I Know Like I Know 2014


“That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.”  ― Doris Lessing

It should no longer surprise me how fast a year goes by, it’s the toilet paper roll philosophy of aging…just sayin.  So what has been learned in this nanosecond of a year? So much I hardly know where to begin.

My life revolves around food, shocking I know, as evidenced in some wonderful time spent around the table with dear friends.  The way I can’t operate without mise en place or the farmer’s market or people around my table. That anyone around my table is family and that my family has grown exponentially.

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I’ve learned that there is a scheme of things, that “in here life is beautiful”, that I love meeting old friends for the first time, that providing value is more important than another’s view of success, that a bit of nostalgia is perfect but getting stuck in the past will never do you any good and that the Cape will be there in some form or another going forward.

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I’ve learned how to take a sick day and that you can’t escape an Italian mother’s curse.  Somehow I’ve become that woman downstairs that a five year old had to apologize to after pitching such a bad fit down the stairs that shit fell off my walls. Yeah, this has been an education.

I’ve learned that air texting, idiot drivers and “that guy” haven’t moved off the, “you are really annoying” list, that I suck at 30 day challenges and to give in to the full moon.  I’m a world class putterer and that the art of creative stretchery is within everyone’s reach.  Thank you Houston for welcoming a Yankee with an accent and an itch.

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When Pope Francis recently sought to comfort a distraught boy whose dog had died, the pontiff took the sort of pastoral approach he is famous for — telling the youngster not to worry, that he would one day see his pet in heaven.

“Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures,” Francis said reassuringly.  I’m trusting this wisdom as we begin Lina’s chemo tomorrow in the hopes that we don’t need to be reassured for quite some time. That we will be providing a longer life with good quality is my deepest hope for this year and next.

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“Because I trust in the ever-changing climate of the heart. (At least, today I feel that way.) I think it is necessary to have many experiences for the sake of feeling something; for the sake of being challenged, and for the sake of being expressive, to offer something to someone else, and to learn what we are capable of.” ― Jason Mraz

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I believe after writing this tiny little blog for the last five years that a community has been born.  A wonderful group of ordinary people who believe in legacy, in life lived with a story to be told and a willingness to share bits of themselves. For each of you and for my own lessons learned I am grateful.  I hope that you’ll take the time to go back and read what you might have missed and invite others to join our community.

See you in 2015.

Welcome Winter, Winter Solstice

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Today marks the beginning of Winter, dreaded by many but embraced by some, like me.  There is something about the long nights and the quiet and the way the sun looks through the bare trees that I love.  I love burrowing into my home, I might have mentioned that.  I particularly love the solstice when it falls on a weekend.

Today is that day between the holidays when people are bustling to get things done or share the things they’ve already done.  It’s anticipatory and celebratory and just a bit arduous.  So today I put the fruit cake in the oven knowing full well that I’ve got over an hour to myself.  It’s an overcast day but not too cold, just bracing enough for a brisk walk…with a camera.

There is something about the sky in winter that I love, silhouetted with a back drop of sun…sometimes for just a minute.  I’m not opposed to the dark, as a matter of fact I’m pretty sure that everyplace I’ve ever lived could be considered an “evening” home.  Evening homes tend to be dark and lend themselves to wonderful lighting with lamps and candles and softness.  Clark Strand wrote a wonderful piece about the solstice and the dark in Friday’s New York Times that I found very interesting.   “Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. But few of us will turn off the lights long enough to notice. There’s no getting away from the light.”  Interesting take on why we need the winter solstice


So my fruit cakes are done, oh stop rolling your eyes there’s bourbon involved, the cookies are also done and packaged and ready for wrapping.  I am going to pour a glass of red and light a fire.  I’m also going to do a bit of a fire releasing ceremony, writing down those things that I want to release, for my own damn good, and throwing them into the flames.  A pretty good start to watch all those negative thoughts go up in smoke.

If you’re interested in the winter solstice everything you should know blah blah, look here.

Since I won’t be back in touch until after Christmas I leave you this:


Reflections On a Scottish Christmas by Johnny Cunningham

The dark of winter wraps around us tight.

The lamps are fired, and flickering light beats time to the fiddle as notes float softly down, like the years’ first snow.

While outside the window a blast of late December wind whistles harmony to the drone of the pipes.

We push the old year back against the wall so we can dance a jig for Christmas and welcome in the new

On the Verge…The Art of Emotional Pragmatism

Through It (1)

In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect, whole and complete….Louise Hay

This is one of the many affirmations I say each day, but it became hard to believe this week.  Somehow it all comes down to trust, even when the biopsy you so hoped would be negative turned out to be positive for cancer.  That little clown of a girl has cancer, a really nasty kind that could leave her gone from us more quickly then we hoped.  Is there any way to reconcile that in your head; is there any way to get through that?  I believe that everything is either a blessing or a lesson.  Which is this?

The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, is a series of emotional stages experienced when faced with impending death or death of someone. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  I’m pretty sure I’ve hit them all and believe it or not I arrived at acceptance quickly with the help of some very dear people.

In a conversation with our superhero vet, Dr. Lane, several things became clear.  Chemo for this cancer is five rounds three weeks apart and is not only covered by insurance but isn’t the violent reactive chemo seen so often in humans.  A day at the vet (we’ve decided to start calling it the spa) home that evening and a good sleep through the night and probably the next day.  She won’t be herself certainly but she won’t be devastatingly ill either.  That would give me time with her sister; time to begin re-socializing her to new places and new people, possibly even new dogs.

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The average extension of her life with chemo, I’m going to repeat on average, is seven months.  I damn near fainted at that very tiny amount of time but defying average requires that cancer hasn’t spread and no cells were found in her liver (the first place it usually shows up).  Her lungs are clear, her heart is strong and her systems are good i.e. she’s got perfect poop…even in recovery after surgery.  So my little Lina has a very good chance of beating the odds in terms of time with us.  Significant in this equation is the fact that she and Toto will be eight years old in February and the normal average (there’s that word again) lifespan for these dogs is about nine or ten.

So these are the facts, kinda, but what about quality of life?  It’s all about Q of L baby as Cookie used to say.  The chances are that she will be the same as she is today until she’s not and she will tell you, I know like I know like I know.  So for instance, last Monday when she came home there was no way to get a pill in her.  These are pain pills child you’re going to be miserable without them.  And antibiotics, I refuse to watch a dog die of sepsis…do you hear me?  She was having none of it, drooling, shaking her head doing that clucking sound trying to get the taste out of her mouth…jeez.  But I won, cause I’m the mother that’s why.  One peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a multigrain sandwich round given at rapid fire every other bite going to Toto then the one with the pill to Lina then back to Toto and continued bites without a pill.  Oh yes I won, make no mistake about it but the point is she had joy in eating the sandwich, comes running for it now.   When she eats the food goes all over, even into the water bowl, so she scours the place for the remnants and actually bobs for the nuggets in the water bowl.  She’s truly a clown to be kept around as long as we can and as long as she can.

This all sounds very matter of fact but I can assure you it was an emotional train wreck.  The not knowing and then finding out while I’m on a dealer visit.  The kindness and beautifully discreet way these colleagues left the room while I took the call was only one of the many ways I was truly blessed.  This led to a very interesting Ordinary Legacy moment about dogs living in the moment and not being burdened with the knowledge that they will someday die.  We should do the same, go drive that car you always wanted to, visit that country, learn to knit, stay in the moment and not worry about the terror management of dying someday.

The texts and phone calls that simply said, here if you need me or just checking in or just wanted to hear your voice or how’s you were timely and passionate.  I was and am still surrounded by caring people who know exactly what to say and exactly when to say it.  Don’t get me wrong there are those people who inevitably will want to tell you their story about the time their dog…..I stayed with them in the moment knowing that they weren’t yet healed but in the back of my mind I’m screaming shut the hell up.  Therein lays one of the best lessons about recognizing who can be there with you and who can’t and deciding what you want to do with those people.

We’ve begun making our Christmas cookies as a way of infusing some normal around here, and is there anything better for the spirit than the smell of anise cookies filling the house?  I can assure you there really isn’t…

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And so we’ve prepared to accept our fate and we have a plan.  We will begin chemo sometime after Christmas and keep a watchful eye on the Q of L baby.  We will live in those wonderful dog moments and begin to transition Toto (and me) into the inevitable life without Lina.  We will make it about play and pictures and life not about death.  Yes that is the lesson and the blessing.

On the Verge…Part One


Since I’ve rearranged the furniture in my office I’ve become that woman.  I could run for mayor of Stowe Lane if ever the current mayor resigns, thankfully that is very unlikely.  But Friday it was a good thing because my friend Henry, the neighborhood curmudgeon, came home from the hospital.  He was scheduled for back surgery because he’s been in so much pain but an infection in his foot postponed it.  I’ve been watching his decline for a few weeks, maybe months, and I cringe each time he gets in his car.

Every time an older person gets an infection I hold my breath, sepsis sneaks up on our seniors and they can’t fight back.  Of course my mind goes directly to I wonder if he got this infection for a reason, the reason remains to be seen and there is a much greater power than me in control so I let it go.  Doesn’t stop the situation from being so reminiscent of life with Thomas a decade ago.  To this day I can’t help thinking a decision I made effected his outcome even though I’ve learned I don’t have that kind of power.

Henry didn’t want the ambulance to bring him home, there is this stubborn sense of pride that goes with nearly every one of these gentlemen of a certain age, and I’m guessing he is WW2 veteran vintage.  So somehow his wife got him parked near the sidewalk and went in to get his walker while he was supposed to sit still. He began inching his way out of the car.  I don’t have to tell you what happened, I don’t have to tell you how fast I ran, I don’t have to tell you that it was nearly the death of us both getting him up the sidewalk, two small flights of stairs and across a beautifully carpeted living room (in slippers) and hallway to the bathroom.

I am not the same person I was when I did this for Thomas, even though I remember how and use the correct positioning, my body is a decade older and I am not nearly as strong as I once was.  I could feel it in my hip and my knees and my back practically carrying a 170 lb. man.  I prayed very hard for the strength to hold on to him and me…apparently Thomas was watching over us both because we made it. Henry and his wife were both grateful despite the “accident” that had to be taken care of in the bathroom and then the walk to Henry’s favorite chair.  Barbara asked for my number which I readily gave her but secretly hoped she wouldn’t have to use.

Back at my desk with the girls laying around me I’m going through emails and trying not to unleash a damn good and well deserved rant on a darling manager who has no idea that while he is playing big man on campus and acting like an immature smartass that there is a family on Stowe Lane trying to figure out how they are going to get through the afternoon.  The profound dichotomy of priorities was astounding to me.

Of all the things I’ve learned this afternoon not the least of which is that I can’t keep either one of these men in my head or I will jump into fix mode and I am incapable of fixing certain things.  My hunch, no I know like I know that the outcome for both of them may not be good whether I’m in it or not.

And so for Mr. GM “it’s just cars” and the faster he grows to understand that one fact the faster his potential as a human being will grow.  He is well intended but lacks maturity.  I fought the full moon to use silence as the better answer to the many emails…best for us both.

As for Henry, that I am his only friend on Stowe Lane brings me great joy, his recovery and return to his simple life of going to get his sandwich and clean his car each day will bring me greater joy. I remain cautiously optimistic for them both, reminiscences be damned.

But I am worried about my Lina she hasn’t been herself either lately.  Just little things that could easily be explained by her tentative nature, until later on Friday they couldn’t be anymore.  She didn’t eat.  This sounds so random but for my Lina not to eat is cause for alarm.  It simply has never happened.

One look at her gums and I knew we were in crisis so it was off to the vet we go.  Thankfully, by calling the emergency number I was able to avoid going to the chaos of the Oradell Hospital emergency room.  Instead she met me at the Ramsey hospital where there was no one in the building.  I’m not sure after the day I’d already had that I was prepared for the next few hours but I learned that I am definitely the one you want speaking on your behalf in a crisis earlier thoughts of doubt about Thomas decisions abandoned.

Bleeding into her tummy could mean one of several things ranging from manageable to euthanasia.  My Lina was very sick and here I thought she was mad about getting a bath that day.  Think about how courageous this little girl was getting a bath while bleeding internally.  My heart breaks for her courage.  I’ll spare the rest of the gruesome conversation but suffice to say we had a plan (and an estimate of cost) to proceed with sonograms and ex-rays and confirmations of a mass in the spleen and pre-op underway.  Phone calls made and friends by my side (which I normally don’t do but I’m learning) and we go in to see her before the procedure where she is laying on the table as if she were about to have her picture taken.  She was so brave, not something she is known for, no crying no shaking just patient on the verge of serene…uncanny but I was grateful and at the same time frightened to death of the uncharacteristic demeanor is if it meant she already had one foot on the other side.

Muriel and I waited as only we could, in comfortable silence infused with fits of laughter and snippets of stories and waiting room nostalgia.  It was hours, it was cold, and it was mind wandering madness.

God love that little girl she came through, which Martina (tucked at home praying in her just-like-her-grandmother-taught-her way) knew all along. Lina was so generous in recovery to open her eyes and raise her head at the sound of my voice that I felt like she would be alright at the very least out of danger for the moment. Thank you little one.

So Muriel took me home, in the pouring rain, to a glass of wine and Lina’s sister Toto who had never been without her.  Toto was mad at me to begin with for having her nails clipped and her haircut but to come home without her sister just might be unforgivable.  She wouldn’t come up on the bed; she did her business quickly and went right back to sit in my chair where she would return over and over after each imposition of eating or walking.  She is in pain without her sister but she too is being brave. I think I’m being brave too but I was happy enough to just stay in my pajamas and withdraw with Toto all day on Saturday.


There have been tiny steady improvements over the last two days, she walked a few steps to see me for a few minutes Saturday morning which both thrilled me and broke my heart.  She pooped, she ate some breakfast, her blood count improved which would mean avoiding a transfusion, and her heartbeat is more regulated.  There are, however, the ever present biopsy results to await.  BENIGN would be good God…OK? For both Lina and Toto’s sake.  We hope to bring her home tomorrow.  Stay tuned…