The Power of Martha

marthaAs you all probably know, Martha fascinates me. BTW, have you noticed she’s just known as Martha now – like Cher or Madonna.

Anyway, I was watching one of her old shows on some crazy channel last week. Just when I thought I’d seen it all, I saw her fold a fitted sheet. Have you ever seen her do that? It’s witchcraft, I tell you. It cannot be done by a mere mortal.

In the same show, she created a cake for a child’s birthday party. The theme was old McDonald’s farm, and Martha showed us how to carve little cabbages and tomatoes – a good variety of produce, really- out of marzipan and how to hand-paint each piece.

It is one of the highest forms of insanity I have ever witnessed, and yet I could not look away. Who does this???!! What kind of person would carve vegetables out of almond paste and then tint them? For a child. I mean, you had to see this thing to believe it. It’s probably on YouTube.

The cabbages alone were tiny masterpieces. She didn’t just roll little green balls, no. They had individual leaves, with different shades of green. And don’t even get me started on the rutabagas.

The first time I ever saw her was on a PBS special about 30 years ago. She had a Thanksgiving special, and no one had ever heard of her. I watched this show with a friend. We went back and forth between disbelief and HOWLING with laughter.

She opened the show by telling us not to think we couldn’t have a crowd over because we didn’t have room. Improvise. Martha twinkled when told us that SHE was using the old tobacco barn behind her house.

Now, why the hell didn’t I think of that? Of course, I should have been using the old tobacco barn behind my house all this time. Problem solved. Dinnerware?

It seems that Martha has a special pantry just for her turkey crap. Really. Turkey platters, turkey carvings, turkey bowls, turkey napkins, turkey gravy boats, turkey molds – any one of which is worth more than my car.

She was like this strange, but mesmerizing bird, doing things so outrageous, things that no one would think of doing.

She was separating the skin from the breast of the turkey with her hand, and there was something almost sexual about it. She was doing it so that she could put herbal butter under the skin and also leaves of the herb to make a pattern. It was disturbing, yet compelling.

In retrospect, she had me when she wrapped one of the turkeys in puff pastry, and decorated it with “botanically correct” puff pastry leaves. I was hooked, and disappointed when the show ended.

We laughed, we cried, Martha became a part of us. Why? Because she believes so totally in what she is doing, whatever she is doing. No detail is too minor. No shortcuts tolerated. She doesn’t just visit a cranberry bog, Martha is out there, raking them in.

She is a media Megatron and she worked damn hard to get there.

Someday, I’m going to do some zany project of hers. She actually, and I am NOT kidding, had me thinking of what would be involved in beekeeping.

That’s the power of Martha.

 

 

 

There Are Places I Remember – The Beatles

BeatlesI recently ran into a former coworker with whom I worked at a place that would not exist today.  No one, but no one, would have hired anyone who worked there. Including me.

It was my first real job, having spent a year “languishing in NY”, as my father put it. I went in, applied for whatever they had, and they hired me for what they had  – accounts payable.

I didn’t know what accounts payable meant. No, really, I didn’t know what it meant. That’s what I mean. It was like they had a job, I showed up. Voila! Employment!

They teamed me with a young woman named Angie. Angie started each new day with good intentions, to return calls, to file, to schedule invoices to pay, code expenses, but you know what? Life at XYZ Inc. was just too damn much fun. The people who worked there were all characters, and the management was even wackier.

Put it this way, the treasurer never had cash in the safe because he had loaned it all out to us on nights we were going out to party and had no cash. Oh, we signed chits and all, but if he didn’t get all bent out of shape about it, we could live with it.

Eventually, Angie and XYZ Inc. parted ways, as she had gotten stoned on the way to the bank to deposit the checks, and stopped for a couple of cold ones on the way back. In her defense, it was a hot day. I think the real sticking point was that it was 10 o’clock in the morning. The afternoon probably would have been more acceptable.

As enjoyable as our time together was, she had taught me nothing, because she didn’t really know anything. Hence, I knew nothing. So, with her sudden departure, I was totally alone to figure out what I was supposed to do.

First, checks still had to be deposited daily, so not only did I have to learn accounts payable PDQ, the powers that be decided that all bank runs were going to be with Charlie, our security guard.

Charlie was about 85 and loved our road trips. These breaks from his routine were great with him. I don’t know what the advantages to my safety or to the security of the company’s money were supposed to be. I had always suspected that if I had said, “You know what, Charlie, lets take this money and fly to Vegas,” he would have said, “Let’s book first class!”

On our rides to the bank, Charlie would hang out the window and yell stuff to people like “Hi, there!” or “Have a nice day!” In the bank, he once hid behind marble column to make bird noises. I used to pretend I didn’t know him until I had to pull him out by the ear one day when I found him scamming free coffee and Danish in a board meeting.

Charlie had many self-appointed responsibilities, but none as personally meaningful to him as keeping the front lot clear of unauthorized personnel. Only managers and visitors could park there. All others had to use the less-convenient lot across the street. He watched that lot like a hawk, and was on that intercom like lightening with an announcement to move any unauthorized vehicles immediately. Rarely did he get a car brand name correct.

Example:

Charlie: Attention- this is security! There is a blue Cutlet in the front lot. Would the owner remove it immediately?

Us: Chris! Move the Cutlet!

Charlie: There is a red Pontiac Fireball in the front lot. Now, I know who you are. You’re that black man who went up to the third floor.

Us: (Cringe)

One of the guys in QC got so good at imitating Charlie on the intercom, that he would occasionally make an announcement, like,

Attention: This is security – there is a spaceship in the front lot. Now, I know who you are. You’re those little green men who ran up to the third floor.

Charlie loved the microphone/intercom. I don’t know if it is because we didn’t allow him to have a gun, and it was a substitute, or it was just he was lonely and like to talk. But I think I speak for the majority of my XYZ Inc. colleagues when I say that the highlight of many a day was Charlie’s public service announcement.

Allow me to share just a few:

–          This is security Stay clean! It’s important! If anyone wants to talk to me privately, I’m in the lobby.

–          This is security. I heard that office supply expense is way up, so stop using so much stuff.

– This is security. Somebody stole my hat. Now, it’s not the hat I’m so worried about, it’s the badge. Return it, no questions asked.

–          This is security. The word is that someone on the second floor is going to have a baby! Congratulations, Debby! Your secret is out!

I am glad I left there before Charlie did. The day I left, Charlie saluted me, and my eyes filled up. You just don’t forget someone like that.

Martha, Martha, Martha………

pretend
Do you ever watch the cooking shows and say, “I can do that!”, only to have your final product look like something the cat yakked up? I have, and frankly, it annoys the hell out of me. Things that are not easy shouldn’t be made to look easy.
It’s like watching exercise tapes at home. Do you remember when Jane Fonda started the whole fitness craze with her videos? We all bought them and tried to do what Jane was doing effortlessly. She never had a hair out of place and her makeup remained flawless, while we looked like chain gang members – after work.
Then, she would say, “Feel the burn. Love the burn.”
If there is one amongst you who can say that you never screamed, “FUCK YOU, JANE!” at the TV, I’d say you are lying.
Same thing with cooking.
Martha Stewart done me wrong this past Christmas, and I hold her personally responsible for the failure of the Cauliflower Chestnut Gratin.
First, let me say that I have the utmost respect for Martha. The amount of knowledge she has is just astounding – food, history, travel, crafts, home goods, art, handwork, animals, gardening, antiques, running an empire. It boggles the mind to think of how much she knows about so many things.
I know people say she is a real beeyotch, and I think that’s true. But you know what? They wouldn’t say that about a man. They would call him brilliant.
Anyway, Martha whipped up this beautiful dish right before Christmas, and I said to myself, “What could be more Christmas-y than roasted chestnuts?”
Ever roast a chestnut? Here’s what Martha says to do.
First, using a sharp knife, make an incision about 1/8-inch deep through each chestnut shell, just into the flesh of the nut, and work your way almost around its circumference. Check
After slitting the shells, transfer the chestnuts to a chestnut roasting pan or a rimmed baking pan, and roast them in a 350-degree oven for about 35 minutes. Check.
chestnuts
While the chestnuts are hot, remove and discard each shell and the papery skin. No check.
You’re done! Warm chestnuts are delicious by themselves, but you can also use them in these decadent holiday desserts and hearty soups.
Martha, you lie! Not only did I almost lose a digit while scoring them, the skin was no where near papery, and they resisted my efforts totally. My advice? Lay them on your driveway and run over them a couple of times. They may still resist, but keep at it.
When I finally got them peeled, I had my cauliflower steamed, the Gruyere grated, shallots and garlic chopped, nutmeg freshly grated, heavy cream and white wine assembled, and into the oven it went. It was supposed to look like this:
Gratin
I don’t have a picture of what it actually looked like because I don’t want record of it anywhere. Let’s just say it didn’t look like the picture.
As for taste, it was one of the worst things I have ever tasted. I mean bad, like it should have come with a warning from the Surgeon General.
That’s it for now, bad things are happening later – it’s time for me to make my semi-annual stab at baking!

Is The Honeymoon Over?

Romantic    In just a few days, Tom and I will have been married for 22 years. He is truly the greatest blessing in my life, and I thank God for him daily. Of course we occasionally argue. We get annoyed at each other and may not speak for a few hours. We’re married. We’re human.

But, for the most part, we are each other’s rocks and each other’s biggest fan, supporter, caregiver, friend. We love each other.

Usually, we remember the day with a nice card, maybe some flowers, and call it a day.

This year, since we have a gift card to a very nice restaurant in Boston, we are going to take a stab at GOING OUT! The last time we did that, it was 15 years ago.

We had been married for 7 years, and decided to go to our favorite restaurant. It is no longer there, but it was a wonderful place; very old-school with wonderful food and a great cocktail lounge with a piano player who sang Gershwin and Cole Porter. There were more candles in there than a Midnight Mass, and the ambiance was great.

I don’t get out much, so I was really excited to be having a date with my husband. I bought a pretty cocktail dress, shoes that were sexy, but stopped just short of slutty, got my hair highlighted, had my eyes done by the lady at Macy’s. In short, I was loaded for bear.

We arrived a bit before our reservation so we could enjoy a drink in the lounge before dinner. We sat at a secluded table and after our drinks were served and some chit-chat, Tom leaned across the table, looked deeply in my eyes, and at that point, I’m thinking that girlfriend has it goin’ on and this is going to be sexxxxxy!

He said, “I wonder what the soup is.”

We’ll see how it goes this year.

 

 

Saving A Buck – Realistically

IMAG0315There are hundreds of websites and blogs that are fantastic at showing people how to save and make extra money. Some have excellent strategies and ingenious ways to stretch a limited income. I do search these sites in hopes of making my budget meet our needs.

I applaud the creative and imaginative ways that people use to make extra money. Unfortunately, I don’t always find that they work for me as I am no longer young, or frankly, as sharp as I used to be. One woman actually suggested I learn to make balloon animals. I couldn’t make this up. I assume she meant at childrens’ parties or on a busy street corner.

Make balloon animals. The notion was so preposterous, I actually burst out laughing in her face. I think of myself trying to make a balloon look like a giraffe, and it still makes me laugh. At my age, just blowing the damn thing up would be a major accomplishment.

In another post, I will get into making some money realistically along with some scammer alerts, but let’s talk about saving today.

I stress the word “realistically”, which brings to mind extreme couponing. You’ve seen the articles, the ones that say, “How I Feed My Family of 12 on $1.87 A Month. They are absolutely fascinating, and I tried it once. I had a zillion little stubs of paper in my accordion file, and they were to be used in different stores.

Once, my husband came with me and decided to streamline my whole operation. He said, “Ok, you do the frozen foods while I run ahead and get a bunch of other stuff.”

Wait. What? I said, “Tom, I have this worked out and you can’t be running around, all willy-nilly, while I have my system.” System. I found myself hiding – HIDING! from him behind a giant display of paper towels while desperately trying to remember if I was even in the right store. The pressure was enormous.

I left that store so confused, that I didn’t even know what was in my bags until I got them home. Give me a break. I’m old.

I have never figured out how fresh produce and meats are factored into the equation. There are no coupons for those things. Are there?

I do use strategies that work for me. They may not be terribly innovative, but they help, especially when you are a senior.

As you can see by the receipt above, I managed to save almost $52 by the following methods:

  1. The store I used this week sent coupons for four free items per week for the following 6 weeks. This week, I got a beautiful box of strawberries ($4.99), cereal ($3.89), a pound of butter and a 4-pack of yogurt.
  2. About 6 times a year, they offer a $5 for $25 deal on meats. The savings are amazing. Who can afford strip sirloins at $12.99/lb? I got two of those, a HUGE package of boneless chicken breasts, a big package of rib pork chops, and a turkey breast – all for $25.
  3. I clipped some coupons from the paper and printed some from the Internet.

This is doable for me, and $52 is nothing to sneeze at. I think of it as most of my cell phone payment.

Another thing – and this may sound crazy, but I use top of the line cosmetics for what I consider short money. First, let me say that I have nothing against cheap make-up if it works for you, but as I get older, I don’t want eye-liner pencils that drag across the skin of my eyelids. They already are in bad shape. I don’t want foundation that cakes and goes on streaky either.

I do not want to whip up home-made cosmetics in my kitchen. I read that sugar and water make a great hairspray, but it is bee season in my neck of the woods, and that issue was not addressed in the article.

By the time you buy bees wax, emulsifying wax, essential oils, food coloring for lipstick, mica flakes for foundation, it is going to run into some serious cash outlay. Besides, there is no way I am using coffee grounds as a shower scrub.

What I do is this: I wait until one of the department stores have promotions from say, Estee Lauder or Lancome. You know, spend $27.50 or so, and get a bag full of goodies. Usually, this takes care of moisturizer, a new lipstick, some eye shadow, a mascara, and you get a cute make-up bag as well. If I do this twice a year, it costs between $50 and $55 per year to have high-end cosmetics that wear well, and they last longer than the cheap stuff. Actually, since friends and family know I love to get gift cards for birthdays and Christmas, they end up being free!

IMAG0319

All this was free – both night and day cream, 6 shades of eye shadow, eyeliner pencil, blush, lipstick with matching make-up bag and eyeglass case. And you know what? There is something to be said for a woman to have a little something nice to use and enjoy, even on a budget. I got all this great free swag after buying a moisturizer I needed with a gift card.

Energy Audits – this is the link for MA, but I would be surprised if your state didn’t have something similar. http://www.masssave.com/en/residential. They will do an in-home inspection and make suggestions that can save you big bucks. They also offer incentives and rebates,  instant price discounts and rebates on ENERGY STAR® light bulbs, lighting fixtures, electric clothes dryers, dehumidifiers, room air cleaners, advanced power strips, and energy-saving showerheads. We found this process to be very helpful.

That’s it for now. Coming soon – more saving, earning, and scammer alerts!

 

Ruby – The Journey Of A Rescued Dog

Ruby

Rescue work. It is my passion and my joy. Today, I am remembering a special foster.
Many of our dogs come up from the South, and we foster parents, along with shelters, and rescue agencies wait in commuter parking lots for the transport vehicles to bring our dogs to us in the hopes that they will find happy homes.
It is an awesome sight to see so many people full of anticipation to meet these animals who have had nothing. It is even more awesome to drive a truck full of these animals from high-kill shelters and pulling in to a place where the volunteers pour out to take charge and do their jobs. Truly awesome.
I am full of admiration for the people who work in the poor shelters, especially in the South and Midwest where we get a lot of our dogs. They do so much with so little, and it has been my privilege to work with many of them. They have their hearts broken every day, but don’t give up.
Anyway, this is the story of a VERY special little girl. It was years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
This is Ruby’s story, so I will let her tell it.
——————————————————————————————————
Dear Diary,
Today was the scariest day of my whole life. I’d been living in a shelter for a long time, but no one wanted me. I tried to look appealing and be good whenever anyone came by, but it was always the same old story. Another dog would be picked. Year after year, people would come in, and no matter how hard I tried to get them to give me a chance, I was always passed over.  There are so many adoptable dogs out there.
One day, a lady came and took me out of my cage – ME! I couldn’t believe it. Was I getting a home? Was my time over? I didn’t know.
She talked sweet to me and put me on a big truck with lots of other dogs. We were scared and quiet, and rode for a long, long time. Where were we going? No one knew.
After riding a long, long way, the man stopped the truck and took me out of my cage. He carried me out and set me on grass. I froze. What is this grass? All I ever knew was a dirt surface.
The man put a leash on me and handed me over to people I never saw. It was awful. I put my head down and tried to be invisible. They put me on a soft blanket on their back seat. I hid in the corner and once again, tried to be invisible. They offered me a liver treat, but I was too afraid to take it.
The lady got in the back seat with me and loved me very gently, but I still just drooled because I was so afraid. and didn’t want to get out when we got to their house. She lifted me out and walked slowly around the front yard. I dug a hole to hide in.
Then, the biggest dog I ever saw came out of the house! He came and smelled me all over and then licked my head, so I guess that meant I was ok with him. Then, we all went for a little walk together. I didn’t understand the leash, but I just followed the big dog as he seemed to know the ropes. Coming home involved something called stairs. I didn’t know about stairs. I didn’t like or trust the stairs, but the man started teaching me. He didn’t start me at the top where it looks too far, but at the bottom, one stair, then two. The man was nice and had chicken.
Finally, we went in the house and I found a place to hide behind the couch. The lady put a nice new bed back there for me. I got the idea that it was mine – MINE! Can you believe it?
Then, it was time for dinner. I was a little underweight so the new lady made me a concoction of hamburger, wheat germ, eggs, Total cereal, molasses, and a bunch of healthy stuff. Small amounts at first so I wouldn’t get sick, but I could have eaten the whole bowl.
When it was time for bed, the people and the big dog went up stairs. I lay on my new bed, but didn’t want to be lonely, so I figured out how to get up those stairs – by myself! It paid off, too. There was another soft, plushy bed up there for me. I’m not one for the big bed, especially since the 130-pound big dog was already hogging all the room up there.
It all came together, though. I got used to the good life pretty fast. I had one audition, and let’s just say that new lady couldn’t get me out of there fast enough. She said bad words on the way home, and said she wouldn’t leave any dog there. I was glad to leave.
Note by author – Ruby was adopted by a woman who fell in love with her immediately. She treats Ruby like the little queen that she is, and Ruby is confident and unafraid. She has blossomed with care and love. Ruby is around 12 now, but her Mommy and I are great friends. I am proud to have her as one.

10 Favorite Movie Scenes Ever

These are in no particular order, just some of my favorites.Another Woman
 1. In his 1988 film, Another Woman, the incomparable Gena Rowlands finds herself eavesdropping on another woman’s therapy sessions. The woman’s (Mia Farrow) despair resonates with Rowlands, and this leads her to connect with the people in her life. This journey of self-discovery make her see that what she has always thought was a life full of accomplishments and relationships is empty and false. She is stunned  to find that she is seen as cruel, cold, and judgmental. She has an amazing scene with her brother, where it registers that what he is saying is right and her reaction of bewilderment and regret is heartbreaking.
 GoodFellas
2. Goodfellas may be my favorite film ever, so it was hard for me to choose one scene, but I had to give it to the long shot when DeNiro is deciding if Maury is going to live or die. Without saying a word, he is clearly weighing his options of how much trouble this guy is going to cause him. it is an entire dialogue on his face as he considers the possibilities of whether or not to have him killed. The Sunshine of Your Love soundtrack doesn’t hurt, either.
 Notorious
3. Yes, yes, yes – we’ve all seen full-frontal nudity and people having intercourse in movies and on TV. Hell, some of you may have even done it. Who needs it? I will tell you one of the most thrillingly erotic and sexual scenes I have ever witnessed on film is in Hitchcock’s 1946 masterpiece, Notorious.
When Cary Grant runs up the circular stairs of that mansion, sweeps Ingrid Bergman (who is being poisoned by Nazis) into his arms, it is electric. They kiss with such a tender passion. They whisper to each other with an intimacy that borders on urgency. We don’t have to see it, but we know it is going to happen – soon, and it will be spectacular.
Now, that’s sexy.
 A History of Violence
4. In “The History of Violence”, William Hurt’s screen time is less than 9 minutes, and comes along when the film is almost over. But what he does with that time is electrifying. The whole film has been moving toward him, and when we meet him, a stone-cold killer with a rough Bronx accent, we are mesmerized by his ferocity. Hurt was nominated for an Oscar for this role, and should have won. Amazing.
 Falling Down
5. Michael Douglas in “Falling Down.” I can’t choose one scene, unless it is the one with the thugs in the park or the one in Whammy Burger. Douglas is a laid-off engineer, newly-divorced, and with a restraining order, just trying to get to his daughter’s birthday party. His car gets into gridlock, he abandons the car on the freeway, and as he tries to get across LA on foot to get to his daughter, events conspire to force his already fragile mental state spiraling into a breakdown of epic proportions. The film is an over-the-top spotlight on societal sickness and the thousand of little ways that life breaks your heart on a daily basis. See it. Douglas is really a marvel in it.
 Affair
6. Oh, sure. Like you weren’t already thinking of Cary Grant waiting in vain at the top of The Empire State Building for Deborah Kerr, and later reuniting with crippled Deborah Kerr in “An Affair To Remember.” Don’t deny it. I wouldn’t believe you anyway. Weeping. Buckets. You know who you are.
NbyNW
7. This is Cary Grant’s second appearance on this list. That’s probably because he was such an original, a treasure. He could do it all and was a real star. I can’t think of many actors today that I would put beside Bette Davis, Clark Gable, James Stewart, and dozens more. That said:
The crop duster scene in “North By Northwest.” Grant is an executive who finds himself in a cornfield in the middle of nowhere when he hears the drone of a plane. He soon discovers that it is dropping deadly gas and Grant needs to hide in the cornfield. The scene lasts nearly 10 minutes which would be crazy in the fast paced films of today, but it is a riveting 10 minutes. Grant, and the genius of Alfred Hitchcock make it so.
Note: This movie also has my favorite line ever uttered on film. Grant meets up with Eva Marie Saint in the dining car of a luxury train and after some clever banter, he leans forward, lights her cigarette, and says, “So tell me. How does a girl like you get to be a girl like you?” Beyond awesome.
 Heat
8. The bar scene in “The Heat”. Granted, I would watch Melissa McCarthy read the phone book for two hours. I just love her, and when she and the straight-laced FBI agent, played by Sandra Bullock pull out all the stops, getting shit-faced in a bar, it is hilarious. See the movie. Yes, it has a lot of cursing, but I haven’t laughed that much at a movie, well….ever.
 Bullitt
9.The car chase in “Bullitt” Yes, the chase in “French Connection” is masterful and just as good. I chose “Bullitt” because I remember seeing this in the student union in college. It had been out for some time and almost everyone in the audience had seen it before. Steve McQueen is in a high-speed chase, being pursued by bad guys over the steep hills of San Francisco. Just when the bad guys think they have lost him, the driver looks in his rear view mirror to find McQueen coming over the rise behind him. He is no longer the pursued, he is the pursuer. The audience went NUTS! I’ll never forget it.
 Heat2
10. Finally, the two possibly greatest actors of our time meet in the movie “Heat.” (Hey, that two movies on the list with the same name!) Their exchange only lasts for about 6 minutes, but their exchange simmers with a cat and mouse foreboding that this is not the last time they will meet. They both know that next time they neet will not be pleasant. Neither of these pros try to scene steal or even raise a voice. It is just a master class with two astounding talents.
I could come up with dozens more, and will think of others while, I am say, walking my dogs.
Tell me some of yours.

Book Club

books

In my quest to get out of the house, I recently agreed to a friend’s request to join a book club. I swear to God, I don’t know why. If you knew me, you would know that I would rather move to Kyrgyzstan. It was probably the promise of copious amounts of wine – and crabbies.
Oh sure, there are worse things, like spelling bees, or sitting through a soccer game, but not many.
First, let me tell you that I am an avid reader. it is one of the greatest joys of my life. I have always been a huge mystery fan, so I was hoping for something with some suspense and drama.
So imagine my consternation when the book, and I don’t even remember the name, but it was something like, “Jodee’s Secret Crush.” Really? Who the hell is on the selection committee, I would like to know.
I ended up going to the first meeting without having read the book. At first, I was getting flashbacks of not having to read “Ivanhoe” in the ninth grade. That Alfred Lord Tennyson was one boring son of a bitch. He took him hundreds of words that he could have in ten.
As I said, I didn’t read that book either, so it was no surprise when I got a 9% on a surprise test. You read that right. A 9% – out of !00%.
What was the worst thing that could happen at this lady’s house? They were all half in the wrapper anyway. It soon became apparent, that except for one woman (and there is always one) who actually wanted to discuss the book instead of knocking back a few and discussing the fact that that floozy at #8 was now taking milk delivery from a driver who took quite a while to deliver the half and half, if you know what I’m saying.
I never went back to book club, but I did get the recipe for those crabbies.

My Life As a Dog Foster Parent and How It Got That Way

Raven

I love dogs. All dogs. Especially mixed, rescue dogs that no one else wants. That’s now. I wasn’t always aware of the need to give these sweet souls a chance at a happy life and how many of them are out there.
That said, I have a weakness for Yellow Labs. I love them. My lifelong desire was to own one of these beautiful creatures. My parents did not share my enthusiasm, and in retrospect, they were right not to get a dog without commitment.
Anyway, when Tom and I bought our first house, that was one of the first things I got. Yes, I bought a dog – something I would NEVER do now, but I was clueless then. All I knew was enough to go to a responsible breeder.
The day I picked her up, I held her in my arms, and called her Roma after one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. Tom drove home from the breeder while I held this creature with the face of a Precious Moment and the iron will of a military dictator.
Thinking that I would have this little being love me, respect me, be my loving companion, and faithful BFF was a lovely thought, but it had nothing to do with the reality. I was deluded. So deluded. People actually said that the dog wants nothing more than to please you. Wrong! Pleasing me was the LAST thing on her mind.
And she was smart! Sort of the canine version of Stephen Hawking. She sized me up on the ride home, and played me like a violin her whole life. I actually would think of things I could do to amuse her! I don’t mean dog toys or marrow bones or doggie puzzles. I mean I would think of things to personally amuse her. I sang, I jumped around to get her playing, I threw fetched balls and ended up fetching them myself because she just didn’t see the point. If dogs rolled their eyes, she would have done that. I tried everything but bird calls on her.
Car rides – that was another form of hell. I did discover that Garth Brooks seemed to have a calming effect, though. I love Garth.
Anyway, I took a dog-grooming class at the local technical high school. My main purpose in doing this was to be more effective at sprucing up our dogs who come in to rescue. Some of them are in bad shape, and I thought I could be more effective if I had a clue about proper bathing, flea treatment, grooming, etc.
One evening, the instructor asked up all to bring in our dogs to use as models for the right way to shampoo. Oh boy.

It took three of us to get her into the tub. Then, during the drying phase, she just shrieked like a banshee. Think Janet Leigh in Psycho.” The instructor asked me to leave, and to be sure and bring my dog with me. That was one long walk of shame, let me tell you.

 

On my Internet searches, what I was mostly learning was about the tens of thousands of abused, neglected, beaten and starved animals. I learned about the horrors of the puppy mills, dog fighting, and the need for action, and the need to be their voice.

I learned that most rescues don’t have a shelter, the dogs are fostered, and that is what I wanted to do. Tom gave the green light and we were off. What rescue?
There are ones who specialize in blind dogs, which reminds me of the night that eight blind dogs were delivered to my house at 3AM, but that’s another story.
There are rescues who specialize in all breeds, black dogs who are always chosen last as people have a “bad” connotation to them. Check out blackpearls.com if you don’t believe me – ones for small dogs, senior dogs, retired service dogs. We just asked for one that needed us.
We fosters are vetted, as are prospective owners. We show the dogs on our websites, where people can apply. People are annoyed that they show up on adoption days and cannot just take the dog with them. We do a home check, vet check, etc. While this may seem intrusive, I have done home checks on people who lie on their applications, people with whom I would not leave any living thing. Our goal is a life-long loving commitment to the dog.
Our very first one was Raven. She was a tiny black mix who was terrified. She had been used as a bait dog to train fighters. She was only a little girl who was starved, scarred, full of dandruff, a bacterial infection. The world can break your heart in a million different ways.
All she could do was shake. We put her in a secure crate with lots of fluffy blankets and some stuffed animals. After a few days of sweet talk, some home-cooking, and a routine for loving and potty times, she seemed to be coming around. Much to our shock, Roma was taking her under her wing.
A defining moment came when I saw her shoot up the stairs. It turns out she was running up to pee in guest room, but we take our victories where we find them.
Even though I could go on forever about the overwhelming positive experiences, there are some sad times, some heartbreak. It isn’t easy and it isn’t for everyone.
The worst is letting go of a dog that we have come to love especially, but the only way I can let them go to their new home is the thought that there are so many waiting for a chance and there is always another one waiting in the wings for its chance to shine.

Workplace Whackjobs – is it me?

Today, I am going to talk about some of the more memorable work experiences I have had over the years, and some of the personalities I have come across. I cut it short.
 
1. The Articulate Manager
I’m no therapist, so I don’t know what was going on with this woman.
She “managed” the accounting department, and they actually had to hire another person with a clue of how to actually manage an accounting department. Over the course of three years, I never saw her do one speck of work. It sounds unbelievable, but I swear on all that is holy, it’s true. Never. Once.
My theory is that she was with the owners from the inception of some computer software that was supposed to be bigger than Microsoft, but actually lasted about 20 minutes. She sort of became a pet or company mascot. I don’t know what she had on these guys, but it must have been juicy stuff. She definitely know where some bodies were buried.
Anyway, this was not an unusual greeting to the day.
“Well, good morning and f*** all of you! You want to know why I am so f****** late today? It is because I f****** worked ALL NIGHT! I didn’t see any of you f****** a******* working with me at 3f******AM! As f****** usual, I was here, getting every f****** thing done while you f****** f*****were all home in your f****** beds!”
I could go on, but you get the drift. I don’t think it was Tourette’s from what I have read. I have my own mental issues I’m still grappling with, but this was clearly not the cover girl for “Success Strategies Weekly.”
I don’t know if she thought people believed her because we all saw her leave for home every day, and security said she never worked at night. (Some sleuthing was called for.) No reports were either produced from her office, nor was the data ever updated to produce them.
We all thought that the couple of hours shut-eye she caught every day on the receptionist’s couch would rejuvenate her work ethic, but it only revved her vitriol. Her snoring form on the lobby couch was what we came to look upon as a conversation piece. I can only imagine the conversation had by new clients and prospective employees.
You knew she wasn’t truly angry with you when she would single you out for a special smile and a , “You f****** a******!”
Good times.
2. Orange Blossom Special
When I was younger, I worked with some women who decided to bring in their wedding pictures. As we went through one particular album, we started to realize that something was different. Let’s face it, when you look at someone’s wedding pictures, your main focus is to see how ugly the color scheme is, how doable the best man looks, and again, realize that all brides are not beautiful. You’re just trying to get through the pictures of all these people you have no interest in, show your happiness that Uncle Bud could make it, but sadness that he got wasted on rootbeer schnapps and broke his hip.
Anyway, this woman’s album was worth looking at because there was something…..something ……..and then, one of my colleagues whispered, “Is that a different groom?”
Wait. What?
Yes. The woman had been married four times, in the same dress, and in the same venue, and put the pictures in the same album. I couldn’t make this up.
It seems that she had been cutting quite a marital swath through the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge. For having all those weddings there, they should have given her a punch card for some sort of loyalty program.
3. Terrorizing the Temps
When I first saw Patty come in the office for her first day, I didn’t think she would be my type. She was the ultimate Barbie on steroids. Really, like one of those girls on the Bachelor. Her hair, make-up, clothes, accessories – just impeccable. It wasn’t like we were working at the Federal Reserve. This place was like a bunker.
The two men who worked there (one owner, one manager) had to find their eyes to put back in their heads. What a pair. The owner was really a nice guy, except that he had some serious anger issues and actually had a big pile of phones in his office – phones that he had pulled out of the walls when piqued. That man spent a fortune on new phones.
The other was just an idiot. We’ll call them Dave and Buster.
Turns out, Patty is one of the biggest hoots I have ever known. She was so cuttingly funny, but kept such a straight face. She loved to go out for girly cocktails and flirt shamelessly. She made it into an art form. She was smart, a great co-worker, first to reach for the take-out menus, and kept everyone in line. She did what she could, and accepted what she couldn’t change. A wise woman, was our Patty.
One day, we had a temp in the office, and Patty turned to her and said, “Now, Linda. We all take turns dating Dave and Buster. Which one do you want?” The woman’s reaction was utter speechlessness. You could see in her face that she was sure that she had misheard. She stammered,…I…I..I don’t want either of them.”
Patty looked even more stern, “Now look, Linda, we all do it. At least we’re letting you choose.” Linda said, “But I’m married.” Patty told her that was no excuse.
I’m not proud that I found this so hilarious, but in my defense, when Linda started to get upset, I did tell her that Patty was kidding and it was just her sense of humor. Patty said she was sorry for teasing her like that, but Linda never came back again. I feel kind of badly that she was subjected to being upset like that. These days, that would have been harassment.
But, God, was it funny!
4. The Entitled
I once did back-to-back maternity leaves for two women in the accounting department in an adventure capital firm. I won’t say where it was, but it was quite an experience. One of my duties was to keep tabs on the expenses for the owner’s private planes. In viewing the caterers’ bills, I noticed he spent more on lemons in little stretchy dresses than I made in a week. Seeds on the Dover Sole – not acceptable, you know.
The place was unbelievable. There was a private gym with on-site trainer, every manner of work out clothes, tapes, Chanel products in the changing rooms. Our lunch was prepared every day by a gourmet chef. There was a coffee making apparatus larger than cathedral organs I have seen.
The raffle at the Christmas party was the cars -yes, cars. This one particular year, the owner gave 5 Jeep Cherokees and for the part-timers, 5, $15,000 cash prizes.
Here is where I come into the entitlement phase of my story. The people who worked here adopted the attitude that they were billionaires, too. One woman, who just received an $80,000 bonus wept bitterly, and left the party because she was so convinced that she would win a car, but didn’t. She DESERVED one of those cars!
As a temp, I wasn’t involved in the Greed-a-Thon. I was just happy with some free booze and that there were some crab cakes left.
One morning, the JavaZilla  8000 was acting up and one of the secretaries was FURIOUS! She looked at me and stamped her foot when she said, ” How can this be?!” I said, “I know, how do they expect us to work in this hellhole?” She didn’t get the humor, just nodded sagely – then went and reamed the JavaZilla customer service people.
4. My Workplace Brush With Greatness
When I graduated from college, I decided to move to NYC. It seemed like the fun thing to do. It also seemed like the sort of place I could get a job with no practical skills whatsoever. So, I ended up slinging lotions and potions at the Clinique counter at the Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue.
One day, they set up a huge fountain with some very expensive scent. Beside it, they put a huge snifter of cotton balls for customers to test the scent. Once or twice a day, a very-well dressed woman used to approach the fountain, take a good, long drink, pat her lips, and move on. It was the high-light of my day.
As I was washing the display windows on this special day, I felt sort of an aura around me, or at least near me. I looked up into the eyes of – ELIZABETH TAYLOR! I made this little sound in my throat like I was trying to dislodge a large seed. She gave me a little smile, and said, “Yes, it’s me.” Wow.
Anyway, she was looking for the liquid eyeshade in plum. Well, what else? It seems that Liz’s eyelids are sensitive like mine and she needs that moisture in the shadow. We had a sharing moment when I told her I used it for the same thing. We didn’t hug or anything, but I could tell we shared a connection, Liz and I. Actually, she just swept out and had some minion pay. Probably didn’t like good-byes.
5. The Good-Bye Luncheon
Now, I like to think I am culturally diverse as the next woman. I love to travel, learn, read, try local cuisines in different places, try to recreate them when I get home. I need for you to know that about me before I tell you about this one woman who used  to bring lunch every day.
I have no idea of what God could have put on this earth that smelled so bad cold, but when heat was applied via microwave – MOTHER OF GOD!.
People’s eyes would water. One new employee was convinced that there was a deadly mold. No, it’s just lunchtime.
There  was nothing that could be said. Tell her she couldn’t bring her lunch? No. Besides, the woman was Asian, and that brought up a whole cultural can of worms.
The day came when I chose to bid adieux to move on to other pastures, and, in keeping with office tradition, I was taken to lunch. Being the loser I have been since birth, who was chosen to plan my luncheon? That’s right. The Lunch Lady.
She decided to go – where else – to  Chinatown! I love Chinatown, but not when someone is bound and determined to create “an authentic experience” for me. Note: the whole group blamed me!
First, we got a huge platter of chicken feet. That’s not a euphemism for some tasty tidbit. They are fried feet – from chickens, off of which you are to suck the skin.
BTW, here is a tip for anyone in this sort of situation, a Clonapin and a big old Mai Tai can break down your inhibitions enough , so that even if you are not eating with gusto, you won’t actually hurl.
On with the menu: Birds Nest Soup. I always thought that was a euphemism as well. No. Wrong again. Ordering this was quite a coup on her part, as it is a delicacy. Bird’s Nest Soup is a gelatinous mix of chicken broth and bird saliva. That’s right, bird saliva. Swiftlets make their nests from saliva and each year, after the bird has left the nest, it’s harvested and added to the soup.
Why, yes – I would LOVE another Mai Tai!
In her defense, she didn’t make us try the sea slugs or the 1000-year-old eggs. It turns out that those eggs are only a couple of months old, but they are buried in pots where their insides turn to jelly. The shell of the egg turns a browny, black, but it’s the inside where that yummy dark green yolk awaits your olfactory and gastronomic delight.
The rest of the meal passed without incident or disturbing surprise, but seriously? I can see wanting to introduce your cuisine, but let’s explore some sort of noodle or vegetable dish before we head right into the newt testicles.
I have had a rich, dark, and varied work history. I hope to someday compile some of the other interesting individuals I have come to know, with perhaps a sentence to sum them up. That would be a lot of work.