Category Archives: Family

Twenty Years Today

Me and Aimee
The First Day of the Rest of my Life

It has come to my attention that exactly 20 years have passed since the day our oldest daughter was placed into our loving arms. It was in the evening in a small conference room at the Majestic Hotel, located in the City of Nanning, People’s Republic of China.

One week before we had spent 15 hours in the air from LAX to Guangzhou, where we had a three hour layover before flying to Beijing. After six days of sight-seeing (and some interesting adventures) we flew back to Guangzhou where, after one day, we flew to Nanning. That evening there were about eleven families whose lives changed dramatically as their newly adopted children were handed over to them. We were the last to have that jarring, emotional, and life-changing experience.

As you might be able to tell from the photo, Aimee was none too happy to be ripped from her foster family, who clearly loved her, and given to these two strangers (one of whom—that would be me—had a face the likes of which she’d never seen before.) It would be several days before she would have anything to do with us.

At the time many of us referred to the day as “Gotcha Day”, but in the intervening years we have come to believe the term is parent-centric and ignores the real trauma our experience represents. We are actually our child’s third set of parents. We now refer to it as “Family Day”, as it is the day on which we became a family, one that has now lasted for two decades. Aimee has grown into a beautiful young woman and I am so proud of her and her achievements. She has made my life far richer than it otherwise might have been.


Is It Sauce or Is It Gravy?

food plate restaurant dinner
Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

I have always thought of the topping we’re most used to putting on pasta as sauce; generically spaghetti sauce, though we might differentiate between marinara and meat sauce. During the early 80s, when I was living in Playa del Rey, CA I recall a friend from Boston who referred to it as gravy. I had never heard that term used before and I was intrigued.

Never thought about it too much, but every once in a while I would wonder what it was all about. Gravy or sauce. Now I’ve spent my fair share of time in the kitchen and I know my way around, but I’m hardly a trained chef or a connoisseur. I’m just someone who enjoys eating and knows how to have fun cooking many of the things I like to eat.

Recently, I decided to “do my own research” and have discovered there is no simple answer to the question. Suffice it to say, for the most part gravy is used to refer to a thickened liquid made from the drippings of cooked meat or vegetables, while sauce is made separately from the item it is poured over or served with. Gravies are usually served hot while sauces can be served either hot or cold.

It seems clear to me, however, there is a lot of overlap and wiggle room for classifying something as either a sauce or a gravy and, rather than present an entire treatise on it, I’m going to share a couple of links to articles or sources I’ve encountered whilst doing the aforementioned “research”. I have to add that writing this has made caused me to crave a nice, steaming plate of pasta with my favorite kind of sauce/gravy poured all over it (that would be a meat sauce, say a nice bolognese.)

This page runs down a bit of the history of Italian immigrants to the U.S. and how their use of the words has evolved as they assimilated. The author points out how contentious the distinction has become. There’s quite a bit of fun history and speculation here.

This next page is from a source in India for hospitality workers to educate themselves. It’s got an interesting table setting forth the differences between gravies and sauces. It does not go into any arguments that exist regarding the difference; it’s just a decent source for understanding their components.

This blog post goes into what appears to be an ongoing argument over what to call the stuff that in Italy is referred to as sugo. The author also provides information about Italy and Italian-Americans, as well as recipes from salads to desserts.

Now I need to go out and find something to satisfy my craving for Italian. As a Ukrainian-Moldovan-German-Jewish-American, it’s not part of my heritage but my father’s best friend was a DeBiase and I spent a few of my early years eating homemade pasta (Rigatoni is my fave) or Lasagna, garlic bread, and fresh from the oven Pizzelle (Anise cookies) most every Sunday when we lived near each other in Panorama City, CA.

Pizzelle (Yum!)

Sour on Power

Or its lack during a blackout! I just discovered this poem I wrote on December 8, 2020 at 1:50 pm. Based on this text the power had been out for well over 12 hours and I was getting pretty anxious about getting it back. Since I forgot I wrote it, I’m saving/sharing it here, where I’m pretty sure I’ll forget about it again. At least it will be somewhere other than just on my phone or iPad.

Listen!
You can hear the wind howl
And feel it shaking the house
As the dog’s quick to growl
And is shushed by my spouse.

Patience!
SCE proactively turned off our power
Last night at 7 was when it went dead
Hoping now in the kitchen the milk doesn’t sour
Yet the butter I’ve found is so easily spread.

Worry!
It’s not just the reefer I worry about
It’s more than the food that might spoil
It’s my iPhone’s ability to let me shout out
When its battery gets low on oil.

Resignation.
So I sit here and wait for my phone to go dead
And try to ignore angry thoughts in my head
Cause they told us the power won’t be back ’til tomorrow
And I’ve little to do save to drown in my sorrow.


Transference

What follows is an attempt at writing a short story from something like ten years ago. It’s based on an actual experience of mine that was both enlightening and humbling.

James had been napping for at least an hour. His lunch with Daniel proved a little too much for him, as the salt content of the food made him uncomfortable and a little uneasy. Jewish soul food sure was comforting and tasty, but it would never be mistaken for health food. This was especially true if one had hypertension, like James, accompanied by a deep love of Matzo Ball soup and kosher pickles. He was pretty sure, now that he had no choice but to think about it, he’d ingested at least three or four teaspoons of salt. Although it was now the middle of the afternoon and there remained things to do, the sensations he was experiencing were unsettling and he felt he had no choice but to nap, even if somewhat fitfully. He lay in bed, drifting between different states of consciousness, at times dreaming comfortably and at others becoming keenly aware of what was happening elsewhere in the house. 

His wife, Doreen, had come into the room earlier and asked if he wanted to get up for dinner, but James declined, choosing to allow himself a few more precious minutes of rest and relaxation prior to assuming the chores he had no choice but to perform. After all, the trash and recycle containers weren’t going to take themselves out to the curb and, since the kids were off from school the next day, he wanted to get it out that evening rather than arising early to make sure they weren’t passed up by the trash trucks that always came at daybreak. 

Unfortunately, things weren’t working out quite as he hoped they would. He could hear his children arguing at the dinner table . . . and the volume seemed to be increasing dramatically. Suddenly, he heard angry footsteps approaching the girls’ bedroom across the hall, followed by a triple slamming of the door and loud screaming. He tried to ignore it. This, of course, was impossible and he was shortly fully awake. And upset. 

He forced himself out of bed and popped his head into the girls’ bedroom. His oldest, Angela, was sitting propped up in the corner, sobbing uncontrollably. He wasn’t feeling sympathetic and fixed her with as menacing a glare as he could muster.  

“How many times have I asked you not to slam doors? I’m not feeling well and you woke me up.” 

He continued his glare. She seemed not to care, merely staring back at him with sad, tear-filled eyes. Of course, this infuriated him more. Fortunately, he managed to summon up his nurturing side; at least enough to realize he wasn’t going to help by getting angry with her. With a heavy sigh, he withdrew and moved into the family room. He sat down and instead trained his glare on the television which, to his surprise, also showed no sign of caring. 

Doreen, seeing him now awake, began to recount—step-by-step—the events leading up to this latest drama. He didn’t want to hear it. Most of the conversation, arguing, and yelling between the kids had made it into his consciousness while he was struggling to ignore it and remain asleep; he had no desire to relive it all from her viewpoint, thank you very much. If he had been feeling better, he would have listened better. He wasn’t. 

Ten minutes later, he could still hear Angela sobbing heavily in her room. James was finally convinced he wasn’t having a heart attack and now was becoming concerned for his oldest daughter’s anguish. He felt a little pang of guilt for having scolded her. Feeling a bit selfish and narcissistic, he wanted to do something about it. 

Softly, he knocked on the bedroom door. There was no response. He knocked again and heard a quiet, somewhat surly “What is it?” He now had permission to enter the room and state his business. 

James walked slowly over to the bed. Angela was still sobbing, not even looking up to acknowledge his presence. He gently sat on the bed and looked at his oldest. Her sadness washed over him and his guilt was replaced with warmth and the love he felt for this wonderful child he felt so privileged to have in his life. He took her hand. She looked up, somewhat surprised, and he stared directly into her eyes. 

“Sweetheart, I’m very sorry I yelled at you for waking me up. I know you had a fight with your sister and you’re very upset.” She continued to stare at him, softening slightly from the stone-faced, hurt child he’d seen when he entered the room. 

“I can’t stay mad at you, and it hurts me to see you like this. Is there anything I can do to help?” Her face again softened almost imperceptibly as he continued, “I’ll talk to Annie about teasing you and being so annoying. Would you like that?” The mention of her little sister brought Angela back to the feelings she had before he entered the room. Again she began to sob. James took a deep breath, wondering how he could make this better. 

Seeing one of the great loves of his life this miserable was overwhelming and, as he looked into her eyes, he felt tears beginning to fill his own. He could not look away from her and, therefore, could not hide the fact he was crying. As she saw the tears in his eyes, the corners of her mouth began to turn up ever so slightly, and her eyes took on a slight twinkle. 

“You know how much I love you, baby. Can you forgive me for getting angry with you? I really, really am sorry.” As he spoke, a tear slowly flowed from one eye and began running down his cheek. Angela’s eyes widened and she smiled at him with a look of both wonder and appreciation. 

“Would you like to come out of the room with me and see what Mommy’s fixing for dinner?” he asked. She nodded, and continued to look lovingly into his eyes. James was filled with a sense of deep relief and not a little wonder at what had just happened. He’d entered the room hoping to merely calm his daughter down a little. Now he had unwittingly achieved something far greater and more enduring. 

Somehow, his display of emotion had managed to suck the anguish out of Angela. Since he was much older than her, it was easy for him to deal with the depth of feeling he experienced and, in fact, once he saw her reaction he was filled with a profound sense of satisfaction. 

He arose and held out his hand. Angela took it and stood up beside him. “Feeling better?” he asked. She nodded. He turned and led her out of the room—this magical room where something special had just happened. Mommy was making dinner and Annie was still Annie, lying in wait out in the family room. This moment, though, was very special and he savored it. He knew there would be more—perhaps even greater—battles fought between the two of them but, for now he was content to soak up the intense connection he had found in his short conversation with Angela. Life would, indeed, go on. 


My Dad The Bowler

Just found this in the garage, covered by dust. I resurrected it, meaning I cleaned it off and hit it with some Howard Feed-N-Wax. hard to believe it’s been nearly 58 years.

No Lucky Strikes Here

That series works out to an average of 247 per game. The old man was a good bowler, and a scratch golfer. He never rolled a 300; I think his best game was 279.

I used to keep score for his team back then. I was finishing my Junior year of high school when he did this. I don’t recall if I used to sneak sips of beer when no one was looking.


How to Die Well, According to a Palliative Care Doctor

Came across this wonderful, reasonably short article about death and dying, a subject I have long been interested in; especially as I’m winding down my 75th year here.

Preparing for death by making peace with it.

Excerpt:

Source: How to Die Well, According to a Palliative Care Doctor


Halloween 2021

Last night I took my youngest daughter, Alyssa, for what is likely to be her last time trick-or-treating … with me, at least. She’ll be 18 in a week, though she’s small enough she’ll probably be able pass for a child for decades to some (with a mask on.)

There was a local Facebook group that had lists of the decorated houses here in Simi Valley, including maps and guides if you wanted to drive around and sight see. We didn’t actually do that, but we did use a couple of destinations to check out. The first video below is from the neighborhood we went to where one family had created a haunted house.

Alyssa wanted to go through it, but she insisted I accompany her, which I did. They had set it up so that if you went through with a flashlight the actors weren’t supposed to jump out at you, but just wave. That’s what Alyssa wanted to do, but the first character we met jumped out at her and screamed, scaring the shit out of her. I admonished him and we got an apology when we exited. It’s a good thing I was with her or she would have completely freaked out.

Here’s Alyssa in her “costume.” She wanted to be a French businesswoman; an entrepreneur and this is the outfit she put together using clothing she wears normally, as well as a piece she had designated to be donated to a local charity but decided it fit her concept. I ordered her a beret from Amazon Prime to “top” the costume off.

Alyssa as a French Entrepreneur

Below are some videos and photos of some of the houses she stopped at. We didn’t get any photos of the haunted house, as we were too busy going through it and navigating the maze they’d created. Both neighborhoods we went to were a bit more upscale than ours. In fact, the second place we went was an equestrian neighborhood and I’d venture to guess the houses there were about twice as pricey as our home. It was also jam packed with literally hundreds of people walking from house to house. We returned to our area of town to finish off the evening and it was comparatively dead. All-in-all it was a fun evening for Alyssa. Later today or tomorrow we’re going to head over to For The Troops, an organization that sends packages of hard-to-get supplies and goodies to serviceman and women stationed abroad. It was Alyssa’s main reason for going out last night.

This was her haul of candy for the night, not including the dozen or so pieces we ate while she was conducting inventory. I must admit I ate my share and, fortunately, my blood sugar wasn’t too elevated this morning.


Cool (Groovy) Mailbox

I have been posting on and off for a few years to a Facebook page I have entitled “I Sing The Mailbox Eclectic.” I haven’t posted in quite some time, but I got a few nice pics today while biding my time waiting for my daughter to finish meeting with her teacher. This is the first.


Fun & Games With The Doggo

Nearly five years ago it had been decades since I lived with a dog. My last “good boy” was a Rottweiler who had been given to me by a girlfriend. She didn’t have the strength or know-how to handle him and she decided he would be better off with someone who could manage his size and strength and had some experience training dogs.

His full name was Kavon Heinse of Stoneflower. The first two names came from his lineage; he was a pedigreed dog and ended being the last one I would ever have. I just called him Heinse, and we spent a few years together before an inoperable lesion on his spine paralyzed him and I had no choice but to have him euthanized. It was a traumatic experience and, because I couldn’t bring myself to have another dog in my life for the longest time, it really affected me emotionally.

Fast forward about forty years and Angel, our rescue pup, came into my and my family’s life. With her, I remembered just how wonderful and special it is to have a dog to love and be loved by. Angel has come to fill a hole I wasn’t even aware I was living with. She also provides me with an “affection sponge,” giving me someone I can hug and kiss who won’t grow out of it as my children have.

I happen to be sitting out in the backyard the other day and Alyssa started playing with Angel. I had forgotten they had this stalking game they did and, as it was unfolding, I decided to take this video. This is one of the many things that make having a dog so special, IMO.

Angel Stalks Alyssa

NB: I can’t figure out why the link, but not the embedded video, is showing up here. I’ll keep trying to figure it out but if you click on it, you can see the vid I posted.


Back In The Saddle

I posted the following to LinkedIn two days ago. It was the first time I’ve posted there in approximately two years. I was very apprehensive about sharing some of these personal details on the site, as I’ve always used it strictly for business, but I felt it necessary to explain to my over 1300 connections where I’ve been for the last two years. I’m gratified to be able to say it was more than well received and I am now jumping back into the fray as carefully (and delicately) as possible.


Hey everybody. Well, at least the people who know me and, perhaps, have wondered where I’ve been. Two years ago, my youngest daughter announced she wanted to drop out of school. She was a sophomore in high school at the time.

Needless to say, I dropped everything I was doing and concentrated on helping her deal with the issues that were causing her to feel like giving up was the best course of action. As an older, internationally adopted toddler, she was saddled with some difficult learning issues and has struggled to get through her classes. Fortunately, she has an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which allows her teachers and the school to take those issues into consideration.

She is now a senior and is attending a school that is an independent learning academy. During the pandemic lock-down of our local schools, she thrived working at home. She has a problem with other children and having to work with dozens surrounding her has always been a challenge.

Her new school, coupled with a new medication for depression she started taking (and which seems to be working) has tamped down her anxiety, which means I’m not living moment-to-moment awaiting her next trauma and having to deal with it.

So – I’m just coming up for air after two years of trauma, exacerbated by the pandemic and my having been infected with Covid at the beginning of this year. I am still experiencing some long-haul symptoms, but am doing remarkable well for someone my age, with my comorbidities.

I may not be fully functional until next June, when she graduates (God willing and the creek don’t rise,) but I’m working on it and will be spending more time on LinkedIn as I seek a few clients/gigs. I’m deeply thankful I was in a position to spend as much time as I have with her, but I’m really looking forward to having more time to spend on myself and my continuing desire to be useful to others.


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