Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Road of Life

My last post got me to thinking about "The Road of Life."

You know "The Road." We read about it in Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." We use terms like, "Well, that was a bump in the road," for when life gets a little tough. We talk about, "He's on Easy Street," or we take a trip "Down Memory Lane."

Life really is a Road Trip!

I just wasn't given a map though...

Some people are given maps at an early age. It directs them right from the hospital where they're born, onto a highway ramp, onto the interstate for a couple of miles (not far...) and directly to a certain destination. And there they stay. Their parents, grandparents, (and even further back), know this place well. They know all the people, the best restaurants, parking, local events... Heck, their ancestors even built a lot of the foundations and buildings!

That's some people. And, here's one of their maps:

I did have some sense of direction when I was young. I knew, like all my older sisters, that I was going to go to college. So, for my first 21 years, I focused on school. That was my goal, my destination, my path... my road.

But, after college? I was told, "You can do whatever you want!"

Here was my map:

(Drawn, by me, on the back of my Rutgers diploma
I received in Communications/Journalism...)

I didn't have a clue! All my friends from Rutgers already had their jobs lined up three months BEFORE we graduated. Me? I spent the entire summer after graduation in my friend Jeff's parents' "Rec Room" watching MTV...

(You remember "Rec Rooms"? They're now called "Family Rooms" ever since the 90's McMansions building craze.)

I did internships in college to get a feel for what I wanted to do. I worked in the research department of WNEW-TV (now FOX-TV). I didn't like the screaming, crying, and firing atmosphere going on in the news room. I actually had a news director SCREAM in my face - literally six inches from my nose - for several minutes until someone told him I was "just an intern." He then screamed, "THEN WHY THE HELL AM I TALKING TO HER!!!!" and stormed away.

Then, shortly after my lost summer, my friend from R.U., Alice, got me an interview at Woman's Day Magazine. (I worked with her at the Rutgers newspaper - The Daily Targum - as a cartoonist). So, I got my first paying job in their art department as the Art Director's assistant.

I paid all the art department's bills. I really didn't know what I was doing. When they told me on the interview I'd be "doing invoices" I said, "Ok." Then I went home and asked my mother what an "invoice" was...

But, I liked what the other people in the art department were doing - layout design! I didn't want to go back to college to get an art degree (especially since my parents wouldn't pay for it...) so I did what any normal 23 year old would do. I packed a suitcase, grabbed my Snoopy phone and moved to L.A.


I didn't know anyone. I didn't have a job. I'd been there ONCE for a week. But, I always had a dream of going there (I LOVED The Beach Boys and all the 60's surfer movies)...

I still miss Annette...

I landed a job hand-painting clothes in Venice Beach. I got paid PER piece. The first day I painted two shirts. The next day I did three or four. That's ONE DOLLAR a shirt. At the end of that week the store's accountant came back to where I was painting and told me, "Honey, you're going to starve." By the end of the first month I was painting about 50 a day!

But, the store's owner was a whacko (go figure... a whacko in L.A.!) and the job only lasted about seven months. By the end of the year I was broke. I sold my "vintage" orange VW Bug, packed up Snoopy and moved back to Jersey.

To La La Land and back. 

So, I was back in Jersey, living in my sister's spare bedroom in the basement and wondering, "Where am I?" And, more importantly, "Where am I going?"

There were so many roads to choose...

And I still didn't have a map.

Monday, July 28, 2014

To Blog, or Not To Blog

That really is the question I ask myself every day.

It really is.

I haven't "blogged" in a couple of weeks though.  Why?

It's not that I haven't had any thoughts lately. My head is FULL of thoughts.  Thoughts that need to come out.  That's why I write. It frees my mind. Makes room for more thoughts...

And, it's fun.

But, since the last blog I just felt... off. Every day I'd ask myself, "What should I write about?"

Work? Nah. My neighbors, cats, Mom?... I couldn't think of a topic I was really interested enough in to write even two words about.

But this morning I woke up and thought, "Gee, I'll write about blogging." I actually laid there in bed for ten or so minutes thinking about the topic. You see, writing does require SOME thought...

And then, I thought, "Well really, why HAVEN'T I blogged lately? I mean REALLY?" And I thought of my last blog.

It really got me down... really.

Why? It was a cute post about my pets. Oh yeah, my pets. My furry babies...

Barry and I don't have children. Oh, we planned on it. But, as "they" say, God smiles at your plans... He downright guffaws at mine!

We got our dog Murphy first. I researched the perfect dog to get for a family. One that's "kid friendly." In other words, a Lab. Murphy was so great, we got TWO Labs. Our Sam.

Sam and Murphy. Murphy and Sam... Like P&J or Lewis and Martin. A real team.

We even bought our first house specifically for kids... three bedrooms and two and a half baths (I HATED sharing a bathroom with my sisters when we were growing up). We picked the neighborhood (Fair Haven, N.J.) with the best school system. We built the picket fence to keep the dogs (and future children) safe (and to make the house look even cuter). We bought the Volvo wagon with tons of room to accommodate 170 pounds worth of fur and room for two cars seats to boot.

Prettiest house on the block...
I loved Fair Haven. I call it the perfect "Trick or Treat" neighborhood. Friendly people and small enough yards that you can really fill a bag up quick with candy in a short distance.

Fair... Fair Haven

And our dogs were the hit of the Fair Haven. Really were. We were "that house in the neighborhood" all the ten year olds wanted to play at (remember that house from your childhood?  There was always one and, for awhile, our's was it!) Our yard was full of laughter and activity as the kids would kick a soccer ball around with Murphy the "goal keeper." I bought pretzels and Tostitos and stocked the fridge with juice boxes. That lasted about a year or so... and then the kids moved on to other interests.

The yard got quiet again.

And life went on... with no children...

And, as fur babies do... Murphy and Sam were gone too. And the yard was really quiet.

And then Barry and I were gone from that sweet, quiet, house of dreams...  First up to Massachusetts (where I thought we'd live the rest of our days. I SWEAR I give God a hoot!) and now back to N.J.

And now I blog.

Oh, I do other things too... but, I do love writing.

I exercise my writing muscles... and now I realize, sometimes those muscles get sore... especially the ones around the heart.

You see... my writings ARE me. Even when I just "blahg, blahg, blahg..."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Life With Riley

What would life be like without our furry friends?

I really can't imagine... and I don't want to!

My husband and I have always had pets. Twenty four years of stepping over squeaky toys and collecting wet kisses. Right now we have two cats - Hannah and Calleigh the Calico. Love 'em!

But, boy do I miss our dogs...

Cats and dogs.  Dogs and cats.  People usually take a firm stand on their preference.

Me?  I love them all... But they're (ahem) two different animals.  It's hard to describe, but they have different "energies."  Dogs take up a whole room in frenetic, yet reassuring, ways. You can't ignore a dog because they're usually never farther than an arm away. They just want to be anywhere you are.

Laps are preferable...

Cats?  Oh, they can make their presence known in a room... but, only if they want to.  It's all about them.  Try calling a cat into a room or ask it to jump on your'll see what I mean.

Plus, you can't walk a cat.  Not happily at least.

So, I've been having a BLAST this past week taking care of a friend's black Lab - Riley - while she's away.  A BLACK LAB!  That's what we had... two of them.  Sam and Murphy. My fur babies...

I've been walking Riley on our streets... and down Memory Lanes too.  Riley is the spitting image of our boy Sam.  He's also not the brightest star in the sky.  Just like Sam!

Is it Riley?  Or has my Sammy come back!

My adoring Sam...

I forgot just how unbelievably wonderful it is to be pulled along on adventures.  (Literally pulled along - can I get just ONE dog that knows how to "heel"?!) Riley is showing me parts of town I didn't know existed. Actually, all the WET parts of town...

If water seeks its own level - Labs seek ANY level of water!

There's a creek just three blocks from our apartment.  Three blocks!  I've been here a year and never saw it. It took just four days to find it with Riley.

Here it is:
Who knew?

And here's my four-legged dowsing stick:

Where there's water...

(I swear it must have been a Lab that discovered the Mississippi...)

Another benefit of dog walking?  I've lost two more pounds in four days!  Yea!

There is someone who's not happy with this whole Riley situation though:

Calleigh the Sentinel...
Watching Riley and I come and go...

It's 9:00 p.m. now - almost "Riley time."  I'll let him out for a quick lap around the apartments, then I'll be up at 5:00 or 6:00 tomorrow morning for our two mile romp through the woods. I can smell the air already... it's been raining and muggy, so it'll be kind of musty.  The sun will just be rising and so it'll be cool, with just a hint of the heat of the day to come...

It's heaven.

And, speaking of heaven, we have four furry angels looking over us.  Sam, Murphy, Buddha (our Russia Blue) and Maggie (our beautiful Orange Tabby).

The inseparable Maggie & Buddha

Here's our Murphy on her last day at the beach. Boy, she loved the beach. We knew she was going, so we drove back down to New Jersey (from Massachusetts) to make her last day special. We took her to see her old dog sitter. We bought her pizza, bagels and steak. We drove to her favorite field where she played ball and frisbee...

And then we went to the beach.

It's almost like she's walking right into heaven. HER heaven... sand, sea gulls and, of course, water. She was a Lab after all...

Leaving paw prints in the sand and in my heart...

"Until one has loved an animal
a part of one's soul remains unawakened."

                                            Anatole France

Friday, July 11, 2014

Gettin' My "Groove Back"...

I'm wasting my life away.


I've dropped 30 POUNDS since this spring.  Yea!

Here I am in March -

"Who IS this?" what I'm thinking....

Aaaarghh!! I don't know how it happened.  I was a "stick" my whole life.  People were always saying, "You're TOO thin!"  I was the "tall drink of water", the one who would "fall through the slats of a chair", the one who women would tell me to "go home" when we were in our swimsuits by a pool...

One time I went to a small boutique to try on a swimsuit and the owners asked me to model their clothes in a fashion show.

I was THAT thin.

And, then several years ago I moved to Plymouth, Massachusetts.  I threw myself into the "country life. I wore clothes like Katherine Hepburn in "On Golden Pond" and "hauled in wood for the fireplace."

I was rugged!  (By New Jersey standards, that is...)

Here I am when I first moved up north -

Yup!  I could cut bread with those sharp cheekbones...

Well, I guess I started to eat like an outdoorsman... Except I really wasn't doing THAT much activity (other than leafing through L.L. Bean catalogues.)

So, I came back to New Jersey looking quite different than a lot of my friends remembered. (Friends and former co-workers from my NYC/Garment District days.  The days when I was hip, and artsy, and ... did I mention? ... THIN!)

My one friend asked me point-blank, "WHAT happened?"  I kind of struggled with an explanation until he finally blurted out, "Well, whatever you did, do the opposite!"  (Did I tell you he's a friend?) This is a guy though, who at 52 STILL aspires to be the next Calvin Klein underwear model - and looks good enough to actually not be delusional...

But, back to me...

I've dropped 30 POUNDS since this spring.  Yea!

Here I am the other day -

Looking happier!

So, what's the "secret"?   Listen (or read) closely... it's kind of complicated, so you better print this out.

  1. Eat more veggies and fruit.  
  2. Eat less carbs and sugar.  
  3. Eat smaller portions.  
  4. Drink more water. 
  5. Exercise.
Yeah, it's THAT diet. The simple one your mother told you about.  The one you ignored because you heard about the "cabbage juice diet", or the "eat ten pounds of steak for lunch diet", or the "_____________ diet" (feel free to fill in the blank with the one you've tried!)

To tell the truth, dieting (being healthier) IS that simple, and yet it took a weekend visit to a friend's house in March for the "light bulb" to go off.  This friend lost 100 POUNDS last year by eating this way!  (And, looks fabulous - "Hi Connie!")

It was an "AHA" weekend... and, luckily, it stuck with me.

I'm determined... and every week when I weigh myself I say, "I'm going the right way!"

Sure am!

Karen's gettin' her groove back...

Monday, July 7, 2014


I was just in the kitchen making my weekly batch of egg salad (Barry LOVES his egg salad). As I was peeling the eggs I started to think...


WHY is it that when I make egg salad, the egg shells come off easily?  YET, when I make my Amish Great-Grandmother's recipe of pickled beet eggs for a party, they end up looking like hot pink pieces of roadkill on a platter?

Yes - pickled beet eggs.  They're wonderful!  Here's a photo so you can appreciate them... (I'll put a recipe on the end of this blog because I know everyone will want it!)

Eggs are pretty in pink!
As you can see from the photo, the eggs have to be... well, egg-shaped.  Perfectly egg-shaped.

So, why is it that whenever I make stupid egg salad - where the eggs get all chopped up - the eggs are pristine and when I tell a friend I'll bring the pickled eggs for an appetizer, I CAN'T peel them without taking chunks off the side!  (You can tell it's not going to work the second you start to peel it. If you don't feel that slippery feel and it feels kind of sticky/rubbery - well, it's going to be a disaster.  My eggs tonight were NICE and slippery... right before I chopped them up.)

Honestly - the last time I made them for a party I used up a whole carton of eggs just to get about five semi-good ones. So, I sliced them in half, put the bad sides facing down and surrounded them with lots of beets and lettuce leaves.  People just looked at the wilted lettuce leaves soaking in beet juice and headed for the onion dip across the table.

My poor eggs...

Which got me to thinking about other "Why's?"

Like, why are the jobs you like most the ones that pay the least?  I have a GREAT part-time job right now.  My boss is mellow.  He appreciates me and listens to my ideas.  I have flexible hours.  But the pay?  Aaargh!!  (My other favorite job of all time, was the one I had at 17 at our local cinema. It paid minimum wage, but I got all the popcorn I could eat and FREE passes to the movies for me and my friends. That it's my all-time favorite job speaks volumes about my career...)

Aahh... to be an usher again... 

Or this one - there are TWO shows I like to watch every week.  TWO.  Modern Family and The Middle. My friends and I usually text or email each other, so my landline mostly collects dust and annoying sales calls.

BUT, darn it if almost EVERY Wednesday at around 8:00, right when The Middle starts and I'm just getting comfy on the sofa, I hear, "Ringgg... Ringggg!!"


Why?!  Why not ring on the other six nights when I sit flipping and cursing through our over-priced 700+ cable channels?

But it doesn't...

I have others. How about, you drive your car for two hours listening to bad music on the radio and JUST when you get to your destination one of your FAVORITE songs come on.  I don't know how many times I've sat in my driveway for an extra five minutes while my cats sit in the window wondering what's wrong with Mama.

Where's Mama?...

Or, you wait, and wait, and wait for the doctor when you have an appointment.  You know the "wink-wink" 10:00 a.m. appointment that you arrive at at exactly 10:00, only to sit in the waiting room surrounded by REALLY sick people and not wanting to even touch one of their dirty, old magazines. Then, after a half hour, the nurse calls you into the "inner room" where you wait another half-hour or so.  (Why not tell me to come at 11:00 a.m.... but, that's another story).

Anyway, it's inevitable.  I'll sit there in that stupid open-backed gown, shivering and bored. Then I'll think, "I'll call Barry real quick."

And THAT's when the doctor will come in.  Always.  Try it and see.  Except, maybe don't try it.  The doctor gets that pissed off look when he/she sees the phone.  You know - you're taking up THEIR time...

I just looked up at the calendar (boy, this summer is going by fast) and remembered this last one. It's the invitation that comes for that same day you already have something going on.  You look at the rest of your calendar and it's glowing white with empty squares.


How is it I sit around most of the time, yet I'm the most popular person about seven days out of the year.  "Oh, no. I'm sorry I can't go," (Cheryl, Patty, Kathy, etc.) "No, I'm busy THAT day."

365 days in a year and all events I could go to are crammed into seven.  It's not fair.  If my friends and relative would just plan it better, I'd finally look like I'm popular!

Oh, well...  Why ask why?

Here's the recipe I promised (it's not my Great-Grandmother's... you have to be related). Actually... I just open a jar of "Aunt Nellie's" pickled beets and pour them over the eggs. Easy peasy!  I'm actually from the Mennonites.  We're rebels...

Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Beets and Eggs
8 eggs
2 (15 ounce) cans whole pickled beets,
juice reserved
1 onion, chopped
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground black pepper

1.Place eggs in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let eggs sit in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool, and peel.
2.Place beets, onion, and peeled eggs in a non-reactive glass or plastic container. Set aside.
3.In a medium-size, non-reactive saucepan, combine sugar, 1 cup reserved beet juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 5 minutes.
4.Pour hot liquid over beets and eggs. Cover, and refrigerate 48 hours before using.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Perfect Fourth...

Boy, who was I kidding today?

I'm writing this at 11:00 p.m. on the Fourth of July.  The day started with rain, so this morning our town of Summit, N.J. posted online that the fireworks would be held tomorrow night instead.

"I don't care," I said to myself.  "Barry's working tonight anyway.  Plus, I've seen fireworks plenty of times already."

So, I cooked some burgers on the stove for our lunch this afternoon, instead of grilling, because of the rain.  Then at 3:00 I kissed my husband goodbye as he went out the door, and noticed the rain had stopped and the sun was actually coming out.

I wondered if there'd be fireworks after all...

After I went back inside I forgot about the Fourth again.  I did some housework and listened to the kids next door laughing (and bickering) as they played softball out front. But, gradually I started to notice that smell - that wonderful smell - of grills going and I heard some music playing.

Oh, yeah.  It IS the Fourth...

But, hey... who cares?  Right?

So, a few hours ago I settled in and turned on the TV to watch "Shark Tank." As I flipped around the channels during commercial, I saw the Grucci fireworks in NYC were going to be on at 9 p.m.

"Fine," I thought. "Shark Tank ends then."  But, with just a few minutes left in the show, and as I started to pick up the flicker - something happened.  I heard HUGE muffled booms coming from outside! The only sound like that could be...

Our town's FIREWORKS!!!

I RAN up the stairs hoping against hope... and yes!!  I had a small view of the fireworks from my bedroom window!

A room with a view...


What IS it about fireworks?  I leaned on the windowsill, next to our cat Calleigh, smiling from ear to ear.  Everything suddenly seemed more beautiful.

Really.  It all did.

I noticed the trees swaying gently from a cool wind in the night air.  I watched fireflies blinking below. I just felt... well, I felt the same way I do every Fourth of July - like a ten year-old kid.

I took it all in - the trees, the fireflies and the color and light bursting over the treetops.  My cheeks began to hurt from my grin.  Then, as always, the finale arrived. You can always tell the finale, even through an upstairs window a mile away.  BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Poor Calleigh jumped from the window.

Scaredy cat.

It was only about 9:20 now, so I went back to the downstairs TV to watch the Grucci's fireworks. (Love the Grucci's.  They used to do the fireworks 'down the shore' in the town next to where we lived. Thought they were from Jersey... but, I just looked it up and they're Long Islanders.  Well, no one's perfect.)

I could still hear sounds of our neighboring towns' fireworks, so I muted the sound of the country bands playing on NBC.  Who needs music playing?  I LOVE the throaty booms that only come from real fireworks!

On our TV.  Hurray for High Def!

All-in-all... it ended up being a pretty perfect night.

Note to my adult self... NEVER, ever again say, or pretend, that fireworks don't matter. My inner ten year-old disagrees.

Fireworks will ALWAYS matter.