Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Thoughts and Observations--about "Living the Simple Life"--the RV Adventure or Tails of Dogs Not Gone, Where the Men are Handsome, the Women are Beautiful and the Dogs Outsmart them All!

So where do I begin? There have been "personal revelations" like, I don't miss T.V. much, but my Internet--well that's another thing! Who would of thought? Certainly no one who knew me 5 years ago! And 4 dogs in an RV--not bad at all, except they keep finding ways to out smart us, the Ranger and all other creatures big and small!

The serenity is AMAZING!! We have "our end of the lake" to ourselves right now, except our animal friends and the flies! Yuck! There are flies everywhere! Maybe it is the time of year, or maybe because during "the season" where we are staying allowed horses. If anybody has any tips regarding how to keep flies away I will be eternally grateful!

Let me see if I can catch some of you up. The RV is cosy, like a small one bedroom apartment, but it is quite comfortable. I don't feel cramped for space at all, and it seems so much easier to keep clean.  Right now, we are living in a "primitive campsite" which means we have no electricity or running water except our bathroom. I am surprised at how easily I've adapted! I've always liked camping, but I've never done it for this long. Oh, we do have propane which runs our stove. Really it seems like a small price to pay for this experience!

It is odd how one's perspective can change very quickly! I find myself loving the solitude, which is a surprise for such an extrovert--yet I've always been comfortable with my "own company." The other day, it was a Wednesday, and all the recreational boaters and fisher folk had been gone for about a week. I was reading and looking across the lake. The lake was as smooth as glass--really unusual for "windy Kansas." I spotted a sail boat off in the distance. I was a big beautiful one with white sales up and the sun gleaming off the bow. First it occurred to me, how are they doing that? There is no wind! Having only limited sailing experience, I knew there was likely a motor of sorts on board, but the sails were really flapping and it was going fairly swiftly without a breeze in the air. Then my thought drifted to (even more importantly) who has time off in the middle of October to go for a sail on a relatively deserted (at that point) lake? It's not like it's South Beach where the wealthy sun and sail all year long. I watched  the boat all d day long, from about 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m. The wind never picked up.

That night as it began to get dark, I glanced toward the lake, my eyes barely catching the lake. I was suddenly startled with the swift images of red, rose yellow and orange moving quickly like a live entity. The lake was on fire! At least that is what I thought for about one half of a split second. It was the night before a full moon, and the moon making it's October appearance over the water literally played a symphony of colors and movement as it rose to it's "Jack-o-lantern" color and fullness. I was transfixed just watching it. I have never seen such a moonrise! When it finally rose over the lake itself it washed the landscape in bright roses and yellows. As the night progressed the colors turned to more of a yellowish glow. I wished I had a movie camera at the time and in fact, I could have taken a movie with my cell phone, but I was too focused on the show to even think of that at that time.

Then there was last Saturday. I decided to go fishing, or as we like to call it, I went to sit, catch nothing and lose hooks. None the less, hope springs eternal. Saturday I decided I wanted to catch a cat fish. Cecil is very good about cleaning what I catch (or so he says--I have not had much opportunity to test him...), and I decided I would love to have catfish for dinner. So there I sat patiently with my pole and stinky "blood bait." Now, for those of you not well versed in fishing, fishing for catfish has it's benefits, other than just the bounty should you like catfish, as I do. For an "uncoordinated" fisher person, such as myself, after "casting" the bait appropriately (which I can always get Cecil to do after I've swung stinky bait everywhere) it is a sitting, watching and waiting game, quiet and serene, unlike when I flail around casting with lures and getting hung up on everything including myself--and don't talk to me about fly fishing, that is an art! I still can't master getting a regular lure in the water without catching myself or a "stick fish".

So, there I was very quietly enjoying myself (after Cecil had "relaunched" my stinky blood bait). Then a visitor arrived. It was a huge white heron. He was about 20 feet from me, and every bit of three feet tall when he stretched out. apparently, I was at one of his favorite fishing holes. He was absolutely un phased to see me sitting there with my pole. I think he maybe even snickered a bit with his big beak. Obviously, he'd seen me fish before. He knew I was no threat. Pretty soon I saw him do some kind of a birdy dance. He would crank his neck this way, and then that way and then twist his neck in different positions. At times like a pretzel and at times like a snake. Then in a split second he'd have a fish in his mouth and gobble it right down right in front of me, as if to say, "HA!bet you can't catch one!"

Then he decided to rub a little salt in the wound, He began to walk over to me. He was very graceful and purposeful. He didn't "slink" over like he was afraid I'd see him. I think he was showing off. Maybe he figured if I can't catch a fish, he didn't need to worry about me! He got  to within about three feet of me. He now made a point of stretching his swan like neck as long as it could go. And then the birdy dances began again, and then gulp. More fish down the hatch, or should I say gullet? This went on for what seemed to be hours, but actually was only about two hours. I of course, not to be outdone, managed to catch a "moss fish"--I truly do believe he could snicker, beak and all. Finally he was joined by several other friends. Well, it is one thing to be snickered at by one bird-- a family was more than I was willing to take!

I walked myself back to my site. I could still see him feasting (I mean how much fish can one heron eat???) A great deal I guess. I did feel a little better when I realized he apparently was the "Master Fisher Bird" of the crew! I only saw a couple of the others catch a fish before they all packed up their tackle and went home. It was quite an experience though! And even if he was a "show off" the heron was incredibly beautiful! Now Cecil  said that all his gyrating was his attempt to act "as a lure" to trick the fish into believing he was something edible for them. I don't know if that is true--I still own some swampland in Arkansas...

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Thoughts--about the Economy, Children and Digging to China

I have been remiss in writing my blog lately. But it does not mean I have not been thinking! So to catch everybody up, these are some of the things on my mind.

There is an election coming up next week. And it seems in just a short period of time (at least by my standards) folks have become disheartened with Barrak Obama. We are sure a "fast food society" in more than one way! It seems that folks do not remember when and how the Recession started. The "bail out" and "TARP" did not begin with Obama. If I remember correctly (and this time I do) there was NO DEFICIT when Clinton was president. It seems we lived through a rough Recession (not as bad as this one) when Reagan was the president, and that Reagan and "King George the 1st," (not GW), left us with a whopping deficit. They believed in "trickle down economy." That is what they called it back then. Less taxes for the wealthy, and wealthy businesses, then, the wealthy will spend more, promoting job growth and prosperity to all. Think they forgot about human nature on that one.

Seems most of the Republicans and all"Tea Partiers" are singing that tired old song again, and folks are believing it! We are in a huge hole. Obama didn't dig it. I know, lets put the same folks in office who dug the hole! That will surely fix the economy! How dare Obama not get us out of a hole that took 8 years to dig in 18 months! Shame on him! If we elect the "trickle down" Tea Partiers and Republicans, then I guess we will dig all the way to China. Guess were heading that way this election if folks forget their history. And folks, this is not ancient history!!!! Maybe it has to do with education? OK--no time to get me started on that one!

I did want to talk a little about something else I've been thinking about. I heard this morning on my local NPR station that a sign of health for a country is the height of it's citizens. Interesting right? Since the colonial times American have been taller than Europeans--until now it seems. Apparently, good nutrition and health care are what makes an individual grow as tall as his genetics will allow. Well guess what (Fast food society again???) ? American children are lagging behind again. Did you know that in the Netherlands the average height of men is 6 feet 1 inch? That is the average. And in  the land of the free and brave, we are averaging 5 feet 9 inches from 5'10" just a generation ago. "Why?" you may ask. It seems that in Europe, and especially in the Netherlands, women get great prenatal care and the children are given better food and health care. Obama screwed it up again didn't he? Pushing health care reform. What a dumb idea! How many folks with health care can afford their part of the payment for even a routine surgery? Do you have an extra 10 grand for a simple gallbladder removal. And what about those pre- existing conditions? Obama's health care reform, starts with getting rid of the "pre existing condition" problem, starting with those pesky short and obese American children! But we do not need health care reform! Oh, and who wants to get rid of Medicare? You know those nice Tea Partiers and Republicans say that those on Medicare will have benefits taken away. Folks learn the truth. Read. Investigate. Don't believe anything any one puts in print or on an add without examining it! Oh, and by the way, how many of you know who the VP is? Apparently, only about 20% of our youth--you know those short chubby folks who are only 14th in the world regarding education as discussed in a previous blog...

And by the way, how about our gay youth having to live through bullying, suicidal thoughts and worse. It is true, I will tell you, as a therapist, it will get better!!  Did you know that approximately one in ten people are gay? In all countries, in all of humanity. But why should they have to wait!!! What ever happened to teaching respect and dignity to all people? I must be crazy to believe nobody should be bullied!! I guess I am just really old fashioned! I guess our children should be taught to judge others. Our religions too. What ever happened to letting God do the judging?

OK. I've gone off on one of my little tangents, I know.

I hope everyone votes next Tuesday. What I really hope is that every one think, read, research and remember history. Don't vote the "popular paid political commercial stands." Remember who can afford to donate the most money and pay for the most lobbyists. It is not rocket science. Don't just follow the latest crowd--don't be a "Sheeple"!

And my apologies to my high school English teacher: when I go on a rant, I am not responsible for my grammar and writing! Also, Mark Twain said, "It is a poor man (or woman I think) who can spell a word only one way."

*NEXT:  More Tails from Lake Dogs Not Gone where the men are handsome, the women are beautiful and the dogs outsmart them all. More on our life in the RV.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Come Dance With Me!

An "old and dear" friend found me on Face book recently. That is one thing I love about social networking--getting back in touch with family and friends I'd lost contact with. But that is not what I really want to write about tonight. I want to talk about the paths we take, and the curves, road blocks and unexpected surprises we stumble upon. And mostly about the people who have made my life so rich...

I remember when I first met Karen. We were full of hope and dreams--just trying to "feel life out."I was still in High School and we worked at The Sizzler. I remember the little things that likely seem so corny now. I remember when she had a "better job" than me, she could buy the more expensive nail polish and often would buy some for me...some sort of lilac and mauve was what she liked--funny, I don't remember what I liked! And at points that I had a better paying job (which was not the norm) I would buy her nail polish. Little things like that, we probably really did not appreciate at the time. Oh, and there was the time she tried to get into real estate and I pretended to be a "prospective buyer" at age 19--I doubt I fooled anyone! And all those trips to Solvang eating way too much pastry!

We had energy and passion. Most of our dreams came true in one fashion or another. But it is the little things I remember. Those little things that I did not appreciate at the time. We were in such a hurry to get somewhere--we did not appreciate the journey. And now--my dear old friend, I can savor those memories, and hope we have many years together to celebrate our lives, our children and grandchildren.

Things, come and go. Homes, careers, money, cars, jewelry (am I leaving anything out?). But good friends, family and memories are the hallmarks of a life well lived. Regrets? I have a few, not many! I have lived life with gusto. One of the biggest regrets I will ever have is not savoring my friendships, and continuing to nurture them. Thank God, I have friends who have forgiven my thoughtlessness.

So, to all my old friends and new friends, I toast you all and will tell you now how happy I am that you are all in my life. And I enjoy my memories like the 1/2 a hair cut Karen, do you remember? The pink bunny pajamas Fiona--and how hard we laughed when I hopped into the wrong tent and surprised those strangers? And Dee, the glasses of wine on the front porch with the other girls when we'd laugh and laugh.  And the dogs, men and psychic fairs I've shared with "Florida Karen" over the years! And the fundraising this past summer in 102 degree weather, Marva? And chanting with Ricky, Dawn? And how we laughed when I said in Atlanta when it rained on us it was probably Ricky "saying hi" (well that is not probably not exactly what I said!)? And all the friends I never really got to say goodbye to, like Ricky, and Leslie... Rhonda remember all those "relationships" you and Nole endured with me through the years? How many dinners have I had in your home over the years? Thank you for all of those wonderful times. Oh, and Pictionary on Christmas Eves! And Louise...too many funny, funny times--my Thelma to your Louise. Thank you for all of those times.

I know I have forgotten some friends, and this is a bit self indulgent. But you all have helped create those moments in my life that have made it so full! No. I don't think I'm dying. I just don't take enough time out of my life to tell my real friends old and new--er, how much you all mean to me! One of you sent me a message that ended, "Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance." I plan on doing a lot more dancing, and I look forward to doing some more with all of you!

To those of you who follow this blog, all put on "your dancing shoes." Enjoy your life now. Don't make some of the mistakes I've made and most of us make. Enjoy the journey, nurture your friendships--friends are the family you get to choose!  Oh, and don't forget your shoes!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Maiden Voyage with the RV---or My Life Livng With Rodent Condos

This past weekend my husband, Cecil and I took the RV to our first "Home on the Road" adventure. We picked (actually Cecil picked) a lake called Butler County State Lake. The campsites there were "primitive." For those of you who don't know, primitive camping means you cannot hook up to electricity or water. You must bring your own water via holding tanks and find another source for electricity. Our other source "should have been" our generator which had just been fixed Friday, the first day at the lake.

As one might expect, the generator did not work, and of course on a Friday, we would need to wait until Monday to have it worked on again. So, there we were, Cecil and and the 4 dogs "roughing it" so to speak without electricity. I really did not think it was so bad. The stove, which runs off of propane, worked, the water worked and was pumped via batteries, and the batteries also ran the lights. We did have to take cold showers, but I didn't think that was so bad. I've been camping without any amenities.

The lake was beautiful and very secluded. There was only one other campsite being used across the lake. There were only a handful of people fishing on boats. The dogs loved running around chasing whatever they could find. Sasha, our big Service Dog, splashed her way into the water every chance she got. Everybody seemed happy until Saturday morning.

Since we did not have electricity, we could not use the refrigerator. We decided to take Cecil's van, to all pack up and go to town to pick up a cooler and some food. After just a few minutes on the road, the van began to sputter and chug. I held my breath. Cecil is pretty hard on a vehicle and has a tendency, out of the goodness of his heart, to transport several people at a time in electric wheelchairs-- oye. We have had to repair so much on this van it is practically new (and of course not paid for yet). The last thing I want is another repair on his van.

We made it up and back from town and the van continued to sound awful. Cecil lifted the hood to see if he could figure out what was wrong. Cecil is no mechanic, but for some reason, we all feel we must "pop the hood" whenever a vehicle acts up. I know I do it, and I'm not sure if there are squirrels running on a wheel making the car go (well maybe I'm not that bad, but pretty bad!)--but for some reason I too stick my head under the hood and go "hmmmm" like I see something. Well this is one time looking under the hood paid off!

There were no squirrels under the hood running on a belt, but there was a condo under the hood! A condo that had been built in one night by mice (it might really be rats, but Cecil knew that would really freak me out). I could not believe what was under the hood. There were literally branches from trees, grass, moss, dog hair. I can not imagine how mice could get all that stuff up there ! It was amazing. Well I guess I would have appreciated the architecture more if I wasn't so worried about what permanent damage had been done to the van! I could just imagine the little mice (yes I will continue to imagine cute little mice, rather than nasty rats--sometimes denial is all we have to keep us sane) with pulleys, an assembly line of little mice workers passing moss down the line then hoisting them up via the pulley. I have to admit, I was truly in awe. There was enough debris to fill a trash bag!

Cecil cleaned up the mess. Something must have been chewed we concluded, because the van still chugged. Now, the only time I have ever heard of such a thing is on "Click and Clack" on Saturday mornings on NPR. I thought it was a joke when they talked about mice and rats building nests on the motors of cars. This city girl, had never really believed it possible, plus why would the little vermin do such a thing??? Cecil tells me, that "in the country"  this is a common occurrence before winter comes--he also predicted that this will mean winter will come early this year (oh joy--I am not a winter fan--I need lots of sun light!). "Are we going to have to battle this all fall and winter?" Cecil assured me that we won't, this particular campsite was very close to brush and very rustic.

We popped the hood on my car, no condo. Apparently mice don't like Japanese cars--who knew? I guess I've never seen Mickey driving a foreign car... Anyway, Cecil told me to keep the hood open anyway just in case they got any ideas. He left his up as well. I got to thinking about this. Fred, our little dachshund, seemed very interested going under the van, but also the RV. This occurred to me Sunday, as we were packing up--certainly the RV would need to get the generator worked on again Monday. I mentioned to Cecil, maybe we should "pop the hood" on the RV--just in case. Apparently, the RV has no hood to pop--again, who knew? In order to get to the engine, you must take this little console looking thingy off  inside the RV. So, to humor me, Cecil took the thingy off. And I'll be darn, it was an entire complex of townhouses under there! The were pieces of branches that actually looked like little logs! Plus several things we had lost, like a beer coozie

I was concerned, because there is no hood to keep popped up. Cecil suggested we only put part of the thingy back on (I guess I really should find out what it's actually called) and then maybe Fred, who had been so interested would keep poking his nose in there, thus scaring the mice. I will admit, at this point, my denial that they weren't rats was wearing a little thin. It would take "Mighty Mouse" to get those logs up there! Cecil kept assuring me, that mice are very strong. He started up the RV and there were no problems.

The next morning, we got up. Cecil looked under the console thingy, and in just a few hours they had constructed an entire town! He filled an entire big plastic bag full of their structures. Fred, had not earned his dog biscuits. He apparently slept through it all. Fortunately, the RV ran perfectly. Phew.

I expected this "lifestyle" would allow me opportunities to learn new things and experience new things. But, as usual, life has a way of throwing something at you, you could never imagine! Mice condos! Who knew?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Schedules for children give a child a sense of security, and a new study shows health benefits!

I am always concerned about how we as a culture treat our children. Sometimes I feel we look at our children as accessories as opposed to the gifts that they are. By that I mean, our lives during child rearing should revolve around the children's needs (notice I said needs and not wants).

I believe there are some very basic needs that children often do not get. The first one, you all have heard me discuss probably endlessly, is feeding our children healthy, low in fat, non processed foods. Junk food should be held to a minimum and maybe special occasions. I realize this takes planning for a parent, and often it is just faster and easier to grab something on the go--like McDonald's--although, by the way, in England all foods served at McDonald's must be organic and the animals must be treated well  before they become your hamburger or whatever---This is because England demanded it. McDonald's complied and in England the McDonald's are the highest grossing McDonald's! I realize I went off on a tangent, but I believe folks here should know. Anyway, back to the meals.

Mealtimes should be approximately the same time everyday. The human body is like a machine, it works best when it receives fuel on a regular basis and can anticipate when the next meal will come. I am a big believer in family meals (for you who are not subscribers to my column, you might want to read my article on family meals). Having a schedule for a meal or really anything (within reason) gives a child a sense of security and confidence that his world is OK. They have something they can count on.

We adults also should eat at scheduled times, not skip meals etc. I know most adults are guilty of not doing this, but at least try to do it around your children. Your example is extremely important to a child, even a teenager! Although it is a teenager's "job" to never let you know! Too many parents feed their children when they get around to it in their hectic schedules. I am not "throwing stones". I know what it is like to be a busy working parent--and many are single parents as I was. But in this respect, I feel we need to fit into our child's need, not our own convenience.

The second "pet peeve" I have about parenting, that I have seen so much of is: no bedtime schedule or one that is the parents sleep schedule. I know why this happens in many cases. We love our  children and because most of us work or have to work (I am not really sure of the actual statistics today), we want to spend as much time with our children as we can. Unfortunately, we do them no favors when we don't adhere to a strict bedtime that allows for the child to get a minimum of 8--9 hours of sleep ( I tried to get stats for exactly how much sleep a child needs, but this was as close as I could get, most pediatricians I spoke with leaning more toward the nine hours). The new study that came out yesterday, states that children who do not get enough sleep, are more obese. There were scientific explanations that I understood, but would fall short if I tried to explain them! Anyway, parents, we need to settle on quality time with our children instead of quantity of hours. Not only will they perform better at school, sports and etc., but will also have a better chance of maintaining a healthy weight.

Again, remember, that a schedule is a "gift" to your child psychologically as well. Little Johnny knows he will take his bath, brush his teeth, and have a story read at 8:00pm (or whatever time). If your child is not yet school age, begin starting a sleep routine NOW, you will be very happy that you did. I know getting your child to sleep on schedule and in his/her own bed is very hard, ask any parent who has had to change a child's sleep pattern and where he or she sleeps.

It may seem like I'm singling out working parents, but I am not. A stay at home parent will suffer from these issues as well. If you have never stayed home with a child all day long, you have NO IDEA how hard that is! "Stay at home" parents also suffer from many of these same issues. A sleep schedule though, is a gift to all parents, I believe. It is the time of day when you might be able to put your feet up for a few minutes and relax. You will have  time on the weekends etc. to spend more quality time with  your children, when nobody is overly sleep deprived! Remember also, adults should receive at least 7 hours of sleep a day if not more. Studies also show that adults who do not get enough sleep are also at a higher risk for obesity.

So have those family meals, look for healthy options. And make sure your child has a reasonable bedtime! And mom and dad. you get enough sleep too. Your health and the health of your children are more important than dust on the furniture or dirty dishes! I always believe a healthy body nourishes a healthy mind.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Recipe for Meatballs

I have committed myself to only printing "healthy recipes" because of our Nations' obesity problem and especially the childhood obesity problem. However, I have had numerous requests for this recipe. You can make it as healthy as you like--which I do, or as unhealthy as you like.

2lbs of meat. I use very lean ground beef or combine 1/2 and 1/2 with turkey. ou could use all turkey, but it does have a funny "waang" to me with all turkey.

1/2 cup tp 1 cup grated parmesian and or romano cheese--you really don't need to worry about using the "good stuff" for the meatballs

2 cups (aprox) of bread crumbs. I use whole wheat or 9 grain bread in the blender. I also think it is better because it has a little more moisture.

1 tsp. fennel seed "ground"--you may ommit this if you do not like an Italian Sausabe flavor to your meatballls. I do

2 small onions or 1 1/2 large onions chopped very fine

1/2 cup fresh prsley chopped very fine (this can be omiitted, but I like the flavor it brings)

6 cloves of garlic grated or chopped VERY finely or qbout 2 tablspoons of garlic powder

Red pepper flakes --to taste or omit if you don't want too much "spice"

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil If your basil and oregano, are not very fresh, add more

1/2 cup of green or red bell pepper  chopped very very fine---even those who don't like bell peppers will like this, it just adds a different dimnsion to the meatballs

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 tablespoons to 1 tablespooon of salt (to your tastes)

1 tsp ground pepper

Combine all ingredients, do not over mix or your meatballs will be tough

Test your meatballs first. Before cooking, cook a tiny patty to see if you think they need additional salt etc. You can always add, but never take out!

Cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil, not too much. Get it hot, then put the meatballs in the pan. Resist the urge to move the meatballs around. What you are looking for is a nice "crust" on each meatball. Move them as they crust up to another "side" until the balls are caramelized at least on 4 "sides." The size of the meatballs is up to you. I like mine a little smaller than a tennis ball. I like to cook mine the rest of the way in the pasta sauce. If you do not want to do this, place in a rack and finish cooking them in the oven at about 375. Check periodically to see if they are done in the center. The bigger the meatballs the longer they need to cook.

Other things I like to add are a table spoon of rosemary leaves crunched up and or thyme or marjoram.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Access to Domestic Violence Series

The Examiner is having "some problems." My series on Domestic Violence will begin tomorrow Sept. 1.  If you can not log on to my Examiner site (again, some problems) google cathywalkerlmsw examiner wichita family counseling.