay. This little lovely fits my favorite buttery flavor profile to a T, even though this wine is listed on the Kim Crawford website as unoaked. I know what I have said before, being a slight bit closed-minded on the unoaked subject, but it is my job to venture out and taste wine (oh such a hardship!) that I think you will enjoy.

I found this while on my search for butterscotch flavored wines, and it did not disappoint. I may have to venture out more often to the unoaked side. It is fruity but not overly citrus or acidic. I am adding a new criteria, “butter sticks”. Depending on how buttery I find the chardonnay, I am giving it one, two, or three butter sticks. This wine is worthy of two butter sticks.


Kim Crawford Chardonnay is highly drinkable and well priced at $14.99. It pairs well with salmon, or shrimp, or a creamy cheese like brie. And if you do try it, please let me know how you liked it!


Cheers my dears! Thanks for reading and keep drinking great wine!



Nocturnal Creatures

I am an insomniac, always have been. I credit this with my writer-ly beginnings. As a child, after my sister and I–who shared bunk beds, she in the top bunk and me in the bottom–performed our nightly monster check, she would drift off to sleep, while I laid wide-eyed staring at the springs on the underside of her bunk. Maybe it was because I was the one who did the monster checking while she, the oldest, dictated the course of the search.

“Check the closet!” She commanded.

I obediently crept over to the closet, carefully turned the door handle. It creaked open ever so slowly. Certain that any monsters lurking there would leap out at me if I opened the door too quickly, I used stealth.

“No monsters!” I announced.

“Check under the bed,” she replied.

Now, this was the worst, because everyone knows monsters favor this location. I slid down, and lay on the cold, wooden floor, with my cheek pressed to the floorboards. I reached out with a shaky hand to lift the sheet that covered the dark monster lair.

“Clear!” I reported.

“OK, good. Now, get me my glass of water.” She said.

Having a bossy older sibling gets old fast. Most nights I did as directed because there was hell to pay if I deviated from the plan. But sometimes, I could not help myself. On occasion, I contaminated the water-glass. Once, I put the rubber stopper from the tub in the bottom of the glass. She did not discover it until she got to the bottom. Another time, it was a tiny dab of toothpaste. Truly, I was surprised she did not detect this straight away but, she had after all just brushed, so there was that.

Most nights, while my sister peacefully slept, I lay awake with my mind racing. The single thing that would quiet my mind was creating elaborate bedtime stories where I, of course, was the heroine. I would add new scenes to these tales each night, and the stories would never end.

I still struggle with sleep issues. Only now, if a story enters my mind, I have to start writing it straight away, or else I might forget the important details my nocturnal brain invents. Some of my best writing comes of these sleep deprived nights.

There is peaceful stillness in the single digit morning hours. I have witnessed them all, especially 3am the witching hour. Usually I am alone in my wakefulness in the house, but not alone in nature. Now that the weather has cooled, I love to leave the windows open, enjoying nature’s air conditioning. But living next to the forest has a downside.

Foxes like to play and “yip” at 2am. Last year we had a litter of five fox kits living in the woods behind our house. They played just like puppies, but only after dark.

We loved watching them frolic. Naturally we named them all: Boots, Tippy (she had black tipped ears), Squirt (the runt), Brownie, and Trooper (the leader). By springtime they had grown up and moved on, or so we think. I am not sure which one I hear calling in the night, but I like to imagine it is one of the pack.

Owls prefer to converse at 4am. I woke the other night to hear “hoot-hoot-hoot-hoot,” followed by a distant answering “hoot-hoot-hoot-hoot.” The hooting grew closer as the chat went on. Owl courting, I guess. This is went on until 5am. Someone was playing hard to get.

And I notice that every time I am awake, so is my faithful companion…

licky 2which is just as well, because I need someone to share ideas with, while my spouse soundly sleeps.

It no longer makes sense to try to get back to sleep. I now know the futility of this. Instead, I take these “interruptions” as a sign that there is something I am supposed to be writing about, that my brain does not appreciate the fact that my body is choosing to ignore great thoughts. After all, my brain is in supposed to be in charge. Unlike the monsters who hid under my bed as a child, the monsters that lurk in the corners of my mind are trickier to eradicate. It is best to let them live on the page, and keep them out of my closet, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading and keep writing!










Kitten Therapy


When my daughter Katherine and I began volunteering for HART, Homeless Animal Rescue I had no idea how much these cats, and little fuzzy kittens would rescue me back. When I am holding one of these little guys, all of my worries simply fade away. HART helps homeless cats and kittens through foster care, and medical attention, to finding permanent loving homes. If you cannot adopt, please consider donating your time or resources.


Happy #Caturday! And thanks for reading.

Saturday Night Red Blend!

I was tentative about red blends at first, being a purist at heart, but I have now come to embrace them. I especially enjoy the guessing game of which varieties make up the wine.
Wickee Red Blend

Hob Nob Chardonnay is one of my new favorites in the oak and butter category, so when I saw the Hob Nob Wicked Red Blend, and for under $10.00, I decided to give it a try. My guess based on the oaky, deep red fruit, and spice flavors was a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Red Zinfandel mix. Then I read the wine is produced in France. Quelle Surprise! I thought it was Californian all the way. Plus, I was dead wrong on the blend. It is 40% Cabernet, 20% Grenache, 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah.

I encourage you to try this delicious Wicked Red Blend. It is perfectly deadly with red meat, or sturdy cheeses like Gouda and Danish Blue.

Enjoy and keep drinking great wine!


Friday Night Chardonnay!

Sorry California, this week’s wine pick is a lovely, smooth, oaky, buttery Chardonnay from South Africa called Indaba for under $8.00.


That’s not just any oak you have been spending time in Indaba! This little beauty is aged in French Oak. No wonder I liked it! Hints of honeysuckle, and pineapple round out this refreshing wine which is perfect for sharing an early evening on the deck. Try it with seafood, or with some creamy cheeses like havarti or butterkase.

Thank you for reading and keep drinking great wine!

Dementia Wars

Losing a Loved One to Madness

Mom in 2013

My mother was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s and dementia not long after my father lost a his two-year battle with a rare slow-growing tumor on his pancreas. The slow growing part of his cancer was both a blessing and a curse. He once asked me, “If you had the choice, would you want to know when you would die?” “I don’t know,” I answered.” I still don’t. I guess I would rather it be a surprise. But then again, if I could plan for it, I could be like those two guys in the Bucket List, played by Morgan Freeman, and Jack Nicholson. I could do all of the things I always wanted to do, but never have. Really, knowing what I know, I should be out doing this now.

I can tell you, if I had to choose between dying of cancer and dying of Alzheimer’s, cancer would win. Those two years that my father had were a gift, even though he suffered, and maybe did not see it that way. He had time to reflect, and time to say goodbye. Dementia is less kind. Dementia murders the mind, but keeps the body chugging along. The personality traits that make up the person you know and love slowly slip away, and you are left caring for a mentally impaired version of your loved one. What is worse, you don’t even get to say goodbye.

I write this because if you have a loved one with Dementia, you might feel like every decision you make is the wrong one. You might feel very alone. But this is not the case. There are no easy answers. Or any set in stone direction to take.

Self Portrait, Paris
Self Portrait, Arc de Triophe, Paris


In the beginning, my mother’s memory loss was worrisome. She forgot appointments, and she couldn’t remember where she parked her car at the supermarket. Then, it progressed to scary. She couldn’t find her way home from the market, and she left things cooking on the stove while she distractedly walked away to do something else. Then it became shocking and disturbing, accusing her caregivers of taking things that she had misplaced, and losing track of time entirely. And just when I think it can’t get any worse, she shocks me again. Now she is struggling to recall her grandchildren’s names and is forgetting how to write her own name. Yesterday, she asked me how she got her name, and what my father’s name was. She seemed confused no matter how many times I explained it.

After Dad passed in 2011, my siblings had been looking after mom in Rhode Island while she lived in independent senior housing. Every stage so far has been a battle: cleaning out and selling her house (did I mention that she is a hoarder?), taking away her keys, moving her to assisted living. For an elderly person there is little worse than losing your independence. She hasn’t forgotten how to fight. Our family has struggled through  every stage of caregiver burnout.

It took a team of six of us a solid week to clean out the house. She literally saved everything and didn’t want to part with a single thing. We tried to sell it, but ended up giving most of it away.

One of the biggest issues from a caregivers perspective dealing with dementia in a loved one is the afflicted person does not believe that anything is wrong with them. Their mantra is: I’m not crazy, it’s everyone else.  And also that most of the people in your life have no idea what you are dealing with on a daily basis.

Two years ago, Mom moved to Virginia to be near us. My siblings had finally thrown in the towel, and I felt it was my turn to take up the reigns. After all, I promised my father that we would look after Mom and in truth no one else wanted to take her on. She had been evicted from her independent housing apartment not for non-payment, but because she required too much additional assistance for which she was not paying, and she refused to move into the assisted living quarters. My siblings could not bring themselves to face the battle of committing her. I have five siblings but only three of us are involved in Mom’s care. The others have opted not to be, and a few have not been on contact ever since they were told all loans and financial assistance would have to be cleared through her remaining trustees. Assisted living is outrageously expensive, and we need every dime that my father scrupulously saved in order to pay the bills.

The first assisted living facility near me that we tried was a disaster. After I broke my back singlehandedly moving her things then she sat on the bed and cried, saying, “I don’t belong here. These people are crazy!” She called the other residents, “inmates”. Guilt, shame, depression, and anxiety–these do not even begin to cover the psychological damage this disease brings to those of us who call ourselves caregivers. There is no in-between place for someone like my mother. You are either independent or not. I shared my concerns and frustrations with the nurse in charge of the facility. She told me, “to go and enjoy my life.”

Mom finally made a friend who was similarly on the “spectrum” like her. This is what they call the long slide into dementia. I felt the same way I did whenever my children started at a new school and made their first friend. It was a relief for time. A few months later, her friend took a bad fall, and never returned from the hospital. My mother found out her friend had passed away when she saw the photo memorial of her on the desk in the activities center.

Not long after this, mom was laying in bed ill when I went to see her, and none of the caregivers had checked in on her. I am not saying it was all bad. There were some excellent caregivers, but they appeared to be understaffed especially in the evenings. The activities director did her best to engage the residents. But I hated that the place smelled like stale chicken soup, or worse dirty diapers, and that every time I went there, there was a new photo of someone who had passed away that week. I hated the idea of Mom dying there. Against the advice of everyone I know, I made the decision to move Mom in with my family.  The administrator of the facility told me “In the end Alzheimer’s always wins.”

We hired a caregiver to look after Mom while my husband and I were at work, and our teenage children were at school. I thought Mom would be happier. I thought maybe we could slow the disease down some by having her near and engaging with us. We were limited on space, and have completely chaotic schedules with work, school, and sports. It was a challenge to adapt an 86-year-old memory challenged woman into that. Mom wanted to sit and watch jeopardy with someone, and I was struggling to get a million things done in only 24 hours every day. My life was a series of chores I ran through. I withdrew from friends, and from any sense of normalcy. I felt like a disappointment to everyone in my life. I was so fragmented; I had forgotten how to be whole.

My family was frustrated by having to constantly answer the same questions asked by my Mother over and over again, “Did I eat breakfast? Did I eat lunch? Did I take my pills? What state do we live in?” Trapped as we were in the state of confusion, I was impressed by my husband’s, and my children’s ability to still have patience with her. I was the one who lost mine. We couldn’t go anywhere without having coverage for Grandma. It was like having an 86 year-old toddler.


For me, the hardest part is her Egocentric manner and that no matter how hard we work, she can always find the negative. She seems to save it for those who are closest. I struggle to find forgiveness, but resentment is inevitable. I find myself remembering all of the times she forgot me places when I was child, like sitting with my sister, the last to be picked up after Catechism class; walking home sometimes if no one noticed. Maybe she was always a little bit this way, I think. And now I am in a panic whenever I have trouble finding my car at the supermarket or forget where I left my coffee cup. Is it inevitable, after all?


Mom’s first at home caregiver was a nice lady, but she had a habit of falling asleep on the job. She took mom on her personal errands, and chatted on her phone all day. When the caregiver called me at work to ask me for money, I had to let her go. I have too many problems of my own to solve anyone else’s. Mom’s second caregiver was considerably better, and very sweet. But Mom grew more cantankerous as age and her disease dissolved what little remaining filter she had. Her constant complaints and ungrateful attitude took its toll on everyone. I developed stress headaches, and wondered if my marriage was strong enough to survive this, or if I was. Ultimately, she had to go. She was taking away precious time that I needed to be spending with my family. A friend told me that I was heroic. I did not feel this way at all.

When the stairs became too much for Mom, I took this as a sign that it was time to move her again. We were fortunate to find a wonderful place for her, designed for former military retirees. In June, she moved to her new apartment and is settling in, and making friends. It is close by, and the care is excellent. I visit every week, even though every time I see Mom she tells me, it’s the first time that she’s seen me since she’s been here. For two years now, I have been hearing this.

I have had to change my perspective on Dementia in order to deal with this situation. When Mom is sitting with the other residents during activity time, I listen to her having her own repetitive conversation, even while her friends try to engage her in theirs. It reminds me of the group therapy scenes from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  

My husband jokingly refers to me as Nurse Ratched. I have a history of being somewhat unsympathetic in certain situations, but I’m not sure this is fair. It makes me laugh, and I am thankful that I remember how. Of course, I have failed to save her. Was this whole experience just a life lesson then?

Meals in Moms new home are a separate adventure. The food is very good, and I am thankful for that because she would complain otherwise. If my visits fall during meal time, I sit and eat with her and the other residents at her table. It gives me a chance to observe her in her day-to-day life. The residents are all very sweet, and have their own reasons for being there. But meal time reminds me of the scene from Alice in Wonderland, where the Mad Hatter is playing host to his friends. I wonder does this mean that Mom is the Mad Hatter, and that I am Alice. Or maybe it is the other way around.

I am happy she has a found a place where she can belong for now. I wish one of Alice’s magic pills could cure this disease for my mother, and for countless others. But until then, I have to try to find some joy in what remains of her.


Mom and Me
Christmas 2016

Friday Night Chardonnay!

Hello all! At some point in your blogging life you come to realize where your talent lies and mine as 83,000 views would dictate is finding the best buttery chardonnay on the market at a fair price.

Let’s face it, we chard-lovers love the butter, we crave the oak, and we do not care for citrus when searching for the perfect chard. It’s challenging to navigate the endless rows of would-be contenders for our well earned weekend enjoyment.

So tonight, look for Popcorn!

That’s what I said, y’all!



I adore a little salty sweet combo in anything edible, and this delivers in the wine category. At first glance I thought it would be a gimmicky no-go, but was impressed by the true quality, and Friday-night-worthiness of this yummy pick! It is buttery, a bit salty, but also oaky enough to satisfy. I found this must try wine at my favorite haunt Total Wine & More at my favorite price point under $13.00. So, sit down with your your favorite movie, or Netflix series this weekend, and don’t forget the Popcorn!

Thanks for reading! And keep drinking buttery chards!