Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Monday, June 10, 2019

I Have Hope


I climb the mountain until my hands are scraped, bloodied.
I wander through the forest until I find a clearing, weary from exhaustion.
I get swept out to the dark sea by oppressive waves,
My arms outstretched towards the fading light as I sink deeper in the abyss.

Do you see how I've grown? Do you see I've suffered along the way?
I am afraid of not when the sun sets but when the dawn breaks.
The new morning's light may bring me that fearful clarity
Which could ultimately destroy our fortress.

I wonder when calm will come to the thunder raging inside.
My soul yearns for comfort, for serenity, but at what cost ...
Thunderclaps shatter the glass around me
Piercing me to my core, my shield not yet strong enough.

I fear these torrential rains mean the sun won't shine
And if I have to, I will sit in these rains alone, waiting for them to end.
I will wait for that light to warm my soul once again,
That summer light which warms me deep inside.

The light will shine again and I will become stronger
Though I fear the journey will be made alone.
I don't want to be the only one on this journey.
It needs to be made together, from lost to our home.

Even though sometimes I am the eagle soaring far above
Confidently riding the winds of change,
I am happy just to be the colorful mallard with his mate,
Content to swim lazily along together in the rain.


Blogger's Note: 
Please don't read too much into my writing, trying to figure out whom I am talking about. More often than not, it would not be correct. Sometimes when I write, it is just an expression of emotions and memories from various times in my life.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Relationship Collateral Damage

"The Break-up"


Blogger's note: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals mentioned.

Why is it that when a couple breaks up, more often that not mutual friends and family become relationship collateral damage? Obviously, it is in our very nature to side with those we are closest with. This rarely talked about part of the breaking up affects the closest friends and family members. Unfortunately this part of it seems to be a constant and very difficult to overcome.

When a break-up occurs, who do you go with?  We as friends and family also suffer. One strives to remain neutral but it can get very awkward dancing the dance between the former couple. It just may not be possible to remain friends with both. You subtly realize who your allegiance is to and to whom your loyalty lies. One tries to remain Switzerland but sometimes it just is not possible. And then suddenly you find that you've chosen or have to choose.

If you are striving to remain neutral and let the couple "figure" things out, it doesn't mean that you like the other person any less, but you realize that you have naturally gravitated towards that one side. And thus, your friendship with the other person has become "relationship collateral damage."

Fortunately sometimes, it is black and white. I am reminded of a college friend Mr. Big Guy, who divorced his wife. I had met her once, became friends with her on social media, and supported their mutual business together in NYC. After finding out they had divorced, I dropped  my connection with the now ex-wife on all counts. It just was not appropriate anymore.

Mr. Big Guy, who is among the most respectful of my friends, said to me, "Ya didn't have to do that bro." I responded to him that I had known him for 25 plus years and I did have to do that, for our friendship. It was the right thing to do. My loyalties lay with him. He appreciated it. And believe me, I am sure his ex didn't give it a much thought. I don't plan on ever speaking or seeing her again. No loss on my part.

My friend Sharon Stonehenge is another example. I was always closer friends with Sharon. We had much more in common than I did with her other half. My internal discussion in terms of who I would "go" with was an easy one. Without even thinking, I knew it was Sharon. BUT, I have strove to remain social friends with her ex, Morty Hausenhoffer.

I see Morty out from time to time and have once ever so briefly acknowledged the break-up but we don't talk about it in depth. I think he appreciates a friendly face and just someone to have a drink with. I will never consider Morty a close friend though. We both know that, and it's OK. That spot is reserved for Sharon Stonehenge.

My final example involves my friend Ceecee A. Young and her boyfriend Mr. Wentworth McGillicuddy. It was wonderful seeing them together as a couple and I celebrated that. Over the last several years I have come to enjoy Ceecee's company and I always have a great time seeing her out. She and I are about the same age and have bonded over life's experiences and our similar career choices.

I had also become closer with Wentworth. He and I had the most wonderful conversations, very deep ones. Anyone who knows me knows I love a good deep philosophical discussion. I looked forward to having more of them with him. Then the break-up occurred.

From my observational opinion, it was deeply painful for Ceecee. I honestly hadn't discussed it with Wentworth but I had initially made a point to Ceecee that I wanted to remain friends with both of them. She had stated she hoped I would and had no issue with us remaining friends.

As time has moved on, I found my loyalty gravitating organically towards Ceecee. It was nothing personal against Wentworth. Ceecee and I were friends first, have more in common, and I still see her far more often than I saw him. I was upset for the break-up but wished happiness for both of them in their future relationships. If two people are not meant to be together then they deserve to find happiness with others. The hurt is there though and for now, that saddens me.

Privately, Wentworth and I did acknowledge the break-up via private social media and how it just sucked that we would not see each other as often anymore. Our lives are very busy and it would not be too often that our paths would cross again. He understood I would remain good friends with Ceecee.

The other evening, I ran into Wentworth at a local bar. It was initially awkward for me but after a hug, we briefly discussed the break-up and the unintended effects of it on other friends included, not just me. I had not meant to choose one or the other but it's happened. I will always say hi to Wentworth with a smile and a hug. Perhaps in the future, we can continue our long great conversations over a cold one and a shot.  I hope so. I am happy I got that resolved.

I try to have no disrespect to the other party but it often becomes different, uncomfortable, awkward. It helps to have a discussion with the other person acknowledging the situation as I did with Wentworth. It helps to get through it. It will be easier for social interactions hopefully from then on in.

The other party also must accept that they will not see parents and family members as often anymore. You may have become close with them but when the break-up occurs, interactions will become few and far between if nonexistent.  It just sucks.

But we are adults. We must face it and accept it. It's painful and you have to realize THIS IS LIFE. Break-ups are not wrapped up in pretty little packages with fancy bows. They are uncomfortable at it's easiest and nasty and horrible at it's worst. There is a lot of pain that is caused. I'm not even getting into the reasons behind the break-up in the first place!

What is the fallout? The fall out is that a relationship has irrevocably broken up. Some people will obviously and understandably takes sides. Others still try and tow the narrow line, ride the middle. Sometimes this works. It is very admirable and God bless those that can pull it off. But in all honesty and reality, this often fails.

One can try and be the bigger person and rise above the "drama of it all" but it is more natural that you gravitate towards one more than the other. You are a friend caught up in their break-up, and you are human. It is normal so don't be too hard on yourself if you find yourself an example of "relationship collateral damage." Remember that we are all doing our best to stumble through this thing called life.




Saturday, May 18, 2019

I thought I saw my Departed Friend

"Farmer's Market, Londonderry, Vermont" 

Recently I was walking through an outside city market, enjoying all the sights, sounds and smells of food before me. I love the cacophony and energy of it all. People bustling about, each on their own mission to get what they need. Others simply browsing. 

There were individuals like myself just observing and people watching. And the hardworking vendors, all trying to make an honest days work. Vendors of fruit, vegetables, meats, cheese, coffee, bourbon, beer, and food stalls all co-existing as separate businesses and yet depending on each other for support.


There were so many people. Market days are always so packed, it doesn't matter what city. It could be Philly or DC, could be LA, could be New York! 

I was turning a corner and passed someone who I instantly thought was my recently departed friend Chris. He just passed away in November. Ironically, Chris had been in my thoughts lately. My heart sunk and I stopped in my tracks. My gut felt punched. I reeled around to look at him. It wasn't Chris Dwyer of course but it was just so odd how much he looked like him, same fair Irish skin, same facial features, same wavy hair, the same kindest eyes.


I ran ahead to get in front of the stranger, to finally get a better look. I knew that it wasn't Dwyer. But I just wanted, I needed, to see him again, one last time. I made my way hastily through the vendor aisles dodging shoppers with bags filled of vegetables, fruits, pies, and meats. In and out I veered, on the verge of spinning into customers with their multiple bags of food. 


Coming around another corner abruptly, I ran right into some poor guy, knocking him down. "Oh gosh!" I exclaimed, "I'm so sorry man! Are you OK?"

He was momentarily pissed as I helped him up. I continued to apologize profusely and then realized that I had run into the very man that I was hunting! I had run into Chris's double. I stopped short from saying anything else and just stared at him. 

No... No it wasn't Chris, I thought.


I stammered, "I, I'm, I'm so sorry again, I was just looking for someone."
"That's OK. Don't worry about it. Hope ya find them."
I sighed. "No, sadly I don't think I will."

He looked at me quixotically, mumbled "Ok, later man" and walked away. I watched him walk away and was truly saddened but at least happy for just that split second, I had thought I'd seen my dear friend Dwyer again, and as if it were as a smoke ring, he disappeared into thin air.

Other shoppers had taken over the space of our chance encounter. I was in the way and was shuffled off to the side of the aisle by the crowd, unaware of the wave of sadness I was feeling.

An elderly Asian man asked me if I needed help in his stall. I said no thank you and sighed again, glancing one more time down the aisle in the direction that Chris's look-alike walked and I continued in the opposite way. 



Thursday, May 9, 2019

Nighttime Yard Visitors


"Max at Night"




Last night around 3 am, I was awoken by a rustling beneath my window. Now I love the Spring as I can now sleep with my windows open but that also invites those outside nighttime sounds in. Whatever it was, it was clicking and scratching beneath the white rhododendron bush. I looked outside, seeing nothing but fog consuming the houses down my street.

More digging and clicking which prompted Max the Cat to leap from his cat bed to my bed to the window sill in two large bounds. Max responded by chittering away. All I heard was chittering and clicking for the next couple minutes. I eventually fell asleep again.

Time passed, it may have been a couple minutes, or maybe an hour. I stirred awake and noticed Max still sitting on the windowsill staring outside. I whispered to him, knowing he wouldn’t listen, Come to bed Max, stop being such a night owl.

He glanced in my direction, acknowledging me, and then went back to his pensive stare out the window. Suddenly there was a loud tussling underneath the rhody bush. Whatever it was having the late night discussions with Max then hissed and bolted for the woods. Max responded in fright and bolted off the window sill knocking off half of the objects on my nightstand.

A night time conversation between Max and an investigative possum perhaps? Whichever one of the nightbreeds it was, it gave Max a good earful and then the fright of his life. I got up in the morning and Max barely stirred. Must be nice to sleep in after a late night convo's.  



Monday, April 29, 2019

I Dreamt Mom was in a Coma

"Mom & the Flamingo, Reunited"


I dreamt of Mom last night.

I dreamt she had never died but was in a coma for the last 10 plus years. She was still alive, lying peacefully in a fugue slumber in some 50s rancher out in the Midwest. It was decorated in pastels. Outside of Florida, she'd hate this color scheme I thought, surveying the decor. Where were the antiques? Where were the dark woods, colonial blue and grey colors? I then wondered, Why didn't anyone tell us she was here?

She had her ageless beauty and I smiled. Her makeup perfect, wearing her favorite gold, I knelt down and kissed her forehead. She then awoke from her decades slumber and smiled back at me. "Hello Marco," she stated in a gravely voice.

In a timeless whisper and dream-like haze I was off, searching for the perfect gift to welcome her back to the living. From what must've been her Key West life and influences, I had it driven into my mind that I must find her a flamingo to welcome her back.

I zipped in dream time from malls to flea markets to department stores to parking lots looking for a flamingo. It could've been a flamingo Christmas ornament, a stuffed toy flamingo, a flamingo dish-towel ... No matter, it just had to be a damn flamingo.

I never found that flamingo and spent the rest of my dream night searching in vain for the perfect gift for her return. I would like to think she'd be happy I looked so hard for it. I did not see her again in that dream but woke knowing for a short blip in time, Mom was alive.

And the irony of it all is that I now have a small stuffed flamingo which was hers. If only I had remembered it at the time, maybe I could've returned it to her.

Hopes and wishes? Regrets? Disappointments? What does it all mean? Dreams are such funny odd experiences. I try not to read too much into their meaning. That is for my dear sister Sheryl to do and let me know after her dutiful research.  πŸ˜‰  But if the superficial meaning is that I am overjoyed to see my deceased mother one more time after 10 years of her leaving this Earth, I am just fine with that too.

All I know is that Mom would never have permitted her coma to happen in a 50s rancher out in the Midwest. She had several decades of magazine subscriptions to Colonial Homes and Country Living under her belt. She definitely would not have approved of the locale.




Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Her Name was Kim


Writing project essay:

Her name was Kim H. She was a black haired beauty with dark eyes. Loud and brash, perpetually tanned with a toned body to match. She had the same last name as he. She and M worked together for those many years at Houlihans and they developed a close friendship and bond.

They had close deep talks, often fueled by alcohol and drugs. She was definitely manic, possible manic-depressive, although M never saw that side. But she had a temper like hellhound. And that's when M knew to back off!

They could've been an obvious couple, should've been, except for one glaring fact known to most which was often laughed about. No matter though, as they'd still often introduce themselves as Mr. and Mrs. H, even fooling old college friends visiting Philly!

And then Kim H. died suddenly. She died of a drug overdose. It was a horrible crushingly difficult experience which foreshadowed the beginning of many death's of M's friends during his 20s. There were many tragic reasons ... drugs, alcohol, cancer, AIDs, suicide, murder, ... all of which deeply affected him. 

M numbed himself through various substances for many years after her death and only later mourned for his dear friends. He would often joke that he barely remembered the 90s but perhaps the real reason was that he didn't want to. The pain of losing friends at such a young age was perhaps just too much to remember.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Passover 2019 at my sis Sheryl's


Got to Sheryl's in Philly for her annual Passover Seder. She lives up by the Art Museum. Relaxing out on the porch doing paperwork, watching the world go by. I was just thinking how much my Mom just loved this porch & used to so the same thing when she would visit. It was her favorite spot. Being a city girl herself, Mom practically grew up on her front stoop! πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘



Thursday, April 18, 2019

Looking Back



It took him years to realize that even with his tumultuous relationship with X, way back into the 90s, there were good aspects to it other than the old ratty teddy bear staring back at him on his grandmother’s rocker. For a couple years following the break-up there was a sense of bitterness and lost dreams which lingered. But now, as he brushed some dust off of the bear’s soft furry head, he smiled slightly.

There were good memories there. They just needed to be given time to rise to the surface after being buried underneath the emotional scars. No, there wouldn’t be any reunion with X, but just a silent private acknowledgement that there were once good times and they deserved to be recognized.

Wouldn’t life be so grand if we could get through all the pain in the blink of an eye? But unfortunately, he thought, that’s not how it works. You have to go through the pain. It toughens you, thickens your skin and hopefully drives you forward. And only after that, sometimes in the sunset of your life, can you remember those good times, if they do exist at all. Luckily for him, he tended to always see the glass half full.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Spring Night Sounds

My window is open this breezy Spring night. Something is ever so lightly dinging in the far off distance. It's not the bamboo chimes by the willow tree. It's not loud, not annoyingly so, but just enough to be mesmerizing, like a light gong far enough away where it doesn't bother me, but close enough to be soothing. I'm intrigued but sleepy enough to let it hauntingly lull me to sleep. It gives me peace.



Sunday, April 14, 2019

Spring Flowers

"Perfectly Imperfect" 


I did so much work this weekend I injured myself. Nothing major. Just a pull somewhere. Ha-ha. I recuperated with a well deserved voddy and tonic with plenty of those limeys. YUM. Well worth my effort. As I sit here writing this on a late Sunday evening, the evening dew is wafting into the den, aka computer room aka library. OR... whatever the Big Ragu and I wish to call it that day.

The air is so dewy, fragrant. I am just memorized by it's scent, along with the light clinkling of the bamboo chimes. It's blowing in and I'm just drinking up the scent. So relaxing. I smell hyacinths and am drawn to wander outside about the yard, late dark at night, following the heavenly scent where ever it draws me. It's so rich, fragrant, and makes me drunk with Spring.

I picked some flowers this evening. I just had too. The Big Ragu said no, just let them be. I get his  reasoning. He was worried I'd pick the ones we view from the kitchen window and deck. After assuring him I would not, I ventured over the muddy landscape of a yard, with the fresh grass sprouting forth, and ended up on the other side of the yard with garden shears in hand.

Fragrant hyacinths, daffodils of three varieties, and forsythias were before me. I smelled wet earth, fresh grass, and whatever other flower was reaching towards the new warm sun. I carefully snipped here and there, apologizing as I went, as I am that neurotic, but still reassuring them how much joy they'd bring!

I snipped the ends on a diagonal as Mom had taught me, adding some sugar, and through the laziness which hit me, arranged them in a beer stein instead of a vase! Ha-ha-ha! Placing them on the kitchen window, Max the Cat eyed them curiously with a direct admonishment from Dad Marc.

The flowers will sit there for the week, intermingling with the coffee that is brewed, or the soup that is stewed, or the meat that is roasted. But they bring me such joy, knowing that we have survived the winter for a new dawn, a new Spring. They are beautiful and remind me of my past, my present and my future. I see my Mother in those flowers, as they are they same flowers we grew as a child. And for than I am so thankfully happy. ;)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lobster Mac and Cheese Recipe

"Lobster Mac & Cheese"

My Mom truly had the best Mac & Cheese recipe. But then again, as her son, I am completely and unabashedly biased. I often make it as it truly reminds me of her in my kitchen. Such good family memories over food. How many of us have said that thought? LOL "My Mom's is the best!" It's all good. I won't argue with ya!

Below is the link for my Mom's Mac n Cheese recipe. Hope ya try it. Lemme know how your family recipe differs! :)

https://frazzledatforty.blogspot.com/2014/03/moms-mac-n-cheese.html

Ingredients! 
For Christmas this past year, I wanted to make something homestyle but incredibly rich and decadent! I was tired of turkey and ham. I wasn't really into making a goose. Wouldn't know where to start. Have had Cornish game hens, had duck the previous year thanks to big sis Sheryl! YUM!!!! I had my heart set on lobster macaroni and cheese!!!

The Big Ragu had bought a good couple pounds PLUS of cooked lobster meat and the idea for lobster mac & cheese hit me! SO homey yet SO decadent! I made it for Christmas dinner and it was INCREDIBLE. And actually, just the recipe for the mac & cheese (without the lobster) was good unto itself!

Oh yeah, these too. LOL 
I felt guilty loving another recipe over my Mom's. Treacherous... even traitorous!!! Would she ever forgive me? Well lemme tell ya something. If my mother tasted this recipe with the lobster, she'd never look back! Ha-ha!
Now I will still make hers, but this one is now a favorite for me and goes into MY recipe box. But Mom's is still first! ;)

SO here is the recipe for an easy Lobster Mac & Cheese. You can either get fresh lobster and broil it or get precooked. I've tried it both ways and it comes out fantastic. I have noted adjustments for the recipe when I made them. I found it online and include the link below.

I could just eat these now.
This time though for the blog, the Big Ragu won two fresh frozen one pound lobster tails at the local firehouse bar where we hang out at. (Shout out to our local awesome Summit Station Firehouse!)


Now lets make some incredible...

LOBSTER MAC & CHEESE !!! 

Broiling the Lobster Tail:

1. Preheat your broiler to High.
2. Place lobster tails on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, carefully cut the top side of the lobster shells lengthwise. Pull apart the shells slightly and season meat (if you'd like) with equal amounts butter, paprika, salt and white pepper.
Make extra lobster to nibble on!
3. Broil lobster tails until lightly browned and lobster meat is opaque, about 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges to serve.

*OK, a couple things. I got the lobster recipe online but I forget where I got it. It is a basic recipe which is kinda the same after several tries of finding it again. I did NOT season the meat since I was adding it to the mac & cheese. I cooked the lobster tail at 5 minutes and checked it but it was not completely done, so I went the full 10. Lemon wedges are for if you are just eatin' the lobster and there is NOTHING wrong with that! YUM!!!




LOBSTER MAC & CHEESE Recipe
Into the oven it goes! 

Yields: 8 servings
Total Time: 40 minutes
Ingredients:
1 lb cavatappi pasta (I've used large and small elbow mac noodles as well if you need to sub.)
1/4 cup butter (I used salted.)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cup whole milk
Pinch nutmeg (Optional but I liked it.)
Kosher salt (I used fine and course sea salt, too. Both worked well.)
Freshly ground black pepper (pre-ground works too.)
1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Fontina (You may have to shred it yourself. Check out the gourmet cheese section at the supermarket.)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 lb cooked lobster, roughly chopped (I've used anywhere from  2 lbs to 4lbs of lobster! LOL)
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley (for garnish)

I have tried the recipe adding 1 cup of shredded Gruyere and/or shredded mozzarella cheese. I like adding different cheeses each time to get a different flavor, sometimes more savory than the next. Also, I've tried using chipotle Panko bread crumbs for the topping. It gave it a nice bite, especially if you use hot sauce or your cooked mac & cheese! I also usually make double the topping with the Panko bread crumbs. I like it crunchy on top. Experiment!!!

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 375'. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook cavatappi until al dente. Drain and set aside.

DONE! :) 
2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Sprinkle over flour and cook until slightly golden, 2-3 minutes. Pour in milk and whisk until combined. Season with nutmeg if using, salt, and pepper. Let simmer until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. (Very important, don't over cook the flour butter mixture!)

3. Remove pan from heat and stir in cheddar, Fontina and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and whisk until smooth. Fold in pasta and lobster and transfer into a 9'' x 13'' baking dish.

4. In a medium bowl, combine Panko, the remaining Parmesan, and oil. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the pasta. Bake until bubbly and golden, 20-25 minutes.


The original recipe link is below! ENJOY!!!

https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a22790813/lobster-mac-recipe/


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Conversations with my Father

"Dad, bro Adam and sis Sheryl"


When I was a young child, I would often, as children do, ask my Father "Why?"
This would happen over and over again. With the utmost patience, he would do his best to answer my questions and in turn, pose questions back to me to inspire thought and conversation with my budding mind. He would take his time with me with these quiet meaningful conversations. He took the time to explain things to me.

This continued into adulthood. Our conversations became and to this day, are more philosophical. They show the wisdom of his age and the growing wisdom of mine. But they are still along the same lines of patience, quiet civility, but now also include possibly differing opinions but with the understanding and respect that comes with age and maturity.

There is a song called "Pushy" by an electronic soulful group called Lemon Jelly. The truly British colloquial conversation in the song is from the 50s and takes place between an English child and an older English man, perhaps a father, perhaps a teacher, with beautiful melody playing in the background. The spoken conversation in the song reminds me of conversations between my dear Father and myself. They were gentle, filled with patience, understated, but always meaningful.

I was never quiet. πŸ˜‰  But the conversation below reminds me of the ones Dad and I have had. The meaning behind the conversation is thoughtful, provoking, and beautiful. Enjoy the lyrics and actual conversation below. As always, thank you for indulging me and my thoughts.


"Pushy" by Lemon Jelly

Child (softly):   I don't like people much. I get on better with animals.
Teacher:  You don't like people much?
Child: Well I like people but I don't get on with them very well. Not a lot of people.
Teacher:  Why is this?
Child:  I don't know really. I just ... people don't take to me. I get on much better with animals and things like that, you know.
Teacher:  What's happened when you've tried to get on with people?
Child:  I don't know. I get on with them in school and that, but I just haven't got a knack of being friendly, you know? I'm quiet, and I haven't got any push in me.

Child:  Noisy people seem to get on, you know?  Like at school you get noisy people play up and that. And they always seem to get on better, and, ehr, I don't know, I just...
Teacher:  Do you thing you have to have push in this world?
Child. Yes I do. I think it's hard luck on anybody who's, you know, quiet or can't get on really. You have to be fairly you know, have a lot of push and, cheek about you.

Teacher: But it's also sometimes said that the people who work quietly, behind the scenes, are the most important people. They really get the work done, not the noisy ones.
Child:  Yes that's true.
Teacher:  Do you thing that's true?
Child:  Yes.


Here is the link to the song on Youtube: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7HhbzJD-Zw 


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My Beautiful Pennsylvania

"PA Grand Canyon"

During my childhood in Wenonah, New Jersey, I found that South Jersey was quite flat. As a family in the 70s and 80s, we would drive to the Jersey shore towards Ocean City or Strathmere. Dad and Mom preferred driving the back roads, winding our way down through corn fields and tomato fields, then through cranberry bogs. Or we would drive through miles and miles of Pine Barrens. Not a hill in sight, just miles of flat fields or, with the Pine Barrens, miles of forests. That's what I grew up with and that's what I knew. The trip to the shore only broken that up in terms of marshes and wetlands. Still flat, but just a different terrain.

When I was a young child of six or seven, my father brought me to the home of his dear friend Dr. Rachel DuBois, an esteemed author and educator, for a summer visit. She was diminutive in stature but enormous in terms of wisdom. Dr. DuBois also happened to live on one of the highest hills in South Jersey. We drove up and up and still further up a long gravel driveway. Why, we were above the very treetops themselves!

How far up are we Dad? I asked astonished.
Well, we are on one of the highest points in South Jersey, He answered surveying the view.
WOW, was all that I could muster...

Years later in the 80s, I would travel to see my grandparents, Leslie and Lavina Haynes, who lived in Pueblo, Colorado. We would drive out through farmland, ranches, and desert as far as the eye could see. I even once say a tornado miles away slowly making its way across the horizon.

The view was suddenly overtaken by the great looming Rocky Mountains running straight through the middle of Colorado. Pikes Peak, 14,000 plus feet in all of its glory, rose up over the prairieland and the surrounding Rockies. It's height was awe-inspiring and at the same time unfathomable to this South Jersey born kid. I had never seen anything like it.

When I turned 21, I moved into Philly. Prior to this my family would take day trips to the Brandywine Valley in Chester County or the Amish County out in Lancaster County. Brandywine farms and fields are interspersed with a forested ruggedness cut through by many a lively brook forcing its way through the lands. Amish country in turn is a patchwork of extremely well manicured farms being worked by the salt of the Earth.

The rolling hills of the coastal plain are dotted by many towns or villages, white or stone farmhouses, barns and silos. The green hills eventually stop at the foot of the last Appalachian chain, the long Blue Mountain. This formidable wall stretches diagonally for 255 miles from Maryland to New Jersey. Beyond that, the old Appalachians continue their drive through the Wilds of Pennsylvania to the top of the state. During one of my many "teachings" and discussions with my father, I specifically remember him telling me of how the Appalachians curved their way northward. And now how ironic that I live in a community named Lake Wynonah nestled between these ranges.

I love my state of Pennsylvania with its ancient mountains rising up North as far as the eye can see, one after another. The rolling hills and farmland of Eastern Pennsylvania are cut in two by the mighty Susquehanna River meandering through the state, ever widening to an impossible width at the southern most portion. Countless waterfalls and rocky, mountain streams eventually make their way into this incredible river.
"Winter in Lake Wynonah, PA"

Due to my frazzled nature, part of me loves Pennsylvania because it always seems to be a safe stable state to live in. Sure we have the occasional rare earthquake or tornado. Major rains and storms barrel through from the West and sometimes floods follow. Heat waves struck in July or August. In fall and winter, a nasty Nor' Easter or a late hurricane spin through the state sometimes causing destruction. Our winter blizzards, ice and snow storms dot the cold winter months. But we seem to be very lucky. I count on the stability of the four seasons and look forward to each one bringing it's own distinct beauty and unique experiences.

I am continuously delighted by the flora and fauna which I come across in my hikes and travels. Eastern hemlocks and mountain laurel abound statewide. I have been lucky to spy or view many of our state's animals in their natural habitats: black bears, countless deer, elk, skunk, raccoons, coyote, porcupines, weasels, beavers, grey and red foxes, flying squirrels, eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, turkey vultures, pheasants, many wild turkeys and our state bird, the ruffed grouse. I have yet to spy a bobcat but have seen evidence of several while hiking. I would also love to see an otter one day, or a mountain lion ... from the safety of my car.

South Jersey will always be my original home state but I've settled quite comfortably in Pennsylvania, now having lived here longer than New Jersey.  I am very lucky to reside in such a beautiful state.



Sunday, February 10, 2019

Trying to Call my Dad

July 2017 "Dad and me"

I was watching a movie this past lazy Sunday afternoon, a romantic comedy. The central character's father dies. It's a sad scene tinged with comedic moments as happens in rom-coms. She attends the funeral and gives the eulogy. It's a touching scene.

It made me melancholy thinking about how much I miss my departed Mother but also how much I love my Dad. I wiped away a tear and I decided to call him right then there and tell him I love him. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed his number in California.

A pre-recorded operator answers and states "All circuits are busy, please try your call again later. Welcome to Verizon. Please try your call again later."

I started laughing out loud exclaiming.... "Whaaaaat?".  It just figured.

I called a couple more times to no avail. No calls were going through. Then I got worried. Was there an earthquake which knocked out power? I checked the local media, even the LA Times online website, nothing.

There was one on February 6th, a 4.4, which occurred 13 miles from Arcata. Back on March 22nd of 2018, there was a 4.6 off of the coast. Luckily no tsunami warnings were issued. So, it's always in the back of my mind when I can't get in touch with the Humbolt County Haynes Family.

Maybe they had gone away for the day? Did I pay my cell phone bill? Was a storm happening? Different scenarios went through my mind as the day progressed. I am such a worry-wart.

I finally got in touch with him at around 6 pm East coast time. Their power had just been restored. Dad and Martha woke up to a surprise 6 inches of snow dumped on them the previous evening. Branches were down, the snow was heavy and wet. The power went off and they had no heat for the day. AND Martha's close friend was visiting from San Francisco! Welcome to Arcata!

He was so excited to tell me about the rare snowfall that I completely forgot to tell him half of the things I had been meaning to!

I convinced Dad NOT to shovel. I know my stepbrother Scott will help dig them out. He and I had a nice convo about this health and how he was doing. We tend to talk over each other out of habit, then stop and apologize and urge each other to continue. And then we both start talking over each other again. LOL.

It was great to hear his voice. And I did tell him that I loved him. Make sure you remember to tell your parent(s) you love them.



Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Winter Poems

"Lake Wynonah Snow"


For my 24th Frazzled at Forty podcast
episode entitled, "Snowcast", I discussed all things snow while taking a snow day from work. I hate to say it but when you are an adult and take a snow day, it usually does not mean it's gonna be that fun. It usually comes down to spending your day shoveling at different times to keep up with the snow OR doing housework, dishes, laundry etc.

This particular snow day was no different. I enjoyed my morning coffee and grabbed a bite to eat the day's news but then I got my ass up to work on stuff around the house. I also took a nap for a bit. Well shoveling is exhausting! Or perhaps it was the whiskey I was sipping while shoveling....

At the end of each podcast, I recite a famous quote which is complimentary to the topic at hand. For the "Snowcast" podcast, I decided to do something different and recite a winter poem. I enjoyed researching the winter poetry and read close to 15. I settle on the two below. One by Romantic poet Thomas Hardy and the other by the famed American poet Robert Frost.

Frazzled at Forty Podcast:
http://frazzled.projectentertainment.libsynpro.com/frazzled-at-forty-episode-24-snowcast


The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy  1900



I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
     The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
     Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
     Had sought their household fires.



The land's sharp features seems to be
     The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
     he Wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
     Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
     Seemed as fervourless as I.



At once a voice arose among
     The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
     Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush frail, gaunt, and small,
     In blast-beruffled plum,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
     Upon the growing gloom.



So little cause for carolings
     Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
     Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
     his happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
     And I was unaware.


*******************************************************************



Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost  1922

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
but I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.





Monday, January 28, 2019

Childhood and Adult Musings





Frazzled Marc as a Babe 1970 😊

Years ago when my Mother was alive, she once told me of two miscarriages that she had early in her life. At least one was before my sister. Maybe both were, I don't remember her specifically telling me when they occurred. I don't even remember how we got on the sad subject but her telling me of those miscarriages stuck with me. I sometimes think about those children which she had lost. Those brothers or sisters which did not make it. I could have had other biological siblings besides Adam or Sheryl.

I do remember the sadness in her eyes and face as she thought about them. She was of course so thankful for the children she had but I could sense her mind wandering as we talked about it, perhaps thinking about what could've been.

It is kind of an odd thing to ponder I guess. For if they had not passed away during the pregnancy, I may not have been conceived at all. In some weird twist of fate, I guess I have them to be thankful for, those unnamed children which had come before me. Their life and very early death paved the way for Sheryl, Adam and Marc's existence.

Another interesting thing which my Mother had told me was that I was almost named Alex. It is kind of unsettling as obviously my entire identity is intertwined with the name Marc … with a "C". Someone told me once that they could see me as an Alex. I don't know, 48 years as Marc has taken a hold of my psyche! Marc is frazzled, an Alex seems to put together. Ha-ha!

Mom had also stated that I when I was born into this world, I was very loud and cried immediately. Well THAT doesn't surprise me! I'm still loud but I only cry now when I watch those darn ASCPA commercials with the abused dogs and cats.

I often think about who I am and my purpose here on this planet. I try to give and have joy in my life. I also try to experience more as I get older. I find that I have less connection to all of the items I have collected in my life. I've started giving things away to those who I think will enjoy them. Sure, I still love my nic-nacs, but I am less likely to hold onto them anymore or add to the collection of dust-collectors which I surround myself with. "Experiences" are now becoming much more important to me.

One of the latest trends which is if I am not mistaken, a Japanese trend promoted by the author and expert organizer Marie Kondo, is to declutter your home and life by taken an object, looking at it and questioning to yourself, "Does this bring me joy?" If it does, you keep it. If it does not, then it gets tossed or donated.

I have begun to do that with my nic-nacs. If I don't have joy from them, I pass them on. Hopefully someone else will feel the joy that they once brought me. This is an excellent way to regain control of your life and living space while focusing on enjoying the experiences in life.

As one gets older, they begin to hopefully look at the bigger picture of it all: what is meaningful and what is not worth the trouble. This can refer to experiences, items, or even relationships with people. Where I used to sometimes revel in competition or confrontation, I take that step back, weigh my options and more often than not, take a pass. It just isn't worth my aggravation.

Ah wisdom, what a late but welcome friend you are!





Friday, January 4, 2019

Stuff I Learned Cabin Camping


Worlds End State Park    

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

This weekend, I will be going up to Sullivan County Pennsylvania to look at a cabin for sale with the Big Ragu. For the past 10+ years, we've traveled up there a couple times of year to Worlds End State Park to go hiking and chill. Usually we go over Thanksgiving. We figured let's start looking for a cabin in the mountains so we have someplace permanently to unwind over the weekends.

Nothing set in stone yet, just starting to look. Depends on finances, the perfect cabin, location, etc. If we aren't gonna make a major move somewhere else, we'd like to invest in a small place to go to whenever the urge hits.

Over this past Thanksgiving, the Big Ragu and I stayed up at Worlds End State Park for the long holiday weekend. We rent a rustic cabin and usually put on a smoked turkey for the holiday. It's been the 8th or 9th year we've been doing it. Lotsa fun. It also really relaxes you just to get away. I love getting back to the peace and serenity of nature.

During one of my down times, I thought about things I've learned on previous camping trips. I recorded a podcast about it but wanted to do the blog version as well. Here they are in no particular order. Just some rustic nuggets of wisdom:
  1. Always wear flip flops in the camp shower. You never know what that slime is.
  2. You will either be constipated or have the runs. Pepto is your friend.
  3. Duct tape works wonders with minor cuts and can help take out splinters.
  4. Cleanliness becomes very subjective in terms of the body, dishes, bed linen, etc.
  5. You get used to your own funk. I’ve gone 3 days before without showering. But 3 days is long enough for me. Don’t be surprised if you need to air out the sleeping back!
  6. Handy wipes work wonders and can keep down da funk.
  7. Knives and dishes can be cleaned with hand sanitizer in a pinch.
  8. You do things you normally wouldn’t do like just wipe off utensils so there’s no visible dirt or leftover food.
  9. Fingers and tissues work as a good substitute for Q-tips
  10. Any spice goes a long way with camp food. Hot sauce becomes a staple.
  11. Having a mouse in the cabin becomes an acceptable fact. Seal up the food!
  12. One of the greatest experiences is just staring and becoming mezmorized by the campfire or fire in the wood stove. It's just so beautiful and hypnotic. 
  13. There is a bonafide art to making a good fire. After 10 years, I've mastered it. 
  14. Alcohol is not allowed in the state park system. OK? (wink wink)
  15. My favorite thing to do: bourbon by the fire, toasted marshmallows, and cigars!
  16. The stars never looked so crisp and bright in the late fall moonlight and sometimes you don’t even need the flashlights, only the moonlight to guide you. Another hypnotic thing about camping. :) 
  17. A puffy jacket makes a good second pillow. So does heavy sweat shirts and pants.
  18. Waking up in the morning in the extreme cold is the most hated part. Which to do first? Coffee or fire ... or pee?
  19. Peeing at 3 am in the woods in not fun. If you have to do more, you hold it.
  20. If you pee at 3 am, things shrink. LOL 
  21. A skunk can be easily mistaken for a black and white cat in the middle of the night.
  22. You don’t mind the occasional mouse, the chipmunks or squirrels. You may even name them. You still mind the skunks though.
  23. I love smelling the camp fire smell on my clothes or jackets a week after camping.
  24. Water will freeze in the cabin after the fire goes out. I woke up this fall to a frozen water bottle. 
Anything else I missed?
LOL This was fun to write. I love my camping and of course cabin camping which is a step up, but still can be rustic. Remember this list and you may not be so surprised. But I will say a skunk or even a mouse still surprises me!!!